Art Musings contains several articles written by Maxine that were originally published by BestOfArtists.com.
Process Versus Product
The process of producing art makes me think about the very nature of creativity. Most artists, I believe, produce works of art because they have a need or perhaps a compulsion to create, not because they long to have a finished product. Not that there’s anything wrong in wanting a completed art object, one which might adorn a wall, decorate a room, bring one fame, or fortune, or even immortality. But the actual process of creation, of using imagination to bring something into existence, seems to me to be the artist’s primary motivation. In fact, I’m not sure that all artists always know where the process will take them when they start a piece of art work. Speaking for myself, I don’t love all of my paintings, though I can say without reservation, for the most part, I love the process of painting them. So is it the final art product, the finished piece that is the important thing? Or is it the process itself, which is important?
To appreciate the fullness of the creative experience it must be viewed as a whole with neither aspect emphasized above the other. In most cases when the process is dynamic and meaningful, it will manifest itself in the product. After all, the product is only the result of the preceding experience. I’m not sure that there need be any conflict between the process of creating art and the final finished product, but unfortunately in my experience opposing forces often do exist. In the real world, the power of the marketplace often plays a role, and what an artist wishes to create and what is going to sell may be two very different things. Economics may determine what is produced.
In the ‘60’s when I was a student, the art school I attended fostered innovation. Op art, pop art and abstract expressionism were the rage, and in painting classes, traditional glazing techniques were overlooked. A few years ago, I took a master class in glazing taught by a wonderful artist named Jane Jones. Before taking the class, I had painted primarily with opaque paints. I had no idea that I could achieve a greater illusion of dimension using transparent colors, and even more importantly, the opaque colors were simply less money. Since “starving artist” was not so great an exaggeration, the cost of my art supplies was a consideration. Once I learned how to use glazes, the cost seemed insignificant.
The slow method of waiting for the oils to dry before applying another glaze of transparent color meant another change to my process. Previously, I enjoyed painting wet on wet and sometimes mixing colors right on the canvas. Once I switched to glazing, I was forced to change my medium as well. In the past, I had loved using linseed oil. The texture, the richness, even the smell of the linseed oil appealed to me. It was the reason for my staying with oils rather than using the less costly acrylics. Time was a factor, however. To exhibit and produce products for galleries in a timely fashion, I had to find a way to work faster. I made the decision to switch to liquin, the quick drying medium. The change in the process was in service to the product. I’ve been told that my paintings now have an even more finished look. So which is more important, process or product? I don’t know. It depends.
Recently I had the pleasure of attending the opening reception for the “Impressions of Old South Florida” show at the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. My painting “The Sundy House” was accepted into the exhibition and was sold. “Impressions” is an annual juried art competition which features fine wines, a sumptuous buffet, and an array of silent auction items. All of the art selected for the competition is for sale, and 50% of the proceeds benefits Bonnet House.
Begun in 1920 and completed in 1938, Bonnet House is located on a lush 35-acre estate on the ocean. Frederic Clay Bartlett designed and built the house and studio where he and his wife, Evelyn, were both artists and art patrons. Frederic, the son of a wealthy and prominent Chicago businessman, became a painter in the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist styles of landscapes and women in sunlit interiors. One of the great American collectors, his contribution to the Art Institute of Chicago was the cornerstone of the museum’s early modern collection. Shortly after their marriage, Evelyn Bartlett took up painting and worked in both watercolors and oils. In 1982, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. organized a retrospective exhibition of their work.
Together in the Bonnet House, they created a tropical oasis replete with a unique blend of art, architecture, and wildlife. The sense of artistic history is evident throughout the main house where murals cover the ceilings, faux marble decorates the walls, and fish sculptures rise in the air. I am sharing all this information about the Bartletts because their love and appreciation of art and artists has been continued in the Bonnet House and was manifested in the graciousness of the Impressions event. The lovely crowd of about 400 people was made up of art enthusiasts, many eager to purchase the art. For me, the experience was refreshing and renewed my faith.
