Tag Archives: Venus de Milo

Reflections- Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge 2018.

Welcome Back to Letters to Dead Artists, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Challenge.

For the entire month of April, and a few weeks leading up to the big launch, I have been traveling the world with my ball of red string  and exchanging letters with 26 Dead Artists, bringing together quite a divergent group of artists to forge something new both in terms of art, but also in terms of connecting up my own dots with that very same red string and becoming more connected within myself.

Map Final

26 Artists across the world all joined by a single, red string.

Perhaps, I should’ve thought twice before setting out on an epic adventure, albeit of the literary bent, on April Fool’s Day. Maybe, that’s why I set my sights so high that I was looking somewhere over the mountain and up towards the summit of Everest, when I decided to fly by the seat of my pants and write 26 letters to dead artists in 30 days without much preparation. Indeed, I wasn’t that unlike Bilbo Baggins who just walked out of his home in The Shire and set off without any preparation at all.

Then, like a crazed maniac, I researched, introspected and wrote well after midnight every night, in addition to the realities of being wife, mother, chief cook and taxi driver and managed to put together 55 088 words. I’m immensely proud of myself, and while this achievement goes well and truly beyond the scope of the challenge and readers like yourselves, I’m now well on the way towards a manuscript. That is my true goal, and I also hope that these writings are helping other people who are also stuck between a rock and a hard place. Writing and getting my book published will help raise me up, and I hope reading it will give others encouragement and hope…a reason to persevere.

While this series has the quirky title: Letters to Dead Artists, it could also be called: My journey with 26 Artists and Getting to Know Myself Better, which is nowhere near as catchy.

I am still learning so much about these artists and am yet to read through the series from start to finish. So, it is still too soon for me to really reach any conclusions and my observations would be very incomplete.

However, I have noticed that many of these artists lived with chronic medical conditions and/or disabilities and many of them experienced significant grief. Whether this intense suffering made the artist or not, I’m not sure. As I said, I still have a long way to go.

As for myself, working through this series has uncovered my own stifling perfectionism and an intense desire to avoid making mistakes, which has been paralyzing me on many fronts, and is clearly holding me back. In the past, I’ve always thought a perfectionist was that person who is meticulously precise and always gets it right. However, there’s a flip side to that…the person who desires perfection, yet feels so dreadfully inadequate, that they never get started. Ironically, other people could even perceive this person has great talent and might even have the external accolades to prove it. Yet, the perfectionist themselves can’t see it and is their own harshest critic. Indeed, this intense drive towards perfection can even claim its host. Of course, we’ve all known creatives who’ve seemingly burned up in their own flame.

The need to balance light and dark, relaxation and intensity is another life skill I uncovered during the series. I found that most of the artists I’ve related to in that really intense, soul mate  “Nano Nano” kind of way,  were expressionists and most of them had the intensity of a nuclear bomb, especially Munch’s The Scream. My connection to many of these paintings harks back to my youth. I found revisiting them now, especially all at once, too much and I found myself needing to detour to Monet’s Garden. All that angsty steam had to escape. It couldn’t keep building up and building up without an outlet. I also had a day off where I had lunch in the city with my mother and daughter at a swanky Japanese restaurant on Sydney Harbour and finished up at the Art Gallery of NSW approaching art in a much more relaxing way. Enjoying the colours, and catching up with “old friends” I hadn’t seen for awhile, which is also something I need to do in the real world. Work towards a better balance between the solitary writer’s life which is enhanced by my health and disability issues, and my extroverted, socially-driven self. These two seeming opposites need to be managed better to reach more of balance, happiness and all-round sense of well being. While “I write, therefore I am” might be a catchy motto, writers still need to look after our spiritual, physical, social, what ever other selves might be hidden under the hood. That’s where as much as I detest time management and putting limits on my writing time, it has its place…especially for an obsessive like me.

Are you like that? Could you write underwater?

Envelope to Georgia O'Keeffe

It’s a massive undertaking to read all of these letters, but perhaps you can pick and choose. That said, I encourage you to read some of the letters to artists you may not know, so you can also expand your horizons.

Since the challenge ended, I’ve also added a piece of music to each artist/painting to give the series that added boost. It is a truly sensory experience. These are all listed below.

It the list below, you’ll find the name of the artist and if you click on that, it will take you through to the full post. Next to that, you’ll find a link through to the music which I’ve linked up to each artist and then there’a photo of one work per artist. So, if you’re in the mood to spread your wings, I encourage you to take up. I have learned so much through writing this series and who knows when you might need to know some of this seeming trivia.

 

I hope you enjoy the series…

A –Z Letters to Dead Artists

Introduction

A- Alexandros of Antioch – Elvis Costello performing: “She”.

Venus de Milo


Alexandros of Antioch Venus de Milo, The Louvre

B- Sandro BotticelliO Fortuna – Carmina Burana

400px-Sandro_Botticelli_-_La_nascita_di_Venere_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, Uffizi Gallery.

