August 22, 2018

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription


In this issue:

Tate restores colour and depth to John Nash painting
A small-town couple left behind a stolen painting worth over $100 million — and a big mystery
Ten Picasso pieces among forgotten works rediscovered in Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art's collection
The National Gallery Lets You Sleep with a Masterpiece, For a Price
Sotheby’s earnings take a hit as demanding consignors and guarantors squeeze its commission margin
Facebook Censors Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s Ad Featuring Nude Picasso Painting
Artist Uses Creations To Help Others Understand Schizophrenia
An artist found a parasitic worm in his eye - and turned it into art
Chalk artists master old form, until it’s washed away
Leonardo Had Help: Oxford Art Historian Asserts New Attribution for ‘Salvator Mundi’
A Pop-Up Pencil Museum Underlines a History that Has Almost Been Erased
How to Get the Most Out of Art (Even When You’re Not Sure You Get It

 

 



 

Tate restores colour and depth to John Nash painting
The picture is on display in Tate Britain's show Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One

Colour and depth have been restored to John Nash’s painting The Cornfield (1918) thanks to conservators from the Tate in London. The oil-on-canvas was treated for aesthetic reasons to remove varnish, which the paintings conservator Rebecca Hellen says was not applied by the artist. The Tate has “three or four” other works by Nash in the collection that are not varnished so Hellen thinks the varnish was applied by a collector, perhaps by its former owner, the Welsh actor and composer Ivor Novello. When it entered the Tate in 1952, it had already been varnished.

The varnish had become discoloured over the years so the decision was made to remove it. “His paint was well-bound and had a rich, egg-like sheen. I felt comfortable removing the varnish because I was familiar with other works by Nash and his brother Paul, which also have a solid-looking surface,” she says. The treatment showed that the grey swath in the field is, in fact, a lovely shade of purple. “He’s cleverly used contrasting colours to suggest three-dimensionality and we’ve been able to bring this out,” she says. The restored can be seen in the exhibition Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One at Tate Britain, London (until 23 September). The Art Newspaper

 

A small-town couple left behind a stolen painting worth over $100 million — and a big mystery

Jerry and Rita Alter kept to themselves. They were a lovely couple, neighbors in the small New Mexico town of Cliff would later tell reporters. But no one knew much about them.

They may have been hiding a decades-old secret, pieces of which are now just emerging.

Among them:

After the couple died, a stolen Willem de Kooning painting with an estimated worth of $160 million was discovered in their bedroom.

More than 30 years ago, that same painting disappeared the day after Thanksgiving from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson.

And Wednesday, the Arizona Republic reported that a family photo had surfaced, showing that the day before the painting vanished, the couple was, in fact, in Tucson.

The next morning, a man and a woman would walk into the museum and then leave 15 minutes later. A security guard had unlocked the museum’s front door to let a staff member into the lobby, curator Olivia Miller told NPR. The couple followed. Since the museum was about to open for the day, the guard let them in.

The man walked up to the museum’s second floor while the woman struck up a conversation with the guard. A few minutes later, he came back downstairs, and the two abruptly left, according to the NPR interview and other media reports.

Sensing that something wasn’t right, the guard walked upstairs. There, he saw an empty frame where de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” had hung.

At the time, the museum had no surveillance cameras. Police found no fingerprints. One witness described seeing a rust-color sports car drive away but didn’t get the license plate number. For 31 years, the frame remained empty.

In 2012, Jerry Alter passed away. His widow, Rita Alter, died five years later at 81.

After their deaths, the painting was returned to the museum. The FBI is investigating the theft.

Did the quiet couple who lived in a three-bedroom ranch on Mesa Road steal “Woman-Ochre” and get away with it?

De Kooning, who died in 1997, was one of the most prominent painters of the midcentury abstract expressionist movement. “Woman III,” another painting in the same series as “Woman-Ochre,” sold for $137.5 million in 2006. The works of de Kooning remain among the most marketable in the world.

The Alters had moved to Cliff (population 293) in the late 1970s or early 1980s, according to the Silver City Daily Press. H. Jerome Alter, who went by Jerry, had been a professional musician and a teacher in New York City schools before retiring to New Mexico, he wrote under “About the author” in “Aesop’s Fables Set in Verse,” a book he published in 2011.

“His primary avocation has been adventure travel,” the biographical sketch says, noting that he had visited “over 140 countries on all continents, including both polar regions.”

Rita Alter, who died in 2017 at the age of 81, had worked as a speech pathologist at the local school district after the couple moved to New Mexico, the Daily Press reported. Her former co-workers remembered her as “pleasant but quiet,” a friendly woman who was good with children but didn’t volunteer much information about her life.

In 2011, a year before his death, also at the age of 81, Jerry published a book of short stories, “The Cup and the Lip: Exotic Tales.” The stories were “an amalgamation of actuality and fantasy,” he wrote in the preface. Though none were literary masterpieces, one stands out in the wake of the de Kooning discovery.

“The Eye of the Jaguar,” concerns itself with Lou, a security guard at an art museum. One day, a middle-aged woman and her 14-year-old granddaughter show up. The older woman asks Lou about the history of a prized emerald on display. Six months later, she and her granddaughter return, then leave in a rush.

“Wow, those two seem to be in a hurry, most unusual for visitors to a place such a this,” Lou thinks. He reinspects the room and realizes the emerald is gone. Running to the door, he sees the pair speeding away and runs out to stop them. The older woman floors the accelerator, crashing into Lou and killing him. Then the two speed off, leaving behind “absolutely no clues which police could use to even begin a search for them!”

Jerry Alter’s fictional tale ends with a description of the emerald sitting in an empty room. “And two pairs of eyes, exclusively, are there to see!” it concludes.

He could just as easily have been describing the de Kooning. But nobody thought of that until the painting was discovered in the Alters’ bedroom, where it had been positioned in such a way that you couldn’t see it unless you were inside with the door shut.

After Rita Alter died, her nephew, Ron Roseman, was named executor of the estate. He put the house on the market and began liquidating its contents. On Aug. 1, 2017, antique dealers from the neighboring town of Silver City came to see what was left.

