Monday, November 23, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want, 1943. War bond poster. Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4 x 35 1/2 in.

In the world of art Thanksgiving is exemplified by this painting Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell. This image, also known as Thanksgiving Dinner, was the third in a series of four works from Rockwell's famous Four Freedoms series. The Four Freedoms were inspired by a speech given by FDR before congress where he spoke about the four basic freedoms to which every person was entitled. Rockwell's Four Freedoms were shown in The Saturday Evening Post in the same order as President Roosevelt presented them in his speech (freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear).

Freedom from Want is probably Rockwell's most recognized and beloved composition. As one of the covers from The Saturday Evening Post he spent quite a lot of time working on this piece. A major concern was to show the family not "in want" and yet at the same time not create an image of overabundance and selfish indulgence.

Rockwell was known for putting family and friends into images, which is this case here, as the "grandma" is actually a depiction of the Rockwell family cook, Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton. We also feel as if we are a friend or family member at the table because of how the artist set up his composition. In the painting Rockwell extends the table beyond the borders of the canvas, beckoning us over to our seat at the end of the table by the sly glance of the gentleman in the lower right corner. Thus giving the perception that we are actually an invited guest at the table.

For me, this image includes a typical Midwestern spread and has all the components of this holiday. The table has the good china placed out for the occasion, all the carving tools are at the head of the table as Grandma proudly brings in her prized bird, children and grandchildren are happily conversing all around the table with their heads turning in every direction with huge smiles on their faces. It is a simple, humble, yet extremely joyful American tradition that Rockwell has given us here in his painting of Freedom From Want. This is the image of an American Thanksgiving that we have held in our heads and hearts for the last 65 years.

Wishing you and yours a bountiful and happy Thanksgiving, gobble-gobble!

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall of the Berlin Wall

This week on November 9th much of the world is celebrating the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall (1989). For me, when thinking about all the graffiti and other art on the Berlin Wall, the person that immediately comes into my mind, one of the most interesting, innovative, and politically active artists of the late 20th-century, is Keith Haring. In 1986 during a trip to Berlin, Mr. Haring painted a mural on a rainy day, after the skies cleared, and under the watchful eye of east German soldiers at the Brandenburg Gate. Keith Haring spoke in a language of symbols and signs that were universal enough to apply to anybody, anywhere in the world, free from limitations of language or even educational background. His messages, although often covering serious and grim topics, like the separation of Germany or Apartheid in South Africa, were always positive and rang of the unification of human beings rather than negativity or art merely for shock value.

Keith Haring's work was always focused on the line, which he created, without any preparatory work, at a staggeringly quick pace that would make most people stand rapt in awe and turn green with envy. His work was simple but not simplistic, a skill that is not easy to achieve. He made works which spoke to us in a humanistic way and that encouraged us to better the world with utmost sincerity. He felt art and artists were responsible for pushing forth ideas and using their talents to bring awareness to the masses and often to help those who needed the world's attention the most.

An excellent but short documentary on Keith Haring is "Drawing the Line: a Portrait of Keith Haring" if you are interested in finding out more about this amazing artist who was gone far too soon.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


With Halloween week here I wanted to present an image that speaks of spookiness and things that go bump in the night, in the world of fine art of course. For me, one of the first images that comes to mind is this woodblock print by Hans Baldung Grien from 1510 called Witches' Sabbath.

The image is of three naked and grotesque women gathered around a cauldron in a gloomy and nocturnal setting, with pitchforks being used as brooms and shovels scattered about the work. It has a bizarre and cryptic message on the vase in between the legs of one of the coven's members, as their concoction explodes and spews forth unidentified objects, fumes, and liquids. Another hag, with her arms outstretched, holds a platter with dead poultry, possibly making an offering to the devil, as a fourth witch zooms by riding backwards on top of a goat. These women are definitely a perversion of the natural order of things, celebrating with wicked abandon their sheer glee and rapture as they perform their evil rituals.

If you have not had the opportunity to explore the works of this artist I highly recommend you do some searching and check it out. Hans Baldung Grien took printmaking to a whole new level during the first half of the 16th-century. He incorporated unusual themes, such as witchcraft, into his work, making his imaginative prints and paintings an interesting record of life in 16th-century Germany.

