August 31, 2016

DC inspiration: Renwick Gallery (part 1)

I have the most pleasant memories of visiting this museum. I squeezed it in on the morning we flew out so it felt like a bonus treat! The print piece I picked up touted "the new Renwick Gallery" but having no experience with the old Renwick I can't really make a clear comparison. My understanding is that this beautiful, classic building once housed beautiful, classic art (and Civil War generals for a time) but has switched focus to house new and innovative art. And that, my friends, is what makes this place so special. The juxtaposition (ah, that is a college word for me!) of the old/new and classic/modern is what makes experiencing art in this place an adventure.

Furthermore, my visit here made me realize how much good stuff I get exposed to in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Between the world-class Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park to the autumn insanity of ArtPrize I had previously experienced almost all of the artists who had work on display there. They felt like familiar friends that I was delighted to spend time with once again.

Many favorites:

Shindig by Patrick Doughtery
Delightful, whimsical, swirling, whirling, spinning, twisting spaces made of twigs and branches woven together. Peek-a-boo portholes and sculpture you can wander in and out of made me miss my kiddos. I know the Meijer Gardens had an exhibit with him – yes, back in 2007. Please visit his website and enjoy! Playful, nature-inspired, and unlike anything I've seen before – this is an artist after my own heart!

Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe (see first image in this post)
Brilliant and beautiful and made merely of thread. I know I saw a piece by him in the Kendall Building… yes, it was Plexus No. 18 during ArtPrize 2012.

Untitled by Tara Donovan
These mountains that fill an entire gallery are made entirely of blank index cards! For real. Love it. The link brings you to a slideshow of 29 different pieces by her. They are wildly unexpected.

Anonymous Donor by Chakaia Booker
Again, I have both the Meijer Gardens and ArtPrize to thank for my familiarity with this artist. She creates sculptures out of recycled tires. But they don't look like tires anymore. I am seeing a trend in my preferences for art made of unusual or unexpected materials.

I have one more piece I absolutely must share multiple photos of so you are just going to have to come back tomorrow, dear reader!

August 30, 2016

DC inspiration: Hirshhorn Museum

Pouring rain, a wrong turn, umbrella flipped, disintegrating map and I end up at the Hirshhorn Museum completely by mistake. What a gift! My modern-art-loving-heart was so happy! There is certainly something special about site-specific pieces too where the artist uses the space as an integral part of their work. There were lots of spectacular examples of this. I will share the ones that photographed well. One piece in particular really had to be experienced in person since you walked right into it and were surrounded by it. The lighting and the walls were just as much a part of the art as anything else.

So without further ado let me report on my very favorites:

Belief + Doubt by Barbara Kruger
I had a little fan moment when I realized I was seeing a Barbara Kruger piece. Flashed right back to my feminist Women In Art class in college. There is a special kind of excitement to realize "I know this artist. And this artist is still out there making art!" And people, with my background in graphic design I can totally appreciate the beauty of well-done typography. The title link to the museum's page includes a cool little time lapse video of the installation. Extra credit to curious minds who check out Smithsonian Magazine's 2012 interview with her about this piece in particular.

Our View From Here by Linn Meyers
One of the very interesting things about the Hirshhorn Museum is that the building is a giant ring. So this piece – which was drawn free-hand on the wall – has the inner ring to itself. So to see its entirety you must walk the full circle. I was so impressed by the fact it is simple marker line drawing. From a distance it looks dimensional, like rippled fabric.

August 29, 2016

DC inspiration: National Gallery of Art

Hello, friends! This week I aim to finish reporting on my DC trip (from all the way back in May) and dive right into my road trip around the perimeter of Lake Michigan, which, happily, also included art (special thank you Sheboygan and Milwaukee). We've got ArtPrize coming soon soon soon right here in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan and I will be hitting the sidewalks with toddler and stroller to soak in as much of it as I possibly can!

I squeezed my National Gallery of Art experience into a few hours when really you could quite easily spend an entire day there. So don't consider this post a review but instead consider it a word to the wise! The east building alone is pretty much the entire history of American and European art in one place. I rushed through it though because I was afraid of missing out on the west building, which is modern art. Of course it turned out the west building was being renovated and was mostly closed when I was there!

My art experiences in DC made me realize how much I love modern art. I do appreciate the old stuff and I loved my art history classes in college, and really, when you see a bit of a church painted or carved in 1246 it is kind of an amazing experience. But for all my love and adoration of art I get overwhelmed by gallery after gallery of paintings. The quirky strange modern art, the stuff that is more experimental than classical, is what really interests me. Despite that, I do have a few pieces to share with you.

