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Mary Wood Forman (1918-1989) Photographer

Mary Wood Forman lived only what could be described as an exotic - well traveled life. She was born to American Presbyterian missionaries that were stationed in India and was born in Mussoorie. It is located north of the capital of New Delhi and at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. During her childhood it was a scenic place of beauty, likewise a place where she was captured by the cross-culture of being an American child in a truly foreign land, even though Britain ruled India at this time.

Her parents returned to Columbus, Ohio in 1923 so the children could attend school. Forman went on to get a degree from Ohio State University (1940) and a graduate degree in Social Work from Western Reserve University in 1944. After college she spent many years abroad, lived in New York City, and then moved to Hartford, CT in 1956.

It was in Connecticut that she become interested in photography. She continued with her travels to Europe and the American West, recording what she sa…

Kimura Ichiro (1915-1978), Mashiko Master Potter

Mashiko, approximately 60 miles north of Tokyo is linked to the world famous potter, Shoji Hamada (1894-1978).  Hamada was the Japanese designated Living Treasure, who promulgated the virtues of pottery folkcraft (mingei).  Mashiko is famous for pottery wares that serve as the prime examples of mingei.

Kimura, a Mashiko native started his studies in Kyoto, but transferred to study under Hamada from (1935-1947), where he was powerfully influenced by his instructor.  After his apprenticeship he set up his own studio and kiln in Mashiko.  Much like the other fellow apprentices that studied under Hamada, he went on to become a major Mashiko fixture, though his premature death short-circuited his fame in the pottery world. 

Kimura was not widely known outside of Japan, yet within Japanese circles he was a master potter from the Mashiko region.  He had two important exhibits in Japan including one at the Tokyo National Museum (1964) and a full retrospective at the Mashiko Ceramic Art Museu…

Gladys Kashdin (1921-2014) Florida Artist

Dr. Gladys Shafran Kashdin was a combination of several remarkable people: Artist, Researcher, Writer, Teacher/Professor, Department University Administrator, Volunteer, Naturalist and Philanthropist.  Being dearly loved within the Tampa Bay region, the Museum of Science and Industry named its "Welcome Center" after her.

She was known for developing her artistic style from realistic figures to her increasing interest in nature, abstraction and conceptual forms. A recurring theme in her later work included the Everglades, the wetlands preserved into a national park.  She believed in the ongoing restoration of the Everglades, an effort to remedy the inflicted damage on the southern Florida environment. Her nature subjects were frequently executed in ink drawings on paper, however she is known for creating other subjects in paper and cloth collages, acrylic paintings, and serigraphs.

Kashdin's Everglades Series was a personal and scientific exploration of this unique Flo…

African Masks - Ethnology and Aesthetics

The concept of "Art" was alien to traditional Africans and "Art for art's sake" was rare in Africa.  Spirits inhabited everything in African life; the rivers that provided fish, the fields that produced the crops, and the forests that housed the game animals to eat.  Likewise, masks and sculptures were parts of rituals such as fertility and initiation ceremonies, as well as special royal court and agriculture celebrations.

A performer might dance at the end of a dignitary's funeral with a wooden mask and costume created with oil paint, feathers and fabric, with the hope that the newly departed spirit will find their way to the land of ancestors.  The living will appeal to the deceased spirit world from time to time for intercession and assistance with burdens and concerns.  Where the Africans saw their older masks as "sacred" carrying great spiritual weight, the early 20th century cubists such as Picasso and Juan Gris appreciated these masks for b…

Margaret Casey Gates, Washington, DC Artist (1903-1989)

