Rue Dénoyez: Paris Street Art

Before visiting Paris in September this year, I asked a fellow blogger where the best street art can be found. Without hesitation, the answer was Rue Dénoyez. This one-car-wide lane  is lined with abandoned stores with grilled and shuttered windows, with brick sidewalks indistinguishable from the street except for the shallow gutters and the stanchions that establish the pedestrian right-of-way on both sides.  A long stretch of sidewalk on one side is inexplicable blocked, tucked behind a temporary (?) metal panel and wire barrier, but the original wall behind is still visible. At least half of the length of this two-block street is covered in colorful street art – every wall, window, trash can, flower pot, and even some of the stanchions.

Rue Dénoyez Long View from Rue de Belleville

At the entrance to the street from the Rue Ramponeau end, at 3 rue Dénoyez, is the trendy restaurant le Desnoyez.

Restaurant le Desnoyez

While some of the foot traffic on Rue Dénoyez is clearly local citizenry taking a shortcut to somewhere else (this street is extremely convenient to the Paris Métro), there are usually a few tourists wandering slowly down the street and back, studying each image, trying to understand what it means to the person who created it. Is it a political statement or just humor? Who is the boy pictured lower right below? His eyes suggest a sad story.

We zigzagged slowly down the street, taking pictures of whatever caught our eye. There were only a few other persons on the street also interested in the art. It occurred to me that I might not want to be on this street after dark, but I felt safe enough in the bright sunlight. (Rue Dénoyez is located at the edge of the 20th arrondissement of Paris and is very near the locations of the terrorist attacks of November, 2015.)

Reaching the unofficial end of the display, I decided to take more pictures of art I had skipped on the first pass. I turned and worked my way back up the street, totally engrossed in capturing the extraordinary images. About halfway back, I became aware that we were the only two people on the street – except for four tall uniformed policemen carrying long automatic weapons and staring at us. They had appeared from nowhere! I “calmly” took one last photograph, and as we walked past them, I said “Bonjour” to one of them. We “calmly” walked back to the entrance of the street and turned to see the street empty behind us. They had vanished again.

If you are ever in Paris and would like to see the current version of this frequently-changing street art, then ride the Paris Métro to the Belleville station on Line 2 and Line 11. Exiting the Métro station, walk east one short block on Rue de Belleville, and then turn right (south) onto Rue Dénoyez.

You could combine a visit to Rue Dénoyez with a visit to Père Lachaise Cemetery, also a great photography destination. The cemetery is also on Paris Métro Line 2, only four stops away at the Philippe Auguste station, which exits at the main entrance to the cemetery. (The Père Lachaise station, while only three stops away on Line 2, exits near a side entrance that is closed to the public.)


Zeus or Poseidon: a Magnificent Statue

Last month we visited the National Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece. One of the major attractions is a statue of a Greek god posed mid-stride to hurl a weapon. This statue was  recovered in 1928 from a shipwreck off Cape Artemision in north Euboea, Greece. Because the weapon itself was not recovered, it is uncertain exactly which god is represented. If the weapon was a thunderbolt, then this is most likely Zeus, the god of sky and thunder who lived on Mount Olympus as king of the gods. If the weapon was a trident, then this is probably Poseidon, god of the sea (and brother to Zeus). The museum believes that Zeus is the more probable answer.

This statue was created in bronze around 460 B.C.E. in the Early Classical (Severe) style.  The beauty and detail of the statue is amazing and seems so advanced for something from a far distant past.

Mona and Me: Tourists Turn their Backs to Fine Art

We had a stopover in Paris in late September and spent an afternoon in the Louvre. Every visit has a mandatory stop in the salon where  La Gioconda (Mona Lisa to her friends) is displayed. We are used to finding hundreds of tourists gazing on the painting through their camera’s view finders, hoping to get a shot of the top of the painting above the dozens of other tourists ahead of them with their cameras. This year, we found a new phenomenon. A significant number of tourists spend their time facing away from the Mona Lisa so they can include her in selfies. Great art inspires!

Mona and Me

Cuban Diary: Public Art

This post features some public art we saw on plazas and streets of Havana. By public art, we mean art that was available for public viewing without paying a fee. Some was religious, some was political, some was traditional, and some was contemporary. The photographs shared here include only statues and street art (graffiti).

Religious Art

The two religious statues that are seen by almost every tourist in Old Havana are the Christ of Havana and the statue of the priest and young boy.

