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Image: Norah Borges
The artist’s older brother, Jorge Luis Borges, wrote that Norah was the fearless one in the family and “I the slow, timid, submissive one. She climbed to the top of the roof, traipsed through the trees, and I followed along with more fear than enthusiasm.”

How many women in the arts have been overshadowed by the men in their families? Countless. Just the other day I was surprised to hear some work by Fanny Mendelssohn — composer of more than 480 pieces of music — that was pretty impressive.

Maria Popova at Brain Pickings wrote recently of another female artist who was new to me: “Few people know that literary titan Jorge Luis Borges had a sister, and even fewer that Leonor Fanny Borges Acevedo (1901–1998), better-known under the pseudonym Norah Borges, was an acclaimed artist in her own right, who emerged in the 1920s as one of the female pioneers of modern art. …

“During her lifetime, Borges illustrated close to eighty books, including some of her brother’s, in addition to editorial illustrations for a number of avant-garde magazines belonging to ultraísmo — the first major avant-garde movement in Spain, comprising an eclectic group of writers and artists influenced by Italian futurism.

“Her soulful paintings and drawings, the earliest of which is collected in the out-of-print Spanish-language volume Norah Borges: Obra Gráfica, … spans more than seven decades and is nothing short of breathtaking.” See examples of that oeuvre here, at Brain Pickings.

For details on the life of Norah Borges, go to Wikipedia, here.

Photo: Wikipedia
Norah Borges, Argentinian artist, 1901-1998

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How did we get halfway through May already? It’s time to mention I’ll be taking my first break in six years between May 26 and June 6. We’ll be in Sweden. I’ll try to blog, but you never know.

It sure will feel strange not to post. I have put something up on this site every day since May 2011!

But before I leave, I have other things to share, including today’s photos. The first two are from the giant mural in Dewey Square, Boston — the latest in the Greenway’s ongoing series. The featured artist this time is Mehdi Ghadyanloo from Iran, where he is known for upbeat murals.

The next photo shows a WPA mural in the Arlington, Mass., post office. John pointed me to it after he saw my recent post “Hunting Down WPA Art.”

Then comes another of my shadow photos. Can’t resist shadows. That one is followed by tree-stump mushrooms and dogwood. Can’t resist mushrooms either.

The four Providence photos that follow attest to the fact that the city finally experienced a sunny Tuesday morning (the first since February). Blackstone Park is the location of the Indian shelter and the fallen birch tree with the mysterious yellow plastic strips (art?). Nearby was a wondrous carpet of pink petals and an early rower on the Seekonk River.

Finally, I wanted to show you my lilac progression. With muse.

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Photo: SWG3/Facebook
Y
ardworks takes place May 6 and 7
, 2017, in Glasgow, Scotland.

Melita knows I like artistic graffiti. In fact, we are both such fans of Lata_65 (graffiti for old folks) that we intend to try our hand at spray painting if the organization ever comes to the Boston area.

Today Melita shared a link on Facebook about graffiti in Glasgow.

Gregor Kyle wrote at GlasgowLive, “Scotland’s first dedicated graffiti festival will take street art into the heart of the community in Glasgow and open up new opportunities for young people across the city.

“Next weekend (May 6 and 7) in Finnieston, SWG3 will host over 30 of the world’s finest graffiti artists and 50 of Scotland’s street artists at the Yardworks Festival. …

“One of its main aims is to strengthen SWG3’s bond with the local community and the city of Glasgow as a whole.

“School and youth groups have been invited, with the days featuring specialist graffiti workshops and a ‘Creation Station’ for children which will allow everyone the chance to try their hand at painting. …

“ ‘It’s Scotland’s first graffiti festival and the scale of it now, the way it has grown, it’s massive now,’ explained Gaz, who is himself a graffiti artist and part of the management team at SWG3. …

“Most Glaswegians will know SWG3 as a club and concert space but by day it is a thriving hub for artists, filled with studio spaces and workshops. Slowly but steadily it has progressed over the years with the scale and ambitions of its projects growing bigger and bigger.

” ‘The yard is now basically a massive canvas for the artists,’ continued Gaz. ‘We have rendered the walls, wrapped containers in sheet metal – at no small expense – and every surface will be perfect for the artists to paint on. …

” ‘We are trying to build a sense of community in the area, which can be hard sometimes when you have a transient population with some of the students maybe only staying in the flats here for a term and then moving on.

“ ‘Finnieston has this reputation as this hipster area; what people forget is that there is this core population here and in the likes of Partick and Anderston who have lived here a long time. …

“ ‘The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow were fantastic for the city. They drew people together and, through a number of projects, connected me with a lot of other artists and graffiti writers that I didn’t know in the city.

“ ‘We will be looking to run workshops in the summer for young people and will try to play our part in improving the area and bringing the community together.’ ”

More at GlasgowLive, here.

