Many people have a strong memory of the first time they saw The Wizard of Oz. It can leave vivid pictures in one's mind of cackling, green-faced witches and the dramatic change from black and white to Technicolor and back.
These images and memories are at work in Nina Benedetto's painting, Waking Up. But it is far from a mere pop-culture reference.
"Waking Up is like the awakening in Buddhism," the Augusta artist said.
Ms. Benedetto uses universally recognizable symbols in her work, so someone from a non-Western culture who has never seen the movie would bring their experiences with them and get just as much from the painting as someone who has seen the movie dozens of times.
Some of her paintings use themes from Hinduism and sacred geometry, which is important in many ancient cultures and religions.
Movement, light, texture and color also are important elements in her paintings. But more meaningful to her than the technical are the personal aspects.
Art shouldn't be highbrow or done for its own sake, she said. But making art that is accessible to everyone isn't simple.
"It's not something I just sit down and do," she said.
Ms. Benedetto paints in her free time away from two part-time jobs. She teaches preschool at Augusta Preparatory Day School and art classes at Augusta State University.
She has been painting since she could hold a paint brush and has known she was an artist for nearly as long.
And she has no qualms about explaining why she is an artist. "I want to change the world," Ms. Benedetto said.
Anything from a book she's read to a meaningful conversation can be the inspiration for a painting. When she isn't particularly inspired by a certain theme, she'll do a more abstract painting using sacred geometry.
Look at one of the geometric pieces from different directions and you can see a myriad of multi-colored stars come into focus. Sacred geometry portrays something important to Ms. Benedetto: just like the nature of the geometric figures, what God is like is beyond comprehension.
To see Ms. Benedetto's paintings, call her at 667-9940.
Reach MaryAnne Pysson at (706) 823-3332