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Art (60 posts)
In Judy Fox's studio, a mermaid stands in the corner. Instead of a fanciful tail, she has iridescent legs, tinted bluish purple. Her hair floats above her shoulders as if swept by the ocean's current, her gaze dreamy, if a little sad. The sculpture is part of Fox's exhibition Out of Water, opening October 25. It will be surrounded by ceramic sea worms and cephalopods, including an octopus with eyes "slightly more human than they should be," says Fox—whose genial, easily amused nature belies the eerie intensity of her work.
For more than three decades, she has drawn from art history, mythology, and world events to create beguiling sculptures, like a series of cultural icons (Friar Tuck, Albert Einstein, Saint Theresa) imagined as babies, or an interpretation of Snow White in which the dwarves embody the seven deadly sins. In the current exhibition, at New York's PPOW gallery, Fox turns her playfully subversive eye to the sea, sculpting oddly sexual worms and mollusks a few surreal degrees removed from nature. "Creating these animals felt like intelligent design," she says. "I got to run my own little version of evolution."
Fox first discovered her affinity for sculpture when she experimented with the form as a teenager during summer camp, and honed her technique as an art major at Yale. "I felt at home in sculpture," she says. She is particularly excited by improvisation, incorporating her models' peculiar traits into her sculptures. The mermaid's awkwardly bent fingers, for instance, derive from the model's own double-jointedness. "That kind of discovery is an almost mystical thing," Fox says. "The model becomes a coauthor of the work."
Fox begins her sculptures of humans by photographing a model in a predetermined pose, then shapes, carves, plasters, and paints terra-cotta in a process so intensive that each adult-size sculpture takes roughly a year. "I spend a lot of time getting the curves right, because they create the rhythm and the mood," Fox says. "Sculpting is like standing on a mountaintop before you ski the slope, thinking about how you'll curve your way down."
As her new album, The Art of Renée Fleming, hits stores, the celebrated soprano talks about the City of Light, the secret to weight loss, and what comes after her final bow.
1. You Have to Make Time For Joy
You can't just focus on shoulds. You have to also do whatever makes your heart feel full. Maybe it's cooking for your friends, being with your children. For me, it's a sunset walk around Paris—where I keep an apartment—listening to jazz and Joni Mitchell on my iPod. It's like having my own soundtrack.
2. And You Have To Make Other Things, Too
It enriches you to enjoy music and art and writing, but creating something yourself is even more important. Ask yourself what it can add to your existence to write, to paint, to sing. It's so easy to leave creativity out of your life because you don't have time. But I know I wouldn't feel fully alive if I couldn't put forth some expression of myself.
3. Success Is Nine-Tenths Elbow Grease
I once said to the photographer Annie Leibovitz, "You've met so many incredible people. What have you learned from them?" She answered, "Everybody works really hard." That's the key.
4. Changing Your Body Means Changing Your Thinking
My whole life, I've struggled with my weight. Many people in my profession do—"It's not over till the fat lady sings," as they say. But I've learned that weight loss, like a lot of things, starts with your mind. If you don't look inside and examine how food is protecting you from dealing with something difficult, and why some inner voice is undermining your resolve, no diet in the world will help.
5. Nothing Lasts Forever
A singer's career is like an athlete's—short. It would be easy to view this negatively, but instead I try to think about what my legacy will be, how I'll give back, and all the new things I'll get to try. Like spending less time in airports, for example.
It is, indeed, artwork that makes you wonder such strange things: Birds, fairies, storybook characters, flowers, all manners of figures and shapes, perched in the eye of a needle, or on the tip of a pin, or even on the end of an eyelash. Carved out of, sometimes, a single grain of sand. Created by -- get this -- a regular-sized human.
Willard Wigan's artwork is impossible. I know. I don't believe it either. How? And why? Well, I thought I was going to write here about patience, about how Wigan taught himself to concentrate hard enough to create these astoundingly tiny works. And yes, he spoke at TED about how he has to slow down his nervous system to do his work. He works in between his heart beats, in the middle of the night. He has to hold his breath so that he doesn't inhale the sculptures. (Doesn't just hearing that make you squirm?) Sometimes, as he explains, working on this molecular level means your materials (spider webs, fly hairs, plastic fibers, glass shards) get finicky. Learning his Lilliputian craft -- each eensy sculpture takes up to 7 weeks to create -- has surely been a Brobdingnagian process.
And yet, this very TED talk made me realize that Wigan's story isn't just one of patience and concentration: it's a story of transcendent failure. Wigan is dyslexic, and was routinely humiliated at school. He talks about being 5 years old and smarting from the cruel teacher who labeled him a failure. He would hide away in a shed, where he noticed some ants who, in his magical world, indicated to him that they needed a home. Wigan constructed them a tiny apartment out of wood splinters, and an artistic quest was begun. He found the thing he was good at, the thing no one else could own, the world that was his, and he worked it; as his mother told him, “The smaller your work, the bigger your name." He's since been called (unofficially) the 8th Wonder of the World, so there you go.
