Mein Deutschland

Last summer, while hiking the Wank in Garmisch-Partenkirchen with my family, I began contemplating my next gallery showing.  I had six months to plan and paint. 

Garmisch is located in the Bavarian Alps.  It’s breathtaking all year long.  Our three hour hike took us to the top of a mountain, overlooking the valley and seemingly endless views of the Alps.  As I soaked in the scenery, I realized that Germany is beautiful all year round.  Yes, we have long, grey winters, but Germany radiates so many lovely traits that I have come to deeply appreciate.  That is what I needed to paint. 

My goal was to display the unique charm that we, as Americans, discover and adore in Germany.  Shortly after my hike, I asked my American friends, who are living or had lived in Germany, what they loved about Germany. The list was long and fabulous.  They mentioned the beer and wine fests, the walking trails, the vineyards on the Rhine and Mosel, the bright colors of the homes, the rooftops of villages, fields of pick-your-own flowers, flowers in the window boxes, Christmas markets, winding roads through the villages, towns along the Weinstrasse, church bells, castles, festivals, fields of rapeseed, sunflowers, bakeries, cobblestone, rolling hills, half-timbered houses, old architecture, cathedrals, paintings on the sides of houses, shrines to the Virgin Mary, and crosses on mountain peaks…and my husband reminded me of the German passion for Fußball (soccer).  My friends have been extremely observant!  And appreciative.

It was a long list, so I had to pick my favorites.  I used bright colors and texture to create a fun and upbeat vibe.  I will share only a small description behind each painting, because if you have experienced Germany (or even if you haven’t), you may want to finish the story yourself…

From Porrbach to Schwedelbach, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas

The endless, well-maintained walking trails in Germany.  Rain or shine.  Filled with people of all ages, on foot or bicycle, with or without man’s best friend (ein Hund).  This painting depicts a trail I spent hours on near my home in Schwedelbach with mein Hund.

Das Fest, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas

AHHH…Das Bierfest!  Whether you have experienced the tents of Octoberfest in Munich, Springfest in Stuttgart, or even in your local village, you will appreciate the vibration of the music, the energy, the laughter and singing while holding enormous mugs of beer and standing on benches at your table with hundreds of other happy people.  Unforgettable.

View from the Rhine, 2016, Acrylic on Canvas

The Rhine and Mosel Rivers are deeply cut into the landscape, surrounded by steep walls of vineyards.  And the occasional castle, of course.  This piece is based on views from a Rhine riverboat. The German wine country is quite picturesque (and delicious, if you are a wine lover!).

Rooftops of Idar Oberstein, 2017, Acrylic on Canvas

German villages are so unique and colorful.  The architecture is one-of-kind, with hundred-year-old homes standing next to contemporary.  The streets wind wildly through the villages.  The homes hug the sidewalks.  Quite charming and lively. 

Self-Serve Sunshine, 2017, Acrylic on Canvas

One of my favorite things…stopping on the side of the road to pick my own flowers.  There is no person overseeing this field, but there is a wooden stand with knives for cutting stems, a reasonable price list, and a money jar.  It’s truly based on trust.  I get to walk through fields of beautiful tulips, snapdragons, daisies, or sunflowers and pick my favorites for home and friends.  Love die Blumen!

Don’t Forget the Flower Boxes, 2017, Acrylic on Canvas

I adore the half-timbered homes, with their vibrant facades and fabulous shutters.  They have storybook character.  What is truly lovely, however, are the overflowing flower boxes that we get to enjoy from springtime into winter.  As a woman with no green thumb, I especially appreciate the flower boxes!

Friends, we will depart Germany with antiques, German phrases, full bellies, and incredible flea market finds, but the gifts of culture from our host nation are also real treasures. Genau. 

I plan to take Mein Deutschland home with me. 

 

These paintings will be on display at Galerie Atelier 35, located in Landstuhl, DE from February 24-March 30, 2017.  Opening night is Friday, February 24 from 6-8pm.

