Archive for the 'Artist' Category

Laurie Wohl — Unweavings (by Kathleen Loomis)

Several weeks ago I got to see a show by Laurie Wohl, a New York fiber artist who has concentrated on liturgical and religious-themed work.  Her show at the Patio Gallery in Louisville was a series based on Christian, Jewish and Muslim poetry and spiritual texts.  (Sorry that I didn’t visit in time to tell you about it before the show closed.)

She wrote: “For this project, I emphasize particularly the common themes and striking parallels between Arabic and Hebrew texts, similarly rich in a poetry of spiritual love, an extensive poetry of exile, a poetry of nostalgia for Andalusia, and poetry speaking of enemies and reconciliation.”

It’s a daring subject in this era of widespread fear of radical Islam, to seek similarities between that religion and Christianity and Judaism.  In fact, viewers might have shared the tiniest start to read Wohl’s categorization as “the Abrahamic religions” — we Judeo-Christians don’t usually think of Islam as our sibling, although it reveres the Old Testament, regards Jesus as a holy man and sprang from the same tradition.

Wohl’s works in this series make extensive use of calligraphy, mostly Hebrew and Arabic scripts, and also repeat the imagery of a veil, through her signature “unweaving” technique.  Working with a heavy canvas, she slices either the warp or weft threads around the edge of a shape, then unpicks the weave to leave the other strands loose.  Because the weaving process puts a lot of crimp into the strands, when they’re set free over a long distance they’re significantly longer than the woven part of the canvas, so they droop and/or bulge.

Laurie Wohl, Window of Prayers (detail below)

I missed the gallery talk so I didn’t learn how Wohl achieves the sharp raised edges on her letters and shapes.

Laurie Wohl, Babylon (detail)

I could tell that she painted the “unwoven” strands of her canvases and often strung beads on them.  Sometimes she sliced the free strands at the top of the shape so they would hang down below the unwoven area.

Laurie Wohl, Elegy for Cordoba (detail below)

(Note how the rods at the bottom droop slightly at the center where more of the weave has been removed.)

Usually she removes the horizontal threads and leaves the vertical, but not always.

Laurie Wohl, Watchwords (detail)

I’m always intrigued by art that uses text or letterforms, and though I read neither Arabic nor Hebrew, I could tell that Wohl’s calligraphy is exquisite.  The works have a solemn presence as well as a bright and lively sparkle.  The show was well worth a visit.

 

I’m cross-posting this to my own blog, Art With A Needle.  Please stop by and visit me some time!

 

Found in the International Honor Quilt boxes — Ana Lupas (by Kathleen Loomis)

I wrote last week about my new volunteer gig, helping to catalog the “International Honor Quilt” collection of panels  that were made to accompany Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party installation.  My favorite piece in the first 200 panels I’ve catalogued is this one, by Ana Lupas:

Yes, at first glance it looks pretty awful, a mess of raggedy interfacing and loose thread ends.  But as you look more closely, you notice the intricate machine-stitched gridwork in the center:

Why did this piece call out to me so loudly?  I love grids, and I love dense machine stitching, and I love old-fashioned typewriters like the one used to type Lupas’ name and address on the interfacing.  But what I really admire is the supreme confidence of an artist who can put such humble materials together — the edges are secured with staples! — and make them stand up straight and proud.

The panel stood out from the others — not pretty, not earnest, not awkward or amateurish, despite its seemingly haphazard construction.  It’s the only one I’ve seen so far that strikes me as art rather than as decoration.

I had never heard of Ana Lupas, but some research reveals her to be 75 years old, still living in Cluj, Romania, where she was born.  She started her art career as a tapestry weaver and was exhibited in all the major shows, including several times at the the Lodz Triennial, where she won Gold and Silver medals in 1979.

She expanded her work to installations and happenings, especially outdoors where she was among the earliest Land Art practitioners and strongly influenced many of her fellow artists in Eastern Europe.  She would enlist people from villages to construct wreaths, towers and other forms from straw, then leave them outside for years to weather and disintegrate.  Predating Christo’s Running Fence, she had 100 women help her cover an entire hill with clotheslines of wet linens.

