This Thursday evening is the opening for the exhibit
titled Cats vs. Dogs
This exhibit will be held at The Vendue in Charleston SC. Thirty artists from around the world have each created one piece that identifies the artist as either a 'cat person' or a 'dog person'. The Vendue calls it a tongue-in-cheek competition to finally determine the better species. It's the dog. Of course it's the dog.
A portion of all sales from the exhibit will be donated to the Charleston Animal Society and The Vendue will match the donation dollar for dollar.
My contribution to the exhibit is Top Dog - featuring a portrait of Ludovico Madruzzo by the artist Giovanni Battista Moroni, admired by a man of cloth in the Art Institute of Chicago. Madruzzo was an Italian Roman Catholic cardinal during the 1500's, the portrait includes his loyal hunting dog by his side, a symbol of privilege.
Please click here for a larger view of my painting Top Dog including purchase/contact information.
It's not just that the artist, Wayne Thiebaud, paints cakes, pies, cupcakes, ice cream cones and a variety of splendid desserts - he brushes on paint as if he were applying icing. He swirls. He wiggles. And damn if every stroke and every touch of color, often unexpected color, is perfection. The last time I was at the National Gallery of Art in DC, I stood just as close as this woman and thought this is heaven.
To mention, this is another small study for a larger painting. And I really can't wait to start.
Believe it or not, I'm planning out a solo show taking place next March and this is one of the studies of one that I will do larger. The artworks that will be featured are 'extra-large' - examples are (this) Barack Obama 'Hope' by Shepard Fairey, Guernica by Picasso, etc.
Shepard Fairey's large, mixed-media portrait is based on Fairey's Barack Obama 'Hope' poster, which came to represent Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. Fairey created the large portrait after Obama won the election and the Smithsonian Institution acquired it for its National Portrait Gallery.
I've been painting studies all week including this new piece I finished this evening. A woman viewing a painting in the Art Institute of Chicago - one that always makes me smile - Henri Matisse's Daisies.
The Belgium artist, Rene Magritte clearly had a sense of humor.
Magritte's earliest paintings date back to 1915 - and like most artists of that time period, he dabbled in different styles, beginning with Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism then Surrealism after becoming involved with a group of surrealists in Paris. Meanwhile, to earn a living, he ran an advertising agency back in Brussels, continued painting in a more painterly style - even earned a living at one time producing fake Picassos and Braques and believe it or not, forged banknotes during the postwar period.
The Son of Man was completed in 1964 as a self-portrait. The hovering, green apple obsures most of his face, as Magritte explained 'Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present'.
The Son of Man has been parodied multiple times in literature, film and artworks - notably a few - Norman Rockwell painted a homage titled Mr. Apple, the Simpsons had Bart behind a floating apple, and the film The Thomas Crown Affair included the painting in several scenes.
I've talked a little bit about the artist James McNeill Whistler on this blog. Of course his most famous painting is Whistler's Mother.
Whistler entered The White Girl in the Paris Salon in 1863 where it was rejected by the 'tradition-bound' jury. Napoleon III held his own Salon des Refuses, an exhibition of artworks that had be rejected elsewhere. It was hugely controversial - an exhibition for the avant-garde artists - how dare he. The White Girl was met with severe public ridicule but his fellow artists and some critics loved it. One art critic referred to it as a 'symphony in white' and Whistler loved that reference to music so much so he retitled a number of previous paintings - including The White Girl, renamed Symphony in White, No. 1. Whistler went on to complete two more painting of women in white dresses titled Symphony in White, No. 2 and 3.
James Whistler continued with a more limited palette, like The White Girl and Self-Portrait (there on the left) and Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1, also known as Whistler's Mother.
From the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, a woman viewing Whistler's Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl.
Norman Rockwell's profound 1964 painting 'The Problem We All Live With'
is on the top of my Rockwell list. It depicts 6-year-old Ruby Bridges,
an African-American girl, being escorted to an all-white public school
in New Orleans, by four deputy U.S. marshalls. What is so very
effective is the viewer is seeing the point of view from the angry
crowd, the hint being the racial slurs on the wall and the tomato
splattered in between the figures.
The image was published in a 1964 issue of Look
magazine - Rockwell's contract with the Saturday Evening Post ended in
1963 due to Rockwell's continued frustration with the magazine's
limitations on his expressions of progressive social interests,
including his personal views on civil rights and racial integration.
Norman Rockwell's granddaughter, Abigail, recently wrote a compelling article in the Huffington Post titled Would There Be Norman Rockwell Without The Saturday Evening Post?Rockwell undoubtedly evolved as an illustrator between 1916 and 1963 - becoming a storyteller with his images like no other. His career with the Post yielded 322 covers before he ended his contract.
