Galleries

The Wonders of Vesta Minor

Vesta Minor crawls with dinosaur life forms, bulbous plants oozing with jelly consistency, fast growing fungi, massive fish with dragonfly wings. You know, just the usual.

screenshot-2017-01-03-00-30-21Scavengers is the most impressive animation I have come across in a long time. The eight minute clip featuring alien life forms and fantasy landscapes was released this Christmas Eve. The clip immerses viewers into an other-worldly (heh, literally) experience and introduces an entire cast of 2D and 3D animators.

Although many artists worked on the animation for Scavengers, at the core it remains the brainchild of Charles Huetter and Joseph Bennet. The two wrote, directed, animated, and created background art for the piece.

screenshot-2017-01-03-00-32-12screenshot-2017-01-03-00-32-45My favorite scene (2:00): a mushy yellowish egg is slit open. The severed egg reveals a plush, fleshy blue interior. Nestled inside a crevice of the lush aqua womb lies a naked alien form in fetal position. He awakens, blinks, stares. He climbs out of his nest and navigates the slippery surface. His body begins to shrivel and wither as he ages. He tugs on a few juicy levers, sighs, hoists his fragile body back into a crevice, shuts his eyes. End scene.

The Vesta explorers’ mission is never resolved in the film. The animation closes with a sudden shift to a city scene brimming with pigeons, construction workers, old men milling about, a hipster on a bike, dogs on their daily walks, baby strollers.

Although I am unsure of what the purpose for this sudden shift really was, I can sure speak to how I interpreted this. After being immersed in the strange wonders of the planet writhing with inexplicable organisms, the abrupt cut to the “real world” allowed me to contemplate how very peculiar life on our own planet is.

This makes me think of a scene from the movie Boyhood when Mason asks his father

“Dad- There is no, like, real magic in the world, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, like, elves and stuff. People just made that up.”

“Well I don’t know. I mean what makes you think that something like elves are more magical than like, like, a whale? You know what I mean? I mean, what if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you’d think that’s pretty magical right?”

“Yeah. But like, right this second, there’s no, like, elves in the world right?”

“No. Technically, no elves.”

Charles Huetter’s vimeo brims with his personal projects. I join others in finding that his animation resembles that in Adventure Time or the Amazing World of Gumball. I find this especially true for Tonk’s Island, in which he designed all of the backgrounds.

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The Jump

His first LNWC film, The Jump (2013) is probably my favorite of his clips. One of his clips, Every Night, strikes me as similar to work done by animator Joseph Bennet. The hairy creature teetering on gangling legs in a dark forest both repulses me and draws me in. It’s an awkward limbo position between fear and curiosity of the animal.

Bennet’s vimeo clips are consistently more disturbing, uncomfortable, and twisted that Huetter’s. Donna features a (demented) older woman disrupting and abusing animals while cheerfully chattering about nothingness and giggling right along.

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Donna

A chubby boy shoots down a sparrow in taKE ME TO THE OTher side. The sparrow proceeds to compliment the human on his aim, chirp a little song, excrete waste, and laugh manically.

Anonymous Mortician begins with an yellow-toothed balding man assuring viewers “I’m not a necrophiliac, is that okay?” Totally normal disclaimer to make before launching into a story. Not concerning at all.

Bedtime Stories with Abraham Willosby Episode I and II hold an unsettling quality as a wealthy elderly fellow shares “bedtime” stories of betrayal and death without resolution, after which he enjoys a hearty laugh.

Generally, I enjoy short films created by multiple animators more than individual clips. I find that the stories serve a purpose beyond crafting a surreal experience that unsettles viewers, as seems to be the point in much of Bennet’s solo work.

Short animation films are definitely underrated. They have a certain punch that a two hour movie could never quite possess. Perhaps its the pressure to emit a meaningful message under a time crunch. Maybe short animation films place the aesthetic quality of picture on equal footing with the plot. Whatever it is, I like it and I wish more of it was readily available and circulated.

