Magnificence and a moment at the Morse

I wrote recently of my family visit to the Morse Museum, and I’d like to return to that fascinating museum in today’s post. This week is Holy Week, a celebration of last week of the life of Christ, culminating in the glorious celebration of His resurrection on Easter Sunday. At first glance, the Morse Museum may appear to have very little to do with Holy Week, but keep reading, and I think you’ll be surprised.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 1
Tiffany Chapel Reredos, c. 1893
 Laurelton Hall, Long Island, New York, 1902–57
 Exhibited: World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893
 Glass mosaic
 Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900
 90 x 72 in.

Tucked away in the exhibit halls of the Morse museum in a magnificent work called simply “The Chapel”. But there is nothing simple about this chapel. Originally crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the chapel re-opened at its current home in Winter Park in 1999.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 2
View of the chapel interior designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

Though originally displayed as a work of art, the chapel was so exquisite, that male patrons would remove their hats, and all who entered would sit in reverent silence, as if entering a functioning church. In fact, after the 1893 exhibition, the chapel would be moved to St. John the Divine in New York City, where it did actually function as a chapel.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 3
Altar from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum.

There is a deep connection between art and worship. Anthony Esolen in his book ten ways to destroy the imagination of your child states that “In both art and worship, the heart seeks out something beyond itself – a beauty or a power that is not its own.” (pg. 225) Tiffany’s chapel does exactly that – it shows us a beauty and a power that is so clearly not our own.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 4
Baptistery and Field of Lilies leaded-glass window from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum. Photo by Raymond Martinot.

Even as we entered the chapel at the Morse Museum, there was a little placard urging silence, and we coached our children to be respectful and quiet. The day we visited, there was a small crowd of other folks in the chapel as well – some were sitting quietly, admiring the art, some were taking photos and pointing out details in the mosaics, some appeared to be praying.

Morse Museum, Tiffany chapel 5
Lectern from the Tiffany chapel interior at the Morse Museum.

When we encounter great works of art, silence is often our best response. We are confronted with the transcendent, and words somehow seem inadequate.

Morse Museum, Tiffany Chapel 6
View of Tiffany chapel leaded-glass windows and electrolier. Left to right: The Story of the Cross, c. 1892; Adoration, c. 1900–1916; Christ Blessing the Evangelists, c. 1892. Photo by Jimmy Cohrssen.

For Christians, the events of Holy Week are the pinnacle of our faith. Good Friday services are often marked by silence and a contemplative sadness as we reflect on the death of Christ for our sins. Easter services in contrast resound with joy and delight as we celebrate His resurrection.

Morse Museum, Tiffany Chapel 7
The Story of the Cross, c. 1892
 Leaded glass
Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, New York City, 1892–1900
D. 104 1/2 in.

A trip to the Morse Museum and a time for reflection in the beauty of the chapel can be the perfect venue for me to reflect on these Holy Week events. And I am not alone in those thoughts. In fact, the Morse Museum is free on Easter weekend. A tradition begun in 1986, the museum offers a free open house on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. If you are in the area, I suggest you work in a visit to the Morse and a visit to your local church to celebrate this Holy Week. He is Risen!

 

All photos graciously provided by and used with permission of the Morse Museum.

 

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What will you create this year?

You may have heard the phrase “New Year, New Décor.” My question would be why take someone else’s idea of décor?  Don’t settle for copying another’s style. Create your own!

Yes, you can create!

You’re probably saying to yourself, “What in the world is Laura talking about? I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” Well let’s dream a little bit, PERHAPS:

  • You’ve wanted a room in your house that speaks peace to all that enter.
  • You’re looking to get energized in 2018.
  • You’ve really wanted to do something with that old photo of your parents before it disintegrates.
  • You want to reaffirm the love you have for your children, grandchildren, pets in a special way.
  • You’ve got a drab room you need to clear up or clear out. You just need a fresh vision.
  • You want to create your own special space or a space for someone you love, small or large.

create 1

Creating doesn’t necessarily mean do-it-yourself. You can co-create. All you need is a starting point, an idea, a dream, a vision, a color.

create 2

Art has the opportunity to translate those thoughts, that vision, and transport you to a special place. The world would be a lot duller and colorless without art. A painting can spruce up a dark room or calm you down in your frenzied world. Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves, and lose ourselves at the same time.”

create 3

If there is something in your heart or head, your past or future that you’d like Laura to create in oil, pastel, or acrylic? I’d love to discuss it with you.

