Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Two point post

Image courtesy Hibernia Times

One of the things I'd like to draw your attention to in this post, was the recent revelation that Vincent Van Gogh may not have committed suicide. The BBC reported this story here. The author of the BBC article outlined how two boys from the nearby town of Auvers-sur-Oise, France were possibly playing in the same field where Van Gogh was painting. The boys were described as carrying a malfunctioning gun as part of a cowboy costume, and the author reported that after these youths accidentally shot the now-famous artist, Van Gogh protected them from recrimination by taking the blame.

This is interesting, and casts a new light on the artist.

The second item I'd like to draw your attention to involves the work of Dave DeVries. Mr. DeVries draws his inspiration from the work of children. Nothing new in that, in fact it is widely known that Picasso was also very much inspired by the work of children. What is unique, is how DeVries uses this inspiration. He takes the illustration of a child and executes it in a realistic manner, capturing both the essence and the imagination of the original image. I think his images are amazing. A link to more about DeVries work can be found here. A sample is also pictured below. What do you think?

Image courtesy of Elezea

Monday, November 14, 2011

Bizarre art

Iamge credit:

The topic for this week is bizarre art. A recent news item relating to bizarre art was released, and this got me thinking about the way people react to art, in particular art that uses non-traditional media to communicate.

An article/vlog was put out by Yahoo! News. This video/article describes what the author has determined to be the top 5 most bizarre public art displays in the United States. Number one on the list was Crown Fountain in Chicago, Illinois. I am very familiar with this sculpture, and have seen it in person many times. Perhaps this familiarity has shaded my perceptions a bit, but I was very surprised to see this on the list.

If you have never seen this sculpture/fountain, it is a series of changing LED faces, eyes, and lips, enlarged and displayed on two large scale columns. Water cascades down the edges of these monoliths, and occasionally spray will emit from one of the faces lips. This sculpture is always a hit with tourists. The levels of interactivity draw people in and it is a particular favorite in the summer, when viewers can play in the water.

The other items on the list also offer some level of interactivity beyond the visual, and it seems to me that the criteria used to evaluate 'bizarre art' used by this author centered on these aspects. Art is meant to be an experience that surprises the senses. Most often that jolt takes the form of the visual, but I do not believe it has to be visually exclusive. Any form of communication that gives the user pause to think about what he/she is experiencing can be a delightful and eye-opening event. Experiences such as these are not easily forgotten, and I think they help foster knowledge about what can and cannot be done.

I enjoyed reading the list of bizarre art, but I think there are other works of art that could be considered that were not listed in this article. What bizarre art have you seen and/or experienced?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

New Web Site

I have not posted here in about two weeks. That is because I have been hard at work updating, revising, and moving the host of my Web Site. The new site (screenshot above) can be accessed by clicking here.

I am still going to need to do a few refinements and fine tuning, but I think the new site is great. It's cleaner, easier to navigate, and updated. I am very happy with it. After looking it over, if you would, leave your comments. I always try to get people to critique my Web Site but nobody ever wants to do it.

While working on this project I thought about digital media and the idea of new media. This is art that is made with technology. It usually involves the use of computers, but not always. More info here.

In general I am uncertain how I feel about new media. Perhaps this is because I have not seen any really fantastic new media pieces. However, I once asked the curator of contemporary art at a national museum what he thought about new media. His actual response was: "It's mostly crap." So it would seem that my perceptions are not far off the professional viewpoint. But it makes me wonder: Is there any fantastic New Media Out there? Have you seen any? Is it possible to create a new media work of art that really communicates to people? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ways to be an artist

As the librarian in charge of the fine arts collection, I have created an online guide meant to help art students, faculty, and those wishing to browse in this area of the library. Some sample screen shots are included.

In this guide I have included information on how to find books and materials, appropriate databases related to art research, and sample images of titles in the collection. Links to Web Sites that might be useful are also included. In addition, there is information on how to contact the library, librarians, and request items to add to the collection.

A link to the guide can be found here.

I posted this guide to illustrate just one example of the numerous ways artists can practice their art making and not go the route of the "starving artist." Several years ago, after completing my BFA, I thought the only other route to viably producing art was to teach. I believed that in order to teach a subject one would have to maintain a steady practice of that discipline, and thought that teaching art would allow me the opportunity to continue this process.

While teaching art courses, at any level, certainly offers artists a steady income and the ability to learn vicariously through the students, it is not the only way. Throughout my undergrad and graduate studies I worked in different libraries, first as a student worker, and then in other roles. During this time I became aware of the Art Library Society if America (ARLIS/NA) and of art librarianship. I enjoyed the library environment, and the ability to combine art and libraries was very appealing. I enrolled in library school, and have now joined the ranks of librarians and information professionals devoted to the arts.