Ana Lupas, Humid Installation, 1970

I was unable to find more information about Lupas and her recent work, even by painfully reading Google translations of art criticism from the Hungarian. I found an artist statement that somebody else had translated into English, but it left most of its meaning behind.  She talks about art having “to contribute, to shape, and to give new dimensions to the social existential universe,” whatever that means.  She has no website, and I could find no images of her early tapestry work, predating the internet.

I’m afraid she will remain a mystery to me; her work calls out to me across the years but leaves me hungry for more.

I’m also posting this to my personal blog, artwithaneedle.blogspot.com

The art of fiber / the fiber of art (by Olga Norris)

Sheila Hicks
Shiela Hicks with her work Pillar of Enquiry/Supple Column (from this review)

With some regret I will not be able to visit the exhibition Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – Present, on at the ICA, Boston now until January 4, then at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus from January – April 5 2015, followed by the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa May 8 – August 2nd. However, I have the next best thing: the excellent catalogue with its informative and thought-provoking essays.

I became generally interested in soft sculpture such as the work of Meret Oppenheim and Claes Oldenburg before developing a particular fascination with fibre art in the late 70s through the Royal College of Art Gaudy Ladies exhibitions which included weaver Marta Rogoyska, and Natalie Gibson (whose print designs can be seen here). Then I also became attracted to the work of Tadek Beutlich who worked with weaving off the loom.
Tadek BeutlichThis opened a window for me, and I started looking more and more for examples of sculptural textiles – which led me to a treasury of delights: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Olga de Amaral, Sheila Hicks, Lenore Tawney, and Anne Wilson among so many others. Interesting that I arrived at Eva Hesse and Rosemarie Trockel directly through my interest in sculpture rather than through fibre art.

The catalogue provides clear photographs of the work in situ as well as close-ups, and the essays are also illuminating. The gulf between the burgeoning fibre art movement and what might be called mainstream art critics’ view of art is pointed out in the first essay of the catalogue: The Materialists by Jenelle Porter.
Despite the gains of the feminist art movement, which included a groundbreaking loosening of confining categories and mediums that has continued to have an impact on artists to this day, fiber’s association with women’s work undermined the abstract, material experimentation of fiber artists – man of whom were women, though not necessarily self-identified feminists. … By using traditionally domestic crafts … On the positive side they acquired a ready made alternative art history, and gained a language of form that summoned up vast realms of women’s experience. On the negative side they found themselves confronted by the questionable notion that craft was inherently female, and by the negative aspects of that gendering.

picFiberICA140930Abakanowicz_0352w
Magdalena Abakanowicz: Yellow Abakan (from this review of the exhibition)

In Glenn Adamson’s essay Soft Power he draws the distinction in bold terms by comparing the gravity-enhanced fibre works with distinct periods in history of the unpopularity of the flaccid penis in sculpture. The distinct lack of critical acclaim for the droopy draped natural forms of soft sculpture compares with the critical successes of upright thrusting forms of hard sculpture. This superficial sounding view is in fact an informative well thought-out argument which has certainly presented a different perspective to the feminist debate.
T’ai Smith’s essay Tapestries in Space: An Alternative History of Site-Specificity discusses how many of the glorious fibre sculptures were commissioned for specific buildings and now many have been destroyed or about to be destroyed because they were not looked after or were no longer needed. Barbara Shawcroft’s Legs joyously decorating the spaces of the Embarcadero Station on the Bay Area Rapid Transport network has been neglected, and is now to be returned to the artist – which at least is better than destruction. (Article about Legs here)
Barbara-Shawcroft-and-fiber-sculpture-Cal-Design-76
Barbara Shawcroft: White Form

Robert Rohm’s Rope Piece has been dismantled and lost, but the exhibition curator Jenelle Porter and a team from the ICA reconstructed the work and it is now part of the show.

