I had to get out of New York. It had been nearly three weeks of intense work and sleepless nights preparing my artwork for ArtRio, one of Latin America’s largest art fairs and the reason I was traveling to Rio de Janeiro in the first place. Although it was my first time visiting Brazil, the stress and anxiety of a rapidly approaching deadline drowned out any sense of anticipation and excitement. After a chaotic and dramatically epic departure I sighed with relief as our plane left the ground. All of the concerns that led to this madness slowly faded from view.
When we awoke our first morning in Brazil, my wife Cecilia and I found ourselves lying together on a small bed in the room that would be home for the next ten days. We took the advice of a friend and stayed at a delightful little bed and breakfast located in Copacabana on Rua Francisco Sa, a half block from the bordering town of Ipanema. It was here that we first experienced the kindness and generosity of the “carioca” spirit, which accompanied us everywhere we went– on the streets, in the market, at the bars, in the cabs and on the train. The compassion and warmth around us was quickly melting my hardened New Yorker facade.
It was mid-September and the air was dry and pleasant as we wandered through Ipanema to the beach. The large palm trees crowding the narrow streets cast gorgeous silhouettes onto the pale surfaces of the surrounding buildings. Our spirits were light and became lighter as we walked, stopping periodically along the way for a refreshing “Brama” beer or two. When my feet finally reached the sand it felt soft as flour as it slid softly between my toes. The sand merged seamlessly into the miles of moving flesh and colors swarming above it. Squinting my eyes under the bright noonday sun, the entire landscape appeared like a sea of voluptuous forms. As I dove into the cool ocean water, I felt the last residues of stress and tension wash off of me like dry scales.
As night fell, we wandered to the far end of the beach, climbing up to sit on a large rock formation that offered an exquisite view of the city and many of the local landmarks. To our left the lights of the Vidigal (favela)—located at the base of the Dois Irmaos (the two brothers mountain)—shimmered like jewels as a thin crescent moon hung delicately in the evening sky. Above us, glowing in the distance, the eternal Cristo Redentor stood high above the Corcovado. The sea stretched out to the right of us and the lights left bright spots on the dark horizon. I promised myself at that quiet moment to carry within me the “spirit of the carioca” and when I returned home or whereever I was to shine this light to the world.