I have been a professional artist for over 30 years. I am a figurative mixed media painter and printmaker but within this foundation is a quest for the psychodynamics of the work – the need to see beyond and yet, realize the moment and uncover the layers. My subject matter ranges from still life, landscape, theatre, and personalized interiors- I am deeply moved by color and light and form. You can visit my online portfolio and biography by clicking here. While my artistic adventures have taken me to so many exciting venues; backstage as the unofficial artist of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, (2000 – 2010), a solo show in Florence, Italy (2010), as an artist in residence at the Banff Centre (Leighton Colony), (2011), to Vietnam and Cambodia, (2012) and recently to India (2013), my heart remains where I live, in Montreal, Quebec.
Our culinary tour, with Becky in mind, began with a trip to a specialized fabulous exotic food market – so clean! so many varieties of fish and fruit and vegetables! I even made colors in my journal with some… Next we went for lunch at a lovely restaurant on the water. But first Becky learnt how to make a Pisco Sour and Ceviche, and got a diploma to prove it! In her words: “I can now officially move to Peru and take up residence while being gainfully employed as a Pisco Sour barista.” An excellent last day.
Along the route back to Cusco (in order to get on the plane to Lima), we learnt that there were three rules for the Tiawanakus tribe of Lake Titicaca: don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be lazy. These were rules that were made in relationship to members of a community, rather like a collective unconscious barter system of labour and goods. We also learnt that the river that ran through the Sacred Valley was called Willkamayu in Quechua, and that it was sacred like the sun, the moon, the wind, the rainbows and the rain. In the temples that we had visited throughout were literal links to these elements by virtue of the fountains and circular walls and alters, etc. created in order to worship these natural elements. This all seemed to make sense to me as now I had actually seen this for myself. But all discussion stopped when we arrived at a marvellous village market of native sellers and stalls in Chincherra. Again, the colors took my breath away…
I really didn’t want to. No, not at all. But Becky insisted that we go on the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate. Really easy hike, she said… WHAT DID SHE KNOW?? But I did it, and I was applauded at the end. It was all worth it and a lovely way to end our adventure at Machu Pichu. The view was breath taking and now we can say we really did hike the Inca Trail…
There are no roads to Machu Pichu. Only trains. We took the Vista Dome train, and it was like being on a Disney World ride though the jungle, no, correction from biologist daughter, THE CLOUD RAIN FOREST. Gliding through the Andean mountains being served a lovely snack on a Peruvian table runner. I may have cried. Twice. Walking into the excavated city of Machu Pichu high on a mountain top is like walking into a post card. Breathtaking soaring mountains surround this ancient city. Huge perfectly positioned and cut granite boulders form walls that had enclosed temples and rooms. Vast terraced green lawns used for agriculture descend from all sides. Immaculately kept, clouds hanging just above you. Llamas paraded by like this was their territory. If you don’t move, they will shove you aside.
Daughter Rebecca as guest editor of this entry has this profound description to impart… “Here in the Sacred Valley, people come from far and wide to go to holy places, to visit with shamen, to spiritually regroup and enjoy the peacefulness. We found our spiritual wholeness by spending the day shopping in the Pisac market. I reached my height of enlightenment when I purchased a gorgeous hand embroidered table runner with colourful flowers.” The Incas were great artists in their creation of textiles made from the wool of animals such as Llamas and Alpacas. Looms were used with all kinds of knotting and warps. I loved watching them. Could be my next project!!
Today we left the city to travel through the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Urubamba River flows amidst the mountains and the hour drive led us first to the Salt Mines of Maras. Only photos can explain the terraces through which the subterranean water flows in orderly and controlled ways…Amazing! Next we went to Moray…the archeological site of the “Agricultural laboratory of Moray”. It has circular terraces which are oriented to the wind and the sun and vary in degrees, in order to cultivate different plants at different temperatures. Seeing is believing!!
Ollantaytambo was next on our Sacred Valley tour, considered the only living Inca city in South America. There were huge Inca terraces guarding a spectacular Inca fortress – did I have to climb it, you bet! says Rebecca. All the way up to the ceremonial centre where stone was quarried from a mountain side 6 km alway… This was the Machu Pichu climbing/testing grounds for me. I did it in a snap. I was wearing running shoes and sensible hiking-ish clothing, Becky continued to look like a model every where she went. No billboards per se, ads for political parties are painted on the walls of homes. And they are painted every where!
