Posts Tagged ‘sculptor’

800px-Augusta_Savage2C_H-HNE-20-87Augusta Savage, 1892-1962, American sculptor, an important figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Last night I watched a fascinating documentary about a glamorous movie star who would have preferred to be recognized as the brilliant inventor that she actually was: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. And I realized that lately I seem to be learning about many women whose achievements failed to garner the fame of their male contemporaries.

No time like the present to start honoring them. Here is the story of an African-American sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance.

Wikipedia has a good entry. “Augusta Christine Fells was born in Green Cove Springs (near Jacksonville), Florida on February 29, 1892, to Edward Fells, a Methodist minister, and Cornelia Murphy. Augusta began making figures as a child, mostly small animals out of the natural red clay of her hometown, Green Cove Springs Florida.

“Her father was a poor Methodist minister who strongly opposed his daughter’s early interest in art. ‘My father kicked me four or five times a week,’ Savage once recalled. … She persevered, and the principal of her new high school in West Palm Beach, where her family relocated in 1915, encouraged her talent and allowed her to teach a clay modeling class. This began a lifelong commitment to teaching as well as to creating art.

“In 1907 Augusta Fells married John T. Moore. Her only child, Irene Connie Moore, was born the following year. John died shortly thereafter. In 1915, she married James Savage; she kept the name of Savage throughout her life. …

“In 1919 [she] was granted a booth at the Palm Beach County Fair where she was awarded a $25 prize and ribbon for most original exhibit. Following this success, she sought commissions for work in Jacksonville, Florida, before departing for New York City in 1921. She arrived with a letter of recommendation from the Palm Beach County Fair official George Graham Currie for sculptor Solon Borglum and $4.60. Borglum declined to take her as a student, but encouraged her to apply to Cooper Union in New York City where she was admitted in October 1921.

“She was selected before 142 other men on the waiting list. Her talent and ability so impressed the Cooper Union Advisory Council that she was awarded additional funds for room and board when she lost the financial support of her job as an apartment caretaker. …

“In 1923 Savage applied for a Summer art program sponsored by the French government; although being more than qualified, she was turned down by the international judging committee solely because she was a black person. … The incident got press coverage on both sides of the Atlantic, and eventually, the sole supportive committee member sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil – who at one time had shared a studio with Henry Ossawa Tanner – invited her to study with him. She later cited him as one of her teachers.

“After completing studies at Cooper Union, Savage worked in Manhattan steam laundries to support herself and her family. … During this time she obtained her first commission for a bust of W. E. B. Du Bois for the Harlem Library. Her outstanding sculpture brought more commissions, including one for a bust of Marcus Garvey. Her bust of William Pickens Sr., a key figure in the NAACP, earned praise for depicting an African American in a more humane, neutral way as opposed to stereotypes of the time. …

“Knowledge of Savage’s talent and struggles became widespread in the African-American community; fundraising parties were held in Harlem and Greenwich Village, and African-American women’s groups and teachers from Florida A&M all sent her money for studies abroad. …

“Savage received a commission from the 1939 New York World’s Fair; she created Lift Every Voice and Sing (also known as ‘The Harp’), inspired by the song by James Weldon and Rosamond Johnson. The 16-foot-tall plaster sculpture was the most popular and most photographed work at the fair; small metal souvenir copies were sold, and many postcards of the piece were purchased. … Savage did not have funds to have it cast in bronze or to move and store it. Like other temporary installations, the sculpture was destroyed at the close of the fair. …

“In 1945 Savage moved to Saugerties, New York. … While she was all but forgotten at the time of her death, Savage is remembered today as a great artist, activist, and arts educator; serving as an inspiration to the many that she taught, helped, and encouraged.”

More at Wikipedia, here. I love all the random details at Wikipedia — like her cultivating a garden at her Saugerties home and selling pigeons, chickens and eggs. Check it out.

Photo: Andrew Herman
Augusta Savage posing with her sculpture
Realization, 1938, created as part of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project.


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Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

So, actually, he was an artist first and only did gardening to support himself as immigrant with no connections.

