Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from January, 2010

On a new design for the public art project

I just created a new design for the public art/community memoir project for the Carroll County Historical Society in northwest Illinois. I'll be presenting this to the CCHS board on Tuesday morning:


Images and text supplied by the community will be printed on plexiglass panels, which will be illuminated at night in the manner of a luminary. The building shown above is the HQ of the CCHS, in a nineteenth century Italianate house that is on the National Historic Register (I believe).

On teaching

I've taught printmaking on and off before, usually in small groups or one on one, and quite enjoyed that. When I first had to teach a large class about five years ago, I nearly had a nervous breakdown, and it took me a long time until I wasn't completely terrified of going into a room to teach to ten or fifteen people. About once a year for the last few years, I've co-taught a class with my wife, called Journal and Sketchbook: Ways of Seeing (that's what the class is called, not my wife). She is a very experienced teacher, and is Associate Professor in Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Even having Patty as the lead pilot wasn't enough initially to quell the terror.

But here we are in 2010, and tomorrow (Thursday) we begin to teach this class again, for fifteen weeks, and for the first time I am not unduly nervous. Practice makes for - well, less imperfect. There'll be a few nerves in the hours before the class, but once it starts, I know it will go f…

On Mozart's string trios and duos

Even in these lesser known, if not obscure, parts of Mozart’s work, you can hear all that Mozart is and could be. His writing for string trio (violin, viola, cello) and string duo (violin and viola) consists of a six movement divertimento, a couple of sonatas, and a set of preludes and fugues. In them you hear the different facets of his talent: the inventiveness with simple themes; the extraordinary slides into chromatic harmony, and then back to conventional figurations and cadences; the way he takes simple devices, such as a sustained dominant note, then a four note descent to a trill, before landing on the tonic, and does something a little different; the agonizing sweetness of his adagios, which someone has compared to a grieving widower who falls in love with his own sorrow; his sensitivity to the sounds the instruments are capable of making, alone and together; the brightness of the timbres, the attack, the flow and the ebb of music; the operatic alternation of comedy and drama…

On a Public Art proposal

One of my projects for 2010 is a public art-community history project in a small town in northwest Illinois called Mount Carroll, where my wife Patty and I own a house that we use for weekend/summer getaways. The project is a collaboration between me and Patty, who is a writer. We just received news that the Carroll County Historical Society will be our not-for-profit sponsoring organization, which means we can now proceed to apply for state grants, etc. The art part of it will consist of large lightbox columns, with photos of people's faces and quotations from their writing workshop material printed on the sides. Here is a Photoshop photo of what the columns might look like at night:



The shape might change, but the basic idea will look something like this. Keep checking in for further news on the project, including links to a forthcoming Facebook page.

On Jack B. Yeats

Two whole rooms in the National Gallery of Ireland are dedicated to the paintings of Jack B. Yeats, brother to the great poet W. B. Yeats. Jack Yeats is another painter whose work I've loved since I was in my teens, but this is the first time that I've seen so many all at once. In fact I think I may have only seen a couple of his pictures prior to this. In contrast to Caravaggio and Vermeer, who I talked about in an earlier post, Yeats style is all about loose paint, thinned with turpentine or linseed oil, applied on the canvas with rags, the ends of brushes, and lots of short brushtrokes. Actually, it's probable that Caravaggio started his big canvasses in this way too, by blocking in large shapes with a wide brush and rags dipped in paint. But he would 'work up' those first gestural shapes into highly finished surfaces. Yeats, being the good twentieth century painter that he was, ultimately developed a style where the surface gives the appearance of being in a hi…

On The National Gallery of Ireland

I'm in Dublin for the first week of the decade, taking the photos for a travel article that my wife is writing. On our first full day in the city, we went looking for the appropriately campy statue to Oscar Wilde, and found ourselves right next to the National Gallery of Ireland. After a few minutes inside its marble-floored rooms, I realised how many paintings that have been familiar to me for years are actually here in Dublin. The first major sight was Caravaggio's "The Taking of Christ":



It's true, but banal, to say that Caravaggio's art is based on extreme chiaroscuro, and startling transitions from light to dark areas. The eye is immediately impressed by the way light on objects is represented: the dazzling light on the centurion's armour, the light on the folds of skin on the furrowed brows of Christ and Judas, the glints on the fingernails and in the corners of eyes. It's the eyes in particular that drew me. The pattern of looking in the painti…