A STUDIO VISIT
Father Steve Wilson came for a studio visit on Sycamore Street. He was here to see a work-in-progress on my easel.
I always happily anticipate talking with Father Steve about art, my own or any other. His love for all the arts and his vast knowledge of art history turn our conversations into lively, provocative exchanges. Father Steve believes that art is very important to the Church—that the continuity and vibrancy of the church in coming decades will greatly depend on the Church’s appreciation, support and fostering of the arts.
For this particular commission Facebook has been a beneficial format for sharing the painting’s unfolding with Father Steve, our Facebook friends and members of the Grace Church parish. He came to offer his responses for what he had previewed on Facebook.
Of course, my artist husband, David, whose home studio is just across the hall from my own, is always the first to see new developments at the end of my studio sessions. I do value David’s thoughtful responses that validate my progress. Since we have both learned the value of honoring each other’s creative boundaries, we each refrain from giving unsolicited criticism or advice. I especially appreciate his observations that cause me to know he “gets” what my art-making is all about—all about storytelling.
Recently contemplating “La Pietà”, David commented, “This painting looks like a stained glass window”. Indeed! Like most all of my paintings, “La Pietà” is a mosaic of motifs that tell a story created with bold linear definition and rich colors. The motifs in “La Pietà”—the images of the mourning Mary and the crucified Christ, the simple haloes that crown each and the passage from the Scriptures—are assembled like the elements of a leaded, stained glass window offering clues for viewers like you to see and read as a story.
Storytelling through art has been a tradition in many churches. Art in churches told the Bible’s stories in times before the advent of printing and the rise of literacy. When scriptures were unreadable to the vast majority of believers, church storytelling art could be found on the capitals of columns and in colorful windows and throughout sacred spaces large and small.
On the afternoon of Father Steve’s visit to my own sanctuary, up the stairs we climbed, past walls filled with paintings David and I have already made for our collaborative exhibit, “Signs and Wonders”, to be presented at artCentral in months to come.
“La Pietà” was waiting, serenely cloaked in a gauzy drape strewn with embroidered spring flowers. Father Steve nodded, and I slipped away the covering. My patron stood silently—smiling. “I love Mary’s eyes,” he said, then went on to offer his other appreciations. “I am very pleased,” he concluded, and he asked for one modest addition. “Do you think we can have a bit more gray in Mary’s hair?”
“Of course,” I replied to Father Steve’s simple request. Telling him of my plans to take the painting to completion, I spoke of my uncertainties about how best to represent Christ’s burial shroud. Father Steve grew silent again, hand to his chin, lost in contemplation. Acknowledging my intention for this “La Pietà” painting to resonate with my “Madonna and Child” painting, he gently ventured, “What do you think of adorning Christ’s shroud with the same organic decorative design used in the background of the “Madonna and Child”?” Ah, the perfect solution for my perplexity.
I returned to my easel and squeezed fresh pigment onto my palette. I picked up a favorite brush to continue with my storytelling, and I reflected on all the wonderful stories now being told on the walls of Hyde House—stories made in other studios by the amazingly talented artists of the Joplin Regional Artists Coalition—the stories of HEART & SOUL.
Do come enjoy the storytelling of artCentral's HEART & SOUL exhibition on view through March 15, 2020! Weekend gallery hours are Fridays and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and Sundays, 1:00-5:00 p.m. For more information call (417) 358-4404 or visit www.artcentralcarthage.org online.