Category Archives: Art Working

Wendy Red Star – Telling It Like It Is Now

Wendy Red Star in “Winter Thesis” (Photo by Kaelan Burkett)

Attending public school in Montana, Wendy Red Star didn’t learn anything about her indigenous Apsáalooke (Crow) history.  She was taught the usual curriculum of European arrival in the Western Hemisphere, western expansion of White settlers, cowboys-and-Indians tales, etc.  But, as has been common in U.S. history, she and her fellow Crow students saw nothing – nothing positive, for the most part – their people’s presence in what is now the state of Montana.  Years ago, however, she became determined to change that and began researching her people’s history on her own.

Today, the multi-media artist is working to ensure future generations of Crow students – and all American pupils, for that matter – aren’t slighted in the same way.  Mixing her indigenous history with humor and personal research, Red Star creates images of Native American peoples from the past and in the present to help everyone understand they aren’t just school mascots or figures from old black-and-white photographs.

Her latest creation, Apsáalooke: Children of the Large-Beaked Bird, is being exhibited at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCa), which is bringing her work to children.

“I think it would be really wonderful to present that history to children because when I grew up,” Red Star said in a recent interview, “I attended public school in Hardin, which is a town that’s surrounded by the Crow reservation and once was part of the Crow reservation.  We never talked about anything having to do with Crow history, even though the student population was a mix of Crow kids and white rancher kids.  So, to me, it’s always been a fantasy to have that history presented in some way.  Then we tried to figure out a way to best engage that age demographic, for the exhibition.”

Righting wrongs and addressing past grievances has never been easy.  But it’s something that has to be done.

The exhibition runs through the spring of 2021.

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Glassed

Combining traditional glassblowing techniques and sculpting methods, Debora Moore forms incredible glass sculptures that resemble mossy branches, fleshy petals, and entire trees.  The St. Louis-born artist began by creating orchids with bulbous centers before expanding her practice to larger, organic forms.  In her recent collection, Arboria, Moore sculpted delicate magnolias, plump plums, and the lavender tendrils of the wisteria.

Moore likens her process to that of painting, where glass is used similarly to produce depth.  “The material’s inherent ability to transmit and reflect light, as well as its variations from transparency to opacity, lends itself perfectly to achieve desired textures and surfaces,” says Moore.

“Magnolia” from Arboria (2018), blown and sculpted glass

“Winter Plum” from Arboria (2018), blown and sculpted glass

“Winter Plum” from Arboria (2018), blown and sculpted glass

“Blue Lady Slippers” from Gigantica, blown and sculpted glass

“Wisteria” from Arboria (2018), blown and sculpted glass

“Wisteria” from Arboria (2018), blown and sculpted glass

“Blue Orchid Tree,” blown and sculpted glass

“Pink Lady Slipper,” blown and sculpted glass

“Blue Epiphyte,” blown and sculpted glass

“Magnolia” from Arboria (2018), blown and sculpted glass

“Blush Epidendrum,” blown and sculpted glass

 “Purple Lady Slipper,” blown and sculpted glass

“Paphiopedilum Epiphyte,” blown and sculpted glass

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The Historical Goes Digital

Digitalization isn’t all bad.  It’s helping to preserve a variety of aging documents.  And since the late 1970s, digitalization has created an almost entirely new form of art.  Dutch photographer Bas Uterwijk certainly realized this when he used a generative adversarial network (GAN) to create realistic portraits of some of the world’s most renowned personalities.  He’s taken some incredibly detailed portraits and transformed them into equally incredible images of what these people may have looked if photographed.  The results are stunning.

Vincent van Gogh

Queen Elizabeth I

Michelangelo’s David

Statue of Liberty

Napoleon Bonaparte

Rembrandt

Jesus Christ

George Washington

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Waving

Water is fascinating.  Essential, indeed, yet compelling in how it moves and how we humans interact with it.  Artists, therefore, can never conjure enough means to display water, but each attempt is mind-boggling.

Recently, Design You Trust, a digital media company, installed a massive anamorphic illusion entitled “Wave” above a South Korean urban area.  Spanning 80.1 x 20.1 meters, the display appears to be an aquarium with water sloshing repeatedly against its “sides”.

Staring at it for any length of time may make some people queasy.  But, in the midst of the current political and health crises rampaging across the globe, I feel it invokes a sense of calm and humility; akin to waves crash against a shoreline, rain falling gently in the night, or a river tumbling over rocks.  You know – water.

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Frank Lloyd Wright Goes on Tour

Fallingwater is a house designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935 in rural southwestern Pennsylvania.

Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t just talented; he was extraordinarily gifted and ambitious.  He understood that buildings weren’t merely inanimate objects; structures that served only one function and – aside from that – were essentially purposeless.  Houses especially, he believed, could boast intimate connections with their owners; a curiously symbiotic relationship that developed over a certain period – one that ultimately would lead to the residents calling it “home”.

Now Wright fans and architectural aficionados can tune in to #WrightVirtualVisits and watch video tours of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous and lesser-known buildings.  Three entities – the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy; the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation; and Unity Temple Restoration Foundation – collaborated to launch the initiative, Wright Virtual Visits, at the start of April.

“It is precisely at this time, when so many are shut inside, that we need to experience beauty and inspiration,” says Barbara Gordon, executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, in a statement.  “Wright’s works bring people together in harmony with the natural world, reminding us that we are all connected, even when we’re apart.”

I suppose there’s no better way for the quarantined to experience structural beauty than a virtual tour of houses created by one of the most internationally recognized and renowned Frank Lloyd Wright.

