Monday, December 7, 2009

Have a Mewy Mewy Christmas

Every Christmas season I look forward to receiving in the mail my catalog from The Museum Shop of The Art Institute of Chicago. The Museum is one of my most favorite places in the world because it is home to one of the largest collections of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. I saw my first Lautrec and Degas there and some of the Monet haystacks, I was blown away.

This is also the museum that houses what I consider to be the most striking of Van Gogh's self portraits. I have a print of it framed in my home and I could stare at it for hours, I swear his eyes pierce right through me.
This is the Vincent I choose to remember....strong, determined, devoted to his art. But yet of course the sadness runs as a quiet undercurrent.

But back to the museum store catalog, it always contains the most creative and beautiful art gifts that are based on items from the museums more than 260,000 works of art. The jewelry is to die for. Oh and don't forget the hand painted scarves — simply gorgeous. But I always turn first to the section that holds the christmas cards. The cards are all so beautiful, creative and fun. Each year I look to see what artist and The Art Institute of Chicago School alumna Linnea Riley has designed for her humorous cat-themed christmas cards. (I have 4 cats — so you can see why I love her cards specifically.)

And this year I am not disappointed (as if I ever am by Ms. Riley....) these '09 candidates are fun and great for sending out to my friends. She has to be a cat mom herself because she knows so well the curiosity and ensuing mischief that the little furballs bring to a home. And the holiday season is a special delight for the whisker investigators, like when you are trying to wrap a package or trim a tree or string lights. Those are all really fun cat toys — aren't they?

Yes indeed Linnea gets it and luckily for me and other cat lovers she illustrates it beautifully. And if you aren't a cat person, there are many many other cards. My other favs are the cards that are take-off on some of the world's best known masterpieces with a little touch of christmas added in. There are beautiful cards, stunning cards, fun cards and amazingly creative and unique cards. Everything in the whole catalog is just delightful, go on line and make sure you sign up to get the catalog next year. Its a great place to shop. Enjoy!

Cards of The Art Institute of Chicago
Linnea Riley

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday shopping

Okay, it snowed yesterday so I guess I have to face the fact that fall is a soon to be distant memory and it is officially "the holiday season." Blah, I spend the next 4 months wishing for spring. But there are some really fun things to do during this next month. This is the season for artists' to show and sell their crafts....Luckily we have alternatives to the old style Christmas holiday bazaar where the crocheted toilet paper cozy is on sale in too many garish colors.

One of my favorite events is coming up shortly — "Bazaar Bizarre" the place where creative hipsters sell their outside-the-box handmade wares. Two years ago I bought a pair of Virgin Mary earrings (loved them) and my friend bought a purse made from an old Parker Brothers game box. Much of the inspiration for the items showing is retro/vintage/camp. Artist's raw materials are things that were near and dear to our parent's hearts which now become fun to send up in a trendy, whimsical and fresh way. Don't miss the heartfelt, ironic, and extremely unique items at this craft fair....after all maybe you know someone who is looking for a bracelet made out of old vinyl 45's or you could have a friend would love a computer bag made out of duct tape?

The sixth annual version of the counterculture Bazaar Bizarre kicks off from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday, December 12, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, December 13, with more than 75 local artists and vendors. Each day will feature different artisans. The vibe is cool, the prices are good and the selection is nothing you would ever see at your grandma's craft fair.

Same location as last year: 78th Street Studios: 1300 W. 78th St to 1305 W. 80th St., north parking lot, north entrance (behind the building) -- accessible from W. 78th OR W 80th St. Map link for directions: You can also become a fan of the event on facebook at

Sunday, November 15, 2009

MOCA 30th anniversary

This past weekend The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles marked MOCA's 30th anniversary with a lavish party and the opening of "Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years". This is a two-part collection which features the largest-ever installation of the museum's permanent collection. MOCA is actually located in 3 different locations in Los Angeles. The first location is called MOCA Grand Avenue and this is where the first part of "Collection" is being shown.

  The second location for MOCA is called The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA which was originally opened as an interim exhibition space called the "Temporary Contemporary" in 1983 and is where part 2 of "Collection" is on display.

  In 2000 MOCA's third location is MOCA at The Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood was opened to present new work by emerging and established artists.

  The art featured at Grand Avenue traces the path of contemporary art starting during WWII and runs the gamut of art movements from abstract expressionism to pop art to minimalism to the conceptual art of the 1960's and 1970's. As society changed due to wars, politics, social values, definition of family, home and morality artists reflected these changes in their works. Interestingly specific movements of the art world are very clear but, there are many examples of the same artist deviating from that movement and going to a whole new level of creation because they were stimulated to produce new pieces based on what was happening in the world around them.

