Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Invisible World

“Strange to say; the luminous world is the invisible world; the luminous world is that which we do not see.  Our eyes of flesh see only night.”

                                                                                                   Victor Hugo

I have always been fascinated by how artists find their inspiration. While it never seems to show up when one is actively looking for it, inspiration does seem to appear when one is simply open to the world and “watching with glittering eyes,” as Roald Dahl once wrote on the subject.

A few weeks back I was out to dinner in Provincetown with my close friends, artists Jon Vaughan and Sharon Hayes.  In addition to making the best Bloody Mary and Chowder in Ptown, the second floor of The Lobster Pot offers a spectacular view of the harbor. Jon noticed some interesting fishing boats down on the beach below and after we paid the check we decided to go investigate. We came upon a series of dinghies that had been dragged onto the beach and turned over onto their backs, revealing the most extraordinary under-surfaces, heavily weathered and patinaed by time and the elements.

Sharon and I began taking pictures with our iPhones, while Jon went back to the car to fetch his Hasselblad, which he always keeps in his trunk for moments of inspiration such as this! 

The Intrepid Jon Vaughan getting the shot!

When I returned home from the trip, I thought a lot about these photographs and discovered that, for me, they represented a metaphor for how the most beautiful parts of ourselves are often the things that are hidden from view, the pieces of ourselves that we are most afraid to reveal. 

I was so enamored with the boats' aged and abstract surfaces that I began to patina pieces of copper and bronze myself.  Using household items such as salt, vinegar and lemon, I am accelerating the aging process and getting some wonderful effects.  While reading up on how to patina metal, I learned that Rodin instructed his studio assistants to urinate on his sculptures!  The next time I take visiting friends to the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia, I can’t wait to share this fun fact!

The patina experiment on copper and bronze

I have begun printing my boat photographs onto tissue paper and attaching them to birch panels, and then layering them with coats of encaustic medium.  I am also attaching the metal pieces to the surface of the paintings to represent the armor that each of us wears to protect our hidden vulnerabilities and the deepest parts of ourselves.  This series is becoming an exploration of what is most essential in people, and the fragile beauty in all of us if we bother to look closely enough.

Exposure 1
Mixed media on panel
6"x10" 2013

Exposure II
Mixed Media on Panel
6"x10" 2013

I just received a picture of Jon with his first work-in-progress from the boat shoot.  Of course, his translation as an artist is completely different from my own, but that is what is so fascinating about inspiration - every person interprets the world so very differently. 

Jon Vaughan's first output from the shoot

Philanthropist and Chemist Madeleine Jacobs wrote, “To those wanting to see inspiration, I say stop looking. Stop trying. Instead, see what is in front of you all the time and see what you can bring to it because this is where the magic of inspiration occurs. You will know you are inspired when you are the force within the inspiration itself.”

I think Antoine de Saint-Exupery had it right when thinking about beauty or inspiration, when he said, "Here is my secret, a very simple secret; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye."


  1. Now where did that comment go? It was so beautifully written too! D'oh!
    The basic thrust of it was....that once again you have uncovered a beautiful nugget of life. That all of us tend to hide certain elements of our authentic selves away....and yet, when an open-minded being comes along and unveils that hidden is usually one of the more interesting if not colorful parts of our being.
    Interestingly, just as every artist will interpret those elements differently...through their own eyes and colored by their own moods, experiences, life, each viewer will interpret the hidden nuggets of our lives differently, as well. Therefore, it is so important to keep an open mind and to remain supportive of one another when hidden aspects are unearthed.
    This is sacred individualism at play...and must be respected, revered and celebrated!
    Your words and your interpretations of all that inspires you are infectious, Povey-woman! I ADORE you for it all.

  2. I like the juxtaposition of the "hidden underbelly," which is often thought to be our deepest, darkest secrets with something that we should be proud of and even put on display. A good reminder to be more confident in ourselves!

    I also love old boats, so the images in their own right make my heart go pitter-patter!

    Beautiful work, Linda!

  3. Beautifully written and inspiring as always! And love the new work! As to the processes of adding patina to copper with urine, you need not go so far as the Rodin museum. According to Mansfield Bascom in his wonderful biography entitled "Wharton Esherick: The journey of a Creative Mind" Esherick employed the technique himself. After he had installed the copper hearth on his remarkable fireplace in the Curtis Bok house, Mrs. Bok came to him stating that she did not like the bright finish on the copper. Wharton asked for a bucket, a rag, and some privacy. When she returned later the threshold was to her liking! Esherick later remarked that he was glad she didn't want him to do the roof!!