Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spring show for Hudson Artists

Very excited to show some of my newer work in acrylic collage at the upcoming spring show of the Hudson Artists.

Here's the official promotion for the show:

"The Hudson Artists Association (AHA) invites you to its Spring Exhibition on May 3-4-5. 
"For close to 70 years, the Hudson Artists Association has been a major cultural influence in the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region. With almost 80 members, including several artists who have participated in international exhibitions, the AHA stands out for the quality of art works presented. 
"A painting by artist Carole Lessard will be offered to the lucky raffle winner and all ticket proceeds will be donated to the Palliative Care Home in Vaudreuil-Soulanges."

NEWS FLASH! I was delighted to win an Honourable Mention at the AHA Spring Show. The prize was awarded to Black and White series #2, shown in the photo, lower row, first from left.  This series showed nicely, with a white matte and a frame in black metal.

Black-and-white series #2

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"The Marriage of Opposites", by Alice Hoffman

When I'm spending time in my studio, I often like to listen to an audiobook. Most recently, I savoured The Marriage of Opposites, by Alice Hoffman, a work of historical fiction that tells the story of the family of Camille Pissarro (1830-1903). I have read and enjoyed others of her novels, including The Dovekeepers (2011) and The Museum of Extraordinary Things (2014).

Pissarro is my favourite of the Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters. I especially like his later work, including those wonderful street scenes of Paris. I enjoyed learning about the influence of his family and his birthplace on his work and his career.

The Boulevard Montmartre on a Winter Morning, Camille Pissarro, 1897
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas, now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Hoffman cleaves closely to the actual history of this family, enriching it with vivid native folklore and vibrant descriptions of the plant and animal life of this tropical isle. Hoffman describes St. Thomas as a magical place, influenced by its native Creole culture and its history of piracy, home to a community of Jewish exiles from Portugal and Spain as well as African slaves, all under the relatively benign rule of Denmark. The main character in the story is Rachel, mother of Camille and his many siblings.

One of the aspects of Pissarro's life that I learned about in the afterword to the novel was his exile in England during the Franco-Prussian war, 1870-71. From Wikipedia:
"When Pissarro returned to his home in France after the war, he discovered that of the 1,500 paintings he had done over 20 years, which he was forced to leave behind when he moved to London, only 40 remained. The rest had been damaged or destroyed by the soldiers, who often used them as floor mats outside in the mud to keep their boots clean. It is assumed that many of those lost were done in the Impressionist style he was then developing, thereby 'documenting the birth of Impressionism.'"
You can read a review of "The Marriage of Opposites" in The Guardian.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Art-oriented travel adventures

I've heard good things about Road Scholar, the non-profit travel company formerly known as Elderhostel. They list twenty travel itineraries oriented to art and art museums. You can read about these offerings here.

The company has a reputation for "educational travel", though we all know that any travel is educational if you have the right attitude. Many of their clients are retired teachers.

The art trips range from 4 to 17 days, and some include travel by river boat or ocean liner. A range of activity levels offers something for everyone, including intergenerational groups and solo travellers.

Here is a sampling of their art-oriented itineraries:

In the Footsteps of the Masters: Impressionism Along the Seine

Dive deep into European Impressionism, gaining a comprehensive knowledge of Monet and van Gogh as you discover their inspirations and homes alongside scholarly experts

Frank Lloyd Wright, Roycroft, and the Arts & Crafts Movement

Meet traditional artisans, attend crafts demonstrations and explore authentic Roycroft homes as you join experts to learn the story of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Western New York.

A Barnes Foundation Exclusive: Modern and Impressionist Studies

Get to know the Barnes Foundation, where you’ll attend Road Scholar exclusive classes, learn about aesthetic principles and explore the works of Impressionist and Modernist masters.

