green prints and more

I’ve been browsing through Cedric Green’s website. Green is an artist/printmaker who has carried out research into safer methods of making prints and eliminating the toxic acids and solvents traditionally used. He has revived some 19th century electrolytic methods for etching and making plates which he has called Galv-Etch, and discovered a new electrochemical mordant to use with zinc plates, called Bordeaux Etch. He has documented this research in articles, a free booklet entitled “Green Prints” and in a website containing most of the content of the booklet. There is a lot of useful reading for printmakers and artists interested in exploring the medium.

While I was still imagining making green prints, I read Beth’s lovely post on Green, the colour of Vermont – do go read it!

This in turn made me think about colour symbolism. Common symbols associated with green are “nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, vigor, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy, misfortune.” Yet this differs according to culture – check this out.

Finnish readers may be interested in Coloria, a comprehensive site totally devoted to the study of colour (mentioned here earlier). She has several pages of fascinating information about green, such as the numerous names for the numerous shades and phrases in different languages using green such as “green eyed monster”.

Strange how my mind has wandered around with this word “green”….

why do we like art?

Recently (Jan.17th) Arts Journal had a post with a question, “We like art, anyone know why? …. why do we care about art? And, given that we obviously do (and that this is worldwide phenomenon that has stretched throughout history), what is it in art that we care about?”

This originated at Financial Times (UK) 01/17/05, available by registration only, so I never did learn more. Today I see that Maex art blog found it. So, these questions are posed in a book by Matthew Kieran, Revealing Art. There’s a short blurb available at this Amazon link.

My flu fuddled brain does not want to deal with any heavy thinking right now so I’ll leave my readers to think about this. Have you read the book? Please let me know your thinks…er…thoughts on this subject.

Blogging and Art

A few days ago I made a short reference to the PEW study about artists and the internet. Ivan Pope has also linked to it, and continued to blog about how the web is creating a generation of Pro-Am (Professional Amateur) artists, and about the ‘Long Tail’ of Contemporary Art. He concludes: “Now we can see that the combination of blogging and online galleries may give rise to a new ecosystem of art. The Long Tail of art may be about to be exposed.”

Good reading! What do you think of the Long Tail of Art, is it happening?

UPDATE Jan.11.05: There’s more today on starting an experiment and more to follow. Keep your eyes on this and if you are an artist blogger, consider some kind of participation…hmmm?

“Massive Change” exhibition

Image Gallery – Actual photograph of installation in the Vancouver Art Gallery
Photo: Robert Keziere/Vancouver Art Gallery

I finally made it last week to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s blockbuster exhibition Massive Change. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I left it this late – it ends on January 3rd.)

Massive Change: The Future of Global Design is an exhibition by Bruce Mau Design and the The Institute without Boundaries. It was commissioned and organized by, and premiered at, the VAG. Accompanying this traveling exhibition is an extensive website and a monograph.

This is a huge and impressive exhibition. It is not an art show, and not strictly a design show, yet it is about design. Mau states,”We are not interested in the visual. We are focused on design capacity – what design makes possible.”

“The exhibition unfolds in a series of eleven general themes that address the fundamental role of design in all aspects of human life, from manufacturing and transportation to health and the military. In each area, visitors will encounter the objects, images, ideas and people that are reshaping the role of the world of design.”

The installations reveal a tremendous amount of work, and much of it looks like it may not be moveable to the next exhibition site. One room, on the theme of Image Economies, has the walls, floor, and box seats, covered in photographic images that are sealed to their surfaces (see the above photo).

The statement here: “The human nervous system evolved in an environment where seeing change – the slightest difference in the surrounding environment – could mean the difference between life and death, so it is not surprising that our most developed cultural forms are practices of the visual… Now we can see beyond with radio waves, infrared, x-rays, gamma radiation and cosmic rays.”

