Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Next Adventure

Column in Parque Guell in Barcelona

As I've mentioned before, I leave Portland, Oregon every winter for someplace that is the stuff of my dreams, and that is hopefully warmer.  The Mediterranean is not a surefire sunshine holiday in winter, but it seems to the the stuff of my dreams the last few years.  In a week (December 5th) I will be flying to Barcelona, Spain, a place I haven't been in 24 years.  The first time I visited this utterly surreal city was a turning point in my life's work.  Like so many other artists, I was exposed to the work of Antonio Gaudi.  His buildings are as organic as architectural form gets, and are embellished with the most finely rendered finishes.  There are vast quantities of ceramic and glass mosaic and some of the most extraordinary metal work ever executed.

Faviana's Wedding Altar
When I returned from that trip I began teaching myself how to do stone and tile mosaic.  An eccentric client hired me to build a 'Gaudiesque' altar in her garden for her wedding after I showed her photos of his work.  It looks rather Miss Haversham in its current state of ruin but it is still one of the coolest things I ever built.  The couple then hired me to tile mosaic their kitchen while they were on their honeymoon.  I can only imagine what I could do now if somebody was daring enough to commission a work along these lines as my skills and access to materials have greatly improved.

I also built a patio for myself in my garden based on the book 'The Tao of Physics', which had a profound effect on the way I see the World.  This was my guinea pig for learning how to set mosaics in mortar.   For me there is a clear connection to the influence Gaudi's work had on me at that time, and it still does today.
My Patio Mosaic
The Nativity Facade of La Sagrada Familia
The December 2010 issue of National Geographic had a wonderful article on La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's ultra ambitious Cathedral of the Sacred Family project, which they called "Barcelona's Natural Wonder".  It is undoubtedly the most unusual building on the planet and is projected to be finished in 2028, 144 years after it was started.  It's architectural principals are derived from nature and the laws that govern it, so that the building can be understood much as you would a natural organism.  It has a kind of DNA.  The article showed the progress of the construction of the building over the years, and a great deal of work has been done since my last visit.

The design was derived from building models rather than plans.  I have always been prone to designing my gardens by mocking them up on site rather than drawing them out before hand for similar reasons.  You can get a sense of what you are really trying to do rather than trying to flatten it and make it look good on paper.  

I read this article before I returned to Spain from Morocco on last years trip.  That trip focused on Andalusia and Moorish architecture in the south and didn't allow for time to revisit Barcelona.  There are several essays on the blogsite from that adventure.

I hope to document every fascinating detail of what I see now that I am shooting digitally rather than with film.  I took about 20,000 photos on the last trip after editing out the bad ones.  I will be writing about Gaudi's incredible Parque Guelle, as well as other aspects of his work.  I will also be traveling to Figueres to visit the Teatre-Museu Dali to explore the surreal mind of the great artist Salvador Dali.  This should make for some very interesting photo essays.  Joan Miro, another great Spanish artist who influenced a series of mosaics I built for clients in Portland (see my blog 'The Miro Mosaics') is also going to be featured in an essay.
Detail of a mosaic I built called Cyphers and Constellations in Love with a Woman

I am so excited to be returning to experience it all over again, and hopefully this trip will inspire a new series of projects for me.  Stay tuned!


  1. Welcome back in Europe, dear Jeffrey. Your enthousiasm sound so joyful this monday morning !

  2. Barcelona, one of our, if not the, favourite destinations! A spectacular, artistic city that has been blessed by influence of Gaudi :)

  3. We recently returned from only a few days in Barcelona- not nearly enough! It was mesmerizing!
    I can't wait to return- and hope it won't be 24 more years!

  4. Awesome work! Blessings on your trip to Barcelone. We were there last year and found it magical.

  5. Wonderful post and I really loved the mosaic you did...It has given me an idea for a project already for a small space in my garden..

    Peace, Linda :)

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  7. I am looking forward to your upcoming Barcelona photo essays.
    Two years ago I had the fortunate opportunity to stay with family members who lived in Barcelona ( they are now in Hong Kong) . It was wonderful exploring the city with them and on my own. The city and its artists greatly influenced my own mosaic work and provided wonderful inspiration.
    I hope you have an inspirational visit.
    Here is a link to a few photos that I took while visiting :

  8. I hope you have a good stay in Catalunya and will bring new inspirations in your work of art

    un saludo

  9. Yep, LOVE it! Looks so much more interesting than typically laid tile.
    glass and stone mosaic