Monday, August 17, 2015

A "Dream-Sleep-Over" at the Aspen Art Museum, and the painting of the Virgin Mary that almost closed down the Brooklyn Museum

Our summer in Colorado is coming to an end.
We have only a few more days to enjoy the green Rocky Mountains before we drive down to Denver to board the first of three flights that will take us to Sapporo, Japan.

It has been a good summer.
This summer, our house was painted by caring and capable painters who went above and beyond the call of duty to fix, caulk and bring our house into tip top shape.

Many good things happened this summer, among them we rested and reflected, hiked and collected mushrooms, listened to great classical music, and I had a very productive summer of painting in the studio.

I would like to share a fun experience that we just had over the weekend at the Aspen Art Museum. 

The Aspen Art Museum had planned for over a year to host the unusual experiment of a "Dream-Sleep-Over."
Jules and I were part of a small group of 10 lucky individuals who signed up for this fun and alternative experience over the weekend.

The idea was to tap into our subconscious minds through the exploration of our dreams, after we were inspired by the art by Chris Ofili on exhibition, and spent the night in one of the museum's galleries.

Jules and I had a healthy, light dinner at Pyramid Bistro in Aspen and took a long walk around the town, as night fell all around us.

I overheard two women, who were tourists, talking about how nice it was to see kids playing in the park at night.
One of the women added that it felt so different to be in a town that is safe and so focused on nature and the beauty of the outdoors, rather than the atmosphere in their home city, which is filled with people in search of material comforts and an endless search for success. 

At nine in the evening we showed up at the side door to the Aspen Art Museum, with our pillows, sheets and toiletries.

We were warmly greeted by Michelle Dezember, who is the Learning Director at the Aspen Art Museum.
She was so eager to make our overnight stay at the museum as comfortable as possible, and even offered to bring in our favorite foods for breakfast.

The evening started with a lecture by a Jungian analyst named Stephen Foster, about dreams and the subconscious according to Carl Jung.
Stephen is a British gentleman who lives and practices in Boulder, Colorado, 

We sat around a large table and introduced ourselves, listened to the lecture, asked questions and shared a bit about our own patterns of dreaming.

Then we toured the museum late at night, enjoying the large scale paintings of Chris Ofili with most informative explanations and narratives by Michelle.

Chris Ofili is a British Artist of Nigerian descent.
His work, when it was exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, attracted a great deal of attention when Mayor Giuliani threatened to cut off funding and even evict the museum, unless they removed one of Ofili's paintings depicting the Virgin Mary which was allegedly smeared with elephant dung.
Giuliani condemned the show as “anti-Catholic,” pornographic and sacrilegious.

I am using the term "allegedly" because after spending the evening looking at the painting, it is obvious to me that neither the journalists, nor Mayor Giuliani nor the representatives of the Catholic Faith in NYC, actually saw the painting.

The painting is neither offensive nor sacrilegious.
There are no smears of dung, just a carefully placed and beautifully decorated ball of dried elephant dung which Ofili used in most of his paintings, and were even used as "legs" to stand the paintings on, while they leaned against the walls of the museum.  
The black Virgin Mary looks soft and innocent, as she is always depicted in art around the world.

While the painting was on exhibit in Brooklyn, a man vandalized it by pouring white paint all over the painting, even though it was shielded with plexiglass.
The curator was able to wash off the painting, as it was fortunately covered with resin, and thus was unharmed. 

New York City's Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the Brooklyn Museum of Art finally reached an out-of-court settlement, ending the city's attempt to cut off all of its funding to the institution and to evict the museum because it refused to remove the painting.

The museum, for its part, withdrew its lawsuit charging the city with violating its freedom of expression as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Our late night tour of the art was wonderful.
The paintings are large in scale and very expressive.
Many of the paintings are collages, combining paint with cutout photos of men and women of African descent with large Afro hairstyles, decorated with colorful dots reminiscent of the pointillism style.

When we finished touring the museum, we made our way to a gallery that had an exhibition of "Spirit Photography," a collection of old photographs showing photographic manipulation, and double exposed negatives showing spirits and ghosts alongside people and portraits.

We were given large beanbags as mattresses, and covered them with the fitted sheets we had brought from home.

Morning came fast.
We were woken up by Michelle, who had already prepared our teas and breakfast.

We sat and spoke about our dreams and how each of us experienced the experiment.

From the museum we walked to the Aspen gondola and took it to the top of Aspen mountain. We chose an easy hiking trail that meandered through a forest of pines and aspens, where we  collected a few wild mushrooms.
There was a live Blue-Grass band playing softly and a weekend crowd had come to listen.

