Big Pictures: Monumental Art June 25, 2019

Regarding my previous post: There are BIG artists and there are Monumental Artists. My problem is with artists who depend on sensationalist tricks, a la “Brave New World” to bring in the audience.

But, monumental artists are another thing, indeed. Tintoretto, for instance. Or, Basano. But, especially, Tintoretto, whose work can be seen until July 9 at the National Gallery in Washington.

For sheer drama, exciting composition, beautiful painting: Tintoretto has no equal.

Of course, the largest of his works cannot be transported out of Venice, but, what can be, indicates the scope of his powerful vision.

JUNE BUGS: What’s bugging me

June 2-9, 2019 ©Margaret Koscielny

As is my wont in old age, surrounded by art books, 90+ degrees outside, heat index 102 degrees, bored by the continuum of relentless arguments between political irrationalities and climate anomalies, I cast my eyes on a 1980 exhibition catalogue about the artist, Sonia Delaunay, standing proud on my library shelf.

Refreshed by the images which date from the early 1900s, I was jolted by analogies with the work of Frank Stella and even Gene Davis in designs she created for textiles and paintings. There was a design she executed for a neon sign in Paris using a new technology for the first time (1936) which seemed a direct inspiration for Keith Sonnier’s neon pieces and Bruce Nauman’s flashing neon messages. “Zig-Zag” was her title for the sign, and it called to my mind the word play that Nauman engages in, for example, in a piece ensconced on a corner edge of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Sonia Delaunay provided the seed: As usual, the men “ran” with it. (And, maybe, at times, her husband?)

Beginning with a spontaneous appliqué for her baby’s blanket (which is almost a“precursor“ for some of Paul Klee’s “looser” quilt-like paintings), her collages, her designs for Diaghilev’s ballet productions, and the stunningly original geometric configurations which outright point to Frank Stella’s work from the 1960s and 1970s (those white lines between colours, even), Sonia Delaunay’s oeuvre seems ready for a reappraisal in light of her influence on mid-late 20th century art. And, how authentic it is.

It would be revelatory to see her work, now, in an exhibition showing her influence on the men and women who followed her. (Consider Birgit Riley’s striped paintings from the 1960s, for instance.) An astute art historian would find so much more.

Regarding the current art scene, I rely on internet art news and some opinions of New York curators of my acquaintance. It seems to me from this distance, contemporary art is bogged down in regurgitating Dada, mid 20th century installation-performance spectacles, with heavy reliance on “process” art, experimental television, and “cybernated art,” with giant video expositions on global environmental and political affairs. Except, the work is so OUTRAGEOUSLY LARGE, requiring museums to keep designing even bigger spaces to match ego-driven events, funded by Oligarchs of all sizes and persuasions. It pretends to care; it sensationalizes, instead.

The means of making art is as important as the ideas embedded in the means. Currently, “art” looks so much alike. Originality is lost in the race to Celebrity and Monetary Reward.

There was an argument made by a scholar from Columbia University that “Art is dead.” This was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. This was about the same time that an influential historian wrote a book with the title, The End of History. [He later wrote, as a member of the Bush Administration, the legal justification for torturing terrorists captured in Afghanistan.]

Since “God [was] dead,” ca. 1969, I guess we should not now be surprised that the “Earth will be dead in 2050.” Or, at the least, that such an announcement would discourage creative people from coming up with solutions to prevent such a thing.

Well, Professor Fukuyama was wrong about History. Professor Danto was wrong about Art, and, I am quite certain that whatever God is, the Universe is here to stay for some time to come.

So, I propose that artists direct their energies, not to copping past fears, but to solving our social, political, and especially, environmental problems. Refraining from excessive energy drain on the electrical grid with HUGE video and television screens, eschewing global jet travel from art fair to art fair to museum opening to museum opening, and proper disposal of the garbage which they have generated by trying to outsize the next artist’s work might be a place to begin to re-think how, and why, we make art in the first place. (Anselm Kiefer bragging he could paint a picture of unlimited size–of course: But, why?) Let Hollywood make the colossal, the spectacular. And, let me remind you all, that the most powerful works of art are, many times, the smallest on a museum wall.

(Here’s looking at you, Dürer, Vermeer, Watteau, Naum Gabo, Malevich, Braque, Picasso et al.)

Oh, and one essay by Thoreau is worth more than all the Twitters and blogs in cyberspace.

And, one more thought, by way of Nathan Milstein–all those great Russian Jewish violinists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries? The violin was small enough to carry, as you are running from pogroms when you have to leave the country in a hurry. (And, you could earn money playing it when you arrived at where you felt safe.)

Make great art that is small enough to fit in a human hand. Now, that’s a challenge.

PostScript: I do sound curmudgeonly, don’t I. The truth is, I am hopeful about artists of the next generation; the younger ones marching for the environment, registering to vote, and engaged in repairing the failures of past social policies. They use their feet, ride bicycles, eat wisely, and are kind to old ladies, such as I. Some of them, can even draw with their own hands! Imagine that!

My lifelong artistic obsession with light ©Margaret Koscielny, 2019 Images Copyrighted

-Spider webs, dripping with dew, hanging between palm fans, light within, light behind.

-Sunlight shining through tree leaves.

-Broken reflections of trees in dark, blue-tanin-coloured water, transparent, ripples reflecting sky, fish swimming below, among the cloud reflections.

-Refracted light on walls from antique, rolled glass window panes: trees and leaves and shadows, rippling with light and dark shapes.

-Light diffused on children’s faces: seeming to come from within, rather than reflected from without.

-The light inside the house at sunset: the light through the window at sunset.

-The light within the waves at the beach, where the wave curls over to meet the wave before it, the wave behind, rearing up to takes its place in the rush toward land.

-Shadows on sidewalks.

-Shadows on houses, buildings.

-Reflections/refractions of glass-walled buildings: distorted echoes of light.

-The light in the West when standing on the beach, immediately after the sun has set: the light in the East, at the edge of the sea horizon after the sun has set.

