gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: Art

“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.

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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.

 

Lisa Graziose Corrin, Director of the Block Museum of Art

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I really enjoyed this interview with Lisa Graziose Corrin by Chicago Gallery News, a premier source for art happenings in Chicago. I subscribe to their email list and I’m always eager to read their weekly interviews with museum directors and gallery owners. Lisa Graziose Corrin is currently the Director of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, but she was previously the Director of the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA), which is a place dear to my heart, as I lived in Williamstown for one year and absolutely loved it.

The way she describes her connection to the Met in New York and how it’s like home to her is endearing, and her observation of Monet’s Women in the Garden reminds me why I love art as I do. When we look at art we are forced to examine what we’re looking at while keeping in mind that what we see at first glance is not necessarily the whole picture.

I remember going to the Met and seeing a small study of Monet’s Women in the Garden, which is now in the Musee d’Orsay, and seeing the shadow on the back of a train on a woman’s dress and the hundreds of shades of green and grey that composed this picture. I realized Monet was not painting women’s dresses at all, he was painting the effects of light. It was like a veil had been lifted from my eyes and everything I looked at around me after that changed. I saw how art could be a window onto other ways of perceiving and understanding the world. At that moment I thought “Wow I want to be looking through those windows for the rest of my life.”

This is the passage that particularly stood out to me. I just love her insight into the art world landscape, the future of leadership within the museum field, and the way she responds to work that inspires her.

The second Chicago Architecture Biennial

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The Architecture Biennial has graced Chicago twice now – the first time in 2015 and most recently this past Fall of 2017. It went down in January, and of course I waited until the last week to go see it. I wish I would have gone earlier so that I could have gone back to see my favorite things a few times. The theme for this most recent installation of the biennial was “Make New History” and it featured 141 architects, theorists, designers, etc. from 20 + countries. So it really is a global event, housed at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center in the heart of the loop. These are pictures of some of the displays that most caught my eye.

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This is a model of Yves Saint Laurent’s salon…isn’t it glamorous?? So full of art…

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I loved these white trees!

Interiors have always held a special place in my heart, so I liked this exhibit entitled “The Room of One’s Own”, which included several drawings of singular interior rooms.

I work at a kitchen & bath showroom, so I was pretty amused by this miniature pink bathroom.

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This room was very cool with about 10 or so models of fictional skyscrapers. As you can see how they compared in size to a person, they were towering!

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Looking forward to the next Architecture Bienniale in a couple years from now!

Space & identity

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My way of expressing myself is to build my own universe, and in doing so, he added, I create my own self.

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I really enjoyed this article by Tom Delevan about Oliver Gustav‘s apartment in Copenhagen in the March edition of The New York Times Style Magazine. I was initially drawn to it for a couple of reasons – the gray color palette, which happens to be one of my favorites; and not necessarily for interior spaces, but more so for clothing. I seem to have an infinite supply of gray sweaters and I’m only in my 20s. Gray is not a drab grandma sweater! I was also drawn to the article for its location. I have had a fascination with Scandinavia for a while now, so my interest is definitely peaked whenever I come across something related to that cold, dark, dreary, but comfortable and cozy part of the world (or at least this is how I picture it).

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Gustav is a creative based in Copenhagen and New York who works with art and interiors, and his apartment in Copenhagen reflects his passion for both. Reading about the historic structure (built in 1734!) was fascinating because of its eccentricities since it’s so old. The minimalist design and subdued color scheme is evident in the pictures, but what struck me more were Gustav’s thoughts about his space – that in creating the space around him he concurrently creates himself. I can completely identify with this, since I too find great parallels between my space and myself. I also admire his love of collecting because I also like to collect (but on a much smaller scale of course) and I have boxes of things in the attic that I’ve gotten over the years that I’m just waiting to find the right spot for.

I have a love affair with things…I just want a beautiful life.

While this may sound superficial and materialistic, I do think there is something to be said for having a certain eye and taste for things when it’s connected to a deeper cultural or intellectual interest, which it is for me and I’m sure for Gustav as well.

Delevan, the author of the article, is a very talented interior designer in his own right, which is beautifully exemplified on his website. Just so clean and effortless…take a look!

