Saturday, November 14, 2015

Vive La France

"Paris is our capital. We love music, drunkenness, joy."
 - from a series of cartoons by Joann Sfar

... and we love La Ville-Lumière (the city of enlightenment)!

From Libération:  some much-needed humor (in both French and English). For a listing of other Parisian news sources (in both French and English), try here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Leonora Carrington...

1961 Oil Paintng by Leonora Carrington (click to enlarge)

... on PBS's "Antiques Roadshow"!

Caught this show on the tube a couple of weeks ago... and just had to post about it.

Here's a transcript from the show (found here):

I know there's an artist by the name of Leonora Carrington and that she lived in Mexico. Originally she came from Europe, but she came to Mexico after the Second World War. Much more than that I don't know, except I know that she was a surrealist.

Surrealism is understood most prominently by the work of Salvador DalÌ, someone like that, these images of the imagination and dreams and in some cases nightmares, which may apply to what we have here. Do you know about her background at all?

I believe she was born in England. I read somewhere that she painted in her early 20s and that she was the mistress of Max Ernst.

Right. She did run off with Max Ernst. She's a student and then ran off to France, and after the war, she suffered a nervous breakdown, and I think these pieces are very personal. I think that's part of it, is her coming to grips with the nightmares and the imagery in her life. And you look at this piece, it's all very macabre and surreal. The central piece here is this large sort of wolf-like figure with multiple arms and legs all around it. And then distributed throughout the bushes are figures. You see this wolf-like face here and bats sort of looming. And then down at the bottom, you have these creepy fellows with a spider. Overall, she had a fairly normal life, it seemed, but she was haunted by these visions. You mention she did go to Mexico, and that's where she did most of her work.

Not until after the war, she had her first showing down here.

She signed "Leonora Carrington" in 1961. Now, where did you get this?

It was originally my parents', and they had a large house, and they had a rather extensive collection of art. When they got this, I fell in love with it, and finally when they downsized, they knew that it was the one piece of all their artwork that I really adored, and so they gave it to me, and that was about 40 years ago.

That's great. Obviously, this was '61, so this is over 50 years old, and it was probably purchased around the time it was painted. Did they go to Mexico, or...?

I believe so. I believe they had friends in Mexico City who knew collectors. They were able to go to people's homes who had more paintings than they needed, literally warehousing them, from Mexican artists. And this came out, and my father dug deep and he bought it.

Right, well, it's a fabulous example of her work, and really relates that personal angst that she had. Now, she painted in a variety of different mediums. This is a piece on canvas, so it looks like it's primarily oil. Recently, her value has come up a bit because she has passed away. She died in 2011. She lived to be 94, I believe. Her works are sold mainly in Latin American sales. There's a lot of interest in those. Have you had it appraised?

I have not. I do know what my parents paid for it. I believe they said they bought it somewhere around $7,000 to $10,000, which was a big price to pay for a painting. I'm sure my father had to think twice about it when he did it.

Right now, I would expect an auction estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 these days.

They bought well. Amazing."


To view this portion of the show, go to this PBS page.

What a fabulous painting!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Witches

Maria Germanova of the Moscow Arts Theatre, costumed for her role [as the fairy] in the 1908 premiere of Maeterlinck’s Blue Bird, produced by Stanislavsky. From: Lost Marvels of Revolution-Era Russian Theater.

"Shall I see tonight sister, bathed in magic greet?
Shall we meet on the hilltop where the two roads meet?
We will form the circle, hold our hands and chant
Let the great one know what it is we want

Danger is great joy, dark is bright as fire
Happy is our family, lonely is the ward."

- From "Witches' Song" by Marianne Faithfull, Joe Mavety, Stephen York, Barry Reynolds, and Terence Stannard.

"I think that all women are witches, in the sense that a witch is a magical being. And a wizard, which is a male version of a witch, is kind of revered, and people respect wizards. But a witch, my god, we have to burn them. It’s the male chauvinistic society that we’re living in for the longest time, 3,000 years or whatever. And so I just wanted to point out the fact that men and women are magical beings. We are very blessed that way, so I’m just bringing that out. Don’t be scared of witches, because we are good witches, and you should appreciate our magical power." 

- A quote from Yoko Ono found here.

