Tag Archives: art

Charlotte Dumas: Anima
(Exhibition Review)

Image by Renee Alfonso

Dutch photographer Charlotte Dumas’ series of animal portraits is on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art as part of its Now exhibition series. The Now series showcases the work of living, emerging or mid-career artists, who are invited to create new work for installation in the gallery’s rotunda.

Image by Renee Alfonso

For this installation, Dumas captured portraits of burial horses in Arlington Cemetery, who carry the bodies of fallen soldiers to their final resting place. For most of her work, Dumas usually creates animal portraits, attempting to provide intimate glimpses of the animals’ lives.

Courtesy Charlotte Dumas via the Corcoran Gallery of Art

The horses at Arlington Cemetery have very noble and important work; they are responsible in giving fallen servicemen and women their final honors in military burials. Dumas photographed the horses in their stables at night, between their waking and sleeping hours.

"Babe" by Charlotte Dumas

Courtesy Charlotte Dumas via the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Dumas claims her inspiration from the portrait painting of Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. This influence is clearly shown in the way she composes her photographs. Shadows and light surround her subjects, giving a soft, illuminated atmosphere to the photographs that create a sense of intimacy. The warm colors in the portraits welcome the viewer into these intimate moments with the horses. Dumas invites us to consider our relationship to animals and their roles in our lives beyond the tasks they perform or the places they inhabit.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam/Julie Saul Gallery, New York. Via Le Journal de la Photographie.

Apart from the horse portraits, the exhibition also shows some of Dumas’ previous work, which include portraits of dogs and wolves. The exhibition is her first solo show in a US museum.

Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Paul Andriesse, Amsterdam/Julie Saul Gallery, New York. Via Le Journal de la Photographie.

Portraiture is an intimate art form that creates a bond between the artist and the subject, allowing the subject’s inner personality and essence to come forth in the representation. While her medium is classical, Dumas’ methods and her choice of subject give her work relevance and brevity. Through her photographs we see the raw, majestic beauty of the animals she photographs. We see them at the same perspective as we see ourselves, as living creatures that inhabit the world and give the earth is soul.
Learn more about the exhibition and hear Dumas speak about her work in this video:

Anima is on View at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC until October 2012.


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The Sketchbook

eli harris sketchbookskecthbooks by Eli Harris

An artists’s well worn sketchbook, with pages so packed with creativity that you can barely close the book, is sometimes as beautiful as their greatest masterpieces. Nowhere else do you get an unfiltered peek at what’s inside an artist’s head. A sketchbook can be an idea generator, a diary, a travelogue or anything else you want it to be. Here are a few beautiful books that will hopefully bring some inspiration to you this week.

sketchbook of alison wormanSketchbooks by Alison Worman

alison worman via the jealous curatorAlison Worman found via the jealous curator

Alison Worman’s books are packed with textiles, gorgeous drawings, layered paper and embroidery. Every page tells a story and is beautiful in its own way. The loose threads give her books an ethereal quality, like they could unravel at any moment.  Not only are the pages inside beautiful, the books are extraordinary as objects themselves.

mattias adolfsson sketchbookSketchbook by Mattias Adolfsson

adolfsson sketchbookSketchbook by Mattias Adolfsson

The amount of detail in illustrator and comics artist Mattais Adolfsson’s sketches is mindblowing. Many of his drawings pull you into a sci-fi world where technology overwhelms everything, but you can still find the humanity if you look for it. He also draws the everyday in architectural studies and cityscapes that are equally as impressive.  I highly recommend taking a look at the rest of his work which can be found here.

Oliver Jeffers sketchbookOliver Jeffers

jeffers sketchbookOliver Jeffers

If you have children in your life, or are a children’s literature enthusiast, you may recognize the little boy in the right corner in the above image as“the Boy”; he’s the hero of many of Oliver Jeffers childrens books. Jeffers is one of my favourite children’s writer/illustrators and I was thrilled to bits when I found out he has pages of his sketchbook up on his website. In these pages you can see the collage, typography, photo manipulation and illustration style that make his books so special.

