Archive for Art News

Chardin and Stillness

Chardin‘s only child committed suicide.  The great still life painter had lavished a classical artistic education on his son,  (Chardin hadn’t received such an education himself, but had longed for it).  The boy had tried, struggled not very diligently, started many paintings, finished few, and at the age of 41 threw himself into a canal in Venice.  Chardin was 72.

So there’s a horrofic irony in the still lifes that Chardin had spent his whole life painting.  Arranged in softly arresting forms; pots, pitchers, fruit, and more often than not, dead game or fish; a rabbit, or a bird, draped carelessly among the mix or hung from a wall.  Recently killed, an opaque eye or a limp paw unsettles the otherwise peaceful scene. 

 Chardin’s paintings give new meaning to the gently oxymoronic term “still life”.  The objects are excessively still, the game completely lifeless, the painted scene could only be in a room where no people are or have been within the hour; that solemn limbo time between the morning hunt and preparations for the midday meal; after death but before the participation in life.  Chardin captured it unerringly time and time again.

And those seven years after his son had died and he lived on?  I’ve wondered a little, vaguely, and not until now giving the question a form, whether those years were those still lifes, taking the form of his own . . .

2007 Treasures To Be

So many things planned for 2007. We’ll be introducing, all hail with flashing marquee lights . . . etched glassware, paper mache bowls, boxes, even wastepaper baskets glinted and bewired (this is not your kids paper mache) (unless they’re paper mache prodigies who want to work for us!) and a whole new Glintlit subdivision, Glintlit Publications; handmade greeting cards, more bookmarks and books, and if it works out (we’ll know by summer, designing and testing the prototype now) a Glintlit planner.

I personally will be adding a gallery of my cozy little snake paintings, an obsession that’s slithering it’s way onto the canvas.

AND new blogs are in the works on our adventures in nutrition, literary retreats and current cultural events in Cincinnati!

2007 is dawning soon, tomorrow!, in iridescent shades, streaked, striped, and shimmering with promise.  We’re looking forward to it all with an irritating complacency . . .

The above Resolutions and Reflections brought to you by

Cave Art and the Modern Girl Scout

This weekend was spent making like a snake at Bluesprings Cavern Park in Indiana, slithering in and out of passageways sometimes knee and elbow deep in water, crawling commando style over over rubble rock, or crouched in a room with a low-hanging roof and hearing the surprisingly comforting drip drip of a leaky faucet that wasn’t a leaky faucet but instead water filtrating from the surface a hundred feet above us.  The Girl Scouts and attached adults such as myself ended up tired, dirty and wet, but highly exhilirated.  Changing into dry clothes we spent the night in a large hollow area above a subterranean waterfall, startled a bat hibernating just over our sleeping heads, and came out into the morning sun a little surprised to find the sky so far above us.

The experience has filled my head with a new appreciation for the cave art found all over the world.  (There was none at Bluesprings unless you count nature’s intricate carvings of it’s own natural materials).  Ten thousand years ago, people blew soot around their hands, hundreds of them, and left a highly personal mark.  Kilroy was here; the first Kilroy, long before anyone could write Kilroy, maybe not much longer after human beings learned to communicate by speech, calling each other by names.  Surely these early artists had names.  Naming appears early, often first in our mythologies, and from there a desire to leave that name, to leave a mark.

Sharks. Jets. Mary loves Joe.  This room was funded by a generous donation from Mr. and Mrs. William Smith.  I am Kilroy. I was here.

And here I am, ten thousand years later, blowing ash around my hand to leave a mark.  My name is Denise Thea.  My cave wall is cyberspace.

Decadent Decoupaged Cabinetry

Step 1 (optional) – We unscrewed the cabinet door from the frame – and the knobs from the cabinet door – just to make the decoupage easier. This isn’t necessary – just easier. Unless you’re allergic to screwdrivers.
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Step 2: Clean it, of course, and spray paint the whole thing. We used white, although the camera insists it’s ivory.

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Step 3: Choose what papers you want to use. We’re using black and white tissue papers (some with silent film pictures on it) and a favorite chocolate cake recipe. Yes, this is a dangerous thing to do if you like cake.

Decoupage is fabulous. You can decoupage ANYTHING even vaguely like paper; handmade papers, tissue papers (which gets translucent, very cool effect), scrapbook paper, magazine and newspaper clippings, photographs, your kids report cards, fall leaves, dried flowers (flat ones), love letters, coupons, subpoenas . . .

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Step 4: Spread the decoupage over the surface. Place a paper down and smooth it until the wrinkles are out. You should use a brayer (which is like a little rolling pin), but if you’re thorough and patient your fingers will work.
When all the paper is down, slather decoupage all over the top. Let it dry several hours. Do it again. And again. Ten times, in fact. This is the KITCHEN.  It gets rough in the kitchen and the more decoupage layers that goes on, the better it’s protected – but when you DO put lots of coats on, you’ll be amazed how nice it still looks ten years from now. (Yes, we know this from experience. Decoupaging forever!).
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting(The glare in the middle is from the camera’s flash. Grrr.)

