Well Met, Gala!

It’s the fashion event the world has been waiting for! Celebrity sightings galore, all the political statements you could ever hope for, money flowing as freely as Billie Eilish’s gown, and oh yeah- art. It’s The Met Gala!! Fun fact: when participants have ice cream there, it’s The Met Gala mode!

The first Met Gala was held in 1948 in celebration of the Costume Institute’s spring exhibition. From then on, it’s taken place on the first Monday of May, stealing the limelight from Kentucky Derby horses, who only get two days of glory before the media turns its fickle head north to the Big Apple. Until this year! As with everything, the Gala was canceled in 2020, and this year it was postponed until September. No word on whether or not this will be a new trend. I sort of like the idea, we’re all fired up about our back-to-school clothes, and The Met swoops in to feed our fashion frenzy. But nobody asked me.

Nor did anybody ask my favorite costumes, er- outfits? from the Gala this year, but I’m putting my vote in anyway. Best Dressed Male is easy: Timothee Chalamet! He looked comfortable and cool and I would like to place an order for the TJ Maxx version of that outfit, please. Best Dressed Female is harder, obviously. I’m declaring an official tie between Debbie Harry and Yara Shahidi. Stunning, stunning, stunning. For pictures of all the celebrities in their fanciest rags, check out Cosmo’s line-up: All the 2021 Met Gala Red Carpet Pictures of Celebrity Fashion (cosmopolitan.com)

In honor of this iconic fashion event, I’d like to share this trendy frock from the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas. I was there a few years ago when they had an exhibit featuring dresses First Ladies wore, and aren’t you glad I was? Otherwise, you may have gone your entire life not knowing Ann McMath wore her husband and sons painted onto her chest!

Lady Gaga’s got nothing on the former First Lady of Arkansas!

The Met is all about raising funds for the Costume Institute- aka, the museum’s fashion department. The Gala raised over $13 million in both 2018 and 2019. I’m sure high school theater departments everywhere are clutching their twenty-five year old costumes from the thrift store in jealous shock. Celebrities have worn gowns upwards of $35,000 in the past, which is 5K less than the price of a ticket. In related news, I just bought two athletic skirts for $20 a pop. We’re all winning on the red carpet this year!

Who do you think looked amazing at The Met Gala? More importantly, would you ever wear your husband upon your bosom?

One Rockin’ Art Quiz

Artists are inspired by all kinds of things: music, nature, stories, politics, maybe they have a muse (or a bunch of muses!) I’m no artist, but if I need to get my creative juices flowing, one thing never fails me.

Rocks.

The place we visit in northern Michigan is on the best rocky shoreline I’ve ever seen. The beach is covered with stones of all shapes, sizes, and color combinations. We spend hours out there every summer finding our favorites. This past Labor Day was no exception. Some of the rocks remind me of a particular artist, and using that (very subjective) basis, I designed a quiz, because who doesn’t love a quiz?! A while back there was this one on finding your art hero, and this one for determining your Enneagram/Art match, but nothing lately! We’re due for some quizzy fun.

Pick your favorite of these rocks. Then read below to see which famous (dead!) artist you are most drawn to. As always, this is one hundred percent accurate, no re-takes or re-dos. If the rock determines you love Edgar Degas, then Edgar Degas must be your favorite painter for all of eternity. Now, let’s rock and roll:

Don’t overthink it! There is no right or wrong answer. Just imagine walking down the beach… which of these beauties do you just have to pick up for a closer look?

Did you pick your favorite? Read on to learn who your new favorite artist is!

If you picked number ONE as you favorite: You must love Donatello! He worked with such marbley stone all the time, after all. This light swirly rock is reminiscent of the sculptures Donatello is so famous for. His David isn’t as famous as Michelangelo’s, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. He also sculpted St. Mark and St. John, the Evangelist. Rock #1 is probably thousands of years old and just now getting discovered, but Donatello was already famous by the time he was twenty. He was like the Taylor Swift of sculpting.

