Travels With Gloria

Finding beauty mile by mile.

Category: Painting

With Sketchbook In Hand

Winter afternoon in the Almaden Coffee Roasters, Suhita Shirodkar. Image via Shirodkar's blog, Sketch Away: Travels With My Sketchbook.

Special Thursday bonus post!

A few weeks ago, in my post on affordable art and ephemera souvenirs, I linked to the Etsy shop of someone whose name I could only find listed as Suhita. In my searches for interesting stuff to feature in my Friday Etsy posts, I’ve come across more of her work.

Then, today, a breakthrough. I subscribe to the flash sale site (highly recommended), and Suhita’s work popped up there today! It turns out she has both a last name and a blog where she sketches all her adventures. You should check it out.

Wednesday Round Up.

Screenshot diptych from Pollock. Via Design*Sponge.

Design*Sponge did a Living In post on Pollock. I remember disliking this movie when I first saw it, but damn, it really gets the Abstract Expressionist aesthetic right. I think the main reason I wish I were an artist is the idea of having a ramshackle old studio-slash-house out somewhere nobody else wants to live. In the 50’s that was eastern Long Island. Which is funny because now the Hamptons is the land of spray-tan and appletinis, a place the least imaginative people in the world want to be. I think now you’d have to be in Detroit or a ghost town in the rust belt. Will those places be the hot vacation spots of 2062?

Image courtesy Huffington Post.

The Film On The Rocks Yao Noi Festival — curated by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tilda Swinton —  created a floating island cinema for screenings.

La Guardia Airport, 1961. Via Retronaut.

Just in time for the new season of Mad Men, Retronaut has a photo series on flying into La Guardia airport in 1961.

This picture of Clarissa Darling wearing a Keith Haring t-shirt brought to you by the fact that I can't get any good MTV Art Break video clips to embed properly. Image blatantly stolen from Flavorwire.

Remember how yesterday I mentioned that Keith Haring did stuff for MTV in the 80’s? Well it turns out MTV is bringing back the Art Break. Too bad nobody cool watches MTV anymore. Also, too bad I suck at embedding video. Click the link, I guess.

Painting Myself Into A Corner

Untitled, 1982. Sumi ink on paper. Image courtesy Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Keith Haring was an oddly ubiquitous part of my childhood. Oddly because, well, I grew up in a socially and culturally conservative small town where there is little appreciation for art of any kind, let alone the dingy grafitti-inspired oeuvre of a gay painter from the New York underground club scene.

And yet his work was everywhere in my childhood. Maybe it was his later status at the epicenter of the AIDS crisis, a supposedly gentler alternative to controversial artists like David Wojnarovicz and Robert Mapplethorpe. Or it could have had something to do with MTV’s commissions of their trademark astronaut as a Haring cartoon stick figure.

My memory of his work is so cuddly and bland that at first I wasn’t that interested in seeing the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition Keith Haring: 1878-1982. But I was surprised by the work. It’s more raw than the dogs and babies that made Haring famous, oddly violent and often centered on images of penises and men fucking. This is not the ubiquitous Keith Haring of my childhood.

There are two pieces in the show that not only changed my understanding of Haring’s work but, frankly, blew my mind.

Untitled, 1979. Acrylic and ink on paper. Image courtesy

The first is a study in abstraction done in 1979 when Haring was at SVA. The swirling figures interlock like puzzle pieces, suggesting a pile of humanity. It’s a bridge between Bruegel and Pollock, a mass of dynamic energy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30). 1950. Enamel on canvas. Image via

Pieter Bruegel The Elder, The Wedding Dance. Oil on panel. Image via Wikipedia.

The other piece stood out to me in a much less didactic way. It’s just… perfect. It’s the kind of painting you can’t describe in words. This is a masterpiece in a completely sincere way. It scratches the part of your brain that can find euphoria in a line or a shape. Unfortunately, I can’t find an image of it online. However, I did find a still of a video piece Haring made around the same time that features himself creating a painting that looks very much like the one I’m thinking of. So I’ll give you that, and then you have to go to the Brooklyn Museum to see the piece I’m talking about. Trust me, you’ll recognize it.

