7 reasons why Zarina Hashmi is my latest art crush….

How do you not fall for a person who said, I always had a suitcase ready….suppose I had to go somewhere?  Or, when speaking about her art (reason number two) she said,  My work is connected to language and to poetry. You know, my work is about writing.  The image follows the word.

January, 2020, I saw some of Zarina’s work in Marking Time: Process in Minimal Abstraction at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC.

Untitled, Zarina Hashmi, 1977, 20 sheets of needle pierced laminated paper, Guggenheim image

Untitled, Zarina, 1977, T. Vatrt image

Untitled, Zarina, 1977, T. Vatrt image

Untitled, Zarina, 1977, T. Vatrt image

Untitled, Zarina, 1977, punctured paper, T. Vatrt image

I was fascinated by her use of paper. In these works, paper is everything, with nothing added to create the image – rather it is the manipulation of the paper that results in the art.  The paper is the support,  the medium, and the subject.  (Reasons number 3 and 4:  shared love of paper and the manipulation of paper to create images and structures)

After watching this 12 minute video from the Hammer Museum, I was completely smitten with Zarina Hashmi. In the video, Ms Hashmi speaks about her life, and her work.  Not only is it a well produced, informative film, it reminded me that I saw the show Zarina: Paper like Skin  when it traveled to  The Art Institute of Chicago in 2013.  At the time I remember thinking Wow!  A printmaker! This is beautiful, meaningful work….from someone I’ve never heard about before. (Reason number 5:  good art stays with us and repeatedly delights us)

Zarina Hashmi was born in India, but was, truly, a citizen of the world.  She earned a degree in mathematics and studied printmaking (reason number 6) in Bangkok, Tokyo , and, notably, in Paris, at the renowned print shop, Atelier 17.

I just made my personal life the subject of my art. So I have to write about what I’ve gone through.  Oh, it’s very painful. I have opened up my life to the scrutiny of strangers.  (reason number 7:  her honesty)

Luhring Augustine in New York City has a good website with images of her work, and biographical information. This short video from the Tate will solidify your admiration for this artist – at least, it did for me.

Zarina Hashmi, Tate.org.uk image

 

 

 

Attention ~ Caribou Crossing

The Art Caravan enjoys multi-genre artistic projects.  Think of Michael Oondatje’s book, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, or The Memory Palace , multi-sensory installations by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller and Sarah Anne Johnson’s thematic work which uses photography as a springboard to other visual interpretations.  The works are complex in form, and meaning – the best kind of art, don’t you think?  It challenges us, the audience,  to ask questions, examine preconceptions, interpret freely.

Maureen Gruben‘s exhibition Tuktuuyaqtuuk (Caribou Crossing) at the Legacy Gallery is a fascinating combination of poetry, installation and sculpture, documenting a life unfamiliar to many of us.  Born and raised in Tuktoyaktuk, Ms Gruben’s work reflects life in the Western Arctic.

Infinite # 13, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Infinite # 13, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Infinite # 13, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Infinite # 13, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Tuktoyaktuk (English) / Tuktuuyaqtuuk (Inuvialuktun) means Looks like a Caribou. Initially, it was jarring to see that several of the pieces are composed of different parts of a caribou.  Consider  this untitled piece, below.  Imagine my surprise, and curiosity, when I discovered the main structure is a caribou heart sac – the membrane that contains the muscle of the heart.  Its translucent beauty is transformed into a nest like object – a symbol of (perhaps?) home, nurture, growth, life.

untitled, Maureen Gruben, 2020

untitled, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Superseded  is the foundational piece of the show.  Its colour commands immediate attention while the other artworks seem to reflect the natural Arctic palette. The  manufactured, hard-edged materials used in this piece contrast vividly with her wide-ranging use of natural materials in the other works.

Superseded, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Superseded, Maureen Gruben, 2020

With Superseded, Ms Gruben repurposes the red tin plates (government issued markers) that were used to divide the land into distinct ownership parcels.  The beautiful line of soldering overlaying the plates could echo the wandering journeys of the caribou, and, presumably, their hunters.  Such a line is also found in caribou skulls. How curious is that?

