ART AS STATEMENT

I love just about any type of art – painting, sculpture, prints, you name it. But I have a special place in my heart for big, bold conceptual art that brings socio-political issues to the viewer’s attention. I’ve recently come across three artists whose work I’d like to share with you.

DAVID SHRIGLEY

I did a double-take when I saw images of David Shrigley’s interactive installation at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London because it was SOOO different to the irreverent, comic-like drawings he is famous for (see some examples below).

I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at when I saw an image of his installation (below) called ‘The Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange’. “It’s a gallery filled with fresh new tennis balls that you can come and swap an old ball of yours for. That’s it. That’s the show. And somehow, it’s great (TIME OUT LONDON)”. Over the course of the exhibition as people replace the new balls with their old ones, the pristine rows of neon yellow balls disintegrate into a mess of used, smelly balls – a slow decaying in front of our eyes. I find the concept particularly poignant with multiple interpretations. You can listen to David Shrigley talk about his work here. What do you think?

AMANDA WILLIAMS

I was first introduced to Ms. Williams while listening to her TED talk. Williams grew up in Chicago’s South Side and trained as an architect. Her work investigates color, race, and space while blurring the conventional line between art and architecture. “In her paintings, sculptures, installations, and photographs, Williams uses color as a tool to examine the complex ways in which race informs our assignment of value to physical, social, and conceptual spaces (GAGOSIAN GALLERY)”. The project that attracted me was her decision to block paint abandoned houses in a predominantly Black neighborhood with colors that held strong associations with defunct iconic products and brands that were part of the Black experience decades ago.

I really enjoyed hearing her speak about how terrified she was about getting arrested for painting these houses. But she went ahead anyway (with a group of volunteers) because she felt compelled to make this statement. As an artist, I have experienced this compulsion on several occasions. You can hear Amanda speak here.

KELLIE GILLESPIE

Kellie Gillespie describes her work as “mostly sculptural, focused on issues specifically associated with mental health, as well as the concepts of recovery and survivorship. Through the artwork I create, I break the negative connotations surrounding the subject of mental illness.” Those are pretty big issues to take on and she does her subject justice.

These structures are composed of sliced up pill containers painstakingly glued together. You can watch her amazing process on her Instagram account @kellie.gillespie.art. I find her work both beautiful and tragic.

Let me know what you think of these artists and whether you believe that art can make a difference to the way we see ourselves, our lives and our planet! I certainly do 🙂

Tel Aviv Art Tour

Menashe Kadishman

Anyone familiar with Israeli art spanning the last few decades will recognize the iconic sheep motif of artist and sculptor Menashe Kadishman (1932-2015). Kadishman’s oeuvre looms over Israel’s artistic landscape and is still prevalently exhibited and collected. Over decades, Kadishman transformed the sheep he herded as a child into powerful anti-war paintings and sculptures that decry the sacrifice of soldiers, likening them to sheep being led to the slaughter. But contemporary galleries in Israel have moved on from the likes of Kadishman to a broad range of artists working in a variety of mediums and techniques.

Detail of mixed media painting by Tommy

On a recent visit I dropped into the beautiful new Rothschild49 Art Gallery in Tel Aviv. There, I was introduced to a number of contemporary artists mostly producing large-scale works such as those by the artist Tommy, who has successfully married mixed media with pop art tropes while still maintaining a fresh originality through textured layering.

Sommer Contemporary has always been one of my go-to art stops in Tel Aviv. It took me a while to find their new location and when I did finally navigate my way up several flights of stairs and into a small space off a balcony overlooking a super chic courtyard eatery, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the artist on exhibit was an old friend and colleague, Shai Azoulay. I recognized his larger canvases and was delighted to discover his small scale daily paintings attractively displayed in a room of their own (see some examples below). There is something quintessentially Israeli about Shai’s intuitive paintings.

I also visited the high-end Eden Gallery with branches in major cities around the world. This gallery has some of the most beautifully curated spaces I have encountered. The artists are of the highest caliber, sharing a bold sense of color, a mastery of slick new materials and distinctive contemporary styles. The artist who goes by the name of SN comes from an impressive background as a National Geographic photographer and now exhibits his new series of photographs enhanced by the brilliant colors of his trademark butterflies.

Gal Yosef’s stunning, oversized digital images (example below) demonstrate his impressive 3D and digital sculpting skills, and are often staged in his uniquely crafted ‘cartooniverse’.

