Above shows a typical installation of Hilma Af Klint's very early abstract series. I believe this is the series done in 1906. Very early. She is being credited as an early pioneer of abstract art. I am happy to go along with that. I am lukewarm about the pieces above, but truly admire a lot of her work after seeing the documentary "Beyond the Visible: Hilma Af Klint".
This is more like it. This is "Gruppe III nr. 5" from 1907. This composition is very harmonious and tiiiiiight. This piece doesn't need the symbolism to be successful, but af Klint attributed maleness to yellow and femaleness to blue. I only mention it because this is before Kandinsky published "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" in 1911. I'm not saying that af Klint invented this idea. These ideas must have been wafting through the air of spiritualist salons like ectoplasm.
Added on 6/15/20-- A couple of days after writing this post I learned about "Thought Forms" a Theosophical text written by Leadbeater and Annie Besant two of the biggest names in Theosophy after Blavatsky. As an artist and Theosophy adherent, it is thought that Hilma af Klint was influenced by this publication. It is going to be reissued November of 2020, but I found a .pdf here:
I guess what I am getting at is that you do not need to write her off as a spiritualist medium. Much of the work stands on its own and is groundbreaking. Her work is diminished where she incorporates overt symbolism and mystical glyphs. I like a lot of visionary art, but, in my opinion, the best mystical art resembles a Rothko more than a tarot card.
Shown above: "Primordial Chaos" series, 1906-1907. Good, but diminished by mystical glyphs and writing.
From the documentary, it is clear that Hilma af Klint was very well educated, intellectual, and must have had access to science journals or periodicals. She painted about cutting-edge discoveries in physics and biology. It may have been a symbol borrowed from a Theosophy diagram but she has a double helix in one of her paintings. (Which if you want to entertain it, could be a little spooky because she died in 1941.)
Her questioning mind is what I like the best in her work. Over 100 years later, I am exploring and celebrating some of these same concepts in my own work.
Formally, she was a very precocious artist. Especially in her Swan Series. I think that series alone would qualify her as a significant artist of the 20th century. It has everything. She does all kinds of amazing abstract things in that series. She plays with duality. In some of the pieces I feel like the future Salvador Dali is in the next studio over. She approaches op art in many of her works too:
"Swan no. 13" AKA "staggering work of genius" (note: no glyphs)
I was watching the documentary and when the film started flipping through the Swan series I couldn't believe how contemporary it looked. This series looks like it was made today. The images below are in order of how they were numerically titled. I am assuming these are a chronological progression. The best part is you can find more of them on line. (including at least one where the swans are getting it on)
The documentary mentions that she made around 1500 paintings. I glimpsed what looked like a multi-volume boxed Hilma af Klint catalogue raisonne. I would like to spend an afternoon with that studying her works in series. Especially the Tree series, more of the Swan series and the Dove series.
I have been very busy in lockdown. I studied some new weaving techniques that are faster and use less beads but still grow into biomorphic hyperbolic forms. I did a little IG video on the studies a few weeks ago at @thereforeijam. It's developing into a body of work that will encompass outdoor and indoor installations inspired by the growth patterns of moss and lichen.
I am motivated to develop the outdoor site-specific installation/mosaic/mural pieces because it will open up new options and artistic growth. This means I have to tweak my materials--especially my adhesives--to be weather proof. I'm testing whether the acrylic reflective beads will fade or melt on a little test rock out in the front yard. I'd love to retain the reflective beads but if they can't survive harsh summer conditions, then I need to stick with all glass. I'd love to use the reflective beads as it calls attention to something that's often overlooked and they look really cool at night. Also switching from natural fiber thread to synthetic.
While the outdoor materials test is underway, I'm working on an installation in a bare corner of the basement. "Outgrowth #1" grows out of the corner where the floor and walls meet. I'm using the number e with extra digits weighted to the floor to help me get a natural distribution. The areas higher up the wall that don't have moss pieces will have beaded representations of lichen colonizing the wall. I don't know if I will use a formula to arrange the lichen shapes. When I say "moss" and "lichen" these are obviously scaled-up impressions of those life forms.
This body of work will be easy and cheap to transport and install. Clear silicon is a quick, semi-permanent adhesive for the exterior and some interior installs. It peeled off cleanly from my test rock after curing without a lot of effort. Gorilla tape/tabs for interior installs work great. The components are reusable.
Many artists I admire have done corner installations. Dan Flavin, Lynda Benglis, and Olafur Eliasson use them a lot. Out of the images below I identify most with the implied dimensions in Smithson's piece and the organic quality of Benglis'. I adore Dan Flavin's work although my work has emotional content whereas I understand that he insisted his work did not.
Lynda Benglis' use of acrylic foam instead of molten metal surprised me especially as the piece was addressing Carl Andre's work. That choice of material serves to further distinguish the one artist's vision from the other's.