-The colour of light at the horizon, under the clouds: the colour of light, above the clouds. In the winter, the horizon is pale-aquamarine; above, a light ultramarine-blue. Two blues in the same sky. The sky overhead, a darker ultramarine. Three blues in the same sky.

-The light within clouds; the light on the edges of clouds; the light “rayning” down from cloud “cover” in bands of shadow and beams of light, like rain.

-Crepuscular light: sun rays behind clouds in late afternoon.

-Etched/engraved light in glass, Plexiglas

-Mirrors

-Auras surrounding heads/hair of animals, humans, ornamental grasses, etc. when the sun is behind the object.

-The light of the sun that strains to be seen on overcast days.

-The difference in light: in New England vs. the light in Florida; the light in Paris vs. the light in Provence; the light in Beijing vs. the light in Hong Kong.

-The reflection of a cloud in the Pacific Ocean off the big Island of Hawaii; the reflections of clouds in Lake Sante Fe, Florida, seen from a low flying airplane.

-The changing light on lakes, rivers and ocean from high altitude while flying.

-The light of unfamiliar stars over the South Pacific : the total blackness of the ocean below, when flying from Argentina to Bolivia.

-The light through crystallized air on tree branches and on marzipan-coloured buildings in St. Petersburg, Russia in December: day and night.

-The light all around on the air approach to Baltimore over the Harbor, late afternoon, with scattered rain showers, large cumulonimbus clouds, broken by shafts of sunlight, reflections on the water: many shades of grey: blue-grey, brown-grey, light brown-yellow-grey haze.

-The light, facing West, in mid-morning, flying over the English Channel at high altitude, the sea, beyond: mixture of every kind of cloud, with rain, fog, incandescence.

-The light within Venice at every time of day.

-The light in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Dry light in Konya.

-The coloured stain-glass light in St. Chapelle, Paris.

-The light, flying south, in clear air, over the ocean at 2500 feet (at the same altitude as the clouds), adjacent to the East coast of Florida, racing rain showers from St. Augustine to Flagler Beach on a January morning.

-A phenomenon of light atmosphere, everything bathed in green light: all-encompassing, bright green mist, seen to the South, while driving west, past Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts on a late Fall day. Only there; only that one time.

No light phenomena (and, each, is a unique phenomenon) are ever repeated in the same way, to the same intensity. At times, it seems light can pass right through me, and I become the light. At other times, it is running away in the distance. Sometimes, it bears down on me like a heavy weight: solid.

The light in, and of, intimate spaces has a completely different quality from the light of exterior spaces. The light at Memorial Park, influenced by the elliptical grassy, central space with its juxtaposition to the open horizon beyond, filled with sky and the immense St. Johns River, liberates! Everyone responds to this unencumbered light space with joy: dogs run after frisbees and balls, ears flapping; children run and chase, laughing; grown men play ball games with the virile energy of competitive exuberance; couples lie in the grass, and read, and love; fishermen watch water reflections for fish ripples, gazing at the tidal movements in the river, children on scooters and bikes chase shadows on the sidewalks, blinking at the sunlight as they approach the Memorial statue with reflections from the river, beyond.

And then, there is the light within a loved one’s dying eye. It blazes, pure aquamarine blue, the light, behind: then, suddenly, a final cloud passes over it, and it is gone. But, the memory remains of the light and how privileged I was to have seen it. And, all the other light of my life experiences.

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Scissor, Paint, and Chisel: Art by Robert Hall and Enzo Torcoletti

October 17, 2017

What do you make of the mature years, in a career as an artist and teacher of your craft?

In Bob Hall’s oeuvre, the culmination of collage-keeping (for that is what artists do: keep and recycle), he has taken what is at hand and has remembered, over a life of seven decades, and he has told us stories about ourselves, our common culture, with both the good parts and the regrettable moments of history.

His narrative, which travels the cut edges of his scavenged images, tells us of ancient languages, wars, vanished civilizations, storms, and the injustices of modern life.He directly addresses the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Northern Africa, the obsession with fossil fuels, and the conquests to control them, with a scolding of our rich society exploiting poor people in foreign lands to increase profits.

How can acrylic/collages do all this? It is the juxtaposition of images which creates the insistent message in each picture. He conflates the violence in our wars abroad with the violence in our country. He “sneaks” as a Gestalt, an image of arms and hands, which seem to be pieces of sculpture until it sinks in that these are human parts, buried in rubble from explosions. He shows us soldiers, “dressed to kill,” juxtaposed with soldiers whose eyes searchingly plead for mercy from mortal wounds.

These are not “pretty” works; a quick glance would only tell you that they are attractively-rendered, and colourful. Technically, Hall has not invented a new way to paint, but, a double-take pulls you into the narrative, which is the most important aspect of his work, and you find yourself searching the pictures, reading the narrative, discovering the reasons you looked in the first place: you have to understand what it means. Hall reveals the dark side of Humanity.

Enzo Torcoletti, by contrast, gives us the other aspect of the eternal, a theme enveloped in forms i would describe as, modern neo-classical. His work suggests; it does not pronounce. It is most always about gesture.

Surrounded on four walls by Hall’s acrylic/collages, Torcoletti has displayed 6 sculptures, made of materials such as wood and various coloured marbles from quarries throughout the country. Each is uniquely rendered, giving us the range of his virtuosity.

The first of these is “Silent Idol,” of grey North Carolina marble. It is a vertical, slender work with alternation of shape and texture: elongated triangles of highly-polished surface, counterpointed with elongated rectangles, roughly striated with horizontal ripples. The apex, emerging from the highly polished “chest” of the figure, is a “head” with a through and through hole: the all-seeing eye of the idol. But, as with contemporary “celebrity-type” idols, one looks into the eye, and sees through the figure, to “nothing.”

All of these works are about 3-4 feet, not monumental, but authoritative in their use of gesture. Torcoletti is a master of human gesture. “Venus Disrobing,” for instance, captures a movement so ordinary, and yet, so universal, that it adds an additional gesture to Classical Venusian iconography.

