How lucky was I for this one? Recently, I was in Orchard Park, NY, to watch my oldest grandson play in a baseball tournament. While I love watching Aiden and his friends on the field, it's also refreshing to have a little break from all that activity in the hot sun. Fortunately for me, the Cougars didn't play until afternoon on Saturday, so I had the morning free to explore on my own. A quick trip through the entertainment guide provided in my hotel room landed me at Buffalo's Albright Knox Gallery and this fabulous exhibit!
Usually I don't bother with the audio guides when I visit an art museum because I just like to view the art and read the labels at my leisure. However, the woman at the reception desk assured me that the audio guide would provide a fascinating backstory to the artwork, so I let her hold my precious Ohio driver's license hostage and took the audio guide. Good decision! I learned so much more than I would have just reading along.
My favorite room in the exhibit also proved to be the most difficult to photograph. Nine of Indiana's "LOVE" sculptures, each from a different type of marble formed a circle facing his iconic "HUG...EAT...DIE...ERR" mantra, which was lit up with hundreds of bright bulbs that flashed in a variety of different patterns. The final piece in the room, a gleaming metal rendition of "Ahava", the Hebrew version of these famous LOVE sculptures, stood alone in the middle of the circle. The room was so large, the lighting was constantly changing, and other museum visitors (and a very diligent museum guard!) were constantly in my viewfinder. Not a single one of my panoramic photos did this room justice, so the one above is the best one I have to share.
Having the audio guide was truly a gift since understanding the story behind Indiana's work added so much to the experience. The repetition of the words "eat", "die", "hug", and "err" are references to the artist's mother and the phrases he remembered her saying. Some works are direct references to literature, such as Moby Dick, and others, such as the one below, connect to the work of other artists. Before viewing this exhibit, I had no idea that Robert Indiana had created pieces inspired by the work of Charles Demuth. I was a bit startled when I walked into one of the exhibit rooms to find myself in front of the painting pictured below!
Demuth's painting "I Saw the Figure Five in Gold" was inspired by a William
Carlos Williams poem "The Great Figure", which describes the sight and sound of a fire engine racing to the scene of a fire. This may be the first time since my retirement from teaching art that I wished I had a classroom to return to in the fall! I had been using the poem to inspire art by my fourth graders, which we then compared to my large print of Charles Demuth's painting. Robert Indiana's work was also part of my fourth grade curriculum, so what a connection this would have made!
Two hours later, it was back to the Orchard Park Little League Fields to cheer for my favorite 8U Cougar and his teammates. For the record, the Cougars ended their tournament run that weekend with a second place trophy!
If you happen to be near Buffalo, NY, or have plans to visit the area soon, the Robert Indiana exhibit will be on display at the Albright Knox Gallery until September 23, 2018. I highly recommend a visit!
Don't get me wrong, I love summertime as much as the next person...long, sunny days outdoors...nature trails, camera in hand...visits to grandchildren unencumbered by homework assignments...travel time adventures. It's all good... except for ....
THE CREATIVITY DRAIN!
Those long, lazy days can certainly drain the creativity right out of my brain! I was sure that a weekend of baseball games with the grandsons, followed by a few days soaking up the natural wonder known as Niagara Falls, would be just the ticket for fresh ideas for painting and printmaking.
I WAS SO WRONG!
I came home with some wonderful photographs and great memories, but not a single bit of motivation to pick up a paintbrush or even a drawing pencil.
UNTIL THIS PAST WEEK!
I no longer remember whether it was a Facebook post or an email, but somehow I discovered that the Dayton Art Institute "Language of Art" program had a book-related gallery tour coming up on June 27. That was only about ten days away at the time, but Amazon delivers quickly and I'm a fast reader, so I decided to take a chance on "The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories" by British author, Penelope Lively.
MEET MY NEW FAVORITE AUTHOR!
This book was a perfect introduction to Lively's writing style and sometimes quirky take on the human condition. Plenty of unexpected endings and a mix of past and present made each short story a delightful read on a hot summer day, but the whole time I was wondering how our DAI tour leader would relate these tales to art in the museum collections. I was sure that a trip to the Ancient Art galleries would be on the agenda since the first story in Lively's collection provided a bird's eye view of the life and times of ancient Pompeii at the time of the Mt. Vesuvius eruption that buried this once-thriving Italian city.
NOT QUITE CORRECT...
The title story was indeed the first one on the tour, but the artwork chosen for our discussion was Georgia O'Keeffe's "Purple Leaves", a lovely painting by one of my favorite American artists.. Purple pencils were distributed for some quick impressions, followed by a lively (sorry, couldn't resist!) discussion about the meaning of purple from the point of view of both artist and author.
Our tour included two other works, well-chosen for their connections to several stories from Lively's book. I came away with a new appreciation for artist Robert Brackman's "Life About Me", a wall-size painting that I had simply passed on by for years while on my way to view my favorites by Hopper and Wyeth.
SO, WHAT ABOUT BOGART?
Not just the famous American film star, but famous faces from another place and time, thanks to the amazing black and white photography of Yousuf Karsh. This exhibit of 48 iconic portraits, is on loan from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. through mid-September. I wasn't able to stay that same day to visit this exhibit, but returned two days later to soak it in at leisure. Photography was forbidden, but suffice it to say, that I was enthralled by Karsh's work. I had seen several of the photographs over the years in other contexts, but had never given a thought to who may have been the photographer. What a life he must have had, with the opportunity to fulfill his dream of photographing the movers, shakers, and history makers of the 20th century!
AND WHAT ABOUT THAT INSPIRATION?
As part of the Yousuf Karsh exhibit, the works of 20th century Dayton photographer, Jane Reece, were also on display. Unlike Karsh's sharp contrast black and white photography that so perfectly captures the personality of the individual, Reece's work has an ethereal quality with soft images and occasional color overlays with colored pencil and crayon. I've only dabbled a bit with black and white photography, and have much to learn, but I am going to get a few of my photos printed and give adding a bit of color a try in the coming weeks.
COMING NEXT...THE RESULTS!
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