In a month or so, I should be ready to do the installation and take photos. Very excited.
Above: Juicy Sunrise, 2020.
This piece is not about the coronavirus. This post is a half-hearted apology/ stammering explanation for having bad timing.
I got tired last fall of working on glass vases. I wanted to use the same technique I use for them, but on a larger scale with more luminosity. After submitting a Saturn-themed proposal for a mini golf hole in October, I hit on the idea of making the Saturn of the golf hole a disco ball and embellishing it. I got very excited and found someone selling their 20-inch, vintage, slightly damaged disco ball and bought it.
I had a mercury crackle glass vase on hand that I started making woven bead tiles for. This became Blue Sun. I loved the effects I was getting by layering glass and reflective bead woven tiles over mirror. It became Blue Star vase. That piece was a study for a luminous sun that I wanted to make.
Meanwhile, there was going to be a long wait on the golf proposal and I really wanted to embellish a disco ball. It was calling to me from it's enormous box. I had finished Solar Panels a month or two prior, and I wanted another piece that celebrated clean energy sources. It's taking a long time to develop efficient fusion power reactors, and I am impatient. I decided to fulfill a wish by bringing the power of the Sun to Earth. The piece would be optimistic, joyous, and celebratory. I decided to make it a sunrise.
Which is good because a high-noon yellow sun doesn't offer much for tonal variations so I opted for a color palette like a sun close to the horizon that is glowing like a red/pink piece of citrus fruit. I was designing this piece and sourcing & mixing bead colors in November and December. Sometime in December I started weaving the first tiles for Juicy Sunrise.
Concerning reports started coming in on Twitter and news sources about a new killer flu-like disease emerging in China.
Weave, weave, weave, weave, weave.
The days went on. The reports out of the orient got more concerning. Then it spread to other countries. Around the time I finished Juicy Sunrise the first renderings of the novel conronavirus were being circulated like a WANTED poster and it looked a lot like my sculpture. I am quick to defensively point out, though, that my sculpture does not have the characteristic coronavirus nobbies. So you must acquit.
Anyway, I'm using it as the featured image on my landing page. I'd say I will try to do better but this is a coincidence and tone deaf I stan for the utopian dream of nuclear fusion power.
a Top: Liza Lou, Wall Terra, 2018
Bottom: Studio Olafur Eliasson's Moss Wall from 1994.
I hope you are doing all right coping with the pandemic. I am excellent aside from anxiety regarding the danger to the health of loved ones. I have a new appreciation for Clorox wipes.
I have plenty to do.
I am developing a new major project but it's complicated and I have to teach myself how to weave the look and shape I want for the different components. I anticipate a lot of minor study pieces coming about in the next few weeks.
The Liza Lou works pictured in this post and Olafur Eliasson's lush moss wall are inspirations. Lou's weavings are hyperbolic and she's weaving with different sized beads. I'd love to try out the algorithm that she and her team used to get this texture and form. But I don't have it & can't script kiddie Liza Lou bead blobs. I have to build my own little beasties.
The 12" or so hyperbolic beadweaving that I've been growing here and there over the past two years is pictured above. That sphere is nothing but woven beads and thread. It's called "The Rose" and it's an homage to Jay DeFeo's chunky monolith by the same name at the Whitney Museum. (Here is a link an heirloom shot of Liza Lou posing with with DeFeo's Rose.)
The Eliasson work is completely organic and must feel and smell magnificent, especially when it is still a little fresh and green like the wall pictured above. Love him. He's a wizard.
So while keeping an eye on the health and welfare of my family, I'm tinkering around. So far, I have hit on a good algorithm for making a flatter form that reminds me of lichen. But I want this, which might be a stochastic, random-size-bead, round peyote hyperbolic weave:
Oh, the irony. The subtitle of this show is "Art as a Means to Well Being" April 16 to May 22, 2020 at Northern Illinois University. The curator asked me to participate because, "I want your work to touch on the importance of the sun, the moon, the universe and our need to be in touch with that to be well." Okay. Cool. Cool.
Unfortunately, C19 cases are spreading like wildfire and the campus might be closed by then. Standing by...
NIU requested an artist statement relating to the theme of the exhibit. I though about including the amount of digits of pi in each piece but decided that was too dorky:
“Very Well, Thank You” Artist Statement
It is healthy for us humans to be mindful of our place in the universe and our home world. By doing so we can overcome the draining ruminations or mitigate the stressful minutiae of our daily lives. We can refresh and reboot our attitude and perspective by periodically expanding our focus and immersing ourselves into the big picture. By seeking to understand and appreciate the sublime vastness of our universe and celebrate our place in it we can lead happier, healthier lives and perhaps be better able to cope with life’s challenges.