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As everyone knows, there was serious unemployment when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, so, in collaboration with Congress, he had the government hire people to create work that continues to benefit us —  roads and parks, for example, and fine art.

Unfortunately, some murals and sculptures from the 1930s and 1940s have been lost, so the search is on to reclaim it.

Matthew Blitz at Atlas Obscura has the story. “The United States government wants its art back. Special Agent Eric Radwick, who works in the Office of Investigations for the General Service Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, is working to do just that — to locate and recover government-owned long-lost artwork of the New Deal-era federal arts programs. It could be hidden in plain sight.

“It could be in grandma’s attic. It could be in the possession of art collectors. No matter if it was found in the trash or cost a few grand, the art is federal property. … Most people, upon realizing they are in possession of federal property, are cooperative. …

“On May 9th, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt received a rather curious letter from an old classmate and professional artist George Biddle. Since his March inauguration, President Roosevelt had implemented the most aggressive 100 days agenda in the country’s history in hopes of solving the Great Depression.

“While absurdly busy — he had just delivered his second Fireside Chat and was about to sign both the Farm Relief and Unemployment Relief bills — this note gave him pause. In it, Biddle wrote that he had long admired the Mexican government for paying artists ‘plumbers’ wages’ to paint murals on government buildings expressing Mexican ideals. Perhaps the President should consider something similar in the United States? …

“The letter got the President’s attention. A month later, Biddle met with members of FDR’s administration in Washington about his proposal. By the end of 1933, the first national art relief program — the Public Works of Art Project — was established.

“Over the next decade, the American art scene flourished thanks to the financial encouragement of the government. According to Smithsonian Magazine, in the first four months of 1934 alone, nearly 4,000 artists were hired to produce over 15,000 paintings, murals, sculptures and other works of art for federal buildings across the country. In 1935, the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project was established, the largest of these programs both in scope and number of artists employed. …

“At a time of crisis in America, these programs not only provided an enormous collection of artwork for public consumption, but gave the creators a sense that they were needed. ‘It made them feel like they counted,’ says Virginia M. Mecklenburg, Chief Curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.”

Oh, my, what an enlightened federal government! Sometimes one hopes for history to repeat itself.

Read about the challenges of tracking down missing federal artwork at Atlas Obscura, here.

Once upon a time, when the federal government was concerned about unemployment, it paid people to work, artists included. That’s why many murals appeared in post offices and other government buildings in the 1930s and 1940s. This post office mural by Charles Anton Kaeselau depicts the shot heard ’round the world at Concord’s North Bridge.

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Art: Caleb Cole
“The Teacher,” exhibited at a Montserrat College of Art show, is a portrait of unnoticed dedication.

Cate McQuaid’s recent Boston Globe review of an art exhibit really spoke to me. I liked the idea of portraits that have meaning beneath the surface, and I especially liked the portrait of a teacher devoting extra time to his job. Anyway, that’s what I saw here. McQuaid saw woe.

McQuaid wrote, “With portraits, the subject tries on one face, the artist may capture another, and the viewer may see something else. Your projection, my projection. It’s all dreadfully nebulous, but if it weren’t, it would be pat and dull.

“ ‘Observance: As I See You, You See Me,’ an exhibition of photographic portraits at Montserrat College of Art’s Montserrat Gallery, examines what these shifting valences tell us about identity and societal assumptions. Many of the artists and subjects, people of color or queer, have experienced the walls strangers throw up based on appearance alone. …

“Woe is a keynote in Caleb Cole’s series ‘Other People Clothes,’ elaborately staged scenes in which the artist creates fictional personae. Cole is small and balding, with a peak of red hair, like Tintin. In ‘February Is Dental Month,’ the artist, surrounded by file folders, looks down at us from behind a large desk. We can find a story here, but the expression tells more: alienation, tenderness, perhaps disdain.” More here.

As much as I like abstract art, representational art that stirs the depths can be fascinating.

My Struggle, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, does something like that. The seemingly endless minutiae of the author’s life and thoughts flow along the surface, but something compelling emerges that is hard to describe. The writing is cinematic. The author sees everything, and observing him observe everything creates a powerful connection.

Interestingly, in the part of My Struggle that I’m reading now, Book 5, Knausgaard gets a tip from a successful novelist about having the “hinterland,” or backstory, of all your characters in mind when you write fiction. As with the Cole portrait of the teacher, the observer will sense things that are not spelled out.

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Photo: Rachel Sussman
Rachel Sussman’s “Study for Sidewalk Kintsukuroi #02 (MASS MoCA),” photograph with enamel paint and metallic dust.

