Category Archives: Commentary

Artistic Endeavors – Luiz Zerbini

Sometimes I see a painting that at first I think is a quilt, like the one below.

Tatu Bola by Luiz Zerbini

Recently I’ve been working with Drunkards Path blocks so that’s what immediately came to my mind. But, Tatu Bola is one of the paintings by Brazilian artist Luiz Zerbini that was recently exhibited at Sikkema Jenkins & Co.

According to the Stephen Friedman Gallery writeup of his work, “Zerbini uses a rich and luminous palette on a range of different subject matter from landscapes, cityscapes, and domestic scenes to those with a more obscure or even abstract intention. By juxtaposing styles and techniques, organic and geometric patterns, fields of light and shadow, he creates optical effects that beckon for contemplation. He is an artist that constantly multiplies the formal possibilities related to his painting and rejects any potential stagnation of established formula, making it difficult to define any linearity in his production.”

I take that to mean you can’t really pin down his style. But, no matter, here’s some of his work that appealed to me.

I find an intriguing combination of grids and curves in Zerbini’s work, and some of his painterly effects, like the lower right corner of the last work shown above, look like they could be hand dyed fabric.


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The Rest of the Story

About a month ago I featured my adventures in an online class called Abstract-A-Licious, run by Lyric Kinard. The class ended in mid-October, so I want to show you my responses to the last class exercises. We were to take some of our abstractions and develop them further into a design in fabric.

I used my drawings from earlier lessons, though there was no requirement to do so. Lyric encouraged us to “go rogue” if that’s what worked for us.

I began with my Degas dancer abstraction. First, though, I played with my tracing paper drawings just for fun.

 Maybe an idea for a transparency work?

The abstraction I used.

First version, which Lyric said was top heavy.
Second version, flipped and shapes added. From here on, I stopped fusing the shapes and just laid them down.

Third version, color and position of “ball” changed. Both Lyric and I think it still needs work, but I need the perspective of time.

For my final class project I cut a window in a sheet of paper and selected part of a drawing for a paper collage design. I think this design was to be in fabric and more finished than mine is, but I had the colors I wanted in paper only. I hope to make it in fabric, though the translation will be tricky.

Lyric commented, “There is a fantastic flow in this work… lots of organic shapes that lead the eye from one place to another. It’s in a mostly analogous color scheme so the colors aren’t really competing with each other. The point on the yellow really moves your eye up to the orange then swings it back down and around.”

One side benefit I got from the class came from Lyric’s push to articulate why I made my design decisions. Many I thought were intuitive actually were rational. I’ve begun to see that it’s important for an artist to be able to talk another person through her work.

Each online class I’ve taken has had varied student participation and interactions. I think Lyric’s class began with about 15 students. Just two of us completed all the units. I know at least one student was preoccupied with Hurricane Florence, and had very limited internet access. Still, I wonder why so many of the others never posted beyond the introductory unit. Lyric was very supportive in her comments so I hope students didn’t fear criticism. While you can read and benefit from the class materials, you really learn by doing the work.


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Artistic Endeavors – The Chicago Art Institute’s Digital Collection

As if last week’s Library of Congress’s digital holdings weren’t enough, this week I’m featuring the newly organized Chicago Art Institute’s digital collection.  Not only is the collection more accessible, you can enjoy the Institute’s blog as well.

As this blog post notes, the Institute recognizes that our digital experience has changed since the 2012 redesign.

“…we’ve released thousands of images in the public domain on the new website in an open-access format (52,438 to be exact, and growing regularly). Made available under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, these images can be downloaded for free on the artwork pages.”

The level of detail available for the resources is greater, and a recommendations engine has been added.

The Executive Creative Director of Experience Design has more to say about the redesign’s wonders, but let’s get to the goodies. Just under the search box are several topics that make for intriguing browsing. There’s essentials, which are the museum’s greatest hits like American Gothic; mythology, armor, woodblock print, modernism, furniture, and many others. Sadly, textiles and fabric aren’t given their own billing.

A check under animals reveals several different kinds of art – paintings, sculpture, stained glass, furniture, etc. Sometimes the animal is central to the piece and sometimes more peripheral, like this drawing of a young lady with a parrot.

Then, there’s this magnificent feathered tunic from Peru, circa AD1500.

To continue with the eclectic entries under the animal theme, ancient Greeks could drink from a donkey’s head that apparently couldn’t be set down without spilling.

I have no idea what to make of this enigmatic watercolor by Rene Magritte called Homesickness. Does the figure have dark wings? Is that a tame lion?

It’s interesting to slice a museum’s deep collection across a subject rather than a format. I found it led to unexpected discoveries.

A word of warning, despite all the press about the redesign, I didn’t find the site especially easy to use. It’s great if you want to link an object to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.; but to see the details of individual objects it seems you need to disable popup blockers.


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Artistic Endeavors – Free to Use and Reuse

Bless the Library of Congress for making so much good stuff available. To quote from its website,

This page features items from the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use. Each set of content is based on a theme and is first featured on the Library’s home page.

