Artist Favorites

Shepard_Fairey_Mujer_Fatal_mural Martin_Puryear_Bower_80
Alphonse_Mucha_Summer_1896 Wayne_Thiebaud_Boston_Cremes_69 Claes_Oldenburg_Dropped_Cone_2001
Charley_Harper_Shadow_Dancers_1969 Chuck_Close_Lorna_Simpson_2006 Shepard_Fairey_flowervine_red_2009 
Charley_Harper_upside_downy_1988 Kehinde_Wiley_Encourage_2007 Anish_Kapoor_sky_mirror_2006 Piet_Mondrian_Composition_1936

From top left: Shepard Fairey, Mujer Fatal mural; Martin Puryear, Bower, 1980; Second row: Alphonse Mucha, Summer, 1896;  Wayne Thiebaud, Boston Cremes, 1969; Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen, Dropped Cone, 2001; Third row: Charley Harper, Shadow Dancers, 1969;  Chuck Close, Lorna Simpson, 2006;  Shepard Fairey, Flowervine Red, 2009; Fourth row: Martin Johnson Heade, Brazilian Orchid, 1875;  Charley Harper, Upside Downy, 1988;  Kehinde Wiley, Encourage good manners and politeness; brighten up your surroundings with plants, 2007; Last row: Anish Kapoor, Sky Mirror, 2006; and Piet Mondrian, Composition, 1936.

These are some of my favorite artists: disparate and similar, spanning over 100 years.  The culminating traits I see here are: formal investigations of line, space and contrast; decoration; beauty; minimalism; poignancy; humor; attention to detail; and a desire for viewer attention and/or participation.  There is overlap of two or more of these elements I enjoy, and hope to have in my own work, in the work by each of these artists.  Good stuff.

Favorites & Influences from the PMA

After teaching my workshop last Thursday at a community college outside of Philadelphia, I spent a leisurely afternoon at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday. It was my second visit, and I highly recommend it.  Larger images of the entire collection are posted at the PMA website (I could only snag the smaller to post here).  These are some of my favorite objects, many of which I sketched and noted in my little sketchbook for future reference and influence.

animals_in_diamond_delft chest_over_drawers compote
green_vase bird_on_a_trough candlestick_sevres coffeepot coffeepot_ri
cylinder_desk_and_bookcase document_box dressing_table_pa
footstool_american bird_tree giorgio_morandi_still_life_1946
interior_of_a_cafe jug_iznik lilac_blossoms
mj_heade pair_of_candelabra persian_tabouret
pillow_song side_chair_pa spice_box two_hares vase_on_brass_mount
vase_with_lid wardrobe
surtout_centerpiece sofa yuan_pillow

From top left, first row: Animals in Diamonds (Dutch/Delft tiles) c.1585 Netherlands; Chest over Drawers, Pennsylvania c.1792; Compote, c.1846 France for President Polk; Second row: Vase, Chicago Terra Cotta Works 19thc. Illinois; Bird at Trough, c.1850 Pennsylvania German; Candlestick, c.1761 Sèvres, France; Coffeepot, c. 1800 Pennsylvania German; Coffeepot, c.1899 Rhode Island; Third row: Cylinder Desk and Bookcase, c.1800 PA; Document Box (painted tin), c.1830 PA; Dressing Table, c.1715 PA;  Fourth row: Footstool, c. 1730 PA; Bird Tree, c.1810 Pennsylvania German; Still Life by Giorgio Morandi, 1946; Fifth row: Interior of a Café by Santiago Rusiñol, 1892; Jug, 17th c. Iznik, Turkey; Lilac Blossoms by Christiaen van Pol, c.1800; Sixth row: Orchids in a Jungle by Martin Johnson Heade, c.1870s; Pair of Candelabra designed by Louis-Constant Sévin, c.1862 France; Tabouret (Persian), early 13th c. Iran; Seventh row: Pillow, Song Dynasty (960-1127) China; Side Chair, c.1870 PA; Spice Box (Painted maple), c. 1870 PA; Two Hares in Moonlight by Cho Tai Eok, Chosòn Dynasty 18th c. Korea; Vase on Brass Mount (glass), c. 1910 U.S.; Eighth row:Vase with Lid, c. 1768 Sèvres, France; Wardrobe designed by Sir Ambrose Heal, c. 1910 England; Last row: Centerpiece (Surtout), Strasbourg faience factory, c.1729 France; Sofa (one of a pair) c.1725 England; Pillow, Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) China.

