Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Ayumi Shibata: Spiritual Meaning in Her Paper Art

 For those followers of my art blog, you know how fascinated I am of what artists can do with the most widely used material such as paper. Such an artist is Ayumi Shibata from Yokohama, Japan.


Shibata takes paper cutouts to another level. She creates dimensional paper art from pieces so small they can be held in the hand to pieces so large that they can include an adult person!


Her largest pieces can require over 100 pieces of paper. Her smallest pieces were made to fit inside of a glass vessels in a series she titled, "The Jar." Using lighting, the depth of the paper layers enhances the piece.


For Shibata, her works are an expression of "kami." In the Japanese language means "god," "spirit" and also "paper." With these spiritual inspirations in mind, she outlines the paper with a pencil before she begins to cut out the design freehand. As she stated:

"White paper expresses the yang, light and the process of cutting expresses the yin or shadow. I cut out works while imbuing my wish that we can coexist without forgetting our gratitude and awe for all things and nature that support our lives."






Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Marianne North: Botanical Artist & Exceptional Victorian

 It seems that Spring is really busting out all over - most especially here in the PNW. It's definitely a time of celebration as daffodils, crocus and snowdrops are all poking out of the ground as a wonderful welcome to the season. 


It seems a perfect time to share an artist, who did so much for all botanical life. Marianne North, (1830-1890) was a prolific biologist and botanical artist in the Victorian Era. Unlike what was expected to be the life of a woman during that era, North took a different direction.


In fact, North not only traveled solo, but also studied plants all over the world. She described everything from the Redwoods of California to the Borneo pitcher plants. She was determined to paint as many plants in the world as she could.



Her inspiration for traveling, describing and painting as much 

 as she could was inspired by her visits to Royal Botanical Kew Gardens - located in London and home of trees and flowers from around the world. Here again, her direction separated her from the artists of the era.


 Whereas, it was the style to paint flora in watercolors with a light background to show the flowers as natural as possible. North chose to paint with oils in order to increase vibrancy and impact. She also preferred to create the background in which these flora were living. It was considered a bold and bright style not seen before.



Along her travels, she discovered flora unknown at the time. She kept careful notes to advance botanical science. Today, the Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens contains 800 of her paintings!




Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Lyubov Popova: A First in the Fusion Art of "Cubo-Futurism"


 In a search for women artists, who made art history during their life, I came across a name new to me. She was Lyubov Popova (1889-1924). Yes, she had a shortened life due to scarlet fever, but what she accomplished in her 35 years is worthy of a place in art history.


Born in Russia into a highly-cultured family, by age 11, she was taking art lessons. As an adult, she traveled widely throughout Europe observing and learning ever more in her pursuit of art. By age 22, she was studying in Paris with Cubist masters. (Below: "The Model")


 Popova is considered a first female pioneer in the Cubo-Futurism, which is a fusion of modern art originated in France and Italy. She referred to this fusion as "painterly architectonics." Later, she would work in Constructivism. (One of the Bauhaus in Germany was known to teach until the Nazis closed the school in 1933)

She was always evolving and seeking a way to explore art outside of the strictures of the academies. In that regard, she is quoted as saying about the avant garde artists:"We are breaking with the past, because we cannot accept its hypotheses." 


 Over time, Popova taught art classes and helped design for the theater. She would go on to generate the first designs for textiles to be manufactured in the First State Textile Printing Works in Moscow. Her contributions for the avant garde artists was very important. She could see that the revolution was changing Russia and she was showing a path to survival as artists. 


Her death came at the peak of her artistic powers, but she left an abundant legacy with 77 paintings, textile designs, posters and line engravings.


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Rosa Bonheur: Pathfinder for Women Artists

 Did you know that March is Women's History Month, or as I prefer to call it, Women's Art History Month. Actually, they're not that different in terms of the timeline of the extension of women's rights, including attending art painting or limited subjects acceptable for a woman to paint, such as babies, children and mothers. 

France was much slower than other European countries in eliminating the binding of new concepts about women artists. As you might imagine, there were a few women artists, who decided that it was time. Among the few was Rosa Bonheur, (1822-1899).


Bonheur would spend hours sketching, but had trouble learning to read. Her mother helped her by having Bonheur sketch animals as a means of learning her alphabet. It is important to her story because it was learning about animals that would lead to her fame.

She studied anatomy and worked at a veterinarian college dissecting animals. Her first great success was a commission by the French government titled, "Plowing in the Nivernais." 


Six years later, she gained international fame with her very large (8' x 16') painting, "The Horse Fair." Bonheur traveled to Scotland, England and the USA where she showed her works at the World's Columbian Exposition.  


For most of her adult life, Bonheur worked and lived in her own way. She chose to wear pants and cut her hair short with permission from the police because she worked in the stockyards and auctions studying animals. Women artists from other countries were highly impressed with Bonheur's freedom and took her lead back to their own countries with determination to let their work speak for them.


Today, women artists can paint any subject, indoors or outdoors and attend art school with no difference in the curriculum. Much of the extension to liberating the constrictions for art predate women securing the vote. Could it be that art was a precursor to politics when women's art showed the same degree of talent as men?