One of the men, David Van Auker, would later recall at a news conference that he spotted “a great, cool midcentury painting.” They bought it, along with the rest of the Alters’ estate, for $2,000.

Silver City, an old mining town near the Gila National Forest, has a high concentration of artists. So it didn’t take long for someone who recognized the painting’s significance to wander into Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques.

“It probably had not been in the store an hour before the first person came in and walked up to it and looked at it and said, ‘I think this is a real de Kooning,’ ” Van Auker told KOB 4, a TV station in Albuquerque. “Of course, we just brushed that off.”

Then another customer said the same thing. And another.

It was becoming evident that the painting might be worth more than they had originally thought. Van Auker and his partners, Buck Burns and Rick Johnson, hid it in the bathroom.

Once the painting had been secured, Van Auker did a Google search for de Kooning. That’s when he spotted an article about the theft of “Woman — Ochre” and called the museum.

“I got a student receptionist, and I said to her, ‘I think I have a piece of art that was stolen from you guys,’ ” he told Dallas-based news station WFAA. “And she said, ‘What piece?’ And I said, ‘The de Kooning.’ And she said, ‘Hold, please.’ ”

Miller, the museum’s curator, told WFAA that what made her pause was when Van Auker described how the painting had cracked, as if it had been rolled up. It was a detail that no one could have invented. The dimensions were an inch off from “Woman — Ochre,” which corresponded with it being cut out of the frame.

Van Auker took the painting home and stayed up all night with his guns, he told Tucson Weekly, getting startled every time he heard a branch scrape against the side of the house.

The next night, a delegation from the museum arrived. When Miller walked in, Van Auker told the Daily Press, the room turned silent.

“She walked up to the painting, dropped down on her knees and looked. You could just feel the electricity,” he recalled.

Authentication would later confirm that it was a perfect match for the missing de Kooning.

Over the past year, a handful of clues potentially linking the Alters to the theft have surfaced.

Several people told the New York Times that they had a red sports car, similar to the one spotted leaving the museum. The car also appears in home movies obtained by WFAA.

Some of the couple’s photos show Rita in a red coat like the one that the woman at the museum had been wearing, KOB 4 reported. And Ruth Seawolf, the real estate agent who put the Alters’ house on the market, told the Silver City Sun News that she had taken home a luggage set and, inside, found glasses and a scarf that match the police description.

“In the Alters’ day planner from 1985, they took meticulous notes about what they ate, where they went, and the medications they had,” KOB 4 points out. “On Thanksgiving 1985, they mysteriously left it blank.”

And now there’s the family photo showing they were in Tucson the night before the painting was stolen.

The investigation has been underway for a year now. The FBI has declined to comment until the case is closed.

People who knew the Alters find it hard to think of them as criminal masterminds. And opinions are mixed about whether a sketch of the suspects resembles the couple.

“Composite sketches, in hindsight, resemble the faces in the Thanksgiving photo, down to their position side by side,” the Arizona Republic wrote.

The New York Times, on the other hand, theorized: “The sketch of the female suspect — described at the time of the theft as being between 55 and 60 years old — bears a resemblance to Mr. Alter, who was known as Jerry and was then 54. And the sketch of the young man — described at the time as between 25 and 30 years old — bears a resemblance to his son, Joseph M. Alter, who was then 23.”

The Alters had two children, Joseph and Barbara. Reporters from multiple news outlets, including The Washington Post, have been unable to locate either child. Several of the couple’s acquaintances told the Times that Joseph Alter has severe psychological problems, and has been institutionalized on and off since the 1980s.

Jerry Alter’s sister, Carole Sklar, told the New York Times that the idea that her brother, his wife, or their son could have stolen the painting was “absurd,” as was the theory that her brother disguised himself in women’s clothing.

“I can’t believe Rita would be involved in anything like that,” Mark Shay, one of her former co-workers, told the Daily Press. “I could see them buying a painting not knowing where it originally came from, maybe.”

Museum officials, however, told the Arizona Republic that the painting only appears to have been reframed once during the 31 years it was missing, suggesting it had only had one owner during that time.

Something else doesn’t add up. Jerry and Rita Alter worked in public schools for most of their careers. Yet they somehow managed to travel to 140 countries and all seven continents, documenting their trips with tens of thousands of photos.

And yet, when they died, they had more than a million dollars in their bank account, according to the Sun News.

“I guess I figured they were very frugal,” their nephew, Ron Roseman, told WFAA.

Roseman couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday evening. But not long after “Woman — Ochre” resurfaced, he told ABC13 that he couldn’t imagine that his aunt and uncle had stolen the painting.

“They were just nice people,” he said. The Washington Post

 

Ten Picasso pieces among forgotten works rediscovered in Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art's collection
Preparation for 2019 exhibition and the building's renovation has led to the discovery of previously undocumented art works

More of Iran’s long-hidden Western works will go on show, alongside local art, as part of a major exhibition due to open at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (Tmoca) next year. Portrait, Still-life, Landscape (21 February-20 April 2019) will take over the entire 5,000 sq. m building with a selection of around 400-500 works from the 3,000-strong collection, which includes Modern European and American paintings, drawings and sculptures, by artists such as Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko and Marcel Duchamp.

The show, which follows the failed attempts by Berlin state museums to bring Tmoca’s collection of Western works to Germany, is being organised by the Dutch architect and curator Mattijs Visser. Portrait, Still-life, Landscape, which has been in the works for about two years but was postponed multiple times, is a separate undertaking, Visser says, and will not travel.

The curator says he was asked to stage a show since the museum is renovating its storage facilities and is conducting what he calls “contemporary archaeology”, finding lost or forgotten objects in the collection. For instance, while only two works by Picasso were previously registered, there are now 12 known works in the collection, Visser says, and a drawing by Duchamp was also found. He expects more works to come to light as he continues to prepare for the show.

As international sanctions started to be lifted in 2015 and Iran’s relations with the West improved, Tmoca began showing its Western art again, and has, since then, held shows by both local and international artists such as Parviz Tanavoli and Wim Delvoye. Three thousand visitors turned up for the opening of the recent Tony Cragg show, which Visser attended, he says.

