Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Winter Streetlight" by Ellyn Stokes

Image used with the permission of the artist. Ellyn Stokes has an online store here. However, the shop will be closed until June 2011 when she returns from Turkey.

A fractured circle of light radiates from a street lamp. Against all logic the circle is mostly blue, darker than the yellow night air all around. A reversal has happened, as with the winter solstice when the days which grew shorter halted, did an about face, then slowly marched back through the frigid air toward a longer, warmer state. The world is turned inside out, upside down. This image is night, feels like night, yet light - which does not emanate from the electrical bulb - abounds. This image is winter, feels like winter, for stark, naked trees reach desperately toward the lamp's glow. Electrical wires and post form a sort of gate, an entrance through which the trees must pass. An entrance into better days, when warm rain soaks the earth, leaves bud and become rich foliage, and flowers bloom.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

“Two Rabbits Under the Full Moon” by Utagawa Hiroshige

Sky like a cut-out.
Glow of moon shadow
Like the collar of a bib.
Waves of atmospheric blue
In the grain of the wood.
One rabbit observes while
The other sniffs the ground,
Ground covered with snow.
The empty spaces, so bright
They blend together
Erase the edges
We know are still there.
The empty spaces have volume
More substantial than
Anything else.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Dreams of Tigers, Dreams of Sheep"

20" x 24"
woodcut, oil based inks on Masa paper
Edition of 6

Children have nightmares,
Great boogeymen come in the night,
Carry away boys and girls and
Eat them.
Images of sharp teeth and claws,
Hairy hides over lean muscles
Drawn from the well of humanity's past
A time when us as prey was a
Legitimate fear.
So many generations later
They have become "Cleo," "Tigger," "Max."
Their food from a can.
Their fur, soft and combed.
Their fate in our hands.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Orangeman" by Jennifer Schmitt

Image posted with the permission of the artist. Jennifer Schmitt's work can be viewed and purchased on her store Azure Grackle.

A great polka dot serpent slithers
Behind even greater leaves
Red leaves that stab the ground as
They fall and stay standing
As if pillars of stone.
There are monsters in the sunset.
Red behemoths rising beyond
A blanket of mist.
Shadows and light crack, crumple
Dig deep into the plank of pointed grass
On which I stand alone.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Kirifuri Waterfall" by Hokusai

Full title: "Kirifuri Waterfall at Mount Kurokami in Shimotsuke Province" by Katsushika Hokusai

Hokusai is most famous for his prints of nature (Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuju and the Great Wave of Kanagawa) and what I love most about these and similar works is how exquisitely he renders the natural world, as well as how powerful nature is depicted in comparison humankind. In this sense these works remind me of the cave paintings of Lascaux where elegantly drawn images of stags and bison tower over stick-figure human hunters.

The first time I saw this picture I read the waterfall as the roots of some humongous tree, even though I knew from the color and my familiarity with the style of Japanese woodcuts that it was meant to represent falling water. I had to pull out an old travel photo album to look at a snapshot I took of my husband in front of Ta Prohm - a temple in Cambodia overgrown by gigantic tree roots. In the photo the temple's entrances are dwarfed by slithering, bulbous roots, many thicker than my husband's legs.

The lines of Hokusai's falling streams are just so sharp that at best they reads as thick ropes of ice. That is, until the eye reaches the bottom of the image where the frozen-looking streams finally meet the ground and sizzle up as small waves and mist. The people at the bottom look up, and the people at the top look down, probably at each other, although their respective gazes keep the eye moving up and down the real subject of the piece, and emphasize the waterfall's substantial height. Unlike the waterfall itself, the people's gestures suggest movement. Though the waterfall moves fast, it will be there much longer than them, and the streams' frozen appearance almost seems intended to underscore that deeper truth.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Figure Study 12/8/10

Image measures approximately 4" x 11"
Water-based inks on Rives BFK
Monotype and woodcut

I've been going to figure drawing sessions at Allens Lane Art Center for over a year now and this is a little study developed from one of this week's drawings. I wanted to play around with different layers of monotyped color under the carved block layer. Out of the batch this was the best final product. The screaming yellow background and jagged blue line-work suggest turmoil. These combined with the naked body, the cropped out face, and the bend of the body forward with arms behind the back create a sense of anxiety, possibly violence. It takes a pretty typical model pose for a run-of-the-mill figure drawing session to another level of suggested narrative and emotional tension. Perhaps I was inspired by all the model's tatoos and piercings (in addition to her wonderfully dynamic poses.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Village Market" by Isaac Sithole

This piece reminds me why I so love color woodcuts. Just as with black and white woodcuts, because the marks must be so definite and the color so rich, the image is striking and oftentimes even jarring. Particularly in this piece, the orange in contrast to the vivid blue pop. Bright yellows surrounded by deep greens seem to shine as if reflecting sunlight. Everything is warm and suggestive of movement.

I love, too, the lack of perspective in this picture. The buildings slump and bend with the landscape. The trilogy of figures seem overgrown beside the fruit stand, and yet are dwarfed by the central plant. It is as if to remind the viewer that while they command the distribution and use of the harvest, they are dependent on the land.

The swimming sky, the hot, red sun, the ground speckled with seeds and reeds - all is life.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Lady Holding A Baby" by Stephen White

I discovered this 1973 gem here. The figures in this picture are stylized in the same fashion of White’s other works (most evident in the woman’s face) and yet in this image I only noticed that after I was grasped by the overall image. The grace and delicacy of the outlines along with the tender and domestic subject matter remind me of Mary Cassat’s gorgeous drypoints, often also of mothers and children. White's paintings contain a great deal more color, thick textures, and elaborate patterns, but in this much more simple work the weight of soft, warm flesh, comes across with great economy of line and limited color palette. For this reason I find it far more powerful and expressive than any other work by the artist that I've been able to find.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

"Nursing" (Final Edition)

Woodcut (reduction)
Image is 3" x 3.25", paper is 4.75" x 6"
Oil-based inks on Rives BFK
Edition of 6

Cotton candy mama
(Blue raspberry)
Holds her cotton candy baby
(Pink vanilla)
And between them
Twinkles of white light
Cut through the seams
Where shadows bleed