Note: (Her ability to paint animals includes the sweet little one at the bottom)


Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Charles Ethan Porter: Many Firsts as a Determined Black Artist

 We are close to the end of February and Black (Art) History Month. Last week, was about a contemporary artist and this week it's about a long-ago artist, who enjoyed so many "firsts" in his quest and determination to live his life as an artist. 


His name? Charles Ethan Porter (1847-1923) was born to a mill worker and a housekeeper. They were free, but with a large family and low-pay work were very poor. Charles Porter had to do hard work at an early age to pay his way through school. Of his many siblings, he was the first to graduate from high school.



As an artistic prodigy, he was the first black man admitted to the prestigious National Academy of Design. Porter's talent was such that he earned the support of benefactors including the governor of his home state, Connecticut and Mark Twain.

After completing his program at the academy, Porter's determination led to another first. He sold all of his art to pay for his studies in Paris - the first black artist to do so. In spite of his cultural differences in France, he stayed for two years learning all he could from master teachers.

Returning to the USA, he eschewed the growing European style of Impressionism and became known as one of the American "nature mystics." 

 These were artists who preferred still live paintings of flowers and produce along with scenes in nature. He was able to garner support for his art and live modestly until post Civil War.


The full sting of being a black artist meant he couldn't even sell his art going door to door. He would teach students, auction his art and barter his art to support himself. Finally, in failing health, he returned to the town where he was born to live out his remaining years in total obscurity.




It was a solo exhibit of his works in 1987 that brought his work back to awareness for his artistic contribution and now his works reside in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Seattle Pacific University and several other well-known galleries.



Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Dean Lamont Mitchell: Paintings in Black History Month


 Since February is Black History Month, I like to select an artist or a movement of the culture. This time, the artist is contemporary and some of his subjects are landscapes and architecture. 

However, he also creates wonderful portraits in genre of his culture. His name is Dean Lamont Mitchell, (1957-) and his media is watercolor, oil, egg tempera and pastel.


Mitchell was born in PA, but grew up in FL. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist. Although money was tight, by age 12, he managed to buy himself a set of oils. His talent was unquestionable and he won awards in his first competition!

When Mitchell was accepted at the Columbus School of Art & Design in Ohio, he earned money by teaching art at a Boy's Club. Clearly, his professional path was set for a life as a visual artist.


Confident of his ability, he began to enter his paintings at national and international art competitions. In a short period passing, he was gaining top recognition, receiving first prize at London, England. He'd go on to receive over 200 awards including some of the most prestigious exhibits.



Today, Mitchell is represented by galleries in FL, WY, KY, SC and CA. No wonder since his art is not only exceptional, but very relatable. (Because he is so talented in different subjects, throughout and below is a small sampling of his subjects.)

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Edward Weston: Photo Master of Shapes & Forms

In college our drawing instructor projected a blurred image on a screen. The image was unidentifiable so that the students could not assume shape or form as they drew it. Slowly, the instructor sharpened the image as we students feverishly worked to modify our drawings based on changing information. Finally, the image came into view. It was Edward Weston's iconic photograph of a sea shell. After that, I searched to know more about him.

Edward Weston (1886-1958) was born at a time when photography was becoming available to a wider audience - thanks to the inventions of George Eastman (Eastman Kodak). For it was on Weston's 16th birthday that he would receive his first camera - a Kodak box camera. He was hooked.

At age 20, Weston's photograph titled, Spring, Chicago would be published in a full-page spread in the magazine Camera and Darkroom. He would become a recognized and respected portrait photographer in Glendale, CA. However, he wanted to grow artistically so he raised the money to go to New York. He wanted to study with the foremost photographer of the age - Alfred Stieglitz.

Weston was encouraged by Stieglitz and his wife, Georgia O' Keeffe as well as other artists and photographers to continue his exploration of abstract modernism. This would lead to Weston to his most famous period wherein he photographed vegetables in a sculptural form.

Below are some of his vegetables works. While admiring the beauty of forms, can you identify the objects? 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Nikolaos Gyzis: Chronicler of 19th Century Realism

 There are so many artists who either were famous in their time and later forgotten or the opposite - not given much credit to their lifetime, but are famous now. This week's artist falls into the former. 

Born on the Greek island of Tinos, Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)  

trained in art in both Athens and later in Germany, where he would become a professor of Fine Art in Munich. He is considered to be one of the most influential artists of Academic Realism in the late 19th century. 





Gyzis created a genre series that is compelling based on his years growing up in Greece. It was seeing one of his paintings, in his evolution as an artist, that deeply touched me. It's a grandfather holding his sleeping grandchild while he mends a sock.(The Greek families have a special regard for their grandparents. Insofar as I've experienced, there are still special ties between grandparents and grandchildren.)*



His touching paintings of 19th century life are mixed here with a few of his excellent portraits. It's no wonder that he received so many awards and recognition. For some reason, perhaps because he painted so many genre paintings, I found myself thinking, "He's the Norman Rockwell of another century." What do you think?






*When the first boy child is born, he is given the name of his paternal grandfather. A second boy child is given the name of his maternal grandfather. For the first girl child, she is given the name of her maternal grandmother and the paternal grandmother for a subsequent girl child. The genius of carrying it through is heightened because until modern days, birthday celebrations were nominal. It was the saint's name feast day that the grandparent shared with the their grandchildren that was celebrated.