Category — Mixed Media
Retro Video Club Collection
Retro Video Club
by Fred Roberts
Contributing Music Editor
Today Youtube is filled with video sessions of high definition digital pristine perfection. They are beautiful documents of culture, featuring, as they do, the best of various bands, musicians, performers: The Emery Sessions from my home town of Cincinnati, Hamburg’s Küchensessions, the Furious Sessions in Barcelona, Balcony TV from all around the world. The sessions are lovely and document an important aspect of musical culture, but they are all too perfect, in the sense of digital music to vinyl. Moreover, with HD video a feature of nearly every smartphone and camera, artistic uniqueness is nearly impossible to achieve.
In the midst of these trends, artist Marq Lativ Guther plunges into the past with a project that couldn’t be further from the contemporary idea of digital perfection. Armed with a repertoire of professional video cameras of late ’80s’ vintage, Marq set out last year to document a selection of concerts at venues in Hamburg. The result is an insider’s archive of Hamburg’s subculture: The Retro Video Club.
I first met Marq last year at Gagarin Records’ 15th birthday celebration in the club Westwerk, several weeks after he began his project, discovered that he had taped one of the concerts I’d already seen, a set by Holger Hiller, founding member of the German new wave art band Palais Schaumburg (1980-84). The concert at Golden Pudel Club had multiple layers of charm. Holger Hiller practically grew up in Pudel Club, he told the audience, and for this concert his son had flown in from London to support him on drums. When Marq told me he had prepared a small, handmade, numbered, DVD edition of the evening, with original artwork, it sounded too good to be true.
Since then our paths have crossed at numerous other events and I have became a regular subscriber of the DVD edition. The discs are wonderful memories of the events, but more importantly, many years from now these recordings will represent an important historical document of avant garde culture in Hamburg.
Marq’s art is subtle. It does not overwhelm with visual effects but rather presents the performances in a way that comments and accentuates the live experience. In the case of Mary Ocher’s concert at Pudel Club, Marq demonstrated the compelling presence of the artist by relying mostly on close-in shots during the performance. The mix of Felix Kubin’s set at Westwork on the other hand, using three cameras, supported the psycho-surreal tone of the music. In general the visual dynamic is always there, the camera(s) following the action with intrigued curiosity, drawing the viewer along on a fascinating visual and audio journey.
The selection of musicians in the Retro Video Club represents a cross section of important countercultural acts in Europe today including Adi Gelbart, Eli Gras, Felix Kubin, Holger Hiller, Mitch & Mitch, Peter Um, Tellavision, also Mary Ocher and Schnipo Schranke, captured while still under the status of well kept secrets. A pearl of the collection, and according to Marq, the most requested so far, is the reunion of Palais Schaumburg at HFBK’s 100th birthday celebration. My two favorite concerts of the collection are “L.A. Sued” and “Frau Kraushaar”.
“L.A. Sued” (German for L.A. South) is a collaboration that defies imagination. It includes Ray Buckmiller “Fred & Luna,” who over the years has built up an impressive repertoire of unpublished electronic compositions, the enigmatic “Putzmiester,” who in the early ’80s worked with Brian Eno and engineered the sound of bands like the B52’s, then lived off the grid for many years, and veteran musician Chris Cacavas, one of the founding members of Green on Red, who settled in Germany about twelve years ago. The music they produced that evening at Hafenbahnhof was transcendental. Ray playing as if in a trance, Chris in determined concentration and Putzmiester doggedly bending the strings. They were the three spirits of music. Marq’s cut of the concert alluded to this spirituality by superimposing different camera angles, also a symbolic statement that the music was more than the sum of all its parts. This concert is definitely one of the highlights.
The visual masterpiece is the concert of Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls at Golem, April 10, 2014. Marq himself labels it “the most radical look of all films made till now.” The music is sublime, a concert of Frau Kraushaar’s album on Rough Trade “The Power of Appropriation” in which she interpreted forgotten folk songs from around Europe, sung in eight different languages. Marq’s handling of the recording, probably due as much to the low light situation at Golem as anything else, is endlessly intriguing. Combined with the timeless musical interpretations − guitar (Sasha Demand), stand-up bass (Andrew Krell) and chorus of sirens (The Hairy Girls), the strong personality of Frau Kraushaar announcing the songs, and the near black and white appearance, it feels like an experimental television broadcast out of another dimension, Frau Kraushaar as an alternate Carmen Miranda appearing with her band at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, but of another time. At one point Frau Kraushaar alludes to the political situation in Ukraine, adding the feeling of a concert taking place under the sceptre of serious political threats. The video reminded me of sitting in front of an early 1960s’ floor model Zenith TV watching out-of-town broadcasts, but that’s as close a comparison as I can come up with.
On September 8th at Westwerk, Marq introduced the Retro Video Club project to the world, along with a concert by post noise band LXMP from Poland and a showing of Felix Kubin’s concert from last year’s Gagarin Records birthday celebration. A Website is in preparation and Marq is currently searching for a label to officially issue the series. Independent of that, more releases are on the way, including a documentary of Tellavision filmed with four cameras. Marq granted me a sneak preview, and it is going to be incredible. Ernie Kovacs would be proud.
The collection so far:
- Holger Hiller @ Golden Pudel Club (21.9.2013)
- Palais Schaumburg @ HBFK (11.10.2013)
- Gagarin Records 10th Anniversary party @ Westwerk, 16.11.2013 (Peter Um / Adi Gelbart / Felix Kubin). Exerpts and promos:
- Felix Kubin with Mitch & Mitch @ Uebel und Gefaehrlich (3.12.2013)
- Schnipo Schranke @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soAKOwyDZ6w
- Mary Ocher @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGgQeHb6-Ns
- Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls @ Golem (10.4.2014). Concert excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4J8MFOA2B0
- L.A. Sued @ Hafenbahnhof (27.4.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwypACIUarc
- Eli Gras @ Kunstverein (10.5.2014)
- Tellavision @ MS Dockville (9.8.2014) Bonus Feature: http://www.bostonhassle.com/2014/10/17/fresh-vid-tellavision-betony-world-premiere/
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. Photos by Fred Roberts.
October 31, 2014 2 Comments
“Mary Ross – Video Artist”
Interview with Eric Ross
The late MARY ROSS was a fine art photographer and visual artist. In 1975, she began using video and computers to produce still images on film, one of the first fine art photographers to do so. Her images provide some of the earliest examples of the convergence of photography, video and computer technology. Recognized as a pioneer of digital photography, her photographs and video art have been featured in hundreds of multimedia performances she has produced in collaboration with composer/performer Eric Ross. She exhibited extensively at galleries and museums in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan. Her photographs are in private collections and in the permanent collections of the Kunsthaus, Zurich; International Polaroid Collection; Herbert Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University; King’s Library, Copenhagen; Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; and the Lincoln Center Library Dance Collection. Her archive is at the Rose Goldsen archive for New Media Art at Cornell University and at LIMA in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
ERIC ROSS, musician/composer. Ross has presented concerts of his music at Lincoln Center (NYC), Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Disney Redcat Center (LA), Newport Jazz, and Berlin, Montreux and North Sea Jazz Festivals, among many others worldwide. He performs on guitar, keyboards and is a Master of the Theremin, one of the earliest electronic instruments. The New York Times calls his music “a unique blend of classical, jazz, serial and avant-garde.” He began playing the Theremin in 1975, and has performed on radio, film and TV. Since 1976, with his wife Mary Ross, he has presented multimedia performances with video, music and dance. Recent projects include an Ultimedia Concept program at UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Guggenheim-Bilbao Museum, Spain; Residenz Palace, Wurzburg; Bauhaus- Dessau, Germany; and Casada Musica, Portugal. He was a friend of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore, and electronics pioneer Robert Moog. In 1991, he met and played for the inventor of the Theremin, Professor Lev Termen.
Q) How did your multimedia Pieces develop?
A) Mary and I started working together in the 1970s. In 1976, we first used live and pre-recorded video in my Songs for Synthesized Soprano (Op. 19). There was immediate synergistic energy to our combined work. Mary wrote, “In 1977, I began to use video in live multimedia performances in collaboration with my husband, composer/performer Eric Ross. At first I used live video cameras in closed circuit installations during performances of his original electronic and acoustic music compositions. Two or three video cameras were mounted on tripods and focused on him as he performed, inside the piano, and I manipulated video camera imagery with a glass prism. The results were displayed on two color TV monitors which faced the audience. Since then, I have produced pre-recorded videotapes and now DVDs which are designed, composed and edited to his music. These tapes, with accompanying video stills and digital images, have been displayed and projected as he performed concerts of his music worldwide. I wanted to create a parallel in the music to the video which would reflect and comment upon the action in different, distant and often remote ways. I like to set up contrasts with the music and images on the screen – fast when slow, bright when dark, dense when sparse – to create unexpected relationships and meanings. Eric’s music has led me deeper into this non-literal, non-narrative form. Musically there are specific themes for some parts and other sections open to improvisation. In performance, the music and the emotional relationship to the video, which is fixed, is ever-changing depending upon time, place and mood.”
By the 1980s, we were performing our pieces in major venues in the US and Europe. We worked with the space and equipment situations available. We performed in big rooms like the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Berlin, Montreux and Pori Jazz Festivals as well as smaller, more intimate rooms like the mirrored ICC in Belgium, the Munch Museum in Oslo and loft spaces in NYC.
Mary’s work evolved steadily. She was a darkroom printer in black-and-white and color film, and in other media including gum bichromate, silkscreen, and Polaroid. She saw video processing as an extension of the technical possibilities of print-making, or an “electronic darkroom.” She included slide dissolves and video during this period. She said, “The video synthesizer functioned as a type of electronic darkroom. My own slides, negatives, prints, movie film and videotapes provided source material.” At a certain point, technique and aesthetic merged and became intuitive.
