Happy Birthday Jeff Koons

Today is the 60th birthday of the artist Jeff Koons.  He is one of the most important modern artist living today.  The world is a better place because he is in it.

NAME: Jeff Koons
OCCUPATION: Illustrator, Painter, Sculptor
BIRTH DATE: January 21, 1955
EDUCATION: Maryland Institute of Art
PLACE OF BIRTH: York, Pennsylvania

BEST KNOWN FOR: Jeff Koons is a famous contemporary artist whose work is influenced by an eclectic array of sensibilities.

Jeff Koons was born on January 1, 1955, in York, Pennsylvania. After high school, he headed south to Maryland, where he attended the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. While earning his M.F.A. there (1976), he attended a show at the Whitney Museum in New York, an exhibition that would change his life.

“I remember being an art student and going to the Whitney in 1974 to see the exhibition of Jim Nutt, the Chicago imagist,” Koons says. “It was then I transferred to school in Chicago, all because of that show.” So Koons enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, an institution that would grant him an honorary doctorate more than 30 years later (2008).

Koons’ first show was staged in 1980, and he emerged onto the art scene with a style that blended several existing styles—pop, conceptual, craft, appropriation—to create his own unique mode of expression.

An “idea man,” Koons now runs his studio as he would a production office, often using computer-aided design and hiring out the actual construction of his pieces to technicians who can bring to life his ideas with more precision than he himself could.

His work takes on, in usually unconventional ways, such hot-button subjects such as sex, race, gender and fame, and it comes to life in such forms as balloons, bronzed sporting-goods items and inflatable pool toys. His knack for elevating the stature of such items from kitsch objects to high art has made his name synonymous with the art of mass culture.

And the transformation that takes place from Koons’ finding the objects he’ll use and the art he creates with them often gives birth to an unexpected psychological dimension, as shifting color, scale and representation take on new meaning, and the viewer can often find something wholly new in how humans, animals and anthropomorphized objects come to life.

Koons’ exhibits have always elicited inspired responses, a trait that perhaps itself is a marker in his importance as an artist, and since his first show in 1980 his works have been widely exhibited across the globe. In 2014, the Whitney, the museum that gave Koons a huge jolt of artistic inspiration as a student, held a retrospective of his body of work, the first to do so.

Of Koons, the Whitney says, “Throughout his career, he has pioneered new approaches to the readymade, tested the boundaries between advanced art and mass culture, challenged the limits of industrial fabrication, and transformed the relationship of artists to the cult of celebrity and the global market.”

He has also done solo shows at the château de Versailles in France (2008–09), the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (2008), the Helsinki City Art Museum (2005), the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo (2004) and the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (2003).

Along with high-profile exhibits, Koons’ career has been notable for the wide array of prestigious awards he has received, which span the entire course of his career. Notable among them are the State Department’s Medal of Arts (awarded by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2012) and becoming an honorary member of the Royal Academy, London (2010), and an officer of the French Legion of Honor (2007).

Koons was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy for Arts and Sciences in 2005.

Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck

Today is the 108th birthday of Barbara Stanwyck.  Born Ruby Stevens, reinvented herself into an internationally-known actress, and stayed in the public eye for 60 years.  Absolutely amazing.  The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Barbara Stanwyck
OCCUPATION: Film Actress, Television Actress, Dancer, Pin-up
BIRTH DATE: July 16, 1907
DEATH DATE: January 20, 1990
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Santa Monica, California
ORIGINALLY: Ruby Stevens

BEST KNOWN FOR: Barbara Stanwyck was an American actress who had a 60-year career in film and TV. Usually playing strong-willed women, Stanwyck defined the femme fatale.

