Thursday, April 28, 2011

How to care for your works of art---Part One

Song of the day: Katy Perry ET (Benny Benassi Remix)

While working on this internship, I have learned a lot of things about how to care for various works of art. I have learned to understand some of the basics as well as more measures for caring for work. In the next few blog posts I will be making an brief list of steps that one should try to follow for keeping a work of art. 

1. Make sure it has a good record.  
One of the best ways to care for an object is to know it.  To do this, it is best to try to understand its history by recording where it came from, as well as indicating any other known history.  Doing this establishes a provenance that could better help an owner better appreciate the work.  In this record there is also a need to identify the artist, the media and other miscellaneous details.

For example:
Gilbert Stuart, Portrait of an Unkown Lady
           This work was acquired by a donor Dr. A. O. Ackley in the 60s who had previously purchased it from the Kennedy Gallery of Chicago.  It was even selected to be exhibited in the Asa Park exhibition in the fall of 2006. This work is an oil on canvas and created in the period between 1810-1820. This is an example of an early provenance.  A more in-depth provenance would also include information of the work all the way back to its creation. 
       Additionally, this work’s artist can be further researched, including answering questions like “Where was he at the time of this painting?” and “What are other examples of this artists work?”

A Brief Summary of Gilbert Stuart (A more detailed research about this artist would be recommended
Gilbert Stuart lived during the 18th century, and was as described by the website of an museum in his own name, as "America's master portrait artist."  Some of his best known works include The Athenaeum, the unfinished George Washington portrait that was a model for the dollar bill, as well as this  

identified as the Lansdowne portrait from its previous ownership
Stuart, during his lifetime had painted a large variety of portraiture of various known figures in this era, including the first six presidents of the United States.  His works can also be found in various fine arts galleries all over the world. 
         Understanding as much about the work as possible is essential for proper care of an work.  Further research into the way the artist worked, the time within which he worked and the history that the work has traveled through gives a better understanding of the work, as well as placing the work in a broader narrative.  For most works are in some way, a reflection of the artists time.  The production of the work, would be based on what the artist has access to, and the implication would be dependent on how the artist thinks, works and reacts. 

Gilbert Stuart Museum. "Gilbert Stuart: Portrait Artist." Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum: A Rhode    Island Treasure.

Image source: 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Another Reflective Rant

Song of the Day: Beth Ditto I Wrote the Book

        Have you ever worked on something, knowing exactly what you are wanting to do, and then find a hitch that changes everything?  Well, that seemed to happen to me already this month. I am the kind of person that works until I find a set system or course of attack.  This sometimes makes it difficult to go either go forward, because everything has to be right the first time, or to reflect on past mistakes.  Only recently have I discovered that I discovered more usable information about works in the collection.  Sadly works that I have already worked with. So once again I had to go back through what I have already finished and insert the new information.  
          This has been a frustrating issue that I've had during the course of this semester.  There always seems to be something new that I have to consider and adapt around.  That I keep finding more and more resources is a good thing, however, it doesn't stop my frustration. Why wasn't I observant enough to get it the first time?  
          This internship has taught me a lot of things, sometimes at an incredibly alarming rate.  Every day I try to create more faster methods only to be stopped by another mystery or discovery.  If only things would organize themselves to appear at the appropriate times.  If only I was not too stressed to enjoy the scavenger hunt and give it the respect it deserves.  If only "if only"s were realities and not fantasies. 

If only, if only the woodpecker cries,
the bark on the tree was as soft as the skies
while the wolf waits below, 
hungry and lonely
he cries to the moon, if only, if only
poem from Louis Sachar's Holes 
(every time I get on an If Only kick, I think of that poem)

Monday, March 28, 2011

A new addition

Song of the Day: Bitter:Sweet The Bomb

Recently Georgetown has acquired a new work in its collection.  This work by recently diseased Irene Corey, helps connect us to the past of Georgetown College’s history.

Irene Corey, or Irene Lockridge Corey Bar, is best known for her design of the lovable children’s character Barney.

