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CassyBlue
This painting started with dripping paint, not with any plans to create a landscape. But the line where the blue stops suggests a horizon and then with that reference, the drips can be interpreted as a row of receding trees. The dash of orange suggested itself because as the complementary color to blue, it would heighten the intensity of the blue. So, yes, it can be seen as a landscape with mountains, trees and possibly a sunrise. And it’s paint. Paint! It’s both. But because your mind can’t focus on both at the same time, it goes into overdrive and that gives you a high. That’s the high of modernism. Aren’t we lucky!!
Painting by Cassandra Buccellato, oil on canvas, 36×36.
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CassieWhiteGrayBlueFinish

We had a short session this summer, only five classes. In this limited time period a new student produced two large paintings. You met Cassandra in the previous post. She finished that painting in our third meeting and CassieWhiteGrayBluestarted the one you see here. Knowing that her final colors would be gray–blue-white, her first layer of paint, the underpainting, was orange. Another striking composition! It pulls me into its atmospheric textures and creates a sense of mystery about this “landscape” and that blue geometric apparition in the lower left. Amazing, again.
Both paintings took as their points of departure a large collage that was then cropped to find these powerful compositions to develop into a large painting. This painting measures 36 x 36 inches. Cassie paints in water-soluble oil on canvas.
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14MayPlugByTheSea4

From our Evanston Art Center mansion by the lighthouse, we have a view of the lake and the 14MayPlugByTheSeaStartbeach. The lake and sky always play with color effects for us to gasp at. We get horizontal stripes, basically, and you might think those would make for a boring, too restful, composition. Well, yes, relentless horizontality can be challenging, but a challenge like that gets you thinking about your assumptions.
Bruce Boyer started with this recognizable sky-water-beach composition. Nice, low horizon, very comfortable and serene. Just for kicks we 14MayPlugByTheSeaStartUSDturned the canvas around. Now we have a high horizon with a yellow sky and a sunset-colored beach. Too weird, not realistic at all. Your mind then tries to see this thing as pure stripes: yellow, blue, pink-ish. You try. But the texture in the blue stripe is unmistakably watery and your imagination can’t let go of that association. That association overrides all the color weirdness of the yellow sky and pink beach because the mind really is attached to realism and is desperate to identify something with a name. Ah, lake! The lake is still there. From that assumption, all else falls into place.
14MayPlugByTheSea2But Bruce Boyer does not let it rest there. He needs a twist of irony, some semiotic double-coding, something to jab at your assumptions. Let’s play in the semiotics sandbox and put something on that beach. Something totally disassociated, something not from nature, something rectilinear, mechanical, man-made…the plug appears from nowhere and, behold, it’s just right.

14MayPlugByTheSea3
Well, it’s just right if you get Magritte and have a few brain cells that conduct surrealism for you. If you do, stay tuned. If you don’t, ditto.
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14EACshowFeet2

This very fine exhibit opened a few days ago and will be up til Feb 16.  Come in whatever you can throw on to keep warm or slip into your most retro patent leather boots, but do hoof it over to the Evanston Art Center to catch this show.

14EACshow114EACshow214EACshow314EACshow5

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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

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In the fall, I go to the beach with a book, a chair and a sturdy umbrella to block the wind.  When I look up, I let the last paragraph sink in and then the mind wanders and after two hours of this the mind doesn’t even wander anymore.  It’s scrubbed clean by the foaming, whooshing waves. That’s why people go to the beach and stare out at the horizon. We’re all familiar with this feeling, it’s a cliché.

13BeachSand

What I want to add is that it’s the horizontal lines in themselves that do the scrubbing.  Look at this.

Nothing but horizontal lines. Over and over. With variation!  When you’re on the beach you’re IN this rhythm, which is always in motion and therefore it’s hard to see the pattern AS pattern.  The photo makes the point: horizontal lines with variations.    If being swept into the memory of such a scene keeps you 13BeachSandVertical2from seeing LINES, then try this:

Ah, Photoshop, a great tool for helping us see anew.

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13LindaGlobePhThe picturesque Harley Clarke Mansion, home of the Evanston Art Center, is a bit of an architectural sampler in the sense that it features turrets, balconies, gables, dormers and stone carvings. One of my plein air students has fallen in love with the entrance to the greenhouse, which combines a Palladian reference and a carved wooden door frame with overgrown vines.  In previous sessions she drew the door itself and the view towards the Clarke’s ornamented main entrance.  This week she turned to draw one of the cement globes that announce the fern-and-lily lined 13LindaGlobeDrawingStraightpassage to the greenhouse.

When Linda’s drawing was finished, we considered cropping possibilities.  The fence in the distance behind the globe forms a sturdy horizontal line.  Perhaps too sturdy.  When the drawing is cropped conventionally with the fence horizontal, the image is, well, too conventional.  Notice what happens when we tilt the drawing and chop off the top of the globe.  More tension, more movement.

13LindaGlobeDrawingTilt1While we were playing with these cropping choices, a photographer from the Chicago Tribune came by and, with our permission, documented the little tutorial scene. The next day, the Trib ran an article about the plight of the Clarke Mansion , not with the tutorial scene by the greenhouse, but with a wide-angle shot of the whole building, which was, after all the focus of the piece. The piece summarizes the debate over the fate of the mansion:

 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/evanston_skokie_morton_grove/ct-met-evanston-lighthouse-beach-hotel-20130714,0,849034.story

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