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Background from Tonk’s Island

 

Chicanx murals I

For my first quarter UCLA, I was one among 800 eager students who was able to squeeze myself into the highly demanded course- Chicano/a Studies 10A taught by Professor Genevieve Carpio.

bork.jpgFirst off, what is a Chicanx (gender-neutral term) person? Well, that’s tricky because what it means to be Chicanx varies between individuals. For the sake of simplicity, however, the umbrella definition is this: Any person of Mexican origin or descent who resides in North America.

Professor Carpio approached the vast field through three segments- history, culture, and visual art. Guess what my favorite part was? Visual art? Wow, how did you know? Those are some wild psychic powers.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a little blip of studies on Chicano muralism’s relation to urban renewal programs and how it relates to the field as a whole.

Chicano murals are some of the most beautiful types of street art I have ever seen, but there is still more to them than meets the eye. The meanings behind each are about as layered as an onion. Chicano muralists don’t draw only from an aesthetic standpoint, but reach back deep into Chicano history, depicting specific moments or narratives that have shaped the Chicano experience. One such event consists of urban renewal.

urbanrenewal042867Urban renewal describes a set of programs that took place during the postwar period which were intent on developing “blighted” areas, yet often let to the displacement of Chicanx communities. Urban renewal impacted many Chicanx communities by creating physical barriers within the barrios (or destroying them completely) which resulted in the division and fragmentation of those preexisting communities, limiting their access to resources and to one another. It took shape under various forms including the construction of freeways or total remodeling of poorer communities.

Freeways: In 1963, the Interstate 5 bisected a Chicano barrio in Logan Heights, San Diego at a site that had been set aside to serve as a park for that community. However, Chicano murals began to appear on the pillars of the freeway almost a decade later. Now the park consists of a colorful blasts of pigment decorating the concrete pillars. Many of the murals reference claims to self-identity by conveying strong links to heritage, race, and ethnicity- whether it be Native American, Spanish, American, or other roots. (Click on images for detail). 

chavezChavez chavez1Ravine:  The incident of Chavez Ravine during the 1950s serves as the archetype for expressing the idea that urban renewal fragmented, displaced, and destroyed Chicanx communities. The government targeted the interracial and populated Chicanx area known as Chavez Ravine for complete neighborhood remodeling and forced the locals to vacate the area. However, plans fell through when the main architect, Frank Wilkinson, became preoccupied with accusations that he was a communist and the project was abandoned. Instead, the land was sold to the Dodgers and the Dodger Stadium parking lot now sits atop the homes of the Chavez Ravine residents who were promised an improved built environment Multiple interviewees within the PBS documentary “Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story” explain that the attempted urban renewal of Chavez Ravine caused disconnection between countless Chicanx families and friends who were displaced and moved away from one another.

Judy Baca’s LA mural Division of the Barrios & Chavez Ravine offers strong commentary in unveiling the destructive effects of urban renewal on Chicanx communities.

1ed36691caf0be7c5246d2a19e57a407The mural features a looming Dodge stadium, bulging aggressively forward from the hill on which it sits; the hill that was once home to a neighborhood of mixed races- one being Chicanos. A family is broken up, mother and son on one side and father and son on the other, and constricted by the freeway. The adults desperately reach out to one another, yet fail to connect. The children, however, look at one another with skepticism, refusing to reach out. Baca demonstrates how urban renewal isolated younger Chicanx generations from one another.

The family symbolizes the greater Chicanx community and, as explained by Avila in his essay “The Folklore of the Freeway: Space, Culture, and Identity in Postwar Los Angeles,” the destructive division that an urban renewal project like that of the Chavez Ravine brought upon communities.

juday-071Through her work, Baca refuses to remain silent or overlook the ordeal and creates a powerful counter point that insists on the resurfacing and recognition of an event that profoundly altered Chicanx barrios through fragmentation, isolation, and even total destruction. Judy Baca’s massive mural reveals Baca’s denunciation of urban renewal and insist on exposing the isolating effects in bore on Chicanx communities.

