I have a tendency to check out one too many books from the library. By the time it comes time to return them, I have only soaked up bits and pieces of each book. One such book is Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama.Read More
In September 2019, I was Open MFA’s digital artist-in-residence. During my residency, I explored how experiences and memories form and take shape. I took the residency with me as I traveled through northern Italy for 10 days actively responding to places as I moved through them.Read More
Earlier this month, I went to my first big art world event - the Venice Biennale. Lots of walking, looking, and feeling overwhelmed. Below are my favorite works from the event. Take a look and share your thoughts.Read More
William Kentridge is a process artist among many other things. He creates, paces, adjusts, and creates again. His work evolves, and ideas develop along the way. The process is natural yet not often seen or done so eloquently.Read More
I didn’t watch the moon landing. I wasn’t alive yet. And until recently, I haven’t been very interested in learning about it.Read More
Roni Horn is a contemporary artist based in New York and Iceland. Horn makes use of sculpture, photography, and drawing. Unconstrained by labels and an “artistic style”, Roni Horn commits to ambiguous and challenging projects.
Last spring, I visited at the Menil Drawing Institute for the first time and viewed “Roni Horn: When I Breathe, I Draw, Part I”. The exhibition featured cut assemblages on paper. The works were large and precise. They were also oddly intuitive, natural. I enjoyed how both the deconstruction and careful reconstruction were subtly apparent.
This past week, I visited The Menil again to view the second part of the exhibition. The works were smaller and more diverse. One room was filled with sliced up literary quotations. In another room, a wall featured Horn’s cut and assembled maps. One wall, clowns. The next, and the most interesting, wall showcased Roni Horn’s Remembered Words (2012-2013).
At first glance, I see colorful, playful dots. Then I notice the words beneath them. They are all over the place. As Horn explains, “The words have no context. They are some else’s recall, present as evidence or residue of something the viewer cannot know”. The words are unrelated and free flowing. Yet they are also organized in lines. Together, with the dots, the words reflect the spontaneity of the mind’s recollection and the fickle nature of memory. The mind is irrational, beautiful and dutiful.
I enjoy these works. They are faithful to the subject matter and exploratory nature of drawing. Inspired by these works, created my own.
I am interested in a lot of different subjects. Ideas percolate and recede. One of the toughest challenges is identifying a good idea and trusting it enough to pursue it loyally. I tend to cheat on my ideas… and jump from one to another. Never committing. I admire Roni Horn’s willingness to faithfully listen to those ideas despite their ambiguity.
“Roni Horn: When I Breathe, I Draw, Part II” is on view at The Menil Collection’s Drawing Institute through September 1, 2019.
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
“Roni Horn draws attention with first museum exhibition at Menil Drawing Institute”, Molly Glentzer, The Houston Chronicle
“Ana Mendieta, Emotional Artist”, Emily LaBarge, The Paris Review
“What It’s Really Like to be an Artist in Residence - a Tale of Two Worlds and One Working Artist”, Bradley Kerl, Paper City
“The Labor of Looking: from Intention to Interpretation”, Anoka Faruqee
“Stephen Clark - Austin History and the Photographic Gallery”, Austin Art Talk
Copying the work of “Old Masters” has been a tradition of artistic training for centuries. It served a very practical purpose. Live models were expensive and hard to come by. Public sculptures and paintings, on the other hand, were readily available and easier to study since they did not move. (Photographs, of course, were not available as reference material until the 19th century.)
Once a student had successfully copied the masters, he (or she, though mostly “he” due to the art world’s exclusivity and the “improper” connotations of women drawing nudes) could begin drawing from live models.
Beyond reference, “masterpieces” also inspired artists to create meaningful compositions, skillful marks, and pungent color combinations. Since the time of Cennini (1400), artists were encouraged to develop their skills by copying.
The practice became more even more quintessential starting in 1793 when the Louvre became a public museum. In addition to access to the artwork, artists were given an easel free of charge so that they could copy. The museum became a center for aspiring artists to train themselves and converse with others.
Between the museum and his time at St. Remy, Vincent van Gogh made more than 30 copies of works by other artists. The majority were copies of Jean-François Millet’s work. In addition to serving as means of learning, he believed his copies were works in themselves. Bringing his own style to the compositions, he made the work unique (noted, he made sure to cite the original artist). Much like a musician/orchestra might perform Bach or Beethoven. Or, for a contemporary analogy, Weezer or Reel Big Fish performing A-ha’s “Take on Me”.
I participated in this centuries old practice for the first time when I was about 10. I copied Albrecht Dürer’s The Rhinoceros. At approximately 18” x 24”, it was the largest drawing I had ever made plus it looked gnarly. Even my older brother liked it and kept it safe after I tried to get rid of it.
While the work was gnarly and impressive, it was a waste of time to copy another artist’s work (or so I thought). Why not enjoy the artist’s work and practice from nature instead? When I visited Europe for the first time and saw students drawing in front of sculptures and paintings, I thought it was odd and antiquated. Why did they bother?
At NYSS, after drawing intently from “nature” for hours on end, copying another artist’s work suddenly seemed heavenly and incredibly useful. Perhaps it was how Graham presented the project. We didn’t make “copies”, we made “transcriptions”.
Copying encouraged me to take a closer look and ask more questions. Why did Beckmann choose to include this over that? Why did Matisse make that a pattern? How does that color behave in that van Gogh? How does this Cezanne composition play with space?
Since my time at NYSS, I checked out several art books from the Houston Public Library that feature drawings by Dürer, Da Vinci, and other such masters. In addition to reading and visiting exhibitions, copying (or “transcribing”) the masters is now a part of my art practice.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Does copying play a role in your art practice? Would you want a copy of master’s artwork?
