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Virginia Artists I Dig – Part 1

I’ve always had a difficult time feeling part of a community, specifically an art community, so I’ve decided to occasionally highlight Virginia artists that I admire. This small post is the first in a series.

Rick Nickel is an Old Dominion University ceramics professorand an interesting fella. He recently had a solo exhibition in my school’s gallery and it was interesting seeing his sculptures next to his drawings.

Heather Bryant – ODU art professor and lithographer. Heather is an extremely prolific artist and the only lithographer I know. I love how her compositions swirl.

Wade Mickley – this is his website, that mainly focused on his illustration. I prefer his sculpture. I wish public sculpture, huge and outdoors, was like his.

Catherine Furman Brookes – Richmond painter and all around fun gal.Last summer she had a show at Richmond Gallery GHOSTPRINT Gallery. I love her assembled pieces, combinations of books, costume jewelry, bottles and paintings.

Mark Miltz – His work looks much better in person. It really loses affect and depth, in my opinion, when just looked at online. I like his work for a lot of different reasons. I enjoy his combination of realism with scenes from well known, in America even, animes. I like the fact that an adult man, a teacher, combines his extreme technical skill with his enjoyment of popular cartoons, Japanese and American. It leaves an impression with it’s combination of mature and hard earned detail with what the viewer may see as childish and flat cartoons.

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TCC 2011 Annual Faculty Show & Internships!

I’m sad that I wasn’t able to attend my school’s annual faculty art show this month. I had work and then was busy doing my best to throw Jason his 36th birthday party.

I feel that my little art school is often looked over in our spread thin arts community so I wanted to take the time to focus on the teachers there and their work. It’s always a bit weird and fun to see what your instructors do on their own time, outside of the classroom.

Below is Ed Gibbs’ piece Les Des de Marcel Duchamp. Ed is actually a photography instructor and he had other pieces in the show of his photo scans. I snuck a photo of these during school hours. It was hard to resist nudging them to see if they’d roll.

Here are three out of four of Mary Thumma’s work. I’ve never met Ms. Thumma, but her work stood out to me. Of course I’m partial to skulls and all things boney. Something rang a bit wrong to me in the color paper chosen, but maybe I paid more attention to them because of the unsettling color. She wrote that her pieces were inspired by a comment she read by a critic about a ballet. The critic said something like that one of the ballerina’s was getting fat. You can read a bit more about Ms. Thumma in an online article from the Virginian Pilot.

Check out this link to see more of the work from the show. I also really like Nikki Webb’s work which is shown in the above link. Hers are the cyanotypes(I think) of linen dresses and other pieces of clothing. I may update later with some pictures of her pieces.

I’m also excited about next semester. I’ll be taking an internship at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Virginia, formerly the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia.

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Lipking Loves Butts

…and I’m glad he does. I actually prefer his looser portraits, but I noticed the trend to backsides and thought it was cute.

Jeremy Lipking is a contemporary oil painter. His work is reminiscent of Sargent and other painters of that time but is still uniquely his own. Even amongst atelier trained painters his work rises to the top. I admire his skill and wish I could watch him paint. I’ve read that he teaches a class in his studio and there is a demonstration dvd that features him but it’s out of reach of my wallet.

I love watching other painters work. You can learn a lot from the experience if you already have a working knowledge of how to paint. It’s not that I want to paint exactly like him but I’d like to know how!

He has a lovely painting(he’s also the master of gauzy fabric) in Copronason’s current group show ‘Dark Water’.

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The Lilith – past and present

I’m not an art historian. I wish I had the kind of mind that could contain and examine the history of the visual arts, but I do have favorite subjects and enjoy researching them in the hope of adding to the conversation through my own work.

I’m a little late for Halloween, but I’ll be dedicating this post to one of mythologies most hated witchy women, Lilith. Her purpose and definition changes with time and location. She’s a storm demon, a screech owl, a succubus, Adam’s first and rebellious wife, killer of infants, an ancient kidnapped queen, or the tempting serpent in the garden of eden. The feminist in me can’t help but to be fascinated.

Her image over time has gotten combined with other female demons from many different cultures. She’s a femme fatal. A magical, rebellious female character punished for being willful.

My favorite version of her story is that she was Adam’s first wife. Lilith was already on earth(imagine that) and God picked her up and placed her in Eden to be Adam’s mate. She refused to be dominated by Adam and eventually escaped Eden(I guess a sorta first divorce?). She settled by the Red Sea, made out with demons and then was cursed by God after she refused to return to Eden and Adam. She was condemned to spend eternity as a succubus/murderer of infants. Not very fair is it? You can read some other versions of her story at

Wikipedia also does a good job summing up the various stories and linking to other sources.

Below are some slivers of older paintings depicting Lilith as the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Admittedly I am not Christian, but I grew up assuming the serpent was supposed to be a personification of Satan yet here are Christian paintings depicting the serpent as a woman. In some ways they remind me of Gorgons/Medusa, depictions of Hygeia or even Cleopatra on her death bed. Women and snakes. Women and snakes. How very chthonic.

From left to right, Bosch’s Paradise and Hell, Michelangelo’s The Original Sin and Expulsion from Paradise detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Hugo Van Der Goes’ The Fall of Adam and Eve Tempted by the Snake, Bosch’s The Fall of Adam and Eve left panel of the Haywain Triptych

More Modern depictions of Lilith shown below are by Chet Zar, Tara Macpherson

Creepmachine did a nice interview with Chet Zar about this Lilith inspired paintings.

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Leonor Fini – Sphinxette

Artist Leonor Fini Portraits

My google searches and tumbling for artwork featuring Greek sphinxes keeps bringing me back to the work of Leonor Fini, a 20th century female surrealist, and I am left feeling ignorant because I have never read about her, heard her mentioned in a class or viewed her work before. Of course I am not an art historian and my education has been far from exhaustive, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but yet I am.

She was incredibly prolific and multi talented(stage designer, painter, illustrator, writer), but I am drawn more to photographs of her than her own work. There is so much theater and poise, much like her sphinxes. Much like her cats. Even her paintings that feature herself tend to appeal to me the most, which is odd. I feel very uncomfortable, almost annoyed, when looking at a female artists work that tends to concentrate on the artists own image. It has more to do with me than the artist, I’m sure. I think I am uneasy about the fact that women are taught to be looked at, to want to be looked at, to share their face and appearance for others pleasure, and to take pleasure in others pleasure in their image. It’s an exercise in culturally taught narcissism. It’s beautiful and sick. I’m part of it too, though I don’t often paint myself. Perhaps I would too if I thought my image would appeal to the art buying public. A prettier way to interpret what I said above is that women are socialized to want to share themselves, be it their thoughts, feelings or face, with others, and that the narrative self portrait is a natural step.

Leonor Fini Paintings

Off hand I immediately am reminded of William Blake, Bosch and in the colors and allegory some Klimt. She was a contemporary of the better known, and male, surrealists. She was not one of their wives or sisters and seemed to be an extremely independent and strong willed artist. In fact she didn’t identify as one of them(surrealist), but art history needs to categorize things and that is where she falls. There is sexuality in her paintings, but it feels remote and not necessarily for the male gaze. Many of her figures are sculptural yet also ghostlike. They have both the solidity and coolness of a marble sculpture, yet look like they could float away like a spirit, or they are operating on a different plane than us, and we can only see them shimmering momentarily(specifically her lithographs). Wow. I should stop there before I embarrass myself.

See more Leonor Fini works at CFM Gallery, Spaightwood Gallery and Minsky Gallery.

You can read an informative essay about her here and find more work from her on the Wurzelforum.