Almost a Normal Week, kind of sort of

Like most people, I have lost track of how long we have been living an altered life style. But last week I had what almost resembled what I would have considered a normal week at one point.  So I will recap it here as a reminder that, with adjustments and care, we can sort of move forward a bit.

Podolsky Prayer for Justice and Peace
Prayer for Justice and Peace, 2020, Mixed media on paper mounted on canvas, 3′ x 6′, Hickory Museum of Art Raise Your Voice Project

Monday – I installed my piece Prayer for Justice and Peace on the Raise Your Voice community mural at the Hickory Museum of Art.  The mural is a 75 foot long, 9 feet high piece of canvas installed in the museum’s main gallery. They invited people to submit their ideas on social justice. They graciously accepted my proposal but I choose to work on my section at home on a large sheet of paper (6 feet x 3 feet) and then mount it on the canvas when it was complete. So on Monday, I went to install my section.  It was a wonderful experience and I felt very safe the way they arranged for every person participating to be there at different times.  Of course I wore a mask as did the gallery manger. The other pieces installed were extremely powerful but museum policy is that I can only share my own work at this time. When the museum photographs the project, then I will be able to share their links. (Note – since this post was written a time lapsed version of Phase 2 of the mural installation is now available here)

Getting near the end of the tomato harvest this year

Tuesday – Tomato harvest day. At 6:45 a.m. I headed over to my friend’s “garden” which consists of 350 tomato plants and an odd assortment of okra, cucumber, and who knows what else that he decided to plant this year.  After all, he is cutting back (so he says). Now this is a man who spent his entire life farming.  He is now 92 and growing things is what keeps him going so his daughter and I talked him into planting a few tomato plants this year. Of course this was before we knew about a pandemic and our idea of a few plants was maybe 50 tomato plants and a few other odds and ends.  Well so much for plans. In his mind, what he planted is scaled back from whatever he did at another point in his life. Everything is relative.

Wednesday – I had a Zoom meeting with artist friends from the Plastic Club, an historic artist club from my old home town. We were going over the details of a program I will be presenting. I am still of the opinion that, on the whole, more good things are coming out of this goofy situation than bad things.  Lots of new ideas, ways of approaching things that I think will be useful when this is far behind us. But what is most interesting about this Zoom meeting is that not only have I connected with many people I have not seen in quite awhile but have managed to make new artist friends. Wonderful!

Thursday – not really memorable. I seem to recall being aggravated by something that I now cannot remember so that goes to show it was not worth being aggravated over to begin with. Note taken for future.

The great herbarium trade off
The Great Herbarium Exchange

Friday – I had an appointment to go to the herbarium where I volunteer in order to pick up work to bring home.  Right before everything shut down, the herbarium was given an enormous amount of collected plant specimens that needed mounting. Having the plants sit around waiting to be mounted is not a great thing so these arrangements were made. I was not allowed in the building so the staff brought everything out to my car. It was really wonderful to see “the gang” at the herbarium – Lenny, Stefanie, and Dr. Jim Matthews, who the herbarium is named after. The herbarium is one of my earliest social encounters in North Carolina and will always hold a dear place in my heart. I have posted other articles on collecting specimens that you may have read. The only mishap out of this was that the glue we use spilled on the floor of the back of my car. Oh well!

Saturday – we steamed cleaned the carpets. I am not fond of our carpets but since we live in an apartment I have little choice. After we had done the entire apartment we realized the plug was faulty. Of course, I still worried over this after-the-fact event. Anyway, the carpet is greatly improved and we have decided to hire someone in the future.

Sunday – Today we had an earthquake.  Like I said, it was almost a normal week.

Should Art Match Your Sofa?

Wind Sculpture, 2018 by Yinka Shonibare
Wind Sculpture by Yinka Shonibare, an example of a well placed  work of art.

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

Sculpture placement
Wind Sculpture in a larger view of its setting on the grounds of Davidson College

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.