American Womankind Magazine: Review 2.0

My love affair with American Womankind magazine has not abated. I opened Issue 7 (February – April 2016) of the magazine and thumbed through its entirety, as is my habit. That first look was all it took for me to renew my subscription right away.

This magazine continues to deliver.  It is an exultation of color.  Charis Tsevis, who does the cover illustrations, created a stunning portrait of a woman of color. She could be Caribbean, which was a focus of this issue.  The colors capture vibrancy and excitement, not hinting at some of the darker parts of Caribbean history, except maybe in her gaze.

A number of articles in this issue resonated with me.  But, first…the art.  The art of Shari Erickson, whose tropical paintings are placed throughout the magazine, draw me into the island vibe.  When Erickson first visited the Caribbean, she said she had been led “to a world without grays.”  Her tropics are just as lush as we would want them to be.  Who even remembers gray?  Interestingly, Erickson’s studio is in Appalachia.  Her artistic process and the things that move her are fascinating.

The next thing that captured my imagination is the work of artist, Jason deCaires Taylor, whose work appears, not in a conventional museum, but in the Museo Subacuatico de Arte in Cancún, Mexico.  His central themes are water pollution, ocean acidity, and over-fishing. I had seen some of this artist’s work before; but the presentation in Womankind tells me what his mission is: “to prove that we can revivify nature if we only try.” The artist makes his point with this underwater installation of sculptures.

See how the sculptures changed over time when claimed by the sea and its creatures.

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Sculptures in the National Marine Park of Cancun. (Photo from American Womankind magazine)

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Closeup of the underwater sculpture (Photo from American Womankind magazine)

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Ocean effects on sculptures over time (Photo from American Womankind magazine)

I don’t relate only to the eye candy, though.  One of the things I like best about the magazine is that it is introduces under-represented, but not insignificant, bits of history.   Did you know Jamaica had a “Warrior Queen”?  Read about Queen Nanny.  Then move on to “The Story of White Gold,” and the impact of sugar on 12 million slaves.  These were not subjects in any of my history books.

Another item that caught my interest is historical, artistic, and design focused.  There are eight of the most stunning pages of fashion I have ever seen.  Here, we are introduced to Vlisco, a Dutch textile designer who invented a wax printing process for the production of African textile prints. These designs go back 170 years.  You will be as enthralled as I was if you appreciate great textiles.

While I have focused on highlights that particularly captivated me, there are many more thought-provoking articles that round out American Womankind’s on-going themes that include happiness; ideas to change your life; money and consumerism; and society.  For the full experience, you have to buy your own copy!

Author, Cheryl


American Womankind: A Magazine Review

Making its debut in Spring 2015, American Womankind was a delightful surprise, speaking to a hunger I didn’t know I had.  I needed smart, engaging, and thought-provoking writing every bit as much as I craved visual pleasure. Womankind has both.

Born in Australia, Womankind intrigued and seduced me at the cover, a butterfly encrusted portrait of Simone de Beauvoir, the French feminist philosopher and long-time companion of Jean Paul Sartre, French existential philosopher.  Composed of thousands of tiny butterflies in varying colors and patterns, the portrait hints at the theme of the spring publication.  If you think about the life cycle of a butterfly, you can imagine the process of transformation that is part of all life.  Like butterflies, we are in the process of becoming.  What will we become?  What roads will we travel to get there?  With what will we identify?

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Womankind invites you— without carping—to examine the life you lead, to learn something about women in history whose stories you may not have heard before, and to live more mindfully on the planet.  There’s both strength and delicacy in the delivery of essays like: “The Celebrity Machine,” Cooking As Meditation,” and “The One Story That’s Changing Your Life,” framed with startling art, photography and graphics that relate to the articles.

Womankind’s well-written essays explore topics and people in a way I haven’t encountered before— and in a format that invites my curiosity and engagement.  Fresh perspectives from artists and writers, concerned with different aspects of the same topic, were paired in such a way as to resonate with my own thinking.  I was not just informed, but enlightened; affirmed, as well as supported.  I feel that my ability to look at myself individually and as a member of society is respected by this magazine.  The lack of advertising invites me to see myself as something more than a consumer.  Finally, the magazine inspires as it celebrates women in every aspect of life through art, prose, and poetry.

My second issue of American Womankind arrived with Frida Kahlo, the Mexican revolutionary artist and wife of artist Diego Rivera, on the cover.  This time, the portrait was composed of a miniature garden of brightly colored flowers.  Again, I was struck by the quality of the content. One essay, “Frontier wars,” by Todd Miller, explored the impact of immigration laws on ordinary people who just want to do ordinary things like take their children to visit grandparents. Regardless of politics, one can’t help but be touched by this human interest piece.

If you’re looking for an intelligent, though -provoking, and visually-engaging magazine, try American Womankind, available at some Barnes & Noble locations, or at womankindmag.com.

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Author – Cheryl

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Balancing Travel – Part 4 – Valencia

Hola, Valencia!

I arrived in Valencia by train from Alicante. I spent five days there — the longest at any destination during my two weeks in Spain. I stayed at Valencia Mindfulness Retreat, a bed and breakfast in the historic heart of the city. The B&B itself was a highlight with its charm, architectural details, style, and friendly hosts.  As a solo traveler, I liked the daily family-style breakfasts with diverse guests — Dutch, Italian, and British (while I was there). I loved being the only American guest!  Valencia Mindfulness Retreat is in easy walking or cycling distance of most sights. Yoga and meditation were available; I did both. My days in Valencia were a balance of leisure and exploration.