This new exhibition will mix Tmoca’s diverse collection of historic artefacts with works of art, including recent acquisitions by artists such as Günther Uecker, Bertrand Lavier and Cragg, who donated a work to the collection after his solo exhibition. Tmoca is also receiving gifts from local collectors as well as donations directly from artists, and work by young Iranian artists such as Bobak Etminani and Mahsa Karimizadeh will be presented alongside Western art. Visser has been visiting local artists’ studios, while the Tehran-based art community has been advising and collaborating on the selection of young artists.

Visser says he does not anticipate any objections or external censorship to his selection of works, although he adds that he is “not interested in provocation,” and does not plan to show nudes, such as Renoir’s Gabrielle with an Open Blouse (1907), which has been banned from view in Iran because of modesty restrictions. There is also a male nude by Francis Bacon in the collection, which is not on his list. “There are other Francis Bacon works—I don’t need to show one that is provoking,” he says. He also does not plan to show political works.

While the show aims to emphasise the museum’s holdings as more and more pieces are discovered, it is not a “best of” or “highlights” exhibition, nor does it prioritise the Western works. “I don’t want to be pretentious and focus on big names,” Visser says. “I want to mix up everything so that people can really see something which they have never seen before.” The Art Newspaper


The National Gallery Lets You Sleep with a Masterpiece, For a Price
Museums are finding new ways to make money but the National Gallery decided they wanted to sleep on it.

When Gherardo di Giovanni del Fora painted “The Combat of Love and Chastity” sometime between 1475 and 1500, he was likely illustrating two of the poet Petrarch’s “Triumphs,” translating the allegories into a visual battle of love and the thing that quells it.

In “The Triumph of Chastity,” Petrarch writes,

Chastitie binds the winged god,

And makes him subject to her rod.

When to one yoke at once I saw the height

Of Gods and men subdu’d by Cupids might

I took example from their cruel fate,

And by their sufferings eas’d my owne hard state.

In del Fora’s painting, love’s arrow is broken on Chastity’s shield and the latter, a vision of her namesake sturdily cloaked in white, waves the chain with which she will bind her foe, naked and vulnerable. The London’s National Gallery’s website states that the work is part of a series, “probably made for a piece of Florentine furniture towards the end of the 15th century.”

It’s unclear if British bed maker Savoir Beds’ National Gallery Collection, which debuted earlier this year, was an attempt to accomplish the painter’s vision. But, incidentally, they have, centuries later, and the results are available to you if you’ve anywhere between 16,000 and 30,000 pounds or the kind of taste that precludes financial discernment. Savoir Beds, known for their hefty price tag and their extraordinary contents (think cashmere made from the necks of Mongolian goats), have partnered with home décor specialist Andrew Martin and London’s National Gallery to create custom beds, each upholstered with artwork on the headboard and the base. “The Combat of Love and Chastity” is one choice, but you can make your own: every single artwork owned by The National Gallery can be reproduced onto a selection of handmade beds, in (as per the project’s press release) “a selection of three fabrics from a lustrous velvet, textured linen viscose and classic cotton.” The Felix Savoir No. 4, embroidered with “The Combat of Love and Chastity” is £16,037; Claude Monet’s “Water-Lilies, Setting Sun” (1907), spread across the Harlech Savoir No. 2, will cost you £29,587.

The image is cropped to fit the headboard and flow its way down to the base, a blunted waterfall of a painting, and the finishings are personalized; maybe a detail is accentuated — a color, a texture, with different trims and upholstering on the bed itself to match. Either way, “Savoir collaborates with the National Gallery to guarantee every design keeps the essence and integrity of the Gallery,” with Martin printing every commission in the United Kingdom. They’re calling it “the fine art of sleeping beautifully.”

But why now — why this sort of patrician indulgence? Alistair Hughes, Savoir Beds’ Managing Director, told Hyperallergic over email that “our clients and artisans have always seen our mattresses and designs as works of art.” That they’re a brand that primarily creates bespoke products means they’ve taken the concept to its logical extreme. Hyperallergic

 

Sotheby’s earnings take a hit as demanding consignors and guarantors squeeze its commission margin
Just two paintings significantly damaged the auction house's bottom line in the second quarter

Sotheby’s second quarter results, published today, illustrate just how much power consignors and guarantors wield over auction houses at the top of the market. And how—marketing-value aside—it does not necessarily pay for auction houses to sell high-profile valuable works. Indeed, just two paintings significantly damaged Sotheby’s bottom line in the second quarter.

Although Sotheby’s total sales were up 22% to $3.5bn over the first half of 2018 (up to 30 June), its earnings were down by 23%, with a net income of $50.8m. For the second quarter, net income was $57.3m, a fall of 26% from $76.9m last year. The auction house said this was partly due to moving some of its spring Hong Kong sales into the first quarter of 2018.

After the results were announced, Sotheby’s share price fell by more than 10% (from $52.89 to $47.80) in the first five minutes after the Dow Jones opened, before rallying to around $50 per share.

High-value does not equal big profit
The chief reason for the drop in earnings was a sharp decline in the the auction house's profit margin on commissions, down to to 14.1% in the second quarter and 15% over the first half of 2018.

The reason? First, competition between auction houses for top consignments means the vendor commission is often waived in order to secure the work or collection (and sometimes the seller will also receive a portion of the buyer’s premium). Secondly, according to a Sotheby’s statement, buyer's premium was also used “to offset auction guarantee shortfalls and fees incurred in respect of auction guarantee risk sharing arrangements”. During an earnings call earlier today, Mike Goss, Sotheby’s chief financial officer, said: “In the second quarter of 2018, the art market was driven by competitive high-value consignments from fiduciary sources such as estates, foundations and charities.”

It was just two high-profile guaranteed paintings which between them “reduced Sotheby’s auction commission margin by 1.4% and 1.1% during the three and six-month periods, respectively,” Goss said. Although Sotheby’s would not comment further or identify the works in question, it is not difficult to guess which ones they were.

