Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Works of Art & Science: Courtney Mattison

 With everyone heading to the sea on these hot days of early Summer, it seemed like an artist involved in the ecology of the sea is a timely subject. Such an artist is Courtney Mattison (1985-).


When she decided on her degree, it wasn't an "either or," it was a "yes" to both marine ecology and ceramic sculpture. (She holds a Master Degree in environmental studies and thesis credits at the Rhode Island School of Design.)



Mattison combined her interests in both Science and Art in a 5-part series titled, "Our Changing Seas." The series is exhibited so that viewers can experience the changes of the coral reefs from beautiful, colorful blooms to the bleaching of the coral reefs, and concludes with the hope found in certain places where they are trying their best to stem the direction of reef die-off and the attendant effect on a marine life.


In sculpting her sponges, anemones and coral, she uses clay and glazes which naturally contain calcium carbonate -  the same mineral that forms the skeleton of the reef! She creates very large sculptures and places them vertically on the walls, so that viewers can experience the detail and beauty of a reef.

Upon closer inspection, some of the reefs begin to show the bleaching that signals the death of a reef. Yet, in her 5th series, she refers to the hope of humanity to step back from the destruction of these ancient life forms. (Mattison is shown in a couple of images for a sense of size of her sculptures.)

Mattison's commissioned works are extensive including a postage stamp for the UN's 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Mary Delany: Mastery at 72




 Mary Delany's (1700-1788) life was typical for a woman of her times. In order to increase her family's fortune, she was married at 16 to a 61 year old drunkard and abusive man who died when she was 25. She would remain a widow living with a small stipend for a long time - having no interest in marrying again.

Instead, Delany lived with various family members. Through them, she joined that botanists "hive" and  grew exotic plants

which she would draw and paint. During those years as a widow, she was asked but never accepted proposals for marriage. That is, until at age 43 when she accepted Dr. Patrick Delany.


 Dr. Delany was Irish and the two decided to settle in Dublin where they shared their interest in gardening and botany. He lovingly encouraged her art. When she was 68, Dr. Delany died and once again she was widowed.

 Returning to England and with her continued interest is botany and art, Mary Delany continued her restless pursuit to try different ways of expressing art. She has painted, embroidered and used shells for decor. 



Finally, at age 72, she picked up scissors and paper to create in mixed-media what she referred to as "paper
mosaicks." Until her eyesight began to fail her, she would produce over 985 botanically correct floral from paper!

As one who knew her said of her, " "a real fine lady, the model of an accomplished woman of former times".

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Jeffrey Bale: Pebble Architect


Summery weather has many tending their gardens, building patios and thinking/planning ways to make their yard evermore beautiful. This time of year makes me think of Jeffrey Bale and the way he works with natural materials to turn simple pebbles into works of art.


After Jeffrey Bale graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in landscape architecture, he tried his hand at working in the industry. It wasn't a good fit to sit behind a desk all day. He needed to "get his hands dirty" in the outdoors. 



Bale's inspiration to create pebble mosaics came to him from a trip to Europe. Southern Spain, and specifically the beautiful pebble designs in the gardens and atria of the Alhambra, spoke to him. He then returned to the NW knowing what he wanted to do.

 He finds most of his raw material (rocks and pebbles), which are beautifully shaped by the power of the water. Most of the pebbles came from the glaciated mountains . As the glaciers receded and rains brought the various pebbles to the seas via the rivers, the minerals "painted" the stones many different colors.


Bale collects the rocks from shores while being careful not to leave any sign of a disturbance in nature's patterns. You can see his processes in a video. (Bale is generous in demonstrating his techniques in the video as well as on his website.)



One last thing: Bale travels to different parts of the world every year. Not only for the works made of natural materials, but also to be steeped in other cultures. His works often include his interpretation of the motifs and beliefs he finds along the way. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

The Other O'Keeffe: Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe


It'd be hard to find a person who hasn't seen the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). Did you know that she has a sister who also painted professionally? 

Her sister was Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe (1889-1961). Unlike Georgia, Ida was not as focused on the singularity of art as a career. 

Ida studied nursing as a means of supporting herself and it would be years before she would seriously seek out art trainng and internship. By that time, Georgia was a well-known artist in the all-important NY art market.

Rather than compete with Georgia, Ida switched from nature as her subject to architecture. Her most famous series is her Light House works. Along the way, she and Georgia had a falling out and they never reconciled. 

Nowadays, Ida, who also signed her works as "Ida Ten Eyck," is gaining more interest than during her life.... especially for her more abstract works. 

Here is a sampling of her evolution from nature all the way to the abstract: