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Fashion Forward Art

12 Sep

Kicking off artsyF A S H I O NWeek here at Artsy Forager!  Fashion and art have long been intertwined.  For centuries, artists have, perhaps at times unwittingly, been the recorders of the history of fashion and style.  It is in thanks to artwork that we can track what was worn by whom hundreds of years ago.  Paintings weren’t just art, but were the fashion magazines and blogs of their day.  For instance, thanks to Vermeer, we see a glimpse of the difference in the daily costume of the classes in a Mistress and Maid.

Mistress and Maid by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1666-1667

Today’s artists seem to have a bit more freedom to interpret instead of record.  Fashion is such an integral part of our modern culture, it is no surprise that it still holds a fascination for contemporary artists.  For some artists, the fashions themselves are worthy focal points.  Denver artist Roxanne Rossi elevates a simple dress’s silhouette into an artistic statement, a sculptural fashion plate, clean but heavy in texture, it seems like it could come to life at any moment.

Afternoon Delight by Roxanne Rossi, acrylic, 36x60

Sometimes the fashion media becomes a literal component to a piece of fashion-influenced art, such as in the collage work of Melbourne, Florida artist Derek Gores.  His imagery has the composition of a Vogue magazine spread and the collaged photos, magazine, labels, etc give each piece a painterly depth.

All Summer Long by Derek Gores, mixed media collage

Painter Kelly Reemtsen uses the constraints of mid-century era mindsets about fashion and juxtaposes them with garden tools and hardware, producing visual statements about the expectations placed on women, by themselves and the world at large.

Throwback by Kelly Reemtsen, oil on panel, 36x36

Celebrating the female form, both physically and spiritually, Leigh Pennebaker’s wire sculptures reveal designs that are sensuous and soft, despite their industrial materials.

Madeline by Leigh Pennebaker, wire sculpture

Like many fashion-forward artists, Megan Cosby began with an interest in fashion design, but decided she was more interested in the people themselves and what their style said about their personality, who they are, where they’ve been and where they are going.

Better by Megan Cosby, mixed media on canvas, 14x12

And then there’s the smart and cheeky work of Sarah Ashley Longshore, at once playing homage and poking fun to our culture’s obsession with fashion.  I’ve featured her Audrey Hepburn paintings several times on the blog, but she also has this fabulous series focused on fashion and pop culture.

Trophy Wife Junk Drawer by Sarah Ashley Longshore, acrylic and high gloss reisn on canvas, 48x72

More fashiony-artsy goodness to come this week!  Stay tuned.

Featured image is Major Poontang by Sarah Ashley Longshore.


Masterworks Monday: Madame X

27 Jun
She has been a source of fascination, scandal and intrigue for over a century.

Madame X, 1884

John Singer Sargent’s masterpiece, Madame X, while initially a source of pain and frustration to the artist, proved to be his most recognizable and memorable work.  The portrait’s subject, Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, was a Paris socialite renown for her beauty and though it is a remarkably beautiful work to contemporary audiences, at the time of its Paris salon debut, the portrait was greatly criticized by critics, the public and Gautreau’s family ( her mother was outraged ).

The characteristics that appeal to our modern eyes are some of the same characteristics by which it was condemned upon its debut.  The elegant lines of her simple black dress create a decidedly contemporary feel to Madame Gautreau’s ensemble, but this would be years before Coco Chanel’s “little black dress” would become ubiquitous with timeless fashion.  The expanse of almost translucent white skin may not seem provocative to our 21st century eyes, to show such a sweep of bare skin, especially the beautifully turned neck and decolletage would have been quite provocative in 1884.  Though artists had long been painting nudes of mythical and fictional figures, showcasing the body of a real person in such a seductive way would have been scandalous.  ( Even if said person was infamous for her infidelities.. ).

Madame X, detail

The most scandalous component of all though may be her dress strap.  The strap as pictured above laying rightfully upon her shoulder is not how Sargent originally painted it.  In looking at his sketches for the portrait, it would seem that her strap had a tendency to slip off her shoulder..

Sketches for Madame X

So, painting the truth in beauty, Sargent originally depicted the strap as having fallen casually from Gautreau’s shoulder.

Madame X, recreated as may have originally been painted

This detail caused such a backlash, that when Sargent picked the painting up after the Salon showing, he took it back to the studio and repainted the strap well stationed upon her shoulder.  Despite the outrage the painting incited when it was first shown,  Sargent would eventually come to realize the importance of the portrait, describing it in a letter to the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art as “..the best thing I have ever done”.  He would sell it to the museum in 1916 and it is there that I saw it in person in 2007 during the “Americans in Paris” exhibition.  Photographs online do not do this painting justice in any way.  In person, it is commanding in scale, mesmerizing in presence and breathtaking in beauty.

Masterworks Monday: Mad About Matisse

20 Jun

Do you have a certain outfit you wear when you need a pick-me-up?  Or maybe there is a particular piece of music that always gets your blood pumpin’ and instantly uplifts your mood?  The work of Henri Matisse does the same for me.

Sorrows of the King, 1952

From his beginnings as a Fauvist, Matisse was never afraid of exploring expression through color.

