Monica D. Murgia

Art, creativity, and fashion

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

March 15th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Ineffable: Fantasy & Reality

Fantasy and reality . . . are they really so different?  Both are products of our own thinking, fears, and desire.  The subtle difference boils down to audience.  Reality is the act we play before our family, friends, and other people.  Fantasy is the private movie that replays in the minds, shrouded in secrecy.

Fantasies are nestled deep within.  While they can be a great source of personal pleasure, the thought of making a fantasy real – dragging it into the light of day and sharing the experience with another human being – can bring a tremendous amount of fear and anxiety.  This is largely due to social conditioning.  Being too free is taboo.  It requires honesty, communication, and vulnerability.
The conditioning is so subtle, that I fail to see its effects on me.  It seems like I dance between the belief that my fantasies could easily become my reality and the fear that they’re just deluded and unobtainable ideals.  In moments of clarity, I realize that my own thoughts are what give me power or enslave me.  I can recognize when my mind starts to play a repetitive loop of fear, insecurity, and doubt.  These emotions are what really hold me back.  While I can’t stop the steam of negative thoughts from arising, I can acknowledge it and move past them.
I primarily create art alone.  It gives me a sense of security, since whatever I decide to make isn’t judged.   Recently, I was able to realize a series of paintings that I had dreamed of making over the past three years.  This series, however, required that I work with someone in a really intimate and vulnerable way.   For a long time, this series could only exist as a fantasy in my mind because I had a deeply rooted sense of inadequacy.  I never felt that my work was good enough, that I was attractive enough, or even worthy enough to receive what I truly wanted.
As I’ve started to discover ways to stop labeling and judging myself, I notice my life gets better.  Dropping the labels and needing to identify my thoughts as good or bad makes me feel more confident.  I feel a freedom to pursue the things that make me happy.  Maintaining this balance of freedom and security takes a lot of work.  It constantly is challenged, either by old habits or new experiences.
Making this painting series was not without challenges.  This was definitely in the realm of new experiences for me.  To say that art is my life would be a gross understatement.  It has been my voice when I had none as a child.  It has led me to foreign countries, new friends, and employment.  It’s been a tool to help me make sense of the pain I’ve experienced with failures, breakups, deaths, and all of my darkest moments where I no faith left in myself.  It is also a place where all the voices of comparison, shame, and fear become silent – a place where I can reclaim my own joy.  Nothing makes me happier than a can of paint or a box of pastels.
To invite someone else to take part in painting with me was a big risk.  I felt scared.  I felt vulnerable.  I felt nervous.   All of the warning bells and whistles of self-doubt and shame started to sound, particularly when I met someone who inspired me to push past my fears.   In his presence, I felt an almost paralyzing timidity take over me.   Was I good enough?  Was it safe to be the real me?   Would I be judged?  As some time passed, the fear subsided and I felt free – free of shame or anxiety, free to be my authentic self, free to experiment and make mistakes, and free to express my feelings and ideas to another human being.  The experience is difficult to describe in words.  Liberation, bliss, trust . . . all hint at this ineffable feeling that washed over me with each layer of paint we applied to one another.  Yet these words only hint at what I experienced.
Reality is predicated on thoughts and beliefs.  I no longer have to focus on the misfortunes of the past or judging myself.  Instead, I can direct my focus towards the pursuit of happiness, the fulfillment of my fantasies.   It takes courage to do this.  But in finding the courage to believe, anything is possible.
March 13th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Trust

“Trust is the bridge from yesterday to tomorrow, built with planks of thanks.” ― Ann Voskamp

George Washington Bridge
March 11th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Open & Unshaped

“What could – what should – be done with all the time that lies ahead of us, open and unshaped?  Feather light in its freedom, and lead heavy in its uncertainty.  Is it a wish, dreamlike and nostalgic, to stand once again at that point in life and be able to take a completely different direction, to the one that has made us who we are?”  – Pascal Mercier


feather light


February 26th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Historically Accurate Costuming

There is a great video that illustrates the difference between fantasy and historically accurate costuming.  Character development in film and animation is largely controlled by garments.  Illustrators and costumers are faced with a challenge of making the character believable and accurate, while still appealing to modern tastes and fashions.  Reconciling historical and modern tastes can be a challenge.  This is largely due to the fact that ideal beauty changes over the course of time.  (New to my site?  You should view my previous posts, Movies, Beauty, & Ideal Beauty and A Return to the Ideal.)  The video shows Disney characters alongside with what their actual everyday garments would have been.  I think each of these looks is great, although I prefer the historically correct versions better.  Enjoy!

