My World...And Christina's World .

In 2010 I was lucky enough to visit New York for the second time. It was a very special visit for many reasons, not least of all my lovely friend who hosted me. By day I roamed the streets and galleries, whilst she was at work, and so I visited MOMA. 

It is a beautiful building full of American Art and sculpture from 19th century on...

The piece that hypnotized me with its subject and it's theme was this: 

Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth c.1948: ( 82cm x 1.21)

Compared to much of the 'shouty' conceptual art, on display, it had a quiet and determined power. I stood before it for ages, went off to another room, then found myself having to return to it.-twice! Maybe I felt some connection in my own experiences. Although compared to now, I was quite comparitively healthy on the NY trip, this piece made me reflect on the period in my 20's when I had to be pushed around in a wheelchair. I had found a core of great reslience at my centre that I didn't , feel grateful for often enough.

  When I returned to the UK I examined the postcard I had bought of this painting: I felt compelled to make a creative response to this piece...but how to augment something so complete in itself....? How to respond? I knew I could not outpace this master artist, but I had to value my own response to this piece.

The girl in Christina’s World is Anna Christina Olson. She was one of the painter’s muses, appearing in several other artworks. Olson lived on her family farm in South Cushing, Maine, near Wyeth’s vacation home, where he found inspiration for his work. ( Be sure to check out his 'Helga' paintings- magnificent)
Olsen suffered from Charcot-Marie Tooth (CMT) disease, which causes weakness in the feet and lower leg muscles. CMT also hampers coordination of the fingers, hands, wrists, and tongue. As a result, Olson was disabled from the waist down; she often moved across her family property by crawling...and that was how she got herself around the neighbourhood. And as legend has it, Wyeth found inspiration for Christina’s World one afternoon when he observed Olson dragging her body across the field.

This piece is something of a visual cliche to Americans, as it is so over commercialized through reproduction, but is not as well known in the Uk..Wyeth worked with a minimal palette of golds, greens, whites and greys, and using egg tempera which is powdered colour mixed with egg yolk and painted onto a white ground onto a wooden pane. This process makes the colours almost luminous and was used by medieval manuscript artists and some Renaissance painters. The effect up close is almost as if looking out of a window.

Olson and Wyeth remained friends for life. and Wyeth is buried  right next to  the Olsen family tombstone. 

The main sense I wanted to get over in my creative response, was steadfastness, and the power of determination. I decided to work on a series of three to show the progress of the journey, the stagger from place to place.:

1:The journey Begins

2: Onwards - The Journey Continues

3: The Triumph of Arrival.

One thing is should mention is that these pieces are tiny- no bigger than postcards, but they remain amongst my favourite pieces of work. They connect me to a particular kind of quiet female strength that can go un noticed by others.....and to a special trip to an exciting city.
These pieces were produced before ME and pain ruled my life again. My reality now IS Christina's World- a world of limitations, where the 'normal' world is a difficult place  to participate in, or navigate around. For me the journey continues, and there are blisters and bruises and dust aplenty, but there is always beautiful art to enjoy. Check out the work of Andrew Wyeth- you will not regret it!


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