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Photo: Sony.
A scene from the children’s film Stuart Little with artist Róbert Berény’s long-lost painting hanging in the background.

Wouldn’t you love to discover a missing artifact while watching an old children’s movie with a kid? That is what happened to a Hungarian art researcher who thought he was just relaxing and off work.

I saw this 2014 report from Agence France-Presse in Budapest at the Guardian.

“A long-lost avant garde painting has returned to Hungary after nine decades thanks to a sharp-eyed art historian, who spotted it being used as a prop in the Hollywood film Stuart Little.

“Gergely Barki, 43, a researcher at Hungary’s national gallery in Budapest, noticed ‘Sleeping Lady with Black Vase,’ by Róbert Berény as he watched television with his daughter Lola in 2009.

“ ‘I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Berény’s long-lost masterpiece on the wall behind Hugh Laurie. I nearly dropped Lola from my lap,’ said Barki.

‘A researcher can never take his eyes off the job, even when watching Christmas movies at home.’

“The painting disappeared in the 1920s, but Barki recognized it immediately even though he had only seen a faded black-and-white photo from an exhibition in 1928. He sent a flurry of emails to staff at the film’s makers, Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures, and received a reply from a former set designer on the film – two years later.

“ ‘She said the picture had been hanging on her wall,’ Barki said. ‘She had snapped it up for next to nothing in an antiques shop in Pasadena, California, thinking its avant garde elegance was perfect for Stuart Little’s living room.’

“After leaving Sony, she sold the painting to a private collector who has now brought the picture to Budapest for sale by auction.

“Berény, the leader of a pre-first world war avant garde movement called the Group of Eights, fled to Berlin in 1920 after designing recruitment posters for Hungary’s short-lived communist revolution in 1919. … According to Barki, the buyer at the 1928 exhibition, who was possibly Jewish, is likely to have left Hungary before or during the second world war.”

So what else can we learn about artist Róbert Berény? Here’s what Wikipedia says: “Róbert Berény (18 March 1887 – 10 September 1953) was a Hungarian painter, one of the avant-garde group known as The Eight who introduced cubism and expressionism to Hungarian art in the early twentieth century before the First World War. He had studied and exhibited in Paris as a young man and was also considered one of the Hungarian Fauves.

“A Berény painting titled Sleeping Lady with Black Vase, whose whereabouts had been unknown since 1928, was rediscovered by chance in 2009 by art historian Gergely Barki upon watching the 1999 American film Stuart Little with his daughter, where the piece was used as a prop. An assistant set designer had bought the painting cheaply from a California antique store for use in the film, and had kept it in her home after production ended. The painting was sold at auction in Budapest on 13 December 2014 for €229,500 [about $249,524].”

More at the Guardian, here. No firewall. Donations welcomed. Nicole Waldner’s blog has a lot more detail, here.

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Art: Meredith Fife Day.
Studio Life.

The day job of artist Meredith Fife Day was for many years running a department at a community newspaper chain in Massachusetts. That is where I met her. She was my first boss in publishing. After retiring from the newspaper, Meredith focused on her art while teaching art at a local college during the day and working with the amazing nonprofit she founded, Making Art with Artists (MAwA). MAwA enabled low-income urban kids to practice art under the guidance of working artists. I wrote about the award Meredith received for that work here.

Recently, I asked her if I could do a post on her art, and she sent me these riches.

From her bio: “Her art reviews and essays have appeared in a variety of publications for more than 25 years and she chronicles her days through journaling. She writes poems which, like her paintings, are frequently in homage to observational response, memory and imagination.

“She has exhibited paintings for more than four decades in numerous invitational shows and national competitions. She earned an MFA degree from Boston University after receiving BA and MFA degrees from Louisiana State University in her native Baton Rouge. Meredith has been awarded fellowships at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, Va., and Auvillar, France, and Millay Colony for the Arts in Austerlitz, N.Y.  She has taught at Art New England/Mass Art summer workshops in Vermont and Cullowhee Mountain Arts in North Carolina.” 

Note how much the ficus plant below returns Meredith’s love by modeling for her on repeated occasions. And do you sense the joy the artist takes in homely things lifted to a spiritual level? I love her work.

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Art: Lucille Corcos Levy.
A family scene in winter, probably South Mountain Road, Rockland County, NY. In the collection of Victor Lloyd.

Would someone please make a Wikipedia entry on artist/illustrator Lucille Corcos? I tried a decade ago, but a Wikipedia moderator took it down. I love the wavy aesthetic of her art — so full of energy and love of life.

At the time that I made my one and only Wikipedia entry, internet links were not considered good enough for citations, and that was the reason given for removal. I have since read that Wikipedia is prejudiced against posts about women and/or by women. I haven’t seen any statistics on that and don’t know if it used to be the case but is no longer.

Lucille Corcos (1909 to 1973) was a working artist who was the main breadwinner for her family, although artist husband Edgar Levy also had a following. She trained at the Art Students’ League in New York City and began professionally as a children’s book illustrator.

I knew the family when I was a child because my father wrote the Upjohn Company’s 10-year-anniversary book with artist Will Burton, who was a Levy neighbor. More recently, I noticed Corcos’s work in a museum. Still, there’s a huge Wikipedia entry for one of her artistic sons, and nothing for her.

I might as well share some of the information I collected on Corcos before giving up, starting with a fascinating book I read (Cipe Pineles Golden and Martha Scotford, Cipe Pineles: A Life in Design [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999]).

“Lucille and Edgar left the city in 1941 with their son David,” wrote Martha Scotford. “Son Joel was born a couple years later. They moved to South Mountain Road in New City. … Corcos was a successful painter and illustrator by this time. In the 1930s, fashion, culture and home magazines published her work and her popularity continued into the 1960s.

“[Designer] Cipe Pineles’s close friendship with Corcos had begun when Pineles commissioned Corcos’s work for Seventeen and Charm. Her humor in personal interactions and in her art made her an engaging collaborator.

“Corcos’s paintings were densely packed with many small stories and commentary. The compositions had detailed multiple subjects; perspective and scale were distorted for practical and expressive purposes. This new modern primitivism was considered part of a native tradition in American art and its ‘unacademic’ nature was celebrated.

“Corcos’s subjects included rural landscapes and urban scenes, ranging from Christmas Eve, Rockefeller Center, to the Oyster Party to Everybody Meets the Boat. In addition to doing commissioned illustration, Lucille Corcos built her career as a fine artist and was a steady participant in New York gallery shows from 1936 to 1954. During the same time, she was a part of major exhibitions in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other institutions in New York.”

Click here for the Corcos books held in the University of Minnesota’s Children’s Literature Research Collections, where you can also find a write-up about her work for Fortune magazine and links to the pictures.

I remember the family’s actual Fire Island house (painted in 1950), here, and I want to point out that Everybody Meets the Boat is another classic Fire Island scene.

If any reader is better at research than I am, maybe you could find an article I heard was in the July 12, 1954, issue of Life magazine showing two Corcos paintings, one of her life in a wintery Rockland County, another of activities around the Fire Island house in summer.

Sorry this is all a bit jumbled. Maybe that’s the real reason the moderator deleted what I wrote at Wikipedia. Someone more knowledgable should tackle this worthy subject.

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Artists Leave Russia

Photos: Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR for NPR.
Choreographer Polina Mitryashina, artist Victor Melamed, and jazz producer Evgenii Petrushanskiy are Russian artists who have recently fled Russia to live in Israel.

