Russian Folk Art from 1905 Defines Me April 14 2020
“This decoration, which appeals both to the eye and to the fancy, lies in the fact that it deals more with color than it does with line, and, with rare exceptions, deals with simple subjects simply treated. It seeks its inspiration in the very heart of life - in nature as seen through the eyes of the peasant, who is free from all the conventionalities of civilisation, and whose eye is unspoilt by the constant contemplation of the ugliness which is so unsparingly distributed around us. The real poetry of life is the peasant's birthright - he is in ceaseless intercourse with the splendour and mystery of ever-changing nature, therefore his art is spontaneous, sane, vigorous and serene.”
This long quote is from Netta Peacock’s article about Russian Decorative Art written in 1905 for International Studio magazine. I was fortunate to win a box of these magazines at a recent farm auction in SE MN and have been pouring over them since. This paragraph of Netta’s, speaking about the Russian peasant decorating their farmhouse, had me staring into the middle distance for minutes, amazed that she said what I’ve been trying to articulate for years. I’ve struggled, as most do, to define why I do what I do. And after reading it the third time to make sure I read it right I said ‘Self, that’s about you.’
The line ‘whose eye is unspoilt by the constant contemplation of the ugliness which is so unsparingly distributed around us’ makes me wonder what Netta would think of any American suburban commercial corridor, especially the inner ring ones built in the 1960s and ’70s with their strip malls and parking lots, drainage ditches and inhuman proportions unfit for walking or civility. Designed for cars and speed and convenience they suck psychic energy without us even noticing why we’re tired all the time. It takes a lot of energy, at least for me, to just slog through the hell that Robert St S in Saint Paul MN, my local commercial chaos corridor. So what about eyes that are spoilt, absolutely ruined, by the ugliness that is distributed around me. The Russian peasant made his art to glorify his surroundings, I make mine to escape it.
Luckily my neighborhood proper is syrupy Rockweillian with tree-lined streets and well-tended gardens and kids on scooters. I do seek out and make sure to surround myself and family with nature and flowers and pretty and weird things so we can rebuild our energy for the next time we need to suffer the onslaught of modern life. And I hope my art can be that pretty and weird and refreshing thing for others when they need to recharge.
Eye Miniatures or "Lover's Eyes" January 19 2014
A handkerchief rustles and drops to the floor, as the young man bends down to retrieve it and return it to the Lady their eyes lock, she blushes and turns away. As he places it in her hand she notices there is something in her handkerchief, something small and hard, like a rock. She turns away from the other ladies sitting near her and inspects the surprise object now in her soft hands. It sparkles and shines in the fading afternoon sun.What a glorious little brooch! But it is more than gemstones and gold for set in the center is a small picture, as she inspects it further she realizes there’s a tiny painting of an eye staring up at her from the center of the brooch, his eye. A small smile teases the corners of her mouth and as her heart races she swoons and nearly faints.
Romantic and a little corny I know but courting in Georgian times was a far cry from the texts and Facebook “likes” we have now. Pity the teenagers of today with their romances playing out on the world stage when years ago love was a secretive and tantalizing affair.
There are believed to be fewer than 1,000 of these precious mementos of love and remembrance left in the world. The original one was commissioned by the Prince of Wales for the widow Maria Fitzherbert. As their love had to be kept a secret the portrait was made only of his eye to keep his anonymity intact and avoid the wrath of the Court. He eventually became King George IV and keeping with the times, whatever the Royals did became de rigueur for the upperclass. They were commissioned and worn from the late 1700's up to late 1800's. The recent resurgence in their popularity has made quite a few portrait artists busy today.
Usually pieces of ivory painted in watercolor they were made into brooches, bracelets, rings and necklaces. The ornate borders were set with precious stones, pearls and gold and would be a prized possession by whomever it was made for. Some portraits were to remind lover’s of each other, others were of family members that had passed on. Usually a memento mori portrait would incorporate clouds or tears on the eye signifying the subject had died. As only close family members would recognize just an eye, these small tokens of love could be worn publicly without fear of revealing who they were involved with. What whispers must have passed through the crowd when she arrived wearing an eye miniature! Who could it be!
