Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Peacock Themed Weddings

Sean McKillop and Annika Hoffman won't have a flower girl at their Aug. 3 wedding ceremony. Instead, they'll have a feather girl.
The couple is part of a growing trend that's taken flight in recent months: the peacock-themed wedding. With its rich color palette, the theme presents endless possibilities for brides and grooms seeking a unique twist on their nuptials.
“Our boutonnieres, centerpieces and bouquets are all feathers,” says McKillop, who lives in Lewisburg, W.Va., but still has family in the Pittsburgh area.
Katherine Elise Shaw, owner of the full-service event-planning company Trends To Traditions in Cranberry, has watched the trend gain popularity. Her company can provide just about anything with a peacock theme, from invitations to menu, table, escort and save-the-date cards. They've created card boxes using peacock feathers, cocktail napkins, party favors, even ice sculptures.
“Peacock themes are fabulous because they lend themselves to so many colors, options and fun,” Shaw says.
The theme was a natural choice for Hoffman, who works as a veterinarian for Aviagen Turkeys.
“I actually know feather dealers!” Hoffman says with a laugh.
One of Shaw's clients, Brienne Michaels, living in Fort Myers, Fla., even incorporated the theme into her gown for her 2011 wedding to husband, Greg, in Foxburg, Clarion County. The flowing dress gathered in an elegant, almost floral-like pattern to create a look alluding to a peacock's long tail.

Michaels has loved peacocks since her time as a student at Columbia University. She would often see a group of peacocks roaming the grounds of nearby St. John the Divine.
“A friend told me that in India, peacocks mean joy and happiness,” she says.
For Michaels, that made a fitting marriage theme. She incorporated peacock elements onto everything from her clutch to her cake to the peacock-shaped hand soaps she gave as favors.
“As soon as you start thinking ‘peacock,' you see peacock stuff everywhere,” she says.
Their invitations and program featured feathers, as did the bouquets. Even the ring bearer's pillow had one. Miller donned peacock shoe clips, feathers in her hair and a peacock garter. At the reception venue, they really “went crazy,” Miller says.
“We have everything except a live peacock,” she says with a laugh.
The family got so into finding peacock items in the months leading up to the big day, Miller's mother even decorated an entire Christmas tree in peacock decor.
“It makes it so fun,” Miller says. “Everybody was thinking about it when they were out shopping. I get at least one text a week saying, ‘I saw something peacock and thought of you!' ”
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Mythical Minotaur=Picasso's Alter Ego

Picasso’s Alter Ego

Pablo Picasso completed numerous prints during his artistic trajectory, constituting a fundamental portion of his oeuvre. As in his paintings, and as a result of his intense creative process, Picasso worked in series, repeating preferred themes and processes. With his tireless capacity for experimentation and absolute domination of all graphic techniques, Picasso is considered one of the most extraordinary printmakers of all time, with a body of work comparable in quality and scope to those of Rembrandt and Goya.

 As explained in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, among other sources, the Minotaur was a being half man and half bull, born of the bestial union between Pasiphae, wife of King Minos, and a bull. Minos later imprisoned the beast in a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus. Since Classical Antiquity this mythological being and the labyrinth in which he was confined have become archetypes, explored within the visual arts and literature throughout the centuries, and have generated multiple interpretations, which continue to appear today.
 The figure of the Minotaur, mythological and ancient, but full of life, appeared for the first time in the oeuvre of Picasso in a drawing of 1928. But in the Suite, commissioned by Ambroise Vollard, which Picasso completed between1930 and 1937, Picasso reinterpreted mythology, moving away from the classical representation of the myth of the Minotaur and toward his own personal biography, identifying with the doomed protagonist and placing him within the circumstances of his own artistic life, as well as his romantic relationships and sexual experiences.

