Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Storm King sculpture park

The southern-most art destination on our recent trip to New England was the Storm King sculpture park in Cornwall, New York. Ever since I learned about this site, I have wanted to experience it for myself. The park is named for its nearby mountain. The project began in 1960, and its 500 acres now receive 200,000 visitors each year.

We arrived on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and it was already busy, though never crowded. Trams travel a circuit to help visitors to reach all corners of the vast space. Rental bikes are also available on site.

Visitors are asked not to touch or stand on the sculptures. Exceptionally, a few are meant to be touched, and they are so labeled in the handout and on the site plaque.

A panoramic view taken from near the hilltop museum building.
The landscape seems to extend endlessly in all directions.

The rolling hills offer many vantage points.

Almost all the sculptures may be viewed up close.
Here is Untitled, by Joel Shapiro, 1994

Black Flag, Alexander Calder, 1974

Visitors enjoy interacting with the sculptures,
sometimes striking a pose for photos.

Here, a viewer performs a physical exam of Three Legged Buddha, by
Zhang Huan, 2007.

Alternate view of Three Legged Buddha. The sculpture weighs
more than 12 tons. The head is a self-portrait of the artist.

Some sculptures were placed in relation to water features,
like Roy Lichtenstein's Mermaid,  1994

An example of land art, Storm King Wavefield by Maya Lin, 2007-8.

Lin's best-known work is no doubt the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington DC. Storm King Wavefield, above, consists of seven nearly-400-foot-long waves, ranging in height from ten to fifteen feet. It is considered to be an environmental reclamation project, situated on what was once an 11-acre gravel pit that supplied material for the New York State Thruway. The rhythm of the masses replicates the scale of a series of mid-ocean waves.

Another example of land art is Storm King Wall, by Andy Goldsworthy, 1997-98.

The stone wall continues on either side of a small pond, up the hill and into
 the woods. It measures 2278 feet, and is Goldsworthy's largest work to date.

These Ionic columns are massive in scale, and overlook a vista.

Some sculptures interact with each other.
In the foreground, North South East West by Lynda Benglis,

Others relate to the trees and detritus in the woods, or mark the margin between
open ground and forest.
Here, Eight Positive Trees,  Menashe Kadishman,  1977

Other sculptures, like City on the High Mountain, by Louise Nevelson,
are more stand-alone.

The website for Storm King is a rich source of information about all of their 100-plus sculptures. It allows you to search by artist, by title or by decade, and offers details about the making or installation of each piece. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Hudson Artists Fall Show

untitled, acrylic collage, 16" x 16"

Delighted to be showing some of my recent work at the Fall Show of the Hudson Artists.

untitled, acrylic collage, 16" x 16"

I've submitted my two recent acrylic collages, as yet untitled. Suggestions for names are welcome!

City in Ruins #1, acrylic collage, 10" x 10"

As well, four of my recent "radical collages" will be on display. This series, titled "City in Ruins", required four layers of collage, alternated with vigorous sanding and painting, to achieve a "distressed" surface.

Stitched Hearts, made of hand-dyed and commercial cottons, 8" x 6" framed

I will also be hanging small, framed "stitched hearts". Made of hand-dyed and commercial cotton and machine-stitched, these pieces are priced to be bought in multiples!

The show opens on Friday evening, October 18, at 7:30 pm, and continues from 10 am - 5 pm on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday the 20th. Over 30 artists will be showing at the local community centre, 394 Main Road in Hudson.

A painting by member Olia Stielow will be raffled off in support of the local bird shelter, Le Nichoir.

Once again some of the members will submit their work to two outside judges. The awards will be announced at the vernissage, when visitors will be welcomed with wine and refreshments. I will be working the sales desk that evening and hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio

A recent holiday in New England included tours of historic homes, including Hildene House in Manchester, Vermont, home of Robert Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln. A memorable part of these tours was the opportunity to walk through forested pathways on the house grounds.

Acres of woodland at The Mount, Edith Wharton's home in Lenox,
are carpeted with periwinkle. In the spring,
when it's blooming with blue flowers, it must be a thrilling sight.

