Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beggar at the Wedding

It was a beautiful spring day. My friend had invited me to her wedding at the Jewish synagogue located in the midst of a very nice neighborhood.

I arrived early to help the bride however I could. The hall was lovely. Everything about it celebrated the happiness of the wedding couple's commitment to each other.

Outside the synagogue I heard some kind of a hubbub. I went outside to see what was happening. On the sidewalk in front of the temple was a very shabbily dressed old man asking for handouts from the guests. (When the bride realized what was happening, she was very upset.)

To calm the scene, the rabbi went out and spoke with the man. The rabbi told the old beggar that rather than beg, he was invited to stay and rejoice with the other guests. The bride was beside herself that this shabby old beggar would be present at her most auspicious and memorable day.

Well, the rabbi entered back into the hall and told the bride that the beggar was a mitzvah - a good deed and a blessing at her wedding. With the rabbi's explanation, the bride relaxed and told others with pride of the blessing of a beggar at the wedding.

You see, once she chose to look at the situation differently, it stopped being an intrusion on her happiness and became a mitzvah to bless her wedding.

As the saying goes, "What you pay attention to determines what you miss." She saw only his exterior appearance until someone pointed out what it meant to do a good deed and invite him to eat.

This is a true story that happened many years ago. The couple is still together and I have never forgotten what it taught me.

And, so Dear Reader, may the coming year be full of good deeds (mitzvahs) and their attendant blessings on you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Imogen Cunningman: Photographer par excellence

Recently I was asked who taught me about shadows, tones, and textures for my art. I answered,"A big source was making studies from Imogen Cunningham's book titled, Flora, which I had found in a used book store." I thought the photography was wonderful and I wanted to know more about the artist.

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976)was born in Portland, Oregon. (Her father named her Imogen after the heroine in Shakespeare's Cymbeline.) Growing up, she took art lessons every summer. She found her medium in photography and bought her first camera at 18.

Her further education in photography was at the UW in Seattle where she studied chemistry in order to learn more about photo lab techniques. After graduation, she worked for the famed photographer, Edward Curtis.

Cunningham was about 26 years old when she received a grant to go to Germany for further study of photographic chemistry. She returned to Seattle and opened a portrait studio. (She was the only photographer who was a charter member of the Society of Seattle Artists. )

Her stunning work gained international recognition and exhibitions - Fellow of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and collected by the Smithsonian Institute.

Although it was her plant photos that caught my attention, she was also known for her nudes and industrial landscapes.

Were you familiar with her work? What do you think of her photography?

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's In a Name? Étienne de Silhouette

There's evidence dating back to the first century in Greece of back-lit portraits - what we refer to today as "silhouettes." I have no idea what this art form was named before Étienne de Silhouette. (1709-1767) It is interesting to discover how this art form took his name. After all, there's no historical evidence of his having a talent for such art.

As it happens,he was the Minister of Finance in 1759 in the court of Louis XV. Just like today, he had the ungrateful task of controlling the deficit and raising enough money to finance the Seven Years' War against Britain.

M. Silhouette's austerity moves made him unpopular and gained him a reputation of being a penny-pincher. The phrase, a la Silhouette became a common phrase for anything done on the cheap. In the same period, shadow cutouts were very popular and inexpensive. And that, dear reader, is how these forms of portraits became known as "silhouettes."

Isn't it fun to know the history of words? Do you have a favorite word with a history you know?