Monday, March 20, 2017

The Little Maasai Girl ~ Choosing a Subject and Reference from the Past

“Through all the world 
there goes one long cry from the heart of the artist: 
Give me a chance to do my best. ” 
~Karen Blixen
Babette's Feast & Other Anecdotes of Destiny

When I started gathering my ideas together for my show last fall, I wanted to choose references that were powerful to me. They were supposed to represent the idea that we are all made and shaped by our memories. So, for the "experiential series" they had to be related to important places, times or people from the past. 

In 1989, when I stepped off the plane in Kenya, I experienced a feeling that I had never had before. It was as if my feet rooted into the ground and in a way that I'd never felt before ... or since. I felt at home in a way that was so grounded.  I want to say "extraordinary" but there was something so normal about it, like coming home after a very long journey. 

I have traveled to places since where I've felt at home, or that felt so familiar that it was like visiting an old friend. In Assisi, I could find my way without consciously connecting my brain to my feet. I guess it felt like home too, but more of an out of body feeling.

 In Kenya, I felt rooted. I get emotional just thinking of it.

So, for my solo show I knew I had to paint a memory from Kenya. I wanted to do a Cheetah (being my spirit animal and having seen them about 8 feet away!) but the panel I have for that is 5 feet tall and if I started that, I would have ended up having a show with 1 painting! So, I picked my favorite photo, which was from our visit to a Maasai village. I'm sure you can see why, with her sweet, lovely, radiance.

I started with a sanguine color conté pencil, drawing in her features on the wood panel, then blended with a brush and mineral spirits, gradually moving into using burnt sienna oil paint.

Little by little I added more varying skin tones, then went into the fabric. I love painting drapery, so I can definitely get carried away! I decided to simplify it a bit to keep the focus on her.

I started adding her beads and eventually her silver necklace but I stopped short of the longer beads. I could have gone crazy with all the details ...

There was such a lovely sense of light on her, in the photo  (faded and discolored as it was) ... I knew just where the gold needed to go. 

And here she is ...

Several people wanted to buy the painting but she sold (to my sister) before the show opened.  

Oh, shortly after I started this blog, in 2009, I did a post about Kenya which you can see here.

Hope you are all off to a wonderful spring! I went to the Holi Festival of Colors weekend before last. I will definitely post those very color photos!

Buona Primavera, i miei amici!

Blessings and light!

“Up in this air you breathed easily, 
drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. 
In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: 
Here I am, where I ought to be.” 
~Karen Blixen
Out of Africa

Sunday, March 12, 2017

National Museum of Women in Art

What would life be without art? Science prolongs life.
To consist of what-
eating, drinking, and sleeping?
What is the good of living longer
if it only a matter of satisfying the requirements that sustain life?
All this is nothing with out the charm of art.
~ Sarah Bernhardt

National Museum of Women in Art
founded 1987
NMWA is the only major museum in the world 
solely dedicated to recognizing women's creative contributions.

It's a place I'd wanted to go in D.C. ever since I'd heard about it! A museum dedicated to women artists! So often, women in history are forgotten and this is very much the case when it comes to the history of art.

Alice Bailly
b. 1872, Geneva, Switzerland; d. 1938, Lausanne,
Self-Portrait, 1917
Oil on Canvas

The building was originally built in 1903.

In 1983, NMWA purchased a landmark 78,810 square feet former Masonic temple in the Renaissance Revival style to house its works. After extensive renovations that included the addition of the two dramatic marble stairways linking the first floor and mezzanine, the museum opened to the public on April 7, 1987. The Elizabeth A. Kasser Wing opened November 8, 1997 making the entire facility 84,110 square feet.

The museum was founded to reform traditional histories of art. It is dedicated to discovering and making known women artists who have been overlooked or unacknowledged, and assuring the place of women in contemporary art. The museum’s founder, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, and her husband Wallace F. Holladay began collecting art in the 1960s, just as scholars were beginning to discuss the under-representation of women in museum collections and major art exhibitions. 

Impressed by a 17th-century Flemish still life painting by Clara Peeters that they saw in Europe, they sought out information on Peeters and found that the definitive art history texts referenced neither her nor any other woman artist. They became committed to collecting artwork by women and eventually to creating a museum and research center. wikipedia

Remedios Varo
b. 1908, Anglès, Spain; d. 1963, Mexico City
La Lamada (The Call), 1961
Oil on Masonite

I do not with to talk about myself
because I hold very deeply the belief
that what is important is the work, not the person.
~Remedios Varo

A perfect example of women in art, forgotten by larger society, is Berthe Morisot who was in all but one of the Impressionist Exhibitions, alongside her contemporaries like Monet, Cezanne, Pissarro and Renoir from 1874-1886. She was in many ways pushing the boundaries more than the men. In some of her paintings, her brushwork was so loose and expressionistic, she was more like the expressionists of the 20th Century!