Have a safe, spooktacular, and Happy Halloween everybody!

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Controversial New Sculpture

Entropa by David Cerny, January 2009, outside the European Union in Brussels.

As I was catching up on some reading on the latest controversial works by artists, I came across this odd piece by artist David Cerny titled Entropa. The sculpture was created for and installed outside the entryway to the European Union in Brussels. The work was supposed to have been a collaboration between 27 artists and a somewhat patriotic and non-controversial work to celebrate the Czech Republic's presidency of the council of the European Union.

It is customary for the presiding country to place an exhibit in the Justus building to mark their presidency of the EU, and it is usually rather uncontroversial, such as when France, the previous holder of the presidency, erected a large balloon clad in the nation's colors of red, white and blue. Instead of an ordinary patriotic message or a collaboration among 27 people as it was supposed to happen, David Cerny and three assistants got together, faked artist profiles and descriptions of their supposed contributions, and created this satirical and controversial work depicting stereotypes of EU nations.

The other pickle in the works here is that the sculpture was ordered to be taken down; but, not by any of the nations depicted in vulgar and inflammatory ways. The artist, David Cerny, demanded his work be moved as a protest against political upheaval in his own country. It amazes me honestly, that none of the people visiting the building or those working within it seemed upset by the blatant mocking of their nations outside the building where so many politicians scurry off to discuss important maters of state relations. The little devil on my shoulder also wonders what Mr. Cerny would have done had he tackled the idea of making a piece for the U.S. in such a satirical and mischievous manner....??

Pictured below are details of four of the countries on the piece:

Bulgaria - represented as a Turkish toilet

France - represented by its near constant striking

Denmark - represented by Lego pieces in the shape of the Islamic prophet Muhammad (referring to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy)

Poland - represented by priests wielding and planting in the ground the pride flag

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Autumn in all its Glory

Claude Monet, Autumn at Argenteuil, 1873, oil on canvas, 21.5 inches x 23.9 inches.

Fall or autumn is simply my favorite season of the year. I love the fresh crisp air, the smell of cinnamon, the gorgeous colors of the leaves as they change, and of course the taste of delicious fresh apples, be it pie, cider, or just a good apple in the hand. As a tribute to this wonderful season, today's work is Autumn at Argenteuil by Claude Monet. As many of you probably already know, Monet was an Impressionist, perhaps THE Impressionist, as he is credited with founding the movement, and one of the only Impressionists who stuck to that style for most of his life.

Autumn at Argenteuil has buildings in the distance, water ( it is the Seine), and prominently features autumn foliage. He delicately captured the feel of the season and provided the viewer with an homage to texture. The surface of this painting has been worked and reworked many times to weave together both the textures and colors of the season, as the objects in the work dissolve into colorful light. Here we have a prime example of the Impressionist palette that covers the full rainbow of colors.

The interesting vantage point of this painting was created by Monet in his "floating studio." Monet had a small boat outfitted with a hut to house his painting materials, and if need be to sleep in, with just enough room for a tiny desk upon which he set his easel. I find it interesting to take a moment and picture Monet floating around the Seine on his buoyant studio, trying diligently to capture a perfect autumnal moment.

This little "floating studio" allowed Monet to capture a variety of viewpoints in his paintings, many more options than he could from just the shore. That is what allowed him to do full justice to this breathtaking scene of the Seine in full autumn glory. In this work we can see the foreground, a long perspective of water, and the delicate play of light as it gleams on the surface of the river with colorful reflections abounding.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

War is Hell (*Graphic Images*)

Title: The Harvest of Death, Gettysburg Pennsylvania, July 1863. Artist: Timothy O'Sullivan.

Photo: Julie Jacobson. From the article "The Death of One Marine in Afghanistan." Photo is from Aug. 2009 article is from Sept. 2009.

Yesterday while commuting to and from work I was listening to NPR, as is my usual practice. I find it very stress relieving while driving in crazy traffic that is sprinkled by a lack of turn signals and a pinch of construction. All the talk for the majority of the day seemed focused on a rather controversial photo taken by the AP (Associated Press), a news organization that has been reporting for one-hundred and sixty-three years. This story really made me think, where do we draw the line?