In interviews we were asked, “Which came first: the music or the video?” Usually, we would work simultaneously and at a certain point of progress, would come together for editing sessions. From that point on, we would stay in close collaboration. Mary preferred to edit to my music – I would give her track to edit to, and then I would orchestrate the final versions for “mixdown.” Other times she would work alone on a piece until it was nearly complete and then I would compose music to it. We were open to different approaches and each piece shaped up differently. Our works were never experimental – Mary and I knew exactly what we were after in each piece and worked hard to get it right.
MARY ROSS V10N5
Mary Ross photo gallery. Goes with Eric Ross Interview on Mary Ross.
Q) Were there artists she was influenced by?
A) Mary knew the great European and American painters, the classic black-and-white photographers and all kinds of visual references. She was commissioned by universities to photograph art galleries and museums across the USA and EU. Thus, she was familiar with the works of the major artists as well as many other painters, graphic and visual artists, photographers, sculptors, etc. She had a “photographic memory” regarding images. She never forgot a picture and could recall names, places and details of photos or prints she had seen from decades before. Joseph Buemi, a classic black-and-white photographer, gave her occasional help and some darkroom tips and the two remained good friends despite their work being very different. She kept in contact with a network of video and film makers and was aware of work and tech developments in her field. She was an avid reader, writer and prose editor. All of these things formed background to her own work. She never wanted to be copy artist, a clone or from the “scuola de” style artist. She always sought her own identity and vision in art.
Q) What were the themes of her work?
A) The major themes that Mary worked on all her life included: People Real and Abstract; Dance; Self-Portraits; and Imaginary Landscapes. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Grant for her work with dancers. She was very aware of “negative space,” the spaces between things. Most of her images fit into these categories, although she would take a photo of any subject if it pleased her.
Q) Did she storyboard her videos?
A) Almost never. She improvised in the camera, in the studio, and in her editing, mixing and finished work. She knew what she was after, recognized what she actually had, and went with the work where it took her. Because of her great visual memory, she could find and combine edits from materials that were perhaps years or miles apart. She could work on different sections, or from the inside out, to shape the materials. It was a process as well as a product. Mary knew what she wanted in the final print. I don’t think anyone else could have predicted from the source material, or even mid-stream, how the final images would look.
Q) What was her working method?
A) Mary was constantly shooting, editing, evaluating, filing, re-evaluating and re-editing. She shot a lot of film and later digital images, but she was often a one-shot picture-taker. Even her video shots were mostly single-takes. Editing was her forte. She edited herself – always selecting, refining and mixing. Sometimes she liked to let the computer make random mixes, putting together images like musicians “jamming,” and then remix that. Her final edits were always carefully chosen. Mary seldom took the first version of a shot. If she liked something, she would keep working it, sometimes over the course of years, changing things minutely or entirely – adding, subtracting, changing in different media, etc. She liked to work on many projects at the same time and this helped to “cross-pollinate” her ideas.
Q) What were your last collaborations?
A) Mary and I created dozen or so works for video and music. By our last pieces, the Blvd Reconstructie (Op. 54) and Rimn Vornl (Op. 37, 2011 Edition), she had a real sense of the architecture of her time-based art on the micro, middle, and macro levels. She used her own autobiographic materials as a girl, a woman, a wife, a mother, a cancer patient and an artist, with concert footage, travel, dance, human abstractions, family, friends, black-and-white stills, Cibachrome color prints, super 8mm films, gum bichromate prints, silkscreens, Polaroids, watercolors, distressed images, images with text, hand-drawn and hand-colored prints – everything relevant to her life – all in the mix. Ideas that she had worked on during her entire career came together and were interwoven in these last pieces.
Q) How do you see Mary’s artistic development?
A) I think all of the elements of her vision were present early on. She refined her vision by focusing in on the ideas that she loved and that would convey her artistic objectives. She acquired technical mastery over her tools as well, and these tools (home computers, video cameras, etc.) became simpler and more easily accessible over time. In the early years this was not always the case, but she had always “worked with what she had,” or as she might say, “fought with what she had.” Mary had periods of time that were real growth spurts and others that seemed fallow where she did many different things but were in fact “in developmental” stages ready for the next artistic endeavor. She stayed true to her art and her last works were a combination of her ideas with many layers of energy going on, both simplifying and gaining in complexity.
Q) Why do you think her is work important?
A) Mary had an aptitude for getting a great shot or sequence of shots that spoke to the viewer on different levels of interpretation. She said, “The images create a narrative that can be supplied by the viewer’s imagination.” Her mixing of imagery was precise, yet free, strong and beautiful. Her vision was unique from a woman’s point of view without being self-consciously so. Her sense of composition and drama within a shot was enhanced by an expressionist palette, which makes her images even more striking. There is a timeless quality about her work. Some figures in her shots seem to be floating or in suspended animation. Her work was never totally “abstract.” She said, “The human form is a recurring motif…along with many images of dance. Though often abstracted, my photographs and videos usually contain recognizable elements. In recent work, I continue to explore abstract renditions of the human form in imaginary landscapes.”
In some of her pieces, there is a calmness and quiet of infinite spaces, where time seems suspended and there is an air of tranquility. In others, she deliberately introduced chaos, noise, glitches and other random elements to create a sense of real and unreal; there is movement, the action is in flux, and she went for the vital significant energy of the moment. She liked to capture energy, mood, setting, characters, time and place. She was not fascinated by technology for its own sake – she was interested in the human aspects of art and art-making.
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c.MMXIV. Tyava Music. BMI. Used with permission.
Eric and Mary Ross Ultimedia Concert
$12 general/$10 students & seniors
Advance tickets available at: CornellCinemaTickets.com
Friday, September 12th at 7:00pm
A special electronic music performance with composer and master thereminist Eric Ross and his Avant Ensemble, including Trevor Pinch (Moog Synths), Peter Rothbart (EWI), John Snyder (theremin, digeridoo, waterphone), and Joseph Perkins (bass). The evening will feature music on the theremin, as well as Analog and digital synths, guitars, percussion and electronic wind instruments, and will be accompanied visually with work by the late video/computer artist Mary Ross, whose work will be deposited in Cornell’s Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art. The event is cosponsored with the Cornell Council for the Arts, the Rose Goldsen Lecture Series and the History Center of Tompkins County.
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August 29, 2014 Comments Off on Mary Ross/Video Artist
Year 4 | Screen Woman Dreaming
A post a day:
Four years and counting
Larry Hamill’s work continues to intrigue. Day after day, now, for more than four years, Hamill has posted a new photograph on his web site incorporating special effects and standard digital capture to come up with both strange and satisfying images. Hamill only recently passed the four-year mark and while his work has appeared several times before in Ragazine.CC, we figured it never hurts to celebrate a milestone with a friend. With so much to choose from, we asked the photographer for a couple of images he likes best from each of those four years. So here you go… enjoy. And if this isn’t enough, check out Hamill’s sites…
— Mike Foldes
YEAR 1 | favs
Year 1| Heartberry | Oil on Canvas
Year 1 | NZPath-8
Year 1 | Mountain Impasse |Oil on Canvas
Larry Hamill / Year 1
YEAR 2 | favs
Year 2 |Steps
Year 2 | Hot Water
Year 2 | Spiral Stairs
Year 2 |Ink Study | China
Larry Hamill / Year 2
YEAR 3 | favs
Year 3 | On another side
Year 3 | Eyescape
Year 3 | 3rd St. Southward-1
Larry Hamill / Year 3
YEAR 4 | favs
Year 4 | Color Forms-3
Year 4 | Slippery Path
Larry Hamill / Year 4
Visit Larry Hamill’s Blog
January 5, 2014 Comments Off on Larry Hamill / Photography
LEFT BANK AT NIGHT, by George Garbeck
Capturing the Night:
The Nocturnes Exhibition
at the Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery
By Dr. Virginia Fabbri Butera
What is a nocturne? The word, deriving from the feminine Latin noun, nox, noctis, meaning night, comes from the Latin adjective, nocturnus (notturno in Italian, nocturne in French, and nocturnal in English). A nocturne has antecedents in medieval prayer and music as well as eighteenth century pieces composed for evening concerts. The nineteenth century nocturne was further defined by Irish composer John Field who developed a special structural format which was then embraced and made famous by the Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin.[i] Chopin wrote twenty-one nocturnes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V60USaluxGA) which were often inspired by poetry and painting.[ii] His Romantic pieces conjure up dreamy, haunting compositions evoking nighttime, magic, desire, danger and more. Chopin’s success with the form and concept of the “nocturne” encouraged many subsequent composers to explore the possibilities of this musical form.
Since the early 1300s, many western artists including Giotto, Caravaggio, Artemisia Gentileschi, Joseph Wright of Derby, Goya, Whistler, van Gogh and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name a few, have created nighttime scenes that employed metaphorical concepts of “night” to construct religious, scientific, political, social and abstract dramas.[iii] To investigate current night images, I have selected paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and mixed media works by nineteen New Jersey and New York contemporary artists for an exhibition entitled Nocturnes, on view June 18 – September 22, 2013, at the Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery which I direct at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ.[iv] These recent pieces sometimes acknowledge nocturnal themes not just in visual art but also in poetry, plays, dramas, musical compositions, dances and movies, while exploring new approaches to the nocturne concept in keeping with twenty-first century life and culture.