Los Angeles Times reporter Carolina A. Miranda wrote about him in July, around the time of the “Made in L.A.” biennial at the Hammer Museum.

She says, “When artist Kenzi Shiokava received a telephone call from a pair of curators organizing [the biennial], he says he had little clue of the meteoric effect it would have on his life.

“ ‘I’d never seen “Made in L.A.,” ‘ says the 78-year-old sculptor. ‘I’ve always been off the art establishment.’

“But as he does with anyone who is interested in seeing his work, he invited the curators — Hamza Walker and Aram Moshayedi — to his studio so that they could have a look at his totemic wood sculptures, junk-art assemblages and curiosity boxes featuring orderly, patterned displays of old toys, plastic fruit and discarded religious ephemera.

“Shiokava says he was buoyed by the visit but subdued in his expectations. ‘Lots of shows come and go,’ he says. …

” ‘I didn’t know it’d be like this,’ he says with a resplendent grin. ‘The response has been amazing.’…

“[Walker] says that from the moment he and Moshayedi stepped into Shiokava’s studio, early in 2015, they were sure that this was an artist they wanted to include in the show.

“ ‘It was pretty immediate,’ he says. ‘We were both speechless within 10 paces of the entrance. There were all of these totems right up front and we were like, woooowwww.’ …

“ ‘What’s always kept me going is people coming to my studio and enjoying the work,’ [Shiokava] says in his deeply accented English. ‘But now I know my work will have a legacy. My work will live.’ ”

Read about the artist’s early life as a Japanese immigrant in Brazil, how he ended up in LA, and how he began to develop his art while working as a gardener for Marlon Brando and others (here).

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Kenzi Shiokava in his studio.

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Four years ago, I blogged about some beautiful manhole covers is Japan. Now I learn that Minneapolis also has discovered the artistic possibilities of heavy, round metal that lots of people see as they cross the street.

Eric Grundhauser writes at Slate‘s Atlas Obscura blog, “Minneapolis has made its underfoot sewer covers a point of artistic pride, with designs that celebrate the area’s art, history, and wildlife.

“In the early 1980s, Minneapolis began asking artists to design iconic manhole covers for the city. … From David Atkinson’s whimsical summer grill design to Stuart D. Kippler’s introspective geography marker, each of the covers turned what was once a mundane city feature into a unique piece of art. …

“[Kate] Burke created sculpted images of regional icons like the Minnesota state fish (the walleye), the state fruit (Halverson apple), and the state bird (loon). The detailed pieces of steel each feature tableaux of their subject that make most municipal equipment look lazy by comparison.

“Some of the covers even feature small hidden details such as a worm in the state apple, or a pheasant erupting from the bronzed image of the state grain (wild rice).” More here.

I love that the Minnesotan sense of humor is part of the artistic effort. Reminds me of Massachusetts sculptor Mags Harries, who is still associated with the bronze banana peels, orange skins, and broken crates she embedded among the produce vendors in the Haymarket in 1976.

Photo: J Wynia/Creative Commons
Manhole cover in Minneapolis.

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Mary Ann is a creative person and a great source of blog ideas. She also remembers topics I’ve enjoyed in the past. For example, the stealth book artist in Scotland. She sent me word of the artist’s new accessibility.

The BBC reports, “An anonymous artist has been leaving delicate paper sculptures made from old books at locations in Edinburgh and around Scotland for more than three years.  The identity of the woman has remained secret despite the international attention that the book sculptures have received.

“BBC Scotland’s arts correspondent Pauline McLean conducted an interview with her — via email to maintain her anonymity.

“Question: Why did you start making the sculptures?

“Answer: The first book sculpture, a little tree for The Scottish Poetry Library, was made primarily as a response to library closures and cutbacks. But it was also as a bit of fun for the library staff who, throughout Scotland, the UK and much further afield, provide a service in straitened times — above and beyond. It was a poor attempt to illustrate the notion that a book is more than just a book — and a library is a special kind of building.

