Category: Architecture

On Seeing the Real Thing

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Athens, Greece—Whenever I’m able to see a historic site as I travel to a new city, I try to make it a priority—even though they’re usually teeming with tourists. Greece was no exception. On my second day in the country, I visited the Acropolis in Athens. The Parthenon was the most memorable structure (mainly because it’s the one that I remember most from Humanities classes in school).

I like to see art/architecture in person for many reasons. It helps me to understand the creative process, and the context in which it was created. When art is presented out of context—in a textbook, for instance—there’s a danger that it will just become an abstract idea (like the Parthenon was to me before last week). Being in the environment sparked questions about the culture, religion, politics, and daily life in ancient Greece which led me to trace the design/function problems that artists potentially faced with their creative process.

My theory is that understanding the context in which art is created can also help one to understand its culture/perspective.

So if ever you’re able to see art and/or architecture in its original context, you should definitely consider it. It could potentially help you to solve problems in your own work.

 

Artist In Progress

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Color study sketch. Watercolor on paper.

I spend a lot of time reading, writing, listening to podcasts and audiobooks. When I’m in the studio, podcasts and audiobooks are my go-to because I can listen while working.

On my commute this week, I listened to a book about creativity by a professor in the Architecture department at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She presented some interesting ideas about how creativity develops and how we engage in creative work

Chapter 6, ‘Perceiving and Conceiving’ was especially interesting as I examine the importance of drawing as a foundation for other work. It’s a critical skill that I believe is useful for everyone, not just artists.

If you’re interested in learning how to draw or improve your drawing skills, check out the book by Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It’s been around for years and it still holds up.

Drawing is all about observing. I’m trying to improve my drawing skills, which means I draw something everyday. It’s forcing me to be more focused and attentive to what I see.

Epiphany in Ethiopia

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Lalibela, Ethiopia—This happens to me a lot. I land in some place with no agenda, only to find out that something spectacular is going on. When I arrived in Lalibela, I hadn’t coordinated a plan. The historic rock-hewn churches are the main attraction, so I decided to start there.


The churches were impressive, no doubt. But after several hours of tours, I needed a break. I was headed back to my hotel when I noticed something in the brush along the side of the road. There was a cow laying on the ground and another being guided by a group of men. After staring for a bit, I realized what was happening. They were in the process of slaughtering the cows.

I asked my guide if we could get closer and if it was appropriate to take photographs. I was in the clear.

I learned that this particular slaughtering process happens every year for Epiphany. It is a process that involves several people. At one point, my guide was recruited to help the men drag the cow to the shade. The cows are slaughtered and skinned by a group of men. Afterward, women come and cut the animal into smaller pieces. The meat is dried underground for one day, then prepared by women the next day. The slaughtering process was relatively quick. I took lots of pictures. A group of children came by to watch and we had similar reactions, mine being a bit more exaggerated (I was simultaneously gagging and snapping photographs.) While I don’t think the photographs are as disturbing as actually being there, I will spare you the gore.

The cow slaughtering experience was so much more interesting to me than visiting the churches. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was sad and fascinating all at once.


The following day was the eve of Epiphany, part of the Timket celebration. I observed the late afternoon portion of the ceremony which included a processional of the priests and deacons walking through the streets of the city, delivering sermons and prayers. The day of Epiphany was the actual carrying a representation of the Ark of the covenant to the church, The House of St. George.

Life in a Maasai Village

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Boma Ng’ombe, Tanzania—I have a name that needs to be repeated upon first introductions. This has been the case for as long as I can remember, so I’m used to it. However, this didn’t happen while I was in Tanzania. Someone would ask my name and after I told them, “Myiesha” they would smile and say, “Maisha means life.” Sometimes I would be asked if I spoke Swahili.

I spent some time in a Maasai village in Tanzania. Maasai tribes are traditionally nomadic. The community that I visited had been in their village for several years. When I arrived, my hosts gave me traditional dress to wear during my visit—Brightly colored cloth and handmade beaded jewelry. We gathered around a circle and I was welcomed with a song and dance by members of the community. After a few minutes, I was summoned to the center of the circle to dance. I was uncomfortable the entire time but I wouldn’t dare offend my hosts by declining to participate. And so I danced. No one will ever see that footage.

