October 30, 2019

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


In this issue:

The Risks & Rewards of Foreign Plein Air Painting
The History of the Art Institute Lions
Louvre defends planned switch to timed-entry tickets after Mona Lisa 'pandemonium'
Report from Havana: Printmaking and the “State of the Art”
Shoes to store: How Kristen Ashely MacCarthy created the K. A. Artist Shop
Gauguin’s Tahitian lover may be more fantasy than reality
The Sam & Adele Golden Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Susan Roth
It’s 50 years since Caravaggio’s Nativity was stolen in Palermo: have the police been chasing red herrings all this time?
First the New Yorker profiled Romare Bearden. Then the artist and activist decided to tell his own story, in pictures.
Landscape Painting: Get Your Rocks Right
Fresco of two fighting gladiators discovered in Pompeii
The Idiosyncratic Paintings of Maud Lewis, a Beloved Canadian Folk Artist
ECU art students teach new generation
Catching up with Carol Ward – One River School
Student Work On Display At Jerry’s Artarama



 

 

 

 

The Risks & Rewards of Foreign Plein Air Painting

Over the past 25 years, Illinois artist David E. Dallison (www.davidedallison.com) has taken his portable, plein air watercolor equipment to more than 35 countries, sometimes ignoring travel warnings and political unrest. He is now being a bit more cautious since he is traveling with his young family. Here’s how he works with watercolors in distant locations.

“These paintings tell the story of my travels and are a celebration of this earth and the places, events, and people that particularly inspire me,” says Dallison. “I plan the trips by doing a lot of research, Google searches, and conversations to identify the places where I have the greatest chance of being inspired and telling an engaging story. But no matter how much planning I do, I have to remain open to unexpected challenges and opportunities. I also have to pack with the expectation that I won’t find professional watercolor paints, brushes, and papers when I get to some countries.”

When Dallison was young and single, he was willing to travel to almost any interesting location. In between painting trips he also works as a professional musician. Now that he is older and makes extended two-month trips with his wife and two children, the artist searches for foreign villages and cities where he will be close to great painting subjects and where his family will be safe and happy exploring the local culture.

Before airlines imposed restrictions, Dallison used to take a flat portfolio of papers and a backpack filled with paints and brushes on planes with him. Now he has to put watercolor papers in a strong cardboard tube he can check with his luggage. “I roll up 300lb paper on the outside of the tube and thinner 150lb paper inside the roll,” the artist explains. “When I get to my destination, I soak the papers in a bathtub and stretch them so they will go back to being flat. Then I usually tear the paper into quarter sheets for painting. I secure them in my aluminum easel and use the backpack as a seat or a taboret, depending on whether I need to paint standing or sitting.

“My priority is always to paint scenes I love without concern for my comfort. I stand or sit in precarious positions if that’s the best way to paint the best views. I may have to buy a beach umbrella to block the harsh sunlight and heat, and I might have to strap the umbrella to my leg to keep it from blowing over in a strong wind.”

Dallison first does a light pencil drawing of his subject on the watercolor paper, then starts off painting with a palette of about 14 colors manufactured by Holbein, Old Holland, Winsor & Newton, and Daniel Smith. “I might take some special colors to a country like Morocco where I expect to find a wide range of bright, intense colors that might be difficult to mix from my standard selection of pigments,” the artist says. Outdoor Painter

 

The History of the Art Institute Lions
Editor's Note: The Art Institute of Chicago is the location of Namta's 2020 President's Reception

Like so many things in Chicago, the history of the lions can be traced back to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition – also known as the World’s Fair.

The original section of the Art Institute building, which the Lions guard, was itself built for the World’s Fair. It was the only structure to be constructed outside of Jackson Park and one of just a few that wasn’t destroyed when the fair ended.

The building opened in 1893. But for almost a year, its front doors were left unguarded! The lions weren’t installed until May of 1894, designed by sculptor and then-Chicagoan Edward Kemeys.

By the late 1800s, Kemeys was the country’s premier “animalier” – a fancy French word that just means sculptor of animals.

Like many American artists of the time, Kemeys was drawn to scenes of raw and unfiltered nature. The Art Institute actually hosted an exhibition of his work in 1885 at its previous location, a few blocks south at Michigan and Van Buren in what is now the Chicago Club.

Kemeys ended up contributing a dozen sculptures to the World’s Fair in 1893 – more than any other American. Like much of the exposition’s “White City,” they were made of plaster, not made to last. That included two lions, as well as two other sculptures Chicagoans may recognize: the two bison which today stand in Humboldt Park, just north of Division Street.

But of course, it’s the lions that became Kemeys’ most visible work, seen by millions of people every year. When the World’s Fair ended, Florence Lathrop Page – an early benefactor of the Art Institute and sister-in-law of Marshall Field – commissioned and paid for Kemeys’ designs to be cast in bronze.

Each weights over 2 tons. And if you look closely, you’ll realize that they are not actually identical twins.

Kemeys wanted them to have their own personality and style. He styled the northern lion to be “on the prowl,” with its mouth slightly ajar and its eyes gazing in the distance.

Contrast that with the courage – or maybe even hubris – of the southern lion, which is modeled “in an attitude of defiance.” You can see that coming through in its body language – notice the upturned, regal head.

Over the years, the lions have become more than just statues – they’re almost mascots for the city.

Since their early days, the sort of “stoic realism” Kemeys was going for in his design has been greeted with a certain playfulness – like on the cover of this 1928 issue of The Chicagoan magazine.

More recently, the Lions have become diehard Chicago sports fans! Whenever a local team has a strong postseason run they’ll don hats for the Cubs or Sox, or helmets for the Bears and Blackhawks.

There’s also the annual “wreathing of the lions,” in which they are decked out in wreaths and bows for the holidays during an annual ceremony and performance of some kind.

Today, the Lions even have a Twitter account! They post semi-regularly, mostly about local sports and other bits of local culture – like the only proper way to make a Chicago hot dog. wttw

 

Louvre defends planned switch to timed-entry tickets after Mona Lisa 'pandemonium'
Reservations will become mandatory at the world's most visited museum by the end of the year

Officials at the Louvre are standing by their decision to introduce timed-entry tickets by the end of 2019, arguing that the policy “allows a better flow of visitors and is key to a more comfortable visit”. The reaction comes after what the French art critic Didier Rykner called “pandemonium” at the museum this summer, when huge queues formed to see the Mona Lisa.

The museum has made online reservation compulsory for its highly anticipated Leonardo da Vinci exhibition (24 October-24 February 2020), with timed-entry tickets priced at €17 and including admission to the permanent collection. Separate tickets for special exhibitions were scrapped in 2015.

It is not yet clear whether the online-only system will be extended to all visitors; a Louvre spokeswoman says a reservation system will apply to all general admissions, but “the format has not been confirmed”. The museum’s 60,000 members, the Friends of the Louvre, will be exempt, she adds. Entry will remain free for under-18s and under-26s who live in the EU, but they may still need to pre-book.

Complaints about overcrowding flared up in July when the Mona Lisa was moved to the Galerie Médicis so its usual gallery, the Salle des Etats, could be repainted. One scathing TripAdvisor review of the temporary display describes being “herded like cattle [and] pushed out of the way by the rude security staff if you dare to take more than five seconds to look at [the painting]”.

Tensions over visitor conditions had been simmering for months. Unionised security staff went on strike in May, protesting that the Louvre is “suffocating” due to record attendance, which reached 10.2 million in 2018.

Frédéric Serrier, a representative of the union Sud Culture Solidaires, says that museum management has since “taken the measure of our dissatisfaction” and understood the need for a limit on visitor numbers. “We are waiting for the situation to return to normal following the completion of work in the Mona Lisa room, when we will work with management to determine the best entrances to the museum,” Serrier says, although he warns that union members are considering further strike action. The Mona Lisa is expected to return to the Salle des Etats next week. Meanwhile, the union has also asked the French culture ministry to recruit more staff.

