Technology & Art

3 Nov

david hockney book

After reading David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, I can begin to see how technology changes the arts.  In the same way the camera lucida and its lenses changed the way paintings were developed, technology continues to impact the art world.  Today digital art and computer manipulation continues to impact art through multi-window perspectives, multiple viewpoints and easily blurs the lines between illusion, fantasy and reality.

The same way the camera has shortcomings with perspective, computer aided art, and film also has shortcomings.  The computer cannot provide vision or passion.  Only the artist can supply the heart and vision behind the art.  There is a danger of relying upon the computer and forgetting that it is only a tool.  The hand, heart, eye and passion of an artist are far more complex than any computer will ever be.

Still the technological advances we have today are amazing.  We have gone from 2-D still pictures, to moving film, even to 3-D!  Who knows how the next 100 years will change art or in what way?  These are exciting times to be an artist!

Have you ever thought about the tools you use and how they impact your own work?  In what ways has technology impacted your creative endeavors?

 

Plastic Entanglements

11 Oct
robson red

“Isla”, 2014 Plastic debris (PET & HDPE), aluminum rivets, tinted polycrylic, mica powder, by Aurora Robson

Did you know that almost every piece of plastic ever made still exists today?

Plastic waste is one of those unique things that takes 1000 years to decompose and when plastic does break down, the small bits of toxic chemicals, such as bisphenola A (BPA) and PS oligomer end up in the digestive tracks of animals.  Plastic is now even being found in humans.  Plastic never disappears.  It will be around long after we are gone.

The Chazen Museum of Art (University of Wisconsin-Madison) has a new exhibit that gives a timeline of this unique modern material – plastic.  Curated by Joyce Robinson and guest curators, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor and Heather Davis, the show addresses ecology, aesthetics and materials with contemporary artwork.  Sixty works by thirty artists explores environmental entanglements with plastic.

Although plastic is one of the most successful inventions and adds convenience, hygiene, and accessibility the artwork also displays the darker side.

Willie Coles Chandelier

When I entered the lobby of the Chazen Museum a monstrous Chandelier hung from the ceiling overhead.  Artist, Willie Cole created the piece entirely of plastic water bottles.  It was a particularly interesting piece considering how this plastic garbage is so translucent and how it pays homage to our vast consumerism and our culture of convenience.

Inside the galleries I watched an eerie video by Tejal Shah, an artist from Goa, India.  A cross between science fiction and modern dance, “Landfill Dance” shows a troupe of dancers in white cockroach dresses dancing upon a massive landfill.  Their movements around the piles of garbage are a strange interaction that makes me think of a future apocalypse.

Dianna Cohen, an artist from Los Angeles displayed a large plastic shopping bag mandala.  During meditation she hand-stitched the piece which made me reflect about what material things I accumulate.

purple

“Ona”, 2014 Plastic debris (PET & HDPE), aluminum rivets, tinted polycrylic, mica powder, by Aurora Robson

One of my favorite pieces was by Aurora Robson, born in Canada but now lives in upstate New York.  Her two pieces titled “Ona” and “Isla” were glittery and whimsical.  It was hard to believe they were created out of garbage.  She believes that if she crafts her art well enough, the plastic will hopefully never enter the waste stream again.  As an artist, I was particularly inspired by her perspectives.  I would recommend other artists to check out her video interview on her website below.

The show does an excellent job with getting the viewer to think about positive and negative aspects of plastic use but also to ponder personal choices and the future world as well.

There were many more artists in the show which I may write about in another blog post but for now I would encourage those in the Madison, WI area to check out the show at Chazen.  The Plastic Entanglements show is up until January 5, 2020 and it’s free.

 

www.chazen.wisc.edu

www.williecole.com

www.aurorarobson.com

 

Female Artists Missing from History

17 Sep
Poppy Pattern small 200 dpi with logo

“Poppy Pattern” Watercolor on Yupo paper 26″x 34″ by Katie Turner

Do you know that there are dozens of amazing female artists left out of history books?

After reading “The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art” written by the Guerrilla Girls, I heard many names that were new to me.

Female artists have struggled for proper recognition for their artistic abilities for centuries.  For some, their fathers, husbands, brothers took the women’s art as their own, adding signatures and selling it as their own.  A few gained some notoriety, but unfortunately, historians ignored the accomplishments of most of them.

Many of the female artists covered in this book deserve a closer look.  They were innovative, developing new ideas that changed the art world. These women showed the world another viewpoint.

Even into this modern era of art, women find it difficult to be taken seriously, have museum or gallery shows and sell at the same level as male artists.  But today there are more women exhibiting, reviewed and collected than ever before, although numbers are still less than their white male counterparts.