But there are still other ways. Part of my studies in library school included an internship at the Hanson Library in the Birmingham Museum of Art (mentioned previously in this blog). This experience exposed me not only to the professional world of a special library, but I also had the opportunity to interact with other departments and people within the museum. These people are also very active in the visual arts and have the same opportunities to learn, grow, and practice art making as those who teach.

There are those who may argue that taking one of these routes removes the artist from the studio. However, I have stated before that much of what makes the work of an artist valuable is the experiences that he/she has put in to the work of art. Creating art is a process that includes observation and experience as much or more as it does time in the studio making art. Art is not created in a vacuum and exposure to the resources in libraries and museums helps build a framework, a background, and a context from which to speak.

One other thing that I would like to start including in these postings is a list of calls to artists. I am on several listservs for such calls, and it would impossible to participate in every one. But by posting some of those opportunities here, perhaps you could find one of interest and participate yourself. Here are three such opportunities:

1. DEADLINE: Fri, October 28, 2011
3rd Ward Open Call for Art
Location: NY
Artists, This could be the next step in launching your career. You’re invited to join the 3rd Ward Fall 2011 Open Call, an international search for exciting, innovating and compelling artwork awarding over $25,000 in prizes, including a one month live/work residency in NYC, a $5,000 grant and your very own New York City solo exhibition. Plus, all participants will be considered for the $1,000 People's Choice Award Awarded to the artist whose portfolio garners the highest number of public votes.

2. DEADLINE: Tue, November 01, 2011
8th Biennial National Art Juried Exhibition
Location: FL
Punta Gorda, FL. Open to all traditional two-dimensional drawing and painting media. Juror: Dean Mitchell, A.W.S., N.W.S. Digital entry deadline Nov. 1, 2011. Show dates Feb. 4-Mar. 11, 2012. Prize total $6500. Prospectus: Questions: Located on Charlotte Harbor off Gulf Coast.

3. DEADLINE: Thu, December 01, 2011
Flora and Fauna: Narrative through Icongraphy
Location: NY
Flora and Fauna: Narrative through Iconography A juried exhibit at Lockhart Gallery, SUNY Geneseo For generations, artists have used signs and symbols from nature to impart meaning in their artwork. Audiences of previous eras were well-versed in this seemingly covert language. Each icon usually has several different meanings; for instance a rabbit may mean fertility, longevity, femininity or rebirth. . . For more information go to:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Update on last week, and thoughts on art education

As you can see from the image, I am back up an running. This is a painting that I started earlier this summer, but never finished. I'm glad to be working again, when I do not make art I get cranky. I think this will be the last of the large-scale flower images (at least for a while). It might be an interesting idea to pursue later, but for now it's time to let that idea rest.

The second part of this posting is going to be devoted to thoughts on arts education. In the UK options are being weighed for the elimination of arts programming in some schools. For more specific information click here. New curricula are being formulated that center on math, English, science, foreign languages and either history or geography.

While these subjects are important, I do not believe they should be the sole focus of an education program. In the article linked above, the director of learning at the Tate Museum stated that courses in art bring students into alternative ways of thinking and addressing problems. She stated that this is needed in contemporary times and that western society has always valued innovation going back to the Renaissance.

I agree with these statements. The arts develop creativity, and with creativity new directions in subjects like math, English, science etc. are realized. When I was teaching art appreciation, one of the things I tried to impart was how connected the arts are to everyday human thought and interaction. Students were often amazed when this was pointed out, and it was from this teaching experience that I learned how this occurs on a subconscious level. Until it was pointed out to them, students did not realize how art shapes individual thought and opinion. After the fact, I noticed that students were drawing these comparisons on their own and bringing a vibrancy to the learning process that was previously missing.

Whether this stayed with them after they left my class I cannot say. However, I believe if the arts were more present in the school curriculum at an earlier age of development students would be better learners by the time they got to middle and high school. The links between subjects and thought could be consciously drawn, and built upon, leading to new innovations and developments.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Making your mark

For the fourth time this year I have had to pack up and move. The end result is pictured above. Fortunately, since the time this picture was taken, I have made progress and I've got some since of order back in place. I have not started painting yet (my poor easel has not been this idle for a long time), and it has been some time since I have posted here, but I'm making progress. This return to blogging is going to be about leaving your mark.

The image above depicts the most recent issue of Professional Artist. In it is an article by Matthew Daub, an art professor from Pennsylvania. Here he discussed the importance of creating works of art, and described how one should move to make his/her art stand for something.

