Tag Archives: art

Spain And The Art of Bringing In Tourism Dollars By Ruining Irreplaceable Art

From the country that brought you Monkey Christ now comes what I will call with absolutely no affection, “Gumby in a dress with sheep.”

This is only the most recent example of a decades long issues that has plagued Spain. So much so that a tourism industry has popped up around badly restored art. They’re doing this on purpose. As of June some were even calling for regulations to be put in place to try and stop the destruction of priceless works of art.

The restored face on a building in Valencia, Spain – The before and after courtesy of The Guardian

People are starting to take notice at the progressively more extreme botched art restorations. Art News’s Claire Selvin couldn’t help remarking on how significant the changes to the original face by the “restoration” team had been and brought up the same question that was brought up last June.

Restoration projects that leave artworks looking drastically changed have become something of a pattern in Spain in recent years.  When the Virgin Mary painting was altered twice by a furniture restorer in Valencia in June, experts revived calls for increased regulation of efforts related to the restoration of artworks.

https://www.artnews.com/art-news/news/restoration-spanish-sculpture-botched-1234576275/

But just how much money did the “Monkey Christ” bring in? Is it really enough to incentivize purposeful botched art restorations?

Well, quite a lot. So much so that I’m not the only one suggesting that this has become a new art movement in Spain to draw in tourism dollars. And it is threatening the survival of priceless works of historic art for the sake of social media attention. In 2012 alone the “Monkey Christ” brought in 40,000 guests and more than €50,000 for charity. The restoration artist also wanted cuts of royalties that she then went on to be partially donated to Muscular Dystrophy. While that is nice, the story gets more complicated.

A familiar face, now known to the world as Monkey Christ, greets visitors to the Santuario de Misericordia, its blurred and startled features staring down from bottles, thimbles, bookmarks, teddy bears, pens, mugs, T-shirts, mousepads, badges, fridge magnets and keyrings.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/28/how-monkey-christ-brought-new-life-to-a-quiet-spanish-town

By 2016 the town was seeing hundreds of thousands of visitors per year and receiving single donations topping the total brought in that first year. While it can be argued that this injection of money was bringing some much needed funds to the area, the question that arises is: Is Sacrificing Irreplaceable Historic Art Worth It?

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The Before, After Restoration, and After Fixing The Botched Restoration From: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/spanish-statue-st-george-undergoes-unrestoration-remove-botched-paint-job-180972481/

In 2018, Spain had a different statue botching of St. George – a saint that I only barely recall because I’m fairly certain he is one of those that may have “slain a dragon.” And that is in fact what the statue that was being restored was of – St. George Slaying A Dragon.

Now, as much as I would love to believe St. George proudly presented the head of some noble beast to his lady love and saved a village, I call bullshit. That said, there have been efforts to repair the situation. These costly “repairs” stripped off the materials used on the statue, resulting in loss of the original paint and overall worsening of the condition. The Smithsonian article explained ACRE‘s description of the egregious errors made in the restoration process:

According to a statement by ACRE, Spain’s national organization of professional art restorers, the artist applied several layers of plaster, repainted the figure, and sanded its surface, effectively erasing the entirety of its “historical footprint.” The original artist had used a unique polychrome technique. According to London’s National Gallery, Spanish sculptors of the 16th and 17th centuries carved their statues and covered them in white gesso but were prohibited from actually painting the figurines, which were later gilded and refined by specially trained artisans.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/spanish-statue-st-george-undergoes-unrestoration-remove-botched-paint-job-180972481/

One of the fascinating things to note is that the Smithsonian found out from ACRE that these pieces of art are being restored without authorization from the region’s heritage foundations and that they are technically protected artifacts. The costs to fix these botched restorations fall onto the levels of Spanish government, and thus taxpayers, if the funds exist. Sometimes there aren’t the funds for the repair. Fixing the restoration of the statue of St. George cost approximately 34,000 USD of government funds intended for Art and Culture.

