Roses and the Luxury of Homemade

It’s an interesting juxtaposition that something homemade can be luxurious but I’ve recently experienced the luxury of homemade and there’s an art to making it work. The “homemade” I’m meaning is the essence of making one feel at home and making something from scratch — not mass produced. This post is timed with the appreciation of this upcoming Mother’s Day when mothers’ “homemade” talents are nationally celebrated.

Rose’s Luxury is well known restaurant in DC where it’s expected to wait in line. It’s where my friend Patsie wanted to celebrate her birthday. Our ELDC group decided to make it happen. We took an Uber ride from Alexandria into the city. We weren’t anticipating a Cap’s game; otherwise, we would have been there 30 minutes earlier than 5pm. It didn’t really matter because the line would have still been there. As it turned out we only waited about 20 minutes when the hostess came out to ask which seating those in line wanted. We chose the earlier seating @ 6:00 pm.

Roses Luxury on Art Is Everywhere

Roses Luxury outside on Art Is Everywhere

Front of Rose’s Luxury. Photo credit by Alice Wang

The restaurant is located near the Naval Barracks on 8th Street, SE, near my old haunting ground while living in DC, right up the street, so many years ago. It’s actually located near where the former Homebody store was and where I had staged a photo shoot of my Peacock Damask reusable wallcovering. This is a unique home store that has moved just around the corner. Rose’s entrance is unassuming and reminds me of someone’s home. Seeing inside further confirmed this notion and surprisingly made me think of the Georgetown townhouse where I first lived when moving to DC. The ambience has the perfect combination between being welcoming and magical. It also seems to bring that magical feeling of eating outdoors while being in the comfort of dining inside — without worrying about weather.

Roses Front Exterior on Art Is Everywhere

Roses exterior front. Photo credit Ahmad Ibrahim

While eating downstairs, you’re under a ceiling of skylights, letting the sun and sky shine through with natural lighting. I’ll have to go back for the later seating to see the evening stars. Outdoor patio lights are strung overhead. Upstairs has an enclosed front dining room with a bar area that seems dark in comparison — except from the front windows & bright overhead bar lights. There is an intimate “back porch” area for private dinners. What’s noticeable about the downstairs dining is it appears as if it might have been a side alley that was enclosed. Part of an exterior brick wall and possible door opening remains by the wide-open kitchen.

Rose's Luxury downstairs with kitchen_Art Is Everywhere

Rose’s Luxury downstairs with kitchen via DC Dining

Roses Luxury entrance on Art Is Everywhere

Entrance. Photo credit Michel Thouati

Roses Luxury view from our table on Art Is Everywhere

view from our table downstairs. Photo credit via thestreet.com

Regrettably the website doesn’t really have a full menu, perhaps because it changes so often. I can’t exactly remember what I had over a month ago — it was the week before a fabulous week to remember — but I remember I had these dishes below and they were delicious, as was everything, even the cocktails.

FOIE GRAS TART W/ HAZELNUT, WHITE CHOCOLATE & ASIAN PEAR

EGG YOLK & RICOTTA RAVIOLO W/ SPRING ONION & PEAS

This dish looks below familiar because it was ordered by someone else in my group and passed around to share. All the dishes were meant to share.

Rose's Dish on Art Is Everywhere

Rose’s Dish. Photo credit via Curt Barnard

Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post food critic’s, recent review in the Spring Dining Guide knocks down his first rating by 1/2 star but still excellent, if not a little over salty. Fortunately, his descriptions of his most recent meal compare with mine and with what I had above along with the Rose’s Signature Cocktail with gin, lavender and lemon – delicious, simple, refined and balanced.

What’s so impressive to me about Rose’s Luxury is the experience is not only eating exceptional food but enjoying the company of your friends as if it was in your own home, without you having to do any of the work, or more importantly, the cleanup.

I was inspired when I read recently in the Washington Post a reader’s question about where could one linger for dinner in DC on a similar scale to The Inn at Little Washington for under $300 / person? Well, Rose’s isn’t this expensive or this high-end but it reminds of the top-notch dinner one would remember with friends while eating gourmet food but without being ostentatious.

The answer was Kinship, which happens to be Eric Ziebold’s restaurant — the lower end version of Metier, where we were lucky enough to eat with friends — as their guests.

We’re looking forward to having our own friends over soon to leisurely spend time enjoying fresh food without rushing or worrying about it being too complicated.

We’ll be using lettuce from our rooftop garden for homemade Caprese salad – simple, tasty, fresh and uncomplicated.

Homemade Caprese salad on Art Is Everywhere

Homemade Caprese salad with fresh home-grown basil,  bibb and arugula lettuce

Happy Mother’s Day and hope you receive a homemade experience with a meal and maybe a rose or two.

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Butterflies Everywhere

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I like butterflies. Well, I’m finding butterflies everywhere these days. How appropriately so because of the upcoming transformative celebration of Easter this Sunday.

We host our annual brunch for about 50 folks, so this post will consequently be short. 😉

This is my recent butterfly find from Elle Decor, as they tend to be circling back in style. (Personally, I never thought they flitted out of style.)

Butterflies everywhere in style via Elle Decor on Art Is Everywhere

Butterflies in style via Elle Decor

You can find recent and previous butterfly references here.

Also, here are a few updates and worthy mentions:

 

  1. The Fearless Girl Statue will stay in place for at least a year — until February 2018. Let’s hope everyone gets so used to it that it becomes permanent.

2. If you haven’t read the book Hillbilly Elegy – A Memoir of Family & Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance, it is a worthwhile read with real enjoyment. It’s both eye-opening and exceptionally told (orated by the author) from the insider’s perspective that helps explain a large portion of America’s people and their upbringing while being one of the few to “make it” and find the American Dream. (Even Oprah read this book, or is at least shown in a photo with the book on her table.)

Although the memoir was specific to Vance, it was embraced as a personification of the everyday struggles of America’s white underclass, and it shone a light on issues including race and privilege in America.Deadline Hollywood.

This just learned — the book will become a movie.

Click this link to listen to a sample. It personally moved me with my father’s Kentucky roots and even some real life characters being similar in name. For instance, J. D.’s name and his sister’s are similar names to my brother, John D (named after my father) and my sister Lindsey. Even his first home town in Jackson, KY, is all too uncanny to me. Although he currently lives in San Francisco, is a venture capitalist, works with Steve Case, he has DC Gibson Dunn law connections. There were unexpected guffaw moments of hilarious laughter and equal shocks of sadness but if everyone read this, there could be signs of hope, which is a good thing for this time of year — and a perfect thing on which to end this post.

Happy Easter!

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The Perfect Pink

The Paul Smith store in LA has received the most notoriety for its vivid, perfect pink exterior color. It certainly attracts attention but has increasingly attracted attention of photographers with a constant flow of selfie uploads daily. So much so, that the attention the wall brings, creates its own security guard.

Paul Smith perfect pink wall_Instagram 2_Art Is EverywhereAtlas Obscura explains the draw of the perfect pink color:

“The Paul Smith wall makes the list of almost every available “most photographed locations in Los Angeles” list…Everyone looks freaking great standing in front of it…The fact that the wall is a simple swath of color, unbroken and very, very tall, makes it curiously like a professional backdrop itself…creates a huge amount of contrast between the subject …makes it a particularly eye-catching image, especially on a small screen.

Paul Smith perfect pink wall 1_Art Is EverywhereThe size of the wall, negative space and shadows all play into the perfect pink effect. Also of interest is the fact that the color pink has been trending the last couple of years. Pantone ranked it [Rose Quartz] and Serenity Blue as its top 2 colors for 2016. You can read other posts about Pantone’s Color Forecasting here.

