gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Art

A marriage between art and design

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JennyMain

Chicago Gallery News 

There’s something about designer Jenny Brown’s story that resonates with me so much, as I also share a love for art history and design and have felt a bit torn between the two. I studied Art History in grad school and then did an internship at the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which focused on planning their annual housewalk in Oak Park featuring ten or so houses and buildings designed or inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. I really enjoyed the internship, having the opportunity to go to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio every day, and interact with people interested in the architecture. At the end of the internship I was a point where I could a make a decision to either keep pursuing a more full time, permanent position in the arts, or explore another longstanding interest of mine – interior design. Although I love art and spent my time in grad school wanting to work in the arts after grad school, I couldn’t shake the desire to pursue a more creative outlet, so I did an internship with an interior designer. Since then I’ve been working at a kitchen and bath showroom. Not having a degree in design, working in sales and helping people envision their kitchen or bathroom and guiding them through the selection process fulfills the creative pursuit I was yearning for.

Collecting things as I see them is also a practice I started when I was in high school. My mom and I discovered a fair trade store called Ten Thousand Villages when I was a teenager and I fell in love with all of the unique home decor pieces they have from all over the world. I also loved the fair trade approach and hearing the stories about the artisans who crafted the pieces. We went there what seemed like almost weekly and I started buying things for my future grown-up apartment. The things I bought ended up in boxes and trunks in our attic (many of which are still there because I’m still looking for places to put them). My parents have always liked going to antique shops, auctions, and estate sales, and while I hated them when I was younger because I thought they were SO boring, I began to appreciate them as I got older and now I actually think they’re fun! The idea of finding unique things, both old and new, became an exciting adventure and proved to be a relatively inexpensive way to add to my collection. While buying things as I see them and storing them until I need them might not seem very practical, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The thought of going to a furniture store or a Home Goods to get something generic when I need it just doesn’t appeal to my treasure-hunting, collector’s heart.

I admire how Jenny has drawn upon all of her life experiences, from working at an auction house, to an art gallery, and with a top Chicago interior designer to eventually give life to her own firm, Jenny Brown Designs. I was always frustrated both in college and post-college when I had to choose one thing to study or pursue as a career, but Jenny proves that you don’t have to choose just one. You can have multiple passions that overlap and converge into a multifaceted career. I look forward to forging a path that combines my love for art and interiors in a way where the two draw from one another and influence the other.

 

People matching art

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A friend showed this to me recently and I am so fascinated by it. People matching artwork. I’m an art lover and I go to museums every chance I get, but I’ve never noticed visitors matching the art on the walls. I mean what are the chances? Some of these pairings are more spot on than others, but I’m so impressed by the photographer’s commitment and patience for such a project. Stefan Draschan is the photographer behind these spottings and he has other similar series on people touching artwork, people sleeping in museums, couples matching, etc. All are humorous, but I think the people matching artwork is just perfection. I can’t decide which pairing I like best, but the colors in this one are so striking. I was surprised to find out that Draschan only spends a couple hours in each museum where he captures these moments. But he does go frequently – every few days. He thinks there’s something subconscious that draws people to their matching works of art and that it’s not purely coincidental. We do seem to be attracted to things that mirror us in a way and that provide an opportunity for us to reflect on ourselves. I think a work of art can certainly be that looking glass. Draschan’s love for going to museums and observing people isn’t so much a love as it is necessary, “I really need art…It fills me”, a sentiment that I can certainly relate to.

 

 

Art and beauty in the making

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Once again, Hanya Yanagihara, editor in chief of The New York Times Style Magazine, has dazzled me with her intellect and prose.

As long as there are humans, there will be art – and nothing will ever stop us from trying to make our lives more beautiful. Beauty and artistic innovation may not be rights, like water or food or clean air or free will, but they are impulses, and our desire for them is an important part of what makes us human.

There is something about exercising one’s creative powers that feels enlightening, inspiring, fulfilling, etc. There is an excitement that surrounds creating a unique entity and putting it out there in the world for people to see, therefore sharing a part of us and knowing that others will it. I don’t know if every single person has a creative drive, and certainly some have a much stronger creative drive than others, but I’m sure it can be argued that anything someone does has some kind of power behind it; if not fueled by creativity then certainly fueled by a desire to achieve an ambition, act on an impulse, or create something.

Striving for beauty takes the desire to create something to another level because it’s not enough to simply create, but to create something beautiful becomes a task that taunts us and frustrates us. Despite this obstacle that we have to overcome, or perhaps because of it, we can’t help but feel propelled to continue striving for beauty. Beauty not only makes us happy in the present moment, but it is what pushes us forward and compels us to connect with others and the world around us.