“It’s no secret that I would like everyone to have access to books, art, artifacts and the buildings that house them. Not just those with the money for a ticket. I think it’s true that the immediate way we can and do now access information has altered things. But it remains important to have expert help, to see things for real, to have buildings set aside that inspire and make expectations of us and that anyone can enter. …

“I like to think the sculptures have served their purpose in some small way, but I do worry that they overly draw attention to themselves as objects. My intention was never that they be viewed as artworks or even that they would last. They are, after all, made from clapped-out old books. The end for me though was in leaving them. Once a gift is given it is in the hands of another.” More here.

There are several good pictures of book sculptures at the BBC site. Suzanne’s Mom couldn’t resist the one below. It makes me nostalgic for the inspired ceramic tea cups of Anne Kraus.

Photo: Anonymous book sculptor
“Nothing beats a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and a really good book.”

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I have mentioned the Block Island Poetry Project in past years, and I wanted to let you know that I just got the scoop on this year’s theme.

Nancy writes, “The Block Island Poetry Project weekend will be April 16-19 and will focus on Poetry of the Wild, a project of Ana Flores, who visited just a few days ago to show us examples of what she’s been doing around the country for the last twelve years. … I’m in the process of developing my Poetry of the Wild poetry box project for the school.”

The Poetry of the Wild website explains, “Poetry of the Wild invites the public out for a walk to see their world anew through the keenly felt perspectives of poets and artists. Using a unique presentation of ‘poetry boxes’ that combine art and poetry, the project serves as a catalyst for exploring our towns and considering how place informs mindfulness. The public becomes engaged by finding the boxes which are sited as a network on mapped trails, reading the poems, and responding in the public journals contained in each.

“The sculptor Ana Flores created Poetry of the Wild in 2003 while she was the first artist in residence for the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association in Southern Rhode Island. Her mission was to use the arts to foster public awareness and stewardship of the land and waterways protected by the Association. That first project had a dozen boxes created by students from area schools, members of the environmental group and other artists. The public response was overwhelming during its three month tenure. It turned out that many people roaming the trails were poetic– but they had had no place to express themselves. Journals were replaced three times and the trails leading to boxes also became less littered.”

For more about Ana’s work, see earthinform.com. And for more about the Block Island Poetry Project (founded by 2008-2013 Rhode Island poet laureate Lisa Starr), click here.

Ana Flores

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The other day I was walking past the Emerson Umbrella and saw some new sculptures  on the lawn. I thought one, the graceful bent metal below, looked like two people dancing.

Geoff Edgers of the Boston Globe came to town to watch the installation and interview the sculptor, David Stromeyer.

“Stromeyer, a Marblehead native who splits his time between Vermont and Texas, has had his work shown at, among others, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the University of Vermont’s Robert Hull Fleming Museum, in Burlington. Stromeyer also has a connection to Concord. His sister-in-law, Mimsey Stromeyer, is a painter and mixed-media artist who is one of 54 artists renting space at Emerson Umbrella. …

“On the first day of installation, in the rain, Stromeyer and crew unloaded the steel pieces. The first challenge was lifting the heavy steel pieces over a series of wires on the site. On the second day, with the sun out, the artist worked on moving those pieces into place and mounting them properly. …

“He takes pride in the fact that he creates his art, from the twisting of the metal to the sandblasting and painting.

“ ‘It sounds really simple, but you don’t grab one end and turn it in the way you intuitively might think,’ he said. “[Each piece has] to be built incrementally, every inch, bending it in multiple directions at once. I spent two months building jigs for the hydraulic press to create those forms. And each twist is different.” More.

I’ve known Mimsey West (her professional name) for 30 years. One of her sons was in school with John. I love her art, especially some slightly abstract watercolors she did years ago of sheep in Wales.

A couple times a year the Umbrella artists hold open studios, and it really is a treat to go — lots of art available for one-of-a-kind holiday gifts.


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Fearless little bird on the back of a dog.



Grandson checking out playground, turtle deciding not to cross the road after all, Suzanne’s Mom taking pictures in Concord and around Boston Harbor.






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I liked this story by Penny Schwartz from the Sunday Globe. It’s about the painstaking work of restoring a magnificent synagogue built in the 17th and 18th centuries and destroyed by the Nazis in WW II.

