Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Africa + Japan = Marvelous

Today, in the last day of African seminar, we got the incredible opportunity to video conference with the fantastic Suzanne Gott, one of the editors of our book for that class. She introduced me to a fashion designer that really embraces the idea of globalization and the effects of two exotic ancient civilizations on one another!

Serge Mouangue - Fashion Designer/Developer of Wafrica

Wafrica is a line by designer Serge Mouangue that was born in Cameroon 1973, but moved to Paris at age 6. He was trained in Parisian schools for interior and industrial design. During his studies, he cultivated an intense interest in cultures that took him all over the world...Australia, USA, China, Mexico, and Turkey. After school, he moved to Australia for a brief time where he worked as a free-lance artist and industrial designer. He returned to France when offered a position designing cars for a French car company. At this time, he was able to take some Japanese language courses and became fascinated with the culture...fortunately, Nissan car company offered him a position in Japan in 2006 so he got to pursue this interest first-hand. Mounague is currently based out of Tokyo.

Wafrica developed from Tokyo's inspiration - Japanese culture is simultaneously so modern, yet respectful and prideful of the traditions of the past. Mouangue seized this idea for his line, combining the traditional Japanese kimono, a once-common and now withering fashion trend, with the modern, cotton African print textiles. Launched in March of 2008, Wafrica livens the traditional kimono with bold, vivid African patterns and colors, as well as printed wax cotton, fabric a far cry of kimono's typical luxurious silks.

Today, less that one in ten Japanese women actually wear kimono on their wedding day. The introduction of Western dress post-World War II had slowly but steadily overwhelmed traditional dress in Japan. This was a perfect opportunity for Mouangue to revitalize kimono by injecting fresh non-Japanese prints and fabrics into the mix. African wax prints seemed the perfect solution!

"I do not want the end result to belong to Africa, nor should it belong to Japan. It is not a 'fusion.' I want it to be something else. It should transcend the boundaries of both cultures. It is a third aesthetic."

Similarities behind the seemingly opposite African and Japanese cultures were what drew Mouangue to this project. "They may appear different on the surface, but they do share some cultural similarities. Both societies are very tribal and have a respect for hierarchy and an appreciation of the power of silence." He also notes the differences. "In Japan there is no improvisation. Here, improvisation can mean trouble, shame, difficulties. But in Africa, it means life, renewal, health and spirit."
For Mouangue, Wafrica is not an economic venture or a fashion statement. Instead, it stands for something much greater. "The connection between two different worlds such as Africa and Japan may be hidden. There may be a sea that seems to separate the two places. But we are all connected. There is earth under the sea that links us all, but we can't always see it. This is a project that tries to show that connection."

This line is still only in its infancy. Mouangue plans to grow his creation to include more aspects of Japanese art and fashion, synthesizing them with African prints. "This is just the start. It is about finding a third aesthetic. Telling a familiar story a different way. The end result? It's about hope, and it's about the future."

Quotes for this entry can be found here.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seaforms and Chandeliers

Happy Easter, everyone!

Today I'd like to share my all time favorite sculpture artist with you:

Dale Chihuly - Glass sculptor

(I took this picture at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2008. This is the lobby ceiling.)

Dale Chihuly is an internationally renowned class sculpture artist that got his start with glass while studying interior design at the University of Washington. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin after graduation in 1965 in order to study glass in the first glass program, and continued his education at the Rhode Island School of Design where he later established a glass program and taught for many years. You can read more of his biography at his website,

My awareness of Chihuly began in 2005 when my high school art teacher and our National Art Honor Society (of which I was the Secretary at the time) organized a trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to experience an outdoor exhibit of Chihuly's that mingled his whimsical glass sculptures with the treasures of the garden. It was a gray, misty day, which kind of made it all the more magical. There weren't many people at the garden either, so we got to explore at our heart's content.

Of the many, many sculptures we saw that day, only the following one appears to still be present at the garden:
(This was taken at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens in 2010. A friend of mine took this shot of the same sculpture in 2005)

I love Chihuly for his colors, his organic forms, his curving, evolving shapes, his play with light, his visual pop. You know it when you see a Chihuly. There are two on loan in my Mom's building downtown right now, and I noticed them the second I stepped in the lobby. He makes a range of sculptures, whether quite large (like the Bellagio ceiling or fountain toppers or chandeliers...oh my gosh, the chandeliers!) or smaller, like vases, bowls, or the following Seaform. These are not vases or bowls you put fruit in though.