In 2004, Ultra Violet, a contemporary Neo-Pop artist, and formerly an artist’s assistant, muse and friend to Salvador Dalí, Andy Warhol and many other well-known artists, reinvigorated religious nighttime drama in her sculpture, Silent Night, Holy Night (fig. 1).[v] In art, the reference to, or depiction of, light in the midst of darkness became a metaphor for hope, truth and, in Christian imagery, salvation. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus, his life, crucifixion, death and resurrection, are often portrayed in darkness with holy occurrences physically illuminated. Her work is a mixed media, 3-D collage of materials including black fabric, foil, lace, twigs, gold paint and cut-out photographs that projects golden light from its dark background. In a 2004 interview, Ultra Violet reinforced that she views herself as an apocalyptical messenger and that her art is a way to transmit light and understanding.[vi] Her Nativity scene is not a traditional one. To the right of the Holy Family are two queens, rather than kings, in red dresses, bearing gifts. To the left are two other female figures, but it is not clear who they are. A fifth female figure, perhaps representing Ultra Violet herself, once a recording star for Capitol records, is in the bottom center of the scene, holding a guitar. [vii] Thus, across almost seven centuries, the spiritual significance of night as a time for religious revelation endures.[viii]
The symbolic duality of good (light) versus evil (dark or night) has been continuously employed in artistic arenas. But horror and fear are also associated with, and amplified by, the night in a work such as José Rodeiro’s 2001 India-ink on paper sketch, Armies of the Night (fig. 2).[ix] This is a sketch for his larger 9/11 memorial painting which intertwines night, religion, power and conflict and also references Pablo Picasso’s 1937 anti-war masterpiece, Guernica (http://www.artway.eu/content.php?id=89&action=show&lang=en ). Rodeiro based his sketch, in part, on lines from an 1867 poem, Dover Beach, by British poet Matthew Arnold: “And we are here as on a darkling plain/Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,/Where ignorant armies clash by night.”[x] His image shows a muddled mass of soldiers fighting in the physical, and metaphorical, darkness, prescient scenes of our post-9/11 chaotic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another contemporary artist, Len Merlo, often depicts issues revolving around social injustices. In his 2009 acrylic and collage on board entitled, Eyes (fig. 3), ocular sockets pierce through the night, staring unflinchingly at us, making sure that we know that they are witnesses to our every move, good or bad. In addition, because of the abstracted sense of place in the image, these may also be malevolent eyes waiting to do us harm.[xi] We have only to think of the actual nighttime killing of Osama Bin Laden and the slightly fictional 2012 film depicting this event, Zero Dark Thirty, to realize that these same themes of right and wrong, war and oppression, religion and power, are more forcefully expressed in various artistic media when intertwined with a nocturnal background and all its dark connotations. One’s positive or negative reaction to “night” can sometimes depend on which side you support.
In nineteenth and twentieth century art, shifts to modern subject matters and styles resulted in some images of the night becoming less tied to religious, historical or philosophical scenes and more engaged with impressionistic and even abstract effects. Nineteenth century American painter James Whistler, wanted to visually capture the feel of the Romantic music of Chopin, Claude Debussy and others, and began to title his works in musical terms: “arrangements,” “compositions,” “harmonies,” and “nocturnes.” He increasingly employed loosely painted images, most evident in his nearly abstract 1875 oil on canvas, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket (http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/whistlers-nocturne-in-black-and-gold-the-falling-rocket.html).[xii] The image captures the momentary plummeting of fireworks through the dark sky above the Thames River in London where he was living at the time. Whistler’s painting also caused a different kind of combustion. He sued British art critic, John Ruskin, who had written that Whistler’s non-realistic painting was “like a paint pot flung in the eye of the public.”[xiii] Although Whistler technically won the trial, it was a pyrrhic victory, ruining Whistler emotionally and financially. Artistically, however, the painting stands as one of the great nighttime, and abstract, images in western art.
Several contemporary artists employ a freedom of abstract line and space, and play light off against the darkness, in ways that hint at Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold. In 2005 from high above New York City, night photographer Lynn Saville captured ribbons of light streaming around Columbus Circle (fig. 4).[xiv] So Yoon Lym has long had a fascination with the eeriness that occurs after dark in suburbia.[xv] In her 2011 acrylic on canvas image, she scattered abstract colors across black space, so that the rounded shapes in Nighttime I (fig. 5) feel like car headlights and taillights searing through the darkness. Stephanie Brody-Lederman’s 2012 abstracted mix of sky, empty landscape, scattered trees and words, and a shining Chinese lantern in Starting Tonight (fig. 6) carries hope and a sense of longing for a family winter homecoming.[xvi] An enduring, if shimmering, quasi-rectangular block creates a startling, haunting contrast to the inky blue-black background in Lisa Pressman’s 2013 oil on board painting, The Light 2 (fig.7).[xvii] Using fluid bent black wood pieces, Betty McGeehan created a movable sculpture, Rock Me (fig.8), 2013, that embodies a cradle/boat shape and the nighttime need to be lulled asleep.[xviii]
In 1889, fourteen years after Whistler painted his Nocturne in Black and Gold, Vincent van Gogh created his incandescent Starry Night (http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79802), undoubtedly the most famous nocturnal painting beloved by our era. With the church spire in the background village as the visual echo to the bold vertical of the cypress tree in the foreground, Starry Night retains a spiritual pairing of religion and nature infused with the beauty of the night and the celestial symphony of stars spanning the sky. And it was just one of many nocturnal subjects that van Gogh created.[xix] Recent artists have taken their cue from van Gogh in their attempts to capture nature, night and the universe. In his 2013 Shredded Van Gogh (fig. 9), Rob Barth adopts a tongue-in-cheek approach to the iconic work, using a slivered print of Starry Night to make a pulsing star-like collage that functions as a synecdoche of the entire scene.[xx]
Buel Ecker’s 2007 acrylic on paper, Origination (fig. 10) was inspired by the 8th century Japanese marbling technique called suminagashi. [xxi] Her work’s chaotic abstract swirls seem to depict the moments after the Big Bang, 13.82 billion years ago, when light and atomic structures exploded from dark nothingness to the begin our universe.[xxii] In contrast, Susan Holford uses acrylics, lumière paint and gold leaf in Effervescent Atmosphere 2 (fig. 11) to depict her sense of a pre-nocturnal atmosphere filled with invisible energy and particles.[xxiii] Light coming forth from the darkness receives a scintillating representation from Pasquale Cuppari in his 2013 oil and mixed media painting Nell’Infinito (fig. 12), where thick, glittering masses representing galaxies and stars pulsate from deep space.[xxiv] The macrocosm of space finds its equivalent on earth in the dark and luminous aspects of oceanic storms. Christie Devereaux’s canvases, such as Argento 21 (fig.13), which change color pitch as the viewer moves from left to right to left, simulates another kind of turbulent juxtaposition of light and dark in nature, this time between water, wind, waterfall and darkness. Her work alludes to the Romantic seascapes such as the 1796 oil on canvas, Fishermen at Sea (http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-fishermen-at-sea-t01585) by British artist, J. M. W. Turner.[xxv] In works such as Devereaux’s and Turner’s, the night and the ocean are metaphors for potential physical danger in nature as well as the complexity of human experience. [xxvi] Nothing could be more different than the whimsy and delight one feels contemplating George Garbeck’s photograph, Fishing by Moonlight (fig. 14).[xxvii] The innocence of the image is in contrast to the iconic German Romantic painting, Two Men Contemplating the Moon, ca. 1825-30, by Caspar David Friedrich (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2000.51) where childhood has been left behind and the men are now more purposefully mindful of the Sublime in the natural world.
In other night scenes, women are the protagonists. Because the phases of the moon are aligned with female menstruation, moon goddesses are part of ancient Mayan, Native American, Greek, Roman, and other religions, although many cultures also have moon gods.[xxviii] In western art, depicting women at night often implies a subtle allusion to the moon/female connection, intrinsic mysteriousness and constant change. Poor Romeo as he tries to swear by the moon to confirm his love for Juliet. She knows it is a problematic oath as she admonishes, “O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, / That monthly changes in her circled orb, / Lest that thy love prove likewise variable.”[xxix] For Romeo and Juliet, the night provides cover for secrets and love. In Homer’s c. 750 B.C. E. poem, The Odyssey, night is a shield for Odysseus to sneak back into his own home after twenty years of wandering in order to kill all the suitors who are trying to win his wife Penelope’s hand in marriage.[xxx] Non-religious contemporary works of women and the night carry more ambiguous meanings, without the love lessons of Shakespeare and Homer. Saville 2009 photograph, A Girl on the Highline (fig. 15), reveals an evanescent figure alone among the tangled urban weeds. She is caught between of the geometry of the old elevated freight train tracks and the surrounding New York City buildings, which recall the abstraction of Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1927 painting, Radiator Building, Night, New York (http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma02/freed/okeeffe/skyscrapers.html).
In her 1990 primitive-style canvas, Woman at the Window (Mujer en la ventana) (fig. 16), Nicaraguan painter Julie Aguirre Cantarero pairs a woman gazing peacefully at the night sky with a waxing moon high above. The woman, inside, is as unknowable as the moon, outside.[xxxi] In 2009, against a dark background, Rodeiro finished a painting of his wife, Nuzcha in Paris (Duende Nutia) (fig. 17), with an alluring, enigmatic gaze while Saville in 2006 captured the back of a woman in a flouncy yellow dress, tucked covertly, almost seductively, into an oddly lit doorway in Number 39 (fig. 18). Maria Mijares reports that her 1988 acrylic on linen, After the Incident in front of La Concha II (fig. 19), documents a personal episode. The absence of light in the building, the lack of people, the nighttime Spanish beach with nothing out of place, all seems so vacant and eerie.[xxxii] What could have happened here? Civilization in the dark can exude such different moods. It is unconcerned in Mijares’s painting; exudes wonder and magic in Garbeck’s 2006 photograph, Left Bank at Night (fig. 20), which predates Woody Allen’s 2011 film, Midnight in Paris; or appears disjointed and remote in the Jersey City view of the New York City skyline as captured by Saville in her 2008 photograph, Pepsi-Cola Sign (fig. 21).
