Last week, Madalyn and I geeked out over Naudline Pierre’s art exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. It blew us away so much that we ended up talking for an hour and a half about our experience there. In part two of our discussion, we wrap up our thoughts on Lest You Fall and move on to Pierre’s Hold On, Hold Tight featuring more angels, nude figures, and clashing colors.
1:20 – The different energy vibes given off by the angels in Lest You Fall
5:10 – Why the Bible quote similar to the artwork’s title triggers me
10:43 – Describing Pierre’s Hold On, Hold Tight oil on canvas painting
14:03 – What the fetal position of the main character could symbolize
18:42 – The personal reason behind why Madalyn feels drawn to this work of art
21:27 – Possible interpretations for the depiction of two angels who seem a bit removed from the action
26:22 – Why this exhibit made me want to go home and paint afterward
31:14 – Being expansive, multiple, contradictory, and living in the fullness of possibility
Be a Podcast Guest: Submit a Voice Memo of Your Art Story (Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your story.)
Cindy Ingram: Hello and welcome to The Art Class Curator Podcast. I am Cindy Ingram, your host and the founder of Art Class Curator, and The Curated Connections Library. We’re here to talk about teaching art with purpose and inspiration from the daily delights of creativity to the messy mishaps that come with being a teacher. Whether you’re driving home from school or cleaning up your classroom for the 15th time today, take a second, take a deep breath, relax those shoulders, and let’s get started.
Hello, everybody. Welcome to The Art Class Curator Podcast, soon to be the You Need Art Podcast, starting in January. Today’s episode is a part two to my episode last week with Madalyn Gregory. We started to talk about the art of Naudline Pierre who is an artist out of Brooklyn. We had the amazing pleasure of seeing her exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art. We were both just completely blown away by her, the whole exhibit and all of her paintings, so we ended up talking for an hour and a half about our experience with her art. This is the second half of that conversation. Here is part two of my conversation with Madalyn Gregory about the artwork of Naudline Pierre.
Madalyn Gregory: I’ve just realized something that I realized whenever we were in front of this painting, then I forgot and now, I’ve just seen it again. There are not four angels. There are five. In the blue green, there’s the brown bodied one, the red one, the one that–
Cindy Ingram: Oh, I see it.
Madalyn Gregory: Then the fifth one coming in under her left arm, under the wings of the other ones, then once you see his face, you see which wing is his. It’s funny I’m saying “his” but they really do all give off different levels of masculine and feminine energy to me, and different emotions.
Cindy Ingram: Each one, you only see little snippets of their face but each one has a totally different vibe. Like this one that looks like her that I mentioned has a very sort of calm and loving look to it but then the red one, you don’t even see the face at all but it looks more strong and fierce to me. It must be red.
Madalyn Gregory: Yeah, to me, the blue green almost looks childlike, then the one at the center that we just see the face almost is more like aggression, like good anger. I see the same meditative peaceful thing happening with the one, they have the same haircut. The red one to me, it almost looks like there’s nudity already—you’re not showing this to the kids—but it looks sensual. It looks like desire to me, especially whenever I zoom in on the little sliver of face that we can see. Then the one that’s mostly hidden, there’s an intensity there. It almost reminds me of a reprimanding teacher but a teacher that you’re going to walk away like, “You hurt me but you were good for me. I learned things.”
Cindy Ingram: Yeah, that one looks really much to me like the one that is taking the most responsibility for catching us, person. They’re at the bottom, their wings right under there close to the main figure, then very focused, Like I am going to catch a softball on my way. I’m watching it really carefully. I’m going to keep staring at that ball until I catch it.
Madalyn Gregory: It reminds me now of what you were talking about like you’re wanting to control. That’s what I feel from that one.
Cindy Ingram: Yeah, interesting.
Madalyn Gregory: I love this painting.
Cindy Ingram: Me too. I love that exhibit. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted all of them in my house because I don’t want to stop looking at them.
Madalyn Gregory: I don’t know if we’re too late or too into it but I do still want to talk about the other one.
Cindy Ingram: I think we can. Before we do that, I Googled this at the very beginning but I knew I wanted to wait till we talked about it first but this title is Lest You Fall. I was like, “That sounds significant,” so I Googled it. It was a Bible quote. Here it is. It’s 1 Corinthians 10:12. It says, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
Madalyn Gregory: That I think speaks to the surrender component but also, that is interesting to me because it sounds like a warning. Like don’t be too prideful to get up on your high horse but then also, I mean to air is to be human. We’re all going to do that, so what do you do with it? I think her surrendering to it. Regardless if she feels numb or not, there’s a community aspect to this. I think leaning into that and both accepting your flaws, and being aware enough of them to work on it, I can see that here.