In the art history and art appreciation texts I have read and that I teach from there are lots of examples of gruesome and controversial art. There are a plethora of examples where artists respond to the tragedies of war as well, but, nobody seems all in a tussle about these images anymore. Is it time that takes away the sting? I personally find the images of the dead soldiers from the Civil War just as disturbing as the ones from the war in Afghanistan, but yet one is so much more controversial than the other. They both fall into the category of documentary photography, they are both dead young men, and they both stirred discussion in their times. So, where is it exactly that we draw the line between acceptable documentary photography that captures war and something that is just too much? I don't think anybody has the right answer or if there even could be an answer that is considered "correct" but, I think it is important that we think about where the lines are drawn in situations like these to open a discourse about art, the events in our lives, and the recording of history as it is being made.

Links to the article, photograph, and discussion of the controversy can be found here:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Laughing Is Allowed

Title: The Descent of the Ganges. Location: Mamallapuram, India. Date: 7th C. Medium: Granite. Size: height approx. 30'

I often think that one of the reasons people "don't like" art is because they are afraid they must always be serious around it. For a person who has not studied the visual arts in-depth, they can often seem confusing, elitist, and humorless. O contraire mes amis!! One of my favorite pieces of art is The Descent of the Ganges pictured above. This work shows that even in serious religious art (it is a Hindu piece) there can be hidden gems and a wonderful sense of humor.

Below are two closeup images of the work that demonstrate this for the viewer. In the carving, there is a gorge going straight down through the middle which, is in place for water to come flowing down and fill up the pool below. Directly to the left of this "waterfall" we see an ascetic: he has spent much time in a difficult meditative pose, not allowing himself food or water, to show his serious religious devotion to Shiva. As a reward for such staunch efforts, Shiva is granting him a "boon," or what is his heart's desire.

If we trace our eyes diagonally down from this scene across the "waterfall" we see what at first appears to be another ascetic showing his deep devotion. Upon further investigation it becomes clear that this is no man but a cat who is surrounded by mice at his hind paws. This cat has cleverly imitated the holy and righteous actions of the ascetic in order to trick the mice into thinking he is benevolent and would not harm them. O contraire my little rodent friends, he is indeed going to eat you for dinner!

So the lesson for today is twofold: never judge a book (or cat) by it's cover, and do not assume art doesn't have a sense of humor.


May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Monday, August 17, 2009

School Days

Norman Rockwell, Knowledge is Power, cover for the October 27, 1917 edition of "The Saturday Evening Post."

With much of the country going back to school soon, I thought I would post about an interesting cover Norman Rockwell made for The Saturday Evening Post, the source for all that is Americana. It is often called Knowledge is Power from the writing on the chalkboard created by the student in the image. The young boy is presumably working on his punishment that was doled out, no doubt, because of some cheeky remark about why he must be in school.

The twist of the image, so common to Rockwell works, is in the "power" being transferred to the boy from his teacher by the "knowledge" he himself is gaining in the scene. His teacher is, probably inappropriately, being visited by a suitor in the classroom. We can see the man leaning up against her desk coyly, as he hides a ribbon wrapped package behind his back. The teacher looks uninterested with the man's presence, but, her cool exterior is betrayed by the flush of her cheeks. Despite being punished by his teacher, we can tell the boy is quite pleased by the situation: the happy look upon his face reveals that he too sees the irony in the picture, and knows he now holds some measure of power over his teacher.

How will the boy use this knowledge to his advantage?
Will the teacher make some sort of deal with the student to keep her love affair hush hush?
Does the man receive any kind of reciprocation from the beautiful teacher?

I hope this image makes you smile as you think of the knowledge that will soon be swirling about in the coming school year.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Annie Leibovitz is Broke??

Photo by Toni Cenicola

Annie Leibovitz is apparently in trouble...she may possibly lose her homes and the rights to her works. She was recently sued on July 29th for nonpayment of a $24 million dollar loan. Ms. Leibovitz took out the loan last year and used her homes, negatives, and the rights to her photographs as collateral.