 

Extra Special Landscape

Blockhaus mit Sonnenblumen, 2016, 60 cm x 90 cm, Acrylic

Blockhaus mit Sonnenblumen, 2016, 60 cm x 90 cm, Acrylic

Today, I handed over a commissioned painting to it’s new owner, Catherine.  Catherine contacted me last month, and asked me to paint a favorite landscape for her husband.  I said I would try my best, and asked her to send me a photograph of this special location.  Imagine my excitement when she sent me a photograph of one of MY favorite German spots – the hills surrounding Bernd’s Blockhaus.

Bernd’s Blockhaus is a local favorite for both Americans and Germans.  It’s a delightful restaurant and beer haven, situated in the rolling hills and colorful fields between Schwedelbach, Mackenbach and Weilerbach.  Every weekend, you will see families and friends from these villages, often accompanied by their loyal canines, strolling the farm roads to gather at Bernd’s for great food and relaxing conversation.  It’s more than a great atmosphere, though.  The experience makes you feel more connected to Germany.  Kids play fussball in the side yard and pet the horses.  Runners and bikers make their way along the bike paths.  The surrounding views are lovely.

As you can see, being asked to paint the Blockhaus landscape – requested with bright colors and fields of sunflowers – brought me great joy. I loved every moment in the studio.  This painting radiates the simple treasures of Germany that we want to hold on to forever.  I think I might have to paint one for myself.  Danke, Catherine! I hope this painting always brightens your home.

 

 

They Are Called ‘Waiting’ and ‘Wondering’

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of my favorite museums to visit.  I could (and did) spend an entire day there enjoying the art, the exhibitions, the architecture, and a delightful lunch in the cafe that overlooks the Sculpture Garden and the city beyond.  I never cease to be entertained as I overhear visitors comments regarding the contemporary work.  Seriously, some of it IS nutty!

While visiting MoMA two years ago, I purchased their gorgeous coffee table book, The Masterworks of Modern Art.  While reading the introduction to the book, written by MoMA’s Director, I discovered a quote which struck me,

“By locating objects and people in time as well as space, the Museum is constantly mapping relationships between works of art and their viewers, so that the space of the Museum becomes a site of narration where many individual stories can be developed and realized.”  

Of course, museums strategically place the art and the visitors in galleries (and those benches aren’t just for your tired feet, those benches are also there for your brains to sit and contemplate art!), but the words that popped for me were RELATIONSHIPS and INDIVIDUAL STORIES.  When you adore or detest a painting or sculpture, you have chosen your relationship with the piece. And, then, you can be super entertained, giving the piece of art your own wild story (especially the modern stuff).

On my blog, I often write the detailed story behind the creation.  It would be nice, however, for the VIEWER to write the story behind my piece.

So let’s try this… I challenge my viewers to create your own story.   Here are two recent pieces to divulge.  Created with acrylic, vintage book pages and paper.    Two ladies, two rooms, two color schemes, two situations.  They might be in the same house, they might be worlds apart.  Be creative. You don’t have to share.  Hate it or love, write the story.  Share it with a friend or family.  And make it interesting! I call them ‘Waiting’ and ‘Wondering’… but I am not going to tell you which one…is which.

Waiting
Pondering

Body. Mind. Heart. Spirit

Spirit sketch          Mind sketch               body sketch

I was at a gallery opening recently. A sweet, little (older) German woman wanted to explain her painting to me. Due to our unfortunate language barrier, she grabbed a friend to translate the story behind the abstract castle and landscape she had painted. Most importantly, she wanted me to know that the painting was all from her mind. That’s it. It came from HER mind (she pointed to her head) and she was super proud of that (she was adorable, by the way).

I am often asked, how did you think of that? Usually, something tips me off to a new idea. For this series, it was a book that my dad recently sent me, called “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms,” which turned out to be a really great book. The subtitle, “52 Companions for your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul,” connects each saint with one of these aspects of our being.

So, I painted a series of the four things we need to personally nourish and cherish to feel whole: Body. Mind. Heart. Spirit. My initial idea is that these paintings would all resemble stained glass windows like the ones I admire in cathedrals across Europe. Not just the traditional stained glass, but also the contemporary stained glass of modern artists that are sprinkled among century-old churches (think Gaudi in Barcelona, Mucha in Prague, and Chagall in Reims, just to name a few).

