Art in Motion

I’ve intended to go to see the Visions Alive: Monet to Kandinsky for months now, and being solo with a somewhat rainy Saturday seemed the perfect opportunity.

Housed in a large warehouse, a 1,000 sqm space is turned into an immersive visual and musical experience, with large projection screens that cover the entire wall space.


Entering through black curtains I am immediately engulfed in the black. As the images and sound slowly grow, I get my bearings and finally locate a stool. People are seated all around, some in chairs, others on the floor; their heads, hands, and bodies become a part of the art and the experience. There is no empty space except in the middle of the room.


The creators use digital technologies to create a 60-minute show that loops continuously, drawing from the works of twelve masters: Monet, Degas, Gaugin, Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec, Klimt, Signac, Mondrian, Modigliani, Van Gogh, Renoir, Gris, Klee, Munch, Kandinsky and Malevich. The art is brought to life through deconstructing, reconstructing and superimposing images. The soundtrack is a wide array of well-known classical music (the credits are listed on their website) and other evocative pieces.


In contrast to many art events these days, there are few cameras or phone screens visible. I am careful to turn off my flash, hence the very dark images, and manage to catch a few shots and glimpses of the movement and passion all around.

I especially love the music set to Modigliani’s work, and I’m captivated by the twinkling dancers superimposed over Degas’ dancers set to Chopin’s Valse Op 64. No 2. Waltz in C sharp minor #7. Quotes from the artists are also displayed. Claude Monet’s quote, “I tried to do the impossible, to paint the light itself,” captures the spirit of this production.


The exhibition’s creators are Artplay Media, an international team who specializes in creating multimedia exhibitions. Their skills include art, sound production, design, technology and marketing. Clearly they have done their homework and create a very engaging hour-long experience.

I am enchanted for the first hour.  When the loop returns to the point at which I entered, I sit for a short time, but find the second viewing less compelling. But the music haunts me for the remainder of the day. Especially, Chopin’s Valse Op 64. No 2. Waltz in c sharp minor #7.

Note: The images of the dancers may appear black for a few seconds in the middle

I reflect on the impact of the music versus the images, but come to no conclusion. Most important is the feeling that travels with me as I make my way back to the train, with street art coming into view.


© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018


Barcelona: The Great Outdoors

Memories of the sea and parks.

Beaches and parks beckon Las Chicas on our warmer-than-Berlin February vacation.

It’s too cold to swim, but we still head for the soothing sea. We greet the David and Goliath sculpture on our way.


Shoes off, toes in sand, we walk along  Bogatell Beach where we have memories of swimming in the summers, and seeing the friendly beach dog named Guapo, “handsome”, alongside his gay padres. We head out to the jetty and watch the masses of sailboats to the north, and container ships on the horizon.



Longing for more time by the sea we take the train to Montgat, just north of the city, where we have the beach to ourselves. More toes in sand, and even a brief moment of toes in the water!

On our first afternoon in Barcelona, we head to Montjuic, home to Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (the National Museum of Catalan Art) and the 1992 Olympic Stadium.

IMG_1113View from the front of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. with snow-capped Pyrenees!

Up the hill and around the museum, we come across this remembrance from the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

The sculptor, Kang Dae-Chul, honors the Korean marathon winner, Young-Cho Hwang. The translation,
” Catalonia country favored by art and history,
Barcelona ancient and glorious city,
Kyonggi-do of Korea, land of eastern tranquility, its bright light unites us,
May this warm friendship be perpetual.”

IMG_1119Running group near the Olympic Stadium preparing for the next day’s half-marathon.

The back of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.

On the other side of Plaza España we pass, Woman with Bird by Joan Miro, one of our favorite landmarks sadly surrounded by construction fences:


Sunday morning we meet friends for a late breakfast,

followed by a walk in Parc del Laberint, the oldest park in Barcelona.

