One of the fun things about exploring new cities is seeing their art museums. We had one day in wonderful Milwaukee where we sampled their best coffee, the Domes at Mitchell Park, the Harley Davidson Museum and the architecturally amazing Milwaukee Art Museum.
Every artist dreams of being in a major collection and this exhibition at the Nasher Museum is an excellent example of how powerful collecting can be for the artists and for the public.
Solidary & Solitary: The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection focuses on abstract African-American artists from 1940s to the present.
For years, I have followed and enjoyed the fluid, voluptuous, abstract sculptures of Lynda Benglis. In the summer of 2016, I visited the new Museum of the Baroque/Museo Internacional del Barroco in Puebla, Mexico wanting to see the soaring design by the famous Japanese Architect Toyo Ito. Imagine my surprise as I walked into the contemporary wing and encountered a spectacular show by Lynda Benglis!
I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art just to see this exhibition, a collection of Japanese bamboo objects from the Abbey Collection. The show included a wide range of traditional basket forms as well as current work made by six artists designated Living National Treasures, who all evolved from bamboo lineages dating back to the nineteenth century.
Whenever I travel, I try to tuck in visits to galleries and museums that nourish me creatively. While we were visiting family this summer, we hopped across the US starting in California, then Missouri and finally in North Carolina. I caught a gem of a show in Kansas city while we were visiting my friend and colleague Catherine Armbrust.
Long before I met Naomi, I followed her work because she has an uncanny ability to meld the unforgiving hardness of metal with the lyrical softness of thread.
Naomi’s work using weathered sheet metal and crocheted wire thread are autobiographical in the sense that they reflect all of Naomi’s personal history.
I will be blogging periodically about artists whose work influences mine and why. I’m starting with the Ghanian artist El Anatsui who works in Nsukka, Nigeria. Now internationally reknown, he creates massive wall hung pieces and installations from thousands of bits of recycled metal tied together with copper wire.
His work defies categorization and lives somewhere between painting, sculpture and fiber. Like many artists working on a large scale, he employs dozens of studio helpers to fabricate the work. While there are some who question artists who use the labor of others in the construction of their work, this is now a common studio practice, especially for artists working on a massive scale. Here in Mexico, I employ six local Mexican women in the fabrication of my feathers and in the silk-screening process.
I am very intrigued with the concept of making something from nothing and in this way, I see a relationship between his work and mine. We both share a passion for patterning and also elevating recycled materials (metal bottle caps for him; plastic bags for me), by forging them into work that is both visually complex and brimming with meaning and cultural references.
I am deeply inspired by the scale, beauty, inventiveness, construction and originality of El Anatsui.
Additional resources about El Anatsui:
Chakaia Booker is the ultimate recycler. Her monumental abstract sculptures using discarded tires embody the ‘making something from nothing’ ethic. Encountering her work is overwhelming. It’s huge. It smells. It’s hard to imagine the physicality required in building with this unforgiving material. Looking at it is exhausting.
It’s also thrilling.