My (virtual) life as an author

After decades as a professional artist, donning an author hat has been an adjustment. The new role has provided both familiar and novel experiences as well as opportunity for self-reflection. I discovered that the creative process in both the visual and literary arts follows a familiar, tortured path from the germ of an idea through to fruition. Inspiration, dedication, perseverance and self-doubt all make their appearance, and once your creation has left the nest it attracts the entire gamut of critical acclaim, from snide remarks to adoration. That’s actually a good thing because it forces a balance between suicidal thoughts and swollen heads!

There are differences, however. A book has the potential to reach more eyeballs than a painting ever can (Picasso aside). And although I have participated in virtual exhibitions since COVID arrived on our shores, I have found that there are multiple platforms out there for authors to discuss their books – apart from podcasts, most booksellers, book clubs and libraries have also pivoted to virtual author events.

I’m delighted to invite you to two exciting, upcoming events lined up for ‘L’Origine

PLEASE JOIN ME IN ‘AN EVENING WITH THE AUTHOR‘ AT THE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS FEBRUARY 17TH
PLEASE JOIN ME IN DISCUSSION WITH THE DIRECTOR OF DC ALLIANCE FRANCAISE ON FEBRUARY 12. DISCUSSION WILL BE HELD IN ENGLISH.

******OTHER EXCITING NEWS FOR ‘L’ORIGINE’******

L’Origine was just selected for the 2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award. So validating!!! It had to score top marks on cover, title, story, dialogue, developmental editing, etc.

FRANCE BOOK TOUR JANUARY 19-29 :
Ten virtual ‘stops’ with ten book review blogs that specialize in books with French themes.
Read what stop #1 French Village Diaries had to say:

L’Origine paints a colorful picture of a special work of art and opened my eyes to periods of art, history and culture I was unaware of. We see the power the painting has over relationships and the trouble it causes, but also the pleasure it brings too. Lilianne’s passion for this piece and its story had me fascinated.

Virtual events will have to do until we can all meet in person again 🙂

It’s that time of year again…

It’s that time of year again.”

In the US, one usually understands that to mean Christmas. But it’s also the time of year when Hanukah/Chanukah rolls around – the Jewish festival that celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the larger Syrian army. Chanukah has more or less been distilled into the symbol of the Menorah, the eight-branched candelabrum that is lit over a period of eight days to commemorate a miracle that occurred during this period. But this isn’t a blog about the the history of Chanukah so much as a tiny sampling of the multiple forms this candelabrum can take on in the hands of contemporary artists and artisans.

One of the oldest images of a Hebrew candelabra from the 4th century

CONTEMPORARY VERSIONS

Oh, how far we have come from the original design…!!!

I myself have designed a number of menorahs. Here are two of them.

Lilianne Milgrom (SOLD)
I created this menorah while living through the Second Intifada in Israel, a period of time during which I truly feared for the very continued existence of the State of Israel…I feel better about that future right now but not without reservation.

Please share links in the comments to menorahs that you possess or that you have come across 🙂

Happy Hanukah/Chanukah to one and all!

What’s in your bed?

We spend close to a third of our days in bed. So it’s not surprising that artists through the ages have found it to be a rich source of inspiration. A lot happens in a bed. Sleep. Sex. Dreams. We cry in bed, laugh in bed, nurse babies, cuddle with animals, read novels, watch TV, recover from illness and even die in our beds. I’ve selected a very small spattering of thought-provoking bed art examples.

Le Lit’ (The Bed) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1892

Most of you may be surprised to discover that the painter famous for cancan dancers and cabarets created a series of intimate portraits of people in bed. This one is in the Orsay Museum collection and I love it because it’s unclear whether the person on the right is nodding off to sleep or peering beneath drooping lids to see if their partner is already asleep. You may be further surprised to learn that the women in these paintings are prostitutes sharing a bed in their brothel.

