Category: Basque Art (page 2 of 5)

Rakel Ezpeleta: Visiting Scholar

Late this summer, we had the pleasure of hosting Rakel Ezpeleta, a visiting scholar from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. She is an actress and singer born in Vitoria-Gastiez and based in Barcelona since 2001. She has a BA with Honors in History of Art from University of Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and an MA in Performance Studies from Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and Theatre Institut (IT).

For several years she has combined professional work as performer with theoretical or academic research projects: In 2007 and 2009 she was awarded grants from KREA Expresión Contemporánea to conduct a study on contemporary Basque theatre history in relation to postmodern theory; during the 2012-13 academic year, she was a Research Assistant to Dr. Henry Daniel (Simon Fraser University-Vancouver) for research/creation Project Barca: New architectures of Memory and Identity. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Theatre Studies at UAB with a trans-disciplinary project about Identity Configuration in Contemporary Experimental Basque Theatre. Her project conflates historical, anthropological and sociological approaches to contemporary theatre in Basque Country, a case study of some current mise-en-scènes, and her own artistic practice.

Rakel started studying theatre at the age of 13 in her hometown in Basque Country and she started working as a singer and actress when she was 17. After having lived in Long Island (NY) and Paris (France), she moved to Barcelona in 2002 for artistic specialist training in Musical Comedy and Meisner Technique. Since then she has launched several performing projects such as Plataforma l’Específica, Bacaret, Quasi (Maine), Pau?, La Quadra Màgica, and Confussion and Funkytown bands. Meanwhile, she has also collaborated in many short and long films, commercials and music recordings, as an actress, as a singer, and with voice-overs.

She enjoys traveling and discovering other cultures and people. Luckily for her, she has performed in many places in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Buenos Aires and Vancouver. Her latest research/creation, Erbeste (so very eager to please), has brought her to many cities and towns in Basque Country, Catalonia, and Spain, and she is willing to also bring her work to the USA.

Without further ado, here’s our interview with Rakel:

1. What brought you to the Center for Basque Studies and UNR? 

I was here for 5 weeks conducting one part of my current Ph.D. research. I wish I could have stayed longer. I really appreciated my time there! My thesis project is entitled “Identity Configuration in the Contemporary Experimental Basque Theatre Scene” (“Configuración de la identidad en la escena experimental vasca actual”). It investigates performance practice in relation to identity and contemporaneity within the Basque Country’s community during the period between 2000 and 2015. The research, on the one hand, provides a foundation for the analysis and history of contemporary Basque theatre, and, at the same time, establishes a methodological framework that is responsive to the nature of these practices and the context in which they operate.

I came to the CBS mainly to meet Joseba Zulaika and to work with him on contrasting some conceptual aspects of my research, i. e. the anthropological perspective of “contemporaneity”, the anthropological approach to “identity” and to performance, and the contemporizing of tradition.

2. What is the goal of your research?

I aim to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in two ways: first, by offering a contextualized and analytic overview of the scenic reality of Basque Country in the 21st century. Bibliography on contemporary Basque theatre is scarce and there are no thoughtful studies on the analysis of experimental staging and the correlation between these stagings and the socio-cultural context in which they are produced. Secondly, I aim to contribute to the development of methodologies for interdisciplinary and artistic research by virtue of a procedural structure specifically created to adequate this vibrant subject. The strategy to achieve these goals consists of a multi-disciplinary methodology that conflates a historical base, a sociological/anthropological approach, an analysis of significant theatre works, and my own artistic practice created to, first, explore a staging of a specific identity, and, second, test the perception of this Identity and its staging among various audiences.

3. What makes your research unique?

The transdisciplinary methodological approach, which I am creating specifically for this project, attending to the particularities of the subject. And the subject itself, in my opinion, of course, is thought-provoking and exciting, since it deals both with past and present, and both with cultural and subjective identities.

