Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! Macclesfield Psalter, rabbit riding a dog!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Vincent

Happy Birthday, Vincent Willem van Gogh! Today is the 160th anniversary of his birth. Photo: Montmarte Path with Sunflowers, 1887 in Legion of Honor Museum's collection

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring. Pastel Rose II

Spring is like a perhaps hand
(which comes carefully
out of Nowhere)arranging
a window,into which people look(while
people stare
arranging and changing placing
carefully there a strange
thing and a known thing here)and

changing everything carefully

From "Spring is like a perhaps hand" by E. E. Cummings -

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Desert Oasis

Desert Oasis. @Nancy Ewart, 2013. Watercolor, pastel on paper.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Pied Piper returns, new director for the FAMSF? and changes filed against the thief who stole the Gold Rush era jewelry box from the OMC.

It's been a busy day in Bay Area art news.

The good news is that the iconic Maxfield Parrish painting "The Pied Piper" will not be sold and is returning to the Palace Hotel after a professional cleaning in NY. I cannot imagine what the oweners were thinking. The chain that owns the Palace is obscenely rich; surely they didn't think they could remove an iconic piece of SF history without an outcry. Plus, it was in a bar and not exactly invisible.

Secondly, the rumour is out that the FAMSF are going to announce their new director at this Wednesday's press meeting. Lee Rosenbaum announced the news in her blog on March 17th and named Colin Bailey, current director of the Frick as the candidate.

The museum has been drawing in record crowds and has the fourth-highest museum attendance in North America. But in a report last year, San Francisco budget analyst Harvey Rose raised critical questions about how the Fine Arts Museums, the M. H. de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are run. He said the public board did not sufficiently oversee the museums' finances or assets or discuss those finances in a "public or transparent manner," ceding that authority to the private nonprofit that operates the museums, the Corporation for the Fine Arts Museums.

The institution has been beset by bitter labor negotiations; the firing of longtime staffers, including the esteemed veteran curator of European art, Lynn Orr; and criticism of the board of trustees, particularly its powerful president, Dede Wilsey.

Bailey holds a D.Phil. in Art History from the University of Oxford. A specialist in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French art and has a long line of publications and honors to his credit. He hasn't made any comment but if he is "the one" good luck to him. I will be looking forward to positive changes during his tenure.

From the Mercury News: 
A federal charge of stealing an object of cultural heritage from a museum has been filed against a parolee who is suspected of taking a Gold Rush-era jewelry box valued at $805,000 from the Oakland Museum of California on Jan. 9, authorities said Tuesday.

The federal complaint against Andre Taray Franklin, 45, of Hayward, was filed Friday in U.S. District Court. Franklin was already in the custody of state authorities, held on a charge of possession of stolen property in connection with the burglary.
It is believed the state case against Franklin will soon be dropped so the federal prosecution can begin.

The thief sold the artifact for peanuts:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Week Ahead: Modernism, Walt Disney & RayKo Photography Center

Kraemer's work, now up at Modernism, is stunning. The range of work in the current exhibition dates from 1993 to 2013, with the older work just as fresh as the current batch. The exhibition announcement features “This Much,” a large (74” x 95 ½”) breakthrough work in pastel, acrylic and charcoal on paper from 1993.

The "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" show at the Disney Museum was more interesting that I thought it would be. I think that "Peter Pan" was the first cartoon that I remember seeing, which lead to some interesting experiments in thinking that I could fly. Hey, I was only 7. But the show was a revelation to see how skillful and detailed the early cartoons were.

Purple Iris

Pastel over watercolor - this is more "realistic" than I usually do but it was an interesting challenge. "Realistic" flowers are more difficult to paint than most people realize and doing this took several tries. I had to find a good enough image to draw and then, transfer the outlines to watercolor paper, draw it again and work very carefully not to muddy the colors.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A new director for the FAMSF?

