The Mysteries of Mona Lisa

Tweet “The most famous painting in the world” - The Mona Lisa. La Joconde. La Gioconda. Leonardo’s masterpiece. The portait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is instantly recognizable to virtually everyone in the Western world. The Mona Lisa … Read More

"The most famous painting in the world" - The Mona LisaLa Joconde. La Gioconda. Leonardo's masterpiece. The portait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is instantly recognizable to virtually everyone in the Western world. The Mona Lisa practically has a cult following - but why? People crowd around the small portrait at the Musée du Louvre in Paris every day just to get a glimpse of the world's most famous smile, even from a distance. When I was living in Paris, I was taking an art history course that had me walking through the miles upon miles of galleries of the Louvre at least once a week. I spent hours taking it in and soaking up as much as I possibly could. Sometimes, I would go early on a Tuesday morning, and I would feel like the only person around - until I got to the Salle des États where The Mona Lisa is housed. No matter the time of day or week, there was always an admiring crowd surrounding the approximately 21 x 30 in. painting. Clearly there's something special about this painting. It is easily the most parodied work - from famed Dadaist Marcel Duchamp's L.H.O.O.Q. to one of Gallery Direct's own artists, Randy Slack.

The painting, created by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1519, has been the subject of much speculation and mystery for hundreds of years. Theories about its creation abound, and studies are still being done today as to the origins and formal qualities of the painting. In fact, artdaily.org reported this week that Alfonso Rubino has performed a geometrical analysis on La Joconde, revealing that Leonardo "worked the geometry found in his design of the Vitruvian Man into his paintings." According to Dr. Markus Frey of the Mona Lisa Foundation, not only is this a groundbreaking find, but is also confirms that a painting that was thought to be an earlier version of The Mona Lisa is in fact genuine.

The "Earlier Version," according to recent carbon dating, was created sometime between 1410 and 1450. There are so many theories as to the creation of the painting that an earlier version is sure to prove to be fuel for the proverbial fire. Theories about The Mona Lisa range from topics such as pregnancy, Bell's Palsy, high cholesterol, secret societies, biblical references, and many more.

The Mona Lisa has inspired people for centuries, but not always in a good way. In 1911, a worker at the Louvre, Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian patriot, stole the small poplar panel right from the wall of the Louvre, believing that despite the fact that the painting was completed in France and legally sold to the French king after da Vinci's death, the painting belonged to the artist's home country of Italy.

After biding his time for two years, however, Peruggia attempted to sell The Mona Lisa to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Officials at the Uffizi immediately notified the Louvre, at which point it was returned to Paris after an extended tour throughout Italy.

The painting has also been the target of many iconoclastic attempts. It was attacked twice in 1956, first by acid and then by a thrown rock, at which point it was decided that it could no longer be displayed without the protection of a bulletproof-glass case. Even after the case was added, however, it was the subject of vandalism in 1974 and more recently in 2009.

So why does this painting inspire people so much - whether it be to artistic creation, endless research, conspiracy theories, criminal activity, or violence? The enigmatic smile, the beautiful and slightly surreal landscape in the background, the facial geometry, the bodily arrangement of the portrait, the identity of the sitter, and numerous other inquiries have captured the world's attention.

Personally, as a student of art history (who admittedly does not focus on the Renaissance, and is by no means a da Vinci scholar), the formal execution of the painting is at the heart of the matter. Putting aside all of the theories and mysteries surrounding it, The Mona Lisa is, above all, an exemplar of Renaissance fastidiousness and ingenuity. The amount of detail and precision that was exercised by da Vinci is the most captivating element of the painting. The bizarre landscape, the ethereal veil that floats above her delicate curls, every fold on her dress, the considered use of sfumato - all suggest to me that the painting was created by an exceedingly patient, practiced, and loving hand. When I look at La Joconde, I envision the artist, meticulously tending to each line, each shadow on the relatively small panel. I see a life dedicated to artistry and aesthetic integrity.

So what do you think? Does The Mona Lisa inspire you? What do you think she's smiling at?

Reflect Your Style: Art on Mirror

Tweet Below is one of my favorite styles of gallery wall arrangements- showing off framed souvenirs paired with framed fine art. I would say that the style around my home is colorful and eclectic, to say the very least. Pair that … Read More

Below is one of my favorite styles of gallery wall arrangements- showing off framed souvenirs paired with framed fine art. I would say that the style around my home is colorful and eclectic, to say the very least. Pair that with an obsession for all forms of Art and imagery; from black and white photographic prints, vintage botanicals scans to more contemporary mixed media pieces and I’m left with dense gallery walls that I always find inspiring. Some may say (my fiancé) that this “everything goes” way of styling is crazy. I say, if you love to surround yourself with an abundance of beautiful art, hang it and apologize to no one! Since my tiny bathroom walls were sorely neglected in comparison to the rest of my house, this got me thinking that I could use mirror as my print material to create a tiny wall of art for my bathroom that would be functional, eclectic and unified. This realization blew my mind for a few reasons; to start the mirror reflections actually made my bathroom feel larger and now it exhibits work from some of my favorite local artists while simultaneously offering five new functional mirrors to choose from when primping, instead of one. Complete satisfaction. I found that the key to getting what you want out of mirror is to understand that there are  two very different styles that can be achieved when printing on mirror, which are completely determined by the white values in your image. If you think about it, when an image is printed on a white paper, the white areas of that image have little to no ink, revealing more of the natural white of the paper. Now apply that same logic to an image printed on mirror and try to imagine which areas will reveal raw mirror and which will be inked. One style is more dreamy and frosted with very little visibility through the image. The other style shows the image clearly defined from the mirror, making it possible to see reflections through the image in certain areas. To check exactly where those reflective areas are and to make double sure that your image will print out exactly how you've envisioned, you can check to see where your true white values are in your image by using the eyedropper tool in Photoshop or using Pixlr (an amazing free online photo editor). A perfect white value will give you a hexadecimal color code of #FFFFFF.   If you would like even more information about Art on Mirror, watch the video below. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9ViP4wsaho&list=SPKMUrphQ1ugmk4hbvGJT6ijMT2VE6rV3r&index=6 For information about the other offered materials watch our Our Unique Materials playlist.  
Being an art history geek has its quirks. How do I unwind after a long day at work? I scan through my old art history textbooks. I know it's kind of weird, but it gives me a sense of calm to flip through the well-loved pages and read the words of the scholars and thinkers who inspire me, and in turn, the artists who inspire them. Working with Gallery Direct adds a whole new dimension to my little meditation - with a quick click of a button, I can find high resolution images of my favorite paintings and prints. Last night, I was all zenned out while looking through one of my favorite books, Carol Armstrong's Manet Manette. Not only is this a groundbreaking text, but  it is also one of the first books that made want to go into art history. Armstrong spends her final chapter contemplating a single painting, Edouard Manet's A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882). This so happens to be one of my favorite paintings of all time, so I was thrilled to discover that it is also on Gallery Direct. Often heralded as Manet's last great painting, it certainly makes an impression. Not only is it beautifully executed - from the considered palette to the purposeful brushstrokes - it is a veritable field day for art lovers. Reading about this painting for the first time blew my mind. It simultaneously subverts traditional notions of perspective and viewership and yet is still utterly readable and relatable for any viewer. At first glance, it is simply a bar scene - the bottles on the counter frame the beautiful bartender as she waits to take an order. But upon further examination, you realize that the customer the bartender is waiting on is you, the viewer. She stares right at you, waiting. Digging even deeper, you realize that the background of the painting is in fact a reflection in a mirror, and to the right of the bartender, a face is reflected. Like I said, this painting can (and has) been discussed every which way for hours on end. One of my favorite things about it, though, is how it brings together so many of Manet's interests as an artist. While the Impressionists, his contemporaries, were interested in painting en plein air, or outdoors, and capturing the light and colors of nature, Manet's paintings are concerned with the emergence of modern Parisian life. Urban scenes and quotidian subjects abound in his oeuvre, along with a meditation on how art relates to consumerism. Fin-de-siècle Paris was a place of spectacle, and consumption of that spectacle was on the minds of its painters and writers. In Bar at the Folies-Bergère, Manet examines the idea of consumption from multiple angles - the subject itself, a bar, is a place for the consumption of alcohol and food. Moving beyond literal consumption, Manet examines how nineteenth-century Parisians consumed culture at the Folies-Bergère, a popular nightclub, how does the male customer depicted in the mirror "consume" the beautiful bartender, and how do we, as the audience, consume this piece of art? Manet is one of the most complex and confounding artists that I've come across, which is why, I think, he is my favorite artist. His paintings are beautiful and striking, and on top of that, they make me think. When it came down to it, my meditation last night turned into retail therapy - on a whim, I ordered a print of the painting, framed and on paper, through Gallery Direct. I am so excited to have a bit of art history right there on my wall for me to contemplate every day.

