“Destiny itself is like a wonderful wide tapestry in which every thread is guided by an unspeakable tender hand, placed beside another thread and held and carried by a hundred others.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
Dear Family and Friends,
True to the French tradition, I am sending my greetings to you in January. during this season of Epiphany when we celebrate the stars and the dawning of the new Light.
40 YEARS IN FRANCE
As I enter the 40th year of living in Provence, I celebrate the origin of my pilgrimage. I first came to Aix-en-Provence to seek a deeper understanding of Paul Cézanne, his art and creative process and to discover his motifs – Château Noir and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, which had a mystical effect on me. His art – pure, honest and spiritual – has given me the insight to reach higher and to penetrate deeper as an artist. I am always hoping the experience will take me to another realm of the unknown in the creative process. “Pick up your paint brushes,” I tell myself, “and smear the paint across the surface of the canvas. Let it describe the depths of your being, your soul in its reaction to the nature that is before you. Let a new poetry come; one that has never been seen. One that has all the language of the universe in it.”
Living 40 years away from my native land is what destiny had in store for me – maybe it was to protect me from being distracted from my work, giving me a certain lucidity from being far away. Whatever the reason, I embraced it. The 40 year journey in a foreign land has had its curious effects – for example, I am always conscious that I am American. From the moment I open my mouth to speak, it is evident that I am not French. I cannot even get to the second syllable of a word without someone saying, “Where do you come from?” So I am persistently reminded of who I am by complete strangers. It is not a bad thing; it is quite simply my identity. I am an outsider.
The perception is different when one is an outsider. I do not have to follow a pattern or be stuck in a conventional French-way-of-doing-things, nor in an American-southern-way-of-doing-things. Because of this, I have experienced a certain freedom, and the choices I have made have been my own. Sometimes, being taken out of the “box” gives one more clarity and more openness to let go and embrace a wider range of things.
HIGHLIGHT NEWS OF 2019
Documentary Film – My youngest son Jimmy is in the final stages of producing his first full-length film, “Jill Steenhuis, Painting the Invisible”. The film is a documentary about life, faith and the creative process. To be informed about the film release and other news, go to my website and subscribe to my mailing list www.artinprovence.com.
Leo Marchutz Catalogue Raisonné Project – 2019 marked the launch of an international effort to record and preserve information on the life’s work of my mentor and guiding light, Leo Marchutz. Learn more about this important project here: www.leomarchutz.org.
Workshop News – Those of you who spent an entire eight days with me in my painting workshops added even richer and deeper-colored threads to the tapestry. What an honor and a joy it was to be with you, to rejoice in your progress as you all climbed the mountain within yourselves and discovered new ways of expressing your inner spirit on the canvas. For more on upcoming workshops, visit www.artinprovence.com/workshops
Whether we are at home or on the road, my family team is like a tapestry, each thread knowing what his gifts are; each one performing his raison d’être, making a complete functioning entity. We rejoice when one is honored, like Sergio being commissioned to make a monumental sculpture for the ‘Euroméditérrannée” urban renewal project in Marseille. With the help of the team, Alexander completed an ambitious project for a luxury brand called Paco Rabanne, making custom furniture and sculptures that were displayed in the Moroccan desert. His sculpting work was also exhibited in a museum show at the Musée Régional d’Art Contemporain in Sérignan. There has been an enthusiastic response to Jimmy’s trailer, and we all anticipate its release. Serge is our anchor and the one who pulls us all through to the finish line. My 2019 tours brought us across America – over hill and dale from Georgia to Tennessee, from Montana to Aspen, CO to Jackson, WY, from Wolfeboro, NH to Greenwich, CT, Manhattan, Basking Ridge, NJ, Coatesville, PA and down to Tiger, GA and Spartanburg, SC. It has been a very special time traveling with my boys. We have been sent out to traverse God’s kingdom and share a moment in time through our art with our gracious hosts and many people we had the honor of meeting along the way.
A TAPESTRY OF BLESSINGS
The family team is not the only part of the tapestry. Hayley, Stella and Margaret are wonderful threads, helping me with my work in a big way. Tirelessly, they have given and performed their roles with goodness and care. Two golden threads are Nancy and Dickey, my reliable, cherished cousins who have helped me through the years in infinite ways. Then there are all the other ones who have given and given, like all the olives on my olive trees. Each individual olive gives what it has of its oil to provide us with pure joy and love in the experience of the tasting of it. Each olive is precious to me and each one of you is precious in some way, even if it is as simple as having shared your spirit with me in my home or in a greater way like organizing and hosting a show for us. Thank you.
UPCOMING EVENTS IN 2020
I look forward to seeing many of you in 2020. The following dates and locations are planned, with more details to come.
SPRING & SUMMER
- April 14-17 event in Columbus, GA (more details to follow)
- April 18-26 Olmsted Plein Air Invitational in Atlanta, GA
- May 22-30 / June 19-27 / September 11-19 Oil Painting Workshops in Provence
- October 1 – November 8 – My team and I will be stopping at various dots on the map from Georgia to Texas, via Jackson, Mississippi to show our new work and to run several painting workshops (more details to follow).
MY WISHES TO YOU
If you are receiving this newsletter, Destiny has made you part of the tapestry. If in some way I have touched you, thanks be to God. I feel infinitely blessed for the friendships and connections that I have with all of you, and rejoice with you in the freshness that this new year brings us all. For those of you who are suffering, know that you are close to my heart and in my prayers. Know that I am grateful to each of you for your thread in the Tapestry.
“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done…” Rainer Maria Rilke
Grace be unto you, and peace… I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. (Phil. 1:2-3)
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