Chicanx murals like these brim with the painful history marked by urban renewal, a narrative often overlooked by educational institutions or mainstream Anglo society.

I don’t know about you, but I sure didn’t know any of these things impacted the Chicanx community until now. Why did it have to take 16 years of education for me to be exposed to this history?

This is why these murals are important- they serve as a wider form of education. Next time you see one, stop and look twice. Look extra hard. You never know what hidden meanings are encased within the shapes, words, and colors.

Header image: Teocinttli Mural, East LA 

Scientific Art or Artsy Science

Jimmy Fike’s botanical photography is a harmonious fusion of science and art that promotes aesthetic modes of utilitarianism. Phew! Mouthful. Now let’s break down my pretentiously worded, esoteric thesis.

Artist Jimmy Fike takes pictures of plants that are both useful and pretty, and it’s awesome.

A brief LA Times article covers the gist of Fike’s work: Fike scavenges in nooks and crannies, ditches and alleys in search of plant specimens which he can photograph. Like any photographer, he carefully positions his models to emphasize desired traits- in this case it could be a leaf of interesting root. In the following months, he digitally illustrates the images to render edible plant parts in color.

Over the years Fike has complied an inclusive catalog of hundreds of photographs and plants and has exhibited some of his work under the title “J.W. Fike’s Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of California.”

Think about how multidisciplinary this work is. Biology, photography, media, ecology, and technology all compressed into a single image. An image that can seem as simple and

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California Poppy

innocent as that of the California Poppy. What is most interesting is the uncertainty I encounter in how to address this work- is it research work, scientific work, or art work? Or, gasp, all three!? One many wonder whether Fike’s photographs belong in a science text book or an art gallery.

It is precisely this fluid exchange between fields that should be welcomed into the contemporary artistic sphere. These photographs, which are neither entirely aesthetic nor purely scientific, possess the power to reach a wider audience.

Images like these can possibly attract artists and scientists, women and men, children and adults alike. In light of the highly concerning juxtaposition between American politics and the rising threat of climate change, work like Fike’s should be encouraged, circulated, and gaining increasing relevance.

Bringing education and awareness of nature by means of art is genius, if you ask me.

Olafur Eliasson accomplished exactly this in his work Your waste of time. The piece features massive chunks of ice collected from broken fragments of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. The 800-year-old ice blocks are exhibited in a refrigerated space and behave as sculptures; visitors may walk around them and contemplate their age, their size. 

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But it is possible to stretch our frame of reference. When we touch these blocks of ice with our hands, we are not just struck by the chill; we are struck by the world itself. We take time from the glacier by touching it. In a sense, Your waste of time is a ‘waste of time’ because I shipped the ice across the world for it to be on view for a short period of time, after which it melts away – a nanosecond in the life of the glacier. Then there’s another way in which time is wasted: we take away time from the glacier by touching it. Suddenly I make the glacier understood to me, its temporality. It is linked to the time the water took to become ice, a glacier. By touching it, I embody my knowledge by establishing physical contact. And suddenly we understand that we do actually have the capacity to understand the abstract with our senses. Touching time is touching abstraction.” ~ Olafur Eliasson

img_mda111139_1600pxIn few other contexts would the general public in Berlin or New York be able to experience the ancient Icelandic glacier. Again, Eliasson’s installation is not purely art, nor is it purely scientific. A mysterious factor beyond either field- the same one present in Fike’s photographs- lends the piece a surrealistic feel. This factor instills a mix of wonder, awe, oneness with nature. These feelings are crucial to contemporary issues about the rapidly changing earth. Humans must acknowledged this issue, must care enough about this issue to take action.

Works by Fike and Eliasson address the very foundation of concerns like climate change- tackle the roots, if you will. It begins with educating humans, reinstalling a connection to nature, and fostering that bond to blossom into meaningful action. 

Header Image: Western Gooseberry 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musical Awakening Reflection

I do not know how I wake up. I almost never do know. What is the precise noise, smell, temperature change that prods a body into consciousness? Something at 8:30 AM – a stray sliver of light from the blinds, a soft shuffle of feet, or the neighbors’ Russian talk show wafting through the walls- prodded my body into consciousness. Often times, I am conscious at 11AM, and by 1AM I have mustered up the willpower to bid farewell to my warm cocoon of an abode.

Pushing my back away from the mattress, I teetered on my twiggy arms: panic. What the hell am I going to do with myself today? Mechanically I walked to my desk, pulled out a square of yellow paper. I guess what the hell I was going to do was make an origami moth.

Moth completed, I fluttered to the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised. Feel good, look good. Right? Well apparently it doesn’t quite work the other way around- feel bad, look bad- because, I still looked good. 

Idleness is so tedious.  

Naturally, I feel the urge to turn to art for a sense of comfort, of guidance. Not visual art this time.
the-vaccMy newfound music craze sprouted from my binge watching “New Girl.” I reached the closing scene of an episode that features Jess and Nick driving away into the moonlight to the song  “I Always Knew” by the Vaccines.

That was all it took. Before I knew it, I listened to all of the Vaccines’s albums on the Spotify premium account that my best friend lets me mooch from him (thanks Jack). The Vaccines can help cure me (heh. Witty, I know). But in all seriousness, I have found my band. Or, I guess that it kind of found me.

Considering that I haven’t had a favorite band since the Jonas Brothers, this is a pretty thrilling discovery. Actively listening to music is just not something I normally did before. Sure I had a melange of songs, but they ranged from German rap to Italian opera. Obviously, there was no consistency or coherent music genre. Yeah, that did made it pretty awkward when someone tried to get the conversation going.

Them: So, what’s your favorite musician/band/song/genre?

Me: Shifts nervously on feet. Dramatically sucks in my breath, you know, like how people do when they are about to deliver bad news. Aha.. well, I don’t really listen to music.

Them: Sharp gasp. Wait, what?

Me: Heat crawls to ear tips. Yeah..uh haha.. I mean I just don’t actively listen to music but it’s not like I hate it or anything. I mean I still listen to what’s on the radio and stuff.

Them: Pulls a closeby friend into the conversation. Hey dude, get this. She said she doesn’t listen to music.

Dude: Makes large bug eyes and snickers. What? Are you serious!

the-vacc1In all honesty, I did not understand why music was central to a lot of my friends’ lives. “It speaks to me” pffft, stoner blabber. Headphones equated to antisocial. Hardcore fans were sort of weirdos. I used to scoff at my younger sister’s trash indie music because all the songs sound the same. Now, that isn’t outrageously untrue, but once I researched lyrics and did nothing but listen to the music- and I mean really do nothing, just sit and breathe and listen- it made sense. Listening to music from the same genre is a special experience. The songs tend to produce similar chords and vocals, which in turn elicit similar and nuanced emotions from within myself.

Discovering music is not only the external experience of finding combinations of notes, words, and instruments that appeal to your personal tastes, but, on a deeper level, a force that encourages introspection, curious questioning, and self discovery. Why do I like this sound? What makes me feel emotional about these words? How does this relate to my life, right now? 

As I continue to delve into this musical awakening and explore The Vaccines among similar artists, I’m comfortably settling into a consistent taste. Who in the heck would have guessed that my favorite genre is indie rock? Not me. And, more specifically, english indie rock.

Although I am in a deep honeymoon phase of marveling over the newfound genre, I appreciate other artists completely foreign to me.

