Women Without Men

Last night I finally watched Shirin Neshat‘s film, Women Without Men. It was one of those films where I wanted to watch it again as soon as I was finished in order to gain more understanding. Neshat’s background is in fine art, which makes her decision to create a narrative feature length film very intriguing. She is Iranian born, but left in 1979 to attend college in the US. This was around the time of the Islamic Revolution which drastically changed the culture in Iran.

She first gained notoriety for her photography series Women of Allah which she created from 1993-1997 after a visit to Iran. The women have writing on their bodies, and they are often taken from feminist poets and writers.

Unveiling, 1993, from the series Women of Allah

Unveiling, 1993, from the series Women of Allah

The film is an adaptation of a 1989 novel by Shahrnush Parsipur and is the story of four women in Tehran in 1953 during the American-backed Coup that placed the Shah back in power.

The images in the film are beautiful and highlight the feminist undercurrents that exist in Neshat’s work. Each woman in the film struggles to find freedom in their life and end up together on an orchard. The film brings forward the plight of women in a conservative society. The character I cannot get out of my head is Zarin, an anorexic prostitute who never utters a word throughout the film, yet I connected with her the most. Her presence was haunting, grotesque, and then serene.

Neshat says this about her from an interview:

“There’s her issue with the body, and the question of her loneliness and alienation—the fact that she always came across as if she was a woman that was never meant to belong to this planet but somehow she had to cope with it… The most important thing to me is her relationship to her body, in the way that she punishes herself for everything that is wrong with the world. …this is very much of a woman issue: You basically self-inflict to cope with everything that is wrong in the world. Oddly enough, the one that is the most sinful [the prostitute] becomes the most spiritual. We have a saying, that the mystics, the dervishes in our Sufi tradition, are the people that suffer the most, and because they’re so tortured, they turn into spiritual beings. Zarin, who is the most tortured, becomes the most spiritual and the most compassionate in the way that she impacts the other women’s lives. It’s her spirituality and otherworldliness that I like. The last thing, also, is that Zarin never speaks in the entire film, but you always understand her.”

Still from Women Without Men

Still from Women Without Men

Still from Women Without Men

Still from Women Without Men

women-without-men

Still from Women Without Men

WWM13

Still from Women Without Men

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The Wassaic Project

On Saturday I made the smart decision to leave rainy New York City and head upstate to Wassaic to take part in The Wassaic Project Summer Festival. The festival is a free event that celebrates Dance, Art, Film, and Music (donations suggested).  From their website: Housed in the unique buildings and property of the Wassaic Project, the festival escapes the white walls of traditional art spaces and focuses on site-sensitive installations and performances.  The festival creates a weekend-long opportunity for artists and performers of all mediums to come together, exchange ideas, learn new things, and engage in a thriving community. Participants are encouraged to come for the day or stay the weekend, camping onsite. Programming is cutting-edge yet family friendly.

Grain elevator at the old Maxon Mill - home to the Wassaic Project

Grain elevator at the old Maxon Mill – home to the Wassaic Project (photo via my Instagram; follow me)

It certainly was all of those things and more. The theme of the festival was Homeward Found, so many of the projects centered around the found object or ideas of “home”. The main art exhibition took place in the old Maxon Mill – a grain elevator and auction barn – which allowed work to be shown in a different context than the standard White Cube. Below are some of the artists that stood out to me.

Ian Addison Hall

(check out his website)

Ian Addison Hall had two images from his series help yourself (it’s all yours) where he photographs objects left “up for grabs” on the sidewalk in his neighborhood in South Brooklyn, but each photograph has been manipulated in some way so the context is not entirely recognizable. In the two he showed, he creates a sort of pedestal out of concrete by defining the edge of the concrete and filling the remaining space with the pattern of the object itself. In his words: The photos have been altered in various ways so that the found objects to echo within the frame. This reverberating effect is intended to represent the energy an object carries with it from its unknown past.

