Only Wonder Understands

•January 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

"Winged Figure - Painbearer' by Mel Ahlborn 2010


“Have you ever had this happen: you hear or read a parable and, before you know it, there’s a breadcrumb trail within you, a path with its own momentum that opens up within you like a Fibonacci spiral? Minutes, days, weeks pass and you are still going over it in your mind? This happened to me at Biola this year, when one of CIVA’s conference speakers shared this quote from Gregory of Nyssa, “Concepts create idols; only wonder understands anything.” You’ve got to admit, there is a parabolic, ponderable quality to this quote. And it is perfect for me, the artist, precisely because its wisdom rests just beyond the reach of my understanding. The Parables – they’ve been known to save lives.”

This text begins an ‘Exit Strstegy’ I was asked to write by Cameron Anderson, CIVA’s Executive Director.

The rest of the post is here, at the CIVA blog’s permalink .


Modern Love: Artists Bare Their Souls

•January 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

"Crack is Wack" by Keith Haring

When Keith Haring painted this mural, “Crack is Wack”,  he was seeking a site that would have good visibility from nearby Harlem River Drive.  Haring liked the deserted playground because he thought his message would be seen by the thousands of commuters going to and from Manhattan each day.

Haring’s message was clear – crack cocaine kills. He was trying to tell us all something very important, and was willing to trade a police summons for the chance to speak up. Twenty-five years later, crack cocaine still kills. Some statistics are below, swiped directly from the National Institute on Drug Abuse,

Cocaine: A Brief Description

Cocaine is a powerfully addictive central nervous system stimulant that is snorted, injected, or smoked. Crack is cocaine hydrochloride powder that has been processed to form a rock crystal that is then usually smoked.

Street Names

Coke, snow, flake, blow


Cocaine usually makes the user feel euphoric and energetic, but also increases body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. Users risk heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes, seizures, abdominal pain, and nausea. In rare cases, sudden death can occur on the first use of cocaine or unexpectedly afterwards.

Statistics and Trends

In 2009, 4.8 million Americans age 12 and older had abused cocaine in any form and 1.0 million had abused crack at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration Web Site). The NIDA-funded 2010 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 1.6% of 8th graders, 2.2% of 10th graders, and 2.9% of 12th graders had abused cocaine in any form and 1.0% of 8th graders, 1.0% of 10th graders, and 1.4% of 12th graders had abused crack at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. Source: Monitoring the Future (University of Michigan Web Site).

SOURCE: National Institute on Drug Abuse,

China’s art-market boom threatens Europe – MarketWatch

•August 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

(June 15, 2011) Dr. Clare McAndrew, founder of Arts Economics, cites a complex system of taxes and regulations that are driving art collectors and investors from Europe to China and America. Read more in this article by Virginia Harrison at MarketWatch China’s art-market boom threatens Europe – MarketWatch.

Zhang Xiaogang’s “Forever Lasting Love (Triptych)” sold in April for approximately .2 million — a world record for contemporary Chinese art.

Copying Caravaggio, Learning to Pay Attention

•November 18, 2010 • 5 Comments

Image of a painted copy of Caravaggio's "Holy Family with the Infant St John the Baptist" by Mel Ahlborn. Oil on wood panel, 2011

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) completed his painting “Holy Family with the Infant St  John the Baptist” late in his career.  By then he was already a disruptive force in European painting circles. “His practice of painting directly from posed models violated the idealizing premise of Renaissance theory and promoted a new relationship between painting and viewer by breaking down the conventions that maintained painting as a plausible fiction rather than an extension of everyday experience.”1

As a contemporary artist, I am drawn to Caravaggio’s use of naturalism, and his experimentation with chiaroscuro. Both artistic choices play with the viewer’s observational skills. As noted in the reference above, they also challenged the conventions of his time. ) In “Holy Family with the Infant St  John the Baptist”, Caravaggio’s Madonna is the girl from the village, recognizable and vulnerable. (I am still at work  on achieving this quality in my own copy; the image above shows the painting still in progress.)

When I selected this detail from Caravaggio’s larger painting, I did so thinking that I was selecting a classic ‘Madonna and the Child Jesus.’ In actuality, I have painted ‘Madonna with the Infant St John the Baptist.’ To locate the child Jesus in Caravaggio’s original painting, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online catalog.

1 Source:Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (1571–1610) and his Followers | Thematic Essay | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

A New Deal for the Arts, ca. 1935

•November 15, 2010 • 1 Comment

From The National Archives:

“The New Deal arts projects provided work for jobless artists, but they also had a larger mission: to promote American art and culture and to give more Americans access to what President Franklin Roosevelt described as “an abundant life.” The projects saved thousands of artists from poverty and despair and enabled Americans all across the country to see an original painting for the first time, attend their first professional live theater, or take their first music or drawing class.” More>

“Created in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) employed jobless young men on work projects such as planting trees, stocking lakes and rivers, and building shelters, trails, and campgrounds. It had a close relationship with many of the federal art projects. Federal Theatre troupes entertained at CCC camps, and Federal Art Project workers gave drawing classes. Several government artists created works with CCC themes. Sometimes, as in this poster by Albert Bender and in the photograph by Wilfred Mead that follows it, they extolled the benefits of CCC discipline, food, medical care, and education.” More>

Detail of Self-Portrait with Apple and Pomegranate

•November 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Detail of Self-Portrait with Apple and Pomegranate

•November 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment