Tag: Visual Arts

Hitchcock and Ansel Adams

Hitchcock and Ansel Adams

In March 1962, Hitchcock filmed scenes for his horror film The Birds fifty miles north of San Francisco in the little hamlet of Bodega.

The killing by the birds of schoolteacher Annie Haywood takes place in front of the church Saint Teresa of Avila. And it’s this beautiful place of worship that’s also featured in a stand-out image by American photographer Ansel Adams taken in 1953.

Below we show Adams iconic image alongside a picture taken by Roger. It reveals that photography is not just about great framing. It’s down to selecting the right light and also being there before the approach was hideously disfigured. What a shame about the tarmac – fit for an RV site, not a historical church.

Meanwhile next door to the church, the owners have done a great job renovating the 1873-built Potter Schoolhouse also featured in the film
Here’s Johnny

Here’s Johnny

Roger first flew into America in 1980. And the first thing he did was go to a cinema off Broadway to see The Shining; which at that time hadn’t been released in England.

You see, he’s always been crazy about the films of Stanley Kubrick; so much so that our son is named Lyndon after Barry Lyndon.

So imagine the excitement when he discovered by chance that the establishing shots of the Overlook Hotel were actually filmed an hour outside Portland.

The 1935 built Timberline Lodge halfway up Mount Hood became the first stop in our new rental Jeep. And Roger borrowed Jack Nicholson’s axe from the Lodge’s reception – well a copy of it.

Glass wonders by Chihuly

Glass wonders by Chihuly

According to TripAdvisor, Chihuly Garden and Glass is Seattle’s number one visitor attraction. So we paid our money, even though the surname Chihuly meant nothing to us.

We were amazed and delighted. These are elaborate, vibrant glass installations – hanging from ceilings, sculptured in gardens, constructed in wooden boats. It’s effectively a retrospective of Chihuly’s work, predominately dating from the 1970s-1990s.

Throughout the 1970s, influenced by Venetian glassblowing, Chihuly experimented with the team approach, enabling him to produce architectural glass art of a scale and quantity unimaginable working with only one assistant.

Never have we enjoyed watching glass blowing so much. Fantastic craft-skills and great teamwork, but a sudden gust of wind led to the beautiful vase cracking.
Capital time in San José

Capital time in San José

The place to enjoy Costa Rica is not in a town or city, but on the beach, in a jungle or on a boat. So we had few expectations for our day in the capital San José.

But the great thing about any city is the capacity to surprise. It’s the unexpected that stands out and engages.

The picture above shows an extraordinary sculpture by the Costa Rican artist Marisel Jiménez called Retablo de la Corte de Carlos Jiménez. It was for us the highlight of the Visual Arts museum under Plaza de la Cultura.

Also unexpected was reliving the hayday of aviation at the old international airport which has been spared re-development. Wonderful old footage showed the glamour of air travel in the fifties.

IMG_5201Where the planes took off from, is now the La Sababa park and here Roger captured some young Ticos excelling at roller blading.

IMG_5204Meanwhile Hilary was delighted to see an exhibition examining the depiction of women on Costa Rican currency. As the picture shows there have been 36 men on banknotes but only two women.



Discovering Guayasamín

Discovering Guayasamín

So pleased we spent our last afternoon in Quito visiting the house where Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamín lived and painted for the last 20 years of his life.

Next door is La Capilla del Hombre (“The Chapel of Man”) his own self-indulgent art gallery that documents man’s cruelty to man. Ironically, the money to build it came from a few South American dictators and others.

Discovering his emotive, shocking and deeply moving paintings was a real revelation. He said of his work: For the children that death took whilst playing, for the men that dimmed whilst working, for the poor that failed whilst loving, I will paint with the scream of a shotgun.

It’s a tough viewing. But Roger totally loved Guayasamín’s visual style. If you don’t know his work please take a look online and let us know what you think. It’s about faces and hands and suffering.

During the house tour we saw Guayasamín’s spacious studio. Some of our artist friends will be very envious



Museo Torres Garcia


Roger’s always enjoyed going to art galleries and in Montevideo he visited the Museo Torres Garcia. Over two floors it tells Joaquin Torres Garcia’s life story; born Montevideo, spent most of his adult life in Paris, then returns to Montevideo at 60 and shapes local artistic teaching. It also seeks to explain his invention of Universal Constructivism.

Now artistic manifestoes have always seemed to Roger to have something of the ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ about them, and it’s especially impenetrable when all in Spanish. But put simply, Torres Garcia’s later art combines a grid like structure with symbolic imagery – things like fishes, clocks, trains, houses and other outlines based on South American native art.

Torres Garcia said “a work of art must not represent nature but exist as the concrete embodiment of an idea. It must be self-contained, defined by its own order and inner rhythms”. So that’s clear then.

Florence revisited

To stand in front of this picture is sublime

Hilary visited Florence with her sister in 1977 and with Roger in 1993. Both times it was hugely impacted by traffic but delighted to say this time the authorities have now banned all traffic from the historic centre. As a result, Florence is now quiet and a delight to walk around.

Today Hilary and Natasha climbed up the Duomo, visited the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Vecchio and Boboli Gardens. The best thing with it being 23rd December was that we just walked straight into all of these sites with NO queuing! Back in the summer of 1976, it had been a four hour wait at the Uffizi and this hadn’t improved much by late October 1993.

Glad to say the visitor experiences were fantastic. The Birth of Venus by Botticelli in the Uffizi and the room of historic maps in the Palazzo Vecchio, where Italy is shown in a map dated 1564, were special treats. And of course the Arno River by sunset.

A town of murals


Heading north from Sicily we stopped for the night in Diamante; a small seaside town that’s had its promenade substantially enlarged over the years.

In the morning we enjoyed walking round the old town discovering the numerous murals that adorn nearly every wall. Artists are both Italian and foreign and there’s an eclectic mix of styles.

That’s what you want as a traveller; towns that offer something distinctive and memorable.

Revisiting “The Godfather”

Bar Vitelli – a shrine for every lover of “The Godfather” trilogy

Can you believe it’s 44 years since Francis Ford Coppola’s original Godfather film was released?

It’s a masterpiece of modern cinema and the scenes where Michael Corleone meets and marries Apollonia were all filmed in the tiny hilltop town of Savoca.

The Vitelli Bar is still open with memorabilia on the walls and in the family restaurant just down the hill one of the bridesmaid’s dresses is preserved in a glass case.

Why are we so attracted to visiting movie locations? We guess it’s because films touch us, and we want to share their characters’ lives. Maybe a form of modern, secular pilgrimage?

The bridemaid’s dress is preserved for tourists

In the footsteps of Turner

img_0091Spoleto is about 25 km away from the epicentre of the 31st October earthquake and all around the town are taped off buildings and alleyways that may or may-not get fixed anytime soon.

But thankfully the town’s prize attraction – the  magnificent medieval  Ponte Della Tori – hasn’t collapsed although there is concern about structural damage and it is closed to all walkers.

We spent the day walking in the hills up lovely paths punctuated by chapels and viewpoints, but it was the bridge that mesmerised us, as presumably it did Turner when he painted it in 1840.

The Ponte Delle Torri, Spoleto c.1840-5 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

So we trekked down to the river bed and through the security cordon approached the massive structure. Difficult to describe, but we both felt very scared as we walked under the bridge. It’s size was humbling, but also another real thought. If another quake had happened just then, this blog might never have been written.