Friday, October 3, 2014

Inside the Studio: Barbara Hepworth and St. Ives



Gustave Courbet, The Artist's Studio, 1854
Within the decorated walls of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, there is a work entitled The Artist’s Studio by the realist painter Gustave Courbet. In this painting, Courbet paints himself in the middle of the canvas as he is surrounded by characters of the natural world and subjects of the academy. Yet, despite these distractions around him, Courbet continues to focus on a painting in front of him and forgoes depicting the romanticized images around him. The Artist’s Studio is a compelling painting because of its poignant message about an artist’s responsibility in the world as a mediator of reality. However, it also grandly depicts Courbet within his own studio, allowing every viewer to feel present inside of it. This choice of setting is significant because an artist’s studio is a private sanctum that is often left unshared. It is evident though that these studios are imperative for creation and artistry.
 

Pablo Picasso’s atelier – Cannes, France
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind and large ones distract it”.[1] This intriguing statement by Da Vinci is sensible, yet isn’t true for most acclaimed artists. For example, Pablo Picasso’s studio spaciously resided in his home on the French Riveria. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked inside and outside of her ranch styled studio, which encompassed over five-thousand square feet. Comparatively, Jackson Pollock composed his works in a small barn that was initially built to store fishing equipment, the place lacked both heating and artificial light. Clearly, studios range in diversity and complexity, but it is arguable that these places are works of arts in their own right. In order to explore this concept of a studio as a work of art it is important to analyze the properties and components of a specific studio.



                       Georgia O’Keefe’s studio – Abiquiu, New Mexico    Jackson Pollock’s studio – East Hampton, New York


Artist Barbara Hepworth’s studio in her home in St. Ives was turned into a museum after the artist’s death. Hepworth and her family departed London in 1939 upon the outbreak of the World War II and settled in the small community of St. Ives in Cornwall. The war encouraged Hepworth to contemplate her place as an artist with new interest because the emotional link between art and society was now imperative. Although reluctant to depart London, Hepworth ultimately appreciated being decentralized. She felt that St. Ives was a much more responsible and encouraging community, stating, “St. Ives is a small place; but the artists and writers here do, I know, think of you and your work each day.”[2] In this aspect, Hepworth’s art becomes informed by the time and place of her environment.
 
Hepworth was influenced by the war and social engagement around her, which led to a new energy in her artwork. Intriguing, this new energy is present within the physical boundaries of Hepworth’s practice. When Hepworth acquired the Trewyn studio and her St. Ives home, the artist expressed, “ It will be a joy to carve in such a perfect place, both serene and secluded ­– the courtyard and garden are protected by tall trees and roof tops so that I can work out of doors most of the year.”[3] In fact, Hepworth’s Trewyn studio provided workshop spaces for stone carving, plasterwork, and outdoor sculpture. These spaces were maintained separately, yet were never in isolation of one another. The stone carving studio and yard acted as the heart of the studio. Whereas, she alternated between spaces for her bronze and plaster work. Additionally, Hepworth acquired the Palais de Danse, a dance studio, across the street from her Trewyn studio in 1960.  She used this space to craft large-scale works. In fact, on a visit to St. Ives in 2011, gallery director Lenore Miller toured this intimate space and viewed several of Hepworth's private works ( a photograph of this special visit is featured on the left). However, as Hepworth stated, she tried to work outside as much as possible in order to be influenced by the natural coastal echoes and images. Therefore, Hepworth’s practice was unlimited, allowing for freedom in her sculptural pieces.



Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969 in the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden



Hepworth later shared with a friend that she felt as if she’d discovered an easy flow for the first time in her life after working in the Trewyn studio. She continued to work in this environment over a course of twenty-five years, evolving her preexisting practices and artistic flow. Yet, the studio became Hepworth’s final piece of art, which encapsulated the artist’s spirit and process. Upon Hepworth’s death in 1975, her studio was converted into an active museum, which showcases her studio workshops and outdoor sculpture. In a way, the museum acts as a living vestige or self-portrait of Hepworth. Marble dust from her creations continues to permeate the studio space as her tools and chisels lie still next to unfinished works. The garden and yard celebrate the artist’s life as it presents a biography of her work and career. The influence of St. Ives and the environment are evident from these exhibitions and truly show how an artist’s studio and place can inform their work.
 

Barbara Hepworth’s works and sculptural pieces will be on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery as a part of Icons of British Sculpture until October 10th.



[1] http://www.art-quotes.com/getquotes.php?catid=292
[2] Curtis, Penelope, and Alan Wilkinson. Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective. Liverpool: Tate Gallery
     Publications, 1994. Print.
[3] Ibid.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Transcendence of Arthur Hall Smith’s Artwork



“At the beginning it seems like chaos, but in the end, you sense the order. “[1]

 Within this statement, Arthur Hall Smith reveals the dynamic nature of his style and work, which encompasses a combination of abstract and figurative elements. The body of Smith’s work indicates the many artistic transitions that occurred during his career. As he shifted between various mediums and techniques.

Smith worked simultaneously on abstract and figurative works throughout his career but one image we have on view now shows how his abstract paintings come directly from the figure and nature. In this work, watch how Smith didactically abstracts the human form through a series of simple abstract gestures. This piece demonstrates how his abstraction comes from a figurative source. Yet, as viewers, it is the reconciliation of these elements, which creates a dynamic piece that resonates with us.

Untitled, n.d., ink on paper, 10”x 17-1/2” (Sight).


