Thursday, November 14, 2013

Feeling Red with Mark Rothko…

Marcus Yakovlevich Rothkowitz September 25, 1903 – February 25, 1970)

I recently saw an exhibit on Mark Rothko at the Arkansas Art Center the other day. One of the many privileges of volunteering at a local art center for which, I really enjoy. I have been volunteering at the AAC since 2008 to keep in the loop of local artists and for the great exhibits at the museum and also, hoping to work in a Museum someday.
There are a lot of paintings to talk about by Rothko, but I am only going to mention the ones I saw on my visit to the Museum this past week at AAC. First, a little history about the artist background, Mark Rothko was born in a city in Russia named Latvia. He was a Latvia Jewish descent. His family immigrated to the United States of America in 1913 through Ellis Island. His name changed when he got older due to him being afraid that the USA would send him back to Russia to be executed for being a Jew. His name changed to Mark Rothko at that point. Rothko was a very well educated man that went to Yale, but didn’t receive his diploma or acknowledgement from Yale until after he was a successful painter. Rothko did attend the Art Students League of New York in 1923, and his mentors were Arshile Gorky, Max Weber, and Milton Avery. Rothko was influenced by German Expressionism (Awesome!-me too!) and this is when he would create a mixture of Surrealism, Cubism, and Abstraction in his paintings. Rothko throughout his life had dealt with depression and trying times when eventually he killed himself in his studio in 1970 in New York City.
Painting: “Sea Fantasy” 1946. (See Attachment) Rothko was into dreams, Greek mythology, and at the time Sigmund Freud was the in thing- the unconscious mind. This painting looks very similar to Arshile Gorky or Salvador Deli with the floating weird shapes of what seems to be body parts against a dull in color, open back drop. When viewing this piece I felt torn apart, yet the pieces are connected by the straight lines that seem to float between the pieces. It reminds me of war or starvation of some sort. But, as you view this painting you do see in the background the placement of two, maybe three blocks or rectangles of raw sienna or orca yellow on top. In the middle, it’s a lighter color, rectangle of raw sienna, etc. and then the bottom half is a dull gray color. Do you see it? I didn’t recognize it either until I heard someone talking about it in the museum and sure enough; it’s in almost all of his earlier work in the 1940’s. The back ground was layered in a transparent color in rectangles while the images were laid on top of it. His images were of the unconscious mind, a spiritual turmoil of Jesus crucifixion to Greek mythology.

Painting: “No.9” 1948. Color palette is astounding with reds, oranges, pinks, whites, and then blues. This painting is a good example of his well known color field painting techniques on canvas. Now, you see that the image is not even recognizable; the images have become forms in space. Yes, abstract art at its best. However, Rothko did not like being called an Abstract Expressionist as in Jackson Pollock, or even concerned himself a Surrealist painter. Rothko wanted to be recognized as an American Artist and that’s it! However, he continually and tirelessly wanted his paintings to show emotions or feelings from the painting itself. Rothko wanted the painting to speak for itself. Sounds like Jackson Pollock, don’t you think? As I viewed this painting, I got the feeling that I was in a crowd and that the colors of reds were warnings ahead, yet I felt at ease because of the forms in front of me where there to protect me from harm. I am sure everyone that views this painting will feel the same or different depending what they feel and see. I must say I was attracted to the different colors of red.
Paintings: “No. 8 and No. 18” 1949. These two paintings are rectangle in shapes and the paint is very transparent or almost scrapped off. I enjoyed No. 8 more than No. 18 because of the colors in No. 8. I heard that you have to view his paintings 18 inches away from them and be engulfed in the feeling of the painting. In which, it is easy to do because of the paintings are huge in size. Therefore, I did just that on No. 8. While viewing the painting, I felt warmth, passion, and with the yellow/white on top of painting I felt that it was escape from this passion or a brighter side of this passion I was feeling. The white lines that appear on the left, kind of confused me for it made me feel isolated yet, the break in the lines made it feel the overflowing of passion with the bright orange/red color that takes up most of the painting. No. 18 painting was a little more different, not so vibrant of color. No.18 was more soothing on the eyes with its dark green, dark purple and black/blue rectangle that takes up most of the painting. Underneath these rectangles is a dull yellow color/s for the back ground. The rectangle shapes are then topped off with a bright orange/red color line. Well, this one was hard at first, but I felt earth colors, or like lying on your belly on a patch of grass and looking up at the black void of a sky. It was for sure, an earthly feeling. Can you imagine that the bright sun (the yellow color) as the background and the rectangles are blocking your view to see what’s behind the blocks or within them?