Nuzcha is Rodeiro’s constant muse but his 2012 painting titled Pesadilla (Nightmare) (fig. 22) is more sobering and shows her contemplating the nightmare of the future death of her beloved dog, Cocodrillo. That animals and insects figure in night paintings is not surprising considering the precedent established by the British artist, Joseph Wright of Derby who, eager to confront the eighteenth century “struggle of science against religious values,” painted three important paintings showing nighttime experiments in physics, astronomy and chemistry.[xxxiii] The fate of a bird in a vacuum machine is the focus of the 1768 physics painting, An Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump (http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/143). This haunting work shows nine people gathered to observe the outcome of the experiment when the physicist forces the air out of a vacuum chamber also containing a cockatoo.[xxxiv] Darkness in the room, lit only by a candle in a hurricane globe and the full moon shining into the window, increases the drama of the experiment, and the tension of new ideas.
Other contemporary works underscore the excitement and fear of human/animal interaction, and the wildness of both the creatures and the night world they inhabit. Kay Kenny’s 2010 photograph, Coyote & Rag Doll (fig. 23) documents the midnight ramblings of the animals that lurk in and around our neighborhoods.[xxxv] Barbara Neibart and Joyce Yamada take a more humorous approach to the fauna inhabiting our world and their art. Neibart’s 2011 rhinocerous in Redshift: Cosmological Constant (fig. 24) is drawn realistically from various points of view except for the one that shows the rhino in four red and orange cowgirl boots and a red bow on her head in front of the night sky in the shape of an hourglass.[xxxvi] In 2009 Yamada depicted the African Sisyphus Beetle (fig. 25) shoving a ball of dung down a hill of debris.[xxxvii] Unbelievably, the beetle’s mundane clean up task is affected by the Milky Way, which apparently the beetles use to navigate in a straight line as they push their burden along.[xxxviii]
There are clearly many actual and metaphoric ways that “night” can be used by artists working in all different media. Two of the most profound nocturnes I have experienced are intricately intertwined. One is the 2010 unfolding poem/notebook/elegy, Nox, by poet and classicist Anne Carson, whose translation of Latin poet Catullus’s Elegy 101 for his dead brother is the springboard for Carson’s collaged notebook and her attempts to qualify, quantify and mourn her own deceased brother.[xxxix] The other is the astonishing 2010 dance, Nox, choreographed by Rashaun Mitchell and performed by Mitchell and his partner Silas Riener, two former Merce Cunningham Dance Company members (fig. 26).[xl] The dance is based on Carson’s work. At the premiere of the piece at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in July 2010, Carson read her multi-layered sober, probing text while Mitchell and Riener performed the tense, traumatic, and searing dance of physical and metaphorical pain and death (excerpt: http://vimeo.com/31586533).[xli] In the spring of 2011, I invited Mitchell and Riener to perform the piece for a second time in Dolan Performance Hall at the College of Saint Elizabeth as part of my National Endowment for the Arts funded interdisciplinary project, The Phrase in Art. At that performance, a tape of Carson reading Nox was joined by eerie, haunting music composed by Thomas Arsenault and performed by Ablehearts. Using the seating area walls, entrances and exits of the Hall as well as the stage floor and walls, Mitchell and Riener physicalized the concept of emotional trauma, grief and loss in their 53 minute dirge to the ultimate metaphor of night. Mitchell, sometimes in the role of Death, inexorably draws Riener to him. To paraphrase the great poem by Dylan Thomas, Riener, fighting, does not want to succumb, does not want to “go gentle into that good night.” He rages physically “against the dying of the light,” in some of the most profound and excruciating dancing I have ever seen.[xlii] Subsequently presented in 2012 at Danspace in New York City, the site-specific performance, begins very slowly and simply and accelerates physically and psychologically (excerpt: http://vimeo.com/59756447). Mitchell, praised by New York Times chief dance critic Alastair Macaulay as being “the most riveting dancer in the Merce Cunningham Dance Company,” has also been heralded for his choreography, winning a 2012 Bessie Award for Emerging Choreographer for his creation of Nox.[xliii] Mitchell and Riener are two dancers and choreographers to watch as they further interpret the profundities of the human condition.[xliv]
The theme of nocturnes provides a fascinating window on how wide ranging and remarkable a concept can become throughout millennia of culture and artistic expression. Changing circumstances, concerns, styles, techniques and media reveal the differences, but the consideration of all forms of experience within the parameters and meanings of “night” has produced fascinating ideas and objects to remember, and inexorably links the past and the present.
About the author:
Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D., is the Director of the Therese A. Maloney Art Gallery, a tenured Professor of Art History, and Chairperson orf the Art and Music Programs at the College of Saint Elizabeth in Morristown, NJ. She has curated art exhibitions for over thirty-five years and has lectured and published widely.
© Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph. D.
[iii] For a quick summary of night paintings in western art, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_in_paintings_(Western_art) May 25, 2013.
[vi] “Light is the matrix of beauty; worlds of grace are lying in wait to be discovered. I celebrate light, be it celestial or electrical. Light equates energy and truth, illuminating understanding and intelligence.” Ultra Violet, “Apocalyptic Angels: A Message of Light from Ultra Violet,” Ultra Violet: Is Christ Politically….Propehetically….Correct?, Jersey City, NJ: New Jersey City University, 2004, 6.
[vii] In the 60s, everyone wanted to be a Renaissance person. You had to do music and you had to have a band, so I did. I recorded two albums for Capitol Records…”Ultra Violet, “Ultra Violet: An Interview with Professor Hugo Bastidas and Dr. José Rodeiro,”Ibid., 11.
[viii] Italian Gothic painter Taddeo Gaddi’s 1332-38 nighttime frescoes of the Nativity (http://www.artelista.com/prints/scala/big/7/0001407m.jpg) and The Angelic Announcement to the Shepherds (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gaddi_Taddeo_Announcement.jpg) in the Florentine church of Santa Croce, as well as the c. 1304 -1312 Crucifixion fresco (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Giotto_Cruxifixion.jpg) in the Arena Chapel in Padua by Giotto, Gaddi’s teacher and godfather, are among the first images of night in western visual art. In these frescoes, light in conjunction with darkness functions metaphorically to underscore both the joy and the sorrow in the life of Jesus.
[xii] As a collector of Japanese woodblock prints, which were coveted by many European and American artists in the second half of the nineteenth century, Whistler may have been inspired by the 1858 print, Fireworks over Ryogoku Bridge by Ando Hiroshige (http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com/archive/readArticle/176), one of several similar fireworks scenes in Japanese art.
[xiii] For an excellent in depth article about the Whistler painting and the trial between Whistler and Ruskin, see Olive Wilmer, “The Falling Rocket: Ruskin, Whistler and Abstraction in Art,” http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ruskin/wilmer4.html . June 9, 2013.
[xvi] “I make paintings that depict familiar images; trees, stools, roads, rivers, the sky. My paintings have an unschooled quality. This naïvité is employed in the service of creating an immediacy in the work. There is an interplay of word and image revealing underlying psychological content. Words are edited ruthlessly and are distilled into the form of poetry. The layering of paint in my paintings suggests the passage of time, the piling up of events. My work is a valentine to the exquisitely complex emotional lives we humans live.” An artist’s statement sent to the author. See also, http://stephaniebrodylederman.com June 9, 2013
[xix] For more information about van Gogh’s night scenes, see information from the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, Van Gogh and the Colors of the Night at http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2008/vangoghnight/flashsite . May 30, 2013
[xxi] Quoted from Buel Ecker’s Artist’s Statement sent to the author. See http://www.bueleckerartist.blogspot.com and http://www.artslant.com/global/artists/show/192977-buel-ecker, June 2, 2013.
[xxii] Phil Plait, “The Universe is 13.82 Billion Years Old,” http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/03/21/age_of_the_universe_planck_results_show_universe_is_13_82_billion_years.html, June 2, 2013.
[xxiii] “For me the metamorphosis of going from daylight, to dusk, and into the nocturnal night has always been infused with beautiful effervescent energy. How does one translate an ephemeral feeling into a visual offering? This pre-nocturnal piece supposes an atmosphere filled with energy and particles – impossible to see, but imagined with clarity and a sense of effervescent frolicking and wonder.” Susan Holford, Artist’s Statement, sent to the author. See also www.susanholford.com, June 2, 2013
[xxv] The caption from the Tate Museum site written in July 2010 says, “The first oil painting Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy, this is a moonlit scene in the tradition of Horace Vernet, Philip de Loutherbourg and Joseph Wright of Derby. These painters were largely responsible for fuelling the 18th-century vogue for nocturnal subjects. The sense of the overwhelming power of nature is a key theme of the Sublime. The potency of the moonlight contrasts with the delicate vulnerability of the flickering lantern, emphasizing nature’s power over mankind and the fishermen’s fate in particular. The jagged silhouettes on the left are the treacherous rocks called ‘the Needles’ off the Isle of Wight. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-fishermen-at-sea-t01585. June 7, 2013
[xxvi] José Rodeiro has written an extensive article about Christie Deveraux’s work and its historical precedents. See Dr. José Rodeiro, “Christie Devereaux’s Buoyant “New” Sturm und Drang Seascapes: The Spirit of the Sea,” Ragazine, 8, 4 (July-August 2012 ), http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/06/christie-devereauxs-sturm-und-drang-seascapes-the-spirit-of-the-sea. June 6, 2013. See also www.christiedevereaux.com
[xxviii] See http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/polytheisticreligions/tp/MoonGods.htm for which ancient cultures had moon goddesses and which had moon gods.
[xxix] William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2. See http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/romeo_juliet.2.2.html
[xxx] In works that involve night, conflict and tension are often increased by the presence of light, whether actual or symbolic. For example, late in Homer’s Odyssey (c. 8th – 7th century B.C.E.), the onset of night is countered by the stoking of the braziers (by the disguised warrior himself) to warm and light Odysseus’s home, then overrun by suitors for his wife Penelope’s hand in marriage. The combination of night and fire, concealment and revelation, spells metaphoric and actual doom for the suitors, liberation for Penelope and victory for Odysseus as he surprises and kills all the hangers-on. See the discussion in Howard W. Clarke, “Fire Imagery in the Odyssey, The Classical Journal, 57, 8 (May 1962), 358-360.
