By: Lisa Hoffman, curator of education on November 23rd, 2016

Pentimenti – my new favorite word. It’s derived from the Italian word for repentance.

While waiting for a student tour to arrive, Timothy David Mayhew – a recent artist in residence and expert in Old Master natural-chalk technique – curator of education Catie Anderson and I were admiring chalk drawings from the Woodson Art Museum’s collection. Tiepolo’s Head of an Old Bearded Man with the faint lines of the first attempts still visible elicited a discussion about 1blog11-23-16the unforgiving nature of chalk; once drawn it cannot be erased or removed. The merciless nature of the medium trains the artist to master a light touch and embrace the ghostly remains of previous efforts – the pentimenti.

What a gorgeous sing-song word loaded with pithy connotation. The singular pentimento also describes “an underlying image in a painting, as an earlier painting, part of a painting, or original draft, that shows through, usually when the top layer of paint has become transparent with age” (The American Heritage Dictionary).

I thrill at the adoption of a new vocabulary word, and for me, this word serendipitously packs a larger metaphorical wallop. The galleries filling with artworks for Birds in Art signals the beginning of a new school year. As I excitedly welcomed the 2016 exhibition, I felt a bittersweet twinge because in my family the fall marked the advent of our high school students’ freshman and senior years. The requisite first-day-of-school photo – once capturing ponytails, toothless smiles, and Disney backpacks – now was a selfie snapped while my son and daughter walked to her car.2blog11-23-163blog11-23-16

Master Artist Karen Bondarchuk describes her current Woodson Art Museum installation, Ergo Sum: A Crow a Day, as evoking “the overwhelming labor and repetitious activities of motherhood.” Childrearing. The ghostly remains of previous efforts. The transparency of aging. Repentance.

I am exceedingly proud of the two young adults lovingly raised by my husband and me. I embrace the maternal pentimenti imprinted on their hearts, souls, and minds. All efforts were born of love, well meaning, a light guiding touch, and care. May I ultimately celebrate more than I repent for those efforts.

Bring your children or parents to the Woodson Art Museum. Celebrate family. Embrace life’s transitions. Visit Art Park – the Museum’s interactive family gallery – and grab a crayon to create a rubbing inspired by artworks in the galleries. Share time in Ergo Sum. Smile at S.V. Medaris’s whimsical Chicken Pot Pie. Make new mementos pentimenti.

Share This!

Subscribe to our weekly blog. Please enter your email address.