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Coffee and Cigarettes (2013), a film by Jim Jarmusch, introduced me to Iggy. No, not Azalea. Composed of a series of short skits, the film features individuals sharing a moment, a conversation over, well, coffee and cigarettes! During one of these skits, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet up in a musty looking diner. Iggy Pop has most melancholy and sincere gaze I have ever witnessed, and his face is really comforting to me for a particular reason that I am unable to pinpoint. Awkward and uncomfortable, the exchange caused me second hand embarrassment just from watching the two men interact. But I loved it, in a way, the raw flow of events.

Iggy Pop is captivating, so I explored his music which caused me initial disappointment. This voice lacks the soft and sympathetic tone from the movie. I searched through the Post Pop Depression album and nearly got depression myself (alright, not a very original play on words, I’ll admit). Ready to give up, I absent mindedly clicked on the last song left- “Chocolate Drops.” Eureka! Soft voice! The lyrics! It is perfect.

Thanks to Chocolate Drops, with revived energy I scrolled and clicked on the album Aps. Instantly I was hooked. Iggy Pop sings retakes of songs in French- La Vie en Rose, La Javanaise- with his endearingly unapologetic American accent.

It only felt it fair to give Tom Waits a chance, too, although he did not intrigue me as much. His distinctive raspy voice and daring themes failed to reach me. Only one tugged at my heart strings: “If I Have To Go.” Here, there is no raspy voice, no theatrics.

demarcoThen I rediscovered Mac Demarco. I mistook that gap toothed smile and head of scraggly golden locks as an indication of his music having abstract lyrics infused with many references that would fly over my head. But you can’t judge an album by its cover. He sings clearly, and enunciates his words, words that make sense- Let Her Go, Let My Baby Stay, No Other Heart, Without Me.

There are sprinkles of other small treasures I unearthed. “Toothpaste Kisses” by the Maccabees, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala, “Lead Existence” by King Krule, “Warned You” by Good Morning, “A Lack of Understanding” by the Vaccines, “Parking Lots” by Plums, “Looking out for You” by Joy Again, “Processional” by Weedeaters, “Ivy” by Frank Ocean, “If You Wanna” by The Vaccines, “Hold Up” by Beyoncé.  

High top black converse paired with rolled up jeans and a leather jacket, I ride the bus feeling like a badass. King Krule’s “Baby Blue” crackles at my eardrums. I’ve really been missing out.

Infinity remains to learn about this music world. I want to behave like a sponge to soak it all in; but a productive sponge who labors at building up a steady knowledge of music. Like Spongebob-Squarepants-at-The-Krusty-Krab productive.

From discovering english indie rock to my desire of becoming Spongebob, it is obvious that listening to music is taking me on a journey that I am, for once, perfectly content with having zero control over.

Shower me with any recommendations that come to mind, I would be thrilled to give them a listen.   

Header image: Mac Demarco

Poteau Patriotique

Get out of the house and have an experience! -she said. It’ll be fun! -she said.

The “she” is my aunt and the “experience” was this public event in Fribourg, Switzerland that she had helped to organize with the APCd Foundation -a contemporary art gallery. I wasn’t sure I fully understood when she tried to explain to me what the event would be like.

“It’s the installation of a Poteau Patriotique (Patriotic Pole) on August 1st, Switzerland’s Independence Day. There are going to be a few speeches, and food.”

Still completely lost, I nodded my head and smiled, awaiting the next day with a mixture mild amusement and trepidation. What in the world is a Patriotic Pole? Who is giving the speeches? And more importantly, what type of food?

monney1My questions were all answered rather promptly when my mother, little sister, and I pulled into the parking lot across from where the event was to take place. We timidly parted the waters into the sea of unknown suits and flowing dresses with intricate designs. They all had clear plastic cups with glittery fizzing liquids; they all looked at us. Then I looked at us. My mom in a casual top with slacks and formal flats, my sister in a body hugging black dress with classy sandals, me in a t-shirt with jeans and flip flops. I catch sight of my aunt: thank god. She introduces us to her colleagues- Director of the gallery, handshake and smile. Exhibition manager, handshake and smile. Arts director, handshake and smile. Then she points out the creator of the Patriotic Pole, Alain Monney, also known in Switzerland for being a prominent comedian.

