Let’s face it, humans are mesmerized by wild animals in captivity. We’re even more attracted to them in the wild, though most of us will never see the likes of some of the creatures we can find at such places as the Elmwood Zoo in their truest elements. It’s also possibly true that humans are drawn to their own wildness and unique settings. When we marry we hope to surround ourselves with environs that will look fabulous in our wedding photos… better yet, in a live event painting. We want our guests to leave like they’ve been on a safari or on some incomparable adventure. The remaining journey of the wildness lives through the lifetime of the marriage that follows. This all makes sense when you suspect that the zoo setting has become a fun and popular one for the wedding ceremony and reception… the dj or band backed by the odd warbles of the bald eagle (which were perched behind my painting space) or the roars of the howler monkey. Elmwood Zoo has a funky art deco archway, lovely animal habitats perched along quiet walkways, it smells clean and has the classic storybook feeling of a Curious George narrative. It’s your timeless neighborhood zoo. I was invited to paint among other displaying vendors in order to demonstrate just how indispensable a live event painter is at a wedding. Let’s face it, a painter is a wild animal, too, and what a better way to document a splendidly unique event with a classic and archival oil painting in a classic and timeless wonderland of the zoo.
On October 21st of 2013, the State of New Jersey made legal the right of same-sex couples to wed. It is in light of this change of legislation that I was honored to bare witness to the union of a couple, seasoned in twenty-two years of dedication to one another, under a chuppah in northern New Jersey this weekend. I showed up with my assistant to their home as a surprise gift, a live event painter, from a family member and was instantly welcomed into one of the most lovingly – kept gardens I’ve known. Together, the pair worked to arrange their own tent space and chuppah in a perfect D.I.Y. partnership, with illuminated flowers and orbs of color hanging beneath. At one point a neighbor passed by and announced, “congratulations,” to which they playfully replied, “yes, we’re celebrating twenty-two years together with marriage… I hope we’re not making a mistake.” I’m an emotional gal, I’m a mother and an artist – need I say more – but I generally am too engrossed in documenting the magical moments that I paint to become verklempt. This time, as the rabbi and the encircling family spoke and sang around this pair, composure was a challenge. I was moved, I was surrounded by flowers, I was painting like a dervish. Here are the newly betrothed with my work.
As a kid, consideration of an upcoming family wedding meant planning explosive choreography. I would etch out a large swathe of parquet wearing a dress my mother had painstakingly made to match those worn by the bridesmaids. (Anything less than that of a masterful seamstress wouldn’t have held up to my Electric Slide.) I didn’t have time to study the bridal party in their glory or my more sedentary family members when inhumed by other dancing celebrants, head down or whipping around in a scrunchy. Now, as a wedding painter, I find myself perched slightly overhead on the dais, deeply and carefully observing every detail of the wedding guests. I am a student of the wedding, and live event painting allows me to redirect my passion for moves reserved for receptions to documenting the dance. And though my subjects should be dancing like no one’s looking, the onlookers play an equally valuable role in the moments I’m capturing in paint. The magical reality about owning a painting of this kind is this: one day photographs will appear whimsical in how they date us; our crepe garments, wide neckties, hairspray, dance moves. Even the tone of the image and the medium of the paper used to print the picture tell this tale. But an archival oil painting on a grand scale draws from a centuries-old legacy that never gets old or tires. This gesture of offering guests the chance to bear witness not only to the union of families, but also to an oil painting created on site, which smacks of a grace and timelessness, and associates these families with the deep and unique values of the sacred act that a wedding represents. An oil painting is as timeless as dance itself, regardless of the strokes or steps.
So let’s cut a rug and get painting!
Lately I have two songs in mind that will date me a bit, though one is of my father's generation. It's My Party and I'll Cry if I Want To, and, "November Rain." The two come to mind each November because it's my birth month, and as we age we tend to approach our birthdays a bit differently. I tend to notice the cold damp time that is the northeastern November more with each year, at the same time, I tend to savor the slow playful digestive time watching my kids in the leaves in the days that follow Thanksgiving. Regardless of how damp and rainy it is, and how my birthday cake is amassing candles (and I'll cry if I want to), it's still a wonderful time to host a party in grand or intimate and unique style. I'm packing my travel carts in for studio commissions after a few of these wonderful November events; one being a wedding a the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia and the other a Bat Mizvah at the Center Club in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. I have a handful of paintings to create for folks who want to give a great gift of the arts, and I will be continuing to hone my palette, my brushwork, and my eye. That said, if you are reading this and wish to reach out about a commission to express your wonderful gift-giving skills and your care, I am taking inquiries. Of course, come February, I'll be back out there again, back at the "live" easel as celebrations continue to unfold.
In the meantime, I know I'll stay cozy and dry and illuminated; with my wood stove, my studio skylights, and my many birthday candles. And the paintings keep coming alive!
This year I walked down the proverbial aisle as many of my lovely brides that I've painted had. Of course, in our case, the aisle was built of varied multi-colored rugs, lanterns, and tucked beneath our own apple trees on our property.
I had a photographer, caterers, and a band from South America (El Caribefunk) accompanied by Amber Rae of the Swinging Foxes and Ryan Tennis, two Philadelphia musical fixtures. But where was our live event painter? Ultimately, the painting must come from mine or an associate's hand, but it is in progress. First things first, I must paint for my audience with the inclusion of a painting for an aunt who married in Positano and neighbors who have renewed their vows. Somehow, I was able to tuck my own wedding in between the events I travel to each weekend and on many weekday evenings. It was heavenly!
I am just now launching my new website, with help from my incredible husband, Jack.