Smith states, “[My] goal in drawings is to achieve an equivalence between the rhythm of the line and the poetry of the subject."[2]

 

Figure study group, n.d., ink on paper, 18”x 23”, Private Collection

 
Thus, it is evident that Smith’s style is an actuation of these goals. This work specifically shows the qualities that he hoped to embody in his figure drawings. It is a delicate array of line, rhythm, and poetry. This work ultimately shows how Smith composed his abstract work.


A Gathering, 2007, mixed media on paper, 32-1/1” x24-3/8”, Private Collection

 

Arthur Hall Smith’s works will be on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery until April 4th.



[1] Arthur Hall Smith. By The George Washington University. Persistent Productions: Documentary, Film,
     and Design. 2008. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
[2] http://www.usbr.gov/museumproperty/art/biosmith.html


 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Metamorphosis of Butteflies in Art


A butterfly is a symbolic creature within the context of art and nature. It is admired for its beauty, fluidity, and evolution. A butterfly’s metamorphosis serves as a powerful metaphor for how equally transcendent human life can be. An old proverb continues to ruminate in our society, which expresses, “Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it became a butterfly.”  This very resonating idea simply and thoughtfully addresses the balance between darkness and hope in human life. It is within these themes that artists like Dosso Dossi, Damien Hirst, and Holly Trostle Brigham explore and create artwork.

Butterflies symbolically appear in early works by Italian painter Dosso Dossi during the Renaissance. Specifically, in his piece Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue, Dossi portrays the god Jupiter in the act of painting butterflies. The godliness of Jupiter empowers his painted creations to life and the butterflies are visibly beginning to emerge from his canvas. These butterflies intermingle with the colors of the rainbow in the background setting. The newly created souls that rest in the butterflies are meant to enter the world of men. The figures of Mercury and Virtue are tensely interacting in the scene as well. Mercury tries aimlessly to silence Virtue before Jupiter is disturbed during his act of creation. Dossi employs a didactic use of allusion to illustrate the complexity of these butterflies. Ultimately, Dossi’s butterflies show the delicacy of life: it can easily be created and taken away.


 Dosso Dossi, Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue, 1524  
 
        Damien Hirst, I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds, 2006


In 2006, an art piece emerged by artist Damien Hirst that elicited controversy and commentary on the same human principles explored in Dossi’s work. Rather than bringing butterflies to life like Jupiter, Hirst used the death of butterflies to speak to ideas on regeneration and revival. The piece titled I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds consisted of thousands of dead butterfly wings, resting in red household gloss paint. Hirst stated when reflecting on his work, “I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid.”[1] Hirst intended to reference the spiritual nature of butterflies that was used by Greeks to depict Psyche (soul) and Christian symbolism to signify resurrection in his work.[2] These elements are palpable throughout the piece as the viewer is confronted by the complex nature of the wings’ natural beauty. This beauty is a product of regeneration and metamorphosis that ultimately dissipates all over again. Thus, life and death emerge from the piece sublimely.


Holly Trostle Brigham, Freeing the Frieda in Me, 2003 (detail)
 

Butterflies are thus a vehicle in which to visually understand the balance between indefinable ideas. Yet, for artist and knowledgeable lepidopterist Holly Trostle Brigham, butterflies hold a personal symbolism. Butterflies appear over and over again in her Seven Sisters I paintings including Frida Kahlo, Judith Leyster, and Maria Sibylla Merian. Brigham chooses butterfly species that help to convey the narrative surrounding her female protagonists. For Brigham each butterfly symbolizes a specific idea and theme. Brigham’s most personal image and self-portrait “Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me” depicts herself as a winged pilot evoking imagery of butterfly wings and Amelia Earhart. Brigham gives herself the wings of a butterfly signifying her final assimilation of the motif. The painting stands as a metaphor for Brigham’s aspirations for physical, spiritual and intellectual fulfillment in life.[3]




Holly Trostle Brigham, Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me, 2002
 

It is no surprise that artists have gravitated toward the image of butterflies in their work. These creatures hold such beauty and grace, while also representing profound ideas. Additionally, simple adages like “Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it became a butterfly” continue to ruminate throughout society. Butterflies hold powerful meaning for viewers. Their imagery has the ability to explain the inevitable: change. Whether that change is in the form of life, death, or metamorphosis it can be understood through the simple sight of a butterfly.

Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me as well as the Seven Sisters series is currently on display at the Luther W. Brady Gallery as a part of the Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise exhibit, which will be shown until February 28th.



[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 21
[2] "I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds, 2006." Damien Hirst. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.
     <http://www.damienhirst.com/i-am-become-death-shatterer-o>.
[3] Brodsky, Judith, and Ferris Olin. Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Print. (Exhibition catalogue)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Super Women: Holly Trostle Brigham

Imagine you are a super hero, you have one super power, what would you choose? Super human strength? Telekinesis?  Invisibility? Ability to fly would definitely be artist Holly Trostle Brigham’s choice because of her enchantment with flight. Her captivation is communicated through numerous works in Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Flight is depicted literally in the exhibition through the inclusion of winged insects in many of her works, but also portraits of women in aviation. However, to Brigham, flight goes beyond the surface and is interpreted in all of her creations as women transcending beyond their traditional roles.

