Read about the background and influences behind Alexandra N Sherman’s spirit board that she created for The Athenaeum Gallery’s 2019 Invitational exhibition Board - Out of Our Minds!Read More
A Turn of the Wheel
This piece features a bit of decirculated Mexican currency with Aztec symbols, which always put me in mind of the apocalypse because of the tremendous fall of their society and their predictions about the end of the world. Audubon’s Raven stands upon the wheel of life, perhaps spinning it. I’ve always loved members of the Corvine family; they are such intelligent birds with quite a lot to say. I’m also a fan of Edgar Allen Poe’s writing and the many myths that feature crows and ravens as messengers and omens. Here the Raven cries out in defiance of time and the certainty of death represented by the feet in corpse position in the right-hand corner.
This one seemed appropriate to post today as we mark the 18th anniversary of 911.
The Importance of Being Earnest, 2019, 3D collage
I love Oscar Wilde and his clever use of words. I added this little 1923 edition of The Importance of Being Earnest to my collection years ago. Little did I know it would become art in this 3D collage. The milk glass hands, probably from the same era, offer a delicate skull of a bird. Without careful handling, either of the two items could be easily crushed. This fragility is a reference to the environment. Everything we touch has an effect on the ecosystem, and we need to be earnest in our protection of the environment. This c. 1930’s wristwatch was never picked-up after being repaired from my grandfather’s Dependable Watch Co. shop, which was across from the World Trade Center. The watch functions as a momento mori, a reminder that we are pressed by time and that we must act to safeguard the environment and ultimately ourselves.
This piece is currently on view at The Fisher Gallery through October 6th, 2019.
Curiosity With Caution - the story behind the collage.Read More
Rein in Your Dogs, Sir!
This piece is about the frightening possibility of nuclear war. So much of what is happening in the world today has to do with ego and aggression. The missile in the piece is a photograph of a North Korean “test”. The hunting dogs are straining at their leash held by a gloved hand of an unseen man. The title is a play on the 1851 Ford Madox Brown’s painting titled Take Your Son, Sir! The woman is offering her newborn son, asking the unseen father to acknowledge and take responsibility for the child born out of wedlock. It is a call to action to rein in our darker impulses. Scroll to see painting and the missile-happy child Kim Jong-un.
The opening reception for my exhibition is this Saturday 9/7 from 2-4PM at The Fisher Gallery.
This piece was created in response to the talent leaving our diplomatic core. I think it’s frightening that so many experienced people were forced out. They call diplomacy an art. I think we need far more of it especially with the delicate situations we find ourselves in around the world today. You can guess the identity of the blowfish.
I spent time as a child living in London. My parents took me to tour as many museums and great houses as they could to soak in the culture. As a result, I began to admire the work of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first president of the Royal Academy and villain of my much beloved Pre-Raphaelite movement. After looking at his portraits for many years, I have begun to focus on the female sitters. Their lives and personhood interest me. The title refers to the fact that there is often very little written about these women, we have only their aspects by which to judge them. They often appear as an accessory to their husbands and evince little in the way of emotion. I began to see hints of something in their expressions, especially when they are excised from their surroundings, they often look put-upon and unhappy. The pairing of the these seemingly very expressive angry weasels with the women gives vent to what I imagine are their feelings.
Milagros in My Pocketbook opened August 24th at The Fisher Gallery. Over the course of the exhibition I'll be sharing stories about the work.
As of late, it seems we need a miracle to fix what ails us politically and environmentally, hence the name, Milagros in My Pocketbook (Milagros is Spanish for ‘miracles’ and a reference to personal religious charms nailed to symbolic objects of prayer in the Mexican tradition). This piece, from which the exhibition takes its name, is part cynical and part heartfelt. I think things would be quite different if we carried our hearts in our pocketbooks. Milagros in My Pocketbook, 3D collage, 2019
These paintings have been residents of my mind for many years and have recently surfaced. I am actively looking and thinking about them as I paint my new series, a taste of which I shared recently and you can view below.
The first time I encountered The Nightmare, 1781 by Henry Fuseli, was via the movie Haunted Summer, 1988 about Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley. I have never seen this work in person, but I hope to, and there are several versions!
Lion Attacking a Horse, 1769 by George Stubbs is one I’ve been lucky enough to see at various points throughout my life, but I haven’t seen all the versions . I think it’s fascinating to see the subjects that occupied the minds of these artists, so much so that they painted them multiple times.
The compositions, the ethereal and otherworldly qualities, and existential dread of these paintings set my heart a-flutter.
Here is a sneak-peek slide-show of my new series with the working title of ‘What the Water Showed Me’. Perhaps you can discern the influence from the paintings above. The series title is a reference to Frida Kahlo’s painting ‘What the Water Gave Me’. It also refers to my method. I'm softening my gaze to paint these, allowing my vision to blur so I can begin to see shapes within the water and pigment. My work then becomes a process of helping the figure emerge. These figures come from my subconscious, my conscious-self recognizes them and facilitates their journey into the visible realm. I encourage you to allow your eyes to go out of focus to view them, you might be surprised by what you see.