These wonderful pieces have been avidly collected by the Skiers of Birmingham, Al recently put their large collection on display to share their mysteries with the world. I highly recommend reading the Salon article about the Skiers and a more in depth story of the Prince of Wales and his romance with Ms. Fitzherbert.
I’ve always been fond of drawing eyes and making them out of glass is a challenge that I’ve gladly accepted. It’s always interesting to see how they turn out and I’m eager to make more.
Dias de los Muertos Sugar Skulls January 07 2014
There is something so intriguing and beguiling about the human skull. It conjures deep primal revulsion and yet one can not look away. In Mexico and other countries the skull and skeleton are central decorations to the celebration Dias de los Muertos, the Day of the the Dead. This three day celebration of family members and friends that have passed on is centuries old. It centers around the idea that the dead come back to visit us on November 1st so we might as well throw them a party.
During the three day celebration families will build ofrendas (offerings), or alters, at the gravesite and in the families’ homes. They are filled with the passed on person’s favorite candies as well as photos and memorabilia, candles, crosses, food and orange Mexican marigolds. The family will tell funny stories and share in the joy of knowing the person that is no longer with them. Graves will be cleaned and picnics had by it’s side. Dancing, drinking and storytelling will be enjoyed by all. The celebrations vary in tradition across Mexico, some wear shells so while they dance the noise will wake up the dead. Some leave out pillows and blankets so their loved ones can rest after their journey,
Sugar skulls are central to the Dias de los Muertos celebrations, much like Christmas trees are to the Holiday season. Figurines of full skeletons doing everyday tasks reminds us of our lost ones and what they did in life. It also hints at the idea that the dead are still active and enjoying earthly pleasures, a hope that we all have that the afterlife will be enjoyable.
Sugar skulls have become ubiquitous in cultures outside of Mexico and are steadily gaining popularity around the world. They have surpassed their traditional role in the Dias de los Muertos celebrations and can be found on all kinds of decorative items. People are drawn to them as they can be blank slates, telling stories the observer is giving them.
There is something so real and gritty and approachable about sugar skulls. They are playful but at their heart they remind of us of those we love who are no longer with us. They also hint at own mortality. With such a sad story to tell, they do it gently by reminding us that while life is brief, it is also fun.
My mosaic skulls have hopefully captured some of the joy of the celebration of Dias de los Muertos and I hope they bring as much joy to you as they did me while making them.
Mystery of the Wax Museum, Film, Magazine Cover, Mosaic December 18 2013
"Mystery of the Wax Museum" was released in 1933 and is one of Hollywood's great 'lost' films. Shot in a quickly defunct color process that only had red and green hues, the eerie atmosphere leaped off the screen to original audiences. It was never reissued and considered lost by 1936. Lionel Atwill was praised for his portrayal of the poor lost Ivan Igor, the proprietor of the ghastly wax museum. Also starring Fay Wray of King Kong fame, her famous screams add the proper tingles of terror.
'House of Wax' starring Vincent Price released in 1955 was based on this classic film. Orson Welles also visited a similar plot for an episode of The Shadow in 1938.
Found in a vault in 1970 it was re-released in the summer of 1972 with a gala affair at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Fay Wray was the star once again as she surprised the appreciative crowd at midnight with tales of making the film.
Famous Monsters of Filmland issue #113 1975 recalled the eyewitness accounts of that night at Grauman's by the incomparable Forrest J. Ackerman (a blog post for another time that one) reviving 'Mystery of the Wax Museum' yet again to generations to come. His infectious enthusiasm for the film is a delight to read in the issue and is one of the many reasons that drew me to recreate this cover.
Please see my listing for Mystery of the Wax Museum" to see my stained glass interpretation of this classic horror magazine cover.
Welcome to SequentialGlass.com! August 07 2013
After years on Etsy, CustomMade.com, and other online marketplaces, I've decided to open the virtual doors on my very own store! Take a look around and peruse the mosaic pieces I have on hand, check out my page about custom projects, or drop me a line on the Contact page.
Thanks for stopping by—enjoy your visit!