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Chihuly – small sand to glorious glass

On a recent family vacation, my family had the opportunity to view the Chihuly exhibit at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. I cannot recommend this exhibit strongly enough. Seriously, if you are anywhere in the Tampa/St. Pete area, you must find time to get by and see this exhibit.

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Dale Chihuly is an artist who currently lives and creates in Seattle. I first encountered his work when we were living in Virginia and he had a visiting exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I was spellbound by the way he utilized both glass, color, and shape to create sculptures that are full of grace and movement.

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This particular exhibit is unique in that Chihuly himself has been instrumental in determining the arrangement of the exhibition, down to the very order in which his pieces are displayed, in which rooms, and how the rooms are designed. The experience was truly breathtaking.

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Most of the rooms were kept dark, the walls painted dark colors. And then, glowing with an ethereal warmth, the glass pieces were displayed. I cannot remember the last time I turned a corner in an art museum with an audible gasp at the immense beauty of the art that was just around the corner. As we entered each room, there was yet another stunning work of glass, alive with color and form to delight our eyes.

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Some of Chihuly’s works were new to me. I had not seen his baskets or his bowls previously. Then there were the vases, some that even had the flowers with them too. I was fascinated by his ability to take glass and create things that looked as if they were created out of an entirely different media, as if they really were basket, bowls, flowers.

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“I want my work to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in a forest, they might think it belonged there.” – Dale Chihuly

I had encountered several of his hanging sculptures previously, but they still take my breath away. They are at the same time both delicate and bold. The individual tendrils of glass seem so fragile, yet the structure itself dominates the space.

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If I had to pick a favorite, it would be the works that he often displays in gardens, here displayed in a large room all to its own.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It seemed as if there was a new aspect with each vantage point. As I discussed the piece with my family, each of us found something different that captured our attention.

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“I’m amazed at what people seem to find in my work, and I don’t like to limit what they see with a title. For me, titles are very difficult, and I don’t usually even think in terms of a theme when I’m creating a sculpture. Once it’s finished, I’ll come up with a title, but one person might see flowers, another something from the sea or something from a dream.” – Dale Chihuly

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As incredible as these pictures are, they don’t even begin to display the incredible beauty of seeing these works in person. Sometimes, you just need to be reminded that there is beauty beyond anything you can imagine. While human beings are indeed capable of great evil, we are also able to create stunning beauty. Delight your eyes with such beauty. Go visit the Morean Art Center and spend a little time with Chihuly. You won’t regret it.

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All photos posted with permission of the Morean Art Center. All works photographed are from Dale Chihuly.

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What’s Your Creation Motivation?

Creation motivation? What’s that? There isn’t just one motivation for why artists create, why painters paint and why sculptors sculpt. Many times I’m sure you create something yourself with a specific purpose in mind, for instance, a special birthday cake. Take my friend Lisa—she expresses herself so beautifully with cake and icing! Just look at this wild castle Lisa made for her energetic and delightful granddaughter, Emma!

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What a yummy creation! Lisa is always challenging herself to do something new and unique. Her chicken cake with coconut straw just makes me happy! Though it could be that it reminds of the 4 chickens we have right now: 2 reds, 1 black and 1 very, very, very large white chicken (More on our chunky chicken in a later post.)

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What is Lisa’s motivation? I don’t think it’s just to please her granddaughter or friends. I think she’s probably like me. 

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She’s motivated, but by what? 

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Now I realize that many of us have to make do with a supermarket birthday cake, but can you imagine someone plopping down one of Lisa’s creations for your birthday? Gosh, you’d have to feel loved and very special.

Some artists create just because they love the act of doing something new, exciting, challenging or controversial. Just the act of expressing themselves in sculpture, watercolor, oils, quilting, crafts or pastels is important for some. For others, I think the achievement of a finished and final piece of work produced is important. Of course some of those things are often my motivation.

But I truly believe that Lisa’s motivation is that she loves to create and creates for those she loves. It’s an act of love, a pleasure. It’s special; her artistic self is expressed in a way that’s unique. But the true force of creation is driven by love.

For me, I create not so much because I love creating, but I love the happiness it brings to others. Creating is my way of showing love. Our love of creating things for those we love is but a small reflection of how God created the beauty of the earth for all of us to enjoy…just because He loves us. That is my true motivation.

It takes time and effort to do what Lisa does, but think of the joy the giver and receiver get in this lovely transaction! Memories can be made, by what you make!

