Part 3: Musings on Rio

While it is not cultivated nature, I’m going to talk about the Escadaria Selaron in Lapa. It is a steep staircase of 250 steps covered in brightly colored tiles. It’s truly astonishing. It is the work of the late Chilean artist Jorge Selaron who started it in 1990. Originally, he had no budget and found what materials he could. Eventually, it transformed into the bright bold staircase that it is today. It has gained some fame: a Fanta commercial was filmed there.

Staircase Elisa Shoenberger 2013
Elisa Shoenberger 2013

The staircase is a riot of color. The base color is bright red but there are bursts of green, yellow, and blue. At the very top, there is a wonderful Brazilian flag made from tiles. (But it’s a hike up there!). There are tiles from all over the world: Afghani tiles with beautiful Arabic script, a tile with  famous phase “Don’t Mess with Texas,” Argentine soccer clubs and much more. Each flight of stairs has a pattern of tiles. The artist also has made several tiles that are self-portraits of himself as a black pregnant woman with a moustache.

Brazilian flag detail Elisa Shoenberger 2013
Brazilian flag detail
Elisa Shoenberger 2013

The first time I went to the staircase was on a trip with students. It was a bit of a wild goose chase. One of my friends found a book of pictures in his hotel room and saw the staircase in it. He wanted to go; I wanted to adventure. So we made off from the center with my poor Portuguese to find it. We wandered to and fro, wandering behind the aqueduct and pyramid-shaped Cathedral. Eventually, we got the right directions and came across this spectacular staircase. I think I saw the drawings of Selaron in front of his house. He apparently lived there and continued to make art.

Sadly, Jorge Selaron was found dead on the stairs in 2012. Thank you Jorge Selaron for this amazing piece you put together.


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