My sister and I casually float over to the appetizers. We take turns tasting the different macaron flavors. I try a tuna tomato bite sized tart. Then another, and another. By the time I’ve popped the fifth in my mouth, the crowd hushes. I stop chewing.  

A bald man holds a microphone while the crowd molds a crescent shape in front of him. After clearing his throat and uttering words of introduction, he takes out a scrap of paper from his coat pocket and uncrumples it- the paper is shaking. I watch his moist red face move for a few minutes. He announces he is nervous, as he is in the company of such prominent comedians and skilled speech-givers. I guess he was a comedian. I didn’t laugh.

He hands the microphone to a young woman with a prim pixie cut and small lace bows on her baby blue ballet flats. She is lively and intelligent; as she speaks she motions to the Patriotic Pole. Upon first sight, the Pole looks like a clumsy jigsaw puzzle of sporadically arranged pieces.

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But, as Prim Pixie explains, there is far more thought behind the piece than meets the eye. Monney chose the names of specific villages and cities in Switzerland and arranged them on the pole so that when read phonetically in order, the words on the pole sound like the first words of the Swiss National Anthem. Additionally, each label for the town points accurately towards its direction from the site of the pole.

Pixie hands the mic to Daniel Rausis, a well known Swiss comedian. He moves his hands and fingers in a way that tells you that he sat alone at the lunch tables in high school.

Then, things get weird.

img_2594All of a sudden, a priest emerges from the crowd, Rausis hands him a clear cup with water in it and a small twig of rosemary. The priest approaches the pole, dips the rosemary in the water, and twitches the twig towards the pole, sprinkling it with water.

Did a priest just bless that Patriotic Pole? I have to make a blog post about this.

When the priest retreats, Monney takes the spotlight and leads the crowd in singing the Swiss National Anthem around the pole. My sister and I blunder with the lyrics, mostly moving our mouths to blend in.

At last, the ceremony ends. I had endured a peculiar journey from banana flavored macaroons to nervous comedians to a priest blessing a pole to pretending I could sing the Swiss National Anthem.

If you read my previous post, you know I have had issues in the past with accepting contemporary art.

We are in for Round 2: Coming to terms with the fact that a street pole is art.

I cannot unlearn what Pixie explained. When I drive by next summer and catch sight of the jigsaw puzzle, I will flash back to the macaroons, the bald red man, the blessed rosemary, and mouthing words to the Swiss Anthem. I now associate the pole with my oddly entertaining experience. I also understand the logic behind Monney’s choice of towns and their position on the pole, as well as his choice to mount the pole on August 1st.

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However, had I not been present at this event, this pole would have meant nothing to me. No memories, no association, nothing.

How then, can others who did not attend the event or create memories with the piece, consider the pole a work or art? Perhaps, Swiss people can feel a sense of general bonding, familiarity, belonging to their country, as the pole features towns from all the cantons.

But what about for total strangers? They have no bonds to the pole itself, and no bonds to the country it wishes to praise.

Because this pole caters to only a small audience who can truly connect to it, is it even art at all? Is all art universal? In this case, the pole is a piece that is not universal. Is it still art?

As usual, I end my post with more questions than I began with. I would love to hear your opinion in the comments.

Rothko Plot Twist

How could he just smear some blocks of color on a canvas and call it good? Who did this guy think he was? I was enraged when I first learned about Mark Rothko.

There I was, frowning at the little splotches of red and yellow paint in my textbook while the lecture droned on. The bell rang, I closed my textbook, and I didn’t think of Rothko again- until this week.

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Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968)

As I walked peacefully through the galleries of the MoMA in New York, I scanned the rooms – Kandinsky’s clean cuts of shapes, Klimt’s shimmering goddesses, Katz’s flat planes of pigment… and then a massive canvas of molten orange and yellow. A Rothko. This was different, I liked it. It looked nothing like the harsh blotches of color that I had seen in my textbook.

