0317: Walking around Florence

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The visual delights of Florence are legendary – the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, etc. The artwork, both inside the many museums and outside in the many piazzas, are certainly an eyeful. But so too is almost every small side street. Graffiti and street art is often clever and thoughtful (There is also, unfortunately, plenty of awful spray paint graffiti).IMG_9372_01_LR_12

Turning a corner might yield the sight of a Renaissance mural juxtaposed against modern life. Peeking in a window near the Duomo shows a workshop where artisans keep up centuries old traditions.

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A stroll through a graveyard (San Miniato al Monte) showed unique headstones…

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…and a most interesting crypt.

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And then there is a very clever artist (or artists) at work who turns simple traffic signs into amusing and sometimes provocative statements…

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…little visual asides that you catch out of the corner of your eye…

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…but linger in your head…

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…along with a smile lingering on your face!

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I had to include some fossils today, so I thought this little selection would work nicely.

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These are gastropods from the fossil collection of the Paleontology section of the Florence Museum of Natural History.

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They relate to an upcoming exhibition that will open at the museum in May. More on that as the date approaches.

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I did manage to take a break from working all of my Florence files to come up with something new at the studio. Ironically, new shooting began with my Moroccan trilobite (above) which I found in a Florence flea market! And, below, something I brought back from a walk in the woods yesterday.

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Thanks for the visit.

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0225: Santa Croce

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While I am not big on churches in general I must say that the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence is a wonder to behold. Construction on it was begun in 1294 and it was consecrated in 1442. It is a thing of beauty. The walls are filled with stunning paintings, sculptures and frescos – work done by artists such as della Robbia, Donatello, Giotto, Gaddi, Vasari, and many more.

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Toward the rear of the church are numerous tombs running along the side walls. This one, pictured above, belongs to Galileo (which we visited the day after his birthday). It sits directly across from the site of Michelangelo’s tomb. An odd note of history – Galileo was born on the day of Michelangelo’s death. Many have said that, at the moment of Michelangelo’s death, his soul passed on to Galileo!

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Thanks to my never-ending interest in rocks and stones, while most visitors spent much of their time looking up, I often look down. The floor of the Basilica is a wonder of marble patterns and designs.

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The neighborhood surrounding Santa Croce is our favorite area to stay. Everything is only a short walk away. There is an irresistible charm that pervades.

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The local Sant’ Ambrogio  marketplace has all things fresh daily from meats and cheeses to pasta, bread and flowers. Much to my surprise, I even found fossil trilobites from Morocco on sale for a few euro each!

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On a drizzly day last week we were surprised to see the Piazza Santa Croce transformed. A large  area of the piazza (directly in front of the Basilica) was fenced off with 2-4 inches of sand covering the cobblestones and some hay bales along the sides. An Italian rodeo perhaps?! Rather, we soon found out that we were about to witness a game called “historic football.”

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As the story goes, the game’s origin traces back to Roman times and was played regularly by association teams. On February 17, 1530, the game was played in defiance of an impending attack on the city. To ridicule the enemy, the game went on – because nothing was going to get in the way of the Florentinian tradition. And so, annually, the game is played on that date. And we were lucky enough to stumble upon it.

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At first, following the opening pomp and ritual, we assumed it to be something akin to “Old Timers’ Day” with some lighthearted attempts at a game.

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We soon found out otherwise as the game was a brutal battle that all parties took very seriously. ( A local told us that teams had been forbidden from recruiting released convicts lest it become particularly nasty!).

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On a more civilized note – During the 1400s and 1500s this neighborhood was full of artists and artisans. It very much remains so to this day. Of the many artists who live and work here there is one fascinating and wonderful artist by the name of Paolo Carandini.

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Paolo designs and creates objects of wonder and fascination. With the talents of a skilled artisan and the soul of a poet he builds these objects with parchment, leather and various imagery that are  enigmatic, often filled with literary references, sometimes with whimsey, sometimes with cathartic power and implication. And, if that’s not enough, each of his objects are clever and stunning visually.

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Please visit his site – www.paolocarandini.com

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And, finally, some street art. I have always enjoyed seeking out the various street shrines in Florence, and particularly in this neighborhood, many of which have been in place for hundreds of years. So today I bring you one from just down the street…

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…and something obviously more contemporary!

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Thanks for the visit.

1212: Beacon This Weekend

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I’m happy to report that these two images from my Street Shrines series was accepted into a juried show opening this Saturday, December 14 (6-9 PM) at the BAU Gallery in Beacon, NY. It is my first opportunity to show work there and I look forward to the event. The title of the show is Saints & Sinners – seemed like a good fit!

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I dropped the work off last weekend – my first visit to Beacon in a long time – and was I ever impressed. A lot of fine galleries with terrific art. It is also their monthly Second Saturday gallery walk. So if you are in the area please drop by.

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Like the rest of the eastern states, we here in the Hudson Valley felt the shiver of early winter the past few days. The snow and ice provided opportunity, as it almost always does, for fresh shooting prospects. I’m not quite ready for the cold just yet so I ventured only as far as my various piles of fossils and props that surround my studio.

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These slabs are all full of fossils and, when reduced to simple shapes, now look more like some cemetery in a dream…while metal springs, like the bare tree branches, pick up a nice coat.

