Category Archives: Exhibits

Artistic Endeavors – Yayoi Kusama

Atrium of Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art is now showing the much heralded Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrors, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I joined many, many others who shelled out $30 to stand in lines for an opportunity to spend about 30 seconds in each mirrored box.

I have no photos of the box interiors because I spent my brief time taking in the effects. However, this exhibit description contains a photo of “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away,” as well as other exhibit items. It is indeed all done with mirrors.

Besides those marquee items, the exhibit spans other work by Kusama from the 1960s to the present. Some of her more recent work shows further evolution of her trademark polka dots.

What great ideas for quilt borders!

One of my favorite pieces was “Flower” (1975,) in part because of the reflections off the glass that protects this collage. I think it goes well with the exhibit’s theme.

I also saw dots on other items displayed at the museum, especially these two pottery pieces from the central Andes, made sometime between 600 and 1000 AD.

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Artistic Endeavors – Jean Shin

Sometimes it takes an artist’s eye to see possibilities in discarded objects.  Pieces at a recent exhibit of Jean Shin’s work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art use discarded clothing and fashion related materials Shin often crowd sources and refashions into installations. Worn Soles particularly appealed to me. I gather the artist re-configures it for each display space.

Worn Soles
detail
In Worn Soles, the artist has separated the bodies of used shoes from their soles. These disembodied objects are placed heel-side up along the floor in crowded groups, the resulting topography undulating as the heels vary in height. The arrangement of the soles suggests the movement of crowds of people—at times spreading outward, ready to disperse, and at others flowing together in a single direction. Every worn sole is unique and evokes the presence of the body that wore it. Like wrinkles on the skin, the surface is a drawing in which every step produces a mark that maps the owners’ pasts. (taken from Shin’s website)
 
Following are some of her other installations that caught my eye. Many are for public spaces rather than museums, and so their intent and effects differ. The descriptions are from Shin’s website.

Unraveling

A site-specific installation, Unraveling visualizes the web of interrelationships among members of the Asian American arts community. The artist unravels sweaters that have been donated by individuals in each exhibition city and then reassembles the brightly colored yarns into a dynamic installation that maps this dense social network. The name of each participant is silkscreened onto a label that is sewn onto the edge of the owner’s deconstructed sweater.

Sound Wave
Records were melted and sculpted to form a cascading wave, dotted with bursts of colorful labels. The resulting structure speaks to the inevitable waves of technology that render each successive generation of recordable media obsolete. The piece also aims to physically manifest the ephemerality of music as well as one man’s musical tastes, as represented by his personal record collection.
Penumbra
 
Rescued from the street after windy storms, broken umbrellas have been deconstructed, reassembled and re-introduced to the outdoor elements. Attached to trees, this large canopy of primarily black umbrellas provides a passage of welcome shade in the park as it interacts with the sun and breeze, creating a play of shadows below.

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Artistic Endeavors – Excellence in Fibers 2017

As a quilter I sometimes forget that the world of fiber encompasses much more than a three layer fabric sandwich. Fiber Art Network, a subscription organization for “artists, collectors, enthusiasts, and leaders in the fiber art and textiles community,” presented a juried exhibition called Excellence in Fibers 2017 that’s full of unexpected and intriguing ways to create fiber art. I don’t claim to understand it all, but I like seeing a variety of approaches.

Here are a few selections that caught my eye. I deliberately didn’t select pieces I could identify as quilts, though many are in the exhibition.

Betty Busby, Wing

Emily Jan, Apologue

Mariko Kusomoto, Garden Mosaic

Ruth Marchese, Space in Time

Annette Heully, Interconnected

The Fiber Art Network website also offers some videos and galleries of previous Excellence in Fibers shows.

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Artistic Endeavors – The Mellon Collection of French Art

Certain names crop up frequently in eastern U.S. art museum collections. Two prominent ones are Frick and Mellon. Last weekend I took advantage of the largess of these collectors at the “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of Art From the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts” exhibit on at the The Frick Pittsburgh until July 8, 2018.

Of the three marquee names in this exhibit, Degas is the best represented with 10 pieces. Paul Mellon owned race horses and Degas was a wonderful painter of horses, so it was a match made in heaven for a savvy collector with the means to acquire fine paintings. The three by Van Gogh on display are small and done somewhat early in his career. The three (I think) Monets are OK but I prefer much of his other work.  There’s a scattering of many other famous Impressionist and modern painters among the 70 plus works, and I found a few to delight me. Except for three by Berthe Morisot, all were done by men.

