Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sheila Hicks

I discovered the work of Sheila Hicks during a visit to the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy Andover, MA to experience their exhibit, Sheila Hicks: 50 Years, and I have not been the same since.

I was so moved by her work, the different scale of work, from her miniatures, or  as she calls them, minime literally means "very small".  These 'studies' lined the hallway leading into the main galleries and I found them mesmerizing.

Now she is going to be in the 2017 Venice Biennale and watching the attached video just made me love Hicks and her work even more.  I hope you enjoy the below links and pictures of her work. VF

Sheila Hicks was taught to sew by her mother and to embroider and knit by her grandmother, making her 'thread conscious' from a young age. [2]Hicks attended Yale University School of Art and Architecture in Connecticut (1954-1959), where she gained a BFA in painting (1957) and MFA in painting (1959)[3] and studied with Josef Albers, Rico Lebrun, Bernard Chaet, Jose de Riviera, Herbert Mather, Norman Ives, Gabor Peterdi, George Kubler, George Heard Hamilton, and Vincent Scully. Along with George Kubler, independently, Junius Bird of the American Museum of Natural History and Anni Albers were advisors for her thesis, "Pre-Incaic Textiles."[1] Hicks was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study and paint in Chile (1957–58); she photographed archeological sites in Peru and Bolivia.

November 5, 2010 - February 27, 2011

Sheila Hicks: 50 Years  marks the first museum retrospective devoted to this exceptional American artist. Co-curated by independent scholar Joan Simon and Addison curator Susan Faxon, the exhibition opens at the Addison Gallery and will be touring to various venues.
Born in Hastings, Nebraska in 1934 and a resident of Paris since 1964, Hicks is a pioneering figure noted for objects and public commissions whose structures are built of color and fiber. Independent in spirit and itinerant in practice, she deliberately and provocatively engages what are often considered mutually exclusive domains, rethinking and pushing the limits of generally accepted contexts, conditions, and frameworks.

These include distinct objects and temporal, performative actions, studio works and commissions for public buildings, and textiles made in artisanal workshops or for industrial production in places as different from one another as Chile, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Sweden, and the United States.

The exhibition addresses Hicks's conceptual, procedural, and material concerns via five distinct though intimately related fields of inquiry: miniature weavings and drawings, site commissions for public spaces, industrially produced textiles and workshop hand-productions, bas reliefs and sculptures, and, process works made of recuperated textiles, clothing and other found objects.

Generous support for this exhibition and publication was provided by the J. Mark Rudkin Charitable Foundation, The Coby Foundation, Ltd., Saundra B. Lane, The Poss Family Foundation, Nancy B. Tieken, Able Trust, Target Corporation, Friends of Fiber Art International, Dirck and Lee Born, and several anonymous donors.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow: Director, Screenwriter, Painter, Activist, Producer, founder of The Last Days of Ivory and the only woman to receive an Academy Award, 

Here is another woman of whom I did not know much about however now I am mesmerized by her voice, vision and work.  Besides being the only woman director to receive the coveted academy award for Best Director, I wanted to feature her during my National Women's History Month's postings because of her assertion that she would like to be thought of and celebrated as a film maker, not a female film maker.
This is an important distinction to think about, especially during this tumultuous time of the women's movement and women's rights.  My hope is that women, and men, can follow their passions, make their best contributions to the world, excel, explore and learn, regardless of their gender.
The rub is that women have not always been given that opportunity, so there is a disadvantage ...
At the Directors Guild of America Awards, where she also won the top honour, Bigelow said: "I suppose I like to think of myself as a film-maker", rather than as a female
There is so much to learn and read about this multitalented woman, so enjoy the below excerpts about Bigelow as well as some articles about her work and the animated short that she directed for her foundation, the Last Days of Ivory. VF