4. What did you accomplish?

I wrote the first chapter of my dissertation here and I discussed it with Prof. Zulaika. He gave me good pieces of advice on how to continue my dissertation, on the specific issues that I could approach, some references… He encouraged me to follow my natural-previous inclinations and to put more of my professional experience as a performer within my dissertation. He was very helpful and very encouraging. I am thankful for that. I also found and read some books that will be very helpful for my work. It was good to meet other researchers who were temporarily staying here and share and interchange information with them. I got to reconnect with a former teacher of mine, Prof. De Pablo, and find out that one of his books can inform my dissertation. Besides, I gave a seminar about the theme of my research. I had to write in English an overall view of my advances, and that helped me realize how much I had already accomplished. Finally, I additionally had the chance to participate in a seminar about the current political situation in Catalonia. This is not related to my thesis project but it’s certainly of great interest to me, and it is very much related the questions of identity and performativity.

5. Did the Center for Basque Studies help you in any way?

Definitively. Everyone was kind and helpful, both in personal and academic matters. For instance, thanks to Iñaki Arrieta Baro, director of the library, I am now in contact with the Publication Service of UPV/EHU, which is interested in publishing my previous research essay; Edurne Arostegi helped me a lot by reviewing my English writing; Kate Camino is helping me try to bring my theatre work “Erbeste”, a research/creation done as part of my thesis project, to UNR next year, and Xabier is also willing to help with that; Shannon gave me great tips for my trip to San Francisco; Amaia did so too for our trip to Yosemite; Xabier offered his camp tent; he and Iñaki offered to drive me home or to the supermarket; we went out to have a drink a couple of times with Amaia and Edurne… They are all great companions and it was fantastic to meet them.

6. Did you enjoy U.S.? What about Reno!?

I did! I enjoyed my stay in here very much. I was lucky to have the chance to travel with some new friends I made (another two girls, María and Gemma, who were here with the art program/scholarship from University of Basque Country, and a “local” boy from Florida). We visited Lake Tahoe and climbed the Tallac Mountain. I loved it! It was a wonderful day, it was a tough climbing but we got to see gorgeous sights and places. We also made a four-day road trip to Yosemite Park and L.A. That trip was very casual, unorganized, and crazy fun!  Another weekend I went on my own to San Francisco. There, the beauty of the city and the kindness of its people overwhelmed me.

I believe Reno is a very nice and convenient place to study. It’s calm, sunny (which I appreciate very much) and well communicated. I mean, there are many interesting places to visit around. So you can easily take a weekend off to discover a new place. I was staying in a hostel downtown, just a 10-minute bike ride to the campus. So, it was very easy to get there and stay focused on the studies during the day. At that hostel, the Morris Burner, there is lively community activity so it was also very entertaining to be there in the evenings, we kept socializing, and it felt like ‘coming home’ every day after school.

7. What did you miss the most about the Basque Country?

I missed having a phone number with international calls and Internet access plan. It wasn’t always easy to stay communicated. Also, because of the time difference of 9 hours. I didn’t get the correct phone plan-tariff before I came, and once here, it wasn’t that easy. So, for the next ones coming: you might want to check that! Besides that, I don’t recall missing anything: I found nice food (vegetables, organic and whole grain products, good cheese…), I went to the mountain, I had dinner once at the Basque Corner, I saw the snow, I enjoyed the sun, I felt like in Gasteiz with the cold, I didn’t miss the rain, I biked and walked, I socialized, I drank some nice red wine, and I spoke more Euskara than I usually do in Barcelona!

 

November 26, 1976: Birth of bertsolari Maialen Lujanbio

Maialen Lujanbio and Joxe Agirre

Maialen Lujanbio Zugasti, the first woman to win the national bertsolari championship in 2009, was born in Hernani, Gipuzkoa, on November 26, 1976.

Lujanbio first took an interest in bertsolaritza (improvised oral verse) at her ikastola (Basque-medium high school), and began attending an extracurricular bertso eskola, a school dedicated specifically to imparting the art. By the age of fifteen she was competing in junior competitions. She then went on to study Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country and qualified for her first national championship in 1997. In 2001 she was runner-up at the same championship and finished fourth at the subsequent context in 2005.

