Clara in Italy: Naples, Pompeii etc

January 19, 2017

I’m home now, have been for a while, but have only just contracted some kind of horrible cold and am full of aches and shivers. It sucks, but oh well. The price you pay for a properly cold winter here in western New York!

For the very last part of my semester abroad, we traveled down south towards Naples, staying in a little town called Vico Equense some miles away. Vico borders the sea, and the beach was good fun for me! Found a wonderful hagstone that I somehow managed to cram into my suitcase intact.

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It was rather obnoxiously heavy, I don’t deny it, but totally worth it.We also found a bunch of hermit crabs! This one was really nervous. I felt sort of bad for scaring it, but we released it after about a minute, so I suppose no harm done.

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And on our way, we met a really cute cat that followed us for a little bit before running off.

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Not to mention the actual beach.

All in all, a lovely town, though we didn’t get to stay for too long.

In Naples, we went to the Capo di Monte museum, which, if I am honest, was too much art for me to handle. I was arted out. Like, there was so much art this semester, I could barely function at this point. Nevertheless! Some cool, cool stuff to be seen, such as some of the most beautiful drawings by Raphael I’d ever seen??

I don’t even really like Raphael, I’ll admit that right now, but oh BOY, look at how pretty that is the photo doesn’t do it justice.

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Like. Listen guys. Listen. This is the sort of drawing that I WISH I could create. Holy crap. I cry a thousand tears.

Anyways, besides that, I also got to see this painting of Atalanta???? I didn’t know it was here??? Oh man?????

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Atalanta! My idol. Sort of. Well, I don’t know, I respect her anyways. And I really like this painting and one time I created a graphics set using it and anyways, this painting is cool and I like it a lot and I got to see it in person. That’s what I was really trying to say. Photo is still pretty terrible at doing justice to the painting, but anyways. There it is.

But here’s my favorite thing I saw in the museum. I have no idea what it really is, but I’m guessing a sort of writing set/table and?? It’s gorgeous. Look at it.

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So much mother-of-pearl and the fineness of the details in it. It was really stunning, not gonna lie.

And finally, some cute little porcelain figures that imitate curly fur ridiculously well. Dang, right?

Yes, you heard me right, that’s porcelain. What kind of nonsense.

I’m getting carried away, because that wasn’t even my favorite museum during this visit. I’m only going to post one picture from my favorite because I actually didn’t take that many photos. In a sort of backwards way, it’s a testament to how excited and awed I was, okay? The Archaeological Museum. Oh my god.

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Look, I’m not going to show you any more because my photos are abysmal. Just. If you ever have the chance and you are as much of a nerd for classical art as I am, go here. I’m not kidding. This stuff is incredible. I just want to touch all of it, oh man. This stuff is thousands of years old!!! And it’s so NICE. Like WOW. Do you see that?? That’s not a painting, that’s a mosaic and it is amazingly preserved. From Pompeii. This whole exhibit gives a really human character to the city and the people that died. Again, I cry a thousand tears. Art man. Art is incredible.

I loved this museum. It was one of my favorite places in Italy. I mean, besides Pompeii itself, which was also incredible and a weird transcendental experience for me, the adult who was once a small child fascinated with the Greeks and Romans. (Not quite as incredible as visiting Delphi a few years ago, which just???? I still can’t quite wrap my mind around the fact that I’ve been there. But I digress.)

I have almost no pictures from Pompeii itself, same for Naples, which is sort of a shame because that was a mistake on my part. But here are just a couple notable things.

1. Pompeii

Some really human graffiti, and an incredible restored painting. I couldn’t deal with this okay. It was so cool.

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2. Naples

THE TRAIN STATION FULL OF PLASTIC SNAILS. IT IS MY FAVORITE THING.

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I think that’s an appropriate place to leave you all because hey, why be so serious about it? Giant plastic snails are just as artsy as some classical paintings, and they bring me around the same amount of joy. (Okay, maaaaaaybe the classical paintings bring me a little more because they appeal to my inner child, but still.)

Stay determined, y’all. Hope you enjoyed what I had to say about the joys of Italy.

 


Clara in Italy: The Mostra

January 9, 2017

This isn’t so much about Italy as it is about the culmination of my semester at UGA Cortona, which just happens to be in Italy. I’ve been in four studio classes for over 10 weeks and we put on a final show at the end exhibiting our best work from each class! It was really fun to set up–maybe that’s the theater kid in me, but I like working together on a show. I was on the matting team, so I was helping to frame all the flat works that were going to be hung on the wall. Starting bright and early at 8:30am woo woo! Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of pictures of that?? Or any?? I was really tired and out of it, but I still think I did a bomb job along with the rest of the team. 😀 Worked until 2pm, and then had to run off to the Italian language exchange (which I also have no photos of because I suck). But anyways, it was a really cool learning experience! Unsurprisingly, all the materials for matting cost way more than I want things to cost, but that’s the #artlife for you I guess. (Ten euro a board??? RIP wallet if I ever need any of this for the future.)

Anyways, the most important pictures first. Me as a cthonic monster entering the premises.

Taken by my friend Angel, the photo champ.

Actually I might post a bunch of her pictures, since she did a much better job than I did of documenting the ridiculousness of opening night.

Still there are a few good ones (or halfway decent ones idk). Such as this picture of horrible (jk I love her) roommate Hannah pointing at Angel’s sketch of the David.

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Hannah please.

If you were curious, by the way, here are three of my pieces. (I did take these ones.)

We also all received flowers from our professors who are the sweetest, and I somehow ended up with two, so I stuck them both in my hair.

Super crappy lighting, I know. Sorry. I get really awkward while taking selfies in public, which is why I look like I’m dying slightly on the inside even though I was actually having a great time.

There’s not much to say about the actual show except that I was really proud of our work and it was also really really really cold!!!! I was so cold. Most people spent a lot of time eating snacks in the sideroom where it was slightly warmer and shielded from he wind.

Here are a couple shots of the hall with people in it:

And now, a showcase of Angel’s photos (with permission):

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There’s Angel in the middle, with our art history professor Eva and Hannah the Roommate all making the Hannah(tm) photo expression.

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Me in front of my oil painting.

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Me, UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE HECK YEAH.

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The hall empty and looking very respectable.

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Our book arts professor Julie and Hannah posing grumpily next to Julie’s piece.

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Jeff, our photography professor, ALSO UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE HECK YEAH (but I think it’s a pretty adorable photo and he thought so too)

Anyways, that’s about it. It was a really good academic culmination. Stay determined guys! Happy holidays!


Clara in Italy: Le Celle (and light)

December 29, 2016

AKA he really should have been called St. Francis of CORTONA guys am I right (also I really like sunsets)

Basically, one thing I learned in Italy was that St. Francis of Assisi actually first set up in Cortona. His first monastery was established at Le Celle, just outside Cortona. You have to walk even further up the hill from where we were established, up to a different town called Torreone. It’s a very small town with a small coffee shop that serves GIANT COFFEES. Like, the size of your head. (If I’m being suuuuuuuper honest, the giant coffees are not… that… good………. but they’re giant, and that’s what matters.) Here’s a picture of the fountain just outside that for some reason I’ve always liked. Maybe it’s the lettering or something.

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Anyways, the view on the way to Le Celle is honestly pretty killer, as are most views in Cortona, but like. Especially, since we’re even higher than usual.

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But before I get too sidetracked, here it is. Le Celle!

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It’s quite a magical place. There’s a little waterfall and some lovely stone rooms.

I have to admit though, it really was a perfect day for lighting, especially for someone like me that likes darker photos and weird sunlight. And of course, being the nerd I am, I took a lot of pictures of the effects of light on things in the forest and scenery around Le Celle instead of a lot of the stuff inside Le Celle itself. The whole area is, as I said, quite magical.

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We actually didn’t spend nearly as much time as I wanted to spend there in all honesty, but it got dark really fast and also rather cold, but it meant that as we walked back towards the school, we had a great view of the sunset among all the black shadowed trees.

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We had been waiting (well, I guess I’d been) all semester to visit this place, so I’m glad I finally got to go at the end of the semester, though it wasn’t quite as long as I wanted it to be. Stay determined!

 

 

 


Naomi at Akita Week 16: Finals

December 29, 2016


Isabella invited a couple of us to come over around 10pm since she was making a huge pot of stew. The stew came out soupy but it was still super 美味しい (delicious). It was a very chill night. We became pretty nostalgic knowing that it was the last week of classes. Isshin started playing the guitar and we sang some songs together, including Sorry by Justin Bieber and Closer by The Chainsmokers. I found out that Isabella bought the guitar on the “AIU Buy & Sell” Facebook page for only ¥1000. I was surprised considering Isabella doesn’t play the guitar; she said she always wanted to learn though which is why she bought it. Turns out Isshin wanted the guitar too but someone had beaten him to it. He found out it was Isabella when we got to the room HAHA!


