The Eyes

The Eyes

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Martin Celebrates His Father and Aviation History in Colombia

My father laid the groundwork that made me an artist.
Knox Martin | Barrinquilla, Colombia | December 2012

Artist Knox Martin is in Colombia celebrating his father's legacy as an aviation pioneer and the centennial of aviation in that country. Known as the father of Colombian aviation, William Knox Martin (1891 – 1927), was the first man to fly over the Andes Mountains. The fascinating life of Martin, Sr. is told here.

Knox recounts, "My father was also a poet and an artist, he gave me the wings to find my way, to paint, to fly, to touch the sky."  Above, the 89-year-old artist scans the skies beneath the eagle of Founders Park, one of the many sites that are part of this historic anniversary celebration.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Peace Window | Marc Chagall

Following the death of Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, the staff of the United Nations set up a Committee and a Foundation to create a memorial to him and 15 others who died in a plane crash in Africa while on a peace mission, September 17, 1961.

The Committee invited artist Marc Chagall to contribute a piece of his work to the memory of Mr. Hammarskjöld and to all those who had lost their lives in the cause of peace. It was decided that the monument would be a free-standing piece of stained glass. 

The panel, measuring 15 feet wide and 12 feet high, is predominantly blue in color. In it Chagall sought to express the simplicity and beauty of the ideals of peace and brotherhood for which the United Nations was founded. In the center is the figure of a young child being kissed on the cheek by an angelic face which emerges from a mass of flowers. The right side suggests mankind's yearning for peace, its prophets and its victims, and symbols of law. On the left are depicted motherhood and people struggling for peace. Musical symbols in the panel evoke thoughts of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which was a favorite of Mr. Hammarskjöld.

Initially placed in the southeastern section of the lobby of the Secretariat Building, facing the East River, the "Chagall Window" was later moved to the eastern side of the public lobby. It underwent an extensive renovation in 2001.

Stained glass has to be serious and passionate. It has to live through
the perception of light. For me a stained-glass window is a 
transparent partition between my heart and the heart of the world. 
Marc Chagall

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Sanctuary | Inside the Artist's Studio

Being inside an artist’s studio is like being inside their brain—each is different in their own very unique way. Make no mistake that you will ever be truly welcome to enter, for this is their sanctuary. It is the place where their ideas flow freely, experimentation takes place, and art happens. Creative energy bounces off the walls. You can feel it when you walk in the room. I equate it with the same feeling of reverence that you have upon entering any spiritually charged space—a cathedral, hallowed ground, or museum. Your initial reaction is breathlessness and awe. 

At first glance, one may think the artist's studio looks chaotic and messy. That could not be further from the truth. There is much order and design to the way an artist utilizes their space. You are not welcome to come in and clean it or organize it or touch anything. Whether you are there as a friend, collector, muse, model, or significant other to the artist, you are a guest. Do not touch so much as a paintbrush, a pencil, or a tube of paint. And, for God’s sake, do not touch the art! Would you rub your hands across any work of art in a museum? The answer to that is no. An alarm would sound, security guards would appear, and you might be asked to leave. 

I have been witness to studio guests being admonished by the artist for touching something in their studio. No, I think a more correct representation would be subjected to the wrath of the artist! To the artist, it’s as if the top of their skull was opened and you started plucking out pieces of their brain. You most assuredly will be lambasted with a stream of obscenities and banished from the space. Think of it as the most heinous act you could ever imagine, like rape—a total violation of one’s being. 

Further, the art that hangs on the walls throughout the rest of an artist’s home is perpetually temporary. And, one can reasonably expect that a piece you see one day, thought to be finished, may never be seen in that state again. It’s a process. I can’t tell you the number of times I have been shown what I think is a beautiful work of art, only days/weeks/months later to see the canvas being slashed, or washed down in the shower, scraped down, or painted over. 

The best part of all of this though, is the wonderful experience it affords to be present in an artist’s studio—to see their intensity when they work or see the sparkle in their eye when talking about a work of art. Seeing an artist covered in paint, or chalk dust, or plaster, or any other medium is art unto itself. They work with abandon and shut out the world as if in a trance. When an artist is working, there is no attention to time of day, day of the week, or month of the year. Their spiritual artistic quest does not allow for the normality of time for eating or sleeping. They live within that moment. Do not disturb. 