In 2009, though, she finally achieved the most prestigious award for a bertsolari, winning the coveted champion’s txapela (beret) in front of 14,500 spectators at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre. Her agurra (the farewell verse improvised by the champion bertsolari) remains one of the most memorable in the history of the competition.

Lujanbio also went on to teach bertsolaritza and shares her profession as a bertsolari with various roles in the world of artistic and literary creation: she has written song lyrics for Basque musicians like Maixa eta Ixiar, Alaitz eta Maider, Anje Duhalde, Mikel Errazkin, Mikel Markez, and the group Oskorri. She has also written articles for the Basque press and helped out with coordinating the bertsolaritza association. And in 2010 she published Hau cuaderno bat zen (This was a notebook), a compilation of the notes she took while taking a graduate studies in the transmission of Basque culture.

If you’re in the West, Lujanbio will perform at next year’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, NV, along with other bertsolaris, both from the Basque Country and from the West. It’s sure to be a fun event!

 

The Academy of Urbanism names Bilbao as the 2018 Best European City

Earlier this month, the Academy of Urbanism named Bilbao the 2018 European City of the Year. The other finalists were Ljubljana and Vienna, but Bilbao won the coveted position. Two years ago, another Basque city, Donostia-San Sebastian, was also recognized by the academy. As a Bilbotarra, I’m not surprised, we’ve known Bilbao is the best city in the world for a long time.

Th chair of the Academy, David Rudlin, described the city as follows:

 

Bilbao is a great example of the wholesale transformation of a former industrial city – not just physically, but socially, economically and culturally. The rejuvenation it has achieved over the past 30 years is nothing short of remarkable. All of this has been achieved through bold and effective leadership, the likes of which has seen the city run debt-free since 2010.

To read more, visit the About Basque Country website as follows:

https://aboutbasquecountry.eus/en/2017/11/08/bilbao-chosen-as-the-2018-best-european-city-by-the-academy-of-urbanism/

Multiple acts commemorate 20 years of Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

“Bilbao became the name in the architecture world of the turn of the 21 century.” Joseba Zuaika

There have been a series of acts during the last few weeks in Bilbao to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Guggenheim Reflections was a spectacular light show that lit up the Bilbao waterfront nightly between October 11 and 14.

Then on October 18, the twentieth anniversary of the museum’s inauguration, a gala dinner was held in the building itself, whose 525 guests included Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Wendy Fisher, William L. Mack, Karole Vail, and Alberto Vitole, representing the same foundation, the Lehendakari or Basque president, Iñigo Urkullu, as well as Unai Rementeria, the head of the Bizkaian Provincial Council and Juan Mari Aburto, the Mayor of Bilbao.  Guests emjoyed musical accompaniment from the renowned Orfeón Donostiarra-Donostiako Orfeoia and a special dinner menu created by the Basque Country’s leading chefs, including Eneko Atxa, Bittor Arginzoniz, Juan Mari Arzak, Elena Arzak, and Andoni Luis Aduriz.

To commemorate the occasion, too, every resident of Bizkaia has received a free invitation to the museum, and the weekend of October 21-22 it was free to visit.

CBS professor Joseba Zulaika, who has published extensively about the Guggenheim Museum, said this about the anniversary:

