Ten things you need to know about Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Pietà (c. 1500) Carraca Marble, 5’8”, St. Peter’s, Vatican.  
  Commissioned by the French Cardinal Jean de Billheres as a tomb stone

The Pieta references the death of Jesus on the Friday of the Jewish Passover, what Christians came to know as Good Friday. Ten things to know about Michelangelo’s Pieta:

1. The word pieta is Latin for pity. The idea that one can feel emotion, in this case, sorrow or pity, through viewing a work of art is in keeping with the Renaissance ideal of humanism, in which the human experience is worthy of contemplation and reflection.  

2. The composition is in the shape of a triangle, a reference to the trinity. 

3. The Pieta is a northern Renaissance concept. Mary holding her dead son after the crucifixion is not mentioned by any of the gospel writers.  

4. If Mary stood up, she would be much larger in scale than Jesus. This is a compositional decision on Michelangelo’s part to ensure she remains central to the composition.  

5. Mary is youthful, much younger looking than she would be if Jesus is said to be 33 years old upon his death. Her youth and beauty are in keeping with Renaissance ideals of beauty in art. 

6. Mary’s breastplate reads “Michelangelo the Florentine made this.” This is in reference to Rome, where the sculpture was carved, being a separate City-State from the City-State of Florence, where Michelangelo is from. Florence and Rome were rivals at the time and Michelangelo wanted to celebrate the home team. This is the only work of art Michelangelo ever signed. He signed it because of rumors that the sculpture was the work of an older artist. 

7. Christ’s left foot is already experiencing rigor-mortis, the stiffening of the joints upon death. Michelangelo was aware of rigor-mortis from dissecting human bodies, which was forbidden by the Church at the time. He felt enormous guilt for engaging in this practice, however, the knowledge he gained strengthens the emotional impact of the sculpture.

Rigor-mortis on Christ’s left foot. =

8. He believed the pieta was already in the marble, he just needed to help the composition release itself from the confines of the stone. He slept in the quarry at night so he could see the sunrise over the block of marble, and “saw” the sculpture within. Thus, he took little credit for actually carving the sculpture.

9. The finished sculpture was rolled on logs from his studio to the church at night with the help of local carpenters.

10. Michelangelo was just 25 years old when he carved the Pieta.

Papermaking workshop with Andover High School Art Teacher Kaitlin Dierze.

Kaitlin uses the pulp to form a base sheet. The base sheet will be used as the surface to accept the pigmented pulp.

I had the pleasure of working with Kaitlin Dierze in my studio last weekend. Kaitlin is practicing her paper making skills so she can teach her high school students the art of pulp painting. We covered the steps needed to create paper art including recommended fibers to use, pigmenting the fiber with minimum seepage, pouring pulp into evenly distributed sheets, proper drying techniques and pasting college elements into the paper surface.

Kaitlin is the recipient of a grant that is slated for the purpose of teaching pulp painting to her advanced high school students at Andover High School.

Pulp painting is the art of applying natural fibers such as cotton and linen to a poured surface and “painting” with the pigmented fibers. The pigmented fibers are applied to the surface using a variety of tools such as spoons, turkey basters and old credit cards.

Kaitlin made a series of small paper artwork she can show her students as samples for the creations they can make during the workshop she plans to deliver later this school year. I have to say the students at Andover High School are lucky to have such a dedicated teacher who was willing to give up her weekend to practice her skills at pulp painting.

Using a turkey baster to “paint” the pigmented pulp onto the base sheet.

Use the coupon code “save20%” when you check out to save on any available artwork from the original art or small works gallery. Offer expires April 1, 2021.

Adding Biophelia inspired art to office design ensures a soothing work environment.

Autumn, River Road (2018). Mixed Media painting. Collection: Topsfield Town Hall. Each panel 54 x 26 inches.

Adding nature based art to public spaces such as office lobbies, libraries, hospital waiting areas, and town halls affords a sense of calm and serenity to the built environment. For this example, Autumn, River Road, a large scale painting I created for the Topsfield Town Hall, I placed the painting at the top of the stairs. When visitors to the space walk up the stairs, they feel as though they are walking onto one of the favorite roads in the town, River Road. The idea of extending a 2D space-a flat wall-into a 3D space is a technique first used by the ancient Roman wall painters. Here are in-situ examples of this concept.

Through the seasons (2012). Four panels of a nature pond scene as it appears during different times of the year.
Transitions (2014). Three panels featuring birch trees as they appear in early spring, early autumn, and late November.

Want to add biophelia inspired art to your next project? Contact me for a complimentary proposal.

Using overeaten abaca and a spoon to paint a garden in bloom.

My day in Monet’s Garden, Giverny, France.