When one arrives in Cusco, the traveller is cautioned about altitude sickness. To combat that, Diamox is recommended as well as the tea immediately offered made of coca leaves…Becky is a bit nervous to try it…but we were both absolutely fine. Off to explore Cusco, we walked up the steep streets to the San Blas area, the artist’s neighbourhood! and ventured in the Iglesia de San Blas Cathedral with the most gorgeous wooden carved pulpit. Lunch at our new favourite “Greens Organic” and time to sketch the main square of Cusco…
We loved the feeling of Cusco. It reminded me of a “Peruvian” Florence in Italy (where I had stayed for a month for a solo show in 2010) with it’s winding streets full of surprises and colors and cathedrals and art.
In the centre of Cusco is the Convent of Santo Domingo, which houses some of the most important temples of the Incan Empire, mainly the sacred Qorikancha Temple, or “enclosure of gold”. Inside were the wonders of Inca construction, and their beliefs in cosmic and terrestial gods were explained- that the Inca King was descended from the sun, and that the stars, the moon, lightening, thunder and rainbows were worshipped as Gods too. The Temple of the Stars was constructed for the adoration of different constellations. The stars in the sky would predict certain events.
Onto the archeological site of the Sacsayhuaman complex, the first being Tambo Machay where I was greeted by my new Peruvian grand-daughter (after giving her a candy!). And we met our new llama friend too.
The women impressed me the most, all in their respective village’s outfits…painting worthy!! One braid means you’re single, two; you’re married.
All over the complex the structures mimic the features of the surrounding country side, or “organic architecture”. Here Incan astronomers observed the sunrises and sunsets during the summer and winter solstices. They could determine the time to plant and harvest and know when the rains were due to arrive. Throughout, seats and windows carved into stone, and even rocks that form the shape of a puma with eyes that flash brilliantly when the first rays of the sunrise hit it during the winter solstice. Huge rocks of limestone weighing from 90 to 130 tons form the excavated temples, esplanades and fortresses. One can also see a magnificent panoramic view of the city of Cusco.
Apparently no trip to Lima would be complete without two important sites: the Monasterio de San Franciso, and the Museo Larco. SKELETONS AND EROTICA! (In that order.) The Monastery of San Francisco, bright yellow on the outside, and beautiful, but inside, deep in the catacombs are the bones of an estimated 70,000 remains.
Next came the Larco Museum surrounded by plants and flowers that were a feast to the eye. Bougainvilleas every where!! The walkway to the museum overflowed with them, so dramatic and beautiful. Inside were ceremonial clay pots and jewellery from the height of the Inca Empires and more…erotica pottery. In all shapes and sizes. In all positions. More than you can imagine. Way more. My father did a series of erotic sculptures when he was 70. I guess I’ll wait 10 years for my series.
My youngest daughter Rebecca and I embarked on another adventure, this time to South America. Combining her biologist/conservation/educator profession and mine as an artist, I learnt to see things differently. Our introduction to Lima was the ruin near our hotel in Miraflores, called “Huaca Pucllana” built by people of the Lima culture around the 5th century A.D. The site was considered a “Nawpallacta”: an ancient sacred place. Small adobe bricks were made by hand and placed in vertical rows. The effect was pure symmetry . The restaurant on site was an unintentional find: Lima is becoming one of the culinary capitals of the world. The food was absolutely delicious. Rebecca had her first ceviche – delicately marinated raw fish.
The next day, we walked through the old part of Lima. Plaza des Armas, for example, with it’s original fountain, has it’s own story. Every year on July 27th, it is filled with Pisco Sour, for every one to enjoy. Or so they say..
The architecture is a type of neo-colonial style, with a Moorish influence. I will learn later on in the trip that Peru consists of many cultures, blending from the Incas, Spaniards, Chinese, and so many more. The buildings in Old Lima reflected this. I started thinking about paintings with these brightly coloured buildings and delicately carved wooden balconies.
Touring the City Palace of Jaipur (Rajasthan) was to behold one beautiful thing after another. The ornate marble patterns, the carvings, inlays and even giant silver urns meant to carry water from the Ganges for the Maharaja’s travels, were all spectacular. One again, the colors shone for me.A memorable and suitable finish to our stay in Jaipur and our tour of India was the “Gaitore” Crematorium, a mausoleum for the Maharajas. It was quiet there. Peaceful. And for my daughter Tamara, who did not want to walk through yet another beautiful sight, there was a lady doing henna in a hut by the crematorium. So we were both quite satisfied.
Finally, the ladies of Jaipur chatting on our way home (why can’t I dress this way?) juxtaposed with a painting in the lobby of our hotel. Lastly, a Happy Hour good bye with my new favourite wine, Indian Fratelli Chardonay.