              Brigham’s earliest work based on flight is Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me, completed in 2002. The work displays the artist as Amelia Earhart with butterfly wings and holding on to a baby. Zephyr, the Greek god of wind, signifies the baby who is Brigham’s son, Noble. He is portrayed with a human head and the body of a pupa signifying transformation and ones ability to transcend beyond traditional roles. Amelia Earhart is the Angel because of her plane being lost.  Wings is representative of the elements of flight such as the butterfly wings, the airplane and the pupa’s future. She subtly incorporates flight by positioning her hands to resemble the blades of a propeller. Two collaged photographs of Earhart in the background of the work reference a recurring dream that Brigham has of Amelia Earhart landing safely on her final flight. Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me combines Brigham’s themes of flight, birth, motherhood and transformation, while honoring the achievements of Amelia Earhart.
WASP Bea. I. Wolf. Holly Trostle Brigham. 2012.   
 
In February 2012, Brigham participated in a group exhibition of ten artists, Home Front Heroes: Women of World War II, at Penn State University at Lehigh Valley.  In the early 1940s, during World War II, thousands of women enrolled in courses and sought employment in drafting, chemistry, management, defense training and other skills offered by Penn State Lehigh Valley, filling roles left vacant by men fighting overseas. Brigham contributed her work, WASP Bea. I. Wolf, to the exhibition, which depicts a woman who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots in the Army Air Corps (WASP). Her work recognizes the many women who bravely served going beyond their established roles in society. 
 
Tamara de Lempicka: On Autopilot. Holly Trostle Brigham. 2009.
 
The work, Tamara de Lempicka: On Autopilot, does not depict a woman aviator, but artist, Tamara de Lempicka, who painted celebrities in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s and was well known for her collections of fancy cars and jewelry.  De Lempicka is flying on autopilot, so Brigham could spotlight the spectacular pieces of jewelry that de Lempicka actually owned! Brigham speculates that de Lempicka could have had the opportunity to fly because she was a wealthy woman who was sporty and adventurous. Even if de Lempicka had not ever flown, she sailed beyond what was expected of a woman during her time.
 Flight, to Brigham, is more than piloting a plane or soaring through the clouds wearing a cape. She interprets flight as a metaphor for women aspiring to go beyond stereotypical women’s roles. All of the women Brigham has chosen to depict were determined to succeed in environments that were, for the most part, unreceptive to women. Brigham reminds viewers of the challenges these super women faced and keeps their bravery alive through her works.                                             

Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise will be on view at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery  until February 28, 2014.

Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love is in the Air


Love comes in many forms. It is present within our relationships, our friendships, but also our passions. The life and career of American pilot and World War II commander Nancy Harkness Love illustrates the transformative nature of such passion.
Nancy fell in love very early in life with the idea of flight and her parents encouraged her interests. At thirteen, Nancy left home to study abroad in Europe. While there, Nancy witnessed a true moment in aviation history. Amongst a group of ten thousand, Nancy patiently waited hours on the East side of Le Bourget airfield in Paris. In the sky, a white gray plane flew overhead slowly descending to the ground. The landing lights glared and flooded the field until the plane finally gently rested on the ground in front of Nancy. In that moment, Captain Charles Lindbergh emerged from the plane having just completed his first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Three years later, at the age of sixteen, Nancy was issued a private pilot’s license and began creating her own aviation history.


During her time as a pilot, Nancy established a successful Boston-based aviation company, participated in National air races, and helped ferry an airplane from the United States to France. Most notably, during World War II, Love led all ferrying operations for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) an aviation organization assembled of female pilots, who were tasked with the responsibility of flying military aircrafts as instructed by the United States Air Forces.[1]


Under her command, female pilots flew almost every type of military aircraft then in the air. Her leadership and passion for flight were instrumental in the success of the organization. For her service, Nancy received an Air Medal award in honor of her meritorious flying and leadership. Before her passing in 1976, Nancy strongly maintained relationships with the women she had commanded and worked with through WASP considering them some of the most important people in her life. These friends and family had been a part of her passion of flight and remained unwavering vestiges of the love she found through her work.

Holly Trostle Brigham, WASP Bea I. Wolf, 2012,

The aviation history that Love created is forefront in Holly Trostle Brigham’s piece WASP Bea I. Wolf featured in Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Brigham’s piece focused on the untold history of the WASPs. Specifically, in the painting, Brigham imagines herself a woman in flight. Painted to resemble a black and white photograph, the piece takes on a historical imagery emphasizing the absent significance and legacy of the organization. In the sixteen months the WASP unit existed, more than 25,000 women applied for training; and of these over a thousand were accepted and successfully completed the program.[2] Yet, upon the disbanding of the program, these women waited over thirty years to receive combat veteran status and eligibility benefits. Thus, Brigham’s piece attempts to honor these women and rectify the neglect of the past. We remember and celebrate their achievements on Nancy Harkness Love's birthday, Valentine's Day, how fitting?  Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise will be on view at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery until February 28th.

To learn more about these courageous women pilots and the WASPs you can listen to their story here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Glimpse into the Mind of Holly Trostle Brigham