A very talented painter, Kathryn spent two years at the San Francisco Art Institute. At 20, she won a scholarship to the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program. She was given a studio in a former Offtrack Betting building, literally in an old bank vault, where she made art and waited to be critiqued by people like Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg and Susan Sontag. Later she earned a scholarship to study film at Columbia University School of Arts, graduating in 1979. She was also a member of the British avant garde cultural group, Art and Language. Kathryn is the only child of the manager of a paint factory and a librarian.

link to entire TIME article:

While low budget and foreign language films are somewhat more equitable, major Hollywood movies are almost always directed by men. The exceptions can be counted on one hand. And that hand's tallest, most defiant middle finger is the great Kathryn Bigelow.
On Monday, February 8, 2010, SBIFF presents "A Celebration of Kathryn Bigelow." A director not afraid to push the envelope in the cinematic world, Kathryn Bigelow has the eye for the picture she wants to present and then does so, with an expertise that is both gracious and bold. Having studied art, she takes her vision and presents it to her audience all the while telling a tale that evokes various and intense emotions. Bigelow graduated from Columbia's Film School and started a career, gaining experience in numerous genres - such as music videos, television and film, showing us once again the depth of her creativity and talent.Commented SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling, "Kathryn's custom of the first person perspective throughout her films, as seen in Point Break and Strange Days, had always made her films visceral and favorites of mine, but the culmination of this is The Hurt Locker - her crowning achievement. The fact that I'm able to honor a fellow alumnus of the Columbia Grad School is icing on the cake."

 Kathryn Bigelow named Outstanding Director of the YearSBIFF presents a retrospective of Bigelow's \

In the end of 2014, Bigelow and others created the organization, the Last Days of Ivory:
Last year we were made aware of the very real connection between elephant poaching and terrorism. For us, it represented the diabolical intersection of two problems that are of great concern - species extinction and global terrorism. Both involve the loss of innocent life and both require urgent action.
If there's specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can't change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It's irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don't. There should be more women directing; I think there's just not the awareness that it's really possible. It is.   Kathryn Bigelow

interesting article about the backlash of making a raw political filmWhy Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar Snub Is a Symptom of a Larger Problem in Film CriticismHuffintonPost, Scott Mendelson, 01/11/2013 11:20 am ET | Updated Mar 13, 2013

another article from GWToday:
Kathryn Bigelow Joins SMPA for Conversation Series Academy Award-winning director discusses career, filmmaking process and the role of women in the movie industry. Julyssa Lopez, October 30, 2013


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker: member of the French Resistance, spy during WWII, artist's muse, Civil Rights Activist, Entertainer, Dancer, Singer and mother of the 'Rainbow Tribe'. 

All my life, I have maintained that the people of the world
can learn to live together in peace
if they are not brought up in prejudice. 
Josephine Baker

Josephine Bake is an amazing woman, so much more than the dancer who wowed Paris in the 20's and preformed in a banana skirt in Paris, which is the image that many get when they hear her name.

Josephine Baker was famous and adored in Paris during the 20's where she 'charleston'ed her way into the hearts of France, but that is just a part of her life story. Born into a poor neighborhood of St. Louis, she started working at 8 years old to help support her mother and her family.  She was in and out of schooling, learning more on the street.  

When Josephine was 13 years old age married William Wells, which made Josephine his financial responsibility, not her mother's. But that marriage didn't even last a year.  Josephine taught herself to sing and dance as a way to earn money and soon moved to New York to pursue a career in entertainment.  She made herself known not only with her dancing, but she also had a good comical delivery.  From New York she moved her act to Paris where she became a star.

Getty image

When World War II broke out, Josephine signed up to help her adopted country, France. First she worked with the Red Cross.  But where she did significant work was as a member of the French Resistance.  Because of her fame she traveled all around Europe and Northern Africa to entertain and she was even allowed into enemy territories where she would gather information undetected and then report back to the Allies.  She also would delivered secret messages which she would hide within her piles of sheet music.  After the war was over, France awarded Baker both the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour with the rosette of the Resistance, two of France’s highest military honors.

