Monday, November 30, 2009

Remembering Jeanne-Claude

Cover of the book about Jeanne-Claude and Christo's project for Central Park, titled On The Way To The Gates

Jeanne-Claude, half of the Jeanne-Claude and Christo artist-partnership, known for creating environmental installations such as The Gates in Central Park, passed away last week at the age of seventy-four.

In addition to The Gates, their past works include the wrapping of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont-Neuf bridge in Paris, and a 24-mile-long artwork called Running Fence in California.

Christo will continue their current project, Over The River, an installation that will canopy the Arkansas River in Colorado. See the work that they began together on the project’s web site, here:
Their partnership is described in this touching article on Art Beast with a wonderful image gallery featuring many of their beautiful installation works:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Old King

The Carnegie Museum of Art is fortunate to have Georges Rouault's most significant expressionist painting in its collection, The Old King. The identity of the king is unspecified, but it is suspected to be King Herod.

When Georges Rouault was a young man, he had an apprenticeship in a glazier's shop restoring medieval stained glass. This experience influenced his later expressionist painting style using luminous colors and strong black outlines, similar in appearance to stained glass. This style is epitomized in the painting of The Old King.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

This painting by Norman Rockwell has become a very familiar image of Thanksgiving. The painting is titled Freedom From Want and is part of Rockwell's Four Freedoms Series. The series is based on the four freedoms described in a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as inspiring as ever. Excerpt:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

Listen to audio of Roosevelt and read the whole inspiring speech here:

P.S. Here is a photo I took a few years ago of Norman Rockwell's studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, when we went to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum:

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Dr. Elaine King's lecture following the tour of the exhibit Likeness: Transformations of Portrayal After Warhol at the Mattress Factory was very interesting and enriching! (See the description of this exhibit in my previous post.) She dicussed the evolution of portraiture over art history, and new ways contemporary artists are exploring the genre. At the end of her lecture, where the first slide was a self-portrait of Rembrandt and she had taken us step by step through Warhol, through postmodernism up to today, she predicted that new inventions within the genre would come from artists using new technologies.

If you missed the curator's lecture and still go to see the exhibit, be sure to pick up the exhibit guide at the front desk. It includes an introduction to the exhibit by Elaine King, as well as her thoughtful descriptions of the artists and their works.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

LIKENESS @ the Mattress Factory

LIKENESS is a group exhibition that examines human depiction during a post-Warholian era in which new technology has played an influential role. It includes the work of artists Jim Campbell, Paul DeMarinis, Jonn Herschend, Nikki Lee, Joseph Mannino, Greta Pratt and Tony Oursler. Elaine A. King, who is a freelance critic and curator as well as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University teaching Art History/Theory/Museum Studies, guest-curates the exhibition.

Tonight I am attending a tour and curator's talk at the Mattress Factory about this exhibit. I am particularly excited because Dr. Elaine King, the curator, was one of my most influential professors at Carnegie Mellon University. I had an independent study with her about portraiture, and she really opened my mind to contemporary artists exploring portraiture in new ways. I am thrilled to get to see this exhibit tonight, and listen to her discussion!

CURATOR TALK: Elaine A. King
Human Portrayal: A Shifting Conglomerate of Media & Social Values
Thursday, November 19, 2009
7:00 PM (Guided tour of LIKENESS at 6:00 PM)$10
(MF members, PIT + CMU FREE w/ I.D.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Nests, Rhizomes, Seeds

709 Penn Gallery

Nests, Rhizomes, Seeds encompasses the work of four women artists and educators living and working in the Pittsburgh area: JoAnna Commandaros, Anna Divinsky, Karen Page and Holland Williams. In this exhibit they examine nests and root formations through drawing, painting, and manipulating a tactile surface. Each piece is a testament to each artist’s personal sensitivity to nature, color, and texture.

The exhibit also focuses on an interactive, public art installation created with students from the University of Pittsburgh, Slippery Rock University and CAPA High School. The audience is invited to select varied organic linoleum carvings produced by the students to create root drawings through planting seeds in the beds of the carvings. These wheat grass seeds will be overlaid with cheesecloth and watered, in turn, producing unusual shapes that mimic the pattern of the carved linoleum. The resulting rhizome growth drawings will then be added to the ever-growing installation.

