Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Goin' to the chapel

Folks, it is wedding season. I don't know about ya'll, but I have quite a few beloved friends that have become betrothed the past year and the festivities are beginning! Just this past weekend I was in Charleston, SC helping two such friends celebrate and prep for their special days. So, given its presence in my world at the moment, I thought I'd share some of my favorite Bridal/Wedding artworks with ya'll. Just to get you in the mood.

Claire, Jacqueline, Lacey, Lauren, Jade, Mallory (in order of upcoming nuptials!)...this is for you.

"In a time when nothing is more certain than change, the commitment of two people to one another has become difficult and rare. Yet, by its scarcity, the beauty and value of this exchange have only been enhanced."
- Richard Sexton

In two (yes, TWO) of the bridal boutiques we visited dress shopping, this painting was hung on the wall:

The Wedding Morning
John Henry Frederick Bacon, oil on canvas, 1892

In the boutiques themselves, I was a little skeptical of the rather sedated, neutral palette of the painting. It seemed more muted then exciting for me, just off the bat. But the more I looked at it, the more I appreciated it. First of all, the bride is gorgeous...her dress, her beautiful veil. She's glowing. The pure white of her gown really emphasizes her as the focal point of the painting, her flocking entourage really just intentional haze around her. When you look closely, you can also see sunlight reflecting on the floor through the window behind her and light through the open door...in contrast, you also have the darkness of the fireplace. There's a lot of great light and shadow play here. There's also a range of facial expressions, appropriate for a wedding day...the calm of the seamstress grandmother, either boredom or fascination of the younger child (hard to tell with her face tilted away), the emotional and/or curious other onlookers. I think it really captures the last details being put on the morning before the ceremony begins!

Signing the register
Edmund Blair Leighton, oil on canvas, undated (likely between 1900-1920)

Leighton was a Pre-Raphaelite painter (1852-1922), that's why his style might remind you of John William Waterhouse.

I really, really like this one. Leighton actually has done quite a few wedding related paintings, this was just my favorite. Here we have the bride in the act of actually signing the marriage papers, which I think is a rare theme. I don't know about ya'll, but I typically forget all about signing the marriage license. It's all about the ceremony, right? So, I love the unusual treatment of the marriage theme, the light shining on the bride through the window, the serene calm of the groom, and the bride's own elegant sweetness. While you might (unknowingly) be most familiar with Leighton through his work The Accolade, his other wedding paintings include Till Death Do Us Part and A Call to Arms.

The Wedding
Johann Hamza, oil on canvas, undated

Johann Hamza (1850-1927) was an Austro-Hungarian painter based primarily out of Vienna. He was a painter of the figurative genre, focusing on dail social ritual of the rich bourgeoisie in Vienna. His painting, The Christening, takes place in the same Rococo church pictured above in The Wedding! This picture makes me happy for the fun costuming, the rich detail of the Rococo church, and the general feeling of celebration. While the last two paintings have been a little more calming and taking care of business, this piece almost seems to suggest that the ceremony's over and the guests are coming to give their congratulations to the couple. Happy!

The Arnolfini Wedding
Jan van Eyck, oil on oak panel, 1434

I would be a very, very bad Art Historian indeed if I did not mention The Arnolfini Wedding in this post. This painting was a monumental accomplishment of its time, not only for its precise capture of the most minute details, but also for clearly and effectively depicting a plausible space interior and its inhabitants in a realistic manner. I know it doesn't look like what we consider a typical wedding portrait, but for 1434 I'm sure it was very true. My FAVORITE part of this piece (which you can't see in my image...Google it :D) is that van Eyck painted the reflection of the couple in the mirror behind them, as well as others in the room that we, as viewers, don't otherwise see. It's like we're being painted in too! Wikipedia actually has a huge explanation of all of this painting's details and symbols, so definitely take a look.

The Wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alixandra (Hesse) Feodrovna.
Laurits Regner Tuxen, oil on canvas, 1895

I don't know about ya'll, but I've always been fascinated with the Anastasia story and imperial Russian fashion in general. This particular painting portrays the wedding of Nicholas and Alexandra, Anastasia's parents, shortly after the death of Nicholas's father. Though their story met an exceptionally tragic end and faced almost constant hardship during their lifetime, by all accounts Nicholas and Alexandra were truly and positively in love.

They first met in 1884 and when she returned to visit in 1889, they fell in love. She refused the proposal of another despite familial pressure and Nicholas was quoted in a diary entry to have said "It is my dream to one day marry Alix H. I have loved her for a long time, but more deeply and strongly since 1889 when she spent six weeks in Petersburg. For a long time, I have resisted my feeling that my dearest dream will come true." Their wedding took place on November 26, 1894 at the chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg and remained sincerely devoted to one another until their deaths in March of 1917.