The Cristo de La Habana (Christ of Havana) statue is located  on top of La Cabaña hill overlooking Havana Bay. The statue was carved in Italy of white Carrara marble; after its blessing by Pope Pius XII in Italy, it was unveiled here on December 24, 1958, only 15 days before Fidel Castro entered Havana during the Revolution. At 20 meters (66 feet) tall, standing 51 meters (167 feet) above sea level, it is visible from many places in Havana. It is also possible to view Havana from the base of the statue.

Christ of Havana

The statue of the Franciscan friar Junípero Serra y Ferrer with a Juaneño Indian boy is located in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in front of the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis. On September 23, 2015, Pope Francis conferred sainthood on Junipero Serra, who founded missions in Baja California and in California.

Political Art

Four political art works honor Antonio Gades, Abraham Lincoln, Yasser Arafat, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Antonio Esteve Ródenas (Antonio Gades), best known as a Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer, co-founded the Spanish National Ballet. As a member of the Central Committee of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Peoples of Spain, Gades was also a political activist during the Spanish transition to democracy (The Transition) following the death of Spain’s military dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.  Fidel Castro decorated Antonio Gades with the Order of José Martí, a state honor, shortly before Gades’ death in Madrid in 2004.

The statue of Antonio Gades is located on the Plaza de la Catedral in Old Havana, in front of the Palacio de Lombillo.

Abraham Lincoln is honored in Havana with a miniature sculpture in the Vedado neighborhood, a bust in the Museum of the Revolution, and a bust near the Capitolio. The statue of Lincoln standing in front of a chair is located on the Avenida de los Presidentes in front of the Abraham Lincoln Escuela de Idiomas, a foreign language school.

Slaves were brought to Cuba beginning in the 1500s to work on Spanish sugar cane plantations. Abraham Lincoln is important to Cuba because he issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to free slaves in the Southern US. The  Emancipation Proclamation helped put pressure on Spain to end slavery in Cuba; the Cuban slave trade ended in 1867.

Abraham Lincoln

This statue of Palestinian leader Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa ( Yasser Arafat) is located on 7th Avenida in Havana.The statue is 1.95 meters (6’5″) tall; Arafat was 1.57 meters (5’2″) tall.

The statue was unveiled on November 24, 2012, by Akram Samhan, the Palestinian ambassador to Cuba. Formerly the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) opposed to Israel, Arafat was instrumental in a series of (ultimately unsuccessful) negotiations for peace with Israel; for this he (along with Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israel President Shimon Peres) received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Part of the special connection between Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro is this: Palestinian soldiers were trained in Cuban guerrilla training camps under the direction of the KGB in the 1960s, and Cuban soldiers fought in support of Syria during the Yom Kippur War in the 1970s.

Arafat was revered by Fidel Castro and awarded the Bay of Pigs Medal during his first visit to Cuba on November 24, 1974.

Yasser Arafat

Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary originally from Argentina, was one of the three most recognizable figures (along with Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos) in the Cuban Revolution. An expert on guerrilla warfare, Che left Cuba in 1965 to continue (unsuccessfully) his version of world revolution, first in the Congo and later in Bolivia, where he was executed on October 9, 1967.

Che Guevara is idolized in Cuba as a martyr, and his image on a t-shirt is one of the most popular souvenirs of Cuba. The street art (pictured below) is a highly-processed version of a photograph taken of Che on March 5, 1960, by Alberto Korda.

Graffiti of Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Traditional Art

A traditional piece of art, the sculpture of Polish pianist-composer Frederic Chopin sitting on a bench, is located in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in front of the Hotel Palacio del Marques de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal.

The sculpture was unveiled on December 21, 2010, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth.

Frederic Chopin

Contemporary Art

We saw several pieces of contemporary art in Old Havana, including The Conversation, Fantastic Voyage, Nature, Xico’s Travels Through Latin America, and three examples of street art.

The bronze sculpture La Conversación (The Conversation) is located in the Plaza San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana. Created by the French sculptor Etienne, it shows two figures in an intense discussion. It was unveiled on May 25, 2012, with Etienne and French ambassador Vittorio Perrota (the donor) in attendance.

(Note in the photo on the right the statue of Junípero Serra and the Indian boy in front of the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis (the building with the tower) on the other side of the square.)

The bronze sculpture Viaje Fantastico (Fantastic Voyage), by the contemporary Cuban painter, sculptor, and illustrator Roberto Fabelo, was unveiled on January 20, 2013. Similar to many of the artist’s paintings, the sculpture depicts a woman wearing only shoes and holding a gigantic fork as she sits astride a giant rooster. This sculpture is one of a limited edition of only five. Fabelo, who was the 2004 winner of Cuba’s National Arts Award, donated the statue.

El Gallo (the rooster) is an important symbol in Cuban life, representing strength and power.