Ironically, the first is probably the most valuable painting sold at auction this year—Amedeo Modigliani's Nu couché (sur le côté gauche, 1917) which in New York in May scraped away at its low estimate of $150m to a single bid, selling to the third-party irrevocable bidder. No doubt the irrevocable bidder received some financial reward for guaranteeing it at such a sizeable sum—it is certainly hard to imagine they will have paid a buyer’s premium. As Sotheby’s chief executive Tad Smith observed during the call: “It was the very highest priced lots that were a little softer than the rest.” Adam Chinn, Sotheby’s chief operating officer, said the May season in New York was “unusual” in that the sale of the Rockefeller collection at Christie’s “added some additional competitive pressures”.

The second work was likely one sold in London in June: Picasso’s 1932 Buste de Femme de Profil (Femme écrivant). The work was guaranteed in-house, but fell short of its unpublished pre-sale estimate of $45m—given in dollars—and sold on a single bid of £27.3m ($36m). A major blow, attributed to “a pricing error” by Smith (although he did not identify the painting in question).

“A couple of bids here or there would have made a big impact on our margin” Smith said during the call. “The two paintings we keep referring to… I think those will be unique,” Smith says, although “it will be hard to make [the loss incurred by] those two paintings back through the rest of the year”.

Reasons to be cheerful
On the face of it, Sotheby’s year so far looks mute in comparison with the bullish news published by its competitor Christie’s in July, pronouncing total sales of £2.97bn ($4bn) so far in 2018. But the reality is not so clear cut—as a private company Christie’s does not have to report profits. And Christie’s is in direct competition with Sotheby’s for the top consignments. Particularly in light of the £614m sale of the Rockefeller collection, Christie’s income may also not be as healthy as at first seems, as its commission margins are, doubtless, similarly squeezed.

The latest earnings do give Sotheby’s shareholders some cause to be optimistic, however. Private sales were up by 63% to $543m during the first half of 2018 and this year, around 30% of buyers were new to the company. Many of those new buyers came in through online sales, which have grown 30% from last year, totalling more than $100m. The auction house's business in Asia is also strong—in line with Christie’s, Asian clients account for around a third of global sales and have bought eight of the top 20 lots sold at Sotheby’s so far this year.

Reflecting the buoyancy of the city’s auction market over the past year, Sotheby’s Paris has achieved its best first half results since the opening of the French art market in 2001. That result was helped by the auction house setting a new record for Chinese porcelain sold in France—$19m for the Imperial 18th-century Yangcai Famille-Rose porcelain vase sold in June.

However, during the question and answer session at the end of today’s earnings call, Goss also mentioned the possibility of staff cuts. “We will be taking a look at our head count,” he said, but added that any cuts were likely to be minimal, “less than a 2.5% number”. The Art Newspaper

 

Facebook Censors Montreal Museum of Fine Art’s Ad Featuring Nude Picasso Painting
Picasso’s subjects are often nude, but it’s not like they’re trying to meddle in the U.S. presidential elections. Why censor them, Facebook?

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was shocked last week when an advertisement for its new blockbuster Picasso show was rejected by Facebook’s censors because it featured a handful of nude subjects. What was meant to be the museum’s summer blockbuster exhibition was somewhat stalled, forcing the museum to reach out directly to the social media behemoth for answers.

Although Facebook’s community guidelines allow users to post artworks featuring non-photographic nude figures, the algorithm that monitors content and reports it to human censors is notably fussy. In 2016, we reported that the company had censored a photo of Copenhagen’s famous “The Little Mermaid” statue, which is ironically the Danish country’s most photographed sculpture. And back in 2013, Hyperallergic itself was Facebook censored for posting an article that included artist Kate Durbin’s photo of a woman’s exposed butt. (Many artists have noted a similar issue with the algorithm that roves Instagram, a subsidiary of Facebook.)

The company’s guidelines for advertising are also actually stricter for posting content, explicitly banning adult content including:

Ads must not contain adult content. This includes nudity, depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions, or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.

Looking through the stipulation’s details, though, it’s easy to see how things can get confusing for the censors. The first example of sexually suggestive content that “nudity or implied nudity, even if artistic or educational in nature, except for statues,” would be banned. There’s also a ban for what’s called “excessive nudity,” with a notable exception being Michelangelo’s famous early-sixteenth century sculpture of David. (A complete ban on images of women eating bananas, however.) Hyperallergic

 

Artist Uses Creations To Help Others Understand Schizophrenia

CHICAGO: A Chicago man describes having a schizophrenic episode as having two radio stations playing in his head at the same time.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the man is using more than words to try and help others understand the illness.

Matt Bodett says his studio is his sanctuary: a place to create, while reflecting on what it’s like living with schizophrenia, which he has done for 13 years.

“The art making process, for me, is very meditative,” said Bodett. “It allows me to sit, contemplate different aspects of the illness and say ‘Okay, I have hallucinations. What does that really feel like?’

It’s an inner journey with an outward goal of helping others understand it, as well.

“I try to find a way to say there are hard parts, dangerous parts, scary parts, but overall it’s still a very human disease,” Bodett said, expressing that through his drawings, prints, poetry, and performance art.

He says he hopes his work is educational for others, while cathartic for him.

“To come as far as I have and to be working, to have a master’s degree. All of this are things I never believed were possible because no one ever said it was,” Bodett said.

He claims that needs to change, along with eradicating the mental illness stigma and increasing services.

Mental health advocates echo that, pointing out Illinois’ mental health and addiction treatment funding has been slashed in half over the past decade.

“I think we see acuity rising in the community. The resources that had been available were no longer available,” said Jennifer McGowan-Tomke, Associate Director of NAMI Chicago.

He says is goal is to spread the word that those who have schizophrenia are still people.

“We’re people. It really is that simple,” he said.

It is estimated one percent of the population has schizophrenia.

Bodett, who also teaches at Loyola University, says it presents itself differently and in varying degrees to those who have it. Chicago CBS

 

An artist found a parasitic worm in his eye - and turned it into art

The painting was not an image of anything in particular, just an abstract confluence of psychedelic colors and wormlike patterns inside a perfectly round circle. Ben Taylor didn't like it much, and he said he didn't know why he painted it. But the wormlike patterns represent years of spiraling into unknown illness that had driven the 47-year-old painter and musician to depression, sometimes even thoughts of suicide.

Taylor gave up on the painting and in 2014 shelved the unfinished work he had simply called "Untitled."