You must listen to his TED talk -- he's surprisingly funny, mysteriously inspiring, and his message is an important one for anyone who's ever needed to find their own little corner of the world.
Trading Art for Health Care
Learning to Play Viola at 52
Do you ever feel as if you just need to be scrubbed clean? As if there were some authentic self there, but you just haven't seen her in a while, distracted as you've been with work and family and the difficult work of maintaining everyday life? Like you know the real you climbs mountains and writes haiku every weekend, but you somehow just haven't found the time to deal with her lately? Like maybe there's something hiding beneath the surface, like, say, a $600,000 lighthouse.
Allow me to explain: according to Art Info's In the Air blog, an 18th century painting attributed to the studio of French painter Claude-Joseph Vernet was recently sent to the cleaner's by an art dealer in preparation for the LAPADA Art & Antiques Fair this week. (Check out the blog for the dingy pre-cleaning painting.) When the dealer got the bright-and-shiny-painting back, he found there was an entire section that had been painted over. There was now a lighthouse completing the composition, which not only changed the whole feel of the painting, but most significantly, revealed the painting to be in fact a work of Vernet himself, vastly increasing its value -- 16 fold.
There's always something exciting about a work of art that harbors a secret. And I love the idea that something so simple as a good cleaning could change a painting's fate, make an art lover a mint, and most of all, reveal a work's authenticity.
If only there were official restorations for people. It would be something between a spa day and a religious conversion, just a good soul-scrubbing, a little life-brightener.
The Power of Authenticity
Cultivate Your Own True Self
In an approximately one-by-two-foot box, Elly MacKay constructs tiny, delicately detailed scenes—mermaids frolicking, a child's hand shadow puppets coming to life, a skulk of foxes traversing the woods—out of little more than paper and imagination. Once these soft-focus flights of fancy are arranged to her liking, MacKay carefully lights them and experiments with various camera filters and lenses to produce an effect of dreamy immediacy in the resulting photograph. "I try to make the work feel intimate, like you're inside it," she says.
MacKay begins each diorama by layering parchment paper, dollhouse wallpaper, Yupo paper (a synthetic, semitranslucent material), or Mylar against the backdrop of the box; she might use several sheets for an opaque nightscape, but only a few for a glowing daylight scene. Then MacKay sketches images—a cherub, a sailboat, an endless sea—with a vintage calligraphy pen, colors them with ink, cuts them out, and carefully hooks these shapes into the diorama using wires and adhesives. Once the stage is set, "I usually take about 50 pictures," she says, "each only subtly different, and then choose the one I like best."
As a teenager, MacKay was fascinated by Victorian paper toys—tunnel books, zoetropes, acrobats that tumble down a slope—and by the age of 15 had begun creating dioramas that adopted the same colorful, playful aesthetic. By 16 she was preparing for a degree in art studies. "In university the attitude was like, You have to stop doing this stuff! It's silly, childish." But giving birth to her daughter, Lily, in 2008 and son, Koen, three years later, only solidified MacKay's love of the nostalgic world of childhood. "Sharing their new experiences is so inspiring," she says, "and capturing that feels like real magic."
Okay, so maybe that's not always the case. And even being acclaimed as a genius (by your artistic community, by your mother, whoever) doesn't usually come with mundane perks like health insurance. Enter the brilliance that is upstate New York's O+ Festival.
Now in its third year, the O+ festival is, in the words of co-founder Alexandra Marvar, "a super-fun, weekend-long party, and one small community's band-aid solution to inaccessible healthcare for artists and musicians." Musicians and artists barter their services for free dental work, physical therapy, eye exams, and other medical services they would otherwise not have access to. It's a lovely way to connect different sectors of a small town, and it's also a creative, DIY solution to the country's current health care crisis. Even non-performing participants of the festival glean healthful benefits, with workshops on yoga and nutrition. It's not exactly drunken head-banging, but okay, it sounds like a pretty fun way to spend a weekend -- and actually feel better afterwards.
Visit the O+ Festival official site to learn more, and, just possibly, to start thinking creatively about sources of healthcare in your own life...
How Much Do You Know About Health Insurance?
Dr Oz. Starts a Record-Breaking Free Clinic
Francine Prose has a thoughtful take on the subject in the New York Review of Books. She writes about the recent Marina Abramović show, The Artist is Present, at New York's Museum of Modern Art, in which the artist sat at a table and invited viewers to sit with her and look into her eyes. I know, I know: it sounds like a joke of contemporary art, a loopy concept designed to make you say, "Huh? That's art?" Prose thought so too when she saw the performance in person. But upon reflection, she writes, "Somehow it had escaped my notice that sitting across from Abramović in the museum atrium was, for some, a quasi-religious occasion. As the film carefully records, people wept, and responsive tears welled up in Abramović’s eyes." The moving aspect of the art, in this case, was not a show of technical skill, nor a representation of a beautiful sight. It was the moment of connection, the nexus of the personal feeling with the public event.