Most of the Ukrainians I worked with for those precious few months after the Russian invasion believe that all Russians support Putin’s war. But although I would probably feel the same if I were constantly being bombed and had no electricity and was running out of food, I believe that nations aren’t monoliths.

Today we learn about some Jewish Russian artists who are against the war and have left their country. It’s not just about saving their own skin. It’s outrage.

As Daniel Estrin reports at National Public Radio, “Some of Russia’s biggest artistic talents have immigrated to Israel this year, finding a safe place to rebuild their careers and voice their conscience about their country’s war in Ukraine.

“Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, it has cracked down on even the slightest opposition to the war, forced thousands of citizens to enlist to fight and drawn tough sanctions from the West. All this has prompted many Russians to flee.

“More than 28,000 Russian nationals have acquired Israeli citizenship since the war began, according to Israeli government figures. …

” ‘Staying behind the Iron Curtain was incredibly scary,’ Russian artist Victor Melamed says. … Melamed, whose portraits have appeared in the New Yorker magazine, fled to Israel in June. He says: ‘I want to be a person of the world.’

“Russians are relocating mostly to Turkey, Kazakhstan and Georgia. But Israel offers one big advantage: Those with at least one Jewish grandparent can get Israeli citizenship for themselves and their close family.

” ‘When the war started, I think, like, everybody literally remembered their Jewish grandma,’ says Liza Rozovsky, a Russian-born Israeli journalist tracking Russian celebrity arrivals for the Haaretz newspaper. …

“Some Ukrainian immigrants in Israel wish the Russian newcomers would stay in Russia to protest their leadership, despite the risks. ‘They’re trying to run away,’ says Ilona Stavytska, 33, a Ukrainian-born barista in Tel Aviv.

“But Russian exiles say their protest is more effective here. ‘Go protest in Moscow. I will support you. I will say, “Oh, look, this person is protesting.” Then I will send you letters to jail,’ says Maxim Katz, 37, a Russian YouTube blogger and former opposition politician who escaped to Israel and publishes anti-war videos to audiences in Russia. …

“What a difference a year has made for jazz producer Evgenii Petrushanskii. Last year, his record label in Russia, Rainy Days Records, produced a jazz album which got nominated for a Grammy. This year, the record label has gone silent.

” ‘I don’t feel it’s the right time now to release music as a Russian label,’ Petrushanskii, 36, says at a Tel Aviv coffee shop. ‘For the ethical reasons, I stopped.’ Days after Russia invaded Ukraine, he left St. Petersburg for Tel Aviv, claiming Israeli citizenship based on his father’s Jewish roots.

” ‘It’s impossible to release a record in Russia so it goes to the foreign audience,’ Petrushanskii says. ‘A majority of music aggregators who release music toward the platforms like Apple Music, Spotify … are not presenting in Russia anymore.’ Now he’s re-registering his record label in Israel, hoping to release new records of Russian artists next year.

Polina Mitryashina, 28, worked at one of the world’s leading dance institutions, Russia’s Mariinsky Theater. Then when the war broke out, her dancers began to vanish.

” ‘Now they’re in Oslo,’ she says. …

“Mitryashina attended a recent networking event at the Israel Festival in Jerusalem, which brought 100 Russian and Ukrainian artists in film, music, art and dance — new immigrants like her — to meet veteran Israeli artistic directors and try to rebuild their careers in Israel.

‘Sometimes I’m angry [at] the people who stay … and continue to work for the big companies, and continue to make money’ in Russia, she says. ‘I am like, “Are you crazy? You, you’re like a sponsor of the war.” ‘

“Artist Victor Melamed, 45, moved his family to a quiet Tel Aviv suburb to keep his teenage boys out of a potential Russian military draft — though they will likely be drafted into the Israeli army.

” ‘I have no romantic visions of, you know, Israel’s policies,’ he says. ‘The Israeli army is an institution that cares for every person they have … as opposed to the Russian army.’

“Each morning he draws a black-and-white portrait of a Ukrainian civilian killed in a Russian attack, and posts it on Instagram. He says it’s his way of pinching himself, not to get too comfortable in his new home in Israel. …

” ‘We need to grow up,’ he says. ‘We cannot afford to stay the same.’ “

More at NPR, here.

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Art: Artemisia Gentileschi via Wikimedia Commons.
Artemisia Gentileschi, an an Italian Baroque painter, is considered one of the 17th century’s most accomplished artists. Shown here is her “Allegory of Inclination” (1616).

Have you been seeing the name of seventeenth-century painter Artemisia Gentileschi mentioned more these days? I have. Finally the world is coming to grips the astonishing proposition that some female artists are better than many male artists.

Elaine Velie has some thoughts on Gentileschi at Hyperallergic.

“In 1616, the 22-year-old artist Artemisia Gentileschi painted a nude woman perched in the clouds and holding a compass at the Florence home of Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger, Michaelangelo’s great-nephew. The work was the first in the Buonarroti family’s home gallery dedicated to their famous ancestor, and the impasto ceiling painting, likely a self-portrait, was also one of Gentileschi’s first commissions. ‘Allegory of Inclination’ remained untouched for around 70 years until a descendant of Michelangelo Buonarroti commissioned the Late Baroque painter Baldassarre Franceschini (il Volterrano) to paint draping over the nude figure in the interest of modesty.

“Now, the former Buonarroti residence is the Casa Buonarroti museum, and a team of conservators there is working to ‘virtually restore the original appearance’ of the painting in a project called ‘Artemisia Unveiled.’ Using imaging techniques such as X-rays and raking light to examine the over 400-year-old brush strokes, the team will determine which additions were Gentileschi’s and which were Franceschini’s, and the final result will be an uncensored image.

“Elizabeth Wick, the restorer leading the project, told the Florentine that the team will not physically alter the existing painting for two reasons: Franceschini’s layer is considered a historic addition that contributes to the painting’s story, and since the two layers of paint were applied only 70 years apart, removing Franceschini’s draping would likely damage Gentileschi’s original coat of paint. …

“Gentileschi’s success in the male-dominated art world of 17th-century Italy, and the woman-focused subject matter of her work, have turned her into somewhat of a feminist icon. Although she earned recognition during her lifetime, Gentileschi’s work has been revisited in recent years through museum shows and other conservation projects.”

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall, but contributions are sought.

At Wikipedia, we learn that Gentileschi started out working in the style of Caravaggio and “was producing professional work by the age of 15. In an era when women had few opportunities to pursue artistic training or work as professional artists, Gentileschi was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, and she had an international clientele.

“Many of Gentileschi’s paintings feature women from myths, allegories, and the Bible, including victims, suicides, and warriors. Some of her best known subjects are Susanna and the Elders (particularly the 1610 version in Pommersfelden), Judith Slaying Holofernes (her 1614–1620 version is in the Uffizi gallery), and Judith and Her Maidservant (her version of 1625 is in the Detroit Institute of Arts).

“Gentileschi was known for being able to depict the female figure with great naturalism and for her skill in handling color to express dimension and drama. … For many years Gentileschi was regarded as a curiosity, but her life and art have been reexamined by scholars in the 20th and 21st centuries. She is now regarded as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.”

P.S. Check out SJ Bennett’s Queen Elizabeth II murder mystery, All the Queen’s Men, in which the Queen’s Gentileschi painting plays an important role.

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Artist Tackles Potholes

Photo: Jim Bachor via CBS News.

