To get a postcard about a show entitled Veils of Color ensures I will be wanting to go. Elizabeth Osborne‘s oil paintings are on display until November 15, 2015 at the James Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA. In University of Pennsylvania alumni profile, the author quotes Philadelphia Inquirer critic Edward J. Sozanski’s praise for Osborne’s “Dionysian commitment to vibrant, saturated color.” Yes, vibrant, saturated color. I felt like I was stepping into sunshine, and in fact, some versions of these paintings have figurative versions, with a woman sitting at a window.
She was born in 1936, and grew up in Lansdale, where I now live. I was taken with the fact that she taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts(PAFA) from 1963-2011, teaching into her 70’s. She recorded an oral history interview with the Senior Artists Initiative, and organization that heartens me by its existence. In addition to oil painting, she has work in watercolor and printmaking.
I realized that I had seen her work at both the Woodmere and the Berman Museum of Art at Ursinius. I like to imagine that her veils of color saturating the Philadelphia area, appearing all around me, and that her legacy of teaching will continue to move outward.
Curated by Kirsten M. Jensen, Ph.D., Gerry & Marguerite Lenfest Chief Curator, James A. Michener Art Museum
July 25 through November 15, 2015
Fred Beans Gallery
Stratoz and I were at the Bucks Guild ArtsFest ’15 and we both were taken by Lisa M. Nelson‘s miniature oil painting of a fine corvid. I was drawn to the orange and blue-black colors, and Stratoz has a thing for birds, so we took it home. It was great to finally meet Lisa, since we had known each other’s work through Team Hip on Etsy(Handmade in PA), and I had often put her brilliantly colored paintings in Treasuries of Etsy items. She is a daily painter with a love of animals, and welcomes lovers of shiny, pretty things. It made sense to her that I responded to the shine and texture of her painting, since my mosaics have the same elements. I do think I was a magpie in a former life.
Bonus behind the scenes slide show I took of Stratoz setting up the ArtsFest booth. It’s like building a nest.
Stratoz discovered that the Michener Museum now allows photos of their collection. This is one of our favorite museums and we often wanted to photograph inside. When I wrote about the Phillip Lloyd Powell door, the Michener graciously provided a photo for me to use, but the pleasure now is in choosing details and angles.
There is a meditative practice called Lectio Divina, reading aloud and letting images and words resonate. When I look at photographs from a museum trip, it is like Divine Photography, where I continue the process of seeing and contemplating.
The door was open on this latest visit, unlike the stock photo where the door is closed. What a delight to focus on the hidden parts, the door tucked behind the wall, with its single knob.
N is for Nakashima, both George and Mira, and the home and studio in New Hope, PA. George Nakashima(1905-1990) was an architect who learned furniture making in a Japanese internment camp in Idaho in WWII, who ended up in Bucks County PA because architect Antonin Raymond sponsored him in 1945. Mira Nakashima, trained by her father in woodworking, carries on the craft in New Hope.
I went on a tour of the Nakashima Studio in 2003, one of first driving trips after a 12 year hiatus from driving. I was nervous navigating the Bucks County countryside, but determined to get to the studio, after being enchanted by the Nakashima Room at the Michener Museum. The tour began in the showroom, which had Nakashima chairs to sit in, and I was transported into comfort, into a wood embrace.
The Arts building has a mosaic mural, based on a drawing by the artist Ben Shahn. This was before I started making mosaics, and I was intrigued by the chunks of glass that made up the lines. Now I know these are smalti.
In honor of Orange Tuesday, I leave you with this photo by odhusky on Flickr, of a Nakashima chair:
Imagine coming upon this door! What world of the imagination did it come from and were does it lead? Stratoz and I were at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA, and amid the Pennsylvania Impressionist paintings we saw Phillip Lloyd Powell’s Door and Surround. I sat down on a bench to take it in, the beauty of the layers of wood, the warm colors, the vibrant portal over 11 feet tall.
After the Michener purchased the door at auction, furniture conservator, Behrooz Salimnejad, spent months restoring the original vibrant finish, removing layers of latex paint that obliterated the colors. Phillip Lloyd Powell(1919-2008), was a self-taught woodworker who read an article about an artist in New Hope, photographed in front of a wall of books, and wanted that life, and moved there, and set up shop. I admire his focus on creating the life he wanted, and the work that came from that life.
