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Posts Tagged ‘painting’

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The result of my grandson’s class in Japanese marbling technique. Suminagashi, or “ink-floating” on paper, has been around since the 12th century.

Not long ago, my older grandson’s class, which is studying Japan, went to the Boston Children’s Museum. The museum features an entire traditional home that was shipped from Japan years ago and rebuilt indoors.

While there, the 8-year-olds practiced an ancient painting technique, Japanese Suminagashi, which uses the unpredictable swirling of water to create one-of-a-kind images.

I love the idea of one-of-a-kind. Children are one-of-a-kind, too, all wonderful in their own way, and I like to hear about them getting a break from standardized-testing molds.

According to the website Beyond the Chalkboard, in which the Boston Children’s Museum helps teachers with enrichment activities, “Suminagashi, Japanese for ‘ink-floating,’ is a paper marbling technique that was practiced in Japan as early as the 12th century.  Creating these beautifully marbled pieces of paper encourages children to relax, focus and observe the changing swirls in front of them. …

“It is very important that everything used in this activity (the brushes, trays and jars) be as clean as possible. The trays or tubs you use should be at least 2 1/2” deep. Tupperware containers and some aluminum pie tins will work. Make sure that the paper you are using is smaller than the width and length of the trays.

“Fill each tray with 2 inches of room-temperature water, making sure to keep the water free of dust, oil or soap. Pour a small amount of sumi ink into each empty baby food jar, and have pairs of students share a jar.”

The instructions include advice on first discussing what swirls are and also what children already know about Japan.

Here are the instructions, in part.

“1. Make sure your hands and the water tray are CLEAN while you fill it with water. Keep the water and the papers free of dust, oil and soap.
“2. Find a steady place to lay your two brushes, wooden skewers or toothpicks.  Place one brush or skewer on the left side of the water tray and one on the right side.  Dip the left side brush or skewer into the ink.  If using a brush, you only need a little bit of ink!  The surface of the water will pull ink from the brush.  …
“3. Carefully touch the very tip of the inked brush or skewer just to the surface of the water in the middle of the tray.  …
“4. Lay down the inked brush and pick up the other brush (the un-inked one on the right side of the tray).  Touch the end of this brush or skewer either to the side of your nose (your nose has lots of oil on it), to a bar of soap, or (just barely) to the top of a detergent bottle.  Touch the tip of this oily or soapy brush/skewer to the water INSIDE THE DOT of ink (or the center of the tray, if you can’t see the ink yet).  You might see the ink that is floating on the surface of the water move away from where you touched. …
“5. Repeat, alternating between brushes, and always touch the brush tips in the middle of the ink circle on the surface of the water. You should soon see many concentric circles. Once you feel you have enough, you can gently blow across the surface of the water to start creating swirls. …
“6. When you like what you see on the water, pick up a piece of paper, holding it from the sides.  Bring the ends together a bit so the middle of the paper bends down toward the water — now you can lay the paper on the water, starting from the center and quickly laying down the sides and letting go. It may take some practice to get this to be a quick, smooth motion. …
“7. Now lift the paper off the water (if there seems to be a wash of ‘loose’ ink on the surface of the paper, try gently, quickly rinsing the paper under the faucet). The ink that actually printed will stay on the paper.
“8. Lay the your print on the newspaper to dry.”

More here and at Suminagashi.com. My grandson also alerted me to a Japanese anime called My Neighbor Totoro that he saw in school, and my husband and I got it from Netflix. We like Japanese animations.

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Photo: Honolulu Museum of Art
“Black Lava Bridge, Hana Coast No. 1,” 1939, by Georgia O’Keeffe.
 

Who knew that the great Southwest artist Georgia O’Keeffe also painted Hawaii? I myself was surprised to read the report at the New York Times of a new exhibit showcasing the artist’s Hawaii art.

William L. Hamilton writes, “Finding out Georgia O’Keeffe had a Hawaiian period is kind of like finding out Brian Wilson had a desert period.

“But here it is: ‘Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawaiʻi,‘ 17 eye-popping paradisal paintings, produced in a nine-week visit in 1939, and now on display at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, through Oct. 28.

“It is the first time the largely unknown group has been shown together since its original exhibition in 1940 at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, An American Place, in New York. In addition, there are two oil sketches never before exhibited. And not a bleached skull in sight.

“As with previous shows on artists — including Frida Kahlo and Claude Monet — the Garden has also mounted a living display of the subjects depicted in the artworks, and more. In the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory are over 300 tropical plant types, representing the three major groups of flora in Hawaii. …

“[The] air is palpable in the humidly colored, freshly amplified palette of her paintings of hibiscus, wild ginger, pink ornamental banana, and the sea and landscapes in the library gallery, with its muted gray background, as meditatively sensual as a Hawaiian open-air church.