Maybe Rothko was right in saying, “Less is more”.  He wanted his paintings to be a universal language that everyone could relate to or be a part of. The forms within the paintings became large voids of color, sometimes stacked on top of each other but, the color combinations immediately gave off feelings. Even the way the oil paint was smeared or wiped off or even deluded to make the painting feel ancient or worn down.
Well, what do you think? What do you feel?  Besides his paintings looking like something you can do yourself, do you see what he was trying to do as a painter? Why yes, as a painter, I know the feeling of having a painting to speak for itself. It seems the paintings make more sense after knowing the artists back ground first. We should view paintings before knowing the artist or even better just knowing the style of painting from that particular artist.
Exercise: Stare at one these paintings (mentioned above) for about 15 minutes and see if you feel anything? Try first things that jump into to your mind while your eyes focus and travel on certain parts of the painting and what does that shape or color make you feel? or Does it just make you feel….RED?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Art Books that are a MUST READ!!!!

I have always enjoyed the art history books as any artist does and while in college there was no way around it. Now, out of college and creating our own art work, we artists use those art books more for inspirations or references. However, I remember toward the end of my senior year I was starting to burn out and even caught myself burning out earlier this year. A time, where nothing was working, no thoughts, no ideas, no strength, no ambition, lots of anxiety, etc. I don’t know about you, but it’s my drug, it’s my escape, keeps me leveled, and creative/thinking.

Well, I have found two books that are my life line to keep going with my art. To be encouraged to not give up and to be ok on down times. First book was advised from a college friend (Leslie) when discussing being burned out our senior year. A must read I tell you! The name of book is “Art and Fear” by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This is a book about two artists, who are the authors, which share their insights of becoming an artist that is fearless. Also, this book is really good on expressing yourself through your art work and to have that unique style. One thing that is for sure is that I am still a growing painter, learning every time I paint to make that one style that says, “That’s a Lucy Inserra painting”. I speak through paintings or I try to with certain brushstrokes and color. As like, any artist that would love to be recognized for their talent and skills. For example, when looking at a Van Gogh or a Picasso, you know the difference between their paintings without even knowing them for their famous names in the art world. That’s exactly what I strive for and of course, that dream that I will someday have a one-man show in New York City. It’s a long shot but, it could happen. This book is all about finding your own way in your work. This book is only 118 pages long, paper book, and small in size. I say that because it was like a bible my last weeks of college in 2011. It got me through it and even got me through it again the beginning of this year. Let me write a part here: “ARTMAKING INVOLVES SKILLS THAT CAN BE LEARNED. The conventional wisdom here is that while bestowed only by the gods. Not so. In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.” (Page 3). Can I say, AMEN!!! As a teacher now for beginner painters, my paintings that I teach and create are very diverse in style (in acrylics) and at the same time, I am constantly creating my own paintings (in oil paints) to find my own style in my studio. I do like that I can go back and forth in many paintings techniques, but I still thrive for my own art work, my signature style. Oh! One day it will come. 

As artists, we are emotional and intuitive creatures I must say. For we, are aware of our own surroundings and our minds are constantly thinking and creating in our heads. After awhile, we become burnt out in our minds and causing depression when we are not creating. For some of us, it’s a life line or even survival if getting paid for your art work. Even when, we have an idea and we sketch it out and it’s all good for awhile and then your art work is not becoming what you envisioned it and then depression sets in that you feel not good enough to create what you thought would work. Artists are their own worst critic and we take things so personally. Feeling like a failure is a common place. This book is great to read when you have become depressed during your art work and gives pointers to view at it a different way, a normal way. The name of book is “The Van Gogh Blues” by Eric Maisel, PH.D. Quote: “In order for you to live an authentic, meaningful life, which is the principal remedy for the depression creative people experience, you must feel that 1)the plan of your life is meaningful, 2) the work you do is meaningful, and 3) the way your spend time is meaningful. These are three separate but related tasks, each with its logic, demands, and obstacles.” (Page 51). Good Stuff!!! I read this book after college and have read it several times during my depression times of creating. 

