Travels with Penelope

Travel, Food, Wine, Spirituality and Everything Else

Category: Art (page 1 of 2)

July 31, 2017 Bikes and Tea in Hangzhou (China Journal)

As I was sitting on the deck of our home in Davis and about to open the notes in my China journal I was distracted by a play of light on the wall behind the pond. The sun peaking through disciplined spaces along the overhang created an ephemeral piece of art that rivaled much of what I had seen during my years as an art critic. Abstract expressionism at its best! A fleeting frame of light walling off transient flickers led my mind into unbounded space. It felt so good to be back.




After slowly working my way through my journal notes from the last trip to China, I realized that I had better conclude soon as the next trip is beginning to rise on the horizon. So, back to the journey through Hangzhou with Jing, our guide.

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July 12, 2017 Longmen Grottoes, Shaolin (China Journal)


As a young graduate student of religious studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, I remember reading about how  the ancient Silk Road created a way for several countries to exchange not only silk, but other goods, culture, mythologies, philosophies and spiritual traditions. One of those traditions Buddhism, brought to China by monks from India traveling the Silk Road established a strong center in the city of  Luoyang. Considered to be one of the cradles of Chinese civilization, today Luoyang thrives as an industrial town. Nearby, the ancient Buddhist caves known as the Longmen Grottoes line the cliffs at the gate of the Yi River.


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June 7, 2017 Terracotta Warriors – Zhongguo (China Journal)




Dear Friends,

Back from a wonderful trip to Japan I am finally able to resume sharing the wonderful pilgrimage I had to China last month.

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April 30, 2017 Wuhan, Zhongguo (China Journal)


It was Saturday, my second and last day in Wuhan. We decided to forgo the breakfast buffet at the hotel and head for Starbucks, but first I took advantage of what was an unusually clear and sunny day,  to snap a shot from our hotel window. When done, we left the room and headed out for a morning walk.



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June 16, 2016 Issues Corrected, Here is The Squatty Potty Inspires Art…

If you read my recent posts on the squatty potty you may remember that its lower end purpose is to aid in the evacuation process. Well, it turns out that the squatty potty has served a higher purpose as well.

Recently, in archiving his collection of articles my partner, who has been a vital part of the UCDavis academic community for over forty years, came across some information that described the influence of the squatty potty on a development in mid 20th-century art. Hard to believe? Read on.

As of the mid-sixties a talented group of faculty and grad students in the Art Department at the University of California, Davis would come to wield influence over the direction of some of the mid to late 20th century movements. An illustration of their influence manifested in the art exhibited in an exhibition titled, The Slant Step.

It all began when the now world-famous William Wiley an art professor at Davis, and his student Bruce Nauman discovered a funky step stool at a thrift store in Marin County, California. Instead of a flat step, the step was slanted. If one were to stand on it say, to reach an object on a shelf or cupboard high overhead, one could likely slide off. Intrigued by the irregularity, the artistic duo purchased the stool brought it back to the Davis campus. Shortly, it migrated around the art department drawing the unmitigated fascination of Profs and students to such an extent that the funk object began to enjoy a cult-like status.

By the time I came to work at UCDavis by way of the Davis Enterprise as an art critic over thirty years had passed since The Slant Step exhibition had taken place in San Francisco. It is no surprise that from the intrigue with the stool coupled with their multi-media talent, that the faculty produced such an exhibit. Conversation and continued fascination on the show of object art, ceramics, plaster, and mixed media long on humor continued within the walls of the department for years. I became well aware of The Slant Step, but I did not know the true purpose of the funky step stool until my partner informed me of the information he found as he perused his archives. With that, I did a bit more research and came across a recent article from the LA Times.

Though the squatty potty has only recently achieved a cult-like status among hip health-minded groups, it has a long history. One piece of information I would add to the Times article is one of the meanings of funk: stench-bad odor-smell!

March 24, 2016 Squatty Potty

Usually, I do not get so personal on my blog site, although one could argue that a blog post is always personal, so kindly bear with me.  This past weekend my son and daughter-in-law decided that the time had come to focus on potty training their two –year-old daughter.

After all, if she was ready to drive, she was surely capable of handling a potty.


It would be a concentrated three-day process during which the family would remain at home and in the house for the most part. I was given the assignment of creating artwork with my precious granddaughter between movements.

At the beginning of her transition  from the familiar diaper to the potty-chair and underwear, a momentous process for any two year old, Fed Ex delivered a large box to the front door. My son informed me that the box contained the squatty potty that he had ordered a few days earlier, not a potty for his daughter, but one for the adults in the family.

The weekend turned into a double whammy. Not only would we go through the traditional training with the two-year old, we adults would also be examining our own process and looking at a way to improve on it.

Having traveled to Egypt, lived in Asia, with over a year in India alone, I was very familiar with traditional forms of the squatty potty. We know that our ancestors squatted for thousands of years before the modern toilet was invented. In much of the east squatting over a ground level receptacle still prevails.

Opening the big box revealed a raised bench for the feet that looked like anything but a potty. I doubted the ability of the stepping stool contraption that stood before me to further my bodies ability to eliminate.

Still, I was open to trying it out.  The attached directions instructed me to place the bench-squatty potty in front of the ceramic toilet bowl, sit on the bowl seat,  and bring my feet up on to the bench. The bench was nine inches tall, but I am told a seven inch is also available thereby allowing adjustments for toilet height. After my first go-round I became not only a fan, but as this post attests, an advocate of the squatty potty.

Check out the video for more info. If you remain unconvinced, google your way around the web and research the benefits of squatting. As you will observe, many experts claim that squatting is the one exercise that should never be eliminated. No pun intended.

Along with my granddaughter, I, too, made an adjustment. And, we had a wonderful weekend in which the family gathered to make art,


cook food and learn of a new-old way to experience the human condition.

Happy squatting!

January 22, 2016 Airing Laundry in Public


I am returning to Portugal. Neither in the body nor through an astral hyper-loop, I return through journals and photos. I had planned to share the following earlier on, but when, with the iniquitous events of late 2015, I succumbed to writer’s block, I put my intentions aside and turned to reading Fields of Blood. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the book provided a synopsis of historical events that helped me to understand the current. While I read, I continued to reflect on Portugal.

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January 6, 2016 The Epiphany: Goose, Eggslut, Gjusta, The Rose

IMG_4440 MR

On Christmas I generally cook a goose. That I do may raise the eyebrows of some of you who know my penchant for vegan food, but I cook for non-vegans and the last thing they want, as I found out several years back, is tofurky for Christmas. In the past several years as I mentioned in a previous post, my food intake has gone from veggie to vegan to raw, to pescatarian, back to vegan with a few exceptions, eggs, goat and sheep cheeses among them. Early on in this evolution, I would moralize not necessarily vocally,  but in my thoughts about the benefits of vegetarianism to the health of humans and the planet.

During a night on the desert in Egypt in 2003 a month before the Iraqi war, my internal moralizing was deeply challenged… Continue reading

December 15, 2015 Benu





Is it worth it?

Is what worth it?

That small fortune put out for dinner last night. Continue reading

Oct. 25, 2015 A Country Paved in Tiles


Unlike the pilgrim of The Way, who trekked across Russia, ours is through a country about the size of Indiana. And unlike the pilgrim who traveled the rural paths ours is mainly through towns and cities.

As we work our way through the large and small cities, Tomar,  Coimbra, Aveiro among them, I have noted an unusual line of commonality threading its way through each site. Continue reading

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