[xxxi] “Julie Aguirre Cantarero,” Nicaraguan Contemporary Art, Frostburg, MD: Stephanie Ann Roper Gallery, Frostburg State University, 1991, 11.
[xxxiii] See http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom/0706/byko-0706.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Wright_of_Derby for a description of these three paintings.
[xxxviii] To watch actual dung beetles in action, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ulh31E_-u3E. See also a piece on dung beetles and the Milky Way, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgubmKPFBLw&NR=1&feature=endscreen
[xxxix] See Meghan O’Rourke, The Unfolding: Anne Carson’s “Nox.”,The New Yorker , July 12, 2010, http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/07/12/100712crbo_books_orourke
[xli] Alastair Macaulay, “Translating Poetry to the Stage, With or Without Words,” The New York Times, July 21, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/arts/dance/22mitchell.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
[xliii] “For his choreographic candor and carefully calibrated work examining grief, spirits, words and movement in NOX; For his advancement of technical virtuosity; and for drawing out powerful and personal expression from his dancers and designers, generously collaborating and giving them the stage, The 2012 Bessie Award for Emerging Choreographer goes to Rashaun Mitchell.” https://www.dancenyc.org/bessies/news.php?id=35
[xliv] To subscribe to their mailing list for upcoming news of performances, write to email@example.com.
June 29, 2013 Comments Off on Nocturnes/Virginia Fabbri Butera
Beneath the Veils, acrylic, canvas, antique wood carving. Made on residency at Babayan Culture Center, Cappadocia, Turkey, 2011.
“Journeys: 30 Years of Art-making”
by Dr. José Rodeiro
From January 26 to February 26, 2013, at The Visual Arts Gallery, New Jersey City University, 100 Culver Avenue, Jersey City, NJ, celebrated visual artist Mary-Ellen Campbell presents a comprehensive retrospective-exhibit of her dynamic visual imagery. Her show is named “Journeys: 30 Years of Art-making,” representing three decades of rigorous and insightful creative endeavor, encompassing several highly-ambitious and distinctive artistic directions [(The Inner and Outer Space Series (1980s); The Back to the Land Series (early 1990s); Symbiosis Photography (1990s); Angels & Demons works (after-1997); Interactive Art Series (early-21st Century), and her recent Boxes and Book Arts visual-adventures)], which explore innovative and experimental ways of creating art.
When considering her exhibit as a whole, Campbell’s manifold directions are always intriguing, paradoxical, enigmatic and poetic. Her art reveals an ingenious propensity for creating alluring ‘sight-statements’ that function visually as twofold binaries that simultaneously intermingle familiar and tangible things with unfamiliar “intangibles” (i.e., riddles and mysteries) that are often suspended in an atmosphere of Postmodern différance. Throughout Campbell’s oeuvre, these merged-dualities are intensely dependent upon a particular schema, in which, each element is utilized, engaged, and/or subjugated in order to accrue greater iconological, artistic, and hermeneutic complexity.
Key to her art and herself (as an artist) is the glaring fact that Mary-Ellen Campbell is an ubiquitous resident-of-the-Earth; her trans-cultural exploits encompass lengthy sojourns in Asia, Australia, Oceania, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, visiting far and remote places from the Himalayas to the Sahara, from the rainforests of Central America to the lush jungles of Thailand. In all, over 55 nations have been visited; several repeatedly. Her vibrant imagination, and its resulting art is creatively nourished and imaginatively ignited by her perennial far-flung voyages, in which, she artistically examines and experiences each locality’s inimitable customs, environments, natural science, people, and culture. For example, she has lived, worked, and created in Nicaragua, Thailand, Australia, China, Nepal, Costa Rica, Cuba, Peru, and many other nations. Recently, she was the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to teach Book Arts in Thailand; she has also taught in other nations, and is the recipient of additional significant awards and grants, including her plethora of major artist-residencies, e.g., Arteles, Finland, 2012; New Pacific Studios, New Zealand, 2011; Babayan Culture House, Cappadocia, Turkey, 2011; Artsource, Fremantle, Australia, 2010; Penland Letterpress Residency, NC 2010; Wildacres Retreat, NC 2009 and 2007; Julia and David White Colony, Costa Rica 2007; Colorado Art Ranch, Salida, Colorado 2007; Stonehouse Residency, CA, 2007, and The Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, MN, 2007, as well as others.
Throughout each of her above-named series of works, her highly-inventive psycho-symbolic art relies heavily on collage and/or assemblage to portray her myriad worldwide experiences, as she explains: “These travel-experiences reemerge in my art, wherein they express unforgettable and vivid memories, my deepest feelings, as well as embodying intellectual pursuits. My numerous journeys serve to increase my knowledge and my awareness of the world that we share and inhabit. Moreover, these creative manifestations of travel-reveries in my art facilitate my creativity feeding my soul, in addition to aesthetically stimulating my artistic aspirations, creative inspiration, and help me refine my finished pieces by imbuing my art-work(s) with a host of transcendent experiences acquired through my travels.”
Thus, the spiritual and physical conjoin in Campbell’s retrospective art-show by communicating her innumerable observations of diverse places where she has lived and traveled, articulating abundant thoughts and feelings about her adventures, sorrows and joys, as well as expressing the entire emotive gamut (or conundrum), that life intrinsically and inherently bestows.
In this same light, the viewer must recognize that Campbell is an alchemist-of-collage as well as assemblage, and an heir to contemporary mixed-media collage/assemblage tradition(s), which include such masters as Joseph Cornell, and Robert Rauschenberg. And, like these preeminent modernists, Campbell attempts to break arbitrary distinctions between “art” and “life” through her discerning command of varied or combined media, including: book arts, sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography, computer graphics and video, which are all employed to express her copious subjects and themes. This apparent search for variation in her art-making identifies her as a prime exemplar of ‘chance-operations,’ mixed-media, and experimentation in 21st Century art.
In order to grasp the underlying complexity in her art, the viewer must consider that (when not gallivanting across continents) Campbell spends her days between her New York State country farm, and her New York City’s upper Westside residence, overlooking the Hudson River. Due to this unique urban/rural dichotomy, a curious contradiction appears in her art, integrating divergent urban iconology with rural themes and subjects.
Mary-Ellen Campbell / Art
In the 1980s, Campbell earned her MFA at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY; where she began experimenting with a Futuristic push-pull of primary-geometric structures “in / as” cosmic galactic-space, creating daring 3-D prints, as well as experimenting with airbrush, spray paint, and enamels on wood surfaces, and other techniques. These metaphysical works are part of The Inner/Outer Space Series and include 1982 works like Cosmic Triptych, Io3, or Orbiting a Red Giant, each of which ingeniously and skillfully fuse the metallic Hard-Edge style with the mystical softness of Color-field Painting.
At the same time during these pivotal years (from the 1980s through the 90’s and even today), resulting from her former close association(s) with Phil Perkins at Pratt Institute and Dan Weldon in Woodstock, she developed her unique and extraordinary Symbiosis, a combining of Photography and other media including paint and collage. Both black-and-white and color photos were manipulated, dyed, sprayed, sewn or collaged with objects. They were abstract works concerned with form in space as in her earlier Cosmic Series or they presented a plausible reaction to nature and happenings in rural New York where she had moved in the mid‘80’s. These innovative photographs won several awards in prestigious shows on New York and New Jersey.
Before long, a series of shaped-surfaces ensued as part of her The Back to the Land Series (in the early 1990s), combining Neo-Surrealism with geometric imagery, furnishing (infrarreal or irrealist) landscape-elements; e.g., Yosemite Dawning containing ancient tree branches that were sandwiched between sky and earth as geometric forms. Plus, in Sands of Time, golden dunes flowed from unfolding geometric forms. These shaped-pieces metaphorically reveal the sublime chasm separating terrestrial realms from celestial realms. As the 21st Century approached, Asian cultural and philosophical ideas became increasingly influential in her oeuvre. In 1997, a crisis in her life generated a succession of psychologically expressive works that profoundly addressed Feminist issues via radical Postmodern hyper-emotive Neo-Expressionistic imagery, which pervaded an uncanny series of works, which she called: Angels, & Demons. At this time, she also created free-standing sculptures bringing her constructions from the walls to the floor to be viewed from all sides and dimensions.
In the new millennium, Campbell relinquished some of her artistic control as sole-author of the work by seeking audience participation and collaboration in her art, effecting the look and organization of her work, creating an analog Interactive Art style or form. The audience could manipulate surfaces with magnets and/or Velcro, which could be moved and rearranged, or, i.e., other works allowed viewers to scrawl graffiti-like scribbles that were written on signs. In addition, the exhibit furnished mirrors painted with acrylic portraits of ethnically diverse personalities; these trans-cultural images invited viewers to assume different and distinct cultural-identities; thereby, provoking greater awareness, identification, and empathy with other ethnicities and races. Objects were added and subtracted daily from the works exhibited. But the themes of the works also took-on or manifested a different direction dealing with society, people, and culture rather than her earlier predilection for uninhabited landscapes. Her first book, US, was created in the gallery, where people wearing different masks were photographed and immediately asked to write on-the-spot reactions to their “new” and startling masked-depictions of themselves, which were instantaneously available on printed pages. These “Interactions” continued throughout the early-21st Century, eventually spawning her recent innovative forays into “neo”-box-making approaches as well as her revolutionary contributions to contemporary Book Arts, which she also considers an “interactive” art form.
Currently, both Box-Art and Book Art represent her main aesthetic enterprises. After making large sized pieces of art for several years, she started a new series, working in a smaller-scale. The intimate settings of boxes that contained 3-D montages of many of the objects collected on her travels abroad and locally. The boxes soon developed into miniature fantasy world theatrical stage-sets, with some suggesting fairytales, while others suggested nightmarish scenes. Others afforded commentaries on contemporary society in the format of-or-as “dimensional poems.” At the beginning of the new millennium, she began writing poetry, which translated well into visual environments. The very small boxes when displayed resembled open books. They were the inspiration, along with her poems, to explore Book Arts.
