Awhile back I posted digital images I worked over along with some thoughts on over development. Since then, I have decided to expand on the theme and construct an actual physical piece. The Fallen pays tribute to all creatures that are victims of over development but I continued to use the image of the toad. I choose a triple panel structure that is reminiscent of alter pieces and deliberately used a house shape as the panel format. I repeated the use of the red outline of the toads’ bodies as I did with the digital images. If you did not see the original post with the digitally reworked images, you can see that here . If you would like to see more detailed images of the finished piece you can go to my gallery page here.
The age old indignation of someone holding a fabric swatch up to a piece of art is something many artists endure. I was reminded of this lately when rewatching Hannah and Her Sisters when the character Frederick, an artist, becomes outraged when a potential client wants to consult his decorator before buying. So let me pose this question: Don’t we owe it to a piece of artwork to place it in the most beneficial setting? Let’s talk about this a little more.
Recently, I became aware of several well meaning community based public art projects where artists, often sculptors, are awarded public space to show their work outdoors for a specific period of time. This is a wonderful benefit to the community and the artists but often not a benefit to the artworks. A small public park not far from where I currently live has such a program. The artworks chosen are well crafted and have a broad aesthetic appeal but look as though they were unloaded any old place on the green space giving the impression of a yard sale more than an outdoor gallery.
Similar things can occur even in the most professional public sculpture program. My hometown of Philadelphia has a world class public sculpture collection that takes great pains to place the works. The problem is as the cityscape changes due to construction or myriad other things that can affect a location, the sculptures may no longer be presented in the best way. And in a city the size of Philadelphia, the logistics involved in moving a piece of public sculpture to a new location can take years.
Now all the talk so far has been about three dimensional art so let’s talk about two dimensional art. Let’s face it, when you buy something to perk up your spirits, you are not going to plop it just any old place; you are going to put thought into it. We do this with furniture, lighting, media, decoration, & family photographs. So who are we kidding when we pretend we are not going to do the same thing with a painting? I had the fortunate experience of studying at the Barnes Foundation. Dr. Barnes had a very unique way of displaying his collection. It was if everything on any given wall, when viewed all together, created another whole picture in and of itself. Symmetry was important, as well as size and shape of the painting but it did not stop there. Even elements withing each painting were considered: color, shapes, lines, etc. Dr. Barnes’ presentation of his painting collection also broke the rules by including furniture and other objects mixed within the painting display. These furnishing and objects also had to have elements that enhanced and blended with the paintings. If you have never been to the Barnes foundation, I urge you to go on their website where there are often photographs of the galleries. The link highlighted takes you directly to their collection but look around the site for photographs of full gallery shots.
Lastly, I will talk about a public sculpture that I think is beautifully placed. The piece is called Wind Sculpture by Yinka Shonibare. Whether you like the piece or not is not really relevant to the points I am going to make so please don’t zone out yet. This sculpture is
on the grounds of Davidson College which was founded in 1837. First note that Wind Song is a contemporary piece of art with regard to era, feel, and materials so it works well with one of the college’s newer buildings. Think for a moment what this sculpture might look like if it were in front of a building from the early 20th century. The organic, curving lines of the piece are a nice contrast to the geometric lines of the building. The colors of the sculpture are both warm (the browns, oranges, earth tones) and cool (the blues) just like the colors of the building (bricks – warm, glass/chrome – cool). The ample space around the sculpture allows for it to be viewed at a number of angels. Basically, it blends just enough to seem a natural part of the environment but stands out just enough to add some interest to the open space.
So maybe it is ok if the painting you buy matches your sofa. And if it doesn’t, that’s ok too but make sure you place it with care.
This first painting, Little Pink Houses, was the first piece I finished for this project. I have posted the image before but never wrote anything about the work and there is a good reason for that. Often, it takes time before I realize why I made something. When I first finished this painting, I thought it stood for suburbia, something I was not really familiar with until recently. Well it does stand for suburbia, but not the suburbia of today where the HOA oversees your life (you can read my thoughts on this topic in my post No Pink Flamingos). This is the suburbia of the past, when you could enjoy your yard, hang you clothes out to dry, and do the other types of activities that make home ownership a pleasure.
The work above, Ghosts of Neighborhoods Past, is about neighborhoods that have seen better days. Unfortunately, this is my old neighborhood.
This book was started some time ago but I did not like the way it was progressing so I put it away to work on “in the future”. Well, the future came and here is the finished book. It is a fond memory of my mother. Each panel is shown enlarged so the text and illustrations are easier to see and read.
A Walk Around the World, Mixed Media Artist Book, 9″ x 21.5″
So here is the finished work. Thank you all for your comments on the last post of this as it was in progress. I decided on a horizontal format and it is currently hanging on a dowel which I have come to realize is a quick answer to hanging most artwork that is not framed. Other posts related to this piece are here: CCHP: Artwork in Progress and CCHP: Intro to the Cookie Cutter House Project & Beginning the Artwork Detailed images are below. There are a few details I feel I would like to talk about. On Detail 1 below, I want to bring attention to the house on the bottom row in the middle. My goal with this house was to try to get a very old world structure with a fountain out front. This may seem a bit of a stretch on a row house but many people take great pride in making their small row homes seem grand by mimicking old world style architectural features. I am not making fun of this, I find it very charming. This can also apply to the house in the upper right with the two large planters flanking the door and the several houses throughout the installation piece with the faux stone fronts. More traditional for row homes are bicycles out front as in the house in the upper left, fire escapes (see Detail 2, upper right) and small trees, climbing vines and lawn ornaments (flamingos). You get the idea. Though row homes, like town homes, are traditionally attached, that was where I took some artistic license with this. My hope is that the closeness and the quirky nature of each home speaks to the culture of row house living.
Early in the winter of 2018, I set out to make 60 small houses to fit in a particular box. I did not know what the end product would be like but I set a goal to finish them before April of this year and here they are. Now they are not “complete, complete” yet, it is still a work in progress, meaning, the houses still have to be strung together and I have not yet decided whether that will be a more vertical format or a more horizontal format. And this is a poor photograph to top it all off. (John if you are reading this, I will eventually get that camera!) In any case, I had decided originally that the piece would be called suburban sprawl but the more I worked on it, the more they reminded me of the urban row homes I lived in most of my life so felt that the use of the word suburban seemed wrong. I am still going to make a piece called suburban sprawl but it will be different from this. I plan to complete this piece very soon and will post the final project then. You can read the original post related to this entry here.
Walking around my neighborhood last summer, I regularly noticed many strangely flattened shapes along the road. Upon closer inspection, these shapes turned out to be toads that were run over by cars. One day, while standing in one spot, I counted four toads that had been run over within a small radius of where I stood.
When I describe my “neighborhood”, it is important to know that I do not live along a highway or even a regular street but an apartment complex. My apartment complex, and the surrounding four shopping centers and medical complex, were not here as little as ten years ago. Behind my apartments are a creek and greenway where it is typical to see many birds, groundhogs, deer, raccoons, and (very recently) an otter. Not very long ago, where I live was a very rural area that has turned into a massive suburban sprawl.
I found myself needing to record the demise of these creatures. Art is not always a comfortable, beautiful subject. It is also meant to shake people up a bit. Though I photographed many toads, I decided that less is more so I am presenting just two images in tribute to these fine creatures we have displaced.