Monica D. Murgia

Art, creativity, and fashion

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

April 9th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Ineffable: Patience

I’ve been trying to cultivate patience.  It’s not something I was born with.  Things never seemed to happen fast enough for me.  My childhood impatience carried over well into my twenties.  I always felt restless, always wanted to impose my will on situations and people.  When I didn’t get the desired outcome, I’d become very irritated and upset.  I had no emotional self-control.  Constantly being ruled by emotion is exhausting.  I decided to try consciously be more patient at 25, right when I started teaching.  Having to lead a classroom made me aware that growing irritable was a quick way to lose control and the interest of my students.
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Patience is a discipline that can grow over time.  For me, it was very hard-won.  I still find it difficult to be patient with myself.  But I was lucky enough to find resources in developing a more peaceful way to deal with delays and setbacks.  I think painting has helped me tremendously.   Sometimes it comes out all wrong.  Preparing and mixing paints takes time and effort.  Then, the process of trying to make something beautiful can go terribly wrong.  My first few failed attempts would leave me outraged and angry.  Negative thoughts would stream through my mind, like: “What a waste of time. ” or  “I’m terrible.”  But for some reason, I kept showing up.  (New to my site?  You should check out my previous post, Showing Up.)
One day I realized why I kept coming back – the process of painting helped me to quiet my mind.
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I’m not sure what your mind is like, but my is complicated.  I think lots of thoughts and am easily distracted.  I make plans for the future.  I read books.  I worry about things that are out of my control.  I judge myself harshly.  With all of these plans, hopes, fears, and ideas jumping around in my head, it can be difficult to be present.  Lost in thought, I’d bump into people in the subway.  I’d get irritated that they didn’t see me.  Or I would be so distracted I’d be late to appointments or meetings.  This would lead me to blame anything or anyone external to myself.  My inability to focus and tame my mind was the problem, not the train being late or the people in the streets.
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These thoughts and feelings that were always whirling around inside of me would slow down and stop completely when I started to focus on creating.   A new-found patience started to grow within.  I could quiet my mind more.  Life became less about imposing my will on people and situations.  I experienced freedom from anger and irritation because I started to realize that there is nowhere else to be but here, now.  It’s been 5 years since I’ve made the decision to become more patient.  My relationships with other people are better, my ability to focus has improved, and I’ve learned to let go of expectations.
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Still, waiting always seems to test me.  The new paintings I’ve been making require a lot of drying time.  The linseed oil needs time to harden.  At first, it looks slick, smooth, and saturated with color.  I let my paintings dry on an old Ikea clothing rack, since I don’t have a lot of space.  As the oil dries over time, the painting starts to look very different than how it started.
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The surface hardens into textures and patterns.  It’s less shiny.
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The colors’ vibrancy also change.
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New shapes and color combinations emerge that I never intended to create.  It makes me realize the importance of being patient.  Not forcing the painting to occur in a set time period allows something more beautiful than what I set out to create to happen on its own.
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It’s almost dry enough to hang, but not quite yet.  Until then, I wait.  Sometimes patiently, sometimes not.  When I catch myself aggressively wondering how long it will take to just be done, I stop.  I think to myself, “Maybe it’s time to make a new painting”, and I move on.
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April 4th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

