Art That Infuriates People

I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art recently with my friend Christa. I like to look at art with Christa because she knows so much and has such an interesting perspective (the same reason I like to watch movies, which can be anything from Mad Max to Macbeth, with my husband.)

I’d heard of Cy Twombly, but didn’t know much about him. I still don’t know a whole lot, but I learned that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is home to one of Twombly’s major works. Fifty Days at Illiam. We saw the series of ten paintings after seeing the fifty-year retrospective of Sean Scully. Scully’s work was technically and artistically brilliant, but I found it lacking in emotion. Perhaps this is just me because apparently, Scully “sees art devoid of emotion as dishonest.” But what is art supposed to mean anyway?

When we entered the room that houses Fifty Days at Illiam, I saw nothing but emotion. We all know the story of the Trojan war and the story of Achilles who was so incensed when Trojan Prince Hector killed his besty Patroclus that he lost all control. Fifty Days at Illiam captures frenzy that led to a chain reaction of violence that ended with eternal night.

Shield of Achilles
Achilles wants vengeance

How’s that for emotion? Red and black and images that could pass for male genitalia or cannons depending on your point of view. Probably the former since this was the Trojan War and not the War of 1812.

Compare this battle scene with this one. Achilles kills Hector, Paris kills Achilles and havoc is unleashed.

Like a Fire that Consumes All Before It.

You can see all the paintings here, and learn more about Cy Twombly here.

Now I have heard that a lot of people don’t get Cy Twombly. Maybe because some of his materials included crayons, glue, and house paint, and he scribbled across his canvas. People probably say, “I could do that.” Maybe. But they didn’t. Or if they tried, their work didn’t have the color, the emotion, the audacity. John Waters said, “Cy Twombly is my hero because in the beginning his work so infuriated people.” Twombly’s work doesn’t infuriate me. It moves me.

ArtSci Designs

I made my way to the home of ArtSci Designs this weekend for an open house and to see the beautiful polymer jewelry that my friend Terri makes in her Conshohocken studio.

Terri is a scientist who spends most of her days looking at the microverse through a scanning electron microscope. She translates the microverse into art you can wear. Here are just a few of her creations: bracelets in a color for everyone. She makes other kinds of jewelry, too-earrings, pendants, and necklaces mixing in sterling chains and findings, semi precious gems and handmade glass beads.

Terri has a lot of shows scheduled in the Northeast in the coming months. Follow ArtSci Designs on Instagram here, or Facebook here, to see where she’ll land next.

Why Are There No Great Female Artists?

I hear the question, “Why are there no great female artists?” less these days than I used to. That only means one thing to me: That it’s less socially acceptable to ask the question than it used to be. Instead, we ask “Who are the most famous women artists of all time?” That’s not the same thing as asking who are the greatest, or best women artists of all time. I am sure there are plenty of great women artists we’ve never heard of. Do we equate great artists with famous artists or vice versa? And what makes a piece of art famous anyway? There’s a great New Yorker cartoon captioned, I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. As for me, I like art that challenges me, engages me and draws me in. I don’t have to think it’s pretty. I don’t have to understand it, at least right away.

What passed for art education in high school taught me that African Tribal art was primitive and that Cubism was sophisticated. I know now that that’s hogwash, but it was really driven home to me when I saw an exhibit of the work of Emma Amos at the Philadelphia Museum of Art which had one of her works entitled “Muse Picasso.” I didn’t get a good picture of “Muse Picasso” when I was at the museum, so I Googled the term for an image. Here’s what my search turned up. I love Picasso, but there was nothing about Amos’ work. Bupkis.

I was expressing my frustration to Beading Yoda, when she told me that Amos had been a neighbor and close friend of hers when they both lived in Greenwich Village years ago. Beading Yoda had suspected that Amos was a member of the Guerrilla Girls and later learned that she was. I remembered that I’d seen an exhibition on the Guerrilla Girls at the Tate Modern in London. I did manage to get a good picture of this poster.

I will post about the Emma Amos exhibit in the coming weeks, and about another great exhibit of Suzanne Valadon’s work I saw at the Barnes Foundation. While you’re waiting, here are posts you might find interesting, on Mildred Greenberg and Christina Robertson.

Polymer Clay Videos on YouTube


I have gotten back into polymer clay after a couple of years on hiatus. I’m always looking for new polymer clay ideas and YouTube is loaded with polymer clay tutorials. So every night, after my husband has gone to bed, I pour myself a glass of wine and Boris and I plop in front of the TV and troll YouTube for new videos.

