Category Archives: Impressionists

Enigma


January has a way of making everything new. A crisp calendar, a brand new notebook, and a post holiday purge of leftover candy paves the way for fresh creative endeavors.

To kick off the new year, here’s an excerpt from Enigma, the next installment in the Jade Weekes Art Mystery series.

Enjoy.

The Future Man | Paul Klee | 1933

The Future Man | Paul Klee | 1933

Enigma, A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

Chapter One

The boat rocked in long swells which Jade felt roll from left to right, like a book she’d read enough times to memorize. It felt like Andre’s barge floating on the oily wash of the Seine, but it wasn’t. The damn sun was too hot for one, and the calming cacophony of the Paris waterfront was an ocean away.

“How much time are you planning to waste in that chair?”

She turned her eyes in the direction of the voice, John Young stood at the rail, hands on hips. “I don’t have a job,” she said, closing her eyes again.

He crossed the narrow wood deck and stood over her a moment before pulling a lounge chair closer and sitting. “It’s been over a year,” he said. “The statute of limitations is up on self-pity.” The chair squeaked under his weight as he settled back.

“Who let you on the dock?” she asked, “I’ll need to reprimand security.”

“Andre called and…”

“And wanted you to check on me,” she finished. “I’m happy, tell him that. Now go away.”

“Your father is dead, you can’t bring him back. Andre is alive, thanks to you.”

Jade sat up. Her skin felt tight, like leather tanned and stretched to dry. She had intentionally moved as far away as she could from the memories, and half remembered images of her past, spending months building up walls. An interruption was unneeded, unwanted. Her pulse thumped in her throat. “Whatever you want, I’m not interested.”

Her only comfort zone was now out of her reach. For five years she had walked into galleries, skirted security systems and guards, and walked out with Reniors. It had felt like a normal life to her, normal enough to black out all memories hidden from her by retrograde amnesia, a side effect of being attacked and left for dead, floating in the Seine. Certainly, if you have something to live for, it doesn’t get washed so easily from your mind, she thought. The temporal vacancy was home.

The only image she had of her life before the attack, was of her father laying on the floor, his blood painting the gray tiles of their small Chicago gallery. Even as she’d tried to not remember, it came back when the same madman, Jarvinen, had tried to kill Andre, the mentor who had taught her a use for her unusual skill set. He was like her second father—for a while at least.

Young shifted beside her. She glanced to her right. His legs stretched to the end of the lounge chair, and he had pulled a Braves baseball cap over his eyes.

“Suit yourself,” she said.

“I will,” he replied.

Jade closed her eyes, trying to block out his presence. Water lapped at the dock pilings, and further down, she heard a boat crew yelling to one another as they off loaded a fishing party. Young made no sound, and after a while she began to think he’d either left, or perhaps fallen asleep. She glanced at the chair. He was still there. Lean and tan, clad in tan cargo shorts and a Jimmy Buffett t-shirt, he fit into the surroundings. It was a marked improvement over the mud and blood crusted jacket and jeans he’d worn when they had exited the sewers of Paris. He reminded her of unfinished business.

“What have you heard of Morrell?” she asked. Simon Morrell, a career art thief, con man, and murderer with no moral compass, lived adrift in the money currents offered by organized crime. Last year, when his plans countered Jade’s, she’d helped the police capture him with solid evidence to put him away for life.

Unfortunately, he had quickly disappeared—as was his habit—during a custody exchange.

“There’s an occasional lead, but nothing turns up,” said Young. “I think someone in the ranks is helping him, but so far I don’t know who.”

“Is he in Europe or the States?”

Young smiled. “Both, but I’m always a step behind,” he said.

“With Morrell, you can’t follow leads, you have to figure out what he wants, and get to it first,” said Jade.

“Is that so?”

She stood up and wrapped a large dark towel around her waist. The contrast of the terry fabric against her tanned skin, drew Young’s eyes upward until they met hers, and he looked away, pulling his hat back in place.

“Why are you here, John?”

“Andre, forever in need of something to occupy his time, discovered a trail that may lead to a lost painting. You know how he can’t resist a challenge,” drifted Young’s voice from under his hat brim. He seemed to sink deeper into the chair. “He thinks you can find it.”

