It was nice to get away for a day even though I’m still ailing and still behind on a lot of things. You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging as much lately. Maybe there’s not much to say. I can show you things though: like this fabulous day. Our main objective was to catch the Mystical Symbolism exhibit at the Guggenheim but we managed to fit in some other wanderings as well. Oodles more photos on the ‘book.
Sometimes living in hipsterville has its benefits: September Gallery is definitely one of them. They only opened last year but they’ve already won a fan in me with this show. Witches brings together a variety of powerful works by women. Marjorie Cameron‘s name drew me in, but there were other pleasures to enjoy. It was wonderful to see her drawings up close and marvel at her fine lines and free compositions. Stunning and powerful.
Her work was surrounded by contemporary artists animated by the same questing spirit. Laurel Sparks describes her work a kind of sigil magic, overlaying a dizzying array of colours, textures and materials in her Magic Square series. They sparked some ideas in me. Rosy Keyser’s work likewise mixes materials and colour but in a more abstract way. I loved her Terrestial Mime which hangs materials on a wooden grid with wild layers of paint. It feels like the work behind a painting made visible, a sort of swirl of anarchic energy summoned.
Marianne Vitale’s Very Fine Gander has a whimsical charm, like toys made giant — but charred, too. So there’s also a feeling of something horrible gone wrong. There’s a great description of it in the exhibit essay by Susan Aberth (who wrote that fabulous book on Leonora Carrington — but argh! ‘The Burning Times’ and the Middle Ages are not synonymous. The height of the witch hunts was the 16th-17th centuries: the Early MODERN era).
I was absolutely bowled over by Anna Betbeze’s untitled sculpture of burnt objects on a rug. It felt like an artefact from the past, like a fire that consumed the witch who summoned it or what was left of the village after a curse. Like her piece Howl the literalisation of burning anger feels great.
“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” ― Maya Angelou
Best of all, the show culminated in a performance night last Saturday. I arrived to find the place in darkness as it had already begun (so much for being fashionably late). Melinda Kiefer led the audience in an opening ritual “to create [a] sacred yet wacky” atmosphere. Then the fabulous Pam Grossman (who probably alerted me to this show via her blog Phantasmaphile) gave a short version of her talk on the image of the witch in art. She was the organising genius behind the Occult Humanities Conference and exhibit last year that’s still resonating loudly in my head. I was glad we had a chance to chat afterward.
Shanekia McIntosh gave a wonderful performance with amazing code switching in a story about her family and the power of premonitions. There was an interesting Sonic Sigil piece, an invocation and prayer to Hecate by Sarah Falkner, Rebecca Wolff and Jonathan Osofsky (I liked the use of flags). The band Dust Bowl Faeries performed and wow! I was sharing pictures from their show with the Folk Horror Revival group because I knew people would dig it:
They’re playing Helsinki Hudson on the 7th of May. Be there!
Laurel Sparks wrapped up the evening with a performance that had us back in the dark while she paced a circle around us, reading from huge slabs and then painting herself in dayglo colours with a kind of ritual precision that managed to be both humorous and compelling without ever giving in to the over-seriousness that performance pieces can fall prey to. All in all a fantastic evening.
Tate Modern and the new Switch House with loads of new stuff: see more here.
Always a delight to visit the McManus Galleries in Dundee. I visit my favourites like Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream and usually the Sidhe Riders though that seems to be wandering again. I’m always interested, too, in seeing what’s new. There’s a terrific drawing exhibit on with a wide variety of images and styles called Draw the Line: Old Masters to the Beano. There’s also a showcase of new acquisitions which included someone who just bowled me over completely: Frances Walker.
This is just a glimpse and probably cannot convey how utterly stunning these landscapes of Antarctica are or how agog the prints she made as cards will render you but trust me. If you are in the area, you need to see these. Absolutely breathtaking! I swear they made the room colder by putting you into the glacial waters. Her diary in the case made me want to break the glass and flip through it to see everything through her eyes. The exhibit catalogue (which I guess is actually from the original showing in Aberdeen) also has her paintings of the islands in the west, especially Skye but also Orkney so I must have it — and was heartbroken they didn’t have it in the shop (though apparently they’re trying to get it).
Absolutely amazing that she gave the paintings to the McManus:
Frances Walker is acknowledged as one of Scotland’s finest artists. Inspired by wild and remote places, she captures the edges of civilisation – scenes of rugged coastlines and craggy beaches. She had long wanted to visit the Antarctic and realised her ambition after being presented with the James McBey Travel Award in 2007. The result is a series of paintings in which she evokes the dramatic icescapes of Antarctica. It is the most significant gift by an artist to Dundee’s nationally significant fine art collection for over 25 years.
Here are a couple videos. I cannot tell you how much I love her work. I need more!
Being far too lazy to choose between photos, I have posted the majority of them to a Facebook album which is publicly visible. But I had a fabulous day out with the Queen of Everything. As I got there a bit earlier than she did I popped over to the Morgan to see Warhol by the Book and have since been filled with ideas about artist books. And saw this fine sculpture at the Polish Embassy around the corner (click to embiggen).
Then I met the fab Stephanie at Grand Central and we headed north to the Neue Galerie to see the Munch & Expressionism exhibit. We panicked a bit when we saw there was a line but it wasn’t that bad, mostly security (for valid reasons). When I saw all the woodcuts, I realised why Stephanie had been so excited to see this show. Great stuff, lots of Schiele — not a single female artist, alas. And as an elderly viewer noted, ‘Not a happy face to be seen’ anywhere. There’s also the room of Klimts and wow, having mostly seen the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer reprinted I was astonished at its beauty. So much texture.
We had a late lunch at the New Amity Restaurant because ‘as you know, Amity means friendship’ and it lived up to its name and was quite wonderful.
Then because the afternoon was slipping away all too fast we took a cab around the park to the Folk Art Museum (and got a Muslim woman driver which pleased us) for the Mystery and Benevolence exhibit featuring folk art from the Odd Fellows and Masons.
Wow, just wow. I didn’t expect it to be quite so interesting. Maybe because I’m a sucker for secret societies. Maybe it was the more folksy touch to the art, rather than the very grand versions that you can see in the London museum. If you go to the album, you’ll see most of the pictures I took were there. Fascinating! A newish museum and a really friendly staff there — if you go be sure to check out the shop. Lots of tempting things there.
Despite the predicted rain there was never more than a sprinkle or two. We enjoyed a wander through the park and then had a round of drinks because we were two dames in the city and why not? Then it was time to hop our trains back. Busy day, but fun and great company.