Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Of "Demonic Creativity"... and other things (Revised)

Yes, I've taken a short hiatus from this blog, in order to attend to another project. That is, finishing the tale in which this character will appear.

Meanwhile, there are a few things happening in cyberspace that have recently come to my attention and that I'd like to mention in this post...  one being an elaboration of my previous Trans-D discussion regarding that tricksy, enigmatic collaborator, the muse.

 Matt Cardin is offering a home course in "Demonic Creativity"
 - available as a free PDF document - in which he discusses the muse, and its many different aspects, both from its historical and psychological standpoints, as well as ways in which the muse enriches our lives as well as our art, and techniques one can use to discover and/or commune with ones own unconscious intelligence(s).

I was initially put off by Cardin's use of "Demonic" in the title, but, ultimately, he was referring to the Daemonic, which originally referred to more benevolent human guides, and ones inner, hidden genius, before it was corrupted, and, well, demonized by Judaeo/Christian mythology.

I've just started reading it, and although it's addressed primarily to writers, I feel safe in recommending it to anyone interested in a thorough discussion of the muse and its many facets.


And then, over at Scientific American, we have the flip-side of the same discussion... that is, the drier, mechanistic, neurological theories dealing with the eccentricities of the artist and/or creative.

"People who are highly creative often have odd thoughts and behaviors—and vice versa.
Both creativity and eccentricity may be the result of genetic variations that increase cognitive disinhibition—the brain’s failure to filter out extraneous information.

When unfiltered information reaches conscious awareness in the brains of people who are highly intelligent and can process this information without being overwhelmed, it may lead to exceptional insights and sensations."

The above quote is found in the article... but to read the rest, you have to fork over $8, so be advised.


 ATTENTION ALL DIGITAL ARTISTS! I've just been notified that MOCA is holding a competition in its Salon. Video artists may also apply. You may or may not have to be a member.

Should I enter? I don't know, as I can barely afford the $30 fee... but I'm thinking on it.

Meanwhile, the deadline is October 30


Lastly, I've came to the realization that this blog is not appearing as it should in many cases - up to and including to myself! Apparently, Google Blogger has these disagreeable moods, when it decides it can't bear to load the page as it's been told to.

The example shown above is how Trans-D looks on a good day (and yes, that brownish text box should blend right in to this brownish text box). If GB has PMS, however, or is suffering a migraine, you may be seeing all sorts of anomalies... weird fonts, weird colors, a blank background, or little question marks where images might be. If this is the case, my advice to you is to reload the page, and you may have to reload it more than once. If you're still getting something other than the provided swatch, then I can't help you - your internet program might need upgrading, or your computer may lack certain fonts... meaning, I'm too lazy to change my template!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Patron Saint #6: Sakiko Ide, an Artist Obsessed

Sakiko Ide, Untitled - Oil on canvas, 1973 - Azuma Gallery

"If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow Chrysanthemums."

(a Chinese philosopher)

"To dream that you gather white chrysanthemums, signifies loss and much perplexity; colored ones, betokens pleasant engagements. To see them in bouquets, denotes that love will be offered you, but a foolish ambition will cause you to put it aside. To pass down an avenue of white chrysanthemums, with here and there a yellow one showing among the white, foretells a strange sense of loss and sadness, from which the sensibilities will expand and take on new powers... Often death is near you in these dreams."

- From an online Dream Dictionary found here.

Scene: New York City, Time: 1975. Police are called to an uptown apartment by the building's superintendent who, upon entering said apartment - to turn a tenant's water off, which apparently had been running for some undeterminable amount of time - is met by an unpleasant discovery. When the police arrive on the scene, they find "large canvases... stacked against the wall, reaching almost to the ceiling in the small apartment." Strangely, these canvases seemed to hold images of chrysanthemums exclusively. "A narrow path led through the giant chrysanthemums to a bed, a kitchen and a bathroom." It also led to the lifeless body of a middle-aged woman, apparently the artist. Her wrists and stomach had been slashed in such a "brutal" way, however, the police were initially inclined to describe it as homicide.

Shortly thereafter, or so the story goes, the verdict is changed as the police are tipped off by one of the woman's "male co-workers" - at a company which reproduced antique Asian-motifed screens - that the artist had recently inquired about "the best way to commit suicide".  It couldn't have helped that she had suffered a nervous breakdown five years hence to remove any suspicions regarding her death.