 In this way the myth becomes a symbol of the labyrinth of the artist’s life. Accordingly, in his book Picasso à Antibes (1960), Romuald Dor de la Souchère – curator of the Château de Antibes – transcribed the following quote attributed to an octogenarian Picasso: “If you marked on a map all of the routes I’ve made and connected the dots with a single line, might not a Minotaur emerge? Picasso chose the figure of the Minotaur as his alter ego, making an ancient myth new and contemporary in such a way that one may “read” the Suite Vollard and La Minotauromachie as artistic diaries of the complex avatars of his life during the decade of the 1930s – “the worst epoch of my life,” as Picasso himself famously declared. Brassaï also noted that, “Picasso liked the Minotaur because of his human side, all too human.”

The 15 etchings dedicated to the Minotaur in the Suite Vollard can be divided into four groups. In the first, the Minotaur celebrates and drinks in the studio of the sculptor, together with the artist and his models. After these bacchic scenes follow others with a violent quality, in which Picasso demonstrates the animal nature of the Minotaur. Finally the third and fourth groups show a defeated Minotaur: in one, the half man, half bull is moribund; in the other, blind.

Copyright ©

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cave Artists

Cave Painters
During my summer reading, I chanced upon a fascinating book, The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists by Gregory Curtis. He’s been fortunate to see paintings at Font-de-Gaume near the Vezere River in France as well other cave art. He was astounded to see the way the cave artists used the contours of the cave walls to enhance their work. The powerful shoulders of bison, for instance, are often painted over a bulge in the rock that makes the muscles of the animals seem to swell realistically and gives the work a dimension that would have been impossible on a flat surface. “This indicates that, at least some of the time, the cave artists painted the animals suggested by the wall rather than imposing their own ideas onto the surface.” 
Rare among cave paintings because it shows a moment of affection
Ice Age painting of Reindeer, in Font-de-Gaume Cave, France

In 1902, a twenty-five-year-old priest named Henri Breuil decided studying prehistoric art was his calling in life. He devoted his considerable energy and intellect to that calling for the next fifty-five years. He called the ancient times The Reindeer Age. He made copies, usually by candlelight, of the paintings he encountered in explorations of at least seventy-three caves.
When Pablo Picasso, then only twenty-five years old, saw Breuil’s copies in La Caverne d’Altamira, he quickly went to see the cave for himself. Most of the caves are now closed to the public. Breuil’s culminating work is Four Hundred Centuries of Cave Art, published in 1952.

Breuil believed that art began with a desire for disguise, particularly disguise with masks. The masks were useful during hunts since a man could approach his prey more easily while in disguise. The mask was assumed to possess a magical power; its ceremonial use was employed in preparations or ceremonies supposed to exert a positive outcome in a hunt. Breuil, a priest, concluded that religion owes its existence to art. 

Masks did not lead directly to painting on walls. Breuill believed “masks must have soon led to the making of dolls.” Painting came from noticing the resemblance between animals or humans and the lines made by fingers when they were scraped through clay or down the wet sides of cave walls. At first these marks were accidental, but then were made on purpose. He wondered why wall art so rapidly took an important place in human activity in Western Europe and perhaps Africa but not everywhere, even in these regions.
His conclusion was hunting. According to Breuil it was hunters and only hunters who invented and refined painting in caves because the art required a profound knowledge of the appearance of animals. “Only daily experience in the life of a big game hunter can give that information; if there is no big game hunting, there is no naturalistic wall art.”

Henri Breunil's copy of Bison from a cave wall

“The Cro-Magnon shellfish eaters of the sea coasts usually lacked that basic psychology and experience; hunting snails did not create nor feed their artistic imagination, nor were they even clever workers.”
“On the other hand, hunters of Rhinoceros, Mammoths, great Stags, Bulls, wild Horses, not to mention Bears and Lions, accumulated, during their dangerous lives, powerful and dynamic visual impressions, and it is they who created and developed the wall art of our caverns. Everywhere it was big game hunters who produced the beautiful, naturalistic art.”

“This is no longer the work of the individual,” he says, “but a collective, social affair, showing a true spiritual unity, an orthodoxy, suggesting some sort of institution registering the development of this art by the selection and instruction of those mostly highly gifted.”