The twenty years history of the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum presents a complex diversity of contrasting stories. The most spectacular one is obviously architecture. Bilbao became the name in the architecture world of the turn of the 21 century. It presents the paradigm to measure how architecture could transform a city’s urban fabric. With the iconic architecture came the awareness of the singular relevance of image for a struggling city. The news was no longer Bilbao’s post-industrial ruin and terrorism, and this meant more tourism and more foreign investment. The psychology of the city revived, its multi secular can-do spirit restored. These have been great stories for Bilbao and for Basque society in general. But there is no historical process without its shadows. There was initially a widespread opposition to the idea of a New York museum’s satellite in Bilbao. There were solid arguments to oppose it: the secretiveness and opacity of the agreement, the asymmetries in the sharing of the costs and power structures, the very model of a transnational franchise museum. What nobody knew was that Gehry would produce such an spectacular building hailed as a masterpiece worldwide, and that Bilbao would become the model for other cities to be transformed by architecture. The imposition of urban renewal by spectacular architecture left aside other less grandiose but more participative projects such as Gorordo-Oteiza’s Cultural Center. Nor did it resolve the tension between the strategic investment in the internationalization of arts versus the need to promote local arts, or the conflict between maintaining downtown flagship facilities versus the neglect of marginalized neighborhoods. Parodying Magritte’s pipe photograph with the caption “This is not a pipe,” you could say of the Bilbao Guggenheim that “This is not a museum.” But it is also a museum. And on most accounts, even if you dislike some of the trends it brought in art as commodity and spectacle, it is the best thing that happened to Bilbao during these twenty years.

One of the Center’s flagship publications is Learning from the Bilbao Guggenheim, edited by Anna Maria Guasch and Joseba Zulaika. This multiple-authored work, representing the reflections of a conference held at the CBS in 2004, seeks to address the initial impact of the Guggenheim on the social, economic, political, and cultural landscape of Bilbao, the Basque Country, and beyond. The book is also available free to download here.  

Check out, too, some of the Center’s related works:

Beyond Guernica and the Guggenheim: Art and Politics from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Zoe Bray. Free to download here

Building Time: The Relatus in Frank Gehry’s Architecture by Iñaki Begiristain.

Building the Basque City: The Political Economy of Nation-Building, by Nagore Calvo Mendizabal.

Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa: Museums, Architecture, and City Renewal, by Joseba Zulaika. Free to download here

That Old Bilbao Moon: The Passion and Resurrection of a City, by Joseba Zulaika.

Transforming Cities: Opportunities and Challenges of Urban Regeneration in the Basque Country, edited by Arantxa Rodríguez and Joseba Juaristi.

 

 

Basque Ladies “Lagunak” Luncheon

 

Last Saturday, the 23rd of September, we celebrated the annual Basque Ladies Luncheon at the restaurant,  Louis Basque Corner. It is an essential event for all the Basque ladies in Reno and its surrounding areas. A unique occasion to gather together, and when there’s food on the table of a good restaurant, it is even better!

The event began at 11.30am, and the restaurant was pretty full when we arrived. The ladies, with their Lauburu necklaces -in all sizes and colors- were conversing,  laughing, and loving each other’s company, some of them, the bravest ones, were drinking Picon Punch. The talented ladies Judy Mendeguia and Joanie Test shared their beautiful handmade horseshoes and crosses with us, such beautiful and exceptional artwork made with so much love and passion. The Center for Basque Studies didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to show and share our latest publications with the ladies. The reception of our books was incredible, thank you so much!

Around noon we began having lunch, and the menu was delicious. The traditional Basque family-style lunch included soup of the day, French bread, Basque beans, salad, French fries, an entree, and a complimentary glass of house wine or a soft drink, and coffee. They set up an area for us and they treated us phenomenally.

Unfortunately, this lunch wasn’t the same without our beloved, Florence Larraneta Frye who was unable to attend. She is an amazing Basque woman who made the endeavor of the Basque Ladies Luncheon a reality, a dream come true. It is also worth thanking Kate Camino for maintaining the spirit and us ladies together.

Till the next time!

Monday movies: “The Raven” by Tinieblas González

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the CBS`s upcoming book publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

In a mournful midnight, the writer Edgar Allan Poe tries in vain to entertain himself reading occultist books, and he constantly remembers his beloved Leonore, who died shortly before.

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—

Only this and nothing more.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Raven

 

Tinieblas González and Karra Elejalde wrote the script of this short film on the basis of the American classic The Raven (1845), which catapulted its author, Edgar Allan Poe to fame. The adaptation keeps the same structure as the original poem.