En route to the park we pass, Velòdrom Municipal d’Horta Miquel Poblet, an Olympic monument built in 1984 in preparation for the 1986 bid for the Olympics.

IMG_8640We enter the park through the jardines, gardens, that include this old estate with it lovely Moorish features.

The labyrinth is formed by tall hedges of shrubbery for us to get mixed up in:

We finally find the way out, and go up the steps for views of the whole maze:


It’s carnival weekend, and we see some kids,

and adults in their costumes:

2 little red riding hoods, and one grandmother/big bad wolf

We have great memories of biking and hiking in Collserola Park, in the hills above Barcelona. It’s close to Lisa’s old school, so we take a walk on Carretera de les Aigues (road of fountains) except in some places it’s called by the Catalan name: “Passeig de les Aigues.”

IMG_1264View of Tibidabo, the highest point in the park. It’s home to an amusement park and Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (church).

IMG_1262Ciclistas bring back memories of rides along the Carretera.

IMG_1261The  Carretera is part of the Ronda Verde or “green route” for cyclists around Barcelona.

IMG_1259Cacti line the trail downhill to the residential area.

IMG_1250Happy to be in the sunshine, with observatory in the background.

IMG_1266Replenishing from one of the many fountains.

IMG_1270Irises along the way mark spring in Spain!

As we remember, in Barcelona there are messages of pride everywhere.

IMG_1245Gay and lesbian pride on a street in Grácia.

IMG_1146Catalan pride symbolized by the Catalan flag and yellow ribbons for “independencia.” Many Catalans want autonomy from Spain–independence, or something similar. These ribbons decorate trees on Carrer Verdi in Grácia, near our favorite movie theater. IMG_1248Feminist Pride on a shop gate in Grácia: Loose translation from Catalan is “Feminists kick
the the mouth of sexism.”

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

East and West Berlin: Now and Then

Berlin Wall transformed into Art Gallery

It’s been quite chilly in Berlin for Las Chicas, with temps dipping into the minus zero Celsius region. Despite the cold, the sun shines and so we take advantage and explore some of Berlin’s history.

On Saturday we walk in the Grünewald (green forest). While enjoying the non-city feel of the forest, we are reminded of the city’s past with Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) in the background. This tower was part of the American and British “listening station” during the cold war.


On Sunday we head to Friedrichshain to see the Oberbaum bridge, a long-awaited field trip. The Oberbaum Bridge was one of the eight checkpoints in the city when East and West Berlin were divided by the Wall. (For those interested in more of the history of Oberbaumbrücke )

On our path from the train to the bridge we cross places where portions of the Berlin Wall once stood.

Originally constructed in 1874, the Oberbaum Bridge stands majestically across the Spree River, a natural divider between the East and West, in the past.  Along with its historical significance,  the bridge became a little more famous in the 1990s German thriller, Run Lola Run. We are intrigued by the bridge that comes across our radar from time to time, most recently while watching the series Berlin Station on Netflix.

On the east side of the Spree River is the East Gallery, a wall covered with paintings dating back to 1990. The wall was originally constructed to celebrate the demolition of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Berlin.  Today we shift into proper tourist mode and weave in and out of tour groups to snap photos of some of the more memorable murals.

Graffiti alters more than a few of the murals. In 2009 there was a major restoration done to refresh and repaint a number of the murals that had been ruined or distorted by the volumes of graffiti over the years.

Some of the murals are quite well known,

“Detour to the Japanese Sector,” originally set in front of one of the GDR watch towers, now stands alone.


This throwback to the GDR shows the Traubant car.


The depiction of a mass of people being squeezed through the wall, representing the opening of East Berlin on 9 November 1989.


And perhaps the most famous painting showing the Soviet and GDR leaders, Breshnev and Honecker kissing, based on an actual photo from Breshnev’s 1979 visit to Berlin. The kiss was an expression of support between socialist countries of that era.

We also enjoyed the different views inside and beyond the bridge.





