Friday, March 29, 2013

Fun in the Freight House Neighborhood-Part I

It's been a great day, between lunch with a good friend at Lidia's Kansas City, and a stroll through two of Kansas City's great small art galleries on Baltimore St. near the Freight House, in the southern part of the Kansas City Crossroads.

Cactus Flower by Rhonda Nass, from Leedy-Voulkos.
The two galleries are similarly named near-neighbors, the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, and Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art.  This entry focuses on my visit to Leedy-Voulkos.  In a later entry I'll talk about some fascinating artwork I found at Sherry Leedy.

Desert Fascination
The Art Center's Front Gallery is filled with wonderful images of desert wildlife (both flora and fauna) from the "Vanishing Circles" show.

The show features "portraits" of endangered or threatened species of the Sonora Desert.  It is presented in cooperation with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Edward Aldrich's Brown Pelican
It is a departure from the Leedy-Voulkos' more usual type of contemporary art--more representational in a "realistic" manner.  But it does any organization good to "shake things up" a little bit, even if that means showing what some might consider more "traditional" art forms.

The 29 artists whose work is included in the show certainly present a visually gorgeous show.  The animals, from highly endangered pupfish to more widely-distributed ospreys and burrowing owls (whose habitat in the Sonora Desert is nonetheless disappearing), are beautiful, exotic, and presented by artists who know their craft deeply.  The desert plants, many rather bizarre-looking to midwestern eyes, become objects of awe and wonder in some of these artworks.

Otter by Sheridan Oman
Art of a Desert Recluse
Continuing the "desert theme" in an adjacent gallery is another collaboration between Leedy-Voulkos and the Arizona museum.

As a printmaking "major" back in the day, who is incorporating more and more printmaking concepts into my own art, I deeply appreciated the Sheridan Oman show. 

Oman worked at he Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for several years before retiring to the desert to create engravings of desert animals on copper plates. 

He never had a show during his lifetime, but his monochrome prints fill the Opie Gallery at Leedy-Voulkos, and are well worth a close-up look.

The Art Center has several other shows running simultaneously with these.  Please see their website for more information.

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center for the images by Rhonda Nass and Edward Aldrich.  I am indebted to the Covington Gallery for the Oman "Otter."

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Clematis Variations

My walking buddies, L-R: Jake and Brenna
It all started on a dog walk in April 2012.

A neighbor of mine planted clematis vines, and since she's a fine gardener, her vines grew and bloomed. 

I've always liked clematis flowers and I'm fascinated by vines and the way they grow, so I took pictures of my neighbor's flowers, brought my pictures home, and started sketching.

This is Purple Clematis.
Part of the process of figuring out how to develop a new piece of artwork is exploring variations.  With the clematis images, I thought the variations all turned out in interesting ways. 

White Clematis I became an edition.
Because I print the pieces from Adobe Illustrator files, after adding a color build to my scanned line art, I can create small limited editions of multiple originals. Each piece in the edition is individually cut, sculpted, assembled, signed and numbered.

The computer images also allow size variations, and repetition of design motifs.

The White Clematis Panel series further explores the possibilities of repeating a design, combined with paper sculpture.
IMAGES: all photos and artwork in this post are the intellectual property of Jan S. Gephardt.  You may post them without alterations, and with attribution and a link back to this post.  Otherwise, all rights are reserved.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Storyboards of the Ages

A few months ago, I wrote a post about ancient animations.  Apparently, just because they were limited to painting with mineral pigments on cave walls, that was no reason for early cave painters not to dream of ways that their pictures might move.

Howard Terpning's classic painting, The Storyteller
I've always believed that storytelling is one of the oldest art forms in the human repertoire, so it's not surprising that artists intent on telling stories should have come up with what we call a storyboard, to tell tales of linear sequences of events.

The term "storyboard" apparently originated at the Walt Disney Studios during the 1930s, but the idea of a sequence of images that tell a story is much, much older.

Some of the earliest examples I've been able to find come from Egyptian tombs.  There is a particularly well-preserved tomb in Thebes from the 18th Dynasty: that of Menna, whose title was Superintendent of the Estates of the King and of Amen.

As Superintendent of the Estates, part of his job was to oversee various projects for his master, and these were lavishly illustrated on the walls of his tomb.  Here's the one for the harvest:
The tomb mural Harvest shows ancient Egyptian harvesting methods in a storyboard-like sequence.
The Column of Marcus Aurelius in Rome, finished ca. 193
Trajan's Column, 113 CE
Some of the all-time top champion storyboarders of the ancient world were the Romans.  