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
“Good artists copy, great artists steal.”, Art of Eric Wayne
“stuck inn xi: the art damien hirst stole”, 3ammagazine, Charles Thomson
“Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century France,” Nicole Myers, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
“How Skilled Copyists Leave the Louvre with a Masterpiece Every Year”, Jessica Stewart, My Modern Met
Mastering Tradition: An Artist Awakening Through Practicing the Past, National Gallery of Art
I introduced The Drawing Marathon in my last post. Click here to read it.
On the first day, we drew 10 22” x 22” drawings. We chose a model, drew his/her head 10 times and described the space it held and was held in. My classmates and I thought that was a lot of drawings of heads. Little did we know that would be the focus for the following two weeks.
The Drawing Marathon offered many challenges. Drawing all day, cutting heavy paper that just wanted to curl, gluing sheets together, stapling giant pieces of paper onto walls, getting charcoal everywhere, using a wall rather than an easel (made a complete 180 to study the models)… The most frustrating challenge, however, was mental. Instead of focusing on space and composition, I often obsessed over likeness. I felt compelled to concentrate on facial features rather than the over all composition. Self conscious, I wanted to prove that I could draw “well”. It was a huge distraction.
During one of the critiques Graham argued that most artists can be separated into two groups: “image makers” and “image searchers”. Picasso was an “image maker”. Cezanne was a “image searcher”. I am interested in exploring this concept… if you have any resource suggestions or opinions of your own, please share in the comments below.
Prior to the Drawing Marathon, I struggled with how to start. I thought it was essential to begin with a specific idea or concept. Working without a plan seemed frivolous or half assed. I was wrong. A drawing is legitimate even if its story is not apparent when the process begins. In other words, a work is no less powerful if its meaning is uncovered after the work has already begun.
The biggest surprise and greatest growth opportunity was the night I volunteered myself to demonstrate the next day’s assignment (draw a crowd using the the 10 heads we drew over the weekend) in front of the entire class. I had no idea what I was getting into. At most, I thought I would be sticking a couple of small drawings onto a larger piece of paper with tape and drawing a few planes and shapes to create the groundwork for a composition.
I was incorrect. After somewhat haphazardly throwing my 10 heads onto the massive blank sheet of paper, I waited for Graham’s instructions. Comfortably wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a jean jacket, I had no idea I was about to draw vigorously across the sheet and nervously build a sweat for the next hour. Graham told me to redraw several of the heads 2-4x their size, add figures, hands and feet. I ran out of charcoal almost immediately. The TA’s helped me flip the drawing upside down two different times as directed. By the time I was finished, I had drawn for at least an hour in front the whole class. Prior to that I had never drawn in front of another person for more than 5 minutes.
The activity boosted my confidence and opened the possibility for play… even with people staring at me… (and, at least in my head, judging me).
Graham and his TA’s suggested I look closely at the work of Edvard Munch, Johannes Vermeer, Max Beckmann, Emile Nolde, van Gogh, Henri Matisse, and Francis Bacon. Over the next few weeks, I will reading about their work and sharing the highlights on the blog.
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
Peter Plagens: Artist-Slash-Critic, Glasstire
For two weeks in June I participated in the Drawing Marathon at the New York Studio School and drew all day, every day. I woke up around 6AM, drank coffee, put on black clothes (essential for charcoal) and took the subway to the New York Studio School to draw until 6PM. At 6:30PM, our class met for critique. Around 8 or 9PM, class was dismissed. M-F, this was my routine. It was intense to say the least.
Our teacher and dean of the school Graham Nickson founded the Marathon programs in 1988. Since then, marathons have become a main component of the New York Studio’s MFA program. While NYSS offers a several types of “marathons”, the Drawing Marathon is the “original”. The course challenges students to engage with drawing as both a physical and cerebral activity.
Each Drawing Marathon is different based on what Graham feels is most appropriate. I met a few students who had participated in the program 8+ times. One marathon involved a bunch of umbrellas. Another, a miniature toy horse. In this summer’s session, we focused on the head as a means of understanding scale, space and depth.
A few days out and back in Houston, I’m still in a bit of daze. I got caught up in the city’s energy. Go, go go! Drawing, drinking, walking, looking at art, and meeting people. Now, I have a New York hangover. While I digest everything and catch up on sleep, read a much more well written New York Times article about the Drawing Marathon by Sarah Boxer.
“Jerry Saltz on ’93 in Art”, Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine
Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
“Probing the Proper Grounds for Criticism in the Wake of the 2019 Whitney Biennial”, Seph Rodney, Hyperallergic
#188: Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport, 10% Happier with Dan Harris
At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
On the Basis of Sex (2018)
It’s Thursday and I’ve started a new job at a photography gallery, so why not “throwback”?
Between 2009 and 2013, I was a photographer. I exhibited at Houston Center for Photography, attended Tisch at NYU, acted as the photography editor of my high school newspaper, and photographed for The Daily Texan.
I turned my attention towards photography after making That’s Me, a mixed media work, in 2009. It began as a photograph that I edited in Photoshop and later painted and drew on top of.
After 2009, I took photography seriously. My camera became my third arm, slung over my shoulder at all times. I shot everything. Coffee, trees, and (most often) my friends.
I loved capturing whatever I thought was in front of me and comparing it against my memory and what I was told. I particularly enjoyed film photography. It does what it wants. During my senior year of high school, I played with a small blue plastic camera. (In addition to being “fun”, It was extremely cheap and light in comparison to my DSLR.) I never knew what I was going to get until I developed the film. I took the above photograph with a Mini Diana. While drinking coffee and visiting with my friends, I took multiple photographs on top of one another. Delightfully, it worked out.
