Our spring trip to Europe was all about renewing our inspirations and dipping our brains and toes in some of the best art museums (according to us).
Our Journey began in Stockholm, Sweden, although it not the best place to acclimate to the 8 hour time change. The sun was rising around 3:30 A.M. and setting around 10 P.M. As we quickly learned, Stockholm had nearly 18 hours of daylight per day! Insert jet-lag nightmare here.
You may have heard of the Moderna Museet back in 1993 when eight works by Picasso and Georges Braque, the French cubist, valued at some $60 million, were stolen.
Responsible for housing one of Europe's finest collections of modern and contemporary art, the Moderna Museet was certainly one of the highlights of our trip to Europe this spring. They had over 35 pieces of Duchamp's alone in their permanent collection!
After Stockholm we spent some time in Amsterdam. There we visited several museums, amongst them the Van Gogh Museum, which merited almost an entire day. Lost in Van Gogh's brush strokes you're transported to another time. You are there in his studio witnessing his latest painting, dabbing the finishing touches with a stroke so famous and so unique. Tragically, like many creative geniuses, Van Gogh ended his own life, two gunshot wounds to the chest, taking his last breaths in his brother Theo's arms. One can bear witness to their strong relationships in the hundreds of letters they exchanged while they were apart, The letters chronicle Vincent's life like an autobiography. All art has the potential to be powerful and create strong and even unfamiliar reactions inside us, but in particular I think we had the strongest "aha' moments at the Van Gogh Museum.
To mix feelings up further, the temporary exhibit at the Van Gogh was 'Easy Virtue' depicting prostitution in French Art from 1850 to 1910. The exhibit examined how the theme of prostitution was dealt with by over 40 different artists. It included rare private and public collection works by Van Gogh himself, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso among others. A fitting and interesting introduction to Amsterdam and the Red Light District.
In Amsterdam we also visited the Stedelijk, and the Moco Museum (which was exclusively featuring works by Banksy and Warhol).
In Paris, we never miss the Louvre but this time we also visited the Georges Pompidou Center to see the Paul Klees exhibit as well as Espace Dali to see a great collection of Salvador Dali's work.
Finally, in London we went to the Tate Modern. Interestingly, a whole section of the Tate was being prepared for a major Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit. This was of course an interesting fact to us Santa Feans.
When we've arrived some place, especially if it's new (to us) or we've traveled long distances, I always ask myself "Why am I here? Why have we devoted our time and resources to be here, visiting this place?'" We don't love jet-lag, unfamiliar beds, and the lack of direction, plus we miss our cat. So, why?
The question lingers throughout the journey and every time we do it, I feel myself getting closer to... asking a better question. Always approaching but never arriving. Cliche as it sounds, it's truly the moments in between that feed our wanderlust. It's a discovery of ourselves in a new city, speaking a different language, engaging in different contexts.
It's a step back and a step closer. It's watching the man religiously feeding the pigeons, it's figuring out if finding the entrance to the gallery at the Tate Modern is an exhibit in itself, it's realizing yourself in the escalator "tube" at the Pompidou. It's watching the watcher and enjoying children chasing bubbles in a busy square. It's taking a quiet ferry and time to stroll through the Tulleries not knowing where you're going.
It's the loss of familiarity and the acceptance of being in those moments, that make us more prepared to return home again.
One Minute of Moments
I put this video together to acknowledge those random yet substantial moments in an attempt to linger in that time, but also explore the origin of that wanderlust and curiosity. I'm still working on articulating it.
We could be any of these characters. You could be the man with the birds, the lovers, the crowds or the tour group. I could be you. You could be me.
Music is "We Move Lightly" by Dustin O'Halloran.
Winding our way down the road on a journey lends itself to opportunities for metaphorical thinking. From the idea of a pilgrimage of faith to an arduous path to wisdom, traveling lends itself to deeper meaning. This journey “archetype” can be found as far back as our literature reaches into the past. From Homer’s description of Odysseus as widely travelled and hence ingenious to Wordsworth’s description of Newton’s process as, “Voyaging through strange seas of thought.” travel resonates deeply in us in fascinating ways. Of course a mention of Kerouac’s On the Road, a book about a personal quest for meaning and belonging is a great example of what the idea of the “road” can represent. As Jack said, “Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” The “road” we realize is a part of us and has been for a very long time.