Paul Smith perfect pink wall_Instagram_Art Is EverywhereAtlas describes it well, “That big pink wall is something else: arty, but not exactly art; unbranded but instantly recognizable; off-the-beaten-path but hugely popular.

Paul Smith perfect pink wall 1_Art Is EverywhereJust search #pinkwall on Twitter and Paul Smith Pink Wall on Instagram to see for yourself.

I like the color and have also been dabbling with pink recently in the latest Chinoiserie collection of Casart removable and reusable wallpaper.

Casart Coverings Chinoiserie Mural Panel 4 in Dusty Pink self-adhesive wallpaper_Art Is Everywhere

Casart Chinoiserie Mural Panel 4 in Dusty Pink self-adhesive wallpaper

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Fabulous Fibonacci is Golden Art

I’ve just backed Rafael Araujo’s Kickstarter project to bring his beautiful architectural illustrations to light in an adult coloring book. Araujo is a Venezuelan architect in Caracas, who’s been using the Fibonacci Sequence or Golden Ratio for over 40 years to create his artwork.

Rafael Araujo at work_ Art Is Everywhere

Rafael Araujo at work

The Golden Ratio uses “Phyllotaxis,” which is the tendency in nature for things to grow in spiral patterns. This concept can be seen in mathematically sequenced spirals in seashells and butterflies — two of my favorite things — among many other elements that are found in Nature.

Golden Ratio shell 1_Art Is EverywhereHe’s left all the mathematical plotting points intact to show the diagram of the object he’s illustrating, similar to Leonardi’s famous image of the Vitruvian man, which in this case also shows how the circle and the Golden Ratio Rectangle come together.

Rafael Araujo_Golden Ratio Rectangle Fibonacci Spiral_ArtIsEverywhere

Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man_ArtIsEverywhere

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man via Stanford University

Golden Ratio shell 3_ Art Is Everywhere

Araujo’s shells using the Golden Ratio

Golden Ratio shell 2_Art Is Everywhere

Rafael Araujo_Blue Morpho butterflies_ArtIsEverywhere

Blue Morpho Butterflies in flight by Rafael Araujo

Casart Butterfly Logo2_Art Is Everywhere

Casart coverings Blue Morpho Logo Butterfly

I love the Blue Morpho Butterfly, as you can see above. I took these next two pictures while in Panama. It is one of the most majestic creatures. I was so excited to see them in flight, as well as leaf cutter ants at work. Pretty amazing and mesmerizing.

Blue Morpho Underside wing pattern in Panama_Art Is Everywhere

Blue Morpho Underside wing pattern in Panama

Blurry Blue Morpho eating_AIE

Blurry Blue Morpho eating

Rafael Araujo_Monarch butterflies_ArtIsEverywhere

Araujo’s Monarch Butterflies

I’m loving this coloring book because it epitomizes the apex of where art and science come together. I’m excited to receive one but more importantly, I’m very happy, Mr. Araujo and his printers have already reached their fundraising goal. I’m just pleased to be a part of the effort to bring his exceptional art to others. You can still be a part of the effort too until April 27th, so get on board and surf the Golden Ratio wave!

Golden Ratio Coloring Book_ArtIsEverywhereHere are some more links that may be of interest:

Rafael Araujo’s website

His creative process on Imgur

Math is Fun – The Fibonacci Sequence

A Fun Math Exercise in Your Garden

About the Fibonacci Sequence

Golden Ratio in relation to Fibonacci Sequence

More on Golden Rectangles

Golden Ratio Rectangle_ArtIsEverywhere

Don’t ask me to explain the math, except maybe this is why I like Spirograph so much! 😉

 

Belgium Solidarity

Joyfully it is Easter Week — a time to celebrate!

In the spirit of energy and renewal, this is quick post as we get ready for our annual Easter Brunch, to show solidarity with the Belgium people. The world has come together, yet again, to express their sympathy and support after the latest terrorists attacks.

