• Happy Birthday Michelangelo!

    By Daniele da Volterra – The Collection Online, The Metropolitan Museum of Art., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50572617

    Since we discussed Michelangelo’s David in our Museum Monday yesterday, it would just be wrong not to recognize his birthday today. If you are interested in a little Michelangelo trivia, you might be interested in this POST I shared last year on his birthday.


  • Museum: David’s Ankles

    Museum Monday Header

    As if you need another reason to visit Italy, today, let’s talk about the Galleria dell’ Accademia that is home to Michelangelo’s David. We have all seen Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in photos, replicas, or the original, right? This 17-foot marble statue of the Biblical hero has become one of the most recognizable sculptures from the Renaissance period. The sculpture was originally commissioned as one of twelve Old Testament sculptures to be installed on the roof of the Florence Cathedral. However, did you know that the marble had been quarried, brought to Florence (no small undertaking in the 1400’s),  and was worked on by two other artists before Michelangelo was commissioned to transform it into the David we know today?

    Marble is best sculpted after it is freshly cut and becomes increasingly brittle with exposure to the elements. In fact, this marble was considered “dead” because it had been sitting in the sun for over 30-years before Michelangelo transformed it into David. Somehow, the young Michelangelo took a piece of low quality marble that had been badly cut and created a beautiful statue.

    Upon the sculpture’s completion around 1504, the authorities acknowledged that installing the sculpture on the roof was unlikely. The sculpture was installed outdoors in the Palazzo della Signoria instead of the originally planned location. It remained in this outdoor location until it was moved into the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873 in an effort to protect the masterpiece from further damage. Between the time the marble had been quarried, sculpted, and installed, it had been exposed to the elements for close to 400 years if I did the math correctly.

    Why am I telling you this little tidbit of history? I am sharing this so you will have some background to understand why David has some weak ankles. It seems the ankles have developed micro-fractures as a result of exposure to the elements, the unusual position, and proportions (remember it was supposed to be viewed from a distance below which factored into the proportions and angle design), as well as other factors over the years. Scientists have mapped the micro-fractures and have determined that the masterpiece is in danger of collapse. Recent studies report, if David were tilted as little as 15-degrees, the ankles would no longer support the statue’s weight. Yikes!

    Here are a couple of articles HERE and HERE.

  • Celebrating the Photographer Ansel Adams

    Today is the birthday of American photographer, Ansel Adams. I know we’ve all seen his images, heard about his commitment to conservation… and photographers certainly know about the Zone System he championed. So today, on his birthday, let’s celebrate his art, as well as the contributions he made to the art of photography.

    I’ve always been intrigued by Adams’s technical abilities with photographs. When I was in college, I even “pitched” the idea of receiving college credit to attend his workshop one summer. My instructor agreed to the college credit IF I wrote a proposal and a paper after the workshop. Her agreement encouraged me to work on a plan to make it happen. My next step was parental approval so I devised a proposal to travel to California via train, and my parents agreed. Hot diggity dawg! I was going to apply to study with Ansel Adams, albeit a short amount of time, but it was time with Ansel Adams. I was sure he would teach me the secret of great photography. Unfortunately, Mr. Adams passed before I got my plan off the ground so I was never his student – in person.

    After a long absence from photography, I now find myself embracing digital photography which in many ways is like re-learning photography. Don’t get me wrong. Digital photography has a lot of benefits, but, if I’m truthful, there is a part of me that misses film photography too. I have a collection of Ansel Adams books and I am still learning from him. His methods still hold teachable moment even though the medium has changed. I would like to think he would have enjoyed all the new developments in this medium we call photography.

    Happy birthday! This Zone System is for you Mr. Adams.

    If you want to join the party, HERE is a video interview with Ansel Adams. Enjoy!

  • Photographer Edward Curtis

    "Kikisoblu (Princess Angeline) of the Duwamish" — the eldest daughter of Chief Seattle. 1896 portrait photograph by Edward S. Curtis.

    Princess Angeline

    Today is Edward Curtis’s birthday. Edward Curtis was a photographer, who, in my mind, crossed lines into the territory of what I consider a historian, and perhaps even a photojournalist. Officially, however, he is referred to as an “American photographer and ethnologist”. I have written a blog about him before (HERE).

    His (circa) 1895 photograph of Princess Angeline (above) is considered his first portrait of a Native American. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. What intrigues me about his story is his dedication and determination. He literally gave up everything to pursue this passion of documenting Native Americans in a time when it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their customs. Clearly, he saw an urgency in documenting as many tribes, as well as their customs, languages, and rituals, before their way of life vanished. I realize there is controversy surrounding authenticity, etc., but I feel there are some stunning images that resulted from his work. For example, I could sit quietly with Princess Angeline for quite a while. Then, there is the Vanishing Race where only one of the warriors is looking back. That small moment becomes a metaphor for the past and a vanishing way of life. There are so many images that give me pause and make me ponder the stories.

    So today, on Mr. Curtis’s birthday, have a look-see at some of the images he created which are housed at the Library of Congress.

  • Motivational Monday: “Sales Don’t Make A Show”

    Today is Joan Mitchell’s birthday. Ms. Mitchell was an Abstract Expressionist painter in the 1950’s who was known for her use of bold colors and sweeping brushstrokes to create paintings inspired by nature. So let’s celebrate the day with one of her quotes. If you want to read more quotes, ArtNet NEWS published a series of Mitchell quote on her birthday a few years ago. HERE is the link. (And, yes. I know she did not like white. She probably would not approve this graphic I created. I, however, love white. After all, white is the presence of all colors.)