Superseded, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Superseded, Maureen Gruben, 2020

Challenging questions about ownership, settlement, indigenous life, and boundaries emerge….but subtly, like the fine line in a caribou skull, or the delicacy of a heart sac. Superseded does what good art can do – give visual pleasure, as well as challenge us intellectually and emotionally.

This five minute video from the Legacy Gallery is a tour of the exhibition, with commentary.  It’s worth watching, especially for people unable to view the works in person.  I’m happy to report the show is on for another two weeks, so I will see it again.

Print Month Update AND an Amazing Artist You’ve Probably Never Heard Of….

Have you been indulging a bit, or a lot, in Print Month?

Click here for the E / AB (Online) Fair and here for the IFPDA viewing rooms.  The viewing rooms are wonderful: informative, and visually satisfying.  They really are treasure troves, and lots more fun than regular on-line shopping!  Just think:  Helen Frankenthaler, Carmen Herrera, Judy Pfaff, KiKi Smith, Marion MacPhee, Joan Miró, Rembrandt, Paulson Fontaine Press, Zea Mays Printmaking….and please, watch the video about Louise Nevelson at Tamarind Institute.

As you can imagine, The Art Caravan’s (in person) 2019 visit to NYC for Print Week was jam-packed with great art viewing. Seeing Emma Nishimura‘s work at the International Print Center New York was one of the (many) highlights.

https://www.ipcny.org

Shifting Views, 2013, Emma Nishimura

Yes!  This incredible piece, depicting the landscape near Slocan, British Columbia, is composed of cut pieces of the artist’s prints,  wrapped by hand around the rods.

Shifting Views, (detail), 2013, Emma Nishimura

Shifting Views, (detail),2013, Emma Nishimura

In this exhibition, Paper Borders, Nishimura used the forced relocation of her Japanese-Canadian grandparents to an internment camp in rural Canada during the years of World War II as source material.  (More than 22,000 Canadians of Japanese descent were required to live in camps in British Columbia.  They were allowed one suitcase per person, and their homes and property were confiscated, and sold.  Here is a brief summary of the Japanese internment in Canada.)

Nishimura’s technical skills in printmaking are exceptional.  Note the exquisite etching details she executes by hand.  The lines in the Constructed Narrative series are composed of text from historical and familial documents / papers.

Collected Stories, (detail) Emma Nishimura

Collected Stories, (detail) Emma Nishimura

Constructed Narratives 2013-ongoing series, Emma Nishimura

Constructed Narratives 2013-ongoing series, Emma Nishimura

Nishimura’s An Archive of Rememory is a most engaging series.  Furoshiki are traditional Japanese cloth used to carry everyday items, as well as gifts.  Nishimura has made furoshiki out of her etchings of internment camp and family photos.

An Archive of Rememory, 2016-ongoing, Emma Nishimura

An Archive of Rememory, 2016-ongoing, Emma Nishimura

An Archive of Rememory, 2016-ongoing, Emma Nishimura

An Archive of Rememory, 2016-ongoing, Emma Nishimura

The artworks are wrapped, and knotted into paper furoshiki, to carry the memories of a Canadian family and their community.  Her furoshiki appear simple, but are complex works.  Nishimura’s  sculptured vessels are made up of visual representations of memories of a community denied their homes and possessions.

furoshiki from An Archive of Rememory, photo etching and photo gravure on handmade flax and abaca

furoshiki from An Archive of Rememory, photo etching and photo gravure on handmade flax and abaca

It’s a lot to absorb, I know.  It’s disturbing source material.  Nishimura’s  expressions of her ideas are complex,  creative and beautiful.  If you’re interested in more information, and images of her work, I highly recommend her website .

 

 

 

 

Print Month!

I know, isn’t every month Print Month?   ( I remember, as a child,  asking my Mum,  Why isn’t there a Kids’ Day, like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?  Of course she said, Every day is Kids’ Day.)

For The Art Caravan and many art afficiandos, original, hand made, fine art prints are irresistible.  Once you get some familiarity with the world of printmakers, print studios and print shops, it’s easy to become a fan, and collector.

Each October, the International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) hosts a Print Week in New York City.   This year, Print Week has become a very accessible  Print Month of (not surprisingly) online programming and exhibitions.