Between my junior and senior year of high school, I studied at New York University. It was intense to say the least. I loved and hated it. We were constantly on the move–taking photos, editing photos, or looking at photos. Somewhere in there, my roommate managed to cut my bangs.
I continued to photograph after my summer at NYU. I became the photo editor of my school newspaper The Review, played with a “polaroid” camera, and began experimenting with social media.
April eventually came around, and I had to make a decision. Ultimately, I decided to study something “practical” at a state school instead of art or photography at private school. It felt safe and practical. I figured I could do art after my undergrad if I really wanted. Presumably it was a test of will or passion.
So, I studied advertising at The University of Texas. I wasn’t too happy at first. At one regrettable moment, I emailed a former professor at NYU and begged her to help me transfer to NYU. Nothing came of it, and things got better at UT. By junior year, I thoroughly enjoyed my classes.
To satiate my desire to return to my “former self”, I briefly joined The Daily Texan. Honestly, however, I was a mediocre photographer when it came to journalism, so I left that after a semester and joined the sales team.
My favorite books related to photography:
On Photography, Susan Sontag
Hold Still, Sally Mann
Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes
The Photograph as Contemporary Art, Charlotte Cotton
The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer
My favorite photographers:
Carrie Mae Weems
To view more of my photography, visit my Flickr. For the everyday, follow me on Instagram. I had a photography blog back in the day that I have since taken down. If curiosity strikes you, you can attempt to find that on web archives at either ereedphoto.com or blog.ericaannreed.com. I started it in 2010!
Ben and I spent the weekend in Austin. We wandered about, saw some art and drank cider. It was a lot of driving and walking which is typical of our trips.
After visiting UT’s MFA thesis show the night before, we attempted to take part in Big Medium’s West Austin Studio Tour on Saturday. We were frustratingly unprepared and did not realize that West meant 50% of Austin geographic area rather than 25%. We drove 20 minutes from place to place and wound up visiting only five studios.
Thankfully, one of those studios happened to be Stella Alesi’s. Her studio, Blackbox, is inside an airy 2-story house in south Austin.
In her most recent series Journeying, Alesi uses oil, cold wax and bookbinding tape to create abstract compositions that bring to mind balanced stones, horizons and masses of water.
Each medium, whether its oil, cold wax, tape or paper, offers a rich, unique texture. While I’ve worked with hot wax (encaustic), I have never tried playing with cold wax. The cold wax plays two roles in Alesi’s paintings–aesthetic and protective. As previously mentioned, the wax offers a unique texture that creates a flat sheen. The wax also protects the artwork so that glass is not necessary. In her studio, Alesi explained that she could easily clean off smudges and dirt thanks to the wax.
The tape was an interesting choice as well. Previously, Alesi used regular blue masking tape. Of course, that wasn’t archival, so she began using bookbinding tape. In addition to creating clean edges and a unique texture, the tape suggests adhesion and fixing things together.
I found Alesi’s use of paper to be the biggest surprise and greatest solution. She adhered white oil paper onto panel. By doing so, Alesi got the benefits of working on paper and the durability of stretched canvas.
I love how Alesi speaks about her work. She is both enthusiastic and objective. In her interview with Scott David Gordon on Austin Art Talk, she explains how her work started and the changes it underwent – without any hint of insecurity. I admire that immensely.
Alesi knew that she wanted to be an artist at age 11, and she faithfully became one. She didn’t starve, and she didn’t sell out. She earned a BFA and a MFA without going into debt. Afterwards, she took part time work and did wedding photography until the age of 50 to help finance her art practice and living expenses. She did things so matter of fact that it seems like she had no doubt in her mind. She was focused.
Thank you Austin Art Talk for sharing her work on your podcast and Instagram account! It is thanks to your podcast, that I ended up visiting her studio this past week.
“Art is Not Entrepreneurship”, Rainey Knudson, Glasstire
“Leon and Stella Alesi: Love Conjures All”, Wayne Alan Brenner, The Austin Chronicle
Currently listening to:
Addressing the Threat of White Nationalism Online, The Takeaway
#41 What It Looks Like, Reply All
Episode 58: Stella Alesi - Journeying, Austin Art Talk
"We were always intoxicated with colour, with words that speak of colour, and with the sun that makes colours live." - André Derain
First, it was Pissarro (Impressionism) and van Gogh (Post-Impressionism). Then, German Expressionism and Cubism.
Between these movements came Fauvism. While short lived, it had a remarkable impact. It liberated color from its descriptive role and introduced simplified form and decorative abstraction. In response to the movement’s initial debut in 1905, Louis Vauxcelles responded with both a lengthy review and an insult that inevitably became the movement’s namesake. In his review, Vauxcelles referred to their artworks as fauves (wild beasts).
This week I will share my thought’s on André Derain’s The Turning Road, L’Estaque (1906), a Fauve masterpiece owned by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The Turning Road, L’Estaque is a monumental landscape painting depicting a scene in a small town in the southern France. The painting vibrates with colors of red, orange, yellow and blue. Tall, loose trees sway in the foreground and background. A long road rounds across the canvas and draws the eye from the right foreground back to the left background. Individuals perform everyday chores. The composition is harmonious and brings together a full range of vibrant colors.
Color is the primary subject in The Turning Road, L’Estaque. Derain used unnatural, vibrant colors of red and blue on tree trunks. Cool greens sit next to warm oranges. A lime green man leads a red horse.
In exchange for dramatic color choices, Derain simplified forms. Figures are gestural and outlined. Gender is hinted by way of curves and clothing. Trees, buildings and roads are also outlined and flatly depicted. Details are ignored and subsumed by the overall feeling and juxtaposition of color.
