The National Museum of Women in the Arts is doing their name #5womenartists challenge for 2017. For Women’s History Month, here is my first installment of 5.
Do you plan to listen to something and then put it off? I listen to podcasts in the studio, and I have meditation teacher Tara Brach on my list, and yet don’t get around to listening. But I couldn’t resist the title of this episode, Relating Wisely with Imperfection. She describes how we react to imperfection in ourselves with anxiety and aversion, and how this creates a trance of unworthiness. I am well acquainted with this trance, and how hard it is to break free of it.
Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain. ~Danna Faulds
Tara Brach read this line of poetry and it resonated. Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain. I have many years of believing that perfection is the prerequisite for everything. The talk begins with a story from Ed Brown, Buddhist and baker, about his struggle to make perfect biscuits. He realized that he was attempting to recreate biscuits from a can or a mix, that if he actually tasted his own recipe, the biscuits were delicious. What should our lives be like? I believed I needed to have a book of poems published by the time I was 30. In my 30’s I believed I should have a “real career” rather than being a part time librarian. I believed that not having children meant I was outside the human story, even though I never felt called to have children. In making mosaics in my 40’s, I realized that this was my delicious life, and it was my own.
The chunks of glass in the photo are factory seconds of gold smalti. They are hard to come by since the factory strives to produce glass with the gold evenly applied, but these are my favorite because of the variations in texture. Beauty in imperfection.
Margaret Bonds(1913-1972) was an African-American composer and pianist, well known in her time, but then vanishing from accounts shaped by the stereotypes of classical music. Many times when I search for Margaret’s, I am introduced to women I had never heard of. Simply by searching something as random as one name, I discover whole worlds. Margaret Bonds grew up with a church musician mother, and played piano from a young age, and devoted herself to music. She enrolled in Northwestern University in Chicago, although she was not allowed to live there or use the facilities because she was black. In an interview with James Hatch, Bonds describes discovering the poetry of Langston Hughes in 1929:
I was in this prejudiced university, this terribly prejudiced place…. I was looking in the basement of the Evanston Public Library where they had the poetry. I came in contact with this wonderful poem, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and I’m sure it helped my feelings of security. Because in that poem he tells how great the black man is. And if I had any misgivings, which I would have to have – here you are in a setup where the restaurants won’t serve you and you’re going to college, you’re sacrificing, trying to get through school – and I know that poem helped save me.
Ten years later, Bonds finally met Langston Hughes and they started a musical collaboration and friendship. Take a moment to listen to Margaret Bonds’ arrangement of I, Too, sung by Icy Rene Simpson.
For a more in-depth study of Bonds’ work, check out Alethea N. Kilgore’s thesis on Life and Solo Vocal Works of Margaret Allison Bonds.
Commissioned by a client for her inspiration in her office. She defined this Urdu/Arabic word as meaning peace, bliss, contentment, when all is right with the world, and something she seeks. I hadn’t heard this word before and I like knowing there are words yet to be discovered to describe well being.
Stratoz and I went to the fine exhibit Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art at the Allentown Art Museum(through 10/02/16). Walking into the gallery, my eye immediately went to this painting, Radiante, by Abstract Expressionist artist Olga Albizu(1924-2005).
It looked familiar, and reading the tag, I discovered that her paintings are on several jazz album covers from RCA and Verve Records, including one of our favorites, Getz/Gilberto with Jobim(1964). This made Bossa Nova known in the US, and featured Stan Getz, American Saxophonist, collaborating with Brazilian Guitarist João Gilberto, and composer Antônio Carlos Jobim. Astrud Gilberto sang the now famous The Girl from Ipanema.
I enjoyed how the music I love paired with art filled with abstract color energy. Olga Albizu studied art with Esteban Vicente in Puerto Rico, and then won a fellowship to study in New York in 1948. She was a student of Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffman.
I wanted to know how Albizu’s work came to be on album covers, and finally found some auction notes through Christie’s, written by Abby McEwen, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland, College Park.