He had been experiencing a litany of symptoms his doctors couldn't explain: lumps that kept appearing and disappearing, blinding pain in his eyes that lasted for a day and came back another, a small muscle in his forehead that he felt "snap." His white blood cells soared, and itchy rashes covered parts of his body. His joints ached. He was constantly hungry and he had been eating a lot, but he couldn't gain weight. There was a sinking feeling that his body had become host to unwelcome visitors, but tests showed nothing.

One morning, he noticed a faint yellowish lump protruding from underneath his left cornea. And then he felt his eye vibrate, as if something was slithering from within. He rushed to a mirror to find that the lump had disappeared, replaced by a thin line that was also protruding. He touched it, and it moved.

"Oh, I've got a worm in my eye!" Taylor recalled thinking.

At a hospital near his home in Dartmoor in southwestern England, a doctor scalped a tiny part of his eye's outer layer and pulled out the wriggling parasite while Taylor kept his head still. And there it was, an inch-long roundworm called Loa loa. The doctor placed it in a container and Taylor watched it die.

That year, 2015, Taylor was diagnosed with Loiasis, commonly known as African eye worm, a condition caused by the parasite Loa loa. He contracted it after spending several days in the jungles of Gabon, a Central African country where infections caused by Loa loa had persisted for years. Taylor, a frequent world traveler who had spent parts of his childhood in Nigeria, Kenya and India, traveled to Gabon in the summer of 2013 after developing an interest in the country's spiritual traditions.

"I suppose there was almost a sense of relief . . . just because I realized I wasn't going mad," Taylor said of his diagnosis.

Taylor was hospitalized for a week. Doctors found two other types of parasites, hookworm and a roundworm called Strongyloides, which he likely contracted during his travels and which had gone undetected for years.

Loa loa is typically passed on to a host body through bites from insects, in this case, from deer flies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a deer fly breaks human skin to eat blood, the larva enters the wound and begins moving through the person's body, where it grows into an adult worm. Deer flies are attracted to wood smoke and open cuts on the skin. Taylor said he had spent a lot of time near a wood fire in Gabon. The parasites must have entered his body through an itchy cut he had on his leg, Taylor said. And they thrived for two years as he deteriorated.

Diagnosing Loiasis can be difficult. It can sometimes be identified only when the worm becomes visible, as in Taylor's case.

While recovering, Taylor began painting again, and while rummaging in his home studio, he came across "Untitled," the unfinished work he had shelved earlier. That day, he finally realized what it looked like, Taylor said. The perfectly round shape was the iris, and the dark, wormlike patterns converging in the darkened middle form the pupil.

He grabbed his paints and brush and began to finish it. He drew the lashes and the sclera, or the white part of the eye. He painted over the middle, so that the intricate wormlike patterns look like spiraling galaxies disappearing into the dark pupil. He added the worms -- long, white and nearly transparent images slithering from the eyelids. "Untitled" became "The Host."

"The Host" is on the August cover of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published monthly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[/caption]

The painting is on this month's cover of Emerging Infectious Diseases, a monthly journal published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Byron Breedlove, the managing editor, contacted Taylor a few weeks ago after coming across his painting online while looking for an image that would fit the month's theme: parasites.

"You're sort of startled by this almost 3-D thread that runs around the eye. It's very arresting to look at," Breedlove said. "I realized this would make a very striking image for a cover art . . . You can't help but look at it . . . It's looking back at you."

Taylor is convinced that the parasites that inhabited his body did not only cause his health to fail; he said they also affected his mental health, even his creative process, eerily guiding what he created in his studio. Abstract, wormlike patterns were never his style, he said, but he began experimenting with them as his symptoms progressed -- before he found out he had worms.

"I definitely believe that the worms had a hand in that painting," he said, adding later: "When you kind of look into the nitty-gritty of how much of the human body actually contains your DNA versus the billions of different bacteria that live within us, you start realizing that you're an ecology of beings that live within us."

It is unclear whether there is scientific evidence for Taylor's suspicions, but parasites have been known to affect people's behavior and mental health.

For example, Naegleria fowleri, an amoeba species, burrows into its host's brain, at first causing changes in the victim's sense of taste and smell, eventually causing the person to be confused and even hallucinate.

The neurological parasite Toxoplasma gondii can radically change the behavior of its hosts, which are usually rats and cats but can also be humans. In 2016, researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center found that people with frequent bouts of impulsive anger are "more than twice as likely" to have been exposed to T. gondii.

Taylor has fully recovered and has dubbed his former squatters "creative worms." Looking back, he "wonders who the artist is, really." Chicago Tribune

 

Chalk artists master old form, until it’s washed away

Chalk art is really too timid a description for what will be happening this weekend at Cerritos Towne Center. Chalk art on steroids is more like it. Or maybe even masterpiece theater.

Using the pavement as their canvas, 10 Southern California chalk art wizards will work their magic, conjuring giant anamorphic snow cones you can “sip” from and three-dimensional sharks that appear to crash through the sidewalk.

The first-annual Chalk it Up festival is just the latest guest to Southern California’s booming street art party. But while chalk art is having a moment, it isn’t new. And it didn’t start with hopscotch on a playground either. The art form dates back to the 16th century in Italy.

Itinerant artists, who called themselves Madonnaris, used the ground as their canvas to render outsized copies of Old Master paintings, turning streets and public squares into art galleries. The popularity of pavement art faded over time but in the early 1980s it began to make a comeback in art student circles.

About that time, a guy named Kurt Wenner left Santa Barbara to study classical figurative art in Italy – and found himself caught up in the revival. He did his first pavement painting on a street in Rome. And a few years later he became the first American to win the esteemed Grazie di Curtatone chalk art competition, earning the title Master Street Painter.

Wenner then took the art of pavement painting up a notch. Inspired by the illusionistic paintings on Rome’s baroque ceilings, he writes on his website, he devised a geometry formula to create 3-D pavement art.

In 1986, the National Geographic Society made a documentary, Masterpieces in Chalk, about Wenner and his work throughout Europe.

Following in his footsteps, today’s top 3-D pavement painters churn out anamorphic masterpieces that make you think you are staring into a pool of water or down a cliff or up into a cathedral tower.

