The Art of Emblems

The art of emblems goes way back to the “impresa” which wealthy people used to create their personal mythology. An emblem or logo may represent schools, countries or even types of gardens. Emblems can be windows into cultures and eras of human history. Of course Ann Arbor’s emblem has something we are famous for. One of the most recent popular emblems plays a dramatic role in the book , The Hunger Games, also coming soon to a theater near you!

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

“There once was a man whose love of nature was as wide as the world. There once was an artist who needed to paint as much as he needed to breathe. There once was an islander who lived in a cottage at the edge of the Mississippi, where the sea meets the earth and the sky. His name was Walter Anderson. He may be the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.”

So begins The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass, a youth biography of the Mississippi artist. Known as the “homegrown Van Gogh”, he sketched and painted the natural world of the Gulf coast from the 1930s to the mid-1960s. He also carved sculptures, made furniture, created murals, decorated pottery and wrote poetry. He was driven by an intense desire to produce his art and express the beauty and transcendence of nature. “The heart is the thing that counts, the mingling of my heart with the heart of the wild bird; to become one with the thing I see…”

He was brilliant, reclusive and eccentric, living on the edge of sanity in a small cabin and making frequent excursions by rowboat to Horn Island in the Gulf, where he camped in primitive conditions for weeks at a time, sketching the turtles, birds and waves. In his cabin, he kept one room locked and completely off-limits to his family. When he died, and they opened “The Little Room”, they found every square inch had been painted with glowing, vibrant colors, depicting a Gulf coast day from dawn to night. It was his secret and it is magical.

This book is a beautiful introduction for young people to his art and life. The first part is useful for lower elementary students for doing biography reports, but could be read to younger children as well; the second part (the author’s note) expands the information to be appropriate for middle school or even the curious adult. In trying to learn more about this artist I found several books in MeL which were wonderful.

Walter Anderson’s art is worth spending time with. See some images of his artwork here. If you happen to find yourself in New Orleans, the Walter Anderson Museum is a day-trip away.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #304

My reading gets downright frantic when the "Best Of" lists start showing up at the end of the year. Glad this one made the lists.

Named by both the Kirkus Reviews' as one of the Best of 2011 Mysteries, and a Library Journal Best Mystery of 2011 Stealing Mona Lisa * * was published to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the theft of the most recognized painting in the world from the Louvre in 1911.

First-time novelist Carson Morton (professional musician, screenwriter, and playwright), "smoothly blends fact and fiction while evocatively exploring the era's seamy underbelly."

Paris, 1925. On his death bed the Marquis Eduardo de Valfierno recounts to a young reporter his audacious plan to steal the Mona Lisa, and the elaborate scheme to pass 6 forged copies off into the hands of American tycoons with insatiable appetite for the unattainable. As well orchestrated as the plan was, it was undone by nature - human and otherwise, when "love, lust, jealousy, greed, and murderous revenge come into play, along with excessive rains and the worst flooding in contemporary Paris history."

Stealing Mona Lisa is a "sophisticated, engaging caper, complete with a richly imagined group of con artists and a historical mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end." The twisty conclusion will leave you wondering about the authenticity of the art on museum walls !!

For a historical account of the famous heist and largely unsolved mystery, try R.A. Scotti's Vanished Smile: the mysterious theft of Mona Lisa (also in audio).

The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler is "part fast-paced thriller and part social history," and an unwieldy and engrossing account of life and crime in belle époque Paris, with the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa serving as the centerpiece.

One last thing...do allow for the author's exercise of artistic license with the chronology of the Paris flood which actually took place the previous year, as captured in these vintage photos. You might also find fascinating Paris Under Water : how the city of light survived the great flood of 1910 by Jeffrey H. Jackson.

* * = starred reviews

The 5th Beatle

Looking through the new DVDs list in the catalog, I was excited to see that AADL will soon have copies of the movie, Backbeat! As a huge Beatles fan, this is one of my favorite movies because of how funny and also fairly accurate it is in its portrayal of the early days of the group.

In general, the story follows the band's start in the seedy nightclubs of Liverpool and Hamburg. More specifically, it chronicles the close friendship between John Lennon and "Fifth Beatle," Stuart Sutcliffe. The film is touching in its honesty towards this relationship and Lennon's struggle with Sutcliffe's decision to leave the Beatles in order to pursue a promising painting career (you can view some of his art at the link above...). Sometimes with all the "peace and love" Lennon tributes and memorials out there, it's easy to forget that the icon was once an angry, smart-aleck teenager with all kinds of abandonment issues. For me, understanding this Lennon makes me appreciate all the more the person he grew into later in life.

