I love discovering new art experiences in far-flung places. Sometimes, though, I need to remind myself of the wonderful museums right here in Washington DC. I was fortunate to catch two major exhibitions at the National Gallery that are polar opposites in every way. I began with the blockbuster show Vermeer and the Masters of genre painting. (A twitter-style primer: Johannes Vermeer is the most celebrated painter of 17th century Dutch Golden Age painting. ‘Genre’ painting captures scenes of everyday, domestic life).
These paintings are miniaturized, highly detailed glimpses into life in Holland in the late 1600’s. Apart from appreciating the beauty and skill, two things stood out for me: First, the care taken by the artists to provide narrative clues. For example, look at this brothel scene by Frans Van Mieris.
Did you notice the dogs going at it in the lower right? The artist threw that in there just in case the viewer was in doubt as to where this scene was taking place…!
Likewise, in Samuel van Hoogstraten’s View of an Interior (below) we see what appears to be an empty room. But somebody is definitely in there even though we can’t see them – note the shoes on the mat, the keys still hanging on the door…
Or in Gabriel Metsu’s Woman Reading a Letter, the maid is pulling back a curtain to reveal a painting of a stormy sea, connoting that the letter could be bringing bad tidings.
This painting brings me to my second take-away from the collection of paintings in this exhibition: There was an awful lot of letter-writing taking place, which made me realize that texting obsessively is just a natural extension of our intrinsic need to communicate.
I was just in awe of the fabulously elaborate clothing and the sumptuousness of textures that seem to leave our contemporary, minimalist aesthetics lacking in some way…
Keep this in mind for my next blog post that will feature minimalist sculptor, Anne Truitt’s solo show, also on exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington DC.
(The Vermeer exhibition closed last weekend. More on the National Gallery website)
Since returning from my artist residency in Auvillar, France, I have had my nose to the grindstone, preparing fortyworks for a show in Paris next May with Carre d’artistes gallery. This is a departure for me in terms of technique, commercial output, and most difficult for me, sticking to a unified theme.
The gallery only shows square formats and specifies four different sizes their artists have to adhere to. The largest is 19″ square. I am working on wood in mixed media – photo transfer, collage and paint, and experimenting with resin coating. I am going for a French-inspired, contemporary look, with an eye to fuse art/fashion/social media imagery with a cheeky narrative.
It’s very fiddly work but I am enjoying it when not panicking about the deadline. My studio is strewn with magazines, old stamp albums and all manner of source materials. More details about the exhibition as I get closer to the date.
My time at the VCCA artist residency in Auvillar is sadly coming to a close. There will be much to miss. Roasted chestnuts/bedding airing on windowsills framed by blue shutters/ children who pass you in the street and greet you politely with a Bonjour, madame/the accordion music that drifts out of the house by the bend in the road/the long, silent hours of uninterrupted writing/the sharing of creative trials and tribulations/the weekly communal meals/the telling of time by the tolling of church bells rather than the screen of an iPhone.
And of course, the gorgeous countryside. I sometimes feel like I am on the set of a French version of Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. Come and join me on the bike ride I took this morning and you’ll see what I mean. Allons-y!
I had a very productive writing residency here, and I also completed a labor-intensive painting, entitled Les murs, The Walls. Walls in medieval villages like Auvillar speak of the passage of time. They reveal glimpses of centuries gone by, the marks of masons and artisans long gone who added to existing layers rather than destroy what came before. In this painting, I have left traces of multiple layers in the hopes of creating a textured, timeless piece. The result pleasingly resembled a fresco – another wall association!
Oh, and if you’re headed this way tomorrow night, please drop in on our literary salon:
Artist and writer Lilianne MILGROM will introduce the project that she is working on while in residence. She will show us the artwork by Gustave COURBET that has inspired her writing and then read an extract of her novel in French and in English.
Lilianne Milgrom says “My life revolves around art – creating art, looking at art and writing about art. My work can be found in both private and institutional collections worldwide.”
“The current residency in Auvillar is the first residency in which I am concentrating primarily on writing rather than painting. I am working on a novel, inspired by Gustave Courbet.” www.liliannemilgrom.com/
Poet Kathryn LEVY will introduce her work in French then read several of her poems in English as well as a couple in French.
Kathryn LEVY is author of the poetry collections Losing the Moon and Reports, a finalist for the 2014 Midwest Book Award. Her work has appeared in various journals including Slate, Hanging Loose and Seattle Review, among many others. Her numerous writing fellowships include awards from Yaddo, MacDowell and VCCA.
I have been known to paint on wood, canvas, ceramics, paper, furniture and clothing, and even tried painting on kids’ birthday cakes with colored frosting. Some artists use skin as a canvas. But unlike decorative body painting and tattoos, artist Emma Hack has taken this living medium to an entirely new level. It might require you to look twice at the work below to discern the human body in her gorgeous works; Emma is the master of camouflage.
Hack’s work is part installation and part body mural. An Artnet News interview reports that Hack, an Australian artist, spends between 8 to 15 hours to complete one of her works, which sounds like speed painting to me. Her wallpaper series, above, is based on patterns created by the late designer Florence Broadhurst.
Unfortunately, outstanding art is often not enough on its own to propel an artist into international stardom. In Hack’s case, she made it to the big leagues when her work appeared in a music video that went viral. The video is pretty awesome and worth a few minutes of your time.
Alexa Meade‘s work is very different from Emma Hack’s yet they have both developed a totally original way of incorporating the human body in their oeuvre. Meade paints an expressionistic portrait directly on her subject’s face, clothes, hair creating a strange new dimension – it’s not clear exactly what we are looking at until her subject starts to move!
It may be confusing to get your head around Meade’s process so I will leave it up to the artist to explain in the short TED talk youtube below.
Meade made it into the Washington Post when she unleashed one of her walking portraits on the metro. I think this is great. I’m all for a painter who makes people sit up and take notice.
If you are as impressed with these artists as I am, here are links to more of their work :