In one of my many past lives, I was a famous home-builder.  I always thought of how I could make a home beautiful and appealing.  But I never considered the personal role such structures hold in the lives of people.

Taliesin West

Malcolm Willey House

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Dancing for COVID

Hans Holbein’s “The Lady,” part of his “Danse Macabre” series, c. 1526

From illness and tragedy, art always seems to bloom to place ourselves and our world into a grand perspective.  After the “Black Death” rampaged through Eurasia and North Africa in the 14th century, the “danse macabre”, or dance of death, became an artistic representation of how death is the ultimate equalizer.  Beginning in Western Europe and gaining popularity in the Middle Ages, it was a literary or pictorial representation of both living and dead figures – from pope to hermit – leading their lives as normal, before entering a grave.

Recently some pallbearers in Ghana envisioned the dance for contemporary deaths and the ensuing funerals.  As many Africans tend to do, they celebrate death as the next stage of life – mournful and often tragic, for certain.  Singing and dancing, they honor the deceased for the life they led on Earth and the glorious new life they should have in the next realm.

It’s how I view death.  My paternal grandfather said he respected death more than any other aspect of the world because it’s not prejudiced or bigoted.  It simply spares no one.  I felt some measure of glee when I watch the ending of the 1997 movie “Titanic”, as the ship sank and the plethora of furnishings and luxurious items shattered.  Not because I love seeing things destroyed!  But because all of the vainglorious possessions of the vessel’s wealthiest patrons could not save them.  They may have been rescued because of their wealth, as many of them entered the smattering of lifeboats first.  But, whether dead at that moment or dead later, they would never be able to take those items with them.

We all come into this world naked and screaming, clutching nothing but our souls in our hands.  We leave with the same.

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Tomás Sánchez – Landscapes of Isolation

“The interior spaces that I experience in meditation are converted into the landscapes of my paintings; the restlessness of my mind transformed into landfills.  When I paint, I experience meditative states; through meditation, I achieve a union with nature, and nature, in turn, leads me to meditation.”

– Tomás Sánchez

If one word can best describe the world we’re living in now, surrealism has no equal.  Seeing the empty roads and highways of the Dallas /Fort Worth-area that I’ve known my entire life is one of the most uncanny experiences I’ve ever had.  I’m still trying to comprehend this slow-motion cataclysm and all of the chaos around it.

Tomás Sánchez seems to understand the concept of a surrealistic existence.  His paintings truly exhibit that sense of isolation; something we introverts love, but that even we realize is not always perfect.  Yet, in those moments of solitude, titanic waterfalls and endless canopies of treetops often embrace (almost swallow) a tiny nondescript figure with its natural beauty.  The latter aspect is reminiscent of dramatic sunsets and massive ocean waves I’ve encountered; elements of the world that should render the most egocentric among us as humble.

Aislarse (Isolate)”, 2001

Orilla y cielo gris (Shore and gray sky)”, 1995

Autorretrato en tarde Rosa (Self-portrait in pink afternoon)”, 1994

Llegada del caminante a la laguna (Arrival of the walker to the lagoon)

Meditación y sonido de aguas (Meditation and sound of waters)”, 1993

Atardecer (Sunset)

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From a Lone Perch Above the City

Two men serenade their San Salvario neighborhood of Turin, Italy, with a guitar and a flute on a balcony, on March 13, 2020. Photo by Nicolò Campo, LightRocket.

Some Italian citizens – as perhaps only Italians could – reacted to a recent COVID-19 quarantine with music and song.  Until March 26, Italy had experienced the most confirmed coronavirus cases outside of China.  Initially, Italian government shut down the northern half of the country – but eventually, the entire nation fell to lock-down commands.  Isolated in their homes, several talented individuals retrieved musical instruments and their voices to sing to the quiet air.  The results have been magical – and have been spreading faster than the virus.

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Lunar Souls

Artist, writer, photographer and fellow blogger Art Browne has a unique – and sometimes twisted – view of our universe.  Which is why I know, without a doubt, that he is my long-lost twin brother!  When not tormenting spiders or ridiculing helpless cats on his blog, “Pouring My Art Out”, Brother Art captures some truly fascinating visions of the natural world.  In a recent series of simple cell phone shots, he photographed the moon in various stages and from various angles over San Diego, California.  A few of them are presented below.

I have to concede these lunar photos make me feel incredibly sentimental.  Every time I look up at the sky and see that glorious moon, I – sniff – always get homesick.

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Booth Blooms

Well, at long last, someone has found a good use for old phone booths*. Botanical designer Lewis Miller ambushed the streets of New York City recently to adorn an otherwise ordinary corner in swaths of floral color and energy.  A few years ago Miller transformed the notoriously banal empty garbage cans into vases of sumptuous flowers.  In this most recent endeavor to make a gritty urban area appear palatable – a project he dubs “Flower Flash” – Miller and his crew filled a Manhattan telephone booth with a plethora of flowers and greenery.

“What initially began as a Lewis Miller design experiment to reinvigorate and reconnect us to our craft, turned into a beautiful shared experience in a city of millions,” the group stated.  The “reactions to our flower flashes emphasizes the basic goodness in all people and prioritizes compassion”.

The results are more than a little impressive, and I feel we need more of Lewis Miller’s works in our increasingly crowded and convoluted world.

*To the under-30 crowd, phone booths are tall glass structures where people would have to make phone calls if they weren’t at home, at work or in jail.  You’d put a quarter into a little slot towards the bottom of the actual phone; wipe the receiver as best you could so you wouldn’t catch germs like herpes or gingivitis; and press little buttons on said phone to make the call.

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