The Hands of Michelangelo

 

Carving is easy.

You just go down to the skin

and stop.

Michelangelo

 

 

Classical sculptures greatly inspire the portraits I create and it’s exciting to look forward to the NYC Metropolitan Museum‘s new exhibit featuring Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564).

Despite, or maybe because of Michelangelo’s quirky personality, Italians adored this towering genius in the history of Western art.  He was celebrated for the excellence of his disegno, the power of illustration and invention that provided the foundation for all the arts. He mastered drawing, design, sculpture, painting, and architecture with dazzling imagery and technical virtuosity. Sometimes cranky yet always prolific, they referred to him as “Il Divino” or the Divine. His works, not his moods, attest to how he lived up to the moniker.

Did you know these fun facts about this renaissance man?

 

 

He paints his face as his signature.

The Pietà was Michelangelo’s first sculptural masterpiece and it turned out so well no one believed it could have possibly come from such a young artist. He inscribed his name on a sash running diagonally across the Virgin Mary’s chest and never signed any other work of art thereafter. Though he might paint himself into them as he did in The Last Judgment fresco that covers an entire wall of the Sistine Chapel–a project that was Raphael’s dare for him to prove he couldn’t paint. Look out for St. Bartholomew holding the skin of a face that appears to be Michelangelo’s.

 

 

The David was carved from a scrap block of marble.

Of all the facts about Michelangelo and his career, this is maybe the most impressive. Though notoriously picky about the marble he used, Michelangelo chose a tall, slender piece for the David, leading many to doubt something good could come out of it.

Called the “Giant”, the marble slab had been quarried and then abandoned for over 40 years before Michelangelo claimed it. The stone had deteriorated and grown rough from the elements yet Michelangelo created a 17-foot tall masterpiece, deemed structurally perfect by the world’s best artists and sculptures.

 

 

He launched his career with a forgery.

Michelangelo probably got his start in 1496 from copying an ancient Roman sculpture called Sleeping Cupid and passing it off as the original. After completing the reproduction, he buried the statue underground then dug it up to give it a worn, scratched look then sold the piece to a cardinal for a large sum. A compliment to unstoppable genius!

The Met Museum opens its exhibit Michaelangelo: Divine Draftsman and Designer on November 13, 2017. This exhibition a wide range of his drawings, marble sculptures, earliest painting, wood architectural model, as well as a body of complementary works by other artists for comparison and context.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite divine work.

xoxox

 

 

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for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

 

Hot As Mercury

I adore Chicago.

It is the pulse 

of America.

Sarah Bernhardt

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Famous for it’s gigantic drop of liquid mercury, Chicago just won my vote for The Prettiest City in the U.S.!

You’ll love the river that snakes through dazzling skyscrapers, the helpful locals, and the ease of getting around and through the fabulous park set beautifully next to a lake. See the city in different ways:

Inside Chicago Tours Hillary is charming and funny as she takes you on small group walking tours of the city’s best building interiors and sssshhh! secrets.

Architecture River Cruise The Architecture Foundation’s First Lady Cruises will give you all the right facts. For more entertaining versions, try Shoreline and Jim Collins is one of the fun guides of Wendella boats. Choose the sunset cruise to see the lovely change of city lights.

Bobby’s Bike Hike Yes, you can stand on a Segway or sit in a cool limo. I like combining the distraction of interesting sights with a workout and a bike tour on a cool night is just perfect. Wednesday and Saturday evening tours end with spectacular fireworks on the lake.

Other evening entertainment:

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Chicago is the home of improv comedy so skip Broadway for this town’s longest running show of 30 mini plays in one hour. Mostly funny, sometimes poignant, sad and real. Not 21+ though the material can be.

Upstairs at the Virgin Hotel. I’ll have to come back without a teen chaperone to check out the fun at this naughty venue.

