Category: Odds & Ends
Monday, January 23, 2012
From Murder and Mayhem to Art
A new era of photojournalism was spawned in the late 1930’s when one photographer saw crime scenes a little differently. Arthur Fellig - known famously as “Weegee” - developed his own brand of noir-style photography that is still celebrated and studied today. A recent New York Times article details the extensive collection donated posthumously and subsequent exhibitions of Weegee’s photographic works at the International Center of Photography. During his time Weegee’s work was entwined in his exuberant persona. He often reached crime scenes before his competitors, sometimes before even the police. This speaks to the connections he forged in the neighborhoods long before the era of texting. The most poignant description of Weegee’s work in the Times article, which elevates it above simple, shocking exploitation is this: “Tellingly, one of his first acts of genius was not to focus only the events themselves — although his images are certainly strewn with bodies, crushed automobiles and the like — but on the people hanging out of windows or peering over rooftops for a better look, who mirror and encourage our own undisguised interest.” In capturing the most gruesome parts of life, Weegee managed to point a finger at humanity.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Satire at the MOMA
An exhibition currently up at the MOMA, Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to Levine, showcases the artists’ use of satire over the centuries. While the exhibition does include 20th century artists, it appears the majority of the works are older, some dating back to the 17th century. The writer of the NY Times review argues that satirical works do not hold up to history since the potency of the subject matter is diminished to the audience. What do you think, are the artworks still relevant in their own right or should they have curated a more contemporary show?
Friday, September 30, 2011
Microsavings Helps Dressmaker in Kenya
This article isn’t about art in the traditional sense, but I think tearing up old dresses and repurposing them into new dresses requires skill and creative vision. That’s what former prostitute turned businesswoman and single mom Jane Ngoiri has done. Ngoiri, who is from Kenya, was locked into a cycle of poverty. After being taught about the concept of “microsaving” (putting tiny amounts away on a regular basis) and being guided to use the money to get a business loan, Ngoiri was able to eventually buy a house in the suburbs and provide quality education to her children. Truly inspiring. For those that want to help, you can even send your old dresses to Ngoiri via the address herein.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
White House Displays Evocative Rockwell Painting
Norman Rockwell, one of the founders of Famous Artists School, used his platform as an illustrator to convey messages of justice and equality. One of his most powerful pieces, “The Problem We All Live With,” makes a bold statement about civil rights. It depicts the first African-American student to be integrated into a white school, young Ruby Bridges. In her pristine white dress with her head held high, Bridges is seen walking to school with three escorts. On the wall behind her the most inflammatory of racial epithets and a splattered tomato. According to this article, the real Bridges, who is now 56, began asking President Obama last year to include the painting in the White House’s temporary collection. Reportedly, when Bridges visited the White House to see the painting Obama said to her, “I think it’s fair to say that if it hadn’t been for you guys, I might not be here, and we might not be looking at this together.” That Rockwell’s painting is now hanging in the highest office in the land, being contemplated by our first African-American President, is indeed a testament to the power of art and the healing power of time.
Thursday, September 01, 2011
Small Changes Can Be Radical Shifts
Often when I’m looking at the paintings of old, I find it hard to understand how or why they were controversial or notably different from other works of the same era. Artwork of centuries past, by today’s standards, hardly appear controversial, but put in their historical context they take on a much deeper meaning. One can more easily grasp the influence a work may have had on a population if they understand the times and tides of the era. This article about a current exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art called “Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus,” discusses how Rembrandt’s choosing to paint Christ as more ethnic and human, was a radical move. As it states, “Jesus was, of course, Jewish. But few artists emphasized his ethnicity, or his humanity, as frankly and directly as Rembrandt did… By changing the face of Christ, he redefined the grand religious narrative scene as a quiet, emphatically human moment.” Strangely, Rembrandt said his depictions of Jesus were “done from life,” causing confusion among viewers. Experts believe he simply meant that he had painted using a live model. Then again, if anyone were privy to a divine visitation, it most certainly could have been Rembrandt.