Rumours abond but given the amount of press coverage during the last week and the press invite for next Wednesday at the de Young, I am guessing that we will soon have the answer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Gardner offers reward for stolen art

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is offering a $5 million reward for the return of 13 pieces of art stolen in 1990. More at:

Link to today's NY Time's op ed piece by the man who wrote the book on the heist:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The FBI has new leads on the 1990 robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

On Monday, March 18, the art world was galvanized by the information that the FBI has  identified the perpetrators in the $500 million art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Investigators have long been baffled for decades over the theft.
In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990 the robbers entered the museum and tied up two night watchmen. Once in, they roamed the galleries with impunity, picking off the cream of the fabulous collection. The robbery was not discovered until the next morning. 

The stolen works include: Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self Portrait (1634), an etching on paper; Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); and Govaert Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); and a Chinese vase or Ku, all taken from the Dutch Room on the second floor. Also stolen from the second floor were five works on paper by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag, both from the Short Gallery. Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1878–1880) was taken from the Blue Room on the first floor.
A decade ago, an attempt was made to sell some of the 13 artworks, including three Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a portrait by Edouard Manet, and sketches by Renoir. But the location of the stolen masterworks is still unknown.

Richard DesDesLauriers, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, said that "the probe “accelerated” in 2010 and “crucial pieces of evidence” were developed identifying the robbers and their associates.

“The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England,” stated DesLauriers,

DesLauriers added that because the investigation is continuing it would be “imprudent” to disclose their names or the name of the criminal organization. He said the probe was in its “final chapter.”

Officials are seeking help from the public and will be launching a massive public awareness campaign that will stretch beyond New England. Among the exposure tactics will be a dedicated FBI website, video postings on FBI social media sites, digital billboards, and a podcast. To view and listen to these items, visit the FBI’s new webpage about the theft:

 There is a $5 million reward for information on the whereabouts of the missing art. The statute of limitations has run out on the robbers, and they might be granted immunity for other charges, such as possessing the stolen paintings.
Arts journalist Lee Rosenbaum, who writes the art blog "Culture Grrl" added further details about Boston Globe reporter Milton Valencia‘s Twitter feed from the news conference. His tweets suggests that the hunt may be moving to Philadelphia.

Special Agent Geoffrey Kelly, who is the lead investigator in the case nd a member of the Art Crime Team. “In the past, people who realize they are in possession of stolen art have returned the art in a variety of ways, including through third parties, attorneys, and anonymously leaving items in churches or at police stations.”

If you have a tip, call : 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). Or you can go to this website: In addition, the press release gives you permission to “contact…the museum directly or through a third party.” Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Green Fusion

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower (Dylan Thomas).

New work in pastel on rough paper.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The return of Dr. Who

Woo HOO WHO! Sorry but there are times when it's absolutely imperative that I express my inner Sci Fi/geek fan.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Weekend Picks for March 15-17 (and a little beyond)

Yemen "apartment house." @ Naftali Hilger
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco: Jews of Yemen; photographs by Naftali Hilger. Israeli photojournalist Naftali Hilger’s photos of the Jews of Yemen takes us into a world of ancient traditions. One of the few outsiders allowed within the community, he returned six times between 1986 and 2008. Hilger, who will host a gallery tour and talk on March 19th, presents this ancient world in all its elegance and spare grace.

 Jews of Yemen @ Naftali Hilger
Women cook over wood stoves in rooms with white washed walls, a boy studies the Torah with an elder-images of a world lost in time and threated by contemporary Islamic politics. Most of the images are domestic but one stands out – a photo of a man standing by a rock in the desert close to Saudi Arabia. According to the caption, Jews who left the area in the past 130 years wrote their names on the rock before leaving their country.

Where: Katz Snyder Gallery, Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., S.F.
When: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays-Sundays; closes April  30.  Admission: Free. Contact:

Ampersand by Max Rippon. 

