Sunday, January 30, 2011

Inspirational pictures

I love bodies of water, and the images reflected on them. So today's inspirational pictures are a small selection of  pictures of reflections that have accumulated in my pictures files over the years.




This is actually not a reflection on water, but was taken
at one of the exhibition locations in Ste. Marie aux Mines,  France



P.S. I have more, but the computer is giving me a hard time with uploading today, so I'll save some for some other day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Could-have-been Art

For several years now I have been wanting to take a class (at least one, perhaps even more) in welding. I haven't really told many people about this, keeping it a secret while I was trying to establish myself as an artist in quilting. Seems a bit odd, doesn't it? Quilting and welding don't seem to have too many things in common. Except for the approach I want to take with welding: recycle old stuff, which is how I got started with quilting, too.
Anyway, similar as with fabrics: when I see metal stuff that gives me ideas how I would have liked to integrate that into art.

For the past ten or so days we have had a deconstruction site close to our house, right on my way to Daily Oak.
And I have taken quite a few pictures. Not only of the progress of deconstruction (which I will share with you in a few days when they are completely finished), but of some art that could have been, had I taken that class already, and/or had I had the courage to go in and ask the guys taking the old building apart whether I could have some of those pieces.

Here are four pictures of art that could have been:

Now that I have told the cyber world about my desire - let's see what happens...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Little escap(ad)e

We live east of Munich, out in the countryside, where there isn’t really much going on. Although Munich is only approx. 55 miles to the west, we might as well be living on another planet, gathered from the frequency with which we get to go there. So on Monday this week I took additional use of a train ticket that would have taken me through Munich anyway, left a few hours earlier than necessary in order to get to my intended destination, and spent those hours in Munich indulging.

Already the train ride was great. I love looking at the landscape zooming by, even tough I have seen this particular scenery many times already. I got to see a whole flock of white herons standing in a meadow. I got to see many wonderful trees in their winter skeletons, some of which would certainly make beautiful objects for a Daily Art project. The tunnels and underpasses on the way to Munich are decorated with lots of colorful graffitis. And what I liked most: seeing the effect of the warmth of the sun. In certain spots the shadows of trees had prevented that the frosted grass had thawed up, but the shadow itself had already travelled on a little, so you could see exactly where the white frost would thaw next.

Of course it being Monday, the typical day for closed museums, I didn’t have much of a choice where to go – couldn’t go to the Exhibition by J. Albers in the Pinakothek der Moderne which I definitely still want to see. But the Haus der Kunst was open, where I had seen Ai Wei Wei’s exhibition „so sorry!“ almost exactly one year ago. Although they had ‚only’ one exhibition open right now I decided to go for it: Marlene Dumas (English information on her here, German information on her here).

Marlene Dumas is of South-African origin, but now lives in the Netherlands. You can find pictures of her and her works here The exhibit is called „Tronies – Marlene Dumas and the Old Masters“. Tronies were sketches of people/people's heads first used for exercise, which then turned into an art form with the Old Dutch Masters. The show juxtaposes Dumas's portraits with a number of tronies.

If you know about M. Dumas, you probably know the painting used for the large banner on the building to announce the show, but if you don’t - before you read the caption below, give yourself a second and try to guess: who is depicted in this painting?

Banner at the Haus der Kunst,
based on M. Dumas's painting 'Naomi'

 This picture is not even that large, definitely smaller than you would guess from the size of the banner. In the exhibition I overheard a tour guide telling her group that the painting was part of Dumas’ dealing with the effects of the fashion world. Naomi Campbell , who has been a steady presence in the fashion world for many years now is shown as an icon, which has a lot of the characteristics of an African mask, and although you can see her pride and feel the strength of her personality when looking at the eyes in the painting, one can also see that she is at the same time one of the supermodel stars and a living victim of that fashion world.

Dumas works her portraits from photos or magazine pictures, not from a live model. I’m not sure whether she used a pciture of a Barbie for this portrait of Barbie, too.

