Friday, December 24, 2010

Angels We Have Heard On High

Merry Christmas ~ Botticelli's 'Mystic Nativity' 

'Mystic Nativity', Sandro Botticelli, Oil on Canvas, 1500 

Italian renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli probably painted the 'Mystic Nativity' as a private devotional for a patron in his native city of Florence. It has been called the 'Mystic Nativity' since it resurfaced in the 19th century. Besides the usual elements, taken from the Bible's New Testament story of the birth of the Christ child, (The holy family, livestock, shepherds and wise men), Botticelli also included symbolism taken from a vision of the second coming heralded in the Book of Revelation. I was immediately drawn to the jubilation of the dancing angels. Look closely in the lower section to see vanquished demons fleeing. To explore this painting further go to  The National Gallery - London.

The National Gallery - London: Botticelli's Mystic Nativity

Thursday, December 23, 2010

O Little Town of Bethlehem

West Bank Occupied Territory, Graffiti Art, Banksy, 2005

At Christmas time Christian pilgrims from all over the world visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. Over the years this has been an economic boon for the small Palestinian town however during the dark times of the second intifada tourism drastically declined. That is when Israel built a 26 foot high concrete and razor wire wall right through the heart of Bethlehem. They call it a security wall. The residents of Bethlehem call it a prison and a land grab as it encroached into their traditionally held land placing them between two blockades and an impenetrable wall.

West Bank Occupied Territory, Graffiti Art, Banksy, 2005

In 2005 British graffiti artist Banksy (who remains incognito but is suspected to be one Robert Banks) launched a massive graffiti project hoping to focus attention on the plight of Bethlehem's residents. Of the wall he said, "It's the world's largest blank canvas and my hope is that with a few cans of spray paint we can turn it into the world's largest piece of art but more importantly the world's most short lived." He also hoped to encourage the return of tourism, "It would do good if more people came to see the situation here for themselves. If it is safe enough for a bunch of sissy artists then it's safe enough for anyone."

 West Bank Occupied Territory, Graffiti Art, Banksy, 2005

He may have been at least partly successful in that as of 2010 tourism in Bethlehem has greatly improved yet the residents of Bethlehem complain that visitors are whisked in and out of the partitioned town leaving little of their trade with local shops and restaurants. Catholic cleric and Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, requests prayers for peace saying, "This land will deserve to be called holy when she breathes freedom, justice, peace and security."

Church of the Nativity Grotto, Bethlehem, West Bank Occupied Territory

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter Solstice - The Mystery of Stonehenge

Dazed Digital, Photography, Mel Bles, 2009

Searching the internet for artistic renderings of Stonehenge to post for Winter Solstice I came across this snowy fashion shoot for Dazed and Confused Magazine on a blog called Miska Walks Miles. The ancient setting together with model Kate Somers evocative garb create a sense of drama fitting, I thought,  for the coming celestial shift toward the sun.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Steve Martin and Stephen Colbert Talk About Art

Stephen Colbert and Steve Martin
watch Shepard Fairey in action.

Art collector, author and comedian Steve Martin appeared as a guest for an entire episode of Stephen  Colbert's, The Colbert Report. Colbert's other guests on the show include artists Frank Stella, Shepard Fairey and Andres Serrano in an entertaining banter that unabashedly asks the question, What makes art, art?

Steve Martin has a new novel, An Object of Beauty that according to the New York Times book review is a "New York tale of Art, Money and Ambition" and is based on Martin's first hand experience as a collector in the high stakes world of art.

To watch the entire episode visit: The Colbert Report
Read the NYT book review:  An Object of Beauty

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Steve Martin Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Confused About Immaculate Conception?

Many people are confused about the Immaculate Conception, an event celebrated on December 8th of the Catholic calendar. Contrary to a popular belief, the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Mary's virginal conception of the incarnation of Christ (as was announced to her at the Annunciation, by the Angel Gabriel). The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's own conception within the womb of her mother St. Catherine. It is said that at the very first moment of her existence Mary was filled by God with sanctifying grace and therefore kept free from the stain of original sin.