It is a sad coincidence that as I wrote my blog post last week, the remaining terrorist in the Paris attacks had been caught in Belgium. I noted that I hoped this victory would give the French and other nations information to prevent future attacks. Tragically in just a week’s time, in between the writing of the last post and this, another horrific terrorist crime has occurred. More innocent people are dead and countries, particularly Europe is on high alert. In the midst of this wake, I’m more encouraged by the unification around the world expressing solidarity with Belgium and efforts to fight terrorism.

Begium Muslims unite on Art Is Everywhere

via Washington Post

This image spoke a message about the human spirit — free and defiant, not afraid to gather, called into action, paying respects to the lives of the dead, offering hopes and prayers for their families and the future.

Thinking about the book Big Magic’s concept that the idea is powerful and can be realized by those who think and act upon it, collectively as more people embrace prayer and thoughts for hope, I believe we can win this war.

Hermes-Butterfly as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Human + Butterfly merge

The butterflies are symbolic for God’s miracles, transformation, and rebirth. They indicate for me that peace will come.

Butterflies are free and in some ways represent transcendence from constraints and this world. Hopefully you’ll see why I like butterflies.

The Art of Speaking

I was posting on the Slipcovers for Your Walls blog for Casart coverings about Apple’s latest run in with the FBI about providing a backdoor entry on their devices in relation to their existing home technology, when I came a several great videos on Fast Company.

You could say these videos below explain how there is an art to the well-crafted interview, so the interview questions are perceived the way that one wants the interviewee to hear.

Art of Speaking_interviewing_FastCompany_on Art Is EverywhereOtherwise, the interview becomes a classic case of you say this but this is what they hear.

Actually there’s an art to speaking in general, so keep watching the second video. It humorously shows the double speak within office meetings.

Too funny and too true! (from Fast Company)

If you want to see more, head on over to the Slipcovers for Your Walls blog post on Apple Wants to Unlock Your Door.

A Big Magic Kahuna with Creative Content

There have been two books I’ve read recently that deserve big recognition for their ability to express the subtleties of man living in consort with Nature and the mystery of inspiration. It’s Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear that takes the prize, however, for boldly being able to give meaning to and explain the creative process and the pathways to choose for achieving the most positive results.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert_Art Is EverywhereShe begins her book with a simple question and answer, “What is creativity? [It is] the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.” This blog, by the way, is primarily about witnessing such inspiration and marveling in the creative process involved.

Gilbert eloquently describes the moment that one’s revelation of an idea occurs is when a person is open to receive the thought that may have been there but they were not cognizant of seeing it. Kinda like the thought of the potential for art being everywhere exists around us but it takes the perceptive individual to notice. She likens an idea to a living entity that gets its life force through a person, as if the person is the vehicle for bringing it to light. If the person is unwilling to engage the idea, not receptive or too late to act on it, then the idea goes elsewhere looking for another individual to entice. She describes an example when her idea for a book was passed to another author simply through a hug. It was not the best timing for her to commit to the idea so the idea left for another host and this other author wrote a wonderful book involving this same idea. The idea was never discussed between the writers in advance. It only came to light when Ann Patchet (the other author) was describing her new book, State of Wonder. You might think Gilbert would be incensed that her idea had been “stolen.” How would you react? Instead, she appreciated Ann Patchet’s work and was delighted that the idea finally came to light. One does not have ownership over an idea, she notes. The idea has ownership over you.

This concept makes sense when waves of ideas come and they go. They aren’t always there but when they are, it’s always magical to see many ways the idea can manifest itself.

I’m having one of these moments in a new series of artwork I’m trying to produce. The concept has been with me for a while but I’ve just now gotten the chance to fully act on it. Her book gave me the impetus I needed with the suggestion that the idea will go elsewhere if not used. Now I’m fully immersed in it; albeit, while trying to manage my business(es), which is probably my other creative idea(s) that I’ve been nurturing for the last 8+ years.

