Homemade Masterpieces: Art Inspiring Creativity in Our Homes
min Read26 December 2020
Art enters our homes in a multitude of ways. We might see something that appeals to us in a movie, for example in The Accountant (2016) paintings by Jackson Pollock, Renoir, and Cassius Coolidge feature prominently. Originally the art of Cassius Coolidge entered our lives on cigar boxes as the Dogs Playing Poker series. It could be that you’ve only heard of, for example, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec because of his famous posters depicting the Parisian high life of the 19th century. Art also makes itself known through social media, lately on quite a grand scale. The combination of art and lockdown has inspired a surge of creativity in our homes, and the production of some truly amazing homemade masterpieces!
“I am a creative nomad from the Netherlands. Last year I made the choice to leave everything behind and develop myself as an artist. During the first quarantine, I joined a creative Facebook group called “Themedayz”. They create pictures with themselves as models to fit a certain theme. The theme for this picture was “mouth midweek”. I immediately thought about The Scream, and recreated it at my aunt’s place.”
Social media and the need to be busy and productive have opened up a whole world of new ways to interpret and think about art. Anything can be used to imitate the details of a work, for example the king in the following masterpiece has a particularly beautiful crown! This work of art has entered our homes via master craftsman Erik Bohlin. The original is a recently uncovered frieze on the wall of a medieval Welsh church, St. Cadoc at Llancarfan, artist unknown:
“I’m Erik Bohlin, and I live in Karlstad, Sweden. I work as a development engineer and have a background in academia (my proper title is Dr Bohlin, although I rarely use it). I have been interested in art since childhood, and even though I have no formal art education, I have worked as an illustrator and set designer for a large part of my life. Photography is also a big interest for me, so when during the corona pandemic it became a trend to recreate works of art with things you have at home, it suited me just right. I think that humor is a good form of expression, and my pictures and photographs are usually funny. There are so many horrible things in this world, so we must take care of all the joy we can give each other!”
Art, whether magnificent or modest, is a means of surrounding ourselves with the things that make us feel cozy, happy, thoughtful, and even safe. We make connections with objects that go beyond the materialistic and they can pull us into a realm where they become anchors for us in difficult times, fixing us to the familiar and to everything we know and love. This has become especially true in this time of Coronavirus.
“I am a designer and climate justice activist based in Berkeley, CA. I’ve been wanting to recreate a work by the patron saint of isolation but even he could not have predicted the color of this morning’s sky. I’m thankful for our faithful fog that is enveloping us and keeping us safe from the smoke of the fires. It’s not quite the end of the world, but as a friend said this morning, it might be the beginning of the end.”
We are in a state of relative confusion. Our usual habits have been interrupted and our day-to-day routines are being regularly challenged, sometimes in the most serious of ways. Normal transmission is, in fact, no longer normal at all.
“Amanda Jane Stern and Julian Seltzer are based in Brooklyn, NY. They started doing Art Recreations on a “dare” from their friends as part of a virtual double-date activity (their first art recreation was Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Lucas Cranach the Elder). This was a painting that Amanda knew well from the Metropolitan Museum of Arts (in NYC) collection, having visited it many times in person.”
Human beings however are amazingly adaptable. We have to stay at home: no more arbitrary visits to friends, swimming pools, art galleries, restaurants. So, what do we do? We find other ways to keep fit, be sociable, work, and be entertained.
“I am a 39 year old woman, I live in Brighton, UK, and I work as a counsellor/psychotherapist. During lockdown, the art recreations appealed to me because they were a really fun way of having a creative outlet amidst the potential gloom of staying indoors. I particularly liked doing The Tailor because I love the original painting, and it was fun to do a gender swap and confuse people with my ‘mascara beard’!”
My home (and millions of others like it) has actually improved: I have set up a gym (sort of); it is tidier than before; my cooking is a little better, or at least more adventurous; my studio/office is bursting with ideas and filled with materials for making things, including a giant inflatable beach ball. Even my easel has seen the light of day for the first time in a long time. You get the picture!
“This is Conrad Lloyd, 14 years old at the time, and we live in the Netherlands. In March the schools were closed due to Covid 19, and it was difficult to generate any motivation to work. However, this was one thing that was (though very last minute) great fun and a break from all the online instructions and half-hearted attempts at lessons. The recreation of Arcimboldo’s The Librarian was instigated by an assignment he was given by his art teacher during lockdown. It was a project that hovered in the background for weeks, but in the end we put it together in a matter of an hour and a half because the deadline was 6pm. I think he’d chosen the subject the day before and I said it would be easy, but my confidence was misplaced! The ‘headwear’ was seriously tricky to recreate: in the end it was a Flow magazine special stuck into plumes with sticky tape. The facial furniture was cotton wool pads cut in half, taped together and stuck onto his face, and the precarious book ‘body’ was at constant risk of toppling over… made worse by the fact that I found his expressions so funny I couldn’t stop giggling which made him giggle too. Proceedings weren’t made any easier by the dogs getting excited and threatening the whole ‘shoot’!”
