December 15, 2013

Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Devotion in Paint

Our Lady of Guadalupe: A Devotion in Paint

She appears to a simple peasant and gives hope to a defeated people.

In the process she converts a Nation to Christianity.

She teaches the world that the Holy Spirit transcends race as The Mother of God manifests herself as a mestizo, a mixed race of European and Native American descent.

She is proclaimed by Pope Benedict XIV on May 25, 1754 as Our Lady of Guadalupe Patron of Central and North America.

A common depiction of the Virgin of Guadalupe

My dear husband Gaetano Siragusa, aka Guy, has a spiritual connection with devotion to Mary: Mother of God. While a young man serving in Vietnam he made a promise to the Virgin Mary that if he survived the war he would create a shrine to the Blessed Mother.

Guy as solder age 21 in the Army taken at Graduation from Basic Training

When he returned from his tenure in Vietnam Guy kept his promise and set up a little shrine to the virgin Mary in his mother's backyard. And when she passed away we took the statue from this shrine  and it traveled from St Petersburg Florida to our home in Mimbres New Mexico.

The Statue Guy set up to honor the Blessed Virgin, in our yard  in Florida                                             after his mother passed away

Guy recently asked the Virgin of Guadalupe to help us out on a pressing matter and he also promised to erect a shrine in her honor.

When we were at the Mesilla Valley Mall in Las Cruces NM a couple of weeks ago we found at Kestin Decorations  a beautiful statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe on an also beautifully carved pedestal, graced by angels and flowers. 

 We were sure this was the statue we should buy to honor Our Lady.  This is a porcelain statue which stands 6' tall including the pedestal. We were originally looking for a statue to put outside but this was so beautiful we decided to buy it and put it in our living room and we do have a great location for it.

Guy told his story of his promise as a young soldier and his promise to the blessed Virgin to the two people working in the store and I shed some tears because I love him so much and I love that he has such a strong faith. So we brought the statue home and put it in it's perfect place, as a centerpiece in the living room. The only thing was the features did not show up at any distance in the room. I thought the pure white statue would be beautiful yet subtle but I realized this statue would need to be painted in order to for us see it. 

Della Robbia Statue

So in keeping with my concept of having a 6' devotional statue which would be subtle but be able to be seen I decided it would just be painted with a blue background much like the Della Robbia Statues I have seen in many museums in the eastern part of the United States. Della Robbia statues are made of which porcelain, much like our statute and they usually just have a blue background or limited color, leaving the figures white.

While I started painting the statue over the next few days it evolved from something of my European understanding of the Virgin Mary to a traditional Mexican image.  As I read and studied more of the meaning of the statue I found that my connection to the Virgin of Guadalupe also grew.  As I worked on painting her image, my European roots and knowledge were transcribed by a new deeper appreciation of her Mexican heritage, for the scared apparition which is the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are a few good websites devoted to explaining the symbolic meaning of the image and how it came into being. 

I will recommend just a few of the websites I found most helpful in my search for a better understanding of this Virgin and her place in  her place in history, in our home and in our hearts. I will put these links at the end of this blog post.

Day one; while  starting to work on the statue my idea is a Della Robbia Style paint treatment. I am using Golden Acrylic paints, a combination of Golden Fluid Paints and Golden Open Acrylic. I particullary like the Open Acrylic Paint from Golden because of the extra time it gives me to work. I am used to doing most of my paintings in oil so adjusting to the quick drying time of acrylic paint is always an issue for me.

Day two; I worked on the gown and I used an Interference Light Gold Acrylic Paint from Golden . I am reading in a description that the gown is pink, but an earth toned pink. I used an Antique Gold and a Silver Rub and Buff wax paste on the light rays and for the crown and edge of the oval shell.

Day 3 must run out and buy burnt sienna for the faces

 I am now ready to repaint the gown towards a deeper reddish orange and color over the pink. I am happy with my decision to study her coloration from the image below and I also use a votive candle and other images as a reference.

photograph of the original image
I used photographs of the original miraclous image to paint the face and I also used a votive candle. In the photograph above this one you can see the photo of her face which I was using. 

 The paint tubes I am using for the flesh tones are dried out, the burnt sienna is usless and the burnt unber is also dried but may be workable, these are older tubes of Golden Acrylic Paints. A description of her olive skin says it has a greenish cast so I try working with the burnt umber with a touch of red, but this is not working well what I am getting is a flesh tone with an unhealthy cast. I look at my husband's face and analize the color of his face because he has a classic olive complexion.

Day 3; I need to get to Leyba & Ingalls Arts Supplies and Gallery, lucky for us artists in area, Diana Leyba Ingalls is an artist herself and she buys top grade artists paint for the store instead  of student grade. I am happy to see they have a good selection of Golden Open Acrylic Paint, so with a sigh of relief I purchase my Burnt Sienna.

I taper the cloak which give the figure and tunic a more gracefull look. I am using the votive candle you see in the above picture as a guide.

Day 4; I decided I was happy with the face now and the over all painting and although I still have more painting to do on the statue, she can be place on the pedistal once again. I will work on she again this spring and complete it but for now I am happy with it and we will enjoy her this way and I will get back to working on my  studio paintings. 

Guy of is Italian descent, namely Sicilian, with one grandmother who was Spanish. He has a light olive complexion. I was concerned that I had painted the face of Our Lady too dark so I had him stand beside her and angle his head in the position she was in, I am happy to say, it was spot on 

Here is Our Lady of Guadalupe in our living room, she has a wonderful presence in our home.

