Friday, May 20

We've Moved!!!

2006 was a year marked by many milestones. Nasa launched the New Horizons probe, Sadam Hussein was sentenced for crimes against humanity, the coffee mug turned 100 years old, and I began a little blog called Museum Muse.
Over the years I was able to use that blog to discuss art, art history, my personal adventures, and a slew of opinions I thought only my parents would ever read.
My following increased and people reached out to me in a way I never anticipated at the start of my journey into the blogosphear. However, while I grew as a person, the hosting site I used (Blogger) offered fewer options to grow as a website.

I stopped using it, simply because it felt dated, like writing in a Lisa Frank notebook in a non-ironic way. I wrote for other blogs, websites, art magazines, opinion columns, and even a celebrity focused juicing website. All the while I  told myself that one day I would launch a new website that didn't look like an extension of my Myspace profile.

Thus was born Visual Voracity, a space to speak in my authentic voice without adhering to someone elses' standards. To discuss the art that moves me, and to explore the vast world of creators in this wonderful, weird, world of ours.

My new website is LIVE! Visual Voracity has launched. Come check it out here at visualvoracity.com.

Saturday, June 6

Body Confidence at the Museum



I recently wrote an article for Elephant Journal about body confidence and tips to feel better about yourself. While most of that article is about other things,  my personal confidence story is something I revisit whenever I am in a museum.  Here is a my number one tip for feeling better about the skin you are in.

1. Visit a Museum
I will tell you, as an Art Historian, that museums are the best place to see a true evolution of body types throughout visual history. Somewhere in one of those portrait galleries you are sure to find at least one time period or society that praised your unique form as it exists today. Just because you aren’t currently in vogue does not mean that you aren’t timeless.

On a recent trip to the Norton Simon Museum my boyfriend casually pointed to a nude sculpture and said, “Honey! It’s you!” I was momentarily shocked, and then flattered as I saw how he sees me. The figure in front of me really did have my body type cast in marble. I was able to see that most of what I criticize about myself was once so admired that it was cast in stone. Who cares that I don’t have an ample bust? I have strong legs, with thighs that touch, and a rounded perky ass!


There are countless body types depicted in pretty much any museum you choose—at some point in the visual narrative you will recognize your body, honored and painted because someone thought it was worthy.

This is not exclusive to female bodies by the way. If you think that “Dad Bod” is a new movement, I suggest you look at the sculptural work of Andrea Riccio, the paintings of HonorĂ© Daumier or the photographic work of Max Koch and Otto Rieth.

In Art History there is even room for transgendered bodies to be praised—this Roman sculpture appears at first to be a female nude, but when seen from the other side it is apparent that the sleeping figure has male genitalia.


To read the rest of the article visit Elephant Journal here

Saturday, April 4

Learning from the Past (Degas)

Ultimately, museums are for learning. This is why I love to see people sketching in galleries, learning techniques, observing lines, motion, form.

While visiting the Norton Simon last week, a woman brought in three girls and sat them down in front of this Degas painting with their sketch books. They diligently set to work recreating the lithe dancers that Degas loved so dearly.

Silently they scribbled away, appreciating the painting from the perspective of creator rather than passive observer.

I bet Degas never imagined that young girls would stand before his art, essentially turning him into the subject rather than the observer. Learning from the very man that would have, if given the chance, stripped them down and made them his models.

In another time I imagine the standing girl in the gallery could have been sketched by Degas. She is of about the same age as many of his subjects, most notably his famous bronze of the fourteen year old ballet dancer.




Beautiful as she is, she is not without controversy. The model for this sculpture was Marie van Goethem, a fourteen year old orphan who was brought into Degas' studio and made to pose naked for him. Degas would have been forty seven at the time. I can't imagine she was comfortable with the situation. Little else is known about Marie after her modeling period.

This sculpture was not well liked in Degas' time, though not because his model was a minor, that was actually common practice. Additionally, it was not uncommon for wealthy men like Degas to take young dancers as their mistresses, though there is no evidence that Marie became that for Degas; Paris was seedy, no doubt about it.

The most common critique about this sculpture is best expressed by J.K. Huysman. "The terrible reality of this statuette evidently produces uneasiness in the spectators; all their notions about sculpture, about those cold inanimate whitenesses ... are here overturned. The fact is that with his first attempt Monsieur Degas has revolutionized the traditions of sculpture as he has long since shaken the conventions of painting."

Scandalous indeed.



Thursday, March 26

Free Art Education from MetPublications


The Metropolitan Museum is one of the most notable proponents of art education in the world. If you are looking to improve your knowledge of art, but can't afford to buy your reference material, this is one website you absolutely need to visit --- MetPublications.com

MetPublications is continually adding to their data base of art catalogs and books. Currently there are 422 books and catalogs available for free download, as well as more than 400,000 free art images. So browse around, learn something new, or find inspiration to teach others.

As Longfellow said, “The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books”


Here is a selection of titles that caught my attention:











Tuesday, February 3

Out of the Fire

A magical transformation happens inside a kiln. A brittle piece of clay is subjected to thousands of degrees of heat; through a long, patient firing, the chemical composition of a ceramic piece actually changes and becomes a strong work of pottery. The most exciting part of working with ceramics is revealing the contents of a kiln.