With the war behind her she turned her attentions to racism, especially in her native land, the USA.  She was appalled that when she was in the US, she was made to enter hotels through the back doors and wasn't even allowed to stay in other hotels because of her skin color. This was especially upsetting since she was welcomed into most any establishment, everywhere else in the world.  

She started to protest by not preforming at segregated venues and continued to fight racism until her death.  She even stood along side Martin Luther King, Jr in 1963 and spoke during the March on Washington.
Not only did Josephine Baker speak out against racism, but she wanted to demonstrate to the world that all races and all types of people could live together, given the chance. So, beginning in 1950, she started to adopt children from around the world.  She ended up adopting 12 and she called her family the 'Rainbow Tribe'.

There are so many facets to this woman's life that I highly recommend you follow the links below so that you can meet the woman beyond the banana skirt. VF

American entertainer Josephine Baker (1906-1936)
often performed onstage in Paris
nightclubs with pet cheetah Chiquita.
Chiquita wore a diamond collar.
Sometimes, during a performance,
Chiquita would decide to jump off the stage
and  into the orchestra pit, causing quite a ruckus.
 ca. 1931. Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum.

Legend of XX century Josephine Baker – the black pearl of “Roaring Twenties” – era, so vividly represented in the novel by Scott Fitzgerald “The Great Gatsby”. French-American dancer, singer and actress, Josephine Baker made a brilliant career, and was the star of the Parisian cabaret. Noteworthy, the audience for the first time saw Charleston in her performance. Josephine, called Black Venus, visited poet Baudelaire in his dreams. And according to Ernest Hemingway, she was the most amazing woman he ever knew. Indeed, Josephine inspired sculptors, painters, poets and architects. Interestingly, Adolf Loos dedicated to her “House of Josephine Baker”, Alexander Calder – his wire sculptures, Gertrude Stein wrote a poem in prose, and Paul Colin was the author of many of her portraits, lithographs and posters. Meanwhile, Josephine claimed that Picasso drew her portraits many times (work not preserved). But in the famous series of Matisse “The Creole Dancer” and “Jazz” influence and spirit of Josephine is easily recognizable.

Matisse, The Creole Dancer, 1950

When World War II rocked her adopted France, Baker didn't simply move to a more peaceful country. Instead, she stuck around and did her part for the war effort. Since she had initially publicly supported Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia, the Axis powers mistakenly thought she was "one of them," and Baker took full advantage of this misconception.

In fact, her fame made her the perfect spy. When Baker would travel Europe while touring, she obviously had to carry large quantities of sheet music with her. What customs officials never realized, though, was that a lot of this music actually had secret messages written on it in invisible ink. Fawning immigration officials never thought to take too close a look at the diva's luggage, so she could sneak all sorts of things in and out of countries. On some occasions, Baker would smuggle secret photos of German military installations out of enemy territory by pinning them to her underwear.

This invaluable intelligence work eventually helped Baker rise to the rank of lieutenant in the Free French Air Force, and when the war was over she received both the Croix de Guerre (a first for an American woman) and the Medal of the Resistance in 1946.

Links for Josephine Baker:

Friday, March 24, 2017

The three women who created the MOMA (I had no idea?!?!?)

Abby Rockefeller, Lillie Bliss, Mary Quinn Sullivan: the major force behind the creation of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

The Museum of Modern Art owes a large share of its success to women. The Museum was the idea and creation of three women, and from those founders of 1929 to the associate director and president of the Museum today, women have been instrumental in the development of the institution's mission, program, and collection. This essay highlights a few of the innumerable contributions they have made to the Museum over its more than eighty-year history—as curators, administrators, scholars, artists, patrons, and activists. While meant to be informative, it is partial and by no means comprehensive. Organized alphabetically, it presents a selection of brief biographical and historical notes, with an emphasis on the Museum's early years. The goal is to highlight significant achievements and innovations by women, often linked with the establishment of programs that MoMA and many other museums now take for granted. —Michelle Elligott, Archivist


With her contacts, her knowledge of art, and her family's vast wealth, Rockefeller was able to offer the critical financial backing necessary to create a new museum, and in 1929 she, Bliss, and Mary Quinn Sullivan founded The Museum of Modern Art.