Here is the 3rd stage in a labor of love that I am producing for someone special.

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You’ll have to wait for another blog to see how it turns out and learning about the love that has caused me to create it. But in the meantime, don’t just sit there, create!

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I’d love to know your creation motivation, so please share!

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Who Are the Florida Highwaymen?

The Highwaymen may be complete unknowns to you. I know they were to me. My youngest daughter brought home a paining she made in school with a little note attached that said “To further their study of Florida, the first graders will learn about a group of Floridian artists, known as the Highwaymen.” I had never heard of the Highwaymen before and so I asked my daughter, who casually replied “they were group of black artists who painted pictures of Florida and sold them along the highways.”

highwaymen 1

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and I discovered that our local history museum was having a “meet and greet” with some of the Highwaymen. Needless to say, I was intrigued. So I did a little homework of my own to discover who the Highwaymen are. 

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1955 in the United States was not a great time to be a black person. Life was even harder if you were south of the Mason Dixon line. In Florida, the governor at the time was a member of the Klu Klux Kan, and so was the chief of police.  Many blacks living in Florida at the time worked in the orange groves – difficult work with low wages. But a brilliantly talented group of 26 men and one woman began painting. They painted with oil on cheap Upson board (similar to modern day drywall). They painted in their garages on the weekends. And because they were black, they couldn’t sell their paintings in any gallery, so instead they would sell them from the trunks of their cars as they drove along Florida’s highways – thus the term “Highwaymen.” Often they sold their works for as little as $25.

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Today, the artwork of the Highwaymen is honored and valued by art lovers worldwide. They were rediscovered by the art world in 1995 when a gallery owner, Jim Fitch, wrote an article for an art journal in which he described their work.  All 26 original Highwaymen were inducted into the Florida Artist’s Hall of Fame in 2004.

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It was a great delight to meet some of the original Highwaymen. My daughter was particularly excited to meet the one and only Highwaywoman, Mary Ann Carroll. All the artists were so gracious in sharing their stories and telling us about their artwork. They drew their inspiration from the Florida landscape all around them  – from cypress swamps to sandy beaches, from the brilliant colors of the jacaranda, poinciana and tabebuia trees to the soft colors of dawn and dusk. Their paintings are a feast for the eyes, their story is a feast for the soul.

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If you’re interested in learning more about the Florida Highwaymen, PBS has done an excellent documentary on them. You can also view their paintings online.

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And if you ever have the opportunity to meet a Highwayman, you won’t be disappointed, and you might just find yourself coming home with a print or two of their enchanting work. 

 

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All Creation Speaks

Speaks of what you may ask? Many of you know the answer. Creation speaks of the Creator of the universe, the one true God. 

In fact, those who do not know God often find themselves acknowledging that there must be someone higher than themselves. Someone who could have made the finite wonders of this world so astonishingly beautiful and infinitely varied. 

My latest painting, Bark and Bluebells (22 ½ x 29 framed) is an acknowledgement of how majestic a little slice of God’s creativity speaks in trees and flowers. I hope you enjoy the progress shots and how God reveals Himself through nature and His word.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1

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They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:3-4

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In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Psalm 95:4-5

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But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10

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Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the foundation of the earth? Isaiah 40:21

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He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:45

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For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

© Laura Gabel, “Bark and Bluebells”. 22.5x29, pastel. $2500. Creation speaks
© Laura Gabel, “Bark and Bluebells”. 22.5×29, pastel. $2500.

It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host.  Isaiah 45:12

The earth still declares His glory; all nature is meant to point to God. His creation is His fingerprint that speaks to the world that He exists. Perhaps today is the day you would like to know God in a more intimate way, rather than just seeing His creation. If so, then please email or call me.

You can bring this painting home today and add your voice of praise to that of the creation as it sings! It is available for purchase here.

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5 Ways to Bring a Little Art to Your Summer

Summer is upon us. While June 21st marks the official start of summer, many of us mark the unofficial start with Memorial Day weekend or the end of school. For those of us in coastal states, summer is often marked with trips to the beach. If we’re in most of the US, summer means hotter weather, for some of us, too hot to even make that trip to the beach. And if we have kids, summer marks the time when mornings start a bit later, time moves a bit slower, and we ward off sibling squabbles and cries of “I’m bored.”

But what about bringing a little art to your summer? If it’s too hot to play outside, why not play inside? Here are five quick tips to put a little art in your summer – enjoy!

