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Bambi Artist Tyrus Wong Gets His Due

Tyrus Wong, The ‘Bambi’ Artist Who Endured America’s Racism, Gets His Due

The late Tyrus Wong, whose paintings formed the basis of Disney’s iconic film, is finally receiving the recognition he deserves.

Tyrus Wong
Bambi visual development, 1942, watercolor on paper

Even if you’ve never heard the name Tyrus Wong before, you’ve likely seen his work. Maybe not in a museum or gallery, but you’ve probably enjoyed the late artist’s fascinating brushstrokes ― or the films that they inspired ― in the comforts of your home.

Until his death last year at the age of 106, Wong was considered America’s oldest living Chinese-American artist and one of the last remaining icons of Disney’s golden age of animation. Few people outside of his studio could identify him during his lifetime, but his art was eerily ubiquitous. Handpicked by Walt Disney to guide one of his films, Wong’s watercolor sketches formed the basis of “Bambi” and, later, Warner Bros.′ live-action movies like “Rebel without a Cause.” His calligraphic imagery wound its way onto Hallmark Christmas cards, kites and hand-painted California dinnerware. He did show in galleries and museums, too ― with greats like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, no less.

And yet, it wasn’t until recently ― later in his life ― that he began receiving the recognition he deserved. It was in 1942 when he painted a minuscule buck leaping through a forest felled by blazing flames, an electric landscape that would heavily influence the World War II-era movie about a fawn who lost his mother. Seventy-five years after “Bambi,” Wong is the subject of an “American Masters” film on PBS, a documentary portrait that reveals how he overcame a harrowing immigration process and years of racism in the United States to become one of the most prolific artists in recent memory.

Courtesy of the Tyrus Wong family
Portrait of Tyrus Wong

“Tyrus Wong’s story is a prime example of one of the many gaping holes in our society’s narrative on art, cinema, and Western history,” Pamela Tom, the director behind “Tyrus,” set to air on PBS Sept. 8, explained in a statement. “By telling his story, I wanted to shine light on one of America’s unsung heroes, and raise awareness of the vital contributions he’s made to American culture.”

Her 90-minute documentary follows Wong from his birth in Canton (now Guangzhou), China, to his attempts to immigrate to the United States in 1919. Detained for a month, he, along with his father, endured extensive interrogation before being allowed to enter the country, only to live in poverty once they arrived. As multiple sources in the film point out, American society in the 1920s and ’30s was not kind to Chinese-American communities ― many immigrants saw only a few options for work, including acting as laundry men, house boys or restaurant staff. And the world of animation and film, a more than unlikely field Wong fought tooth and nail to enter, was not much kinder. Described as “an old boy’s club,” Wong recounts how he was called a racial slur on his first day with Republic Pictures.

Still, his sights were ultimately set on fine art. An eventual graduate of Otis Art Institute, the animator, designer, painter and kite maker rose to the coveted status of a Disney Legend by 2001. Beyond that, his work indeed hangs in museums, his name appearing in placards next to other greats. “He had a lot of dignity, but he also felt the pangs of racism,” Tom told HuffPost in an earlier interview. “I think Tyrus represents success. He represents someone who’s a survivor, who broke these racial barriers.”

Today, immigrants in the U.S. continue to face astounding obstacles. Just a few days before the premiere of “Tyrus,” President Donald Trump and his administration initiated the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections, putting nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation if members of Congress fail to strike a deal. Wong’s story illuminates just how difficult it is to succeed in a world that’s designed to test your limits at every turn.

“It’s so unlikely,” a voice in the film’s trailer declares of Wong’s biography, “and that’s what makes it so valuable.”

Ahead of the debut of “Tyrus,” HuffPost is premiering an exclusive clip from the “American Masters” film. For more information on the project, head to PBS.

Tyrus” will air on PBS on Sept. 8 at 9 p.m ET. See more images of Wong’s artwork below.

