For Dia De Los Muertos, an homage to one who’s gone before: Malvina Hoffman. Her lovely 1913 self-portrait, “Spirit,” is in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh
Born in Brooklyn, Hoffman studied at the Art Students League in New York and is—for better or worse—best known for having sculpted bronze portraits for the Hall of Man in Chicago’s Field Museum. The hall, originally designed to illustrate the “races of man” with life size bronze sculptures of racial “types” was intended in 1929 as an educational display. Hoffman was clear in her intent to honor the dignity and individuality of the models she chose for her most important commission, but the hall’s racist overtones cast a shadow on her career and was dismantled after her death in 1966.
Margaret Cresson French
At Chesterwood, there are few sculptures by Daniel Chester French’s daughter Margaret on display. But the superb modeling and arresting expression of Girl with Curls make it quietly magnetic. The anonymous subject of the life size Girl with Curls must have been a young woman Margaret knew, and was probably carved by the Piccirilli Brothers studio in the Bronx.
In 1921 Margaret married architect William Penn Cresson, and had one child who died in infancy. Whatever her private sorrow, Margaret found her life’s work through sculpture, as her father did.
Were it not for Margaret, we wouldn’t have Chesterwood and its storehouse of sculpture, maquettes, and tools. She worked hard to preserve her father’s legacy in many ways: writing a memoir, serving as tour guide, and ultimately leaving the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. When her father was alive, she was both his model and student, the ultimate muse. In leaving Chesterwood to America, she added immeasurably to our knowledge of neoclassical sculpture.
Margaret French Cresson, August 3 1889 — October 1, 1973
Renaissance Woman, Sarah Bernhardt, was a sculptor at heart. After beginning her stage career, she started studying sculpture seriously at the age of 25. “After the Storm” is one of her most well-known works.
Am reworking “Scar” which has a raku face and paper mache body. The copper-based raku glaze on terra cotta left an unexpected green streak.
My studio today
Argentinian sculptor Nora Valdez is showing drawing and sculpture at the Maynard, Mass. public library now through the end of May. Valdez creates poignant images about immigration, diaspora, and the experience of dislocation and communication.
Now at MIT’s List Center in Cambridge are powerful installations by women sculptors, Kapwani Kiwanga and Kathleen Ryan. Kiwanga’s installation, “Safe Passage,” creates an experience of the power dynamics inherent in an unfamiliar environment. Sculpted searchlights and walls of slatted two-way mirrors form a disorienting pathway leading to a gallery displaying pages of a Green Book, on which are addresses of safe houses
In “Cultivator,” Kathleen Ryan uses mighty industrial spare parts in combination with delicate natural forms—floral-ish pods of wire and beads hung from giant iron petals, and dense tiles of abalone shell carefully placed in the interior of salvaged ship parts. Draped on the floor are polished bowling balls that form two enormous bracelets—one black, one white—gems for a giantess. Through April 21. (at top, gallery view of “Cultivator.”)
In time for Earth Day…
Plastic Entanglements at the Smith College Museum of Art brings together sixty works by thirty contemporary artists. Plastic has infiltrated global ecosystems, and living beings: birds, reptiles and mammals, and humans. A wide array of work in many media, beautiful and thought-provoking, is in the museum through July 28th. A series of talks and workshops highlight plastic’s ecological ramifications.
Plastic Entanglements unfolds in three sections, charting a timeline—past, present, and future—of our ongoing engagement with this ubiquitous manmade material.
Pictured: Aurora Robson: Ona, 2014, plastic debris, aluminum rivets
At the Hess Gallery at Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, artist and ecological activist Nedret Andre shows paintings celebrating the life of eelgrass ecosystems in “Seagrass: Ecological Engineers” up through May 30th. For hours check the Annenberg Library hours; the gallery is on the library’s first floor.
Below: Nedret Andre: In Water, 2017, oil on canvas
“Could a nude woman artist be both image and image-maker?” – Carolee Schneemann
To say that Carolee Schneemann, who passed away last month, was a legendary painter, photographer, and performance artist is to miss the point, almost, of her six-decade-long body of work. I mean that phrase literally, since Schneemann used her body to stage intricate and taboo feminist dramas in a way no one else has ever done. Schneeman explored desire, sex, oppression, and—yes—joy, in ways that were confrontational, sometimes brutal, and almost always ephemeral. It is difficult to explain her work without having seen it, and it is doubly difficult when, as Maggie Nelson says in her excellent article in the New Yorker:
“…I also can’t help feeling that to consistently deem someone an underrated living legend is also to practice a certain repetitive distortion, whereby all praise or estimation begins to register more as corrective than insight. Similarly complicated, when it comes to Carolee’s work, is the question of suppression and censorship.”
Read more about this fascinating artist, and, if you can, see her work.
Photo of the artist from the author’s postcard of “Carolee Schneemann: Up To And Including Her Limits,” 1997, at the New Museum; a still from the film “Meat Joy.”
Ella Buchanan‘s iconic early feminist sculpture, “The Suffragist Trying to Arouse Her Sisters,” may or may not have been lost to time, but this request is just in from a reader. Does anyone know where the original might be?
“Ella was the first librarian at the Pittsburg (no h), Kansas, Public Library before leaving to attend the Art Instititute in Chicago. If anyone should happen to know what happened to the original sculpture, we would love to have that information in time for the 2020 anniversary of women getting the vote.”
More information about the library and its quest.