I get such joy when I am able to take the dreams of someone and create something that puts all those thoughts on canvas. Here’s a little clip of the unveiling of one of my most recent creations: SarasotaWaterfall

create 4

Keep in mind that the outer you is always a reflection of the inner you. So strengthen your outer self by thinking on “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things”. Philippians 4:8 

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Small but Memorable

Art museums may not be high on your list of places to visit with small children. I can understand that. We’ve heard an annoyed “shhhhh” from more than one art museum docent in our years with small ones in tow. But sometimes, small children and small art museums make for big memories!

We are Bank of America card holders, so we have the opportunity to enjoy a free museum on the first weekend of every month as part of their “Museums on Us” program. Being new to Orlando, we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out a new museum. This month, we selected the Mennello Museum of American Art.

The museum itself is small, only one floor with a few carefully chosen exhibits, both permanent and rotating. However, it sits on a beautiful expanse of land along the shores of Lake Formosa in downtown Orlando. We were also able to wander through its well manicured gardens which are amply supplied with comfy adirondack chairs for lounging, and engaging sculptures to enjoy.

small 1

No small sculptures

Currently, they are featuring the sculptures of Alice Aycock – Waltzing Matilda and Twin Vortexes. These sculptures are anything but small. My daughters were fascinated just by walking around them and noting all the various details. As they viewed the sculptures from different angles, they pointed out different features and had lively discussions about what the sculptor was creating.

small 2

There are a variety of other sculptures to view along the pathways in the garden. My family was particularly delighted with the larger than life crayon sculpture.

small 3

No small impact

Inside the museum, we noticed that we had arrived on the final weekend of the visiting exhibit The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William EgglestonEggleston’s photographs have shaped many in the art world beyond just photographers. American novelist Megan Abbott said, “To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch…When you look long enough at his photographs, [like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images] you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

small 4
Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, 1973, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

Indeed, even our small children were in another place as they walked slowly and quietly through the exhibit. Ordinary moments in time become extraordinary works of art. In ways that I cannot quite explain, Eggleston’s works were remarkable in their power to capture my attention and my imagination with scenes as pedestrian as laundry hanging on a clothesline.

small 5
Art credit: William Eggleston, Untitled, color photograph. Collection of the University of Mississippi Museum and Historic Houses, gift of Dr. William R. Ferris.

My girls were full of big questions about the photos and why they were so powerful. They began creating whole stories around the snapshot moments captured and displayed on the walls of this small exhibit. Unfortunately, the exhibit has moved on, but I would encourage you to check out the works of this groundbreaking artist.

The Mennello Museum also has permanent exhibits featuring self-taught landscape artist Earl Cunningham, and a fascinating sculpture by Albert Paley, entitled Hector. 

small 6
art credit: Albert Paley (b. Philadelphia, PA 1944), Hector, 1990, steel with red paint. Collection of The Mennello Museum of American Art, purchased by Friends of The Mennello Museum of American Art, 2016, from Paley Studios Archive, Rochester, NY

This towering steel sculpture calls to mind the character of Hector from Homer’s Iliad. My husband has had the pleasure of teaching the Iliad and my daughter has read a children’s version of it as well. We had a rather interesting and engaging discussion about Hector the Greek hero and the sculpture.

No small stories

We spent not quite two hours exploring the Mennello museum, both inside and out. I’m so glad we took the opportunity to visit. I have no doubt that we will return. The museum offers multiple opportunities to engage with the art they celebrate. They offer free docent led tours on the first Friday of every month, a monthly free day for families (where your small ones can create their own art), a monthly documentary movie screening, and even a puppet led story time for toddlers.

I was thrilled to find a museum that was accessible, engaging, and thought provoking to enjoy with my whole family. Even my six year old has asked if we can return! But you don’t have to be small to appreciate the Mennello. My husband and I were grateful for the opportunity to be exposed to some new-to-us artists and look forward to our next visit.

If you’re in the Orlando area, I would encourage you to check out the Mennello Museum. If you’re not, I have a hunch that you have your own small museum in town. Maybe you’ve always overlooked it because of it’s size. You may just find something there you never expected. What’s your favorite small museum you’ve explored? Share your experiences in the comments, I’m always looking for new places to see!