Recently I have heard from friends who take part in street art festivals that sales are down. “People just aren’t buying,” they tell me. Other friends, who are gallery owners, tell me that this year is not starting well. “It’s an election year,” they say, “which doesn’t bode well for the art world.” Over and over, I hear that people are troubled by the economy and not comfortable spending money on luxuries like art. When I hear this and then see the conspicuous consumption evident in SUVs and the like, I become furious. It concerns me that people seem to have money for every new technological toy – people literally stood on early morning lines when the IPhone came out – but they don’t have the money for art! What does this say about our culture? I wonder.
Like the Bartletts, Peggy Guggenheim was an amazing art collector. In 1920 she went to Paris where she befriended artists, some living in poverty in the Montparnasse Quarter of the city. In the fall, I spent two weeks in Italy. A highlight of the trip was a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice. Housed in what was Peggy’s home on the romantic Grand Canal, the collection is one of the most important of European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. There one can see dozens of Max Ernst’s works as well as those of Picasso, Jackson Pollack, and one of my favorites, Magritte. Being at the Bonnet event filled with art appreciators was good for my heart, but I guess it brought up my desire to find my very own art patron, one like a Bartlett or a Peggy Guggenheim.
What is Art?
This past weekend was filled with art experiences. Saturday, I went with friends to Degas in Bronze: The Complete Sculptures, an exhibit at the Boca Raton Museum of Art. On Sunday, I went to the Society of Four Arts in Palm Beach to see a Raul Dufy exhibit, which included many textiles. I enjoyed seeing both exhibits as well as the works in the Boca Museum’s permanent collection. In the Museum, however, my friend, Martie and I got into a discussion about what is art as we stood in front of a mixed media piece. We wondered how this unattractive and unimpressive piece managed to make it into the museum’s permanent collection. I told her that the work reminded me of sculptures I made when I was a college student and wanted to get an A in my sculpture class.
My sculpture professor was enraptured by the Pop and Op Art movements, so I knew the way to an A was by producing pieces he would appreciate. My fellow classmates worked hard at their traditional sculptures, mostly of life forms while I came up with innovative ideas. My most spectacular one was when I ironed a sheet of plastic into a six-foot hot dog shape. I decided to fill the hot dog with dozens of smaller plastic forms and leave a small hole just big enough to fit the end of a vacuum cleaner tube. The idea was that when the vacuum cleaner was turned on the plastic shapes would move around inside the larger plastic form. Instead of making the smaller forms, I used condoms, which I blew up like balloons. It turned out that I needed dozens of condoms to get the right effect, so I enlisted my family and friends in the effort. We laughed hysterically while we filled my living room with blown up rubbers.
The sculpture ended up looking very organic like sperm moving around in a womb, sensual and sexual. I got my A. But did I produce a work of art? My fellow classmates were furious with me because unlike them, I didn’t toil for hours. They knew that on some level I thought of my piece as a joke. It was a hoax. But was it also art? According to the dictionary, art is the creation of beautiful or thought-provoking works. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, one could say my piece was beautiful. It was most definitely thought-provoking.
Back to the museum, Martie and I moved on to other works. I ruminated about the fact that I saw this show after writing my first blog. If only I had been to the exhibit before I wrote my first column on product versus product, I would have written that Degas was more concerned with the process of making sculpture than with the creation of finished works. He never cast his wax and clay sculptures, so at his death 150 sculptures were found, but many of them were deteriorated beyond repair. I was pondering this fact as I looked at the photography exhibit. I was particularly taken by the works of Gary Winigrand. He’s best known for his photos of JFK and the picture of Marilyn Monroe holding her billowing dress over the subway grate. In contrast to Degas, Winigrand said, “The artist is irrelevant once the work exists. All there is is the pictures.”
Martie’s husband interrupted my thoughts. He wanted to show us a work that he particularly admired. Neither of us liked it. So what’s art? It’s anyone’s definition because it’s totally subjective.
Last week my cousins Ed, Linda, and Danielle visited Florida. My sister, Jan, and I joined them for four days in Disney World. In years past, Orlando was often a destination when friends or family from “up North” visited with their children, but the kids have all grown up so it was a while since I visited the parks. I know that some people find Disney World too crowded or too artificial, and both things are true, but I have never been there and not enjoyed myself.