Ineffable: Knowing When to Stop

“If you don’t know what you are making, how do you know when to stop?”  That’s a reasonable question.  Yet it’s difficult to answer.  Maybe I can answer it with a personal story.  I started a new job at the end of August 2013.  It’s in a completely unrelated industry – a real suit and tie type of place.  When I went on my initial interview, we arrived at the question and answer portion.  I brazenly asked if I could remove the existing art work and replace it with my own.    (How’s that for bold?)
I got the job, and it was quite a transition.  I’m the only woman in the office (keep in mind that my previous work environments were the reverse – mostly or entirely female).  I’m also the only aesthete.  Making something for this shared space really preoccupied my thoughts.  It had to be appealing to an audience I knew very little about, and one that would have only one real strong opinion about the work – if they didn’t like it.
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This made me try doing a series of small studies on paper.  I used all kinds things, just doodling all over the page.  I used crayons, and colored pencils and markers, and pens, and ink.  When I started with ink, I used a brush to draw circles all over the paper.  Then I made circles with different colored markers.  Finally, I traced the circles with water and a brush.  The effect?  The colors started to bleed out.  All of the sudden, I saw rain drops hitting a puddle.  That’s when I knew to stop.  When I start to see something – like seaweed or rain drops – the picture is complete.  A feeling of finality washes over me.  (New to my site?  You should read my previous post – the first in the series of explaining the unexplainable.)
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So I had an idea with I approached this canvas.  This allowed me to complete the painting very quickly.  I applied the blue base coat.  Then, I swirled silver paint onto a brush, and whipped the handle in little circles.  I’d have to dip the brush into the can of paint and pull it out quickly – this lets more paint settle on the brush than taking it out slowly.  I mixed black oil paint to a thin consistency and did the same thing.
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I let it dry for a week and half.  It still needed something, so I decided to spatter yellow paint on the surface.  One of the guys commented: “Hey!  It looks great with yellow.”  That was another sign I knew this version was complete – someone so far removed from art could judge it favorably.  A man that I did not know well that had no previous interest in art liked the painting.  I’d say that’s a good point to stop.
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It took another few weeks to decide where to hang it, and which type of frame would look best.  Here’s the finished product:
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March 29th, 2014 by Monica Murgia

New Series: Ineffable

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  I’ve been allowing myself to really run away with my thoughts; explore my ideas more fully, read, and experiment with new media.  Somewhere, I came across this idea:
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This was such a perfect word.  To say what can’t be said.  So much of my personal work is an attempt to express what seems impossible to say.  People often ask me how long it takes me to make a painting, and I struggle to tell them.  Sometimes it can be in one sitting, other times it can take weeks.
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It’s even difficult to say how I start.  Every time is one big experiment.  Recently, I made a painting for a friend.   It was my first commission.  He was really interested in hearing around my process.  We even had a lengthy discussion about how to hang it.  It’s very difficult for me to explain my process, mostly because it’s spontaneous.
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I generally start with certain colors in mind, and not much else.  My preferred media is oil on board, and I like to use lots and lots of boiled linseed oil mixed with the paint.  (Oil paints are ground mineral pigments mixed with a carrier oil, which is usually linseed oil.  The oil makes the dusty pigments gel up into paint that can later be put into a tube.   Applying more oil to the tubed pigment makes the paint more fluid.  There are different ways to process linseed oil, each rendering a different effect when mixed with the paint.  I’ve discovered that boiled linseed oil creates this interesting, textured surface. See above.)
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I’ll apply a base color to the canvas with a thick consistency.  Then I’ll mix other colors and make them more fluid than the base coat.  Sometimes, I use a brush and thrash the paint.  Other times, I pour the mixture directly onto the surface.  (The orange, above, I poured right onto the surface.  The dark green color I applied with a brush.)
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Then, I step back and look at it.  I look at how the paint is moving.  I try to see how the colors blend, and how it makes me feel.  I noticed that the dark green paint was bleeding out.  It wasn’t really staying in the area I wanted it to.  Instead, it made these dripping, tentacle-like shapes.
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After some time had passed, I decided to edit it.  I thought it could be improved.   I picked it up on one end, and let the paint drip down to the other side.  Then, I repeated on the reverse end.  The effect much better; the colors blended so fluidly, it reminded me of seaweed.
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But I don’t work on it from strictly one direction.  I attack it from all sides.  Then, I let it dry.  As the oil dries, the values of the colors change.  The surface hardens and becomes more textured.  It takes shape.
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I wasn’t sure which side was up.  It’s difficult for me to visualize working that way.  Shouldn’t the entire process be more important than the initial concept?  I think it’s ok for the composition to change based on the process, as long as the product makes you happy.
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It made me so happy to see it framed and hanging, too.  I have several paintings that I’ve made in the past 5 months that I’d like to attempt to express in words.  It takes a lot of effort to do this, because it’s trying to explain the ineffable – the thing that can’t be said.  And yet, I’d like to try.  That’s what I’d like this new series to be about -  explaining how to see beauty in that which you don’t fully understand.
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December 17th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Find of the Week: Toile de Jouy by Wesley Simpson

Wesley Simpson scarves are one of my favorite things to collect.  Simpson (1903-1975) was an American textile manufacturer who was responsible for bringing many artist-designed textiles to the market after World War II.  World War II had an enourmous impact on both the fashion industry and art market in America.  First, it liberated American designers from simply making copies of Parisian couture.   But it also allowed an new genre of artist to emerge, most of whom were in New York.  Abstract expressionism was very popular right after the war.  People had a renewed interest in the arts and the economic means to purchase.  Artists hoped to capitalize on this, and teamed with textile producers to make fabrics and accessories.  The marketing strategy was to bring art to everyday life.
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You can only imagine my delight at finding this 1948 scarf by Simpson called Toile de Jouy, in my favorite color!  The scarf tells the history of toile, an 18th century French scenic pattern usually printed on cotton, linen, or silk in one color on a light ground.  It reads:
In 1784, Mr. Jean-Baptiste Huet, an artist employed by the Oberkampf works located near Jouy, France etched this design.  This type of copperplate print, known as “Toile de Jouy” illustrates the various processes used in printing textiles. 
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar scarf in their collection.  And the Vintage Traveler has the original ad from 1948.  The ad reads:
Wesley Simpson presents a group of new scarfs from his collection of designs by famous artists.  Included are scarfs by Marcel Vertes and Salvador Dali.
This is a great example of how various artists, with completely different styles, made an attempt to be more commercial after the war.  (New to my site?  You should take a look atmy other posts on Wesley Simpson.) 
It seems especially fitting that the subject matter of this scarf is textile printing.  Each vignette depicts a different stage of creating the toile print on fabric.
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December 4th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Existence is Musical

Existence is musical.  I heard this expression a few weeks ago, and it left a big impression on me.  The idea that life doesn’t have a destination, a goal, is really liberating.  For a long time, I felt trapped in an endless corridor of goals.  I became enmeshed in the idea that success is a far off destination, achieved only after years of school, tedious jobs, and walking over hot coals.  The dream is to one day arrive – whenever that is – save up a bit, retire and then enjoy the fruits of your labor.

 

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 Image courtesy of Work of Heart Studios.  (And available for purchase!)

Interestingly enough, I “arrived” a bit early and realized that it was all a hoax.  At 25, I had finished a graduate degree, was teaching college, and had all the outer trappings of success.  But inside, I didn’t feel one bit different at all.  I had arrived at the finish line, only to realize that life isn’t a race.  Life isn’t a journey with a serious destination.  To think this is to cheat yourself out of happiness in the present moment.     You delay happiness and tolerate situations to hopefully, one day get there at the end.

 

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Image courtesy of Akademi Fantasia 

 

In music, the end of the song isn’t the point of the composition.  We don’t dance to arrive at a specific spot in the room.  The point of music and dancing is to enjoy the experience.  And so is life.  Life is a musical thing, and the point is to dance or sing along the way.

 

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Image courtesy of Deviant Art.

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November 19th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Spontaneity

Life is spontaneous. It happens by itself. This is one of the fundamental principles of Buddhism. While it is good to make plans and set goals, it’s important to make time for life to unfold before you. This isn’t living life according to whim. There is more to spontaneity than caprice and disorder.

As an artist, I can tell you how this is true. I can’t tell you where my ideas come from. They happen spontaneously. It’s difficult for me to approach a canvas or piece of paper with an expectation. When I try to make something specific, it never seems to turn out right. So my approach has been to let the materials “speak” to me. I mix the paint right on the canvas. I see what shapes start to appear on their own.

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A few months ago, I bought some new paint. I like buying different materials. If I use unfamiliar media, I can’t go in with any expectations. I have to be observant and patient in my attempt to make something beautiful. I have to let the beautiful thing emerge on its own.
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I sprayed and sprayed several hued paints on this board. I noticed how the colors mixed together, how each can sprayed differently. The only method I had was that I would keep painting until it felt right. I did countless layers of paint. The yard was filled with a thick cloud of fumes that made me dizzy. I stopped and mixed some oil paint with stand oil and dripped it over the board. I started thrashing the paint brush wildly at the board, giggling and having fun at not caring what the outcome would be. I turned the board to let the paint drip from one end to the other. Then I alternated between layers of spray paint and oil paint.  From the photos, you can see how wildly different the painting looked at each stage.