Thank you for reading, Hopes this helps some artists out there!!! 

Maisel, Eric Ph.D The Van Goghs Blues. United States of America: Rodale, Inc., 2002.
Bayles, David and Ted Orland. Art and Fear. United States of America: McNaughton & Gunn, Printers, 1993.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Modern Art...What is that?

Janine Antoni "Lick and Lather"      

As we are coming into the 21st century, it will be interesting what art work will change to. I am guessing it will be computerized and more visual than anything we have ever seen.  But, let’s take a look at some weird modern art work that was created in the 20th century.  Modern art that we are going to discuss is from 1860’s to 1970’s and even in the 1990’s or in 2000’s. As a Studio Art major, I am interested in all art not only painting. Painting is my passion and my art medium of choice. However, I do get my influences from other art works and inspirations from these weird and sometimes awesome pieces of art work during the 20th century.

Modern art is sometimes strange indeed. Have you ever looked at a piece of art and said, what is that? What does it mean? What is the artist trying to say? Or saying, Gee, I could do that myself?  Of course, we have said those things.  As a viewer by just asking those questions the artist has done their job as an artist.  Modern art is more about the art work speaking for its self than the artist. The artist is recognized for their artwork after the artwork has won the show. 

I will give two examples of art work that I always looked at saying, what the hell is that?! In college, there were many examples but I will only give a few because I want to focus more on the great modern art out there that just blew me away, or made me think. But, first with the weird modern art works or what I thought was weird art.

First example, a painting by Rene Magritte called, “This is not a pipe” 1928-9. That saying is written on the painting itself, might be written in French.  He was a Belgian surrealist artist. Weird, right? Of course, it’s a pipe that we see or is it? Can you explain to someone that this is a pipe? Is it a real pipe or just a painting of a pipe? These were the mind twisting questions I had to answer in art history class.  The answer is easy, it made us question that painting and there it is! art!!! I still can’t wrap my mind around it. I just don’t get it! This type at art work influenced pop art like the artist Andy Warhol later on.  (See Image Below).

Second example, Dada art or readymade art work. I could never understand this type of art work.  A good example is the urinal by Marcel Duchamp called “Fountain” 1917.  Let me explain readymade artwork, the art work is not art until an artist names it art. Readymade art are already made objects used as art and that an artist can say this is artwork. Yes, you read that right. This is a good example, this is a ordinary urinal that men use for the rest room and Marcel Duchamp wrote on side R.Mutt  1917 and he entered this piece  into a art exhibit in New York that evidently caused controversies on accepted art work or what is considered art work or not by the Society of Independent Artists.  The piece was hidden from view although it was accepted as art work.  This upset Duchamp.  This type of artwork is ridiculous!!! Now, Marcel Duchamp was a great artist, a painter and a sculpture where he used readymade objects to create these abstract 3-D Forms in open space. But, this artwork, a urinal? This is a good example of an artist taking something familiar to us and calling it art. Yes, I could see the meaning or the sense of humor in it but to call it art…I just don’t know.  So, if I take this red chair and called it “Sit” and bam!!  Its art work.  That simple.  

Other Artists that have created other questionable art work.  Recognize any of them? Artists:  Jasper Johns, Yoko Uno, John Cage, Donald Judd, David Smith.etc.

Whoo! Whee! Now we are finished with the weird modern art work, let me give some wild ones that really intrigued me or just inspired me. I know there is many, I will only give a few examples and they are also interesting stories of the artists. First one, Alexander Calder, a sculpture that showed so much fun, humor and movement in his art work. Yes, movement in sculpture in a literal sense. Calder made miniature circuses all made from rolls of wire and all the pieces were functional. Calder would do head portraits of his quests at parties out of wire and gave them to his guests as gifts. Calder was not always into wire or kinetic sculpture; he also worked in steel as like the monumental weird spider looking sculptures you would see in down town New York City. Calder also created these moving abstract objects that hung from the ceiling or on the ground and the wind would control their movement. Just Astounding!!! I don’t know why but I like him and his artwork. Calder’s artworks have movement of course, but it has humor and creepy all at the same time. My favorite story about Calder (Because I always have those weird stories of artists due to those many nights of researching art while in college and the wonderful professors I have had).Calder had a one man show in New York City (My Dream or what my goal is to have). The curator of the show was waiting patiently for his main attraction Alexander Calder to show. So, imagine how shocked the curator was when Calder showed up with no art work to display for the show that was going to be exhibited within weeks. When the curator asked him, “Where is your art work?” Calder calmly reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll of wire and some clippers and says, “Here it is”. Right there, Calder became to create his exhibit by hand on location. Is that not amazing!!!??? I thought so. It came so easy for him and at ease, just a little wire and an imagination. Just plain talent!!!