The women in this book make great examples for artists.  Additionally, women today, benefit from living role models and mentors, finding inspiration and support.

Many museums and galleries in Europe and New York are exclusionary, giving attention to more of the male artists.  Research tells us it gets better for women and artist of color, the further you geographically go from Europe and New York.

The book encourages theorists and women artists to finish up arguing over feminism, cultural constructs and female sensibilities to get on with the more important things – make great art!

Let’s do all we can to value other’s art and definitely, keep making great art!

 “Painting well is the best revenge!” ~ Guerrilla Girls

Some of the more “unknown” female artists from history:

  • Christine de Pizan
  • Lavinia Fontana
  • Elisabetta Sirani
  • Onorata Rodiani
  • Properzia de Rossi
  • Maria Robusti
  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Judith Leyster
  • Maria Merian
  • Rachel Ruysch
  • Angelica Kauffmann
  • Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun
  • Rosa Bonheur
  • Edmonia Lewis
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Harriet Powers
  • Camille Claudel
  • Sonia Terk Delaunay
  • Claude Cahun
  • Alexandra Exter
  • Hannah Hoch
  • Gunta Stoltzl
  • Kathe Kollwitz
  • Dan Yuliang
  • Tarsila Do Amaral
  • Augusta Savage
  • Alma Thomas
  • Maria Montoya Martinez
  • Eva Hesse
  • Ana Mendieta

See Like an Artist

20 Aug
Confined Watercolor Warm up

“Confined” watercolor on paper by Katie Turner.   The view is from a platform above an enclosed courtyard.

 

After thumbing through one of my old graphic arts books, I was thinking about how artists learn to express themselves visually and learn to see, not just using the sense of sight.  Matisse said that when he ate a tomato he just looked at it, “But,” he said, “When I paint a tomato, I see it differently.”

It’s true that artists see the world differently.  Seeing things differently enable an artist to deliver a message through their art.  Some say artists have heightened awareness.  How is it that an artist can see something different from others?

Some artists learn through life drawing classes.  Sometimes it can be a real struggle but life drawing classes can be a real growth opportunity for an artist.   They look, analyze, translate what they see into marks on paper and along the way acquire visual skills.  Learning how to “see” makes it possible to conceptualize more unique and original designs.

Some art classes don’t teach students to see but give them quick shortcuts to produce life drawings.  Historically, drawing was thought unnecessary and a lot of design students graduated from art school without any drawing at all.  As time continues, the pendulum swings back and forth with what is taught in school.   When representational art is popular, you will see more formal drawing classes available and when it’s not, less formal will rule.

There are many exercises available to hone your drawing skills that will also grow your ability to “see” creatively.

 

Here are my favorites:

  1. Turn things upside down before sketching. By placing an object in an unusual position it forces the mind to look more closely at it.  This forces us out of automatic drawing mode and trains us to draw what we see.

 

  1. Draw the negative spaces only. Concentrating on drawing these abstract shapes forces your mind away from preconceived ideas.

 

  1. Squint or use Red Acetate Film when sketching. Squinting or using this red acetate will quickly simplify any complex subject into simple shapes and values.  Your mind will be less likely to focus on the detail.

 

If you put just a few exercises into your daily practice, you will be “seeing” and drawing better in no time.  When the artist has better visual awareness, the door to creativity is opened.

 

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Art Masks Identity

16 Jul
Nick_cave from wiki

Nick Cave picture by Bowmanga 

Nick Cave is a Chicago based artist (originally from Missouri) who has some very interesting art that combines fabric, sculpture, dance and performance.

I first heard about Nick Cave while reviewing ISEA (International Society of Experimental Artists) 2019 symposium workshops. I found one workshop that involved creating a “Nick Cave” style soundsuit.  What is a soundsuit?  It is part sculpture, part costume and a bit of dance.

Cave has been creating soundsuits since 1992 using many found objects, fabric and other items.  He created these life size suits in response to racial experiences.  The suits usually have sound when worn, due to the sticks and twigs that he adds during the creation but often museums display the suits as static sculptures.  He uses the soundsuits as a way to confront identity.  He has created over 500 of these suits so far.

The soundsuits fully conceal the body and serve as a second skin that obscures race, gender and class.  Cave wants you to wonder, “What am I encountering?”  Viewers can look at these figures without bias towards identity.

“I don’t ever see the Soundsuits as ‘fun,’ they’re really coming from a very dark place.”  Nick Cave states.

Some schools are using the soundsuits idea as projects to teach children about identity.  Check out this video from a Detroit school here.

Here is a really short 2 1/2 minute video about Nick Cave’s Soundsuits click here.