Love him or hate him, you’ve at least heard of him

Typically, most artists pursue their art in what is considered the more common mediums such as paintings, sculptures or other directly art centered performance work.  This makes it all the more remarkable when an artist works beyond their specialized field with another passion. Corey is prime example of this because she has worked not only art world but additionally in theatre.  She was, as described by Joe Simnacher of the Dallas News, “a pioneer in painting faces on characters that had previously used glued-on features.” In fact many of her theatrical works appears in numerous textbooks about theatre and theatrical design.  So much so, as Caralle Manning Hill describes, that “[t]here are probably many designers who did not realize that they drew inspiration directly from her work because her style has made its way into the public domain. Irene Corey has become an icon—a symbolic representation of the vital role of the theatrical artist” (1).
One key example of how Irene Corey best combined her love of theatrical performance and art was from her designs for the Book of Job. In this piece, she emulated the styles of Byzantine mosaics for the costumes of the characters.  Typically, changing an actor’s appearance involves either beautifying or exaggerating a particular trait based on the performance.  In this example of Corey’s design, we see that she not only exaggerated the visual simulation of the costume but that this effect had also been applied to the face.  With her research and eye for design, she created a theatrical world that would easily simulate the audience to the power of the religious undertones in the performance.

Corey’s design for productions creates an awe-inspiring experience

In addition to her artistic work, Corey has also written a few works.  One The Mask of Reality: An Approach to Design for Theatre is described to be:
A fresh attack on the designing assignment: A plan of action, from a world-famous designer who starts with the advantage of an extraordinary talent, but then immerses herself in brick-by-brick labour to achieve her ends; who embraces her existing, often limiting conditions, and uses them to discipline her imagination. This book, written with charm, wit, and humanity, and generously illustrated, is directed to the working theatre artist who seeks to expand his own knowledge, enlarge his own experience, explore his own capabilities, achieve his own individual style.
She also wrote  The Face is a Canvas: The Design and Technique of Theatrical Make-up, which both describes and illustrates how make-up can be used to create a character beyond the simple face.  Both of these works are considered essential texts for theatrical design.
            What makes Irene Corey the most fascinating for me is not just the beauty of her work but that she was also a part of Georgetown College’s legacy. She started in 1952 and stayed, eventually as head, in the art department until 1960.  During this time, she collaborated with her husband who worked in the Theatre department. The two of them expanded the prestige of the college by collaborating on twenty touring performances a season, and establishing a children’s theater.  Because both the departments had few majors, they encouraged the a wide variety of students to perform and expand their artistic horizons.  In fact, it was here at Georgetown, where Job was born, inspiring other great works in the future, such as Reynard the Fox and the ’72 production of The Tempest. A retrospective of her work was exhibited in 1994 entitled Past and Present: Costume Designs and Paintings.  
            This artist had also had her share of awards such as being accepted by USITT DeGaetaini Award for lifetime Achievement (1994), a part of The National Museum of Women in Art in Washington DC (1995) and listings in Who’s Who of American Women (45).
            Irene Corey shows how connected everything can be.  She created many significant works that lasted only for a short time. She was described to be attentive to detail and ample research, characteristics that are very prominent in her works.  It is interesting to know that if it wasn’t for this particular acquisition, I would not have discovered this artist and how much she is connected to this campus. (Eventually, I hope to get to other works of hers that are also in our collection.)       

I will leave off with Susie Cox’s description of her:  
Irene gave me a way to find my own path. She is aware of her power, but careful; a quiet teacher who radiates an incredible sense of rightness. She has light in her hands and whatever she touches grows brighter.” (Hill)

Dramatic Publishing, "The Face: Is a Canvas: The Design and Technique of Theatrical Makeup." (accessed March 28, 2011).

Hill, Carale Manning. ""Light in Her Hands": Biography of Irene Corey: A Dissertation in Fine Arts." December (accessed March 25, 2011)
Pannell, Sylvia Hillyard. "Corey Presented with USITT's Hightest Honor." March March 28, 2011).

Simnacher, Joe. "Obituary: Irene Lockridge Corey Barr, designed Barney's Costume." November 22, (accessed March 25, 2011).

Image Sources:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Middle of the semester Reflection

Song of the Day: Beth Ditto I Wrote the Book 

          I can't believe that it is already at the final week of March.  Only yesterday, I was just starting my classes and my internship in January.
On March 23rd, as part of my internship, I had to create a short presentation that essentially summarizes what I am currently working on and my goals for the future. (If you want to see a digital copy of the prezi that I made for this click: presentation draft.  It’s really rough and without any presentation notes.) This presentation was both short and a casual occasion, with an open Q & A for suggestions for improvement.    
In addition to what I did, I also had the opportunity to hear some of my fellow classmates who were also working on internships in our department. If you are interested in their projects you should check out their blogs: Bess's and Jacob's. (Bess is a future art historian in my grade and Jacob is an English major almost graduate.  Both are fantastic people to meet with dynamic personalities.) It’s exciting to know that there is a great variety of internships this semester in our department. Then again, art majors (in this case art history folks) all have different interests and career objectives. If everyone was working on the same thing, the art field wouldn't be the progressive, evolving field that it is.   
Already this semester has seemed to fly by.  However, all this paperwork just continues to pile up. My goals are to finish this semester as strong as I can. I only have a few more reports and research blog posts to go. Wish me luck! (Although this task may mean that I might have to work another year but it will be worth it.)