Chihuly, as you'll notice in the video I included for you below, has lost sight in his left eye, which is a great deal of the reason (if not the reason) why he creates his work now from more of a conceptual and managerial standpoint vs. a participatory role. This was caused ironically caused by the glass of a car windshield in a car accident in England in 1976. As a result, he had 256 stitches and was in the hospital for weeks. And yet, despite this disadvantage that might cause most people to stop producing works of art...Chihuly has continued on and completely flourished, making himself into one of the greatest and most revered sculpture artists in the world.

(I got to see this gorgeous White and Oxblood (cream and crimson!!) Seaforms piece at the Columbia Museum of Art with Furman's Art Students League in 2008, I think.)

Here is a very brief time-lapse video to give you an idea of what it takes to put together one of those chandeliers. Just....add like, hours and hours.

And here's a great video to basically let Dale tell you himself about his work and evolution as an artist. When he mentions installations in a casino, that's another view of the Bellagio ceiling! And Youtube is FULL of videos about him and his glass blowing, so that's a good resource. :)

"I never met a color I didn't like." - Dale Chihuly

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Frying pans...who knew, right??

Mixing it up!! Let's talk an animated feature.

If you all haven't seen Tangled yet...well, then I'm disappointed in you. (J/K! But really, go see it)

It is an AMAZING movie and really gives me faith in Disney again. Now, don't get me wrong...I'm a Disney Princess/Loyalist through-and-through, but things had only been kind of "eh" for me for the past couple years. I did love Princess and the Frog (totally own it too), but nothing compares to how I love this movie! And it's not a -typical- Disney movie either. Let's review why.

A) The heroine is kind of a dork. And I love it. She's naive and a little goofy, but she's endearing, a dreamer, and oh, so lovable.

B) We have not yet seen a chameleon as a heroine/princess's trusting sidekick! I guess Disney's liking the reptiles/amphibians these days ;)

C) Now, while 3D/digital animation has been Disney's bread and butter as of late (Toy Story, The Incredibles, etc.), and this is the same kind of deal, I feel like the animation style is a better combination of the drawn and computer generated. I don't know how to explain it. But I have to say, a lot of the expressions, gestures, and movements look very realistic sometimes.

D) The music is more broadway/theatrical than typical Disney movies. I didn't even know it was a musical! And while it is, I don't think that distracts from the story or would make it less enjoyable for say, I dunno, a guy.

E) For ONCE in a Disney movie...THE MOTHER IS NOT DEAD!!!! (Think about it. Belle's mom, Ariel's mom, Cinderella's real mom, Snow White's real mom, Jasmine's mom, Tink's mom, Giselle's mom, Kida's mom.....Aurora's an exception. Simba too.)

F) The narrator is, in fact, our hero. And gosh, he's funny. And flawed. He's not your typical hero.

He IS, however, all mine. Sorry, Rapunzel:
BAHAHAHA! I'm so serious. This was sent to me from DisneyWorld for my birthday. Joy of JOYS.


It also comes with some really marvelous and beautiful concept art. I love looking at sketches and concept paintings like this one!

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder how they'll get out of this scrape, that scrape. You'll marvel at the scenery (whoever was on the production team for the background art...bravo), sit there and consider (seriously) what it would be like to have 75 feet of hair, and afterwards, I think you'll just feel really good. It's a feel-good movie (though it has it's drama!). So, go see it.

NOW. :)

Rapunzel: "I have made the decision to trust you."
Flynn: "A horrible decision really."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision."



I didn't even know this existed until, well, today. In my mind, it's kind of an American parallel to European Impressionism (with the blurred, hazy scenes created by heavy, impasto paint), but they kind of blend together (like their colors!) as time goes by. It's a genre rooted in Aestheticism. Tonalist works are characterized by an overall tone of color or atmospheric, implied mist. You see a LOT of green in these works. I found a sweet NY Times article/review from a 1997 exhibit on the Tonalists for you to read, HERE.