Open Window

And like his friend and rival, Pablo Picasso, Matisse loved painting figures and still lifes, but it is the way he paints interiors that get me.  Maybe it is my love of interior design or the fact that I too, went through a “let’s paint pictures of fun & pretty rooms” phase.  Whatever the cause, Matisse gets the joy of painting rooms full of life and color and I dig it in a big way.

Dance(I) by Matisse, 1909

It is that brilliance of color and exuberance of design that draws me to his work.  As the artist himself said, “With color, one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft”.  

Les Codomas for Jazz, 1944

If that be the case, I am under the spell of Matisse’s color and hope to never be awakened.

Check out more of Matisse’s work at the MOMA website.

Masterworks Monday: Brancusi

13 Jun

Thanks to our next door neighbor, who creates “sculptures” out of found objects and has a rotating display in his front & side yard, I’ve been thinking a lot about sculpture lately.  Which has led me to discover an egregious error here at Artsy Forager and that is the incredible, unforgiveable lack of sculptural work on this blog!  I am here to rectify the situation, beginning with one of my favorite contemporary masters, Constantin Brancusi.

Sleeping Muse, 1909-10

Born in 1876 in Romania, Brancusi came to fame in France, after working under the guidance of Auguste Rodin, Brancusi blossomed into his own style, creating clean, simplified organic forms, Brancusi came to be known as the Patriarch of Modern Sculpture.

Bird in Space, 1923

In his work, Brancusi breaks down the forms of his subject into simple, geomtric shapes, so that the end result is less a representation of the actual subject, but rather the essence of the feeling that subject’s form evokes.

Mademoiselle Pogany, 1912The Newborn, 1920

The elegance of Brancusi’s lines and the restfulness and peace his forms suggest, even when depicting a screaming baby ( see The Newborn, above ), help to quiet my spirit.  What about you?  Any artists whose work “quiets your spirit”?  Or maybe you’re not in to Brancusi ( and that’s OK ).. Whose sculptures do you love?

Museum Hopping

7 Jun

Though our time in the cities we visited on our cross-country tour was short, we managed to hit a couple of wonderful, yet very different museums along the way.  In Tulsa, we spent a few hours exploring the Philbrook Museum of Art.

Front facade of the Philbrook Museum of Art

My Jacksonville readers will be familiar with the Cummer Museum of Art in Jax.  The Philbrook is, to me, like the Cummer on steroids.  Like the Cummer, the Philbrook was once a private residence, which was donated to the city of Tulsa by its owners, oilman Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve.  Once we entered the museum doors, we found ourselves in a gorgeous, domed center hall, light streaming through the oculus in the center of the dome.

Center hall at the Philbrook

Philbrook oculus

Just walking the halls of this Renaissance style villa, built in 1927 and designed by architect Edward Buehler Delk for the Phillips as “a place where there two children could entertain friends” ( Imagine the sleepovers you could have! ), is a pleasure in itself.

Corridor at the Philbrook

The museum houses a varied and extensive permanent collection of art, ranging from African & Asian collections, Native American art to Italian Renaissance and a surprising and delightful modern collection.

Bougereau at the Philbrook, a favorite artist of the Frenz's

Lovely little Picasso at the Philbrook

Fabulous modern design collection at the Philbrook

While the museum collections are enjoyable, it is the museum grounds that really steal the show.  Though we visited on a gray and rainy day, it didn’t stop us from exploring the extensive gardens behind the museum.  The original formal gardens extend from the rear colonnade of the museum down to the tempietto.  Let’s take a little walking tour..

Rear collonade at the Philbrook

View from the colonnade down to the tempietto

Wonderful stepped fountain

Beautiful, naturalistic water feature

No formal garden is complete without a koi pond!

View from the tempietto back toward the museum

Yours truly in the tempietto ( wouldn't this be a romantic spot to pop the question? )

Contemporary sculpture walk beyond the formal gardens

Let’s switch gears now, fast-forward through another 12 hour day on the road and pay a little visit to Denver.  While in the mile-high city, we spent some time downtown including a tour through the Denver Art Museum.  While the Philbrook is classically ornate, the DAM’s Hamilton Building, where we spent our time, is splendidly contemporary.  Designed by Daniel Lubeskind, the structure represents the Rocky Mountain peaks surrounding Denver.

Denver Art Museum

We started at the top and worked our way down, discovering lots of fun & interesting contemporary work along the way.

Noguchi sculpture and Motherwell painting **Sidenote: Motherwell was born in Aberdeen, WA, the town where we are living for the summer.

Ceramics at DAM

Did you notice in the pictures above how the walls are slanted?  The angled walls created a very interesting visual space, especially in the 4th floor gallery where they were prominent.   They were a bit disconcerting when walking down the main stairs, though!

Artist: Mark Tansey

We were all fascinated by the piece above, by Mark Tansey.   Another highlight was the Fox Games installation by Sandy Skoglund.  I first saw Skoglund’s work in Jacksonville and am always fascinated by the environments she creates.

Fox Games by Sandy Skoglund

And there was just something about “Minotaur with Brushstrokes” that appealed to us.  What can I say, we like work that makes us smile.

