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Old photo inspires card art

December 23, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

The inspiration for "Silent Night, Starry Night," a holiday card design accepted as part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's first Holiday Greeting Card project, came from a 1955 snapshot of artist Jody Wright's older brother.

The yellowed, crackled photo shows a young boy sleeping under a checkered quilt, arm around his beloved toy monkey.

Wright, co-owner of WSG Gallery in Martinsburg, W.Va., doesn't remember the monkey's name, but she recalls teasing her brother about his stuffed companion while growing up in Anaheim, Calif., five blocks from Disneyland.

In the original version of Wright's image, there are dinosaurs behind the boy's bed. She created in gouache - a watercolor-like medium with stronger pigment - and ink.

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Before the final selections were made, Stuart Gerstein, director of the museum's wholesale and retail operations, talked with some of the artists, suggesting design modifications, says Amy Fox, a member of the Women's Committee that generated the fund-raising project.

Deciding that an art image would be more appropriate for the project's purposes, Wright borrowed part of Vincent van Gogh's "Starry Night" and included it in place of the dinosaurs.

Wright's design is one of 12 chosen from more than 300 entries from all over the country in the juried competition, Fox says. The cards are sold 10 to a box, and "Silent Night, Starry Night" is priced at $14. The artists receive a royalty and credit on the cards.

Although she didn't know how financially successful the project has been, Fox says an encore is planned for next year.

Wright enjoyed the 2002 project and says she'd enter again without hesitation. But her creative energies are not limited to this one medium. Wright likes a "Renaissance approach to art." Citing sculptor, painter, architect and poet Michaelangelo as an example, Wright says most artists of the period didn't do just one thing.

Neither does she.

Wright started out to be a potter and has worked in the graphics industry. Her first love is painting. She's produced six books of stained-glass design, and, along with her husband, sculptor Carl Wright, creates stained glass art in many forms. She writes magazine articles and she's created book covers for several of author Anita Mason's mysteries.

"Life laughs at you because there's so much more that you can do," she says.

Her work was scheduled to be shown as "slot art" - art in the background of Maryland Public Television's weekly ArtWorks program last week.

Wright was one of 200 artists selected to create a "three-dimensional mural" for the Washington, D.C., Commission on the Arts. Her "party animal," a 4 1/2-by-5-foot elephant, which includes images of a monkey and a panda and has a leopard-spotted trunk, stood in front of the National Zoo for seven months before it was auctioned last fall for more than $6,000. The public art project benefits arts programs in the nation's capital.

Wright has had a design accepted for another public art project - this time in Ocean City, Md. It will be birds, not elephants and donkeys, that perch throughout the beach resort, Wright's "Beachball Bob" among them. She hasn't heard yet if her "Birdy Beach Babe" will be part of the program.

Wright doesn't worry that she doesn't focus on one form or medium. Unfocused is somebody else's label, she says.

It's not a problem to be expansive - as long you're focused on what you're doing when you're doing it, as long as you're doing all your art well, she says.

Her passion is art - art in many forms, and she agrees with author Joseph Campbell that art can provide a spiritual connection.

"I like to encourage people to dream," she says.

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