Friday, December 13, 2013

The Women of Holly Trostle Brigham's Dis/Guise

The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is patiently and eagerly awaiting the arrival of its new exhibition Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Brigham, an alumnus of GW, sought an academic experience here in order to have access to feminist studies in the arts. Thus, her artistic return to campus serves to offer an engaging voice to the current discourse on topics that are impacting current female art students today.

Brigham’s work introduces new and provocative perspectives to the feminist art genre. Like fellow female artists of her generation, Brigham draws upon portraiture, a powerful and historical medium, in order to incorporate an analytical and historical lens in her work .[i] Brigham’s work literally encompasses her personality and self. Her face makes up the model faces in her series of portraits that depict female artists like Frida Kahlo, Élizabeth Vigée- LeBrun, and Artemisia Gentileschi. This infusion of self-identity with another form of identity is the intriguing thesis empowering Brigham’s work. Her pieces are a resurrection of the past and commentary on the present. By drawing on art history to form the foundation of her pieces, Brigham essentially calls these female subjects back to life in order to study their lives in relation to the present. Ultimately, Brigham’s work reveals an emotional examination of herself and her predecessors that is hauntingly beautiful and poignantly deep.

Choice, construction, and execution of Brigham’s subjects are dynamically resonating for the viewer. Brigham is not afraid to revive a subject like Frida Kahlo, who notably suffered severe emotional and physical pain throughout her life and art career. In fact, Freeing the Frieda in Me, 2003 incorporates the elements of Kahlo’s lived reality, while also bordering on the brink of topics concerning mortality and death. When Brigham began work on Freeing the Frieda in Me, her father had just passed away. Therefore, Brigham’s attraction to Kahlo is evident. Frida, like Brigham, uses herself as subject for her work. Kahlo lived a life that was delicately balanced on the lines of death. She experienced intensive physical agony and personal pain that made her sensitively aware of the fragility of her being and life. Her self-portraits became a consistent and grounding part of her life when she was left immobile for three months after a bus accident. Upon reflecting on this time, Frida Kahlo once said, "I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best.”[ii] Thus, upon using herself as a subject, Kahlo recognized the mixed fragments of depression, self-hate, and resiliency in herself, which were expressed through her symbolic style. Often, this style resulted in whimsical and dreamlike works, yet Kahlo insists that her works were not products of dreams, but only of reality, refusing to ever compromise the two. Ultimately, by fusing with Kahlo in this piece, Brigham enabled herself time to think profoundly about death through the spirit of Kahlo, allowing her the same experience of self-acceptance that Kahlo endured as she contemplated death.



                                           
                          Holly Trostle Brigham, Artemesia: Blood for Blood, 2000        Holly Trostle Brigham, Freeing the Frieda in Me, 2003

Similar to Kahlo, Élizabeth Vigée-LeBrun believed that painting and living were one in the same. LeBrun is one of the best-known and most fashionable portraitists of 18th century France. Her style of loose brushstrokes and fresh tonalities drew sitters from the aristocracy and the royal court. Her flattering and graceful depictions of her sitters eventually gained the interest of Marie Antoinette, who became the subject of over a thirty of Le Brun’s portraits. In Brigham’s piece Elizabeth and Julie as Juno and Flora, 2011 the ideas of motherhood and artistry are explored through LeBrun’s relationship with her daughter. Brigham emulates LeBrun and her daughter in the piece by interweaving her own daughter’s face into the secondary subject. Brigham’s depiction of her motherhood is evocative for viewers, who are allowed into such an intimate setting. Additionally, it is revealing of a maternal side that isn’t always displayed by female artists, who juggle motherhood with artistry. Symbolically, Brigham includes a single butterfly into the piece to represent rebirth and regeneration. This is meaningful because it alludes to both the continuation of LeBrun’s legacy by Brigham and the possibility for further continuation by Brigham’s daughter.
The theme of legacy was previously explored by Brigham in her work Artemisia: Blood for Blood, 2000, which explores the impact of Artemisia Gentileschi’s artwork after enduring a violent and publicized rape. Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter, produced artwork during an era that discouraged the motivations of female painters. Yet, Gentileschi surpassed these societal constructs and eventually became one of the most accomplished artists of that time. In Brigham’s painting, she depicts the moment that immediately follows Gentileschi’s rape, showing the insurmountable tension of the scene and its uncertainty. Feminist studies of Gentileschi’s work note a conscious impact the rape served in her artwork, which is expressed through primary and empowering female subjects.[iii] The unfortunate event of Gentileschi’s rape often overshadows the context and interpretations of her artwork and alters her legacy. Gentileschi, undoubtedly was a victim of a violent injustice, however; she is not victim when she paints. Rather, she is revolutionary and didactic because she employs artistic qualities that were believed to be incapable for female painters of her time to grasp. Thus, Brigham’s choice in subject is quite resonating for modern female viewers of her work who struggle to ascertain power in the disadvantage of their positions. Ultimately, Brigham shows that it is through these positions that women can create the most powerful revelations for its society.
Brigham’s practice and work are thoughtful embodiments of her feminist character. Every piece is an opportunity for Brigham to explore herself through the contexts of other female artists, illustrating an ongoing need to challenge her perceptions and perspectives. Thus, her work never falters because of its urgency and meaningfulness. Her upcoming exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery will surely offer equal insight and provocation similar to how the works of her muses did so in the past. Dis/Guise will be on view in the coming new year starting on January 15th.
                                                                 
[i Fortune, Brandon Brame. Portraiture as Feminist History: Holly Trostle Brigham's Pantheon. Print. (Exhibition catalogue- introduction)
[ii"Frida Kahlo Biography." Frida Kahlo: The Complete Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
     <http://www.frida-kahlo-foundation.org/biography.html>.
[iii] Pollock, Griselda. "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art."
     The Art Bulletin 92.3 (1990): 499-504. College Art Association. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
     <http://www.collegeart.org/pdf/artbulletin/Art%20Bulletin%20Vol%2072%20Vol%203%20Pollock.pdf>.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Can DC Art Really be Local?


    Since Washington is a place of such global and cultural exchange, why is local art important when we can have the masters? DC has the capabilities and resources to be a place of exclusively high art—and it really is. We have the National Gallery, The Portrait Gallery, and the Phillips Collection—all places of high esteem, respect, and society.

            Luckily, this well-established respect for art means there is an encouraging platform for local artists—a launching pad for more opportunities and ability to reach a wider audience than most cities. The importance of local art stems from an idea that is becoming less and less of a driving force in the art world: community. In this digital age, we might forget that an art scene is so essential to the art itself. People used to meet up at galleries, have a chat with their colleagues, curators, and admirers and discuss art with like-minded people. Now, the gallery is mostly social at exhibition openings.