Fun restaurants with the family or not:

Three Arts Cafe Whether it’s your first date or the 100th, you’ll enjoy this romantic courtyard with chandeliers, a fountain and glass ceiling, indulgent service with a rooftop, too.

The Palm Court at The Drake Hotel Old world elegance for glamorous high tea after a day exploring the Gold Coast neighborhood. You can combine your tea reservation with a tour of the hotel on weekdays.

Fulton Market Kitchen Feed your inner artist with this feast for the eyes.

The Terrace Regardless of your politics, the Trump Hotel has the best open air views facing the river and half the Chicago skyline.

And if the kids insist on the Skydeck, mom must stop by the breathtaking atrium of the pink building next door.

The neighborhood you stay in makes all the difference and I suspect I adore Chicago because I chose a central location (between Clark Street Bridge and Millennium Park) for easy access to the city’s attractions, shopping and innumerable dining options.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your best Chicago travel tips here.

xoxox

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xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Met Museum Hack

I went to the museum

of the heads & arms from the statues

that are in all the other museums. 
Steven Wright

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What’s a very unique and fun twist to your next visit to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art?  Museum Hack‘s Badass Bitches Tour of the Met!  Not your grandmother’s idea of a museum tour, but she’ll enjoy it anyway with your mom and all your favorite women.  Enthusiastic, educational and entertaining, a dynamic duo will explain art pieces by women in ways you have never known them before.

From defining feminism to incorporating untold tales of women represented in or who made the featured artworks, this tour guides you through objects, sculptures, paintings at the Met Museum that  reclaim women’s rightful place in history and return our pride in the distinctive shapes of our bodies.

Without giving much away, here are a few photos and questions to get you curious about the fun difference a badass tour of the Met makes…

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Outstanding women who never got their due: Who was really behind the success of Tiffany lamps and stained glass windows? (The ladies in front of it are our awesome Museum Hack guides, Mindy and Bex.)

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While there are hundreds of penises on display throughout the Met, can there seriously be only three properly represented vaginas?  And have you heard of the UK based sculptor whose work  helps counter labiaplasty by giving women an understanding of how wide the spectrum of “normal” is in female genitalia?

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A memento moment with my favorite sculpture at the Met, The Vine by Harriet Whitney Frismouth. Big thanks to Museum Hack and FujiFilm’s Instax Share SP-1 Mini digital polaroid printer.

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Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your bright Mother’s Day gift idea!

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Seen in Sicily

The Mafia gets points

for having

the best restaurants.

David Beard

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A tour of Sicily for 11 days? I imagined this island to be just a bunch of rocks so I had serious doubts. Sarah Murdoch, the Goddess of Packing Light and honorary Sicilian, won me over with her enthusiasm and passion, swearing 11 days is not enough to see all of Sicily’s best.

Turns out, Sicily has always been the bread basket of Italy and driving through the island revealed a rolling landscape of fertile farms, vineyards, citrus and olive groves. Even if you don’t have 11 days, here are more than 11 things worth seeing and doing:

1. Visit the charming Contessa of the Palazzo Conte Frederico. Her family converted their Palazzo’s stables into Palermo’s most royal B&B.  She will be thrilled to host your private party and her love story with her husband will make you swoon.

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2. Take the local pulse at bustling open markets and catch quaint domestic street scenes like this genius manual elevator.

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3. The Cathedral of Monreale has 68,000 square feet of mosaics illustrating various passages from the Bible. Each tile measures about the size of the fingernail on your little finger. What’s even more amazing is  that the artisans of this Catholic church were Muslims imported from Constantinople–which explains why the work is similar to the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul.

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4. The Sicilian Goddess of Pastry, Maria Grammtico, hosts group lunches and pastry baking demonstrations. Signora Maria was orphaned very young and had to work at a convent crushing almonds as a little girl. Her biography Bitter Almonds: Recollections and Recipes from a Sicilian Girlhood tells how she turned the difficulties of her childhood into a literally sweet life.