While we keep laughing at these botched art restorations and making them “go viral” online, the true victims are the future generations that will never see the original works that are being destroyed for the sake of generating money from publicity to line someone’s pockets.

With Spain reopening for tourism and given how dependent their economy is on this influx of cash this is a real threat for cultural and historical preservation. So, before you decide you want to travel to see one of these pieces please think. Each time you pay to see any botched art or buy memorabilia with “bad restorations” from Spain, you’re supporting an illegal industry meant to take your money all while destroying priceless art and artifacts. The trouble with those is that once something like that is gone it really is gone forever and future generations will never be able to experience it or learn any more of the secrets it may have had to tell.


Thanks for taking the time to read this. The comments section is for you – I do moderate first time commenters to prevent trolls and spam, but once your first comment has been approved you should have no difficulty posting comments.

Thoughts On Mary Wollstonecraft’s Statue

circa 1797  english feminist writer mary wollstonecraft godwin 1759   1797, author of 'a vindication of the rights of woman' and mother of mary wollstonecraft shelley  a drawing by a s merritt after the painting by opie  photo by hulton archivegetty images

Born in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was an early feminist and I learned of her first as the mother of Mary Shelley, the mother of Science Fiction. While she was born to what many would call an abusive family by modern standards, what she experienced as childhood was common for women at the time. By a combination of being lucky, her own craftiness, and wielding her unhappiness through rationality, she gained an audience upon publishing her works.

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

Mary Wollstonecraft

That was her reality. She had the benefit, by all accounts, of being pretty enough and educated enough. She worked as a translator when she realized that being a housewife would drive her, and those around her, insane. And this lended her the opportunity to write her book, “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.”

I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft (arguing something that women are still arguing hundreds of years later)

Her arguments can be summarized here:

  • Men and women should be provided equal education in a coeducational environment as they are expected to marry each other and should thus be educated equally as well.
  • Men/those with power in society should be the primary leaders of a feminist liberation movement.
  • Women must choose rationality over sensibility (sensibility being defined as whims and emotions). This has been used to argue that her opinion was that sex and romance were distractions for women. This has also been subject to numerous criticisms.
  • Further addressed in “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Men” she argues in favor of constitutional monarchy and republicanism based on its distribution of power and the negative impacts that charity has. This plays into views on the church.
  • Utilitarianism makes constant appearances in her views. This may explain part of the union between herself and her husband/fellow philosopher William Godwin.

As with all historic persons, we must consider her works in the context of her time period and life experiences. While she was considered radical for her time period, she was radical for arguing that women were capable of being creatures driven by rationality and sharing responsibilities with men as equals with independent interests in self direction. Sadly, she died 10 days after giving birth to her second child, Mary Godwin (Later, Shelley), in 1797. When I heard a memorial statue to her was going to be done by an artist I really like and everyone I know hates, things got exciting.

Don’t worry, I’m okay with people hating the art I like.

Maggi Hambling had no small feat ahead of her as she designed a statue to honor Mary Wollstonecraft. Her past works include A Conversation with Oscar Wilde , Scallop (for Benjamin Britten), and so many more. She has constructed art dedicated to some of the most eccentric and extreme of individuals made famous for how their existence and identities coincidentally fell into history. I have a few favorite pieces by her including War Coffin and her paintings of the North Sea. She’s a talented artist with a very unique style.

In my opinion as a fan of her work, Hambling designs her memorial pieces with the full context of an individual’s life in mind. She works hard to include the ugliness with the beauty and as I mentioned before, Mary Wollstonecraft was gifted with a rather lovely physical form. This meant that to communicate her concept of the woman emerging into a future society as a rational being from one ruled by the senses might be a difficult design challenge when there are other creatures with penises in the room. Additionally, Hambling’s statues are interactive. Each of her sculptures is designed with considerations to their orientation in their surroundings and how each person is going to sit, touch, lay on, and feel each sculpture to interact with the memory of the person she is representing.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of her statue. It reminded me of the 35th Anniversary Edition cover of Atlas Shrugged. [I’ve been encouraged to add that this deeply bothered me because I did not at any point think I would associate feminism and anything relating to Ayn Rand at the same time. But here we are.] Admittedly, this was the first picture I saw:

Image

Then I saw more of the sculpture…

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But here’s the full statue….

