Saturday, March 18, 2017

More from Mass MoCA!

 Hello!  Splat!  Here I am, above, in front of one of the many Sol LeWitt wall drawings and paintings on display long-term in the museum.  Let me share a bit of what else is currently on exhibition.
Above, a sculpture outside of Mass MoCA, is an actual bolder split in  half.  There's also, right outside the entrance, an overhead group of upside down trees, but that's another story all together.  They are real trees, suspended in the air, growing upside down.  Currently they are bare, but I was hypothesizing that in autumn, when their leaves change, they should "fall" upward into the sky!  Both of these are, I believe, very long-term (or permanent) installations at the museum.

We spent some time in the part of the museum called Kidspace, and I thought it was amazing!  It's set up with creative spaces for kids to use, but it is also adult-friendly.  I'm glad we didn't skip it!  Federico Uribe re-purposed interesting materials for his sculptures that currently populate Kidspace, to give the viewer a lot of provocative food for thought - bullets were used to create various animals such as a lion, and the bunny sitting on the donkey above.  Leather sneakers, made from animal hides, were used to create new animals, army helmets became turtle shells, and so on.  Above is a donkey made out of leather valises!!  Don't you love his zipper eye (below)?
And here's a closeup of a gator made from sneakers...
I love this sheep (or is it a lamb?) made from tons of white scissors.  In the pic on the right, the pig is made from measuring tape, and I believe the man is a conglomeration of various pencils. 
Aren't these wasps made from sneakers just fabulous?

There was a multi-room exhibit called "Explode Every Day - An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder", with work from various artists, each more boggling than the next.  These next three photos are blown glass pieces, by Chris Taylor.  I am NOT KIDDING.  These are blown glass.  The guard allowed us to touch them for proof!  Amazing!!
The guard actually told us where to find this blown glass piece below.  He said "Look for what looks like a pile of garbage on the floor in a back corner."  I had no idea glass to could look like this!  Even from inches away, there's no way you'd know it is glass.
I loved this painting, below, by Sharon Ellis, one of several on display in the gallery. 
The most provocative part of the exhibit was a room that looked like the lab of a mad scientist.  The work is called "Field Station" and is by Charles Lindsay.  There were things spinning and blinking and making noises and two giant tube thingies that were randomly, it seemed, broadcasting whale songs.  Below is a view into one of the tubes, one of the randomly spinning blinking whirring thingies, and.... something else.  I don't know what. 
Some of my favorite pieces in the exhibit were works by brothers Ryan and Trevor Oakes, particularly intricate drawings on curved surfaces. 
Below is one of the brothers working on the piece pictured above, of the Chicago "bean" sculpture, officially named the Cloud Gate. 
 This matchstick structure below is also by Ryan and Trevor Oakes. 

Also in the exhibition, this room below, filled with bottles and vases, with fossilized rocks and shells on top, I think.  I didn't understand the point, but I loved these bottles (they reminded me of great blue herons), and I also loved the light quality in the room.  They were wired up in some way to... oh, I don't know.  I couldn't figure it all out.  I admit it.  Some of them had humidifiers.  I'm stumped.

 There was a timeline of the universe, starting with the Big Bang, and ending in the future, with the demise of our planet.  Here's a couple of blips from the timeline, from the short period of time humans are on earth.
Below, a couple more pics from Kidspace.  This lion is made from bullets and shell casings, and the hair on the  heads in the  CD pond are keyboards. 

The pics below were shot in the Sol LeWitt exhibit.  I've seen this work before, but it is always fun to walk through it.  And, as I said before, the museum has incredible light quality .  
 I took this picture just before I dropped and broke my little camera, while trying to put it back in its case.  It was a handy-dandy little Sony camera, and I'm getting a used replacement from eBay.  I hope it works...

If you've never had an opportunity to go to Mass MoCA, the museum is a really cool space, with buildings linked by tunnels and such, resulting in interesting spaces like the one below.  One of the tunnels has interesting sounds coming from the walls, making it an immersive experience.  

