December 21, 2007
It’s a twofer for me today on the NY Times website. I produced two pieces, with the help of other colleagues, and they are on polar opposite subjects. But they both have happy endings.
First, a short documentary about an Iraqi man named Uday, who was shot by insurgents in May 2003 while working with the American troops as a translator in Baghdad.
Along the way he met a woman who took on his cause and found a collection of angels — doctors and lawyers — who were eager to help him. Plastic surgeons and hospitals worked for free to repair Uday’s face, shattered by an insurgent’s bullet, and lawyers sought to secure asylum in America for him and his family.
The second piece — produced with Archie Tse and Amedeo Tumolillo — takes the viewer backstage at the 2000th performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet. We hung out with the child performers as they changed costumes for the second act, and spoke with principal dancer Wendy Whelan, who performed the Sugar Plum Fairy pas de deux.
December 9, 2007
The San Juan de Dios market in Guadalajara has been at its current site since the 1500s, and many of the things that are traded here — meat and vegetables, baskets and garments — are not much different from what folks traded in the original market 500 years ago.
Now a multi-level concrete structure with a parking garage on the top floors, this massive mercado has diversified with more modern fare like wrestling masks, trippy Jesus plaques and plastic dolls.
Mariachis play for diners in the open food court on the second level. And a boy sat below a gum ball machine near the leather jacket section.
The Christmas section of the market just opened last weekend, and its booths are well stocked with crèche imagery and dozens of baby Jesuses.
This figure seems to be doing a scene from an old John Travolta TV movie.
December 8, 2007
When José Clemente Orozco looked up at the chapel dome of Hospicio Cabañas, a grand colonial building that long housed an orphanage in Guadalajara, he knew he had a challenge on his hands: to paint a dazzling mural on a curved surface 60 feet above a viewer’s head.
The mural in the main dome of the chapel here is called The Man in Flames, and it is a masterpiece. Orozco sought a strong sense of perspective on that curve, using it to create three dimensions. A man surrounded by fire appears to rise into the heavens over three figures encircling the rim of the dome.
Streams of sun light other murals — of muted grays and blues — on the lower part of the rotunda, making the fiery red above seem ever more ablaze.
A square mirror about eight feet wide on the floor beneath the dome allows the eye to linger on the paintings and take in the images without craning the neck.
In all, there are fifty-seven murals in this chapel, which took Orozco, a native of the area, two years to complete.
The murals bring to life the Spanish conquest, the boldness of the enterprise, and the sadness in its wake. They evoke spiritual and historical themes, and each panel animates a different story.
I have long heard of these muralists of post-revolutionary Mexico, who created grand works in public places. But I had only previously seen their work in books and on TV. Now I want to come back to Mexico and see murals by the other two of the so-called Big Three in the genre: Rivera and Sequeiros.
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