His paintings of trees, are what made me fall in love with Piet Mondrian.

If you like rock number THREE the best: You are into rebel artist and shadow master, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. If you’ve been reading Nice and Easel for a while, you know Caravaggio comes up a lot in my posts. He’s the bad boy of Baroque painting. He died after a brawl (not his first), at the tender age of thirty-six, but his legacy lived on in artists that admired and studied his techniques. Guys like Vermeer and Rembrandt. Fun fact: Caravaggio and I share a birthday! No surprise since we are both wild renegades.

If you picked rock number FOUR: Remember when I said there are no right or wrong answers? I lied! This is the right answer! Congratulations! You have better taste than everybody else! Just kidding. Maybe. This is a Petoskey stone- my favorite rock. (It’s normal to have a favorite rock, right?) Probably all Michiganders would pick this as the favorite. We have a thing for Petoskeys. If you liked this one best, you are a lover of fine things and obviously will only settle for the very best when it comes to art: Leonardo da Vinci. The King of the Renaissance. Maybe the King of Art, period. Like a Petoskey, da Vinci was unique and refined. He’s of course known for his paintings, but was a master drawer too. Here is some of his work with the same color palette as our beloved Petoskeys.

Last, but not least, if you picked rock number SIX: Isn’t this one so fun and funky? Are you a wild child like painter Jackson Pollock? Pollock was controversial, but even his critics were fascinated by him. He made active painting a “thing” by painting on the floor, moving all around the canvas, and splattering paint strategically. If he wasn’t the first artist to do all this, he was certainly the most famous. This rock looks like it could have been on the floor of Pollock’s studio when he was working on Autumn Rhythm (Number 30).

**************

That concludes our gravely quiz! Rock on, friends!

Francis David Millet: A Boatload of Talent

Thirty-six years ago today, before I was even born”, Tears for Fears was blowing up the charts with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Michael Jordan was named “Rookie of the Year,” you could get 5 pounds of potatoes for a dollar, New Coke made its villainous debut, and oceanographers found the Titanic on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean. Who else is picturing scuba divers in jean jackets and fanny packs? They all look like George Michael in my head!

In the movie, they allude to priceless art being lost on the Titanic. No word on whether or not anybody flung their arms open at the bow Kate Winslet-style, but on the art point, writers were correct. In fact, not only was priceless art lost that day, but so was an incredible artist.

Francis David Millet was one accomplished guy. He packed a lot into his tragically shortened life. Things like: assisted his surgeon father on the battlefields of the Civil War, attended Harvard University, was a board member for The Met and The National Gallery. He kept company with the likes of John Singer Sargent and Mark Twain. He was notorious for throwing great parties full of prominent people. Wikipedia says he was last seen helping women and children into lifeboats as the Titanic went down. He was a good person, with a full life. We were robbed of the art he never had the chance to create.

The good news is, his work is peppered across the world in various museums. But if you can’t make it to Brooklyn or London anytime soon, let me help:

*Lie.

Sidebar: I feel I deserve a pat on the back for the lack of puns in this post. I wrecken I showed great restraint.

The Virginian Art Scene

My oldest daughter and I squeezed in one last trip before school started this week. Rules for our trips together are: it has to be someplace neither of us have ever been.

That’s it.

This time we landed in colonial Williamsburg to indulge our inner history nerds. We were not even deterred when we sweat through our clothes in the first ten minutes of our arrival. For us, extreme heat only translates into an excuse to eat ice cream every day. Which we did. We also saw tons of great art! We flew into Norfolk, a town brimming with creativity. On our way to the Neon District (See? Already proving their creativity with a fun name for an Art District!) we discovered the mermaids. They were everywhere! I took pictures of twelve of them, and thought surely we hit every mermaid in the city, but there are over eighty! You can see my compilation on Instagram.

