Friday, April 30, 2010

From Obama to Oh, Wow! Alexa Meade

If you happen to be in NYC between now and May 8, you won’t want to miss Alexa Meade’s exhibit at Postmaster’s Gallery. From her political experiences, former Obama campaign staffer, Meade, theorizes, that “experiences cannot always be interpreted at face value; seeing is not necessarily believing,”.

The twenty three year old Vassar grad expresses herself in a truly unique, thought-provoking manner with her reverse trompe l’oeil series. To create it, she developed a technique that makes 3-D space look flat, “blurring the lines between illusion and reality.”

Meade states, "I paint representational portraits directly on top of the people I am representing. The models are transformed into embodiments of the artist's interpretation of their essence. When captured on film, the living, breathing people underneath the paint disappear, overshadowed by the masks of themselves."

Dan Zak of the Washington Post writes, “Meade uses a brush. She paints skin on skin, lips on lips and eyebrows on eyebrows, and the insides of nostrils, using her own mixture of nontoxic paints and unspecified ingredients. Her subjects must sit still for multiple hours as she follows the natural contours of their faces, varying brushstroke and color to exhume their inner essence. When she's done, they appear banished to two-dimensionality, yet they also seem fuller, more dynamic. She then sets her subjects in an installation, or photographs them. There are no touch-ups or special effects beyond acrylic on flesh and the initial complacency of the observer.”

When I wrote to Alexa to ask her permission to write this entry about her, she referred me to the entry about her in Wikipedia, which she described as, "very accurate". I quote this entry about her:

Recent critical acclaim for Meade's work has been positive, with critics alluding to her innovations to the genre of portraiture and the ability of her work to speak to an international audience. Magdalena Sawon, owner of the Postmasters Gallery in New York, NY, recently said in reference to Meade's work, "A portrait is something that's been with us for 3,000 years--that's not an easy genre to move forward...This is a valid and very interesting contribution to the portrait genre." Christian Furr, a world renowned painter who selected Meade for an exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery in London, spoke of the international possibilities of her art. "She's going to create quite a stir in this country," Furr, a UK national, said. "People are fascinated by playing with viewpoints, and she's taking it one step further than trompe l'oeil. I was blown away by it."

(So was I!)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Susan Tuttle's Cool Art Book Giveaway!

Are there any digital photographers among my readers? Mixed media artists, perhaps? If so, you might be interested in this contest to win Susan Tuttle's new book, Digital Expressions: Creating Digital Art with Adobe® Photoshop® Elements (North Light Books), between now and Tuesday, May 4th at 9pm EST. She will announce the winner (via random drawing) on Wednesday, May 5th.

You can review the book on Amazon by clicking HERE.

Click HERE to read all about the contest.

Good luck!


Sunday, April 18, 2010


The first major exhibition of its kind, "Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries" celebrates the remarkable collaboration of scientists, conservators and art historians at the National Gallery in London. The National Gallery’s Scientific Department was founded in 1934 and has become a world leader in the study of the materials and techniques of Western European paintings. Today, the department works ever more closely with curators and conservators to investigate the physical characteristics of works in the collection and to protect paintings for the future. On exhibition 30 June through 12 September.

Modern scientific methods, including infrared imaging, X-ray images, electron microscopy and mass spectrometry can provide fascinating insights into the materials used by artists, studio practice and the ways paintings can change over time.

Close Examination explores this pioneering work by presenting the varied and fascinating stories behind more than 40 paintings in the National Gallery’s collection. The exhibition is arranged over six rooms, representing some of the major challenges faced by Gallery experts: Deception and Deceit; Transformations and Modifications; Mistakes; Secrets and Conundrums; Redemption and Recovery; and a special focus room relating to Botticelli. The exhibition features works by Raphael, Dürer, Gossaert, Rembrandt and others.

Room 1: Deception and Deceit
Some paintings in the collection raise complex questions of disputed authorship and authenticity. These range from straightforward period copies to modern forgeries created with the intent to deceive. The lengths forgers will go to deceive is shown in Portrait Group.

This has been identified as the work of an unknown forger of the early 20th century, imitating the style of Renaissance profile portraits. The National Gallery purchased the painting in 1923, believing it to be an authentic work from the 15th century. Scientific analysis exposed the deception, revealing that the artist had used pigments not available before the 19th century. It also emerged that the top layer had been coated with shellac, a natural resin, to simulate the appearance of age.