The problem with YouTube is the algorithms it uses can actually limit the videos is recommends to you because of the way the algorithms work. I am not going to pretend that I know how to beat the algorithms. What I have found, however, is that if you subscribe to any channel with videos that interest you, you will get a wider variety of new recommended videos in your feed. Subscribe to the channels for those videos and you will get an ven wider array of recommendations. And on and on.

I have finally started to get new (to me) polymer videos from Europe and Asia which, while not always in English are easy to follow, and sometimes subtitled. Lots of interesting stuff. Here’s some stuff I’ve found.

Donna Kato has a new channel and is adding new videos to it steadily. Much of the material is basic but she presents it in the inimitable Kato way and you always learn something new. The video below is part of a series on how to make hollow carved beads.

Sona Grigoryan from Spain

Ludmila Bakulina, Ukraine by way of Thailand

From Sandartes, hollow translucent beads. I always wanted to know how to color translucent clay without making it opaque. Now I know.

Watch a few videos and get your creative juices flowing.

Inspiration: How to Get It.



Sometimes children get crazy notions into their heads. I had a friend who swore that there was a city called ”Random” in upstate New York where contest winners were picked. (“Winners will be selected at random.”)

My personal crazy childhood belief was that every song had already been written, and that it was impossible to compose a totally new song. I know now that this isn’t the case, but I could not imagine that anyone could invent any new music beyond that which already existed. It had all been done.

But I also know that there were times in popular music history (for one example), when all music started sounding the same until a visionary or a visionary movement came along and blew up the paradigm. Until someone shakes things up, we get mired in the same old same old. It takes a a new way seeing and hearing to move upforward. And openness and a willingness to explore. If you want a concrete example of this has happened in the past, watch the segments on David Bowie in Apple TV’s documentary 1971: The Year That Changed Everything.

It can seem impossible to come up with a fresh design that works on all levels. We have all been subjected to brutally over-designed fashion masquerading as something new. As for me, I have been struggling the past few weeks with trying to come up with some new earring designs that are unhackneyed, original, and my own.

Where are you supposed to get inspiration? Everyone recommends searching Pinterest, but I have a problem with that. I don’t think it will help my cause to look at countless pictures of earrings. Sure, I can copy someone else’s designs. But without getting into the moral/ethical dilemma copying debate, (a topic that I think has been done to death and needs to be put to rest, ) after I have learned a technique, why on earth would I want copy someone else’s work? I want to be more than a technician. That’s the goal. So the question becomes where to find inspiration.

Picasso is known for saying that good artists copy and that great artists steal. What does this mean? Does it mean that great artists commit copyright infringement? I don’t think so. Let me explain. Two artists who ”stole” to great effect were Antonio Gaudi and Elsa Peretti. How did they do it? Here’s a clue: Polymer artist Kathleen Dustin says that part of her job as an artist is to pay attention.

Gaudi and Peretti paid attention. Here are two videos that show how they did it.

How many of us truly pay attention? I am going to start working on it.

Syd Carpenter

I went to an exhibition at Rowan University Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago to see an exhibition called Earth Offerings: Honoring the the Gardeners, that featured the ceramics and mixed media of Syd Carpenter

Mother Pin Transitions.
Clay, graphite, water color, rototiller blades.
Farm Bowl with Chicken.
Stoneware

Press here for more information on Syd Carpenter and the work in this exhibition which closes on March 26, 2022. If you can’t make it in person, you can take a virtual tour by video here.

A Trip Down Memory Lane in Polymer Bracelets.

The other day, I pulled the bracelets pictured below out of a cabinet in my workshop (where they have been gathering dust since before I started blogging, some time back in the Mesozoic era.) I realized that most of the teachers and artists who inspired the pieces might not be that well known today. So I’ve included some links in case anyone is interested in checking out artists like Tory Hughes or Gwen Gibson, or any of the other polymer pioneers no longer with us.

Sources: Chris Dupouy Creating Your Own Antique Jewelry: Taking Inspiration from Great Museums Around the World, Gwen Gibson, Tory Hughes, Polymer – The Chameleon Clay, Margaret Regan, Pier Voulkos

There’s no better source for the history of polymer clay art than the Polymer Art Archive.

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Clayathon Online 2022

A lot of planning went into Clayathon 2022. We had an incredible team of volunteers who worked together seamlessly, who supported one another, and made it happen. With registrants exceeding 450 this year, I was concerned about how we would handle them all on a Zoom meeting. But there were no problems. Everything and everyone came together.

The sense of community was palpable. Although most Clayathon registrants came from the United States and Canada, a number of registrants from Russia, who came to us via polymer artists Juliya Laukhina and Olga Guseva, joined us. It seems surreal in light of recent events that less than two weeks ago we were together online sharing tips, techniques, and talking about our personal histories and sources of inspiration.

From Juliya’s presentation
From Olga’s presentation

Donna Kato and Anna Ko of the Van Aken Clay Company dropped by to show off some exciting new products. Their video just went live on YouTube and here’s the link.

Wendy Moore joined us live from Australia where, aided by Kathleen Dustin and Cynthia Tinapple, she educated us on the history of Samunnat in Nepal, which is an organization dedicated to empowering Nepalese women who have experienced violence or abuse to become financially independent. One of the programs Samunnat sponsors is teaching women to make and sell polymer jewelry. You can support this wonderful program by buying some of this jewelry for yourself. More information here.

The Gathering grew out of an interview of polymer artist Debbie Jackson by Cynthia Tinapple after the murder of George Floyd. Debbie issued a call to action and assembled a group of 14 polymer artists, 7 white and 7 black. They met weekly on Zoom to have hard, unflinching conversations about race, society, and the impact it had on their lives and art. In October, 2021, they opened a group show, Truth Be Told, at the Two Villages Art Society Gallery in Contoocook, NH. For the exhibit, each artist chose a word that she felt related to the topics discussed in the conversations and created a piece of polymer art around it.

Several of the Gathering artists joined us online at Clayathon to discuss the exhibit and their contributions to it. It was a moving, challenging presentation.

Syndee’s New Tips and Tricks

We ended Clayathon on a lighter note with an entertaining presentation by Syndee Holt on what’s new on the polymer horizon and what’s trending in general.

I wrote about Loretta Lam’s incredible presentations in last week’s post. If you are interested in purchasing her jewelry or her book on jewelry design (which I heartily recommend,) press here.

Progress Not Perfection: Clayathon 2022

Clayathon 2022, which took place online from February 19 through 21, was a smashing success. I’ll write more about Clayathon in the coming weeks, but if there’s one take away, it came from our guest artist Loretta Lam who presented six hours of content, guiding us through her creative process: Inspiration, Process and Intention on Saturday, Color, Pattern and Form on Sunday and Veneers, Finishing, and Assessment on Monday.

Learning design principles and consciously integrating them into my work has never been easy for me, which brings me to something Lam mentioned during her workshop, and I paraphrase, if you are having a hard time grasping a concept, acknowledge the possibility that you might be fighting it.

Part of the on line chat discussion during the workshops dealt with the question of how long you have to work at something in order to learn it. We are all familiar with the claim that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve mastery. But during the discussion, Artsy-Sciency recommended a Ted Talk by Josh Kaufman, that gives a different point of view. I’m not going to repeat what Kaufman says when you can learn more by watching the video here.

One thing that struck me was that Kaufman repeated something that Lam touched on during her presentations at Clayathon, and which I firmly believe is true.

The major barrier to learning anything new is not intellectual, it’s emotional.

Designing Earrings

I’m still experimenting with dark annealed steel and bronze. i decided to make some earrings. Normally, I draw out my designs first. This time, I went straight to the metal.

I made some leaf shapes in 16 gauge wire that I planned to wrap with 28 gauge wire.


That didn’t go very well. Steel wire is stiff and hard to control. i will have to work with it more before I get the hang of it. On to plan B.

I wanted to add interest and contrast to the earrings with bronze. i tried some washers and jump rings to see how they hung. i didn’t like this result.

This looked better, but I didn’t think I could find a good solution for the other end for a post or an ear wire.

Better, but didn’t want to tackle soldering brass to steel. And the washer started to look clunky to me. I decided to solder some steel rings onto the leaves for added interest.

Trying different places for the jump rings.

This is how I ended up soldering the rings to the leaf shapes. Still don’t like the look of the washer. Too thick and clunky next to the steel wire.

i found some square wire bronze jump rings in this short chain I madw that I thought would be more compatible with the steel wire.

And here’s how they ended up. The ear wires are not visible when you wear them. Soldered posts might be a better solution. I think I will try that on my next pair.