b. 1841, Bourges, France; d. 1895, Paris
The Cage, 1885
Oil on Canvas

It is important to express oneself ...
provide the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience.
~Berthe Morisot

Suzanne Valadon
b. 1865, Bessines-sur Gartempe, France; d. 1938, Paris
The Abandoned Doll, 1921
Oil on canvas

Suzanne Valadon began her career in art as a model for Renoir, Lautrec and other painters. As you can see, she was an incredible figure painter. I love her use of color! This painting is so beautiful, in that you see this transition from girlhood, with her doll cast aside on the floor, to becoming a young woman.
Look at all the wonderful colors in the flesh tones. Ugh, it's so exquisite ... and next to the red?!

I paint with the stubbornness I need for living,
and I've found that all painters who love their art
do the same.

Janet Forrester Ngala
b. ca. 1936, Northern Teritory, Australia
Language group: Luritja
Milky Way Dreaming, 1998
Acrylic on canvas

b. 1891, Columbus, Georgia; d. 1978, Washington, D.C.
Iris, Tulips, Jonquils, and Crocuses, 1969
Oil on Canvas

Remember our heritage is our power;
we can know ourselves and our capacities by 
seeing that other women have been strong.

b. 1920, Brooklyn, d. 
Bacchus #3 (detail)
Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
(I LOVE this piece!!!!)

May Stevens
b. 1924, Boston
SoHo Women Artists, 1978
Acrylic on canvas

b. 1939, Chicago
Virginia Woolf (test plate for The Dinner Party), 1978
Glazed Porcelain
Porcelain plates like this one form a main component of Chicago's monumental work, The Dinner Party. This large installation consists of a triangular table with thirty-nine place settings, each dedicated to an influential woman in history. Chicago purposefully incorporated techniques traditionally associated with women, such as porcelain and needlework, to provoke questions about their traditional designation as craft rather than fine art.

If you have never seen an installation of the Dinner Party and you get the chance, definitely go see it. I saw it at the Hammer Museum in LA in 1996 and it really stuck with me and made a huge impression on me, as a woman. It was like going through time and history and in the end finding my place in it.

I believe in art that is connected to real human feeling-
that extends itself beyond the limits of the art world
to embrace all people
who are striving for alternatives in a an
increasingly dehumanized world.

Hung Liu
b. 1948, Changchun, China
Shui-Water, 2012
Color aquatint etching with gold leaf

I hope to wash my subject of their 'otherness' 
and reveal them as dignified,
even mystic figures 
on the grander scale of history painting.
~Hung Liu

b.1935, Bleiburg, Austria; d. 1997, Vienna
Superwoman, 1973
Oil and acrylic on canvas

"Superwoman comments on the representation of the female body in popular culture. With deadpan humor, Kogelnik challenges comic book clichés, which portray female superheroes-if they include them at all-clad in sexy, impractical costumes ..."

b. 1552, Bologna; d. 1614, Rome
Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 1580
Oil on canvas

I once had a boyfriend who asked why there weren't any genius women artists like Leonardo or Michelangelo. He's lucky he wasn't socked. There are a couple of ways to answer this. One is that there have been, but people don't usually know their names. (Critics and historians have selective memory and particular prejudices. I know that is shocking.) 

The other answer, or reason there weren't as many painters in history of art, was lack of opportunity. 

As a young artist, you would do what Michelangelo did, and go apprentice with an older established master. For a young girl or young lady this would have been completely inappropriate, to go off and live at an art studio with a man. Which is why you see so few women painters in the Renaissance, Baroque periods, etc. 

For the most part if you were able to paint, you had a father or older brother you could learn from, like the painter Artemisia Gentileschi who became very well known in her time ... her dad was Orazio Gentileschi who was a known artist and contemporary of Caravaggio. This was also the case with this Renaissance master, Lavinia Fontana. Her father was a painter.

Doesn't it make you wonder how many incredible, talented, genius women were out there and not given the opportunity??

b. 1844, Allegheny City, Pennsylvania; d. 1926,
Le Mesnil-Theribus, France
Buste d'une femme en corsage blanc, 1905
oil on canvas

I hated conventional art.
I began to live.
~Mary Cassatt

detail of Mary Cassatt portrait ...

I am independent!
I can live alone 
and I love to work.
~Mary Cassatt

Jane Hammond
b. 1950, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Wonderful You, 1995
Oil, gold leaf, and collage on canvas

Real painters understand with a brush in their hand.
~Berthe Morisot

b. 1972, Columbus, Georgia
They call me Redbone but I'd Rather be Strawberry Shortcake, 2009
Oil on Canvas
(Love this work!)

