Friday, October 16, 2009
John Balasa works on marbleizing columns at VMFA (Photo by Travis Fullerton, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Marbleizing, wood graining and other decorative finishes have been around since early civilization. Examples can be seen in great palaces, cathedrals, museums and government buildings.
My current project of eight columns will enhance the museum’s original 1936 structure, which will house VMFA’s collection of tapestries when it re-opens in May 2010. I am painting the columns in the Great Hall to imitate sienna marble, which is precious and limited in nature, quarried back to the Roman era. In addition, the 22-karat gold leafing on the column capitals will help to bring a more classical look to this gallery.
These are the most frequently asked questions about my work on the columns:
Q: What types of materials are used?
A: I use alkyd base paint, glaze and varnishes to execute the job from start to finish.
Q: Do you use sponges, feathers, etc?
A: I strictly use brushes of varying sizes and shapes in my work. Rarely, I will use a rubber eraser, depending on a specific technique.
Q: Are you looking at a specific marble when you are imitating marble?
A: I study natural marble for color, pattern density and deposits, and overall pattern of the type selected for imitation. Then, I lock the natural image in my brain, like a computer, and the imitation process begins.
Q: Are you layering colors?
A: I am working with different transparent colors at once, which is the alla prima technique. Alla prima is Italian for “at first,” and it’s sometimes defined as a “wet-on-wet” technique. The work is done in sections that require one sitting, and then I can move on to the next area. I cannot go back to an area after it is dry. I developed this technique and it works well for me.
I look forward to sharing the new columns when the museum re-opens. It is an honor to contribute my work for the enrichment of the museum and the enjoyment of its visitors.
John Balasa, VMFA Exhibition Production
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Kay Remick, a member of The Council of VMFA, homeowner Walter Hooker, and LuLu, the Hookers’ dog, greeted guests at Monument Muse in the 2300 block of Monument Avenue recently. (Photo by Bill Harrison, The Council of VMFA)
Wow! The Council of VMFA sure knows how to throw a party.
Beautiful homes, fine art, wine, food and fun all came together to make Monument Muse a great success. My husband, Frank, and I joined 250 friends of VMFA and walked a block late last month to benefit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
And what a walk: the 2300 block of Monument Avenue, one of the most beautiful streets in Richmond, with stately homes designed in the early 1900s by William Lawrence Bottomley, Duncan Lee and Marcellus Wright.
We were welcomed into five homes for this special evening. Inside, we enjoyed fine wines and hors d’oeuvres and were encouraged to explore upstairs and down.
Why all this hospitality? Monument Muse was a fundraiser and a fun-raiser organized by the Council, the largest group of volunteers and a major financial supporter of VMFA. Council members Deanna Brinkman and Karen Palen chaired this great party, with help from members who served as hostesses. (Council volunteers also staff the Museum Shop, lead tours as docents, volunteer in the museum library, assist in the membership office and more.)
Five vintners and five caterers provided the sumptuous food and drink. One white and one red wine were offered in each home. The best surprise for me was an overflowing bowl of colossal shrimp at the second home we visited. I could easily have spent the evening right there, but my husband and friends reminded me there were more homes to visit, more art to see, and more food – from pheasant breast wrapped in bacon to endless creamy cheeses. We pressed on.
Beautiful art was on the menu as well. Depression-era drawings and paintings as well as African sculptures graced every wall and niche of the first home we visited. (Except for the master bath, where a brightly painted ceramic cow occupied the seat in the marble shower.)
Each home featured a silent auction item: a work of art created by a VMFA staff member. My bids didn’t “win” any of these treasures, but I sure enjoyed looking.
We entered each home ready for discovery. Period and modern furnishings, personal collections and even a small, fuzzy greeter (in the form of a friendly dog) helped us peek into the personalities of the people who own and love these homes.
It was an exceptional evening.
Gail Gilmore, VMFA Council Member
Sunday, October 4, 2009
This photo is of “Peanut Butter and Skully,” courtesy of Noah Scalin.
When I am programming for children and family events, it's easy to grump about all those administrative duties that come along with the job . . . the paperwork, reports, budgets . . . eh, let me stop there before I get in trouble!
But . . . I do get to develop educational programs that are just plain fun! Part of VMFA's mission is to support our state Standards of Learning through multi-disciplinary studies; I have the opportunity to achieve this goal by providing content in ways that are creative and inspiring within an unconventional learning environment.
For instance, "Night at the Art Museum" is a family event that I'm working on for Friday, Oct. 23, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Pauley Center. I began by thinking about activities that would be exciting for kids to do at a spooky, fall celebration. I experimented with several ideas to be sure the projects would be educational and super-fun . . . for the kids, of course. I made ooey-gooey slime, sketched skeletons, and designed jack-o'-lantern tote bags with the most ridiculous faces.
While making a mess of the studio and realizing how many leftover miscellaneous supplies were lying around, I came up with the perfect idea. Let me rephrase: Noah Scalin actually came up with the idea, and I simply adapted it to the event -- Skull-A-Day at VMFA! If you haven't heard of Scalin, check him out online. Scalin is a Virginia artist who one day decided he was going to create a new skull every day for a year using whatever materials were available, then post the results on his blog. The concept was revolutionary, and people from around the world habitually started to check his blog for each new skull. The artist appeared on nationally televised broadcasts. After a 'heady' year, a book called "Skulls" was published. It's now being sold in bookstores across the country.
And how, you may be wondering, does this tie into "Night at the Art Museum?" VMFA kids will have an opportunity to create their own unique skulls using a wide range of materials. Their masterpieces will be photographed and posted on Noah Scalin's award-winning blog. It's a fabulous idea -- they'll have a blast learning: about anatomy, an array of art concepts, how to manipulate materials, and that it really is possible to make a career out of being an artist (who knew?)!
Aside from art activities, the event will have a "haunted" twist on our Pauley Center tour, a costume contest for those who come dressed as their favorite artist or artwork, spooky stories, ghostly games and prizes.
Obviously, I could go on forever about how amazing my job is, but I wouldn't want anyone to feel bad about theirs not being quite as fun. Kidding! Seriously though, check out the upcoming event -- you'll be thrilled you did.
Megan L. Liles, VMFA Youth & Family Programs Coordinator