Here are three of my latest paintings in the Morocco series
from my trip to Marrakech.
© Annette Bartlett-Golden, Fountain at Majorelle Garden. Oil on canvas, 10 by 8 inches. $150.
Right: © Annette Bartlett-Golden, Courtyard at Badi Palace. Oil on canvas, 10 by 8 inches. $150. Left: © Annette Bartlett-Golden, Marrakech Street. Oil on canvas, 10 by 8 inches. $150.
A Visit to Marrakech
by Annette Bartlett-Golden
Courtyard of the Ben Youssef Koranic school.
An ancient African city teeming with history, Marrakech in the Kingdom of Morocco is like no city I have ever been before. It is a place of Arabs and Berbers, dazzling architecture, and astonishing gardens on the edge of the Sahara Desert. After flying over an arid landscape dotted here and there with vegetation, I arrived at the modern Marrakech airport on a very hot Saturday evening for a two and a half day stay, accompanied by my husband and son. We had taken an inexpensive Ryanair flight from Valencia, Spain to Marrakech and the mood on the plane was a very festive one with much cheering when we landed.
Soon we were speeding away from the airport in our prearranged taxi driven by an English-speaking and rather grumpy twenty-something man. Without warning, the taxi stopped at a busy intersection where an old man with a small garden sort of cart greeted the driver. Our luggage was put in the cart and off we went, following our prearranged porter to the bed and breakfast where we would be staying.
A few minutes later, we entered a huge triangular plaza bustling with activity. There were rows of food vendors in the center, people aggressively selling sunglasses, shoes and other such things, snake charmers playing exotic melodies on reedy flutes, and monkeys on chain leashes. Restaurants lined the plaza on three sides with a large network of souks (Arab marketplaces) just around the corner and the iconic Koutobia Mosque was visible to the west. Motorbikes zipped through the crowds which were a mix of locals, both men and women, in long flowing traditional Moroccan djellabas (some wore western clothes, too) and tourists from all over the world. Jemaa el-Fnaa, as the place is known, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is in many ways the heart of the city.
The iconic Koutobia Mosque of Marrakech seen as approached from Jemaa el-Fnaa plaza and one of the many alleyways of the old city.
From there the porter led us into a covered, narrow cobbled street of the old city lined with little open shops selling scarves, brightly colored djellabas, meat, bread, pastries and numerous other things. Sounds of Arabic and French mingled with the beeping of motorbikes while pedestrians hurried along on their errands. Then we turned into a high pink walled alleyway and the contrast was striking. There were few people about and as we continued walking, passing doors in the walls every few yards, the din of the street behind died away.
Suddenly the porter stopped at a large tidy door with a brass plaque that read Riad Itrane. Here was our bed and breakfast. As we stepped inside and were warmly welcomed, a feeling of peacefulness enveloped us. We were in an oasis of tranquility. There were several courtyards, comfortable sitting rooms, an inviting small pool, and a fabulous rooftop terrace. Two riads, or traditional Moroccan homes with rooms around a courtyard garden, had been renovated and combined into one to create a charming bed and breakfast. Staying there made our trip extra special.
One of the courtyards with the pool at Riad Itrane and one of the lovely sitting areas.
Our visit happened to coincide with Ramadan, the Islamic holy month. Since almost everyone in Morocco is Muslim, it had a big impact on the city. During the day when healthy adult Muslims fast and don’t drink anything either, the mood was subdued, especially as the afternoon wore on and the heat rose, often above 100°F. Many restaurants outside of the old city and tourist sites closed early. Generally, women and children stayed inside to keep cool. At dusk, people broke their fast by drinking water and eating dates and porridge. Then after the evening prayer, Marrakech began feasting and celebrating. Late one evening the narrow streets and alleyways near the riad were so crammed with people happy to be out-- children, women, men, a donkey cart and motorbikes – that we could barely move for some time. It was quite an experience.
