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Photo: Immersive van Gogh exhibit
The co-producer of the van Gogh drive-through exhibition in Toronto says, “It will be almost as if the car is floating through the paintings.”

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. This story reminds me of friends who refuse to take no for an answer. Somehow they figure out how to make a thing happen no matter the obstacles.

Zulekha Nathoo reports for CBC News, “An upcoming digital art exhibit featuring the work of Vincent van Gogh is planning to open next month in Toronto, but you’ll need a car to get in.

“The large-scale exhibition, which was initially supposed to begin May 1 but couldn’t open as a result of the pandemic, will temporarily operate as a drive-in starting June 18 to adhere to current COVID-19 physical distancing and health guidelines.

“The exhibit’s producers said after a year of working on the original plan and purchasing the rights to more than 400 pieces from different museums, they didn’t want to give up on the project. ….

“Said co-producer Svetlana Dvoretsky, ‘People have to see the light at the end of the tunnel and also the light during this situation.’

“Art lovers will drive into the 4,000 square foot downtown industrial space and will stay inside their vehicles. … The drive-in, the first of its kind in a post-pandemic era, will allow 14 vehicles per time slot. Visitors will park, turn off their engines and watch a 35-minute show while remaining inside their cars.

” ‘The lights go down and the projection begins,’ said co-producer Corey Ross. ‘It will be almost as if the car is floating through the paintings.’

“The exhibit includes some of the Dutch painter’s most well-known masterpieces, including ‘Starry Night,’ ‘Sunflowers’ and many self-portraits. It also attempts to chronicle the famed artist’s tragic demise through the works.

” ‘It’s not that you just walk in and see the display of his paintings. That, you can see in a museum,’ said Dvoretsky.

‘What our artists have done with this exhibit is they take you inside the painting … They’re trying to show us their version of how the story is born in the mind of the genius.’

“The Gogh by Car exhibit is an interim alternative to the walk-through van Gogh exhibit at the same location, which has been postponed until at least July due to COVID-19 restrictions. But the producers say the ‘test drive’ could continue beyond its currently scheduled 11-day preview if public gatherings are still limited over the summer. …

“The installation has been designed by the creators of the successful Paris-based digital art project Atelier des Lumières, which received more than two million visitors before the global shutdown.”

More at the CBC, here. The exhibit is not free, but the cost covers both the drive-through for two and a future walk-through.

To learn more about van Gogh, check out this wonderful, quasi-animated film called Loving Vincent. Here’s the trailer.

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Photo: Simone Saunders
Thanks to the pandemic and the Long Distance Art series, Canadian artist Simone Saunders is making connections with artists around the world.

The other day, I was talking to a friend about activities that were started only because of coronavirus self-distancing but were perhaps enough fun to keep doing in the future.

I like the FaceTime meetings that my husband and I have managed to do a couple times with our grown children when the grandchildren were otherwise occupied. The conversations were funny.

My friend mentioned an art lecture that would previously have had a dozen local students but is now online and attracting hundreds of international participants. She also spoke of a Zoom call with nieces and nephews around the country, marveling, “We’ve never all been together at the same time before!”

On the theme of helpful pandemic discoveries, here’s a report by Bianca Hillier at Public Radio International’s the World about an art collaboration that also might last beyond the pandemic.

“Speaking a dream or a goal into existence has little evidence proving its effectiveness. But for Nick Green, creator of the Social Distancing Festival, the practice has worked.

“ ‘My dream is to hear the story of two artists that have met through my site and collaborate on some really profound piece of art,’ Green told the World in March. His site aggregates content from artists whose performances have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. ‘And they live across the world and never would have met, otherwise.’

“Weeks later, Green’s dream came to fruition.

“ ‘It’s quite poetic that we’re speaking again, given the last words in our last interview of what my big dream was — to have this become more of a collaborative project,’ Green told the World more recently. ‘And now, there have been some new projects happening that are really, really exciting.’ …

Long Distance Art, which launched this week, is an international, multidisciplinary collaborative art series that emerged from the Social Distancing Festival. Artists can contact Green and inquire about collaborating with another artist they’ve seen on the site, or have Green pair them with another artist of his choosing. …

“ ‘For online art, I’ve become a matchmaker,’ he joked. … Green’s matchmaking magic has recently connected a team of Canadian musicians with a dancer in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Barbara Johnston, a member of the Toronto-based composing team alongside Anika Johnson and Suzy Wilde, was contacted by Green and immediately thought the idea was ‘the most exciting thing possible in the world.’ Once paired with Tanzanian dancer Tadhi Alawi, Johnston’s team got to work. …

“Johnston said. ‘We just wrote an email about what we felt the song was about, how we thought the themes could be expanded upon, how certain aspects of what’s going on in the world can relate to what this song is about. And he wrote us back this beautiful email the next day. And we just began sharing emails back and forth, talking about our process, talking about the song and the movement to the song.’