  The artwork featured at Grand Avenue is produced by the more traditional mediums of painting, sculpture, drawing, and collage. Several artists are spotlighted for their bodies of work — are the pieces from Diane Arbus, Robert Rauschenberg and Mark Rothko. (Seen below left) is "Untitled" 1954 by Robert Rauschenberg. It is the first piece from his "Combines" series. These were a series of works that were 3 dimensional and a hybrid of sculpture, painting, collage all assembled together. The structure invites the viewer to look into and through the spaces, openings, and reflect on the layers and objects. (Also included in the collage are two drawings by contemporaries Cy Twombly and Jack Tworkov.)

  The second part of "Collection" is art created since 1980. This line was drawn in the collection because this is the period when a multitude of new ways to create art came into being with the advent of the computer and video. Also the as the world became more of a global society the art world became decentralized. Decentralization helped more new artists emerge and their works then found their way to the public, museum curators and art critics. As technology moves forward, new ideas and movements are being championed and collected by museums like MOCA, Los Angeles (and Cleveland's own MOCA.)

I've included some other examples of works on display....
First is "Untitled (Faceless Faces) 1963 by Wallace Berman.
Berman made this collage of images of couples photographed together, like all married couples (moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas) seemed to think was important to do in the 50's and 60's. He the reproduced the collage using the Verifax (an early copy machine) which turned out inky reproductions that were still wet, which then allowed Berman to smudge or erase the faces and identities of the people in the pictures. I love work done with copiers.

I have also included this work by one of my favorite artists — Jasper Johns which is also on display as part of this MOCA anniversary exhibition. This piece is titled "Map" 1962. This is a piece that was inspired by mimeographed maps of the United States that artist Robert Rauschenberg gave Johns. The mimographs became John's medium at this point. He painted on them, did renderings on them, drew on them, and cut them up to make new collages to copy. He made 3 of these maps in this style. This was also the beginning of John's use of monochromatic colors mostly grays and blues. Everything Jasper John's does fascinates me. Several years ago The Cleveland Museum of Art mounted a retrospective of John's work which drew large crowds. I went back 3 times.

Friday, November 6, 2009


A few years ago one of my friends who is artistic and was searching for a new way to express herself discovered the tranquility of mandalas. For those of you unaware about mandalas, it is a concentric diagram having both spiritual and ritual significance in Buddhism and Hinduism. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and  trance induction.

My friend started designing and coloring many, many, many mandalas. She was going through a rough patch at the time and the drawings gave her peace and a place to engage her mind at so she could have a few moments of respite. Before I knew it, she had me and our other friends hooked on coloring the mandalas that she made or downloaded from the web. One Thanksgiving we were all together and about 6 of us spent our time after dinner happily coloring these mystical drawings and proudly showing off our work to each other.

Mandalas have been with us forever, they are considered sacred spaces. They can be drawn or created out of most anything. Buddhist monks make amazing ones out of sand like the one shown here at the right. They spend hours and hours creating them, the process is fascinating. People have constructed mandalas in their garden out of plants designed to form images with the bloom's colors. Mandalas are created out of tile on floors and walls out of fibers in material or made into hypnotic and stunning rugs. Artists are now making intricate and amazing images on their computers and uploading them. Go to google images and type in the word "mandala" you could look for hours at all the different interpretations and creations people made.

This one pictured at the right is called "Mandala Dementia" which seems fitting since mandalas are considered in Tibetan Buddhism representing the nature of experience and the intricacies of both the enlightened and confused mind, or "a microcosm representing various divine powers at work in the universe." Mandalas are even used in certain Jungian based theories as a method of helping to unlock information stored in unconsciousness to bring about transformation and healing. 

There is even something called "The Mandala Project". It is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace through art and education. The project offers a visual demonstration of people coming together to create something larger than themselves while maintaining their personal uniqueness. Check it out at

So, if you would like to experience the wonderment of making your own mandala go here to download printable pages of mandala outlines all ready to be colored in by you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Floating on the Creative Cloud

A friend of mine loves to search out old advertisements that were painted long ago on the sides of buildings. More than once we've talked about locations of the faded and peeling ones on aged buildings here in Cleveland. Shortly after that I went to New York City and saw lots of those relics of old ad campaigns. When I returned I excitedly told him all about the ones I saw, I even photographed one for him of a debonair sorta guy on the side of a brick office building looking handsome as he lit up his Lucky Strikes cigarette. (From the looks of it I'd bet the painting aged better than the smoker did.)

