Artist Spotlight: Miwa Yanagi

A new (to me) Japanese artist that I discovered on TV.  She’s the spotlight artist for Japan at the the Venice Art Biennial this year.  Her display is called “Windswept Women.”

Windswept Women1

Windswept Women1

At first I was put off by these images – they’re so violent and odd, almost like giantesses ready to eat someone’s children.

Windswept Women 2

Windswept Women 2

When I looked harder, I saw their faces, their strength in the face of the wind, their wild enjoyment… it came to me that they are all faces of a woman’s experience through life….

Windswept Women 3

Windswept Women 3

Denying an aging body with a youthful mind…

Windswept Women 4

Windswept Women 4

…being joyful in their own skins…

Windswept Women 5

Windswept Women 5

Miwa Yanagi’s homepage includes several other of her collections which are creepy and though provoking.  Check it out here.

~MS the Younger

The Art of the Flu Mask

Walk down any street in Asia and you will inevitably find at several people wearing cold masks.  They’re just a part of cold etiquette here, as you’re politely keeping your snotty nose and sneezing to yourself instead of letting other experience floating clouds of mucus molecules (although from the coverage of swine flu, it seems that nothing but surgeon-grade masks have an effect).  It’s always seemed a little counter-productive to me since it’s generally rude to take it off to wipe your nose (it’s also more polite to sniff than blow your nose).  Gah!  I don’t want to think about what’s behind those things after a day of wear.

Typical plain paper cold mask

Typical plain paper cold mask.

If you go to a hospital or doctor’s office you often get a mask to wear while you sit in the waiting room.

Stylish allergy defense combo.

Stylish allergy defense combo.

During allergy season they even have pollen glasses to go along with your pollen mask.

Pooh-san makes his appearance on cold masks...

Pooh-san makes his appearance on cold masks...

Many companies even put out Pokemon and Doraemon versions for kids, and traditional fabric makers make re-useable kimono-fabric models for the fashionable and eco-conscious.

I particularly like some new designs made by Japanese artist Yoriko Yoshida.  These designs aren’t in production, but I think they would do great in the open market!

Yoriko's octopus face mask.

Yoriko's octopus face mask. How can you be miserable if you can masquerade as Davy Jones?

Rising Sun mask.

Rising Sun mask.

Beautiful woman mask.

Beautiful woman mask.

~MS the Younger

(inspiration for this post comes from PinkTentacle)

Virtual Advent Calendars!

A yearly tradition for my family - the advent calendar!

A yearly tradition for my family - the advent calendar!

Advent calendars are a tradition at my house.  You know, the ones made of thick paper with a colorful picture on the front and lots of tantalizing little doors!  One of my favorite times during cold Decembers was coming home from high school and opening the day’s door to find a tasty morsel of German chocolate inside.  Sadly in Japan advent calendars are few and far between, and my local import store sold them all in one week (lesson learned: always buy something when you see it, nobody here restocks!) so this year I’m depending on virtual advent calendars!

One of my favorites this year is Jamie Oliver’s version of the advent calendar.  If you’ve never heard of him, he’s the guy known as the Naked Chef, a wonderful fighter for real food in school cafeteria lunches and more cooking at home.  His calendar features cooking videos and recipes for the holidays!  If you like what you find, also check out his “Ministry of Food” video podcast.

Intute, a great arts and humanities resource, has their own version of the advent calendar which features “academic resources on the Internet on a variety of themes – artists’ lives, anniversaries, soldiers’ experiences during the First World War, international awards, film, dance, English literature and languages and literatures from around the world, as well as a few subjects which imply that “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…””

The Tate in London has a cute advent calendar with a different artwork chosen by a 4th grade student every day from their Children’s Collection.  Today’s work is “Bull 1″ by Roy Lichenstein (I really love the kids comments on the artwork – it would be nice to recapture that simple appreciation of art ^^).

Electric December '08 - a smorgasboard of new directing talent.

Electric December '08 - a smorgasboard of new directing talent.

Electric December ’08 is an advent calendar with a different movie from an up-and-coming film-maker each day.