What is a better project than working with artworks with such diverse histories/stories? 
Its not everyday one could say they encountered both an Rembrandt or contemporary artist Djawid Borower at their office.  

Image sources: my own

Monday, March 21, 2011

An Adventure in Louisville

Song of the Day: The Gossip Pop Goes the World

Over the Spring Break, a wonderful friend and I spent a day with another exploring a couple of art galleries in Louisville. One was the Speed Art Museum and the other was 21C.
If you live in Kentucky and love art and you haven't been here then 

If you haven't heard of 21C you must check it out.  It is a fantastic place that both functions as a contemporary art gallery as well as a hotel.  They have a few permanent works including Text Rain by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv  and the Red Penguin (2005) made by the Cracking Art Group, but they also exhibit new displays frequently.  At this moment the main exhibit is called Cuba Now.  One artist Carlos Gaamez de Francisco, who is currently on display, you must check out.  Both my friend and I loved these works in this display primarily because how they reflect a historical imagery as reflected in both traditional and new methods of presentation.

I studied these works in order to learn how he somehow strategically stained the paper to make that pattern. Still sadly is a mystery, although I have a few theories in mind. 

Another artist the two of us were impressed by was Julius Fridman's collection of graphic photography called Emergence.  This Louisville artist uses as the gallery describes "a harmonious blend of digital layering and nude portraiture that suggests a non-representational reading of photographic image. By incorporating abstract designs, scenes from nature, hieroglyphics or tribal symbols, Friedman is able to blur the lines of portraiture rendering his nude models almost unrecognizable."  I love it that this work was also his first time he used of the human figure for a series. (I am so tired of the overuse of direct portraiture to some extent partly because Facebook and other social networking internet resources)
Although a little out of the way, this collection is a must see right now at 21C 

We also spent the rest of our day exploring a more traditional museum, the Speed Art Museum. Currently the Speed has three wonderful exhibits alongside what is found in their permanent collection.  When you walk in you'll step into a world of Impressionist prints.

Check back to one of my February posts if your interested in learning out our Permanent Collection's Renoir Print

The mini-exhibit, called Light to Line: Impressionism Prints, shows a great example of Impressionist experimentation in another medium, including key artists like Mary Cassatt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edouard Manet.  Another is Modern in the Making: Design 1900-2000. For those interested in the evolution of the design of furniture and ceramics should check it out.  Additionally, they have a paid exhibition called Impressionism Landscapes: Monet to Sargent as organized by the Brooklyn Museum in their lower level. If you love Impressionist paintings this is a must to check out.  They also have an exhibit of photographs by Steven Shore in this collection.  These are photographs of Giverny, Monet's home and place of inspiration for some of his most revered paintings.

This collection was especially expansive on American Impressionism

If you haven't been to any local galleries be sure to check them out.  They often have great exhibits that change pretty regularly.  Exploring different styles of galleries helps you contemplate both where you are and where you are going, whether by making art or by writing a paper. So be sure to take one day off and just go on a gallery hop every once in a while. 

I can't wait to head back to Louisville myself in a few weeks in order to hear the art historian Linda Nochlin speak. If I enough time afterwards, a good trip down to Museum Row might be a welcome excursion.  (I've been dying to see the Frazier International Museum, especially with the Toystalgia: The Good The Bad and the Cuddly exhibit.)   

Image citation:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Discovered Treasure

Song of the Day: Far East Movement Rockateer (Note that this an Asian American hip hop group) or Fort Minor Kenji (A hip-hop side project of Mike Shinoda a Japanese American artist and musician known from Linkin Park)

Japanese prints contain a special place in my heart as well as in the realm of art history.  I was incredibly delighted that our permanent collection was lucky enough to have at least three Hiroshige prints. 