Tyrus Wong
Bambi visual development, 1942, watercolor on paper

Tyrus Wong
Bambi visual development, 1942, watercolor on paper
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Tyrus Wong
Pre-production illustration, possibly from the Warner Bros film “Gypsy”

Tyrus Wong
Reclining nude, circa 1936, oil on canvas

Ildiko Lazslo
Pamela Tom and Tyrus in Tyrus’s kite studio.

Tyrus Wong
Tyrus Wong’s self-portrait, late 1920s.

Courtesy of the Tyrus Wong family
Tyrus Wong painting in his studio.

UCLA Medical School's 'Guest Artist' Is Helping To Teach Doctors About Disease

Reposted from Huffington Post Arts & Culture

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Ted Meyer, Scarred for Life: Meyer uses block-print ink to transform human scars into vibrant colorful abstractions in his “Scarred for Life” series, inviting others to share the physical remnants of their survival stories.
 

Ted Meyer is the guest artist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. If you weren’t aware that medical schools had guest artists, you’re not alone. But this initiative is very real, aiming to teach doctors about illness through the practice of art.

Yes, Meyer’s work brings artists together to help educate future physicians and epidemiologists on the more human aspects of disease. “The artists use their work to tell a story,” Los Angeles-based Meyer told The Huffington Post. “It helps the doctors look at people as more than something to cure.”

avian

Daphne Hill, Avian Flu: “Daphne does work about germs and her fears of them sickening herself and her children. Her talk was interesting as she explained how her fears developed and how doctors might talk with someone like her who has already been checking the Internet and read the possible worst case scenarios.”
Meyer began his stay at the medical school in 2010, though the foundation of his ongoing project began much earlier — in fact, his inspiration dates back to his birth. “I was born with a very rare genetic condition,” said Meyer, who grew up with Gaucher’s disease, a disorder in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and organs. “There was no treatment for it. Starting at about age 6 I was in and out of the hospital all the time. I grew up thinking maybe I’d make it to thirty, maybe not.” Among other things, manifestations of the illness include bruising, fatigue, anemia and skeletal disorders.

During his time in the hospital, Meyer turned to art as a means of expression, release and inner healing. Creating imagery filled with skeletal bodies contorted in pain, Meyer’s resulting series was titled “Structural Abnormalities.” He often made use of the materials around him, incorporating bandages and IVs into his images, all revolving around the idea of, in Meyer’s words, “being in a body that didn’t work particularly well.”

Bandaid, by Damienne Merlina

Damienne Merlina, Bandaid
And then, something unexpected happened. Meyer’s health began to improve. “I really hit a point where, thanks to Western technology, there was a new treatment. Almost all of my symptoms disappeared,” he said. “I had my hip replaced so I could walk normally.” Although undoubtedly a miracle in terms of his life and wellbeing, the sudden shift left Meyer directionless as an artist.

After a period of uncertainty, Meyer resolved to shift his artistic perspective entirely. While still focused on the body, his work shifted from its “singular and isolated” mode to one more “happy and sexual.” More importantly, instead of sharing his own story, he began inviting others to share theirs.

For this series, which Meyer dubbed “Scarred for Life,” he applies block-print ink to human scars and the skin surrounding them. He then proceeds to press paper to skin, and subsequently accents the images with paint and pencil, turning physical remnants of suffering into inimitable splashes of color and line. Although the project center around scars, the art is less about suffering and more about survival. “I make these prints that look like Rothkos — color field prints,” he said. “I don’t want [to emphasize] the shock value of, ‘Oh, look how disfigured they look.’ For me, it’s a story more like mine: let’s make the best out of this that we can from this point forward.”

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Ted Meyer, Breast Cancer-Mastectomy
Meyer explained the intense reactions he received in response to the works, which toured everywhere from the United Nations to the Pasadena Armory; reactions of an intensity he never experienced when painting. “People would come look at my work and just sort of break down crying,” he said. “Others came up to me and said, ‘Look at my scar, let me tell you about my scar.'” He was receiving emails twice a week from people all around the world, all wanting to share their personal scar story.