The statue is located in Plaza Vieja (Old Square) in Habana Vieja (Old Havana). (Fun fact: The Plaza Vieja (Old Square) was originally called Plaza Nueva (New Square) in 1559.)

Also located in Plaza Vieja in Old Havana is a 10 meter (about 33 foot) tall  flower sculpture named Escultura Natura (Nature).  Natura was created of Cuban marble by Cuban sculptor Juan Narcisco Quintanilla in 2010.


 Another exhibit in Plaza Vieja is part of the Exposicion de artistas latinosamericanos: “Crossings Xico Latin America” (“Xico’s Travels Through Latin America”) is  a series of 16 stylized dogs standing around the fence that surrounds the fountain in the middle of the square.  These are the mythical pre-Columbian god dog, Xico, as envisioned by eight Cuban artists and others in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama. Each cartoon xoloitzcuintle (Xico) is made of reinforced vinyl, stands 1.8 meters (5’11”) tall, and is covered in colorful designs. From November 12 until  December 12, 2015, the pieces were on exhibit in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, after which they were moved to Plaza Vieja.

The project coordinator, Mexican artist Cristina Pineda, conceived this representation of Xico as a legacy of Aztec culture. Recognizing that foreign characters (e.g., Mickey Mouse, Powerpuff Girls) are popular with Latin American children, Pineda would like to further the Xico initiative with programs in which children are encouraged to create their own versions of Xico from clay.

(The fountain, somewhat visible inside the fence, is a replica of the original Carrara marble fountain with four dolphins that was destroyed under Batista in 1952 to make way for an underground parking lot, also now demolished. Renovation of the buildings around the square, damaged by the parking lot construction, was begun in the 1980s.)

The last photo of contemporary art is actually three pieces of street art (graffiti) on the side of a low building.

The image on the left is signed “atomiko en la habana” and was created by the street artist self-named as atomiko. Atomiko, a native of Miami, Florida, created the first version of the orange character in 2008 in reaction to the demolition of the Miami Orange Bowl.

The image in the middle was created by the street artist “Abstrk,” also a native of Miami, Florida. His art is distinguishable by the eyes of the subject, which create an intimate connection between the viewer and the soul of the subject.

The image on the right was created by the Cuban street artist “5 Stars.” His graffiti can be found on many walls in Havana, especially in Centro Habana, the municipality (borough) bordering Habana Vieja to the west. Some of his artwork can be viewed on the Facebook page for 5stars.


We hope you have enjoyed this look at public art in Havana. Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. The last post will provide general impressions of Cuba, based on our look into Cuba’s history and motivated by what we saw during our short time in Havana. If you want to catch up on previous posts, please read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 8: Leaving Cuba

Cuban Diary: A Few of Hemingway’s Bars

Cuban Diary: Vintage Cars

Cuban Diary: Night Photography

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Caridad got up at 6 am again, but Lazaro was up frequently in the night. Something from yesterday did not agree with his stomach. Caridad is not optimistic that breakfast here will help. Just before leaving the room, Lazaro banged his head on the towel rack in the bathroom and we had to clean up the blood and bandage his head before leaving. On the way to breakfast, Lazaro exchanged $40 USD for 34.80 CUC.

The breakfast buffet appeared to be replenished. The baguettes were only slightly stale, and there were complete rows of cheese slices. We stuck with boiled egg, baguette, dates, pineapple slices (the tough core had not been cut out), orange juice (not bad), and coffee (good). It was also easy to find a table for two inside the restaurant.

We were ready for the bus well before 9 am, but the bus was late. This morning our first stop was a 90 minute workshop (discussion) with Dr. Marta Nunez on “Education and Cuban Society Today.” She is a PhD sociologist (retired) and she spoke at length on homophobia and other sexual identity problems in Cuba. She also spoke about women’s problems, specifically, that women are still expected to keep house and raise children in addition to their full time jobs, even though the Cuban marriage vows specify that husband and wife will share these family tasks equally. Men, on the other hand, are raised to be macho and never trained how to do housework. The birth rate in Cuba is slightly over 1 child per family, partly because women have no time for more children and partly because abortion is legal and prevalent as birth control. She answered questions thoughtfully. It was a good session. (The photos above were taken on the main level of the building where we met.)

One of our group asked what would happen if she walked into a men’s room, assuming she self-identified as male. The guide said she would be escorted to a ladies’ room, because that is what she looks like. Cuba does not yet have a law that would allow her to use the men’s room. 

