Tag Archives: Art

Pet Obsessions

Anyone else simply struck by a certain niche of art, art history, or simply history that fascinates you above all others? As I mentioned in my last post, I look forward to Obama’s art policy and hope that it will reflect his campaign especially in the area of volunteerism. I mentioned FDR and Kennedy, but held myself back from waxing poetic about the WPA, my personal little historic, artistic and political obsession. The WPA and its influence on politics, society and art is the one reason I wish I had studied art history in grad school instead of museology, but it is still an ongoing side interest.

Regina Hackett’s Art To Go post on November 11 (found via MAN, I don’t know why I don’t read Hackett on a regular basis, Green often links to her) quite literally made me tingle. She suggests that Obama bring back the WPA, though with a 21st century twist. I heartily agree with her suggestion.

What’s your pet art obsession?

Any suggestions on how to restructure the WPA to function today?


Obama and the Arts

This blog is not political, but with the recent US presidential election along with the economic downturn, I am interested in thinking about the ways the arts community may be affected. It will be particularly interesting to see Obama’s arts and culture policy take shape and be put into practice. Many of the ideas outlined in the campaign policy would directly benefit artists, from better health care to an “Artists Corps” that sounds like a mix of AmeriCorps and the New Deal WPA artists programs. Better conditions and support for artists will hopefully carry over into other areas of the art world, so it will be exciting to see how policy develops.

Obama Campaign Arts Culture Fact Sheet

Obama’s campaign truly championed volunteerism, something that is fundamental to museums and arts education. They also took advantage of the internet and social networking, and with the launch of http://www.change.gov/ it looks as if the focus on volunteerism and online connectivity will be carried into the new administration. Check out the site, I expect it to expand quickly. There are places for people’s suggestions for several issues including the economy and health care, and mention of volunteer programs for people of all ages. To me this mix of volunteerism, focus on arts and culture, and structured programs for work suggests a new hybrid of FDR’s (and Eleanor, can’t forget her influence) and Kennedy’s social projects. And as a total social networking geek anything that involves the internet and user involvement makes me giddy.

Okay, time for me to try to calm down. There are, shall we say, bigger fish to fry right now in the US, but it is good knowing that our next president has at least thought about artists and the arts community.

Free Rice, Art Style

From the Amon Carter Museum Blog (by way of Tyler Green, how did I miss that?) is the “Free Rice” art identification style. It’s just like being back in Art History since 1500.


The format is similar to the original Free Rice game, although instead of word definitions an image of a famous masterwork is shown and then four artist names are given as choices. Every time you choose correctly, the difficulty is ramped up a bit. 

Confession: I’m a little rusty. I was trying to go as fast as possible and ID’d a Monet as a Morisot. Ooops. I’m not telling which one, but it was a huge blow to my ego.

So, for anyone who wants to use their useless art IDing skills for good (or who just misses undergraduate art history classes, go test your memory.

Labels and Wit

L reminded me that Dario Robleto: Alloy of Love at the Frye Art Museum closes September 1st, so we stopped in this afternoon to catch it. There are several good reviews of the show so I won’t attempt to write my own, but will instead offer a few thoughts.

First, the labels are essential to the exhibition. Not only do they show creativity and wit (Shredded records of melancholy female vocalists I can believe, but powdered bones and ink from the letters of war sweethearts? SURE) but a regular match box or drum stick nestled in a velvet-lined box have no special meaning without the narrative Robleto weaves with his labels. Of course Robleto is playing with the controversial role of labels in art museums, should a pieces stand on its own and do visitors spend more time reading the label than looking at the art? To a museologist this push and pull is delicious, witty, and almost mind-exploding.

Second, the list of materials makes it fun to try to guess which might be true (shredded records, flowers made of human hair) and which are positively impossible (a woman’s powdered rib bone recast and carved into the form of a man’s rib bone). It’s a guessing game, it’s a lesson in reading and logic and possibility as much as it is a story.

None of this is particularly insightful, but these are the reasons I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition (in addition to L’s excellent company and her decoding of the drum stick title “Your Moonlight Is In Danger Of Shining for No One” (it must be a play on Kieth Moon of the Who, she pointed out)).

Sound Garden

Well, since the CBC shows Olympic coverage hours before NBC and I’m all caught up on swimming, I’ll take a break from watching the Olympics (I like anything that involves a race–especially swimming–because the rules are simple: whoever is the fastest wins) to talk about the NOAA Art Walk/Sound Garden. 

The Sound Garden has been a much fabled art Seattle art fixture (at least among our little group). It’s near Warren G. Magnuson Park but on NOAA land (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) so in order to see the sculpture you must pass through a security checkpoint. The Sound Garden is a collection of towers with tubes that catch the wind to create different tones, depending on the speed and direction of the wind. According to a Seattle website, “NOAA’s art collection includes six outdoor artworks by nationally recognized artists.” The NOAA website is either broken or off limits to lowly citizens because searching the website brings up a lot of error messages, but the Seattle Parks website assured me that visitors could enter through the NOAA main gate Monday – Friday, 9 am – 5 pm.

L and I had some trouble locating the NOAA main gate (driving around Magnuson Park aimlessly for a while) bet eventually located it and told the security guards what we desired: to see the art walk. They took our drivers licenses and we waited maybe five minutes before they gave us visitors badges and a map.

We got a little excited and took pictures of a large (and rather poorly executed) mural and some upturned metal tubes as well as what appeared to be a weather data tower. 

Lame Mural

Art? Or Debris?

Art? Or Debris?

 Next we saw the Sound Garden. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. It looks a lot like a cluster of weather vanes. And the sound? was almost non-existent. At one point we tricked ourselves into thinking it was letting off a nice, high-pitched squeal, but it must have been an alarm from a nearby building because it certainly wasn’t coming from the tubes. Perhaps it requires more wind, but there were several decent gusts, and nothing. Or, perhaps it needs some attention, as several of the towers creaked loudly when the arms rotated in the wind. Or, perhaps it needs a chorus of “Hands All Over” to get it warmed up (yes, that Soundgarden is named for this Sound Garden).


Sound Garden

Sound Garden

We wandered around looking for the rest of the “art.” A small footbridge with text (apparently from Moby Dick) is all that appears to remain of the “art walk.” And at the time I didn’t even know it was anything more than a nice little bridge. There was a platform that may have supported a long-gone sculpture, and some iron girders set into the lake that may have held the platform noted in a Seattle P-I article, but other than gorgeous views of the lake and lots of sun-warmed blackberries, there wasn’t much to see.

We went back to Magnuson Park to see the The Fin Project: From Swords into Plowshares. Fins from former US Naval Submarines rise out of the grass, and even though there was a large mound of cedar wood chips screwing with the visual line (and the path, we kept sinking into the piles as we walked) it is a beautiful and moving (I kept expecting the fins to start “swimming” toward the water). The fins are arranged to approximate a whale pod formation.


My picture does nothing to capture it.

My picture does nothing to capture it.

So, unless it is a particularly windy day, skip NOAA and the possible background check (why else did it take them so long to look at our drivers licenses?) and stick with the Fins. Or, better yet, head over to Volunteer Park to see Noguchi’s Black Sun (and sing Black Hole Sun! Do we know if there is actually a connection there, Alison?).

I really haven’t done any research other than read a few Seattle P-I articles on-line and look at the Seattle Parks website, so there may be more of a story. But since I’m working on more important things and watching the Olympics, that’s all you get for now.