Posts Tagged ‘art’

Exploring New Mexico: Meow Wolf in Santa Fe


A furry creature in Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return

Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of my favorite small town destinations for a weekend getaway. The city has a rich culture, good restaurants, a great art scene and tons of culture to check out. But during my last visit, I felt like I hadn’t discovered anything that felt fresh or new in Santa Fe for a long time. Then I went to the arts collective Meow Wolf.


Day of the Dead inspired vending machine

Located on the south side of Santa Fe in a repurposed old bowling alley, Meow Wolf is an immersive art experience and event space housed in a building owned by Game of Thrones author (and Santa Fe resident) George RR Martin. The main space is occupied by Meow Wolf’s first permanent exhibit, The House of Eternal Return. It’s a hybrid of a Victorian haunted house, interactive storytelling, a jungle gym, and a choose your own adventure that makes every visitor’s experience different.


Giant tongue at MeowWolf

Meow Wolf was packed. And it’s trippy interactive appeal isn’t for just one demographic. There were groups of school children, couples on dates, and families exploring the arts and entertainment complex. The House of Eternal Return has a party/dance space which hosts a line up of interesting calendar of events including EDM concerts and and musical acts that defy being labeled by a genre. Words and pictures fail to do Meow Wolf justice. But it’s an unforgettable experience, and a fun one to share with others.


The aquarium space in the House of Eternal Return

Meow Wolf’s mass appeal and interactive genius was obvious to me from the second I entered. I’m not surprised that the Meow Wolf team recently purchased a former Caterpillar plant to turn into its manufacturing space. Meow Wolf is going to need it since they now have their eye on expanding their brand of entertainment nationally, beginning with a mobile exhibit.


Families taking selfies at Meow Wolf

Austin and Denver are rumored to be on the map as potential locations for the next permanent Meow Wolf location.


Neon goodness at Meow Wolf

I particularly liked the 80s inspired arcade at Meow Wolf, complete with Nagel-esque murals that reminded me of Duran Duran album covers of yore.


Interesting interior design choices in the House of Eternal return

Meow Wolf is well worth the price of admission ($18.00 for adults, $12.00 for children, seniors $16.00). If you’re headed to Santa Fe, it’s worth checking out this interactive storytelling multi-media experience.


Nagel-esque mural at Meow Wolf

Meow Wolf 

1352 Rufina Cir, Santa Fe, NM

(505) 395-6369

Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sun 10AM-8PM
(closed every Tuesday)
Fri, Sat 10AM-10PM

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Exploring Southern California During the Holidays: Robolights in Palm Springs


Giant inflatable santa on the roof of this year’s RoboLights display

If you are going to be in Southern California during the holidays and are looking for an outside-the-box holiday experience, consider heading to Palm Springs to see artist Kenny Irwin Jr’s 32nd year of RoboLights, an upcycled holiday lights display unlike any other.


Robo reindeer outside the RoboLights display

Palm Springs artist Kenny Irwin, Jr.’s more is more aesthetic has been putting on an increasing complex mixed media holiday lights art installation at his father’s home since he was 12. Now in it’s 32nd year, RoboLights is truly something to behold.

Video of the RoboLights reindeer

Visiting RoboLights is like walking through a surreal winter wonderland.


Surreal winter wonderland at RoboLights

Built on the outdoor property of the artist’s father’s home, the greeter outside RoboLights told us the display has over 4 Acres of lights. It’s wildly impressive in a Watts Towers meets Willy Wonka sort of way. Sculptures are made from repurposed toilets and mannequins, and old dog crates re-worked into Sci-Fi art containing giant spiders, all bedecked with holiday lights.


Sleigh pulled by team of jackalope

Visiting RoboLights, I felt I was walking through a surreal winter wonderland. Some of the sculptures seemed better suited for a haunted house or dystopian futuristic film set than a holiday light show but that’s what makes RoboLights so interesting.


Left: Upside down Santa Clause Right: Bunny driving a sleigh straight out of Mad Max

I spoke with some locals who visit RoboLights every year and asked them how much the display changes from year to year. They guessed about 30%– sometimes new elements like color schemes or themes get introduced, or the layout changes.

Video of one of the displays of lights at the 2016 RoboLights

This year’s addition of an inflatables on the roof, including a Santa and a Godzilla with a candy cane,  bit of an uproar. The City of Palm Springs attempted to close down this year’s RoboLights citing safety concerns but the artist prevailed in court last week and the city was denied a restraining order that would only allow residents of the property and contractors to access the robotics and light displays.