Life at Alt Summit as a Sponsor

Tweet Gallery Direct had the pleasure of participating in Alt Summit for the second year in a row.  The Altitude Design Summit is the definitive resource for the very serious business of beautiful, and brilliant blogging. Alt brings together a … Read More

Gallery Direct had the pleasure of participating in Alt Summit for the second year in a row.  The Altitude Design Summit is the definitive resource for the very serious business of beautiful, and brilliant blogging. Alt brings together a community of exciting and creative thinkers and entrepreneurs, complete with workshops and the opportunity to network with your friends, and friends-to-be! So how do the sponsors (companies like us) fit in? Gallery Direct decided to sponsor a dinner on Wednesday evening at one of Salt Lake City's finest restaurants, The Tin Angel.  It was an easy, casual way to get to know the Alt attendees and introduce Gallery Direct to this dynamic group of bloggers and entrepreneurs. What a good looking bunch huh? This dinner was my favorite event, as we had time to sit and learn about our guests, their blogs and life ventures. They are all inspiring and beautiful people. Each guest was given a photo print of a photo they sent to us -- how sweet is this print of Miranda's four year old dressed as a super hero!  For more photos from the dinner visit our facebook Alt photo album.     With two more full days and evening events, I knew we would all be running into one another. This is where you begin to feel like you have made more than a contact, you've made a friend. Check out this fun pic at the HP Photo Booth of (left) Miranda, owner of Onelittleminuteblog.com, (middle) Nichele Lindstrom from Gallery Direct, and me, Joie (right). These are the fun moments that Alt creates for sponsors and bloggers. "There's room for everyone at the table" was a quote I heard at one of the panels I attended and it stuck with me.  Everyone at Alt has many things in common, but the one theme I kept running into was passion.  Whether I met other sponsors or bloggers, or lawyers, or celebrities everyone was passionate. Yes, that is Jessica Alba chatting with bloggers about her company The Honest Co. Honest sponsored a lounge - which is another cool way a company can be sponsor at Alt. After learning about her company and trying a few of the products, I carry around the lavender mint chap stick and can't get enough of it. Other sponsors left gifts at seats, like those adorable earrings above and the last image is one of the biggest attractions at Alt. The business card wall.  Here's a closer look at those adorable cards- this was sponsored by Bing. Experiencing all the beauty created by bloggers and attendees at Alt leads us to one of the best parts -- the speakers!     I won't cover the full two days of panels we attended, but we walked away inspired and motivated to continue to make this world beautiful through artwork and everything we do. Recognize anyone??  It was an amazing line up.     One of my favorite quotes in life is "Love What You Do"  I found this quote turned into a beautiful piece of artwork sitting under my water glass at lunch.  These simple words were on a simple coaster that was created with love and passion, which is why it's so beautiful.

 As I ran my fingers over the perfectly embossed card, I was reminded that Gallery Direct's artists create their masterpieces with the same passion and love, because they love what they do. That is what Alt is about- everyone there loves what they do and they want to continue to keep the world beautiful.

Finding my Path at Home

Tweet I have been working at Gallery Direct since the beginning of November. What a delight it has been – I have artistic co-workers and see beautiful images all day.  I am a graphic designer and picking images for marketing … Read More

I have been working at Gallery Direct since the beginning of November. What a delight it has been - I have artistic co-workers and see beautiful images all day.  I am a graphic designer and picking images for marketing or the website is - to say the least - fun. Since I deal with beautiful images all day, I decided to put together an Evernote notebook for me (any mac users out there?!) with all the art that I wanted to buy from Gallery Direct. Almost 3 months went by, and my list surprisingly was mostly abstracts, a few Asians and lots of maps. Not to mention my own photos that I wanted to print. I would love to have my personal photos blown up and hung onto my walls. One day I realized that - duh - I didn't have enough walls for all that I wanted. I needed another list for my list. Focus! Reduce! Less is more. What did I really want for my house? Where in the house? Which wall? I realized that I would have to repaint some of my walls, because, when we bought the house in 2007, I went a little wild with the color palette, I admit it.  Now, those colors no longer make me happy. As we change, the colors that we love change, the ways that we think and react to visual stimuli also change.  I always welcome change!  Was I dying to repaint the walls? Ouch, no. So while being busy at work and having a high maintenance Border Collie that needs walks and exercise every day, I stopped adding images to my notebook. Until the day I had to make a banner for the homepage. Here it is: Inline image 1 That somehow lit up the little bulb above my head and in a weekend spell, I went to Lowe's and bought the paints I wanted, painted the living room and placed my order: 2 gigantic Todd Camp - Enlighted Path I and II, 48x36. That did it! It was just the "push" I needed to make everything else rock'n roll.  The purchase made me very happy - those colors represent so much of what I like in terms of art - freedom, color, energy (well, at least that's my view... art is art, right?). I also ordered a few smaller ones, which you'll see in the photos below. I don't think of my house as a "chic" place: I know it isn't.  Although I graduated in architecture, when it comes to my own place, it's always been more a joyful play - with room for experiments - rather than the "tried and true" styles that I know will work. Also, having 4 cats (and 8 clawed front-paws) and 2 dogs (how did that happen?), my house is not super tidy. That said, I beg you to please disregard my couch ;-))) Inline image 1 Above: Also look at that Border Collie with her moose toy - isn't she precious? ;-)))) Below: My bike has its own wall. You can not buy happiness, but you can buy a bike and art! Last photo: Colors, colors: such a blessing to be able to see them all!
Inline image 2
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What lights up your bulb?
-Marina

