Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Art that Fools the Eye

 This art posting happens to fall on April 1st. I've been thinking about trickery and how many ways artists play tricks on the Eyes.

There are so many techniques! One of the best known is "trompe-l' oeil"; which to deceive the eye. Usually, that's done with murals that look like doorways, windows or a lovely scene. Today, are some interesting and different ones.

One of my personal favorites that generates many opinions, is Edoard Manet's (1832-1883) painting titled:"Bar at the Folies-Bergere." Question: Is that a mirror behind the barmaid or is it another barmaid?

Another artist whose paintings baffle my eye are the works of Chuck Close (1940-). He is a master of the Pointilist Technique. At normal museum standing range, the eyes see a lot of large multi-colored pixels. If you move back across the room, a large portrait appears!

Then there's the 1960s works of the famous op-art artists, Bridget Riley (1931-). Her lines and colors cause the eyes to report on movement and even colors in ways that seem to be in movement!

Not to be outdone by painters, Marc Sijan (1946-) is an amazing hyper-realistic sculptor. This is "The Security Guard." What if you saw him standing guard?

In the area of 3-D works, there Melanie & Justin McKenney of Sarasota, FL. They have a ceramic business called "Vegtabowls." Below is the cantaloupe and they also make an unbelieveably realistic Salsa Set with a tomato bowl and an onion bow. (Their works are available on Etsy).

The effort by artist to deceive the eye and a challenge for them as well as for viewers. Enjoy and April Fool's Day!

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Women in ART History - Part 4 (Native American Women)

The most ancient Native American art was made by carving, weaving and painting. In time, clay, silver, turqoise and embellishments such as feathers, shells, and animal teeth or claws were added.

What survived were mostly pottery, weaving and the embellishments. Much of these types of crafts were done by women and regarded mainly for domestic or ritual usage. Women passed their skills and knowledge down to their daughters. 

When you go to a museum, these artifacts bear the name of the tribe and the approximate date, but there's nothing about the maker. Yet, by the mid 19th Century, these crafts became valued by the settlers and traders.

Colonization made these items objects for trade or sale by the indigenous makers and, while prized by many owners, it was considered the skills and creativity of the tribe and not the actual artist. 

A modern Native woman commented after seeing the works of Van Gogh, that it was interesting how his name creates value, but the Native women of the time never received such recognition. Part of that is because many tribes lacked a word for "art" or "artists." It was just what craft a person did and those who made exceptional works were deeply respected by the tribe.

One woman, who became well-known outside of her tribe was a Hopi potter, named Nampeyo (1859-1942) Her pottery is still highly-valued. This surge of interest in the individual Native American woman potter grew throughout the 20th century. 

Some of the modern and beautiful pottery is that of  Maria Martinez (1887-1980, of San Idlefonso Pueblo. As the ancient ways of making pottery were getting lost, her family created new techniques and helped preserve the art of the pots.

To this day, the art of the Native American women is a sacred spiritual ritual. A Navajo woman might spend 600 hours creating a weaving. A Wabanaki woman might spend 300 hours (including collecting the grass) to create a sweetgrass basket. 

While a few indigenous women are known for their art, many still make their works based on the teachings of those that came before. The difference is, now the world values the beauty, originality and skills of these exceptionally talented indigenous women.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Women in ART History - Part 3 (Depictions of Black Women)

 Black people have been portrayed in many ways over the years. However, since this is Women's History Month, this blog is about black women. More specifically, the portrayal of black women in Europe. (it's more difficult to find classic-era paintings in America as much was made of the "mammy culture.)

Many times, artists painted white women in lieu of black women in terms of mythological and biblical representations.

There's an ambiguity involving  beautiful Andromeda, who was rescued by Perseus, as she's been described as being from Ethiopia. Yet, famous paintings depict her as white.  ("Andromeda and Perseus" (1622) Peter Paul Rubens)

Similarly was the case when it came to the Queen of Sheba. Even though the line in the Songs of Solomon reads,  "My skin is dark and beautiful, like a tent in the desert or like Solomon's curtains."

