ART!!!

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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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."
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I haven't been around LJ much lately because I was having trouble getting to it on my home computer. It's doing fine right now, so I don't know what was up or where the fault lay.

I also haven't been around because I saw Kingsman: The Secret Service. Multiple times. I loved the movie on so very many levels, but especially all the shout outs from Michael Caine once again wearing Harry Palmer's glasses to entering through a tailor shop a la Man from UNCLE to referencing individual Bond films and Get Smart.

And I sort of got sucked into the fandom. How sucked in? I've written a fanfic series in under two months (begun on 2/23) which has more words than The Great Gatsby. *shakes head* The last time I wrote something that length -- actually, 20,000 words shorter than I've hit to date -- it took me six months of sweat.

And because I'm writing mental backstories for characters, I've been trying to determine what kinds of music they listen to. One of them is a jazz aficionado, and I've been trying to include some of the jazz he would have heard on British radio in the 1970s which led me to Dudley Moore.

In the early 1980s, I started listening to his music from the 1960s and 70s including pieces he'd written (Sooz Blooz is one of my favorites). My folks told me about seeing him in Play it Again, Sam in the West End when we were living in London and going to hear his trio at a club.

He went to Oxford on an organ scholarship and earned his spending money by playing with Johnny Dankworth's group backing Cleo Laine. I can't imagine being proficient enough at 18 to play with one of the premier jazz men Britain's produced and one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. I do remember hitting a shop in Dupont Circle which carried foreign magazines and vinyl records (before there was anything besides vinyl). As I was buying my Manchester Guardian Weekly and a copy of Marie Claire (which was exclusively a French publication at that juncture), I saw a new album being promoted called Smilin' Through and bought it on the spot. Dudley Moore and Cleo Laine recording together for the first time. It's a lovely album with some real high spots.

At the same time, Jonathan Miller had a series on PBS called The Body in Question. I'd developed a completely separate crush on Dr. Miller when I caught a Canadian series on Cities. People who'd been born and reared in a great city, talked about the changes they'd seen, the social context of their background and how it was reflected in the city, and showed off the gems that most people, especially tourists, don't hear about. The four episodes I managed to see were Dr. Miller on London, Germaine Greer on Sydney, Hildegard Knef on Berlin (still a divided city when it was filmed, and she'd been a teen there during WWII), and R.D. Laing on Glasgow. It got me reading Greer and Laing. Miller's episode introduced me to Sir John Soane's Museum, one of my favorite places in London.

Anyway, in the episode of The Body in Question dealing with the nervous system, Miller used Dudley Moore playing classical music to explain how we are able to memorize things physically. I found it today on YouTube, so I wanted to share.


Also, Dudley Moore playing with his trio on Australian Television in the early 1970s.


PS if anyone ever finds a link to the Cities series (or a way to buy it), please share. I've long wanted to see the other episodes.
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So.

I've liked, but not loved, the Corcoran for a long time. Their collection was eclectic, but not shaped to one person's/family's taste as the Phillips is (the Phillips is becoming less this way, but it still feels coherent to me). It was also part of a legacy endowment with a fantastic building in a wonderful location. A few years ago, before the crash of 2008, they were trying to expand into my neighborhood by moving their College of Art to an old school building near me which would have freed space in the main building for more art works. They sold that school to a private developer (and there's a great deal of debate over whether they were allowed to since they'd gotten a sweetheart deal on city land) in order to boost their coffers once the crash happened. About a decade prior to that, they'd commissioned a Frank Gehry extension to the original building that failed to raise enough money and/or flunked the zoning and Commission of Fine Arts Review -- which is important since the original building is a) listed on the historic register and b) two blocks from the White House.

Other solutions were presented to the Corcoran's problems, including moving the collection to Virginia and turning the historically registered building into condos. Those of us who paid membership fees for the Corcoran protested that mightily for a wide variety of reasons. Then there were rumors, which I've seen both confirmed and denied by the parties involved, that the University of Maryland was going to take over the collection and the building. Instead, in a last minute move, the National Gallery of Art has taken over the building and the collection in collaboration with George Washington University which is taking over the school and will get some of the collection somehow.

Some of the process of integrating the collections was covered in an article in The New York Times today.

