Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Buddha's Hand

A friend brought this fragrant citrus fruit called a Buddha's Hand.  

To me it looks like an octopus or jellyfish, or a flower, or flames. 

If you use your imagination, it could look like hands held together in a mudra (prayerful gesture).


And here is one we saw at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, still green on the tree:

Speaking of fruit, and the Buddha, here is a link to Buddha-shaped pears.  I'd love to have one on my altar.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Encaustic Painting: Hot Wax Makes Cool Art

Encaustic painting + collage by Rosa Phoenix

Colorful hot liquid wax goes drip, splatter, drizzle from my brush onto the wood panel . . . and I'm delighted with this careless chaotic way of painting.  

I'm at an encaustic painting workshop, and I'm discovering the medium of Jasper Johns.

An ancient painting medium, encaustic paint is beeswax mixed with pigments and resin. It can be used with oil paints and oil pastels.

detail of a collage element

It isn't just painting that can be done with the wax. The surface can be built up with many layers of paint to create sculptural relief.

Encaustic painting by Rosa Phoenix

The wax can be carved and scratched, revealing the layers below.

detail of encaustic drips and scratches 


Collage and photocopy image transfer can be incorporated, because the wax can embed and preserve small objects.

The paint can be mixed with wax medium for more transparency. 

Transparent layers let light move through the painting, creating depth in the work. 

series of 3 shadow box style encaustic collages

I use a blowtorch to fuse each layer of wax. 

The blast of heat can also move the paint, melting and blending the wax colors together. 

leaf embedded beneath a layer of wax

The process of creating encaustic art is magical. 

There are so many surprises.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Sketchbook: Bell Rock, Sedona, Arizona

I made this drawing with crayons on pink construction paper.
 I like crayons because they have pure clear colors that blend well. Also, it is hard to take myself seriously when I am drawing with crayons. They take me back to my childhood! In art, this is a good thing.

This drawing is based on a photo my father took of me, standing in front of Bell Rock, in Sedona, Arizona. This area has magnificent red rock formations. There is a mysterious flow suggested by the swirling clouds and scarf. To keep the dreamy quality of this image, I faded the edges.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Mannahatta Project

Inwood Hill Park
photomontage by Rosa Phoenix

 The Mannahatta Project poses this question:

"When Henry Hudson first looked on Manhattan in 1609, what did he see?"

The Mannahatta Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society attempts to re-create the island of Manhattan before it was settled by Europeans. 

For those familiar with modern-day, urban Manhattan, it also provides points of reference to the city as it is now.

The Mannahatta Project superimposes two maps together, using Google Maps interface to navigate between them.  

Two layers of Manhattan merge together: the 1609 version was re-created according to historical maps, and the modern-day version comes from Google Maps.

Use the slider at the bottom to move in between the maps, or click on the 1609 map to see what's there today. You can also enter a Manhattan address, or search for a landmark. For example, on the 1609 map, I click on what looks like a marshy wetland in upper Manhattan.

What is now the city block of 93rd and 94th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenue was once a very different place.  

When I click on the link "what this place was like in 1609" I get a listing of all the wildlife, plants and animals that would have inhabited this area at that time. I'm surprised that the original inhabitants of the island included mountain lions, bears and foxes.  

The 1609 map layer also shows the villages and trails of the native people who lived there at that time.

Check it out for yourself here:

The Mannahatta Project is also featured in the September 2009 National Geographic.

Click here to learn about Inwood Hill Park, site of Manhattan's sole remaining native forest.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams at SF MOMA

Georgia O'Keefe, painter, met Ansel Adams, photographer, at Los Gallos Ranch in New Mexico in 1929. This show at SF MOMA compares and contrasts these two kindred spirits who were attracted to the same settings and subjects in the big open spaces of the American Southwest.

It's easy to see that for both of these artists, inspiration came from nature. Ansel Adams is known for capturing many of this country's greatest natural monuments in the early days of photography. O'Keefe is best known for her macro-view paintings of flowers and other natural forms.

The works are loosely grouped by subject matter: Taos pueblos and churches with crosses are powerful images in the O'Keefe and Adams works. We also see how both artists were fascinated by the twisting forms of trees, and by the barren hills and riverbeds of the desert in New Mexico.

O'Keefe was a painter who was influenced by photography. She often zeroed in on her subject in close-up, as a photographer would, to capture detail. She also played with scale, making small subjects like flowers and bones monumental on large canvases.

Adams the photographer was no doubt influenced by abstract painters. Many of his photos were taken at times of stark shadow, creating extreme contrasts between darks and lights. This creates abstract rippling lines of shadow in photographs of barren hills and sand dunes.

For me, the O'Keefe paintings outshine the Adams photographs. My eyes feast on her palette of colors, ranging from creamy yellows to rich warm earthy reds to expansive sky blues to velvety purple blacks. Adams' smaller prints seem to shrink in the shadows of O'Keefe's large, glowing paintings. Even her tiny flowers expand and radiate light. It would have been nice to have seen Adams' work on a grander scale, with large-format prints.

Georgia O'Keefe has been my lifelong inspiration. I was delighted to see old favorites and new ones in this show. She painted in a symbolic language that is like that of Chinese painters. A few lines, clouds of color, and spiraling shapes could create a landscape, or a flower, or a skull, or a hill. I admire her economy, spareness and simplicity. Yet her colors are so luscious and luminous, that her paintings truly come alive.

"Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams: Natural Affinities" is on view at SF MOMA through September 7.