Sunday, December 25, 2016

The coming of Jesus and his genealogy in sculptures at Trinity Church, New York City

Today, Christmas Day, we remember the times we dropped by the neo-Gothic Trinity Church of the Episcopalian diocese in New York City on our sundry walks around lower Manhattan.

The construction of Trinity was completed in 1846 and has received endowments from the rich and the famous like the Astors, and the powerful, the British royalty, through the years. 

There are three things that keep us tarry at Trinity: the bronze doors, the magnificent interior with its altar reredos and stained glass chancel window, and the burial ground at the churchyard.

The doors date back to 1893 and were gifts of William Waldorf Astor (now we know from where Waldorf Astoria was derived). They comprise panels that depict scenes from the Bible, history of the church, and of New York City.

While there is no sculpted nativity scene on any of the two leaves of the door at the main portal, the beginning and the end of the life of Jesus are presented. They come as a pair of panels in the middle of the left and right leaves. 

The Annunciation, a panel in the left leaf of the bronze main portal door.

On the left leaf is the Annunciation - angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she would conceive and be the mother of Jesus, and its counterpoint in the right leaf is an empty tomb - the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The lowest pair depicts scenes from the Old Testament: expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise, and the dream of Jacob, while the topmost pairs are interpretations of two visions from the Apocalypse.

The churchyard is an old burial ground. The tomb of Alexander Hamilton is in the southern yard.

What is striking in the northern yard is the Astor Cross, erected in 1914 in memory of Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, wife of William Astor. 

The Astor Cross at the northern churchyard.

The Cross carries sculpted figures to illustrate the genealogy of Jesus Christ according to St. Luke.

Around the four-sided obelisk are the following familiar characters: on the front side, going upwards - Adam and Eve, Shem and Judah; and on the other three sides, (a) Noah, Jacob and David; (b) Enoch, Isaac and Jesse; and (c) Seth, Abraham and Ruth, in the other sides,  And at the top of the structure is the Crucifix.

Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, at the doors and the churchyard cross at Trinity Church.

Adam and Eve.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A belen remembrance, thanks to Belenismo of Tarlac

Belen 2016 near Camp Sevillano Aquino, San Miguel, Tarlac.

For the past couple of years, we've been wanting to make a trip to (a) San Fernando, Pampanga for a look at their renowned giant lanterns from the different barangays during their 'ligligan ng mga parol' competition, and (b) Tarlac province to check what's this belenismo event all about: an annual inter-town competition as to who makes the best nativity scene.

On 21 December, we left traffic-bedraggled Metro Manila in mid-afternoon hoping to get to Tarlac just as soon as the belens get lit up. We thought we'd be able to finish San Miguel, Tarlac and Tarlac City early enough to get to watch the giant parols at the back of Robinson's in San Fernando, Pampanga.

We were late for the giant lantern show, and there's not much chance we'd be able to see the 'ligligan this year'.

After the ride through NLEX-SCTEX and the dark stretch of McArthur Highway through the Luisita estate, we got rewarded with an awesome sight: a giant peacock made out of colorful fans and winnowing baskets and 'feathers' of bamboo strips with the bird's bosom cradling the manger scene, and the star fixed on its head.

The nativity scene with the Magi. There were sheep but no shepherds.

This peacock belen won the top prize in this year's Belenismo of Tarlac, a competition among the towns as to who would create the best nativity scene.  We read in the papers that President Digong DU30 himself was the guest during the awarding ceremony. The poster announcing the event said it's 'free admission.'

The bird's head served as the star.

We saw two other belens in Tarlac City that used indigenous materials.

That of SM Tarlac City used dangling bamboo poles all around the traditional images of the nativity; the heads of Mary and Joseph though were moving.

Belen of SM Tarlac City.

The non-traditional belen across the street fronting the Cathedral made use of bamboo mats in configuring the images of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and the Three Kings.

Belen in the plaza across the cathedral, Tarlac City

All these reminded us that once when we were a math teacher in a Catholic high school in the old hometown, we were tasked to construct the belen in the church.

Together with one of my students who would become an architect, we made use of all the cut branches of the mango tree that got torn up during the storm some months before. We assembled them to make the platform for the nativity scene complete with kings and shepherds around the holy family, and hooked the angel above them with a long wire to the ceiling.

