Monday, December 15, 2008

Friedensreich Hundertwasser

The Boy With Green Hair

Exodus Into Space

The False Eyelid

A friend of mine mentioned this artist - as being his favorite - so I looked him up. Hundertwasser ended up becoming more famous for his architecture. He prefers the organic - so even his floors are undulated. According to the Wikipedia page about him, "The common themes in his work utilised bright colours, organic forms, a reconciliation of humans with nature, and a strong individualism, rejecting straight lines." Which, of course, I can totally relate to.

Born in Vienna 1928 -he eventually settled in New Zealand. He died in 2000.
Hot springs, Bad Blumau (Austria)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Beatrix Potter - Scientist/ Artist

Recently I have been learning about different women scientists and philosophers. I was looking at a list online and noticed Beatrix Potter on the list. I had not been aware that became a self-taught expert on fungi and lichens. She had worked as a scientific illustrator for Charles McIntosh and then began studying mycology on her own.

Algae contain chlorophyll and can photosynthesize glucose from carbon dioxide and water. This glucose provides food for both the alga and the fungus. The fungus, on the other hand, was very effective at drawing water from the air, water that both the alga and the fungus need to live, and the very water the alga uses to photosynthesize glucose. She also noted that some substance produced by the fungus had antibiotic behavior and protected both the alga and the fungus from harmful bacteria (although like Alexander Fleming, she didn't seem to think of using these compounds to fight disease in humans). The two really did seem to depend on each other to survive. Potter wrote a paper detailing her theories in 1897. (

Her theories were rejected by people (men) in the scientific community who knew less than she did.

Discouraged by having her research rejected - she went and created the books, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, The Story of Miss Moppet, and The Tale of Two Bad Mice, and others.

Those were among the books that I especially enjoyed reading to my children when they were young. I liked the pictures, too. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Living Walls and Wave Fields

Overpass at Pont Max Juvénal, Aix-en-Provence - designed by Patrick Blanc. Discussed in the Blue is the New Green article in the New York Times about water and green roofs.

I love these artistic green spaces. I've done my wildflower gardens and sometimes I have spread the seeds considering how the colors will blend together. I have had truckloads of dirt moved in - but I've never sculpted the earth like Lin. That would be something to do sometime.

These wave fields by Maya Lin looks like a fun places to visit. The last of 3 is at the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, NY. The others are at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan (see below) and at the courtyard of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. federal courthouse in Miami.

Apparently she is going to let what grow be what grows at Storm King. It would be fun to plant wildflowers on the waves.

Maya Lin's “Wave Field,” her new earthwork project at the Storm King Art Center.

"The Wave Field" 1995. Shaped earth; 100 x 100 feet. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"New Orleans Rising, by Hammer and Art"

It's good to hear about things like this going on in New Orleans...

“Prospect.1 New Orleans,” - Biennial opens Nov. 1, up throuhg Jan.18th, showing the work of 81 artists in 20 museums, art centers and public spaces around the city.

...Billed as the largest exhibition of contemporary art ever held on American soil, the biennial is intended to help restore the cultural vibrancy of a city that remains on its knees three years after Hurricane Katrina.

With a star-filled roster of 81 artists and a projected 50,000 visitors from out of town, it may indeed bring benefits to New Orleans. But it is already clear that the arrangement has not been one-sided, and the New Orleans contribution has been rich. With its history of destruction and rebirth, artistic triumph and economic struggle, this crumpled crescent of a city provides a singular interpretive context that acts as a resonance chamber.

Some of the art refers directly to Hurricane Katrina, like Ms. Mutu’s “ghost house,” which sits on the property of an elderly woman whose attempts to rebuild were stymied by a vanishing contractor. But most of it does not have to.

In a shedlike community center a few blocks from the ghost house, the New York artist Janine Antoni has deposited a “soft wrecking ball” made of lead and scarred by the act of demolition. Nearby, the Chilean artist Sebastián Preece has excavated the foundation of a Lower Ninth Ward house and transplanted it elsewhere.

Adam Cvijanovic, another New York artist, has taken a page from traditional New Orleans style and, in an unused house, installed a custom wallpaper that presents a lavish scene of a waterlogged swamp with no humans in sight. At the United States Mint in the French Quarter, Stephen G. Rhodes, from Los Angeles, is building a Hall of Presidents in which the presidents themselves are largely absent.

Other pieces mine the city and its history. The Thai artist Navin Rawanchaikul will present the jazz funeral that was never held for Narvin Kimball, the banjo player for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, who died in March 2006 in Charleston, S.C., where he went after the storm. Skylar Fein has recreated a French Quarter gay lounge that burned in a suspicious fire in 1973, killing about half the patrons.

Miguel Palma, a Portuguese artist, is building a modified Higgins boat, a World War II vessel manufactured in New Orleans that, in Mr. Palma’s version, contains a mini-tsunami. “Instead of war games, you have rescue games,” he said.

In this way New Orleans has become a collaborator, instigator and subject. Residents have volunteered by the hundreds to act as docents, provide exhibition sites (admission to all events is free) and assist the artists. Dan Cameron, the impresario behind Prospect.1 and a former senior curator at the New Museum in New York, said that as he was planning the biennial, a friend frequently reminded him of a quotation from Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles”: “Everything in New Orleans is a good idea.”

Prospect.1, Mr. Cameron said, is “just 81 people running around with good ideas, and basically everyone they meet goes, ‘Oh yeah, sure, I’ll help.’ ”

“It is American,” he continued, “but it’s no longer what we think of as American — it’s drop what you’re doing and go do what your neighbor’s doing.”

This is, after all, the city of spontaneous parades.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tara Donovan won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award

Pencils, Toothpicks, Tape, Mylar.

I saw the tape installation at the Met.

I like how she transforms everyday types of materials - and relates them back to nature.

The New California Academy of Sciences

The New California Academy of Sciences looks pretty interesting (by architect Renzo Piano). I especially like the roof - but it does look like an interesting combination of "Modern" with a more earth-based sensibility.

