As a news journalist, I’ve had the privilege of covering wounded troops many a time – often writing about men and women who’ve served and are now back struggling with serious physical and mental wounds. Writing those stories can be heartrending. So when I saw Michael Stokes’ stunning photos of war vets who are amputees, I melted at the gorgeous, sexy strength they project. And the artist and figure painter in me loves the beautiful photography and classic poses reminiscent of Greek and Roman sculpture. Stokes’ new book, Always Loyal, features 14 Gulf War amputee veterans. It’s being funded on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter and a portion of sales will go to wounded warrior organizations.
The first funerals for Charleston, South Carolina’s, shooting victims took place this week. I can’t stop thinking about the family and friends of the nine deceased prayer group members who’ve said they forgive the killer – their humanity and deep capacity for love.
Reconciliation and forgiveness are all over the history of painting, photography, sculpture, film, music, poetry, literature… am sharing a few favorites below:
One of the most romantic bridges in the world suffered a loss last week. Hundreds of thousands of “love locks” linked to the Pont des Arts footbridge in Paris were removed for safety reasons, breaking hearts around the world. A little piece of my heart felt sad, too, when I heard the news – I stood on that bridge with one of the loves of my life just a couple of summers ago and snapped this shot (…he’s not one of the Paris cops pictured in the photo :D)
One of my favorite street artists is Tunisian calligraffiti artist eL Seed. He used this Jean Cocteau quote to describe what it was like to take his street art and translate it into a 3D sculpture. The idea of creating new art as a proof of love to your existing art is so beautiful.
Lots of artists I know need their tunes when they create. The playlists I listen to when I paint mix lots of different genres – alt, hip-hop and rap, pop, blues, jazz, classical. One opera track in particular just never gets old to my ears – “O Mio Babbino Caro” by Puccini. Many singers have made beautiful recordings of it, but I especially like this 2009 performance by Russian soprano Anna Netrebko. To learn more about Netrebko, there’s an interview with her in this week’s Guardian, and she’ll be singing in Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta” in London later this month.
For fun, this version of “O Mio Babbino Caro”, sung by 9-year-old Amira Willighagen on Holland’s Got Talent in 2013, is priceless.
Note: The translation of “O mio babbino caro” means “Oh my dear father” :).
Contemporary artist Victor Ekpuk’s art is to relish. A few years ago when I was looking for artists to interview for an article, a jazz musician friend introduced me to Ekpuk and I fell in love with his art. He creates vibrant canvases that weave symbols and colors together to make pictures that tell stories that are alternately beautiful, deep, or full of joy and humor (depending on which piece you are viewing). Nigerian-born Ekpuk lives in the Washington, D.C., area but he also travels the world exhibiting his work in galleries and museums, and creating special projects. He recently produced a large installation at the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art in Havana, Cuba, where he held a drawing performance. You can view the performance on Ekpuk’s Facebook page and learn more about the Havana project and the rest of his work there, too. He’s also on Instagram.
Now that we’re knee-deep in spring and all of its tall grasses and pollens and birds and bugs, it’s the perfect time to read in a hammock. And what better book to get lost in than one chock full of birds and bugs – TheCurious Mister Catesby (The University of Georgia Press, 2015). It’s a weighty tome and might be a bit difficult to lug up into a hammock but it’s totally worth the struggle. Mark Catesby (1683-1749) was a British naturalist, artist and adventurer who sailed to America and documented and sketched the flora and fauna of Virginia, the Carolinas, Florida and the Bahamas. I like him because not only was he a gifted botanical artist but his inspiration was naturalist and artist Maria Sibylla Merian (who doesn’t love a gal who travels to South America in 1699 at age 52 to draw butterflies and plants in the tropical jungle?). Catesby’s renderings of plants and fishes, fruits and flowers, insects, snakes and winged creatures are a treat for botanical artists and anyone who loves nature.