There were other ways, too, in which Moroccan culture was very different from my own. For example, in the souks, all nonfood items required bargaining and nothing had a price tag. Often if a passerby just looked at something, the seller would jump to present their wares and make a sale, in French, English or Spanish. So, buying anything was an experience in itself. Also, every act of kindness or service required a small tip of several dirhams (Moroccan coins) – from the museum guard who offered an explanation of an artifact to the porter and bathroom attendants. It wasn’t until after our visit that I realized it was the Moroccan way of saying “thank you” and was just a matter of good manners.
Rooftop view of Marrakech with the minaret of the Koutubia Mosque in the distance (top), storks atop a roof peak at the Badi Palace, and Mimi the cat at Riad Itrane.
I loved seeing the exquisitely decorated palaces, eating breakfast at the riad with homemade apricot jam, watching the sunset on the pink walls of the city from the rooftop terrace while hearing the evening calls to prayer. Looking at the handmade shoes and purses and colorful clothing and other things in the souks was fun too. And the local animal life. I spied cats everywhere- in alleyways, palace ruins, rooftop terraces and gardens. The one at the riad was called Mimi. Storks too, were abundant on palace walls and minarets while honey bees joined us for breakfast.
When it was time to go, we were ready to return to peaceful Spain after the exotic bustle of Jemaa el-Fnaa plaza and an immersion into a culture so unlike our own, which I found a bit overwhelming. Still, we had a good time and learned so much. In the weeks since my visit to Morocco, I have often thought of our experiences there and how it has changed my understanding of a part of the world I had only read about. While we initially went to Marrakech because of a garden (see the article Majorelle Gardens above), we found so much more! Sometime, I would like to return.
@Annette Bartlett-Golden, Little Pinnacle Overlook and The Knob at Pilot Mountain. Oil on canvas, 9 by 12 inches. $180
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
On a cool, cloudy day that felt nearly like spring, I arrived with a couple of my cousins at Pilot Mountain State Park for an afternoon hike. The stony, knob-shaped form of Pilot Mountain rises from surrounding forests to an elevation of 2, 241 feet (683 meters) above sea level. Located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina about thirty minutes northwest of Winston-Salem, it is an iconic area landmark.
Looking out from the upper parking area, we could see the Yadkin Valley spread out below with the Yadkin River meandering through it and the billowing smoke of a distant fire. Park rangers down there were using controlled fire as part of forest maintenance, explained one of the rangers who had come up the mountain to observe the fire from above. With smoke wafting across the bottomlands and an overcast sky, the valley seemed shrouded in mystery.
Here I am with Marcela and Ana at the Little Pinnacle Overlook. Behind us is the Knob of Pilot Mountain.
We began our hike at the Little Pinnacle Overlook, where we could see more scenic vistas of the valley and an advantageous view of Pilot Mountain’s distinctive knob, called Big Pinnacle. As we stood at the overlook, we watched with surprise as some hikers brought their drone in for a landing. Then they kindly took our photo.
From there we set off over sandy paths and an abundance of rock stairs hugging stone cliffs of colorful quartzite. Along the paths and on the mountainsides grew rhododendrons, mountain laurel and pines. Hawks or ravens flew overhead and roosted in scrubby trees atop the cliffs. Passing below, we paused to watch students from nearby colleges climbing the rock faces.
Smoke in the Yadkin Valley (left) and a climber scaling Pilot Mountain's colorful rock face (right).
My cousins, Ana and Marcela, Ana’s mom, were great hiking companions. We took our time to enjoy and wonder at the natural beauty around us. Also, we took many photos. Sitting for a moment, ensconced among the stone, we picnicked, chatted and admired the views. Partway through our hike, we got confused about which trail to take but a rock climber and some other hikers set us straight and we returned to the parking lot unscathed and in good time.
For awhile, I had wanted to visit Pilot Mountain because, in addition to hiking, I wanted to make a series of paintings of this distinctive mountain. The colorful stone with its rugged appearance and the distant views gave me much interesting material for painting. Sometimes it takes a visit from family or friends to propel us to go out and see the interesting places around us!