Walls of dolls and fairy lights at RoboLights

RoboLights is open to the public and accepts donations ($5 is recommended).

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Dangling mannequin installation at RoboLights

Sensory overload comes with the territory and some of the subject matter is non-traditional enough that I think adults will enjoy RoboLights more than children with more traditional expectations.


Mannequins on display at RoboLights


One of the more light hearted sculptures at RoboLights


Christmas trees at RoboLights


Dog crate sculpture at the 2016 RoboLights

Artist Kenny Irwin Jr. has really gone above and beyond and RoboLights is unlike any other holiday lights display I’ve ever seen. If you’re in the Palm Springs area, I’d recommend checking it out. The display runs through January 1, 2017.


Dystopian holiday spirit on display at RoboLights


tunnel of lights at RoboLights

Opening hours for RoboLight are from  4-9:30 pm but the display is capacity controlled. If you don’t want to wait in line, consider getting to the outdoor light show when they open.


RoboLights exterior is hard to miss


ROBOLIGHTS is OPEN to the public from Thanksgiving to January 1st 4:00-9:30PM 
The installation – free to the public, but donations are suggested to help defray costs.
1077 E Granvia Valmonte
Palm Springs, California
(Located in a very residential part of Palm Springs, Robo Lights is in/around the 1077 Property).

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Rome’s Least Crowded Tourist Attraction: The Giardini Vaticani (The Vatican Gardens)


Some people call this “the Papal Gardens.” I like to think of it as “the Pope’s Versailles.”

I recently returned from a trip to Italy. Most of my time was spent exploring the wine regions of Tuscany, but I did end the trip with a two day stop in Rome. While I’ve been to Rome multiple times, this was the first time I visited the Giardini Vaticani, or the Pope’s Gardens. These gardens are also sometimes known as the Giardini Barberini.


A shady arbor of trees in the Giardini Barberini

The Giardini Vaticani have only been open to the public since March of 2014, when Pope Francis decided they should be open for tourists to enjoy. Fortunately my friend who arranged this trip insisted I go and bought me a ticket for guided tour and insisted I visit. The tour starts at the Villa Barberini.


A statue located in the Pope’s Gardens

It was worth it alone to explore the Castel Gandolfo area, located 24 kilometers southeast of Rome. This area was also new to me and rather beautiful. It felt like a bit of Italy’s Lake region right on the outskirts of Rome.

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A view of Lake Albano from Castel Gandolfo

The statues in the Giardini Vaticani aren’t as impressive as those at the Vatican, but the park is wonderfully devoid of the crowds of selfie-stick toting tourists. Not only are the Papal gardens uncrowded, but they are also underrated. The Vatican Gardens are still under-the-radar on the tourist circuit and well worth the price of admission.

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Left: Boy covered in Ivy Right: A statues on display in the Giardini Barberini

The Giardini Vaticani was by far the least crowded tourist destination I saw in Rome in August. Unfortunately, you can’t just show up. If you want to visit, be sure to book ahead using the Vatican’s online ticketing system.


A waterlily in a pond of the Giardini Vaticani

Reservations are available online for the 90 minute guided tour, which is given in either English or Italian (tours in French are also available by request). A guided tour is your only option, since you are not allowed to explore the Papal Gardens without a guide.

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Stairs and cypress trees at the Giardini Barberini (aka Giardini Vaticani)

Uncrowded + underrated= win!


Viewing one of the fabulous fountains on tour at the Giardini Vaticani

Some tours offer travel by scenic train to the Castel Gondolfo location of the Villa Barberini where the tour starts.

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Fountain and cypress trees at the Giardini Vaticani (Barberini Gardens)

The Castel Gandolfo area is also rather charming and worth exploring after you tour the gardens. It’s a great off-the-beaten path destination for sightseeing in Rome.


Impressive mazes in landscape at Giardini Vaticani

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A trio of cypress trees in the Vatican Gardens 

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You won’t get a picture of the Spanish Steps this empty in August

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Peek-a-boo view of the Giardini Barberini aka Giaradini Vaticani

Admission fee (tickets available online on Vatican Museums web-site)

Full € 16,00

Reduced € 8,00

Vatican Gardens – guided tour on foot (duration of the tour is approximately 90 minutes):

full € 32,00

reduced € 24,00

The ticket includes: admission to the Museums (without guided tour), guided tour of the Gardens and rental of headsets.