Our American Columban parish priest did not object when we constructed the belen a few meters from the entrance, and it was the first and last (we think) that the church belen was not located at its customary place at the right or left side of the altar. The traditionalists did not directly chide us, but we got plenty of 'why there?' inquiries. Our safe retort was, 'so that you'd see it in full right away, and not hidden by heads in front of you during the mass.'

The footnote to the "belen" story in the letter of Fr. Pedro Rosell on 17 April 1885, found in Blair and Robertson (vol, 43),  indicates that the word is derived from "beleno", which means "birth, in the sense of representing that of our Lord Jesus Christ (Echegaray's Diccionario etimologico), Hence, it was the representation of a manger."

Fr, Rosell wrote about a simple belen made inside the church. Then as now, there was not much religious ceremony that attended it: it merely illustrated the Christmas story.

His letter reflects how the people of that time celebrated Christmas and the joy expressed through the pealing of the bells and the singing of Christmas carols. Today, one can hardly hear church bells, and yes, carols (and their derivatives) are still sung, but not so many people practice the adoration of the Holy Child.

Here's Fr. Rosell telling about one Christmas day in his parish to his Father Superior:

"And now you shall see, Father Superior, the religious ceremonies with which we managed to honor the birth of our Blessing, Jesus. As a preparation for the feast [of Christmas] the [feast of the] expectation of the delivery of our Lady was celebrated one week beforehand, and a daily mass of the Queen [i.e., of the Virgin] which a moderate number of persons attended. On the last day or the vigil of the feast, a pleasing, although simple Belen was made at one side of the presbytery in which were placed the images of the Child, Mary, and Joseph. Christmas eve came, and at eleven o'clock the bells were rung loudly, and from half past eleven until twelve, a continual ringing of bells two at a time announced to the people that the mass called Gallo was to be celebrated in memory of that holy hour in which the eternal Son of God the Father, made man in the most pure entrails of the Virgin Mary willed to be born on that poor and abandoned manger threshold [portal de Belen]. Hence when twelve o'clock had struck, the missa-cantata was said, which was followed by the adoration of the holy Child. That was made enjoyable by the singing of some fine Christmas carols. The twenty-fifth dawned bright and joyful. At eight o'clock in the morning solemn mass was celebrated, which was chanted according to custom by the choir of singers of the church, with the accompaniment of two flutes and a tambourine. About one hundred persons took communion at it. There was a sermon, and at the end of the mass, there was another adoration of the Child Jesus. At the end of the function, the authorities and chiefs of the village came to visit us as they are wont to do during all the great feasts of the year. After that the musicians and singers congratulated us for the good Christmas from the hall of the convent, with toccatas according to the custom of this country, and Christmas carols. After them followed a crowd of people of all classes. What arrested my attention most was the liberty with which they went up and down stairs, hither and thither, and addressed the fathers and begged for what they needed. I will say it: the convent appeared nothing more nor less than a Casa-Pairal.  Since the ceremonies of the morning were so long, nothing was done in the afternoon except to have the adoration of the holy Child, a thing which those excellent and simple people enjoy greatly and never tire of doing. With that the feast of the nativity of our Lord ended." 

Reference: Blair, E.H. and Robertson, J.A. (1903-09).  Letter from Father Pedro Rosell. Caraga, April 17, 1885. [From ut supra.] The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803. 1:43(225-228). Cleveland, Ohio: The A. H.Clark Company.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Traditional All Saints Day 'tumba' revived this year in boyhood town

This year's undas, Filipino term for All Saints Day, saw the revival of the traditional tumba in San Narciso, Zambales. On Halloween and All Saints nights, there were four of us who roamed around the old hometown to view and judge thirty tumbas competing in either the floral or horror categories.

There were eight floral entries done in the traditional manner. During our boyhood, there were no plastic flowers yet, and floral wreaths brought to the graveyard of the departed were made from crepe paper of various colors. When dusk fell on All Saints, these were brought home to decorate the neighborhood tumba. If left behind, one could bet that somebody else would take them to lend color to their own tumba.

A traditional tumba, c1955. Photo from the Dr Fely Floresca collection.