Barbie, by Marlen Dumas

A few pictures were shown from a series of ‚rejects’ in which Dumas had overlaid pictures that she had rejected onto others, tearing parts – mostly the eyes – out of the pictures in the top layer so that the one below showed through and became an integral part of the entire combination. Very interesting effects! It reminded me of some of my techniques used in quilting. If something doesn’t turn out right on the first try, don’t throw it out yet, you may use it in connection with another piece. Always a possibility to cut something off and combine it with something else!

My most favorite portrait in the entire exhibition was that of her then three- or four-year-old daughter Helena with a look on her face that only children at that age can have – a forceful mixture of critical observance, strong-willed anger and defiance. I did not sneak a picture of this portrait, but unfortunately they did not have it on postcard in the shop, and I couldn’t find it on the internet either. However, I did sneak two pictures of a series of ‚collaborations’ by Dumas and her then six-year-old daughter, who had overpainted or ‚corrected’ rejects by her mother.

What I like about these are the contrasts in style, and the surprise effects that develop from that. Of course, it is clear which part of the pictures was done by the child and which is by the adult, but if you look closely at the top left picture in the lower photograph, where the red paint overpaints the orginial, you can see a technique that Dumas herself used in her painting of Sigmund Freud’s wife, which is also shown in the exhibition.

After a stopover in the museum bookstore, which is so fabulously well-assorted that it is a very dangerous and potentially rather expensive place to go, and lunch at the museum restaurant I had enough time to take a little stroll outside. Munich was basking in what almost seemed like a spring-day-sun.

Three surfers at the Eiskanal were making use of the surfwave in the middle of the city.

The boule players in the Hofgarten were out.

And, as is typical for Munich as soon as the temperatures rise over freezing point, people were sitting outside in the biergarten.

Munich does have a flair of its own. And I think I will try to do this kind of escap(ad)e more often – perhaps every four to six weeks? 

Saturday, January 15, 2011


I have been quilting since I was an exchange student in High School in Charlotte, NC in 1982/83.

Back then I started with remnants from my mother’s attempts at tailoring the odd dress or night-gown for herself or me. When she had finished with one project, all the parts that had been cut off were rolled up together, tied into a little bundle with a piece of string or even a very narrow strip of that fabric, and stored together with all the other little rolls from previous projects. Over the years quite a fabric stash had accumulated that way, even though my mother was not the most productive tailor around. For me, these little bundled rolls of fabric were a promise, and they fascinated me in a way that I can still feel these days, for example when I get to dig into a box of odd and unassorted buttons (but that’s a different story altogether).

So when I returned home to Germany – with my minimalistic basic patchwork supplies of a narrow cutting mat, a small rotary cutter and metal-guides in inch-measurement and started doing patchwork, believing I was the only person in Germany who did this – these remnants of earlier tailoring projects were a welcome stash to dig into. Every once in a while I was allowed to by a piece of fabric to match whatever I was making, but overall I used up leftovers and things that were already there. (How serious a patchwork-identity I am can be seen in the fact that, for years and years, I saved the knit pattern samples of my knitting projects, with the intention of assembling them into a patchwork-knit-sample-blanket some day. I have also knitted several cardigans out of leftover wool, but again, that is a totally different story altogether…)
When I left home to go to university I did not own a sewing machine, nor did I have a enough money or room to collect fabric (remnants). But I knew that I would return to patchwork the first real chance I got.

The real take-off came several years later when I returned to my parents’ house with a broken heart and my mother had been signed up for a patchwork weekend class with the local community college. On the spur of the moment she enrolled me, too, I took the sewing machine which I had inherited meanwhile and which was waiting for me at my parents, and off we went together. That’s when I succumbed, totally and completely. The class was a ‚modern’ Crazy-Class (no hand-stitching and embroidery), and my mother allowed me to take a part of her fabric stash with me to finish the quilt I had started.
Here you can see a detail from that quilt, which constituted not only my return to patchwork, but at the same time led me onto a path that would let me leave traditional patterns behind and explore modern quiltmaking.