The tints faded into one another, they were soft, sensual. After timidly approaching the next painting, I saw that, under the layer of brown, a deep blue lay discreetly underneath and shone through. It was as radiant and luminescent as Klimt’s The Kiss.

The gallery security guard shifted nervously on his feet as I became enveloped in the painting, I hadn’t noticed I was so close to the work. Sorry, sir. Backing up, I plopped down on the bench and faced the massive, harmonious canvas.

Peace at last.

The feathery rectangles looked like soft pillows and blankets, I wanted to enter the painting and sink into a deep sleep. It was visual numbing for the mind, a buzzing sensation, a deep tissue massage to my brain. John Elderfield says, “As your eyes settle to it, things start to happen.”

Beginning to adjust, my eyes began to flick from one hue to the next, stimulating a mix of colors made entirely by my brain that was not physically on the canvas. For example, after I stared at the blue for a long time, I shifted to the yellow and saw a tint of green. It seemed almost as if I were creating my own painting, from this already existing painting! Whhhaaattt? “You are the companion to the picture,” says Elderfield. And I couldn’t agree more. Never before had I felt like such an active participant in the process of viewing a painting. I felt so special; it seemed that the colors were competing for my attention.

I left the room feeling airy and weightless, a converted Rothko fan (I even caved for some Rothko greeting cards from the MoMA gift shop).

The days following my New York visit were riddled with stress and anxiety as I made my move away from home. What am I going to cook? A shoe?! Who knows. Every day is a surprise. Luckily, I had a trick to cope with my scattered thoughts. I close my eyes; I think about that Rothko. The colors hover in thin air, a few deep breaths, I open my eyes, and voila. I have pulled myself back down to earth.

PLOT TWIST.

rothko portraitAfter researching more about Rothko and his work, I have cycled back to where I started- dismayed. He did not at all intend for his paintings to be a source of comfort or familiarity. In fact, he even said that if viewers of his work were “doing it right,” they were supposed to cry. Frantically I scrolled to the next article hoping maybe this was just a false claim. Again, I was wrong. Rothko once said to a friend, “Often, towards nightfall, there’s a feeling in the air of mystery, threat, frustration- all of these at once. I would like my paintings to have the quality of such moments.”

No, no it can’t be!

Everything I thought that Rothko stood for in this paintings, shattered. Instantly I was flooded with self doubt. Did I look at the painting wrong? Is that even possible? Why was I incapable of feeling what he worked so hard to communicate? What did I miss? Where I had felt familiarity, he had meant mystery. Where I had felt comfort, he had meant threat. Where I had felt peace, he had meant frustration.

Red on Maroon 1959 by Mark Rothko 1903-1970

Rothko, Red on Maroon (1959)

I’m still struggling to grapple onto the new meaning of Rothko’s work. But, which is the real meaning- my personal opinion, or his intended message?

This brings me to my new philosophical question about art: Can the “meaning” of a work of art deviate from (or, in my case, be the total opposite of) the artist’s intent? I think yes. I feel that my emotional reactions to Rothko’s paintings are still valid.

Have you ever felt dismayed by an art piece? If so, which art piece? What did you discover about the piece or artist that contradicted your opinions? I am curious to hear about your thoughts in the comments.

Header Image: Mark Rothko, Untitled (1952)

Picasso’s coeur d’artichaut

Holey moley heavens to Betsy, Picasso sure was popular with the ladies. But before I dive into this, perhaps I should channel my inner Sound of Music Julie Andrews and take a step back to, “start at the very beginning, A very good place to start.” 

This summer I’ve had the privilege of visiting the Pierre Gianadda Foundation art museum in Martigny, Switzerland. The foundation is world renowned for its exceptional temporary exhibitions, which center around select artists and a single theme each year. In the past it has featured Degas to Picasso, Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo, Paul Gaugin, van Gogh, Kandinsky and Russia, Paul Signac, Portraits from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and more.

Last year I viewed Matisse en son temps/ Matisse in his time, which focused on Henri Matisse (okay duh) and his contemporaries, but more specifically the love-hate relationship between Matisse and Picasso. When you think Matisse and Picasso, think hardcore frenemies.

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Matisee and Picasso paint

Left: Henri Matisse, Odalisque with Tamborine (1926) Right: Pablo Picasso, Large Nude in a red armchair (1929)

Picasso considered Matisse his “master” or guide in painting, yet nonetheless interjected critiques on his work. He once compared Matisse’s designs for a chapel to those fit for a bathroom. So sassy. Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s girlfriend at the time, acknowledges the artists’ oddly loving rivalry: “In their meetings, the active side was Pablo; the passive, Matisse. Pablo always sought to charm Matisse, like a dancer, but in the end it was Matisse who conquered Pablo.

When Matisse died, Picasso sunk into deep depression declaring that he had to paint for the both of them now.  Their works were displayed side by side, allowing us to visualize the strong link between styles and subject matters. Walking along their works was moving, because I’d been let into a very personal, very sentimental relationship between the artists that I never knew existed.

This year I insisted on returning to see Hommage à Jacqueline/ A Tribute to Jacqueline, an exhibition dedicated to displaying Picasso’s works in the final years of his life while he was in the company of his last wife and muse, Jacqueline. She is in many of his later works, manifested in all shapes, colors, and poses. Jacqueline reclining on a sofa, listening to the guitar. Jacqueline sitting on a rocking chair, knees drawn up to her chin. Jacqueline looking out at her balcony view absent-mindedly. Then, Jacqueline sitting squarely, gazing directly out of the frame and at the viewer. (You can click on the images below for more detail and full captions).

Apart from her, the exhibition displayed three main themes that Picasso focused on, producing multiple pieces of the same subject: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe/Luncheon on the Grass, Les Femmes d’Alger/ Women of Algieres, and Le Peintre et son modèle/ Painter and Model.

Paying tribute to Édouard Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe/ Luncheon on the Grass, Picasso produced multitudes of paintings that mimicked the original’s subject matter, yet in his own style.

He did this also with his series Les Femmes d’Alger, inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement/ The Women of Algiers in their Apartment.

Picasso often painted the theme depicting a painter working and his model.

But enough about that. Remember when I said Picasso was popular with the ladies? I meant it! The exhibition shows a film comprised of interviews by his close friends, children, and lovers who provide accounts of the detailed intimacies of his life.

From what I learned in the video, Picasso was a rather confident man, especially when it came to love life. He had no issue waltzing over to two lady strangers’ table and inviting them to his studio (while he was still in a relationship). One of these strangers would later turn out to be his new girlfriend, Françoise Gilot.

francoisesketchOf all the women he was with, I admire Françoise the most; she was one of the few to leave Picasso, and not be left. When she discovered that he was having an affair with 17 year old Genevieve Laporte, she warned that she would leave him if he continued. Picasso responded with, “You cannot. A woman does not leave a man like me” and continued. So she left him! You go girl.

Picasso had eight -often overlapping- serious lovers throughout his life. He definitely had a coeur d’artichaut. The French idiom translates to artichoke heart, and is used to describe someone who falls in love easily and frequently, possibly with several people at the same time. His lovers were also his muses and models, thanks to whom he was able to be inspired and paint hundreds of portraits. Photographs of Picasso’s lovers next to their portraits show some glimmers of resemblance, if you can overlook the sausage fingers and boob-in-the-armpit look.

Geez, what would the world come to without us women.

My past two visits to the Pierre Gianadda Foundation have taught me a lot about Picasso: juicy details, the lowdown, the inside scoop. I will definitely be coming back next year for a new exhibition with high expectations.

Header image: Pablo Picasso, Reclining Nude (1932)