Cindy Ingram: I don’t like this Bible quote. There’s something triggering it. It’s kind of the antithesis of how I want to live my life. I’m going to take off the “thinketh he standeth” because I can’t handle that anymore.
Madalyn Gregory: Fair enough.
Cindy Ingram: “He who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls.” It’s like, “Oh, don’t get too comfortable being happy because it’s going to be taken from you. I think I lived my whole life like that. You’ll remember this. The joke is probably still made but anytime anybody, one of our friends would be going home, if they didn’t say they’re home, in my head, they got in a car wreck and died. There was always this feeling in my life that something terrible was about to happen. I have been spending the last three years of my life trying to get myself to not do that anymore because it’s not healthy. I don’t think it’s a healthy mindset. That’s what this quote gives me.
Madalyn Gregory: It’s interesting because I can see a way to read that as truly like it means well, be aware, take care of your stuff, and all that. I see that other side too, like what you’re talking about but I almost feel, like you said, the art is almost the antithesis of that. It’s like, “Yeah, I fell but I am going to rise again.” That’s why try and try again is such a powerful thing. I think there is wisdom in realizing that you will fall and being prepared for that but it can be taken too far. It can be an anxious thing. It can be a reason that you aren’t living your life but I think with the right mindset, you can almost take it as an invitation to make that leap anyway.
Cindy Ingram: We’re of course, not reading this quote in context.
Madalyn Gregory: No.
Cindy Ingram: So 1 Corinthians, 1 through 9 and 13 plus, we will surely provide some information but I also think that the quote also reminds me of that feeling of you can’t be too proud of the things that you’ve achieved. We’re taught to downplay our strengths, so it feels icky to me too from that perspective but the painting itself is like, “Yeah, you’re going to fall and you’re going to be okay because you’re taken care of.” I think that’s lovely.
Madalyn Gregory: I think there’s a poetry to it too to the Lest We Fall. Of course, we go into fall. The “we” there too, I mean it makes it not just about her. It makes it about all of them.
Cindy Ingram: Her title is Lest You Fall.
Madalyn Gregory: Is it? Okay. That’s interesting because that does frame it to me in that she doesn’t know that they’re there but also now, I’m thinking of Dear Evan Hansen and You Will Be Found. It’s like you will be found.
Cindy Ingram: Oh, I love that. Let’s look at the next one. It’s called Hold On, Hold Tight and also made in 2019, and surely they are related. In this one, our main character is there again. They are being cradled and held by an angel who is like a dark, black, and navy blue shadow. You see a little bit of their face but not a lot. Their figure almost looks like they’re glowing. They’re like one of those glow worms like my daughter had when she was a baby.
Madalyn Gregory: It’s almost like a coal fire.
Cindy Ingram: There’s rays coming off of their face onto the black angel, then we have six other angels.
Madalyn Gregory: No, seven angels.
Cindy Ingram: Seven angels, then one. There’s eight figures in total.
Madalyn Gregory: Yes.
Cindy Ingram: I’m looking for hidden ones because last time I was like, “Where are they?” In the same instance of the last one, we had the little stars in the sky, then we had the little flame drawings at the bottom but this time, they’re just drawn with blue or a light blue, then all of the angels, except for two of them, are crowded. They’re all crowded around our main character, then they’re all looking down at her. They all got their arms out. It’s like a group hug, then everybody’s looking at her but then there’s some ones on the side that they’re not necessarily but they all have the kind of concerned/loving looks on their faces. They have a little bit more expression on their faces in this one than they did in the other one. We see what we see more of the faces. They’re the same. They’ve got the big wings, human legs, and human bodies mostly, then some of them have this feather texture on them, then the background is just a purplish darkish gray.
Madalyn Gregory: There’s a feeling of the shadows that can’t fire, light will throw. I feel like she’s like a campfire because just the way that the paint in the shadows feels, it has that feeling to me.
Cindy Ingram: She’s the light source mostly but the only thing that throws me off of that is the purple angel at the top, she’s got a glow behind her.
Madalyn Gregory: Because it’s so tight to her wings, I do feel like that’s part of her glow, the angels glow.
Cindy Ingram: I guess when I look at all of them, most of them, their wings are glowing.