On Saturday you can watch several of the chalk artists create their own 3-D illusions.

Lorelle Miller will make a giant snow cone that, when seen through a camera lens, will look like it is upright and has a straw sticking out. Visitors can snap a photo of themselves “drinking” the snow cone – and then post it on social media, of course.

Miller, who lives in Santa Clarita, has a job as an illustrator and graphics manager in the biomedical industry. On weekends, though, she travels the increasingly busy chalk art festival circuit. She has been paid to fly as far as Norway and Vancouver to do pieces. After Cerritos, she will head to Venice, Florida, where she will work with a team of artists to create a 3-D pavement painting, a virtual botanical garden maze.

“Street art is blowing up right now,” she says. “I think it has to do with the fact that it’s accessible to the public and it’s in front of you, not behind closed doors. You can see the artists working.”

Pomona artist Gus Moran will be sketching a shark that will appear to leap straight out of the sidewalk.

“I’m going to make it look like the ground is busting open,” he says. When you look at it through a lens, that is. When you look at it on the ground with the naked eye, it will appear longish, out of proportion. “It’s kind of a math equation,” he says. “You have to figure out.”

Moran gravitates to pop art. Picasso and the Brazilian artist Romero Britto are his influences. He just got back from a festival in Reno, and after Cerritos is headed to Atlanta.

“Street art is getting huge,” he says. “A lot of people aren’t exposed to art … they come here and see beautiful art being made right in front of them.”

And then vanish.

“It’s like a weird type of performance art,” Moran says.

The pieces at the Cerritos festival will be power washed on Monday morning so you have until Sunday evening to see them.

“It’s ephemeral, like when you sing or act,” Miller says. “It’s just that moment. You just have to learn to let go with this type of work.”

Moran snaps photos of his pieces before he says goodbye to them. And he makes prints and postcards to sell. His full-time job, though, is in materials management at City of Hope.

Long Beach artist William Zin works in the freight industry. Zin, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Japan, came to California State Long Beach when he was 21 to study fine art. He found it tough to earn a living though and set aside his passion. It wasn’t until 2007 when he had three months off work following a double bypass that he started drawing again.

In 2009 he tried his skills at a chalk art event in Belmont Shore in Long Beach.

“I was instantly hooked,” he says.

Now he travels to up to 20 events a year: Atlanta, Houston, Victoria.

“It’s a little adventure,” he says.

Mostly he likes to do portraits, often of indigenous people. Reproducing old masterpieces is also fun, though. He has copied two Caravaggios for festivals, both in Carlsbad.

On Saturday he plans to sketch a 3-D koi pond scene with various critters to appeal to the families he hopes will come watch.

“We are there to have a conversation, hopefully promote more art and inspire younger generations,” he says.

A space will be set aside for festival visitors to test their talent.

“There’s usually hundreds of kids doing their own little thing,” Moran says.

Zin gives social media a lot of the credit for the growing popularity of art in general. People are sharing photos of art they create, as well as art they visit, whether in museums or on the streets. Whittier Daily News

 

Leonardo Had Help: Oxford Art Historian Asserts New Attribution for ‘Salvator Mundi’
Matthew Landrus believes the painting, which Louvre Abu Dhabi bought at auction for $450.3 million in 2017, better resembles the work of Bernardino Luini, an assistant in Da Vinci’s studio.

Money has predominantly led most of the discussions surrounding attribution for “Salvator Mundi” (c. 1500), the Renaissance painting from Milan whose connection to Leonardo da Vinci’s studio is certain if also vague. The question of how this painting (sold for $127.5 million in 2014) could nearly quadruple in price to $450.3 million in 2017 was inextricably linked to Christie’s ability to build consensus on what it billed as “one of fewer than 20 known paintings by Leonardo.” Assembling a team of experts, the auction house created a whirlwind of scholarship and publicity that silenced the majority of its critics until the final hours of the sale when a variety of academics and journalists spoke against the attribution.

One Leonardo expert who stayed quiet during the stormy debate was Oxford art historian Matthew Landrus, whose upcoming book, Leonardo da Vinci, is an update to his earlier 2006 edition that has sold over 200,000 copies in fifteen languages.

Landrus made headlines this week for his controversial appraisal of “Salvator Mundi,” which he says is probably between only 5% and 20% painted by Leonardo. He notes that the rest of the painting is likely the work of Bernardino Luini, a studio assistant of Da Vinci. Hyperallergic spoke with Landrus about his shocking assertion.

* * * * *

Hyperallergic: Who is Bernardino Luini and what makes him a more likely painter of “Salvator Mundi” than Leonardo himself?

Matthew Landrus: Born in c.1480, Luini was a painter who worked across Venice and Milan until his death in about 1532. His earliest training actually occurred at the Lombardy capital’s Duomo before traveling to Veneto from about 1504–1508. When he returned to Milan, he became heavily influenced by both Leonardo and Raphael. He’s associated with Leonardo’s studio somewhere between 1509–1512, which encapsulates the same period of time when “Salvator Mundi” was created. His work shows an approach similar to the painting, which he actually produced a couple of examples of himself.

Luini was an artist who valued painting for whatever aesthetics his specific audience wanted. In Veneto, he would paint in the Venetian style. (We actually have a 1507 painting of his done in this style.) When he gets to Lombardy, his style becomes inextricably associated with Milanese taste, including darker backgrounds and figures emerging from that space with landscapes sometimes in the background — landscapes often seen from an open window.

In the 2018 edition of my book, I’m actually agreeing with people that “Salvator Mundi” is partially in Leonardo’s hand. The new thing that I’m saying is that Luini has the best comparable examples, like “Christ Among the Doctors,” in which you can see real similarities. One thing that isn’t clear from other reports is that I’m not trying to challenge Christie’s or UAE. This is about what’s new in Leonardo studies. I think the question of how we attribute authorship to the painting is itself an issue. I think we need to clarify that the market is another animal compared to art history.

H: But why wait to speak up about “Salvator Mundi” and its attribution, months after the work’s sale?

ML: Simply put, I was recently asked what the updates were in my forthcoming book and I gave a list of updates. One updated is a reference to a Luini painting in relation to “Salvator Mundi.“Both were produced at the same time in Leonardo’s studio. I’ve reserved comment thus far because there were already so many arguments on either side of the debate. But I do think people agree with me. It’s an art historian’s job to look at aesthetic and connoisseurial issues seriously.