“Witches never existed, except in people’s minds. All there was in the olden days was women and some men who believed in herbal cures and in folklore and in the wish to fly. Witches? We’re all witches in one way or another. Witches was the invention of mankind, son. We’re all witches beneath the skin.”

- A quote from The Flood, by Ian Rankin, found here.

"I'll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!"

- The Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) from The Wizard of Oz (film clip).


I had a much different post planned for this day, featuring my latest digital image. Alas, this was not meant to be. I also had a very different sort of post intended for "The Witches", but it was, by no means, holiday fare. 

Witches, witches... so much to say, so little time. "Are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" the ethereal Glinda asks Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz film clip (linked to above). Now, there's a loaded question... perhaps one we should be asking our potential candidates for higher office... all of them.

In the end, I decided this Halloween post is for fun... think: "Samantha" in Bewitched. Or, better yet, the delightful Kim Novak in my all-time favorite vintage flick: Bell, Book and Candle (clip below)...

... and have yourself a Happy Halloween! ;-)


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Found Outside my Window...

Shot from my back porch, 9 AM, October 10, 2015...
(click to enlarge)

It's a beautiful day in New Mexico; the first of its kind this week. I'd been feeling badly about not yet visiting the Balloon Fiesta, which has been going on since October 3. But, as it happens, as I was passing by the patio window overlooking my backyard this morning, it almost seemed the Balloon Fiesta had come to me! Rising over the wall behind my house, so close I could see its human navigators and hear the gas jets firing, was the balloon shown above.

Thanks, guys, you made my day!

Searching around YouTube for some Fiesta videos, I came upon this one, downloaded yesterday by "Dirt Rancher", featuring a neighborhood somewhat similar to mine, but, with a whole lot more activity.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Black Key #19

Black Key #19 - virtual (digital) assemblage - 2015, DS
(click to enlarge)

“The unborn work in the psyche of the artist is a force of nature that achieves its end either with tyrannical might or with the subtle cunning of nature herself, quite regardless of the man who is its vehicle.  The creative urge lives and grows in him/her like a tree in the earth from which it draws its nourishment.  We would do well, then, to think of the creative process as a living thing implanted in the human psyche.”
- from The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature, Collected Works, 1966, Carl Jung

I'll be away from the "Land of Blog" for the next couple of months, attending to various "unborn works in the psyche".

Before I go, I just wanted to address some elements I deleted from the sidebar... namely my "Followers" section, the pageview-count widget, and the "Search" widget; all three seem to have picked up glitches in the past couple of months, and aren't working - on my computer, at any rate - so, I took them down. I especially wanted my followers to know that this was no reflection on them, and when and if the widgets lose their glitches, I'll put them back up.

My plan is to return around the end of October... till then, adios!


PS  Following the trail of the Black Key: Where the Key was Found. But, the question remains, was the key found before, or after #19? ;-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Patron Saint #11: Frida Kahlo: Portraits of La Santa Muerte

Autorretrato con collar de espinas (Self Portrait with Necklace of Thorns) - oil on canvas - 1940, Frida Kahlo
(Apart from this image which is posted at its maximum size, all others on this page
 can be clicked to enlarge.)

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.”

- Frida Kahlo; quote found here.


I've not been a huge fan of most film and television fare in recent years, so I tend to miss a lot of things. And, when Julie Taymor's Frida (2002) appeared on the tube several months ago, I was a liitle hesitant; not convinced that Selma Hayek (or, anyone, for that matter) could pull off the heavy title role. Happily, I was wrong, and, for the most part, I enjoyed the film. And, it renewed my interest in possibly one of the most celebrated, venerated - and, possibly least understood - artists of the past century, Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907 - July 13, 1954).

As it was, Frida Kahlo's story came up a few times in the autumn of last year, during research for "Dia(s) de Los Muertos". At first, I thought it was amusing that, while googling "The Day(s) of the Dead," Kahlo's imagery - and photos of Kahlo herself - kept popping up on my computer monitor, but, after exploring some of these links, and doing a little investigation of my own, an intriguing picture began to emerge. Ultimately, Frida Kahlo might not be associated with the Days of the Dead for superficial reasons. As it was, I begin to suspect, in many ways, not only was she aware of La Santa Muerte (or Santisima Muerte) the patron Saint of Death - in spite of the fact that she had not come from, nor lived in the lower class barrios - she, in many ways, identified with her and, possibly, even paid tribute to her, along with the Saint's Mesoamerican forebear, the goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl. Moreover, as documentation of contemporary Santa Muerte worship just happened to originate around the middle of the 20th century - anywhere from the 1940s to the 1960s (Kahlo herself died in 1954) - I suspect that, not only was Frida Kahlo an early contributor (albeit unwittingly) to the religion's more recent form (see here and here), she has become, in a sense, one of the saint's corporeal embodiments...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rejection Letter from Walt Disney Studios, 1938

