Art getting in your face?

I just spent the day in Philadelphia and no sooner had I stepped off the train, than I found myself assailed by Art. I don’t mean a few nicely displayed framed pieces, or an aesthetic attempt at Public Art. I mean ART – a huge 50-foot tall sculpture of some cartoon character sitting right there in Philadelphia’s historic railway station.

KAWS at Philadelphias 30th Street Station

Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it, and that is the point. This work by Brooklyn-based artist KAWS is an example of how far art institutions are willing to go to entice the public to come and see their exhibitions. By placing this oversized art piece outside their walls and in the public eye, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) is hoping to nab an otherwise inaccessible demographic. I was recently knocked off my feet by an incredible video of this very trend and just have to share it here. In this case, Amsterdam’s newly renovated Rijksmuseum re-enacted one of Rembrandt’s masterpieces in a local mall. Spectacular! I was grinning for an hour after watching it.

I can’t sign off before mentioning the wonderful ceramic works on exhibit at one of my absolute favorite Philadelphia galleries in Old Town – The Clay Studio. If you are still thinking little floral teacups when someone mentions the word ‘porcelain’, think again. Porcelain is at once exquisitely delicate, incredibly strong and versatile enough to match any artist’s vision. Here are some examples of contemporary porcelain works on display during the Science as Muse exhibition, unfortunately closing today.

Artist: Lindsey Feuer
Artist: Lindsey Feuer
Artist: Undine Brod
Artist: Undine Brod
Artist: Jason Briggs
Artist: Jason Briggs

(Yep, this last one is a weird one….)

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What is it about portraits…?

The Birth of Inez Imake  Painting by Ginny Stanford

In spite of the fact that I can’t pronounce it, I eagerly look forward to the biennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition with bated breath. The National Portrait Gallery hosts this phenomenal show every two years.  Many moons ago, portraiture was once confined by strict rules and rigid parameters. No more. This year’s 48 finalists, chosen from thousands of entries, covered the gamut of traditional oil paintings, photographs, video (first prize winner Bo Gehring), animation, rice sculpture, thread portraits and one portrait had no face at all, just an oval canvas revealing the few inches of skin between the artist’s breasts.

Body 10/17/11 by Gwen Hardie
Body 10/17/11 by Gwen Hardie

I just love portraits, and that is probably why I haven’t yet burned out on preparing for my upcoming solo portraiture show at Crossroads Gallery this July (details forthcoming but mark your calanders July 13, 2013!) The Outwin Boocher competiton catalogue begins with the sentence: ‘A portrait has the power to stop us in our tracks.’ I couldn’t agree more. I get swallowed into a good portrait, sensing the sitter, feeling the connection between artist and sitter and enjoying the unexpected introduction to a stranger who, by becoming the subject of a portrait no longer feels like a stranger.

Portrait Gallery (4)

I have to borrow from artist Bly Pope’s words because I could not have come up with a more beautiful way of expressing the power of a portrait: ‘ The human face is a lyrical and mysterious landscape.’ I strongly suggest that you take yourselves to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC – the show is on till 2014, so no excuses!

I’m also very excited about my new collaboration with the Susan Calloway Fine Art Gallery in Georgetown who will be exhibiting some of my works, including this small Parisian cafe scene, which, since we’re on the subject of portratis, could be viewed as a double portrait.

Les Parisiens IV