Nests, Rhizomes, Seeds weaves the symbiotic relationship of natural processes with visual language, demonstrating the creative bond between four women artists and educators, their students, and the Pittsburgh community. Come to the gallery and contribute to the installation by planting some seeds.

November 13 through December 31, 2009 (First Night Pittsburgh)
Reception: Friday, December 4, 2009, 6-8 pm
Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 12-8pm & Saturday, 12-6pm
709 Penn Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh

Portrait in progress

I still have quite a lot to do on the dress, the cabinet, and the background, but this new portrait is coming along. I'd say I'm 3/4 of the way there. The face at least is finished. Photo taken at an angle unfortunately... (click above photo to enlarge, and click again to zoom)

Friday, November 13, 2009

The ToonSeum

The ToonSeum, Pittsburgh's museum of cartoon art, is opening at its new Downtown location at 10 a.m. Saturday. The museum, which formerly was housed in the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh in the North Side, will feature new exhibits every two to three months.

The first exhibit will be "Enchanted Drawings: A Century of Animation" which will include an original production sketch of the first animated character, Gertie the Dinosaur by Winsor McCay. In the film, Gertie causes trouble and cries when she is scolded, and finally she gives McCay himself a ride on her back as he steps into the movie picture.

Gertie is a very cute dino. Dippy (Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Diplodocus dinosaur mascot) would love her.

Museum With A View

Located in the Centre Pompidou, the Musée National d'Art Moderne is the national museum for modern art of France. It has a huge collection of approximately 50,000 works of art spanning the movements of cubism, surrealism, and pop art. The Centre Pompidou is designed in the style of "high tech artchitecture" (looking like a Willy Wonka fun factory), and offers amazing views of Paris. Here are some snapshots from the top:

A view of Montmartre and the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart),

the Eiffel Tower in the distance,

and the towers of Notre Dame.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monet at the Orangerie

At the Orangerie in Paris, we saw the most beautiful display of Claude Monet's Waterlilies. The paintings curved around several oval rooms, sanctuaries of color.

The Louvre

There are two works of art at the Louvre that are so incredibly famous, that when I saw them in person, I got the sensation of meeting a celebtrity. Both are women-- Mona Lisa, and the Venus de Milo.

Lonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa hangs behind a shield of bullet-proof glass that is continually reflecting the flash of cameras. Her fame turns average museum-goers into an eager mob of paparazzi.

The Venus de Milo stands at the end of a long hall, and as you approach her, your heart beats faster with every step. Her base raises her above the heads of museum-goers vying for a full-length view to take a picture, and she is luminous, framed perfectly by an arched doorway.

With such celebrities, it is no wonder that the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Madeleine in the Bois d'Amour by Emile Bernard at the Musée d'Orsay (above)

Across the chunnel, the first museum we saw in Paris was the Musée d'Orsay, one of my favorite museums. The museum is built in a former railway station, originally built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. It is the perfect environment for the world's largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings and other great masterpieces. Colors seem to dance off the walls here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saatchi Gallery

The last art gallery we visited in London was the Saatchi Gallery, a quite exciting contemporary art gallery.

There was a group show of young American artists called Abstract America : New Painting and Sculpture. Our favorite piece was this large iron staircase ring leaned up against a wall like a three-dimensional Escher:

Spiral Stair by Peter Coffin

Koons' Rabbit

Nearby our hotel, we saw pop artist Jeff Koons' 52-foot inflatable Rabbit sculpture in Covent Garden market in London. Spectacular.

Victoria and Albert Museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum has an interesting exhibit of dream and horror inspired design called Heaven and Hell : Telling Tales.

A particular favorite of ours was this white chandelier of twisting bodies of the damned, sculpted in white plastic by Luc Merx:

The museum also has a nice hall of sculpture and some great paintings, including The Day Dream by Rosetti, and a few Blakes. Above all, the Victoria and Albert Museum is a decorative objects museum. Recently, the museum updated its web site to feature over one million objects from its collection:

Tate Modern

The Kiss by Auguste Rodin

At the Tate Modern, we saw Auguste Rodin’s marble sculpture of the doomed lovers, Paolo and Francesca, embracing moments away from a passionate kiss. Their lips would never meet since Francesca’s husband (also Paolo’s brother) discovers the lovers and kills them in his rage. In Paolo’s sculpted hand is the book -- the story of Lancelot and Guinevere-- that inspired their affair. Dante sees Paolo and Francesca on his journey through hell where they were sent for their infidelity. The Kiss was first created to be part of Rodin’s monumental Gates of Hell.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Tate Britain

At the Tate Britain, I was thrilled to see some of my favorite works of art.

