Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Service of Color II

Tuesday, November 15th, 2016

Karen Morris, Dellwood, Minn.

Karen Morris, Dellwood, Minn.

On housebeautiful.com Lauren Smith wrote “Pantone Predicts the Colors That’ll Be Popular Next Spring–Let’s just say, next year is going to be bold and bright” and called out Flame, Island Paradise, Primrose Yellow and Niagara—the names Pantone gave coral, soft aqua, sunny yellow and denim blue. Pantone calls itself the “authority on color, provider of color systems and leading technology for accurate communication of color.”

Deborah Shedrick, Montgomery, Ala

Deborah Shedrick, Montgomery, Ala

What struck me about the work of some exhibitors at my client’s upcoming American Fine Craft Show at Brooklyn Museum this weekend, November 19-20, is the palpable importance of color—some of those Pantone identified as well as other luscious, succulent ones. Much of the jewelry is inspired by spirited, passionate hues; magical tints enhance ceramics and glass. 

Thomas Marrinson ceramics, Hinesburg, Vt.

Thomas Marrinson ceramics, Hinesburg, Vt.

Color isn’t for everyone and there will be many options for the more conservative shopper in every category. In addition to color, 26 jewelers reference travel, history, nature and their current or previous careers in far-flung industries as impacting their designs. Their expert work transforms precious stones and sheet metal, wire—even textiles and paper—into enchanting decorative enhancements and imaginative gifts.

Julie Shaw, Cocoa, FL.

Julie Shaw, Cocoa, FL.

For those bored by the mostly insipid fashion on today’s clothing racks, a fine craft fair such as this one is a treasure trove of both chic high-end classic and stylish casual wear. Fanciful accents and detailing punctuate one-of-a-kind coats and jackets designed and created by masters of leatherwork, weaving and expert tailoring. Exemplary millinery promises to be a show-stopper and versatile scarves and accessories in the hands of artists and expert fashion designers achieve elegant impact. 

Ethan Abramson, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Ethan Abramson, Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Furniture artisans at the show speak about their pieces and the elements that go into them as though they are human or a three dimensional reflection of their lives.  Although most of them design and fabricate with wood, there are architectural, handsome steel and aluminum pieces as well.

The furniture makers aren’t alone in their mastery and appreciation of wood. Several exhibitors will sell handmade small decorative and/or functional and at times whimsical pieces that are impossible to bypass without touching.

In addition to furniture, wood objects, art glass and ceramics, there’s more to enhance a home: Fine artists and two sculptors join the artisans this year, achieving a tempting and visual feast just a few days before Thanksgiving.

If cost were no object, where would you look for special gifts for yourself or someone else? Do you value the fine work of artisans and artists and recognize the imagination, skill and time poured into each piece?

 

Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Jane Herzenberg, Northhampton, Mass.

Service of Make it Clear and Keep Your Fingers Crossed

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Photo: theatlantic.com

Photo: theatlantic.com

 

Misunderstandings happen all the time between vendors who try to please and clients who hear what they hope or want to hear. Who knows who is right but clearly everyone can lose by winning.

In the first instance there’s Alec Baldwin and a well known New York art gallery owner Mary Boone. Baldwin “is suing Mary Boone in New York Supreme Court claiming the art dealer duped him into buying a $190,000 painting which was a copy,” wrote Hili Perlson on artnet.com

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

Alec Baldwin. Photo: ora.tv

In 2010 Baldwin thought he bought Ross Bleckner’s 1996 painting “Sea and Mirror” owned by an “unnamed collector” and said he got “a different version” of a picture with the same title and that Boone had put the gallery inventory number of the original on the work he bought.

Through her lawyer the gallery owner said that “Baldwin was made aware from the start he was not getting the original 1996 version of the painting.” Nevertheless, Boone has offered a full refund.

But Baldwin wants more. Perlson wrote he wants: “the difference between the purchase price of the painting in his possession and the current value of the original Sea and Mirror, which was painted, as Baldwin claims, while Bleckner was at the height of his artistic career.”