Altered to Resemble a Holbein. "Portrait of Alexander Mornauer", 1464-88 (pre-restoration). © National Gallery, London.Room 2: Transformations and Modifications
The Gallery owns several paintings which, over the course of time, have been modified to satisfy changing tastes or interpretations. A provocative Renaissance depiction of a Woman at a Window, probably 1510–30, was dramatically altered in the 19th century to satisfy more restrained Victorian tastes. The girl’s hair was changed from blonde to brunette, her expression made more innocent and her bodice rendered less revealing.

In the 1700s, a painting by an unknown German artist, Portrait of Alexander Mornauer, about 1464–88, was altered to resemble a work by the more famous (and highly collectable) artist Hans Holbein. Microscopic examination of paint sample cross-sections revealed that a layer of blue paint had been applied over the original brown background. The style of the sitter’s hat was also altered. The changes convinced an 18th-century aristocrat that he was buying an authentic Holbein. The Gallery acquired the painting in 1990 and conservators were able to safely remove these additions to return the painting to its original state.

Room 3: Mistakes
This room focuses on the misattribution of paintings, and examines how scientific analysis and connoisseurship can work together to correct past mistakes. A Man with a Skull was acquired by the Gallery in 1845 as a work by Holbein. Even at the time many experts doubted the attribution. Modern dendrochronological analysis to determine the age of the wood panel support has since shown the painting post-dates Holbein’s death in 1543. The exhibition will reveal a new attribution for this painting.

Room 4: Secrets and Conundrums
Despite many triumphs and advances, some paintings remain stubbornly mysterious. For example, it is difficult to exactly recreate the workings of an artist’s studio: the materials and techniques used, or the role of assistants. Close Examination highlights some of the important discoveries made in this area; for instance during recent conservation work on The Virgin and Child with Two Angels, about 1475, experts were able to take a closer look and solve a long-standing conundrum over authorship.

Originally acquired as a work by Domenico Ghirlandaio, the painting was later demoted, attributed to the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. However, after removing layers of old retouching work, and examining the underdrawing with infrared reflectography, it became clear that Verrocchio himself painted the Virgin, the angel on the left and the landscape in the background, while his assistant, Lorenzo di Credi, painted the angel on the right and the infant Christ.

Verrocchio was one of the finest sculptors of the Renaissance and tutor to both Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli, but very few paintings by him have been identified with any certainty. This discovery has made it possible to reassess other works by the artist as well as his legacy as a Renaissance painter.

Other conundrums featured in the exhibition remain tantalizingly unsolved. A Dead Soldier, an atmospheric painting of the 17th century, was once attributed to the Spanish master, Diego Velázquez. This theory has now been discounted, but while the painting is thought to have originated in Italy, the precise identity of the artist remains a mystery.

Raphael - "Madonna of the Pinks" c.1506-07, Oil on yew, 28 x 22.4 cm. © National Gallery, LondonRoom 5: Being Botticelli
At various points in the National Gallery’s history, some works were enthusiastically acquired on mistaken attributions to iconic artists. In June 1874 the Gallery purchased two Botticellis – or so it seemed. One of these (Sandro Botticelli, Venus and Mars, about 1485) is now one of the most beloved paintings in the collection.

The other painting (Follower of Sandro Botticelli, An Allegory, probably about 1490–1550) was then thought to be a companion to Venus and Mars. Some even thought it the more desirable of the two. However, this painting was soon discovered to be a pastiche, painted by a follower in the style of the great master. The paintings will be shown side-by-side so that visitors can test their own skills of connoisseurship.

Room 6: Redemption and Recovery
The final room of the exhibition celebrates instances in which the work of great painters has been re-discovered through a combination of scientific analysis, conservation, connoisseurship and art historical research. Until 1991, the whereabouts of Raphael’s original painting of The Madonna of the Pinks, about 1506–7, was an intriguing mystery for art historians. Only copies of the painting were known. However, during a visit to Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, Dr Nicholas Penny spotted an intriguing painting which demanded closer examination.

