A temporary art installation on the Vanderbilt campus is designed to raise awareness and funds to combat homelessness.
The Kefi Project, a new public art organization at Vanderbilt, has installed “pairAsouls” at the Sarratt Student Center. The installation consists of more than 120 umbrellas hung in the open-air courtyard between Sarratt Gallery and Last Drop Coffee Shop, creating a multicolored, multilayered roof.
Inspired by a project exhibited at the Agitagueda Festival in Agueda, Portugal, “pairAsouls” is rooted in the idea of providing shelter to those who need it, much like an umbrella provides shelter in the rain. The aim of “pairAsouls” is to bring individuals and organizations together in an effort to combat the plight of homelessness in Nashville. Each umbrella is available for sponsorship, with all proceeds benefiting the Safe Haven Family Shelter. Each sponsor will be acknowledged for his or her contribution with a placard at the installation.
The Christo & Jeanne-Claude-inspired art installation slated for a 16-day stint in New York's Central Park next year will get support for its 7,500 free-standing structures from permanent-mold cast aluminum. The castings are made by Gupta Permold Corp., Pittsburgh, and will serve as corner supports and the bases for orange vinyl extruded poles. The inverted U-shaped structures will hold saffron-colored fabric seven feet above the ground. The exhibit will place thousands of 16-ft high structures along 23 miles of footpaths in the park.
At the middle of the 20th-Century, William Mortensen was one of the best-known and influential photographers in the United States. His fall into obscurity is a story in itself. Mortensen was unimpressed by the ideas a young photographer with a genius for self-promotion named Ansel Adams who was spearheading a crusade to enshrine the “Straight photograph” as the only legitimate form of art photography.
At the time, Mortesen was most widely published photographic writer of his day, and he used his bully pulpit to publicly ridicule Straight photography as dogmatic and ill-conceived. An incensed Adams took to calling Mortensen the “Antichrist” -- and worked behind the scenes for decades to discourage historians and museum curators from exhibiting or acknowledging Mortensen’s work.
Even without Adams’ intervention, Mortensen’s legacy would no doubt have suffered. His taste and approach to photography anticipated what critics call “Postmodernism,” but he was badly out of step with his own times. Mortensen was the nation’s most skillful Pictoralist in an era that increasingly celebrated Straight photography. He was an enthusiast of erotic melodrama during the straight-laced 30s, 40s and 50s. He was an internationalist in a period when the art establishment was searching for American icons. He was influenced by the Renaissance at a time when Modernism was ascendant. Above all, he was aesthetically outrageous just as the mainstream art world was recoiling against experimentalism. The following is excerpted from an article by Larry Lytle in TheScreamOnline that explores the strange photographic legacy of William Mortensen...
William Mortensen, Belphegor "There are several curious books -- notably "Le Dragon Rouge" and "Le Grand Grimoire" -- which contain detailed portraits of many of these demons." -- Mortensen. WM had a strong interest in the Occult and planned to photograph an encyclopedia of Demons, Witchcraft, and Sorcery practices, from which this portrait of Belphegor is an example.
In much of the mid-19th century critical art literature, we see the problems caused by photography in the art establishment. From the beginning, concern was raised by painters and critics about the effect photography would have on art. Photography's amazing ability to represent reality raised upsetting questions. Because it could copy nature so well, would it create a class of copyists rather than artists? Would the public prefer a photographic portrait over a painted one? And so on.
William Mortensen, The Heretic "If the inquisitors still failed to find the evidence they sought or to extract a confession, she was subjected to the additional persuasion of torture. After being given certain preliminary tortures, she was strung up and given the final opportunity to confess and recant. This is the moment represented in The Heretic." --Mortensen
In turn, science's use of photography has deeply affected our perception of the photograph as a document of fact. Whether we look at a photograph of a person or an object, that image carries with it the feeling that we are a witness to truth. Forensic sciences use the photograph to document death and the circumstances surrounding it. The archeologist documents the artifacts of another time creating a redundant future record for others to study.5 Upon reflection, this link seems natural. After all, photography is an art created by science.
Mortensen's legacy rides on three important factors. The first involves his technique—all the procedures that he used to force a discussion about the nature of the photograph. The second concerns his approaches to this subject matter. The third, which will be the subject of Part III of this essay, investigates his writings about photography.
