Friday, May 18, 2012


LONG time no blog, readers! I hope you're still out there. You should be pleased to know that, thesis aside, I have completed my Master's degree! Makes me a feel a little more official when sharing with you now. :)
For those of you who don't know, today is Art Museum Day! So, this seemed like the appropriate opportunity to share the love on some of my favorite art museums, and hopefully hear about some of yours in return. Art museums are some of the most exceptional cultural institutions we have at our fingertips, and they need our support. If you have an opportunity, visit one this week! You'll be glad you did.

Though I'm only going to talk about 5 today, I can personally, absolutely, and highly also recommend visiting the Art Institute of Chicago Museum (Chicago, IL), the Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, OH), the Blanton Museum of Art (Austin, TX), the Bob Jones University Museum (For medieval/religious art -Greenville, SC), the Georgia Museum of Art (Athens, GA), the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, (Quebec, Canada), the Louvre (Duh), the Picasso Museum (Barcelona, Spain), the Museo de arte Thyssen-Bornemisza (Madrid, Spain), and the Museo Centro de arte Reina Sofia (Madrid, Spain).

1. The Prado, Madrid, Spain
Where I officially became an Art Historian for the first time. This is where I first met Peter Paul Rubens through his Judgment of Paris, and truly fell in love with Diego Velazquez. My Art History and Civilization class would come to the Prado almost every Friday to tour the galleries, and this was before they renovated and added a whole new wing to Velazquez (and I left before I could see it!).

I still remember when we walked in to see the former Velazquez "gallery" for the first time. My friend Liz (the first and best Art Historian I've ever met) laid eyes on Las Meninas, her favorite painting, immediately, and started to cry. It was the first time that the emotional effects of art really became understood to me, and just how powerful it could really be.
My favorite, most exceptional memory from the Prado involved Francisco Goya's Tres de Mayo, 1808, pictured left. For extra credit, Liz and I offered to do 15 minute presentations to our class in front of the painting of our choice. In Spanish. In the Prado. She presented on Velazquez's Las Meninas, and I spoke about Tres de Mayo. Other visitors touring the museum even stood to listen to my presentation. It was such an incredible challenge, speaking about a painting in front of said painting in a foreign language. It was a really proud moment for me.

2. The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA

The High Museum is the first art museum I'm sure I ever went to, given that its largest art museum in my home city/state. As you can see, even the building is super dynamic...especially with the Calder in the front yard. After the renovations and cooperative exhibitions with the Louvre during the 2000s, it has become a world class art museum. I have seen exhibits for works from the Louvre, Titians from the National Museum in Edinburgh, the Terracotta Warriors from China, Leonardo Da Vinci, Allure of the Automobile, and Salvador Dali.

Whatever the High is doing and whoever they're talking to, they truly have the "in" for exceptional traveling exhibitions. I believe Andy Warhol is there right now!
Of their own collection, I'd say that the contemporary arts are their greatest strength. However, they have amazing marble sculptures, Tiffany glass, Monets, and more than cannot be overlooked! The wet drapery marble sculptures are my favorite (sorry this photo is so dark).

They also have a really impressive array of programming that will have something for every age. I've been for "Wine Night" during the Da Vinci exhibit which was a lot of fun, especially as a Mother-Daughter date night!

3. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA
Okay. So. I've never been to the Gardner Museum. This is my "Art Museum Fantasy" right now. Can you blame me?
A) THAT is what it looks like --->
B) They house Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocente X and King Philip IV of Spain, Titian's Rape of Europa (That in itself is worth a trip!), works by Anders Zorn, James McNeill Whistler, and Rembrandt, and basically, they have a phenomenal collection.

Main reason I want to go to the Gardner Museum (besides for the Titian :)) is to see John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo: Danse de Gitanes.

I have now written not one, but two papers that discuss this painting, and I feel a great attachment to is, for all of that research. I think it is a masterful painting, and Mrs. Gardner had its current location specifically made for it to be housed there. Bottom line: It would be a dream to see it, after working with it so much over the past year. It might be for me what Las Meninas was for Liz.

4. Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN

The IMA is easily one of the most beautiful art museum campuses I have ever been on. In addition to their amazing 4 story museum, there are a host of walking trails, two historic homes/event spaces, luscious gardens, a lake, and a greenhouse to fill your day. It is a beautiful summer retreat, so I highly recommend you go. Right now. And we haven't even discussed the art opportunities yet!

My favorite collection at the IMA is, well...the entire first floor (second of the building). This floor houses the American/European paintings, and folks, I am a "painting person." They also have one of the larger collections of ceramics/furniture than I have personally seen in my art museum tours. My favorite paintings of theirs include Frederic Church's Our Flag (1864), Whistler's Harmony in Pink and Grey: Lady Meux (1881), Camille Pissarro's The House of the Deaf Woman and the Belfry at Eragny, and the two Monets.

To the right is Monet's The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, 1908. A spectacular painting. Monet actually uses a great deal of warm pink and gray blue tones in this painting and its IMA sister, Charing Cross Bridge, 1900.