Derain’s composition is harmoniously constructed and idealizes the south of France’s “simple” lifestyle. Derain creates a composited scene and supplements it with expressive and unnatural colors and forms. Derain thereby treads the line between “naturalism and the decorative in landscape painting”.
By 1900, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism had been explored and exhausted. Fauvism was the result. Delicate works that merely depicted an impression of a scene were no longer ground breaking. As James Herbert writes, “Where daintiness was the disease, crudity was the obvious cure” (Fauve Painting: The Making of Cultural Politics). In 1905, working alongside Henri Matisse and Maurice de Vlaminick, Derain used pure colors straight from the tube and applied paint more freely. The resulting work became Fauvist.
While Derain’s work is remarkably different from Impressionism and Post-Impression, the influence of Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin is evident in The Turning Road, L’Estaque. In fact, the subject, L’Estaque, was one of Cézanne’s favorites. In addition to subject matter, The Turning Road, L’Estaque also shares the empirical formalism that Cézanne had pioneered. Van Gogh’s vigorous application and use of color are apparent in the bold colors and forms Derain uses. Perhaps, most influential, was Gauguin. While van Gogh exaggerated color, Gauguin played with it thoroughly. Gauguin also popularized primitivism, which valued rural and “primitive” living over modern sophistication. Both Derain’s creative use of color and idealization of rural life derive from Gauguin’s work.
It should also be noted that Derain spent much of his time in Paris around this time. Paris was growing at an incredible rate as industrialization and colonization also occurred. Derain’s subject matter and style reflect a yearning for “simpler” times using eye-catching aesthetic choices that caused visceral emotional response.
The Turning Road, L’Estaque is one of Derain’s masterpieces and last Fauve paintings. Derain exhibited The Turning Road, L’Estaque in 1906, one year after Derain and Matisse first introduced Fauvism at the Salon d’Automne. By 1907, following the death of Cézanne, Derain abandoned Fauvism altogether and began mastering Cézanne’s techniques. His palette became muted as his work became for form related.
The Turning Road, L’Estaque served decorative and political functions. It was decorative in its abstraction and idealization of the French countryside. It was political by challenging what had been acceptable during the time of its debut. Prior to Derain’s work, color served a solely descriptive role. By using colors like cadmium red and ultramarine blue right next to one another on a tree trunk, Derain freed color’s role so that it could act as a subject. Derain’s work served a second political role by incorporating primitivism in contrast to modern sophistication.
The Turning Road, L’Estaque is a harmonic, colorful landscape that exemplifies the tenants of Fauvism. Derain successfully created a strong composition that embraced and idealized “simple” living and authentic expression. Furthermore, his work challenged political and aesthetic preferences. The Turning Road, L’Estaque valued “primitivism” in contrast to Europe’s preference for sophistication thanks to technological advances and colonial expansion. In terms of aesthetics, it freed color of its descriptive role.
You can view The Turning Road, L’Estaque at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is part of the museum’s permanent collection. The Hirsch Library, located inside the museum, is a great place to learn more about The Turning Road, L’Estaque, Fauvism and André Derain.
Mary Heilmann (b. 1940) is a contemporary abstract artist based in New York and Long Island. She creates paintings along with sculptures and furniture. Rather than referring to her works as paintings or sculptures, however, she typically refers to her work as “objects”. In recent exhibitions, she has included benches and chairs which guests are encouraged to use. The idea, as Heilmann explains, “is that people will sit down and stay awhile”.
Her light-hearted nature is evident both in her art and her demeanor. In reference to her woven seats, she said, “It’s such a mortal sin to use art as décor. But I love the confusion”.
Born and raised in California, she grew up among beatniks and embraced “surf culture”. For her undergraduate degree, she studied literature and poetry at UC Santa Barbara. For her MFA, she studied sculpture at Berkeley. Between the two degrees, she also received a teaching license. Like many artists, she taught to help finance her art practice.
She departed from sculpture and took up painting in the 1970’s despite its lack luster popularity (painting was deemed dead at that time).
She calls it “non-verbal math”. She plays with logic by way of juxtaposition and combination.
I love her candor and optimism. She does the work but doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her Art21 interview is the most entertaining and joyful segments in the series to date.
She is playful yet rebellious. In the 1970’s, she made works that referenced minimalism and color field paintings… and used PINK. More recently, she adopted the colors of “The Simpsons”.
Meditation, looking and walking all have a place in her art practice. Every morning, she wakes before 6AM, drinks coffee and looks at her work for an hour. She then begins to work. At 1PM, she eats and takes care of chores and business. Later in the afternoon, she returns to the studio. By 5pm, she leaves the studio, takes a walk or swims and goes to bed early. Purposeful and idyllic.
I like Mary Heilmann, and I enjoy her work. However, her works feels lopsided. The majority (if not all) of her work is playful and witty. She doesn’t explore sadness or grief in her work. The only pieces that feel the least bit melancholic are Rosebud (1983) and some of her works from the 1970s.