  1. Visit your local art museum.

Don’t just limit yourself to the biggest game in town. Most cities have smaller (and often more affordable) museums. Often during the summer, art museums will offer special programming or the occasional free day. It’s no secret that my family frequents art museums, and some of my favorite have been the smaller venues. These museums have the ability to focus on a limited number of exhibits and often do them quite well and display pieces that wouldn’t be shown in a larger museum.

summer art museum

  1. Take a stroll though a local art gallery.

Many of the cities in which we’ve lived have an “arts district”. Does your town? Is there a little neighborhood where many different artists have galleries? Or perhaps there is a larger gallery that displays works from several artists? Why not spend an afternoon or evening strolling along and letting your senses be stimulated with locally created art? In addition to seeing incredible art, you may have the opportunity to meet the artists. Check your local events calendar, regular “art strolls” are becoming very popular – galleries staying open later and vendors providing food, beverages, and even live music. Simple ask Siri or Google and see what adventure awaits!

art-less children, summer

  1. Enroll in an art class.

Summer art doesn’t have to be limited to what you find in museums and galleries. From paint-your-own studios to ceramic studios to library classes to art schools, there is an endless supply of art classes. Find a medium you enjoy or stretch yourself to try something brand new. Just because school is out doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a class just for fun! If you have kids, don’t just sign them up for art camp, why don’t you sign up for family painting night? Make some art together!

stamping art, summer

  1. Pick up a book about art or your favorite artist.

Maybe taking an art class feels a bit intimidating, while I’d still encourage you to go beyond your comfort zone….why not pick up a great book? You could read an art book, an artist’s biography or autobiography, or something that might grow your appreciation for art. Head out to your local library, look up your favorite artist, or ask the helpful librarian where the art books are and find one, two or more to take home and enjoy. Here’s a great list to get you started.

  1. Make some art of your own.

Sometimes, you just want to stay home, I get it. So why not use that time to create a masterpiece of your own? Summer is a time to relax and destress – so why not pull out a coloring book and have a little fun? Or ask your kids to get out all their art supplies, pull on some old clothes and have an art party and see what you can create? Tap into your inner creativity that unfortunately can get buried in the everyday-ness of life. Make something beautiful!

grateful for kids, summer

So how about it? How will you put a little art in your summer? What ideas do you want to try? What else would you add to this list? Now get out there and do it! Then come back, post a picture or leave a comment about your art adventure!

 

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3 Ways I want to lure you in to creativity

Today I want to lure you in to taking some risks!

A lure is something that tempts or attracts with the promise of pleasure or reward. Yes it can be pleasurable to take risks, especially when you are creating. We are all artists in one way or another and we need to cultivate and expose ourselves to trying new things.

This is exactly what I did when I created my latest mixed media painting. I call “Fishing Around” because I really didn’t know what I was doing, or how it was going to turn out. 

While you may not be able to see it “Fishing Around” is a multi-dimensional piece. It employs acrylic on the bottom as the sea layer (leftover paint that I couldn’t bear to waste from another painting, see Sarasota Waterfall).

After staring at the swirling canvas, I thought it would be fun to paint an acrylic goldfish on it.

© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12x12, mixed media. $250., lure blog

The ideas started to evolve. Hmm, this was an experiment so I wanted to have a bit of fun. How about a dragonfly on top of the water.

© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12x12, mixed media. $250. lure blog

Well, what could I use to separate the two creatures, the fish looking up, the dragonfly landing? I settled on a laminate layer between them. Now all kinds of things can happen when you start pouring this and that on top of this and that. But to my surprise it seemed to be working…and everyone started commenting on the crazy idea. It’s very hard to see but actually there are 3 layers of epoxy between the two creatures, which gives it a very wild depth producing look!

Then I decided to paint the dragonfly in oil on top of acrylic, on top of epoxy. Well, the whole thing could go wrong, it might sink in to the epoxy, might never dry, might smear, might not let me apply it…whew. It worked! So here is, ta da, my experimental painting!

© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12x12, mixed media. $250. lure blog
© Laura Gabel, “Fishing Around”. 12×12, mixed media. $250.

So I want to lure you into my approach in attracting creativity simply!

1. Cultivate a creative mindset:

  • Don’t struggle – the harder you try, the dryer and flatter your ideas will get. 
  • Relax to some music.
  • Don’t discard the absurd, it leads you to make connections that can make sense.
  • Be curious. 
  • Research, but not too much! Too much reading on the internet is overwhelming and time wasting.
  • Ask yourself plenty of questions like, “what would happen if I…?”

