Yesterday I showed you pictures of this pretty little church in Pineola, North Carolina. What I didn’t tell you is that it was raining sideways when we arrived and that we had to wait it out to snap a few pictures.
While we were sitting in the car, I glanced over at a shelter house on the church property and could see what appeared to be an angel praying.
I sat there for a while before asking my friend if she could see it too. Haha. I sort of didn’t trust my own eyes!
Turns out, it is a larger than life angel carved from wood. The artist took great care in the details including the texture of her hair and wings.
I was fascinated by her and overcome with wonder at why she is here. She is simply sitting at the edge of this shelter house surrounded by picnic tables and a grill. It’s like someone put her there temporarily and forgot to come back for her.
It made me both sad that she’s seemingly being neglected in this spot and spectacularly happy that she exists in the first place.
These small discoveries are the reason why I keep exploring. You never know what you might find!
The local library here hosted a Pysanky workshop this weekend. This is a Ukrainian egg decorating technique that uses dye and wax. They tend to use traditional folk designs that are intricate and colorful.
Our instructor has 39 years of experience with this mind boggling art form because her Ukrainian grandmothers taught her beginning at a young age. Her skills and patience are admirable.
We were first given egg shapes on paper to sketch our designs in pencil. Crayons were used to experiment with the palette and inspiration came from books and an assortment of eggs she had on display. Once we had our ideas together, we chose an egg and were armed with a lit candle, block of wax and a little tool used to draw on the egg with the wax.
Given my obsession with sunflowers last summer, it was logical to do something with a sunflower pattern. Not only is the sunflower the national flower of Ukraine, it’s a captivating example of how imperfections can be beautiful. I strolled through three sunflower fields last summer and my favorite flowers were the ones that were flawed.
Here’s my egg.
It is incredibly flawed and the sunflower imperfect but I’m still quite proud of how it turned out. I love the palette I chose and the design too. The execution leaves a lot to be desired as working with wax on a real egg shell is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.
All the same, I managed to get it done and had fun in the process. It now is in a place of honor on my bookshelf, a pretty reminder that enjoying the creative process can be as rewarding as the outcome. Also a reminder that perfection is overrated and that imperfections can be beautiful.
I suspect and hope that this was not my last attempt. I will count on trying it again someday.
Dayton is currently hosting an exhibition called Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo was an Italian sculptor, painter, poet and architect who created many iconic works of art during a period we call the High Renaissance. One of his best known commissions is the interior of the Sistine Chapel in Rome which he competed during the early sixteenth century.
The ceiling is a shallow barrel vault at 118 feet long and 46 feet wide. In other words, it is huge and it is covered in absolutely gorgeous art. The paintings tell stories from the Book of Genesis including God’s creation of Adam, David conquering Goliath, Noah’s family and many others that were less familiar to me.
I studied Michelangelo in a college art history class but that was many years ago so I felt like a clean slate, learning as my audio tour covered the Biblical stories, the works of art and their relevance to a sixteenth century audience.
My favorite was this depiction of Ezekiel who has turned quickly to look behind him when he is interrupted. He was engrossed in his reading and evidently didn’t appreciate the disruption. We giggled because this seems so relatable to any bookworm trying to read in public. Essentially, this is me in the lunchroom at work.
The exhibit consists of images of each painting printed on life sized posters that line the walls.
It’s shocking to me to think that someone actually painted these enormous creations on a ceiling while lying on scaffolding over a period of years. About four years, to be exact. I keep thinking that I would be tired of the color scheme or my own choices after just a few months. Devoting years to the same series on a ceiling would be exhausting. After all, it’s not like painting on the ground where you can easily take a step back and view your work.
Perhaps I’ll see the real thing someday but, for now, this was something fun to see close to home.
If you go, there are a few things to know. The audio tour gives in depth stories behind each work while signs at each painting give the bare details. Those audio scripts are interesting but long so it will take hours to get through if you listened to every one.