I tried to close the post with a little video weirdness from one of those tube things that I told you about before, but it wasn't working.  I'll try to put it back soon, so come check back.  In the meantime, call me befuddled.......  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Nick Cave's "Until", and more at Mass MoCA

My husband and I visited Mass MoCA yesterday (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, for those of you unfamiliar with the name).  A trip to Mass MoCA is always guaranteed to mystify, to wow, to confuse, to befuddle, to excite, and more.  On my last trip to Mass MoCA, I was especially smitten with two long-term exhibitions: wall paintings by Sol Lewitt, and my personal favorite, the installation All Utopias Fall by Michael Oatman.  They are both still there, but the Oatman installation is only open seasonally (it's basically in an Airstream suspended precariously and accessed by climbing stairways through a creepy boiler room out onto a catwalk). 
This trip there were several exhibits that intrigued me, most particularly a major installation by Nick Cave, in the photos posted above and below.
I took a ridiculous amount of photos of this and other exhibits, before, when removing my sweet point-and-shoot little camera from my arm to put it in its case, it slipped out of my grip and spun madly through the air landing on the hard wooden floor with a crash. I think it left a dent in the floor, and the camera appears to be irreparably damaged.  There was a blizzard today, so I couldn't get to the photo store (it was probably closed anyhow) to see if there's any hope to save it.  This trusty lightweight but versatile camera has been everywhere with me for a few years, especially traveling with me in my kayak on numerous occasions as I've stalked loons, eagles, herons, and turtles, and I am sad to think its journey with me has ended.
Speaking of the blizzard, we were actually planning to stay overnight near the museum, and go to a completely different museum today (with more of a focus on impressionism and other traditional works of art) but we hotfooted it home last evening to beat the storm.  Good thing we did!  We've probably got a foot and a half of fresh snow, and it was quite a doozy of a storm with high winds and total whiteout.
But back to the museum!  These draped caves were NOT made from colorful rope and fishing net, as they might look on first glance. 
Look carefully.  They are made entirely out of strands of beads, beaded into layers and layers of netting.  Colorful and beautiful!  And with images of rainbows, peace signs, a happy face, and more, all in the beading! 
 I was asking a guard a lot of questions, specifically about the installation of the installation.  (Does that make sense?) A lot she couldn't answer.  How many people hung all the spinny things?  Who decided which ones go where?  And who assembled the chandelier and all the "stuff" on top of it?  (She told me the chandelier arrived in boxes and boxes of crystals...).  And how about the beading?  Who actually did the physical work of stringing all the beads according to what pattern?  What part of all of this is actually done by the artist, and what part is done by technicians or what?  Who hunted yard sales and junk shops to find all the intriguing found objects incorporated in the chandelier?  I'm pretty blown away/befuddled by the scope of it all and the "who does what" and what role the artist has in the actual creation of the work of art.  I'd love your insight, readers!!
In the midst of all the dangly spinning things shown at the top of the post, there was a giant crystal chandelier (as you've seen in one of the pics above, plus below) with ladders to the top, where there was a huge collection of.... stuff.  Hard to describe.  All sorts of interesting found objects.
 Me in my happy place.

It all felt so joyous to me, so it was really intriguing, afterward, to read the literature about the installation, called "Until".  It's really a statement about confronting racism and violence head-on.  The exhibit included a room with an immersive video (below; it felt like the floors and walls were moving), that was very agitating, and the literature says the show ended with a "metaphoric cleansing amidst a Mylar waterfall".  I don't know how, but evidently we totally missed that final Mylar waterfall!

In a separate post, probably tomorrow, I'll share some of other intriguing artwork on exhibit at the museum.  Too much to put all in one post!!  Stay tuned, because it's awesome stuff!! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

My NAEA convention experience 2017

I've been home from the NAEA convention in NYC for a week, and it has given me some time to evaluate my experience, and the highs and lows.  There's some self-assessing to do, for sure.  I thought I had my time so well-planned, but in the end, I feel like I missed so much.  I need to figure out how to better manage my time, within the limits of my own capabilities.  And I need to figure out how to get through four days without losing something!
Anyhow.... The convention opened with keynote speaker Jeff Koons.  I am not a fan of Koons' work, but attended his talk because I wanted to learn what he was about.  It was interesting; I suppose his work makes a lot more sense if you know the stories and concepts behind the pieces.  But generally, when you see his work, you don't see the story, the concept.  His work is basically conceptual, and without the story behind the piece, viewing it feels meaningless to me.  I'm discovering there's a universe of difference between "traditional" visual art and conceptual art, and I've realized I'm more of a fan of traditional art that moves me in some way when I view it, whether it's the vibrant colors of a Matisse, or the light quality of a Vermeer, and so on.  I want to look at the artwork because it touches me in some way.  Not so with Koons' work, though there are some contemporary artists with conceptual work that excites me. 

The workshop rooms were often very crowded, and it made the convention experience frustrating at times.  I missed one workshop, about the brain and creativity, I had planned to attend because the crowd to get in was so large.  Other crowd scenes and over-capacity workshops were common; I heard some people complaining.  Has the convention gotten so big that we aren't managing it well any more?  I did get to a few workshops, but not nearly what I'd planned, and my choices weren't always what they said they'd be in their write-ups. I attended a terrific workshop by fellow blogger Don Masse, who blogs at Shine Brite Zamorano.  This paper quilt on the floor (below) was a quickie collaborative hands-on activity by those of us in the workshop.  My quilt square is on the bottom row, third from the right. 

