While walking the Camino I had to stop myself thinking about getting to the end or only my feet would have arrived in Santiago. Why be in a hurry? One step at a time, enjoy, be involved. Making Painted Steps poses a similar challenge. I get anxious about finishing, impatient to see all the elements in place, and all the interactions of the elements. It’s taking a long time…
is a long time?
After the Goya ‘side-trip’, I’m glad to be back to the little pictures of Painted Steps, to be back on the road’. It’s like on the Camino. Every morning; wake up, get dressed, packed, and walk off and feeling just plain pleased to be walking again. Before 8am! Amazing!.........
This is the road ahead, from the dovecotes of Villalcázar de Sirga to the swinerys of Tierra de Campos with wild boar in between.
The image of a dovecote quickly came to mind as a picture choice for Painted Steps. But on the Camino it took a while to come into focus.
We were walking through the northern tip of Tierra de Campos, land of farms and fields. For days, I had been hearing the soft cooing of doves. I began to notice some odd shapes among the farm out buildings. The strangely proportioned structures were windowless, round or square, often with fancy crenellations, or other decorative flourishes.
Finally in the town of Villalcázar de Sirga we came upon a similar structure in the grounds of a popular restaurant. This structure had been restored and was open as an interpretative center. It was a Palomar, a Dovecote.
I learned that the husbandry of doves/pigeons is a European tradition going back to medieval times and was widely promoted in Palencia in the 1800’s. Pigeons /doves were raised for their eggs, meat and feathers and their guano, bird-dropping fertilizer.
This Villalcázar Palomar is a classic of the region, round and 2- tiered with a ceramic tiled roof. The walls are plastered and white-washed adobe. Beautiful! Inside, there is an inner circular courtyard. You can see the roof structure, wood beams fanned like the underside of an umbrella. Fashioned into all the walls are rows and rows of niches, hundreds of nesting places for the wild palomas, the doves.
The dove is a potent cultural symbol. Maybe the dovecote is traditionally a place for lovers’ trysts, part of the association of dove with love. In Michael Ondaatje’s novel the “English Patient’ the nurse’s father dies hidden and alone in a dovecote. On the Camino we frequently saw this symbol for the Christian Roman Catholic idea of Holy Spirit. I would imagine that Lorca’s poetic image of the “bosque de palomas desecadas’ (the thicket of dried up doves) “resonates deeply into the Spanish cultural religious political psyche.
I will have the dove in Painted Steps.
We saw lots of adobe building in Palencia: heaps of straw, clay and sand on plastic sheets, ready to repair walls in towns and villages: work in progress.
Historically, building with such a malleable ‘user friendly’ material would allow each farm family to customize their palomar according to need and resources and individual taste in decoration.
According to an article in the local Sahagún (online) newspaper there is currently an effort to preserve and honour these unique and fanciful buildings.
Local? It’s all relative. Sahagún was 3 days ahead of us!
For Painted Steps I resisted the classic beauty of this restored palomar and painted a more modest one that I had photographed in-situ, on a farm far from the path, and without telephoto lens. Only when I spread/enlarged the image for the preliminary study did I discover its beauty, and that this one was oval, not round.
The bright June sun making strong shadow gives it a solid 3-d presence and evokes a living landscape in the picture’s background.
Multiple Points of view. If you see the painting it in real – live -- you might have to get in close with a magnifier to get the full impact of the picture.
It’s been interesting figuring out how best to show what I’ve been painting. If you’re looking at this on a phone, a medium distance Hi Res photo is all you need. You can spread/enlarge along an infinite gradient, ‘to taste’ for your eyes. If it’s printed on paper or shown on a fixed screen I need to choose and present multiple photographs showing a selection of distances, enlargements, crops.
It demands becoming more alert to the demands and opportunities of different forms of mediation.(ie medium/message)
Which device is the mediator of your experience?
What would be a ‘true photo’?
Does this offer different points of view or simply variety?
Who said every picture needs a thousand words?
So many questions…
Step back. One step at a time. Ok.
...Walking and falling and catching yourself from falling………
X el Centro de Interpretación del Palomar en Villalcázar de Sirga. http://www.palomardelcamino.com/
* Laurie Anderson *
“I wanted you. And I was looking for you
But I couldn't find you
I wanted you. And I was looking for you all day
But I couldn't find you. I couldn't find you
You're walking. And you don't always realize it
But you're always falling
With each step, you fall forward slightly
And then catch yourself from falling
Over and over, you're falling
And then catching yourself from falling
And this is how you can be walking and falling
At the same time”