An Appetite for Something More at the Chicago Art Institute

Last week I finally made my way over to the Chicago Art Institute, which felt like the largest art museum I have been to in the States. It had long, daunting hallways filled with strange dead ends and tons of works of art that could be easily overlooked. Feeling slightly overwhelmed by the scale of the place I decided to focus my visit on the current temporary exhibit; Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine.

The exhibit is only at the museum for a few more days (until January 27th, 2014), so in that sense I’m glad I made the effort to see it, but art of food isn’t generally something that piques my interest much. After trying to interpret the map and making a few wrong turns I found the special exhibit hall near the back of the Museum. Like many special exhibits I’ve visited the first room explained the purpose of the exhibition with two paragraphs printed on a huge scale onto the wall. Two reproductions of works within the exhibit flanked the text on either side, and gave a promising taste of the art to come.

American artists have used food to both celebrate and critique their developing society; express ideas relating to politics, race, class, gender, and commerce; and investigate American identity. This exhibition brings together over 100 paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts from the 18th through the 20th century, along with a selection of period cookbooks, menus, trade cards, and posters, to explore the art and culture of food and examine the many meanings and interpretations of eating in America. (artic.edu)

Norman Rockwell. Freedom from Want, 1942. Lent by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust.

Norman Rockwell. Freedom from Want, 1942. Lent by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust.

My favorite room in the gallery was next. It was my favorite for a number of reasons. It had works from various periods of time, and instead of focusing on one style of art, focused on a theme everyone could relate to- Thanksgiving. It encouraged me to make my own connections about the pieces, instead of simply providing historical information, which I appreciated. The four works allowed viewers to experience the scope of food art, including a still life, pop art print, portrait, and comic scene of a Thanksgiving dinner being prepared. The remainder of the exhibition was a chronological history of food and art in America through the 1960’s. And the majority of the works were still life’s.

Although artistic leaders ranked still life beneath supposedly superior genres of history painting, portraiture, and landscapes Raphaelle spent the majority of his career producing delicate compositions of fruit, veggies, nuts, and the like. (Quote from the exhibition, Curated by Judith Barter)

Apart from a very interesting teapot molded to look like a cauliflower, the following room was filled with still life’s by Raphaelle Peele, mentioned above. Descriptions next to the images pointed out the political significances of the various compositions of fruits and vegetables, and they were exquisitely crafted with rich colors. In the end I still agreed with the supposed “artistic leaders” who felt still life’s are lesser than other art forms. By the fourth room of still life’s I was pretty bored. Maybe I’m simply not cultured enough, but I have never been drawn to realistic representations of things I would rather be eating.

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Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825). Melons and Morning Glories, 1813. Current Location: Smithsonian American Art Museum

Despite the overwhelming number of still life paintings, there were still some works that captured my attention. The first were the series of vintage menus, cookbooks, and recipe cards scattered throughout the exhibition. Unlike other works that I have seen in art history books or recreated as posters, I had never seen old menus or cookbooks. To me they captured the change of Americans regard towards food better than anything else. They were also exceptionally beautiful, many of them hand crafted with colorful inks and gold filigree.

Trophy of the Hunt, oil on canvas by William Harnett, 1885; in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pa. 108 × 55 cm. Credit: Photograph by Moira Burke. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Penn., purchase, 41.5

Trophy of the Hunt, oil on canvas by William Harnett, 1885; in the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pa. 108 × 55 cm.
Credit: Photograph by Moira Burke. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Penn., purchase, 41.5

Another interesting room was filled with Trompe L’oeil Paintings. This style of painting was around as early as the Baroque period and uses forced perspective to trick the viewer into seeing a three dimensional image. Trompe L’oeil also means “Trick of the Eye.” These works were so intriguing because rather than portraying outdated politics they touched on an issue in the art world that is still hot today. What is good art? Works like Trophy of the Hunt by William Michael Harnett and Free Sample Take One by De Scott Evans at the time they were made tended to be enjoyed by the lower classes, and because of their visual illusion were considered lesser by critics. But what is the point of art if no one is looking at it? Not only were these works meticulously crafted but they were entertaining. It really made me think about the value of art. Should it entertain? Should it create discussion? Should is be beautiful or not? Should it capture a moment in History. All of these questions were brought up by the Trompe L’oeil room.

the final rooms of the exhibition touched on modern and pop art. Even though the works moved away from classical painting they were still mostly still life’s.