Film, television and theatre actress Barbara Stanwyck was born Ruby Stevens on July 16, 1907, in Brooklyn, New York. She had a troubled childhood, having become an orphan at the age of 4 after her mother was pushed off of a moving streetcar and killed. Her father failed to cope with the loss of his wife and abandoned his five children.The young Stanwyck—who was raised by her sister, a showgirl—was forced to grow up quickly. She was basically left to fend for herself. At the age of 9, Stanwyck took up smoking. She ended up quitting school five years later. By age 15, she made her way into the entertainment industry after becoming a chorus girl and later made her Broadway debut in 1926 as a cabaret dancer in The Noose. This was shortly after she changed her name to Barbara Stanwyck.
Stanwyck, along with Golden Age actresses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, helped to redefine the typical role of women in film. Unlike the damsels in distress and happy housewives often shown in films during this era, Stanwyck a wide range of women, all having their own set of motives and ideals. Some examples of her landmark roles were in Ladies They Talk About (1932) and Annie Oakley (1935)—in which she played the titular role.In 1937, Stanwyck’s talent as an actress was recognized on a grander scale as she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Stella Dallas(1937). She would come to be nominated three more times for the films Ball of Fire (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)—each time for best actress in a leading role—however, she never won the award. In addition to the recognition she received from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Double Indemnity, she was lauded by critics for having what’s considered one of her greatest roles as seductress and murderer Phyllis Dietrichson in the popular noir film. She did, however, receive an honorary Oscar in 1982. In total she filmed more than 80 films.
As Stanwyck got older, she began making more appearances in television and fewer on film. In the 1952, she made her first television appearance onThe Jack Benny Program (1932-55). She followed with more steady work on TV in series such as Goodyear Theater (1957-60), Zane Grey Theater (1956-61) and The Barbara Stanwyck Show (1960-61), for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award. One of her most memorable roles on TV was in The Big Valley (1965-69), in which she played the lead role as Victoria Barkley.In the 1980s, Stanwyck made several memorable television appearances. She played Mary Carson in the 1983 hit miniseries The Thorn Birds with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. For portrayal of Ward’s strong-willed grandmother, Stanwyck won both a Golden Globe and an Emmy Award. She returned to prime time two years later with a role on Dynasty and then appeared on the popular drama’s spin-off The Colbys.Stanwyck was a reclusive person outside of acting, much different than the outgoing female characters that she so often played. After marrying comedian Fay, the couple adopted a son together, Dion Anthony Fay in 1932, before they got divorced in 1935 after it was reported that he had a drinking problem. She then married actor Robert Taylor in 1939, and the couple stayed together for a little more than a decade before they got divorced in 1951. She lived the rest of her life alone, preferring work as opposed to social interaction, during her later years.

One of her closest friends was her co-star from the series The Big Valley,Linda Evans. Evans said that after her mother passed, Stanwyck stepped in and took on that absent mother role in her life while they were filming. Stanwyck died a pioneering and often overlooked actress in Santa Monica, California, on January 20, 1990, from congestive heart failure. At her request, no funeral or memorial service was held.Stanwyck made the transition from Broadway to the silver screen in the late-1920s, trying her hand at acting in the film Broadway Nights (1927) as a dancer. The following year, she married comedian Frank Fay and in 1929 she took on a part in the film The Locked Door (1929) before she finished her stage run on Broadway and moved to Hollywood to pursue a career in film. Although Stanwyck’s career in film almost ended before it began with two unrecognized film roles under her belt, she managed to convince director Frank Capra to have a role in his film 1930 film Ladies of Leisure. The film garnered Stanwyck the attention that she desired.
Stanwyck’s role as a woman whose priorities revolved around money first and foremost was only the first in a string of performances that showed a progressive, stronger side of women. After her acting chops were put on display, she was signed to a contract with Columbia and appeared in the filmIllicit (1931). She soon followed with several popular films, including Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Night Nurse (1931) and Forbidden (1932), a film that took Stanwyck to Hollywood’s A-list.

Happy Birthday John Singer Sargent

Today is the 159th birthday of the artist John Singer Sargent.  The renewed interest in his works could be attributed to the huge popularity of Downton Abbey and it’s highlighting and romanticizing of the Edwardian era, but his works can also hold their own.  They depict Edwardian subjects, but in a bit more of a realistic style.  His paintings let you feel like you are sneaking a peek at what it was really like in that time period, behind all the manners and ceremony, they sometimes depict more everyday situations.  I am sure that is part of their popularity, they allow you to be a participant.

NAME: John Singer Sargent
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: January 12, 1856
DEATH DATE: c. April 15, 1925
PLACE OF BIRTH: Florence, Italy
PLACE OF DEATH: London, England

BEST KNOWN FOR: John Singer Sargent was an Italian-born American painter whose portraits of the wealthy and privileged provide an enduring image of Edwardian-age society.

