Category Archives: Artists in Action

A look at some of the artists recommended by our professor, and a few extras whose works I have enjoyed.

The Whispering Sands of Kseniya Simonova

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Click on the photograph to visit Kseniya Simonova’s official website.
Photo taken in Yevpatoria, Sept. 2009.  Stringer/Russia.

I am always on the lookout for artists who are reaching out in some compelling way.  It is a hope of mine to somehow channel my own talents in this way, so I am inspired by the efforts of those who are already making a difference.  In the case of Kseniya Simonova, I was first drawn to her mesmerizing sand art creations when I was introduced to her work by a classmate’s blog.

At the age of 24 and a young mother, she became the winner of the first “Ukraine’s Got Talent” televised competition in July 2009.  (Click on the link to watch the YouTube video of this remarkable 8 minute live performance.)  Since then, she has become an online and international sensation.  Upon further research, I was delighted to find that her passion extends to so many outreaches!  The depth of her compassion emanates through her works instilled with messages of hope.  There is a purity in her expression that is so refreshing and so filled with Truth.  As an artistic enthusiast, there is something innately captivating about watching an artist completely immersed in their creative process.  This is particularly true in the case of Simonova’s seamless choreography of gestures throughout her quintessentially poignant compositions which she delivers with both grace and conviction, leaving the audience enraptured.

The Elemental Style of Hiroshi Sugimoto

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“Lightning Fields 236” photographed by Hiroshi Sugimoto (2009)


Bright streaks of crackling light slicing through the night sky can be so captivating.  The sheer force and power behind each rumble is a reminder of how small we truly are as cohabitants on this planet.  Whether lightning propels small children into the arms of their parents in the midst of a storm or fertilizes corn fields with its releases of sulfur into the atmosphere, it has been the source of inspiration to numerous inventors and innovators alike. To Japanese artist, Hiroshi Sugimoto, this energy became a scientific study captured on photographic dry plates.  Using a Van de Graaf generator as his power source, he generated 400,000 volts of electricity through various electrical and aqueous discharge devices, transmitted these impulses through a metal table and onto film.  The result was a simulation of lightning so vividly executed in the darkroom and beautifully archived on film in his elemental photographic series, “Lightning Fields.”  More of these stunning works and additional selections from his portfolio can be found at his site, http://www.sugimotohiroshi.com/portfolio.html.

Reflections of Olafur Eliasson

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As a child, I always marveled at the colors and designs that could be contrived by the simple rotation of a kaleidoscope.  Olafur Eliasson brings all that childhood wonderment of color spectra into the adult cognition through his works.  His studio has been in operation since 1995 in Berlin, Germany, however, his exhibits have traveled worldwide.  His manipulation of light through prisms, reflective and refractive surfaces is combined with elaborate geometric constructs creating visually scintillating effects.  Visitors are captivated by the play of light through his exhibits which seem to generate their own unique experience depending on the perception of each individual at any given moment or position.  One such exhibit that ran in 2008 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York can still be viewed online by clicking the museum link.

Beyond his innovative style of art, I am equally impressed by his attention to the needs of under privileged communities.  His efforts as a philanthropist have channeled his talent and resources to create a product called “Little Sun.” Five hours of natural sunlight charges this safe portable lantern to provide five hours of light that would otherwise be unavailable.  We so frequently take for granted our use of electricity until we are temporarily forced to endure without it during storms and other sources of power outages.  Heaven help our family when we lose power for one day… and you would think the apocalypse was nearing if BGE tarried beyond the 36 hour margin!  Yet this is a lifestyle to so many countries that we can easily forget about in our daily to’s-and-fro’s.  I remember once hearing about the conditions in a Haitian village where children were not able to get effective time in the classroom because the school did not have adequate light, even during the daytime hours.  Then in the evenings they were only able to access a limited and rationed supply of electricity in one centralized building.  Communities such as these would be so grateful to have something so simple yet so functional in their homes.  Learning about this project, brought new meaning to a quote I heard in an earlier interview by Eliasson when he stated,

“I would like to make sense of the world by sensing the world.”

“Your Spiral View” by Olafur Eliasson (2002)

Keri Smith’s Survival Kit

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This is one of my most favorite findings on the web that I happened upon a few months ago… “The Artist’s Survival Kit” by Keri Smith.  Aside from working as a successful freelance illustrator, she has a great sense of humor that emanates through her whimsical work.  As artists, so many of us have our dreary, dark days where we pummel ourselves with doubt and self pity.  For those of you who don’t know what that is like… well…you’re my hero, and this may not be a source of relief.  But for the rest of us who live in the land of imperfection and creative experimentation, take a moment to visit her site ~ You won’t be sorry!                Click… print… then prosper! 

Glen Keane & the Disney Pixar Cast of Animators

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What are these?!
“Little Mermaid” animation by Glen Keane.

Where do I even begin?… I am a devout Disney animation fan, and Glen Keane was one of the talented illustrators who worked at Disney Animation Studios for 38 years.  He brought characters to life in Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, PocahontasTarzan, and most recently in one our favorites, Tangled.  We have Keane (among others) to thank for his contribution to the evolution of animation over the last few decades.  He announced his departure from Disney in March 2012 in pursuit of further animated exploration, so I am eager to see where his talents may take us in days ahead.

