May 18, 2019

Descanso May 5
Rose Garden, Descanso May 5, 2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

Where does art take you?

On May 5th, my quest for art took me to the Descanso Gardens for a celebration of spring in the rose garden with some sketching friends. What a lovely quest for a lovely spring day. I wandered about around the edges of the rose garden and settled on a bench that was at the fence line and up slightly higher than the rest of that part of the garden. I thought this a good vantage point to look out over one entire side of flowers. There were roses of every size, shape, color and scent everywhere you looked. In fact, I thought it so great I imagined it was all mine. I imagined that I was looking at my little house nestled quite comfortably in the trees and flowers. It was fun to do this as I had forgotten how often in the past I had  projected myself into my landscapes so I could go wandering around there whenever I liked. Art can do that. It can transport you like a time machine that drops you into a wonderful place in the past as well as make you hover somewhere as long as you like in the now. 

My fantasy home you see here is actually the restrooms. But in my artistic mind I can walk right past them to a large nearby covered pavilion area. (They have weddings and receptions here.) I can imagine hanging a hammock or two from the massive beams in the ceiling there. (I say hammock or two because I may want to invite a fellow artist or friend to my fantasy.) There is a frig in this covered area directly in front of the restrooms (really). And in my fantasy garden I imagine that someone from a recent event has left some chilled champagne and maybe some yummy munchies for me and my guests. (Of course the food would need to be in the refrigerator too or I would surely have to fight off raccoons or skunks.)

Lilacs/Descanso Garden.jpg
Lilacs at the Descanso Garden, April 19, 2019 (Inktense pencils, watercolor pencils, ink, white acrylic on 6 by 9 watercolor paper)

I found myself at Descanso Gardens April 19th because I knew that the lilacs would be blooming. And my art quest for that day was to share those old fashioned flower clusters with someone who was getting over pneumonia and couldn’t come with me. So, I sent him a photo of the flowers and the art right there on the spot, as though he was sitting right next to me. Of course, he couldn’t actually smell the flowers, but he texted me back, saying that he was thankful for the art. Like I said, art can transport you to unimaginable places…

For example, the other day one of my students was wearing a t-shirt with a Storm Trooper on the front that was done in the style of Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I have to admit that such an artistic journey leaves me a bit confused, but it did make an impression on me. (You guessed it, the kid was more interested in the connection with Star Wars rather than Van Gogh.) But maybe the art that goes into a good movie is worthy of a journey. Not that Academy Awards are a measure of artistic merit, but in 1976 the first Star Wars movie won an Oscar for best visual effects.

Other movies come to my mind that had noteworthy artistic cinematography that transports you to another time and place. I recently saw “Roma,” and it won for best cinematography last year. It was such a beautiful story set in 1970-71 Mexico City that moved seamlessly from charming family vignettes all the way to important and huge crowds and street scenes. After a while I didn’t even notice that it was in black and white. And the cinematography Oscar for 1965 went to Dr. Zhivago (set in pre and post WWI Russia). I remember my mom and dad saying that when they sat in the theater, watching the movie, they felt so cold as the art of each scene moved them along with countless characters slogging through the snow. Mom said they had some friends that had said they were really hungry throughout the movie, watching the people wandering around without enough to eat. Such is the power of art that can take you to a place, even one that is not familiar to you. The Red Violin is a personal favorite of mine that won an Academy Award for the original score of that movie in 1998. Not only does the music carry you around the world in a more than 300 year journey with its hauntingly music, but it also tells a cracking good story that starts out in Italy and ends in Montreal. So yes, stories that resonate with you can be another kind of artistic journey.

Are you moved by lyrics to a song, prose in a sonnet, or prayers beneath a psalm? Is there music that takes you to a special place because the melody reminds of someone? How about Billie Holiday? The minute I hear her singing, I am immediately transported to a 1930s or 40s smoke filled jazz club where she is performing, even though I wasn’t even born yet. 

I am a novice when comes to really appreciating the art in architecture, but when I heard that Notre Dome was burning, it made me profoundly sad. How about you? I recently saw a story about a contemporary Danish architect, named Bjarke Ingels. And looking at his work makes me want to walk around in the artistic spaces he has created in not only his many projects in Denmark, but also structures he has created in Paris and New York City.

So what kind of art strikes at your heart strings? And where does it take you?

The Literal Artistic Journey of the Lilacs

Yes, this piece of art had a bit of a journey all its own. And the story begins with me deciding to send it to my son a week or so after I had painted it. I often send him a watercolor, pen and ink or random sketch through the mail. He had said he liked lilacs, so one day I sent it to him—with added postage I might add. I wanted to be sure it got there safely. Have you guessed that it didn’t arrive? You would be right. It took three weeks for him to find it. But it appears it had actually arrived in a timely manner. A postal person delivered it, but put it under the welcome mat outside his front door, without any bit of it showing or note explaining that it was under foot. My son only discovered it this week when the mat moved ever so slightly and a corner of the envelope was exposed. Yeah! It wasn’t really damaged, but it had been trod upon over and over for several weeks. I’m glad he found it, but I had already decided it was lost and wondered if it would be discovered in a hundred years in the basement in the midwest by the great grand daughter of a So Cal postal worker. 

Reminds me a bit of a supposed ledger that Vincent Van Gogh had sketched in, and it was discovered on a shelf the Netherlands in 2016. Who am I kidding? Of course this is nothing like that! However, it seems that maybe the journey of his art to the 21st century is a hoax. According to the Van Gogh Museum, the sketches were not done by him after all. But at least my 2019 lilacs were found. I was a little disappointed that it wouldn’t be found in someone’s basement in a hundred years…

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