Ian Addison Hall "help yourself (it's all yours)"

Ian Addison Hall “help yourself (it’s all yours)”

Ian Addison Hall "help yourself (it's all yours)"

Ian Addison Hall “help yourself (it’s all yours)”

Both of these pieces reference minimalist work from the 50s and 60s (I can’t help but think about Jasper Johns Target painting from 1958). Hall puts a contemporary twist on a formal approach through the use of digital manipulation and found object. The discarded/free object is transformed into an abstract metaphor for our time.

**Images taken from the artist’s website**

Carmen Osterlye

(check out her website)

Carmen Osterlye showcased her Den of Blossomy, an installation that took on the feeling of stepping into a Victorian estate turned museum – beautiful furniture displayed in their original context preserved behind velvet rope.

Carmen Osterlye "Den of Blossomy"

Den of Blossomy (2013). Found furniture, paper, two-channel video projection
Dimension variable

In this case, all the ornate patterning you would expect on the walls and upholstery is being projected. Some of the images were static and others were in motion – flowers opening and closing. It was remarkable that the entire installation was powered by only two projectors.

In her words (from her website): I am fascinated with the relationship between motion and perception. We believe the world around us exists as we see it exist, yet our own seeing is in fact erroneous. The rate at which things come to pass is a dynamic and complex evolution, often too fast or too slow to witness in detail. … My work is about expressing the infinite possibilities of a moving image, replicating life in an uncanny place, and questioning our belief’s and traditions of how and where things should and should not exist.

R. Justin Stewart

(check out his website)

R. Justin Stewart created an intricate web of fleece, rope, and plastic in his installation titled Distorting (a Messiah Project 12CE). This installation is part of an ongoing project in which he researches the concept of the messiah in different cultures and histories. This particular installation deals with the messiah as conceived in the12th century Jewish thought. The work is both coded literally and abstractly. The colors represent themes such as a certain text, a specific idea, or a historical person all linked within this concept of messiah in 12th century Jewish history. Each fleece pod is also equipped with a bar code that a viewer can scan with a mobile device that will grant him/her access to data from Stewart’s research. In this way the viewer can navigate through the tangle of this web and find meaning and understanding. It’s a beautiful convening of historical and religious notions of the messiah with contemporary materials and sensibilities. One aspect I loved about this work was how the rope was threaded throughout the staircase, so I was filled with anticipation each time I reached a landing and found that the rope continued along. It mimicked a sort of pilgrimage in which you weren’t sure when you were going to reach mecca.

R. Justin Stewart "Distorting (a Messiah Project 12CE), 2013

R. Justin Stewart “Distorting (a Messiah Project 12CE), 2013

R. Justin Stewart "Distorting (a Messiah Project 12CE), 2013 [detail]

R. Justin Stewart “Distorting (a Messiah Project 12CE), 2013 [detail]

**Images taken by ME at The Wassaic Project Summer Festival**

Around 5pm there was a moving sound piece/performance that I really liked, but unfortunately I did not catch the artist’s name. He handed out speakers to anyone passing by and just asked that they eventually make their way to the Luther Barn Stage area. I took a little instagram video trying to document the work (I don’t have the capacity to show it on this site, so find it on Instagram).

50 under 50

In June, the magazine Art+Auction put out a “50 under 50” list of artists deemed “the next most collectible artists”. I’m always wary of these types of lists because I question who is doing the picking and why – what motive is behind these lists or are they just looking at current market trends. The editors confirm that it’s not a list of emerging artists but one that brings together artists who have been gaining momentum over the past several years. There were some familiar names on the list, but many that were new to me (not shocking as I’m in the initial stages of educating myself on contemporary art). I decided to showcase the ones that stood out to me. Of course it’s hard knowing what work you really are drawn to when encountering images via the internet, but these were the ones that made me want to check out the artist’s website and look at other work – and definitely seek out their work in person.

Hayv Kahraman

Artist’s website (click HERE

Triangle. Oil on Linen. 44"x66"  2012

Triangle. Oil on Linen. 44″x66″ 2012

There are so many things I love about this painting. There is a strong visual tension created by the flatness of the yellow and green dresses and the weight of the women’s bodies. The triangle itself can be read as occupying one of two different planes – either receding back into space or sitting flat on the surface.