Last year, The Art Caravan happily traveled to NYC to meet friends, and celebrate Print Week.  The main event was held at the Jacob K. Jarvits Center.  To say we were thrilled to attend is an understatement.  I felt like I was on a pilgrimage.

Javits Center NYC, T. Vatrt image

Javits Center NYC, T. Vatrt image

The second floor of the conference centre was devoted to booths from international and North American galleries and museums.  Artwork from Dürer and Rembrandt to contemporary artists such as Swoon were on display, and for sale.  It was exciting, inspiring and provided abundant choices for the IF You could have any Artwork on Display? game.  A few happy hours were spent wandering up and down the aisles, viewing artwork and talking to the dealers.  Here’s a link to this year’s list of exhibitors.

International Fine Print Fair, 2019, NYC, T. Vatrt image

New York being New York, the art community embraces Print Week.  What I assumed would be the main event is, in reality, one of many print-rich opportunities available in both commercial and public art galleries and museums.  Because of New York based printmaker Elizabeth McAlpin‘s knowledgable recommendation, The Art Caravan also visited the E/AB Fair. This year the E/AB Fair is sponsored by the Lower East Side Printshop.

Editions / Art Book Fair, NYC, 2019, T. Vatrt image

The Editions / Art Book Fair featured hand made print editions from individual printmakers, as well as print shops. The Art Book portion is dedicated to artists creating handmade books. Many of the artists and printmakers were present, and happy to talk about printmaking.  The Art Caravan spent several hours, over two afternoons, talking shop with printers and studying the artworks.  Click here for this year’s viewing room…..and enjoy!

Leviathian V, Marion MacPhee, 2019

Levithian II (etching), Marion MacPhee, 2016

I was particularly smitten by these gorgeous etchings by Marion MacPhee from the Glasgow Print Studio It was a highlight to talk with her about the studio, and her fabulous etchings.

Viewing prints online is not the same as seeing them in person.  The textures, the marks, the depth achieved in printmaking doesn’t easily translate via photography.  (Another example of ambiguous loss.)  This year, the experience will be virtual.  Maybe next year we’ll be attending in person.  Perhaps.  In the meantime, enjoy the multiple offerings of everything print at this year’s Print Month.

 

 

Treating ourselves

…be easier on yourselves……Treat yourself.

says Pauline Boss, who named the psychological condition of ambiguous loss. (See The Art Caravan post about it here.)  She asserts that we are experiencing grief for our losses during this pandemic.  No kidding.  Some days- okay! many days – it feels like the world is spinning out of control.  (I think the phrase, selectively used by my mother and grandmother,  going to hell in a hand basket, is à propos.)

Dr. Boss also recommends that we acknowledge our sadness, stay in touch and be kind with others, establish rituals, and practise self care, as much as possible.

But be easier on yourselves and normalize it. Knowing that grief — those feelings that you described — are essentially normal.  So just take the day off, or do something easy on yourself.  Treat yourself.

Who are we to argue with Pauline Boss?   Exactly.

The Art Caravan offers Red Roses Sonata and Cherry Blossom Symphony by Alma Thomas as our treats for today.

Red Roses Sonata, Alma Thomas, 1972, Metropolitan Museum of Art, T. Vatrt image

I hope you can see this in person some day.   It shimmers.  It vibrates.  It’s mesmerizing.  It is remarkable.

Red Roses Sonata was an unexpected treat for me as I wandered one afternoon through the overwhelming abundance of the Metropolitan Museum in NYC.  (You know the feeling: so much good art,  but dwindling energy, and the is it too early for a tea break thought?)  It interrupted the  mid-afternoon museum shuffle and my drifting attention.  It was a beacon of energy that demanded my focus.  I remember being almost giddy seeing it.

No surprise, really,  that I had never heard of the artist, Alma Thomas.  (We all know how much attention an African American woman of a ‘certain age’ garners.  sigh)  She was the first African American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney, in 1972.  In an interview she said One of the things we couldn’t do was go into museums, let alone think of hanging our pictures there.  My, times have changed.  Just look at me now.

Her life is as remarkable as her work. She was a public school art teacher.  Upon retirement in 1960, she painted full time and produced an extraordinary body of work in the expressionist style.  The Smithsonian Magazine recently published a succinct article about her, with good images.

