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Posts Tagged ‘Balboa Park’

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You might remember this drawing from November.
I finally finished at the beginning of January, on a cold (for San Diego) night, sitting in front of this 100-yearY building, under a portico.
Balboa Park always takes me back home. This entire drawing was done plen air and took me few sessions over several months to complete.
It will be on its way to San José, Costa Rica soon.

This is a quick photo, but i have a piecemeal scanned version ( sheet too large for my scanner, and the wide format at work is not very kind to graphite).I will try to compose the image and sub for it soon – but it has already been a whole week since this post languished in the draft purgatory and i want to get to my next night photography post.
Clouds make nocturnal old San Diego heartbreakingly beautiful.

By the way, i hope you all had a fantastic Holiday Break.
I just got back from another trip to México, and i have Mayan pyramids,cenotes, colonial towns and caribbean waters to share. I cannot believe i haven’t had the chance to share my two trips to Ciudad de México D.F from last July and November (¡Frida!) ..yet.
So next there will be a series of posts on México “lindo y querido”.

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San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. Graphite on paper. 24"X30". August 2015.

A commissioned work in progress.
One more plen air session and lineweight application and this baby is traveling to Costa Rica.
[Gracias por la Pura Vida]
I was asked to draw something that, to me, was intrinsically San Diego.
I love this building, and Balboa Park.
This is my neighborhood, my California home.

The buildings in Balboa park were chimeras, they were not supposed to last. They were stuccoed renditions, built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.
It was San Diego dreaming of a past it did not possess, recreating its version of Spain, a classical city of porticoes, fountains and piazzas. Balboa Park represents both a stage and utopia.

My mind knows i am looking at façade architecture, in some cases as authentic as a movie set. It also knows none of the hundreds of plants and trees in the park are native. Yet, i am seduced.  I indulge in a state ‘suspension of disbelief’, as Wordsworth  asked of his reader.
This is my Romantic ruin.

Balboa Park today enchants as a beautiful urban park, the cultural heart of San Diego with more than twenty museums, gardens, landscaped vistas and hikes through the natural canyons (and, always, street artists).

When I see the blue-tiled dome and its storied tower, emerge like a hazy dream across a bridge that translates in elegant modern forms a Roman aqueduct, i escape.

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Balboa Park, the 'Crown Jewel of San Diego'.

No. This photo was not ‘shopped. The sky really looks like this all year-round here.
And you should see the sunsets.
Don’t hate. We pay for this in other ways.

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Did you know I was a painter?
I know, hard to tell from this blog, where I have focused ,on the art-making side, on drawing and collages ( no art studio, less place for canvases). But I was a painter, an acrylic one, before I learned how to draw, architecture and other things, before sketching, collages, and before trying my hand with watercolor ( I still use watercolor as acrylic).

I was not a rigidly trained painter, as my teachers encouraged expression over technique. Painting is home.

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In January I collided with two splendid creatures in Balboa Park, Lila’Angelique and Thoth, which together form Tribal Baroque.

I wanted to share some portraits I took of them, in order to share some of the magic of their presence and music.

Nothing prepares you for the beauty that is Tribal Baroque, but here is a taste of what’s in store if you can make it to one of their prayformances in the park.

This is the Facebook page of Tribal Baroque, so you can catch these fairies who are here in San Diego for a limited time.

{more to come…see below}
…….

Four days ago, I spent two hours crafting the perfect posts on my muses, full of links and perfectly ( to me) worded prose.

When I went to publish the post, I LOST everything. It is the first time that this has happened on WordPress, which is usually excellent at saving drafts in progress.

I have been too heartbroken to come back and re-craft my post, but I have new art from Saturday and tonight – yes i started sketching and painting again (!) – and new photographs that I want to share, and life must go on.

Enjoy this images for now.. I will come back in the morning, refreshed, and tell you its stories…
…….

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Thank you for bringing the *triple* rainbow and pink sky 😉 :
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California Building Tower. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. January 2015.


In the past couple of months, we’ve had the most spectacular sunsets – the most magnificent skies, really.

In addition, balmy, magical nights.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but San Diego and Southern California are becoming more and more lovely and precious each day.
It is like falling in love, all over again.

