Archive for the 'Artist' Category



Dorothy Caldwell — making art of place (by Kathleen Loomis)

My local fiber and textile art group was privileged to have the internationally known fiber artist Dorothy Caldwell spend a week with us earlier this month teaching workshops.  She also gave a lecture on her activities in the “outback” of two countries, Australia and Canada. These activities have culminated in a show that has just closed in Peterborough, Ontario, and will soon travel to two other venues in Canada.

She points out that Australia and Canada are similar nations in many ways:  They’re both huge countries with the great majority of the population clustered on the edges, with vast expanses of sparsely settled, ecologically fragile territory that few people ever get to see.  They were both British colonies, with substantial numbers of people who were transported there as punishment.  Both are rich in resources.

Dorothy has been traveling to Australia for 20 years on a variety of travel, teaching, study and artist residence programs.  Recently she received a grant from the Canadian government to conduct two parallel art projects on the two continents; in both places she would go to a remote location for several weeks, getting to know it, collecting both natural and manmade artifacts, and dyeing paper and fabric with indigenous plant and earth materials.  Then she made a new set of works reflecting her experiences.

In Australia, she visited a sheep station in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, north of Adelaide.  In Canada, she went to Pangnirtung on Baffin Island, 1600 miles north of Toronto, close to Greenland.

“My work is about being in a particular place and using what’s there,” she said.  “I want to get out into the landscape, experience the land, get to know a place by handling the materials.”  For instance, she hiked barefoot on the delicate tundra to get a feel for the tiny, stunted vegetation.

On both these visits she brought Japanese handmade paper, tough enough to hold up in a dye pot, and colored them with natural pigments from plants and earth.  She also collected things like rusty nails and broken tools from the sheep shearers, which came home to become part of the “museum” section of her show.

“Collecting has always been an important part of what I do, since I was a little kid,” Dorothy said.  “My way of journaling is collecting.”

After she came home from her trips, she made some of her characteristically huge fiber pieces to reflect her travels and learnings.  Here’s one inspired by the Arctic summer, with 24-hour daylight that often leads people to stay up all night in euphoria.  Dorothy asked one of the locals how they dealt with not being able to distinguish between “day” and “night” and was both chagrined and charmed at the response:  “When we’re tired we go to sleep.”

Dorothy Caldwell, How Do We Know It’s Night, 120 x 114″

Here’s a piece about the fjord on which Pangnirtung is built.

Dorothy Caldwell, Fjord, 120 x 114″ 

I was delighted to observe how she continues her practice of collection and documentation even if she’s not in an exotic place, but somewhere as unspecial as Louisville.

On a day off between workshops we walked over the new pedestrian bridge that spans the Ohio River.  When we got to the Indiana side, Dorothy pulled a plastic bag out of her purse and proceeded to collect stuff to memorialize this place.  She found some mud to daub on a card, writing the date and place on the back, and then dunked some silk into muddy water to dye it.  She repeated the process on the Kentucky side (even though to my eye mud on one side of the river is fairly indistinguishable from mud on the other).

On the Kentucky side we found some deep footprints in the sand at the edge of the river, partially filled with water that had seeped in.  Dorothy looked around, found a root, and used it to stir up the water into an opaque dye-like solution to color her cards and silk.

Here’s the root, the silk, and the card, out to dry in the sun (and the footprint/dye pot).  She took the root home too as a souvenir.

By the end of the week she had assembled a “museum” in her room of her trip to Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.  There’s the root on the right and the cards in the middle; the silk has been partially twisted into string, and she also collected some bits of rusty metal to round out the display.

 

 

When artists become collectors (by Margaret Cooter)

“Like the making of art itself, collecting reminds me of prospecting. Some perceived sparkle makes you start to dig and then a seam can be followed.”

Julian Opie is a British artist I’ve never looked at twice. His flat, graphic style always got the “so what?’ reaction. But reading about his art collection has changed that.

Opie has put together an exhibition* of his collection and his own work – and what strange bedfellows they are – portraits from the 17th and 18th centuries don’t, on the surface, connect with his “sculptures”.