"[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
- Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Taking Imagination Seriously

My Dad sent this video to me and it was certainly worth sharing with you.

What you should take away from this video? If your paints go missing, find a new medium to continue your work! Don't let potentially negative circumstances limit you, but grow with every opportunity! Imagination is an incredible thing...and people's visions make our world more beautiful every day! Whether it's through paint, music notes, stone or metal, video, vehicles, business, science...or fish net.

"Limitation live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless."
- Jamie Paolinetti, Iron Pro Cyclist

"Everything you can imagine is real."
- Pablo Picasso

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What is Art?

Ohhh, dear readers, with a loaded entry title like that one, you know this post might be a little controversial. And in fact, I'm not even going to answer the question for you. You have to answer the question for you. Every single person in this world has a different interpretation of art.

Whether you think THIS is art...

Leonardo da Vinci. Mona Lisa.

Or perhaps think that THIS is art...

Marcel Duchamp. The Fountain.

It really depends on the eye and interpretation of the viewer.

Encyclopedia Britannica defines art as "a visual object or experience consciously created through an expression of skill or imagination." Dictionary.com defines it as "the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. The class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria." Wikipedia defines art as "the product or process of deliberately arranging items (often with symbolic significance) in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect." Even our dictionaries can't come up with one, solid, unified definition!

Here's how a few artists define art:
  • "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." - Edgar Degas
  • "Art is whatever you can get away with." - Andy Warhol
  • "Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which Nature herself is animated." - Auguste Rodin
  • "Art is literacy of the heart." - Elliot Eisner
  • "Art is skill, that is the first meaning of the word." - Eric Gill
  • "Art is the Queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all of the generations of the world." - Leonardo da Vinci
  • "All art is but imitation of nature." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  • "Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing." - Marc Chagall
  • "Art is a lie that helps us realize the truth." - Pablo Picasso
Why do I bring this up now?

Well, in talking with some lovely, lovely art aware friends, some "Art" controversies have popped up in the media lately, so I thought I'd share them with you. It's always good to know the current events!

Event 1: If you have assistants make your art for you, is it YOURS to sign and take credit for?
Jeff Koons. Balloon Dog.

The Wall Street Journal Online posted an article called The Art Assembly Line on the 3rd of this month. I suggest you take a look at it to get the full scope of the article and to understand the points of view. In summary, the article begs the question...If an army of assistants really do the production work for an artist, is it fair and legitimate for the artist to claim the work?

Before leaping to your first conclusion, try to envision both sides. The critics, and I'd say most of us, probably think that if an artist claims a work (and is getting paid for it), they should have actually had a hand in making it. But sometimes a person's technical proficiency may not be able to meet the high standard of their ideas. In that case, I think it's fair for an artist to employ help. Once again harkening back to my beloved Dale Chihuly, once he lost use of one of his eyes from a car accident, he didn't have the depth perception and skill to keep blowing glass. It would have been dangerous for him and those in his studio to continue. But should he really give up his dream and career because of an accident?

Michelangelo once said, "A man paints with his brains and not with his hands." And Henry McNeill Whistler said, "An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision." And I will remind the Court (that's you) that artists employing assistants has actually been a practice for a very, very long time...

And then sometimes the artist isn't involved in the process at all (as the article points out). And sometimes they maintain creative control, but the assistants can get greedy and argue copyright since it was their hands that actually did the laboring. Sometimes artists can't meet demand without help. There are a lot of facets of this issue.

What do you think?

Event 2: Are a 4-year-old's abstract paintings really worth $27,000?

This topic comes from a NYTimes article, "Your Four Year Old Can't Do That," also published this month...but press on this topic has been running for a while.

This little girl, Aelita Andre, of Russian-decent and living in Australia with her two artist parents, has been showing her work in galleries since she was 22 months old. Story is, her work was accepted for a show and only AFTER the fact did the gallery manager find out her age. Since then she's become a kind of sensation as a child prodigy, her artwork met with accolades and described as referencing the "'automatism' and 'accidentalism,' branches of surrealism extensively practiced by Salvador Dalí and Picasso." Her website includes a list of acclaim for the little girl's work and her work has sold...and sold for a lot.

But of course, as the world tends to be skeptical, her growing fame has been met with the likes of "My child could do that" and critics pointing out that despite the sometimes elaborate names (The parents have to be involved with that, I'd think...), there's not likely any deeper meaning behind the art. If you put a canvas and a ton of brushes and paints down in front of any four year old, wouldn't you expect something similar? How is she so different?

Feel free to browse through her gallery, found here. What do you think? Do you think it's exceptional? Do you think anyone could do that? Could YOU do that?