If any of you were following this blog in 2015, you might have seen what a stealth artist was doing in Boston to highlight crumbling infrastructure. Check out that artist’s Lego patchwork here.

Today, a different artist is working on potholes — using mosaics, not Legos. And he’s not anonymous.

Cathy Free reports at the Washington Post, “Jim Bachor travels across the country filling potholes for a living. He doesn’t just fill the unsightly road gaps with cement, he actually turns them into art — and often, social commentary.

“Bachor uses hundreds of pieces of Italian glass and marble that he cuts to create the sometimes subversive mosaics, which he installs on the ground to beautify unsightly city streets. He doesn’t work with cities on the installations, he works rogue, and he places the mosaics himself.

Bachor began his pothole art in Chicago, where he lives, by installing the word ‘pothole’ in black and white marble in a road divot in 2013.

“ ‘People loved it and thought it was funny,’ he said. ‘Was it legal? I still don’t know. I decided to turn my hobby into a bit of a Robin Hood thing. If I had to ask for permission, I wouldn’t be doing this.’ …

“In D.C., Bachor was hired by the #RelistWolves Campaign, a privately-funded group that is working to get Northern Rocky Mountain wolves reclassified as an endangered species in an effort to get them the same protection as other gray wolves.

“Samantha Attwood, one of the group’s co-founders, said they decided to hire Bachor to fill several potholes with mosaics of wolves to help draw attention to their efforts. …

“He made the pieces earlier in his basement studio in Chicago, then selected the locations himself after asking a few of his Instagram followers in D.C. to narrow down the possibilities. Attwood said she was pleased to see the campaign take off in front of Solid State Books at the 600 H Street location.

“ ‘The store put up a display with books and information about relisting the wolves, and they made sure that Jim’s pothole didn’t get covered up by cars parking there,’ she said. …

“He diligently scouts before he decides on a work site for his art, which usually measures 18 inches by 24 inches.

“ ‘The perfect pothole is actually really hard to find,’ said Bachor. ‘It has to be on the edge of a road that isn’t too beat up, and people have to be able to see it from five or six feet away.’ …

“Bachor said he first became intrigued by mosaic art in the late 1990s during a trip to see the archaeological ruins of Pompeii, Italy.

“ ‘A guide pointed out a mosaic on the site and said the art looked the same as the artist intended 2,000 years ago because marble and glass don’t fade,’ he said. ‘It blew me away to think that an art form could endure for centuries after I was gone.’

“Bachor returned to his advertising job in Chicago and began dabbling in mosaics. When he was laid off from his job and decided to make a living as an artist, his inspiration came from an unlikely place.

“ ‘In 2013, the potholes in my neighborhood were particularly bad,’ Bachor said. … Bachor filled the pothole with cement and stuck a flat piece of artwork on the top, making his first in-ground art very meta with the word ‘pothole.’

“After that first project, Bachor said he decided to transform other ugly potholes in his neighborhood into asphalt masterpieces. …

“Bachor enjoyed turning the streets into a drive-over gallery and was soon installing mosaic hot dogs, Cupids and flowerpots. For some of the designs … he installed the phone numbers of car repair places he liked, which he considered a public service.”

More at the Post, here. There is one mosaic based on Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” and another showing Van Gogh’s “The Bedroom.” The “Dead Rat” mosaic made me laugh.

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Photo: Jon Swihart.
Belly dancer performance and artist lecture at a potluck in Santa Monica. (The potluck founders are moving to a state where they will have to remember to call a potluck “hot dish.”)

A sense of community is important to us all. Today’s story is about artists in California using the act of breaking bread together as a way to build bonds and reduce isolation.

“When artists Jon Swihart and Kimberly Merrill move from Santa Monica to Minneapolis … they will be leaving behind both a cherished home and a remarkable artistic and social legacy. Inspired by their friends Mark Ryden and Marion Peck’s recent move out of state, the couple decided it was time for a change. …

“Paying the home’s mortgage for decades solely by working as an artist is something Jon considers one of his greatest accomplishments. Another is the role he played — along with Kim — in hosting 162 potlucks in their verdant backyard, each one featuring artists or other creative producers who spoke about their life and work.

“ ‘Painting can be so isolating,’ Jon notes. ‘So sometime in the late 1980s I started inviting artists over to the house to talk about their work. Word spread quickly and people started asking if they could join us. The potlucks officially launched in 2003 after we became a couple. At Kim’s suggestion we started using the backyard — and supplying plates and plastic cutlery — and things really took off.’ By the time COVID-19 forced Jon and Kim to discontinue them in 2020, the artist potlucks had taken on a life of their own, drawing as many as 200 people at a time from an email list of over 2,500 names. …

“The backyard potlucks followed a consistent formula that worked because so many people stepped up to contribute and help out. Around 6pm on a Saturday night, a long table filled up with potluck delicacies — both store bought and homemade — while a drink table was stocked with wine and beer. Jon and his tech crew would set up for the artist slideshow as Kim greeted visitors in her studio at the back of the house.

“The house itself, although only 1,300 square feet, was one of the attractions. Built in 1927, its tile floors, beamed ceilings, and arched doorways offered a sense of warmth and comfort. On top of that, Jon’s trove of antiques and art objects — which include a painting attributed to Jean-Léon Gérôme that was later authenticated on the show popular British TV show Fake or Fortune — provided sophisticated eye candy.

“Over time an extraordinary variety of artists stood under the lanterns in Jon and Kim’s backyard, discussing not just their work, but also the events and challenges of their lives.

‘I would tell the speakers to avoid art theory,’ Jon recalls, ‘and instead talk about how a passion for art sustained you through disasters and triumphs.’ …

“Every now and then a potluck broke the mold. At one unforgettable event, a group of fire-spitters recruited from the Venice Beach boardwalk performed on the sidewalk in front of the house, stopping traffic and astonishing the neighbors. Another off-the-charts event was art historian Gerald Ackerman’s talk, which was also a celebration of his 80th birthday. 

“As artist F. Scott Hess recalls: ‘Jerry, the world’s foremost authority on Jon’s favorite artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme, was a longtime friend of all of us. That night in Jon’s backyard there were theatrical recreations of Gérôme paintings, with costumes as close to the originals as was possible. And there was a belly dancer as well. Jerry was thrilled with the acting out of Gérôme’s ‘The Duel After the Masquerade,’ with Brian Apthorp as the wounded harlequin taking a good 10 minutes to die.

“To cap off the evening, Jerry was given a Gerald Ackerman Action Figure, in its original box, a creation of Peter Zokosky, with all the extras a topnotch art historian would need.

“The popularity of the potlucks brought innovations. Trekell Art Supplies began sending merchandise for one-dollar-ticket raffles that raised money to support the events. Artists also began to donate prints or small works of art to be included in the raffles. Artist Eric Davis soon began creating buttons that included a logo and event date along with the featured artist’s name and work. … Davis made between 40 and 100 buttons, which were given away for free: a total of over 7,500 in a span of 14 years.

“ ‘They were open events and anyone could come,’ Swihart comments. Art dealers, critics, students, and collectors began to attend, especially after Greg Escalante — a dealer and the founder of Juxtapoz Magazine — talked them up. Thousands of complete strangers streamed through the house. Amazingly, nothing was ever stolen, which gave Jon and Kim a new faith in humanity. …

“During many of the artist talks — held under strands of paper lamps and a glowing moon — there was absolute silence among the audience. The energy was positive, even magical, and artists who might have seemed unapproachable before laid themselves bare. Again and again the talks humanized artists by revealing them as people who had struggled and who, at some point, had been afraid to experiment with their art. 

