Love, always

Modern Declaration – Edna St. Vincent Millay

I, having loved ever since I was a child a few things, never
.  . .having wavered
In these affections; never through shyness in the houses of the
.  .  rich or in the presence of clergymen having denied these
.  .  loves;
Never when worked upon by cynics like chiropractors having
.  .  grunted or clicked a vertebra to the discredit of these
.   . loves;
Never when anxious to land a job having diminished them by
.  . a conniving smile; or when befuddled by drink
Jeered at them through heartache or lazily fondled the fingers
.  . of their alert enemies; declare

That I shall love you always.
No matter what party is in power;
No matter what temporarily expedient combination of allied
.  . interest wins the war;
Shall love you always.

Marc Chagall, Lovers under lilies:

chagall-loversunderlilies

Sport and Spirit in Brazil

After months of negative advance press about zika virus concerns and dismal reports of pollution, foiled terrorist plots, crime-ridden slums, and inadequate housing, the city of Rio de Janeiro managed to pull off a jubilant and visually dazzling opening ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics, and with a budget far less than previous host cities, like London and Beijing. Rainforests, fireworks, and the samba! It was a spirited, colorful Rio party.

So the games are well underway and I’ve really been enjoying them. The swimming and gymnastics competitions in particular have been amazing. Those are, of course, the perennially popular attractions of the summer games, but I’ve found myself glued to the TV even when watching things like water polo and archery! The precision of the archers amazes me probably because I’m the worst dart player on the planet. The worst 😆

In honor the Rio Summer Olympics, some Museworthy art by the Brazilian realist painter José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior. Born in 1850, he studied at the Academia Imperial de Belas Artes in Rio, and after a few years spent studying in Europe Almeida Júnior returned to Brazil and settled in São Paulo where he gave lessons in his studio, painted, and organized exhibitions.

I think this is one the best depictions I’ve seen of this subject, of which there are countless artistic versions. Study for Flight of the Holy Family to Egypt, 1881:

Almeida_Júnior_-_Study_for_%22Flight_of_the_Holy_Family_to_Egypt%22_-_Google_Art_Project

While adept at religious and historical themes, Almeida Júnior worked equally with regional subjects during his years in Brazil. This is Estudo para Cabeça de Caipira, 1893:

Almeida_Júnior_-_Estudo_para_cabeça_de_caipira

Nhá Chica, 1895:

Almeida-Junior-NhaChica

The Guitar Player, 1899:

Almeida_Júnior_-_The_Guitar_Player_-_Google_Art_Project

Saudade, 1899:

Almeida_Júnior_-_Saudade_(Longing)_-_Google_Art_Project

The Ladies of Liberty

I’ve always found it heartily satisfying that throughout history “liberty” is depicted as a woman. Ladies, how cool is that?🙂  From the majestically imposing figure of the Statue of Liberty that rises above New York harbor, to Eugène Delacroix’s bare-breasted French flag-waver in Liberty Leading the People, women have provided the allegorical symbol of freedom since the classical age.

One of my personal favorites is the Statue of Freedom in Washington, D.C. A 19 foot tall bronze female figure, designed by American sculptor Thomas Crawford, which stands atop the dome of U.S. Capitol building. This is one badass gal. I’d honestly like to walk around in this get-up; the sword, the eagle-feather headdress, the fringed toga. Fabulous!

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The idea to blog about this topic came to me this morning at church, when a fellow parishioner handed me the program for the day’s service. In honor of the 4th of July weekend Fr. Byrne selected this lovely vintage Lady Liberty illustration for the cover:

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The church program reminded me of this superb lithograph by Currier and Ives,  again Lady Liberty with the American flag. This is Star-Spangled Banner from the online collection of the Library of Congress. Wonderful composition.

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A stunning $20 gold coin of Lady Liberty bearing olive branch and torch, minted 1921, designed by the renowned American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. From the National Museum of American History:

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A happy Independence Day to my readers in the United States, and blessings of liberty, goodwill, and inspiration to all. Let freedom ring …

Amrita Sher-Gil

She has been called “the Indian Frida Kahlo”. To a fellow 20th century female painter with the same fearless and rebellious spirit as the Mexican icon, the moniker is no doubt a great compliment. Though her life and career were brief, Amrita Sher-Gil defied conventional norms and left a legacy as India’s most celebrated woman artist of the modern era.