Frida Kahlo in bed. Photograph by Juan Guzman 1950

Frida Kahlo may well be the most recognizable female artist in the world. Her unibrow and floral headdresses are so iconic as to be almost cliché. But a vast proportion of her art explores her lifelong suffering following a tragic accident. She underwent numerous operations and treatments that required her to spend months on her back. During these times, her bed was the stage for her entire existence. Most of us would not have survived, let alone have the physical, mental and emotional strength to create the unforgettable and magnificent paintings she produced in her bed.

My Bed Tracy Emin 1998

This installation piece was exhibited in the Tate Gallery in 1999 and shortlisted for the Turner Prize (trust me, that’s a big deal). But you can imagine that the public were confused, angered and befuddled by the work. I think it’s rather brilliant – Ms. Emin apparently awoke after a four-day stay in bed bingeing on alcohol while in a depressive state. When she stumbled out of bed she realized that the filthy mess was symbolic of every emotion she had lived through in those four days. No self-portrait could have said more. To critics who observed that anyone could put their bed in a museum, the artist responded: “Well, they didn’t, did they?” Right on. Watch the video to hear her talk about it.

Maggie Siner Bed and Angel

Maggie Siner is one of my very favorite contemporary artists. Her superb gestural, fresh paintings reflect her daily life. She was born in Providence, RI, lived and taught in Paris for many years and since 2008, has lived in Venice. The way her bed series captures the morning light takes my breath away. It’s worth reading about her many careers on her way to becoming a master painter – it’s hard to believe she fit all that in one lifetime!

Break of Dawn Lilianne Milgrom

I painted this piece with the intention of capturing that dreamlike state just as our bodies and minds are awakening to a new day. In these troubled times we have to remind ourselves to be grateful for every single day we are blessed with, and to be mindful of every breath we take.

Le Sommeil (The Sleep) Gustave Courbet 1866

Last but not least, a painting by my favorite 19th century renegade painter, Gustave Courbet. This painting is not outstanding for its figurative excellence but for the subversive statement it made at the time of its creation. Le sommeil makes an important cameo appearance in my recently released novel ‘L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece’.

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY CLICK HERE

Sleep tight!!!

Limitless possibilities

I have been a fan of Lori Katz’s ceramic work for a number of years. She finds within the confines of a square ceramic tile infinite possibilities for creative expression and her singular approach never seems to get stale.

I am intrigued by contrast, the play of dark against light, the pull of empty space against the inclination to fill it up, placement of line and shape, the use of subtle texture…” says Lori. She finds inspiration in the fundamental building blocks of geometry, often playing with the dynamic tension between two- and three-dimensional elements.

Lori is not concerned with presenting a narrative, but rather with imprinting her mark-making on her canvas of choice – clay. Her work is constantly evolving and responding to her environment. “I have learned that in the end, process is never simple and good design is always balanced and strong.”

Current racial and political tensions have subtly inserted themselves into her work in the form of more muted colors and heightened surface texture.

Lori’s work brings to mind a line from Pat Conroy’s novel Beach Music: “No story is a straight line”. Similarly, no square tile is ever subject to conventional or predictable treatment in Lori’s hands – her motto is “no rules”. The works are striking on their own or as a grouping, large or small.

Recently, the artist has surprised herself by expanding beyond wall art to create a series of vessel forms with her unique mark-making.

Lori maintains a studio in Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory, although she is not there in person during the pandemic. Like most artists, her upcoming shows are all virtual. Details of her upcoming exhibitions can be found on her website.

BEFORE YOU GO, CHECK OUT MY RECENT PODCAST INTERVIEWS ON LA VIE CREATIVE AND CEREBRAL WOMEN ART TALKS PODCAST HERE.

L’ORIGINE IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND EBOOK VERSIONS.

