Sunday, November 29, 2009

Flying through the streets of Valencia

Last week I made a quick trip to Valencia for a few days.

I met up with some friends and ate at what has become the usual spot I go to, a little bar/tapas place called La Rentaora. Rentaora is a woman who cleans by the hour and there are paintings on the wall depicting this imaginary woman scrubbing the floors. The place is tiny, accommodating about a maximum of 25 people, with a large bar to the side taking up at least 1/3 of the space. On this visit I ordered the same dish I was introduced to before, a melted brie with violet jam. It’s to die for, absolutely delicious! The violet jam is somewhat of a mystery because I have since looked for it in several stores and the people I asked said they have never heard of it. I was hoping to indulge in this Valencian specialty during some evenings at home but for now it only remains possible to enjoy this delicacy when I go to Valencia and pay a visit to La Rentaora.

The best part of the evening was cycling through the streets of Valencia with a dear girlfriend visiting from San Diego and two other new friends. It’s a cool feeling dashing past pedestrians and cars, jumping on and off sidewalks and roads and flying through the old town of Valencia on a bicycle. Oh and the whole evening started at about 10:30 pm, typical of Spanish time. The biggest challenge was that there were four of us and only three bikes so we had to improvise new ways of adding on a second person to a bike set up for only one. At one point in the evening, the bike carrying two took a tumble to the side. It looked like one of those cartoons where the characters fall and it looks so painful, but afterwards they just get up, dust off, laugh, and keep going. Thank goodness I wasn’t on that bike! I’m looking forward to going back to Valencia just so I can go flying through the old town at night on a bicycle.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making Ceramics by the Sea

Joanna lives in Deia, Mallorca and is a ceramics artist. Originally from Chicago, IL she left 30 years ago after graduating from university. Since a very early age Joanna was around sailboats, sailing with her family on Lake Michigan and later doing charters in the Caribbean. This gave her a taste for the sea and living a simple life on the islands.

Joanna says she always knew she wanted something different than the typical life of a housewife in Chicago. She has always shown respect and concern for the environment. She wanted a simple life and especially to get away from the weight of American consumerism. She dreamed of a life on an island by the sea and the mountains where she could focus on creating art. So, in her mid-20’s she flew down to the Caribbean and posted signs up offering her services as crew on a boat. She worked a few odd and end jobs on boats until she got a job as a cook on a luxury yacht headed for the Mediterranean. She was commissioned to cook “healthy” food for the crew and owners, which suited her well since she was a fan of healthy shakes, muesli dishes and lots of fish and salads.

Her employer cruised all over the Mediterranean throughout the summer season. Like many other yachts, her's ended the season in Palma de Mallorca. One day Joanna decided to take a drive into the mountains to a little town called Deia, not too far from Palma. The visit proved to be a prelude to her destiny as she met her husband on that trip and has never left. She and her Austrian born husband created a life together in Deia owning various successful restaurants and a ceramics business. They also had two children. Today, a lot has happened since 30 years ago. Joanna is no longer married to the Austrian man and now has a lovely Norwegian boyfriend. She still lives in Deia and runs the ceramics business. Her customers come from all over the world and her pieces are displayed in various top hotels around the island.

I asked Joanna where she gets her inspiration for her art? She said most of it is definitely from nature, from the various plants all around, the mountains and the sea. This is apparent in her creations since often her pieces have flowers and greenery painted on them. She still lives a simple life, in a relatively small house, for American standards. She takes pride in driving a small car, when she's not walking, and generating a low carbon footprint. And she continues to love creating ceramics surrounded by the sea and the mountains on the beautiful island of Mallorca.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trawling For Clues In The Sea Of Life

I recently spoke to my friend, Arturo Rhodes, who is a painter in Deia. Arturo is originally British but like many of his co-patriots, he came to Mallorca many years ago and never left. Captured by this beautiful land, its scenery, it’s ambiance and the tranquility of this village, he has made an art form out of living a good life by the sea in the little village of Deia. He las lived in Deia for about 30 years.

Arturo lives in a cool two story house perched up on a terrace above the Clot, which is a neighborhood in the village of Deia. Although he has a car he walks to many places in town. From where he parks his car, Arturo has to walk on a dirt footpath that winds around and later goes up about 3 sets of stairs before he reaches his house. He tells me that’s how he stays in good shape. Like most houses in Mallorca, his house is made out of stone. It has large picture windows bringing in lots of natural light, and it faces east with views also to the north and south. He has his studio up on the right hand side of the second story of the house.

Arturo and I spoke about where he gets inspiration for his paintings. I was sure he was going to say nature, the ocean, his imagination or characters he has met. He surprised me when he said he constantly looks for “clues.” He looks for “clues” in things he observes, conversations, dreams, images. You could say he is always trawling for clues in the sea of life. He sees a broken glass, a ball thrown into the street by a child, a red scarf, and then he sees a word written on a sign and puts all of this together into a package to create a painting. What a way to paint! Arturo is known as being a surrealist painter from the same style as say a Magritte or a Salvador Dali. His paintings often put together a known, familiar object with the unknown or unknowable. Or, he takes common images and puts them out of place from the norm, from where you would expect to see them. You could say Arturo's paintings challenge you to see life in a different way.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hotel La Residencia Art Exposition

Last Friday, October 30th, Hotel La Residencia in Deia, Mallorca hosted the opening of its art exhibit entitled “Collective Exposition in Honor of George Sheridan.”

