Monday, October 31, 2011

There's a bit of magic in everything

Happy Halloween, all!

On that note and in the tradition of my artist quote entries on Love and Positivity, I thought I'd share some artist quotes on Magic...This is a holiday of magic and witchcraft, after all. ;)

"I don't think that there is anything that is really magical unless it has a terrifying quality."
- Andrew Wyeth

"Mastery is the rudder, Mystery is the sail and Magic the wind to move you in your chosen direction." - Jack White (musician)

"If you take any activity, any art, any discipline, any skill, take it and push it as far as it will go, push it beyond where it has ever been before, push it to the wildest edge of edges, then you force it into the realm of magic." - Tom Robbins

"Painting isn't an aesthetic operation; it's a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange, hostile world and us, a way of seizing the power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires." - Pablo Picasso
(Yes, this pointillism piece IS a Picasso...its in his museum in Barcelona. I've seen it in person - Fantastic!)

"I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning..."
- Joseph Priestly (English theologian, philosopher, educator, political theorist)

"Painting is like magic to me. You touch the paper with colors and an image appears! A realist will tell you it's not magic at all but a science of understanding colors and textures. I'd rather look at painting as magic!" - Brenda Grounds McCart

"I am interested in making the simple profound, so my own backyard can be inspirational. I just walk out my door and it's all there. By painting simply, magic happens."
- Peter Fiore

"I see painting as an evocative magic, and there must always be a random factor in magic, one which must be constantly changed and renewed." - William S. Burroughs

"The stars were my best friends. The air was full of legends and phantoms, full of mythical and fairy tale creatures, which suddenly flew away over the roof, so that one was at one with the firmament." - Marc Chagall

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sustainable, functional, "yet very chic"

I found my next fashion designer of note for ya'll by complete accident - a completely JOYFUL accident. But with one look at Norweigan designer Leila Hafzi's creations (only enhanced by her eco-friendly mission), I was absolutely smittened.

Hafzi's Debut designs from 1997 were created in Nepal. This highly ecological collection worked with fabrics such as hemp and nettle, loomed raw silk, wood, and buttons and embellishments made of bone or horn from water buffalo. This collection paved the way for Hafzi's enduring mission: To promote organic and ethical trade in the high end fashion industry, to represent this movement, and to develop an entirely environmentally friendly production cycle for fashion in the future.

UTOPIA collection, Spring/Summer 09

And her creations only get better with her experience! Looking through her oeuvre on her website, I'm amazed at the variety and dynamism of her designs, given her commitment to use sustainable, functional materials. You see everything from exceptionally structured, dense fabrics and pieces (Natura), to sheer cashmeres, mohair, and elegant brocades (Studio Earthling, Aeon Afterglow), to the most gorgeously flowing gowns (UTOPIA, Néktar). Some of her pieces can be exceptionally modern and accessible, while others are the perfect fit for a daydreamer with a romantic eye.
Néktar collection, Spring/Summer 2010

And the COLOR. This woman is NOT afraid to use color, and bless her for it!

Néktar (pictured a lot) and UTOPIA are probably my favorite two collections. They're very whimsical, colorful, and romantic. Néktar incorporates colors from hand-picked flowers and draws inspiration from hummingbirds and flamingos in a "lush Kathmandu garden." UTOPIA is inspired by animals of Tibetan mythology and the seventies, and combines the visions of Hafzi, Marcus André Green, and tattoo artist Mike The Athens.

Néktar collection, Spring/Summer 2010
At the heart of her glorious collections remains her strong, adamant mission:

"There is no doubt that the production of an eco-collection is more time consuming and the costs are much higher, but in the end, how high is the price of producing a collection compared to adding one small step towards the achievement of saving our planet and eventually mankind?"

"I think it is important for artists and creative people to emphasize global awareness regarding our responsibility to preserve the earth we are about to destroy."

"For me, it is a balance between creating works in developing countries, establishing a long term market position, and then step-by-step making fully ecological collections."

Néktar collection, Spring/Summer 2010

Hafzi's brand style is based on Tibetan monk drapery, seventies glam, and Greek goddess-like gowns. Her favorite color is ever changing with the rainbow, the base colors of her collections not developed from predicted trends but rather from what she feels at the time would be "prettiest" and the most ecologically possible to create.

