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 🙂

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.

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