            But, in trying to promote local art and artists, a gallery not only provides a place to expose their work to an audience, but it seeks to build a community. At the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, we included four artists with DC ties in our Decenter NY/DC exhibit: Victoria Greising, Corin Hewitt, Ellington Robinson, and Lisa Ruyter. We not only believe that their work fits in well conceptually, but we believe it is important to create a dialogue between globally recognized artists, young New York artists and the DC, Virginia, Maryland community.
Decenter_Installation_UP_WLA_2013-8519-website
Victoria Greising, Unnavigable Space, 2013.
       Victoria Greising is a great example of a local who is trying to create a cohesive DC art community. Greising received her MFA from American University and currently has a site-specific work at our building called Unnavigable Space, which utilizes previously worn clothing and sheets. The piece is in the entranceway of the building and crisscrosses our three-story staircase in an upwardly evolving fashion. Greising creates various planes and connections with the fabric that seem both intertwined and ever changing. She has a similar work in the Botswana Embassy through the Art in Embassies Program. Recently, Greising started A Delicious Spectacle—a curatorial experiment with four other DC artists. A Delicious Spectacle hosts events in their townhouse in Columbia Heights. They focus on “becoming a space that allows artists and curators to execute novel and challenging projects” while also trying to “foster community by hosting exhibitions, lectures, critiques, and critical theory discussions involving local, regional, international artists, guest curators, and spaces.”
            
 Corin Hewitt was born in Burlington, Virginia and currently lives and works out of Richmond. Hewitt’s work deals a great amount with decay and consumption. His piece Recomposed Monochrome (216, 115, 177) is part of a series that tries to bend the medium of photography. He will scan a natural item, such as a rock or a handful of dirt, and reduce it to a single pixel in order to get the derivative color of the object. He will then place the photograph in the ground and let nature run its course. His photo of dirt is shaped by real dirt once more—and the circle closes. Interestingly, in 2008 Hewitt lived Friday through Saturday in The Whitney Museum doing various experiments based upon his fascination with the framework of houses. He would use organic and mechanical materials to do experiments in matter around a studio-garage like set-up.
Corin Hewitt, Recomposed Monochrome (216, 115, 177), 2011.
Ellington Robinson, Spin, 2011
            Artist Ellington Robinson is perhaps the most culturally tied to DC out of our Decenter locals. On his website he explains that the, “Robinson household was a respite for civil rights activists, jazz and soul enthusiasts, politicians, artists, writers, academics, and professionals including Max Robinson, Muhammed Ali, C.L.R. James, Stokley Carmichael, Toni Morrison, and Nina Simone.” Such a culturally rich house produced an artist that is heavily fascinated in DC music—especially the DC rap culture. A majority of his artwork, including his piece Spin which is currently in our gallery, invokes the image of a vinyl player.
            Lisa Ruyter, who was born in DC, has a piece in Decenter that demonstrates her vivid color palette. Ruyter creates traditional woodcuts on Japanese unryu-shi paper, but with a strangely brilliant color scheme. It is not the typical black and white woodcut, but instead, she creates beautiful portrayals of everything from peaceful forests to lively portraits of retro-dressed women. Ruyter has shown work extensively in places ranging from Japan to Vienna to Athens. Ruyter has even experimented in lending her artwork to authors for them to create small stories. She did a recent collaboration with Jack Miles, which focuses on a post 9/11 theme in the narrative.

LISA RUYTER
Arthur Rothstein "Dry and parched earth in the badlands of South Dakota"
2009, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 59 inches
Dry and Parched Earth in the Badlands of South Dakota, Lisa Ruyter, 2009.
            Most think of DC for the National Mall Museums, but there are a great deal of young and respected artists that derive their landscape and inspiration from The District. DC is a place where classic or metropolitan influences can blossom into a more contemporary form—perhaps the art scene will continue to develop an increasingly current platform.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Indelible History


In the intimate confines of the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery exhibition, Decenter NY/DC, there are thirty-nine works of visual and media arts that hold a story remarking on and celebrating the revolutionary 1913 Armory Show. Each work is tied to an artist and to a name. However, there is one piece of artwork that goes beyond a single artist and name.

Andrea Geyer’s piece “Indelible” (1913-2013) writes a history through names. “Indelible” consists of fifty ink drawings, each expressing one name belonging to a leader, an activist, and most importantly, to a woman. The aim of Geyer’s work is to historically investigate evolving concepts such as gender in relation to the re-adjustment of cultural meanings in current politics.[i] During the original Armory Show, fifty women participated as artists and donors, making up one sixth of the show. Yet, why do the names of these women seem like lost memories?  

There is an evident disconnect between women today and the women leaders of the past. The female artists named in Geyer’s piece were all distinct contributors to the feminist movement through their expansion of the arts. The 1913 Armory Show, assembled by the American Association of Painters and Sculptors (AAPS), presented the first exhibition of “new art” or modern art, which challenged previously held values and incited discussion about ideas on what art should be. Consequential accounts of the 1913 Armory Show have similarly characterized women's involvement in the exhibition as collectors of the “new art”.[ii] In Meyer Schapiro's "Armory Show in Retrospect" from Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries: Selected Papers, Shapiro emphasizes the role of women in the consumption of modern art stating: 

Women, it is worth noting, were among the chief friends of the new art, buying painting and sculpture with a generous hand . . . At this moment of general stirring of ideas of emancipation, women were especially open to manifestations of freedom within the arts.[iii]

Notably, Katherine S. Drier, who acted as a patron and artist in the original Armory Show, established the Société Anonyme, which sponsored lectures, publications, and exhibitions of modern art for both the rich and poor American public. Additionally, American painter and printmaker Mary Cassat sponsored other Impressionist artists while also encouraging the wealthy to purchase artwork. Lastly, American painter Edith King exhibited five watercolor paintings during the original Armory show. King’s paintings are clear examples of the modernism or “new art” that was celebrated during the period. Specifically, the paintings didactically transitioned to a presentation of more intimate landscapes of nature contrasting with the typical displays of extensive and atmospheric form. Undoubtedly, the female leaders of Geyer’s piece forged the beginnings of the feminist art movement. Their actions showed the public that women could serve in the art world beyond passive observers, instead acting as buyers, administrators, and artists themselves.

Current artists who belong to the feminist branch of art such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Cindy Sherman are similarly trying to challenge and incite with their artwork like their predecessors did. However, these artists freely participate in the current discourse because of the actions made by women like Cassat, Drier, and King. Female artists still face struggles expressing their ideas and proving their legitimacy, yet the actions of females during the 1913 Armory Show have assisted in overcoming the initial barriers that these artists may have faced otherwise. Therefore, significant progress has been made, yet work still must be done for female artists to obtain equal validity.  Yet, there is an absent sense of gratitude for the actions of the fifty female artists, who participated in the original show, which Geyer explores in “Indelible”.