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5. If the kids tag along, this family of puppeteers in Ortigia will remind you of the Von Trapp family of the “Sound of Music” with their Italian productions.

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Trivia for lovers of antiquity: Where do you find the world’s best preserved Greek ruins? Sicily, of course!  In the very long history of this strategically located island’s revolving door of ruling powers, the Greeks had their turn and a few of Sicily’s hills are littered with their art and architecture.

6. Sing an aria at Segesta’s amphitheater. With its incredible acoustics, you can hear the person on stage whisper even when you’re this far. And do notice the backdrop of mountain, sea and neighboring island off the horizon.

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7. On the rolling hills of Agrigento, the Temple of Concordia stands majestic, looking out to the sea. If you’d rather not melt your wings in the heat like this fallen Icarus, visit Sicily off season. At night, this temple and its neighboring ruins are lit for your viewing pleasure as you sip a granita at your hotel terrace.

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8. From the Roman chapter of Sicilian history remains the mosaic floors of the Villa Romana Del Casale from 500 BC. Carpet sellers could not possibly have made a penny from this family who had every inch of their 4,000 sq. feet covered with a variety of scenes and patterns. My favorite was the long hallway of now extinct exotic animals captured in Africa for the Roman extravaganzas at the Coliseum. The “Bikini Girls” in the next room are actually  female athletes of their time.

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9. “Passeggiata” is for people watching. In the early evening at every town especially on Sundays, locals meander down Main Street to say hello to each other and catch up with daily gossip.  Dress well for La Bella Figura, a good first impression and photo opportunities.

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10. Eat well and/or cook better! Learn how to make Arancino rice balls, caponata, fresh gelato, Sicilian pizza,… at the Nosco Culinary School in the hillside town of Ragusa.

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11. Can chocolate be made without heat, butter or artificial additives? Solve the mystery while chocolate tasting at Antica Dulceria Bonajuto in the town of Modica. Had to bring home their pistachio chocolate Easter Eggs.

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12. Wine tasting does not get more charming than in the company of the handsome father and twin sons who run the Benanti vineyard on the slopes of Mount Etna. I love how the labels of their wine bottles  combine the family patriarch’s love of wine and Renaissance art.

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13. In Siracusa, whisper in the Ear of Dionisio or sing your heart out with a grand chorus.

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I didn’t even make it to Sicily’s beaches! Taormina is popular with its pebbles and if you prefer sand, head towards the Southern coast facing Africa.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to add your Sicily travel tips.  La Dolce Vita Easter to you!

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

Beauty and the Duck Face

Be like a duck:

Calm on the surface, but

paddling like the dickens underneath.

Michael Cain

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What felt like a mini-vacation within my my week in Barcelona was a day trip to see all things Dali: his museum in Figueres, lunch at his hometown of Cadaques, and a peek inside his beach house in Port Ligat. The scenery outside Salvador Dali’s window allegedly  inspired the landscape in The Persistence of Memoryhis most iconic painting from 1931 when he developed his paranoiac-critical method entering a meditative state of self-induced psychotic hallucinations to create what he called hand-painted dream photographs.

Surrealism, Salvador Dali, and modern art in general can be too curious for some people, in the same way that the phenomenon of the duck face intrigues me.

By sucking in the cheeks and pushing out the lips to make them appear fuller, the cheekbones appear more prominent and the eyes wider. This contorts the face in line with the popular standards of feminine beauty. It is a caricature of a singular type of beauty that many of us can only dream of looking like. I’d turn blue sucking in my cheeks without a hint of cheekbone ever showing.

The fans of the duck face obviously like what they see, reveling in  their power to change the architecture of what they can control: their face. Those who sit on the other side of the duck pond might consider what I admire in Dali and modern artists: The freedom of artistic expression trouncing all paranoid critics. At the end of the day, he or she who has the most fun, wins!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how a duck face looks on you.

xoxox

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xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Barcelona Travel Guide

Kilometers are shorter than miles.

