Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Art to be Lived

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, a fashion editor for an Italian magazine; it was one of those conversations that happen very unexpectedly in the middle of a hectic week of work somewhere in Europe. We were talking about our lives, how fortunate we are to be able to be globetrotting across the planet with our jobs and getting in touch with different cultures and experiencing so many different lives in one lifetime, to be seeing things that we used to see in text books in school or in our parents art books. We spoke of our different backgrounds and the places we now live in and the places we see ourselves living in, in the future; we decided we are in did searching for a feeling of a well lived life, which in fact we already have, given our young age.

But this talk was more in terms of where would we establish ourselves, where we saw ourselves spending our old age, how our life would be, what we would become from here on? Well, of course no precise answer could come out of this conversation, but we do know what we are looking for.

For anyone who has seen the movie "I Am Love" I am sure the house in which the characters lived in was in fact a character on its own, possible the most impressive character of the movie. The house where they lived in, in Milan, had its own character, which was a combination of years of experience, years of traveling, years of knowledge accumulated in those rooms. The appreciation for art and architecture that breathes through the walls, the knowledge of fashion present in its inhabitants, the admiration for food and the impact of its flavors and also how they could change a mood with a single bite.

The house in that movie is a character on its own because it has been lived in, it has felt the love, the laughter and the sorrow of one or many families, it has seen birthdays and funerals, it has seen engagement parties and celebrations of all sorts; it looks perfect from the distance but from up close you can see the floorboards are scratched, the curtains have stains and the windows may have cracks. Like a person, a house is allowed to live and accumulate treasures, like we accumulate shoes, watches, stamps or even a rose from a lover that we keep in secrecy. The house in “I Am Love” is a character on its own because it is in fact a well lived house, it’s quite possibly one of Milan’s most famous properties, called Villa Necchi Campiglio, at Via Mozart, today a cultural institution open for visitors and kept as it was when their owners lived there.

During this conversation with my friend it then hit me, through something she said, that art is not meant to be hanging from the cold walls of museums, but in houses and apartments, where it can be shared with friends and family, where it can be admired and treated with love, like we would a plant or animal. Art was made to live with people and witness their lives, and be accumulated by their homes, not to be left alone in a cold room alongside other abandoned and marketed pieces of art.

 Even though I am thankful for the museums and galleries, for their existence and for allowing me to see some of the most beautiful and enticing works created by men, I would adore if more of these museums could be like Villa Necchi or The Frick Collection are, houses that have been lived in and were left untouched for the appreciation of the people. Every time I visit one of these stunning places I ask myself how their lives must have been and I can't help but wonder what it feels like to be able to work there every day. The Pierpont Morgan Library in New York for example is to me one of the most remarkable places I ever visited in my life, there it is, the house and life’s work of a man completely devoted to collecting art, books and obviously money, but that last bit is irrelevant in this case.

Really impressive, and on another side of the spectrum, was visiting the Frida Khalo museum in Mexico City, because that's the place where she loved, bled, and created some of the most beautiful and relevant works of art seen by men. In that house, Frida and Diego accumulated art by other artists, their own art, books, animals and all sorts of memories, The Frida Khalo Museum was to me the epitome of the museum home, every room spoke to me, it’s almost as if she was there, walking around in her beautiful garden or flipping through one of her many art books; to be able to see with my own eyes how that amazing artist lived her life and which books she read and how she kept her house was a phenomenal and unique experience.

While in Milan I had the opportunity to also visit the Boschi Di Stefano apartment as well, and these two were very affluent Milanese artists who acquired more than two thousand pieces of art during their life together, and by art I mean all types; from paintings to sculpture, from furniture to chandeliers, it's all in there for the curious visitor to see, for free.

It warms my heart to know that someone would leave their entire patrimony to the city, to the memory of the world, to improve the lives of those who follow them. To visit a place like this, that always existed for the love of art, is a blessing, and even though museums were created and exist to preserve art and were born precisely from the love for art, they haven't been lived in, they haven't had a chance in life, they are these boxes, time capsules, in which we keep our memories related to art and can access them whenever possible. It doesn’t seem fair to me, but it sure is great to have them in such an organized manner.

I have always had this fear in life, of where I would end up, what would become of me, then that turned into a fear of what would be done with my belongings, who, of the people I know, would appreciate having some of the paintings I now own and would care for it as much as I do? Well, that all is gone now, it is not important what happens to my belongings after I pass, I will not be around to see it, but I still definitely hope for the best and that the art I own feels just as proud and happy for the life they were able to live while they were living with me as I am proud to have them around me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Why I Cry Today

I was sitting in a class of physics when someone received a text message saying that the World Trade Center had been attacked. I remember i was planning a trip to Los Angeles with one of my best friends instead of paying attention to class; we couldn't believe it, all of us rushed down to the tv at the cafeteria in a state of shock, absolute shock, what was going on? How was that possible? What was happening in the world? Still to this day i can't make any sense of it, i don't think anyone ever will.

I remember the feelings i felt, i remember having a classmate whos father worked in one of the towers, i remember his despair staring at the tv screen without understanding; i remember the common feeling we all had for him and his family, we wanted them to be well. His father was there, but he survived. I have never seen that kid again, but my heart was with him then and is with him now, because to go through the agony he must have gone through is unimaginable.

It's unimaginable for me to think that one human being is capable of willingly do a thing such as flying an airplane into a building. We are human beings, not animals; or are we? What is this desire to kill and destroy that some of us have? Where does it come from? Why is it necessary to fight over differences?

Today is the tenth anniversary of september eleven, a day that will never be forgotten, a day that will enter history books and a day that i witnessed and still can't understand. At all. Every year my thoughts wander away into the void left by those who died, i try to piece it together and today, since the moment i woke up, i cried, because i can't understand, because the fear is tangible, because the feeling of abandonment from reason is real. To me it feels like a wound that is constantly open and band-aided, and even though i wasn't in that situation i witnessed with the entire world, and feelings sometimes travel faster than light and sound, and this feeling lives in my heart, there is no denying.

Every year i think of why would any person chose to kill over their beliefs? Can't things be solved peacefuly? It's even scarier to think that people celebrated the deaths of thousands somewhere in the world, that other human beings were gloating over something so unhuman, so animal. Just like World War II, September eleven to me is irrationality to the extreme, it's madness, sheer brutality; and my heart aches for that, my tears roll down because i feel embarrassed as a human being, because i feel that with years and years of evolution we haven't been able to overcome our irrationalities and act like the geniuses i know we can be, instead, some of us choose to use this genius for destruction of our own selves.

Humans have massacred millions of other humans, enslaved other humans, destroyed the very ground they live in, it's total self-sabotaging, and that to me is uncomprehensible, because to me it's such a simple equation, it's as simple as 1+1=2. 

We don't think the same, we don't feel the same, we don't believe in the same Gods, we don't love the same, we don't pray the same, but we all want to live, we all want to be able to have peace of mind, we all want to be able to have a place to come to at night, a place to call home, and we want our homes to be safe and free of fear. It baffles me to think that human beings are capable of such violent acts against each other, it disappoints me profoundly to know that we can't live in peace, that we can't be trusted, that we have to keep looking over our shoulders or interpreting situations.

I felt the same way when i was in Berlin, that is one powerful place to be if you wanna feel floored by emotions, because the kind of prolonged pain those people had to be put through is beyond me, i have no words, and that to me is rare. We may be intelectual humans, but sometimes we act like savages.

Living in New York, a city filled and built by different cultures and beliefs, my feelings are amplified, because i know it can still work out for us all, look at this city, it's an example of resilience and survival, it is a multi cultural epicenter, it's a city that has all cultures, religions, languages, sounds, sexual orientations, everything and anything you can imagine is in here, and we all have learned to live together in respect, we have learned to listen to each other, we have learned to dialogue, we have learned to live in peace.

Now more than ever, my heart cries harder, because i wish the whole world could feel and experience what i feel and experience here everyday, i wish the whole world could have the kind of freedom i have living in New York city, a world of its own, a place where you are accepted for who you are, regardless of anything else. Someone did something right here at some point, and it works, because we understand each other, there is a sense of community like nowhere else, and we come together for each other and we make it work, because we believe it is possible to coexist with all our differences in one city, in peace.

New York did not cause the disaster of  9/11 but the disaster was brought upon this city, and what New York did was beautiful, because New York gathered its strength and rebuilt itself and its spirit, New York and its citizens, people from all around the globe, gathered as one and showed the world that it is possible to live together and make something better, and this is why i cry, because New York, one of the most important cities on earth is to me the clearest example of strength, freedom and peace, and that is what i cry for today.