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There is a performance art piece happening all over Britain today. On Twitter the hashtag WeAreHere will find people's reactions. There's an article on it in The Guardian.

It's been a weepy day.



Nov. 9th, 2015 01:46 pm
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I've been hearing little whispers of a "Renoir Sucks at Painting" movement. This morning, I finally read a detailed article on them at Salon. I happen to like some Renoirs, not all, but that's because I don't like all the works of any artist. I also don't think vilifying one artist is the way to get more people to appreciate their local museums. Although, with troll culture, I could be wrong about that.

I'll admit, Desert Island Discs (which ten pieces of music would you want on a desert island along with three books (complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible are already included) and a luxury) is enjoyable, but Desert Island Discards (which ten pieces of music would you want to leave on a desert island permanently) is much more fun at parties. (I am not advocating censorship, just for the record. It's an interesting way to see where your tastes overlap with your friends' tastes, and the best part is advocating for the ones you like that they don't and vice-versa.)

What I'd like to do is see who my friends (hell, anyone who finds this post is welcome) would like to see more widely known at artists. Women and people of color would be great, but it's not zero sum. Anyone you think is under-represented or who should be in more museums as an inspiration to others is welcomed.

April Gornik is an artist whose work I love. She does landscapes and plays with light.

Lightning on Water
Green Shade
Full Moon Rise

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Louise Bourgeois exhibit at the Hirschhorn a few years ago. The artist died soon after. If spiders alarm you, don't randomly click on her work. The link below has spiders.

Her "Cells"
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I liked having to take Core classes in College. It was a great way to learn something new that I would never have considered taking if the requirements hadn't been there. I loved Criminology, and I think it's helped me dealing with "returning citizens" in my current job. Philosophy is important even if I found it dull at the time (not a great teacher).

My "I think everyone should take this" class is Art History. It was more helpful for art I didn't like. Having a framework in which to judge, understanding the aim of a movement or artist, and getting a cultural perspective on the crafts used helped to shift my perspective. I'm never going to be a huge fan of most pop art, but knowing why it happened as a movement is helpful in wider contexts.

It's also helped to accommodate shifts in my taste. By looking through informed eyes, I've come to deeply appreciate surrealists and other early 20th century art movements. I'm still not fond of cubism, but I can recognize that "Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2" (Duchamp) is a seminal work of the 20th century.

Since moving back to DC, I've begun going to the Hirshhorn. Again, most of the pieces in it -- Rodin excepted -- are not to my personal taste. On the other hand, I've found myself moved by pieces I would never have been exposed to. It's always more miss than hit for me, but the experience is still rewarding.

Back when Dad was advising 500+ students a semester, there came a day where I needed to cover the front desk for my department (which was at that time in the same building). The secretary was part-time and had left for the day, but as a package was expected, I had to be downstairs on one of Dad's advising days.

Steve was a friendly student who was complaining about Professor Dad trying to convince him to use his electives for something other than Political Science. Steve wanted to be a diplomat and was majoring in International Relations. He didn't even like having to take his English and Math requirements. If he could, his entire schedule would have been IR, Poli Sci, History, and, perhaps, a Foreign Language. It was ridiculous, he said, that Professor Dad wanted him to take Art History or Music Appreciation or a World Literature Class.

I asked him one question: "If you're at an embassy dinner and seated, as many junior diplomats are, between the wives of two cultural attaches from foreign countries, what will you talk about?"

The pause yawned widely.

I pointed out that part of diplomacy was the ability to speak intelligently on a wide range of topics to people who might not be of any direct use or importance, but whose tangential importance couldn't be overstated.

We spent the next twenty minutes ripping apart his class schedule and adding in his new electives. We changed his History requirement from U.S. History to, I think, a survey of World History (could have been European history). He took Art History covering Pre-History to about 400 A.D. (and took the 400 A.D. to Modern Art the following semester). He added a Music appreciation course in Classical Music, too.

After his appointment, Professor Dad formally made me Steve's advisor, and I remained so through the next 2.5 years until he graduated. Every time I saw Steve, he was raving about something new he'd learned. I think he's probably a pretty good diplomat, now.

So. I want to know if there's a class those on my friends' list thinks everyone should take.
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Yesterday [livejournal.com profile] davesmusictank shared an article from Psychology Today, on how anti-intellectualism is killing America (and by America the authors mean the U.S.)

One of the things I've noticed over the years is that too many of the US people I know don't develop their own tastes. Now, I'm not talking about my friend set because, frankly, y'all not only have your own tastes you share them at top volume over the internet, and I love you for it. But among the people I know briefly or at one remove or are cousins, I've seen a trend for a good part of my life that certain things aren't "real."

