Currently: Scrambling to write something worthwhile

dwight_coffee

I’m currently in a graduate seminar about museums and collecting. It is difficult, stressful and somewhat overwhelming. However, I relish the challenge.

We have been put with the issue to write about a topic that isn’t very well researched, and I’m writing about something that I feel very strongly about both as a scholar and non-scholar.

I have been to the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Met (not the Hermitage yet, damn your distance, Russia!). ALL of these museums are overwhelming and too large, in my opinion. They are bulky and saturated with art. The average visitor will never be able to see even a significant portion of the collection, and is automatically defeated. How can the visitor cope with this, and how can the institution in question re-focus itself?

I personally felt exhausted by the Louvre, anxiety ridden in the Uffizi, and completely blown away but intimidated by the Met. I decided to do my own research and find the pieces I wanted to see beforehand at the Uffizi (Caravaggio’s severed Medusa head!) and while I didn’t get the chance to do this for my other museums, I felt it helped immensely. However, it is still problematic for the average visitor to NOT feel so overwhelmed by the prospect of visiting the Louvre.

Can you really say you’ve been somewhere if you saw less than 1% of it? That’s like saying you’ve been to Chicago because you landed in the airport there once. You have barely touched the surface, and this sort of illegitimacy in your experience, lack of quality and the definite impossibility of ever conquering or seeing a large portion of something can be somewhat sad.

Basically, I think this is an unspoken issue that a lot of museums, scholars, and boards ignore. That museums are wondrous libraries of visual wealth, but that their accessibility in that wealth is somewhat pointless if it’s impossible to realize for the average person.

Basically, I feel like Dwight pouring hot coffee on himself when I walk into these places because THERE ARE SO MANY THINGS AND FEELINGS AND I WILL NEVER SEE THEM!

Cristo Velato by Giuseppe Sanmartino

0563B_ 014 il_cristo_velato_giuseppe_sanmartino_I am an atheist, but I’ll be damned if religious imagery doesn’t get me every time. You can’t not sigh in front of Giotto or be mesmerized by Grunewald (which I will do a post on soon, he’s so fantastical) or just sort of wonder how Michelangelo did what he did (research suggests he had autism or Asbergers, which may have affected the way that he created how he did).

I didin’t know that Italian sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino existed until recently.  I saw Cristo Velato (Veiled Christ) and immediately wanted to know more.

There fact that this guy was able to make this out of MARBLE?! Blows my mind up to where space and earth combine. I can’t handle thinking about how he created such a masterpiece. The crown of thorns at Christ’s feet, the nails used to keep Him on the Cross- there is an emotional connection here that even those of us who don’t believe in anything “after” that means something.

This is High Baroque marble sculpture, so no doubt Sanmartino was influenced by people like Bernini, but he holds his own in making us really believe that the marble is cloth.

 

 

Objects in the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

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I miss museums and spaces full of objects. I’ve felt overwhelmed by my own objects recently. I like a space like a museum or a gallery where I can spend as much time among these gorgeous things as I would like, but at the end of the day I can part without feeling responsible for their fate. I am so scatter-brained that I lose my own things all the time and so museums take away that stress of losing or forgetting things (I’m on my 3rd pair of gloves this winter already).

Here are some lovely things I found myself entranced by. There were many more objects that I’m not showing but their lovely American portrait section unfortunately is a dark space that my camera couldn’t handle (I love portraiture, hands and mouths especially).

My love for Edvard Munch intensifies.

edvard_munch_danceoflife

The Dance of Life (showing Munch accosted by Lust while Love waits and decays on either side)edvard_munch_scream

The Scream- considered a possible drawing of a human soul, inspired by a bloody sunset on a bridge, also a culmination of anxiety and fear.edvard_munch_seperation

Seperation- a lithograph where the memory of one of his lovers pervades as hair over his shoulder on the shore of his summering place in Norway, probably.edvard_munch_the_kiss

The Kiss- his response to a kiss with an early lover, all-encompassing, overwhelming, but gloriously so. munch_ashes

Ashes- Edvard often felt “used” by women, drained by them (this inspires his “Vampyr” series, where life force is taken by various lovers, particularly Tulla, an obsessive wealthy girl who stalked him all over Europe). munch_self_portrait_1895

Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm- Edvard would put fetuses, skeletons, and corpses in the borders of some of his prints, which I love.

Growing up in Kristiania, which is now Oslo, to a fiercely religious father and a sickly mother, Edvard Munch watched his family succumb to sickness, death, and insanity. His mother slowly wasted away, his best friend and dear sister Sophie died (he kept the chair she expired in for the rest of her life), and his sister Laura descended into madness and schizophrenia. His Aunt Karen, his father, and his youngest brother and sister lived on but forever in debt, living in more and more decrepit apartments.

Edvard was a master drawer, and very creative, but plagued with depression and bouts of extreme sickness. Because of his father’s religious beliefs, he from an early age recalls thinking about how he would surely perish and end up in Hell. He also never managed to escape the idea of love/intimacy with being sinful- making every relationship with women he ever had doomed.

He would starve for days to afford paint, and in the papers he was known as Norway’s most infamous artist, hated and feared. He “disgraced” his family and eventually moved between Oslo, Berlin, and Paris, borrowing money and drinking all day, creating gorgeous paintings laced with his common experiences with death, sickness, poverty, and emotional twists and turns that we could only barely portray.

Munch was a genius in how he showed his ideas- they are universally understood. Where other artists followed symbols and color ideas, Munch just painted how he felt. And it’s so easy to feel exactly that- grief, exhaustion, terror, anxiety.

The intense psychology and the influence he exerted later on the Die Brucke movement in German Expressionism has spawned some of my favorite art- free of “rules” and expectations, but uninhibited, active, and gorgeous, in oft unsettling ways.

He is the ultimate master of manipulation. I feel loss of innocence, terrible guilt and immense sadness when I look at his things.

Only a few short months until I will be in New York to stand in front of The Scream, where I am totally sure I will weep a bit- Munch’s things are so saturated, I don’t believe I could help myself (I’ve only cried in front of Guernica, Picasso’s huge canvas, and Seurat’s Bathers before. The list will grow).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Or, that crazy Flemish guy)

Dull Gret

Dutch Proverbs

The Fall of the Rebel Angels

Massacre of the Innocents

Tower of Babel

I love it when an artist has clearly staked out a niche, and then makes it entirely their own. The works of Pieter Bruegel the Elder are fantastic in this way- he has a formula, and he has made it near perfection, but flexible enough that he can warp the typical scene- a landscape with many figures and lots of action and perspective- into whatever surreal experience he wants us to feel.

He was a “Flemish Renaissance” artist. What that means is that he lived somewhere in the Southern  Netherlands or Northern Belgium and spoke a dialect of Dutch particular to the area. Flanders was a big trading city and usually occupied by the Spanish or other invaders. This meant, however, that it was possible for many artists and forms of art to trickle in because of the outside influences as well as a result of their trading status.

Regardless, Bruegel is a badass. I love his scenes- they’re like Hieronymous Bosch with their creepy vibes trickling into our blood and sort of making us wonder what was going on in his mind. I love his attention to detail, and while it can be exhausting going through his paintings it’s because everything is vibrant and pulsating with energy. Even the peasants painted far off ice-skating on a winter day make you want to be there.

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

All the gilded things

 

I’m not religious, but there is something about the various jeweled illuminated manuscripts that, although they are not secular, are simply gorgeous. The craftsmanship to create one of these is staggering, and the beauty that they exude cannot be matched.

Oh yeah, and they’re gaudy. They’re very gaudy.

I just got done completing my GRE- oh, what a joy it was! I am being sarcastic to the extreme, but it does feel satisfying to see the light at the end of the undergraduate tunnel at last. It’s still far away but closer than it has ever been.

Books as follows:

1. Lindau Gospels, c. 860 CE

2. Codex Aureus of St. Emmarum, c. 870 CE, possibly from same workshop as Lindau Gospel

3. Book of Gospels, Northern France, c. 860 CE

The impossible things are often the most beautiful

Vladimir Tatlin’s Momunet to the Third International might be one of my favorite non-existent pieces of art.

It is considered technically impossible to assemble in the state Tatlin sketched it in. It was meant to be taller than the Eiffel Tower. It was meant to show the aspirations of the USSR, and define the age of modernity, among other things.