To make his point, Daub drew comparisons between the work of a young art student at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the work of Goya (specifically The Third of May.). The author wrote how this student portrayed the then recently deceased mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, unfavorably. The author stated that at the time, Washington was quite popular and his death came as a shock to residents of the city. When the work of this student was revealed Daub explained that outrage quickly gripped the city and the aldermen went so far as to pass a resolution to have the painting removed. When this failed several of these aldermen took it upon themselves to remove the painting, resulting in the paintings destruction, and ultimately a civil rights case with the ACLU (Daub 6).

The context of the work is central in this instance. Daub stated that now, more than 20 years later, if he were to show this painting to his art students in Pennsylvania there would be little reaction. By contrast, the author pointed out that Goya's third of May has transcended time. He wrote that in Goya's work it is relatively unimportant to know that the troops are French, and the civilians unarmed. The image speaks more broadly and addresses the horrors of war on another greater level (Daub 7).

Daub concluded by stating that it is unfair to compare the work of a student to that of an established master. However, the point addressed was very clear. As artists we have got to use our art as a speaking tool. Whether it is a statement of profound observation that speaks to generations, or an irreverent jab at society, art can express many points of view and artists should take a stand to leave a mark.

Daub, M. (2011) Marking Your Territory. Professional Artist September 6-7.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Scale (Again) and Google Earth Art

Image Courtesy of Rueters

Since my last two postings had something to do with scale, I see no reason to switch topics now. A recent news item, that I found last week, described the creation of a large scale statue in Hamburg, Germany. This statue is described in the article as depicting a giant mermaid in Alster lake. This sculpture is intriguing to me, and I would really like to know how it was constructed. The coloration on it is fabulous. It is to be on display until August 12 (So if you can get to Hamburg before then, definitely do it). The full article can be read here.

This sculpture reminds me of another located in Washington, D.C. This second sculpture, called "The Awakening," depicts a giant male figure emerging from the earth.

Image Courtesy of Wordpress.

As I look at these, I am lead to wonder. What drives these artists to create large-scale figurative sculptures? Is it the lore of giants? Is it just a playfulness of scale? What about the way they are presented? One is half submerged in water, while the other is in the solid ground. Does this use of water versus land create a different context for each piece? I do enjoy looking at these sculptures, I would just like to know more about them. This is a positive reaction towards a work of art, and should probably be a goal of all artists when creating a new piece. What do you think?

The second item I wanted to post is not about scale. Rather, it is about using a tool (Google Earth) in a new and creative way. A recent NPR article profiled the work of Jenny Odell (linked here). She described her work as an examination of that which is often overlooked. She said that when the items are cut out of a satellite map, and placed adjacently to one another, they lose their individual context and a new meaning is formed that suggests fragility. The article went on to describe how it is human nature to break items down and to categorize them.

While this is true, I am fascinated by the creative use of Google Earth. I think it's great when someone can see a new and creative way of using something not intended by the inventors. Human expression takes many forms, and this is an example of building upon the ideas of others. The result is a sort of collaboration that communicates ideas in a unique way.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

3 Part Post


As a practicing artist, I receive several calls-to-artists every week. Last week I saw a particularly interesting call for book artists. I am not a book artist, and I am involved in several other projects at the moment, so I do not have time to explore this. However, I think it is extremely interesting. So if you would like to do this, I heartily encourage you to do so. The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is a museum and library devoted to books bound in unique formats. Among these include designs by Margaret Armstrong, Olive Grover and the studio artists of Decorative Designers. Using these designs as inspiration, the museum is asking for participation in the creation of new items. The full call for participation can be read here. If you do decide to participate please comment here, so we can see what you are doing.

Part II

Last week while traveling I stopped in Jamestown, NY. This is a unique community in Western New York, that among other things, features locally produced art works on the exterior walls of the buildings downtown. This is a group effort organized by the Jamestown High School, Jamestown Civic Organization, and Jamestown Community College. The images below illustrate this concept.

I think this is a fabulous idea. It showcases local artists, communicates unique ideas, and helps build a sense of community. This takes the gallery concept and brings it outdoors, where more people could potentially see it. If you are worried about damage to the art, this has been addressed and all pieces are protected from the elements by plexiglass. I would love to see this develop in other communities.

Part III

My last posting addressed the issue of scale. As I read through my post, I realized I forgot to include examples of the watercolor moving across the page. So for this post I am including two extreme art close-ups detailing the way aqueous media work. In the image below, a larger scale has been used, and the water has more room to run and drip.

In this second image, a smaller size paper was used and the water had less room to run down the page. This resulted in more color blending.

