BABIES WERE EVERYWHERE and
A FROG KING, TOO!
At the Artists Opening for Mardi Gras-inspired “Arti Gras”—artCentral’s 2019 inaugural exhibition showcasing forty-two amazingly gifted members of the Joplin Regional Artists Coalition (JRAC)—chubby, naked babies were literally everywhere. More accurately, these many-hued babies, conjured by artCentral board members and reception impresarios Jane Ballard and Jane Van Den Berg, were literally scattered all over the festive serving table. They were perched as plastic adornments on the tops of the miniature purple and green and gold (representing justice and faith and power) iced cupcakes that served as nods to the traditional Mardi Gras “king cakes” which are baked and served with small porcelain or plastic babies inside.
At typical contemporary Mardi Gras celebrations where a king cake is served, the party-goer who
Mardi Gras—the inspiration for JRAC’s “Arti Gras”—is supposed to represent a farewell to the fat living and indulging preceding Lent. While nowadays the king cake is the most widely recognized symbol of pre-Lenten feasting, concealing a tiny treasure in a celebratory cake has long been a European pre-Lenten tradition.
Legend has it that the first cakes were made in the shape of a ring and colorfully decorated to resemble a bejeweled crown. Today’s king cakes baked and sold at French bakeries in New Orleans originated in France and are believed to have been brought to NOLA from France in 1870.
Originally a bean or a trinket was used instead of a baby. The bean’s discovery commemorated the discovery of Jesus’ divinity by the Magi at the Epiphany (from the Greek word that means “to show”), when Jesus first showed himself to the three Wise Men and to the world. The finder of the bean or trinket was duly anointed king or queen to preside over the festivities, often with a consort of his or her choosing.
Harking to the practice of elevating faux festival royalty, on the "Arti Gras" reception table a regally cloaked fiber-made frog king (a birthday gift from my dear husband, David) was perched high up above all the babies seated on their mini cakes among the lavish spread of savories and sweets offered for feasting for the artists and patrons and guests filling Hyde House.
Like a magi-wanna-be reigning over artCentral’s evening arty party, the frog king sat splendidly outfitted with a gold crown, a gold-trimmed cloak and a sparkling gold scepter. In the frog king’s presence exciting news was announced including juror Judith Fowler’s selections of the artists and the art she found to be of exceptional merit and deserving of special recognition and cash awards. (Be sure to return to Art Notes next week when I’ll be name-dropping each talented award winner and each of their eye-popping award selections!)
In the mind of this curator, every multi-media “Arti Gras” art work on exhibit now through March 17, 2019, is a show-stopper deserving of recognition. Thanks to members of JRAC, Hyde House is simply bursting with talent turned out in delightful diversity—watercolor and oil; acrylic and encaustic; porcelain, clay and fiber; photography and pastel; and wood and fused glass! No wonder artCentral claims to offer “grand art in a small town”! Come see! Come see and prepared to be pleased and inspired and reminded that art and culture are alive and well in Carthage and Joplin and in the towns of all our art-rich neighbors.
I’ve been talking a lot lately with a group of visionary Carthaginians about the legacy of art we’ve been given. As we plan for the first ever Art.A.Fair Carthage to be held April 13, 2019, around the historic downtown square, we’re remembering that the very first origins of Carthage were built on art. When our native Carthage limestone, familiarly known as Carthage marble, was hewn from the earth, local and regional artists and craftsmen artfully, architecturally transformed the strength and beauty of nature as they created “the first grand art in our small town” seen today in the fine artistic homes and civic structures in which we live and work and play. As so poignantly stated by artCentral and JRAC artist, April Davis-Brunner, “You can’t spell Carthage (C“art”hage) without art!”
Come see for yourself! Visit artCentral in elegant, historic Hyde House proudly standing for more than one hundred and thirty years on a foundation of enduring Carthage marble and creating a lovely space for celebrations that attract patrons from near and far—even a king and babies, too. For exhibition information visit www.artcarthage.com/events.