art

Posted by Ellen

At a watercolor workshop above a coffee shop in Singapore.

Posted by Ellen
Maud Humphrey, born in 1868 in upstate New York, educated at New York City's new Art Students League and then, of course, in Paris, was a rare creature in her place and time: a highly successful professional woman who managed to combine a brilliant career with conventional marriage and family life. She married a doctor but out-earned him several times over, producing commercial artwork for immensely popular books, magazines, and advertising campaigns; she specialized in sentimental watercolor illustrations that featured plump children and adorable animals. Think: Gerber baby.
 
During her student days, Maud had become friends with another aspiring career woman, Grace Hall, a contralto from Illinois who was studying music and beginning a career on the New York opera and concert stage. Grace enjoyed considerable professional success right from the start, performing at Madison Square Garden among other venues, but she soon began to fear that the pressures of a heavy performance schedule were taking a toll on her health. Her eyesight had been weakened by childhood scarlet fever, and the newfangled electric stage lights seemed blinding. She suffered headaches and exhaustion after every show and lasted only a year before returning home to conventional bourgeois domesticity in the suburbs of Chicago. Like her friend Maud, she married a doctor, and also like her she earned substantially more money than her husband, in her case by offering voice and piano lessons to Chicago's nouveau riche.
 
The two women stayed in touch, and in 1899, when Grace wrote Maud that she was expecting her second child, Maud responded by sending Grace a half-dozen watercolors to decorate her nursery. And Maud had some news of her own: she too was expecting.
 
That year, both women gave birth to sons: Maud's boy was named Humphrey Bogart, and Grace's was named Ernest Hemingway.  Fifty or so years later, Bogart and Hemingway got to know each other during the filming of a Hemingway story, and they figured out their mothers' connection and the provenance of the nursery paintings.
 
The photo above shows two of the Maud Humphrey watercolors above Ernest Hemingway's baby bed in the family home in Oak Park, just outside Chicago.
 
Although Grace Hall Hemingway was still alive when her son met the son of her old friend Maud, she may never have learned about the meeting. Hemingway rather famously nursed grievances against his mother and was distant to his family. His main complaint was that his mother was a cold bitch who had emasculated his father by earning too much money and refusing to defer to husbandly authority.
 
Every summer, when the family vacationed at a lake cabin in Michigan, where Ernest's father loved to hunt and fish, Grace vacationed instead in a cottage across the lake that she had built for herself and her one-time music student Ruth Arnold, who had previously worked as the children's nanny. Grace clearly preferred Ruth's company to that of her husband and six children, even after her husband created a public commotion when he tried to expel Ruth from their property. Ernest's version of the story emphasized a financial angle: he believed that the money his mother had used to build her lake retreat should have been used instead to send him to college.
 
Humphrey Bogart is alleged to have complained similarly about his own mother, Maud, although many more details of the Hemingway mother-son issues have been thrashed out in public. But one Maud Humphrey legend can definitely be put to rest: no, the young Humphrey Bogart was not the Gerber baby. His mother did paint his likeness for a baby-food advertising campaign, but that was for a different brand.
Posted by Ellen

There's a new mural in the neighborhood, bolted high on the wall of a new house at the corner of Fitzwater and Smedley. Looks to be a private project, not part of the city's Mural Arts Program, and it's hard to say if it's intended as permanent street art, since it mostly blocks the windows of the house. But it's something to look at, a portrait of Nelson Mandela looming above a scrim of drippy red and black streaks. The painter signed the mural illegibly; we believe that whoever he or she is, he or she got it right, those dark, worldly, heavy-lidded eyes in a brilliant red face.

Posted by Ellen

It must have been Oscar Wilde who said that you could never be overdressed or overeducated. In fact, he may be saying it just now, as he contemplates the world outside his childhood home in Dublin's Merrion Square, dressed to the nines from the neck down and wearing a becoming shade of snark across his face.

Sculptor Danny Osborne was as much prospector as artist for this project. He found the jade for Wilde's smoking jacket in extreme northern British Columbia, near the Yukon border. The pink collar and cuffs are from manganese-rich veins of zoisite in Norwegian shale.