On this trip, I was struck once again by the artistic genius of Walt Disney. It’s not that Walt didn’t get credit during his lifetime or since his death, but because he accomplished so much, he’s more known as a film producer, an influential entrepreneur, an innovator in theme park design, than he is known as an artist. Of course one might correct me and say he was a cartoonist not an artist. But am I alone in believing that cartoonists are artists? Someone like Charles Schultz who created all those wonderful characters in Peanuts, was he not creating art? When it comes to Walt Disney, it is the artist and the artistry of animation, which has always interested me.
When I was in the third grade, my teacher gave the class an assignment. We were each to choose someone famous who we greatly admired, write a report about them, and present our report to the class. Most people chose past presidents or other heroic figures like Paul Revere. I chose Walt Disney, and as part of my report I drew a line of Mickeys in slightly different poses.
Later in college, when I was a fine arts major, my drawings and paintings were sometimes criticized for being “too cartoonish.” I never quite understood what was wrong with that, and a very wise painting professor named Miss Markham suggested how I might paint in hardedge with black outlines to create art. For my senior project, I produced a three minute animated film called Doodle Dot. Walt Disney has a special place in my heart. He was my hero when I was just a kid and one of the influences which led me to become an artist.
I suppose I was captivated by the magic, whimsy, and optimism in Disney’s creations. He embraced Technicolor, and I loved the use of bright primary colors like the red of Mickey’s shorts. Though some say he was actually a poor animator and many other artists were responsible for drawing his cartoons, he was the creator. He actually never called his work “art.” He saw animation as a medium of storytelling and his mission was to entertain and make life more pleasurable for people of all ages. He’s quoted as saying, “Of all our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universal language.” Filled with uncomplicated sweetness, fantasy, and imagination, his visions delight us.
Perhaps someday I will treat myself to a Disney cel – not necessarily from his hand – but a cel of Mickey Mouse or a Minnie, or maybe Donald Duck. Or a Tinker Bell, or Cinderella, or a Snow White would do. When I was in Disney Hollywood Studios, formerly Disney MGM, I went on The Magic Of Disney Animation Tour, which goes through a building where animation is produced. There on the walls were not just cels, but magnificent oil paintings as well, and in the gift shop there were works by other artists who were inspired by Disney. I would be happy to own one of those too.
My Favorite Artists
Last month I wrote about my hero, Walt Disney, and writing that column brought up thoughts about the other artists who have inspired me. Anyone who knows me or has seen my website knows that my father, Herman Schreiber, was a major influence. Dad was a master, but since he never pursued fame or fortune, he is more or less an unknown artist. Still he was the one who taught me how to draw and the authority when it came to art appreciation. Though our taste was not always the same, Dad definitely would approve of my current favorites. Over the course of my life I have favored different artists, but at the moment the ones at the top of my list are Edward Hopper, Maxfield Parrish, and John Baeder.
I ask myself what do these three artists have in common? What is it about their work that I so admire? Though all three are realists, their styles and techniques are different. Parrish, for example, uniquely created luminous colors using both glazing and photographic transparencies on his canvases. But beyond technique and realism, what they have in common is their ability to evoke a mood. As a landscape painter, I love looking at the worlds that they perceive.
Most of Hopper’s paintings focus on the subtle interactions between people and their environment. Though critics laud his work, many describe him as depicting “isolation, melancholy, and loneliness.” I prefer to think his work illustrates the beauty of solitude and introspection because when I look at his paintings, I see a world filled with light. In fact one of my very favorite paintings of his is called Sun In An Empty Room, which simply shows the sunlight on the wall reflected from a window. It’s one of the most beautiful and brilliant paintings I’ve ever seen, and it can be found in an excellent book that my sister gave me for my 40th birthday. Edward Hopper by Lloyd Goodrich, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc, 1971, is still in print.
Parrish is also a master of light. He created fantasy kingdoms, which were populated by people that he painted to perfection. His original and individual style is one that manifests magic and romance. He is quoted as saying, “just a faithful portrait of a locality, factual, would never do … Realism of impression, the mood of the moment, yes, but not the realism of things.” He spent his later years painting landscapes exclusively. One of my favorite books is Coy Ludwig’s Maxfield Parrish, New York: Watson Guptill, 1973, which my parents gave me as graduation gift when I completed my Masters.