I’ve written before about the second instance that is so fitting to the topic and worth a repeat. An interior decorator carefully explained to her client—in front of a third person—that fabricating stationary window panels instead of curtains would save on the cost of the very expensive drapery textile she’d chosen, with a drawback: The panels, she told this friend-of-a-friend, would not move and would not fully cover the window. The client was fine with the sketch and the savings and said she could live with the downside and the panels were ordered and installed.

stationary-drapery-panelArriving home and seeing the panels the client called the decorator in fury: “They don’t cover the window!” she fumed and said she wouldn’t pay for them. The third person, who had introduced the two, would not take sides.

Had the interior decorator asked her client to sign or initial the sketch she made on which she’d noted her warning that might have helped IF the client was willing to put her John Hancock to the sheet. [The client was a lawyer.] Had the gallery owner asked Baldwin to sign something that detailed what his $190,000 was getting him, his nose might have been out of joint, only earlier, perhaps avoiding the current muddle.

Proving a client/customer is wrong is messy and the worst business prescription. In the end it doesn’t matter how much paperwork a vendor has to prove a point unless the business retains pounds and pounds of legal support and has deep pockets budgeted for lawsuits. Apart from an airtight insurance policy to cover such misunderstandings, must most businesses expect to swallow such losses? Have you heard of similar examples?

Win by losing

Service of Putting Your Money Where Your Talent Is: What Books Do Authors Read & Pictures Painters Collect?

Monday, August 15th, 2016

"Thoughts" by John Henry Henshall, 1883

“Thoughts” by John Henry Henshall, 1883

Books

Authors are always asked to name writers they admire and books they’ve loved and all are brimming with lists. Lisa C. Hickman, Ph.D is no exception. When I asked her by email she responded in minutes, “That’s a tough question, I admire so many. I recently finished Rick Moody’s Hotels of North America which was super smart and funny.  I also liked his novel The Ice Storm. But that’s all I’ve read by him.”

Author Lisa Hickman

Author Lisa Hickman

Hickman wrote William Faulkner and Joan Williams: The Romance of Two Writers (McFarland); edited Remembering: Joan Williams’ Uncollected Pieces (Open Road Media) and authored the narrative nonfiction book, Stranger to the Truth, (IndieAuthor LLC), a recounting of a Memphis matricide case.

She continued: “I’ve read a significant number by contemporary authors such as Jim Harrison, Valerie Martin, T. C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood, Richard Ford, Oscar Hijuelos and Per Petterson, to name just a few.  In the southern literature genre–the subjects of my first book—in addition to William Faulkner and Joan Williams are Larry Brown, Cormac McCarthy, Lewis Nordan and William Gay.   

“I think Andre Dubus III’s novel, The Garden of Last Days, about the terrorists who orchestrated 9/11 was a marvel, yet it didn’t get the traction it deserved.  An author with a lot of wit and talent—often overlooked–is Stanley Elkin.  I’m also a big Judith Rossner fan! And so it goes…”

David McCullough

David McCullough

In The Christian Science Monitor Danny Heitman reported that David McCullough likes to read what the subjects of his books did. In 2011 the Pulitzer Prize and National book Award-winning author told Heitman that John Adams carried a copy of Don Quixote and as he had not read it, he added it to his list. Among McCullough’s favorites are “historians Barbara Tuchman, Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote,” wrote Heitman, and he “is also a big fan of William Trevor, the Irish author and playwright, as well as mystery writer Ruth Rendell.” Quoting McCullough: “I love Anthony Trollope, I’m a Trollope nut. I also like [Canadian novelist] Robertson Davies. I love  Charles Dickens’ ‘American Notes.’”

Pictures

Authors aren’t the only ones to collect the work of colleagues. Mary Tompkins Lewis wrote in The Wall Street Journal about pictures by famous artists chosen for a London exhibition because other famous artists had bought them, which, she reported, happens a lot. [I never thought about it before but imagine it’s a superb subject for a museum exhibition!]

Lewis identified some of the artists and the paintings that will be on view at the National Gallery through September 4: 

  • Lucian Freud bought “Italian Woman” by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Paul Cézanne’s “Afternoon in Naples”
  • Henri Matisse owned “Three Bathers” also by Cézanne and a picture of a Tahitian by Paul Gauguin
  • Lewis wrote “Degas, whose buying habits bordered on addiction, briefly considered establishing a museum of his own.” Degas owned works by Gauguin, Manet and Cezanne, to name a few. Today Jasper Johns owns one of the Cézanne pictures that Degas had also bought—“Bather with Outstretched Arm.” 