 The Immaculate Conception (detail), Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Oil on Canvas, 1767-1769

Paintings of Mary as the Immaculate generally follow traditional iconography depicting her as a young girl in the "flower of her youth". She typically wears a white tunic and a blue mantle surrounded by an oval of sunlight, a crown of stars are above her and she is standing on the moon. Her hands are folded in prayer and she is surrounded by cherubin bearing roses, lilies and palms. She has a vanquished serpent under her feet and a dove flying above her.

David Clayton, Artist-in-Residence at Thomas Moore College, and author of the blog, The Way of Beauty, writes about Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's The Immaculate Conception saying, "Tiepolo is noted for giving his paintings a lightness and airiness that did not exist in those works by artists who worked in the previous century. He has achieved this by using colors in a higher register than many of his 17th century counterparts would have done - more pale blue, bright yellow, and orange for example."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Signs of the Times

 War Is Over!, Billboard, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969

John Lennon and Yoko Ono's song, Happy Christmas (War Is Over) has become a holiday standard covered by a multitude of artists from Jimmy Buffet to Yo-Yo Ma but the song was originally inspired by a 1969 art project opposed to the Vietnam War. John Lennon, the well known Beatle and Yoko Ono, a seasoned avant guard artist combined forces to stage a series of performance art events for peace.  They rented billboards and put up posters in cities around the world proclaiming, War Is Over!, If You Want It.

 War Is Over! Yoko Ono and John Lennon, 1969

War is Over! signs appeared December 1969 simultaneously in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Rome, Athens, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Helsinki. Said John, "We specifically did the poster event around the world for Christmas to try and get at least one plug in for peace on earth at Christmas because that's what it's about. Peace on Earth, that implies no violence, no starving children, no violent minds, no violent households, no fear."

See Yoko Ono's website: Imagine Peace

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

A Pilgrim's Progress, Norman Rockwell, Life Magazine Cover, 1921

Illustrator Norman Rockwell is almost synonymous with a classic American Thanksgiving. Rockwell began illustrating magazines when he was 16 years old and went on to create a prolific career painting a total of 321 covers for The Saturday Evening Post.

Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post, 1943

Freedom From Want, the painting that illustrates what we mean when we say "A Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving" was part of Rockwell's Four Freedoms series. In 1943, during some of the darkest days of World War II, Rockwell was inspired to paint this popular series by a speech that Franklin Roosevelt gave to congress. The paintings were first published in consecutive issues of the Post each accompanied by an essay written by a contemporary writer of the time. The prints later toured the country raising over 130 million dollars for the war effort in war bond sales. In 1977 Rockwell was awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

British American Colonial Harvest Jug

This Devon Harvest Jug pictured here was made by Micheal L. Burrey. Burrey apprenticed with the Master Potter at Plimoth Plantation before traveling to England to learn from potters who still practice the old techniques. He uses a kick-wheel and a 1600s style draft kiln. The Devon Harvest Jug is featured on the website Keepers of Tradition.

 Devon Harvest Jug, Michael L. Burrey, Traditional Colonial American /English Pottery, 1999

Like the Wampanoag Cooking Pot (see previous post) made in the style of the First Thanksgiving's Native Americans this Colonial American style harvest jug also describes the four directions.

 Devon Harvest Jug Detail, Michael L. Burrey, Traditional Colonial American /English Pottery, 1999

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Combat Paper Project

It's Veterans Day today and while there is a vast body of history painting of battlefields I wanted to look at artwork created by Veterans themselves. Though these works on handmade paper veterans working with the Combat Paper Project transform their own uniforms into paper expressions reflecting their experience of war.

got one piece of art done... when i was 6, all i wanted for christmas was my daddy to come home from war... 
he came home on christmas eve:) i printed the pic on some paper i made at my workshop 
with the combat papermakers. ~ Jessica Lynn Hartle

The Combat Paper Project utilizes artmaking workshops to assist veterans in reconciling and sharing their personal experiences as well as broadening the traditional narrative surrounding service and the military culture.

Through papermaking workshops veterans use their uniforms worn in combat to create cathartic works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Veterans use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as art and begin to embrace their experiences in the military.  
~ From the Combat Paper Project website

We Are All Free Now, Drew Cameron, Iraq Currency on Combat Paper with abaca, 2008

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In Wetu, Wampanoag Cooking Pot

With Thanksgiving coming in a few weeks I began wondering how the American pilgrims might have been influenced by the Wampanoag tribal people, the people they shared that legendary harvest feast with, the feast we now call Thanksgiving. Certainly the Pilgrim's cuisine was influenced. They would have starved if they had not learned to cultivate corn, squash and beans. Some of them did starve. If the Wampanoag shared their food with the pilgrims could it have been in a beautiful pot such as this?

