October 23, 2010
Peter Paul Rubens, "The Allegory of Peace" 1629-1630, Oil on Canvas, 78"x116", National Gallery London
A while back I spent some time reading a nice little book by Phaidon on the artist Rubens by Kristin Lohse Belkin. In it I was struck by the prolific painting career of Peter Paul Rubens in the Baroque era in Flanders (now Belgium), but in addition found myself especially surprised by Rubens peacemaking motivations underling many of his later works.
Rubens in the 17th century, functioned for the country of Flanders not only as the preeminent artist but also as an ambassador to other nations. Late in his life he would create the paintings featured in this post. A devout Catholic who attended mass daily, he was also well versed in Greek and Roman legends. He understood their gods and the symbolic powers of these stories and put them to use. Developing the characters as metaphors, “The Allegory of Peace” creates an image with a clear message that peace brings prosperity, bounty, happiness, and stable family life.
To quote Belkin from the book directly, “In the centre is the figure of Peace, expressing milk from her breast to feed a child, commonly identified as Plutus, god of wealth. She is protected from the heavily armored Mars, god of war and his attendant Furies by the helmeted Minerva, goddess of wisdom. Two young girls are led forward from the right, one to be crowned by the torch-bearing Hymen, god of marriage and both to receive the fruits which spill from a cornucopia held by a satyr….”
Contrast that with “The Horrors of War” (painted during the deteriorating situation in Europe during the 30 years war) where Venus’ love is unable to tame Mars and his Fury as they trample victims.
His work gives me pause in my own life. How do I create peace in the here and now, in my day-to-day life? I think many can get wrapped up in all the “war” out there, when our own life is just as violent in how we treat one another. Let us hope and pray that as Ruben’s painting as our example, we protect the peace in the lives of others around us with a heart of wisdom.
Peter Paul Rubens, "The Horrors of War" 1637-8 Oil on canvas 81"x134" Galleria Pitti, Florence
October 19, 2010
Discord (2009) wool, steel, fiberglass, coal, and Styrofoam, 104 x 40 x 40 inches. Courtesy of LA Louver Gallery and the artist
My sculpture class ventured to Lewis and Clark College in Portland to the see the Alison Saar sculpture exhibit they have up till December 12. It is well worth the visit. Be sure to get over there before it closes. http://www.lclark.edu/hoffman_gallery/
I was introduced to the installations and work of Alison’s mother Betty in L.A., and soon thereafter to Alison’s work. Both make thoughtful work worth engaging with.
Looking at the exhibition “Bound for Glory” at Lewis and Clark I found my self sad, not because of the topic of her work (which provides plenty of time for sincere reflection), but because there isn’t more work like it. Her art means something with intention.
Bat Boyz (2001) baseball bats and pitch, 34 x 12 x 12 inches. Courtesy of LA Louver Gallery and the artist.
In my notes in my sketchbook I wrote that the work seems to hold out the hope that in naming things, in making artwork on difficult topics, there is a belief that it can open peoples eyes and change is a possibility. There seemed to be a desire for relief in the work; like letting go of a big sigh. A tension and release that if you name the wound life can be different and perhaps you can move to a new place of hope.
Here are some of my other bullet points about the show:
• A belief in the figure.
Blood / Sweat / Tears (2005) wood, copper, bronze, paint, and tar, 72 x 24 x 20 inches. Courtesy of LA Louver Gallery and the artist.
• We are vessels of flesh and bone in this life that record and represent greater things thank ourselves.
• There is more than meets the eye.
• Craftsmanship matters.
• The story of our lives matters.
• Making something is a worthwhile endeavor to engage in.
• Take time to do it right.
• One must name the darkness if they hope to ever see the light.
October 12, 2010
James Wheh’s sculpture of Cheif Seattle at Tilikum Place, 5th Ave and Denny Way (1920)
I read a story as of late about the naming of the town we call Seattle that just hurt to read.
In the 1850s there was a Suquamish Native American called Chief Sealth, who was friendly with white settlers in his area. They called him Cheif Seattle. His tribe traded regularly with the settlers and Chief Sealth encouraged Dr. David Maynard to open up a store at the little settlement of Duwanmps. Dr. Maynard decided he would be really nice and name the area “Seattle” after the kind chief who helped him.