Albizu’s associations with RCA were also of a practical kind: she supported herself from time to time through secretarial jobs there, and through a remarkable connection – an assistant to the head of the record division, who displayed her work in the office – at least ten of her paintings were chosen for contemporary album covers. Albizu’s financial and professional struggles as a woman artist were, unsurprisingly, of a piece with her time; like peers from Carmen Herrera to Joan Mitchell and Elaine de Kooning, she lacked institutional support and regular exhibition opportunities.
I am fascinated with how many internet articles mentioned that her paintings were on album covers and how buried the actual practical connection was. The confluence of people and ideas can be vivid when we are the midst of it, and become obscure as years go on. American jazz, Brazilian rhythms, Abstract Expressionism, and Puerto Rican artists, all converging in New York City.
When Stratoz was deciding on a color for the joy in his suncatcher design, I voted for orange. I believe it was a good choice.
Stratoz took care of me with a photo of this Gazania flower for my Orange Tuesday. Gazania are from the Aster family and originally from South Africa. They like the sun, and open when it shines bright and then close up at night, looking as if they are dead. Also known as Treasure Flower, they are indeed like little pouches that contain the coin of vibrant color.
Margaret Honda(1961-) is an experimental filmmaker and artist from Los Angeles, CA. An Answer to ‘Sculptures’ had an immediate pull on me. The 56 panes of glass at Künstlerhaus Bremen gallery became the exhibit itself. Honda used the E-Colour+ filters from Rosco, gel sheets that change the color of light for film and video production. The 323 colors are divided into 16 “reels” of 56 and rotated through 16 days. Not even the artist sees the entire work, because every day is different, and every time of day depending on the light through the windows.
It’s like Pantone color chips but for light. As a mosaic artist, part of what compels my love of the art form is watching how a piece changes depending on how the light illuminates. My work is usually on a opaque background, but transparency is still a factor, because I put the glass on a white surface in order to let in whatever light there is. Stratoz creates stained glass, and some glass that seems ordinary in a mosaic becomes transformed by light being able to shine all the way through.
Interview with Margaret Honda about her films Color Correction(2015) and Spectrum Revers Spectrum(2014) based on the timing tapes used for color correction in filmmaking. These punched paper tapes control the color valves on the printer. She describes the process of watching the film Color Correction for the first time:
I had actually written about the film before I ever saw it. And then once I saw it, my writing about it changed. I couldn’t have foreseen what happens when you’re watching these colors, and I couldn’t have imagined what happens in terms of time. Because with this film, one color is on the screen, and then it changes, and you don’t know how long the next color will be on screen before it changes again. And then there’s this odd retrospective aspect to the viewing, because when the color changes––and you know the color has changed because there was a different color before it––you’re then trying to remember what that color was before it. So you’re going back and forth between what you just saw and what you’re now seeing.
Margaret Honda website
I could not find a photo of Margaret Esherick(1919-1962), but I found many photos of the house she commissioned in 1959 to be designed by Louis Kahn, who had designed her Uncle Wharton Esherick’s Worskhop. Margaret Esherick owned a bookstore in Chestnut Hill, and she was a single woman. Appropriately, the house had built-in book shelves and one bedroom.
The kitchen was designed by Wharton Esherick, with his fine woodworking. Look at those swooping counters and shelves! Visiting Wharton Esherick’s home and studio in Paoli, PA, mesmerized me with the beauty of his craft: drawers that illuminated when opened, a carved spiral staircase, copper sink in the kitchen.
There are only scraps of Margaret Esherick’s story. She had enough money to have a house built for herself. She died of Pneumonia at age 43 before she had a chance to see the house fully completed. The story speculated is that she was a Christian Scientist and believed the physical body is not “matter” and that traditional treatments, such as antibiotics, were to be refused.
NOTE: In the process of researching Margaret Esherick’s house, I discovered that her property is along Pastorius Park in Chestnut Hill, an endeavor of George Woodward in 1915, which involved him donating land on the condition that the City of Philadelphia condemn some 30 homes, many belonging to Italian stonemasons, who worked on many of the buildings in Chestnut Hill, and also residences of African Americans. Woodward also built the Water Tower Recreation Center that has a craft show we did for a few years.