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First Lady Lobie Stone shares her love of art during talk

Barry McNamara
“I am made up of everything I’ve ever seen.” – French artist Henri Matisse

Many people need their first cup of morning coffee before they feel a new day can truly begin.

But for Monmouth College First Lady Lobie Stone, a picture of great art does the trick.

“Through Instagram, I can visit museums and see what they’ve posted as their image of the day,” she said during an April 5 talk at the Buchanan Center for the Arts. “It’s a part of my day, sometimes before I even get out of bed. ‘OK, I can breathe.’ It’s a beautiful thing to start every day with beauty.”

Sponsored by the Monmouth branch of the Association of American University Women, Stone’s talk was titled “Art: The Heart of the Matter.” Delivered against the backdrop of the art-filled walls of the Town & Country Art Show, Stone told what art has meant to her as well as the importance of art and creativity in students’ growth and development.

Stone’s mother was an artist, and she took to heart many of her mother’s ways, including taking time to simply be outside and appreciate her surroundings – for example, the way light moves through a tree or the many subtle colors of nature.

“She taught us all how to see,” said Stone of her mother’s influence on her and her four siblings. “We can look, and we can see, and those are two different things.”

While visiting museums’ posts on Instagram is nice, Stone said she much prefers seeing art in person. She said she has been “blessed” with many opportunities to travel, as well as to live in beautiful, art-centric cities such as Paris and New Orleans.

“I’ve lived through tumultuous times, and I’ve lived in different places,” said Stone. “Art has been the structure in my life. Maybe ‘stabilizer’ is the right word. It’s sort of my chapel, in a way. During my travels, if I can get to an art museum, I’m good.”

When her husband, Monmouth College President Dr. Clarence R. Wyatt, was interviewing for the presidency in 2014, Stone said the first place she visited in Monmouth was the Buchanan Center for the Arts.

After she completed a bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Minnesota, Stone said spent a year in Paris.

“I took classes, I painted and I did photography,” she said. “It was life-changing to live in a different city where art was appreciated and celebrated.”

Stone live in New Orleans for seven years, where she found herself “living in art” in an apartment on Jackson Square in the city’s French Quarter.

“It was a wonderful way to live,” she said. “I was surrounded by staggeringly beautiful magnolia trees and the gargoyles on the sides of buildings. It reminded me to look up. I can thank my mother for that. She taught me to look up and see.”

Stone said art is not only beautiful in the moment but it also has staying power. Reflecting on some of the best museum exhibits she’s seen, she recalled a Wassily Kandinsky show at the University of Minnesota.

“They were amazing, colorful, vibrating, musical paintings,” she said. “I can still remember standing there. It was like I was surrounded by music.”

An exhibit of Claude Monet’s paintings of water lilies in Paris had a similar effect on her, as well as a Gauguin retrospective in Boston, and a Bonnard show in New York.

“When I’m going through a stressful time, I can transport myself and surround myself again with those water lilies, the bold color palette of Gauguin, or the shimmering, calming cool colors of Bonnard,” she said.

And Stone said that you don’t have to visit a museum to find art.

“Art and beauty are all around if you just look for it,” she said.

Stone told the audience that on a recent walk through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, she discovered art on the ceiling of a tunnel between airport terminals, which she said turned a long day of travel into a “giddy, laughing, uplifting experience.”

“Most people we passed in the tunnel didn’t seem to notice it until they saw me taking photos, and then they started to look up to see what I was looking at laughing about. Then they would smile,” she said.

Stone opened her talk with the quotation at the top of the story, and she closed it with the following remark by Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, whose anti-war painting Guernica had a profound effect on her: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”