You might not know that Young Jean Lee is also a fierce innovator and experimental playwright. Here she is in a band! Her voice and stage presence are like an average person singing karaoke except that she is performing songs she has written. With sincerity and sly humor, she weaves story, performance, music, art and play into an offering of comfort for others who may suffer when facing loneliness, getting old, tragedy and death. I was mesmerized, entertained and truly comforted by the wisdom in these songs. The highlight is at 23 minutes in when Young Jean does a song based on her mother's grandmother's comments on aging.
I continually question how artists can impact the world in a profound way. Today I came across a powerful answer in Lily Yeh. Through an unexpected opportunity to transform an inner city lot, she went on to do the same in a massive dump site in Nairobi where 100,000 people live and then to build a Genocide Memorial in Rwanda. Seeing the memorial, people said, "When we see beauty, we see hope. Our loved ones can some home in honor and dignity." Lily explains that through art, we travel to the "dustless world" a sacred place of pristine beauty and poignant serenity." This is her Web site. http://barefootartists.org/. There is a documentary on her called The Barefoot Artist.
The Gwangju Biennale 2018 is showing 22 paintings from North Korea to the South Korean public for the first time through the extraordinary and courageous efforts of curator, B.G.Muhn, Georgetown Art professor and artist. My expectation of North Korean art was cartoonish social realism, but in these paintings changed my view completely. I am struck by the expressiveness, the vibrant colors, rhythmic lyricism, playful sentimentality and sense of togetherness and humanity. I wish I knew what the poster behind the bus stop said that no one is noticing. The women around the laptop is a fascinating scene as is the way the pink and yellow fabrics are painted in contrast to the drab surroundings. My father was from Anju in North Korea. His family fled and became refugees in 1943 when he was 9 years-old. Seeing these images feels healing. Thank you B.G. Muhn for pioneering this connection to artists in North Korea. You have made a bridge so that we can see each other with more humanity.
"What matters is looking at the object with love." - Oh Ju-seok in "Special Lecture on Korean Paintings"
"Special Lecture on Korean Paintings" by Oh Ju-seok is the best, most passionate and heartfelt writing on Korean paintings I have found since Dr. Zo Zayong. "A Hen Leading a Brood of Chickens"(middle painting), is one that Oh loves dearly. Surrounding are other works by Byeon Sang-byeok (1730-?) a late Joseon period artist nicknamed "Byeon the cat" because he excelled at painting cats and received the title "master hand" for his wonderful paintings of birds and animals.
Today I ordered Ai Weiwei's book, Humanity. On August 4th, his studio in Beijing was demolished to pave the way for a shopping center. He has lived in Berlin since 2015. Here are some quotes from him book which compelled me to want to read it:
"This problem has such a long history, a human history. We are all refugees somehow, somewhere, and at some moment."
"Allowing borders to determine your thinking is incompatible with the modern era."
"Art is about aesthetics, about morals, about our beliefs in humanity. Without that there is simply no art."
"I don't care what all people think. My work belongs to the people who have no voice."
At the MoMA today, I unexpectedly came across the fantastic work of Congolese artist, Kingelez (1948-2015). Delighted and stunned, I also thought about Gaudi, Hunterwasser and other architect/artists who break all barriers and make us dream. Kingelez uses recycled materials such as cardboard, bottle caps and tinfoil to create a colorful, fantastic vision of a utopian urban cityscape that is a place of abundant color and shapes, beauty, humanity, wonder and optimism.
Kingelez has called his art extrêmes maquettes (English: extreme models),[and has said, “I make this most deeply imaginary, meticulous and well considered work with the aim of having more influence over life. As a black artist I must set a good example by receiving the light which pure art, this vital human instrument, kindles for the sake of all. Thanks to my deep hope for a happy tomorrow, I strive to better my quality, and the better becomes the wonderful. I exhibit a mode of expression which fits me like a glove, and I point out that I am another artist.”