Like Hopper, whose Nighthawks is an image of a diner interior at night, John Baeder, is an artist who could look at a diner and see great beauty. For thirty years he traveled the country to find his diners, and he has painted hundreds of them. On the book jacket of his Diners, by John Baeder, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1978 which was reissued in expanded form in 1996, he wrote, “I am labeled a ‘photo-realist’ because I use a photograph to do a realistic-looking painting. However, the camera is the extension of my eyes, of myself…. I paint the landscape, or part of it, and I represent an image that impresses me.” The past thirteen years, he’s been painting taco trucks. The absence of people in the paintings gives the trucks themselves a human dimension.
These extraordinary artists are able to capture the very essence of a place or a moment in time. They enthrall and move me.
Recently, I was invited to the home of my friend Farideh, an artist, art collector, and art dealer who, among others, represents a fantastic Iranian artist named Col. M. Sarram. Born in Isfahan in 1929 and currently residing in Phoenix, Arizona, Sarram is a watercolorist who depicts ancient monuments, mosques and churches. In the past, Farideh exhibited and sold his magnificent paintings in Washington, D.C., New York, and Oregon. Now residing in Florida, Farideh has had no success in interesting either gallery owners or museum curators in exhibiting her collection. All have made it clear that they would not display Iranian art. I am sure this is due to the current political environment and has nothing to do with the quality of the art.
Not that many years ago, I remember being extremely upset when I saw on the news that the Taliban had destroyed the huge, spectacular sculptures of Buddha in Afghanistan. I was horrified that any group of people would want to demolish great works of art, and I remember it brought tears to my eyes. At the time I really didn’t know who the Taliban was. After September 11th and America’s deployment to Afghanistan, I realized they were the same people who had dynamited the Buddhas.
Though the rejection of Farideh’s collection is not a violent act and not nearly as frightening as the Taliban’s behavior, I still find it very troubling. To me art is the highest achievement of humankind. Its worth is beyond politics or nationality, and my life is richer now being acquainted with Persian art. I can’t speak for everyone, but I am personally alarmed when artistic accomplishment is destroyed or censored.
Iran (Persia until 1935) actually has one of the richest art heritages in the world and a cultural tradition with a continuous development and identity which dates back to 4,000 BC. Most people are familiar with the quality and value of Persian rugs. The silk, cotton or wool carpets are traditionally handmade from natural fibers and woven into colorful intricate designs. Besides weavers, however, Persian artistic achievement encompasses many disciplines including potters, calligraphers, metal workers, stonemasons, and painters. As an oil painter, the paintings are what interested me the most.
The earliest known Persian paintings date back to the 11th century, a period of intensively creative artistic development. Earlier painting was mainly used to decorate manuscripts and versions of the Holy Koran. Modern Iranian paintings retain the majestic, mystical feel of the past. On the website, www.persianfineart.com, one can view the paintings of current renowned artists. Though Sarram is not on this website, Abbas Poursafah is a landscape painter whose exquisitely painted mosques and Iranian street scenes reminded me of Sarram’s work. Architecture is perhaps Persia’s greatest gift to the world, and both Sarram and Poursafah depict the magnificent structures. I was also particularly impressed by the beautiful portraits done by Iman Maleki, a thirty-two year old painter, and by the surrealistic, Magritte-like work of Sohrab Leilaji.
Like Farideh, Professor Nassar D Khalili, is a collector of Islamic art. In fact, the London resident may have one of the best collections in the world. As one of the founders of the Iran Heritage Foundation established in 1995 to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of Iran, he is committed to encouraging peace and understanding between Jews and Muslims. Akin to Khalili, in the midst of fears about terrorism and ignorance of Islam, I feel the need to make people aware of the artistic culture of Iran. One can hope through the appreciation of art, our better nature will prevail.
