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Let Sleeping Pennies Lie – Lorena Bowser

Floating Bottle, tmlphoto.com

Let Sleeping Pennies Lie 

  by Lorena Bowser 

Why is a piggy bank full of pennies only a “pretty face?”  Well, for one thing, it doesn’t buy art materials. Is that a problem?  Are we artists or prima donnas?  The artist needs only inspiration and ingenuity to create. ..and practicality (money in the bank) has never been a characteristic of the truly inspired artist. 

 For some perspective, let’s start at the beginning… Some of the oldest artworks on Earth are in the Lascaux caves in France.  Ah, zee French artistes, zay are always at zee avant guarde, n’est-ce pas?   What did the artists use to paint the cave walls?  Fingers and sticks!  And mud!  Point No. 1:  The tools do not make the artist.  

 Step into the Middle Ages….In the early Middle Ages, paintings were typically symbolic representations of Christian concepts exclusively for church and manuscript decoration. Gold backgrounds took away all need for the artist to further develop his imagination. Skill was important, but symbolism rather than realism was “in.” Popes and bishops paid for the materials, including eggs for tempura, a few of which must have found their way to the artist’s breakfast table. Point No. 2: You don’t need money to be successful – if you are truly skilled! 

Shadow art by Tim Noble and Sue Webster

Next stop, the Renaissance….Somewhere along the way, artists got tired of flat scenes and started “rounding out their images” (along with their lives) with a new voluptuousness.  I ask myself just what exactly was being “reborn” here. At any rate, things got a bit tough economically for the upcoming artist, as the Church did not particularly support the new trends.  It was not religion but big money that supported the arts – the Medici! The Medici were the most powerful bankers and politicians in Europe. Take a look at some artists receiving their financial support:  Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Cellini, and Verrocchio. Point No. 3: It’s who you know that counts. 

 The Renaissance opened a Pandora’s box to future art which has undergone successive schools of thought, including impressionism, where many artists were indeed “starving.” Ah well, they did it without a lot of “pennies”, even if they didn’t live to enjoy the rewards of fame. But these inspiring martyrs to the cause never gave up, no matter what the public or the pocketbook dictated.  Point No. 4: hard times do not kill the artist. Art does. 

 Finally… we have now reached the epitome of artistic endeavor – anything goes! (Or you can fool most of the people most of the time). And that philosophy, my friends, is the cheapest road to success yet. You can sell anything if you make people think it’s great.  So, why worry about materials when you can run a white string at waist level around four ample white walls of a sophisticated gallery and call it minimalism, to the acclaim of the most discerning modern art critics.  

Personally, I believe that today’s art is only a shadow of what it used to be, and I categorize some modern art as not much more than trash.  But wait!  Is that some sort of prophesy?  You can now fill a museum with trash (er…”found objects”), which is exactly what Robert Rauschenberg did – fill a museum, which spells success, and do it with trash, which spells dirt cheap. It’s called artistic upcycling. Point No. 5:  You’d better get that imagination working because you don’t need any money at all! 

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 Aha!   ….and that’s where the artist proves his mettle:  can you make beauty from anything you find? 

Light Conversation by Lorena Bowser - found object art

 Let’s practice:  Close your eyes, turn around, open them and pick out the first thing you see.   Now make art with it. 
Remember: anything goes! We’ll meet back here and see what comes of our little experiment. Send in your pictures.  It’s more than fun: it makes my point!   
 Happy creating!
To the right is Lorena's example of a quick-find art project.  Be sure to post your images and comments!  This should be a fun project so get to it!
We look forward to seeing your art!
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Lorena Bowser is a lifetime artist and linguist.  She has lived all over the world and really knows how to make the pennies scream.  Enjoy more of Lorena's resourcefulness at her website and blog: at http://lorenasartandprose.blogspot.com

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