Art Is Good for your health

Don’t you love it when the scientific community comes out with proof of something you have instinctively known all along? Most artists have experienced that delicious feeling of well being when they get into the’zone’. But now there is empirical evidence that art is good for your overall health.

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Digital illustration by Lilianne Milgrom

No news to me. Anyone who has immersed themselves in a creative process can attest to a feeling of calm, of total engagement with the senses, of putting on hold life’s demands and worries. But don’t take my word for it.

Making and looking at art can even reduce doctor’s visits! C’mon guys – get yourselves off to that gallery opening! And if that’s not enough to move you,  recent studies show that Art not only holds off Alzheimer’s but creating art actually lowers stress indicators. The Experience Life article contends that “Creative types may have de-stressing down to an art. Researchers at Philadelphia’s Drexel University recruited 39 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 59, to participate in 45 minutes of art making by using clay, drawing with markers, or creating collages.

To measure cortisol levels (an indicator of stress), researchers collected saliva samples from participants before and after their creative work. The results, published in Art Therapy, noted reduced levels of the stress hormone in roughly three-quarters of the participants. I can’t help but think that being so prolific must have contributed to Picasso’s long life. What a chill dude!

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Yves Manciet  Picasso in the studio

One L.A. doctor who puts her faith in the art and wellness correlation into practice is celebrated endocrinologist, Dr. Katja Van Herle. She and her husband have opened a gallery so they “could work with artists who want to engage with the community, provide a calming space for anyone to interact with art for free, and raise funds for causes we believe in—mainly, exposing more art and its effects to more people,” explains Van Herle.

Van Herle sees Denk Gallery in downtown Los Angeles as a extension of her medical practice. “Art is healing, in all of its forms—that’s what we want to communicate through DENK.”

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Jungle Cities installation view, courtesy DENK Gallery

So it’s time to dust off those paintbrushes or get out the modelling clay and try to make the most of what has so far been a stressful beginning to the year following the 2016 elections…

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Diversity is the name of the game

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Kelly Sullivan, Boy with the Pearl Earring

Diversity is a very popular catch phrase these days – diversity in the work place, diversity in the political arena, etc. Linden New Art Gallery in Melbourne, Australia, hosts an annual Postcard show that crystallizes the essence of creative diversity. Featuring small format artworks (8″ x 10″), almost every type of medium, subject matter and world view are represented in over 900 individual works on exhibit.

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Karen Salter, Dream House (View from Right)

I am partial to group shows because they provide the viewer with a cornucopia of creativity and imaginative expression. Just think about it – 900 artists begin with the same sized, blank canvas, producing totally unique, original works of art that in no way resemble each other. Isn’t human creativity astounding?

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Rachel Derum, Totem

The quality of the artwork in Postcard varies but all-in-all, it is well worth a visit. The gallery itself is set in an historical building filled with light and enhanced by architectural detailing.

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Below is a sampling of the variety on view at Linden New Art until January 29th.

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Lynette Orzlowski, Three Wishes
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Simon Watts

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Anthony Whyte, What Lies Beneath

And now for my favorite pick: The Boss by Zoe Brener, created using multiple folds of paper in subtle monochrome shades. Brilliant!

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Yours Truly in front of a curated wall in Linden Gallery

I myself recently participated in the 83rd International Miniatures in Fine Art exhibition in Bethesda, MD, and was delighted to score an award, juried from among the 720 international and national entries. Below are my two realistically rendered miniature entries (a good magnifying glass is a must when painting on such a small scale!).

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‘San Francisco Morning’, acrylic on board 4″ x 4″  $400
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‘Subiaco’, acrylic on board, 4″ x 4″ AWARD WINNER  $400

 

 

 

Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

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I may not be of the Christian faith, but even I can see that Christmas decorations favored by American suburbia have veered far, far away from their Nativity-scene origins.

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In fact, I would venture to say that perhaps someone took a seriously wrong turn somewhere along the line…

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Pretending it’s a white Christmas

After over a decade in the ‘burbs I still find it very odd to see plastic Santa versions of Snoopy or Hello Kitty spring up like mushrooms on my neighbors’ front lawns at this time of the year. As an artist, I shouldn’t judge different aesthetic tastes (right?). And so, I have taken to walking around the neighborhood, photographing the newest models and trying to draw some cheer from them. According the polls, most people agree that 2016 was a pretty rough year – although, unfortunately, we now know just how wrong polls can be…

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Ho, ho, ho

But let’s not get glum. In the spirit of optimism, hope and best wishes for all mankind, let me wish you, my dear readers, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

 

 

To Hell and back

Most people equate Brussels with chocolate, the Grand-Place square, grey skies and of course, the Manneken Pis statue. Time to open the aperture.