I am so touched by today's story of the Orca Whale known as J35. She carried her newborn calf's body, who died shortly after birth, for 17 days before letting go. It is a reminder of how much we have in common with the other marvelous creatures who share our planet, and that they need our help to survive. I created the paintings featured in this blog in response to the recent deaths of many whales and countless other marine animals. The statement to go with them is below.
It's all about the boots... the ones that make you feel like you could take on anything.Read More
Dante Drawing an Angel on the Anniversary of Beatrice’s Death, 1853-54
Watercolor and bodycolor on paper, 16.5 x 24 in. / 42 x 61 cm
Ashmolean Museum, University of OxfordRead More
Caput mortuum (plural capita mortua) is a Latin term whose literal meaning is "dead head" or "worthless remains", used in alchemy and also as the name of a pigment.
In alchemy, caput mortuumsignified a useless substance left over from a chemical operation such as sublimation and the epitome of decline and decay; alchemists represented this residue with a stylized human skull, a literal death's head.
Caput mortuum (variously spelled caput mortum or caput mortem), also known as cardinal purple, is the name given to a purple variety of haematite iron oxide pigment, used in oil paints and paper dyes. It was a very popular colour for painting the robes of religious figures and important personages (e.g. art patrons).
The name for this pigment may have come from the alchemical usage, since iron oxide (rust) is the useless residue of oxidization. It was originally a byproduct of sulfuric acid manufacture during the 17th and 18th centuries, and was possibly an early form of the copperas process used for the manufacture of Venetian red and copperas red.
Caput mortuum is also sometimes used as an alternative name for mummy brown (alternatively Egyptian brown), a pigment that was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from ground-up mummies, and whose use was discontinued in the 19th century when artists became aware of its ingredients. -Wikipedia
My childhood was marked by an obsession with mummies. I lived in England until the age of seven, and one of my absolute favorite things to do was to visit the mummies in all of the various museums, especially the Ashmoleum. To think that paint was made up from ground-up mummies is macabre and disturbing especially given the ancient Egyptian’s belief that they would inhabit their bodies again. It’s interesting that once artists found out what was actually in their paint they sought an alternative, just as we do now. Did they struggle to give up this color? Is the synthetic as satisfying to the eye or on the brush?
The Caput mortuum pigment certainly does look as though it was made from something moldering. It is a strange color, which has captured my imagination. It’s muddy, earthy, and thicker than many other watercolors because of its tendency to be opaque. But when you water it down, it becomes more transparent, it begins to glow hovering somewhere between violet, red, and brown. It is a rich color that enfolds you, like a cardinal’s robe.
Strangely, it is a color that I would have considered ugly at one point, and still in moments I question if it is indeed ugly. Ugly seems a totally inadequate way to discuss how colors feel. I feel most comfortable around cooler colors, blues and greens. I love jewel tones and an intense red can captivate me like nothing else, especially that of a poppy. Muddy tones like Caput mortuum… well they are something entirely different. There is something uncomfortable and dangerous about this color, it taps into something that I feel entirely unable to name. The name alone inspires curiosity to know more. I’ve been using it in a number of compositions as of late (see above), it has a murkiness, it is undecided, it enshrouds, it is dark…
And then there is the alchemy aspect. Alchemy has always captured my imagination. A mysterious cross between magic and science, the alchemist seeking out the rare, and the unknown, laboring to create something from disparate elements. The romance of such a futile goal of creating the philosopher’s stone, appeals to me. I enjoy thinking about elixirs of life, immortality, the unattainable. Perhaps the search for the philosopher’s stone was worthwhile, and in the end, it was only the journey that mattered, not the destination. I can imagine that if I were left with nothing but caput mortem on my crucible, it might have spurred me on to delve deeper into the mysteries.
Hello and welcome to my art blog! Here’s my first post. Stay tuned for more in the future.
I went to the Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors exhibition at the Hirsshorn Museum with friends on Sunday. We waited hours to spend just 20 seconds within each room. The rooms were stunning and unlike anything I have ever seen. I found them vaguely unsettling, in that my sense of space was so distorted that my brain wasn’t quite sure how to tell my body to feel. It was odd to walk into a space so clearly suffused with otherness and to hear the muffled but energetic crowd without. I was quite taken with Kusama’s use of glowing colors.
I was dazzled by Kusama’s paintings. The depth she achieved while depicting repetitive shapes and motifs was impressive. Again, her use of color was striking and often unexpected. Her sculptures appeared to have wills of their own, like they might reach out and grab a hold of your clothing if you passed within their reach. Or, they might jump up and begin spinning around raising their appendages up and down – hopefully not the phallic ones. There was such energy and potential movement in the works.
If you know me then you might know that I hate waiting on lines and feel uncomfortable in very crowded spaces. These two things generally put me into quite a mood, yet I didn’t experience that yesterday, in part due to the company of my friends. I was so pleased that people were lining up and willing to endure hours of standing on unforgiving concrete floors to see and experience art for a very small fraction of their wait time. It warmed my heart to see such enthusiasm for an art exhibition. People were dressed up, dots, bright colors and most memorable to me was a beautiful Japanese woman in a Chinese red suit wearing red and white Adidas sneakers to match. It was quite the scene.