Here is the Silver City Museum Show which inspired me while I worked on the statue
The Silver City Museum has an absolutely beautiful and educational show devoted to Hispanic New Mexican Devotional Art. The art is from the collection of Barbe Awalt and Paul Rhetts, who have collected this spiritual genre for around 25. They published a book called, "Our Saints Among Us: 400 Years of New Mexican Devotional Art," this tells the story about their collection and it is availabe on sale at the Muesum book store where I also found a book on making your own Retablos or Spiritual Icons and several small icons which you may buy.

Paul Rhetts pointing out an icon in the colletion

Barbe Awalt, the couple collected these spiritual icons for nearly 25 years 

Silver City Museum

I learned while reading the information from the museum collection at the Silver City Museum that for the artist making the image it can be a spiritual devotion. I certainly had that experience while working on this statue and while painting it I was contemplating the information I had read about the specific imagery of the details of the statue and how she appeared to Juan Diego and the miracle of the image she left  behind and the flowers. 

Please go to my links at the bottom of the Blog post to find more information on this statue.  

This is the original Icon, a miracle left by the visitation of  The Virgin of Guadalupe

Website Links For Further Study:

November 1, 2013

Vincent Van Gogh; Inspired Art from an Indomitable Spirit

Wheat Field with Cypresses, 1889,National Gallery, London.

Vincent Van Gogh, was so very unique in his approach to art and although his contemporaries were more successful partly because they rendered form more accurately, it is certainly debatable that their work showed the passion which Vincent Van Gogh's art displayed. As far as the world at large, I am sure people recognize Vincent Van Gogh's name more frequently than any artist in the Impressionist movement, perhaps because of the tragic life he lived but I hope they also experience the genius and mastery of a work done because of and in spite of his tortured soul. The miracle is that he believed in himself enough to continue his art through such adversity, thank God for his brother Theo who supported him both emotionally and financially. To see his work in person and to also experience the texture which is an integral part of the experience is just wonderful. He is so much more than a starving artist and his is a success far beyond this material world. Perhaps it is an artists strength of spirit and life experience which is also reflected in a work of art, I hope so.

Daubigny's Garden, July 1890, Auvers,Kunstmuseum Basel,
 one of Van Gogh's late works[130]

Starry Night Over the Rhone, 1888,Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

The Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, Arles, at Night, September 
1888,Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, The Netherlands

To find more of Vincent Van Gogh's art and information on his life
This is where I found these paintings and there are plenty more posted there.

 I just needed to say how valid and important his work is and dear to many peoples hearts and obviously from this post, to mine..


August 19, 2013

Artists Studio in Mimbres New Mexico

Moving here and into our new home is a life changing event for my husband Guy and me. We bought a manufacture home from Solitaire, a company in Deming NM and moved into our new home last November. We bought the largest home Solitaire built to accommodate a large 19’x14’ studio for me. 

Our new home from Solitaire

While preparing the yard for the home they dug up a large volcanic ash rock slab which is an interesting conglomerate. We decided this would make an excellent sign with our names and house number on it. Guy fashioned the sign on metal and on the back of the rock he painted pictographs like ones found in this area. I am standing next to the rock so you can see the size of it.

Volcanic ash rock found on the property
on the back Guy painted pictographs like ones found in this area

 After arriving in Mimbres New Mexico we chose our property in two days because of the spectacular view of the Black Range this lot in Casa Adobes provided. The view centers on Sawyer’s Peak, for those of you familiar with the Black Range. I now have so much beautiful views to paint right outside our front door almost 360 degree views of the mountains.

Front View of the Black Range from our house
 Recently we collected driftwood from an arroyo, with the owners permission of course, to create a natural wood sculpture garden in the front yard.

Our Natural wood sculpture garden


Just for fun, for the extra long steps I placed a metal sculpture assemblage

Guy usually accompanies me on my paintouts and to keep busy he is studying the local plants. We did so much research and planting in Florida, which is a semi tropical environment so now it is exciting to face a whole new ecology, which here in the Mimbres Valley is semi-arid.

Rabbit Bush in bloom

We are fascinated by the profusion of flowering plants, many in large bouquets.  Guy teaches me about the plants he is studying and having more information on them makes me appreciate them all the more. We are sticking to xeriscaping and using native plants in our yard. But most transplanted plants need some watering in season the first two years. We are also not mowing yet, to allow the plants to go to seed. Guy is eradicating invasive and problem plants individually.

Guy on a walk in Casas Adobes

After considering our options, having a studio inside the house we concluded was best for my work and the studio is far enough away from the kitchen and our bedroom so we are far enough away from paint fumes. This was a similar situation with my studio in our previous home in Florida.

19'x14' studio

Please do not let the bare easel fool you, I am working on a few paintings, I am just not showing them yet. The studio is still under evolution along with the rest of the house.

I am very busy both working in my studio and plein air painting outside. Having a studio to myself again is so welcome because while our house in Florida was up for sale we made the studio into a family room so people could better visualize themselves living in the space.

Guy is having a workshop built soon and aside from his own woodworking pursuits he will be cutting panels for my paintings and also making some of my picture frames.

When Guy does get his workshop up and running most of the large shelving I have in my studio will be moving into his workshop.  I also have books on the floor everywhere in the house. Guy will be building a library-office in one of the bedrooms off from the studio. 
Here is the library Guy built for us in Florida

 My studio is called a Den by the folks at Solitaire; hey I could call it my Artists Den!  My Artists Den does not have a door yet and it is not designed to have a door so Guy will build a hanging barn door for it, which I am looking forward to personalizing. I need a door there because there are times while I am working on a painting when I do not want people to see it until I am ready for the painting to be shown.

We hope to have the house completed and ready for a studio tour and show by next fall, 2014.