A Building That Blooms and Grows, Balancing Nature and Civilization

...Mr. Piano’s building is also a blazingly uncynical embrace of the Enlightenment values of truth and reason. Its Classical symmetry — the axial geometry, the columns framing a central entry — taps into a lineage that runs back to Mies van der Rohe’s 1968 Neue Nationalgalerie and Schinkel’s 1828 Altes Museum in Berlin and even further, to the Parthenon.

Just as Mies’s glass-and-steel museum reworked Classical precedents, Mr. Piano’s design invokes Mies’s model, though with a sensitivity that makes the muscularity of the 1968 museum look old-fashioned. The roof of the academy’s lobby, supported by a gossamerlike web of cables, swells upward as if the entire room were breathing. Views open up to the landscape on all four sides, momentarily situating you both within the building and in the bigger world outside. A narrow row of clerestory windows lines the top of the lobby. One of the building’s many environmental features, these windows let warm air escape and create a gentle breeze that reinforces the connection to the natural setting.

From here you can proceed into the exhibition halls, delving deeper into the universe’s secrets. Two enormous 90-foot-tall spheres — one housing a planetarium, the other a rain forest — beckon from either side of the lobby. They are the most solid forms in the building, yet seem to hover in the space. The base of the planetarium sphere floats in a pool; a broad ramp snakes around the rain-forest sphere. Enveloped in gnarled branches, the ramp seems to have been swallowed up by the jungle landscape over millenniums.

Once you reach this point, the genius of the green roof’s design becomes apparent. The mounds of earth visible on the exterior turn out to be hollow: their forms, punctured by round skylights, bulge upward to make room for the giant spheres underneath. It’s as if a lush protective rug has been gently draped over the entire building.

Additional exhibition spaces just beyond the spheres were designed with movable partitions that give them a temporary feel. Large windows open onto more park views.

The museum has also preserved its African Hall, with its gorgeous vaulted ceiling and dioramas of somnolent lions and grazing antelopes, integrating it into the new design. Built in the 1930s, this neo-Classical hall is a specimen of sorts. Its massive stone structure reflects colonial attitudes about the civilized world as a barrier against barbarism. It was intended as a symbol of Western superiority and a triumph over nature.

By contrast, Mr. Piano’s vision avoids arrogance. The ethereality of the academy’s structure suggests a form of reparations for the great harm humans have done to the natural world. It is best to tread lightly in moving forward, he seems to say. This is not a way of avoiding hard truths; he means to shake us out of our indolence.

Joseph Cornell & "Hotel Cassiopeia"

Yesterday, Indiana State University hosted a talk by Brian Whisenhunt from the Swope Art Museum about Joseph Cornell - preceeding a showing of the play, "Hotel Cassiopeia". The play was a dreamlike montage of Cornell's life.

I think if you didn' know much about art, and Cornell in particular, the play may not make much sense. It might be interesting - but it would probably seem pretty odd. I was glad to have gotten the background information from Whisenhunt.

Briefly - Cornell had been raised in a well-to-do Victorian atmosphere. His father died when he was about 14 - leaving many debts. He lived most of his life on Utopia Street in Queens with his mother and his brother who had cerebral palsey. It was up to Joseph to support the family. In his extra time - he made boxes.

He was a self-taught artist - but he was well plugged into the Surrealists. He also made experimental films.

He had major shows at the Pasadena Art Museum, the NYC Guggenheim and the Metropolitan toward the end of his life.

The Art Institute of Chicago and The Menil Collection in Houston have good collections of Cornell's works.

I can relate to his themes of space/plants/birds and natural elements. I also save this and that. I like the idea of making art out of little things saved.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Art and Anti-art and Aesthetics

If you want to break all the rules of the artistic tradition, Duchamp reasoned, why not begin by discarding its most fundamental values: beauty and artisanship. The readymades were Duchamp’s answer to the question, How can one make works of art that are not “of art”?

I've been studying aesthetics and I've been noticing how many aestheticians/philosophers of art want to make room in their definition of art for Duchamp's readymades and other Dada type of things.

Duchamp had become well known in the US based on his cubist Nude Descending a Stairway - shown at the Armory Show in NYC. Which had seemed quite revolutionary at the time. (He had tried to exhibit it at the Cubist Salon des Indépendants in Paris but was asked to remove it because of the title? - apparently other cubists felt "mocked").

Dada had gotten going in Europe as a reaction to WWI - the artists were quite fed up with what their society was doing. (It's interesting to consider that in light of the Iraq occupation and what seems to be the motivations of our current politicians - namely Bush, Cheney, etc.)
Many Dadaists believed that the 'reason' and 'logic' of bourgeois capitalist society had led people into war. They expressed their rejection of that ideology in artistic expression that appeared to reject logic and embrace chaos and irrationality. For example, George Grosz later recalled that his Dadaist art was intended as a protest "against this world of mutual destruction"

I don't think that war is "logical" - and when the vast majority of people are left with little power - and the only power artists have is the images that they make - Dada makes about as much sense as a reaction to what was going on as anything.
According to its proponents, Dada was not art — it was "anti-art" in the sense that Dadaists protested against the contemporary academic and cultured values of art. For everything that art stood for, Dada was to represent the opposite. Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics. If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend. Through their rejection of traditional culture and aesthetics the Dadaists hoped to destroy traditional culture and aesthetics.

A reviewer from the American Art News stated at the time that "The Dada philosophy is the sickest, most paralyzing and most destructive thing that has ever originated from the brain of man." Art historians have described Dada as being, in large part, "in reaction to what many of these artists saw as nothing more than an insane spectacle of collective homicide."
Duchamp and Dada are most often connected by his submission of Fountain, a urinal, to the Society of Independent Artists exhibit in 1917. The Independent Artists shows were unjuried and all pieces that were submitted were displayed. However, the show committee said that Fountain was not art and rejected it from the show causing an uproar amongst the Dadaists and led Duchamp to resign from the board of the Independent Artists.

What doesn't make sense to me is the idea that aestheticians ever felt the need to include "anti-art" in their definitions of art.

Of course it ended up being the aristocrats or bourgeois or both who supported the new trends in art - the "anti-art" which became "art". While most everyone else didn't find much sense in it.

Duchamp, meanwhile, fell into obscurity and played chess. It was Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and such astists in the 50s who resurrected Duchamp and put him on the pedestal that he has been on.

I've been going through an Art History book's 2nd edition to see what was dropped from the new 3rd edition. One of the things was Duchamp's 1923 piece (that he worked on for 8 years) Large Glass "The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even". An image which looks like this:

This image gives one a better sense of the piece that is made out of wire, paint, mirror plating, foil, dust:

In the long run, I think his Large Glass with the idea of showing that which is invisible is a much more interesting piece than his Fountain. It will remain to be seen how all this goes in the future, how Duchamp fares, how art continues to be redefined...

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the place to see Duchamps. At least the Nude... the Large Glass, and some of his other works. The IU Art Museum (Bloomington, IN) has a collection of his readymades.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


"PORTRAIT OF A PRIESTESS" Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece.
By Joan Breton Connelly.

I had noticed a blog about this NYTimes book review - so when I was at Bloomington's IU Art Museum, today, I noticed the women on the Greek Vases and wondered how they fit into all this.

The surprising thing is that this is news (what with being 2400 - 2500 years after the fact). More covered up/forgotten herstory.

Excerpts from review:

In the summer of 423 B.C., Chrysis, the priestess of Hera at Argos, fell asleep inside the goddess’s great temple, and a torch she had left ablaze set fire to the sacred garlands there, burning the building to the ground. This spectacular case of custodial negligence drew the attention of the historian Thucydides, a man with scant interest in religion or women. But he had mentioned Chrysis once before: the official lists of Hera’s priestesses at Argos provided a way of dating historical events in the Greek world, and Thucydides formally marked the beginning of the Peloponnesian War with Chrysis’ name and year of tenure, together with the names of consequential male officeholders from Athens and Sparta.

During the same upheaval, in 411, Thucydides’ fellow Athenian Aristophanes staged his comedy “Lysistrata,” with a heroine who tries to bring the war to an end by leading a sex strike. There is reason to believe that Lysistrata herself is drawn in part from a contemporary historical figure, Lysimache, the priestess of Athena Polias on the Acropolis. If so, she joins such pre-eminent Athenians as Pericles, Euripides and Socrates as an object of Aristophanes’ lampoons. On a much bigger stage in 480 B.C., before the battle of Salamis, one of Lysimache’s predecessors helped persuade the Athenians to take to their ships and evacuate the city ahead of the Persian invaders — a policy that very likely saved Greece — announcing that Athena’s sacred snake had failed to eat its honey cake, a sign that the goddess had already departed.

These are just some of the influential women visible through the cracks of conventional history in Joan Breton Connelly’s eye-opening “Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece.” Her portrait is not in fact that of an individual priestess, but of a formidable class of women scattered over the Greek world and across a thousand years of history, down to the day in A.D. 393 when the Christian emperor Theodosius banned the polytheistic cults. It is remarkable, in this age of gender studies, that this is the first comprehensive treatment of the subject, especially since, as Connelly persuasively argues, religious office was, exceptionally, an “arena in which Greek women assumed roles equal ... to those of men.” Roman society could make no such boast, nor can ours.

Despite powerful but ambiguous depictions in Greek tragedy, no single ancient source extensively documents priestesses, and Connelly, a professor at New York University, builds her canvas from material gleaned from scattered literary references, ancient artifacts and inscriptions, and representations in sculpture and vase painting. Her book shows generations of women enjoying all the influence, prestige, honor and respect that ancient priesthoods entailed. Few were as exalted as the Pythia, who sat entranced on a tripod at Delphi and revealed the oracular will of Apollo, in hexameter verse, to individuals and to states. But Connelly finds priestesses who were paid for cult services, awarded public portrait statues, given elaborate state funerals, consulted on political matters and acknowledged as sources of cultural wisdom and authority by open-minded men like the historian Herodotus. With separation of church and state an inconceivable notion in the world’s first democracy, all priesthoods, including those held by women, were essentially political offices, Connelly maintains. Nor did sacred service mean self-abnegation. “Virgin” priestesses like Rome’s Vestals were alien to the Greek conception. Few cults called for permanent sexual abstinence, and those that did tended to appoint women already beyond childbearing age; some of the most powerful priesthoods were held by married women with children, leading “normal” lives.

The Greeks don’t deserve their reputation as rationalists. Religion and ritual permeated the world of the city-states, where, Connelly notes, “there was no area of life that lacked a religious aspect.” She cites one estimate that 2,000 cults operated during the classical period in the territory of Athens alone; the city’s roughly 170 festival days would have brought women out in public in great numbers and in conspicuous roles. “Ritual fueled the visibility of Greek women within this system,” Connelly writes, sending them across their cities to sanctuaries, shrines and cemeteries, so that the picture that emerges “is one of far-ranging mobility for women across the polis landscape.”

These aspects of Connelly’s well-documented, meticulously assembled portrait may not seem that remarkable on the surface, but they largely contradict what has long been the most broadly accepted vision of the women of ancient Greece, particularly Athens, as dependent, cloistered, invisible and mute, relegated almost exclusively to housekeeping and child rearing — a view that at its most extreme maintains that the names of respectable Athenian women were not spoken aloud in public or that women were essentially housebound.

Connelly traces the tenacity of this idea to several sources, including the paradoxically convergent ideologies of Victorian gentlemen scholars and 20th-century feminists and a modern tendency to discount the real-world force of religion, a notion now under powerful empirical adjustment. But another cause is a professional divide between classicists and archaeologists....

Connelly, though, is an archaeologist, and she insists that her evidence be allowed to speak for itself, something it does with forceful eloquence. Far from the names of respectable women being suppressed, it seems clear that great effort was made to ensure that the names of many of these women would never be forgotten: Connelly can cite more than 150 historical Greek priestesses by name. Archaeology also speaks through beauty: “Portrait of a Priestess” is an excellent thematic case study in vase painting and sculpture, with striking images of spirited women, at altars or leading men in procession, many marked as priestesses by the great metal temple key they carry, signifying not admission to heaven but the pragmatic responsibility that Chrysis so notoriously betrayed in Argos....

