Pietàs of Passion

The word “pietà” means “pity” in Italian. Its Latin origin translates into “piety” or “duty”. In art, a Pietà is any representation of Mary mourning the dead body of the crucified Christ. It is a scene of powerful emotional import. If other figures from the New Testament are also depicted, the work is often called “Lamentation”. On this Good Friday, a collection of pietas for my readers.

The pietà subject presents many options for artists, both compositionally and stylistically. Some are horizontal, others are vertical. Some depict the body of Christ with blood and wounds, while others omit them in favor of an unscathed figure. Some emphasize the pain, agony, and grief of the moment, while others take an almost serene, quietly mournful approach.

We’ll start with the archetype, the pietà that sets the standard for all others; Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece located in St. Peter’s Basilica. Completed in 1499, and carved from a single slab of Carrara marble, it is the only work by Michelangelo that he ever signed. It received much criticism for its portrayal of an impossibly youthful Mary, who appears far too young to be the mother of a 33 year old man. But Michelangelo defended his choice. Designed in a pyramid shape, Michelangelo’s Pietà is considered a foremost example of Renaissance sculpture:

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One of my favorite pietas is this painting by Annibale Carracci, 1600. The hand gesture of Mary is an extraordinary detail, and I love the lights and darks:

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Pietà, 1876, is presented in the French academic style for which the artist is known. Mary stares straight ahead, surrounded by sorrowful angels:

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A striking Pietà by Luis de Morales, 1570. Again, the prominent placement of Mary’s hands.

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Andrea Del Sarto, 1524, oil on wood. Christ’s face is barely visible here, as the surrounding figures seem to dominate the composition:

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A surrealist Pietà from Salvador Dali who clearly modeled this work after Michelangelo. His works of religious themes are really impressive. I’m a huge fan. I posted his Ascension of Christ here a few years ago:

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Sebastiano del piombo’s Pietà, ca 1515, takes a different approach, with Christ lying flat on the ground as Mary prays:

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Lamentation Over the Dead Christ, 1485, in tempera by Carlo Crivelli, is a fine example of the early Renaissance style:

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Pietà by Moretto da Brescia, ca. 1530. Sorrow and pain come across in the facial expressions and gestures:

Moretto da Brescia (Italian, 1498 - 1554 ), Pietà, 1520s, oil on panel, Samuel H. Kress Collection

The desolate landscape works to great effect here in this Pietà, 1854, by the superb symbolist painter Gustave Moreau:

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And here’s something you won’t see in any museum. A “pieta” on the streets of New York. Spring Studio‘s Minerva Durham plays Mary to a Jesus acted out by artist’s model and dancer Magic Distefano, in the middle of Lafayette Street. That’s Andrew Bolotowsky on flute. There wasn’t a music accompanist at Calvary, but there is in SoHo:

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To all my readers, a blessed Easter weekend … lift up your hearts in rebirth, renewal, the coming of spring, and light everlasting …

Love you all:-)

Claudia

Crazy Cat Lady

It was about six years ago when a pillowy, brindle colored stray female cat started hanging out my garden. She was one of most lovable cats I’d ever met. I fed her and, naturally, she never left. I named her Jessie, and she’s still with me:-)

Jessie spends most of her time outside but never roams far. When I call her from the kitchen door steps she appears usually within three minutes. We’ve been through a lot together –  surly male cats trespassing on Jessie’s turf, raccoons, vet appointments for her bronchitis, Hurricane Sandy. These days I give her daily meds and spoil her with a superb diet. I took this picture of her just after she finished scarfing down a can of brisling sardines. Look at that pink tongue!

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And here’s a quick charcoal sketch of me by my friend Bruce Williams. During a private session at Bruce’s studio, his cat Ika decided to join us and jumped up onto the platform. She’s a fine modeling partner and a great little cat. But Jessie will always be my number one girl.

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Artists seem to have an affinity for cats. I wonder why? Andy Warhol owned 25 cats, and Ai Wei Wei has over thirty! Matisse, Picasso, Dali, Klimt, Georgia O’Keeffe – all cat people. Honestly, I love all animals equally and would love to have a dog. Ok .. two dogs, six cats, a giant aviary full of canaries, a 300 gallon aquarium full of tropical fish, a horse, a rabbit, a turtle, and a peacock. That’s all really😉

Suzanne Valadon, Study of a Cat, 1918:

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Sculpture, Picasso Style

Regular museum visitors know the rules when it comes to photography. At most New York museums, photography (with no flash) is allowed in all the galleries which house works of the permanent collection. Special exhibitions, however, prohibit photography of any kind. Try to take a quick pic on your iPhone and you can expect one of the guards to admonish you. “Sorry ma’am, no photography”. You will then be handcuffed and escorted to an interrogation room <– just kidding😉 So imagine my delight when I was told that photography WAS allowed at the recent “Picasso Sculpture” show at MoMA. Yay! The show ended its five month run on February 7th, and I saw it in its final few days, which is how I see most of the big acclaimed art shows in town – when the end date is looming! I’m very glad I didn’t miss this one.