The distinctly phallic triumphal columns dedicated to Emperors Trajan and Marcus Aurelius feature elaborate, realistically carved sequences depicting the highlights of their respective campaigns of conquest.

As you may be able to see from the photos of the two columns, they feature a winding spiral of images, going up like a "spiral storycase" from bottom to top.
This is a detail from the Column of Marcus Aurelius, showing the army and some of its plunder.
Not surprisingly, it's pretty hard to see the details of all the panels when you're squinting into the Roman sunlight, looking up at the original columns.  This viewing difficulty inspired several efforts in the 19th and 20th centuries to create plaster casts that could be viewed more comfortably. A beautiful set of casts from Trajan's Column is on display at the Museum of Roman Civilization, presented up-close and at eye level, so you don't have to miss a thing.
The Museum of Roman Civilization in Rome has plaster casts of each panel on Trajan's Column displayed in correct sequence at eye-level, so visitors can see them more easily and in more detail.
IMAGES: Many thanks to Robert Milliman's blog, "Also Out of My Mind!" for the image of Howard Terpning's The Storyteller. The photo of part of the Egyptian tomb mural Harvest is from the blog "A History of Graphic Design," by Guity Novin. Wikipedia provided the full-length images of Trajan's Column and the Column of Marcus AureliusParadoxplace provided the detail from the Column of Marcus Aurelius, and Wikipedia provided the image of the Museum of Roman Culture's plaster castings of Trajan's Column.  My deepest gratitude to all!  

Monday, March 11, 2013

Irving Harper: Iconic Designer--and Paper Sculptor!

Harper's 1956 "Marshmallow Sofa" from Herman Miller.
Irving Harper was a designer with George Nelson Associates, Inc., from 1947-1964, and has been described as "the most famous designer you have never heard of."

His best-known designs are the Herman Miller "Marshmallow Sofa" and the "Ball Clock" produced by the Howard Miller Clock Co.  I'm not sure there can be many American "Boomers" who have not encountered one or both of these designs in their lives.
The iconic 1964 "Ball Clock"

I did not know until recently that he also was/is a paper sculptor.  Still alive and feisty at 93, he actually seems more focused on the paper sculpture than other things, at this point.

I discovered the book Irving Harper: Works in Paper, which was released in February 2013, through GoodReads. The GoodReads site features not only a good write-up about Harper and the book, but also a slide show of his paper sculpture work.  I have chosen some of my favorites from the slide show to share here, but you can see them all at Goodreads.

I have not been able to find a title for this or the other Irving Harper paper sculptures in the slide show.

I love the face on this one, with its triangular, Picassoesque tongue.

I'm not sure I'd want these guys staring at me 24/7, but I thought the variations on a "face" were interesting.

PHOTOS: Many thanks to Design Within Reach, for the image of the Marshmallow Sofa,  and to the "SoHo Parenting" Blog for the Ball Clock image.  All others are from the slideshow at Goodreads. My deepest appreciation to all!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mixing It Up

I like to have several works in progress at the same time. 

Some of the "Art Parts" on my desk
Some of the current W-I-P ("works in progress") that you can see in the photo above are the Clematis variations, both Dark and Light Cycles of the Nine-Part Herbal Fantasy, and a leftover border rose from Rose Dance. Oh, yes, and some tall lilies from the background of Coming Through! as well.

Coming Through! is an edition of 25.
Technically, Coming Through! has been debuted to the world and is "finished," but the edition is numbered at 25.  I still have a lot of cutting, sculpting and assembling to do (not to mention matting).

The Clematis variations actually have been causing me to do a lot of thinking.  I started out with a base drawing that I really liked, pulled it up into 3-D, and tested out both a Purple Clematis and a White Clematis variation.  Then, for grins, I cropped the design to a square, and played with that, too.

I like them all, but now I'm having trouble arranging them in a way that I think will work well.  Keep watching this blog and you'll undoubtedly see more developments with these.

This mashup of all the Clematis variations just didn't work for me.
I have discovered that it's very stimulating to work on several things at once.

Solving a problem in one project can open a way to solve problems in others. 

An idea generated while working on a current piece often provides an idea for a new piece.

My problem is mostly that I have too many ideas, and not enough time to explore them all.

All things considered, though, it's a pretty good problem to have.

PHOTOS: All photos and all artwork shown in this post is the work of Jan S. Gephardt. You may re-post the photos if you include an attribution and a link back to this post, and if you don't alter to the images.