Another factor of this effect which I feel I must add, is the finish of the paper used. A smoother paper finish will also allow for more water to run. If you are using a rough watercolor paper, more blending will occur. These are things to consider if you decide to use this technique. That's it for now. Please leave your comments for next time, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


This week I thought I would post a little about scale. Scale, or the size that an artist decides to work with, is one of the first choices he/she will make when beginning a work.

Of course the image above is just for fun, because we are clearly not talking about that kind of scale.

In a recent discussion with a friend, my acquaintance mentioned one of my works and described it as large. The dimensions of the piece in question is 30" X 22". This is by no means small, but compared to my other works it is significantly smaller. I didn't say anything, but in the back of my mind I was thinking "Hmm...that's actually a smaller image." This got me thinking about my works, the sizes they are, and why I generally paint in large scales.

To answer these questions I think it's important to understand the way I work. For the most part I paint in watercolor. I like the freedom and ease of the medium, but I also like the nature of using water to paint. I like the drippy, sloppy, runny quality of the brush and paint. Frequently I will intentionally hang my paper on the wall as I work in order to get the drips of water to flow more fluidly. This effect is enhanced in larger scales. I have done this with smaller works, but often the paint just blends together. With a smaller scale the resulting image still contains the free flow of water, but lacks individual droplets.

This explains a little of why I like to paint on large surfaces. I think there are other factors, but I don't want this post to be overly long. I will therefore stop with what I have said. What do you think? What scales do you work in? What are the scales of some of your favorite works of art? Do you think they would still be effective if they were created smaller or larger?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Art News: Theft and Death

I have been in the process of moving. This has meant that there was not a lot of time to think about the blog. So, for this posting I'm going to direct you to two recent news items involving the art world.

On Tuesday July 5, 2011 a Picasso drawing was stolen from a gallery in San Francisco. The full story can be read here. I'm not sure what can be done about art theft. It seems to be an ongoing problem. One of my favorite paintings (The Scream) was stolen a few years ago, and was eventually recovered. This is often the end result. I'm not sure why people would want to steal these items, as there is virtually no re-sale option, and it also robs the public of an opportunity to see art, but it does seem to be an ongoing issue.

This week also saw the death of artist Cy Twombly. I was not a fan of his work, and I often used it my "Is it Art?" game when teaching. However, his contribution to the art world has been recognized, and it is sad to see another artist go. The full story can be read here.

I welcome your comments, which could be used for future blog entries. So feel free to discuss these items, or even previous posts. I'll see you next time.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

"Who Shot Rock and Roll" Opens at Birmingham Museum of Art

The photography exhibition "Who Shot Rock and Roll" opened at the Birmingham Museum of Art this weekend. This show features rare, behind-the-scenes, and unique photographs of the history of rock and roll from the 1950's through the present. This show originated at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. It traveled to Birmingham from Columbia, SC. It will continue to travel through 2012. More information can be read here, here, and the BMA show here.

The show is excellent. I don't like to admit it, but I can be an art snob. Photography is one medium that I can not really get into, and I'm not one to seek out celebrities (especially rock/pop stars). But this show trumps all of that. There is something for everyone. It really is an amazing exhibition. Reviews far better than I could report are found here, and here.

This was my first experience working at a museum with the development of a major exhibition. There is a lot of work that goes in to producing these shows. It is not limited on one curator, or one department. The entire museum staff undertakes duties relating to the exhibition. It is truly a team effort, and I think the staff at the Birmingham Museum of Art came together to present an exhibition far beyond what was required. The show is as much about presentation as content, and the Birmingham Museum of Art adds to the entire experience.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Art Basel

Image courtesy of Flikr swissestetix

One of the worlds largest international art fairs took place this week in Switzerland. Art Basel, as it is called, brings together artists, galleries, collectors and dealers for one show that highlights contemporary art from around the world. More specific information can be read here.

An article in the Huffington Post stated that sales for this year have been very good. It stated that these profits could be an indication that the art world is in an economic boom. A link to the full article can be read here.

As I was reading these articles I reflected on something that crosses my mind periodically. Why is art traded at such high prices? With the dollar amounts discussed in these articles, the art could be treated as an investment opportunity, rather than as a means of cultural expression.

When I taught art appreciation and art history, I used to tell my students that the monetary value of art was arrived at based on the one-of-a-kind uniqueness of each piece. I also explained that the name of an artist added a brand to the work, and often added to the price. While I think these statements are true, I believe they only answer part of the question.

That said, I'm not entirely certain what should be added to the answer. Part of me thinks that art is traded at high prices because people are willing to pay high prices. I do not like this line of thought however, because it would seem to add to the elitist attitudes so often associated with the art world.