At very least...her parents are P.R. WIZARDS and hey, she's got a good start on her college fund, right?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Sun King's Palace

First off, let me just say HUZZAH! I had 97 pageviews yesterday :D In one day! Thanks, you guys!

Secondly, as I had promised a short break from my beloved Islamic architecture (I'd hate to be biased when I'm trying to encourage art interest in all disciplines and styles :)), we shall move on from Pompeiian Garden Houses to a particular French palace...

Château de Versailles - Versailles, France
It behooves me to tell ya'll that Versailles was actually first a small country village before it was ever the imposing, elegant compound it is today. While the town dates back before 1100, the Versailles palace compound was first truly established as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII in 1624, though the property was actually owned by someone else. The original structure, built by Philibert Le Roy, was made of stone and red brick with a based roof. Eight years later, Louis purchased the property from the Gondi Family (naturally from Florence) and began to make enlargements.

The palace was made the center of the French royal court in 1682 with Louis XIV and remained so until October 1789 of the French Revolution.

Only twenty kilometers from Paris, it is now considered a suburb of the capital city, from speaking from experience, the train ride won't take you very long. BUT you do need separate tickets to get both on the train to go to Versailles and to get off the train AT Versailles. Or maybe my friends and I just got a little confused...:)

Versailles has 2,153 windows, 700 rooms, 67 staircases, and is 67,000 meters squared.

It underwent four major building campaigns under Louis XIV. The first, 1664-1668, began with a large party of 600 guests from the 7th to the 13th of May, 1664, in honor of the country's Queen and Queen Mother (and Louis's then Mistress, Louise). The second building campaign, 1669-1672, began with the treaty ending the War of Devolution. The third building campaign, 1678-1684, began with the signing of the Treaty of Nijmegen, ending the Dutch War. This is when the Hall of Mirrors (pictured above) appeared. The final building campaign was from 1699-1710 after the War of the League of the Augsburg...it concentrated mostly on the installation of the royal chapel.

It has 6,123 paintings, 1,500 drawings, 15,053 engravings, 2,102 sculptures, and 5,210 pieces of furniture and objects d'art in its current collection.

The place is basically an art wonderland. It's incredible. And I hate to be cliché and tourist-y, but besides the Gardens (and that's even considering they were the gardens in NOVEMBER), the Hall of Mirrors was my favorite room. And where there is a Hall of Mirrors, there is, of course, a gratuitous self-portrait-with-friends-in-the-mirror photo.

Couldn't resist. :)
This was taken in one of the rooms following the Hall of Mirrors. Art on the wall, paintings on the ceilings, incredible chandeliers, gold-leafed bust portraits, decorative wall sculpture...Versailles is impressive in scale by itself. But then add all of the "flare"? A mind-boggling experience for any Art Historian (or interested tourist), to be sure.

The chapel was probably my next favorite space. It was grand and given all of the people there, it was quiet. Humbling.

This was my favorite bedroom. Look at all the wonderful GREEN!!

Seriously ya'll, if you want to know more (and the history and explanation of this place can REALLY go on forever), go hop over to Wikipedia or the Versailles website. Especially the Versailles website. They have great interactive viewing tools!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"When the sun rises, it rises for everyone."

I thought this might be a good time for another 'Quotes' entry. I know I've been under a lot of stress lately - Work, money, relationships, homesickness, expectations of others. And I know I'm not alone! Every single person has their difficulties each and every day. Sometimes it can be hard to remember the positive things when things are hard...but those are really the things most worth holding on to.

Last 'Quotes' entry, I shared Artists speaking on Love & Art. Today, I'd like to share a little artistic inspiration on Positivity. (Okay...so most of these quotes are not by artists...but they're important!)

"There are always flowers for those who want to see them." - Henri Matisse

"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances." - Martha Washington

"Every act of creation is first an act of destruction." - Pablo Picasso

"I am only one; but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do." - Helen Keller

"There are two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is." - Albert Einstein

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty." - Winston Churchill

"Your heart is a sun -
Joy its stars
Faith a moon, shining in your darkness..."
- Terri Guillemets

"A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world; Everyone you meet is your mirror." - Ken Keyes, Jr.

"Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato

"Happiness is an attitude. We either make ourselves miserable, or happy and strong. The amount of work is the same." - Francesca Reigler

"If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want." - Oscar Wilde

"These then are my last words to you. Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact." - William James

* * * * * * * * *

And the wisdom that has gotten me through SO much thus far in my life...
Thank you to my dear friend for this:

"It's easy to look down sometimes, I know, but you're just too special for that. So keep your chin up." - Benjamin Bower

Paintings by Vincent Van Gogh; Tulips photo taken by my Dad at IU.