Amy Lowell

I was reading the wiki-bio of E. E. Cummings and found it interersting that he was influenced by Amy Lowell (1874-1925), and imagist poet who was an early adopter of free verse.

I hadn't heard of Amy Lowell - so I had to look her up. There are whole books of hers at - uncopyrighted works.

The Giver of Stars

Hold your soul open for my welcoming.
Let the quiet of your spirit bathe me
With its clear and rippled coolness,
That, loose-limbed and weary, I find rest,
Outstretched upon your peace, as on a bed of ivory.

Let the flickering flame of your soul play all about me,
That into my limbs may come the keenness of fire,
The life and joy of tongues of flame,
And, going out from you, tightly strung and in tune,
I may rouse the blear-eyed world,
And pour into it the beauty which you have begotten.

The Taxi

When I go away from you
The world beats dead
Like a slackened drum.
I call out for you against the jutted stars
And shout into the ridges of the wind.
Streets coming fast,
One after the other,
Wedge you away from me,
And the lamps of the city prick my eyes
So that I can no longer see your face.
Why should I leave you,
To wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?

From what I could gather, people like Pound tried to reduce her perceived influence while later on it was people interested in the lesbian aspect of many of her poems who sought to revive her from obscurity.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kiefer at St. Louis

I visited the St. Louis Art Museum at the end of July. The Anselm Kiefer - Burning Rods - stood out as an especially compelling piece. Finished in 1987 - it was made with "oil, acrylic, emulsion, and shellac on canvas with ceramic, iron, copper wire, and lead" - 130 1/4 in. x 18 ft. 3 in.

Seeing that I got to wondering where else there might be paintings of Kiefer's - I noticed that there is a show of his at MASS MoCA through October of 2009. I'm looking forward to going.

From the MASS MOCA site:

German artist Anselm Kiefer conjoins matter, history and time in a moving installation of paintings and monumental sculpture opened October 20, 2007, at MASS MoCA. MASS MoCA’s centerpiece Building 4 galleries feature four vast landscape paintings from a recent series never before seen in the United States, two paintings from the 1980’s, and an immense concrete sculpture, Etroits sont les Vaisseaux.

“Among our most important poets of war, in this surprising body of works Anselm Kiefer presents us with poignant moments of color flowering across the ruined topographies of his vast canvases,” said Joseph Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA. “For reasons I still cannot fully fathom, the Connecticut courts have recently required Andy and Christine Hall to remove Kiefer’s elegiac Etroits sont les Vaisseaux from their property. I’ve long admired that particular sculpture – its siting was exquisite – and I was delighted when the Halls offered it on long-term loan to MASS MoCA. That spirited act of generosity was further amplified as we discussed creating a specific installation of Kiefer works keyed to Etroits sont les Vaisseaux. Admirers of Kiefer will find this exhibition revelatory – the relative profusion of color is unexpected, and somehow especially touching because of that fact – and for those who may have missed the wonderful Fort Worth and Bilbao surveys of Kiefer’s work, this focused installation presents a powerful environment in which to become familiar with his recent work. Two earlier canvases with overlapping themes will place this timely new body of work in a broader context.”

Artforum describes Kiefer’s art as “sensuous and mesmerizing images through which … we gain entry to his arcane mindscape of ancient and recent history, philosophy, botany, Nordic myth, National Socialism, alchemy, and Wagner.” The Independent said in a review of Kiefer’s February 2007 exhibition at London’s White Cubes Gallery: “Great art is about transformation. And transforming experience and transforming materials are what Anselm Kiefer specializes in. The contrasting themes of destruction and recreation, violent upheaval and spiritual renewal, underpin much of the artist's work.”

...Rosenthal describes Kiefer’s paintings: “A landscape by Kiefer always fills the field of the canvas, with the horizon line and suggestion of sky minimal. Adding to this sense of claustrophobia, Kiefer’s typical large-scale format imparts a sense of portentous enormity to the experience. Before one of these mighty paintings, the viewer might feel his face pushed against the painted field, or else envision flying over it, though at a very low altitude. The depicted breadth even conveys a sense of the curvature of the earth. Dark in tonality and sometimes shown with fires burning, these often blackened places seem to have only recently been abandoned by human inhabitants. The depictions are at night or at dusk, thereby adding a melancholic sense of foreboding that horrific events have only just subsided.”

...During the early 1970’s Kiefer studied with conceptual artist Joseph Beuys, whose interest in using an array of cultural myths, metaphors and personal symbolic vocabulary as a means by which to engage and understand history inspired Kiefer.....Kiefer describes his own artistic process as stimulated by Beuys’s philosophies: “Painting, for me, is not just about creating an illusion. I don’t paint to present an image of something. I paint only when I have received an apparition, a shock, when I want to ‘transform’ something. Something that possesses me,and from which I have to deliver myself. Something I need to transform, to metabolize, and which gives me a reason to paint.”

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting

by Anne Wilson

My daughter, Amelia, and I went to this show, Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting, at the Indiana State Museum. It had been put together by The Museum of Arts & Design in Manhatten and was traveling around.

There was some really great stuff. Like these shovels which were cut out to look like lace by Cal Lane:

The New York Times review was not all that favorable. It didn't like the take offs done in steel, etc. as those things take away from how people really are updating old traditions.

An excerpt:

...Time then for an exhibition celebrating the unfrumpiness of craft, and, sigh, what better institution than one that recently went through its own makeover, changing its name from the American Craft Museum to the sexier Museum of Arts & Design?

The sorry news is that, despite its title, “Radical Lace & Subversive Knitting,” with around 40 works by 27 artists, is not a benchmark for introducing such crafts’ coolness or radicalism to a vast art audience. Rather than exploring transgressive takes on knitting, the exhibition, organized by David Revere McFadden, the museum’s chief curator, devotes most of its space to art that mimics the look or logic of knitting and lace and translates it into different materials.

