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Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

Judith Schaechter- Cold Genius CMOG

Judith Schaechter- Cold Genius CMOG

I’ve been thinking a lot about stained glass lately, both as the influence it has been on my work and as a possible future foray.  Growing up around Corning, glass was always in high visibility and trying to capture some of the luminosity of glass was always a goal in my work.  My fondness for the use of defining lines in my paintings most likely stems from a deep affection for stained glass.

When the new (and spectacular!) Contemporary Art + Design Wing opened recently at the Corning Museum of Glass, among all of the epic glass works it was a more modest sized piece of stained glass tucked away to one side that most caught my eye.  It was from Philadelphia-based stained glass artist Judith Schaechter and it was titled Cold Genius.  The photo of it at the top does not do it justice, doesn’t capture the inner glow created by the integrated lightbox.  Believe me when I say it is a striking piece of art.

Judith Schaechter -Wreck of the Isabella 2005

Judith Schaechter -Wreck of the Isabella 2005

I knew nothing of the work of Judith Schaechter beforehand but this image just triggered something.  Looking her up and  finding her work on her website as well a number of others, I discovered that she was one of the pioneers in modern stained glass, having been at the forefront of the medium for over 30 years.  I was overwhelmed by her productivity, her creativity and innovation as well as the consistency of her vision. As I’ve shown here before, one of my ways of quickly taking in an artist’s personal style is in viewing a page of their work on Google.  As you can see at the bottom, Schaechter’s work has a completeness of voice that any artist would envy.

While it is often macabre in nature, it is always beautiful having a transcendent quality that glows from within.  It feels both contemporary and timeless, which is the goal of any artist.

It was hard to not be in awe and easy to be inspired, to see things in her work that fed my own desire for expression, that set off pangs of wanting to make an attempt in that medium.   It’s not a feeling I often experience with many contemporary artists so you can understand my excitement at finding her work.

The few images and my short paragraphs here may not fully do her work justice. Check out her work for yourself on her website.  It includes a very interesting project where she installed windows at the infamous Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly.  There’s also a great recent  interview online that is very enlightening– I think many artists will see many things that  jibe with their own experiences.

Judith Schaechter- Google Image Screenshot

Judith Schaechter Eastern State Penitentiary Project

Judith Schaechter Eastern State Penitentiary Project

Judith Schaechter -Battle of Carnival and Lent /Eastern State Pen.

Judith Schaechter -Battle of Carnival and Lent/ Eastern State Pen.

Judith Schaechter Joan_of_Arc 2007

Judith Schaechter Joan_of_Arc 2007

Judith schaechter_23_birthofeve

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Thomas Hart Benton Google ScreenshotOne of the books in my to-read pile that is more of a tower now is one called Tom and Jack from writer Henry Adams.  It details the long relationship between Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, two painters seemingly worlds apart– Pollock known for his vibrant abstracted drip paintings and Benton for his distinct but more objective view of the American landscape.

But Benton was a mentor, teacher and surrogate father for Pollock and many of his lessons found form in Pollock’s work, particularly the ability to create a rhythm in each painting.  Both were masters of the graceful organic rhythms that run through their works.

One of the things I often do when looking at the work of other artists is to do a Google image search for that artist.  Seeing the work grouped together, as you can see in the  images at the top and bottom of the page, allows me to quickly take in the overall tone and feel, to get an idea of the general fingerprint of that artist.  At the top is a screenshot of Benton’s landscapes and the thing that  immediately jumps out at me is the beautiful organic roll  of the landscape that creates a rhythm that instantly draws me in.

Thomas Hart Benton _trail-ridersOne of the paintings from the Benton page is shown here on the left, The Trail Riders, and is a great example of this rhythm.  It creates a sense of movement and gives the forms of the landscape an almost human quality in its curves and rolls which makes it seem familiar.  Part of us, who we are.  For me, that rhythm in Benton’s work was a revelation.  The landscape became something more that a static backdrop.  It was alive and breathing and moving, very often the central character in the work.

And I knew that was what I wanted in my own work, just as I believe Pollock  observed it and wanted for his own work.  And he found a way to take that rhythm and create his own living  landscape through his distinct  visual vocabulary.  Much different than Benton but built on the same underlying energies.