“For the last 10 years, Laura and Rick Brown have been immersed in the art and architecture of Poland’s historic Gwozdziec synagogue. …

“Now, after a decade of research and building small-scale models, the Browns and their international team of 300 carpenters, artists, and students have created a nearly full-scale replica of the the triple-tiered roof and intricately painted ceiling and cupola of the Gwozdziec synagogue, considered one of the most magnificent, well-documented of the wooden synagogues of the era. …

“ ‘They really have done something miraculous,’ said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, professor of performance studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, who was tapped to lead the museum’s exhibit development team. …

“The Browns’ approach to building, using traditional tools and techniques dating back to the time the synagogue was built, offered something beyond having a copy of the synagogue roof built as a prop, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett said. …

“Both sculptors, the Browns came to the Gwozdziec project as founders and directors of Handshouse Studio, an educational nonprofit in Norwell [Massachusetts] that replicates historic objects using authentic methods. …

“Looking back on the journey, Laura and Rick say they are humbled by the hundreds of people, including many MassArt students and graduates, who have given so much time to this project.

“They are grateful to MassArt for allowing them the flexibility to create courses designed for the project including a series of Lost Historic Paintings’ classes analyzing and replicating quarter-scale, then half-scale models of the Gwozdziec synagogue ceiling panels.

“The 85 percent scale replica represents more than the grandeur of a long ago synagogue, Laura said. ‘This object speaks to a very painful history that is still very alive,’ she said.” More.

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Artist Rick and Laura Brown at their studio in Hanover, Massachusetts.

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Asakiyume has alerted me to a great story about an anonymous library patron in Scotland who creates sculpture from old books and deposits them in libraries by stealth. The artist makes reference in his (her?) sculptures to Scottish mystery writer Ian Rankin and dragons and all sorts of literary things. You will flip over the pictures here.

Asakiyume says she likes the quotations that the mystery artist leaves with the sculptures: “I liked ‘Libraries are expensive,’ corrected to ‘Libraries are expansive,’ and also the quote from Robert Owen … (founder of some utopian communities) … ‘No infant has the power of deciding … by what circumstances (they) shall be surrounded.’ ”

The messages remind me of the mysterious tea cups of Anne Kraus, which I described here.

Now although Asakiyume knew I would love the book art, she may not have known that I have a family reputation for stealth projects, like secretly leaving a small Zimbabwean soapstone sculpture of parents and baby in John’s house after Meran gave birth.

Recently, I was telling Erik about a few of my escapades, and he got a look on his face suggesting that he was a little worried about the family he had married into.

When I was on the publicity committee for a local theater producing a musical about George Seurat, I purchased Seurat greeting cards and left them in stores’ card racks around town. They got sold, but the sales staff would have had to wing the price as there was no price on them.

Then there was the year that I sent a series of postcards from different cities under different names to an ice cream shop and in each card suggested a type of frozen dessert the shop should carry. Every card had a different reason why customers might want that dessert.

It worked, and the shop must have made money off the dessert as they stocked it for years afterward.

Photo: ThisCentralStation.com

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I met Dedalus Wainwright when he was collaborating with a colleague of mine on an exhibit about carbon fiber. He is an artist, a sculptor.

Dedalus is having an open house this weekend at the Allston studio he rents from Harvard University.

In the studio, three tables full of models trace the origin of the full-sized painted aluminum sculptures you see here. He created the canes, or strips, in his models by cutting up drawings he had done in the past. Then he painted the blank sides with bright colors. I was intrigued by that multilayered approach and by what I could see by bending down and looking through the strips. I liked one model with especially intricate and colorful drawings and another that from the back reminded me of an Edvard Munch forest of ominous skinny trees.

I learned that a bird planted the seed that grew into the sculpture project.

Dedalus had been listening to a bird singing outside all day long. It may have been a mockingbird because it had so many different songs. At night, counting 47 different calls without one repeat, he dozed off, and when he awoke he had an idea for a sculpture with upright pieces such as you see here. If you look behind him, you also can see his studies of his pillars. Some are rising from what might be destruction, others from something more luminous.

There is a short bio of Dedalus at the Kinodance site. Read it here.

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