Hands-on Glass in Chihuly's Seattle Studio

Discover the art of glass-blowing alongside experts as you learn about the works of Dale Chihuly, visit artists’ studios and the Museum of Glass and create your own glass masterpiece

Spanish Art: From the Golden Age to Gaudi and Beyond

Revel in traditions of art as you enjoy lectures on the Spanish Masters and Gaudi, visit iconic museums and set out on expert-led walks to the cathedrals and monuments of Spain today.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Way We Talk About Art Shouldn't Be Impossible to Understand

Are you often stymied by Art-Speak, the gobbledygook that purports to explain a particular work of art?

Here's a great article on the subject, written by Jackson Arne and published last year on

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Explorations with Jane Davies, Lesson 3

My objective for this two-week period was to continue exploring variety of contrast in a neutral palette, using collage, paint, line and pattern in a "cruciform" format. I wanted to have the busier areas contrast with quiet (but still interesting) backgrounds, and to include "transitional" areas between the busy and the quiet. All of these measure 16" x 16".

This had the least amount of value contrast. Mostly I restricted the values to light
and medium. There is a bit of black in the text, but it doesn't "read" as dark.
I like the way I was able to break up the background into shapes, using
a soft charcoal line.

#2 is similar.
It has more value contrast, with several collage pieces a medium-dark.

#3 has more value contrast still, ranging from white to black.
The background is a touch darker than in #1 and #2.
There's a bit of white cheesecloth collaged into the centre of the X,
and some spattered black paint. I might yet tone down that black clot in the centre.

#4 has an even darker background, and a full range of value contrast.

Because we are expected to produce a minimum of six "explorations" for each lesson, I supplemented these with the re-worked efforts that were begun in Lesson 2. (I posted about them here. in both their original and improved versions.)

The response to these pieces was generally positive, though the instructor, Jane Davies, explained that "cruciform" formats are meant to have horizontal and vertical orientations only. If I want to push them towards the diagonal, I should call the format "radial" or invent another name.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Daily Rituals: Women at Work," by Mason Currey

"What Women Artists Knew About Work" is the title of an article recently published in the Wall Street Journal. The piece was written by Mason Currey, the author of "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work", and more recently "Daily Rituals: Women at Work".

The article was so interesting that I decided to order his new book immediately.

Here is an excerpt from the newspaper piece that captured my interest:
"Don't be afraid of slumps. ... [I]t often turns out that these miserable slumps precede the most fertile periods of artistic or intellectual activity. The New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield was very familiar with this cycle. Despite much self-castigation over her non-writing days, she eventually realized they were just as important as the more conventionally productive ones. 'What happens as a rule,' she wrote in her journal, "is if I go on long enough I break through." The Abstract Expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler worked in periods of deep focus followed by stretches of labored, unsatisfactory painting, or nothing at all. 'I seem to start at day one again,' Frankenthaler said, adding that the feeling was 'agony'. But, gradually, these fallow periods would give way to a new phase of work.
"Never give up, no matter how long it takes. The Danish writer Isak Dinesen didn't start writing seriously until she was in her 40s, near the end of a failed venture at running a coffee plantation in Kenya. The sculptor Louise Nevelson exhibited her work for 25 years without making a sale; she got her big break shortly before turning 60. And the painter Alma Thomas didn't become a full-time artist until she retired from public-school teaching at age 68.
"These women were sustained by a belief in themselves and their gifts. But perhaps more important was the fact that they found real joy and satisfaction in the work itself, regardless of whether the outside world took notice. 'Nothing surpasses creative activity,' said the 19th-century pianist Clara Schumann, 'even if only for those hours of self-forgetfulness in which one breathes solely in the world of sound.'
"Even those who found their work quite trying would never seriously think of giving it up. The critic and novelist Susan Sontag is a good example: She wrote slowly and with painstaking effort, and yet at some level she found it all 'thrilling.' She liked to quote Noel Coward: 'Work is more fun than fun.'" 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Thierry Mugler @ MBAM

Here are some photos taken on a recent visit to the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, where Thierry Mugler: Couturissime premieres until September 8, 2019. The show will be staged in Rotterdam and Munich after its run here.