Save gas–

take your next trip in kilometers.

George Carlin

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The roof of Gaudi’s Casa Batillo

I usually say I prefer to feed my eyes before my stomach, but as I’m packing for Barcelona, I realize that I may not have to choose one over the other in this city. I love the genius of Antoni Gaudi‘s unique yet practical architecture, intrigued by the twists of Dali’s surreal art, and ready to feast on a wide variety of tapas. Here’s what I’ve got lined up:

Stay at Hotel El Palace Barcelona, where else for Goddesses?

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Barcelona Day Tours for a welcome overview of the city and a side trip to Montserrat for wine tasting.

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Catch a Flamenco performance at Gaudi’s jewel box theater El Palau de la Musica. Take a tour of the theater during the day when the sunlight makes the stained glass windows sparkle.

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Stained glass at Gaudi’s Palau de la Musica Catalana

Join a bike Tour with Excursions Barcelona and pay a little extra for the convenience of an electric bike. They offer a free walking tour downtown starting at Plaza Catalunya at 11:00 am each day.

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Barcelona Architecture Walks gives you a range of itineraries depending on your style of buildings. This fish sculpture is Frank Gehry’s.

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If you’re into city views, the Cathedral de Barcelona has an elevator that takes you to the roof for better views than at the Sagrada Familia.

For a change of scenery, Spanish Trails is another popular option to take you out for the day to see Surreal Cadaques and All Things Dali, including a drive along the shores of the Costa Brava.

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Surreal art by Salvador Dali

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share your Barcelona travel tips. Ole!

All photos from Google Images

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Myanmar Meander (Part I: Yangon and Bagan)

This is Burma

and it is unlike any land

you may know about…

Rudyard Kipling

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Catch a fiery sunset at the golden Shwedagon Pagoda

A place uniquely preserved in culture with people still true to their native traditions, Myanmar (aka Burma) stays mostly untouched by modernity–except for cellphones and the quickly thickening deluge of tourists.  Go see this country sooner than later, while golden arches are still made of wood and gold leaf at sacred pagodas with no McDonald’s in sight! I loved traveling to this country where markets abound with fresh produce and natural herbal remedies, shoppers who carry their own reusable baskets, where people know only to cook and eat real food–a reminder of our almost forgotten connection to nature’s divine wisdom and benevolence.

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Helpful and kind despite economic hardships, locals still proudly wear their traditional longhis (i.e., long skirt wraps for men and women) in cotton or silk, as well as their native thanaka skin cream which also doubles as makeup and sunscreen.

As smitten with technology as we are

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Their legendary political heroine Aung San Suu Kyi

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Primarily Buddhist, alms giving is a daily ritual in this country.

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Monks at work

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Monks at play

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Someone’s not too thrilled by this makeup business… His mother’s market basket doubles as baby swing.

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When traveling to exotic locales, I prefer to head out of the big cities to get the real pulse of the country.  Bagan is an hour’s flight Northwest of Yangon. Morning flights make a clockwise circle of Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay-Inle Lake.  It’s always best to take the first flights out in case of delays.

To imagine small town Bagan, picture the entire stretch of Manhattan with nothing but stupas of all sizes. Early bird or not, rise for a ride with Balloons Over Bagan. At the bottom of this photo is the outer edge of one of the prettiest hotels in Bagan, the Aureum Palace.

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Grandma in tribal headdress, fierce as the dragon it is supposed to conjure

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Horse and buggy ride

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Sunset over Bagan

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Welcome to Myanmar!

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This series is inspired by the revival of “The King and I” on Broadway. While waiting for Part II of this travel guide, click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what you’re curious to learn about other cultures.

xoxox

Give the women you love the most unique gift of elegant and timeless portraits

with a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

 Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Sharon@PowerfulGoddess.com

www.PowerfulGoddess.com

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

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