In Wetu, Cooking Pot, Ramona Louise Peters, Wampanoag pottery, 2001
photo: Jason Dowdle

I found Wampanoag artist Ramona Louise Peters on the website Keepers of Tradition: Useful Things Made Beautiful created by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Peters is inspired by the material culture of her ancestors before European contact. This pot is in the style of a 1600's Wampanoag cooking pot. It would have been used in a single family dwelling called a Wetu. The white inlay was to help locate the pot by firelight in the Wetu. The four points represent the four directions.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Case of the Dissappearing Skull

A very happy All Hallow's Eve to you! My recent ghoulish posts referencing the Day of the Dead, Cat Mummies, and Russian Witches have all been in celebration of this, Halloween, the Anglicized version of the ancient Celtic festival of the dead, Samhain. Here we go plunging into the dark side of the year, an experience that prompted our ancestors to listen closely to the chill Autumnal winds for the voices of their beloved departed. On this night, the veil between the worlds is at its very thinnest. It is a night when one may catch a glimpse of things most often unseen.
The Crystal Ball, John William Waterhouse, Oil on canvas, 1902

The Crystal Ball, by preeminent Pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse hung for years in the dining room of Glenborrodale Castle in Scotland. When the castle, and with it the painting, changed hands in the 1950s the new owners had the skull painted over, covered up by the "curtains". The painting later sold again and with an old photograph and an X-Ray the skull was rediscovered. Because the original painting had been protected with a layer of varnish conservators were able to restore it and the skull emerged once again.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Russian Folk Art Meets Art Nouveau

Illustration for Russian Fairy Tales, Baba Yaga, Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, 1899

From Russia and the Slavic counties comes Baba Yaga, a witch who flies through the night sky in a mortar using a broom of silver birch to navigate. She lives in the forest in a log cabin that dances on chicken’s feet and is surrounded by a palisade of poles, each one holding up a human skull. She is the guardian between the real world and the land of the dead. Seeking her aid can be a very dangerous pursuit. And yet, it is said, that is just what the beautiful Vasilissa finds she must do.

Illustration for Russian Fairy Tales, Vasilissa the Beautiful, Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, 1899

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin was a Russian illustrator and a set designer for the Ballets Russes. It was while traveling through the Russian north that he developed a passion for Russian folk arts. His renowned illustrations of Russian Fairy Tales were published in 1899. Resonating with the popular graphic arts of Europe during that period his art nouveau style was also influenced by Japanese prints. 

 Portrait of Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, Boris Kustodiey, 1901

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Egyptian Cat Cults

Egyptian Cat Mummy, Upper Egypt, Roman Period - British Museum

Egyptians were not only the first to domesticate cats, they worshiped cats. They built temples to the Cat Goddess, Bastet, their fierce protector. They adorned their precious tabbys with jewelry, most notably earrings, and mummified poor puss with sacred burial rites when she died. The Egyptian Prince Thutmose had his cat Ta-Miewet buried beside him in her own stone sarcophagus.

 Sarcophagus of Prince Thutmose cat Ta-Miewet, Carved stone, 18th Dynasty (1550-1292 BC)

From the Old Kingdom (2613-2160 BC) through the Greek and Roman periods Cat Cults thrived on the Nile Delta. Cats were thought to be house protectors and the burial of a cat mummy was considered a demonstration of piety toward Bastet “she of the ointment jar” the protector Cat Goddess. Greek historian Herodotus (484-425 BC) wrote about the festival of Bastet saying, “The festival procession was by boat, the occupants playing musical instruments, singing and clapping. The boats approached the shore when they passed towns and the inhabitants would run or dance alongside the boats, calling to the procession. The festival took place in the temple of Bastet and consisted of a large number of sacrifices and the consumption of copius amounts of wine by the huge crowds that attended.”

It is hard to know just how fanciful this depiction of an Egyptian cat's last rites painted by the 19th C Englishman, John Reinhard Weguelin might be, but note the statue of Bastet in the stairwell on the right. From what we do know, he may not have been too far off.

