Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

between mental and physical realities   1 comment

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This is a fascinating glimpse into an artist, mostly self-taught, who recorded the world around him year after year after year.  David Byrd’s  home is full of canvases that were seen ‘publicly’ for the first time by Andrea Hull’s camera and in a show a neighbor and fellow artist, Jody Isaacson, helped bring about.  What particularly fascinates me here are the scenes Mr. Byrd painted from his years working in a psychiatric hospital, where patients were caught between their physical and mental realities.

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by David Byrd

You can watch the 10-mn video on the site of Seattle Art Zone, a PBS program devoted to the arts.  Link to the 4/5/2013 show and click on Art Zone Web Extra: David Byrd created by Andrea Hull.  You can also try this direct link (which sometimes works…).

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by David Byrd

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by David Byrd


Frames rule   1 comment

Slap a piece of wood around a painting, and you’ve created a border  — a signal that the viewer is leaving one kind of space and moving into another.  Carve and gild that border and you’re declaring that what is inside is special, very special.

And sometimes the frame itself can grow so exuberant, so loudly and proudly does it proclaim the specialness of what it contains that viewers have to work really hard to tear their attention away from the  border…to the special object it is framing.

Altar in a baroque church in Lecce -- is there any other kind?

Altar in a baroque church in Lecce — is there any other kind?

Truth in translation?   Leave a comment

Ever wonder just how tricky translations can be?  Here’s a little case study.  I saw that a Russian website had picked up  my review of the Islamic galleries at the Louvre so I decided to check it out.  HCylindrical box Spain 968ere is an excerpt from the original in English:

The narrative tries to insert into [the show’s] chronological account a sense of what makes a work “Islamic.” An introductory panel, for example,. . . .    By pulling books out of the chronological narrative, the curators reinforce an impression that they are building a definition of “Islamic art.” But they don’t, not really, for we immediately return to a progression of artistic developments in a world where trade and conquest trigger exchanges of aesthetics and technologies.

Now here is the Russian translation (presumably created automatically through Google translate or other software):

Повествовательная часть и комментарии к экспозиции составлены таким образом, чтобы в свете этих хронологических событий придать произведениям искусства «исламский» смысл. Например, во вступительной части. . .
Из-за того, что хранители музея и устроители выставки выставляют книги вне хронологического контекста, еще больше усиливается впечатление, что они искусственно создают понятие “исламского искусства”.  Хотя, на самом деле, это не так, поскольку мы все равно сразу же восстанавливаем в памяти последовательность этапов развития искусства во всем мире в целом, где в результате развития торговых отношений и захвата чужих территорий никак нельзя было обойтись без взаимного влияния и обмена эстетическими традициями и технологиями.

And this is how ‘Google translate’ converted the Russian back into English:

The narrative portion of the exposure and comments are designed in such a way that in the light of these historical events to make works of art “Islamic” meaning. For example, . . .

Because of the museum’s curators and organizers of the exhibition for the book is a chronological context, further reinforces the impression that they artificially created the concept of “Islamic Art.” Although, in fact, it is not so, because we are still immediately evocative sequence of stages in the development of art in the world as a whole, where the development of trade relations and annexations was impossible to do without mutual interference and sharing of aesthetic traditions and technologies.

So the question is: did the  translation transmogrify the text or  does the translation, by its very oddness and misunderstanding of the English, in fact show up some (unintended) ambiguity in my original?

Posted February 1, 2013 by leeadairlawrence in Art, Islamic art

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Borders   1 comment

One reader commented…

“And the “borderland” is often the richest, most productive and releaving place to be. In ecology, scientists study and celebrate the “edge” — the edge between sea and land, between fresh and salt water, between one climatic zone and another. There they find not only an incubator for distinctive forms of life occupying that borderland niche, but a particularly revealing place from which to look at and understanding the places on either side of the border.”

Think of the borders we create between the sacred and the profane–

main entrance to the Duomo in Orvieto, Italy

Posted October 19, 2012 by leeadairlawrence in architecture, Art, Religion

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Byzantium and Islam   1 comment

Talk about an exciting borderland…. this from an article in the WSJ by Christian C. Sahner on “Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition” currently at the Met:

The greatest achievement of the exhibition is to track the birth of a visual koine in the late-antique Middle East. It was an artistic language that transcended the actual religious and linguistic diversity of the period, expressing itself through shared motifs and aesthetic sensibilities. For example, one notices the striking similarity between a fifth-century ivory of the Egyptian St. Menas, his arms raised in prayer inside a domed sanctuary with hanging lamps, and a nearly identical image of a Muslim at prayer, woven into a tapestry from Egypt between the 11th and 12th centuries. There are other objects that reveal the enduring popularity of pagan themes in Christian and Islamic art, such as the bare-breasted Amazons found on silk roundels from the seventh to ninth centuries in Egypt, and the hefty bronze brazier from an Umayyad palace covered with Dionysiac scenes. These images are culturally ambiguous, which can be frustrating for those visitors who crave precision in their museum labels. But on the other, the blurry line is deliberate: One realizes that “Byzantine” and “Umayyad,” to say nothing of “Christian,” “Jewish” and “Muslim,” represent relative, even unhelpful categories for understanding the complex art of the period.  

Ivories of the So-Called Grado chair: Saint Menas with Flanking Camels (made in  Eastern Mediterranean or Egypt, 7th-8th C, ivory)

11th-12th century textile fragment made in Egypt of silk and linen

Posted May 18, 2012 by leeadairlawrence in Art, museum shows, New York

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Memorials   Leave a comment

It was the falling that hit me first: the reflection of buildings in the smooth water along the parapet then their dissolving into water that  plummets first to one level then, through the center, to unseen depths.  Then came the particularity: the parade of names carved into the black stone and, just as powerful, the splitting of the water into individual streams. 

Have you ever seen Maya Lin’s memorial to the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Alabama?  A smooth sheet of water streams across a table of granite and down its sides, continuous and unstoppable.  Through it you read the names of people and the dates of events while the water steadily flows.  There, the memorial is to the movement.  Here at the 9/11 Memorial, with its individual threads of water, the memorial is to the people who lost their lives — first responders, people in the trade center, the Pentagon, Flight 77…

Posted January 10, 2012 by leeadairlawrence in architecture, memorials, sculpture

Wonders of Our Age….?   Leave a comment

Painting the Town Red 1996 17 x 29.3cm (6.7 x 11.5in) Poster colour, gouache and gold dust on mountboard Artist: Amrit K.D.Kaur Singh

Modern-day Mughal-style paintings by twins born and raised in Liverpool — what an unexpected treasure trove!  Amrit and Rabindra Singh explode the scale, ramp up the attitude, and set their sights on sports and politics, war and love… basically all the themes Mughal court artists tackled except that, instead of polo and hunting tigers, it’s football; instead of scenes from the 10th-century Shahnameh, we get Bush and Blair conducting invading Iraq, troops storming the Sikh temple at Amritsar….

Check out their on-line gallery and an article about them in Economist.

Are they the Wonders of Our Age?


Posted November 22, 2011 by leeadairlawrence in Art, painting