The shimmery trousers are larkivite, also from Norway, a coarse-grained rock rich in anorthoclase feldspar, mined in Oslo Fjord. The well-polished shoes are black charnockite, from southern India; they get their shine from a distinctive kind of pyroxene known as hypersthene.

The 35-ton boulder that Wilde lounges on is Irish, but it's not in situ; Osborne found it in the Wicklow Mountains outside of Dublin.

The statue was sponsored by the Guinness Ireland Group and dedicated in 1997, ninety-seven years after Wilde's death at age 46.

It seemed appropriate, even necessary, to end this posting with a Wildeism. Settling on a single passage, however, proved ridiculously difficult, and it is certainly unfair to the man to reduce him to well-dressed witticism. But this line may do as well as any: "Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future."

Or this: "Being natural is simply a pose."

Posted by Ellen

Photographer Abelardo Morell describes how he created these Venetian scenes:

I made my first picture using camera obscura techniques in my darkened living room in 1991. In setting up a room to make this kind of photograph, I cover all windows with black plastic in order to achieve total darkness. Then, I cut a small hole in the material I use to cover the windows. This opening allows an inverted image of the view outside to flood onto the back walls of the room. Typically then I focused my large-format camera on the incoming image on the wall then make a camera exposure on film. In the beginning, exposures took from five to ten hours.

Over time, this project has taken me from my living room to all sorts of interiors around the world. One of the satisfactions I get from making this imagery comes from my seeing the weird and yet natural marriage of the inside and outside.

A few years ago, in order to push the visual potential of this process, I began to use color film and positioned a lens over the hole in the window plastic in order to add to the overall sharpness and brightness of the incoming image. Now, I often use a prism to make the projection come in right side up. I have also been able to shorten my exposures considerably thanks to digital technology, which in turn makes it possible to capture more momentary light. I love the increased sense of reality that the outdoor has in these new works .The marriage of the outside and the inside is now made up of more equal partners.

Morell photographed Venice in 2006. The top picture is of Santa Maria della Salute in a living room. The lower picture shows Piazzetta St. Marks prismatically inverted in an office.

Posted by Ellen

Stockholm's 110-km metro rail system has been described as one long tubular art gallery. Exposed bedrock in dozens of the stations has been painted and sculpted by a variety of artists from Sweden and beyond. 

Consider this posting another entry in an occasional series: Places I've never been and stuff I've never seen and don't honestly know much of anything about, but damn.

Posted by Ellen

Nice looking skyline, is it not? The city is Albany, New York, which may or may not be a nice place to live or even a nice place to visit; I've never been there and yet . . . here I am squawking about it.

It's actually one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Western Hemisphere, founded in the early seventeenth century as Beverwijk, a Dutch village outside the gates of Fort Orange. Beverwijk was renamed Albany when the English took over in the mid-century, and in 1686, the city was officially incorporated under a charter that is said to be one of America's oldest governing documents still in effect.

Albany was also the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal and for many years produced beer that was shipped westward on the canal to all the thirsty pioneers out in the hinterlands.

The painting below shows Albany's North Pearl Street in approximately 1800.

Posted by Ellen

For the big Sydney Festival last month in Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia, they floated a big rubber ducky out there in Cockle Bay.

Posted by Ellen

In the wintertime around the French ski resort of Les Arcs, the sun sets early; to get his tromping done, Simon Beck has to wear a headlamp along with his snowshoes. He'll stomp the snow, guided by his orienteering compass, for days on end, from can to can't, filling pristine snowfields with enormous works of art as big around as six football fields and impossible to fully apprehend except from high above. 

Beck is an engineer by training and a longtime orienteer by profession. He roughs out the geometry of his designs using what he calls "a kind of reverse orienteering." Then he fires up the music on his MP3 player and slowly, painstakingly, stomps in the details.

He made his first snow designs in 2004. "The main reason for making them," he said, "was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise.

"Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera."

Posted by Ellen

They're asking 7000 Euros in Amsterdam for this trompe l'oeil coat made of wood.