Although Modernism rejected traditional modes of painting the still life was central to avante garde exploration. The very features that caused it to be considered lesser in earlier decades- lack of overt narrative and focus on mundane objects- made it an ideal vehicle for radicalism and aggressive deconstruction of space, form, and surface. (Quote from the exhibition, Curated by Judith Barter)

Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell’s soup made an appearance and the final piece I saw as I wandered into the gift shop was a giant fabric egg by Claes Oldenburg. I was disappointed that there was nothing to propel the viewer into a discussion of contemporary interactions between food and artists, but as one individual pointed out to me, the Art Institute doesn’t maintain collections beyond the modern period.

  Claes Oldenburg: Sculpture in the Form of a Fried Egg. 1966. Canvas, dyed cotton, and expanded polystyrene. Diameter: 122 in. (309.9 cm)

Claes Oldenburg: Sculpture in the Form of a Fried Egg
1966
Canvas, dyed cotton, and expanded polystyrene
Diameter: 122 in. (309.9 cm)

It took me the whole exhibition to realize this but I’m simply frustrated with the institution of the museum as a whole. Educating about Art History is all good and well but without making a connection with contemporary issues it fall’s short. The Art Institute’s mission states that “The Art Institute of Chicago collects, preserves, and interprets works of art of the highest quality, representing the world’s diverse artistic traditions, for the inspiration and education of the public and in accordance with our profession’s highest ethical standards and practices.” And I suppose Art and Appetite did a good job of representing the institutes mission. I simply wanted more out of the experience. Despite my frustrations I plan to visit the Art Institute again and take advantage of their expansive galleries from around the world. Even if their passions for art don’t line up with my own I’m sure I can find inspiration around the corner.

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Anish Kapoor and the Cloud Gate

How does someone reach a level of prestige that they can create a piece of art on the same scale as a building? How does someone become one of the most acknowledged living sculptors of  their time?

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First Approach

These were the question that came to mind as I wandered through the Millennium Park in Chicago up to the Cloud Gate. This massive public work is smooth, mirrored anomaly juxtaposed against the towering Chicago skyline. It captures the space between the lake and the city reflecting everything around it in a mesmerizing way. Despite being freezing cold, and sky being a gray mass overhead I still found myself enchanted by the piece for a good twenty minutes. I could see myself as a tiny dot on the surface as I walked closer. No one stopped me touching the polished surface, which still reflected everything seamlessly despite being covered in smudges and soot. I walked the perimeter enjoying the changing panorama of Chicago behind my reflection, distorting in the convex surface of the structure. I ventured into the “gate” under the structure, which defied understanding to look upon. The world turned into a mandala above my head, bending and blending as I strode to one side or the other, my face upturned. After having enjoyed interacting with the sculpture on my own I stepped aside and watched other visitors explore and play with the strange shape. I laughed to myself as “I’ll Be Watching You” by the Police floated up from the ice rink below the sculpture.

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 Cloud Gate was created by Anish Kapoor in 2004 for the AT&T plaza in the Millennium Park. “Cloud Gate is a single object of around 25×15×12m. It is made of polished stainless steel and is seamless, (http://anishkapoor.com/322/Cloud-Gate.html).” Kapoor was born in India, and went to art school in Britain in the 1970’s. After completing art school he went on to win many of the most prestigious arts awards for British Artists. Even his most early works were concerned with the “in-between”.

“Yes, I continually come back to questions about the status of the object: How fully is it in the world? How much is it what it says it is and how much is it something else? Where is the real space of the object? Is it what you are looking at, or is it the space beyond what you are looking at?” -Anish Kapoor, Interview with Nicholas Baume

The strange fractal image created by the 12ft arch inside the sculpture.

The strange fractal image created by the 12ft arch inside the sculpture.

Kapoor’s earliest works that brought him to the 1982 Paris Biennale and the 1990 Venice Biennale were on a much smaller scale than later works. 1000 Names consisted of sculptures of various geometric shapes that appear to be on the edge of either being finished or falling apart, where the artist used pigment to create them. When asked how he came to these ideas he said he wanted to “create something out of color.” Void Field consisted of a room of stones punctured by holes in the middle.

Mixed media and pigment Dimensions variable

Mixed media and pigment
Dimensions variable

I first saw Kapoor’s work when I was studying abroad in Paris. He had been chosen to create a piece for the Monumenta 2011 which is a work intended to be created on a monumental scale that interacts with the Grand Palais.

MONUMENTA is an ambitious artistic encounter unmatched anywhere in the world, organized by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.  Each year MONUMENTA invites an internationally renowned contemporary artist to appropriate the 13,500 m² of the Grand Palais Nave with an artwork specially created for the event.(http://2011.monumenta.com/en/2011/un-concept-unique)

For the project Kapoor created Leviathan. The piece filled the majority of the Grand Palais and could be experienced in two ways.

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The first was on the outside. It was like a sleeping colossus that filled the majority of the space. You had to navigate around the edges of it, and it completely displaced the viewer. Trying to capture a picture of it was impossible as the scale was simply too large. From the outside it looked black and felt taught and full to the touch.

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You could also choose to venture inside. It was like stepping into a fantasy world. Inside evoked images of a womb or a blood canal. Suddenly everything was red. The people, the walls, the floor, the light.  Everything was consumed by the color. The air was still and dampened. It was hard to hear, and it smelled of plastic. Somehow the space inside seemed even larger than the space taken up outside, which boggled the mind. I didn’t linger long inside because the whole experience was unsettling. At the time the same questions jumped to my mind. How do you get this successful as an artist to make something this big?

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Having mulled the question of Kapoor’s success over for a while I have come to some conclusions.

Kapoor isn’t trying to say everything at once. Each piece he creates is a confined experience. Many artists I have seen recently try to weave every little idea into their work, as if that somehow makes it more meaningful and important. For me it simply confuses the piece. Examples include Mea Culpa by Mary Kelly and The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist by Michael Rakowitz. My own work suffered from this while I was in studio classes in college and think simplicity is in the end more successful. 

Second, Kapoor encourages his viewers to interact with his work. Because his pieces explore the boundaries of space they inherently encourage the viewer to also explore those boundaries. He claims his breakthrough piece was When I am Pregnant. “When you are in front of When I am Pregnant, no matter how close or far away you are, it is a blur. It is only when you move to the side of it that you can see it is a form.” (Anish Kapoor, Interview with Nicholas Blaume). Forcing the viewer to interact simultaneously forces the viewer to think about the piece, and creates deeper meaning.

Fibreglass and paint Dimensions variable

Fibreglass and paint
Dimensions variable

Ultimately, Kapoor’s art captures the interest of his audiences. Any piece of contemporary art that can engage an individual for more than a few seconds has accomplished something. I have visited art museums with friends and families who aren’t particularly interested in the arts and they fly through them, briefly glancing at most pieces, occasionally lingering at one or two others. I myself have been guilty of sighing at the sight of contemporary works. For the most part, to understand contemporary art you need to read the material provided with it. Plenty of people were lingering to explore and play at Cloud Gate, and I was surprised to find no information about the piece or the artist at the actual site. It didn’t need to explained to be interesting, thought-provoking, and highly successful piece of public art.

For more info on Anish Kapoor check out his website.

MCA Chicago: field notes

Yesterday on my first foray into the city of Chicago I found myself at the doorstep of the Museum of Contemporary Art. Like most contemporary art museums I’ve visited it isn’t very large. It had a few focused exhibits on individual artists, such as Andy Warhol, as well as a collection of works focused on the city of Chicago. The most interesting exhibition, however, was the exhibition on the top floor The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archeology. 

Field Guide Cover

Cover for “The Way of the Shovel” by Mark Dion

A recent trend in contemporary art has been to examine the intersection of art, history, archeology, and just about everything else that could brush against those themes. The curator, Dieter Roelstraete, did an admirable job selecting works that flowed through different themes. Some of the most striking subjects were Sigmund Freud, Colonialism, and Archives. More on these subjects in a later post.

Summary from the Curator.

Summary from the Curator.

Despite all of the actual art in the exhibition the object that pulled at my attention over and over was the Field Guide. It was not well marked as an item one could take at the beginning of the exhibit but I noticed it and took one. It was craftily constructed with perforated pages that revealed deeper messages and detailed graphs for greater understanding of the exhibit. It included quotes that leant meaning to various ideas woven throughout the works of art. And it had a place for me to keep notes and questions as I myself wandered through.

Map from within perforated pages.

Map from within perforated pages.

In some ways it captured my favorite theme of contemporary art that none of the curated works had- audience interaction. I was encouraged to rip the perforated edges of the pages which shattered the expected silence of the gallery. I was lead to make my own connections beyond the ones printed on the walls next to the art. I was given a map and charts and a book that I could flip through to enhance my experience overall. And it did! My only complaint was that I didn’t see more people exploring The Way of the Shovel with a field guide in hand. I am excited to be able to revisit my thoughts the next time I want to reflect on a piece of art from the collection, as well as have other source material from the curator and artists alike.

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My notes and questions from the exhibition.

I intend to revisit The Way of the Shovel before it leaves the MCA: Chicago in March.

A Week in Review: California Sun (Part 2)

Last time I blogged about anything was a while ago, and back in November I only talked about half of my trip to California. Since then I have made a lot more art, and been to a couple more places around the country. However, before I talk about all that I felt I should finish discussing my adventure in LA.

ORIGAMI! If you have never played with folding some paper into fun shapes I recommend you give it a try. I love folding origami, and although I only know three shapes to any level of proficiency I want to learn more. Our art project with the High School student’s in LA was origami, and we used the numerous pieces to create a wonderful set for their final performance. The elementary students also made origami, but the majority of their set was also made by the high schoolers. In about 1 hour 45 minutes the 60 students we worked with cranked out over 600 pieces of origami. It was awesome!

We made three shapes: The Cootie Catcher/Fortune Teller, the Pinwheel, and the Lotus. The 3 shapes are relatively easy to learn and sort of build on each other. I taught everyone how to fold from the front of the class. I think I could fold the three shapes in my sleep. After all the shapes were made we took them home and strung them on strings. Some the shapes were stacked into lanterns- pinwheels on the bottom, fortune teller in the middle, and the lotus on top. I think it looks like a whole flower and they spin in the wind which is a great effect. The students each took a lantern home with them after the performance.

On our final day of the trip we had some free time. During my free time I visited the Getty Museum. The Getty is perched at the top of one of the hills surrounding Los Angeles. You have to take a tram up the side of the hill, winding through greenery and gardens to get to the actual museum. And once you step off the train you have to ascend a grand white marble staircase. The Getty has no qualms about putting art of a pedestal and I was pretty impressed by the grandeur of the entrance.

Image: Canterbury and St. Albans exhibition at the Getty Center. Foreground: St. Albans Psalter, about 1130, Alexis Master. Tempera and gold on parchment. Dombibliothek Hildesheim. Background: Panels from the Ancestors of Christ Windows, Canterbury Cathedral, England, 117880. Colored glass and vitreous paint; lead came. Courtesy Dean and Chapter of Canterbury

Image: Canterbury and St. Albans exhibition at the Getty Center. Foreground: St. Albans Psalter, about 1130, Alexis Master. Tempera and gold on parchment. Dombibliothek Hildesheim. Background: Panels from the Ancestors of Christ Windows, Canterbury Cathedral, England, 117880. Colored glass and vitreous paint; lead came. Courtesy Dean and Chapter of Canterbury

I only had a short amount of time to visit and I really wanted to see their illuminated manuscripts and stained glass. As it so happened the day I visited they had a temporary exhibit up on the Cantebury Tales, filled with rare and exciting manuscripts and windows. Illuminated Manuscripts are hand made documents intricately painted with beautiful inks, and are often focused on religious themes. They began appearing as early the 6th century and were still being made as late as the 16th century. To learn more about illuminated manuscripts you can go here.

I enjoyed sketching the strange images found on many of the pages. Cameras were not allowed in the exhibit so I had to capture inspiring images on paper in ink. This sketch was done in about 5 minutes and I loved the deer eating the octopus. It was such a bizarre picture that I couldn’t pass it by.

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The day I visited also happened to be part of the Getty’s children’s weekend. As part of the festivities they had a live medieval band playing and an art station for children. The project was to make an illuminated manuscript of your own to take home. I was allowed to make one even though I’m not a child anymore. It is pictured above next to my sketches from the exhibit. We were given a pile of papers of various colors and textures and then had access to numerous stamps and inks. Again, pressed for time, I quickly through something together as a momento of my time at the museum. I just let myself be drawn to colors and images and words that I liked.

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That was the final artistic endeavor of my trip to Los Angeles. I will be back in LA in March to be a part of a major theater production, “I Knew That Once”!

Pushing the (h)Edge

Gallery Review from Topics in Installation Art, 2011

Some artists discover their medium over a lifetime of work, others stumble into it unknowingly, and few fall in love at first sight. Kim Dickey knew she wanted to work with ceramics after finding it in sixth grade.