If given the opportunity to visit an artist’s studio, just listen to what they have to tell you or just watch what happens. It’s amazing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

National Veterans Art Museum | Chicago

Opening today at its new location, the National Veterans Art Museum provides a unique viewpoint on the controversial subject of war to all visitors. An intensely moving balance of beauty and horror, the collection provides insight into the psyche of combat veterans and the consequential hindsight war leaves on its survivors.

In 1981, a few Vietnam combat veterans put together an artistic and historical collection that would become a timeless, humanistic statement of war on behalf of all veterans for future generations. The overwhelming emotional response to the work, along with an increasing amount of contributions by artists, led to the official establishment of a permanent museum. After viewing the collection, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was so personally moved that he allocated a permanent building to house the collection. Since 2003, the museum has broadened its mission to include art by veterans of all wars. Today, the NVAM houses more than 2,500 works of art, including paintings, photography, sculpture, poetry, and music. All the works in the Museum’s permanent collection were created by more than 255 artists who are veterans of American conflicts. See the entire collection online here.

Welcome Home is the first temporary exhibit at the NVAM's new location at 4041 North Milwaukee Avenue, featuring art by Vietnam War veteran Dr. Charles Smith and Iraq War veteran Ash Kyrie

Of the show, Ash Kyrie writes: 

"Welcome Home" is the customary message given to soldiers after returning from war. After that initial message there is no set dialogue. The veteran learns about the world that they left, and their family meets a new person. As a veteran I am creating work that discusses the disconnect between civilians and the war being conducted to protect them. 

Welcome Home opens to the public with a reception today and remains on display through May 2013.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The White House 2012 Fall Garden Tour

I've lived in Washington for over 20 years and I continue to appreciate the beauty and formality of this city, the architecture of the Federal buildings, the free access to the country's treasures in the Smithsonian museums, and the lush parks and gardens at every turn. Today, with camera in hand, on a picture-perfect autumn day, I walked past the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, a Southern Magnolia planted by President Andrew Jackson in 1830, the Rose Garden, the South side of The White House, including the West Wing and Oval Office, and even The White House Kitchen Garden planted by First Lady Michelle Obama. It was a perfect way to spend an October Saturday afternoon, on the South Lawn of The White House, the backyard of the President of the United States.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

George Bellows

George Bellows (1882 – 1925) remained first and foremost a painter and illustrator of modern life. As he stated himself, "the artist makes life more interesting or beautiful, more understandable or mysterious, or probably, in the best sense, more wonderful." The George Bellows exhibition that runs until October 8 at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, has completely fascinated me since it opened in June. I've visited three times and read the entire catalogue that accompanies the exhibition. The book contains a collection of essays and stunning color images that cover various segments of the artist’s career, putting his art in the context of local and world events and how he chronicled them.  The 33-minute film is an excellent starting or ending point to seeing this exhibition (Part I and Part II at

Before this exhibition, I knew nothing about this artist other than the era in which he worked, mistakenly putting him into the group of “Ashcan School” of artists who worked in the same locale and timeframe. It would be hard to put Bellows into any category, genre, or school. Over the course of his short career, his style evolved. Sometimes painting or illustrating what he saw, other times adding elements of drama for the sake of the picture, Bellows was criticized for his series of paintings depicting atrocities in Europe during World War I. A public outcry grew against the use of propaganda to rally Americans to enter the war, angering many when it was discovered the events he had painted and drawn did not happen as he portrayed. He responded that, “he hadn't been aware that Leonardo da Vinci had a ticket to paint The Last Supper.”

Putting his art in relation to the political culture and the urban and social issues of the early 20th century helped to bring meaning to his imagery. You'll see violence, poverty, sporting events, portraiture and family life, along with crowded urban scenes, and serene images of the seashore. The breadth of work by Bellows is dazzling, yet time constrained. A life cut short, Bellows died painfully at the age of 42 from a ruptured appendix.

National Gallery of Art, Washington through October 8, 2012
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York | November 15, 2012–February 18, 2013
Royal Academy of Arts, London | March 16–June 9, 2013

Stag at Sharkey's | 1909 | Oil on Canvas
New York | 1911 | Oil on Canvas

Love of Winter | 1914 | Oil on Canvas
The Germans Arrive | 1918 | Oil on Canvas

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Born This Day | February 24 | Winslow Homer

The great American artist Winslow Homer (1836-1910) created some of the most breathtaking and influential images in the history of illustration, oil, and watercolor, one of America's undisputed masters.

