Far Out, West

Need a place to stay?  Stinson Beach, California
October, 2017

It is a gorgeous day, and yes, I have left western New York for a week to visit with my son, who is celebrating his 35th birthday, and I also get to party with his wife, and my new little grandson, Oslo.  My son, Nathaniel graduated from UC Berkeley and over the years I have walked the campus and I looked forward to seeing the new museum building designed by Diller, Scofidio and Renfro that houses the art and film archive.

Sather Gate, UC Berkeley

But it is late in the afternoon on a Sunday as I walk through the gate at UC Berkeley and the new museum will close soon, so I head over to see the Phoebe Hearst collection of ethnographic arts. Up the hill there is the iconic tower at the university and the echoes of all the student demonstrations still reverberate in my mind.

Tower at UC Berkeley

The first thing I see when I enter the Hearst Collection is a carved casket from the 26th Dynasty of ancient Egypt.  The sarcophagus is covered with hieroglyphs and a wonderful falcon sits on the shoulder.  This is the beginning of an immersion into world cultures, it is anthropology via art and artifacts.

Ancient Egypt

Inside, a large room is filled with art objects ( only a small portion of the entire collection ) and the show is divided into works whose maker is known, and objects that are "unsigned".  Many of these pieces are from the distant past and would be hard to identify a particular artist as the maker.  The famous Fayum portraits look like they could have been painted by one person, so there is a lot of detective work to find out who that artist was.  Many of these paintings have survived the millennia but was that because of the encaustic medium that was used to create them?

Fayum Portraits, 1st Century, B.C., Egypt

The next thing I come across is a giant red rooster, also a funeral object - a colorful casket for a proper sendoff! This big bird was created by a carpenter in Ghana, and it is a contemporary work of art.  This gets me thinking about the relationship that society has with art objects.

Red Rooster from Ghana, contemporary art

In Ghana, the big show goes on after you are dead!  Maybe this is to celebrate your perceived place in society, and the dead one is remembered by this character ( a big red rooster! ).  What kind of other art objects would they have in Ghana to represent them and do they have a function?  I wonder about the function of the Tlingit storage boxes that I see in this show.  What were they used for?  I just don't know enough about the indigenous people to hazard a guess.

Tlingit Indian storage box, contemporary

Carved objects did have a function, like the arrowheads on exhibit, along with the baskets and ceramic pots.  They have a function but they are also collected now as fine art objects for people's homes.  The clay pots from the artist known as Nampeyo ( 1859-1942 ) stand out for their beauty in form and color.

Polychrome by Nampeyo

The ancient traditions of pottery in the Southwest are outstanding, and I was lucky that my family collected some of these beauties, and I have a few of them through inheritance.  I think they have influenced my own art along the way, so I have a deep respect for these pieces on view at the Hearst collection.  Nearby there were some playful Nazca ceramics including this wonderful flute player.

Nazca, Peru

Painted decorations for ceramic ware reach a high point with the Mediterranean pieces included in this show including the panther painter and the wine cup that is called a skyphos that you see here in the background.

Wine jars, and "skyphos"

Most likely, the classical Greek sculpture from this area of the world has had a more lasting effect because of the figure and what it has represented to our art.  I think the Greeks had an ideal in mind that they brought to their art making practice, and that is represented here in this collection also.

Classical Greek marble carvings

From around the world, Phoebe Hearst bought Chinese robes to wear and in this collection was one that was so well preserved, it looked like it was embroidered only yesterday.  Here again, I have been interested in these kinds of weavings myself, and have a few in my personal collection, although I wouldn't wear mine like I see in the photo of Phoebe Hearst.  So many fine things in this show to see and contemplate.  Thanks to UC Berkeley, and a beautiful day in California!

The Golden Dragons in Chinese textile art
The Phoebe A. Hearst Collection
UC Berkeley

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Building Castles

Wendell Castle Remastered
October 8-December 31, 2017
The Memorial Art Gallery
Rochester, N.Y.

The Memorial Art Gallery hosts "Wendell Castle Remastered" in the voluminous main gallery starting in October and running through the rest of 2017.  There are many of Wendell Castle's recent works, but the theme of remastering calls upon techniques used to bring these sculptural works into existence - and they include robots and digital modeling tools that weren't part of the original process going way back to the beginning of his career.