She likens living in the moment while manifesting the idea as the most magical experience, full of pure joy, of which I can attest, when it happens:

“You may know this feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve made [or done] something wonderful and when you look at it later, all you can say is, “I don’t even know where that came from.” You can’t repeat it. You can’t explain it. But it felt as if you were guided…It’s the most magnificent sensation imaginable when it arrives…[maybe] not a more perfect happiness to be found in life than this state, except perhaps falling in love.”

She calls this having a genius, as the Romans did, not as we do now “being” a genius. The difference keeps the creative person’s ego in check. This is contrary to those pinned with the label of genius (i.e. Harper Lee) or the self-absorbed artist, singer (e.g. Kanye West) or actress or lawyer, politician or any person for that matter who thinks they are, unique, one-of-a kind. They can be either too scared to create again having reached a pinnacle or too frighteningly egocentric when they do. We are all creators and living life fully is in the act of doing something. I call it “finding Balance.”

She describes the paradoxes involved. The moment the idea comes and you act on it is sacred and related to divine mystery, which I agree. I often explain coincidences that happen as more than just mere coincidences. However, she warns that although you must take the work involved seriously, you cannot think it too important or let it torment you or create such disruption that the work becomes a burden, then you lose the miraculous flow. The creative idea is then affected and becomes too heavy when it needs to remain light, not necessarily easy but enough so to bring joy. Life is about creating (the process) not necessarily the results of what you create. It’s great if the result is a masterpiece or a best seller, as her book Eat Pray Love was, but the intent cannot be just for this goal. There is too much pressure and a set up for self-destined failure, which may be why Harper Lee never wrote anything after To Kill a Mockingbird. Ann Patchet’s work is so highly regarded not only because she is a wonderful writer but mainly because of her similar philosophy, “I don’t write for an audience, I don’t think whether my book will sell, I don’t sell it before I finish writing it.

Gilbert states, “in the end, creativity is a gift to the creator, not the audience.” I would even say and creativity should be received gratefully, giving gratitude to the Creator. She says the creative work must be the most important thing to live artistically but not matter at all in order to live sanely. Again, finding that balance, while always being grateful and enjoying the good and bad of what you do. That’s a lesson I remember my father telling me, no matter what you do in life, make sure is something you enjoy doing.” This way you can overcome hardships that will happen along the way.

Gilbert’s book is all about the creative process. How the idea forms, how one chooses or doesn’t choose to act on the inspiration and how there is work involved when you choose to act, which she humorously calls the “shit sandwich.” I don’t have a problem with this language because it is aptly named when you understand the reasoning behind it. It refers to all the frustration involved and hardships to overcome in making the idea materialize. You’re either willing to eat the shit sandwich, that no one wants or chooses to eat, or not. How badly do you want to make your idea work? There are lessons in this book for everyone to follow. Persistence, not perfection, pays off. The shit sandwich is what happens in between the bright moments of the easy flow of inspiration. There are other lessons: trust in what you love, learn from fear, be open-minded and curious, say yes to inquisitiveness and interests because they are often clues pointing you to a path that you might not fully see, stop complaining, get doing.

I chose this book for my book group as a philosophy book not as a self-help. We enjoyed discussing during our Mardi Gras celebration — enjoying life in the doing — as described in my previous post.

This was just after the previous book we read last month called Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, which is another one that I’d highly recommend. Sy Montgomery is a Naturalist who’s written a series of books that demonstrate Man’s symbiotic connection to Nature through the many experiences she has encountered. This one has to do with her observation and what we can learn from highly intelligent octopuses (not the more popular, but incorrect octopi). When reading her account, you learn how remarkable these mysterious and often feared creatures are but also how human emotions can become entangled and elevated with another type of being. As the book jacket states, her story “reveals what octopuses can teach us about the meeting of two very different minds.

