Muse Gallery Artist Cooperative
by Mary Anna Rodabaugh
In Greek and Roman mythology, the Muses were nine goddesses, daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus. These goddesses presided over the arts and sciences. In today’s world, a muse is a guiding spirit or source of inspiration. Every creative endeavor can trace its birth back to a muse that enchanted the artist and inspired an original piece of work.
It is fitting that the Muse Gallery, an artist cooperative located at 52nd N. Second Street in Old City, celebrated its 36th anniversary with a group show entitled, “Source of Inspiration.” From December 4th through the 29th, visitors had the opportunity to view 20 diverse works of art, each piece portraying the artists’ individual inspirations.
“The challenge and beauty of a diverse exhibit like this is hanging the pieces in a manner so they compliment one another and work within the space,” visiting artist Patricia McDonnan said.
From abstract to realism, oil on canvas to sculpture, the show radiates the freedom of individual expression. I ventured to Muse Gallery on First Friday to explore the differences between my own interpretation of pieces of work and the artists’ intentions.
The source of inspiration for Etta Winigrad appeared to be literal in her piece, Around and Around. Winigrad’s smoked clay sculpture depicted a head attached to an elongated neck. The face looked up as six wire halos spiraled around the head. As if halted during orbit, various objects, including a heart, a ladder and a house, were intertwined with the wire. Winigrad’s intention was not as literal as I had imagined.
“The sculpture is partially figurative so as to allow the viewer an easily grasped element for introduction into the work. By combining realistic and fantastical elements, I hope to encourage the audience to draw upon their own imagination and life experiences for interpretation,” Winigrad wrote in her artist’s statement.
In Mrs. Beaverhausen by Susan McKee, you will certainly come up with your own interpretation. The oil on canvas painting features a woman with short, mustard-colored hair, slouching on a chair with a muddy, brown coat draped around her shoulders. In one claw-like hand she holds a pair of blue eyeglasses, in the other, a glass bottle. Her mouth appears to melt into a deliberate frown.
This sad looking subject was in fact inspired by a funny memory. While McKee was sitting on a couch drinking a bottle of Coke, she felt cold, so a friend gave McKee a beaver coat to wear. McKee then struck a pose. Amused, her friend took McKee’s photo, stating she looked like Mrs. Beaverhausen, a flamboyant character from the sitcom Will and Grace.
“I thought I looked wild and wanted to paint that picture. I wanted people to wonder, ‘Who is this lady, and what is she thinking?’” McKee said. “She was fun.”
For artist Norman Soong, Chaos in Fall Color represented inspiration in abstraction. The acrylic on canvas painting is comprised of white, yellow, blue, and red geometric shapes. Many shapes were created with singular inch-long brushstrokes. At first glance, the piece appears hectic and frenzied, but closer inspection reveals that every element is perfectly organized.
“The world we live in is an orderly but chaotic place where we have objects that are similar but not identical. Roses grow from the same root stock but no two petals are the same,” Soong said in his artist statement.
When given the subject of “source of inspiration,” the artist may not always choose the literal path. Every creative work grows from a unique seed of inspiration. The journey from intention to interpretation produces a profound harvest for both the artist and the audience.