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Suddenly, almost magically, I knew the painting was finished.  There was no way for me to schedule the right amount of time.  I just had to feel it.  To me, painting is like playing a game.  When we play games, we get most fascination out of games that combine skill and chance.  Games like poker or bridge.  You don’t feel completely at the mercy of chance, and you don’t feel completely at the mercy of skill.  It’s exciting and fun to not know the predictable outcome.  Order and randomness go together, creating surprise.  That’s how I define spontaneity – the perfect harmony of order and randomness.

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One of my favorite Buddhist philosophers is Alan Watts.  He has a great recorded talk called The Art of the Controlled Accident.  He consistently compares Buddhist philosophy to painting.  Life should be lived in a manner like painting.  You can’t have calculated expectations for everything in your life.  You have to approach situations with an open mind, only to search for possibilities and opportunities that present themselves.  Never force something.  It will only elude you.  Instead, take the approach of letting the beautiful things around you emerge on their own.  You will be surprised – and happy.

 

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If you liked this post, you should consider reading my previous posts :

Tantric Art

Looking at Buddhist Art

Showing Up

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November 10th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Making Displays

Storing fashion and accessories can be a major challenge, especially in a New York apartment.  Space is limited.  So is time.  You need things to be orderly yet easily accessible.  I find this especially true of accessories like bags and jewelry.

I’ve had jewelry boxes before, and found them really counterproductive.  My jewelry was virtually hidden from view, making me forget to wear it.  The first time I moved to New York, I adopted the practice of displaying my jewelry around my room.

Here I am, back in the city.  I had the same idea of displaying my jewelry, but wasn’t sure of the approach to take.  I wanted it to somehow be part of the decor.  After looking up some ideas, I came across this idea on Pinterest:

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I decided to make one for myself this weekend.  With the help of my friend Riley (see photo) I went searching for a piece of wood in Central Park.

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After our walk in the park, we headed over to Paper Source.  This store has all kinds of sumptuous materials for making visual presentations.  I found some decorative pushpins that were perfect for my project.

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Having two varieties made displaying the pieces more interesting.  The silver pushpins were great for organizing chunkier necklaces and rings .  The floral pushpins were better for more delicate chains.  Take a look:

 

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The piece of wood I found was narrower on one end.  This was brilliant for adding my bracelets and cuffs.  Earrings are usually difficult to store, but this design made things simple.  The jute twine I bought for hanging the piece was perfect.  I mounted two adhesive hooks to the wall and voilà:

 

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The twine in between the hooks was the perfect spot for earrings.  No wasted space and everything is easily accessible.  The best part?  It looks pretty and reminds me to wear my things.

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November 4th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Grace Kelly & Fashion Illustration

Pennsylvania always seems to produce fashion icons.  I know so many stylish, entrepreneurial women from this state.  The Michener Museum is celebrating one of Pennsylvania’s most famous fashion icon, Grace Kelly (1929-1982).  The exhibition From Philadelphia to Monaco: Grace Kelly Beyond the Icon is running from October 28th, 2013 – January 26th, 2014.
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Illustration of Grace Kelly’s  Wedding Day, 1956.  Illustration by Helen Rose.  Image Courtesy of Patterned History.

Grace Kelly was from Philadelphia, and became a famous actress during the 1950s.   The exhibition traces the unique path Grace Kelly took from Philadelphia to Monaco, highlighting her personal style and journey toward becoming a princess in 1956.   Many wonderful objects are on loan from the Palace of Monaco and the Grimaldi Forum, including: letters, photographs, awards, couture fashion, film clips, playbills.

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Illustration of Grace Kelly’s Costume for High Society by Helen Rose.  Image Courtesy of Patterned History.