PS- Also at MoMA today, there was a protest of MoMA employees who chanted, "Modern Art, Ancient Wages" as well as "Solidarity Forever."
Here's a video from the MoMA site. https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3889
Below is a video is French that displays his work.
Alice grips my heart when I see her work and think about her life. Andy really meant it when he said that she and Louise Nevelson were the best "girl" artists he knew. Here, he offers himself in such a public and vulnerable way, and Alice responds with her most tender portrait. Alice always painted directly on the canvas without sketching beforehand and with heavy outlines which is technically "wrong". Barkley Hendricks is another one of my favorite portrait artists. It's amazing that they knew each other as well.
This clip is in French, but her work says it all. She is influenced by nature, flower, animals, insects, German and Chinese Folk art, textiles, vintage toys and the atmosphere of the Bloomsbury Group including such writers as Virginia Woolf and E.M. Forester. I feel that I intuitively understand what she is about. I adore her work.
Last Thursday, I was in a packed Riverside Church to see this talk, "The Courage to Show Up: A Conversation with Brene Brown and DeRay McKesson". Of course I knew about Brene, but I knew almost nothing about DeRay except that he was one of the leaders of Black Lives Matters. What happened was so astonishing that I have not stopped thinking about their unscripted, unrehearsed and vulnerable conversation on the most difficult politically charged topics right now. What struck me the most was not only their refreshing (not canned-food) authenticity and courage but also DeRay's sincere optimism. He was above all curious, open, and engaged with the people who hold such different views. The talk could have go for hours more, and we would have all been riveted. I reflect on why I love seeing my artist friends' works in progress. Why people ask questions about the process and want to know the thoughts behind the making of things? The talk gave me a window into Brene's and DeRay's process. They had no answers or fixed opinions. It was pure flow. In the spirit of that talk, I'm posting my painting in progress and my makeshift studio, exactly as it is today. Ito Jakuchu's One Hundred Puppies, made around 1790 when he was eighty-six is the catalyst behind this painting. It's one of the his last works so this painting is an homage to him, and I am in a conversation with him. I am thinking about love, abundance, infinity, mortality and of course puppies.
Cultural Treasure, Masterpiece, Offering, Craft, Toy: Alexander Shundi's Fantasy Trains are an Epic Feast
Alexander Shundi's Fantasy Trains spring from the memory of a home-made train made by a loving father and given as a birthday present to the 8 year-old artist-to-be in Italy in 1952. Shundi has taken this metaphor of train as a child's toy as well as a symbol of modernity and made a work of Proustian richness and Shakespearean dimensionality, Fantasy Trains are a playful synthesis on art history, death, war, world cultures, capitalism, food, soccer, Pinocchio and so much more, all presented with wonder, whimsy, irony and a wicked sense of humor. There is no subject or question that is not transformed into an abundant meditation on life, history, memory, desires, nostalgia and what it means to be human.
Alexander Shundi does not have an army of assistants nor does he use computers to make his work. His materials are humble found objects, roller skate wheels, everyday bits, rock, wood, items from around the world and his own masterful craftsmanship. He gives us an offering that reflects the vibrancy of his world, and he invites us to explore and explode the treasures in our own imaginations. Shundi's art has heart, soul, guts and magic that pulsates with life and points us toward the future. Alex is taught me how to create, and I am deeply grateful for his generosity and extraordinary spirit.
Kiefer fans might be surprised by his recent show, "Transition from Cool to Warm". Many pieces are playful, sensuous and erotic, filled with orgasmic women and flowers. In a letter Kiefer says, "Never have I had such doubts. What is it with colors everywhere? Have I succumbed to temptation? Have I become an affirmative painter?" I laughed when I read that, but I also had to pause recognizing the range of his art. I am reminded of Oscar Wilde. "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it."
Ruth Asawa: (1926-2013) Sculptor, Maker of the Mermaid Fountain, Mother(6 Kids!) Learned Drawing during the WWII Japanese Internment.