53 Stages of the Tokaido Meisho Zuye Otsu, large series

Tokaido; Station 18. The 53 Stations, Okufu

Tokaido; Station 54, and 53 Stations, Otsu

All of these three prints are wonderful a representation of landscape prints from the Edo (1615-1868) within with the ukiyo-e was in its height in artistic style.

Brief Overview of History
(This is a complex era in Japanese history and I am only summarizing it up.  If you want a more conclusive history I have supplied some supplementary sources at the bottom)
At this time in history, Tokugawa Ieyasu had established himself a powerful new leadership position titled the Shogun.  This means that he could establish a rule, based on military power, which would control the affairs of the nation alongside the rule of the emperor.  During this era, the emperor was primarily involved with the affairs of royal society, and not with the government of the common people.  He would still be viewed as a father of his people, but it would be the Shogun who would rule the affairs of the common people. 

Tokugawa created various reforms that in turn helped inspire the creation of the ukiyo or “floating world,” as based on a Buddhist concept.* One of his drastic reforms was isolation of Japan from the outside world.  This was primarily out of fear from the spread of Christianity and its risk of manipulating his people.  Because of this the Japanese people would become forced to create and develop a culture out of their own skills and resources.  Thus, in turn, allowing the Japanese to develop new styles without the models of outside influence. The other major reform was Tokugawa’s encouragement to regulate society based on confusion class structures.  The top class remained the Samurais, who would be the only ones with the position of power and rule in the government.  The second would be the farmers, who would produce food for its people, but remain restricted in their position to produce and not gain much wealth in return. The third class includes artisans, who released from the production of food produced crafts based on their skills.  (The class that most key printmaker’s were apart of) The last class was the merchants.  Who during this name had gained a significant amount of wealth, but because they could not involve themselves in the government, could spend their wealth on other things, namely themselves.  It was these merchants that helped inspired the artisans to create.  They had the most money to spend freely and they desired much of work revolving around fleeting pleasures.**  Common works for this time include scenes of love or beautiful women. 

Or sometimes involving both like this Utamaro print

However, in the Tokugawa regime would become more restrictive.  These restrictions include more regulation on the sexual subject matter as well as limitation of travel between cities. Landscape would become the new source of inspiration.  Great print artists like Hiroshige and Hokusai would emerge as the dominate artists 200 years into the era of this style.  Their art would not only remain in Japan, but would also travel outside. (Most commonly as packing for goods shipped to outside countries.)  In fact, Lane Richard even argues that “[i]n a sense Hiroshige really taught people to see the inherent poetry of nature, whereas the earlier Chinese and Japanese landscape masters never quite succeeded in reaching the heart of the common man with their more subtle and exalted essays upon the rhythms of nature…it was Hiroshige who gave Western artists—Whistler, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Van Gogh—a new vision of nature” (172-173).

About the Process of Japanese Woodblock prints
Printing had become a dominate medium for Japanese art in this era, for it could be spread cheaply and quickly in comparison to the traditional painting methods of before.  (It was mentioned in one source that a print was so cheap to afford that it only cost about a bowl of soup, making their collection very popular with the common people.)  With a new market, the style of the design changed.  Western ideas of perspective would be used in backgrounds and landscapes because it could be easier to transfer to smaller surfaces than scrolls.  This change was also easier for the masses to interpret because now scenes would depict actual places seen in everyday life over the ideals of a scroll landscape enjoyed by the elite.*** The popularity of printing also called for a new method of production.   As described by Yoko Woodson, “[t]he printing of Japanese woodblock prints in the nineteenth century was a commercial enterprise, the product of the efforts of four specialists: publisher, artist, block carver, and printer.  The superb quality of these prints was the result of their collaboration” (263).  It was these four specialized positions that allowed the prints to appear in high quality under great masses.  In fact it is believed that Hiroshige had designed in his lifetime over 8,000 print styles, which had to be innovative and pleasing to the masses.  
Roles of each group:
A. publisher—planned the costs, the theme and the artists
B. artist—drew the design as an outline on a minogami sheet, a thin sheet of paper made of kozo
C. block carver—pasted the image on the cherrywood block and carved out the piece based on the image.  Usually to make the key-block or master block.  This in turn makes the image appear backwards and the original drawing is destroyed.
D. printer—Inks and makes several original outline prints.  This is checked by the artist, who determines the color where other blocks are carved for a particular print.