A stack of work that begins looking like this,

emerges from the kiln looking like this.

This is when surprising effects of glaze combinations reveal themselves. Sometimes bright and speckled.

Lovely matte, butterscotch, yellow.
Revealing surface patterns, created by carving tools.
Heavy handed glazing results in pieces stuck to shelves.
 Near misses in over-glazing reveal themselves when the kiln door opens.
When the glaze is right, it effortlessly becomes one with the piece.
When the intended effect actually works, that is the most exciting of all.
 


Monday, February 2

Los Angeles Art Book Fair 2015


For the third year in a row, thousands of Los Angelinos flocked to the Los Angeles Art Book Fair, held at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary Building. The range of exhibits and publishers was overwhelming, as was the flow of people, meandering through the narrow isles between tables. While it was frustrating in terms of seeing exhibits in their entirety, this is a positive sign. In a predominantly digital age, it is uplifting to know that a book fair can draw such a large crowd.

While most booths had traditional, hard cover, bound and glossy, art books, the trend throughout the fair was the zine. A zine is a small, self published book, usually made using a photo copier. Almost every booth was littered with them, ranging in price from $1 to $25, and by the end of the fair they were being given away. I went home with two free zines from artists liquidating their stock. If you are abundantly interested in the world of zines, there is an upcoming LA Zine Fest on February 15th.

One of the more interesting zines I was given was created by Nick Kline; it is a simple fold open series of photographs from the construction of the UNTITLED Art Fair tent. Created as a reference to Sol Lewitt's Photo Grids (1977), which had been done as a response to the work of Eadweard Muybridge, the photos capture the foundation of an art fair being constructed. 


There were a few paintings, but primarily, the exhibited art was photographic. One of my favorite displays was a series of photos called California Chiaroscuro, done by artist and music producer Spot. His images capture California youth culture and during the 1970s and 1980s, composed in stark black and white.

This video is an interview with him, by LA Weekly, about his book.




Ceramics made occasional appearances at booths, tucked in amongst the publications, but I was disappointed in the lack of knowledge from the presenters. I saw work from Ben Medansky, who does beautifully simple functional ware, with clean lines and a lovely speckled clay body. However, when I asked the table presenting his work about it, they admitted that they really had no knowledge about his process or intention. At another table there were sculptural vases that also lacked a solid explanation, but then again, this was a book fair not a ceramics show.


My favorite corner of the book fair featured both The Guerrilla Girls booth and a Dorothy Lannone exhibit. Lannone's brightly colored work is an aesthetic blend of Japanese block prints, Eastern religious motifs, and boldly emphasizes female sensuality. The subject matter is intriguing because of how she retells well known myths in order to convey her personal, often sexually explicit, folklore.  Examples of her work can be seen here


My final moment of excitement was the Guerilla Girls booth; it was a little flashback to my days as an Art History student at Chapman University, studying gender and art with Wendy Salmond. My discussion with the women running the booth was fantastic, and I bought a shirt to commemorate the occasion.


Overall, the Los Angeles Art Book Fair is a positive event, and it seems to be gaining in popularity. However, if crowds are not your thing you may want to stay home, or visit the Japanese museum next door.

Sunday, January 11

Back to School

Wild and free in the clay soot and ash of the ceramics studio, I was a child of the kiln. My father was an active participant in a ceramics studio in our little mountain town, and I was right at home watching the kilns fire up and cool down.

This photo is of me as a smiling toddler at a ceramics firing. Even then I loved the process of ceramics. Though back then I'm sure what I loved most was an excuse to get dirty.


I took ceramics in High School, and again in college, but studios and supplies are expensive. As an independent adult I simply fell out of practice, though never out of touch with the medium. During most of my previous ceramics classes I primarily worked as a sculptor and hand builder. Somewhere along the line I had convinced myself that I wasn't ready for wheel throwing. It wasn't until my final semester of school that I finally started to explore the possibilities of wheel throwing, and by then I was almost done with my undergraduate degree. My one regret has always been that I hadn't worked more to improve my skills as a potter.

The good news is that there is no age limit to learning new skills, and I have been given the chance to resume ceramics lessons. This year for Christmas, after seven years without touching clay, I was given a gift card to a local ceramic studio.

My first lesson was exciting, I was focused on the lesson, but my thoughts were scattered. I knew how to wedge my clay, I knew how to center my clay. Truly, I knew the basic principles I needed to open up my bowl and pull it into shape, but I kept questioning myself. I watched the instructor demonstrate, but I felt shaky about hand placement, sponge use, and how much water to use. My first bowl ended up thick and uneven, a reflection of my state of mind.



My second bowl was a little better. Still thick, but I felt more confident.

My third bowl started to reflect my more confident mindset. It had thinner walls, an even rim, and a nice shape. Everything was starting to flow better, and I felt calmer about the process.
My final bowl of the day was my favorite.
I have been practicing regularly since last Monday, because practice is really the best way to get better. Not everything works out, but that is sort of the beauty of the process. My first bowl of a session tends to be wobbly and uneven, but as I continue through each practice session, I get results that make me happier.

In this picture you will see my first bowl of the day and my last bowl of the day, ordered from right to left.



This one was so beautiful, I was almost afraid to take it off the wheel.
My next class is tomorrow, I'm excited to get back into that little yellow studio.