Monday, May 30, 2011

"My work is a game, a very serious game."

Hello, readers!

I've been way stuck on painters lately, so let's mix things up at least a little...Here's the deliciously mind-boggling graphic artist, M.C. Escher!

M.C. Escher (1898-1972) - Graphic Artist

"Are you really sure that a floor can't also be a ceiling?"

M.C., or Maurits Cornelius Escher, was a Dutch artist famous for his lithographs, wood cuts, and mathematically challenging "impossible structures." He spend a great deal of time in Italy throughout his career, otherwise living in Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The cold, damp climates of the latter countries forced him to become absorbed in his work since he cared little for those vistas.

"He who wonders discovers that this in itself a wonder."

What I love about Escher, besides trying to figure out his impossible concepts, is the detail and breadth of his work. I love that little kitty cat lithograph, the realistic detail in the ball reflection (except the figure looks like a cartoon, you'll notice!), the symmetry, and play between line, space, and form. He keeps you guessing and he is one artist that, for me, really embodies the idea of the limitless creativity of the mind.

"Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it's in my basement...let me go upstairs and check."

Actually, Escher did not have mathematical training, but as you can see, many of his works (many different types of his works!) have strong mathematical components that Escher developed intuitively on his own. Many included tesselations like the piece above. This mathematical trend first appeared in his work around 1936 when he was journeying through the Mediterranean.

"So let us then try to climb the mountain, not by stepping on what is below us, but to pull us up at what is above us, for my part as the stars. Amen."
- M.C. Escher

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Betwixt the green brink

I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides yesterday. I will not divulge any secrets of the movie if you have yet to see it, but I have to admit...the mermaids in it were REALLY cool. Beautiful, alluring but dangerous! And now I'm on a mermaid kick.

Following the movie, my friend Alice (whut up, Alice!) and I went to karaoke at one of our fave bars...and surprisingly, this painting is hanging in the bar (Hylas and the Nymphs, 1896):

Now, I can't say why the Bluebird has this painting in it. It's a bar and performance hall. So, let's talk about the painting itself instead. :)

Hylas, according to Ovid, is the son of Heracles (Hercules) and the wife of King Theiodamas. He received his good looks from his Mom and his military skills from his demigod father. This affair caused a war between Theiodamas and Heracles. Heracles ends up killing Theiodamas and taking the boy on as an arms bearer. Heracles takes Hylas to Argo where he is kidnapped by nymphs that he later falls in love with. Heracles and Polyphemus (NOT the cyclops) search for young Hylas, but he is never found.

John William Waterhouse, the artist of these lovely pieces, is an Englishman born in Italy around 1849 to artistic parents. He was trained at the Royal Academy and is known for his Pre-Raphaelite style. Pre-Raphaelite is a style emulating the simplicity and academic sincerity of Italian artists that came before Raphael. Waterhouse's works most frequently involve Greek mythology or Arthurian legend as their historical themes.

But today, I'm not gonna talk about the works you might recognize of his like Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott. I just wanted to guessed it. The mermaids!

Okay, there aren't many. But that's my theme and I'm sticking to it. The piece posted in the middle of the mermaid with the lyre is called The Siren from 1900 and the one directly above is The Mermaid, 1901. I really like the textural quality of his paint strokes. It kind of looks like he did the painting with a scratchy, coarse-hair brush. The Mermaid looks much smoother than the other two, but you can still tell it belongs to Waterhouse...dark, moody atmosphere, fanciful themes, and natural, curvaceous, exceptionally pale female figures.

Here's the study for The Mermaid!

This painting is The Naiad, 1905. Now, Naiades aren't really mermaids, but they're intimately connected with their watery home, like mermaids, so I thought I'd include it. To clarify, in mythology, Naiades were the nymphs of fresh water. The other large water nymph classifications included the Nereides, nymphs of the Mediterranean, and Oceanids, nymphs of the oceans.