Jade walked to boat cabin and pulled a cooler from under a bench. After sloshing through watered down ice, she returned with two dripping glass bottles, and held one over Young’s head. “Here,” she said.

He took the beer from her hand, and twisted off the cap. “Thanks.”

“Per my agreement with the French, British, and United States legal systems, I don’t find paintings anymore, but thanks for thinking of me.” She took a sip of her beer and sat. “Is Morrell involved?”

Young shook his head. “Not this one, it’s an old case, and a lot of years and people have done their damnedest to erase the trail. Just thought you might be bored hiding out, waiting for the rest of your life to happen. You can use your unique talents for something better.”

“What’s the catch?”

“It’s just a story, a few old letters,” he said. “And this.” He reached into his back pocket, then held an envelope out. “Take it.”

She paused, looking at it, recognizing the stationery from Andre’s desk. She could almost see the barge rocking on the currents of the river, beneath the shadows of Notre Dame. She took her time reaching for, it and pulled the envelope his from his fingers. The flap was partially glued from the humid air, and she slipped her finger under the edge to flip it open. A small black and white photograph with scalloped white edges, and the brown spots that come to old paper with age, slid into her fingers. A girl stared back at her, dark hair pulled back into a bun of some kind, with wild curls, breaking loose, suspended around her face. She wore a jacket and white blouse, and stood in the formal posture people took decades ago when posing for a picture.

“Who is she?” asked Jade.

“Keep looking,” Young replied.

The photo revealed little detail. The setting appeared to be in a home, a lace curtain peeked along the edge of the image, and a painting hung in the background. The girl seemed familiar, but Jade couldn’t pick any feature to connect a name or memory. “I’m sure I’ve never seen her, but there’s something about her… where and when was this taken?” she asked, flipping it over to scan the back.

“Dessau, Germany, 1938.”

Jade looked over at Young. “Name?”

“Look again,” he replied with a nod towards the photo. “I’m sure your father told you stories about her.” He paused to take a hit off his beer. “There was a reason he became an art collector and opened the gallery. If you haven’t remembered yet, I would think you’d want to look up your family.”

She let out a breath, “Family?” She slipped the photo into the envelope and tossed it onto his chest. “I don’t know the person I used to be, why would I waste time on a family tree?”

Young sat up, placing his bottle on the deck under the chair. He slid the photo from the envelope, and held it next to her face. “It’s the eyes and mouth that you find familiar,” he said, staring at her past its curved edge, his gaze challenging.

She looked at him, then at the deck over his shoulder, and then down at her beer bottle without answering.

“Why do you think that is?” he asked.

“You can hardly wait to tell me. I don’t know whether to be interested or annoyed.”

“You’re interested,” he replied in a softer tone. “You recognized her because her face looks a lot like yours.” He flipped the photo around so the image gazed at her.

Jade looked at the girl. She reached up and covered part of the image so only the eyes looked back. “Family photo?” she whispered.

“Your grandmother, Anna Blume.”

In the distance, a jet ski chopped over water sending its wake crashing. Suddenly, every sound seemed magnified, the shouts from the deck hands, and whistle calls from the seagulls competed for her attention. What had stumped her before, now was obvious. “Anna Blume.” She said the name, wondering if she’d said at another time in her life, perhaps before her memories were scrambled. The sound of the letters felt foreign.

“Anna left Germany shortly after this picture was taken. She was with her father, Jacob Werner, but somewhere along the way, they were separated.”

“My father was named after him,” she said. “Why is this important now? I’m sure she’s long dead.”

“She had a painting with her. She and her father, were running from the Nazi occupation when the train they were on was detained. Werner was taken away by German soldiers, but Anna hid with a group of women. She left the country, at least that’s what we believe. The history gets sketchy after that.”

“Wait a minute,” said Jade. “If you don’t know what happened to her, then how do you know she’s my grandmother? This sounds like some bullshit that you and Andre cooked up.”

“Why would we cook anything up? If you want to stay on this boat the rest of your life, I don’t care, but…” he paused with dramatic effect. “If we find out what happened to her, we find this.” He tapped the corner of the photo.

She looked at the eyes and face of Anna Blume, and then turned her attention to the painting hanging on the wall behind her shoulder. “I need a closer look,” she said.

