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The Designers Who Would Be Artists

13 Sep

It seems that the art world is embracing fashion and its cultural influence.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent Alexander McQueen exhibit, Savage Beautybroke attendance records for fashion exhibits at the institution.  Designers, especially ones specializing in couture fashion, seem to have more freedom than ever to create uniquely artistic forms.  We see designers such as the late McQueen taking inspiration from the art world and creating masterpieces in their own way.

Dress, VOSS, Alexander McQueen, razor clam shells stripped and varnished

Are these practical clothes?  No.  But then, art isn’t created for practicality’s sake.  It is created to be an outlet and a source of inspiration.  McQueen and other designers like him have taken inspiration from the forms and textures of ancient and modern sculpture to develop glorious garments that inspire.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Mary Katrantzou

Stephane Rolland

Manish Arora, Autumn/Winter 2011-2012

On a simple dressmaker’s form, these could be mistaken for museum-worthy sculptures, but when worn, they become a moving work of art.

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My Husband GETS Abstract Art.. finally

8 Jun

My hubby is a very intelligent and creative person in his own way– the stories he concocts and “sketches” he comes up with are Saturday Night Live-worthy and he reads books like A People’s History of the United States for fun.  But when we started dating, he was definitely an art-world novice.  Questions like, “But what exactly is wrong with Thomas Kinkade?” made my head want to explode.  But maybe the biggest struggle was trying to explain what I loved so much about abstract painting and why no, honey, a 3rd grader could NOT have done that.

George checking out Rauschenberg

Part of what I love about George is how much he appreciates my creative side and artsiness.  Makes me more interesting than the average-gal, I suppose.  And, like all lovey-dovey types, I wanted to be able to share that part of myself with him.  We went to art festivals, galleries and openings, all in pursuit of awakening his mind to a world of art he may have never experienced before.  He became a fan of Christina Foard, following the opening of her Williams-Cornelius show, admiring her use of color and texture.

Moonlight Solitude by Christina Foard

We also discovered that he doesn’t always care for abstract expressionist-type work, i.e., seemingly random slashes of paint across a canvas, which will more than likely elicit a shoulder-shrug and a “eh” from him.  He does, however, appreciate light and texture, as he surprised me by totally digging these pieces we saw recently in a gallery in Hood River, Oregon.

Artist: Barry Mack

Artist: Barry Mack

Surprisingly, his tastes have emerged as running a bit more deep & avant-garde than mine.. where I get drawn in by beautiful color, texture and form, what may draw him to a particular work is the narrative of the story it is telling.  For instance, he was very interested in investigating the details of the Rauschenberg prints we saw in Tulsa.  He also tends to lean more toward multi-media work, such as this kind of creepy haunted-house-like part sculpture-part installation at the Denver Art Museum held his interest far longer than it held mine.

Installation at the Denver Art Museum

But what really keeps me on my toes is how inquisitive he is about what he is seeing– the process, the motivation, background story, etc.  He asks questions that I don’t always have the answers to, which results in us making discoveries together.  ( Who could ask for better? )  It is that inquisitive & curious nature that I think finally led him to the realization of just what it is about abstract art that makes it so interesting and provocative.

Admiring the work of Hilary Williams

As we were leaving the art gallery at The Pines in Hood River, George said to me, “I think I understand why you like abstract art so much.  When you see another realistic painting of a tree or landscape, it’s usually just another painting of a tree.  But abstract art draws you in, makes you think.”  YES!  Here’s to more discoveries with you, my 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.

Hands-On vs Hands-Off Artistry

27 Apr

In my daily reading of Artinfo.com this morning I came across two articles, seemingly unrelated, until the Facebook comments regarding one of the articles tied them together for me.  The first article, found here, poses the question, “Should Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Remain Unfinished?”  The Barcelona basilica, begun in 1882 by renown artist-architect Antonio Gaudi is still under construction eighty-five years following the architect’s death. 

Sagrada Familia under construction in Barcelona, Spain

 Though Gaudi left plaster models and drawings, many of his notes were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War, leaving his vision open to interpretation by current sculptors, architects and designers.  While some critics feel the current direction doesn’t jive with Gaudi’s original vision, even during his lifetime, there were many sculptors working on the basilica.  Like any monumental undertaking, “it takes a village” to bring Gaudi’s creation to life.

Close-up of one of La Sagrada Familia's spires. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

Should Gaudi’s original design be so open to interpretation?  He gave artistic license to those working under him while alive, would he so object to modern interpretations now being imposed?  Unlike other types of sculpture, cathedrals are often the product of centuries worth of work by multiple architects, artists and craftsman. 