Roy ay e Sefid ("Bright Dreams") Bridal collection

Hafzi's even taken the leap into wedding fashion! Gorgeous, amazing, incredible designs with presence, flow, and unique charm. Fashioned from silk organza, silk chiffon, or hand-painted silks, floral applications and hints of blush pink, champagne, lavender, and peach give these gowns an incredible femininity. This is a new spoke in her fashion wheel and thus far, appears a success! Any dress found in this collection can be dyed for a Red Carpet (or other) occasion to preserve the brand's commitment to sustainable fashion.

Monday, October 10, 2011

House of War and Wisdom

This weekend I'll be taking a brief trip to Nashville, TN. When most people think of Nashville, I'm sure grand ideas of country music, Opryland, and majestic middle Tennessee come to mind. I know I sure did not expect a full-scale recreation of the Parthenon from the Athenian Acropolis to be right in the middle of downtown.


The Parthenon - Nashville, TN & Athens, Greece

This, for the record, is a picture of the Nashville Parthenon. It was built in 10 years, from 1921-31, out of brick, stone, and concrete. Appropriately, it had taken the Athenian Greeks around 10 years to construct the original Parthenon, though they did it all the way back in 447-438 BCE. The building (in Nashville) is 65 feet high at its apex, is supported by 46 Doric columns, and it faces East like all well-built edifices of antiquity (with the exception, of course, of temples to the goddess Artemis, which sometimes would face West). The massive bronze doors weigh 7.5 tons each, measure 24 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and a foot thick.

Homeric Hymn 11 to Athena (Greek epic - 7th to 4th B.C.):
"Of Pallas Athena, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves the deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go to war and come back. Hail, goddess, and gives us good fortune and happiness!"

The Nashville Parthenon even has a reproduction of the statue of Athena carved by Phidias originally housed in the Athens Parthenon. She is 41 feet and 10 inches tall, making her the largest indoor sculpture of the Western world. She was created by Alan LeQuire and unveiled to the public in 1990. The Nike (Victory) in her hand stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall. The original was made of legitimate gold and ivory.

The goddess Athena, the virgin patron goddess of the city of Athens, was the goddess of wisdom and warfare. She was born full grown and in full armor, sprouting from her father's Zeus' head after he swallowed her mother Metis, goddess of craft and wisdom. Her attributes include her helmet, spear, and shield (sometimes with the head of Medusa carved on it), the owl, the loom, and the olive tree.

The story of her patronage of the city of Athens began with a competition between her and the Sea God, Poseidon. Each god offered to give the city a gift, and whoever gave the better gift would become the patron deity. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident and offered forth a spring...good for trade and water, but the water was salty and bad for drinking. Athena offered the olive tree from which the people were able to gain wood, oil, food, and trade. She won!

Her mythology can go on forever and ever...but I'll just sum up: If you have Athena on your side, you are very seriously "backed up;" if you don't, you are in serious trouble.

I am really super excited to go see this.

And now, for the real, original, incredibly incredible Parthenon:

The Athenian Parthenon, like I said, was built from 447 to 437 BCE, though decoration continued until 432 BCE. It was constructed during the height of Athens' power during the Classical period at the tip of the Acropolis (like a citadel...a highly perched and defended city center). This structure replaced an "old Parthenon" that had been destroyed during the Persian sack of Athens in 480 BCE. Many excellent examples of Attic and Ionian (regions of archaic Greece) figural sculptures have been discovered near the site, buried after they had been damaged by the Persians. They were buried because they had been cult statues or offerings to destroy them further would be sacrilegious and could reap potential misgivings, so to speak, so they buried them.

The architects for this masterful example of Classical architecture were Iktinos and Kallikrates, while the incredible Phidias worked on the sculpture elements. This is what the interior of the Parthenon was thought to look like: Oh my goodness.

Nice view, huh?

The sculpture on the exterior of the Parthenon includes 92 metopes (panels) in high relief (446-40 BCE) by sculptor Kalamis, depicting scenes from Greek mythology. These themes include Gigantomachy (battle of Olympian gods vs. giants) on the east side, Amazonomachy (battle of Athenians vs. Amazons) to the west, Centauromachy (battle of Lapiths and hero Theseus vs. the centaurs) to the south, and what appears to be the Sack of Troy to the North (these metopes are very poorly preserved). The East pediment describes the birth of Athena while the West pediment describes her competition with Poseidon for patronage of Athens.

