Have you ever noticed that using words like “summer” or “lunch” as verbs (as in, “where do you summer?” or “ladies who lunch”) fashions speech with a generally fancy air?
It is like the verbal equivalent of tying a cardigan around your shoulders.
In the Gilded Age, history-booked robber barons, like the Vanderbilt’s, would summer in Newport, Rhode Island, and lunch in some of the country’s finest mansions – ironically enough, called “cottages.”
The Newport mansions – with their grand curving staircases and twinkling crystal chandeliers – seem to only mock their moniker “cottage’s” simple dwelling connotations.
But, there is a reason that these monopoly masterminds and glittering socialites selected Newport, Rhode Island as their summertime sojourn. Frankly, Newport is stunning.
Beyond the Gilded Age glamor of rotating RSVP’s, the beach city’s shimmering ocean views and beaches outlast and inspire.
Our artist of the week, Mia Henry, grew up in Newport Rhode Island, and has been profoundly influenced by its oceans.
“I was fortunate to grow up with the ocean as my backyard,” says Henry.
Though she currently resides in Pittsburgh, she still finds herself in the wake of inspiration left by her childhood memories of Newport:
“When I felt ‘down,’ I would retreat to my secret spot at the bottom of 40 steps on the rocky edge of the shore. If the waves weren’t too big and if I sat right at the exact spot, all I could see was water…everything else just disappeared. The ocean was endless, vast, and let me vanish into it,” she says.
While some have suggested that standing by the ocean, in all its vastness, can turn individuality into a dissolving tablet of salty solipsism, Henry offers a sunnier outlook on the same phenomenon.
“There’s something truly awesome about the moment when you realize that you’re just part of something…and that you’re only ever just a small part,” says the artist.
To Henry, the ocean’s grandeur is a reminder of the individual’s integral part in the beautiful, amazing whole.
This notion echoes through her art. For example, in Isolate (50”x50”), an oil painting, whose part-to-whole relationships plays – perhaps, as a gestalt theory hat tip – throughout the canvas.
The interlocking geometric forms often seen in in the middle situated in the background – not unlike the way an island in the sea. However, rather than becoming overwhelmed by the background the paintings they create a mutually enriching relationship.
Even the set up in her studio creates an archipelago of canvases across her studio floor.