(Below "Solomon and the Queen of Sheba"(1630) Willem De Poorter)

 A couple of the more outstanding examples of the portrayals of black women as maids and servants in popular art of the 19th Century are:

(Below-left) Eugene Delacroix's painting of "The Women of Algiers" (1834)

 (Below- right) Edouard Manet's painting titled, "Olympia." (1863) 

The times in Europe were changing. Frederic Bazelle's painting, "Young Woman with Peonies" (1870) is such an example. 9BELOW) Other paintings portraying the beauty of black women began to appear more and more..

By the time of Henri Matisse's "Woman in a White Dress," (1946) the recognition of the portrayal of black women as not just servants to the rich white people, but as a person on to her own were well underway in Europe.

Next week:

Women in Art History -  Part 3, Native American Women

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Women in ART History - Part 2 (Women of the Bauhaus)

The Bauhaus (1919-1933) was a fine arts, crafts and architectural school in Germany. So many of the designs in buildings, furniture and fine art owe their beginnings to the Bauhaus.

It was the first school to enroll women. (Last week, I mentoned that most female artists had to take private lessons during the previous century.) The women flocked to the school in such numbers that the school began to limit the number of women as to keep enough space for the men. 

In spite of being so far ahead in designs and crafts, the

school clung to the same notions about women. That is, the women were considered too delicate and weak to take up carpentry or and materials involved in sculpture. They were left with choosing only in the "soft arts." Namely, the type of domestic crafts that had been considered women's works. Hence, painting and soft fiber works were taught. 

In some areas, women's soft art was combined or added to the men's design. 

For example, a chair would be developed by a man while the upholstery would be made by women. Another example might be that men designed a building and women provided the wall decor in tapestries or other woven art. 

Yet, there were a few women who escaped the strictures of the school. Here are a few who were so exceptional that they were the forerunners of the women who would come after them: 

(Enlarge images for better viewing)

Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (1899-1944) managed to get into the wood-carving section on the basis that she wanted to design for children. (Below is a toy with a carrying box and also a cabinet she designed.)

Marianne Brandt (1893-1983) was also able to move into scultpture of a utiliarian nature due to her background as a skilled photographer, which meant excellent photo lab skills, and her ability to arrange designs.

Anni Albers (1899-1994) decided to weave in the most modern products of the times. She used copper wire and cellophane; thereby creating new and different compositions.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Women's ART History Month - Part I

Women of the Impressionist Movement

As surprising as it may seem today, France, long the bastion for great and avant garde art, was one of the the very last Western European countries to raise the strictures placed on women artists. Most of the other countries, including Sweden, Denmark, England, Germany and Russia, already had state-sponsored schools open to women. During this time, the only way a woman in France could received traning in art is if she had the means to pay for private lessons.

Berthe Morisot

Even when France did open its Beaux Arts training to women, it was within limitations - no life drawing classes and separate classes for women. Then, there was the issue of what subjects women were considered seemly for women to paint. Hence, the subject of the women impressionists werscenes of domesticity, mothers with the children, portraiture and gardens. 

Within those restrictions, four women would surivive to be recognized to this day. They are: Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt, Rosa Bonheur and Eva Gonzales.  (Others that might have had the talent quit upon marrying.)

BERTHE MORISOT established herself as a recognized artist. She married later in life to the brother of Edoard Manet, who encouraged her art. 

MARY CASSATT, an American who went to France for further training, never married. This was a big advantage in being accepted as a working artist and gave her a long career.

ROSA BONHEUR was trained in art by her father, who believed strongly in equality. Bonheur's first piece to win the coveted gold medal was "The Horse Fair." (below) She continued to paint animals and, in order to do that, she not only cut her hair short, but had police permission to wear pants into the stockyards!

EVA GONZALES trained with Manet. He proved to be a heavy influence in her works. She followed Manet in also never showing her work at exhibitions, making her the least known of the Fab Four. Also, her career was cut short by death during childbirth when she was 34 - a all too common outcome in those days.

The thing that all four women had in common was the money, not only for private lessons, but to afford the supplies and time to make art. It begs the question, how many others might there have been if schooling and materials had been more available...