As time has passed since the first Armory Show, the issues and ideas of the feminist arts movement have developed and changed. The actions of the first women who participated are still relevant, but are discussed secondarily to the prevalent issues of today. Geyer attempts to remedy this disconnect in her piece by celebrating these artists through a modern context and outlet. French philosopher Albert Camus once discerned and stated, “Art is matter infused with spirit”. Thus, art is a vessel that is subject to protection from impermanence: it is essentially a mark that cannot be removed in time. It is indelible. The purpose of Geyer’s piece is to embody the fifty participating women of the 1913 Armory Show. The names of these women hold great significance, yet have been easily forgotten over the course of the feminist movement. Their actions, however, have left an irremovable mark on history and for all female artists.  Geyer’s work is not simply a celebration of these women, but a vessel forever holding the spirit of Agnes Pelton, Florence Este, Katherine S. Drier, Lily Everet, Mary Cassat, Amy Londoner, Edith King, Josephine Paddock, and Katherine N, Rhondes, to name a few.

Ultimately, Geyer’s Indelible continues the traditions of the original Armory Show by voicing “new art” through the ideals and histories of her past predecessors.

 
Andrea Geyer, Indelible, 1913-2013. Sumi ink on Denril, 15.5 x 20 inches.
 
Written by: Apeksha Goonewardena, Gallery Assistant



[i] "Andrea Geyer." Parsons New School of Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.           
  <http://www.newschool.edu/Parsons/faculty_ft.aspx?id=92402>. 
 
 
[ii] "'The Part Played By Women.'" The Gender of Modernism at the Armory Show. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.                 
    <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~museum/armory/gender.html>. 
 
[iii] Schapiro, Meyer. Modern Art, 19th & 20th Centuries (Selected Papers). N.p.: n.p., 1952. Print.
 


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Paranormal Problems?



Spot any supernatural occurrences on campus lately? Witness any paranormal activity during your lectures? Ghost problems at your residence hall? Who you gonna call? Does Ghostbusters immediately come to mind, or the crew of Ghost Adventures? Think again. Artist, sculptor, and draughtswoman, Alice Aycock, can come to your rescue.


Alice Aycock’s captivation with the many ghosts that inhabit contemporary work that involve technology, physics, and the contrast between mind and body, led her to create the site-specific sculpture, How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts: Collected Ghost Stories from the Workhouse. Aycock was inspired by devices and apparatus found in history books from the 18th and 19th centuries and claims that her piece is “…her interpretation of the history of invention…”[1] Although Aycock’s device constructed of metal, glass, steel and wood was dismantled in the early 1990s, if you are having problems with the paranormal, a number of prints and drawings were created that document the work and its process with diagrams and quotes, and one drawing is a part of GW’s Permanent Collection.


Aycock’s medium of work ranges from architectural drawings to sculptures to photo documentation. Growing up with a father who owned a construction company influenced Aycock’s interest in constructing sculptures and creating drawings based off of architecture. As an artist, she strives to create a transcendental experience for her audiences and what she calls the “glance of eternity”, an allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return. In an interview with White Hot Magazine, Aycock expands on this, by stating that art that has this effect on you keeps you coming back to revisit the piece. [2] She compares it to that gasping moment one experiences when a wave comes in and takes you under.  If you are interested in experiencing the “glance of eternity,” you can find her works in many collections aside from the GW Permanent Collection, such as the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She also has public works displayed in various locations throughout the United States, among them are New York, Washington D.C. and Sacramento.


If you are in need of a remedy for your supernatural snag, Alice Aycock has you covered. Despite the sculpture of her work, How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts: Collected Ghost Stories from the Workhouse, no longer being in existence, her drawing can provide you with detailed insights on how to take care of your pesky paranormal problems. With that said, put down your cellphone and your television remote! Forget about the outrageous and bizarre methods used by the Ghostbusters and the crew of Ghost Adventures and instead take a few pointers from Alice Aycock’s print to resolve any supernatural occurrences you may face on campus!

- Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant


[1] Alice Aycock. Institute for Research in Art at the University of Southern Florida.
[2] Nietzche’s concept of eternal return is the idea that events recur again and again infinitely. Aycock notes this concept in hopes that her art has an eternal return impact on her audience. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Birds


Hawks, eagles and crows – oh my – and all lurking on the campus of GW! Do not be spooked - these are not the unnerving birds from the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but the carved stone bird creations of artist Ben Cabot. These eerie birds may look lifelike, but we promise you that they do not come to life at night!

In October of 2001, the first of the four bird sculptures landed on campus. President Stephen Tratchtenberg purchased this work, Hawk on a Granite Post, from the Granary Gallery while visiting Martha’s Vineyard.  There is no need to take cover; the hawk can be found at his usual resting place on his post on the southeast corner of the University Yard. The second bird to flock to campus was an eagle, titled, Eagle Bearing Inscription 91101. The eagle sculpture is inscribed with “91101”, to honor September 11th and the lives lost. The eagle recently took flight from its home at Eye Street because of construction of the “super dorm” and is in search of a new location to call home. At the same time of the purchase of the eagle, a second hawk made its way to the GW Mount Vernon campus. The final addition to this flock of birds was the crow on a post titled, The Raven. The crow was dedicated on January 19th of 2006, on the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe. Keep a lookout for the crow, which can be spotted perched in front of Old Main Building located on 1922 F Street.       

Stone carver, Ben Cabot, began exploring his craft by the landscape of Martha’s Vineyard inspiring him to construct freestanding stone walls. He is completely self-taught in the art of stone carving and currently works as a stone mason on Martha’s Vineyard. Many of Cabot’s works are of animals, such as seals and penguins, however his main muse for his creations are birds. His mastery in creating birds is due to his extensive knowledge of bird forms, coming from his interest in hunting and his research of old decoys. Cabot shows at the Granary Gallery and the Field Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. Aside from his works present of the campus of GW, his sculptures can also be found in private collections in the United States and Europe.

Do keep an eye out for the hawks, the eagle and the crow as you travel the campus of GW! When you happen to spot one of the eerie birds on campus, do not be wary! Do get up close and personal to examine the precise carvings of the bird sculptures, which transcend pieces of stone to life. We promise they do not peck!      
                                                                                                                                                                        Written by: Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The New Media


       Every day artist Gabriel Orozco takes a walk [1]. He meanders around whatever city he is in and notices the intricacies of the sidewalk, the people, and the surroundings. He will snap a few photos here and there—but mostly, he engages with the objects around him. At one point during his walk—he stops at a trashcan full of hay-like bushels of paper ends and fumbles them through his hands.
“I try to be intimate with everything.”
Orozco coos these words to us in his documentary entitled, Loss and Desire. That’s his advice to us—notice everything. Interact with everything. Truly see everything.

  Gabriel Orozco, Fluttering Flowers, 2011. Pigment ink and acrylic on cavas, 23 5/8 x 31 1/2 inches.

