"I paint because I am a woman.
(It's a logical necessity.)
If painting is female and insanity is a female malady, then all women painters are mad and all male painters are women.
I paint because I am an artificial blonde woman.
(Brunettes have no excuse.)
If all good painting is about color then bad painting is about having the wrong color. But bad things can be good excuses. As Sharon Stone said, "Being blonde is a great excuse. When you're having a bad day you can say, I can't help it, I'm just feeling very blonde today."
I paint because I am a country girl.
(Clever, talented big-city girls don't paint.)... "
The above is part of a postcard by South African born artist, Marlene Dumas. New York Times article, Marlene Dumas's Number Comes Up brought her to my attention with the startling and refreshing news: "...Marlene Dumas, a 51-year-old South African-born painter who now bears the odd distinction of commanding the highest price for a living female artist at auction.
In 2002, the record for Ms. Dumas's paintings, only a few of which had come to auction, stood at about $50,000. Yet last month at Christie's in London, after a bidding war between two dealers, her 1987 painting "The Teacher," a rendering of a posed class photograph, went for a startling $3.34 million." Wow!
This is good news for those of us who see the high art world as (traditionally) dominated by white men. Dumas is a foreigner and paints blatantly erotic imagery. These two factors do lower the bar for entry into the men's club of high dollar art. Europe has long been comfortable with buying the works of women artists and - sex sells. But there is much more to Dumas' work than a simple formula of sexual exploration. She is an artist who is successful at getting others to glimpse the world through her world view. She creates head-shot portraits and are riveting and revealing.
"...Dumas has cultivated a unique position within the world of figurative painting since the early 1980s, focusing on how the human body is translated into an image. Dumas does not use models, but instead takes her images from mass media and popular culture sources, particularly newspapers and television. According to Dumas, "what interested me was to make a statement about peoples' frames of mind and the relationships between them." Dumas' pictures impress with their urgent realism--but within their provocative energy lurk provocative questions about gender, identity, oppression, sexual and ethnic violence, and the situation of women and minorities; Dumas is always seeking to initiate new thought processes and critical strategies." from the book One Hundred Models and Endless Rejects
For a 2002 show of Dumas' works, The New Museum wrote, "Dumas's words and images refuse singular meaning, yet they frame serious political and ethical questions about apartheid, race, gender, and sexuality. By retaining- even insisting on- ambiguity, Dumas skillfully keeps complicated, open questions just that: questions."
If you ever suspect that the rarefied world of fine art seems more like a street corner shell game than a pursuit for truth, wisdom and beauty, then the (U.K.) Telegraph has an article for you. 'It's not like selling socks' provides background on the upcoming Art Task episode of BBC2 series The Apprentice. The Art Task requires the candidates to sell an entire gallery of contemporary art in a single evening. A short clip from the article:
"The era from the Renaissance through to the mid-19th century was one of patronage. But then the capitalist intermediary, the dealer, took over. And as early as 1871 the prestigious periodical the Art Journal was lamenting their part: 'The influence of the dealer is one of the chief characteristics of modern art… to him has been owing… the immense increase in the prices of pictures.'
...But dealers are anxious to explain that this is a game properly played by experts unmotivated by the fast buck. Wigram prides himself on having a 'good eye' and being able to pick a winner; marketing instincts, he says, are irrelevant. His words chime with those of David Risley, a dealer now with his own flourishing gallery after making his first sale out of a bookshop, off the Charing Cross Road: 'I never think about what's going to sell, I just think about what I like.' Leslie Waddington, who has been running blue-chip galleries in Cork Street for four decades, warns of 'the great danger that people start seeing with their ears instead of their eyes.' Only Maureen Paley, the founding of whose gallery Interim Art in 1984 spearheaded the London art world's shift to the East End, is happy to think of herself as an entrepreneur. She describes art dealing as 'a life's work', in which she is ultimately 'promoting a cultural position'."