Artist. John Singer Sargent was born January 12, 1856 to American parents living in Florence, Italy. Although he spent most of his life in Europe, both of his parents were raised in the United States and the artist considered himself to be an American. His father, Fitzwilliam Sargent, was a physician who came from an early colonial family and grew up in Philadelphia. His mother, Mary Newbold Singer, married Sargent in 1850. While the couple were enamored of Europe and lived as expatriates, they were initially sent there by tragic circumstances, taking a tour as a means of escape following the tragic death of their first child. The Sargents had originally intended to return to the United States, but instead became expatriates.

John Singer Sargent began demonstrating his artistic talents at a young age, and soon took up the study of painting in a formal setting. His first known enrollment in art classes took place in Florence at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, in his late teens. During the winter of 1873-74, Sargent honed his skills, convincing his father that it was well worth encouraging his artistic pursuits. Father and son traveled together to Paris in the spring of 1874 so that John Singer Sargent could continue his studies in the art capital of Europe.

While in Paris, Sargent studied under a relatively young teacher named Carolus-Duran, who was teaching his students to break free of the rigidity of the old masters’ style. Carolus-Duran’s method emphasized skipping the step of making detailed sketches and heading straight to the canvas with a paintbrush. Sargent internalized these techniques; his later works would come to be recognized for their immediacy, emotional depth and refined technique.

In May 1876, when Sargent was in his early twenties, he made his first trip to the United States, accompanied by his mother and sister, Emily. The family visited Philadelphia and Niagara Falls, among other places. Much like his mother, Sargent found that he was intensely drawn to travel. When he got back to Europe, he kept traveling, using his voyages as opportunities to study great works of art and try his hand at portraying diverse locations. In Spain, Sargent admired and copied the works of Diego Velásquez; in Venice, he cultivated an appreciation for its picturesque canals, to which he would return many times. Travel scenes would form a major element of his work.

Back in Paris, Sargent submitted a portrait of his teacher, Carolus-Duran, to the Salon of 1879. It won him an honorable mention, and his reputation as a portraitist was given a boost. Between the years of 1877 and 1882, Sargent submitted many types of paintings to the Salon, but his portraits generally won the most positive attention. In 1884, though, his reputation took a turn for the worse, with the exhibition of his work Madame X. Because it defied many of the accepted standards of the day, and was slightly risqué in its portrayal of a woman in a low-cut, nearly sleeveless dress, it turned many of his admirers against him. The mother of the woman who had sat for the portrait, Madame Gautreau (who was actually American), even asked Sargent to remove it. Today, the painting is one of his most celebrated and famous.

Rather than stay in a city in which public opinion had turned against him, Sargent left Paris and began spending much of his time in England, making it his permanent home in 1886. The country he had adopted had not quite adopted him, though; the English were reluctant to sit for Sargent’s portraits because of the scandal of Madame X. Not wanting their own portraits to turn out the same way, they refrained from giving him commissions.

Sargent was not discouraged. On a pair of trips to the United States in 1887 and 1890, he found that Americans were not averse to being painted by him, and many members of American high society sat for his portraits. He often painted his subjects as if they were caught in the middle of motion, with faces both highly individualized and expressive.

The turning point for Sargent’s career in England came when he showed his Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (painted 1885-86) at the London Royal Academy. The piece, undeniably one of Sargent’s masterpieces, incorporated Victorian themes and a calculated impressionist influence that depicted two girls lighting lanterns among flowers in spring. The English recognized the painting’s greatness, and members of the elite were soon lining up to commission their own likenesses.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose was important, too, as an example the impact that impressionism had had on Sargent’s works. He had become acquainted with and learned from both Claude Monet and Edgar Degas, masters of French impressionism. Sargent, like Monet, was particularly fascinated with light, and became highly skilled at portraying it. However, in contrast to the French painters’ work, Sargent’s paintings remained fairly literal, retaining crisp forms and not dissolving entirely into streaks of color.

Although his portraits were highly praised, Sargent eventually grew tired of painting them — they took up a large amount of his time, and there seemed to be no end to his new commissions. Sargent backed away from the portrait business between 1907 and 1910 to leave himself time to focus on other projects, in particular a set of murals for the Boston Public Library. The coming of World War I also changed Sargent’s subject matter, for a time. Visiting the Western Front at the request of the British government, which had asked him to paint a scene commemorating the war, Sargent created Gassed, an appropriately dark work, which depicted soldiers enduring the deplorable conditions that marked life in the Great War.

Sargent was also commissioned to create murals in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. His creations span across the museum’s grand staircase and rotunda. Additionally, his works can also be seen at Harvard University in its Widener Library — a tribute to those who died in WWI.