 

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The Most Dreaded Question

Just a warning. I’m going to do a little fist pounding in today’s blog! It’s about the most common question I get. Can you guess what that might be?

Is it: when did you first start drawing, painting, etc?

Or how about: why did you decide to paint that?

Maybe: what is that – oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor?

How about: why do you work in pastel so often?

Perhaps it’s: why are paintings so expensive?

dreaded question

NO, IT IS NONE OF THE ABOVE. The question I get most often is “how long did it take you to paint that“? I’m going to say that this question drives me crazy. For so many reasons.

First, I don’t punch in and punch out with a time clock when I paint.

I sometimes paint in my dreams.  Creative ideas and thoughts come to me when I wake up or before I go to sleep, or perhaps driving somewhere. I pray over my paintings, cry over my paintings, get mad at my paintings, ask God for inspiration with my paintings.

Often, I may write the approach down, sketch it, redraw it, put things in different places and put it in little thumbnail sketches.

dreaded question 2

I may decide I dislike the idea and throw it away. Sometimes, I may want to combine certain media and need to research them to make sure the elements are stable. All too often, I may start the painting one way, scrape it down and finish it another way. Then I may spend countless hours doing a painting then dislike what I’ve done and relegate it to a closet.

But I don’t hate that closeted painting. Instead, I treasure what I’ve learned.

I know one thing. All the thumbnails, sketches, difficulties, failures are part of what makes my art me. My artistic endeavors fuse, making for better art each and every time.

Right now I am working on 4 paintings. One is an oil portrait of a man I call Harry. One is a pastel portrait of a Boston Terrier. Another is a mixed media of water lilies which is a preliminary painting of a much larger 2 ft x 4 ft painting I have been commissioned to do and one is a large still life of flowers in acrylic. Only one of them is working out the way I want it to. I guess you could say I am working on 5 because I’m thinking about one in my head too.

When working on a painting, you can encounter many problems, that truly is the “agony and ecstasy” of art. It doesn’t go as well or as easy as people think and if it does go really well, really easy, it’s probably not my best work.  Recently, I was working on a painting for client’s bedroom:

 

I was working on a deadline and I was close to being done. But I didn’t like one whole section. So I painted totally over it. My husband and brother-in-law were aghast. They thought it was fine. I didn’t!

One of my favorite artists, Everett Raymond Kinstler, a highly accomplished portraitist, states in his book Painting Faces, Figures, and Landscapes of a watercolor portrait: “The final watercolor portrait was my fifth attempt, after tearing up the previous four because I failed to get a likeness or because the painting had lost its freshness.”

Kinstler inspires me and gives me hope. He states he is reluctant to give demonstrations. He calls them “stunts and ego trips”, “speed of execution mean[s] nothing”.

“Spontaneous painting is the result of years of experience.” Everett Raymond Kinstler

While, I’m no Picasso, perhaps this story will give you a flavor of what I’m try to say:

Picasso was sitting in a Paris café when an admirer went up to him and asked if he would do a quick sketch for him on a paper napkin. Picasso politely agreed, did a quick sketch  and handed back the napkin — but not before asking for a rather large amount of money.  The admirer was horrified: “How can you ask so much? It only took you a minute to draw this!” “No”, Picasso replied, “It took me 40 years”.

I’m not sure why people like to ask this question to artists but as of yet I haven’t thought of a glib, quick answer, but I’d sure like to hear your thoughts.

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These goats mean business

Alas, I don’t! As some of you know I have a rooster and some chickens, but no goats.

juladame goat business

Just recently though, I learned how goats launched a business. I met Julie Wells a while back at an arts and crafts show. By chance and love, my dear husband bought me some of her all natural hand cream. I’m not the kind that goes out and buys hand cream for myself, but at the risk of sounding like a commercial, I couldn’t believe how wonderful that stuff was.

So, I’ve had it in my head to talk to Julie Wells, creator of Juladame, and find out what she might have to share with me and our readers. Her journey is quite interesting.