Margaret Casey Gates, Washington, DC Artist (1903-1989) Normally, I accomplish extensive research before I sit down to write my artist blog.  Today is different, the information on Margaret Gates from the Archives from American Art website is so good and complete.  I am going to share it with you:   Margaret Casey Gates was born in 1903 in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. She studied art in the studio of Bertha Perry, and from 1924 to 1926 at the Corcoran Art School. She later studied under Henry Varnum Poor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. After working as a commercial artist from 1928-1929, Casey began studying at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in 1931 under C. Law Watkins. There, she met her husband, painter Robert Franklin Gates, and married on January 7, 1933. Robert Franklin Gates (1906-1982), who came to Washington, D.C. in 1930, also studied at the Phillips Gallery Art School and worked with Karl Knaths between 1934 and 1947. Between 1934 and 1941, Robert Gates, …

Leonard Thorpe, Modern British Artist

Thorpe, a totally modern artist, used London and the bucolic country side as his muse.  Clearly the London cityscape was his inspiration.  He painted all the city sights:  St. Paul's Cathedral, the Parliament, the Palace of Westminster, the Beefeaters at the Palace, the Victorian Memorial, Big Ben, the Monument and of course Trafalgar Square.  These London landmarks are painted with affirming gestures in moody blues and graphic grays.  His palette knife application technique, along with his brush work was applied in a quick layer over the oil underpainting.  There is an appearance of buildup-so caked on, that the results look molten.  This methodology created textured impressions right on the canvas.  He combined architectural details with spontaneous happenings.   

His color palette frequently includes red double-decker buses, Beefeater guards or flags that add balance to his moody paintings.  In "St. Paul's Cathedral" below, Thorpe presents a rainy evening with re…

Herta Czoernig-Conbanz, Woman Pioneer & Austrian Etcher

A Viennese wonder, Herta Czoernig-Conbanz (1886-1970) became a prolific artist. She spent most of her life walking the cities and towns of Austria, recording city street scapes and the countryside. Using her artistic tools and sketch pad, she captured picturesque streets, homes and scenery. Frequently she sketched with color pencils and watercolors and is generally considered to have been the last "topographical" artist in Vienna.

She was born in Klagenfurt. As a young girl she wanted to become an artist, however women were not accepted as students at the Graphic Academy of Vienna. So she attended the Art School for Women and later studied in Weimar, Germany. In Vienna, Professor Ludwig Michalek taught her the art of etching, a medium that she mastered skillfully. In the etching below, she demonstrates her needle carving skill on a metal plate, that was put into an acid bath and printed. One word only; Remarkable.

After World War II, in the mid-1940s, Herta Czoernig received…

Japanese Fire-Fighter Jacket

Vintage Japanese fire-fighters' jackets are popular with thrift store fashionistas.  They show up on ebay direct from Japan as well as high-end resell shops.  This blog will help you find a real one verses a contemporary fake.  A fire-fighting outfit is calledhikeshi sashiko hanten in Japanese.  These outfits consist of several layers which were wetted down to protect the firemen from burns, bruises and flames.  These multi-layers also guarded the fireman from falling objects.

The jacket's stitching techniques and design (see close up photo below) are referred to as sashiko.  The designers laid several pieces of cotton cloth over one another and stitched them together, perhaps like an Amish kitchen rag rug. Each row of fabric had a rolled up layer of cotton, providing a reinforced cloth that almost had a knotted surface.

Cotton fabric was used because it quickly absorbed water and could be died with indigo.  The term hanten implies short garment.  These jackets did not have co…

Idyllic Vintage Folk Art - Celebrating the Amateur Artists

What is the correct labeling for the artists who are unschooled, untrained, in the formal academic art training traditions?  With the start of the New York Museum of American Folk Art, art historians started by labeling these works as Folk Art, years later, untrained artist come under a variety of labels: Naive, Primitive, Outsider, Outliers and Folk Art.

Most amateur artists are unknown, they don't have full resumes and documentation of their work, as much of their work is produced for themselves, friends or family members.  In the case of these painters they would use materials that they had or were readily available.  Unlike their professional contemporaries, they painted not to gain fame but to preserve an account of adventurous days or happy imaginings.

In the first example, the idyllic genre scene depicts two hunters dressed in traditional red along with their English Pointers.The hunters are shooting at some pheasants in-flight overhead.  The scene could be anywhere in a no…