Wendell Castle in the Memorial Art Gallery

The graphic impact of this current show is intensified through the choice of using dark stained ash for some forms, and I imagine that designing the lighting for this show was very difficult - you want to put the work in a spotlight, but the results of that inclination include the creation of very strong highlights which can cancel out forms.  I imagine an ideal exhibition that would place these artworks in a balanced natural light so the viewer could more easily appreciate the forms and values.

3 stages in the stack construction of "Wide Awake" ( 2011 )

The procedure to make many of the works on exhibit is explained when you enter the show.  A trio of models  ( "Wide Awake" ) suggests the stages, first selecting slabs of wood; and laminating them in stacks, a rough cut to refine the forms, and then the hand finish with a stain or other surface treatment.  This current show is a fine addition to Wendell's exhibitions which I have been following since the 1970's in New York City.  Also, a show that was held recently in our area at the University Gallery at R.I.T. for Wendell's models and drawings helped fill in other parts of his process - if you had the chance to catch that exhibit.

"Remastered" features old and new works
The Memorial Art Gallery

Integrating digital technology to create these large sculptural pieces has augmented Wendell Castle's reach, and added more complexity to the lengthy building process.  This same sort of industrial approach has been used by other sculptors including Frank Stella and Tony Cragg  and many others, and the expertise to get this done, to train the robot "Mr. Chips" involves a deep understanding of engineering principles, hopefully not getting in the way of creativity along the line.

"Fallen and Risen" a bronze by Wendell Castle

Sometimes, I wonder whether the works of art in this show get constrained in the process by the pieces having to be used as a lamp, a table, or a chair.  I know this is an old argument, and the question is heightened here, the "What if?......  I know I was faced with this decision when I was an art student in my first year of Cooper Union when my instructor, Arthur Corwin, set up a proposition to make a form that was sculptural but that you could sit on or in it.  So, is a work of art something that you just look at and contemplate, or is it something that can be functional?  The argument may be moot here.

Wendell Castle signature artworks
at Memorial  Art Gallery
thru December 31, 2017

With all kinds of 3D printing now going on, it won't be long before we start seeing more inventive artwork like the kinds of forms we see in this "Remastered".  Knowing about the possibilities available through new technologies is very exciting, but there is still a learning curve, and also there is the question of the cost of all these new tools.  No doubt that we are at a flexion point, and this exhibition helps conjure up questions while introducing us to the state of the art.

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Fall Semester 2017

Just looking.... The Print Club of Rochester
86th Annual Members Exhibition
Nazareth College Art Center Gallery
Oct 6 - November 17, 2017

You can get an education when you stop in to see a show at a gallery.  You don't have to know who the artists are; you can be introduced to their artwork without taking a class or feel you won't understand what the artists are trying to say, just don't be inhibited!  Step right up and just take a look, it won't cost you anything - and you might come away with an impression from something unique..

Ellen Heck, girl with a mobius strip for a hat

This fall the gallery shows are just beginning to bubble and boil, so I stopped to see two shows that offer an opportunity to touch base with a variety of prints and paintings.  First stop was Nazareth College in their Art Center Gallery to view the annual members exhibition for the Print Club of Rochester now in their 86th year.  So many printmaking techniques are represented here from the very abstract to the highly representational, like the image above from Ellen Heck.

Size matters, and in the field of printmaking some artists are using steamrollers to produce their prints though I don't know if this is the case at Nazareth.  I found many printmakers are using more than one technique in each piece, for example the work of Barbara Fox.  Woodcuts and intaglio prints are here as in the images below by Marie Buckley, and Barbara McPhail.

Marie Buckley ( above ) and Barbara McPhail ( below )

Variety is the key here, though some prints engage the viewer with specific stories to tell, but one thing they all have in common is the graphic nature of the work itself.

Print Club annual Member's show at Nazareth College

Going to town on East Avenue, we enjoyed the opening of the New Rochester Biennial at Rochester Contemporary Art Center though we only had time for one of the venues.  The Biennial this year includes the Visual Studies Workshop and Gallery r  on College Avenue.  The Memorial Art Gallery had previously directed this show, and this new segment includes the paintings of a father and son - that is Leo Dodd    ( 1927 - 2015 ) and son, Paul Dodd and it is called Witness.

