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November 2015

Vintage Visual Feast Thanksgiving 2015

Every year, my favorite part of the holiday season is theme development in preparation for my Thanksgiving table . Similar to theme development for a booth display, the theme for a table should stimulate a visual feast of repeating design elements over and over.  

Thanksgiving 2015 photographed by photographer Philip CohenPhotograph of the Thanksgiving 2015  by Philip Cohen.

My goal each year is to reinvent our Thanksgiving table and deliver a completely different and memorable experience. This year it was inspired by vintage 1950's/60's screen printed Filkauf commercial fabric,fabric that I found in a secret, dusty, musty storage room at Direct Office Furniture in Harrisburg, PA. (Check out the Red Door Consignment Gallery for great furniture options at the same location.)
Fiklauf vintage fabric for our Vintage Thanksgviing Feast.
 Vintage Fabric from the 1950's/60's is marked "Filkauf Inherently Fire Retardant Fabric Screen Printed".

The screen printed leaf pattern and fall colors were perfect for a Thanksgiving table. To save time I fringed the edge. It looked great.
Filkauf Inherently Fire Retardant Fabric was vintage 50's 60's in fall colors

Long Thanksgiving table for 17 people A phenomenal stroke of good fortune, the fabric was large enough to cover the entire table for 17 people in one piece.  Photo left is before setting the table...   

 

 

The idea for the vintage theme began 5 months ago with the discovery and purchase of two "atomic era" (1950's) starburst candlestick holders from West Germany.Vintage atomic motif plastic candlestics from West Germany started our theme for Thanksgiving.


Atomic starburst plastic candlesticks from West GermanyYes they are a little weird but I loved the orange translucent colors and vintage atomic aesthetic that also reminded me of pumpkins. Then I had to find six more online. Amazingly, most of the Friedel Gesch plastic purchased online was unused, still with the original tag. Imagine, they have been sitting in a drawer for 60 years!


Thanksgiving 2015 031

Orange candles weren't hard to find. Adding small sugar pumpkins boosted the orange shapes and color  on the table. The sugar pumpkins will be cooked at a later date. 


Gold leaf glasses for our  Thanksgiving 2015 037These vintage Libby glasses from the 1950's with gold leaf design further repeat the leaf theme of the table cloth perfectly. I bought them for a past Thanksgiving and fortunately had about 20 of them. 

  


 

The gold plated flatware was my grandmother's from the 1960's. I remember when she bought it. I think she only used it once. Dishwashers and convenience-focused lifestyles really brought an end to gold leaf glasses and gold plated flatware. None of this is dishwasher safe.  

Gold plated flatware complete of Thanksgiving theme

All of the plates were from my collection of vintage dinnerware collected over the years. The colors were selected to match the colors in the tablecloth.  The plates sat on gold chargers to repeat the gold of the flatware and gold leaf glasses. 

Thanksgiving 2015 012

The floral arrangements were real fall leaves with the addition of some dried orange pods. Both the leaves and orange pods echoed the tablecloth leaf motif and colors.  

Thanksgiving 2015 001

 


Thanksgiving 2015 007Left 
is our menu card inspired by the vintage fabric tablecloth.

Dessert included a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting in the shape of leaves inspired by the tablecloth. It took a whole crew and hours of work . . . and topped off with a final touch of chocolate creativity to bring this to fruition.

 

 

 

 

 

Making our Thanksgiving dessert to match our vintage tablecloth.  

The dessert crew made abstract chocolate leaves as the final touch.

Thanksgiving 2015 021

The photo below shows how you make the chocolate leaf shapes. 
Thanksgiving 2015 023
Just paint warm chocolate on wax paper, let them cool, and peel them off. 

Vintage fabric, dishes, glasses, and flatware with atomic candlesticks. 
Theme development with repetition of the visual elements works every time. Give it a try for your next holiday table or booth display. 

Thanksgiving 2015 002

Thanksgiving 2015 029Harriete 

P.S. Commercial fabric is often fire proof so it would be suitable for booth display.