I visited popular sites in Valencia, like:

  • Basilica of Our Lady of the Forsaken – The Basilica flanked Plaza de Virgen, where people hung out, strolled around, or rode through on bikes.
  • Mercat Central – This market was almost overwhelming. Hams were hung like clothes on a rack; and there was a massive variety of fruits, vegetables, spices, and fish for sale. You could also order paella and other food-to-go. I noticed that in Spanish markets the meat might have an anatomical attachment that you won’t see in the typical U.S. supermarket –  like a head, hoof, or feet…or, maybe only the head will be in the meat case… or, you might see the entire defrocked animal.  All options are there!
  • La Lonja de la Seda – This UNESCO World Heritage Site housed the Silk Exchange in the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s a magnificent structure near Mercat Central. I put my camera on zoom to see the building’s architectural detail, and saw freaky gargoyles. I did a double-take, like…is that what I think it is? (By the way, gargoyles have a purpose other than warding off bad spirits, such as diverting water from a building – like a gutter. Well, that’s certainly one explanation for that appendage!)
  • City of Arts and Sciences – The science complex was architecturally fabulous — designed by Santiago Calatrava — and includes an Oceanografico (aquarium) and IMAX cinema. The interactive exhibits at the Principe Felipe Museum of Science were just so-so, but it’s probably a good museum for families and children.
  • Jardins del Turia (Turia Gardens) – This extensive park has athletic fields, bike and walking paths, and gardens. Turia Gardens is an awesome place to be active and outdoors in the city. This was the original site of the Turia River. The river flooded Valencia in the 1950s; so, like a biblical punishment, the city diverted the river; and converted the dry riverbed into a recreational park. (Poor river! I never did see where it was banished.)
  • Beach – It was a nice, long bike ride to the beach, which was very broad with smooth sand for days, and framed by mountains. It was mid-May and early in the season, and warm enough to bask on the beach awhile without the crowds. Loved it!

I found less touristy spots, like:

  • Museo de Bellas Artes de Valencia.  The star here was not the art, dominated by Madonnas and cherubim. The real star was the elegant museum cafe where I was seated outdoors in the courtyard. I had a wonderful salt-encrusted dorade (a Mediterranean fish) with roasted vegetables. The meal and wine were served with all the flair of a fine dining establishment for less than 25 euros. When the server brought the fish out, I thought there was no way I could eat the entire fish. But, when he gently pounded the salt casing to release the succulent flesh, and filleted it and arrayed it on the plate, the portion looked very manageable. It was literally head and tail above any other museum cafe food I’ve ever had.
  • Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM) – I loved this museum where I discovered Valencian artist, Miquel Navarro. IVAM has a permanent collection of his sculptures and watercolors. The museum pamphlet describes his work as “a true symbiosis between body and architecture. Warriors, phallic symbols and totems transform their selves into bridges and fountains. Buildings, as well as cities, have organic similarities with the human body.” It was fascinating and I certainly couldn’t miss the phallic symbols; they were everywhere in his collection.
  • Museu d’Historia de Valencia – The museum used to be a water supply station. The art and Valencian history were creatively displayed.
  • L’Almoina Valencia – There, I viewed Roman and Arab archaeological excavations through a glass floor. It was unusual to see the history of Valencia in this way. Very cool!

I did other things, too, like:

  • Explored the historic quarter on foot, and helped a guy cook paella on the street.
  • Rented a bike.
  • Hung out at outdoor cafes with gelato, tea, or a glass of wine.
  • Photographed murals and graffiti that were everywhere — on construction barriers, shop doors, garage doors…. It was here that I fell in love with graffiti and street art, and now have hundreds of photos.

Another highlight was “The OMG! Meal” I had at an organic / local food restaurant I found called Kiaora Biocucina. Chef Yelel Canas graciously prepared my fish selection on the prix fixe menu, gluten-free. I had the kind of attentive service and multiple courses that I didn’t expect there. Kiaora was an unpretentious little spot, whose decor featured a large mural of a green mountain and a speck view of the chef’s family farm. Chef Canas is proud of his food philosophy, and local cuisine, and is happy to talk with patrons about his culinary creations. Amazing and delicious! (Update:  Chef Canas has left Valencia and will be opening a restaurant in Barcelona in Spring 2015. I will find him again. Bet on it!)

Valencia was all good. I had my poorest showing in communicating with people here because the people favored the local language, Valencian (a Catalan dialect), over Spanish. It wasn’t that much of an obstacle at restaurants or getting around, though. I’d return in a heartbeat and stay at the same place.  There is more of the city to  explore — my only regret is that I missed the Sunday flea market.  Next time!

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Next:  Balancing Travel  – Part 5 – Alicante


Sharing Art Feeds My Soul

Volunteering is a great way to balance giving and receiving in your life. After a long day at one’s regular job, altruism, for its own sake, can be daunting. Try giving your time and energy to something that feeds your soul.  For me, that is art—not making it, but sharing it with others and helping them to see it more deeply.

My path began with the nearly year-long docent training program at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).  The training consisted of weekly meetings in which we learned about the works in the permanent collection, as well as the traveling exhibitions. Curators from the various museum departments provided us historical, cultural, and anecdotal information. We were expected to prepare a qualifying tour in order to be official docents. Once initial training is completed, docents are expected to attend monthly meetings in which they are apprised of new exhibits, re-acquainted with familiar pieces, and learn new techniques for sharing the art with the public.

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The BMA recently completed its renovation of the American Wing. Docents were privileged to get a preview of the redesigned spaces that honor the museum’s historic heritage. We were awed by the contrast between the evidence of behind-the-scenes construction and mess and the freshly painted, bright walls holding an eclectic array of paintings. Old friends clothed in new frames, furniture, and other decorative art objects, and sculptures were all arranged as if specially chosen dinner guests at a banquet. They spoke to each other and embraced me in the conversation.

Author, Cheryl

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