Before the opening of Holly Trostle Brighman’s exhibition Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/ Guise, I had the opportunity to discuss the works in the show with her and delve into her artistic thought process:
The artist in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.  Photo: William Atkins
When questioned about which piece from the exhibit Brigham identifies with the most, she immediately turned to Artemesia: Blood for Blood. She commented that the work was a turning point for her. She created the work as a defense for Artemesia Gentileschi during her rape trial and depicts what she imagined the post-rape scene to be from reading the documents detailing the rape and the trial. Brigham includes a pendant, which displays Gentileschi’s work, Susanna and the Elders, which was her first painting completed after the rape.  In the work by Brigham, Gentileschi is shown clutching a lock of her rapist’s hair and a knife that is capped by a figure of Artemis of Ephesus, a symbol of motherhood and fertility. A key with Artemesia’s initials – A.G. inscribed in it, hangs from a ribbon around her neck, showing that she could not have given it to her rapist as he alleged during the trial.
The piece, Hildegard’s Box, is unlike the other works in the exhibit, it is a sculptural work that incorporates Hildegard von Bingen’s songs. The work is a wooden box painted with scenes in oil and features two portraits: Hildegard von Bingen and Dead Hildegard. The door to the box is decorated with a sacred heart and remains ajar, inviting viewers to peek inside. The interior of the box is covered in a lush red fabric and contains two mysterious objects encased in jeweled gold bags. I was eager to discover what the objects were, and during our discussion I was intrigued to hear that it contains two organs – a heart and a tongue – made of wax of course! Brigham expanded on this, explaining Hildegard’s heart and tongue are rumored to be buried beneath the church of Eibingerstrasse in Rüdesheim, Germany.
Two other works in the exhibit are accompanied by relics, which Brigham integrated to provide a more authentic atmosphere. A wedding ring is hung beside the portrait, Henriette DeLille, to reinforce the concept of nuns being married to God. The ring dates back to the early nineteenth century, the time period that the Creole nun lived. Brigham explained that it was common for convents to have a doll to represent baby Jesus, which is why she portrays the figure representative of DeLille holding a doll. The doll, which is depicted as an African-American highlights the nun’s major accomplishment, founding the first African-American religious order – Sisters of the Holy Family. She commented that she felt pity for nuns, because they cared for the doll as if it were a real child, having no children of their own. Santa Caterina’s Trinity, another religious portrait, is complemented by a framed lock of hair. The lock of hair belongs to Brigham, which she decided to use to demonstrate women having to cut their hair to show humility if they wanted to become a nun.   
            During our conversation, Brigham had mentioned her fascination with flight and how she often dreams of flying, which has led to her interest in aviation and her works exploring flight.  Her work, WASP Bea. I. Wolf, was created for a group exhibition that focused on women in World War II, which includes two authentic World War II medals and the badge of the WomenAirforce Service Pilots (WASP). WASP was an organization of civilian women pilots employed to fly military aircrafts in World War II. Bea. I. Wolf., is a play on words that incorporates the bee wolf, a predatory wasp, and Beowulf, a mythical hero, who Brigham links to feminism. The epic poem, thought to be written in 700 A.D., explores the expected gender roles for women. Brigham’s piece shows this woman aviator transcending beyond her traditional roles. The “I” in the title is representative of Isis, an Egyptian goddess of motherhood, nature and magic. Brigham also commented that her choice to use black and white in this portrait was a way to replicate a black and white photograph from the 1940s and then she touched upon her choice of frame for this work, chosen because the frame appears to look like insect wings. She matched most of the frames to the time period of the work she was investigating.

Brigham places herself in the images of female figures of the past in the hope of continuing their message and keeping them alive. She is currently expanding her Seven Sisters II series with other creative images of nuns. She hopes that when she enters the afterlife her works will continue to spread not only her message, but also the messages of the women she has depicted.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Preparing for the Olympics with "A Place for Us"

“I’ve learned that art is making me, rather than creating me” - Paul Goodnight
Paul Goodnight, A Place for Us, 1993 serigraph, 36" x 26".

Have you been eagerly counting the days, hours and minutes until the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics? The GW Permanent Collection can allay your excitement, with Paul Goodnight’s serigraph, A Place for Us.
            If Alpine Skiing is your favorite Winter Olympic event, A Place for Us, can give you a taste of what to expect with Goodnight’s depiction of two male skiers descending a slope, a snow covered mountain in the backdrop. Goodnight evokes emotion and movement with the use of contrasting pastel colors and shades of darker colors. Often sport has been the subject of Goodnight’s work, as he is an avid sportsman himself. He has a Black Belt in Karate, has run seven marathons and participates daily in long distance swimming. His talent for depicting movement in his works caught the eye of the Olympic committee in 1996, when he designed, Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, as the official commemorative poster for the Atlanta Summer Olympics and in 2008, when he created the triathlon triptych for the Beijing Olympic Games. In addition to creating art for the Olympics, he was also responsible for creating the World Cup Poster in 1998 and 2010. 
Paul Goodnight, Feet Don't Fail Me Now, 2008.
 Goodnight began to pursue a career as an artist as a way to recover from his traumatic tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He had lost his ability to speak from witnessing many horrors, so he turned to his artistic talents to communicate his emotions. Goodnight was trained in classical art at the Massachusetts College of Art after returning from Vietnam. He attributes his unique style to his use of unusual techniques and tools such as volcanic ash, which he learned to use from an artist in Brazil. Other techniques were picked up during his many travels around the world, including to Russia, Nicaragua, and China. He strives to provide viewers with a deeper understanding of African history and culture by incorporating African themes and symbols in his works.
You may have seen pieces of Goodnight’s without even knowing it, if you have watched television productions like Seinfeld, the Cosby Show, ER, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Goodnight’s pieces can be found in the private collection of notables such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Samuel L. Jackson, and Angela Bassett. His creations are also in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Hampton University Museum and in the GW Permanent Collection. 

Goodnight continues to create unique pieces with his distinct methods.  In 2011 he participated in The Body in Motion exhibition at Fayetteville State University and contributed to an exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of Mahalia Jackson. 
- Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant


Paul Goodnight, World Cup Soccer Poster, 1998.