But, I can't help but wonder why a few warning bells didn't go off. regarding the fact that not long before her death, she had "received" a life insurance policy, and having no one to claim as a beneficiary - as, apparently she had no family - one of her afore-mentioned co-workers was chosen "almost at random", so that the necessary forms could be filed.

In any event, that was the end of investigation. Death by seppuku, also known as harakiri, a form of ritualistic suicide originally reserved for Samurai warriors, and, in this particular case, a method generally reserved for males ("the best way..."?).

Sakiko Ide, Kikusui VI - silkscreen with hand coloring, 1973

The artist's name was Sakiko Ide, born in February, 1927, in Japan, and relocating to America to study art in Chicago during 1965 at the age of 36. After her graduation, two years later, she moved to New York where she became a member of the Japanese Artist's Association. She painted in oils as well as made serigraph prints, which were delicately hand-colored with pastels and inlaid with gold and silver leaf; some of which were bought by the Museum of Modern Art.  Others were exhibited at the Azuma Gallery, which, after her death, held a posthumous one-woman show.

I was introduced to Ide's story from an article - "The Chrysanthemums of Sakiko Ide" - written by Tricia Vita, appearing in the now historical rag, The Feminist Art Journal, (Spring issue, 1977) (from which the two B/W reproductions above originate). I even made a pilgrimage to New York to view her work. In my impressionable (and theoretically suicidal) youth, I was drawn to Ide's story like a moth to... well, a moth. There is a certain romanticism surrounding suicidal artists and poets, a tradition that flourished from the mid 19th century leading up to its end in Fin de Siecle culture, that "ominous mixture of opulence and/or decadence", Death, and especially suicide, was an obsession amongst the Romantics and their future incarnations, the Symbolists. One might say, the Pre-Raphaelites wouldn't have existed otherwise. Paintings like "The Death of Chatterton" or Millais' "Ophelia" are just two cases in point.

As a young artist - and "Goth" before there was such a thing, the Fin de Siecle held a peculiar fascination for me, and stories like Ide's fit into my personal paradigm like a calla lily in a narrow black vase. But, as a middle-aged woman, and an admittedly failed romantic, I am no longer so sure that Ide took her own life. Certainly death did not help her career in any way. Apart from that one posthumous exhibit, many of her works were destroyed. And, after that exhibit, all mention of Ide seemingly ends. For instance, in researching Ide online, I came up with zip, nada, and nothing. That is, apart from what I imagine are a few of her lesser works up for auction... and even here the artist is referred to as male!

Sakiko Ide - found here

So, perhaps this is the real tragedy. A woman bravely comes to this country alone with hopes of a brighter future and winds up anonymously dead, without warranting even a truncated Wiki entry. So, yes, Sakiko Ide is Patron Saint #6 of Trans-D, but I think my real motivation for this post is to ensure that, at least, there is one article about her online.

In the last analysis, I'm haunted by Ide's chrysanthemums to a greater degree than I am haunted by her suicide, if suicide it was. What did she mean by all these Zen-like constructs, that floated on oceans and hovered in skies, clustered amid fluffy, almost child-like renderings of clouds? In Japan, the chrysanthemum is considered a symbol of the sun and perfection. A Chrysanthemum Festival is held each each year, which is known as the "Festival of Happiness". Ide's last paintings were of single white chrysanthemum "those flowers which faithfully bloom after all the rest of the fragrant species have departed.'" Of these last four canvases, only one remains. A friend recalls that "she bought four large tubes of white paint. I think she was trying to do more."

I think so, too. And this is why I don't necessarily buy the suicide angle. Artists who are obsessed with a subject do not declare "the end" quite so abruptly. Then, too, she had won an award earlier that year at the Silvermine New England Exhibit, as she had the two previous years. It wasn't as if she had no future as an artist, and, as a mature woman in her late 40's, I would suspect that she'd come to terms with the solitary aspect of her life.

One may argue that Sakiko Ide is not to be placed amongst "the greats" - examples of her chrysanthemums hanging alongside Van Gogh's or Monet's is an imppossible occurrance - and that her legacy is of no great loss. I feel differently. "An artist obsessed" is an artist with a voice, with something urgent to say and to which they dedicate their lives in the saying. Relevancy is relevant only to what any single one of us needs to know at any given moment. In the end, an artist can do no more than present a vision, a vision that exists with(in) or without the "eye of the beholder", but a vision that will continue to exist, despite the demise and interment of its creator.