Rejection letter to an aspiring young artist, 1938
(click to enlarge)

June 7, 1938

Dear Miss Ford:

Your letter of recent date has been received in the Inking and Painting Department for reply.
Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that work is performed entirely by young men. For this reason girls are not considered for training school.

The only work open to women consists of tracing the characters on clear celluloid sheets with India ink and filling in the tracings on the reverse side with paint according to directions.

In order to apply for a position as "Inker" or "Painter" it is necessary that one appear at the Studio bringing samples of pen and ink and watercolor work. It would not be advisable to come to Hollywood with the above specifically in view, as there are really very few openings in comparison with the number of girls who apply.

Yours very truly,

Mary Chase

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

In the Company of Green Women (V): The Renaissance & Baroque Painters

Susanna and the Elders - oil painting - 1610, Artemisia Gentileschi

(Apart from this image, which has been posted in full, the remainder of the images of this post
 can be clicked to enlarge.)

"If Artemisia had not been a virgin before Tassi raped her, the Gentileschis would not have been able to press charges. During the ensuing seven-month trial, it was discovered that Tassi had planned to murder his wife, had engaged in adultery with his sister-in-law, and planned to steal some of Orazio’s paintings. During the trial, Artemisia was subjected to a gynecological examination and torture using thumbscrews to verify her testimony. At the end of the trial Tassi was sentenced to imprisonment for one year, although he never served the time..."
- Via the Wiki entry for Artemisia Gentileschi. (Note: Ah, but do not cry for Artemisia; as we will see, she, indeed, has her metaphorical revenge!)

Self Portrait as a Lute Player - oil on canvas - 1615-1617, Artemisia Gentileschi

"It is not easy to explain why the Italian towns and universities gave so much encouragement to the higher aspirations of girls. In poetry, in art, in learning, that encouragement was equally remarkable, and I am tempted to assign its origin to the martial temper of the Middle Ages, which drew many young men from the universities to take part in the exercises of the tilt-yard or in the perils of the battlefield, leaving the fields of learning in need of zealous labourers. Women, on the other hand, exposed their hearts, but not their lives, to the hazards of duels, tournaments and wars; they lived longer than men, as a rule, and hence it was worth while to encourage publicly those gifts of the female mind and spirit which had long been cultivated privately for the benefit of peaceful nunneries."
- Walter Shaw Sparrow from Women Painters of the World, 1905. (Full text)

"A number of obstacles stood in the way of contemporary women who wished to become painters. Their training would involve both the dissection of cadavers and the study of the nude male form, while the system of apprenticeship meant that the aspiring artist would need to live with an older artist for 4–5 years, often beginning from the age of 9-15. For these reasons, female artists were extremely rare, and those that did make it through were typically trained by a close relative..."
- Via the Wiki entry for Flemish artist Caterina van Henessen (1528 – after 1587).

Self Portrait Seated at an Easel - oil on wood panel - 1548, Caterina van Hemessen 

"Occasional doubt has been raised as to the authenticity and provenance of the work. Some have speculated that it was created by her father Jan Sanders van Hemessen (1500–c 1566); he tended to portray women with the same large round, dark, eyes and reduced chin. However these theories are not given much weight by art historians, and the prominence of the signature is taken as evidence of Caterina's intention to mark the work as by her own hand."
- Via the Wiki entry for Caterina van Henessen. (Note: The actual inscription on the painting is: "I Caterina van Hemessen have painted myself / 1548 / Her aged 20.") (!)


Well, finally, after following the exploits of medieval women who, despite their unfortunate invisibility, we now know were active in many fields of visual art, we come to the end of our medieval journey.  We are now entering the High Renaissance and Baroque periods, and, somehow, with no prior evidence or warning, a most curious thing occurs: women artists have suddenly multiplied like rabbits! Not only that, we now have names, faces, and dates to conjure with; yes, actual flesh & blood people. In short, there's enough official data to utterly dispel the falsehood that women have no artistic legacy. Because, yes, there most certainly were great woman artists in the long past, whether certain small, indoctrinated, and biased minds recognize this or not.