The exhibit is located in an old Elder Beerman store at Fairfield Commons Mall. They seriously lack adequate signage to get you there. Look for the seemingly abandoned anchor storefront on the second level of the mall. There are signs on the door when you finally get there but they aren’t visible from across the parking lot.
The vacant store is cavernous but they chose to use a fraction of the space. So the posters are packed in the space, almost touching. That means there are clumps of people everywhere and social distancing isn’t really a thing. If you’re nervous about crowds and illness, this may not be the place for you.
I recently sat through a webinar with author and art historian Kristine Hardeberg. She’s from Norway and has an easy approach to helping students understand art. In fact, she believes in understanding art on an intellectual level but encourages simply viewing and feeling what you feel as well.
This webinar gave a 10,000 foot view of thousands of years of fine art. She talked about what was happening in the world and what to look for in the art of the period. She focused some on the Impressionists as a preview to a paying course she is selling right now.
After lingering near Impressionistic paintings in museums for years, I still never really knew much about their origins so I was delighted for her insight.
The rise of this style of painting actually accompanied the rise of photography. Cameras made it possible to capture realistic images, particularly portraits of wealthy people who had long been patrons of the arts. Since this new technology could capture a realistic scene, some artists were inspired to experiment. Rather than duplicate what they saw, they wanted to create an impression of what they saw and used light, motion and color to do so.
In a nutshell, these early painters of this late nineteenth century movement were renegades and rule breakers. They stepped away from the traditional rules of academic painting and constructed their paintings freely, allowing color to take precedence over lines and contours.
The critics hated it.
This movement began in Paris where artists like Claude Monet abandoned stuffy studios to paint outside. Kristine said that they wanted to get outside, breathe the air and capture the light as it illuminated the world quickly and before it faded.
“They wanted to paint the world as it is right now,” she said.
That meant they worked quickly and focused on the present in a way that had not been done before. She showed us paintings of the sea that evoked all the senses. I could almost smell the salt air and feel it on my face. I could hear the lapping waves and feel the sand in my toes. It was a taste of a summer day captured 150 years ago.
No one wanted to show these artists’ work because they thought it was silly and rudimentary. One critic compared it to a child’s work.
This painting “Impression, Sunrise“ by Monet actually inspired the name Impressionists.
Kristine said a critic actually began calling these painters Impressionists as a criticism, a taunt. He was making fun of them but they loved it and the name stuck.
If you are fortunate enough to stand before one of these paintings in a museum, stand close and study what you see. It’s all color and globs of paint.
Now take a step back. Close your eyes and open them slowly.
Kristine encouraged us to play pretend.
Pretend that you’re just waking up. You know that moment when you’re still drowsy and slowly opening your eyes? The world is a bit blurry but your senses are still absorbing sound, smell and light.
That’s what the Impressionists are all about. It’s a glimpse of an instant and it’s lovely.
Ironically, the Impressionists have gained steam over the decades and are among the most sought after works in most museums. I snapped this picture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington while tourists were lining up for pictures. It’s incredible seeing people so excited about art.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
After work on Friday, I took some roads I had never been on and ended up at St Mary’s Catholic Cemetery on the outskirts of Lancaster.
Cemeteries are often home to some impressive pieces of art and architecture in the form of mausoleums and statuary. This gem caught my eye and I had to get a closer look.
Isn’t she magnificent? She looks over the final resting place of Army Captain George E. Blaire who died in May 1894.
There are a few interesting pieces here but the angel is hands down my favorite. I am constantly astounded by an artist’s ability to envision such a thing in a block of marble or stone and that they are able to give their ideas life with such exquisite lines and powerful emotions.
Notice how realistic her facial features and hair are. Also pay attention to the folds of fabric around her knee. She is even more magnificent in person.
Here are a few more images from a quick look around.
All of these pieces are larger than life and beautifully done.