Laura Owens

Artist website (click HERE)

Untitled, 2013, Acrylic, Flashe and oil on canvas, 137.5 x 120" [image taken from artist website]

Untitled, 2013, Acrylic, Flashe and oil on canvas, 137.5 x 120″ [image taken from artist website]

I enjoy the way Owens uses color in her work and plays with texture and composition. The surface is activated in this painting through the layering of broad washes of color and a crisp grid so that each component pops out at you.

Jorinde Voigt

Artist website (click HERE)

Jorinde Voigt "Piece for Words and Views II," 2012 Colored vellum, ingres paper, pencil and ink on watercolor paper

Jorinde Voigt “Piece for Words and Views II,” 2012
Colored vellum, ingres paper, pencil and ink on watercolor paper

This image stood out to me because of the juxtaposition of crisp pencil lines with the very flat opaque areas of color. I also am a fan of diagrams, and this one has a great energy about it.

Brenna Youngblood

More about the artist HERE

"187," 2010 Color photograph, acrylic paint, artist's tape on canvas

Brenna Youngblood “187” 2010 Color photograph, acrylic paint, artist’s tape on canvas

Collage is one of those medias that seems straight forward and simple, yet is extremely hard to pull off. Youngblood creates a striking image through her assemblage of photograph, tape, and paint. I would love to see this work in person and see how those red lines interact with the beige and blue background. I believe this painting would be satisfying both from a distance and up close. It might be my favorite image out of the entire group. It’s one that I want to keep looking at and discover more about.

Adam Pendleton

Artist website (click HERE)

Adam Pendleton "Nothing But a Man," 2012 Silkscreen ink on Mylar

Adam Pendleton “Nothing But a Man,” 2012. Silkscreen ink on Mylar

The grid is what makes this image. I don’t believe I would be as drawn to it if it were simply the photograph. There is a great deal of mystery in the way that it is cropped, as it hides much of the identity of the subject, which heightens the raw emotional moment we are witness to. The close proximity to the subject’s face makes the image intimate, but the grid keeps the viewer out and creates a caged boundary for the figure. It informs the viewer that he is not part of this space and really makes you aware of your own gaze.

Check out the complete list of artists featured on the 50 under 50 (part one and two)

**all images taken from the BLOUIN ArtInfo website unless noted otherwise**

Dior after Manet

I love finding direct references to art in the world. It happens quite often, but the latest print and video ad from Dior struck me as a wonderful example of how art influences pop culture and can remain relevant long after the paint has been applied to the canvas.

Edouard Manet "Le déjeuner sur l'herbe" 1862-1863. Oil on canvas 81.9 in × 104.5 in. (Musée d'Orsay, Paris)

Edouard Manet “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe” 1862-1863. Oil on canvas 81.9 in × 104.5 in. (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

Dior "Secret Garden 2 -Versailles"

Dior “Secret Garden 2 -Versailles”

Manet’s iconic Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass) depicts three figures casually lunching while a woman in the background bathes. Of the three figures in the foreground, two are fully clothed men engaged in a conversation, and the other is a nude woman engaging directly with the viewer. Emile Zola writes about the public reaction to the painting at the time:

“This nude woman has scandalized the public, who see only her in the canvas. My God! What indecency: a woman without the slightest covering between two clothed men! That has never been seen. And this belief is a gross error, for in the Louvre there are more than fifty paintings in which are found mixes of persons clothed and nude. But no one goes to the Louvre to be scandalized.”

What Zola refers to are allegorical paintings in which commonly nude women lounge amongst clothed men, but those paintings often reference Greek or Roman myth so the women were not meant to represent ‘real’ women, rather an allegory. The nude figures in the historical paintings do not engage with the viewer either so they are there to be consumed at a comfortable distance by the viewer.

Giorgione "Pastoral Concert (Fête champêtre)" 1509. Oil on canvas 110 x 138 cm. (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Giorgione “Pastoral Concert (Fête champêtre)” 1509. Oil on canvas 110 x 138 cm. (Musée du Louvre, Paris)

Titian "Bacchanal of the Andrians" 1523–1526. Oil on canvas, 69 in × 76 in. (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

Titian “Bacchanal of the Andrians” 1523–1526. Oil on canvas, 69 in × 76 in. (Museo del Prado, Madrid)

The woman in Manet’s painting stares directly at the viewer acknowledging his presence with a smile. Her awareness shifts her from nude to naked, and the casual title of the painting makes it clear that this is no allegory but modern day.