      This is a much more difficult task than we realize. Nowadays, we hardly live in our current moment. We are either somewhere nostalgically looking in the past or glaring way too far forward into our future—and most of the time we are looking at a screen. So what is the remedy for this predicament? How can we really be engaged with our here and now when our here and now is so spread all over the internet and in our cell phones and in cubicles and in photographs?
                 Art is the answer. As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believes, art is an escape into the eternal [2]. It takes us out of the moment and into one which spans the course of time. Modern artists have taken this belief a step further and have made their lives into art—expanding their interaction and engagement with life. They seek to live in the moment by synthesizing life and art and in the process. By materially making an object that defines a period or moment in their life—artists are able to produce a more bearable and more beautiful form of life in art.
                But, modern artists are now faced with the fact that our reality is irrevocably intertwined with technology. To be an artist now means to be a master of almost every technological platforms—video, sculpture, product manipulation, sensory distortion, performance, writing, film, sampling [3], photography, painting. It seems you cannot stay relevant unless you dabble in them all.
                In the current Luther W. Brady Art Gallery exhibition, Decenter NY/DC, it is hard to find an artist who sticks to one medium. Their names are normally followed by a slew of professional descriptors [visual artist, essayist, poet, dancer, sculptor, filmmaker, etc.].  For example, Canadian artist Douglas Coupland does everything from painting to writing novels to furniture design with SwitzerCultCreative. New York based artist Andrew Kuo does everything from avid Tumblr and Instagram blogging to making humorous charts for the New York Times. New media artist Cory Arcangel tries his hand in everything from performance to video game manipulation.

Andrew Kuo, If I Could Redo Tuesday, 2013. Acrylic and carbon transfer on panel and paper, 51 x 38 inches.
           This sense of multi-dimensional inspiration stems from the fact that the forms of expression have changed. Artists are no longer expected to use paint or cast-iron molds to express their inner worlds—they are more inclined to use varying forms of technology or pull from the large surplus of found materials [which is so present in our consumerist society]. The result is something incredibly modern and beautiful—a synthesis of art and life.
                The Economist describes this new movement as artists living in a “post-studio” environment. The world is their studio and the art flows easily from their surroundings. Experiences become art and an artists’ life inevitably flows through them. For example, Decenter artist N.Dash creates her works while immersed in the world. Her pieces titled Commuter were formed and folded while she was on public transit. Instead of reading a book or glaring at her iPhone—she makes her ride interactive and provides a concrete representation of the monotony and tediousness of riding public transportation. She coats the repetitive patterns and folds of the paper in grimy graphite—representing the dirt so present in public transport [and life].

N. Dash, Commuter. March II, 2012. Graphite on paper, 20 x 22 inches.

                So, what we should we glean from all of this? These multimedia artists bring to our attention that art is in constant collaboration with life. They lead us towards a more emotional and experiential undercurrent of life—a more observational perspective. These artists and their works can show us how to live in the present and how to make sense of our rapid and ever-changing world.  
               


[1] “Loss and Desire.” Orozco, Gabriel. Art 21, PBS. <http://www.pbs.org/art21/watch-now/segment-gabriel-orozco-in-loss-desire>
[2] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford Univ., 2000. Print.
[3] Sampling is when one takes pieces from another work, reproduces or distorts it, and uses it as part of a new work. It is common in video, music, and many visual art fields.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

GW Art Voyages to St. Olaf College

        Mary Edna Fraser is highly skilled as a batik artist, an ancient art form where beautiful designs created by applying removable wax to regions on fabric to repel dye, while the areas without wax absorb the dye. Fraser’s intention when creating her aesthetic designs is to raise awareness for the environment by displaying its vulnerability and beauty. Her unique outlook of the environment is a result of ventures in her grandfather’s airplane as a child, which she continues to use today to take photographs of the world from an aerial perspective, inspiring her pieces. Fraser relies on geology, topography, satellite images, maps and sailing charts to stimulate her pieces. Each area Fraser chooses as a muse, such as the Nile Desert Islands or the ancient islands of Taiwan, she researches and personally explores by hiking or boating the terrain. Fraser’s adventures allow her to base her works on realism, as she often portrays the sea, the land, or space. However, her works are mostly centered from her mindset and emotions during the process of creating her batiks.

Fraser has had her artwork displayed throughout the world – including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, NASA, the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico and even The George Washington University. In April of 2002, Fraser’s exhibit, “Dark and Light”, was featured at the Hand Chapel on the Mount Vernon Campus and in that same year, Fraser’s batik, Venus, was acquired by The George Washington University Permanent Collection. In it Fraser provides the observer with only a mere sliver of the planet. Her intention is to illustrate the personality of the planet, which she accomplishes with the diffusion of vibrant colors, including: marigolds, salmon pinks, burnt oranges, teals, and lime greens.
 Venus, is currently being displayed at the Flaten Art Museum at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, as a part of Fraser’s exhibition, Mapping the Planets in Silkand Sound, which demonstrates her eclectic approach to nature and the universe with pieces expressing the personality of the planets. Her artwork is accompanied by ambient music composed by Mark Mercury and informative text by planetary scientist, Ted Maxwell, of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The opening reception of the exhibit included an astronomy session that involved looking through a reproduction of Galileo’s telescope at the planets and the moon, as well as a Physics Colloquium and a roundtable discussion.  Just as Mary Edna Fraser has ventured greatly, so has her work, Venus, which has journeyed from George Washington to St. Olaf.                                                                                                                            Written by: Taylor Schmidt Gallery Assistant

Friday, August 23, 2013



I began working for the Luther Brady Art Gallery to aid in its inventory at the end of June. They are conducting an inventory of all their pieces in order to sort out what needs to be moved to a storage facility in Ashburn called the Collections and Conservation Resource Center, now in the process of being built. Artwork is being moved to Ashburn because space has gotten limited on campus and the facility will provide a safer environment. In their current locations, they are not safe from flooding and some works are even at risk of damaging themselves or another artwork. The pieces that don’t go will be sorted out into a learning collection, current or pending displays, or sent to the University Archives instead. You can see what else the GW Archives has to offer here.
 
Down in the bowels of the Lisner Auditorium are two storage areas for the art besides what’s in the Gallery storage areas. They’re full of student and professional works along with some African Art and Pre-Columbian ceramics. Some of the African Art and Pre-Columbian works haven’t been on display since the 1970s while others have occasionally been places on view. The African Art is mix of ancestor totems, tribal masks and altars, with the masks varying style depending on the culture that designed it. You can see a similar variety by checking out the Smithsonian Museum of African Art’s collection of African Masks.

The Pre-Columbian ceramics are mostly bowls and dishes but also included a spoon shaped receptacle for human hearts. If discovering a ritual heart receptacle wasn’t unexpected enough there are other unique items; A Korean doll and silk hanging scroll rare evidence of international “souvenirs” in the collection and a sign of the long international ties of the University. Another surprise was a chandelier that I couldn’t even get out of its wrappings without some serious help and a bronze trident that resisted all efforts to be lifted out of the box. Unintentionally, on the back of a newspaper photograph of Gen. U.S. Grant, the collection also preserved an article applauding the biggest whale catch of the season. You certainly don’t see articles like that today in the US.


So far it’s been a really great experience and I expect it to continue to bring surprises and hands on challenges. Helping sort through this extensive collection has been a very enjoyable privilege. We are 64% of the way through and I can’t wait to see what the next box will disclose.