“That air also hangs, warmly spiced, in the Conservatory, with a profuse display of the natural exoticism of the islands that goes well beyond the painter’s depiction. …

“ ‘Every single portrait she painted — the heliconia, calliandra — they’re all imported,’ Todd Forrest, the Garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections, said of O’Keeffe’s output. ‘That’s the sort of flora people have in their mind’s eye when they think of the islands.’ …

“Missing from her vision, as eager to absorb the overwhelming newness of the place as she was, were Hawaii’s true nobility: the hundreds upon hundreds of native species that exist nowhere else. To its credit, the Conservatory has represented them too, a group rarer to see than even the paintings. …

“O’Keeffe, of course, is an art world star, one of the first of the 20th century’s artists singled out for celebrity. Her larger-than-life flowers are famous too. Since 1924, she had studied and depicted them — gone to the startling heart of them — with her original style. …

“She was already a celebrity in 1939 when at 51, self-created and self-confident, she was asked by N.W. Ayer & Son, a Philadelphia advertising agency, to travel to the islands to produce two print-ad images for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, later Dole. Not known for commercial work, O’Keeffe had completed a commission in 1936 — what would be the largest of her flower paintings — for the Elizabeth Arden Sport Salon in New York. …

“ ‘What she wanted was an adventure,’ [Honolulu Museum of Art deputy director Theresa Papanikolas] said. …

“ ‘Many of the native plants are endangered and therefore they can’t be shipped,’ explained Francisca Coelho, who designed the edenic installation. The Garden worked with the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, which provided cuttings and seedlings of natives legally transportable. …

“And there are tiny groves of pineapples. O’Keeffe cavalierly neglected to paint any while she was in Hawaii on Dole’s dime. Her sponsors had to send her a pineapple when she got back to New York. Ignoring that, she painted a pineapple plant from her memory of being in the fields — a budding fruit guarded like a queen by its threatening wreath of swordlike leaves and fire-colored dirt.

“ ‘I laughed so hard,’ said Christine Gentes, who was visiting the Garden from Chicago with her daughter and sister. ‘She did it for an ad, and turned it into a painting. I mean, she really resisted. Artists never like to do that kind of work.’ ”

Lots of great pictures here and here.

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The artist I have in mind is four. Here are some watercolors he painted over a couple days at Christmas.

The Christmas tree is green along the left side, but this artist likes lots of color. He is careful to keep colors from running together and getting muddy.

He paints snowmen and people in twos.

The still life features a banana, apples, grapes, a pear and limes.

I love that over two days, his people evolved to have hair, arms and a discernible smile. I’m smiling, too..

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If you can get to the N.C. Wyeth exhibit at the Concord Museum by September 18, I think it will be worth your while.

You’re familiar with the family of painters, the Wyeths, right? Best known are Nathaniel C., his son Andrew, and Andrew’s son, Jamie. Perhaps you have been to the Brandywine Museum in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania, which got its start with generations of Wyeth art.

N.C. fell in love with Henry D. Thoreau‘s writing in 1909, made several pilgrimages to Concord, and eventually conceived of a book that he would illustrate , calling it Men of Concord: And Some Others as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

The Concord Museum and the Concord Library are each hosting exhibits related to the book, but if you like N.C.’s art, the museum exhibit is the one to see. It’s small but informative and lovely to look at.

N.C. was known for heroic illustrations of classics like Treasure Island, and his characters’ facial expressions and body postures always tell a story. That might be too literal for some art lovers, but I like it. I like the looks on the faces of three men Thoreau described in his journal as “slimy.” I like the watchful, coiled bodies of the muskrat hunters on the river, and the youthful innocence of N.C.’s Thoreau — a quality I have never associated with the writer.

One fanciful painting with bluebirds in a bubble of light like angels over Thoreau’s head seems like hagiography. It’s not my favorite work here, but it’s an intriguing summary of the writer’s interests. And people do make a religion out of Thoreau and Transcendentalism, so maybe it’s not surprising. The whole Concord gang — including Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson — is in the show, minus most of the brilliant women, of course.

One thing I learned was that N.C. had his pencil sketches converted into glass slides, and then he projected them onto the Renaissance board he favored so he could work directly on the enlarged sketch.

More on the museum website.

The hut is a replica of the cabin Thoreau stayed in at Walden Pond and is located on the grounds of the museum.

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Back when Netscape was the browser of choice, I clicked every day on What’s Cool, and I think that is how I learned about the Museum Of Bad Art (MOBA), “a community-based, private institution dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all its forms and in all its glory.” I read that many pieces were pulled out of dumpsters and attics — or found abandoned by the side of the road.

Twenty years later, I got to wondering if MOBA was still around. I found lots of information on their expanded website.

“MOBA was founded in the fall of 1993 and presented its first show in March 1994. The response was overwhelming. Since then, MOBA’s collection and ambitions have grown exponentially.

“Initially, MOBA was housed in the basement of a private home in Boston. This meager exhibition space limited the museum to being a regional cultural resource for the New England area.

“As the only museum dedicated to bringing the worst of art to the widest of audiences we felt morally compelled to explore new, more creative ways of bringing this priceless collection of quality bad art to a global audience. Another Boston-area cultural institution, Dedham Community Theatre, generously allowed MOBA the use of their basement. Our first permanent gallery is now conveniently located just outside the men’s room in a 1927 movie theatre.