Three of my favorites from the National Gallery of Art:

Madonna Enthroned with Saints and Angels by Agnolo Gaddi
Not only is this piece impressively large and well-done (and old! 1380!) but the detail work is exquisite. I love patterns and textures, fabric design really, and delight in discovering inspiration by leaning close.

The Suitor's Visit by Gerard Ter Borch the younger
This is Dutch. I have Dutch heritage so I always think I should feel some connection with Dutch art. I usually don't. This one, however, caught my eye. Surely we've all experienced a similarly awkward experience in our teenage years? The new boyfriend showing up, the dog (he's cropped out of my pic; click the link to see full painting) and the father suspicious, the little sister conveniently planted nearby. And everyone watching the sweet and sacred conversations of young love.

Multiverse by Leo Villareal
What if your canvas was the art museum itself? And your medium was light? Such an interesting stretch of the traditional expectation of the form art takes! I discovered this passageway between the east and west buildings accidentally and made good use of it when avoiding a rainstorm. His work is super interesting to me. It looks like he has been doing installations on bridges (!) – see more on his website.

August 26, 2016

library love: Daily Rituals

One of my dearest friends had checked this book out from the library and recommended it to me. So of course I tracked it down and checked it out next. It was just as good as if she had given the book to me as a gift!

What I loved: The stories on each person are short and sweet so it is an easy read. You can pick it up and read a few and set it back down. I also enjoyed the fact that it is not someone telling you their way of doing things. This book is absolutely not a self-help read. Instead it is peek into the quirky lives of strange people (some of whom have terribly unhealthy habits I might add!).

I didn't tabulate it or quantify it but it does seem like a lot of people depended on rising early and having a solid morning routine. I just might be at the place in my life where I have to admit "early to bed, early to rise" actually is worth something! While there were some particularly intense creatives who worked all day and night, quite a few people only worked a solid 3 hours a day, which I found interesting. Not because I am lazy but because my life feels full right now and I am just not at a place where I am putting 8-hour days into creative work.

If you are a creative person yourself – writers, artists, scientists, composers are all featured – or if you are just curious about how famous creative people have made time and space for their work then you just might want to check out Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey.

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link.

August 25, 2016

DC inspiration: Oak Hill Cemetery

If you've been reading my blog for a while you might already know that I have a bit of an obsession with old cemeteries and the design of gravestones (absolutely everything is designed, people!). So whenever I am out traveling I frequently take a wandering detour through a cemetery. Even my children have gotten dragged along. My husband, well, he's used to it by now.

Some of my favorites are angels. I keep imagining the photographs of them printed as big canvases, perhaps in simple black and white, hanging… where? That's the part I haven't figured out yet. Meanwhile, I am happy to aim my camera at them wherever I come across them!

August 24, 2016

DC inspiration: Textile Museum (part 2)

Ok, if you didn't read yesterday's post about the Textile Museum on the campus of George Washington University then start there. I just had too much to share to fit it all in one post! I am going to continue sharing from the the Stories of Migration exhibit and throw a few more things that I got to see.

Mother Tongue and Foreign Language by Shin-hee Chin
this artist has experienced living half of her life in the United States and half of her life in South Korea so this piece is clearly born out of her personal experience. I especially love the use of a garment, a piece of clothing, something you put onto yourself and show to the world, as the medium for the message. I can only imagine that being at home in more than one culture means choosing who to identify as in any given setting.

Navigating a Broken World by Shea Wilkinson
The level of detail on this map is absolutely astounding. The maps themselves are intricately detailed and she has embroidered tiny red dots to represent people groups and their movements. There is a short video on her website where she talks about the piece. My photo is not the best so you should click over there to see it.

I am going to finish up with a piece that wasn't a part of the Migration exhibit but really caught my eye anyway. These sweet little Birds by Ginny Smith (actually part of a quilted book) are so very playful. I like fabric. I like birds. Why don't I try something like this? I think I have always been such a structured person that I always undertake huge capital-letter P projects when perhaps I should just make something smaller and undefined and more freeing. Something for me to ponder! Please look at the other pieces on Ginny's website – I love them all!

August 23, 2016

DC inspiration: Textile Museum (part 1)

One of the places I was most excited about visiting in Washington, D.C. is pretty much on no one else's must-see list. It is not a monument and although it is a museum I doubt it is all that famous. It was the Textile Museum on the campus of George Washington University. I have long loved fabric and pattern even before I started sewing and quilting. And now that I am a sewer and quilter, well, my interest is even higher.

I had a day to myself while my husband was working (the actual reason behind the trip!) and a stop here was my first destination of the day. I am just going to put it out there that I used a map and got myself there with very little problem. I was rather proud and if you knew my navigational history you would be proud of me too.