“One notable speaker — Robert Williams, the legendary underground comic and ‘lowbrow’ artist — told the crowd how the dominance of Abstract Expressionism had inhibited the development of representational art when he was a student. Because Jon and Kim’s potlucks were not sponsored by an organization or institution, contrarian points of view, like those offered by Williams, were respected and even welcomed. … From Swihart’s point of view, having Robert Williams speak at a potluck was ‘like having Eric Clapton stop by to play in my garage band.’ …

“ It was a cauldron for friendships, conversation, networking, alchemy, and artistry,’ recalls Eric Davis. … Artist Peter Zokosky comments: ‘Even at the time, you knew something rare and miraculous was happening. Jon gave a forum to 100-plus artists over the years, and never once did he give a slideshow of his own work.’

“ ‘The potluck was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life,’ Jon states. ‘We had so many artists on our wishlist when COVID shut them down, but it was time to bring it to an end.’ ” 

More at Hyperallergic, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Trader Joe’s.
Each of the grocery chain’s 500-plus locations “has custom-made signage, created by staff artists,” says the Post.

They don’t get paid much, but it’s unusual for artists to have a steady gig with benefits. According to Kelsey Ables at the Washington Post, a lot depends on which of the independent Trader’s Joe’s markets you’re working at.

“Growing up,” Ables reports, “Zoe Terrell dreamed of becoming an artist — she sketched scenes from her local farmers market and even won drawing competitions in her native South Korea. But she eventually learned what many creative people know too well. ‘My dad was like, “Well, drawing is not going to feed you,” ‘ Terrell says.

“So she studied education in college and, after moving to the United States in 2008, taught Korean — that is, until a curious job listing caught her eye.

“An ocean away, Terrell called her dad with surprising news: ‘Hey, guess what, Dad? Now, drawing is going to feed me,’ she recalls with a laugh.

“Terrell is one of hundreds of sign artists employed by grocery store Trader Joe’s. You probably know the idiosyncratic chain for its eccentric snacks and peppy cashiers, but that festive atmosphere extends to the stores’ interior design, too: Each of the 500-plus outposts has custom, handmade signage, all created by staff artists. Your grocery store is their art gallery.

“As what Trader Joe’s calls a ‘crew member with sign making talent’ (we’ll just call them sign artists), Terrell, 40, spends much of her workday at the Athens, Ga., store wielding a paint pen in a backroom studio. She makes signs to promote products with puns like ‘Hot Grill Summer‘ and creative drawings such as the Powerpuff Girls reimagined as vegetables. She paints murals that represent the local area, University of Georgia sports teams or the surrounding rural landscape. Occasionally, she gets to incorporate Korean lettering into her work, such as when the store got a shipment of scallion pancakes known as ‘pajeon.’ That was a highlight for Terrell — Korean students told her that seeing the Hangul writing made them feel a little more at home.

“Terrell says that in her early days in the United States, she sorely missed Korean grocery stores, where employees knew her family and each store had its own character.

“ ‘Especially when I moved to the U.S., everything seemed like it had been kind of standardized. You go to Walmart in New York or you go to Walmart out in the boonies in Georgia, and they look exactly the same,’ she says. ‘Trader Joe’s is just throwing a totally different curveball.’ …

“Trader Joe’s calls itself a ‘national chain of neighborhood grocery stores.’ And everything seems to have a human touch: from sweeping murals of local landmarks, which can stay on view for years, all the way down to individual price tags telling you that clementines are $5.99 and ‘great for the road!’ But for the artists, the work isn’t just about selling produce or marketing the latest peppermint-coated, jalapeno-infused, almond-butter-filled whatever. It’s a way to channel their artistic energy in a world that doesn’t make being creative easy. While job postings list pay for sign artists starting as low as $14 an hour, for many, it’s the stable art job they never thought they’d have.

‘I always tell everybody, it’s probably the best entry-level artist position that has a steady paycheck, good benefits and everything,’ says Dan Kaufeldt, a 35-year-old sign artist in Sacramento, who has been with the company for 16 years.

“Kaufeldt’s store decor combines comic book energy with meticulous detailing. For Thanksgiving, he painted a smooth-looking Turkey named DJ Gravy Grav who mixes ‘All about that Baste’ on a turntable, while spring break this year inspired an image of a cartoon lemon, strawberry and potato going on a road trip in a bouncing, orange RV.

“For many Trader Joe’s sign artists, going all out is part of the fun. At one of the Philadelphia stores, McKinna Salinas, 25, is working on transforming the bathroom into a parody of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, inspired by works from the museum collection such as Severin Roesen’s ‘Flower Still Life With Bird’s Nest.’ In her version of Winslow Homer’s ‘The Life Line,’ a man is seen dangling above stormy seas — but instead of saving a woman, he’s saving a carrot. …

“Trader Joe’s rarely advertises. It doesn’t have coupons. It avoids the words ‘sale’ or ‘cheap.’ The atmosphere is deliberately friendly. …

“As for the signs, ‘the handcrafted quality emphasizes the personal relationship,’ says Mark Gardiner, a former marketing executive who worked at Trader Joe’s while researching his book Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s, which unpacks how the chain attracted a cultlike following. ‘It’s the graphic equivalent of that cheerful conversation that you’ll have with a total stranger that’s working there, who sees you buying dog food and asks you what kind of dog you have.’

“While working at the downtown Minneapolis Trader Joe’s, Georgia Gump took that idea to its extreme: The 25-year-old artist made a window mural featuring the neighborhood’s dogs. It was a big hit.

“But for Gump, who left the store in May, the early excitement of working at Trader Joe’s faded fast. That particular Minneapolis store is now trying to unionize for better wages and benefits (a store in Hadley, Mass., became the first Trader Joe’s to unionize last month), and Gump says it has been plagued by bad management. Gump hit a breaking point after breezing through the installation of an elaborate, handcrafted Christmas village.

“ ‘At first I was really excited that I did it in less than two hours,’ Gump says. ‘Then, it hit me that installing this piece of art cost the company less than $30.’ …

“Some artists have used the job as a jumping-off point. Gump now does sign commissions and pet portraiture around town. Salinas recently made a piece for NASA that will be featured on a satellite. Terrell says, ‘Trader Joe’s became my self advertisement.’ “

More at the Post, here.

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They Stayed in Kyiv

Photos: Iryna Dobryakova.
Young creatives who stayed behind in war-torn Ukraine.

Blog readers know that Asakiyume and I spent a few months helping media people in Ukraine with their English social-media outreach. (See this post.)

It’s not the same, but the native English speakers and Ukrainians on the team do keep in touch via Facebook. And we donate to former colleague Vitali’s work to help children traumatized by war in Rivne. Vitali has not seen his little daughter since the war started, which makes me sad. At least he knows she’s safe outside the country. And while he stays behind, he volunteers to help other children.

Shelby Wilder writes at Mic about some others who stayed behind.

“Russia’s war on Ukraine has disrupted the lives of millions. Many people fled their homes when mounting evidence of the impending ‘special military operation’ surfaced. As the country’s economy nosedived and the possibilities of work and earning a living wage evaporated, Ukrainians have pivoted their careers and reinvented themselves for the sake of survival. … It’s young people — the future of the country — who are leading the charge. History has shown that wars are not just fought with guns; they are fought with art and stories by creatives with the capability to fortify hearts and minds.”