White Walls: “Cut from the Chase” Barcelona-based artist Max “Ripe” Rippon continues to explore typography, calligraphy and hand painting in his new exhibition, “Cut From The Chase.” The works contain ink, spray paint, watercolor and one-shot enamel on paper.  While street signage, calligraphy and graffiti are influences, Rippon offers a new look on lettering. White Walls. 868 Geary St, SF.

What do indoor clouds, Google Street View and Dutch masterworks have in common? Find out at a unique evening event hosted by the SFAC Galleries in conjunction with its current exhibition Conversation 6. The SFAC Galleries brings together the de Young Museum’s special exhibition Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis assistant curator Melissa Buron of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and renowned photographer Doug Rickard to expand the dialogue around the exhibited works of Dutch installation artists Bernadnaut Smilde, who will be visiting from Amsterdam.

Moderated by Galleries Director and exhibition curator Meg Shiffler, the panel will draw conversational threads that will enliven a broad discussion around major themes such as documentation, site, ephemerality vs. permanence, and “truth” in image making. This program is made possible through the generous support of the Graue Family Foundation.

When: Wednesday, March 20th, 6-7:30 p.m. . Where: Koret Auditorium, SF Library, Main Branch, 100 Larkin Street, lower level. S.F. Arts Commission Gallery. 401 Van Ness Ave.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Gary Winogrand at SFMOMA

Gary Winogrand. LA, 1980-84.
When Gary Winogrand died at age 56 of gall bladder cancer, he was considered one of the greatest documentary photographers of his era. A native New Yorker, he walked the length and breadth of America's streets, taking what seemed to be casual snapshots of people going about their daily business.

Garry Winogrand (14 January 1928, New York City – 19 March 1984, Tijuana, Mexico) was a street photographer known for his portrayal of America in the mid-20th century. John Szarkowski called him the central photographer of his generation.

But the bulk of his work was unknown. That is not to say he was unknown or unappreciated. By the time of his death in 1984, he had a Guggenheim fellowship, was featured in Edward Steichen's classic "Family of Man" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, and later figured prominently in two major photography shows, also at MoMA, curated by Steichen's successor John Szarkowski, one of Winogrand's early champions.

New York. 1962
In 1964, with the support of the first of three Guggenheim fellowships, he traveled for four months to fourteen states and recorded an America in transition. By photographing people indirectly through car windshields, he caught an America in uneasy transition between eras.

At the time, Winogrand tapped into the tumultuous zeitgeist of the 1960s, an era soon to come to a roiling boil. He applied for his grant in the early 60s, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, when nuclear war suddenly had become a terrifying possibility.

In his grant application Winogrand complained that the mass media "all deal in illusions and fantasies. I can only conclude that we have lost ourselves and that the bomb may finish the job permanently, and it just doesn't matter, we have not loved life.  I look at the pictures I have done up to now," he wrote in 1963, "and they make me feel that who we are and what we feel and what is to become of us just doesn't matter. I cannot accept my conclusions, and so I must continue this photographic investigation further and further."

Coney Island, 1952
But the bulk of his output, his enormous output, was unknown. At his death, Winogrand left behind 2500 undeveloped rolls of 36-exposure 35mm film (mostly Tri-X), 6,500 rolls of film that had been developed but not contact printed, not to mention 300 apparently untouched, unedited 35mm contact sheets.

Guest curator Leo Rubinfien, an old friend and student, along with Erin O'Toole, a curator at San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and Sarah Greenough, senior curator of photographs at the National Gallery of Art, have mined this treasure trove to produce the first major Winogrand retrospective in almost three decades. The show took the three curators almost three years to put together, because those 6,500 undeveloped rolls were bolstered by 4,100 rolls. Winogrand had processed those rolls but had not transferred them to contact sheets. The total came to nearly 400,000 unknown images.
LA, Venice Beach. 1980-84
The touring exhibit which opened at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art this week consists of more than 400 images derived largely from Winogrand's later days roaming the streets of Los Angeles with his Leicas. While he may be best known for his New York City scenes, these photos prove that Winogrand had an astute eye for images that illuminated America's increasingly troubled society.