Art made of fibre does suffer over time. Maintenance and conservation are headaches for collectors and institutions. Some fibre art once bought is wrapped up and put straight into the cupboard. This has happened with Lenore Tawney and MOMA. the latter pleading lack of appropriate space. At least, that might have been so in past decades, but now with the ubiquity of installations, the maintenance nightmares of sharks in formaldehyde, the vast sizes of iconic museum architecture, perhaps this timely revival of these wondrous constructions will have some positive effect -?

photo-614x460Elise Giauque: Pure Spatial Element (from this review of the exhibition)

But in reading this excellent catalogue/book as well as having been given the opportunity to think again about those historic pieces, and to mull once more aspects of feminism in art, I also ask myself, is it really over-simplifying the case by so much to say that generally, work made in materials which need less maintenance and conservation are in the long run more highly regarded (i.e. worth more) by the art world (critics, curators, collectors)?

The fascination of ferrous oxide (by Olga Norris)

I have been thinking lately, what is it that gives rust its seductive visual power? Why are so many creative folk increasingly drawn to using rust and rusting in their palette?
I suppose my first thinking about rust in art was in response to the sculpture of Richard Serra and Anthony Caro.
Caro_DreamCity_1996The colour of their iron blends so much more easily into Nature when the surface has rusted, so the otherwise perhaps harsh appearance of slabs, fragments of towering metal is softened. There is also an indicator of change and decay embodied in the rusting process of these sculptures: perhaps a warning to the skyscrapers in front of which the sculptures often stand, that time will destroy us all.
Perhaps the rusted surfaces of monumental sculpture are similar in their effect on us to the sight of ruins, and that we seek reminders of time past and passing. (See my previous RCC post on Time here.) Hence the overwhelming number of photographs of rust – just put rust into Google Image!
I first saw the effect of rust on cloth at the 21:21 exhibition of fabric by Reiko Sudo and the NUNO studio. They had designed and made lengths of cloth marked with rusty nails. Reiko Sudo gave a master class after that exhibition in 2005 – designed to have a cascade effect, with all the participants themselves agreeing to give workshops to others.
Alice Fox SpurnIn 2012 Alice Fox used rust transferred onto cloth to help capture the past and the current aesthetic attractions of Spurn Point during her residency there, and she continues to use the marks of rust in her work. She now gives workshops helping others such as Mags Ramsay to achieve interesting results.
cqws green tea pliers
Rust printMaeve Coulter who works in textiles and in printmaking has made Rust Prints which echo the visual and emotional effects of sepia in fading early photographs.
sally-hirst-gasholder1-1024x618Printmaker Sally Hirst uses oxidised iron filings to colour the paper on which she then prints images of old iron structures such as bridges and piers.
Judd rustJean M. Judd has a section on rust dyeing process on her website, and a generous soul has offered Free Rust Texture Stock Photos for designers, so there must be quite a demand. Is it because we are almost engulfed by technology which we no longer comprehend – so few of us can make the clever things which glide us through daily life – that we reach back to signs of a time which we think we understand.
It is good also to feel that those tools from past technology, now discarded, can be used to make something beautiful before being thrown back onto the scrapheap – or recycled, as seen in the rustnstuff blog.

Still Lifes of Georgio Morandi (by Clairan Ferrono)

Still Life 1956

Still Life 1956

 

I was introduced to the work of Georgio Morandi several years ago by my friend Barbara Fitzpatrick, who is an architect, painter, and now my drawing instructor.  At first I was puzzled by her enthusiasm for what looked to me like dull, repetitive, almost monochromatic, paintings of bottles and boxes? painted chunks of cement? blocks of old cheese?  I couldn’t even always make out what the objects were.  But Barb assured me I should keep on looking.  So look I did.  And the work began to intrigue me.

 

Still Life

Still Life

 

And I found myself going back to look again and again. The paintings are quiet, deceptively simple.  The objects can appear both flat and 3 dimensional at the same time.

 

Natura Morta II

Natura Morta II

 

Despite the apparent lack of color, there are many subtle shifts of value.