What It Means To Be An Artist
My apologies to John Baeder, whom I wrote about in my July blog on my favorite artists. I was upset to learn that I had perpetuated misinformation about him. He has not been painting taco trucks for the last thirteen years. In fact, the taco trucks took one year in which he painted 14 watercolors. Quite an accomplishment! I don’t remember which website gave me the incorrect information, but it was a reminder to me to be very careful when doing research on-line. Finding out that I did a disservice to someone I deeply respect put me into an introspective mood. I thought about what it means to be writing a blog on the internet, which goes out to the world, and the responsibility to tell the truth. That thought led to reflections about what it means to be a writer, and from there I thought about what it means to be an artist.
When I was a child, my dad warned me about taking my art too seriously. He told me that I shouldn’t let it mean too much to me. An artist himself, he would say “Artists are crazy,” and point to Dali and Van Gogh. I wonder if it was my unconscious fear of going crazy which led me to a thirty-year career as a psychotherapist. Seven years ago I once again allowed my artist within to have full expression. I closed my private practice of sixteen years to follow my passion and paint full time. It was scary and risky to go the way of the artist, but on my easel I taped a very sane quote attributed to Van Gogh. “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” I don’t know for sure that Van Gogh actually said those words, but it doesn’t matter. When I question myself and experience self doubt, I read those words. Then I lift my brush, and I feel renewed. To read Van Gogh’s letters and see his paintings, I recommend two websites www.vangoghgallery.com or www.vggallery.com/.
In the Norton Museum of Art - West Palm Beach - Florida, a new wing was constructed in recent years. A museum member for twenty-five years, I have watched it grow from a gallery into a first rate museum, and I highly recommend visiting it if you are in Palm Beach County. In the new wing, a wide staircase leads to two floors of the permanent collection. Along the wall of the staircase, metal light boxes hold glass plaques with quotes from some of the world’s most respected artists, Picasso, Frida Kahlo, and Michelangelo among them. Those that particularly appealed to me are:
“Art seems to me to be above all a state of soul” – Marc Chagall
“To be an artist is to believe in life” – Henry Moore
“The artist must in a word be a philosopher” – Jacque Louis David
In the gift shop, which is filled with beautiful items, a book titled Artist to Artist, Inspiration & Advice from Artists Past and Present, compiled by Clint Brown, Jackson Creek Press, Oregon, 1998, includes even more quotes.
So what does being an artist mean to me? It means expressing myself fully and reaching the highest inspirational peaks. It means being able to remain in a trance state for hours and at times feeling the presence of God. But it also means moments of darkness and going to places within myself filled with despair. To quote Matisse – “Creativity takes courage.”
Lipstick On A Bear
I don’t know if everyone is as exhausted as I am about the election process, but for me even reading emails has been a trial. The past couple of weeks have been grueling, especially watching the market crash and the economy tank. Yesterday, I felt devastated and not in the mood to paint. Since I was obsessing about politics, I decided to google political art. When I did, I was surprised and then delighted to find that many of the political artists were women.
Last spring when I was in New York for a psychodrama conference, I made a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. Always happy to visit the museum, this time I was very disappointed by the paucity of women artists in the collection. Walking from room to room filled with male artists, I felt angry. Then a couple of days later, I went to the Brooklyn Museum and was thrilled to see Global Feminisms, an exhibition which had Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party as the centerpiece.
I had seen the massive triangular banquet table years earlier, but I was pleased to see it again particularly after my MOMA experience. This enormous work that consists of thirty-nine magnificent place settings honoring individual women in history, is now a permanent installation at the museum. Global Feminisms celebrated the opening of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, and it included the works of eighty artists from around the world in a wide range of media dealing with racial and gender identity, politics, and oppression. I thought about that show again yesterday as I explored political art on the Internet.
Though I personally prefer more aesthetically pleasing art, I was extremely impressed by Martha Rosler, an artist who works primarily with images and texts and refuses to separate aesthetics from politics. Born in Brooklyn where she now resides, she was described as “an art-world provocateur” in a 2000 New York Times review. In Bringing the War Home (1967-1972) a series of twenty photomontages, she juxtaposes Vietnam victims with tranquil suburban American interiors. Rosner remains committed to the plight of the homeless and raising consciousness about the value of tolerance and compassion. War and the media are recurrent concerns in her work.
