Monday, April 25, 2005

Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross


When I was in Italy, I saw so many paintings of the crucifixion that it was almost beyond belief. Painting after Painting, wall after wall, gallery after gallery. It seemed so strange to me that the greatest artists of generation after generation had painted exactly the same thing, almost exactly the same way, over and over. I do understand the religious and historical significance, but still, the lack of novelty, of anything at all unique and different was staggering. Then again, are there really any novel, inventive ways to paint something that has been painted several thousand times? Oh yes.

Witness Salvador Dali’s “Christ of St. John of the Cross.” The first time I saw this painting it literally took all the breath out of my body. The painting was inspired by a drawing, preserved in the Convent of the Incarnation in Avila, Spain, which was done by Saint John of the Cross himself after he had seen this vision of Christ during ecstasy. At the bottom of his studies for the Christ, Dali wrote: "In the first place, in 1950, I had a ‘cosmic dream’ in which I saw this image in color and which in my dream represented the ‘nucleus of the atom’. This nucleus later took on a metaphysical sense; I considered it ‘the very unity of the universe’, the Christ ! In the second place, when thanks to the instructions of Father Bruno, a Carmelite, I saw the Christ drawn by Saint John of the Cross, I worked out geometrically a triangle and a circle, which ‘aesthetically’ summarized all my previous experiments, and I inscribed my Christ in this triangle."

So I asked myself: ‘what is it that makes Dali’s painting, St. John of the Cross’s ecstatic vision, so much more fascinating than all the other thousands of crucifixions?’ And I answered myself: ‘perspective.’

I decided that perspective was something that I didn’t know enough about and began to google about, reading up on it. I realized quickly why I didn’t know enough about it. It’s mathematical, and therefore unlikely to fit in my brain very well, or to stay there. Of course, even Dali’s own description says that he worked his painting out geometrically - inscribing his Christ in a triangle.

I read about artists of the Renaissance using mathematics and close observation to invent "linear perspective" -a technique that helped them begin (at long last) to make things look three dimensional. That, incidently, is half the problem with all those crucifixions; most of them are utterly flat. Donatello was one of the first to add depth to his paintings - a man ahead of his time in many ways. As I googled about, I saw some incredibly complex drawings showing angles of perspective through a flat glass, through a window. I read about other things that give a painting perspective and dimension: overlap, size, position, detail and color. I read about linear perspective, one and two point perspective, vanishing points and orthogonals.

I went back and looked at Dali’s painting. I understand about the triangle. I understand the metaphorical concept of the nucleus of the atom and the metaphysical aspect of putting the Christ in the triangle. In the end, however, I don’t think perspective in and of itself explains why Dali’s painting is so breath taking. It is indeed the perspective, but it is that the perspective is different. And here, I find, lies my opinion on much of art. It is the vision that makes this painting what it is; the freshness, the originality, the creativity and inventiveness. In a world where so much turns out being so very “same”, it is Dali’s difference that is his genius.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Welcome to the Wonderful World of the Packrat!