This was our experience as we approached the Frelinghuysen Morris house and studio for our guided tour. I have to ask you to imagine the sensation of the crunchy mulch underfoot, the gentle breeze that rustled the leaves, the fragrance of autumnal decay, the dappled sunlight and the hum of the cicadas. The 46-acre estate also includes a formal garden and a small pond.

The studio space was inspired by Fernand Léger's studio
 in France, as designed by Le Corbusier

George L.K. Morris grew up on these grounds in Lenox, Massachusetts. As a young man from a wealthy family, he pursued an interest in art and was hired by MOMA to travel to Europe and buy work for their collection. He was friendly with the French painter Fernand Léger and others. In the early '30s, he had this studio built for himself on the grounds of the family estate. Around this time he married Suzy Frelinghuysen, an accomplished opera singer and visual artist, and together they enjoyed a privileged life, much of it spent in Europe.  Their own art collection included paintings and sculpture by Léger, Picasso, Miro and Gris, among others.

Entrance hall to house, with Morris's fresco

Within a few years a house was added to the studio, designed by the couple and meant to be a part-time residence. Morris himself painted the frescoes.

The living room, with its original furnishings.
The floor has recently been replaced with new leather tiles, as per the original.
Note Morris' fresco on the wall at right.

The light-filled studio

The visit included a one-hour video documentary on the lives of the couple, and a one-hour tour with a very knowledgeable guide. Go to this link for more information about the Frelinghuysen Morris House and Studio.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

An art-infused holiday in Massachusetts

On a recent "art and culture tour", our first stop in western Massachusetts was Williamstown, just south of the Vermont border. Williamstown is the perfect little college town, as though designed by Disney. It is home to Williams College, established in 1793.

street view as seen from the entrance to the art museum
of Williams College

This liberal arts school, with an enrolment of little more than 2000, has a fine Museum of Art. Teachers in various disciplines (history, religion, biology, among others) select a few pieces from the museum's art collection to augment their required reading lists, and these are displayed at the museum's entrance. In this way, casual visitors like me are given a new perspective on the art collection. As part of a biology class, for example, an Albers colour study might be a topic for discussion on visual perception.

The Williams College campus is bisected
by the main street through town.

The Clark Institute in Williamstown,
with its charming lily pond in the foreground

Next stop in Williamstown was the Clark Art Institute, commonly referred to as "The Clark". The architecture of the building is very striking, and the holdings are impressive. The Clark is best known for its collections of French Impressionist paintings, especially Renoir, as well as some major pieces by John Singer Sargent and by J.M.W. Turner.

John Singer Sargent, Smoke of Ambergris, 1880

Camille Pissarro, Piette's House at Montfoucault, 1874

Camille Pissarro, Route de Versailles, Louveciennes, Rain Effect, 1870

Then it was on to North Adams, home to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, better known as  Mass MoCA. While there, we especially enjoyed the immersive light and hologram installations of James Turrell. To get a sense of how this enormous space, formerly industrial, has brought new life to a struggling corner of the state, you might want to watch this:

What else did we see in Massachusetts? The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge is definitely worth a couple of hours. We had an excellent tour of The Mount, the turn-of-the-century home of author Edith Wharton, that gave us a glimpse into her life and times. Her estate includes formal gardens and fifty acres of beautiful woodland.

The Mount, home to Edith Wharton, in Lenox

We also spent a half-day at the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield MA, where we enjoyed live demonstrations of basket weaving, blacksmithing, and woodworking. We learned about the lives of the 100 or so one-time residents of this religious community by touring their dormitories, schoolroom, farm fields and barns.

There is one more art-themed attraction in Massachusetts that I want to share with you, but it will have to wait for an upcoming post.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Art sampling in Vermont

We recently had the good fortune to travel through the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. The leaves were beginning to turn and the secondary highways offered many interesting art venues to explore. Here is a sampling from the Bennington Museum:

puppets from The King Story, one of Bread and Puppet Theatre's early
 anti-war productions, 1963

The iconic Jane Stickle Sampler Quilt, 1863,
169 five-inch blocks, each a different pattern and fabric.
Stickle, long bed-ridden, won a $2 prize for this entry into the
1863 Bennington County Agricultural Fair. 