She is sometimes included in the color field or color school movements, although there is more energy and emotion in her work than is found in many of its practitioners.  Cherry Blosson Symphony is in the show The Fullness of Color: 1960s Painting  at the soon-to-be-reopened Guggenheim in NYC.  More visual treats by Alma Thomas can be found at artsy.net.

Cherry Blossom Symphony, Alma Thomas, 1972, T. Vatrt image

 

 

 

Art, ambiguity and loss

Like so many other things in our lives, the Art Caravan’s travelling schedule has been suspended, due to the pandemic.  Instead of bemoaning the specific shows we didn’t see this summer like  L. L. Fitzgerarld at the WAG or Katie Ohe at the Esker  (sigh…) we are going to think about  the work of Pauline Boss, a researcher, professor, author, and therapist who first used the term ambiguous loss in the 1970s.

Doc Snyder's House, L. L. Fitzgerald, 1931

Doc Snyder’s House, L. L. Fitzgerald, 1931

Sky Block, Katie Ohe, Esker Foundation, image by Elyse Bouvier

Ms Boss defines the two types of ambiguous loss:

a physical absence with psychological presence (eg. in situations of divorce, immigration, natural disasters, adoption)

psychological absence with physical presence (eg. dementia, Alzheimers’s, addiction, depression, mental illness, brain injury)

Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief, by Pauline Boss

The On Being Podcast with Krista Tippett  (audio and/or transcript) provides a very good overview to Ms Boss’s research.  In her introduction to the interview Krista Tippett says You could say of 2020 that we are suddenly in a world of ‘ambiguous loss.’  The conversation with Pauline Boss is, indeed, …full of practical intelligence for shedding assumptions about how we should be feeling and acting that actually deepen stress precisely in a moment like this.

I particularly liked the July 2020 follow-up conversation between Ms Tippett and Ms Boss. This Living the Questions  (audio and/or transcript) segment is honest, affirming and, again, offers practical strategies for these strange and challenging days.

On Being podcast

In the spirit of Ms Boss’s suggestions for coping during the pandemic, The Art Caravan will continue with the ritual of bi-weekly postings.  We acknowledge the sadness and losses we sometimes feel. We will continue to enjoy fabulous, fascinating artwork, artists and ideas.  Now we have the luxury of time to share it with you.

 

 

The Best Impressionist Painter is not Monet…and other heresies

Who, me?  Dissing Monet??  No, not at all.  It’s just that Berthe Morisot doesn’t get the attention she deserves.  She is my favourite Impressionist painter, and, (dare I say?) the best of the lot.

Berthe Morisot, Self Portrait, 1985

Berthe Morisot, Self Portrait, 1985

The Frick Five’s final question (which is really two questions)  Which artist do you find most overrated?  Which artist do you find most underrated? reminded me of Berthe Morisot.  If you are thinking Berthe who? you’re not alone.  Many people are not aware of her, and her significance in the history of art.

I was fortunate to come across several of her artworks in the Musée Marmottan in Paris.  (Three  fun facts:  I briefly wrote about Mme Morisot  in 2014, the Marmottan is  one of my favourite art museums in Paris, and, coincidentally, it has a huge Monet wing – definitely a topic for another post.)

More recently, she has received some of the attention she deserves. In 2019, The Dallas Museum of Art hosted the international exhibition  Berthe Morisot, Woman Impressionist, which also toured to the Barnes Foundation, the Musée D’orsay and the Musée National des beaux-arts du Québec.  Everyone from Artnet News to The New Yorker to The Washington Post has been writing about her since 2018.

In her biography of Berthe Morisot, Anne Higonnet, outlines some of the challenges Berthe Morisot faced.  From our viewpoint in the 21st century, it’s startling to realize Madame Morisot (Berthe’s mother) had to chaperone Berthe’s painting visits to the Lourve.

