art

A Tale of Two Cleopatras: Comparing and Contrasting Art

Happy Thursday, friends! After a recent trip to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I found myself with a few art photos that I wanted to share with you all, but I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of sharing the photos and simply telling you what I think about it, I decided that it would be more fun to compare the art with a similarly themed piece that I’ve also viewed in person. That way, I can describe the similarities, differences, and which piece I favor most.

(from left to right) Edmonia Lewis, The Death of Cleopatra; William Wetmore Story, Cleopatra

As you can see from the title, I’m comparing two marble Cleopatras today. The first work was part of my review of Edmonia Lewis’s work at the Archives of American Art (housed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum). Lewis’s The Death of Cleopatra was easily one of my favorite marble works of art at the museum.

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Photos of Lewis’s version of Cleopatra

The second Cleopatra is by William Wetmore Story, and is located at VMFA. This Cleopatra – his earliest version of the tragic Egyptian queen – is located in the American galleries at the museum. The massive work sits imposingly in the gallery and, in true queenly fashion, all other art in the room are dwarfed by the stunning Cleopatra.

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To keep this focused strictly on the works themselves, I avoided reading up on Wetmore Story. So there won’t be a comparison of the artists’ lives or legacies, but we will get into these pieces and discuss what they have in common and how they differ.

For starters, the subject is the same with both pieces. Both depict Queen Cleopatra, and (interestingly) both of the pieces portray her as having traditionally Greco-Roman facial features (kudos to the artists for remaining historically accurate when it came to her face). Both statues are massive: Lewis’s is a bit taller, but the posture is different, so they are actually very close in size. Amusingly, both also depict Cleopatra with one breast exposed. Perhaps they knew something about traditional Egyptian dress that I don’t?

While both of these Cleopatras are regal and elegant, the theme of the works couldn’t be more different. Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra is pensive and in deep contemplation: she is troubled by something and has probably just asked her servants to give her some privacy. Is she thinking about lost loves, or the impending downfall of her rule? Her mind may be racing over any number of things.

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Lewis’s Cleopatra has just committed suicide and is dying on her throne as her last royal act. She has just closed her eyes and her left arm has fallen limply to her side. Even in death, her face is struggling to relax comfortably: this queen is pained to the grave.

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As far as fine detailing on the pieces, I’m a fan of Wetmore Story’s version. To be fair, Lewis’s work had been exposed to considerable environmental elements and poor handling, so the sculpture isn’t as impeccably detailed as it (likely) once was.

My favorite Cleopatra is probably Lewis’s version, for this reason: she captured death and pain without making it grotesque or unnaturally pretty. This Cleopatra is finding it difficult to “rest in peace” but, ever the royal, she makes us feel pride, and not pity, for her. Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra is enchanting, for sure: I loved how well he captured her troubled mental state behind her stoic, regal expression. His Cleopatra is alive with emotion; however, Lewis’s Cleopatra moves us even in death.

That’s my not-so-quick comparison of two Cleopatras. I hope you all enjoyed and will make it a goal to see both of these beautiful works at some point in time. Enjoy your day, and I’ll chat with you all tomorrow!

 

art

A Few More Pictures from “What Remains to Be Seen”

I have a few more pictures from the exhibit, “What Remains to Be Seen”, featuring the works of Howardena Pindell. I wrote about the exhibit previously, but I returned to see it one more time before it left. Pindell’s work left a huge impression on me, if you couldn’t tell!

I hope you all enjoy these final glimpses of the exhibition. I will treasure the time that I spent learning about Pindell and marveling over her work. Stopping by VMFA one more time before the exhibition left was a wise decision: I’m glad that I did it!

art · culture

Howardena Pindell’s “What Remains to Be Seen” at VMFA

A few months ago, I went to a special event at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, announcing an upcoming exhibition. That exhibition was a retrospective of the creative career of Howardena Pindell, multimedia artist, activist and professor. “What Remains to be Seen” is an impressive ouevre that showcases Pindell’s evolution as an artist, and is broken down into the different phases of her life and creative journey.