Views around town by Leo Dodd

The show now on at Rochester Contemporary presents a contrast especially in the subject matter that each artist approaches.  For years after he retired from Kodak, Leo Dodd, who was a mechanical design engineer took up painting and documented many sites around Rochester.  He worked with watercolor and saw many of the events and installations that give Rochester, New York its identity.
As Rochester remade itself, Leo Dodd was there to document those facts as a painter on the scene.

Leo Dodd documents our locality

Now,  Paul Dodd makes a different kind of document, his medium is painting and drawing but it is the human face, -  actually a mugshot that attracts him.  The paintings on view at RoCo have a  curious quality - because these works are made from photos of a variety of people, you don't have the personal rapport that you might find if the artist was painting someone who was sitting in front of him.  These are paintings where the artist is one step removed from the person being portrayed.
The art holds up better in a group I think and there we can see just how economical Paul Dodd is when he paints the human face.

Paul Dodd

In this current show there are also scrapbooks and other mementos of the work that the father and son have produced, and this kind of intimate back story is very engaging.

Sketchbooks and clippings from the collection of Paul Dodd

When you visit the Rochester Contemporary, stop into the LAB space and see the artworks by Kyle Butler who I had a chance to chat with.  His art is very experiential - the ideas he is working with stem from his being a resident of Buffalo, New York, and his art is part of a larger series of exhibitions here in Rochester, that portray various aspects of maps and mapping.  For Kyle Butler his map making is tied in to his art making and the subjects of his work in the LAB space deal with the actual dead end streets in the city.  The sculptural work and the painting on view are abstract by nature, but denote something very actual.

Kyle Butler's art is presented as part of Points of Departure: Meditations on Mapping.  This seven part exhibition has been curated by Karen Sardisco and Colleen Buzzard, who you will see below talking with Kyle Butler at the opening of this segment of their show.

Take the time to come out and see these artists, and what they have accomplished.  You will learn something!

Kyle Butler ( left ) and Colleen Buzzard
Rochester Contemporary Art Center
Rochester, NY
Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Reach Your Audience

Left to Right - Frank Blair introduces  Arthur Singer, 1961. 
Photo by Lisl Steiner on the set of The Today Show.

My father, Arthur Singer, was invited to be a guest on The Today Show, and that was back in 1961, after his epic book Birds of the World was published in New York City.  In our photo above, he is sitting with the host of the show - Frank Blair, and they are having a conversation about the bird paintings my father made that are on the back wall of the set.  My dad, not only brought along his artwork, but also some stuffed birds - study "skins" from The American Museum of Natural History.  He would use these skins as a tool to give him vital research information when he was ready to draw out each page of his many books.

There are many challenges being an artist in our society.  First you have to have an aptitude for it.

O.K., as our society changes in the visual arts there are always some constants.  Artists want to reach an audience, and how do they do that?  If you want some level of financial security, you are going to try to sell the things you create, whether it is a book or a painting.  The tangible items you may make in the quiet of your studio space hopefully will reach out and touch someone.  Maybe a collector will like something you have made, and will make an offer to buy it from you.

How do people find out about what you have been up to?  That is the place where marketing takes full effect.  If you are an artist - you will want to show your artwork to the public and get feedback, and then keep on your creative path and not get bent out of shape if you are getting criticism  ( it comes with the territory).  All artists face this, so you develop a plan.  From my own experience I have watched this happen in my family.  My father, Arthur Singer ( above ) had the good fortune to have his art published starting at an early age  ( he was a junior in high school ).  With some of his major projects he chose to speak to the media to tell his story, and it is an engaging one.

Arthur Singer, 1982, Photo by Lenny Eiger

This month, we are presenting our show: Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master, in the University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology.  This is the first opportunity we have had to show examples of every aspect of my father's artwork in one place - almost 100 individual artworks on view including many illustrations for books, and many paintings and drawings.  Not all of my father's artwork had to do with birds and animals.  Some of his best things are the watercolor portraits he made during World War ll while he was in the "Ghost Army".