And on a more religious note, I thought that this advent calendar, called “Following the Star,” was a beautiful piece of Flash work that really invites us to sit and reflect on the spiritual side of Christmas.

As I told my students when I explained Christmas to them, it doesn’t matter what you do to celebrate Christmas, whether it’s with a Advent Calendar, barbecuing on the beach in Australia, creating edible works of art in the kitchen, or going to church on Christmas morning, what’s most important is spreading  joy and love!

~MS the Younger

(Oh, and PS, don’t forget to check out this awesome Nintendo 8-bit music style Christmas album ~_^)


To learn more about the  History of the Advent Calendar:
“This page from a German advent calendar company presents information on the origins of advent calendars and a short history of their evolution from simple chalk lines marking off the days in December until Christmas to paper calendars with windows.  The online Advent Calendar Museum provides photographs of calendars from the 1940s through 1960s. Also includes a brief history of the Sellmer Company in Stuttgart and an online tour of calendar production.”

Via the Librarian’s Internet Index (LII)

~MS the older & wiser

Artist Spotlight: Capturing the Pre-Raphaelites on Digital Film

“Found Treasures” by Athansor.

This is my nod to another amazing upcoming photographer to be found on DeviantArtAurora Vanderbosch’s DA gallery simply makes your jaw drop.  She’s able to take digital photography, often a cold medium, and give it the warm, dusty tones of Victorian portrait photography or the voluptuousness of old oil paintings.  And she definitely has a whimsical sense of humor and flair with costume and set design.  Do check out her Pre-Raphaelite series and the rest of her gallery for a refreshing, romantic break from your day!

~MS the Younger

Why does art disappear so easily from Europe?

…was one of the questions brought up by MS’s post “Robbers Hit the Art World.”  Surprisingly, the writer’s over at Slate have taken a stab at an answer: they pin the high percentage of thefts to “small galleries and no guns.”  America has much larger cultural institutions that use more modern, stringent security systems.  Sounds to me like the European galleries need to get their act together.

~MS the Younger

Robbers hit the art world again – $160 million worth stolen from Switzerland

 poppyfield monet

ZURICH, Switzerland (Feb. 11) – Three armed men in ski masks stole four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet worth $163.2 million from a Zurich museum in one of Europe’s largest ever art heists, police said Monday.

Story continued over at AOL news… 


You Don’t Know What You’ve Got…

kelsey-murphy-and-robert-bomkamp-limited-edition-vase.jpg…’Till It’s Gone

In an October 4, 2007 post (Alas for the glass), MadSilence reported on the planned closing of the Fenton Art Glass Company.  Apparently the reports of Fenton’s demise were premature. 

As reported on January 5, 2008 by HuntingtonNews.Net:

Buoyed by orders, Fenton Glass remains in business
A surge in orders has enabled Fenton Art Glass Co. to keep its doors open for business. In 2007, the company announced its intention to close. Dealers and collectors responded with support and increased orders. Fenton reported it has made progress toward the financial restructuring of the company and is now accepting orders for spring 2008. Formed in 1905, Fenton has been producing handmade colored art glass in Williamstown, Wood County, since Jan. 2, 1907. Fenton has 120 employees.

Fenton has even announced the release of its Fenton Art Glass 2008 Spring Collection

Note:  The ruby-cased Kelsey Murphy and Robert Bomkamp Limited Edition Vase pictured at the top of this post is from the Spring 2008 Collection.  Price: $1,100.00 

Related links:
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Good News: Fenton Glass Lives On…For Now at Least


“Beautiful and mysterious”?


Jeff Koons’s “Rabbit” floated over Times Square during Thursday’s parade. The helium “sculpture” was making its debut (from the New York Times) 

“Everyone found it, as an object, quite beautiful and mysterious.” Robin Hall, executive producer, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The 2007 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade saw the debut of 3 new giant character helium balloons, 4 new fantastic floats, and a new contemporary art balloon.