From the museum website:
They Call Me Redbone but I’d Rather Be Strawberry Shortcake alludes to racial labeling directly, as the slang term “redbone” typically refers to a black woman with a light skin tone.
Typical of Sherald’s art, the young woman in They Call Me Redbone but Id Rather Be Strawberry Shortcake appears to float against an intensely colored background, which enhances the work’s dreamy quality. The artist achieves this effect by limiting her use shadow along the figure’s contours. Here as in other works, Sherald disrupts viewers’ readings of her portrait subjects as black by painting their skin in grayscale, metaphorically removing their “color.”
Sherald modifies historical portrait formats to upend the dominant narrative of African American history. She notes: “I create playful yet sober portraits of black Americans within an imaginative history where I do black my way, in the European tradition of painted portraiture.” While historical portraitists aimed to reveal a sitter’s social standing or some essence of character, Sherald’s haunting figures are expressionless and dressed in unusual, costume-style clothing that she has collected.

Sarah Bernhardt
b. 1844, Paris; d. 1923, Paris
Après la tempête (After the Storm),
ca. 1876
White marble
(Did you know she was a sculptor, as well as an actress?!)

From the museum website:
Her debut in Racine’s tragedy Iphigénie cemented her importance as a stage actress and launched what would become a 60-year career and a pan-European reputation as “the Divine Sarah." While acting, Bernhardt began studying sculpture with Mathieu Meusnier and Emilio Franchesci and became passionately devoted to the art. 
By 1874, she was exhibiting her work at the Paris Salon, which she continued to do until 1886. Exhibitions of the artist’s sculpture were held in London, New York, and Philadelphia. Bernhardt participated in the World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900.

What matters poverty?
What matters anything
to him who is enamored of our art?
Does he not carry in himself every joy 
and every beauty?
~Sarah Bernhardt

Marzia Migliora
b. 1972, Alessandria, Italy
Pleaure, 2002
Leather and thorns

"In Pleasure, she explores one of life's dualities: pleasure/pain. The supple leather of this pair of wedding gloves evokes the appealing sensation of touch. The thorns that stud their interior make them, ironically, untouchable. Such physical sensations evoke equivalent psychological ones."

b. 1908, Brookly; d. 1984, NYC
The Springs, 1964
Oil on canvas

b. 1961, Rio de Janeiro 
Untitled, 1991
(I love how this looks like an organic tumble weed that looks like it would be rather light but it's made of iron wire and wigs about ninety pounds!)

E.V. Day
b. 1967, New York City
G-Force Dive, 2001
Spandex thongs with resin, monofilament, and turnbuckles

Amy Cutler
b. 1974, Poughkeepsie, New York
Provisions, 2008

Loved this artist (above) which are influence by old fairy tails and Indian Miniatures. So groovy. To see more of these, click here after you read the rest of the post.

b. 1965, New Orleans
Single Rose, 1997
Chromatic Print

Active ca. 1607-1630s, Antwerp, the Netherlands
A Still Life of Lilies, Roses, Iris, Pansies, Columbine,
Love-in-a-Mist-, Larkspur, and Other Flowers 
in a Glass Vase on a Table Top,
Flanked by a Rose and a Carnation,
ca. 1610

Detail of Clara Peeters Still Life from 1610

"A pioneer in the field of still-life painting, Clara Peeters is the only Flemish woman known to have specialized in such pictures as early as the first decade of the 17th century." 

I paint people to learn to know them.
~Suzanne Valadon

I got one of these buttons for the Women's March, benefitting the ACLU and Planned Parenthood with the sign language for I Love You.

Lauren, Shea and I, out in front of the museum! In honor of the Women's March on Washington, entry was free all weekend! 

Women should be someone and not something.
~Mary Cassatt

A celebratory cocktail, bought for us by the sweet restaurant manager, in honor of the March!

To find out more about the National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington D.C. click Here.

You can find out more about the artists, under Artist Profiles on the Museum's Website Here

I have touched with a sense of art some people – 
they felt the love and the life. 
Can you offer me anything 
to compare to that joy for an artist?
~Mary Cassatt

Monday, March 6, 2017

Monuments to America at Night ~ D.C. and Philadelphia

Every great dream begins with a dreamer.
Always remember,
you have within you the strength,
the patience, and the passion
to reach for the stars 
to change the world.
~Harriet Tubman

I'd always wanted to go to the Lincoln Memorial at night. After marching with so many beautiful humans that day, it felt like the perfect night ...