Learn more about Mary Heilmann and her work:
•Farago, Jason, “Artist Mary Heilmann: the Californian surfer still making waves in her 70s”, The Guardian, 6 June 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jun/06/mary-heilmann-unsung-heroine-american-art-david-hockney#img-4
•Hawksley, Rupert, “Mary Heilmann: in the studio”, The Telegraph, 17 June 2016, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/artists/mary-heilmann-in-the-studio/
•Samet, Jennifer, “Wild, Punk and Slightly Off-Kilter: An Interview with Mary Heilmann”, Hyperallergic, 12 January 2013, https://hyperallergic.com/63358/wild-punk-and-slightly-off-kilter-an-interview-with-mary-heilmann/
•Sheets, Hilarie M., “Mary Heilmann’s New Dia Show Places Her among the (Male) Icons for Minimalism”, Artsy, 30 June 2017, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-mary-heilmanns-new-dia-places-male-icons-minimalism
•Spears, Dorothy, “Swimming With the Big Fish at Last”, The New York Times, 3 October 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/arts/design/05spea.html
•Yablonsky, Linda, “The Composer: Mary Heilamann’s Rhythmic Abstractions Find Their Place in the Sun”, ARTNews, 8 March 2016, http://www.artnews.com/2016/03/08/the-composer-mary-heilmanns-rhymthic-abstractions-find-their-place-in-the-sun/
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith
Currently listening to:
Reducing Traffic Deaths, And A School Dress Code for Parents, Houston Matters
This past weekend, I exhibited three of my works at ARKA Art’s Inaugural Art Show. It felt momentous, and it was fun. I met 11 emerging artists based in Houston and shared my artwork with a large audience in my hometown.
The most common question I received was how I got to be included in the show. I’ll share. I stumbled upon ARKA’s open call for artists for their inaugural show in late February of this year. I stumbled upon it by searching for it… I spend at least 2-3 hours per week looking for opportunities to show or develop my work. That doesn’t include the time I spend working on the actual applications.
While the idea of artists painting, drawing, sculpting and creating all of the time is romantic, it is impossible. In reality, artists spend 50% of their time funding their work with a day job or applying for grants, 10% researching/playing around with ideas, 20% administration & cataloguing, 10% making actual work. I’ve made this conclusion based on personal experience, talking with other artists, and listening to interviews of successful artists.
Back to ARKA Art. I loved showing my work alongside 11 other emerging Houston artists. I enjoyed meeting the artists and connecting with a group of individuals who were taking on similar endeavor while juggling jobs, etc.
Thank you Estefania, the Director of ARKA Art, for showing my work and organizing the show. Thank you Oluwah Akinyemi, Nala Alan, KaDavien Baylor, Kirby Gladstein, Macy Partain, Hugo Perez, Amanda Powers, Jamie Robertson, Pia Roque, Troi Speaks and Alex Zapata for showing your work alongside mine. Finally, thank you to all who came to the show!
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith
Currently listening to:
How to Zine It Yourself, Unladylike
The Remote Control Brain, Invisibilia
“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” - Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Are you a romantic or a realist? Do you prefer to feel or think? What is more important - imagination or reason?
Realism followed Romanticism which followed Neoclassicism which followed Rococo. Between 1700 and 1900, western art’s values bounced between feeling and reason over and over. Neoclassicism, defined by rationalism and classical antiquity, developed in reaction against the ornate and delicate Rococo style.
The leap from Rococo to Neoclassicism is apparent in the following paintings. The Swing (1766) is delicate, intimate and fanciful. It exemplifies the Rococo style. Portrait of Louise-Antoinette-Scholastique Guéhéneuc (1814), on the other hand, is orderly, formal and noble. Its reflects the moral values of Neoclassicism. Between 1766 and 1814, western art jumped from sentimental to rational.
This jump in values occurred yet again with the development of Romanticism. Reason and science were the guiding forces of the late 1700s. However, by 1800, the benefits of technological advances and reason were questioned. Romantics argued that freedom was only real if men had freedom of thought, feeling and imagination. And so, western art became infatuated with feeling yet again.
There are many great Romantic artists, writers and philosophers. Eugène Delacroix is one of them. His painting Liberty Leading the People (1830) is an exciting example of Romantic art. It is dramatic, expressive and heroic. Liberty defiantly leads Parisians against Charles X . The triumph of freedom is tragic, emotional and glorious. Traces of Neoclassicism are hard to find.
Romanticism also gave rise to the genre of landscape painting. While artists were certainly celebrating nature’s beauty, they were also using landscapes to comment on spiritual, moral, historical, and philosophical issues. Artists felt and expressed their feelings by way of landscape. Caspar David Friedrich, John Constable, and J.M.W. Turner are the most well known Romantic landscape artists. Friedrich explored nature’s transience and divinity. Constable instilled nostalgia for the past before the Industrial Revolution. Turner underscored turbulence and emotion.
Realism, developing just after and somewhat alongside Romanticism, focused on “real” experiences and the everyday. While I respond well to Romanticism’s emphasis on nature and emotion, I also find Realism’s insistence on empiricism noble and important.
Realists turned their attention to the everyday. For the first time, ordinary people and trivial activities were brought to the forefront and (eventually) became relevant to the general public.
In Gustave Courbet’s The Stone Breakers two working-class men break stones. The scene documents a real event without drama and accurately depicts details. Using what was in front of him, Courbet makes a conclusion and shares his theory: poverty is inescapable. The young man on the left will remain in poverty and will likely continue breaking stones through old age like the older man to the right.
Of course, Realism and its strong emphasis on rationality were left by the wayside with Impressionism. Again, the arts swung back to feeling over thought.
These swings between thought and feeling ring true to my everyday. My own values seem to swing between the two on a daily basis. Do I listen to my instincts or my thoughts? Do I create artwork that reflects my immediate response or that is carefully planned? It is easy to get stumped between the choices. However, the best course of action, is to make a choice and take a step forward.