Picasso had formal training in painting and drawing only. So his approach to sculpture was motivated by experimental impulses, ingenuity, and his fertile creative mind, all of which were abundantly on display in this exhibit. What we witnessed, from gallery to gallery, was a man engaged in self-taught exploration, working in three-dimensions, letting his imagination run free, salvaging metal and wood scraps, found objects, paper and paint, cardboard, string, nails, plants, plaster, bronze, and anything he could get his hands on. In a wide array of subject matter – women, animals, children, instruments, etc. -Picasso’s sculptural expressions alternate from childlike to muscular, classical to avant-garde, spontaneous to engineered. He worked big, he worked small, and continued to experiment with sculpture for decades – a perpetual student – up to the mid-1960s. It was a truly fun and fascinating show.

This is just a sampling of the works, and among the ones I’ve chosen to post there is surely something for everyone here. I took all the photos in this post, so feel free to download, keep, and share!

Woman with Hat, painted sheet metal:

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Maquette for Richard J. Daley Center Sculpture, oxidized welded steel:

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Head of a Woman, painted sheet metal and iron wire:

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Little Horse, painted metal with wheels:

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Sylvette, painted sheet metal:

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Kneeling Woman Combing Her Hair, bronze:

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Head of a Woman (Fernande), bronze:

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Guitar, ferrous sheet metal and wire:

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Picasso did six versions of this, Glass of Absinthe, in painted bronze with an actual absinthe spoon. He made the sugar cube also from a piece of bronze. A very popular alcoholic spirit in Picasso’s day, absinthe was prepared by pouring it over a sugar cube and then diluting with water:

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Guitar, painted sheet metal, painted tin box, and iron wire:

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Composition with Glove, glove, cardboard, plants sewn and glued, coated with sand:

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Seated Woman, bronze:

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Part of the memorial monument to Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet and friend of Picasso who died in 1918. Head of a Woman, iron, sheet metal, springs, and painted metal colanders:

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Also from the Monument to Apollinaire, Woman in the Garden, welded and painted iron:

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Head of a Woman, plaster:

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One of my favorites, The Reaper, plaster and wood:

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And another one of my favorites, this rough but quirky Little Owl, painted bronze with nails:

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Woman Carrying a Child, painted wood and section of palm leaf:

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Cat, bronze:

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The Orator, plaster, stone, and metal dowel:

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Man with a Lamb, bronze:

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The Bathers, wood and gesso:

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I’ll let the man himself sign off this post. Picasso’s signature on the back of one of his sheet metal creations:

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Advent

Waiting. Anticipation. Mystery. Hope. Redemption. Incarnation .. the themes associated with the season of Advent, which has just begun. The sight of the Advent wreath in my church on Sunday inspired me to take a photo after service to share with all of you. I also wanted to include our stained glass windows, which are truly radiant. To accompany the photo, I’m posting some words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer – theologian, Lutheran pastor, martyr. This is a portion of his famous “Overcoming Fear” sermon which he delivered in January of 1933 when Hitler was just coming to power, and an ominous climate of fear was very much in the air. Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis on April 9th, 1945.

Fear is breathing down our necks … Those who would try to keep up their pride, as if all this had nothing to do with them, as if they didn’t understand what it’s all about, would hardly be human. No one human could fail to understand what the people of the world have to be afraid of today.

But look here, right in the middle of this fearful world is a place that is meant for all time, which has a peculiar task that the world doesn’t under­stand. It keeps calling over and over but always anew, in the same tone, the same thing: Fear is overcome; don’t be afraid. In the world you are frightened. But be comforted; I have conquered the world! Christ is in the boat! And this place, where this kind of talk is heard and should be heard, is the pulpit of the church. From this pulpit the living Christ himself wants to speak, so that wherever he reaches somebody, that person will feel the fear sinking away, will feel Christ overcoming his or her fear.

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Ahoy Buccaneer

“Are you a real pirate??!!”. That was the adorable question posed to me by one of the kids in Martha Bloom’s Art and Drama class for children ages 5 – 9 at the National Academy. The little girl’s inquiry was perfectly reasonable since I had already changed into my pirate costume:-) Children’s art classes certainly don’t make up the bulk of an art model’s booking schedule, but on the occasions when we do pose for the little ones it’s a welcome departure from the adult classes. No offense grown-ups, but kids are more fun!