John Garcia via book by it’s cover

John Garcia found via book by its cover

Many artists keep a sketchbook going at all times, so over the span of years they will amass a stack of books that reveal their progression as an artist, as well as feature their very best ideas alongside the ones they left behind. Artist John Garcia’s sketchbooks are filled with humour, colour and everyday moments from his travels. They also show that a sketchbook can be a free place where you can play as much as you want to, allowing your creativity to flow any which way.

the sketchbook projectThe Sketchbook Project 2012 in Los Angeles

The Sketchbook Project 2013

I have a confession to make; drawing terrifies me. Like many people who spent most of their lives believing that “other people” were good at drawing, not me, it can be torturous trying to complete the simplest sketch. I admire people who can draw with reckless abandon, creating on the page what they see in their head.

The Sketchbook Project is perfect for confident artists as well as artist wannabes like myself because it forces you to fill the pages in a sketchbook no matter what your skill level. They’ll even send you a blank sketchbook and all completed entries will be archived at the Brooklyn Art Library. You can participate from anywhere in the world, but they will be holding sketch-ins and pop-up sketchbook libraries in major US and Canadian cities in the coming months.  For more info head to arthouse co-op.

Get Sketching!


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Exhibition Spaces and Public Issues
(MANIFEST: Armed, Exhibition)

Original image by Renee Alfonso

Whether they are part of a museum, commercial gallery, or specific to an event, exhibition spaces have started to have an increasingly important role in discussing current issues in the public sphere through thought-provoking yet visually intriguing methods.

More and more exhibitions these days, particularly in the realm of contemporary art, provide an avenue for dialogue, discussion and examination of the very real issues that are present in society today. Most of the time certain issues are overshadowed by other concerns that are given emphasis by the government or activist groups. For some artists, especially those in the realm of contemporary installation art, these topics can be discussed openly and considered carefully with art as a medium and vehicle for active consideration.

Image by Renee Alfonso

The inaugural show of Corcoran Gallery of Art’s new exhibition series entitled MANIFEST seems to take off where conventional political discussion leaves, and continues the discussion where common political discourse has left off. The exhibition series’ description says that it “investigates art, technology, and the role of exhibition spaces.” While this is a broad description, the first exhibit in this new series certainly highlights the intersection of political issues, technology, and art, which creates a unique, resonating voice in the traditional political landscape of the US’s capital.

The exhibition consists of a series of installations of art objects derived from weapons. Each of the three installations is by a different artist or group, and discusses themes surrounding weapons culture in the United States as well as the role technology plays in it.

Arsenal by Sarah Frost. Photograph by Renee Alfonso.

Immediately grabbing your attention from the minute you walk by the entrance is an installation of paper firearms entitled Arsenal by Sarah Frost, which were handmade using instructional videos from YouTube posted by adolescents. Still frames of the videos flank the installation from one side, with paper maquettes of bullets shells on the other.

Original image by Renee Alfonso

Original image by Renee Alfonso

The second installation is by Julian Oliver, called Transparency Grenade. The grenade itself is an allegorical bomb, collecting fragments of data and network traffic and “detonates” it on a digital map, exploding the information from the site and exploring the breadth of connectivity today.

Transparency Grenade by Julian Oliver. Photograph by Renee Alfonso.

Artist group SmithBeatty created the third installation in two parts, which explores constitutional rights, digital fabrication, and the decisions we make when confronted with issues that could quite frankly be a matter of life and death for some.

Installation by artist group SmithBeatty. Photograph by Renee Alfonso.

Aside from the loaded imagery and themes in the exhibition, its impact also came from the fact that there was hardly any color in the objects or space. The starkness of the white walls and the dominantly white objects in the space created a sense of uneasiness that communicated the overall atmosphere and tone of the show.

Even if exhibitions such as Armed are on view for only a short period of time, they have the opportunity to create awareness and to make an impact on the issues that sometimes are difficult to discuss publicly. As the role of art, exhibitions, and creative spaces continues to evolve, they also continue to challenge our perceptions and provide dimensionality – literally and figuratively, to the issues that affect our lives today.