MICHAEL FOSTIK | МИХАЙЛО ФОСТИК Profession: Director, Cinematographer, age 32

“Michael Fostik, a director and cinematographer by trade, resides in London but returned to Ukraine during the COVID pandemic to be closer to family. He was shooting commercial and creative projects while in his home country, but just as the pandemic began to wind down, news of a potential war with Russia started to spread. At the beginning of February, Michael relocated his mother and grandmother from Kyiv’s northern suburbs to his hometown in Transcarpathia, a remote region in western Ukraine. His family initially resisted immediate evacuation, but in time, Michael’s insistence would prove vital. Russia’s invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022, and within a matter of days the Russian military was within reach of the family’s by-then-vacant home.

“Once Michael moved his family to safety, he had planned to return to the U.K. ‘My life was in London,’ he tells Mic. ‘I have an apartment there, I had jobs lined up, everything was waiting for me, and then overnight it suddenly stopped.’ Less than 24 hours after Russia invaded, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree of martial law that banned male citizens ages 18 to 60 from leaving the country, in case they were needed to defend their homeland. So Michael stayed in Kyiv. …

“Beyond being physically constrained within his country’s borders, Michael’s creativity was restricted by the conflict too. ‘The digital and creative content being produced in the country is centered around war,’ he says. ‘There isn’t capacity to create in other genres or to cover anything else; it’s not relevant. As a result, there’s currently an undeniable heaviness in our culture.’

“So, Michael pivoted to journalism, covering the unfolding conflict in order to make ends meet. He visited the front lines as Russia’s army made advances on the capital. Ukraine’s Armed Forces required that individuals reporting to the war zone have their own body armor, but Michael knew that it would be nearly impossible to acquire a bulletproof vest during the chaos. He tried to be resourceful and ordered a flak jacket on Amazon. But when it arrived, the vest was empty; the essential Kevlar was not included.

“In true Ukrainian spirit, Michael filled the lining of the vest with books instead and headed towards combat. Michael says he deliberately selected the books that would serve as makeshift armor: ‘I chose carefully. I couldn’t just fill it with any random book! I chose books that meant something to me.’ The literature ended up coming in handy when he was forced to retreat to a bunker for several days. He passed the time by removing and reading the books one by one. When he emerged from the bunker, he says, someone remarked that his vest looked different.

“ ‘I’d finished all the books by that time and left them behind,’ Michael says.”

VIKTORIIA PETROVA | ПЕТРОВА ВІКТОРІЯ, choreographer, age 23, and OLEKSII STEPANKOV | СТЕПАНКОВ ОЛЕКСІЙ, artist, age 30

“Viktoriia Petrova and Oleksii Stepankov are a husband and wife who have been separated by the war. A trained dancer, Viktoriia has worked as a choreographer in independent theater productions, specializing in modern dance with a focus on free form. ‘Improvisation is imagination,’ she says. Oleksii is an artist and director of photography who works in theater, cinema, and sculpture. He works with materials in their natural surroundings to combine textures and light, allowing the imaginations of viewers to interpret their own stories. Oleksii comes from a legendary family of artists: His grandmother is the famous theater and cinema figure Ada Rogovtseva.

“Since Feb. 24, the lives of Oleksii and Viktoriia have completely changed. On the second day of Russia’s invasion, Oleksii joined the Ukrainian Volunteer Corps for the defense of Kyiv. After Russia’s military retreated, he joined the Armed Forces of Ukraine and was deployed to the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, while Viktoriia has remained in the capital city.

“Viktoriia describes how their priorities shifted: ‘Men fight, and the volunteer movement rests on the women left behind. The theater that our family is involved in has become a volunteer center. Instead of rehearsals, we’re coordinating humanitarian aid.’ On March 27, the International Day of Theatre, Viktoriia, along with others from her theater troupe, helped organize an evening of poetry for Ukraine’s military. ‘We continue to hold theatre performances and film screenings whenever possible to support the Armed Forces,’ Viktoriia shared. She has held dance workshops since Russia’s invasion, and she sends all the proceeds to her husband’s unit in the military.

“Facing long periods of separation, the couple is never sure exactly when they’ll be able to see each other. So they communicate through art. Viktoriia sends videos of her improvisational dances, and Oleksii sends back photo collages from the front lines. Viktoriia insists that the ‘four days of vacation with him once every few months is still a gift.’ Of course, even when Oleksii is on ‘vacation,’ he continues to check in with his unit and deal with internal military affairs, ‘We know what we are sacrificing and fighting for,’ he says. ‘We dream of a free Ukraine and of love. This is our salvation.’ “

Also at Mic, here, you can read about BOGDAN ZHDANOV | БОГДАН ЖДАНОВ, actor, age 28 —  “We all cry these days. It’s okay. We cry and then we carry on” — and VLADYSLAVA SHLIAMINA | ВЛАДИСЛАВА ШЛЯМІНА, line producer, age 31 — “We are united as a nation, and we are not giving up.”

At the New York Times, here, you can find out more about the publication Mic, which was new to me.

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Pirate Artist

Photo: Art in America.
Dick Riley’s approach to art stirs things up.

The New York Times calls this anti-plastic missionary a “pirate artist.” Melena Ryzik‘s article explains how he got that moniker.

“The artist Duke Riley isn’t exactly sure why he had the idea to turn a plastic tampon applicator into a fishing lure, but he knows one thing for certain: It works.

“He put it to the test one summer day on a buddy’s boat in Block Island Sound, and, with his pastel bait bouncing along the ocean floor, pulled up a sizable fluke. It was a keeper — ‘I definitely ate it,’ he said.

“The applicator tube had first washed up ashore, part of the many tons of seaborne trash that Riley, a Brooklyn artist known to scavenge New York’s waterways for materials and inspiration, has collected over the years. Putting this spent plastic product to use as fish food — that was some D.I.Y. upcycling. Putting it into the Brooklyn Museum of Art: that is Riley’s wild and singular artistic ingenuity.

“There’s a film of the fishing endeavor, done in the style of a crusty YouTube tutorial. The lures — displayed on pegboard, as in a real bait shop — join other plastic detritus that Riley has repurposed, like straws, dental floss picks and vape pens, in ‘DEATH TO THE LIVING, Long Live Trash,‘ an exhibition [that opened in June] at the Brooklyn Museum. Across multiple rooms and settings, it confronts the calamitous environmental impact of the plastics industry and the ways in which unchecked consumption, for personal convenience, has polluted waterways.

“Its centerpiece is more than 200 works of painstakingly hand-drawn scrimshaw that Riley has spent three years making. Instead of the whale teeth and walrus tusks that 19th-century sailors once etched, he uses a contemporary, dispiritingly abundant, analog: discarded plastics. Lotion tubes, squirt bottles, brushes, a honey bear, solo flip-flops, a Wiffle ball and a legless lawn flamingo now stained bone-white, all provide the canvas for Riley’s patterned mariner drawings in India ink.

“As whalers often depicted the leaders and profiteers of their day, Riley portrays the C.E.O.s of chemical companies, plastic industry lobbyists and others he deems responsible for producing the devastating tonnages of single-use plastics that are engulfing our oceans and threatening our ecosystems. It’s a downer, but if you look closely there’s often a Riley twist of humor, like the seagull shown relieving itself on the head of a water bottle magnate.