IF YOU STILL HAVEN’T PURCHASED YOUR COPY, CLICK HERE

Artists and models

Oftentimes, the models who posed for famous paintings are overlooked. We are much more inclined to focus on the artist and on trying to interpret the meaning behind the painting. Except for a handful of iconic paintings, the models’ identities remain unknown, as do their stories. Take this painting for example:

Some of you may recognize it as Edouard Manet’s famous Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass, 1832–1883). The jarring image of the naked picnicker is probably quite familiar. She appears in a number of Manet’s paintings including his famous Olympia:

Who was this gal and what was her story? Her name was Victorine Meurent. Her fascinating story is the subject of a newly released historical fiction novel, Victorine by Drēma Drudge. The book pulls the curtain back on Ms. Meurent’s life, her relationship with Manet and her own artistic aspirations.

I’m thrilled to have secured an exclusive interview with author Drēma Drudge who will also select one of my lucky blog followers for the giveaway prize of a free copy of Victorine. Read the interview below.

Welcome to Art and Beyond, Drēma! What inspired you to write a book about a model as opposed to the painting or the artist?

From the moment I saw Victorine Meurent as Olympia in the painting by Manet, I felt she had things to say that the canvas couldn’t contain. Her eyes were condemning the viewer, yes, but it went deeper than that; to me, she was clearly playing a role and not with much patience. Her personality was so large that even Manet couldn’t wrestle it into staying on the canvas alone.

My first encounter with her was as a PowerPoint slide a professor put up for his class The Painted Word.  I couldn’t quit staring from one side of the painting to the other. When I saw the actual painting at Musée D’Orsay the next year, I had an even more intense feeling that Victorine really did want to speak to me. That’s when I began to research her and discovered that she was also an artist herself.

Long story short, I didn’t choose her; she chose me.

There were many model muses in art history. I have to ask – why Victorine?

The more I studied Victorine, the more I discovered that outside of Manet’s paintings, we don’t know much about her. She needed someone to give her back a voice, to bring her back to “Herstory.” For instance, no one remembered that she was an accomplished artist!

The primary book I studied to learn what little there is to know was Alias Olympia by Eunice Lipton. At the time she wrote her book in the 1990’s, no paintings of Victorine’s were thought to have survived.

By 2004, one painting had been rediscovered and had made its way into the museum in Colombes, the town Victorine lived in when she died. Though I really wanted desperately to see other paintings of hers, because I felt I would know so much more about her if I could see her subject matter and how she painted, at least I had the one. I’d have to make it enough, or so I thought.

Thankfully, during my research, my husband and I put together clues and rumors, did deep internet dives, and found that not only one, but that recently three more of her paintings have been recovered. I was giddy to discover this!  

The most exciting one is on my book’s back cover. It’s her self-portrait, one from 1876 that was accepted by the prestigious Paris Salon in a year when Manet’s work was rejected. We believe my book is the first place her self-portrait has been printed, and I am so honored.

Being able to study how she saw herself, instead of seeing her as only painted by so many men, helped me to feel confident that I had read her correctly. (We didn’t discover the painting until just before the book went to press, and yes, my editor said she would stop the press while I made a few last-minute adjustments.)

Do you think Manet would have been inspired to paint some of his most famous works if it were not for Victorine?

No, I don’t think he would have. You see Victorine in those paintings of his such as Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass, and who could have modeled with that same aura of arrogance, confrontation, and simultaneous disengagement that was so prevalent in his paintings of her? I think her bravado gave him courage.

One of the interesting and unexpected discoveries in your novel is the fact that Victorine was an artist in her own right. How did this influence her role as Manet’s muse?

                It appears that Victorine didn’t officially become an artist until after she quit sitting for Manet, and yet that artist’s eye must have been developing in her all along. I think they more or less “co-created” the paintings. In my novel I have her challenging him, helping him to really think about what he’s painting and why. I can’t know if that’s how it was in real life, and yet his was such a unique talent, it does seem that he had to have been influenced by someone or something outside of what was in vogue. I’d like to think that someone was Victorine. 

QUALIFY TO WIN A FREE COPY OF ‘VICTORINE’! CLICK ON THE LIKE BUTTON FOR THIS BLOG POST AND INCLUDE ‘VICTORINE GIVEAWAY’ IN A COMMENT. GOOD LUCK!