But what was the purpose of the art? Was it simply for beauty’s sake or was it not really aesthetic at all, nothing more than part of a ritual of hunting magic? Breuil thought it was probably both: “Without the artistic temperament with its adoration of beauty, no great art could exist nor develop. But without a society considering the artist’s work  of capital interest, the artist could not live nor found a school where his technical discoveries and his passion for beauty could continue and be transmitted through space and time.”

Gregory Curtis concludes: “Breuil’s imagined world had a few people with real genius who were supported, even revered, by a society whose members came reverently into the caves to perform rituals for the hunt.”

The discoveries of cave art have enriched the vocabulary of art in that we still find wonderful skill in these earliest known marks made by man. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Influence of Water

I would love to have been a mouse in the dining room to hear the conversations at the table from Monet's best friends and fellow artists, Gustave Caillebotte, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Auguste Renoir,  Johann-Barthold Jongkind, and Eugene Boudin.

Another treasure I've enjoyed this summer is Monet's House: An Impressionist Interior by Heide Michels. Maybe you have seen the fabulous kitchen and dining room of the Monet's house in Giverny, France. The yellows, blues and greens chosen by the artist for wall colors in his home were so avant garde for his times when heavy Victorian colors prevailed in most decoration. His arrangement of flowers in his garden were also unconventional. Hooray for Monet's pioneering spirit and fabulous eye for color.

Michels points out in her text that Claude Oscar Monet lived in his Giverny residence forty-three years, exactly half of his life. Also, the flower and water gardens he designed inspired much of his greatest work.

She also points out that throughout his life Monet was attracted to water. "He never tired of following the River Seine as it flowed northwest from Paris to its estuary at Le Havre, the town where he spent his childhood. He painted its ever-changing moods and the ever-changing skies above as it flowed chaotically along its course through Argentreuil, Vetheuil, Poissy, Vernon, and Rouen toward the coast. These were all places where he lived at various times during his career."

Vethuil in Summer, 1883

Beach at Etretet, 1883

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Imaginative Use of Color to Tell A Story

I am very impressed by the imaginative tale told through color. The photography and stage settings are fantastic. Kudos to the photographer and all involved in this lovely color fantasy!

Photographer Builds 8 Magical, Color-Immersed Sets Over 8 Months

If this isn't one grand undertaking, I don't know what is! In January, Brooklyn-based fine art photographer Adrien Broom put out a call on Kickstarter to help fund The Color Project, an eight-part exploration of the world of color as seen through the eyes of a little girl. Part photography, film, and installation art, it's a multimedia story that follows a young girl as she wakes up to a world in which all color has vanished. After exploring The World of White, she finds a door that leads her to her first discovery, The World of Red. As the story unfolds, we find the girl traveling from one color-immersed room to another, rediscovering all the colors that create the world we live in. At the end, the girl will arrive at the end of the rainbow where all the colors meet.
Most impressive is that the photographer is building eight distinct sets starting with white, running through all the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple), and ending with the full spectrum. Each one is shot in her New Haven, Connecticut studio. The whole project will take place over the course of 8 months with each room taking over a month to create and shoot. Of course, Broom isn't working on this project alone, she has assembled a team of artists including bakers, florists, sculptors and other craftspeople to help her create each unique, whimsical world. As many as 10 people have helped to create just one set.
So far, The Color Project has taken the viewer on a magical journey through four worlds: white, red, yellow and blue. Notice how incredibly detailed each set is! You can see the full project on Broom's website where you'll also find some great behind the scenes videos.
Beautiful and inspiring!

Adrien Broom's website
via [PDN]

Monday, July 8, 2013


Chagall is one of my favorite artists because of his whimsical compositions, his vibrant color. The Paris Opera has one of his wonderful paintings on its ceiling, a delightful addition.

Marc Chagall paintings often feature young women or couples, but few cast such a striking impression as Mariee, clothed in her bright red wedding dress. Surely an ode to young love, this painting features a young woman in quasi-wedding attire with a bouquet of flowers being presented to the viewer in a bold and conspicuous fashion, as if we were the ones marrying her.
Marc Chagall: Mariee
The genius of Mariee is in the choice of colors. The young woman is dressed in a vibrant red dress, with a virginal white veil draped over her head, while the background is a cool and subdued mélange of blues and grays. This effect allows the image of the woman to leap off the canvas and really draw your attention. It is quite apparent that Chagall was attempting to show this woman in high regard, as is the tradition at any wedding.
The wedding theme is further supported in the background. It includes a favorite element of 20th century European artists with the animals playing musical instruments, which is right up Chagall’s alley. There is a man hovering over the bride’s head, seemingly adjusting her veil as if to make sure that she is presented perfectly for her groom. Note the obligatory church in the distant background, placed there almost as an afterthought, but something that seems to be a requirement in any wedding painting.
While Mariee may not be groundbreaking for Chagall, it certainly is an adequate showcase of his talent and eye for color contrasts. This is such an important skill for any painter, and Marc Chagall paintings, especially Mariee, are good examples of how to do it right.

Chagall's romanticism enchants me. I am so glad his mother recognized his artistic talent early in his life and encouraged him to pursue his career. We all would benefit from mothers like his!

July 7th is Chagall's birthday. He loved his career and life and lived fully until his 98th year.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The "Summer of Love" Look Updated

Back in my youthful, cash-strapped days, I made tie-dyed pillowcases for gifts to my family. Some of the ideas included below could be fun summer projects. I recommend using Rit dye and following the directions for colorful projects which should not fade. I have not had success using herbs as dyes. They tend to be fugitive in sunlight. Please let me know if you were inspired to try some projects by sending me a picture of the finished project.

"Just so we're clear, the hippies did not invent tie-dye. Yes, they may have perfected the psychedelic variety and forever linked the technique to the Summer of Love, but tie-dyeing is actually an ancient method used all over the world. Japanese shibori has been around since the eighth century. Tie-dyeing is also found in Peru, India, Africa and Indonesia.

Tie-dying can produce subtle rippling patterns. It's the perfect wabi-sabi* (see below) art, because it can never be controlled 100 percent. Every piece of tie-dye is unique.

In decorating it adds soft, organic shape and texture. It can be modern, bohemian, colorful or neutral.

Here are 11 examples of tie-dye on cushions, walls, beds and rugs. And there's hardly a hippie room among them.
The watery stripes on these tie-dye throw pillows mirror both the colors and the feeling of the painting above.
A subtle brown and yellow tie-dyed pillow lives quite comfortably in this modern eclectic room. It brings a little movement in among all those hard lines.
Another marriage of tie-dye and a more modernist aesthetic. When used like this, tie-dye can be the main focal point of a room.
I love the soft, earthy feeling of the brown and turquoise on this pillow. The pillow goes perfectly with that Cisco Brothers pouf.
This tie-dye-inspired flokati rug is both a colorful statement piece and the perfect grounding item for this boho eclectic room. It's'70s, but not ironically so.
This wall is certainly not really tie-dyed, but it has that same soft, organic look. It's like a super close-up of agate or lapis. Simply gorgeous.
Another tie-dye-inspired wall covering.
You don't even notice at first that these hot-pink curtains are tie-dyed. But they are, and they work.
I love the subtle tie-dye pattern on this area rug. This could work even in a traditional room. There's nothing hippie about it.
John Robshaw is known for his gorgeous patterns inspired by ancient designs from around the world. This beauty, inspired by shibori, is no exception.
In this neutral room, the tie-dye-pattern wallpaper evokes wood grain and a cozy cabin feel without being too woodsy.
Shabd Simon Alexander is a master of gorgeous, subtle tie-dye, and this book is chockablock with how-tos and good ideas.

*Wabi-Sabi= Some object that is still beautiful despite imperfection. For example, a slab of wood with a crack or a flower that is beginning to love petals. It represents the passage of time and a life cycle we all experience.