A crowd control strategy for the world’s busiest museum—receiving an average of 30,000 visitors a day—is needed now more than ever, says the former Centre Pompidou president Alain Seban. But with the great majority of visitors wanting to see the Mona Lisa, “the Louvre has relatively few options”, he says. “There’s one fundamental decision: do you keep the Mona Lisa in the same circuit as the rest of the collections or do you organise a different circuit for the painting?” The Art Newspaper

 

Report from Havana: Printmaking and the “State of the Art”
An up-to-the-minute look at an influential medium in Cuban contemporary art

Our recent chat with curator Cristina Vives about the increased international interest in Belkis Ayón reminded us of the important role that printmaking has played in contemporary Cuban art since the 1980s. We asked Steven Daiber—director of the US-based print organization Red Trillium Press and a longtime friend of the Cuban printmaking community—for a report on his most recent trip to the island. His article reflects on the current state of printmaking in Cuba as a form of artistic expression, as well as the history of some well-known printmaking studios and artists’ print collectives.

The conditions are good for printmaking in Cuba, says Anyelmaidelin Calzadilla Fernández, director of printmaking at the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, the acclaimed art school that recently celebrated its 200th anniversary.

“My main concern,” Calzadilla Fernández said, “is that the younger generation of engraving graduates are not interested in teaching classes, and that we do not have digital media capabilities, which are the modern means of printmaking.”

Many of the current generation express a similar concern that the younger generation of artists is not enamored with printmaking as an honored art form. Instead, they say, the younger generation is influenced by digital media and the lure of traveling off the island for success, gravitating to other visual art forms that offer greater opportunities (and money).

Even so, there is an active printmaking scene in Havana. The Taller Experimental de Gráfica de La Habana, the most well-known Cuban print shop internationally, is on Callejón del Chorro in the Plaza de la Catedral. It was one of the first buildings to be restored in the 1980s, under the guidance of Dr. Eusebio Leal, when Havana became a UNESCO World Heritage city.

Yamilys Brito is the first woman director in the workshop’s 57-year history. Under her leadership, over the past two years there has been an effort to repair and improve the structure of the workshop. Walls and ceilings have been redone, along with new lighting and wall design in the gallery.

I was fortunate to visit Havana this past spring, while a number of the XIII Habana Biennial exhibitions were still on view. At the Taller de Gráfica, the group show El taller de grabado y su circunstancia (The Engraving Workshop and its Circumstance) reflected the impact of the US embargo and the Trump Administration’s Cuba policy on the printmaking community, including acute shortages of materials.

There were two common refrains in my first week in Havana: “There is no chicken in the markets,” followed by “There is no paper available for printing.” The chicken did return to the stores by the end of the week, but no paper or inks.

Cuban artists rely on travel opportunities to supply their printmaking needs, returning from abroad with paper and inks. Or foreign friends might bring an occasional tin of ink or a few sheets of paper. With the Trump Administration’s new regulations, those options are becoming rarer. But one strength of Cuban art is its standing up to adversity with humor and resolve.

In his exhibition essay, critic and curator David Mateo underscored the Taller de Gráfica’s longstanding strengths: “the sense of belonging, the intellectual and cultural commitment which has allowed the Taller to overcome deep pitfalls, to stay afloat and excel in times of storms, deprivation, or absolute pragmatism.”

Not surprisingly, the printing presses are from a different era, well used and repaired often. With its gently arching press bed, my favorite etching press at the Taller de Gráfica reminds me of the waves along the Malecón—difficult to print with, but a stoic machine. When traditional printmaking inks are not available, fast-drying offset inks find their way into the printer’s palette and are adapted to intaglio, woodcut, and lithography. In 2006 I personally printed a series of silkscreen prints using blue offset ink. It took over a year for the offgassing solvents to finally leave the prints, but I had the most beautiful transparent images.

In the history of printmaking in Havana, we cannot ignore the importance of the Taller de Serigrafía René Portocarrero on Calle Cuba. Perhaps less known to the visiting tourist community, Portocarrero was founded in 1982 as the premier silkscreen print shop of Havana. It has four active silkscreen presses, a screen wash room with a vacuum press for photo lithos, and two galleries for exhibitions. Because silkscreen lends itself to commercial applications, the artists working at the Taller Portocarrero often complete government commissions as well as creating editioned prints for artists.

Sharing the space is an active letter-press operation with platen presses, a linotype machine, and a monster of a paper guillotine with a nearby set of barbells. (You need muscles to prepare the fly wheel on the guillotine, as the motor in broken). There is nothing more beautiful than watching the blade trim a stack of paper when you have powered the machine yourself.

Across Havana, there are also a number of private print workshops run by individual artists. Perhaps the best equipped is the Taller de Gráfica Contemporánea de Nelson Domínguez. Located across Havana Harbor in Villa Panamericana, La Habana del Este, it offers various opportunities for artists to work.

Potential print collectors can find art on display and artists working in both of the state-owned workshops, the Taller de Serigrafía René Portocarrero and Taller Experimental de Gráfica de la Habana. The Taller Portocarrero sales gallery offers a varied collection of well-established artists, and the exhibition gallery presents contemporary work by younger and emerging artists. In addition to organized exhibitions at the Taller Experimental de Gráfica, artists present their work within the workshop proper.

There are also a number of galleries in Havana that sell prints, including my two favorite contemporary galleries in Vedado: Galería Habana on Calle Línea and Galería Servando on Calle 23. Prints are also available in the gallery associated with the Taller Gráfica Contemporánea de Nelson Domínguez.

Many artists work across mediums, visiting print shops for a specific project or printing in their own workshops. For collectors, the best method of finding print artists might begin with preliminary research before coming to Cuba, then visiting individual artists’ studios. Word of mouth is often a good guide.

There is a scattering of printmaking activity across the island, but it is modest compared to Havana. In Pinar del Río, the printmaking workshop has three members. In the center of the island, there are approximately a dozen active printmakers, with six printers in the Cienfuegos Printmaking Workshop and in Sagua la Grande. I am told Villa Clara has three or four active printmakers. In Santiago de Cuba, where there are a dozen active printmakers, the primary print workshop was divided into three smaller spaces under the guidance of individual artists.

Movements, Conferences, Institutions
La huella múltiple (The Multiple Imprint) was a printmaking movement founded in 1996 by Ibrahim Miranda, Sandra Ramos, Abel Barroso, and Belkis Ayón. There were four major exhibitions held in Havana (1996-2006) and one in the US, in Austin, Texas (2001). Inspired by the ideas in Walter Benjamin’s seminal 1935 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” La huella múltiple had a profound influence on the following generations of printmakers in Cuba. Earlier this year, it was the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Latin American Art in California.

Haciendo presión (Making Pressure) is a group of contemporary Cuban printmakers who have matured in the past 15 years or so. Their generation gives continuity and vindication to Cuban printmaking, looking beyond the traditional boundaries of print to continue the legacy of La huella múltiple. Members of Haciendo presión—among them Hanoi Pérez, Alejandro Sainz, Anyelmaidelìn Calzadilla, Yamilys Brito and Janette Brossard—have participated in collateral exhibitions during the XI, XII, and XIII editions of the Havana Biennial. They have had several exhibitions of artist books in Havana, a public intervention in the Plaza de Armas in 2014, and an exhibition in Perth, Australia. Their artist book, titled Haciendo Presión, presents the group and its intentions.

The first national print conference, Encuentro Nacional de Grabado, was held in 1983 at the Havana Libre Hotel. It became a triennial fair, with nine iterations, including exhibitions and seminars, taking place since then. The last conference was held in 2016.

A new conference and fair, Arte Cubano Sobre Papel (Cuban Art on Paper), is currently being developed with Spanish support, under the guidance of Victor del Campo, curator of Gabinete semana de arte gráfico and Coleccionismo y estampas, and Norma Rodríguez, president of the Cuban Consejo Nacional de las Artes Plásticas (CNAP). Intended as an international event, the first Arte Cubano Sobre Papel is scheduled for December 2020.

The Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro is the second-oldest art academy in the New World. Students are selected at age 15 by portfolio submission and academic testing. Printmaking was introduced at San Alejandro as a supplemental area of study in 1928; in 1982, the school made it a major area of study. There are currently 58 students enrolled in the printmaking program, including 16 second-year students, 18 third-year students and 14 fourth-year students, who’ll graduate in June 2020.

At the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA), visual-arts students work in collective groups during their five-year program, led by professors who specialize in the areas of the student’s individual interest. The department of engraving provides support and technical expertise to students interested in engraving as a primary area of study or in supplementing a particular project. A few of the approximately 15 students graduating each year major in printmaking.