Step 5: Spray or brush on a polyurethane sealant. Screw on the knobs. Done!

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Here it is in detail. More suggestive than intended (‘suggestive’ wasn’t intended at ALL) but you know what they say about chocolate.

Now we get to do 14 more cabinet doors.  We’re doing a chocolate cake theme. One fabulous recipe per cabinet door.


1/3 cup cocoa ,  1/2 cup boiling water,   2/3 cup shortening 1 3/4 cups sugar,  1 tsp. vanilla extract,  2 eggs2 1/4 cups cake flour, 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt1/3 cup buttermilkHeat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch pans. In a small bowl, stir together cocoa and water until smotth; set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat well. Stir together flour baking soda and salt; add to shortening mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in cocoa mixture; beat well.

Pour batter into pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Remove pans to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting – 6 Tbsp. butter or margarine, softened, 2 2/3 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/3 cup milk, 1 tsp vanilla extract. In a small bowl, beat butter. Add powdered sugar and cocoa alternately with milk; beat to spreading consistency (more milk will probably be needed). Blend in vanilla. Spread on cake.
Now here’s the clincher. Eat ONE piece. And good luck.

This creative quirk was brought to you by . . .

Van Gogh’s Shoes

Everybody seems to know about Van Gogh’s ear.  Tragic. Bloody.  Slightly comic.  And a shame.

It’s not something he would have liked.  That story isn’t a true portrait of the man.  Deeply ill, struggling in the morass of a mind that refused at times to rein itself in, his act of disfigurement and the world’s continuous harping on it is as unfair a picture of him as if you, the reader, were caught on film, vomiting, the last time you were seriously ill.  It’s not fair.  You were sick.  That’s not YOU.

What images, after all, best describe a person.  Not THAT. No. But surely, a portrait.  Van Gogh had many: his own face, a favorite flower, the house where he lived, the room where he slept.   But of all the paintings that he brought so eagerly into the world, it’s the shoes that affect me the most.

Beautiful brown beleagured boots. “A Pair of Boots, 1887”, “A Pair of Shoes, 1885”and “Three Pairs of Shoes, 1886” . Painted as if they’d just been taken off and tossed into a corner.  Every crack in the leather earned from tramping through the streets or the fields.  His last painting of shoes and the only one at Arles was “Shoes, 1888”.  The painting rests now at The Met.  They probably weren’t his shoes  (most likely there were those of the peasant Patience Escalier) but they sit on the tiles of the yellow house at Arles where Van Gogh lived and first began struggling with the outer manifestations of his illness.  These homey cracked shoes are an especially poignant portrait of an artist who was, beneath it all, a good, kind man.

We bring our own associations to the painting we see.  No painting can ever be seen in isolation.  The artist can tweak and change that vision, but we can not escape from our humanity and we view each piece through our own lens distorted by our past. 

Those shoes . . . they resemble the ones my uncle wore.  He, too, was mentally ill.  He lived into his sixties, but he struggled his whole life with schizophrenia.  He, too, was a gentle, unworldly, intellectual person who would not have liked to be remembered for his moments of confusion, but instead, perhaps, for a picture I have of him on a boat as a young man, long before he had gotten sick. 

He and a buddy had gone on an extensive and hazardous sailing trip into the Caribbean.  They returned intact.  Someone on the shore had snapped a picture.  And there they stand, two young men who look as if they had gathered the world, held it, and released it again.

“If you love something, let it . . . ”

There are, after all, landscapes to be painted while wearing worn and weathered shoes.

And if living outside the boundaries of a photograph or a painting is a little uglier than the pictures may imply, at least there remain portraits unsullied by the pain and confusion that will come later . . .

Skin Diary by Stephen Irwin

The Speed Art Museum in Lousville, KY has an amazing installation art.  Skin Diary by Stephen Irwin (no, not the sorely lamented crocodile guy).  Walking into the room one feels as if one has fallen, very gently, through a wormhole and entered a negative universe on the other side.  The walls are white.  The Japanese Sekishu paper hung in a line all around the room is soft, delicate, and white.  The ink seeping through the paper in various spots is in purple shades occasionally verging on black.  It looks eerily like the pictures of galaxies taken from space, lovely but . .

personally I hate horror movies and those bruises on that beautiful white paper has the same effect on me as the shadows found only in the creepiest horror films. 

But it was quiet and only a whisper of air barely undulated the paper in a slow random wave.  There’s a place to sit in the center and whether one will or no, breathing slows and something not quite peace, but a mirror image of it, rolls over and around.

I was at the museum a few weeks ago and I still can’t get that room out of my mind.  And sometimes I think I want to. It borders on disturbing.  The beauty of it makes it even more disturbing.

There’s a picture of the room at but like most pictures of this type of art, it can’t begin to do it justice.