Tag Archives: art

Puffy-Eyed Perfection and the Nativity

Somewhere tangled in the tinsel and light of several Christmas Pasts, I saw a small picture of Brian Kershisnik’s ‘Nativity’ online. The screen colours were tired, but the exuberance and hinted detail of the painting shone through regardless. One day, I promised myself, that is going to be a present to myself. Fast forward years to 2013 where I not only had the opportunity to visit the USA, but I had funds to splurge a little. The first thing I did after getting the emailed confirmation of my flight was to order a print – months in advance – and have it delivered to a friend’s home in Florida. The thought of the scene, carefully scrolled and waiting, warmed my winter as I counted down to soaring over the Pacific.

A few days after landing in Utah, Tay took me to the BYU campus for a look around. The first building we entered, I turned right and nearly fell to my knees. Spread across the entire wall, in heart thrumming, enormous, awe inspiring detail, was the original ‘Nativity’. Mary, Joseph and the bundled Jesus were a heartbeat away. I stood awed at the detail shown, the life inferred, and was flooded with a more rugged, fervent appreciation for that night. I was undone by Mary’ and Joseph’s hands touching – the giving and receiving of comfort, support, relief. The blood on the midwives hands, the puppy clustered dog in the corner, all of it understated, every day, exultant.

What has affected me longest is Mary’s puffy, exhausted eyes. A tiny, simple detail but one I identified with wholeheartedly. I’ve always wondered about Mary’s experience, especially around the birth of Christ, and those hooded, sagged eyelids reflect and amplify my empathy and respect for her. I know there are a thousand other details in the painting, but Mary’s eyes are what speak to me the most.

There are thousands of details about the time of Jesus’ birth, and everyone I know has their own favourite, special part. It’s in making the story our own, the flourishes and details in one part, the boring bit skipped over, that soak it deeper into our own stories, our own hearts, our own empathetic imaginings. It can be the simple details that bring the greatest joy, in paint, in a BYU building, or in our own lives this Christmas.

As this is scheduled to publish just after midnight on Tuesday morning USA time, I’ll be in the thick of Christmas Eve. There’ll be laughter and lights, my boys and banter, food and friends, craziness and crushed wrapping paper. But before bed, or on Christmas, my sons and I will be jumbled together watching this retelling of the Christmas story by kids in their own words, by their own actions. And at Christmas, especially, telling our stories of Jesus in our own words and ways is a tiny, simple spark ready to light up our lives and those around us.

What details do you love about the Christmas story? Has any art or media deepened your empathy and/or understanding for those at the Nativity? What simple beauty and perfection do you see this Christmas?

(The same kids have done another scene, about what might have happened before the first Christmas, too.)

(Here is a link to Brian Kershisnik answering kids’ questions about his ‘Nativity’, right in front of the painting. And I have to admit, I love that the first question was about the dog.)

Artist Spotlight: Caitlin Connolly

caitlin c looking for lightWe are excited to introduce to you a new artist whose work we will be featuring here at Segullah for the next little while.

Caitlin Connolly is an artist, wife to a guitarist, musician, and creative enthusiast. Born and raised in Utah, the only girl in a family with three brothers, Caitlin grew up coloring the walls with crayons while becoming well acquainted with boy scouts and power tools. She graduated from the University of Utah in 2009 with a BFA emphasizing in Painting and Drawing and has been passionately pursing and cultivating her creative path since that time. She now lives in Provo, UT with her curly haired husband and almost-as-curly haired miniature dog, Albus. She loves spending time in her studio, touring on the road with her husband, journaling, song writing, and watching a good TV show.listen same time 11x14
You can see more of her work at http://caitlinconnolly.com

Caitlin says about her work “I make art founded on the human experience.  Life, death, tragedy, joy, loneliness, spirituality, and progression are concepts central to how I view this experience.  Growing up in a family with all boys, it was difficult for me to identify with women.  My work often explores the feminine experience as I attempt to understand myself and all women more fully and view them the way I see them – powerful yet flawed.”

