Your eyes and ears on the world of art and culture. We remind you that 18 years of back issues of eMusings can be found on our archives page.
As more of the world migrates to the online universe, we find wider choices to steer you to. Here are some of the best that we have culled from hours and hours of looking.
A new exhibit called "Afterlives:Recovering the Lost Stories of Looted Art" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, takes us through the time and extraordinary effort to save works that had been condemned during the Nazi regime. Some are tales of artists that managed to hide their work, even while living in a concentration camp. Another tells of art that was slated for destruction and somehow found its way to a basement in the Louvre in Paris. Amazing is the story of a trove of household items from Danzig (Gdansk)that were crated and sent to the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, weighing apparently over 2 tons. Many of the pieces were given to synagogues and libraries by an organization founded by Hannah Arendt. Taken together, the exhibit is a sterling tribute to the efforts of many courageous people to resist the Nazi horror and preserve precious cultural material. (Thanks to GS for this).
When I look at these pieces by Bonnie Collura I get a sense of humanity unfolding, shredding, falling in upon itself. Underlying them all is a profound melancholy, as though humans are unable to stop some destructive process overtaking them. Collura mentions the angles of her sculptures, as though they had an independent life. She calls her forms "simultaneously relatable and alien". It is worth your while to spend some time going through her site: there is a complex set of sculptures here that beautifully reference culture, politics, biology, and destiny.
Not unrelated to Collura's work is a beautifully crafted sculpture called Raft, showing at the White Cube gallery at Mason's Yard in London. Composed of porcelain and accompanied by drawings, Raft is a delicately complex work focused on themes of transformation and metamorphosis. The form and internal references speak clearly to Collura's oeuvre, reminding us that contemporary artists are mesmerized by the changes occuring to the body human as we live through a tumultuous era.
Have you ever seen an art work age as you walk by it? I had not, until an astute viewer sent this video to me. Wish I had more imformation about it for you. (Thanks to DM)
James McNeill Whistler is best known for his painting "Arrangement in Grey and Black #1", commonly referred to as Whistler's Mother. Less well understood, however, is the influence upon him of another woman, Joanna Hiffernan. Hiffernan was Whistler's lover and model for many years, appearing in drawings, sketches and paintings. Both women were devoted to him, and in Hiffernan's case willing to pose, without moving, for hours at a time. She also took care of his son, conceived during a brief affair with another woman. Born in Ireland to an impoverished family, Hiffernan died of bronchitis at the age of 44.
A book titled "Artistry of the Mentally Ill", published in 1922, seems to have been an immediate success, and inspired the Surrealists. As history has told us, Hitler in 1939 ordered a mass-murder extermination, aimed at the mentally ill, called Aktion T4. Eventually about 200,000 patients were killed, but at least some of their work was preserved. At the same time, the artists of the Avant Garde were denounced as "more sick than lunatics", aiming, in the Nazi view, at "polluting the race with inferior blood".
Cielo Felix-Hernandez has been awarded the Hopper Prize for her paintings of the queer community in the Caribbean. Born in Puerto Rico in 1998, Felix-Hernandez' portraits are filled with voluptuous females in varying daily rituals, bringing to the forefront a culture that has been ignored or denigrated.
I have long admired the work of Ben Nicholson, finding these pieces a gentle relief from the often bombastic and attention-hungry sensationalism of many artists today. Nicholson's reflections of the everyday are now being exhibited in a show called "From the Studio", giving us a glimpse not only of his art but of the tools and possesions that filled his creative environment.
"Vagina Painting" is the title of one of the startling videos created by Shigeko Kubota. Part of the Fluxus group of artists in New York, Shigeko would dip a brush into red paint and tie it to her underwear, moving it around on the canvas below by shaking her hips. It was a frontal attack on the traditional woman-as-passive-nude-model that has dominated art history for centuries. In a survey now at MOMA in New York, her body of work is being rediscovered. Kubota referred to these active paintings as "Video as Vengeance of Vagina". The exhibition reclaims her prominence and somewhat makes up for the fact that she was not frequently exhibited either in the U.S. or her native Japan during her lifetime.
According to Smithsonian magazine, over 80 cultures worldwide speak by whistling . We are not speaking (whistling?) here only of less-industrialized nations, but rather of places like the Canary Islands. Whistling has been used for centuries to communicate across long distances and can sound louder than a car horn. Some sounds can cross mountain valleys, where travel would take hours. The technique can be used in any language. It works best for nontonal languages, like English and most European speech forms: these don't use vocal cords. Chinese, for example, is more difficult. Whistlers have to pick one of two alternatives, to whistle tones, or vowels and consonants, but not both at the same time.
For the food lovers among you, The Guardian newspaper has a page called "Feast" dedicated to unusual recipes and menus that offers hours of fun and good eating. Let me know if you find it as delicious as it sounds.
Two women have been awarded the Isamu Noguchi Award for 2021, one in architecture and one in ceramics. Looking at their works, you can clearly see why they were chosen. Architect Toshiko Mori is the first female tenured Professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Mori studied under Noguchi while she was an architecture student at Cooper Union and shares many of his goals of sustainability. Shio Kusaka's gently tinted ceramic vessels play counterpoint to the complexities of artists like Kneebone and Collura, above.
c. Corinne Whitaker 2021