Our late uncle Maximo Ramos, who wrote about Philippine myths, legends, folktales and mythological creatures, described customs and practices during undas in our town of his youth in his essay "Holiday in Black."  Here's his recollection of the tumbas, which he called shrines:

"Frail, candle-lit shrines of bamboo and coconut fronds have been erected at a number of street crossings. .. Each shrine is an elaborate affair occupying almost the whole of a street crossing, leaving but a narrow pass or the carabao carts. The facade is an arch of woven bamboo strips and is bright with candles. Behind the arch and underneath a ceiling of black cloth stands a pyramid of three large boxes in different sizes piled on a table. The pyramid is covered with black cloth, and upon the cloth paper cuttings of skulls and crossbones have been pasted. The cuttings resemble the figures that grin out of the labels of bottles containing deadly concoctions. Paper flowers of all but the gayer colors stand on bamboo stalks in green bottles arranged on the steps of the pyramid.

"A small paper coffin rests on top of it all, and over the coffine hovers a paper lantern in the shape of an angel with hands clasped in prayer. Ornamental plants in rusty tin cans crowd about the bamboo poles supporting the ceiling. Benches brought down from the homes nearby are lined with old folks who talk in low tones, over basi and betel nut, of the good deeds of those who have gone on before."

Electricity has yet to come in San Narciso in his boyhood years, and they rode on carabao carts to visit tumbas around the town.

In our time, electric power was turned on at six, and tumbas were no longer candle-lit. There was still the basic bamboo structure, roofed with coconut fronds, but there could just be one box on the table on which was mounted a religious image.

We still rode on carts, but there were also the horse-drawn caretelas and a few jeepneys for the tour of tumbas. What children (even adults) found amusing were the kuyang-kuyang, skeletons made of white-painted cardboard with moveable hands and feet pulled with strings.

This tumba tradition is a cultural heritage handed down from our ancestors who settled in San Narciso in 1837: the Ilocanos who were predominantly from Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

Paoay holds a Tumba Festival every year to keep alive their cultural tradition of honoring the spirits of the dead. The people there place offerings in their tumbas: cigars, betel nut, basi and native delicacies for those who come to join them recite prayers,  In the center is also a platform with a religious image such as a patron saint or the Crucifix surrounded with flowers and candles.

This year's winners in the revival of traditional (floral) tumbas in our town were:

The top prize winner used paper flowers with the barangay patron saint in the center, The creativity showed in the arrangement of various decorative props all around the structure. It featured a kuyang-kuyang.  

The second placer had Our Lady of Fatima surrounded with floral decorations fashioned from recyclable green plastic bottles. It also had a kuyang-kuyang.

The third-placer had a paper boat carrying a cut-out image of a man and woman, which suggested the vice-mayor and woman mayor steering the local government. Was this tumba  an expression of thanks (salamat) for the new leadership of the town?

The horror movies from Hollywood, Japan and Korea have entered into the cultural consciousness of the young of today. They were the ones who built the twenty two horror tumbas, which they populated with zombies whatever the story line they dramatized in three minutes. In our tour, we were telling the production people that next time, they should spook their tumbas with indigenous mythological creatures like the aswang, kapre, tikbalang, etc.  

There were about five of the twenty two horror shacks that stood out in concept and execution. From this short list, we picked these three winners: 

The top prize went to a tableaux of victims of a disaster. The characters (shown here) and one 'hanging' from a tree (above the roof) froze to depict the victims of a disaster.

This winner showed the results of a failed experiment in a modern laboratory, obviously a take-off from the Frankenstein story,

This one had actors dramatizing a nightmare (bangungot) that can cause the death of someone sleeping.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Juan Luna, cover boy of Ilustracion Artistica

Three days before his 27th birthday, Juan Luna was cover boy of the 20 October 1884 issue of La Ilustracion Artistica, a weekly newspaper on literature, arts and science published in Barcelona, The cover story gave a brief biography of the artist and dwelt lenghtily on the Spoliarium, his large painting that won the 'primer premio' (gold medal) in the Exposición de Bellas Artes (Exhibition of Fine Arts) in Madrid.

The story described Luna as a 17-year old boy who received the title of Piloto de Altos Mares (Pilot of the High Seas) from the Escuela de Nautica de Manila in 1874. He boarded a ship shortly after graduation, starting his career as a beardless boy, according to the story, and sailed for thirty months. His shipmates called him el marino atrevido, the daring sailor.

During those thirty months, he had as much time to study the sky, according to the story, and probably to think about new ideas of securing a bright future. Here's how Ilustracion depicted Luna's predicament out there at sea  --

"Who knows ... Maybe in the imposing solitude of the sea, in one of those times when there is no way to avoid nostalgia, in which one yearns for something unknown and the heart struggles to get out of the chest as the prisoner struggles to leave the prison, as the bird struggles to get out of the cage, our young man was fixed on a star; and the wind that rippled the surface of the waters whispered in his ear unexpected revelations, mysterious words that no one pronounces and yet distinctly resonate in the soul of the preordained. Those words are also like those heard by Saul on the road to Damascus and Augustine on African soil; inspiration from on high that puts the powerful genius to go in reverse what he begun on the journey of life."

