Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Merry Christmas

"Giotto Madonna" Terry Nelson, Acrylic and gold on wood. 2010

I finished the plate just in time for Christmas.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nativity Angels

I painted these angel panels for a Nativity presepio last year. Looking back on the photos of the panels this year, they don't seem as bad as I thought they were. I almost could have made them into Christmas cards or something. At the time of installation I was somewhat embarrassed about the paintings - thinking they were too schmaltzy. I never was asked back to paint more panels, so I wondered if the work I did wasn't quite right - it may not fit in with the display as it evolves from year to year now. I wasn't at all insulted about not being asked back mind you - I was more than content to do the work and move on.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Giotto: Madonna and Child (Detail, Scrovegni Chapel)

Posted by Picasa

What I am working on now...

About 25 years ago I bought many wooden objects to paint for a Christmas shop in a chic little store.  Among the items I purchased was a blank wooden plate.  I gessoed and sanded it and laid out a design based upon the Giotto frescoes in the Scrovegni in Padua.  I got as far as laying the cartoon (drawing) for the painting, and painting in the lapis background.  I lost interest in the panel after I was unable to meet my deadline for the design firms Christmas cocktail opening.  Everything else was ready save for this.  Long story short - I began work on it once again about 3 weeks ago.  I'm painting with a very small brush and the work is quite detailed - and it is taking awhile to finish. 

St. Catherine of Alexandria Carried By Angels To Sinai

Posted by Picasa

More of what I have been working on...
I of course believe many pious legends - one being the story that angels carried the relics of St. Catherine to Sinai.  That said - I'm not sure many people witnessed the miracle - in fact God loves to reveal himself in a cloud of unknowing - hence my depiction of the Saint transported in a mysterious cloud, which, as one might imagine, not only concealed the relics of the holy virgin, but the angels as well.  Some like to say monks did the work, but I say never attribute to men, much less monks, the good only to be found in God.

St. Xenia of Petersburg

Posted by Picasa

What I have been working on.
I recently finished this little icon of St. Xenia, a Russian Pilgrim/Fool for Christ Saint.  It is a 5 x 7 panel which fits nicely in a hand carved wooden architectural frame.  I wish I could say I carved the frame, but I didn't.  I bought it about 25 years ago.

Xenia is depicted in her husband's old military coat, which she is said to have always worn.  She made her home in a cemetery in St. Petersburg - a true desert saint - hence one may understand my prejudice when it comes to modern hermits.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Descent Into Hell

Descent Into Hell, Terry Nelson  1990
Acrylic, gold leaf on canvas (36"x48")

I finally re-photographed this piece after so many years.  (The photography is not done well - I shot it outside on a cloudy day and the canvas appears warped - or the problem may be the mount on the surface supporting the panel - either way, it's off.)  I painted it in the style of an 'altar-piece' or a classical icon with scenes from the life of, which is why I sometimes like to subtitle it "A day in the life of..."  Most people ask why I used the lyrics and titles from the Beatles' Abbey Road album throughout the piece.  Aside from the fact I found the medley and lyrics of some of the songs on the album to fit whatever I was documenting at the time, I also listened to the album obsessively while painting.  (If you click on the photos you may be able to read the titles on the close-up.)  Abbey Road has been important to me since its release, and the painting was an intense project for me - that's all I can say. 

The panel documents a difficult life and the subjects attempt to understand it.  The two allegorical figures in the niche on either side of the title panel - The Descent - Sebastian and Samson respectively, represent two related curses:  abuse and addiction.  I used classical anatomical figures for the 'statuary'.  St. Sebastian was first martyred by being shot with arrows - left for dead - he subsequently revived to face a martyr's death later.  It is with that understanding Sebastian was chosen to represent the effects of abuse, and specifically sexual abuse, which can be likened to a sort of death of the spirit in those who experience it. Samson has often been referred to by spiritual writers and in allegory as an example of the soul enslaved by sin, or as secular culture describes in modern psychological terms, addiction. 

Without going into much more detail, let me just say the panel isn't meant to be described in total for the viewer, except to point out that each scene represents/documents an aspect of abuse, molestation, seduction, temptation, rape, sin, isolation, alienation, dying, conversion, confession,  and finally reconciliation .

Note:  The painting was in the collection of a former gallery owner who is now deceased.  His estate returned the panel at my request.  The panel is currently scheduled to become a part of the private collection of a collector of outsider art.

My apologies to those offended by the subject matter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Landscape with figure.

"Priest" Terry Nelson 2010
Acrylic on canvas.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cappa Magna Americano

Cappa Magna Americano - Terrance Nelson, 2010
8 x 8 acrylic on canvas.

An American Archbishop who enjoys his job.
Posted by Picasa

Memento Mori

The Life I live Now - Terrance Nelson, 2010
8 x 8 acrylic on canvas.