E-bay and Etsy are both great resources for finding obscure items for theme development. 



Thanksgiving tables from previous years:

Many images of my Thanksgiving tables can be see on Facebook albums. 

Thanksgiving 2014 flower arrangements 003Thanksgiving 2014- Setting the Table

 

 

 

 

 Philip Cohen photography of Thanksgiving TableGelt, Gilt, and Guilt - Thanksgiving 2013

 

 


Thanksgiving a Visual FeastThanksgiving Visual Feast Giving Thanks

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving with a mondrian inspired color blocks in red, blue, yellow and black  outline.

Thanksgiving 2012 was inspired by a Mondrian  color theme including the cake and cookies. 

 

  

 

Thanksgving birthday cake with sculpted cream cheese frostingThanksgiving 2011 followed a leaf motif including the drinking glasses and the cake with sculpted cream cheese frosting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2010 was black, white, grey and chartreuse green

Thanksgiving 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving 2009 with a beautiful Thanksgiving festive table.Thanksgiving 2009 is  a traditional fall motif with leaf motif including cake and our drinking glasses with gold leaves. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving in Black, Grey and SilverTHANKSGIVING 2008  was black, grey and silver. 

 


Art Adventures in Wonder Washington, D.C.

Adventures always start with a journey. After a 3,000 mile, cross country red-eye flight I arrived in Washington D.C.  exactly 6 hours before the fancy shindig opening at the Renwick Gallery.

WP_20151110_037My first goal for the day was to see my own artwork on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Luce Art Center at the Smithsonian Museum of Art In this gigantic museum (right), I was searching for an area called the Luce Art Center.

The artwork on display in the Luce Art Center is shown on shelves to offer insight into the depth of the permanent collection in paintings, sculptures, folk art, and crafts.Harriete-Estel-Berman-Renwick-LuceFamous Selection from the series "The Deceiver and the Deceived" 

My metalwork was surrounded by the excellent company of other metalsmiths.


WP_20151110_012The acquisition number next to each object allows the viewer to look up information online. There were computers nearby if you wanted immediate access to information.  Information on my piece can be found at 1997.51.  A little weird...online they show only the back image of my work so maybe they couldn't tell the front from the back. I'll have to write to them and correct this mistake. 

FURTHER IRONY AND UPDATE: I wrote to the Smithsonian about the lack of a front image on the Luce Art Center website. They were very kind to write back and will try to correct the omission. It turns out the front image of "The Deceiver and The Deceived" is on the main website, but the artwork was photographed side ways. The wall piece should have been photographed with the word "famous" at the top. Usually an artist wants their work photographed right side up, but since their is a keyhole on the back for hanging, I thought the photographer would have figured out the right way to photograph it. Oh well.

Smithsonia Art Museum building
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is amazing.  The building is a dazzling combination of ornament and decoration that I never tire of admiring. The variety of collections and exhibitions is extensive. I highly recommend this as an art destination of the highest priority. Entrance is free.

Curators at the best museums have an incredible skill for the juxtaposition of artwork. In the portrait gallery "Shimomura Crossing the Delaware" by Richard Shimomura hung directly across from a portrait of Bill and Melinda Gates by  Jon R. Friedman on a painted blue wall.  This conversation between two paintings was worthy of discussion, but I had no one to discuss this with at the time.
(I snuck these images for your review.) 
Shimomura Crossing the DelawareBill and Melinda Gates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WONDER
The opening of "Wonder" at the Renwick Gallery
started at 7:30pm.  My amazing art adventure in Washington, D.C.  was a marathon day. 

live statueThis was a festive, celebratory event beyond the usual craft/art opening. This is the first time the Renwick was open after a major two year renovation.

The live woman "statue" (left) was in a central location near the decadent chocolate desserts.

 

busts at the Luce Art Center at the SmithsonianIt  reminded me of the white busts I had seen earlier at the Luce Art Center (left) and the exhibition of Hiram Powers' The Greek Slave. 