I started simply with Spirit, collaging a candle in a distant landscape, adding a cross and then the dove, as a sign of peace and Spirit. Do you see them all? Our spirits are all different and must be represented as such. Some people are most spiritual while simply in nature. Others find their spirit in organized faith. Yet another lights a candle and meditates.  All are positive and good.Spirit

The heart was next. The heart resembles a window in a dark room.  The window was created with scripture pages and from prayer cards that I have been collecting over the years. A landscape of rolling hills sits outside the window. My idea for this piece? Get out of the darkness. Open your heart and share it with others. In a world of misunderstanding and hatred, our hearts should seek to love outside of ourselves and our comfort zones.

Heart

Next was the body. The body is organic, warm, loving, and comforting. It is nothing to be ashamed of. I used energized colors to emphasize the warmth and necessity of an embrace.  Scripture regarding the body is collaged into the background to remind us that, from the beginning, our bodies are gifts.

Body1

Finally, the mind. The mind is a beautiful, yet, complicated and exhausting place. I thought of the many things we pack into our minds on a daily basis. Technology, music, arts, reading, games, work, travel, STEM, commitments overload us. I placed this mind on an island to remind us to give our hard-working minds a vacation from time to time!

Mind

So, friends, remember (and I need the reminder, as well)… Nourish. Cherish.

being series

Body. Mind. Heart. Spirit. Each 30 cm x 60 cm (11.5 ” x 23.5″).  Mixed media on canvas.

The Truth About Lady Liberty

Over the last few months, I have been getting paintings prepared for an upcoming show.  This show is taking place at a library on a local military complex.  I was considering my audience, which will be primarily military members, government employees, and their families, including a good number of kids.  The base library is a hot spot for school aged youth and teens when the school day ends.  Students head to the library after school to utilize resources, hit the books, and wrap up homework.  Typically, every seat in the computer lab is full.

Liberty progress1

We have only lived overseas for fourteen months and my kids have met a lot of great kids.  Honestly, I’ve been really surprised at the number of American kids we’ve met who have never lived in the United States.  OR if they have, it’s only been for a few years or they were too young to remember.  These are the kids I was thinking about when planning one last painting for this show.  I wanted to create a painting for the American kids who rarely experience living on American soil.  Just to give them a gift from “home.” My mind went wild, and I decided it had to be bright, kid-friendly, and curious.

Liberty progress2

I needed depth, so I asked my Facebook friends (who are also real friends, by the way) to send me their thoughts on the imagery represented by the Statue of Liberty, one of the most popular symbols of our great nation.  My friends played along beautifully (which was really nice, because I often bombard my Facebook friends with “art stuff” and I am sure it gets really old, really fast).

So, thank you Rita, Amy, Stacy, Linda, Maureen, Juan, Christine, Bobbi, Stacey, Misty, Robyn, Anne-Marie, Margaret, Becky, Amelia, Sharon, Shawn, Martha, Heidi, Helmtrud, and Kristin for contributing to my request.  Many of you shared similar words, and several of you had parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who passed through Ellis Island as immigrants.  All of your words were positive and powerful, which is exactly what I want to share with these kids. Your words brought this painting to life. And it went on the wall today…

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Four Seasons of Summer Vacation

Have you ever read the children’s book, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” by Mark Teague?  It’s a cute children’s book that should be read at this time of year, during the week school goes back into session.  I stumbled across this book when my kids were younger, and for some reason, I still think about it at the end of each summer.  This story is about a boy named Wallace. Back in school after summer break, Wallace is asked to tell about what he did during his summer vacation. Wallace lets his imagination flow, and soon he is writing about trains and cowboys and a Wild West adventure. 

I was thinking about this book as I signed four finished paintings today.  I was contemplating how we spent our time this summer (thankfully, it didn’t involve a move).  Everyone spends their summer vacation differently, at camps, traveling, and visiting family.  In June, I set a goal to paint my own version of the four seasons by July.  And then…SUMMER happened.  Suddenly, we had houseguests, one month of travels to Missouri and Maine, pool time, summer fun, reading, shopping, reuniting with friends and family, and trips to Paris and Luxembourg.  And, I must mention the two teens and a tween who had their own summer agendas to satisfy (insert smile).