Throughout the month of November, the museum is offering lectures and workshops that explore Grace Kelly and the fashion of her era.  I will be giving a talk and workshop on Sunday, November 24th on fashion illustration from the 1940s-1960s.  Here is an abstract of the program:

Illustration was a major component of the fashion industry during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Everything from advertisements, magazine articles, to design concepts was the product of illustrators of the day. This lecture will explore the importance of fashion illustration during these three decades. A focus will be on analyzing the style and career of major illustrators Rene Gruau, Christian Berard, and others. Following the lecture, a workshop will be given on drawing the fashion figure. 
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Illustration of Grace Kelly’s costume for Rear Window.  Illustration by Edith Head.  Image courtesy of C Sebastion.
We will take a closer look at major illustrators of the era, with special focus on those that created work for Grace Kelly.  New to my site?  You should read my previous post on fashion illustrator Rene Gruau
To purchase tickets, please visit: The Michener Museum
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October 30th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Time, Part II

Time is finite.  Time is so precious because none of us knows how much of it we have.   Being fully present in the current moment can be difficult, but it is the only way of truly living.  Regrets are a consequence of living in the past.  Anxiety is a consequence of living in the future.  Being here, now, is the surest way to make every moment count.

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Creating is the process that allows me to be fully present.  It gives me a way of allowing everything to melt away: no distractions; no worries of the past or future; no clinging desperately to ideas, people, or things.  It’s my way of enjoying my immediate environment. Its my way of appreciating the gift of being alive.  Recently, I’ve been interested in recording where I stand in a space.  It really makes me present in capturing the moment, feeling, and perspective of my day.

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This week something happened that made me realize I may have become a bit complacent with my life.  A friend of mine from college died.  Her name was Maureen.  She was only 29.  Maureen was brilliant, vivacious, and an inspiration.  She was passionate about everything she did.  Maureen was great at designing the life she wanted and making it a reality.  She had the ability to make every moment count.

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I was so sad to hear of her passing.  It was too soon.  Thoughts flooded my mind after receiving the news.  Each thought pointed to the same message: make the time for the people you care about, make the time for living the life you dream about.  We are not promised a tomorrow.  Don’t delay the important things.  Chase your dreams.  Don’t be afraid to fail.  Fall in love.  Be present in creating the life you want, even when the risks are terrifying.  Because in the end, your life is more important than your fear.

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In memory of Maureen Abboud.

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October 24th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Time

Do you make the time to observe your surroundings?  I mean really observe your surroundings.  It’s easy to let the day slip away, a passing blur like in the passenger window.  Constant distractions are literally at the tips of our fingers.

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Today I got to see one of Banksy’s pieces today.  I saw a few days ago that he made this in the UWS.  It was a stone’s throw from my new apartment.  As soon as I found out the location, I made my way there.  I hopped up the stairs of the subway, eagerly anticipating what I’d see.

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At the corner, I saw a guy with headphones.  I tugged at his sleeve to tell him the news.  Excitement tumbled out of my mouth like a really long hast tag:

HeyDoYouKnowBanksy?OneOfHisPiecesIsRightThereAcrossTheStreet!!!!!!

He was happy to hear about it, and see it from afar.  But he didn’t stop to see it.

 

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I stood in front of it for a while.  People stopped to look.  It started with children, asking their mothers about it.  They seemed the most observant.  Then, the adults would get engaged, explaining the concept.  A small crowd started to form.  I started talking to a man and woman, taking photos for them in front of the piece.  I went on and on about Banksy’s artist residency here in New York.  When the man came back for his camera phone, he remarked:

“The painting is so simple.  It doesn’t take a lot of skill.  I think I could do it.”

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I couldn’t help but think:

“If you can barely take the time to look, how can you take the time to create?”

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September 27th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Old GRTC Bus Terminal

I mentioned in my last post that I started a new job. Part of my training took me to Richmond.  After work, I decided to roam around the city for a bit by myself.  My only plan was to check out a few vintage stores, figuring that fashion would somehow lead me to an adventure.  I hopped into the hotel shuttle bus and gave them the address to a local vintage retailer in Carytown.

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I had no real desire to buy anything, but just wanted to walk around – absorb some of the local scenery during my short time in the city.  Chatting with the driver, I looked out the window.  We passed an old bus terminal that was absolutely irresistible to me.   It was covered with hundreds of the most evocative, brightly hued art I’d seen.  Set against the warm, sunny late afternoon the setting seemed dreamlike.