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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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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Women of Holly Trostle Brigham's Dis/Guise

The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is patiently and eagerly awaiting the arrival of its new exhibition Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise. Brigham, an alumnus of GW, sought an academic experience here in order to have access to feminist studies in the arts. Thus, her artistic return to campus serves to offer an engaging voice to the current discourse on topics that are impacting current female art students today.

Brigham’s work introduces new and provocative perspectives to the feminist art genre. Like fellow female artists of her generation, Brigham draws upon portraiture, a powerful and historical medium, in order to incorporate an analytical and historical lens in her work .[i] Brigham’s work literally encompasses her personality and self. Her face makes up the model faces in her series of portraits that depict female artists like Frida Kahlo, Élizabeth Vigée- LeBrun, and Artemisia Gentileschi. This infusion of self-identity with another form of identity is the intriguing thesis empowering Brigham’s work. Her pieces are a resurrection of the past and commentary on the present. By drawing on art history to form the foundation of her pieces, Brigham essentially calls these female subjects back to life in order to study their lives in relation to the present. Ultimately, Brigham’s work reveals an emotional examination of herself and her predecessors that is hauntingly beautiful and poignantly deep.

Choice, construction, and execution of Brigham’s subjects are dynamically resonating for the viewer. Brigham is not afraid to revive a subject like Frida Kahlo, who notably suffered severe emotional and physical pain throughout her life and art career. In fact, Freeing the Frieda in Me, 2003 incorporates the elements of Kahlo’s lived reality, while also bordering on the brink of topics concerning mortality and death. When Brigham began work on Freeing the Frieda in Me, her father had just passed away. Therefore, Brigham’s attraction to Kahlo is evident. Frida, like Brigham, uses herself as subject for her work. Kahlo lived a life that was delicately balanced on the lines of death. She experienced intensive physical agony and personal pain that made her sensitively aware of the fragility of her being and life. Her self-portraits became a consistent and grounding part of her life when she was left immobile for three months after a bus accident. Upon reflecting on this time, Frida Kahlo once said, "I paint myself because I am often alone and I am the subject I know best.”[ii] Thus, upon using herself as a subject, Kahlo recognized the mixed fragments of depression, self-hate, and resiliency in herself, which were expressed through her symbolic style. Often, this style resulted in whimsical and dreamlike works, yet Kahlo insists that her works were not products of dreams, but only of reality, refusing to ever compromise the two. Ultimately, by fusing with Kahlo in this piece, Brigham enabled herself time to think profoundly about death through the spirit of Kahlo, allowing her the same experience of self-acceptance that Kahlo endured as she contemplated death.



                                           
                          Holly Trostle Brigham, Artemesia: Blood for Blood, 2000        Holly Trostle Brigham, Freeing the Frieda in Me, 2003

Similar to Kahlo, Élizabeth Vigée-LeBrun believed that painting and living were one in the same. LeBrun is one of the best-known and most fashionable portraitists of 18th century France. Her style of loose brushstrokes and fresh tonalities drew sitters from the aristocracy and the royal court. Her flattering and graceful depictions of her sitters eventually gained the interest of Marie Antoinette, who became the subject of over a thirty of Le Brun’s portraits. In Brigham’s piece Elizabeth and Julie as Juno and Flora, 2011 the ideas of motherhood and artistry are explored through LeBrun’s relationship with her daughter. Brigham emulates LeBrun and her daughter in the piece by interweaving her own daughter’s face into the secondary subject. Brigham’s depiction of her motherhood is evocative for viewers, who are allowed into such an intimate setting. Additionally, it is revealing of a maternal side that isn’t always displayed by female artists, who juggle motherhood with artistry. Symbolically, Brigham includes a single butterfly into the piece to represent rebirth and regeneration. This is meaningful because it alludes to both the continuation of LeBrun’s legacy by Brigham and the possibility for further continuation by Brigham’s daughter.
The theme of legacy was previously explored by Brigham in her work Artemisia: Blood for Blood, 2000, which explores the impact of Artemisia Gentileschi’s artwork after enduring a violent and publicized rape. Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter, produced artwork during an era that discouraged the motivations of female painters. Yet, Gentileschi surpassed these societal constructs and eventually became one of the most accomplished artists of that time. In Brigham’s painting, she depicts the moment that immediately follows Gentileschi’s rape, showing the insurmountable tension of the scene and its uncertainty. Feminist studies of Gentileschi’s work note a conscious impact the rape served in her artwork, which is expressed through primary and empowering female subjects.[iii] The unfortunate event of Gentileschi’s rape often overshadows the context and interpretations of her artwork and alters her legacy. Gentileschi, undoubtedly was a victim of a violent injustice, however; she is not victim when she paints. Rather, she is revolutionary and didactic because she employs artistic qualities that were believed to be incapable for female painters of her time to grasp. Thus, Brigham’s choice in subject is quite resonating for modern female viewers of her work who struggle to ascertain power in the disadvantage of their positions. Ultimately, Brigham shows that it is through these positions that women can create the most powerful revelations for its society.
Brigham’s practice and work are thoughtful embodiments of her feminist character. Every piece is an opportunity for Brigham to explore herself through the contexts of other female artists, illustrating an ongoing need to challenge her perceptions and perspectives. Thus, her work never falters because of its urgency and meaningfulness. Her upcoming exhibition at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery will surely offer equal insight and provocation similar to how the works of her muses did so in the past. Dis/Guise will be on view in the coming new year starting on January 15th.
                                                                 
[i Fortune, Brandon Brame. Portraiture as Feminist History: Holly Trostle Brigham's Pantheon. Print. (Exhibition catalogue- introduction)
[ii"Frida Kahlo Biography." Frida Kahlo: The Complete Works. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
     <http://www.frida-kahlo-foundation.org/biography.html>.
[iii] Pollock, Griselda. "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art."
     The Art Bulletin 92.3 (1990): 499-504. College Art Association. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.
     <http://www.collegeart.org/pdf/artbulletin/Art%20Bulletin%20Vol%2072%20Vol%203%20Pollock.pdf>.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Can DC Art Really be Local?


    Since Washington is a place of such global and cultural exchange, why is local art important when we can have the masters? DC has the capabilities and resources to be a place of exclusively high art—and it really is. We have the National Gallery, The Portrait Gallery, and the Phillips Collection—all places of high esteem, respect, and society.

            Luckily, this well-established respect for art means there is an encouraging platform for local artists—a launching pad for more opportunities and ability to reach a wider audience than most cities. The importance of local art stems from an idea that is becoming less and less of a driving force in the art world: community. In this digital age, we might forget that an art scene is so essential to the art itself. People used to meet up at galleries, have a chat with their colleagues, curators, and admirers and discuss art with like-minded people. Now, the gallery is mostly social at exhibition openings.

