Saturday, July 20, 2013

All Day In Bed Clicking On Link After Link

Here we are, still in bed, each with laptops propped up on our knees, researching our trip to Rome and Florence and Venice and now Naples. It was easy to stay in bed this morning because it rained and rain tends to offer an easy excuse to remain under the bed covers. But even when the sun appeared, we stayed on in bed, following link after link, sharing what we discovered, uncovering more and more possibilities for this eight week sojourn to Italy. 
Dare I say it, it is now 5:30 in the afternoon. I hear distant thunder and there is certainly rumbling in our stomachs. We've barely left bed to eat, so eagerly have we been pursuing our own visions of this already memorable trip.
Months ago, we discussed a 'brief' stay in Naples after a day at Pompeii. Earl wanted a return visit to Naples' Capodimmonte Museum, one of Italy's best, with art spanning the 13th to 20th centuries.  The museum has Caravaggio's Flagellation of Christ, Titian's Diana, Bellini's Transfiguration of Christ and works by Artemisia Gentileschi, a woman and a fine Baroque painter with quite a personal history.
I want to visit Naples' Museo Archelolgico Nazionale where much of Pompeii's erotic statuary and frescoes are on display. I don't want to miss seeing this collection, especially after I read that women were not even allowed into the galleries until the year 2000.  
By mid-afternoon, Earl was deep into possible lodging choices in Naples. He discovered he could map an individualized itinerary on a Google map. He searched for restaurants and found pizza. My mouth watered just looking at the photos.
But Earl's default in all his planning are 'the churches.' Earl begins every conversation about any of the cities we intend to visit with 'churches.' He has just shown me a photo of the sacristy in the Basilica di San Paolo Maggiore, dated 1790.
"The churches in Naples are just over the top," he says, "17th and 18th century baroque."  I am captivated and now long to see this gold and azure ceiling in real time.
He searches for restaurants near the hotel in which we may stay and finds a foodie blog that lists the ten best pizzas in Naples. It's time we had some supper, which will probably be leftover salad from last night, instead of a Naples pizza or even Houston Chinese delivered.
"There is a street in Naples," he tells me, "that is lined with shops that sell nothing but hand made nativities." I want to see that street too.
I eye Earl's Neapolitan searches as I peruse the names and professional histories of the new Rome prize winners for 2013-14, they who will begin their year at the American Academy on September 16. Among the winners are scholars of antiquity, architecture, literature, design, landscape architecture, historic preservation, the visual arts and music. It is a mighty bunch of folks with whom we will be sitting across the dinner table.

This year's Rome Prize winners include Catherine Wagner, who teaches at Mills College and whose resume is a long list of public art and photography projects, including plans for the Mercer Underpass in Seattle. I'd love to talk with Ms. Wagner about public art projects. How does her underpass design compare with the thoughts I've had for METRO's Harrisburg underpass here in Houston? It will be my job to produce public art for this project in Houston's East End. But only after engineers have dealt with land pollution and the overall design of this structure. Perhaps I'll begin at last, my part of the project in 2014?
Other new fellows?  Dan Hurlin, puppeteer, performance artist and professor at Sarah Lawrence. On his website, I found a whimiscal and poignant description of 'The Day The Ketchup Turned Blue', a toy theater piece of which you can read more at this link; Lindsay Harris, whose research focuses on the ways in which photographs document and shape the emerging modern landscape of the 19th and 20th centuries. She earned a dissertation prize from the Institute of Fine Arts and The Joan and Stanford Alexander Award from The Museum of Fine Arts Houston. I'll bet she knows our own Anne Tucker?
Catie Newell, who received her Masters in Architecture at Rice U and is now at U of Michigan's Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning and a principal of Alibi Studio in Detroit, is a new fellow.
And Jessica Nowlin, a Brown University archaeology graduate student, graduate of UT and who, last January was in Seattle to talk at the Archaeological Institute of America's annual meeting.
And Nicholas De Monchaux, author of 'Fashioning Apollo'. He is an architect and Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at UC Berkeley. 'Fashioning Apollo' is the story of the development of the spacesuits that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wore when they stepped on to the moon. Seems they were crafted by seamstresses at Playtex. Who knew? Another book I must read..
Visiting artists and scholars include Alden Gordon, Trinity College, who you can hear lecturing entertainingly on the Marruquisa de Pompadour. Book to follow. And Katherine L. Jansen, author of "The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Middle Ages."  
Maureen Miller, professor of medieval history at UC, Berkeley is a visiting scholar as is Walter Hood, Hood Design Studio in Oakland, who (and I quote) has been praised as a 'community whisperer,' creating public spaces that have elements residents want before they even know it.
Alice Sebold will be at the Academy. She is the author of 'The Lovely Bones," 2002's novel that was both heartbreaking and a joy to read. 
So, this has been quite a day of discovering. We learned more about Naples (home to more than 2 million people) and something about the folks who will be living at the American Academy in Rome this fall. In two months time, we will be there. In the meantime, it's almost midnight and we're still in Texas.

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