Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lisa Nilsson: Quilling Tapestries

Artists, who use some of the most available materials to everyone. take paper and glue to an astonishing level. They never cease to intrigue us on how they can do that. An artist who makes us wonder in that way is Lisa Nilsson (1963-)

Nilsson creates with a technique known as "quilling." It's defined as an art form using strips of paper that is rolled into a coil, shaped and manipulated. The coil is then glued. It's been used for many centuries to create a "3-D" of flowers, portraits, and other subjects based on the mastery of of the technique.  (Below is a very simplified example of the technique)


The masters, such as Nilsson, have used quilling for so many different subjects as to challenge any belief that there are any limitations to making art with just paper and glue. 


 In her interest to work in series, she presently has 5 series or collections of subjects that she also challenges herself. Since it's not possible to cover all 5 in a single blog, this one will be limited to her "Tapis" series.


Tapis represents the inspiration she felt in the designs of Persian carpets. Nilsson used her mastery of quilling to create her own wall tapestries. She observed the design elements of a central theme, formal corners and specific borders The process is tedious and takes many months to complete each one. (Sizes vary with the largest ones being 22" x 29") (Below are examples of her finished pieces and close ups of the technique)

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Marie Bashkirtseff: A Brief Life Lived Fully

Art history has not been very accepting of art her-story. One of those women, who was famous in her time and passed over in the history of art, was Marie Bashkirtseff (1858-1884 Ukraine)

In spite of her short life of 25 years, she was a noted visual artist as well as a writer. Ill health plagued her much of her life. Her initial interest and passion for singing was ended when she developed a throat illness that ended her ability to sing. (This could have been incipient tuberculosis which was undiagnosed at the early stage and lead to her death.)

Bashkirtseff was nothing if not very talented, resilient and resourceful. When she had to give up singing, she turned to her interest in drawing and painting. At the time, the famous Academie Belle Artes school was not accepting women. Being ever resolute, she attended Academie Julian in Paris, which did accept women

As early as 1880, her art was being accepted in the Paris Salon. She was accepted every year thereafter until her death.


 She was a prolific painter. We may never know how many paintings she completed since the Nazis destroyed many of her works. However, 60 paintings survived - a remarkable number! At the same time, she was writing under the name of "Pauline Orrel." 



Writing was also part of her creative life. Beyond her correspondence, she wrote letters and articles to newspapers mainly on behalf of feminist issues. She also kept a diary starting at age 13.



Printed posthumously, her diary has been translated and continues to be popular right into modern times. This journal has been referred to as,  "a strikingly modern psychological self-portrait of a young, gifted mind,..." 




Given her intermittent bouts with TB, she hoped that she might have enough time to be regarded as a great artist and, if not, she wanted her diary be published. It's apparent that more than anything, she wanted to not be forgotten. (Directly below is her painting, "The Meeting" now in the Musee d' Orsay in Paris.)

This one is titled, "Despair." Given the illness that she lived with, I wonder if she was painting her own emotional sense of mortality.



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Denise Labadie: Unique Quilts

 Growing up, I knew handmade quilts as an often-cherished heirloom from previous generations made from clothing scraps. Long after work jeans had worn out in the knees, there'd be a salvageable bit of cloth that could be used to make a quilt. How things have changed!



Quilting is now less about homemade make-do warm bedding and more about gorgeous wall art. Nowadays, there's even an annual international touring  of small quilts that are executed by individual quilters based on a selected theme. The quilts are stunning! 





 I recently happened upon the works of a quilter/artist as none I'd ever seen before. She is Denise Labadie of Colorado.In her bio, she noted that it was on a trip to her ancestors' home in Ireland that she had a deep response to seeing the stones, monoliths and structures.





It was on subsequent trips to Ireland that Labadie also felt the inspirational impulse of the ancient ruins of monasteries with a special interest in the passageways and portals. 