As small but astonishingly skilled hands turned the lump of clay into a two-handled vase, something remarkable happened. “It was like I fell in love,” she says two decades later. Even strangers saw it. “People actually remarked that I looked different. I had a glow about me. They asked if I had been in Florida.” (Dickey)

Dickey had a quick rise into the ceramics world, being represented by the Garth Clark Gallery in New York when she was still in school. Her works sold quickly, and she was in high demand without access to the materials she needed, like a kiln. Although extremely young the pressure pushed her to succeed. Dickey had just been hired by the University of Colorado when the Rule Gallery found her exciting and innovative sculptures. They have represented her ever since.

Dickey’s work walks the fine line between nostalgic narrative and modernism. The magic is in the simplicity of her work. Although highly detailed, each sculpture always contains thousands of little parts; the overall feeling is always calm and undemanding. Her work is so subtle in some cases that it can almost be overlooked. Gardens are often the subject of her sculptures placing childhood memories of hedge gardens side by side with minimalist forms.

She likes to work with the familiar, but insists her concepts are too layered in meaning to be described as merely representational. While Dickey shies from the label of whimsical, there is clearly a sense of humor present. She likes to poke fun at what she calls the self-seriousness of minimalism. (Deam)

Dickey’s installation at the Rule Gallery in March, “All is Leaf,” embodies the hallmarks of her work.

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“All is Leaf’ was designed specifically for the long, thin space of the Rule Gallery. Eleven unique sculptures are placed throughout the space, guiding the viewer through the fantasy garden Dickey has created. Eight large green sculptures pay homage to minimalist forms, including long rectangles along the floor, a large half arch, and L- shaped beams. While clearly drawing their shapes from minimalism they also mimic the architectural construction of a hedge maze. The other four sculptures are small and white, taking the shape of familiar garden characters; a lion, a running rabbit, a hawk, and a small round bush. Every sculpture is covered in thousands of identical leaves, glazed green and white respectively.

Like many of Dickey’s previous pieces, the two types of leaves used here are not meant to be botanically correct. Instead, they are take-offs on the stylized leaves, such as the quatrefoil, found throughout decorative-arts history. (MacMillan)

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Dickey is frequently exploring themes of nature and culture, her medium of clay being the ultimate bridge between the two opposing ideas. Clay being made of the earth means it inherently references earth, and Dickey likes to play off this association in her own art. “It thus straddles the seeming opposition between nature and culture, analogous to the logic of the garden, (Rule).” Clay is also the cornerstone of culture, ceramics often being the first indicator of an advancing civilization. Dickey explains the importance of clay extensively to her students, stressing its place in culture and art;

[Clay] is the stuff of the earth. Once it is fired, it becomes a cultural object. We interpret cultures through their ceramic objects. It’s permanent and impermanent, and that also could be the garden we’re talking about. (from “The Rocky Mountain News” June 14 2007)

Gardens embody the realm between nature and man as well, by taking nature into the constructed confines of the man made. In some ways there is nothing natural about a garden at all with the strict organization of hedges and flower beds. Dickey takes this a step further by removing nature all together making the mimicry complete. However, because she uses clay instead of paint or other materials, some acknowledgment of nature is still present.Gardens are often a starting point for people to interpret their own personal history. For Dickey they played an important role in own her childhood. “Her earliest memories are of scooting along the ground as her mother worked her magic on lavish backyard gardens, (Deam).” The playfulness inherent in the garden imagery immediately pulls up stories from everyone’s youth:

Formal gardens exist as much in our imaginations as they do in reality. With their secret nooks, fantastical naturalism and unexpected vistas, these impeccable oases have long sparked mystery, romance and flights of fancy. They have played key roles in everything from “Alice in Wonderland” to Jane Austen novels. (Macmillan)

 
KimD Lion

The white rabbit sculpture is especially evocative of Wonderland, and the lion conjures up imagery from “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.” Even the size of the sculptures enforces an idea of childhood. The Arch in the first sculpture you see as you enter and it is clearly too small for a full sized adult to pass through. One would have to crouch to go through it. The sculpture cuts the gallery in half, obscuring the back half. This gives the installation feeling of adventure, mystery, and secrecy; its almost as if some secret from the past could reveal itself amongst the sculptures.

The childish nostalgic feeling of the installation is kept from being overwhelming by the strict geometric forms. Clearly drawing from minimalism, anyone with a knowledge of art history can’t help but think of Robert Morris’s 1964 exhibition. “He displayed then-radical works derived from basic construction components, such as an L beam or plank, (Macmillan).” Dickey uses some of the exact same shapes from Morris’s installation in her own work. Unlike traditional minimalist sculpture, Dickey’s installation flaunts its adornment. Traditional minimalism revels in the simplicity of a cube or rectangle. This aesthetic is completely ignored in “All is Leaf” with every sculpture being completely covered in ceramic leaves. Without the detail of the leaves much of the charm would be lost.

