19 July 2019

Sean Scully: Landline, at the Wadsworth Atheneum

Landline, Orient, 2017.

In May DH and I ventured to the Wadsworth Atheneum, an art museum in Hartford, Connecticut, for a exhibit by artist Sean Scully.  Generally, I enjoy visiting this exhibition space.  However, for the Scully show, lighting was a little problematic. Many of the works were created using gloss paint on aluminum or copper panels, making the paintings subject to glare, which is apparent in some of my photographs.

There is an excellent hard-cover catalog:  Sean Scully Landline, ed.  Stephane Aquin. ISBN 9781588346414

Visitor in blue poses in front of blue painting.

These recent works express the artist's reaction to the concept of horizons. From the exhibition text:
Sean Scully's vivid memories of coastal Ireland and the promise of a new life in the United States inspired the thick, gestural brushstrokes and loose, horizontal bands of color in his Landline series.  His 1999 photography [shown below] titled Land Sea Sky began the series more than twenty years after Scully emigrated to America.  Its distillation of the natural environment into three parts moved the artist towards a new mode of abstraction.  The Landline compositions are simple yet sublime and show the artist's transition away from his earlier hard-edge minimalism and subsequent spatially complex works.  Here, Scully's later, more expressive style embodies the physical and emotional dimensions of experience, loss, and memory over a lifetime.

Scully is considered one of the most influential painters of our age.  With a particular visual language that blends the rigidity of European concrete art - which relied on pure geometric forms - with the ethereality of American abstraction, Scully established his stature at the center of abstract painting today.  This is the first comprehensive museum presentation in the United States of the artist's famed Landline series, represented in paintings, photography, works on paper, and sculpture.

Land Sea Sky, 1999. (Shadow is photographer.)

Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1955.

I think the Rothko in the image above counts as an example of the "ethereality" of American abstraction.  In addition to paintings, the Scully show included watercolors, which are perhaps closer cousins to the Rothko works, with their matte texture and acknowledgment of borders and edges.

Land Sea Sky (#1, #2, #3, and #4), 1999. Watercolor on paper.

Land Sea Sky, detail.

The Wadsworth Atheneum itself is a fascinating blend of old and new architecture.  We got lucky and visited during the second Saturday of the month, so admission was free. (Not to worry - acquisitions were made in the excellent museum shop.)  Scully is also a sculptor and one of his sculptures sat happily outside the museum, a nice contrast to the sort of neo-Gothic style of the old building.

Entry atrium, Wadsworth Atheneum. Wall mural by Sol LeWitt.

30, 2018. Aluminum and automotive paint.

Scully on his (tongue-in-cheek) introduction to sculpture:
When I was fifteen years old, I worked every Saturday in Woolworth's...my job was to load the shelves with everything and anything that was running low, then I would take the flattened cardboard boxes...to recycle them in the bailing machine, and this is where I became a young sculptor, every Saturday.
The bailing machine was a metal box, with a gate in front.  I would introduce the flat box and crank down the mechanism to push all the disobedience out of them.   This is how they would stay, in compressed submission...at the end of it all, I put wires through to bind it all together...every single time I opened the gate...my proletariat art work [would] fall out in the yard, and they were amazing, in their repetition and variety, to look at.
Now when I make sculpture I make them the same way.  I squeeze all the air and space out, by stacking. - Sean Scully, 2016

Stack Blues, 2017. Automotive paint and aluminum.

A video clip in a screening area portrayed Scully wielding a wide brush, dipped in buckets of shiny paint.  The width of the brush determined the width of the painted stripes, or horizons.  There is somewhat more variability in the sizes of the bands in the works on paper, whether pastels or prints.  This makes sense to me, as some horizons are narrower than others, aren't they?

Pastel paintings.

Landline 11.20.16, 2016. Pastel on paper.

Landline 11.20.16, detail.

Landline Blue Black, 2016. Aquatint on paper.

Horizon Nine, 2013.

Horizon Nine, detail.

Scully often works in series, completing paintings in a limited amount of time, without much, if any, preparatory activity. This the visual artist's analog to a jazz musician's riffs or an actor's improv session. From the wall text:
I always paint quick, I paint as quick as I can.  I'm interested in getting it: I'm not interested in worrying about it, and going back and making corrections, asking myself if it's any good.  It's connected to an idea and an action. -Sean Scully, 2015

Visitors ponder two paintings from 2016.

Landline Bent Triptych, 2016.

The above triptych is a singular departure from the horizontal format and seems unsettled - an abrupt jolt from the land, sea and sky theme - regions visible from the surface of the world -  to a view of geological strata, only visible when the earth is rent, or eroded. The tripartite form is also confusing - it's obviously not a series, but is it multiple points of view? Discontinuity?

Landline Red Bridge, 2016.

Above is an oblique view of one of my favorites in the show; at this angle there was no glare from the lighting, and I think the bit of perspective only adds to the sense of a distant, disappearing or even unreachable horizon.

From the wall text:
The idea of the horizon line has been important to me for a long time.  And maybe it's an immigrant vision because an immigrant is always looking at the horizon line.  Because you're looking at something you can't see but can only imagine.  And for us humans, it also represents eternity. -Sean Scully, 2007

View from screening area.

27 June 2019

Guiry's - or paint paradise in Denver

Wall of Benjamin Moore paint samples.

My husband and I visit family in Denver every now and then, and during a recent stay I explored a wonderful artist's resource,  Guiry's. I used to source 2 oz. Benjamin Moore paint samples from my local store, Johnson Paint, but this program stopped a while back. Boston-area homeowners trying to "audition" paint colors now had to order a full pint to test on the walls, resulting in much wasted paint.  However, Guiry's continues to package 2 oz. samples, and these small samples are available by mail order. Yes, this means a shipping charge, but Guiry's rates are very reasonable, and I'd rather pay for shipping than have to dispose of a lot of unused latex paint, which should never be poured down the drain, by the way - let it dry out and put the can in the trash.  Amphibians will thank you.

Mail order paint samples.

I find interior house paint good for all sorts of things and more durable than craft paint.  Paint is basically made of three components - pigment, binder and vehicle. Pigments and colorants give the paint its opacity and color, and these are the expensive components of paint. The vehicle is the liquid medium in which the pigment is suspended, and the binder is what forms a film as the paint dries.

Better quality paint has more pigment and is hence more costly. Better paint won't faint over time, and I've had good luck with Benjamin Moore paint. (And no, no one in my family is affiliated with that company, or any company mentioned in this blog post.)

Fancy papers.

Guiry's has tons of art supplies and art-related items, including fancy papers.  Use for gift wrap, scrap booking, collages, hand-made books, etc. Or frame them. Many years ago I hand-carried several sheets of hand-printed paper, carefully rolled up, from Japan. I used small pieces of gummed linen tape to hinge each individual paper to acid-free foamcore board and framed my bargain artwork using frames and UV-resistant acrylic from American Frame Papersource also had lovely papers which can be used as wall art.

Hand-printed Japanese paper framed. Much prettier in person.

More fancy papers.

Artists' paints.

Easels, drafting set-ups, paint brushes, etc., etc.

Guiry's has everything from acrylic paints to Zentangle books to color.  Lots of supplies for children - according to author Mo Willems, everyone should draw.

Rack of Dover books for kids.

I love these Dover books for children - dot-to-dot books, stickers, coloring books, etc. Fun to browse and handle them, and you can't do that on Amazon.  More kid stuff below.

Kits and pattern books can be a good gateway to new materials and ideas.

Rubber stamps are easy to use.

DH excited about all the samples.

Pastels make a wall of color.

30 May 2019

Short Course at the Met - American Textiles

Ms. Peck, with another curator, displays a sampler, dated 1827, by Barbara Landis.

On May 9, I joined about a dozen other textiles fans in the Antonio Ratti Textile Center, located in a windowless lower level at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  Once a week, for three consecutive weeks, we enjoyed a look behind the scenes in an educational Short Course, as the Museum designates limited multi-session classes, entitled American Textiles.  Each session began with a slide presentation by Amelia Peck, Marcia F. Vilcek Curator and Supervising Curator of the Ratti Center.

Since many textiles are fragile and hence not exhibited often, it was a special treat to gain visual access and learn more about the artifacts, as well as the Center, which houses and conserves more than 30,000 items in its storage facilities. Basically, all the texiles from all the various departments are housed here, with the exception of the Costume Insitute, which has separate facilities.

We were not allowed to photograph storage areas,  but taking images of the artifacts was approved. This blog post won't go into detail about individual items - some links are provided to learn more - but just gives an idea of the course content and experience.  Ms. Peck was assisted by a number of Center and museum staff; I didn't catch all of the names, but all were uniformly helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.

Learning about a white work quilt.

The first session introduced us to the Ratti Center, and featured a presentation on textiles for beds, as well as curtains and carpets. Due to technical difficulties, I have no images from that session, but many of the Met's wonderful items can be viewed online.

The next week we moved onto American Schoolgirl Needlework and Embroidery, focusing on marking samplers, in which girls learned to stitch alpha-numeric characters, and pictorial samplers, featuring courting couples, pastoral views,  and character-building aphorisms.  I apologize for the photographic glare on the glass of the framed samplers.

From the samplers, it's clear girls' literacy was highly valued.

Marking sampler, Marian Boil, 1844.

Pictorial embroidery, Laura Hyde, 1800.

Our final session featured American quilts and coverlets, and I would recommend the book by Ms. Peck, American Quilts & Coverlets in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1990, and 2nd edition 2007. Here's a link to the 1990 edition  PDF.

