Tag Archives: art

Relief Art

Feeling anxious or upset?  A number of things exist to help you out – reading, walking, meditation, exercise.  But have you ever thought of visiting a museum to ease that apprehension?  Turns out that patronizing a museum might be one avenue of relief for anguished souls.  A University of Pennsylvania study entitled “Art Museums as Institutions for Human Flourishing” published in the Journal of Positive Psychology indicates as much.

The relatively new field of “positive psychology” studies “the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.”  It draws on research from a variety of academic disciplines while examining how the arts and humanities affect the human condition.

“We believe our collaborative and interdisciplinary work is all the more vital at a time when so many individuals and communities lack the levels of well-being they need to thrive,” said James O. Pawelski of UPenn.

Pawelski and colleague Katherine Cotter had already planned to study the effects of museums on people’s mental health when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.  Since so many museums were forced to shut down, the duo compiled and reviewed over 100 research articles and government and foundation reports.

They discovered that visiting a museum reduced stress levels, frequent visits decreased anxiety, and viewing figurative art lowered blood pressure. They also found that museum visits lowered the intensity of chronic pain, increased a person’s life span, and lessened the likelihood of being diagnosed with dementia.  And those living with dementia saw mental and physical benefits as well: Spending time in a museum induced more dynamic stress responses, higher cognitive function, and improvements in the symptoms of depression.

Going to a museum also left elementary schoolers feeling “restored” and even made medical residents feel less emotionally exhausted.

To most artists, this shouldn’t be surprising.  Writers, painters, musicians and the like have always had the ability to unite people when politicians couldn’t.  And now, our desires to make people’s lives better has been vindicated once again.

Image: Dallas Museum of Art

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Nicolas V. Sánchez – “Untitled” (2022)

“The importance of family led me to explore ideas of inheritance and the identity that is simultaneously lost and gained through preserving a legacy. Of course, where I’m from plays a big part of who I am, but whether its pride, loyalty, pressure, or a sense of responsibility, family history finds a way to influence the present and future.”

Nicolas V. Sánchez

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“The Chair” by Bruce Strickland

“The chair is where you crash out when the best seat is already taken, that being the window seat. In this shot, Zoey has already claimed the window, so Kitty Girl is quite content with the more spacious option.  I painted this particular painting in October, or as cat owners know it – Black Cat Awareness Month.  Black cats sometimes get ignored for more colorful cats and they tend to be adopted less than other cats.  Although Kitty Girl is almost total black, the sunlight is enhancing her beauty even more.  She is so gentle and loving.  She was brought her in as a kitten.  She likes the indoor life and being on this side of the window, so this is where she is often found.  Fortunately for her October is just another month. This painting is titled “The Chair”.  If you own cats you might notice the frays in the curtain under the chair that are catching just a glimmer of sunlight.  The detail was challenging in this painting but I really enjoyed the challenge.  I hope you like it as well. And the next time you visit the shelter, please don’t forget the black cats.”

Bruce Strickland

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Retro Quote – Claes Oldenburg

“I am for an artist that is political-erotical-mystical; that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.”

Claes Oldenburg

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“The Professional” – Abigail Gutting

Abigail Gutting

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The Bernie Mitten Look

Supposedly imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Do Internet memes fall into that same category?  I guess we could ask Bernie Sanders, the independent-leaning senator from Vermont.  When he arrived at the presidential inauguration last week, Sanders maintained pandemic protocol and sat a few feet from others and wore the appropriate face mask.  But he also wore a pair of thick mittens hand-made by Vermont school teacher Jen Ellis.  Along with a thick parka, he was obviously prepared for the cold New England weather.  Nothing is extraordinary about those mittens, but sometimes there’s just no reason something or someone becomes popular.

Sanders’ mitten fashion has sparked plenty of creative imitators in the cyber-world.

Now Tobey Times Crochet has gone further by designing and creating a “Bernie Sanders crochet doll”, complete with parka, mask and mittens.  Measuring approximately 9” (22.9 cm), the figure is seated and bears wire-frame glasses and unkempt white hair on a balding scalp.

Ever the good sport, Sanders is using his new-found fame to raise money for charity.  And who doesn’t think an old seated alone in a chair during winter is adorable?

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New Blue

For the first time in 200 years, a new shade of blue is on sale.  In 2009, scientists developed YInMn Blue, which derives its name from its chemical components: indium, manganese and yttrium.  It absorbs red and green wavelengths to produce the bright azure shade, which is unique because it’s a hybrid of ultramarine and cobalt blue.

Even though it’s been over a decade, consumer access to the pigment had to process through the usual myriad of government regulations – particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In 2016, the Shepherd Color Company received a license to sell YInMn Blue and sees the color’s potential industrial usages.  The pigment reflects most infrared radiation; thus, keeping building exteriors cool.

The color blue has a lengthy history of discovery and innovation.  It is the first human-made pigment; dating to roughly 2,200 B.C.E., when Egyptians created cuprorivaite, known simply as Egyptian blue.  Its developers ground limestone mixed with sand and a copper-containing mineral, such as azurite or malachite, then heated it between 1470 and 1650°F.  This produced an opaque blue glass, which then had to be crushed and combined with thickening agents such as egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.

Thousands of years ago the ancient Maya developed their own shade of blue.  Known simply as Mayan blue, it’s a vibrant, durable and fade-resistant blue extracted from the leaves of the indigo plant (Indigofera) and palygorskite, a clay mineral.  Researchers believe Mayan blue was used in more ceremonial situations than artistic.

YInMn Blue is available to American consumers only through Golden Paints and Italian Arts Store.  Now anyone can purchase a tube of it for USD 179.40.  I don’t know if that’s retail or wholesale, but artists have another reason to struggle in the name of their craft.

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December 2020 Countdown – December 11!

“Don’t make use of another’s mouth unless it has been loaned to you.”

Belgian Proverb

Image: “Little Girl in the Garden”, Anna Rosalie Boch

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A Personal Review

“I couldn’t put it down.”

What author doesn’t love to hear that?!  Especially about their debut novel!

I had a late lunch/early dinner (I’ll call it “lunner”) at a nearby restaurant.  It had been a full, yet satisfying day.  On many levels, things are starting to improve for me.  I won’t go into dramatic detail, but I felt better Friday than I had in months.  The stress of dealing with aging parents and now unemployment in the midst of a global pandemic has beaten my mental and physical health down worse than anything I’ve ever experienced.

So I decided to treat myself for a good meal and a couple of mixed drinks.  My favorite server, Kendra*, was staffing the bar, and after providing my first beverage, suddenly told me how much she loved my novel, The Silent Fountain.  I have known Kendra for a few years and only through the restaurant where she works – long and hard.  It seems every time I visit the place, Kendra is there.  I had provided her an autographed copy of the book back in June, shortly after my mother died.  Friday was the first time I’d been to the restaurant since then.

I didn’t expect Kendra to bring up The Silent Fountain.  Her reaction to it was extraordinary.  It’s my nature to be suspicious of people most of the time.  I don’t know Kendra that well, but I like her.  She has a pleasant and personable demeanor.  Still, it took me a little while to accept fully how much she seems to like my book.  I thought she might be exaggerating just to make me feel good and because I’m somewhat of a regular who tips very well.  So I just let her talk.

And I quickly realized the impact the tale had on her.  In fact, it had the effect I hope to achieve with my readers – for this and all of my stories.  The characters and the locale meshed with the pastoral imagery to create the universe in Kendra’s mind that I envisioned in my own.  A few others who have read it so far have had mostly the same response.

It’s intoxicating to hear all of that, but I have to temper my literary ego with sanity.  Writers work hard to compose a world – realistic or fantastic – within their stories.  We always want to attain that level of likeability as raconteurs; as someone who can dream up a tale – no matter how outrageous – and still be credible.  But then isn’t that what all artists want?

I’ve come to accept that I may never become rich and famous with my writing, and that’s genuinely fine with me.  I don’t write stories – and I didn’t start this blog – to become acclaimed and unbelievably wealthy.  Admittedly, that would be great and ideal, but it simply isn’t realistic.  And no one should engage in any kind of artistic pursuit with that goal in mind.  It’s foolish.

But if I don’t achieve any kind of notoriety until after I die, then that would be just as good for me.  We are still consuming the writings and other artworks of people who passed away long ago.  Kendra is just one person, yet her opinion meant so much to me.  She expressed what I hoped someone would feel when they read that book.  Again, that’s what every artist wants: to be appreciated.

*Name changed.

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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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