This gave Meyer an idea. With so many people grappling with illness and using art as an outlet, perhaps their creative efforts could serve as a means of unorthodox education as well. “It became very apparent to me that all these people who do work about their illnesses, really have a lot to say,” Meyer said. “Maybe they could teach something to medical professionals. There has been art therapy designed to help patients, but I thought maybe there is something to teach the doctors here. Perhaps they can look at patients’ artworks and see something beyond the clinical. It’s not just ‘oh, they have multiple sclerosis’ or ‘it’s a broken neck.’ In a way, it’s like art therapy for doctors.”

As a result, for the past five years, Meyer has served as a guest artist at the UCLA’s medical school, a position he carved out and created for himself, curating artist talks and exhibitions that serve to educate the medical staff. In particular, Meyer’s programming is designed for first and second year medical students, most of whom have not yet had an opportunity to work with patients in person. To provide future doctors with more tangible understanding of living with certain afflictions, artists speak about their condition, their artworks, and the relationship between the two.

susan

Susan Trachman, Order #2
Susan has MS and does work about organization and control as she has less control over her body. He media is all the old medical supplies used in her treatment
Mainly, his position entails recruiting and curating a network of artists exploring issues of illness and identity, inviting them to show their work and tell their stories. The conditions represented are as diverse as the artistic media explored. “There is a woman Susan who has multiple sclerosis,” Meyer said, “and for 25 years she’s been keeping all the bottles she’s used — all the saline and everything — she takes them and she organizes them in patterns. She explained to the medical students that when you have MS you have absolutely no control over your body. You can’t predict your own movements. But by organizing these bottles, she had found one area she could control.”

Meyer’s program caters to doctors who, though familiar with all the technicalities of medical proceedings, aren’t as well versed in the human aspects of the profession. “There are a number of doctors who are very smart but when they get on the floor and have to start dealing with patients they break down,” he said. Especially today, many doctors don’t have the proper time to truly get to know their patients, the ways their various struggles have shaped the people they are.

“There was another woman who had a headache for around four years. During that period she had lost her ability to name things, she couldn’t remember the nouns. When she finally got rid of her migraine, she went back and photographed all the things she couldn’t remember. For someone to tell their story to first year med students — it’s not just, ‘Oh, you have a headache, what medicine should I give you?’ It’s a new way to understand the life process of living with an illness.”

Meyer’s unorthodox merging of art and medicine proves that art therapy isn’t only helpful for patients, but doctors as well. “It’s a new way to connect,” Meyer said. “We are making positive things out of these horrible situations.”

A Brief Yet Complex Color History Of Crayola Crayons

Reposted from Huffington Post Arts & Culture

Few things stir up childhood nostalgia as quickly as a fresh box of crayons. It’s easy to see what makes them an appealing collectors’ item. For Ed Welter, a former Nike project manager from Oregon, the allure went a step further.

No one, not even Crayola, had recorded a full history of crayons. So it became Welter’s challenge.

As a devoted collector, he began focusing on crayons around 2000, soon after selling off an extensive beer-can collection. Welter gathered box after box, with some dating back to the 1880s. Old catalogs from libraries around the country (and, later, on Google Books) allowed him to cobble together a timeline. By 2014, Welter had amassed over 3,000 boxes of colored wax, about half of which were Crayola. Then he sold everything (Crayola purchased its namesake boxes while the others went to various collectors) and retired to Spain.

What Welter had discovered in his 14 years of collecting is that Crayola’s color history is absurdly complicated. On his website, Crayon Collecting, Welter laments how singlehandedly piecing it all together was difficult not only “just from the sheer amount of detail, but also because of the convoluted swapping and renaming of colors.” For example, the crayon which the company named “Blue” when it got its start in 1903 was not the same “Blue” by the 1930s. It was given a new name, which no longer exists today, and “Blue” became a brighter shade of the color.

Confused? It’s okay. It took about eight whole months for Welter to piece together Crayola’s history, which he described to The Huffington Post as “complex” and, pun intended, “colorful.”
There are crayon colors that no longer exist today, many of them coming from old painters’ palettes.

