Igor Stravinsky said that harpists “spend ninety percent of their lives tuning up their harps and the other ten percent playing out of tune”. I guess Igor was a perfectionist with very high standards. Or he just had an issue with harpists 😛

Today’s “Music Monday” is dedicated to the harp, an instrument that is often associated with a soloist at a wedding ceremony; a beautiful bride walks down the aisle, flowers strewn about, as a harpist gently plucks “Here Comes the Bride”. But there is nothing lightweight about the harp’s history . It is, in fact, the oldest known stringed instrument. The origin of the harp dates back to Egypt in 2000 BC, or possibly earlier than that in the Mesopotamia region. Depictions of the harp can be found in ancient cave paintings and tombs.

What distinguishes the harp from other stringed instruments is that the strings on a harp run perpendicular to the soundboard instead of parallel, such as on a violin, lute, etc. This perpendicular string construction is the distinct harp feature. Some stringed instruments are referred to as “harps” but are not really true harps, but rather lyres, lutes, zithers, etc.

A Girl Playing a Harp by Henri Lebasque:

From ancient times up to the modern era, harp versions have existed in just about every part of the world, from Asia to Africa, to Europe and Latin America. Harps evolved from a bow-shaped design to the upright triangular structure we are familiar with in the concert harps of today. Sharp and flat notes are achieved through the use of levers or pedals, depending on the style of harp.

I found this marvelous image on the Wikipedia page for harp. The file description tells us that this is a section of a mosaic tile floor pavement excavated in Iran in the 1940s, and dates back to 260 AD. I love the way the shape of the harp looks next to the shape of the figure. I bet even Stravinsky would like this one:

The harp is especially beloved in Celtic history and culture and remains a symbol of traditional Irish music. The 14th century poet Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh wrote an adoring poem entitled “To a Harp”. Here is one stanza:

O choice instrument of the smooth, gentle curve,
thou that criest under red fingers,
musician that hast enchanted us,
red harp, high-souled, perfect in melody.

The Austrian artist Raphael Kirchner was known mainly for his postcard illustrations during the Art Nouveau period and erotic “pin up” style depictions of women. He did a beautiful job here with a woman playing her harp:

The harp possesses an ethereal, mystic quality, which explains its significant presence in mythology and lore. It’s the instrument of gods and goddesses and angels, and the sounds of its strings have attended human civilization for millennia.

Our harp audio selection comes not from Stravinsky but George Frederic Handel. This is Harp Concerto in B flat, Opus 4, performed by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields:

Prince and the Birds

I came home from work this afternoon to find that a huge flock of migratory blackbirds had invaded my property. What a commotion. They were squawking and yapping, flying and flitting, poking and scavenging, strutting on the ground and perching up in the treetops, flaunting their shiny black feathers, and effectively taking over my garden like a gang of pillagers and plunderers. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. They were everywhere! It was something out of a Hitchcock movie. Naturally I wanted to take a picture of the noisy, marauding band of birds. But the second I opened the window they took off – every last one of them, in unison, flying away in the direction of the park. Boo hoo 😦

Disappointed, I started to put the lens cap on my camera when I noticed my cat Prince nestled in his favorite spot by the flowerpots. He’s really camouflaged in that corner, and he must have been there the whole time during the bird flock craziness. “Prince! I see you there, baby!” Off came the lens cap. I figured if I couldn’t get the picture of the birds I could at least take pictures of another living creature who was a regular garden resident. But I don’t think Prince was in the mood for a photo session. I can read this cat’s mind. So here are his thoughts accompanied by my pictures:

“I’m trying to chill out here. First those crazy birds were making all kinds of racket, and now you’re pointing a camera at me from the house. Can I be left alone please?”

“Oh, so now you’ve moved over to the bedroom window, is that it? Trying to get closer and disturb my quiet time even more. Can’t I get a moment’s peace?”

“I’m not liking this one bit. You’re literally hanging out the window taking pictures of me! Not cool. Not cool at all.”

“I’m stretching my legs and then I’m outta here. Fuck you.”

Coming Out of the Shadows

For six years, art modeling has been my savior. Life experiences bring drama and episodes of darkness, art modeling gently brings the light. Emotional attachments stir me into a whirlwind, art modeling tames my racing emotions down to a soft simmer, so I can work, and function, and be present for others. Me, you, all of us, we must be present for others.

In my last post I referred to a tough weekend, my personal life causing turmoil, grief, and disappointment. What else is new?! How typical this has become. And though this mess is still in an unresolved state, I am still here, doing what I do, drawing strength from all aspects of art modeling- the act, the experience, the synergy, and the end results.

In recent weeks I’ve been posing for a private painting group taught by Daniel Schwartz. At one of the sessions a wonderful artist, Chris, created this work of me, and he really captured something essential. Models see ourselves often in artwork, but it’s rare when we truly SEE ourselves. I don’t mean merely in likeness and accuracy, but in a portrayal that confronts you head on with your own self. In this painting by Chris, my insides are on the outside. His perceptions reflect a certain truth, and I am “revealed” not through my nudity, but through the struggles of my heart and mind. Light and shadows. In art as in life, it’s all about light and shadows . . .

