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!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"I'd rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck." - Emma Goldman

I don't know about you all, dear readers, but today is a little gray and rainy outside. We're stuck in that lapse between winter and spring. I've started to hear birds singing, it's been warmer than it was here this time last year (knock on wood!), and we've actually seen some sunshine. Spring is coming. It's just taking a minute.

But in these gray times, everyone could use a little color, a little lift in spirits! So, I thought I'd send you some flowers, courtesy of Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Renoir paints a great many flower still lifes, but for you, I gathered the best - The roses. Due to copyright, I couldn't post one of my favorite rose paintings of his, Bouquet dan une loge (1880), but you can follow the link and enjoy it yourself.

Bouquet of Roses, 1900.

Some of these paintings I couldn't find names for...most I couldn't find dates for. I did, however, meticulously check for his signature to make sure I was only sharing Renoirs with you.

Bouquet of Roses.

Like most flowers, roses (and more specifically, certain color roses) come attached with certain meaning. Pink roses, for example, are a symbol of elegance. Gratitude and appreciation describe deeper pink roses, while light pink roses can mean joy and sweetness.

If you'd like to thank someone for something, that would be a good opportunity to send deep pink roses. Light pink roses would be nice to give a daughter/sister/mother/aunt/grandmother on a birthday or special occasion.

Jete of Roses.

White roses represent innocence, purity, and new beginnings. This is why white roses are typical for marriages and memorials...they can be a strong symbol of honor and reverence. Offering a woman white roses can also act as a declaration that your intentions are pure, and you believe the recipient worthy of your affections.


Yellow roses symbolize joy and friendship. These are the roses my father always gives my mother, because she's his best friend and she makes him so happy. On that note, yellow roses are appropriate to send when you want to express friendship, to celebrate with a new mother or newly engaged couple, or to welcome someone to the neighborhood.

Bowlful of Roses.

Red roses are the unmistakable symbol of love. They represent enduring passion and romance, but can also signify courage, respect, or congratulations on a job well done.

And I'm pretty sure you know when to send these. ;)

Bouquet of Roses in a Blue Vase.

Peach roses are another opportunity to express gratitude, or also sympathy.

Coral roses express desire and happiness.

Orange roses speak to warmth and happiness, as well as energy, enthusiasm, and pride. Send orange roses if you want to tell someone you're proud of them!

Bouquet of Roses.

Lavender roses are rather sophisticated. They can allude to deep adoration and opulence. They symbolize deep love, and would be a good first rose to send if you want to express "love at first sight" or the extent of your love.

Roses and Jasmine in a Delft Vase.

Blue roses. Yes, they exist!
(But no, not in nature)
Blue roses represent fantasy - the impossible, the unattainable. This would -not- be the flower to send a lover, but would make a fun gesture to a friend that likes to write, create (art, music, Pinterest crafts...), or daydream. I've received a blue rose from a friend before, and it's such a fun, unique thing!
(But again, don't send your lover a flower that means "impossible." Anything should be possible when you're in love!)

Roses in a Vase, 1910-17.

Black roses. Ooooooooo.
Black roses are not actually black. Typically, they're actually just an exceptionally dark shade of red. Despite their "moody" appearance, "black" roses can actually symbolize rebirth and new beginnings. Now, they can have their dark messages too...but I think that's how you depend to look at it. Is the glass half full, or half empty (with pretty flowers!!)?

Vase of roses.

I know Valentine's Day is over, but ladies and gentlemen, you don't need a holiday to send flowers to someone you care about! And here are some template messages to match what you're trying to say through rose color symbolism!

.......You know, just in case your love (friend/family member) hasn't read my blog and isn't aware of the symbolism behind certain color roses, as you now are. ;)

Bouquet of Roses.

"There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted." - Henri Matisse

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love for you, part 2

Hello, all!

I got some really great feedback after the last post, and as a result, found you some more art depicting love, romance, and affection for your enjoyment! Might I also recommend my post on wedding paintings, Goin' to the Chapel.