Seeing both their works is really motivating for me, making me chomp at the bit  this morning.  Each spurs me in many directions, but always fast and forward moving.

And that is always a good thing…

Jackson Pollock Google Screenshot

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Marc Chagall Sun of ParisWhen I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it / a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand / as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it is bad art.

–Marc Chagall

**************

I haven’t mentioned Marc Chagall  here but once over the 6+ years I have been doing this blog and I very seldom list him as one of my influences or even one of my favorite artists.   But somehow he always seems to be sitting prominently there at the end of the day, both as a favorite and an influence.

One way in which his influence takes  form is in the way in which he created a unique visual vocabulary of symbology within his work.  His soaring people, his goats and horses and angels all seem at once mythic yet vaguely reminiscent of our own dreams, part of each of us but hidden deeply within.

They are mysterious but familiar.

marc-chagall-fishermans-family-1968And that’s a quality– mysterious and familiar– that I sought for my own symbols: the Red Chair, the Red Tree and the anonymous houses, for examples.  That need to paint familiar objects that could take on other aspects of meaning very much came from Chagall’s paintings.

He also exerted his influence in the way in which he painted, distinct and as free-flowing as a signature.  It was very much what I would call his Native Voice.  Not affected or trying to adhere to any standards, just coming off his brush freely and naturally.

An organic expression of himself.  And that is something I have sought since I first began painting– my own native voice, one in which I painted as easily and without thought as I would write my signature.

  So to read how Chagall judged his work for authenticity makes me consider how I validate my own work.  It’s not that different.  I use the term a sense of rightness to describe what I am seeking in the work which is the same sense one gets when you pick up a stone and consider it.  Worn through the ages, untouched for the most part by man, it is precisely what it is.  It’s form and feel are natural and organic. There is just an inherent  rightness to it.  I hope for that same sense when I look at my work and I am sure that it is not far from the feeling Chagall sought when he compared his own work to a rock or a flower or his own hand.

Marc Chagall Song of Songs

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Trey Ratcliff - china-deep-in-the-guangxi-provinceSometimes you can look at something and it immediately translates into something for you, something from which  you can take inspiration and  make something new.  That’s what came to mind for me when I came across this great image from photographer Trey Ratcliff.  It’s a panoramic view of a fairytale-like  landscape in the Guangxi region of  China that he took after scaling a peak similar to those you see in the photo.

It’s just a great image, one that gets my motor racing.  I immediately find myself comparing it to my own landscapes, noting  how the forms flow together to create a wonderful rhythm in the image.  There’s so much that will easily convey into my own work that it is in place before I really have time to think about it.  It’s like a jolt of creative electricity.  I just need to get to the easel before it rolls to the back of the line of imagery that is formed in my head.

For more of Trey Ratcliff’s incredible photograph’s from around the world, visit his website Stuck in Customs.  And check out the image shown above on Google+— it’s a 19,000 pixel  high def shot that is fully zoomable so that  you can fly in and out of the little valleys in the distance.  Pretty remarkable.

 

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mose-allison_1Artistic influences,  seeing how a certain artist will take the work of others and transform it into their own, is a fascinating thing.  Sometimes it’s very obvious especially when the influence is of equal renown or when one artist directly copies the work of another.  But sometimes there are great influences that you may not even recognize.

Mose Allison (born in 1927) is such a person, a name you probably don’t know.  But for many musicians in the who found their voice in the 60’s, he was a huge influence.  Jimi Hendrix,  The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and many, many others have all cited him as a strong influence on their work.  But Mose Allison, while achieving considerable fame, never became the household name like so many of his admirers.

He was pretty hard to pigeonhole as a musician- at times very bluesy, himself strongly influenced by the delta blues of his home in Mississippi, other times very jazzy or even pop tinged.  But always a unique and individual sound that allowed him to take a song, his own or those written by others, and  give it a new perspective.  I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Mose Allison until just recently but have been thrilled to find his work and can easily see it in the work of so many others.  I encourage you to seek out his work and give it a listen.