The Dior print ad replaces the men with two other women, and the figure engaging the viewer is not nude. She does stand out from the others as a blonde wearing a bold, red dress compared to the classic black the other two brunettes wear. I also find it interesting that the two women engaged in discussion are veiled with pastel colored gauze over their eyes. In the video version, the protagonist is the only one not veiled throughout, which leads one to believe she either stumbled into this illicit scene or orchestrated it. It feels more the former, as if she is experiencing a fall from innocence into some wild pleasure garden (a little Alice in Wonderland), but maybe I’m taking it too far.

Watch the full video HERE and the prequel HERE (Both films directed by Inez & Vinoodh)

Get out of here

“You’ve really gotta get out of here. You can’t spend your time just sitting in a gallery watching paintings.” This was something that Mark Flood said to me nearly every time I saw him, which happened a couple of times per week in March, 2010 when the gallery I worked at had a solo show of his. He would come in, check out the work and say, “you’re stil here? You gotta get out of here.”

Mark Flood is one of those artists who managed to work his way from the outside in. A so-called “artist’s artist,” he has no formal training and he was in a Punk band back in the day called Culturcide. His early work clearly stemmed out of this punk mentality as he spray painted signs with banal phrases and instructions on them.

mark floodThese signs are still part of his lexicon, but they now reflect a more direct critique on the art world. This type of tongue-in-cheek banter with the art world is nothing new, yet his directness and use of materials help it not feel redundant.

Mark Flood, Art Forum Ad, Spray paint and acrylic on canvas

Mark Flood, Art Forum Ad, Spray paint and acrylic on canvas

Installation View

Installation View

Mark Flood ANOTHER PAINTING [leaves], 2009 Spray paint and acrylic on canvas 40 x 40 inches 101.6 x 101.6 cm

Mark Flood, ANOTHER PAINTING [leaves], 2009. Spray paint and acrylic on canvas
40 x 40 inches (image taken from Zach Feuer website)

His other work includes carefully constructed paintings using lace as a stencil. While there is a strong connection to the signs through his use of stencil, he is creating precious, well-crafted objects with intricate detail that are so much more than simply another painting.

Mark Flood Duchess, 2009 Acrylic on canvas 77 x 48 inches 195.6 x 121.9 cm

Mark Flood, Duchess, 2009. Acrylic on canvas 77×48 in. (Image taken from Zach Feuer website) 

Mark Flood Open Window, 2009 Acrylic on canvas 77 x 48 inches

Mark Flood, Open Window, 2009. Acrylic on canvas       77 x 48 inches (image taken from Zach Feuer website)

I can’t look at his work without relating it to music. That owes to the fact that Flood created a CD to play through the duration of his show. Most people couldn’t stand it, but I found myself taken with the crazy sounds coming from the boom box. It was a CD of Chopped and Screwed music – a Houston brand of Hip Hop that slows down all the beats making popular songs have a completely new sound. There are some good examples on YouTube, like this take on Rihanna’s Love Song. Since I hail from Atlanta, we had many conversations about the different forms of Southern Rap.

I do have Mark Flood to thank for getting me out from behind the reception desk and pursuing my MFA. He was right that I wasn’t going to get anywhere babysitting artwork. Then again, I did get to meet some amazing artists like Mark Flood.

Mark Flood is represented by Zach Feuer in New York. Read a recent interview with Flood by the NYTimes

Hats

Let’s go back to 2012. In the world of fashion that may as well be a lifetime ago, but now that we’re halfway into 2013 I am very disappointed in the lack of hats I see in the streets. We were promised this return to hats, and I looked forward to my future travels with hat boxes (because it always looked so glamourous in the movies). Perhaps the hats are still to come, but what I really want is the paired down street version of what Marc Jacobs was doing last year for Louis Vuitton and his own collection. Who doesn’t want to dress in a depression-era style cat-in-the-hat like costume? I surely do. Or just have that romance a big hat and elegant dress brings.