The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat, John Reinhard Weguelin, 1886

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Frida Kahlo and the Day of the Dead

Frida Kahlo

Andre Breton, the philosopher central to the Surrealist movement in Paris, traveled to Mexico in 1938 to address a surrealism conference at the University of Mexico. After getting lost in Mexico City he said, "I don't know why I came here. Mexico is the most surrealist country in the world". In Mexico, Breton spent time with a group of artists and intellectuals including Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The self-reflective surrealist style of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo found a kinship with the European artists who, influenced by Freud, were exploring their subconscious through dreams. Frida Kahlo was influenced by the art of both Paris and New York at that time but she remained deeply rooted in the mystical folk arts of Mexico.

My Nurse and I - Frida Kahlo, Oil on metal, 1937

The folk arts of Mexico seem to acknowledge the bond and return the affection. Today, when the Day of the Dead draws near, Frida Kahlo is embraced. People wear Frida Kahlo charms and you will see Frida Kahlo - Day of the Dead figurines among the the sugar skulls, marigolds, dripping candles and dancing skeletons where ever Mexican people honor their remembered loved ones.

Day of the Dead Frida Kahlo - Tex Mex Curios

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hildegard von Bingen: Medieval Visonary

Vision - From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

A new film on the life of Hildegard von Bingen opens this week in New York City. This extraordinary woman was a visionary, healer, composer and artist who at a time and place, 12th century Germany, when power was forbidden to women was, as leader of a religious order, one of the most powerful people in Europe.

NYT Review: Vision - From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen

 Self-Portrait (detail), Hildegard von Bingen, Illuminated manuscript, 12C, Germany

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Etsy: 21st Century Arts and Crafts

Is Etsy fostering a new Arts and Crafts movement on the Internet? It would seem so. With the saggy economy, I read recently on Huffington Post, that more and more unemployed people are turning to making and selling handmade crafts to add a little pocket change to those unemployment checks.  A few of these new craftspeople are actually making a living selling their wares through Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade things. 

 Felt iphone case, latelierdeluluu, 
Available on Etsy 

Etsy's Mission and Vision: Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers. Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:  buy, sell and live handmade.

Etsy Headquarters: 9,000 square feet of space with 75 employees 
Etsy HQ is the buzzing hub of a growing internet based, 
global arts and crafts movement.

Tina Roth Eisenberg of the design blog, Swiss Miss, in NYC lives in the neighborhood of Etsy headquarters. She dropped in for a visit and then wrote, "Not only do they have a full time chef (!), they also bought all their furniture and decoration off Etsy. What struck me is that their office is 100% true to their brand. The office maintains the handmade feel of the products they carry. Impressive." 

 "Did you see those giant orange lamps? And the curtains?" 
Tina Roth Eisenberg/Swiss Miss

(lower 2 images from: Apartment Therapy)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Quick Spin on the Color Wheel

Color Wheel, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1810 
Color Wheel: It’s the first assignment in beginning art class. But where did the idea come from? Here in two parts, Jude Stewart brings us a concise history, lavishly illustrated, of the color wheel. The Wonderful Color Wheel: Part 1 starts in the 1700s and concludes with the publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Theory of Colours in 1810 in which he rebutts Newton's color spectrum theory. According to Goethe both light and dark are active forces that spark different colors when they collide.
Cylindrical Color System, Albert Henry Munsell, 1900

In The Wonderful Color Wheel: Part 2 the color wheel morphs into triangular shapes before returning to the circle. Says Stewart, “However inadequate, scientifically speaking, it is to describe the color-spectrum using a wheel-shaped model, there’s an irresistible fitness about marrying circles with color... For an entity as slippery and ubiquitous as color, only a circle can be imagined as a perfect enough shape to contain all of it.

Jude Stewart is a Print contributing editor and she tweets about color.