I'm going to use music as an example, specifically two forms I like very much: Opera and Jazz. I can't count the number of times I've heard people say something along the lines of "no one really likes opera." The implication being that if I've said I like opera then I'm either pretentious or lying or both (and in some cases it's not implied it's flat out stated).

But I try to explain that I have my own tastes. I don't like all opera. I don't like all operas by the same composer. I don't like the same composers as my mother and father or my best friend.

When I was tutoring (5th - 8th graders), I would try to get them to tell me what they liked or didn't like as part of a lesson. Most of the time they wouldn't. They'd tell me that they didn't want to go to a museum because they didn't like museums. When I asked which ones they'd been to, they admitted they'd never been to one, but they already knew they wouldn't like it.

If I asked about a specific book or song or whatever, I'd often find them waiting until I said whether I liked it or not so that they could agree with me. I tried to explain that I didn't care whether or not they liked it, I just wanted them to a) give their opinions and b) say why they liked or didn't like it.

This ties back, in my head, to critical thinking. The anti-intellectualism we're seeing isn't new. It may have become more widespread since Richard Hofstadter wrote about it in 1966, but he noticed a history, going back at least as far as de Tocqueville, of valuing the popular above the particular. I'm not saying popular culture has no value. I write fanfiction, for heaven's sake.

In my mind this comes down to taste-shaming. If you don't like country music, you're not a real American. If you do like opera or cool jazz or going to museums, you're not a real American.

(A propos of nothing, there was a discussion at The Guardian last week related to the marginalization of non-white culture in the US. One commenter asked where was Kanye West's country album as if West needed to extend his reach into white culture. For the record, I'd listen to Kanye West's country album. I also like some of his music.)

I can think of no better way to encourage critical thinking than to cultivate one's own tastes. It means listening or viewing or tasting things you might never consider in the normal run of things, but it also means that a person can find the most beautiful piece of music in the world (mine's "The Martyr" by Modern Jazz Quartet. What's yours?) or let her eyes rest on an exquisite painting. It can be as simple as statement as "I prefer Brussels to Paris."

To my mind this is the first step toward defining values and defining values is the required step to being a responsible voter which is the next step toward being a good citizen. It all starts by being able to say, "I like that, and here's why."


Jun. 30th, 2015 09:03 am
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I don't see well three dimensionally. When I didn't wear glasses, I saw in 2-D (kept glasses in the car for driving only, since I didn't need them the rest of the time) and even now, some prescription adjustments have me hugging walls for a day or two until I get used to this new concept of depth.

Oddly enough, 3-D movies and illusions always have depth for me. The first 3-D movie I saw was Kiss Me Kate which was playing at Coolidge Corner about two years before I started wearing glasses full time. I actually gasped because it was the first time in my life I'd seen something like that. (On a side note, Mom and Dad saw it with me. For the first time, Mom understood why I'd been bad at games with balls -- baseball especially. If it was a flat object which kept getting bigger rather than moving through space, of course I couldn't catch it.)

All of this is a lead up to a video I saw on slate this morning, an anamorphic rendering of a glass of water. Deeply, deeply cool.

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An artist by the name of Jake Chapman was quoted in The Independent as saying children shouldn't be taken to art galleries because they can't appreciate the point the artist is trying to make.

Yes, I'm screaming. I loved going to art museums when I was a kid. One of my most visceral memories is of seeing Winged Victory (Nike of Samothrace) for the first time when I was seven. I would beg to be allowed to go to the National Gallery or the Portrait Gallery after church when we moved back to DC, and, from the time I was ten, my parents would let me go on my own.

Field trips to The Phillips Collection or the Corcoran were high points of my school year.

And then there was the tutoring when I grew up. One of the things I had the hardest time with, both in DC and Boston, was encouraging the students to develop their own tastes. Especially in DC, the students were hesitant to voice an opinion because they were afraid either of being "wrong" (in quotes because, while bad taste exists, it's still a personal taste and therefore can't be wrong) or of disagreeing with an adult.

And yet, some of the best times I've ever had have been with preteens at a museum. There was the girl next door who had a hard time keeping her hands off the Babylonian art and tried to touch the Van Gogh's. She didn't care for Egyptian art at all and thought Monet was a little dull (for the record, I like Monet better than Van Gogh and prefer Egyptian to Babylonian, but her enthusiasm was infectious.). The group I took to the National Gallery was fascinated by the Venetian paintings and had some very pointed comments about a nude that we passed. Some loved still lifes, others thought the carved table was the bomb (their word, not mine), and all of them adored Villareal's Multiverse installation.