Still from Painting Myself Into A Corner video, 1979. Image courtesy Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Also brilliant, and a reason to check out the Haring show at the Brooklyn Museum even if you’re not a huge fan of his work: it’s one of the best curated shows I’ve ever seen. I especially love the choice to feature the music of 70’s and 80’s New York in some of the rooms. It’s rare that museums connect fine art with other artistic forms from the same period, and for Keith Haring, who exhibited work in nightclubs and made drawings on the subway, I thought it was a perfect choice.

UPDATE: Check out this tumblr with scans of Keith Haring’s journals. They start when he was thirteen years old!

To The Walls: Nuria Mora’s Madrid

Let me be honest with you.

I discovered the work of Nuria Mora through a poster she made for Cirque du Solieil. I have a lot of cynical critiques of Cirque du Soleil, but that’s not the subject of this post. Digging down to the bottom of my insecurities about this, let me just lay it out: I’m afraid of the circus. Seriously, I’m surprised I finished Water For Elephants. Anyway, we’re rapidly veering off-topic. The point is that, despite my dislike for circuses in general and Cirque du Soleil in specific, I was so enchanted by Nuria Mora’s poster that I felt compelled to check out more of her work. I think I was hoping that she also designed rock concert posters, which I collect. Sadly, she does not.

Happily, she does this instead:

Calle Del Espino, Madrid


Lest We Think All Old Stuff Is Boring And Stuffy

Sorry for the radio silence, but it’s been a busy few weeks chez Travels. I wrapped up a long job this past Friday and am off to Istanbul tomorrow for a week spent looking at Byzantine mosaics, Ottoman palaces, and Turkish contemporary art. In the meantime, here are a few things that have been inspiring me lately.

This is a painting of a fart from Edo period Japan:

屁合戦, or in English, "The Fart War." Artist unknown. When I win the lottery, I am buying this painting.

Further selections from the scroll can be found at io9. Real information about this very serious topic in art history can be found here.

A brilliant use for vintage luggage, from Design*Sponge:

Beautiful and practical all at the same time. Though it does require the use of a circular saw. My mom totally had this exact same luggage, but in a pearly cream color.

While you’re hacking away on that peg-board insert with that circular saw, you could play this awesome TED Talk about a totally bitchen and rad ancient Akkadian scroll in the collection of the British Museum.

Thou Hast Got No Alibi

At some point when I was a kid, somebody gave our family a Sister Wendy coffee table book on The History Of Painting. I would flip through the book looking at pictures, lingering longer on all the images of naked people as I got older.

In addition to the nudity, there was weird Medieval fashion (who knew there were so many ways to fold a wimple?), creepy religious iconography, and my first exposure to abstract art from a non-philistine perspective. I can also thank this book for my lingering fascination with the work of Lucian Freud (NSFW on account of breast, singular), which apparently was the height of Really Important Art according to Sister Wendy circa 1990. Or maybe it was just the naked people.

But the longer I spent contemplating the hundreds of images in this book, the more I was struck by the fact that painters didn’t figure out how to paint babies until like the seventeenth century. This seemed especially sad considering how they seemed to gravitate towards portraits of the Baby Jesus. I mean, a career spent painting babies and this is as good as it gets:

Giovanni Bellini, The Virgin with the Standing Child, Who Embraces His Mother

You had your Babies Are Like Grownups Drawn At The Wrong Scale mistakes, your Anatomical Impossibilities, your Awkward Holy Family Photos. I wondered if most Renaissance painters had never actually seen a baby. I really leaned toward this explanation when I started noticing how many of the nursing Madonnas had breasts like pool cues attached at the neck. Clearly none of these dudes had ever seen a boob, so it’s unlikely they had children crawling around the floors of their studios.

Eventually I grew up, took some art history classes and went to some museums. I got more into Pollock, Basquiat, stuff like that. I moved to New York and didn’t need my main exposure to the arts to come from a book based on a TV show made by a nun. So I forgot about the ugly Renaissance babies of my youth.

Until some genius on the internet came up with the Ugly Renaissance Babies tumblr, for which I am eternally grateful. Now I can contemplate hideous visages of the Christ Child from the comfort of my couch of a weekend afternoon, beer in hand. My god, the twenty-first century is an amazing time to be alive.

(Tip o’ the hat to Hyperallergic, which reminded me of the existence of the tumblr in question and that I have an artsy-pants blog now and HOW CAN I NOT TALK ABOUT THE UGLY RENAISSANCE BABIES TUMBLR?)

%d bloggers like this: