Most of us are trained to pursue idyllic beauty.
Myself included. From an early age, marketers have pummeled us with pictures and messages that endeavor to define “beauty.” Those messages, with rare exceptions, point us to a beauty that exemplifies a combination of flawless details and features. Dare we consider becoming attuned to a different kind of beauty—one that unfolds before us in ordinary tasks on a daily basis? I can raise this question having been in marketing in more years than I want to advertise. Too much of my career (particularly my early years) was spent peddling the former ideal of beauty. But, somewhere in the middle of my career, when my personal artistic endeavors began taking greater root, I found myself steering decidedly into the beauty of the ordinary.
So, as I have been taking a personal trip down Memory Lane with my art, I decided to share five works that lean into the theme of celebrating daily life and its tasks.
For me, “A Study in Blue” exemplifies beauty in the ordinary.
The featured image in this post reflects my fixation on laundry. Here in Italy, where people in city centers lean out their windows to put out their laundry, I’m always watching. This particular scene unfolded (over twenty years ago) on the island of Burano (read more about the island and its history here). It was as though the universe conspired to offer up a scene that I wouldn’t have conceived of otherwise. At the time I created this piece, Burana was still largely undiscovered and well off the main track of tourists. Today, unless you arrive in Burano at the crack of dawn, or have spent the night on the island, you’ll find yourself dodging a sea of selfie sticks intent on saying “I was there.”
This large watercolor on paper remains one of my all-time favorites and I’m honored to have won the top honor, The Gold Award, at the 1999 National Exhibition of the Georgia Watercolor Society.
A life well-lived.
Our dear, dear friend and neighbor in Umbria inspired this large watercolor on paper entitled, “Buongiorno.” This woman, an inspiring rock-of-a-person on multiple levels, is my heroine in demonstrating the beauty of the ordinary tasks of everyday life. There’s not an ounce of pretense or falsity in her being. Well into her eighties now, she still lives alone, manages physically demanding tasks, and is the glue that holds together the expanding generations of her family.
I’m honored that she allowed me to capture her leaning out her window early one Summer morning. She still adorns a wall in my home and I smile when I pass her.
Taking in the daily news.
“Il Giornale” is a small watercolor sketch of a man who has pulled a chair from his home and placed it in the middle of a cobblestone street. Here, he camps out and reads the news. The beauty of the ordinary couldn’t be more compelling to me in this instance. I thrive on such scenes of daily life here in Italy.
The beauty of a simple task.
“The Errand,” watercolor on paper, captures a scene from the island of Tinos, Greece. I’ve often felt like I have two mistresses, Italy and Greece. Thank God I can shuttle between them easily (when not in a crisis lockdown!). The light in Greece, bouncing around all the whitewashed houses and walls, illuminates this scene. The beauty of the ordinary is reflected in this woman is returning home with a bunch of basil in hand. I can only imagine to what delicious dish this precious herb was added.
A dedication to keeping one’s space clean, free, and clear.
This watercolor, entitled “361” celebrates the daily vigilance of keeping one’s home and doorstep clean. I wonder, “How many times has she done this? Does she do this every day?” Again, this was inspired by a scene I witnessed on the Venetian island of Burano. Little did this woman know that she had inspired one of my favorite pieces. Simple in its story, this scene has become a reminder to me of the internal beauty and meditation of tackling these simple daily tasks. Surprisingly, as I add each year to my life, I find sanctuary in similar tasks. Cleaning on any level seems to deliver ample rewards. Even psychic cleaning. Read my post “Sweeping Out What Weighs You Down.”