Molecule Man, in the distance,  is a series of aluminum sculptures, designed by American artist Jonathan Borofsky, one in Berlin, Germany and one in Iowa, United States.



© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

More Modernisme in Barcelona

Colonia Güell and Casa Vicens

Las Chicas escape to Barcelona on a vacation from Berlin’s winter. We discover new a new (to us) Modernisme town, Colonia Güell, and we visit the newly renovated Casa Vicens which is Antonio Gaudí’s first building in Barcelona.

After a train trip and unscenic walk through industrial suburbs, we arrive in Colonia Güell.  Güell, the factory owner, was a patron of Antonio Gaudí who designed and partially built the town’s church. Other modernist architects designed worker townhouses, houses for the professional class (doctor, factory manager), and civic buildings.

Teacher’s house connected to the school (left) and doctor’s house (right).IMG_1235

Early 19th c. urban planning: stone drainage canal takes water from sidewalk and street.

Left: Factory manager’s house, right: cooperative.

The Colonia was a company town, built around a textile factory that created corduroy (for the working class) and velveteen (for the upper classes).


Textile factory, part of which now houses start-ups.


Corduroy and velveteen swatches


Spinning machineIMG_1182Weaving machine

Workers had access to theater, concerts and other civic events, and purchased food and wine at the “cooperative” at discount prices. The town doctor, paid for by the factory owner Güell, kept them healthy and productive on the factory floor.

The informative visitor center showed videos of former factory workers who spoke of the dismal factory work behind the cultural myth–fiber dust in sandwiches, losing fingers, etc.

The Gaudí church also known as Gaudí’s crypt was recently restored, and reflects the unusual tree-like columns, arches, and intricate mosaics that the architect later used in the famous Sagrada Familia. Gaudi also designed the worship benches.

On this cloudy and cold day, exterior photo quality suffers from dull lighting conditions.



But the mosaic over the entry way door shines.


Inside the sanctuary, we enjoy the hidden treasures.





Back in Barcelona, we walk past our old Modernisme favorites:

Diputacio de Barcelona building near our hotel (left), and Casa Pascal i Pons near Plaza Catalunya (right)

La Casa Comalat on Carrer Corsega

On a rainy day, we visit Casa Vicens in our old Gracia neighborhood. This was Gaudí’s first private home designed and built in Barcelona. Although the structure lacks the naturalistic curves of his later work, the interior design, iron work and tile work connect the structure to nature.


More exterior tiles and ironwork:

Interior decorations of birds and plants etched directly into the walls, sgraffito style:

Incredible ceilings including a blue one sculpted and carved in the Moorish style:

When the wall is a field:


The porch’s geometric shades and ironwork palm frond, with realistic palm frond on the porch ceiling:

Gaudí even decorated the roof:

When we lived in Gracia, we walked by Casa Vicens many times, and now get to appreciate its beauty inside. We are amazed at the intricate techniques used to bring nature inside the home’s checkerboard exterior.

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Singapore Tastes

Adventures in eating and drinking

Little India. Chinatown. And don’t forget the cultural mix of Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese. So many cuisines to explore!

On her first night, Mary hits the streets and ends up underground in a mall’s Food Opera (food court). There she tastes a very bad version of shrimp noodles which she fortunately washes down with a delicious banana and pineapple Yakult.


In case of midnight munchies, Mary gets provisions at Bakery Society, a Japanese bakery with euro delights. She chooses a package of scones and a cream pie topped with a slice of orange.

Still feeling peckish on the walk back to the hotel, she checks out a street stand/motorcycle sidecar with homemade ice cream sandwiches. Choice of ice cream, and choice of wonder bread or wafer cookies. Mary chooses mint chip and wafers.

Working with doctors has its perks: she’s treated to dinner at a 2-star Michelin restaurant with the Board of Directors.  View from the top:IMG_0674

At her table is a physician from Australia who laments that she was always 5th place in swimming. Fifth place in the entire country of Australia! Another dining companion, a Singapore physician, gives Mary more useful information such as where to hike, and consults her Dengue fever app to assure Mary that the disease is not prevalent near her hotel or planned excursions.