Jade left him on the deck while she rummaged through the cabin. When she returned, she had a small domed magnifier. She laid the photo on the arm of the chair and covered it with the glass. The painting curved upward, exaggerating the lines of the geometric patterns that crossed over the face…no, she thought, it was two faces staring at her. “Paul Klee.”

“That’s what we’re looking for,” he said.

“He was one of the artists deemed degenerate by Hitler.” She moved the dome along the image to take in more detail. “He was too modern and bold with his vision to fit into the Führer’s art horde.”

“You know a lot about art from that period?” he asked.

“You never answered my question. How do you know this woman is my grandmother?”

Young paused, collecting his thoughts before answering. “You really don’t remember any of this?” He turned the photo to get a better view through the magnifier. “After Anna fled Germany, we traced her to France.”

“We? How are you in this?”

“I have an extensive file on you and your father. Naturally, when I found a mystery in his past, I couldn’t resist looking closer. It fit Andre’s story,” he said, rubbing his hands together to remove the water that had dripped from his beer bottle. “I shared it with Andre because he knows the shadier sides of the European art market better than anyone. If this painting had been seen in the last seventy-five years, he would know.”

“You said there were letters.”

Young pulled a pack of papers from his shorts pocket and unfolded them before handing them over. “These are photocopies of letters Anna wrote to her husband before she disappeared. She left Germany, ending up in France where she married, and had your dad. The painting she smuggled out of Germany is worth around sixty-million euros. The story says she left her family to take the painting to a museum on the German border to sell. They were struggling for food and basics everywhere in France at the time. She never came back. The painting didn’t surface, and when her husband looked for her, he found out she had never arrived.”

“So she never surfaced,” said Jade, “and neither did the painting.” She pulled the papers apart, looking at the delicate script handwriting.

“The last page is our clue. It’s the last communication she had with her family. The painting was the only thing of value she had when they left Germany.”

“So, if I find the Klee, its mine, right?”

“That’s not so clear,” he said, “and you know it. This photo is the only proof of ownership.”

“And the stories and letters?”

“Only a bill of sale will stand up in court, especially on a case this old.” He shrugged. “Even if we find it, it may take years to clear ownership.”

“I see what you’re doing.” She shoved the papers and photo into the envelope and handed it over. “Believe me, I appreciate your concern, but I don’t need a diversion. I’m happy to hang on my boat and stay out of jail. You’re the last person who should be getting me involved on an art hunt.”

“You’re the last person who should be wasting their intelligence bobbing on this waterway.” He downed the last of his beer and pitched the bottle into a bucket beside the deck rail with a harsh clatter just short of shattering.

“What if I could guarantee you’re on the right side of the law. You won’t be arrested,” he added.

“I recall that line,” she replied, “just before my court appearance.”

“You never had jail time. I made the case that you helped take down Jarvinen’s gang which solved a murder case and a string of heists.” He paused and looked toward the cooler. “You have another beer in there?”

“Help yourself.”

He pulled the cooler open and grabbed two more bottles. “This is your mystery to solve. It’s your prize to win.”

“I keep the Klee?”

“You connect the dots for your past.” He passed the beer to her. “You’re hiding, trying to keep yourself from remembering who you were before you lost your memory. I’m suggesting you face it head on.” He pointed his beer toward her. “You’re not Jane Werner, or Jade Weekes.” He tapped his bottle against hers, “You need to figure out who you’re going to be today.”

She popped the cap off the beer and let it bounce under the chair. “If I help you, I want the painting.”

“I’ll do what I can,” he said. “Are you in?”

“What’s in it for you and Andre?”

Young smiled, “This is strictly for fun.”

“Doesn’t it go against your job with the FBI?” she asked.

“The job is gone. I spent too many years living with the worst kind of people and seeing them walk on a technicality. It was time to retire.”

He stretched out on the chair, and Jade realized how much he had changed, aside from the clothing. The lines that had cut into his brow were softer, and he was relaxed. There was little sign of the John Young that had guided her through the Paris underground, ready to react to attack, and ready to kill if needed.

“How long have you been out?”

“A few months. It’s a nice pension too. I’m getting used to waking up knowing someone isn’t trying to kill me.”

“I’m flattered you trust me,” she said. “But I’m not interested.”