Made of Vermont, Tennessee and Georgia marble, the figure of Venus stands on a grey-white base of dull finish, with shallow chisel marks on the surface. The figure, itself, by contrast, is a highly polished carving in a warm, flecked, rose-tan stone, with a softly-textured white Georgia marble garment, covering her head and arms, the forms of which which are suggested in the folds. The whole effect is less erotic than tenderly sensitive to human gesture.

A master sculptor sees the possibilities in the material and takes its weaknesses and turns them into strengths. So Torcoletti does with “Ambrosia II,” made ofbeautiful Red Bay wood, in several sections, “split” from the main body of the figure, with the adjacent parts, “fitting” loosely, with dowels; the vertical seams
of each section painted black, to accentuate the line of the figure, which curves, as the human body does in gentle motion. Even the checking of the wood adds to the gesture.

The next piece in the lineup is a modest figure of Indiana limestone with a green marble base. Suggestive of Archaic Greek archetypes, the piece, titled, “Gemini,”
is simple in execution, with a mat surface and vertical drapery dividing the figure in two, reinforcing the doubling notion of the astrological sign, Gemini.

The calm attitude continues in another wooden piece, “Goddess (Eve),”
carved from Sassafras wood. The proclivities and declivities of this figure swirl around the waist (literally, as one can move the upper part), with parts of the figure abstracted into swelling breasts/shoulders, hips, expressing the “power” of a Goddess in proud gesture.

The grain of this beautiful wood, a sienna red-brown colour, recalls the ripples of “wet-drapery,” found on carvings from Greek 5th century BC sculptures. As always, Torcoletti exploits the properties of his material, enhancing the idea.

The only reclining figure, “Fragmented Model,” carved from a beautiful piece of onyx, is not as unified a form as the other pieces. Torcoletti has been limited, as sculptors are, by the shape of the block of marble, to carve a figure whose gesture suggests reclining on her elbows. He follows the grain of the stone, from the neck to the knees, searching out the form, which is a successful one, but the visual intrusion of 2 hard-edged, “L” shaped supports, where elbows would have been, breaks the sinuous line of the piece. Perhaps these were needed as support for the armless female figure, but one imagines, if they were not there, and the balance of the piece could rest on the mid-section of the figure, that the empty space below the chest where arms would have been, would add greater tension and drama to the work.  Perhaps, this is an early work. No dates were given.

This is a stimulating exhibition of two very different artists. The juxtaposition of their work adds to the impact of each one. Reddi-Arts has provided, once again, a chance to see exceptional work by master artists.

 

Advent: a Time of preparation, December 18, 2016

Preparation for the New Year, to continue living with new courage.

Hope is the essence of Advent, this is the time of renewal. Art is the embodiment of hope. Some artists use art to reflect the struggles of the day, but, without the element of hope, art cannot transcend the temporal and become a harbinger for the future.

Art carries within the act, within us, as we experience it, prayers for healing the world’s wounds. The essence of art is a sense of the Whole: a connection with humanity, nature, and ultimately, universal truths, which we can only intuit.

My Advent began with a re-arrangement of my small universe: my home environment which contains meaningful arrangements of decorative boxes, objects, ceramics, glass and pictures. These are changed with the seasons, to keep my mind fresh.   

Today as I put away the past, I chose, subconsciously, things made from many cultures from all around the world, many where I have traveled: Japanese ceramics, Chinese and Korean porcelain, turned stone bowls from ancient Syria and modern Pakistan (where I have not traveled; these were a gift), glassware from Romania (a gift from a young Romanian pianist) and Italy, a Buddhist bell from Thailand (purchased from the Freer Gallery in Washington), a Chinese glass snuff bottle with a painted motif of cranes (a gift to my sister from one of her students).

Cranes also grace my tiny, Korean celedon cup, a symbol of peace and longevity. A feather with a streak of sky blue nestles between small rocks from Mediterranean waters off the coast of Turkey, seated, like imaginary passengers in a small porcelain boat made by a Japanese student I met at the University of Florida, where we made pottery at a student union workshop 15 years ago.

Overseeing these metaphors for peace is a very special manipulated photograph with hand colouring by my friend, the artist, Diane Farris. It was made as one in a series she created after bombings and fires destroyed African-American churches in the South.
It features a church schema cut away, on one side, healing waters flowing around and inside, a lotus leaf, subliminally conjuring the peacefulness of Buddhist thought, with a ghostly iridescent-gold mist, delicate blue grey waves, overall bronze-tinted, tonally, with little contrast except for the outline of the church and its East- facing window. It expresses to me a prayer: perseverance, patience and ultimately, triumph over evil.

Lying near her picture is a portfolio I made, covered with handmade paper, its woodcut design, carved and printed by a Japanese woman master in the 1930s. It contains photographs my German-born father, John Koscielny, made from glass plates in 1925, as he traveled through Norway with his best friend, Harry Berger Nielsen, Norwegian violinist, a fellow student at the Leipzig Conservatory.  Diane Farris made contact sheets for me so that I would have a record of this journey by two friends. Years later, when technology made it possible, I scanned the original plates and printed them on Rives BFK, a wonderful French, handmade paper. These, I collated as a gift for my sister, now deceased. They have come back to me.

The message of all these lovely objects, created with discipline and love of material, is that their integrated cultures are a reminder of our common humanity. We can love one another, respect one another, and celebrate the infinite variety of human expression and religious worship. We are, after all, members of the same family.

Peace on Earth! Good will to all men and women and children, and animals, and the rest of the natural world! Pray for all the victims of war, prejudice, and exclusion.

 

Finished! July 20, 2016

A Portfolio of drawings, pastels and paintings with artist’s statement in the form of a poem: Because, copyright 2002-2016.

After a hiatus following my sister’s death in 2015, I went back to work in the studio this spring, inspired by the suggestion of Diane Farris, the photographer and author, 14 years ago, that I make pictures to accompany the poem and turn it into a book.

Not feeling I have either the resources, or the inclination to make a book of the poem, a box of my design and construction with the poem/pictures in the form of a portfolio, seemed more to my usual mode of working.