Ruby Bridges, at the age of 56, visited the painting in the White House in 2011 - at the request of President Obama.
The CNN writer, Bob Greene, wrote about that event in this article. Within that article, these words struck me "..the message of the painting is so powerful that it goes well beyond
the incident it portrays. The message transcends our usual
Democrats-vs.-Republicans, conservatives-vs.-liberals, left-vs.-right
squabbling. Rockwell was a genius not just because of the
technical skill of his artistry, but because of his eye for the telling
detail. And in "The Problem We All Live With," the key detail is how he
framed the four U.S. marshals who are accompanying that child to school.
We do not see their faces; in the painting, the men are cropped at
That is the power and the story of the painting:
Four men were accompanying Bridges to school, yes, but the point was,
the United States of America was accompanying her. We see the men's
"Deputy U.S. Marshal" armbands, and that is what matters. The painting
tells us: This country may have its flaws, but when right and wrong are
on the line, the nation, in the end, usually chooses to stand for right."
I was simply inspired to paint this new piece after I turned on the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring - which, by the way, is an artist's dream of a beautifully visual film. Every minute is a painting.
Johannes Vermeer was a moderately successful Dutch painter in the 17th century - specializing in domestic scenes in his own middle-class life. He painted slow and infrequently and insisted on using expensive paints but his signature element was light.
Vermeer wasn't a wealthy man - but his future mother-in-law was wealthy and insisted Johannes convert to Catholicism before marrying her daughter Catharina - and with her help, Vermeer was able to pursue painting. The couple went on to have eleven children, all who were left penniless and in debt after his death at age 43.
Vermeer's works were hardly known outside of Amsterdam until the 19th century - imagine that. His famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring hangs in The Hague in the Netherlands.
If you have a bucket list, add seeing the painting Nighthawks by Edward Hopper in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Hopper's iconic painting done in 1942 is one of the most recognizable paintings in American art. Hopper and his wife Jo attended an exhibit of paintings by Henri Rousseau at the Museum of Modern Art - about a month after Nighthawks was hung in a New York gallery - and in attendance was Daniel Catton Rich, the director of the Art Institute of Chicago and Alfred Barr, the director of MOMA. Jo told Barr he just had to go see Edward's new painting Nighthawks. It was Rich who went to see it shortly after and purchased it for $3000 and the painting has hung in the Art Institute ever since.
Mark Rothko was a complex, educated man and it would be futile for me to even begin to analyze his paintings, especially the color fields in his abstract expressionism works. I will include a quote from Rothko that does it for me - "The fact that people break down and cry when confronted with my pictures shows that I can communicate those basic human emotions. The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious experience I had when painting them. And if you say you are moved only by their color relationships then you miss the point."
A young man stands before Mark Rothko's Untitled, (Purple, White and Red) in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Please click here for a larger view and purchase/contact information.
This is how most people look at a painting by Joan Miro. A bit puzzled maybe.
The Spanish painter, born in 1893, lived a long life until the age of 90 - which meant he lived as a painter and sculptor through many art movements of the 20th century - surrealism, dadaism, fauvism, magical realism, experimentalism and modernism. Miro expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, famously declaring an 'assassination of painting' in favor of upsetting the visual elements of established painting'. Add Joan Miro to the long list of artists who were sent off to a private school and sooned decided they wanted to be a painter rather than what their father wanted them to be.
Miro's painting above is titled Personages with Star. You might ask what is a personage. According to Miro, after hunger-induced hallucinations, he began a series of 'dream paintings', exploring surrealism, including what he called enigmatic signs or personages - based on real things but in his own form. The man was unique.
Like his mentor, Pablo Picasso, Miro was deeply involved in politics. In
a 1936 interview, with the Spanish civil war looming, he spoke of the
need to 'resist all societies... if the aim is to impose their demands
on us. The word 'freedom' has meaning for me and I will defend it at any
cost.' When asked about the death of General Franco in 1975 and what he had done to promote opposition to the Spanish dictator who ruled for nearly 40 years, he answered 'free and violent things.'
From the Art Institute of Chicago, a woman closely studying Joan Miro's Personages with Star.
Please click here for a larger view and purchasing/contact information.
"You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is... unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far." ~ Alice Neel
"If I had the energy, I would have done it all over the country" - Edward Hopper
"It's what you carry to an object that counts." - Andrew Wyeth
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"When I'm old and gray, I want to have a house by the sea. And paint. With a lot of wonderful chums, good music, and booze around. And a damn good kitchen to cook in."