Tonight I want to share some night and sunset shots, reserving the day skies for another post.
These photos have all been taken and corrected on my HTC One camera, hence the sometimes annoying light ‘spilling’, low res and graininess.
I will start carrying my Panasonic camera again, and correcting on Photoshop. I realize that my photos look better on a small screen…
One day I would like to invest in a proper Digital DSRL, but for now accept these artisanal shots.

I have taken to making nightly pilgrimages to our Balboa Park.
This is our cultural park, with more than twenty art museums and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. The pairing of Spanish architecture and tropical greenery take me to Cuba, to Puerto Rico…to the Caribbeans. Balboa Park was built in 1915 for the Pan-American Exhibition, and is celebrating its Centenary this year!

The central plaza, Plaza de Panama, is now restored as the living room of the city.

To my eye, the park is more and more beautiful each month that goes by.

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View from Cabrillo Bridge. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. January 2015.

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Night view from Cabrillo Bridge. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. January 2015.

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View of Plaza De Panama. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. March 2015.

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Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. March 2015.

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Arboretum. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. March 2015.

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Sculpture Garden. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. March 2015.

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Museum of Man. Balboa Park, Uptown San Diego. March 2015.

And here are other end-of-day scenes from San Diego.

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Normal Heights, San Diego. January 2015.

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Bankers' Hill, San Diego. January 2015.

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Hillcrest, San Diego. February 2015.

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University Heights, San Diego. February 2015.

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Hillcrest, San Diego. February 2015.

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Downtown San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza. December 2014

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Downtown San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter, Horton Plaza. December 2014.

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Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego. Cafe' Sevilla. January 2015.

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163 South Highway towards Downtown San Diego. View from Cabrillo Bridge, Balboa Park. March 2015.


And now, two poems to the Night.

The Night is Still

by Edith Matilda Thomas


The night is still, the moon looks kind,
The dew hangs jewels in the heath,
An ivy climbs across thy blind,
And throws a light and misty wreath.

 
The dew hangs jewels in the heath,
Buds bloom for which the bee has pined;
I haste along, I quicker breathe,
The night is still, the moon looks kind.

Buds bloom for which the bee has pined,
The primrose slips its jealous sheath,
As up the flower-watched path I wind
And come thy window-ledge beneath.

The primrose slips its jealous sheath,—
Then open wide that churlish blind,
And kiss me through the ivy wreath!
The night is still, the moon looks kind.

….

A Gift

by Leonora Speyer


I Woke: —
Night, lingering, poured upon the world
Of drowsy hill and wood and lake
Her moon-song,
And the breeze accompanied with hushed fingers
On the birches.

 
Gently the dawn held out to me
A golden handful of bird’s-notes.


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Plaza de Panama. Balboa Park, San Diego. December 2014.



I was trying to find a poem
To describe your skin, night
But the poets don’t know
the hours, or the look i just tried on you–
I cannot find you in their words.

I am always hiding in their verses,
moon behind clouds.
Distilling memories, crafting them into images, words:
what is the wine that we drink?
and who can write about the way you held me?

They do not have a name for this, for how perfect we were, the amber and coffee
of our hips.
Your kind chest,
your arms, taut as steel,
and the fact that i did not look at you, not once, afraid of learning too much
from the way you walked,
or the way your clothes fell.

Drowning so sweet,
tender fire.

Name the nights this year,
count them on the palm
of one hand.
Indifferent city, i stole moments of brilliance
from your stingy months.
I ride dark, subversive waters
and capsize
continuously.

‘Until the inconscious is made conscious, the subconscious will rule your life,
and you will call it Destiny.’
Carl Jung

Do the poets write
of a lion lying with his lioness?
Of fleeting things?

You drove and i held your hand
You told me one must laugh, pray and cry,
everyday.
I argued the last point.

San Diego, December 2014

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Thank you mamma for letting me draw on the walls with permanent markers, for drawing our profiles in the moonlight, for the watermelon eaten with spoons on a beach still asleep, for all the walks,  for the picnics in lawns amongst the highways, where you would bring my net, so I could catch butterflies.