2. Overcome your fears of:

  • Experimenting
  • Making a mess
  • Failing
  • Ask yourself: Is it ok for you to ruin something as you experiment, or do you consider what you are doing to be too “precious”?

Last but not least: Have fun! Not everything turns out right, but it can lead to bigger and better things. 

God gives us all things richly to enjoy! Tell those who are rich in this age not to be arrogant and not to place their confidence in anything as uncertain as riches. Instead, let them place their confidence in God, who lavishly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Tim 6:17 ISV

If you enjoyed this, perhaps you would enjoy bring this painting into your home as well! It is available for purchase in our store.

 

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Screwtape, Wormwood, and Me

How many of you have ever read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis? I admit, I read it many years ago and remembered very little. I’ve had the privilege recently of being a substitute teacher at the school my children attend. Lately, I’ve spent a good amount of time in the 11th grade Rhetoric and Christian Thought class, and they’ve been reading The Screwtape Letters. We finished up the book recently, and I have been mulling it over ever since. 

If you’re not familiar with the book, Lewis has created a fictitious correspondence between a lead demon, Wormwood, and his nephew and junior tempter, Screwtape. The letters follow Wormwood’s advice to Screwtape on how to win the Patient away from the Enemy (God). Though the book was first published in 1942, it still speaks to the culture in which we currently live. 

screwtape letters blog
C.S. Lewis at his writing desk

I have no intention of reviewing the whole book for you here, though I would highly recommend that you read it! I want to focus in on the final letter (spoiler alert….) in which Wormwood berates Screwtape because the Patient has died while belonging to the Enemy. The demons have lost. Wormwood laments that now Screwtape has no more power over the Patient. 

The students and I discussed why the demon’s power is no longer effective. Many of them mentioned that Wormood details how the Patient has now seen who and what Screwtape is and how he operates. So, they surmised, the Patient is now wise to the tempter and the temptations and thus their power is removed. As we pushed further into the text, I think we found a much more significant reason.

screwtape letters blog

Wormwood writes, “All the delights of sense, or heart, or intellect, with which you [Screwtape] could once have tempted him, even the delights of virtue itself, now seem to him in comparison but as the half nauseous attractions of a raddled harlot would seem to a man who hears that his true beloved whom he has loved all his life and whom he had believed to be dead is alive and even now at his door.” Wormwood acknowledges that this fact is inexplicable. Let that sink in for a moment. 

Who the Patient now sees, in whose Presence he now resides, is so monumentally greater than anything that the demons could conjure up to tempt him. It is not his knowledge of Screwtape’s plans that renders them ineffective. It is because the Patient now has seen the “Enemy” face to face. Christ is so infinitely superior to anything and everyone else, that there is nothing that can tempt the Christian.

Screwtape Letters blog
“Christus Rex”, Chapel of the Resurrection, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana.

I was cut to the heart upon unpacking that metaphor. The students were a taken aback as well. The unspoken question then to us was “do I view Christ in that way?” Is He that much more glorious, lovely, valuable, worthy than anything this world has to offer? The “right” answer is a resounding “YES”! But does my life evidence that I really believe that? Am I more interested in the “raddled harlot” than the long lost love of my life?

This world has much to offer in the way of beauty and delights. This is an art blog after all, beauty makes it go 🙂 But we must remember that all the beauty this world affords is nothing compared to the One who makes that beauty. What are the things in your life (they are often good and valuable things) that compete with the beauty of the One who made you? Where are you tempted to seek comfort apart from Christ? 

Screwtape letters blog
Unfinished Landscape (The Cross at Sunset). c.1847. Oil on canvas. 32 x 48 1/2″. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Madrid, Spain.

The Pslamist tells us that in His presence there is fullness of joy, and in His hand are pleasures forevermore. Let that promise encourage you as you face  your own temptations. There is a day coming when we will see Him face to face.

 

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Mother’s Day or Money Day?

I know this sounds un-American, but I have a close friend, who says that Mother’s Day is nothing but baloney–a made up day to sell greeting cards and goodies. Now, don’t get all worked up, even the founder of American Mother’s Day Anna Jarvis ended up criticizing the celebration for becoming too commercialized.