Winogrand gives us no answers. But he wasn't looking for answers. "The fact that photographs — they’re mute, they don’t have any narrative ability at all. You know what something looks like, but you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know whether the hat’s being held or is it being put on her head or taken off her head. From the photograph, you don’t know that. A piece of time and space is well described. But not what is happening." (interview with Bill Moyers, WNET, 1982)

One thing is clear - the era of "Mad Men" was much more raw, perplexing and unhappy than the world deified on TV by Don Draper and his chauvinist, cigarette puffing cohorts.

The massive exhibit is overwhelming, which is fitting given how prolific Winogrand was. The show is organized in a loosely linear fashion: "Down From the Bronx" (earlier work shot primarily while he was living in New York), "A Student of America" (his work from the mid-'60s through the '70s, from all over America), and finally "Boom and Bust" (mostly shot in Southern California, and much of which has never been viewed).

Hanging on the walls, intermingled with his photos, are Winogrand's original contact sheets, pieces of this three Guggenheim Fellowship applications, letters to his daughters, and other personal artifacts.

The final word, if one can make a final summary of such a prolific photographer, was written by John Szarkowski, in his book on Winogrand, “Fragments from the Real World.” (MoMA, 1984).

New York. Opera. 1952
"When we consider the heedless daring of his successes and his failures we become impatient with tidy answers to easy questions, and with the neat competence of much of what now passes for ambitious photography. Winogrand has given us a body of work that provides a new clue to what photography might become, a body of work that remains dense, troubling, unfinished, and profoundly challenging. The significance of that work will be thought by some to reside in matters of style or technique or philosophical posture. There is no original harm in this misunderstanding, and useful work may come of it, but it will have little to do with the work of Garry Winogrand, whose ambition was not to make good pictures, but through photography to know life."

All images courtesy of SFMOMA: Barry Winogrand Archive, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona; © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winslow Homer Watercolors.The Color of Light.

I found this book quite by accident while browsing through the Mechanic's Institute Library, checked it out and decided that I must have it. The authors took a detailed and knowledgeable look at Homer's paintings - more detail and in more depth than I have ever seen.  They have done a marvelous job of illuminating Homer's technique, a far more valuable tool for artists than simply another pretty color book.

It wasn't cheap but it's worth every penny.

When I closed my outside studio last year, I took up watercolors in a more serious way. I had studied them at City College under a very poor instructor so I knew that I had a lot to learn. I have been on the look out for good books on watercolors and believe that this is just about the best book that I have found. It has tons of information on how Homer obtained his effects and just how experimental he was. I can hardly wait until it arrives and I'm saving up my pennies for more paints and paper.

228 pages, index of technical terms, extensive references and bibliography, copiously illustrated with excellent color plates.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday, March 8, 2013

Happy International Women's Day

To celebrate, here are a few female scientists that you might not have heard of (but definitely should have). I haven't included Marie Curie, because as much as we all love her, she is the automatic "female scientist" that always springs to mind and I think it's time we branched out.

1. Ada Lovelace: Analyst, metaphysician, and founder of scientific computing. Read more about her life here:
2. Rosalind Franklin.: Biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who made critical contributions to the understanding of the fine molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal, and graphite. She received no credit for her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA. More on her life:
3. Rachel Carson: Marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. More on her life:
4. Lise Meitner: A physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. She was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, but was overlooked for the Nobel Prize in favour of male colleagues. More on her life:
5. Cecilia Payne: Astronomer and astrophysicist who, in 1925, proposed in her Ph.D. thesis an explanation for the composition of stars in terms of the relative abundances of hydrogen and helium. More on her life:
6. Mary Anning: A paleontologist who made many important finds in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset. More on her life:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Weekend Picks for March 8th - 10th
Hooch, Harlots, & History: Vice in San Francisco at The Old Mint: The San Francisco Historical Society hosts an historical presentation of the wilder side of the Baghdad on the Bay, featuring Duggan McDonnell, "Broke Ass" Stuart Schuffman, Woody LaBounty, and Laureano Faedi.