AmritaSherGil

She came into the world blessed with privileged circumstances, and was reared with an Indo-European cultural identity that would shape her sensibilities as she matured. Amrita Sher-Gil was born in Budapest in 1913 to highly accomplished and well-connected parents. Her father was a Sikh aristocrat and scholar, and her mother was a Hungarian opera singer. Both of them encouraged and supported their daughter’s art education and training. The family moved to Shimla in northern India when Amrita was a child and she began creating her first artworks at the age of five. By the time she was in her teens Amrita, accompanied by her mother, was studying sculpture in Italy and, later, painting in France at the esteemed Ecole des Beaux Arts.

With the requisite formal academic training under her belt, Amrita was ready to discover her authentic voice. I find it fascinating how a young woman in the 1920s and 30s, whose experiences overlapped between the European west, British Raj, and traditional India, manages to find a sense of cultural belonging. Amrita’s fiercely independent spirit and fervent curiosity surely helped her navigate the unique cultural patchwork in which she found herself. In photos of Amrita taken during various stages of her life, she appears in some of them wearing traditional Indian dress, and in others wearing bathing suits and fashionable western clothing.

During her years in Paris, Amrita drew profound inspiration from the works of Cezanne, and post-Impressionists like Gauguin and van Gogh. Gauguin, with his subjects of native people and village life, and use of bold lines and rich palettes, became a particularly strong influence and is evident in many of Sher-Gil’s paintings.

Hungarian Gypsy Girl, 1932:

Amrita_Sher-Gil_Hungarian-gypsy-girl

One of Amrita’s most well-known works, this is Three Girls, 1935. It was her first painting upon returning to India from Europe. She wrote, “I realized my real artistic mission, to interpret the life of Indians and particularly the poor Indians pictorially; to paint those silent images of infinite submission and patience,… to reproduce on canvas the impression those sad eyes created on me.”

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Painting of Sumair, Amrita’s cousin, 1936:

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A lovely photo of a smiling Amrita with three of her paintings:

Amrita_Sher-Gil_with_3_paintings

In 1938, against her parents’ wishes, Amrita married her first cousin on the Hungarian side of her family, Victor Egan, and returned to India for good. Amrita realized that she was destined to paint in India and India alone, never having felt completely comfortable, artistically, in Europe. As she put it, “There [Europe] I was not natural and honest because I was born with a certain thirst for colour and in Europe the colours are pale – everything is pale.” The couple first settled in Uttar Pradesh, where Amrita immersed herself in painting themes of rural Indian life and the struggling poor, particularly the women and children, whom she portrayed with solemn empathy.

Hill Women:

Shergil-HillWomen

Part of Sher-Gil’s “South Indian Trilogy”, this is Bride’s Toilet, 1937:

Amrita_Sger-Gil_Bride's_Toilet

In 1941, Amrita and Victor moved to Lahore (present day Pakistan). Then, tragically, Amrita fell ill and slipped into a coma in December of that year. The cause of death is not known, although it’s been speculated to have been possibly food poisoning, peritonitis, or a botched abortion. She was only 28 years old. A woman of liberated modern mind who chose to remain artistically faithful to her indigenous roots. Frida Kahlo approves.

Portraits and Pets

My friends, it’s been far too long since we’ve had a Museworthy Art Show. Since December 2013 to be exact. We are way overdue for another one, so let’s do it! Here’s the plan: people can begin submitting works starting Memorial Day, May 30, all the way through the spring and most of the summer. Plenty of time! And by all means take your time, no rush at all. I’d like to publish the show post around mid-August, at which time the post will stay at the top of Museworthy while I take a little blogging break until Labor Day. Hope that sounds okay with everyone.

Our theme is “Portraits and Pets”, so you can choose one or the other. Many of you artists probably have a portrait in your collection all ready to go, and that’s great. Or you can create something new. For those choosing the pet option, we welcome dogs, cats, birds … any companion creature that inspires you to create a piece of art, like Matisse did with his “Goldfish”. As always, I will be participating right along with you. All mediums are welcome; oil, acrylic, pencil, pastel, crayon, watercolor, mixed media, collage, digital, iPad, sculpture, whatever you like! And ALL skill levels are invited – and encouraged – to participate, from beginner to advanced … because this is Museworthy and joyful expression is the most important thing here.

I will post periodic reminders over the next few weeks. And if you have any questions you can post them in the comments or email me. When you send your image, write “Museworthy Art Show” in the subject line, and make sure to include your full name, location, artwork title, and medium. I anticipate a charming and captivating array of works from my readers🙂

See you soon!

