Artist Date: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Art in Bloom – April 29, 2018

I can hardly believe that I allowed 35 years of my life to pass without taking in this gem: the Art in Bloom exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA).

This was the 35th year that the MIA invited florists, both novice and professional, to imitate or interpret an existing work of art through a floral creation.

I have bragged on MIA’s docents before, but on Art in Bloom weekends, they take their skills to another level, not only offering historical background and their insight on paintings and sculptures, but also introducing us to familiar and not-so-familiar plant life and its use in artistic design.

In the process of my tour of some modern and contemporary selections, I discovered a few new artists and pieces of art among MIA’s permanent collection:

“An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo (Hand-Shaped Earring)” by Morimura Yasumasa
This Japanese artist dresses and poses as a well-known figure—Marilyn Monroe, Mona Lisa, etc.—then paints a “self portrait.” The process itself is extremely creative, but, boy, what detail this painter lends to his work. In his depiction of Frida Kahlo, the Louis Vuitton wrap bears an amazing and oh-so realistic texture and vibrancy. Wow!

“Billboard” by Grace Hartigan
Hartigan used 1950s advertisements as her inspiration in creating an abstract collage of color blocks and simple figures. “Billboard” began with an  arrangement of images from “Life” magazine—this became Hartigan’s model for her painting. Note to self: Try this!

“Young Woman in Undergarments” by Wilhelm List 
The mother-and-daughter team who created the floral imitation of this painting were on hand to point out sweet details of this painting; the pair had obviously studied it well to arrive at their own composition of precisely placed hydrangeas, carnations and greenery. Both works of art carried an intriguing mix of light and dark, light and lush.

“Italian Town by the Sea” by Alexandra Exter
Vibrant colors. Juxtaposed shapes. A little tension. A dynamic flow. This abstract painting boasts all the qualities that bless my eye with delight. A student of cubism, Exter took the approach and made it all her own by including realistic hues and shading. It’s always a treat to learn of another woman of independent courage!

Again, these were just the highlights of my first Art in Bloom experience. Next year, I hope to extend my visit and to explore more genres… and to welcome spring with some beautiful flowers, too!

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An Artist’s Bookshelf – May 2018

img_1248This month’s reads are the “next chapters,” so to speak, of other works I’ve read or seen recently. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf in May…

Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel by Iris Barrel Apfel & Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Barrel Apfel
When I was a relatively new Netflix subscriber, I came across the documentary “Iris” about a spicy older woman with colorful clothes and accessories from all over the world. She has a magical knack for layering, be it bangle upon bangle, or feathers upon hound’s tooth, or chunky chain link necklaces upon 19th Century vestments. It’s fun to page through these two biographies by Iris Apfel’s own hand and really study her sense of style and talents in color and texture. A truly unique brand of artist!

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this book suggestion by my local library is based on a painting that I remember from the “Modern Art & Ideas” Coursera course I finished last month. The author was inspired by “Christina’s World,” a piece by Andrew Wyeth; Baker Kline recreates the life of Christina Olson who experienced the physical limitations brought on by polio. The book reminds me of one of my favorites from years ago—Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland—that revolves around one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. Such writings further prove that creativity begets creativity!

Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration by Working Artists by Ricë Freeman-Zachary
I so enjoyed reading Freeman-Zachary’s Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art in March that I picked up another one of her books! Once again, the author showcases the stories and artwork of all kinds of artists and offers exercises that can help the rest of us to collect ideas and to pursue projects, too. So far, I really like the simple tip of collecting paint-sample cards and mixing them together to test different combinations of colors. I’m totally going to do this!

“Beachside Sunset” (Oil Pastel)

img_1164“Beachside Sunset”
Barbara Farland
Oil Pastel, 2018

I made a promise to “show my work” in a blog post a couple months ago, so here’s the latest. It’s no masterpiece and it’s quite elementary in subject and composition, but I was itching to test out a technique I saw on Facebook posted by The Artful Parent.

The post’s author claimed that oil pastels are easy to blend using a cotton swab dabbed in some oil. Perhaps this is an obvious or well-known technique to most, but I had never been exposed to it. I pulled out my eight pastels (a cheap set of crayons that are part of an even larger set of other cheap art supplies) and, after about thirty minutes of experimentation, I had “Beachside Sunset.”

