Vincent Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853. Something about Van Gogh intrigued Arthur and therefore, he created a portrait of this man. Perhaps it was the fact that he too struggled with his identity and deciding which direction he wanted to go in life. Van Gogh’s initial calling was to be a preacher; it wasn’t until many years later that he discovered his true calling as an artist.
Vincent Van Gogh- (monotype) portrait by Arthur Secunda
They were interested in Impressionism and focusing on the power of color. Both utilized a variety of mediums including drawing, etching, lithograph, and watercolor. Van Gogh created a lot of artwork, most likely surpassing Arthur in number, but probably not in variety. In addition, Arthur also ended up in Arles and Paris, France.
One of the fascinating, and not widely known facts about Van Gogh is that surviving correspondence begins on September 29, 1872 (age 19) and ends on July 23, 1890 (age 37). Furthermore, “the close inter-relationship between his letters and his paintings was fundamental to the shaping of his reputation, in which the narrative of his personal life remains intimately bound up with the reception of his visual art” (Van Gogh Gallery). Like Arthur, Van Gogh enjoyed writing to his friends, family, and other artists.
“Van Gogh is now viewed as one of the most influential artists having helped lay the foundations of modern art” (Van Gogh Gallery).
Yet another piece that ties these two artists together involves the Russian Poet Alexander Puskin. Arthur created a portrait of Pushkin, while the only piece of Van Gogh’s that sold during his lifetime currently lies in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Art located in Moscow.
Harry Houdini was born on March 24th, 1874. Like Arthur (and Einstein), Houdini also had a Jewish background. He was interested in life’s mysteries and the “magic” it had to offer. In a way, this sounds like the same purpose of creating art; the passion to express various aspects of the world and to evoke emotion. Magicians and artists both seek to entertain, inspire, and provoke their audience.
There is even more in common between the two that we were not aware of including the fact that Houdini was actually a huge fan of correspondence between friends, saving many letters that were later found in his desk. This compares to Arthur’s mail art collection. In addition, it took awhile before Houdini obtained recognition for his performances, an impresario by the name of Martin Beck suggested focusing on his escape acts…which ultimately led to increased awareness and his overall success.
Just a fun fact: Houdini had a trunk trick called Metamorphosis, which he performed throughout his entire career…Arthur on the other hand, created a wood-routed panel that he painted and titled Metamorphosis des Fleurs back in 1989. He also made a canvas painting with his friend and fellow artist Joseph Breton known as Metamorphosis: From Darkness to Light.
While walking through the museum, you may see images that seem magical or mysterious. One example that fits this scheme is titled Enigma.
Foster youth express themselves in art class-Arla McPeek March 22
Some things are hard to put into words. Fortunately, there’s art. When words fail, art can help express difficult emotions.
The youth in Arthur’s Artists know all about difficult emotions.
“All of our kids have gone through an abusive or neglectful situation at the hands of their parents, to a point where it was so severe they had to be removed from the parents’ custody,” said Nicola Herman, who works with youth in foster care through the Department of Human Services office in Howell.
Arthur’s Artists is a group of Livingston County foster youth approaching adulthood who are preparing to transfer out of foster care or have recently done so. The group meets once a month at the Arthur Secunda Museum at Cleary University in Genoa Township. There, with artist Diane Kramer of Genoa Township serving as teacher and Grace Farley of Cleary University and Herman providing support, the youth learn about Secunda’s art and use it as a jumping off point to create their own art.
“We haven’t asked them to paint their feelings and think back on their past, but the majority of them have,” Herman said. “To see them be able to work through those emotions and express those feelings through art is really powerful.”
“My favorite project so far was the paper bird,” said foster youth Amanda, whose last name was withheld by the Department of Human Services to protect her privacy. “I liked it the most because mine was different. I made it have a baby. When I was doing this, my train of thought was to show a mother leaving her baby bird.”
Another girl, though a talented artist, had a hard time drawing a picture of herself.