Nineteenth-century bourgeois convention recognized only one suitable path for women – marriage and motherhood.  Anything else was failure.  Single women were ‘excess’ human beings who had not fulfilled their womanly destinies.  A career was supposed to ‘unsex’ a woman, leech away her femininity, and render her abnormal.  In Morisot’s field, such threats acquired a daunting edge.  For genius was deemed a masculine attribute.  No one could imagine a great woman painter.  None had yet existed, and this seemed sufficient proof that none ever would.  (p.51)

Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay image

Berthe Morisot, The Cradle, 1872, oil on canvas, Musée d’Orsay image

The challenges and obstacles she faced began well before she even reached the easel and picked up a paintbrush; they were everywhere around her, in the idea that ‘genius’ was a function of masculinity, in the dearth of role models for her to follow, in the … logistics she encountered on a day-to-day basis, in the minds of others and in her own mind. (p.148)

Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875–1880, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago image

Berthe Morisot, Woman at Her Toilette, 1875–1880, oil on canvas, Art Institute of Chicago image

How Berthe Morisot Broke Barriers to Become the First Female Impressionist  is a succinct article, with good images, from My Modern Met.  All ‘barrier breaking’ aside,  Berthe Morisot is, in my books, a DFP (damned fine painter.)  Note the lush brushwork, and the gorgeous palette – all hallmarks of the Impressionist painters.

Take another look at the compositions, too.  Subtle, but powerful:  in Woman at Her Toilette the line of the mirror anchors the left side of the painting, whilst the highlights off her earring, and then the glass container, draw us in to appreciate the beauty of her shoulder and neck. The right side of the painting is fascinatingly vague, and gives our eye a space to rest, in contrast to the rich details enveloping the woman.

Notice how she uses geometric shapes to give strength and contrast to the domestic scenes she portrays in both The Cradle and Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight. Triangles abound in the former painting;  rectangles compose the latter, below.

Berthe Morisot, In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight), 1875, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan, Photo by Erich Lessing Art Resource, NY

Berthe Morisot, In England (Eugène Manet on the Isle of Wight), 1875, oil on canvas, Musée Marmottan, Photo by Erich Lessing Art Resource, NY

I suspect one of Edouard Manet’s portraits of Berthe Morisot is more well-known than any of her paintings.  Edouard Manet was her brother-in-law;  she was married to Eugène Manet.  Although Anne Higonnet dismisses art historical gossip (p.92) she admits that

….he made more portraits of her than anyone else.  (“He has made a portrait of his wife, I think it was about time,”  wrote Cornell Thomas Morisot in March 1869.)  (p.55)

It’s a flattering portrait, there’s no arguing that.  Whether of not they were romantically involved is a topic for speculation.  I am looking forward to reading the new novel, Madder Women,  by Dede Crane which promises tumultuous love affair.  Who can resist?

Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets, Edouard Manet, 1872

Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets, Edouard Manet, 1872

One must give credit where credit is due.  Besides all of his prodigious output, Claude Monet left an extensive collection of 19th century Japanese prints in his home in Giverny, as well as a  gorgeous garden for us to experience.  He may not be the best of the Impressionist painters, but he was generous, and remains hugely popular and beloved.  Perhaps as Berthe Morisot receives more attention, her genius will be appreciated and her artwork will be widely enjoyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family dynamics

Have you thought about the questions from the Frick Five videos?  (See the last post for more info.)  Any definitive responses?  No hard and fast selections made here, either.  But isn’t that part of the enjoyment?

I’m still thinking about my answer to the first question:  What is the one work of art you would want to live with every day?   I can’t commit to a decision….yet.  But thinking about possible choices reminded me of a favourite painting by the artist  John Singer Sargent.

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, 1882, NYTimes image

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, 1882, NYTimes image

This is a stunning oil painting.  For starters, it is large: 7 feet by 7 feet square.  It assumes a significant physical presence in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Wikipedia reminded me that The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit  is hung between the original two vases depicted in the painting.

I don’t think of myself as a huge fan of realist painting, but this painting offers far more than a physical representation of a person, or a group.  I have had the opportunity to see it in person, with plenty of time to sit in an uncrowded space, and enjoy it.  (The typical art museum visitor spends, on average, less than 30 seconds looking at a piece of art, according to a study published in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and Art in 2017.)

Consider the composition.  Our attention is immediately captured by the girls. (Psychological studies provide evidence that our eye / attention is instinctively drawn to a human face or figure in visual art.)  This is not a typical arrangement of figures for a family portrait, especially considering it was painted in 1882.   We don’t even see the (presumably) eldest daughter’s face as she is turned away from the viewer and and  is obscured by  shadow. Two of the girls hold more traditional poses, but not together.  One of them is shadowed, and the other is at the edge of the painting. The youngest is plopped on the floor, like her doll.  The child and the doll present as one figure.