All it wanted to say was that Luna changed his mind about his career. For as soon as he had landed, and he was turning twenty years old, he entered the Academia de Bellas Artes in Manila 'with the intent of studying drawing.'  He was, according to the story, tested soon. He got affected by the dismissal of one of the directors, who was deemed inept or not fully qualified by the rest of the school directors.

Luna transferred to another school, and as Ilustracion said:

"Who was daring at sea should not, on the ground, easily give up a pawn: D. Lorenzo Guerrero, a professor as modest and as intelligent, admitted Luna to his Academia India, and discovering in this already big student truly exceptional qualities, he advised his parents to send him to Madrid, where he met the renowned painter D. Alejo Vera, a skilled teacher and a friend, more than a friend, almost a father. It is not therefore surprising that when Vera transferred to Rome, he took with him his fond disciple. This was in 1878; a year before he begun in the first rudiments of drawing; three years later. he won the second medal in the Madrid Exposition of 1881, with the painting "Muerte de Cleopatra." The new artist started his career rather late, but as if to make up for the lost time, he had to catch up. In three years, he had leveled with good painters; in another three (1884), he has taken place among the great masters.".

The Spoliarium was a supplement, a two-page spread, in the La Ilustracion Artistica
That same issue had for its supplement a two-page spread of the painting of fallen gladiators being hauled away after the bloody sports competition in the Roman arena.

Five months earlier, the cover of  the 30 May 1884 issue of La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana, a weekly newspaper published in Madrid, also showed the Spoliarium: how it was displayed at a Exposicion gallery with a small crowd of viewers, who could have been discussing about its merits and rating it among the other competing entries.

Spoliarium at the Exposition

Luna's works actually started getting the attention of these two weekly newspapers as early as 1881. La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana featured a one-page spread of his Muerte de Cleopatra, which he entered in the Exposicion de Bellas Artes in Madrid in 1881. The reporter on the exhibits noted that with better composition and careful drawing, Luna, without doubt, would shine in Spanish contemporary art.

In our latest survey, the last appearance of a Luna painting was in the 27 January 1896 issue of La Ilustracion Artistica: the painting titled El Trapero [The Ragman or Ragpicker].  The write-up said that "this simple composition has enough elements to show the characteristic qualities of  the painter's works, among which undoubtedly stands out the vigor of his drawing and brushwork, revealing a fiery temperament and a lively imagination." 

El Trapero.

In that span of fifteen years, several of Luna's work were played up in both Ilustracion newspapers. Except that of the masterpiece Spoliarium, a short write-up accompanied each featured painting.

Pictures of the following Luna paintings appeared in La Illustracion Artistica of Barcelona:

1.  Mujeres Romanas was the supplement (two-page spread) in the 25 February1884 issue; 

2. La Belleza Feliz y La Esclava Ciega occupied one whole page in the 14 March 1887 issue; 

3. El Babieca was on the cover of the 02 April1888 issue; 

El Babieca.

4.  La Mestiza, which won a diploma of honor in the 1887 Exposition in Madrid, was in the 28 May 1888 issue; 

5. Ensuenos de Amor, his entry to the Universal Exposition of 1888 in Paris, appeared in the 25 June 1888 issue; and  

Pueblos y Reyes

6.  Pueblos y Reyes was fearured in the 21 May 1894 issue.  The accompanying short article said that this was a controversial piece in the 1892 Exposicion Nacional but it deserved the applause accorded to it and the painter. It was described as a "large canvas [that] can be appreciated as a great sketch pictorially; but the conception, movement and action of the figures, the whole ensemble energetically portrays a moment, a violent and brutal deed, the orgy of a popular uprising." 

The popular painting España Guiando a Las Islas Filipinas por el Camino del Progreso was featured in the 08 January 1889 issue of  La Ilustracion Española y Americana of Madrid.  A version of this can be viewed at the Lopez Museum and Library.

Spain guiding the Philippines

Luna killed his wife and mother-in-law in September 1892. We have yet to see if a French newspaper had a story about this incident and his acquittal later. It appears that this did not affect the appreciation of the culturati of Spain of Juan Luna's masterful paintings. His works still got publicity after 1892.



