Dear Artist,

In this new world, I, like you perhaps, have spent the last few weeks revisiting old baking tins, ornaments, addresses, recipes, music, film, imagery, stories and memories. At the moment, many of us are doing it without our special people – our familiar motifs made even more important as the primordial symbols of our former selves. Like the overture at the beginning of a symphony, our themes were established early and are resampled now in big and small ways, in flavours and objects and cultural emblems. Now they pour forth; reimagined, rejected, regurgitated or tweaked in real time as our own, fleshed out symphony, recycling early themes for that spark of recognition that happens when we experience something old, anew. As the introduction, the overture merely provided the material with which to play and innovate with forever – reinforcing the touchpoints that tether us to our origins.

Santa, 1920 by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

Santa, 1920
by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945)

Defined in the Urban Dictionary as “when something completely new makes you feel nostalgia for something old,” and submitted as a new word suggestion to the Harper Collins English Dictionary in 2019, the word “newstalgia” encapsulates an aesthetic that’s not quite “retro,” but rather proves that culture constantly seeks the new by referencing the motifs of history. You need only to think of the music of Amy Winehouse to get how the zeitgeist craves what is both familiar and totally fresh.

Hey kiddies, here we go again, 1921 for Judge magazine by N.c. Wyeth

Hey kiddies, here we go again, 1921
for Judge magazine
by N.C. Wyeth

While studying the timeless white bottoms of a herd of mountainside Big Horns this morning, my walking companion mused that the etymology of “familiar” must carry the same root as the word, “family.” I thought of our collective, cultural canon, organized for group consumption and implanted as aesthetic truth. I followed her footsteps along the path like a safe and predictable drumbeat. “These known moves we make, the aesthetic experiences we long to relive, the motifs we riff upon — they are, perhaps all simply just manufactured substitutes for our mother’s face,” I said. She chuckled. These past weeks I’d witnessed her pour love on her children, home from university for the holidays, and send and receive care packages to and from her mother in Canada. Later, at the google box, I found that the origins of both “familiar” and “family” are the Latin famulus, meaning “servant.” I called my Mum, whom I am missing.

Old Kris, 1925 by N.C. Wyeth

Old Kris, 1925
by N.C. Wyeth



PS: “I am convinced that there are universal currents of Divine Thought vibrating the ether everywhere and that any who can feel these vibrations is inspired…” (Richard Wagner)

Esoterica: In art, newstalgia can be lightning in a bottle. It strikes at the subconscious with an ineffable comfort, and we seem to assign works that possess it with qualities we associate with the originals: authenticity, quality, rarity, cool, thoughtfulness, even happiness and connection. It’s why, in a pastoral landscape, we want a red barn, why a cottage chimney needs smoke, why a chugging tug must bash against her vital whitecaps and why forward-thinking architects are at this moment looking back, to reference the rooflines and façades of postwar, baby boom tract homes — if only to inject a little joy and social connection into new and futuristic case studies. “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies,” wrote Albert Camus, “society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”

It is with my warmest gratitude for your continued  friendship that I wish you and yours a very, very happy holiday season.  Sincerely, Sara 

You can stream this perfect Vince Gauraldi Trio Christmas album, here

“I find the earliest years of my life are the source of my best inspiration.” (N.C. Wyeth)



  1. Thank you so much Sara ! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year with inspiring words and artistic expression !
    Sincerely ,

  2. So eloquently written and beautiful, Sara, all of it. But when I got to “ servant”, I cried. Thank you for these reminders.

  3. Exquisite. A wonderful journey of associations. I will part company with you in the esoterica note about the emotional chord of tract homes. Nothing says dystopia to me quite like a cul de sac. That traumatic architectural era is part of what I must bat away to find my Christmas mood. The first thing I did when I bought my house was put in divided lights and eaves, so the icicles in the snow globe illustration could hang and melt properly. Getting through pandemic Christmas by shaking the snow globe again and again❄️.

  4. Thank you, Sara, for your wonderful thoughts. My partner and I watched “Home Alone” last night as we Zoomed with her far flung kids, each on their journey. The Zoom call is necessary — we want to “see” each other and share the familiar of the Holiday while celebrating apart. It is a difficult holiday for me, personally, as my adult daughter and I have been estranged this last decade. When we got to the church scene near the end and the last scene with the old man (about my age) reunites with his son, Pam asked me if I was all right – and I was not. When the familiar can not be fully reconstructed there can be a hole in our heart at this time. So, thank you for your words.

    • When the familjar cannot be produced intact you have the power to produce another reality. Choose to because over time it helps to relieve at least some of the pain in your heart. There are many people in the same boat. You might seek them out. Many of them are understanding and they are all around you.

  5. Thank you for your beautiful words and images. Sending virtual hugs. And, hopes for vaccines and an end to this pandemic that keeps us from, oh, so many people, places and things.

  6. Sheri-Lee Langlois on

    “these known moves we make are….perhaps simply just substitutes for our mother’s face”. Oh my, how true as I’m now a grandmother and almost everything I do at this time of year is the same as my mom did long ago! That sentence made my Christmas Day, Sara! Bless you and yours & your mom too. Take care & stay safe.

  7. Thank you, Sara, for your letter, always so timely and welcome. Your literally beautiful letter links together all the things this Christmas brings to me (and probably others): nostalgia, thoughts of Mother, newstalgia, and the birth of new creativity. I’m feeling all this particularly this Christmas (in self-isolation). Thank you, too, for the refresh of your father’s letters each time you send them. He lives in my heart. Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year.

  8. Merry Christmas Sarah and thank you so much for all the wonderful writings you and your father have given to us. Happy painting and the very best of wishes for the new year through.
    Andre xx

  9. Thank you Sara for your insightful and heartfelt thoughts. and those of your father. A very moving piece. Wishing you all the best in this Christmas season and for the New Year.

  10. Thank you Sara, and to your father, still. His words of wisdom continue to inspire the srtist in me and the human me.
    I was surprised at the derivation of ‘familiar’ and ‘family’ being servant.
    I still miss my mum who I lost suddenly when she was only 50. I also miss the close relationship I had with my daughter until the shock accident which ended my sons life. For some reason her feelings towards me changed and I have no idea why…for 7 years now.
    Please everyone, keep yourselves safe and cherish the time with those you love.

  11. Thank you, Sara. Beautiful letter, so thought provoking and touches on so many emotional chords. All the best to you in the New Year. I look forward to your letters and your father’s repeats too, each and every time.

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No Featured Workshop Mountain View
30 x 40 inches

Featured Artist

The move to Northern California spurred my desire to paint the landscape – motivated in part by the fear that I would wake up one day and it would all be gone! I had some kind of doomsday concern, tantamount to extreme climate change or bombs going off like Hiroshima —something drastic.

The Wildfires of 2017 were traumatic, we experienced three on our land that year.

In processing the fire experiences and living with the constant awareness that what happened then can happen again.  I produced  a short film entitled:: From the Ashes – Fire, Survival. and Renewal, about how our community responded to the Redwood Complex Fire 2017.The is film available for free screenings to community fire councils and art institutions.  I am working on part two.

In 2020, largely due to the ensuing California wildfires, we chose to sell our 195 acre place and move back to the East Coast, where our families live and we are creating a new life and farm.

I am still witnessing and interpreting the landscape.

Jaye Alison Moscariello


Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

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