My own recently released novel ‘L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece‘ divulges the identity of a model who has remained a mystery for over a century. The book is receiving amazing reviews – check it out and order a copy for yourself or as a gift. Merci!!!

An artist paints with words

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is artists-hand-i-2.jpg
First stroke Acrylic on canvas

OK. You all get it by now: I love art. I love the drag of my loaded brush against the canvas and the sensuous feel of wet clay spinning beneath my hands. I also love how art can come to life through words. Reading about the lives of famous artists and the stories behind their seminal works adds important context that a purely visual encounter cannot. My novel L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece was inspired by the remarkable odyssey of an iconic 19th century painting that continues to ruffle feathers to this day. Lots of exciting podcast interviews, articles and live readings are coming up in place of a traditional book tour.

Click on the image below for a delicious teasing clip of Lynne Hanley from Beyond the Palette in London announcing the upcoming interview about my book. Her motto is Art, Drama and Passion. She delivers on all three! For the full interview click here.


********DON’T MISS THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE*******

Before you rush off I’d like to recommend two recent novels by women authors who shed light on the hardships that female artists faced in different centuries and cultures.

Sofonisba. Portraits of the Soul by [Chiara Montani, Verna Kaye]

Sofonisba is a historical novel with the taste and the colors of the Renaissance. You’ll fall in love with this unforgettable heroine.

The Painter from Shanghai: A Novel by [Jennifer Cody Epstein]

The Painter from Shanghai is a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and her transformation from prostitute to post-Impressionist.

Namaste.

See Spot run: Where it all began…

Painting by Lilianne Milgrom. Acrylic on canvas

Who can remember the thrill of learning to read? I distinctly remember the very first time my heart leapt as I strung letters together to sound out a word. That memory is so vivid that I created an installation called Memory in Yellow that was exhibited at Artomatic in Washington DC several years ago.

I had found a reprint of the Dick and Jane book that I learned to read from and that inspired me to recreate my memory as a site specific installation.

Nothing much has changed since then in so far as my love of reading – if I don’t have at least four books in the pipeline I start feeling anxious! Over the years I have channeled my creativity in both the visual and literary arts.

Which brings me to my HUGE, EXCITING, LONG-AWAITED NEWS!!!!!!!!!

Yep – that’s my name there…I can’t quite believe it myself. It only took me ten years but who’s counting?? I just posted this cover reveal on Instagram and wanted to share the news with my loyal blog readers as well. Lots more in the weeks to come about L’Origine but if you can’t wait and are inclined to *PRE-ORDER* a copy of this historical novel that traces the riveting odyssey of the world’s most erotic masterpiece, be my guest! I guarantee an enlightening, fun ride 😉

Tattoo art and the military

For close to two decades, media immersion placed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan squarely in our sights. With the troop draw down beginning in 2010, media attention turned to the returning veterans. News of the shameful bureaucratic difficulties they encountered became more frequent, as were stories about the lasting emotional, psychological and social impact of war.  

I felt compelled to portray these young men and women as the diverse individuals they are, deserving of our respect and recognition for their personal sacrifice, irrespective of our political views on the conflict. As the project began to take form, I discovered that their tattoos provided insight into their journeys, their personal experiences and their beliefs and I chose to expose their stories by translating them into a visible medium that would far outlast the individuals themselves: porcelain.

The Battleskin project is ongoing.

Take care over this Memorial Weekend.

Behind the mask

MASK COLLAGE 3
Lilianne Milgrom  Collage 2020

In the throes of the global pandemic, the mask has become far more than just a face covering. It has become the symbol of our times and a lightning rod for diametrically opposed political views. Different interest groups are playing tug of war with guidelines for wearing masks while behind the scenes PPE masks and the materials required to produce them have spurned a black market run by profiteering opportunists – or smart entrepreneurs, depending on which side of the geopolitical divide you’re on.

Which brings me to the unlikely subject of this month’s blog post: The world’s newest superhero, Maskman! Forget Superman – or Batman for that matter. Maskman is here!