Soul of an Octopus_Sy Montgomery_Art Is EverywhereThis is what I wrote to my book group about it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see the connection between the two books and my delight in discovering them, coincidentally seeing how they relate to discovery and Art Is Everywhere:

I loved this book, btw and gave it a 10, which I rarely give, but it really spoke to me. I’ve been enamored with the sea and all its mysterious creatures, which is why I probably collect and paint seashells, sea life murals and have enjoyed a fresh and marine fish tank for over 20 years. Fish, surprisingly, also have personalities.

Sy Montgomery coincidentally mentions Cozumel as her first dive and likens it to something similar to visiting an alien planet right here on earth…It’s on my bucket list to go deep sea diving but until then, I’m going to go swimming with whale sharks (extra video ref). I learned about how this phenomenon came about through the Racing Extinction film (very worth watching even with some overtly political overtones). It aired in December but you may still be able to see it on the Discovery Channel?

Following suit on the philosophy take-away regarding this book about Karma and Consciousness,* I’m choosing Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. I believe it was written as a followup to her Ted Talk on Creativity that I was so impressed with that I  emailed the book group about way back. I just discovered she’s expanded it into book form. We’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and Committed before and discussed how she can have a somewhat self-absorbing nature to her writing but even though her stories are shared from personal experience, this broad topic on creativity and inspiration may grab our group of very creative ladies both collectively and individually.

I almost chose another book, Nonesense, the Power of Not Knowing by Jamie Holmes and will still recommend because I think it might be the perfect followup to Gilbert’s book. This one is filled with unknown facts behind veils of deception — from what you think you might know. Both books seem enlightening for living in the present.

Montgomery marries science with poetry in her descriptions of her dives along with her cultural knowledge in explaining the meaning of karma and consciousness.

The desire to change our ordinary, everyday consciousness does not seize everyone, but it’s a persistent them in human culture. Expanding the mind beyond self allows us to relive our loneliness, to connect to what Jung called universal consciousness…Plato called the animus mundi, the all-extensive world soul shared by all of life…Karma is interchanged with destiny…but the idea of karma has a deeper and more promising meaning than fate…Our karma is something over which, unlike fate, we do have control. “Volition is karma,” the Buddha is reported to have said. Karma, in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, is conscious action. Karma is not fate, but, in fact, its opposite. Karma is choice.”

In her chapter, Consciousness to think, to feel, to know, she describes the following reflection about the meaning of the Soul while attending a Tahitian church service, she “understands the power of worship, and the importance of contemplating mystery…in all our relationships, in all our deepest wonderings. We seek to fathom the soul…[The Soul] gives life meaning and purpose. The Soul is the fingerprint of God. Others say that soul is our innermost being, the thing that gives us our senses, our intelligence, our emotions, our desires, our will, our personalities, our identity. Perhaps none of this is true, [but as she sits in the pew she ponders,] I am certain of one thing…if I have a soul — and I think I do — an octopus has a soul too.

Strangely enough, she contemplates this idea (which I think has to do with connection and creativity as it takes on its own life as the title of her book) while she is transported by the pastor’s sermon to the “Gilbert Islands, where the octopus god, Na Kitka, was said to be the son of the first beings, and with his eight strong arms, shoved the islands up from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean…Immersed in mystery, my natural response, even on an expedition in the name of science, is to pray.”

Perhaps I’m more reflective with my birthday a day away, but not thinking there is really a connection to this, except that these two books brought great inspiration, in a timely and interconnected way that is beautifully mysterious. I am grateful to have read them and I can only hope their inspiration will be sustained, at least for a while.

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Jake Weidmann Wields a Mighty Pen

I ran across this video below about Jake Weidmann and his Master Penmanship, which is beyond just writing. His calligraphy, illustration, artwork and control over the pen just blew me away. I know how easy it is to mess up. He does to, Considering the detail involved in his work, it’s hard to imagine how many times he might have to start over to have a perfect version. I gave up perfection a long time ago but certainly can appreciate it as well as some human flaws that might add character.