Among artists of the 1970s, Eduardo Roca Salazar (Choco) and Nelson Domínguez continue to influence printmaking in Cuba, and Ibrahim Miranda, Sandra Ramos, and Abel Barroso of La huella múltiple are actively working with graphic arts. Eduardo Hernández Santos is in his 27th year of guiding printmaking students at San Alejandro. The young printmakers of the early 2000s—Janette Brossard, Anyelmaidelin Calzadilla, Hanoi Pérez and others—also teach and guide a younger generation of Cuban artists. The artists’ book is now an established vehicle for printmakers to explore and express ideas.

Thirteen years after its final exhibition, La huella múltiple continues to influence younger printmakers in Cuba. The collective Haciendo presión and the Taller Experimental de Gráfica create opportunities for exhibitions and dialogue. Cuban print artists struggle with supplies, equipment, and working conditions. Yet through it all they continue to create compelling, evocative work. The “state” of printmaking is strong in Cuba. Cuban Art News

 

Shoes to store: How Kristen Ashely MacCarthy created the K. A. Artist Shop

Despite being a hub for creative minds as well as the “go-to” supply store for art students in Athens, the origins of the K. A. Artist Shop and its founder remained largely unknown.

Tucked away on Jackson Street, the K. A. Artist Shop is a hotspot for Athens’ professional artists and art students alike. Founded in 2014, the shop slowly integrated itself into the Athens art scene, advertising solely by word of mouth for its first three years of operation. For regular customers, the shop was a stroke of serendipitous fortune.

Upon entering the shop, customers ascend a rainbow flight of stairs to the main room. Tidy and organized, its walls are covered in muted earthy colors with splashes of pastel pinks and aquas. Despite being packed with a wide assortment of supplies, the organized arrangement and bright lighting make the space airy and dynamic.

The shop’s aesthetic would be easy to attribute to an artist, and while that title may reign true today, the owner’s journey to establishing the K. A. Artist Shop was a rather ambiguous unwinding of events.

The name behind the name
Kristen Ashley MacCarthy, the founder of the K. A. Artist Shop is originally from Atlanta and moved to Athens in 2000 to attend the University of Georgia.

While MacCarthy was committed to obtaining an art degree from a young age, deciding exactly what role it would play in her life was a slow process. On the path to self discovery, MacCarthy took a vast assortment of classes at UGA such as linguistics, biology, sociology and psychology, before graduating with two majors: one in art and one in philosophy nine years after she initially began.

However, at the time of her 2009 graduation MacCarthy was surprisingly not pursuing an artistic career, but instead was managing a restaurant. Throughout college she had slowly progressed through the employee hierarchy, which provided her with an initial taste of business experience.

From student to studio artist
A year later, MacCarthy was married, and her marriage became the fertile soil from which the K. A. Artist Shop grew. And its growth was rooted in a single pair of wedding shoes.

“They were covered in mud because we got married outside,” MacCarthy said, in reference to the expensive Calvin Kleins she wore down the aisle. “So I just started applying lace in strips to the shoes, and I really treated it like a sculpture … I made a pretty cool pair of shoes.”

It was the first piece MacCarthy had made that was not a painting, and more importantly, the first piece she was able to visualize as a purchasable product. After putting similar prototypes on an Etsy store, she was suddenly selling not just throughout America, but worldwide, including Canada and Sweden.

Following the success of her Etsy store, MacCarthy decided she wanted her own studio and began to search the Athens area for a space suitable to her needs.

This exciting time of life was changed, however, with the passing of MacCarthy’s parents. She quit working at the restaurant, and began to pursue a life that would honor her parents.

“It gave me an opportunity to reevaluate my life and say ‘OK, I can start something here.'” MacCarthy said.

After purchasing a rather oddly structured space on the second floor of a building in downtown Athens, she and two recruits from her restaurant worked tirelessly to bring the space to life. As new flooring was laid and fresh paint applied, MacCarthy became aware that her studio would be more than she could have ever hoped for.

“Kristen is one of the most poised and graceful people I’ve met,” said Christina Littleton, manager at the K. A. Artist Shop and friend of MacCarthy. “She carries a strong and encouraging demeanor both in and out of work.”

Becoming a shop owner
When the studio first opened, MacCarthy dabbled in all mediums and did freelance work advertised by word of mouth. Customers’ continual requests made her aware of a need for not only a supply store in Athens, but a space for artists and non-artists alike to take classes and display their work.

“If I’m going to have a bunch of art supplies on hand, I might as well sell some,” MacCarthy said. “It was all just a matter of thinking, ‘OK what do we have, what can we then share with the public?’”

The studio became an artist shop, adopting MacCarthy’s first two initials in its title. Business progressed gradually, with her describing it as quicker than she could handle, but not so quick that it escaped from her entirely. Throughout the growth, she continuously prioritized organization and customer care.

Over the years, as customer demographics fluctuated between professional artists and student artists, MacCarthy was able to gain a clear understanding of Athens-specific customer needs, and made catering to them her goal through supplies,class kits or a versatile assortment of in-studio art classes.

“She has created a new haven for so many artists and creators who come through the shop,” Littleton said, “It is clear that she is making a difference in people’s lives. I have been enlightened to a beautiful community of artists who support each other and provide a rich lifestyle for themselves."

MacCarthy hopes to expand at a gradual rate, preferring to be gracious and optimistic about new possibilities. In the near future she is hoping the shop will host more artists for the in-studio classes they provide, which further enlighten and support the growth of creative knowledge and artistic mindset.

“It’s the dream I never knew I had,” MacCarthy said. “But it’s absolutely what I’m cut out to do and what I want to be doing.”

To young artists who have found themselves in a similar unfolding of events, MacCarthy encourages organization from the start and a willingness to say yes to as many opportunities as possible. She believes being open to possibility provides a deep understanding of the surrounding need, and how one as an artist can fulfill it. The Red & Black

 

Gauguin’s Tahitian lover may be more fantasy than reality
As the National Gallery's exhibition opens in London, an expert speculates that the teenager in his Polynesian works could be a composite of women the painter encountered

Paul Gauguin’s young Tahitian lover, Tehamana, might have been something of a fantasy, according to the catalogue of the National Gallery’s Gauguin Portraits exhibition, which opens on 7 October.

Many specialists have until now believed Tehamana was a real person who was immortalised in some of the painter’s finest Polynesian works. They had assumed she lived with the artist for 18 months, becoming his mistress and model from the age of 13, when the painter was 43. This has led many people to regard Gauguin as a paedophile—and to view his Tahitian paintings as less paean to lost innocence and mythic purity than a distasteful example of male colonial privilege.

Elizabeth Childs, a professor at Washington University in St Louis and contributor to the National Gallery catalogue, speculates that Tehamana may have been “created by the artist out of an amalgam of his encounters with Pacific Islander women”, based on “a few random encounters with various willing women”.

The name Tehamana, sometimes referred to as Teha’amana or Tehura, is inscribed on one of Gauguin’s finest Tahitian paintings, Tehamana Has Many Parents (1893), now at the Art Institute of Chicago. This is the main image that the National Gallery is using to promote its exhibition of his portraiture (which was shown earlier in Ottawa).

Many Gauguin specialists believe Tehamana is also depicted in Woman of the Mango (Baltimore Museum of Art), Spirit of the Dead Watching (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo) and the sculpture Tehura (Musée d’Orsay, Paris). Gauguin writes about the girl in his semi-fictional autobiography Noa Noa, where he names her as Tehura. Describing her as a “child of about thirteen”, he recounts how he married her in a Tahitian ceremony in late 1891 and how she then lived with him as his wife. On Gauguin’s return to France in 1893, Tehura is said to have wept on the quayside, her legs dangling in the water: “The flower which she had put behind her ear in the morning had fallen wilted upon her knee.”

It has generally been assumed that Tehamana was real, and this seemed confirmed by research by the Swedish anthropologist Bengt Danielsson in the 1950s. Although giving only sparse evidence, Danielsson identified her as a woman who was born on the island of Huahine and died on Tahiti during the Spanish flu epidemic on 9 December 1918. But in another essay in the National Gallery catalogue, Linda Goddard, of the school of art history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, describes Danielsson’s findings as representing “tantalising hints rather than conclusive evidence about her identity”.