The blending process was quite fun! Though I prefer the more cohesive blending effects of soft pastels, I appreciated that the mess was very minimal with the oil variety. Again, I only invested about half an hour in this particular piece of art, so perhaps a slower pace and a little more practice will only grow my preference for oil pastels.

 

 

An Artist’s Bookshelf – April 2018

img_1161As always, my plunge into all things art includes some notable books on the topic. Here’s what I’m reading in April…

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Every book that I’ve read about art so far either refers to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or this one (or both). I’m about two-thirds of the way through it and have gleaned some practical insight on how to make sure my creative ideas make their way to real endeavors. Each chapter comes in two parts: 1) Tharp’s narrative on how she’s invented her own creative habit in the world of dance and 2) exercises to apply in our own creative lives.

Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Philippe Petit
I have no idea what to expect from this book, which is by the guy who may be best known for his illegal tight-wire walk between the Twin Towers in the 70s. It was this teaser that intrigued me to check it out: “With the reader as his accomplice, Petit reveals fresh and unconventional ways of going about the artistic endeavor, from generating and shaping ideas to practicing, problem-solving and ultimately pulling off the ‘coup’ itself—executing a finished work.”

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman
It was through an invitation to curate an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City that this book came to be. Not only does Kalman pay tribute to all the items she chose for the exhibit, but she also weaves in some fantastic autobiographical writing and artistry. It makes me ponder the items by which I am fascinated: the five-dollar rummage-sale quilt that my family used in our camper during my growing up (my mom recently gifted this treasure to me), handmade bowls, yarns of striking hues, and books, books, books. Kalman’s is a delight!

Artist Date: Minneapolis Institute of Art – April 13, 2018

A sneak peek into “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

What a jewel of an art museum we have here in the Twin Cities! How incredible that anyone can step up to an original Van Gogh, Monet, etc., free of charge any day of the week (except Monday when the museum is closed). An added bonus? A free docent-led tour at 1 p.m. whenever the museum is open—just meet the day’s guide at the main desk for an hour-long “highlights” tour of his or her choosing.

Here are the highlights of what I saw and learned during my most recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA)

Technique: Collision of art & theater
As an MIA member, I was able to score free tickets to the MIA’s featured exhibit “Power and Beauty in China’s Last Dynasty,” which was conceived and designed by Robert Wilson, a theater director and artist. If you plan to take it in, I don’t want to give too much away—in short, it was a sensory treat complete with sound, artifacts, etc., and a new experience around every corner. I examined the walls of the exhibition space just as much as the items on exhibit. Go, go, go if you can!

Term: Automatic drawing
I happened upon a room filled with works by Minnesota artist George Morrison (more about him below) and fell upon the term “automatic drawing” in the description of one of his untitled works. In his artist statement, automatic drawing is defined as a technique “in which the artist’s hand creates a mark without thought or intention in order to access the creative imagination of the subconscious.” Despite Morrison’s unintentional approach to the piece, I love the balanced, seemingly planful result.

Artwork: “Dining Room in the Country” by Pierre Bonnard
Our docent chose to introduce us to pieces by artists who were contemporaries and friends of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (even though there are no works by Whistler in the MIA’s collection). As the docent suggested, it’s a painting that makes you want to take in a big deep breath in hopes to inhale the fragrance of the rich floral background. I, for one, would love to shove that cat to the side and take my place in that chair to chat with my visiting friend, knit a few rows, and enjoy the colorful surroundings.

Artist: George Morrison
Back to George Morrison… The variety of his work is astounding—from painting, to pen and ink, to wood collage. It seems like this man could make any medium ultimately resemble a picturesque landscape. It’s interesting to note that his artistic talents may have taken root during a fourteen-month hospital stay at age 10. He was recovering from surgery necessitated by tuberculosis, says MNopedia.

Takeaway: Automatic drawing & “Other Side of the Room” project
It goes without saying that I’d love to try my hand at automatic drawing; I’m going to test it using my black ink pens of various tip sizes. In addition, while viewing “Dining Room in the Country,” I was reminded of another interesting red room I had recently come across in my Coursera.org studies: “The Red Studio” by Henri Matisse. In my mind’s eye, I imagine the rooms depicted in both paintings as one! This got me to thinking… What other pieces of art would I pair together using similar logic? This question birthed yet another assignment for my growing list!