I enjoy art show openings where I get to meet people and talk about UnGraven Image and my work. I didn't at first, because my work is very different and I needed to learn to feel comfortable explaining it.
Plus, usually at first only a few people understand what I mean when I say that every stroke is a Hebrew letter from original Bible texts. Partially, this is because it is a whole new way of painting and partially this is because the letters are so interwoven and one glazed over another that even if one can read Hebrew well, people don't actually see the letters, although here and there one peeks out.
Usually when I explain about painting with the letters people politely nod. The conversation continues with me answering questions about the art we're standing in front of, and eventually we get back to the letters. Maybe I'll point out a really tiny letter that is visible – and then the light goes on for someone in the group, who says, “Really?!! You mean every single stroke is a letter? That's all that's there are the letters. It's really the Bible?!”
I agree and continue on explaining that it's not actually the whole Bible, just the texts used… but I doubt anyone's listening to me at that point as the group moves closer excitedly muttering to each other, pointing and squinting at the work.
In theatre one actor usually gives or has a “cross line” (also known as an exit line when appropriate), which fills the time it takes for an actor to cross to another point on the stage for a piece of business, thus making it more interesting. I like to think I am giving my art enthusiasts a cross line, as I rattle off the actual texts used in a painting as they move very close to it.
Then they move back and look at the image. Then they move close again. Someone looks up at me and says, “You've done a lot of work! How long did this take you?”
Depending on the painting my answer is usually one or two weeks.
Then one member of the group breaks off to go find friend and cleverly challenges, “Guess what this is!” And the process begins again.
I never tire of it. I enjoy every minute. This amazes me because usually I find repeats boring. I think maybe I find this stimulating because I am on G-D's purpose for me.
When I was a teenager studying art, I brought my beloved younger cousin Craig Cook to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a tribute to our relationship that he went with me, since I am sure he was hoping we go to the park as usual. He was about seven or eight years old. I am eight years older than he. I doubt that Craig had ever been in an art museum before, but he had seen my work and his grandmother and my mother (sisters) were very big on doing paint by numbers paintings. That sums up his exposure to art then. The amazing part is I was all set to bribe Craig with pizza afterward and candy if he would come with me, but he agreed before I offered the bribe. I suppose I morally owe him pizza.
Anyway, I whisked Craig through the Met up to the Monet's. I pulled Craig up to one of the Monet's as close as our young noses would go – and a guard approached. I quickly promised that I was an art student and that I was teaching my cousin about art and that we would never, ever touch the painting (hugely bad because of body oils) and under the benevolent supervision of the guard, I was allowed to continue.
So there we are -- noses and eyes within an inch of the Monet. And I ask Craig, “What do you see?” He paused. A first for Craig, maybe even a last, because Craig is smart and glib.
“Do you see blobs?” I asked him.
“Yes! Blobs!” said Craig, immediately an art connoisseur.
Blobs are something an eight year old boy understands and appreciates. Who doesn't understand blobs? “Good, me too” I assured him. “Now back up.”
I will never forget watching Craig's already large almond shaped eyes, growing huge as he stepped back and those blobs became an image. The magic of art. “Now what do you see?” I asked.
The guard smiled. Craig never noticed. He was busy getting his nose up again as close as was allowed to look at the blobs. He stepped back again.
We tried this routine on many paintings that day. Since that day Craig has loved art. Growing up, he happily accompanied me to museums from that day forward. He has a small art collection and is also an accomplished photographer, including underwater photography. Never underestimate the power of blobs.
Obviously, Monet's blobs are a major influence on my work. Monet's work more than Pissaro's (who also counts), because Monet's blobs are irregular. My letters are irregular in both size and shape. Also, I layer them and often move from much larger letters to successively smaller ones. Plus, I also use glazes.
I have introduced many children to the wonder of fine art this way, including my son, David. I always do this under the watchful and benevolent gaze of museum guards who do a good job of protecting fine art from noses and fingers. I've never met a museum guard who was not helpful and understanding. All the children came to appreciate and love art.
Nobody makes blobs like Monet.
May you be a blessing and be blessed,
March 14, 2006
Also: See Judy Rey Wasserman's Psalm 97 Essence Portrait of Claude Monet at her blog entry, Lessons from Monet.