One thing that struck me as odd is that there are people who think the National Gallery has a lot of American Art. It has some, but the major collection of American Art is at the Smithsonian.

UPDATED with the proposed ghastlyGehry extension.

25corc.1.583
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[Error: unknown template qotd]I live in Washington, DC which means there's no way anyone can see everything in 24 hours. The key thing is to ask what they want, or know their personalities well enough, to focus on a particular area.

The one thing I would do is make certain we saw the Mall at night whether on foot, by bus, or in a cab. The buildings are beautiful at night, and it's the one thing I remember my parents doing for guests in my childhood. Of course, in those days you could get closer to the Lincoln Memorial at night in a car.

If they leave the decision up to me, we'll spend most of our day at either several of the museums (with lunch at the Museum of the American Indian -- Mititsam is delicious and has several vegetarian options) or going through the Capitol and the Library of Congress (with possibly the Supreme Court added in).

Whenever possible, I'd include a theatrical performance, either the Shakespeare Theatre, Synetic Theater, or something at the Kennedy Center -- usually dance if it's my choice.
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Twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall came down. Less than ten years later, I made a remark about not having been back to Berlin since the wall came down and [livejournal.com profile] sunspiral's and [livejournal.com profile] roozle's eldest son, who was 11-ish, asked if the wall were medieval.

I remember both my first and my last times in Berlin (which sounds far more like the beginnigs of a novel than a personal story). The first time was 1985. My father headed a program for Boston University and the professors moved every four months so that they could make certain that the students got all the credits they needed toward their Master's in International Relations. Because the previous head had let things get muddled, we'd spent the previous year in the Brussels apartment for Christmas.

Read more... )
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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)

Whee!

Oct. 30th, 2013 04:00 pm
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Folger Shakespeare Library is going fully digital

From Folger's newsletter:
Looking at the rare documents, books, and other artifacts housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library will soon no longer require being physically onsite as more of the collection increasingly moves online, the BBC explains in a video story. More than 65,000 images already belong to the digital collection. And, thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Folger Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) project will further expand access, offering transcriptions and digital images of more than 11,000 manuscripts in a free, searchable database. Next up, a series of interactive Shakespeare apps!

They're also giving out Halloween candy tomorrow night with special prizes to kids dressed as Shakespeare characters. I assume there will be more mini-Pucks than tiny-Hamlets.
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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
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I hit the American Art Museum for about an hour on Saturday before my hair appointment. There's a different portrait of Rubens Peale on display there. It's only about six years after the one I adore so much, but he's definitely become a man (rather than a late teen) in that time. He really was quite handsome.

I also stopped in at the Hirshhorn and saw the exhibition Here and There by Peter Coffin. The spiral staircase and dog sculptures are both interesting and amusing, but the projections were fascinating to me. There's one of people climbing a mountain inside a profile portrait that struck me as the best visual metaphor for memory that I've seen. Another painting of a woman on a sofa and a man looking out the window had different things projected out the window.

I'm going to see it again before I have to return to work.
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I didn't do as much as I'd hoped.

Missed the Empire State Building )

Bronchitis

May. 3rd, 2013 09:14 am
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I've been fighting with my lungs again. Thanks to antibiotics and albuterol, I've nearly won. I had an infusion of albuterol at the doctor's office on Tuesday combined with a steroid. Let me say that there is nothing quite like being jittery (the albuterol) and slightly paranoid (the steroid) on public transportation.

I've been exhausted and dizzy. I've missed work, including having to take today as Leave Without Pay which I hate.

On the other hand, I spent the weekend before last up in Baltimore. [livejournal.com profile] dexwebster and her husband hosted me overnight and were lovely companions at the Walters Museum and several good meals. They also showed me all over the city including the hip neighborhoods, etc. I left with a ton of good vegetables from the farmer's market and a real sense of well being.

I adored the museum. The one thing we don't have in DC is a museum that includes Greek, Roman, and Egyptian statuary. The Walters Museum had a good selection of pieces that were well laid out. It was a great weekend.
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It bothers me that Smithsonians are open on Thanksgiving -- which I consider to be the inclusive American holiday -- but closed on Christmas. However, since it's the only day of the year they're closed (barring earthquakes), I don't mind too much.

