Madonna della Grazie

The sanctuary of the Madonna della Grazie in the province of Mantua is the spiritual home of the pavement artists, (called madonnari in Italian).

Grazie Madonna

The gilded icon of the Madonna delle Grazie embracing the Christ Child is still considered by the faithful to be a miracle-working image. Whether the Madonna is keeping plague outbreaks away from the village, or extending her grace to the local soccer team during an important match, the recipients of her grace have always left a visible token of gratitude.

When the icon was restored some years back it lost some of the mystery and complexity it had acquired with age. Paintings that are hundreds of years old often see multiple restorations that leave them looking better or worse depending on the hand of the restorer. In the 19th century, restorers tended to make the works a bit prettier, now the concept behind restoration is “scientific”. It strives to bring out the original pigments. This sometimes results in losing the spirit of the work. I created my own version of this sacred work as a fine art edition on an extremely rough surface that recalled “terra battuta,” a sort of beaten clay soil that was once used as a paving material both outdoors and indoors. It was the material that pavement artists would have used before asphalt and other materials existed. Because I am not obligated to present a “scientific” version of the work, I am free to visualize the image as it appears to my imagination.

The work can be seen at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The address is below:

Andrea Smith Galleries

Tlaquepaque

336 Hwy 179 Sedona AZ 86336

888-644-5444

Their website is here: Andrea Smith Gallery Home.

My page is here: Kurt Wenner

The Card Players

For many years I have created sumptuous architecture and decorations for elegant homes. Most of the works are behind locked doors and not available for public viewing. It is partly for this reason that I am generally better known for the pavement art that has always been available to the public. Between works that are locked up or simply washed away, I sometimes do not have as many works as I would like for shows. For this reason I have been making an effort to make new works as print editions and even to revisit some of the earlier themes that I no longer have access to.

Card Players

Card playing became a popular theme for painting by the early 17th century and usually depicted one of the players being duped. In this composition all of the figures are cheating in various ways, even using the animals as accomplices. This pastel is available as a fine art edition. It can be seen at the AFA gallery in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The address is below:

Grand Canal Shoppes (The Venetian)
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South #2058
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Telephone: 702.998.6975
Mon-Thurs & Sun 10AM – 11PM
Fri & Sat 10AM – 12AM

The AFA gallery represents a number of interesting artists. Their website is below:

AFA Gallery- HOME

The Fortune Teller

I created this composition in pastel as a companion to “The Card Players”. Here the young man is spellbound while an old fortune teller reveals secrets to him, unaware that the younger woman is lifting an expensive pendant from around his neck. A servant in the back is whispers private details to the old woman. The setting is a Venetian “carnivale” theme.

Fortune Teller

The carnival of Venice has an interesting history. It started in the year 1162 from a victory against the Patriarch of Aquileia. Under the rule of the King of Austria, the festival was outlawed entirely in 1797 and the use of masks became strictly forbidden. In 1979 the Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of their efforts. Today, approximately 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for Carnival. One of the most important events is the contest for la maschera più bella (“the most beautiful mask”) placed at the last weekend of the Carnival and juried by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.

 

Here is a fun piece of music. It starts out slowly, but the middle part is probably not for beginners:

Niccolò Paganini the Venice Carnivale

The artwork can be seen in another Venetian setting, the AFA gallery in the Venetian hotel. The address is below:

Grand Canal Shoppes (The Venetian)
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South #2058
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Telephone: 702.998.6975
Mon-Thurs & Sun 10AM – 11PM
Fri & Sat 10AM – 12AM

Madonna

This is a pastel drawing I made for my book Asphalt Renaissance to show traditional devotional imagery. It uses the classical renaissance technique of chiaroscuro, which is the subtle passage of light into darkness. I did pastel was done on a roughened surface similar to the pavement used by the Italian Madonnari, which literally means “painters of the Madonna”, but also applies to pavement artists in general. There is a special quality to the pastel on the rough surface that is unlike any other medium. This is very hard to achieve in permanent works and is made possible, in part, by making the pastels by hand.

Madonna 2

 

This image, along with others is on display at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The gallery specializes in sacred works from a wide variety of traditions. The address is here:

Andrea Smith Galleries

Tlaquepaque

336 Hwy 179 Sedona AZ 86336

888-644-5444

Their website is here: Andrea Smith Gallery Home.

My page is here: Kurt Wenner

Here is a really nice Ave Maria sung by Radu Marian: Radu Marian Ave Maria

Icon of Christ

34The last Supper was an all-time successful piece in Europe. It was always a bit of an interpretation, as Da Vinci’s original is in such a bad state that the figures are not very clear.

A couple of years ago I made an image of the center figure of Christ image for a one-man show at the Friday Harbor Museum of Art. I wanted to show the kind of traditional imagery that was used by pavement artists. There are actually not many simple, classical devotional images of Christ. Some of the most popular images have actually been cut out of larger works. I used a robe and position similar to those in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper, but the portrait part is completely original. Iconic images are made to help the devotee into a meditative state, for this reason they are restful and quiet.

Portrait of Christ

This image, along with others, is on display at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The gallery specializes in sacred works from a wide variety of traditions.

Their website is here: Andrea Smith Gallery Home.

My page is here: Kurt Wenner

 

Here is a nice instrumental piece that I like to play when I am working called Aria di Chiesa, traditionally attributed to Stradella: Aria di Chiesa

 

The Magic Flute


I have always enjoyed lyric opera, especially works composed in the baroque and classical periods. I don’t know why this is, I was never really introduced to the genre, but spontaneously began following the stories by reading the libretti. This helped me later when I went to Europe and had to learn different languages- it wasn’t as difficult to understand people.