Moving through the Wonder exhibition, each large room of the Renwick had a different installation by one artist. Everything was of a monumental scale which was truly wonder - ful.
Patrick Dougherty installation at the RenwickShindig by Patrick Dougherty

I loved each room and the artwork for different reasons.

Renwick wonder slider (5)Installation by Gabriel Dawe. Photo from Wonder Gallery Renwick  

The concept of craft and working with materials was expressed with radically different approaches by each artist/maker. This artwork looks like vibrating beams of light. It was far more intense than this photo reveals (from the Renwick website).  In person, at night, after a very long day, and drinking a strong vodka and orange juice far too quickly (for medicinal relief of thirst), the colored thread seemed to vibrate!!!!!!! 

Walking up the stairs....to see more installations.Renwick-gallery-stairsStairs at the Renwick Gallery leading to the 2nd floor. 

This light sculpture Volume by Leo Villareal (below) hung high up over the stairwell.  

Villareal-detail

This light installation seemed the least hand made craft of all the rooms. The left photo was from the Renwick Gallery website by Ron Blunt.

WP_20151110_073The computer controlled lighting was dazzling like my rhinestone wallet, but it seemed a little glitzy without enough craft soul in this context. (Photo right taken at the opening with my phone.)  

Booker01_0 ANONYMOUS DONOR by Chakaia Booker Photo Ron Blunt

The tire sculpture by Chakaia Booker (above photo) had a demanding presence defining a completely different kind of implementation of hand made; it had a bold, gutsy, uncompromising strength. Made from radial tire detritus it invited the viewer to examine modern materials like tires that keep our society moving.

Now contrast the coarse and ugly tire material to a glass marbles installation by Maya Lin.  (below)Maya Lin installation at the Renwich Exhibition Wonder

I have seen many inspiring installations and artworks by Maya Lin, but for some unexplained reason, this room was not as successful. Perhaps it was too subtle in the excitement of the occasion.  A portrayal of cracked wall (?) seemed ironic considering the two year renovation of the historic building.

Another problem was that some barricade ropes prevented people from walking among the marbles glued to the floor (probably out of concern that a careless step might ruin the installation or risk their lives slipping). 

 

 


Move to another room...Donovan-detailThis installation by Tara Donovan is constructed from styrene index cards. I am still trying to decide what I think of this installation. The volume of new styrene plastic used to make these sculptures made me very uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that I could not appreciate  the visual impact.  I could not ignore the environmental impact of plastic, along with the production and disposal issues.

Saving the best for last. Two more rooms to mention...
Hand made "wallpaper" made entirely from insects. Even the red painted tint on the wall was made from crushed cochineal insects. 

Angus01_0In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus  Photo by Ron Blunt from the Renwick Gallery Wonder website.

Angus-detailThe initial impression of a highly, decorated, hand made wall paper (perhaps consistent with the era of the building) was created from insects. I was told that the insects were farmed in Indonesia. Definitely, this room had a new definition for hand made.   

 

 

 

This installation by John Grade seemed the most "Wonder"ful of all. Grade01_0Middle Fork by John Grade Photos by Ron Blunt from the Renwick Gallery Wonder website.

An entire tree was recreated bit by bit into a gigantic installation that filled the room with awe. Each 1/4" rectangle of wood created a lattice resembling bark surface and tree silhouette. It was simultaneously powerful both close-up and far away.

Grade-detailMost of the photos in this post for the Wonder exhibition came from the Renwick website including the one to the left. At the exhibition, the tree filled the room so completely that I don't think an individual could look down the inside of the trunk like this....but it gives you a great idea of the scale of detail and form.

This was truly an example of the artist's vision combined with execution by hand to bring a grand inspiration to reality. Not everything can be fabricated by machine or created by computer. Sometimes it can only be hand made to create Wonder.

