Monday, June 30, 2008

Christy L. Weigel - Self Reflections

My daughter, Sarah, sent me a link to her friend, Christy L. Weigel’s web site with the note, “Blog about this.” It only took a minute for me to understand why. Christy's oil paintings are at once captivating, pithy and funny. The work is about identity, about questioning one's roles in a given time and space.

Independent artist book and zine publisher, writer, editor and distributor, Christy Weigel, mixes humor and reflection in a series of self-portraits that explore a changing sense of identity prompted by the birth of her daughter in 2007.

In each oil painting on canvas, Weigel either turns her back to the viewer or obscures her face or entire head with a different object: trumpet, Groucho Marx glasses/nose/moustache, coffee cup or large paper bag. Weigel creates texture and adds to the content of each painting by writing across its surface using a single repeated letter, or her own stream of consciousness poetry.

Christy writes, "I have been making art in some form since I can remember. My great-grandmother liked to paint desert landscapes from Arizona Highways magazine, and with her help I completed my first oil painting when I was 10 years old.

Currently, I primarily work with two-dimensional artforms including - but not limited to - oil on canvas, pastel on paper, and digital image manipulation. My favorite images are figurative and/or objective with elements of surrealism. I'm also in love with the process of making books.

My influences come less from the visual arts and more from a wide variety of sources including overheard conversations, sketch comedies such as Kids in the Hall and The State, poetry, music, and Buster Keaton."

You may visit Christy's web site for a look at additional work, including her digital art and art books.

Gone Fishin'...

We have just returned from a few days away at a beach side resort in San Simeon. Among the fun things we did was tour Hearst Castle, the home that William Randolph Hearst built for his girlfriend, Marion Davies. Imagine 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 41 fireplaces. The estate has an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, tennis courts, a library with 4,000 books, a refectory that could seat 48 for dinner, and, at one time, a zoo that rivaled many of the public ones. (The old bear cages are still in existence and wild zebras still graze along HWY. 1.)

Amazing art treasures can be found in every room there and that is what I loved most about being in W.R. Hearst's gonzo extravaganza of wealth. We were enthralled with the antique ceilings, the perfect Greek vases dating as far back as 700 B.C., rare Asian carpets, Tiffany lamps.... A myriad of art and mosaics can be found throughout the vast home and adjoining guest houses. Art and architectural elements that were instilled by architect, Julia Morgan, originating primarily in Spain and Italy complement the Mediterranean Revival architecture. Antique furniture, ceilings, mantels, doors, paintings, sculptures, bas-reliefs, textiles and tapestries, comprise much of what is seen there.

The Roman Pool is decorated from ceiling to floor with 1" square glass mosaic tiles. They are either colored (mainly blue or orange) or are clear with fused 24K gold inside. The intense colors and shimmering gold of the tiles combine to create a breathtaking effect.I can't even begin to describe how beautiful this pool is! The designs created by the tiles were developed by muralist Camille Solon. The inspiration for some of these designs came from the 5th Century Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

Sekhmet Fountain
Sekhmet Fountain, was designed by architect Julia Morgan to incorporate four ancient Egyptian sculptures of the lion-faced goddess, 1300-1600 B.C. The sculptures were facing the Nile River when Moses floated down the river during Biblical times.

Mr. Hearst was an avid collector of sculpture. Discobolus, or the Discus Thrower, is of late 19th or early 20th-century manufacture. It is an Italian copy in bronze of the original marble by Greek sculptor Myron (5th century B.C.). Detailed examination during conservation treatment showed that the sculpture was still filled with plaster-like material used in the original casting process. This material absorbs moisture, then causes salts to leach through the pores of the bronze to the surface of the sculpture, resulting in corrosion and loss of metal; this material was removed. The sculpture was cleaned, and corrosion and mineral deposits were removed from the surface, which was then treated to arrest corrosion and to replace lost areas of metal. The patina of the surface was re-touched where necessary, and the entire sculpture was waxed to help protect and preserve the bronze.

This third century Roman mosaic depicts a merman and sea-life. It served as the floor of the main entrance into Casa Grande.

Magnificent tapestries lined many of the walls inside the castle. To help ensure these pieces survive another five hundred years, conservation treatment included: gentle cleaning; re-weaving and repairing time-damaged sections; reinforcing the stitching at separated areas, and re-lining the back of the tapestry with conservation-quality fabric.

Winged Victory

Also known as Nike of Brescia,Winged Victory is an early 20th-century Italian bronze copy by Umberto Marcellini of the original in the Roman Museum in Brescia, Italy. Winged Victory, unfortunately, shared the same manufacturing defect that plagued the other bronze statue shown above. Discobolus casting material left inside the sculpture was causing corrosion. Conservation treatment was essentially the same for both bronzes. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.

Architect Julia Morgan not only designed the main house and guest houses, she was the landscape architect as well:

George Plimpton made a fantastic, informative video about Hearst Castle's art preservation efforts:

If you can't see the video, please click HERE.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ron Mueck - Larger than Life

When my friend, Bobbie, first sent me pictures of Australian sculpture Ron Mueck's amazing life-like human sculptures, I couldn't believe my eyes! Such fine detail on a scale as large as this struck me as almost impossible to achieve. He constructs this anatomically correct sculptures from fiberglass substrates.

Early on in his career, Mueck worked as a model maker for the children's TV program Shirl's Neighborhood and Jim Henson films including Labyrinth , before making fine art of his hyper-real sculptures of human figures. Hethen moved on to working in special effects. During this period, he began to utilize silicone to construct his sculptures.

