Friday, November 19, 2010

Dead or Alive?

My roommate and I play this "game" wherein we try and determine if people we're studying are Dead or Alive. It's not quite as morbid or strange as it might sound, but when you study and write about people born in the 1920s and '30s, its quite possible that they may no longer be with us on earth. The game really got started when we were without internet for two weeks in February because of the Great Snow of 2010. (I abhor the portmanteaus created to describe this massive meteorological event.) Fortunately, the internet in our apartment was restored and is very handy in helping us figure who is dead and who is alive.

Recently, I was happy to discover that Richard Shaw (a ceramicist I am researching for my thesis) is still alive and working! I love trompe l'oeil, and his is whimsical and fun. A Funk potter from California, Shaw always seems happy and like he is having fun with his work. As someone who was trained that functionality is the number one goal in making a ceramic work, I am excited when I see people using clay in fun and non-functional ways. His current work (above) is funny and technically amazing. The piece pictured is called "Rejected Lover Teapot" and while I feel a little bad for the guy on the edge of the plate, it also makes me laugh. See more of Shaw's great work here.

Photo from Shaw's website.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I can retain information!

One of my fears as I get older (yes, because I'm so old now...) is that I can't remember things. I've always been a little on the scatterbrained side--walking into rooms and not remembering why, being easily distracted by shiny objects--those sorts of things. Sometimes I worry about it more than others because I'm in a field where memory is incredibly important and being able to recall facts about who made what when is one of the cornerstones to the art history field. So, I was incredibly happy when I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts this past week and was able to rattle off names of makers as I wandered through the decorative arts galleries.

Hmmm... that looks like Knox silver (it was). That's a Royal Worcester plate. That's a Greene and Greene chair. That looks like Hannah Barlow. And it was Hannah Barlow! From Doulton Lambeth Art Pottery. I was pretty excited to remember this because I just learned about Hannah Barlow and her sisters this semester in my ceramics class. They were just decorators, not makers, because this was before the movement toward the potter being an all-in-one. Hannah, as you can see above, had a very sketch-book like style of decorating. She incised the clay, using it much more like a canvas than a vessel. The result are well-executed, warm, happy animals in a variety of scenes. Her work is friendly to me. Something I would like in my home to remind me of nature. And that's probably exactly why it was popular in its heyday.

And in case you were wondering, I was in Minneapolis to visit the new headquarters of the American Craft Council and their library to do research for my thesis. The new headquarters are quite lovely, in a fantastic old beer brewery building, and everyone was very friendly. I highly recommend a visit.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Collage Art

I've written a lot about ceramics lately, mainly because I was feeling guilty for writing about all that furniture I loved. (Furniture I've loved so much that I put the Panton Chair on my Amazon Wish List.) Often, when looking for inspiration about blog posts, or doing general research, I look at the V & A website and the Met's website. These two have some of the best online images and searchable databases for those doing research, or just interested in the visual arts.

Now that I cleared that up, I stumbled across this painting (above) by Romare Bearden when scanning through the Met's Timeline. I really enjoy the timeline because it shows you what was happening in the geo-political world when different works were being made. I've always really enjoyed Romare Bearden. I actually discovered him on a trip to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, when they had a small gallery with his works. He was from Charlotte, but later moved to Harlem where he became a part of the Harlem Renaissance.

He often uses bright colors and collage elements to form his compositions. According to the timeline, he was inspired by jazz and worked to include the same musical ideas in his work. This painting, "The Block," was done in 1971. He wanted to show the vibrancy and life of a Harlem city block. Many of his works focus on home, family, tradition, and daily life. Take a look at the page for the painting to read more about Bearden, his work, and to see details of this happy piece.