“ ‘This is an artist who I always refer to as a modern-day pirate,’ said Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum. ‘He’s not just an aesthete pointing to something passively, he’s working to actively spur change — you have to be in it with an artist like Duke. He’s not going to hold back.’

“Calling out corporate titans and politicians — particularly when institutions like the Brooklyn Museum depend on them for donations and support — comes from a fearless ethic and ‘a wit that is hilarious and unforgiving.’ She added, ‘I always think of him as the George Carlin of the art world.’ …

“Best known for ‘Fly by Night,’ a 2016 performance in which 2,000 trained pigeons outfitted with LEDs lit up the New York sky, or for launching his own homemade Revolutionary War submarine into the path of the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship, Riley has mostly succeeded by navigating around the commercial New York art world, though he holds degrees from some of its prestigious feeder institutions (a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and an M.F.A. in sculpture from Pratt Institute). …

“ ‘Duke is a natural,’ said Ernesto Pujol, an artist and former professor at Pratt who has mentored him. ‘A huge talent. … He had to fight his way for the art world to see him holistically — he is the kind of artist that is always more than you bargain for.’ …

“Riley works in many mediums: The Brooklyn exhibition includes films, decorative installations, mosaics and illustrations, like a vast map of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, encompassing its history from precolonial bounty to Dutch settlers through the polluted Superfund site that in 2007 tested positive for gonorrhea. …

“His mosaics offer one of the biggest wows of the show. Inspired by sailors’ valentines, a nautical souvenir traditionally made of shells, Riley’s are enormous and quite beautiful.

Only on close inspection do you notice that the perfect, shiny seashells are interlaid with a rainbow of bottle caps, cigar tips, bits of mechanical pencils, and bread bag clips, all harvested from New York streets and waterfronts. …

“[His studio is] a cleanish space, stacked with neatly bagged, color-coordinated trash. A trailer outside was filled with more refuse. Some of it came from Fishers Island, the exclusive enclave in Long Island Sound, where Riley had a residency in 2019, and where he met a woman whose full-time job is to rid its beaches, the summer home of families like the DuPonts, of plastic rubbish.

“ ‘The exhibition is so much about holding people accountable, and the little acts that people can take to solve this problem,’ Liz St. George, the show’s curator, said. That includes museum administrators; in the course of working with Riley, they changed cafeteria suppliers to minimize plastic, and reconfigured water fountains to accommodate reusable bottles. …

“He did the scrimshaw in solitude aboard his boat, now docked in Rhode Island. A Massachusetts native who worked on the fish docks and grew up visiting places like the New Bedford Whaling Museum, he has always been attracted to a New England nautical aesthetic. …

“This week, Riley is also debuting a mosaic in Boston’s central library. It is one of only a few pieces of contemporary art purchased for permanent installation in the landmark 1895 building, since a circa-1900s John Singer Sargent mural. Riley’s work is partly inspired by the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, an urban disaster caused when a storage tank exploded, releasing millions of gallons of the sticky stuff. It destroyed neighborhoods in the North End, a community of Italian immigrants. …

“For his core group of collaborators, no project is too brazen, or too labor-intensive. ‘We always pull it off,’ said Nicholas Schneider, a New York City firefighter and a longtime member of Riley’s crew. Through all the fun, ‘there is always a somber or very serious component that I think he’s always been the most focused on and proud of.’ “

More at the Times, here. See also Art in America, here.

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Elizabeth Catlett: Sharecropper (1968)

If you are on Twitter, I recommend following @womensart1. She has introduced me to some outstanding art by women.

Her website says, “Art is art and artists are artists, yes, but there is also a gendered historical, social and cultural framework in which it is produced and received, which has ongoing implications on issues of value and recognition. The masculine term ‘master,’ for instance, and the ideal of lone male genius, still underpin the omnipresent Western concept of ‘the artist.’ …

“My own online project #WOMENSART was created with the simple premise of raising the profile of women artists. By highlighting their diverse historic and global work, the project clearly reflects that ‘women’s art’ is not a category in itself, yet it does indicate genres to which women are more culturally and socially linked.

“#WOMENSART also creates an integral opportunity to promote women’s self-representation and to explore the female rather than much more scrutinized ‘male gaze.’ … Specific exploration of the artwork of women has enabled insights into areas including capitalism, migration, class, globalization, ethnicity, disability and so on, from an unusual, uniquely female perspective. …

“In addition, the #WOMENSART project has enabled consideration of genres such as textiles, ceramics, zines, crafts and street art rather than focusing solely on the Western definition of ‘high art’ (sculpture and painting), therefore challenging the hierarchical limitations of a system historically based on discrimination rather than ability.

“Utilizing social media as an outreach facility has, in turn, proved quite a leveler, as it provides access to/for artists, genres and audiences that the establishment may ignore.” More here.

At MoMA, I learned more about the artist shown above, Elizabeth Catlett: “Catlett once said that the purpose of her work was to ‘present black people in their beauty and dignity for ourselves and others to understand and enjoy.’ Sharecropper calls attention to the tribulations of tenant farming — a system in which rent for the land is paid by the farmer with a part of the crop, creating an impossible-to-escape cycle of debt — while also offering a heroic portrait of an anonymous woman. …

“Her printmaking practice included woodcut, screenprint, lithography, and, most importantly, linoleum cut, which she learned at the Taller de Gráfica Popular (People’s Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City.

“Founded in 1937, the workshop aimed to continue the Mexican tradition of socially engaged public art. It specialized in linoleum cut, a technique that produces inexpensive prints and can accommodate large editions. Catlett first visited this renowned workshop and artists’ collective while she was in Mexico on a fellowship in 1946, where she found a kinship with the Mexican muralists, including Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. Like them she tried, she explained, to make art ‘for the people, for the struggling people, to whom only realism is meaningful.’ ” More at MoMA, here.

One of the many advantages of @womensart1 is that it inspires you to find out more about the female artists you see there.

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Photo: Dan Cameron.
Chumono, Muelle de Alma (2005), site specific art installation near Cucao, Chiloé, Chile.

Today’s article is the first in a Hyperallergic series about a fellowship for curators that one recipient used for a project in Chile. Blogger Rebecca may know the part of Chile that curator Dan Cameron talks about.

He writes at Hyperallergic, “While preparing this project one day, I was perusing Chilean regional news outlets for details about the December 2021 fire that damaged or destroyed a number of houses in Castro, the capital of the Isla Grande de Chiloé, when I noticed that multiple sources referred to the island as a ‘tourist’ destination.

“Maybe it’s the just intellectual vanity that goes with being the sort of curator who leaves New York City to come to a remote corner of South America, but it felt weirdly like a slap in the face to see this little-known (outside of Chile) place that I’d been steadfastly exploring for a future curatorial project seemingly transformed by a single word into a locale that would be for, well, tourists. In my mind it didn’t matter that Chiloé’s famed palafito stilt houses and 17th- and 18th-century wooden churches attract visitors worldwide, or that the more secluded corners of Chiloé I’d scouted on previous trips had everything a moderately resourceful traveler would need for a splendid visit. …

“My flash of pique at reading Chiloé so described is curiously linked to my personal history with Chile, which I first visited exactly 30 years ago. … I’ve returned consistently to Chile over the years, precisely because I thought I wouldn’t otherwise get to know it. This was summarized by the word that the Santiago-based artist Eugenio Dittborn would employ five years later as his title for a survey exhibition I curated of his signature pinturas aeropostales (airmail paintings) at the New Museum: Remota.