How did a book on Women Sculptors end up in my dentist's office? What a gift to read about Ruth Asawa. Her work had an immediate and powerful appeal to me. After the Japanese Internment during WWII, Ruth said, "I no longer see myself as a Japanese or an American but as a citizen of the universe...I no longer want to nurse such wounds; I now want to wrap my fingers cut by aluminum shavings, and hands scratched by wire. Only these two things produce tolerable pains." She has spoken about "glimpses of her childhood" and that a memory of sunlight pouring through a dragonfly's translucent wing was a part of the inspiration for the crocheted wire sculptures.
Regarding her controversial mermaid breastfeeding fountain she said, “For the old, it would bring back the fantasy of their childhood..and for the young, it would give them something to remember when they grow old.”
Poet, performance artist, actor, and filmmaker, his disillusionment working for Angola public television led to live performance and video projects. His attitude and the way he articulates his mission wakes me up. His agenda is to nurture relationships.
I saw Florine's show at the Jewish museum, She lived 1871-1944 during the height of the Jazz age of the 1920s and 30s in NYC. I continue to think about her unforgettable works and what an intensely private artist she was. She was independently wealthy and did not have to or want to show or sell her works. She said it would be like letting someone else wear her clothes. Marcel Duchamp and Georgia O'Keeffe were friends, Georgia asked Florine- Why can't you be normal like everyone else?
Zozayong (1922-2000) led a one-man mission to save Korean folk paintings from disregard and destruction in the 1960s and 70s. He saw the character, spirituality and value of Korean folk art that even today is so under-appreciated. Here are images from one of his many books, "Introduction to Korean Folk Painting," published in 1977. I am inspired and indebted to him.
Thanks Tate YouTube. You've made my day, again. What a joy and shock to discover the work of this incredible artist. I feel deeply and instantly connected. She is known for abstract paintings but later made portraits which she said were no different to her.
I was thrilled to see these pieces by Barkley Hendricks and Njideka Akunyili Crosby at the Studio Museum in Harlem. These works are now among my favorite paintings.
Korean Painter "Uncle" Kim Chong Hak, and His Link to Eric Sloane whose Farm Tools are in the Sloan Stanley Museum, Kent, CT.
The first 10 minutes of this video made me laugh. Meese's 84 year-old mother has been his art assistant for 22 years, and she manages to tactfully hold her own in the face of his forceful personality. Ultimately Meese urges people to be more alive and passionate, like the animals that we are. He does all he can to focus on the present and break from all ideologies and the Nazi past.
I am a chicken about doing anything physically risky, and if I've done so, it's only in hindsight. I adore chickens as pets and both my parents worked in hospitals so I feel okay being the way I am. Still, learning about these women has changed my life. P.S. 9/30/2018 Originally, I called these women "fearless." Now I understand that all humans feel fear, but we transform it. Yesterday I saw Christine Blasey-Ford testify. She said she was terrified, and it was visible. Her entire family and even parents have been under death threats and were living in hiding. Still she was able to proceed with courage and poise. That is something I will never forget.
It's understandable that many people don't get the fuss over Rousseau. Still, I am compelled to post a few of my favorites. Portrait of Pierre Loti is hilarious. Portrait of his father in the clouds is deeply moving, and Carnival Evening is so lyrical and haunting. The sensitivity, humanity, humor, dignity and compassion is in everything, and the relationship between that piece of lettuce and the rabbit is a total mystery.
Picasso stands in front of Rousseau's Portrait of a Woman. He found the painting in the trash, "discovered" Rousseau and threw that famous party in celebration of his work. An older Picasso holds Rousseau's self and wife's portraits. These paintings are now in the Picasso Museum in Paris. I wonder how much we would know about Rousseau today without the clever Picasso.
Recently I learned that Rousseau dedicated himself to art at age 49. As I am 49 this year, I feel inspired by his art and the knowledge that it's never too late to do anything.