Another hot and sticky day, Mary heads to Little India.

Elephants, temples, and colorful buildings tell you exactly where you are in Singapore.




Below: Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, the former house of Tan Teng Niah (Chinese merchant in Little India) and Sri Lakshminamayan Temple.




Arts, auto repair and fashion shops are neighbors on the commercial street.

She also passes two sidewalk tailors busy at their sewing machines.

Mary enters a happily air-conditioned restaurant to feast on a “Jain lunch” which contains lentils, okra, yogurt, rice, chapati, and other things unknown but delicious. A lassi (yogurt drink) washes it all down.


On the way back to the hotel, Mary purchases water from this sidewalkvending machine that also sells soy milk, “milo” (chocolate milk), kickapoo, and other random beverages:


Japanese lunch of  yellowtail tuna and rice on another day:

Tine for an afternoon snack on the way back from the Botanic gardens. The real deal Vietnamese iced coffee and awesome shrimp and veggie rolls:


On her last day, she finally experiences Kopi-C, Malaysian style coffee with sweet and condensed milk. Toast Box serves French toast like things in the morning, noodles at noon, and Singapore baked goods all day.

Another Japanese bakery advertises award-winning Financiers, a delicate French cookie for businessmen and businesswomen. Mary approves!

So much food, so little time! Other food for sale from mall specialty bakeries. Unicorn cupcakes, fish cookie sandwiches, and signature cream puffs.

Food for everyone from everywhere! Thank you Singapore!

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Singapore Southern Ridges & Botanic Gardens

Canopy walk and encounter with a water monster.

More field trips for Mary while she’s in Singapore for a work conference. She walks about 20 minutes from her hotel on Orchard Road to the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Along the way, store windows remind her it will soon be the Year of the Dog, and “paw-ty time.”


On the way to the gardens, there’s even greenery on buffer walls for construction sites:


After navigating cement and asphalt, car traffic and construction zones, Mary’s happy to be bathed in green: lawns, giant trees, and all manner of tropical shrubbery. First up is the Marsh Garden, trees with multiple roots and a sign indicating that this was “formerly an alligator pond.”

Mary follows the paved path toward the lake, reviewing images on her camera when movement catches her eye.  It’s on the ground, to the left, quite close to her feet. Heart pounding, she’s never seen anything like this before. Why does she feel like prey? It’s moving toward her, approaching in that quick but slow motion way when every millisecond is burned into the mind, but she still doesn’t know what it is. Four feet long, is it a leftover alligator? Other walkers around the lake don’t seem too bothered, one even walks past it in her bare feet! Danger! Mary backs away from the ungainly giant lizard and takes this picture:


Later she looks it up: it’s a Malayan Water Monitor. This giant lizard lives in the lake.

She quickens her pace, shocked that people have small children with them in this place of monster lizards. But she finds comfort in rock climbers practicing on a tree and beautiful flowers.

Near the visitor center, fountains spring from tree wells.

The Healing Garden contains plants used for health in the past, and now some have been turned into pharmaceuticals.

Assorted chickens cross the road:

Flowering trees and warning signs (remarkably, water monitor is not listed!):

White bark and red stems:

Giant fig tree and giant fern:

On the way back to the hotel, with storm clouds for drama, Mary spots the Singapore equivalent of James Bond, taking a cigarette break on the balcony of Interpol. See if you can find him:



The next day, Mary heads for the Southern Ridges, a system of national parks linked by trails and canopy walks made of metal and wood.

First stop, Hort Park, with green wall demonstration projects, community gardens, greenhouses for Gardens by the Bay, and other nurseries that nourish seedlings for Singapore’s public parks.

Orchids everywhere:

Next, Kent Ridge Park, popular with hill interval runners and dog walkers. Views of the port too!