The idea of a box is a precious one. A box holds treasures, secrets, tokens, unexpected things. I have boxes of all sizes, made of unusual materials in my surroundings: tiny Chinese boxes made of porcelain, with a single shark tooth fossil, larger ones, made of carved cinnabar, a wooden inlaid one made by my father in 1948 for my grandmother, containing old cracker jack prizes of great ingenuity, Japanese wooden boxes, for porcelain, filled with photographs of loved ones, rattan boxes of beloved correspondences, modern plastic boxes:  my grand-niece’s drawings and letters from earliest childhood to the present, family archives, personal and professional archives, photos, slides, files with ideas for artwork, ceramic experiments, sketchbooks, saved things for collages, such as feathers, shells, dried flowers, antique family baby dresses, lace, and so much more. There are boxes which I made covered with vintage Japanese patterned papers from the late 1930’s to early 1940’s, and, of course, the plexiglas “boxes” [sculptures] which contain the continua of my three-dimensional engraved drawings.

My late friend, Dr. Anwar Kamal, a great collector of art, shared his memory of the box he had as a child in India before Partition. He lived in a village in the Punjab near an ancient archeological site. He and other children played among the deserted ruins where he found “treasures” of porcelain fragments and colourful beetles which he saved. When Partition came and the upheaval of migration forced his family to flee for their lives, he lost that beloved box. An art historian once suggested that the reason people become obsessed with collecting art is because, as children, they suffered the loss of toys or something else precious to them.

I began my box making in graduate school. I suspect the impulse was partly to protect my spirit from what is sometimes the brutal process of higher education. It was, perhaps, a message that said, you may look, but you may not destroy what is my essence.

My latest box, my new portfolio, is opaque, covered in Japanese papers, large (24 x 18), and one must open it and handle, with care, the poem and the drawings. At the age of 75, there is a solid record of my artistic legacy. My essence is no longer in danger. How liberating!

Anne Koscielny, Pianist 1936-2015

A Remembrance: Music and Spirit of a Great Artist

Relevant Links:

You will find recordings of her live performances on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-SnQ-ovD64. There is also an interview on You Tube with her regarding the 32 Piano Sonatas of Beethoven, which she performed in a complete cycle in each of numerous venues throughout the United States over two decades, along with several recordings of her live performances by other composers, such as Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Ravel.

Other links of interest:

http://slippedisc.com/2015/02/sad-news-chopin-semi-finalist-dies/

http://www.music.umd.edu/news/post/1353

http://harttalums.blogspot.com/2015/02/anne-koscielny-passes-away.html

http://www.instantencore.com/buzz/item.aspx?FeedEntryId=79118

http://wnpr.org/post/star-making-machinery
http://wnpr.org/post/music-endure-frozen-tundra

http://www.worldcat.org/title/anne-koscielny-piano/oclc/174509788

 

 

My sister, the pianist, Anne Koscielny, died, February 15, 2015, at her home in Heath, Massachusetts, in the presence of her daughter, Cecile, and me and her gentle health member, Ryan.

She had been diagnosed with incurable glio blastoma brain cancer on her 78th Birthday in May, following an operation to remove a tumor from her right frontal lobe.

Amazingly, she was able to perform a demanding concert in her home for 30 people a month later. However, her choice to have chemotherapy and radiation treatments interfered with her quality of life, and her energy began to decline, steadily, although her brilliant mind never faltered, her memory and sense of humor remaining intact.

Miraculously, she, her daughter, grand-daughter, and her son-in-law and I traveled to France in August. Her joy of being in Paris and Provence was worth all the difficulties associated with wheelchairs, international flights and connections, taxis, restaurant access, museums, and churches. She wished she could stay there, forever. And, so did we.


In her last weeks, when she spoke less often, she had said, in response to me, as I told her daughter I thought Anne was trying to teach all of us how to communicate without words, “That’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”  Of course, that was what she did so well, as a musician, and what I have also dedicated my life to doing as an artist. Listening, and looking, directly, into the eyes of our loved ones tells us much of what we need to know. One must open up silence to give and receive the message.

She gained courage in the face of something she had always feared, with her quest for the “answers” to the mysteries of life, and of death, continuing to the end.

The last few moments were peaceful and, as she took her final breaths, her beautiful aquamarine eyes brightened as she looked, directly, into mine. She was no longer afraid. Her soul passed out of her eyes, peacefully.

It was a sacred moment.

I am grateful for some of the more important lessons my older sister taught me throughout my life. Among these, were proper grammar, how to drive a car, the vast piano repertoire, musical taste in performance derived from listening to the masters of the art. Her greatest lesson was her last gift to me: how to die with grace.

A brief summary of her career follows:

Her career as a pianist spanned several continents: Europe: beginning in Poland, where she was a finalist in the 1960 Chopin Piano Competition, performing with orchestras in Warsaw and throughout Poland; Germany, Italy, Austria, London, England, where she debuted at Wigmore Hall; Brazil, South America; Taiwan, performing with the Taipei Symphony; The Peoples Republic of China; and the United States, where she debuted at Kennedy Center, performed at the National Gallery and the Phillips Gallery in Washington; in New York, where she won the Kosciusko Foundation Award, The Fulbright Award for study in Vienna; performing throughout the United States as a soloist as well as with orchestras, such as the Boston Pops, the National Gallery Orchestra, the Hartford Symphony, and The Jacksonville Symphony. Her perfomances were heard on NPR, as well.

 

She was an celebrated Professor of Music at the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Ct, for 27 years, and, beginning in 1987, at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she was invited to be Artist-in-Residence, becoming a Full Professor there, retiring in 2000.

Her former students came from all parts of the world. Many of them traveled to be with her during her illness, from Asia, Ireland, New York, Washington, Boston, Baltimore, and other cities, regardless of weather. Her colleagues, as well, made the difficult trek to the northwest corner of rural Massachusetts to be there with her, for support, and, finally, for her funeral on February 21, a day which ended in the silence of heavy snow.