“Some of them have been to (as many as) seven different foster homes, and they start to lose their identity,” said Farley. “For one project, (the teacher) said, ‘Draw a picture of the person across from you.’ This girl drew an incredibly detailed and accurate depiction of the person across from her. Then we gave her a mirror and said, ‘Draw yourself,’ and she drew this beautiful head of hair with no face. She didn’t know who she was.”
Sketching out a plan
Farley originated the idea of Arthur’s Artists in early 2013. She’d been working on a new nine-month program called Leadership Livingston Youth designed to introduce high school-age leaders to various adult community leaders and teach them how Livingston County delivers business, education, government, justice, and health and human services.
Herman had asked Farley about putting youth who were leaving or had recently left the foster care system in the program, but Farley didn’t think most would be a good match for it at that point in their lives. As a population, members of this group are more likely to be transient, homeless or in jail, and transportation would be an issue.
“They were in survival mode, and you move at different levels when you’re in survival mode,” Farley said. “I didn’t want to put pressure on her or these kids.”
However, Farley continued to think about them. About the same time, she also started working with the Arthur Secunda Museum on the Cleary University campus.
“I had done a little research and found there’s a lot of evidence that shows art programs work for therapeutic purposes for at-risk populations,” Farley said.
She mentioned the idea of a foster youth art group to Herman, who liked it.
Artist Diane Kramer, whose “The Winged Guardian” sculpture is in the Brighton Sculpture Garden, came on board shortly afterward, acting on intuition.
“One day I was at the Secunda Museum on a tour and fell in love with the place, and had this feeling to connect with the person in charge of programs,” Kramer said. “To be honest, it was some kind of intuitive nudging that inspired me to call. I spoke with Grace Farley and shared some of who I am and what I have done, really trying to find out if there was anything I could do that may revolve around art and healing. … A few meetings later, I found myself sitting around a round table with other people planning out a program, which would serve (this) population of teens.”
The next step was to find funding.
“We worked on the funding part of it for a year,” Farley said. “The Community Foundation for Livingston County came forward in June 2014 and said they would fund it, and the first (Arthur’s Artist session) was in August 2014.
The art of resilience
Meetings of Arthur’s Artists usually draw about 15 youth from ages 15 to 22. Herman encourages the youth she works with to participate, but it’s not required.
“I chose to spend my time coming to do this art work because it really does make you think and shows feelings,” said foster youth Amanda. “What I get out of this program is that art is a way to escape, to show emotions through creativity.”
Kramer leads the students through projects, including everything from self-portrait to landscapes using mediums that include paint, wire sculpture and torn paper.
“I have a lot of fun doing the art projects,” said foster youth Savannah. “I was never the best at art in school, but I feel like it’s a judgment-free zone to just have fun and express ourselves. The mentors are also very helpful with constructive criticism and help me improve my art.”
Any art is intensely personal, and none more so than this art. Kramer offers the occasional tip, but she treads lightly with constructive criticism.
“Any mark that is put down, whether it’s sculptural or paintings or drawings, is a great one, because it’s brave, and you’re putting the work out there,” Kramer said, adding, “The students are brave just for being there.”
“I’m a fan of art from the heart,” Kramer said. “I’m not easily impressed with technical skills. For something to excite me it really has to speak to me on an emotional level. When a work is honest or raw, to me that’s a work that’s alive. This work is genuine and honest … and powerful.”
Although the youth in Arthur’s Artists have been through hard times, they are resilient and are writing their own happy endings. Some, like Amanda, have found a place to belong in their foster families.
“I’ve waited so long to have a family, and I finally got one four years ago,” Amanda said. “They are my motivation. They make me stay on track. I couldn’t be any more proud of who I am.”
Others, like Savannah, rely on perseverance as well as the support of friends and family.
“I would say my key to success is not giving up,” she said. “I also get a lot of support from my families, friends and people from DHS. Nicola especially has helped me with so much. Having a good attitude and believing in yourself will get you far.”