“The final product of the collaboration is a video showing Alawi dancing to ‘Wild Heart,’ a song composed by Johnston and her team. It’s a partnership unlike any Johnston’s been a part of, she said, but one she wants to explore more. …

“ ‘It’s just amazing how quickly we connected as collaborators without ever having met, and with being, you know, literally a world apart. … All I want to do now is try to find ways to connect with people. And I feel that this is an opportunity to see beyond the barriers that exist and have existed, because we’re in unknown land now. We’re just trusting in the process.’ …

“Other collaborations in the Long Distance Art series’ unveiling include work between Calgary, Canada-based visual artist Simone Elizabeth Saunders and Tekikki Walker, a Cleveland, Ohio based multimedia designer. Painter Liza Merkalova, based in Adelaide, Australia, also teamed up with New York musician Charlie Rauh. …

“As venue doors remain closed, laptop computers remain open. Green said his aspirations for the Social Distancing Festival and the Long Distance Art series aren’t canceled — but they need funds to sustain themselves.

“ ‘A dream of mine is that there might be someone or an organization out there who sees that this is the artistic embodiment of connecting people across the world and global conversations about humanity and lived experiences,’ Green said. ‘And they might say, “Hey, you know, that aligns really well with what we, as an organization, are doing. Why don’t we put some money into this?” …

” ‘Why stop now?’ ”

More at PRI, here.

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Photo: Vasnetsov Brothers Art Museum
In Soviet times, avant-garde art such as Ilya Mashkov‘s Landscape (1911) were hidden in the provinces for fear of censorship and persecution. Recently the authenticity of a cache uncovered in a small history museum was verified.

I can never resist a story about antiquities that have just been unearthed or long-lost art that has been found. Rediscoveries give me hope that other losses may be retrieved. Even intangibles such as, say, nationwide respect for science, concern for the marginalized, friendly collaboration, kindness.

Today I want to tell you about exceptional art once labeled “degenerate” that was recently authenticated. Surprisingly, in the first five years after the Bolshevik Revolution, the works were considered OK and were part of a traveling show. It was only later that they fell out of favor.

Sophia Kishkovsky reports at the Art Newspaper, “A leading Russian avant-garde expert says he has identified dozens of works by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova languishing in an obscure history museum in the Kirov region, [500 miles] from Moscow.

“Andrey Sarabyanov says he was ‘astounded’ at what he found in the basement store of the Yaransk Museum of Local Lore, in a town of fewer than 16,000 people. Discoveries included three watercolours by Kandinsky, a gouache by Stepanova and a ‘completely unknown’ work by Rodchenko from 1915 — a painting on cardboard that is now being restored.

“Sarabyanov, the editor of a Russian avant-garde encyclopaedia that will be published in English in 2022, believes the works were abruptly abandoned after featuring in an early Soviet travelling exhibition in 1921. …

“Sarabyanov learned of Yaransk’s hidden treasures from a local cultural official, Anna Shakina, during a 2017 visit to the regional capital, Kirov, where the Vasnetsov Brothers Art Museum holds a rich avant-garde collection. Shakina’s 2008 dissertation research had unearthed the catalogue of the 1921 exhibition, for which the early Bolshevik government transported more than 350 works by 20th-century artists around the region by horse-drawn cart.

“According to records, 85 of the works remained in Yaransk. Around half were transferred to Kirov in the 1960s for restoration and hidden in storage due to censorship from the Soviet authorities, which had long since banned avant-garde art. They are now openly displayed as part of the Vasnetsov Brothers Art Museum’s collection. Sarabyanov knew those pieces from visits in the late Soviet era and in 2015, when he was preparing a Moscow exhibition of forgotten avant-garde art from provincial museums.

“Together with Shakina — now the Kirov museum’s director — and Natalia Murray, a lecturer at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, Sarabyanov plans to reconstruct the 1921 exhibition at the Yeltsin Center in Yekaterinburg, reuniting the works divided between Kirov and Yaransk. The show is currently scheduled to open in September. The whereabouts of the 250-plus other works are still unknown but alternative pieces will be lent by the Slobodskoy Museum and Exhibition Center.” More here.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Married Soviet avant-garde artists Alexander Rodchenko and Varvara Stepanova are pictured here in the 1920s.

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Photo: Filippo and Marianna
Nine-month old gerbils Pandoro and Tiramisù survey London’s newest art institution, the Gerbil Museum.

