Work and toil, blossoms and blooms

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When I was in college, I did a painting series on street musicians. Smart phones weren’t a thing yet, so I brought an actual camera to the French Quarter and wandered around snapping photos of people playing music on street corners, their instrument cases open, oftentimes full of change and one dollar bills. 

The one I remember most vividly was a violinist in faded jeans, a ragged maroon button down, standing next to a bright green trash can playing something classical and, in my memory, quite sad. 

When I showed the reference photo to my painting professor, she was struck by the juxtaposition of the elegant violin and the shabby scene. He belongs in a tuxedo in a concert hall, she said. I hadn’t been able to articulate what I found intriguing about the image, but once she voiced it, I knew that’s what had drawn me in, too. 

So now, decades later, I’m painting at weddings where, more often than not, there’s a second line band and the musicians wear suits and ties. I snap pictures of them, and in my paintings put these dressed-up players in fields and valleys where again they do and don’t quite belong. 

It’s borderline that corona beer commercial– find your beach– where the sip of a corona transports some corporate worker to the zen of a beach, only in this case, the act of creating is what takes you someplace lush and temporary. Oh, how I relate to these musicians in their work clothes at weddings. And no matter how many times I’ve done it, I so often get swept away in the color, the shapes, the sounds of what I’m doing to my blank and previously untouched canvases. 

Context is flexible. Changing it creates it. 

Creating is work and toil. And it is blossoms and blooms.

Musician paintings like the one that starts this post and others will be part of the “Linger” collection coming to my site in July. Stay tuned. And if you want an email about it, make sure you’re on the list.

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Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

June 15, 2021

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