Lucille’s artwork is powerfully idiosyncratic and imbued with sensual and sonar qualities. Her canvases are always depicted with the use of strong black strokes of paint portraying a body, frequently female, on white canvas. The white areas around her figures are always predominant, implying an indefinite space; one which is both a context and simultaneously a vacuum, conjuring concepts of the dreamlike and the ephemeral. Lucille’s figures are painted in an “unfinished” or indefinite manor, leaving sections, and particularly the facial features, to the imagination. These absences cause the viewer to relate to the context and the figure in more emotive ways. One is asked to sense the tension and possibly the sound of the painting, through the limited referential points. Lucille’s artworks are not intended to be complete narratives with figurative cliches, they are a question and a reflection on the reality of human emotion.
(Courtesy of artnet.com.)
I have been modeling for almost a decade now, and am still surprised at how difficult it is. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about tripping on the catwalk or wardrobe malfunctions. My concerns tend to focus on the temperature of a studio or how to deal with an uncontrollable itch. If you hadn’t guessed already, I’m a figure model for artists and students. 95% of the time I model in the nude.
I started modeling for art classes when I was in college, when I was taking those very art classes myself. I needed extra cash, and it seemed like an easy work-study job that also kept me in my field of interest. In the beginning, it was exceedingly difficult to disrobe in front of my friends. Usually I would break out in a cold sweat, and I’m sure my heart was pounding. After about a half hour of wondering whether my fellow students could see the glistening beads dripping off or down my body, I settled in to my pose.
I still get nervous in the start of classes or open studios, but now I have little games that I play to keep my mind calm, but still alert. (Nothing is more embarrassing than a full-body jolt of startling yourself awake after dozing off. It tends to surprise or scare the artists.) One of my favorite ways to pass time is to blur my eyes and just watch the motion of the artists’ heads around me, looking at me and then back at their work. I imagine a large piano keyboard, each artist making a distinctive note, and together they create music. Sometimes the swipe of charcoal across paper, the tinkling of bits of pastels falling to the ground or the clunking of brushes being cleaned in a jar of turpentine would add the perfect tone or rhythm to my imagined music.
Aside from keeping my mind relaxed yet aware, there’s still the matter of the body: most often contorted into some degree of a twist, but also at a seemingly natural position. When I first take a pose, it always feels like it will be perfectly comfortable. But after 10 minutes or so, the stiffness starts to set in. I will often try to tighten then relax a muscle in hopes of stretching it, while not moving my body. Sometimes, I just need to direct my breath to that aching area, and visualize an internal massage, and challenge myself not to look at the clock.
The tradition of taping the placement of a hand on a thigh or the thigh on the seat of a chair, even hair on the shoulder can seem a bit strange. I will try to memorize the best I can all the details of the posture, so I can easily return to it after a break, and use the tape for reference as needed. The tell-tale sign of getting back into the pose, is the palpable protests of muscles and joints, the stiffness instantly returning. Time to resume breathing exercises and visualizations! Just when I think I cannot take it any longer, I discover there’s usually at least 30 minutes remaining.
This is the ultimate practice of the mind, a discipline not so different from meditation. In the end it always pays off. The mind is subdued, and the art is wonderful to behold. And when I return to my place on the other side of the canvas, with brushes in hand, my muscles remind me to be humble and to recognize all the work required in looking relaxed.
A couple of months ago my husband Cliff was shopping around for fun and unique business cards. While I tended to be a fan of miniature Moo Cards, he was more drawn towards translucent plastic or metal. Somehow while helping him search around for more options, I discovered the world of Artist Trading Cards (or ATCs).
With dimensions of 2.5″ x 3.5″, Artist Trading Cards are slightly larger than the traditional business card. They always contain original artwork, or are part of limited editions. The idea of ATCs was originally conceived as a way to network with other artists, and use each other’s work as inspiration. Their history according to ATC Quarterly is as follows:
In 1996-97, a new art culture sprang up which rejected the tradition of critiquing and pricing art. Swiss artist M. Vanci Stirnemann is hailed as the father of the Artist Trading Card movement. Stirnemann, inspired by hockey trading cards, created and showcased 1200 similarly-sized cards-his original works of art-in his gallery in Zurich, Switzerland. He told people who wanted one of his cards to come back and bring one of their own in trade.
The most important concept to observe is that the cards are never sold.
As for materials, most trades will specify media to be used, but it can range from paper to fabric to resin and metal, but basically can consist of anything that will fit with the size restraints. Graphic artist, Joumana Medlej, has wonderful visual examples of pushing the boundaries of these little cards.
The discovery of art cards has resulted in finally breaking out of the creative block in which I was stuck for much too long. A little creativity is better than nothing. Especially if the result can fit into your pocket.
In celebration of 100 years since Frida Kahlo’s birth, the Museo de Bellas Artes in Mexico City will host the most complete exhibition of Kahlo’s works. The exhibit which opened on June 13, and will run for two months, is comprised of 354 of her works, including 50 handwritten letters, 100 photographs of the artist, as well as a collection of paintings never exhibited before.
Frida Kahlo is one of the most widely recognized Mexican artists. She was born July 6, 1907 to a German father of Hungarian Jewish decent and to a mother of Spanish and Native American heritage. Just before her divorce from Diego Rivera in 1940, Kahlo depicted balancing between the two cultures in her 1939 double self-portrait, Dos Fridas. On the right, she is dressed in Mexican peasant clothing. This was the half of Kahlo that Rivera loved. Starting from the miniature Rivera that she holds in her hand, an artery coils around her arm and passes behind the weeping heart of her other half, the half of her heritage that Rivera could not accept. While holding the hand of her Mexican counterpart, this Western half tries with no avail to stop the flow of blood from the shared artery.
According to Kahlo, “There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.” They remained separated for one year but then remarried in 1941.
Mural painting has long been used to illustrate history, real and imagined: from ancient cave paintings of Lascaux, France to todayâ€™s contemporary images. Two very notable frescoes are Raphaelâ€™s School of Athens, from the Italian High Renaissance, and North American Modernist Diego Riveraâ€™s Man, Controller of the Universe. Although created nearly 400 years apart, both pieces were conceived of and executed on the cusp of great change.
The year is 1508, and Pope Julius II has commissioned two famous artists to paint virtually side-by-side. Michelangelo is engaged in the painting of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling and the young Raphael has been charted with illustrating the four branches of knowledge in the papal apartments. Of the branches of law, philosophy, poetry and religion, Raphaelâ€™s rendering of philosophy in School of Athens is arguably his highest accomplishment within the Vatican walls.
By this time, artists were becoming internationally renown, due to the ease of travel as well as to the mass distribution of their works, thanks in part to the printing press. This celebrity status along with the growing wealth of the middle and upper classes, allowed artists the opportunity to choose their commissions. They were no longer indebted to the monarchies or the church for work.
Socially, turmoil was on the horizon. The church was becoming more corrupt by the continual taxation of its parishioners for reasons of pride and for the selfish purposes of further increasing power and stature. On occasion, the Pope himself was known to have entered in the breaches of war. In less than ten years, Martin Luther will issue his Ninety-five Theses calling for reformation of the church. Within another decade, Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, will order the sack of Rome.
Under the increasing social tensions, Raphael deftly created the philosophers of School of Athens. The space within the papal apartments dictated the general shape of the fresco, that of an arch, and repeats many times within the composition. This repetition coupled with the congeniality amongst the men and women depicted creates a sense of ease, which was certainly lacking within the papal territories. At first glance, one notices the crowd of characters, separated into small groups of animated discussion. The gathering takes place within the confines of a building, most likely inspired by the design for the New St. Peterâ€™s Cathedral. They are crowned by the outer arch of the fresco, which then repeats as the eye moves further into the space through two barrel vaults and a triumphant arch in the background. Under the closest coffered barrel vault, the two Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, are silhouetted against the blue sky. Although this is an imagined scene, each of the historic figures double as a portrait of Raphaelâ€™s friends and contemporaries.
While this image represents the magnitude of man and the height of ideals, was it meant to inspire greatness amongst the ranks, or merely act as religious propaganda? Aside from concern of aesthetics and creating harmony with multiple forms, is the artistâ€™s independent voice to be found anywhere in this fresco?
Now we skip ahead to the time of pregnant silence between the World Wars in the Americas. Following the end of World War I, the West experienced an economic crisis. In response, the Soviet Union was formed, Europe had reorganized and Lenin, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco came into power. The United States stock market crashed, and President Roosevelt created the New Deal in attempt to spur American social and economic recovery. South of the border, Mexico recovered from the fall of a decades long dictatorship and experienced a newly flourishing Mexican renaissance. The newly elected president commissioned artists to decorate public places with images of heroes and mythological and historical events to help develop national pride. Also during this time the technologies of war and peace advanced greatly as seen in the development of tanks and weaponry, but also in medicine, travel and media.
In 1934, Mexican muralist Diego Rivera accepted the commission from the Rockefeller family for the RCA Building in New York with the theme of Man at the Crossroads Looking with Hope and High Vision to the Choosing of a New and Better Future. A staunch Communist, Rivera created a complex fresco containing the images of influential individuals, including a portrait of Lenin. After Rivera refused to change the portrait at the Rockefellers request, the commission is called off, Rivera is paid and the mural destroyed. Incensed by what he called â€œcultural vandalism,â€ Rivera reproduced the image in Mexico City under the title of Man, Controller of the Universe.
Manâ€¦ is a nearly 600 square foot social commentary on the ills of capitalism versus the benefits of socialism. The visually and figuratively dense mural features a centrally located man toiling with controls and gears before a space essentially divided in half vertically. Above him is a telescope, representing technology and the cosmos, and below is the earth fertile with agricultural advancements. Crossing dragonfly-like wing ellipses behind him, also contain reflections life in macroscopic and microscopic views. To the left, is the decadent, bourgeois life of the capitalist, which is prone to unrest, militarization and abuse of power. To the right, is the depiction of a socialist society, based on unity and benefiting all. Some of the famous influential people included on the left are Jean Harlow, Charlie Chaplin and John Rockefeller, Jr., as well as Lenin and Trotsky on the right.
Riveraâ€™s fresco is a statement about morals and ideals, but conveys so through blanket polarization, not allowing any room for discourse and dialog. This leaves one wondering whether Rivera was ever able to reconcile these extremes for himself. Is the central figure an autobiographical, visual depiction of the struggle for moderation, of trying to maintain a balance between two opposite and opposing societies? After all, how can an artist who depended upon capitalist economies for commissions completely decry this segment of his patrons?
Rather than issuing extensive judgments like Rivera, Raphael focuses on communication. The philosophers are gathered together to challenge, encourage and collaboratively work towards the advancement of their field of study. They are relaxed, open and receptive as their environment mirrors. While Rivera mobilizes a united front against the enemy, Raphael instead joins with the opponents to engage in lively discussion and problem solving. I cannot help but speculate that many todayâ€™s leaders could benefit greatly from this technique.
[tags] Fresco, Raphael, High Italian Renaissance, Pope Julius II, Lascaux, New St. Peter’s Cathedral, Michaelangelo, Sistine Chapel, papal apartments, Vatican, Mexican Renaissance, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, communism, socialism, capitalism, Lenin, Trotsky, Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Roosevelt [/tags]