This cute story from London about two imaginative shut-ins and their pets makes me think of Beatrix Potter books. But which one in particular? Maybe The Tale of Two Bad Mice? What do you think?

Hrag Vartanian reports for Hyperallergic, “Pandoro and Tiramisù are not your ordinary gerbils. The London-based pair got a special surprise when their owners, Filippo and Marianna, created a miniature museum  just for them during the current COVID-19 quarantine. …

“Both Filippo and Marianna are art lovers, with one working in a local museum and the other as an artist and writer. The gerbils declined to comment.

“Hyperallergic: Tell us about your gerbils!

“Filippo and Marianna: They are 9-month-old brothers and their names are Pandoro and Tiramisù. Pandoro is tawny while Tiramisù is the taupe one.

“H: Have they demonstrated a love of art before?

“F&M: Not really, this was their first time in a museum. They much enjoyed the display and paid close attention to the quality of the gallery’s props. They can’t read, so the sign to advise the visitors to not chew [on the furniture] went completely unnoticed. Overall, it seemed to be a satisfying and engaging experience.

“H: How did you choose the paintings?

“F: Initially we wanted to select less famous paintings but in the end we thought it would have been funnier and more engaging to choose some of the best known works in art history. … Marianna is very good at painting and I couldn’t help but wonder how ‘The Kiss’ and “’Girl with a Pearl Earring’ could have looked with a gerbil twist. …

“H:  Did Pandoro and Tiramisù enjoy the opening of their private museum?

“F&M: Initially they explored the gallery space looking for clues about the rather eclectic selection of artworks. After a while, boredom and a certain love for disruptive gestures grew to a point they managed to start a performance by chewing the empty gallery assistant’s stool — an act that we were lucky enough to film. …

“H: Is this a complicated ploy to write off your gerbils on your taxes?

“F&M: Maybe yes, although they are not very expensive. As long as we have seeds and mini gallery assistants’ stools we are good.”

The blogger Bereaved Single Dad, also in England, frequently mentions gerbils. This is from 2019: “A couple of days back we set off for the pet shop to get a gerbil. A couple of hours later we had fallen for the story of the three inseparable brothers who they didn’t want to split up. … Happy Son. Confused Dad.

“Meet our three new faces. Cupid, Jeff and Hendrix. Unbelievably the house is already covered in wood chippings. Suspect I will need a bigger Hoover.”

The video of the museum-going gerbils is at Hyperallergic, here.

As the New Yorker magazine used to say in a bottom-of-the-column feature: “There’ll always be an England.”

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Lot and His Daughters, about 1622, Orazio Gentileschi, at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Recreation on Twitter by Qie Zhang, Erik Carlsson, and their daughters with sheet and yellow dress.

Oh, my goodness! How I loved reading about this yesterday! The J. Paul Getty Museum in California invited fans on social media to use everyday objects from around the house to replicate pieces of art in the museum’s collection. I’m posting a couple of the results, but you really have to go to the site and enjoy everything that the museum has shared.

Sarah Waldorf and Annelisa Stephan wrote at the Getty blog, “On [March 25] we issued a playful challenge on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to re-create your favorite art using just three objects lying around home. And wow, did you respond! Thousands and thousands of re-creations later, we’re in awe of your creative powers and sense of humor.

“The challenge was inspired by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and a brilliant Instagram account called Between Art and Quarantine, but adapted with the invitation to use digitized and downloadable artworks from Getty’s online collection. …

“You’ve re-created Jeff Koons using a pile of socks, restaged Jacques-Louis David with a fleece blanket and duct tape, and MacGyvered costumes out of towels, pillows, scarves, shower caps, coffee filters, bubble wrap, and — of course — toilet paper and toilet rolls.

Cézanne and Vermeer have been a popular source of inspiration, especially Still Life with Apples (done to perfection with household pottery and gin) and Girl with a Pearl Earring (restaged with selfies and grandma, pug, or lab). Grant Wood’s American Gothic seems to capture the current socially distant mood, while Munch’s The Scream is appropriate for all ages and apparently tastes good on toast. …

“Christian Martinez’s 6-year-old daughter Bella has a love of nature that drew her immediately to this page from a Renaissance manuscript. Encountering the challenge over breakfast, the family let their imaginations run wild. …

“ ‘Pasta being life for a 6-year-old, it was first selected, followed by the boiled eggs, which happened to be cooling off to the side,’ Christian told us. Next came a brown paper bag as the canvas, and a basil stem from last night’s dinner. …

“[An] early 20th-century Scandinavian interior spoke to Tracy McKaskle ‘because we are all confined to home,’ she said. … For her re-creation, she stood on a chair and carefully placed some pins to hold the little picture, moved her dining room furniture out of the way, then perfectly placed an easel with a blank canvas. …

“Transforming into an ancient harp player with a vacuum cleaner ‘was the first thing that came to mind when I was looking at your collection,’ says Irena Irena Ochódzka, who posed herself into this amazing sculptural recreation. …

“[A] Baroque masterpiece ‘was the first painting that stood out to me [in the Getty collections] and I thought we could do it pretty easily,’ said Qie Zhang of this family project. Her two girls fought over the yellow dress, she told us, but you can’t tell from the delightful end result.

