“La Sonrisa del Alma” – Art, amigos, and appreciation

Noah Heil
October 16, 2017
El Río Darro, watercolor and pen on paper 2017

October 12th marks la Fiesta Nacional de España, which celebrates when Columbus landed in the New World in 1492. The holiday is not enthusiastically or widely celebrated in Spain and is thankfully mostly overshadowed by the feast day of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which begins a weeklong festival of religious festivities and is recognized by the Spanish Civil Guard as a national holiday. While many of the students in my program utilized a day off from school to spend the long weekend traveling, most of my trips to other places in Europe are planned for later in the semester. Sooo, this means that I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last couple weekends in Granada, with friends from home who have come to visit me!


This past weekend, one of my mejor amigas who is studying in Denmark this semester had a week long break, so she decided to come to Spain (because why wouldn’t she?). The first night that she arrived, one of the orientadores in my program brought a few of us students to an art exhibition in el centro neighborhood of the city, and was kind enough to invite my friend as well. As a small group, we went to the show called “La sonrisa del alma – Cada vida es una historia,” (or “The Smile of the Soul – Each Life is a Story”). In the exhibit, Ukrainian artist HB presents a positive vision of the process that thousands of refugees go through, aiming to capture the humanity and reality of a group often regarded with various negative stigmas and stereotypes. Men, women, and children all appear as subjects in his paintings, from childlike cartoon sketches to almost photorealistic renditions of faces. These disparities are held together through this talented artist’s unique painting style and obvious passion that is poured into the process of making his works. In this collection, HB wishes to draw attention to “el optimismo y la alegría de vivir, a pesar de las circunstancias desfavorables” (or, “the optimism and the joy of living, despite unfavorable circumstances”), as described in the description of the show.



One painting in particular in the show really struck me. It is entitled “Frondoso,” which means “leafy” or “overgrown.” It contains a figure sitting on a ledge, with a bunch of ramas where their head should be. Under the ledge where they sit are water-like ripples, and the painting seems to be conveying an almost desperately hopeless situation of fishing for an orange that has fallen from the “head” of branches. It stands out from the rest of the pieces in the show. Like the other paintings, it contains bright colors and does not not appear immediately somber. However, there seems to be more of a darker side concealed under the drips of paint and brushstrokes in this piece. I almost see it as a type of warning that the artist is trying to convey. I feel like maybe he is trying to say that to focus too much attention on the inevitable is impractical; rather, one should focus on the positive aspect of even seemingly dark situations to truly get a glimpse of what life is like. At least this is my interpretation, I have noooo idea if that is what HB was actually going for when he created this piece. But when you think about it, this show in general presents a unique manner of dealing with an emotionally heavy issue. Situations such as the current European migrant crisis are not and should not be taken lightly. However, looking beyond the bad and focusing on the good in each individual person, even if only for a moment in a small painting exhibition, is kind of amazingly powerful. I really respect this approach and love that a place such as Granada chooses to have shows like this. I find this aspect of the culture in Granada and in Spain quite touching – the unique authenticity and beauty of people unapologetically expressing the good in the world, within the bad which inevitably exists. I recommend that anyone (who is currently in Granada jaja) who wants to see this show go; it is up at La Sede de la Fundación Euroárabe on la calle San Jerónimo until the 27th of October. Here is a link with some more information if you want to check it out!




In addition to attending this moving exhibition, I spent a lot of time this past weekend showing my friend who was here around the city! I have had the fortune of getting to show two visitors from the U.S. around Granada so far, and at this point in the semester I really feel like I know what sights and stops can give them a good idea of what life is like here. From seeing the amazing vistas of the entire lit-up city from la Albayzín at night before getting tapas, to walking along the small Río Darro and painting the scenery (which you can see at the top of the page), to taking a daytrip to the nearby beach in Salobreña, to grabbing a quick falafel from Shawarma King… we’ve checked a lot off the list! It has been fun to feel actually settled enough to not necessarily be a tourist, but kinda the opposite as I tell people about my experiences and my familiarity with the city. :^) Of course I know that there is a lot I don’t already know about Granada, but hopefully future visitors will allow me to share what I will eventually learn with them! I am continuing to feel lucky lucky lucky, and overjoyed by the mark that Granada has left on me thus far.


Again, thanks for following along with my time spent here! ¡Espero que disfrutéis el blog y que continuéis leerlo en el futuro!


Hasta la próxima vez,


Noah Heil

<p>Hello! I am the type of person who always likes to keep busy and having fun. I am a Minnesota native and go to school about a 45 minute drive from where I grew up. Recently, my summers have been spent traveling around in the United States; for the last two years, I have spent the entire summer in Vermont working as a camp counselor and as an art teacher. I love being surrounded by wilderness and natural beauty, with quick and easy access to more 'urban' life and culture nearby. I love working with and mentoring kids, particularly having the opportunity to get them interested and invested in visual arts. Aside from these recent happenings in my life, I like dancing and singing in the shower, meeting new people, and making things!</p>

2017 Fall
Home University:
Macalester College
Northfield, MN
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