Campbell acquired her technical and aesthetic mastery of Book Arts by studying with leading Book artists; e.g., she learned assorted binding techniques from Hedi Kyle at The Center for Book Arts, NY, and Penland, NC, as well as attaining incisive instruction from Australian book-maker, Adele Outteridge at Arrowmont, Tennessee, in addition to studying with other renowned faculty at respected Book Arts centers. In recent years, she began writing poems, as well as, experimenting and making books in various materials and formats. During her residencies in Colorado, Costa Rica and California, she made books from natural materials such as rocks, leaves, grasses, feathers, bones, twigs and even insects. On trips all over the world, she made books using small Impressionistic watercolor paintings in conjunction with particular cultural objects that conveyed explicit iconology. In addition, she made books that used poems and photographs, reflecting her various reactions to a plethora of places, which she had visited during residencies in New Zealand, Turkey, Finland and Australia. Soon books emerged that were constructed from fabric, floppy disks, tin cans, rubber gloves, clay shards, soldered metal insects, and other juxtaposed-things, which questioned the definition or concept of a “book.”
Through her anomalous Books, and the intimate world of her Boxes, she continued mixed media approaches developed in previous artwork. Due to her mastery of the craft of binding and printing; along with her years of studying graphic design, digital imagery, typography and layout, over the last decade, the intimacy of her Book Art narratives have crystallized and matured, affording a raw and vibrant subject matter, which is playful, intellectual, journalistic and emotional. She is continuously creating books, on the road; in the studio, or in the print shop. In the Book Arts world, she is well-established, given that her books are regularly included in national and international Book-exhibits, highly-prized, and purchased for special collections in such prestigious libraries as The University of Denver, The University of Santa Fe, Denison University and The College of William and Mary, to name a few.
Mary-Ellen Campbell / Book Art
In recent years, her work has conceptually transformed, incorporating items from her environment that function as metaphors for the passages of life; i.e., youth to old age; relevance to obsolescence; quantity of life and quality of life, as well as longevity and wisdom. Campbell believes that art can convey something special about this later period of life, which has a unique beauty and a sadness that the young cannot fully fathom. Today, she continues to create distinctive books that paradoxically disclose both a physical and metaphysical journey. These themes are explored through documentation of personal history, analysis of aspects of aging, realizing meanings across cultures and places, and consideration of nature’s dynamic concepts.
As previously mentioned, she is the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship to Thailand, as well as the recipient of other major awards and residencies. During her years at New Jersey City University, she served as Acting-Chair of the Art Department, a founding member of the Global Arts and Awareness Network, Fulbright Coordinator, Coordinator of the Communication Design Area and the Graduate Art Coordinator. She has also curated important and acclaimed exhibitions in Feminist Art, Printmaking and Book Arts, and organized programs, workshops and presentations at New Jersey City University, and throughout the world in both global studies and the arts. After considering all of the above achievements, Campbell is certainly a creative and multifaceted dynamo with a vast reservoir of talent readily available to fuel her future artistic contributions as the 21st Century art-world unfolds. In view of her huge artistic potential and her wealth of acquired creative knowledge, one can only dream or imagine what Mary-Ellen Campbell will achieve in her next thirty years.
About the author:
Jose Rodeiro, Ragazine.CC’s art editor, is professor of art history at New Jersey City University. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
December 28, 2012 Comments Off on Mary-Ellen Campbell/Art
“Monet’s Bronx Garden”
by Dr. José Rodeiro
Photographed by Sacha Webley and Christie Devereaux
“Nature is a haunted house – but Art– is a house that tries to be haunted.”
— Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) Complete Poems, 1924.
In the Bronx, New York City, from May 19 through October 21, something spectacular transpired within The New York Botanical Garden’s impressive Beaux Arts edifice known as The Enid A. Haupt Conservancy. Throughout summer and fall of 2012, there ensued an ambitious and alluring exhibition of flora, art, photography, goldfish, dragonflies and other things associated with Claude Monet’s garden and pond at Giverny, near Vernon, Normandy, France. This included an array of bright European wild flowers, as well as an astounding assortment of water-lilies, floating in concrete pools (among them were several debonair hydrophytes that resembled exactly the famed hybrid-nymphéas populating Monet’s epic aquatic oil paintings initiated around 1900, which spawned “the Grand Décorations” of 1914-1926). Also on view were faux bottle-green replicas of Arts and Craft items, i.e., garden benches, an ersatz Japanese bridge, delicate vine-trestles and other key artifacts identified with Monet’s home, garden, and pond at Giverny, where the Impressionist master lived from 1883 until 1926.
Furthermore, beyond the above-listed Haupt Conservancy items, two Monet oil-paintings (originally painted in plein air at Giverny) were also on view within The NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library’s Rondina Gallery: The Irises, from a private Swiss collection (a work not previously shown in the U.S.), as well as The Artist’s Garden at Giverny lent by Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, CT). Surrounding the paintings, an assortment of old black-&-white photographs afforded views of Giverny in its heyday (featuring Monet alone or with family, friends, or visitors). In addition, the display included the master’s wooden palette covered with dried oil pigment (lent by Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris, France). The Mertz Library’s exhibition included signed documents (letters, receipts, etc.) and other personal objects belonging to the master.
The entire NYBG “Monet’s Garden” show benefited from the curatorial expertise of the celebrated Monet scholar: Dr. Paul Hayes Tucker (University of Massachusetts, Boston), as well as from NYBG’s visionary CEO and President, Mr. Gregory Long, who encouraged this outstanding, all-encompassing exhibit incorporating natural science(s), visual art, poetry, music and nature. In this light, an ancillary feature of the show adorned the Mertz Library’s Ross Gallery, where California photographer and horticulturist Elizabeth Murray exhibited her “photo-paintings” luminously documenting the actual Giverny – via large-scale bright and colorful (hue-intense) scenes, as well as enlarged-shots of vibrant blooming blossoms. Her “photo-painting” technique generates high-key digital images that are somewhat reminiscent of the 1970s paintings of Brooklyn photorealist Joseph Raffael, who also currently works in France. For over 20 years, the botanist/artist/photographer Murray has demonstrated her commitment to Giverny, by diligently photo-documenting it, assisting as a gardener, and by giving her unswerving love, attention, and support to the place.
[However, in terms of art history, one very important point needs to be clarified in order to assuage confusion among Ragazine readers: please note that she is not the late-Elizabeth Murray, who died tragically at the age of 66 from lung-cancer in 2007, succumbing a few months after her sensational 2006 retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art (NYC), which featured her heroic huge paradoxical “2-D/3-D” Kandinsky-esque/Miro-esque organic-abstract enigmatic images on canvas stretched taut across irregular-shaped (well-carpentered) thick wooden-frames. Coincidentally, lung cancer also claimed Monet in 1926. ]
Sacha Webley’s digital photograph in situ of Elizabeth Murray’s “Giverny”
“The White Water Lily” digital photo
The all-embracing multidisciplinary “totalist” curatorial approach of The New York Botanical Garden’s Monet exhibit is innovative, refreshing, and instantly apparent. Numerous musical concerts as well as occasional piped-in compositions softly wafted through the Haupt Conservancy, featuring works by Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and other French composers who are closely associated with French Impressionism. These pleasant audible resonances trailed visitors as they leisurely peregrinated, inspecting clusters of burgeoning plants that congregated along the Conservancy’s labyrinthine footpaths. Vegetation exposed to these melodic sounds thrived – apparently, on “some level,” flora can synesthetically sense music (or sound), as Dorothy Retallack claimed in her 1973 book, The Sound of Music and Plants.
Moreover, adding to the exhibit’s multidisciplinary character were examples of 19th Century fin de siècle poetry that graced the Conservancy’s adjoining al fresco gardens, where dozens of eye-catching panels (set at specific intervals) proclaimed verses by Stéphane Mallarmé, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, and other French literary lights of The Belle Époque. The NYBG’s insertion of superb French poems as an essential element of the exhibit is significant for the following reason: today, most fields-of-study in the USA rashly reject “true” interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary approaches, preferring to isolate each discipline by means of excessive over-emphasis on specialization. This over concern for one discipline fosters estrangement between disciplines, eventually affording little contact with other disciplines. This tragic state-of-affairs is particularly true in the contemporary art scene where pitifully little contact currently exists between diverse art forms. Thus, as an antidote to today’s nearsighted over-specialization, The NYBG’s inclusion of “authentic” concomitant poetry (from Monet’s era) added an extra spark to the show, revealing a living anthology of “Monet-related” poems, which were carefully identified and organized by Alice Quinn, Executive Director of the Poetry Society of America (NYC, NY), who really hit a home-run with Stéphane Mallarmé’s sumptuous poem “The White Water Lily” (“Le Nénuphar Blanc”), beautifully translated by Henry Weinfield (Collected Poems of Stéphane Mallarmé, University of California Press, 1994). Importantly, The NYBG’s official URL for the show makes both Weinfield’s English-version and the original French text available online: (http://www.nybg.org/exhibitions/2012/monet/poetry/mallarme2-popup.php).
The essential element of the NYBG’s Monet’s Garden exhibit is that it vividly evokes in visitors a sincere longing for the “real” Giverny, where from 1883-1926, Monet fully realized and actualized his inherent (innate) interdisciplinary and multifaceted nature. Consequently, in this “many-sided,” dazzling, fully-integrated light, everything at the “real” Giverny “was/is” carefully calculated and designed by Monet to arouse wonder, visual pleasure, and sublime contemplation. Everything ‘was/is’ meant to “WOW” – from the enormous The Water lilies pictures painted at Giverny after 1914, (which are currently on display at The Musée de l‘Orangerie, inhabiting two oval-shaped galleries, within the Gardens of The Tuileries (Paris), or permanently on display in The MoMa (NYC), to the bottle-green architectonic details evident throughout his garden. Those unique touches also are apparent in and around Monet’s house (including examples of his flair for interior-design, i.e., the stunning canary yellow dining-room).
The awe-inspiring botanical achievements at Giverny are remarkable, disclosing an astounding capacity for intricate horticultural choices, revealing a vast knowledge of plants, a daring “green-thumb,” along with an intrinsic understanding of climate, weather, and seasons. During his Giverny years, Monet continued endless “scientific/artistic” painterly experiments with light and color, as well as greatly enhancing his vibrant and astonishing artistic abilities by gallantly pushing his Impressionist style to new heights via robust sculptural (“3-D”), coated, and daubed applications of paint created within a “studio.”
Also relevant to his interdisciplinary and multifaceted nature was the scope of his wide-ranging friendships with major leaders from various disciplines who visited him at Giverny, including Georges Clemenceau, Auguste Rodin, Gustave Geffroy, Octave Mirbeau, as well as other giants in their respective fields. Of course, a host of painters stopped by, as well, including Paul Cezanne, Mary Cassatt, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Henri Matisse, John Singer Sargent, Theodore Robinson and many others, including Theodore Earl Butler (who was the first husband (in 1892) of Monet’s stepdaughter Suzanne). Ultimately, his interdisciplinary nature was best summed-up when he jokingly quipped, ”I am only good at two things, and those are: gardening and painting.”
Monet with painter Blanche Hoschede-Monet, Alice Hoschede-Monet and Georges Clemenceau
Beyond Nature’s botanical masterpieces or Arts’ creative masterpieces, Giverny’s landscaping stands as a testament to the heroic struggle(s), exertion(s), and striving of Monet from 1883–1926. In its evocation of Giverny, The NYBG exhibit affirms the enormity of Monet’s artistic and scientific triumph, which began in 1883 when in an escalating state of penury, Monet and his two young sons Jean and Michel (the offspring of his late-wife Camille, who died in 1879) departed Poissy (France) for Giverny – accompanied by his paramour Alice Hoschedé (whom Monet eventually married in 1892). Accompanying the exodus from Poissey were her six children (fathered by her estranged and bankrupt husband Ernest Hoschedé), including: Blanche (the future painter, Monet’s student and celebrated studio assistant. Blanche helped Monet create The Water Lilies, and by 1914 became Monet’s primary caretaker after Alice’s death in 1911. Blanche married Monet’s son Jean, who died in 1914); Germaine; Suzanne (whose second husband was Camille and Claude’s youngest son Michel); Marthe; Jean-Pierre and Jacques.
Monet on Japanese bridge at Giverny
Monet and his large “blended” family arrived as renters at Giverny, finding an inexpensive remote lot with a large house straddling the banks of the Epte River; a tributary of the Seine. Fortunately, by 1890, due to his growing international acclaim as a painter, Monet finally accrued enough money to buy Giverny. Once in full possession, he commenced renovations to the house and property, enhancing the grounds with gardens and an artificial pond (fed by freshwater diverted illicitly from the Epte). By 1894, a faux Japanese bridge spanned the mouth of the pond. After 1898, Monet painted various images in oil of that bridge suspended over gliding water lilies. By 1900, air-views of water lilies became a recurrent subject matter in his work; although earlier proto-versions of water lilies appeared (around 1897 – 1898) in a handful of paintings. Most importantly, in a well-documented conversation with the journalist Maurice Guillemot of Le Figaro in 1897, Monet prophetically conjectured the concept of a room filled with uninterrupted panoramic air-views of water lilies, floating to the horizon, as though viewers were looking across a vast pond, while standing on its bank.
“Water Lilies,” digital photo
Claude Monet “Nympheas,” 1897.
As the 20th Century began, Monet pursued within his studio more images of contemplative aquatic pond-scenes populated by strewn water-lilies floating on reflective surfaces, mirroring shifting skies and nomadic clouds. These subjects were often painted in layered impastos of tinted pigment in a soft, subtle, blurry, or vague manner, especially as Monet’s eyesight began faltering after 1907, impaired by thickening cataracts. All the same, during these early 20th Century years, Monet’s financial success increased, permitting travel to England, Spain, (Venice) Italy and Southern France, but, always promptly returning to Giverny. In 1911, his second wife Alice expired. This was followed closely by the unexpected death of his eldest son Jean in 1914 (at the age of forty-six). The passing of Jean precipitated the return to Giverny of Monet’s beloved stepdaughter and daughter-in-law, Blanche Hoschede-Monet, a painter (trained by Monet from age 11). Blanche became Monet’s devoted companion, caretaker, and studio-assistant. George Clemenceau dubbed her “The Blue Angel,” because of the gentle and thoughtful (“celestial”) compassionate care, which she copiously furnished Monet, as well as the fact that Clemenceau admired her analogous juxtapositions of blues in her Monet-esque style paintings.
Claude Monet’s “Suzanne Reading with Blanche Painting,” 1887.
In 1893, Monet befriended the powerful French political leader Clemenceau (known affectionately as “The Tiger”), who was twice elected Prime Minister. Clemenceau venerated Monet’s art, and encouraged the painter to pursue a bigger or grander vision for the water lilies theme, which he always described as “the Grand Décorations.” As their friendship grew, Clemenceau purchased weekend property in a nearby town and often called on Monet usually on Sunday, en route back to Paris. During these visits, The Tiger reaffirmed the need for “the Grand Décorations.” At the start of World War 1 (1914), Monet built an enormous studio near his home at Giverny in order to realize his earlier 1897 goal of uninterrupted “running” aquatic air-views painted upon a dozen mural-size horizontal canvases, depicting water lilies wafting on a tranquil pond conveying reflections of the sky and the clouds. In this colossal undertaking, according to the Clemenceau book Claude Monet (1927), the young Blanche Hoschedé-Monet assisted the aging Monet as an effective and useful partner, doing some of the under-sufaces (gessoing, lending a hand with bottom layers, studio clean-up, moving and preparing items for work, etc.). Hence, starting in 1916, Monet (with Blanche’s help) began work on the large Water Lilies, despite the fact that the cataclysm of World War 1 was in its second year, and the German Army’s frontline was only 40 miles away from his studio.
Detail from “Water Lilies”
When the war ended in 1918, in order to commemorate the national armistice celebration, Clemenceau arranged for Monet to donate twelve Nymphéas (Water lilies) to The Musée de l‘Orangerie within the Gardens of The Tuileries, Paris. These massive twelve works were finished in 1926 [(the year of Monet’s death)]. Clemenceau viewed Monet’s Water Lilies as a symbol of Peace and as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of France in WWI, and used those patriotic arguments to gain political and economic support for the work and for the refurbishing of Musée de l‘Orangerie to accommodate Monet’s donation in two large oval galleries as a universal monument to both: lasting “PEACE,” as well as eternal peace. During this optimistic post-war time, as a physician, Clemenceau provided medical advice, concerning Monet’s deteriorating eyesight. By 1923, the painter was all but blind, relying on Blanche more and more.
Giverny in black and white
Clemenceau advised cataract surgery in one eye, which successfully restored Monet’s sight. As 1926 commenced, Monet put finishing touches to “the Grand Décorations.” But by autumn, his spreading lung cancer made working unfeasible, and he passed away at Giverny at the age of 86 on December 5, 1926. Six months later, in 1927, the official grand opening of Monet’s The Water lilies took place at The Musée de l‘Orangerie within the Gardens of The Tuileries, Paris
Ultimately, it is because of the above-described glorious and monumental (yet, enigmatic and ephemeral) achievement that the New York Botanical Garden presented Monet’s Garden, an exhibit that elicits well-deserved wonder, amazement and praise. Not since Henry Thoreau’s sojourn at Walden Pond (1845 – 1847) had an artist of comparable stature sought sublime enlightenment from a mere pond with as much bravado and determination as that shown by Monet, as he undertook his ambitious plan to create at Giverny a faux Japanese Buddhist Zen-pond for insightful, visual-artistic contemplation. But, unlike Thoreau, with his propensity for tiny details and facts, Monet generated a myriad of interconnected cinematic oil-painted murals (on canvases c. 200 cm x 600 cm). His subtle, vague depictions were influenced by varying skies reflecting from pond water flecked with floating nymphéas. These afforded the ‘gardener/painter’ occasions for thick, bright-hued, painterly swirls (chromatic “halos”) of symbolic, blurry generalities, wherein everything “was/is” reduced to soft and hazy pastel surface-effects that slowly clock the passage of time, thus adhering to Mallarmé’s injunction: “Do not paint the thing, but rather . . . the effect it produces.”
Clemenceau advised cataract surgery in one eye, which successfully restored Monet’s sight. As 1926 commenced, Monet put finishing touches to “the Grand Décorations.” But by autumn, his spreading lung cancer made working unfeasible, and he passed away at Giverny at the age of 86 on December 5, 1926. Six months later, in 1927, the official grand opening of Monet’s The Water lilies took place at The Musée de l‘Orangerie within the Gardens of The Tuileries, Paris
About the author:
Dr. José Rodeiro is Art Editor, Ragazine.CC, and Coordinator, Art History, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, NJ. The accompanying photographs were taken by Sacha Webley and Christie Devereaux. You can read more about Rodeiro in “About Us,” and about Devereax at: http://old.ragazine.cc/2012/06/christie-devereauxs-sturm-und-drang-seascapes-the-spirit-of-the-sea/ .