...Some of the artists address “issues of politics, gender and ethics,” as a wall text puts it, in a general way. Janet Echelman’s giant, hand-knotted nylon net hanging from the ceiling in the museum’s entryway recreates the look of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Freddie Robins’s sinister-looking gray-knit bodysuit, with the words “Craft Kills” emblazoned across the chest, alludes to the airline ban on knitting needles in the post-9/11 era.

The works most in keeping with the show’s politically charged title are more interactive and collective, or more related to performance. For example, Cat Mazza’s collectively crocheted “Nike Blanket Petition,” a campaign against sweatshop practices represented here in a series of photographs, will be sent to Nike’s corporate headquarters.

A video of Dave Cole’s “Knitting Machine” project shows two John Deere excavators wielding telephone poles tapered to look like knitting needles — and missiles — to knit a giant American flag in the courtyard of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams, Mass.

Sabrina Gschwandtner, an artist and founder of KnitKnit magazine, has set up a “Wartime Knitting Circle” surrounded by panels made of industrially knitted photos of Vietnam War protesters knitting, British women knitting woolen covers for World War II hand grenades, soldiers knitting during World War I.

She invites people to join her in knitting “blankets for recovery” for people in Afghanistan and troops convalescing in military hospitals, among other projects. (On the exhibition’s opening day, Ms. Gschwandtner was chatting and knitting with Phyllis Rodriguez, whose son died in the north tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11 and who has since befriended Aïcha el-Wafi, mother of Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent serving a life sentence after his conspiracy conviction in the 9/11 attacks.

Needlework indeed has a radical past. William Morris, a mainstay of the Royal School of Needlework and the Arts and Crafts movement in England, protested late-19th-century industrial production. Feminist art in the 1970s drew heavily on so-called women’s work, and Rosemarie Trockel’s “knitting pictures” of the 1980s cleverly drew on political themes.

So many more artists might have been included whose work explores the social aspects of knitting and lace or who more radically recast these forms: Simon Perotin, of the punk-doily creations; the artisans in the Church of Craft; Ms. Zittel; Ms. Auerbach;, Mr. Drain; and so on...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kay Ryan - Poet Laureate

I really like the idea of Poet Laureates and such. I think our country could use more of this sort of thing. People recognized in that way. Brought to our attention.

A clip from the New York Times

Known for her sly, compact poems that revel in wordplay and internal rhymes, Ms. Ryan has won a carriage full of poetry prizes for her funny and philosophical work, including awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1994, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, worth $100,000.

Still, she has remained something of an outsider.

“I so didn’t want to be a poet,” Ms. Ryan, 62, said in a phone interview from her home in Fairfax, Calif. “I came from sort of a self-contained people who didn’t believe in public exposure, and public investigation of the heart was rather repugnant to me.”

But in the end “I couldn’t resist,” she said. “It was in a strange way taking over my mind. My mind was on its own finding things and rhyming things. I was getting diseased.”

Dana Gioia, a poet and the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, was an early supporter of Ms. Ryan’s work, describing her as the “thoughtful, bemused, affectionate, deeply skeptical outsider.”

“She would certainly be part of the world if she could manage it,” he said. “She has certain reservations. That is what makes her like Dickinson in some ways.”


Death by Fruit

Only the crudest
of the vanitas set
ever thought you had to get
a skull into the picture
whether you needed
its tallowy color
near the grapes or not.
Others, stopping to consider
shapes and textures,
often discovered that
eggs or aubergines
went better, or leeks,
or a plate of string beans.
A skull is so dominant.
It takes so much
bunched up drapery,
such a ponderous
display of ornate cutlery,
just to make it less prominent.
The greatest masters
preferred the subtlest vanitas,
modestly trusting to fruit baskets
to whisper ashes to ashes,
relying on the poignant exactness
of oranges to release
like a citrus mist
the always fresh fact
of how hard we resist
how briefly we’re pleased.

Nothing Ventured

Nothing exists as a block
and cannot be parceled up.
So if nothing's ventured
it's not just talk;
it's the big wager.
Don't you wonder
how people think
the banks of space
and time don't matter?
How they'll drain
the big tanks down to
slime and salamanders
and want thanks?

Repulsive Theory

Little has been made
of the soft, skirting action
of magnets reversed,
while much has been
made of attraction.
But is it not this pillowy
principle of repulsion
that produces the
doily edges of oceans
or the arabesques of thought?
And do these cutout coasts
and incurved rhetorical beaches
not baffle the onslaught
of the sea or objectionable people
and give private life
what small protection it's got?
Praise then the oiled motions
of avoidance, the pearly
convolutions of all that
slides off or takes a
wide berth; praise every
eddying vacancy of Earth,
all the dimpled depths
of pooling space, the whole
swirl set up by fending-off—
extending far beyond the personal,
I'm convinced—
immense and good
in a cosmological sense:
unpressing us against
each other, lending
the necessary never
to never-ending.


In harmony with the rule of irony—
which requires that we harbor the enemy
on this side of the barricade—the shell
of the unborn eagle or pelican, which is made
to give protection till the great beaks can harden,
is the first thing to take up poison.
The mineral case is soft and gibbous
as the moon in a lake—an elastic,
rubbery, nightmare water that won't break.
Elsewhere, also, I see the mockeries of struggle,
a softness over people.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Painting Wildflowers

July 10th


I've painted several paintings of the wildflowers over the last few weeks.

The first was when they were mostly Bachelor Buttons. Now the Bachelor Buttons are not very prominent - there are a lot of Black -eyed Susans. A few white and purple Coneflowers. Not as many Cosmos as usual - probably because it's been relatively cool. I left a lot of the daisy fleabane.

I haven't been painting the birdhouse - because it's not really about the birdhouse.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Play About Louise Nevelson

"Three Lives Inspire the Portrayal of a Complex Artist"

New York Times Review of “Edward Albee’s Occupant” . Play presented by the Signature Theater Company at the Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street thru July 13th.

“This was the first place I came,” Mercedes Ruehl says, looking around the small white pentagonal chapel that Louise Nevelson designed for St. Peter’s Church in Midtown Manhattan...