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Naked Deliverance

When stresses and anxieties threaten to overwhelm my mental state, art modeling bails me out. Art modeling always bails me out. I don’t think I’ve ever realized it so acutely until these past few months, as the tragic deterioration of once close and loving relationships within my immediate family have come to a head. It’s all taken quite an emotional toll on me, and I’ve avoided venting about it here on the blog. My readers don’t come here for that, nor should they be subjected to such things.

What I can do, instead, is give props to this livelihood of mine, this arduous work that has always been there for me, and I for it. My dance partner for 10+ years, art modeling provides me with a sense of humble purpose – however small and obscure it may be to the loud, busy, urgent, much larger and more complicated world out there beyond the closed door art studios of New York City. It doesn’t fill my bank account. It doesn’t do my body any favors. It doesn’t always operate fairly. But art modeling is still my faithful rescuer. It rescued me eleven years ago from a personal crossroads, and it continues to do so. It is work in which an oft-depressed 47 year old woman can take her clothes off … and be valued. How many occupations can make that claim? With gratitude, I press on …

This is yours truly, captured in watercolor, by my friend the inimitable Jordan Mejias.

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Backstabber

It was probably ill-advised, because yes even experienced life models make ill-advised decisions on occasion. During a session at Minerva Durham’s new drawing studio on Broome Street, after a few sets of short poses, the time had come for me to do a 20 minute. I had been blabbing with the artists during the break and hadn’t even taken a moment to plan out my next pose. So when the timer buzzed to signal the end of the break I tossed off my gown, hopped onto the platform and sprawled out in a twisty, arched back reclining pose. I reached back to grab my ankle, because I’m a lunatic. If my thoracic spine could speak it would’ve said, “Girrrlll, WTF are you doing???” I used no pillow, no cushion…. just me on the hard platform. I figured I’d just power through the 20 minutes and get it over with (my fellow art models know exactly what I’m talking about). And I felt pretty fine during the pose. Same old same old, been there, done that … for ten years now, like an old pro. So no worries, right? Well, when the timer buzzed again at the end of the 20 minutes, I began to gently unravel myself. And the moment I attempted to straighten my torso from the weird, contorted mess I had created … it happened …. AAAHHHHHH!!! Ow ow ow ow … noooo!!!!! No no no no … don’t! Don’t! Don’t! Don’t! Stop! Stop! Please!.. I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I’m sorry God for everything bad I’ve ever done … I’ll never do any of it again! I apologize!!! Mind you, this wasn’t the typical art model’s “ouchy” discomfort that we regularly experience as part of the job. We’re used to that. This was a searing, ghastly torture. Like a serrated knife jammed in my back. This was pent up musculoskeletal rage getting its revenge on me after years of bodily abuse. My baaaack!!!! 😡

As the artists got up from their chairs to stretch on the break (which amuses us models) I remained reclined on the platform, staring up at the ceiling, moving my individual body parts ever so slowly while still bargaining with God to just, please, let me stand up straight. I did. But then I had to bend over to put on my gown, and the back knife got in one final jab when I did that … I’m not done with you yet, woman! Bam!

Man, what the hell was I thinking? I should know better. But I’m a fool about 40% of the time in my life … so there’s that.

Vaintas (detail) by Leo Putz, 1896:

LeoPutz-detail

The number of people who suffer from back pain is, what, eight zillion or something? So there’s nothing special about me, except perhaps that I’m a full time artist’s model. There are other professions that entail truly back-breaking work, of course. And I suppose that too many of us take our backs for granted. Whether it’s brought about by improper lifting, lack of exercise, or even sleeping on a bad mattress, back pain is a total drag. Mine is in my upper back, between the shoulder blades, and it’s not going away. I lifted some plates to place them on a high shelf in my kitchen … ouch! There it was. I raised my arm in the shower to use the hand held shower head … ouch! There it was. I bent over to pick up a FedEx box outside my front door … ouch! There it was, again. My new “friend”.

A Female Nude, watercolor, Anders Zorn:

a-female-nude.jpg!Large

Just three days after the back attack I was back on Broome Street, modeling for a full session long pose. Seated, holding myself up straight, nothing wild or crazy, I managed fine … and I’m grateful. My friend Jean Marcellino was there and she created this lovely pastel:

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I had an appointment with a physical therapist today, and he told me not to be alarmed. It was my first time ever having PT. He worked on my vertebrae and crunched me and thumped on me and did a lot of manipulation. Not bad! I hope this works, because I have more modeling to do. A lot more🙂