Labadie's process of re-creating these ancient ruins and structures is very involved. As she says, "... construct [ing] the actual quilt the same way as a stone mason builds a wall Рindividually sizing and cutting out, piecing, and appliqu̩ing each stone, one by one, working from the bottom up Рeach stone a foundation for the others that it supports or neighbors."




Stones are individually cut out of fabric. These are painted and while still wet folded, pleated, wrinkled and manipulated in ways to make the fabric resemble rocks. She also employs salt, sugar, sand and even dirt on the wet painted fabric to get the rock effect she wants. All of this happens before she begins to assemble a quilt.




Labadie does offer workshops, which are very hands on. If this master quilter is someone you'd like to learn more techniques of quilting, you might check her website for further information.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret: From Fame to Obscurity

 Previously, I wrote a blog on how it became possible for artists to paint outside (plein air). Why? Because paints became available in tubes and the railroad made it easier to travel to the country. 

The other great advance was in photography which minimized the need for photo-realistic painting and moved art towards Naturalism and then Impressionism.. (It's difficult to differentiate between the two as they overlap in time and style.).


 Naturalism replaced Romanticism where settings were idealized often in Greco-Roman settings. Plein-air gave rise to naturaisticl backgrounds and settings. Impressionism took it a step further by using a natural environment but without requiring the same level of detail.



In that way, a once very famous painter is referred to as a Naturalist. His name is not well-known nor his works studied in recent times. He was Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852-1929). He was French classically trained . Yet, like many young people, he was interested in the new technology of photography. (His painting of the photographer while he paints the wedding in a bit ironical.)   


 Dagnan-Bouveret's interest in using photographs together with his classical training, aided him in creating his Naturalist works. His teacher commented:

"...he was among the most forward-looking members of the academic tradition; he recognized that the “old" classical system of planning a composition had to respond to the new technologies that were already being applied and assimilated by painters of the avant-garde."

 This ability to create studies from photographs and combine them with other sketches of photo backgrounds such as his  “Les Bretonnes au Pardon" (“Breton Women at a Pardon").He won both the Grand Prize and Medal of Honor at the 1889 Exposition to great acclaim by the audience. It made him an artist of great renown. (Here is the photo of the original scene plus he would use other photos for his sketches to complete the scene shown below.)
















 As innovative and popular as he was until the turn of the century, like so many classically trained artists, Dagnan-Bouveret's art was considered outdated, and even though he continued to paint for the rest of his life, his works and his name fell into obscurity. (Below is his version of Madonna and child)


Monday, April 18, 2022

Tom Herman: A Unique Jeweler



 It seems that I've neglected a medium of artistry and astonishing craftsmanship. It's that of the jeweler. Jewelry combines so many techniques and specializations. An example is a friend who can finish a ring or a bracelet design with her expertise in stone inlay. Another friend is an expert in enamel for jewelry.





One remarkable jeweler, who has mastered many techniques of jewelry making, is Tom Herman (1957-) His expertise and his designs are well  known. His designs often reflect nature or geometric patterns, including one of my personal favorites - art deco.  


Herman also conducts workshops and as well as collaborating with other jewelry specialists to the completion of a beautiful wearable works of art.





Beyond Herman's expertise, there's another reason why he's unique. You see, he named his business "7 Fingers Jewelers" because that's the number of fingers he has!. As a child, he was involved in a farm accident that resulted in the loss of 3 fingers of his one hand. 



When you consider the detail and intricacy of handmade jewelry, it's a wonder how he choose a form of art requiring such small details. Herman must love a challenge.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Dunn-Harr and Flowers

 As the song goes, "Spring is busting out all over!" It seemed to be the just-right time to enjoy the unique flower paintings of artist, Vie Dunn Harr (1953-).



Dunn-Harr has been painting and drawing since she was a little girl. In her bio, she mentions at age 10, sitting on the curb and drawing pictures of the neighbors' houses. Clearly, she also had a flair for marketing as well. She sold those drawings to her neighbors for $.75 each!



By age 15, she was taking formal art lessons and at age 19 was exhibiting in a established galleries.. By age 21, she was teaching art and mentoring others.

Her national exposure came when a representative contacted her to show her flowers at art gallery next door to Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. The popularity of her flower paintings spread along with her reputation.


The demands for her works reached a point where the physical costs of painting with oils took a toxic toll on her body that even a hazmat suit couldn't prevent. It was devastating to even think of discontinuing the work she loved. Once again, opportunity, resilience and passion opened the door.



She attended a workshop on acrylic painting from a superb teacher, Joan Fullerton. (She will be a future subject) Dunn-Harr applied herself to this very different paint medium and practiced how to be comfortable enough to exhibit her paintings.


Subsequent trips to Europe appeal to her formal training and are informing her art as she evolves using the beauty, fragility and sensuality of flowers to express what she's feeling. 




Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Not Zinn, Not Banksy, but Ememem



 It seemed like a good time to post something on a lighter note. I was reminded of all the art fans who enjoy David Zinn and his tiny creatures he chalk paints on public streets where there's potholes and sidewalk cracks.There's another artist in Europe who is similarly inspired.



This artist (or artists) is known as "Ememem." He, she or them are as secretive as Banksy. All that is known about this person(s) is that the home base is in Lyon, France. 


All attempts to interview are thwarted. Yet, the plaster casts of the flacking are exhibited in France and other European galleries. Clearly, someone knows who it (or they) is and has contact.


Unlike Zinn, who is okay drawing a crowd as he works, Ememem patches the holes in the night in secret.




Even the name for the anonymous person(s) is taken from the sound the motor scooter makes as it buzzes along quiet night time streets. It is a discovery for the mornings as people go about their days.






 The works are known as "flacking." Flacking is taken from the French work for "puddle" or "pool." It is the art of repairing holes. It bears a kinship with the Japanese word " kintsugi," the art of repairing while enhancing because Ememem mostly repairs with beautiful tiles and mosaics.

While mainly used to repair sidewalks, the art of flacking is also used for repairing exterior walls and pavement. 

Whoever Ememem might be, one this is for sure - like Zinn, Banksy and others, the world is a little better for making art available to all and making the day a bit brighter. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Janet Sobel: Leading Abstract Impressionist or Primitive?

 Last week, there was a Ukrainian artist featured who is living today, but creates works based on an old system of folk art. This week is about a Ukrainian artist who passed 60 years ago, but created in the most modern of styles - Abstract Expressionism. 

Janet Olechovsky Sobel  (1893-1958) was born at a time when Russia controlled Ukraine. Her father was a victim of the Russian pogroms. In her mother's effort to make a better life for Janet and her siblings, they came to NYC when Janet was 15 years old. Within a year, she married Max Sobel and have 5 children. By age 44,with the opportunity of time, she felt a strong desire to begin painting.


Sobel used the process of painting on canvas to express her feelings. These were the feelings from her family's immigration, from the time under Russian rule, all of which she relived as she learned of the Holocaust. For her, emotion required mostly abstract expression. 





As Sobel matured in her work, she was noted by some of the most prestigious art critics of the 1940s. In fact, from 1943-1946, she was one of the most notable artists for her "unconscious surrealist phantasy," as stated by one art critic. 




By 1944, Sobel was featured not only in a one-person gallery exhibit, but also in a book about "Surrealism," as one of the "newcomers," along with Pollock, Tobey, Hoffman and others.




 Even Pollock admitted that he was inspired by Sobel while he denied Tobey's influences. (See Archive on right margin for December, 2009.)

Yet, post WW2 changed the woman's roll. She went from "Rosie the Riveter" supporting the war effort to being told to "go home, let the men have the jobs and get busy making babies." A woman's highest standing was as a "housewife." Sobel fell victim to this description with her matronly appearance, "looking like any Brooklyn housewife," as one critic described Sobel. 

Abstract expressionism became a male purview. Hence Pollock, Rothko, de Koonig, Motherwell, Gorky and other males moved ahead in the art world while Sobel faded. She became known as a "primitive painter" without any real formal education in the arts. That's why you might not have heard of her and her leading role in abstract expressionism.