Still Life 1946

Still Life 1946

Still Life 1952

Still Life 1952

 still Life 1955


still Life 1955

 

When I first started drawing with Barb as my teacher, she had us look at Morandi carefully and attempt to draw one of his still lifes.   And it was then that I really started to look at the relationships among his objects, the shapes and volumes of his forms, the spaces between the bottles and boxes, the shadows, the subtle textural shifts, the places where one object almost, almost fades into another, but just doesn’t quite. or perhaps, in fact,  does.

Still Life 1960

Still Life 1960

 

But the aha! moment really came very recently.  I had been working on a piece and I knew it was close to finished,  but I was reverse appliqueing shapes to a background and I couldn’t get them quite right. I was satisfied with the shapes themselves and the background was good too. But they wouldn’t come together.  And then, the Morandi moment. . . . I remembered to look at the negative space.  And that was it.  Bang, they came together.  Thank you Morandi (and Barbara).

 

Carrying the story of his ancestors to the canvas, by Kristin McNamara Freeman

In 1991 I went to a gallery show in Red Lodge, Montana, and there I “met” an artist whose work called out to me from the walls of the Merida Gallery. Each piece held me  with the strong images presented and the language of Native people illustrated in the techniques of a fine contemporary artist. Kevin Red Star called out to me through the images presented at that show. Each year through 1996 I returned to see his work at this gallery and in 1997 I visited the Red Star Gallery in Roberts, Montana, for a benefit show and sale for the Boys and Girls Clubs. In 1994 and 95 I was able to see his work at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, a marvelous venue for the exhibition of his paintings. My budget allowed only for me to own some signed posters of his work.

A step back in time to Kevin’s birth in 1943 and his early life in Lodge Grass on the Crow Reservation is where we can learn how Kevin’s creative adeptness was nurtured by his family and teachers. His mother designed and created in applique pieces of regalia for tribal dancers and blankets for people in the tribe. His father, a musician,  would bring Kevin prints of the work of Charlie Russell and he would make copies of those watercolors and learned about creating images of the spaces where a person dwells, for that is what C.M. Russell sketched and painted. There is a wonderful series of videos called from the spirit with Kevin telling his story at www.kevinredstar.com/vodeos, a series well worth taking the time to view. There are some good pieces of information on succeeding in making and selling art; his daily commitment to showing up, creating and getting lost in his work is a large portion of why he has been so successful. His respect for the ownership of a symbol or design he might want to include in a work is expressed in one of his recordings, an interview from The Backroads of Montana on PBS; although he is a Crow, he would never use an image unless the family who has this image on their regalia or other family possessions gave their permission to him for the use.

Inspiration for Kevin’s work comes from looking around the land where he lives and works, taking walks for inspiration and seeing what shapes and forms in the landscape speak to him.He never grows tired of taking in the energy of the land of his people, nor looking closely at the horses, buffalo and the Crow people as he includes them in the work he creates.

In his video “painting the journey” found at the above link, Keven describes his process in creating a large piece for installation at a public building. He describes how he uses the tipi poles and the poles in the travois (used for carrying large loads behind horses) to direct the eyes of the viewer from the historical Native images to the newly constructed building in the painting. Buffalo were important images and yet they were too dominant in the design until he painted them as the clouds in white. Lesson after lesson about design decisions is given by Kevin in this recorded piece.

Kevin’s education at Institute for American Indian Art in Sante Fe, New Mexico, was a life changing opportunity for him. Here he learned not simply technique but how an artist works and presents themselves to the world. From there he went to the Art Institute in San Francisco for more study and growth as an artist. Kevin continued to be a part of the community of working artists as he shared critique session with other artists, presented work in galleries and shows and settled in Sante Fe for several years and still maintains homes in both Montana and New Mexico.

There is a fine article in the “Santa Fe New Mexican”. August 17, 2014, written by Daniel Gibson, author of the newly released book on Kevin Red Star. There is a wonderful photo with the article that captures the heart centered joy that he expresses as he talks to you. You may read the article at http://www.santafenewmexican.com/magazines/indian_market_2014/kevin-red-starr-pushing-into-unknown-territory/article_9aec8c64-23c4

The “Big Sky Journal” has another article penned by the author of the book on Kevin Red Star, Daniel Gibson. Here is a photo of the cover of the magazine

Big Sky Journal Arts 2014  Painting featured in Big Sky Journal article

Big Medicine

Keven’s work is represented at the Smithsonian, The Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, the Whitney Museum of Western Art, eSpace in Paris and other galleries and museums in Europe and the US.

