Spending time in art museums always refills my soul in ways I struggle to verbalize. Seeing paint on canvas, the aging of marble, the intricate woodwork of gilded frames; it all feels somehow, though often centuries old, like a breath of fresh air.
Lusting after this WWII-era lingerie set that men stationed overseas would send to their sweethearts.
Reading The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt and falling in love with his descriptions of Rome and Florence in the 14th century. If you’re interested in humanism, how The Renaissance may have happened, or are a book lover, the main protagonist, Poggio Bracciolini is compelling as a great angle to dissect this amazing wave of art, creativity, and flourishing discovery that emerged from Florence at some point in the late 14th/early 15th century.
Quietly pining for the funds to have a house covered in this Cardiac wallpaper from the Morbid Anatomy Museum. I’ve slowly accepted that if there is a point where funds are available, I will make any abode I have into an ode to all things Gothic and mildly creepy.
Waiting to be home so Logan and I can attempt to make this Nutella and mascarpone torte. (The recipe is in Italian but Google Translate is very handy!)
Loving these flirtatious and forward acquaintance cards from the 1870’s and 1880’s. Young men and women could hand out these business card like pieces of paper which offer to walk women home, introduce men as “kissing rogues”, and serve as ways to circumvent some of the formalities of Victorian norms.
Been wanting to watch this wonderful film, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, for some time! Hopefully I’ll find time in a few weeks.
I may or may not have splurged and gotten myself this incredible Opening Ceremony x Kodak hat because everything else in the collection was way too pricey. My love for Kodak and film will never, ever die.
Laughing out loud at the marvelous James Kerr (aka Scorpion Dagger) and his German Renaissance-based short videos, .gifs, and other creations which he cleverly pairs with 1960’s and 70’s rock/punk/garage band tunes (and from whom I have now widely expanded my musical repetoire). This clever dude also got to do some of the animation for the new The Stooges film Gimme Danger (which I very much want to see).
Mario Badescu’s glycolic foaming cleanser has been helping me keep my skin happy with the transition to colder, dryer winter.
Also finished The Medici Conspiracy, a fantastic book about the complex world of stealing, buying, and selling ancient Roman and Greek antiquities. The authors weave a “whodunit” web of tombaroli (local men who “excavate” tombs) to secretive buyers with Swiss lockers full of stolen goods to curators at some of the world’s most renowned museums, who all work quietly together to make it so that much of the world’s ancient antiquities are gotten by ill, destructive, and horrible means.
A year ago we convened in Seattle to go to a fantastic gig and revel in one another’s company. We ate good food, saw gorgeous art, and had a blast.
My life right now is nothing but writing, reading, editing, eating, and sleeping. I’d rather have it include a Primal Scream show with some good people. C’est la vie. Instead, here’s some pictures of art that we saw in the Seattle Art Museum last November.
Details of Pieter Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents.
When I was making these I realized all the fantastic things I miss when I just see it. The way the horse’s tail is tied in a bow, the way that Bruegel frames the bodies of animals and men alike. The lack of outright blood and gore, but still omnipresent violence and the threat of it everywhere, hemmed in with the most lovely, peaceful looking rooftops and skyline. The sky alone could be looked at for quite some time, in my opinion. The delicate hues of pink, the richness of his browns, the touches of blue, the harshness of the green against the winter village setting, even the cold glint of armor- a wonderful whirlwind.
Last night I spent an evening as I often do: On my computer. However, I found myself falling deep into the Flickr Commons, a sort of collection of archives from various universities and institutions that digitized photographs, documents, postcards, you name it, and put them available for public use.
Last night alone I explored post-mortem photography (a grim Victorian thing that today is not often done), tin types, illustrations of plants, original treaties from various nations- dozens of different areas.
What I posted above are a few of my favorites. Oddly enough, many don’t post actual art collections, with the exception of the Senado Federal do Brasil, which has a massive album of some amazing modern and early modern art. The British Library has one of the best collections of fauna (animal) sketches and illustrations I have ever seen, and I spent hours scrolling through early German, French, and English explorer’s depictions of animals from all corners of the world (early sketches of water creatures are especially interesting- sharks often look more like cats for some reason). The Smithsonian Institution has an (obviously) gigantic collection but images from one person’s diving around Antarctica were really damn spectacular.
If you’re bored (which you shouldn’t be, the world is too awesome for that) I recommend simply starting here: https://www.flickr.com/commons. Go get lost exploring what various institutions and places have collected and then made available to you. Find goofy sketches of extinct animals done by some guy with more imagination than observational skills. Explore orotypes (gold-tinted photographs) from over 100 years ago. Find yourself looking at woolly Icelandic sheep living out their days on that wonderfully bizarre island. Delve into photographs of wealthy people fabulously lounging in repose. Look at images of fantastical buildings from different time periods. Wonder how the hell an archivist delicately handles centuries old documents in acid-free cotton gloves without panicking. Begin a thought train and see where it takes you.
Or, don’t. But bookmark the link because you’ll be glad you did when your plans cancel and you’re stuck at home. Or when you voluntarily cancel your plans because being outside and around people is just too much.
I’m absolutely entranced by both of these pieces. The three pictures at the top are of the Virgin of Guadalupe enconchado piece (enconchado is mother-of-pearl applied directly to the canvas) by Michel Gonzalez from 1698. This style came from Japan, as the Spanish had a trading route with Japan and much of the art and furniture, although meant for Spain, ended up in Mexico!
The other three pictures are from the Virgin of Belan by a Cuzco School artist from around 1710. Obviously she is a very different depiction of the Virgin Mary- hers incorporates Incan and native symbols and styles learned and developed in Peru.
Both of these pieces are in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and I hope to see the enconchado piece! (The Virgin of Belan is not on view right now, gah!)
I find them simple but not wanting for anything. They are entirely whole- there is nothing missing, nothing I want more of. Except for her to do more animals and monsters, as a lot of her illustrations are of people! For some reason how she interprets non-human forms just delights me.
All images hyperlinked to her gallery, go check it out!
I woke up, got on the train, and promptly got lost. I was not in the least surprised, so it wasn’t scary or confusing- I just asked somebody. It wasn’t hard. My lack of a smartphone somewhat handicapped me in the city, and it would have been nice to have a companion that wielded one, but I managed.
I shopped in a Japanese clothing store, found a vegan restaurant to met an old friend for lunch, and then went past the New York Public Library and Bryant Park to the MoMA. The entire time I was eagerly vibrating with this odd energy- I was going to see The Scream.
I cried when I saw it. Something about the culmination of human emotion, desire, abandonment, yearning, desperation, and isolation just hit a chord in my heart. The security guard did not know what to do with this weeping girl standing too close, and gently shooed me behind the taped line on the floor as best as he could. I feel like when some people see or hear others cry, they think, “HOW CAN I STOP THIS I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO MY GOODNESS.”
Later I met up with Anya and Maya, two girls from my Swiss school. We’re all lovely devotees of art- Anya was dressed in a chic black coat, Maya in her typical casual slightly masculine wear that just oozes boss. Anya led me to Soho where we dined on pizza and glasses of house wine. Maya and I split a cab uptown, from which I shot some pictures.
I made a late train home and almost fell asleep. A busy, sunny, slightly windy day that ended up being far more social than I planned (in a good way).
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.
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).
The Dance of Life (showing Munch accosted by Lust while Love waits and decays on either side)
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.
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.
The Kiss- his response to a kiss with an early lover, all-encompassing, overwhelming, but gloriously so.
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).
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).
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
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