Needless to say, I didn’t complete the paintings on my summer timetable.  Better than that, however, I really enjoyed my family and my summer vacation.  And, I took my time making these paintings exactly how I envisioned.  So, it’s September 1st and my four seasons are complete (mixed media on canvas, each 50 cm x 70cm).  I’d love to know which one is your favorite!

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Reunited with Watercolors

I packed watercolors in my suitcase for my vacation to the States. I love the beautiful windows and flower boxes in Germany, and decided they needed to be painted. I haven’t painted in watercolor in over 15 years. Watercolors are a lot like toddlers. If you leave them alone for a minute, they have a mind of their own!  My parents were running two dehumidifiers in their Midwestern humid home while I tried to manipulated the paint.  My watercolors were drying in seconds!  It was great fun and a great challenge.  I have been preoccupied with mixed media pieces for years now, but I think I will bring out my watercolors much more often!  Two of these three paintings are castle windows.

cochem window

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small window

Vacation Inspiration. St. Louis Style.

So, what does an artist do for inspiration on vacation when she is 4600 miles from her studio and supplies, and preparing for two shows?  Make the best of your situation.  After getting reacquainted with family, putting my kiddos on a bus to summer camp, relaxing poolside, and sipping wine with childhood friends, I found time to explore.  St. Louis never lets me down.

Before my kids left for summer camp, and at my insistance, my Dad and I took them to a show at the Contemporary Art Museum called “Occupational Therapy.”  Needless to say, after this visit, my Dad and my kids think artists are totally nuts.

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A few nights later, I explored the Chinese Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Vibrant yards of silk are stretched over thin metal frames, which were created on location by Chinese artisans.  The lanterns are beautiful by daylight and radiant at night! Here, I get a wild idea that I should paint some lanterns for my show at the Vogelweh library this fall… And for my St. Louis friends, these lanterns are all for sale at the end of the show.  If you can fit one in your yard! DSC01162 DSC01181

The next day entailed a stop to a unique bookstore called The Book House in Maplewood. Maplewood is such a groovy little area.  Loved this paper scuplted bookshelf that was out front.  Inside, I found an amazing 1930’s travel guide to Europe with beautiful pullout maps.  It was 65 bucks, so I didn’t buy it.  I am scared that I will tear out the old maps and incorporate them into my work! So I bought some cheap maps for my work instead.  But I can’t get that book off my mind.  Sigh.

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An afternoon visit to the Kirkwood Farmer’s Market reminds me of the fabulous European farmer’s markets.  Fresh produce, bright colors, great smells, fun for all of the senses.  It also reminded me of Olivia’s garden at home and how great it is to grow vegetables in our yard and bring them straight to the kitchen for dinner.  But…I bought cookies…Gooey Butter Cookies.  It’s a St. Louis thing and they were delicious.

kirkwood market

I never visit St. Louis without a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum. This stunning building was left from the 1904 World’s Fair.  From mummies to Monet, the museum has a diverse collection, well representing our world.  I discovered some ancient Spanish ceiling tiles that will be reflected in my sun sign series this fall.  What really inspired me?  The crowd!  So many families and couples were visiting on a Sunday morning.  Overhearing conversations and criticisms on art is always entertaining (hilarious!), too!stl art museum

It really doesn’t matter where you are.  Regardless of what project you might be in the middle of, whether at work or at home.  Inspiration is out there. I gathered ideas from my explorations that I can’t wait to get back to my studio and put them into work.  Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that have an impact.  Thanks, St. Louis!

Queen of HeARTS

Queen of HeartsI made many mistakes while creating this symbolic self-portrait. I am at peace with that. Frankly, it’s absolutely appropriate because I am far from perfect, definitely flawed, and I learn great lessons from my mistakes…all too often.