‘Stylin’ by Gal Yosef

Heading over to the hip Neve Tzedek neighborhood, I came across some superb realist paintings by Natan Pernick, exhibited at the TLV ART GALLERY. I encourage you to peruse his website.

At the same gallery (Shabazi 39, Tel Aviv), I admired the large graphic paintings conceived by Rachel Ehrenhalt, a young artist recently graduated from the prestigious Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem.

Some of the street art in Tel Aviv was equally interesting and whimsical:

This next example of graffiti art stood out to me because it brought to mind a ceramic mixed media piece I created years earlier called ‘TV Baby’. The similarity is striking, isn’t it?

Street art
TV Baby by Lilianne Milgrom

I hope you enjoyed this whirlwind tour of the Tel Aviv art scene. And in case you blinked and missed my 5 seconds of fame, I was mentioned in a New York Times article about Museum podcasts!!

Until next time…

Change of scenery

I thought I’d share some behind-the-scenes evolution of works created during my week on the Caribbean island of Aruba. I’m not a fan of winter, so the warm temperatures, sea breezes and swaying palm trees were a balm for the soul. I usually travel with some basic art materials for when the muse strikes and people lying on beaches make for great quick sketching subjects.

For this trip, I packed a bunch of different painting materials in my suitcase hoping to loosen up and try something new. One of the inspirations was artist and master motivator Nicholas Winton who teaches artists to let go of fear – throw your paint at the canvas and if you don’t like it, guess what? Paint over it in globs of color and add random marks and scribbles until you like what you see! What a concept! Taking his example to heart, my first piece was looser but still tentative:

Mixed media on tea sachet packaging

Over the next few days, I threw caution to the wind and introduced finger painting, cardboard stencils, found paper, crayons and charcoal to my acrylic paintings. Here are some of the results:

I’ve been heartened by the response. Please contact me if you’re interested in seeing the works still available for purchase. I loved creating these – so liberating!! I’m itching to continue on this journey but I sense that I may need to go back to find some of that island magic…!

I’d also like to share an article that was just published in France Magazine describing my unique experience recovering from COVID during an artist residency at a gorgeous French chateau last summer. I’m happy to say that all’s well that ends well!

You can read the full article HERE. Take care xxx

Field of Vision

When one of my favorite artists came to town to exhibit her work, I made sure I was at the opening to hear her gallery talk. I have been following Maggie Siner‘s work for years but have never actually seen her artwork in person. Her paintings have a rare immediacy – they capture impressions without necessarily being impressionistic. By that I mean that Maggie Siner paints a plate of melon rinds, or a dress carelessly thrown over a chair the way your eye would capture a scene if you just glimpsed it for a fleeting moment before looking away.

Melon Slices, 2021, 10x18ins, oil on linen
Turquoise Dress & Letter, 2021, 12x17ins, oil on linen

Maggie is an American artist who divides her time between Venice and Loudon County, VA. Her resume is beyond impressive – she has been on the faculty of L’Institut d’Universités Américaines and Lacoste School of Art in France, a visiting professor at Xiamen University in China, Artist in Residence at the Savannah College of Art and Design and Dean of Faculty at the Washington Studio School. The woman has painting chops. But hearing her speak about painting is equally inspiring.

Turquoise Vase, 2016, 24x28ins, oil on linen

In her gallery talk, Maggie made it abundantly clear that narrative is not of the essence. We may want to impose our meaning and narrative on the painting above, for example, but what the artist gets excited about are colors and shapes and drapery – especially drapery, which she describes as “telling the story of the universe, because drapery is all about gravity, and gravity is the story of the universe.”

Central Pillows, 2017, 24x30ins, oil on linen

It’s when you get up close to Siner’s work that you see the real magic she creates with paint. Look at a detail of the painting above:

This bowl of mandarins just blew me away.

Mandarins on Plate, 2020, 14x16ins, oil on linen
Detail of mandarins

Siner spoke about the struggles and challenges she still faces with every painting. “Starting a new painting is like jumping into a mud puddle and figuring out how to get out again.” She paints exclusively from life with a limited palette of six colors of the spectrum. She makes it a point to stand far back from her subjects so that she purposely loses the sharp edges and unimportant detail. Siner applies intellectual consideration to every aspect of painting. “Boundaries create tension,” said Siner, referring to the placement of a composition within a rectangle. “Things hit against the limits and the edges.” Her enthusiasm for her work and her subjects was contagious. She got positively giddy when talking about radishes. “Radishes are events – all that green and red, and the tails!!!”

Radishes on Gray, 2020, 14x18ins, oil on linen

Siner’s exhibition will be on view at Susan Calloway in Georgetown, Washington DC until January 18th.

I highly recommend a visit! What do you think of Siner’s paintings?

Blue Dress & Letter, 2020, 20x21ins, oil on linen

Floral Wonderland

I love flowers. They make me stop in my tracks to admire their beauty and when they grace my table, they lift my spirits. But I have never really thought of them as a creative medium for telling a story, nor as having the ability to mimic great works of art. The current, short-lived exhibition Fine Arts & Flowers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts changed all that.

In this 13th Biennial of its kind, the museum presents spectacular floral interpretations of works from its permanent collection. The exhibition has a twofold benefit – the floral accents scattered about the museum add a touch of magic to the museum experience, but they also provide a unique way of appreciating the works of art themselves. It makes one stop and really look at the painting, sculpture or artefact. There were many glorious and innovative pairings and I’d like to share some of my favorites here.

Aren’t these Birds of Paradise the perfect match for the spikey treatment of horse and rider in Jacques Villon’s Horseback Riding, Chantilly, 1950?
Look at the way the flowers copy the gesture and color of the central path in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Taunus Road.
Not only are the colors and shape of the bouquet in line with Queen Anne of Denmark’s portrait, but the stunning rose arrangement really look like bosoms about to explode out of a cinched bodice!
This is one of my favorites. Did you recognize Picasso’s Jester on Horseback? What I particularly like in this bouquet is the driftwood that matches the sensitive color of the horse. By adding greenery in the bouquet, the flower arranger added the background scenery absent in Picasso’s painting.
Monet’s Irises by the Pond. See a close-up of the exuberant floral arrangement below.
Look at the clever color match of the lapis dragon and the flower and paper arrangement below.

I could go on and on but you get the idea. I will leave you with a few additional images, and I’d love to hear what your favorites are!

The Virginia Museum of Fine Art is a true gem with a surprisingly robust collection. I feel uplifted by the Fine Arts & Flowers show (OCTOBER 20, 2021 – OCTOBER 24, 2021).

Before signing off, I’m thrilled to share the new cover from the second edition of my award-winning novel L’Origine and the launch of my author website!!

ORDER ON AMAZON OR AT YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSTORE

All good things come to an end

Some of you may know that I have been in France for the past few weeks on a writer’s residency in a magical chateau-turned-artist-residency not far from France’s Champagne region.

If you’re imagining that the lord of the manor behind this ambitious enterprise is a noble Frenchman who struts around in a velvet waistcoat twirling his goatee and quoting passages from Diderot and Voltaire, you couldn’t be farther from the truth. The man behind the vision is Israeli-born American artist and entrepreneur Ziggy Attias, whose duties include Goat wrangler, Plumber, Lawn Maintenance, and Janitor. Ziggy’s long-term dream reaches beyond the grounds of the gorgeous Chateau Orquevaux to the sleepy (and largely abandoned) little village of Orquevaux nestled at the foot of the chateau.

The grounds here are truly magnificent. From the steps of the chateau you see cows grazing in the distance, a church spire rising up to the clouds, forests that once held plentiful boar and deer and a gushing river spanned by wrought iron bridges. There are several smaller buildings in various stages of repair – gatehouses, goat house, boat house, fantastic old stables, etc. I can’t really do justice to the ambiance and beauty of a French chateau so I’ll resort to a few additional images and you can always check out more on my instagram.

Morning walks

I managed to tear myself away from the natural beauty of the French countryside to dig into my second novel, and I did a number of small studies and sketches including a live model session by the banks of the river. I felt like I was living inside Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass!

Kitchen shelf at the chateau SOLD

Now, lest you think that one can go through life without the good AND the bad, I will wrap up this post with the unhappy news that amidst all this beauty and natural wonder, I contracted COVID. Yep, I’m fully vaccinated. I am writing this in isolation at the chateau. Four of us tested positive and like an ant hill that someone kicked over, everyone who tested negative fled the scene to return to their respective domiciles. So four of us have been left to recover here in the chateau, wandering the grounds and doing our best to overcome the symptoms – no picnic, I assure you. Ziggy and his partner, Beulah, are doing a great job of looking after us from a distance but it’s a really bizarre and emotional experience to say the least. It can be looked at as a blessing, or equated to the unnerving scenes from The Shining with Jack Nicolson!! Hopefully I fly back home soon. Fingers crossed!

