It’s hard to believe this week is Christmas already. Seasonal art typically gets lumped into the same category where we heap images of puppies in baskets and kittens playing in flower gardens, pigs in dresses going shopping and maybe even some dogs playing poker: all that silly, cutesy, uncreative nonsense. However, just like it seems every musical artist has recorded a Christmas song or two at one time or another, most artists have tried their hand at a design that some may call “seasonal”. Christmas art doesn’t have to be all Thomas Kinkade snow villages and fuzzy animals wearing santa hats.
Camille Rose Garcia’s work often deals with the dilemma of capitalism and its relationship to greed. “The Saddest Place On Earth” describes the story behind her pieces that feature the nefarious “Peppermint Man”. Apparently, he solves the overpopulation problem by luring all the “bad” little children into his pastry factory, where he then feeds them poison candy and re-purposes their bodies by baking them into treats he serves at his chain of all-you-can-eat Peppermint Town Buffets. Lovely. I know quite a few people who aren’t much of Christmas fans due to its emphasis on over-consumption. However, I’d say any celebration is what you make it to be. If you don’t like all of our culture’s current traditions, then toss them out and make new ones of your own. Rather than becoming horrified by overeating and Black Friday shopping and tossing out the whole Christmas thing entirely, decide to make your celebration about experience, giving, and reconnecting. If you don’t like the way something is done, do it differently. Too often we don’t realize, it’s really all up to us.
I became hooked on Catalina Estrada’s work after purchasing a box of Christmas cards with the blue angel artwork shown above from an art museum gift shop in Chicago. Her use of color and pattern is pretty spot-on.
This year in Michigan, we have been enjoying anywhere from 40-60 degree days leading up to Christmas. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, this is freaking unheard of. This painting almost, almost, makes me miss the usual piles of snow. If you look up more of his work, they all exhibit his characteristic use of rainbow, prismatic color to depict strong light. I actually recognized many of his other paintings, I just had never known the artist behind them. His work is pretty much everywhere, and for good reason.
If anyone recognizes whom the artist of this piece may be, please fill me in. I am absolutely scandalized at drawing a blank after all my years and years of art history instruction. This image caught my eye on pinterest but when I followed the link, it led me to a website boasting “Buy hand painted images from photos”, advertising even replicas of “Starry Night” and “The Mona Lisa”, among others. That’s not sketchy at all … But, back to the lovely, totally legit painting at hand. Normally another painting of a pasty, blonde Mary and Jesus would elicit from me a lengthened sigh. Still, something about this piece caught my eye. Because of the mix of traditional garb, updated to be far more ornamental than it would have been during the actual time period of the Christmas Story; with the even further out of time decorative banisters and modern era floral wallpaper behind, the piece has a shifting, timeless kind of feel as it embodies many periods. The timelessness makes this a far more relatable piece to me. Adding to this is her facial expression. Her eyes are downcast, and she doesn’t seem unhappy, but doesn’t seem altogether cheerful and light either. Her mind still seems slightly burdened though overall she is at peace, and this makes far more sense given the situation in the story than the usual oversimplified portrayal of, “Immaculate conception? Cool, you know that sounds totally fine to me, let’s get to it!” Acceptance of any trial, or “new adventure” if you will, doesn’t mean you will never wonder or doubt. For if that were the case, I would fear the absence of a brain.
On a less serious note, once again, artist unknown. These fun little pastel-colored nativity characters that look like cheap knockoffs of “Precious Moments” must have been really popular around the early 90s, because I had jigsaw puzzles of them, coloring books, even window clings my mom would always decorate the kids’ bathroom mirror with around Christmas time. I found this picture on accident and had to include it, though it is definitely of the cutesy, sappy variety I described at the beginning that I promised I was not going to show. I cannot be the only one who remembers these.
A new take on a favorite Christmas tale from a pop-surrealism master – the Grinch, painted in eerie photo-realism. The sickly pepto-bismol color present throughout only adds to the arresting nature of this picture. You can almost feel the poor Grinch’s distaste for this entire Christmas-y situation.
Express Yourself Artshop also kicked off the holidays with the last week of classes, topped off with a holiday bash the Monday after the semester’s end. This was my first Christmas as program coordinator for Artshop (an arts and wellness program for adult students of varying abilities, including those with physical and mental challenges), and I feel more proud than ever to be a part of everything as I saw firsthand the joy bubbling over from this wonderful, inspiring, close-knit community of fantastic people.
Happy holidays to all, and to all a good night.