She lived her life kindly, and well: a spontaneously joyous (often hilarious), generosity of spirit shared with friends, family, students, and audiences.                                                                                      

Rediscovering French Masters: Corot and Delacroix at the Louvre

 

My grand-niece and I entered a room at the Louvre, looking for another artist, and encountered the galleries devoted to Corot. One thinks one "knows" Corot from familiarity, but instantly, I was struck by how fresh and beautiful his work is, especially, as far as colour is concerned. The architecture of his works, whether landscape, cityscape, or portrait, is so solid, so anchored. I can think of no other artist who can make one feel so confidently paced in space, other than Hans Holbein.

My 14 year old grand-niece was particularly taken with his work, and kept returning to certain pieces, for a second look. It was delightful to notice, as others did, her resemblance to Corot's models. Someone passing by said, "It's enough of a resemblance to be a relation."

I am constantly seeing facsimiles of famous artist's models in contemporary society. From Italian women holding chubby babies in their laps (think Raphael), to young male German tourists, (think Dürer), or, the young girl with dark eyebrows and large eyes at the check-out counter (think Matisse), to the light and colour of landscapes, (Constable), seascapes, (Turner, Monet, Gericault, Delacroix, et al), one is constantly reminded of the special qualities of life and nature artists have chosen to point out to us.

In one of the galleries, mostly devoted to Corot, there were two striking pictures, almost side by side. One, a watercolour study for Gericault's Raft of Medusa, the other, a painting by Delacroix, Orphan Girl in the Cemetery. Both works resonated as we later entered the Grand Gallery and saw the huge painting by Gericault which we could compare with the compositional study seen earlier. And then, Delacroix: The Massacre at Schio, which features a young boy figure based on the Orphan Girl..the painting is especially poignant in view of the atrocities playing out in the Middle East this summer.

With all it's technical flaws, the very monumental painting, The Death of Sardonapolis is still a stupendous picture to look at. The composition is so dramatically different from everything else around it, the drama, or, melodrama so heightened, that one can understand how controversial it was when it hung in the Salon as one of Delacroix's first entries onto the art scene. The other large Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People, held up very well as an iconic image. And, as we left, I glanced at the composition and colour of the monumental David paintings and realized what a leap into the modern world Delacroix had made with his compositions and his colour.

Even with his large overhead mural, Apollo Vanquishing the Serpent Python, 1850-51, in the Apollo Gallery, surrounded by Baroque sculpture and painting from the reign of Louis XIV, he managed to hold his own originality. Because it is a late work, and an official commission, his style is more harmonious with the setting, but loses nothing of the energy of his dramatic composition. The colour is overwhelming, other works in the gallery are dull by comparison. He holds his own, over a 150 plus years later.

There is much still left to learn from the Masters, and still much "unfinished business" of ideas and forms for present and future artists.

©Margaret Koscielny, October 1-2, 2014

 

August___1914: 100 Year Anniversary

"August____1914," the date stamped in red ink on a little pasted paper form, "Date due" at the top. The small volume was "The Georgics," by the great Roman poet, Virgil [b., 70 B.C.,d.,19 B.C.].

Down in the dark of the deserted second subbasement floor at the University of Georgia Library, this 3rd year student was accompanied by a librarian who joked that, sometimes, they caught students "making out" in the stacks, because nobody except librarians came down there to look for anything. It was 1961.

Dr. Harry Carracci Rutledge, Classics Professor wanted me to read "The Georgics" in the original Latin, out loud, to myself, to appreciate the beauty of the original language. The finest teacher I ever had, in any discipline, Dr. Rutledge was the inspirer of my desire to dig deeply into literature, to discover the classical allusions in modern works. His world view as a scholar matched my curiosity about the layers of history which thrust up, like geological extrusions, bringing memory of ancient times into the present. A unified whole of human and earthly knowledge to be discovered.

The poignancy of the date, "August___1914" carried me away to my own grandfather's history. It was the date of German mobilization, and Opa's role, as an Polish Uhlan, in the Prussian Army. It was, also, probably the last generation of young Georgia men to read "The Georgics" in Latin.

Classical studies seemed a bit irrelevant after the carnage of that war. The flower of that age,who studied the subtleties of human knowledge, who strived for a compleat education, was now dead, replaced by tough survivors of the war: materialists, pragmatists, future workers and businessmen. The lessened role of the intelligentsia, the notion that a study of Greek and Latin and other languages was not necessary in a modern world, gripped the American psyche and influenced our education system.

The discipline future leaders of our culture had gleaned from declining Latin nouns, conjugating Latin verbs, the insights from a study of Ancient Greece and Imperial Rome, and, most especially, the joys of reciting Classical poetry was lost in the carnage of The Great War.

I held the book in my hands, and I cried for the all lost young men. And, for our culture.

Copyright, Margaret Koscielny, July 31, 2014

Kindness vs. "Pleasing People"

Above all, I believe in being kind.

Kindness is comfort. All people need comforting. Life is hard: each person suffers. We are equal in this regard.

"Pleasing people" comes from intimidation. It comes from fear. It is a movement into the self; it is the result of maneuvering for self-protection. The need for self-protection is rooted in abuse: mental or physical, societal, cultural, institutional, etc.

Kindness moves outward. Kindness is empathy for the human condition. Some of the kindest people are those who have suffered the most.

Women have traditionally tended toward "pleasing people" because of eons of abuse which have imprinted in the female instinct the need for self-preservation.
There have always been strong women who discerned the difference between actions deriving from intimidation and those which connect one human to another on a spiritual level.

Kindness is strength. Kindness acts come from self-confidence. "Pleasing people" is weakness and comes from lack of self-esteem.

There are times when "pleasing people" and kindness overlap, at least, in appearance. This can be misinterpreted, disparaged, and sometimes taken advantage of by the unscrupulous.

Instincts are spontaneous. Empathy is spontaneous. Le Corbusier one stated: "Spontaneity is the very essence of the human spirit."