Before San Francisco was the jewel of the West, it was a hard-drinking, hard-fighting dirty town. This historical recreation will feature rare archival footage of the vice side of San francisco, live music, food and one complimentary drink included with admission. Additional drinks available with $5 donation to the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society.

The Old Mint. 88 5th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Chaotic fragments of color and texture define their own internal rhythm in the mixed-media images of Southern California artist Allison Renshaw. Her first Bay Area solo show, "Better Than Candy," features her recent work on a theme of convergence. As in our day-to-day reality, genres, cultures and styles collide, and new stories emerge. Through April 6. Mirus Gallery, 540 Howard St., S.F. (415) 543-3440.

At the de Young Museum: Eye Level in Iraq: Photographs by Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson

Thorne Anderson, Thawra, Baghdad, Iraq, April 18, 2003. Digital inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta. © Thorne Anderson
This exhibition presents the photographs of Kael Alford (American, b. 1971) and Thorne Anderson (American, b. 1966), two American-trained photo journalists who documented the impact and aftermath of the US-led allied invasion of Iraq in 2003. They made these photographs during a two-year span that began in the months leading up to the allied invasion in spring 2003 and covers the emergence of the armed militias that challenged the allied forces and later the new central Iraqi government.

The photographs were made outside the confines of the U.S. military’s embedded journalist program, in an attempt to get closer to the daily realities of Iraqi citizens. The photographers wanted to show Iraq from an important and often neglected point of view. This shift in physical perspective placed them in great danger, but they sought to learn how the war, and the seismic political and cultural shifts that accompanied it, were affecting ordinary people.

Baghdad fell to the allied forces on April 9, 2003. A decade later, reflecting on why this work was made, Kael Alford has stated “I consider these photographs invitations to the viewer to learn more, to explore the relationships between public policy objectives and their real world execution and to consider the legacies of human grief, anger, mistrust and dismay that surely follow violent conflict. I hope that these images will also open a window on the grace of Iraq and perhaps help to give a few of these memories a place to rest.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Vermeer's 'Woman in Blue'

Vermeer's Woman in Blue inspires love wherever she goes. Getty invited the public to imagine the first line of that mysterious letter she's holding and they responded with nearly 200 creative ideas via The Iris, Facebook, and Twitter—from the heartfelt to the hilarious (and a few that were both). A selection of opening lines is showcased in this communal video valentine.

Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter at the Getty Museum:
Write the Opening Line to Vermeer's "Lady in Blue":
Dear "Woman in Blue," Let Me Tell You Of:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Bay Guardian has the goods on Dede Wilsey

Some people think that this is not an issue but I don't agree.

Somebody anonymously sent the SFBG a treasure trove of e-mails, correspondence and other info which documents just how "DeDe" Wilsey is using the Fine Arts Museums as her private art errand boys (and girls). The paper notes that since veteran curator Lynn Orr was fired (with only a day's notice), more than half a dozen veteran staff have been fired, including Bill White, the manager for three decades of de Young's Exhibition Design department.

The most blatant public of Mrs. Wilsey using the de Young for personal reasons happened last year. She used the de Young first floor galleries to display her son's aimless and unfocused photo collection. This behavior was so openly unethical that almost all of the Bay Area's arts writers noted it.

But using staff members to photograph, clean, ship and document private art works is a behind the scenes behavior that has only now come to public attention (or to the attention of those of us who are paying attention):

"There are established professional standards governing the operations of art museums, and the Guardian phoned several experts to determine whether it's common practice for a member of the Board of Trustees to call upon museum staff members to handle their personal artwork. In response, communications director Dewey Blanton of the American Alliance of Museums highlighted an ethical standard stating, "No individual can use his or her position with the museum for personal gain."