Is it a sad thing that Tatlin’s dream structure cannot actually be built? Or is it beautiful that we can imagine it and sort of bask in the wonders of the human mind, in all the far fetched and delusional thoughts, plans, and wants?

William Hope’s spirit photography: Creepy things

 

William Hope supposedly was able to capture spirits whilst taking your portrait. Do I believe that? No, I do not- by the early 20th century I think dark-room manipulation was advanced enough that Hope could have easily made fraudulent positives for his customers.

Nonetheless, they give me the most delightful chills.

Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

There’s something so terrifying and gorgeous about Klimt’s work.

All of it has these seeping tones of sensuality, but The Kiss is still an ultimate favorite. People all over the world know this painting, and it is one of the most popular images from art history anywhere.

What I love about it is the uncertainty of what’s going on. Is he kissing her, about to push her off the precipice her feet so delicately grip? Is he saving her, comforting her, or forcing her into this embrace? What happens to the characters Klimt paints is really up to the viewer. Right now, as it goes in my life, the precipice is the future. It’s the next step, and these gorgeously painted creatures know no more about it than I do.

 

The Kiss

Edvard Munch doesn’t really circumvent anything. He goes right for what he’s feeling- betrayal, heartbreak, being misunderstood, isolation, narcissism. His art speaks volumes and it’s full of mysticism and outright feelingThe Kiss has been one of my favorite works of his for a very long time- it’s right up there with his The Dance of Life.

There’s something so brooding about Munch’s work that I relate to. The simplicity of what he’s feeling is so obvious, but there are also many layers one can look for in this blatent display of emotions. What was the catalyst? What are the consequences? What are the implications of looking at this work this way?

The Kiss can be interpreted in many different ways to me. It shows how a kiss can momentarily combine two anatomies into one, or it can show, if you want to be dark, how emotions and expressions of such can feel imprisoning and claustrophobic- this kiss has implications beyond just the shared embrace. The Kiss can also be looked at in the two ways Munch showed it- a moment of being bare to the person you are kissing, or a moment of modesty and false promises. A clothed person could be hiding more.

In this way, Munch’s obvious emotions really just create more questions than answers. I love his works more than words could ever try and express.

Bryan Pearce: The most amazing artist you’ve probably never heard of.

Flowers on the Windowsill

St. Ives from the Cemetery

St. Ives from Fernlea Terrace

One of my Art History professors in Switzerland, Dr. Brian Stanford, taught a class on how art and the brain work together. We studied people who end up with  unorthodox circumstances and how their art is different from classical ideas of “art” and accomplished art.

Bryan Pearce, a Cornwall native, was born with Phenylketonuria, which resulted in his brain not developing normally. As a result, his art has amazing perspectives, use of color, and the most naive, gorgeous landscapes I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been lucky enough to personally see his work (I didn’t make it to the Tate when I was in London) but emotionally it is somewhat unsettling in a wonderful way.

What’s amazing about Mr. Pearce is that he began exhibiting regularly and remained an artist his entire life. He was England’s most famous naive artist, and with his disease he lived to the age of 77– something almost unheard of! Luckily, because he started working and exhibiting in his 30’s, there are many prints and paintings of his that exist (prolific artists are the best- they have so much to show).

University starts tomorrow, CHE?!

I’m trying to be cool like this cavalier about school.

I’ll be a senior in college, I’m taking wicked courses, my apartment and the lovely people in it seem pretty swell, and although I have yet to get my shit together enough to pump up my bike tires, I think everything is going pretty swell.

Plus, I’m taking a class ALL ABOUT medieval art. We’re talking warped perspective, amazing use of color, really crazy creativity mixed with amazing uses of repetition. I love medieval art because it seems to be so bland but then BOOM you find a manuscript with illustrations of a tree with penises in it in gold leaf.  Yes, you read correctly. The medieval period is honestly of the most unique and awesome times in all of history. I love it.

I hope all you cool cats are going to have a lovely fall! I hear thunder, and I hope the coming storm is marvelous. Challenges are going to abound in many ways but I think that if I can get myself organized and prioritized I can handle whatever comes.