There is an immense amount of reading with large walls of text (and I’d read a lot beforehand) so that at times it felt too overwhelming, even if very fascinating – information overload, if you will, like in a science and technology museum. One elderly lady near me expressed the same overwhelming feeling and said “It seems like the wheel was just invented yesterday.” It seemed also that the younger visitors were less impressed because they grew up in this era of “massive change” and do not know how different the world was just a few short decades ago! It was very noteworthy and gratifying to see the crowds here, people of all ages. We came early and when we left after three hours, the lineup was out the door!

My main criticism of the whole concept is of the little recognition given to a basic human need to feel some connnection to the earth, to the natural world. I wrote many pages of notes as I viewed everything, but I believe the website for Massive Change, and some of the related links below, will do a better job of information sharing than I can. It’s a very thought-provoking topic and well worth the time!

Reviews and announcements:
the Straight
CBC Arts
Art Daily

Massive Change will be showing next at the Art Gallery of Ontario March 11 – May 29, 2005.
Massive Change, the book, is available at Abe Books


Sensations are the items of consciousness, a color, a weight, a texture that we tend to think of as simple and single. Perceptions are complex affairs that embrace sensation together with other, associated or revived contents of the mind, including emotions. – Jacques Barzun

I like that! This is from Catherine Jamieson’s beautiful photoblog. Her words today resonate with me in how I approach much of my images in my printmaking, in visual terms. I feel and think in images, not words. Words are very elusive, very difficult for me.

experiencing art

Lenny writes an interesting art blog at Washington, DC Art News. Today he writes about how he came to chosen to be the curator for the upcoming “Homage to Frida Kahlo” exhibition. (The call for artists will be announced soon by

Lenny writes about seeing Frida Kahlo’s work for the first time in 1975 in Mexico:
I remember walking into the museum salon where the Two Fridas hung. It was love, or more like witchcraft, at first sight. This large, spectacular painting swallowed my visual senses and attention as no work of art would do again until…

He became “obsessed'” by her work, and in 1997, together with the Mexican Cultural Institute he curated a highly successful exhibition of Kahlo’s work in Washington, DC. He writes that The love affair then produced in 2002 a show of my own work titled “Passion for Frida: 27 Years of Frida Kahlo Artwork. With this obvious passion for and knowledge of her work, he was thus invited to be curator for this new exhibition.

Now I love Frida Kahlo’s work, which I saw two years ago at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but what particularly struck me about this story, is the EXPERIENCE of seeing art that draws a powerful response within the viewer.

A new blogger, Stacy Oborn wrote about this experience recently:
…when you encounter work that, to borrow van gogh’s language, ‘hits the yellow high note’, it is at once made known to you that what you are responding to is an articulation of your aesthetic that you had yet to realize, something within that you are confronted with, and that once confronted you know that your task is to find a way to wrench it from your being and put it out in front of you. like that which you are looking at, but to have it come from you.

artmaking & myth

“Poetry happens when short-circuits of sense occur between words, a sudden regeneration of the primeval myths. . . . Not one scrap of an idea of ours does not originate in myth, isn’t transformed, mutilated, denatured mythology. The most fundamental function of the spirit is inventing fables, creating tales. . . . [T]he building materials [that the search for human knowledge] uses were used once before; they come from forgotten, fragmented tales or “histories.” Poetry recognizes these lost meanings, restores words to their places, connects them by the old semantics.”

– Bruno Schulz, “The Mythologizing of Reality,” in Letters and Drawings
(from Wood s Lot with thanks)

Substitute the word “art” for “poetry” (of course poetry is art ) and this quote becomes a kind of statement of my feelings about my art-making. It is somewhat similar in concept to this quote that is part of my artist statement for the TRACES exhibition held in Finland in 2002:

“Telling a story is a kind of prayer, a kind of meditation, a sacred act. It makes magic happen. Or is the story itself the magic?” – Erica Jong, “Inventing Memory”

the artist in a gift economy

I am really going to have to get my hands on this book: The Gift – Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by Lewis Hyde**. I am very intrigued and find the quotes really resonate with me as a lifelong artist who creates because of an inner need, rather than a need to sell (although of course I am happy when I do), and as an artist who blogs to share my thoughts and passions.

