Thursday, April 28, 2011


Engravings by Albin Brunovsky
Title: e. e. cummings

Photo by Charles Grogg

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Art /Medicine @ Mori Art Museum in Tokyo

Maruyama Okyo, Skeleton Performing Zazen on Waves, c.1787 (Daijoji Temple, Hyogo, Japan)

The second section, Fighting Against Death and Disease covers the way people have tried to fight against death and disease through the ages. In addition to presenting the history of medicine, pharmaceuticals, artificial limbs and organs, life sciences and scientific technology, this section poses philosophical questions about the nature of life and death with the various memento mori works.

Kamata Keishu, Surgery for Breast Cancer, 1851. Credit: Wellcome Library, London

In 1851, Kamata Keishu compiled a ten-volume medical treatise called Geka kihai in which he described and illustrated the surgical techniques pioneered by his teacher, surgeon, Hanaoka Seishu. The illustration above shows the excision of a cancerous growth from a woman's breast, an operation which Hanaoka Seishu first carried out in 1804 using general anesthetic.

Iron model of the joints in a human skeleton, Italy, 1570-1700. Credit: Science Museum, London

This 30-cm tall, fully articulated iron manikin is thought to have been used at mediacal schools during the 16th and 17th centuries for demonstrating the structure of joints and for teaching joint-related how to treat joint-related diseases.

Ernst Pohl, Omniskop X-ray apparatus, 1910. Science Museum, London

In the early 1920's, Ernst Pohl created the ground-breaking Omniscope. This X-ray machine could be rotated completely around the patient which greatly enhanced the diagnostic and therapeutic potential. By the end of World War II, around 400 units had been manufactured and delivered throughout Europe, the USA, Japan and the Soviet Union...

Custom built iron lung, Cardiff, Wales, 1941-1950
The picture above shows the ancestor of respiratory nasal masks. The patient with respiratory problems was encased in the wooden box up to their neck. The air pressure inside the box was alternated by operating the giant leather bellows. This caused the lungs to inflate and deflate so the person could breathe. During black outs or period of unstable electrical power supply, nurses were said o have operated it by pushing the bellows with their hands.

'Prosthetics, anatomical drawings by Michelangelo, an ornate amputation saw from ca. 1650, disturbing prints by Patricia Piccinini, diagrams by René Descartes, Tibetan anatomical figures, a painting by Damien Hirst, etc. Some 150 medical artifacts from the Wellcome Collection in London and works of old Japanese and contemporary art are exhibited side by side. Without any hierarchy nor anxiety. Each and everyone of them offers the most seducing spectacle about life.'

via { feuilleton }

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Apollo's Angel

I am currently reading APOLLO'S ANGELS: A HISTORY OF BALLET by Jennifer Homans.

When I tell someone, they glaze over a bit because Ballet of course has a reputation for um..a kind of staid quality.. In the beginning portions of this book it is clear the author (an ex-ballerina) is going to lay some heavy details on the reader. Homans cannot and should not go around these details ( the monotonous ins and outs of french court life and it's rules, both artistic and political WITH vintage diagrams) because obviously they paint a larger picture.
The book's title hails from the early French court performances in which Kings and later, professional men dramatically ( and literally) likened themselves to the God Apollo. In essence, ballet afforded these ''french gods'' a way to express their privilege and divinity to the masses.

Gratefully homans soon discuses the Iconic Ballerina, whom in the beginning phases of ballet were prohibited since any important court ritual was taken solely by men. Woman's bodies moving and expressing virtuosity was too much to withstand for the time. When the female ballet figure did come along, it folded in the essential ingredients for what would become modern classical ballet. Sex, Grace, Mystery, emotion AND virtuosity. Not to say men cannot imbue those elements, but the ballerina would secure it's place within the art. ( partly due to obvious character restrictions on females... partly due to obvious biological advantages).

I was intrigued to learn per usual, the tastiest part of any art form mimics ( in this case quite literally) the street. There is too much to reiterate , but to put it plainly, the first ballerinas of note Marie Sallé ( French) and Carmargo ( Italian/Spanish) turned the french noble style into a distinctly feminine direction with a contemporary taste for eroticism. Interesting too, Ballet is a tradition who's rules and styles are primarily passed down through word of mouth, due to it's lack of text to support Ballet's many shifts and progressions.

