April 4, 2009
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
She is one of the most photographed ladies in Columbus, her image gracing magazines, brochures and gallery walls. She captures imaginations and inspires artists. And, even after 118 years, the weeping angel of Friendship Cemetery still keeps a silent and poignant vigil over the grave of the Rev. Thomas Cox Teasdale, the ninth pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbus, who died in 1891, at the age of 83.
"The Angel of Grief," as the statuary is also known, epitomizes the beauty of the weathered, hand-carved monuments found in the cemetery. This marble creation came from the firm of J.L. Miller, in Quincy, Maine, a gift of the beloved pastor''s congregation conveying, "When he died, even the angels wept."
Sharon Foster, of Columbus, and Carolyn Wright, a former Columbian now living in Macon, are among artists inspired by the city''s resident angel. They join others, like Rene Sheridan and Robert "Uncle Bunky" Williams, who have found a muse in the celestial figure.
Through the lens
"It''s all my mother''s fault," smiles Foster, sorting through dozens of greeting cards she has made using images of her whimsical paintings as well as photographs she took of the angel. "She was the one who got me started; she loves cards and wanted me to make some."
Foster became intrigued with the Teasdale marker, taking over 300 photographs with a 35 mm camera over several months, capturing the lovely figure at different times of the day and in varying light.
"The way her body is placed displays so much emotion," the artist said. "You can know without words what she''s feeling."
Using computer software, Foster has produced a series of quality greeting cards available at The Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market and Table of Plenty. The images have become popular, especially as sympathy cards, and not only locally.
"I''m able to sell my cards online on several sites. It''s been really interesting; I''ve met people from all over the world," she enthused.
Foster, who designed the 2008 Farmers'' Market poster, also has an array of cards featuring whimsical animals and colorful flowers. Several benefit animal welfare groups, including the Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society. More of her greeting card art can be found at www.sharonfosterart.etsy.com.
Angel in clay
Carolyn Wright is skilled at painting portraits and still life, but the Macon woman doesn''t mind getting her hands dirty either. Wright began working with polymer clay, natural woods and stone about eight years ago. Several of her pieces are on display at the Craftsmen''s Guild of Mississippi sales gallery in Ridgeland.
Wright''s first interpretation of the fabled angel grew out of personal loss. When her own brother passed away several years ago, she crafted a version of the grieving figure around an 8-inch-by-10-inch frame holding his photograph to give to her mother.
"That one was all white, and I put a red rose in her hand," recalled Wright. "My mother loved it."
The Columbus Arts Council''s "Chip Off the Old Block" community art project earlier this year inspired Wright to try another version. Using the prescribed pre-cut wood block as the monument face, she formed a small-scale reproduction by hand.
"You can cure the polymer clay at home in your oven, at 275 degrees. The time is figured at 15 minutes per 1/4 inch of thickness," she explained. "You have to be careful; you don''t want to overcure it, you don''t want it to crack." To finish her sculpture, Wright used a gray Pearl Ex paint and worked in a small amount of Pearl Ex high gloss silver.
"It''s romantic," Wright said, when asked about the lure of the heavenly being here on earth. "I used to see it all the time in the years I lived here, but I didn''t know it''s history. ... You look at it and wonder about the person buried there.
"I like to walk through the cemetery and look at all the beautiful monuments. You get a feeling of history. It''s like that with the antebellum homes, too. Of course, Columbus is like that -- there''s history everywhere."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.