On the way to our next scheduled activity, we made an unplanned stop (at the request of a tour group member) at the government-run Marina Hemingway, Cuba’s largest marina. (The only relationship to Ernest Hemingway is the use of his name.) This is the marina that foreign pleasure boats must enter, rather than Havana harbor. Originally, the marina, named the Marina Barlovento Complex, was built (beginning in 1953) with docks for the yachts of resident property-owners. However, the marina was nationalized as part of the revolution in 1959 and renamed Marina Hemingway. Hosting many nautical events, the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba (HIYC of Cuba), founded on May 21, 1992, also holds races here.

Next we took the bus to the home of the acclaimed Cuban artist Jose Fuster. He has filled his small house and yard (and his neighbors’ walls) with ceramic sculptures and murals. We were welcomed by his oldest son. There were other artists-in-training there, also. The best mural, in Caridad’s opinion, was on a second story wall and represented Noah’s ark. After we looked around for about 20 minutes, lunch was served in a small pavilion in his front yard. The lunch consisted of bread, squash with onions, salad, chicken, fish fillets, rice, black beans, and a flaky pastry (resembling a moon pie, except square) for dessert.

Following lunch, we toured the National Bellas Artes, a museum of Cuban Art. We were taken around by a young woman who described many rooms of art. We saw works by several artists as their styles evolved over time, as influenced by the revolution. There were two artists who (according to the guide) were representing their repression as homosexuals. In Caridad’s opinion, one of these artists had just painted plain old pornography. The tour ended abruptly (our time was up), so we tipped the guide and headed back downstairs. Caridad looked in the gift shop for a postcard with a painting by Pedro Pablo Oliva, who, she thought, had the best paintings, but there was none. Maybe Caridad can find out something more about that artist when she gets back home. (Photography was not permitted in this museum. Also, we were not permitted to view the pre-Revolutionary art, which supposedly includes works by Rubens, Murillo and Goya.)

Line of 1950s cars

Heading back to the hotel, the bus stopped for 10 minutes near a long line of old cars so that we could get off the bus and take photos. We two sat in a 1952 Chevy convertible while the owner took pictures of us. He said it had the original engine.

The bus then took us back to the hotel to freshen up. After blogging, it was nap time.

Ship in Havana Harbor

Around 7:15, the bus arrived to take us to dinner. Driving past the Havana Harbor, we saw an interesting ship (pictured above). This is where the first cruise ship to visit Cuba was anchored last week.

Our dinner was at Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco, a micro-brewery. (We did not tour the facility,  but the large vats and other apparatus were clearly visible.) The restaurant placed two two-liter tubes of beer on the table (one light, one dark) and diners helped themselves from the taps. The dark variety seemed to be more popular. The appetizer was a salad of shredded cabbage with a few very thin slivers of cucumber and a few toothpick-sized pieces of carrot. The entree was a mound of white rice (more than a cup), about a quarter cup of a cooked cabbage mixture, and perhaps 3 ounces of shredded beef. Dessert was shredded coconut in sweetened milk, followed by a tiny cup of espresso (though twice the volume of espressos we have been served elsewhere). The food all tasted good. While we ate, a band played Cuban music, and after the performance they sold CDs of their music to several group members.

On the way back to the hotel, the bus dropped six of the group to go to a bar that Hemingway frequented, where there would be music and dancing. The rest of us continued back to the hotel. We have an 8:30 start tomorrow, the earliest yet. Lazaro is still trying to get over what appears to be food poisoning from yesterday and needs a good night’s sleep.

The smell of cigarettes is very strong in the room tonight. One group member thinks that someone is smoking in another room and the smoke travels from that window into hers and ours. The windows do not close all the way. She also is sick from something she ate yesterday.

And so to bed.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Salvador Dali – Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Heads or Facial Features

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Heads or Facial Features (Human or Animal)

Salvador Dali at Stravinsky Fountain

This is a photograph of graffiti (or street art) on the side of a building at Place Igor Stravinsky, beside the Stravinsky Fountain and near the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The image is of Salvador Dali.

This photo was taken in February, 2015.

National Gallery Sculpture Garden

The National Gallery of Art maintains the 6.1 acre National Gallery Sculpture Garden on the National Mall. The plantings are American species of trees, shrubs, perennials, and ground cover. At the center of the garden is a large ornamental pool with sequenced water fountains. (In the winter, this pool is a skating rink open to the public.)  Around the pool is a courtyard edged by long concrete benches.

Between the pool area and the decorative fence enclosing the entire garden are  21 large sculptures among the plantings. Our favorites of these sculptures are pictured below.

Roy Lichtenstein, House I

For more information, visit the official website for the National Gallery Sculpture Garden at