George Sheridan was a British music composer who lived and worked in Deia and was considered a dear friend and mentor to many artists in this village.

Hotel La Residencia sponsored a contest among local painters and commissioned each of 32 artists to create an original painting with a music theme in honor of this late composer. What a great way to honor a late artist of this village and promote its current talent. A listing of the 32 artists is at the end of this post.

The collection will be judged by a panel of three judges and a winner will be announced by the end of this year. The prize will be the display of the winning painting in the gallery of the hotel and 1,000 euros to the painter.

Many in Deia and the surrounding artistic community attended the opening. All the paintings will be on display in the gallery for viewing until the winner is announced. Almost all paintings are for sale and a price list can be obtained from the hotel.

It was my first outing to an art exhibit in Mallorca and I really enjoyed it. I'm always amazed at the mix of people on this island. You often meet someone born in Denmark, of a Spanish mother but who grew up in Germany! It seems like no one is simply from one place. Everyone is a complete mix of nationalities, which makes for a richness of culture you don’t find in too many places.

Artists: Alice Meyer Wallace, Frances Baxter, Charlotte Mensforth, Jean-luc Charbonneau, Colin Hunt, Geoff MacEwan, Pamela Aldridge, Kerstin Unger Salen, Susan Robinson, Mariana Alzamora, Diana Palaci, Gioia, Eva Kircz, Ernesto Magnind, Phil Shepherd, Adell Blackmon, Leila Ward, Antoinette Mansker, Richard White, Alan Hydes, David Templeton, Elna Ernest, Jaime Colorao, Daniel Alzamora, J.J. White, Arturo Rhodes, Fliss Templeton, Lesley Woodward, Matias Durhssen, marta Mata Malas, Sallie Quirk, Miguel Oliver

Port of Valldemossa

The Port of Valldemossa is located a short 15 kilometers from Palma.

Last week I went there with a friend who came from Valencia to visit for the week. You drive down, yet another narrow cliff road for what seems like forever until you arrive at a tiny little fishing village that was deserted. We were lucky to find one place open for lunch where we had a delicious entire sole fillet, grilled with white rice and vegetables on the side, and of course some vino! The waiter told us that only 1 person lives there in the winter. Everyone else only comes in the summer. There are Spaniards, French, English, Americans and Germans with summer homes in the port. What a way to spend the summer! Personally, I prefer it in the winter with cool breezes, storms and lots of wind! It has spectacular scenery of the Med and the famous red rock that I'm so fond of!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Deia, Mallorca is a tiny village of about 700 inhabitants, nestled in between the Tramuntana mountain range and the Mediterranean Sea in a western corner of Mallorca, just north of Palma, the grand capital of this beautiful island.

In Deia there is a certain time of day, usually in the last hour of sunlight for the day, when a light shines on the Tramuntana mountain range creating the sensation of an intense red light against the rock. The light looks red, but not like candy apple red or cherry red, or fire engine red, more like the red color of mud, the ground, what mystics associate with the color of “the source,” the great mother earth. Another color associated with “the source” is the clear color of crystal or white light. Before the red light appears, when the sun shines, you can often see a bright white light that shines upon the mountain illuminating the little stone houses, the gardens and the entire village. It is interesting to note that if you mix red, blue and green paint you get a reddish brown color, or you could say the color of the earth. If you mix red, blue and green light, you get a white, bright light. Mystics believe the red color of the earth is grounding while the white light provides guidance from above and spiritual clarity.

I’ve had a few people tell me this valley is enchanted and has lots of angels. Whether or not all of this has something to do with why many find inspiration here to paint, write poetry, do photography, ceramics, jewelry and other arts, who knows? But it’s certainly true that great art has been created here.

They say that creative types are dreamers and dreamers often lack grounding. Perhaps this valley and this tiny village offers artists a perfect combination of the two, the inspiration to dream so they can produce great pieces and the grounding of the red rock and the mountains so they can bring their creations that often originate in their hearts down to earth to be enjoyed by all of us.

The most famous poet of this village is probably the late Robert Graves. Here is one of his poems about dreams, called A Pinch of Salt:

When a dream is born in you

With a sudden clamorous pain,

When you know the dream is true

And lovely, with no flaw nor stain,

O then, be careful, or with sudden clutch

You'll hurt the delicate thing you prize so much.

Dreams are like a bird that mocks,

Flirting the feathers of his tail.

When you seize at the salt-box,

Over the hedge you'll see him sail.

Old birds are neither caught with salt nor chaff:

They watch you from the apple bough and laugh.

Poet, never chase the dream.

Laugh yourself, and turn away.

Mask your hunger; let it seem

Small matter if he come or stay;

But when he nestles in your hand at last,

Close up your fingers tight and hold him fast.

Many come here with dreams of creating great art or simply of having a good life by the sea, or both. Whether you’re an artist or not, living in Deia or somewhere else, Grave’s poem gives us all something real to ponder upon regarding our dreams.