This image of the three paintings I am working on using thin washes of color. I am enjoying doing what I love, obsessing over the edge. To form these I use organic formulations that intertwine and overlap. That curved shape is directly from nature it is friendly and feminine.
When we use nature as a source there are infinite possibilities. Artists throughout time extracted elements from nature using animals, plants, earth, stone, the elements, light and shadow, the living and the dead all taken as source matter into the artist studio. Art Nouveau based its "whiplash curves" on using nature as resource rather than art historical relic. In graduate school a teacher Nick Cripple, shared with me an element from his ceramic work and it made me evaluate the connection between identity and the simple form. I at once identified in his form peace, serenity and masculine confidence. Today I want to call to the fore all the artists who reference the organic, such as Martin Puryear, Anish Kapoor, Terry Winters, Louise Bourgeois, Brice Marden and countless others.
Nature is a go to; a place that won’t deceive it crosses time and space. When my oldest called me from Architecture school, fearful that she had no new ideas, I responded, “Sweetheart, you can always go to nature.” So when kids no longer play outside and their reality is inside an electronic screen, there inevitably will be a disconnect between them and the natural world.
I was leading a college critique when I encountered a situation where one of the students used a computer game as a reference. Frankly, I couldn’t identify. All the students in the room were aware of this particular game. As the critique progressed, it seemed that the students were confusing reality with gaming and were speaking of the game environments as if they were real time and space, not one invented by human beings.
My fear was that in time art created in response to nature would become alien to these young electronic consumers and because nature was an unnecessary and alien entity it would cease being a resource. I could not make a definitive argument about plagiarism in this critique, the student had created their own art from the game. That was years ago and it still baffles and befuddles me.
In my own work my goal is to animate the inanimate using nature as a reference to create that shape. The possibilities are infinite manipulating color, light, line and texture and any other means to push against the boundary.
Today I will take my readers along as I meander down the primrose path of my childhood connection to the outdoors. I will lead us once again to the Luxembourg Gardens, this time to the sculpture of Louise Nevelson. Through painting I attempt to recreate the surfaces and colors of nature in abstract form, juxtaposing the rough and the smooth as water contrasts earth.
Being outside was always important, being on my bike, going to the park, walking or riding through the park on my days off. I enjoyed changes in the weather a brisk breeze in my face and the changing colors of the seasons. Visually my childhood looked like stony cliffs with dark ground, dense foliage speckled with Queen Anne’s lace. After spending multiple rainy summer days using my hands to dig my own tiny streams out of rocks, mud and left over puddles, I was given a little plot of land, which failed to produce since I couldn’t stop digging with my hands after planting seed. Even today I enjoy using my hands in the mud and rain; I hold a strange obsession with capturing the falling rain in massive rain barrels and digging drainage trenches. The process of using my hands in different ways has become part of how I use my hands as an artist.
Just as the rain had let up a bit, it was a pleasant surprise to find the Louise Nevelson (1911 – 2010) hand sculptures at the Tuileries of the Luxembourg Gardens. I knew little of them, but was drawn to their blackness the beauty of the reflection and their delicate balance on the massive rocks which they were contained. These hands invited the caress of living hands, I watched as others before me placed their hands in and around the beautiful blackness. Nevelson used her own hands and those of her assistant in making the pieces. As in much of Nevelson’s work this sculpture references a personal connection to the tenuous. There are four views of the helping hands of the assistant intertwined with that of the creator and that brings to mind past and present, guidance and direction. In another (there are five) the small hand is helplessly alone. The disconnected rounded of the limbs are reminiscent of Nevelson’s early phalluses. I applaud France for honoring the work of Nevelson who lived in New York until her death in 2010.
As I write to you from Philadelphia I am reminded of another French sculptor, August Rodin (1840 – 1917). The Rodin Museum with its immense Thinker sits on the parkway within it the display of hand sculptures of Rodin. No doubt when Nevelson conceived of these five works in 1996 was aware of the numbers of layman who would interact with the work in both Paris and Chicago.