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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Inside the Studio: Barbara Hepworth and St. Ives



Gustave Courbet, The Artist's Studio, 1854
Within the decorated walls of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, there is a work entitled The Artist’s Studio by the realist painter Gustave Courbet. In this painting, Courbet paints himself in the middle of the canvas as he is surrounded by characters of the natural world and subjects of the academy. Yet, despite these distractions around him, Courbet continues to focus on a painting in front of him and forgoes depicting the romanticized images around him. The Artist’s Studio is a compelling painting because of its poignant message about an artist’s responsibility in the world as a mediator of reality. However, it also grandly depicts Courbet within his own studio, allowing every viewer to feel present inside of it. This choice of setting is significant because an artist’s studio is a private sanctum that is often left unshared. It is evident though that these studios are imperative for creation and artistry.
 

Pablo Picasso’s atelier – Cannes, France
Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind and large ones distract it”.[1] This intriguing statement by Da Vinci is sensible, yet isn’t true for most acclaimed artists. For example, Pablo Picasso’s studio spaciously resided in his home on the French Riveria. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe worked inside and outside of her ranch styled studio, which encompassed over five-thousand square feet. Comparatively, Jackson Pollock composed his works in a small barn that was initially built to store fishing equipment, the place lacked both heating and artificial light. Clearly, studios range in diversity and complexity, but it is arguable that these places are works of arts in their own right. In order to explore this concept of a studio as a work of art it is important to analyze the properties and components of a specific studio.



                       Georgia O’Keefe’s studio – Abiquiu, New Mexico    Jackson Pollock’s studio – East Hampton, New York


Artist Barbara Hepworth’s studio in her home in St. Ives was turned into a museum after the artist’s death. Hepworth and her family departed London in 1939 upon the outbreak of the World War II and settled in the small community of St. Ives in Cornwall. The war encouraged Hepworth to contemplate her place as an artist with new interest because the emotional link between art and society was now imperative. Although reluctant to depart London, Hepworth ultimately appreciated being decentralized. She felt that St. Ives was a much more responsible and encouraging community, stating, “St. Ives is a small place; but the artists and writers here do, I know, think of you and your work each day.”[2] In this aspect, Hepworth’s art becomes informed by the time and place of her environment.
 
Hepworth was influenced by the war and social engagement around her, which led to a new energy in her artwork. Intriguing, this new energy is present within the physical boundaries of Hepworth’s practice. When Hepworth acquired the Trewyn studio and her St. Ives home, the artist expressed, “ It will be a joy to carve in such a perfect place, both serene and secluded ­– the courtyard and garden are protected by tall trees and roof tops so that I can work out of doors most of the year.”[3] In fact, Hepworth’s Trewyn studio provided workshop spaces for stone carving, plasterwork, and outdoor sculpture. These spaces were maintained separately, yet were never in isolation of one another. The stone carving studio and yard acted as the heart of the studio. Whereas, she alternated between spaces for her bronze and plaster work. Additionally, Hepworth acquired the Palais de Danse, a dance studio, across the street from her Trewyn studio in 1960.  She used this space to craft large-scale works. In fact, on a visit to St. Ives in 2011, gallery director Lenore Miller toured this intimate space and viewed several of Hepworth's private works ( a photograph of this special visit is featured on the left). However, as Hepworth stated, she tried to work outside as much as possible in order to be influenced by the natural coastal echoes and images. Therefore, Hepworth’s practice was unlimited, allowing for freedom in her sculptural pieces.



Two Forms (Divided Circle) 1969 in the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden



Hepworth later shared with a friend that she felt as if she’d discovered an easy flow for the first time in her life after working in the Trewyn studio. She continued to work in this environment over a course of twenty-five years, evolving her preexisting practices and artistic flow. Yet, the studio became Hepworth’s final piece of art, which encapsulated the artist’s spirit and process. Upon Hepworth’s death in 1975, her studio was converted into an active museum, which showcases her studio workshops and outdoor sculpture. In a way, the museum acts as a living vestige or self-portrait of Hepworth. Marble dust from her creations continues to permeate the studio space as her tools and chisels lie still next to unfinished works. The garden and yard celebrate the artist’s life as it presents a biography of her work and career. The influence of St. Ives and the environment are evident from these exhibitions and truly show how an artist’s studio and place can inform their work.
 

Barbara Hepworth’s works and sculptural pieces will be on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery as a part of Icons of British Sculpture until October 10th.



[1] http://www.art-quotes.com/getquotes.php?catid=292
[2] Curtis, Penelope, and Alan Wilkinson. Barbara Hepworth: A Retrospective. Liverpool: Tate Gallery
     Publications, 1994. Print.
[3] Ibid.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Transcendence of Arthur Hall Smith’s Artwork



“At the beginning it seems like chaos, but in the end, you sense the order. “[1]

 Within this statement, Arthur Hall Smith reveals the dynamic nature of his style and work, which encompasses a combination of abstract and figurative elements. The body of Smith’s work indicates the many artistic transitions that occurred during his career. As he shifted between various mediums and techniques.

Smith worked simultaneously on abstract and figurative works throughout his career but one image we have on view now shows how his abstract paintings come directly from the figure and nature. In this work, watch how Smith didactically abstracts the human form through a series of simple abstract gestures. This piece demonstrates how his abstraction comes from a figurative source. Yet, as viewers, it is the reconciliation of these elements, which creates a dynamic piece that resonates with us.

Untitled, n.d., ink on paper, 10”x 17-1/2” (Sight).


Smith states, “[My] goal in drawings is to achieve an equivalence between the rhythm of the line and the poetry of the subject."[2]

 

Figure study group, n.d., ink on paper, 18”x 23”, Private Collection

 
Thus, it is evident that Smith’s style is an actuation of these goals. This work specifically shows the qualities that he hoped to embody in his figure drawings. It is a delicate array of line, rhythm, and poetry. This work ultimately shows how Smith composed his abstract work.


