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Two Pearls

Two Pearls, sculpture by Ellen Woodbury

“Two Pearls” is a stone sculpture revelation of the comfort one finds in art.

American Women Artists invited me to be one of three jurors to pick the 2020 Spring Online Juried Show  in March 2020. This was just as we were discovering the realities of the global pandemic.


AWA’s Online Juried Show is primarily a show of paintings. There were 1,600 artwork submissions, from which we chose 125 for the final show. We had 3 days in which to designate our preferences. This was a very fun and rewarding and revealing experience for me.

My criteria for selection and level of excellence for the art were very high and I needed to be very critical. I made 4 passes through the submissions; the last three passes reflecting my increasingly critical choices.

One painting stopped me dead in my tracks. An older woman with white hair, wearing a white dress, is cradling a long string of white pearls in her hands. I dismissed the painting at first, but came back to it several times, and reinstated it the next day. Jurors were only allowed to know size and title of the artwork: “Self-portrait With Pearls”.

The Context of Global Pandemic

Many of the professional art organizations in which I am a member were cancelling their yearly national shows due to Covid 19. It seemed the art world, as I knew it, was disappearing in a matter of days. My show plans for the year were in shreds. On top of that, I was facing a looming monumental birthday. Usually I have a fairly thick skin, but I was painfully aware of my vulnerability.  

Comfort in Art

Art has always brought me a degree of comfort.  To my surprise, I found enormous comfort through “Self-Portrait With Pearls” and the AWA jury experience. It was affirming to see such a huge quantity of good art, all created by women.

A cascade of feelings and insight flooded through me from this painting. This lady in white (I don’t know her name) was the artist. This was her white-on-white painting, a traditional challenge to artists because white is the absence of all colors, and how does one paint that? (Using the colors white reflects from the surrounding context.)  This was her self-portrait, lovingly created, proud of her work and her accomplishments throughout a long life, confident in her knowledge and experience.

There is an artistic tradition depicting women with pearls. I needed to make my own.

The Mouse

At Disney, we animators were always accused of drawing ourselves over and over again. This was because we often referred to our own facial expressions and poses in a full-length mirror in order to draw the expression and pose of the character exactly right.

I believe this accusation applies to sculpted figures as well. It follows, and I admit it, I am the mouse. Perhaps someday, if I survive enough monumental birthdays I will be a tiger, or an elephant.

White Stones

I love carving white stone because it is really carving with light. White is the reflection of all colors, and the play of light and shadow over the surface is how the colors and forms come alive in sculpture.

The mouse is carved from pure white Sivec (sa-VETCH) Marble quarried in Macedonia. The marble comes from the same quarry the Greeks mined to build their ancient civilization. The quarry has been in operation for 5,000 years.

Italian Ice Alabaster is deep and translucent, and makes a crystal ball of a pearl. Italy is known for its quarries of gorgeous carving stone, and Italian Ice is one of the finest alabasters on the planet. Alabaster is a soft stone, carved by the ancient Etruscans long before steel tools were invented to cut hard marble. This is a composition of ancient stones to celebrate the gift of age.


I don’t know if I will ever be accepting of monumental birthdays, but “Two Pearls” may be part of my way there.

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Two Pearls

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