All of my sources on the time periods discussed derive from the emphasis textbook Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir , Marina Abramovic
Should Every American Citizen Be a Yoga Teacher?, Alice Hines, The New York Times
Re-Imagining Yoga Teacher Training, J. Brown
Currently listening to:
Social and Emotional Artistic Learning (SEAL), Art Ed Radio
Empire State of Mind, On the Media
The End of Empathy, Invisibilia
The Roman Mazda Virus, Reply All
“What is important is that women face up to the reality of their history and of their present situation, without making excuses or puffing mediocrity. Disadvantage may indeed be an excuse; it is not, however, an intellectual position. Rather, using as a vantage point their situation as underdogs in the realm of grandeur, and outsiders in that of ideology, women can reveal institutional and intellectual weaknesses in general, and, at the same time that they destroy false consciousness, take part in the creation of institutions in which clear thought–and true greatness–are challenges open to anyone, man or woman, courageous enough to take the necessary risk, the leap into the unknown.” - Linda Nochlin, Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists
Bunny bunny foot foot! March, Women’s History Month, has come to a close. Everyday for the month of March I shared a brief summary of a woman artist past or present on my Instagram account. Before March, I had only a weak connection to a few well known artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, and Mary Cassatt. Now, my knowledge of the art world has expanded to include to so many more women, and I am excited to continue expanding my vision.
These are the women who now accompany me in my studio thanks to Women’s History Month.
Corita Kent (1918–1986)
Sally Mann (b. 1951)
Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625)
Annie Leibovitz (b. 1949)
Kara Walker (b. 1969)
Rebecca Morris (b. 1969)
The Guerilla Girls
Jay DeFeo (1929-1989)
Elisabet Ney (1833-1907)
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653)
Alma Thomas (1891-1978)
Mary Heilmann (b. 1940)
Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010)
Judy Chicago (b. 1939)
Amy Sherald (b. 1973)
Mary Swanzy (1882-1978)
Agnes Martin (1912-2004)
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)
Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899)
Julie Mehretu (b. 1970)
Hilma af Klint (1862-1944)
Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)
Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944)
Mary Beth Edelson (b. 1933)
Paula Modersohn Becker (1876-1907)
Anni Albers (1899-1994)
Shara Hughes (b. 1981)
Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989)
Susan O’Malley (1976-2015)
Dorothy Hood (1918-2000)
If you don’t recognize any of these names, look them up! I enjoyed learning about each and every one of them. By sharing these artists, I did not mean to imply that their artwork was/is better than that of their male contemporaries. Rather, I wanted to recognize and celebrate them (also I really enjoyed some of their artwork). They were/are women who created art consistently and courageously, and they did that without society’s institutions supporting them. Perhaps I making them out to be martyrs.
While reading Linda Nochlin’s essay Why Have There Been Been No Great Women Artists?, I was confronted by the somewhat gross realization of why I had initially became interested in pursuing art… I wanted to be seen as a genius…and a martyr. That makes me uncomfortable to think about. The myth of the “Artistic Genius” has a striking resemblance to Christian martyrdom. Think of Vincent Van Gogh. He created beautiful, mystical and emotional artworks while suffering from mental illness and seizures. It’s an intoxicating and romantic narrative. I idolized it.
That’s probably worth exploring later on. For now, this will do.
Did you recognize any/all of these artists? Who is your favorite?
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir , Marina Abramovic
Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?, Linda Nochlin
Broad Strokes, Bridget Quinn
Currently listening to:
The Perils of Following Your Career Passion, WorkLife with Adam Grant
Fabergé Eggs, The Art History Babes
A Museum Hires a Full-time Therapist, Hyperallergic
I have been under the weather for the past week. So rather than deep diving into a particular topic, I will share the topics I’m interested in and some art I’ve been working on. If you are interested in any of these topics, please share your thoughts in the comment section below or email me. I would love to hear your thoughts, learn a new perspective and have a worthwhile conversation.
-Meritocracy, Exclusivity, and how my education/upbringing relates
-Masculine Reasoning vs Feminine Feeling (Plato vs Holism)
-The Breakdown of Rational Thought
-90’s Feminism (girl power vs the bitch/”bad” mother)
-Houston’s Energy Industry, Deer Park and Chernobyl
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, Dominic Smith
“How Parents Are Robbing Their Children of Adulthood” by Claire Cain Miller and John Engel Bromwich, The New York Times
Currently listening to:
How to Free the 90's Bitch, unladylike
The Meritocracy Show, Hysteria
How to Fire People, Without Fail
I had my first encounter with The Dinner Party in 2011. I stumbled upon it while visiting the Brooklyn Museum with my Tisch classmates. I was mesmerized but nevertheless ran past it. I was in a rush to see everything and keep up with the group. I filed it away to research later… that research is happening now, nearly eight years later.
The Dinner Party is a massive ceremonial banquet arranged in the shape of an open triangle—a symbol of equality—measuring forty-eight feet on each side with a total of 39 place settings for the “guests of honor”.
The first wing of the dinner table begins with prehistoric figures like “Ishtar” and continues chronologically. The third wing makes it way all the way though the Women’s Revolution. The last place setting is for Georgia O’Keeffe.
Wing 1: From Prehistory to Rome
Wing 2: From Christianity to the Reformation
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Hildegarde of Bingen
Petronilla de Meath
Christine de Pisan
Anna van Schurman
Wing 3: From the American Revolution to the Women’s Revolution
Susan B. Anthony
Of the 39 women, I recognized only 15. I fixed that by reading about each woman I didn’t know. You can do the same on Brooklyn Museum’s website.
Of the 24 women I did not recognize, Sophia, Theodora and Mary Wollstonecraft were the most interesting.
Sophia was the mythical goddess of wisdom and the female counterpart to Jesus. She was one of the central figures of Gnosticism which dates back to ca. 180. In terms of mythical goddesses, I had only really identified with Athena. Now, I might choose Sophia.
Theodora (b. 500) was the empress of the Byzantine Empire. She ruled the empire equally with her husband Justinian I. I recognized Justinian, because he is famous for having codified roman law. He is also featured in the enchanting mosaics in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna. Apparently, Theodora was as well… but that wasn’t emphasized when I learned about (and visited!) the basilica. Having been born in the lower classes of Byzantium, Theodora fought for the persecuted and passed laws that expanded the rights of women and prostitutes. Admittedly… I often played as Theodora on the video game Civilization, yet I failed to learn more about her.