A 524-foot long Ionic frieze in low-relief wraps the interior cella. Only 420 feet still remain today, though they are largely broken up among various institutions. This sculptural program is also thought to have been overseen by Phidias.

This picture blows my mind. I got it from this article...and I think its very appropriate to note the connection between lightning (Zeus) and the Parthenon (Athena's house). But I'm a sucker for unintended symbolism like that. :)

"Earth proudly wears the Parthenon as the best gem upon her zone."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Renaissance Pastoral Mystery

We spent Venice class today focusing on the art of Giorgione, and more specifically, the following piece, the Concert Champêtre. This mysterious piece, lacking documentation and a clear narrative, has also been attributed to Titian by the Louvre. It is unclear who actually painted this's dated circa 1509 or 1510. Giorgione passed away from the plague in 1510 which balances this painting right at the end of his life. Articles we read for today entertained an array of attribution possibilities...Giorgione, Titian, started by Giorgione and completed by Titian. But we shall likely never know.

Giorgione or Titian. Concert Champêtre, 1510, oil on canvas, Louvre

This piece is characterized as the quintessential pastoral scene. Pastorals are idealized landscapes of country shepherds, maidens, and tranquil moments...the proper setting for gods and events of religious imagery. It's not a scientific depiction of the real world, but a quaint, perfect landscape.

It is curious to note that the two seated male figures are of obvious different social classifications. The lute player (perhaps a portrait of Giorgione, said by Giorgio Vasari to be a fantastic lute player?) is dressed contemporary for the age (1500s) and very finely. He is clearly an aristocrat sojourning in the country. His companion (Titian?) is characterized by Fehl as a "rustic swain"...a man of the country apparent in his more subdued color palette and modest dress. How did they meet? Why are they playing music together in the country?

((For the record, I don't really buy that they are portraits of Giorgione and Titian. Giorgione was born of humble origins...why would he be depicted as an aristocrat? Especially if this could be his own painting?))

You may be wondering...why are the two ladies nude? Again, with no documents, we can never really say for sure. The scholar I presented on today, Philipp Fehl, believed that they were in fact woodland nymphs, other worldly beings invisible to the lowly human eye. Hence, the lack of interaction between the voluptuous women and otherwise occupied men (I mean, come on...what man in his right mind, with his sense of sight, would actively ignore an attractive, naked woman? No man.). Other more specific interpretations of these figures, holding to the other-worldly theme, include the personification of Poesía ( is frequently juxtaposed with the pastoral genre...indicated by the female on the left pouring water from her crystal pitcher into the trough and the right female's flute) and the muses Calliope and Euterpe (by Ross Kilpatrick of Queens University).

Édouard Manet. Déjeuner sur l'herbe. 1862-3. Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Often compared to the Concert Champêtre, Déjeuner sur l'herbe (originally titled Le Bain, The Bath) gives us a seemingly similar scene featuring two clothed men and two nude women in a lush landscape. With poses derived from a Raimondi engraving (after a sketch by Raphael), scholars have theorized Concert Champêtre's direct influence on the composition as well. In his article "The Hidden Genre: A Study of the Concert Champêtre in the Louvre," Fehl compares this piece with the Concert. Though I initially did not understand his inclusion of this piecewhen interpreting the Renaissance pastoral, I now realize that Fehl used this painting as an example of what the Concert Champêtre, and its nudes, were not.

The pile in the left-hand corner of the Manet explicitly implies that the women actively removed their clothing at the picnic. The women in the Concert have no such discarded garments. Instead, untailored cloths drape around them loosely and exquisitely. The cloths' purpose is obviously more aesthetic than out of modesty. And yet, the Concert nudes retain a sense of delicacy and innocence that Manet's nudes, more provocative in implication and the one woman's direct gaze, lack. Manet's nudes are humans - real, raw, and engaging. Concert's nudes are beautiful and sensual for sure, but distant. If you look closely, you could put up a wall to separate them from the men. In Manet's painting, the front woman is entangled between the two men's legs, a part of their group rather than an observer.


We don't know why the Concert Champêtre was painted. We don't know what it means. We don't know who the figures are. We don't even know who painted it. What we do know is that it is inspiring; it is mysterious and intriguing; it is beautiful. And discovering the range of interpretations is half of the fun!

"It is not enough to know your craft - you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more."
- Édouard Manet