Nick Cave’s Soundsuits video by PBS, click here.

Nick Caves exhibition at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts here.

Nick Caves represented by www.jackshainman.com

For more information on ISEA: https://www.iseaartexhibit.org/

Nick-Cage-Soundsuits1

Some of Nick Cave’s Soundsuits.  Photo from http://www.b4moda.com/nick-cave/.

Glorious Creative Expression

25 Jun
Van_Gogh_-_Terrasse_des_Cafés_an_der_Place_du_Forum_in_Arles_am_Abend1 
Café Terrace At Night (1888) Oil on canvas – Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo Vincent Van Gogh
Van_gogh_cafe_arles

The café terrace, now called “Le Café La Nuit” at Place du Forum, Arles, France

 

fishing on lake

Onondaga Lake, Syracuse, NY

Blue abstract woods small for blog

Blue Abstract Woods, Watercolor, K Turner  (1 of 2 interpretations of lake picture above)

Onondaga Lake for blog

Fishing, Watercolor by K Turner (2 of 2 interpretations of lake picture above)

 

Have you ever thought about how you want to paint a subject?  What is the message or feeling that you want to convey to the viewer?

Recently, artist David Becker  blogged about how different artists interpret subject matter or a scene.  Some like to interpret things in a very realistic manner and others more abstract.  The way an artist decides is based on their own unique style.  You don’t have to look far to see examples of this – even the masters (Picasso, Dali, O’Keeffe, Rothko, Matisse, Van Gogh, etc.) have numerous examples of unique artistic interpretation.

After reviewing these famous artists from the past and looking to all the unique modern day artists and what they are producing – I am convinced there is no right or wrong way.  My personal feeling is that a photograph can tell me a lot if I want a report.  A painting can tell me more about the feeling and the artist’s thoughts and ideas.  There are of course artistic photographs that are wonderful and impactful. I’m not saying photographers aren’t artistic – they are!  When I’m painting, I am forced to edit myself and think about what it is that I want to say to the viewer.

There are times when I think of my painting as a musical concert with a large orchestra, maybe even a brass section.  As the conductor I might want a certain color to give me a deep background sound while another note becomes an essence of color to highlight an area.

Creating your own unique style seems to only come with time and lots of painting.  So I’d like to encourage all creatives, whether an artist, musician, writer, scientist, inventor, etc.  keep working towards your own unique style.  Try hard to avoid becoming someone else’s clone or copy.  Develop your own style.

As a creative you have a special gift of seeing the world a little differently than others.  You owe it to the world to share that unique original vision and idea.  Let your unique style shine through!

The night scene above, painted by Van Gogh, interprets the night scene without use of black.  He creates this with beautiful blues, yellow and citron green.  Van Gogh enjoyed painting right on the street at night, painting his observations and impressions directly.  He shares his interpretation with a spiritual and psychological tone using his brushstrokes to convey his sense of excitement.  The café still exists in southern France today and is a favorite tourist spot for Van Gogh fans.  The café terrace, now called “Le Café La Nuit” at Place du Forum, Arles, France

*Pictures credit: Wikipedia.  To read more about Van Gogh click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vincent_van_Gogh

In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz

23 Apr

I recently came across an announcement for a historical art show “In My Spare Moments: The Art of Harold F. Schmitz” at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin.  The artist, Harold Schmitz, was working in advertising when he was drafted into WWII in 1942.  He became a map maker with the 955th Topographic Engineer Company for the next three years.  After the war he became an art director for Northwestern Publishing House.

Although I find many things relating to war extremely disturbing – particularly the horrors and suffering related to it, I do feel it’s valuable to keep an open mind to what can be gleaned.  It is also fitting to give honor to those who sacrificed and served our country.

The show features 40 drawings, photographs, letters and a recorded oral history by Schmitz.  The recordings, completed prior to his death in 2013 include Schmitz discussing his art.

“Viewers of this exhibit will witness the fascinating evolution of an artist influenced by an alien but beautiful environment and his work as a wartime Army cartographer,” said Michael Telzrow, Wisconsin Veterans Museum Director.

Without even viewing the show, I can see the importance of sketching, drawing, documenting the world around us.  As artists, we are the window to the past, present and future, providing our interpretation of the world and events around us.  How fortunate that Schmitz took the time to practice his craft, despite circumstance.  When I think of the artist-soldiers who found the drive to create like that, I am inspired to brush away any of my own lame excuses.  Documenting our lives through art is great artistic exercise.  The art is needed just as much as the photography.

If you are in Wisconsin and would like to visit this show check out the links below:  https://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/exhibition/the-art-of-harold-f-schmitz/

https://www.wisvetsmuseum.com/contact/

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