October 1, 2012 Comments Off on Monet’s Bronx Gardens
Stormy Weather 18 | Acrylic on canvas | 36″ x 24″ | 2012
Christie Devereaux’s Buoyant “New”
Sturm und Drang Seascapes:
“The Spirit of the Sea”
By Dr. José RodeiroArt Editor
Pivotal to burgeoning 21st Century “Neo-neoromanticism” is Christie Devereaux’s summer 2012 display of mysterious and sublime monochromatic seascapes floating upon the walls of the distinguished Treasure Room Gallery (within The Interchurch Center (TIC)), 475 Riverside Drive, New York City, NY. The show is insightfully organized by TIC’s eminent curator, Frank DeGregorie, who sympathetically encouraged this art historically crucial “must-see” exhibit, which runs from June 25 through August 27; with an opening reception on Tuesday, June 26, from 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Entitled The Spirit of the Sea, her buoyant radical-postmodern paintings of aquatic scenes generate intense, reverential, and awe-inspiring feeling(s), brimming with visual-nourishment and spiritual epiphanies [(viewable Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in the southwest corner of the historic and monumental edifice known as The Interchurch Center, facing Harlem’s Hudson River shoreline (at West 120th Street); a majestic late-Art Deco cultural institution built in 1958 by John D. Rockefeller II and supported by The Sealantic Fund)].
Argento 21 | Acrylic on Canvas | 48” X36” | 2011
Despite (or because of) her cutting-edge radical postmodernism, Devereaux’s luminous “tonal” seascapes imaginatively blend nascent early-Romantic Sturm und Drang artistic approaches. These aesthetic dichotomies were initially invoked by 18th Century German art theorist and poet Friedrich Von Schlegel as aesthetic dualities (or binaries) guiding the process of human creativity within the natural world via either 1). objective naturalism or 2). subjective naturalism. Both of these Sturm und Drang creative methods were brilliantly paraphrased (in English) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge within his Biographia Literaria, as two types of creative imagination: “Primary” and “Secondary.” Ingeniously, Devereaux’s marine imagery treads between both of these valid and substantial aesthetic positions, wherein “Primary Imagination” correspond to being faithful to physical phenomena; i.e., naturalistic representation, or empirical mimesis [(signifying sheer realistic artistic perception in art)], while “Secondary Imagination” signifies numinous, metaphysical, visionary, poetic and symbolic rearrangements, exaltations, as well as distortions of nature in art. Whereby either, the external transcendent spirit of nature: geist (the “Without”), or the innate imminent spirit of nature: duende (the “Within”), is expressed creatively via art [(What is Duende? http://duende-art.com/page1.html )]. A creative inspiration motivating art, as Coleridge stated, which, “Makes the natural world appear supernatural.”
Similar to Coleridge, Lord Byron, J.M.W. Turner, Thomas Moran, Albert Pinkham Ryder, and other mystic Romantic poet/painter seascapists, Devereaux’s seafaring art evokes the same intimate, epic, moody and melancholic nautical-emotions that inhabit these above-named masters’ finest naval works. In fact, consistent with these great maritime masters, her oceanic scenes, as well as shoreline images, are predisposed toward abstraction, reminiscent of the organic abstraction evident in the Blaue Reiter works of Wassily Kandinsky or the late Surreal works of Joan Míro, as well as the sublime (“pure”) enigmatic abstract-abstraction found in late-works by Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt. For example, in several of her seascapes, we find identical moody, abstract, and heightened conceptual tendencies that are equally present (as open “arch-writing’ verbal abstractions) in Lord Byron’s“Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” when he hermeneutically conjures-up an iconological, vivid, and symbolic picture of the sea, conveying infinite and unbounded interpretation(s):Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin – his control Stops with the shore; – upon the watery plain The wrecks are all thy deed, not does remain A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own, When for a moment, like a drop of rain, He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan, Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d, and unknown.
As in Byron’s above “Ocean – roll” poetic-vignette, Devereaux’s art connotes a sensation of motion (movement), rushing tides, churning whirlpools, rippling eddies, stirring currents, undulating waves or placid calm. In her work, the dynamic terpsichorean sea is surrounded by energetic streaming or swirling milieus either detained or activated by breezy clouds, spectacular light, ominous darkness or blustering wind. Her most poignant and astonishing quality is an inimitable penchant (or genius) for expressing cinematographic atmospheric and aquatic action(s), suggesting visible motion/movement. This masterful painterly allusion to cinematography (“motion-pictures”) evokes haunting post-war Hollywood films like the unforgettable Portrait of Jennie (directed by William Dieterle) with its striking hyper-romantic and dreamlike New England coastal scenes engendered by epic and dramatic gray atmospheric tonal-value paintings of sea-nocturnes. This subliminal and insightful awareness of cinema in Devereaux’s current marine paintings animate, with faint paroxysms, her sentient seascapes that courageously intermingle paradoxical “primary imagination” with “secondary imagination;” thus, diaphanously joining “sturm”with “drang” as reciprocal traces of Derridaean différance.
Christie Devereaux/Stormy Weather series
In lieu of titles, she numbers each seascape, thereby compelling viewers to enter each image directly (“visually”), as something on the whole abstract, or free from any ancillary “pictorial-narrative.” Thus, her inherent abstraction presages ethereality, spirituality, and meditation, mapping a voyage toward greater contemplative awareness of all unfathomable realms: “Within” and “Without.” As in contemporary tonal monochrome 2-D artworks by Vija Celmins, Hugo X. Bastidas, Mark Tansey and Nikolai Buglaj, luminosity plays a major role in her work, i.e., wherein light intricately bounces off each painting’s gray metallic surfaces, thereby, “making the natural world appear supernatural.” For instance, in Stormy Weather 18, which is part of her copper series; sunlight boldly emerges from behind the mountain, moving left-to-right with looming anticipation or foreboding. In another painting, Argento 21 (which means “silver” in Italian), conflicting waves of light clash against dim darkness encroaching, upon an intense and somber gray spirit of the sea, light and dark spar along the center of the image, providing a somewhat exigent emotive experience, as reflections in the water continue to darken – as if an unforeseen and menacing cloud were passing by. In her work(s), the glimmering light of the deep ocean provides something shimmering, metallic, shiny, glittering and glassy; through which a Byronic mirror-like watery surface endows an identical feeling as that expressed (by Byron) in these below-stated Childe Harold lines:
Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty’s form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time
Calm or convulsed-in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless and sublime-
The image of eternity – the throne
Of the invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.
If the 21stCentury sparks a “Neo-neoromantic” revival reawakening the possibility of a “new” ardent emotive art capable of sublime and visionary neo-naturalism, future art historians will inevitably cite Devereaux’s summer 2012 The Spirit of the Sea series of monochromatic radical postmodern seascapes as one of the key catalysts fostering this paradigm shift away from incessant “Neo-neoDada; or ”post-Duchampesque/post-Maciunasean regurgitated anti-art; mindless Neo-conceptual art; inhumane biogenic art, as well as inhuman hyper-technomania, and other lugubrious latent-20th Century inartistic ills still unfortunately plaguing contemporary art.
Christie Devereaux/ Argento series
As a viable antidote to the current (above-described) importunate art-malaise, Christie Devereaux’s work will be on display in the Treasure Room Gallery at the Interchurch Center, located at 475 Riverside Drive, from June 25 through August 27. In addition, please note that other examples of her work will be shown in Times Square on an enormous electronic billboard on June 18 as part of a VIP after party featuring Questlove of The Roots with Jimmy Fallon. Recently in spring (2012), thanks to the auspices of Jimmy Fallon, another Devereaux seascape graced a vast electronic billboard at Time Square (see Ragazine‘s News, Haps & Snaps).
For more on Christie Devereaux’s art visit: (http://www.christiedevereaux.com/Christie_Devereaux/Welcome.html).About the author: Ragazine’s contributing art editor, Dr. José Rodeiro, is Coordinator of Art History, Art Dept., New Jersey City University. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
June 29, 2012 1 Comment
February 27, 2012 Comments Off on Meditation/Tenzin Gyatso, John E. Smelcer
Biograph: The Southern Tier
Andrei Guruianu, Poetry
John Brunelli, Photography
Artist-Photographer John Brunelli and poet Andrei Guruianu recently teamed up to produce a book documenting with poems and photos the present state of being of the upstate New York area around Binghamton, known collectively as The Southern Tier. In a forward to their book, “How We Are Now,” Guruianu writes of engaging “in artistic dialogue that benefits both artists and audience,” in other words, a collaborative effort in which one and one make three.
Many of the depictions, in both word and image, characterize changes taking place not only in the aging rust belt cities of the northeast, but also in communities around the world. Here, the new has become old. but there is also the moment of silence or longing captured that in and of itself becomes monumental.
The Last Man Standing
I am tired of living in a dying village
counting what hasn’t been lost yet
until I am withered and I fall asleep
… tired of looking outside the window
at dust of the past and plow of the future
kicking up choking on even more dust.
I am tired of always opening
my two swollen eyes in an empty white room
from which I am conspicuously absent.
… tired of my inflated non-being
standing there taking up too much space
like a reflection in a hall of carnival mirrors.
I am tired of distorting the truth
to satisfy an-already-come-to conclusion
writhing in the strangle hold of consequence
… tired of sweeping the trail day and night
Eternity complicit in the crumbs I find
between the guilty pages of a red carnet.
Perfect Blue Houses
This could be the poster town of uncorruptable good.
The old scent of coffee chasing a distant memory.
This could be the river screwed into a time and place,
the lights unharvested and steady covering the rust.
This is silence housed in layers of paint and clapboard,
falling leaves that muscle in on the turf.
This is the formula for hiding what is empty.
Nights of many matches burning down to your fingertips.
Where I Lay My Head…
When I say girl I am referring to an ideal.
It crumbles like a weakness in the face of standards.
Impossibly perfect alignments—
flesh and stars
steel and patent leather
hair the color of your own perspective
When I say girl I mean the roundness of blue,
the soft angle of shoulders.
Two arcs of light folded over the edge of darkness.
When I say girl I wish to seal a forgotten promise,
begin telling the story whose ending is yet to be written.
Under a requisite black sky; everything veiled and out in the open.
“How We Are Now” was published by Split Oak Press, Vestal, New York, with financial assistance from the Chenango County Council on the Arts. Copies are available for $10.00 each from the press, and from Brunelli or Guruianu. See also, www.johnbrunelli.com and www.andreiguruianu.com.
April 21, 2010 Comments Off on Guruianu-Brunelli