Mary walks back through Hort Park to reach a metal walkway through the treetops:

A sign explains how to behave with monkeys, but Mary sees no primates except humans.

She reaches Henderson Waves, an undulation of metal and wood floating above the jungle. It also lights up with different colors at night.

Here’s a video showing the views from Henderson Waves:

The trail continues to Mt. Faber, with its big Bell of Happiness and little bells of love:

Mary checks out more city views and notes that Singapore’s signature dish, chili crab, is available at the Asian Food Box vending machine. She does not partake.

She descends on the trail to the coast and the MRT station for a short subway ride back to her hotel.


Marong Trail down from Mt. Faber


“Mind the Gap” and “Don’t Lean on Doors” subway safety sign.

Dogs welcome her back to the hotel as the Year of the Dog approaches!


© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018

Singapore Sights

Tropical Plants, Chinatown, Dogs, and Laser Light Show

Mary escapes from the cold Berlin winter to southeast Asia! In Singapore for a conference, she flees from the mall/hotel complex and explores Fort Canning Park on a nearby hill. On a conference bus and boat tour, she discovers Chinatown, Gardens By the Bay, and the Singapore River laser light fountain show.

Tropical trees line the streets in this “garden city” of skyscrapers and shopping malls. Fortunately, semi-wild, wild, and cultivated spaces are easy to reach.

Fort Canning Park

This former fort stands atop centuries of fortresses. It  was the place where the British Army surrendered Singapore to the Japanese during WWII. For more, go to the Fort Canning Park website.

The hill-top lawns host festivals and ceremonies throughout the year, but Mary sees only kids singing with guitars, assorted photo shoots, and sweaty joggers.

Informative graphics:  Easy to understand history and warning signs. Click on images below for larger versions and easier reading.

Singapore City Tour

Singapore often goes over the top with displays of flora and laser lights, and we see it all on our tour. Fear not, the dreaded bus and boat tour amazes, amuses, educates, and celebrates.

Our bumboat cruises along the new waterfront to see a dazzling light show on the Singapore River . Bumboats used to carry goods from river docks to larger ships in the harbor; now they use zero-emission electric motors to carry tourists. Here’s a video of what we saw:

Lasers came from on top of the Marina by the Bay hotel. Also pictured below: “The Durian” arena, Fullerton Hotel (former post office), and rainbow bridge.

Our bus drives through Chinatown with its oranges symbolizing gold coins and luck in the new year. Also featured, “pineapple” which in Chinese sounds like “luck coming your way.”

We learn about Chinese immigration to Singapore at the Chinatown Heritage Center , a former “shophouse”–apartment building that also housed an opium den and tailor. (On the same street, there are still several tailors ready to make your custom suit. But no opium dens.) Families of up to 8 people lived in tiny “cells” with communal kitchen and bathrooms down the hall.

Below, photograph of opium processing (in 1940!) and a statue showing the red hats Chinese laborers wore as they built the port city.

We also tour Gardens by the Bay, a 50-hectacre park built on fill, dumped into the bay. Our tour guide says Singapore stopped creating new land via fill “to maintain good relations with our neighbors,” which means Malaysia, Indonesia, and China. Political relations and the creation of new territory can be tricky with for a small city-state like Singapore.

We enter the Flower Dome, a giant greenhouse with plants and flowers from around the world: Mediterranean, Australia, and of course the tropics. Exhibit of the moment: Dahlia Dreams. We visit in the evening, so the colors of the flowers are a bit washed out in these photos.


The Flower Dome also displays assorted art pieces and dioramas to celebrate the upcoming Chinese Year of the Dog:

Supertrees light up the night, and provide shade to Gardens by the Bay visitors during the day. They are over 100 feet tall. Over 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are planted on the Supertrees.  Eleven Supertrees have solar panels.



Did I mention that it’s Year of the Dog?

© Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds, 2018