John Singer Sargent was a prolific artist , creating thousands of artworks in oil, watercolour and charcoal.  He was born in Italy to American parents, and lived most of his life in Europe, with frequent trips to the USA.  At the beginning of his career, he accepted many portrait commissions in America.

Lady with the Rose (Charlotte Louise Burckhardt), John Singer Sargent, 1882

Lady with the Rose (Charlotte Louise Burckhardt), John Singer Sargent, 1882

Miss Beatrice Townsend, John Singer Sargent, 1882

Miss Beatrice Townsend, John Singer Sargent, 1882

The Boit family were part of the expatriate  American community in Paris.  In this commissioned portrait, Singer Sargent allows us, the viewers, room for imaginative speculation about the characters of the sisters. He’s given us just enough situational context to create stories about the individual personalities, and  to speculate at possible family dynamics.  Note the abundance of dark tones in the painting.  I wonder if the parents knew, encouraged or approved of this extremely unconventional depiction of their daughters?   The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (originally titled Portraits of Children) was donated to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 1919, only four years after Edward Darley Boit died.  Perhaps the sisters weren’t all that fond of it?

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, 1882, NYTimes image

The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, John Singer Sargent, 1882, NYTimes image

Structurally, the painting is intriguing.  The girls – and an inanimate object, a vase –  dominate the left two thirds of the composition, with the carpet almost meeting the doorframe at an angle – the same door edge that strongly frames one of the sisters.  Meanwhile, the orange-red triangular shape (a screen?) firmly pins the right side down, whilst partially obscuring the repeated vase shape.  What a playground for the eye!  We can travel from the human figures to the classical vase shapes to the geometry of the carpet, doorway and screen.  My eye is intrigued by the reflection in the upper right third of the painting, and thus another visual trip around the composition begins.

By re-examining one of my favourite paintings, maybe I’m getting closer to a definitive answer to the second Frick Five question.  Maybe.

If you could have your portrait made by any artist, who would that be?

 

 

 

 

If you could have any artwork in the world….and other perfect summer fantasies

 

What is the one work of art that you would want to live with every day?

Isn’t this a great question to consider?  It’s quite a fun idea to explore.  Just think about it. Take your time.  I find a seemingly unending stream of memories is elicited.   I offer it as a satisfying bit of escapism this summer.  As Annie Dillard says Spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.

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It’s not an easy choice for me.  I acknowledge that much of the remarkable work I’ve experienced wouldn’t be easy to live with every day.  There are  size and volume constraints, of course, but tone and meaning and the intention of the work must be considered, too.  Just as we are (or ought to be) selective about choosing housemates and partners, we are sensitive to the spirit of the artwork we bring into our lives.

If you could have your portrait made by any artist, who would that be?

I especially like this question.  (Could it be because it’s so self-centred?!)  Maybe it’s because I don’t know much about portrait painting and so I have fewer choices.  Whatever the reason, it too, offers the opportunity for entertaining possibilites.

Artemisia Gentileschi?  Caravaggio?  Rembrandt?  John Singer Sergeant?  Berthe Morisot?  Njideka Akunyili Crosby?  Käthe Kollwitz?

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, I Refuse to be Invisible, 2010, artist image

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, I Refuse to be Invisible, 2010, artist image

The questions are not originally conceived, nor are these:

What is the work or art / monument / museum that changed your life?

What is the book, and what is the piece of music, that inspire you the most?

Which artist do you find most overrated?  Which artist do you find most underrated?

These questions are posed by the Frick curators on their twice a month series, The Frick Five, available on the Frick’s website.  The Frick curators, Amiee Ng and Xavier F. Salomon, conduct relaxed, remote video  conversations with other curators.  It’s fun to get a glimpse into their homes – not always the  ubitquous book shelves – and hear them speak from a personal, as well as a professional viewpoint. The stories surrounding a life-changing piece of art or monument are delivered honestly and with a measure of vulnerability.  Isn’t that what happens when we resonate with a piece of art?  As they ably explain the historical and artistic significance of the works  supporting images are provided.

