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Archive for the ‘Neat Stuff’ Category

“Peacock Room 1908”

We typically spend the day of the openings of my Principle Gallery shows going to some of the museums in Washington. There is a treasure trove of art and history available within a relatively small area. This year we finally made it to the Freer Gallery of Art in order to see the Peacock Room which was created by James MacNeill Whistler for a home in London around 1876.

As you can see from the photo above, it is an opulent space decorated in an Anglo-Japanese style. It is pretty striking with it’s darkly rich colors and its eclectic collection of pottery adorning its shelves. Originally, Whistler stepped in at the last minute to finish the room after its true creator fell ill. Whistler immediately took off on his own vision for the room, changing colors and embellishing to suit his taste. The resulting room infuriated the British shipping magnate who owned the home and this set off a long and bitter dispute between Whistler and him.

Nearly 30 years later, American industrialist Charles Lang Freer obtained the Whistler painting that had formerly hung over the fireplace of the Peacock Room then purchased the entire room from the estate of the now deceased shipping magnate. Freer had it installed in his Detroit mansion and when he died in 1919 it was moved to its present home which bears his name.

If you ever get a chance try to make it to the Freer to see the Peacock Room. It’s a wonderful piece of art history plus you get to explore one of the less crowded museum complexes in Washington. The Freer Gallery, The Sackler Museum and the Museum of African Art share a sprawling underground space which shows off their tremendous collections of Asian and African art.  There is so much to see there that in our time there we barely scratched the surface. Maybe next time.

One of my personal favorites were these two large wooden sculptures.  Created about 8-900 years ago, they once flanked the entrance of a Buddhist temple in Osaka, Japan. They were known as the Protectors of the Buddhist Universe. The one shown here at the top has an open mouth which represents the ah sound which is the first sound in the ancient Sanskrit language in which Buddhism was born. The other has a closed mouth which is the om which is the final sound. These guardians are meant to protect the Buddha and his followers from beginning to end.

They are the alpha and the omega.

As I said, there is a wealth of art and history there so if you get a chance, definitely take the time to visit this gem that seems overlooked in the Smithsonian universe.

 

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“How vast those Orbs must be, and how inconsiderable this Earth, the Theatre upon which all our mighty Designs, all our Navigations, and all our Wars are transacted, is when compared to them. A very fit consideration, and matter of Reflection, for those Kings and Princes who sacrifice the Lives of so many People, only to flatter their Ambition in being Masters of some pitiful corner of this small Spot.”

― Christiaan Huygens, Cosmotheoros: or, conjectures concerning the inhabitants of the planets (ca 1695)

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I am a bit slow getting around this morning so I thought I’d share one more painting from the Principle Gallery show. This is titled The Navigator and is 24″ by 24″ on canvas.

Accompanying it are the words from the 17th century Dutch scientist Christiaan Huygens. Shortly before his death in 1695, he had written a book, Cosmotheoros, in which he postulated on the existence of extraterrestrial life in the far reaches of the universe. His lifelong study of the cosmos allowed him to see how tiny and possibly inconsequential our world was in relative terms.

And that is a fitting thought for this painting as the boat skims over a vast sea, guided by the light from huge suns that are so distant that they may not even exist at this moment even though their light still travels to us through the dark of space.

The universe is humbling in its scale and scope.

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I am always interested in seeing new places where my work can be found. It’s hung in US embassies in Nepal, Uganda and Kuwait. It’s appeared in magazines in Denmark, a calendar in Spain, a video in Korea along with a number of other spots around the world. It’s gratifying to see if only that it means the work translates well, reaching well beyond my little spot here in my studio tucked in the woods.

The latest sighting comes from Budapest in Hungary. My work was featured at a place there, not too far from the Danube River, called Jól Festesz, which loosely translates to, according to Google, as Where are you going to be. I am sure something is lost in the translation.

Jól Festesz is either a business or an arts organization that holds classes where an instructor leads a group of aspiring artists in painting a selected work or art, allowing the students to leave with a finished copy of their own making. This started in December of 2017 and the work of mine shown above was the subject of their very first event.

I checked out their site on Facebook and came across several photos from the event. I will tell you that they were painted in a much different manner than the original but I was pleased at how well the students captured the overall image. Their instructor obviously did a great job. Take a look below to judge for yourself.

It made me smile to think that there are some bits of my work, if only in the form of a copy made in an art class, floating around in homes around Budapest. Hope those folks are enjoying their own red trees.

Élvez! That means enjoy, if I am using the term correctly.

 

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Watching the murmurations of starlings is a fascinating and hypnotic thing to see, indeed.  Murmuration is the word for the starling flock and for the intricate dance in the sky performed by these huge groups of birds which often number in the tens of thousands.