Once a graphic designer and art director, Barbara Kruger , like Rosner, uses photos and aggressive text to involve the viewer in the struggle for power and control. Her black, white and red poster-style works convey messages about sexism, misogyny, consumerism, and brutality.
Sue Coe , who was born in England and has resided in the USA since 1972, works in a number of mediums including oil on canvas, photo-etchings, lithography, gouache, graphite and collage on paper, and water color. Her work was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum in Wash., D.C. and is in collections of many major museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I am pleased to report, in the Museum of Modern Art. Her subjects include racial discrimination and animal rights, and she has taught courses at Parsons School of Design about social awareness and art.
Perhaps spending time this weekend with Sharon Morgan, my friend and website designer, motivated me to research political artists. A baby boomer, the political and social changes brought about during the turbulent sixties greatly influenced her. Sharon is an artist, arts advocate, and the owner of SE Morgan Design creating, designing and maintaining websites for visual, literary, and performing artists as well as non-profit arts organizations. Most of her powerful work has a political or social commentary.
A Tradition Redefined
Though I’m very pleased with the outcome of the Presidential election, in October when I was still feeling exhausted from the political scene and the angry emails that were inundating the internet, I visited the Norton Museum. The exhibit was entitled A Tradition Redefined – Chinese Paintings from the Chu-tsing Li Collection 1950-2000. The impressive collection of 56 Chinese ink paintings spanning five decades was a welcomed respite and an esthetic escape. One large landscape after another painted in black and white or muted colors offered rest to my weary computer-strained eyes. In fact, the works of snow capped mountains and even the rare still life emanated a feeling of serenity and peace. I had to sit down to meditate on their beauty.
The collection belongs to Professor Chu-tsing Li, a pioneer in the study of modern and contemporary Chinese paintings. Li came to the United States in 1947, and in 1955 he completed a PhD in Baroque Painting at the University of Iowa. Over time, he developed an interest in the history of Chinese painting. After ten years of teaching Asian art at Iowa, he moved to the University of Kansas in 1966 where he established a doctoral program in Chinese art. He has assembled one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of modern Chinese ink paintings in the West.
Though I was reacting to the political scene when I went to the exhibit, much of the featured work was political in its own right. Liu Guosong (also spelled Kuosung) founded the Fifth Moon Group, the first modern painters society in post-war Taiwan who broke away from traditional classical Chinese painting to synthesize elements of Western modernism. American abstract expressionism had a particularly powerful influence on his work, which is evident in his Early Spring.
Another featured artist is Zhao Shaoang, a painter, poet, and calligrapher. His ink and colored horizontal scroll of the Baoguo Temple on Mount Emei departs from traditional Chinese paintings by focusing on the trees in the foreground rather than on the sacred mountain.
As I wandered around the exhibit, memories returned of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Zhang Yimon, an acclaimed Chinese filmmaker, and Zhang Jigang, a Chinese choregrapher directed the opening and closing ceremonies. Using a cast of 15,000 people, their magnificent tribute to ancient Chinese culture and art widened the world’s appreciation of Chinese artistry. The Opening Ceremony began with the thunder from 2,008 drummers standing in line after line playing the fou, an ancient Chinese percussion instrument. They were followed by performers who danced across a stadium length scroll of paper creating an ink painting in their path. This scroll became the centerpiece of the performance.
Since the theme of the Olympic program was creativity, inclusiveness, and harmony between man and nature/the planet, it is not surprising that Yimon and Jigang chose to manifest this with a representation of a Chinese ink painting. Magnificent landscapes, the favored subject of Chinese ink paintings, reflect the Taoist reverence for the underlying harmony in nature and the belief in the natural flow of life.
A Tradition Redefined was co-organized by Phoenix Art Museum and Harvard University Art Museums. The exhibition is a traveling one, which will be at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach until January 4th, 2009 and the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence from February 11th through May 24, 2009. It’s a spectacular show so keep your eyes open in case it visits a museum near you
Where’s My Stieglitz?