Mary Wollstonecraft

The “naked lady” portion is maybe 1/8 of the total height and is in no way provocative. Why was I reminded of the cover of Atlas Shrugged? Probably the borderline brutalist take on the architecture of the human form that strips it of sexuality and focuses instead on its utilitarianism; this feels post-modernist. Yet we’re talking about an 18th century rationalist woman asking for the right to individual agency and purpose derived from the self in a way that is equal to men of equivalent status. Hmm… This actually looks spot on for the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and I can’t argue with it.

As for the amorphous blob she is standing upon? Now, that’s evocative. Stare at it long enough and you start to see human shapes emerging in sensual, borderline lewd positions. It is glorious and, depending on how creative you are, rude. The rational woman is standing atop an amorphous Akira style faceless nightmare of irrational sensuality, like a freaking epiphany waiting to be seen.

As with all of Hambling’s memorials the sculpture was constructed “for” the person based on their life and life’s works. I’m not saying I love it, but I have no qualms with the sculpture. It gets the job done and creates a thoughtful conversation piece that brings Mary Wollstonecraft’s work into the twenty-first century.


Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you find it downright offensive? All of these are okay! Feel free to leave a comment below about what you think – that space is for you and I will work to get your comment approved as quickly as possible if you have not previously commented on the website.

Announcement: A Hundred Different Skies – Poem on CHW

It’s just the poem – it’s now live on Coffee House Writers. A limited release hardback with fancy photography, less fancy paperback, and hardback versions of a poetry collection called “l’Identité Politique” will be made available for pre-order starting on Black Friday. These three projects may have a soft release earlier with some super secret links, so keep an eye out on Twitter and Instagram as the proofs come in.

For those that are curious about the title:

Political • Identity
(adj) /pəˈlidək(ə)l/ • (n) /ˌīˈden(t)ədē/

The aspect of one’s being relating to, affecting, or acting according to the interests of status or authority within an organization rather than matters of principle. How one relates to authority, society, and relationships. An aspect of personality determined from a young age. A pain in my father’s ass as is the family tradition.

If you are struggling with your holiday shopping list, remember that Indie Books and Art are great gifts. I’m going to start dedicating space to featured artists and authors more. Previously I didn’t have a grasp of how interviews could be misconstrued as more than just conveying information.

If you would like to have your book or art featured with a snippet about it, you, and a link to your website, please send me a DM on Twitter, Instagram, and/or email.

That’s it 🙂 That’s the whole thing.

Here’s a current draft cover for the softcover:

More details to come (and an explanation as to why A Hundred Different Skies is being released *very differently*)

Oh, and we’re going to be moving, but I think I may have mentioned that at one point? Anyways.

Have a great week ahead!

Macrophotography Adventure Along Skalkaho Road

South of Hamilton, Montana there’s a left turn onto a road near a powder coating and manufacturing shop with a small gravel parking lot on the right hand side of the road before you cross over the railroad tracks. That turn takes you onto Montana Highway 38 – Skalkaho Road or Skalkaho Highway. (All pictures used are taken by me. The gif from the Disney movie Mulan is from WordPress’s gif plugin)

Built in 1924, this winding drive through the Sapphire Mountains is inconsistently paved for approximately 50 miles. This is not unusual for many state roads in Montana – it’s expensive to maintain road surfaces through freeze-thaw conditions. The most harrowing portion of the road, a 15 mile section from Daly Creek to a little past Gem Mountain is closed late November through Memorial Day as it is inaccessible to snow plows and rescue workers.