All images in this blog are from the digital collection of the Biblioteca Nacional de Espana. The Ilustacion newspapers can be accessed from the Search box of the Biblioteca webpage:

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Human art forms in MANILART 2016

Retablo with ostrich eggs bearing carved religious icons.

Opening night. We were first drawn to a retablo reminiscent of preserved/conserved altars of Philippine churches that date back to the Spanish colonial times. The artist though filled the niches up with ostrich eggs, lamps to our mind with carvings of religious images such as the Sto, Nino and the Mother of Perpetual Help, instead of the the traditional statuettes of saints and martyrs, the Virgin Mary and the crucifix.

That re-invention of a cultural artifact is a counterpoint to the predominance of bulols, ancient deities in the Cordilleras, in the Shambala Living Museum exhibits of indigenous handicrafts including a couple of low wooden chairs with phallic handles.

Ancient gods at the Shambala Living Museum exhibits.

Later did we think that the retablo and the ancient gods provided some kind of religious context to sculpted human forms: whole bodies, torsos, heads, done in the conventional or modern manner, that convey various artistic expressions such as -

Traditional values ...

Harmonious relationships such as between mother and daughter ...

Re-interpretation of Jose Rizal ...

Abstracted realities ...

Harsh reality of the current drug war: the victim of EJK (extrajudicial killing)  ...

Note: MANILART 2016 was held at SMX Convention Center, SM Aura, Bonifacio Global City on 06-09 October 2016.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Mary in the stained-glass windows of Santo Domingo Church

It's October in Quezon City! It used to be 'October in Manila!' in the fond memories of the late National Artist Nick Joaquin of the fiesta of the La Naval in Intramuros, the old Manila. 

The Santo Domingo Church rose again after the bombs of the so-called American liberation forces razed it to the ground, but not any more in Intramuros but in Quezon City. The new church was inaugurated in October 1954, and the La Naval was brought there in 1957.

The church has been declared a national cultural treasure in 2011 because it possesses a rich trove of religious, historical and cultural materials.

It is surrounded, for example, by large beautiful stained-glass windows designed by Galo Ocampo after returning from Rome. The Archbishop of Manila sent him there to design the windows for Santo Domingo and the Manila Cathedral. 

Among his designs were the fifteen windows depicting the old joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of the rosary. Other windows are portraits of the leading saints of the Dominicans like those of St. Vicente Liem de la Paz and other martyrs in Indo-China, Japan and China.

We heard mass on the third day of the feast week of the La Naval (29 September to 09 October 2016), and our attention was focused on her image on the altar. After the mass, we focused on the stained-glass windows that feature Mary in white and blue. The triptych on the right side depicts the victory of the allied Christian forces against the Turks at Lepanto in 1571 (right side of the panel), and of the Spanish naval forces against the Dutch invaders in Philippines waters in 1652 (left side of the panel), both of which were attributed to Our Lady of the Rosary. 

The middle panel could be a rendition of the image of Our Lady in the side chapel of the Santo Domingo Church in Intramuros before the battle of Manila in 1945. A historical account says it had Saint Dominic and Saint Catalina de Siena kneeling before her image, and the former receiving a rosary. 

The names of the donors can be discerned at the bottom of the panels: Andres Soriano and family (battle of La Naval de Manila), [Asosacion?] de Honor de Maria (central panel), and Don Manuel [Elizalde?, name not very legible] (battle of Lepanto).

Large panel at the right side depicting the battles of La Naval de Manila and Lepanto.

Mary is featured in other windows: all of the five depictions of the joyful mysteries, two in the sorrowful, and three in the glorious mysteries.

As installed. the mysteries are in reverse sequence following one's movement from the entrance to the altar. Here, left to right, are (1) the Annunciation, (2) the Visitation, (3) the Nativity, (4) the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple, and (5) the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple.

We were not able to discern the donors of the Annunciation and Nativity windows. The Visitation was donated by the UST Medica Association and MEDSCA, the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple was from the family of a 'vda. de Cacho' (first name not discernible), and the Finding of the Child Jesus came from Dr. and Mrs, Constantino P. Manahan,

Mary can be seen in the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion in the Sorrowful Mysteries windows. The donors' names however were partly hidden and could not be discerned.

Mary in the Sorrowful Mysteries windows: the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion.