After the welcome, we walked around and visited a few of their homes. I have an obsession with architecture and how people create their living spaces so I had lots of questions. The houses are circular structures made from a mixture of clay, dung and straw.

Life in the village is similar to anywhere else. They wake up and work. Some members work in surrounding cities. In addition to caring for children and preparing meals, the women create handmade jewelry, which they sell to visitors. The men tend to the herd of animals.

The Maasai tribes keep their traditions and also incorporate some contemporary conveniences. One of the leaders had a cell phone which he used to post photos of our visit to their Facebook page. Now that I think about it, there may be a video somewhere on the interwebs of me dancing in the village. That’s unfortunate.

A Little Recap (Where I’ve Been)

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Machu Picchu wasn’t on my list of ‘Things I MUST See,’ but I figured since I was so close, I couldn’t leave South America without seeing it. It was awe-inspiring. I had to keep reminding myself that humans built it. It was foggy in the morning when I visited, which bummed some of my fellow tourists out, but I was so thankful for the fog to get this great shot, which appropriately creates a mysterious feel. I was not disappointed.

Whew! These past 4 months have flown by. My time has been dedicated to wrapping up a project which had a mid-October deadline and because I’ve been moving around so quickly, I haven’t been posting as many blog updates as I’d like. Also, the lack of consistent internet prevented me from getting a lot of things done, which was a source of frustration. Well, I met my deadline and I am now in a place that has reliable internet so expect more frequent updates! Also, check out my Instagram (@myieshagordon) as I post there pretty frequently.

Here’s where I’ve been so far:

NYC > Dallas

Dallas, Texas > Detroit, Michigan

Detroit, Michigan > Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida > San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico > São Paulo, Brazil

São Paulo, Brazil > Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil > Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina > La Rioja, Argentina

La Rioja, Argentina > Uyuni, Bolivia

Uyuni, Bolivia > La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz, Bolivia > Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru > Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru > Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile > Punta Arenas, Chile

Punta Arenas, Chile > Liberia, Costa Rica

Liberia, Costa Rica > Panama City, Panama

Panama City, Panama > Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico City, Mexico > San Francisco, California

San Francisco, California > Tokyo Japan

Which brings us up to date! Yesterday I arrived in Tokyo (one of my dream destinations). I’m looking forward to exploring the city and telling you about it.

About That Farm Life

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The view from my work space, which is just a large rock.

La Rioja, Argentina — I’m living on a farm in the middle of nowhere. The nearest town with people (and Internet access) is 187 miles away.

I have been interested in Homesteading for several years now. It all started with a book that changed how I thought about work, time and money. The premise is simple: if you don’t need a lot of money (i.e.an expensive lifestyle), then you don’t need to make a lot of money, and you can spend more time doing things you want to do.

So for the next 3 weeks, I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m living on a farm. The family that owns the farm has lived in La Rioja for over 18 years and  they built everything from the ground up, including 2 houses, the plumbing system and solar panels for electricity. It’s modern and well-designed. While I’m here, I will be helping with chores; gardening, building stuff, feeding animals, whatever they need. In return, I’ll learn about managing a family farm and improve my Spanish (they don’t speak English). It’s basically a masterclass in innovation and sustainable living.

On one hand, it’s glorious (because I’m an introvert from NYC, so I know the value of quiet spaces). On the other hand, it’s a little terrifying because I have an overly active imagination, I’m a bit paranoid and low-key afraid of the dark.

In addition to learning Spanish, I’m helping them with their English. Just the other night, we gathered around the dinner table to play a trivia game on their iPad. While the words were in Spanish, the topics were international. There were questions about celebrities, religion, history, movies, popular culture…everything. Well, a question popped up on the screen and I laughed out loud. My Spanish vocabulary is the equivalent of a three-year-old’s, mind you but I knew what the question was about. They all looked at me a bit puzzled, waiting for me to explain myself. But I didn’t have the heart to tell them what ‘twerking’ was. Not yet.