Tag Archives: art

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.

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.

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.



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