"Backbeat" is R-rated and as gritty and raw as the streets in which it takes place. The music, of course, is great. It's well worth checking out (if only to learn all about how the group got its famous hair-cut...), along with other John Lennon videos and albums. Or you can always buff up on your Beatles history with the wide range of books and videos at the library. And, of course, there will ALWAYS be the music.

AADL Talks To: Gary Grimshaw

Gary Grimshaw is one of the most renowned and recognizable poster artists to come out of the 1960s. His most prolific period as a graphic artist was his time spent with John and Leni Sinclair in the mid-1960s and early 1970s, first in the Detroit-based Trans-Love Energies commune and then in Ann Arbor with the White Panther Party/Rainbow People's Party. In this interview we talk with the former White Panther Party Minister of Art about creating art for the Grande Ballroom and the White Panther Party, the night John Sinclair met both him and the MC5, and how he made his art then and now.

Attachment Size
AADL_Talks_To-Gary_Grimshaw.mp3 17.32 MB

Art in the Park

More than 25 independent local artists will show and sell their art at the Art in the Park show, Saturday Nov 12, 11 am - 4 pm at the Ypsilanti Senior and Community Center. There is no admission charge, a raffle for fine art, and part of the proceeds benefit the Center. Get a head start on your holiday shopping, or just enjoy the local art!

A Winner Among Us

Of the 1,582 entries at this year's ARTPRIZE (see blog), 10 winners were voted in and among them is Ann Arbor artist Lynda Cole.

Taking 3rd place, her 3-D kinetic sculpture entitled Rain consists of 7600 squares of silver leaf on polyester film, and is suspended by aluminum monofilament within a 10 ft. cube of space and move with ambient air currents.

This photo at left represents one module. The Art Prize entry comprised of 25 modules. To see all of them, go to the artist's website or blog.

As our commitment to showcase and support local artists, The Ann Arbor District Library is proud to include two of Lynda Cole's work in our circulating art print collection , entitled Winter and Explore. Now you too, could live with great art.

A New Story Behind the Starry, Starry Night

For over 120 years, the world has thought it knew the story of the life and death of perhaps its most popular painter, Vincent van Gogh. But now, a new biography by Pulitzer prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith may flip the art world's understanding of the troubled painter upside-down. After a 10-year forensic investigation involving a large team of assistants, the pair is questioning the until-now, accepted fact of Van Gogh's cause of death having been a suicide. They now believe he may have been shot by someone else.

A recent report from TV's 60 Minutes delves into the story behind the authors' research and why they've come to this conclusion. The story continues in part 2, and the website offers a virtual tour of some of Van Gogh's art.

Naifeh and Smith's new biography is being published today, so be sure to reserve your copy at the library for when it comes in.

In the meantime, check out these other great books about Van Gogh, his work or related movies.

Or take a look at some of Van Gogh's contemporaries and learn about some of the other impressionist artists and the movement itself.

Take Part in Art – Texture

Smooth, bumpy, gritty, soft – it’s all superficial! Texture can play a great part in art, from paintings by Vincent Van Gogh to sculptures by David Smith, to the surface of new and old buildings on our very own campus. Join us at the Downtown Youth Department Art Table to make rubbings with crayons and drawings on mini-chalkboards. Feel the texture!
The Ann Arbor Art Center offers wonderful pottery classes where you can get messy and dive your hands into cool clay. You can also check out the Chinese Woodblock Prints at UMMA. For one of the best reminders of the importance of texture, just walk up to your favorite tree and run your hands over the bark. Natural art!

Multiple Impressions: Contemporary Chinese Woodblock Prints

The exhibition Multiple Impressions: Contemporary Chinese Woodblock Prints opened without much fanfare this summer at The University of Michigan Museum of Art. Now that the fall semester is in full swing, interesting programs are popping up on the museum calendar.

The 114 works on view by 41 of China's leading contemporary printmakers showcase the extraordinary innovations, both in technique and conception while providing an important framework for understanding both contemporary art from China and contemporary Chinese society.

On Sunday, September 25 @ 2 pm, (Helmut Stern Auditorium) guest curator of the exhibition Xiaobing Tang will present noted printmakers Fang Limin and Zhang Yuanfan in a series of conversations. Both Fang and Zhang are teachers of the China Academy of Art, an important center for innovation in printmaking.

On Wednesday, September 28, @ 5 pm (Multipurpose Room), Chen Limin — one of the youngest artists in the exhibition, and one of only two women printmakers represented — will talk about her work, as well as the challenges and opportunities for women pursuing careers as artists in China today. Born in Hangzhou, China, Chen Limin was educated in China and France, where she now resides.

The exhibition runs through October 23, 2011.

Syndicate content