Author Rick Beyer in the foreground
and the writer of this blog in the background
at WHAM, Rochester, NewYork

The story of the "Ghost Army" is co-authored by Rick Beyer, and I invited him to come to Rochester to speak, to introduce his documentary film, and to answer questions from the audience at our exhibition site in the University Gallery.  His documentary tells the story, not only of what my father did during the war, but what kinds of deception the "Ghost Army" engineered during World War ll.
Rick Beyer goes into detail about the fact that the artists in the Ghost Army perfected a certain kind of camouflage, and they successfully deterred the enemy along the front lines of battle.  My father's art skills saved his life, and in our show we have some wonderful works by him including drawings made during the landing at Normandy.  It is a wonder he had the inner fortitude and be calm enough to draw what he saw right in front of him.

U.S. Postage stamps from 1982
honoring the Birds and Flowers of the fifty states
by Arthur Singer and son, Alan Singer

I had the good fortune also to work closely with my father on a number of  projects including our series of postage stamps honoring the Birds and Flowers of the fifty states.  We worked on book projects together, and our styles of artwork meshed well, so they worked for the reader.  I learned a lot through this period and I can use this knowledge when I teach my students at R.I.T.

Our exhibition is on in Rochester thru October 28, 2017, so make it a point to come over to see it before it closes.  Hope to see you there!

Our new book on the career of Arthur Singer
is available thru RIT Press

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Two Dimensional Depth

"Sky Flow ll"  by  Chiaki Shuji
The Memorial Art Gallery

Artists have faced this dilemma for centuries...how to describe depth on a two dimensional surface.  In the Renaissance, the breakthrough came with the "invention" of perspective - the technique which allows an artist to describe depth without resorting to distortion or dealing with real sculptural space. A depiction of depth was a step forward and outward from strict two dimensional flatness.  Of course artists are still dealing with a notion of depicting space, and this ability will probably boost the careers of many artists in the future but now we can add a new element to this mixture, and that is the relative realism that a computer program can offer the budding artist.

Setting Sun

In this image the computer can render space in a very suggestive way, a kind of mirror image of a setting sun, without any distraction, the color works to suggest space.  This is a computer rendering I made of a mathematical equation - the kind of language that the computer is programmed to "read".

The computer can add the illusion of depth, but the artist has to have that intent, it has to be structured into the image.  Once the artist has the tools, the imagination can take off and go where it wants to go - very liberating.

"The Return" Rene Magritte, 1940

In the early 20th Century, the variety of visual art known as surrealism came to be identified with artists such as Salvador Dali, Giorgio DeChirico, and Rene Magritte ( see above ).  They put their wildest dreams onto paper and canvas and the world took notice.  Something unusual had happened, and it was this mixture of dreams and reality that created such a frisson.

"The Choice",  24" x 24", 
Marcus Conge

I thought about this while I was inspecting the artwork of Marcus Conge at Axom Gallery last week when the show opened.  I had spent the previous day at The Memorial Art Gallery with David Wagner, and I found an interesting print in the Asian Collection of a red explosion that the Japanese artist Chiaki Shuji calls "Sky Flow ll", from 2007.  See it at the top of this post and note that it is a print; that it is an etching and aquatint  with extraordinary energy and power.  The next day I saw the prints of Marcus Conge and there was a resemblance and a difference.  The energy was there, but now the images had much more depth in the "realism" of the image which is both stimulating and disconcerting at the same time.  That is the feeling of surrealism - it is in the world but not entirely of it.  These surreal prints by Marcus Conge do the strangest things like the image above ( The Choice ).
That is where the use of the computer technology comes in...the programs allow the artist to use imagination in ways that the surrealists could have predicted.

Marcus Conge grew up with art, and has been a teacher of art, especially the digital kind, and he uses the latest technology to develop a universe where anything can happen and it usually does.  On one wall a mossy covered skull floating in the sky has a blow-out.  This limited edition print is called "The Mis Take".

Marcus Conge at Axom Gallery

The show is called Curious Curio and each print is presented without a frame, so that you can really get close to the piece, and see all of it's very fine detail and color.  Images like these must take some time to conceptualize, and to render all the parts.  There is a fine sense of invention, along with a sense of anxiety --as in the image above.  Maybe these are nightmares.  If anything can happen and usually does, that means the viewer can be exposed to some pretty but terrifying images.  The universe that you invent in the surrealist image may not be the most sociable place, but luckily not all the prints in this show are so charged.  I thought that the image called "Warm Inside" had a bit more inviting ideas, but I guess it is all in the eye of the beholder.