Constance Jablonksi louis vuitton bazaar australia sept cover

 

cat in hat

Louis-Vuitton-Marc-Jacobs1

To bring it back to art for a moment. I’m not just gushing over fashion. These looks completely inspired the direction I’m going in at the moment with my paintings. I find it fascinating when trends go towards totally covering up a women to then stripping her down. These looks may not reveal much of the body, but there is intense psychological undertones with the way they are bound and encased by fabric.

marc jacobs Marc-Jacobs Spring-13-Destined-Streetwear-Fodder_Marc-Jacobs-hat

New Harmony

I woke up today on the Upper West Side. Before you get any ideas, it happened that my sister was in town and I crashed with her after finding out that my train was not running (in typical NY fashion waiting and waiting and waiting on the platform until finally paying attention to the announcements. ugh). Since I rarely begin the day in Manhattan, I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and stroll through central park.

photo i took sitting by the lake

photo i took sitting by the lake

It was wonderful to walk around without an agenda. I don’t get to spend much time in Central Park, so it was a real treat. I meant to head South, but meandered down a few paths and I found myself on the East side of the park. I kicked myself because it’s so much harder to get home from the East side, but then I had the bright idea of saying hello to Frank. I hadn’t been there since January, so was due for a visit.

photo (36)

Looking good, Frank! –IG photo

I feel bad for the people working the ticket counter for the next few weeks. They have to explain to disappointed tourists time and again that the rotunda is closed prepping for the James Turrell exhibit opening June 21. It always stinks when you’re visiting a city to find a prized attraction under construction or between exhibits, but you don’t have to be rude about it!

There is, however, an excellent show on view featuring works from the permanent collection titled New Harmony: Abstraction between the Wars, 1919–1939I enjoy glimpses into the permanent collection of museums because you can see the mission of the museum in the works they own. The original name of the Guggenheim Museum was the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, which pretty much gives away the type of art they were/are into. Solomon worked with Hilla Rebay, an abstract painter, collecting modern art which formed the base of the museum’s collection.

Taken from the website:

Paul Klee, New Harmony (Neue Harmonie), 1936. Oil on canvas, 36 7/8 × 26 1/8 inches (93.6 × 66.3 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 71.1960. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Paul Klee, New Harmony (Neue Harmonie), 1936. Oil on canvas, 36 7/8 × 26 1/8 inches (93.6 × 66.3 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 71.1960. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

“The exhibition—titled for a 1936 Paul Klee painting of utopian geometry that reflects the artist’s interest in color theory and musical composition—features 40 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by some 20 artists, including Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Fernand Léger, Francis Picabia, and Joaquín Torres-García.”

There seems to be a resurgence of interest in abstract art these days. Inventing Abstractions just recently ended at MoMA, Hyperallergic noted the over abundance of abstract painting at the Bushwick Open Studios (BOS), and  Xstraction at The Hole explores how contemporary artists are re-defining abstract painting. For myself, I find the modernist approach to abstract art to be fascinating as it marks a time when the entire world was teetering on the end of everything. They were searching for their utopias only to be hurdled into the post-war, post-historical, post-modernist, post-feminist, post-post-everything era we live in, leaving us artists to flounder and grasp for some way to define and understand our surroundings (no wonder pop culture is obsessed with post-apocalyptical zombie and vampire shows).  Seeing the clean lines of the early modernist painters is sort of a relief. Perhaps we’re finally getting the critical distance necessary to really appreciate the work, or maybe it’s just refreshing to see a thin wash of red seated peacefully near some white separated by a black line.

My favorite painting in the show came from De Stijl, whose most famous member was Mondrian. It was a Dutch group founded in 1917 that wished for a utopia guided by logic and an universal aesthetic. In Mondrian’s essay  ‘Neo-Plasticism in Pictorial Art’ he states “… this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary, it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.”

 

I have to admit I did not know prior to this visit that there were others following these guidelines other than Mondrian.  Below is a painting by Georges Vantongerloo. The vertical line was just slightly running on a diagonal creating a dynamic tension between the shapes of color. The composition was derived from a math equation, which the nerd in me loves.