As he left portraiture behind, Sargent increasingly turned to watercolor, especially after 1903. His works in the medium were praised, so much so that he managed to make a name for himself as a watercolorist in addition to a painter.

Sargent passed away in his sleep on April 15, 1925 at the age of 69. He left behind a large body of work, including portraits, travel scenes, watercolors and impressionistic masterpieces that have defined his reputation into the current century; his works are still exhibited around the world. Although the artist and his portrait sitters are all gone, his admirable skill has given future generations a glimpse into the lives and characters of people long gone — certainly a gift to future generations, and one that those future generations have so far recognized as precious.

#JeSuisCharlie

I write.  Daily.  Some of what I write makes it to the ether and is read by others, some does not (or perhaps has not yet).  I chronicle and highlight people that inspire me, of which many are writers.  Does that make me by a writer?  Is it what one calls oneself or what appears on one’s paychecks?  Profession or provocation?  I am a writer.

I feel a connection to writers.  I know the feeling of that perfect sentence, of finding the words in the right order that conveys what is inside your head.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

I will defend what you write to the end. Period.

I will not defend your writing when it is violence-inspiring ignorant yelling.  I appreciate a well-written manifesto, regardless how crazy I believe it to be.

Lastly, if your beliefs in your deity/god are on such a sandy foundation that you cannot handle a few satirical cartoons, you have bigger problems than the cartoons.  Research and understand what faith actually means.

We are still here. We are not afraid.

#JeSuisCharlie

Happy Birthday Jean-Michel Basquiat

Today is the 54th birthday of Jean-Michel Basquait.  I became fascinated with him while I was in high school, having been ‘introduced’ to him through my fascination of Andy Warhol.  I immediately became a fan of his ‘outsider art,’ by which I mean, art that was not just a pretty little painting.  It was a scream, an anthem, a manifesto, a righting of wrongs, and quite possibly a cry for help.  It was challenging and didn’t give you an easy time trying to like it.  I love his art for that.  There is a lot of complexity in primitive painting, a lot of behind-the-scenes  brilliance in making simplicity.  My answer to the “That’s Not Art, Even I Could Paint That” critics has always been:  “Well Do It, Then.”  The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Jean-Michel Basquiat
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: December 22, 1960
DEATH DATE: August 12, 1988
PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

Best Known For:  Jean-Michel Basquiat was a Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980s. He is best known for his primitive style and his collaboration with pop artist Andy Warhol.

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22, 1960. With a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat‘s diverse cultural heritage was one of his many sources of inspiration.

A self-taught artist, Basquiat began drawing at an early age on sheets of paper his father, an accountant, brought home from the office. As he delved deeper into his creative side, his mother strongly encouraged to pursue artistic talents.

Basquiat first attracted attention for his graffiti in New York City in the late 1970s, under the name “SAMO.” Working with a close friend, he tagged subway trains and Manhattan buildings with cryptic aphorisms.

In 1977, Basquiat quit high school a year before he was slated to graduate. To make ends meet, he sold sweatshirts and postcards featuring his artwork on the streets of his native New York.

Three years of struggle gave way to fame in 1980, when his work was featured in a group show. His work and style received critical acclaim for the fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals. Soon, his paintings came to be adored by an art loving public that had no problem paying as much as $50,000 for a Basquiat original.

His rise coincided with the emergence of a new art movement, Neo-Expressionism, ushering in a wave of new, young and experimental artists that included Julian Schnabel and Susan Rothenberg.

In the mid 1980s, Basquiat collaborated with famed pop artist Andy Warhol, which resulted in a show of their work that featured a series of corporate logos and cartoon characters.

On his own, Basquiat continued to exhibit around the country and the world. In 1986, he traveled to Africa for a show in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. That same year, the 25-year-old exhibited nearly 60 paintings at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Gallery in Hanover, Germany—becoming the youngest artist to ever showcase his work there.

As his popularity soared, so did Basquiat’s personal problems. By the mid-1980s, friends became increasingly concerned by his excessive drug use. He became paranoid and isolated himself from the world around him for long strethes. Desperate to kick a heroin addiction, he left New York for Hawaii in 1988, returning a few months later and claiming to be sober.

Sadly, he wasn’t. Basquiat died of a drug overdose on August 12, 1988, in New York City. He was 27 years old. Although his art career was brief, Jean-Michel Basquiat has been credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience in the elite art world.