Speaking of…

Through this stretch signs specifically state no vehicles towing trailers are allowed on this road. This is because rescue vehicles won’t be able to get to you, or your horses (or snowmobiles, or whatever other tomfoolery you get up to). Even so, I still encountered someone torturing a pair of terrified quarter horses in a cramped single horse trailer as they were speeding through a pot hole ridden muddy narrow back switching little more than a single lane with blind corners mountain road that, again, specifically states towing trailers is specifically prohibited. I should emphasize that, having driven this road in its entirety, this individual behaved in a way that was not in the best interest of themselves, rescue workers, or their horses. For Shame. There are pull off areas for parking your toy trailers and horse trailers and disembarking on your trip prior to entering this more intense part of the roadway. The only reason someone would take this reckless behavior is to try and use this road as a shortcut between Philipsburg / Anaconda and Hamilton. Given that you could kill your horse, yourself, and others on the road doing this, please don’t. I was not amused by almost being run off the road down a sheer cliff with no guard rail.

I beg anyone that decides to explore this beautiful part of Montana to please GO AROUND to Route 43 or to I-90 to Route 93 with your horses for their safety unless you’re trying to run up a very large equine vet bill at the least. Listen, it’s only a problem for you and your family if you die from your behavior, but it’s a problem my family has to deal with if your recklessness kills me. Got it?

Now that’s out of the way.

I look forward to sharing the scenic drives of Montana with readers. Route 38 is a special one. I was able to capture some of the color changes and this is an early sample of some of the photographs.

We begin this journey forking away from Sleeping Child Rd.

Hang on little dude! I found multiple species of lichens in the forest.

On Instagram I went on a rant about plastic disposal and microplastics. I was a little sad to find plastic on the forest floor in the middle of nowhere.

I found an old coffee can that seemed to have been lit on fire during a wild and crazy camping trip. I wish I had been there. I bet it was a great time when this happened years ago.

Practicing with the new macro lens I zoomed in on bark and explored the secret language of trees.

I also discovered a lichen forest inside a little cavern hidden within the trunk of an ancient tree at least 200 years old based on the trunk diameter (though a coring sample is the better way to determine its actual age).

This picture was fun. I got bits of spider web and my brain fills in the image of a skull in the tree bark, do you see it too? I tried to add it at an angle.

Not to get too sappy, but I’ve needed to get out on an adventure, and even though I may have worsened my tendon injury during this exploration session, I managed to find all kinds of beauty. I also collected a lot of animal bones for some future art projects!

On the left side of the road is Skalkaho Falls. It’s a lovely waterfall with a roaring chill soaking your senses through.

I pulled off at the Fuse Lake trailhead for dinner. Here, after reading some and preparing to embark toward Fuse Lake for sunset I realized my right leg was… not going to cooperate.

So I got back on the road and found that the weather system that moved through downed some tree limbs. If you see this, please pull over and take a moment to move the limb out of the road. As previously mentioned, services don’t get to this road very often, so you’ll be helping protect the safety of your fellow humans.

This branch was easy to drag to the side of the road. It’s never a bad idea to keep a hatchet or saw with your camping supplies for larger branches and fully downed trees on these backcountry roads. There is no cell service here, so don’t expect anyone to come along and help you.

The sunset on the eastern side of the Sapphire range was worth it. The saturated colors as the sun brushed over the mountain tops to the west created cotton candy lemonade and blue raspberry hues. It looked like a landscape scene from James Twitty.

As the sun finally set behind me I reached Potter’s Corner. From there I turned left (North) on MT Route 1 and proceeded to Philipsburg and then to I-90 back home.

I hope you enjoyed this photo adventure! You can follow more of my photography over on Instagram. If you would like to see more write ups of my photo adventures with early previews into the photo sets, please like, comment, and share this post. I would love feedback on my photography.

If you see these photos posted elsewhere, please let me know. At this time they are only posted on my instagram or on this page. I am still developing a unique watermark. If you would like to use any of my photos:

  • For unpaid projects, simply credit me and link back to this website.
  • For paid projects please send me an e-mail and we can exchange a fair use contract with more details.