Archive for August, 2010

Niki de Saint Phalle

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

My previous post was about the camera obscura which for one thing is a plot device in my art caper mystery novel Artists&Thieves. For another, the camera obscura is an effect of light traveling into a dark room from a small hole.

This post, in contrast, is about blazing light bouncing off the mirrored tiles of large outdoor sculptures on a very hot morning in Escondido, California.

Niki de Saint Phalle worked in San Diego and many of her unique outdoor art structures are placed around San Diego. The Escondido piece, Queen Califia’s Magical Circle,  is in Kit Carson Park.

There are many things to say about the Queen Califia installation. It is imposing in size and imagination; it is made on large frames with tiny bits of broken tiles, quartz, river stones, shells, each small area becoming a distinct work of collage art.

Detail from Niki de Saint Phalle's Queen Califia's Magical Circle

A 400 foot long snake wall encloses the Circle

but its “windows” allow a peek inside.

Peek into Queen Califia's Magical Circle

A black and white mirrored maze is the entry to the Magical Circle.

In addition to Queen Califia, who stands atop a very strange eagle in the center,

Queen Califia on her eagle

there are nine other creatures and eight totems. Under the Queen and the eagle is an egg and a starry sky mosaic

Starry sky of Queen Califia

and a tile with “Niki” on it. The egg of the universe? the beginning of creation? and the creator of this particular universe.  I think so.

In other words, the Magical Circle contains a lot to see.

But I was interested most in the blazing light and dim shadows in every area of the Magical Circle, probably because I had just been thinking about the camera obscura and also about the yin/yang dichotomy of light and shadow. Outdoor art always involves the interplay of the art and the environment.

Queen Califia's shadow

So we stop, look, maybe feel one or more emotional responses to the art, and walk on by, as the vendor in Central Park said about Christo’s The Gates. At least, I think that’s what he said.

Camera Obscura

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Warning:  This is not a post about the band Camera Obscura.

It is about a camera obscura, a dark chamber, and the optical effect of light traveling into a dark room through a small hole.  A camera obscura is a key element in my novel Artists&Thieves. I think it should be in everyone’s store of general information.

But it’s not.

So here’s a little bit of info on the subject.

Giant Camera in San Francisco at Cliff House Restaurant

When bright sunlight enters a dark room through a small hole, the image of the outside world is displayed upside down with right and left reversed on a wall or canvas opposite the hole. It has to do with the way light travels in straight lines and only some of the rays enter the small hole.  Rays from the top of a tree travel diagonally through the hole and end up at the bottom of the wall or canvas. Those from the roots travel through the hole to the top of the wall or canvas. No lens is necessary, although if a lens is placed in the hole, a sharper image can be directed to the wall or canvas. (more…)

Christo on art

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The Environmental Impact statement for Christo’s Over the River is published with details on animal habitat, river access, construction concerns, and economic benefits.

In response to the report, Christo remarks that the report made no mention of art, and the whole purpose of the project is that it is art and “meant to inspire joy and beauty.”

His projects do that, evoking a “Wow!” in part because of the mega-scale in which he works. Explaining the value of that is tough as letters in the local Colorado papers indicate. Christo has more town meetings scheduled in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Canon City.

If we had to go through all that to paint a rose or an orchid, we’d be in trouble.

Watercolor rose

Watercolor orchid

My friend Doreen Leverette paints with watercolors and a very tiny brush on a scale quite opposite of Christo but she produces wonderful pictures which evoke “Wows.” She gets details and life-like images by slowly applying the paint with many tiny stokes. Her images connect with the beauty in nature in an emotional way.

Art is personal. Both for the artist and the viewer. At the end of Christo’s video on The Gates, a vendor in Central Park says something like this: you come to see art, you stop, you see, you feel, you walk on by. I think that’s a great summary . Mona Lisa, draped fabric, simple rose–we look, we respond, we walk on by.