Composition Derived from the Equation y = -ax2 + bx + 18 with Green, Orange, Violet (Black) (Composition émanante de l'équation y = -ax2 + bx + 18 avec accord de vert...orangé...violet [noir]), 1930. Oil on canvas, 47 × 26 7/8 inches (119.4 × 68.2 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 51.1299. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich

Composition Derived from the Equation y = -ax2 + bx + 18 with Green, Orange, Violet (Black) (Composition émanante de l’équation y = -ax2 + bx + 18 avec accord de vert…orangé…violet [noir]), 1930. Oil on canvas, 47 × 26 7/8 inches (119.4 × 68.2 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 51.1299. © 2013 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Pro Litteris, Zurich

My second favorite painting from the show was from another artist I was unaware of until today: Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, born 1899 in Osnabrück, Germany. The texture in this painting is amazing. That yellow bit at the top jumps off the canvas and is extremely tactile.

Composition No. 96, 1935. Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 × 39 3/8 inches (79.9 × 100.1 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, 37.410. © Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart

Composition No. 96, 1935. Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 × 39 3/8 inches (79.9 × 100.1 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, 37.410. © Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart

To round out and create a “top five” of the show here are three more that I wanted to live in front of for a while.

A II, 1924. Oil on canvas, 45 5/8 × 53 5/8 inches (115.8 × 136.5 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, 43.900. © 2013 Artist's Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

László Moholy-Nagy, A II, 1924. Oil on canvas, 45 5/8 × 53 5/8 inches (115.8 × 136.5 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection, 43.900. © 2013 Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 1: Lozenge with Four Lines, 1930. Oil on canvas, 29 5/8 × 29 5/8 inches (75.2 × 75.2 cm); vertical axis: 41 3/8 inches (105 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Hilla Rebay Collection, 71.1936.R96. © 2007 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust

Piet Mondrian, Composition No. 1: Lozenge with Four Lines, 1930. Oil on canvas, 29 5/8 × 29 5/8 inches (75.2 × 75.2 cm); vertical axis: 41 3/8 inches (105 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, The Hilla Rebay Collection, 71.1936.R96. © 2007 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust

Joan Miró, Personage (Personnage), summer 1925. Oil and egg tempera (?) on canvas, 51 1/4 × 37 7/8 inches (130 × 96.2 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Estate of Karl Nierendorf, By purchase, 48.1172.504. © 2013 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Joan Miró, Personage (Personnage), summer 1925. Oil and egg tempera (?) on canvas, 51 1/4 × 37 7/8 inches (130 × 96.2 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Estate of Karl Nierendorf, By purchase, 48.1172.504. © 2013 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

I also went down and did a quick spin through the Thannhauser collection (ongoing) just to hang out with my longtime favorite, Toulouse-Lautrec.

In the Salon (Au salon), 1893. Pastel and oil on cardboard, 20 7/8 × 31 3/8 inches (53 × 79.7 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser, 1978, 78.2514.73

In the Salon (Au salon), 1893. Pastel and oil on cardboard, 20 7/8 × 31 3/8 inches (53 × 79.7 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser, 1978, 78.2514.73

(Also, it’s pretty awesome that the Guggenheim has their collection online. There is never a time when the reproduction of a work can do any sort of real justice to seeing the piece in person, BUT it’s really nice to be able to look at them regardless. A big shout out to Guggenheim photographer, Kris Graves, for being the man behind the lens shooting these great paintings.)

 

Gregory Amenoff

During my residency at FAWC last month we had three guest visiting artists. Over the next few days I will feature each one with his/her work and what I took away from the lecture and studio visit. Going in reverse order, our final visiting artist was Gregory Amenoff who is the chair of Visual Arts at Columbia University. His lecture was an overview of his career, and he touched on some themes that really resonated with me.

First of all, he is a self-taught artist. He never got a formal education in art, but holds an honorary doctorate from MassArt. He began his talk by saying “all paintings are the same from the back.” A pretty obvious, but delightful image when you consider flipping canvases over to reveal the stretchers and staples. He also said that painting is a conceptual art form because you start with nothing and make something that is believable.  Even if it is a highly abstract work, the viewer believes in its existence as an object.

He then led us through his career as a painter, showing both the successes and failures, something that most artists don’t want to talk about. For me, the works that I connected to the most were his Altar Piece for Saint Peter’s Church in Cologne, Germany and his “The Seasons” series after Pieter Bruegel the Elder in which each painting represents a two month period.

(images taken from Gregory Amenoff’s website)

Triptych for altar in Cologne, Germany

Triptych for altar in Cologne, Germany

View of paintings installed in Saint Peter's Church in Cologne, Germany

View of paintings installed in Saint Peter’s Church in Cologne, Germany

My two favorite Bruegel paintings depicting the seasons are “Hunters in the Snow” and “Corn Harvest”

Pieter Bruegel, Hunters in the Snow, 1565

Pieter Bruegel, Hunters in the Snow, 1565

Pieter Bruegel, The Corn Harvest

Pieter Bruegel, The Corn Harvest

Here are Amenoff’s take on these two seasons.

Gregory Amenoff, Solstice 2002-2004, Oil on canvas

Gregory Amenoff, Solstice 2002-2004, Oil on canvas

Gregory Amenoff, Keen as the Frost, 2002-2004, Oil on canvas

Gregory Amenoff, Keen as the Frost, 2002-2004, Oil on canvas

The horizon factors into a lot of his work. He talked about constantly fighting to let go of the landscape in his work, yet that horizon line often remains. He said once you get to the horizon it’s never great. It’s just another place. Summer has no appeal – too full of bloom. There’s no melancholy.

As June gets underway in New York I understand what he means. We’ve all been waiting for these warm, long days to arrive and everything feels vibrant and happening. But there is a looming horizon that promises in a few months we’ll begin to see that bleak return of winter.

May Residency

I got back last night from my month long residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. I apologize that I did not keep up with this blog as I thought I would. They keep us very busy there, which is a good thing! I miss waking up every morning to birds chirping, but I’m sure I’ll readjust to city life soon enough.

Here are some paintings I worked on while I was at the residency. They are all done in oils and I’m working on creating layers with thin coats of paint. One of the best things about working with oils is the additive and subtractive quality. In printmaking the only subtractive would be the addition of white, but with paint you can wipe and scrape away as you go. I’m enjoying the learning process and look forward to more experimentation with paint this Summer.

(all photos © jessica cofrin)

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Contemporary Couture

Like everything else, fashion is cyclical. What trends today references styles gone by, yet invariably with some twist to make it modern and current. Much of my source imagery comes from couture fashion, and the conversation often leads to how to ensure that the poses and the dress looks contemporary instead of vintage within my paintings. When we look at fashion magazines, we can see the direct connection to the 20s or 30s (think all the Gatsby trends coming out this Summer), yet we look at these images and know that they were taken today. It comes down to the difference of styling, pose, and body type. Thin is still in, but it has taken a different shape. We now value muscle and tone so models are not as soft as they once were.

One of the women in my MFA program used to be a textile conservator and she told me how they have to be so careful in selecting the mannequins they use for each type of dress. A garment from the 70s will look inherently strange on a contemporary mannequin and vice versa because the pose and the body type do not match the dress.

I’ve begun to look closer at fashion photography taken today in comparison to those taken in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Besides the resolution of the photograph, how can the viewer determine what era the image was created? Can you tell?

vogue italia vogue italia2 balenciaga-rtw-ss2013-runway-01_084135585571 balenciaga-rtw-ss2013-runway-05_084138697028 balenciaga Suvi Koponen by Mert & Marcus for Vogue Paris March 2013 2 Suvi Koponen by Mert & Marcus for Vogue Paris March 2013 6 Suvi Koponen by Mert & Marcus for Vogue Paris March 2013 9 vogue paris 2013 wild-3 vogue wild-7 vogue

vogue 50s vogue 50s2 vogue vintage vogue50s3 vogue80s vogue80s

1920s 1920s2 1920s-style 1920a