Month: February 2014

Emma Hack’s Hidden Talent

posted by – 02/25/14 @ 3:31pm

In 2011, artist Emma Hack gained international popularity when her work was featured in the music video for Gotye’s grammy-winning song, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Now, through February and March, the Australian artist has her first solo exhibition, “Undercover.” The show, housed at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in New York City, features photographs of women who blend in perfectly with the intricate patterns behind them. Hack selected the patterns from the archives of the iconic wallpaper designer, Florence Broadhurst.

At the opening reception for her show, Hack painted a live model in the gallery, providing an opportunity for viewers to see her unusual process. Hack spends hours meticulously painting the models in her photographs. Because she uses real women as canvases, all her work needs to be done in one sitting – a process that can be tiring for both the artist and the model. Each photograph usually takes a total of 8 – 15 hours to complete. Then, like Buddhist mandalas, Hack’s work is washed away almost as soon as it’s done.

Hack’s works show that camouflage can be beautiful and evocative. In each piece, a person becomes one with her environment. She becomes part of a fantasy, part of an artistic vision. Although she’s hidden, she draws people to look closely at the patterns she inhabits. Hopefully, the success of Emma Hack’s solo debut will prompt more shows from this unique camouflage artist.

To see the full collection of Hack’s photographs, visit her website, here.


Going for the Gold

posted by – 02/22/14 @ 5:57pm

Ruth Miller - The Struggle - Silver Medal, 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, "Painting" category

Did you know that at one point in history artists could receive a gold medal in the Olympics?  Yep, between 1912 and 1948 art competitions were held alongside the athletic ones.  The United States racked up four gold and five silver medals through these competitions (1 Gold in 1912, 3 Gold and 4 Silver in 1931, 1 Silver in 1936).  Modern Olympic founder, Pierre de Fredy Baron de Coubertin, saw the presence of simultaneous competitions as a fulfillment of his vision to combine art and sport.  Divided into five categories – sculpture, music, literature, painting, and architecture.  The first art competition took place during the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games; unfortunately, only 35 artists competed.  The art component  gained some momentum after that initial showing, with 193 artists submitting works in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, and over 1,100 works exhibited in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.  The art competitions continued until 1948.  However, in the years to follow, some members of the IOC objected to the artistic competitions.  They argued that many of the artists who competed in the Games were clearly professionals, as demonstrated by the fact that they often sold their works at the conclusion of the Games, and this violated the strict amateur regulations of the IOC.  Starting with the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Cultural festivals and the idea of the Cultural Olympiads replaced the medal-awarding competitions.  While the implementation and interpretation of these festivals and exhibitions have varied in the years since, the cultural component of the Olympics has continued.  For example, during the 2012 London Summer Olympics, the organizing committee for the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics held an exhibition called “From the Margin to the Edge: Brazilian Art and Design in the 21st Century,” which showcased the country’s culture through the works of 33 Brazilian artists and designers.  Currently, an exhibition entitled “The Russian Avant-Garde and Sport” is running through May 11th, 2014 at the Olympic Museum in Switzerland.  The exhibition seeks to highlight how avant-garde artists in the Soviet Union portrayed sports through the 1920 – 30s.  Additionally, the relationship between art, culture, and sport has been perpetuated through the spectacular performances of the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies…and some would say fashion as well.  Have you been following American figure skater and 2008 bronze medalist Johnny Weir’s daily fashion tweets from Sochi?  If not, check out today’s Chanel brooch.

With the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics coming to a close tomorrow night, I’m curious to see not only where the United States will land in the medal rankings, but also what artistic and cultural performances Sochi has planned for the closing ceremonies.

Walter Winans - An American Trotter - Gold Medal, 1912 Stockholm Olympics, “Sculpture“ Category. Winans is the only Olympic competitor to win a Gold in both the artistic and athletic competition. He had previously won a Gold as a marksman in the 1908 Summer Olympics.


To catch a forger

posted by – 02/21/14 @ 1:53pm

I stumbled across an interesting article about one Wolfgang Beltracchi, a German artist who forged pieces by over fifty different artists.  He was really good at it too; he managed to do it for thirty-five years before getting caught and make millions off of sales.  When I think of forging artwork, I usually think about someone nabbing a painting, recreating it in a closet, and returning the fake to the original owner, keeping the original to sell at an auction a few years later.

That wasn’t the case for Beltracchi.  His process was interesting in that he studies the artist–his style, motifs, and muses– and creates the unpainted works that he would have expected old master artists to have created.  He essentially tried to fill in the gaps in previous artists’ careers.  I think that to be able to embody the artistic style and expression of over fifty different artists well enough to create original works that are true enough to fool world experts in the art world is quite the accomplishment.  While in the art world, that’s frowned upon, I can think of a couple practical applications for this type of talent.  Reconstructing and simulating ancient cities from the ruins that are left behind and determining new archaeological digging sites all would make good use of the ability to embody the thoughts and motivations of another person.  In the math and science world, we call that interpolation, constructing new data based on already existing data surrounding a gap.

Picasso once said, “If the counterfeit were a good one, I should be delighted.  I’d sit down straight away and sign it.”  Emulation is one of the greatest forms of flattery, and Beltracchi went beyond copying works to actually copying artists.  I think that’s great.  Novels have been written about the Mona Lisa attempting to fill in the gaps about its mysteries; everyone is looking for answers to these questions that perhaps don’t even have real answers.  Perhaps its a good thing that there is someone so bold as to fill in these gaps with something that people want to believe, rather than have another text speculating on the meaning of a body of art.