Julian with T-Shirt (2005).  LCD screen with integrated software.  "LCD screens are now so flat and high-resolution that they are quite similar to pantings or prints. Like the portrait in the haunted house that moves its eyes, there is a humour to movement when it's unexpected."

Julian with T-Shirt (2005).
LCD screen with integrated software.
“LCD screens are now so flat and high-resolution that they are quite similar to pantings or prints. Like the portrait in the haunted house that moves its eyes, there is a humour to movement when it’s unexpected.”

In an article** about his show (and collecting habit) he says: “A chance encounter with (and purchase of) a ‘School of Godfrey kneeler’ portrait opened up the whole of 17th- and 18th-century portraiture or me. The painting caught my eye due to its powerful purposefulness and sense of being an object…When I started to investigate where it had come from, however, I began discovering a world of art parallel to, but quite separate from, the contemporary art world. … The list of artists kept growing as I found one who taught another or competed with another. … I began to understand the period in a way I had never done before … numerous brilliant, exciting artists I had never heard of, describing a whole world, evoking a whole scene. “

Cornelis Johnson (1593-1661), Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman (1631). "Johnson is particularly known for placing the head close to the centre of the canvas, lower than most artists would. This has a very odd and endearing effect."

Cornelis Johnson (1593-1661), Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman (1631).
“Johnson is particularly known for placing the head close to the centre of the canvas, lower than most artists would. This has a very odd and endearing effect.”

“It is tempting to see the present as special, but it is also exciting to realise that he past was once today. To me, the art of different periods brings those worlds parallel,” says Opie.

Subsequently he became interested in “ancient art”, buying a small marble Aphrodite and going on to learn more about the whole ancient period, from Roman statuary and portraiture to Tanagra Greek figurines and to all things Egyptian.

A pattern is evolving – stumble on the art, like it, (buy it,) get curious, investigate…  “After the heated frenzy of having found and caught the work there follows a sense of calm. I look forward to having it on view.”

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766), Portrait of a Lady "The dashing clothes and posture do more than the rather blank features to evoke the sitter's character and presence. To me, Nattier's pictures are perfect and an epitome of a certain, doomed moment."

Jean-Marc Nattier (1685-1766), Portrait of a Lady
“The dashing clothes and posture do more than the rather blank features to evoke the sitter’s character and presence. To me, Nattier’s pictures are perfect and an epitome of a certain, doomed moment.”

How does his collection inform his own art?

“Looking at other artists’ work gives me clues in terms of materials, composition, subject matter, colour – everything really. But it also reflects what my interests are, making me feel connected, giving me confidence. [Compared with ancient artists] artists now don’t really know what they are doing and have to invent or find this sense of obviousness and purpose for themselves.”

It works the other way round, too, Opie says. “Making art is in part a conversation with people about whom you can make certain assumptions of sameness. I assume my viewers are living in the same world as I am, that their picture of themselves and their surroundings is built of much the same material as mine. What art looks like, what images we have already seen, has great bearing on how we see new art. What we see is structured and defined by what we know, and a lot of that h=is to do with art from the past … I have always aimed to make my work with all that in mind, as part of its meaning and promise. If I make something that looks a bit like and 18th-century painting or reminds one of an information screen in an airport, it is because I mean it to.”

At Home with Maria 4 (2011) "The focus in a painting is naturally the face and the eyes. By eliminating these, the viewer is free to take in the pose and costume, to read the space that is suggested, t see the whole as a sign, an invention and yet to feel, I hope, the reality of the image."

At Home with Maria 4 (2011). “The focus in a painting is naturally the face and the eyes. By eliminating these, the viewer is free to take in the pose and costume, to read the space that is suggested, t see the whole as a sign, an invention and yet to feel, I hope, the reality of the image.”

“…because I mean it to”…  Through being informed about the history and context of art at different times, as Opie has done via his own art collection, the “meaning to” becomes something wider, deeper than the technical aspects of producing the work.