The Stolen Kiss, Jean Honoré Fragonard, 1780s

Not sure why I did not think of Fragonard before! You might know him for his dreamy Rococo work The Swing. Here, our gentleman sneaks a kiss from his lady and catches her quite by surprise! On another, unrelated note, I love her dress.

The Kiss, Francesco Hayez, 1859

Well now! Despite the relatively bland, subdued background, the lovers overwhelm this piece with their obvious passion for one another. The blue of her satin dress is picked up by the shadows, but also provides vibrant contrast to their clandestine meeting place.

In Bed the Kiss, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1892

I had no idea this existed either! A little more specific in its time of affection...This work is a little more explicit, but nonetheless romantic. There's another Toulouse-Lautrec from this year called The Kiss that plays up the depicted passion with heavy use of the color red.

Love, Gustav Klimt, 1895

Another Klimt! I did not know of this piece at all, prior to the Google Search that led me to it. Here, a proper-looking, upper class lady submits herself to a kiss with a rugged, gypsy-like fellow. Not sure how to explain the floating heads at the top of the work...but the couple themselves are intriguing. Love the gold framing bands (Klimt loves gold leaf!) and cream roses.

Rainy Kiss, Leonid Afremov, 2010

I've found some of this artist's works in passing throughout the internet via DeviantArt and Pinterest. I love the broken brushstrokes and saturated colors. They really make his scenes dance and sparkle with life and light! Here we have the quintessential foot pop The Princess Diaries has taught us all about. A great, right-now contemporary piece!

Legendary Kiss, V-J Day in Times Square, Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945

I'm actually pretty darn embarrassed that I left this off of the first post. As my boyfriend's lovely sister point out to me, this is certainly a requirement for any post on love art! Even if we now know the story (that the kiss was random), it'll forever be idolized in the hearts of many as the picturesque, victorious, celebratory, passionate end to World War II.

But this picture's subject also has special significance for me. On this day, in New York, in Times Square, my great Aunt Natalya and some friends were there in the midst of celebrations. And if you look below at another angle of the Kiss (yes, this one gets a capital K), I've circled our proof and a bit of family history. That woman is my great Aunt Natalya!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

14 ways to fall in love

Happy Valentine's Day to all! Even if you're not a big fan of the Hallmark holiday (I never used to be), this is a great time to remember and appreciate all of the types of love in your life - from and for parents, siblings, relatives, friends, even pets or compassionate strangers. But this day just wouldn't be its pink and red, glitter and chocolate-coated self without some strategically placed mushiness and PDA.

So, I've compiled for you my (personal) Top 14 Romantic works of Art. I organized them chronologically, beginning with the earliest piece, running to the most recent. Fourteen pieces for this fourteenth day of February, which might as well be Valentine's MONTH. Hope you enjoy. :)

Psyche revived by Cupid's kiss, Antonio Canova, 1787. via.

I love this piece. I got to see it in the Louvre in November 2007 and was absolutely taken with it. I believe this sculpture captures the moment when Cupid revives Psyche after she opens a box she believed to be filled with beauty (it was actually filled with eternal sleep), a trick conceived by Cupid's mother, Venus, in order to destroy their love. I love this piece and story a) because Cupid and Psyche's love is one of the -only- it seems like in Greek mythology that actually survives all odds, and b) their embrace is just so sensual! The piece has elegant flow and movement, as well as a breath of life. Their adoration is obvious from their embrace.

Painter's Honeymoon, Lord Frederic Leighton, 1864. Via

Truth be told, I just found this piece today. But I love it. Love, love, love it. The painter and his bride are sweetly nestled together, cheek to cheek, hands intertwined as he works and she adoringly watches him. His board is even tilted towards her for her to see. It's a moment of peace, affection, and shared art. How precious!

Spring, Pierre Auguste Cot, 1873. via.

A lovey double couple sharing a swing with spring in full bloom. He's smiling at her with affection, and she's simpering up at him like they're sharing a secret. What's not
Ha, see what I did there?

Putto's Kiss, Émile Munier, 1873-1895. Via.

Sweetness personified!! Two child-like putti share a hug and kiss. I love that the little girl putti has butterfly wings instead of the typical angel wings. She's obviously not sure of her interest, but he's sure of his! Good for you, little putti-guy.