Art is a form of communication meant to be expressed and interpreted by all. I have written about the barriers of the official "art world" before, and the thought that some art is worth obscene amounts of money adds to these divisions. These divisions distract viewers from the message communicated by the artist and reinforce works produced simply for the sake of making a profit.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Art Fair at Aldridge Gardens

I attended a local art fair in Aldridge Botanical Gardens this weekend. It was very hot, but it was worth the visit. I have written about local art fairs before (click here), and I still think the prestige level of these types of exhibitions is probably not the best. However, there is a lot of amazing work that gets shown at these affairs, and many of the artists represented could outshine "established" artists.

As I was walking around, I was struck by the variety and creativity of the artists present. There was an artist that was selling stained glass, but she was not using the traditional stained glass methods. She had fastened glass to the surface of old windows, and then cemented the colored glass particles in place with grout. It looked amazing! Very innovative as well.

I ended up purchasing a small print from an Alabama Artist. His name was Maurice Cook. His paintings were fabulous! More can be read about him here and here. The print is pictured below.

I really enjoyed myself, and I got some interesting ideas to try in the future. As I stated in the previous posting about local art fairs, you never know who will show up to these events, and what will be inspired from being present.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flap about Pope Sculpture

The posting for this week is about a newly created sculpture that depicts former Pope John Paul II. The sculpture is quite modern, with very few features and a simplified form. Apparently it has caused an uproar, and the Vatican has labeled it "ugly." The full story can be read here.

To me this is a case where those who have ordered the art did not give much thought about the art. It is similar to the story of the Tilted Arc. Too often when the art is in the planing phase, those who ordered the art are not really listening to what the artist has proposed. I think this is particularly true for public art.

That said, I could go either way on this sculpture. I do not think it's great, but I also do not feel it is complete garbage. The lack of an identifiable face is not a new concept. When I was in art school, one of my fellow students never painted facial features. He stated that this allowed the viewer to define who the image depicted. Pope John Paul II was very popular, almost a people's pope. As a pope for the people I think it's appropriate to leave the face blank.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Salvador Dali

Now that I have completed my graduate program (see here and here ), and graduated, I can get back to posting here with regularity. Last week was Salvador Dali's birthday (May 11). Salvador Dali was a prominent painter in the surrealist movement. While I was never a huge fan of his art, it is interesting and worth examining. As an undergrad my roommate was huge fan, and had posters of Dali's artwork on the walls.

The notion of creating imagery based on the subconscious is not an easy feat. I have tried to do this a few times and have not been pleased with the results. I most recently tried to do this with my last painting. I found a piece of paper that had been scuffed. In these random markings I could make out elements of Greek architecture, and I decided to take this paper home in order bring out what I was seeing. As I was working other elements began to emerge, including a dancer, and an overgrowth of weeds. The image can be viewed below.

Although I do not like this painting, I am presenting it here in recognition of Dali and the surrealists. What do you think? You can comment on the painting, Dali, Surrealism, or whatever. I'll be posting again next week.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Walking with artists

I am a fan of NPR. I listen to it constantly. Today, they ran a piece on "Studio 360" about Maira Kalman, an established national artist. One of the things she does is maintain a blog for the New York Times. it can be read here.
I was interested in the NPR story because of the the way the artist described her working process. Much of her subject matter derives from walking around the city and making careful observations. She will take photographs, interact with shopkeepers, and try to take in as much as she can.
It is my impression that many non-artists are amazed by how artists think about the world around we live in, and how this leads to inspirations. This perspective is over thought. It doesn't take earth shattering experiences to create art. One has to just look around. Kalman is one artist that does this very well.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Lack of recent postings

This post will be brief, however I will explain why the postings on this blog have been sparse of late. You may recall my posting last fall about being enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi. If not, you can read it here. Anyway I have, as part of my program, undertaken a practicum in the library at the Birmingham Museum of Art. It is very exciting, and I enjoy it very much. I am required to create a blog detailing my experiences, and it is the blog for this practicum that has cut in to my blog time here. If you would like to read my library blog you can do so here. I will try to update here more frequently. Thanks for your support. The image is a screen shot of my other blog. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Google Art Project

Last week the folks at Google unveiled what they have called "Google Art Project." This project apparently presents artwork from museums around the world in an online format. Viewers can even tour portions of each museum virtually. Try it out here.

Reviews have so far been mixed, some have argued about copyright. but overall I think this is a positive development. This technology allows more people to see and experience art, and that's one of the main things art tries to do. A very good review of this project can be read here.