“Countless artists have collected the work of their peers or masters of the past. As the exhibition shows, their motivations for doing so—which can include emulation, kindred pictorial ambitions, rivalry, prestige of ownership, or even investment—offer intriguing insights into their own artistic makeup,” she wrote.

Do you have a job, vocation, or hobby that inspires you to collect or read the work of others? Have you read books that your favorite authors say have inspired them? Do you enjoy identifying influences of other artists in some of the paintings you love most?

Paul Cézanne's "Bather with Outstretched Arm"

Paul Cézanne’s “Bather with Outstretched Arm”

 

Service of Dashed Hopes: Don’t Count Your Chickens

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

Dont count your chickens

Here’s a true story of a man who thought he had a pretty painting to sell at auction that turned out to be the work of a master. Envision his dreams of what to do with his new found treasure when he learned that the pre-sale estimate might bring as much as $1,180,000 more than was first thought.

A retired NYC antiques dealer, who chose to be anonymous, brought “Les Fleurs d’Été Dans un Gobelet,” [1885], a pleasing 13 x 9¾-inch picture of summer flowers in a goblet that he’d bought 30 years ago, to Litchfield County Auctions in Conn. It was originally pegged at $20,000.

Gauguin on Auction Website turnedBut after research the auction staff, according to Missy Sullivan, gave it an estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million. The title of her Wall Street Journal article, “Gauguin Painting is Rediscovered,” makes clear the reason for the dramatic estimate jump. A Gauguin scholar in Paris, with 40 years of study behind her, who also worked on a catalogue raisonné for this artist, matched a color photo of the picture with a black and white one she had and confirmed its legitimacy, wrote Sullivan.

Artnet’s database, added Sullivan, reported a similar Gauguin sold 16 years ago for $346,750.

In addition to the Journal article, the auction house listed on its website editorial coverage that ran about the found Gauguin in many of the right places: Art Newspaper; Art Fix Daily; Live Auctioneers; The Observer; Art Net News; Blouin Art Info; Scoop and Antiques Trade Gazette.

In spite of this, according to the results posted on the Litchfield County Auctions website [photo above–Gauguin in gold frame] , the picture didn’t sell nor did it receive any bids. Plenty of lots received no bids and yet many of these were nevertheless marked “sold.” There may be hope for this jewel yet.

It wasn’t a typical Gauguin featuring Tahitian life that Sullivan wrote previously brought $300 million, but this fact was reflected in the estimate. Meanwhile imagine the disappointment. Interesting to conjecture what might have happened. Any ideas? Have you ever bought something and later learned it was far more important than you thought?

 

Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin Photo: ibilio.org

Femmes de Tahiti by Paul Gauguin Photo: ibilio.org

 

Service of Traditional, Faux and Inadvertent Marketing: Mother’s Day, Gold Toilet & Promposal

Monday, April 25th, 2016

MarketingMost marketing promotions are designed to push product, an organization or initiative and are created by those who benefit. Some are dressed up to look like art or charitable generosity but are really to raise the visibility of merchandise, an association, cause or person. And sometimes groups of people support a concept that, as luck would have it, benefits businesses.

Traditional Marketing

I must have had marketing in my veins when, as a kid, I didn’t get why Mother’s Day irritated my Mother's Daymom so much. She thought it was a fabrication to sell cards, candy, flowers and restaurant reservations. As an adult, I’ve helped countless clients to sell their products, services and concepts, which may be why I always appreciated the Mother’s Day ritual. I also love to give gifts and to celebrate occasions. With the exception of Father’s Day, I don’t think many of the offshoots such as secretary’s or boss’s day have done nearly as well.

Marketing in Sheep’s Clothing

Gold Toilet on NYT pageArtist Maurizio Cattelan or his handlers pulled off the second kind of marketing scheme with his sculpture of a gold working toilet that the Guggenheim Museum is installing. You couldn’t miss a giant shot of it on the front page of The New York Times’ “TheArts” section last week that topped serious copy about it. In fact it appeared all over the place. To pragmatist me, it’s ridiculous, has nothing to do with art and everything to do with getting the artist’s name front and center–but I’m clearly out of step.

Inadvertent Sales Windfalls

Nancie Steinberg, whose son Austen is a high school senior, shared info about a Promposal Austen 1phenomenon—promposals–that help sell pizzas, poster board, flowers, cake and more. I’m betting that unlike Mother’s Day, teens came up with this activity and that merchants benefit from it. Does it matter, as long as it’s all in good fun and everyone wins?

Promposals were new to me but not to Caitlin Dewey who wrote about them in The Washington Post in 2014 and tracked the first mention of the word to a Dallas Morning News article in 2001. She followed the movement to its “going mainstream” in 2002-2005. In “A Short History of the ‘promposal’” she defined it as “the eyebrow-raising high-school ritual wherein students go to elaborate, terribly public lengths to ask each other to prom.”

Austen presented his date of choice with a rose bedecked sheet cake decorated with “Will You Go To Prom With Me?” in orange frosting [photos right and below]. His friends videotaped and photographed the moment. She said “yes.”

Dewey wrote of boys in Arizona who laid trails of rose petals from a prospective date’s home to the school and a chap in Idaho who secretly set his girlfriend’s alarm to ring at 3 am with a message “Hope its not too late—will you go to the prom with me?” These and others such as hanging signs from highway overpasses, filling yards with balloons or wearing gorilla suits were all done in 2006, before high school kids had access to Facebook and pre Tumblr. YouTube was the place to be then as now. Dewey reports there are 40,000 promposal videos and 900,000 tagged “prom proposal” or “ask cute.”

What are some of your favorite marketing ideas? Any that annoy, surprise or fall flat?

 

Promposal Austen 2

 

 

 

Service of Warring Design Styles

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Butler Library, Photo: Wikipedia

Butler Library, Photo: Wikipedia

 

 

I like interiors that mix design styles–contemporary art with 18th century antiques for example–but for some reason I can’t explain, I find visually jarring lawns or fields around Victorian, New England saltbox, farmhouse or traditional style houses strewn with contemporary sculpture and oversized copycat Calder mobiles.

That’s why Jillian Steinhauer’s article on hyperallergic.com, “Columbia Students Object to Installation of Henry Moore ‘Monstrosity,'” caught my eye.

Sidenote: The reporter writes for a well regarded online art news source that describes itself as “a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today.” She ridicules these stuffy, unhip students and alums who are clearly clueless when it comes to art. Because I agree with them about the installation’s placement–though I like Henry Moore’s work–I felt mocked by her perspective, like a Bernie Sanders supporter at a Donald Trump rally.

What started out in Steinhauer’s article as the protest of three seniors and one alumnus who “expressed their horror” in an op-ed in the university’s daily student paper became, in an update, 1,000+ who signed a petition to prevent the installation of “Reclining Figure 1969-70” [Photo below, right] in front of Butler Library.

The initial four, one currently a law student at Yale, described the work as a “ghoulish figure,” a “monstrosity,” an “ugly hunk of metal,” “a desecration of our home,” and an “arrogant middle finger to the world.”

Steinhauer continued: “They liken it to ‘a dying mantis or a poorly formed pterodactyl.’

Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure 1969-70"

They slander it as ‘an idealization of a chewed wad of gum.’”

She inserted: “Who said art didn’t still have the power to shock — the art of a British modernist working in a family-friendly zone between figuration and abstraction, no less?”

She continued with the students’ complaints, punctuated by her own observation: “Whatever its artistic merits, placing the sculpture in front of Butler Library will put an eyesore on an otherwise crisp, geometric, and symmetrical landscape. Moore’s ghoulish figure clashes with the neoclassical aesthetic instantly recognizable to generations of Columbians.”

She again editorialized, before sharing another comment from the article in the student paper: “And my favorite: All of this is not to say that modern sculpture has no place at the University. It just doesn’t belong in the center of campus.” And she concluded: “Please, no one tell these folks about postmodernism. They might do something drastic.”

She didn’t note another point made in the op-ed: “Adding insult to injury, the narrow stretch of lawn that Reclining Figure will inhabit is the only part of South Lawn permanently open to the public. The sculpture’s girth will intrude on the precious few square yards of grass where students congregate together, be it over soccer or cigarettes.”

I was surprised that nobody commented on the potentially horrific cost of this sculpture–to protect, maintain and insure it–at an institution that already charges students in the high five figures for a year of study. Maybe it was a gift so Columbia didn’t have to pay for it?

Is the goal of art to shock? Do you appreciate the juxtaposition of contemporary sculpture installed outdoors with traditional backgrounds?  Can you shed light on why I comfortably mix contemporary art with antiques inside but have trouble when it comes to this jumble outside?

 

agree to disagree

Service of Strings Attached

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

 

Ball of string

Most of the things we buy we own and can do with what we wish. Art isn’t one of them, especially works by famous, living people. If they didn’t know it before, the developer planning to convert the Sony Building on Madison Avenue to a hotel and luxury apartments knows it now.

Sony commissioned Canadian artist Dorothea Rockburne to create two fresco murals for its lobby in the 1990s. The Chetrit Group, that bought the building from Sony in 2013 for $1.1 billion, has her to deal with according to Peter Grant in his Wall Street Journal story, “Artist Skeptical Over Murals’ Fate.” 

Robert A.M. Stern, architect

Robert A.M. Stern, architect

Grant wrote: “The fate of [the] murals has been uncertain since earlier this year when Ms. Rockburne set off a furor in the art world by saying they were being endangered by the conversion project. That led to a series of meetings in February and earlier this month between Ms. Rockburne and Joseph Chetrit; his son, Jonathan; and their architect, Robert A.M. Stern.”

Rockburne wants control over lighting and doesn’t want the murals moved. Grant wrote that her “artwork is grounded in astronomy and mathematics” and that the murals were “designed in part to reflect their exact locations in the cosmos.” As for the lighting, “getting it wrong would be like leaving out a color” she told Grant. “It can’t be seen unless it’s lit by me,’ she said.”

Architect Stern told Grant “that his firm is making sure that the lighting and other design elements complement the murals, which will ‘give this lobby a wonderful glow and make it something everyone will want to enjoy and experience.’ He added: ‘I am the architect and interior designer for the project and not Dorothea.’”

Rockburne, whose work is found at topflight museums such a MoMA and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, didn’t care for photos she saw of the model lobby—due to be completed in 2018—because high desks “obscured the view of the mural.” Rockburne posited, “Would you put desks in front of the ‘Last Supper?’”

Picasso "Le Tricorne," Photo: LA Times

Picasso “Le Tricorne,” Photo: LA Times

Developers have crossed swords before over artworks in buildings they’ve bought. Grant reminded readers of Aby Rosen who caused a kerfuffle when he removed Picasso’s “Le Tricorne,” from the Four Seasons restaurant when he bought the Seagram Building 16 years ago. Grant reported that the Picasso stage curtain is currently on display at the New-York Historical Society.

I’m not a lawyer but a quick scan of Google made clear that artists—especially high profile ones still living—own copyrights to their works which limit what those who have commissioned their work can do. Goodness knows whether there was legal mumbo-jumbo between Sony and Rockburne which covered what happened to the works if they sold the building or what, if any, control current laws give this artist. Grant wrote that she has asked the Chetrits’ for a contract in which they agree to preserve the murals, which leads me to believe the fate of Northern and Southern Sky isn’t as buttoned up as she’d like.

Do you think Rockburne—or any artist–should be able to direct furniture and lighting placement in the lobby of a building they don’t own? Should a developer/new owner have any rights when it comes to work that comes with a building? Would you be slow to commission artwork from a top-selling artist for a building you own because of potential future complications?

copyright

Service of Settling with a Cheat

Monday, February 15th, 2016

Settle out of court

Knoedler & Company, founded in 1846, had a star-quality international reputation until 2011 when the art dealership was accused of fraud and closed.

In artnet.com Brian Boucher wrote: “Over fifteen years, from 1994 to 2009, the gallery sold fake paintings by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and other artists that had been brought to the gallery by Long Island art dealer Glafira Rosales, who pleaded guilty to fraud in 2013 and is awaiting sentencing. She had commissioned the paintings from a Chinese artist in Queens, who has since fled to China.”