But if you've never been moved to tears by a work of visual art (I have to confess, I don't think I have),you are not alone: Prose is sympathetic to the difficulties of connecting to a painting in a museum room full of fellow tourists. Still, she reminds us that visual art, even if it seems strange, like Abramović's work, or impenetrably abstract, like the colorful paintings of Mark Rothko, is often about communicating emotion. In the end, Prose asks why so many viewers found Abramović's work so moving, and answers herself: "This is the moment in which we live. Alienated, unmoored, we seek our salvation, one by one, from the artist who brings us the comforting news: I see you. I weep when you weep. The mystery, and the miracle, is that you exist."
An Artist's Journey into Self-Discovery
Why We Love Songs That Make Us Cry
And then, just like that, summer is ending. Do you feel this way too, that every year the end of summer comes as a surprise? After months of groaning about how hot it is and longing for a crisp day of wearing sweaters and apple picking, suddenly the kids are back in school, there is a hint of chill in the air, and there is that eternal bittersweet sense of September.
Amy Jean Porter's "Return to Cat Town" drawings in The Awl capture the end-of-summer feeling exactly. Her evocative sketches and their accompanying captions cover the wildness of summer days -- her kids wander around inventing games, she reports, which makes her feel as though she's living in the novelist Haruki Murakami's invention, Cat Town, where cats roam and chat and can't even see humans. There is that wild element of magic in summer, to be sure, even when your days unfold in a climate-controlled office. Still, and always, it's a time when you'd believe that cats sit around having human conversations, that the woods are alive with surreal happenings, that anything is possible.
Check out all of Amy Jean Porter's drawings, with their dreamy imagery and wise commentary, on The Awl.
An Artist's Imagined Collections
Whimsical Japanese Animations
Instead of scrolling through endless on-demand movie listings on your TV, download this free app to receive film recommendations on your phone. Select from among two dozen genres and Jybe will provide customized suggestions, complete with movie trailers. Pick your flick on Netflix or Amazon, then share your choice with friends via text, Twitter, Facebook, or e-mail.
2. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
With a new version due out next month, this classic coffee-table book, compiled by critic Steven Jay Schneider, features screen gems dating back to the silent era, all listed chronologically. Also included: reviews by writers and film professors from across the globe, helpful plot summaries, cast listings, and amusing behind-the-scenes factoids.
Don't let the name fool you. The three female bloggers (Mainstream Chick, Adventurous Chick, and Arty Chick) behind this popular site offer a fun, fresh perspective on blockbusters, indie fare, and more. Search their archived reviews to find DVD-worthy titles.
Top of the Pops: Your Best Viewing Snack Options
Put an ordinary bag of pre-popped corn in the microwave and it may ignite. Put in a bag of Popcorn Indiana's Warm Your Corn and 60 seconds later you'll have a heap of toasty, buttery heaven. (PopcornIndiana.com)
We can't decide which we like better: Quinn Popcorn's inventive flavors (Parmesan & Rosemary, Lemon & Sea Salt, Vermont Maple & Sea Salt) or the fact that its organic popcorn comes in a compostable bag. (QuinnPopcorn.com)
An addictive blend of brown sugar, garlic, onion, pepper, and sea salt from the mineral-rich waters off the coast of Mendocino, the Seasoning "Sand" made by Mendocino Sea Salt and Seasoning Company adds a pop of sweet savoriness. (MendoSeasoning.com)
When it comes to Elva Fields, Emily Maynard's lively jewelry line, the name of the game is reinvention—whether Maynard is transforming flea market beads into eye-catching earrings or reinvigorating an estate sale necklace with a blingy brooch turned pendant. Maynard's one-of-a-kind pieces, as colorful as they are unique, combine midcentury flair with a thoroughly modern aesthetic. "I love that I'm able to make each item into something people will wear again," she says.
"When I was growing up," Maynard says,"my mom had an uncanny ability to find lackluster furniture at the flea market and resurrect it into something amazing." While planning her wedding in 2003, Maynard applied the same concept to jewelry, transforming 1930s celluloid pendants and gemstone beads into keepsakes for her maid of honor, mother, and grandmother. "From then on," she says, "I couldn't pass a garage sale or antiques market without stopping to see what kind of materials I could dig up." Elva Fields—named for Maynard's great-grandmother—launched that year.
With two young daughters, Maynard has had to curb her frequent flea market runs; she now goes on dedicated buying trips all over the country a few times a year. (She does admit, however, to braking at the sight of any yard sale.) She stores her finds by material or color, experimenting with new designs by juxtaposing strands and beads until a felicitous combination emerges. "With vintage pieces," Maynard says, "everything you're working with has a story. I try to let the personality of each piece tell me about the new life it should take on."