Sometimes you don’t even have to open a door to go inside. In Funchal—the capital city of Madeira—I penetrated the mind of the Portuguese painter by examining Door Art Funchal. Walking down an alley in Old Town (Zona Velha), I discovered a riot of color, character and circus on parade. I produced this video of the door art on my FemaleSoloTrek YouTube channel.
Picture if you will a narrow street filled with some chairs and a table where you can enjoy a meal of fresh seafood caught that day. You then see a mermaid with copper and teal scales and ginger curly hair sitting in a lagoon on a wooden door near where you sit. She is life-sized and aquatic.
The dreamy expression on her face invites you to ponder the realm below. I think of T. S. Eliot’s poem from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: “We have lingered in the chambers of the sea /By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/ Till human voices wake us, and we drown.”
You then turn your head to look further down the street and you see a succession of painted doors. It is an outdoor art museum on steroids. Discover Madeira describes it as a stimulus. Madeira Amazing advises don’t miss Rua de Santa Maria.
Funchal once had a bad reputation so tourists were advised to ignore it. But then in 2010, with the support of the local government, local artists were able to put a fresh coat of paint on a bad neighborhood.
Here are my Top 10 favorite door art (aka “painted doors”) for Door Art Funchal in Zona Velha.
I love the whimsy of the young mermaid sitting on a swing in the water, her back turned away from us. Part fish/part female, she hypnotizes. A dolphin swims over to be petted. The vibrancy of the sapphire blue background pulls you underwater with her.
This door will you make you have to puzzle out all the aquatic images that predominate including the anchor, merman, mermaid and sailing vessel—all symbols of Portugal’s sailing history. I particularly enjoyed the calligraphy style border that edged the door.
Girl & Cat Door
Introspection is on full display here with an brunette girl and her black kitten closeted away. The feline looks so real staring out the window that I want to reach down and pet her. I wonder why the young girl seems so sad.
There is something so playful about this farm image of the goose and the gander. The artist chose to go with a black etching which is so stark yet real against the enamel white page background. I think he was also playful to choose to paint only one chick in yellow!
Skeleton Man Door
I am not sure what is happening with door but the image reminds me of a skeleton. I love the starkness of the image – just black and gold. This is a riveting example of Door Art Funchal.
Woman In Green Eye Shadow Door
This mural reminds of the eyes on the iconic cover of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. They are all-knowing. I swear this woman was watching me walking down the street. She knows things.
Corn on the Cob Door
It was perfect how the door at unit 55 bedecked with modern yellow flowers was situated next to the door painted with corn on the cobs in blue silhouette. I would feel very thankful eating at the table nearby draped in green tablecloth counting my blessings!
Dona Maria Door
I feel like this painting harkens to the Fado singers famous in Lisbon singing of their woes. The woman’s ruby red lips contrasts with the all-black etching of a woman who is crying as she tells her story.
This door begs you to go inside. But you may be surprised what you find. The sidewalk is a multi-color tile walkway that leads upwards the mountains, sky, dove and sun above. I wonder if the painter meant to suggest that Madeira was the inspiration for the imaginary island described in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia: “Nobody owns anything but everyone is rich – for what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind, and freedom from anxiety?”
City on a Hill Door
I spent a lot of time during my two days exploring Door Art Funchal and climbing up and down the city’s hills. Believe me, this is a city where you easily walk 20,000 steps a day, usually on an incline. This painting captures the way the homes seem to tumble down the mountain side.
Black Cat Door
While this door painting didn’t make my top 10 list, it did capture my attention as there is a little black cat sitting in the corner. This was the second black cat who was painted on a door. I like how the artists celebrate felines in their work in their Door Art Funchal.
I’ve spent a lot of time spotlighting Funchal’s door art on Pinterest. Often the art painted a story about Funchal’s history as a people. I found it exuberant and playful.
I also loved how the local artists often took over an entire block to paint their street art. Even when a buildings were in a state of deterioration, the vibrant sweep of the painter’s brush transformed the exterior.
Thought Provoking Art
As readers of my blog know, I delight in cities and towns where I find street art. Even though the art might not be a permanent installation (as is the case in an art gallery), the street art (and door art) help to brighten an alley or enliven a dark corner of the neighborhood. Where are some of your favorite places to see street art? Why does it stick with you?
“Art is subjective. What might be beautiful to one person might be low-brow to another, but it’s hard to deny that even though these pieces of art have been put on walls, doors, city streets, and in abandoned buildings, they aren’t meaningful, thought provoking, or beautiful.” (Source: www.Ranker.com)
The “Art of the Open Doors” program helps to exhibit the different styles and proclivities of local artists. The gentrified area then attracted new restaurants, poncho bars and craft stores that helped to further enliven the Old Town and attract visitors.
P.S. Comments (or emails) are welcome!