In essence, Crayola became such a hit because the company figured out a way to inexpensively combine paraffin wax with safe pigments, according to Welter. Colors in the early years drew from paints available from art suppliers at the time, and many of these shades have since dropped out of production.

Among the original shades that have been unceremoniously discontinued, according to Welter’s research: Burnt Umber, Celestial Blue, Charcoal Grey, Cobalt Blue, English Vermillion, Madder Lake, Ultramarine Blue, Van Dyke Brown and Venetian Red. Raw Sienna lives on in name, but as a different shade of brown than its predecessor. Crayola officially “retired” Raw Umber in 1990 along with seven other shades. Still others have dropped out without so much as a goodbye.

discontinued crayons 2

Original Crayola shades that have been discontinued. Courtesy Ed Welter.

“New” Crayola crayons aren’t often new, just renamed. By 2013, Welter had counted 755 color names that had ever been sold, but only 331 individual colors.

In 1903, the company used 54 names for 38 separate colors. By the end of 1958, the company had created 138 names for 108 colors sold at any point in time. By 2015, it had bestowed 759 names upon 331 colors.

Special crayon boxes with colors like Iron Man Blue and Liberty Blue are just the plain old Blue you’d find in any regular box. Sweet Georgia Peach is really just Melon. Tye Dye Lime is Green Yellow. (Crayola might be on to something, though, for wanting to keep things simple.)

blues and reds

Blue and red shades from Crayola’s early years, compared. Courtesy Ed Welter.

Crayola once issued a box with several crayons of the same color under different names.

In 1949, Crayola debuted a new 48-count box of crayons, filled with lies.

“They pulled a fast one on everybody,” Welter wrote on his site. Light Turquoise Blue and Turquoise Blue look identical, as do Dark Green and Green. And good luck figuring out the difference between Brilliant Rose, Medium Rose and Light Magenta. Or Medium Violet and Violet.

same colors

Courtesy Ed Welter.

Certain colors have been renamed for political reasons, like “Flesh.”

What color is flesh? According to Welter, it’s the lightly pigmented, roughly universal shade we see on our palms — like the Crayola crayon by that name. For most people, however, flesh refers to skin tone, and the problem with making one beige-y shade the only skin-tone crayon available is obvious. But until the early 1960s, Welter explained, the company hadn’t yet realized how the name could cause consternation. A social researcher noticed children using the shade to draw people, teasing darker-skinned classmates who didn’t match the crayon. Shortly after the researcher wrote a letter to the company in 1962, (after a couple back-and-forth years with the name Pink Beige, for some reason) the Crayola shade became known as Peach.

Indian Red was also renamed, though not until 1999. The name actually referred to a pigment from a plant found in India, Welter told HuffPost, and could have been tweaked to “India Red.” To avoid misconceptions, however, the company chose a completely new — and completely neutral — name: Chestnut.

flesh v peach

“Flesh” or “Peach”? Courtesy Ed Welter.

The Macaroni and Cheese crayon was named by a pasta-loving 6-year-old.

For much of the company’s history, Crayola’s crayon names were plain. Then in 1983, a new line for small children with names like Birdie Blue and Kitty Cat Black was introduced. Metallics, like Tiger Eye and Moonstone, followed a few years later with other specialty crayons. And, in 1992, the company opened up naming rights to anyone. Fans of all ages got the chance to name sixteen brand-new colors — which Welter says were, indeed, not recycled from past boxes.

“I wrote a letter to Crayola (all by myself, a proud six-year-old), entering the contest,” a grown-up Adrienne Watral told The Huffington Post in an email. When she found out that her submission had won a month later, the crayon company flew Watral’s whole family out to Hollywood, showering them with “enough Crayola swag to last a lifetime.” And the new orange crayon had a name: Macaroni and Cheese. “I remember being interviewed for various news stations on television and being asked how I thought of the name,” she wrote. “This was the easiest question … I named the color of my favorite food!”

Another famous color was named by a 12-year-old Sam Marcus, who drew small facial expressions to correspond with each new crayon. His “laughter” face was colored pink because, Marcus told HuffPost in an email, he’d blush when someone tickled him as a kid. Hence Tickle Me Pink was born.