Madalyn Gregory: They have a bright line.
Cindy Ingram: There’s some sort of structure, like a fence or a building. Do you see that? No, that’s a wing. That’s a wing.
Madalyn Gregory: One of the angels largely, it’s like hugging almost, at least a few of them, not everybody though. I think I stood in front of this one the longest.
Cindy Ingram: Our main character is in a fetal position. She looks really comfortable, cozy, warm, supported, and loved.
Madalyn Gregory: Maybe it’s because of the fetal position but I think something about it too, just makes me feel like, I guess it makes sense that this is part two from the other one, but it feels like she has been injured. She’s really been put through the wringer. We’re waiting for that coal fire in her to burn out a little bit and cool down. She looks almost injured to me. There’s comfort there but it’s weird because it’s such warm colors but I almost feel her shivering into the embrace and needing to be.
Cindy Ingram: She does look really comfortable to me but at the same time, she looks like how I would feel if I were to cry for the next eight hours, then cry so much that all my tears were gone, then I was so tired and all I could do was just lay there in bed, curled up, laying there in bed, watching some really comforting TV show or just laying there in that state of relief and catharsis but at the same time, you’re still in a lot of pain but you’re just set after effects. It’s like I don’t necessarily want to be her right now because she clearly has gone through some stuff. It’s so funny how I can feel that from her but it’s like, “What is it that makes me feel that way?”
Madalyn Gregory: Like you said, there’s literally rays of light shining on her face. That feels like it should be powerful or mystical. Because she seems so vulnerable right now, and because of what you talked about, it’s like her inner child or her truest self or something shining through and we aren’t allowed to see it. We can just barely see maybe a little bit of her eyebrow and maybe a little bit of lash but that’s it. This is something private. Not all of them but several of them are gazing upon it. It feels like yes, she is rubbed raw by whatever has happened but also, she is completely and totally loved, and accepted by these people. That’s the dream relationship.
Cindy Ingram: That’s huge. It makes me think about that Marianne Williamson quote. It says, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’” Then it goes on, which I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times but I know that similar to what we’ve already talked about, like that feeling of, like I was saying earlier, not allowed to be too proud of your accomplishments or too whatever but it’s like, I know me personally have always been afraid to shine too brightly or stand out too much or in entrepreneur circles, we talked about this fear of success, that there is something that blocks us from really truly stepping into what we’re capable of because of that fear of othering ourselves, I guess maybe. I’m sure that shows another. That’s my field, so that’s what I know about but I can see that maybe her falling was the big risk that she took, then she is scared or exhausted or something from taking too big of a chance. Like it was too much, so now she needs to rest for a while before she goes back out and lets it shine a little more.
Madalyn Gregory: I can totally see that. It’s interesting because the background is black mostly but it’s smoky. It’s not as dark as the flames of the last one. You were talking about the accomplishments and really stepping into our strengths, and all that. I feel that really deeply. I know that struggle but I also feel like so much of who we are and how we present ourselves to the world is wrapped up in these things that are both superficial, and not. Even though I think I tried to hide it or deny it, and I still do, but I was the straight A student in school, like the teacher’s pet. I was that person proudly. To a certain extent, that defined me. I feel like there’s a struggle between wanting to be seen for your accomplishments, for your actions, for who you are in the world, and how you move through the world but also not wanting those things to be all that defines you. There was a long time where all the gifts I got from people were like–
Cindy Ingram: Doctor Who?
Madalyn Gregory: Yeah. It was all Doctor Who stuff. I loved those things. I still have a lot of them but we never fully see each other. It’s not even possible, I don’t think, for us to fully see each other. I think that’s part of what draws me to this artwork is I feel like she is being fully seen.
Cindy Ingram: Yes. It’s very much like she is allowed to be who she is in all of her pain, in all of her everything. She is loved, seen, and understood.
Madalyn Gregory: But even then, was everybody there, see, love, and understand her? The fully black angel that we can’t really see face, I mean it’s cradling her, so it certainly seems to be focused on her, and so are four of the others. But the other two, one at the bottom right corner of the painting that is sitting on the ground and is looking away from her. I can’t tell if I feel like the look on her face is mournful, sad that she had to go through what she went through or if she’s not happy that this moment is happening.
Cindy Ingram: Yeah, I zoomed way in on her just now, so I can really get a sense.
Madalyn Gregory: Part of me almost feels like she feels neglected. Maybe she needs to be the one that is being cared for and is not.