Heading over to my “Web Candy” page will take you to the link for Disney Animation Studios where you can learn more about the amazing work going on in ground-breaking technological advances to animation.  This brings me to the next project that I am on the edge of my seat to see… BRAVE!  Pixar developed their own software to bring a whole new meaning to textures in the animation of hair, fur, clothing and water.  Just watching the trailers brings a lump to my throat!  A few months ago, while visiting Disney World on our familymoon, we spent a day at Hollywood Studios.  Much to my delight, the current exhibit included props and photographs that inspired some of the sketches of characters in the movie.  It was AWESOME!!!  Six days and counting!!!…

****** UPDATE ******

All thumbs up on the animation!  I was mesmerized, and that was just the 2-D version!!!  As a protective parent, I was somewhat disappointed by some of the graphic nature of scenes that were embarrassing with some bare bums to a few of our children, along with a few references that hopefully went over most of their heads.  We had 7 kids in tow that day, ranging in ages from 4 to 11.  Shame on me for not considering the PG rating…  However, if Shrek-type movies don’t bother you or your children, you should have no worries about this one… a delightful storyline nonetheless.

James Turrell

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“Alpha Tunnel to the East Portal” by James Turrell at the Roden Crater. (Click on the photograph for details about this amazing project.)

When I think about an artist of light, the first person that would most obviously come to anyone’s mind is the late Thomas Kinkade.  I have always loved how he truly encompassed the beauty of richly lit landscapes and structures in his paintings that were always so clearly ‘Kincaid’.  James Turrell on the other hand, uses the palette of natural light which he visually encapsulates through his design of minimalistic architecture.  His ongoing project that has been underway since 1974, the “Roden Crater” is his magnum opus.  This structure, complete with an elliptical ‘Skyspace’ is located in the San Francisco Volcanic Field near the Arizona Painted Desert, and it reminds me of a sort of modern day Stonehenge in the works.  From within its walls, one can more discernibly experience the movement of the earth in relation to the moon, the sun and rare celestial events.  The changing horizon of each day and night promises a varied exhibition hour by hour, day by day.

Expected to open in 2011, it remains under construction as anticipation builds by natural wonder enthusiasts everywhere.  I had never heard of James Turrell prior to this course, but I now find myself rallying for the opening of this astounding site to visitors by the time we hope to take our family on a cross country tour.  This is definitely one for the Bucket List!!!

A Closer Look at Kandinsky…

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After doing quite a bit of my own research in response to our 2nd class discussion of Kandinsky’s 1913 painting “Composition VII”, I became fascinated by this non-objective style of expression he developed.  I became more intrigued as I was reading all of the insightful comments throughout the discussion threads and thought I would share some of the pieces of the puzzle that I thought could shed more light on his message.   A bit of background… Wassily Kandinsky was born in 1866 in Moscow and painted this work when he was about 45 years old. At the age of 30, he moved to Munich where he began his career as an artist and eventually started his own school. In a writing by M.K Lacoste, he was considered the founder of abstract art, which you can see in the development of his styles below.

“Odessa Port”
Oil on canvas painted in 1898.

“Forested Edge”
Painted in 1903.

“Couple Riding”
Oil on canvas painted in 1906.

“Blue Mountain”
Oil of canvas painted in 1908 – 1909.

“A Mountain”
Oil on canvas painted in 1909.

In comparing some of his more identifiable paintings, I could see the abstraction of these objects in his more non-objective works:

“Angel of the Last Judgment”
Oil on cardboard painted in 1911.

“Angel of the Last Judgment”
Glass painting in 1911.

“The Last Judgment”
Painted in 1912.

“Small Pleasures”
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

“Glass Painting with the Sun (Small Pleasures)”
Glass painting in 1910.

He had traveled extensively throughout Europe, and tensions were beginning to build as society was on the brink of its first World War.  I begin to see hints of this growing concern in some of the following works, which then seem to trickle into or out of (depending on the order in which these paintings emerged) the images we see in “Composition VII”…

“Improvisation 30 (Cannons)”
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

“Improvisation 31(Sea Battle)”
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

“Rider of the Apocalypse”
Tempura on glass painted in 1911.

In the bible, where you would find the prophecies of the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelation (Chapter 6) talks about the riders that Kandinsky painted in 1911.

Revelation 6:1-6

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.   When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds[a] of wheat for a day’s wages,[b] and six pounds[c] of barley for a day’s wages,[d]and do not damage the oil and the wine!”.

So here it is once again, “Composition VII” in all of its 6 ft. x 10 ft. splendor.
Oil on canvas painted in 1913.

All of these elements combined, I look at “Composition VII”, and I can see the arrow across the middle of the painting. From some of his other abstractions, landscapes with trees and forests; battling shapes and colors; horses and faces, smoke and clouds all seem to emerge in areas throughout the piece. His use of color values ranging from somber dark areas that move diagonally into lighter and brighter regions remind me of that spiritual warfare possibly being depicted here.  The Book of Revelation is filled with imagery that could find its place in this painting if that is truly the path where Kandinsky is leading us.  It’s simply one theory of many, but what I love most is that the creativity in this work does not end with the artist signing his name.  It continues on through all of us in our impressions and possibly even inspirations in our own emerging works…