In 1992 I hardly knew anybody who possessed firsthand information about Chile, and that made it irresistible.

“During our initial meeting at his studio in Santiago, I shared with Dittborn my very ambitious itinerary, which included Santiago, Valparaiso, Easter Island, and the northern cities of Iquique and Antofagasta. … Dittborn responded that in the future, I should visit the southernmost art museum in the world, in Castro [in Chiloé], and perhaps consider organizing an exhibition there. …

“I finally made it to Chiloé in 2015 with the artist Gianfranco Foschino. … It helped that Gianfranco was personally enthusiastic about organizing a contemporary art exhibition in Chiloé, but what became less clear once we’d made our initial reconnaissance of the island was whether or not MAM Chiloé was the ideal venue for a project that would function largely as a platform for local artists. After spending time with and talking to various artists living on the island, it seemed that, for most, the museum functioned as a venue for artists based in Santiago. If I wanted to see where local artists showed, I’d need to dig a little deeper into the patchwork of regional museums, municipal libraries, gallery-cafés, and community centers, which tended to be scattered all over Chiloé, and on the nearby islands of Quinchao and Lemuy.

“My last time in Chiloé, in November 2019 … I started envisioning Alrededores more as a long-term curatorial endeavor, where instead of artworks appearing for one season and vanishing, some might require years even to come to fruition. That would place the project closer in spirit to the niche that the Chilote artist Chumono opened up with his site-specific Muelle del Alma (‘Pier of the Soul’), which since its 2005 construction has become emblematic of art and nature co-existing on mutually beneficial terms. Thousands of visitors each year park their cars near the village of Cucao and hike nearly three miles through verdant hills and pastures to the westernmost edge of the island.

“There, according to Chiloé folklore, the boatman Tempilcahue will someday ferry them to the afterlife; fittingly, Chumono’s wooden ramp visually beckons visitors up into the sky and out over the Pacific Ocean. …

“The most exciting part of my plan was the possibility that Chiloé’s artists might end up with an international context for their work, without rupturing the sociocultural framework of their lives.

“The art was already there — I had already been surprised by its depth, and it was simply a matter of introducing the world to it. Even if cultural tourism, broadly speaking, was on a temporary hiatus as new waves of COVID spread worldwide, other avenues could bring the public to the art of Guillermo Grez or Anelys Wolf, or to the sole-proprietor storefront Museum of the Accordion in Chonchi.

“The latter, a modest but beloved establishment, preserves an integral part of the musical legacy left through centuries of ships — on which the accordion was that rare instrument capable of surviving adverse conditions — rounding Tierra del Fuego to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which slowed to a crawl after the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal. Part of the original Alrededores concept had been to move the museum’s collection — acquired long ago from sailors who left their accordions for repair and never returned — temporarily to MAM Chiloé, while putting some TLC into the museum’s display and conservation in Chonchi, where exhibits are typically set out on folding tables with hand-written labels.

“This month I’m returning to Chiloé for the fifth time in eight years … in pursuit of something that compels me to return over and over again, and to continue dreaming of a truly marvelous future art exhibition.”

More at Hyperallergic, here, where you can click through the curator’s updates. No firewall, nice pictures.

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Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images.
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is set designer on a Karen Blixen fantasy movie. So cool! But this is not the queen’s first rodeo.

I didn’t know anything about Denmark’s artist-queen before seeing an article in the Guardian. The report made me want to learn more.

Andrew Pulver wrote, “Queen Margrethe II, reigning monarch of Denmark, is to design the sets for a forthcoming Netflix film adapted from a novel by Karen Blixen. …

“A romantic fantasy set in the fairytale kingdom of Babenhausen, Ehrengard will be directed by Bille August, the veteran Danish director of Pelle the Conqueror (which won both the Palme d’Or and Oscar for best foreign language film in 1988) and The Best Intentions (which won August a second Palme d’Or).

“Margrethe, who ascended to the Danish throne in 1972 and is commander-in-chief of the country’s defence forces, has also had a long career as an artist, including drawing the illustrations for Danish editions of Lord of the Rings, and exhibitions at galleries including the Arken Museum of Modern Art in Ishoj near Copenhagen. She also has screen credits as a production designer on the 2009 [fairy] tale The Wild Swans, and a short film adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen in 2000.

“In a statement, Margrethe said: ‘Karen Blixen’s stories have always fascinated me, with their aesthetic tales, their imagination and their, to me, image-creating worlds – and I’m very happy to be part of this project.’ …

“August added: ‘The Queen has created the most fantastic decoupages for the occasion, and they will be the dominant feature of the film’s overall scenographic expression.’ ” More at the Guardian, here.

In a WordPress blog post from the Danish Home of Chicago, Mia wrote more about the queen: “Bewitching memories came tumbling out when I read about ‘The Fairy-Tale Queen‘ at Amalienborg Museum in Copenhagen. The special exhibit … is the work of Queen Margrethe II, whose artwork is on display. The exhibit shows the queen’s costume designs and scenography for productions of fairy tales, including ThumbelinaThe Steadfast Tin SoldierCinderella and The Nutcracker, that were presented at The Royal Theatre and The Pantomime Theatre. …

“I couldn’t wait to ask our friend Farfar, who lives at the Danish Home, whether he knew about the multi-talented queen of Denmark.[He] always thought of Margrethe as a pretty young thing. Her father, Frederik IX, was the Danish sovereign Farfar grew up revering. He had moved to the U.S. by the time Margrethe became queen in 1972. ‘I remember that she wore a daisy pin on her wedding gown,’ Farfar said, surprising me. ‘Daisy is her nickname, you know.’

“As a resident of The Danish Home, Farfar celebrates Queen Margrethe’s April 16 birthday every year … but he had never heard of her prodigious artistic talent. …

“While still the crown princess, Margrethe had sent J.R.R. Tolkien her own illustrations for his Lord of the Rings book. She used a pseudonym, so Tolkien had no idea the artwork that so charmed him had a royal provenance. The queen’s illustrations were published in a 1977 Danish edition of the Tolkien classic.

“Over the years, Margrethe has not only dreamed up costume designs, scenography and illustrations, but has also designed some of her own clothes and created paintings that have been displayed in some of Denmark’s most popular museums. Some of her watercolors appeared last year on postage stamps of Greenland, which is a constituent country of Denmark.

“She [is] serious enough about her art to clear her schedule every Thursday afternoon in devotion to it.” More.

At the Culture Trip, Aliki Seferou has more on the queen’s illustrations for the Danish version of The Lord of the Rings. “In 1977, five years after Margrethe’s father had died, leaving her the throne of Denmark, the Queen’s illustrations were printed and published in the Danish edition of The Lord of The Rings as well as on a British edition published by the Folio Society. If you’ve seen these editions and wonder how her name slipped your attention, it’s because Queen Margrethe used the pseudonym Ingahild Grathmer. …

“Even though the Queen of Denmark has an impressive academic background with studies in Political Science at Aarhus University, … Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and some years at the London School of Economics, it seems that she’s always been attracted to more creative activities. She’s known for designing her own dresses, ceremonial garments for the Danish bishops as well as costumes for theatrical plays. Among her most popular works are her designs for the movie Wild Swans, which is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s renowned fairy tale, and her costumes for the Royal Danish Ballet’s production of A Folk Tale.” More.