“Her husband’s pose also made us laugh with its allusion to parental exhaustion.”

More here. Don’t miss the Van Gogh made of Play Doh, carrot slices, and wooden beads! And tell me your favorite.

Male Harp Player of the Early Spedos Type, 2700–2300 B.C., Cycladic. Marble. Recreation via Facebook DM by Irena Ochódzka with canister vacuum.

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Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images
Tate Britain’s curator said the projection of William Blake’s Ancient of Days was in keeping with Blake’s ‘lifelong dream to be an artist with real public impact.’

As happens all too often, I miss the deadline for when you could go see something I’ve written about. If you were in London two months ago, I apologize. I would have loved to see this art myself, having long been a fan of William Blake.

Mark Brown, writing at the Guardian in November, explains what we all missed.

“William Blake always dreamed of making vast works for churches and palaces but to his bitter disappointment he never achieved it. More than two centuries after his death Tate has announced it is going some way to making up for that by projecting his final work on to the giant dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.

“For four evenings [in November], his illustration Ancient of Days will dramatically light up the skyline of London.

“Martin Myrone, the senior curator of pre-1800 art at Tate Britain, said Blake always had grand ambitions as an artist, proposing huge frescoes that were never realised. … ‘What he said he wanted to do was produce altarpieces and large-scale pictorial schemes in churches and palaces.’ …

“Blake is regarded as a visionary, radical artist who was ahead of his time and unappreciated for most of his life.

“ ‘He had a frustrating career and had moments when he was really down and depressed,’ said Myrone. ‘He felt alienated from the art establishment and he never really won the audience that he wished to have. He did see himself as an artist who should be read and seen by not just a few connoisseurs but by lots and lots of people.’

“The project, which marks his birthday, stems from Tate Britain’s current exhibition of Blake, the biggest for a generation. … The St Paul’s dome takes it to another level and is an appropriate venue because it is home to a memorial to Blake. His body was buried in an unmarked grave in Bunhill Fields burial ground near Old Street in London.” More at the Guardian.

A Wikipedia post says in part, “The Ancient of Days is a design by William Blake, originally published as the frontispiece to the 1794 work Europe a Prophecy. It draws its name from one of God’s titles in the Book of Daniel and shows Urizen [who in the mythology of William Blake is the embodiment of conventional reason and law] crouching in a circular design with a cloud-like background. His outstretched hand holds a compass over the darker void below. Related imagery appears in Blake’s Newton, completed the next year. As noted in Gilchrist’s Life of William Blake, the design of The Ancient of Days was ‘a singular favourite with Blake and as one it was always a happiness to him to copy.’ ”

Anyone else a Blake fan?

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I wanted to do another photo post but didn’t have very many photos. That’s mainly because I have been doing my daily walk indoors when it’s not nice out. ‘Round and ’round indoors. Kind of dull.

So I went to a couple free art exhibits, and now I have more pictures.

In Providence, Racine Holly was showing some dramatic skies at a church. When I went in, I didn’t see anyone around. Very trusting. I could hear construction workers talking behind a screen at least. I’m sharing the two oils I liked best. They both had “sold” stickers. The second one was tiny.

Then I went to the Bell Gallery at Brown University, where there was a show of work by Brown art professor Wendy Edwards that had been recommended by critic Cate McQuaid at the Boston Globe. I find I like art that McQuaid likes.

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This artist had a lot of works related to reproduction. The giant peach looks great in the Globe article but up close was “too buch for be,” to quote the Elephant’s Child. Below are a few paintings I liked better.

While at the Bell Gallery, I also took a picture of a Brown University Design Workshop pedestal that I didn’t quite understand. It looks like a range of stamping techniques carved in different styles. But if you used one as a stamp, the words would be backwards. It’s probably just to show potential clients what can be done.

The final six photos reflect recent travels in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Note the path of rose petals a clever florist scattered to her door for Valentine’s Day shoppers to follow.

If anything needs more explanation, please let me know in Comments. (Did you get where I’m trying to imitate Magritte?)

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