Selecting Art: Sailing in Couture Stilettos

Tweet My most recent project with Gallery Direct was selecting art with a couple in Austin, Texas that just moved from the East Coast. Two very different personalities presented themselves, which is always a fun design challenge. Nicola, a fashionista … Read More

My most recent project with Gallery Direct was selecting art with a couple in Austin, Texas that just moved from the East Coast. Two very different personalities presented themselves, which is always a fun design challenge. Nicola, a fashionista who has an extreme passion for abstract art and design. Her husband Christian, has an intense passion for sailing, the ocean, and very traditional. Their common denominator was entertaining their friends at their known dinner parties. Their Austin home had one of the best modern dining room layouts, providing his and her walls to showcase their personalities in their favorite room. Like everyone, they had a budget so we started at Gallery Direct. Nicola was shocked at the options, but extremely puzzled how to make this important space both theirs. She wasn’t real thrilled to be searching for an abstract ship to compromise. It was important for her to have something colorful and abstract of her own. To ease the overwhelming search for her we took three easy steps to get started, here they are:
  1. Check out the Brand New First Additions
  2. Use the search engine with key words that express an emotion you might want to feel in that room.
  3. Gallery Direct has the best Subjects section online. That is where we found what we were looking for. (Abstract for Nicoloa and Coastal and Tropical for Christian)
We choose the Brisbane by Brett Pfister with an aluminum finish for Christians wall and a series of four abstract pieces by Jamie Packard on gallery wrapped canvas for Nicola. Two Quick Tips:
  1. To help finalize your decision for your art selection, choose three, print them at home or your office, tape them on the selected wall(s). Leave them up for at least a day. By the end of that day you will know which one you want.
  2. When deciding on a size, use blue tape to safely show you the impact of the size on your wall.  Don’t be shy to go big!
Nicola and Christian were extremely excited to have their guests over. They now have amazing conversation pieces with the balance of vibrant energy and the calming sea showcasing both personalities they desired. Until the next project… Give the gift of art to your temple. Make it the colorful palace you look forward to coming home to. Sarah

Kid’s Bathroom Makeover

Tweet Recently I redid my kid’s bathroom and I love the way it turned out. Many people forget about the bathroom when it comes to art but it is the perfect way to make a statement in that room as … Read More

Recently I redid my kid's bathroom and I love the way it turned out. Many people forget about the bathroom when it comes to art but it is the perfect way to make a statement in that room as well. I love to use acrylic in the bathroom that way you don't need to be a worried about splashing water or steam from the shower. I have four girls who share this bathroom and I was looking for a cute kids theme that was not too cutesy as this bathroom is also used by guests in our home. I found an adorable kids themed shower curtain from Kushies but I needed some art. I ended up using the Multiverse II by Benjamin Arnot and it is perfect tying in the color theme while toning down the kid theme. I am thrilled with how the room turned out for more pictures and details about the bathroom makeover check out my whole post on Thrifty & Chic Mom.

A special visit from Manor High’s Art students

Tweet After the recent art makeover of Manor ISD’s Oak meadows elementary, the high school art students decided to visit the Gallery Direct offices in Austin, Texas.  Everyday we transform original works of art into pretty much anything you can think … Read More

After the recent art makeover of Manor ISD’s Oak meadows elementary, the high school art students decided to visit the Gallery Direct offices in Austin, Texas.  Everyday we transform original works of art into pretty much anything you can think up, from wall sized art to prints on unique materials such as birchwood and aluminum!   students admiring the gallery checking out our fun graffiti wall mural   The students were eager to see the equipment and the process we use to create the prints found throughout our office and we were excited to show them every step of the process, from imaging to framing; which is now widely spread out since our recent renovation and growth!     We could tell by the conversations the students were having towards the end of the tour about the many creative ways in which they could print their own artwork or possibly have  future careers working with art, that they left inspired - & of course not empty handed.