All news reports that I have read have no comments from Ms. Leibovitz herself, so I do not have her side of the story to state here. Many do not seem terribly surprised that she got herself into such a financial state of affairs, because, Annie has spent notoriously large amounts of money on incredibly extravagant photo shoots. Adding more coals to the fire is the terrible losses she has experienced in recent years, including the deaths of both her father and partner Susan Sontag within months of each other in 2005.

As a result of her financial problems, Ms. Leiboveitz may loose the reproduction rights of her photography which she has guarded very closely over the years, as well as the negatives to many of her most legendary works. She is probably best known for her work with Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and advertising campaigns for American Express, Gap, the Milk Board, and most recently Louis Vuitton.

For links to some of her most famous works, such as Demi Moore pregnant, Whoopi Goldberg in a tub of milk, and John Lennon with Yoko Ono, see:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Film Update on "The Hobbit" from Comic-Con

photo credit to Ross Setford from the Associated Press

Several people have been asking me about the status of the planned film version of "The Hobbit" by Peter Jackson. Comic-Con started this Thursday, and Peter Jackson attended (as I stated in an earlier post) and dropped a few tantalizing tidbits of information. According to Friday's New York Times (article: "Lord of 'Rings' and Anime's Avatar Hit Comic-Con" by Michael Ceply):

1) Jackson intends to write and produce an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and have Guillermo del Toro direct it.
2) He expects to deliver a script in three or four weeks to Warner Brothers.
3) He is hoping to start offering roles to actors in about two months.

So let's hope that script is ready, that Warner Brothers will swiftly approve it, and that they make the project a go for Mr. Jackson and fans ravaged by expectation.

The New York Times article can be accessed at:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Art Crime in Academia

Photo from: "Much Ado About Munch: Art Thieves Target Icons of Existential Angst," by Michelle Avis (

ARCA or Association for Research into Crimes Against Art is sponsoring a non-accredited master's in international art crime studies. Considering the large amount of international art theft, arguments surrounding repatriation, and the resurgence of art theft in popular culture ( such as recent novels and films like The Art Thief and The Thomas Crown Affair) this seems like an interesting idea. Academic study in this area could spurn forth some intelligent interdisciplinary discussions and include many different subjects, such as: criminology, law, museum studies, art history, international business, art conservation, and private investigation, just to name a few.

The program is currently only three months long and offered in Amelia, Italy ( a small town in Umbria). I think this could have serious potential if the program is lengthened and the degree is formally recognized by an accredited university. Perhaps this program will help debunk some of the Hollywood myths about art theft and result in tighter security in galleries and museums worldwide.
For more information you can check out ARCA's website,

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Art Goes Reality T.V., Head for the Hills...

Photo by Todd Heisler, from the New York Times (full article here:

Over the last year or two I have read in the news several times about proposed reality t.v. shows about art. About a year ago I heard about a reality show that was being proposed to Bravo for just such a thing. It was to be produced by Sarah Jessica Parker and be in the vein of "Top Chef" or "Project Runway." I even talked about it at the end of my Art Appreciation courses and History of Modern Art courses to see what my students thought of such a debacle. Their reactions were often mixed, some saying it was an insult to the "real" art world, that nobody would watch it, and how on earth would they have challenges and such that are typical of reality show formats.

Well, imagine my shock, surprise, horror(?), when I popped open today's New York Times to see one of these proposed shows has been given a go and has begun there casting calls! The one proposed for Bravo and produced by Sarah Jessica Parker is apparently in process. They have been conducting their cast interviews in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago (how did I not hear about that??), and New York. They are going to pick thrteen finalists who will compete for: a gallery show, cash prize, and a national museum tour. I am very curious to see several things, namely: who are the judges for this show, who is sponsoring this show, and which galleries and museums are going to show the winner's works?

I am a huge supporter of the dissemination of information, the accessibility of art to people from every type of background, but, I do respect art as an institution with a deep and rich history. What scares me is whether or not this will be some crazy dumbed down version of garage sale kitty statues and velvet clown art, or will this be a return of art to the public, for those viewers both educated and average? In the end I do hope it is successful, but I hope it is more reminiscent of Keith Haring than it is of Survivor.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Ode To Silliness & Drawing: SpongeBob SquarePants!