I wasn’t familiar with his work but he wields a mighty pen.

He’s passionate about maintaining the human touch to art. The physical activity of putting pen to paper is strong enough to link the brain with intelligence, communication and engagement and learning beyond what just modern email or phone call, for that matter, can do.

Handwriting as we know it is inspired by Nature and how we interpret it. Writing for him is drawing and an artistic form of expression.

His art form calls for the necessity of making sure every human knows how to physically draw a letter onto paper. Bringing back the art form of writing letters is more than just nostalgic, it is a serious, time-labored endeavor with significant long-term meaning.

For instance would the Constitution have the same significance if it was an email?

In an age when we’re all moving to be more cloud based, which I certainly follow suit for convenience and backups, I also realize that “Digitality” loses permanence! Hard copy lasts, even if it does take up physical space. There is something “noteworthy” in the physical “indelibility” and maintaining a sense of dynamic culture through handwriting.

Weidmann is a true Renaissance man, not only mastering the pen but carving, creating them, building and carving a frame for his Master Penman certificate, that he wrote, illustrated and made — all art forms in and of themselves — but centered around the humble but mighty pen.

Jake Weidmann_Mightier_on Art is EverywhereJake Weidmann_Steward painting on Art IS EverywherHis handmade pens are beautiful but all sold out except this one.

Jake Weidmann_ergonomic pen on Art Is EverywhereAs he so eloquently says, “the written word gives such powerful life to [his] artwork.” And, I’d say in life. His portrait of Christ below was created in one single pen stroke!

Jake Weidmann_single stroke portrait of Christ on Art Is Everywhere

Can Historic Murals Be Divisive?

There is an ongoing issue with racial division coming to the forefront lately. I usually don’t take on such political topics and it is not my intent to do so here but simply report and as usual show some connectivity to how art really is everywhere and relates in our lives.

There is controversy a-brewing at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama over the historic murals that were painted by Chicago artist John W. Norton. He painted the large-scale, eight-foot murals to depict the story of the Old South and the New South in the 1930’s when the courthouse was being built.

Old and New South Murals via BhamWiki on Art Is Everywhere

Old and New South Murals via BhamWiki

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 1_Art Is Everywhere

Old South section via AL.com

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 2 _AIE

New South via AL.com

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 3_AIE

Old South full mural via AL.com

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 4_AIE

New South full mural via AL.com

They have existed without complaint until recently when Anne Garland Mahler, a Birmingham native who teaches now at the University of Arizona, started an online petition on change.org to have them removed because she cites them as being racist.  She indicates, “These murals have been described by scholars as white supremacist images and even the Chicago firm, Holabird & Root, that originally designed the courthouse and commissioned the paintings, has stated their support for the removal of the murals.“…”Since these murals are works of art and were painted by a famous muralist, we are not necessarily advocating for their destruction.”…”Most importantly, these images do not belong in the courthouse.”

There is precedent here with a twist when the now famous Maine Labor History Mural by artist Judy Taylor painted in 2008 was removed by then Governor LePage in 2012. It caused so much controversy that a lawsuit ensued by artists to keep it in place. Here was what resulted after a long battle, reported in Yankee Magazine:

The solution to many problems in this life is simply for enough time to pass for the problem to disappear on its own. What seems to have happened in the case of the Maine Labor History Mural is that, with litigation at an end, new Maine State Museum director Bernard Fishman, former director of the Rhode Island Historical Society, approached new Maine Labor Commissioner Jeanne Pacquette about exhibiting the mural in the museum lobby. Artist Judy Taylor was consulted on the move and consented. Gov. LePage apparently had no objections. And the U.S. DOL, which paid for the mural and had been demanding its money back if the mural were not exhibited, agreed that it would be okay for the mural to hang, at least temporarily, in a non-labor department facility…. And, with its new-found fame, the mural will now be seen by thousands more people than would ever have seen it in the tiny, airless DOL waiting room.