Childs also questions whether Gauguin really lived for any length of time with a mistress and model named Tehamana. She suggests that the piece Tehamana Has Many Parents embodied the artist’s nostalgic attempt to participate in a Tahitian culture that was disappearing in the wake of the French colonial presence.

Tehamana may well have been an amalgam of the women Gauguin encountered, transformed into the figure of a perfect Polynesian partner. Regarding the other paintings that some specialists see as depicting Tehamana, Childs argues that they are more likely to be “reflections of his self-exploration and his artistic process … than direct records of personal encounters with a particular woman”.

This raises the question of whether the Tehamana paintings should be regarded as portraits. Normally a portrait is defined as a depiction of an individual. Childs concludes that Tehamana Has Many Parents is not a conventional portrait, but rather an “ethnoportrait” – a term she has coined to define “works that present an individual using fashion, setting and/or accessories to localise their cultural identity as Pacific Islanders”. She believes the painting was probably based on Tehamana’s likeness, but how far it resembles her face remains uncertain: in the picture, she looks considerably older than in her early teens.

As for the other Tehamana paintings, Childs thinks they either depict other women or are the artist’s inventions.

Morality of the age
Although it is likely that someone named Tehamana entered Gauguin’s life during his time in Tahiti, the nature of his relationship with her, and whether it lasted one night or 18 months, remains unclear. Danielsson was told during his research that Tehamana had other lovers during Gauguin’s stay. She is never named in Gauguin’s correspondence from his first Tahitian stay and although he states in one letter that he “will soon be a father again in Oceania”, it is unclear whether this referred to Tehamana or indeed whether a child was born.

Childs argues that even if Tehamana was on the quayside when Gauguin returned to France, the artist “missed her presence as his muse far more than she missed him”. She went on to marry again soon after his departure, a relationship that survived until her death in 1918.

By today’s standards, a girl marrying at the age of 13 seems shocking, but this was not unusual in Gauguin’s time in Tahiti, and this was the age of sexual consent in France, which governed the island. But what was then considered highly immoral in Tahiti was for a man to marry two women. Although separated, Gauguin was still legally married to his Danish wife, Mette Gad, who had left him a few years earlier. Gauguin probably never revealed this to the young Tehamana. The Art Newspaper

 

The Sam & Adele Golden Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Susan Roth

Susan Roth, a self-described non-objective painter, offers challenging eccentric outer profiles in many of paintings in her exhibition BLACK IS A COLOR. The fourteen acrylic paintings exhibited range in date from 1982 through 2019, and trace her unique and individual approach to the shaping of the canvas as it responds to the compositional elements within. Roth takes full advantage of the range of acrylic paints and mediums and had the opportunity to work closely with Sam Golden, the founder of Golden Artist Colors, to create new acrylic products. Her paintings contain collaged canvas elements as well as the low relief provided by the acrylic paints.

A Roth painting can have wildly demanding outer shapes that resemble the state boundaries of Idaho or Nebraska, or they can be subtle trapezoids, or, though infrequently, conventional rectangles. Her choice of shape, whether extreme, or whether adhering to recognizable, traditional rectangles, is generated by a wide range of non-traditional applications of paint. Roth's paint is tactile, hyper-materialized, implying the dynamics of carving and modeling. Surface contrast abounds. Folded and bunched canvas, saturated with medium, are the billowing sleeves and gowns of sixteenth century Venetian paintings made real.

Apropos of the title: 'BLACK IS A COLOR', Roth has used saturated black paint in her paintings as a through-line for the emphasis of drawing in her working method. The richness and depth of black pigment provide an assertive way for her plumb the compositional depths.

Conventional architecture: square rooms, rectangular rooms, occasion the shape of the millions of paintings, prints, photographs, and media screens we all engage. If a preponderance of 21st century paintings as rectangles lulls the art-speaking-world into a recumbent torpor, then the paintings of Susan Roth provide an antidote and a wake-up call.

The title 'BLACK IS A COLOR' reprises that of the post-World War 2 inaugural exhibition held in 1946 at Galerie Maeght in Paris entitled 'le Noir est une Couleur'. Susan Roth has held close the idea of that exhibition as being one of the touchstones of modernism.

JIM WALSH, Gallery Director, The Sam and Adele Golden Gallery

'BLACK IS A COLOR' is an exhibition of paintings by artist Susan Roth to be held at the Sam and Adele Golden Gallery, 188 Bell Road, New Berlin, New York, on Saturday, October 12, 2019 with a public reception for the artist between 5PM and 7PM.

Gallery hours for visiting the SAGG are Monday through Friday 9 AM through 4:30 PM.

BLACK IS A COLOR continues through March, 13, 2020. artdaily

 

It’s 50 years since Caravaggio’s Nativity was stolen in Palermo: have the police been chasing red herrings all this time?
New enquiries suggest a US or Swiss connection through the mafia heroin trade

Palermo, 18 October 1969: it’s a dark and stormy night and two low-lifes in a Piaggio Ape are driving along the Via Immacolatella in the historic centre. They stop at the Oratory of San Lorenzo, break in and make straight for Caravaggio’s Nativity hanging above the altar, cut the canvas from its frame with a razor, roll it up and leave.

This is the opening sequence of one of the most notorious art thefts in history, a sequence that some still find credible. Fifty years on, though, the crime has still not been solved. The passage of time and the endless versions of events offered by informers and pseudo-detectives have taken over the inquiries, while the actual fate of the Nativity remains shrouded in mystery.

Here we sum up a few of the most imaginative hypotheses based on the opening sequence outlined above.

• The mafioso pentito ( a criminal turned state witness), Marino Mannoia , told Judge Giovanni Falcone in 1989—and he repeated the statement in 1996—that the Caravaggio had been stolen to order, but when the purchaser saw it, he turned it down because it was badly damaged and he subsequently ordered it to be cut up and burned. Mannoia also hinted at the involvement of a former prime minister, Giulio Andreotti.

• Another mafioso, Gerlando Alberti, said that the painting had come into his possession, but after failing to sell it, he had buried it with a hoard of dollars; excavations on his property were carried out but nothing was found.

• The hit-man Giovanni Brusca, who murdered Judge Falcone in 1992, offered to return the painting in exchange for more lenient treatment after he was arrested in 1996.

• Another mafia murderer, Gaspare Spatuzza, said the painting was kept in a barn, where it was eaten by mice and pigs, while the British journalist Peter Watson claimed to have tracked it down, but that it got buried under rubble during the 1980 earthquake in Irpinia while negotiations were underway with the Camorra, the Neapolitan equivalent of the mafia, to exchange it for a cache of drugs and arms.

• Guido De Santis, a RAI radio journalist, says that he saw the painting and that the theft was carried out on the orders of the mafioso boss Pietro Vernengo, who delivered it to another boss, who tried, unsuccessfully to sell it, and then destroyed it.

• Salvatore Cangemi, the first mafioso to turn pentito, said it was displayed at high-level mafia meetings as a symbol of power. Other pentito mafiosi have said that they used it as a carpet—the most insolent claim by far.

This stream of stories, boasts and false leads has kept the police busy for years and has led to just two conclusions: the painting was stolen by the mafia, and it was then destroyed.

In 2017, however, the case was re-opened by the anti-mafia commission, led by its president, the government minister Rosy Bindi. Having acquired new statements from Mannoia and another pentito, Gaetano Grado, the commission concluded that the painting still exists and that after it was relinquished by the boss Gaetano Badalamenti (one of the most powerful traffickers in the Sicilian heroin trade with the US, who died in a US prison in 2004), it was cut up and is now in Switzerland.

This report is undoubtedly significant and although it contains a number of logistical and geographical inaccuracies in the statements made by the two pentiti—and not all antique dealers consulted agree that it is likely the painting was cut up—the document has the great merit of resurrecting the work, identifying the role of Badalamenti and suggesting where it might be.

Attention has focused again on the accusations, levied immediately after the theft by Monsignor Rocco, custodian of the Oratory, against Badalamenti. Although these were ignored at the time, Rocco stated that, after being shown a piece of canvas as proof, he opened the way to possible negotiations but was stopped by the then state official for works of art, Vincenzo Scuderi.