Detail from "Crazy Beginning"

At that time I had a part-time position at the university and was living alone in a city where I knew hardly anybody. There was a big fabric store, though, and I started collecting fabrics. When I was promoted to a full-time position (living in an apartment for which I paid only a moderate rent) I could really indulge in buying fabrics. For several years I was a member of the Sweet Treats fabric club, which brought me regular packages of assorted fat quarters. Every shipment was a little bit like Christmas: the unpacking, the surprise, the delight. (From this I eventually derived my own „Stoff-Abo“, the subscription of hand-dyed fabrics which is currently going into its very first real instalment.) Although some of the fabrics were definitely not to my liking on first sight, this arrangement led to the fact that over the years I accumulated lots of different fabrics, many of which I would have never bought in a fabric store – and which I might end up using at some point after all.
All this led to quite an impressive fabric collection. When we moved house the last time the guys from the moving company were rather surprised. They’d had experiences with lots of book cases, yes. But over thirty plastic boxes full of fabrics? No, they had never seen that before!

However, once I took up hand-dyeing my own fabrics, I eventually stopped using commercial or printed fabrics in my quilts. Over the years I have donated a box or two for the German Patchwork Guild’s Youth Program (Patch Kids) or sold some bundles on E-Bay, but there still remained quite a few pieces of fabric in my storage of which I knew by now that I would most likely never use them anymore.
So when I started the Stoff-Abo and took up preparing fabrics for the patchwork market in Erding in the beginning of April, where I will have a little stall, it was clear that I would have to make room. But throw out fabrics that could well be used by somebody? I just couldn’t do that. But how should I go about?

Last Thursday evening I invited five former participants in my local patchwork classes to a nice get-together, under the condition that they bring a large bag. I had pulled enough fabrics from my stash to fill two large moving boxes. And I would not let them leave the premises if even one of the fabrics remained in the house.
What a fabric party that was! I had the best time watching the jubilation when my guests were touching the various fabrics, showing them to each other and making sure that each of them got her proper share. We spent almost an hour dividing the contents of the boxes between the five, and they were excultant when they finally left. I didn’t take a picture of the whole thing, but it is a memory that will remain dear to my heart!
For me, it was a wonderful experience to see all these fabrics move on to somebody else’s storage, although I probably could have told a story about many of the pieces. And it was a lot of fun to see the excitement of my former students when they could reap from this abundance! Now I am curious to see what they will make from these fabrics which once were mine.

Thinking about the whole party now, I would say that this is a wonderful way of cleansing or refilling your own fabric stash. Why don’t you invite a few of your patchwork friends over, tell them to bring a few pieces of fabric which they are willing to part with – and you will see, you’re bound to end up with exactly that one piece of fabric you have been needing to fill that one spot in your stash!
Enjoy the party!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Inspirational pictures

Since I talked about light art the other day I thought I'd post some pictures that all have to do with light somehow. It's in the eye of the beholder, of course, whether they are (of) art or not...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Marg Moll, re-excavated sculptor

Two months ago, on November 8, 2010, several German newspapers featured articles on sculptures newly on display at the Neues Museum Berlin, which had been found during the archeological preparations for construction work on the continuation of the Berlin subway a few months ago. Thanks to the attentiveness of the workers eleven different works of art were recovered which had been lost since the end of World War II.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung featured a large picture of one of the sculptures on page 1, which immediately caught my eye and attention: "Dancer" by Marg Moll. Had they  run only a smaller article in the feuilleton pages, the whole event might have completely escaped my notice, as I do not get to read all of the paper every day. Here is a photo of the front-page section which caught my attention:

Picture of the cut out article published
 in Süddeutsche Zeitung, November 8, 2010.

