Thursday, July 28, 2016

REPRESENTATION MATTERS


"Without a doubt, if all black children were daily growing up in environments where they learned the importance of art and saw artists that were black, our collective black experience of art would be transformed." --bell hooks

I recently read an essay by bell hooks called "Art Is For Everybody"* which addresses the problem of black identification with art - why, in her words, "black folks have tended to see art as completely unimportant in the struggle for survival."  Shortly after reading the essay, I came across this photo in my Facebook newsfeed.  Never before have I seen one image which more embodies the importance of black representation in art.  My friend's daughter Elizabeth clearly saw something of herself in Mickalene Thomas' Three Graces: Les Trois Femmes Noires at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and this, folks, is how we solve the problem of black identification with the art establishment.

Cultural institutions, take note: representation matters.

Photo by Catherine Allison of her daughter Elizabeth (shared with her permission).
*I haven't been able to find the essay online, but you can read it in the book Drawing Us In: How We Experience Visual Art.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ALPHONSE MUCHA

"Art exists only to communicate a spiritual message."--Alphonse Mucha

Today is the 156th anniversary of Alphonse Mucha's birth!  I'm celebrating by revisiting one of my favorite posts from 2013, where I dressed in my best Mucha-inspired ensemble and frolicked through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  See the full post here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

GERHARD RICHTER AT SFMOMA





"Art is the highest form of hope." -Gerhard Richter

I finally got to visit the new SFMoMA yesterday, which reopened after a long remodel.  In anticipation of the visit, I painted this dress, inspired by Gerhard Richter's 256 Farben (256 Colors) from 1974, which is part of the Fisher collection at the museum.

The colors in Richter's color chart paintings are ordered by chance, which seems surprising when you encounter the precise-looking arrangement.    Of these works, Richter is quoted as having said that he "...found it interesting to tie chance to a wholly rigid order."  We happened to notice that there were more warm tones on the left side of the canvas, and for some reason this made me appreciate the painting even more.

It was fun wearing my handpainted dress to the museum, and I even made a few friends in the process.  One is a photographer from Seattle named Sam Saimo who took the photo below and kindly emailed it to me!  Another was an elderly lady who exclaimed, "There's hope in the world!" when I told her about my process for creating art-inspired clothing.

256 Farben is just one of the hundreds of modern works on few at the new museum, and I encourage you to make a visit the next time you're in the Bay Area.


Photos by William Sealy, and the bottom photo by Sam Saimo.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

ISIS OASIS


Isis depicted with outstretched wings (wall painting, c. 1360 BCE)

I had a very unique experience over the weekend, when I spent the night at the Isis Oasis Retreat Center, in Geyserville, CA.  In their words, the Isis Oasis is an animal sanctuary, non-profit temple, and community center guided by the Divine Feminine, the goddess Isis - around whom the entire operation is based.

Isis is the Egyptian goddess of health, marriage, and wisdom (also associated with nature and magic) and her name means "throne".  She married her brother Osiris and is the mother of Horus, the falcon god associated with kingship.  She was worshiped throughout Egyptian times, up until the present day, and is depicted countless times throughout Art History - commonly in hieroglyphics with her arms outstretched.

Isis is the theme of the retreat center, and there are two temples dedicated to her on site.  I enjoyed exploring the grounds, and using the opportunity to get closer to nature - and experience some solitude outside of the city.


Photos by William Sealy.

Monday, June 13, 2016

IA ORANA MARIA

Paul Gauguin, Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary), 1891.
Ever since I spotted this vintage jumpsuit in a thrift shop years ago, the young ladies depicted within its pattern have reminded me of Paul Gauguin's Tahitian paintings.  I wore it to the Metamorphoses exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 2014, but I never obtained proof of the garment's likeness to the paintings since photographs were prohibited within the space.  Yesterday afternoon at The Met, the outfit finally met its match.  The painting depicted, Ia Orana Maria (Hail Mary), was Gauguin's first major painting after he relocated to Tahiti, and it is interesting to note it's Catholic theme juxtaposed with Polynesian subjects.  I had a chuckle thinking about the trickle-down effect of culture and how an image so much like a 19th century masterpiece could be featured on a kitschy 1980s ensemble.

Photo by Kathy Paciello.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

WARM CALIFORNIA






Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of a very unexpected rainstorm, I stumbled into Andrew Kreps Gallery and Billy Al Bengston’s Warm California.  The hanging and standing scrolls that California-based Bengston created in the 1970s fill the gallery, recalling the effects of light on the surface of water.  To me, walking through the gallery felt something like being surrounded by the fronds of a weeping willow – the hanging scrolls swayed every so slightly and turned with the movement of forms through the space.  It was a serene environment, which Bengston likened to a kelp forest, and was a welcome respite from the downpour outdoors.


The exhibition is on view until June 18th.

Blouse: Tucker
Shoes: Escada

Photos by Kathy Paciello

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

CLYFFORD STILL MUSEUM










“You can turn the lights out.  The paintings will carry their own fire.” –Clyfford Still

In anticipation of my long-awaited sojourn to the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado, I began reading and thinking about Still’s work: putting myself into the mind of the artist to create a garment inspired by his paintings.  I could count on one hand the number of Still’s paintings I’d seen in person, and could only imagine the quiet power of a building dedicated entirely to his life’s work.

Still (1904-1980) was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, but unlike other artists, he eschewed the market for his work.  When he passed away in 1980, his estate included 95% of his oeuvre, most canvases shielded from the public for decades, until the Still Museum opened in 2011.

When I anxiously opened the doors to the museum, I experienced an overwhelming sense of calm.  It is a quiet, reflective space, with soft light and nuanced architectural details that perfectly coexist with the selections of the nearly 3,000 works in its collection that are on display.

Wearing my handpainted dress inspired by Still’s artwork, I experienced a heightened sense of awareness and understanding of the connection between the works and the sublime.  It’s difficult to describe the feeling of being surrounded by Still’s paintings – on the walls around me, and on my body.  Sensing the works’ symbolism of the human condition; feeling and knowing the process of creating the works of art; understanding their conservation and relation to the history of art in America and the world; the entire process awakened in me a deeper understanding of the personal impact of painting.

I made a number of friends at the museum – including a security guard who, with a wink, remarked “that would be a great way to sneak a painting out of the museum.”


I didn’t physically take a painting from the museum that day, but I feel as though I took away my own personal collection, along with a greater sense of appreciation for Still’s work.  Along with that, I refueled my desire to create, in order to achieve the higher level of enlightenment that so many have experienced through the quiet reverie of the work of Clyfford Still.

Dress: thrifted, painted by me
Sandals: Frye Brielle Gladiator (available here)
Photos by William Sealy