To that end, here’s a small sample for this Sunday morning.  It’s his version of the Willie Dixon blues classic The Seventh Son, a song that became a pop hit for Johnny Rivers.  But here, it definitely feels all Mose Allison.  Enjoy and have a great Sunday.

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I was struggling this morning with the blog and was just about to say enough and just move on to my work when I came across the latest entry on BrainPickings.  It is a poem from the late Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012) called Possibilities.  It is basically a laundry list of her personal preferences.   Some are small and some significant but all contribute mightily to her wholeness as a person.  We are all the totality of our own laundry lists of preferences that define our character and personality  just as our DNA determines our physical characteristics.

It’s a simple yet thought-provokingly complex poem that leave me wondering about my own preferences, my own possibilities.  What are those small things that give you shape, make you who you are?

The poem is below but if you would prefer the spoken version there is a recording at read by performer Amanda Palmer.

POSSIBILITIES

I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

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"Mr Wyndham Lewis as a Tyro"- Wyndham Lewis

“Mr Wyndham Lewis as a Tyro”- Wyndham Lewis

For many years now, one of my favorite books to just sit and flip through is my now very worn copy of  A Dictionary of Art Quotes by Ian Crofton.  It has great quotes by artists and critics about artists, schools of art and assorted other things that have to do with art.  The thing that I like most is that Crofton keeps it subjective, often having opposing points of view under each heading.  You might read one quote praising an artist while the very next might be one that portrays him as a hack. It’s interesting to see this contrast of perceptions, often by the artist’s contemporaries.

Some artists receive no negative words against their work or personality– Henri Rousseau, for instance, who was much beloved and respected by his contemporaries.  Most have positive quotes with an occasional barb thrown in their direction.  But the section concerning one artist, Percy Wyndham Lewis, really stuck out when I read it.  There is not anything that could be perceived as positive–Ernest Hemingway even said he had the “eyes of a rapist.”  Not knowing much about this artist, it prompted to find out a little more about Wyndham Lewis, as he preferred to be called.

It didn’t take much research to discover reasons behind the vitriol directed at him.

First, a little background.  Lewis was born in Nova Scotia in 1882, educated in England, lost his eyesight in the late 1940’s and died in 1957.  He was an extraordinarily talented painter and writer and the founder of the Vorticists, an art and literary movement derived from Cubism that flourished in the years before World War I but died out in the aftermath.   He painted and drew , wrote well received novels and published a ground-breaking art magazine, Blast.  No lack of talent, that is for sure

"T.S. Eliot"- Wyndham Lewis

“T.S. Eliot”- Wyndham Lewis

But from what I can deduct, he was a very contentious and very opinionated, always seeking an argument or looking to tweak those he viewed as his intellectual inferiors.  He ruffled more than his share of feathers.  As he said, “It is more comfortable for me, in the long run, to be rude than polite.”   But his biggest offense came in the early 1930’s when he wrote in favor of Hitler and the Fascists, believing them to be the keys to maintaining peace in Europe.  That was, to be sure, not well received and was for many unpardonable even though Lewis did reverse his views later after a 1937 trip to Berlin when it became obvious to him that he had gravely misjudged the intent of Hitler.  He wrote a number of items against Hitler and Fascism and in defense of the Jews of Europe but the damage was done: he was a persona non grata.
He basically disappeared from the art scene although he continued to write prolifically, even after the loss of his sight. There was a re-interest in his painting  and Vorticism in the mid-50’s , just a year or two before his death and in subsequent years his profile as an artist has regained some of its lost stature. He is consdiered among the finest of British portrait painters.  His painting of poet T.S.. Eliot, shown here, is considered one of his finest and one of the great examples of British portrait painting.

I picked up a book on his portraiture and find it very compelling.  The self portrait at the top of the page, Mr Wyndham Lewis as Tyro, really stood out for me as did the ominous Praxitella, below.  An interesting character.  I was glad to come across his work and will continue to explore it.

Wyndham Lewis -Praxitella

Praxitella– Wyndham Lewis

A Battery Shelled- Wyndham Lewis

A Battery Shelled- Wyndham Lewis

Wyndham Lewis- Seated Figure

Seated Figure- Wyndham Lewis

 

 

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