Marcus Conge
This print is called "Warm Inside"
exhibition is called "Curious Curio"
at Axom Gallery, 
Rochester, New York

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

David J. Wagner, PhD., Museum Director and Curator

David J. Wagner visits The Memorial Art Gallery
September 21, 2017

I have the pleasure of introducing a series of guest speakers in conjunction with our exhibition currently on view of wildlife art by my father, Arthur Singer.  The title of our show: Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of An American Master is also the title of a new book published this summer by R.I.T. Press and it has a fine introduction written by David Wagner.  The genre of wildlife art doesn't have the cachet of impressionism or surrealism probably because it is illustrative - being a blend of science and art.  But wildlife art does have a following and there have been artists like John James Audubon who have set a high bar for the artists who have followed in the 20th century through today.

Francis Lee Jacques paints a diorama (1930's )

To help us get closer to understanding artists who portray birds and animals from a contemporary perspective I invited John Fitzpatrick and David Wagner to fill us in on the knowledge we need to better judge this form of art - which we can call naturalism.  My first speaker in September was John Fitzpatrick, and he is currently Director of the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  He started his talk, telling us about Francis Lee Jacques his next door neighbor in the upper midwest. John Fitzpatrick was very young, but Jacques impressed him with his knowledge of science and art.  Jacques had painted a series of great dioramas for The American Museum of Natural History on the west side of Manhattan, and also later at the Bell Museum in Minnesota.  My father, Arthur Singer grew up in New York City and was well acquainted with the paintings by Jacques and the two may have met while the dioramas were being installed.

John Fitzpatrick
Director, for the Laboratory of Ornithology, at Cornell University

John Fitzpatrick went on to speak about the aims of science and art saying that "science was organized curiosity" and that art could be an expression of that curiosity.  John Fitzpatrick gave credibility to the advancement of science through the application of art, building a bridge to the public with published guide books that people would use in the field.  This is citizen science.  A week later, David Wagner came to Rochester Institute of Technology to further flesh out the history of wildlife art in America.

Arthur Singer illustrated biography by Paul and Alan Singer from RIT Press

David Wagner was the Director of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wassau, Wisconsin when their show "Birds in Art" became a regular feature of their yearly calendar.  My brother Paul, and I asked David Wagner to write the introduction for our book which has just been published by RIT Press.  Our choice highlights the fact that as a museum director, David Wagner met my father, and had firsthand knowledge of his artwork which counts for a lot when we were putting together our book.

Brian O'Neill and David Wagner studio visit

On the morning of his talk at R.I.T., we went for a studio visit in the Hungerford Building to see the paintings of Brian O'Neill and speak to the artist.  His paintings run the gamut from abstraction to realism ( often seen together in the same work ) and I found in the studio a little painting of a hawk, so this idea ( of wildlife art ) seems to be in the air.  In his studio, Brian spoke about his role as a teacher, and indeed there were work stations set up so his students could improve their artwork under his watchful eye.  Larry Keefe was making a small study from a sculpture by Olivia Kim in the old fashioned way of indicating a structure of values reminding me of the days when students drew from plaster casts made from the great sculptures by artists of the past.

Sculpture by Olivia Kim, drawing by Larry Keefe

In the afternoon, David and I took a long walk through the collection at The Memorial Art Gallery and I spotted a few interesting Japanese prints on view in the Lockhart Gallery.  Upstairs we worked our way through the European paintings, and then Asian art, commenting upon the pieces from Syria, and the terrible destruction that occurred in Palmyra.

Kobayashi Kiyochika, The Asakusa Bridge and Fire, 1881

In the evening, everyone sat and listened to David Wagner in the University Gallery as he approached the history of wildlife art in America through some choice examples.  Carl Rungius was one of the memorable examples he offered that evening, and I thought that this is worth all the effort we put into the evening to have this speaker here to share his knowledge and expertise.  Thank you, David Wagner!

David Wagner introduces Carl Rungius
The University Gallery at R.I.T.

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Start Now

Annual Faculty Show at Bevier Gallery
Rochester Institute of Technology

My quick tour of the annual faculty art show at the Bevier Gallery in Booth Building at the Rochester Institute of Technology did not do the show justice, as I had to move quickly through.  Why the rush? The reason for this run around was that I was supposed to be giving a guided tour through our show down the hall at the University Gallery and a class was waiting for me!