 

“In Search of the Eclectic”

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I came across this article through Chicago Gallery News because I like to keep up with what’s going on in the art scene in Chicago, and while this piece is more about a private collection than a gallery open to the public, Sally Schwartz‘s collecting, or ahem, hoarding habit, reminds me a little bit of myself. Schwartz runs the Randolph St Market Festival, which is a monthly flea market that features hundreds of local Chicago vendors and artisans. So constantly being around all these treasures is right up her alley.

I’ve also gone antiquing with my parents over the years and have developed an interest in collecting unique, interesting items as I see them, rather than waiting to buy things when I need them. This has resulted in several boxes of random things that I’m storing in my parents’ attic, probably much to their dismay. But I blame them for instilling this love for antiquing in me!

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I enjoyed how the article illustrates Schwartz and her husband bringing their collections together, even though they are so different – hers comprised of older vintage pieces and his of newer modern pieces. I can also identify with the fact that while their children are intrigued by their collections, they claim they’ll get rid of everything one day. I sometimes get frustrated by the sheer volume of things my parents collect and dream about the burden that would be lifted if I got rid of everything; but, on the other hand, there are so many stories tied to the pieces and sentimental value connected to them, that I may end up holding on them 🙂 Just as Schwartz is holding on to her collection in case the kids change their minds. How about these photos of their collection…dreamy!

Cultural divides

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Over the past several months I’ve been conducting oral history interviews with Latino/a artists for one of my jobs. Some interesting and surprising conflicts have arisen that I definitely wasn’t expecting, and am even a bit bothered by. I consider myself a very open-minded person when it comes a variety of things like race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc., but what I’ve learned recently is that sometimes people can view this open-mindedness and willingness to engage with those who are different from us as a negative thing, and even a hostile thing.

To put things more concretely, I was speaking with a young Latina artist in Pilsen, the Latino neighborhood in Chicago, and she was bothered, insulted almost, by the fact that I wanted to explore the neighborhood, meet the locals, and try to have an authentic experience there. She proceeded to tell me that there was no way I could possibly have an authentic experience because I as was not Latina, I did not speak Spanish, and I did not grow up in the neighborhood. She said that the “authentic” experience I was seeking was clouded by any preconceived notions of what I thought her culture was about. She was frustrated that white people were visiting her neighborhood to see it for themselves and then trying to build it up because it was still affordable to do so. She opposed the gentrification process that was and still is happening in Pilsen, particularly in regards to the artist community. The artist community that Pilsen is now known for does not typically include the artists who have been living in Pilsen for decades. She felt as though these artists who have recently been moving into Pilsen are trying to replace the artists who were already there, and then pretending like they own the place. I can completely sympathize with the frustration with this kind of gentrification, but I do not think that someone who wants to explore a neighborhood and a culture with genuine interest should be lumped into the same category.

I countered all of this by arguing that not everyone who visits the neighborhood wants to replace what’s already there or try to change it. Some people are genuinely curious about other cultures, and not only curious but truly eager to learn more, engage with, and try to experience things with the locals. She was still insulted and offended by this proposition, insisting that there’s no way an outsider could have a genuine experience, precisely because he/she was an outsider.

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I left this encounter feeling so frustrated because I felt like she was prejudice against me, while I was not at all prejudice towards her. I was left feeling like there’s no way that two people who are fundamentally different from one another ethnically, which is out of their control, can come together and learn from one another. It was as if she encouraged segregation between cultures and as if she didn’t want to share her culture with anyone, nor learn about another’s culture. This was very frustrating to me because while I am a white American female, I was born in Europe and grew up there for the first eight years of my life. My mom has taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to people from all over the world for many years, and I myself am now teaching ESL as well. I also volunteer at a non-profit that helps Spanish speakers with a variety of things, where I help with their citizenship classes. I have friends from diverse cultures, and in fact I prefer to surround myself with people who are different from me because I feel that there is so much to learn from them. I definitely have a genuine interest in exposing myself to different cultures and experiencing things as they do the best that I can. So I too was insulted by her for not understanding this genuine interest of mine in wanting to explore her neighborhood and do as the locals do.

Although frustrating, this was interesting perspective to be confronted by, which made me think more about what I was trying to accomplish by surrounding myself or exposing myself to other cultures. Despite her pessimism and unwillingness to accept me into her neighborhood, I’m still all about mixing cultures because there is truly so much learn.