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I have recently become enamored with the work  and story of Mary Abbott. Mary was born is 1921 to a family with a rich  American history. She is a descendant of  President John Adams and General Robert E. Lee. She was a debutante, model for Vogue and in my opinion, a game changer. There are not many women who have been reported to have had influence over men’s art styles but Mary Abbott was one of them. As young as the age of 12 she was studying at the Art Students League of New York. She went on to travel in circles with David Hare, Barnet Newman, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and most interestingly, Willem de Kooning. She began a professional and personal relationship with de Kooning in the 1940’s. Asher Edelman has written about a very interesting experience while unearthing some of Mary’s work mistaking it for de Koonings and the ensuing time line that led him to conclude that Mary indeed had profound influence on de Kooning’s art. F-a-s-c-i-n-a-t-i-n-g!  Mary, my new unsung hero.  Her modest outlook (not taking the credit she deserves for having an original spirit) seem to be a compelling reflection of the era and social stature she was raised in and yet her vibrant art seems to reflect a such a rich interior life. I love it all and I am smitten with the diversity of her work, stroke and palette. You can read a bit more about Mary  here and Edelman’s article  here. 

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Titled Bill’s Painting, 1951

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I ran across the photography  of Tria Giovan via a magazine spread  featuring her photography showcasing gorgeous interior design. Somehow beyond the styling and interior design, I liked the photography enough to search  out the photographer.  In the process, I fell in love Giovan’s personal work, especially her work from time spent in Cuba in the 90’s.  The work was chronicled in her book, Cuba: The Elusive Island . She chronicled the sagging structures, worn households items and people looking… I am struggling with the right word to use for what struck me the most from these photos. The young ones seem just a tad more hopeful than the older ones. In some shots, the people look as fatigued as the buildings. They are obviously living their lives, with clothes and goods that are from another era,  items that where not designed to last this many years. You can see women still being women, holding up the community with their ingenuity and strength. There is grace but not jubilance in what Tria captured.

I think I was particularly struck by the honesty of her work especially since I had recently seen the spectacle that was the Chanel Resort 2017 Runway Show in the streets of Cuba.  When I saw the media coverage of this show I remember thinking, “What must the locals have thought of the decadence that comes with a couture runway show?” After looking at Giovan’s work, I thought of all the Cuban immigrants who have  for years spoken up for their loved ones isolated under Castro’s regime and was uncomfortable. Many of us, along photographers and film makers want to romanticize a place that is so clearly in a time capsule. Tria takes out the romantics but still captures beauty and decay in a state of commingling.  You can read an interview about her time in Cuba here and see all of Tria’s  personal work here.

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Recently I had the privilege to attend an Artists Open Studio out on Block Island, Rhode Island and got to visit the home and summer studio of sculptor, Sean Hartnett. To say I was captivated is putting it mildly.  His home, shared with artist and wife,  Leslie Hartnett,  is stunning. I felt like I had just stepped into a Edward Hopper painting. I was taken with the views and then I slowly began to grasp the beauty and scope of his sculptures. They are so organic  and placed in this landscape, they really took my breath away. My friend and island host,  Claire Marshack, asked if we could take some photos and I was trying to appreciate the work and snap shots as the gorgeous island light was changing. Oh, why didn’t I touch every single piece? Why didn’t I look closer?! It was simply too much to take in because the moment was so perfect. Sean and his wife live in Italy part of the year where he buys his marble and stone and then in the summer they head out to Block Island, accessible only by ferry. Well, you know the Virgo in me simply got caught up in the logistics of getting these sculptures out there. How does that all happen? I went on to his website and found a  video (so worth the watch) on his entire process, how he takes something so heavy and hard and mold and shapes it into art that is so sensual and light. Really incredible.

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That is Sean in the middle, his striking white hair matching his work, talking to his guests. Quiet the view, right?

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seanhartnett1  A view of his barn/studio. I mean, what a setting!!   seanhartnett8

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You can see some of Leslie’s work  hanging on this outdoor wall! She creates these amazing organic faces with sea life, food and vegetables all with intricate and colorful majolica glazes. Needless to say I was enchanted.

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Here is the video on his process and his home in Italy, grab a cup of coffee and watch it. You will be inspired!

 

My girlfriend, Lisa Daria Kennedy, pointed me in the direction of Vera Iliatova’s paintings when she was trying to encourage me to take off some of my self imposed rules in my new painting practice. yes, I am actually painting! Lisa knows that I am drawn to figurative work (doesn’t that sound a bit more spectacular than, fashion illustration?) but she also knows that I had suddenly opened up my eyes and heart to landscape and still life all in a short period of time. She explained how Russian born Iliatova adds all these elements in her work. I read up on Vera’s work and needless to say my descriptions of what I see in her work don’t include “…heroines’ escape into the bosom of Mother Nature as a romantic protest…” although  I do agree with the use of the word heroine.

I feel rather parochial  when I say that her work makes me feel very Nancy Drew. Remember how she was just coming of age and she seemed to be quite a bit more responsible than the rest of us?  How did her parents let her have that much freedom to solve all those mysteries, anyway? Nancy didn’t have helicopter parents.

It is the sense of  mystery and nostalgia that appeals to me in Vera’s work.  It intrigues me and keeps me interested.

Vera Iliatova  said: My paintings start with purely visual ideas: a certain kind of light and a certain kind of space that I think would be interesting to paint at the moment.  The process begins as an abstraction and slowly the painting evolves into a composite of different pictorial elements.  I know that eventually the painting will be populated with figures but I don’t have a pre-determined narrative that I am consciously aware of.  As the painting develops, it begins to evoke certain experiences, either from my own life, or from things that I have seen in films or read about.  

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Just fascinated with Julian’s work! These paintings make me feel like I am on a grand house tour.  I was putting together an “Inspirational Interiors” Pinterest board and surprised with my love of formality. While I tend to like urban apartments, I have come to terms with that fact that my “ideal” urban apartment would be a chic Parisian apartment with high ceilings, long drapes and intricate architecture. A girl can dream, can’t she? I have searched around and have come up with very little on him personally. Mystery! He paints the loveliest interiors, possibly all commissioned so we are not getting to see them, which is a shame. The work I have found captures an element of elegance we don’t get a glimpse of very often. I love the loose brush strokes and the choices he makes on what to highlight in a room. This exterior below is what caught my attention initially and made me do a mad search for his work.

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“His interiors show much more creativity than a photograph,” says San Francisco interior designer Andrew Fisher. “Plus, you can tell lies here and there–make things a few feet taller, make everything look prettier. . . . It’s also interesting to see how the artist perceives how you live.” 

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