We’d also like to note that Purple Mountain’s Majesty was named by an 89-year-old Mildred Samson — proving that coloring knows no boundaries.

mac and cheese crayon

Adrienne Watral with her winning crayon. Courtesy photo.

Despite all the changes, Welter says the color quality has remained fairly consistent throughout the past century.

The biggest overall change, Welter explained, happened after World War II, when many of the pigment suppliers Crayola had been using for years could no longer sell to the company. Either the supply had been ruined or the business relationship had altered, putting the company in the odd position of finding new and ever-so-slightly-different sources.

“You know how people are with, ‘Oh, back in my day, colors were so much richer!'” Welter told HuffPost. “But I actually colored on paper with all of them.” By and large, there were only very gradual changes, like the new pigments and perhaps minor tweaks to different formulas. “Since the ’60s, they’ve kept pretty true to their basic colors.”

crayola spreadsheet

Click to view the complete color chart
As for Welter, he now spends his time “virtually collecting” crayons by digging up information and fixing inaccuracies around the Internet. He warns that Wikipedia is particularly inaccurate when it comes to Crayola, but since the site does not allow contributors to cite their own research, the false information remains unchecked. It bothers him, but not enough to stop his efforts.

“When you’re a collector,” he said, “you’re in it for the minutia.”

The Art Inspector: Saving the Earth by Changing Art

Creative industries have changed standards and best practices to adopt sustainable and environmental techniques in design and production. Architecture has adopted LEED Performance design into standard practice, and Industrial Design begins with thinking about the end of life of a product and how to leave the least amount of impact on the environment. Both of these industries fought for decades, since the 1970s, against changing habits, systems and academic content. Resistors during the transformation proclaimed they would all go out of business; it was impossible to get all stakeholders on board; and they didn’t want to be creatively strangled.

This shared history of transforming creative industry leads us to a problem we are facing within the Art world. Can artists change the way they create work to make a healthier planet? Personally, I believe so, however, with the inclusion of all key players from the art world, including: art institutions, art media, academia, retailer/manufacturers, collectors and artists. Art seeds culture and influences public behavior. If artists can change their standard of practice then the rest of the world will follow.

2013-02-27-artinspector2.jpg
Art Inspector assessing quilters studio. Photo by Wendy Crockett.

How is this transformation possible? Incorporating a triangle approach to such transformation isThe Art Inspector, a social practice artwork I founded during my candidacy for a Masters in Fine Arts at San Jose State University, uses aHealthy Art Program (education), Legislative Reform (advocacy) and Third Party Inspections (studio assessments). This project started a few years ago when I noticed fellow studio mates as well as the art school itself seemingly unconsciously teaching and using harmful applications and techniques, disposing of waste, and ineffectively ventilating rooms. I noticed piles of plastic thrown into dumpsters, studio lights left on for what seemed 24 hours at a time, and complete negligence when using harsh chemicals. In my studio, a rusty cabinet labeled “Store Harsh Chemicals Here” written upon faded masking tape hosted a dusty plastic binder labeled MSDS Sheets. Taking a closer look, I realized no one had taught me whatMaterial Safety Data Sheets meant and how they might apply to what I do. I asked around to other artists what they might know about these sheets and what they thought about what they were using and how they were disposing of extra material. Many artists noted that they knew someone, or had experienced themselves, long term health problems from misuse of chemicals in the creation of artwork. Most artists intuitively believed that there was a better way to develop their work and acknowledge the harm of some of the materials, but did not know what to do about it or did not see change as a high priority.

Inspired by artworks using methods of Intervention Art which take on the roles and aesthetics of corporations and disrupt systems in unexpected ways, such as theYes Men andLuther Thie, I decided to become an Art Inspector. Within construction and manufacturing, unaffiliated auditors determine if a building or product can be certified as sustainable. If deemed so, doors open for prospective buyers and subsidies. I wanted to take this method to the Art World.