But I wanted to spend New Year's day in New York to see exhibits at MoMA and the Met, and I found out that they're closed on New Year's -- as well as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mondays (in the case of the Met). Hmmmph.

I'm going to see about going up on Saturday, December 29th. I'll make it a full day, possibly with a theater performance included. It'll be a rough 24 hours, but probably worth it. With luck, I'll have time to hit the High Line.

Does anyone have other suggestions? Good Vegetarian or Vegan restaurants near the museums? If I can't do it the 29th, I'll go at the beginning of February. I want to see the Matisse exhibit before it goes away.
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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 spent the day researching for one of my Yuletide stories. I'm doing at least two -- my original assignment which is YEA! and my pinch hit which is a "Only at Yuletide would I think about this" but great story type.

I had lunch at the Museum of the American Indian. Roasted beets with tree honey, grilled turnip with dried blueberry salad, hubbard squash with brown butter and garlic, and wild mushroom corn pone. It was lovely.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
fabrisse: (Persephone)
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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Once again I volunteered for this discussion at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This doesn't mean I was on any of the panels, just for the record; only that I did things like make certain people had water, directed them places, and generally dogsbodied for anyone who needed me.

At the dinner (it was little bites by 30 different chefs stationed all over the museum) on Friday night, I ran into the son of one of the restauranteuses. H loves the ocean. He's looking forward to turning 8 soon, so that he can finally learn scuba, even if he can only do it in swimming pools until he's 16. He stated that we need to protect the oceans and the environment, even if it were at the cost of our own lives. He asked intelligent questions about the oil leak in the Gulf. When I mentioned Padre Island, H looked stricken and said, "The sea turtles!"

Look again at that number. A seven year old was one of the most intelligent people I spoke with in two days. The adults were knowledgeable about their own aspects of any given issue, and the Gulf leak was mentioned, but not pursued as it wasn't the focus of the conference.

But again, I was struck by the smugness of the people involved. In a predominantly black city, there were no black faces and few of any race other than white. One woman spoke contemptuously (to my ears at least) of the fact that most Americans made their decisions on which fish to buy on price point. The only comment I made was to her pointing out that in the current economic crisis, PRICE POINT was amazingly relevant to people. I used my own unemployment as an example.

One gentleman on the panel came up to me afterward and said he was out of the restaurant business because he was interested in making certain that the fishermen were not being exploited, the end-users got fish they could afford, and the resources were being husbanded.

I also had a dissatisfactory conversation with another volunteer who was shocked, shocked I say, that I suggested putting up fliers for Smithsonian programs in Libraries and Rec Centers in DC. Her point that these symposia need to sell tickets is fine. However, her statement that people who go to these places (i.e. the poorer, darker folks of the District) wouldn't be interested is a flat out lie.

When I came home on Friday night, two of my neighbors were discussing the Gulf leak. They noted the crime to the ecosystems, the problems of employment that may arise, and the way it will effect prices for gas, heating oil, and fish. One of them pointed out that unbalancing the ecosystems may spread diseases or allow insect invasions in other areas which could cause more and different issues. I know these men. One of them isn't a high school graduate. Both are unemployed. That doesn't make either of them stupid or uninvolved with the world and the issues around them.
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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.
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I went out and had a good time yesterday.

Sadly, sunny day with lots of snow ended up equaling migraine later in the evening and today.

However, up until the migraine, it was a great day.

I went to the Hirshhorn Museum which is the Modern Art branch of the Smithsonian. On a day when the world was black, white, or brownish-grey, it was nice to go to an exhibit of Josef Albers work. He did a great deal with color theory.

Later, I rested in the room that has a great view of the National Mall. I was treated to a seven-year old boy who looked at one of the works in the room and said, "That painting. Is. Awesome!" It wasn't a painting I particularly liked, but it was so wonderful to have a child express an opinion.

The girls I tutor just shrug alot.
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I finally got to see it today. I loved it.

My friend since high school didn't care for most of it, but another friend of hers, who's becoming a friend of mine, adored it as much as I did. K (new friend) has finally felt comfortable about revealing her inner geek to our mutual friend since I do it continually and unapologetically.

I also took the Elders to their first art museum yesterday. The one whose birthday it was kept asking if the paintings were originals.

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