Ok, this one is strange but I like that the viewer has the counteraction with the art piece itself and also the personal touch of the artist as well. Janine Antoni, a sculpture as well, she created 14 busts of herself in a classical style but, instead of using marble, she used soap and chocolate. Yup!!! She choice soap because women are clean and smell sweet and nice, and chocolate because that’s the favorite choice of sweets among women. Therefore, she made 7 busts of soap and 7 out of chocolate. Here’s the weird part…she would bath with the heads to smooth out the appearances on the soap busts, disfiguring them. The 7 other chocolate busts are licked on to disfigure them. Yes, it’s true! The exhibit was called, “Lick and Lather”. She explains a lot on it in the link I have attached under bibliography. Basically, it’s a self image issue and also it’s erotic because chocolate is suppose to be a replacement of sex or gives that same feeling when we are in love. Her exhibit shows humor also in it along with some feminism attributes. Interesting read. Oh! Also, the exhibit itself was made for the viewers to add water to the soap and caress it and the chocolate pieces were to be licked by the visitors. Weird but Cool!!! 

One more, this one is more serious in matter and when I first saw it in college on film, I felt bad for her and also began to cry or feel emotional viewing it. Yoko Ono’s performance piece of, “Cut Piece” 1965. Ono walked out onto a concert stage in Japan, wearing a black suit and a pair of scissors next to her. The audience was to walk onto the stage one by one and grab the scissors and cut any piece of clothing off the suit and to keep or whatever. Performance art work is always filmed or photographed to document the piece of art work because is not a 3-d object, etc. It’s a performance, like the popular flash mobs that happen in our today’s culture.  So the performance can easily be found on YouTube. (Check it out). Anyway, the people would slowly go up to the stage and cut a piece off her suit. Ono would not make eye contact, nor say a word. Some people would say something to her but you couldn’t hear what is said. The more and more pieces are cut from her and start revealing her body underneath the suit, she begins to kind of start crying or becoming emotional. The viewer starts to feel the emotions also. This performance can mean so many things and yet the message is strong, uncomfortable and unnecessary all at the same time. I think it’s different to everyone that views it or who had been involved in the cutting of the piece/suit. I know I felt violated for her, felt like each piece was her soul being taken away from her. I also felt discrimination, embarrassed or the feeling of why. Yes, it’s strange to view something like this, but it has so much meaning behind the actual performance and the art theology in it. The performance piece is still one of my favorites.
To name a few other interesting modern artist with some unique art work and I might mention them again in the future; Richard Long, Christo and Jeanne-Claude*-very good one, Andy Goldsworthy, Jeff Koons*-oh! He is great too!!! Just to name a few. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Viva la Vida…Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo "Viva la Vida" 1939
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907-July 13, 1954) Mexican Painter.
As a modern day painter, I am always interested or influenced by past artists. For instance, Frida Kahlo, who once quoted, “I was born a bitch. I was born a painter”. I have spoken about surrealist painters before like Salvador Dali who painted dreams and such, but Kahlo’s paintings are far from dreams, there are more about her life and pain. It’s interesting that the things in life are hard to explain to someone like pain, love, dreams, etc. As a painter, we don’t use words to explain. We use paint and images that express these feelings. I am not a surrealist painter, but I like using their concepts when it comes to expression painting. Another thing is that she is a woman painter. Art history always focused on the men artists and not so much the women. There some awesome women painters out there, O’Keefe, Neel, Morisot, etc..etc… little is mentioned about them or talked about for they are viewed as feminists or against the principles in the art world. This is upsetting to me, for I am a woman myself and a painter. I will probably never been well known until I am long gone but, while I am here I can influence other women to follow their own passions as I have done.   