Self-esteem is deeply rooted: its expression is transparent to the observer. How to turn the spontaneous action of a woman with low self-esteem into one of confidence is problematic. It requires a continuing effort, therapy, good friends, changed relationships, and different choices of environment.

One simply must change her life and her mind. She must re-condition every aspect of her habits, thought processes, dreams of the future.

The Woman's Movement did not go far enough. It dead-ended into a quest for personal power, but it failed in changing the universal female condition of exploitation and abuse.

WOMEN ARE THE MOST OPPRESSED MEMBERS OF THE HUMAN RACE.

Every woman should commit to changing these circumstances.

WOMEN CONSTITUTE THE MAJORITY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

This is potential power which could change their status as well as change the world for the better.

Some of the ways the current power structure hinders this from coming to fruition
begins with economics as it effects salaries, health benefits, leave time and career advancement. Distractions, such as fashion, cosmetic surgery, celebrity-watching, entertainment themes with dubious role models of actresses and performers feed feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. The focus is on superficial appearances and low expectations, the stock in trade of advertising partnered with corporate, government and institutional intentions of maintaining the status quo of female oppression.

WOMEN MUST HELP EACH OTHER TO FULFILL THEIR POTENTIAL.

WOMEN MUST BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER, AND TO MEN.

And kind men who care make the greatest difference of all.

ⓒMargaret Koscielny, April 30, 2014

 

 

Hiatus on Blogging

This has been a very difficult time for our family with the recent illness of my sister, a noted pianist.

We plan travel in the weeks ahead, to take advantage of the time which will allow us, as a family, to celebrate her life and give her, as well as all of us, hope for a miraculous outcome. Our focus is on the joys of life, love, and the communion of friends and colleagues who have responded so generously, giving their time, traveling great distances to be with her, to cook and to help drive her to treatments.

When malcontents rant that the world is filled with scoundrels, I can only counter with the facts, as we have witnessed: people are filled with empathy and good will towards their fellow human beings when they are in distress. Among the people who have been the most loving and generous are people in the arts: musicians, an artist and an architect, an art curator, several university professors, and former piano students of my sister. Her neighbors have been extraordinarily generous with their time and energy, helping to find the best medical facilities and heath care assistants. Human beings once more rise to the occasion, meeting our expectations of the German proverb our father used to quote: "as you holler into the forest, so it echoes you back." As a teacher, a hostess, a friend, my sister is hearing many beautiful echoes of her life, so well and generously spent for others.

On A Roll!

It's been a month since I last posted, but that is because I have been channeling my thoughts away from writing to the movement from my eyes to my heart to my hand to paper, with pen, ink, scissors and glue.

Paraphrasing e.e. cummings: Springtime is drawing time! So, viva sweet Spring!

My new pictures are large, black and white, and I'm not giving any secrets away until I add them to my web site in the near future. I'm building a show of these with my 3-d drawings (maquettes), plus some new ones which are an extension of my new drawing collages. (With a plan to make them into larger works of a permanent  transparent material.)

It's been a while since I was this excited about my work. I'm taking the advice I gave out in January to elder artists: keep working! You will surprise yourself with break though into new territory, or, perhaps, a refined realization of what you have been too busy to notice, that what you have been doing for the past 50 years had a potential you hadn't tapped into!

Those collages I started making from old work I was throwing away back in 2009, although not directly related to what I am doing now, was a liberation from the past. The new collages have new drawing. The clarity is startling to even me!

Hooray! Back on the roll!

Enzo Torcoletti at the Cummer Museum Sculpture garden

Approaching the Cummer from the West on Riverside Avenue, it would be easy to miss the"frieze" of sculptures by Enzo Torcoletti installed between large square, fluted columns parallel to the street. This is because of the placement of the columns, which obscures his modestly-sized works until one is stopped at the light, or while standing on the sidewalk immediately opposite the configuration. The installation of the works, when approached from a sidewalk intended for that purpose, are somewhat overwhelmed by the weight and scale of the columns plus the heavy lintel overhead, connecting the "façade." But, at least, we are allowed to see the work up close.

The insistence of the architecture does not prevent Torcoletti's works from asserting their authority as works of art. He has chosen pieces, all figurative, which encompass a range of stone material, carving technique, as well as various degrees of abstraction covering his career from the 1960's to the present.

We are treated to the Brancusi-like Embrace, from 1969, with its polished surface of very white marble and shallow carving within a cubic block, which emphasizes the emotional aspects of the idea. This work contrasts strongly, with Upper Nile, from a more recent date. This stunning work is done in a dark grey stone which Torcoletti has carved into a twisting shape, crowned by rough cutting at the top, which flares out from the figure. It is a metaphor for the river, which flares at its entry to the Mediterranean, while darkly mysterious, like the continent through which it flows.

There are a few other figures from early in his career which border on a kind of schema, which tend to look a bit dated compared to his mature work. But, they are mostly from the early phase of a career which has been shaped by steady self-criticism and awareness leading to genuine development of ideas around the subject of human form. One such example of a compleat idea is a dark grey piece which is iconic in form. Compact, with alternating smooth, polished surfaces and rough cutting, this piece has, at its apex, through cutting, suggesting a head with religious meaning. Not necessarily a specific religion, although a cross-shape suggests a face. I found myself thinking of this piece long after I had seen it. This only happens with works that have substance to them.

There are numerous works, here, ranging in various coloured stones, from white to pink, or buff, to red and dark brown, to grey. They are all approximately the same scale, much smaller than the works shown at JMOCA this Winter.

Torcoletti has established a recognizable style without repeating himself. This is most evident with the larger works, not seen here, but there are works at the Cummer exhibit which suggest the broad range of his thinking and technique.

The outdoor exhibit which is open at all hours, free to the public, will be at the Cummer until January 2015.  Do not miss it. It is part of a well-deserved celebration of Torcoletti's work which started at JMOCA in a one man show at the end of 2013, which I have reviewed earlier.