Norfolk is also home to The Chrysler Art Museum, which we did not visit, despite their air conditioning. We only had so much time, you know? And we were chasing the promise of a revolutionary-war cannon ball lodged into a church wall. (Found it! I love that stuff.) We did find our way to the Neon District, where even the benches and sidewalks featured paintings. Some examples:

The next day, we headed to Williamsburg, where I did insist on popping into the museum(s) (there are technically two, but they’re in the same building). Here I discovered an artist I’d never heard of, but truly loved. Mattie Lou O’Kelley grew up on a farm in Georgia, and rural life was a common theme in her paintings. The colors she used were simultaneously energizing and relaxing. They have a pointillism feel, but are really just tiny brush strokes. Aren’t they gorgeous?

In Yorktown we visited the American Revolutionary Museum (does this sound like a nerdy trip? It should. It was.) where there was a replica of Washington Crossing the Delaware. The original painting hangs in The Met, but I revered this one as the real thing. There was a woodcut engraving by Paul Revere of Crispus Attucks’ coffin. (Trivia: Who was Crispus Attucks? See below for answer.) Outside is a bronze, life-size George Washington that I unashamedly got a picture with. He was hot. And not just because of his ambition, success, and dogged determination to survive dysentery. He was hot to the touch. They might consider moving him to a shadier spot.

Everywhere we looked there was great art in Virginia. I went for the history, geeked out over the art! What a win!

Answer: Cripsus Attucks was killed in the Boston Massacre. The information under the engraving read, “Crispus Attucks, a sailor and dockworker of African and Wampanoag Indian descent… resented the presence of British soldiers in the city… Attucks became the first casualty of the American Revolution when he and four other men were killed that evening.”

New Exhibit, Old Artist

I try not to saturate this blog with too much of the same artist. After all, there are so many talented artists in the past and present, why would I repeat any? But there are some that are just so dang relevant. So many artists that create work that relates to almost any life experience. Maybe more than any other artist (even more than my beloved da Vinci!) I am tempted to write about Van Gogh week after bloggy week. And sometimes I do. Mostly I exercise the kind of self-restraint usually reserved for not eating a fourth ice cream sandwich.

But last week, the girls and I met some friends in Detroit to go to the interactive Van Gogh exhibit, and I have to tell you about it! We heard about this exhibit in the dark days of 2020, and planned to travel to Indianapolis for it. Then in the much brighter days of Spring 2021, Detroit announced it would host the exhibit as well. Win! We bought tickets immediately for the evening of August 9. Later, I would learn we would have two conflicts with our ticket time and a 5am flight the next day, but it was worth it.

We showed up early and were delighted when they let us right in, without mentioning our ticket time. It turns out Monday evenings are a good time for this particular event. There were maybe ten other people there. No other kids except mine and Carla’s (a total of six- three boys, three girls because we are all about balance) were there. I’m certain everybody thought our kids were charming and loved their commentary. I think my youngest daughter’s dance moves were especially appreciated. Cringe.

I did not make it thirty seconds into the first room before choking up. Quotes from the famous author (mainly to his brother, Theo) illuminated the room. This was the first one that made me cry:

It’s so true. And in light of Vincent’s tragic death, extra touching.

The second (and last!) room is a thirty-five minute Van Gogh art extravaganza, in which viewers are immersed in 360 degrees the painters artwork. The paintings are brought to life via their grandeur, the occasional blurb read aloud en Francais, and music. Here are a few pictures that naturally, don’t do it any justice.

I loved the exhibit too, because it was an opportunity to experience something well-known (Carla pointed out that in college Sunflowers was so common, people had prints of it in their dorm rooms) in an unusual way. “Beyond Van Gogh” took what we’ve seen a thousand times to the next level. They took what was familiar and maybe “old” to some of us and reframed it to be new all over again. If you have the chance, definitely go to this exhibit! Or, as every person who crosses the threshold of this exhibit says, “Gogh see it!”

How Not to Appreciate Art

This little blog is coming up on its third birthday in a couple weeks! Over the last three years I’ve discovered some incredible artists and artwork. What an absolute delight. Here are a few things I’ve learned since beginning this blog three short years ago.

  1. It’s okay to like art and not the artist, or vice versa. Diego Rivera, for instance. I couldn’t disagree with his politics more, but you know what? He was a decent artist. I don’t need to have replicas of his stuff over my mantel, but I can appreciate that the guy could put up a killer mural. We are really going to limit the beauty in our lives if we only take in art made by top-notch people. Take Caravaggio, for another instance. He was not a fun hang. His art? Life-changing.
Some artists suck, but are geniuses at say- lighting.

2. The other day my kids ate a can of Spaghettios. I used to love Spaghettios when I was little! Now? Not so much. Art is like a can of Spaghettios. It’s okay to let your taste evolve. For instance, I used to strongly dislike surrealism. But artists like Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, and Heimir Bjorgulfsson have become some of my favorite artists! I used to think Ivan Albright was too dark and twisty for my Pollyanna sensibilities, but it turns out I can get down with some death and decay. So don’t write that trippy abstract art off quite yet. Or be so quick to think still-lifes are boring-schmoring. Unless we’re talking video art. That stuff is crap. (Haha.) (But seriously, I haven’t changed my mind on that yet.)

3. It’s true- The Louvre has some decent art. Same for Chicago, Detroit, the Met… all the biggies. But I don’t need to tell you there is incredible art all over the place! Some of the best art I’ve ever seen has been in small cities or in alleyways, under bridges, or on my fridge (thanks, kids!) Gone are the days of “stuffy” art (which, btw, I also love). Art doesn’t have to be swanky or intimidating, or housed in colossal museums with marble pillars. Art can be a cool figure in downtown Northfield, Minnesota, or in a sculpture park you happen upon in Lincoln, Nebraska. For a long time I wrote these pieces off as “lesser thans” because I was holding out for the National Galleries of the world. Sad!

Have you reconsidered the way you look at or appreciate art? I can’t wait to discover more in the next three years!

Art Around the World

The Olympics are here! The Olympics are here! They are my favorite! I love the pomp and circumstance, the inspirational stories, the comeback kids, the fraction-of-a-second wins, the athletic bodies*, the national pride, the memes, the sick cellies, and heartbreaking losses. I love all of it!

In the spirit of worldwide camaraderie, I’d like to look at some art from countries this blog has not explored. Obviously, we have looked at tons of art from Europe since it is the world’s unofficial epicenter of art (historically speaking), and I live in the U.S., so we’ve had lots of posts on American art and artists because it’s been easily accessible. But what about… Peru? Trinidad and Tobago? Cameroon? Let’s look at some art from around the world!

Peru sent 35 athletes to compete in 17 sports for these Olympic games. So far they haven’t medaled. If this were the art Olympics, they definitely would have sent painter/sculptor Victor Delfin. If NBC did a backstory montage on him, they would surely mention that he was the youngest of eight children in a poverty-stricken family. At age 14, he earned a scholarship to an art school and the rest goes down in history. Delfin is best known for his sculpture in Lima: El Beso (The Kiss). Spice alert: It’s modeled after he and his wife!

Talk about a grand romantic gesture.

Trinidad and Tobago have 13 men and 9 women competing in six different sports this year. They have yet to medal, but Tessa Alexander deserves a gold for her stunning artwork. I especially love her portraits. The way she uses watercolors makes me a little weepy. She incorporates her heritage into her work too, which I love. Something tells me she is keeping close tabs on how her countrymen and women are doing in Tokyo. Visit Tessa’s amazing website here.

Cameroon (it’s in Africa- I had to double check) has won six medals since they began participating in the summer games in 1964. (They also had a skier who went to Salt Lake City- I feel like Isaac Menyoli should get a shout-out for that!) This year they have 12 representatives in Tokyo. Angu Walters is the stunning A2W (Artist to Watch) in Cameroon. He uses tiny little shapes to put together the brightest, coolest artwork. His stuff reminds me of Pablo Picasso’s work… but I like it even better. Check his stuff out here.