“It has a kind of teeming silence,” she says. She gets up and walks to the relief on the east wall. “This was the piece that fascinated me.” The Frieze of the Apostles. “They were fishermen, so I see some imagery that relates to that. Boats maybe, and I saw shores — it’s like Manhattan and New Jersey — but maybe the Sea of Galilee.”

...In a few hours she will exchange the jeans and top for more exotic fashions, a brightly colored kimono, a large black hat and two pairs of false eyelashes — sable — to portray this legendary sculptor in the Signature Theater’s production, which runs through July 13.

When asked to step into a part that Mr. Albee had originally envisioned for Anne Bancroft before her illness and death, Ms. Ruehl knew little of Nevelson’s bric-a-brac assemblages. So she read biographies, collected art books, tracked down audio and video tapes, and interviewed friends, like Nevelson’s dealer Arnold Glimcher, and Mr. Albee, of course, who was close to the artist for more than 40 years before she died in 1988 at the age of 88.

When Ms. Ruehl infused Nevelson with too much joy or laughter, Mr. Albee told her to be fierce. There is a moment in the play when the interviewer (Larry Bryggman) asks if it was a good life, and she responds, “Some; parts of it; enough; yes: enough.”
Rain Garden II
Ms. Ruehl remembers walking with Mr. Albee to the opening-night party. “He stopped in the street and said, ‘Remember,’ and he did it for me. ‘Tough. Enough; yeah: enough.’ I saw what he was saying: Don’t have a drop of sentiment in there. Every inch earned. That’s Edward too. He’s saying line up with the two of us.”

...The Louise Nevelson that theatergoers witness onstage is a blend of three different biographies, Ms. Ruehl said. First there is the character’s own story, which in the case of Nevelson is a spirited blur of fact and self-invention.

Then there is the biography imagined by the playwright, who is using the Nevelson character to tell his own story, Ms. Ruehl continued, and finally, there is the actor’s own autobiographical reflection.

“One thing all three of us had, poignantly and deeply, is a theme of mothers and sons,” Ms. Ruehl said.

Mr. Albee painfully bared aspects of the tense relationship with his own adoptive mother before in his 1994 Pulitzer-Prize winning play “Three Tall Women.” Nevelson was burdened with having largely deserted her son in the single-minded pursuit of her art.

She was torn between two creative acts, her sculpture and raising a child, Ms. Ruehl said, and “she was ruthlessly honest about having seriously and permanently injured a life.”

...At one point in the play Nevelson says: “With any luck you turn into whoever you want to be. And with even better luck you become who you should be.” Nevelson did, but it came at a steep price.

“She is someone who’s living at a deep and dangerous level,” Ms. Ruehl said. “I could not have lived her life.”

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Berthe Morisot

I got to looking through images of Berthe Morisot's paintings and I came across this one, Mother and Sister of the Artist:

The way the mother in black has such a strong geometric presence reminded me of Whistler's Mother Arrangement in Grey and Black. Actually - I think that Morisot's "arrangement" seems more interesting - partly because it seems more likely to have happened in real life (she makes it look more natural) - and the diagonal of the black creates more of a impression.

Morisot's was painted a year or two before Whistler's:

Whistler knew Morisot and Manet. I expect that it's highly likely that Whistler saw Morisot's painting. It's interesting to consider some of the influences. It's also interesting how highly Whistler is regarded as if he were so influential. He had created paintings such as "The White Girl" previous to this - and undoubtalby there was cross influencing.

The Wikipedia page on Berthe Morisot makes mention of her influence on Manet:

It was Morisot who convinced Manet to attempt plein air painting, which she had been practicing since having been introduced to it by Corot.

She also drew Manet into the circle of painters who soon became known as the Impressionists.

Morisot is one of my favorite artists. The way she painted suggests air and atmosphere - inside a room. She had her own way of bringing a painting to life. It's interesting to know of her influence on other important artists. It's a shame that women's influences too often go unrecognized and/or unmentioned.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mary Cassatt

I recently watched the movie Mary Cassatt: A Brush with Independence.

The movie emphasized the aspect of feminism in her artwork. Her subject matter of women and babies was meant to elevate women and what women do. I think it does have that effect. Seeing her subjects along with paintings of wars, for instance, in musuems - there is that sense that her subjects are just as important as any other.

The movie also compared Manet's "Boating" painting with Cassatt's "Boating Party".



Cassatt's focus on the woman's expression, the addition of the child. In Manet's - the painting seems to be all about the man - and the woman is texture. It's interesting that she created that as a response.

I think that Mary Cassatt's version of boating seems more like Manet's normal style than his does. The emphasis on shapes that are barely modeled - like the black of the man, the sail, the woman's hat.

I've noticed some bios seem to emphasize her "bitterness" in later years. Others that she was involved in woman's suffrage and mentoring women.

She lost most of her sight in her later years and she was unhappy with the direction art was going. But she accomplished a lot. For a woman to become internationally known as an artist is rare. She may be the best known woman artist.

So many women artists figure that they have to choose motherhood or art. Cassatt chose art and made paintings of motherhood. Berthe Morisot, from the same time managed to marry, have a child and paint. But that was considered extremely unusual.

I have touched with a sense of art some people – they felt the love and the life. Can you offer me anything to compare to that joy for an artist?

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Great Smokey Mountain National Park

Update: I returned in May and painted 3 more paintings

Photo of painting next to Juney-Whank Falls...

I had a great week of painting last week (April) in Tennessee at the GSMNP. I had not been down there in mid-April before and it was great to see the masses of Nodding Trilliums, Painted Trilliums, Yellow Trilliums (which I had not seen previously) as well as the other spring ephemerals, dogwoods, redbuds, and other flowering things.

The weather was fantastic. The day we arrived there was snow in the higher elevations of the park - 4000+. It made an interesting scene to see the greening of the lower parts of the hills going up to less green and then to snow.

I created 4 24"x30" over the course of the week. Of waterfalls, primarily. There is a dogwood in one and some rhodedendrons not blooming yet in others. I had been painting the waterfall in McCormick's Creek and it was great to have more falls/rushing water to paint.