A Gathering, 2007, mixed media on paper, 32-1/1” x24-3/8”, Private Collection

 

Arthur Hall Smith’s works will be on display at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery until April 4th.



[1] Arthur Hall Smith. By The George Washington University. Persistent Productions: Documentary, Film,
     and Design. 2008. Web. 2 Apr. 2014.
[2] http://www.usbr.gov/museumproperty/art/biosmith.html


 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Metamorphosis of Butteflies in Art


A butterfly is a symbolic creature within the context of art and nature. It is admired for its beauty, fluidity, and evolution. A butterfly’s metamorphosis serves as a powerful metaphor for how equally transcendent human life can be. An old proverb continues to ruminate in our society, which expresses, “Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it became a butterfly.”  This very resonating idea simply and thoughtfully addresses the balance between darkness and hope in human life. It is within these themes that artists like Dosso Dossi, Damien Hirst, and Holly Trostle Brigham explore and create artwork.

Butterflies symbolically appear in early works by Italian painter Dosso Dossi during the Renaissance. Specifically, in his piece Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue, Dossi portrays the god Jupiter in the act of painting butterflies. The godliness of Jupiter empowers his painted creations to life and the butterflies are visibly beginning to emerge from his canvas. These butterflies intermingle with the colors of the rainbow in the background setting. The newly created souls that rest in the butterflies are meant to enter the world of men. The figures of Mercury and Virtue are tensely interacting in the scene as well. Mercury tries aimlessly to silence Virtue before Jupiter is disturbed during his act of creation. Dossi employs a didactic use of allusion to illustrate the complexity of these butterflies. Ultimately, Dossi’s butterflies show the delicacy of life: it can easily be created and taken away.


 Dosso Dossi, Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue, 1524  
 
        Damien Hirst, I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds, 2006


In 2006, an art piece emerged by artist Damien Hirst that elicited controversy and commentary on the same human principles explored in Dossi’s work. Rather than bringing butterflies to life like Jupiter, Hirst used the death of butterflies to speak to ideas on regeneration and revival. The piece titled I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds consisted of thousands of dead butterfly wings, resting in red household gloss paint. Hirst stated when reflecting on his work, “I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid.”[1] Hirst intended to reference the spiritual nature of butterflies that was used by Greeks to depict Psyche (soul) and Christian symbolism to signify resurrection in his work.[2] These elements are palpable throughout the piece as the viewer is confronted by the complex nature of the wings’ natural beauty. This beauty is a product of regeneration and metamorphosis that ultimately dissipates all over again. Thus, life and death emerge from the piece sublimely.


Holly Trostle Brigham, Freeing the Frieda in Me, 2003 (detail)
 

Butterflies are thus a vehicle in which to visually understand the balance between indefinable ideas. Yet, for artist and knowledgeable lepidopterist Holly Trostle Brigham, butterflies hold a personal symbolism. Butterflies appear over and over again in her Seven Sisters I paintings including Frida Kahlo, Judith Leyster, and Maria Sibylla Merian. Brigham chooses butterfly species that help to convey the narrative surrounding her female protagonists. For Brigham each butterfly symbolizes a specific idea and theme. Brigham’s most personal image and self-portrait “Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me” depicts herself as a winged pilot evoking imagery of butterfly wings and Amelia Earhart. Brigham gives herself the wings of a butterfly signifying her final assimilation of the motif. The painting stands as a metaphor for Brigham’s aspirations for physical, spiritual and intellectual fulfillment in life.[3]




Holly Trostle Brigham, Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me, 2002
 

It is no surprise that artists have gravitated toward the image of butterflies in their work. These creatures hold such beauty and grace, while also representing profound ideas. Additionally, simple adages like “Just when the caterpillar thought its life was over, it became a butterfly” continue to ruminate throughout society. Butterflies hold powerful meaning for viewers. Their imagery has the ability to explain the inevitable: change. Whether that change is in the form of life, death, or metamorphosis it can be understood through the simple sight of a butterfly.

Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me as well as the Seven Sisters series is currently on display at the Luther W. Brady Gallery as a part of the Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise exhibit, which will be shown until February 28th.



[1] Damien Hirst cited in Damien Hirst and Gordon Burn, ‘On the Way to Work’ (Faber and Faber, 2001), 21
[2] "I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds, 2006." Damien Hirst. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014.
     <http://www.damienhirst.com/i-am-become-death-shatterer-o>.
[3] Brodsky, Judith, and Ferris Olin. Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Print. (Exhibition catalogue)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Super Women: Holly Trostle Brigham

Imagine you are a super hero, you have one super power, what would you choose? Super human strength? Telekinesis?  Invisibility? Ability to fly would definitely be artist Holly Trostle Brigham’s choice because of her enchantment with flight. Her captivation is communicated through numerous works in Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Flight is depicted literally in the exhibition through the inclusion of winged insects in many of her works, but also portraits of women in aviation. However, to Brigham, flight goes beyond the surface and is interpreted in all of her creations as women transcending beyond their traditional roles.