As discussed in my previous blog post, the suit of HEARTS symbolizes spring, home, heart, emotion, love, childhood, vulnerability, art (poetry and music), water and karma. The better you know me the more you will understand, but look closely and play along.

Queen of Hearts, Mixed Media, 80 cm x 120 cm

Queen of Hearts, Mixed Media, 80 cm x 120 cm

The queen is an artist, certainly a vulnerable path to choose as critics wait to dissect and critique her work. She is painted with bright and cheerful colors of spring.  Choosing spring was appropriate.  The last four years, this queen has woken up to spring in four different cities.  Her transient lifestyle leads to fresh beginnings.

The fleur de lis represents her upbringing, heritage and love of anything French. Scripture pages and crosses symbolize her faith. Music pages, her palette and brush represent the arts. Cookbook pages and wine glasses represent daily passions. Four flowers represent her family.

Crossword puzzle paper appropriately represents this queen, who is often tough to figure out. You never quite know what she is thinking (or over-thinking!).  She doesn’t either.  Barely visible words in the crossword puzzle state, “Can’t Be Tamed,” the name of a pop song by a rebellious musician. This queen doesn’t want to be limited, or to conform. Individuality and independence are important, even though it can lead to a simple life.

This queen is no angel, but the green angel, placed near her heart represents a history and continuation of youthful bonded friendships, sisterhood, a strong education, and the building blocks of encouragement that started her on a path in the arts. For all of these and more, this queen is feeling grateful.

Suits and The King of My Castle

You’ve seen them and played with them hundreds of times. But have you ever contemplated the history or meaning behind the suits on a deck of cards? Recently, I was randomly curious about this, so I did a little research. I didn’t expect to be intrigued with my findings.  But they inspired a painting or two…

deck

The oldest suit designs seem to be Muslim. These suits were coins, cups, swords and polo sticks (polo sticks?). As cards evolved, different cultures created their own suits and royalty face cards. Germany used leaves, hearts, hawk bells and acorns. In present day Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy, suits of swords, cups, coins, and batons are still used (and I hope to find some in my European adventures!). Today’s design, the hearts, spades, clubs and diamonds, are a French design from the 15th century. These designs were flat, stenciled silhouettes, which were easily mass produced, and thus made their way to America. Each suit represents a social class. Spades are nobility. Hearts are clergy. Diamonds are merchants. Clubs are peasants.

Myth states that the four suits represent the four seasons, and that the 52 cards represent the 52 weeks of the year. I discovered that each individual suit has many themes:

Hearts represent spring, home, hearts, emotions, love, childhood, vulnerability, art, poetry music, water and Karma. Clubs represent summer, education, mind, intellect, musing, young, irresponsibility, literature, air and drama. Diamonds represent fall, career, security, values, judgement, adult, responsibility, entertainment, fire, and material goods. Spades represent winter, environment, wisdom, health, acceptance, old age, transformation, scripture, earth, workaholic, old souls and warriors.

My random thought about suits became the starting point for two symbolic portraits. Spades seemed to best represent the first portrait, The King of My Castle.

        The King of My Castle, Mixed Media, 80 cm x 120 cm

The King of My Castle, Mixed Media, 80 cm x 120 cm

I chose spades because my king is a warrior, as you can see from his ship, the flag of his country and his command wings. Long flowing contrails represent his life-long passion for flying and endless hours dedicated to work (thus the workaholic). Because spades represent winter (and this king was actually born in the winter), I chose a cool winter palette with snowflakes, a hint of evergreen and an artic white border. Numbers represent his wisdom (and he really IS good at math). Antiqued scripture pages were specifically chosen for the background including verses on War, Faith, Wisdom, Marriage, Courage and Responsibility. A Celtic cross represents his Irish heritage and faith. Three stars on his crown represent his offspring. The earth in the center of the painting keeps him centered while he moves all over the world. His favorite past-time decorates his garment. Finally, a gold heart (created with the lively label of a favorite German beer, of course) shines on his sword.  Why the heart? On the outside he may come off as quiet and intimidating, but on the inside he has a heart of gold. He truly cares about his people, friends and family.  That very heart won the heart of his queen.  Who is this lucky guy?

Next up…the queen.