My wife and I visited the Frida Kahlo Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism exhibit at the North Carolina Art Museum in November. It was an interesting exhibit.
Frida Kahlo was a relative unknown artist during her life. It was not until the 1980s that her work began to be appreciated on an international level. She remained a relatively obscure name until 2002, when Salma Hayek portrayed her in the critically acclaimed biopic “Frida.” Today, more than sixty years since her death, Kahlo is probably the most famous Latin American artist of all time. Her paintings now sell at auction for millions of dollars and her image is recognizable around the globe.
Kahlo was famous for her self-portraits. This particular painting was completed when the artist was just 26 years old and shows her unique style of painting. She was self-taught and developed her style, as early Kahlo champion Surrealist artist André Breton, “in total ignorance of the ideas that motivated the activities of my friends and myself”. Kahlo was still developing her style when this painting was made, so it lacks the surrealism while retaining the modernist feel that was prevalent at that time.
If you’re not familiar with Frida Kahlo, check out her work. If you want to dig a little deeper, check out Frida: a Biography of Frida Kahlo, by Heden Herrera and, of course, there’s always the movie, Frida, starring Salma Hayek.
It’s been a couple months since I’ve posted anything. After nearly two months of chemotherapy, I underwent my second stem cell transplant in November. It was a long hard road, but I’m finally beginning to feel normal.
A week before I had my stem cell transplant, my wife and I went to the North Carolina Art Museum, in Raleigh, to see a couple exhibitions. One was an exhibition of the art of Scott Avett, probably best known as the co-founder of the Avett Brothers. While he’s a member of a very successful and popular band, Scott is, first and foremost, an artist, having earned a bachelor of fine arts in painting from East Carolina in 2000/.
The exhibit was really well done. There were a couple “immersive” pieces where you could sit among the art and listen to music by the Avett Brothers. There were a lot of large prints, but my favorites were Scott’s paintings, many of which feature Scott or his family.
One of my favorites is Black Mouse, White Mouse. Based on a Leo Tolstoy essay, the painting is more of a metaphor where Scott questions some of the life decisions he’s made. In the Tolstoy essay, a man is hanging from a branch as two mice gnaw on it. Here, Scott holds the branch over his head. On the branch, two mice are seen. The white mouse represents spirituality and the black mouse represents materialism. It’s interesting because despite the great success that Scott has had with his band and his art, he still holds onto his faith. That balance between faith and materialism can sometimes be a difficult struggle and Scott depicts the struggle with beauty and humor.
Raleigh, North Carolina is known as “the City of Oaks.” The Shimmer Wall, on the west wall of the Raleigh Convention Center, honors the city’s nickname.
One of Raleigh’s most visible works of art since 2009, the Shimmer Wall is a massive 210′ by 44′ and is made up of over 79,000 4″ aluminum square “pixels” that move with the wind and cause a shimmering effect. It’s quite mesmerizing to watch.
At night, LED fixtures aid in the shimmering effect. The colors of the lights change with the season. It’s quite beautiful, whether you view it during the daytime, as pictured above, or at night, when the colored lights turn it into something entirely different.
Located just outside the Raleigh Convention Center, this statue of Walter Raleigh commemorates the namesake of North Carolina’s capital city and the founder of the Roanoke Colony, an expedition to the New World that would go into history as “the Lost Colony.”
Raleigh, born in 1552, was an Englishman and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I. He was also a bit of a skalawag. He was awarded a charter to establish a colony in the newly discovered Americas, but never actually visited North America himself. Instead, he founded the Roanoke Colony, which was established in what is now North Carolina, in 1585. He never followed through with financial or logistical support and, by the time a second colony landed on Roanoke Island two years later, the colony had disappeared, with no sign of the original settlers to be found.
As I said, Raleigh was a bit of a skalawag. He took part in a plot to overthrow Elizabeth’s successor, James I, and spent thirteen years emprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1617, he was pardoned by the King and was granted permission to lead an expedition to South America in search of El Dorado, the mythical City of Gold. During the expedition, Raleigh’s men attacked a Spanish outpost on the Orinoco River, a direct violation of a treaty between Spain and England. To appease Spain, Raleigh was sentenced to death and was beheaded in 1618 at Westminster Palace.
He wasn’t exactly a shining example of what a great man could be, but we’re stuck with him, I guess. He does cut a dashing figure, though.