The Lovers, Pierre August Renoir, 1875. Via.

Mmm, a vibrant garden landscape wrapping its luscious arms around an amorous couple...You know, a sweet, well-behaved amorous couple. Renoir's brushstrokes really dynamize, and simultaneously soften, the scenes he paints. In a few of Renoir's paintings of couples, the women are looking out at the viewer while the man is focused on her (i.e. The Engaged Couple and Dance in the Country) . I think that's really interesting that he uses a relationship between two people to engage an invisible third.

Romeo and Juliet, Sir Frank Dicksee, 1884. Via.

This painting, voted UK's 'most romantic work of art' this year, is of the famous balcony scene from our favorite tale of star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The scene is framed by an architectural arch in this imaginary world, pulling the viewer into this secret love trist. She throws both of her arms around his neck as he leans toward her and their lips lock passionately.

I have to agree: That's a pretty darn romantic work of art.

The Kiss, Auguste Rodin, 1889. (Photo by me)

On every site that I have seen gauging the most romantic works of art, and according to most of the people I know, if this marble sculpture by Auguste Rodin isn't the most romantic piece of work, it's the second. Two seated nudes, the female's arm linked around her lover's neck and her right leg draped between his, while his right hand rests on her hip, their lip lock in the most passionate of ways! Since it appears to be a universal favorite, I decided to include two shots of it...also because I took both photos and I couldn't decide which view you needed to see more. :P

Behind the completed work in this photo you can see one of Rodin's studies for it. He obviously had this idea for a while and worked it out in quite a few studies before the finished product. This magnificent work is surprisingly kind-of situated in a corner of the Musée Rodin in Paris, perhaps not giving it it's proper due - But if you appreciate it's love message, you will appreciate it no matter where it sits.

Abduction of Psyche, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1895. Via.

It's Cupid and Psyche again! After all, what is the lover's holiday without the god of love?

For an "abduction" scene, let's face it - Psyche seems really into it. Cupid looks upward, determined, his arms wrapped protectively and confidently around his lady love. Again, we see little butterfly/moth wings on the lady to contrast the angel wings of the man! (I guess it was a known thing during this time?) She seems wrapped in ecstasy just as much as in his embrace.

The Kiss, Gustav Klimt, 1907-8. Via.

This piece reminds me of my college roommates, who hung it in their common area. An interesting abstract piece that really shows how two people cherish one another. I used to think they were cozy, snuggling in bed. Not sure if that's true or not. If so, that's a really nice, sparkly gold bed they have there. But I love how he sweetly cradles his lover's face in his hands. :)

The Kiss, Constantin Brancusi, 1912. Via.

Another Kiss! This time, even more abstract, if not primitive looking. But I think it's kinda cute. :D Not sure how Brancusi would feel about me calling his sculpture "cute," but I can't help myself. It makes me think of those little minions on the Poptart commercial or in the Despicable Me movie. Adorable, smooching little minions.

Birthday, Marc Chagall, 1915. Via.

Here, a stunned-looking little lady gets a smooch from her levitating, beyond-yoga-flexible honey. She truly seems surprised about the sign of affection in celebration of her birthday...but she shouldn't be surprised! He seems rather "head over heels" for her. ;)
Sunset, Norman Rockwell, 1926. Via.

Mew! Isn't this just the sweetest? From the daisies to the bored puppy to their little heads nestled together. Sweetest. This piece is also called "Little Spooners." I had a difficult time choosing between this, After the Prom (1957) and Four Seasons of Love (1972). But the innocence of this love was just perfectly captivating.

The Kiss, Roy Lichtenstein, 1962. Via.

Yet another kiss! And again (and without surprise), looking very into it....

Dance me to the End of Love, Jack Vettriano, 1998. Via.

The finale! Elegant and romantic like a Cary Grant movie. Two lovers face a light while others dance in the distance. It's like they're preparing for the future, for the journey of love, for walking (or dancing) into that light together. Dressed to the 9's, they're ready to conquer the world....together.

"In our life, there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love." - Marc Chagall