Tol's Color Wheel, Miss Shawn's Studio

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Beauty of Craft

 Paul West at Her Studio
I visited Paula West's Pottery studio last week to write a pre-Artstock profile for the blog San Juan Update.  In it I wrote, "I asked her what inspires her. She talked about the beauty of everyday objects and the inspiration she gets from folk arts, quilts, her garden, and tribal crafts." Paula also asked me if I knew about The Unknown Craftsman. I didn't, but I've been reading up on it since. The Unknown Craftsman refers to an aesthetic philosophy based on the work of Soetsu Yanagi. Yanagi wrote The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty and was the founder of the Japanese Folkart Movement in the 1920s. The "Unknown Craftsman" is the folk artist who created functional objects that were never signed. Yanagi rescued pots made by unknown potters of the Edo and Meiji periods. The earlier anonymous works were vanishing  in the wake of new industrially produced goods.

It has been suggested that the Japanese Folkart Movement may have been influenced by the British Arts and Crafts Movement started by artist and writer William Morris. Whether or not that is the case they were parallel movements that recognized what was being lost as their respective cultures plunged into industrialized modernity. Both movements sought to retain and protect traditions of handmade crafts. Just as they were seeing their culture's craft traditions disappear they sought to elevate and promote them. They valued truthful use of materials, exalted the process of craftsmanship and revered the beauty of craft.

 Ceramic Cup, Paula West

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Think Globally Create Locally

Coming up the first weekend in October is San Juan Island's own arts festival, Artstock. This comes along at the very time that my friend Ian asked me if I'd be interested in contributing to his blog, the popular San Juan Update. I volunteered to post about the local art scene and happily Ian agreed to let me give it a shot. My posts here on Blackfish Art will be different but often complimentary to my posts on the Update.

 Dave Moorhouse Loans His Vacant Storefront to Artstock
Downtown Friday Harbor, Washington

This year is the Island's 4th annual Artstock festival but the tradition of turning to art when the days get shorter, darker and wetter has been Pacific Northwest tradition for eons. Here is Northwest author Tom Robbins on the subject, "Unlike the plains Indians, who enjoyed mobility and open spaces and sunny skies, the Northwest coastal tribes were caught between the dark waters to the west, the heavily forested foothills and towering Cascade peaks to the east; forced by the lavish rains to spend weeks on end confined to their longhouses. Consequently, they turned inward, evolving religious and mythological patterns that are startling in their complexity and intensity, developing an artistic idiom that for aesthetic weight and psychological depth was unequaled among all primitive races." I would only amend Robbins to say it was unequaled among any races anywhere. 

 Eagle and Raven Rattles, Erich Glendale, Carved wood
Arctic Raven Gallery, Friday Harbor, Washington

Beautifully representing the contemporary renaissance in Pacific Northwest native art is Friday Harbor's Arctic Raven Gallery. Like other participating galleries in town the Arctic Raven will be open late and serving hors devours the weekend of the Artstock.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Matisse: The Old Master's Paper Cut Outs

 Henri Matisse "Painting With Scissors"

Late in his life one of the great masters of 20th century painting, Henri Matisse, turned to collage for his final burst of expression and the crowning glory of his career. Having suffered a grave illness he found that he could cut out paper even while laying in bed. For the remainder of his life he relied on the method of cutting shapes out of paper. With the help of his assistant, Lydia Delectorskaya, he would pin them to the white walls of his room where he would study, and rearrange, modifying the shapes until the design was just right, a process that sometimes went on for months. When the design met his satisfaction the pieces would be glued to paper, board or canvas.

Inside the Chapel du Rosaire

Matisee used this technique for what he considered his great masterpiece and the apex of his career, the design of the Chapelle du Rosaire, a project inspired by a young woman who nursed him through his illness and then became a Dominican nun. Matisse designed the entire chapel including the furniture and vestments. His method of cutting out paper was used to design the chapel's stained glass windows.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Wider World of Collage

Through a comment on this blog I've discovered another great collage web site, Kohlage. You can upload your own collage to this site as well as check out the many resources including a wealth of Photoshop tutorials. One tutorial even shows how to create "torn paper" effects.

The possibilities are vast.  This cool stop-motion video collage is from the Kohlage blog.

LoFi Bohème - Was Soll Aus Uns Werden

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thrinley DiMarco's Collage Workshop

Design Exercise: We were told to start with black or white paper and cut out shapes in 3 different colors. Then we were told to arrange them on the paper until it "felt right" and then glue the pieces onto the paper. I was surprised how challenging it was. My first try I got to the "feels right" place but when I started gluing I lost track of my composition and had to keep adding more pieces to try to "fix it". I get into places like this when I'm painting, very frustrating. I tried again keeping it simpler with happier results. We had a critique and talked about the strength of our compositions. We looked at other collage artist's work especially Kurt Schwitters

Green Tara in the Shrine Room of 

Lunch: We broke for lunch and went up to the small Buddhist center's kitchen. When we walked through the woods I noticed the pattern of bright wet leaves that the rain had been pasting to the earth. After eating Therese and I took a quiet moment in the shrine room, a turquoise room full of Tibetan deities.

 Therese Scott Finn Creates a Collage

Story Exercise: Back in Thrinley's studio with a huge pile of National Geographic and Smithsonian magazines we got our second assignment. This time, keeping design in mind, we were told to cut out pictures and words and use them to tell a story. With a pile of magazines and a pair of scissors I'm happy as a pig in mud. We left our projects in process to return to them next Sunday.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"My Scissors Took Over"

Today I'm gathering materials for Thrinley's collage workshop on Sunday. As I researched collage on the Internet I paid attention to the materials and the process that collage artists  were using. An article about Hannah Hoch by Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times describes an incident that indicates the critical importance of a good pair of scissors to the art of collage.

"A visitor once described her studio in Heiligensee. In the middle was a big table, nearly invisible beneath cartons of old newspapers, mounds of clippings from magazines and brochures, pots of glue and a pair of scissors. When the visitor reached for the scissors, Hoch reacted more or less the way Heifetz might have if a stranger had suddenly picked up his Stradivarius, which is to say not well, and the scissors were swiftly put back on the table."  

Micheal Kimmelman, New York Times

Self Portrait, Hanna Hoch, Mixed media collage

One of my favorite contemporary collage artists, C. Albert, collected images from magazines into a notebook before she discovered collage making. A notebook remains part of her process. She  says, "I keep a notebook with quick starts of collages using non-permanent double-stick tape. (I highly recommend this type of visual journaling.)" A poet as well as a visual artist, Albert's accompanying poem to her collage, In the Wind of a Sneeze, describes the collage coming together.

in the wind of a sneeze
i wanted to build a house
the way ants do
hauling tiny crumbs
four times their own size
its brick walls would stack neatly

i wanted people inside
but didn't plan on a naked man
and a girl floating
as if to escape

my scissors took over
irregular rectangles fell
bricks sailed
into dizzying alignments
and windows flew away
on the wings of black birds.

copyright C. Albert   First published in Mannequin Envy

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three Collage Artists

Da Dandy, Hannah Hoch, Collage, Photomontage, 1919

Hannah Hoch was the lone woman associated with the Berlin Dada artists who after World War I called for an art "which has been visibly shattered by the explosions of last week, which is forever trying to collect its limbs after yesterday's crash" (Dada Manifesto, Berlin 1918). These artists created social commentary by dissecting images from mass media and recombining them in photomontage.

Hoch addressed racial and gender issues with humor, in the image Da Dandy (above), she fills out a man's profile with images taken from popular women's magazines. Hoch's Dadaists colleagues gave lip service to gender equality but few lived up to it. One who did was the artist Kurt Schwitters.

Mz 26, 41 okola, Kurt Schwitters, Collage-paper on board, 1926

Kurt Schwitters, like Hoch, had a formal aesthetic that was sometimes at odds with the more political focus of some of the Dada artists of their time. Also at odds with the Dada movement was Schwitters romantic belief in transcendent nature. He incorporated bits of refuse that he found on the streets into his collages as a way of creating a fledgling new world out of the ruins of Post World War I Germany. Schwitters fled Germany during the rise of the Nazis and lived in London until his death in 1948. The artist Anne Ryan became, late in her career, a convert to the medium of collage after seeing a New York exhibition of Schwitters work following his death.

Collage #538, Anne Ryan, Collage - paper and fabric on paperboard, 1953

Of Schwitters work Ryan said, "What he could do in such a small space... How he transformed bits of paper and scraps of cloth!". She was 58 years old then and lived only six more years but produced over 400 collages before she died. In her earliest collages, like Schwitters, she incorporated pieces of printed mater and found materials but her later work reflected a softer more formal and intimate aesthetic. Ryan's work is showing through September 6th at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Prismatic Eye: Collages by Anne Ryan, 1948-54.