But, if any or all of the woman painters I feature (or mention) in this post - an incomplete listing of about thirty-five* - come as a surprise to you, do not feel alone. You and I are sharing the same process of discovery. I can attest to the fact that, as recent as thirty-five years ago, little was known - or, at least shared with the general public - about any of these women outside of Europe, and (possibly) only marginally there, with few exceptions. Moreover, they were known mainly amongst scholars and academics who, for whatever reason, couldn't estimate the importance of the work these dedicated women had produced. And, let's face it, the women had to be dedicated, considering the immense obstacles that stood before them.

Enter the contemporary feminists. And, female art students of today, whether they realize it or not, are beholden to women like artist, Judy Chicago, and historians, Mary D. Garrard, Norma Broude, Frances Sinclair, Jane Fortune, and the numerous others who rescued the full spectrum of human creativity from the waste-bins of history. And, let's not forget the technology. Today an art student merely has to wave his or her hand over a screen to instantly conjure up art from around the world from any period in history... not so easily accomplished before the 21st century, and certainly impossible for women of the Renaissance.

Portrait of Five Women with a Dog and a Parrot - oil on canvas (distressed) - Lavinia Fontana

So, with little more ado I present to you my recent findings - as much, or more, of a shock to me as this information may seem to you. But, if you are a woman keep this one idea in mind: the female artists of the remote past - even more so than many of those today - were sending a codified message... to each other, and to all the marginalized creative woman of the future. Unlike those anonymous artists of the medieval period, the painters of the High Renaissance and those which followed, began signing their work, as if to say: "I did this. I was here. Remember me."

Of course, in reality, there have been many men similarly marginalized by society throughout the ages; so, this underlying message is for them, as well. It is a message for the "outlaws", the mavericks, the dispossessed... the men and women who (along with their work) - were suppressed or lost, or, possibly even destroyed, by the prevalent trends and powers-that-be of their day... or the biased and misinformed whims of chroniclers who came after. It's of some small comfort to know that, In time - although, perhaps, a very long time - those marginalized humans might finally find a rightful place in history, and receive the respect and recognition due to them.

Well, idealistically. But, in any case, truth will "out"... and, that's the main thing.

Below the jump is a listing, arranged chronologically by date of birth, of a gathering (and gallery) of Renaissance painters and those from the Baroque - a French word originally referring to an irregularly-shaped pearl - period which followed. Some of them, along with the examples of their work, I've accompanied with a bit of text; some with only a few links, depending on how much is known about the artist, and/or, specific items of intrigue. It's only the mere tip of the iceberg, but it's the best I can do. Enjoy! :-)

(Note: As of this post, all links will now open up in new pages.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

Lughnasadh Interlude

Lughnasadh (detail) - digital - 2007, DS

Lughnasadh and the "blue moon" synchronistically fall on the same date this year. What does this mean? It's a prompt: get your Pagan on!

For more information about Lughnadadh try here. For an astrological take on the current blue moon, try here.

Blessed Be,


An apology to my European readers.

It has come to my attention that there are numerous country-specific versions of this blog in cyber-space. Moreover, in the past week or so, the European ones (for example) have had a rather ungainly "cookie" notice plastered over this blogspot's title, due to a recently-enforced European cyber-law. I am dismayed, and sorry for the entire state of affairs, but I'm afraid it, and everything related to it - the "cookies," the notice, and whatever country-specific blog URLs are in existence -  are not of my creation and are entirely outside of my control.  In my opinion, the "cookie notice" should be available to all readers, and should appear on the main .com page; a possibility I'm considering although the actually mechanics involved are daunting.

Then again, as I pay Google nothing for the cyberspace in which this blog resides, I have no legitimate cause, excuse, (nor authority) to complain. Without this free space my blog(s) would not exist and I would have no venue(s). One gets what one pays for. On the other hand, my European readers are important to me, and I hope this recent development has not caused them to doubt my integrity nor the integrity of other American bloggers.