Relations between the two were particularly tense because Scuderi had not listened to the priest’s requests, made well before the theft, to tighten the security of the building, and, against Rocco’s wishes, he had also authorised RAI, the state broadcasting company, to film a programme on hidden treasures inside the oratory, which was broadcast in August 1969. Rocco blamed this programme for the theft. The anti-mafia commission’s investigations are basing themselves on Rocco’s statements accusing Badalamenti of having the painting, and this would clearly be a lead to follow now.

This rapid overview of the situation raises a number of questions that have never been answered by earlier investigations. First, when was Caravaggio’s Nativity actually stolen? The congregation saw it for the last time at Sunday mass on 12 October 1969, and the Gelfo sisters, the caretakers of the oratory, noticed it had gone missing on Saturday 18 October when they entered the oratory to prepare for the mass on the following day. The theft must, therefore, have been committed between 12 and the 18 October, which allows time for the work to have been smuggled out of Palermo. News of the theft was only reported in Giornale di Sicilia on 20 October.

Second, the police report on the state of the premises, a vital document for understanding the theft, has disappeared.

Third, is the opening sequence as described above, and taken as the basis for all subsequent investigations, credible? Could the removal of a painting measuring 3x2 metres, on particularly heavy wooden stretchers, hanging at a height of six metres and surrounded by the delicate plasterwork of Giacomo Serpotta, to which there was no damage whatsoever, really have been the work of two common thieves?

And what of removing the canvas with a razor blade without leaving a single millimetre of paint on the remaining shreds? The excision was carried out with extreme skill and precision and can neither have been rushed or improvised.

So, if this was not the work of two delinquents who happened to break into the oratory and carry off the canvas after slashing it out of its frame, then the most probable hypothesis is that the theft was well prepared and carried out to order, perhaps by professionals.

Indeed, this suspicion was voiced at the time in the headline of Giornale di Sicilia, and it was repeated by Maresciallo Guelfo Giuliano Andrei of the newly formed Carabinieri’s Tutela Patrimonio Culturale (division for the protection of cultural heritage), sent to Palermo to coordinate the investigations, who issued a statement saying that “the theft was not opportunistic, but may have been ordered by a gang of international, organised criminals using local operatives in Palermo”.

This hypothesis was abandoned too soon, probably in order to follow the confessions and revelations offered by pentiti mafiosi, and it would now be worth reinvestigating, with leads to Switzerland and to Badalamenti’s role as the person who either ordered the theft or paid those who carried it out.

Last, it is worth mentioning the thought-provoking theory of a local anthropologist, scholar and mafia expert who suggests that the mafia had nothing to do with the theft but became its victim because such an outrageous act threatened its claim to territorial control and its international prestige as an organised criminal network. It therefore laid claim to the theft and boasted about it with numerous different versions of the story, all of which ending, of course, in the destruction of the Nativity.

Fifty years have passed. Many of the protagonists have died, but no stone is being left unturned now and hope is still alive. It relies on trust in the continuing investigation, on chance discovery, or the miracle of a deathbed repentance by the unlawful possessor, who knows that they will shortly meet their Maker. The Art Newspaper

 

First the New Yorker profiled Romare Bearden. Then the artist and activist decided to tell his own story, in pictures.

Romare (pronounced “ROH-mery”) Bearden liked to wear a beret, had pale skin, and looked glabrous and jowly, like Nikita Khrushchev. Unlike Khrushchev, however, he was an artist — and African American.

Born in Charlotte in 1911, Bearden grew up mostly in Harlem. He was an only child, but he was hardly isolated. His mother was an activist, editor and board member; his parents’ home was a hub of Harlem’s black community. Fats Waller and Duke Ellington were regular presences in the young Bearden’s life. As an adult, his friends included James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Billie Holiday, Hannah Arendt, Jacob Lawrence and Toni Morrison.

Bearden belonged in their company: No black artist of the 20th century accomplished more. His rich, incident-filled and (mostly) lucky life is as absorbing to contemplate as his brilliant, manifold art. So it made sense that Bearden, in 1977, was the subject of a New Yorker profile by a master of the form, Calvin Tomkins.

Bearden appears to have liked the profile. But the relationship between words and pictures is perennially uneasy and writers, especially good writers, often spur artists’ competitive instincts. Having his life story narrated in a magazine prompted Bearden to try telling it himself in a series of collages and paintings that he called, with a nod to the New Yorker, “Profile.”

Bearden worked on the series between 1978 and 1981. He divided it into two parts. Both focused on episodes from his early years, which Tomkins’s elegant narrative had skated over. The first part concentrates on his childhood in the South and in Pittsburgh (where he went to live, intermittently, with his grandmother); the second focuses on Harlem in the 1930s. Both parts are on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in a show called “Something Over Something Else.”

You could come away assuming that Bearden grew up in poverty both in the rural South and around the steel mills of Pittsburgh. In fact, although he witnessed these worlds during extended stays, the reality was more complicated. As Bearden’s friend Charles Alston said, “Romy was never a poor kid. He was straight out of the middle class, and the urban middle class at that.”

The High show’s title is taken from Bearden’s words: “I really think the art of painting is the art of putting something over something else.” The statement, which Tomkins quotes in his profile, speaks to Bearden’s favored idiom of collage — the layering of one thing over another. And it points to his specific achievement: More than any artist I can think of, Bearden pulled collage away from its associations with modernist fragmentation and precious fussiness into something loose and capacious, yoked to storytelling, pulsing and rippling with all the layers of life.

But the phrase also carries a whiff of trickery and masquerade — “putting something over on someone.” Bearden was a sophisticated storyteller — he relished the idea of the “unreliable narrator” — so he surely intended both associations.

Seeing the show, reading Tomkins’s profile and poring over a new anthology, “The Romare Bearden Reader” — which includes a useful introduction by Robert O’Meally, and essays and reflections by Morrison, Ellison, August Wilson, Tomkins (the profile) and Bearden — renewed my love of this artist, who died of bone cancer complications in 1988.

The “Profile” collages have slyly suggestive captions. “The Daybreak Express” shows a bedroom with a nude woman stretched out on her stomach. Behind her is a window through which we see a train puffing steam. The inscription reads: “You could tell not only what train it was but also who the engineer was by the sound of the whistle.”

On its own, the image has an all-at-once clarity that makes verbal description feel labored. (I didn’t tell you, for instance, that the woman’s head rests in the crook of her elbow, nor that one eye looks out at the viewer, nor what kind of room it is, nor whether it is night or day outside; yet when you look at the picture, it takes just a second to register all of that.)

Still, words can do things that images can’t. The inscription, with its double entendre and pungent specificity (were the horn-tooting habits of the train engineers really so distinct?) has a poetic concision that goes beyond the scope of images.

Throughout the series, Bearden sets up echoes, not only visually (women, windows and trains are repeating motifs) but verbally. “The last time I saw Liza was down at the station when I left for Pittsburgh on the 5.13,” reads one inscription. Another says: “Sometimes at night I used to dream of being the one who was running the train.” And a third: “The trains in the stories she told always ran North.”

Beyond this roiling interplay between visual and verbal imagery, I love Bearden’s “Profile” series (and his whole oeuvre) for the way it undermines the exhausted premises of 21st century identity politics.

To grasp how, it’s important to say first that Bearden could scarcely have been more engaged with black identity. Everything he made — most everything he did — had to do with telling the story of black life in the United States. He fought prejudice and promoted visibility for African Americans at every turn.

Bitter experience had taught him how cruel and arbitrary racial distinctions could be. An exceptionally talented pitcher, he had played on a professional “colored” team while studying in Boston. He was so good that, in 1932, he was invited to join the Philadelphia Athletics, a team that had won the World Series in 1929 and ’30 and the American League pennant in ’31. But accepting would have meant pretending he was white. (This was 15 years before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier.) Bearden turned it down.

Like his mother, he was an activist. He had started out in art drawing political cartoons for the Afro-American newspaper. In 1963, he helped found a collective of black artists, the Spiral Group. He spent the 1960s organizing ambitious shows devoted to African American art. With Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow, he even started the Cinque Gallery, dedicated to black artists.

By then, he had “made it” as an artist; he wanted to help in every way he could. (“His phone never stops ringing,” Chris Shelton, the gallery’s first director, commented to Tomkins.)

Bearden once said that “an artist is an art lover who finds that in all the art that he sees, he sees something missing.” For him, what was missing was the experiences, dreams and projections of his people. Today’s prominent black artists, including Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas (whose collage aesthetic was heavily influenced by Bearden), Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley, are similarly motivated.