            But, in trying to promote local art and artists, a gallery not only provides a place to expose their work to an audience, but it seeks to build a community. At the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, we included four artists with DC ties in our Decenter NY/DC exhibit: Victoria Greising, Corin Hewitt, Ellington Robinson, and Lisa Ruyter. We not only believe that their work fits in well conceptually, but we believe it is important to create a dialogue between globally recognized artists, young New York artists and the DC, Virginia, Maryland community.
Decenter_Installation_UP_WLA_2013-8519-website
Victoria Greising, Unnavigable Space, 2013.
       Victoria Greising is a great example of a local who is trying to create a cohesive DC art community. Greising received her MFA from American University and currently has a site-specific work at our building called Unnavigable Space, which utilizes previously worn clothing and sheets. The piece is in the entranceway of the building and crisscrosses our three-story staircase in an upwardly evolving fashion. Greising creates various planes and connections with the fabric that seem both intertwined and ever changing. She has a similar work in the Botswana Embassy through the Art in Embassies Program. Recently, Greising started A Delicious Spectacle—a curatorial experiment with four other DC artists. A Delicious Spectacle hosts events in their townhouse in Columbia Heights. They focus on “becoming a space that allows artists and curators to execute novel and challenging projects” while also trying to “foster community by hosting exhibitions, lectures, critiques, and critical theory discussions involving local, regional, international artists, guest curators, and spaces.”
            
 Corin Hewitt was born in Burlington, Virginia and currently lives and works out of Richmond. Hewitt’s work deals a great amount with decay and consumption. His piece Recomposed Monochrome (216, 115, 177) is part of a series that tries to bend the medium of photography. He will scan a natural item, such as a rock or a handful of dirt, and reduce it to a single pixel in order to get the derivative color of the object. He will then place the photograph in the ground and let nature run its course. His photo of dirt is shaped by real dirt once more—and the circle closes. Interestingly, in 2008 Hewitt lived Friday through Saturday in The Whitney Museum doing various experiments based upon his fascination with the framework of houses. He would use organic and mechanical materials to do experiments in matter around a studio-garage like set-up.
Corin Hewitt, Recomposed Monochrome (216, 115, 177), 2011.
Ellington Robinson, Spin, 2011
            Artist Ellington Robinson is perhaps the most culturally tied to DC out of our Decenter locals. On his website he explains that the, “Robinson household was a respite for civil rights activists, jazz and soul enthusiasts, politicians, artists, writers, academics, and professionals including Max Robinson, Muhammed Ali, C.L.R. James, Stokley Carmichael, Toni Morrison, and Nina Simone.” Such a culturally rich house produced an artist that is heavily fascinated in DC music—especially the DC rap culture. A majority of his artwork, including his piece Spin which is currently in our gallery, invokes the image of a vinyl player.
            Lisa Ruyter, who was born in DC, has a piece in Decenter that demonstrates her vivid color palette. Ruyter creates traditional woodcuts on Japanese unryu-shi paper, but with a strangely brilliant color scheme. It is not the typical black and white woodcut, but instead, she creates beautiful portrayals of everything from peaceful forests to lively portraits of retro-dressed women. Ruyter has shown work extensively in places ranging from Japan to Vienna to Athens. Ruyter has even experimented in lending her artwork to authors for them to create small stories. She did a recent collaboration with Jack Miles, which focuses on a post 9/11 theme in the narrative.

LISA RUYTER
Arthur Rothstein "Dry and parched earth in the badlands of South Dakota"
2009, acrylic on canvas, 47 x 59 inches
Dry and Parched Earth in the Badlands of South Dakota, Lisa Ruyter, 2009.
            Most think of DC for the National Mall Museums, but there are a great deal of young and respected artists that derive their landscape and inspiration from The District. DC is a place where classic or metropolitan influences can blossom into a more contemporary form—perhaps the art scene will continue to develop an increasingly current platform.

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Indelible History


In the intimate confines of the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery exhibition, Decenter NY/DC, there are thirty-nine works of visual and media arts that hold a story remarking on and celebrating the revolutionary 1913 Armory Show. Each work is tied to an artist and to a name. However, there is one piece of artwork that goes beyond a single artist and name.

Andrea Geyer’s piece “Indelible” (1913-2013) writes a history through names. “Indelible” consists of fifty ink drawings, each expressing one name belonging to a leader, an activist, and most importantly, to a woman. The aim of Geyer’s work is to historically investigate evolving concepts such as gender in relation to the re-adjustment of cultural meanings in current politics.[i] During the original Armory Show, fifty women participated as artists and donors, making up one sixth of the show. Yet, why do the names of these women seem like lost memories?  

There is an evident disconnect between women today and the women leaders of the past. The female artists named in Geyer’s piece were all distinct contributors to the feminist movement through their expansion of the arts. The 1913 Armory Show, assembled by the American Association of Painters and Sculptors (AAPS), presented the first exhibition of “new art” or modern art, which challenged previously held values and incited discussion about ideas on what art should be. Consequential accounts of the 1913 Armory Show have similarly characterized women's involvement in the exhibition as collectors of the “new art”.[ii] In Meyer Schapiro's "Armory Show in Retrospect" from Modern Art: 19th and 20th Centuries: Selected Papers, Shapiro emphasizes the role of women in the consumption of modern art stating: 

Women, it is worth noting, were among the chief friends of the new art, buying painting and sculpture with a generous hand . . . At this moment of general stirring of ideas of emancipation, women were especially open to manifestations of freedom within the arts.[iii]

Notably, Katherine S. Drier, who acted as a patron and artist in the original Armory Show, established the Société Anonyme, which sponsored lectures, publications, and exhibitions of modern art for both the rich and poor American public. Additionally, American painter and printmaker Mary Cassat sponsored other Impressionist artists while also encouraging the wealthy to purchase artwork. Lastly, American painter Edith King exhibited five watercolor paintings during the original Armory show. King’s paintings are clear examples of the modernism or “new art” that was celebrated during the period. Specifically, the paintings didactically transitioned to a presentation of more intimate landscapes of nature contrasting with the typical displays of extensive and atmospheric form. Undoubtedly, the female leaders of Geyer’s piece forged the beginnings of the feminist art movement. Their actions showed the public that women could serve in the art world beyond passive observers, instead acting as buyers, administrators, and artists themselves.

Current artists who belong to the feminist branch of art such as Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Cindy Sherman are similarly trying to challenge and incite with their artwork like their predecessors did. However, these artists freely participate in the current discourse because of the actions made by women like Cassat, Drier, and King. Female artists still face struggles expressing their ideas and proving their legitimacy, yet the actions of females during the 1913 Armory Show have assisted in overcoming the initial barriers that these artists may have faced otherwise. Therefore, significant progress has been made, yet work still must be done for female artists to obtain equal validity.  Yet, there is an absent sense of gratitude for the actions of the fifty female artists, who participated in the original show, which Geyer explores in “Indelible”.