Young smiled, but the expression didn’t reach all of this face. He let out a long breath, “Andre said you’d say no. Aren’t you at least a little curious to know what happened to Anna and the Klee?”

“I don’t know Anna, or the line of descendants you think leads to me. You and Andre know enough to move on without me.” She stood and walked to the deck rail facing the dock. “I’d like you to leave.”

Young stared at her, seeming to weigh if her request was genuine, and then walked to the rail. He adjusted his cap to shade his eyes, and stepped onto the dock. “Let me know if you change your mind.”

She watched him walk the weather washed boards until he disappeared into the parking lot. The whole idea that she’d jump at the chance to find a painting, or even search through her family history to satisfy Andre’s whims infuriated her. John was ex FBI, and with the deep undercover stretch he did with Andre, his art world connections were shadier than Morrell’s.

A shadow of guilt tinged her anger. She wouldn’t have found Andre in the labyrinth of catacombs beneath Paris without John’s connections. His cover had been deep enough to burn his relationship with most of his FBI colleagues, who believed he’d turned to the other side of the game. Was he really retired, or had he been forced out of the bureau? She could call Stewart Connor with the Boston FBI office and ask, but that would mean she cared if his story were true—that would mean she was actually considering taking up the challenge. Stewart was John’s only friend left at the FBI, and had tracked her and Morrell to Jarvinen. What were the chances even he would know John’s official status, or would it be more closed files, locked out of his security clearance?

“Damn it!” Why can’t I just stay out of it? She turned and noticed the pack of papers and photos on the chair. John was leaving bait, she thought.

She grabbed the pages and marched to the rail with the intention of throwing them over, but her fingers wouldn’t let go. This is all be fiction, she thought. It’s easy to fake letters and photos. She held them over the water again, but her own eyes stared back at her from the grainy image, and again, she hesitated.

Inside the cabin, her cell phone rang. After the fourth ring, it stopped and was followed by a chirp of a text message.

She tossed the papers onto the chair, reached in the door, and grabbed the phone off the counter.

“Why this painting? Why Blume?” the text read. The number was unfamiliar, and Jade was sure it would lead to a pay as you go phone with no account records. She typed and hit send. “Who is this?”.

The reply came quick, “Find me.”

She stared at the text message, her mind reeling over the possibilities. Morrell? Young? Andre? “I’m not playing your game,” she typed. There was no answer, and after a moment she set the phone down.

It was a good questions. Why now? Why this hunt?

She grabbed a backpack and shoved in a change of clothes and a toothbrush. When she emerged at the end of the dock, Young was sitting on the hood of a black SUV, eating a hot dog. He didn’t seem surprised to see her.

Jade cocked her head, resisting the comment she wanted to make. Instead, she said, “If I help you, I want the painting, and I call the plays. I’ve spent years building connections to information, and to people who know how to make transactions happen. I’m not going to risk that.”

“I thought you were out of the business.”

“Some skills translate to other career paths.” She opened the car door and tossed her pack into the floorboards.

“That’s all you need to know.”

“First steps?” he asked, throwing the food wrapper into a trash can. He opened the driver’s door and slid in.

“We go to Chicago.”

“To your father’s old apartment?” he asked.

She nodded, “Jacob had a storeroom full of boxes with family papers, photos…things passed down. It’s the logical place to start piecing together the story.”

“Will you be calling on old friends?” he asked.

“Alex Ford, you mean?” Alex, an action-figure of a movie star, had helped to track her father’s killer to Paris, and had risked his own life to save hers. All that, after she had broken into his house with the intention of plundering his art collection. “He’s in London working on a project. He’ll be gone another month, at least.”

“So you’re still an item.”

She shook her head, “We were never an item. We just play chess sometimes.”

“Is that an euphemism?”

She gave a shrug, “I think your job for now is to drive.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Paul Klee
Paul Klee was a German-Swiss painter and draftsman who’s artistic influence survives in modern graphic design and typography. His exploration of styles and mediums defied classification, taking in elements of Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstraction. This was enough for Hitler and his Reich Marshals to deem his work subversive. Klee’s paintings were part of the degenerate art exhibition, Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst” in Munich, November 1937.


