Thursday, May 9, 2019

Emilie, The Tenth Muse…The One Who Sees

Emilie, The Tenth Muse…The One Who Sees
Emilie is a rare gem at an art opening. 

She doesn’t have a dog in the fight.

By that I mean she’s pure patron, appreciator, creative spirit, lover and follower of art… without being an actual maker of art herself.  

In the Northeast Ohio world of gallery openings, museum shows and juried competitions…literally everyone…from Part-time Volunteer Gallery Assistant to Museum Director…is also an artist, or has been at some point in their life. This is why Emilie is so rare, and I told her so the moment I found this out.

Since then, I have seen her at every art opening I attend, and she has attended many that I do not. Usually she pops in to one, and then has two more on her dance card for the same night.

At one such art opening, I talked to her about how I’m transitioning my Chicks with Balls project to my Goddess project, where I view the mythology of all religions through a feminist lens and reinterpret images and stories that have shaped our collective thinking.

Emilie’s portrait is one of a few that stands at the threshold of the Goddess project. 

In Greek Mythology, there were nine muses; Godesses who inspired great achievement.  These eternally beautiful and youthful daughters of Zeus had names like Thalia: The Cheerful One, Erato: The Lovely One and Melpomene: She Who Sings. There were even specific muses for flute-playing, astronomy and remembering things (TUM PECCET… find out the rest when you click it). 

The glaring omission in this glowing line-up is a muse for the Visual Arts!

In the world of figurative art, the concept of the artist’s muse is as old as art itself. 

The artist’s muse, however, isn’t an ethereal 22 year old goddess whispering in your ear, it is a mortal human whom you find fascinating to paint because of physical, intellectual or emotional attributes…or an exciting combination of all three! As Picasso once said, “Let inspiration find you working.” An artist’s muse shows up and poses for you, thereby enabling the actual “working” part of inspiration. 

For me, a muse often falls in line with the kind of lines I like to make. And, for those who haven’t noticed, I love painting glorious age! The fact that Emilie is such a great appreciator of art just made her mythological title that much easier to come up with: Emilie, The Tenth Muse…the One Who Sees.

But, I’m not the only one inspired by Emilie. If you talk to her for a bit (at one of the many art openings where you’ll see her), you’ll find out that she is the proud mother of two-time Academy Award Winning Director for Pixar films, Lee Unkrich. Among a host of other movies, he directed Toy Story 3 and Cocoboth of which won Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film. 

Yes, THE Toy Story 3 and THE Coco…I shit you not.

I don’t want to end my blog with the words, “I shit you not…,” so I’m going to throw a little love in the direction of my own “ethereal, whispering in your ear” muse; John Singer Sargent.

Isabella Stewart Gardner
(1888) John Singer Sargent

The pose and composition of my portrait of Emilie was inspired by Sargent’s portrait of iconic collector and museum founder, Isabella Stewart Gardner.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum catalog says, Sargent’s painting of Mrs. Gardner presents her as a “pagan deity.” Art critic and author, Henry James called Sargent’s depiction a “Byzantine Madonna.” Both descriptions speak to me.

Mrs. Gardner's head is surrounded by a mandorla 
patterned after a tapestry in the Gardner museum collection. In keeping with this regal addition, I re-imagined Emilie's mandorla as a halo of brushes, befitting the muse of the visual arts. 

Emilie’s sari is an exotic fabric from an exotic land purchased at an exotic fair-trade store in Lakewood, Ohio. The primary colors and patterns made me think of Toy Story and Coco. And, Emilie wears the red-striped admission bracelet for Front International, Cleveland’s first-ever summer-long adventure as an international contemporary Art Mecca. 

Front International is a triennial festival to be repeated in the summer of 2021, so mark your calendars!

And, if you find yourself in Boston, make a point to head to The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Around the turn of the last century, Mrs. Gardner amassed a major collection that included Sargents, Zorns, Manets and Bonheurs along with some Rembrandts, a Vermeer and even a Michelangelo drawing.

During her lifetime, these works were beautifully displayed in her private home…really a mansion… which she bequeathed as her legacy, to become the magnificent Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It ranks among the best private museums in the world and is a “must-see” even in Boston, the land of “must-sees!” Its just around the corner from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, but each museum deserves its own day…heck spend the whole week!