These sets are just a small sample of the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The digital collections comprise millions of items including books, newspapers, manuscripts, prints and photos, maps, musical scores, films, sound recordings and more. Whenever possible, each collection has its own rights statement which should be consulted for guidance on use. Learn more about copyright and the Library’s collections.

I can’t add to that description, but will share some of the delights that appealed to me as I browsed the collections.

Japanese woodblock prints

Doesn’t it look like they’re wearing quilts?


Looks like inspiration for a modern quilt.

I never thought of costumes as Pennsylvania’s prime attraction.


Montana cowboys – the original Marlboro man?

Billie Holiday
Geo. Miles with an impressive ‘stache.
J. E. Hanger. I’d love to know why he wanted to show his prosthesis.

Covers and Miscellaneous

What a great font.

Love the art nouveau styling.

I think that lady better be careful of her foot. The axe wielder looks none too competent.

Word of warning, you can spend many hours poking around the Library’s offerings. And what’s shown on the Free to Use and Reuse Sets is a small fraction of what’s available. The digital collections contain thousands of items, some more esoteric than others.


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Artistic Endeavors – Way Beyond The Crocheted Afghan

Crochet is one of the simpler thread and yarn hand crafts. You need only yarn and a hook. Scissors help, but aren’t essential. Granny square afghans are favorite creations of crocheters as they’re made square by square, use up leftover yarns, and make good portable projects.

However, thanks to Diane Savona, I’ve discovered a whole ‘nother crochet mindset. Savona curated a fiber show with a scientific bent that never happened, but she shared her choices for that show here. Through her post I found Gabriele Meyer and Caitlin T. McCormack who have developed strangely beautiful art from the simple hook and yarn.  

McCormack, who has a BFA in illustration, views her work as sculpture. I’ll warn you her work is macabre, creepy even, and would work well for Halloween. I believe she uses glue to stiffen the threads. Apparently she unravels old, discarded garments and linens for the thread. And, yeah, her grandmother taught her to crochet. DreamOfScienceMcCormackMotheringMcCormackObjectumVanitasMcCormack   StormOfUnclesMcCormack

Meyer is a math professor at the University of Wisconsin in real life, but she crochets what she calls hyperbolic surfaces, often turning them into hanging lamps. curveddiamondlamp-MeyersblossomH4-s hyberbolic-lamp-shade.jpg Crochet, as seen in Meyer’s lamp shade, is the perfect tool to help people visualize Lobachevskian geometry. Meyer started by crocheting an ordinary spiral. Then on the edge, she added more stitches than fit in a flat space, creating frilly, billowing edges that catch light or let it through. You can read the math details here.

Maybe all this time my crochet projects were trying to be art, not afghans. Heavens knows they have enough ripples in them.


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Artistic Endeavors – James Stanford’s Mandalas


James Stanford’s Shimmering Zen is now on exhibit at The Studio-Sahara West Library in Las Vegas, Nevada, through December 8, 2018. It has been described as the intersection of Las Vegas and Buddhism. The digital images are intricate, detail-dense, neatly symmetrical, abstract, mandala-like. Most often they’re layers of details cropped from historic photos of Vegas signage and architecture.


Stanford uses the iconic vintage signage of Las Vegas, where he spent his childhood at a time when the town was small and provincial, without access to global culture. His layered images reflect a mirrored geometry that unravels and then recomposes. Printed on metallic paper, the works evoke a sense of infinite reflection.

Some of the pieces in the exhibit are “lenticular” images — several layers of the same image, each treated and colored differently, backlit and viewed through a lenticular, or striated, magnifying lens. They are the product of intensive Photoshopping — up to 30 or 40 layers each. The picture shifts as you move in front of it. So when you move, the image shift, while brief, is pronounced, a disruptive flutter before the picture snaps back to clarity, albeit now in a different alignment. Think kaleidoscopes.

Kings 8

Lucky Lady

Stanford’s latest photo montage exhibit is part of his Indra’s Jewels, and is available as a book. You can sample more of Stanford’s work on his Vimeo channel, These short, often silent, videos can be mesmerizing.


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Artistic Endeavors – Marilyn Henrion

Now 80 years old, mixed-media artist Marilyn Henrion is a native of Brooklyn who has spent time in the New York artistic and literary world.  Her aesthetic vision has always been deeply rooted in the urban geometry of her surroundings. You can see this in her earlier works of geometric abstraction as well as in more recent architecturally-based mixed media works, which feature New Orleans and Europe.

Some of her works are quilts, for all practical purposes, with piecing and quilting. Many of Henrion’s quilted pieces are featured here.

Disturbances 1
Byzantium II

Other works consist of hand quilted digitally edited and printed photographs.

North Phillip, New Orleans

Still others are edited photographs cut up, sewn together, and digitally printed with no quilting.

Patchwork City series

Then, some defy categorization, though I think the piece below is very modern.

Vanishing Point series

And this piece has elegant curves and lovely hand dyed looking fabrics.

Byzantium IX

Henrion works in series so you can see how she plays with an idea. Her website has many examples of her work, nicely grouped by theme. I’m glad to see how her techniques have simplified over time as I’ve been looking for less complex ways to create work. Her latest work uses digitally edited and printed photographs. I don’t know if that’s the direction for me, but it’s one path to try.


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