One can hardly believe it, but, SpongeBob SquarePants has been around for over a decade. Compared to other animated programming that is aimed mostly at adults and teens, SpongeBob has remained unique, not only because it is created for children, or its simple innocence and pledge to silliness, but also in the method of its creation: SpongeBob's animation is still hand-drawn. In an age where everything is made with computer animation it is refreshing to see a cartoon that still employs the wonderful art of drawing. Each episode requires more than 20,000 drawings, just as older cartoons did like Bugs Bunny, for example.

With so many animated cartoons appealing to adults or teenagers, such as The Simpsons, South Park, and Family Guy, it is wonderful to see a cartoon living up to what they used to be: hand-drawn, light-hearted, and happy nonsense. While these other cartoons do have their places for adult viewers and come with tongue-in-cheek references for the older crowd, it is nice that we still have one animated show that is aimed at and created for children, and one which still uses the original artistic tool: the hand.

To honor the anniversary of this porous purveyor of all things silly, starting Friday Nickelodeon is running a fifty episode marathon, which includes ten new episodes, and on Tuesday VH1 is showing the documentary "Square Roots: The Story of 'SpongeBob SquarePants'."

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial Today

Photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Today is the memorial service for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see what kind of photography and street art will result from these events. I will see what I can hunt down over the next few days.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Fourth of July!

Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, American, 1816-1868

George Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851
Oil on Canvas; 12 2/5 x 21 1/4 in.

In honor of the Fourth of July, I thought it appropriate to post a classic image of one of the forefathers of the United States, George Washington.

The subject of this painting is the historic moment when General George Washington and the revolutionary troops crossed the Delaware River in order to surprise the English and Hessian troops in the Battle of Trenton (December 26, 1776). This painting is often used to show an emotional and patriotic moment in the history of the United States of America. Leutze began his first version of the work in 1849, which was burnt by a fire in his studio, restored in 1850, and eventually destroyed by a bombing raid in 1942. In 1850, he began this version of the subject, which was placed on exhibition in New York in 1851, where it was purchased for $10,000 by Marshall O. Roberts. Many artists have copied this work and created various studies of the painting.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!!

In celebration of Father's Day, I thought I would post one of my favorite images of fatherhood, The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt van Rijn, c. 1662, oil on canvas.

It is a touching image that brings about notions of unconditional love, tenderness, forgiveness, and mercy. These attributes are the things that we remember about our fathers, or wish we did, qualities that we cherish in our husbands, and the nobleness which we pray for our children to exhibit when they become men.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Venice Biennale Opened Sunday June 7th

"Galaxies Forming Along Filaments, Like Droplets Along the Strands of a Spider's Web" by Tomas Saraceno (Argentine artist).

Outside the U.S. Pavilion in the Giardini at the Venice Biennale, 2009

The preceding images are works currently on display at the 53rd Venice Biennale. The fee this year for artists was raised from $21.25 to $25.50; which, seemed to irritate some artists but did not seem to deter anybody from entering the show. The most talked about work seems to have been "Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens," the cost of which was covered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Biennale runs until November 22, 2009.

Photos and more information can be found here:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

For you LOTR Fans...breathe deeply

For all of you LOTR fans and fans of graphic novels, aka comic books, Peter Jackson, pictured above, is finally going to attend Comic-con on July 24th of this year. Many of his films have been hyped at previous Comic-cons, so I am sure the attendance will swell past it's usual 100,000.

It is also possible that several other mega-famous directors will be there promoting their films amongst the die-hard fans of graphic novels, many of which are plugging films that show these pulp icons on the larger than life screen. It is said that James Cameron may possibly be there to promote Avatar and that Summit Entertainment will surely make an appearance to promote New Moon, the follow-up to the hit Twilight.

For a little more info. on this:

Photo credits to Ross Setford from the Associated Press.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Urban Photography and Harlem's Transformations

Interesting new exhibition at the New York Historical Society by photographer Camilo Jose Vergara. It is part of a broader show about urban transformation, and features images from Harlem, 1970-2009.