Lincoln Memorial

Those who deny freedom to other,
deserve it not for themselves;
and, under a just God, 
can not long retain it.
~Abraham Lincoln

Press play ... ;)

America will never be destroyed from the outside.
If we falter and lose our freedoms, 
it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
~Abraham Lincoln

Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but it you want to test a man's character,
give him power.
~Abraham Lincoln

It will be found an unjust and
unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty
upon the supposition he may abuse it.
~George Washington 

Vietnam Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial is inspiring and charged with an incredible energy that's hard to describe. The Vietnam memorial is very different experience. Like the Lincoln Memorial it feels like a sacred space, but so very quiet and solemn, as if you are surrounded by the thousands of souls lost in those years. You can't help but weep walking through and reading the names ...

"The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall provides one of the National Mall’s most powerful scenes. In truth, the “wall” is actually made up of two identical walls that each stretch 246 feet and 9 inches, containing more than 58,000 names. The names are listed in chronological order based on the date of casualty, and within each day, names are shown in alphabetical order."

"Just south of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, which serves to commemorate the 265,000 women that served in the Vietnam War, many of whom worked as nurses. The 2,000 pound bronze structure stands 15 feet tall and depicts three women attending to a wounded soldier, reflecting the unity required during the struggle of the war."

"The third part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is The Three Soldiers (also known as The Three Servicemen) bronze statue, another moving reminder of the disparate groups that had to come together during the Vietnam War. Each of the three soldiers stands seven feet tall, situated on top of a one-foot granite base. One is European American, one is African American and the other is Hispanic American, with the statue arranged as if to show the three soldiers gazing upon the Memorial Wall at the names of their fellow comrades."

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty,
that makes human nature rise above itself,
in acts of bravery and heroism.
~Alexander Hamilton

United States Treasury

I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person.
There was such glory over everything.
The sun came up
like gold through the trees,
and I felt like I was in heaven.
~Harriet Tubman

There are seasons in every country 
when noise and impudence pass current for worth;
and in popular commotions especially,
the clamored of intruded and factious men
are often mistaken for patriotism.
~Alexander Hamilton

The White House

The Washington Monument

If the freedom of speech is taken away
then dumb and silent we may be led,
like sheep to the slaughter.
~George Washington

The World War II Memorial

We didn't have a lot of time and couldn't see everything we would have liked to have seen, but I had to go pay my respects at the WWII Memorial. When I was a hospice volunteer at the VA years ago, most of my guys were vets from the second world war. I was not sure how emotional I'd be. Mostly, Lauren and I walked around it separately. It was raining and quiet and I only saw a couple of other people around there.

So many things went through my mind, being there. Seeing the names of the places, the battles ... I thought of stories they'd told me of being in the Pacific, of rescue missions and quonset huts, and coming in at Normandy Beach. I started crying. 

I thought of my guys who had survived the war but were now gone and how I missed them, and then I started thinking of everyone who didn't survive that war and the Holocaust. I looked around at the memorial and started to think how crazy human beings are, and that throughout history we keep doing these horrible things to each other. Then I was really crying. 

Today the guns are silent. 
A great tragedy has ended. A great victory has been won. 
The skies no longer rain death -- 
the seas bear only commerce- 
men everywhere walk upright in the sunlight. 
The entire world is quietly at peace. 
~General Douglas MacArthur

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women 
in the service of our country
can never be repaid. 
They have earned our undying gratitude.
America will never forget their sacrifices.
~Harry S. Truman

I was melancholy leaving D.C. It was still cold and rainy. I had all of these mixed emotions. It had been an emotional roller coaster weekend. The march was such a high and so inspiring and energizing, as was going to the National Museum of Women in Art. (I'll have to get to that in my next post.)

Guard against the impostures 
of pretended patriotism.
~George Washington

The Capitol 

Our flight to the West Coast was actually out of Philly, so we drove to Baltimore, dropped our rental car, and took the train to Philadelphia. And drank wine on the train. I looked at my photos and we talked about all the great things that happened and all the wonderful people we met and I started feeling hopeful again. 

                                                           Happiness and moral duty
are inseparably connected.
~George Washington

AND we were going to Philadelphia! 

Philadelphia Train Station

We hopped in a taxi and off we went. What could we see in about an hour?

Liberty Bell

Liberty, when it begins to take root,
is a plant of rapid growth.
~George Washington

Independence Hall

The Rocky Steps, outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Lauren downloaded the Rocky theme and the runner we grabbed held up that phone in one hand playing the music, and my phone to record in the other!

As you can see we were cracking ourselves up! And, no one has ever seen Philly that fast! 

And the next morning ...


This Land is Your Land

I leave you, hoping that the lamp of liberty 
will burn in your bosoms 
until there shall no longer be a doubt 
that all men are created free and equal.
~Abraham Lincoln

Blessings and light