Ancient Muses

I celebrated my 16th birthday on a plane bound for France. We were fortunate, as high school students in the mid-70’s, in Swarthmore, PA, to have a most amazing French teacher, Nancy Gabel. A force of nature and culture and aesthetics and art, she was, and still is, a profound mentor to generations…and she was my guiding light.

I think we spent a week or more touring Paris and the Chateaux in the Loire Valley and took one memorable visit to Versailles. I had a new Kodak along and have a vivid memory of walking through the palace and lingering in a hallway after the tour group ambled along, and peering through an open window into a sort of inner courtyard where the stuccoed walls had been worn away to expose some old wooden timber-framing and then snapping a picture of it. For some reason, those textures and history appealed to me more than the opulent outer shell and for years afterward I would return to that little photo often in later years as a highlight of the trip.

I even made a reference, to that scrap of my early artistic leaning, recently, when talking with our friend Dr. Doug about the museum series, Reclamation. Doug had come for a studio visit when I had first begun working up the early compositions of the rooms in that old Marine Hospital, and he had shown us some photos of his recent travels and we were marveling at his hidden talent as an art-photographer and how we each see beauty beyond the usual touristy facades. It was, in fact, our conversations that night and his enthusiasm for the new direction of the paintings that was the impetus I needed to dig deep into the project, and his continuing interest and support guided me right up until the opening of the show.

So, we fast forward to yesterday, where I sat at my studio kitchen table reading an article in American Arts Quarterly about Albrecht Durer. Always one of my favorites, I have dipped in and out of old copies of books which feature his etchings and drawings throughout my journey as an artist. At one point I danced one of his portraits of a pondering old man into a painting, Bookmark…

Book Mark

And, after reading about an exhibition celebrating the passage of 500 years since he was producing his art, I went to the bookshelves and took out the old books to study once again…

durer

I know it will not come as a surprise to you…my loyal readers…my satellite muses…but it stopped my brushes and skipped my heart a beat to find…nestled in the pages of this well worn volume of his drawings…

versailles

that very photo, taken through a window in Versailles in 1974 and filed for safe keeping in a oft-visited corner of my brain.

If you had asked me to find that photo, and put the lives of my grandchildren in the balance, I am positive that I would not have been able to begin to know where to start looking for it… let along find it.

And, after living through the 40 years in between taking the photo and blogging about it here…I can honestly say that it makes my heart sing to hold that picture again, here in the studio I only dreamed about then, and to laugh along with the muses as they tease this happily aging artiste…who still likes to peek around corners, through old windows, to find the beauty in ancient palaces.

Island Passages

 

 

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