On display after 60 years: The 'brazen' nude painting banned for scandalising a town
Dorian Herbert, the Bishop of Caerleon, Newport, went to see the picture for himself and blasted it as 'brazen, abandoned and vulgar.'
Mr Hawkins added: 'We would consider it none of those things these days but she does come across as a confident young woman of her time.
'The way she looks out from the canvas and the pose is a very bold one all created a lot of fuss and attention back in 1947.'
The nude - titled D.D after the initials of the model - was painted by Sir Gerald Kelly who painted the Royal family of the day and later became president of the Royal Academy.
It was bought by Newport's Museum and Art Gallery for £250 after it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1947.
But the painting has proved to be a good investment for Newport - its current value is thought to be around £30,000.
Visitors to the gallery were today unflustered by the brazen nude - but were more offended because she is smoking.
Office worker Elizabeth Ayres, 38, of Newport, said: 'She's a bit of a Fag Ash Lil but I can't imagine why the painting would be banned.
'Maybe it's because of the way she is staring - women in those days weren't allowed to be that brassy.'
Aleah Chapin has seen a lot of naked women. In the past couple of years, she’s studied wrinkles, tattoos, mastectomy scars, pubic hair, lactating breasts and sagging bosoms.
The 28-year-old American artist, who hails from an island off Seattle and now lives in Brooklyn, has been lauded for her realist, larger-than-life depictions of ‘real’ female bodies.
It started with the ‘Aunties Project’, which saw her paint a series of giant nudes, featuring a group of older women – her mother’s friends, who she “grew-up with” and has known all her life.
One won her the prestigious BP Portrait Award in 2012, the last time she was in London. It depicted a woman in her sixties, smiling with her fulsome breasts resting on her stomach.
Critic Brian Sewell called it “repellent…a grotesque medical record”.
Chapin was undeterred. She’s exhibited in the US, the Netherlands and Germany. Now, she’s back in London with a new show at the Flowers Gallery: ‘Maiden, Mother, Child and Crone’.
The paintings are in the same spirit – playful, confident, naked women – but her subjects now span the generations.
“I’m at the age where many of my friends are having children, thinking about having children, or thinking about not having children. So it’s something that’s happening now,” explains Chapin.
“And I’m nearing the age my parents were when they had me, so there’s this interesting layering of generations. I wanted to explore that in my work”.
Her paintings challenge the ageing process: how the years affect our bodies and minds, and how we’re ‘supposed’ to behave at a certain age.
So there’s a giant canvas on which a group of nine grey-haired women play an exaggerated, child-like game, crawling through each other’s legs. There are two pictures depicting a young mother. Another captures a mother and her daughter, standing companionably, side-by-side.
Chapin began painting as a child. But she only adopted the female form as a student in New York.
“I moved from the west coast to the east coast - New York with its big contemporary art world,” she explains. “I wanted to fit in. But then, I was drawn to where I came from.
“So I decided to go back to basics and explore my history and the people I grew up with - all these wacky and amazing women. The female body is an incredible thing to paint.”
(I don’t know about you, but, I’d struggle to delve into my back catalogue of family friends and emerge with a dozen women I could ask to take their clothes off).
But, as well as being a personal project, Chapin’s work has also shone a light on the subject of body image.
“Most women have issues and I’m not immune to that,” says Chapin. “We’re told that our bodies are supposed to be a ‘certain height, certain size, certain weight’. But the pictures we see are completely unrealistic; they’re very Photoshopped.
“We all know it when we look at them in magazines and yet, we still compare ourselves.
“That’s why we need images that show all sorts of bodies – so we can accept every size and shape.”
This attitude is why her work resonates. We may not recognise the individuals depicted in paint, but we recognise them as people (and it’s likely why two of Britain’s leading collectors of modern art –including ‘Saatchi of the North’ Frank Cohen - have snapped up work from the new exhibition).
She also says that painting young women was a different experience to the ‘Aunties’.
“We generally care more what we look like – probably too much at times, me included,” she says.
“Young women are still trying to fit in. I think when you get older you care less –that’s not a negative thing at all. You’re just more accepting.
“When you get past a certain age you become invisible – and that’s a whole other problem.
“For me, it’s about finding beauty in every imperfection.”
Some might disagree. I talk to a middle-aged woman, intently studying Chapin’s work on the gallery walls. She’s disappointed by the subject matter.