This is no fictitious comic action figure, although this real-life ‘hero’–known to millions of giddy Chinese fans as the Mask Hunter–has all the makings of one: square jaw, tight fitting black turtle-neck, and a world view that is ruthless yet ethical in a self-serving sort of way. Meet 30-year-old businessman, Lin Dong from Guandong province.

Lin Dong (2)

As the saying goes, one man’s misfortune is another man’s fortune. And that’s the way Lin Dong sees it. While the world is succumbing to COVID-19, Lin jet sets around the world buying up as much of that superfine, super-expensive fabric that filters out virus-carrying particles. Welcome to the COVID world’s hottest commodity: melt-blown, nonwoven fabric. And don’t even try to unload that cheap spun substitute onto the Mask Hunter. Lin can smell a rip-off a mile away. It’s got to be melt-blown or nothing. His primary suppliers are sleazy arms dealers who have temporarily pivoted away from illegal arms to COVID-inhibiting shmattes because the profit margins are astronomical.

How did businessman Lin Dong become a Chinese superstar sensation? Here’s where art comes into it. Chinese video blogger Wu Dong stumbled upon our dashing hero carving out a deal in a hotel in Istanbul and immediately saw the film making potential. He cozied up to Lin Dong’s pretty sidekick and got the green light to tag along and film Lin Dong’s deal making.

The resulting eight-part series “Mask Hunter” was a blockbuster. Over one hundred million viewers and counting. Lin’s search for the rare fabric has made him millions but he stands to lose it all in a bad deal. His Chinese fans are rooting for him as if he were the Robin Hood of PPE, unlike those money-hungry American profiteers. KABAM!

On that note, I’ll sign off with a powerful and thought-provoking video about masks created during lock down by fellow artist, Reda Abdelrahman. Click HERE to watch.

maskreda

You can read more about Reda in this interview by CARAVAN as well an interview with yours truly here.

Stay safe!

Another of my articles on face masks can be found on Medium.com.

Praying that it’s over soon…

The world is going through a crisis, a global pandemic, an unprecedented assault by an unseen enemy. Call it what you will, COVID 19 is literally killing us while we’re waiting for our lauded scientists and medical professionals to get us out of this. In the meantime, we’re sitting at home reading, playing, working, singing, chatting, zooming, eating, drinking, crying, watching Netflix and praying that this will be over soon. Praying, the way I see it, is a personal and intimate dialogue with whatever form of Spiritual Other people find comfort in believing in. We’re all searching for ways to comfort ourselves and others during this difficult time and if prayer does the trick, why not?

These thoughts brought to mind an installation I created in 2014 entitled ‘Virtual Angel’.

virtual angel II

‘Virtual Angel’ was created specifically for an international traveling exhibition called AMEN. I was honored to have been selected by CARAVAN as one of 18 Western artists to join with 30 leading Egyptian artists in building bridges between faiths and cultures through Art. Each participating artist received a life-sized fiberglass figure in prayer with which to create a personal expression of prayer.

Close up back

I chose to transform my figure into an angel as angels appear in the sacred texts of Christianity, Judaism and Islam as well as in ancient manuscripts that predate those texts. These winged creatures straddle the celestial and earthly worlds acting as divine helpers, intermediaries, protectors, and emissaries.

But I wanted to find a way to actively engage the public and provide the viewer with an opportunity for personal prayer. By using a mobile phone to scan the QR code I emblazoned on the angel’s chest (below), viewers were able to send their personal prayers to the world with a click of a finger.

Virtual angel III

My Virtual Angel provided a means of bridging the spiritual world and the contemporary digital world. It seemed fitting that these digital prayers are sent to the cloud for safe keeping. I invite you now to scan the QR code and send your own prayers out into the world.

Angel QR

If you do not have a QR code scanner on your mobile phone and wish to send a digital prayer to the cloud, you can do so directly by clicking HERE where you can also read the anonymous prayers that have been sent out by others. And for what it’s worth, I’m sending my prayers out to one and all for a safe and healthy sheltering. Take care.