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I also took the opportunity to throw a few prints from my “rejects” stack out into the snow and rain – don’t know where this might lead – but it has possibility. The fossil, by the way, is a rugose coral – one that I have used a number of times.

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The cold weather is also helpful in keeping me in the studio – and that is allowing me to chip away at all of my recent images from Italy. Not much in common with these new ones. They just caught my eye:

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Stairs, Spoleto

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Street Stall Stitching, Florence

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Construction, Uffizi

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Orrery, Vatican Museum

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And one last image from a recent stroll through the town of Hudson – sculpture from industry!

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Thanks for visiting.

More images at www.artmurphy.com

Subscribe at my homepage artandfossils.wordpress.com

1024: Halloween to da Vinci

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At the end of a long corridor at La Specola, at the entrance to rooms full of anatomical waxworks, this skeleton greets all visitors. An appropriate image, I thought, with Halloween just around the corner. La Specola, one of six sections that cumulatively comprise the Florence Museum of Natural History, is world famous for the waxworks and, while immensely fascinating, is not for the squeamish!

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But it turns out that La Specola is so much more. It deals with the broader subject of Zoology. Opened in 1775, it is the oldest scientific museum in Europe. I’ll have much more in future posts.

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The Botany Section, in which I was also allowed to photograph, is another wonder to behold. Not only does it contain an herbaria containing more than 225,000 dried plant specimens, it also houses endless cabinetry filled with plant seeds and samples in glass-stoppered bottles and vials. Here are a couple of examples:

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“Oculistico”, one of many street scenes I focused on, seems to have an undercurrent – and not an entirely pleasant one at that. What makes it so? Maybe it’s the sunglasses.

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Two more street scenes from Rome. Ancient buildings in the heart of the city – one with Roman artifacts strewn about all around it – and the other with motorbike parked out front.

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And here are two more from my Street Shrines series – in this case both from Rome.

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During our trip Cindy and I were constantly amazed and gratified by the treatment we received. Everyone we met was so very willing to extend themselves and help insure a memorable experience for both of us. One example was a wonderful day in the Tuscan countryside with Dr. Elisabetta Cioppi and Dr. Stefano Dominici, the two people to whom I owe such a huge debt of gratitude. It was they who were responsible for my exhibition. We managed to visit two fossil sites, the first of which was across the vineyard seen above. The cut in the distance, and the dirt road leading to it looked like this:

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I’ve never seen such density – fossils crackling underfoot like walking on popcorn! A hillside full of these Pliocene fossils (app. 3 million years old).

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I managed to bring a small bagful home to my studio where I have had some time to explore. These are a few of the resulting images.

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And finally, during that day in the countryside, Elisabetta took us to the little town of Vinci (as in Leonardo da ___). We toured the da Vinci Museum and then visited his birthplace. Turns out that in his youth he became familiar with these same fossils, part of his insatiable curiosity that eventually led to his greater understanding of geology and earth processes.

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My recent fascination with “character-laden” trees did not abate while in Italy. There was a great deal to choose from, especially this one special tree that resides in the courtyard of da Vinci’s birthplace.

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Thanks for visiting.

More images at www.artmurphy.com

Subscribe at my homepage artandfossils.wordpress.com

030813 – Great News from Florence

IMG_8525_01_LR_10I am very happy to announce that plans are under way and a date has been set for a solo show of my fossil images at the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy. It will open on September 20 of this year in the Geology and Palaeontology Division. It is an honor to have been asked and I regard this as a true highlight of my career. I’ll have much to share about this event in coming days and much to reflect upon. For now though, before anything else is said, I would like to thank Dr. Elisabetta Cioppi and Dr. Stefano Dominici for their kindness and thoughtfulness. Their desire, and my hope, is to use my images as a point of entry to the world of invertebrate fossils, many of which will be on display as part of the exhibit.IMG_8967_01b_LR_10Of course, all of this will necessitate another trip to Florence, a city that overwhelms the senses in so many ways. The museums leave one speechless. The history of art, the Renaissance, the early appreciation and melding of art and science, all become part of the air one breathes from the moment you arrive.IMG_8655_01_LR_10The churches are magnificent, from Santa Croce to the tower of the Duomo. IMG_8623_01_LR_10  _______________IMG_8406_01But it’s the streets that are so captivating. At every turn modern day coexists with the past. They bump up against each other and, in the fight for space, choose to coalesce into something most unique.IMG_9427_01_LR_10Graffiti and posters, mopeds and delivery trucks share space with ornate fountains and architectural elements hundreds of years old.IMG_8782_01_LR_10IMG_9412_01_LR_10Sometimes the graffiti is subtle. Sometimes the posters slap you in the face.IMG_9504_01a_LR_10And then there are times when it converses with the ever present religious imagery.IMG_9420_01_LR_10Street shrines often appear in the most unlikely places, thanks once again to the historical density.IMG_9417_01_LR IMG_9525_01_LR_12 IMG_9407_01_LR IMG_9523_01_LR_10And then there’s always a sweet little visual surprise around the next corner when you least expect it!IMG_8786_01_LR_10One final note – For anyone in the Woodstock, NY area – two of my Paris images will hang in two openings at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum – 4 PM on Saturday. Please drop by.

Thank you as always for visiting this site. More images at www.artmurphy.com

Subscribe at my homepage  https://artandfossils.wordpress.com