Sunday, March 29, 2009

Meadows Museum - Etruscan Temple and the Tomb

Diadem, Late 4th c. B.C., Gold.
From Populonia. Florence, National Archaeological Museum

Over spring break I visited the Meadows Museum on the SMU campus to see this incredible exhibit reflecting the Etruscan culture (it will be displayed through May 17, 2009). The exhibit has quite a depth and breadth with over 300 objects exhibited - it is the largest exhibit of Etruscan art shown in the United States, and it is right here in Dallas! The Meadows Museum is honoring the 15th anniversary of SMU professor P. Gregory Warden’s groundbreaking archaeological excavation in Poggio Colla, Italy with this exhibition dedicated to the great ancestors of Rome. The Etruscan culture served as a kind of bridge between the Greeks and the Romans, eventually becoming absorbed into the Roman culture.

This diadem, which is a type of crown or ornamental headband, is just one of the spectacular pieces in the exhibit. Made of gold, the leaves are delicate and soft. The gold is handled expertly and it is remarkable to me that it is in such good shape because it appears to be so fragile.

I attended a lecture that evening: Weaving as Worship: The Role of Women in Etruscan Religious Ritual given by Dr. Gretchen Meyers. I have been a weaver for more than 30 years. The archeological excavation mentioned above has produced scores of weaving implements and tools. It was interesting to see images of the site and hear the ideas Dr. Meyers had about the role of elite women in the production of sacred textiles. Women had great freedom and an unusually active role in the Etruscan culture. It's hard to describe the excitement I felt realizing that I have continued an activity that happened so many centuries ago. I feel a connection to those women and know what it might have been like for them to produce these fabrics.

Lekythos. Attic. Attributed to the Amasis Painter. Terracotta (Black Figure). Height: 6 ¾ inches (17.15 cm). Ca. 550-530 B.C. Metropolitan Museum of Art (31.11.10

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Artist of the Week - Julian Beever

Anamorphic illusions are images that are drawn in a certain way so that when they are viewed from a special angle they appear three dimensional. This technique was used as far back as Renaissance times, but Julian Beever is well known for his sidewalk chalk drawings that utilize this method. You may have received an email that featured images of his work - I know he's cycled through my inbox more than once!

Let's look at one of his images in the "regular" view.....
Making Poverty History, Julian Beever

Here's how he has to draw it to get it look three dimensional....
Making Poverty History, Julian Beever

For my art history students, this oblique anamorphic technique is closely related to tromp l'oeil (which in French means "trick the eye") - actually, I think it is also tricking our brain!! You can only see the image as might expect to find it from one particular viewpoint. Remember Hans Holbein the Younger's work? It has an anamorphic skull in the lower section of the composition positioned between the Ambassadors. You see the distorted view as you look at the painting straight on:
The French Ambassadors, Hans Holbein the Younger, Oil on oak, 1533


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Art Technique - Watercolor

Fishing Boats on the Beach, Vincent van Gogh, Watercolor, 1888

One of my Freshmen Art I classes is playing with watercolor as we create our "head shots of the Gods" for the DMA student art exhibition in April. I have been encouraging them to play with the medium and discover what techniques they can incorporate into their skill set. Some think that watercolor is challenging because it is a lively material. It can be. The beauty of watercolor is the clarity of the paint and the "life" it has when it hits the paper. It definitely takes some practice to explore its qualities and it is easy to overwork the paint and end up with a muddy blob.

I am encouraging my young painters to check out this website and look at some of the painting demonstrations. It might give you some ideas that you will want to incorporate into your portraits! I've put two images in this post, one I did at a workshop and a watercolor by Vincent van Gogh. He handled the paint much like I have been demonstrating for our portraits - big patches of local color (a solid hue) with outlining to define shapes. I'm excited to see what you discover when we get back from spring break!

Snagged, Christine Miller, Watercolor, 2007

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Artist of the Week - Louis Comfort Tiffany

Magnolias and Irises, 1908, Leaded Favrile-glass window, 60 1/4 x 42 in.

Louis Comfort Tiffany was a remarkable and versatile artist. He started as a painter but quickly expanded into a variety of media. Rising to prominence during the Gilded Age of the industrial rise in America, he was a contributor to the Aesthetic Movement which believed in the importance of the decorative arts. Interiors became integrated environments in which every object, surface and treatment related to the whole. Tiffany's workshop grew as private patrons, civic institutions and churches commissioned his work.

Tiffany was truly innovative. The type of glass available to him was very limited. Coming out of a painting tradition, it is no surprise that he saw glass as a medium that he could "paint" with. Because he did not have a wide variety of glass to work with, he was instrumental in having new types of treatment made to the glass such as opalescence, variegated shades, molded textures, tonal gradations and layered colors to obtain different effects.

His windows were narratives of biblical stories, portraits of his patrons, or were landscape scenes. Like Monet, he loved the garden and created verdant scenes of trees, flowers and water. All of his windows were carefully designed and assembled one piece of glass at a time. Check out this site about stained glass to see how these windows are made!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Artist of the Week - Salvador Dali

Galatea of the Spheres, Oil on Canvas, 1952

Salvador and his wife Gala had an incredible bond. He depended on her completely. Unable to cope with managing his life (like making change for a taxi or arranging for a meal for himself) Gala ordered his universe. She was everything to him, but one of the most important roles she had was as his muse. Dali painted his wife numerous times.

This painting is astounding - he portrays her classic beauty with emotion and grace. He does this as he visually shatters her image into perfect orbs that swirl in tandem with each other. They dance above the earth suspended between the sky and the tranquil sea. In the mid-twentieth century he was contemplating the theories of Freud in the new field of psychology as well as Heisenberg and physics. They were powerful influences on his art (as were many, many other things!).

Why did I choose Dali this evening - well, all things Spain right now (with my Spain trip coming up in June). Dali comes from Spain and you can see the dramatic Spanish terrain in many of his paintings. I guess I've been particularly interested in him in the last few years. I read a great biography about him. Though associated strongly with the Surrealist movement, Dali renounced any official affiliation. He was a loner.

Summer before last I had an opportunity to see his work in person. Mr. Miller & I visited the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. Wow! It was fantastic! A museum devoted to Dali with a broad spectrum of his work displayed. I could have spent the day there (though it is not that large) just looking at his work (I only got about an hour). Complex, detailed, beautiful and enigmatic, you can study one piece for long periods of time drinking in every detail. Astounding, compelling and powerful, Salvador Dali's art leaves me breathless!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Smarthistory - An overview of the period 1907-1960 - AP Art History Assignment

René Magritte, La Condition humaine, 1933

Next in our series of blasting through modernism is this installment from Smarthistory (please listen to their podcast-link in post title). It's a wonderful dialogue that echoed many things we have been referencing in class - the modeling of the figure, classicism, and the use of dark and light (chiaroscuro). Plus there are some of the ideas we talked about at the last DMA Late Night - exploring the the nature of color, reducing objects down to their simplest forms, and manipulating the viewer's eye and mind.

Ah, the glory of art!! I do love it so! The "isms" this post covers are Picasso (they talk about cubism, though do not feature a piece from that movement in this podcast), surrealism and and "Neo-Plasticism" (a term Mondrian termed to characterize a non-representational form that consisted of a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines with the use of the three primary colors). Enjoy the ride, mis niños!