Monthly Archives: July 2020

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.

 

 

 

Breaking the Rules

If You Want Peace, Corita Kent, 1976, created for the Campaign for Human Development

If You Want Peace, Corita Kent, 1976, created for the Campaign for Human Development

Pop art, 1960s social activism, screen printing, Los Angeles art scene, Catholic nun….one of these nouns seems incongruous, doesn’t it?

Thanks to the book Forgotten Women: The Artists by Zing Tsjeng, I learned of  (Sister Mary) Corita Kent. This short video is an introduction to this intriguing personality (1918 – 1986.)

The more I read about her, the more fascinated I become.  After high school, Francis Elizabeth Kent entered the order of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Los Angeles and took the name Sister Mary Corita.  She studied at the (now) California Institute of the Arts and the University of Southern California. From 1947 to 1968 she taught classes, and headed the art department at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles.  

 Imagine being one of her students in an art department that became part of the L.A. art scene. Her classroom ‘rules’ are inspiring, aren’t they?  I’m especially drawn to Rules 6 and  9.  Along with Rule 4, I may have found my personal Rules for Life.

Sister Corita’s Art Department rules, lettered by D. Meckleburg, Corita.org

Corita Kent and the more famous pop artist  Andy Warhol were producing art in the 1960s. Both grew up in devout Catholic families.  Corita saw a show of his work in 1962, shortly after she had begun working  with serigraphs.

that they may have life, Corita Kent, 1965

that they may have life, Corita Kent, 196

 

Brillo Box, Andy Warhol, 1964

Brillo Box, Andy Warhol, 1964

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coca-Cola (3), Andy Warhol, 1962

Coca-Cola (3), Andy Warhol, 1962

 

for eleanor, Corita Kent, 1964

for eleanor, Corita Kent, 1964

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kent chose to work mainly in silkscreen printing (serigraph), which is accessible and affordable.  She created almost 800 different designs.  The work is included in many, many museums and galleries.  The Hammer Museum has extensive resources, including a vast digital archive of her work. The Corita Art Center preserves and promotes her works, and mission.  You may want to check out their Corita 101 art videos based on her book Learning by Heart:  Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit.

She, too,  became a popular figure in America culture:  she was featured on the cover of Newsweek in 1967.  She designed the US Post Office Love stamp in 1985, of which more than 700 million were sold.

‘Love’ stamp, Sister Corita, US Post Office, 1985

Do we call this pop art timeless?  It seems we are still, unfortunately, struggling with the same issues that Kent and Warhol explored. By using popular culture images, in simple, engaging designs, they  expressed their beliefs.  In different ways,  they were challenging  the status quo, and society’s continuing obsession with celebrity, material goods  and consumption – at the expense of peace and justice for all.

It’s a message worthy of re-consideration.  Rule # 10 gives us the impetus and permission to make the necessary changes to create a more equitable world for everyone.