Open bus tour:

full € 36,00

reduced € 23,00

Purchase of guided tour includes the open bus visit to the Gardens and the multilingual audio guide, and a visit (without guided tour) of the Vatican Museums on the day of ticket issue.

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Street Photography from Pitti Fashion Week in Florence, Italy

Sharp dressed dog in Florence, Italy

Technically, I’m on “vacation” this week– tooling around Italy with my husband. But “vacation” is a tricky concept for someone who has been running a travel blog for 3 years… I’m not sure if it’s possible for me not to publish a post when I see something cool that I’d like to share. Fortunately, my husband is a workaholic and pretty tolerant when I feel the need to whip out my camera.

Even the dogs dress up during Pitti Fashion Week in Florence

I’ve been in Florence for the past few days, which happen to be part of Pitti Fashion Week. Italians are a stylish bunch– I even met a puppy who is better dressed than most and decided a photo essay of street photos wouldn’t be too intrusive on my “vacation.”

Florence’s Bapitstry is wrapped in Pucci in honor of Fashion week

Florence’s famous baptistry is currently wrapped in a Pucci print for Pitti Fashion Week. Pucci grew up in Florence and was at one point a member of the Italian parliament.

Linea Pelle Pop-up Shop for Pitti Fashion Week

Florence is famous for leather work. Italian leather goods manufacturer Linea Pelle has a pop up in the streets of Florence to show how their high end leather goods are made. It’s pretty cool.

Sticker street art in Firenze

The big news here in Florence is that as of two weeks ago, the Accademia Gallery started to allow non-flash photography in the gallery, which means now you get to see Michelangelo’s David– a true masterpiece– while darting a throng of iPad photographers taking selfies.

Old school photo booth on the streets of Florence

I’m sure David will start appearing in #selfies all over Instagram, Snapchat, and Grindr. But while Michaelangelo was a genius with perspective most selfie shooters are not. Expect amusing (and unflattering) #DavidSelfies in your social media streams.

Eurotrashy David-inspired Boxers

If you’re planning a trip to Florence, be aware that waiting times for the Accademia Gallery can be 3 hours or more. Do yourself a favor and book reserved tickets online before you come. It’s well worth it and there are much better ways to spend your time in Firenze other than waiting in line.

The David does not disappoint

Don’t miss seeing the David. I’d put it up there with the Pyramids of Giza and the Taj Mahal in terms of living up to the hype (unlike the tiny Mona Lisa).

Ciao for now.

Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

Address: Via Bettino Ricasoli, 60, 50122 Firenze, Italy

Phone:+39 055 294883

You can book reserved tickets and schedule your visit to Accademia Gallery in Florence here.

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Honored for the Honorable Mentions in the 2014 iPhone Photography Awards

Images I shot from Morocco, Italy and India received Honorable Mentions in the 2014 IPPA Awards

Yesterday the iPhone Photography Awards (IPPAs) announced their winners and they are stunning. I was honored- and humbled- to find five of my images among the Honorable Mentions in the Travel, Sunset, People, and Architecture categories.

Left: Snake Charmers in Marrakech Right: Arrividerci, Positano

The gallery of winning images truly shows that it’s possible to shoot incredible photos with an iPhone and made me geek out about the amazing  (and every improving) state of mobile technology.

I’m honored to be in such fine company as my friend, Hector Navarro, whose image won Third Place in the People category. I’m also thrilled to discover  photographers previously unknown to me in the mobile photography arena.

Of all the images honored this year, I’m particularly inspired by this image of Marina Towers in Chicago (aka the building on the album cover of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), which placed Third in the Architecture category. I think it resonates with me because it is both a travel image and an architecture image, and speaks to my inner aviation geek.

The Taj Mahal

Contests are strange things– often it’s about trends or personal taste of judges. But I’m thrilled that some of my favorite work from the past year connected with the judges among others.

All of my images honored by the IPPAs this year were shot using the Oggl app by Hipstamatic. The image of Positano, Italy is one of my all time favorites– I recently had it printed using the Photos to Art app and hung it in my guest bathroom at home.

Left: water carriers on Jamaa el-Fna in Marrakech, Right: Sunset in Marrakech

This year’s IPPA Travel category is particularly strong and worth checking out if you need a little artistic or vacation planning inspiration.

My iPhone to Art Print hanging in my guest bathroom

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