Telling the readers of this blog about the joys of learning about areas of art outside their own field of practice is unnecessary – you’ve read this far, after all! – but I can’t help thinking that this sort of interest or knowledge seems to be rather lacking in other parts of the textile-art field. Prove me wrong?

And, tell me … what’s on your walls? How does it  influence the art you make?

Aniela Bathing 4 (2013) Black enamel on white marble, 95x95cm. “A song is about neither words nor music but a perfect relationship between the two, the meaning lying somewhere in between and beyond. Subject matter and materials in a painting have a similar relationship.”

 

 

*’Julian Opie Collected Works’, The Holburne Museum, Bath, 22 May to 14 September; Bowes Museum, Durham, 4 October to January 2015.

**Published in Art Quarterly, Spring 2014; a draft is at julianopie.com. Images and captions in this post are drawn from those in the published article.

 

Helen Frankenthaler – Artist (by Sandy Wagner)

Helen Frankenthaler is an Abstract Impressionist  painter but is also listed as a Color Field painter and Lyrical painter.  Her career started in 1952 with a solo exhibit of her painting Mountains and Sea which is 7′ x 10′; she was 22.   The oil painting has the effect of looking like a watercolor because of her materials and style of painting.

helen                                             hms                                         hclup    Close up

She introduced painting directly on unprepared canvas – the material that produces canvas in its unprepared state absorbs the paint that has been diluted with turpentine so that the paint soaks into the fabric, this process is known as “soak stain” and has been adopted by many other artists.  This launched a second generation of the “color field” school of painting.  This method of painting often leaves a halo around each area that has been painted.  unfortunately they found over a period of time that the canvas discolored and rotted away.

Helen was greatly influenced by Clement Greenberg 1909-1994 – he was an art and literary critic and personal friend.  Through Greenberg Helen was introduced to the New York art scene.

In 1960 “Color Field Painting” was used to describe the work of Helen’s style and her style was characterized by large areas of a more or less flat single color.  These artists set themselves apart from the abstract artist because they eliminated the emotional, mystic of religious content and highly personal and gestural and painterly application.

canal63

Canal 1963

hmad

Madame Butterfly  2000

helenlines

What Red Lines Do  1970

hblue

Tales of Genji III  1998

hblack

Blue Moon 1961 – at the MoMA in NY

Helen won many awards over the years, served on various boards and taught at the college level.  She did not consider herself a feminist: “For me being a female artist was never an issue”.  in 1953 Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis saw her painting Mountains and Sea – which Louis said later, was a bridge between Pollock and what was possible on the other hand ( I don’t understand what he meant by this) – some critics called her work “merely beautiful”.

Grace Gluck summed up Frankenthaler’s career as “Critics have not unanimously praised Ms. Fankenthaler’s art.  Some have seen it as thin in substance, uncontrolled in method, too sweet in color and too “poetic” but it has been far more apt to garner admirers like critic Barbara Rose, who in 1972 wrote her gift for the “freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.

At her death in December of 2011 it became known that she was responsible for cuts in funding for the arts for individual grants.  At the time she had a presidential appointment to the board for the National Council of the Arts, she wrote “While censorship and government interferences in the direction and standards of the are dangerous and not part of the democratic process”.  Controversial grants to several reflected a trend in which NEA was supporting works of increasingly dubious quality.  The council at one time was a helping hand but now she felt they were creating an art monster under the guise of experimentation.

Ms Frankenthaler has her work in many museums throughout the word and has exhibited in many venues.

Helen was born in New York on December 12, 1928 and died on December 27, 2011

newnol

Example of Color Field Painting by Kenneth Noland

a pioneer in the field

still

Clyfford Still 1957

I do not have a background in art and do not understand part of the information about painting etc but have learned a lot and need to continue looking things up they talk about.

