Monday, April 29, 2013

Art of Armor

As the name implies, Art of Armor recently opened at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gives us a broad look into the aesthetics of samurai armor.  The exhibition features more than 140 objects from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller collection, including armored horses carrying combat-ready samurai in full regalia.
Having come to appreciate armor through my love of ukyio-e prints I was aware of how artfully they were portrayed in print media but I wasn't prepared for the staggering detail observed in a large scale exhibit of actual examples. 

Kuniyoshi - The last stand of the Kusunoki at Shij├┤-nawate under a hail of arrows in 1348 (1857)

Nor would I have been surprised to learn that artists had taken liberties to embellish the amount of decoration to add drama to the action of a print. Nothing could be further from the truth as the detail and elaboration of each samurai's armor was a masterpiece of collaborative efforts that would difficult to capture in its entirety. 

Breastplate detail

Artisans required to manufacture these armors included metal workers both forgers and decorative, braid makers and embroiderers, painters and sculptors, in short an army of artists to make the suit of one warrior.  Each suit in the collection is a riot of color texture and the style of each is unique, which is perhaps partly due to the preferences of the curators and the original collectors Ann and J. Gabriel Barbier-Mueller.


Some items are clearly ceremonial and some purpose built as protection or weapon but all show an attention to artistry that have helped the samurai to transcend cultural roots and become embedded in our collective consciousness.

The other purpose of the ornamentation is identification.  While rank and file warriors needed little more than a badge on the helmet or breastplate and perhaps a flag on their backs the men of high rank wanted to be identified, both to their men but also to be recognized so that their deeds of valor could be noted.  In times of peace samurai of wealth and rank could commission highly eccentric designs.


Although far removed from the era of the samurai and now subject to our romantic notions gleaned from popular culture this exhibition is certain to raise a renewed interest in the actual lives and times of samurai in feudal Japan.

Samurai - Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier- Mueller Collection on view in Boston at the Museum of Fine Arts through August 4th.
m the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Halfway to Boston

iStatic - ©William Evertson 2009

There have been more than a few times where I have been transfixed by the repetitive flicker of images on the TV screen.  All too often the electrons form into images of violence.  The events that recently transpired in Boston were just one more in a succession of the terror we inflict upon each other. Now the speculations concerning motives will eat up our news cycle until the next senseless violent act takes center stage.

All that to say for my little piece of this story, I was preparing for a bit of fun in Boston that was ruined. I was preparing to promote the art world based comic that I produce with collaborator Susan Shulman at Boston's ComicCon.

Already earlier in the week the marathon bombers had wrecked their havoc and once again our lives were altered.  People are resilient, Boston is resilient and life goes on, and with a heavy heart we continued our plans. By yesterday (Friday) things again had taken a turn for the worse with more death, a shootout with police and an entire city in lock down.

All day we waited along with thousands of others hoping that no more had to be victims in this drama. I was caught up in my own little drama of waiting to see if the event organizers would cancel. Their Facebook page was divided among those who didn't want to be cowed by the terror and those urging the prudence of cancellation in the face of the unprecedented "shelter in place" order and closing of all mass transit.

By 3pm it seemed as if the comiccon was still on and after checking with our hotel I set off for the two hour drive to Boston. Halfway there I got a text from my son; The Hynes convention center pulled the plug on events. I cancelled our hotel, turned around and headed home.  Probably for the best because my mood was foul and my heart was heavy; not where I needed to be when exhibiting or promoting art.
As most everyone know by now, the "shelter in place" was lifted and soon after more drama as the second bomber was eventually taken into custody amidst the largest police presence I've ever seen.

Today my heart is still heavy as I contemplate those who died, those who suffered massive injury, those whose lives are never to be the same because of this.

I'll got back into the studio today and begin new works of art and attempt to process the violence in our world.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Laying Track

Palmer Hayden, from John Henry series.

I recently read a story about building the first railroads. How each day material would get ferried forward and new track laid. Then the train backs up and picks up more material. Next day, start over.

Some days it's like that when I'm making art. I'm backing and then I'm laying new track this week because making art isn't just paint on canvas or ink on paper; sometimes I back up and write.

This morning as I set out to write I came across an injustice, seemingly small in our world of appropriated images becoming commonplace. I was looking through my images to illustrate the blog post title of laying track and then decided to google laying track.
Palmer Hayden, The Janitor Who Paints
I came across the picture above that was being used to promote a workshop "Sounds of American History" based on an authors book on John Henry. I searched for an attribution to the work, found none, but was just able to make out the artist signature.  Palmer Hayden it turns out spent more than his share of backing up to move forward. He focused on the African American experience with works from the urban background of Harlem as well as his (now) famous John Henry series of paintings created over 10 years. Link to Hayden on Wikipedia.

Please folks, if you are going to use an artist's work (even a deceased artist) to promote or illustrate something online, how about an attribution?

So....many days are filled with satisfying the preconditions to that studio time when you are actually at work on art. this past week was one of them.

First of all, PR and kudos for a great exhibit  curated by Cathy Nolan Vincevic for the Gordon Nash Library.  The exhibition titled, The Book Remade" is focused on books re-worked, re-organized, painted, cut ornamented or embellished. I'm happy to have my artist book, "Three Little Kittens Rekindled" included in this international group of altered books.

Curator and Head Librarian Cathy Nolan Vincevic

I wrote a blog post about the construction of the book back in March. My book was constructed with traditional hand binding techniques but made to resemble Amazon's Kindle.  That post has more of my thoughts on the distribution of literary material, our embrace of electronic media and the copyright of that material originally found in oral tradition.  The Gordon-Nash Library's blog contains the complete listing of artists. On display through April.

Preparation is underway for spending the weekend in Boston at ComicCon where Susan Shulman and I plan on exhibiting Kalicorp Art Mysteries.  Although as I write this the fallout of Mondays bombing of the Boston Marathon is still playing out. My heart goes out to those injured and lost loved ones in this horrific violence.

We'll Be at the Hynes Convention Center on Saturday, April 20th from 10am -7pm and Sunday, April 21 from 10am - 5pm.
(Email from the organizers indicate this will go on as planned - and artists are donating to the Red Cross for the Boston Marathon victims relief effort)

Gathering the promotional material for Artist Alley

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Six Blocks - Thirteen Times

 Background gradations built up with three colors

Light yellow of sail

Land mass was printed twice to get a gradation.

Sail highlights and mountain shadows

First printing of dark sky gradation

Final block printed three times for black, violet in trees and umber on monkey

Admiral He's Stowaway, image 11 x 17 printed on 13 x 19 paper (6 on Kizuki Hanga and 6 on Echizen Kozo).   This image is part of the illustrations that make up the novel and corpus of work from Analogue Narratives, an exquisite corpse multimedia work in progress.  Analogue Narratives features work by Mara Thompson, Lee Goldberg, Susan Shulman, Mark Bloch, Ria Vanden Eynde, myself and surprise guests from time to time.