I’m really going to miss my Japanese classes – JPL300, Reading, and Kanji. We all had such a great time joking around and attempting at understanding Japanese grammar. Our JPL300 teacher never spoke English so it made us try harder in speaking Japanese. We all struggled together with the exams, ポスター発表 (poster presentation), and endless amount of homework. I’m feeling sentimental just writing this all down. I’m most likely never going to see any of these people again but we all became a family. It was nice meeting so many people that shared the same interest as me in learning Japanese. Man, what a great semester.


Isabella and I decided to get dinner together at the AEON mall as a goodbye, although I’m going to see her again next week before I actually leave Akita, thankfully. We got McDonald’s for dinner…I was planning on getting the エビフライ (shrimp burger) but when we got up to order Isabella pointed at the Mega Mac picture. She told me I should get it and I felt up to the challenge so I ordered the burger with four patties in it…oh man, I was so full. And to top it all off, Isabella practically forced me to help her finish her food. I ate four more chicken nuggets and finished up her fries. I couldn’t walk afterwards. After McDonald’s…oh, by the way, I don’t know what it is exactly but McDonald’s in Japan is so good. Compared to the states, it’s more flavorful. Like I said, I don’t know what it is but man, I love Japanese McDonald’s. Okay, so after McDonald’s, we took プリクラ (sticky pictures) together! I look so funny in the pictures with my big eyes and weirdly shaped heads. I love taking these pictures though because you always turn out looking super girly. Also, you get to design the pictures and write/draw whatever you want on them. We walked around the mall some more, looking in shops, and ended up buying some Mister Donut. Oh, and Isabella asked a random mom to take our picture in front of the Christmas tree. We’re trying to get in the holiday spirit so you know.

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This is a funny story. Annabelle found a bug in her room; apparently it jumped on her hand while she was writing her paper. She immediately freaked out and started messaging everyone to come to her room and kill it. No one was willing to do it because everyone else is also afraid of bugs. I asked her if it was a cockroach before going over to kill the bug for her because if it were a cockroach then I wouldn’t want to kill it. Cockroaches creep me out…along with centipedes. Anyways, when I walked in her room, I found her standing 6 feet away from her desk (where the bug was), staring at the bug to not lose sight of it. I immediately started laughing. I took some tissue and killed it. I held it up to her to show her that the bug was harmless but she started trying to get into the suitcase and wow, I laughed so hard tears started rolling down my face. Turns out the bug was a stink bug and it actually started smelling a bit.


This past week has just been snow…everywhere. I don’t have boots so walking around has been quite the struggle. To top it off, my shoes have holes in them so my toes are basically frozen by the time I get back inside from walking outside. The snow looks very beautiful though. I couldn’t believe it when I woke up one morning and walked to my morning Japanese class. I was in awe.


Sandy and I got lunch together at the restaurant near campus as a goodbye lunch (I’m also going to see her again next week before I leave though, thankfully). I never thought to go to the restaurant because I have a meal plan on campus. All students from AIU get a discount from this restaurant though so that was nice! Sandy was craving meat so she got pork cutlet with a small bowl of udon. I decided to follow and ordered pork cutlet with egg. The egg was still bubbling when it got to the table and it was absolutely delicious. Sandy enjoyed her meal so much she literally said “yum yum” after every bite. You know, after knowing her for this long, I still don’t know her age? She won’t tell me. She said she’s going to wait until we say bye to each other to tell me….oh brother.

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Well, this post isn’t as eventful since it was just finals week. Many people are leaving tomorrow to go back home or go on trips before they leave Akita. Next week is finals week but many students were able to get their finals pushed up, like me. I was able to move up my International Trade final to this week; thankfully all of my other classes had finals scheduled for this week. Since I have another 6 days till I leave Akita, Isabella and I decided to take a trip to Osaka! We leave tomorrow morning and will be there till the 21st. We come back to Akita on that day and leave the following morning. So, I’ll still be able to see my friends when I get back on the 21st. I can’t believe this semester has come to an end. Time flies when you’re having fun, huh? I’m trying not to get to nostalgic and upset about leaving Akita…yet. I’m going to enjoy my time in Osaka – sightseeing, shopping, and eating good food! I’m super excited! I also definitely have to buy some birthday and Christmas gifts for my mom, Tyler, and Patrik. Like I said, Patrik is going home to Okinawa with me this winter break. They all have December birthdays….can you believe it?


Clara in Italy: Throwback to Siena

December 12, 2016

Hey everyone! I realized I never talked about a lot of the excursions that happened earlier on in this whirlwind of a semester, but I thought I’d talk a little bit about Siena! A lovely little city in Tuscany.