That night we slept deeply.
I guess that even though we had slept well at the museum, it was not as restful as a good night's sleep at home.

The next day I grilled outdoors a Spanish Paella with the wild mushrooms that we had collected in Aspen. It was delicious.

It is time to take down the hummingbird feeders, close our lovely home and prepare for our journey to Japan.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

New Art, Wild Mushrooms, Bears, Magic and Berries

"Do you see a lot of wildlife around your house?," asked one of the painters who are painting our Colorado home.

"Well... Yes, we do! That is one of the reasons why we like living here... It is so quiet, and we do see lots of wildlife," I answered.

Moments later the painters came running down, calling "Bear! Bear!"

They grabbed their cell phones and snapped photos of the brown-blond bear that had walked regally and calmly down the hill behind my studio towards us.

The bear had blond colored fur on his back, and was obviously interested in some fruit that the painters had in their bag.  

Reluctantly he walked away when we brought the bag, smelling of bananas and tomatoes, closer to us.

In the last week, we hiked twice in the Beaver Creek mountain area.

The narrow hiking path intertwined between pine and aspen forests and vast meadows full of wildflowers and wild raspberries.

During our hikes we collected many fresh wild mushrooms to cook at home. 

I recently mentioned to Jules that even though I love mushrooms like organic Shiitake, Matsutake, Chanterelles, Lobster and oyster mushrooms, I rarely buy them nowadays because of their high prices.

Last week, I saw that the price of organic, farm-raised Chanterelles had reached $30 a pound, making them more expensive than any other veg or fruit in the Whole Foods supermarket.

Luckily on our two hikes, we found tasty and fresh Oyster mushrooms, Aspen Bolete, Shitake, beautiful Chanterelles, young Shaggy Mane mushrooms, and the most delicious of all, Matsutake.

It was fun and tasty cooking with the mushrooms that we found.  We added wild mushrooms to the dinner dishes that we've made this week.

In the studio, I have been busy, with a fresh burst of energy.

An artist must not wait for the gentle touch of inspiration before she enters the studio. She must show up and start working, and she will find that inspiration is all around her and inside her.... We BECOME inspiration, stimulated by the spirit of creativity, if we simply show up to DO the art.

This reminds me of the artist Chuck Close quote: "Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just show up in the studio for work."

I put the finishing touches on two abstract paintings that I had worked on for the past month, and I completed another painting in the Comics and Superheroes series.

In the new comics and superheroes painting, I used comics that I had bought in a Buddhist monastery in Bagan, Myanmar.

When we went to Myanmar, I had in mind that I wanted to buy comics that depicted  masters and monks dressed in robes, telling local spiritual stories about virtues.

For a while, we looked around but found none, but then we visited a temple in Bagan where a mother and her children were selling a collection of exactly such comics.

I used the Burmese comics this week for the background of a painting that I call, "Two Headed Flying Dragon."

I really enjoy painting this comics series, as it reminds me that life is full of magic and miracles.

The heroes in the paintings represent our inner powers and possibilities, and the dragons symbolize the fear and subconscious patterns that paralyze us.

When I work on this series, I am reminded that the ordinary reality that we THINK we see, the one devoid of magic, is only a reflection of our "grown up" minds, and a perspective of "sober materialism" that we have adopted.

Because we believe that the world is soberly materialistic, we have chased away the magic that is always here. But we can see it again, through the eyes of our inner child.....After all, a world without magic is an extremely dull and an intensely mundane one.

In the East, adults still believe in magic and miracles. You can clearly see it when you travel in Bhutan, Tibet, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and in many islands around the world, that adults have not lost their belief in magic.

I have also added here two photos of the abstract paintings that I finished recently.

They look much more awesome in real life that in the photos, because the top layer of glossy resin on them acts like reflective glass, and I was unable to photograph the paintings well without a more controlled lightning environment.

Besides my time  in the studio, I was contacted by a daughter of one of my art collectors.

She told me that years ago, her father had gifted her one of my paintings for her sweet sixteenth birthday, and that the painting has been one of her most cherished possessions on this earth.

She is married now and the mother of a young baby, and she said that recently she moved houses and during the move, the movers had ruined the painting and she was deeply upset.

I offered to restore the painting for her, and this week she shipped it to me and I did just that. It was fun to remember and get a visit from one of my "early children." 

Next week will be a busy week in our house.

Four more painters are scheduled to come and thus a crew of six guys will be working on painting the exterior of our house and studio.

They have been doing a very meticulous job, and we are happy to see that it will get done before we leave to Japan. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The School Of Love, Understanding Our Sexual Urge

This is part two of the post I wrote last week.
Sorry for the delay in my writing, I had a busy week with painting, concerts, fasting and I was fortunate to place another original painting with an art collector.