Two paintings were "official falls" (the "Sinks" and "Cataract"), 2 others were from near "Roaring Forks" road. I was looking for "The Place of 1000 drips" - but didn't find it until later - and even then it seemed to be designated differently by different entities. I could paint there for months and have all different views.

I went around the Artist's loop road they have. There were a few nice things and a lot of stuff. One thing I noticed were prints of paintings about the size that I was painting for $1400 m/l.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg died May 12th.

'I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop,' he said in an interview on Captiva in 2000. 'At the time that I am bored or understand — I use those words interchangeably — another appetite has formed. A lot of people try to think up ideas. I’m not one. I’d rather accept the irresistible possibilities of what I can’t ignore.' R.R.

He was one of my favorites living artists. I saw a show of his in Chelsea last January - and I didn't think it was on par with his other works - but then the article stated that he had a stroke in 2002 - so that would explain some things.

Some snips from the New York Times obit ->

Robert Rauschenberg, the irrepressibly prolific American artist who time and again reshaped art in the 20th century, died on Monday night at his home on Captiva Island, Fla. He was 82.

The cause was heart failure, said Arne Glimcher, chairman of PaceWildenstein, the Manhattan gallery that represents Mr. Rauschenberg.

Mr. Rauschenberg’s work gave new meaning to sculpture. “Canyon,” for instance, consisted of a stuffed bald eagle attached to a canvas. “Monogram” was a stuffed goat girdled by a tire atop a painted panel. “Bed” entailed a quilt, sheet and pillow, slathered with paint, as if soaked in blood, framed on the wall. All became icons of postwar modernism.

A painter, photographer, printmaker, choreographer, onstage performer, set designer and, in later years, even a composer, Mr. Rauschenberg defied the traditional idea that an artist stick to one medium or style. He pushed, prodded and sometimes reconceived all the mediums in which he worked...

No American artist, Jasper Johns once said, invented more than Mr. Rauschenberg. Mr. Johns, John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Mr. Rauschenberg, without sharing exactly the same point of view, collectively defined this new era of experimentation in American culture.

Apropos of Mr. Rauschenberg, Cage once said, “Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look.” Cage meant that people had come to see, through Mr. Rauschenberg’s efforts, not just that anything, including junk on the street, could be the stuff of art (this wasn’t itself new), but that it could be the stuff of an art aspiring to be beautiful — that there was a potential poetics even in consumer glut, which Mr. Rauschenberg celebrated.

“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly,” he once said, “because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.”...

The process — an improvisatory, counterintuitive way of doing things — was always what mattered most to him. “Screwing things up is a virtue,” he said when he was 74. “Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can’t read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.”

This attitude also inclined him, as the painter Jack Tworkov once said, “to see beyond what others have decided should be the limits of art.”

He “keeps asking the question — and it’s a terrific question philosophically, whether or not the results are great art,” Mr. Tworkov said, “and his asking it has influenced a whole generation of artists.”

...There were many other images of downtrodden and lonely people, rapt in thought; pictures of ancient frescoes, out of focus as if half remembered; photographs of forlorn, neglected sites; bits and pieces of faraway places conveying a kind of nostalgia or remoteness. In bringing these things together, the art implied consolation...

Milton Ernest Rauschenberg was born on Oct. 22, 1925, in Port Arthur, Tex., a small refinery town where “it was very easy to grow up without ever seeing a painting,” he said. (In adulthood he renamed himself Robert.) His grandfather, a doctor who emigrated from Germany, had settled in Texas and married a Cherokee. His father, Ernest, worked for a local utility company. The family lived so frugally that his mother, Dora, made him shirts out of scraps of fabric. Once she made herself a skirt out of the back of the suit that her younger brother was buried in. She didn’t want the material to go to waste.

For his high school graduation present, Mr. Rauschenberg wanted a ready-made shirt, his first. All this shaped his art eventually. A decade or so later he made history with his own assemblages of scraps and ready-mades: sculptures and music boxes made of packing crates, rocks and rope; and paintings like “Yoicks,” sewn from fabric strips. He loved making something out of nothing...

He attended the Kansas City Art Institute on the G.I. Bill, traveled to Paris and enrolled at the Académie Julian, where he met Susan Weil, a young painter from New York who was to enter Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Having read about and come to admire Josef Albers, then the head of fine arts at Black Mountain, Mr. Rauschenberg saved enough money to join her.

Mr. Albers was a disciplinarian and strict modernist who, shocked by his student, later disavowed ever even knowing Mr. Rauschenberg. He was, on the other hand, recalled by Mr. Rauschenberg as “a beautiful teacher and an impossible person.”

“He wasn’t easy to talk to, and I found his criticism so excruciating and so devastating that I never asked for it,” Mr. Rauschenberg added. “Years later, though, I’m still learning what he taught me.”

Among other things, he learned to maintain an open mind toward materials and new mediums, which Mr. Albers endorsed. Mr. Rauschenberg also gained a respect for the grid as an essential compositional organizing tool...

Around that time (50's) he also met Mr. Johns, then unknown, who had a studio in the same building on Pearl Street where Mr. Rauschenberg had a loft. The intimacy of their relationship over the next years, a consuming subject for later biographers and historians, coincided with the production by the two of them of some of the most groundbreaking works of postwar art.

In Mr. Rauschenberg’s famous words, they gave each other “permission to do what we wanted.” Living together in a series of lofts in Lower Manhattan until the 1960s, they exchanged ideas and supported themselves designing window displays for Tiffany & Company and Bonwit Teller under the collaborative pseudonym Matson Jones.

Along with the combines like “Monogram” and “Canyon” (1959), Mr. Rauschenberg in that period developed a transfer drawing technique, dissolving printed images from newspapers and magazines with a solvent and then rubbing them onto paper with a pencil. The process, used for works like “34 Drawings for Dante’s Inferno,” created the impression of something fugitive, exquisite and secret. Perhaps there was an autobiographical and sensual aspect to this. It let him blend images on a surface to a kind of surreal effect, which became the basis for works he made throughout his later career, when he adapted the transfer method to canvas.

