Category Archives: Guggenheim

Take a break from Netfl*x – virtual dance performances

The things we learn during a pandemic!  Who would have believed, pre-covid,  that watching dance presentations virtually could be enjoyable?  My few vague memories of professional dance performances are static/full stage view/one camera angle/small screen televised programs of traditional ballet.

Thankfully, the filming of dance has developed into a specialized art form.  Dance videos are a legitimate form of entertainment.  I got a glimpse of this a few years ago, watching this 2015 City and Colour music video of Dallas Green’s Lover Come Back.

Like a professional sporting event, it’s a different experience watching dance virtually, rather than in person.  I can hardly believe I am typing this, but it seems (based on my covid mandated dance viewing) that both in-person and videoed presentations can be satisfying experiences.  As long as the performances, choreography and filming are exceptional, the experiences are enjoyable, albeit in different ways. (Close ups: check.  Dancers’ expressions: check.  Going out for dinner with friends before or after: impossible right now.)

The Dance Victoria organization quickly pivoted to a virtual season of dance performances early in the pandemic.  You may recall my March post about Ballet BC’s presentation of Romeo + Juliet.   A highly anticipated, in-person dance presentation was cancelled; fortunately, a video of the performance was made available to subscribers.

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Romeo + Juliet, Ballet BC (image by Michael Slobodian)

Dance Victoria’s 2020-2021 season continues virtually.  Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, a French/Algerian dance company opened the season.  Watch this short video to get a sense of the physicality of this remarkable company of dancers. Here’s a trailer for  What the day owes to the night – the full performance I recently viewed….twice.

Compagnie Hervé KOUBI, What the day owes to the night, NY Times image

Some dance companies are offering free content.  Most of these performances have been created in response to the pandemic and its restrictions.  The Guggenheim offers these Works in Process. Highly creative, they are site specific, and take place outdoors, near Lincoln Center in NYC.  The National Ballet of Canada is presenting Expansive Dances, a series of three different solos.   Ailey Forward is available this month from the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

With all of the paid and free performances, there are supporting material and bonus features.  For example, the Dance Victoria interview with the artistic director, Hervé Koubi, was fascinating, and added to the enjoyment of What the day owes to the night. There is even a behind the scenes video for Expansive Dances.

Take a break from Netfl*x.  Download the Ailey Forward schedule, and watch some dance.  It’s another way to make this festive season just ‘a bit’ more unique.

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, image




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

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




Just when you think it can’t get any worse…..

It’s worse than I thought, and I thought it was awful.  (See my brief post from 2016 here.)  According to a report  published on artnet News….just 11% of all museum acquisitions over the past decade have been of work by women.  Yes, you have (unfortunately) read that correctly.  (No typo:  eleven.)  To add insult to injury ….the number of works by women acquired  did not increase over time.  In fact, it peaked a decade ago.

Go ahead.  Take a moment to let that sink in.

Julia Halperin and Charlotte Burns’ report is worth reading.  It’s a nuanced examination of the reasons why there hasn’t been any progress in gender parity in museum collections.  It’s based on research by Julia Vennitti and part of ongoing research into the presence of female artists’ work in museums and the art market in the past decade.

Perhaps one of the most important observations is expressed by Helen Molesworth, former chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.  The art world is simply not the liberal progressive bastion it imagines itself to be and you can’t solve a problem if you don’t own it.  

It’s true.  I had thought we were making some progress, albeit glacial,  in this area, didn’t you?   But as the report says ….perhaps one of the key takeaways is that the stories we tell ourselves – about our museums and our societies – are not to be trusted.

Sigh.  Just like almost every other issue, we need to dig deeper to discover the reality.

I’ll leave you with some images from the Hilma af Klint show, which I saw at the Guggenheim, NYC, in December 2018. The research indicates that this show …drew the youngest audience of any exhibition since the museum started to measure visitor demographics and drove a 34 percent increase in membership.

Seems like showing work from interesting female artists is a recipe for success and longevity.

Hilma af Klint, Guggenheim Museum, December 2019

Hilma af Klint, Guggenheim Museum, December 2019

Hilma af Klint, Group IX/SUW, The Swan No.13, 1915

Hilma af Klint, Group IX/SUW, The Swan No.13, 1915

Thanks to @artgirlrising for bringing the research article to my attention.






Interesting Artist Alert!

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is featuring an Agnes Martin exhibition.  I was vaguely aware of her name, guessing she was an American  painter, during the 50’s and 60’s…..or so I thought.

Agnes Martin photo credit: The Guardian

Agnes Martin photo credit: The Guardian

Well, the more I read about her, the more fascinated I am.  Here are at least seven interesting facts about Agnes Martin to pique your curiosity…..

~Agnes Martin was a Canadian.  She was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan.  (Further evidence that there is always another Saskatchewan town you’ve never heard of before!)  Her birthday is March 22, 1912, the same year as Jackson Pollock.

~She was a talented swimmer, and in her teen years, was a contender for the Olympic team.  She trained as a teacher, and taught in the Pacific Northwest before she turned her attentions, at age 29,  to studying and making art.

~ When she lived and painted in Manhattan in the 50’s and 60’s, she hung out with artists like Elsworth Kelly and Robert Indianna.

~In 1967, she gave up everything, bought a truck and an Airstream trailer and disappeared, heading west……

~18 months later, she ‘appeared’ in New Mexico.  She hand built her own one room adobe house, as well as a separate studio on a remote mesa. She lived a monastic-like life, and eventually resumed painting.

~Agnes Martin painted until the end of  her long life.  She moved into a retirement home in 1992, and indulged in a white BMW she used to drive to her studio. She worked through 2003, and died in December 2004.

If you want to learn, or read more, there’s a wealth of great writing and film about Agnes Martin.  Even if you only have a minute to spare, click here to see an excellent, short  (yes! 1 minute and 19 seconds) video about Agnes Martin and the current exhibition at the Guggenheim.  (It’s worth it just to see some gorgeous shots of the museum.)  Here is the (brief!) Guggenheim’s biography of Agnes Martin. For a more detailed discussion of her life, and her work, this article from The Guardian is excellent.

Friendship, 1963 by Agnes Martin

Friendship, 1963 by Agnes Martin