New York Public Library has opened its digital gallery to the public. So far, about 275,000 items are online, "digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the collections of The New York Public Library, including illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more."
A New York Times review complains of the old fashioned organization of the collection: "The digital gallery is modeled on an old-fashioned card catalog, with all the attendant creaks. Doing a search is like going into a library and opening file drawers." Yet this is also a great charm of the collection: the sense of exploration and discovery.
Some collections that will be of interest to fiber artists are:
Ornament and Pattern: Pre-Victorian to Art Deco (including several books - 256 pages - by Seguy)
The Floating World: Japanese Color Woodcuts by Kitagawa Utamaro (56 color plates)
Turn of the Century Posters
Anyone up for creating a work exploring the inhumanity of slavery and the dreams of freedom and a better life? There is the log of a slave ship and The gospel of slavery: a primer of freedom..
On a lighter note and reminiscent of Wayne Thiebaud's paintings, there is the book of Ladies' dress shoes of the nineteenth century or The history of the feminine costume of the world, from the year 5318 B.C. to our century.
Note that images prior to 1922 are not subject to copyright fees. The library has a thoroughly considered pricing schedule for all other images.
Lots of inspiration. Drop by for a visit!
"Bridgestone Metalpha Corporation (a subsidiary of Bridgestone Tire Company) has come up with a revolutionary fiber that which is a by-product of manufacturing steel reinforcements for tires. This fiber has the softness of silk but is made of 100 per cent stainless steel. Iron-clad stainless steel filaments are stretched over many stages after which the iron is removed by acid. One of the most innovative features about this material, known as Alphatex™, is its ability to take on color by using a combination of chemical and heat processes instead of dye." (Museum of Modern Art: Contemporary Japanese Textiles).
A video of the making of Alphatex thread from steel.
Note: the word 'new' is relative; article is from 1998. The yarn still has not received mass adoption though. The thread/yarn appears to be intended for weaving, rather than sewing. Imagine what it might do to the tension disks on a household sewing machine.
A first hand description of Alphatex: "I met Junichi Arai, a master of textile design, who has been experimenting with the potential of the fiber. He was wearing a long scarf of varied earth colors.He took it off so I could feel its textures and heft its weight. I nearly dropped it! He told me it weighed about two kilos."
Another hands-on description of the steel yarn by weaver Peter Collingwood: "It is not often that a completely new yarn appears. But this is what has happened in Japan. A large company which draws wire, mainly to be used as reinforcement in radial car tyres, has a department which develops new products. This has, in the last year, produced a yarn from exceedingly fine micro-filaments of stainless steel. Their first yarn, about the size of a 2/ply carpet wool, has 6,800 such filaments!
It is as flexible as, and in fact looks like, silk. But the moment you touch it you feel its weight. It has about 350 yards to the pound, which at the moment costs around $110! It has a natural light grey colour but I was shown some wonderful dark browns and blues which had been obtained by some chemical treatment. This colouring, which is assumed to be completely permanent, is only in an experimental stage and more colours will be developed."
Fiberarts Magazine printed excerpts of Colingswood's journals on the weaving with steel yarn:
"The steel yarn's overriding obedience is to gravity. If it can possibly slip, slither, or slide down where an ordinary yarn would not, it certainly will. If there is some projection it will snake out to catch it. Luckily its strength means this just stops the mill with a jerk; nothing can break. When on the mill, it began to slip down the vertical uprights until I stuck strips of Velcro onto them. Despite this slipperiness it holds well once it is knotted; against this any slight tangle is immovable until each thread is pulled out separately."
Humorously, Collingswood describes the problem of cutting steel with steel: "Develop a better way of threading than above, so it goes more speedily. As usual scissors get blunt quickly and I have to sharpen them often on a rather feeble electric gadget. This makes them cut the steel yarn but strangely not the linen warp ends which I use for tying up the cross in each small warp."