              Brigham’s earliest work based on flight is Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me, completed in 2002. The work displays the artist as Amelia Earhart with butterfly wings and holding on to a baby. Zephyr, the Greek god of wind, signifies the baby who is Brigham’s son, Noble. He is portrayed with a human head and the body of a pupa signifying transformation and ones ability to transcend beyond traditional roles. Amelia Earhart is the Angel because of her plane being lost.  Wings is representative of the elements of flight such as the butterfly wings, the airplane and the pupa’s future. She subtly incorporates flight by positioning her hands to resemble the blades of a propeller. Two collaged photographs of Earhart in the background of the work reference a recurring dream that Brigham has of Amelia Earhart landing safely on her final flight. Zephyr, Angel, Wings and Me combines Brigham’s themes of flight, birth, motherhood and transformation, while honoring the achievements of Amelia Earhart.
WASP Bea. I. Wolf. Holly Trostle Brigham. 2012.   
 
In February 2012, Brigham participated in a group exhibition of ten artists, Home Front Heroes: Women of World War II, at Penn State University at Lehigh Valley.  In the early 1940s, during World War II, thousands of women enrolled in courses and sought employment in drafting, chemistry, management, defense training and other skills offered by Penn State Lehigh Valley, filling roles left vacant by men fighting overseas. Brigham contributed her work, WASP Bea. I. Wolf, to the exhibition, which depicts a woman who served in the Women Airforce Service Pilots in the Army Air Corps (WASP). Her work recognizes the many women who bravely served going beyond their established roles in society. 
 
Tamara de Lempicka: On Autopilot. Holly Trostle Brigham. 2009.
 
The work, Tamara de Lempicka: On Autopilot, does not depict a woman aviator, but artist, Tamara de Lempicka, who painted celebrities in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s and was well known for her collections of fancy cars and jewelry.  De Lempicka is flying on autopilot, so Brigham could spotlight the spectacular pieces of jewelry that de Lempicka actually owned! Brigham speculates that de Lempicka could have had the opportunity to fly because she was a wealthy woman who was sporty and adventurous. Even if de Lempicka had not ever flown, she sailed beyond what was expected of a woman during her time.
 Flight, to Brigham, is more than piloting a plane or soaring through the clouds wearing a cape. She interprets flight as a metaphor for women aspiring to go beyond stereotypical women’s roles. All of the women Brigham has chosen to depict were determined to succeed in environments that were, for the most part, unreceptive to women. Brigham reminds viewers of the challenges these super women faced and keeps their bravery alive through her works.                                             

Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise will be on view at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery  until February 28, 2014.

Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love is in the Air


Love comes in many forms. It is present within our relationships, our friendships, but also our passions. The life and career of American pilot and World War II commander Nancy Harkness Love illustrates the transformative nature of such passion.
Nancy fell in love very early in life with the idea of flight and her parents encouraged her interests. At thirteen, Nancy left home to study abroad in Europe. While there, Nancy witnessed a true moment in aviation history. Amongst a group of ten thousand, Nancy patiently waited hours on the East side of Le Bourget airfield in Paris. In the sky, a white gray plane flew overhead slowly descending to the ground. The landing lights glared and flooded the field until the plane finally gently rested on the ground in front of Nancy. In that moment, Captain Charles Lindbergh emerged from the plane having just completed his first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean. Three years later, at the age of sixteen, Nancy was issued a private pilot’s license and began creating her own aviation history.


During her time as a pilot, Nancy established a successful Boston-based aviation company, participated in National air races, and helped ferry an airplane from the United States to France. Most notably, during World War II, Love led all ferrying operations for the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) an aviation organization assembled of female pilots, who were tasked with the responsibility of flying military aircrafts as instructed by the United States Air Forces.[1]


Under her command, female pilots flew almost every type of military aircraft then in the air. Her leadership and passion for flight were instrumental in the success of the organization. For her service, Nancy received an Air Medal award in honor of her meritorious flying and leadership. Before her passing in 1976, Nancy strongly maintained relationships with the women she had commanded and worked with through WASP considering them some of the most important people in her life. These friends and family had been a part of her passion of flight and remained unwavering vestiges of the love she found through her work.

Holly Trostle Brigham, WASP Bea I. Wolf, 2012,

The aviation history that Love created is forefront in Holly Trostle Brigham’s piece WASP Bea I. Wolf featured in Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Brigham’s piece focused on the untold history of the WASPs. Specifically, in the painting, Brigham imagines herself a woman in flight. Painted to resemble a black and white photograph, the piece takes on a historical imagery emphasizing the absent significance and legacy of the organization. In the sixteen months the WASP unit existed, more than 25,000 women applied for training; and of these over a thousand were accepted and successfully completed the program.[2] Yet, upon the disbanding of the program, these women waited over thirty years to receive combat veteran status and eligibility benefits. Thus, Brigham’s piece attempts to honor these women and rectify the neglect of the past. We remember and celebrate their achievements on Nancy Harkness Love's birthday, Valentine's Day, how fitting?  Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise will be on view at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery until February 28th.

To learn more about these courageous women pilots and the WASPs you can listen to their story here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Glimpse into the Mind of Holly Trostle Brigham


