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 🙂

It’s that time of year again…

It’s that time of year again.”

In the US, one usually understands that to mean Christmas. But it’s also the time of year when Hanukah/Chanukah rolls around – the Jewish festival that celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the larger Syrian army. Chanukah has more or less been distilled into the symbol of the Menorah, the eight-branched candelabrum that is lit over a period of eight days to commemorate a miracle that occurred during this period. But this isn’t a blog about the the history of Chanukah so much as a tiny sampling of the multiple forms this candelabrum can take on in the hands of contemporary artists and artisans.

One of the oldest images of a Hebrew candelabra from the 4th century

CONTEMPORARY VERSIONS

Oh, how far we have come from the original design…!!!

I myself have designed a number of menorahs. Here are two of them.

Lilianne Milgrom (SOLD)
I created this menorah while living through the Second Intifada in Israel, a period of time during which I truly feared for the very continued existence of the State of Israel…I feel better about that future right now but not without reservation.

Please share links in the comments to menorahs that you possess or that you have come across 🙂

Happy Hanukah/Chanukah to one and all!

What’s in your bed?

We spend close to a third of our days in bed. So it’s not surprising that artists through the ages have found it to be a rich source of inspiration. A lot happens in a bed. Sleep. Sex. Dreams. We cry in bed, laugh in bed, nurse babies, cuddle with animals, read novels, watch TV, recover from illness and even die in our beds. I’ve selected a very small spattering of thought-provoking bed art examples.

Le Lit’ (The Bed) Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec 1892

Most of you may be surprised to discover that the painter famous for cancan dancers and cabarets created a series of intimate portraits of people in bed. This one is in the Orsay Museum collection and I love it because it’s unclear whether the person on the right is nodding off to sleep or peering beneath drooping lids to see if their partner is already asleep. You may be further surprised to learn that the women in these paintings are prostitutes sharing a bed in their brothel.

Frida Kahlo in bed. Photograph by Juan Guzman 1950

Frida Kahlo may well be the most recognizable female artist in the world. Her unibrow and floral headdresses are so iconic as to be almost cliché. But a vast proportion of her art explores her lifelong suffering following a tragic accident. She underwent numerous operations and treatments that required her to spend months on her back. During these times, her bed was the stage for her entire existence. Most of us would not have survived, let alone have the physical, mental and emotional strength to create the unforgettable and magnificent paintings she produced in her bed.

My Bed Tracy Emin 1998

This installation piece was exhibited in the Tate Gallery in 1999 and shortlisted for the Turner Prize (trust me, that’s a big deal). But you can imagine that the public were confused, angered and befuddled by the work. I think it’s rather brilliant – Ms. Emin apparently awoke after a four-day stay in bed bingeing on alcohol while in a depressive state. When she stumbled out of bed she realized that the filthy mess was symbolic of every emotion she had lived through in those four days. No self-portrait could have said more. To critics who observed that anyone could put their bed in a museum, the artist responded: “Well, they didn’t, did they?” Right on. Watch the video to hear her talk about it.

Maggie Siner Bed and Angel

Maggie Siner is one of my very favorite contemporary artists. Her superb gestural, fresh paintings reflect her daily life. She was born in Providence, RI, lived and taught in Paris for many years and since 2008, has lived in Venice. The way her bed series captures the morning light takes my breath away. It’s worth reading about her many careers on her way to becoming a master painter – it’s hard to believe she fit all that in one lifetime!

Break of Dawn Lilianne Milgrom

I painted this piece with the intention of capturing that dreamlike state just as our bodies and minds are awakening to a new day. In these troubled times we have to remind ourselves to be grateful for every single day we are blessed with, and to be mindful of every breath we take.

Le Sommeil (The Sleep) Gustave Courbet 1866

Last but not least, a painting by my favorite 19th century renegade painter, Gustave Courbet. This painting is not outstanding for its figurative excellence but for the subversive statement it made at the time of its creation. Le sommeil makes an important cameo appearance in my recently released novel ‘L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece’.

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY CLICK HERE

Sleep tight!!!

Limitless possibilities

I have been a fan of Lori Katz’s ceramic work for a number of years. She finds within the confines of a square ceramic tile infinite possibilities for creative expression and her singular approach never seems to get stale.