In the end, to my knowledge, "cookies" are the product of most websites across the board and are hardly exclusive. Welcome to cyberspace.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

In the Company of Green Women (IV): Of Lost Creatures & Forgotten Tales (The Textile Artists)

À mon seul désir - one of six in the series of tapestries entitled: The Lady and The Unicorn - Flanders, 1500s - currently housed in the Musée de Cluny - National Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris, France.

"In the nineteenth century Prosper Merimé the French Inspector of Historic Monuments drew the attention of authorities to the beauty and importance of the tapestries after finding them hanging on damp walls in the rat ridden decaying Château Boussac in 1835. They were still there in 1844 when the renowned author of her day George Sand mentioned them in her novel Jeanne. She endeavoured to use her celebrity status to have them removed to safety, but to no avail.They were still there in 1853 when Baron Aucapitaine drew the attention of Edmond du Sommerard, the Curator of the Cluny Museum at Paris to them and he subsequently negotiated long and hard to secure them.Two important details still elude researchers; the personality of the artist who designed the tapestries for Jean le Viste and the place where they were woven."

- Carolyn McDowall, from The Lady and The Unicorn and ‘Millefleurs’ Style Tapestries.

The Unicorn is Found - one of a series of seven tapestries entitled: The Hunt of the Unicorn - 1490-1505, Brussels - currently housed in The Cloisters, NYC, New York.

"I was so excited to see the tapestries, I think I almost cried.  They are so amazing and the colors are still so vivid.  The tapestries are believed to have been created in the Netherlands, between 1495 and 1515.  The first known record of their existence is from 1680 when they were part of the inventory of the belongings of a French Duke...

...During the Revolution, populist mobs looted the chateau and took the tapestries where they remained out of sight for several generations. It was rumored that they were used to cover espaliered trees and protect potatoes. In the early 1850’s a peasant’s wife came forward with news of some “old curtains” that were covering vegetables in the barn. Can you imagine? It’s amazing that they have managed to retain their pretty, bright colors."

- Thimbleanna, from The Unicorn Tapestries

Salone dei Mesi (Month of March) - Francesco del Cossa - 1470

"The most famous remaining medieval tapestry cartoons were the ones painted by Raphael for "The Acts of the Apostles", a series of tapestries commissioned from a Brussels tapestry shop by Pope Leo X in 1515 for the lower level of Rome's Sistine Chapel. We remember Raphael's name... he's a very famous artist. No one remembers the names of those countless Belgian weavers."

-  Found on this Unicorn page.

"Today it is said that the unicorn never existed. However, it is marvelously clear that when the unicorn was first described and centuries later when the tapestries were woven, everyone believed in unicorns."

- From Marianna Mayer, The Unicorn and the Lake.


Whenever a medieval or Renaissance work of art is found hosting a colony of mold, plugging up a fireplace, or "protectively" wrapping a bin of potatoes, it almost goes without saying that it must have been "women's work" (the art, that is). At least, that's the impression I got as I vainly pursued and attempted to identify medieval women artists and artisans. It seems to have been a trend... and, one we'll revisit, when we've arrive at the topic of Renaissance paintings (note: despite my best efforts, this will not be achieved in the present post).

Which is why I believe the two sets of Unicorn tapestries (examples shown above; also below the jump) - most especially "The Lady and the Unicorn" - were most likely the work of women. This is not to say that men were not involved in the production of textiles in the late Middle Ages. They most certainly were. Weavers were often members of all-male guilds, because - apart from the work emerging from convents and monasteries - women were supposedly banned from the loom. By the late 1400s and early 1500s, however, when the Unicorn tapestries were created, the situation had reversed, and female weavers began to predominate; especially in the Low Countries, where the Unicorn tapestries - both sets - originated.

Moreover, both the "Lady and the Unicorn" tapestries, and those comprising "The Hunt of the Unicorn," employed the Millefleur(s) - thousand flowers - technique; a style which (I'd hazard to guess) even the most genteel of men would find hard to swallow, let alone spend countless hours over its execution. I think, too, that it's significant that the French feminist writer, George Sand (French Wiki link) , made a point of championing "The Lady's" recovery (from the no-longer-rat-infested Château Boussac). She sensed there was something "curious" about them.*

But, when both sets of tapestries were finally "saved," it didn't take art historians long to realize that the textiles were artistic masterpieces. As it presently stands, the Unicorn tapestries (of both groups) are officially considered to be the most outstanding examples of medieval art and craftsmanship the world possesses...