I learned (To no surprise) early female ballet dancers were often also esteemed courtesans. .....While not exactly what we generally accept as 'femisism', it did afford them financial , moral ( often corporal) freedom from their husbands and parents since their employ fell under the king. Unprecedented female Independence.

Still, choosing an unorthodox path, the successful ballerina had to be cunning, beautiful, artistically talented and lucky to travel from one end of her life to the other without financial and social ruin. Which makes my favorite example Marie Sallé .....born in 1707.

Despite Marie Sallé's great beauty, she boldly refused the courtesan route... Voltaire once called her " the cruel prude" :) She hailed from a ''lowly'' social position in France as a fairground performer and rose to prestige ( In London) by proving dance could express essential human truths at times better than the printed word. She tossed aside masks and requisite court clothing of the time ( masks and hoop skirts), dressing plainly ( but revealing) in draped chiffon. , .

She hiked up her dress ( gasp !) to reveal her ankle , showcasing fine and fancy foot work ( oh the cheek on that girl!!). She was the first to instinctively meld sex and ballet. With unconventional virtuosity, she displayed great emotion, which for the time was stark and disarming. She used natural gesture to add sugar to sometimes unpalatable court artifice and structure.

After a long, successful career Marie Sallé returned to Paris and lived a quiet life with an Englishwoman named Rebbecca Wick, to whom upon her death in 1756, left all her worldly possessions.

Below are some sculpture I found online in her likeness at a French estate ... they are so beautiful and mysterious and perfectly Marie in a way .. objet d'art .

Monday, April 11, 2011

For the Love of Magritte...

Our emotional relationship to elements and objects is a theme I think about often in my own work.

The Curse II (Malediction II) 1960

Claude Spaak commissioned Magritte to do the frist version of this painting, a simple but mystical painting of the sky. In 1951 Magritte used this a the basis for one of his murals that he painted on the ceiling at the Theatre Royal des Galeries Saint-Hubert adding only faint images of blue grelots (bells) to the sky.

The Tomb of the Wrestlers (Le Tombeau des Luteurs) 1960

This big rose painting is called The Tomb of the Wrestlers and was a commission by Magritte's lawyer and patron Harry Torczyner. "When there is a rose, and one is sensitive to it, one makes it as big as I did so that the rose appears to fill the room," he explains. The title, which Magritte took from a novel by French Symbolist writer Leon-Alinien Cladel, "Ompdrailles, le tombeau des luteurs" (1979), seems appropriate: like the rose, the fighters are something "grandiose," filling the tomb with their struggles.

Sixteenth of September (Le Seize Septembre) 1956, 23.6 x 19.7 in. / 60 x 50 cm

Trees are a recurrent subject in his work. As Magritte stated: "Growing from the earth to the sun, a tree is an image of certain happiness. To perceive this image we must be immobile like the tree. When we are moving, it is the tree which becomes the spectator. It is witness, equally, in the shape of chairs, tables and doors, to the more or less agitated spectacle of our life. The tree, having become a coffin, disappears into the earth. And when it is transformed into fire, it vanishes into air."

Sheherazade 1950

One of first of many Sheherazade themes Magritte painted. Magritte probably based his ideas on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade." From Poe, "Her name was Scheherazade, and her idea was, that she would either redeem the land from the depopulating tax upon its beauty, or perish, after the approved fashion of all heroines, in the attempt."

Poe's tale is based on the legendary Persian queen, Scheherazade, the storyteller of One Thousand and One Nights.

Perspective I: Madame Récamier by David (1951, 60x80cm) is the first "coffin" painting. During the late 1940s and early 1950s Magritte made a series of "Perspective" paintings based on well-known works by the French artists François Gérard, Jacques Louis David, and Édouard Manet, in which he substituted coffins for the figures represented in the original paintings. The composition of this work is almost identical to that of David's famous portrait of Madame Récamier, except that the seductive young sitter has been replaced by a coffin, with a cascading gown left as the only trace of her previous existence. Executed in Magritte's carefully detailed style, this irreverent rendition of the Neoclassical masterpiece is suffused with mordant wit.

Inspired by Clouds and Bells (Nuages et grelots) 1951
I made Sea Foam Bloom

A woman surrounded by the Magritte palette, listening for Magritte's bells.. a love, an idea, a sign?

Friday, April 1, 2011