Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In a Naxos Mood

Today's blog is not about art. It may qualify as being more about life. You see, dear reader, I'm going on vacation to Greece next week. I'll be spending a few days in Athens taking in the sites. From there, I take the large ferry (and several hours) to the island of Naxos. You've learned a lot about Athens, I thought in this blog I'd share somethings about Naxos.

Naxos is located in the Aegean sea in the chain of islands known as the Cyclades. It is the largest and most mountainous of these islands. Mount Zas on Naxos often has snow in the winter - something we don't usually associate with the Greek islands.

It has the reputation as a bread-basket island. As you approach from the sea, it looks rocky and scrubby, but it has many small streams running down from the mountains. As such, it has been self sustaining in its farming, dairy and livestock. (Although I'm not so sure about that anymore since many people from colder European climates have come to build homes on Naxos to take advantage of the early summers in this Southern location.)

For the month of April, I won't be posting a weekly art blog. Instead, I am going to check out some internet cafes to try and send posts and photos to you. If all goes well, I'll be posting every few days in the form of a journal. Be sure to check back towards the end of next week when I'm settled in. I should have photos of Athens and beyond.

One last thing... I won't be checking and responding to email while I'm gone. If you want to reach me, please make comments at this blog. (Nothing too personal please as everyone can read it.)In the meantime, here are a few images of Naxos...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Perceptions of Purple

While creating a purple iris painting, my mind went back to color theory class and the story of purple. The dye came from a snail. (It's amazing to me that anyone would figure how to do that... perhaps a tiny milking stool...)It was, like gold, considered rare and valuable. Therefore, it was the color worn exclusively by royalty.

Since royalty often took on the dual role of secular and spiritual leaders, purple came to be associated with spirituality. Interestingly, these perceptions of purple were not only the case for Western Europe, but also for Egypt, Persia and even as far back in history as Phoenicia and the Minoans. (Phoenicia is Greek for land of the purple.)

Over the years, other sources for the dye and even synthetic purple were created. This made purple dye more available.
Today, in our world of marketing, purple with its mix of red warmth and blue coolness is considered to be exciting yet calming.

What do you think about when you see or wear purple? What associations do you make when you think of purple?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Art... or Craft?

Artists often get into a discussion as to where the line is between art and crafts. This thought occurred to me as I looked at the papel picado (Spanish for "perforated" or "punched" paper) of Carmen Lomas Garza.

Lomas Garza is, by her definition, a Chicana artist. Born in Texas, she paints scenes of Mexican-Americans' everyday lives and special occasions. She made her decision to become an artist when she was 13. Over time, she has taught art, written books, and had countless exhibitions. Her qualifications as a painter are indisputable. She also makes papel picados.

If you've ever been to a Mexican-themed party or tavern, you may have noticed paper banners with cutouts on them. There is a very long folk tradition dating back to the Aztecs in making paper banners for religious celebrations.

Nowadays, the painstaking process involved in handmaking has been largely replaced by manufacturing. Lomas Garza is one of the artists who is keeping the finest examples of this ancient tradition alive.

As you look at the complexity of her papel picado keeping in mind that this is considered to be part of folk tradition, what do you think? Is it an ancient craft or is it an art?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moholy-Nagy and Me

Last blog, I wrote about the Bauhaus School but there was a particular professor who I did not include. His name was Laszlo Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946).

Moholy-Nagy was a painter , lithographer, photographer, sculptor, print maker, industrial designer... and the list of his accomplishments goes on. As a Bauhaus School professor, he promoted the marrying of art with industry. This philosophy is reflected in his work.

I came across Moholy-Nagy' works while I was at the university. He had made a series of paintings in a style described as "constructivism" and I was curious about his method.

For all the simplicity of his geometric designs, he created a complex sense of space and floating objects. He succeeded in moving art away from traditional perspective and I wanted to figure out how he did it.

It does seem that oil paints and school terms don't work together very well. Each application of paint had to dry before the next. The process was slow going and I barely finished before the finals. However, the experience left me with a deep appreciation for the precision and planning in Moholy-Nagy's works.
(Below left sides are Moholy-Nagy paintings and my small efforts are on the right.)

"The Bauhaus"

You know how you hear or read a word and you have to know its meaning.? I kept reading references to "Bauhaus." I had to find out about it. What I learned was astonishing to me.

Much of the art that was referred to as "modern" or "contemporary" in the 1950s and 60s (and even today) had its beginnings back in 1919 Germany at the Bauhaus School of Art and Architecture.

Artists such as Kandinsky, Klee, Josef Albers, and the architect Mies Van Der Rohe were all teachers at the Bauhaus. All the artists and architects at the school shared a philosophy that "form follows function." In other words, the beauty of any object was in the simplicity of the design after considering the function of the object.

The school was much heralded in Germany for its innovation - except by the Nazi party. When they came to power in 1933, they closed the school. The Nazis preferred heroic art of the state and considered the Bauhaus school as an example of deviance and corruption of art purity.

Below are examples of art, architecture, and design from the Bauhaus. As you look at the works, do they remind you of another era of art or architecture? or perhaps the work of a more recent artist?