Cindy Ingram: Is that the plight of an angel? It’s like a mother. You’re parenting, you care for everybody else but no one cares for you. That feeling that you have sometimes when you’re handling everything as a mom.
Madalyn Gregory: Yeah.
Cindy Ingram: She does look really sad, melancholy when I zoomed way in. There was sadness I could see.
Madalyn Gregory: I feel like she is separate from the moment that is happening. I feel like that could be a complex mix of yes, of course, she needs to be taken care of but also me.
Cindy Ingram: Also too, though, what if this again is all of the parts of her and all angels are different parts of her? What if that’s the part of her that was getting left behind with this fall, like the parts of you that you move on from and that you don’t recognize anymore as parts of who you are. Like the part of me that used to think everybody died in car wrecks anytime they left my site.
Madalyn Gregory: Maybe it doesn’t look the same on everybody but the part of us that’s petulant or stubborn or just cannot be pleased or doesn’t want to be touched.
Cindy Ingram: Yeah.
Madalyn Gregory: I can see that too.
Cindy Ingram: I don’t think I would want five people hovering around me like that. That sounds horrifying.
Madalyn Gregory: Touch us not.
Cindy Ingram: It’s not. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to be her in this situation, not because he’s been crying, it’s because there’s too many people touching her.
Madalyn Gregory: Then there’s the other one that’s outside of our little circle of love. Her expression is much more unreadable. She’s behind everybody else. It’s like kneeling or sitting on the ground. You don’t really see her body. Just her face and a wing.
Cindy Ingram: She’s the same color as the background too, so she blends in.
Madalyn Gregory: She almost looks like she’s fading away. If she’s a separate angel and not part of her, then that makes me feel like maybe she is no longer needed. Her job there is done but if she is a part of her, I mean I think the same thing can be true because she is equally, like you said, there are parts of yourself that come to a point where they no longer serve you. You can let those go. There’s so many different people over our lives, so many different versions of ourselves.
Cindy Ingram: I just love looking at this so much. The color of her body is giving me so much life. That’s all I can handle is how beautiful it is. The colors are so jarring. They don’t go together.
Madalyn Gregory: They don’t feel like they belong in the same painting.
Cindy Ingram: There’s this green with a red over the top of it and there’s this light purple. These colors clash in such crazy ways but I’m not mad about it at all. It adds to it.
Madalyn Gregory: There’s also these little touches. They’re not in the same shade of blue but over the black angels, there’s this star with extra light, maybe shooting out of it. It almost looks like they’re like the depiction of the North Star, old maps and stuff, then there’s in the bottom left corner, again, kind of like our bird and the other one, there’s a touch of blue but it’s the flame. This time, it’s the outline of a flame. The balance of that is interesting but it clashes with everything. Even the style of it, it almost feels like another place encroaching on this safe space that she’s in. It feels like okay, we can stay here but only for so long before we’re completely consumed by flame. Like you said, if this is like a rest period for her, if this is a recharging period, there is the siren song to stay in that for too long.
Cindy Ingram: This is not related to what you said but it was related adjacently, but about how the blue didn’t necessarily look like a different thing. When I saw this exhibit, I had a really strong desire to go home and paint because these paintings feel so free. They feel like they break all the rules. I feel like I could go paint anything I wanted. It doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t put that color typically next to that color. It just feels like they were so big, painterly, bright, and bold. That’s the kind of thing I like to paint too, is big, bright, and bold. I was just like, “I need to go home and paint.” I didn’t go home and paint but I should have. Now I want to paint again. Maybe that’s what I’ll do this afternoon. It’s like I’m having that urge again while talking about the way she painted it because it’s just so free and so loose but just enough detail.
Madalyn Gregory: I know next to nothing about painting but it feels like there’s so many styles and so many techniques represented and to put them all together in a way that feels right, even though it breaks so many of the rules, it’s enchanting.
Cindy Ingram: It hits all the boxes of art that I love, which are bold and colorful, big, characters that I can relate to, that I can find emotion and so emotional. Then I love artwork that looks familiar but it’s like this is new. It’s different. I’ve never seen this before but it still looks familiar. Like the Baroque aspects of it, they actually put it with the medieval paintings because it has such a medieval feel to it. It has that familiarity to it. I love artwork with a really complex story that you can pick apart. Everything I love about art is in this painting.
Madalyn Gregory: I feel like we should go back to the question that the exhibit asked.