Bird & Botanical Influences

illustration M.J.Heade Orchids Mckenzie engraving Peacock J.Hnizdovsky woodcut
 Plant Ornament book M.J.Heade passion Nouveau pattern
William Morris Tulip and Rose Vallentin illustration JollyBe cake William Morris lily drawing
Nouveau pattern M.J.Heade magnolia

From top left: an Australian illustration; Orchids & Spray Orchids with Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade; coloured engraving by Daniel Mackenzie; peacock and peahen illustration; rooster woodcut by J. Hnizdovsky;  Second row: image plate from the book Plants & Their Application to Ornament; Passion Flowers & Hummingbirds painting by Martin Johnson Heade; Kingfishers, Dragonflies & Flowering Rush and Butterflies & Wood Sorrel illustrations by M. P. Verneuil; Third row: Tulip & Rose fabric by William Morris (1876); illustration by Mrs. Vallentin from the book Women of Flowers: A Tribute to Victorian Women Illustrators (J. Kramer, 1996); “Neoclassical floral design” wedding cake* by JollyBe Bakery; Golden Lily drawing for wallpaper by William Morris; Fourth Row: Bats & Poppies and Butterflies & Bellflowers illustrations by M. P. Verneuil; A Magnolia on Red Velvet painting by Heade.

Kieffer corset detailsFloral, or at least curlicue, imagery has been a part of (i.e. handles) or on the surfaces of my work for a while. But it was a more general reference. In the last two years, I have begun to place some of the botanical and animal (especially birds) imagery I enjoy, more literally into the surfaces. (I purposefully wrote “into” instead of “onto” because I hope the way that I apply slip, stamp and carve the surface makes the imagery feel a bit more a part of the form rather than flat.)

When I look at the illustrations above, what I like are the soft, repetitive lines that resolve themselves into symmetrical, organic pattern iced with color. The botanicals are easy to come by at antique shops, and I own a few. These drawings appeal to me more than a photograph would; they have a different kind of detail, slightly stylized and romantic. The Nouveau drawings and prints appeal to my sense of pattern and layering—a bird disappeared into a thickness of leaves.

I’m pretty sure the first Martin Johnson Heade painting I saw was at the National Gallery in D.C. a few years ago. They are striking in person, especially for their modest size. They have a wonderfully mysterious atmosphere and depth I would like to capture in some of my own bigger pieces.

Kieffer cups w. animalsMy favorite class as a kid —other than art— was my fifth grade science class with Mr. Morton in Louisville. He could imitate the sound of every bird in the field and trees behind the school, and describe their peculiar behaviors. I thought that was really cool. Between him and my parents, my interest (that curiosity and admiration) in nature, has been there for awhile, but I’ve only just now figured out how I might include it in my work. I think too, in our current culture, we need to reconnect with what’s outside.

Briefly, the peacock and rooster images have popped up in my work lately as an amusing way to quietly question the gender of decoration. If a decorative male bird is featured on work that is perceived as feminine because it is decorative, is it [the work] feminine or masculine? (Did ya catch that?)

Kieffer covered jars I just completed the two greenware covered jars pictured here (not a great image, sorry). This is a new form for me, and bigger too. The one on the left (15″h) has lilacs, and the other (13″h) reminds me of wallpaper.