Unfortunately a tribal custom of the Suquamish forbade naming a place after someone living because it offended the guardian spirit. Chief Sealth viewed it at as an attack. When the settlers refused to change the name from Seattle, the chief asked them for gifts to repay him what what it was going to cost him in the next life. They refused to do that too.
Ultimately the tribe was driven from their homeland onto the Port Madison Indian Reservation. So much for those friendly folks we were trading with and that we named the city after. I’ve lived in Seattle and love the place, but admit that saying the name now gives me pause. I doubt they would like to go back to calling the city “Duwanmps.” Free trade for the Suquamish cost them everything.
We've even used him in our graphic design to sell apples. Is it just me or does he look more like Beethoven or a pilgrim than a Native American?
(Info from Uncle John’s Biggest Ever Bathroom Reader- a book full of interesting surprises. I’m serious!)
October 6, 2010
Robert Gober "Untitled" 1991. Wood, beeswax, leather, fabric, and human hair
In my Contemporary Art Forms class we are reading excerpts from a very fun tome of a book called, “pressPLAY Contemporary Artists in Conversation.” (published by Phaidon: http://www.phaidon.com/store/art/pressplay-9780714845333/ Some interviews in it are better than others; avoid Richard Deacon and Lorna Simpson).
A wonderful dialog was that of Robert Gober with Vija Celmins. Here are some quotes that resonated with us:
“I get very frustrated when people ask me, ‘What does your sculpture mean?’ I respond by talking about what it’s made of and they get impatient, as though I’m avoiding the question. But I feel that unless you know what it’s physically made of you can’t begin to understand it. A lot of times the metaphors are imbedded right in the medium and the way that you work.” Robert Gober
“And I was thinking even if nobody gets it, I had a feeling that I could go and I could work. I don’t know, it’s like building a self through the work. And then the work sort of reflects some aspects of yourself. And I don’t mean the brain. I mean like, some aspects of your body and your emotions – and your brain.” Vija Celmins commenting on making her artwork when she felt her art didn’t fit into the art market in California.
Untitled (Big Sea #1), Vija Celmins, Pencil, 1969— Courtesy McKee Gallery, N.Y.
“I would go driving around in the New Mexico desert consoling myself by mindlessly picking up rocks and throwing them in my car. Later, unloading them in my studio, I had this moment of inspiration. They seemed so beautiful, I wanted to make them myself. I wanted to see how close I could come; that’s how the piece started. There was never any symbolism or any real idea. I just went back to looking, which I guess is a theme that runs through my work. Looking at stuff and sort of regenerating something in me that keeps wanting to live – something that sustains me that I’d forgotten about.“ Vija Celmins commenting on her piece “To Fix the Image in Memory”
Vija Celmins " To Fix the Image in Memory" (1977-82) Elleven small stones and their duplicates, made of painted cast bronze.
October 4, 2010
So I now have two works of art that are currently up in the fine town of Newberg. Get over here and check em out.
A local artist and designer Jennifer Varner, had the wonderful idea of putting an exhibition at one of our local coffee haunts, “Coffee Cottage” (http://www.coffeecottagecafe.net/) about local trees. She asked artists to create a piece of artwork that has a tree from Yamhil county in it. I couldn’t resist. I decided upon on rendering a wonderful loopy old tree that I pass almost daily on Edwards and Sheridan. I had a nice time putting together a playful assemblage around the painting that I aimed to capture a bit of the nature of our street.
The show will be up for the month of October- check my piece out above the piano when you’re at Coffee Cottage picking up one of their wonderful “baked daily” scones; at a steal at $2.25 let me tell you… Just say no to Starbucks.
"On The Street Where You Live" Tim Timmerman; mixed media assemblage, oil on wood; Oct 2010 (I'll get a better photo of this some time soon here for you.... But hey, you get the idea. The image on the left is actually a graph of the trees on Edwards in Newberg between Franklin and Sherman).