On with Kahlo, interesting woman I must say. Behind her strange paintings, you need to know where she is coming from. Kahlo was born into pain, at age 6 she had polio, born with Spina Bifida, and then in 1925, while riding on a bus that collided with a trolley, Kahlo suffered many injuries from the accident. Injuries that involved broken column, broken collarbone, broken ribs, broken pelvis, and fractures in the right leg. She suffered intense pain for months while recovering from these injuries. Kahlo had 35 operations and became pregnant 3 times during ordeal with no avail, but to only terminate the pregnancies due to her condition. She was bed bound and isolated for most of life. It was during this time she decided to become a painter. Her mother encouraged her and had a special easel made for her to paint with while in bed.
Kahlo married famous painter Diego Rivera of Mexico, who was famous for his murals. Kahlo admired him as a painter and in 1927, while he was working in the Public Ministry of Education on a mural, she brought him 4 of her paintings to view and wanted advice from Rivera if she had talent in painting or not. Rivera was impressed by her paintings for they were different and very vibrant in color and captivating imagery. Rivera stated to her, “You got talent” and he left her to explore herself as a painter. Later, they married. Their marriage was a very open marriage for they both cheated on each other and for one thing, Kahlo was Bisexual and had many affairs. Rivera was known to sleep with his female models. However, their love for each other was unbroken and at times also painful. Kahlo and Rivera were married twice in their lifetimes to each other.
Kahlo’s paintings were influenced by Mexican culture, bright colors, dramatic symbolism as used in Christian and Jewish art work, and primitive style. Still, she was concerned a surrealist painter, the first female Mexican artist. In 1939, the Louvre in Paris purchased one of her paintings, “The Frame” the first 20th century painter, a female Mexican painter to be purchased by a well known museum as the Louvre.
Kahlo painting, “Viva La Vida”  (1954) was painted 8 days before her death. Her explanation on the painting is that there are wonderful things in life, family and the talent she had in painting. The watermelons are used for the symbolism of life as so sweet and fulfilling, and the vivid color of red for passion of her talent in painting or her love for painting. Long live Life!!
The painting, “The Broken Column” (1944) a self portrait painting of Kahlo, as many paintings of hers was. Out of 143 paintings, 55 were self portraits. She was quoted, “I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality”. This painting shows her reality of having her spine column destroyed and the pain she endured.  Kahlo is standing alone in a empty background of a open field, no sign of animals or plants, no sign of life. Her chest is cut open exposing the broken spine column and she is crying in pain, all alone. For this, is a symbolism of we all endure pain alone as she did.
Kahlo’s painting and well recognized, “The Two Fridas” (1939). This painting is about the love for her husband after their divorce, the deep hurt she felt. The Frida on the left, is being rejected by the love of her husband and it shows with a exposed heart, bleeding and broken, The blood line to the heart is stopped by a medical tool to show that love will not stop or be drained from her heart for him. The Frida on the right, is the Frida that will still love, her heart is still whole while she is holding a small portrait of Rivera in her hand. Actually, the small portrait of Rivera was found among her personal things after her death and is now held in the museum of the “Blue House”.
Kahlo was a interesting female painter, strong-welled and loved much! I always find interesting stories of artists and my favorite story of Kahlo is the she showed up in her bed at her first solo exhibit in Mexico. In 1953, her first time solo exhibit, and her Doctor told her not leave her bed. She insisted on going to her first solo show no matter what. Frida Kahlo arrived by ambulance and had a truck with a bed to follow her to the exhibit. She was carried in by 4 men in her bed. What a story!!! Endurance! Passion! Head Strong woman!
A local critic wrote about Kahlo’s paintings, “It is impossible to separate the life and work of this extraordinary person. Her paintings are her biography”.
Frida Kahlo’s art work can be seen currently in her house in Mexico, the house is made into a museum of her art work. A house called “La Casa Azul” The blue house. Someday, I would like to see her exhibit in real life. Long Live Frida!!!  

"The Broken Column" 1944
"The Two Fridas" 1939