Museums of everyday life

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The Museum of Everyday Life in Glover, VT exhibits random objects that most would probably consider junk, especially in our disposable throw-away society. But I think the argument that these objects actually hold value and are worth keeping, maybe not in your own home, but somewhere for people to look at and remember, is worth considering. And that it was recently featured in the New York Times is certainly a testament to that. The museum, which is an unassuming barn, displays matches, which was the first exhibition, locks and keys, scissors, toothbrushes, etc. Some objects from special exhibitions then make it into the permanent collection. These objects may seem completely mundane, but they are important in their banality because they are things that we use everyday and are all around us. The museum is free and open to the public, although donations are always appreciated. It truly is a public space, as there is no one there attending to it and visitors can just come and go.

I lived in New England for one year and I absolutely loved it. Somehow a free little barn museum full of mundane, thrown-away objects is something I can totally picture in New England! 🙂

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It turns out this isn’t the only museum of everyday objects. They are around the world, including Hversdagssafn in Iceland. Their focus seems to be not only on mundane objects of everyday life, but also feelings, experiences, memories of everyday life, and “finding the poetry that comes forward when no one is looking.” As the women behind the museum, Björg and Vaida, put it:

Everyday life is a little bit like dark matter. It is what happens in between significant moments in life and holds everything together. It is meeting friends, having dinner, yelling at children, being yelled at, sulking, laughing and so on. And so on. It is walking from one place to the next. It is going to work. It is staying at home. It is worrying and washing dishes. It is both random and routine.

All of these little everyday things that we do mindlessly are actually what make up our lives and build our story day after day. So not only should everyday objects be appreciated, but also routine actions and activities because they are what make up our lives on a very primary level, and then comes everything else.

Chicago’s residential architecture styles

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Chicago is the city of the three story walk-up apartment building. Or at least the Chicago I know. Sure, it is also home to the high-rise apartment building, but that is a world that I’m not quite accustomed to since, well, high-rises are generally at a different price point than walk-ups. The Chicago magazine recently did an article about the styles of residential architectural in Chicago by AJ LaTrace, illustrated by Phil Thomas of Cape Horn Illustration.

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I’m partial to bungalows, so I think that’s my favorite type of Chicago home. Apparently the bungalow is also symbolizes “a man with a more authentic connection to Chicago than the cosmopolitan High-Rise Man”. The article offers historical insights about each style, like the fact that there are about 80,000 bungalows in the city, the greystone is “Chicago’s response to the Brooklyn browstone”, worker’s cottages were quickly rebuilt after the great fire, and Mies van der Rohe’s influence on the modernist high-rise. And the illustrations are magnificent. If you like what you see, check out Phil Thomas’s website, where you can buy a print for yourself!

 

 

“A Museum for Everyone”

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The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) recently got a new director and she has a spot in the Williams College Magazine to introduce herself to the college and alumni. Reading about her art journey was interesting to me because one might assume that the director of an art museum would have art flowing through her veins since before she was born while still in the womb. But not so for Pamela Franks, which is actually inspiring because it means that one can find an interest in and a passion for art at any age and stage of one’s life. Franks discovered art in college by taking an art history class on a whim.

“The joy of prolonged observation, of seeing ever more detail over time and becoming fluent in the visual language of art, was transformative. Knowing that someone, somewhere, made these remarkable objects felt like a direct connection across time and place.”

I have grown up around art ever since I can remember because both of my parents are art historians, and while I love art now, this was not always true. Growing up around something doesn’t necessarily constitute an affinity for it. I definitely went through a period of time when I was so sick of being dragged to art museums as a kid. But now I greatly appreciate the exposure my parents facilitated towards art appreciation.

Franks is setting forth to make her new museum a place for learning and engagement not only for Williams students, but for anyone who walks through the door that might have a similar eye-opening experience she had in college when she took that art history class on a whim. We never know what we might discover that could change the course of our lives.

Savannah, GA

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I went to Savannah, GA on a family trip for the holidays this year and I absolutely loved it. I’m really beginning to like the south, at least what I’ve seen of it. It seems that every time I go there I like it more and more. Savannah felt historic and charming, and touristy, but not too touristy. The beautiful squares are quiet retreats amid the touristy spots. The weather in late December/early January was amazing, but I think it was unseasonably warm. It was 70s during the day and 50s-60s at night. I will say it was definitely humid and my hair was big the entire time we were there. It never adjusted. It was 77 degrees in Savannah on the day we left and 27 degrees when we landed in Chicago, which felt absolutely devastating. Seeing the planes get de-iced at O’Hare was not the sight I wanted to come home to after a lovely warm vacation.

We did a lot of house museums while we were there, eight in six days! Not all in Savannah, also some in Charleston, SC. My family loves our art and history. I love hearing about the families who built these mansions and the lives they lived in them, not to mention just getting to look at the stunning architecture. Hearing about the slave history was definitely tough though. We did, of course, go to the Mercer Williams House, the setting of John Berendt‘s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and we stood in the dining room where the murder took place.

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Mercer Williams House 

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Statue represented on the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, now at the Telfair Academy 

We also went to Owens-Thomas House, Andrew Low House, Telfair Academy, and the Jepson Center. The Jepson Center, designed by Moshe Safdie, is a beautifully light and airy space, inspiring for looking at art. They had a very nice exhibition on Monet to Matisse and an interesting exhibition on Savannah artist Bertha Husband.

Jepson Center

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Andrew Low House 

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Owens-Thomas House

Telfair Academy 

River Street feels a bit touristy, but there are definitely good restaurants to be found there, like Huey’s and Olympia Cafe. We heard Vic’s on the River is supposed to be really good, but we couldn’t get it. And we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Boar’s Head.

Cathedral of John the Baptist 

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City Market 

The city market is a cute area if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink and sit outside and just enjoy your surroundings. SCAD‘s presence around town is sprinkled all over, and they have a cool shop where they sell things made by their students. You can find great gifts there or a souvenir for yourself to remember your trip!

The squares were my favorite part of Savannah. I can just picture walking my dog through the squares if I lived there, and reading a book on a bench while taking in the warmth and greenery. It was amazing to see so much greenery and even flowers in December/January!

Walking down Oglethorpe Avenue I felt like I was in New Orleans. The big old oak trees create a canopy over the street, as they do over the squares too, and the architecture lining the street is just magnificent. The median in the middle makes it feel like the most important street in town. The sense of history and southern pride is definitely well-preserved and you can feel it all around you. The architecture is a mix of Federalist, Italianate, and Neoclassical.

Design vs. Art

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I subscribe to Chicago Gallery News, and since I am a lover of both art and design, this interview with Helen Maria Nugent peaked my interest. Nugent teaches architecture and design at SAIC (School of the Art Institute Chicago), so she is well equipped to discuss this topic. The distinction she makes between art and design in that design is directed towards a purpose and a function for an end user, and art holds more of an aesthetic value not necessarily intended for a purpose, is spot on.

We are constantly talking about this. One of the ways I think design is different from art is that designers are typically thinking about how their work will fit into the life of another person; most design work is not complete until it has a life beyond the designer. Even if the work is self-initiated, the goal is often for it to be able to function in the world. It’s not that artists don’t think that way too, but it’s not as common.

The design of objects also plays into the way that we define ourselves. We look to collect objects that are both of functional value to us, but also aesthetically pleasing and in some way particular to us that help us define our persona to present to the world.

Objects play a big part in how people want to be seen—they express themselves through objects, like with clothing. When looking for objects or furniture, many people now demand that the design meet their functional needs, but they also want it to have aesthetic appeal, be smart, and be made of good materials…

 

Ukrainian artist Konstantin Kalinovich

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I went to the Ukrainian Institute of  Modern Art during Open House Chicago this year and I saw some lovely prints by Konstantin Kalinovich that I just fell in love with it. I loved their ambience and cozy feeling. And of course the detail and skill. They were part of the Contemporary Ukrainian Graphics exhibit, which is still up until December 9th. Sneak in there while you have the chance! 

I’m having a hard time finding a lot of information about him because it’s mostly all in Ukrainian, but Arthive, Warnock Fine Arts, and the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers have some basic information about him, as well as images of his works. I love Ex Libris because they are small and whimsical, and it seems like he does a lot of those. Take a look at them!

“But Beautiful” – Hanya Yanagihara

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As an art lover, the question of what beauty is often crosses my mind in the context of admiring art. I took a philosophy of art class in college, which allowed me to explore this question further. The primal question of whether or not beauty can even be defined in  is perplexing enough, let alone attempting to assess the level or quality of beauty. I found this Editor’s Letter by Hanya Yanagihara, the Editor-in-Chief for the The New York Times Style Magazine, very insightful. I thought her whole letter was thought-provoking, but especially the bit below.

But of all the ways in which art and design test our understanding of the world, one of the most important is how they make us question what exactly beauty is. Great art and design remind us of two things: first, that what is beautiful is not necessarily what is pleasant or pretty; and second, that the search for beauty, in all its forms, is elemental to the human condition. Every person in every culture, no matter how impoverished or restrictive, tries to ornament her life. This desire — to stimulate the senses, to remind ourselves of the wildness of the imagination — is not an indulgence or a luxury, but an instinct, one that defines us as human. What, after all, is the entire arc of history but a compendium of things — the pottery, cloaks, jewelry, houses, furniture, vessels and tapestries that humankind has always made (and will always make) to assert its presence in the world?

…to find and reveal and present beauty in all its forms, even if sometimes those forms don’t resemble what we understand as beauty at all. Beauty might be something ephemeral, made more potent for the brevity of its life…

I think Yanagihara perfectly captures that beauty is not simply an aesthetic characteristic we assign to things, but that it’s actually present in virtually all that the human race brings forth in the world. We have this drive to create something for ourselves or for others in an effort to exercise our creativity and imagination not only for a useful purpose, but also to simply satisfy our instinct to surround ourselves with what feels good.