The writer locks himself in his room, converted into a mausoleum, to dedicate his existence to the memory of the deceased woman. The music that evokes Leonor is associated with each of the apparitions of the beloved woman: the picture, the flashback and the hallucinations that torture Poe. This musical composition stands out for its subtleness. The room`s Baroque decoration features saturated red, resembling the iconography of the horror of Hammer Films. The cemetery evokes the suggestive imaginary of Monastery graveyard in the snow (1818-1819) by Caspar David Friedrich, the Romantic German painter, and its disturbing atmosphere is transferred to the forest that surrounds the mansion. Death transforms the woods into a sinister place where the branches of the trees reach toward the sky over a sea of snow. Poe is full of profound melancholy, and is lost outside on the fields. Leonor sends a seductive invitation to her husband so that he passes over to the other world.

Watch Part 1 and 2 here:

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Tinieblas González said this about about making The Raven:

The Raven had a design of excellent production, it was a short film that had a presence. I spent more than 19 million pesetas on it, and received a lot of criticism on part of some short film makers. They said that it was more like a feature film rather than a short film. Apparently, The Raven lacked the aesthetics of a short film. It was an accusation that did not at all correspond to reality. I had seen many short films at an endless number of festivals all over the world, and I knew that it was not the case. In spite of the criticism, people started to become enthusiastic, and invest more money in their short films. Nevertheless, all of this disappeared. The design of production is fundamental in a short film, but in the past years it has been rather neglected. Depending on the story it tells, cinema can be poor. But there are films that need to offer a spectacle. Because at the end of the day, for me, cinema has always been about entertainment. I don`t consider myself an artist, I consider myself a creator. A creator of ideas. I make films because I like entertaining. In fact, I think that cinema is first of all entertainment. And later, if a film stays in the annals of history, it may become a work of art.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Movies: “One Too Many” by Borja Cobeaga

We are starting the Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary cinema! Most of these short films have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of our upcoming book Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

“And she left just like that?”

“Looks like it.”

“Without leaving a note?”

“I don`t know.”

What is a man to do when his wife has had enough and left? Joaquín and his son Fernando seek out the long-forgotten grandma in a nursing home with an ulterior motive. Gran is a marvelous cook, and the two men are more than pleased to have found another woman who takes care of them. But is granny really who they think she is? And if not, does it really matter, once she makes the finest chuletas and tortilla patatas?

To watch the video, click on the link to open it on Vimeo:

 

 

One Too Many by Borja Cobeaga, co-screen writer of the 2014 box office hit Ocho Appelidos Vascos (Spanish Affair) is a portrait of extreme selfishness when men see themselves overcome by loneliness. From the moment of her arrival, grandma takes charge of cleaning the house, which by now is a pigsty, and prepares exquisite meals for the two slackers who do not lift a finger to help her. One day, however, during a phone conversation with his estranged wife, Joaquín discovers that the woman who lives with them is in fact not Lourdes. She is an elderly woman who was so desperate to leave the nursing home that she was ready to become slave to these two egoistic idlers in order to escape her reclusion. Joaquín is at the point of confessing the truth to his son, Fernando, but when he seas the T-bone steaks the impostor has just brought for lunch, he decides to let the sham continue. Grandma, sensing that she was about to be discovered, shots a look full of fear and uncertainty towards the men, and holds up a succulent steak, the only weapon of seduction she has. One Too Many is a bitter sweet comedy about selfishness and the vulnerability of the elderly

 

Borja Cobeaga said this about how he first thought of making this short film:

“I was a little disillusioned, I was never happy with what I was doing, which is why I decided to apply the typical formula of writing about what you know. I grew up with a 70-year-old person, Agustina, the family cook all our lives. She was part of the family; she nourished me! I found a lot of inspiration in her. Elderly people can be very extreme persons with childish behaviors, like jumping the line in supermarkets, but in turn, they are also people with experience. These extremes seemed very good for a comedy. In the end, contrast is the most important element of comedy. Since I decided to write about what I know and started to do things that I most liked, I felt more identified, and I realized that the cliché was true. All the persons that Mariví Bilbao plays in my short films are inspired in Agustina. In conclusion, it`s about taking a real situation, exaggerating it, and putting forth a question: and what if this happened to this character? For example, the question that we formed in One too many was: What would happen if a father and a son were abandoned by the mother?”

