The wintery weather and a recent trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art had me looking back through the archives at some of my favorite polar scenes. These pictures painted in the 1800’s capture the spirit of adventure; of man’s exploration and dominance over nature, while also expressing its tenuous hold. Today’s world of digital devices and instantaneous connections makes it hard to imagine embarking on a tall ship for destinations unknown.
The first picture is my favorite. It has it all – tall ships, icebergs and an abundance of arctic animals watching the men on their well-coordinated fishing expedition. The narwhales, seals, walruses and polar bears take center stage, dwarfed by the tall ships and icebergs that hover nearby with domineering verticality.
This second one caught my eye with its quirky charm. Displayed in a side gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was struck by the doll-like quality of the polar bear’s head, specifically his human looking eye gazing at the ships. The scale and flattening effect of the tonal range gives a sense of melancholy to the polar bear looming over his frozen perch while creating a sense of danger for the fragile looking ships in the distance.
In my search for the two paintings above, I found this other Raleigh painting from the National Gallery’s collection. The sense of danger in this depiction of a menacing attack is heightened by the use of saturated color and a composition that focuses precisely on the polar bear’s massive claw. The ship in the background echoes the seal’s struggle for life as it approaches an iceberg.
With a baby gift to make, I decided to stay on the knit socks roll. I started with a search of Ravelry’s pattern database and found a great simple (and free) pattern by Judy Kaethler called Cozy Little Toes. I like that this pattern was created and tested by a mom making socks for her baby. It includes sizing for 3 months & 6 months with very easy and complete directions to follow. I highly recommend it if you’re looking for quick baby gift. It took me two days to complete the set. I used a beautifully dyed sock yarn from Spartickes Dyes called Tootsie’s (inspired by the Nashville cultural landmark of the same name) on Will & Grace Sock base.
So here we go. Off to a fresh start. Out with the old, in with the new. And so on and so forth.
And just like a car dealer at year’s end, here I am clearing out the remainder of the 2014 inventory to make way for the new stuff. Figuratively, not literally. You see, over the next few cold, dreary weeks of winter I’ve made it my mission to catalog (and post) the balance of editions and one-offs from the 2014 season.
So to kick things off, here’s a classic from the fall: “Untitled (Abstraction)” in lime and evergreen. It’s green, fresh and available in the shop.
While I haven’t posted knitting projects in a long time, it was not because I wasn’t knitting. I just didn’t want to ruin any holiday surprises! It has been a season of socks, gloves and some arm-knitted infinity scarves!
Blue Eagle of 1961 is a prime example of what could be called a transitional period in Rauschenberg’s career, a time when he was topping out of Combine mode and shifting into something else—a something else that at that moment was fluid and yet to be defined. The pieces produced in this phase applied a severe, reductive approach different from the bloated, “everything, everywhere” aesthetic of the Combines. While not tremendously out of step with said Combines in execution, these pieces feel distant, cool and standoffish in comparison to the warm, rich, inviting atmosphere of those earlier works. There’s a tension that lends the work a stark and aggressive edge.
In Blue Eagle, a smattering of objects are grafted onto the canvas—all twisted up, crushed and mangled—while a few desperate swaths of color (mostly neutrals) are spattered on for good measure. Yet the sparse compositions are striking in their blatant absence of material. Here, in lieu of dense clusters of material, the white of the unprimed canvas becomes a participant in the composition and the space between objects is called into service—but only to a point. The canvas is no longer a window, but a wall. It’s a place to put stuff, not gaze into—and dimensionality is being eliminated before our very eyes.
It makes sense then, in retrospect, that his next body of work would see the surface almost completely flatten out with found objects replicated as printed facsimiles. In the mostly two-dimensional silkscreen paintings of 1962–65, Rauschenberg renewed his maximalist tendencies, this time with layers of overlapping imagery. But not before paring things down to their essentials and building back up. It’s thrilling to see the transition unfold in works like Blue Eagle where things are up in the air, a little bit out of control and clear answers still out of reach.
Blue Eagle was on view this past summer at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.