Not a fan

I usually write about art that impresses me. This blog post reviews a disappointing exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. The Palais de Tokyo is the largest center for contemporary art in Europe, and my intent was to counterbalance other museums I am visiting that focus on centuries past. Well, I think I’ll stick to centuries past – at least as far as the Palais de Tokyo’s current exhibition ‘Natures mortes‘ (Still Life). Not every artist can pull off a successful show every time, unfortunately.

Multi-media German artist Anne Imhof was given the entire museum to do with as she pleased. Total carte blanche. I was anxious to see her work. After all, she won the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale and has been touted as ‘one of the most innovative voices of her generation’. Her vision for the museum-wide exhibition was stated as “encouraging visitors to walk the space between life and nonlife, darkness and light, past and present, stillness and action, intensity and disenchantment, and to freely trace our own path across this vast, open scene.” Umm…OK.

Me looking underwhelmed

This could be translated as letting the visitor wander aimlessly around the vast lower level between walls created out of graffiti-covered glass panels retrieved from an abandoned building. I’m sorry, but haven’t we seen that sort of thing before? In another separate space, ginormous copper walls superimposed with 18th century etchings reminded me a bit of Anselm Kiefer’s work but without the tactile masculinity and stunning gravitas.

As you wander further into the bowels of the museum’s raw subterranean space to the accompaniment of discordant music interspersed with screams, the artist successfully created a sense of discomfort and displacement. If anyone is familiar with Tel Aviv’s abandoned ‘new’ bus station, you will be able to relate to the feeling that at any moment a hunk of cement could fall on your head. Then there was the video of a guy beating a bicycle to death. Although the video did manage to convey the sense that the bicycle was a human being being beaten to death, I’m sure I’ve seen videos similar to this before, possibly at art school graduate shows.

The whole thing felt to me as if Imhof was just trying too hard and struggling to creatively fill the cavernous space she was assigned. There was nothing fresh or new. There were some redeeming works, mostly by artists that Imhof invited to participate such as Oscar Murillo and painter Eliza Douglas (see works below).

Painting by Oscar Murillo
Painting by Eliza Douglas

Anne Imhof is herself a very accomplished painter and some of her paintings on display were impressive:

I think you get the point that I was underwhelmed by the exhibition. I let out some of my frustrations on the padded pillars that were part of the exhibition.

I hope to see some more exciting art to share with you on my brief visit to Paris before heading off to my residency at the Chateau Orquevaux. You can follow me on Instagram for more of the highlights of my trip. Until then, adieu!!

INFO TITBIT:

The name Palais de Tokyo derives from the name of the street. The building is separated from the River Seine by the Avenue de New-York, which was formerly named Quai Debilly and later Avenue de Tokio (from 1918 to 1945). It was designed in 1937 for the Exposition internationale.

Seeing Double

I recently ventured out to an exhibition at the Pyramid Atlantic Center in Hyattsville MD, a nonprofit contemporary art center fostering the creative disciplines of papermaking, printmaking, and book arts. The exhibition, entitled RELIEF, featured a varied array of meticulously crafted prints by local and national printmakers.

The massive assembled work by Melissa Harshman in the image above is a perfect example. Portrait of a Hermit at Sea by Brent Bond of Santo Press (below) draws us into the artist’s quirky narrative with a mixed media print. I love the juxtaposition of the uber serious Victorian gentleman as he sails through the air in a conch shell.

I’m rather partial to black and white prints such as the two works below – Johanna Mueller’s finely detailed Jackalope and Kill Joy’s Huaraches. Seeing the prints in person is a whole other experience – one can see the how deeply the ink has been embedded into the snowy white paper and see the raised outline of the image depending on the force used to impress the relief onto the paper.

Heather O’Hara’s three-color block print Red Balloon Coyote (below) is adorable. The resulting texture is particularly appealing and the delightful, subtle overlays vary from print to print.

Heather’s debonair coyote has not surprisingly found his way onto greeting cards. See more examples here.

The print-making art world is magical in that the print artist can create almost identical multiples of a given image. There are numerous techniques – lithography, etching, linocut, woodcut, letterpress, engraving and silkscreen being the most common. I’ve tried my hand at a few of these techniques with questionable results. Click on the links to see introductory videos in order to appreciate the complexity, patience and precision required to master any one of these process-oriented techniques.

One of the exciting features of visiting Pyramid Atlantic is the opportunity to watch print artists at work on the traditional letterpress or watching Pyramid’s lithography instructor preparing to ink her magnificent slab of limestone. This specific slab was one of a cache of 100-year-old stone lithography plates recently unearthed in a pit in Ohio!

I’ll sign off with one of my own print images on rice paper and links to two of my favorite print artists, Florence McEwin and Yael Braverman. Have a great week ahead 🙂

Art mirrors our fluid world

If nothing else, the COVID virus has proven just how porous our borders and nation states are. Similarly, the once irrefutable parameters that defined social strata and gender identity have never been more fluid. Everything seems to be overlapping, blending, blurring. In the art world too, few artists feel the need to stay in one lane. Art institutions have long been encouraging students to experiment with different media and to express their creativity in multiple ways. As a result, today’s art inhabits hybrid combinations such as photography and painting, collage and printmaking, clay sculpture and video projection. In my own practice, I find myself increasingly drawn to work that crosses disciplines and does away with purist rules.

Here’s a recent example.

In an article about Paris’ bird market (Marche aux Oiseaux) I was struck by the vintage photograph that accompanied the article.

I had visited the market in the past and always felt a terrible sadness at the injustice of caging these beautiful creatures. Now the market is to be shuttered due to pressure from animal rights groups. I felt impelled to express my emotions about the market and decided upon a mixed media journal format including pen drawings, collage, printmaking and stenciling.

Here’s the result:

I recently came across Greek artist, Kostas Lambridis, whose three-dimensional constructions personify the cross pollination of materials and the trend of using disparate materials to achieve extraordinary results:

Ceramic sculptor, Joanna Allen, has created powerful work using projected video onto her figurative ceramic sculptures:

I think you can begin to see what I mean by cross pollination in the arts. I’ll leave you with one last example – photographer and painter Tawny Chatmon who embellishes her superb digitally enhanced photographs with intricate gold leaf patterning to create magnificent images.

PS. A thought just occurred to me – perhaps the literary world needs to catch up with this trend as I faced a lot of push-back from traditional publishers because my novel L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece is part personal essay/memoir and part historical fiction. Based on over a hundred amazing reviews, that hasn’t seemed to matter to my readers!!

MERCI TO YOU ALL!!!

My (virtual) life as an author

After decades as a professional artist, donning an author hat has been an adjustment. The new role has provided both familiar and novel experiences as well as opportunity for self-reflection. I discovered that the creative process in both the visual and literary arts follows a familiar, tortured path from the germ of an idea through to fruition. Inspiration, dedication, perseverance and self-doubt all make their appearance, and once your creation has left the nest it attracts the entire gamut of critical acclaim, from snide remarks to adoration. That’s actually a good thing because it forces a balance between suicidal thoughts and swollen heads!

There are differences, however. A book has the potential to reach more eyeballs than a painting ever can (Picasso aside). And although I have participated in virtual exhibitions since COVID arrived on our shores, I have found that there are multiple platforms out there for authors to discuss their books – apart from podcasts, most booksellers, book clubs and libraries have also pivoted to virtual author events.

I’m delighted to invite you to two exciting, upcoming events lined up for ‘L’Origine

PLEASE JOIN ME IN ‘AN EVENING WITH THE AUTHOR‘ AT THE AMERICAN LIBRARY IN PARIS FEBRUARY 17TH
PLEASE JOIN ME IN DISCUSSION WITH THE DIRECTOR OF DC ALLIANCE FRANCAISE ON FEBRUARY 12. DISCUSSION WILL BE HELD IN ENGLISH.

******OTHER EXCITING NEWS FOR ‘L’ORIGINE’******

L’Origine was just selected for the 2020 Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion Award. So validating!!! It had to score top marks on cover, title, story, dialogue, developmental editing, etc.

FRANCE BOOK TOUR JANUARY 19-29 :
Ten virtual ‘stops’ with ten book review blogs that specialize in books with French themes.
Read what stop #1 French Village Diaries had to say:

L’Origine paints a colorful picture of a special work of art and opened my eyes to periods of art, history and culture I was unaware of. We see the power the painting has over relationships and the trouble it causes, but also the pleasure it brings too. Lilianne’s passion for this piece and its story had me fascinated.

Virtual events will have to do until we can all meet in person again 🙂