Jeff Koons’s “Rabbit” floated over Times Square during Thursday’s parade. According to the New York Post:

Macy’s, which built the balloon after Koons’ design, wants to display the rabbit in future parades and is seeking other artists willing to float their ideas in its annual Thanksgiving Day spectacular as part of what it calls the Blue Sky Gallery. “We’re interested in bringing a new audience to the parade,” said Robin Hall, the parade’s executive producer. The silver rabbit was modeled after a 1986 Koons stainless-steel sculpture that the artist says was itself a depiction of a rabbit-shaped balloon.

An interesting development for a parade started in the 1920s by employees of Macy’s department store, many of whom were first-generation immigrants. Proud of their new American heritage, they wanted to celebrate the United States holiday of Thanksgiving with the type of festival their parents had loved in Europe.  And how about that purported value of $5 million? 

I like what the Gothamist has to say about adding “fine art” to the parade:

Um, formaldehyde Damien shark, anyone? Or how about a Takashi Murakami Mr. Pointy balloon? Dan Flavin light balloon? Frank Gehry Bilbao balloon? Christo and Jeanne Claude’s Gates?

And for those fans of Hello Kitty:


Related links:
A Bunny Balloon Sheds Its Steel Skin (The New York Times, 11/23/07)
Big Bucks for Bunny Ballon?(The Gothamist, 11/24/07)
Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade website
Facts for Features: Thanksgiving Day Nov. 22, 2007 (U.S. Census Bureau)


Good old soda with a twist

artsoda.jpgAll I wanted for Christmas last year was a case of Jones Soda Company’s holiday-themed limited-edition flavored sodas…and I got it!

The flavors were mind blowing: Turkey and Gravy, Sweet Potato, and Pea for the entree, and Cherry, Apple, and Blueberry Pie for dessert.  Antacid should you need it.  I still haven’t found the courage to sample them.

This season the 2007 Holiday Packs (there’s a Christmas and a Chanukah Pack) will feature such flavors as Sugar Plum, Christmas Tree, Egg Nog, Christmas Ham, Jelly Doughnut, Apple Sauce, Chocolate Coins and Latkes.

Why do they do it? To benefit charity, including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Center and Toys for Tots.  I’m sure the notoriety doesn’t hurt sales either.  More questions? Contact Jones Soda at  

Read more about it here and here. 

Related links:
Mmmmmmmm: Fizzy, Bottled Hamfrom FoxNews
Jones Sodafrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Bevnet: Your source for beverage news: Jones Soda Company
Jones Soda promises ham, tree, doughnut flavored beveragesfrom USAToday
Enjoy a refreshing ham soda from CNN

Related blog posts:
Jones Soda Company – The Thanksgiving Holiday Packfrom eatdrink&bemerry
Enjoy a refreshing ham sodafrom The KSUR Afternoon Show Blog
Jones Soda For The Holidays from That’s Elbert With An “E””

The mouse that roared: digital explosion

g3448-4802-dlilogo.jpgIs it possible, as alleged by New York Times writer Nicole Cotroneo, that “The next Salvador Dali is just as likely to wield a computer mouse as a paint brush”? And if so, what does this statement foretell about the future of painting? The Long Island Digital Arts Festival provides a venue for the exploration of digital art.


Digital artists use computers and technology to create images. According to Wikipedia, digital art is:

Art created on a computer in digital form. Digital art can be purely computer-generated, or taken from another source, such as a scanned photograph, or an image drawn using a mouse or graphics tablet.

The Digital Long Island arts festival, composed of juried, invitational, and student exhibitions, is the first of a potentially biennial event providing a platform to display art in all forms using technology as its basis. At first glance the exhibition at Mills Pond House appeared much like a conventional exhibition, offering framed canvases. The exhibition labels highlighted the difference: the framed objects included 3D computer generated images (CGI), digital prints, digital paintings, inkjet prints, digigraphs, ink on canvas, and even hand sewn digital prints.

Looking closely I found no evidence of brushstrokes, no sign of the artist’s touch. The image was glossy and sharp, but had Khadem merely achieved the mimesis of classical European academic painting, or was this something else entirely? And was something vital lost in the transition?

