Hello from Porto, Portugal. It’s 4:48 am, which is 10:48 pm back in Colorado. I went to bed sometime after midnight this morning after a very nice, typically long day. I’m taking the opportunity to spend a little time writing, as the bulk of each day is spent exploring, whether by rental car or on foot.

What’s the saying – carpe diem? That’s the agenda. Seize the day, and the night as well. Here – let me snap a pic of the current view below:

My traveling companions and I awoke yesterday to the sound of roosters on a 300 year old farm about ten minutes from the Bay (or Gulf) of Biscay.

After some coffee delivered via moka pot, we packed the car and wended our way through the hills for half an hour or so to Guernica, the town which was bombed by the Germans back in 1937, killing or wounding approximately 1/3 of the town, and inspiring Picasso’s famous, enormous anti-war painting by the same name, which was evidently completed in three weeks.

Guernica the town was rebuilt and is a beautiful town where I’d love to come back and stay. We stopped in the town center only briefly for some lattes on our drive to Bilbao, another half an hour distant, where we toured the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry.

Kathy and Nan descending into the museum

The Guggenheim, Spanish edition, currently has two shows up, one of Oskar Kokoshka’s work, and the other of Joan Miro’s. I experienced Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Room, viewed the museum’s other permanent works by Louise Bourgeois, Sol Lewis, Barbara Kruger, El Anatsui, Jeff Koons, and others, but to me, the most noteworthy room is the mammoth one permanently dedicated to Richard Serra’s work. I’ve been to DIA Beacon to see a somewhat similar layout, but to me, the tastefully lyrical, curving space in the Bilbao Guggenheim integrated perfectly with the work. The room reminded me, in scale, of a shipyard, which is exactly where Serra has his huge steel pieces manufactured. From the second floor viewing area, the sheets look like curled chocolate shavings set on edge. However, unlike the thin titanium sheets making up the museum’s exterior (which hearken to fish scales or possibly tanker hulls as well), Serra’s are solid, inches-thick steel plates in hues ranging from cool blue to the more typical – and typically gorgeous – cor ten terra cotta.

Makes me want to return to American Pipe Bending in Tulsa and play around with their similarly gorgeous steel, and see what their benders can do with it.

As often happens when I visit art museums, I am hit with a sense of possibility. Here you see just a bit of how different people, from different parts of the world and at different times, create whole disparate universes via their art. Takes me back to the first day of my first drawing class at UCCS, listening to our teacher, the late Julia Hoerner Latrop, talk up the art department, and art in general. She said that unlike other disciplines (or majors – she was talking primarily with freshmen and sophomores in school), with art, one can draw from all the rest. One can be interested in biology or math or literature, etc., and express said interest through art. Art’s endlessly fascinating.

So, it seems, is Spain and Portugal.

Sitges, outside of Barcelona, at dusk

Last 3: exploring an ancient Roman ruin

Sunrise in Basque Country

In the Misschocole pastry shop in Bilbao, fortifying ourselves before the long drive to Porto

Porto in the evening from our penthouse perch

Permit me a name-drop anecdote with a purpose, brought to mind while wending my way through Serra’s work.

Back when I was working for Chuck Close at the age of 19 – 21, one day he and I were having lunch in the Museum of Modern Art with Chuck’s old Yale classmate Richard Serra, who was in the museum to assist with the installation of one of his pieces. I recall Serra had just moved upstate, and, wanting to show Chuck how to get there, used a marker to draw a quick map on a napkin. He finished eating and left before Chuck and I did, leaving the napkin on the table as well. I kept eyeing it, thinking I really should keep it as a souvenir. But I didn’t. It felt silly to do so in the presence of a similarly famous artist. As I was pushing Chuck’s wheelchair out of the room, I reconsidered, but, still not wanting to let Chuck know I wanted the napkin, I asked him to excuse me for a moment – telling him I thought I’d left something at the table. Once I got back to where we had been sitting, I looked up and saw – drat – that Chuck was looking back over his shoulder in my direction with a look of curiosity, perhaps wondering what I could have possibly left. Standing at arm’s length from my goal, I feigned a brief, fruitless visual search, never reaching out for the napkin, which was within arm’s distance. I left it there, and returned to Chuck, shrugging my shoulders and shaking my head as if to say, “Must have left it [whatever it was] elsewhere.”

I wonder if Chuck knew I wanted that napkin.

I’m in my 50’s now, and realize that such moments in life are typically fleeting, quite rare, and meant to be seized. These days, I’d grab the napkin without hesitation or embarrassment.

I’m in a seize-the-napkin frame of mind.