Martha Bloom has been fostering the imaginations and creative spirits of New York City’s children for over three decades. Her classes are the starting points for the superb young artists’ education offered at the National Academy. With the help of goodies from the prop closet, Martha set up a makeshift mast for my pirate boat and put a treasure chest at my feet, with a rubber rat crawling out. “Blimey! Thar be a rat in me booty chest! Walk the plank ye little scalawag!!”

As the late afternoon sun streamed into the National Academy’s elegant Stone Room, the children set up their markers, crayons, and papers. Martha took this photo of me during the pose.“Ayyee aye matey! I am a pirate wench!! Give me a bottle o grog and we be swashbucklin’ three sheets to the wind!”

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This is Sasha’s drawing:

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And this is Eliza’s drawing:

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The class Halloween show was just around the corner, and Gemma was assigned the task of designing the invitation. She created this excellent illustration:

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We went down to the office and made copies, which came out great. And a poster to go along with them.

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At the end of class, when I emerged from behind the changing screen dressed in my street clothes, Gemma exclaimed “You’re NOT a real pirate!!”. I think it was my NY Mets shirt that gave me away😆

But Ratty the rubber rat managed to get over to the window of the Stone Room. Unless someone carried him over there … a pirate wench perhaps? Hmm …
The last time I saw him he was taking in the view of East 89th Street, gazing at the Guggenheim:

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Art Around Town

Well hello there friends! It wasn’t my intention to go so long without a new blog post. I’ve just been completing a long sculpture pose at Grand Central Atelier and then jumped right into a weekend workshop with Max Ginsburg. So it’s been modeling duties, and the resulting body rest, that have occupied me for the past several days. I was worried that pilates class on Monday would be agonizing, but it wasn’t! Felt really good actually. My spine was grateful:-)

My good friend Francisco Malonzo shared something with me that I’d like to share with all of you. It reminded me that artists and models can appreciate the same experience of seeing artwork on the wall – artists delight at seeing their creation on display, and we models delight at seeing ourselves on display. A collector here in NYC took pictures of Francisco’s pieces in his Upper West Side apartment and they’re wonderful to see. A portrait of me is among the collection. You can view them on Francisco’s blog. Francisco’s dazzling work has appeared on Museworthy several times over the years. You can view previous posts here and here .

Also, I thought I’d share a photo from the sculpture class at Grand Central Atelier. It was a terrific gig with a lovely small class. I did a standing pose, which is fairly common for sculpture, and it was well worth it as you can see in this impressive work by fourth year student Charlie Mostow:

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Lastly, in keeping with three-dimensional creations, a photo I took last night at a gathering at the Armenian Diocese here in New York, where a new sculpture was unveiled to commemorate the centennial of the Armenian Genocide. Michael Aram designed this stainless steel work called “Migrations”, and on a beautiful moonlit October evening in the city, clergy members, artists, and Armenian New Yorkers were deeply moved by the dedication of this piece. My phone pic is okay but you can see it more clearly at Architectural Digest with an accompanying article.

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That’s all for now, friends. I’ll see you soon!

Happy 8th Birthday Museworthy!!

An artist’s model with poise and stamina can work steadily throughout the year. An artist’s model with a thirst for writing, conversation, and self-expression can also blog steadily, for several years. Today on Museworthy, we commemorate eight years of the good stuff – 815 posts, 7,534 comments, 760 subscribers, 1,485,773 hits. Abundant and sincere thanks to all of you who read regularly, or intermittently, and enjoy your visits to my little corner of the Internet.

Our annual tradition continues, of course, with a photo of yours truly taken by my dear friend, the one and only Fred Hatt – the only person on earth who photographs me in my birthday suit. But there’s something different about this year’s photo. In the previous ones – all seven of them – I was never looking at the camera. Now, after a decade as a professional art model and being stared at by hundreds of pairs of eyes, the model turns the tables … and stares back. Here’s lookin’ at you, kids😉

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Do I have superhero powers of sticking to the ceiling? Or did Fred set up on a ladder above me to take this shot? Hmm. Quite the enigma! Well, click on the photo (it’s a nice large file) and rotate it around. One of those angles is the original.

Museworthy friends, I’ve said it so many times and will continue to say it because it’s the truth. This blog is sustained by you; through your comments, “likes”, Tweets, Facebook shares, feedback, and personal emails, and also by my conscious perception that you’re out there – reading, clicking, subscribing. I had no idea how this blog would evolve when I first started it. In retrospect, I’m immensely grateful that I gave it a go and allowed it to take me, and my beloved readers, on a joyous ride through art, music, and musings. Let’s do it for another year, shall we? And I must include a shoutout to WordPress for providing an excellent blogging platform since day one.

For our blog birthday song, I feel an uncontrollable need to hear Robert Plant’s voice, so here’s some Led Zeppelin. Listen with me, friends. Blessings, love, and light .. to each and every one of you. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your readership:-)

Your muse, Claudia
xoxo