Today, I picked up two of my paintings which were in a juried exhibition organized by the Artists of Palm Beach County. The show took place in the Community Center of Sugar Sand Park, a lovely 132-acre park in the city of Boca Raton. In addition to recreation, the park is committed to enhancing the role of culture for its residents and visitors. As a result, art exhibitions are constantly on display. Though I was disappointed that neither of my paintings sold, like old friends I was glad to see them again. My painting The Rock Garden is particularly special to me because I painted it with Georgia O’Keeffe in mind.
An innovative and extremely prolific artist, Georgia O’Keeffe’s work evokes a great deal of emotion, and despite the fact that she didn’t make it to the list of my three favorite artists, I greatly admire her work. I also envy her life. Born in November 1887, she demonstrated artistic ability as a young child and made a living as an artist from her early twenties until practically her death in 1986 at the age of 98. Her long life is enviable as is the fact that she met and later happily married the internationally known photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who not only appreciated her work but also promoted it.
Georgia grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, and she pursued art studies at the Art Institute of Chicago and later at the Art Students League in New York. In 1915, while teaching art in Columbia College in South Carolina, she began a series of abstract charcoal drawings that she mailed to a former classmate who showed them to Stieglitz. He began corresponding with her, and when she returned to New York the following spring to take classes at Teachers College, Columbia University, he exhibited 10 of her charcoals at his avant-garde gallery, 291.
Two years later, he offered to support her if she would move to New York from Texas where she was teaching art at West Texas State Normal College. Their correspondence over the years had become increasingly more passionate, and by the time she arrived in New York, they were in love. They married in 1924. Though he captured many subjects with his artistic photography, throughout their marriage Georgia was a major preoccupation. He took hundreds of photographs of her, like this portrait taken in 1929. To see more of his photography go to George Eastman House Alfred Stieglitz Series.
Until his death in 1946, Stieglitz diligently organized annual exhibitions of her artwork in his galleries (Anderson Galleries, The Intimate Gallery, and An American Place). By the mid 1920s when she began painting New York skyscrapers and large-scale flowers, she was recognized as one of America’s most important and successful artists. Though the couple lived in New York, in 1929 Georgia spent her first of many summers painting in New Mexico, and three years after Alfred’s death she moved there permanently.
Georgia’s depictions of the desert, landscapes, and architectural forms capture the essence of northern New Mexico. Many of her works, which include abstractions, pictures of large-scale flowers, leaves, rocks, shells, and bones, are housed in The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Sante Fe. The museum opened in July 1997, eleven years after her death. The collection comprises 1,149 O’Keeffe oil paintings, water colors, drawings, and sculptures that date from 1901 to 1984 when her failing eyesight forced her into retirement. I can only hope that I will be blessed with as many productive years, and a partner like hers wouldn’t hurt either.
The Art Scene
In a couple of weeks, I will be leaving for a one-month trip “down under” to New Zealand and Australia. I am very excited. My only regrets are that I will miss the visits of several family members from up north, and I will also be away for a part of the annual Palm Beach art scene. Each winter Palm Beach County hosts one fabulous art expo after another. In recent years the major shows have taken place in the Palm Beach County Convention Center, which is located in the heart of downtown West Palm Beach. The Convention Center, a 350,000 square foot, state of the art facility opened its doors in January 2004. It features a 100,00 square foot exhibit hall, which hosts nationally and internationally acclaimed shows including the American International Fine Art Fair (Feb. 2 -Feb. 8), the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art, and Antique Show (Feb. 14 – Feb. 17), and the Palm Beach Fine Craft Show (March 20 – March 22).
Though I will miss some of the shows, I was pleased to attend the 12th annual palmbeach3 Contemporary Art Fair, which took place in mid January. The event included museum professionals, collectors, gallery owners and dozens of dealers who exhibited the works of hundreds of artists. In addition to the enormous range of art and contemporary design all exhibited under one roof, round table lectures and discussions were presented by curators, collectors, and featured artists. The fair brought together paintings, photographs as well as sculptures, ceramics, contemporary glass, and artist-designed furniture and jewelry from nearly eighty exhibitors. I attended the event with a group of friends, and all of us agreed that the show provided something for everyone.