Claude Monet is famous for painting many subjects: water lilies, cathedral facades, footbridges, and of course, his garden’s at Giverny, France, where he moved to in 1883. Monet did not like organized gardens common in other parts of France such as the Gardens at Versaillies. In Giverny, he arranged flowers according to their colors and left them to grow naturally, more in keeping with the picturesque gardens of England or the Zen Gardens of Japan.
I visited Monet’s gardens with my mother a few years ago-the ultimate mother/daughter field trip, where I walked the path of the great impressionist artist and took inspiration from his famous gardens.
My painting, Monet’s Garden, Giverny was inspired by this famous garden. The trellis and sweeping vines, rows of pink, orange, and peach blooms, topped with a kaleidoscope of greens, captures the essence of this very special place in France, and in the hearts of art lovers everywhere.

The painting in situ. To order the painting, to order a print of the painting.

Join me, Thursday, August 20, IG Live, 4:00 PM, EST. How to add “water” to a pulp painting.

https://www.instagram.com/megblackstudios/

I will demonstrate my pulp painting technique for adding water imagery to the painting. I’ll discuss the materials and process I use to make the water shimmer and flow. These are some of my most coveted trade secrets so you won’t want to miss it! Post your questions in the question box and I’ll happily answer them. See you at 4:00 EST. Videos are available on IG TV after each session.

Join me for IG Live, Thursday, July 30: mounting the background armature.

https://www.instagram.com/megblackstudios/

Sale of River Road Prints meets 1000.00 goal for Tri-Town Council.

Writing a check for 1000.00 to the Tri-Town Council. Photo: Jonah Rehak
A group effort to make this moment happen. Photo: Jonah Rehak
Pulling the five winners of the paper making workshop out of a hat. If your name wasn’t called, it was returned back to the bag for next year. Photo: Jonah Rehak

It was a pleasure to present a check on January 6, 2020, to members of the Tri-Town Council for 1000.00 from sales of River Road prints.

The prints are reproductions of the painting in the Topsfield Town Hall that was commissioned in 2018 by the Panella family in memory of their mother, Joan Panella. Per request of the family, proceeds from print sales benefit the work the council does on behalf of the Tri-town community. A video I created of the commission tells this story in detail.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who purchased a print from me and supported the council. I also want to thank council members who included information about the print sale on their web site and in social media posts in a herculean effort to promote the sale. Without this team effort, it would not have been as successful.

Best of all, five people who had purchased a print this year were entered to win a paper making workshop at my studio on Saturday, February 8, 2020. I’ll be sure to post photos of the workshop in future posts so we can celebrate the creative efforts of our community members. If you would like to purchase a print, support the council, and be entered to win a slot in a paper making workshop for 2021, please click on this link. Free shipping or in-person delivery to Boxford, Middleton, and Topsfield.

Thank you to all for supporting Meg Black Studios. What a great community we live in and call home.

Making the final edits to a commissioned wall relief.

This wall relief was commissioned for a private residence in Florida. The palette and composition is meant to emulate the seacoast of the south eastern United States. I am making the final edits to the work while the patron takes the video.

Day Nine: Rocks and Water as metaphor for life’s journey.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait 2017), 40 x 40 x 3 inches, pulp painting.

   Start of day nine. I begin today’s studio     session with the goal of painting the waves so they appear to be crashing up against the rocks and in contrast to the calm waters of the tide pool in the foreground.  For me, this is where the metaphor of rocks and water as life’s journey comes together.

The ocean water is soft and cool at the shoreline, but, when the weather conditions are right, the ocean tide relentlessly crashes against the hard rocks.  The rocks weigh much more than the water, but the strength of the crashing waves can literally move the rocks into new formations. Ultimately, the rocks are smoothed by the water,   and over time, they will disintegrate.

The crashing waves represents how life challenges us-often unexpectedly.  These sometimes violent storms shift us much like the waves shift the formations of the rocks.  We long for the stillness of the tide pool, but we find our strength when we are challenged by the storms.

Similarly, we want to see ourselves strong like the rocks, able to weather the most violent storms.  But time softens us, heals us, the storms we weather wizen us.  We are smoothed at the edges and anticipate the next storm, for which we increasingly know we can weather.

Rocks and Water as Self Portrait, MFA Thesis exhibit, Massachusetts College of Art, 1989.

This metaphor for life is why I have returned to the subject of rocks and water as self-portrait for close to 30 years now.  The paintings in my MFA thesis exhibit from Massachusetts College of Art back in 1989 featured this same subject.  Even then, as I was just starting out on my journey as an artist, I saw this connection between rocks and water and life’s journey.  Here goes: day nine.