Now, besides all of the paintings, the IMA has a great contemporary art exhibit (there's a Chihuly glass sculpture on display! And this awesome mylar...bubble...ball...sculpture-installation thing that is really fun!), African and Asian art galleries, and a temporary fashion installation right now. Those fashion exhibits are always so neat.  Worth it. Go now.

Yes, I am super biased with this one, but I don't care! Biases aside, the IU Art Museum is an incredible art museum, even when compared outside of univerity settings.
There are 1,400 works on display across the three floors of permanent collection galleries, and around 40,000 works in the museum's collection. They have Picasso, Monet, Stuart Davis, Franz Marc drawings, an original publication of Goya's Los Caprichos, Kandinsky, Carracci engravings...and that's all just from the Western art collection! The African art collection is one of the top 5 in the entire country, and is so diverse and absolutely incredible. There are some wonderful Ancient vases, marble sculptures, and jewelry. The Asian art collection is small but inspiring. There are rotating special exhibitions every fall and spring that have addressed Andy Warhol, Iranian war posters, instruments from the Silk Road, Perle Fine...a distinct variety in just in the two years I've been here.
The picture at right is my friend Kate with Emmi Whitehorse's Rushing Water, part of our Contemporary Native American artist rotation in the first floor gallery. I love, love, love this painting. This could be because I've always identified with warm colors or maybe the fact that it portrays water out in the Southwest, and yet its done in the colors of fire. I love that interplay.
And then of course, one of my favorite parts of the museum which I have discussed before:
The Light Totem.
Light Totem Photo by Matt James.
Admission to the IU Art Museum is always free, and there is a great cafe and gift shop on the second floor for you to browse as well. They also have a student-run blog so you can follow called Art from All Angles. I'm going to be really sad when I am not able to visit this museum every day, but hopefully this post has inspired you to visit and begin an art museum love affair yourself. :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Something Sweet

Happy first day of April, everyone!!

Yesterday was my birthday (Whew, missed April Fools by "this much") and every beverage my friends got me was some kind of "cake" or pie flavor. Thanks to you, friends. :)

Cake got me thinking about the whimsical, delicious art of Wayne Thiebaud. In undergrad, I wrote a paper comparing Thiebaud's Around the Cake to Jean-Simone Chardin's La Brioche. To quote from my paper (in describing Around the Cake):

"He seemed in places to literally coat the paint on the canvas as if he were icing a real cake, giving the illusion of thickness and real frosting. The technique intrigues the viewer, tempting them to investigate whether or not the icing texture is real."

And then this morning, I found this wonderful video about a retrospective of Thiebaud's work, where you get to meet the adorable Thiebaud and learn a little bit more of his story. Enjoy!

"If we don't have a sense of humor, we lack a sense of perspective." - Wayne Thiebaud

Friday, March 23, 2012

Art Obsessions

I thought I'd use this opportunity to highlight a few of the (ART) things I am REALLY stoked about right now.

Cave to Canvas.

An online Art Historian/friend of mine runs another incredible Art History blog called Cave to Canvas. I highly recommend you check it out. She produces such a varied collection of art works/artists...there's something for everyone, and I think you'll discover new art interests you never knew you had! Her blog is great exposure to the art world....Go visit!

Franz Marc & German Expressionism.

I have the fantastic opportunity to participate in a friend's thesis vocal performance for her Master's by providing a powerpoint of images from the period/artistic movement her performance relates to. It allows me to reiterate my love-love-love for German Expressionist Franz Marc and his colorful, dynamic, segmented animal paintings/drawings. Here at the museum, we have a watercolor sketch of four foxes by him that I fell in love with immediately. These Foxes (1913) at right are not that image, but it gives you the idea. :)

Foxes, 1913, Oil on canvas, 87 x 65 cm, Kunstmuseum, Dusseldorf. Via.

Fine Art in High Fashion.

When googling 'art in fashion,' this was one of the incredible pieces I found. Dior, in their exhibit Inspiration Dior at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow in 2011, amassed an unbelievable fashion collection for display. If you follow the link, you can even view the exhibition itself in 360 degrees like you're there. The piece that blew me away, made known from was this...Dior's tribute to Japanese print-maker Hokusai's ultra-famous The Great Wave off Kanagawa, 1829-32. The collection looks at other 19th-century art works as fashion inspiration as well, including works from Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and others.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Letting it magically happen" - The art of Sylvia Ji


I started tonight with the intention of gathering quotes by female artists to share with you all in honor of Women's History Month (March). Instead, I happened upon a new, contemporary artist I had never seen before, and I have to say, I'm pretty enthralled.

Red Quechquemitls, 2010. Via.

This was the first work of Sylvia's that I saw, and truth be told, the elaborate face painting reminded me of a calavera from the Mexican Día de los Muertos, and I assumed (wrongfully) that this was going to be a latin artist. At least I was right in believing this traditional Mexican holiday inspired her.

