Friday, December 7, 2012


The dilemma of what art is has been debated for millennium by better minds than mine. I can look at some conceptual art pieces for days and still have no idea of its significance. Looking at A Portrait of Ross by Felix Gonzalez-Torres I was stumped, a pile of candy stacked up in the corner. Not only did I think I could I do this but the thought of doing something like this and calling it art would never cross my mind. That's when I knew I had to force myself to dig a little deeper into the meaning of art. I found you really didn't have to dig that deep. You only have to go to the dictionary and look up the definition of conceptual art:
Con-cep-u-al  art: Art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns.
I had to look beyond the candy itself and rely on the artist to guide me to his creative intent. That's when I learned Ross was Felix's life partner who died of AIDS. When Ross was diagnosed with AIDS his doctor told him that his healthy weight should be 155 lbs. The candy pile weighs exactly 155 lbs. There's a sign by the candy encouraging visitors to take a piece and enjoy it. Its symbolism is how Ross' weight slowly diminished until his death. It makes the candy very bittersweet. It also makes the art very powerful.
Not everyone has the financial deep pockets to go to gallery for things to put on their walls. Here are some pieces of art that some might look at as somewhat conceptual but pieces that can also be appreciated for their more traditional use of design and the sheer enjoyment of their craftsmanship and beauty. And this is something you can do yourself by just searching the back of your closet.
During the mid to late nineteenth century women (and this may be a bit misogynistic) took the hair of deceased loved ones and with the aid of wood and wire wove memory wreaths of the deceased. They framed these delicate and intricate designs that were sometimes embellished with pearls and beads in shadow boxes. They hung them on their walls in a somewhat macabre remembrance of those that had traveled on to a place where their hair was no longer needed.
This may seem like a strange way to immortalize the dead but a hundred years from now when science has found a way of cloning our former selves it's going to be those ladies who left their DNA behind that will be the first ones to be pulled back from the dead.
The surviving remnants of graphic artists of centuries ago is somewhat limited but who thought playing cards would be a surviving element from the past. Playing cards where made to be handled over and over again. They had a built in durability factor that allowed for many of them to survive for many years beyond the posters and ephemera from days gone by. They were also the perfect objects for graphic artists to showcase their talents. Why not frame them?
During the early 1800's while confined to their ship for months on end sailors took to making what is known as "Sailor's Valentines".  Using an eight-sided compass box a sailor would collect shells along his journey and then glue them into amazing graphic patterns. They were then given to their loved one upon their return home. Ingenuity bore out some amazing pieces of art from a bunch of gathered shells and an old box.
Not to be out-done, the women during that same time period worked on their own graphic abilities in the form of tatting. Using a single cotton or linen thread and a small hand shuttle they would knot and loop a single line into an Op art pattern of circles and ovals with a fascinating end result. Fortunately, some of this art still survives and in this bedroom makes a powerful statement in black and white.
Even the most common of things that surround us every day can be elevated to art worthy when looked at for more than their utilitarian invention. These tools when mounted and framed become more than wire cutters. They transform into shape and material, positive forms creating intriguing negative space, ying and yang.
Fashion has always been integral to the art scene but most of it ends up hanging in a closet rather than on a wall. These twentieth century swimsuits are more than deserving of a place on a wall. Now it's for us to guess at their backstory. Go through your closet, your toolbox, an old trunk and look at what already exists in your cache of physical bits of your own history that if framed might give dignity to what we take for granted.

Just a reminder to the royal couple that according to Radaronline they had chosen our skirted round Emmy side table as an inspiration for their farmhouse digs. We hope you'll remember us when it comes time to decorate that nursery.

Wild Animals, Lynchburg, SC, 1936
Walker Evans, photographer
Represented by Lee Gallery, Winchester, MA

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