There are a few other artists in this area who also deserve retrospectives at either of the two museums. Jacksonville tends to turn against the past accomplishments of its artists, as well as every good thing invented in the past. As a result, the city keeps trying to "reinvent the wheel," as a sage elder friend describes it. Let us hope that the interest in Torcoletti's work is not diminished, and that it will serve to stimulate more exhibits, perhaps even group shows of other deserving senior artists from the area.

Remarkable Chamber Performances

When was the last time you heard a chamber concert which featured three string quartet ensembles, two string duos and two violin solos with piano accompaniment, while sampling the works of Borodin, Saint-Saëns, Mozart, Vivaldi, Massenet and Shostakovich? And were performed by musicians ranging in age from the teens to the forties?

If you were sufficiently tuned in, you would have heard this concert by the present and former chamber music students of Prelude Chamber Music, Inc, along with three members of the faculty, two of which are members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, at their Annual Patron Appreciation Party at a beautiful home in San Marco, graciously offered by a local music lover as the venue. The home was a perfect setting for what chamber music was originally designed for: an intimate space for 50-75 people with sympathetic acoustic.  

For the past 13 years, senior musicians from the community, along with their colleagues from the Symphony, have been conducting an annual summer day camp
which has drawn musicians of all ages from as far away as Maryland, Brunswick, St. Augustine, and other communities surrounding Jacksonville. In addition to classes where they are coached in chamber performance, students study music theory, history, composition, improvisation, singing, and orchestra. They hear daily special events which feature the performances of "visiting firemen," outstanding musicians passing through the area, the resident chamber group, The Ritz Players, and imported national and international ensembles, such as the Enso Quartet, St. Lawrence Quartet, and, this summer, The Dover Quartet, who give Master Classes and free performances to the public.

This great opportunity for special young people to excel and to grow in their chosen field has provided the foundation for further study at major music conservatories. In the case of minority students, it provides a link to activities which are inclusive and colour-blind. Having watched these students, and, in fact, all of them over several years, I can attest to the steady development of raw talent into serious musicians. It is also an opportunity for older musicians to refresh their skills, while having the pleasure of playing chamber music with their peers.

Now to the specifics. Leading off, the Honors Quartet from the University of North Florida, led by Joseph Henderson, first violin, Julia Sedloff, second violin, Saori Kozawa, viola and Paul Lee, cello, performed the Nocturne from Borodin's String Quartet No. 2. Elegant tone, balanced dynamics, with subtle passion and sentimentality, the group blended with Henderson's tender reading in a gentle launch to the concert. This was followed by The Swan from Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals, with Leah Chappell, cello and her sister, Marie, harp. Leah, a former Prelude camper and graduate of F.S.U. played this favorite piece with sensitive understanding, while her sister, Marie, performed on the harp, creating a sparkled accompaniment like so many trails of water following the path of the swan.

Two faculty, Chris Chappell, violin, and Ellen Olson, viola, both members of the Symphony, performed the Rondeau from Mozart's Duo in G Major, K 423, one of his delightful smaller works which carry so much deep meaning. These two musicians performed together in such a manner that the simplicity of Mozart's music took a natural path to the listener.

This was followed by movements 2 and 3 of the familiar Vivaldi Harp Concerto, performed by three members of the Chappell family, with Ellen Olson, viola. Marie, harpist, is the 15 year old daughter of Chris Chappell, and has, in just a few short years, acquired an excellent technique with the ability to express musicality in a manner beyond her years.

Joseph Henderson, violinist, returned as soloist with the pianist, Yukino Miyake, to play the Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso of Saint-Seans, a standard piece in the violin repertoire, and one that continues to be a favorite of audiences because of the range of feeling with major demands on technique for the violinist. Henderson, who is graced with an elegant, reserved presence, displayed a spirit which plumbed the sweetness of Saint-Sean's composition while meeting the test of the flamboyant, spirited Rondo. Blessed with long fingers and musical taste, Henderson, a graduate of Prelude Chamber Music Camp and currently student at UNF, has steadily developed his talent, leading one to anticipate his successful future in music as he matures and develops his range of expression.

Meditation, by Jules Massenet was given a poignant rendering by Chris Chappell and his wife, Sara, pianist, as a familiar musical offering contrasting with what was to follow with the last movements of the Shostakovich String Quartet No.8 by the Honors Quartet of Jacksonville University. Eagerly and authoritatively led by Edward Latimer, first violin, with Joseph Schmidt, second violin, Jake Campbell, viola, and Joseph Engel, cello, the group exploded with Russian passion, the extreme rhythms and demanding range of sound of Shostakovich's masterpiece driving the music forward toward the final movement, somber, mystical, ending in a whisper of sound. This was an exceptional performance by a well-coached and rehearsed ensemble who have learned how to work together to create a whole musical experience. One hopes there is a future for this quartet of young men who play so well together. As individual musicians, there is no doubt that they will be successful, but one hopes that there will an opportunity for them to continue as a group, as they seem to have the necessary chemistry to continue as such.

To contribute to tax deductible scholarships for Prelude Chamber Music, Inc., please visit their beautiful web site, at http://www.preludechambermusic.org or write the director, Jeanne Majors at majorkey@bellsouth.net for further information.

More Questions for Artists:

What is it about your work which could change how people view the world? Or perceive? Or think?

Do you draw every day? Why do you draw the way you do? What are you after in your drawings?

What materials have you chosen? How do you use your material in ways that no one else has used them? Have you discovered new materials to make art not used in the past by anybody else?

What earliest memories do you have which directly feed the way you perceive the world, use material, and provide the focus of your life's work? How has your environment shaped your art?

What contribution have you made to art which no one else has done before you?

What do you hope to accomplish for yourself? For Art?

Toward A New Paradigm For Art

Re-reading art critical writings, such as Clement Greenberg, Rosalind Krauss and others from the the 1950's to the 1980's, is a reminder for this artist of how much our contemporary situation has changed because of the digital revolution connected with the growth of global capitalism.

From the instant shock we experienced as we first viewed Earth from the Apollo Mission and realized that there were not boundaries between countries, that we humans were alone, and together, on one Planet, we have created a cybernetic linkage throughout the world through the Internet. All this, in less 30 years!

