By Valerie Caveglia, 7-time traveler and 11-time Vacation Ambassador from Hayward, CA
When I travel, I like to find “things” that I might be able to use in my art. While in Bohemia, I ducked into a tiny antique shop in one of the Czech villages and searched frantically for something to catch my eye because the rest of the group was still trekking on. I spotted a pin and the price was reasonable, so I quickly bought it and scrambled to catch up with the rest of the group. Again, while in the little village of Cesky Krumlov, there was a small craft show inside the walled courtyard of an old hotel, and I sidetracked into there and happily discovered some hand carved wooden cookie molds, “antique” coins, and intriguing abstract shapes in metal by an iron worker/artist.
Eventually I found myself in my studio, looking at the treasures I had brought home and wondering what I was going to do with them! I started by molding paper clay appliques from the wood molds. I was having so much fun doing that, I started making molds from other shapes, and then I made a mold of the image of this pin. When I unmolded the replica of the pin, I was shocked to see writing on the pin, because it wasn’t visible to me. I copied the words, and on a whim, I Googled them. You can only imagine my glee when they popped up on the internet telling a whole story about an old opera and a national anthem entitled “Where is Home.”
The idea of Where is Home locked hold in my brain, and the story and work really began. Czechia has had a turbulent 1,000-year history, with its borders and populations being reshuffled by every new government. Czechs were only an ethnic minority in the Austrian Empire in 1834 when this song was written for the opera Fidlovaka. The song became so popular, it eventually was adopted as the national anthem. I wanted to create an image that gave the feeling of a beautiful “home” being sought but not quite knowing where one was going. While in Prague, I discovered the images of Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha, and knew that his “girls” had to be my lost souls.
The lyrics of Kde Dovov Muj:
Where is my homeland?
Where is my homeland, where is my homeland?
Waters murmur through the meadows,
forests rustle all over the rocky hills,
spring blossoms glitter in the orchards,
paradise on earth to look at!
This is a beautiful country,
the Czech country, my homeland,
the Czech country, my homeland!
The Story: In my work you will see a background of a forest of birch, with the Mucha images positioned over the trees. Are the forests rustling? The spring blossoms are glittering in the surrounding orchards. You will find the paper clay appliques adding a feeling of the classical antiquity of the palaces that are so prevalent in Czechia. The treble clef symbols were perfect to add as the music of the title. And you can’t miss the lock and key representing coming home.
The Mucha images were transferred onto the canvas on which the tree transfers had already been applied. There are several layers of molding paste creating a frame of sorts for the girls “lost in the woods.” The added glitz of the antique pins and coins give a sense of time gone by. And thus, Where is Home was created!
Maybe a special purchase you make in the Czech Republic will inspire art. Find out with O.A.T. during Jewels of Bohemia: Czech Republic, Slovakia & Hungary.