Over the last 15 years, (maybe even 20), the notion of painting the side of a building has really come back into style but with a cool twist. The painting is not made by some company trying to get you to smoke their cigarettes but rather these newer murals are made by artists who desired the opportunity to paint on the biggest "canvas" they could find. These one-of-a-kind visions are showing up all over the world and usually have the color and flavor of the neighborhood they inhabit. This one below is located in California. (Two murals on the list are located right here in Ohio.)

The website Creative Cloud has many good topics to explore and plenty of fascinating images on view like "The 50 Most Stunning Wall Murals From Around the World" or "Propaganda Posters from The Spanish Civil War", or "Barcode Art" and a personal favorite of mine the "Vintage Travel Print Ads".

This site has info for any creative person covering a wide range of topics from art to photography to sci-fi to new innovations in technology. For example – the News sections brings word of the imminent launch of the world's most portable and smallest printer (fits in the palm of your hand...) Tidings that the long cherished and discontinued Polaroid camera will be back in action as Polaroid 600 and "instant photography" will be re-launched using traditional analog film. And word that wireless has spread to printers with Canon introducing the first unit of that generation's technology.

Be sure to check out the section heading Inspiration - subheading "20 Sensational Bookshelves". The uber creative industrial designers have devised great new methods for housing our books.The level of ingenuity for most of these designs is so
far out of the box (no pun intended) it is refreshing. Loved the creation at the left "The Bibliochaise". Comfy, colorful and a heck of a space saver.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


quietus  –noun, plural -tus⋅es. A finishing stroke; anything that effectually ends or settles: discharge or release from life.

This week is about quietus and release from life and/or the finishing stroke.

October 9th would have been John Lennon's 69th birthday. His message still resonates so strongly — "give peace a  chance (war is over is you want it)". How welcome his voice would be now in this day and age — both voices, his singing voice and his political speaking voice. He would have had much to sing to and speak to us about.....Miss him all the time.

Since this week is about websites that sell things here is the link to Lennon's official website and the page with the cool t-shirts that are for sale...

On another note of quietus, master photographer Irvin Penn left us with his finishing stroke after 92 years this week. The last sixty or so he created images that continue to inspire photographers and artists alike. He worked many years for Vogue magazine and managed to change the way images for magazines were shot in his own creative and elegant way. He simplified his images, used natural light when he could, didn't create fancy sets if he didn't have to. In fact many of his portraits he shot in the bare walled corner of his studio.

Portraits of the famous and the ordinary, gleaming images of grit covered found objects from the street, or simple elegant images of ginko leaves, it didn't matter in Penn's world.  Each of his subjects received the same detailed care and respect. And because of his talent and that magnificent eye for composition, color and form – no matter what or who was in front of his camera lens it took on a radiance that you never saw before, even if you were looking at the very subject with your own eyes.

When you have a moment look up his images, notice the simplicity and grace. Another man whose "voice" will resonate for the decades to come.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dress Codes at the International Center for Photography

On October 2, 2009 the International Center for Photography in NYC opens their signature exhibition "Dress codes: The Third ICP Triennial of Photography and Video". The show features over 100 recent works by 34 artists from 18 countries. The thematic focus for this year's art is "fashion." Through the eyes of these photographers, videographers and artists, fashion shows itself to be a multi-sided, multi-layered factor in all communities of the world.

Now don't think "fashion" as the designer clothing Madison Avenue has marketed into our conscientiousness' – rather this is a collective look at how people make statements through what they are wearing be it by choice or by circumstance. The bigger question is "What is the subconscious information being conveyed by what a person chose to dress in or is forced to wear?"

The images of this show speak to a deep visual language that resonates about gender, culture, history, geography and personality. Between the lines these artists are asking — do clothing, looks and style communicate individuality, community, or both or something else altogether? How do the costumes or clothing express what the person wearing them intends to express? Do these people dress for power, religious beliefs, climate, fantasy, economic crisis, or personal style? Obviously that decision can be affected by some or all of these topics and much more.

But this show is intended to make you wonder how do people of the global world decide how to construct the their "look" through what they wear or don't wear. Do they even have much of a choice? And after you consider that, you can mull over the statement each artist is making by way the THEIR subject matter is "dressed." The pieces are diverse, wildly creative and fascinating.

"Invasion, 2008" by Martha Rosler

 (Is it any wonder dictators always seem to turn up in military uniforms even if they never served a day in the armed forces of their country? Unless of course they are wearing a Dolce & Gabbana suit....)

The exhibit will be on display until January 17, 2010. The International Center of Photography is located at 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street, NYC.