How can anyone say that kids can't enjoy art? Worse, how can anyone say that a child isn't human yet?

Villareal's Multiverse (it's a little sped up)
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This is the link to make a donation to the rebuilding fund.

The fire started in the iconic library. This is what it looks like now.

And this is what it looked like before:
Historic Glasgow library
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The fire began in the The Library (link goes to a panoramic interactive view) and that part of the building has almost totally been destroyed. The rest is still viable, but will need lots of work. Many have declared that the Library should be rebuilt, just the same as it was. Rennie Mackintosh and Mary MacDonald left detailed notes and drawings on all their projects. It should be possible to make a full restoration, if there's money for it, if there's the skill for it.
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I've just found out that the Glasgow School of Art has had a fire. The Guardian is reporting that the building is 90% viable, but Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald, were all about the details, and I worry that some of those may be lost.

I've loved Rennie Mackintosh's work for such a long time. It's one of my defining charatceristics, as strange as that may sound. Mom and I had a delightful weekend in Glasgow together (I know me, Mom and "delightful" in the same sentence!) going to Willow Tearooms and finding everything of his that we could that was open.

One thing I always notice is that if you want the future in a chair, go to Rennie Mackintosh.
Star Trek, in several iterations used his chairs, so did Babylon 5 and I even caught one in an episode of Fringe.

I hope the School is all right. Its legacy is priceless.
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I have been tremendously moved by many different pieces of art in many media.

Only 4 have made me cry (and by that, I don't mean tear up, I mean weep)

  1. Porgy and Bess -- Serena (Wilma Shakesnider) singing "My Man's Gone Now" with that great keening wail at the end and Porgy (Donnie Ray Albert) going after Bess with "Oh, Lord, I'm on my Way" both wiped me out.

  2. Cyrano de Bergerac -- the end of the third act (of four) when he and his group are made the front lines and Cyrano rushes forward reciting "We are the Gascony Cadets."  (Derek Jacobi played the role in a translation by Anthony Burgess)

  3. The men marching to their deaths in <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097441/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1">Glory</a>.

  4. <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2779318/">The Day of the Doctor.</a>

{sorry about the links being bollixed.  I'll try to fix it again later.}
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They've increased their open content again. It's now over 10,000 images. There are pages from illuminated manuscripts, people!

To see what's available, go here: http://search.getty.edu/gateway/search?q=&cat=highlight&f=%22Open+Content+Images%22&rows=10&srt=a&dir=s&pg=1


Jul. 17th, 2013 05:09 pm
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I never watched Transformers. It was after my time.

However, I fell in love with the Citroen DS (aka Goddess, if you like puns in Franglais) the first time I saw one. It is a pure and true adoration, and my various winning the lottery fantasies always include owning at least one in mint condition.

Today, at the New York Times there was an article on a Citroen Transformer created by artist Chico MacMurtrie. Go have a look, and don't forget to click on the video showing the transformation. She goes from the sleekest, sexiest car on the road to a Mecha as elegant as the Chrysler building (though I think the inflatable is cheating a little).

Go, go. It's gorgeous!
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Song 1 is a new art work on the exterior of the Hirschhorn Museum. This is an article about the technique which is very visually oriented.

I walked by the museum in the evening last week, and I saw what I thought was the Mockingjay symbol from The Hunger Games projected on the building and thought the publicity for the movie had gone too far. Then I saw the article on Song 1. On Wednesday night, I walked past in the early evening and saw the work -- or at least 10 minutes of it. It's moving. I don't know why. I was fascinated by the areas where the images meet and, in some portions of the film, herringbone into each other. Many of the images, in the portion I saw, concern traffic, and it was interesting as a pedestrian to watch the movement of the cars on highways from a distance.

The various renditions of "I Only Have Eyes for You" are beautiful and add something touching to the work. It was odd to see the projections on the mall side as I was walking. There are windows on that part of the museum, so the images had voids in them. Walking to the Air and Space Museum side of the building gave me a full image with two seams at the edge of my vision for the herringbone.

I may revisit this after I've seen it again, or stayed for the full 45 minutes to view the whole. It's fascinating.
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I know my childhood was unusual, thanks to the military.

We were living in London when I turned 8. There was a pop song by Sandie Shaw that talked about going to Paris for the day, AND we'd been studying the Mona Lisa in second grade. So when my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said that I wanted to go to Paris for the day and see the Mona Lisa.