Willie Osterman has a wall rack full of interesting photos with an ethnographic slant to them, and he calls this assembly "Summer Journal".  Its reminds me of glass plate prints you would expect in a museum, and the  media  includes Collodion, aluminum and tin - surfaces on which to make photographic prints.  I admire the way that Mr. Osterman delves back into the techniques of yesteryear, and I assume that there are not many who could make such convincing works with methods that have become obscure with age.  Matter-of-fact the theme of these images is all about time, and the ravages of time symbolized by the print of the skull in his installation.  Think of all the film based technology for which Rochester became famous and how that chemistry will have to be brushed up for future generations that may want to explore a more recent path.

Digital Animation
Meghdad Asadilari

Certainly, Rochester Institute of Technology has a perspective on the future, just look at the new building going up in front called:"Magic Spell Studios".  What new miracles will come out from there, and how will students change the course of history with their visual arts?

Painting by Cliff Wun
Bevier Gallery

The faculty in studio arts often bring out their best work, and one painting you will find there in the Bevier Gallery is so intense..by Cliff Wun.  He has a self-portrait that reveals the insides of the torso, revealed by three bluebirds practicing a surgical art with their bills and feet.  This image could be terrifying were it not for the robin's nest of eggs stuffed into the back of the digestive system.  The effect is part medical diagram and part Francis Bacon ( OMG ).  Cliff is brave to put a face on this - we usually don't want to spend much time with contemplating our insides,  so this is about as revealing as it gets!

There are some other spooky images in this faculty show however.  The painting by Denton Crawford below has an aspect of mystery and horror of a bad trip.  What is that thing where the face should be?

Painting by Denton Crawford

And then there is the elegiac encaustic work - a portrait by Joyce Hertzson, her "Memorial to Kim".
This small painting has a sadness attached to it with the color and overlapping layers of faded flowers.

Encaustic by Joyce Hertzson

Another work in the show celebrates "Women of Rochester", a mixed media piece by a faculty trio: Marla Schweppe, Shu Chang, and Christine Heusner.  A dress has inscriptions, and additions the shape of tennis racket covers, or small handbags announcing Renee Fleming or Ursula Burns, or Haudenosaunee Mothers, etc. . This art is both entertaining and entirely apt.  Why don't we have something like this in the Rochester Airport?

"Women of Rochester"
by Marla Schweppe, Shu Chang, and Christine Heusner

There is so much more in this show, but I have to go and lead a tour so a few last glances, and I found a nice juxtaposition of my print that I call: Tropicalia, and the large sculpture by Wendell Castle that he titles: Be The Wind At Your Back...  I will have to contemplate that last look!

Wendell Castle at left, Alan Singer on right
at Bevier Gallery, R.I.T.

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Buy The Book

Art & Physics
Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light
Leonard Shlain

Usually, I write about what I have been seeing in the art galleries, but I wanted to give you - the reader of this blog some rest before the next wave of art reviews come to this space.  I thought that I would say something about books worth reading.  I do try to read a few pages everyday, maybe you do too?

The artist and gallery owner Rick Muto, on a visit to my studio, told me about a book written by the author and doctor, the late Leonard Shlain.  I had mentioned to Rick, that I had read a wonderful book by the same author years ago, called "Art & Physics"  published in 1991 that explained many of the puzzles that I dealt with as I pursued my interests in art and mathematics.  Leonard Shlain had opened the door to a whole new understanding - because at one time I thought that there was little connection, but after reading this book, I saw that art and math were different sides of the same coin.

Leonard Shalain's book on Leonardo Da Vinci

Now, armed with the tip I received from Rick Muto, I bought a copy of "Leonardo's Brain" and I am so glad that I did.  Dr. Shlain took the time through writing this book ( his last unfortunately ) to give the reader a broad portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci from a number of vantage points - some having to do with art, and others having more to do with science.  Dr. Shlain lays out a very convincing case for the genius in Da Vinci with many examples of how he was way ahead of his time.  Some of Da Vinci's drawings were for inventions that would not come to fruition for several hundred years!
Why was it that so many of Da Vinci's paintings remained unfinished?  How did Da Vinci draw out maps as if they were seen from an airplane?  What made Da Vinci's time and place so unique?
Get a copy of the book and find out.