Kevin will be speaking at the Linden Museum in Stuttgart Germany on October 6th, 2014. He will present the story of his childhood on the Crow Indian Reservation and his 50 years of making art. He will then be at the Book Faire in Frankfurt, Germany October 8-9.

In March 19-21, 2015 he will once again be at the benefit auction and sale for the Charlie Russell Museum in Great Falls, Montana. In Paris, France he will have an exhibition entitles, “Shields, Drums and Masks” at Gallery Orenda, 54 rue de Ver Neuil.

Kevin Red Star

this photo of Kevin has appeared in magazines and newspapers and truly represents the gentle, sensitive and available nature of the man I have met and spoken with on several occasions.

one example of Kevin’s use of the traditional tipi of the Crow as a design element in his paintings. You can visit his Facebook page and see many more of his paintings, and also visit his website to read more of his story and see the work he currently has for sale. kevinredstar.com

Kevin Red Star is a contemporary painter, a member of the Crow Tribe and a man with a fine, gentle and caring demeanor. His skill as an artist reaches out to people from all walks of life and in his work it is my belief that folks are able to see his story and that of the Crow Nation.

Meaningful? Morbid? … or simply a mixed bag to be sorted each on its own merit? (by Olga Norris)

Rabbits’ Village School, Circa 1888
Walter Potter: Rabbits’ Village School
It was popular during the 19th century, and gradually becoming a minority curiosity during the 20th, but then suddenly there has been a revival of the art of taxidermy – or a growth in the use of taxidermy in art. In the 19th century the amateur Walter Potter made sentimental tableaux which can excite responses through the vowels from ah to ugh. (Image above, more images and an article here)
Damien Hirst
Damien Hirst: Away from the flock (from here)
Somehow not really seen as taxidermy (I don’t know the technical details of taxidermy as opposed to – or in addition to preservation in formaldehyde) the conceptual art of Damien Hirst burst onto the scene with a shark, halved cows, sheep, …. And now he is certainly not alone. A few years ago I saw and was intrigued by the work of Claire Morgan, which was when I started thinking about the use of taxidermy in sculpture.
claire-morgan-fantastic-mr-fox
claire-morgan-fantastic-mr-fox1
Claire Morgan: Fantastic Mr Fox (from here)
This was followed by watching a BBC programme about Polly Morgan in the series What do artists do all day? You can watch here and here. There seem to be so many artists now working with taxidermy as part of their sculpture – there are links here and here to some of them.
I find that my initial negative reaction to most of this art gets in the way of my thinking about it. It has nothing to do with guts and feathers and fur, but somehow it feels disrespectful to the beasts if the quality of the work draws attention to the taxidermy rather than to the idea being explored in the piece. I thought of Hirst’s work as art first and considered the technique of presentation seriously only when I read that the shark had to be replaced because it was rotting. It’s the worth of the artistic expression which engages me rather than the particularities of technique in this case. I found that Claire Morgan’s work also engaged me, but perhaps that is because I saw and walked round it, observing, thinking, feeling – whereas the other work is simply represented in photographs and therefore not sufficient to make a considered enough judgement.
Bulldog
Shauna Richardson: Bulldog (from here)
And then I found out about the ‘crochetdermy’ of Shauna Richardson. She, with one tool, overwhelmingly one material, and lots of time achieves remarkable results. Here and here are more links about the crochet work. It certainly is extraordinary craft, as was shown in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition The Power of Making, but is it art? I certainly do not think it’s any less worthy of consideration simply because she does not use the body of the original beast. Like all work, I reckon that each individual piece should be weighed on its own merits, and not lumped in with however the technique of its making is considered at any point in time.
I’m curious to know what you think.


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