Mermaids, on the other hand, are your half-fish, half-woman with "mer" meaning "sea" and "maid" obviously denoting "woman." Mermaids are known, like sirens, for singing in such an enchanting way that they can distract men and gods and cause them to run astray from their course or wreck their ship. There are stories of mermaids squeezing drowning men to death in an attempt to save them, others speak of mermaids' intentional drowning of humans. According to Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, mermaids forget that men can't breathe beneath water and the drowning is unintentional. There are lots of stories. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides picks up on one of these lines...the dangerous one. ;) VERY cool.

This last piece, Thisbe (1909), is obviously not a mermaid. But if you read my last piece on the House of Loreius Tiburtinus, you would now be familiar with this lovely lady! I thought it was cool that Waterhouse did a painting of her. :)

"Since once I sat upon a promontory/ And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back/ Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath/ That the rude sea grew civil at her song/ And certain stars shot madly from their spheres/ To hear the sea-maid's music."
- William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pompeii Properties: The Garden House

For this entry, I wanted to share one of the properties I really enjoyed from my Art and Archaeology of Pompeii class this past semester. :)

The House of Loreius Tiburtinus/Octavius Quartio> - Address: II, 2, 2

First thing you should know is that Loreius Tiburtinus is a completely fabricated name. There's nothing about the house that actually indicates it belonged to "Loreius Tiburtinus" or that that person even existed. It also goes by the House of Octavius Quartio, a name discovered in one of the shops along the front. Most of the garden houses are also located near the amphitheater.

The house is located on the Via Dell'Abbundanza, one of the three largest streets at Pompeii. It was excavated between 1916 and 1921. According to my professor, its falling apart from all of the foot traffic and exposure to the elements these past almost 100 years, so if you have to a chance to visit Pompeii, see it sooner rather than later.

In the diagram above, the entrance is #2 (on the top right side). Like houses typical at Pompeii, you enter through the fauces (front entryway) and come in through the atrium.

This is the house's atrium. Like typical Greek/Roman house atriums, there are rooms (usually bedrooms) along the right and left sides of the space and there is an impluvium (a sunken pool in the atrium used to collect rain water). This house has an unusual impluvium that it is both a pool and a planter. There are bases for statuary on 3 sides and another small, elevated pool on the 4th side. There are plants planted around the pool.

The atrium floor used to be tiled with white marble chips, but due to the amount of foot traffic there is only ONE chip left!

What makes this property interesting is that it is 75% (I'm ball parking that) garden, for only 25% house. As you can see in the plan, there are two long, narrow, rectangles that form a t-shape. These are decorative water pools known as euripi (euripus, singular). They are plastered and painted, framed in white marble and are about 5-6 feet deep. There were animal figurines (sphynx, dogs or lions killing other animals) and taller figures of Greek muses on square pillars flanking these pools.

The shorter euripus (upper euripus) runs from a small house chapel to Isis to the biclinium, or two-couch outdoor dining space. This is the only biclinium at Pompeii! Other houses have tricliniums, or three-couch dining spaces. These two couches (made of stone, btw) sit in front of a fountain. The water flows down into a pool and between the couches, creating an interesting space.

Outside, on either side of this fountain, are two paintings. The left painting is of Narcissus, a popular figure in Pompeii. The right is of Pyramus and Thisbe, the original ill-fated lovers found in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Outside of Ovid and a mention in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, this is the only other ancient, original, historical document of this story. What makes it even more important is that the painting is actually signed by its painter, Lucius.

Pyramus and Thisbe were the original Romeo and Juliet. Read the link above for the best description of their story. The painting depicts Thisbe killing herself with Pyramus's sword after she discovers his suicide as he believed a lion to have eaten her. This is also, supposedly, why mulberry berries are red.

This is a view down the lower euripus into the garden. It faces the direction of the amphitheater. Grape trellising flanks the euripus. This view is from a small baldacchino on four columns that was likely another place for statuary. Beneath this structure is a fountain with a mask spout and paintings of the goddess Diana about it.