I still remember learning about el Día de los Muertos (November 2nd) for the first time in the 8th grade from my exceptional, and slightly eccentric, social studies teacher Mrs. Lynch. She was so cool. And el Día is a fantastic, slightly spooky, holiday too. It's like Halloween, in a way, but is specifically for honoring one's deceased ancestors, vs. gorging oneself on as much candy as humanly possible.

Blue Rose, 2008. Via.

Sylvia Ji was born in 1982 and received her BFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco. She's exhibited her work worldwide, presenting in both group and solo shows, her first successful solo show happening in the last year of her undergraduate career.

Belle Epoch, 2005-2006. Via.

Ji's style and content are both beautiful and edgy, whimsical and haunting, provocative and emotional. The graceful women she depicts express a range of emotion: daring, sadness, longing, a challenge, lust, anger, and almost all evoke a sense of mystery. According to the Joshua Liner Gallery (New York, NY), Ji's women can be symbolic reflections of herself, people she knows, or "nameless faces set in a landscape of fleeing and decaying beauty."

Black Domina, 2008. Via.

She embraces a range of cultures in her works, all the while focusing on women. The Mexican flavor is obvious. She also has some Asian women, what appear to be Native American women, Baroque European, and more French looking women throughout in oeuvre. (Is calling it an oeuvre too art historical of me?)

Lovesick, 2005-2006. Via.

Lovestruck, 2005-2006. Via.

I was personally drawn to these works because of a) the calavera painted faces; b) the intense colors; c) the feminine mystique and mystery, as well as raw emotion of her characters; d) the elaborate costuming. Even on Nyx, seen below, who is for all-intensive purposes wearing nothing, the rose, feather plume, crescent moons, and stars in her unruly, piled-high mane is just exquisite. Lovestruck and Lovesick above remind me a little bit of Alice in Wonderland.

Nyx, 2009. Via.

Calendula, 2011. Via.

This one is probably my favorite. I love the contrast between the yellow-oranges and the green-blues for starters. Next, while her gaze is absolutely haunting and penetrates every nook and cranny of your soul....her gaze penetrates every nook and cranny of you soul. It's a full-frontal conversation between Calendula and the viewer. And obviously not a very good one. Her unyielding, narrowed sky-colored eyes leave you wondering..."what in the heck did I do to offend this chick?" It makes the viewer fathom and imagine a story in their heads...and that is a very powerful thing.

I guess that's just it. For me, her work is Power.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pounamu Tāonga...The Maori Hei Tiki.

Am I on a roll lately, or what? February is making up for my lack of posting in January, that's for sure.

At work, we were planning an ad for a local magazine, and were trying to find pieces in the museum's collection to emphasize. One of my favorite options was this one, a Hei Tiki pendant from New Zealand, created by the Maori peoples. It is the most brilliant green (I'd describe it as a cloudy emerald color), and its eyes are made of haliotis (abalone) shell, which really shines. In New Zealand, this shell is called a paūa shell.

Maori peoples, New Zealand
Hei Tiki
Nineteenth century
Nephrite, haliotis shell
H. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection,
Indiana University Art Museum

I traveled to New Zealand as a People to People Student Ambassador when I was 13. The trip left an indelible mark on me, and spending time with the Maori was one of the incredible experiences. If you are a parent reading this blog, I must absolutely recommend to you that you allow your child the opportunity to participate in one of these international leadership adventures. It helped me grow as a person and become more aware of the world, instead of just myself.

But back to the art.

Foy Brothers, Thames, Young Maori Woman with Moko Wearing Korowai Cloak and Hei Tiki, c. 1872-86, Albumen carte-de-visite photograph, 10.5 x 6.3 cm. Via.

The Indiana University Hei ("something suspended from the neck") Tiki ("human figure") is superficially very similar to most other hei tikis I discovered in my brief look around the web. Most are made of nephrite ("pounamu"), a type of jade, and have eyes inlaid with paūa, like I said. These pendants are considered a tāonga, or "treasure."

Most are either sexless, or female. The British Museum writes that the significance of these tiki is unclear, but it has been suggested that they promote fertility or represent one's ancestors. They can be passed down through families through generations, and sometimes are given names. They are worn by both men and women, though I only have pictures of women wearing them to show you today.

Rotorua, New Zealand, Iles Photo, Young Maori women with moko (facial tattoo); wearing a kahu huruhuru (feather cloak), a huia feather in her hair, and a hei tiki (neck pendant), 19th century, Gelatin silver print. Via.

The markings under the lips of the two women in these photographs are a type of body art called Ta Moko. These markings symbolize achievement, adulthood, and aristocracy. As with most forms of tattoos and body art, the process doesn't sound particularly pleasant (chiseling skin open and applying charcoal into the gouges). This practice is not limited to the face, but can, in some occasions, encompass the entire face (usually on men). This tradition carries on even today.

This website that I found suggests a connection between these tiki and the Gorgons of Greek mythology. An interesting read!