Fascinating 19th-century autograph quilt.

A blurry image of Abraham Lincoln's signature on cloth.

We learn about this unusual hand-woven coverlet.

Detail of coverlet.

One reason to study items like this is that by studying items made in the pre-industrial era, can we better understand the effects of technology on artistic expression and material culture.  Even in this day and age of the celebrity selfie, we still value the individual, unique "John Hancock" and quilt-makers still incorporate signed pieces of fabric in special quilts.  Modern examples include the Boston Red Sox-themed quilts by Rosemary Bawn, which incorporate the ball players signatures.

Discussing a crazy quilt.

Quilts were much more than utilitarian objects even before the advent of central heating and increased indoor thermal control. Each piece of applique or patchwork represents a decision by the quiltmaker about color, placement, form and scale.

Pieced and embroidered quilt.

Baltimore Presentation quilt.

Some women developed their own unique designs, and other women adapted or copied shared designs (done by women) but each quilt is an expression of its maker's preferences and skills.  Developing needlework designs for use by others, and teaching sewing skills, also provided employment for women.  Textile arts are an area where necessity and leisure often meet and mingle.

Baltimore Presentation quilt, foreground, and Amish quilt adjacent.

Baltimore Presentation quilt, detail.

The Ratti Center is more than just a warehouse for items - it's a resource for scholars and inspiration for any maker working in fiber today. Much of the collection is online and anyone can gain access.  Hours and contact info below.  The database and library are available for public access and the staff can retrieve a few items at a time (with some exceptions for fragility, etc.) for visitors to view. 

Antonio Ratti Center
Telephone: 212-650-2310
Fax: 212-650-2676

Email: RattiTextile.Center@metmuseum.org
Hours for Database and Library:
Monday through Friday: 10 am to 12:30 pm (appointment is recommended)
Hours for Study Rooms:
Monday through Friday: 2 to 4 pm (appointment is required)

Detail, crazy quilt.

19 May 2019

Quilters Connection Quilt Show

G Wong, Peace Out on my Starship.

After a long hiatus, I reconnected with my quilt guild, Quilters' Connection, by attending this year's quilt show, held at Keljik Hall, part of St. James' Armenian Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. The show was up Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, and here are some of the quilts which particularly caught my eye.

The show's title, "Creative Expressions in Fabric," is all-encompassing and, indeed, every kind of quilt, and technique, was on display, including contemporary quilts, landscape quilts, traditional quilts, both pieced and applique, and documentary pieces.  Some examples of each are grouped together in this blog, just for ease of presentation.  Enjoy.

Contemporary graphic quilts - riffs on traditional designs:

Jen McPhilimy, Flying Geese.

Rita Alesi, A Dozen Pluses.

A Dozen Pluses, detail.

Deborah Rocha, 2 Zigs : 3 Zags.
Deborah Rocha, Red Squares.

Missy Shay, Contempo Twist. (Quilted by Georgette Gagne.)

Stephanie Shore, Water Grasses 4.

Water Grasses 4, detail.

Terry Greenstein, Starry Night.

Pictorial (representational) work, in techniques old and new:

Karen Hohler, Berlin Crows.

Don Hileman, Love Birds. (Quilted by Felicity Hileman.)

Love Birds, detail.

Karen Pulaski, Rose.

Renate Parisek, Black Eyed Susans.

Nancy Wasserman, The Girl and Her Dress, detail.

Wendy Drobnyk, Sea Creatures, detail.

Sea Creatures, detail.


Diana Galson-Kooy, Trees at Dusk.

Tricia Deck, Lincoln Bridge.

Carol Anne Grotrian, Soiree at Walden.

Soiree at Walden, detail of shibori dyeing.

Soiree at Walden, detail.

Documentary - a record of a historical event, in this case a Red Sox World Championship:

Rosemary Bawn, Mookie Magic.

 Highlights in applique and embroidery:

Nancy Howard, Mrs. Lincoln's Sampler.

Mrs. Lincoln's Sampler, detail.

Susan Holsing, Salem Witches, detail.

Salem Witches, detail.

Salem Witches, detail.

Marla Richmond, Jo's Kitties, detail.

Precision piecing:

Cathy Papazian, Kaleidoscoping.

Ginny Such, Peace Cranes.

Peace Cranes, detail.

Sara Schechner, Ian's Astro-Electrical Wonder. (Quilted by Kate and Tom Wellen.)

Some images of the show:

Visitor and quilts.

The ever-popular boutique.

Finally, here in New England it's been a slow start to spring, but we are saying "good-bye" to winter at long last. The quilt below captures the feeling of a bleak yet beautiful snowscape. I would have added a shadow to the tree as, even in the heat of summer, the shadow of inevitable winter remains.

Deborah Kuhlman-Hussey, Solitude.