With Arthur’s Artists, the current and former foster youth can use art to sort out the experiences of their past so they can move into their futures.
“Healing comes to us all when we open up, look inside and allow the creative process to live,” Kramer said. “We never know what can open up, bloom and heal.”
See the art work of Arthur’s Artists
On June 20 from 1-4 p.m., when this year’s Arthur’s Artists program is finished, the group will display their art to the public at the Arthur Secunda Museum at Cleary University, 3750 Cleary Drive in Genoa Township.
How does Arthur’s work relate to St. Patrick’s Day you ask? Well, if you recall Arthur is known for his way with color. He tends not to exclude any color from his work, so of course he utilizes green in his pieces. An example is the one titled, Caliban which has excellent shades of green that enlivens the image’s spirit. Did you know that some cultures view green as negative, while others see it as being good luck?
Who is Caliban? He is the main antagonist in William Shakespeare’s TheTempest; the son of the witch Sycorax with possible father being the devil. Therefore, in this case, green may been used to portray a malevolent persona, rather than representing something positive.
Dress up in your favorite green attire and have fun this St. Patrick’s Day whether you’re Irish or not.
These two have similar backgrounds and possessed some of the same characteristics. For example, Einstein was raised by secular Jews and Arthur’s immediate family was made up of Sephardic Jews. Arthur was more closely connected to the religion than Einstein, who was more of an agnostic, considering religion as a byproduct of superstition. They both were interested in music, choosing the piano to express their passion.
They encountered different environments in Switzerland and Italy. In addition, both were fascinated in learning and spreading knowledge to others as well as promoting social justice. Furthermore, they both have ties to space; with Einstein’s contribution to cosmic theory and other research/equations that he provided and Arthur’s involvement with NASA. There is also the fact that Arthur was born in New Jersey, while Einstein moved there later on in his life.
Arthur and Einstein corresponded back in 1942. Arthur created a special card for Einstein’s birthday which contained an original linoleum block print. Einstein replied with appreciation not only for the birthday message, but also in regards to Arthur’s work, telling Arthur that he was talented. HOW COOL! We heard about Einstein’s reply still existing, but unfortunately are not aware of its current location…as it was sold to a Texas autograph collector years before the value of Einstein’s signature became known.
Inspired by his friend, Arthur created a portrait of Einstein and even created a piece titled E=mc^2.
The beginning of this week marked a birthday of a unique author by the name of Dr. Seuss. He was born Theodor Seuss Geisel on March 2nd of 1904. He wrote over 40 children’s books and provided the illustrations for them as well. These images are bizarre and playful in nature, creating a fairy-tale atmosphere for those who read his stories. Despite this, many of his books contain important life lessons. For instance, have you heard of the story called The Sneetches? The theme presented is that we need to learn how to be ourselves, while harmoniously coexisting with those who are from other cultures or are simply different from us.
Dr. Seuss is also known for his way with words, having coined various inspirational and humorous phrases. Like Arthur, Dr. Seuss is able to make people think and feel something that they might not have otherwise. A perfect example of this is how Dr. Seuss viewed the world; he chose to focus on nonsense/fantasy, which he considered to be a necessary ingredient in living. He explained his perspective as looking through the wrong end of a telescope…
Arthur’s images often portray a balance between reality and enchantment. A prime example of such is a piece titled Beverly Hills Forest, which can be seen below.
Have you ever had some form of artwork carry you away to a magical world? If so, please share by leaving us a comment.
Is this just a bunch of scribbles, an object for learning, or an inspirational image?
This piece depicts life, the mistakes and lessons learned on the way, and how you will get back on track in a shorter amount of time as you develop important skills and decide not to dwell on any negativity.
This image correlates to Arthur’s interest in geometric forms, with the spots of color serving as focus points, and once connected-form a triangle…one of the recurring elements found in Arthur’s work.
Etude-French origin and defined as:
A short musical composition, typically for one instrument, designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player.
Coincidence, I think not…Once again, Arthur became a master of combining art with meaning.