This installation was a definite must see, and although simple at first glance it is layered with meaning.

Dickey’s work evokes a sense of wonder and playfulness seen in the best of post-modernism. Her sculptural gardens engage the viewer on many levels from pure, aesthetic pleasure through to the metaphysical, religious and social semiotics of gardens and food. (Garson)

Every detail of the installation is highly considered. No leaf is left unturned, reaffirming Dickey’s place in the ceramic world. Her quick rise to fame alongside this remarkable set of sculptures makes it clear the Kim Dickey deserves to be as highly regarded as she is.

 

Bibliography:

  1. Campbell, Michele. “Kim Dickey.” RULE Gallery. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http:// http://www.rulegallery.com/>.
  2. Deam, Jenny. “MORE THAN A PRETTY POT – Ceramic Artist Kim Dickey a Study in Contrasts.” Welcome to Denver Woman Magazine Online! Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://www.denverwoman.com/1008/arts1.html&gt;.
  3. MacMillan, Kyle. “Art Review: Kim Dickey’s Gardens of the Mind at Rule Gallery.” Colorado Breaking News, Sports, Weather, Traffic – The Denver Post. 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://www.denverpost.com/art/ci_17343412&gt;.
  4. “Meet the Speakers- Kim Dickey.” Australian Ceramics Triennale. Ed. Shannon Garson. 26 May 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http:// australianceramicstriennale.blogspot.com/2009/05/meet-speakers-kim-dickey.html>.

 

Image Credits:

  1. http://denverarts.org/local_exhibits/rule_kim_dickey_all_is_leaf
  2. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_17343412
  3. http://www.westword.com/2011-02-24/culture/kim-dickey-all-leaf-rule-gallery-review/2/

Pictures that inspire

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Pictures that inspire

In my college sketchbook I left a lot more white space on my pages than I did in my previous books. Frequently I would simply take an image I found inspiring and paste it onto a page by itself, rather than keep the image in a box somewhere to maybe someday become part of a larger collage.
I loved how this picture captured the transition of summer into fall. It also continues to draw my interest toward land art, which can be large or small. I don’t know who the original artist of this piece is, but I believe it did come from a national geographic.

A Week in Review: California Sun (Part 1)

Two weeks ago I took a break from my blog to do a weeklong performance project with Turning the Wheel  in Los Angeles, CA. I had never been to California before the trip and I was eager to see what all the hubbub was about.

When I arrived in LA I found myself to be staying in a beautiful home filled with books on art. Wonderful! I spent my first morning perusing Milk & Honey: Contemporary Art in California by Justin Van Hoy.

The book covered a variety of different artists working and living in California at the time the book was written. The main themes I found California artists to be working with are the quality of light, the variety of landscapes found near Los Angeles, and traffic. I liked the cover a lot, with all the butterflies, but apart from that most of the art within failed the capture my attention.

Monday night we visited a fantastically fun restaurant – Cafe Gratitude. The food at the restaurant is deliciously prepared and you can feel good about eating it because its all vegan. My favorite part about the food was ordering it. All the meals are given uplifting names and when you order them you become them. I was humble, elevated, and irresistible. Along with the uplifting atmosphere was some great art. My favorite work was a stunning mural found in the ladies bathroom. I wish I had ventured into the men’s to see if it was as wonderfully decorated.

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I liked the level of detail as well as many of the motif’s. When went to learn more about the artist Jon Marro I found some interesting things. His bio states that his work

“Currently is inspired by the teachings within Pneuma System, a path of synthesis, which brings together the inner wisdom of the major traditions of the world.  This knowledge illuminates a path of Solar Art – giving form to light and providing a sanctuary for the eyes…which I am now remembering.”
 

He calls his style shown above, Solar Art. Each line he draws gives form to his vision, like the sun – hence the name for his art style. Marro’s spiritual art is a great fit for the bathroom of a restaurant called Cafe Gratitude. Part of why the mural caught my attention so much was because it pulled together a lot of themes that I like to play with in my own art; whales, frog princes, butterflies, mandalas, intricate lines. It also made me wonder why I like those motifs. Is it because I see them all the time in popular culture, or is it because they resonate with the world today… or possibly a bit of both. It also made me consider branching out from common themes and discovering something fresher.

Barely into my week I had already seen a lot of great art, and as the week continued I got to play with bringing my own art to California. Check back soon for Part 2.