Belgium’s capital recently rewarded me yet again with a truly outstanding contemporary art experience with a visit to Maison Particulière, off one of Brussels’ main arteries, Avenue Louise.

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A bit of background is in order. This unique exhibition space is actually a private home. Nothing is for sale. Each exhibition revolves around a particular theme inspired by the work of one selected guest artist. The curators then complete the exhibition with relevant works loaned by private collectors around the world.

To enter the Maison Particulière is to enter a world where all of your senses are engaged at the very highest level of refinement. As soon as I step into the sleek space, my olfactory senses are delightfully assaulted by a musky, mysterious scent that is quite irresistible. I learn that a master perfumer is tasked with creating a unique fragrance for every exhibition. In this case the perfume is Oud Shamash by Luc Gabriel. Heavenly, with a hint of danger…

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Oud Shamash perfume on display

The fragrance sets the scene for the current exhibition From here to eternity featuring Angelo Musco as the guest artist. The theme takes as its literary inspiration Divine Comedy, Dante’s masterpiece describing his journey through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. As Maison Particulière is built on three levels, the curators have very cleverly dedicated one floor to each of these separate realms, beginning with Hell on the ground floor.

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Works by Angelo Musco and Rachel Kneebone

A dimly lit room off the main lobby gallery is as close to Hell as I want to get. The walls are covered in one of Angelo Musco’s photographic installations. Musco uses the human body as a tool, creating elaborate photographic panels picturing thousands of nude bodies submerged in surreal landscapes. Some of his works take years to complete and they are disturbing and beautiful at the same time.

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Detail of Angelo Musco’s photographic installation

On three pedestals, artist Rachel Kneebone’s porcelain assemblages reflect the precariousness of existence and perfectly mirror Musco’s sea of entangled human forms.

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Detail from Rachel Kneebone’s porcelain assemblages

Hell continues on into the library with Jaume Plensa’s striking marble bust ‘Carmela’ whose compressed face symbolizes compressed memories.

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Jaume Plensa’s Carmela in the library

‘Hollow Figure’ by Daniel Arsham continues the feeling of walking through a hellish nightmare.

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Hollow Figure fiberglass sculpture by Daniel Arsham

On the second floor Angelo Musco greets the visitor in Purgatory with his epic biblical work Sanctuary (below) based on the story of the Tower of Babel. The artist traveled the world to ensure that people from different cultures and nations were represented. The work took four years to complete and contains 500,000 individual figures.

From a distance the photographic images appear to represent fantastical undersea towers, perhaps Atlantis, but they are shockingly surprising when viewed up close.

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Another haunting work in Purgatory is Chiharu Shiota’s State of Being (chair and paper). The artist creates room-filling installations out of found objects. He enmesshes them in webs of wool thread in an attempt to connect the memories of strangers.

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State of Being

It was all powerful, heady stuff. I was ready to get to Paradise on the third floor. Here I discovered a video work that was the source of the faint music that had followed me on my journey through Hell and Purgatory. The music wafted around the beautifully contemplative works displayed on the third floor, such as a Bodhisattva Buddha and ancient twisted trunks of petrified trees. In Paradise’s last room I felt like I had entered God’s inner sanctum – Charles Sandison’s First Breath sent chills up my spine. It is a computer-generated hologram projection that uses software based on the sequencing of human DNA to create images of newborn faces…

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Projected hologram forming itself into the image of a newborn face

This blog post only skims the surface of this outstanding exhibition and its uber chic venue. You have to experience this exhibition for yourself to really feel its impact. Even the restroom was unforgettable!

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From here to eternity will be exhibited through April 30, 2017 at Maison Particulière, rue du Chatelain 49, Brussels, Belgium.

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View into the garden at Maison Particulière
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View into entrance gallery

Dyed-in-the-wool in Wyoming

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Pit stop during my 6-day exhibition tour of Wyoming

Our first stop during my recent ‘grand finale’ tour of Wyoming with The Bridge traveling exhibition was Laramie, WY. While checking out the town’s modest commercial center I wandered into a store called Jeny Originals. The first thing that I noticed was an entire wall covered in a rainbow of hand-dyed wool like some giant textile installation.