When a purchase fund she had established was used to acquire Picasso's etching Minotauromachy (1935), she suggested, "Let's label this: purchased with a fund for prints which Mrs. Rockefeller doesn't like."2 After her death, in 1948, Barr wrote to Nelson, "Few realize what positive acts of courage her interest in modern art required. . . . She was the heart of the Museum and its center of gravity."3

the Lillie Bliss collection, MOMA

Bliss herself died on March 12, 1931, when the Museum was not yet two years old. At that time she owned twenty-six works by Paul Cézanne, including The Bather (c. 1885), in what was considered one of the most discerning privately held groups of Cézannes in the United States, as well as works by Honoré Daumier, Davies, Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, André Derain, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Odilon Redon, Pierre-August Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Georges Seurat, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Her collection was valued at nearly $1.14 million and, in a complete surprise to staff and trustees at the Museum, including Rockefeller and director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., it was revealed after her death that she had bequeathed the largest and most important part of it to MoMA.2

If the male members of Paul Sachs' art network can be called "old boys," then Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (1874-1948) and her friends Lillie P. Bliss (1864-1931) and Mary Sullivan were the "old girls" with extremely progressive views - members of New York's moneyed aristocracy, ambitious, socially committed women who recognized that a gap had crept into in the American museum landscape due to the absence of European Modernism in the institutions.      

In 1917 she married Cornelius Sullivan, an attorney and collector of rare books and paintings. Mary Quinn Sullivan herself began collecting art. Works by Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rouault, and Picasso formed the beginnings of her collection.                                

Doing the research for these posts in honor of National Women's History month blog has introduced me to more amazing and noteworthy women as well as other sites and blogs that celebrate the feminine. Today I discovered this blog and wish to share:

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Elizabeth Murray

Who Wants, 2003
From the series One series of 6 unique works
3-dimensional multi-colored lithograph/screenprint, 
cut, collaged, and hand-painted by the artist
50 × 47 1/2 × 6 in Edition of 6

my understanding is that this photo was taken during a panel of NY artists who met soon after  9/11
Elizabeth Murray is one of my idols, one of my heroines and a woman who I could write about for days and days. 

 I had the privilege of experiencing, and one does experience Murray's paintings, during her retrospective at the MOMA, NYC, October 23, 2005–January 6, 2006.  Murray's was of the first exhibits in the new and improved MOMA. I have always believed that Murray's was the perfect exhibit to showcase the museum's newly renovated space since many of Murray's paintings are huge and need large enough walls and enough space for viewers to stand back to be able to fully appreciate the work.  

I was first drawn to Murray's work because I was curious about who was this woman artist having a retrospective at the MOMA and whose subjects had a domestic feel and whose colors were wild and bright.  These were all elements of my paintings on the time and I wanted to study how Murray made these attributes of her work succeed in the contemporary new york art scene.  But when I entered the museum's galleries and came face to face with Murray's work my curiosity became utter devotion.

Elizabeth Murray, Möbius Band, 1974.
Oil on canvas, 14 x 28 inches (35.6 cm x 71.1 cm)
Collection of Ellen Phelan and Joel Shapiro
The scale of her work is compelling.  I still remember standing in front of some of her towering canvases and literally feeling a physical reaction.  I was also enamored with her twisted, morphed and sectional paintings. Note these 3 photos of Murray's work, you can see the progression that her canvases take, from square, flat paintings, to shaped canvases to skeleton-like puzzles of connecting and protruding brightly painted uniquely shaped canvas components (note the dates that these works were created).   
I was also drawn to how her paintings were really sculptures.  She also has 'sculptures', like her 'Red Shoes' shown below.  

"Elizabeth Murray" at the Museum of Modern Art, 
installation view, with Don't Be Cruel (1985-86), 
left, and Beam (1982) and More Than You Know (1983)

I was interested in the artist Elizabeth Murray because of her subject matter and her colors, but once I started to learn and read about her I became a devotee and I remember so clearly the day that I read in the New York Times that she had died, I felt the loss, for me and the world.