Here are a few important things I gleaned from my time spent with Julie.

juladame business

The business of being mindful
  • Creativity is not always due to natural talent. Julie said she just fell into it when someone gave her a few goats that needed milking. Chance and opportunity are good friends.
  • Julie paid attention. She said it just felt right. Pay attention when something feels right to you, when you are in the moment of being present and enjoying that time. That “still small voice” in all of us needs to be surfaced and acknowledged.
  • Decide if you’re really passionate. Julie was surprised to learn that some people consider her an artisan. If you enjoy any of Julie’s products, you easily see that she loves what she does and has developed quality soaps and creams. But Julie considers herself an educator. Why? Because in Julie’s heart, people should not have to settle for products that have a lot of harmful chemicals. She’s truly excited when people see the benefits of goat’s milk on their skin.

Juladame1 business

The business of perseverance
  • Be determined. While Julie fell into it, she kept on with it. In effect she kept falling forward. When she moved to Florida, her tried and true recipes from New York weren’t working. She didn’t throw up her hands here in Florida, and walk away from her business. She persisted.
  • Don’t think you’re too old! Julie started when she was 42 years old. As many of you know I started painting when I was around 59. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt when he was 80 years old, fearing the journey, yet trusting God. Fear at any age is our greatest enemy.

Juladame8 business

  • She cares. Julie named her business as a legacy for her 3 daughters. Listen to the interview here to learn how:

    One of her daughters is a dedicated mother and can see the benefits of working from home. Julie also considers her customers her friends. She gets to know them, their needs, and appreciates their feedback. So for her it’s all about family and friends.

Juladame7 business

Julie has some special words to share with those of you who may not believe you are creative. She’s encouraging, and her products make lovely gifts and are reasonably priced. Why not treat yourself or a friend? Go to Julie’s page and give her a call.

Let’s support our local artisans! Which brings me to a special request. Do you have an artist, artisan or friend that you think might make a great guest? Please let me know.

 

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Where is the art in your neighborhood?

On our Facebook page, we occasionally share fun venues with interesting art related events. We try to highlight cities where our subscribers live. If you’d like us to feature your city, let us know!

This past Saturday, my family participated in a fantastic art event at Laguna Gloria, our local contemporary art museum here in Austin, Texas.

We have previously visited Laguna Gloria and greatly enjoyed it, so we were eager to return. My children LOVE all things artsy – particularly if they can get their hands dirty and create some masterpieces.

finished art projects

It was a rainy day in central Texas, but we braved the rain anyway. After signing in, we were given a map and an explanation of all the events that were going on and immediately headed off to an indoor venue where the girls could enjoy some paper, markers, chalk, and an opportunity to create their own book.

Creating some art

After a stop for some free snacks and beverages (including some specials for the grown ups!), we embarked on a tour of the working art studios. The first stop was the claymation studio.

claymation art

Our girls made their own clay sculptures that were then incorporated into a claymation video using the free app Stop Motion Studios. They are super excited to try some movie making at home.

From there, we paused a bit to watch a portrait painter. The girls were enthralled to see the portrait come together before their eyes as a patient model sat so very still. Our oldest in particular has a new appreciation for what “Miss Laura” does.

We then had a chance to watch and create our own silk screen prints.

silk screen art

The girls were fascinated with the tiny, almost invisible, holes in the silk that enabled the jackalope scene to be printed on their paper.

Our last stop of the afternoon was in the pottery studio. The girls were able to use carving tools to create a design on a clay tile. The tile was then inked and the girls were able to use it as a stamp to create their own unique card. Our youngest has already turned it into a lovely birthday card for her older sister – but shhh….it’a  surprise!

stamping art

We were there for several hours, and still didn’t experience all there was to see. There were seven open studios in all, but some had multiple exhibitions and activities going on. Despite the weather, over 1000 people showed up to enjoy all the art to be had. It was a fantastic day for our family, and it was all free!

Finding your neighborhood art

What art venues are there to be explored in your city? In our internet age, it’s easy to find fun (and often free) events in your own neighborhood. Where will you explore this week? Share your stories with us! And if you’re even in Austin, you can’t go wrong at Laguna Gloria!

 

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No Fun Allowed!!!

Yes, guilty as charged, I do take myself too seriously! How about you?

My recent experience at Lisa Whitener’s pallet knife workshop got me really thinking about having fun.

No Fun Allowed

Then I read,  what Dr. Seuss said, (Theodor Seuss Geisel),

“Nonsense wakes up the brain cells. And it helps develop a sense of humor, which is awfully important in this day and age. Humor has a tremendous place in this sordid world. It’s more than just a matter of laughing. If you can see things out of whack, then you can see how things can be in whack.”