Many of the images are reminiscent of a Hopper style, while others seem more like general Americana.

For a slide show of more images see:

For more information on the exhibition see:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Museum, Old Debate

The opening of the new Acropolis Museum in Athens will take place on June 20, 2009; which, is nearly five years after it was originally scheduled to open. The first image is an aerial photograph of the Acropolis and the New Acropolis Museum.

The entrance of the Museum at sunset. (above)

Detail of the ground floor of the Museum with glass “window” in floor with view to archaeological excavation. (above)

Originally, the museum was started as part of a solution to reacquire the "Elgin Marbles" or the "Parthenon Marbles." Lord Elgin, ambassador to the Ottoman court of the Sultan in Istanbul, "acquired" or "stole" the marbles, depending on which author you read, while excavating during several archaeological digs between 1801-1805. This dicey dig is basically the impetus for all the hullabaloo and stirring debates during the last two-centuries over "repatriation," or returning artworks to their country of origin.

Several important pieces from other museums have journeyed due to "repatriation" in recent years, such as the "Euphronios Krater" which, was returned to Italy after three decades of fighting with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, in January of 2008. The British Museum, which currently owns and houses the "Parthenon Marbles," has absolutely no intentions of ever "returning" these works of art. After centuries of debate about working orders and if Lord Elgin had the right to take the works or not, the British Museum tried a new angle and formally stated that if the marbles were returned to Athens they would certainly perish, because the country could not properly house or take care of the pieces in question. Not too long after this argument was beaten to death in academic circles and the press, lo' and behold a museum design was begun in Athens. This started a whole 'nother round of lively debates amongst scholars and those involved, wondering, will these marbles be on the move soon?

The collection at the British Museum includes sculptures from the Parthenon (roughly half of what now survives): 247 feet of the original 524 feet of frieze; 15 of 92 metopes; 17 figures from the pediments, and various other pieces of architecture. It also includes objects from other buildings on the Acropolis: the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike.

Further complicating these matters is the delayed opening of the New Acropolis Museum. While digging and preparing the location, one of the earliest Christian sites in Greece was discovered. Since it will take decades of work and research to examine the objects properly, the museum's architects came up with a clever solution: incorporate the dig into the museum's layout and plan. Pictured above is the final appearance of the adjusted design, which, allows visitors to watch the ongoing dig through a "window" in the ground floor of the museum and as an interesting feature to take in when approaching the museum's formal entrance.

I imagine that there will be very passionate and hefty arguments in the next several years over these marbles and the intentions of both the British Museum and the New Acropolis Museum. I will try to keep everybody up to date on this centuries old debate over the ancient marbles, the sticky business of "repatriation," and the success or failure of a brand new museum.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Another Museum Renovation

On Monday, the first lady, Michelle Obama, visited New York to promote the arts by attending opening night at the American Ballet Theater
and the reopening of part of the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During the visit, Mrs. Obama said several encouraging things, such as:
“The arts are not just a nice thing to have,” she said, adding that the arts “define who we are as a people”


“My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation’s leaders of tomorrow”


“The president and I want to ensure that all children have access to great works of art.”

This is the second phase of a major, three-phase reordering and upgrading of the American Wing at the Met in NYC. For more information on the various phases and even a video of first-lady Michelle Obama at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, please see:{D81BC4AF-DD28-411E-862D-3B70B26C1C14.

The quotations are from the NY Times here:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

A Funny Thought for Today

Today I was thinking of one of my favorite quotations about art and these works came to mind: "A painting in a museum probably hears more foolish remarks than anything else in the world." -Edmond and Jules De Goncourt

The image above is a work by Norman Rockwell, The Art Critic, from The Saturday Evening Post, 1955. I love using this image when I lecture on graphic design and illustration. I think it makes me laugh so much because he is examining Dutch works and the woman in the painting is giving him a very cheeky look, while the men behind him are staring at him with utter disdain. Just imagine the things paintings would express to us and tell us if they were able to communicate what they really thought about all the nonsense that comes out of people's mouths. I try to remind myself of this when I visit museums and galleries. There are many occasions when I have went with friends, relatives, or colleagues to a museum/gallery and gone on and on with how much I know about the works. I often think, gosh, if these paintings could laugh at me and correct me I bet they would!