There was one more installation in WONDER by Janet Echelman that has no photo on the Renwick website. I can't say I know what to make of it.  At the opening, the ceiling installation didn't leave me with a strong first impression. I've seen her work at the San Francisco Airport as well and had a similar experience. She's been selected for such prestigious exhibitions as the Renwick and the S.F. airport, but these two installations seemed to be lacking. The airport installation suggests that some computer programmed lighting is supposed to be involved.  As is, the colored cord alone of these pieces look like scaled up versions of work by Ruth Asawa from 40 years ago. There is no surprise in how the materials themselves are used. The only wonder for me is why the work was selected, but tell me what you think.

Go the Washington, D.C. to see the show. Fill your heart and mind with inspiration on a grand and gutsy scale.

Go to see Wonder. 
Harriete  

 


Adventures in ArtLand

Every so often after working really hard, an artist's professional role includes going to an exhibition opening . . . maybe, even at some distant location.  When such events arise, I am often tortured trying to make a decision about whether it is worth the expense and time to travel to the opening.  

How should one justify the time and expense for going to an opening? I am not sure, but when my artwork is in a museum exhibition in New York City, the opening seems like something of a bigger deal . . . but the "adventure" is much scarier, more expensive, and oh so many thousands of miles away.  I deliberated with myself extensively, but when the curator said that I could stay at her house....I had to say "yes." 

Harriete-Estel-Berman-San-FranciscoTraveling by myself is a real challenge for me.  Serious effort.  I'd much rather stay at home, work in the studio and exercise until I fall over exhausted than navigate subways and trains or eat in a restaurant by myself. Two weeks ago, one of these art adventures tested my endurance -- and I survived. In retrospect is was an empowering experience.

Wayne-Theibaud-Painting-San-FraniciscoMy departure started at the San Francisco airport at 5:00 a.m.  However my not yet caffeinated mind spotted this painting by Wayne Thiebaud titled, "18th Street Downgrade" near my gate. The depiction of San Francisco's roller coaster hills reflected my heart pounding anxiety. My adventure had begun.  


Why go to an opening? Is it worth it
?
Harriete-Estel-Berman-Hebrew-Union-Evil
In retrospect, one good reason to go to an opening is to see your own artwork with new eyes. Instead of the humble circumstances in a studio laying on the work bench half formed, I saw my work installed magnificently and gloriously surrounded by powerful and interesting work by other artists.10 plagues 008

The installation of my artwork was just amazing. My quick cell phone photos do not capture the presence or atmosphere. 

Blight-10-plaque-Evil-Exhbition-ShotThe exhibition Evil: A Matter of Intent and the installations were truly of the best caliber. The organization, layout, and the lighting consistently enhanced the work.

Water-pollution-blood-10 plaguesIt is impossible to show how exquisitely my artwork was lit to enhance the intent of the work. The blades of withered grass on Blight-World Hunger (left) had extra shadows. Blood-Water Pollution (right) had watery red reflections (just like water) bouncing onto the wall. 

The vision brought to life by the  curator and the professional installation staff was evident. I've seen my artwork displayed many times in 30+ years....and I've come to appreciate the superior skills and evident expertise that museum and exhibition staff bring to bear on how to install artwork.  Their talents are all too often underestimated.

If you live in New York or are visiting in the next 6 months, I recommend making it a priority to view Evil: A Matter of Intent.

This week another adventure begins.  This time to Washington D.C. for the opening of the Renwick Gallery. Below is shot of the invitation that arrived in the mail. Gold embossed lettering on a thick square of dense cardboard. This memorable invitation seemed too special to miss. My cocktail outfit is ready in my suitcase.

Harriete

    
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Your Money Talks But Are You Listening?

Calculator-ASK Harriete-I-covered-EXPENSES
Passion does not equal profit.
 If expecting to make money, we need to separate our love for creative making from the down to earth reality of selling. 

The caution is to not let our creative passions cloud the realities of marketing, selling, generating profits, and avoiding loss.  