H: What does it exactly mean when you attribute “Salvator Mundi” to Leonardo and his studio assistants like Luini?

ML: Apparently, it means more than I anticipated. I thought it just meant that I’m uncertain about the painting being entirely Leonardo’s. Is it a fully autographed Leonardo? I can see other elements in it that don’t necessarily seem to be his. That doesn’t mean that they are “worse” elements. It’s very good work but it’s not necessarily by Leonardo in what we traditionally consider his hand.

To see studio assistance in the artist’s paintings after 1500 is not a radical idea. To say that Leonardo proudly put his name on the painting is also appropriate. If you produce work in your studio, then you put your name on it and claim it as your work. Because Leonardo came up with the design, produced drawings for it, set up the tracery formatting and the crystal ball — he started and finished the painting. By the standards of his day, “Salvator Mundi” is a Leonardo. By our standards, however, we want to look at who assisted him. That’s all I’m saying. It shows elements of Luini.

H: Besides Luini, what other artists do we know that were working in Leonardo’s studio?

ML: We know a number of people attributed to the studio, actually, including Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. He was an amazing painter, but Boltraffio’s style was so different, which is why I don’t attribute him to “Salvator Mundi.” Another is Francesco Melzi. There’s also Salaì to whom we can contribute another “Salvator Mundi.” (It’s very different in style, though. Not up to the quality of a Leonardo painting, but it’s still very nice.) What I should probably do for people is line up all the examples of “Salvator Mundi” and ask them what they think.

H: Does the drama surrounding your assertion underplay the merits of being associated with Luini? Does it undervalue the artist’s skills vis-à-vis Leonardo?

ML: That’s an interesting point. I’m actually praising Luini as being rather sophisticated, but people interpret that as, “Oh! It’s not good enough to be a Leonardo.” Sometimes, I think that studio work can be better than the master’s contributions. That’s the big question: Does the painting have the intellectual and visual sophistication of a Leonardo? I’m saying it does, even if it’s partially Luini because that artist brought himself up to the level of Da Vinci.

And one can see that Luini mastered painting quite early in his life. He was making a name for himself in Milan from 1509–1520 and long thereafter. That’s a good chunk of time when his paintings were very Leonardesque. Another argument is that his studio work is — in some cases — more Leonardesque than Leonardo himself. Hyperallergic

 

A Pop-Up Pencil Museum Underlines a History that Has Almost Been Erased
The Pencil Museum is an art installation by Jackie Mock that celebrates New York City’s pencil history and its connection to Staten Island.

Suspended in a vitrine in Staten Island’s Faber Park is a Mongol 482 No. 2, one of the most recognizable pencils ever designed with its black and yellow color scheme. Manufactured by Johann Eberhard Faber’s company (and supposedly named for his favorite soup, purée Mongole), it wasn’t the first yellow pencil, but its popularity helped secure the flaxen image that comes to mind when we think “pencil.” You can still spot ten-foot-tall yellow pencils on the façade of the former Eberhard Faber factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Yet it was here on the north shore of Staten Island that the Faber family made their home.

It’s that local history that artist Jackie Mock wanted to celebrate in The Pencil Museum, a new installation in Faber Park, once the site of the Faber Mansion. “It’s amazing that [Eberhard Faber] was one of the first big factories in New York, and a lot of people who use the park every day have no idea what the Faber name is or how it ties into the history of the city,” Mock told Hyperallergic.

Born into a German family of pencil makers, Faber immigrated to the United States in 1848. He soon recognized that American red cedar was especially suited to making lead pencils. His first factory opened in 1861 in Manhattan on the East River (about where the United Nations is today). After a fire destroyed that building, the Greenpoint factory was established in 1872.

The Pencil Museum is one of 10 yearlong projects debuting this summer in New York City parks. Supported by the Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant, they’re intended for parks that lack major cultural programming. There’s also Karla and James Murray’s “Mom-and-Pops of the L.E.S.,” featuring life-size images of defunct local businesses, in the Lower East Side’s Seward Park; Rose DeSiano’s “Absent Monuments,” in which mirrored obelisks are adorned with Dutch Delft photographic tiles interpreting indigenous history, in Queens’s Rufus King Park; Tanda Francis’s “Adorn Me,” a colossal head inspired by African sculpture and Victorian craft, in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park; and Dionisio Cortes Ortega’s “Sitting Together,” with interactive sculptures based on the arrangement of the Bronx Supreme Courthouse, in the Bronx’s Joyce Kilmer Park.

In Faber Park, a series of handmade vitrines each hold an antique pencil or associated implement (including a familiar Pink Pearl eraser), arranged as as a sort of walking tour through Eberhard Faber history. “Some of the pencils are pretty difficult to find, and none of them are being manufactured anymore,” Mock said. She connected with collectors and pencil aficionados to acquire specimens such as the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602, its smooth writing beloved by John Steinbeck, Duke Ellington, and Leonard Bernstein. A pair of World War II-era pencils — the Columbia 465 and Marigold 240 — show how rationing impacted the pencil industry, with cardboard and plastic incorporated into their construction. Many Eberhard Faber pencils were designed for specific uses, like wide Elementary 6370 for young students just learning to write, while the pairing of an Eberhard Faber cap and ring pencil with a brooch pin was a valued utility for early 20th-century women working in retail.

Mock often elevates seemingly mundane objects through sculptural assemblages, whether paint samples from every subway station in Manhattan, or a portrait of Abraham Lincoln made with a vintage puzzle, its missing pieces recreated with bark from a tree outside his Kentucky childhood home. “I like to present objects and make something ordinary into something more monumental,” she said.

The Eberhard Faber company was later merged into Faber-Castell USA, then it became part of Paper Mate. With the postwar rise of the ballpoint pen, and then digital communication, the pencil became less and less central to everyday life. Mock hopes that visitors to The Pencil Museum will gain a greater appreciation for the evolution of writing implements, and a deeper connection with the park, which, aside from its name, has no monument or existing museum to recall this history.