This then reminds me of two other works I adore by the sculptor Duane Hanson. If you have not heard of him or seen his work, you would serve yourself well to look him up and check out his creations. I think many people have probably "seen" his works and not realized it.

The artwork below is the Shoppers created in 1976 and at the O.K. Harris Gallery in NYC. Duane Hansen "tricks" people into thinking these sculptures are actual people and it is just wonderful to see people's reactions when they discover they are not people but actually works of art. To get this life-like quality he makes his castings using fiberglass and other media.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Newly Found Michelangelo??

The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth has recently acquired what may possibly be the first known painting by Michelangelo (above), The Temptation of Saint Anthony. The painting is currently being dated c.1478, measures approximately 18 x 13 inches, and is estimated to have cost the museum about $6 million (this is speculation, the museum did not confirm the purchase price). The subject of the painting was a common theme in Northern Renaissance art but not seen often in Italian art of the period. It bears a striking resemblance to a print of the same subject created by German artists Martin Schongauer, c.1480 (shown below). It was not terribly uncommon for artists of the period to see each others work locally, but very few artists crossed the alps frequently. Michelangelo (Italian) and Albrecht Durer (German) were two of the few artists who did so with documentary evidence. So, although it is possible for Michelangelo to have seen Schongauer's work, especially since it was a print and therefore more widely circulated and likely than him having seen a single painting, it does not seem all that probable that the painting in question is a work by Michelangelo.

According to the New York Times, renowned scholar and Michelangelo expert Michael Hirst "said last year that he did not believe the work was by the artist (  "I have personally read many articles and books by Mr. Hirst and tend to agree with his opinion. While Michelangelo was incredibly adept at absorbing the styles of other artists, this does not seem to be a work of his hand. Of course x-rays and infra-red reflectography will likely be done over the next few years and scholars will surely be abuzz about the findings.

After having studied the history of art for over 11 years, and specializing in Northern Renaissance Art as my primary area and Italian Renaissance Art as my secondary area, I must say my eye tells me this is the work of a northern artist, possibly perhaps a follower or student of Schongauer himself. This of course is only a "gut feeling," as I have not yet had the opportunity to conduct any formal research related to this work. For now at least it poses an interesting question about the likelihood of Michelangelo having seen a Northern Renaissance artist's work so early in his life and career. I will be sure to follow up on this if any more of the story which, unfolding over time, provides more intriguing evidence either proving or refuting my theory.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Friday, May 15, 2009

35,000 Year Old Venus Figure Found

This tiny statuette dubbed the Venus of Hohle Fels was uncovered in September in a cave in southwestern Germany, near Ulm and the Danube headwaters. The small figurine of a woman is exciting the world of art and archaeology because previously the Paleolithic era only has only shown us examples of art depicting drawings being of mammoths, horses, and other animals. The figure is approximately 2.5 inches long and carved from ivory.

Other images of voluptuous female figures with pronounced genitals have been found and much debated amongst scholars, such as the Venus of Willendorf, c.26,000 BCE, carved limestone (above); but, none as old as this newest figurine that is being dated approximately c.33,000 BCE. Prominent scholars in the field, like Dr. Mellars, are concluding that these current finds (like the Venus of Hohle Fels) will rapidly change our point of view on the history of art and European civilizations. In the NY Times, he is quoted as saying that these sites "must be seen as the birthplace of true sculpture in the European — maybe global — artistic tradition.”

For more on this, I suggest reading the Times article, checking out images, and even some video here:

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Architecture With Limits

When spring comes, it is usually accompanied by a bevy of happenings in the world of architecture. Perhaps the more temperate weather brings with it a desire to get out and about and explore, or maybe it is just that the world seems a bit more welcoming in general. This week is no exception. I have already blogged about Chicago's contribution to the Art Institute, but today, we are focusing on good old NYC and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

Founded in 1937, the museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, disgruntled darling of the architecture world, has been under near constant upkeep and renovations since its construction was complete. Originally called "The Museum of Non-Objective Painting," the Guggenheim was founded to showcase avant-garde art by early modernists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. It moved to its present location, at the corners of 89th Street and Fifth Avenue (overlooking Central Park), in 1959, when Frank Lloyd Wright's design for the site was completed.

The museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the show “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward,” which opens today. According to the NY Times, the show "will be a disappointment to some. The show offers no new insight into his life’s work. Nor is there any real sense of what makes him so controversial. It’s a chaste show, as if the Guggenheim, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, was determined to make Wright fit for civilized company," says Nicolai Ouroussoff in the Arts section of today's NY Times.

The main problems with the building, as I see it, isn't the beauty of the structure or the innovation of FLW's design, it is with its poor construction and the difficulty it poses for displaying works of art. Shouldn't a museum be built to last? Shouldn't a museum's main focus be the displaying of works?

While the museum is relatively structurally sound, the facade has been cracking since the 1st coat of paint dried: not due to just seasonal fluctuations in weather as we would expect, but because commonly available and used expansion joints were not a part of its construction. Although FLW's structures have beautiful and innovative designs, they completely ignore one of the primary rules of architecture: withstand the test of time.

This is not only evident here at the Guggenheim but, at many other locations/structures he designed, such as (probably his most famed work) Fallingwater in Pennsylvania (below).

Most criticism of the building has focused on the idea that it overshadows the artworks displayed within, and that it is particularly difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow windowless exhibition niches which surround the central spiral. Although the rotunda is generously lit by a large skylight, the niches are heavily shadowed by the walkway itself, leaving the art to be lit largely by artificial light. The walls of the niches are neither vertical nor flat (they are concave) meaning canvasses must be mounted proud of the wall's surface. The limited space within the niches means that sculptures are generally relegated to plinths amid the main spiral walkway itself. Prior to its opening, twenty-one artists signed a letter protesting the display of their work in such a space.

Call me crazy, but doesn't it raise a few flags when even artists do not want their work displayed in a structure?

Lest I completely dishearten the reader from seeing FLW's designs, which, as I stated earlier, are innovative and aesthetically pleasing, I have included an image below of Jenny Holzer's work Untitled (Selections from Truisms, Inflammatory Essays, The Living Series, The Survival Series, Under a Rock, Laments, and Child Text), from 1989, that utilized the museum's design to her advantage.

Unfortunately, I will be nowhere near NYC, and therefore, not able to attend the new exhibition. If there are any New Yorkers out there who attended the show, please leave a comment and let us know what your impressions of it were and if they did Mr. FLW and the Guggenheim justice.

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The New Modern Wing of the Art Institute in Chicago

Famed and highly respected architect Renzo Piano has done it again! This week reveals the official opening (finally) of the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. The new $294 million addition opens on Saturday and holds the museums collection of 20th- and 21st-century art. This new addition of 264,000 square feet of interior space to the museum's floor plan makes it the 2nd largest museum in the country after the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

In order to celebrate and promote it's socks off, the Art Institute is hosting a day filled with free activities that includes music and dance throughout the galleries, as well as performances on a Monroe Street stage by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Muntu Dance Theatre, Swing Gitan, Wooten Choral Ensemble, and many more. They are also offering the opportunity for families to enjoy art-making activities and meet Artie the Lion at the new Ryan Education Center.

Even better on the budget side of things, the museum is offering free admission from May 16-22 and encouraging other people to give back by sponsoring a food drive in relation to this spectacular opening week. They are asking that people bring a canned good or nonperishable item to contribute to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (use the Millennium Park entrance on Monroe Street).

If you live within traveling distance of the Art Institute, I highly recommend taking advantage of these opportunities. A newly revealed Renzo Piano design, free music, free art-making activities, close proximity to some of the most renowned architecture in the US, and did I mention it's all completely free: what more could an architecture and arts junkie ask for?!?

May inspiration and creativity be with you!

Blog Awards

Some awards this blog has received thanks to some nice folks!

One Lovely Blog Award

One Lovely Blog Award
given on 07/24/2009 by Nanny Dee (