I am intrigued by contrast, the play of dark against light, the pull of empty space against the inclination to fill it up, placement of line and shape, the use of subtle texture…” says Lori. She finds inspiration in the fundamental building blocks of geometry, often playing with the dynamic tension between two- and three-dimensional elements.

Lori is not concerned with presenting a narrative, but rather with imprinting her mark-making on her canvas of choice – clay. Her work is constantly evolving and responding to her environment. “I have learned that in the end, process is never simple and good design is always balanced and strong.”

Current racial and political tensions have subtly inserted themselves into her work in the form of more muted colors and heightened surface texture.

Lori’s work brings to mind a line from Pat Conroy’s novel Beach Music: “No story is a straight line”. Similarly, no square tile is ever subject to conventional or predictable treatment in Lori’s hands – her motto is “no rules”. The works are striking on their own or as a grouping, large or small.

Recently, the artist has surprised herself by expanding beyond wall art to create a series of vessel forms with her unique mark-making.

Lori maintains a studio in Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory, although she is not there in person during the pandemic. Like most artists, her upcoming shows are all virtual. Details of her upcoming exhibitions can be found on her website.

BEFORE YOU GO, CHECK OUT MY RECENT PODCAST INTERVIEWS ON LA VIE CREATIVE AND CEREBRAL WOMEN ART TALKS PODCAST HERE.

L’ORIGINE IS AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK AND EBOOK VERSIONS.

IF YOU STILL HAVEN’T PURCHASED YOUR COPY, CLICK HERE

Artists and models

Oftentimes, the models who posed for famous paintings are overlooked. We are much more inclined to focus on the artist and on trying to interpret the meaning behind the painting. Except for a handful of iconic paintings, the models’ identities remain unknown, as do their stories. Take this painting for example:

Some of you may recognize it as Edouard Manet’s famous Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (Luncheon on the Grass, 1832–1883). The jarring image of the naked picnicker is probably quite familiar. She appears in a number of Manet’s paintings including his famous Olympia:

Who was this gal and what was her story? Her name was Victorine Meurent. Her fascinating story is the subject of a newly released historical fiction novel, Victorine by Drēma Drudge. The book pulls the curtain back on Ms. Meurent’s life, her relationship with Manet and her own artistic aspirations.

I’m thrilled to have secured an exclusive interview with author Drēma Drudge who will also select one of my lucky blog followers for the giveaway prize of a free copy of Victorine. Read the interview below.

Welcome to Art and Beyond, Drēma! What inspired you to write a book about a model as opposed to the painting or the artist?

From the moment I saw Victorine Meurent as Olympia in the painting by Manet, I felt she had things to say that the canvas couldn’t contain. Her eyes were condemning the viewer, yes, but it went deeper than that; to me, she was clearly playing a role and not with much patience. Her personality was so large that even Manet couldn’t wrestle it into staying on the canvas alone.

My first encounter with her was as a PowerPoint slide a professor put up for his class The Painted Word.  I couldn’t quit staring from one side of the painting to the other. When I saw the actual painting at Musée D’Orsay the next year, I had an even more intense feeling that Victorine really did want to speak to me. That’s when I began to research her and discovered that she was also an artist herself.

Long story short, I didn’t choose her; she chose me.

There were many model muses in art history. I have to ask – why Victorine?

The more I studied Victorine, the more I discovered that outside of Manet’s paintings, we don’t know much about her. She needed someone to give her back a voice, to bring her back to “Herstory.” For instance, no one remembered that she was an accomplished artist!

The primary book I studied to learn what little there is to know was Alias Olympia by Eunice Lipton. At the time she wrote her book in the 1990’s, no paintings of Victorine’s were thought to have survived.

By 2004, one painting had been rediscovered and had made its way into the museum in Colombes, the town Victorine lived in when she died. Though I really wanted desperately to see other paintings of hers, because I felt I would know so much more about her if I could see her subject matter and how she painted, at least I had the one. I’d have to make it enough, or so I thought.

Thankfully, during my research, my husband and I put together clues and rumors, did deep internet dives, and found that not only one, but that recently three more of her paintings have been recovered. I was giddy to discover this!  