It’s highly entertaining to hear art professionals discuss the ‘overrated’ artists, and very informative to hear their support and enthusiasm for an artist deserving more attention.  They are limiting  the discussion to deceased artists, and not dishing any dirt on contemporary artists – although I initially held out some hope for just such an exchange, but they are obviously more gracious, and a whole lot wiser, than me.  I’ll leave it to you to find the interview with the curator who dares to question the values attributed to certain Impressionist painters.

The music and book choices are sometimes surprising, but always charming.  Kylie Minogue, anyone?! I think I would find it impossible to choose only one book, or one single piece of music.  Just like one piece of art, how does one choose?

 

 

 

 

There are no rules….

 

…..that is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen.
Helen Frankenthaler

 

The artist Helen Frankenthaler spoke from experience.  She was one of the first artists to explore the stained painting technique – a process wherein she poured thinned paint onto raw (unprimed) canvas.  Mountains and Sea (1952), considered a breakthrough painting, shows the transparency and delicacy possible with this technique. Here is a very brief interpretation of the painting from the National Gallery of Art.  (Curiously enough, there is a Canadian connection to this work.)

Mountains and Sea, Helen Frankenthaler, 1952 National Gallery of Art image

Mountains and Sea, Helen Frankenthaler, 1952 National Gallery of Art image

I recall being impressed by large canvases of her work in Modern Masters: Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner and Helen Frankenthaler at the Seattle Art Museum. The Museum called them …three visionary painters who developed distinctive painterly styles. SAM also recognized  …their hard-won accomplishments in what was a male-defined domain.

Pace Prints reminded me of Frankenthaler’s printmaking work in a recent exhibition. In Her Mind’s Eye was a show of  woodcut prints she completed  from 2001 to 2009 with master printmaker Yasu Shibata.  She was really demanding for each project he said, in a recent interview for In Her Mind’s EyeShe knew exactly what she wanted.

 He points out the connection between her early stained paintings and the process she used in the Pace printshop with the plywood:  It’s really abstract just like Helen made in (the) early ’60s or ’50s – that she did the same thing on unprimed canvas –  that she poured the oil paint that makes (it) bleed and the edges of the shapes are really soft.

Snow Pines, Helen Frankenthaler, 2004, Pace Prints image

Weeping Crabapple, Helen Frankenthaler, 2009, Pace Prints image

In the 10 minute video  Helen Frankenthaler: OK to print  she says I don’t confuse – or try not to – working on prints with working on painting.  They are totally different mediums. She likens her creative process in a printmaking studio to cooking a meal from an unfamiliar icebox:  You mix your own magic – whatever you’re given to work with…..because you are confronted with things that are forcing you to make something wonderful.

Madame Butterfly, Helen Frankenthaler, 2000, publisher Tyler Graphics, Ltd, Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe, New York image

Madame Butterfly, H. Frankenthaler, 2000, publisher Tyler Graphics, Ltd, Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe image

When collaborating and working at different print shops like Pace, Tyler Graphics, ULAE, Frankenthaler knew that she had a reputation as a demanding artist. The word is that I am so fussy….so particular…..such a perfectionist.  She explains her attitude to the work:  In order to have something to really move and work and be beautiful it takes a lot of time and effort and being explicit and being demanding and being controlling and also knowing when to allow…and such.

Gateway Screen, Helen Frankenthaler, 1988, Tyler Graphics, Ltd, Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe, New York image

Gateway Screen, H. Frankenthaler, 1988, Tyler Graphics, Ltd, Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe image

Gateway Screen, Helen Frankenthaler, 1988, Tyler Graphics, Ltd, Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe, New York image

Gateway Screen, H. Frankenthaler, 1988, Tyler Graphics, Ltd, Ameringer, McEnery, Yohe image

I am struck by how these ideas, specific to Helen Frankenthaler’s art making practice,  are applicable to our current local, national and global challenges.  If we want a more peaceful, inclusive society we need to break some of the old rules, routines and ways of being.  It will  take time,  hard work, and dedication.  We may not be popular or welcomed, as we demand and adapt to  the changes necessary to create a world that moves and works and is beautiful.  

Perhaps we take her analogy about the icebox to heart?  We are experiencing problems and situations that require creativity to  make something wonderful.