What a lovely art idea! Mending cracks with gold resonates with me on so many different levels. You start with sidewalks and then …

Allison Meier writes at Hyperallergic, “Artist Rachel Sussman had traveled for years photographing the most ancient organisms on Earth when a photograph on social media of a shattered bowl reassembled with gold introduced her to the tradition of kintsukuroi, also called kintsugi. In this Japanese practice, broken pottery is repaired with gold dust and glue. …

“This sense of time and its visibly healed scars, and the beauty of imperfections, helped inspire her current Sidewalk Kintsukuroi series, of which the newest edition is in ‘Alchemy: Transformations in Gold,’ currently at the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. As part of the exhibition, which considers the cultural and historical connotations of gold, Sussman repaired a fissure in the museum’s marble floor, an embedded installation now in their permanent collection.

“ ‘We’re not talking the millions of years it took for the Grand Canyon to form, but by noticing the crack in the marble floor of the Des Moines Art Center that formed over the course of several decades, it serves as a reminder that natural processes are happening all around us, but at a pace that is far too slow for us to observe with the naked eye,’ Sussman explained.

“The Alchemy exhibition includes images of her Sidewalk Kintsukuroi gold dust alterations on photographs of cracks on the streets of Soho and Williamsburg in New York City. Each patching, whether a physical surface or photograph, can take weeks of physically straining work. …

“ ‘Over time, even the repairs will be destroyed,’ Sussman stated. … “Such is the transient nature of everything in the universe. All the more reason to value the time we have.”

” ‘Alchemy: Transformations in Gold’ continues at the Des Moines Art Center (4700 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa) through May 5.”

Love this concept! Let’s mend everything in ways that go beyond the need.

More at Hyperallergic, here.

Hat tip: Gwarlingo on twitter.

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Photo: Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership
Hmong dance festival in southwest Minnesota. A Community Development Investments grant from ArtsPlace aims to give newcomers a voice.

Never underestimate the power of art and cultural events to improve lives.

As Amy Evans reports in the magazine Shelterforce (published by the National Housing Institute), the community development field has come to recognize that the arts are key to integrating diverse populations.

Evans discusses the issue with the McKnight Foundation’s Vickie Benson.

“More and more, it seems that arts and culture are being perceived as essential to the core fabric of what builds and nourishes communities — and that gives Benson enormous hope. ArtPlace America, a decade-old collaboration of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions, has been one of the driving forces for that shift, Benson says, by insisting that the arts must be in conversation with other sectors, whether community development, housing, or health.

“In Minnesota, the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership (SWMHP) has joined that conversation. With the support of a community development investment [CDI] grant from ArtPlace America, which will provide $3 million in funding over three years, SWMHP is exploring ways of building arts and culture into its operations.

“It’s a bold step for the organization, and one that Benson wholeheartedly applauds.

” ‘Music, dance, or visual art are forms of expression within many cultures. And just the weaving together of these many, many varied cultural traditions is a natural path for people to communicate with each other,’ says Benson. ‘That is what I hope to see, that communities will understand the importance of arts and culture not as an add-on but as a core piece of community development.’ …

“A couple of decades ago, [the future of the southwest Minnesota town of Worthington] future looked bleak. The farm crisis had taken its toll; the town’s population dropped from 10,243 in 1980 to 9,980 in 1990 as people left the area in search of better opportunities.

“The expansion of the meat processing industry in Worthington turned this trend around. JBS Swift and Co., a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods Inc., established what would become its principal plant in Worthington. The impact was far-reaching in the area, propping up small businesses like Smith Trucking Inc. and local hog producers.

“In 1989, increases in productivity led to an additional shift at the plant, attracting workers from literally around the world. … The so-called foreign-born population of Worthington jumped in parallel from 3.7 percent of the total population in 1990 to more than 15 percent in 2000.

“Mike Woll remembers when that shift took place. ‘Worthington’s history of immigration dates back to when I was in high school, when we had some early Lao immigrants,’ Woll recalls. ‘The community became incredibly diverse.’

“Walk into Woll’s high school today and some 50 dialects can be heard, from Central American to Southeast Asian to East African. Downtown on 10th Street, Woll says, ‘you’ll see people from all over the world. Myanmar, Ethiopia, Laos, all sorts of Latin American influence. It’s a remarkable place.’ …

“Woll hopes that one outcome of Worthington’s participation in the CDI Initiative will be preservation of one of the community’s strongest assets.

“ ‘Diversity brings challenges, but it’s put Worthington ahead of the curve. It gives us a broader scope of the world,’ Woll says. He is proud to know that his college-aged son, who grew up in Worthington, can take living in a multicultural environment for granted, even more so than his peers from places like Minneapolis and Chicago. But making space for multiculturalism to truly thrive means giving voice to communities that often haven’t had a seat at the table. Woll hopes that the CDI Initiative will help expand leadership roles to segments of the population who have so much to say, but haven’t had the platform to say it.

“ ‘If not for a program like [ArtPlace], those cultures do get lost,’ Woll says. ‘Having a bit of institutional strength and a financial boost from ArtPlace can help take what are challenges and turn them into positives.’ ”

More at Shelterforce, here.

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