But how does a third party inspection work? There are at least two inspections to take place. The initial inspection starts with an intake form that asks questions to each artist about their studio environment, materials they are using, and the type of machines or equipment that use power. During this process a series of tests are conducted using similar equipment used for energy audits in residential homes. The Art Inspector tests power outlets, lighting and occupancy, ventilation and Volatile Organic Compounds. Once the inspection process is finished The Art Inspector will write up a report based on the data collected and make suggestions for alternatives and improvements to artists studios and the working process. If the artist makes the recommended modifications, The Art Inspector will return for a re-inspection and award a Healthy Art Certification if the artist passes.

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Paint waste from inspection of painter’s studio. Photo by Wendy Crockett.

Artists who fail inspection or those who are interested in diving deeper into changing their habits can join the Healthy Art Program. Various workshops ranging from green materials, sustainable wood products, energy efficiency, lighting and safety are available to artists at varying partner institutions. If the artists are supplied with resources and knowledge, they will be empowered to change. The final part of The Art Inspector is to advocate for change in policy and curriculum on both an institutional and government level. Working with academic and museum institutions to adopt new values and requirements for artworks to be created sustainably will create a shift in the resources for production of art. If a major contemporary art museum such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art sets a standard for new works to be exhibited using a significant amount of low impact materials and works with third party agents such as The Art Inspector, then other practitioners will follow. With this same concept, Public Art Programs can adopt LEED standards into creation of artworks in the public realm.

Even today these concepts of change in the Art World are seen as radical and frightening to some. However, many artists are willing to do what they do best, experiment with new ideas. With the vision of The Art Inspector, we will open up the avenues to sustainable living, healthy living, and simultaneously, changing the way we make art.

 

Follow Danielle Siembieda-Gribben on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Art_Inspector

Happy BIrthday, Jackson Pollock!

 

Today is the birthday of American artist and drip paint extraordinaire, Jackson Pollock. The abstract expressionist, known for his figureless murals created on the floor of his studio, would turn 101 years old if he were still magically alive today.

 

 

Artists Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock are shown in their garden at their East Hampton, N.Y., home. 1949 photo provided by the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center.

Artists Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock are shown in their garden at their East Hampton, N.Y., home. 1949 photo provided by the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center. © Associated Press

 

In this 1949 photo provided by the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, artists Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock are shown in their garden at their East Hampton, N.Y., home. Pollock, who would have turned 100 in 2012, will have the anniversary of his birth observed with exhibitions, fundraisers and other events throughout the year. (AP Photo/Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center)

Pollock, born in Cody, Wyoming, in 1912, began his career as an art student, first at Los Angeles’ Manual Arts High School and later at the Art Students League of New York. After working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project in the late 1930s and early ’40s, Pollock was signed by famed gallerist, Peggy Guggenheim, in 1943, launching his career with the commissioned work, “Mural,” an eight-foot by twenty canvas covered in the artist’s signature drip style. The piece caused art critic Clement Greenberg to pronounce Pollock “the greatest painter this country had produced.

 

Throughout his career, Pollock challenged the Western conception of brush-and-easel art making, choosing instead to use his whole body in a unique form of action painting. His most famous paintings, such as “One: Number 31“, were made in the late ’40s and ’50s. Constantly seeking to transcend the viewer’s need for figures in art, he began numbering his works during this time, avoiding concrete titles and any allusions to subject matter.

 

Sadly, the great artist painted his last work in 1955, nearly one year before he passed away in a tragic car accident at the age of 44. He was survived by his wife, fellow painter Lee Krasner, as well as his mistress, Ruth Kligman, who was in the car with Pollock at the time of his death.

To celebrate the great painter’s birthday, we’ve put together a slideshow of 10 things you might not have known about Mr. Pollock. Scroll through the slides below and let us know how you are celebrating the Jack the Dripper’s life in the comments section.

See the photo galleries that accompany the original post at Huffington Post Arts:

Jackson Pollock Birthday: Celebrating The American Artist And Drip Painting King (PHOTOS).

Read an interesting discussion of the scientific significance of Pollock’s work in this Huffington Post Arts article.