I know I’m always ranting about missing trains, getting lost, or finding myself abandoned in a city for an extra night, but I will admit that every time I have been left at the station in a cloud of dust, or mocked by the jesting ticks of my ever-changing wristwatch, something magical has happened. I’ll spare the details of my last railway mishap, but I did, in fact, miss another train. I will plea my innocence and argue that I was practically forced to join a crew of Americans and Irishmen for 4th of July celebrations on my last night in Granada, which may have led to a long night of patriotic bar ballads and pledging allegiance to a striped T-shirt. Nonetheless, I had to wait another 8 hours for the next train; and as always, a fortuitous series of events led me to yet another grand adventure that would never have been presented to me, had I arrived just a few hours earlier.
I stepped into Barcelona bright and early with a full day to orient myself with the city. I found my couchsurfing host quite easily, and Joao and I went out for tapas and coffee in the city square. In the tapas bar, we met a tall Brazilian fella named Miquel (a man resembling Jesus in every physical manner) and his couchsurfing pal Ksvenia from Moscow. As the four of us joined a tiny table in the shoebox sized restaurant, we discussed art and travel in passionate detail and wildly nodded in agreement when someone brought up a new country they were eager to visit. As we shared a plate of calamares a la plancha, we realized we were a rare breed of spontaneous adventurers, sharing the same hunger for excitement and change.
So when Joao asked, “Hey, does anyone want to rent a car and drive up the coast to find Dali’s house and visit his personal museum?” Without hesitation we all dropped our forks and simply said, “Why not?”
Having just arrived to the grand city, but thrilled at the prospect of driving along Mediterranean coastal highways, I responded, “Let’s go right now.” We paid our bill, booked a car on one of our fancy schmancy smart phones and took to the road.
We drove for about 3 hours along narrow cliffs and heartstopping views. The road seemed to drop straight into the crystal water of the Mediterranean, but the scenery was so incredible, I didn’t think falling in would be any more fatal than diving into a sea of clouds and gardenias.
I’m consciously trying to avoid writing Hallmark cards about this place, but the air literally smelled like Angels were pooping honeysuckle and lavender. Seriously. I nearly cried.
So after a few hours wading in the baths of God, we got back in Martha (the car) and drove deeper into the cliffs to find one of the only self-created art museums in the world.
The building itself is a work of art, designed by Dali himself with the assistance of a few active artists of the Surrealist movement. The building was originally a 19th century Municipal Theatre, a place of nostalgia and inspiration for young Dali. It was destroyed at the end of the Spanish civil war, and resurrected by the city’s (Figueres) most iconic heir in 1960.
I love the eggs. Yes because I love to eat eggs, usually boiled or poached with capers… (token food blurb); but in this case, I love the eggs because Dali makes them romantic. I know I generally spare all of you loyal followers a lesson in ordinarily boring Art History, but in the case of the mustached maniac we know and love as Salvador Dali, I feel I must share my insight.
If you are familiar with the work of Dali, I’m sure you always think of clocks, eggs, or elephants. These are his most famous symbols and can be found in bazaar compositions with renderings of many other irrelevant subject matter. I love Dali’s lunacy because through it, he is the master of juxtapositions. For Dali, the egg is a symbol of love. He relates it to prenatal hope and maternal creation. The eggs resting atop the museum are to be seen as a sign of welcome; an open-armed gesture of love.
This work of intricate ambiguity is called The Rainy Taxi. This installation is actually the fourth and final version, originally referred to as Mannequin Rotting in a Taxi Cab. I was thrilled to see this in person after having written two term papers on the incredible piece; and I think I was the only person in the room possessing an expression of feverish understanding rather than crooking my jaw in an attempt to comprehend the chaos.
The original work was designed by Dali and his equally contemplative companion, Marcel Duchamp, a man you may know as the creator of the Ready-Made arts; a genre he kickstarted with a photo of a shovel around 1900 and an upside down urinal titled, Fountain. You can argue this art form on your own time…
The Rainy Taxi is actually remarkable. Even if you are the type of consumer who desires clarity and understanding in subject, no observer can deny the complexity of the installation is anything short of impressive. The car is the actual 1941 Cadillac Dali’s beloved wife Gala drove. It is filled with mannequins and condensation, as small pipes were installed to create rain within the car. The Caddi is towing Dali and Gala’s old boat, resting atop tower made of worn rubber tires. Dripping from below the boat are blue tears, crying out for his late wife, the woman he always referred to as his life preserver.
There are numerous explanations of the sculpture and I certainly have my own interpretation. But in honor of Dali, I will leave you to your own thoughts. Dali said himself, “There are two types of visitors: those who don’t need a description, and those who don’t deserve a description.” I can personally conclude that this final installation, quite different from the original 3 versions of The Rainy Taxi, is somewhat of an ode to Gala, with a bit more conspicuous emotion and complex symbolism. But there again, maybe there is no intentional understanding.
The painted ceilings are wondrously confusing, as Dali forces you to question his sanity while simultaneously altering yours. The feet of Gala dangle above the famous Dali-esque melted clocks. Placed nearest his soulmate, the soft clocks represent eternity. As the time melts from the hard shell of the watch, minutes become irrelevant and incalculable. I realized I adored Dali when I learned of this melted time concept in my studies, an image he stumbled upon while eating French Camembert cheese on a hot summer’s day. What I would give to share a bit of pungent cheese and wine with sir Salvador…
The self-portrait of the artist is distinguishable immediately by the presence of a wiry mustache, defying gravity as always. The drawers of his chest fall open, likely a symbol of his devotion of self to his art. One could admire the paintings, sculptures and installations for days without ever reaching the “Aha” moment we all desire. But there again, Dali encouraged irrational knowledge; a place where one must cultivate delusion while remaining sane.
Or maybe he really was just crazy.
With an exhausted mind and aching, rolled ankles, we found a soft sandy beach and unrolled our sleeping bags. The Mediterranean sings a delicate lullaby.