For more information about Pilot Mountain State Park visit:http://www.ncparks.gov/pilot-mountain-state-park.
@Annette Bartlett-Golden, Cliffs at Pilot Mountain. Oil on canvas, 9 by 12 inches. $180
©Annette Bartlett-Golden, Boquete House.
Oil on Board, 24 x 18 inches.
My mom's house in Boquete, Panama.
Return to Panama
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
Last week I met my sister, Angelique, in Panama. We were there to sell my mom’s house in the small mountain town of Boquete where my parents retired a dozen years ago. Blue-green mountains of volcanic origins, now worn and rounded, ring the small valley where Boquete is situated with the Caldera River rushing through it. On the main street, a little way up from the town, my mom’s picturesque two-story yellow house sits with a view of almost daily rainbows and the mountains.
There I am standing in front of my mom's house and a view of the rainbow and mountains seen from the side of the house.
Since I first visited my parents there, Boquete, and the surrounding areas, have been a source of inspiration for me. My dozen or so paintings of mountains, rivers, and my parents’ house evolved into the Panama Series. These paintings are both records of that region and my visits there, becoming more dear to me with the passage of time for the memories they hold. That is especially the case now, as we begin the process of selling my mom’s house.
Although my parents no longer live in the town of Boquete, I still have a deep connection to Panama. It’s my mother’s birthplace and home to most of my aunts, uncles and cousins. So for me, Panama has always meant family. Angelique and I were very happy to see many relatives during our short visit. And this time, I returned home to North Carolina with my young cousin, Ana, who is here visiting for a few weeks! You’ll hear more about that next time.
Me with my sister, Angelique, in the back garden of my mom's house, in Boquete, Panama.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, Virginia.
A Fine Place to Visit
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
While visiting family in Richmond, Virginia this month, I made sure to also visit my favorite place in the city, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. I love the space and light in the building which has three floors plus a café and restaurant, gift shop, theater and special exhibition galleries. Most importantly, the museum has an exceptional collection of art that ranges from ancient to modern times, and encompasses many cultures and movements.
When I visit an art museum, I like to choose just one or two areas to see because I enjoy taking my time wandering through the galleries and savoring the paintings. On this occasion, since I have been reading about modernist artists of the mid-1800s to the First World War, I decided to see the McGlothlin Collection of American Art. In this collection you are invited to “Encounter broad themes, including Westward the Course of Empire: American Landscape, The Gilded Age of Realism and Impressionism, and All That Glitters Is Not Gold: Modernism,” states the Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s website.
Yachting the Mediterranean painted in 1896 by American artist Julius LeBlanc Stewart.
One of my favorite paintings was by the American artist Julius LeBlanc Stewart (1855 – 1919) called Yachting the Mediterranean. This is a large, vibrant wall-sized canvas depicting a group of holidaymakers aboard a sailing yacht. Four ladies in long gowns of the period, a couple gentlemen, and a sailor mill around the decks as the yacht glides through frothy waves on a fine day. What struck me about this painting was the tilt of the yacht, the feeling that you are there too, perhaps looking down from a sail, and the marvelous vibrancy of the colors that seem to glow. The blue of the sea especially caught my attention.
In front of the reflecting pool at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art.
The sun was beginning to set when I stepped outside after my visit, bathing the granite walls of the building in a rosy light. Behind the museum, a reflecting pool glittered. To the right, a green slope rose to a rooftop garden, all part of the parking deck where I’d left my car! The grounds are definitely part of the museum’s charm and a lot of fun, too. To top it off, there is no fee to visit the museum’s collections.
The next time you’re in Richmond, enjoy a visit to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art. Check out the museum’s website at: vmfa.museum.
The green slope leading to a rooftop garden on the museum parking deck.
Annette Bartlett-Golden paints a wide range of subjects from landscapes to animals and makes abstract works with paper. Using vibrant colors, she imparts a sense of immediacy, vivacity and optimism to her paintings and paper collages.