I’m still catching butterflies.
I love you.

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Ink drawing of the sculpture “The Age of Enlightenment – Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breuteuil, Marquise de Châtelet” by Yinka Shonibare, MBE. Drawn at the San Diego Museum of Art, 2008. 



There are particular nights, small time frames, where everything you want, and, yes -everything you need- is given to you.

You watch your life unfolding perfectly, like a well-written screenplay of a comedy of errors, where the characters, after a series of ‘harrowing events’ and near misses, find each other at last. These nights you believe in signs, and that there are no coincidences.

I am not saying that life or love have a happy ending, but some days do.

Last Friday, the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park hosted an extraordinary event, part of their Summer Salon Series (inspired by the tradition of French literary and cultural salons). This event was a 36 Hour ‘continued’ Salon taking place in the museum’s galleries (open consecutively for 36 hours…I will never forget contemplating Egon Schiele at 2 in the morning), auditorium, and outdoors in the sculpture garden.

Needless to say, the collection of happenings taking place ranged from the superb to the surreal. Wandering in the museum galleries in the wee hours of night with other artists, revellers and cool types felt very subversive and….Big City.

A Yes Men lecture, an avant-garde play on self-loop for four hours, museum tours, German Expressionist Cinema, ambient music with obligatory trippy visualizations, live bands, a napping station plen air, stargazing on the lawn of the sculpture garden, drawing dreams and nightmares and, my favorite, a marching band in which us, the audience, were given a makeshift instrument and played (and marched) directed by the one-man band’s crazy frontman.

The general feeling of anarchy, and being caught between confusion/freedom/disbelief/engagement made this event very Dada, or something the Situationists would have conjured up…

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During a lecture, I drew one of the pieces on display {above}. you can find a photo of the piece here.

From the museum’s literature: The Age of Enlightenment – Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breuteuil, Marquise de Châtelet, is from a series of five figures depicting notable philosophers from the eighteenth century. The marquise, fluent in several languages and an accomplished mathematician and physicist, personified the “enlightened” person. Her lasting legacy is the translation and critique of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica that is still used to this day. Despite the fact that the Marquise de Châtelet was a leading mind of eighteenth-century France, much of her work was overlooked because of her gender. Her most famous lover, Voltaire, described her as a ‘great man’ whose only fault was being a woman.

I like to think that the Marquise is headless because she has never been recognized for her work and her name is virtually unknown.

She has been deliberately omitted in the annals of His-tory.

The fabric of her dress also tells a fascinating story of colonialism and the fallacy of ‘tradition’.

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Steel frame poetry. Click for more info ore read below.

Choi+Shine, a Massachusetts-based design studio has recently received the Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture Award for their creative concept Land of Giants™, transforming the generic steel-framed electricity pylons across the Icelandic landscape into unique, individual humanised forms.

Read the World Architecture News article here.

In contrast to the poetry of the unbuilt, and whenever I see vision in design and architecture, there are the missed opportunities of the city around me. In my History of Architecture class I like to tell students that Architecture is built politics. By this I mean that the architecture of the civilizations we study, even the built environment around us, is the embodiment of a people’s values, belief system, socio-economic conditions (or agendas). Architecture can literally be considered ‘the body politik’.
During a recent conversation with a colleague the meaning of absence came up, that is, the absence of benches or piazzas in downtown San Diego. America’s Finest City enjoys the perfect temperate weather, is gifted with a beautiful natural setting, and yet its downtown does not invite enjoyment, people watching, outside of commercial establishment. This is a city that is, peculiarly, not urban at all, but fragmented, servile to cars, at times alienating. In the heart of its historical quarter, the Gaslamp, the city does not yield; no place to sit and pause to take it in.

There could be such place: Horton Plaza.

Downtown San Diego. Horton Plaza is in the 'Core'. Balboa Park is visible on the upper right corner. from onlinesandiegohomes.com

Horton Plaza/Fountain Side is a potential piazza whose use is twarthed by the deliberate use of ‘discomfort’ tactics: rough landscaping and the absence of benches, or seating at human-being level. I see tourists crouching down on curb edges everytime I walk by. There is a plan by the CCDC to ‘reenvision” the public park to make it more attractive‘.

Horton Plaza, facing the U.S Grant Hotel. San Diego, 1910. Fountain and plaza design by Irving Gill, who proposed four tiled walks (the city approved two, not tiled). Notice the cordoned-off lawn, and the absence of benches, even back then. sandiegodailyphoto.blogspot.com

Horton Plaza before 2008, with fountain still operable. It is flanked by a mall by the same name ( I love when malls appropriate the names of public space they displace, names such as 'Plaza', 'Avenues', 'Boulevard' etc.). Tall, unattractive plantings and no benches make the use of this piazza impossible. From http://sdhs1960.org/photos/yesterdaytoday.html. Adding ugliness to infamy, the fountain has remained fenced and inoperable for two years with no immediate plans for restoration. From signonsandiego.com

Horton Plaza/’Farmer Market’ Side is an open space eager to be a piazza, yet at the stage of ‘Piazza. Interrupted’. Why? The absence of seating, appropriate lighting, or a focal point in this location (a fountain? a modern sculpture?) renders this an open space to be traversed as quickly as possible, day or night, where spontaneous gathering is not encouraged (except for the commercially-viable weekly Farmers’ Market half-days or the inescapable ritual of the holiday ice-rink).

Horton Square, between the Horton Plaza Mall and the NBC building in Downtown San Diego. From shindohd@ flickr.com.

But Horton Square has potential, at least it’ s not a permanently-in-shade, unusable ‘public space’ such as those found among high-rises in financial districts nation-wide. You know what I’m talking about.

Wells Fargo 'Plaza', Financial district, San Diego. from frwl @ flickr.com.

Upon reading ‘ Why Public Spaces Fail’, it seems like San Diego has used this article as a blueprint to eschew its public responsibility and alienate the public sphere.
Of course anytime public space is brought up, the issue of the homeless is dragged out like a decaying corpse from the cellar, to once more make an appereance in trite arguments. The refrain goes ‘ We cannot have any public space in San Diego because of the homeless’. Meaning, if you build it, they (the homeless) will come. And we can’t have that. It’s as if the city, to paraphrase Ani di Franco’s words, instead of curing the disease, is bent on suppressing any evidence of the symptoms.
Of course we have the public, but touristy, Seaport Village and our cultural, manicured, Balboa Park. Both are not integrated with the urban fabric of downtown San Diego, that is they are destinations, not generators (can I say incubators?) of urban moments within the streets/flow of the city.
Balboa Parkis a wonderful (or maybe just pretty, depends on the days and my mood) public space, also designed by Irvin Gill,  and yet it is a place apart, an idyllic, bucolic, museum-filled oasis . I have not tried to go there at night, but I suspect that, in addition to dangerous, the park closes at night (like most American parks, something that doesn’t happen for public spaces in Europe). There are no night activities encouraged in Balboa, except for going to eat at The Prado restaurant, which stops serving food around ten. This could also says something about San Diego early bird ethic, and limited vision when it comes to cultural events. Balboa Park could be made an integral part of Downtown by better, more frequent transportation and by its transformation into a cultural hub, with stores and museums open at night. There are already good news: the main plaza of the park, originally designed as a public space and made in recent decades into an ugly valet parking lot is to be restored to its original use (!!). San Diego will finally have a true piazza (hopefully with seating opportunities) and I for one plan to go there sketching as often as possible.

The lack of piazzas or urban public spaces is not of course a San Diego phenomenon, or a Southern Californian one, but a North-American one. Why criminalize the act of spontaneous gathering, why call it ‘loitering’? We do not have this word in the Italian language, not with the negative connotation. What else but healthy loitering and thinking is done in piazzas in Italy? We can speculate, get political, be conspiracy theorists. We could talk about the privatization of public space. We could wax poetic about missing piazzas and the public consciousness of European cities.

Or we could-maybe- all agree on the beauty of (un)built poetry.

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Lily Pond. Balboa Park, San Diego. May 2010. Panasonic Lumix Camera.

Two Lilies. Balboa Park, San Diego. May 2010. Panasonic Lumix Camera.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,

but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust



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