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Cooing while trying to snap a few photos from the van, the driver sensed my enthusiasm.  He didn’t really know what the site was, other than it was an old bus terminal.  I asked him if we could take a quick detour and investigate the site.

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Everywhere I looked was beautiful!  The space has previously belonged to the Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC).  Built in 1902, the structure housed  trollies and buses that were not in use or needed repair.  The site was abandoned back in 2009.  Residents were unhappy with the crumbling buildings.  They pushed for a creative use of the space, hoping to install stores and restaurants to boost the local economy.

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The city’s response was to create a Street Art Festival, inviting artists from around the world to create large scale murals.  Since the time frame was limited, it became a hotbed of creativity.  Artists were working side-by-side, helping and inspiring one another.

Hamilton Glass, a Richmon-based artist, likened the festival is like a jam session for artists:

We feed off each other,” he said about five hours into his mural. “It’s great painting next to someone who’s being creative.

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The mural above was created with the help of Art on Wheels.  This Richmond-based non-profit helped in transforming the abandoned bus terminal into a work or art.  Founded in early 2007, Art on Wheels’ mission is to bring comprehensive arts programming to communities with limited access to the arts.  Their intent to make arts education accessible to all ages and abilities

 

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I could have spent all day here!  There was no evidence of any businesses within the compound.  But there was a young couple walking around taking photos.  They took a photo of me, which shows you the scale of the work.  It’s really massive and overwhelming!

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Like a kid in a candy store, I ran down the empty streets eagerly taking in as much art as I could.  Every mural was so interesting and unique.  Some were even 3-dimentional.  One of my favorites was a blue wall filled with metal birds.

 

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After closer inspection, the birds are decorated with names and poems.  If you’re in Richmond, I highly recommend stopping by to see it for yourself: 2501 W. Cary St.

To see the rest of my photos from the Old GRTC Bus Terminal, follow me on Instagram!

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August 29th, 2013 by Monica Murgia

Love is Telepathic

A few years ago, someone I knew insisted on taking me to a psychic.  Her name was Miriam Berry.  She was an old soothsayer that my grandmother used to visit, so I figured it could be amusing.  I’m not really superstitious, so I wasn’t expecting much.  Miriam was absolutely charming, her yellow-gray hair piled messily into a bun.  She flashed a smile as bright as jeweled fingers, and asked me some questions while flipping through a tarot deck.  She told me to think of a question.  This, of course, made my mind go completely blank.  What do I really want to know?  I settled on something really generic and vague, like “Will everything turn out alright?”  Much of this meeting was not memorable.  But one thing she said will never leave my mind.  She paused in the middle of a thought.  She looked at me, smiled, and said “love will prevail”.  We looked at each other and giggled.
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I think messages like this keep us going.  And if you look or listen carefully, these messages are all around.  Recently, I was introduced to Mark Samsonovich.  He is an artist that worked in solitude for many years and decided 2013 would be the year to share his work with the world.  Every week, he produces large scale installations in public spaces throughout Manhattan.  Street art is something I adore, so I was nearly beside myself with excitement to meet someone that works on such a massive scale.  (New to my site?  You should check out my previous posts on street art.)

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Before our meeting, I carefully looked at Mark’s website and Instagram feed.  I’m always curious to look at other people’s art.  It reveals so much about the way they think and experience the world.  I could tell that Mark and I had similar ideals, but perhaps he is better at expressing them more poignantly than me.

 

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As you can see, the main subject is love.  The art is really brilliant because it is inviting and interactive, welcoming people to have fun.  But there is something else that is really special about about Mark’s work.  It’s the way in which he defines what love is.  Have you ever tried to summarize what love means to you?  It certainly can be tricky to do.
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I think that Mark’s work exemplifies how love is a spectrum.  It is an underlying emotion that makes us care for others.  It may show up in various ways – like romance, lust, agape, or friendship.  However it appears, love allows us to connect others to share the experience of life.  Love can transform a mundane day into an adventure.

 

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I’m so pleased that Mark’s will be sharing new artwork at Tesla Style Night.  Buy your tickets to come check it out.  And also keep your eye out for his work throughout New York City.  It’s everywhere.

 

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