So here it is:

The School Of Love, Understanding Our Sexual Urge.

Our cultures send us mixed messages about sex, which affect us directly AND subconsciously.

But Sex is the basic URGE to MERGE.

It is driven by a deep spiritual urge to merge with another and to become ONE, even if for just a few moments….to lose ourselves in the other.

Sex is the urge to step into a natural high, into the ecstasy that exists when you forget the erroneous belief that you are held within a human form, and you lose yourself in the unified field of our collective being.

This unified field beyond your body-awareness is the land of pure bliss, and you can access it consciously through practicing meditation, or unconsciously through sex.
Sex can bring about this experience in a real physical form.

But how do we do it? And why do most people go to their graves without ever recognizing that we have this potential within us?

First let me say that if you do not know and have not experienced any of this, you are not alone!
Most everyone on earth "plays blindly," going by what they can figure out intuitively, without ever diving into the full potential of sex.

You are NOT damaged and there is nothing wrong with you, you simply need to LEARN to understand and to use the energy of sex.

You do not expect to simply know how to play the violin or the piano like a virtuoso without ever learning and practicing, similarly you must learn about sex and how to do it right, in order to get there.

You must also practice, and expect that the learning curve will be long.

So why do most people not know much about sex and instead, feeling damaged and confused about the whole thing, channel their energies into food or careers, social justice, leisure, charity or making money? 

Confusion about sex and its potential started in ancient times, and it still goes on nowadays, with the same heavy, dark clouds of misconceptions that have been on the horizon for tens of thousands of years.

But there is a new awakening happening in America, and for those of you who are interested in being plugged in, there is plenty of knowledge available for the tiny price of buying a book and learning.

On one hand we know that sex can be super pleasurable, but on the other hand, if practiced wrongly, it can leave us feeling empty, lost, wasted, challenged or even bored with the whole experience.

Perhaps Butch Hancock said it best when he said:

“Life in Lubbock Texas, taught me two things: one is that God loves you AND that you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on the face of the earth AND that you should save it for someone you love.” Butch Hancock (country/folk singer)

Most cultures on the earth are "sex-negative," depicting sex as a basic animalistic urge.
They make allowance for it when it is used for the purpose of procreating, not recreation.
No culture teaches us that sex is an expression of a spiritual, divine urge.

But there were ancient times on this earth when there were hints of something different.

One example is in Greek Mythology, when it was fully understood that we must learn to love.

I chose to add to this post a famous painting called: 
"The school of love, the education of Cupid" by  Francois Boucher, a French painter who painted this painting in 1742.

Correggio, an Italian painter, painted an earlier version of "The Education of Cupid -The School of Love" in 1521.

Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of sensual Love, and Mercury, the messenger of the gods of Mount Olympus.

In Latin, Cupid is called Amor, and in Greek, Eros. 

He is usually shown as an innocent, winged child carrying a bow, arrows and a quiver. Those hit by his arrows become lovers.

The scene of this painting takes place with the background of a cloudy sky, with the naked Mercury teaching the young Cupid about love. 
Venus, usually shown with wings, is holding white doves in her hands.
White doves represent freedom, purity and good intentions.
Venus, the goddess of love and sensuality is always depicted in her beautiful nakedness, often surrounded by angels, because sensual love, eroticism and sexuality were believed to be divine.

Yes... Even Cupid had to learn how to become the God of love...
So do we.... we must unlearn the shame and negative concepts and learn anew about sex and about sensual love.

Each one of us is a complex interplay between a long slow evolutionary process and our local and unique influences and environment. 

You are the result of a dance between biology and culture! 
You entwine nature and nurture!
You weave together what is inborn with what you’ve learned. 

All these forces and factors together create your own unique sexuality. 

You must "Know thyself."
You must learn and explore the landscape that is "Thyself"—literally!
Play with yourself and you’ll come to know how to access your ecstasy.

Sex-negative cultures control the sex drive with inflexible laws, constrict with repressive beliefs and viciously punish all transgressions. 

Living in a sex-negative culture, women in our era have to navigate the inter play between the Madonna- the virgin, and the sacred whore, or better said Venus, the goddess of sensual love.
It is a game that each woman has to navigate.
It plays within women who are in long term relationships, in marriages, as well as in single women.

How do you lay aside the mother, the caregiver, the gracious Madonna, and become Venus?... Guiding your lover to caress your erectile tissues into your ecstasy?....

We are confused about sex and it is just as hard for couples in long term relationships, as it is for passionate new lovers.

One of the most popular posts on my blog is an article that I wrote years ago, reflecting about why couples in long term relationships stop having sex, or have sex very rarely.