A quick digression: one of my favorite childhood books takes place partially in Siena. I am of the opinion that everyone should read it because it is wonderfully funny and kind of sad and touching in a weird, weird way. Here’s the cover as I always knew it:

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Unfortunately, it’s quite a small image. There are several versions of it, but in any case, I love this book a lot and I’d read it over and over if I had the time. Still would.

Anyways, Siena! Still didn’t have a proper camera, but I think I did okay with my iPhone. We started off with a quick coffee break. I hadn’t quite gotten into the swing of Italian coffee–far superior to American coffee, loathe as I am to say it because it’s so cliche, but. It’s true. I don’t really like coffee that much, but I’ll drink Italian coffee, man.

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And then off to this fountain in the main square full of pigeons!!!

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Look, I know most people think of pigeons as nuisances, but I love pigeons okay? Pigeons are adorable fat little birds of joy and everything bad about pigeons is the fault of humans. They were all really pleased to be taking a bath in this fountain. They were all puffed up and covered in water. It was great.

Anyways, to the probably best part of the trip: the ARCHIVES. I am and forever shall be a massive old books nerd, so this was a really fabulous time for me. I just love old books okay? All the time! All the people that touched it! The different binding techniques! Oh boy.

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Just look at these beautiful books.

I also took this picture while we were there, and I still rather like it, even though it’s a little pretentious or whatever.

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There were two other pretty great highlights for my nerdy little heart in this day trip, one of which was the centuries-old graffiti in the Palazzo Pubblico. (I know I’ve already posted about it, but please bear with me I love it so much.)

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It’s a little hard to see, but if you look closely on the red stripe, you can see someone’s carved “1464” right there. 1464?!! That’s before Columbus landed on the shores of America and ruined everything! That’s before Shakespeare!

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Look at that! That’s in Greek! People were making marks on the walls here in Greek. That’s incredible to me. There’s also a couple from a little later–1848 and 1902, which I still think is pretty exciting. The passage of time, and yet people keep marking the same places, even as all the people who went before them are dead.

I love stuff like this, weird little snippets of human life and imperfection. Which brings me to this next picture!

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It… admittedly kind of sucks as a photo, but look at this beautiful unfinished painting. It was too high up to take a decent photo, but man. Nero watching Rome burn. It’s a 19th-century work (my unabashed favorite art period), and there’s a detailed underdrawing and bits and pieces of completed painting. Agh. I suppose most people wouldn’t consider it great art–it’s mostly pretty, but it’s a antique-historical scene done in the ridiculously idealized style of 19th-century Neoclassicists. All my favorite things!! (That’s not actually true–I also love the Romantics dearly. Probably more so in terms of actual theme. Whatever.)

I think it’s really important to show unfinished work and drawings in museums alongside finished masterpieces, because it shows process versus product. Looking only at finished product can be deceptive. It leads to the idea that great artists were geniuses who produced things as opposed to ordinary people who worked hard on a single skillset. Art is not magic. Art is hard work. Certainly talent can play into it as well, but no one got by on talent alone. Let’s admire the unfinished work for what it is, and what it shows us we can all do. I can’t make a great painting, but I can make sketches. I can’t write a masterful novel, but I can write some crappy first drafts, and I am continuously thankful for the records of first drafts of novels now digitized online. How great to know how even the classics struggled! Ha!

Anyways, to finish the day off, we got to see a short procession of the Eagle contrada–Siena is quite unique in that it has an intensely competitive horse race every year amongst the different neighborhoods (contradas) that make up the cities: The Eagle contrada had won the most recent race.

That’s all on Siena! Stay determined.

 

 


Clara in Italy: Montecassino

November 29, 2016

So remember when I wrote an entire post about how much I hated the Cappella dei Principi? I spent some time later thinking about the decor because I do really love inlay work, but my professor mentioned that it was so overwhelming and contrary to her design aesthetics. I wondered if that was also playing into my general hatred of the space in addition to the horrible power dynamics.

But then we stopped at Montecassino on the way to Naples, and I think yes, there is something to it.

Here’s Montecassino:

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Or at least, a part of the courtyard. It’s hard to get a picture of it in totality. Montecassino is one of the first (or the first? I think) monasteries of the Benedictine order. It was basically razed to the ground by Allied bombing during WWII, but has been reconstructed.

But look at the interior of the church!!

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None of this is original of course, but it’s still really beautiful. And golden. Here’s where it gets really cool though–look at this stone inlay work!

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What!! It’s everywhere.