During this time, the Earth has suffered struggles between International Capitalism and cultures locked into religious and tribal patterns, which due to lack of universal education and the enlightenment which follows, have not created modern technology to assist their economic, social and agricultural needs. At a disadvantage, their natural resources and people have been exploited, their economic systems overwhelmed by foreign products, and their political self-determination undermined by corrupt alliances with Multinational Corporations and military interventions.

These cultural struggles have generated wars, displaced whole populations, racial and religious persecution, with individual and collective acts of dramatic destruction.

With Globalism has come Totalitarian Capitalism: the "new world order" promised by former President George Herbert Walker Bush at the end of his term. In 1990, a full ten years before the Millennium, the new term, "Globalism," reverberated throughout mass media, even appearing in fashion magazine articles. It all sounded so wonderful! Multiculturalism was also part of the "new world order" as a component of what turned out in the end, to be a reaching for a larger global consumer market.

Globalism was, and is, a planned order of consumption, with cheap manufacturing, marketing, profits and more consumption in an "endless" loop. Sustainability be damned! The tragic consequences to the Earth environment, human and animal health is shared by Art Institutions. Nearly everyone now serves the hegemony of the Totalitarian Capitalist model. It takes great will power to avoid the lure which drags even artists into the maelstrom of Materialism with its rewards of possible fame, celebrity, wealth.

Through global interconnection, art fairs, world class museums in so-called developing countries, the art world is exposed to diverse expressions by artists whose originality is derived from their individual cultures. But, like the world music movement, such art is threatened with a homogenization that eats away at the moral, religious and social meanings behind the work of these artists.

This is the effect of business models of production which have crept into Art Institutions which have embraced a system dependent on marketing. The Art Tradition which was formerly dependent upon connoisseurship and educated eyes which provided  filters that refined the search for important talent has been replaced by a demand for easily identifiable images which can be marketed via the web.

This unfortunate state of affairs has extended to museums which have allowed themselves to become dependent upon corporate sponsorship and Trustees who come from the corporate world: a world which does not tolerate challenges to its power. A mindset which is built on mass exploitation is not going to be amenable to Art which challenges the system which the Trustees represent: the sacred role of Art to nurture the individual spirit while revealing the flaws in contemporary society.

This situation is enough to create despair among the cognoscenti, the artists, experts, serious collectors, critics and museum curators, but not, thank goodness, to discourage the Brave, who labor on in search for meaningful art, keeping their integrity and moral values intact, not catering to vapid consumer tastes.

Grand themes still exist in Art. There are still artists, such as Richard Serra, who creates work which uses and reflects the cosmic laws of physics. There are those who celebrate the natural world, such as James Turrell, the poets who walk the mountains and forests, such as Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy, expressing human awe over those cosmic forces which can be experienced in the visible world. Through mathematics, the order which it represents, the logic of a unifying idea is used by Dorothea Rockeburne to create work that expresses the ideal of a moral, transcendent Universe.

So, ART IS NOT DEAD! The banalities of Warhol, Koons and the empress-without-clothes, Marina Abromovic, are worn out. Warhol's values are passé. Koons has none, and Abromovic is a pathetic object for the admiration of libidinous men of a certain age. Art has a greater purpose than merchandise for the jaded, the bored and the visually ignorant with too much money.

The Corporate "muzak," giant video installations of meaninglessness in major museums, provide backdrops for the artistically bankrupt. A new paradigm is needed for genuine artists and their audiences to provide the spark which can ignite social forces to combat ersatz-entertainments-masquerading-as-art which dull the senses, sap the spirit, and render audiences passive. Trusting one's eye, the viewer, the curator, the critic, is led toward those artists who have the power that comes from insight to make Art which causes us to question and to act. History assures us of this.
 

 

New Paradigms for artists

A challenge to artists: when you have your next exhibit, request a notice be posted stating that a percentage of the artist's net income from sales will be donated to charities and foundations for the benefit of society. Such charities can be for aid to sick or indigent elder artists, food banks, health foundations, animal rights and health organizations, reading programs for children and adults, environmental organizations, etc. If you can't afford this, let your patrons know you will be volunteering for a service organization on a regular basis.

By doing this, you send a message: artists are not doing what they do for money. They are doing it because they care about the world they live in and the world they want to leave behind. It is their Art with which they aspire to change the status quo for the better. Take Materialism out of the process. Disarm the corporate-business model, the one that promotes celebrity and wealth at the expense of ideas and social welfare.

Such an action could have a ripple effect. Collectors could also match the donation of the artist, on the spot, and double the contribution to those worthy causes. And, self-interest is not likely to suffer: tax- deductions for everyone.

Artists should live their Art. That's the ethical and moral imperative.

Questions for Artists

What is Art for?

What moral responsibility does an artist have?

What obligation does an artist have to create art with ethical and moral values?

What exemplary model for the whole society can an artist create as a paradigm?

Which path to Art would you follow, as an artist? Van Gogh"s or Andy Warhol's?

As an artist, how do you see yourself?

Is Art just another job?

Please feel free to comment. These are not just rhetorical questions. And, they are not easy to answer.

Works in Progress

The lack of posts in the past few weeks is not due to lack of thoughts, or ideas for posts. It is because I can't walk, talk and chew gum, figuratively speaking. When I go into art-making mode, it's hard to express myself in words. It seems I have two sides to my brain, as an ambidextrous person, which work well together in some activities, but not when I'm deeply involved in making art, which requires my whole self.

But, stay tuned, as I am percolating some thoughts which riff off of some I have already expressed here in earlier posts, regarding the state of art, now.

A serious art critic friend of mine in New York sourly expressed that it was very discouraging that there was too much to deal with in the current art scene. I have my theories, and some of the New York Times critics have theirs. I think we are all trying to direct the discussion toward more seriousness and away from so much commercialization and corporate-sponsored stuff. So, stay tuned. I'll be back with some more ideas, soon.