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Selection of hand-dyed yarns at Jeny Originals, Laramie, WY

I struck up a conversation with the store’s namesake, Jeny Stoesz, and learned about her family’s love for Wyoming’s natural beauty and how their deep connection to the state inspired a unique family business.

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Even though I took this photo from a moving car, the scenery is still spectacular!

The Stoeszes believe Wyoming is God’s country and I can see their point – the scenery is pretty awesome. The family wanted to create products that could ‘leave with visitors and at the same time remain in the state with its residents’ and thus was born Jeny Originals yarns and weavings.

Mike Stoesz was a prolific photographer of his beloved Wyoming. Jeny draws inspiration from her late husband’s photographs to hand-dye wool and acrylic skeins with gloriously nuanced shades of color and texture that remain true to the original photograph’s palette. The color combinations that make up The Wyoming Collection have even been patented and are christened with evocative names like Bent Aspen, River Flood, and Rock Creek.

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The inspirational photograph is attached to each skein of wool
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The same photograph can inspire different shade combinations and different textural experiments

Jeny is a true artist, interpreting the beauty of her late husband’s nature photographs through the medium of wool.

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Jeny Stoesz

Jeny Originals has just moved to a new, more streamlined location in Laramie. More information at jenyoriginals.com.

Wyoming was the last stop on The Bridge exhibition’s global tour. Learn more about The Bridge project and my role as both participating artist and co-curator. While you’re checking that out, I’ll just slip into those new cowboy boots…

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More than a pretty face

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‘Janie’ by Clarity Haynes

I wait with bated breath for the triennial Outwin Boochever portrait competition held at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. As a figurative artist interested in portraiture I am thrilled that this art form is celebrated by the Smithsonian Institute network of galleries.

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Ray DiCapua ‘Phyllis’ (artist’s mother). Charcoal
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Detail of ‘Phyllis’ (above)

I have written several blogs about portraiture, extolling its virtues as an art form and bemoaning its waning glory in terms of its commercial viability. Despite current trends I continue to be lured back time and again to the human face as a vehicle for illuminating our culture and time. More than in previous years,  this year’s Outwin Bouchever finalists cover just about all the social issues relevant in today’s society – old age, obesity, gender, disability, race, the immigrant experience, you name it.

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Jess T. Dugan ‘Self-Portrait (muscle shirt)

Jess T. Dugan describes her work as positioned “within a framework of queer experience and from my actively constructed sense of masculinity.” I admit that I have no clue what she is talking about, but the gender defying message in her photograph is clear.

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Rick Ashley ‘Michael # 145973’

Michael (the subject in the photograph above) is the photographer’s brother-in-law. He has Down Syndrome. The pair have been making photographs together since 1975, with Michael often directing the shoot.

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Sedrick Huckaby ‘Sedrick.Sed, Daddy’

This monumental, highly textured self-portrait is part of the Huckaby’s recent group of paintings dealing with the African American family. His self-portrait examines how he balances his roles as artist, professor, husband and father.

There is lots to see in this engrossing exhibition. Below are my two favorite picks, and surprise, surprise, they are both examples of exquisite painting.

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Paul Oxborough ‘Harvey and Teddy’

and

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Gaspar Enriquez ‘John’

42 works were selected from a total of 2,500 submissions and well worth a visit. While you’re there check out the winning entry, and place your own vote for the People’s Vote award. If you can’t make it there in person, you can find more images on the official site.

I’d like to take a stab at entering my own works next time round. At this point I think I would select a portrait from my series of people taking selfies. After all the selfie is the great portrait equalizer and the way of the future. I find that this phenomenon speaks volumes about our self-absorption and alienation. I would love to hear any feedback from readers.

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Lilianne Milgrom ‘Selfie #4’ 30″ x 36″

Your body is a temple – and a canvas

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Emma Hack, Wallpaper series

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.

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Emma Hack from her Wallpaper series
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Emma Hack from her Wallpaper series

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!

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Alexa IIt 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.

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If you are as impressed with these artists as I am, here are links to more of their work :

Emma Hack

Emma Hack II

Alexa Meade

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