 

On Moments

There was one big box, wrapped in polka dots and housing her 12th birthday present. I told her as she surveyed the seemingly sparse landscape: it’s a big one, I promise, so this is it. She opened it gingerly and took a suitcase out of the delicately unfurled paper. “Oh my gosh, I love this suitcase!” And she ran towards me, across the kitchen, to give me a hug.

 

Sweet girl.

 

I stopped her and said, “Wait! You need to open the suitcase!” She did, and suddenly, an explosion of NYC ephemera– a tee, a mug, itineraries, tickets, plans. It took her a few open-mouthed seconds to get it, but before long she was screaming, and faster than that, we were on our way, nonstop to JFK. And hurry! We had a schedule to follow after all.

 

Normally, I don’t schedule anything for vacation; I find myself beholden to the clock in normal life only because I have four kids—slow is my very nature. Slow as molasses is me on vacay.  But this was New York! The city that never sleeps! We had only 80 hours and I intended to make the most of it, with even sentiment and memories penned in the margins between minutes: temple baptisms in Manhattan (awwww), following her red-jacketed form around the Met (lump in my throat), tickets for the new Cinderella (once in a lifetime).

 

Can you plan a moment, though? Like one of those “I’m-never-going-to-forget-this-moment-for-the-rest-of-my-life” type moments? Walking off pizza, trying to make room for Milk & Cookies, we wandered to Washington Square Park. The arch is worth the extra blocks in the wrong direction alone and I wanted my daughter to see it. It was freezing, there was a man playing a grand piano in the middle of the park– Bach, I knew it– the pigeons fluttered, the sky was blindingly blue. No big. Until, we turned back to go towards the bakery, and suddenly the high, simple strains of Clair de Lune started, piercing and lovely through the frozen air, I stopped. So did my husband. So did my daughter, confused. The rolling of the music started to open itself up to the day, welcoming and bold, and it was something magic. “This is it,” I said to my husband, “This is your song.” And he turned, his eyes squinting in the bright sun, the bitter cold, “Yes.”

 

My husband. He is good at many a thing, but one of my favorite things is his knack for making little movies. We love our family movies. Sometimes we spend Family Home Evening just watching dozens of them and we (the parents) laugh that we are turning all our kids’ memories into something perfect. With a soundtrack.

 

Anyway, he was capturing ten-second clips on his phone the whole time, but that frozen moment in the park, when Debussy started, was like one of his movies come alive, and the cold and the sound, and the blue, and the pigeons, and the red jacket, and him, and her, and everything was something I almost can’t describe…

(awwww)

(lump in my throat)

(once in a lifetime)

All put together.

 

And totally unplanned, right? But caught.

 

Chloe’s NYC Trip 2013

All is Well

2106601_orig-1024x404Last week I needed a few things from Deseret Book, and after making my purchases I wandered over to see if any books I wanted to purchase had made it to the clearance rack yet. Instead, I caught my breath as I spotted a framed piece of art sitting there on sale. Even at fifty-percent off it was really beyond my budget. These days my money needs to go to babysitting, food, grad school tuition, new underwear, a mortgage. I don’t have space in my spreadsheet for framed artwork. But something spoke to my soul and told me I needed that on the wall in my house. Continue reading

At the Museum with Auden and Brueghel

During the mid-sixteenth century, the Flemish painter Pieter Brueghel the Elder created a work titled “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.” If you did not have the title of the painting to guide you it would be quite easy to miss the impact of this particular piece. At first glance it seems to be a fairly typical Flemish landscape: in the foreground a man plows a field, behind a shepherd guards his sheep, and in the distance ships sail in rocky bay. Then, as you look more closely at the bottom right-hand corner you notice two little legs disappearing into the ocean. Icarus, his wax wings melted by the sun, has plunged into the sea and none of the people in the painting (or even the viewer outside the frame) noticed the tragedy taking place before their eyes. A few centuries later, the poet W.H. Auden viewed the painting in the Musee des Beaux Arts in Brussels and wrote some lines reflecting on the very human tendency to ignore the suffering of others. Continue reading