I was drawn to woodworking at age 9 or 10. I wanted a tool set for my birthday. I spent many hours dreaming about what I would make, especially with the chisels. I wanted to sculpt blocks of wood. I don’t know where this came from, this intense desire to have tools. I did get the tool set for my birthday, much to my delight. The box was a golden yellow shade, with the grain of the wood in wavy pattern. The tools had red handles, and fit behind dowels to hold them steady. There were two chisels, but I was disappointed that I had no idea how to create what I was imagining.
I started researching where my tool set might have come from. There’s no label, no brand name. I did find the word “Poland” faintly stamped on the inside, and this led to the “Handy Andy” Tool Sets for children, or more accurately, for boys. As an ad admonishes, “Keep away from Dad! He’ll want to use this too. . .well rounded assortment to help train boys in the correct use of practical tools. ” I don’t remember seeing a label on my set, and didn’t contend with the image of Andy, and his boyish ease with all the fabulous tools. I also didn’t need to keep them away from my father, who was a professor of English, with a wall full of books of his own, but he did stand next to me in the garage supervising me with the sharp implements, as I constructed a dollhouse. This wasn’t what I originally intended, but I slowly warmed to the decoration of the rooms, creating furniture out of scraps of wood, papering the walls with wallpaper samples.
I’ve kept the box of tools over 30 years. I loved the hand plane, skating across the wood. The spirit level mesmerized me with the bubble in glowing green liquid. I took the tool set down from the attic, and put it in my mosaic studio, an homage to my desire to work with my hands, to make things. Phillip Lloyd Powell’s door reminded me of my dreams of chisels and sculpting, and I came across an interview describing his process:
His materials are meant to provoke sensation. He selects woods, colors, and accent elements for their expression.
Powell also considers malleability. He finds walnut, which is softer than maple or oak, fun to shape with his favorite tool, the spoke shave (a side-handled plane for curves) which requires a sculptor’s skill.
The furniture parts are fitted together by spline and rabbit joints, dovetails and butterfly inserts. The wood and colors of the pegs are important to the design. Finally, several coats of oil will bring up the rich grain and color of the wood.
So he loved a plane too, and even the name appeals to me, the “spoke shave.” I have tools for my mosaic work, tools that I know how to use, and with which I can create.
When Dawn Federico of Vitrium Tile Company emailed me, I felt starstruck! She found me while googling her company. Vitrium tile is one of my favorite glass materials to work with. The textures range from swirls to pebbly bumps to brushstrokes, and the colors are intense and iridescent. My old supplier had stopped selling them, and here Dawn was asking if I lived in PA, and did I want to come buy overstock and discontinued tile. Did I?? Oh, yes! It turned out I only live 1/2 hour away. I knew Vitrium was made in PA which I thought was cool, but I didn’t know the company was practically in my backyard.
I pulled up in front of a tiny warehouse, next to a construction company in the woods of Bucks County, PA. Dawn greeted me, and showed me around, and I quickly knew I had met a kindred spirit in loving glass tile and iridescence. She was excited that I was so excited. Sometimes it’s hard to convey love of something that seems utilitarian. It’s just tile. But for tile geeks like myself, it’s a whole world of beauty, especially when what is imperfect for big installations, where colors need to match exactly, and one speck can mar a solid color, is perfect for a mosaic artist. I love the expansiveness of mosaic, the ability to use what is lost to the utilitarian world, and create something new out of imperfect fragments.
I have to love a place that has a huge jar of something called “Super Orange” since orange is my favorite color. I also love that Dawn started as the business manager 12 years ago, and eventually ended up taking over the company when the previous owners were floundering, and I can see how much she cares about her product, and creating something handmade, in the United States, keeping people employed, and continuing the tradition of artisans in Bucks County.
Update: In Spring of 2012, Dawn sold Vitrium to Tohickon Glass Eyes, and they are now called Tohickon Glass Tiles. Tohickon has long been known for their exquisite glass eyes for taxidermy, and are located just a little ways from the former Vitrium factory in Bucks County. I am glad that they are able to carry on the making of these beautiful tiles.
This afternoon Stratoz and I went to Doylestown to set up my mosaics for the Lydia’s Guild Craft Show 2009. My work is in the ballroom! Setting up a 6 ft table is definitely speedier than our whole booth. This is a boutique type show, where artist’s set up their work and then get to go home. A host of volunteers, many of whom have their work in the show, keep things running smoothly for 9 days. You can come and browse, and then make your purchases at a central check-out. I’ve managed to live in the area for 10 years and not ever see Aldie Mansion. It’s tucked behind Mercer Square Shopping Center, an oasis of unique architecture. This is the place to come for an unmall shopping experience. Come check it out!