The Glorious Mysteries are depicted in two individual windows (the Resurrection and the Ascension) and one large triptych comprising the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Coronation of the Blessed Mother.

Mary figures in these three mysteries:

Mary witnesses the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven.
The Ascension is on one side of the choir loft (right side if one is facing the main door), while the triptych is the back of the loft.

Mary in the Descent of Holy Spirit (right panel); her Coronation (left pane;), and her Assumption (center). 

One discerns the following as donors of the large window: Mr. and Mrs. Luz T. Engalla (coronation), the Vicente Madrigal family (assumption) and the Quezon family (descent of the Holy Spirit).

Facing this glorious window on the opposite side is the triptych depicting the martyrs of the Dominican order. In the chancel are six windows, three on each side of the altar, saints and martyrs honored by the Dominicans,

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

First learning encounter with sculptor Auguste Rodin

We viewed the special exhibit 'Rodin: Transforming Sculpture' at the Essex Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts the day before we flew to San Francisco simply because we just wanted to see the iconic The Thinker and The Kiss sculptures of Auguste Rodin. We did not know much else about him and his works; hence, this museum visit became Rodin 101 appreciation course for us.

Big white drapes were hang from the ceiling and along the walls of the six exhibition galleries to give the feel of roaming around his studio. There were some 175 pieces on display, big and small, in clay, plaster, marble, patinated plaster, and bronze.

The first gallery had configurations of hands, small statuettes, and up in the wall was The Gates of Hell, the bronze doors that were inspired by Dante's Inferno. We later learned that some of Rodin's major works were originally planned for The Gates, and some figures there were transformed into independent pieces.

One of them is The Three Shades, or the souls of the damned in Dante's Divine Comedy. This trio of nude male in exaggerated twisted pose can also be found at the top of the said The Gates. 

The Three Shades.

In the Christ and Mary Magdalene, which shows a dying man nailed to a rock with a naked mourning woman kneeling in front of him, the Magdalene is said to have been derived from one of the condemned figures in The Gates. 

Christ and Mary Magdalene.

Rodin also called this Prometheus and the Oceanid and The Genius and Pity, thus giving his art piece religious, mythical and secular undertones. On the whole though, we were looking at polished surfaces of naked bodies esp. that of the contorted female against the rough marble on which these are mounted.

While we were looking for the iconic The Kiss, we encountered variations of the kissing theme such as the Eternal Spring. Literature on Rodin's artworks tell us that the latter piece was originally modeled while he was planning The Gates of Hell.

Eternal Spring.

The Kiss.

There were indeed many other naked bodies in this Rodin exhibition like the famous The Thinker both in bronze and patinated plaster; St. John the Baptist in plaster, which we think has resemblance with The Awakening Man in bronze; Adam in bronze and Eve in patinated plaster.

The crooked finger of Adam pointing downward reminded us of Adam's finger in Michaelangelo's mural of the creation in the Sistine Chapel. On the other hand, the brawny contortions in the body of Rodin's Adam contrasts strongly though with the polished structure of Michaelangelo's David. Nevertheless, we found traces of Michaelangelo's influence in the Rodins.

The Thinker.

Adam and Eve.

In contrast to the nudes were the fully robed Monument to Balzac and the three clothed Burghers of Calais, all in bronze.  It was interesting to read that this robed Balzac was controversial, and it took years for Rodin to make several studies before he finally came out with this distillation of the persona of the French novelist and playwright as being alone but with head aloft.

Other Rodin's studies of Honore de Balzac on exhibit were his head in bronze, and his full naked figure in plaster.

Monument to Balzac (top left); bust (top right) and full figure (bottom).

Only three of the six Burghers of Calais were part of the exhibit. These draped figures represent the burghers who chose to sacrifice their lives to save their city during the Hundred Years War,  According to literature on this commissioned work, the figures are arranged in a circle, thus not one of them is the focal point. Rodin created two versions. The Burghers in the memorial in Calais are mounted on a pedestal, and the others at the Musee Rodin in Paris were on the ground so that viewers can go around them.

Three of the six Burghers of Calais. 