“The ambiance created such a convivial atmosphere, that when we went looking for a second location, the only place that was up to our quality standards was another theatre basement. The Somerville Theater in Davis Square, Somerville MA is now our second gallery.”

MOBA now exhibits online, publishes an email newsletter called MOBA News, and offers the book Museum of Bad Art : Masterworks. More here.

It was hard to pick one piece of art to show you from the many great examples online. But what’s not to love about the landscape below?

Says MOBA, “The wild westerly wind that devastated this peaceful bucolic landscape was strong enough to denude mature trees, grossly distort fair weather clouds, rend the fur from a cow, bend a wrought iron weather vane, and induce panic in a basset hound whose ears and tongue point due east. …

“In the note accompanying his donation, Mr. Roots wrote, ‘I was happy with the way the barn turned out. It was when I started animals and people that [I realized] I was having problems with proportions.’

“He enjoys other creative pursuits in addition to painting. ‘I have won the World’s Worst Poetry Contest in Pismo Beach, CA, placing 1st, 2nd, and 4th in separate years., [and] I have made many bottles of home brew and wine.’ ”

Art: Bob “Grandpa” Roots
“On a Windy Day,” Donated to the Museum of Bad Art

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I liked this story about a 91-year-old artist having his first solo show. John sent it to me. I hope the Arlington Advocate leaves it up for a while. (I know that all the profiles I wrote for the newspaper chain of which the Advocate is a part — and all my theater reviews — are long gone.)

A solo exhibition called ‘Umberto Centofante: A Life’s Work” was featured at the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) until last week and highlighted 40 years of still lifes, portraits and landscapes.

Heather Beasley Doyle writes, “When Umberto Centofante tells a story about his life or talks about his art, a distinct, almost palpable energy underscores his words. His eyes light up, his body springs lightly and a hearty laugh punctuates his paragraphs. …

“Centofante’s life began in Pontecorvo, Italy, where he grew up on his family’s farm. When he was eight years old, he says, his teacher gave him a sketchbook to take home with him.

“ ‘All of a sudden some ideas came into my head,’ Centofante recalled, and he filled the book with drawings of farm life. …

“The drawings earned him a prize and the opportunity to receive professional art instruction — a chance he had to pass up so he could help work the farm. Eventually, Centofante became a police officer and worked in Rome. After World War Two ended, he emigrated from Italy, bound for the Boston area and a job as a truck mechanic at Garwood Industries in Brighton he secured with help from an uncle who lived in Milton. Centofante had never been a mechanic, but he learned with the same intuition that had enabled him to fill the sketchbook.

“Centofante is ‘self-taught in everything,’ including painting, according to the oldest of his four children, Elaine Gleason. …

“In the Gibbs Gallery, Centofante’s paintings of boats ferrying passengers through white-capped brilliant blue seas share space with glowing, color-soaked portraits of children and exacting, nearly monochromatic nature scenes such as ‘High Moon.’ …

“Centofante says he never sketches out a project ahead of time — that he spends more time thinking and planning a painting than setting paint to canvas.

“ ‘I don’t design; I just start. I find the resolution very quickly,’ he explained. …

“Asked why he paints, he replied simply: ‘It makes me feel good.’ ”

Read more of the story at the Arlington Advocate.

Photo: Arlington.Wicked.Local.com

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Art: Thomas Hart Benton
One of my favorites: Spring on the Missouri, 1945, oil and tempera on Masonite panel. On loan to the PEM from the North Carolina Museum of Art.

 

 

When I was moonlighting as a theater reviewer, I always liked to “sleep on it” before writing anything, just in case my unconscious had anything useful to add.

Well, I slept on the big Thomas Hart Benton exhibition I saw yesterday, and sleep confirmed that certain lesser-known aspects of his work are troubling. I still adore the wavy energy of his landscapes, people, horses, trains, clouds, smoke, even fence posts. I still love the way Benton honors ordinary people and ordinary jobs and the way his paintings comment on social injustice.

But I really did not like the gruesome murals of invading armies that Benton created to jolt overly complacent Americans after Pearl Harbor. There was something cheap about them.

Of course, there was a lot more than that to the exhibition “American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood,” a sweeping retrospective of most of the artist’s work: murals showing Indians or slaves being mistreated, paintings of the the vibrant life of the West and Midwest, detailed depictions of the inner workings of Hollywood sets, designs for the Henry Fonda version of The Grapes of Wrath, illustrations for an edition of Huckleberry Finn, posters touting the contributions of African Americans to the war effort.

The day before, I had been hearing about Irving Berlin’s dedication to the war effort, and I think these two different artists conveyed, more viscerally than I had previously experienced, the underlying fear prevalent at that time. Since I grew up after it was all over, I probably unconsciously assumed that everyone always knew the Allies would win.

Do go to the show at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. You have until September 7. An enormous array of Benton’s work has been gathered from near and far — and there are some intriguing movie clips. (I was moved by a character’s tears to put The Grapes of Wrath on my Netflix list.)

Details of the exhibition here, at the PEM website.

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