Incredible Papier-mâché sculpture made with toilet paper, by Marvin Francis

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Artist Methods, Artist Spotlight, Sculpture

I saw this incredible papier-mâché sculpture at the Outsider Art Fair, and wanted to learn more about it. The artist is Marvin Francis, who made it while incarcerated at Eastern Kentucky Correctional Facility, using toilet paper and glue. Marvin was convicted of murder in 1986, and at the time he was twenty-five years old, a divorced Navy vet, a Detroit-born, Kentucky-bred high school dropout who had no background in art at all. While in prison, an art-appreciation teacher encouraged him to create something, and the floodgates of creativity were opened.

While his art work is now handled by art galleries and has been purchased by museums, Marvin gives away nearly every penny he earns to charities that work with abused children. Marvin was released in 2014 after serving over 28 years, and from a report that I found dated 2016, was living in Tennessee with a part-time job and still making art.

papier mache prison art by Marvin Francis

Sneaker art: unicorn soles for Kristaps Porzingis

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art and Fashion, Art and Sports, Products we'd like to see

Since I made a comparison between basketball imagery and art history yesterday, I thought I’d throw another basketball-related art item your way today: check out these new “Addidas Crazy Explosive” sneakers with the custom unicorn art on the bottom of the soles. They were made exclusively for Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, who was referred to as a “unicorn” by Kevin Durant last year for his unique mix of size – 7’3″ – and skills, including ball handling, 3 point shooting, and more.

I’ve seen a lot of crazy styles of sneakers, but don’t recall seeing any with art on the bottom, so I like this new idea.

Kristaps Porzingis Unicorn Addidas sneakers

Images from South Sudan and Piet Mondrian

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art and Fashion, Art and Sports, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Finding visual references, Making an art history comparison, Photography

The New York Times recently had a photo feature by Canadian documentary photographer Sara Hylton with pictures from Juba, in South Sudan. This picture of basketball players (below left) caught my attention for a couple reasons: #1, I’m a big fan of the sport of basketball, but more importantly, #2, it reminds me of Piet Mondrian. Why? Or how, you might ask?

I realize this might be a bit of a stretch, but Hylton’s picture reminds me of a Piet Mondrian painting in these ways: Hylton’s image includes a number of rectangles and squares, and certainly Mondrian’s paintings included rectangles and squares. But look at the colors of the clothes of these basketball players: the predominant colors are red, white, blue, yellow and gray, the same colors used in Mondrian’s “Composition No. II,” 1920, pictured below right. Granted, the colors in the basketball photo are all concentrated along the bottom half of the composition, but I still like the fact that the color scheme is the same.

Photograph of basketball players in Juba, South Sudan by Sara Hylton, next to a painting by Piet Mondrian

Patricia Urquiola: bursting at the seams with thoughts and memories

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art Museum exhibitions, Art News, Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Artist Spotlight, Furniture, Products we'd like to see, Sculpture

I received a press release from the Philadelphia Museum of Art with information about events at the museum, including the current shows. One of the shows, “Patricia Urquiola: Between Craft and Industry,” caught my attention and mentioned that this is the first solo exhibition in the U.S. devoted to the work of this internationally acclaimed designer, and that it showcases her versatility in creating products, interiors, and architectural spaces.

Some of the first things I saw related to this show included these chairs: below left is the “Antibodi Chaise,” which was designed by Urquiola and made by Moroso S.p.A., Cavalicco, Italy. Below right are a pair of “Gender Chairs,” also designed by Urquiola and made by Cassina S.p.A., Meda Italy (and lent to the exhibition by Cassina). I love these, so I wanted to see more by Patricia Urquiola, and decided to look for her website online.

Patricia Urquiola chairs

That’s when I saw this thing … I thought “what the heck is that?” Urquioloa’s website only describes it as a “special project for Kartell,” and lists it as “tableware.” I couldn’t leave it at that, so I had to try to find out more.

Patricia Urquiola project for Kartell

It turns out that this special project for Kartell was an opportunity for fifteen invited designers to present their personal vision and create a tribute to the “Componibili,” which is a series of modular furniture pieces (seen below), created by Anna Castelli Ferrieri (1920–2006), an architect, town planner, designer, and Kartell’s Art Director from 1976 to 1987.

examples of Kartell Componibili modular furniture

So, in this context, this piece by Urquiola is more of a conceptual art piece, in which she shares her idea that the Componibili storage units are capable of storing “tangible thoughts and memories,” so in this case, her thoughts and memories are overflowing and bursting through the seams of the Componibili. I love it! Here’s another look at it below:

Patricia Urquiola homage to the Kartell Componibili

As far as I can tell, this Componibili homage piece is not at the Philadelphia Museum of Art exhibition, but you can see many other great works by Patricia Urquiola there through March 4, 2018.

Finding an opportunity in news photography to pay homage to Robert Frank

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Finding visual references, Making an art history comparison, Photography

A while back there was a story in the New York Times titled “The Rohingya Who Made It to Chicago,” about a group of Muslims who had been persecuted in Myanmar finding a new home in Chicago. One of the photographs accompanying the story, by photographer Ali Lapetina, grabbed my attention. The image below shows a handful of people on a school bus leaving a rally in Chicago which had been organized in support of the Rohingya people. The way the image is framed, the position of the grim-looking woman in the 2nd window from left, the girl with her hand outside the window … it all had a very familiar feel: it seems like a direct homage to one of Robert Frank’s most-famous photographs. Scroll down for more …

photograph of Rohingya people leaving a rally on a school bus

Now take a look at Robert Frank’s photograph “Trolley – New Orleans,” 1955, from his seminal book The Americans, which featured photographs taken by the artist in the mid-1950s as he traveled across the U.S. on a Guggenheim fellowship. In his photograph, there is also a grim-looking woman in the 2nd window from left, and a young boy also looking straight out with a hand outside the window. It is also a tightly-framed image, with both images cropped in a similar way.

Trolley New Orleans by Robert Frank

I would be curious to know if Lapetina just happened upon a similar scene and captured it, surely realizing the similarities, or if she might have suggested to the girl to put her hand out the window? The similarities are so striking that it just seems amazing to think it could match up this way. Actually, one more similarity that I just noticed is the fact that there are two kids in the center-most window in both pictures. However it was achieved, I appreciate the strong image that Lapetina created to illustrate the NY Times story at the same time paying homage to one of the most acclaimed photographers of the 20th century, Robert Frank. Mr. Frank’s work is represented by Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York City. Ali Lapetina is an independent photographer based in Detroit.

Africa on the sidewalk

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Finding visual references, Found art, Photo of the day, Things I saw on my dog walk

If you’ve seen any of my other posts tagged with the phrase “sidewalk art,” you’ll know that I have a tendency to see imaginary and visually-related things on the sidewalks of my town, Glen Ridge, NJ. The other day was no exception, as I was walking my dogs (which is typically when I notice these things, since I’m looking down at them) … I noticed this big gap in the sidewalk filled with moss which seemed to have a strong resemblance to the African continent. What do you think?

mossy sidewalk gap that looks like the African continent

Have a dot-filled holiday with these Yayoi Kusama gifts from MoMA

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art News, Artist Spotlight, Products we'd like to see

I received the MoMA holiday catalog in the mail, and noticed how the artist Yayoi Kusama is a popular theme. We’ve got the Yayoi Kusama Wooden Doll (left), the Kusama Pumpkin in red (center), and the Yayoi Kusama Christmas ornament (right).

Or, if none of those things appeal to you, you could always go for the Kusama-inspired sneakers like this guy had

Yayoi Kusama products from the MoMA store

The art of Chinua Achebe’s book covers

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Book covers

The visual style of today’s Google Doodle honoring what would have been the 87th birthday of Chinua Achebe caught my attention. I clicked through to learn more about Achebe, who was was a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic who passed away in 2013.

Google Doodle of Nigerian author Chinua Achebe

One of the first things I noticed as I started reading more about him was how much great art he had for his book covers. Here’s a sampling of some of the Achebe book covers that I really liked:

Covers of books written by Chinua Achebe

I’m trying to find out who the artists are, which is not so easy. I do see that the 50th Anniversary Edition of “Things Fall Apart,” above left, was created by Edel Rodriguez, who describes being commissioned by Random House here.

Chinua Achebe book covers

A mural in Rensselaer seems to be filled with celebrities

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Finding visual references, Found art, Historical Figures in Art, Murals, Street Art

I while back I enjoyed walking around the Riverfront Park in Rensselaer, New York, where there are numerous murals painted on the concrete supports for the highway that runs overhead. Looking back at the pictures, this one struck me today: as you look at the various faces, do any of them look familiar to you? Scroll down to see the celebrity matches that I made …

a mural consisting of many faces at Riverfront Park in Rensselaer, NY

Here’s four in particular that stick out for me: top left pair, Howard Stern? Top right pair, Michael Jackson? Bottom left pair, an orange-skin Donald Trump? Bottom right pair, Billy Idol? What do you think, were these portraits intended to be these people? Or am I just imagining things? Add your comments below if you think any of the other faces look like someone specific.

celebrity portraits mural in Rensselaer, NY

A different kind of nature morte

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Art That Makes You Go "Huh?", Photo of the day, Things I saw on my dog walk

In French, the phrase “nature morte” literally means “dead nature,” but in art it can be a reference to a still life, or an image depicting inanimate objects. In my case today, this phrase popped into my head in the sense of “dead nature,” because as I was walking down the street I noticed this dead owl laying on the ground just about 6-10 inches from the edge of the road. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dead owl before, other than in a natural history museum. I can’t imagine it was hit by a car, my guess is that one of the many hawks I’ve seen flying around on a regular basis might have attacked it.

But then it seemed odd as well that about one block later, I see this stuffed animal laying in the street, and one could imagine it has suffered an unfortunate fate as well. It’s not clear what kind of animal it’s supposed to be – a penguin perhaps? But the orange beak would suggest something related to the bird family.

a dead owl and abandoned stuff animal in the street