Amphora (jars) of wine were also found in the garden.

There's a lot more to say about this house, but I'll gonna cap this entry off for now. I'll leave you with a walk-through tour of this house that I found on Youtube!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Der Blaue Reiter, Das Blaue Pferd

I apologize, my readers, I am a week behind! The first year of my Master's program ended last week, and I am pleased to say it ended very well. :) It was stressful for a spell, but I have succeeded! In light of my good mood, I thought I'd share some paintings with you that always make me happy to look at...perhaps its the colors, perhaps the animals. But I think they're really delightful. :)

Franz Marc - German Expressionist painter, 1880-1916
Franz Marc was born in Munich on February 8th, 1880, son of a professional landscape painter. His formal training as an artist began at age 20 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, continuing informally in Paris from 1903-1907. In 1911, he founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) journal, which developed into an artist's circle with Wassily Kandinsky and August Macke, among other German artists. He organized exhibitions under the Blaue Reiter name in 1911 and 1912. He was heavily intrigued by Vincent Van Gogh and those of the Impressionist movement in France.

At the beginning of World War I, Marc volunteered for military service in the German Army. Shortly after the war began, the government issued orders to pull select, notable artists from combat in order to protect them. Before Marc could be withdrawn from combat, he was struck in the head by a piece of shell at the Battle of Verdun on March 4, 1916 and instantly killed.
Tragic as his end was, it is what he accomplished in life that we want to remember! Der Blaue Reiter group believed that art should suggest spiritual themes. Marc chose to depict animals because he believed them to be more noble and natural than humans. He gave emotional meaning to what he painted, particularly with the colors.

"Blue is the male principle, stern and spiritual. Yellow the female principle, gentle, cheerful and sensual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color which must be fought and vanquished by the other two."

The animals he painted were done in these exuberant, unusual colors in order to try and harness their spirituality.

In this painting, Rehe im Walde II (Deer in Woods II, 1914), Marc represents a family of deer crouched in the woods. The blue deer is the buck, the masculine leader of this little group. The fawn is in yellow, symbolizing the joy of a child. The doe, in red, has changed its symbolism here to mean femininity and motherhood. As Marc previously believed that red symbolized "matter" and earth, it's easy to see how he could make the leap to encompass motherhood.

"Art is nothing but the expression of our dream; the more we surrender to it, the closer we get to the inner truth of things, our dream-life, the true life that scorns questions and does not see them."

But most of all, Marc loved horses. Blue horses. He elevated them in his paintings to represent what he admired most about the animal kingdom. They were noble, masculine, and elegant. Like his other animal forms, they were simplified and composed of bold, round shapes. Their curved necks and bodies mimic the curves of the landscape and painting them blue conveyed their spirituality.
Don't they just make you smile??

"What appears spectral today will be natural tomorrow." - Franz Marc

Monday, May 2, 2011

United we stand

"The holy Quran tells us, 'O mankind! We have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.' ...The Talmud tells us: 'The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.' The holy Bible tells us, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.' ... The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth."

- Barack Obama, to Cairo University, June 2009

This is obviously not art related...but I thought this would be important to share, given the recent current events. As world citizens, we need to learn to work together, respect each other, to find peace. Maybe it will never happen, but we need to try. Let us remember that that man is NOT the face of Islam and that all of us, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Agnostics, Atheists and all others of faith, share this earth and should work every day to contribute to the joys of life, not the tragedies.

Let's remember those who were lost on 9/11 and let them finally rest. Let's be thankful this evil man met justice, and have pride in all of those who had fought and died to make that happen. Let's be united for once, because people of all nationalities, all political parties, all races, all ages and genders contributed to this day.

But let's not be like him. Let's not relish another's death. Even if its deserved.I'm not saying "Don't be happy" or relieved, or satisfied, or glad that he's gone and no longer a threat. All I'm hoping is that we don't let ourselves become blood-thirsty like he was.

"Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it."

- Martin Luther King Jr.