Sakiko Ide - found here

Note: Pending permission from Tricia Vita, the author of the article found in The Feminist Art Journal - a magazine which I still possess and from which I have quoted extensively for this post (and of which there is no online resource) - I will insert page scans here in the future. I believe this article may be the only thing written about her, although, if someone out there has more information, I would be most happy to include it here.


UPDATE: For those interested, the PDF file of the article (text) mentioned can be viewed here.

Also, this photo of Sakiko Ide (to your left)  accompanied the article. Click on for a larger view.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Patron Saint #5: Vali Myers, Shamanistic Artist

"The center of life is female - we all come from our mothers. I've always drawn women or female spirits. I feel deeply about this - who gives a damn about some guy on a cross? My mother's creativity was smothered after she married and raised a family, but she was supportive of me - even my father expected me to carry on in her footsteps. I prefer to have no kids but lots of animals."

- Vali Myers, via an 1994 article by Alex Burns found here

After the relatively mechanical compositions of Louis Nevelson, we now arrive on the other side of the artistic spectrum, where we find Vali Myers, an Australian artist, who was born in 1930 and died several years ago, at the age of 73. A pale skinned, red-haired beauty, she was similar to Nevelson, however, in the way that she was known as much for her notorious style as she was for her art; tattooing her face and hands long before "tribal" was so radically chic, and dressing like the mad gypsy she was, dripping with beads and bangles. Legend has it that she also tattooed a thunderbolt on rocker/poet Patti Smith's knee in memory of Crazy Horse, the celebrated Lakota warrior.

She fostered numerous animals; some domestic, some wild. Her familiar or totem animal was the fox. Legend also has it that she owned a large indoor cage, but it was not for her four-legged companions; it was the place she went to do her art - works that were completed in pen and ink using an actual feather quill.

Born in Melbourne, and growing up in Sydney, Australia, she left home at 14 and gravitated to Paris where she struggled as a dancer, and struggled with Parisian authorities over the lack of a visa. After spending time in a French prison she was deported, and went wandering across Europe.

During a second trip to Paris, and now married to the son of a Hungarian gypsy, she befriended such notables as Jean Cocteau, Jean Genet and Sartre. She also befriended opium, and when this "friendship" turned sour, she relocated once again, this time to Italy, to the Positano valley. This became the turning point in her life for it was there that she bonded with an orphaned fox - a relationship that was to last longer than her marriage - and begin the body of work that she is known for today.

She took a teenaged lover at this time - possibly over 20 years her junior - artist Gianni Menichetti, who remained her close companion for the next 30 years, (Menichetti still maintains their original property). They lived for the most part in Positano, once again battling government officials in their efforts to have the valley declared a preserve by the World Wildlife Fund. (They succeeded.)

Meanwhile, in an effort to sell her artwork,  Myers began traveling to Manhattan, occasionally living in the infamous Chelsea Hotel.  She was to become the darling of many of the 70's elite... attracting the likes of Andy Warhol, George Plimpton, Dali, Mick Jagger, and Marianne Faithful, to name a few.

But, eventually she would come full circle and return to Australia where she lived and worked - and commuted to Positano - till she contracted a terminal stomach cancer in 2003. Hers, however, was not really a tragic ending... she died in a Melbourne hospital the same way she lived: fearlessly, and, at the same time, with a sense of humor. Her dying wish was to bequeath the remainder of her life's work to the "great... no bullshit... people of Victoria".

These and other examples of Vali Myers' work can be found here.
(For larger views of two images below, click on the images)

Unlike Louise Nevelson's spare, monochromatic, rectilinear structures, Myer's creations (samples above) were bold, colorful, neo-primative expressions which very often employed the spiral motif and intricate lattice patterns echoing her own tattoos. As it was, many of her images were self-portraits, or visions of herself amid her beloved animals; illuminations that were more informed by the ancient traditions of ritualistic magic than they were by the black-lit psychedelia of her time. Unlike the fashionista of today, Meyers reveled in her spiritualism, a spiritualism that welled up from her like fathomless spring. Had Aliester Crowely been alive, I think he would've turned to Myers to illustrate his famous Tarot.

