Dear friends —
I’m delighted to invite you to The Elegance of Spring art exhibit at George Washington’s River Farm, the home of the American Horticultural Society. The Elegance of Spring opening reception is Saturday morning, April 13 from 10am to noon.
This exhibit will feature my newest Water Lily Impressions Paintings and other recent paintings, along with the art of Armen Hanhanian (Decorative Artist), Bettina Gehring (Fine Art Photographer) and Nathan Leibowtiz (Fine Illustrator).
It is an honor to be exhibiting at River Farm. Many of the paintings I will be featuring are inspired by Monet’s famed water garden in Giverny, France. Others, like Sheep II, will be in the exhibit to provide a variety of scenes and sizes.
River Farm, which is a scenic home on the Potomac and a beautiful setting for an art exhibit, is located just outside Old Town, Alexandria, on the GW Parkway. The exhibit will remain open through June 25 and can be enjoyed Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm and Saturdays 9:00 am – 1:00pm.
I hope you will be able to join me at the opening reception on Saturday morning, April 13 and savor the elegance of spring and art at this exhibit.
A recent article in the Financial Times brought to life how bombarded we are with information and interruptions. From email to texts to tweets and who knows what else, we are at risk of being slaves to technology — or worse. The worst part is the numbing of our spirits to be stirred by what is quiet and requires reflection rather than what rings or dings and demands us to respond.
Perhaps now more than ever, art has a vital role in our culture — to quiet our racing and fragmented minds and awaken our soul. To invite us to be still and receive a painting’s invitation to reflect and feel.
If you find the frenzy of life and technology taking its toll, maybe an afternoon visiting art galleries or an art museum will help quiet your soul and awaken it to creativity and beauty.
For today, here is my small contribution to providing a moment of peace — two paintings I just finished.
This past week I had the blessing of visiting my family in Kentucky.
In addition to Thanksgiving, we celebrated my father’s 100th birthday. As our family honored my dad with a luncheon arranged by my sister, I reflected on the gift of presence.
No store brought “present” was needed in that moment. The greatest present for Dad — and all of us — was each other’s presence.
That moment gave me some pause about the truest and most beautiful presents in life. Some come in human form. Others come from creation.
As an artist drawn to paint nature, I see what a glorious collection of presents it gives us each and every day and especially every season. Think about winter, for example. It is abundant with presents. The sacred peace of an evening snowfall. The pine-scented fragrance of an evergreen tree. The clear air of a winter morning.
Amidst culture’s call to look for presents in stores this holiday season, I encourage you to look for them in creation. Enjoy a walk with a friend and delight in holly trees and mistletoe. Take a neighbor that can no longer drive to see nearby woods and listen to their winter silence. Catch snowflakes with a child on a snowy day.
Give the gift of your presence and the presents of nature this Christmas.
Creation is a daily source of wonder to me. Admittedly, sometimes I’m wondering if I can survive the Washington, DC summer heat and humidity. But most of the time, I am in a state of wonder about the beauty of creation, from water lilies that inspire my canvases to sheep and their peaceful approach to life.
One of the most engaging perspectives on nature I’ve seen recently is a presentation from the website TED. TED is a nonprofit devoted to what it calls “Ideas Worth Spreading.” It started out in 1984 as a conference focused on Technology, Entertainment and Design (hence the name TED). Since then, its scope has expanded and now includes an award-winning TEDTalks video website with a cornucopia of presentations on all sorts of topics.
The one that captured me and I want to share with you is photographer Louie Schwartzberg’s presentation on nature, beauty and gratitude. Here’s how TED describes it:
“Nature’s beauty can be easily missed — but not through Louie Schwartzberg’s lens. His stunning time-lapse photography, accompanied by powerful words from Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast, serves as a meditation on being grateful for every day.”
And here is my own contribution to the wonderment of creation … two of my newest paintings — Water Lily Impressions III and Sheep II.
As with life, much of art is about unlearning.
It seems backwards, doesn’t it? That in attempting to master something we’ve not studied we need to unlearn as well as learn.
Sometimes, we even need to unlearn to be able to learn. For me, stepping deeper into impressionistic painting has meant unlearning both seeing and trying to paint the literal. It’s like the difference between trying to control the outcome and letting the outcome reveal itself.
Recently, I read an interview with Dana Gioia, formerly chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts and currently a poet and professor of poetry and public culture at the University of Southern California, in the current issue of Image Journal (www.imagejournal.org). Gioia explained this letting go of controlling artistic outcomes with his poetry —
“It was in writing this sequence of poetry that I started to explore what has become one of my persistent themes — the sheer mystery of our existence in which the visible and invisible worlds both press upon us. I think it was in this sequence that I stopped trying to sound smart — the great literary vice — and simply surrendered myself to the phenomenon I was trying to capture and the language that I had hoped summoned it.”
In that spirit, here is one of my attempts to unlearn.
Last month, I was able to tour Paris and its abundance of great art with my art teacher Rob Vander Zee and several fellow artists in the Vander Zee Gallery. All over again, we were reminded of the great legacy of French artists as we viewed the originals of Monet, Morisot, Millet and so many others.
My favorites are the Impressionists. They introduced a new way of painting and seeing life around us. They captured the essence of a scene… its spirit. They didn’t spell out a scene; they suggested it.
As an artist who is trying to grow into a more Impressionist style, I can attest that “suggestion” is not as easy as it seems. We humans tend to want what’s highly visible and highly tangible. The unseen, the imagined and the mysterious are often beyond our reach and our patience. And yet there is something unsurpassingly fulfilling about seeing the unseen and allowing the spirit of something – whether it’s on canvas or in life — reveal itself to us.