At any rate, when I visited they had two big exhibits. One was titled Stories of Migration: Contemporary Artists Interpret Diaspora. Diaspora is when people groups move, or are forced to move, from their homeland to somewhere else. A fitting theme for modern times but also one with huge historic connections, especially considering the impact of slavery on the formation of the United States. There was a huge range of experiences represented by the artists but of course all used textiles in their work. So very inspiring! I will share a few of my favorites.

Blood Line by Alice Beasley
Alice Beasley uses a train metaphor to explore her family's story and experience with slavery. The final train car incorporates images of her relatives and includes an image of herself, looking back over the history through the lens of her cell phone. The level of detail in the work is astounding. I am very curious about this style of illustrating using thread and fabric and have been following some artists on Instagram who are doing work. Ms. Beasley's website features a video on the creation of this particular piece. You can also see other examples of her beautiful work on her site.

Sky Prayers – Memory of Sky by Melody Money 
This piece was created in honor of the people of Tibet. It is quite sizable but the intricate, small details make it even more impressive. Tiny triangles of fabric, tiny hand-sewn beads, and even the quilting itself. Just breath-taking. Melody's website shows a full portfolio, including a whole series of Sky Prayers.

Implosion 4 by Beth Barron
This mandala is made entirely of found band-aids. The band-aids are a symbol of wounding and healing and the piece is about finding one's home within oneself after being lost. This falls into the category of strange, never-before-seen modern art that I always appreciate. And it certainly stretches my mind in terms of what can be stitched and sewn.

I am going to post part 2 of my Textile Museum experience tomorrow. This has already gotten quite long and there are a few more things I just can't resist sharing with you!

August 22, 2016

I made art: family portrait mini-quilt

So way back in 2014 when my oldest was 6 she came home with an adorable family portrait done in marker on a piece of white cloth. That piece of cloth was stapled to another scrap of gray fabric. I loved everything about it – the stick figures, the eyes carefully done in appropriate shades, and the misspelled "familey" across the top. In my mind I thought it would be so cute if I made it into a hanging quilt square. I clipped it up on the clothesline in my art room and there it has been ever since.

Fast forward to this summer where my husband noticed I had written "Quilt Week" on the calendar. He suggested that perhaps I did not need any new ideas and that I should just go work on the ideas I already have. He was right (of course!) and this project was the result.

So a couple of things I love about this:

1. I experimented with the quilting.
I did concentric rectangles, I outlined squares, and I even followed along with the curving leaf pattern of a particular fabric. It was fun for me to try something different.

2. I used scrap fabric.
I did not buy anything for this project. That doesn't surprise me but that's because I am quite aware of what I have stashed in the art room! At any rate, that's always a good thing.

3. I had fun with the composition.
So choosing colors and balancing a composition is something I am good at naturally. I am sure that my graphic design education from Ferris State University also sharpened my skills as well. So taking those little scraps of fabric and arranging them here and there and building the blocks around the drawing was pure joy for me.

The lesson in all of this is that when you spend time making art art gets made! So obvious but seemingly out of reach for me so often!

August 11, 2016

My new atomic earrings!

I bought these beauties in the gift shop of the Milwaukee Art Museum. They came with a festive little book explaining how they are made. These were inspired by the shape of an eucalyptus seed pod (yay for nature as inspiration!). All of the atomic earrings are designed with CAD and printed using a 3D printer by Bob Fields. Very cool.

August 9, 2016

So so much visual inspiration to share!

Nature is my number one inspiration! Sunset at Wilderness State Park in Carp Lake, MI.

Hello dear readers!

I got all fired up on this blog in June and then… well, it all fell apart! Actually we just got back from a 3-week "circle tour" of Lake Michigan. My family and I camped our way around my beloved Lake Michigan in our trusty pop-up camper. Many adventures were had and I even got to see some awesome art which I am so excited to share with you. And I really don't feel like I finished sharing from my DC trip in May.

So anyway, in these next few weeks (months?) I am just going to be sharing all the things that inspired me on my travels and go from there. Ideally, I will get my project self going on as well! I have a fat blank sketchbook taunting/tempting me as well. I think I am finding it a bit of a mental hurdle to say to myself "Yes, you are an artist. Artists spend time with their sketchbooks working on ideas. Go do that." That's my confession of the day.

Also, I did keep up on Instagram during my travels whenever I could. Please consider following me there (@amandabridle) for a more steady flow of artistic inspiration and observations. Writing blog posts takes a quiet minute on the computer and sometimes those are hard to come by in my house.