As time has passed since the first Armory Show, the issues and ideas of the feminist arts movement have developed and changed. The actions of the first women who participated are still relevant, but are discussed secondarily to the prevalent issues of today. Geyer attempts to remedy this disconnect in her piece by celebrating these artists through a modern context and outlet. French philosopher Albert Camus once discerned and stated, “Art is matter infused with spirit”. Thus, art is a vessel that is subject to protection from impermanence: it is essentially a mark that cannot be removed in time. It is indelible. The purpose of Geyer’s piece is to embody the fifty participating women of the 1913 Armory Show. The names of these women hold great significance, yet have been easily forgotten over the course of the feminist movement. Their actions, however, have left an irremovable mark on history and for all female artists.  Geyer’s work is not simply a celebration of these women, but a vessel forever holding the spirit of Agnes Pelton, Florence Este, Katherine S. Drier, Lily Everet, Mary Cassat, Amy Londoner, Edith King, Josephine Paddock, and Katherine N, Rhondes, to name a few.

Ultimately, Geyer’s Indelible continues the traditions of the original Armory Show by voicing “new art” through the ideals and histories of her past predecessors.

 
Andrea Geyer, Indelible, 1913-2013. Sumi ink on Denril, 15.5 x 20 inches.
 
Written by: Apeksha Goonewardena, Gallery Assistant



[i] "Andrea Geyer." Parsons New School of Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.           
  <http://www.newschool.edu/Parsons/faculty_ft.aspx?id=92402>. 
 
 
[ii] "'The Part Played By Women.'" The Gender of Modernism at the Armory Show. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.                 
    <http://xroads.virginia.edu/~museum/armory/gender.html>. 
 
[iii] Schapiro, Meyer. Modern Art, 19th & 20th Centuries (Selected Papers). N.p.: n.p., 1952. Print.
 


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Paranormal Problems?



Spot any supernatural occurrences on campus lately? Witness any paranormal activity during your lectures? Ghost problems at your residence hall? Who you gonna call? Does Ghostbusters immediately come to mind, or the crew of Ghost Adventures? Think again. Artist, sculptor, and draughtswoman, Alice Aycock, can come to your rescue.


Alice Aycock’s captivation with the many ghosts that inhabit contemporary work that involve technology, physics, and the contrast between mind and body, led her to create the site-specific sculpture, How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts: Collected Ghost Stories from the Workhouse. Aycock was inspired by devices and apparatus found in history books from the 18th and 19th centuries and claims that her piece is “…her interpretation of the history of invention…”[1] Although Aycock’s device constructed of metal, glass, steel and wood was dismantled in the early 1990s, if you are having problems with the paranormal, a number of prints and drawings were created that document the work and its process with diagrams and quotes, and one drawing is a part of GW’s Permanent Collection.


Aycock’s medium of work ranges from architectural drawings to sculptures to photo documentation. Growing up with a father who owned a construction company influenced Aycock’s interest in constructing sculptures and creating drawings based off of architecture. As an artist, she strives to create a transcendental experience for her audiences and what she calls the “glance of eternity”, an allusion to Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return. In an interview with White Hot Magazine, Aycock expands on this, by stating that art that has this effect on you keeps you coming back to revisit the piece. [2] She compares it to that gasping moment one experiences when a wave comes in and takes you under.  If you are interested in experiencing the “glance of eternity,” you can find her works in many collections aside from the GW Permanent Collection, such as the Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She also has public works displayed in various locations throughout the United States, among them are New York, Washington D.C. and Sacramento.


If you are in need of a remedy for your supernatural snag, Alice Aycock has you covered. Despite the sculpture of her work, How to Catch and Manufacture Ghosts: Collected Ghost Stories from the Workhouse, no longer being in existence, her drawing can provide you with detailed insights on how to take care of your pesky paranormal problems. With that said, put down your cellphone and your television remote! Forget about the outrageous and bizarre methods used by the Ghostbusters and the crew of Ghost Adventures and instead take a few pointers from Alice Aycock’s print to resolve any supernatural occurrences you may face on campus!

- Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant


[1] Alice Aycock. Institute for Research in Art at the University of Southern Florida.
[2] Nietzche’s concept of eternal return is the idea that events recur again and again infinitely. Aycock notes this concept in hopes that her art has an eternal return impact on her audience. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Birds


Hawks, eagles and crows – oh my – and all lurking on the campus of GW! Do not be spooked - these are not the unnerving birds from the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but the carved stone bird creations of artist Ben Cabot. These eerie birds may look lifelike, but we promise you that they do not come to life at night!

In October of 2001, the first of the four bird sculptures landed on campus. President Stephen Tratchtenberg purchased this work, Hawk on a Granite Post, from the Granary Gallery while visiting Martha’s Vineyard.  There is no need to take cover; the hawk can be found at his usual resting place on his post on the southeast corner of the University Yard. The second bird to flock to campus was an eagle, titled, Eagle Bearing Inscription 91101. The eagle sculpture is inscribed with “91101”, to honor September 11th and the lives lost. The eagle recently took flight from its home at Eye Street because of construction of the “super dorm” and is in search of a new location to call home. At the same time of the purchase of the eagle, a second hawk made its way to the GW Mount Vernon campus. The final addition to this flock of birds was the crow on a post titled, The Raven. The crow was dedicated on January 19th of 2006, on the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe. Keep a lookout for the crow, which can be spotted perched in front of Old Main Building located on 1922 F Street.       

Stone carver, Ben Cabot, began exploring his craft by the landscape of Martha’s Vineyard inspiring him to construct freestanding stone walls. He is completely self-taught in the art of stone carving and currently works as a stone mason on Martha’s Vineyard. Many of Cabot’s works are of animals, such as seals and penguins, however his main muse for his creations are birds. His mastery in creating birds is due to his extensive knowledge of bird forms, coming from his interest in hunting and his research of old decoys. Cabot shows at the Granary Gallery and the Field Gallery on Martha’s Vineyard. Aside from his works present of the campus of GW, his sculptures can also be found in private collections in the United States and Europe.

Do keep an eye out for the hawks, the eagle and the crow as you travel the campus of GW! When you happen to spot one of the eerie birds on campus, do not be wary! Do get up close and personal to examine the precise carvings of the bird sculptures, which transcend pieces of stone to life. We promise they do not peck!      
                                                                                                                                                                        Written by: Taylor Schmidt, Gallery Assistant

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The New Media


       Every day artist Gabriel Orozco takes a walk [1]. He meanders around whatever city he is in and notices the intricacies of the sidewalk, the people, and the surroundings. He will snap a few photos here and there—but mostly, he engages with the objects around him. At one point during his walk—he stops at a trashcan full of hay-like bushels of paper ends and fumbles them through his hands.
“I try to be intimate with everything.”
Orozco coos these words to us in his documentary entitled, Loss and Desire. That’s his advice to us—notice everything. Interact with everything. Truly see everything.

  Gabriel Orozco, Fluttering Flowers, 2011. Pigment ink and acrylic on cavas, 23 5/8 x 31 1/2 inches.