Bless my parents, they looked into it and found that the USO had a day tour of Paris that wasn't too expensive to take a 5 year old, a not-quite-eight year old, and their parents.

It was great. Yes, the Mona Lisa's eyes follow you around the room, but she was smaller than I'd thought she'd be. In some ways, I appreciated the experience of having seen her when I was eight more when I went back to Paris at fourteen. By then, there was bullet proof glass and an enforced distance from the painting. I had seen her up close, and the adults in the group let me have a few minutes to see if she was always looking at me. The experience six years later was completely different.

The Eiffel Tower was orange. I remember being surprised by that. It was probably a primer coat before the next phase of painting, but it was wondrous to an eight year old.

My other two very strong memories from that trip -- other than my sister crawling on Dad's lap to nap on the bus -- were of the Venus de Milo and the Nike of Samothrace (or as I called it then, Winged Victory).

I was slightly shocked at Venus not wearing a bra, but other than that it was the fact that the adults were familiar with her that sticks with me.

The Nike, though...

The old entrance to the Louvre can be seen in the Audrey Hepburn movie Funny Face. Right after we passed the ticketing area with our tour guide, there was a huge stair case with red carpeting and Winged Victory at the top. I know I must have seen sculpture before, but I genuinely remember this as the first sculpture I saw. Walking up those steps, getting closer to her, seeing a couple of fragments of her (nose and a hand), all of those things were just subsumed in the power of that piece of art. It's truly glorious, and I'm very happy to know that it is still possible to enter the Louvre there instead of going through the I.M. Pei pyramids because her being the first piece of art a patron sees is part of the overall glory of the experience.

I knew better than to touch, but, even now, I long to. I love her. I don't know if she'd have the same power whole. I think she'd still be beautiful, but the way she struck me might have been different.

I've had some magnificent gifts, but this was definitely the best ever.
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I don't particularly care for it, except when I do.

I was a bit of a prig as a kid and into my early twenties, and my tastes were very conservative. But there were always exceptions. I loved the Eero Saarinen buildings I saw -- and I still get a quiet thrill when I see that soaring wing of Dulle Airport -- had a fondness for Salvador Dali's jewelry (that's a YouTube link), and generally liked Man Ray's photographs.

I hated the Hirshhorn Museum and until I moved back here in 2008, I hadn't crossed its threshold since the opening weekend in 1974. About a year after I moved back, I started going to the special exhibits there. I don't like much of the permanent collection, although there are some fantastic Rodin's, and I don't always like the exhibits, but I'm refining my tastes and have often been surprised.

One of the exhibits that surprised me was the one on Louise Bourgeois. I actually went back to it because aspects of it had caught me. She uses a great many spiders in her works, but when you know that her mother was a weaver and lace maker who restored historical fabrics, those images start to make psychological sense. Many of the installations were "rooms," some tiny enough that I stood over them or next to them and looked in, some large enough to walk through, and some large enough to walk through that could only be looked in on. The one thing they all had in common was a marble piece -- it might be a carved block or a hand or just a raw piece of marble -- which worked as a symbol of the artist herself and her protection of her talent within her somewhat fucked up family.

I was sad to hear of her death. She was 98, and her work wasn't really recognized until she was in her 70s.

She gives me hope, and opened my eyes to other aspects of art.

Last Night

Jan. 27th, 2009 09:51 am
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I walked to Chinatown and had noodles. I brought home dumplings for today.

Before walking home, I stopped in at the National Portrait Gallery. It's in the same building as the Smithsonian American Art Museum and is the only one of the Smithsonian's, that I know of, open until 7:00 pm every night of the year.

The ground floor, which is the only one I explored, had an exhibit about the Civil War and a curator's special on Lincoln. He was the first president after photography became relatively common, and he used the new technology. There are so many photos of him.

While I knew there were daguerrotypes and portrait photographs in Lincoln's time, I didn't know we were beginning to get news photographs. There's one of the crowd listening to his first inaugural address framed in such a way that you can see the scaffolding on the Capitol Dome. It wasn't completed until 1863.

It's the photograph of the second inaugural address that gives cold chills. It's difficult to see Lincoln, particularly the way the photograph is hung. There's one man who comes across clearly. Standing on a terrace behind Lincoln is John Wilkes Boothe. The second inaugural address was on March 4, 1865 and Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865.
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I went to see the Magritte Exhibit at LACMA last week. The whole exhibit was carpeted like in the picture above and the ceiling had pictures of the Los Angeles Cloverleaf system.

Read more... )


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