Why I Can’t Stop Staring at My Stairs

Friends! Do you remember at the beginning of the year when I mentioned my 2022 art goals in this post? I’m happy to say my stair mural is complete and… it is even better than I’d hoped!

Ever since we took our carpet out and painted the stairs, I’ve been agonizing over them. They needed attention. In fact, lately I’ve been craving more color in my house, period. While I was mulling the staircase situation over, Adrienne Gelardi popped up in my Facebook feed. When I visited her website, I knew my artsy prayers were answered.

Before we put anything on the calendar, Adrienne had me send over a picture of the stairs. I also sent a few screenshots from her website of work that I especially loved. Together we decided a pond would look awesome and provide the extra color I was looking for. I especially loved the pond idea because we have a pond in our yard. Jim and I are constantly channeling Chevy Chase in Caddyshack and explaining to our kids, “there are pond people and there are pool people. We’re pond people.”

“The pond would be good for you.” Such a great line.

We decided Adrienne would come March 2-4 (it’s true- she did the whole thing in three short days. It would take me three days of crying in hopeless despair before I could even pick up a brush.) She rolled up in a bright, beautiful van that would put the Mystery Van to shame and got to work on the stairs! By the time my girls came home from school and the house became “high traffic,” she was ready to pack up for the day. Repeat over the next two days and voila! She left my home a brighter place!

Adrienne’s mural was perfect for us. Here is a before, during, and after:

Adrienne was delightful and chill and obviously very talented- we could not be happier with our new stairway. And I, for one, have learned murals are a lot like tattoos- once you have one, you want another… and another… and another! Suddenly every surface in my home looks a lot like a blank canvas!

One Dog’s Artsy Opinion

It feels like spring! It’s the first day of Lent! An artist is starting my stair mural today! The world news is heavy, but I am more thankful than ever for art that brings some JOY to our lives! But what art to feature in today’s blog post?! I couldn’t decide. Luckily, I have some fun, handy flashcards of famous paintings that I looked to for inspiration. Still, I was torn between three springy choices. So, I called in art connoisseur and classical painting expert… our dog, Mojo.

Our fair Judge.

The contestants are:

Who do you think Mojo gave her rose to? Which artwork (or tasty treat) couldn’t she resist?! Well, at first? She resisted all of them.

What kind of dog needs this much coaxing to come eat a delicious, meaty snack?! She’s either a food snob or an art snob. Maybe both.

I stopped recording. I explained I really needed her help, told her she’d really be doing me a solid. I promised fresh new bones, walks every day, a spot at the window to scope out birds and squirrels. We negotiated a place at the foot of the bed and that I’d stop mumbling under my breath when I run a lint brush over myself multiple times a day…. if only she’d pick a painting for me.

The winner was Primavera by Sandro Botticelli! Perfect for the springy weather and longer days we are enjoying!

Primavera: Not just a pasta dish.

Here’s the cast of characters in the painting:

  1. Venus is in the middle looking like she just overtook Kylie Jenner in Instagram followers,
  2. Venus’ son Cupid is air-swimming above her.
  3. Mercury is on the far left pushing a raincloud away and humming, “rain rain go away, come again another day, when I say you can.”
  4. Zephyr is the blue genie-looking guy on the far right. He’s the god of the spring wind and bonafide rabble rouser, from the looks of things.
  5. The other girls are C-list celebs making TikTok videos and drinking martinis sangria (a more springy drink, don’t you think?). The three graces make up the group on the left (the goddesses of charm, grace, and beauty). On the right a Greek nymph turns herself into Flora (the girl in the flowery dress) to get away from Zephyr. Cool party trick!

The painting was done on an enormous wood panel (Venus is life-sized!) for a member of the Medici family (those guys got everything!) I love the enormity of the painting and the details (can you imagine painting each little fold and wrinkle in those dresses? Every tiny leaf?) Botticelli makes Venus look like a total boss by framing her with the blue sky and shrubbery. There’s no question who the star of the show is. And despite Zephyr’s antics, the painting has a celebratory feel. It makes me want to throw a springtime party, get barefoot in the grass, and pluck peaches from overhead. Then gossip over who Cupid shot and which of the graces is crushing on Mercury.

Spring is upon us, friends! Let’s party!

Visiting Randyland

If you read last week’s post, you know I was in Pittsburgh for a long weekend for my daughter’s hockey tournament. Saturday, she didn’t have a game until 5pm, so we had plenty of time to visit the Warhol Museum (for more on that click here), grab lunch, and find the mysterious and whimsical… Randyland.

Randyland! It’s hard to miss.

A friend heard about this museum from a Pittsburghian friend and when I Googled it and found it was just minutes away from the Warhol Museum, I vowed to go. I don’t like to do too much research on a place before I visit because I like to be surprised, but there was very little information on the internet about Randyland even if I did want to know more. Like, the hours for instance. The hours are basically: Mon-Sun: Maybe we’re open, maybe we’re not. We went Saturday at 1pm and the outside portion of the museum was open, the inside was not. I counted that as a win.

The outside is open! Yay!

Randyland was created by artist Randy Gilson, who is “a master in the art of making something worthwhile out of the worthless.” He began the project as a funky sort of neighborhood garden by painting giant barrels and making vegetable gardens out of them. He wound up buying a house in the Mexican War Streets district of Pittsburgh, collecting things, and curating a wild, vibrant exhibit extaorinaire! When I say he collected “things” I mean all the things. Think antique shop meets junkyard. When I showed pictures to my youngest daughter she said it reminded her of the Memory Dump in the movie Inside Out. Incredibly accurate.

There is a surprise every single place you look around Randyland. Colorful chairs in an arch above you, bright bricks and hopscotch below you; a tree with lemon juice lemons dangling from it, stuffed animals, slides, trikes, tables, mannequins, mirrors, ornaments, umbrellas, the world’s biggest wall of international welcome signs…the list goes on and on!

Bienvenue! That’s the wall of welcome signs behind us.

Once we took in all we could take in, Adrienne and I started to exit and saw the most exciting part of all! Next to the entrance gate, beside a shovel, end table, and baby gate, was an old Magliner! Magline is the company my husband works for (and I used to work for). The Magliner was pretty roughed up from sitting in the elements for who knows how long, but there it was in all its glory as part of the exhibit. Definitely the highlight for Adrienne and I.

It was impossible not to be cheery and excited at Randyland, all for the low low price of free! Definitely worth the stop if you’re downtown Pittsburgh. Make sure to look for the Magliner!

A Trip to the Warhol Museum

My middle daughter and I road-tripped to Pittsburgh this past weekend! She had a hockey tournament and I’d been dying to go back to see more of the city (I’ve only ever been there once before). At the top of my list was visiting the Andy Warhol museum, which fit into our schedule beautifully on Saturday morning.

Somebody kindly tipped me off that we have to buy tickets ahead of time, which I did minutes before somebody else kindly tipped me off that the Warhol Museum is not kid-appropriate. Oops. I told Adrienne she may have to go through the museum scary movie-style, with her hands over her face, fingers cracked. It turned out to be a non-issue. I think there were two things that were “gross” for a seventh-grade girl, but nothing she couldn’t handle. We moved swiftly past, both of us pretending we didn’t see anything unusual.

We bought the earliest tickets available (10am), which was perfect because we pretty much had the place to ourselves. For eight bucks we parked in a small, but almost empty lot across the street. There was no time limit, which was great because we spent the whole day downtown. The staff was lovely at the museum, but be prepared to put your purse in a locker and mask up. They were very, very strict about masks. They even tied back the curtain to the photo booth, so they could be sure people left their masks on in there. (Adrienne and her friends pulled theirs down and were immediately scolded. Definitely skip the photo booth.)

The art though! The Warhol Museum is seven floors of chronological art, starting with Andy’s early work (aka, my least favorite stuff) on the 7th level. Everyone knows Andy for his soup cans and his Marilyn Monroes, but he is an artist of many, many mediums! In addition to screen printing, Andy worked in painting, sculpture, photography… even taxidermy! And he was an avid collector of tons of things. Teeth molds, for instance (something I wish I had known when I wrote this post!) and correspondance (all of which he put in various time capsules.)

This drawer was his teeth mold collection, another drawer had shoes, another had something else I can’t remember, and so on and so on!

I was there with three middle school hockey players and their dads, and we all found things we loved in the ecclectic exhibit. The girls loved Warhol’s interactive exhibit, Silver Clouds. It was so kid-friendly, I assumed it wasn’t a real Warhol, but it was! It debuted in 1966. The “clouds” are filled with regular air and helium. They float softly around the room waiting to be caught or pushed or poked. How fun is that?

The girls’ other favorites were the elephant (note the little people- I just thought it was a random pattern until the twelve-year-olds pointed them out to me!), the taxidermy lion (not pictured, please see stuffed Great Dane instead), and randomly, an adorable dauchsaund.

“Cecil” was a multi-ribbon dog show champion in the early 1920s. It looks like he was pretty full of himself.
Adrienne loves hockey and dachsaunds.

That’s your Andy Warhol Museum review! Grab your favorite hockey players (or whomever!) and go the next time you’re in Pittsburgh!

Bonus: Here are some other random pictures from our visit.

Who Painted it Best- Take Two!

Last June we looked at a few scenes and subjects that have been created several times over the years, in an artsy version of “Who Wore it Best?” It was so fun and there are so many popular scenes artists have painted, it seems like a shame not to check out a few more. Kourtney Kardashian and Brittany Spears, move over! We have some new (old) matchers to compare!

Helen of Troy was the most beautiful of beauties in Greek mythology. An absolute icon. All the men wanted to marry her and the women wanted to be her. And artists? They wanted to paint her. And so they did. Tons of painters depicted scenes featuring Helen: Gavin Hamilton, Peter Paul Rubens, Renoir, and about a million others. It wasn’t uncommon to paint her abduction, but that’s not cheery. Instead, let’s look at two portraits.

The portrait on the left was done by Frederick Sandys, circa 1867. He actually wasn’t a popular painter. If memes were around in his day I think he would have found his niche. This Helen could have been an internet sensation of Grumpy Cat proportions, right?! On the right, we have a much happier Helen (what a little sunshine can do for a person!) painted by Evelyn De Morgan in 1898. That’s right- a woman painted this. Female artists didn’t get much credit in the 1800s, so I think we should note her! Plus? I mean, she clearly wins right? Her Helen is way better?

***

Below are two paintings of the infamous beheading of Holofernes. Caravaggio’s painting is on the left. He loved a dark, depressing project, didn’t he? Some would argue this is his most famous painting. It certainly is one of the most disturbing, in my opinion. But nobody does disturbing as well as Caravaggio. It looks like it could be a scene from a Broadway performance- the background is dark, the faces alight. It gives me shivers. On the right is… another painting by a woman! Artemisia Gentileschi did this portrayal roughly a dozen years after Caravaggio did his. It seems clear she was influenced by his work, but her female perspective comes into play. For example, in her painting Holofernes is struggling more, her Judith enlisted help holding him down. Delightful, I know. What do you think? Who painted it better?

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Just for fun let’s pit Paul Cezanne against… Paul Cezanne! This is Mont Sainte-Victoire on the left and the right. He painted it a bunch of times in between too. I always have mixed feelings when artists paint the same thing over and over. I mean there are so many great landscapes, models, and beheadings they could paint instead! But I’m probably just making a mountain out of a molehill. What do you think? Does 1895 Cezanne paint it better, or turn of the century Cezanne?

That wraps up this episode of “Who Painted it Better?” Hit me with your votes!

Twelve Art Goals for the New Year!

Happy New Year!!! 2022 is going to be a fantastic year!!! You can tell from all the exclamation points I’m using that I really mean it!

Are you a goal setter? A podcaster I listen to asked his Twitter followers how many of them made New Year’s resolutions. Eighty percent did not. Eighty! They don’t know what they’re missing out on. Goals are so super fun if you do them right. (i.e. Don’t beat yourself up if you are less than perfect in achieving them.) A little known fact about goals is that you can change your mind about them any time you want. For instance, I used to have a goal to own a motorcycle. Now? No part of me wants a motorcycle- those things are death machines! So I took it off my list. Boom. The bucket list police didn’t arrest me and I get to live to see my children grow up. Win/win.

All this to say: Art Goals. Are you setting any? For the first time ever, I am! Here they are:

  1. Get a stair mural. (This one is already in the works! Stay tuned!)
  2. Finally find a painting for a naked wall in my house that’s been driving me nuts.
  3. Make a piece of art. (I see it in my head and it looks awesome. It’s just that execution part that’s tripping me up….)

If you want to make some art goals, but aren’t sure where to start, may I make some suggestions that might be fun? Take them or leave them- in any event, they’re safer than buying a motorcycle.

  • Start an Pinterest board of art you love.
  • Follow an art blogger. (Hi!)
  • Plan a tour d’art museum. (I smell a road trip!)
  • Find a local artist you love.
  • Create an art scavenger hunt to do at a museum or around town!
  • Follow your town’s art gallery on Instagram.
  • Go to some art shows. (May I recommend ArtPrize? Or Michigan State University’s Spring Arts Show?)
  • Get in touch with your artsy side and make something. Anything! (See the title picture for inspo. My daughter made me these toilet paper roll gnomes for Christmas and I love them!)
  • Throw an art-themed party! For inspiration, see this post.
  • Vow to see your favorite painting in person.
  • Be a groupie for a year- pick an artist you like and attend all their shows, exhibits, openings, etc.
  • Watch four different documentaries/movies on artists this year. See this post for one suggestion.

These are just a few ideas to get your resolution juices flowing. The possibilities are endless! Either way, I am super excited to explore more art with you this year!

Here’s One For the Kids

The first thing I did when I got a job and apartment after college, was A.) sent flowers to myself B.) splurged on an all-new wardrobe, or C.) went to a home decor store and went bananas, or D.) all of the above.

The answer is D! And my first stop at said home decor store, was… the kids’ section for my artwork. I may have been an adult on paper, but my favorite show was still Lizzie Maguire. Plus, one thing that hasn’t changed since the days of that cute apartment in the Twin Cities is my love of color. And art made for children is always vibrant and colorful and fun. Just like I used to be before a mortgage and laundry and stressing about forgetting my daughter’s freshman orientation wore me down and beat me up. I digress.

Here are a few artists whose work would look amazing in either an office OR a playroom.

Matt Lyon (aka C86) is a London-based artist that I’m sure I can’t afford. He’s done work for Nike, AT&T, and AOL (remember aol?!) among others, which tells me he’s out of my price range, but maybe not yours! In any event, we can appreciate his fun, funky designs like Cloud Blusters. To see more of his happy-go-lucky designs, check out his website here.

If I could commision something for my kids’ nurseries, it would have looked like this.

Matt Lyon isn’t the only Matt whose creations are kid-oriented, parent-appreciated. Matt Mabe illustrates animals and is there a kid’s room in the world without some kind of animal art? No. Even as an adult I wouldn’t dream of living in a home without some animal art. And his is perfection. Matt Mabe began creating a series of animal prints (one for each letter of the alphabet) for his kids’ bedrooms. They should definitely take them when they move into their first apartments.

Mabe- he thinks outside the fox.

Finally, I’d love to introduce you to a local Michigan artist. I was grabbing a cup of coffee a few weeks ago at a Full Circle Coffee (Byron Center- a few miles from the ice arena, incidentally.) and there was this beautiful, whimsical art on the walls. Mary Litwiller creates the most precious scenes- sometimes with fairies, sometimes not, but always cozy and/or interesting and/or fun. Check her out on IG at miss.artiste. Her feed is chock full of goodness. Not to mention… the mushrooms! Swoon!

I hope you’re doing something for your inner kid today! If you need some inspiration, look no further than your local home decor store!

A Great Day to be a Redhead!

Daisy Buchanan said “I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.” Well, friends, I always plan for National Redhead Day and then miss it. But not this year. It’s today! I’m celebrating with red wine and red vines. Because I’m classy.

Like fanny packs or white-washed jeans, red hair goes in and out of style in art. For instance, Pre-Raphaelite artists loved painting redheads. Why? Nobody knows. We can only assume some redheaded witch cast a spell on them. Here are three paintings featuring gingers.

John William Waterhouse painted redheads like Squid Game kills characters off. Easily and often. He loved painting mythological figures and creatures! He painted A Mermaid in 1901. His most famous redhead painting is Lady of Shalott, which I love so much I recreated it during quarantine when I had nothing better to do than paddle around in a canoe with candles and blankets. But I’d like to feature another painting of his, that I like just as much.

In Waterhouse’s other version of this scene, Miranda’s hair is put up and tidy.
I always prefer wild, tangly hair, wind storm or not!

In The Tempest, Miranda is a compassionate, kind character, which is another reason I love this painting. Often redheads are witches or villains or have questionable morals. Case in point- Waterhouse also portrayed Lamia as a redhead and she was a child eating demon. So. When there is a good redhead in media, I just can’t resist her!

Historically, Mary Magdalene has also been portrayed with red hair. Along with Judas, Eve (after the fall), and sometimes Abel (after he killed his brother). I told you! We get a bad rap. Mary Magdalene turned out to be a gem though, and Frederick Sandys painted her beautifully. The model was probably Lizzie Siddal, who modeled for everyone who was anyone in the Pre-Raphaelite era.

Wikipedia thinks this is a sensual portrayal, but I sort of think she looks like she’s about to be sick in the alabaster jar. Opinions? I do like the eyebrows he gave her because they are faint like mine. Like she also has to add color to them before parent teacher conferences or tailgating or whatever redheads did back then.

If this next one looks familiar, it’s because you’ve visited my “About Me” page! But I promise I’m nothing like Lilith, who was horrible. In Jewish culture she was Adam’s first wife and a self-absorbed seductress and murderer. And those are the kinder descriptions.

That cold shoulder! So scandalous!

This painting is a great example of Pre-Raphaelite art. There were lots of redheads, but does anybody every talk about the abundance of candelabras? Freckleless faces? Flowy dresses? Flowers? How women loved to play with their hair or hold something close to their chest?! What a time!

Happy National Redhead Day! You don’t need permission from a redhead to celebrate, but if you feel you do, here it is! Tell me how you are celebrating today!

A is for “Aussie” and “Awesome Art”!

I know what you’re thinking: “Today is National Deviled Egg Day!” You’re right, but there aren’t as many deviled eggs in the world of art as you may think. Instead, let me direct your attention to the Melbourne Cup race, which is also today! I didn’t care about the Melbourne Cup at all until I watched “Ride Like a Girl” on Netflix (I highly recommend it, you guys!) PSA: The horses to watch this year are Twilight Payment, English King, and Verry Elleegant. If you’re the betting sort.

In honor of the Australian race, let’s check out some Australian artists!

  1. John Olsen: In reading about Olsen, I got the feeling he’s just always been famous. Like he was born a famous painter 93 years ago and has been ever since. His kids seem to have been bitten by the art bug too. His son is a successful art dealer, one daughter is a painter in her own right, another was a designer before passing away. It wasn’t all family fingerpainting and wholesome pictionary nights though. The family had their fair share of obstacles, you can read about this article, if you’re interested. We’re here for the art though, and the paintings emerging from John Olsen’s studio are noted as the best in Australia.

2. If we’re talking about Australian artists, the world wide web insists I mention Sidney Nolan. I don’t know if he intended for his paintings to be funny, but I can’t help but find them humorous. His most famous work is a series of Ned Kelly paintings. Don’t know who Ned Kelly is? Me neither. He was a bushranger. Don’t know what a bushranger is? Me neither. They were escaped convicts, surviving in the outback. Outback outlaws, basically. I think Ned Kelly was like the Jesse James of Austalia. Nolan painted such an expansive series of Ned Kelly paintings, they could practically make up a comic book. Nolan lived through the Great Depression and agonized over his involvement in WWII. He had no shortage of inspiration for his art, but he most loved the Australian landscape and local history. It’s no wonder he’s noted as an Australian great.

3. After stuffing my eyeballs with tons of Australian art and tearing my clothes and gnashing my teeth, I picked Margaret Preston to highlight as our third and last Australian artist du jour, but I’m going to give you a list of honorable mentions if you’re feeling saucy about the Aussies and really want to dive in to their art like a scuba diver at the Coral Reef. You know still-lifes aren’t my favorite, but something about how Preston painted flower arrangements makes me all warm and fuzzy. I love the bright flowers, and the unique touches she takes the time to include. For instance, in Anemones, I am completely enamored with the pitcher the flowers are in. Where are those houses, what inspired her to include them, and why are they so close together?!

Happy Melbourne Cup Day! Here’s the answer to the question we all really want to know: The horses run counterclockwise in the Melbourne Cup as they do at the Kentucky Derby. See here for more info.

As promised, here are some Honorable Mentions: Albert Namatjira (his landscapes are beautiful!); Ben Quilty (if you’re into disfiguration, check him out); Fiona Hall (her sardine can sculptures are chef’s kiss! Mwah!)

A Few Paintings for the Romantics

For some reason my husband and I both have a hard time remembering our anniversary every summer. For some other reason, I have a really easy time remembering our proposalversary. I never forget it, and it is today! We don’t celebrate, except I may use it as an excuse to buy myself fancy chocolate. But I just do that on random days too. Even better than chocolate (Maybe? That’s up for debate.) is art! So to celebrate my (very, very long-awaited) engagement eighteen years ago, here are some sweet, lovey-dovey paintings.

Let’s kick it off by steaming up the windows with Watteau’s La Surprise. Jean-Antoine Watteau was a French Rococo painter, who, in true French fashion was enamored with love. His paintings are all titled things like, The Worried Lover, Pleasures of Love, The Feast of Love, and other things that would make any kid bear his cootie-protector like a cross to a vampire. My favorite is La Surprise, which is the most intimate of his paintings, in my opinion. But the most interesting part, I think, is the guitarist. He is watching unabashedly, while tuning his guitar. Critics seem to think he is sad or lonely, but I think he just looks intrigued. Way to make things weird, guy.

La Surprise keeps disappearing (between 1770 and 1848, then between 1848 and 2007), then surprise!! Showing up again!

Fast forward a couple hundred years and Kerry James Marshall is creating beautifully intimate works about love. (Fun Fact: Marshall was named as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 most influential people in the world in 2017!) Marshall painted a lovely, tender reimagining of Harriet Tubman and her husband, that I love. (And that sold for a cool 5 mil.) He also painted Slow Dance, which I think captures the everydayness of love. But I think my favorite Marshall piece that (literally) says “Love” is Vignette #2. There is a whole series of vignettes at the Art Institute of Chicago, but how sweet is this one? For once, I’m thankful for the lack of color. I think it is so dear in its simplicity.

Jim has never lifted me in the air lovingly like this. Until today. When I will demand it.

Finally, a steamy painting from Roy Lichenstein: We Rose Up Slowly. I love words as much as paintings, so you can imagine my delight when an artist include words in their art. Lichenstein’s comic-y vibe really speaks to tweenage Julie, who spent a full summer reading Archie comics, weeding through them for the few glimpses of romance. I didn’t care if it was between Archie and Betty or Archie and Veronica. I didn’t even care if it was Moose and Midge. Lichenstein’s portrayal is a little more grown-up than what I remember in the Archie series, but it makes me nostalgic and romancey. (Sidebar: Roy Lichenstein was born in 1923!! Does that surprise anybody else?!)

Forget the romance of it- how about those killer eyebrows?!

Let’s hear it for a great November, my friends. And tell me- do you have/celebrate/remember your proposalversary?