Every Picture Has a Story


I’m not sure when we first connect to art as something more than a scribble our parents put on the refrigerator. Somewhere along our personal timeline, we recognize our own feelings in a painting, and wonder if the artist felt the same way. Even works created decades, or centuries before we were born. Skip ahead to college dorms, and you’ll find Max Ernst and Edvard Munch hanging side by side expressing angst and romanticism. There are times in our lives when images convey more than the OED could find the words to explain.

Ashes_Edvard Munch

During WWII, art took on political meaning, and for many Nazi leaders, rising to power meant amassing collections of the masters, and giving their Furer the best of the lot, as the wide-scale looting and confiscation moved hundreds of thousands of pieces of art– renaissance masters to modern impressionist– from museums and private collections to train cars, salt mines, remote estates, to anywhere it could be hidden. The old masters were revered, the new free expression and bold interpretations of life created by artists such as Paul Klee, Picasso, Otto Dix, Max Lieberman, Van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Munch, and Ernst were labeled degenerate.

I’ve read accounts of bon fires, where works by these artists were rendered to ashes, others auctioned off to feed money into the Nazi war machine. Why were these marked for destruction? Adolf Hitler felt that anyone who painted in this style must be physically inferior to see the world and colors in this way. If the works he detested didn’t meet this definition, then he labeled it politically subversive.

The stories told within these images are now layered in stories of what happened to the art, and where it has traveled in the last 70 years.

Right now, stolen art is hot. Not for being stolen, but for the publicity generated by the news such as the cache of art discovered inside the walls of a Munich apartment, the trial of art thieves in Amsterdam which resulted in the destruction of priceless works by Gauguin, Matisse, and Monet, to the upcoming film directed by George Clooney, Monuments Men.

I think that’s why Jade Weeks, the main character in my art mystery series, is so entwined with her pursuit of art. She uses the stories inside the paintings to explain the disjointed memories that flash through her dreams. Recovering a stolen masterpiece recovers a part of herself. In the next series installment, she is tracking the history of a Paul Klee painting that belonged to her great-grandfather, and was last seen with her grandmother just before she disappeared near the border of France and Germany towards the end of WWII.Wired, A Jade Weeks Art Mystery

Jade is reluctant to get caught up in the search, but John Young, the undercover FBI agent who pushed her to solve her father’s murder in Wired, is determined to engage her help. Even though it feels like a set up, Jade can’t stay away. When she tries to strike out alone, a shoot out, and cryptic text messages push her right back into John’s path.

As she tries to push away the memories of her father’s death and her life before his murder, she recognizes a kindred spirit in her grandmother, Anna Blume.

~ Stay tuned for updates and previews of Enigma, book two in the Jade Weekes Art Mystery series.


Wired for the Weekend


A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

A Jade Weekes Art Mystery

Wired went live on Smashwords in the early hours of March 15th, and is already flying off the virtual shelves. It’s available for Free through March 29th as I tweak the formatting, cover image, and promo copy. While there are a lot of moving parts to coordinate for the official launch, I’m excited to finally have it available, and look forward to feedback from readers.

Wired is the first installment of the Jade Weekes Art Mystery series, with the 2nd novel, Enigma, scheduled for release late 2013. Set in Paris, St. Pete, and Chicago, this mystery unravels an organized crime gang, solves a murder, and reveals the haunting past of main character, Jade Weekes.

Here’s the promo copy from Smashwords:

Short description
Read for FREE through March 29, 2013! Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past.

Extended description
Jade Weekes leaves Paris to track a priceless Van Gogh from St. Pete to Chicago. Her contacts are shady and she is beginning to think there is more to this job than a buyer wanting a gift for his wife. Otherwise, why would Simon Morrell, a rival thief, cross her path just as the FBI begins asking questions?

Caught up in the six billion dollar international art theft industry, she enlists help from unlikely sources: film actor Alex Ford, and veteran FBI specialists Stewart Connor and John Young.

No one is who they seem, most of all Jade Weekes.

You can download Wired for your e-reader here.

The Red PencilLook for me to return to blogging on a regular basis as I vet ideas for novel number 3 in the series (working title The Missing), and ramble on techniques for character development. Enjoy your weekend, and get outside to soak up the extra sunshine. ;)


A Walk in the Art


Cool Toys Pic of the day - Google Art Project

Cool Toys Pic of the day – Google Art Project (Photo credit: rosefirerising)

Art Insitute of Chicago on Museum Monday.

