I first learned about Peggy Guggenheim’s palace in Venice on an airplane, watching the movie “Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict.” On an intellectual level I understood that she was alternately the patron or the muse of some serious modern art heavyweights during a very influential period of the New York art scene. She was married to Max Ernst, and while that didn’t last their collector / collectee relationship seemed to, and she ended up with a wide variety of his pieces. My impression after seeing the film was that Peggy Guggenheim, aside from being an eccentric member of a bizarre family, spotted and promoted a Who’s Who of 20th century American art, and her estate in Venice was a necessary box check for anyone interested in modern art.
What I didn’t fully realize was that Peggy Guggenheim’s own home curation stood the test of time. Neither did I fully appreciate the completeness of her artistic vision until I saw it with my own eyes. This woman was not collecting baseball cards, she was collaging the tableau of her home. The curation is outstanding. I’m not going to list off examples of now shining stars that grace her walls, since they blinded my own impressions until I got there. What I will say is: LAYERS.
The pieces speak to one another - there is a Bridget Riley next to an Agnes Martin. Lines, lines, so many lines! And there are glass sculptures of Picasso figures lining a window facing the Grand Canal. And there are layers and layers and layers and layers and layers. When you visit Venice you must go here on your first day, because afterwards you will see inspiration everywhere. With Peggy as my muse, here are some of the photos I took:
Finally, like many art museum experiences, my brain was overcome with ideas that I feared were fleeting so I walked, umbrella-less, through the rain pouring into the open courtyard to the cafe to jot down my notes. They are:
Keep an eye out to see what I do with them!
*Also, Tancredi. That is a post for another time.
Queuing line after line through the Hirshhorn’s Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit, when you take the time to read about the boundary-breaking Japanese artist’s work you are overcome with a very relatable sense of fear. First fear of sex, then fear of death, then a resolution of both as death and existence lovingly become metamorphosis. Out of fear comes immortality, just like Kusama’s artwork and her reputation over decades of an evolutionary career.
Fear is of course a very relatable human experience, and the journey through #infinitekusama is like walking through her self-soothing medicine cabinet. Sculptural works and infinity rooms guide the viewer as Kusama, a celibate who enthusiastically participated with performance art in the sexual revolution, works through her fear of sex.
Not all of Kusama's thoughts are fear-mongering, though. According to Sarah Thornton in “33 Artists in 33 Acts,” Kusama experienced hallucinations of pumpkins speaking to her in a “generous unpretentious” way when she was young. The pumpkin infinity room certainly pays homage to these beings, which one imagines have been Kusama’s constant companion while she wrestles with her fears.
While the exhibit is very much a walk through Kusama’s internal world, the visitor is always a participant. Windows into small infinity rooms overpower the viewer with millions of lights or fantastic polka-dotted beach balls, with one view of the viewer’s eyeball lest she think she could hide. And the rectangular roped-off lines of people waiting their turns juxtapose with the observation that not a single Kusama work seems to contain a straight line.
As the exhibit progresses, wrestling with the fear of death becomes an increasingly potent theme in the infinity rooms.
In one, lanterns to guide the souls of the departed overpower the viewer with brightness at first, then entirely blacken. They come back, as do the departed in our memories, but never as bright as the first celebration of a life well-lived.
Finally, a fantastic overlay of sculptures created in the manner of Kusama's early work over bright two-dimensional paintings rounds out the visit, with one description noting that these works could depict the souls of well-loved departed animals. Each work has a floral element, which to me speaks more to love and fertility. It gave me the sense that even if Kusama’s fears have not subsided, she has played a trick on them and morphed them from the prospect of sexual violence and death to love and eternal life.
My photography attempts to capture the same ethos of a place as my painting, but I approach photography from a fine art rather than technical perspective. I enjoy a good challenge, so I shoot on manual and manipulate the lenses and settings to capture a specific feeling with each shot. No photoshop for me. For the same reason I most often print directly on acrylic or brushed aluminum - my goal before hitting the trigger is always to envision the contrast or ethereality of the final product.
I've been enjoying playing with some of my photos to create unique textile designs, lately. Click over to SHOP: OBJET to see what I've done with cherry blossoms and architecture.
I've painted as long as I can remember, but taking fine arts classes "for fun" in college became a massive creative roadblock. After three years without picking up a paintbrush, I got back into painting in 2007 by embracing limitations. I stopped using brushes and I stopped caring about figurative work. This selection of my paintings reflects that - these are all based on photos I took that I wanted to recreate with the beauty I felt when I saw the original image.
My painting hones in on the colors and textures that I find in nature, archaeology, and even mythology. I believe strongly in the ethos of place, and my paintings are designed to recreate that feeling for the viewer. Then, I take it a step further and design accessories based on my paintings so that everyone to whom they speak can enjoy them in creative ways.