See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. - James 5:7

Saturday, December 06, 2008

St. Nicholas Day




The miracle worker.

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The image of Santa Claus shown above is by Wm. Holbrook Beard. It is one of my favorite images of Santa, and is directly inspired by the miracles of St. Nicholas of Bari, whose feast we celebrate today. Santa as we know him is forever linked to the great wonder-worker St. Nicholas, the early Christian bishop from Myra, now Turkey. (He is also known as "of Bari" in Italy because his tomb is there, where his relics continue to produce miracles, and even exude a miraculous fluid.)

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Images of Santa propelled through the air have been inspired by Christian iconography, depicting St. Nicholas performing the miracles that were attributed to him. One of the Saint's attributes is that he is revered as the patron of sailors, since he saved many from shipwreck amidst storms at sea - hence, painters illustrating the prodigy have St. Nicholas appearing in mid-air surrounded by a brilliant comet-like light, blessing the unfortunate sailors and thereby rescuing them. In these depictions, the Saint appears to be flying through the air - hence the vision of Santa and his reindeer flying over the rooftops.

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The secretive distribution of gifts is also inspired by the miracles of the Saint. With tender compassion for the poor, and in order to save three young virgins from being forced into prostitution because of their father's poverty and inability to provide a dowry, the Holy Nicholas came to the family's aid. Under cover of night, the Saint placed three bags of gold - enough for each maiden's dowry - in through a window of the house, and in the morning, they rejoiced over the gifts which guaranteed their freedom from a miserable life.

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Incidentally, few people ever bothered to learn what happened to the girls St. Nicholas rescued. Well I looked into it and found out that two of them did indeed get married. But the other, who had a bit of a weight problem, turned out to be a lesbian who decided to use the money for school. So she left home and traveled to NYC. When she got there she changed her mind and decided to do stand-up comedy instead. She also did a little acting, and eventually landed herself a talk show... which failed. Then she went on The View, but she screwed that up too. Finally she did a special on NBC - which really flopped - and now she lives in obscurity someplace in suburban Long Island, or Connecticut, or Florida - something like that. (I actually made this part up.)

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Anyway. Happy St. Nicholas day.
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Visit this site for a more complete story of St. Nicholas.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Heavenly gifts...



Or almost.
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Abbey-Roads recommends online shopping at monk e-gifts. All the product is made by monks and nuns around the United States. How cool is that? I think I may order the Illuminated Lettering Kit.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Christmas Card: Attempt #1

St. Francis at Greccio.
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I don't know if it is too plain and cold for a proper Christmas card? The scan is bad of course - in reality the colours are softer, and the wreath is not cut off. Perhaps if I added a thin gold edging to the composition it would be enough to enrich the card.
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(The figure is after a painting attributed to Antonio Carracci)

What I am doing today.



And what I'm thinking about.

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I'm making Christmas card designs today. Not to send - just to make them. I love Christmas and Christmas things - but not all together at once. For some reason, Christmas season - or the preparation for it - seems to me to be a time to make things. So I'm making things and looking at creative stuff to post.

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I decided I don't want to post negative things anymore, and I'm not going to be so critical anymore either. (I hope! I never trust myself and my resolutions.) I don't want to tell people how to live their lives anymore either. It seems to me everyone just tries to do their best and in the end we find out if we did or not. Life is hard enough without me harping on things.

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I went to the Dr. yesterday. It was a short visit because I have no insurance and I have lost most of my savings in the crash, recession, depression, what have you. At the end of the visit he asked if there was anything more I wanted to do about some issues I have, and I said "No, I will just take the medication I need and let the rest play out." I have the nicest Dr. in the world.

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Anyway - let's not be mean to one another any longer.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A few of my favorite things...

Ornament.
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Over the years I have collected antique repousse, ornament for furniture and trophies and other object d'art. I used these things for my own decorative art - often on painted boxes and eggs that I sold over the years. Today I only have scraps of what had been a fairly large inventory, collected in Europe, and flea markets in the U. S. - they remain little treasures I take out from time to time to admire.
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My apologies for the poor quality of the scan, and I mixed categories by inserting a crest from an old blazer - the rest of the collection is brass or bronze, often with a gold wash (gold d'ore). (Click photo to enlarge.)

Making a screen.

A design idea easy to replicate.
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In the background of this lovely vignette is a folding screen made of old doors. Painted simply, or embelished, they could work nicely for a place apart in a large room or in a loft space. I found the photo on Tea At Trianon, from Elena's shopping spree at Chartreuse and Company, in the enchanted countryside of Frederick County, Maryland.