This wonderful post from Mary Joe Gibson and this write life goes inside the Art Institute of Chicago. The galleries are also featured in the Google Art Project.

Happy Memorial Day.


What’s in a Title?


The plugboard (Steckerbrett) is positioned at ...

The plugboard (Steckerbrett) is positioned at the front of the machine, below the keys. When in use, there can be up to 13 connections. In this photograph, two pairs of letters are swapped (S↔O and A↔J). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am soooooo indecisive at times. I finally decide to eat out, but can’t decide where to go. I want to paint a room, but come to a stand still when selecting a color. It’s easier for me to make decisions for my characters than myself.  Afterall, their choices are governed by the personality I give them and has to give the reader clues to their inner world. That’s merely laying out puzzle pieces.

There are now 3 working titles for the follow-up novel to WIRED: Enigma, Persistence of Vision and Persistence of Time.  Each works for different reasons.

Enigma play on the plot theme of art looted by the Nazis during WWII.  The Enigma machine encoded German communications which was later cracked by Alan Turing.  Jade is in pursuit of a painting that was auctioned in 1939, only to find it leads her to her father’s killer, thus cracking the code of her past.

Persistence of Vision refers to the phenomenon of the eye to hold an after image.  Jade’s dreams are revealing the after image of the past she’s buried deep in her subconscious.

Diagram of rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spoc...

Lastly, Persistence of Time…. also a Salvador Dali painting, refers to the artist to whom Jade has a strange affinity. It is one of his lost works she’s trying to uncover. 

Usually, when you find the right title it resonates for you.  This time I can’t decide which fits best. I may have to resort to Rock-Paper-Scissors-Lizard-Spock. (sigh)

Now, back to writing….


Scraps of the Past


It’s inevitable. As we get older we become less sentimental about the odd bits and pieces we carry around from our past. I’m referring to the box(es) of stuff that has survived childhood and traveled to college dorm rooms, first apartments and finally the closet or attic where you now live.

Every time you move and have to pack these things and carry the box to a new home you weigh its importance to your memories or future.

In my box of “stuff” is a stack of notebooks full of youthful angst, poems and the beginnings of a first novel written the summer after fifth grade. Other bits of interest include petrified chewing gum from my 1st Police concert, a t-shirt from Girl Scout camp plus a moth eaten beret.

Digging deeper (metaphorically speaking) I see stories – the ones I read growing up, the stories I dreamed of writing and an impression of a little girl that wanted to see the world through the eyes of Nancy Drew and HG Wells.

I get the same feeling whenever I walk through a junk store looking for vintage jewelry or a discarded first edition. I can’t help but create a story for the journey the objects traveled. Who owned them? What was the world like when it was new?

These details often find their way into my writing. I think that’s why I love writing about art and have spent so much time learning about its plight through history. Each portrait is the face of someone with a story and the painting itself has its own tale. Landscapes are as much an image of a place frozen in time as it is the artist’s personal expression.

Move through time to Impressionism and Modernism and you see a world that is rapidly transforming to an uncertain destiny.

As I add details to Jade’s life, I’m thinking about what bits she would carry around. How does a person with amnesia take stock of the past which made her who she is? Fun is in the details and for Jade, there are also clues there for her to discover.


Enigma


As I’m finishing the final tweaks on WIRED, I’ve begun research for the Jade Weekes follow-up novel ENIGMA.

If you’ve been following my tweets of late or if you’re a history buff, you’ll have recognized the reference to the WWII German code machine.  Enigma also describes a person of puzzling or contradictory character which is a perfect description of Jade Weekes.

In WIRED, she has amnesia, an unusual depth of knowledge for art and security systems (which makes her an excellent thief) and is haunted by vivid nightmares that can only hint at what may have caused her memory loss.  I won’t give away the plot, but by the end of WIRED she knows her real identity… for the most part.

In ENIGMA, she and John Young will partner to track down a killer and uncover a half century of secrets.  The story will take them across Germany and Austria, follow them as they probe bunkers under Dover Castle and reveal a different side of the war.

The idea for ENIGMA began about a year ago when I came across a news article concerning the repatriation of stolen art from WWII.