According to Wikipedia, Ann Jarvis [mom] “was very active within the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church community. It was during one of her Sunday school lessons in 1876 that her daughter, Anna Jarvis [daughter], allegedly found her inspiration for Mother’s Day, as Ann closed her lesson with a prayer, stating: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, Anna Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honor her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, today the International Mother’s Day Shrine, in Grafton, West Virginia, marking the first official observance of Mother’s Day

Jarvis frequently referred to her mom’s memory during her efforts to maintain the sentimental heart of the day while also maintaining her own role as the founder of the holiday. 

In addition to her efforts to maintain her position and recognition as the holiday’s founder, Jarvis struggled against forces of commercialization that overwhelmed her original message. Among some of these forces were the confection, floral and greeting card industry. Anna said, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.” 

Oh dear! This echo’s my friends thoughts that honoring a mom once a year, while ignoring her most of the time is really a heart issue.

Now I know that my mom strived to be a much better mother to me than her mother was to her. I am grateful for the love, care, and encouragement she gave us. But I know that many sons and daughters may find it very, very hard to love and honor their moms. Whether it’s favoritism, abandonment, cruelty or whatever, the pain of not having a mother that fulfills our perfect image of motherhood holds us back.

Many artists have portrayed their mothers, some in surprisingly beautiful ways. For instance, very few people would recognize this painting as Picasso’s, often known as the pioneer of cubism.

We get a real treat when looking at Albrecht Durer’s oil painting of his mother and later some of his thoughts about her.

After she in turn died in 1514, her son wrote “This my pious Mother … often had the plague and many other severe and strange illnesses, and she suffered great poverty, scorn, contempt, mocking words, terrors, and great adversities. Yet she bore no malice. Also she died hard … I felt so grieved for her that I cannot express it.” I think this famous sketch of her at age 63 conveys Durer’s sadness about her hard life. 

If you were to paint your mother, what would she look like to you today, right now? Would that painting show the hardness of your heart, your anger, your unforgiveness, your hurt?

As lovers of Christ, we are commanded to love one another. This is hard, but it is a command. That command doesn’t include nursing a grudge, replaying your woundedness or treasuring your martyred state. To mature in our faith in Christ is simple. We say no to ourselves and yes to God. It is simple, but no, it is not easy. A first step toward that may be to ask God to cleanse and change your heart.

Our last portrait is the famous and iconic painting of Whistler’s mother. Perhaps you can’t tell from looking at the painting of her what Whistler thought, or perhaps you can! In any of the above 3 moms, I myself love Picasso’s portrait of his mother. 

While God is often referred to as Father, the Scriptures do in fact use maternal imagery to show us that God loves us, provides for us and cares for us like a mother with her newborn. Isaiah tells of God as the One who feeds, comforts, and cares for His children; and while even some human mothers may forget their children, God never will. He is better than even the best mother. Jesus himself draws upon maternal imagery in Deuteronomy when he laments over Jerusalem His longing to gather His people as a mother hen gathers her chicks.

God wants us to know that His heart is for us. What about your heart?Perhaps you need to examine it this Mother’s Day.

 

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Who will you serve?

Last week, I had the pleasure to serve as a chaperone for my 5th grade daughter’s class field trip. At our school, 5th graders study early American history. As a capstone experience, they take a weeklong trip to Virginia where they visit Jamestown, Williamsburg, Monticello, and Yorktown. It is an incredible opportunity for the students to see history and walk in the shoes of the people they’ve been studying.

red bud and mountains - serve blog

Now, a week with ten and eleven year olds may not sound like much fun, and there were times when it was challenging. But, overall, the trip was incredible and our students had an amazing experience. I was along on the trip to serve as the official blogger/photographer, so it was my task each evening to spend some time recapping the day’s events so that parents who were back home could participate along with their 5th grader.

view away from mountains - serve blog

I think one of the most meaningful days for me was our trip to Thomas Jefferson’s home in Charlottesville. Monticello is a place of great beauty, creativity, ingenuity, and contradiction. The students discussed how a man who penned the words “all men are created equal” could own over one hundred slaves. A man who believed that educated men were capable of self government, yet prevented his own enslaved persons from that same self government. We stood in a slave cabin and gazed at the mansion Jefferson built for himself. The disparity was immense.

slave cabin - serve blog

Our students saw firsthand that while great men can create beautiful places and craft life changing documents and found incredible systems of government, they are also capable of great blindness, wickedness, and sin. Our guide asked us to ponder the question of whether the issue of slavery negates the goodness of Jefferson’s many other contributions. That is not a question with easy answers.