I will always encourage makers to make the best work possible. No holds barred. BE PASSIONATE. Work hard. Spend countless hours doing what you love.  But when it comes to making money and selling for a profit, that is when business principles apply.

Read the post I wrote for Artsy Shark: “I Covered My Expenses” and Other Forms of Delusion & Denial and see if "I covered my expenses" really means I lost more money faster than ever before and four days of my time.
Calculator-ASK Harriete-opportunity-cost
Have you asked yourself what is the "opportunity cost" when spending weeks making low cost sell-able, bread & butter items to prepare for a show?  What if you had spent that time making your most inspiring, most creative work without thinking about who might be shopping at a show and what their budget might be?  

Calculator-ASK Harriete-booth-showWhat about scheduling fewer art/craft festivals? This interview with Carrol Swayze is makes a lot of sense when you read "How a Hard Look at Business Changed an Artist’s Life."

Calculator-EXPENSES-ASK-Harriete-5buttonsAfter adding up all the true costs on your calculator for profit and loss, you might be saving yourself money doing fewer shows.

Harriete

 

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Identity Complex - Lost and Found

Idcomplex
I just found out that my artwork, Identity Complex, is currently on view at the Racine Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin.  The exhibition that includes my work is titled "Lost and Found: Featuring Kim Alsbrooks and Nikki Couppee."

IDcomples_leg72 Artists in the exhibition were selected from RAM's permanent collection including:  Boris Bally, Harriete Estel Berman, Jerry Bleem, Robert Ebendorf, Geoffrey Gorman, Tina Fung Holder, Judith Hoyt, Lissa Hunter, Esther Knobel, Keith LoBue, Karyl Sisson, Kiff Slemmons, and Anne Wilson.

So the question that I always want to ask participating artists is . . . "How did your work get to be in this museum's permanent collection?"

In this case, I can at least answer for myself. Identity Complex was purchased by collector Karen Johnson Boyd from a solo exhibition I had at Sybaris Gallery in 2001. 

Now many years later, I appreciate Sybaris Gallery for their confidence in my work.  It is regretful that such a supportive gallery has closed.

When amazing collectors like Karen Johnson Boyd buy the best artwork from an artist, they change the fortune of the artist. I am very grateful for the support by this patron whom I have never met. 

When generous collectors like Karen Johnson Boyd give their collections to museums, their gifts enrich the lives of many viewers in the public. 

Identity Complex Vanity Seat from recycled materials.

If you are traveling or live near the Racine Art Museum, I hope you will get a chance to see this exhibition.

Dates of the exhibition:
September 25, 2015 - January 3, 2016

The one-page exhibition guide highlights the theme of "incorporation of  'non-art' materials."  The found objects and materials used in the artwork "construct layers of meaning." 

Identity Complex Vanity Seat in the exhibition Lost and Found at the Racine Art Museum

Identity Complex Vanity Seat is constructed entirely from post consumer tin cans. Even what looks like a soft cushioned fabric seat with trim and a button is all metal.

Identity Complex Vanity Seat is a commentary about beauty in our society.

The legs have writing on the inside. The quotes recount the terrible comments I (or each of us) say to one's self when looking in a mirror. Messages from advertising and media create an impossible standard of perfection for comparison.

"Beauty magazines make me feel ugly."

"My breasts are too big, my breasts are too small."

"Big pores, dry skin, age spots and wrinkles." (left photo)

"My waist is too thick and I hate my thighs."

 

Under the seat, the internal dialog continues with a statement... 

Identity Complex Vanity Seat is art from found materials with social commentary about beauty
"Can’t stand that person in the mirror, Make me over, paint my face, airbrush my blemish, color my hair, botox my wrinkles, reduce the appearance of fine lines, erase the circles under my eyes, tattoo my lips, pencil my brows, masque my imperfections,  whiten my teeth, soft focus, perfect lighting, Am I visibly firm?  Is there an age defying complex?"

Harriete

Photo Credit for all images in this post: Philip Cohen

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