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Thread Art: No Sewing Required

Thread installation by Gabriel Dawe. Image via Colossal.

Some incredible things are being done with thread.

Thread can be a mundane and extremely utilitarian material. When partnered with a needle, it becomes this powerful thing that hold the universe together, or at the very least, your modesty. In embroidery it gets to be an art medium, but this does not even begin to scratch the surface of what it can be.

These amazing artists embrace the fine, delicate, gossamer quality of thread and create masterpieces that feel light and almost vapor-like, almost transparent.

Eric Rieger, aka Hot Tea, treated threads like rays of sunshine when he created this installation.

Letting Go. Installation by Eric Rieger. Via Colossal.

Dominique Falla makes typography soft and touchable in her pieces.

Images from the artist's website

Gabriel Dawe‘s installations are sculptures of thread and air.

Plexus No. 8 by Gabriel Dawe. Image from the artist's website.

Kumi Yamashita is genius! These portraits she made with thread and nails are just so intricate and delicate.

Constellation - CY, by Kumi Yamashita. From the artist's website.


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60 Years of Designing the Ballet

Tutu from the Tutu Project

From the Tutu Project, a supporting exhibition.

My dad was on the volunteer committee of the National Ballet of Canada when I was growing up.  This came with considerable perks for his ballet-loving young daughter who got to spend time back stage among the dancers and costumes, the most graceful hustle-bustle.  So I was especially excited that Toronto’s Design Exchange was hosting 60 Years of Designing the Ballet, a behind the scenes glimpse of the National Ballet of Canada’s design process from concept to stage.

The maquette or set model

The maquette is a mini stage that the designer creates in consultation with the choreographer. The model is to scale and allows the stage and set designer along with the choreographer to visualize and test ideas for the full and final version. The maquette also functions as the main instruction for production staff who build the sets, if you can believe.

German designed set brushes

Backdrops are painted on the floor of the Gretchen Ross Production Centre, painstakingly done in 4x4ft sections. Each full backdrop is 40x70 ft.

Set brushes attached to poles

Paint brushes for these backdrops cost $150 each and are imported from Germany. They are attached to long poles so painters can work from a standing position.

It’s a beautiful and thoughtfully curated exhibit including many archival pieces that transports you into the imagination of the choreographers, set and costume designers. Their principle function is to allow the dance to shine of course, but never at the cost of setting the stage to enhance storytelling, and always with glamour befitting the ballet. Designers of every piece of the staging puzzle must treat movement as an added dimension, from spring-loaded food trays that need to look as though they may topple, but never do as they are lept across the stage, to the inherent flexibility to the costumes.

early sketches of costumes

The exhibit includes this retrospective of costume drawings, works of art in themselves.

Headpiece and mask

Of course while the costume designers do take movement into their designs, that's not to say much of the work still doesn't fall to the dancers who dance in heavy costumes, elaborate headpieces, and masks that obscure their field of vision. These feats make them olympians, magicians.

Costumes and set pieces from a production of the Nutcracker including Clara's Russian Stove Bed

close up of the wardrobes

Costume of the Mouse King and his posse from The Nutcracker

The National Ballet of Canada, while celebrating only its 60th anniversary, has boasted some of the biggest names in modern day ballet. Celia Franca, who founded NBC, brought her strong connections with dancers and choreographers in Europe not to mention her formidable reputation, that grew more so during her long tenure with the company.  The NBC flourished under Franca, boasting talent like Baryshnikov who joined the company following his dramatic defection after a Toronto performance in 1974 and the imitable Eric Brohn as guest artist and finally artistic director.  This exhibition relishes these moments of history while also showcasing the ingenuity and innovation that goes into staging the ballet.  It’s glorious as it should be.

60 Years of Designing the Ballet at the Design Exchange

To September 2, 2012

234 Bay Street, Toronto, ON

10am – 5pm M-F 12pm – 5pm weekends

Admission $10.00

All photos by Deirdre Dimitroff


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