“I met a lot of kids who were like, ‘pencils? we use those in school, why are these interesting?,’ and I got to take them around and they were like, ‘this is much cooler than what we have now!’,” Mock said. “I really loved thinking a little bit outside the typical gallery situation. It was this opportunity to bring this to a different audience, and putting it in their park was really important to me. I think it’s accessible, and there’s something that everyone can get out of it.” Hyperallergic

 

How to Get the Most Out of Art (Even When You’re Not Sure You Get It)
No, you don’t have to have a degree to appreciate and love art.

You don’t need an art degree or highbrow credentials to make the most out of a trip to an art museum. Viewing art, even if you know nothing about what you’re looking at, can be good for your brain and help you develop better communication skills.

“Even though having experience and formal training can help you view art in a certain way, it’s certainly not necessary for getting something beneficial out of the artwork,” said Dr. Oshin Vartanian, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Toronto, adding that even if you’re an art skeptic, consuming it can have tangible benefits.

Indeed, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Holistic Healthcare found that participants reported lower stress levels and had lower concentrations of cortisol (the “stress hormone”) after a brief visit to an art gallery.

If you’ve ever found yourself a loss for how to talk about art — or even wondered if there is a “right” way to consume it — here’s some help.

Keep it quick, but carry the conversation elsewhere

If you’ve spent money and taken time out of your day to visit a museum or gallery, you might feel like the only way to make the most out of your experience is to force yourself to see everything.

Don’t.

“Just bite off a little piece and enjoy,” said Mary Morton, the curator and head of the Department of French Paintings at the National Gallery of Art. Having a conversation partner, she said, also comes in handy.

An easy question to start with is, “How does this make me feel?” Also helpful is to think about what it is that kept you from walking past a given piece. Pretending like you’re an overly inquisitive toddler and continually asking “Why?” can also push each of you to look more closely at details in the artwork and begin to think about and vocalize associations you might not have connected before.

The conversation doesn’t have to end when you leave the museum, and talking about your experience can even extend the social and emotional benefits of engaging with art, Dr. Vartanian said. So grab an ice cream and reminisce about the pieces you remember best; by giving your brain time to think them over, it’s likely you’ll have new comments or even a different opinion.

Let’s get physical

If you’re feeling shy when it comes to talking about the content of an artwork, try talking about how the physical object was made, or better yet, act it out.

You might feel silly swinging your arm around wildly following the lines of a Lee Krasner painting or pretending to recreate the nose-to-canvas-level detail of a Dutch master’s work. But forcing yourself to think about the physical process someone went through to make a piece of art is an easy way to get conversation rolling.

What do you think was the first mark made on the canvas? Is the paint applied aggressively or are the lines very faint? Did the artist try to create an emotional response by making the piece large and imposing?

These questions “can help us to access information, whether that’s an emotion or a specific meaning,” said Tally Tripp, an art psychotherapist and the director of George Washington University’s Art Therapy Clinic. Ms. Tripp uses art creation and questions like these with her clients to help them explore how artwork often becomes an unintentional self-portrait of an artist’s emotions.

Certainly you’ll never be able to truly understand how an artist was feeling when he or she made a given piece. But talking about the physical elements of an artwork — its bright colors or jagged lines — can help you explore the impact different kinds of imagery have on you.

You don’t have to love everything

“We like to take people to the modern and contemporary sections to do this, because it tends to be the most controversial,” said Nick Gray, who founded Museum Hack, which offers unconventional museum tours filled with art games and gossip.

Mr. Gray has a game he plays on museum tours called Buy, Steal, Burn. To play, choose a piece of art you feel strongly about — positive or negative — and tell your companion why you love it enough to buy it; want to steal it because you need it; or think it’s so terrible it just needs to be burned.

Besides getting people to talk about art, Mr. Gray said the real benefit of threatening priceless artwork with arson is getting viewers comfortable with the idea that it’s O.K. not to like or revere everything they see in a museum.

“The Met has over 230,000 objects,” Mr. Gray said. “You’d have to be crazy to find a single person who would love every object in there.”

He also suggested photo challenges as a way to build confidence and practice sharing art with friends. Don’t be afraid to keep themes light and a bit silly, and as you walk through the museum snap a picture of anything that reminds you of the prompt. If the challenge is “down to party,” it could be a painted jug of wine you’re planning to bring, a dreamy looking date or the perfect landscape for a dance party. If your dream get-together involves a bonfire, you can always choose which canvas you’d bring for kindling.

Julia Hood, coordinator of education at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, N.C., encouraged digging into that hate and repulsion, emotions that can be just as strong as love, and asking yourself questions about what specifically bothers you.

Looking at pieces that make you uncomfortable can even help you work through difficult emotions like fear or anger or help you realize certain sensitivities, Dr. Vartanian said.

“Interacting with this kind of artwork can force you to contemplate things you might not think about outside of the museum setting, because the context is safe,” he said.

If your companion disagrees with your opinion, dig in. Even if they can’t convince you that a piece of artwork should be saved from the fire, talking about your different reactions can spark a conversation that moves past art to the different experiences and baggage you’re both bringing to the viewing experience.

Keep looking and talking

Active looking isn’t just a recommendation for museum newbies. Even if you’ve already seen an exhibit there can real benefits, and interesting talking points, left to discover. And research shows that the more you understand an artwork, the more pleasure you receive from it, Dr. Vartanian said.

While a repeat visit might mean the paintings on the wall are the same, you aren’t the same person you were when you last saw them, Ms. Tripp said. Even the smallest experiences — like waking up on the wrong side of the bed — can change how we experience art. Though it can be easy to fall back on just visiting your favorites, Ms. Tripp said you should try to look for the piece of art that is your favorite today.

This makes for great conversation as you wonder why a painting you’ve never paid attention to has suddenly caught your eye. Even if you double down on an old favorite, this exercise makes you justify why you still identify with it. Pick out elements that speak to you and force yourself to articulate why they speak to you. And new conversation partners can bring up different points that can totally change your perspective, Ms. Morton said.

“Inevitably someone, it could be a 10-year-old or an 88-year-old, will make an observation about a painting I’ve spent years with and a little door will open and I’ll see something new,” she said. The New York Times