Art: Good Thoughts Shine

If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. – Roald Dahl

A friend posted this quote: I keep realizing how true it is… it’s not hard to do in Venice!

Art and Life

IMG_4126Good thoughts arise constantly surrounded by beauty and in the company of the person who inspires feelings of love. Thomas and I agree Venice is unlike any place we have ever been. There are so many layers to it. Everything is old, almost frozen in time from a thousand years ago. The place hasn’t been updated since. In fact, next to me Thomas is browsing real estate here (someone’s fallen in love with Venice!) and the flats with modern updates are gratefully few. Those alley-facing apartments whose stone arch doorways are filled with glass may be a modern take on Venice but they stand out and don’t do justice to the natural beauty of the architecture.

We’ve been on an art tour and haven’t stepped foot yet in a gallery or museum. Why? The art is all around us. I can share a few types of art that I’ve seen.

Food as Art


In the student district of Dorsoduro outside the art store, we crossed the bridge where casual people engaged in conversation. In pairs of two, from art students to businesspeople to Italian grandmothers, they lounged on the canal parapet eating cicchetti and sipping wine.  We went in to Al Bottegon and did the same.

The famous cicchetti is pictured here with me insanely excited to eat!  Nettles & brie on one baguette slice, tuna salad on another, cream of pistachio, smoked trout and deviled egg with mushroom to name a few. Take the white wine with you in a plastic cup.

Surroundings as Art

IMG_4110On the way to the vaporetto (the “city bus” canal boat), this sight arose. I felt a haunting familiarity feeling when looking back into the inhabited water between these houses. Like a novel with characters I know, like a story I’ve read before. These moments surround a person as you move through the city.



The Torcello Cathedral on Torcello island nearby has a different kind of art. These are murals are one of the most ancient in the area.  The art here took my breath away.

img_4118.jpgIn this mural of Jesus with archangels Michael and Gabriel, I felt a resonance. This was in the transcept chapel to one side of the main area. It spoke to me because the archangels signify much in life – specifically these two.  I had a sacred moment, and like art will often do I felt the mural conveyed meaning and purpose. The visit to the cathedral generated conversation problematizing organized religion and examining the spiritual life that type of art may yet inspire.

There are stories too in spiritual places like this. Like the legend about Attila the Hun’s throne: whoever sits in this chair will soon be pregnant with child. Our group leader, John, found great amusement in sharing this story with us- after seating me in the chair.  Knowing Thomas and I are newly married and hope to raise children together, this brought joy and laughter to us all.

A different island, Burano is historically a fishing village. The houses are registered by color and cannot be changed without a permit. Collectively they bring a different kind of joy. Thomas and I shared a moment of joy that our friend Mary caught.

Walking home from the day, we took the long way home. Winding through the streets, our steps stopped upon hearing a beautiful sound. High-pitched tinkling like raindrops streamed from this man’s water-glass instrument. He had us spellbound. Gaining new spectators, the man started a new song:  “Yesterday,” by the Beatles. The sounds rose into my heart and raised the strings of vibration within me. Pure music affects the heart.

Artists’ Art

Lastly, the artists on this residency have come here to be inspired. Venice supposedly has more art here per capita than anywhere in the world. For the visiting artists, they can receive some of the inspiration and genius in their own work. Hans has carried the camera backpack everywhere we go, and propping a wooden plate on a stand in front of various structures. Tonight, he shared a few works with the group via email since we were curious about his use of what I now know is a pinhole camera. These are by Hans Silvius.

As a university photography professor, he seemed trustworthy in his approach to taking photos. I saw these photos just before writing this post, and I am grateful to gain his perspective on the compositions and objects of his creation. Now I know what he is looking at and for, as we tour around places looking at – and making – art.

Mary Claire Moloney is a painter and a former kindergarten teacher – like a disproportionately high number of other people on the tour (my going count is over 20%).  She likes to paint en plein air (outside). A painting of hers that she will install in the Venice show is below.She told me tonight as the two of us listened to musicians and enjoyed a glass of wine by the canal that she thrives on the social experience of art-making and wished to create in the company of others. Since the fellow artists here have their own focus, she searched for inspiration. Having once been avid in water-based oil paints, I felt a call to join her. What better way to enjoy art in Venice than to paint by the canal? We have a date to paint together next week that excites us both!


Published by jchmcpherson

Arts, Education and Writing

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