It developed around the 1880s as a soothing, dream-like world of repose for the eyes of those Americans who were "breaking down" from the speed and scale of accelerating modern life. Two artists I wanted to particularly share with you today are John Twachtman and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

John Twachtman - 1853-1902

The White Bridge, 1895. What a pretty little picture! Not the most characteristically tonal I've seen (you'll see what I mean later ;)), but you get the idea. Very broken, fuzzy brushstrokes haze all of the edges and lines. The yellow-green of the grass and foreground tree's leaves really dominate. The dark evergreen colors kind of blob about, and then there's the soft blue-white of the water. Don't get me I think we can all see, there's a definite scene here. But do you see the hazy, fuzzy-lensed look of it?

Round Hill Road, 1900. I had to show you this one for the a) pure contrast between the light, springy green of the previous painting and b) to show you how Tonalism worked to the extreme in snow! This image does really nothing for you, for I'm sure if you were to see it in person, the painting style would be very tactile and there would be many more facets for you to look at. But you get the idea of the very indistinct shapes of the houses and trees, all covered in snow. Very unusual. :)

"Winter... that feeling of quiet and all nature is hushed to silence."
- John Twachtman

Thomas Dewing - 1851-1938

In the Garden, 1892-1894. Unlike Twachtman, Dewing frequently incorporated wistful, graceful female figures in his works. There is usually more than one, showing the woman interacting outdoors in a dreamworld landscape. They aren't really in a specific space, rather just a green outdoor haze. You even get a peak of the white moon behind the tree on the right.

Haze. Outdoors. Green. Atmospheric. Dreamy. Lots of repetitive words. All (mostly) applicable.

Summer, 1890. I really like this one. I think it's because of the flecks of pink mixed with the green and blues. As I mentioned in Rosina, Rosina, I really have this thing about little hints of pink in landscape. Pink and I didn't even start to get along till I was at sophomore in college and one of the main colors for my sorority was pink. What is that about?!

I also like that the ladies appear to be fishing in their finery and lovely society dresses. It's the kind of painting I'd probably hang in my daughter's room, you know, if I had a daughter (Don't worry, Mom, not gonna happen ANY time soon). It's bright, it's cheerful, little comedic (who fishes in a gown?!). But this isn't the kind of comedy you'd guffaw at. A simper would be more appropriate.

Other artists you could potentially investigate for this movement are Dwight Tryon, Alexander Thomas Harrison, Julian Alden Weir, the latter work of our good ol' boy James McNeill Whistler, George Inness, John La Farge, and Google will help you find the rest. :)

Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket, 1877, James McNeill Whistler. Yes, the same man who painted his mother and the Peacock Room also painted this almost abstract piece. Just to clarify... it's a night piece featuring the fireworks at Cremorne Gardens. Whistler called it an "artistic arrangement," NOT a specific view of said gardens.

I know these are only the tiniest, tiniest representation of all this movement has to offer. But it, once again, gives you an ideal to possibly fuel your own investigations. Title quote of this entry belongs to Whistler.

What do you all think of this movement?

"We are all the subjects of impressions, and some of us seek to convey the impressions to others. In the art of communicating impressions lies the power of generalizing without losing the logical connection of parts to the whole which satisfies the mind." - George Inness

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rosina, Rosina

Ya'll know I recently became infatuated with John Singer Sargent. Ya'll also already know that I'm writing a paper about his flamenco dancers for my American Art class. In the course of my research, I came across a painting I had never seen as a part of his oeuvre (body of work) and wanted to share it with you not just because it's one of the most beautiful paintings I've ever seen, but also because the focal figure is a constant in his early work.

It's always fun to find a reoccurring theme/figure in things, right :)?

This is Dans les Oliviers, á Capri (1878) featuring then seventeen-year-old Rosina Ferrara, an Ana-Capri girl. It's 31.5 x 25 inches, oil on canvas, and there are three versions. Two are in private collections and one is at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. This picture doesn't really do it justice...the golds, her pink skirt, the deep greenblue-gray of the trees are much more vivid. I wish I could see it in person!

I think what makes me love this picture is the almost dream-like quality it has. Rosina is draped over a gnarled old olive tree amidst an overgrown olive grove. She is kind of entwined with the tree, making her a part of the magical landscape. The streak of her pink skirt gives the painting a visual pop. All of the background is in some kind of mystic haze, while Rosina and her tree the only truly defined elements. Some scholars have suggested the tree is a stand-in for Sargent, the artist playing the undepicted male half of a romantic pair.

The piece is kind of wild and magical and Sargent has really captured grace, mystery, and beauty all in one painting.