...In 1964 he toured Europe and Asia with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, the same year he exhibited at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the Venice Biennale as the United States representative. That sealed his international renown. The Sunday Telegraph in London hailed him as “the most important American artist since Jackson Pollock.” He walked off with the international grand prize in Venice, the first modern American to win it. Mr. Rauschenberg had, almost despite himself, become an institution....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Cool Spring

Overall - it's been a cool Spring. Easily the slowest Spring I can remember - slow being good.

Often the trees and plants start blooming, it heats up to 80something - and it looks like summer in a matter of days. Not this year. It seems like the redbuds have been blooming for a month. Around here the flowers are still on a lot of redbuds but the leaves are also coming out.

I noticed that the Sycamores are one of the last types of trees to get leafed out. Their leaves are still light green and barely open.

I have noticed that Willows have been about the first to come out in the Spring - but I never noticed which are the last.

The dogwoods are still blooming, our peonys are out - but others are not.

April 23rd and 25th were over 80 - but that's been it so far.

Today was sunny and about 70 - quite a lovely day.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sycamore Land Trust Paint Out

I was painting today at the Sycamore Land Trust Paint Out "Art for all Seasons" at the The Touch the Earth Preserve.

It was a pretty nice place and a beautiful day. As it turned out it was rather a windy day as well.

This has been the longest lasting Spring that I can remember. It's mostly a matter of not getting hot. It seems that often - a normal Spring around here lasts a week at most. The leaves start to bud out and then it gets up to the 80's or so and that brings the leaves out. I always really liked the stage where the leaves are starting to come out and there are many shades of light greens and such. It's also the time of redbuds and dogwoods. It's been great to have this state of nature continue a little while.

Anyway - I went to the paint out. I didn't see anyone else out there painting. I did talk to the lady who lives across the street and saw her lady slippers and such. She showed me the pawpaws in bloom at the SLT property.

I settled on painting in the open field. In the morning I liked the view toward the cedars - which were practically in silhouette with the white-budded bushes (autumn olive?) in front and a few Springy looking trees scattered around in the background.

It went pretty well - I managed to catch the painting more than once as it nearly blew over in wind gusts.

After that one was done - it took about 3 hours - I decided to paint another one since I was out there. I was painting fairly small - 18x24". So I went back and took the opposite view - toward the hill. This time I got the easel anchored better - got through the whole painting - and then as I was trying to position it to take to the car - a wind gust blew it over on my head (fortunately I had a hat on). So I had to try to fix it. I ended up fixing it up a bit more after I got home.

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Is Painting Small the Next Big Thing?"

I've wondered if painting would go small what with the green revolution and all. The really large paintings especially - seem to mimic consumption-mode America.

Interestingly "small" in this article is not small small - but 15"x18" and 34"x36". Interesting to me - because that is about the size that I've been working lately.

An article from the New York Times...
Small may be beautiful, but where abstract painting is concerned, it is rarely fashionable. Big has held center stage at least since Jackson Pollock; the small abstractions of painters like Myron Stout, Forrest Bess and Steve Wheeler are mostly relegated to the wings, there to be considered eccentric or overly precious. Paul Klee was arguably the last genius of small abstraction to be granted full-fledged membership in the Modernist canon.

But what is marginalized can also become a form of dissent, a way to counter the prevailing arguments and sidestep their pitfalls. It is hard, for example, to work small and indulge in the mind-boggling degree of spectacle that afflicts so much art today. In a time of glut and waste on every front, compression and economy have undeniable appeal. And if a great work of art is one that is essential in all its parts, that has nothing superfluous or that can be subtracted, working small may improve the odds.

Small paintings of the abstract kind are having a moment right now in New York, with a luminous exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art spotlighting the wry, fastidiously wrought work of the German painter Tomma Abts; and PaceWildenstein presenting in Chelsea the latest efforts of James Siena and Thomas Nozkowski, two older American whizzes at undersize abstraction. Even post-war Modernism could be downsized a bit, with a show titled “Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Abstract Expressionism” opening next month at Baruch College.

Four young painters who embrace smallness are now having solo shows — three of them New York debuts — that challenge the importance of the big canvas.

Small abstractions avoid the long realist tradition of painting as a window, and also the shorter, late-Modernist one of painting as a flat wall. Instead these smaller works align themselves with less vaunted (and sometimes less masculine) conventions: the printed page, illuminated manuscripts, icons and plaques.

And yet, as each of these four exhibitions demonstrates, abstraction allows a serious exploration of process despite the limited real estate. This expands the already considerable pleasure of looking at paintings that are not much larger than your head.... (more)

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I'll be showing some of my nebula's and spheres at Allotropy in Indianapolis this coming May 9th and 10th. From the Allotropy site:

Allotropy - Art in Multiple Forms


Friday & Saturday, May 9-10, 2008
5-11 p.m.
Tickets $10 ($7 for students)
1315 Shelby St. INDY Map


Amory Abbott
Carrie Rebecca Armellino
Joe Bieschke
Susan Brewer
Margaret Gohn
Kyle A. Herrington
Riva Jewell-Vitale & Brad Wicklund
Jennifer Kaye Laughner
William G. Lopeman
Zachary Lopez
Jeff Martin
Carol L. Myers
Phil O'Malley
Mark Pack
Chad Prifogle
Shari Pettis
William Denton Ray
Josh Rush
Erin Swanson
Sarah Tolbert

Allotropy artists were selected among 48 entrants by a panel of jurors including:

Mark Ruschman - Owner Ruschman Gallery
Lori Miles - Herron Graduate and active Artist
Brad Bernard - Visiting Artist, Mississippi

Kaiton Slusher (electronic ambient) White label records/audio reconnaissance
Blueprint Music (Kate & Doug performing a special duo set)
Golden Moses & the Unrealities (Jon from Everything Now! acoustic indie rock) Standard recording
El Floundero dub club (DJ-dub, reggae, etc.)
e. brown (DJ-Jazz & Exotica)

Motif (DJ-electronic music Audio reconnaissance)
Chad Serhal (folk/blues) Standard Recording
DJ Pabasi (bossa nova-latin sound)
Turbo's left foot (DJ-rare groove & funk)
El Floundero dub club (DJ-dub, reggae, etc.)