Move That Bus!!!

Tweet If you remember, a group of the Gallery Direct team went out to the Extreme Makeover Home Edition build last year.  The episode airs tonight!!!  Tune in to ABC at 7pm Central Time. The two hour show is the special Christmas-themed … Read More

If you remember, a group of the Gallery Direct team went out to the Extreme Makeover Home Edition build last year.  The episode airs tonight!!!  Tune in to ABC at 7pm Central Time. The two hour show is the special Christmas-themed episode, where host Ty Pennington visits the Zdroj Family of Smithville, TX. Mizzy Zdroj is a female firefighter volunteer whose own home was destroyed by the largest wildfire in Texas history. The episode features an appearance by BMX biker Matt Hoffman, Chef Art Smith and some special guests from "Star Wars." No longer than two months before we arrived to the home, the most destructive wild fire in Texas history ripped through this area destroying over 1,600 homes; leaving many families and the surrounding pine forests completely devastated. The community has since demonstrated that even a natural disaster of this magnitude couldn't keep them down. After the month long fire ended, volunteers with varying skills from Bastrop and surrounding areas banded together to rebuild their homes from rubble. Extreme Makeover spent a lot of time in Bastrop speaking to locals about the specific destruction they had experienced while also searching for a family who was in need of more than a little extra help. During their search they learned about the Heart of the Pines Volunteer Fire Department which had been completely destroyed during the fire while the firefighters were out battling the flames themselves. Members of the Heart of the Pines are all long standing volunteer members, but during such an unexpected and overwhelming catastrophe, many members of community left their homes behind to help aid the Firefighters defend what was left of the town they share and call home. One of these selfless individuals was Mizzie Zdroj. The Zdroj home was located less than 400 yards from the Heart of the Pines fire station, and burned to the ground in mere moments of each other. Abandoned foundations and burned single standing chimneys lined the road leading up to the Zdroj and Heart of the Pines site. It's heartbreaking to see the widespread damage throughout Bastrop and Smithville. In just 7 days, Extreme Makeover and the community not only rebuilt the Zdroj family home, but also completed a fire station for Smithville's Heart of the Pines firefighter family. As proud sponsors of this effort and Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Gallery Direct got out of the office for a few days and into the volunteer action over in Smithville. Nearing the end of the project, for 3 days hundreds of volunteers came out to help with the finals stages, from landscaping to simply moving furniture in. Every aspect of building these new structures was donated, sponsored and offered up freely by Extreme Makeover and the community. That's pretty powerful, see for yourself and tune in tonight at 7p (CT) on ABC.

BECAUSE ART = FREEDOM

Tweet “Because Art = Freedom” is written across the Touch a Life Foundation’s website, followed by, “These children are being empowered through the freedom of expression. They are learning, some for the first time, how to be kids and dream … Read More

“Because Art = Freedom” is written across the Touch a Life Foundation’s website, followed by, “These children are being empowered through the freedom of expression. They are learning, some for the first time, how to be kids and dream big. At one point in their lives, they were sold for the amount we pay for a few cups of coffee.” The Touch of Life Foundation is dedicated to rescuing children in Ghana, Vietnam and Cambodia that were sold into child slavery.  Providing holistic long-term child care to these vulnerable children, the foundation has rescued over 100 of the 7,000 children and use art as a way to heal. Gallery Direct learned about their mission and jumped at the opportunity to help these brave children.   We are honored to have recently donated artwork and supplies to help bring inspiration and a smile to these children.  The supplies included blank canvases, wallquotes, and empty frames. I encourage you to read the story about "Mark" on the home page that inspired the, "find your mark" campaign.  The story is heavy on the heart, but knowing that fortunate people, like most of us, have taken a stand to help these children is inspirational. "People say I rescued Mark, but the truth is, he rescued me. He has shown me what matters in life - the things that are really important. Without Mark, I’d never be the person, the woman, or the Mom that I am today. And it all started with the decisions to believe in myself, and to take a huge risk." - Pam Cope, Founder For more information about the Touch a Life Foundation please visit: http://www.touchalifekids.org