Jumping forward 1000+ years, Mary Wollstonecraft (b. 1759) wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (If anyone knows why she used “woman” instead of the grammatically correct “women”, please share.) It is considered the earliest and most important treatise advocating for equal rights for women.
The Dinner Party recognizes more women in history by way of the “Heritage Floor”. The floor is made up of 2,300 hand-cast tiles and includes the names of 999 mythical and historical women. Someone (or likely a team of people) put together a list of the women included on the “Heritage Floor”. While I was tempted to continue learning about the women I had not heard of, I decided that I would have to do that at a later date since it would likely become a project in itself.
I’ve shared my experience learning about the women at the dinner table to highlight my own ignorance of women’s contributions to society. I was given a great education. Yet, I didn’t learn about these women. Yes, I could have righted this wrong by learning more on my own or by taking a class on Women’s Liberation or Feminism in college, but I think it’s ludicrous that we most go out of our way to learn about women’s contributions to history.
The Dinner Party is both a monument to women and an art piece. While the looks of it don’t particularly appeal to me aesthetically at times (the plates for example), I believe The Dinner Party is an incredible work and a great tribute to women’s history.
How—and Why—’The Dinner Party’ Became the Most Famous Feminist Artwork of All Time, ArtNet, Sarah Cascone
How Emotions Are Made by Lisa Feldman Barrett
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramovic
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
Currently listening to:
No. 67: How Judy Chicago Pioneered the First Feminist Art Program, The Artsy Podcast
The Fifth Vital Sign, Invisibilia
Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was the most renowned woman painter in Europe during the first half of the 17th century. She is recognized as a significant feminist figure because of her skill, resilience and empowering depictions of women. In her paintings, women are powerful Biblical heroines rather than temptresses.
Gentileschi had the opportunity to become a painter thanks to her father Orazio, a reputable painter in Rome. At the time of her career, women were not allowed to have apprenticeships with men, so she would not have had access to painting if not for her father. Orazio began training her at an early age.
Both father and daughter was heavily influenced by Caravaggio. Artemisia used chiaroscuro (bold contrasts of light and dark) and tenebrism (extremes of dominating darkness pierced by bright, insistent spotlights) in the majority of her work. These stylistic choices emphasized drama and created an element of theater.
Artemisia’s career and life was greatly influenced by a series of events that took place as she was just launching her career. At age 17, she was raped by artist Agostino Tassi. Her family and Tassi went to court for a seven-month trial. During the trial, she was publicly humiliated and forced to undergo sibille, a torturous lie detector test. While the Gentilesschis won the case, the events left a dark cloud over Artemisia’s career.
Susanna and the Elders (1610), an early work of Artemisia’s, depicts a biblical scene where two older men spy on Susanna while she is bathing and attempt to blackmail her into having sexual relations with them with false accusations of adultery. In other artists’ depictions of this scene, Susanna is either unaware or flirtatious. Artemisia, on the other hand, emphasizes Susanna’s distress and active response to the intruders.
Artemisia Gentileschi’s assertive and strong-feminine voice is most apparent in Judith and Holofernes (1620). The story of Judith is biblical and is similar to David and Goliath. Judith, a Jewish widow, kills the Assyrian general Holofernes to help save her village. In Artemisia’s depiction of the decapitation, Judith and her maidservant are muscular and strong. They work hand-in-hand to courageously and powerfully complete the task. They are remarkable to say the least. Blood is spurting everywhere, and the job is dirty. Holofernes looks vulnerable, weak and humiliated. The decapitation by Judith feels very much like a victory.
Both Caravaggio and Artemisia’s father made similar paintings, yet their depictions of the scene contrast drastically with Artemisia’s. In Caravaggio’s work, Judith is uncertain and much less powerful. The maidservant is nearby but not in union with Judith. It doesn’t feel like a victory. Rather, it feels almost shameful. I feel sorry for everyone in this Caravaggio painting.
In Orazio’s depiction of the same narrative, the act of decapitation is taken out completely. The women look away from Holofernes’s head and present it as if they just happened to have come upon a decapitated head. They appear completely powerless and at the service to whomever they are presenting the head to. The painting also feel much less dramatic and soft thanks to the color choices and emphasis on linens.
In addition to admiring her artwork, I admire Artemisia’s character! She had the confidence and will to stand up for her work. In letters written to Don Antonio Ruffo, Gentileschi condemns his bigotry, and asserts her skill and right to good pay:
I fear that before you saw the painting you must have thought me arrogant and presumptuous…. [I]f it were not for Your Most Illustrious Lordship… I would not have been induced to give it for one hundred and sixty, because everywhere else I have been I was paid one hundred scudi [Italian coins] per figure…. You think me pitiful, because a woman’s name raises doubts until her work is seen.
I was mortified to hear that you want to deduct one third from the already low price that I had asked… It must be that in your heart Your Most Illustrious Lordship finds little merit in me.
I am most inspired by Artemisia’s dare to be great. She painted women powerfully at time when that wasn’t done. She was a professional woman artist when that wasn’t done. She defended her work and herself when that wasn’t done. She did believed in herself, her artwork and her womanhood.
While the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston does not have any works by Artemisia Gentileschi, it does have a painting by her father which depicts Artemisia as a sibyl (a woman in ancient times supposed to utter the oracles and prophecies of a god).
