Do You “See”?

DIE GOLDENE MEDINA-WASH DAY“Photography helps people to see.” – Berenice Abbott

Do you “see”? Do you mindfully take time to appreciate the glorious sights that surround you? Do you find similarities in beliefs and dreams reflected where you least expect them?

The incredible photographic work of Berenice Abbott is without a doubt thought-provoking. And while I agree that photography helps you to see, I also think music, literature, painting, printmaking, drawing, and in my case collage, also encourages introspection.

My passion for New York runs deep. While many people find rejuvenation rambling through the countryside, the sound of my heels clicking a staccato rhythm on the sidewalk sets my soul on fire. And if I can’t physically be in New York, Berenice Abbott’s dramatic black and white photos are a passport not only to my hometown, but to another time.

Looking at Abbott’s catalogue housed at New York Public Library, I decided to work with a photo of a Manhattan courtyard on laundry day taken in the 1930’s. The realist in me knows doing laundry in the tenements was a back-breaking job at best. But the romantic in me yearns for the days of seeing clothes strung on a line, the patterns and colours enhanced by the sun and wind.

I knew I needed a background as dramatic as the photo. I chose a handmade scarf completed at a workshop I attended at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center. The silk chiffon was accordion folded, secured with wooden blocks, drizzled with reactive dyes and steamed in the microwave to set the colour. It was the first time I tried this technique and I was extremely pleased with the results.

The warm tones of coral, orange and yellow were the perfect framework for the cool palette I chose when using Artistcellar’s Seafoam stencil. The foamy look of the stencil merged perfectly with my wash day theme. And that’s what I love about the Artistcellar products. The only limit to their use is your imagination. With a swash of watercolour, a splash of acrylics and Artistcellar Halftone Dots, my background was nearly complete.

But something was missing. Looking at the patterns formed by the laundry I wondered what stories they had to tell. Life was challenging, but still there was hope. I wondered about the letters sent home to family and friends…some who would be making the journey soon and others would only experience Die Goldene Medina through their eyes. So I added the text in Chinese, Italian, and French.

The Arts are a mirror by which we see a reflection of ourselves and each other. A photo, a painting, a bit of prose they all help us to truly see that hopes and dreams are passions we all share.

MATERIALS USED:

  • ARTISTCELLAR SEAFOAM STENCIL
  • ARTISTCELLAR HALFTONE DOTS SERIES STENCILS
  • 100% SILK CHIFFON SCARF
  • REACTIVE DYES: CORAL, YELLOW, ORANGE
  • WOOD BLOCKS
  • STRING
  • ROYAL LANGNICKEL WATERCOLOURS – FLAT & PEARLESCENT
  • REEVES METALLIC ACRYLIC: GOLD, BRONZE
  • PLAID FOLK ART METALLIC ACRYLICS:ROYAL GOLD, AQUAMARINE, AMETHYST,
    PLUM, ROSE, CHAMPAGNE
  • NATURAL SPONGE
  • FLAT PAINTBRUSH
  • RUBBER CEMENT & ERASER
  • DIGITAL IMAGES
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Actor’s Memorial to Poe by Richard Henry Park

marble and bronze 1885

marble and bronze
1885


My photo doesn’t do her justice. She’s just beautiful!
It was commissioned by Edwin Booth, president of the Actor’s Guild of New York. Edwin was the brother of John Wilkes Booth who killed Abraham Lincoln. It was originally at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

I wish I was a better writer so I could tell you how great the Poe Museum is. Here’s a short list of things of interest there : history (too much to learn in one visit), poetry, literature, stories of love, sadness, mystery, scary, architecture, fine art, Unhappy Hour, music

Check it out!

Mountains, Navel, Anchors, Table by Arp

 gouache with cut outs 1925

gouache with cut outs
1925

Shelby, Thanks for sending the image to me!

Questions for our readers:

How many times have you heard someone say “My kid could do that.” when you’re looking at modern art?  If you’re an artist does that statement make you angry? Do you think a child doesn’t have the mental development to do a masterpiece? ( What with all the deconstructing going on these days)  Or do you think art can come out of the subconscious mind?

At York Academy of Art our teachers told us “Don’t clean the cobwebs out of your mind in your art.” I can’t remember if it was Fitzgee or Wise  or both of them that told us your subconscious gives bad art. They said it’s boring to everyone except the artist and if you want someone who is interested in your subconscious you have to pay a shrink.

As always, feel free to disagree and it will be noted in comments.

Back to the 1st question: Can your kid do this or do better? The answer is YES . And kids should be encouraged to do art. Most kids who are born to be artists don’t get much support to follow the art path. At York Academy of Art we were told to do our roughs and get the plan worked out before we start on the finished piece. A child can do that if they want to.

When I work on a painting I ask myself 100 questions and find an answer to all of them before I call it finished. The problems I’m solving are questions like “Should I erase this line and draw it again or is it ok?” “Do these colors and values look right next to each other?” What do I need to do to make it look better?” “What is the next step?” It’s not a philosophical question. It’s not something sounding like it came out of the ozone. There’s a trend in modern art that Shelby and I laughed at ever since we were in school when artists write statements meant to confuse non artists. They make it sound like if you don’t ” like” their painting it’s because you don’t “get it” because it’s over your head. This is a falsehood in art. The pendulum started to swing back the other way last year. Deceptive artists will be known as fakes and forgotten soon. Art is a universal language and real art is understood by everyone including kids.

Mountains Navel Anchors Table is a good example of honest modern art. It was made to get a reaction out of you. Does this make you laugh? Does Mona Lisa with a moustache surprise you? Does Urinal Fountain by Duchamp make you angry? Are you desensitized and nothing will make you raise your eyebrows anymore?