The special exhibit was on view from 14 May to 05 September 2016. As expected, the do-not-touch rule was enforced but the organizers provided us slabs of the media (clay, plaster, marble) to feel in lieu of the polished or rough body surfaces of the artworks. We're thankful though that photography was allowed.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11/16: Remembering the Twin Towers

The first thing we had in mind when we got to New York recently was visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum (9/11 Memorial in short), which opened on the anniversary day five years ago, 

The Memorial consists of twin pools, each about an acre in size, surrounded by bronze parapets where names of the people killed in the attacks of 11 September 2001 and 26 February 1993 are inscribed.  The north and south pools are set within the footprints of the original Twin Towers, which were known then as One and Two World Trade Center (WTC), also as North and South Towers, respectively. 

The Twin Towers and The Sphere at the 9/11 Museum. Photo by the author.

The first item we saw upon entry to the Museum was a blow-up picture of the Twin Towers with the large metallic sculpture called The Sphere in the foreground. And as we gazed at it, memories of more than 30 years ago came flooding in.

In 1982, for six months, we commuted from upper west Manhattan via the A Express subway train to Cortlandt to get to the World Trade Center. We would get into the the express elevator to the 78th floor sky lobby where we'd transfer to the local elevator to get to our cubicle at the 89th floor. We were in training in health physics with Ebasco Services, the largest tenant then of Two WTC (South Tower), occupying 16 floors between the 77th and 93rd. 

Up and down these elevators became quite routine for the lunch breaks either at the ground floor or around the neighborhood, and for the rush to the PATH or to the subway stations nearby for those heading home to New Jersey or elsewhere in New York, respectively,

We were originally facing the windows through which we could see the canyon of buildings on Broadway. One time as we were looking at the view of buildings from our desk, we suddenly realized that the tower was swaying: the vertical frames of the windows were moving vis-a-vis the skyscraper in the distance.  That made us turn the table around, and henceforth, had our back to the windows as we pored through our training materials.

We remembered taking a picture of the Twin Towers before we left New York for a job training in Tennessee. There had also been other pictures that we took at the lobby where the giant tapestry of Joan Miro hang, and those at the top, where, on clear, sunny days, we could see the city and New Jersey as far as our eyes could reach.

The Twin Towers, Oct 1982. Photo by the author.
Our picture of the towers reminded us that on the day before 9/11, we were at the Austin J. Tobin Plaza, near The Sphere, and we had fun looking at two young Frenchmen trying to get a souvenir photo of themselves with the top of the towers as background. One of them had to lie down with a camera so that he can get the other one framed by the towers as he stood on the parapet around The Sphere. 

This sculptural piece, badly damaged, is installed at the Battery Park, We learned that it would be relocated within the 9/11 Memorial. 

The damaged The Sphere at Battery Park. Photo by the author.

On 9/11, we were preparing to leave our friend's house in Queens for the WTC because we wanted to buy a discounted ticket for a Broadway musical. I think it was The Producer, at a TKTs booth there to avoid the long queues at Times Square. We were having coffee and watching TV. When the first plane struck one of the towers, we thought an accident had just happened. We were all glued to the breaking news still unaware that these were terrorist attacks. When the towers came down, the young man in the house was almost in panic, deeply worried of  his friends who were working within the WTC complex. 

Subway trains to lower Manhattan were suspended that day. Some lines were opened the next day and we could get to the Penn Station on 34th Street. The Amtrak trains were running, and we decided to leave for Boston.

The train was full, and everybody it seemed had a newspaper to read. The headlines were all about the terror that hit the United States on 9/11: the attacks on the towers and the Pentagon, and an aborted one due to the heroic act of the passengers.

Relics from the towers at the 9/11 Museum. Photo by the author.

We felt the terrorist scare when we were approaching Providence, Rhode Island. Suddenly, without explanation, the train stopped on the tracks. The wait for it to resume running became stressful and tense. The mobile phones of passengers calling their friends or families provided the logical answer to our predicament. Our train was stopped because authorities were searching another train on the other track for suspected terrorists.

The parapet around the 9/11 Memorial pools. Photo by the author.

9/11 wrought a drastic change in the airport departure protocols. We were among the first to taste stricter security procedures from Boston to San Francisco on our way home to Manila a week after. We remember that our check-in baggage were selected for inspection in Boston, and we had a good laugh with the inspector regarding the large quantity of chocolate candies we were bringing home. They were very alert for pointed objects.  In San Francisco, a good friend who was on the same flight with us had a micro screw driver in his carry-on. He argued that it's something not easy to find in Manila, hence, as an accommodation, it was wrapped, tagged, and checked in, in a way, with the flight crew.

9/11 reverberates in every airport around the world. One can not even get a bottle of water past security.