Happy Birthday Paul Klee

Today is the 135th birthday of the artist Paul Klee.   His work is the type that I am organically drawn to.  I still remember the first time I saw his art:  It was on the beginning of every chapter of a textbook my first year of college.  I flipped ahead through the entire book, just looking for his next piece.  I have no memory of the class, it was either and English or a Sociology and I am only really sure of that because of the building it was in.  But his art has stuck with me all along.  It made me understand that there is skill in being simple, that making things seem easy is quite technical.  I am sure that has been adopted into my everyday life to some extent.  The world is a better place because Paul was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.


NAME
: Paul Klee
OCCUPATION: Educator, Painter
BIRTH DATE: December 18, 1879
DEATH DATE: June 29, 1940
PLACE OF BIRTH: Münchenbuchsee bei Bern, Switzerland
PLACE OF DEATH: Muralto, Switzerland

BEST KNOWN FOR: Paul Klee is a Swiss and German painter whose highly individual style is best known by an often childlike perspective and spidery hieroglyph-like symbols.

Paul Klee (18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually mastered colour theory, and wrote extensively about it; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are considered so important for modern art that they are compared to the importance that Leonardo da Vinci‘s A Treatise on Painting had for Renaissance. He and his colleague, the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the German Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humour and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

A museum dedicated to Klee was built in Bern, Switzerland, by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. Zentrum Paul Klee opened in June 2005 and houses a collection of about 4,000 works by Paul Klee. Another substantial collection of Klee’s works is owned by chemist and playwright Carl Djerassi and displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Klee suffered from a wasting disease, scleroderma, toward the end of his life, enduring pain that seems to be reflected in his last works of art. One of his last paintings, “Death and Fire”, features a skull in the center with the German word for death, “Tod”, appearing in the face. He died in Muralto, Locarno, Switzerland, on 29 June 1940 without having obtained Swiss citizenship, despite his birth in that country. His art work was considered too revolutionary, even degenerate, by the Swiss authorities, but eventually they accepted his request six days after his death. His legacy comprises about 9,000 works of art. The words on his tombstone, Klee’s credo, placed there by his son Felix, say, “I cannot be grasped in the here and now, For my dwelling place is as much among the dead, As the yet unborn, Slightly closer to the heart of creation than usual, But still not close enough.” He was buried at Schosshaldenfriedhof, Bern, Switzerland.

Today, a painting by Klee can sell for as much as $7.5 million.

 

Happy Birthday Diego Rivera

Today is the 128th birthday of the artist Diego Rivera.  His full name is a sentence.  I first experienced Diego Rivera at Interlochen Center for the Arts when I stumbled across a book of his work in the library.  I used to go to the library a lot in the summertime, it was cool and quiet and a nice place to read for a couple hours.  My aunt was the librarian, so that was nice.  I remember looking at the photographs of his murals and reading the dimensions and being absolutely amazed.  I remember loving the complexity in his artistry of simple subjects.  It is like he took his time to honor every detail of the task of bundling this basket of produce, it just was so wonderful to understand that art was partially bringing light to and celebrating the every day existence of everyone.  It became much more accessible and personal.  The world is a better place because Diego was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.

NAME: Diego Rivera
OCCUPATION: Painter
BIRTH DATE: December 08, 1886
DEATH DATE: November 24, 1957
EDUCATION: San Carlos Academy of Fine Arts
PLACE OF BIRTH: Guanajuato, Mexico
PLACE OF DEATH: Mexico City, Mexico

Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez (December 8, 1886 – November 24, 1957) better known simply as Diego Rivera was a prominent Mexican painter born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo (1929–1939 and 1940–1954). His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in Mexican art. Between 1922 and 1953, Rivera painted murals among others in Mexico City, Chapingo, Cuernavaca, San Francisco, Detroit, and New York City.[1] In 1931, a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Rivera was an atheist. His mural Dreams of a Sunday in the Alameda depicted Ignacio Ramírez holding a sign which read, “God does not exist”. This work caused a furor, but Rivera refused to remove the inscription. The painting was not shown for 9 years – until Rivera agreed to remove the inscription. He stated: “To affirm ‘God does not exist’, I do not have to hide behind Don Ignacio Ramírez; I am an atheist and I consider religions to be a form of collective neurosis.”