The murmurations move gracefully and quickly, creating constantly shifting forms that seem derived from some higher levels of geometry and quantum mechanics than my simple mind can comprehend. I get the feeling when I watch them that I am seeing some essential base element of our universe made visible.

We have never really fully understood the hows and whys of these complex movements. Researchers have found that these displays are almost always set off by a predator such as a falcon near the edge of the group. The group responds as a single unit without an actual leader in order to avoid and distance the group as a whole from the predator.

Researchers believe that this done with something called scale-free correlation which allows birds at any point in the group to instantaneously sense and react to what any other bird in the group, no matter how far away, might be experiencing. Any information moves through the group instantly and without any degradation of the message. It’s like an incredibly complex version of the telephone game. With people passing a simple message along in this game, the message is often garbled beyond recognition within a relatively short time. Here the message is passed tens of thousands of times without missing a word, a comma or inflection.

How they do it remains a mystery. Maybe that’s why they remain so fascinating, to remind us that we still know so little of the grand scheme of things.

For this Sunday morning music here’s a piece, On Reflection, from contemporary composer Max Richter. It is accompanied here by a video of the murmurations of starlings. The music and the flowing motions of the birds create a hypnotic and soothing effect. Give a listen and relax. Maybe you can imagine being part of that murmuration.

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I am busy this morning and thought I would replay a post from several years ago. No reason except that I came across it yesterday and it really caught my eye again. The work of Arcimboldo always does.  But I did add a video that shows more of his work so it’s really a replay plus. Take a look– I think you’ll like it.

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You don’t often think of work of art from an Italian Renaissance painter as being whimsical. Generally, they seem to focus on themes of religion and myth or on portraiture of wealthy patrons of the time, most beautifully painted.  Then there is the work of Guiseppe Arcimboldo, who was born in Milan in 1527 and died there in 1593, although much of life was spent in the service of  the Hapsburg courts of Vienna and Prague.

Arcimboldo was trained as stained glass designer and painter and initially worked in these fields in a traditional manner.  Much of the work from this time has faded into oblivion, although there are examples of his windows and a fresco or two.  However, it was his other work that gained him fame in his time and which has came through the ages as a constant source of fascination.

Arcimboldo-Winter 1573

Arcimboldo- Winter 1573

The other work was creating portraits, sometimes of his patrons such as the portrait at the top of Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor from 1576 until 1612 , that are composed using all sorts of objects to create the figure and features of the subject.  He used fruits, vegetables, birds, books, fish and many other objects in creating these unusual figures.  The final result was always striking, colorful and whimsically imaginative.  And sometimes grotesque, even a bit spooky– I’m thinking here of a series of pieces that Arcimboldo created portraying the Winter season as a person, such as this example on the right, painted in 1573.

Arcimboldo’s work always brings a smile to my face while also stirring my interest in how he must have worked at the time and how he was perceived in that era.  I am sure he was both admired and disliked for his unique work.  Whatever the case, the work remains a fascination.  I am showing several example here but you can go  a site– Guiseppe Arcimboldo: The Complete Works— that features a broader view of his work.  Very interesting.

Arcimboldo-TierraArcimboldo-The WaiterArcimboldo-AirArcimboldo- The LibrarianArcimboldo- The Admiralarcimboldo-winter_1563

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The other day I received the new Summer issue of Acrylic Artist magazine that hits the newsstands and bookstores on June 6.  It contains an article featuring my work and how I arrived at my “signature style.”

I have to say that I am pleased at the way it came out. Writer Zack Hatfield did a great job transforming our interview into a well written article covering ten pages along with numerous images. Many thanks to Zack and the editors at Acrylic Artist for being such pros and for a job well done.

The magazine is available at newsstands on June 6 but if you would like a copy you can order a print or downloaded copy by clicking on the magazine cover shown here on the right.

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I came across this unusual short animation and it caught my eye.  It’s made by Australian cartoonist/artist/animator/whatever Felix Colgrave and it’s called Double King. Colgrave describes it simply as “A film about love and regicide.

For me, it reminded me of the unrelenting greed of so many. I think back to the financial crisis of 2008, the Great Recession caused by housing derivatives that seems to have slipped from so many folks’ minds already. I remember hearing an interview with a hedge fund manager at that time. He admitted that he had enough money and wealth to sustain his family at a high comfort level for many generations to come. The interviewer asked if he ever thought that it was enough.

He laughed and said that it was never enough, that it only created a drive in him to get more.

That comment stuck with me. It spooked me. It served as evidence for my belief that supply side, trickle down economics was a sham and that the wealthiest of us would never willingly share or help the impoverished masses rise out of that state. They would, with a few exceptions, rather strive to gain more and more and more.

And that’s what this great little film brings to my mind.  You might see something other than that. I hope you do.  But it’s definitely worth several minutes of your time, if only to take in Colgrave’s imaginative animations and great illustrations. Take a look.

You can learn more about Felix Colgrave by clicking here.

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