NimbusMoon, piSun, and piRipples are a series of flat round glass bead weavings. The technique involves orbiting outward in a spiral from a central point. In search of creating a rich, painterly field and wanting to use an appropriate algorithm for the design, I adopted the use of color coding the beads with the digits of pi. The colors used to encode pi were changed for the different color zones of the works.
Flat Earth was also woven in an increasing spiral from a center point. This piece was conceived as a fantasy model of a flat Earth. This Earth would rotate like an LP on a turntable and have a dynamic atmosphere.
Exodus is a free form bead mosaic with woven star elements. Nothing is static or constant. Like us, even the stars in the sky are not immutable. Even they are in a state of dynamic flux.
I am researching sun colors for my disco ball sun. I am leaning toward a reddish pink ball like the artist Jules Breton was so good at painting. I'm thinking somewhere between pink grapefruit and blood orange. I haven't started testing color variations yet, but I have a pattern that evolved while working on Blue Sun. It has a good scale to get the texture I want and a little repeating spiral to make it dyanamic. Imagine the beaded tile to the left repeating all over a sphere. I have to look at more astronomical pictures of the sun to see how or whether I should flip the spirals going left and then right.
If you have ever been to the Art Institute of Chicago you have probably seen the picture above, "The Song of the Lark" from 1884. Although not a Regionalist piece, it resonated in sympathy with the midwestern aesthetic groundswell that brought "American Gothic" to fame.
Rising or setting, I like his suns. These photos don't do them justice. The top one below is called "The Weeders" or "The Gleaners". The title I am finding for the bottom one is "Tired Gleaner." I'm guessing Breton's real titles were in French.
I'm starting work on a mercury glass almost-globe vase. It's a study for a disco ball sun or-- if my proposal is accepted for Par Excellence--Saturn. Or both.
I want the reflective silvery surface to shine through the bead mosaic. I am learning some new bead tiling techniques inspired by of Gwen Fisher's blog. The modular tiles have nice voids that will hopefully give me a layered, dappled effect.
It's going to be a blue star because I don't think I need those colors for other projects. I can spare them. I will be using blue reflective beads and blue transparent, maybe some translucent 6/0 beads.
Back to Gwen Fisher...she is one of the hyperbolic and mathematical beaders. I love her work.
I wasn't going to enter this show, but a lady I work with enters this show every year and she needs someone to deliver and pick up her artwork.
From the Norris Cultural Arts Center Call for Entries on EntryThingy:
""""""Norris Gallery committee invites artists to submit up to three original pieces for consideration in the winter juried show called Visual Harmony. Work in this juried show depicts patterns in nature, design, construction or wherever visual harmony is seen in our world.
Open to all media and content.
- Entry deadline: Monday, November 18, 2019
- A non-refundable entry fee of $30 is charged to each artist
- Artists notified of status of entries: by mid-December
- Accepted work drop-off date: Monday, January 6, 2020 (3 - 6 pm)
- Show dates: January 11 through February 16, 2020 (gallery hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 11 am - 4 pm)
- Reception and awards presentation: Sunday, January 26, 2020 (2 - 4 pm)
- Work pick-up date: Monday, February 17, 2020 (1 - 3 pm)""""""
I don't know what pieces the show in Woodstock will accept, so I picked these from what I have left over. They are not entirely a cohesive grouping, but whatever.
Call for entries and prospectus http://www.xculturearts.com/Curiosity-artist-briefing.html
The exhibition will be at The Old Courthouse Art Center in Woodstock, IL. I haven't shown anything there yet.
You can submit up to 5 pieces. I proposed Solar Panels, Cosmos, The Rose, Enchanted Spring, and piSun.
I haven't shown The Rose before. I am going to keep adding to it for years like a giant ball of twine. It's a curiosity so I thought, why not.
This project took me about 6 months from concept to installing it and taking pictures yesterday. Once the photos were in the can I was so relieved that I got everything done that I had a good cry.
This piece celebrates the power of the sun. In addition to playing with optics and light effects like all of my other pieces, this one harvests photons with solar collectors and photo-luminescent pigment. As my daughter informed me the piece has an Easter egg...when it gets dark this piece glows like a bioluminescent cove in a tropical paradise. The underpainting has a layer of a pigment called Blue Lit that glows from beneath the transparent and translucent beads.
The solar powered elements soak up sunlight all day and then when it gets dark enough they turn on their fairy lights.
I plan to exhibit "Solar Panels" for the Elmhurst Artist Guild's Winter Member's Show. The Guild has a 40" max width for the show so "Solar Panels" will be installed vertically. That will be fun to see!
Below is a video, shots of the piece in daylight, twilight, and dark modes, the prep studies, and a spin-off bowl that I made while making solar panels.
Julie Mars' current events, projects, & inspirations.