New York's Met and London's V & A Museum both approached Mugler for a retrospective, but the artist decided that the MBAM's vision for the show best matched his own sensibilities. Mugler is familiar with Montreal because of his work developing costumes for the Cirque du Soleil. The display of 150 mannequins is augmented by dazzling light shows as well as videos that enhance the viewer's experience. Montreal is home to several companies specializing in light technology, and their talent adds another dimension to the exhibition.

The first room is devoted to costumes Mugler designed for a French production of Macbeth. Lady Macbeth's dress weighed more than sixty pounds. Another room presents old-style Hollywood glamour, and yet another focuses on outrageous clothing he designed for performers like Beyoncé, Madonna and Cardi B. The most impressive exhibit is dedicated to the theme of "metamorphosis", and many of these costumes borrow imagery from insects and aquatic animals. The last of the seven or eight rooms showcases the work of ten contemporary Montreal fashion designers. Finally there is a workshop area where visitors can experiment with various hands-on skills like millinery and mask-making, which I hope to see on my next visit.

The signage for the Mugler show proposes that his designs celebrate feminine power, but some viewers may well feel that the clothes hyper-sexualize the wearer. This clothing brings to mind the dominatrix, not the chairman of the board.

A chimera, with the headpiece of a bird's wings, the carapace of
a crustacean, and the lower body of a fish.

Still, the imagination and craftsmanship of these astonishing designs will impress any visitor. For more information about Thierry Mugler: Couturissime, please visit the museum's website.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Today is Slow Art Day

Most of us spend not more than 15 - 30 seconds viewing a piece of art when we visit a gallery or museum. In fact, often we are content to snap a selfie in front of the art, and then move on immediately to our next "conquest".

A group of some 200 prominent museums is trying to change this. They have established today, April 6, as Slow Art Day, an annual global event.

To learn more, visit this link from BBC News.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Peter Sacks

I recently read a profile of the artist Peter Sacks in The New Yorker, March 25, 2019 issue. The caption under his full-page photo reads, "Late in life and seemingly overnight, Peter Sacks became a visual artist with a fully formed and dauntingly complex aesthetic."

The article is titled "What Lies Beneath", written by Joshua Rothman, and I would highly recommend it.

Sacks is a fascinating subject. He seems to have excelled at whatever he has put his hand to. Born in South Africa in 1950 of Lithuanian Jewish descent, he became active in the anti-apartheid movement at an early age, befriending Steve Biko. Sacks was at various times an Olympic-level swimmer, a Rhodes scholar, an English professor whose text on the English elegy form is without rival, an acclaimed poet, and now "one of the most exciting painters in America".

Necessity 7, 2007-09, "incorporates Rainer Maria Rilke's 'Duino Elegies'
in English and German. Like many of Sacks' triptychs, it is more than 12 feet long."

Sacks made his first painting twenty years ago, and hasn't written a single line of poetry since. Known to work 14-hour days, he has laboured over almost a thousand paintings, mounting ten solo shows in increasingly prestigious galleries. His paintings are large and "sedimentary". They consist of as many as seven or eight layers, and are painstakingly built over a period of years. The layers sometimes include linen, onto which he has laboriously typed entire texts. They might also include twisted cloth, sometimes singed, and corrugated cardboard. Writes Rothman,
"Sacks needed to invent a ritualized form of art-making – creating, burying, burning, uncovering."
“Township 17,” from 2017-18.
The painting combines fabrics from India, Europe, West Africa, and the Arab world.

Said Christopher Bedford, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art,
"The paintings are deeply labor-intensive, almost painful in their execution. And the physical awareness that you're in the presence of something that was wrought over time, and that contains depth and layers that aren't visually perceivable, is very important. The feeling that the end point was reached through a process that you can sense but not perceive – that feels like history to me."

Farewell to an Idea 6, from 2010-12,
includes poems by Federico Garcia Lorca

Rothman creates a very compelling portrait of the artist, who currently works out of his studio on Martha's Vineyard. It makes me eager to find opportunities to see Sacks' work.

The article also prompted me to reflect on Rothman's classification of Peter Sacks' work. Not once was the term "collage", "textile art" or "fibre art" used in the New Yorker article. These are considered to be "paintings."