Let the Creativity Begin

Well it’s about time. After years of my artist friends encouraging me, prodding me, practically ordering me, to try some artwork myself, I’ve decided to give it a go. It’s purely for fun and experimentation, of course. Countless times artists who know me as a model have told me to pick up a brush, a pencil, a pen, a color stick, a marker, anything at all, and just do it. They don’t even care when I tell them I have no talent! 😆

This is might be a lame excuse, but it’s an excuse nevertheless. One of the reasons I haven’t been doing any creative work has been a lack of an actual work space in my home. But now I’ve taken care of that. A corner of my basement that had been previously wasted, clogged up with junk and crap, has been cleared out and set up with a table and stool. So I bought some arts and crafts supplies and now have an actual physical area in which to do work. I do think having a proper work space assists in the process and stimulates motivation, which I for one need as a kickstart. Also, the timing couldn’t be better. I had a tough, painful, emotional day yesterday and could use the creative distraction right about now to take my mind off some heartbreaking revelations.

At the crafts store I bought cardstock, stamps, and inks, for handmade cards. What I’d like is to never buy another commercial card again. I’m only doing handmade from now on. And while I was browsing at the store, I came across the cutest little watercolor set! So I bought it and figured I’d play around with it. I love watercolor anyway and I thought it would be nice to have. Today I cracked it open, set it up, unwrapped the pigments, poured my water and used a clean sheet of watercolor paper for the sole purpose of making squiggly lines. That was my modest goal, and it seems like I succeeded. Squiggly lines – done!

Watercolor demands extreme control with the brush and water distribution, and control, unfortunately, is not my strong suit. Although I did have fun with the colors! But how the hell do you make brown? Seriously. I know I sound like an idiot asking such a stupid question, but how do you make brown???

After the squiggly lines, I made this, just out of my imagination. See my river and my hills and my sky and sun? 🙂  My kit came with only one small brush but it was fairly comfortable to handle.

Now onto the awesome stuff. Check these out. These are dyed paper towels. I used liquid acrylics, and I’d like to state for the record, liquid acrylics ROCK!!! Screw oil paint. Acrylic is the shit!

I know you’re all wondering, “Why the hell is she dyeing paper towels?”. Well there is a reason, believe it or not. They’re for later, for collage. I’m going to make a bunch for future projects. Cloth towels are good too but paper towels have a nicer texture I think.

So I have some ideas and sparks of inspiration. Plus, I found great comfort in the quiet time, just for myself. I’m actually surprised at how comforting it was. Surrounded by my mediums and tools, with music on the radio keeping me company, I discovered that I really needed that time, and will turn to it again often – probably tomorrow! No pressure, no focused purpose, no artistic standards to reach or really anything to prove. I just had fun 🙂

St. Pat’s Post

I’m fairly certain that I have some Irish folk among my readership, so Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Thursday’s the big day, and I will have to navigate the city’s raucous festivities up close and personal. No, I’m not attending the parade, but my art modeling job is right on the parade route. I’m at 43rd and Fifth Avenue which, New Yorkers will know, is right in the wheelhouse. If I can just walk unmolested from the subway to the job without too many, “Heeyyy, baby, kiss me I’m Irish!!” propositions then I’ll be okay. But maybe I’ll pose with a shamrock 😆

Just a few quick notes. Check out this article in the New York Observer about the nude art market scene. And guess who that is in the picture! Also, I’d like to share with everyone the online arts and culture magazine Glasschord. They’ve put out two issues so far, “Rebirth” and “Provenance”, and they’re off to an impressive start. Glasschord publishes prose, poetry, and visual arts, and it’s definitely worth checking out. I know Greg MacAvoy, the design director, and he is a highly creative, artistic guy.

Last, but definitely not least, my dear friend Fred Hatt is celebrating his two year blogging birthday over at Drawing Life! The two year milestone is an awesome one. So big congrats to Fred!! To commemorate here on Museworthy, here’s a Fred Hatt drawing of me, in my usual state of torment, distress, and sadness. Nah, I’m kidding. It’s just a reclining pose 🙂 This was done at Figureworks Gallery.

“Life’s Maimed Imaginings”

Frankincense and Myrrh – Amy Lowell

My heart is tuned to sorrow, and the strings
Vibrate most readily to minor chords,
Searching and sad; my mind is stuffed with words
Which voice the passion and the ache of things:
Illusions beating with their baffled wings
Against the walls of circumstance, and hoards
Of torn desires, broken joys; records
Of all a bruised life’s maimed imaginings.
Now you are come! You tremble like a star
Poised where, behind earth’s rim, the sun has set.
Your voice has sung across my heart, but numb
And mute, I have no tones to answer. Far
Within I kneel before you, speechless yet,
And life ablaze with beauty, I am dumb.

Hera, by Francis Picabia, 1929:

I had to turn this post over to the poetry of Amy Lowell (one of my favorites) and the imagery of Francis Picabia, because I’m in a bit of a pissy mood. Well, maybe not pissy but moody and disconcerted. And anxious. And perturbed. I like the word “perturbed”. Eh, whatever. Maybe I’ll go shave my fucking head and give myself a nose piercing. Wouldn’t that be just splendid?


Mellow Friday and Garden Plans

Heyyyy everybody! Are you all in TGIF mode? I have the day off today which is good because I can rest my weary artist’s model’s spine. I predict some yoga will take place at some point this afternoon. I need it badly! My back is all out of alignment. Some downward-facing dog will work wonders I’m sure.

I don’t have much else to share at the moment except that I’m trying to make spring gardening plans. I feel the urge to do something different this season although I don’t know what exactly. It’s not like I have five acres of land to work with. I wish! But on the other hand, having limited space forces you to be more creative. Maybe I’ll plant different vegetables and rearrange my containers. My herb section got really out of control last year. Thyme was the culprit. I’m thinking of a small berry patch of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. I’ve had great success with strawberries in the past. I know the birds get to them and have a feast, but if they can just save me enough to have with my cereal perhaps we can share 😀

This redheaded model is ready for spring, holding a lovely vase of daffodils in Spring Flowers by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: