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Archive for December, 2013

13ShipInIceAn arresting image.  A ship in the Antarctic is trapped in ice.  Some of the people on board will be rescued by helicopter and some will remain behind to take care of the ship.  All this depends on the weather, which is severe.

The caption reads:  “This image taken by Andrew Peacock, a passenger on the Akademik Shokalskiy, shows the ship stuck in the Antarctic ice on Monday near Cape de la Motte.”

The composition is uncanny.  The photographer clambered around on solid ice until he found this ice formation curling over the view of the ship and, just coincidentally, a couple of people are standing there to look down at the ship.  It’s too good to be true, but let’s assume it is true and these three elements—ship, people and ice formation—are not collaged together in Photoshop.

What makes this image so compelling? First, it’s optimistic.  Second, it echoes the famous Hokusai woodcut. The two are related.

13ShipInIceFlipTo test for optimism, just flip it horizontally. Same information, different mood. Where before, the ice formation was static, now the ice formation is on the left and it appears to be coming down on the ship.  It’s ominous.  Where before, the people on the left made us sympathize with them, now on the right, they are in a dark, gloomy mood.

The photographer may not have thought of Hokusai when he framed the shot, but surely he saw the association when he looked at his many frames from that day and picked this one.  The ice curls and sits on

HukasaiWavethe page just like the Hokusai wave in his woodcut, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” 1823-29.  Except flipped.  In the Hokusai, the wave ominously towers and curls on the left.  It moves towards the right and feels fast, powerful and threatening.

When we flip the Hokusai, putting the wave on the right, it looks static.  It just stands there, is not going

HukasaiWaveFlipanywhere, not threatening anybody.  Looks funny.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/31/world/europe/delayed-rescue-attempt-antarctica.html?hp

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The Great Chicago Fire started October 8, 1871 and left 100,000 of the 300,000 inhabitants homeless.  Being Chicagoans, they rolled up their sleeves, cleaned up and started rebuilding.

What to do with the rubble from all those destroyed buildings?  Why, dump it into the lake.  This was the beginning of the landfill east of the railroad tracks that became Grant Park.  The city’s politicians and merchants had to come up with an ordinance about how that land was to be used.  Aaron Montgomery Ward, the department store and catalog tycoon, insisted that the land east of Michigan Avenue, from Randolph to Roosevelt, should remain free of buildings and be used for parks only—for the enjoyment and recreation of all the people of Chicago.  In 1911, after 20 years of court battles against the city, he won.  The only exception he agreed to is the Art Institute, which was part of the Colombian Exposition of 1893.

The Colombian Exposition and Jackson Park were laid out by the pre-eminent landscape architect in 19th Century America, Fredrick Law Olmstead (1822-1903). His successors, the Olmsted Brothers, consulted Daniel Burnham in planning Grant Park.

Olmsted also planned Central Park in New York and advised the planners for Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  He was a nature lover. He believed that parks were vital to city dwellers for relaxation and rejuvenation. I remember reading, though not where exactly, that Olmsted hated sculptures in parks.

This bit of Chicago history and Olmsted’s part in it went through my head when I walked down Michigan Avenue recently.  There, past Jackson, is a little rectangular park with benches. It’s a spot to sit a spell and reflect, to get away from man-made structures and institutions, to be surrounded by nature for a short breather, just the thing Olmsted designed parks for.

IMG_1489But, alas, now this little park, called Solti Gardens, is cluttered with humanoid metal objects.  There are twenty-six of them, all insipid male-ish figures, with the same bland face, standing, sitting and kneeling pointlessly. If they were heroic and Rodin-y they would be just as much of a nuisance. The sculptor, no doubt, thought she would add a note of poignancy by making her bland figures on one side of the park out of dark metal and those on the other side of light metal.  No, Ms. Thórarinsdóttir and your financiers, you’re not helping us think about race in America with these lifeless figures. Olmsted would throw this junk out.

Presiding over the clutter is a monstrous head on a pedestal, supposedly commemorating George Solti.  It’s an insult to music lovers and Solti-admirers and Olmsted would not approve.

13ParkOlmsted1A woman in a red coat was walking her two little dogs over the gravel and the grass.   A young couple took a brisk detour through the park to get to the intersection at Congress.  An artist was sneaking photos of the scene and reflecting on the history of Chicago and on what parks are for.  Our great designer of parks would be happy to see how these people related to a city park.

Thank you, Mr. Olmsted.  Sorry for the sculpture clutter.

For more timid reviews:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-07/entertainment/ct-ent-0808-borders-sculpture-20130808_1_art-institute-sculptures-exhibition

http://artdaily.com/news/64247/Icelandic-artist-Steinunn-Th-rarinsd-ttir-brings-26-life-sized-sculptures-to-Chicago#.UrDZJPup2UY

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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“There were two of them, they were sisters, they were large women, they were rich, they were very different one from the other one…”—Gertrude Stein

The Cohn sisters, Claribel Cone (1864–1929) and Etta Cone (1870–1949), lived in Baltimore, traveled 13CohnMatisse1extravagantly and amassed an extensive art collection.  Claribel called her apartment in the Marlborough in Baltimore “the museum.” They knew not only Gertrude Stein but also Picasso and Matisse.  Matisse became a friend and visited them in Baltimore in the 1930’s.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has put together a Matisse show gleaned from the Cone collection that is well worth the drive.

If you can’t make it to Indy before the show closes on January 12, you can pick up a copy of Brenda Richardson’s “Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta,” 1985, which has excellent reproductions of Matisse drawings and paintings in the collection.  I own a copy and have studied the paintings in reproduction there, but seeing the originals…Oh!

MatiseeNude

The book has all twenty-one stages of “Large Reclining Nude” that are buried under the final version, the twenty-second layer of paint.  Matisse worked on the painting from May to October 1935 and took photographs at twenty-one stages of its development.  This is fascinating enough.  You think!  But seeing the original, now in Indy for the exhibit, reveals yet another aspect of how hard he worked on this painting.  He struggled with color.  To get the color dynamic right, he pinned swatches of color paper or cloth onto the canvas.  You can see the pin holes!

This is a smart show. It stresses the work process. Matisse looks fast and loose, doesn’t he?!  Makes you feel light and freed from conventions. Go to Indy and see how hard he worked to make you feel that way.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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976clipC-72

Even though there are several Katherine Hildens out there, I was lucky to get the domain name. Keep it simple.  For a long time, I actually didn’t want a web site for my fine art at all because I felt elitist about that.  I caved in a couple of months ago, launched the web site and only now realized that I need to let people know about it.  Ta-tah!

I documented the paintings outside in my yard on overcast days so as to avoid glare and shadows.  The glare would be caused by sunlight hitting oil paint and the shadows would be caused by the extreme texture of the painting surfaces in this series.  So, it’s the shots from over-cast days that are shown on the web site.

But I really relish the texture, loved working on these paintings and couldn’t resist shooting details in bright sun light, when the thick impasto cast deep shadows.  Above, a passage from one of my paintings, shot at high noon.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.khilden.com 

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http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

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