Emily Carr, Redux (by Clairan Ferrono)

Skidegate

Skidegate 1912

I first became aware of Emily Carr when I saw her work at the National Gallery of Canada in Vancouver 15 years ago.  I was, not to put too fine a point on it, gobsmacked!  I had never heard of her or seen work like hers.  For days I talked about her work (mostly to people who just nodded politely).  When we got home, I looked her up and examined  all the work I of hers I could find.  Then I read Susan Vreeland’s wonderful novel The Forest Lover, a fictionalized account of her life. And in 2007 Sandy Wagner did a post here at Ragged Cloth Cafe about her.  This summer I got the chance to go back to British Columbia, and of course I was anxious to see Carr’s work again.  And I fell in love with it all over again.

Emily Carr 8

Among the Firs  1930’s 36×30″

I love her trees and her light:

The Little Pine                                Scorned Timber

The Little Pine 1931                                                    Scorned Timber 1935

The Red Cedar                                                          Above the Trees

The Red Cedar 1933                                                  Above the Trees 1939

They beautifully convey the forests of British Columbia,  the movement of the trees, the pouring down of light, and, in fact, the spiritual energy that Carr obviously found there.  Her art was too individual, too avant garde for her time.  And while sometimes praised for the “vigor of her technique” her work was shunned as being not realistic enough.  Carr responded to this criticism by saying, “a picture should be more than meets the eye of the ordinary observer. . . .Art is art, nature is nature, you cannot improve upon it. . . .Pictures should be inspired by nature, but made in the soul of the artist, it is the soul of the individual that counts” ( Emily Carr, An Introduction to Her Life and Art by Anne Newlands).

Yes! The soul of the individual and the eye of the artist!

This past fall I took a drawing class for the first time.  I believed myself pretty lacking in talent, but found that my good observational skills kept me in good stead.  The class was working mainly on still lifes, and of course we all endeavored to be as accurate as possible.  Realism (terrifying!). But what was most striking to me, above and beyond my astonishment that my drawings actually looked like what they were intended to, was that all the drawings, while quite “accurate,” were very different and could easily be identified by artist.  Because we see differently and because we are interested in some things and not in others.  In other words, we make choices, and those choices make our work individual.

I am grateful for Emily Carr’s beautiful choices, for her wonderful eye and magnificent soul.

Itchiku Kubota (by Sandy Wagner)

I have  a wonderful book called “Kimono as Art – The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota”.  He is a master in “Tsujigahana” which is a style of kimono decoration that reached it’s popularity in the last half of the 16th century.  He worked to develop “Itchiku tsujigahana”.  A little background on his life:  At the end of WWII he was released from prisoner of war status and returned home from Siberia.  He was 31.  After he returned to Japan he went to work as a painter on silk kimonos using a technique call Yuzan dyeing (this is a resist dyeing technique creating designs freehand with a paint brush (hijizone) or with stencils as guides (katazome).  He began researching how to create tsujigahana(combining resist and painted flowers).  At 44 (1961) he established Itchiku Atelier (Itchiku Kobo) and began in earnest to work on Tsujigahana – at age 59 he achieved success with the completion of Kimono Gen (this garment summed up the completion of his research.  In 1977 at age 60 he had his first exhibition of his work in Tokyo.  Over the next 25 years he worked his craft, fulfilled his dream of having a place for his collection as he slowly built his own museum close to Mount Fuji.  Much of his work is of Mount Fuji.  He completed 40 of the 80 kimonos he called the “Symphony of Lights” series before his death at 85 years.  This series covers the four seasons including the oceans and universe.  His students learned from a master and are completing the 80 kimonos.  As you look at his work you see the amazing Shibori stitching, painting and stencil work.  Each piece tells a story of history, beauty, tradition and craftsmanship.  Itchiku was truly a master of his art.  This information is from his son Satoshi.

Gen/Floral Illusion 1976

Gen/Floral Illusion 1976

Hi/Incandescence 1981

Hi/Incandescence 1981

Hi Close Up

Hi Close Up

Ohn/Fuji, Glittering in Gold 1989

Ohn/Fuji, Glittering in Gold 1989

Ohn Close Up

Ohn Close Up

UZU/ Fire Vortex 2006

UZU/ Fire Vortex 2006

This is the life of a master artist in his craft – take time to look up more of his outstanding work.  Sandra

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