When art attacks

posted by – 02/19/14 @ 1:42pm

So I’m a really into fun public art projects such as Florentijin Hofman’s giant inflatable duck.  I recently came across this guy who goes by Filthy Lurker who does similar projects, except that he creates comically frightening scenes in public places to place the audience in an imaginary scene from War of the Worlds.

But seriously, how awesome does this look.  Imagine walking home from work one day and noticing that the Kraken is renting the apartment across the street from you.  Sure it sounds scary at first, but I’m sure you would have a good laugh about it once you notice that the giant tentacles are inflatables.  It really looks like a scene from a horror film though, which I think is pretty interesting because normally we go to the movies as a brief respite from reality.  Here, Filthy Lurker is bringing that crazy fantasy into the real world and adds some excitement into that otherwise uneventful walk home from the subway stop.

But perhaps to a four-year-old child, this could probably be the scariest thing to ever happen.

You can see more of Filthy Lurker’s work here.

Presentation is everything

posted by – 02/12/14 @ 12:33pm

The University of Connecticut is hosting an interesting exhibit.  The feature pieces employed found mundane objects arranged in an interesting way, but nothing super exciting.  But the artists didn’t stop there.  They also designed the showroom that their pieces would be exhibited in, and they went all out for this: spacious rooms, chrome fixtures, contemporary shelving.  Just by walking in, you’re expecting to see some good stuff, and actualize those expectations.  The show is called Marketing as Art and emphasizes the delivery and presentation as two of the most important contributions to a piece’s value.  It kind of reminds me of the research I did when going suit shopping, where a cheaper suit that contours well to the body is infinitely better than a fancier, but poorly tailored suit.

Naturally, this show is an exaggeration of the importance of marketing, but it begs the question: how can you know the difference between good art and not so good art?  If Banksy can pass his art off as ordinary work by an everyday street vendor, and Brett Cohen can hire some bodyguards and photographers and convince people that he’s famous, how do we know what to believe?  If art is an artist’s expression, his story, maybe it’s value comes simply from how many people buy into it.

Contemporary Quilting

posted by – 02/06/14 @ 2:07pm



From major museums to small galleries, exhibitions featuring quilts are rising in popularity. Quilts are often formed out of discarded fabrics that were once cherished by their owners. Memories live in the materials that make up a quilt, which gives the medium a sentimental, nostalgic quality. Quilts also give off a sense of renewal – unusable pieces of cloth turn into something functional and appealing. The above quilt was made by artist Luke Haynes and is currently on display at the Brooklyn Museum. Haynes uses a traditional art form to explore current American iconography. His quilts evoke the old in order to explore the new.

Some artists, like Faith Ringgold, are quilting with a reverence for the past. Through quilts, Ringgold connects to her great-great-great-grandmother, who was a quilter and slave in the American South. Ringgold is known for her story quilts – the quilt shown above is one of several quilts that, shown together, form a narrative. Ringgold’s quilts are currently on view at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The above quilt was made by artist Sanford Biggers and is currently part of the “The Shadows Took Shape” exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Like Ringgold, Biggers’s quilts pay homage to the past. Biggers incorporates navigational codes into his quilts, like those used during the days of the Underground Railroad.

The stunning and diverse quilts of these new artists prove that quilting is not just a thing of the past. To learn more about contemporary quilting, click here to read the article Avant-Garde Quilt Explosion!


Bold As Ice

posted by – 02/01/14 @ 6:28pm

Icicle Spiral (Treesoul) - Dumfriesshire, Scotland

I have no trouble believing that January 2014 was the coldest weather Nashville had seen in over ten years.  Between our enormous electric bill, and my daily game of figuring out just how many layers I could put on, I am glad that January is behind us. Hopefully, February will not prove to be quite so record-breaking.  That said, a small part of me wishes that Nashville had been rewarded for its frozen pipes and frozen fingers with a winter wonderland to go with the winter temperatures.  A few more flurries, and who knows, maybe our beautiful city would have been graced with snow and ice art like that of Andy Goldsworthy’s inspirational work.

British artist Andy Goldsworthy is known for creating outdoor installations from all sorts of natural materials – leaves, stones, pinecones, twigs – all over the world.  When the air turns cold, Goldsworthy turns to nature’s frozen elements, crafting sculptures out of ice and snow.  Given that these pieces quickly disappear, Goldsworthy photographs the landscape before his work has begun, during its creation, and after its completion, ensuring the sculpture will last forever, at least in a two-dimensional form.  Using only found materials and tools, including saliva as in the case of Icicle Star (pictured bottom right), his work replicates, manipulates, and augments the landscape into ephemeral works of art. The resulting sculptures change our perspective on the natural world by asking us to view its limits, and its potential in an entirely new way.

As we head into this next month of winter, if snow or ice should come to Nashville, perhaps the work of Goldsworthy will inspire some of us to play with, not just endure, the elements.

To learn more about Goldsworthy’s work, check out the award-winning documentary directed by Thomas Riedelsheimer entitled Rivers and Tides.

Snow Circles - Izumi-Mura, Japan

Icicle Star – Dumfriesshire, Scotland