Retablos and Santeros

The American Icon.
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In Southwestern United States, especially New Mexico, a sacred tradition of painting exists from Spanish Colonial days. The artists are known as santeros, or saint makers. In New Mexico, most of the paintings are done on wood, some on Buffalo hide, while elsewhere in Mexico and South America they were painted on copper, tin, and canvas. The Southwestern retablos are patterned after high Baroque European religious art, reworked with lovely simplicity. Retablos are the American version of Eastern Orthodox icons, in so far as they are made according to a traditional formula, and executed with deep faith and devotion. The retablo and ex-votos associated with the art form have long been a major inspiration in my own religious and secular art. Likewise, one can see in the work of Frida Kahlo how strong an influence this art form made in her own painting.
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Catherine Robles Shaw, Santera
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An award winning santera, Catherine Robles Shaw, has a wonderful website of her work, which is remarkably affordable as well. This is what she has to say regarding the art of retablo:
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"As a Santera (Saint Maker), I hope to preserve some of the unique traditions of my Hispanic culture. Retablos are the story tellers of my ancestors. They are the natural extension of the beauty and simplicity of our Spanish lives. My husband, Michael and I aspire to represent our work with as much historic accuracy as possible.
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My first exposure to this art form came when, as a child, I visited the churches in the San Luis Valley. My family had been among the first settlers in the Conejos land grant and lived in Mogote and Las Mesitas, Colorado. After visiting old churches in Chimayo and northern New Mexico, as an adult, I came to realize the meaning of the little retablos that had been in our family. In 1991, I began making retablos for my family and friends. Then in 1995, when I was admitted into the Spanish Market, I became a full time artist." - Finish artist's statement.
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Image shown: "Retablo Screen" - Carved and painted by Catherine Robles Shaw. Visit her website for more information.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bunny Rabbit's Advent Wreath

Now this is an Advent wreath that could be in my house - I just don't do Advent wreaths however. Visit Blosterverkstad for more fun ideas.

Bunny Rabbit Christmas: The perfect wreath.

Isn't this so cool. Rabbits love sprouts.
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And I love home-made things for Christmas. I found this wreath on a great blog, "House Martin". The lady of the house links to the source for this wreath in her post, "sprouty".

Monday, December 01, 2008

Getting excited about Christmas!


The rabbits and I have already started decorating and having our special treats - but just on Sundays - because it's Advent you know.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My online art show.



Best In Show.

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Two of my "white" friends stopped by today. I asked if they had seen my art show and they said yes. Then I said, "Well, what did you think?" They replied, "I have never seen anything like it." They are so darn cute and polite. But that was really a compliment of sorts, because it meant that my work was not as derivative as I had feared.

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It really doesn't matter what people think because I was having more fun than anything. Yep - I was serious - but I was having a blast giving myself permission to be mental enough just to create. I also must say I was very surprised and deeply appreciative of those of you who commented and enjoyed the show along with me. The real treat is to study the work after it is enlarged enough to see detail and technique.

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The piece above is my personal choice for "Best in show". It is "The Fool". I chose it because it is so aboriginal - and the detail amazes me. (Click on it to see detail.) It is my "Aboriginal Icon".

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Thanks again to all who commented. Other friends I spoke to let me know they appreciate my representational art and religious art more, and I appreciate that. Anyway - this was my Holiday gift to my readers - I hope to have a smaller show as my Christmas gift to you next - if I get the work scanned that is.

Sacred Icons From Yaroslavl, Russia

A little bit of heaven at The Museum of Russian Art.
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Saturday I finally visited The Museum of Russian Art. It has been opened since 2002 and is only about four blocks from my house. The Museum is housed in a completely renovated Spanish Colonial style former church. It is an amazing space, beautifully restored and updated with state of the art lighting, the second level of gallery space being a suspended glass enclosed balcony surrounding the open interior.
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I finally made my pilgrimage in order to view the collection of icons from Yaroslavl. The exhibition happens to be the one and only show outside of Russia of this particular school of Russian iconography. The collection arrived in Minneapolis directly from Russia, and will return there after the exhibit closes.
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Writing or painting?
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I once prided myself as an iconographer. I painted icons. I objected to saying one writes icons as opposed to painting them. I felt it was pretentious. As it was, Orthodox believers told me a non-Orthodox (a person not a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church) could not paint, much less write icons. Our "icons" were simply paintings. That said - I continued to believe I painted icons. Eventually I tired of the "snob-ism" associated with the art and turned to my own style of painting, influenced by Spanish Colonial style religious art. I even sold many of my antique icons from Russia (18th - 19th century) - indeed, they were "real" icons, yet none bigger than 12" x 15".
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Yesterday, coming face to face with these "real" icons from Yaroslavl - icons of great size - some measuring at least 6' x 4' - I was stunned.
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Heaven on earth.
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The icons glistened like jewels, shimmering in the dramatic darkness of the museum. Being a former church only enhanced the sense of the sacred, walking amongst the living pages of the Bible and the company of saints, dramatically depicted in the iconography. I looked at the images quite in awe, at times feeling a sense of rapture. I understood what it was like to be an illiterate peasant, standing for the Divine Liturgy in a darkened temple... reading the icons... conversing with the saints.... enveloped by heaven; standing in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, beseeching the Most Holy Mother of God, Joy of all who sorrow, and experiencing the grace of God surrounded by angelic choirs and "sharing the lot of the saints in light".
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Do yourself a favor, and visit the museum for the Christmas season. I can think of no other excursion more spiritually and aesthetically gratifying in this special season of Advent and Christmas. Visit the museums website for more details - they have an incredible gift shop as well. Go to: Russian Museum - location and information.
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Image: "Mother of God, Joy of all who sorrow" from "Transcendent Art: Icons from Yaroslavl, Russia."
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Russian Museum website: http://www.tmora.org/index.html
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Visit another icon museum here: Museum of Russian Icons, Clinton, MA
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[By the way, I realized I have never painted or written an icon - I just naively tried to paint in that style. How good it is to be humbled.]