Morning is Breaking, 2005-2006
Private Collection, Los Angeles, Courtesy Pace Gallery
Below you will find quotes, excepts and links to more about Elizabeth Murray. Fortunately there is a good amount to be found online.  I HIGHLY recommend the art21 episode about Murray. And thanks to doing some research for this post I have discovered that there is a documentary about her, Everyone Knows ... Elizabeth Murray, which I can NOT wait to see.  Enjoy! VF

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why it is important to share women's stories ...

With the recent shift in our country's leadership, the women's movement has become louder and more active, which is paramount as the present administration is NO friend of women! In fact the idea that our country elected a chauvinistic, misogynistic, racist, sexist, egomaniac as leader, should put all women on high alert. His campaign alone set Women's Rights back decades, but his election has made Women's Rights an endangered species. Now more than ever, women's accomplishments and milestones need to be taught, celebrated and highlighted. And women and girls need to be supported, defended and assisted in following their dreams and desires. This is why I am sharing women's stories here, on my blog, in honor of National Women History month (March). 

As happens with many of my projects, posting these mini biographical posts as a way to celebrate National Women's History month, happened organically. I hadn't planned it, but suddenly it felt paramount for me to share the histories, fates and accomplishments of women, some well known and some not-so well known. I feel that it is so important for the acts and deeds of women to be  remembered and honored. And even though in recent years, there is much more written and reported about women in history, there is so much more that needs to be shared.

created by Hannah Hill
I have this deep desire to spread the knowledge of women in history because I believe in the strength of teaching through modeling, through example. There is immense power in being able to see yourself in the world, to see people who are like you, in race, in gender, doing the jobs, tasks and careers that you want to do.
I believe in the truth of the above quote by ever-sage Virginia Woolf, that women often had to hide their identity. At the time, women's work was not noteworthy.

Also, I was influenced by the writings of feminist, activist and artist, Judy Chicago, who wrote many books and articles. I was greatly effected by Chicago's views in
Through The Flower: My Struggle as A Woman Artist.

This idea rang true for me,  that we, girls and women, did not and do not have the access and the knowledge of what women have done before us, what they had achieved and where they had failed.  When I thought back on all that I had learned in elementary school, high school and college, it was definitely male-centered biased; the men had the power, made the decisions, won the battles and the women supported them, the nameless women.

"As in many other microcosms, the role of women in the art world has always suffered from the male establishment protecting its territory. Change is so slow and incremental, but often follows other changes in society at large. We are now in a moment to revel in this conversation, which is never big enough, but also bigger than it was."

the above excerpt comes from a letter from the SOHO20  to the NY Times – in response to “Female Artists Are (Finally) Getting Their Turn” written by Hilarie M. Sheets published on March 29, 2016 (click here to letter entire letter)

And the history of women is rich and lush and multi-layered because women are multi-layered, women not only bring to the table brains, ideas, strength, fearlessness and most all of the qualities that men can bring, but women also have the capability to bring life to the table, they can 'procreate'. And women should always have and should remain to have the right for each of them to personally decide if they wish to procreate or not to procreate!! 

This month I discovered this 'rad' book about women and I highly recommend it. Each woman's story is told in a page or so, piquing the reader's curiosity so that they could go and learn more about each subject.   

But for now, I am sharing these snapshots of women who are doing and have done things, interesting things, important things, quiet things, poetic things, creative things, radical things, brave things, and so many other 'things'.
I share them so that women and girls, and especially my girls, know that they can do ANYTHING that they want to do in life.

It is important that women and girls know
NOT to allow ANYONE to tell them that they can NOT do some 'thing' because they are a woman!

I believe that gender or race should not be the reason that anyone is unable to pursue a career, a dream or a life style. 

And I will end with this quote from the author of Rad Women Worldwide, Kate Schatz:

some of the women's who stories I have shared this month.