When I turned to the feuilleton pages and read the article there I was deeply moved by the whole scene as described through the three pictures of one of the sculptures found: 

the top left picture shows Edwin Scharff’s sculpture of Anni Mewes in its original condition before the war, the top right picture is of the condition it was in when re-excavated, and the lower picture shows the condition after restauration. 
I imagine none of the other sculptures looked much better. One certainly can be glad that the construction workers were so attentive to notice that something unusual was slipping from their excavator shovel!

What touched me most, though, was the last paragraph, which ran as follows:

Die für die Öffentlichkeit neugewonnenen Werke gehören wohl nicht in die erste Reieh der modernen Kunst. Es war, wie Ursel Berger, Direktorin des Kolbe-Museums sagt, keine „Sammlerkunst“, sie wurde nicht von den großen Galerien vertreten und den potenten Kennern gekauft. Ihre Geschichte aber sichert ihnen unseren Respekt.

(translation: The works newly recovered for the public probably do not belong amongst the first range of modern art. They were not, as Ursel Berger, director of the Kolbe-Museum puts it, „collector’s art“, and they were not represented by the known galleries or bought by insiders. Their history, however, makes us think of them with respect.)

I have to admit, I certainly had never heard about Marg Moll, whose recovered „Dancer“ was featured on the Süddeutsche front-page, but because I was so deeply touched by the sculpture in the picture, this last paragraph to me just seemed rather condescending.

So I set about doing a little research on Marg Moll.
I found a few links in the internet, of course.
  • She can be found in English Wikipedia here, and a German entry here.
  • A website features works by Marg Moll and her husband, Oskar Moll, who was the director of Breslau art academy for several years in the 1920s until the Nazis closed the academy down. When I looked through the sculptures presented on this website, I could not decide which one is my favorite, you’ll have to choose for yourself. But I certainly did like the „Black Torso“.
  • You can find more pictures on google, of course.
  • There is even an English link on the news of the excavation.
  • Another very nice sculpture is called „Lovers“ and can beseen here.
  • The New York Times had an essay by Michael Kimmelman on the opening of the exhibition of the recovered sculptures, too, as it was reprinted in the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s weekly excerpts of articles from the NYT a few weeks later. (The excerpt never indicates the original date of publication.)

On the Moll’s website I found the reference for a recently published biography of Marg Moll by Werner Filmer: Marg Moll. Eine deutsche Bildhauerin 1884 – 1977. Our local library is pretty good about interlibrary loans, so I ordered this biography and could start reading it a few days later.

Marg Moll was a member of the Munich Secession, the first female German student of sculpture at Henry Matisse’s art school in Paris, and had turned to bronze sculptures even before Käthe Kollwitz. When she married painter Oskar Moll she concentrated on working as a sculptor. Together they traveled a lot, repeatedly spent longer stretches of time in Paris and were friends with many renowned artists from different countries: Lovis Corinth, Henry Matisse, Gertrude Stein, August Endell, Marcel Duchamp, Ossip Zadkine, Man Ray, Robert and Sonia Delaunay…

Marg Moll’s artistic development was characterized by a constant process of abstraction. She was a productive and known artist throughout the 1920s and 1930s, with a 1932 exhibition in the Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, together with her husband. During their years in Breslau they were both influential in the development of modernism in Germay, and Marg Moll continuously worked on further abstractions.
Marg Moll had several sculptures in various German museums and repeated solo exhibitions in various locations, until the Nazis included her sculptures in the notorious „Entartete Kunst“-exhibition ("Degenerate Art") in 1937, around which time her works were removed from the museums as well. Together with their two children the Molls remained in Germany, however, trying to keep a low profile, living and working in their house in Berlin, where they had moved after the Breslau academy had been closed down. Other than e.g. Emil Nolde they had not been prohibited to work, but were not allowed to exhibit any of their works. In 1944, when they had left the city out of fear of  the frequent bomb raids, their house was destroyed by Allied bombs the night before Marg Moll returned in order to clear the valuables out. The Molls lost not only both their entire bodies of work, but an invaluable collection of art works by many of their modern artist friends such as Corinth, Matisse, Picasso, Léger, Braque, Kokoschka, and many others. Despite this strike of fate and Oskar Moll’s decreasing health, both Molls always continued their work. They returned to Berlin after the end of the war and had a first post-war exhibition in May 1946. Marg Moll had turned to wood-sculptures during the war, and continued in this line for a while.
Oskar Moll, whose health had been declining for years, passed away on July 19, 1947, while the couple was contemplating moving to England, where one of their daughters was married.
Marg Moll indeed did move to England in September 1947, but returned to Germany in 1952. She continued trying out new things and improving her techniques in different genres, working until the decline of her eye-sight forced her to end her work in the late sixties.
In 1969, she was awarded the German Bundesverdienstkreuz (order of the Federal Republic of Germany). Her last ten years were spent in Munich, where she died on March 15, 1977.