Minotaur With Brushstrokes by Richard Patterson

Speaking of making us smile, George & I also loved the piece below, although I’m sad to report that I don’t recall the name of the artist.  But it reminded me of spring in the Northwest.

Kicking myself for not writing down the title & artist for this piece! Anyone have any clues?

The museum also boasts an impressive Western American Art Collection, as well as African, American Indian, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial Collections.  We toured through the current special exhibition, Cities of Splendor: A Journey Through Renaissance Italy, but alas, no photography allowed in the exhibit, so you’ll have to check out the DAM website for a taste.  As you can see, our art experiences on this trip were widely varied and we are looking forward to more such experiences here in the Northwest.

Masterworks Monday: Rauschenberg in Tulsa

6 Jun

Hello Artsies!!!  After being out of the blogosphere for the past three weeks or so, I am finally back behind the computer, as it were and it feels great.  I have so much to share that I hardly know where to begin..  As many of you know, my hubby George and I recently moved from Florida to Washington.  We were incredibly blessed to be able to make a vacation out of our cross-country trek, with stops to see friends, new places and old favorites along the way.

Our first stop ( OK, first fun stop.. we spent the first night in a motel outside Little Rock, AR, not super exciting ) was Tulsa, Oklahoma.  George lived in Tulsa for several years and we hadn’t been back since we got married, so decided to take a couple of days to introduce me around to Tulsa friends and places.  It just so happened that the friends we were staying with in Tulsa had a friend who owned a gallery, Exhibit by Abersons at Center 1 Tulsa.  Said friend of friends happened to be having an opening the night of our arrival in Tulsa, so even though there was a whole gang of people expected for dinner, we popped over to the gallery to have a peeksy.

 The exhibit, which opened on May 19th was curated by Master Printer Bill Goldston of Universal Limited Art Editions and follows the progression of Rauschenberg’s print work through the years.  Like any good Art History Major, I recognized Rauschenberg’s work and his importance as a painter & print maker, but beyond that, I admit I didn’t know much.  Rauschenberg came to the forefront toward the end of the Abstract Expressionist movement and toward the beginning of the Pop Art movement.  The prints included in the exhibition lean more toward the Pop end of the spectrum, showing examples of his collaging of photographic images through silk-screen processing showcasing pop culture imagery of the 1950s and 60s, such as Guardian ( 1968 ).

Guardian is compromised of transfer images from Life Magazine, the transfers being done by brushing the images with solvent, placing them on the lithograph stone, then passing the stone through the printing press.  These are works that demand a closer look, there is so much going on, even little details are significant.  George enjoyed scrutinizing the work ( see photo below! ), which are so accessible that they seem just as relevant today as they must have 50 years ago.

The work George is pondering is Bazaar, an intagilio print and lithograph on paper created in 1984.  Other highlights for me included, Aquafix ( below ), a haunting image created by Rauschenberg in 1981.  As the years progressed, his work evolved into cleaner, more simplified compositions as exemplified in Aquafix and Lotus VII, both favorites of mine from the exhibit.


Lotus VII ( above ) is part of Rauschenberg’s final series of prints, completed only a month prior to his death.  The Lotus images were created for an exhibition of Rauschenberg’s work in Beijing and are compilations of photographs taken by the artist on two trips to China.  The photographs were transferred to panels, then an intagilio process, photogravure, was used to tie the images together visually.   The results are stunning images, which surely pleased Rauschenberg as his final legacy.

If you are in the Tulsa area, be sure to check out the show at Exhibit by Abersons.  If you can’t get to Tulsa, Rauschenberg’s work can be found in many major museum collections with images, biography and other info available online, check out the websites of MOMA, The Tate, the Guggenheim and many more.

Masterworks Monday: Jack the Dripper

9 May

A polarizing persona in the art world, Jackson Pollock, called “Jack the Dripper” by some, figured largely in the Abstract Expressionist movement in America.  His work  is such of the “love it” or “hate it” variety and it can often strike a chord with those who least expect it. 

Untitled, No. 3 by Jackson Pollock

I remember taking a basic Art Appreciation class early on in college, with a good friend from high school.  Said friend was very conservative in most aspects and usually preferred the more realistic artwork we studied– but she loved Pollock’s work.  There was just something about it that she responded to.

Untitled, No. 8 by Jackson Pollock

Pollock’s process, referred to as “action painting”, involved several aspects that were innovative at the time– Pollock laid his canvases unstretched out on the floor, instead of stretched on an easel, utilizing household paints instead of more traditional oils and instead of brushing the paint on, dipped whatever was on hand into the paint and then slashed  & dripped it onto the canvas.

Green Silver by Jackson Pollock

I remember being intrigued by Pollock and his work, but it wasn’t until I saw one of his pieces up close & personal, in an Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, that I truly became a fan.  Seeing the monumental scale of the work, the depth of the paint and being able to recognize that yes, there truly was a method to his madness in all those drips and splatters, sealed the deal for me.

Blue Poles by Jackson Pollock

I realize we don’t all share the same aesthetic tastes.  How about you?  Are you a fan of “the Dripper”?