The most exciting one is on my book’s back cover. It’s her self-portrait, one from 1876 that was accepted by the prestigious Paris Salon in a year when Manet’s work was rejected. We believe my book is the first place her self-portrait has been printed, and I am so honored.

Being able to study how she saw herself, instead of seeing her as only painted by so many men, helped me to feel confident that I had read her correctly. (We didn’t discover the painting until just before the book went to press, and yes, my editor said she would stop the press while I made a few last-minute adjustments.)

Do you think Manet would have been inspired to paint some of his most famous works if it were not for Victorine?

No, I don’t think he would have. You see Victorine in those paintings of his such as Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass, and who could have modeled with that same aura of arrogance, confrontation, and simultaneous disengagement that was so prevalent in his paintings of her? I think her bravado gave him courage.

One of the interesting and unexpected discoveries in your novel is the fact that Victorine was an artist in her own right. How did this influence her role as Manet’s muse?

                It appears that Victorine didn’t officially become an artist until after she quit sitting for Manet, and yet that artist’s eye must have been developing in her all along. I think they more or less “co-created” the paintings. In my novel I have her challenging him, helping him to really think about what he’s painting and why. I can’t know if that’s how it was in real life, and yet his was such a unique talent, it does seem that he had to have been influenced by someone or something outside of what was in vogue. I’d like to think that someone was Victorine. 

QUALIFY TO WIN A FREE COPY OF ‘VICTORINE’! CLICK ON THE LIKE BUTTON FOR THIS BLOG POST AND INCLUDE ‘VICTORINE GIVEAWAY’ IN A COMMENT. GOOD LUCK!


My own recently released novel ‘L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece‘ divulges the identity of a model who has remained a mystery for over a century. The book is receiving amazing reviews – check it out and order a copy for yourself or as a gift. Merci!!!

An artist paints with words

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First stroke Acrylic on canvas

OK. You all get it by now: I love art. I love the drag of my loaded brush against the canvas and the sensuous feel of wet clay spinning beneath my hands. I also love how art can come to life through words. Reading about the lives of famous artists and the stories behind their seminal works adds important context that a purely visual encounter cannot. My novel L’Origine: The secret life of the world’s most erotic masterpiece was inspired by the remarkable odyssey of an iconic 19th century painting that continues to ruffle feathers to this day. Lots of exciting podcast interviews, articles and live readings are coming up in place of a traditional book tour.

Click on the image below for a delicious teasing clip of Lynne Hanley from Beyond the Palette in London announcing the upcoming interview about my book. Her motto is Art, Drama and Passion. She delivers on all three! For the full interview click here.


********DON’T MISS THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE*******

Before you rush off I’d like to recommend two recent novels by women authors who shed light on the hardships that female artists faced in different centuries and cultures.

Sofonisba. Portraits of the Soul by [Chiara Montani, Verna Kaye]

Sofonisba is a historical novel with the taste and the colors of the Renaissance. You’ll fall in love with this unforgettable heroine.

The Painter from Shanghai: A Novel by [Jennifer Cody Epstein]

The Painter from Shanghai is a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and her transformation from prostitute to post-Impressionist.

Namaste.

See Spot run: Where it all began…

Painting by Lilianne Milgrom. Acrylic on canvas

Who can remember the thrill of learning to read? I distinctly remember the very first time my heart leapt as I strung letters together to sound out a word. That memory is so vivid that I created an installation called Memory in Yellow that was exhibited at Artomatic in Washington DC several years ago.

I had found a reprint of the Dick and Jane book that I learned to read from and that inspired me to recreate my memory as a site specific installation.

Nothing much has changed since then in so far as my love of reading – if I don’t have at least four books in the pipeline I start feeling anxious! Over the years I have channeled my creativity in both the visual and literary arts.

Which brings me to my HUGE, EXCITING, LONG-AWAITED NEWS!!!!!!!!!

Yep – that’s my name there…I can’t quite believe it myself. It only took me ten years but who’s counting?? I just posted this cover reveal on Instagram and wanted to share the news with my loyal blog readers as well. Lots more in the weeks to come about L’Origine but if you can’t wait and are inclined to *PRE-ORDER* a copy of this historical novel that traces the riveting odyssey of the world’s most erotic masterpiece, be my guest! I guarantee an enlightening, fun ride 😉