Many well-known artists were represented including Warhol, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, Botero, and Chihuly. Andrew Wyeth passed away just days before the event, so I imagine his watercolors went up in price. The Fair was extremely high end with galleries from New York to Germany, and in spite of our poor economy people seemed to be buying. At this show, an inexpensive piece is usually about five figures, and in fact, I saw a small, unimpressive O’Keeffe watercolor for $450,000.
Though the prices were way beyond my pocketbook, it was fun to think about what I would purchase if I could. Above left is Still Life at Sunrise by Scott Prior. His painting Windowsill in Winter was my favorite in the show. I love his use of light. I was predictably pleased that there were a number of photo realists as well as impressionistic landscape painters among those exhibited. Thomas McNickle captivated my sister.
Though I’m not crazy about his work, my friends Mag and Susan were glad to see Milton Avery. We all appreciated the Caribbean watercolors by Romare Bearden, and Jane was thrilled with the huge glass skeletal dinosaurs by Oliver Habel. I enjoyed the glassworks of Lino Tagliapietra. Perhaps the most impressive and innovative works in the show were the photographs. Steven McCurry was represented as well as Ormond Gigli, and Roberto Edward’s nude painted bodies were very intriguing.
I feel like I’m doing a sales pitch, and wonder why I am, since the show has already taken place and didn’t need my endorsement to begin with. Actually, I think I’m enthusiastic about the Convention Center. It’s located across the street from the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts and City Place, a shopping, eating, and entertainment area. If you’ve thought about visiting Palm Beach County, now is the time to do it.
Celebrating Local Museums: Photography and Photorealism
In a few days I will be leaving for Australia and New Zealand, so I suspect my next blog will be about aborigine art or contemporary art “down under.” In the meantime, this week I made last trips to the Norton Museum and the Boca Raton Museum of Art. I’ve written about the Norton before, but since I recently learned that the museum received a National award, I think it deserves more attention. The Norton Museum was 1 of 5 museums out of 17,500 museums nationwide that won the 2008 National Medal for Museum Services. The award, the nation’s highest honor, is given to institutions that make a difference in their communities, and in addition to the medal each museum receives $10,000. Kudos to the Norton!
Currently there are several wonderful exhibits on display. One is on Ansel Adams. I went to an exhibition lecture Ansel Adams: In Focus given by Alan Ross, a fantastic photographer in his own right. In 1974 to 1979, Ross was Adam’s photographic
Ross related much about Adams’ history and personality. Adams grew up in San Francisco in the early 1900s where he began taking photographs as a child, and he spent his youth taking many trips to Yosemite. An accomplished pianist, he decided to focus professionally on photography rather than on music when he was in his late twenties. Preservation was very important to him. He became a political activist for the cause of wilderness and was instrumental in shaping attitudes which led to environmental protection. He was equally committed to promoting photography as a fine art, and he played a key role in the establishment of a photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Talking about excellent museums and photography, the Boca Raton Museum of Art is definitely worth visiting, and I was glad to be able to see the exhibition Shock of the Real: Photorealism Revisited. As an art movement, Photorealism began in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. Louis K. Meisel, a prominent New York gallery owner, coined the word photorealism in 1969 and developed a five point definition:
1. The Photo-Realist uses the camera and photograph to gather information.
2. The Photo-Realist uses a mechanical or semi mechanical means to transfer the information to the canvas.
3. The Photo-Realist must have the technical ability to make the finished work appear photographic.
4. The artist must have exhibited work as a Photo-Realist by 1972 to be considered one of the central Photo-Realists.
5. The artist must have devoted at least five years to the development and exhibition of Photo-Realist work.
After seeing Ansel Adams’ work, it was particularly interesting to view the work of the Photo-Realist painters. Photorealism relies on photography as part of the artistic process, not to reproduce photographs but for the visual challenge posed by realistic interpretations of subjects. This major exhibition includes 70 extraordinary works by 22 artists, the pioneers of the movement Richard Estes, Audrey Flack, and Ralph Goings among them. The highly photographic renditions painted with oils, acrylics or watercolor depict everyday contemporary culture, New York skyscrapers, and suburban landscapes. I was very pleased to see four of John Baeder’s wonderful diners nearly covering one wall.