Correcting this became Bearden’s life’s work. He wanted, he said in 1964, to “establish a world through art in which the validity of my Negro experience could live and make its own logic.”

He succeeded magnificently, largely because he wasn’t interested in simplifying reality. He would have loathed the idea of depleting the imprint life left on him just to make it fit the requirements of a political worldview. It would have betrayed his understanding of identity itself.

“We all live in a mask,” he once said. “We all have a hundred different identities.”

One of the best (and most brightly colored) collages in Part II of “Profile” illustrates this in ways that may be hard for contemporary viewers to wrap their heads around. It shows the black vaudeville mime artist, Johnny Hudgins, outside the Lafayette Theater.

Hudgins, who was nicknamed the Wah-Wah Man, often performed in blackface. This was not uncommon for black vaudeville performers (for all that we rightly condemn it now, blackface has a complicated history).

“He was my favorite of all the comedians,” wrote Bearden in the accompanying inscription. “What Johnny Hudgins could do through mime on an empty stage helped show me how worlds were created on an empty canvas.”

A black man in blackface is, if nothing else, an “unreliable narrator,” which may have been part of what Bearden loved in Hudgins. In any case, one can imagine how an African American who usually passed for white might have appreciated what Hudgins was up to, and the art he brought to his popular act.

Bearden took inspiration wherever he found it: George Grosz, Stuart Davis, Chinese painting, Picasso, Matisse, the Dutch masters, African art, Homer, Derek Walcott, jazz. His broad-mindedness was not just aesthetic. From childhood, he also straddled multiple modes of social existence. He instinctively felt, as Tomkins wrote, that “the path of separatism within a culture is basically self-defeating.” He also understood that identity — everyone’s identity — is layered.

The words we use today — “black,” “white,” “Latino,” “Asian” — may be clear. And, God knows, we all crave clarity. But the reality of selfhood is cloudier, more contradictory and harder to parse than those constricting categories allow. In the end, that is not a misfortune. It is a solace (how hard it is to be one thing!).

Art, too, is a solace. It exists to remind us that we come, all of us, in many versions. The Washington Post

 

Landscape Painting: Get Your Rocks Right
Understanding how geology controls the appearance of rock and learning how to accurately capture rock features will add depth and realism to your next landscape painting.

This is not an article about how to paint, but instead how to see and understand rock as an element so that you can create more realistic landscape paintings. Although I am relatively new to painting, as an engineering geologist, I already have a good understanding of how geology controls the appearance of the landscape around me.

Geology provides the underlying structure that unifies the landscape. Geologic processes control the height and steepness of mountains, the thickness and orientation of the rock layers, the pattern of fractures (cracks) cutting across rock outcrops, and the presence and orientation of ridges and ravines. You must see and convey this underlying geologic structure to make your paintings of rock look realistic.

Without getting into a detailed discussion of geology, there are two key characteristics of rock that you need to understand:

Rock is fractured and these fractures form zones of weakness that create lines and linear depressions between intact blocks of rock. These same fractures control the angle of tops and sides of cliffs and hillsides. The amount of fracturing is variable, but there is a general consistency to the orientation of fractures on both a small scale and a large scale across a landscape.

Most rock is layered. Rock layers usually maintain the same thickness, color, and texture across an outcrop, cliff face, or hillside. Layers also show variable resistance to erosion depending on the hardness of the rock. Some layers form ridges or ledges and others form depressions or slopes. Rock layers are frequently inclined or folded. One or more folds may be exposed, or just dipping layers may be visible.

Be Consistent When Painting Rocks

The key to accurately portraying rock is to identify the thickness/spacing and dip of rock layers and fractures and keep these features consistent across your painting. Similarly, maintain the color, texture, and resistance or prominence of a layer. Rock layers and fractures are remarkably persistent. The layer on the bluff in the foreground may also be visible in the hillside in the background, although they may not be connected. The angle of the fracture line on the rock outcrop in the foreground often matches up with the angle of a ravine in the background.

Perspective — Not Just for Buildings

Rock follows the same laws of perspective that we use for drawing buildings and other manmade structures. Just like horizontal features on buildings, rock layers will appear to converge at the horizon. Layers at the top of a cliff appear to be more steeply inclined than similar layers near eye level. Perspective causes layers at cliff edges to appear to curve slightly downward, even if the layers are horizontal.

Dipping rock layers will vary in elevation with increasing distance. If a layer dips downward away from you, it will be located lower on a cliff or hillside in the background. Alternatively, if a layer is inclined toward you, it will appear higher on the hillside in the distance. Combining layer dip with perspective can be complicated, but being aware that both will impact your painting is half the battle.

No Stone Walls

Rock cliffs and smaller outcrops usually contain numerous intact blocks that are bounded by both angular and rounded edges. Fracture surfaces form the angular edges, while weathering creates the rounded edges. Even though the boundaries between blocks of fractured rock are frequently perpendicular, be careful not to paint the size of each block exactly the same, round all four edges, or rotate the blocks to create the look of a manmade stone wall. In nature, rock exposures contain variable shaped blocks that are bounded and interconnected by two or more groups of fractures that are often perpendicular to each other.

Similarly, cliff faces and edges are almost never perfectly vertical or completely flat. Weaker and stronger layers form depressions and ledges. Fractures form blocks that extend out from the cliff face. Look for variation in resistance between different layers or between intact and fractured rock that creates ridges or hollows in the rock face. Smooth, vertical cliffs are rare.

When Painting Rocks, Variety Adds Interest

The color, texture, and shape of rock change with exposure to the elements. This change, known as weathering, usually lightens the color of dark rock and darkens the color of light rock. The amount of color change is proportional to the duration of exposure (amount of weathering). Iron and manganese stain and coat rock red, yellow, brown, and black. Color variations may form horizontal and/or vertical bands across a cliff face. Additionally, weathering causes rock to become pitted as less-resistant minerals decompose and wash away. Including weathering-induced color and texture variation across a rock exposure adds interest to your paintings.

Boulders Versus Outcrops

In order to paint realistic looking rock, you need to look at and understand the difference between boulders and outcrops. Boulders are large rectangular, tabular, or rounded blocks of rock that have been moved and rotated. They vary in size, shape, and orientation and usually have both angular and rounded edges. Texture, color, and even the type of rock usually vary between adjacent boulders.

Outcrops consist of one or more large rock blocks that are connected to each other and attached to the underlying bedrock. At first glance, outcrops look like a collection of boulders; however, the connected blocks have the same color, texture, layering, and fracture pattern. Similar to boulders, outcrop blocks are both angular and rounded, but the underlying structure is consistent across all the blocks. This structure generally matches that of the surrounding landscape.

5 Tips for Painting Realistic Rock in a Landscape

~Identify the underlying geologic structure of the landscape. Be consistent when painting the orientation of layers, cracks, ravines, and ridges.
~Apply perspective to rock — layers converge at the horizon and curve downward slightly at the edges of cliffs or buttes.
~Cliff faces are rarely perfectly smooth or vertical. Look for subtle ridges and depressions across the rock face.
~Show variation in rock color and texture. Weathered rock is either lighter or darker than fresh rock and is often rounded or pitted by wind and water.
~Fractures on intact rock outcrops follow the underlying rock structure. Loose boulders have randomly oriented fracture surfaces and variable color and texture Outdoor Painter

 

Fresco of two fighting gladiators discovered in Pompeii
Italy's culture minister Dario Franceschini says the find shows the site is an "inexhaustible mine for archaeological research"

Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini has announced the discovery of a Roman fresco of two gladiators, which was recently excavated at Pompeii. It depicts two gladiators in action, the one on the left wielding a short sword, the other in a cowering pose after having dropped his shield. Both wear a helmet and visor, surmounted by a large crest.

The discovery was made in the Regio V section of Pompeii, near the intersection of the Alley of the Balconies and the Street of the Silver Wedding. The fresco, which is 1.5 meters-wide, was found in what had been a basement, possibly serving as a shop, and there may have been a tavern and brothel above. The subject matter suggests that the place was frequented by gladiators.

Franceschini says “the discovery of this fresco shows that Pompeii is an inexhaustible mine for research and knowledge for archaeologists”. Pompeii’s director general Massimo Osanna points to the “extremely realistic representation of the wounds” on the wrist and chest of the defeated gladiator.

