Artist Date: “Art Attack” – Nov. 2, 2018

Featured image: Works by Ashley Mary

I discovered the artist studios of the Northrup King Building last spring through “Art-a-Whirl” and fell in love with the environment—with the creative energy pulsing through all four floors of the hundred-year-old warehouse. It was a thrill to return for “Art Attack,” another special weekend when the artists open their studios to the public.

I’d like to shake the hand of anyone who has managed to see everything on display and for sale in that building. I managed to get to two floors and maybe a couple dozen studios of the 200 tenants. It comes as no surprise that I was especially drawn to the color-rich, abstract/impressionist works by the following local artists:

  • Megan Bell – I was first taken in by her choice of colors, which she says are inspired by the “colorful big skies, lakes, woods and prairie lands of my home state of Minnesota.” Her compositions, though completely controlled by her hand, remind me of the effects of pour painting.
  • Anna Dvorak – As an abstract landscape artist, Dvorak uses gorgeous hues of turquoise and green and gray to achieve striking impressions of horizons. I love the experimental spirit of her work, embracing how the paints “interact and intersect.”
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    My favorites by Anna Lowenthal Walsh

    Ashley Mary – Whimsical shapes. Vibrant colors. There’s a happy and playful, yet very complex, feel to her work. I’m not surprised that her aim is to “put the goodness back into the world” through her art. It shows.

  • Anna Lowenthal Walsh – I’m especially in love with Lowenthal Walsh’s bold geometric designs: stacked blocks and a pattern reminiscent of a log-cabin quilt block. I used to knit the latter; now I’m eager to try the design again on paper or canvas.
  • Katrin Schroeder – From a distance, Schroeder’s work may look like very clean and traditional still lifes. However, upon closer study, one notices that she throws some interesting drips into her portrayals of tidy flowers and applies the palette knife quite wildly to her landscapes.

It’s so fun to explore the work of others as I chart a course to my own destination as an artist. My list of “influences” only continues to grow.

 

An Artist’s Bookshelf – October 2018

Once again, I’m traveling the “mixed media” route when it comes to my learning more about artists and artistic practices. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf, screen, etc., this month:

“Abstract: The Art of Design” series on Netflix
In short, this series is so cool! The first episode is about Christoph Niemann, a German illustrator who has many New Yorker covers and several books to his credit. I love the observation he makes at the beginning of the episode: given how it’s produced, the show is both by and about him; Niemann’s illustrations actually sew the documentary together. It’s hard to explain but so worth a look. I can’t wait to follow Niemann’s work from now on and to check out the next artists featured in the series. 

The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer
This book was described to me as The Artist’s Way for Christians. It promises “creative renewal” through readings, journaling, and other exercises focused on getting closer to God and, at the same time, discovering what He designed me to be and do. I look forward to seeing how this book will speak into my artistic endeavors and their intersection with my faith.

Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy
Like The Creative Call, this book and study guide duo is focused on harnessing the spiritual capacity of art. “Collaborate with God,” reads the back cover of the study guide. What I specifically like about this collection is how it offers real-life examples of other people who have attempted this and, by all appearances, who have done it well. I can pray to add myself to their number.

 

Coursera’s “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting”

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Coursera.org, in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), has done it again. They are currently offering another fabulous and totally free course (as long as you don’t care about credits) on a totally fascinating topic.

“In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting” is part history lesson, part practicum. Instructor Corey D’Augustine is indeed the right guy to teach such a course being both a technical art historian and an artist. Some videos capture D’Augustine in studio demonstrating the characteristic techniques of Newman, Pollock and their New York School contemporaries. Other videos show D’Augustine standing before such artists’ original works at MoMA, helping us to observe nuances, to engage more fully in the “push” and “pull” of color values, etc. I absolutely love the mix of both study and application.

As you may have noticed through my blog posts, the former is much easier for me to accomplish these days compared to the latter. But this course is great motivation to apply myself more, and I’m going to start by testing some of the masking methods and “zips” for which Barnett Newman is known (see Week 2). As I proceed through the course, I’m certain my to-do list will only grow.

The “Magic” of Morrison

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“Lake Superior Landscape” by George Morrison

That’s how one of his friends and fans describes the nature of his work: “magic.”

I happened upon a room of George Morrison’s art at the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA) last spring. I liked what I saw. I really liked what I saw. But I like it even more now that I know more about the man and the story behind it.

Among our local public television station’s online archives is a special documentary on Morrison: “The Art and Life of George Morrison: A ‘Beyond the Book’ Special.” Born out of the award-winning book Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison by W. Jackson Rushing III and Kristin Makholm, and a collaboration between the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library and TPT Twin Cities PBS, the program does an excellent and elegant job of describing Morrison’s life and legacy. Here’s what I learned:

How it began – As a young boy, Morrison became very ill at age 8, even to the point of having his hip removed and bones fused together to help ensure his survival. It was during his convalescence that he began experimenting more with art and discovered his true calling as a fine artist.

Artist first – Though some were tempted to peg Morrison as a Native American artist and to expect certain qualities of his art given that label, he was undoubtedly an artist first. He studied in the Twin Cities, then New York, then Paris, completely fascinated with the process and any opportunity to attempt different methods and styles. Abstract, modern, expressionist—he was a master of all of these genres in and of themselves, and in combination, and more. That’s not to say that Morrison’s ethnicity didn’t play into a lot of his subject matter. It’s there, but in unique, even surprising, ways.

Unsentimental – No matter how much time and energy Morrison invested in a project, he fought sentimentality, believing that selling his work would offer more opportunities to do even more work. However, there is one piece with which the family has never parted: a painting that has hung over their oldest son’s bed since he was a young boy.

Found objects – I absolutely love Morrison’s wood collages. The documentary shows footage of him strolling the shores of Lake Superior with armloads of driftwood. By cutting and sanding and arranging these found objects, he would make the rather earthy and woodsy become rather metropolitan and contemporary—like magic.

I can’t wait to visit Morrison’s work again with a better understanding of its origins. I can’t wait to dig into Modern Spirit. And, as always, I can’t wait to see how my exposure to yet another accomplished artist inspires my own creativity and further learning.

 

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!