I will be cheering for the U.S.A. in every single event, but if we’re not in the running, you can bet I’ll be rooting for these smaller countries. As for their art? I’m always cheering on the Worldwide Republic of Art.

*Oh, what? Like you’re not checking out those ultra-elite abs?!

5 Paintings That Are Just Too Awkward

Last week my daughter (who loves hugs about as much as a porcupine) got a game called Awkward Hugs. It is super funny. Two people are locked into a hug together (literally- players wear belts with connecting locks.) and can’t be unlocked until they answer three Yes/No questions the same. For every differing answer there is a consequence, like “Give your hug partner a nose kiss.” I was falling off the kitchen bar stool laughing at my daughters. Here they are:

I used to think I loved awkward things. My philosophy was that awkward equals hilarity. Then I tried watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise and it was TOO awkward for my eyeballs. My sweet spot for awkwardness lies somewhere between Matt Lauer’s interview with Tom Cruise (too awkward!) and super weird engagement pictures (I can’t get enough!) While artists can be super cool and edgy with their hot talent and their tendency to get so wrapped up in a project they forget to eat (who does that?!) they are not exempt from creating some truly awkward artwork. Here are five paintings that I think are just too awkward:

The most awkward thing about The Ugly Duchess by Quentin Matsys isn’t dressing a man in the year 1513 in a corset and headdress, (although that was not exactly en vogue back then) but in the way the model is holding his fingers. Is he trying to throw out a gang sign? Is he doing math in his head? Is he showing off his double jointedness? Playing an invisible fiddle? I don’t know, but it’s too awkward for me to consider for very long.

This is so awkward, it actually pains me to post it. Never say I’m not committed to my art. This is Gabrielle d’Estrees and One of Her Sisters. Apparently the symbolism here is that Gabrielle is announcing to the world that her sister is pregnant. Maybe blurting her sister’s big news is even more awkward than the fashion in which she is making the announcement.

While we are in this very bizarre, nipply headspace, let’s just put Frida Kahlo’s painting out there. She had some odd self-portraits, but dare I say, this one takes the cake? I’m less weirded out by Frida, than I am by her nurse. She reeeeaaaallly looks like she wants to wean baby/adult Frida.

Look, I want to like Andrea Mategna, I do. He was a very skilled artist. But Mategna, why are you portraying my Lord and Savior as a little drunk baby?! Jesus’ face here is painfully awkward. Almost as bad as watching the fantasy suite episode of The Bachelor. Do better, Mategna. Do better.

Finally, an oldie but a goodie: American Gothic. Here are two people I would love to see play Awkward Hugs. I have such a soft spot for these two. I feel like she just finished saying, “Wait, what camera am I looking at?” and he was all, “What do I do with my hands? Give me that pitchfork!” They are just awkward enough to be totally enduring.

May your week be awkward in ways you can laugh about later and not irrevocably weird like the time your mom promised the “Dorothy Hamill” was in style.

I looked like a mushroom.

Arcimboldo: Not the Only Food Artist in Town

I got it in my head, I was going to learn to make fruit bouquets. Like the time I got it in my head I was going to perfect charcuterie boards, or the time I was going to make every recipe in the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook, or find the world’s most legendary cinnamon bun recipe. A lot of my bright ideas revolve around food. There’s nothing that can be done about it. I have food on my mind most of the time.

I enlisted my sister, Jamie, and daughter, Charlotte to join my endeavor. It was super fun! I laughed a lot, though with those two, we could be taste-testing raw meat and I’d have a blast. They’re very fun people. Here are our finished products:

It’s not fair, but yes, of the two of us, Jamie did get the good looks AND the brains. She wisely started with a small bouquet. I was still stabbing grapes, balling melons, and cursing my kabob sticks when she was putting the finishing touches on hers. Anyway. You know it got me thinking about food art. And my all-time favorite food artist: Giuseppe Arcimboldo. You can read about him in this previous post or this previous post.

