Blogs: Visual Arts

Felt Swan from the Hermitage MuseumThe felt swan shown here, on display in the Hermitage Museum, dates from the 4th-5th centuries BC.  An object made of felt and deer hair with the figure supported by wooden stakes, it was part of a burial mound in the Eastern ranges of the Altai region in Russia. This image is from the book Felt, by Willow G. Mullins, an account of the many uses of felt over spans of centuries to contemporary times. It is an example of a type of book in the library that can serve as good starting points for your imagination, beginning with raw materials.

When experimenting with various types of media and processes associated with them, another type of book that is useful to remember about are the books about art hazards. As many people know from studying art, it's easy to forge ahead and forget that some of the properties of materials may be less than benign for health.

See the attached booklist for suggestions of books about materials for art and craft in a variety of media that might interest you.

The books in the Library about the art of Maori people and other groups from the islands of the South Pacific provides us with  "a sense of awe, the admiration for arts that are both beautiful and profound, with a history that commands our respect both for what we can know of it and what we cannot." - Arts of the Pacific Islands by Anne D'Alleva. This summer, the Library added a new book published in 2012, titled Art in Oceania: A New History, that spans art of the Pacific Islanders from the remnants of thousands of years ago to contemporary artists of this decade. Chapters describe by centuries the impact of political and social changes upon art of these islands, with effects of trade, war, and globalization of culture.

Many of the sculpture and other objects of wood, stone, and textiles historically were created for ceremonial uses, with elements of design and representation of human form that far exceed the merely practical. The wood carving shown here on the cover dates from 1896, by Tene Waitere, a master woodcarver and teacher, who during his lifetime created many commissioned works such as this panel. It is an example of the powerful sculpture and other forms of art in this book, interspersed with photographs, poetry, and stories from master craftsmen, artists, tribal leaders, travellers, and historians.

View an excerpt from this book from the publisher, Oxford University Press.

Looking for more books about the art of this region of the world? There is a good selection at Central Library. Find them collectively in the Library catalog with a search by subject heading: Art- Oceania.

This new book accompanies a recent exhibition of works by Chinese-American artist Hung Liu at the Oakland Museum of California.  Hung Liu and the Rene de Guzman, Curator of Art at the Oakland Museum, have created a set of interviews on YouTube, so that not only can you read the artist's quotes in the book, but listen to her voice as she describes her approaches to paintings and other works. It's an interesting way to experience a book, to hear the voice of the artist along with her paintings, that portray people in China from the time of the Cultural Revolution forward to the present. Often in a political context, the paintings and mixed media works use photographs, some faded, to "make history and memory materialize in the present." - p. 82 Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu.

Authors: Liu, Hung, 1948-
Title: Summoning ghosts : the art of Hung Liu
Publisher: Berkeley : University Of California Press, 2013
Notes: Catalog of the exhibition Summoning Ghosts: the Art of Hung Liu, organized by René de Guzman on behalf of the Oakland Museum of California and presented March 16-June 30, 2013

Thomas Nast: The Father of Modern Political Cartoons The author of this biography, Thomas Nast The Father of Modern Political CartoonsFiona Deans Halloran, has written a fascinating book about the complex and controversial work of Thomas Nast, whose cartoons portrayed the political and social events of 19th century America. "Nast’s work marked an important transformation of political cartooning. Before the Civil War, cartoonists’ work relied on dialogue rather than imagery. To Nast, the picture became the message: text commonly was relegated to a caption or appeared in the picture as a broadside. Many historians call him the father of modern American political cartooning. His work remains in the first rank of that genre, expressive and passionate." -from: Simpson, Brooks D. "Thomas Nast." American National Biography (2010):  Biography Reference Center.

An interesting sidenote in the American National Biography is that there is no complete collection in a library or archive of the papers of Thomas Nast other than three volumes of "scrapbooks" of his cartoons in the New York Public Library. The most complete record is in the periodicals that originally published his cartoons.

Infinite Jest; Caricature and Satire From Leonardo to Levine
Infinite Jest: Caricature and Satire from Leonardo to LevineThe drawing for this bookcover is part of a series titled Collection of Grimaces, lithographs from 1823-1828 by the french painter Louis-Leopold Boilly, who began the set with exaggerations and contortions of his own face. Infinite Jest is the catalog of an exhibition last year from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, featuring works of the Museum's collections from 1590 to the present.  The book explores the varieties of intent of these images: as simple caricatures and forms, as visual satire, and as weapons to mock the political and social power of celebrities and political leaders. The website for the exhibition features an interesting short introduction about the history and artists whose works are included in the catalog.

For more on caricatures and political cartoons in art,  take a look at the booklist sampler of titles from Central Library. You can place holds for delivery to your closest neighborhood branch. 

If you look through the Library catalog for books about chairs, Bookcover: The Chair: Rethinking Body, Culture, and Designyou will find a whole array of titles about the history and design of chairs for interiors. However, this book has a different focus; it is more of a sociological tour through the chair as familiar object and how it affects us on an everyday basis. As compared to the Library's other books about chairs, this book is mostly text, with few images. The small black and white images are in a resolution that only allows them to be used for basic identification of styles, nothing more. The text, however, is entertaining, generally humorous and conversational, with advice about why chairs can be uncomfortable and how the ergonomics could be improved.