      This is a much more difficult task than we realize. Nowadays, we hardly live in our current moment. We are either somewhere nostalgically looking in the past or glaring way too far forward into our future—and most of the time we are looking at a screen. So what is the remedy for this predicament? How can we really be engaged with our here and now when our here and now is so spread all over the internet and in our cell phones and in cubicles and in photographs?
                 Art is the answer. As philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believes, art is an escape into the eternal [2]. It takes us out of the moment and into one which spans the course of time. Modern artists have taken this belief a step further and have made their lives into art—expanding their interaction and engagement with life. They seek to live in the moment by synthesizing life and art and in the process. By materially making an object that defines a period or moment in their life—artists are able to produce a more bearable and more beautiful form of life in art.
                But, modern artists are now faced with the fact that our reality is irrevocably intertwined with technology. To be an artist now means to be a master of almost every technological platforms—video, sculpture, product manipulation, sensory distortion, performance, writing, film, sampling [3], photography, painting. It seems you cannot stay relevant unless you dabble in them all.
                In the current Luther W. Brady Art Gallery exhibition, Decenter NY/DC, it is hard to find an artist who sticks to one medium. Their names are normally followed by a slew of professional descriptors [visual artist, essayist, poet, dancer, sculptor, filmmaker, etc.].  For example, Canadian artist Douglas Coupland does everything from painting to writing novels to furniture design with SwitzerCultCreative. New York based artist Andrew Kuo does everything from avid Tumblr and Instagram blogging to making humorous charts for the New York Times. New media artist Cory Arcangel tries his hand in everything from performance to video game manipulation.

Andrew Kuo, If I Could Redo Tuesday, 2013. Acrylic and carbon transfer on panel and paper, 51 x 38 inches.
           This sense of multi-dimensional inspiration stems from the fact that the forms of expression have changed. Artists are no longer expected to use paint or cast-iron molds to express their inner worlds—they are more inclined to use varying forms of technology or pull from the large surplus of found materials [which is so present in our consumerist society]. The result is something incredibly modern and beautiful—a synthesis of art and life.
                The Economist describes this new movement as artists living in a “post-studio” environment. The world is their studio and the art flows easily from their surroundings. Experiences become art and an artists’ life inevitably flows through them. For example, Decenter artist N.Dash creates her works while immersed in the world. Her pieces titled Commuter were formed and folded while she was on public transit. Instead of reading a book or glaring at her iPhone—she makes her ride interactive and provides a concrete representation of the monotony and tediousness of riding public transportation. She coats the repetitive patterns and folds of the paper in grimy graphite—representing the dirt so present in public transport [and life].

N. Dash, Commuter. March II, 2012. Graphite on paper, 20 x 22 inches.

                So, what we should we glean from all of this? These multimedia artists bring to our attention that art is in constant collaboration with life. They lead us towards a more emotional and experiential undercurrent of life—a more observational perspective. These artists and their works can show us how to live in the present and how to make sense of our rapid and ever-changing world.  
               


[1] “Loss and Desire.” Orozco, Gabriel. Art 21, PBS. <http://www.pbs.org/art21/watch-now/segment-gabriel-orozco-in-loss-desire>
[2] Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford Univ., 2000. Print.
[3] Sampling is when one takes pieces from another work, reproduces or distorts it, and uses it as part of a new work. It is common in video, music, and many visual art fields.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

GW Art Voyages to St. Olaf College

        Mary Edna Fraser is highly skilled as a batik artist, an ancient art form where beautiful designs created by applying removable wax to regions on fabric to repel dye, while the areas without wax absorb the dye. Fraser’s intention when creating her aesthetic designs is to raise awareness for the environment by displaying its vulnerability and beauty. Her unique outlook of the environment is a result of ventures in her grandfather’s airplane as a child, which she continues to use today to take photographs of the world from an aerial perspective, inspiring her pieces. Fraser relies on geology, topography, satellite images, maps and sailing charts to stimulate her pieces. Each area Fraser chooses as a muse, such as the Nile Desert Islands or the ancient islands of Taiwan, she researches and personally explores by hiking or boating the terrain. Fraser’s adventures allow her to base her works on realism, as she often portrays the sea, the land, or space. However, her works are mostly centered from her mindset and emotions during the process of creating her batiks.

Fraser has had her artwork displayed throughout the world – including the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, NASA, the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico and even The George Washington University. In April of 2002, Fraser’s exhibit, “Dark and Light”, was featured at the Hand Chapel on the Mount Vernon Campus and in that same year, Fraser’s batik, Venus, was acquired by The George Washington University Permanent Collection. In it Fraser provides the observer with only a mere sliver of the planet. Her intention is to illustrate the personality of the planet, which she accomplishes with the diffusion of vibrant colors, including: marigolds, salmon pinks, burnt oranges, teals, and lime greens.
 Venus, is currently being displayed at the Flaten Art Museum at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, as a part of Fraser’s exhibition, Mapping the Planets in Silkand Sound, which demonstrates her eclectic approach to nature and the universe with pieces expressing the personality of the planets. Her artwork is accompanied by ambient music composed by Mark Mercury and informative text by planetary scientist, Ted Maxwell, of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The opening reception of the exhibit included an astronomy session that involved looking through a reproduction of Galileo’s telescope at the planets and the moon, as well as a Physics Colloquium and a roundtable discussion.  Just as Mary Edna Fraser has ventured greatly, so has her work, Venus, which has journeyed from George Washington to St. Olaf.                                                                                                                            Written by: Taylor Schmidt Gallery Assistant

Friday, August 23, 2013



I began working for the Luther Brady Art Gallery to aid in its inventory at the end of June. They are conducting an inventory of all their pieces in order to sort out what needs to be moved to a storage facility in Ashburn called the Collections and Conservation Resource Center, now in the process of being built. Artwork is being moved to Ashburn because space has gotten limited on campus and the facility will provide a safer environment. In their current locations, they are not safe from flooding and some works are even at risk of damaging themselves or another artwork. The pieces that don’t go will be sorted out into a learning collection, current or pending displays, or sent to the University Archives instead. You can see what else the GW Archives has to offer here.
 
Down in the bowels of the Lisner Auditorium are two storage areas for the art besides what’s in the Gallery storage areas. They’re full of student and professional works along with some African Art and Pre-Columbian ceramics. Some of the African Art and Pre-Columbian works haven’t been on display since the 1970s while others have occasionally been places on view. The African Art is mix of ancestor totems, tribal masks and altars, with the masks varying style depending on the culture that designed it. You can see a similar variety by checking out the Smithsonian Museum of African Art’s collection of African Masks.

The Pre-Columbian ceramics are mostly bowls and dishes but also included a spoon shaped receptacle for human hearts. If discovering a ritual heart receptacle wasn’t unexpected enough there are other unique items; A Korean doll and silk hanging scroll rare evidence of international “souvenirs” in the collection and a sign of the long international ties of the University. Another surprise was a chandelier that I couldn’t even get out of its wrappings without some serious help and a bronze trident that resisted all efforts to be lifted out of the box. Unintentionally, on the back of a newspaper photograph of Gen. U.S. Grant, the collection also preserved an article applauding the biggest whale catch of the season. You certainly don’t see articles like that today in the US.


So far it’s been a really great experience and I expect it to continue to bring surprises and hands on challenges. Helping sort through this extensive collection has been a very enjoyable privilege. We are 64% of the way through and I can’t wait to see what the next box will disclose.

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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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