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But I really like it here as opposed to how much it gave me the really bad shivers in San Lorenzo. Somehow, it feels warmer, you know? I still have my bones to pick with Christianity (I never won’t), but this place is lovely.

Interestingly, there is still a Medici buried here.

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There he is. Piero the Unfortunate. (The Pieros of the Medici family really got the raw end of the deal when it came to being remembered, by the way. Piero the Unfortunate and Piero the Gouty. Yikes.) He was driven from Florence during the French invasion, but was eventually given this tomb here. Still a large, imposing, obnoxious Medici tomb, but you know. It’s a little different when you’re Piero the Unfortunate instead of Cosimo the Grandduke of Tuscany. :/ He didn’t even ask for this tomb. A later Medici pope (can’t remember which?) had it made for him.

Also, there are some bronze doors from Constantinople outside, which is pretty rad, though we couldn’t figure out if these were replicas or the real thing.

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That’s my art history professor being a nerd. She’s great.

What’s the point of this post? Honestly, I don’t know. I liked Montecassino. It felt serene and safe and magical. Even though it had similar decorative techniques to the San Lorenzo chapel (even similar motifs!), it was just. Nicer. Kinder maybe? Perhaps this is just because what I know of the two places informs my impressions, but anyways. I’d definitely recommend going to Montecassino over the Cappella any day.

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Stay determined.


Clara in Italy: Power and Violence in the Cappella dei Principi

November 10, 2016

So this is going to be a fairly short post since it’s just something I’ve been thinking about since my class went our trip to Florence.

Basically, it just boils down to how much I hate this room:

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For a little more context, here’s a photo of San Lorenzo, the Medici church in Florence from above.

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Taken from wikimedia commons because sadly I don’t have a camera drone for aerial shots, though that would definitely be awesome

That gigantic domed piece right there? That’s this room. The Cappella dei Principi. The Chapel of the Princes. It’s absolutely beautiful inside. Everything is made of inlaid stone. Like!! Man, inlaid wood is amazing enough, but inlaid stone is something else. And it really is pretty much everything in there.

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That’s not a painting. Nothing in that is painted, not the shading, the colors, anything. It’s just carefully cut stone merged together seamlessly.

Here are some more detail shots of the inlay work around the place.

It really is incredible. It’s the sort of fine craftsmanship that I’d love to be able to do because fine craftsmanship is my jam. (Speaking of which, bring back respect for craft as art. Or bring back respect for art as craft? …. both??? That’s an argument for another day I suppose, but essentially, tear down the hierarchy of art and respect all forms of it as skilled labor that requires practice as opposed to the magic of talent. I feel like I’ve already had this rant…)

Still, there’s something really viscerally horrible about this room. The pictures really don’t explain it. You can probably look up more photos, but I just. It’s awful. There’s some kind of vague hymnal singing being played over speakers quietly, and it felt like the least sincere sacred space I have ever been in.There’s an altar and there are candles and it’s a chapel in a church, but it’s terribly oppressive despite the massive domed ceiling and sense of space.

You’d think I’d still have liked it–the decorative style is just so lovely. Maybe it was just too much. I don’t know. My book arts professor told me it made her grumpy too, so that was validating. I think, though, that it was really what my art history professor said at dinner: there’s something really violent about that much power.

This is the place that Hitler and Mussolini chose to meet in the 40s. This is the physical manifestation of riches and some serious 16th century conspicuous consumption. We are powerful, and we want you all to know it. To me, that’s vicious.

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Do you see those sarcophagi? They’re like 8 feet off the ground and bigger than trucks. To command so much personal space for your dead corpse–that says something too.

I don’t know what about this makes it so different from the massive Gothic churches that I like so much, but maybe it’s the division between the (ostensibly) public and the (explicitly) private that gets to me. At least churches were supposedly meant to be shared with the people at large. This just feels cold and parasitic.

Is that too harsh? The sort of anger and hyperreactivity you’d expect from a far-left women’s studies minor? Maybe. But I’ll hold to it. Visiting all of these grand monuments and churches and beautiful spaces and art havens, it’s still uneasy to me when I think about the price. It happened 600 years ago, sure, but it’s still happening now. I don’t want to lie to myself about what material awesomeness comes from.

Hope that wasn’t too much of a downer, but I want it to be something we reflect on more often. Art is not just art. History is not a vacuum, and we should not forget that. This wasn’t worded as well as I wanted it to be, and nor did it really convey what I felt, but I hope that it has come close enough to be understood.

Stay determined. The sun will still rise tomorrow.


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