North Carolina’s state motto is the latin “Esse Quam Videri,” which means “to be, rather than to seem.” The motto appeals to me; I try to be honest in my dealings and do not attempt to come across as someone I’m not. With me, what you see is what you get. This huge 20-foot by 80-foot wall mural in Louisburg, North Carolina catches my eye every time I venture into the little town.
Created by Will Hinton, an artist and art professor at Louisburg College, the mural celebrates the state’s motto while adding some much needed color to downtown Louisburg. The six-foot tall letters are made of shards of ceramic and china, while the bright colors of the background are the team colors of Franklin County’s three high schools- Bunn, Louisburg, and Franklinton.
Hinton has several other works at the Louisburg College Campus. If you’d like to learn more about his work you can visit Hinton’s website here.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in Wilmington, North Carolina. While exploring our hotel, I came across this wonderful piece by artist Gerry Stecca. On first glance it looks very natural, like a spray of flowers on the wall or perhaps a collection of wooden baskets. Upon closer inspection, we found that this beautiful work of art is made of ordinary wooden clothespins!
Stecca has been using clothespins as the building blocks for his art since 2002, when he made a clothespin dress for a friend. Inspired by nature, his childhood love of Legos, and his interest in science, Stecca “sews” the clothespins together with galvanized wire to create beautiful works of art. Stecca says that creating his art from the repetitive use of the clothespins allows him to enter a “meditative like state” where he forgets about time and sometimes even forgets to eat!
I love the natural feel of the work. The variety of sizes and colors, as well as the seemingly random placement of the individual “baskets,” for want of better word, make it seem as if it just naturally grew. I can’t imagine the number of hours it took for the artist to create this beautiful piece.
If you’d like to see more of Gerry Stecca’s art, please visit his website.
This beautiful sculpture is by Wilmington artist Paul Hill. The piece, made of carbon steel and found objects, is located on Front Street in Wilmington, North Carolina. Being both a lover of art and a dog person, I love the way Hill captures the shape and the attitude of a leashed dog.
But there’s more to the work than “just a dog.” Hill uses animal imagery to depict, as his bio states, “the unpredictable human emotions and frustrations, that are daily being thrust into the lives of every person.” We are all “straining to be” free from the constraints that leave us tethered to our current situations.
I also love the art-deco feel to the piece, an influence that Hill has acknowledged. I can see similarities between Lee Lawrie’s famous art-deco statue of Atlas at Rockefeller Center in New York and Hill’s leashed dog, as Atlas strains to support the weight of the world and the dog pulls against the constraints of the leash that holds it back. It’s a beautiful work of art that I find quite moving.
If you would like to see more of Paul Hill’s beautiful art, check out his website.
Part of African-American artist Heather Hart’s “Rooftop Oracles” series of temporary installation art, Southern Oracle: We Will Tear the Roof off is the fourth in the series. An interactive work, it’s meant to be climbed on and in, and it’s especially popular with children.
Each of the four works in the series are life sized rooftops that look as if they were either dropped from the sky or is emerging from the earth. Not surprisingly, the series gets its name from the Parliament-Funkadelic song “Mothership Connection.” Each work is unique. With this work, Hart allowed museum staff and volunteers to paint the exterior in bright stripes.
It’s a popular, though temporary, addition to the Museum Park.
Standing Figure: Knife Edge, by British sculptor Henry Moore, is yet another of the many great works of art on display at the North Carolina Art Museum in Raleigh.
While an abstraction of a human body, the nearly 12-foot tall bronze is based on the shape of a bird’s breastbone. During the planning stages of the work Moore would pinch clay onto a bone to develop the shape of the sculpture. Once Moore was happy with the shape, a head and base was added.
I love the placement of this work. The natural bone-like shape and the beautiful green patina of the bronze contrasts nicely with the clean angular lines of this space outside the West Building at the museum.
This beautiful bronze sculpture is located in a reflecting pool in the North Carolina Art Museum’s North Garden. While it’s an abstract work, there’s no doubt that it’s a fish, a subject that’s near and dear to the artist.
Prosek is an American artist, writer, and naturalist. An avid fisherman, Prosek co-founded World Trout, a conservation effort to preserve native trout species worldwide. His first book, Trout: An Illustrated History, was published while he was still a student at Yale University. His paintings of fish are collected in several books, and his documentary about 17th century author and angler Izaak Walton won a Peabody Award in 2002.
If you’re a fisherman and would like to learn more, World Trout can be found at Patagonia.