Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Contemporary art transforms former convent

Soon after King James I of Aragon secured Valencia from Moorish rule in the 1200s, work began on the Royal Convent of Our Lady of Carmen. It and the adjacent Church of the Holy Cross are at the heart of the neighborhood referred to as Carmen, but, no matter that we frequently crossed the plaza in front of them, we never found the church doors unlocked.

Today, contemporary art exhibitions fill the interior of the former convent, with spacious galleries surrounding two large open-air patios of the Carmen Cultural Center.

Characterized by its explosive fireworks and papier-mache figures set ablaze at the end of the festival, Valencia’s Las Fallas seems a natural partner to get into the spirit of the Burning Man Festival in Nevada. In 2016, artists from Burning Man visited Valencia in the spring, and artist representatives of Las Fallas visited and contributed a major art installation to Burning Man in the summer. Instead of burning it, though, the Valencians returned with their “Renaissance” piece, and the openwork one-room “building” was displayed in the middle of one of the courtyards of the Carmen Cultural Center.

The cardboard structure of “Renaissance” echoes the architectural details of the windows of Valencia’s Silk Exchange, and the outer skin was decorated with faces made from molds of masks created years ago for Las Fallas. The mosaic flooring was composed of 25,000 pieces assembled by volunteers from the Torrent neighborhood in Valencia. The photos above of “Renaissance” in the desert setting of Burning Man are photos of photos from the exhibit. To see better and more interesting images from the cultural interchange, visit Pink Intruder.

While visiting the Carmen Cultural Center, the Mister spotted the clever W.C. sign for me. It was quite a welcome sighting, as the cross-legged figures captured my feelings perfectly.

Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Massive gates remnants of medieval past

There once were a dozen of them, but only two remain. Once the walls surrounding the medieval city of Valencia were torn down, most of the gates lost their raison d’être.

But the architecturally impressive Torres de Serranos, built in 1392, continued to function in other ways. For many years, the fortification made a suitable prison for upper crust nobles and knights finding themselves no longer in favor. During the Spanish Civil War, paintings from the Prado were stored there for safe-keeping.

But most dear to Valencians, the royal entryway always has served as a ceremonial heart of the city, the place where Las Fallas festival is kicked-off every year. Like Alamo Plaza has been but might never be again for San Antonians.

The smaller Torres de Quart perhaps was permitted to remain standing so its pock-marked walls serve as a reminder of its assault by those nasty Napoleonic forces in 1808.

From my point on the plaza observing even some of the young and fit clinging to nonexistent finger-holes on the steep descent bounded only by a skinny railing way too low to grasp, I concluded not to ascend the steps of Torres de Serranos. Jimmy Stewart convinced me long ago of my tendency toward vertigo. Shy of a helicopter rescue atop, I would have had to unflatteringly back down on all fours, hindquarters first.

I wisely opted for more of a Rear Window approach, happily sipping a beer while people-watching. The Daughter, on the other hand, scampered up and down on two occasions.

Postcard from Valencia, Spain: Stifling the voice of women leads to startling image on street

So wish this powerful image from Valencia was plastered up prominently near the Capitol in Austin to haunt legislators upon entering.

Among the most humorous in this final posting of Valencian street art is the juxtaposition of “Chihuahua Man” above a small children’s playground. And love the dotted cart parked by the artist giving his leopard a final dose of spots.

Of course, the Mister’s favorite is what we referred to as “Our Lady of the Tube Amps.”