Today (November 25) is the last day to see the works, so I’m heading to the museum shortly so I can enjoy them one last time before they leave. However, I’ve got a few pictures for you all in this post, some additional commentary (of course LOL!) as well as a YouTube video of Pindell’s most famous short, “Free, White and 21”. Enjoy!

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Howardena Pindell

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Pindell’s use of grids and numbers created some of her most riveting work. I love seeing how she turns numbers and otherwise sterile, math-related tools and objects, into art.

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The 3-d grid below is a good example of the blend of art and math. It’s probably one of my favorite works by her.

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The tiny individual circles affixed to many of Pindell’s pieces reveal her love of mathematic perfection reinterpreted. These pieces, attached to the grids she loved to work with, were occasionally numbered individually.

Like many artists, Pindell sought to promote cultural shifts through activism. Her works also featured socio-political themes that were near and dear to her.

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One of my favorite themes explored by Pindell was that of science. Closely related to her mathematics fascination, her interpretation of natural phenomenon and wonders created some of her most aesthetically charming works (though, to be honest, I love all of her work and find it all aesthetically pleasing). I especially loved “Nautilus” and “Night Flight” (pictures are below).

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Finally, here is “Free, White and 21”, Pindell’s video experiment where she aims to repair her memory loss (caused by a serious car accident) by recalling memories from earlier in her life.

art

This Week in DC Art

Happy Tuesday, friends! This is a holiday week, so you may be trying to find something to do other than simply eating turkey with family and friends (though that’s a perfectly good plan, as well!) If so, I have a few art-related things that you can check out if you want to do something different during this holiday weekend.

For starters, the National Portrait Gallery has an exhibit highlighting the history of the selfie-er, I mean, the past 100+ years of self-portraiture. Eye to I: Self Portraits from 1900 to Today showcases 75 different works that show how different artists during this period chose to depict themselves. It should be a fun and fascinating exhibit.

The National Portrait Gallery also recently acquired a photograph of Celia Cruz that is worth a trip all on its own, so if you go, make sure to pay homage to Queen Celia.

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¡Yo soy de Cuba la Voz, Guantanamera! by Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte, inkjet print, 1994 (printed 2016). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution © 1994, Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte

At the National Gallery of Art, this is the last full week that you can check out the exhibition Water, Wind and Waves: Marine Paintings from the Dutch Golden Age. If you love the sea (like me), this exhibition shouldn’t be missed. With the Dutch being personally invested in seafaring activities, these paintings have a level of realism and intensity that is rarely duplicated by other artists.

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Estuary at Day’s End by Simon de Vlieger, c. 1640/1645

Finally, if you’re spending time at the National Portrait Gallery, you might as well swing over to the Smithsonian American Art Museum (these two institutions are housed in the same building). Pushing the Envelope: Mail Art form the Archives of American Art is showcasing a fascinating subset of art: mail art. Artists in the 1960s and onward started using postal mail as a new outlet for their creativity. This exhibition has mail art that captures the spirit of the times, including pieces that mark significant political periods.

These are just a few of the exhibitions in DC this week that are worth checking out. I hope you spend a little time patronizing these fine institutions over this upcoming weekend!

 

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Art As Taught by the Smithsonian

I came across a fabulous Smithsonian Institute program that some of my fellow art lovers may want to check out.

“You love art. Now become the expert you’ve always wanted to be. Register in Smithsonian Associates Certificate Program in World Art History

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Well, with that lead in, who wouldn’t want to learn more about this program? This certificate program has 10 courses (four core courses and six electives) offered by the Smithsonian and you can take them at your leisure. You can start at any time and choose the courses that interest you as time goes along.