Monday, August 22, 2011
In Case of Emergency - Smash Glass and Grab the Rubens
Fascinating article in the Washington Post about how the curator of the National Gallery deals with choosing works for a disaster scenario. Since 1979 works have been stored in special emergency boxes. This requires the curator, Andrew Robison, to rank the works according to importance. Here’s how he decides:
“To merit inclusion in the box, each work gets a thorough going-over by Robison’s team. The first criterion is aesthetic: Is it pleasing to the eye, well-made in both concept and execution? Next, historic: does it say enough about when it was made and who made it? Of all the moments of human history to which art can transport us, is this one worth remembering? And then he has a more nebulous but convincing factor that Robison merely calls “power.” Of all the things that could be demonstrated with lines on paper, does this — through imagery alone — have a pronounced psychological impact? Does it change minds, just by viewing it?”
Admittedly, this is a subjective task, which begs the question - what criteria would you choose?
Monday, August 15, 2011
Record Museum Attendance for Graffiti Exhibition
Over 200,000 people attended the L.A. Museum of Contemporary Arts’s “Art in the Street” exhibition last month. According to an article in the NY Times it’s the highest attendance of an exhibition in the museum’s history. It would be interesting to see the average age of the attendants. I’m guessing there was a large showing of 20-somethings who were raised with graffiti/street art movement that began with Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Both those artists, along with contemporary favorites like Banksy, had works in the show. Because a large part of street art relies on documenting the work, many celebrated filmmakers were also included in the event. It seems a controversial art form is finally getting its day in the sun.
Friday, May 20, 2011
Scientific proof for what we already knew: art makes us happy!
An article in Britain’s Daily Telegraph presents the welcome but unsurprising news that looking at beautiful paintings can actually have a direct effect on our brains—equivalent to that of looking at a loved person. It’s always nice when science supports our intuitive knowledge, but it’s no surprise to learn that the perception of beauty can actually be measured.
And if looking at art can produce a positive effect, making art can surely do the same. Our Famous Artists School students tell us that they get enormous pleasure from their work in the Course. We may not have a scientific study to prove it, but the letters and phone calls we receive are testimony enough. So, if you’re looking for a “pick-me-up”, try art!
Friday, May 06, 2011
FAS graduate reflects on her experience
It’s always such fun to hear from our graduates, both recent and not-so recent. Nancy Sauer completed her Master Course in March of this year; she agreed to let me post her remarks here in hopes they would inspire prospective students. She writes:
“I am so happy I made the decision to take [the Course] and that I persevered and finished it. It took me longer, probably, than most students because of working full time; I had to work my art periods in whenever I could.
“Hank McLaughlin was such a wonderful instructor for me! On each new project, I felt overwhelmed and didn’t see how I was going to be able to do it. He was always so encouraging and I always felt so much better when I’d get my assignments back with his excellent critiques and feedback. I appreciated the fact that I was given strong critiques. I’ve taken other “correspondence” courses in which instructors were always telling me I was doing everything just great, and I don’t feel I learn from that.
“All sections of the books were so very helpful and will be a valuable resource for me to refer to. I am going over the assignments now and seeing so much I hadn’t taken in before.
“Thank you again for the greatest course I’ve ever had!”
Thursday, April 14, 2011
What’s in your attic?
There’s currently a trend among museums large and small to plan exhibitions featuring works drawn exclusively from their own collections—as opposed to mounting shows that depend heavily on loans from other museums. There are economic factors at work, of course: loan shows can be very expensive (for insurance, transport, etc.), and many museums are facing the prospect of declining endowments and the disappearance of deep-pocketed donors. But a number of museum directors and curators believe there are positive aspects to this trend. The director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York points out that focusing on the museum’s own collections is a good thing. Other directors echo the feeling that the permanent collections are the soul of museums. On the other hand, some curators feel that a show drawn from the collection will of necessity have gaps, and therefore can’t offer a comprehensive look at an era or art movement.
Recently, the Guggenheim Museum in New York staged two back-to-back exhibitions featuring many of the same works. Supporters feel that a little repetition is worthwhile, if it means seeing the collection more frequently. Other institutions, like the Museum of Arts and Design and the Studio Museum in Harlem, have presented their collections in small thematic shows, rather than just exhibiting highlights. The Cincinnati Art Museum brought out many of its unexploited holdings last summer and mounted nine small shows that highlighted different parts of the country. The results were gratifying: museum attendance increased by 30 percent.
Blockbuster exhibitions may well return as the economy improves. But for now, works that had been languishing in storage have been dusted off and had their moment in the sun.