One of the most important parts of a convention, to me, is the connections you make with other people, especially people you've looked forward to meeting for a long time.  To me, it was a real treat to meet some of the people I've followed for a very long time, but who aren't necessarily the social media rock stars.  For example, I was absolutely tickled to meet a sweet gal named Becca Ruth, whose blog "The Little Art Teacher" used to be a quirky little favorite of mine.  She hasn't blogged in a while, because of a job change, but hopefully she'll get back to it some day!    And I met the lovely Renee Collins, who blogs at My Adventures in Positive Space.  I've wanted to meet her for a long time. 

I especially was surprised and delighted to meet "Kim and Karen: 2 Soul Sisters", as I've been following their blog on and off for several years.  I was in line at the hotel registration desk, checking in, when I heard a voice calling out what sounded like "Fay-ill!!  It took me a moment to realize the voice was calling my name, "Phyl!"  Quite the southern accent!  Thank you Karen for taking the photos at my workshop!!

Over the past year or so, I've become friendly on Facebook with blogger Rachel Wintemberg, but I'd never met her personally until now.  I think we have a lot in common, and I'd like to have more time to talk in person some day, not just standing in a hallway outside of a crowded and noisy party!  Her blog is The Helpful Art Teacher.  And I finally did get to spend some time (Yah!) with Lee Darter, one of my Facebook Project Runway buddies, who blogs at Art Room Blog.  Lee is great!!

Why am I taking the time to tell you about these people?  Two reasons.  First, because they all have blogs that are worth your reading, if you haven't seen them before.  But the bigger reason is because there's a certain level of frustration meeting people in the midst of a crowded convention.  There's time for a hug, and exchanging a few words, but not necessarily much more.  These are all people I feel a certain kindred with, yet we meet for a moment at an event like this, and then promptly take off in opposite directions.  I like these people.  I would like to time to sit down with them and hold real conversations, rather than just a hug in a lobby, or in the midst of an overcrowded and very noisy party, or a crazy congested workshop.  Having real in-person time with online friends is one of the things I look forward to most in a national convention, so I guess I feel a real sense of disappointment that our meetups were mostly so fleeting.  (And sometimes, with the crazy crowd and diverse scheduling of  convention activities, you simply don't see someone at all!  Such is the case with long-time blogger friend Artful Artsy Amy!  Amy is hard to miss, 6' tall with a dramatic fashion flair and an outgoing personality.  Yet after 4 days in NYC, I never saw her even once.)

I do understand how it happens.  We all have so much we want to see and do at a convention, each with our  own needs.  And teaching workshops, which many of us do, seriously impacts your schedule and your time.  It's pretty much impossible to attend a workshop directly before or after the one you are teaching! 

And this time,  the convention was in NYC!  For lots of the attendees, a trip to NYC was their first, or at least a rare opportunity.  I live 200 miles from NYC, so while I always love a trip there, I had no "need to see" list.  But still - next year the convention is across the country in Seattle.  I want to go.  But I have to figure out how to do it better.  I want to make each minute count, and I'd love it if time and scheduling could be planned so that we have some real time to spend with our online friends!
It was very cold in NYC, but still I took a little time for some fresh air.  Lee and I walked part of the High Line, and then I took a nice little walk through the southern end of Central Park before I got on the train to go home.  Here's a few High Line views.
Yes, things were starting to bloom on the High Line.  Unfortunately, I'm guessing they didn't fare will in this week's cold. 
This poor guy looked so cold.  Thankfully he is a sculpture.  I would have liked to have an extra scarf or hat or sweater for him! 
 And here's a view of Central Park

I also had enough time for a couple of small museum visits.  It was my first visit to the Neue Gallery, where there are a number of magnificent Klimt paintings on exhibit, as well as some other German expressionists, and also a special exhibit of work by Alexei Jawlensky.  No photos are allowed in the Neue, but the Klimts are breathtaking, and I was also really wowed by the Jawlensky exhibit.  I was not familiar with his work, which sometimes looked like Kandinsky, Matisse, and several other artists!  I highly recommend a visit to the Neue Gallery! 

I also visited MAD, the Museum of Art and Design.  
This museum is a sweet little treasure!  

Thanks for listening to my convention rambles!  Do you have a good method of making sure you get everything you want out of a national convention?  If so, I'd love to hear it!  All of my advance planning, and still, I feel like I could have done it better.