Helen Macdonald's book: H is for Hawk

As my brother Paul and I have just published a book about my father's artwork, I have been very involved in promoting our new art book about Arthur Singer and his life long involvement with birds.  In the bookstore near me I bought a copy of "H Is for Hawk" by the British naturalist and writer Helen Macdonald.  The book has a very artistic cover by Chris Wormell and inside it is a story about falconry.  Helen Macdonald writes a personal account of learning the ways and means of the falconer - training a goshawk to come and sit on her glove and take some bites of food to gain  the trust of a wild bird.

I thought that her observations were right on the mark, and I know this because I have brought falcons into my classroom for my students to draw, and over the years I have done this with the group here called  Wild Wings, I have noticed how these birds behave when observed.  Be prepared, if you buy this engrossing tale to take a roller coaster ride because this is a very emotional story told by a poet looking at nature through the eyes of a practitioner of a very old art form - falconry.

Arthur Singer, The Wildlife Art of an American Master
published by RIT Press
summer 2017

This is the view at Shop One, a place to buy arts and crafts at Rochester Institute of Technology.
Here we have copies of our new book for sale, along with three original paintings by my father Arthur Singer ( 1917 -1990 ).  If you have bought a book already, bring it over to the University Gallery for our opening on Friday, September 8th, and my brother Paul and I will sign it for you from 5 - 7 pm.  If you want to order our book, here is the link:https://www.rit.edu/press/

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Fine Art in the Finger Lakes

Mitchell Messina
at Main Street Arts
Clifton Springs, NY

You can learn so much by taking a little tour, for example I start out in Ithaca, New York at The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art where I was introduced to the expressionist art of Robert Richenburg, and I wonder to myself - Why haven't I heard about this artist before?  The paintings are elemental, like building blocks leading the way toward a new kind of geometry - a painterly look at minimalism - that was practiced by another artist like Jennifer Bartlett who is in the next room, or by the sculptor Carl Andre.  Below is a typical work from the show now on thru September 10, at The Johnson Museum.  I was living and studying at Cornell while Robert Richenburg was teaching in Ithaca College, yet I never came across these paintings... so it is nice to see them here...finally!

Robert Eichenburg  ( 1917-2006 )
oil on canvas

At the Johnson Museum on the Cornell campus you can find  artworks by artists that were collected widely and have come to be known as the touchstones of the mid 20th century, so it is interesting to see how Robert Richenburg fits into that landscape.  Right next door you can see works by John Chamberlain and Andy Warhol and make some judgements for yourself about values and what society has come to praise for a variety of reasons.

John Chamberlain and Andy Warhol
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art

The art season is off to a fresh start and people come out in numbers for Gallery Night so I go off to investigate what is happening at The Ink Shop.  One can't help but notice the new construction in Ithaca, New York on this late summer evening.  I walk into the corridor of the CSMA Building and find the etchings of Anna Pausch in a show she calls simply "Muse".  Anna credits Rembrandt for her initial inspiration and her intaglio prints demonstrate a terrific patience and skill at rendering in line the intimate landscapes she favors. Rocks, trees and branches merge into compositions that can go from the simple to the very complex.  One of the large plates that she made en plain air, offers a certain time of day with the light hitting everywhere ...just so.

Intaglio print by Anna Pausch 
The Ink Shop, 330 East State Street, Ithaca, NY

Upstairs, the second part of this two person show at The Ink Shop, I find a selection of prints, often in color, by Andrew Kosten who hails from the Dakotas.  His prints often had a dose of humor and cultural critique- related to political cartoons one might find in the Atlantic magazine.  Here, as with Anna Pausch downstairs, you find an artist with a fine touch, delicate almost - creating characters in his own satire on modern living.

"Little Toot Toot" by Andrew Kosten
The Ink Shop

Driving up from Ithaca I stop into Main Street Arts located on 20 West Main Street in the cozy town of Clifton Springs.  On view in the main gallery is a selected show: "Painting Invitational" that features some of the best artists in our area.  Among my personal favorites is a large painting by Kurt Moyer that has an energetic deep surface full of texture, and structured mark making that is nuanced and filled with light.  The subject is the abstraction of the forest floor and the time of day would seem to be in an early morning when the light is very even.  Here the materials are handled in a very expressive way, quite tactile, but without loosing the reference points needed for a dose of realism.

Kurt Moyer at Main Street Arts, Clifton Springs

At Main Street Arts, some of the paintings that caught my attention weren't on the scale of Kurt Moyer's canvas, some of the intimate size works could also be quite enigmatic including the jazzy abstract works from Sarah Sutton, and the outdoor studies from Jim Mott.  I think that the portraits by Mike Tarantelli are only getting better ( I remember him when he was one of our students at R.I.T. ) and the colors he works with are almost translucent ( how does he achieve that effect? )...

Mike Tarantelli at Main Street Arts

Upstairs, Mitchell Messina has a show titled: "Fuse" and it is a grouping of figure studies in a variety of situations like the image at the top of this post that can bring a certain level of discomfort to a viewer.  These sculptures provide situations for figures that look to be compromising without being overtly uncomfortable, and the artist hints as much in his statement about the use of clay in the making of molds for these sculptural situations.

From the show "FUSE" by Mitchell Messina
at Main Street Arts

Finally, back in Rochester, I stopped into the Brown Hound for lunch at The Memorial Art Gallery and a conversation with the Director, Jonathan Binstock.  What a vital cultural region we have, and Director Binstock has done a lot to re-vitalize the presence of the visual arts along with new curatorial initiatives including the mural downstairs that has just been finished by Sarah Rutherford. Each of her portraits defines a character; these are different souls who are contributing to the fabric of our community, and Sarah Rutherford is to be given due credit for bringing these paintings to life here in the museum.

Sarah Rutherford presents her mural "Her Voice Carries"
celebrates five women of our city...
-More to come-
Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment

Gorges in August

Ithaca Falls in August, 2017

Taking some well deserved time off, I drive over to the falls ( don't dare swim there! ) to take a photo or two.  The temperature is just right, and the view is great.  I want to go up to see what it looks like at the Herbert Johnson Museum of Art out on the Cornell Campus, so off I go...

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
on the Cornell campus

I want to see a view of the lake from the floor that houses the Asian Collection, and while I am there see a few highlights that I have missed before.  The view down the lake is impressive, but I really came in to see the art, and I am not disappointed.

My photo of Lake Cayuga

My monotype of Lake Cayuga

Play a game of compare and contrast, I think about a print I made in my studio last week which reminded me of a view of my favorite Finger Lake.  I use a mathematical formula that I created in my studio, and with my program called Cinderella, I can render the image that I then made into a print on my  etching press.  Even though it is mathematics, it still requires selection, control, skill, and aesthetics of design and composition - plus the good luck of having the print turn out fine.  And like any art this requires practice, practice, and more practice.

Tibetan art at The Hebert F. Johnson Museum

In the Asian Collection I have always admired the Tibetan arts that I see from time to time. Often they represent Tibetan deities, with remarkable clarity and sense of purpose.  These are powerful images and today this painting had the same clouds that I had just seen out the window!  The strength of that vision was cast in a light of strong belief, which is also carried through in other Asian arts, like the painting I found on the lower level titled: " A Symptom of the World's End " by the Taiwanese artist Wu Tien-Chang that you see below.  The painting had elements of Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat.  The images in this work imply difficult journeys that the artist took on the path to self-expression.

Wu Tien-Chang
oil on canvas, 1986

Downstairs, on the first floor, I also found a painting that had some of this same angst, and that was Philip Guston's work called: "Key, Wall, Sea".  The Guston had the same condensed space, and the conglomeration of bricks, and horseshoes seems like a self inflicted imprisonment, rather than the effect of a government sponsored crusade that one might expect as a result of Martial Law.

Philip Guston

It is such a lovely day outside, but here inside the museum I find the images haunting.  And then I come across the big wall work by Lee Bontecou, and that seals the deal.  One giant dark eye looking out from the wall which has a resonance with what I have been feeling this month, especially about the mood of our country.  This is an appropriate sign for our times....

Lee Bontecou
An appropriate sign for our times.....

But to end this post on a more positive note
I return to contemplate nature, especially in the simple direct 
way that a flower can attract your attention and respect,
for something so fleeting in life.
Here are the Morning Glories!

Posted in The Visual Artworker | Leave a comment