I first saw Rosina in this picture, called Capri (1878). In this work, she is dancing on a hotel roof at what could to be cool-colored twilight OR bright illumination from a full moon . She is accompanied by a friend playing a tambourine and she is swept up in the dance, pink skirted hips swaying right as her gracefully raised arms swing left. Supposedly, the dance she is performing is called the tarantella, an energetic dance of whirling steps that depicts a love story.

Sargent first really established himself as a proficient through the Fumée d'ambre gris (1880), which I mentioned in the previously article, an exotic orientalist portrait of a woman all in white, surrounded in white, scenting her clothes with the aphrodisiac ambre gris. I'd argue that Capri is a precursor to that success, a practice in the different shades of white.

In my sources, it's not identified whether or not this is actually Rosina, but I would argue that it is based on the pink skirts, the up-do, and the fact that in the following picture, she has onions strung over her shoulder. This work, called Stringing Onions (1878), is a warm, quiet working scene...the women are confined in their space, but the golden white walls and large window make the atmosphere warm instead of oppressive.

This portrait of Rosina (1878) has her in her typical Capri dress, onions slung over her right shoulder, and hand on her hip, a traditionally Sargent pose. Furthermore, the hand is bent at the wrist, so it is the top of her hand that connections with her hip while her palm faces the viewer. See if you can pose your hand as such so you'll see what I mean. Sargent does have an affinity for these contorted, uncomfortable'll see poses like this more and more as you continue historically through his oeuvre! (Rosina's backward reaching arm in Dans les Oliviers has a similar stretch, in theory, to Madame X's backward reaching arm)

Born in 1861, Rosina Ferrara was born in Anacapri, Capri. She was described by the artist Charles Sprague Pearce as "the tawney skinned, panther eyed, elf-like Rosina, wildest and lithest of all the savage creatures on the savage isle of Capri." I sure hope he meant it, and she took it, as a compliment. Rosina was painted by other artists, but of the 16 known paintings of her (that I could find), 12 were done by Sargent (I am skeptical of two of those, however). One of the artists to paint her, George Randolph Barse, later became her husband in 1891. She died in New York in 1934 of at age 76 of pneumonia.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A zoo in the desert

Ahh!! Sorry for being so behind. The past week was CRAZY-GO-NUTS so I wasn't sure when I was going to get to this...but today, Stormzilla has kept me inside (traffic lights are out, fields and streets on campus are flooded) so here we are. I've been holding this fun little artistic marvel in my back pocket for a special occasion, might as well be now. :) So I give you...

The Nazca Lines - Peru


First, a quick vocab lesson:

1. Geoglyph - A drawing or design made in the ground.
Example: The Nazca lines are the most famous geoglyphs in the world.

2. Negative Geoglyph - A drawing in the ground created by REMOVING earth (vs. adding earth to make a design, like an Indiana mound...A "positive" geoglyph)
Example: The Nazca lines are a negative geoglyph.

3. Patina - A tarnish or sheen found typically on the surface of bronze and other metals due to time and wear.
Example: The Nazca lines make a negative geoglyph because patinated rocks/stones/earth were removed to expose unpatinated ground.

The Nazca lines are found in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru. Scholars believe that the lines belong to the long-since dissolved Nazca race (200 BC to 650 AD), who possibly created these giant symbols between 400 and 650 AD (CE). This particular desert, also known as the Pampa Colorada (Red Plain), is 15 miles wide and 37 miles long and a part of a much larger desert running 1,400 miles and parallel to the Pacific Ocean.

The designs were created by moving patinated reddish stones back to reveal the white earth beneath them. Hummingbirds, monkeys, lizards, human figures, spiders, sharks, and llamas are all images depicted in these lines, as well as more general geometric shapes. They have been preserved for all of these years due to the dry, stable, relatively windless nature of the desert. The largest figures are over 660 ft (200 metres) across.

What are they and why are they here? Those have been the biggest, most puzzling questions for just about everybody. What we do know is that to create these lines, it would have taken a community effort and it would have taken that community hundreds of years. Given by the fact that they were worked on for hundreds of years, we know the Nazca were likely permanent residents of the area...not nomads and not likely hunter/gatherers either, but agrarians.

But as for the function of the lines, suggestions include:

- Suggest the flow of water
- Symbols of fertility
- Astrological calendars
- Giant irrigation plans
- Maps of the constellations
- Tribute to Nazca gods
- Courses for foot races

Oh yeah. And that it's an ancient airfield for extraterrestrials.