Tons of artists are using food as inspiration, or even as a medium these days. Take Carl Warner, for instance. Warner is a British artist, famous for his landscapes of food. Think “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” At first glance, it’s hard to recognize the picture is food- it really does look like a lovely little village or farm community. Next thing you know, your stomach is growling because you realize you’re looking at mountains of bread or a wagon full of berries.

If these don’t make you hungry, let me also mention Warner has done ads for DiGiornio, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Nestle, and Honey Nut Cheerios. Some of my favorites! And if you STILL aren’t hungry, let me direct you to Warner’s delectable website right here.

I don’t know about you, but after all that food, I need something to wash it down. Amelia Harnas uses red wine to stain portraits into fabric. Brilliant. My wine stains always turn out as stains in the shape of embarrassment. If you visit her website, you can see what kind of wine she used for each piece. I would like to see her launch her own line of wines: a Sauvignon Blanc Canvas. A Moscarto, A Full Pourtrait. Just a few thoughts.

If you prefer less alcohol in your art, you may be interested in Andrew Gorkovenko– a Russian designer, brand developer, and tea artist. (I know! I’m also waiting for him to make some vodka art!) He uses tea leaves to make landscapes advertising where the tea is from. Smart, right?

Happy Fourth of July weekend, friends! Bon Apetit!

2 Great Dads and 1 Sucky One

Dads: we wouldn’t be here without them. In my life, being a dad meant (and means!) hanging pictures in your daughters’ first apartments, making sure your kid remembers to get insurance in between jobs, texting groan-worthy jokes, putting worms on and taking fish off, keeping the lawn mowed, remembering garbage day (every week!), and hauling kids from lesson to game to tryout to practice on a loop for eternity, among millions of other things. In honor of Father’s Day last Sunday, I’ve chosen some father/offspring art. Two sweet dads and a rotten one.

Karl Wilhelm Friedrich painted this sweet painting that I love so much and not just because of the dad’s gingerbeard. The little girl clutches a toy pony, that gives the painting a great bit of color, as she explains something worrisome to her dad. Maybe she stole the pony? Maybe she had a bad dream, or is confessing to saying a bad word? Whatever it is, her dad is taking her concern seriously, which I find so enduring. It reminds me of the time I scratched my dad’s car (scratch is an understatement- it was like four feet long.) He listened so lovingly and patiently before pointing out a rubber bike handle “scratch” can be rubbed out with a little spit and a thumb.

I hope she’s not whispering something like, “I see dead people.”

Mary Cassatt is best known for her depictions of mothers and their children, but here is one she did of her brother and nephew. At first, I didn’t like it because of how the black clothing blends together, but the resemblance of the two through the eyes is so dear. I like how they’re reading the Op/Ed section together. Probably about Prohibition. (Is that the right time frame? The right country even? Dunno.) My brother loves watching Red Wing games with his son because it’s the only time his five-year-old will really snuggle with him. I think the Cassatt men share the same affinity for current events and Steve Jobs-esque wardrobes.

Jr. may be daydreaming about growing a sick moustache like his dad’s.

I promised a rotten dad and I have a doozie. I give you… Chronos and his child. Now this? Is an awful father. Flying over the land, holding his baby by an ankle, while also wielding a scythe isn’t even the worst of his offenses. He also ate five of his kids. So, there’s that too. Don’t worry, Zeus made him pay for it later, and the kids were regurgitated (don’t you wonder how they depicted that scenario on the family tree?!) I “liked” this painting best of all the Chronos paintings. If you’re into something a little more disturbing, you might check out Peter Paul Reubens interpretation, or (worse, worse, worse!) Francisco Goya’s reimagining.

Please view to the tune of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”

I cannot end with that awful story. Here is a cheery father/daughter painting by Carl Larsson to cleanse your eyeballs. Isn’t Brita cute? Isn’t her dad fun and scythe-free? Till next year, dads!

More piggyback rides, less regurgitation! That’s how fatherhood should be!