Image source: Wikimedia

What does $120,000,000 mean?

Yesterday at Sotheby’s, Edvard Munch’s pastel on board “The Scream” sold for a whopping $119,900,00.00 dollars, to an anonymous phone bidder.

At the most expensive art work ever sold at auction, what does this mean? Why is “The Scream” worth so much? I know that many (superior) websites and blogs have already written about this, but as a vehement fan of everything Edvard Munch, “The Scream” especially draws my attention.

1. It’s the last copy of “The Scream” available !

There are four editions of Munch’s “Scream”- three are in Norweigan museums. Rumors that a family in Qatar purchased the final pastel and board “Scream” are of course, just rumors, but it means that possibly the final “Scream” will be available to those outside Norway. (Unless the anonymous phone bidder was another Norwegian!) Basically, once this “Scream” is gone, there won’t be another coming up for bid unless the Norwegian museums become extraordinarily strapped for cash, which I doubt will occur.

2. This piece is iconic.

This doesn’t really need to be said, but it needs to be emphasized. “The Scream” ranks up with Da Vinci’s “The Mona Lisa” as far as pop culture influence goes. Everybody knows it. Too bad that Munch didn’t live to see his piece become so wonderful. Munch himself was a depressed man who died alone just before Norway was liberated in World War II. His life is punctuated by death, tragedy, and general melancholy. It’s a rare masterpiece by a fantastic Expressionist artist, something to be treasured more for it’s breakthrough technique and feeling rather than just for it’s popularity in our culture.

3. The name says it all.

Artists are a brandthese days. “I own a Matisse still life”, or “Yes, well this is a rare Goya that we have here!” are things that people like saying. Paintings by well known artists, especially good paintings, are harder and harder to come by, as they’ve been mostly snatched up by museums or private collectors. The opportunity to own a Rothko, a Picasso, or even a Munch is not one to be missed. Most of the masterpieces, from the Renaissance onward, are gone, and with them the chance to own a priceless piece of art. Every chance that is there must be seized, so to say.

4. Art is an investment (and a status symbol).

Since the 1990’s, art has been a solid investment of capital. Art prices have not been dipping, and while sometimes at the annual auctions with Christie’s and Sotheby’s the estimates end up being more than the final bid, art has been a winner for a solid 20+ years now. If you have the money, and you want the prestige, art is a perfect place to go. Corporations these days are even beginning to invest in art- notably Deutsche Bank, which has amassed an impressive collection and even gives tours of it’s collection.

5. Money doesn’t really seem to matter to some.

If you can pay $120 million for a piece of art, what can’t you buy? The art market in the last 20 years has underlined the fabulously wealthy and their want for some legitimacy in the world. Russia’s explosion into the art market,  Middle Eastern money, and South American and Asian dealers and elite are all vying for the few pieces that are worth buying, because the price is worth the class that comes with it. If you own eight homes, drive whatever car you fancy, and money is no object, picking up a fabulous piece at an auction seems almost compulsory.

My take on the auction: Money doesn’t matter, clearly, but I hope that whoever purchased “The Scream” makes it available to the public for at least a little while before it becomes cloistered in a private collection. If the bidder were to even let it tour a few major museums first, well, that would be most excellent!

I feel that the significance of “The Scream” was missed a bit, that perhaps sensationalism and rarity drove the price upward rather than the sheer talent that Munch possessed. “The Scream” was first created in 1892- an incredibly early date for such a modern, non-representational piece. It’s pure Expressionism, and much more abstract for it’s time than anything produced in the 19th century. Decades ahead, Munch’s “The Scream” has given the art world a look into his brilliant, tormented mind. I really hope that the significance of the piece isn’t lost on the bidder.

Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross

Writing a paper, studying for an exam, listening to Eurotrash, consuming Red Bull.

I leave you with a detail from The Descent from the Cross, by Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden. This piece is in the Museo del Prado in Madrid- seeing it at the time I didn’t understand how gorgeous this painting is. Even though I’m an atheist, I can appreciate the emotion, and the haptic feelings here in this piece.

Also, look at that blue! Egads! For being painted in 1435, this work sure blows my mind.

Ciao, I’m off to write about Miriam Schapiro and feminist art!