Spring in Dover, by Clifford A. Bayard, 1942,
one of several in the American Impressionist display of Vermont landscapes

Ethan Allen to Sulky weathervane, 1870
an example of Vermont folk art

A display of antique toys.
Collections of antique medical instruments, antique needleworking tools and
antique musical instruments made for interesting
displays at the Bennington Museum.

The museum in Bennington has a whole gallery filled with the paintings of Grandma Moses, but alas, no photos are permitted there.

The Southern Vermont Arts Center welcomed us...

... with open arms. Note the mower in the background.

The Southern Vermont Art Centre, in Manchester,
 presented a mix from their permanent collection
and works for sale by contemporary Vermont artists.

There are many excellent art galleries to visit in Vermont. We had intended to check out the work of Pointe Claire artist Susanne Strater at Northern Daughters in Vergennes, and the work of Jane Davies at the Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury.  Sadly, our visit did not coincide with gallery hours.

But we did make it to Bennington Potters, which has a self-guided tour available in their pottery-making facility.

Bennington Potters

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Farrow & Ball paint colours

I was intrigued to read about the British premium house paint company, Farrow & Ball, in the March 18, 2019 issue of the New Yorker. You may be able to access the article here. The author finds amusement in the aspirational nature of the company's fans.

More recently, I was delighted to get my hands on one of their sample booklets of paint colours. While other paint companies offer many hundreds of tints and shades, Farrow & Ball offers a highly-curated 148.

The company claims that the elevated price of their product is due to its very rich pigmentation, and that its depth of colour is incomparable. Should one have difficulty in deciding on just the right colour for one's breakfast room, a consultant is available for $320 an hour.

The names of the various paint colours are often fanciful, and some names imply a certain status. Here are some sample names and their descriptions from a current F & B brochure:

Blazer - a bright red that is named after the colour of the sports blazers worn at St. John's College, Cambridge.

Wevet - a delicate white with a translucent, gossamer feel, this colour is named after the old Dorset term for a spider's web.

Babouche - This cheerful yellow takes its exotic name from the distinctive colour of the leather slippers worn by men in Morocco.

Paean Black - This Georgian inspired red based black is a nod to the colour of old leather hymnals which so often included a song of praise or paean.

Dimpse - This cool grey is named after the quaint West Country dialect for the colour of twilight.

Plummett - A strong grey, named after the lead used by fishermen to weight their lines.

Rectory Red - This sophisticated red is named after the thousands of charming village houses built over the years for the clergy.

If you share my fascination with colour, check out the Farrow & Ball company website for inspiring suggestions of colour pairings, etc.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Redpath Museum @ McGill

Indulged in a bit of time travel earlier this month, and visited the Redpath Museum on the campus of McGill University. Its collections, and its old-fashioned labelling and display cases, truly evoke an earlier era of natural history museums. Indeed, the Redpath is one of the oldest museums in Canada, established in 1882.

This is the scene I remember from childhood visits:
being greeted by the skeleton of a ferocious dinosaur

As a child, I didn't appreciate the beautiful
architectural details of the plaster work, and the way
the decorative motifs echo natural forms of shells and plants.

The impressive front door, seen here from the inside,
is masterfully carved.

Among the items on display are shells, coral, and a giant crab.

A group of university students was busy sketching some of
the animal specimens. 

The mineral collection includes over 20,000 items from all over the world. Exhibits dedicated to hominid evolution, Egyptology, and world cultures fill the upper floor. (I had forgotten about shrunken heads!)

Compared to natural history museums in Ottawa, Toronto, London or New York, the Redpath Museum is modest. It has not been a funding priority for either the university or the government, and it is very much a relic of the Victorian era. And therein lies its charm.