Even if you aren’t interested in completing the program, the opportunity to get instruction from the premiere staff employed by the Smithsonian is too good to pass up. Also, the chance to connect with fellow art enthusiasts who have decided to take their interests to the next level by enrolling in courses.

However, if you do enroll in the program, you get access to a “private Facebook group where you can interact with fellow students and pose questions to lecturers”. You will also get exclusive invitations to events at the institution. I’m considering enrolling in 2019, if inspiration leads me to it.

Have any of you had a chance to take some art courses, either online or in person? I’d love to hear about it! Let me know in the comments below. Take care!

art · life curation

The Writing and Drawing Salons Are Back!

You’ll recall last year that I wrote about how the National Gallery of Art offers writing and drawing salons seasonally (during the fall, winter and spring). I’m delighted to share that the salons are back! In fact, I’m a little late to the party: the first salons have already happened! Here is the schedule for the remaining salon events:

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Writing Salon

  • Character: The Power of Detail (November 2018)
  • Perspective: Inside Out (January/February 2019)
  • Setting: Capturing Place (February 2019)
  • Story: The Narrative Arc (March 2019)
  • Poetry: Movement and Meaning (April/May 2019)

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Drawing Salon

  • Rachel Whiteread and Sculpting Memory (November/December 2018)
  • El Greco’s Expressive Figures (January/February 2019)
  • Illuminating American Landscapes (March 2019)
  • The Portraits of Sir Anthony van Dyck (April/May 2019)

Kudos to the National Gallery of Art for expanding the schedule to accommodate more participants during this salon season. I recall the years when the events were held over three days only. However, this year (and last year, if I recall correctly), each theme has up to 8 different dates for attendees! More people can participate in these events with all of these dates available.

I plan to attend several salons this year. I didn’t make it to any last year, but I should have a lot more schedule flexibility over the next few months. If you decide to attend, I’ll see you there!

art · international

Review: The Horse in Ancient Greek Art Exhibit at Virginia Museum of Fine Art

This summer, I spent several days at different museums taking in the exhibits. While I wrote about most of the exhibits that I enjoyed, I had a couple of exhibits that I haven’t yet discussed here. I opted to wait on this one because I thought I’d have a chance to check it out again before I left. Alas, time got away from me and I didn’t return before the last day of the exhibit. However, I have a sufficient amount of photos, and I’m familiar enough with the subject matter to do a decent post. So, let’s discuss horses in Ancient Greece, shall we?

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Way back when I first started studying art, I took an art history course and I fell in love with Greek art. Something about the draped garments of the kore and caryatids seemed ethereal to me. I was officially in love when I first saw the Nike of Samothrace – Winged Victory – statue. Headless and armless, she still seemed so dynamic and magical and that was the kind of thing I regularly saw when I looked at Greek art. Power, motion, and magic, all bundled into singular pieces of art.

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Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace, The Louvre Paris

This exhibit, The Horse in Ancient Greek Art, was shown at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA. The exhibit highlighted the horse’s significance in the social hierarchy and cultural landscape of Ancient Greece. Horses were valued possessions, and were a luxury not afforded to the average man. The cost of horse maintenance meant that only the wealthiest and most powerful people in Ancient Greece could afford to own and care for these beauties.

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The exhibit featured a lot of vases and urns, which were decorated with paintings of horses. Horses were featured prominently on coins and monumental plaques, as well. It was interesting to see how the depictions of horses changed over different historical and artistic periods.

Being a wine lover, I can appreciate any of the vessels used to hold the nectar of the gods. Naturally, I was entranced by the choes and oinochoes. The Greeks loved combining beautiful presentation with practicality just as much as we do today.

So I learned more about Greek art, the significance of horses, and the many kinds of vases in Ancient Greece. It was a great experience, and my only regret is that I didn’t visit it at least twice before it left. I seem to do this with almost every visiting exhibit – will I ever learn? Anyways, that’s all for today. I hope you all enjoy your Saturday. Talk to you tomorrow!