This brief overview of Marg Moll’s life is based mainly on the biography by Werner Filmer. The book includes a number of pictures of her sculptures from various periods, showing a continuous and convincing development in artistic expression. And it clearly shows that her career was on the upswing well into the thirties with a growing reputation and exhibitions in national and international galleries, until it was interrupted by the Nazis. WW II destroyed her entire body of earlier works. She did not give up, continued to work and produced another impressive body of works.

Marg Moll’s sculpture was on the front page of the paper and caught my attention, and I have concentrated my – admittedly limited – research on her. Definitely she deserves much more praise and attention than the condescending „makes us think of them with respect“, and I am almost certain this holds true for the other excavated pieces of work as well. These include works by Edwin Scharff (English entry here), Otto Baum (no English entry in Wikipedia), Otto Freundlich (English entry here), Karl Knappe (no English entry), Emy Roeder (no English entry), Gustav Heinrich Wolff (no English entry) and Naum Slutzky (English entry here). They are now on display at the Neues Museum Berlin. If you are planning a trip to Berlin any time soon, this definitely should be a worthy item on you list of  museums you want to see!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Daily Oak

Having been a regular reader of Kathy Loomis’ Blog Art with a Needle, in which she frequently praises the merits of Daily or Regular Art – see her post on her new project here (and several other posts throughout the entire year 2010) – I made up my mind during the fall to start another daily project of my own beginning on January 1st.

Five years ago I had attempted a regular art project photographing a row of trees about three miles outside of the town where I live. I went there pretty regularly, although not every day, and took pictures with my camera, at that time not yet digital. The fact that the camera was not digital probably caused this project to flounder because I quickly lost track of the notes where I had taken down the dates and times when I had taken pictures.

So I ended up with lots of pictures that I could even put in chronological order because I had picture indexes done with every film I got developed.
I even had picture CDs made of two of the films, though why not of all the ones I had developed I can’t recall now.
Here are two pictures from early on in the project:

But the pictures were not really dateable any more. That project got stalled when the camera broke, after which it took me a few weeks before I got a new one. Although I did go digital then, I did not resume the tree row project, probably because the distance had wearied me, too. It was too much of an effort to try to get to the trees on a regular basis.

I did finish a photo book into which I put all the pictures just recently:

This experience has directly influenced my decisions about this year’s photo project:

  • I will take a picture of a certain oak tree, about a five minute walk from my house, on every day of the year that I am in town.
  • In fact, I will take two pictures every day, namely from the same two perspectives every day.
  • Over the year I will try to vary the times of day when the picture is taken.
  • Once a month I will post a small selection from the photos on this blog.

Here are two pictures out of the first four.

Daily Oak, January 1, 2011

Daily Oak, January 4, 2011
I do hope that the sun is going to reappear eventually and some of the pictures will turn out more cheerful than these two. I missed taking a picture during the one hole in the cloud cover yesterday because the camera's battery went dead right when I arrived at the tree. And unfortunately the partial solar eclipse that took place early this morning here couldn't be caught on camera for this project either. But there are going to be other interesting things happening, I am sure.
And I'll stop by that row of trees every once in a while, too.