List organized by Johanna Anderton and sent by Sylvia Kleindinst

Advertising CD cases that come in the mail – clear or printed
Bank notes and coins, foreign, national (scan, rub, or photocopy)
Beads of any material, small, flat, bugle, and sequins
Books on nature from junk sales
Boxes – tea, cereal, crackers, etc.; anything colorful and interesting
Business cards – some have useable designs
Buttons – to use as is or to photocopy
CDs that come in the mail – we love that shiny side!
Cellophane windows from boxes of pasta and envelopes
Coins, real and fake
Comic books – really beat up ones with no value otherwise
Damaged books from which to cut letters, words, phrases, and whole paragraphs
Doilies - paper, plastic, cloth; pretty or just plain interesting napkins, place cards
Embroidery transfers - old-fashioned blue
Envelopes with printed exterior patterns
Envelopes with printed interior patterns
Fabric paints
Fabric scraps
Fabrics that will take dye
Fashion magazines
Fortunes from fortune cookies
Fresh or dried flowers
Game pieces from defunct games
Garden magazines (in color)
Glitter glue
Glittery paint, glittery nail polish
Grasses, seeds and seed cases, leaf skeletons, twigs
Hair, human or otherwise
Illustrations from old books – don’t destroy a good book!
Jewelry – broken, beads, sequins, faux loose jewels
Junk mail with colorful illustrations
Labels - Clothing, shipping, and "made in" (made in Canada, made in Taiwan, made in China,
Labels – Warning labels (Can be both illuminating and hilarious.)
Labels from anything and everything
Leather gloves, old and soft
Letters, old documents, bills
Lint from the dryer; used dryer sheets
Men’s ties for their fabulous material and design; women’s scarves ditto
Metal or plastic charms; metal or plastic chains
Newspapers and magazines – for their illustrations, advertisements, and lettering
Newspapers and magazines in foreign characters or languages
Odds and ends of the category-defying sort that are never used – until now
Paper dolls – old and otherwise unsalvageable
Papers – brown paper grocery bags, especially the ones with handles that can also be used
Papers – from candy and other kinds of food
Papers - handmade or simulated handmade; oriental, rice, etc.
Patterns for dresses and other items
Puzzle pieces, crossword puzzles from magazines and newspapers
Photocopies - Black and white, of large richly textured items. (I've been trying to photocopy the cat; no luck.)
Playing cards, tarot cards, (swap cards – baseball, cigarette, toys, etc.), old score cards
Postage stamps (cancelled). Also the covers of self-stick stamp books
Postcards – in color or black & white, to use as is or make photocopies
Potpourri and tiny plastic bags
Pretty (or foreign language) labels from canned goods
Ribbons, lace, ric rac, bias tape, binding tape, even snaps and zippers and other sewing notions
Seashells – small, flat are best; can be water colored for added interest
Seed bags and envelopes
Seed catalogs
Seedpods, weed fronds
Shoe and boot laces
Silk flowers and leaves, fake or dried real fern fronds
Snapshots to use as is or to photocopy
Soap wrappers
Stamps – postage or rubber. If rubber, add stamp pads to your loot
Tea bags (unused to send as a gift within a card) More tiny plastic bags
Textiles – scraps, ribbons, woven design sewing trim tape, etc.
Textured items like wood, floor tiles, or coins for making rubbings
Thread – embroidery, cross-stitch, etc.
Tickets (bus, train, cinema, theatre, sports events, etc)
Veggie bags (the mesh ones that oranges, onions, potatoes come in)
Wallpaper books or leftover wallpaper
Watch parts
Wire - copper, silver, gold
Wrapping paper, decorative or plain

Thursday, April 14, 2005


Image hosted by

Birds and flowers are my favorite subjects. This little fellow was painted on a glass building block using enamels. A hole was drilled in the back and a strand of Christmas lights inserted to make it a night light.

B. Fetterly

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It Was Your Voice That Called

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Draws from the Spirit

"To me, a true artist is someone who answers the creative call -- who listens to the call, dives deep within themself, wrestles with all of the doubt and despair, gathers the disparate inner voices and weaves something beautiful from the chaos. This can be with paint, wool, paper, words, sounds, or in more worldy ways -- a chef, a housekeeper, a nurse, a mother - it doesn’t matter -- it is about listening to the call, following the clues, completing the process and producing something authentic. Artists are the wayshowers --- they are keepers of the creative process and by their efforts they shine light on the twists and turns of life’s path. If they are truly authentic - they paint the road maps, sing out the roadsigns, show the next step in the journey" says Lyndia Radice

Lyndia Radice joined Soul Food recently and her fine art work is breathtaking. She gifted me with a beautiful image of my guide, the Raven.

Meet Lyndia Radice, who draws from the spirit in her Studio here at Soul Food.

Papier Mache Workshop - Little Spirit People

Stephanie Hansen likes to tell me that her eclectic Papier Mache Little Spirit People are dead easy to make and that she is not particularly clever. Well Steph can go on believing that. I personally think her talent lies in the quirky, eclectic, original things that she has a habit of making. Readers of Soul Food will surely remember the collaged perfume boxes that she presented for the 2004 Advent Calendar, not to mention her Double Dare Greeting Cards and fun House Project. So when she
started showing some of us at Soul Food her latest Papier Mache work I got down on my knees and begged her to have a showing here on the site. Steph can never refuse my, 'Puss in Boots' of Shrek fame,look. Participate in her workshop now.

Monday, April 11, 2005

APEX INTO NOTHING ~ Hello Artists! Is there anyone out there? How about some more posts here? Beware . . . there are more where this came from - I could probably keep this up indefinitely. How about someone else jumping in as well?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Shopping to inspire?

Do you have a favorite shop that inspires the tired and worn out Muse?

There is a shop nearby that I visit, I tell myself to only look, no buying. Yet, when I visit this shop my imagination tingles with excitement! Everywhere I look I see fairies, heart shaped objects, feathery and velvety things. I see sparkles and bejeweled boxes and I try not to explode with joy. For some reason I see magic and wonderment in this special shop called “Things with Wings” in Sedona, Arizona.

Today I found a lovely fairy. She deserves a shrine of her own. I will dream her up something darling. So, shopping can be good for the soul, at least my imaginative soul. I am a gatherer of ideas. I collect bits and details and hope to put them into a lovely place, either in paint or into my studio space.

Decorating my studio is quite a task. Yet without it where can I begin? I need my organized jumble of beautiful clutter.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"The Hero" from my collection "Dances with Archetypes"