Maine-Labor-History-Mural_via Yankee Magazine on Art Is Everywhere

Maine Labor History Mural’s current home_ via Yankee Magazine

I would also say that controversy can be resolved with respectful dialogue — communication “with” rather than “at” one another.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Courthouse Murals because removal can cause extensive damage and the cost can be exorbitant at an estimated $100,000, when that money and effort could be possibly better spent on the citizens and their community.

 County Commissioner President Pro Tem, Sandra Little Brown, writes an impassioned plea for their removal and makes some valid points for everyday living with the murals and what they represent. I’ve even tried to envision myself having to view them daily and recalling painful past struggles — if that is the only thing you see. However, they provide a beautifully rendered, stylistic depiction that is indicative of the Industrial Movement post Art Deco, despite the subject representing America’s honest history. They also show progress and historically represent the mindset of the 1930’s, not present day era, as they were painted then, not now. Diego Rivera also painted the American Worker in the 30’s during the industry labor movement. Detroit fought hard and won to keep these murals intact as their many other museum acquisitions had to be sold during the city’s declared bankruptcy. However, these are one of the main tourist attractions to the museum and have since become even more so visited.

Diego Rivera Murals at Institute of Arts in Detroit_via Huffington Post on Art Is EverywhereEqually persuasive is Wayne Flynt’s argument that,”Addressing systemic issues involves confronting policies, but dealing with historic symbols is more complicated and divisive.”  He is Auburn University’s professor emeritus of history. His closing phrase is poignant, “What, as a historian, I find wrong about that is this no longer allows us to have a conversation about the way we were,” Flynt said. “And the way we were is the problem.

Perhaps this is a solution, as stated on AL.com:

Linda Nelson of the Jefferson County Historical Commission has suggested installing educational materials near the pieces and a third mural documenting Southern progress. Jackson told the commission he’s open to that idea.

Nelson and Flynt say they understand the emotions that the artwork stirs, but they would rather preserve reminders of the region’s past than wipe it away.

Until a resolution can be found, at least there is comfort in enjoying the beautiful building and some of its many details.

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 7_AIE

You can almost see Atticus here.

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 6_AIE Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 5_AIEI’m from the South, a New Orleans gal, and I currently live in a Southern town of Alexandria, VA, right outside the most political town of Washington, DC. We are grappling with our own “Confederate” symbols that became controversial in the sad wake of the senseless Charleston church murders. Although some landmarks, streets and Confederate flags are being removed or replaced, this beloved statue, where the Confederate Soldier, entitle Appomattox stands in the middle of a busy street with his back to the North, is totally symbolic of the Civil War when the North and South were at such odds and pays tribute to VA’s dead in the wake of such a horrific war. It would take more than just a city order to remove as it is on the historic registry of landmarks and is owned by the state, so it is staying.

Appomattox via DCMemorials.com on Art Is Everywhere

Appomattox via DCMemorials.com

There are countless other murals and artwork that resonate with people because they precisely depict a figure who or an image that represents a time and place in America’s history that should not be forgotten.

As I write this piece and with these controversial racial times, I am reminded of one of my favorite books, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. I learned from reading it how Russia used the everyday tactic of simple changes to erase history, like changing street names, renaming and removing landmarks. The next generation never knows its past and does not reflect on it. Therein mistakes are often repeated. It has a striking similarity.

Recently in Seattle, James Crespinel, the original artist of his tribute mural to Martin Luther King below was touching it up and so many people stopped to complain because they were worried he might be damaging it. Once he explained his purpose, the passersby were welcoming of his careful and loving preservation.

MLK mural via TheStranger on Art Is Everywhere

MLK mural via TheStranger