monticello - serve blog

The students were fascinated with all of Jefferson’s many scientific experiments and our science teacher was certainly grateful to hear our guides remark that science is everywhere. The gardens around Monticello are still being cultivated with descendants of the seeds Jefferson planted or Lewis and Clark brought back from their expedition. The clocks Jefferson designed still toll the correct hour, season, and even day of the week. History is living and our students marveled at the plantation life they experienced today. We saw both the greatness and the baseness of mankind.

cabin and gardens - serve blog

I realize that slavery is still an exceedingly controversial topic, but if my 5th grader can wrestle with it, so can we. How we treat our fellow human beings says a lot about who we serve. If I am primarily interested in serving myself, then others are a means to an end. If my needs come first, then others have value only in so far as they can meet my needs or assist in accomplishing my agenda. Thomas Jefferson wrote that he was opposed to slavery, yet he failed to free his own slaves. He realized that he could not maintain his lifestyle without his slaves, and that mattered more to him than his stated ideals. How many times are we just as guilty of saying one thing, but evidencing another by the way we live?

cupola and gardens - serve blog

After our trip to Monticello, we were reminded in our evening devotion that there is One who Himself experienced greater heights than Monticello and took on greater baseness than slavery. And we are called to have the same mind as Christ Jesus.  We are called to consider others better than ourselves, to be humble, to serve others. Jefferson served his country well.  We want to call our students to serve each other well, and in so doing, they, too can change the world. What about you? Who are you serving?

 

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The Challenge of Art, Cooking, and the Olympics

When I’m not painting, working, or doing a Bible study, I’m watch cooking shows. Well, not really just me. Both my husband and I love a good cooking challenge, particularly a British one. 

Right now we’ve hunkered down to watch Series 7 on Great British Menu.  The theme for this series is the Olympics to celebrate the games coming to London back in 2012.  It’s a marathon series of 45 episodes which features great British chefs from different regions of the country with the challenge to cook for a prestigious Olympian feast. 

The chefs are tasked with creating a menu that captures the Olympic spirit. But really they are asked to challenge themselves, step out of their comfort zones, do something they’ve never done before; wow the judges with sublime gastronomy created with an artistic flair. In an effort to impress, there are botches, surprises, frustrations, and, of course winners. With plenty of pandemonium in the kitchen!

These chefs are the crème de la crème in Britain and have certainly been an inspiration for me. Why? 

It’s good for an artist to watch another artist get out of their comfort zone. Sometimes people will ask me, “why did you decide to paint that?” I purposefully have chosen to create some paintings that are downright difficult for me. I love a good challenge. One of those times was with my Apricot Canyon paintings.   

© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 2”. Soft pastel, 16 x 20. $650.
© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 2”. Soft pastel, 16 x 20. $650.
© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 1”. Textured pastel, 16 x 20. Private collection. challenge blog
© Laura Gabel, “Apricot Canyon 1”. Textured pastel, 16 x 20. Private collection.

Here, I created a textured surface, which was a new approach with pastel, to mimic rock formations and develop tactile depth. I wanted to stretch my technical abilities and I did.

Watching some of these chefs stick to comfort level and others going way out on a limb has been liberating for me. Often I will start something and wonder whether it is going to work. It is compelling to back yourself in a corner, learn from your mistakes, and come out with something better than you ever thought possible.

When I painted Into the Light, I had no idea how difficult it would be. I’m sure I reworked the shadow on her forehead and brushed out her nose more times than I can remember!

© Laura Gabel, "Into the Light". Soft Pastel on Velour 15.5 x 18.5. Private collection. challenge blog
© Laura Gabel, “Into the Light”. Soft Pastel on Velour 15.5 x 18.5. Private collection.

One thing that has come across over and over again in the Great British Menu is that these chefs experiment, experiment, experiment! I’d like to think that my mixed media painting of The Slugger was an exciting journey into the unknown using watercolor and pastel with a more impressionistic approach that stretched my capabilities.  

© 2015 Laura Gabel, "Batter Up". Private collection
© Laura Gabel. “The Slugger” , Pastel and Watercolor, 11 x 14. Private Collection.

Challenging yourself is a good thing. It’s a frustrating thing, but it’s a growing process and it reminds us that it’s really the journey, not the destination, that makes us who we are. 

” Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way as to take the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.” 1 Corinthians 9:25. 

Whether it’s art, cooking or strengthening your Christian walk by memorizing scripture, going on a missions trip or mentoring a new believer. Stretch!! Challenge yourself! After all, our rewards are so much greater than an Olympic crown or an Olympic feast! What challenges have you had this year that have stretched you?

 

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