As a budding artist, I remember first discovering her in the pages of a magazine - I don't remember which - and deciding at once that she was the sort of artist I wanted to be. Of course, when all is said and done, I could never be a Vali Myers... so effortlessly bold, so self-assured, so demonstratively passionate. Vali Myers was that one class act that can't be followed.

Other resources not previously linked to: 
A review of Gianni Menichetti's "Vali Myers: A Memoir" by Louis Landes Levi
The Outre Gallery page with more examples of Myers' work
Articles found here, and here, and here.

Note: I was amazed at how many blog entries I found regarding Vali Myers, while researching this post... many of them dated from earlier this year... a veritable Myers constellation!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Patron Saint #4: Louise Nevelson, Assemblage Artist

Louise Nevelson - photo found here

“Humans really are heir to every possibility within themselves, and it is only up to us to admit 
it and accept it. You see, you can buy the whole world and you are empty, but when you 
create the whole world, you are full.” 

- Louise Nevelson, via an interview by Arnold Glimcher “Louise Nevelson Remembered”

One loss that is unlikely to be mentioned during this 9/11 memorial weekend are the works of art destroyed at that time. Which is understandable... the loss of artwork can't really be compared to human lives. As one of the pieces was created by an artist I felt compelled to talk about these past few days, however, I thought it might be mentionable here at this time. The artwork in question was an immense wooden wall sculpture,"Sky Gate - New York" (below), erected in the World Trade Center in 1978. It was created by a Ukrainian, Jewish immigrant named Louise Nevelson who died 10 years later, at the age of 88. Despite her legendary contribution to Abstract Expressionism and contemporary sculpture, hers is unlikely to be a "household name". As one critic wrote at the time of her first exhibition: "We learned the artist was a woman in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed these sculptural expressions as by surely a great figure among moderns."

Nevelson - Sky Gate - NY -1975

Louise Nevelson's birthday is coming up. She was born the 23rd of this month in 1899, and died (you'll note the symmetry) in 1988. She was a late bloomer even by today's standards. She didn't begin exhibiting until she was in her 40's and wasn't really accepted in the art world until her 60's. Even then she was as at least as notorious for her strange costumes and mink false eyelashes ("a cross between Catherine the Great and a bag lady") as she was for her assemblages, which were once described by art historian Robert Rosenblum as being "junkyards of secular carpentry (transformed) into almost sacred altarpieces where light and shadow reign". Actually, this is an apt description... maybe she was unconsciously inspired by her father's ownership of a junkyard, but, in any case, her assemblages were created by found objects, and that which others discarded. She felt that, not only was she recreating the world but that she was likewise rescuing these objects and imbuing them with a new spiritual life.

I find her work enigmatic, futuristic and oddly refreshing; like something that might have lined the space capsule of Nicholas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth". Two of her works are featured below.

Nevelson - Case with Five Balusters, from Dawn’s Wedding Feast, 1959

Nevelson - Sky Cathedral (detail)

When I found the photo of Nevelson (above - top of post) I was dumbstruck by her powerful beauty and strength of character... I was also conscious of the fact that her variety of beauty is almost impossible to find in today's media circus, and we are all the more poor because of this lack. In reality, the youth of today are being indoctrinated to despise and marginalize the "elderly" and signs of aging in general, and aging women in particular, by the media. In part, this is hype generated by various corporations to sell cosmetics and other products. But, in the case of women, the tragedy is far deeper and more insidious than that. And nowhere is this more clear than in the case of creative, professional women. I'm not referring to the stars of television reality shows; I'm referring to real women who actually accomplish and contribute something enduring and meaningful to the history of human culture. To that end, and, as this is an art blog, I will be doing a series of posts about female artists in the coming weeks. And, like Louise Nevelson, they too, will be patron saints of this blog... courageous, full of beauty and character, and with a genius that is all too often overlooked. And, many of them will have lived and worked to a ripe old age, and not have been any less relevant for it.

Below is a video clip featuring some of Nevelson's works. For a glimpse of a music video inspired by her vision, try Nine Inch Nails'  "Me, I'm Not".
For a lengthy interview with the artist, click here.
The primary quote source for this post was Carol Diehl's Art in America article, "The World of Mrs. N".
Also, I've read that Dawns and Dusks is a definitive Nevelson resource.
And lastly, for those of you who'd love to own a Nevelson original, you might want to look into the work of her granddaughter, Maria... who, and I mean no disrespect, is either channeling her grandmother or is a direct reincarnation.