“The Familiar and the Indefinable in Clay”

Art World News, Contemporary Women Artists

I just stumbled into the Ruth Chandler Williamson Art Gallery after class yesterday to discover that the new ceramics exhibition is finished and open to the public! I’ve been so crazy busy lately that I completely missed the opening reception (apparently it happened last weekend?) and was delighted to discover one of the most whimsical ceramics show I’ve ever seen. Scripps is well known for its Ceramics Annual and this is the 71st, guest curated by Julia Haft-Candell. I immediately got caught up in the beautiful colors, shapes and textures and was almost late to work because of it. (Oops.)

I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with the art as I would have liked but fully intend to go back in the coming weeks for closer inspection. Here are a couple of pictures from my initial walk-around. I’ll probably post more later as I predict several new “Artist Obsession” posts in my future…

Happy Friday!

Scripps Art Show 2

Scripps Art Show 3

Scripps College Art Show

Artist Obsession: Hilary Harnischfeger

Artist Obsession, Contemporary Women Artists, Mixed Media, Painting

I am a sucker for interesting textures and abstract paintings in soft pastel palettes. It’s a seriously brilliant combination and one I could stare at endlessly. That’s how I feel about Hilary Harnischfeger’s work. I just want to look at it forever.

When I first came stumbled across her sculptural wall-mounted masterpieces, I was completely floored. She isn’t afraid to really explore the tactility of different mediums and combine them in unexpected ways. If you look at her artist profile on the Saatchi Gallery website, Harnischfeger has a laundry list of materials that she uses to create these multidimensional sculpture/painting hybrids. Paper, ink, mica, fluorite, crushed glass, plaster, pyrite… anything and everything. The effect is pretty mesmerizing.

hilary harnischfeger 1

hilary harnischfeger 2

hilary harnischfeger 3

Something about them reminds me of Dr. Seuss… so so good.

Japanese Design

Art World News, Life

Last night I was fortunate enough to listen to Patricia Graham speak about Japanese art and aesthetics. She is absolutely brilliant and it was really neat to hear her opinions on design and discussions of her new book. I have studied Japan a little in my Art History coursework, focusing almost entirely on the Gutai collective and Shiraga Kazao. So I was almost entirely ignorant of Graham’s particular interest, namely the universal Japanese aesthetic and how it permeates every aspect of craft and creation. Japanese art has a distinct look to it. But so does Japanese architecture, product design, furniture, fashion, and performance. It isn’t just sculpture or painting or calligraphy, it’s everything. That distinctly Japanese visual style.

All too often in Art History, we focus in on one particular artist, medium, or movement. We get so caught up in the tiny details and nuances of a particular work that we forget where it fits in the larger cultural framework. This lecture really helped me refocus my attention on the big picture.

Taking a Leap

Life

Cliff Print

I have officially completed my first week back in California after spending almost a month on vacation visiting my family for the holidays. It feels incredible to be back in action and tackling all of the things I want to accomplish in the new year. I am making goals and chasing after them with fervor. And it feels good. Taking the leap, jumping into the unknown, and getting ready for the next adventure. Who knows what wonderful things will happen in the next 12 months? Who knows where I’ll be a year from now? (If anyone can tell me, that would be great because I really have no idea…) All I know, is that wherever I end up, I want to bring this fearless adventurous attitude and dive head-first into anything and everything I do. Bring it on!

This piece of art is actually a greeting card that I found in an adorable Seattle print shop. It was much too pretty to put in the mail, so I am framing it as a reminder to myself. Do something that scares you. Trust the universe that everything will work out. It’s kind of a brilliant philosophy.

Artist Obsession: Elizabeth Amento

Artist Obsession, Contemporary Women Artists, Mixed Media

I’m really into collage and mixed media art. It’s hands down my favorite category. Is it indecisive that my favorite artistic medium is mixed media? Probably. Anyway, Elizabeth Amento is doing some really cool stuff with found images. She creates these crazy swirls of color that almost become characters in surreal domestic scenes. The whole thing is set against a stark white background which subverts any of the original image composition. A restrained color palate, beautiful black and white photos, and a sparse canvas, all expertly arranged. I love these.Elizabeth Amento

Elizabeth Amento 3

Elizabeth Amento 2

Elizabeth Amento 1

Check out the rest in her website archives. Plus, she is currently featured in a Frank Juarez Gallery Exhibition, “Art of Collage,” which looks absolutely incredible.

Artist Obsession: Molly Cranna

Artist Obsession, Contemporary Women Artists, Photography

Perfectionist product photography that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I love Molly Cranna’s work. Particularly, her bright pastel still life shots are so clean and fresh I can barely stand it. They manage to be both super minimalist and professional while maintaining all of their weirdness and whimsy. The corn-dogs on blue tile? So strange. So perfect. She also photographs Twinkies, false eyelashes, dentures, condoms, sandwiches, and anything else you can think of that’s beautifully ordinary. Cranna is one of those contemporary artists who seems to constantly be working which is also pretty cool. Her photos frequently accompany magazine articles and the “Recent News” section of her site is updated frequently with neat new projects.

Molly Cranna Still Life 6

Molly Cranna Still Life 5

Molly Cranna Still Life 4

Molly Cranna Still Life 3

Molly Cranna Still Life corndog

Molly Cranna Still Life 1

I am honestly and truly obsessed with every single one of her product photos. They are so well-executed. Understated cool is a tough aesthetic to pull off and Molly Cranna nails it. Check out more of her stuff. The portraits and beauty shots are equally awesome.