 

 

Monday Movies: “Syntony”

 

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and showcase contemporary filmmakers. The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the CBS`s upcoming book publication Kimuak Short Films: Buds of Basque Cinema. Enjoy!

“Shall I be honest? I think I`ve fallen in love.”

“Come on María, you barely know him.”

“It doesn`t matter. You just feel it. I think we have tuned in to each other, and that`s it!”

Sometimes it`s not a question of long conversations, or living together. Sometimes a particular situation or encounter is enough to connect with someone. “Syntony” (Sintonía) by Jose Mari Goneaga is a romantic comedy where a Basque man, stuck in a traffic jam on the highway, tries to call the attention of a woman sitting in another car. He wants to warn her that her scarf is stuck outside of the door. She doesn`t see him, however; she is absorbed, singing. He starts to tune in to radio channels, until the music`s lyrics finally match those on the woman`s lips. He calls the radio program to warn her about her scarf.

The man, timid and incapable of dealing with the woman face to face, lacks the social skills to approach her in person, but he finds a way to connect with her over the radio. The fear of failure, of rejection, paralyzes our spontaneity, and “Syntony” is about taking risks when we stand before the unexpected opportunities that life offers us. Watch the short film, only available in Spanish for now:

Goneaga, who has directed well-known feature films such as 80 Days and Flowers, said this about his short film:

I am not a great friend of metaphors but, when I structured the script, I considered the cars on the highway as metaphors for people. And the people who are inside are like our real “I.” Even though we live surrounded by people, we have difficulty connecting, tuning in with someone, and to reach their interior. We see people talking on the radio and the phone, but we don’t see anyone directly approaching another person. Also, there is a reflection on the incapacity that we sometimes have to open ourselves towards others. This shyness… I didn’t intend this as something specifically cultural, but I have been repeatedly told that the male character is very “Basque.” What happens is that in the end you are Basque, you put your personality into your character in a certain way, and the result is that they tell you that it is very “Basque.”

 

(source: www.kimuak.com)

 

Monday Movies: “On the Line”

We are pleased to announce that we are starting our Monday Movies series to present Basque short films and contemporary filmmakers! The short films presented here have gained international recognition thanks to the Basque Government`s distribution program Kimuak, and they are part of the upcoming CBS publication Kimuak Short Films: Seeds of Basque Cinema. 

On the line (2008), by the Donostia-San Sebastian based director, Jon Garaño, is a mockumentary (satire documentary) about the volunteer border patrols that oversee the border between the United States and Mexico.

The short film mixes three formats: news program, documentary, and fiction. It relates the life of a volunteer border patrol, Adam, who guards the Mexican-American border in order to prevent the arrival of illegal immigrants. Towards the beginning of the short, his wife, Jane, is preparing breakfast while chatting with the filmmakers about her children. It’s a big white working-class family. The woman is proud of her volunteer husband, and as a good wife, she brings Adam’s lunch. She says goodbye to him with her baby in her arms. This ideal family model of American society is opposed to the immigrant woman Eugenia`s figure, who is trying desperately to cross the border in the desert, with a baby in her arms. Eugenia is a single mother and does not have the family structure that Jane has. When Adam arrives at the post, his colleagues tell him that a couple of Mexicans are crossing the borders, and there is no trace of the police. He takes his rifle and rushes to the place where Eugenia was spotted. Watch the rest of the short film, and we hope you enjoy it!