I have to say that my favorite part may be that, by tradition, this woman artist is the commander in chief of her nation’s defense department.

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Photo: Paul Braven/ AAP.
Images in support of the men and women fighting devastating bushfires were projected onto the Sydney Opera House January 2020

Remember the massive fires in the Australian bush and all the terrified koalas? It wasn’t that long ago. Artists were among those who used their talents to raise funds in the aftermath. I think the opinion piece written for the Conversation in January 2020 about Australia foreshadows the many ways artists were destined to help during the international disaster we now refer to as Covid.

Jo Caust, associate professor at the University of Melbourne, wrote the op-ed because at the time, a government was treating the arts as a nice-to-have but unnecessary frill.

Caust wrote, “Artists are again finding themselves at the receiving end of criticism over funding.

“A mural on the wall of a fire station funded through the Western Australia Percent for Art scheme has met with a hostile reaction in the light of the bushfire crisis.

“In WA [Western Australia] all new public buildings costing $2 million or more must spend 1% of the building costs on public art projects – a bipartisan initiative since 1989.

“Public art plays an important role in connecting communities, humanizing the environment and giving a community a unique identity, but WA Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Steve Thomas told the ABC ‘I think it is time for this policy to end. [It] is more important to put that money into the equipment [emergency services] require rather than art work to decorate the building,’ he said.

“Artists are a critical community resource, but this criticism is a familiar refrain in Australia, where arts practice is seen as non-essential.

“The federal government determined in December 2019 the arts no longer matter to the nation by disappearing the arts from mention as a governmental responsibility and continuing to cut arts funding.

Across the country, the average income of artists from their artwork is A$18,800, yet artists have raised millions of dollars in support of the 2020 bushfire crisis.

“Comedian Celeste Barber has raised over $50 million from more than 1.2 million people to help those who need it. Pink, Elton John, Metallica, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Chris Hemsworth, Kylie and Danni Minogue – to name only a handful – have personally donated large amounts of their own money to help fighters and victims.

“Visual artist Scott Marsh raised more than $60,000 by painting a mural in Chippendale. … The Stardust Circus prevented a blackout at the Ulladulla Evacuation Centre by lending their generator. Theatre companies are organizing collections at their performances for bushfire relief.

More than 32 concerts are taking place across the country with musicians giving their time for free to fundraise. Visual artists are auctioning their work. Writers, illustrators and editors are donating books, mentoring, and naming rights to characters in forthcoming books to support firefighters. …

“Art and artists can have a transformational role in rural communities by building resilience. Rural communities value their local history and artists can play an essential role in recording and validating a community’s culture.

“Arts institutions, such as regional galleries, can also have a dramatic impact on a community. In 2012, the Bendigo Art Gallery generated $16.3 million for the local economy. The Book Town festival in Clunes, the Writers Festival in Byron Bay and the Folk Festival in Port Fairy are all crucial to the sense of community in those towns.

“Artists can be critical in restoring hope and providing healing to a community after it has experienced trauma. The Creative Recovery Network works together with emergency management agencies across Australia to help communities affected by trauma and natural disasters to recover from their experiences. …

“While the arts can create provocation, they can also be a means of honoring feelings and processing grief. There are times when communities need more than financial relief to recover from loss. They need a way to make sense of it so they can move forward.

“Artists have stepped up in a huge way at this dark time in Australian history by volunteering their talents and resources to support communities and firefighters.

“They have demonstrated artists and arts practice can contribute to our society with passion, ingenuity, and imagination. It is time the arts and artists received the respect they deserve by our governments and the broader community.”

More at the Conversation, here.

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Illustration: Shivani Javeri.
Many artists in India donated their work to fundraisers such as the Fearless Immunity art sale to help others during the height of the pandemic.

You can trust artists to come through when there’s a need for empathy. They are often sensitive enough — perhaps wounded enough — to feel someone else’s pain and want to do something about it.

For example, as Rohini Kejriwal reports at Hyperallergic, India’s creative community became a beacon of hope during Covid-19, using their talents to raise money for vulnerable populations.

“In April and May, amidst a devastating second wave of COVID-19, India faced an overwhelming shortage of hospital beds and vaccines, choked crematoriums, and a rising death count. …

“From their homes, artists took to social media and used visuals, words, and even cake to raise funds for frontline workers and organizations helping affected communities get basic supplies like oximeters, thermometers, basic medicines, and masks. From every part of the country, illustrators, photographers, poets, and bakers came together to do their bit. 

“Hundreds of illustrators across the country have sold their prints, calendars, and other merchandise in exchange for donations to individuals and organizations most affected by coronavirus. … Keeping transparency in mind, the artists and their supporters shared donation receipts publicly, and Instagram was suddenly flooded with posts by good Samaritans doing whatever they could. 

“Several artists also took on commissions, like Shivani Javeri and Upamanyu Bhattacharyya, who made digital portraits for COVID-19 relief, and Divya, who did pet portraits on commission. Ria Mohta of Artisan’s Arbor created Feel Good postcards, through which people could buy postcards and write a customized message for loved ones. Creative Dignity, a volunteer-run movement, has been working to help traditional artisans and craftspeople from India who face the double threat of a health crisis and livelihood uncertainty. 

“Several print sales have been hosted by the photography community as well, like Art for India, Ode to India, and Prints for Hope by Eight Thirty; Chennai Photo Biennale’s PhotoSolidarity, as well as the Print for Srishti sale, with 45 participating photographers, initiated by photojournalist Smita Sharma.

“A series of art sales, in which multiple artists pooled and sold their work to raise funds as a collective, also arose. Author-illustrator Devangana Dāsh brought together 26 talented women artists to sell digital artworks; Kulture Shop ran two Art Fights Covid campaigns with 50 artists selling their art for oxygen relief; the Fearless Collective created an art sale Fearless Immunity; and LOCOPOPO and a group of artists and illustrators sold their original works and art prints.

A Friendly Fundraiser was started by a group of friends who decided to donate their time in exchange for donations, offering a variety of services and experiences from home coffee brewing, writing better college essays, personalized digital portraits, and even guidance on raising a puppy in lockdown. More recently, community fundraisers with various workshops and panels have grown in popularity, like student-run initiative Moonflower COVID Relief and Sensory Expansion by Unlocked

“India’s poetry and music communities have also had a part to play. In May, a group of writers hosted an evening of poetry, In the Dark Times, There Will Be Singing. Poet Nakuul Mehta is currently running #PoemsForHumanity, where he writes and performs an original poem for those who donate. 

“Even the independent music community has been doing their bit. Producer Arjun Vagale mobilized his friends in the Indian electronic music community, and together, they created a charity compilation album titled SOS. Producers Sanaya Ardeshir and Krishna Javeri collaborated with the coffee estate Kerehaklu to create Kerelief, natural soundscapes intended to bring calm. Sanaya, along with 11 other producers, also helped create CRSP (Covid Relief Sample Pack),  a bespoke sample pack of sounds produced from across the globe.

“Offering workshops as a way to share practical knowledge also became a way to incentivize donations. Shub (also known as the Hungry Palette) hosted a visual journaling workshop, and natural color maker Manya Cherabuddi started a fundraiser called Find Your Calm and donated all the proceeds from her classes on natural dyes and pigments. In June, NPI Collective hosted a 3-day workshop on children’s books as maps to help navigate the pandemic.”

More at Hyperallergic, here.

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