UMass Exhibition Examines Changes in Historical American Landscapes

A Genius for Place: American Landscape of the Country Place Era
A Panel Exhibition from the Library of American Landscape History

The UMass Amherst Libraries are hosting a traveling exhibition called “A Genius For Place,” on view now through May 10th, 2014.  Organized by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the exhibition illustrates and analyzes the chronological development of North American landscape design throughout the “Country Place Era,” or the period of time (1890 to 1930) between the Gilded Age through the end of the Great Depression.  During that time, many wealthy American families, convinced that their hectic, crowded, and unclean city lives required periodic retreats to the fresh air and far-ranging vistas of the countryside for renewal and recovery, erected country “cottages” (some of which were more extravagant than the average mansion today).  Of course, these homes were not complete without elegantly sculpted garden paths, man-made reflecting pools, outdoor courtyards, and a spectacular view to top off the experience of nature-filled country life.  Landscape architects creating the perfect outdoor environments for their clients employed a wide range of techniques, structures, and both modern and historical iconography in their designs.  It was a transitional moment, both for the country as a whole and for the practice of landscape design.

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Robin Karson, founding director of LALH, sees the Country Place Era as a significant time in the history of American landscape architecture: balancing on the cusp of the twentieth century, still weighted with the ideas and traditions of bygone years.  One such was the notion of the genius loci, or the “spirit of the place.”  While in some cultures this spirit takes the form of a protective, guardian-like presence, Western cultures more commonly use the phrase “spirit of the place” to refer to a site’s distinctive energy or aura.  In her book A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era, Karson suggests that landscape architects during this time were guided by the genius loci to preserve the natural beauty and quirks of the original landscape while injecting more modern, experimental architectural elements into their designs… Read the rest of this entry »

Art History and Music Studies at the Amherst Cinema this Fall

Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure
Tour of London’s National Gallery Exhibition
Screens at Amherst Cinema this Fall

The latest in Amherst Cinema’s EXHIBITION screening series, Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure, documents and deeply examines the Johannes Vermeer‘s works on view at the London National Gallery. The film, hosted by British art historian Tim Marlow, tells the story of Vermeer’s life, a Dutch painter from the 1600′s, and gives viewers a chance to experience both the exhibition – which, notably, includes several works by Vermeer that have never before been exhibited together – as well as some stunning close-up footage of the paintings themselves, accompanied by Marlow’s knowledgeable analysis of the works.

The exhibition focuses on the popularity of music as a theme in Dutch paintings, and illustrates this connection quite clearly through its inclusion of “Lady Seated at a Virginal,” “Lady Standing At A Virginal,” and “The Guitar Player,” all by Vermeer himself. To highlight the significance of the instruments’ inclusion in the paintings – and the differences between the instruments and their two-dimensional representations – authentic 17th-century virginals (similar to harpsichords), guitars, and lutes are on display along with the artwork…

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Photography of Ansel Adams Comes to Western MA!

Ansel Adams: Masterworks on View
Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA
February 9th – June 2nd, 2013

Berkshire Museum presents the special photography exhibition Ansel Adams: Masterworks from February 9 to June 2, 2013. An opening reception will be held Saturday, February 9, from 5 to 7pm. The exhibition features forty-eight works by Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984), about two-thirds of a selection Adams made late in his life to serve as a succinct representation of his life’s work. He himself felt these photographs were his best. The images are from the Collection of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.

The Berkshire Museum welcomes their newest exhibit this week!  Beginning February 9th, “Ansel Adams: Masterworks,” will be down in the museum’s galleries.  The show contains 48 pieces of Adams’ most striking nature photography, on loan from the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA.  Titled, “The Museum Set,” the works feature scenes from across the country – Yosemite National Park to groves of aspens in Colorado, Cape Cod to the Sierra Nevada.

Known for his breathtaking landscapes, Adams’ work also represented his commitment to the preservation of the natural world.  In photographing beautiful places in nature, he shared with others a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for the natural beauty of the world.  Not only is his work unique and beautiful art, but it sends a message to viewers – one that is difficult to forget.  The photographs are moving, and remind all who see them that nature is a precious resource.

A visit to the exhibit is perfect for young, budding photographers – they can learn about the scale upon which photography can take place, and will see classic examples of nature photography, not to mention a great supplement to art studies.  They can also learn to appreciate photography the way it used to be – when film and darkrooms were used, and digital point-and-shoot had yet to be thought of.  Non-photographers can learn from the exhibit, too – after viewing the images, think about the message that they send for conservation and the role that art plays in helping to create cultural change.

The exhibit is open during the Berkshire Museum’s regular hours, 10am-5pm Monday-Saturday and 12noon-5pm on Sundays.  For more information, call the museum at 413-443-7171. berkshiremuseum.org

[Image credit: Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958. Photograph by Ansel Adams. ©2012 The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust]

Stockbridge Library Features Lecture on Outsider Art: Prison Art in America

Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America
Art & Cultural Studies at the Stockbridge Library
Friday, January 25th

“For students of art and culture, psychology and philosophy, and human consciousness, the question emerges-how is it that this depth and beauty came from, or through, these particular folks-often times uneducated, unworldly, and untrained,” writes the Stockbridge Library. “Kornfeld points to a new direction… whereby incarcerated people are given the opportunity to reach out to people in need on the outside…” (Find about the Inside/Outside Envelope Project) – Join the Stockbridge Library for this free lecture on Friday, January 25th at 6pm

The Stockbridge Library is offering the community a unique opportunity to learn about a topic not often discussed – the artwork of prison inmates.  Art teacher Phyllis Kornfeld, author of Cellblock Visions: Prison Art in America, will share a slideshow presentation of artwork created by inmates.  This presentation will be paired with a discussion of their work, common types of art produced, and its place amongst mainstream American artwork.

Inmates’ work ranges from soap carvings inspired by traditional American folk art, to tattoo-style ink drawings.  Their art challenges the stereotypes of inmates, serving as a window into the culture and mindset of prisoners, conveying the thoughts, questions, and emotions had by these outsider artists.  Their artwork speaks of human qualities that are shared by all, regardless of circumstances.

This lecture will take place at the library on Friday, January 25th, 2013 at 6pm in Stockbridge, MA.  Older students can attend the event to learn about prison culture, the universality of human artistic expression, art in America, and other topics related to art, psychology, and criminal justice.  For more information, call the library at 413-298-5501.  The Stockbridge Library is located at 46 Main Street in Stockbridge, MA.

Video Review: 500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

500 Years of Female Portraits in Western Art

My 4yo daughter and I have watched this video a couple dozen times. She is fascinated by it. I love it. The first time she saw it she asked, “Mommy, are they angels?”

The video is truly other-worldly.  Cello music by Bach plays while portraits of women painted over the past 500 years by many great painters are morphed from one into the other:

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