Chris Corrigan has been reading and writing about this book periodically since July 20th. On July 26th Chris refers to the introduction of The Gift where Lewis Hyde is writing about how we receive the fruits of artistic gifts:

The spirit of the artist’s gifts can wake our own. The work appeals, as Joseph Conrad says, to a part of our being which is itself a gift and not an acquisition. Our sense of harmony can hear the harmonies that Mozart heard. We may not have the power to proffer our gifts as the artist does, and yet we come to recognize, and in a sense receive, the endowments of our being through the agency of his creation…When we are moved by art we are grateful that the artist lived, grateful that he labored in the service of his gifts.

On August 5th, Chris writes also about bloggers’ gifts:

Bloggers offer immense gifts of time, reflection, engagement with each other’s ideas. My own thinking gets continually pushed and stretched by reading others and trying to respond to them. This quality of gift exchange provides a beautiful and powerful foundation for the community of people who share ideas freely on a myriad of subject areas. When bloggers form communities, it is around the cohesion of those who contribute to each other’s thinking. Don’t miss reading the thoughtful comments to this post.

Read more for yourself about Chris’ analysis of “The Gift” in the posts of July 21st, July 23rd, July25th, and July 29th.

Anna L. Conti also wrote about and highly recommended this book along with another one by Hyde called Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth and Art** (Aug 10th entry). Here are some excerpts:

A few years ago Margaret Atwood wrote a terrific review of these books for the LA Times […]: ‘The artist belongs primarily to the gift economy; without that element of creation which arrives uncommanded and cannot be bought, the work is unlikely to be alive. The Gift is the best book I know of for the aspiring young, for talented but unacknowledged creators, or even for those who have achieved material success and are worried that this means they’ve sold out. It gets at the core of their dilemma: how to maintain yourself alive in the world of money, when the essential part of what you do cannot be bought or sold.’ (Read Atwood’s full review)

Lewis Hyde starts with the premise that a work of art is a gift and not a commodity, and goes on to explain the uneasy nature of the artist’s position in a marketplace economy. He leads the reader slowly and carefully to his surprising conclusion that “gift exchange and the market need not be wholly separate spheres.

Thanks to both Chris and Anna!
(**Available through Abe Books )

the art of seeing

Artist Anna Conti has been posting a great series this week on “Seeing” on her Working Artist’s Journal. Do go read it, it will help you understand art in a new way! I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

I love the quote Anna recalls in the first part: You do not see with the lens of the eye. You look through that, and by means of that, but you see with the soul of the eye. (John Ruskin)

It makes me recall an intense experience I had once after a long and very satisfying life drawing class. As I was driving home, it seemed as if my vision was extra sharp and vivid, noting the finest details of the trees, sky, ocean, buildings and so on with unusual clarity and colour and emotion, like having super-vision!

This intensity of vision is to me a bit like the feeling I have looking at certain realist paintings of artists like Anna, and Canadians Christopher Pratt and Alex Colville.

Art Criticism

I have been following some interesting discussions on art criticism recently. First at Iconoduel, in the entry James Elkins on Our Moribund Critical Discourse Dan writes an excellent critique of James Elkins’ book What Happened to Art Criticism?

Then at Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green has a two-day (part 1) and (part 2) chat with Village Voice art critic Jerry Saltz, whose book of his writings, Seeing Out Loud was published recently.

Tyler provides a link and suggestion to read the first six paragraphs to understand the context of their discussion about critics and having positions. I found this particularly interesting from an artist’s perspective.

Later, I found Anna L. Conti said go read Tyler Green’s interview! Today, Sally McKay writes: “Who’d have thought art criticism was such a hot topic?” referring to the James Elkin review.
So now I add my suggestion to read these articles and let me know what you think.

Update: July 16.04 The discussion continues at Iconoduel – Dan has read the books so is best able to write about them!