Quill Life

“A Hedgehog in a Landscape” by Giovanna Garzoni (1643-51) @ Detroit Institute of Arts

I ran away and hid in the woods,
I was an imprudent child, in
My charmed hedgehog skin, I ran away
And I was happy in my fairytale
Forest, where no one came in, nor
Could have penetrated my white magic,
I was protected from any disturbances.
I was feeding on blueberries, blackberries, wild
Fruits, I ate, wept, and I was looking for
The tender raspberry, which, magically,
It could change my dreams in reality
And could drive all my sadness away;
Here in my divine forest I loved
And I was much loved…

Adrian Nicula, “The Hedgehog

“Sunday in the Park with George”, a musical by James Lapine (music by the recently departed Stephen Sondheim) based on the pointillist painter Georges Seurat, thundered its way onto the Broadway stage in 1984 and took the nation by storm. My dad and I were no exception – we were captivated by a PBS special that showed Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters in the lead roles, and blown away by the magic of the end of Act One when the choreography places the ensemble cast into an exact replica of his most famous piece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. Then not long after that — in my mind’s eye, it feels like that very same hour — I learned that my parents had decided not to live together anymore.

And somewhere near those two events, and perhaps due to a conflation of the two, my intense love for Seurat — and his methodical, mathematical, magical approach to painting dot by dot by dot — was born.

So imagine my absolute delight when, during our latest visit to the Detroit Institute of Arts to see an exhibit on the untold tales of non-male painters of the Italian Renaissance, I stumbled on one whose trademark painting style was a distinctive process that the art world had never seen done to such an obsessive degree and to such tremendous effect: dots and dashes.

As if that weren’t enough, among the still life pieces on display (for which she gained unprecedented — if quickly forgotten — success, especially considering her gender), was the above charming depiction of still life with hedgehog.

(Did I mention that I’ve loved hedgehogs since I was a kid? And took on Hedgehog as a nickname for many years? Well, I did.)

Until this weekend, I’d never heard of Ms. Giovanna Garzoni. Nor any of the other dozen women who were highlighted in the extraordinary By Her Hand: Artemisia Gentilleschi and Women Artists in Italy 1500-1800.

Totally digging the theme at so many of my art voyages lately to focus on unearthing these lesser known women and their stories.

It’s about damn time.

Shot on Pixel 6 Pro.

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