Director Jon Garaño said this about this short film:

The topic occurred to me when I lived in San Diego. This American city is close to Tijuana, on the border. Every day there was news about illegal immigration into the United States, and it occurred to me that I should shoot something about this issue. But On the Line could have been set in Ceuta. Some local realities transcend their environment, and can be perfectly understood beyond their borders. In fact, we live very similar realities in the world. Like us, or any country that receives immigrants, Americans must recognize the importance of immigrants, and I wanted to reflect on this in a very subtle way. It is for this reason that we ended the story with a shot of the American flag. I think that this shot has not been correctly interpreted. It was understood as a criticism. Possibly I erred in the form of expressing the message, but what I wanted to transmit is that those who cross the border are now part of the country.

Stay tuned on Mondays for more on the Kimuak series, and the upcoming book.

Post by our new Professor, Mariann Vaczi. Interview coming soon!

March 12, 2008: Death of artist Menchu Gal

On March 12, 2008 the Basque artist Menchu Gal Orendain, the first woman to win Spain’s National Prize for Painting (1959) and renowned for her colorful landscapes as well as portraits, died in Donostia-San Sebastián.

Menchu Gal

Born into a middle-class family in Irun, Gipuzkoa, in 1918, she developed an early interest in painting and by the age of seven was studying the art under local painter Gaspar Montes Iturrioz. Recognizing her talent, he encouraged her family to send her to Paris to continue her studies. This she duly did in 1932, enrolling in a school run by French cubist Amédée Ozenfant. She spent two years in Paris, taking advantage of the time there to visit the great museums and exhibitions in this major global art capital. She was particularly drawn to Impressionist and Fauvist works, and especially the oeuvre of Henri Matisse. Thereafter, she continued her studies in Madrid, at the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, where her teachers included the celebrated Basque artist Aurelio Arteta.

Menchu Gal at work in 1975

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, together with her family she took refuge in France. She returned to Madrid in 1943 and soon became part of the Young Madrid School of artists, a group of young contemporary artists who exhibited regularly through the 1950s. It was at this time that she focused on landscape painting, particularly representations of the Castilian Meseta, the famed plateau of Don Quixote, and her native Basque Country. As she exhibited more, so she  gained a reputation for her vibrant use of color and the joy she expressed in her painting. And in 1959 she was awarded Spain’s National Prize for Painting for a landscape of Arraioz in the Baztan Valley of Navarre – the first woman to win this award. She continued to exhibit through the 1960s and 1970s, returning to the Basque Country and sponsoring a new generation of young Basque artists. In this regard, she was particularly interested in spotlighting painters and paintings connected with her natal Bidasoa region of Gipuzkoa; organizing retrospective of her first teacher, Montes Iturrioz, and participating in a travelling exhibition, “Painters of the Bidasoa,” in 1986. And she was still painting and exhibiting to the turn of the millennium.

Asked in a 2006 interview to describe the colors of her own particular corner of the Basque Country, the Bidasoa region, she replied:

Green and gray dominate; the trees are green, and the ground gray. The houses are kind of ocher. They don’t have a lot of color. But I love the Aia Massif [a rocky massif straddling the border between Gipuzkoa and Navarre]. I’ve seen it in all its colors. San Marcial [a shrine on a hill overlooking Irun and the Bidasoa region] and the Aia Massif have featured a lot in my painting.

Besides the Spanish National Prize for Paining, she also won many other awards. She was the first woman to receive the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa’s Gold Medal (2005) and in 2007 Eusko Ikaskuntza (the Society of Basque Studies) awarded her the prestigious Manuel Lekuona Prize.

She died in 2008 and in 2010 the City Council of Irun, in collaboration with the Kutxa Foundation, established the Menchu Gal Room at the Sancho de Urdanibia Hospital in Irun, where some of her work–purchased by the city council itself–is exhibited. That same year, a foundation was established in her name.

Further Reading

Menchu Gal Orendain at the Auñamendi Eusko Entziklopedia.

Menchu Gal, una artista extraordinaria,” by José Javier Fernández Altuna in Euskonews & Media (2007).

 

 

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