Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Contemporary Craft

Pittsburgh's Society for Contemporary Craft is a jewel in our fair city, highlighting contemporary work made from traditional craft materials through exhibits, a lovely little shop, and education programs.  Here's a glimpse at what is currently on view:

Ladderbackkcabreddal #1, wood, by Tom Loeser

Gentleman's 'C' (Brooch), sterling silver, by Christina Y. Smith

Monday, March 30, 2009

Happy birthday, Vincent Van Gogh!

Today is the birthday of my first favorite artist, Vincent Van Gogh (born March 30, 1853).  His colors and his life have been a significant influence on me.   

As a birthday tribute, here are some snippets from his prolific letter-writing that I've paired with some of his paintings:

One must work and dare if one really wants to live.

Love many things, for therein lies true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.

If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into many things.

I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.

Conscience is a man's compass.

But I always think that the best way to know God is to love many things.

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

wild and wavering

Snow Storm - Steamboat off a Harbour's Mouth by JMW Turner

"The world's not wanton, only wild and wavering." -- Adrienne Rich

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Red Rose Girls

One of my most cherished art books is The Red Rose Girls by Alice Carter. It tells the stories of three remarkable female artists who were prominent forces in the Golden Age of Illustration: Jessie Wilcox Smith, Violet Oakley, and Elizabeth Shippen Green. They studied together under Howard Pyle, and then set up a residence together in a country house called the Red Rose Inn where art became a way of life.

June, 1902, by Violet Oakley

The Thousand Quilt, 1904, by Elizabeth Shippen Green

Morning, 1902, by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Maya Lin

Maya Lin, the creator of the Vietnam Memorial, has a new exhibit at the Corcoran called Systematic Landscapes. It is up through July 12. There is a video preview that records the installation of one of her sculptural landscapes on the Corcoran's web site, as well as a nice description of the artist and the exhibit:

Maya Lin and 2x4 Landscape

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Frank King

(click image to enlarge)
Frank King's Gasoline Alley
Chicago Sunday Tribune
, November 4, 1928

In his comic Gasoline Alley, Frank King acknowledged the perfect art of nature through his autumn walk Sunday pages. Uncle Walt tells Skeezits, "I want you to grow up with an eye for the beauty about you. It's a source of much joy."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Einstein on imagination

"Imagination is more important than knowledge." - Albert Einstein

(The Albert Einstein Memorial, Washington D.C., sculpted by Robert Berks)

Happy Einstein's Birthday!

Friday, March 13, 2009


A stereoscope is an optical instrument with two eyepieces used to impart a three-dimensional effect to two photographs of the same scene taken at slightly different angles.

Antique stereograph cards:

same image as above viewed through a Stereograph:  
(squint for better effect)

my drawing of a stereoscope:

Stereoscope is also the title of a drawn film by artist William Kentridge, created by drawing, erasing and redrawing each movement and transition.  You can see the video here.

Stills from William Kentridge's film Stereoscope:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shakespeare's Face

The only portrait of Shakespeare painted during his lifetime was unveiled on Monday! This portrait is believed to have been painted directly of the subject, a "live portait," therefore giving us the truest picture of what he actually looked like. The portrait had been in a private collection of a family who didn't realize what they had after all these centuries. Even the portrait at the Folger is a copy of this portrait- the original. An amazing discovery!

Seeing Stars

A star of ice by Andy Goldsworthy, and a star of glass by Dale Chihuly:

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kimono as Art by Itchiku Kubota

Ohn/Fuji and Burning Clouds by Itchiku Kubota (1991)

This past weekend we went to see Kimono as Art, The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota, a wonderful exhibit at the Canton Museum of Art. (The exhibit lasts until April 26.)

The inspiration for the exhibit was the sun as the artist observed it when he was taken prisoner and put in a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp during WWII. He depicted that sun on this kimono:

The centerpiece of the exhibit is Master Kubota's 30-piece landscape kimono panorama, called “Symphony of Light,” which depicts the changing of the seasons from autumn to winter. One silk kimono leads to another, a vast landscape that begins with the hot oranges and reds of burning leaves and ends with the cool frosts of winter. The 30 kimono are beautiful separately and together. Seperately, they are moments in nature- a beam of sunlight breaking through clouds, or fog rolling in- each rendered impressionistically. Together, they create a sanctuary of color.

Here are two kimono from "Symphony of Light":

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Andy Goldsworthy

A few years ago on a sunny day when I was teaching an art camp, the teens I'd been teaching went out into Mellon Park to make temporary sculptures and photograph them. It was a lovely afternoon! Our inspiration was the art of Andy Goldsworthy.

Here are a few of Andy Goldsworthy's sculptures made of leaves and held together with thorns and twigs:

Andy Goldsworthy only uses the natural materials he finds-- stones, ice, branches, leaves, etc. Most are temporary sculptures that disappear into their environment. The photographs become the lasting artworks.

The titles reveal his process, and read as little list poems, like this one, pictured above: Poppy petals wrapped around splintered wood held with water, Andy Goldsworthy

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lucian Freud

One of the most significant figurative painters of our time is artist Lucian Freud (grandson of Sigmund Freud).

Self-Portrait: Reflection, oil painting by Lucian Freud:

"I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them... As far as I am concerned, the paint is the person."  - Lucian Freud

The Interior, by Lucian Freud (above)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bologna Fiere

Illustration by Italian artist Quarello Maurizio, above.

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the International Children's Book Festival in Bologna, Italy. The annual festival, the Bologna Fiere, is coming up again on March 23 to 26. This means that the illustrations from the 2008 catalog that are up on the Fiere's web site will soon be replaced with new wonderful children's book illustrations. So, take a look at the 2008 ones while you still can in the Fiction Gallery and Nonfiction Gallery! The art in the festival is full of diverse styles, quite beyond the spectrum found in American bookstores. Here are just a few:

Illustration by Block Jorg (Germany)

Illustration by Pacheco Gabriel (Mexico)

Illustration by Canellas Hernan (Argentina)

I look forward to what the 2009 show brings!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Needlepoint Tabloids by Brigid Berlin

Also on display at the Andy Warhol Museum is a retrospective of artist and former Warhol superstar, Brigid Berlin. The exhibit includes needlepoint pillows that feature covers from the New York Post. The subject matter and medium are a surprising blend. They seem to comment on society as these sensationalist papers that surround us while we purchase our groceries each week are taken a step further into domesticity.