Before the opening of Holly Trostle Brighman’s exhibition Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/ Guise, I had the opportunity to discuss the works in the show with her and delve into her artistic thought process:
The artist in the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.  Photo: William Atkins
When questioned about which piece from the exhibit Brigham identifies with the most, she immediately turned to Artemesia: Blood for Blood. She commented that the work was a turning point for her. She created the work as a defense for Artemesia Gentileschi during her rape trial and depicts what she imagined the post-rape scene to be from reading the documents detailing the rape and the trial. Brigham includes a pendant, which displays Gentileschi’s work, Susanna and the Elders, which was her first painting completed after the rape.  In the work by Brigham, Gentileschi is shown clutching a lock of her rapist’s hair and a knife that is capped by a figure of Artemis of Ephesus, a symbol of motherhood and fertility. A key with Artemesia’s initials – A.G. inscribed in it, hangs from a ribbon around her neck, showing that she could not have given it to her rapist as he alleged during the trial.
The piece, Hildegard’s Box, is unlike the other works in the exhibit, it is a sculptural work that incorporates Hildegard von Bingen’s songs. The work is a wooden box painted with scenes in oil and features two portraits: Hildegard von Bingen and Dead Hildegard. The door to the box is decorated with a sacred heart and remains ajar, inviting viewers to peek inside. The interior of the box is covered in a lush red fabric and contains two mysterious objects encased in jeweled gold bags. I was eager to discover what the objects were, and during our discussion I was intrigued to hear that it contains two organs – a heart and a tongue – made of wax of course! Brigham expanded on this, explaining Hildegard’s heart and tongue are rumored to be buried beneath the church of Eibingerstrasse in Rüdesheim, Germany.
Two other works in the exhibit are accompanied by relics, which Brigham integrated to provide a more authentic atmosphere. A wedding ring is hung beside the portrait, Henriette DeLille, to reinforce the concept of nuns being married to God. The ring dates back to the early nineteenth century, the time period that the Creole nun lived. Brigham explained that it was common for convents to have a doll to represent baby Jesus, which is why she portrays the figure representative of DeLille holding a doll. The doll, which is depicted as an African-American highlights the nun’s major accomplishment, founding the first African-American religious order – Sisters of the Holy Family. She commented that she felt pity for nuns, because they cared for the doll as if it were a real child, having no children of their own. Santa Caterina’s Trinity, another religious portrait, is complemented by a framed lock of hair. The lock of hair belongs to Brigham, which she decided to use to demonstrate women having to cut their hair to show humility if they wanted to become a nun.   
            During our conversation, Brigham had mentioned her fascination with flight and how she often dreams of flying, which has led to her interest in aviation and her works exploring flight.  Her work, WASP Bea. I. Wolf, was created for a group exhibition that focused on women in World War II, which includes two authentic World War II medals and the badge of the WomenAirforce Service Pilots (WASP). WASP was an organization of civilian women pilots employed to fly military aircrafts in World War II. Bea. I. Wolf., is a play on words that incorporates the bee wolf, a predatory wasp, and Beowulf, a mythical hero, who Brigham links to feminism. The epic poem, thought to be written in 700 A.D., explores the expected gender roles for women. Brigham’s piece shows this woman aviator transcending beyond her traditional roles. The “I” in the title is representative of Isis, an Egyptian goddess of motherhood, nature and magic. Brigham also commented that her choice to use black and white in this portrait was a way to replicate a black and white photograph from the 1940s and then she touched upon her choice of frame for this work, chosen because the frame appears to look like insect wings. She matched most of the frames to the time period of the work she was investigating.

Brigham places herself in the images of female figures of the past in the hope of continuing their message and keeping them alive. She is currently expanding her Seven Sisters II series with other creative images of nuns. She hopes that when she enters the afterlife her works will continue to spread not only her message, but also the messages of the women she has depicted.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Preparing for the Olympics with "A Place for Us"

“I’ve learned that art is making me, rather than creating me” - Paul Goodnight
Paul Goodnight, A Place for Us, 1993 serigraph, 36" x 26".

Have you been eagerly counting the days, hours and minutes until the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics? The GW Permanent Collection can allay your excitement, with Paul Goodnight’s serigraph, A Place for Us.
            If Alpine Skiing is your favorite Winter Olympic event, A Place for Us, can give you a taste of what to expect with Goodnight’s depiction of two male skiers descending a slope, a snow covered mountain in the backdrop. Goodnight evokes emotion and movement with the use of contrasting pastel colors and shades of darker colors. Often sport has been the subject of Goodnight’s work, as he is an avid sportsman himself. He has a Black Belt in Karate, has run seven marathons and participates daily in long distance swimming. His talent for depicting movement in his works caught the eye of the Olympic committee in 1996, when he designed, Feet Don’t Fail Me Now, as the official commemorative poster for the Atlanta Summer Olympics and in 2008, when he created the triathlon triptych for the Beijing Olympic Games. In addition to creating art for the Olympics, he was also responsible for creating the World Cup Poster in 1998 and 2010. 
Paul Goodnight, Feet Don't Fail Me Now, 2008.
 Goodnight began to pursue a career as an artist as a way to recover from his traumatic tour of duty in the Vietnam War. He had lost his ability to speak from witnessing many horrors, so he turned to his artistic talents to communicate his emotions. Goodnight was trained in classical art at the Massachusetts College of Art after returning from Vietnam. He attributes his unique style to his use of unusual techniques and tools such as volcanic ash, which he learned to use from an artist in Brazil. Other techniques were picked up during his many travels around the world, including to Russia, Nicaragua, and China. He strives to provide viewers with a deeper understanding of African history and culture by incorporating African themes and symbols in his works.
You may have seen pieces of Goodnight’s without even knowing it, if you have watched television productions like Seinfeld, the Cosby Show, ER, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Goodnight’s pieces can be found in the private collection of notables such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, Samuel L. Jackson, and Angela Bassett. His creations are also in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, the Hampton University Museum and in the GW Permanent Collection. 

Goodnight continues to create unique pieces with his distinct methods.  In 2011 he participated in The Body in Motion exhibition at Fayetteville State University and contributed to an exhibition celebrating the 100th birthday of Mahalia Jackson. 
- Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant


Paul Goodnight, World Cup Soccer Poster, 1998.

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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