Knoedler & Co. Photo Observer.com

Knoedler & Co. Photo Observer.com

On the witness stand last week, Ruth Blankschen, the gallery’s accountant, “said that she had paid Rosales up to $9,000 in cash in an envelope for each of the paintings she brought to the gallery, which is significant because the IRS requires reporting of cash transactions over $10,000,” wrote Boucher in “Knoedler Gallery Fraud Trial Abruptly Suspended—Settlement Seems Likely.”

This trial involved Eleanore and Domenico De Sole who were suing for $25 million because they paid $8.3 million in 2004 for their fake Rothko. Meanwhile the gallery did well, increasing their $9,000 investment to $8.3 million: A Madoff-worthy return, no?

Mark Rothko photo wikiart.org

Mark Rothko photo wikiart.org

Domenico De Sole, chairman of Sotheby’s, said that he was counting on the reputation of this well-regarded art house and didn’t do any vetting of the art himself. Given his position, imagine how embarrassed he was to be caught in such a net.

Clearly former gallery director and president Ann Freedman and Michael Hammer, the owner of Knoedler and its holding company, 8-31 Holdings, saved plenty of their ill gotten profits as they seem to be settling cases out of court right and left.

  • Freedman settled with the De Sole’s a few days before having to take the stand.
  • According to Henri Neuendorf of artnet.com in an earlier story, of nine suits against the gallery by buyers, five have been settled and four await trial.

Jennifer Smith in “Gallery Settles Art-Fraud Case,” written a few days after Boucher’s piece, reported that the gallery and the DeSoles’s have reached an undisclosed agreement and that “no criminal charges have been filed against Knoedler or Ms. Freedman.” In her Wall Street Journal article she continued “that both have said they were also duped by Ms. Rosales who told them the paintings came from a trove acquired by a collector known as ‘Mr. X.’” Smith said in all there were more than 30 fake artworks.

Do you think that sellers of fake art, if they settle out of court, should be free and not have to suffer punishment other than paying an agreed upon fine? Freedman claimed she knew nothing about the fakes. Wasn’t it a clue that her gallery paid less than $10,000 for something for which it was able to get over $8 million not from an art nubie, but from someone in the trade?

 Mr. X

Service of Color Me Red

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015

artist's paletteGoogle defines art therapy as “A form of psychotherapy involving the encouragement of free self-expression through painting, drawing, or modeling, used as a remedial activity or an aid to diagnosis.” So how can manufacturers of adult coloring books make a claim that this activity is the same when it is similar to playing solitaire or hooking rugs: An effective way to unwind and distract but far from free self expression? Well, they do. 

In “Experts Warn Adult Coloring Books Are Not Art Therapy” on artnet.com, Sarah Cascone wrote “Experts are questioning the therapeutic benefits of adult coloring books, one of 2015’s biggest and perhaps most-unexpected art trends, widely touted for its stress-relieving benefits.” According to Cascone the assertion “went mainstream,” with “Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt & Coloring Book,” by Johanna Basford, the top Amazon best-seller in the self-help category.

Pocket Posh Coloring Book, Photo: pinterest.com

Pocket Posh Coloring Book, Photo: pinterest.com

Cascone quoted Lesley O’Mara, the managing director of Michael O’Mara Books from a New Yorker article, “‘We’ve never seen a phenomenon like it in our thirty years of publishing. . . . Just can’t keep them in print fast enough.’ They have 24 titles in the category.

“‘We imagined the books would appeal to adults looking to relax. But we never expected the responses we’ve received from people battling serious medical conditions,’ editorial director Jeannine Dillon told PW [Publishers Weekly] of the Zen series, which sold over 275,000 copies over just six months this year.

“Susanne Fincher, art therapist and author of the Coloring Mandalas series, sees coloring books as a useful supplement to art therapy treatment. They ‘can empower a client to manage thoughts and feelings on their own with the positive activity of coloring, instead of, for example, overeating or abusing substances,’ she said to CNN.”

Additional evidence of the growing trend: There’s a National Coloring Day in August and claims by the president of the PTSD Survivors of America that coloring counteracts “the hyperactivity of the region of the brain called the amygdala, which controls the fear response,” Cascone wrote.

She asked: How much can coloring books really do for your mental well-being? Jane O’Sullivan who directs the MA mental health program at the  University of Queensland said “‘It’s a nice technique really that some art therapists sometimes use as a way to get started with someone, but art therapy is a lot more involved than that. I think if someone was to say coloring-in books are art therapy, [that] is not accurate.’”

Rug hooking amillionlives.netMy great aunt hooked rugs. She didn’t paint the design yet was skilled at her task. She made a magnificent round one featuring an enormous poppy for a niece who was an interior decorator. The niece commissioned an artist who painted the design. Calming, yes, with a bonus that solitaire doesn’t have: She had something to show for her work. But art?

My dad spent months in an Army hospital after World War II. He told me that severely injured soldiers who could still move their hands and arms were taught to knit so that they’d experience a sense of accomplishment. I think rug hooking and book coloring fall into a calming nerves category which is where the therapeutic value lies, but I think a reference to art is a stretch. If the Google definition is accurate, coloring within lines doesn’t fit the description of “free self-expression,” do you think?  

 

Photo: uncleguidosfacts

Photo: uncleguidosfacts

 

Service of Hope: Art and Flowers

Monday, August 17th, 2015

 

Creatures left these perennials alone this year.

Creatures left these perennials alone this year.

I was full of righteous indignation when I first read Sonja Sharp’s Wall Street Journal article, “‘Summer Streets’ Art Swiped Again.” As the title hints at, for the second year, people stole art that was made into signs. The project was commissioned by the Department of Transportation [DOT]. 

Not a blossom in sight.

Not a blossom in sight.

A similar thing happens to me though the perpetrators are animal, not human. I returned to our house on Friday night to discover barren sticks where zinnias and dahlias once thrived. Where were the flowers that I’d patiently deadheaded, fed with Milorganite that has a smell repellant to deer [and me], and watered? Answer: In some wild creature’s stomach. Something like this happens every year. More later.

Sharp wrote about what she described as “A series of cheeky street signs bolted high above Manhattan intersections” commissioned by the DOT to enhance areas of the city throughout August. Starting with 30, some installed seven feet high, she reported that there were only a handful a week after they were installed. “’It’s the nature of signs in public,’ artist Stephen Powers said upon learning that his vinyl-on-aluminum ’emotional wayfinding’ series had apparently been dismantled by sticky-fingered fans. ‘They print a lot of ‘Stop’ signs and they print a lot of ‘One Way’ signs because they tend to walk.’”

Summer Streets 2015Reading about the stolen signs my kneejerk reaction was, “With so much that needs attention, what the dickens is the DOT doing spending resources and staff time on a project involving cool signs that just scream to be taken and always are?” And “Why hang some so high that few would notice them in the first place?”

Adding insult to injury, the first sentence in DOT’s “About” section reads: “DOT’s mission is to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in the City of New York and to maintain and enhance the transportation infrastructure crucial to the economic vitality and quality of life of our primary customers, City residents.”

Sharp quoted a DOT press release: “These signs will surprise and delight passersby offering them clever food for thought.” So what does this have to do with the mission?

Later she added about the artistic street signs: “’The miracle of it is they’ll live forever on Instagram,’ Mr. Powers said of his work, adding, ‘That’s kind of where art lives now.’”

So what about my flowers? I have a perennial garden that survived relatively unscathed this year [photo at top] so I’m lucky. Once a pond dweller rodent broke every stem and had the nerve not to eat the blossoms of black eyed Susan’s, Echinacea, St. John’s Wort and other flowers I look forward to seeing and picking. Other summers, deer decapitated every colorful top leaving a lozenge-shaped garden of tall green leaves and beaver felled a precious cherry tree we’d planted and nurtured for years.  Like the DOT, I have a list of repairs to which I should direct money and time yet I spend it on flowers.

My husband is blessedly understanding and calm about the annual financial and floral devastation. About the latter, he says, “It’s nature.”  Isn’t the DOT working with similar trust and anticipation?

Do you also think these instances are analogous? Do you repeatedly toss money at hopeless causes?

 

A day after I took this photo the orange zinnias, like the dahlias in the middle, were also gone.

A day after I took this photo the orange zinnias, like the dahlias in the middle, were also gone.

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