Louise Bourgeois | Art21 | Preview from Season 1 of "Art in the Twenty-First Century" (2001)
Louise Bourgeois: welcoming hands for you in Paris Tuileries Gardenhttps://parisconnected.wordpress.com/2008/05/31/louise-bourgeois-welcoming-hands-for-you-in-paris-tuileries-garden/
There were several places on my list to visit when I finally got to France. The main places I wanted to go were The Louvre, the Palace of Versailles and Monet’s Garden. The last day of the trip was perhaps my final opportunity to see Monet’s famous and preserved home and garden. My oldest, whose flights had parted earlier that morning, left us directions, instruction, and a script in French with which to take the bus, the subway and the train. She, having missed two flights, was not one I wanted to rely on that day. Reminiscent of the daisy’s petals, I kept asking myself, “should I or should I not.” Not wanting to miss our 7 PM scheduled flight, we checked out of the hotel and placed our three bags of luggage in an exorbitantly expensive taxi cab ride and were finally on our way to see The Gardens.
My oldest daughter, who was the one in our group who could actually speak a bit of French, was no longer with us and the taxi driver did not speak much English. The ride however took us on a highway beyond the city limits to an area he seemed to never have traveled. Kind as he was, he dropped us with our belongings at the entrance of what appeared to me a vast compound of gardens, restaurants and shops. We learned in the first location, the museum, we were not permitted to take our bags inside even as I explained our lack of other options. Thankfully my husband agreed to stay with the bags while we viewed the museum in Monet’s Garden. My fearful question at this point was “would we be permitted with these suitcases into Monet’s home and garden?”
After struggling through the crowd and reaching our turn in line, the ladies at the entrance said (in French) what I surmised to be, “sure you can go in with your luggage, but you must carry it with you and it must be looked through.” So thankfully we were able to struggle through, or should I say dreadfully we had to drag our luggage through the garden. Once again my gracious husband agreed to stay with the bags, this enabled my youngest daughter and I to see the home of the greatest painter to ever live.
I want to highlight, no pun intended, Monet’s yellow dining room. Three months earlier I was in Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home in Virginia and was equally taken by that yellow dining room. Jefferson’s room carried a greater chromatic, perhaps this intense yellow was reminiscence of his time in France. Monet’s paler yellow reflected the inspiration of light. Throughout the house color married light as light connected with the garden by the large airy open windows. Blues, greens and yellows, Monet made color an intrinsic and inspirational part of his every day.
In the next couple of posts, we shall discuss what influenced me in Paris. The fantastic gardens, incredible art and fashion and pastries, and anyone who has been to Paris will appreciate the density, color, variety and artistic integrity of Paris’s public gardens.
I was breathlessly gazing into the trees while walking through the Luxembourg Gardens when it began to rain. I ran into what appeared to be a large utility shed when in actuality it was ὰ l’Orangerie du Sénat now a contemporary gallery, and it seemed I chanced upon an opening of contemporary artists work made of natural materials, Mosaïque Contemporaine. Although each art piece was two dimensional the show was impressively diverse. The show contained landscape, figurative and abstract pieces with a large range of artists. Each image had a picture with a description beside it. Sadly, I don’t speak French, so I had no idea what the descriptions said. Since image making is a universal communicator; therefore, I am happy to share the work with you now.
Each artist worked out their image in a form of mosaic with a gravel material similar to what was spread on the walkways in all of the parks and gardens we visited, along with the floor of the gallery itself. They used this material to color their pieces in order to create a realistic depiction, or to emphasize the work’s natural coloring for abstraction, or a conceptual depiction, or concentrating on the density, by laying pieces with depth next to pieces less dense to show the push and pull of space. Although I tend not to be partial to the literal image making, I thought about the diversity of cultures, educational levels, ages and backgrounds that would view this show in the park.
One of the works I most enjoyed was this triptych. The artist of this piece cleverly uses color density and patterning to reinforce the natural material of the gravel. This piece exhibits sensitivity to the repetition in organic environments is emphasized in the work to which gives credence to the eternal.
On the other side, in a separate gallery space, was the artist Mireille Fulpius. Fulpius created immense process laden works made with bamboo. The black ink on white imagery reflected densely woven marks made on large pieces of paper. She is using instruments made from bamboo, and by crisscrossing, intertwining and overlapping forms repetitiously infinite patterning. Black becomes shadow and white light as the viewer travels through these enormous images. Nature is illuminated due to the use of materials and the way the mark is transmitted to the paper, and the wonderful way white light is transmitted.