On a different note, I am off for two weeks to play in clay with a group of other artists during a residency at Watershed called Artists-Invite-Artists. So I’m signing off for that time. May I suggest, while I am stepping away from my computer, that we all spend some of the summer reading real words on paper, like the imminent issue of SP hitting theoretical newsstands post haste!!

*Another cake, I know, I couldn’t resist. I also forgot to mention in the post below that I listen to CAKE all the time. These cakes from JollyBe are amazing, and will probably be featured here every time I mention an influence because she has one for everything! The one I pictured above stated with the image, “…design derived from a mattress cover chosen by the bride who uses mattress design as a source of inspiration for her own art.” How perfect is that for what I’ve been writing about?!

Back in July!

Cake as Influence

Thiebaud cake A. Steeter cake Oldenburg floor cake Cake Girls
Couture cake Thiebaud wedding cake M. Braun cake Trend de la Creme blog image
Cupcake color Architecture as cake Julia Jacquette cake painting

From top left: Wayne Thiebaud’s painting Let Them Eat Cake; Painted Bird Cake, (a real cake) by Amanda Streeter; Floor Cake by Claes Oldenburg; and couture wedding cakes. Second row: another couture wedding cake; Wedding Cake by Wayne Thiebaud; a real wedding cake by Margaret Braun; a great blog entry from Trend de la Cremé pairing runway fashion with couture cakes; Third row: cupcakes by Dozen Cupcakes; architecture as cake; and Julia Jacquette’s painting White on White (Thirty-six sections of wedding cake, swans).

I started looking at wedding cakes eight years ago for decoration ideas. It seemed an obvious reference for me as slip-trailing (squeezing liquid clay through a bulb syringe) is the clay equivalent to cake-decorating.

I’m not sure when I first came across Wayne Thiebaud’s pastry paintings from the ’60s, but I love them. If I could paint, that is the style and possibly content I would choose. I enjoy his fantastical and exaggerated use of color (hard shadows of electric pink) and style that reminds me of the vintage ads I like. The paint is thick, and somehow simultaneously gestural and precise. Some of my influences are abstract ideas, and that last sentence would be a good example of something I see [in a Thiebaud painting, for example] that I would like to emulate in my work —a feeling, a presence.

Kieffer tile trioI also just like the word, cake (the title of and text on the left tile, actually). I am drawn to the sound of certain words (Who doesn’t like to say rutabaga?), especially if they can have different meanings and contexts. I don’t know where I picked this up, but I sometimes use it as an expression to mean, “exceedingly lucky”. As in, “He is in a pretty cake situation since he married a millionaire,” for example.

I chose Claus Oldenburg’s Floor Cake to show because it fits today’s theme, and because I am drawn to his sculpture and drawing for making real, hard forms soft and humorous. Both elements I look to capture in my own work. Kieffer Soft Treasure box

It may or may not be obvious from the images I chose above (and from my last post below): many of my influences overlap. In these things, I see hard and soft lines, humor, form, context and content. A couture dress looks like a tiered cake which looks like a Victorian home, which could be a covered jar—or maybe that’s just me. As I’ve said before, we artists are the blenders of the disparate creating the unified.

Influences: A Pictorial

Oribe ware George Nelson bubble lamps Martin Johnson Heade
Bombe highboy Vintage playing cards Mucha Job Tord Boontje
W.Thiebaud Cakes Fruit crate ad 
Haute couture KleinReid birdcages Vintage wallpaper Louis Majorelle Botanical drawing

From top left: Oribe/Mino ware, George Nelson bubble lamps, Martin Johnson Heade paintings; (2nd row) bombé chests, imagery from vintage playing cards, Alphonse Mucha illustrations, Tord Boontje design, architecture and Victorian homes; (3rd row) Wayne Thiebaud pastry paintings, early 1900s fruit crate labels, Islamic brass forms and patterns; (4th row) haute couture, KleinReid design, vintage wallpaper patterns and textures, art nouveau design, lines and patterns –like Louis Marjorelle, and botanical drawings.