Magic Flute

When I started the street painting festival in Fresno, California, I created an original composition based on Mozart’s The Magic Flute.  It was such a success that a couple of the city counsel members decided to commission the piece as an oil painting for the new city hall. Although they raised private funds for the work, there were some community members who protested the acquisition because it was not considered a work of art that followed the conventions of modernism. Once the mural was presented, the protesting stopped and the art was widely accepted. In the years that followed, I worked on numerous large-scale commissions of permanent works almost exclusively for private patrons in order to avoid these situations. Without street painting, the general public would have had little chance to see my work.

 

Papageno drawing

Queen of the Night 2

The original tonal drawings for Papageno and the Queen of the Night are available as print editions. They can be found in the print edition section of my store. Click here for more information.

 

 

Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night is a character from Mozart’s Opera, The Magic Flute. She first appears appears and tells the prince Tamino that her daughter Pamina will be his wife if he can rescue her from Sarastro (Recitative and aria: “O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn” / “Oh, tremble not, my dear son! You are innocent, wise, pious”). The Aria can be heard here, sung by Luciana Serra, a singer I heard myself in Naples in 1984:

Luciana Serra

Queen of the Night

I created this work in pastel as a fine art edition. The figure is reversed from my original painting so that it may be paired with the Papageno print. The pastel gives the work a lighter, more airy feeling than the oil paint. The work can be seen at the AFA gallery in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The address is below:

Grand Canal Shoppes (The Venetian)
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South #2058
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Telephone: 702.998.6975
Mon-Thurs & Sun 10AM – 11PM
Fri & Sat 10AM – 12AM

The AFA gallery represents a number of interesting artists. Their website is below:

AFA Gallery- HOME

 

Papageno

Papageno is a character from Mozart’s Opera, The Magic Flute. He enters the scene arrayed entirely in the plumage of birds. He describes his happy life as a bird-catcher and his longing for a wife, or, at least, a girlfriend (aria: “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja”).

His aria is sung by Walter Berry here: Papageno – Magic Flute

Papageno

 

I created this work in pastel as a fine art edition. It can be seen at the AFA gallery in the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. The address is below:

Grand Canal Shoppes (The Venetian)
3377 Las Vegas Blvd. South #2058
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Telephone: 702.998.6975
Mon-Thurs & Sun 10AM – 11PM
Fri & Sat 10AM – 12AM

The AFA gallery represents a number of interesting artists. Their website is below:

AFA Gallery- HOME

 

 

Paramahansa Yogananda

One of my favorite books has been Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, published in 1946. It is available as an audio book as well, which means I can sometimes listen to it while working. While the planning stages of my work requires a great deal of rational thought, the execution is often very intuitive. This means that I can play opera or listen to an audio book as I spend the long hours it takes to finish my works. This book tells great stories from Yogananda’s life, and just listening to it is a tangible spiritual experience.

Yogananda

Yogananda’s book has since been translated into twenty-eight languages. In 1999, it was designated one of the “100 Most Important Spiritual Books of the 20th Century”. Autobiography of a Yogi is the most popular of Yogananda’s books. It has sold more than four million copies and counting. Autobiography of a Yogi describes Yogananda’s spiritual search for enlightenment. The Autobiography has been an inspiration for many people including Steve Jobs (1955-2011), Co-Founder, former Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Apple Inc. In the book Steve Jobs: A Biography the authors writes that in preparation for a trip, Mr. Jobs downloaded onto his iPad2, the Autobiography of a Yogi, “the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager, then re-read in India and had read once a year ever since.”

Yogananda also wrote music and some of it was arranged and played by Brother Premamoy, a Serbian devotee and monk of the Self Realization Fellowship Order. Below is one work, The Land Beyond My Dreams:

In The Land Beyond My Dreams

There are many photographs of Yogananda as an adult but images are rare of him in his youth. I did this portrait of him in pastel as a fine art edition. It shows him as the young man that reveals himself in the book. It can be seen in the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The address is below:

Andrea Smith Galleries

Tlaquepaque

336 Hwy 179 Sedona AZ 86336

888-644-5444

Their website is here: Andrea Smith Gallery Home.

My page is here: Kurt Wenner

 

 

Byzantine Christ

This is a byzantine style rendering of the figure of Christ inspired by the Christ Deesis mosaic in the great Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul. I have been fortunate enough to visit the church on several occasions- it is truly one of the wonders of the world.

Byzantine ChristThe Hagia Sophia Church was dedicated to Christ as the Logos, the second person of the Holy Trinity. incarnation of the Logos in Christ. Sophia is the phonetic spelling in Latin of the Greek word for wisdom. “Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God”. It is particularly famous for its massive dome and remained the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years until the Seville Cathedral was completed in 1520.The original mosaic shows a rather severe looking Christ. I did the image for my book, Asphalt Renaissance to show an early style of devotional image. I softened the features while keeping the formal and stately composition. The work is done on a very rough surface, which recalls pavement art, but also the texture of a mosaic.

 

The work is part of a series of sacred images that are available as print editions.

It can be seen at the Andrea Smith Gallery in Sedona, Arizona. The address is below:

Andrea Smith Galleries

Tlaquepaque

336 Hwy 179 Sedona AZ 86336

888-644-5444

My page on their website is here: Kurt Wenner