Upon entering the exhibition the viewer is faced with two artworks created by digital artist Alain K. Khadem. I was captured by the imagery in his paired artworks, “Abuse of Power” and “Retribution.” The pair was created using Adobe Printshop and Illustrator and is printed on canvas. I was reminded of the style of painting called trompe-l’oeil (literally, “fool the eye”) and the paintings of 19th century American artist William Harnett. If you enjoy realist still lifes as I do, as well as the contemporary revival of the neoclassical style, visit Khadem’s website:


 Abuse of Power and Retributionby  Alain K. Khadem (digital painting)

And while I was delighted with the retribution visited upon Khadem’s hammer, I was puzzled by the nature of his artwork, and its relationship to traditional painting. Looking closely I found no evidence of brushstrokes, no sign of the artist’s touch. The image was glossy and sharp, but had Khadem merely achieved the mimesis of classical European academic painting, or was this something else entirely? And was something vital lost in the transition?

Artist Renata Spiazzi states in her artist biography that digital art “…should not imitate other media [but] should reflect the new technology”.  Certainly Spiazzi’s “Bridge” is a powerful abstract statement but how does the image reflect this new technology? 


Bridgeby Renata Spiazzi (digital)

The sharpness of the image and its glossy finish certainly bear witness to its digital birth, but beyond that I am uncertain as to how technology impacts art.  

What value is there to the human touch handling brush or palette knife? Is digital art merely a new medium, like watercolors, pastels and acrylics? Is there something special about the physical impact of the artist on the painting that a machine cannot replicate?

Gallery owners, intimately attuned to the marketplace, may perceive the difference better than I. The website digital acceptance provides a telling quotation from Spiazzi concerning her experience in finding galleries willing to handle her digital art:

“One of my trips to a gallery really surprised me with the answer I got from the gallery attendant (I hope it wasn’t the owner). When I introduced myself and told her that my medium was digital, she said, ‘Oh, but we want the hand of the artist to touch the work!’ I was upset and answered, ‘What about the artist’s MIND?’ She looked at me like I was from Mars! Michelangelo says in his poetry much the same thing: ‘La man che obbedisce all’intelletto…’ (The hand that obeys the intellect.)”

An interesting statement concerning “the hand of the artist” but I’m not sure what it means. What value is there to the human touch handling brush or palette knife? Is digital art merely a new medium, like watercolors, pastels and acrylics? Is there something special about the physical impact of the artist on the painting that a machine cannot replicate? Alternately, what does the new technology add to the creative process? I’m not sure of the answers but I recommend you visit Spiazzi’s website:  Her digital artworks are lovely, even if touched in their creation by the artist’s mind and mouse alone, not hands and fingers.  

Perhaps Maurice Hutchinson’s digital prints can provide further insights. Hutchinson starts the creative process with a penciled sketch which he then digitizes. The digitized image serves as the bottom layer and foundation of the composition. Hutchinson then digitally paints and builds successive layers of elements upon it to create the final image. Once this step in the process is completed, the digitized final image is ready to be professionally printed.


Dream Weaver by Maurice Hutchinson (digital print)

Could it be that Hutchinson transforms his traditional pen and ink sketches into something more attuned to the aesthetic sense of his audience? When the impressionists first displayed their art the critics were dismayed with its wild and unfinished nature. A generation would pass before the public’s aesthetic sense adapted. The digital artist may well be responding to an audience raised within a visual environment densely populated with digital images from digital cameras, cell phones, and the Internet. Digital recordings have altered the music we hear. Is it possible that digital art will alter the art we see?  

I realize now I entered the Digital LI arts festival with a chip on my shoulder, and prejudice in my heart, being prepared to denigrate digital art. I departed with my aesthetic sense stimulated, my interest engaged, and a plethora of unanswered questions.   I’m eager to learn more about digital art.

Related links:
Mouse Almightyby Nicole Cotroneo (The New York Times, November 4, 2007)
A glitch on the road to digital art by Aileen Jacobson (Newsday, November 4, 2007)
Digital Art Museum
Renata Spiazzi, Digital Paintings (AAASD Allied Artists Association)


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