    "Sales Don't Make a Show"

    Joan Mitchell Quote

  • Happy Birthday Vivian Maier!


    Artist Focus Blog Banner

    Antique Camera – Artist Focus Blog Banner

    Today is Vivian Maier’s birthday (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009). If you are not familiar with Vivian Maier or her work, it may be because she was relatively unknown prior to the acquisition of some of her personal effects in 2007. Little information is known about Miss Maier. Apparently, she was an intensely private person who worked as a nanny for some 40 years, beginning in the mid-1950’s. During this time she was known to walk around with a Rolleiflex camera strapped around her neck, snapping images on rolls and rolls of film. Unfortunately, Vivian Maier did not experience the appreciation of her work during her lifetime. In fact, among the bevy of her personal effects were copious rolls of exposed, undeveloped film. Yep. The undeveloped film means that she never saw much of her own work. Clearly, showing her work was not why she did the work. So, what drove her to continue taking those photographs?

    Since the discovery of the body of work amassed by Vivian Maier, her work has been exhibited posthumously and her life is the subject of books and documentary films. But, those stories and their details have been told and you can search them out.

    My request for permission to share an image or two went unanswered, so you are going to have to click HERE to take a look if you are interested. However, I would like to consider some other points of view about her work. They are really more questions than answers. Here are a few questions that come to mind:

    • Miss Maier is now known for her street photography. It seems she went relatively un-noticed as she recorded everyday life, as well as current events. Maybe her anonymity was due to the Rolleiflex camera which allows the photographer to look down in the camera viewfinder rather than holding the camera up to the eye. I suspect this type camera made street photography a little more spontaneous and less obvious. Or, had she learned a delicate dance of being present without being present – very much like being a nanny who is part of a family’s life without really being family. Or, was it just a different time when photography was not so prevalent and things were, perhaps, a little more innocent and trusting?
    • She was known to be particularly fond of newspapers. Were her documentary-style photographs a type of self-assignment making her a defacto photojournalist? Or, simply a manifestation of her curiosity?
    • She captured her own image, reflection, shadow… in many of the images. Was this too a documentation of her and her life, a happy accident, or was she simply ahead of her time with the selfie revolution?
    • From what I have read, it appears as though Maier may have been a self-taught photographer. How did she learn photography? Especially after she stopped developing her film. Without that feedback, how do you know what is “working” and what is not? What area(s) need work? What is working, but could be better?

    There are so, so, so many questions her story and work conjure up. Wouldn’t it be interesting to view the entire portfolio in toto, in chronological order, so you could see her evolution as an artist? Or, should we respect her privacy? What are your thoughts?


  • Happy Birthday John Singer Sargent!


    By unidentified photographer (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    American artist, John Singer Sargent, was born 162 years ago today (January 12, 1856). John Singer Sargent was apparently THE portrait artists back in the day. The photograph captures the artist in his studio. However, if you look closely at the painting behind him, you will get a glimpse at the portrait that probably brought him the most notoriety. Why this portrait? Well, the subject of the portrait was Virginie Gautreau. Madame Gautreau happened to be the “it girl” of Paris in the late 1800s. But the subject herself was not the reason the painting was famous.

    It turns out that this particular portrait was quite controversial. The controversy surrounding the portrait was due to the fact that John Singer Sargent elected to paint Madame Gautreau in a dress with one bejeweled shoulder strap that had fallen from her alabaster shoulder. (I will give you a moment to GASP! and clutch your pearls!) This state of “undress” was too intimate, and apparently crossed the line, because it created quite a scandal. The portrait could not be exhibited which is why you see it in the studio. If you look closely, the artist even re-painted the strap in its proper place, but, as the saying goes, “the horse was already out of the barn”. Once you have collected yourself and recovered from the shock, I encourage you to read the book, Strapless by Deborah Davis.

    And, speaking of books… if you are a bibliophile like me, I will be starting a “virtual” book club here on the website this year. I do hope you will join me on the last Thursday of the month to discuss books, books, and more books. But, until we officially kick off our year of reading, tell me what books you are enjoying (or have enjoyed) reading. (Scroll down and use the Comment box to share the book(s) you are enjoying.)

  • Happy Birthday Russell Lee

    By Photographer not credited. (Self portrait with timer?) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Russell Lee was an American photographer/photojournalist who, like Dorothea Lange, was best known for the images he captured during his time with the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Although Lee received a degree in engineering, he was dissatisfied with his career as a chemical engineer. He ultimately gave up his engineering career and began painting. It was during this time that he began using a camera as a tool to assist with his paintings. The rest, as they say, is history. I, for one, am so glad he made his way to photography. His images are among my favorites.

    I was fortunate to see the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum exhibit of Lee’s images. This particular exhibit included images Lee captured in the 1940s of Pie Town, New Mexico and its residents. I remember being so taken with his images that I went through the exhibit more than once. Although most of his images are beautiful black and white, this exhibit included a selection of images captured in color. Oh, and what colors they hold. Just look at this little beauty below.


    Russell Lee [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

    Happy birthday Mr. Lee!