C- Grace Cossington Smith – Kookaburra Sits on the Old Gum Tree

 

The-Bridge-In-Curve-quot--Grace-Cossington-Smith

Grace Cossington Smith, Bridge in Curve, Art Gallery of NSW

D Edgar Degas – Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Little Swans.

edgar-degas-Little-dancer

Edgar Degas, The Little Dancer, Musee d’Orsay

 E- Eileen Agar– Sia’s Chandelier

 

Eileen Agar wearing Ceremonial Hat for Eating Bouillabaisse

F- Frederick McCubbin – Slim Dusty singing Waltzing Matilda

 

Fred-McCubbin-On-The-Wallaby-Track Stamp

G- Vincent Van Gogh – Don McLean’s Starry Starry Night

 

Starry Night MOMA

Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night

H- Hans Heysen – Dame Nellie Melba singing Voi che sapete (1910)

Heysen 1912

Hans Heysen, “The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, Hahndorf.” (1912)

 I- Isabel BishopDolly Parton’s 9 to 5

 

220px-Young_Woman_by_Isabel_Bishop

Isabel Bishop, “Young Woman”, 1937. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

J           Jackson Pollock– Elvis’s version of: I Did It My Way

blue-poles

Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles, Australian National Gallery.

K- Wassily Kandinsky –  Arnold Schoenberg’s  Transfigured Night for String Quartet

Vassily_Kandinsky,_1913_-_Composition_7

Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

L: Norman Lindsay Galapagos Duck performing I Feel Good at the Norman Lindsay Gallery.

The_Magic_Pudding

M- Edvard Munch – Lindsay Stirling’s thrilling violin rendition of The Phantom of the Opera. 

 

Munch_The_Scream_lithography

Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895 © The Munch Museum/The Munch Ellingsen Group

N –  Sidney Nolan – Peter Allen singing: I Still Call Australia Home

Kelly with clouds

Sidney Nolan, Ned Kelly, National Gallery of Australia

O  Georgia O’Keeffe Frank Sinatra’s New York. New York

_Georgia_O'Keeffe_-_New_York_Street_with_Moon__1925

Georgia O’Keeffe, New York Sky With Moon 1925, Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza

P Pablo Picasso – John Lennon’s Imagine

Picasso Peace Dove

 Q Queenie McKenzieYothu Yindi – Timeless Land

 

God sending the Holy Spirit Queenie McKenzie

  R Auguste Rodin – John Farnham’s The Voice

Rodin_TheThinker_Rodin Museum Paris

Rodin, The Thinker

 S Salvadore DaliGhostbusters (If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood…)

Persistence of Memory 1931

Salvador Dalí The Persistence of Memory 1931, MOMA.

 T Albert Tucker – INXS – The Devil Inside

 

The City 1946

Albert Tucker, Images of Modern Evil…City, National Gallery of Victoria

Detour Sign

The Great Detour to Monet’s Garden

Accompanied by Franz Liszt – Liebestraum (Love Dream)

Why We Need Monet’s Garden.

Monet’s Greatest Work

The Pondering Photographer in “Monet’s” Pond

                                                  ………

 U Paolo Uccello – Two Cellos playing  Game of Thrones

Paolo_Uccello The Crucifixion The Met

V – Leonardo Da Vinci–David Bowie Heroes to reflect his relationship with the Mona Lisa (I will be King, and you, you will be Queen).  I’ve chosen Star Man,  to reflect the man of science and the great inventor.

Mona Lisa

Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa, The Louvre.

W Andrew Newell WyethCeltic Woman singing You Raise Me Up

Walking Through Christina’s World

 

Christinasworld
Andrew Newell Wyeth, Christina’s World, MOMA.

_______________________________________________________________

stamp news flash in red

*NEWSFLASH – DEAD ARTISTS HIJACK TRAIN*

____________________________________________________________________________________

X -Gao Xi – Grieg – In the Hall of the Mountain King

 

guo-xi_snow-mountains-664x1024-500x900

Guo Xi, Snow Mountains.

Y – Jack Butler Yeats – The Dubliners: The Town I Loved So Well and Leonard Cohen, Alleluia

Yeats Man In a Train Thinking

Jack Butler Yeats, Man in a Train Thinking, 1927

Z – Shibata Zeshin – Enya’s Echoes in Rain.

Shibata Zeshin- On Being An Artist

 

grasshopper-and-sunflower-1877

Shibata Zeshin, The Grasshopper & the Sunflower

Z+     My Favourite Dead Artist

Choir drawing 1975

……………………………………….

 

Did you have any favourites among these artists? Which one really spoke to you?

Also, did you take part in the A-Z Challenge either as a participant or a reader? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you and will be catching on more of the reading side of things now the writing has settled down.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A- Alexandros of Antioch…A-Z Challenge.