Mary-Jane van Rooijen
Additionally, I have had a lot of fun with Facebook groups that offer interaction with people all over the world. The two little girls in the following masterpiece are Janna and Angela. Both love to dance more than anything, but they can’t go to ballet classes because of the lockdown. So, with help from their mother Evgenia, they have made their own fun! Dancing is an irrepressible force in these two, as we can see in Innocence by Anna Bain:
“I’m Evgenia, and originally from Siberia, Russia, but now I live in South Sinai. My daughters Janna and Angela love ballet and it is a big part of our lives, however living between the sea and the desert it is hard to find dance schools. That was true even before the lockdown! The only teacher we had left the school, and so it has been hard on my little dreamer dancers to lose all in a moment. I decided to do my best to keep their love of dance alive, to make them remember all the skills they developed, and to motivate them. Since our first recreation we have made 20 more! We have made so many friends worldwide who loved our recreations.”
One of the Facebook groups that I joined this year (as you may already have guessed) is focused on recreating art with whatever you can find at home. The membership of this group is extremely diverse and so the products of it are extremely varied too, ranging from the reworking of classic masterpieces to, more recently, the recreation of film and cartoon characters, album covers, and vintage photographs. Here is Rousseau‘s Two Monkeys in the Jungle, created by Jill Moxon:
“I am an Art teacher/Head of Department in Yorkshire, UK. Made from found objects in the house, this was a project I was involved in throughout lockdown.”
The rules of this group are as follows: ‘choose a painting, then stage a photo recreation of it using only stuff you already have at home’. Different homes have different things in them, so the availability of materials can be completely different from one home to the next. Nevertheless we find all kinds of different things being used inventively, often with beautiful results, and also sometimes with hilarious ones! The following masterpiece, Goya‘s Saturn Devouring his Son, is brought to you by Michael Nuccio:
“My name is Michael Nuccio, I’m a sales associate for a bicycle store from Tempe, Arizona, USA. I first became acquainted with the work by Goya through the H.P. Lovecraft short story Pickman’s Model where Goya‘s work was apparently the inspiration for the titular subject of the story. This year, however, I had both the hair and the beard to make it work — throw in a little Aquanet, some Halloween dye spray, a thrift store skirt and a baby doll, et voilà! A monster!”
Approaches vary too. For some crafters it is important to leave a message or perhaps to explore an emotion while for others it is about humor, fun, and finding happiness in a rather dismal year.
“I took this photo on my digital camera against the grandkids’ bedroom wall for the closest background color. My husband, Mike, is retired, and although reticent he was a willing model. I have used two scraps of lilac / purple material. The one across his head is secured with a safety pin and the one across his chest is sellotaped to him. He wasn’t happy about this as it was like peeling a plaster off when the time came! I also used sellotape to fix the lemon to his head so it didn’t roll off. He made the suggestion of rolling up sellotape behind his ears to push them forward which worked really well. He even let me put red and black lipstick on him to make his mouth more pronounced. We live on the Wirral, UK.”
For many, art is already a concern and a big part of their lives while for others this process of recreation has actively brought art into their homes. It is an opportunity to explore something new, in a unique way. My eldest daughter and I decided to recreate the Venus de Milo (modestly from the rear):
“This took hours, and so much white body paint that we haven’t got any left! We used old throws pinned up against a door/bookshelves, plus a wig that we dug out from a selection of dressing-up stuff. It was a lot of fun!”
Mair and Sarah Mills
It seems that recreating masterpieces is not only a human endeavor. Dogs and cats seem happy to be the stars of a beautiful painting as much as we are! Here is today’s cover photo: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer, brought to life by Lacey Quinn and Radar the Dog.
“Radar is a rescue pup and is about 10 years old. I’m the owner of The Living Room Salon & Art Gallery (one in Newport Beach and a new one in Pasadena). When everything shut down, salons took the hardest hit. We didn’t open for 8 months and being a single woman my poor dog became my muse. I found the Facebook page where we recreate art with found things at home. I did a Frida Kahlo with Radar also, but this one just turned out perfectly. Only one take! I think Radar’s very happy I’m back at work now.”
Many thanks to Erik Bohlin, Mair Mills, Jill Moxon, Laura Hordern, Lies Geven, Mary-Jane van Rooijen and her son Conrad, Amanda Stern and Julian Seltzer, Michael Nuccio, Barnali Ghosh, Evgenia and her daughters Janna and Angela, Jude and Mike Parkinson, Lacey Quinn, and of course Radar the Dog!
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