February 24th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Ineffable: Various Media

Pens.  Pencils.  Paint.  Photography.  Each of these mediums creates a different essence in a composition.  When I’m really fascinated by a subject, time seems to be suspended.  The outside world dissolves into murky dust and gently vanishes.  My mind quiets.  I feel tuned into the energy of my subject in a mysterious, ineffable way.    The way the light hits its surface.  Its reaction to temperature.  How the environment caresses and envelopes it.  I love to capture these qualities and sensations with different media.
IMG_7865 2
My acute sensitivity to the external world can be overwhelming if I don’t select the right environment.  So I often make solitary journeys out into the woods.  I pack a large bag, strewn with various media, and set out on foot.  I generally start out photographing scenes and images that are pleasing to me.  Photography offers me a way to quickly frame the subject, and determine the best composition.  I can rapidly snap shot after shot, moving my vantage point and area of focus.  After a few moments, the composition will reveal itself to me.  As fast as I can, I unpack and set up my portable studio.  I sit quietly, and compare my subject to the jumbled pile of markers, paints, and pencils.  The process is akin to striking a tuning fork to achieve perfect pitch in a musical instrument.  I can sense the colors and mood emanating from my subject.  The work that unfolds in front of me is matching that energy.
As the environment changes, it changes my subject.  The early afternoon is full of vibrant energy.  The intense sunlight dances through the leaves, changing their color.  First green.  Then yellow.  The wind blows, and the blades of grass bend and twirl gleefully.  As the shadows creep over, the thicket turns turquoise and blue.  Afternoon turns to evening.  A sense of melancholy enters the scene, like escorting out the last guest at the end of a much anticipated party.
These delicate blades of grass changed so much before me.  Each of my studies evokes the variation that played before my eyes.  The photograph shows the blissful solitude of an untouched woodland.  The drawing hints at the playful dance of the wind and grasses.  The woodblock print illustrates the setting sun bidding farewell to the enchanting landscape.  Using different media allows me to depict this mysterious shift.
February 17th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Rain

“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.” Langston Hughes


January 29th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Landscape

“The mind is the only landscape that can change itself.” – Margaret A. Boden


January 28th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Frances Louise Ward

Several months ago, I received an email from one of my readers named Susan.  Her mother, Frances Louise Ward, passed away several years ago.  Among the remaining estate was a bridesmaid dress made by Antonio Castillo while he was employed by Elizabeth Arden.  It had some damage to the white tulle, and she was curious about the materials he used so that she could properly clean and fix the dress.
Susan’s email details some of her mother’s history:
“The dress was a bridesmaid dress from my mother’s wedding 1948.  She was one of NYC’s top models and Hollywood starlet so she had a big wedding…plus she married someone from a very aristocratic family.  Also her wedding dress is in our storage unit and last time I say it a couple years ago , it was in perfect condition but in a box so it’s crinkled…it may be by Castillo also or maybe Dior since she modeled wedding dresses for Dior.”
Frana's wedding photo
“I attached photos of my mother ….one of her in her wedding dress!  She had thousands of clothes and we had a huge sale in NYC in 2009…her name was Frances Ward when she was a Power’s model in the 40’s and 50’s.  She started modeling at age 15.”
Some details surfaced about Ward’s wedding in a family scrapbook.   The advertisement, above, for the Woodbury Soap Company chronicles her marriage to piano-heir Charles Kohler White.  (It appeared in Life Magazine on March 7th, 1949.) It reads:
“Wedding Bells Chime – sweet harmony as Frances Louise Ward weds piano-heir Charles Kohler White in St. Aloysius Church, Great Neck, Long Island.  Charles beams with pride – Frances looks luscious.  Her cream-smooth complexion?  A, that’s Woodbury’s beauty trick.  ‘It’s been a daze’ chuckles Charles, ‘since Frances danced into my life!’  Courtship kept him hopping.  Yale!  New York!  Carolina plantation!”
Woodbury Soap Company  featured similar advertisement throughout the 1940s to sell their soap.  Each advertisement featured a newly wedded couple, telling the story of their romance and how Woodbury soap was a critical ingredient to their love story.  (You can see similar advertisements here.)
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 Ward was a beauty, and graced the cover of Glamour Magazine in 1944, below.  Dubbed “The Career Issue”, landing this cover must have been quite the honor.  The image was taken at the height of World War II, a time during which many women flooded the workforce.  Men were fighting the war, leaving many vacancies across various industries.  For the first time, women from every socioeconomic status could earn their own money in any industry of their choosing, without shame, discouragement, or contempt.  Prior to the war, women were not encouraged to work.   Gender roles were much more ridged.  There were only a few types of careers that a woman could pursue, such as teaching, nursing, or fashion-related work.  Other choices were frowned upon or impossible to obtain.  During the war, this perception began to shift.  Women were encouraged to join the workforce, primarily in male-dominated industries, as a form of patriotism.  The need to replace the workforce was critical to win the war and keep the economy intact.
Glamour September 1944

Many thanks go Susan for sharing these great images of her mother.  She is currently working on conserving the Castillo dress and will provide some photos when she is finished.  If you have any additional information on Frances Louise Ward, please leave a comment.

January 27th, 2015 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Wings

“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.”  Victor Hugo
Bird in Flight


November 10th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Paradise

And they asked, “How do you get to the paradise land?”  He said:  “It will not come by waiting for it. It will not be a matter of saying ‘here it is ‘or ‘there it is’.  Rather, the paradise land is spread out upon the earth and you do not see it.  What you seek is inside of you as much as it is outside of you.”  Gospel of Thomas



November 7th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Impatience

“When you plant seeds in the
garden, you don’t dig them up
every day to see if they have
sprouted yet. You simply water
them and clear away the weeds;
you know that the seeds will grow
in time. Similarly, just do your daily
practice and cultivate a kind heart.
Abandon impatience and instead be
content creating the causes for
goodness; the results will come
when they’re ready.”

 – Thubten Chodron -


September 2nd, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Photo Diary: Starting Over

“I don’t start over.  You see, I just go on from one thing to another.  They’re all really the same.” – Diana Vreeland 




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