Here are a few images of my recent works, since returning from France, to create the essence of water lilies.
Since returning from France, Patrick’s Fine Linens and Décor of Old Town, Alexandria, has signed me on as one of their featured artists. If you’ve not been to their two locations in the 100 block of N. St. Asaph Street, you’re missing a real treat. Patrick’s owners and designers, Troy Englert and Patrick Dempsey, have brought the finest in home décor and furniture to Alexandria with their two stores, which are within a few feet of each other. They are featuring a selection of my original oil paintings and several dozen of my art cards. If you have a chance to stop in either or both of their stores, please let them know you’re a friend of Nancy’s. As summer begins, here’s to seeing the unseen in life, relationships and art.
Every spring, we experience hope fulfilled. When daffodils and tulips emerge from winter’s blanket, we see our hope fulfilled that spring will come. Of course, there is the waiting. Sometimes winter lingers and we wait longer; sometimes, like this year, winter departs sooner, and we are blessed with spring’s early arrival.
The life of an artist is a lot about hope fulfilled. We have a vision, we sketch it and then we hope that what we paint on the canvas will translate our vision into art that touches people. The truth is life is this way for all of us, whether we are artists, athletes or real estate brokers. It is not so much about our vocation as it is about our willingness to hope. It is the hoping that encourages us to try and to believe that our extra effort will make a difference.
I painted Spring Angel several years ago. And yet, each spring I enjoy her more, perhaps because as one lives longer the ability to hope that spring will come, in whatever corners of our lives we most need it, takes on deeper meaning.
And speaking of hope, I do hope that you will be able to attend the April 19 Meet the Artists exhibit and cocktail reception that the Historic Christ Church Gift Shop is hosting for me and jewelry artist Tiffany Scott. This exhibit of my paintings and art gifts and Tiffany’s jewelry takes place from 6:30 to 8:30 pm in the Mead Room at Christ Church, located at 121 N. Columbus Street. The attached invitation has details.
The Gift Shop supports over two dozen local and global missions and some of the proceeds from the sales that night will support these good causes.
Wishing you all the blessings of hope fulfilled.
The concept of being a shepherd might seem out of place in the 21st century and certainly unrelated to my monthly art updates. After all, few of us live off the land or have responsibilities for animals.
And yet, we all really do have a role of being shepherds. Whether we are parents or grandparents, teachers or artists, we have a responsibility to be shepherds who encourage and guide the next generations of families, students and artists.
It’s in this perspective that I am delighted that my painting Sheep is part of a series of reflections being shared with children around the world to help them understand the Bible. Last month, the executive director of Preserving Bible Times asked if Sheep could be the thematic image for their new series “Being a Son of a First-Century Shepherd”.
This series, which is being shared by David C. Cook Global Missions, is being distributed to orphans and semi-orphans ages 8-12 in India. It’s about shepherding in the first-century and is written from the perspective of a 12 year-old boy who is learning from his father what it means to care for sheep. To learn more about this series, visit www.preservingbibletimes.org.
Wherever life finds you, may you fulfill your shepherd role well.
Hello friends and happy new year –
The start of a new year brings with it the gift of starting anew. It’s a moment when we can reflect on the year past, carry forward what is life giving and let go of what is not. In the freshness of 2012, new hopes can be born.
For the artist, a new year is another 365 days of nature’s canvas and inspiration to our own canvases. My first commission, just completed and delivered this past weekend, captures this spirit of new hope. It’s a sunrise from Botswana, near the Olduvai Gorge. The individual that commissioned it had traveled there and was captured by the sky and sun’s majesty at the dawn of each morning. He wanted to share that experience with his family andBotswana Sunrise now hangs in their home (and is pictured below). The colors and textures are highlighted by the encaustic treatment he had requested, having seen it on another painting from my African series, Remember.
Speaking of “new”, I’ve just completed six new paintings which are now on my web site. It’s a more diverse mix than usual, with scenes from California all the way to Burma where I was touched by news stories on the impact of China wanting to damn the Irrawaddy River and how it would affect the Burmese who depend on the river for their livelihoods.
I’ll close with sharing an important message in Botswana culture – “pula”. Pula literally means “rain” in Setswana, the native language, and also means “blessing”. Rain is very scarce in Botswana, home to much of the Kalahari Desert and therefore, valuable and why pula is considered a blessing.
Pula to each of you in 2012 –
While visiting family over Thanksgiving in my home town of Covington, Kentucky, I had an opportunity to visit Kay Hurley, an oil and pastel artist from Cincinnati. I took a workshop from Kay several years ago and we’ve stayed in touch since then. Her studio is located in Cincinnati in an arts section of town that hosted artists’ open houses Thanksgiving weekend. It was a nice, artful alternative to the malls.
Kay shared that she’s now doing Giclee with her art, which I also just started doing to make canvas reproductions of my original paintings to accommodate customers who want a painting that has already been sold. Giclee (gee-clay) is a term for fine art digital prints made on certain high resolution printers.
This seems to be an emerging approach as the National Gallery of Art has just signed a contract with an art company and gallery in Louisville, Kentucky, to reproduce some of its most significant Impressionist works in Giclee. I marvel at the advances in creativity, materials and technology that enable reproduction of original paintings in ways that make it difficult to tell which is the original and which is the reproduction.
Even more so, I marvel at creation itself which has been the original source for art throughout history. Winter, especially, is an artistic time of year when nature invites us to be still. I sought to capture the season’s quiet with this painting that I did earlier this year – it’s titled Afternoon Stillness.
Amidst the hustle of the season, may you experience moments of stillness by enjoying nature’s canvas.