Adapted from an Owe Zerge memento mori, I interpreted his composition to suit my concept. I replaced the Franciscan habit with a pair of my blue jeans, used Zerge's skull and book of hours, and added my rosary. The quote from the poetry of John of the Cross reads: "The life I live now is no life at all".
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Untitled - Terry Nelson 2010
Acrylic on 8 x 8 canvas.
My apologies that the colors are so washed out - it was difficult to capture the panel with my little camera.

(After Simon Marmion.)
Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 24, 2010

St. Simeon Stylite

Simeon Stylite - Terry Nelson 2010
6 x 12 acrylic on canvas

Another painting of an icon depicting a type of early ascetic. A type of stylite monks descended from this saint, the first recorded to have lived an ascetic life atop a pillar. According to early accounts the reason Simeon adopted the life of a pillar ascetic was to avoid the crush of people who sought his prayers and advice. Since he couldn't flee to a more remote spot, he ascended. The pillar was raised over time to sixty feet, holding a twelve foot square platform, surrounded by a balustrade. The saint's meager ration of food was raised by basket, while the needs of nature were said to have been relieved off the side as needed. The saint is said to have lived thirty-six years atop the column.
Luis Bunuel made a film based upon the saint's life. An atheist, Bunuel was impressed with the authentic, albeit radical faith of the early desert saints. In his film he pulls together much of the wisdom expressed by the writings of the early desert fathers, creating a remarkably accurate depiction of the spiritual combat engaged in by the early ascetics. Interestingly enough, the film ends with the saint transported into modern society amidst a noisy disco. It is a scene at once evocative of some of the temptations of the early desert fathers, as well reminiscent early prophecies regarding monastic life in the later times, not to mention the secular intellectualism which seemed to dominate institutionalized monasticism after the Council.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Skipper

"Untitled" - Terry Nelson
8 x 8 acrylic on canvas 2010
Sort of a homage to Magritte.
Posted by Picasa

Terry Nelson: Self-Portrait

"The Fool" - Terry Nelson
6 x 12 acrylic on canvas 2010

An exercise in daily painting, I spent less than 3 hours on this - preliminary sketch included. I painted it after an icon of St. Basil the Fool for Christ. The backdrop is a stylized view of Minneapolis from the St. Paul side of the Mississippi river. The burned bridges are an obvious metaphor.
Actually, the painting is meant to be something of a 'spiritual' self-portrait, as such, the entire composition is metaphor.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 3, 2010

Levitating Pear

Still Life Levitating, Terry Nelson
Oil stick on paper.
I did this in 2008 - so you see how long I've been thinking about painting things levitating.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

St. Benedict Joseph Labre

Saint Levitating, Terry Nelson, 2010
6" x 12" Acrylic on canvas.
Posted by Picasa

Man Levitating

Or is he?
Man Levitating, Terry Nelson, 2010
6" x 12" Acrylic on canvas.
Posted by Picasa

St. Francis of Assisi

St. Francis Levitating - Terry Nelson, 2010
6" x 12" Acrylic on canvas
I adapted the figure of St. Francis from an old master painter, whose name I can't recall - I'll update this when I come across the origins. I wanted to show St. Francis in a habit similar to that of the Friars of the Immaculata.
Posted by Picasa

Levitating Celebrity Fundraiser

"Celebrity Fund Raiser" - Terry Nelson, 2008
16" x 20" Crayon and oil stick on paper.

I once titled this the "Apotheosis of Fr. X" - although a couple of people some how assumed I was making fun of Fr. Z. I hate it when that happens. In reality it is a story about an unfortunate Brazilian parish priest who made a balloon trip to raise funds for his parish and became lost at sea. Sadly his remains washed up on the coast line several days (or weeks) later. I can't recall the exact details of the story now. I recently refined the cloud cover with oil stick glazes. The photo of the painting was shot with hand-held camera outdoors.  I know nothing about photography.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Notice the Detail

Notice the Detail, Terry Nelson, 2010
8' x 8" acrylic on canvas

I just painted this yesterday. 
Posted by Picasa

Monday, April 26, 2010

Out For A Ride

Pope John XXIII
Out For A Ride, Terry Nelson, 2010
8" x 8" Acrylic on canvas.

Inspired by a photograph I came across online, I found the composition humorous enough to document. Imagine the soundtrack from La Dolce Vita as you view this.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel of Haiti

A friend of mine had the icon photographed professionally. I'm really pleased the way it turned out.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Interior Castle I