Apparently, many, many people google this question, attempting to find answers to this baffling conflict.....Obviously we do love and enjoy our partners - we know that sex can be great fun, so why do we not combine the two and enjoy fun sex with our partner?

Many people do not understand the energy of sex, nor know how to control its fiery and explosive nature.
They conclude that they are with the wrong partner, or that the romance has died, or that explosive passionate sex is something that belongs to the young.

But sex is actually wasted on the young.

It takes most people DECADES to reach their full sexual potential!

Our culture equates ripe sexuality with youth, but TRUE sexual maturity is often accompanied by soft bellies, gray hair and wrinkles. 

In other words, true sex is an old person's game, which can be perfected with knowledge and practice.

Mature sex might not look amazing, like in the movies that depict wild sex where strangers throw each other against the walls and have seemingly passionate sex, but those movies are not real life, they are merely showing a veneer of sexual wildness.

Those sex scenes are NOT the way to a "multiple -full -body -orgasm," nor do they lead to layers of orgasmic bliss. 

Remember that it is not your fault if you have never experienced it before.
You simply need to learn, and you are NOT limited by your past experiences.

You can learn to fully and consciously open the inner portal to your sexual life force, and in so doing gain access to Divine Bliss and find the link to your uninhibited wild power.

Most people are "Sexually Challenged," and go through life feeling broken inside, and possibly damaged or missing a piece of life, while they imagine other people to be sexually happy and satisfied.
Many adults repress their sexuality altogether, and channel the energy elsewhere.

Our communities disrespect sexual diversity and perpetuate oppression and ignorance. 
We are a nation of the "sexually wounded," handicapped by lack of knowledge and suppressed erotic energy that denies people their birthright—an intact and blissfully functioning sexuality.

Remember that it is NEVER too late!!!!
The best lovers are sages—mature people who are able to act in alignment with their authentic self, and to be in ongoing, conscious connection with others. 

You’ve reached true sexual maturity when you can appropriately use the full spectrum of your core and complementary powers, whether that be in the sacred sex act in the bedroom, or in work situations, in the boardrooms.

One of the secrets of the sages who spent lifetimes perfecting their bodies, strengthening their will powers and their minds, is the knowledge that there are many kinds of sexual orgasmic experiences, and that climax and ejaculation are NOT the same thing.

Yes, they occur at the same time, so men and women confuse them by thinking that they MUST occur simultaneously.

But the truth is that you can learn to expand your arousal and orgasm. 

You can learn to channel your sexual energy away from explosive ejaculatory orgasm and send it up your spine.
It’s worth learning how to do it, and you will find out what a full-body multiple orgasm feels like!

Women must learn about their own most beautiful, complex erectile tissues, among them the vestibular ball, and learn about women's anatomy.

Without fully understanding your "equipment," you are only "playing with half your cards," or with only a limited number of your piano's keys.
You can still make good music, but it will not be a full symphony until you will discover the whole set of keys that are available to you. 

One good place to learn about all this including details, diagrams and sketches is to buy and read the book: 
"Women's Anatomy Of Arousal, Secret Maps To Buried Pleasure" by SHERI WINSTON.
I have borrowed and paraphrased a lot from this book in writing this article.

The book is also available in electronic version through Amazon:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Journey Of Tapping Into Our Physical And Sexual Potential

For many years, I have read and listened to the wisdom of spiritual masters, in my search for meaning and for a higher perspective on life.

I have found much wisdom in the words of masters who passed on years ago, and in the words of contemporary teachers.
I have found profound wisdom both in the East and in the West,
Nowadays masters incarnate all over the globe, in order to help raise human consciousness and help us progress in our planetary evolution.

While I feel extremely grateful for all my teachers, and know that I have gained much knowledge and new perspectives on the nature of life, disease, death, love and reality, I can truly say that my most constant teacher is the one inside of me, gently guiding me towards experiences and expansion, as I become ready to receive and understand more.

During our travels, I get to test how well I can implement all the knowledge that I have gained into everyday life.
But when we are at home, I feel as if my inner teacher is accelerating my studies.

In the one month that we have been home, and in the short times between painting in my studio, attending concerts, reading and being outdoors, I have been guided to read a few books, take a Shakti Summit seminar about Sexuality and Female Arousal, and start a 20 day juice only program.

The juice fast/feast was an easy and natural choice.
We are on day seven of our 20 day juice feast, and we are thinking of extending it to 30 days. 
We have done many juice fasts/feasts since we started adopting them into our lives, and for the most part, I can say that we are handling the fast very well.

We go to Whole Foods supermarket to shop for organic fruit and vegetables for our fast.
The cashiers at any of the supermarkets that we shop at always comment about how healthy we eat.
Some cashiers say that ours was the healthiest cart they had checked out that day, some ask us questions about what we eat, how we prepare food, or just ask for advice.

At the Whole Foods that day, the cashier surveyed my cart and asked:
"Are you planning a juice fast?"

I said that we were, that we were planning to do a ten day juice fast.

She said: "Well, good luck to you! It is awesome! I have done 92 days of juice feasting and it was absolutely magnificent!"

After I expressed my admiration for her resolve and discipline, she told me that she had followed a program on: where they recommend doing a three month long juice feast.

I told her that the longest we had ever fasted was forty days.
I added that the hardest part for me was not the hunger or lack of energy, since I rarely felt hungry and had plenty of energy; in fact I had MORE energy than I do when I eat normally.  The hardest part was craving flavors and the taste of food.
Like most people, I love food and even find cooking to be a creative, even self-nurturing outlet.

In other words, it is all psychological......I had discovered that we actually NEED very little food...we are actually addicted to the taste of food.

After a few days of only vegetable and fruit juices, I start dreaming of foods that I never ever eat, like macaroni and cheese or a steak.
Sometimes I feel deprived despite the I knowledge that I am doing this by choice, and fully believe that it is a wholesome cleanse and that in order to become masters, we must practice discipline and control over all our cravings.

In my opinion, food, like everything else, should be a conscious and well made choice, not an impulse.

After discussing it with Jules, we upped our ten days juice fast to twenty days, with an option to extend it to 30 days if we feel good.
It will be good for us to start our upcoming studies in Japan after a long seasonal summer fast.

The lectures at the Shakti Summit about sexuality and female arousal were fascinating.
I was guided to participate after reading the spiritual trilogy written by the anthropologist Hank Wesselman.
Wesselman was able to spirit-travel after satisfying sex with his beloved wife.
Something in his story rang very true inside me.

Many masters and spiritual seekers are celibate, believing that we must rise above the senses and transcend the dream-world that our eyes, ears and physical senses seem to show us.
Many believe that sex has a lower vibrational frequency and that dwelling in lower vibrations, will delay spiritual progress. 

But what if our human design is truly ingenious, and what if there is a higher potential in this ingenious design that we cannot tap into, until we honor and explore the unlocked potential of our senses?
In other words... What if we were designed so we can use sexual energy as a PORTAL to other dimensions, and we do not know about it since we are culturally programmed to surround sex with shame, and to consign it to the confines of our dimly lit bedrooms....... After all, unleashed sex could lead to all sorts of troubles like rape, sexual misconduct, betrayal, abuse, and even AIDS.

Clearly there is a difference between sexual misconduct and exploring your full orgasmic potential and ingenious physical design with a partner whom you love and trust or even alone by yourself, if you do not have a loving partner in your life.

In my own opinion, growing in spirituality is about exploring all the realms of our divine potential, and as true spiritual seekers, we must give ourselves permission to also learn and explore our unique and ingenious physical design.

So much remains unknown to science about the potential of our minds and brains.
Our nervous system is a mystery to us, and our full potential and the possibilities of our human bodies, which are endless, yet remain untapped.

Instead of being encouraged to explore the subtle universes of our human potential, the religious and spiritual communities encourage us to look beyond the body, while the secular cultures ignore the spiritual aspect entirely and instead glorify and misunderstand the body.

In either case, we either see the body as an obstacle to the divine, or as an instrument for gaining more power, pleasure, fame and money, believing life to be nothing more than a short journey on this earth.  
In the case of females, the old modality remains to encourage women to see and treat their bodies as ornamental, regardless of the professional careers we hold.

The other day, we attended a piano concerto on the roof of the Aspen Art Museum, with the beautiful slopes of Aspen mountain in the background.
Before the concert started, I glanced at the crowd and saw many women who looked fit, well dressed, powerful, gentle and obviously well to do.
The few men in the audience were old and far from powerful.  They looked like the kind of helpless men who cannot back out of a parking space without getting into an accident.

So what happens to all those rich male moguls when they reach old age, and how come they become so feeble and powerless?....

Clearly our world is in need of healing, but much more so, our human race is in need of healing and understanding of the true nature of our bodies and our potential.

Do you really think that life can be so cruel as to give us merely one life to live, such a short time on this earth? Do you think that we come equipped with small, breakable, powerless bodies?....

After all, your life doesn't even start until you are twenty.
You spend most of your childhood in school, learning the basic operational modality of your culture.
Then you plow your way through careers and establishing relationships, healing family ties and attending to endless commitments, until you retire at sixty five.

Then you enter the cultural belief that you are old and slowly progressing towards death, bound to slowly lose your physical, and maybe even your mental capacities. 
How cruel is this?...

No, this is NOT the truth.
The truth is that you are an immortal being! You just do not remember it and thus your body does not embody this truth, but your soul does.
You are a PERFECT creation with unlimited potential!

Our bodies are Superbly intelligent with endless capacities to renew themselves, which we do not know how to tap into.

Our bodies are circuits of vibrating energy fields of light and information, holding whatever ideas we embrace.

Our bodies are portals which can be used to access higher dimensions and provide us with endless knowledge....

Isn't it time to embrace higher ideas?.....
Isn't it time to let go of the limiting fear based concepts and accept our Divine Nature?....

More to come when I have time to elaborate on female sexuality.....

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Back Home In Colorado, The Design Of The Aspen Art Museum, Summer 2015

It is always a bit disorienting to return home after a long trip.
It has taken us more than a week to get over the jet-lag and adjust to the new time zone, the dry mountain air and the high altitude.

The return of my daily nagging worries and petty obsessions is not something that I like to pick up again after traveling, but it happens.
Suddenly I am worried about my weight, about the Greek economy that affects our investments, about all the catastrophes that happen all around the world, away from these quiet vast mountains that I call home.

On the positive side, it is summer in the mountains and the sky is impossibly blue.
The Aspen Music Festival is about to start, and Jules has already booked for us some lovely classical concerts. 

We took out the outdoor furniture that we bought last summer, and placed them on our deck.
Despite logic, it feels so careless to put such nice new outdoor living sofas outdoors, where the chipmunks and lizards, the ants and the cicadas, the deer and the soaring Eagles, can shit or run on it.
After all, since ours is not a covered deck, the furniture just sits out in the open air.

On the other hand, I never felt this way when we had an outdoor wooden dining table and chairs on that deck.
The wood can be hosed down, but these nice sofas and sectional sitting areas seem so lavish to be placed outdoors....

I will have to get over it, because for the first time in years, I have actually been lounging outdoors under the shade of the umbrella and enjoying our surrounding mountains.

During the wintertime, we usually head to Vail to ski, and we ski either in Vail or in Beaver Creek, but in the summertime, we usually head towards Aspen.
We shop for groceries in Basalt, a small town right before Aspen where there is a newly opened Whole Foods supermarket, and we also visit the farmers' market in Glenwood Springs, where we buy fresh produce from the growers.

This week we had a lovely, healthy lunch at the Pyramid Bistro in Aspen and visited 
The new Aspen Art Museum.

For an artist, visiting the art museum was very nourishing.
At times, I look at my art and feel that I have so much room to grow.... So much to express.... So much to say.... Yet the world seems to be interested in other things.... People seem to be struggling just to make a living.... To build a basic life devoid of sickness, boredom, and to find love or some meaning....
It feels too much to ask to try and sell them art....

But I am aware that there are always many sides to my perception, and many ways to look at what I am feeling.
Feelings are often misleading.

Yes, some people suffer, lack and struggle, but others prosper, celebrate, rejoice, enjoy, appreciate and collect art. 

Luckily, this week, despite my jet lag and disorientation, I sold two paintings and spent a few days packing the art carefully and shipping it.
It feels so nice when people appreciate and buy your art... When people choose to buy art and see the value in living with it....  

The collector even told me that when she surprised her husband with the boxed painting, he thought that the box looked too narrow to be a "Tali Landsman," and that it must be some kind of "dumb sporting gear," since they are avid outdoors people.  When he saw the painting, he told her that it was the best gift she had ever given him!

While I was feeling lavish and wasteful sitting on our new outdoor sofas that cost us $4300, I read an article in Forbes Magazine about people who had traveled to Myanmar, Bhutan and Africa on a private jet with top luxury hotels and a private chef onboard.
24 activity-packed days cost them $77,000 per person.... AND they hardly had any time to see all the wonders we just saw.
In the same magazine, a home espresso machine was featured that sells for $7000.

I consoled myself with the fact that our outdoor sofas will last for years and give us many fun days of enjoyment, grilling Paellas outdoors or roasting Moroccan Tajines...

Anyway....The Aspen Art Museum is a delight.
It was designed by the Japanese Architect Shigeru Ban, who designs modern buildings with disposable materials.  

Ban started designing with cardboard rolls when he was helping to restore areas that   suffered from natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding.
In third world countries like Haiti, the people took down the buildings that were built for them, to sell them as construction materials, so Ban used cardboard, which has no value in the secondary market.  

The Aspen Art Museum looks airy and dynamic, spacious and almost floating.
The museum is filled with intelligent, knowledgeable  artistic staff, not with security guards.
The staff comes to you and starts conversing about art and design or architecture.
They are instructed to engage the visitors and converse; what a delight! 

Here is what the Denver Post wrote about the museum:

"Only in Aspen! — surrounded by hills and mountains of money — would the good citizens come together to raise $72 million for a museum with no collection.

Not that the  Aspen Art Museum isn't worth the attention. 
Its roster of rotating exhibitions, sometimes difficult, routinely ground-breaking, make it a national leader in contemporary art.

And not that its new, $45 million building, opening with a 24-hour celebration Aug. 9, isn't a prized possession. 

The place is a modern wonder, a  mind-bending box, covered top to bottom in a screen of wood strips woven together like a basket, and designed by Shigeru Ban, the top architect in the world right now.

Still, it takes a civic sensibility specific to this mountain town — flashy, spendy, grateful and generous — to pull off an effort this size. 

Consider: The entire museum was funded by private donations, with 27 local moguls and lucky trustfunders writing checks for $1 million or more each.

That will leave the AAM (Aspen Art Museum) with a tidy endowment of about $27 million to help cover operations for decades to come.

"There's not a single tax dollar, not a single dollar of public money," said  Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the powerhouse director who spent eight years leading the charge for the new museum, battling opponents who thought the building might be too large and out-of character for a town that remains cozy on its surface....

.....There are a variety of cardboard tubes at the AAM, some the size of packing tape rolls, and others wrapping paper rolls. 
They are fashioned into benches and line a stairway ceiling. 
Overall though, the interior is mostly free of extreme ornamentation. 

It's not for traditionalists — and Aspenites will be watching to see how much shade the building casts on the downtown in the winter when all sunlight is precious — but it likely will please the art aficionados who paid for it. 

They are a varied but intent group, with significant representation on the annual "Top 200" international collectors list published by the prestigious "Art in America" magazine.

"Of the 200, 22 have homes here in Aspen, and they know the value of art" said board member Nancy Magoon. 
She and her husband, Bob, gave more than $2 million, and she was a key fundraiser for the effort overall.

Many of Aspen's wealthier residents live in the town part-time with permanent homes, and philanthropic demands, in places like Dallas or Los Angeles where they reside the rest of the year. 

"This is everybody's second museum," Magoon said. "But I wasn't turned down by a single one of them."

To read more of the article visit:

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar - Trip Notes 

From Heho airport near Inle lake, we flew on KBZ Airlines to Yangon.

Yangon used to be called Rangoon during the British occupation, and "Dagon" before that.  Yangon means "A peaceful place," or a place with no more wars.

We stayed for five days in the historic Strand Hotel, housed in one of the many old colonial buildings that still stand in this city.
It is a classic luxury boutique hotel, with a butler service on each of its two floors that delivered tea and cookies, fruit and English newspapers to our room at any time of day, and at no extra charge.

The waterfront of downtown Yangon is occupied by ugly customs warehouses and shipping buildings, and the waters of the Yangon River are not even visible through the dense and busy port.

There are many beautiful buildings from the colonial era that are still standing.  
Some have been renovated, but most are in various stages of disintegration.

The cost of renovating the block-long colonial buildings is enormous, and developers would rather invest their money in new construction in the greener, cleaner and nicer suburbs, than take on a hundred million U.S. Dollar renovation of one of these massive old buildings in the grimy downtown.

The downtown is crowded, and the old sewer system is antiquated and very inadequate.
The sewers and gutters run in open channels right below concrete pavers that serve as sidewalks.

The concrete pavers are not fastened down, because they need to be removed often to clear up the blocked sewer, and you can see huge rats run in and out of the sewer, darting between food vendors, looking for opportunities to grab some food.

We heard that Yangon is being rapidly built up with drug money, invested by drug lords who are looking for ways to launder and invest their money.

The city might be in the process of rejuvenation, but it is still very much in transition.
There is a large middle class that lives in nice houses, shops in air conditioned malls and dines in pleasant modern restaurants that serve pricy cocktails and sushi, but there are also slums in the middle of the city everywhere, where people live in dirty conditions with muddy lanes and exposed sewers that run by their makeshift houses.

The streets of Yangon are also one big marketplace that goes on day and night.
Vendors cram the narrow sidewalks, nearly blocking the entrances to the shops, who also spill their merchandise out onto the streets.  
What space is not taken up by the vendors' stalls is occupied by electricity generators that stand in front of every building, to provide back-up power to counter frequent outages.  
There is very little room left for pedestrians.

The street vendors sell food, shoes, belts, bags, sunglasses, clothing, lottery tickets, betel nut chews, photos of Buddhist teachers and monks, and books that were photocopied from the originals and are bound together right there on the streets. 

Yangon has a more diverse ethnic population and variety of religions which we did not see in other parts of the country.
There are a few Hindu temples and a few Chinese temples in Chinatown, many Muslim Mosques and even one Jewish Synagogue.

The Buddhist pagodas are very impressive.

We visited the Sule' Pagoda, which is located right in the middle of town at a very busy traffic roundabout.

The Botataung Pagoda is a famous pagoda with relics found in a sealed cave located in downtown Yangon, on the waterfront, near the Yangon river.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is the country's pride, and it is heavily gilded with gold leaf.
Some of the Burmese rulers have increased the height of the pagoda, and some royals, politicians and celebrities have donated their weight in gold to decorate the pagoda.

I joked with Jules that if he were the king, I could almost see him looking after every bite of food I put in my mouth, and saying with a disheartened voice:
"Really dear, must you eat so much? Can't you try to lose fifteen pounds, this is going to cost me a FORTUNE...."

The Shwedagon Pagoda complex has many halls and smaller pagodas, and it houses a hair and a tooth relic of the Buddha.
There are corners in the pagoda dedicated to each day of the week, and devotees pour water on top of the Buddha that is situated on the corner where their birth day occurred.

My birth was on a Sunday, and Jules was born on a Thursday.
Like all the locals, we poured cups of water on those Sunday and Thursday Buddhas.

Shwedagon has a very impressive collection of Burmese architecture, religious designs and amazing carvings and craftsmanship. 

At the Bogyoke Market, we browsed the many fabrics that come from all over Myanmar to be sold in this busy bazaar.
There are not many tourists visiting the bazar, but it is completely packed with locals.

Beside fabrics, the Bazar sell mostly gold jewelry, and in a culture where people do not trust the banking system, gold jewelry is a common investment.

At the market I found some fabrics that I liked and the friendly seller promised to make me two dresses in two and a half days.
The price for each dress including the fabric, was $18.
I asked for simple summer dresses that are very easy to make and that are not constraining, but feel almost like wearing a T-shirt.

A visit to the produce market in the city left us not wanting to eat anything at all in Yangon!  Everything - the shrimp, the fish, the chicken, the meat, the fruit, the vegetables and all the sweets - was covered with huge green flies.

We were not tempted to try anything from any of the street food stalls either, because everything was either covered with flies or with diesel fumes and smoke, plus we could see the rats running fearlessly everywhere....

The busy streets of Chinatown become a night food market every evening, and the streets become crowded with food vendors and diners.
We squeezed onto the tiny walking path left on the sidewalks between vendors frying food and sellers of Mangosteen, giant Durian and mango fruit.

We enjoyed breakfasts in our hotel, which is where I tried the local Mohinga noodles in a cleaner environment.
Mohinga noodles are made with rice noodles in a aromatic fish curry soup with lemongrass, ginger and herbs, and it is served with a patty of fried chickpeas, a boiled egg, fried shallots and crushed peanuts.
It was very good, but most mornings we just had fresh fruit juices, a plate of fresh fruit, and a slice of toasted farmer's bread with watermelon jam.

There are numerous newly opened restaurants around the city that offer good food in a pleasant environment.
The prices at those restaurants are marked in U.S. Dollars and the food is as pricy as you will find in Europe and the USA. 

The choice of better dining does exist all over the city, including some upscale French garden restaurants around Inlay lake in the northern suburbs of the city, but with the late afternoon and evening monsoon rains already upon us, we stayed in the vicinity of the downtown, and dined very well.

At "Gekko," a modern Japanese restaurant on Merchant Street, we had fresh juices and good Yakitori vegetables grilled on a Robbata grill. 

At the "Rangoon Tea House," an elegantly renovated informal restaurant on Pansodan Street that serves good Burmese and Indian food, we had fresh smoothies with pea Parathas and an eggplant and cauliflower curry.

At the "Union Bar and Grill," on Strand Street, we had thin crust veg pizza and good fresh green salads, as well as lime sodas with fresh celery juice, which tasted very refreshing.

I am not sad to say goodbye to Yangon. 
If I had to do it over again, I would have spent less time in this city and instead visited the southern beaches, or I would have gone to Bago, to see some of the beautiful treasures found in that region.

Our journey through Myanmar is over.
We start a long schedule of flights to go home to Colorado.
Unfortunately...because we booked those flights separately, in each port we have to clear customs and immigration and move on to the next flight...

From Yangon we fly to Bangkok.
From Bangkok we fly to Sydney, Australia and then on to Auckland, NZ.
From Auckland we fly to San Francisco, and then on to Denver.
We will stay a night or two in Denver and shop for groceries, before heading back into my beloved Rocky Mountains where the air is thin and clean and our home awaits us....