Infrared reflectograms revealed an exquisite underdrawing beneath the paint surface, bearing all the hallmarks of Raphael’s hand. Subtle differences between this underdrawing and the finished painting, particularly in the costume and background landscape, showed the artist had changed his mind as he worked. No copyist wishing to pass a painting off as the original would have departed from his model in such a way. Chemical analysis confirmed that the pigments used were typical of Raphael’s distinctive palette, including some that ceased to be used after the 16th century.

'Close Examination' is the first major exhibition to explore the full range of scientific discoveries made by a leading art gallery within its collection. The close working relationship between scientists, conservators and curators constantly yields new and exciting findings while helping us to gain a deeper understanding of important works of art.

Clck HERE to see the web site for The National Gallery in London.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

10 Most Eccentric Artists to Ever Live

I had a note from Amy Cook who asked me to point my readers toward her blog where she has written an interesting piece about the 10 most eccentric artists to ever live. Why not give it a read?

Click HERE to go straight to the entry.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Winfred Rembert - Works on Leather

Winfred Rembert (Photo by William Oppenheimer)

A self-taught artist, Winfred Rembert grew up in the 1950's working in the cotton fields of Cuthbert, Georgia. He was arrested after a 1960’s civil rights march and survived a near-lynching before serving seven years in jail. It was in jail, creating wallets next to another inmate, that he first learned to hand-tool leather. Years later, at the suggestion of his wife, Rembert integrated storytelling and the tales of his youth into tableaux on sheets of tanned leather.

Now, at 58, he lives in New Haven, Conn., where he is a guest lecturer at Yale University, a far cry from his early life in the cotton fields and in prison.

Rembert often begins his pictures with drawings, in an effort to work out detailed patterns. He retains each drawing in his archives. When the stories are carved and tooled into the leather, his images take on texture and depth. During the final step, he paints the surfaces in vivid dyes. The final images offer a flamboyant narrative of life in the still-segregated South of the mid-twentieth century.

“I ordered a book called ‘How to Carve Leather,’ but I don’t agree with nothing they do.

“For the paintings, I mount them on Gater Board with non-toxic glue. I put on a varnished surface to protect them from the water. They’re glued down into the frame.”

What's Wrong With Little Winfred

"My mother gave me away at three months to her aunt. She didn’t have no husband. Her mouth was so big she’d run ‘em off, my aunt said. My aunt’s granddaughter lived with us, and I thought for a long time that she was my sister. Mama, that’s what I called her, was not big on education, but what she was big on was work. I went to school very little. At six years old, I was picking cotton for fifty cents or a dollar a day. Mama could pick a lot of cotton. She got $2 for every 100 pounds she’d pick. I worked as a field hand digging potatoes, too."

Rembert’s education had been a source of frustration, and he attended school intermittently between periods of working as a field hand.

“You feel like a dummy,” he said. “They used me to feed the heater. The teacher never called on me. She didn’t want to embarrass me. I thought I couldn’t learn."

Doll's Head Baseball
“I made my own toys. Other kids bought the toys I made. I made riding things -- three-wheel bicycles, wagons and pop guns, bows and arrows. I had to do that to get some kind of joy. I made things by not having anything -- no Christmas, no money. I had my toys. It meant a lot to me to create things. I was good at drawing, too."

Watermelons on a Saturday Afternoon

“Ideas crowd in on me so much I almost died last year. I’m in prison every night or else running for my life. I can’t sleep. I work with people in prison now and some right out of prison. But this is fun,” said Rembert.

These days, Wifred enjoys his life -- making art, raising a family . . . freedom. He has a gentle sweetness and a kind demeanor that contradict the stories he tells of going AWOL from the Army, escaping from jail, being a trouble-maker, surviving a near-lynching and belonging to a chain gang. “I’ve put all that behind me now,” he says when questioned about his seeming lack of anger and the disparity of his present life and his past. In a special event, Adelson Galleries and Peter Tillou Works of Art present the paintings of Winfred Rembert this spring. The exhibition, taking place April 7 through May 28, 2010, will be Rembert’s first major solo exhibition in New York. It will feature lively painted and carved figures of cotton pickers, pool hustlers, midwives, preachers, dancers and prison inmates prancing rhythmically across the gleaming leather.

Winfred Rembert is illustrator and subject of the book, "Don't Hold Me Back: My Life and Art" written by contributing author, Nikki Giovanni (Contributor)

Stacy Alexander