Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

July 25, 2013: Ouro Preto

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Robin has a coxinha

We had planned to spend a day at Ouro Preto, since it’s close to BH and is kind of a popular tourist attraction. It was an important gold mining town in colonial times, and was the site of the first attempt toward Brazilian independence from Portugal. The leader of the independence effort was a dentist, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as “Tiradentes” (tooth-puller). He was hanged and quartered for his efforts in 1792. But the town is very pretty, full of old churches and cobblestone streets, with lots of little artsy shops.

We told Claudia that we were planning to go, and she said I should talk to her in the morning about our travel plans. When I got on Facebook in the morning, she suggested that she could drive us. We were happy to accept, since we’d missed a chance to spend time with her the night before because of the crazy traffic, etc. So she came by our hotel and drove us to Ouro Preto.

We stopped at the Casa dos Contos, which is the old colonial mint, now a museum of coinage and local history. The work at the mint was done by slaves, and the slave quarters are part of the museum, along with shackles and various tools used by the slaves. It was interesting, and there was also an exhibit by two artists in the region who make sort of 3-D shadowbox icons out of toothpicks and various other media. It was really cool; I include here a pic of one that had a mermaid in it, for Cabell’s benefit.

Artwork in Ouro Preto

We spent a little time walking on a nice brick path along the river in the town, where of course I looked at birds. My list from Ouro Preto:

House sparrow
Black vulture
Bananaquit
Social flycatcher
Sayaca tanager
*Gray-headed tody-flycatcher
*Cliff flycatcher

Peggy got to see the bananaquit this time; she’d missed a couple earlier. She also saw the cliff flycatcher — in fact we all watched it hawking from a TV antenna, catching bugs and returning to its perch. I didn’t figure out what it was until later, but I took notes of what we observed so that I could make the ID from my book.

I was the only one who saw the gray-headed tody-flycatcher. The others walked ahead on the path talking, and I stopped because I saw a bird hopping about in a small tree. This was a pretty easy one, as the first thing I noticed was the bright yellow lores, which is a defining character for it.

We had a light lunch — see Robin above with her coxinhna and coke — and bought a few trinkets. Okay, and Robin bought a sodalite necklace that was a bit more than a trinket. Happy birthday, honey! All in all, a nice day, and on the way home we stopped at Claudia’s house and spent a little time with her, her husband Rodrigo, and their son Max. We all sampled cachaca, a traditional sugar cane liquor. Max gave us presents — mine was a little soapstone bird from Ouro Preto, because I’m crazy about birds.

By the time we got back to the hotel, the fireworks had slacked off to maybe one every fifteen minutes or so.

*Life birds for me marked with the asterisk.

July 24: Big excitement in BH

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Where to start? First of all, yesterday Hamner’s conference had an outing to Inhotim, which is an amazing combination of botanical garden, sculpture park, and art installations. My friend and former student Claudia, who lives in BH, had contacted us and suggested we go there together, and we’d already been planning to go with Hamner’s group. So we met at Inhotim.

It’s bizarre. One of the installations is a big sort of prison-looking structure with five rooms. Each one has a different light show, music, and furnishings. Like the one with old newspapers projected on the wall, with a floor made out of foot-thick foam rubber, where Yoko Ono screeches bizarrely in an endless loop. Or the one that’s full of hammocks and plays Jimi Hendrix.

Another installation has a bunch of huge girders stuck in concrete at random angles. We spent a good bit of time going around kicking the girders to hear the sounds they made.

There were some birds around as well, though I kept getting in trouble for wandering off to look at them. Or just stopping to look at them while the rest of the group abandoned me.

Great Kiskadee (aka Bem-te-vim, in Portuguese)
Sayaca Tanager
Rufous-collared sparrow
*White-Browed Warbler
*Yellow Tyrannulet
Bananaquit
Social Flycatcher
Great Egret
Masked Water-Tyrant
Black Vulture
House Wren
*Nacunda Nighthawk
Neotropic Cormorant
And yet another of these damn birds that really look like Orange-Backed Troupials, but those aren’t supposed to occur here. Fourth one I’ve seen.

*I’m taking Leon’s advice and starring the ones that are life birds for me.

I think the best part of the whole place was an installation in a huge aircraft-hangar sort of building with about 50 speakers arranged all over and a bunch of chairs. A spoken word and musical piece plays, with each individual voice or instrument in its own speaker. It was eerily haunting and moving. Worthwhile.

So we were supposed to meet Claudia and her husband and son to go to a bar and musical show in the evening, but our bus got mired in traffic. The BH Galo soccer team was playing the Olimpia team from Paraguay, and it was the final game for some championship cup. The entire city lost its mind, apparently. We had to give up on getting back downtown early in the evening, and instead we stayed with Hamner at his hotel for a while.

His hotel is how the other half lives — very posh. Peggy, Robin, and I are sharing one room in the Best Western, and it looks like a mini-barracks with three little beds. Anyway, we went to a mall across the highway and had beer and munchies — I had manioc fries, mostly. Then around 10 we got a taxi back to our hotel. The game was starting then, so the streets were deserted. Around 11 there was a hell of a lot of yelling and fireworks outside, and Peggy went downstairs to find a TV with soccer. Apparently the doormen set her up in the exercise room with a big TV, where she watched the game. It was a nail-biter, and the local team won in penalty kicks.

Robin and I, meanwhile, tried to sleep. About 12:30 the game ended and we awoke to a cacophony of fireworks, yelling, honking, and general insanity outside. I turned on a light and read until about 3 AM, when I was tired enough to fall asleep finally. When I awoke at 7, there were still occasional explosions going on outside.