As you may recall, I am taking part in the 2018 A-Z Challenge, and my theme is Letters to Dead Artists. Today, I am launching off with A: Alexandros of Antioch. Don’t despair if you’ve never heard of him. No doubt, you have heard of his famous sculpture, The Venus de Milo, which is conspicuously missing her arms. She can be found in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The song I have chosen to accompany the Venus de Milo is “She” performed by Elvis Costello:

She may be the beauty or the beast
May be the famine or the feast
May turn each day into a Heaven or a Hell
She may be the mirror of my dreams
A smile reflected in a stream
She may not be what she may seem
Inside her shell…

Little is known about Alexandros of Antioch. It appears that he was a wandering artist working on commission. According to inscriptions in Thespiae, near Mount Helicon, in Greece dating back to around 80 BCE, his father was Menides and he’d won contests for composing and singing. It is not known when he was born or died.

Yet, perhaps Venus de Milo still speaks for him… a mirror reflecting something of the man who created her.

While I finally had the opportunity to see the Venus de Milo while I was in Paris in 1992, I first heard about her in a poem by Rachel Bradley: Venus Without Arms. It was International Women’s Day 1989, in Sydney University’s Manning Bar and I was performing my poetry at the launch of Rachel’s poetry anthology: Dragonshadow. So, you could say I was a supporting artist. Venus Without Arms addresses the objectification and sexualisation of a woman’s body, and the resulting loss of power. The concluding stanza reads:

Venus –

I can’t believe it was just

an accident

that broke only your arms

and rendered you a Work of Art[1].

This poem has stayed with me for the last 28 years, and has come back to me whenever I’ve felt disempowered and a modern day Venus without arms.

Much mystery surrounds the Venus de Milo. These mysteries extend way beyond what happened to her missing arms, and what they were doing before they disappeared. Indeed, there’s even been controversy and uncertainty over who sculpted Venus. Moreover, while she is known as “Venus”, her more correct Greek title would have been “Aphrodite”. However, when you consider that Venus was made between 130 and 100 BC and is at least 2, 117 years old, it’s hardly surprising that she has her secrets.

Indeed, we are lucky that Venus was even found. You see, she hasn’t always lived in splendour at The Louvre. Rather, she was discovered in 1820 on the Greek island of Milos, while local farmers were digging up stones to make their houses. A farmer called Theodoros Kentrotas tried to hide the statue in his stone house, but Turkish officials seized it. The French naval officer, Julius Dumont d’Urville realized its importance and purchased the statue. It was then taken to France, and offered to Louis the XVIII, who presented her to the Louvre.

When I considered putting together this series of Letters to Dead Artists, Alexandros of Antioch was understandably not at the top of the list of artists who’ve inspired me. However, that’s not how this challenge works. It’s an alphabetical challenge where you need to write a post for each letter of the alphabet during April. Nobody had come to mind for A and I was stoked to find Alexandros of Antioch and this personal connection. I didn’t have to stretch the truth.

Letter to Alexandros of Antioch

Dear Alexandros,

I am writing to you about a sculpture you created of Aphrodite many years ago, which has been found on the Greek island of Milos. By the way, I probably should tell you that the year is now 2018.

It must feel rather strange to receive a letter from so far into the future. A future, which is over two thousand years ahead of your time, and must look very strange indeed. There are cars, trains and planes and humans have even landed on the moon. Recently, a car was even launched into space. That even blew me away.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m proud of everything we humans have done. We have destroyed so much and have enough weapons to blow up the planet many times over. We’ve destroyed entire species and now even the survival of our beautiful planet, is in doubt. Sometimes, I’m ashamed to be a human. However, then something wonderful happens and I am reminded of the good. Indeed, I am certain that there is even good in all of us.

Well, I’d like to ask you a very simple question…Could you please draw me a sketch of Aphrodite with her original arms just as you designed them.  What she was doing? What is she trying to say and what thoughts are stuck behind those marble lips? She really looks like she’s holding something back. Perhaps, it’s the secret of real beauty. I don’t know, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if she could step down off the dais, and even speak… Goodness knows how many people she’s been watching and overhearing at the Louvre. I’d like to think she’s absorbed all their wisdom, but you never know. It could all just be drivel.

Anyway, please forgive me for asking so many questions, but my curiosity ran away from me. After all, it’s not every day you get to write a letter to the man who created Venus de Milo!

Best wishes,

Rowena

His Reply

Dear Rowena,

Thank you very much for your letter. It’s been awhile since I’ve received any mail.

I have to admit that I’m rather proud of Aphrodite and all that she’s become, just like any parent whose child becomes an icon, yet I’m pleased she’s still maintained her mystique.

However, I was devastated to read that her arms have been cut off. Why hasn’t anybody tried to fix her? Given her some new arms? Anything would do, although I’ve heard there are some wonderful prosthetics these days. She’d have much more fun waving and shaking hands with the crowds, rather than being so standoffish. She was never meant to be a victim. Why turn her into one?

Now, I will leave you with a piece of advice my new friend from the 21st century. You weren’t meant to turn over every stone and know what’s hiding underneath. We need unanswered questions, our mysteries, because if we have all the answers, then we’ll no longer need to search. If we stop searching, then we’ll forget to ask. We always need to wonder.

Give my love to Aphrodite and make sure you sort out those arms.

Yours in friendship,

Alexandros of Antioch

[1] Rachel Bradley, Dragonshadow, Women’s Redress Press, Sydney, 1989, p 4.