The New Artists

Art World News

I came across an interesting article in The Atlantic today which addresses the current cultural shift towards “creatives” instead of “artists.” Art as an industry has always been defined through the money-making apparatus attached. From craftsmen and artisans to renaissance geniuses; art changes along with society. But where has the artist ended up?

This article argues that the rise of the internet and the ability to self-promote online has resulted in the “Death of the Artist and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur.” The industry has migrated online, appealing directly to potential customers.

“The push of institutional disintegration has coincided with the pull of new technology. The emerging culture of creative entrepreneurship predates the Web—its roots go back to the 1960s—but the Web has brought it an unprecedented salience. The Internet enables you to promote, sell, and deliver directly to the user, and to do so in ways that allow you to compete with corporations and institutions, which previously had a virtual monopoly on marketing and distribution. You can reach potential customers at a speed and on a scale that would have been unthinkable when pretty much the only means were word of mouth, the alternative press, and stapling handbills to telephone poles.”

There seems to be a lot of building going on: you’re supposed to build your brand, your network, your social-media presence. Creative entrepreneurship is spawning its own institutional structure—online marketplaces, self-publishing platforms, nonprofit incubators, collaborative spaces—but the fundamental relationship remains creator-to-customer, with creators handling or superintending every aspect of the transaction.”

The internet has democratized countless other industries. So why not art? But the shift from artist to creative is one that merits special attention. I find that the most successful artists online are choosing to label themselves differently. They are stylists, illustrators, designers, creative directors, graphic designers, art directors, creative content creators, makers, photographers, or some complex combination of three or more of these titles. And they are running their art like a business.

So what will all this mean for artists and for art? For training, for practice, for the shape of the artistic career, for the nature of the artistic community, for the way that artists see themselves and are seen by the public, for the standards by which art is judged and the terms by which it is defined?”

Seriously, go read this article. It’s interesting.

(image is from designlovefest one of my fav design blogs which exemplifies this type of art/entrepreneurship. Bri is the ultimate creative hybrid.)

Artist Obsession: Janette Beckman

Artist Obsession, Contemporary Women Artists, Photography

I started following the HVW8 Gallery on Instagram recently. Since it’s so close to New Years, they’ve been posting recaps of all their 2014 exhibitions. One in particular really caught my eye and I’ve been stalking Janette Beckman online ever since. Full disclosure, photography is not really my thing and I get bored with it really easily. This is probably a pretty insulting oversimplification to all the fine art photographers out there but I feel like most of it looks the same. If you’ve seen one landscape, you’ve seen them all. That’s why Beckman’s “Rebel Cultures” series is so interesting. She focuses on people.

Specifically, her series features Mexican gangs in East LA, British punk groups, and hip hop crews of New York City. Through her photography, Beckman gives us insight into tight-knit and highly-specialized communities; ones that the general public wouldn’t normally have access to. As a scholar of Media Theory, these countercultures are particularly fascinating in how they oppose mainstream popular culture.  But these photos do more than simply document groups of outsiders. Each photo quite expertly captures the essence and personality of the individual characters involved. And, unlike landscapes, human beings are endlessly interesting to me.

Janette Beckman Rebel Cultures

Janette Beckman

Janette Beckman Photography

She talks about her experiences shooting the series on the HVW8 Gallery website and has a whole bunch of other work featured on her photography site. Also, she makes all of her subjects look completely badass. How do I join a “rebel culture”?

Policing Other People’s Art

Art World News, Painting

Okay so I need to get this off my chest. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves in the art world and I’m getting kind of sick of it. Then again, I guess that’s what I get for reading the internet comments sections, regardless of the website. Of course now that I want to write about it, I can’t find the specific comment that set me off. It was either on Elle Decor or Decor8 or Domaine Home or something like that but I can’t find it for the life of me. It was in response to an article on Oliver Jeffers and his dipped paintings. (Which literally everyone is writing about right now. It’s hard to keep track.) These altered portraits are gorgeous and mysterious and completely innovative. They have also inspired a new DIY decor trend where bloggers and amateur artists all over the internet are trying their hand at his technique. I think this is pretty cool. But apparently a bunch of random people online feel the need to police what is and is not art.

The offending comment said something to the effect of, “this isn’t art because it doesn’t require any precise brushwork or because it wasn’t technically difficult to create.” This internet commenter, a self-proclaimed artist, seemed to feel that it was insulting to her work and her craft that someone who makes easy-to-produce art should be recognized as an artist. But art is not defined by the effort put in, but rather by the result. You do not judge art based on how hard the artist worked to create it. You judge the piece itself. And sometimes, the simplest brushstrokes have the most profound effect. Whether a piece takes three years or three minutes to create has nothing to do with its quality. Some of the most tremendously talented artists of our generation make art which doesn’t require this woman’s narrow-minded definition of artistry. In fact many of my absolute favorite artists are those that push the boundaries of what can and cannot be considered art.

I personally love Oliver Jeffers’ dipped paintings. I think the neon blue ads something incredible to an otherwise hum drum and traditional portrait. It’s brilliant. But that is just my opinion. Whether or not it is art; that’s not up to me. That is up to the artist. And I would advise anyone involved in the online arts community to recognize this difference. I may love a piece or I may hate it, and it is my right to share those opinions. But I do not get to chose what is art and what is merely craft. That is not my right.