Cindy Ingram: Oh gosh, okay, let me go back to it and we’ll read it. I think that we’ve been talking for over an hour.
Madalyn Gregory: I think we have too. I feel like the reason I want to ask this question is because one thing I usually end up saying in these conversations is like, what is this calling you to do? I feel like this question is another way of asking that question.
Cindy Ingram: Let’s repeat the question again. What is it to be expansive, to be multiple, to be contradictory, to live in the fullness of possibility? Oh, I want to write that on the wall.
Madalyn Gregory: I know right. Put it on there. I feel like I almost forgot all the words that were used and now that I have them again, I’m like, “Yes, this connects so perfectly to everything that we were talking about.” To be expansive, to take up your space, to take up your power, and to be multiple, because we’re not just one version of ourselves. We are many things. They contradict each other. Wasn’t it Walt Whitman who said “I contain multitudes”? To live in the fullness of possibility, I mean that’s leap, that’s faith, that’s trust fall. In the name of the exhibit again, What Could Be Has Not Yet Appeared, that’s so hopeful to me because I remember, whenever we were on the first, well, it wasn’t the first but the first Art Class Curator trip that I went on and we were talking to the ones that were younger than us, and they were getting older and we were like, “No, just wait, what could be has not yet appeared.” You are going to be better. You’re going to be fuller. You’re going to be more yourself. You’re going to have more depth and understanding. I feel called to just like I am in a period of great change in my life. I am so excited about what is coming and what can be. The heartbreak, the love, the journey, and the adventures, I want it all, the fullness of it.
Cindy Ingram: I’ll be your little angel to catch you if you fall.
Madalyn Gregory: Thank You.
Cindy Ingram: You’re welcome. I’m excited to watch this, be a part of it. It’s such a good thing because what really resonates with me from that quote is like, “To be multiple, to be contradictory,” I have always had this sort of black or white thinking like, “This is right. This is wrong.” I’ve been trying to accept that it’s not the way the world is. There are layers. There’s not black or white. There’s not just gray. There’s every color. It’s not just even a spectrum of black to white. It’s up and down, and left and right, and all over. I struggled with things like, “Well, how can I be as much of a lover and supporter of science as I am but also still be spiritual? How can I be this and that, and this and that.” In my head, I’m like, “Well, you can only be one or the other because they’re contradictory. It doesn’t work.” But you can be a contradiction. I think I still am learning that lesson every day, that is okay. This is me. I’m constant like these external forces. We were talking about this in More Wonder, Please. I’m acting like we just talked about this podcast. Go back and listen to that one but I have all these feelings of guilt all the time about expectations that don’t even exist of me. It feels really exciting to fully try to embody this question of what is it to be expansive, to be multiple, to be contradictory, to live in the fullness of possibility. That feels really exciting to me too.
Madalyn Gregory: Oh yeah, just open to whatever life brings. Surrender.
Cindy Ingram: Surrender again. That’s good. Okay, that was a great conversation about Naudline Pierre.
Madalyn Gregory: That was fun.
Cindy Ingram: I enjoyed it. Hopefully, you enjoyed listening to it as well. I hope this encourages you, listening, to go out and look at some art for yourself because you need art. That is the name of this podcast now. Thank you so much for joining me again today, Madalyn.
Madalyn Gregory: Always.
Cindy Ingram: Thank you all for listening. We will see you again another day.
Madalyn Gregory: Bye.
Cindy Ingram: Have you learned all the lessons art has to teach you? Of course not. Art always has something more to teach us about ourselves, about the world, about where we’ve been, and where we’re going. Art is more than a creative outlet. It’s a powerful tool that can teach you about yourself and help you recognize your path in life. If you want to learn life lessons through art, I invite you to join our Art Connection Circle. In the Circle, you’ll learn how to find your truest self by looking at art and connecting with a community of passionate, thoughtful individuals. Together, we explore the human condition and find answers to our heart’s deepest questions inside of brushstrokes, captured in photographs and in conversations with one another. Learn more about what the Art Connection Circle has to offer you and how to join at artclasscurator.com/circle.
Subscribe and Review in iTunes
Have you subscribed to the podcast? I don’t want you to miss an episode and we have a lot of good topics and guests coming up! Click here to subscribe on iTunes!
If you are feeling extra kind, I would LOVE it if you left us a review on iTunes too! These reviews help others find the podcast and I truly love reading your feedback. You can click here to review and select “Write a Review” and let me know what you love best about the podcast!