Artemisia: Her Passion Was Painting Above All Else, The New York Times
Artemisia’s Moment, Smithsonian Magazine
Artemisia Gentileschi, Art History Babes (podcast)
“There are many great women artists. And we shouldn’t still be talking about why there are no great women artists. If there are no great, celebrated women artists, that’s because the powers that be have not been celebrating them, but not because they are not there.” - Joan Semmel
Can you name 5 women artists? That’s the question that the National Museum of Women in the Arts poses during Women’s History Month.
Okay, now actually ask yourself that question. Can you name 5 women artists?
Did you say Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe? Who else? Leave your answers in the comments below.
You may have named 5 women artists and that is great! Or maybe you didn’t, okay. Let’s change that. This question’s purpose is to show that women’s achievements have either been ignored or inadequately honored. The art world/community has been particularly guilty of this. That is probably why you can name many more men artists than women artists. Some quick facts before moving on…
Only 26% of the winners of the Turner Prize, one of the most well known visual art awards, have been women—though 6 women won since 2010. In 2017, Lubaina Himid became the first woman of color to win.
From the 16–19th centuries, women were barred from studying the nude model, which formed the basis for academic training and representation. (Women, Art, and Society)
A recent data survey of the permanent collections of 18 prominent art museums in the U.S. found that out of over 10,000 artists, 87% are male, and 85% are white. (Public Library of Science)
On average, only 30% of artists represented by commercial galleries in the U.S. are women. In Australia, it’s about 40%; in China, 25%; in Hong Kong; 22%; and in Germany, less than 20%.
The top three museums in the world, the British Museum (est. 1753), the Louvre (est. 1793), and The Metropolitan Museum of Art (est. 1870) have never had female directors.
I experienced both the art world and the general community’s disregard for women artists by simply not being exposed to women artists until recently. Growing up, I was familiar with the work of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Picasso, and Dali. And, I loved Vincent Van Gogh. I even dressed up as him in 6th grade. Yes, at some point, I was introduced to Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe, but that was about it.
In high school, I pursued photography and left my paint brushes and pencils by the wayside. I felt more confident taking photographs. Women were included in photography’s history since its inception. I figured I had a better chance of sharing my voice if I was photographer. I had the work of Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Sally Mann, and Annie Leibovitz to keep me company.
The Guerrilla Girls, a group of women artists and arts professionals founded in the 1980s, fight discrimination in the art community.
The group reframes the question: “Why haven’t there been more great women artists throughout Western history?” Instead, they ask: “Why haven’t more women been considered great artists throughout Western history?”
This month, I will uncover and celebrate the work and lives of women artists both past and present. Join me each week on this blog or follow me for my daily posts on Instagram at @ereedlee.
Learn more about #5womenartists or take a pledge by visiting, the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
I will begin by diving into the work and life of Corita Kent.
To quickly introduce her, I will use The Corita Art Center’s summary.
Corita Kent (1918–1986) was an artist, educator, and advocate for social justice. At age 18 she entered the religious order Immaculate Heart of Mary, eventually teaching in and then heading up the art department at Immaculate Heart College. Her work evolved from figurative and religious to incorporating advertising images and slogans, popular song lyrics, biblical verses, and literature. Throughout the ‘60s, her work became increasingly political, urging viewers to consider poverty, racism, and injustice. In 1968 she left the order and moved to Boston. After 1970, her work evolved into a sparser, introspective style, influenced by living in a new environment, a secular life, and her battles with cancer. She remained active in social causes until her death in 1986. At the time of her death, she had created almost 800 serigraph editions, thousands of watercolors, and innumerable public and private commissions.
Some keywords: She was a printmaker, a nun, and a teacher. She did the majority of her work in LA and Boston. She was a contemporary of Andy Warhol. Oh, by the by, a serigraph is the fine art way of referring to a silkscreen. Silkscreens were associated with commercial art and advertising, so Carl Zigrosser coined the term to improve the practice’s reception. Since most screens are no longer made from silk, the process is often referred to as screenprinting today.
I started Women’s History Month with Corita Kent, because I was most awestruck to have not her of her until recently. As a pop artist who incorporated positive messages in her work and a nun, it seems ridiculous that her life and her work were never shared with me in the Catholic school I attended. WHY DID I ONLY FIND OUT ABOUT HER BY WAY OF A RANDOM PODCAST?
She would have been a great source of inspiration and hope. I was a very religious and spiritual kid. At one point, I wanted be a nun. I wanted to be like Sister Maria in The Sound of Music. Eventually, I lost faith in Catholicism and associated Catholicism with rigidity and self-hatred. Looking at back it now, however, I believe much of what had become Catholicism for me was caused by my experience of it. How it was taught and how I interpreted it. Corita Kent’s experience and interpretation were very different from my own.
Her work was uplifting in subject and color. She brought the spiritual to everyday symbols. The G in General Mills no longer stood for “Goodness” but rather “God”. Kent's work was also democratic. Prints could be purchased by the everyday person.
She was an incredible teacher. She taught students the fine art of looking. She gave students grand assignments that both challenged and invigorated their creative spirits. An assignment might be to create fifteen giant banners by the end of the week or come back tomorrow with five hundred questions about the Eames film you have just watched. She sounds like my teacher Charlotte Cosgrove at the Glassell Studio School.
As her work revolved more around social justice and her art practice became more demanding in the late 1960’s, she decided to leave the religious order at age 50.
There is much more to Corita and her work, so please continue to learn by clicking the links below.
Corita Kent: Nun with a Pop Art Habit, Harvard Magazine
Corita Kent and the Language of Pop, Susan Dackerman
A Nun Inspired By Warhol: The Forgotten Pop Art Of Sister Corita Kent, All Things Considered, NPR
Corita Kent: Patron Saint of Pop Art, The Art History Babes
“The artist is never alone, in that everyone else is going through the same process—each with her own unique sound. So we are really all in it together, and there are no people who are not artists.” - Corita Kent, 1979