Quote: "Without a doubt, their effects are profound. What is true of the chair is true of all the artifacts we create. We design them; but once built, they shape us. As sitting in chairs spread to the common person over the centuries, it left its mark on the human body and human consciousness. The chair offers a glimpse into our collective ideas about status and honor, comfort and order, beauty and efficiency, discipline and relaxation. As our ideas change, so do our chairs." - from the introduction to The Chair, by Galen Cranz.

Bridging Cultures is dedicated to promoting understanding and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad.  Its most recent effort is the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, a collection of books, videos and other resources  addressing both the need and the desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.  

Another feature of the Bookshelf collection is access to a library resource tool, Oxford Islamic Studies Online (OISO).  With your library card number and PIN, use this resource to access thousands of reference entries, chapters from scholarly and introductory works, Qur'anic materials, primary sources, images, maps, and timelines. This resource provides a first stop for anyone needing information and context on Islam.

The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, conducted in cooperation with the American Library Association. Support was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.

When it seems like the rain is never (ever) going to stop, don’t despair! Multnomah County has a lot of hidden art to see that will get you out of the house and won’t cost you anything.

The area’s colleges and universities are a treasure trove of free art galleries! Here are links to some all over town:

Government buildings are a great place to see rotating exhibits, usually by local artists. Experience interactive and experimental media installations in the Portland Building Installation Space; visit the art gallery in the Gresham City Council Chamber Foyer; and check out the current exhibition at Central Library’s Collins Gallery.

The Regional Arts & Culture Council has a searchable database of public art around the county. (Tip: Click on Advanced Options to search by Collection and Discipline.)

View work by local photographers at Blue Sky Gallery, originally founded as the Oregon Center for the Photographic Arts.

Learn more about contemporary art in the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art’s Resource Room. It is both an archive and library, housing over 3,500 artist publications, magazines, and audio and video recordings, as well as a video archive of performances and lectures presented by PICA over the span of the organization's history.

Coming soon: Rainy Days, Part 2: Free Museums!

The book Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat brings together the memorable characters book cover: Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hatfrom Ted Geisel's books for children in large format art reproductions, interspersed with imaginative variations beyond the story lines of his books. Many of these paintings are abstract in style, with a much broader range of color than in his books for children. Whimsical Seuss characters remain in the composition, but the effect is more on the abstract landscape, portrait, or other focus of the painting.

When he and his wife moved to a slower-paced life in La Jolla, his work took on a new freedom and direction. What he wanted to do, he said, was simply to "stay in La Jolla and write children's books." He also painted the social scene that he observed in La Jolla, stylistically as elaboratations of the characters in his books. He found more time for painting, deliberately free of the constraints from the commercial side of his work, or the more formal world of galleries and reviews. The "Secret Paintings," as he called them, provided an escape into an imaginative realm where he could further explore the surrealistic themes that filled his everyday work as a writer of books for children. During his lifetime he sold only one of these paintings, an auction donation to the La Jolla Art Museum.

For this book a series of exhibitions, Geisel's Midnight Paintings and artwork from his childrens' book were reproduced in new authorized print editions. The Midnight Paintings, brought out of dark storage in La Jolla for over 50 years, still were as vibrant and bright as when he had painted them.

Place a hold to have this book delivered to your nearest branch of Multnomah County Library:
Dr. Seuss, the Cat Behind the Hat / written by Caroline M. Smith ; images compiled and edited by William W. Dreyer, Michael Reagan, Robert Chase Jr. Chicago : Chase Art, 2012.
Locations: multiple neighborhood libraries of the Multnomah County Library system.

Karsh: Beyond the Camera is a book cover for Karsh: Beyond the Camerabeautifully designed book by Godine about the life and work of Yousuf Karsh, with stories to accompany the duotone photographs.
"In my case, I must confess, I am trained and I can tell whether there is something beyond that face or not. And that's where I attempt to light that feature in such a way that I can elicit the true character of that person." (p.12)

From the Preface:
Hearing his accented diction, cadences, and inflections, one's imagination is guided from the subject rendered in the famous image to the person who created it. A voice can do that. His voice invites us to try to fathom the photographer's psyche and conjecture how he thinks and how he feels, just as we might try to determine the character of any storyteller or poet.

YouTube : There are several interviews of Yousuf Karsh, here is one of these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYxgxoKIL3g

Place a hold to have this book delivered to your closest MCL Library branch:
Karsh : beyond the camera / selected, with an introduction & commentary by David Travis. Boston : David R. Godine, 2012.  Central Library  770.92 K1887k 2012        

 

This new book, with a 2013 imprint date, is for people starting a business in the graphic arts who are looking for ideas to help it thrive. The Graphic Designer's Business Survival GuideGood content, some obvious but more than plenty that is useful, fill these pages, written in a clear style with good organization overall. Many of the concepts are applicable in related fields.

The Library collects books on business aspects of visual and performing arts, shelved either with the subject (such as music or photography) or more generally in the books on business topics. Please let us know if we can help you find information on the business of art.

 


 

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