"I paint every day. Sometimes I hate painting, but I keep at it, thinking always that before I croak I'll really learn how to do it – maybe as well as some of the old painters." Thomas Hart Benton
A gray day and a feeling of unease as we move forward and begin to deal with the economic fallout of the pandemic. While reading about Jackson Pollock I took a detour over to one of his early influences Thomas Hart Benton a midwestern painter and muralist who became famous as a Regionalist painter, focusing on American people and culture. Reading about his 1930s work made me think about what the artists response to this time will be like.
Benton's main contribution to 20th-century American art might be his thematic emphasis on images of ordinary people and common lore. His expressive realism stands out for its exaggerated curvilinear forms and shapes, and bold use of key colors. By shifting attention away from New York and towards the Midwest, Benton expanded both the scope of possible artistic subject matter, and the potential public for American art.
About the painting from theartstory.com
Commissioned by New York City's innovative and progressive New School for Social Research, Benton's America Today murals joyfully celebrate an America before the full impact of the Great Depression had been realized. Here, a multi-racial labor force - this in itself is modern and utopian image because of heavily segregated labor in America - busily build the city. Emphasis is placed on the producer, rather than on material consumption. Benton pictures high skyscrapers, which were markers of the new modern city, urbanism, and industrialism. The presence of a ship recalls Benton's earlier work for the US Navy, and reminds us of New York's prominence as a port city. Benton applied wood molding to the canvas to separate one vignette from the other, which gives a modern, cinematic quality to the overall composition. (Benton had earlier worked in the film industry as well.) His rapid compositional shifts in depth between the foreground and deep background recall cinematic effects. In addition to Benton's murals, the New School also commissioned the great Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco to paint a suite of frescoes which complement Benton's tribute to the national by focusing on the international. Standing in front of this monumental and brightly colored image, one senses the city humming and pulsating with new energy.
About the Artist from Wikipedia
Thomas Hart Benton (April 15, 1889 – January 19, 1975) was an American painter and muralist. Along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, he was at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement. The fluid, sculpted figures in his paintings showed everyday people in scenes of life in the United States. His work is strongly associated with the Midwestern United States, the region in which he was born and which he called home for most of his life. He also studied in Paris, lived in New York City for more than 20 years and painted scores of works there, summered for 50 years on Martha's Vineyard off the New England coast, and also painted scenes of the American South and West. read more
"It was in the 1920s, when nobody had time to reflect, that I saw a still-life painting with a flower that was perfectly exquisite, but so small you really could not appreciate it." Georgia O'Keeffe
I have lost count of the days and settled in to a routine of sorts. I find myself in the studio working with a simple theme and familiar shapes. I am focusing on pattern to evoke the repetitive nature of this time. I selected Petunia 2 painted by Georgia O'Keefe in 1924 because it marks the beginning of her exploration into the subject that she is famous for. She stated that "nobody really sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time... So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it."
About the Painting from theartstory.com
Petunia No. 2, one of O'Keeffe's first large-scale renderings of a flower, represents the beginning of her exploration of a theme that would mark her career. In this painting, she magnifies the flower's form to emphasize its shape and color. She stated that "nobody really sees a flower - really - it is so small - we haven't time - and to see takes time... So I said to myself - I'll paint what I see - what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it." Her flower images often received interpretations that O'Keeffe disagreed with, particularly from feminist critics who saw these paintings as veiled illusions to female genitalia. For O'Keeffe, there was no hidden symbolism, just the essence of the flower. In fact, the anatomy of the petunia is incredibly detailed, and O'Keeffe may have been emphasizing the androgyny of the reproductive parts in order to counter the idea that her subject matter was connected to her gender. Though American and European artists had experimented with abstraction for at least a decade, O'Keeffe, like Dove, focused on images from nature and O'Keeffe was the only artist to consistently use flowers as a motif.
About the Artist from Wikipedia
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986) was an American artist. She was known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O'Keeffe has been recognized as the "Mother of American modernism".
"Most of our lives we live closed up in ourselves, with a longing not to be alone, to include others in that life that is invisible and intangible. To make it visible and tangible, we need light and material, any material. And any material can take on the burden of what had been brewing in our consciousness or subconsciousness, in our awareness or in our dreams." Anni Albers
Today's artist and piece is German-American Textile Artist and Printmaker Anni Albers 1899-1994 and her piece Dotted from 1959. I harbor a secret desire to be a weaver, to have a loom and to turn colorful materials into fabric. Catastrophes seem to help clarify things and I think I should stop thinking about it and do it. So I started thinking about textile artists. One of the most revolutionary textile artists was Anni Albers.
"Albers made her mark on the Bauhaus, the weaving art form, and the conception of "women's" crafts with her innovations. Beyond the integration of abstract modernism into textile weavings, Albers also introduced new technologies to the weaving workshop. When the Bauhaus won a commission for the Bundesschule des Allgemeinen Deutschen Gerwekschaftsbundes (ADGB) School, it was a testing ground for their ability to craft industrially feasible designs. Albers developed a set of textiles for the ADGB auditorium, using different types of synthetic fibers and cellophane to create acoustic panels. Her research into these materials influenced the manufacturing of similar panels and led to new innovations in theater design." Read more about Anni Albers here.
Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials. Anni Albers