“It’s sad that we have to go to such extremes to get attention for my generation,” she tells me. “For me, it’s just too much. I find it really hard to look at.”
Chapin’s paintings do dominate a room. Each is twice life-size and, according to Chapin, her works are getting “larger and larger”.
“You get an amazing human connection that way,” she tells me. “They are more in your personal space.”
To the outsider, it looks as though it’s Chapin who’s really been invading personal space. But she assures me that she’s never had to ‘persuade’ any of her subjects to strip-off.
“I don’t want them to go into it not wanting to,” she explains.
“I ask them to close their eyes and take a deep breath. That can really ground them in their bodies and make them feel relaxed. I also let them know that I’m completely comfortable.
“I almost don’t even see nakedness anymore; I’m so used to it.”
“People have a right to say what they want. But there’s something about the internet that gives them a platform to say anything. There’s that veil between you and that person.
“But then I’ll get an email saying how the work has influenced someone positively and it makes the struggle totally worth it.
"And I no longer feel that I’m not the only one who has body issues. I’ve learned that we all have insecurities, from people around the world who email to tell me what they’re dealing with. I don’t feel alone."
Next, Chapin plans to tackle gender and admits to having male subjects lined up.
“I have asked a couple actually,” she laughs. “But men are actually less comfortable posing in the nude. I guess we see less nude men generally in culture generally, unless you look back to Greek art.
“I have a show in LA next year and I haven’t started the work yet. It’s daunting – but I have to do it.”
She also hopes – at some point – to have a family (her boyfriend, a film-maker, is in London to support her) despite what the art establishment might think.
“I think there’s an expectation that for women to ‘make it’ you only have to do your art,” she says.
““You have to be incredibly selfish and spend a lot of time in the studio. People say you have to be ‘married to your art’.
“But I also believe you can have a partner and a family. I am absolutely going to do that.”
“So I will.”
Poverty & painting:
representations in 19th century Europe
In the 19th century the images in paintings had wide circulation, as they were often copied by engravers and reproduced in popular magazines such as Graphic and the Illustrated London News. The 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle attracted more than 50 million visitors in five months and had two palaces of contemporary art, where well heeled visitors were forced to confront the plight and potential power of the urban poor in paintings such as Jules Adler's The Weary.
The Benin Bronzes led to a greater appreciation in Europe of African culture and art. Initially and naively, it appeared incredible to the discoverers that people "supposedly so primitive and savage" were responsible for such highly developed objects. Some even concluded that Benin knowledge of metallurgy came from the Portuguese traders who were in contact with Benin in the early modern period. Today, it is clear that the bronzes were made in Benin from an indigenous culture. Many of these dramatic sculptures date to the thirteenth century and a large part of the collection dates to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is believed that two "golden ages" in Benin metal workmanship occurred during the reigns of Esigie (c. 1550) and of Eresoyen (1735-1750), when their workmanship achieved its highest qualities.
While the collection is known as the Benin Bronzes, like most West African "bronzes" the pieces are mostly made of brass of variable composition. Modern practice in museums and archaeology is increasingly to avoid both terms for historical objects in favour of the all-embracing "copper alloy". There are also pieces made of mixtures of bronze and brass, of wood, of ceramic, and of ivory, among other materials.
The metal pieces were made using lost-wax casting and are considered among the best sculptures made using this technique.
Ife and Benin: from the 12th century
An unusual tradition within African sculpture is the cast-metal work done from about the 12th century in what is now southern Nigeria.
It reaches a peak of perfection among the Yoruba people of Ife. Between the 12th and the 15th century life-size heads and masks, and smaller full-length figures - all of astonishing realism - are cast in brass and sometimes in pure copper (technically much more difficult). These figures have an extraordinary quiet intensity.
This craft, perfected by the Yoruba people, is continued from the 15th century in Benin - still today a great centre of metal casting. The Benin heads, delightful but less powerful in their impact than those of Ife, are commonly known as Benin bronzes.
In fact they are made of brass, melted down from vessels and ornaments arriving on the trade routes (in 1505-7 alone, the Portuguese agent delivers 12,750 brass bracelets to Benin). The arrival of the Portuguese prompts the Benin sculptors to undertake a new style of work - brass plaques with scenes in relief, in which the Portuguese themselves sometimes feature. These plaques are nailed as decoration to the wooden pillars of the royal palace.