In September 2012, the Portland Museum of Art will open the Winslow Homer Studio to the public. One of the most significant locations in the history of American art, the Studio, located at Prouts Neck, Maine, is where Homer lived and painted many of his masterpieces from 1883 until his death. Located on the rocky coast of Maine just 12 miles from Portland, the Studio was purchased by the Museum in 2006 from Charles Homer Willauer, the great grand-nephew of Homer. The Museum has been restoring the building to the period when Homer lived there from 1883 until his death in 1910. 

A National Historic Landmark, the renovated Winslow Homer Studio will celebrate the artist’s life, encourage scholarship on Homer, and educate audiences to appreciate the artistic heritage of Winslow Homer and Maine. Tours of the Studio will begin from the Museum on Monday, September 24, 2012, and tickets will go on sale this summer on the Museum’s website. 

In High Cliff, Coast of Maine (seen below), the ocean wages a mighty and relentless assault on a rocky cliff at Prouts Neck, where Homer took refuge from civilization for thirty years. Two small figures at the upper right provide the only hint of man's witness to the natural drama. Homer was despondent when the painting did not sell quickly, saying, “I cannot do better than that. Why should I paint?” Indeed.

High Cliff, Coast of Maine | Winslow Homer | 1894 

Born: Boston, Massachusetts (1836) | Died: Prouts Neck, Maine (1910) 
Oil on Canvas | 30 1/4 x 38 1/4 in. (76.8 x 97.2 cm)
Smithsonian, American Art Museum

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beauty Inside and Out

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the master artist Knox Martin.  His beautiful soul has permeated my life for over four years since our first meeting in his Washington Heights home and studio in New York City.  I knew from the moment I met Knox, that he was gold. His warm, expressive eyes penetrate you in a way you feel like you’re the only person on his planet. Much like his father, William Knox Martin, an aviator who was the first man to fly over the Andes Mountains, he has pursued his life with gusto!

Knox served in the U.S. Coast Guard on a flotilla, putting him in harm’s way at Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy, France in World War II; studied at the Art Students League of New York on the G.I. Bill after the War; received recognition by Franz Kline, Bill de Kooning, and the important Stable Gallery, Charles Egan Gallery, and the Whitney Museum of American Art early in his career; taught at Yale, New York University, University of Minnesota, the International School in Italy, the Art Students League of New York; and traveled the world, seeing him in photographs riding an elephant, lounging with a tiger, or telling a tale about his remarkable encounter with a massive whale.

Knox’s stunning work encompasses drawing, painting, sculpture, mosaics, multi-story murals, and poetry. Every time I seek more information about him, I’m really overwhelmed by the depth and sincerity of this artist who has dedicated his life to spreading his message of spirituality. I’ve been privileged to sit with him as he recites Yeats with tears in his eyes, while surrounded by the incredible art in his studio. We’ve discussed jazz and 1950s art-world intrigue, talked through his painting of grapes or how he executed his latest creation, he has shown me how he makes his favorite coffee, drawn me, and cooked for me on more than one occasion. I’ve even seen him sling a knife on the floor over a guest mutilating his meticulously prepared pasta dish!

I celebrate Knox on his 89th birthday, February 12—to Knox, with love.

Photo credits:
Knox Martin and The Whaling Wall maquette | © 2012 Knox Martin/VAGA New York NY | Photo by Gaby Ryan
Knox Martin painting in studio on 9-21-11 | © 2011 Knox Martin/VAGA New York NY | Photo by Gaby Ryan

Friday, January 27, 2012

Nineteenth-Century French Galleries Reopen | National Gallery of Art, Washington

Following a two-year renovation, the galleries devoted to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art will reopen to the public on January 28. Among the greatest collections in the world of paintings by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, the Gallery's later 19th-century French paintings will return to public view in a freshly conceived installation design.

During the two-year period of repair, restoration, and renovation, works normally on view in these galleries were either in storage, on loan, or featured in a special installation—From Impressionism to Modernism: The Chester Dale Collection—in the West Building Ground Floor galleries. Some 50 of the greatest works from this collection were included in major exhibitions shown in Houston, Tokyo, and Kyoto.

Also take time visit the Small French Paintings galleries in the East Building. Designed to accommodate the extraordinary gift of French paintings from Ailsa Mellon Bruce, they are among the most beloved at the Gallery. The works in these rooms have also been part of reconsidering the 19th-century French collection in the West Building.

The quiet, winter months of January and February are an excellent time to visit the National Gallery or any of the other Smithsonian art museums, before throngs of tourists descend on Washington in the spring, summer, and fall.