In turn, all prints would be made on high quality hosho or mitsumata paper, (animal glue would have been applied a few hours before the print in order to slightly moisten the paper and make it absorb the ink and colors better) with the key block printed first with later colors added with separate carved blocks. It is also interesting to note that no press would be used for these prints. For the process of production would be to apply the water-soluble ink and color to the block, placing paper placed down face down, and then hand pressed with a smooth pad or baren
This is significantly different from the printing processes that I have mentioned previously in this blog.

I have always admired the simplicity of design and inherent skill found within Japanese prints.  I agree with Yoko Woodson in believing that “Japanese prints fulfill all the criteria of great art. They combine physical beauty, technical virtuosity, and brilliant design with great originality, boundless vitality, and fascinating content” (qtd 32).  Without these wonderful works we would not possibly have seen major art history periods like Impressionism or later more abstract artists.  These works, as well as other works outside the Western tradition, help fuel new ideas into the art world in order to prevent it from becoming too stagnant. I was very excited when I was able to work with these historical prints.      

A Hokusai Print that had inspired Vincent van Gogh

*uki stands for floating and yo means world.  This involves the idea that the world is fleeting and will disappear.  The only true path to true pleasure is to reach enlightenment with your mind transcending into a floating or otherworldly world.   
** They applied the Floating world concept to reality.  Believing that society’s pleasures are fleeting and that the goal of life is to keep them as long as possible.
***Another innovation was the discovery of Prussian Blue or as the Japanese call it Berlin Blue (beroirn). This color would allow for more dynamic colors in printing than previous colors used.  We would not see those dramatic blues in the waves or skies without it.

Textual Sources:
Takahashi, Seiichiro. Traditional Woodblock Prints of Japan. 1st edition. Translated by Richard Stanley-Baker. New York: John Weatherhill, Inc, 1972.

Lane, Richard. Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print. Secaucus, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc., 1978.

Woodson, Yoko. “Hokusai and Hiroshige: Landscape Prints of the Ukiyo-e School.” Hokusai and Hiroshige: Great Japanese Prints from the James A. Michener Collection, Honolulu Academy of Arts. San Francisco: The Asian Art Museum of San Fancisco, 2000.  

Image Sources:
and my personal images

Supplementary Sources:
Last semester I had a history of Japan class.  Part of my information comes from lecture notes, in class video and our key textbook:
Pyle, Kenneth B. The Making of Modern Japan, 2nd ed. Lexington and Toronto: D.C. Heath and Company, 1996.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One Blur of a Week

  Song of the Day: My Body by Young the Giant

I know this blog is in need of another post, so here is a brief one. Currently, this semester has been rough for me, but I will try to keep my posting as regular as I can.  
I promise you I've been harder at work than the Owl in this Hiroshige print

          A number of weeks ago, a professor of mine has lead me to an interesting video resource:

          Although I am not really qualified to perform this procedure on any of the works in the collection I still like how informative this video is.  Resources like this allow one to learn more about the terminology and the tools that are involved within this field. (For instance this is a great visual example of what foxing is, little brown spots and how it is mold that is physically growing on the a work.) 

          One of my tasks involves researching and organizing gathered information about various individual works in the collection. For some works, this appears for me as a daunting task. However, I feel already that I have accomplished a lot and that I now have a clear direction ahead of me. (You could say that I finally figured out how to swim so that I am not floundering so much.  This is better late than never.)  

           As Caple suggests, from one of my primary texts mentioned in my first post, “there is need always to investigate objects closely to ensure that an accurate picture of the past (history) is derived rather than a modern day fiction” (21). To give the work justice, one needs to read and learn as much about the work as they can and present it in a way that justly represents the piece. For most works this may involve making the work look as the day that it was recently created. This may involve more drastic procedures such as what is performed in this video.  Where "[t]he goal of conservation isn't to make the drawing look new again rather it is to safely remove the damage that distracts from the design and bring the sheet closer to the artist's original intent.” During the time of this internship, I hope to research and compile together the necessary information needed to determine what the work needs done to it.  This in order to create something that someone could work with and take to the next level.  

           This coming Wednesday, at five, I will be making a brief in-progress presentation about the work I have been working on this semester. So if you’re interested in watching me squirm from my speech making nerves just give me the heads up for further details.  You can also give me any possible suggestions for improvement that I am open for. In addition, if you have any other visual resources that you think I would find interesting be sure to comment.

             Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for some future blog posts including a research post about the Hiroshige prints and a Kentucky Primitive.   In addition, Conservation Week is the Week of April 24th. (Also known as my birthday week.) Be sure to keep your eyes open for more information in the near future.