We're drawing a close to summer here in Pittsburgh, PA where our studio is located. But this doesn't mean we can't sneak in some unstructured days that include reading just for fun. This weekend we breezed through Tomie dePaola: His Art and His Stories by Barbara Elleman. I used dePaola books when I was teaching and especially loved The Art Lesson because it expressed a lot of the sentiment as to why I became an art teacher. I am drawn to dePaola's illustrations, the well balanced artistic layouts and incredibly thought out details of the pages of his books. It was a lovely surprise and thrill to read in this biography that the artist briefly designed church vestments!
I additionally was drawn to this statement," In Books and Religion, writer Mary Zeman, an artist and educator interested int he spiritual growth of children, comments that [dePaola's] voice is that of a receptive man,whose approach to his work betrays what Thomas Merton once described as the willingness of saints 'to answer the secret voice of God calling--to take a risk and venture by faith outside the reassuring and protective limits of our five senses.'" This makes me think of worship, how we do it, see it, experience it, etc. I understand and embrace that the visual is just one component.
To make the reader aware of how symbols are important to this artist's work the author explains the possibly puzzling image of Mary, the mother of Jesus on one of dePaola's book jackets who is holding an apple. Of course this fruit is more typically associated with Eve in the Old Testament. Here it is appropriate as a symbol for the virgin Mary because it was her son who took away the curse of sin. The artist didn't originate this symbol as the apple was used this way in medieval paintings. But it is exciting to know that dePaola applies his knowledge of the past to encourage us to make visual connections today. Learning how dePaola is drawn to the history and use of religious symbols helps me to further understand why I have felt a connection and admiration to his work. I certainly don't have the artistic credibility of dePaola but I'd like to think that we put similar thought and credibility into the how and why we use symbols in our work at Carrot Top Studio.