In 1996 Mueck transitioned to fine art, collaborating with his mother-in-law, Paula Rego, to produce small figures as part of a tableau she was showing at the Hayward Gallery. Rego introduced him to Charles Saatchi who was immediately impressed and started to collect and commission work. This led to the famous piece that lead to Mueck's immediate fame, Dead Dad. The piece was included in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy the following year.

Dead Dad is a rather haunting silicone and mixed media sculpture of the corpse of Mueck's father reduced to about two thirds of its natural scale. While Mueck often uses human hair in his work, punching in one strand at a time, Dead Dad is the only work of Mueck's that uses his own hair for the finished product.
Dead Dad

Shortly after, he started his own company based in London making photo realistic props. His work was designed to be photographed from just one angle, and eventually he moved on to realistic sculptures, which would be able to be photographed from any angle.

Mueck's sculptures meticulously detail the human form.
His sculptures range from very tiny to giant-sized, but they are never actual life-sized. This is reported to give viewers an unsettled feeling while viewing his work.

His sculptures appear so lifelike that if not for their scale, I'm sure many viewers would be fooled.

The attention to detail is extraordinary.

Ron Mueck's first exhibition in Japan will open on April 26 2008 at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. It will run until August 8 and feature a collection of works displayed over 6 spaces in the gallery. Among them will be Mueck's latest work "A Girl". The exhibition will also include two short films about the artist, covering both his artistic background, and his production techniques.You can see a slideshow of more of Ron's work HERE.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lilian Broca - One Tessera at a Time

One tessera at a time, painstaking, laborious, such is the truth of mosaic art. Opus Veritas.
Massimiliano Salviati

(please click individual images to enlarge.)

The Esther Series is one of three major bodies of work by mixed media artist, Lilian Broca. She writes:
Throughout my career I have explored relationships and the nature of the human condition through symbols and metaphors. The Queen Esther Series deals with sacrifice and I chose the biblical Queen Esther as a prototype for the courageous, selfless heroine who wins against all odds. As a young woman, Esther fulfilled her role as leader at a time of crisis with intelligence, persistence and dedication. Today we view her as a role model and as such, she contributes significantly to the status of women in society

Sheila D.Campbell, PhD. Art historian, Archaeologist, Curator of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto wrote in April of 2006 about Lilian's work:

"....But also in common with the mediaeval artist, Lilian is not just telling a story. She has taken a tale from antiquity, and is using the narrative to convey a wider contemporary message, which here is that of the role of women in self sacrifice, and the promotion of non-violent negotiations for peaceful conflict resolution. .... She works with colour and light to achieve her goal. But the success of these panels lies not only in Lilian’s ability to weave a narrative. Her understanding of colour and how it works is superb. The three dimensional effect which is achieved happens because of this understanding. The proof of this is that we don’t notice how the colours are used, that we let our eyes do the blending, and don’t see individual spots of colour. Many people try to work in mosaic. Few achieve such successful and professional results....

Lilian stated: "The bright, seductive colours of Venetian glass and smalti I used in creating mosaics many years ago, suddenly beckoned me." The coincidental fact that mosaics were first mentioned in the biblical Book of Esther (within the description of King Ahasuerus’s palace) contributed to her decision to further explore mosaic art. "In our present Post-Modernist society executing the Esther Series in an ancient method with added contemporary symbolism seems most appropriate."

Note the technical expertise with which Lilian treated the folds of Esther's dress in this Byzantine Style interpretation called, "Esther's Offering".

As Queen of Persia, Esther was as inferior in status as any other woman. Her life at court was luxurious, but since she was completely isolated in the King's harem amongst women of a different culture and customs, she must have felt lonely and sad. Esther first sacrificed her maidenhood; later she was obliged to put her life at risk when ordered to go before King Khashayarsha (without the King’s permission) and reveal the treacherous plans Haman had designed without the King’s knowledge.
She knew the danger to her was great and immediate, for anyone who approached the court uninvited was liable to be condemned to death. She wisely designed a plan in which she played King Khashayarsha (aka Xerxes, Ahasuerus, and Ahashverosh) and evil Haman against each other. It is my intent to portray Esther as a glorious winner, despite all the demands and sacrifices required of her in a patriarchal culture of antiquity.

after sketching numerous ideas I paint the final choice as a guide. These designs are Lilian takes her mosaic art quite seriously. She carefully creates them in reverse as mirror images that later get transferred to the panel used as the final substrate. Looking at and following the painted design she then cuts Venetian glass tesserae imported from Italy into tiny pieces and glues them onto a temporary surface of brown paper the same size as the final mosaic panel. Smalto glass, a combination of opaque glass and enamel, is also being used along with 24 carat gold sandwiched between two thin layers of transparent glass. Four or five shades of each colour are employed to enhance the visual effect; the surface itself becomes a field of attention and more emphatic in its overall unity. Figure and ground merge into one another.

"In a successful mosaic, the manner of the laying of tesserae and the intended image must function interdependently; each individual piece of glass retains its individual identity yet the eye assimilates the pieces into a whole image. This is very different from my previous body of work - paintings and drawings - where the medium was subservient to the image. The mosaics' dramatic subject matter emotive with vibrant colours though laid out in an orderly and rational fashion, are the type of artworks that reflect the present stage in my artistic development."

Lilian tells me that a new web site is under construction. When it is completed, I will announce it here. For now, you may view all three of her incredible series about women at her current web site.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Art from Water

Just got out of the hospital this afternoon (kidney problems)..and couldn't think of a more appropriate entry to make than one about art made with water. ;-)

This (unknown) artist took all of these photos of colored water in motion. I find them deliciously sensuous.

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Stacy Alexander