I needed that, everyone needs a little nonsense in their lives otherwise their own self importance gets in the way. I think when we get too full of ourselves, we aren’t all that fun to be with.  We give ourselves and others a brain cramp. 

Fun, on the other hand has an enlivening effect.

No Fun Allowed
Lisa Whitener on “fun”

I had a chance to talk to Lisa about her philosophy on art and being creative. She also had some nice encouragement for you, our readers. Listen to what Lisa has to say about making life and art fun.

 

There are a whole lot of reasons that we become self absorbed. One underlying cause is our pride. Pride will make you worrying about what other people think. They are going to think what they want whether you do the right, wrong, best thing anyway. Accept that you’ll never please people. Allow yourself to please God with simple faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Here are a couple of nonsense goodies that can help you:

  • Buy some bubbles at your local dollar store, blow them on the porch or in bed, laugh.
  • Concentration is good, but recognize frowning does not help you do a better job. 
  • Turn off the tv, don’t be in bondage to media where everything is a crisis. 
  • Ditch the “I’ve got to be perfect” syndrome, it’s boring and paralyzing.
  • Joy is good for relationships. Play with your cat, dog, friend or mate.
  • Develop a fun attitude by being intentional and grateful. Fun is a stress reliever, watch a funny movie or video. 
No Fun Allowed
My thanks to photographer Suzanne Wallick for this lovely picture

It’s ok to be quirky, embrace that you’ve been wired by God to be in his image and as is everyone else, so relax.  

Are you having fun yet? If not, start today! I’d love to know how you have fun and SHARE the fun – leave a comment here or share on Facebook or Instagram.

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9 Ways to Raise an Art-less Child

Recently, I was listening to a podcast with Anthony Esolen, the author of Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child. While I have not read the book (my husband has informed me that it is on our bookshelf), it has generated a plethora of reviews, critiques, responses and agreement that have certainly piqued my interest.

Then I got to thinking about what else suffers as we notice the collective shrinking of our imagination. Is a love of and appreciation for art next in line for extinction? 

So, in my own nod to Esolen, here is my non-exhaustive list on how to raise an art-less child:

  1. Schedule every moment for the children in your life, at home and at school. We would not want our children to have free, unstructured time. They might accidentally create something, or even worse, might find that they LIKE to create. That will not do. art-less child
  2. Ensure that your home, office, school space is a “mess free” zone. We     can’t have any residuals of the creative process lying around cluttering things up. Neat and tidy, tidy and neat. Remember, cleanliness is next to godliness.
  3. In fact, you really should just eliminate any type of crafting or art supplies altogether. If they have no tools, they can’t create make a mess. art-less child
  4. On the off chance that children gain access to art supplies and actually make something, do not display it. Instead, it’s probably best to point out the deficiencies of their work lest they be encouraged to continue along these lines.
  5. To be fair then, you really shouldn’t display any art in your home, school, or office. No sense in playing favorites – no child’s art, no art from anyone. 
  6. There’s no need to stop just at the home, school, or office. It’s best not to take your children to any museums. Those places are really too stuffy, too quiet, and not really appropriate for children. Besides, since you’ve eliminated free time, there’s no opportunity to go to museums anyway. art-less child
  7. It’s probably best then to not encourage your children to read very much.  They might stumble on dangerous works such as this book or this one.art-less child
  8. Instead of exposing them to good books, be sure then to substitute technology and banal programming. Just to be safe, avoid any shows or games where they could be creative; you want mind-numbing, not mind-enriching, so take no chances. 
  9. Do not expose them to or point out ANY beauty in nature. Goodness, if you’ve managed to keep them away from human-created beauty, don’t slip and let them appreciate God-created beauty. art-less child 

If you are able to adhere to these nine guidelines, you should be successful at killing any love for or joy in art and beauty in your own child and those of others you love. 🙂

art-less child

Just in case one of our wonderful readers has not picked up the tongue-in-cheek nature of this post and is scrambling to send my poor children a box of art goodies (don’t let me stop you…), the pictures in this post are my own children, the books listed in #7 are well-worn due to being read so many times in our home, we frequently visit natural parks and museums, I cannot store all their art supplies, and we have numerous works of art hanging in our home (Laura’s art, famous art, and my children’s art). 

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