Following today’s announcement, outside specialists will need to examine the fresco, to help assess its age. The Pompeii site, on the outskirts of Naples, was occupied by the Romans and then destroyed by the earthquake of 79 AD. The culture ministry’s announcement coincides with today’s opening of an exhibition on Pompeii and Santorini at Rome’s Scuderie del Quirinale (until 6 January 2020). The Art Newspaper

 

The Idiosyncratic Paintings of Maud Lewis, a Beloved Canadian Folk Artist
Lewis may have operated on, or even outside of, the fringes of the art world, but the McMichael Canadian Art Collection believes she deserves a place within its halls.

From her tiny cabin in rural Nova Scotia, the Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis painted exuberant country scenes onto particleboard, wallpaper, dustpans, or just about any flat surface she could find. She often returned to subjects that seemed to strike a chord with customers who purchased her paintings for just a few dollars: long-lashed oxen, wide-eyed cats, boats idling in the harbor. But a new exhibition of 120 of Lewis’s artworks at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection proves that she did not churn out these pieces by rote; the show highlights her inventiveness, humor, and the delightful quirks of her artistry.

Lewis’s iconic cat paintings, seven of which are displayed side-by-side at the McMichael, offer a prime example of the breadth of her creativity. While her feline subjects often sit on green grass, surrounded by tulips, and crowned with blossoming branches, no two paintings are identical. Some cats are white, others black, still others are black-and-white. They appear alone, or grouped into clusters of three — typically, one large, two small. Vibrant tulips might burst into the foreground or delicately snake around the animals. Usually, the cats look mildly stunned, but in one rather curious painting (“White Cat,” 1965/66), a fluffy feline stares out at the viewer with grumpy eyes, its mouth pulled into a frown.

“A cynic might say, ‘Well, she’s just redoing the same thing over and over,’” Jennifer Withrow, head of exhibitions and publications at the McMichael, said in an interview. “But it’s really not the same thing. Why put a frown on a cat unless you want to sort of see what it looks like? I think there’s an earnest and playful creativity that’s behind every cat painting.”

With Maud Lewis, the McMichael encourages a nuanced appreciation for an artist whose work has long been attached to reductive descriptors like “child-like” and “primitive.” The gallery is home to a robust collection of Canadian artworks, including some 2,000 works by members of the Group of Seven, arguably the country’s most iconic artists. Lewis may have operated on, or even outside of, the fringes of the art world, but the McMichael believes she deserves a place within its halls.

“Maud Lewis is outside the cannon of artists that we associate with the story of art in Canada,” Withrow says. “And yet I think she’s a very worthy subject for an art exhibition, especially when we are reckoning with what made the canon in the first place, and what kind of advantages got you a spot as a revered artist … Maud Lewis certainly had no advantages. And yet she made a place for herself with the sheer force of her creativity. That’s really something.”

Lewis worked in obscurity for many years, only garnering widespread recognition shortly before she died, thanks to a 1965 newspaper article and subsequent CBC documentary about her life and work. She has remained one of Canada’s most beloved folk artists; Maudie, a 2017 biopic starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, gave her a recent boost in popularity. Today, a Maud Lewis painting might sell for upwards of $20,000, a price that was likely unfathomable to the artist in her lifetime.

Born Maud Dowley in 1903 in the town of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Lewis suffered from juvenile arthritis that eventually bowed her spine, stiffened her neck, and gnarled her hands. She left school at 14 (possibly to escape her peers’ teasing), but her home life was pleasant. She and her mother would paint Christmas cards together and sell them door-to-door. Her father worked as a harness maker and blacksmith, and references to his vocations crop up frequently in her paintings. The world around her was quickly modernizing, but her rural scenes are populated with working animals and horse-drawn carriages.

In 1928, Lewis gave birth to a baby girl out of wedlock and the child was swiftly placed with an adoptive family. Further blows came in the 1930s, when both her parents died within a span of two years. Soon after, she answered a newspaper ad for a housekeeper placed by Everett Lewis, a local fish peddler. They married in 1938 and spent the rest of their years together in Everett’s one-room cabin, without running water or electricity. Everett cut boards for Maud’s art, haggled with her customers, and took care of household chores so she could paint — which she did with gusto, covering the couple’s tiny home with tulips, birds, and butterflies. But he also purportedly ferreted away Maud’s earnings, hiding the money in jars that he buried in their garden. Maud lived in isolation and deprivation until her final days, succumbing to pneumonia in 1970.

Discussions about Lewis often center on her remarkable biography; in the face of chronic pain and persistent hardships, she found beauty in her world. But the exhibition doesn’t dwell on Lewis’s history. Instead, it focuses on her recurring but creative use of various motifs and techniques. The show is organized by theme (for instance, seaside paintings, animal works, and holiday scenes), allowing the range of her oeuvre to shine through.

Seasonal changes play an important role in Lewis’s paintings. In one work (“Two Deer in Snow,” ca. 1960s), a deer and its fawn peer out from behind a stunted evergreen in a field of pearly snow, a bare, spindly tree hovering in the foreground. Still tucked behind an evergreen, the animals are transplanted into a second work (“Deer and Fawn,” 1964), this time in an autumnal landscape enlivened by red, yellow, and orange foliage.

Yet Lewis wasn’t rigid in her depictions of the seasons; she toyed with nature, sometimes popping colorful autumn trees into winter landscapes or covering evergreens in cherry blossoms — a charming Lewis idiosyncrasy.

She worked with a bold, basic palette. “[M]ost of these colors are straight out of the tube,” Withrow explained. But the effect is never cacophonous; Lewis “created harmony in space through riotous contrast.” Red, pink, and orange houses rise up from bright white snow, while turquoise and yellow boats loll in brilliant blue waters. The exhibition also features striking experiments with color, such as a commissioned set of shutters with winter and summer themes. The shutters’ black backgrounds are a significant departure for Lewis, and make her chubby-cheeked snowmen and blooming flora appear all the more vibrant.

Also painted on a black background is the famous “Paintings for Sale” sign that opens the exhibition; it originally hung outside the Lewises’ roadside home, where it could entice customers. Lewis rendered the lettering in stark white, and adorned the sign with a flowering tree branch surrounded by brightly colored birds and a yellow butterfly. It is little wonder that drivers pulled over to check out her wares. She knew how to catch the eye.

Lewis’s work projects a sense of sincerity, an “incredible earnestness in her relationship with her subject,” as Withrow puts it. After all, Lewis painted largely from memory. “Because I don’t go nowhere … I just have to make my own designs up,” the artist herself once said. To view her work is therefore to take a jaunt through her imagination, where autumn trees grow in winter, horse-drawn buggies roll down country roads, and bucolic landscapes are electrified with color and an infectious sense of joy. Hyperallergic

 

ECU art students teach new generation

Eager elementary school children gathered in Jenkins Fine Art building yesterday evening to learn from undergraduate School of Art and Design students from East Carolina University at the After-School Art Classes session.

The after-school art classes held at ECU provide children in the community with the opportunity to learn multiple art forms while giving ECU students a chance to practice teaching strategies. They collaborate with their peers to create a lesson plan for each day the class is held and allow each student to teach his or her lesson.

Cynthia Bickley-Green, professor of art education at ECU, said the after-school course has been apart of the School of Art Design for nearly 40 years. However, Bickley-Green claims not many students are aware of the opportunity, but any student exploring the idea of art education is open to participate.

“(These classes) have been around for about 40 years before I started working here, and I’ve been here about 25 years now,” Bickley-Green said.

Bickley-Green also explained that they work with many different schools such as Wahl Coates Elementary School, Third Street Academy and even a Korean School. Bickley-Green expressed that this class draws in many different students with varying backgrounds and abilities, even students with mental disabilities.

Associate Professor of Art Education in the School of Art and Design and Assistant Dean for Assessment and Curriculum in the College of Fine Arts and Communication Robert Quinn explained the point of the after-school sessions are to provide students interested in art education with “hands-on experiences.”

“Art education faculty members began offering these classes as an important component of art education coursework for pre-service teachers,” Quinn said. “The classes provide pre-service art teachers with hands-on experiences working with real live kids during a 10-week session every semester.”