Interior Castle I - Terry Nelson, 2010
acrylic on clay-board panel 8" x 8"
Based upon Teresian Carmelite spirituality, the allegory comprises aspects of St. Teresa's Interior Castle; the soul in mortal sin, entry into the first mansions, as well as the poetry of John of the Cross; "One dark night... I went out unseen..."
In her book, The Interior Castle St. Teresa speaks of her vision of the soul as "a most beautiful crystal globe, like a castle in which she saw seven dwelling places, and in the seventh, which was in the center, the King of Glory dwelt in the greatest splendor...  Outside of the castle all was darkness, with toads and vipers and other poisonous vermin.  While she was admiring this beauty which the grace of God communicates to souls, the light suddenly disappeared and, although the King of Glory did not leave the castle, the crystal was covered with darkness and was left as ugly as coal and with an unbearable stench, and the poisonous creatures outside the wall were able to get into the castle, such was the state of a soul in sin." - Fr. Diego de Yepes
The description by de Yepes is what I attempted to illustrate in this painting.  The fly and the creatures are shown outside the globe, while inside it is dark and moody, perhaps hiding the creatures who remain in the inner first rooms of the castle.  I couldn't very well show the soul in mortal sin as Teresa described it since in Chapter 2 she discusses how the globe is covered as if in pitch - while the Blessed Trinity remains at it's deepest center - no light is emitted to the soul.  I suggest the presence of the Trinity by the three fires at the base of the mount.  The three flames and the mount in turn suggest the coat of arms of Carmel, hence the mount surmounted by the cross, albeit barely visible.  The mount encircled by clouds also suggests Mt. Sinai, and the giving of the Law to Moses.  The murky waters surrounding the mount suggest the moat Teresa describes around the Interior Castle.  The reflected window represents God's grace enlightening the soul.
I think that covers it - it's a fairly literal illustration of Teresa's vision and subsequent development in the first chapters of her book.  With the toads and the vipers I included an owl, the medieval symbol of evil, as opposed to the modern interpretation of the owl as a symbol of wisdom - this is meant to suggest not only erroneous opinion and teaching which infect the soul, but serve to warn against one's personal attachment and vain exultation over one's intellectual prowess.  In sum, the vile creatures represent sin, and the worldly affairs which distract and ensnare the soul and keep it from penetrating further into the inner chambers of the castle, close to the King of Glory.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

St. Jospeh and the Child Jesus

Retablo: St. Joseph Refuge of Sinners - T. Nelson 2010
9.5" x 5" Acrylic on canvas in Cuzco style carved mahogany and gilded frame.
Several years ago I acquired this tabernacle-style frame with a painted image of the Divine Mercy, the image was so badly painted I gessoed over it and decided to paint another. In the meantime I framed a holy card image of the Divine Mercy in a small tin nicho, and this suited me more than this elaborate frame. I then decided to paint a Spanish Colonial style retablo for the frame instead, although I never returned to do it until last week. As March was approaching I decided to paint my patron, St. Joseph of the Child Jesus.
Though I am not Carmelite, I wear the scapular of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, and venerate St. Joseph under the title of Protector of Carmel*, which is a sort of subtitle for this image which is officially titled, "Refuge of Sinners". The prototype for the retablo was an image I once saw in a magazine with the same title, although in the case of this painting, I worked from my imagination. The style of the composition mirrors the images of Our Lady under the same title, "Refuge of Sinners".
The image is Cuzco-school inspired, although I used no gold assiste (painted gold lining and hi lights) for the patterns on the clothing, and my brush work is not nearly as fine as Latin American works. 
*On St. Joseph's mantle one can notice an abbreviated coat of arms for Carmel as well as the monograms of Jesus and Mary.  And yes - the image is rather "Royalist" or "Monarchist" - ah, what does that reveal about my true self, huh?
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carmine Madonna della Bruna for Haiti

Our Lady of Mount Carmel of Haiti, Terry Nelson
Acrylic on 11" x 18" clay panel.
I painted the image after a 17th century Sicilian 'icon' from the Vatican Museum. The original prototype is known as Madonna Siciliana painted in Italo-Greco style; the Byzantine influence due to Albanian immigrants in Sicily fleeing the invasion of the Ottoman at the end of the 15th century. The dark attributes of the Virgin is not an uncommon characteristic in Sicilian art. The "black" Madonnas also refer to the verse from the Song of Songs, usually attributed to Our Lady, "I am black but beautiful..."
I adapted the image in memory of the victims of the Haitian earthquake. I chose an antique ornamental Mexican clay plaque I found at a tag sale to carry the image. The clay tablet held a tin Mexican retablo I later removed and re-framed - it had not been original to the piece. Much of the gold leaf, bole, and gesso was removed as well. I left the deterioration as is, applied a thin gesso coating in the exact shape of the figures, and painted the image as seen here - leaving the deterioration as a sort of testament to the poverty and destruction Haitians have experienced through time. The traditional figures of souls in the flames of purgatory suggest the ongoing suffering Haitians are enduring in the aftermath of the quake. The holy Virgin being their refuge and hope.
It is one of the rare paintings I have done wherein the Blessed Virgin communicated something to me. Something I cannot express but is revealed in her smile amidst adversity. Our Lady did this to me in only one other icon I attempted to make of her, and that was the Mother of Perpetual Help icon I made several years ago for a church near St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Note: Click on the image for greater detail.
Posted by Picasa