I love the high horizon composition Degas used and I can feel the coiled energy of the horses’ bodies. You’d think that all the horses on the right side would make for an unbalanced effect but it doesn’t.

One of Degas’ most famous works.

I wanted to smuggle this small gem by Boudin out in my bag, but my husband insisted I wouldn’t get away with it.

I enjoy how the black lines in this 1953 Picasso painting (“The Chinese Chest of Drawers”) carry my eye in and out of the composition.

Dufy somehow painted this oasis of artistic calm in Nice, France, during World War II.

A Toulouse-Lautrec without cancan dancers! My husband and I both felt it has a German expressionist feeling to it. The bartender looks like an alien. Great use of triangles in the composition.

An icon of St. Catherine of the Wheel that’s part of the regular Frick collection. Doesn’t she look pissed off? I guess being martyred on a burning spiked wheel will do that to you.

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Artistic Endeavors – Gee’s Bend’s Mary Lee Bendolph

The recent QuiltCon show had the fingerprints of Gee’s Bend quilters all over it. One of the more prominent of those quilters – Mary Lee Bendolph – is featured in a current (through May 27, 2018) exhibit at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. She was born in 1935, freely used whatever fabrics were at hand (jeans, suits, etc.) and is now involved in printmaking.

To quote from the exhibit website, “This exhibition, which is the first to examine works from five decades of Bendolph’s life, considers her quilts as objects with many meanings. At once functional necessities and aesthetic wonders, many of the quilts on view are also family documents and symbolic memorials.”

Here are a few of her quilts.

Husband Suit Clothes (Housetop Variation), 1990
mixed fabrics, including corduroy, cotton, denim, velveteen, and synthetic brocade
80 x 76 inches

Ghost Pockets, 2003
Mixed fabrics including denim, cotton, polyester, and synthetic wool
Overall: 72 in. x 85 in.

“In Ghost Pockets, Bendolph incorporates pieces of her husband’s jeans, complete with their faded patches, still-saturated seams, and the deep indigo “ghosts” of pockets that once held Rubin Sr.’s hands, his tools, and other personal items. She also uses strips of turquoise, pink, and creamy yellow cotton, taken from his pants and shirts.

Created more than a decade after Rubin Sr.’s death, this quilt represents Bendolph’s resistance to a Gee’s Bend tradition: that of burning the clothing of the deceased. Instead, Bendolph saved articles of Rubin Sr.’s clothing to make quilts. “That way,” she said, “you always be with me…you’re always covering me.” The back side of Ghost Pockets has a large strip of red flannel overlaying a multicolored, patterned piece, intentionally giving the illusion of a quilt on top of a quilt.”

Swarthmore College’s List Gallery is the exhibit’s next stop.

Just for comparison’s sake, you can check out the winners at the 2018 QuiltCon here.

 

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Artistic Endeavors – Soldier’s Joy

Since I’m on a mission this year to look for inspiration in art, I thought I’d share my finds with you. I can’t promise one every week, but I’ll try. First up is the recent “War and Pieced” exhibit that features quilts made of military fabrics by soldiers during wartime, principally the 19th century.  Military fabrics then were scraps of wool felt from uniforms.

War and Pieced installation at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square).

The use of wool felt allowed makers to butt pieces together without seam allowances. The felt pieces used are extremely small, some no more than one inch square.

Artist unidentified, Soldier’s Mosaic Stars Quilt (Found in Germantown, Pennsylvania, late 19th century), wool, 77 1/4 x 62 3/4 in (Collection International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

It seems hard to believe that soldiers had the time and inclination to take on such large projects, but I have to recall that 19th century warfare was different than today’s. The bright colors used for uniforms were to help soldiers identify the locations of their own troops, not to conceal like today’s camouflage outfits. The painting below seems to indicate that sewing helped some convalescing soldiers while away the time.

More photos are at the exhibit’s website. Hyperallergenic has some lovely large photos of select pieces as well.

Annette Gero, an Australian whose collection forms part of the exhibit, has published a 2015 book, “Wartime Quilts: Appliqués and Geometric Masterpieces From Military Fabrics,” which traces a history of war quilts. I don’t know who carries it in the U.S. Amazon certainly doesn’t.

While I’m thrilled that these quilts are in the spotlight, the 1970s feminist side of me thinks, wouldn’t you know it, the big ticket exhibit features quilts made by men.

The exhibit, which was at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City, just closed, but you can catch it next at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, University of Lincoln–Nebraska from May 25–September 16, 2018.

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