Courtesy of Wikipedia-Click image to learn more.

Hitler, once an aspiring artist, was denied entry into the The Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.  Later, when he rose to power, he ordered master works confiscated from Jewish families and from museums of occupied areas.  He had a clear idea of what he wanted in his Führermuseum, collecting only the best masterpieces and none of the works he labeled as degenerate. The degenerate works included masterpieces by Picasso, Marc Chagall, James Ensor, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dali and Vincent van Gogh… any works of modern influence or impressionism. Rather than destroy the pieces, Nazi officials sold them at public auction and poured the money into their war machine. Since the late 1930’s, these works have changed hands, disappeared and were added to the collections of some of the best museums in the world.  Amazingly, some of them are finding their way back to the descendents of the original owners.

There are so many heroes we never hear about… those who ‘did their bit’ for the war effort. The remnants of WWII are still around us. Stories of German U-boats off the North Carolina shore and spies coming into port to eat and see American movies and perhaps pick up information are still told. If you vacation in Britain, you may find yourself frustrated with the lack of town signs and road markers.  During the war, these were removed so German paratroopers would not know their location. It is a war that has become ingrained in our shared consciousness across borders and time.

Jade understands that. For her, art is akin to time travel.  Looking at a skewed Dali image, she is looking through a window showing his unique view of a world gone mad.


Leaving Big Impressions: 5 Artists


Edgar Degas | The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

A few years ago, I was fortunate to work with the North Carolina Museum of Art to produce a television commercial promoting an exhibition of impressionist paintings and sculptures which included this iconic dancer. The art was mostly installed, with the only work left to be completed was adding the information signs for each piece.

I had seen photos of the Dancer many times, but was still surprised to see the delicate cotton skirt in person. It never occurred to me how fragile a bronze statue could be. That’s when I noticed our light stand which suddenly seemed very close to the skirt. I spent the rest of the shoot holding onto the light stands, paranoid that one would topple and send the skirt up in flames. Luckily there were no mishaps and the exhibition was an enormous success.

Claude Monet | Femme à l’ombrelle tournée vers la gauche | Musee d’Orsay, Paris

In the late 90’s I spent a few days in Paris with my sister. After seeing the long lines in front of the Louvre, we decided to spend our day at the Musee d’Orsay. While I wish I’d visited the Louvre, it does give me a good reason to go back to Paris;)

I wasn’t sure what to expect as we began wandering around. This was before there were virtual tours on the internet with detailed descriptions of every museum piece. All I had were my Paris Rough Guide and the high school French to help indicate what treasures were inside.

Easily, the biggest impression was made by the Impressionists. Art work which I had seen in text books and on television were everywhere. Monet’s Woman with an Umbrella Turning Left seemed to shimmer with life and light. There’s no way a photo can capture how beautiful this painting is in person.

Andrew Wyeth | Winter 1946 | North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

The detailed brush strokes of Andrew Wyeth’s work give the impression that each blade of grass, wisp of hair or twitch of muscle is in motion. I’ve read the painting, Winter 1946, is actually a self-portrait expressing Wyeth’s loss and grief after his father’s death.

English: Red Vineyards near Arles (1888), the ...

Image via Wikipedia

Vincent van Gogh | The Red Vineyard | Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow

It is widely touted that van Gogh cut off his ear over the love of a woman. Ingo F. Walther’s “Vincent van Gogh, 1853-1890: Vision and Reality” accounts he cut it off after an upsetting argument with his friend Paul Gauguin. The Red Vineyard shows the fields near the house they shared. After walking past it near sunset, van Gogh painted the scene from memory. Wine historians believe it may suggest a virus which infected French vineyards about the same time, devastating French wine production.

M.C. Escher | Escher In Het Paleis, The Hague, Netherlands

Anything by Escher is iconic and has been copied by other artists, movie producers and graphic designers. His work is a labyrinth that lets your eyes and mind travel within his imagination.

This week, give yourself a treat and visit a gallery or museum.  Learn the story behind a single art work or the artist. I didn’t love hockey until I discovered how interesting the players were and learned to appreciate their mastery, talent and determination… traits that genuinely leave a big impression. Yes, I did just equate great art with hockey. Hockey fans will understand.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers

%d bloggers like this: