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Getting Dizzy in Thangka-Land

When it comes to work, I'm a pretty focused person; but, I am susceptable to personal interest on occasion. So, while reviewing reference materials for my next Artscope article, I happened to take a side-trek through one particularly detail-rich website. If, like me, you happen to have an appreciation for the many manifestations of esoteric Buddhist art, the Dharampala Thangka Centre and teaching school maintains a fabulous online catalog of paintings.

A Buddhist Wheel of Life Thangka from the Dharampala Thangka Centre

Note that since this is an active workshop, a visit to the site gives you access to photos of *new* paintings, not antiques. However, the Center provides detailed notations, with clickable zoom-ins and mandala maps for many designs, which is great if you are interested in iconography. They even offer a photo CD if you need access to high resolution reproductions.

I particularly appreciate their photo progression of a thangka in progress. At least I'm not the only one laboring on a piece for what seems like an eternity! 20% of all Thangka center online proceeds goes towards the funding of the Children's World orphanage in Kathmandu, where some of the children are also trained as painters.

Okay, back to the earthly realm!

Weekend Roundup: First Beach, Then Art

As my Italy tan threatens to fade, there is nothing I look forward to more than a steamy, early August beach weekend here in Little Rhody. I'm firing up the flipflops and prepping the watermelon already!

Lest I lose all self respect while lathering on the 45 SPF and a dab of Jergens Natural Glow, let me recount the various other good things in the world of art and culture that await this weekend, just a stone's throw from the sandy shores of the Narragansett Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

All this weekend, at Fort Adams State Park: The Newport Folk Festival draws the indie crowd alongside the tried and true folkies, with low-key-cool acts like She & Him, Cat Power and Calexico sharing the stage with legends like Richie Havens.

Having made the journey to Newport, stay awhile and check out Saturday's Gallery Night, with free parking available at the Newport Art Museum.

"arrondissment" by Kevin Gilmore

As shown above, opening tonight at Jessica Hagen Fine Art + Design, new mixed-media paintings by Rhode Island native, Kevin Gilmore. Read my full review in this month's Artscope Magazine.

Just up the street at DeBlois Gallery, Street Art: In & Out opens tonight, with graffiti artists creating a site-specific work live in the gallery's front window.

Street Art: In & Out at DeBlois Gallery Newport

Heading back to Providence for the night, stop by Firehouse 13 for the opening of Straight Mixed Culture, a group show of Providence artists celebrating Providence culture "as it is". Word.

Straight Mixed Culture opens tonight at Firehouse 13

Copping a Feel at Villa Adriana

Just 45 minutes north of Rome, Villa Adriana (Hadrian's Villa) is an archeological spectacle unparalleled in my experience. Nestled in the hills near Tivoli, the site was built by Emperor Hadrian to serve as his imperial palace on top of pre-existing Republican ruins, starting around 117 A.D. Today the site covers at least 80 hectares, of which we were able to explore extensively without encountering another human being for a stretch of two hours!

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - Tivoli

Like many adventures of mine in Italy, I left for this day trip with only a scant idea of what I was getting into...but fortunately brought along my pareo and a large bottle of Uliveto mineral water (the official water of the Italian national soccer team!). With temperatures hovering at 40ºC nell' ombra, (≤100ºF in the shade), I was glad for both the "insta-turban" properties of my pareo, and the historically advanced public water distribution technology of the Roman Empire!

Even though the Villa has been extensively looted throughout the centuries for building materials, marble sculptures and frescoes, certain treasures survive intact. Amongst the sun-bleached ruins: glimpses of art and interior design from almost 2,000 years ago. In the "Hospitalia" building (once reserved for guests and/or the Emperor's guard), each of the 10 sleeping rooms features three niches for beds, with a variety of black and white tiled mosaic floor designs in the center.

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - surviving mosaic tiled floor pattern

Referring back to the Roman Empire's innovations in water technology, the site retains the remnants of several termes (bath houses), which were constructed to take advantage of the plentiful solar energy for heating a myriad of marble-lined bathing pools. In surrounding piazzas and gardens, ingenious levelling was used to create decorative pools with moving cascades, serviing both to support the greenery and to delight visitors. Of course, today many lay dry...

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - Termes

Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa - an old reflecting pool

A couple of the Villa's landmarks, (like the statue-rimmed "Canopus") are kept filled with syrupy green water, perhaps to support this restored reptilian resident...and a myriad of real fish.

Crocodile at Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa

Impressively intact, an extensive network of underground passageways served as transit points for service personnel and supplies. Others, like the vaulted "Cryptoportico" served as cool strolling destinations for the Emperor during the hot summer months. While the ceiling frescoes have been all but destroyed by looting and target shooting (ahh, those pesky British nobles), grafitti dating from the seventeenth century to the present is clearly visible.

Cryptoportico at Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa

As an American, I'm accustomed to sharing my tourist sites with thousands of other sneaker-clad, snacking and shouting humans. In this case, the freedom of strolling the Villa without a hint of security guards, personnel or other visitors helped me to gain a better "feel" for Hadrian's grand imperial palace as it must have existed in antiquity.

Copping a feel at Villa Adriana / Hadrian's Villa


To swim in the mouth of the volcano: Lago di Martignano

When visiting Rome in the heat of late June, you have many choices as to how to spend il vostro pomeriggio (your afternoon). These dog days of summer, I'm currently vacillating between napping nella casa and adventuring! Yesterday, our buon amico Marco (always up for an adventure) took us for a spin 25km north of Rome, to Lago di Martignano. There, ancient volcanoes in their repose have evolved into beautiful, clear lakes.

Lago di Martignano and Lago di Bracciano

What better way to freshen up when the mercury rises than to take a cool dip in peaceful Lago di Martignano? Surrounded by verdant rolling vistas fed by the mineral rich volcanic soil, we decended towards the lake through fields of wild mint, margherite (little daisies), and trees of fig and olive. Wow...

Panoramic view of Lago di Martignano

The water is so clear that one can easily see the steep drop-off a couple of meters from shore. Agrotourism villas and ruins sparingly dot the shoreline, refreshingly not marring the charm and simplicity of the vista. Visitors can rent sailboats and pedal-boats by the day, or relax on the shore in the fine volcanic ash that stands in lieu of sand. After a dip in Lago di Martignano, trust me...your skin will feel fantastic!

I'll post a few more photos when I can (to show off my new and rare tan!) Tonight, la festa nostra a Circolo Tiro e Volo. Da più tarde...Ciào!

Get It While It's Hot...RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition

Suggestion? Make a plan now (before it's too late) to visit "Welcome To The Conversation": the Annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, on view now at the Rhode Island Convention Center. I'll be posting highlights from the show over the next few days. Don't wait for me though, join the conversation today!

"Welcome To The Conversation": RISD 2008 Graduate Thesis Show - Poster by Chris Ro, RISD MFA '08, Graphic Design

Highlights from RISD's MFA class of 2008 will be open to the public until June 1st. Regular exhibit hours: Daily, from 12-5pm. 12-8pm extended hours on May 31st.

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