The museum features many great PreRaphaelite paintings, including Ophelia by Sir John Everett Milais. Ophelia is drowned in the stream she lacked the will to climb out of. She had gone mad with grief when her lover, Hamlet, murdered her father, and so she resigned herself to death. In her hand she holds poppies for death, daisies for innocence, and pansies for love in vain.

Also at the Tate, a second woman of Shakespearean tragedy by Pre-Raphaelite Sir John Everett Milais: Mariana. Mariana is wearied by life, abandoned by her fiancé after her dowry was lost in a shipwreck.

John Singer Sargeant’s Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose transports us to a springtime garden in the Cotswolds where two children light Japanese lanterns at dusk.

Whistler’s Symphony in White No. 2 is a beautiful portrait of the artist’s lover, Joanna Hiffernan. Whistler’s artistic goal was to create beauty, and he certainly has with this portrait!

The Tate Britain also has an extensive collection of art by William Blake. My husband is greatly interested in his poetry and visionary paintings. His startling image Ghost of a Flea was on display while we were there.

Unfortunately, J. W. Waterhouse’s painting of The Lady of Shalott was on tour. I love this painting and I have been fortunate enough to have seen it years ago in London and once at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. A friend of mine, Soraya Homayouni, introduced me to this painting one inspiring afternoon. She showed it to me in a book and played for me Loreena McKennett’s ethereal voice singing the words of Tennyson’s tragic poem, The Lady of Shalott. A beautiful experience of art, music, and poetry.

The Tate Britain’s collection was lovely, and overall, very romantic!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The National Gallery, London

Our next destination on our art adventure was a short flight away in London, England. First stop: The National Gallery.

Here hangs Van Gogh's sunflowers. Created to decorate his yellow house in Arles in preparation for his friend and house-guest, Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh's glowing, textured, fiery bouquet is among his greatest masterpieces. On the wall of the National Gallery, the painting radiates warmth and good feeling.

That afternoon at the museum, a group of English school girls sat in a cluster on the floor sketching Peter Paul Reuben's dramatic portrayal of Samson and Delilah. This tragic image of ill-fated romance was perhaps an irresistible choice to copy.

The Arnolfini portrait by Jan Van Eyck was intriguing with its odd inclusions of traces of the artist. Inscribed on the back wall behind the Arnolfinis he wrote "Jan Van Eyck was here" in Latin, a graffiti-ed autograph, just above a mirror reflecting two figures, one believed to be a self-portrait.

And there she was again, years older than we had seen her in Munich the day before: Madame de Pompadour! This time she was painted a year away from her death by the artist Francois-Houbert Drouais:

The National Gallery has many other great paintings as well, a tremendous collection!

Design and the Pinakothek der Moderne

Back when I was in high school, I received a couple of Scholastic Art Awards, and the awards ceremony took place at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. This experience was very reaffirming at my young age as I was deciding what to study in college and what I should do with my life.

I specifically remember the (now former) Director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's address to us and our families at the ceremony. In his speech, David Levy told us that the world needs artists. He said that everything that is made is designed by an artist. He said there is an artist involved in making absolutely everything. This was the beginning of my broader awareness of design, and how art is all around us.

At the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich, Germany, we saw a wonderful exhibit of artfully designed objects. The display is from the Neue Sammlung’s collection of applied arts, which is regarded as the most important collection of industrial design. It was a reminder of the impact that aesthetic decisions have on functional objects and how an ordinary thing can transcend into art. Here is a photo from the exhibit: (click on image to enlarge)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour by Francois Boucher (above)

The next stop on our grand art adventure was the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany. The Alte Pinakothek features an excellent collection of 13th to 18th century European paintings. Famous paintings that I was thrilled to see in person included Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna of the Carnation, Albrecht Durer's Self-Portrait, a self-portrait of Reubens with his wife called the The Honeysuckle Bower, The Deposition by Rembrandt, and Francois Boucher's beautiful Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour (pictured at the top of this post).

Aside from such celebrated old masters' paintings, the Alte Pinakothek also had an incredible collection of German paintings from the 14th to 17th centuries including large, impressive Christian altar pieces that were quite breathtaking.

Kaisheim Altar: Presentation of Christ in the Temple by Hans Holbein (above)