The star-studded ceiling of the east wing of La Sagrada Familia under construction. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

As Gaudi was aware he would not be alive to see it to completion, wouldn’t he have known his original design would be open to interpretation by those who came after him?  Does the fact that Gaudi is not here to personally oversee the work negate the additions?

Artists using apprentices and assistants is nothing new.  The art world of the Renaissance era, which produced such celebrated masters as Michelangelo and DaVinci was built upon the concept of apprenticeship.  But what about now?  The second article I read this morning was regarding the approval of a Dale Chihuly museum at the site of a former amusement park in downtown Seattle ( now the Seattle Center ).

The museum in itself is the subject of controversy, but that isn’t what I’d like to address here.  Instead, I’d like direct attention to another Chihuly controversy– his use of others to craft his designs.  One Facebook poster thought it necessary to point out that since losing the use of his left eye due to a car accident, he is no longer the person actually blowing the art glass he is so famous for.  ( In reality, Chihuly continued to blow glass for three years following the accident, until a body surfing incident dislocated his shoulder, so he was no longer able to manually manipulate the glass ).   The poster’s statement that “His employees make everything.  Just sayin’.” seems to somehow fault Chihuly for continuing to create in the only way he physically could, by having others help him.  The artist himself has said that his role, more of a director, allows him better perspective on the work.

As stated above regarding Gaudi, the practice of using assistants and apprentices to create monumental works of art has been done for centuries ( and yes, many of Chihuly’s creations are monumental in scope ).  So as long as the artist himself continues to design the creations with his name on them, what’s the big deal?

And what about so-called “production originals”?  You might be thinking of the ones advertised as “hand painted original works of art”, usually being sold out of a hotel ballroom.  But what I’m talking about are the production art studios– where perhaps one “lead artist” is creating original works of art, which are then being recreated & reproduced by the hand of “assistant artists”.  There are more of these studios around than people realize and the work can be found in galleries, corporate and private collections all over the world.  While the savvy gallerist, art consultant, designer and art afficionado knows production art when they see it, what about the collector who thinks they are buying a true original work of art, only to spot an almost exact replica when in their hotel while on vacation in Hawaii?  Do we lump Chihuly in with these?

These are three examples of artwork being completed and accomplished without the direct hand of the creator.  What are your thoughts?  Is it ever OK to put your name on something you didn’t actually physically create?  This is definitely a gray area.. would love to hear your thoughts!

Masterworks Monday: Edward Hopper

25 Apr

Happy Monday, Artsies!  Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend.  This week’s Masterworks Monday artist is one of my all-time faves, American Realist painter Edward Hopper.   A feeling of melancholy tends to pervade most of Hopper’s work, but maybe that is why they appeal to me.  His scenes seem so very real, not just in their sense of time and of place, but in the capturing of a moment.  Early mornings in small towns DO feel desolate, being an attendant at a gas station on a far off country road WOULD be lonely. 

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper

Image via Whitney Museum of American Art

Gas by Edward Hopper

Image via Museum of Modern Art

Don’t you want to know what’s going on with this young blonde movie usher?  Is she sad?  Is she contemplating making a change in her life? 

New York Movie by Edward Hopper

Image via Museum of Modern Art

Despite the lone figures or desolate landscapes, Hopper’s images are filled with light and in that, create a sense of hope within the isolation.  Early morning means it is a new day.. light coming in a window means that there is an escape from the darkness.  Whether this is what Hopper intended or not, it is what I personally take from his work.

 Morning Sun by Edward Hopper

Image via The New York Times

How about you?  What do you see in Hopper’s work?  How does it make you feel?

 

 

 

 

HERB & DOROTHY

14 Apr

What an amazing story!  If you love something, you will find a way to do it and the Vogels found a way to become art collectors on a very modest income.   I can’t wait to see this.

HERB & DOROTHY | The Vogel Art Collection | Independent Lens | PBS.

Who knows, maybe one day they will make a film about Lesley & George:  The Frenz Art Collection.   One can dare to dream.

Behind the Museum Walls: Thoughts From a Curator

13 Apr

Good morning, all! 

Do you ever wonder how pieces are chosen for museum exhibits?  Why one work makes the cut but another doesn’t?  I just read this interesting little article written by Katharine Stout, curator of the new exhibit, “Watercolour” at the Tate in London.  A fascinating look behind the choices of work and use of watercolors today.   Although traditional watercolor landscapes have a long history in Britain, Stout chose to focus on contemporary work, making the exhibit more relevant for today.   

Hope you enjoy this little peek behind the museum walls!

Tate curator Katharine Stout on the contemporary works in ‘Watercolour’ | Tate Blog.