In a car as opposed to air travel the sense of gradual progress and awareness of the environment is much more immediate. The passing scene and time spent builds a concept of accomplishment from actions taken. While we travel for all sorts of reasons, a business trip, a trip to see family, sometimes we travel to experience a sense of freedom and movement in our lives, the quintessential “road trip”. The idea of moving away from something and toward something else can be very satisfying if we accept the “doing” of and “being” of a traveler.
If you travel far enough you can watch the environment change. These changes are often gradual but sometimes dramatic. Shifting microclimates merge into a markedly different environmental experience. What starts as an exposed rock formation can slowly lead to a mountain. A scrub tree on the desert can eventually lead to a forest. Or in some cases driving around a curve leads to an unexpected panoramic scene. These changes hint at the progress of the journey and a sense of accomplishment, again, often gradual but sometimes dramatic. Imagine the first time a traveler walked up to the edge of the Grand Canyon. Its depths are so astounding our perception is at times confused by it. How was this person and the journey they were on changed? It must have been profound. Even now, despite maps and electronic means of finding our way traveling can lead to unforeseen experiences that test our knowledge and our comfort level.
Just like the microclimates mentioned above we can also experience micro-cultures as we move across the landscape. Despite the intentions and impact of corporate entities that place chain stores across the land, those cultural differences persist in many ways. While humans as a whole are pretty much the same the world over, cultural differences do exist. As we drive through Dodge City, Kansas we instinctively know that people who live here have a specific culture that has been built over a very long time. A culture built around the cattle business. As we drive through Santa Fe, New Mexico we can’t help but notice the adobe buildings in all directions. When we stop for gas or to eat and spend the night we get a sense of the differences. We may notice that the clothing styles are different; the accents are different, and other subtle differences that are noticeable. All travelers throughout time have felt this sense of difference as they travel and for some it is challenging and can cause discomfort. For others it is interesting and delightful. Either way the opportunity for being challenged in some sense is there and thus an opportunity for learning exists.
The road, simply intended to allow transport from one point to the next also bears the implications of its history. Like the progress of any endeavor in regards to both time and success it has an historical element. Travelling across the Southwest of the United States one can easily imagine the trade routes of the Native Americans or wagon tracks of determined settlers that became the interstate highway. The routes the roads take were determined by trial and error that sometimes led to tragic consequences. It was travel at your own risk. While that risk is not what we face, every trip has its risks, breaking down, being in unfamiliar territory, etc. and really that’s part of what makes it fascinating. As we whiz by in the comfort of our vehicles we sometimes see remnants of the past. An abandoned ramshackle building can speak to another time when the passersby were travelling slower on the road and the location was perceived as viable and essential in some way. While it no longer serves an immediate function it evokes a sense of history and can be emotionally moving.
A Business Metaphor
Going back to journey metaphors we encounter that almost universal myth of the “Hero Journey”. It’s the basis of many children’s books, movies, and literature throughout time. The journey is typically one of leaving behind the known and venturing forth on a quest or adventure. The hero experiences difficulties as well as support throughout the journey. In the process profound learning occurs. When the hero returns he or she brings with them knowledge and experiences to assist others. This Hero myth has become a learning lesson and tool for many businesses. The implication of transformative change is one that is powerful and lends itself to many aspects of innovative endeavor. We see ourselves on this journey and often use this metaphor to help others more clearly see the journey they are on and its implications. Artotems Co, was started quite a long time ago as a business that worked with healthcare data and designed databases. As we traveled along our business path we made changes to what we did based on our experiences and the needs of our customers. For many of our business clients the Hero Journey myth fits right in. Starting a new business is certainly a journey of discovery and learning and is an effort worthy of admiration. Whether that business is one that helps companies be more efficient in its energy use or one that creates unique one of a kind totem poles they are on a journey that not all are willing to venture forth on. It takes independence and vision to step out of the comfort zone and create something. Understanding the journey and its implications is vital to success. Whether it’s the subtle differences in the environment of your field of endeavor, the people you work with and serve, or the history of what’s come before, vigilance is required. It’s a “road trip” of awareness, vision, and creativity.
As the season changes and the summer vacations are over, we wonder how many of us enjoyed the journey as much as the destinations we arrived at. I know we did.
Below are a few random car photos taken as we traveled across part of U.S. to Los Angeles.
Sharing our creative efforts, work and travel.