Senior art education major, Hannah Pritchard, has participated in the past and explained her excitement for this years classes. Pritchard said the class helps to make connections with younger students to prepare those going into art education for life in the classroom after graduation.

“Last year I worked with the special education class and that was awesome and this year I'm working with the three to five grade level and they’re great as well,” Pritchard said. “You really learn a lot when you do the after school art class, you learn about the students, their likes and dislikes, you learn ways to beneficially do projects and lessons and it helps you when you go into schools to actually be able to do your lessons efficiently.”

Quinn explained what a typical day in the class is like stating that when students first arrive they begin with a warm up activity, then after they are able to express their creativity using art materials provided by whoever is teaching the course that day.

“After the teacher introduces the topic and demonstrates any necessary techniques or procedures, the children are able to respond creatively using the materials provided,” Quinn said. “At the end, the teacher will typically recap the lesson’s main teaching points and ask children for feedback and perhaps invite them to share their work with the class.

According to the syllabus of the class, the children learn how to “recognize key components of works of art from different artists, styles, or movements and use art terminology to describe art in terms of subject and physical characteristics…students will learn vocabulary related to the subject matter and complete worksheets to enrich lessons.”

By taking this class undergraduate students get the ability to teach a class in an environment where they can always look to someone else if they need help, and the children are put in a class with other children that are interested in art, allowing them to also learn from one another.

Quinn also wants the community to know that they are so thankful for the support and that this class better prepares students for teaching because of their time in this class.

“We are so thankful for the wonderful community support we have received from parents who entrust their children to us for these classes. Our art education majors are better teachers because of their experiences in these classes with these wonderful children” Quinn said.

Any undergraduate student wanting to participate in the course should look for ART 3860 in the course catalog. The East Carolinian


Catching up with Carol Ward – One River School

We thought it might be interesting to see what Carol Ward has been up to since we last discussed the Morris-Jumel Mansion. We went out for lunch at Polpettina, a small Italian restaurant in Larchmont, and caught up about her job at One River School. Here’s what she had to say:

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Tell me a little bit about One River; what’s your elevator pitch?

One River is about transforming arts education through the lens of contemporary art, using living artists to teach the core curriculum and showcasing emerging artists in the gallery. At One River in Larchmont, we show both local and emerging New York City artists. We do about four to six professional shows per year. The artist up now, Maureen Meehan, is local; she’s from Larchmont. So we are connecting to the community. The next person who will be exhibiting, Franck de Las Mercedes (and you really should interview him!) is someone I found through the Northern Manhattan Artists Alliance (NoMAA), through their Uptown Arts Stroll. I’m really glad to be featuring someone from the Heights!

Do you exhibit students’ work as well?

Yes, we are doing two student shows per year, January and June, with all students, from Pre-K through adults, having a piece on display.

That must be so much fun! Where I live, one of the local libraries does an annual student art show with pieces by art students in the local schools, and it’s terrific. The kids love seeing their work on display and checking out who else has a piece selected. It’s a great event when they do it.

Yes, it’s all about the community. We had 240 students represented at the last show in June, and over 150 family members came.

That sounds lovely.

Yes, it’s a way for other family members to see what their journey has been. When you see something on the gallery wall, you really see the progress.

So, you are still very much involved in the visual arts! I remember some of the work you did when you were at Morris-Jumel Mansion–the exhibition with Yinka Shonibare and the corset pieces by Camilla Huey.

Funny you should mention Shonibare. When I met the founder of One River, Matt Ross (he had been the CEO of School of Rock before he started One River and is definitely using a similar model), he asked me if I was familiar with the James Cohan Gallery--and I was, I’d worked with them on the Shonibare exhibit at Morris-Jumel. When I went to my training in Englewood, the Cohans were there. They are involved in the company and are opening up a One River location in the Chicago area.

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How many sites does One River have now?

There are 13. When I was interviewed for this job, back in 2017, there were two. I was hired in November of that year, and this site was the third. Now there are some that are corporately owned and some, outside the tri-state area, are franchised. The goal by the end of this year is 20!

So One River has been successful, then?

Yes, with the communities and with the students. I grew up in Mamaroneck, very close by here, and knowing the area was helpful to me. I’ve been meeting with businesses with the goal towards making One River a community resource. And without a buy in from the community, you can’t be successful. We’ve been steadily increasing the number of students.

During the school year, when are your classes?

Classes are after school Mondays through Thursdays, all levels, PreK through adults. We have a lot of students in grades three through five, and teenagers. We’re trying to grow our adult population.

***

One of the great things about the visual arts is that you don’t have to be super-talented. Art can be for everyone. PIck up a pencil and a piece of paper and draw.

Yes, for some people it is a great social outlet. A way to meet people, to relax. And have fun.

And make something beautiful!

Yes!

I’m glad you’re still dealing with the visual arts, clearly it is important to you and to your career.

It’s part of the mission, to teach people about art. Yinka Shonibare is a lesson plan! Things like: here is an artist. How can we be inspired by that? How can we make our own piece with that inspiration? Right now we are working in one of my classes on a monochromatic seascape. But that’s just the parameter–what the students create is up to them.

So it’s not one of those “wine and paint” things where everyone makes the same painting, a sunset or a mermaid or something?

No, not at all, it’s not step by step! We are hoping our students start you and keep going, and that they see progress and learn skills.

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Do you miss the history aspect of your past work?

It’s different, but I’m still getting some history, because of the connection with art history. I reach classes here. I encourage active looking. We take our interns on field trips to museums. On the history side, we do VTS, visual training strategies–to get them looking at the art work. Knowing about what they’re looking at makes their art better.

We have a manga class for teens. They are diehard fans and they totally geek out–and they try to make new things in their artwork.

It sounds like a very good place for you.

Yes, it’s an opportunity to learn, to meet people. All of our teachers are working artists and I also help them try to figure out their “brand.” I have a side consulting business where I work with artists on various opportunities for sales and business. It’s called Outside the Lines Consulting. My idea was initially to help non-profits, but now it has morphed into helping emerging and mid-career artists market themselves…fairs, arts organizations, websites. And for me it is very helpful to have One River supporting of that type of professional development. I also do independent curatorial work. I did an art show at Gale Brewer‘s office, and a pop up gallery in Larchmont. That work is separate–I delineate my time from One RIver. At One River, Matt Ross respects the art business and entrepreneurial work.

Sounds terrific! May One River and Outside the Lines continue to grow and prosper! News Whistle

 

Student Work On Display At Jerry’s Artarama

Art from West Hartford elementary students is on display now, at Jerry’s Artarama.

This isn’t the first time the family-run business - managed now by A.J. Shoham - has worked with West Hartford’s public schools to host the creative outputs of its students.

Pam Murphy, the visual arts supervisor for West Hartford’s schools, said it’s always a thrill to have the student work on display in different parts of the community.

“It’s always important to have student voice heard,” Murphy said. “It’s always important to highlight the excellent work of the teachers and the programs. It’s through their instruction that this kind of artwork can happen.”

The theme, “Reflections of Me,” can be seen in each hanging piece. This year’s exhibit features the works of students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades and will rotate through its stay at the store to feature students from different elementary schools.

Jerry’s Artarama, a local business that caters to those passionate about the arts, is a perfect location for this, Murphy said.

“They value education,” Murphy said. “They value art as a way to connect with the world. They also value making that accessible to everyone. This was a way for us to have a wonderful partnership with one another. Jerry’s supports our students.”

Shoham said he loves when the students who have work hanging in the show come to see it with their families. There’s an immense pride that’s immediately visible. And then, they explore the store, showing different art materials to their parents and becoming acquainted with new ways to express themselves.

“I’ve seen seven or eight students come in with their parents and it introduces them to this creativity,” Shoham said. “That can be left behind in certain [school] districts.”

Murphy said it is very much a symbiotic relationship between the school and Jerry’s Artarama.

“That partnership opens up many discussions,” Murphy said. “The business part of this community contributes to a similar interest. We support each other. We work very well together and I love for the community to see that. It’s a true partnership that works."

Jerry’s Artarama has been in business for nearly 30 years and is a haven for local artists of all kinds. He notices that those artists love seeing the works of young artists hanging in the store when they come in to buy supplies for their own work.

“The artists are floored by this,” Shoham said.

The exhibit will be on display through Nov. 3. Hartford Courant