Monthly archives: December, 2010

JUST IN: Books Make Great Gifts 2010, Artist Recommendations V

Our last 2010 artist recommendations — and these really are the last — present interesting examples of art intriguingly related to books.

Detail of Randy Walker’s SAW PIECE NO.4 (AUTUMN)

To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, by Philippe PetitRandy Walker, who works regularly with threads and ropes and cables, writes, “Although it is a story involving only a single length of fiber, To Reach the Clouds: My High Wire Walk Between the Twin Towers, by Philippe Petit is one of the most inspiring, true stories I’ve ever read. Man on Wire was the movie about Petit, and it was fantastic too.”




Detail of MEGALITH IV by Simone Pheulpin

Darkness Moves: An Henri Michaux Anthology, 1927-1984

The Fold: Liebiniz and the Baroque

Two books that have inspired Simone Pheulpin’s works of folded cotton are The Fold: Liebiniz and the Baroque by G

illes Deleuze and Life in the Folds by Henri Michaux. The Fold was translated into English in 1992. An English excerpt of Life in the Folds appears in Darkness moves: an Henri Michaux anthology, 1927-1984 Simone also regularly refers to photography books on nature, desert, sea, archeology and fossil to inform her work.

Exhibit News: Lena McGrath Welker’s Navigation [chime]


Navigation series installation by Lena McGrath Welker photo by Ryen Welker

Lena McGrath Welker has spent the last six years creating the final works of the Navigation series, which currently fill the galleries of the North Dakota Museum of Art and which will remain on exhibit through January 9, 2011. The Navigation series addresses ways of thinking about the accumulation and transmission of knowledge and wisdom. What gives written language its power? In what ways does language fail us, and in what ways does it allow communication to take place?

Lena-Welker.Navigation-Cycle photo by Ryen Welker

In 2004, Welker showed four bodies of work from the series at the NDMOA. At that time, Museum Director Laurel Reuter invited the artist to return with the final installation in this, her major lifework. Twelve years in the making, the Navigation series concludes with the current installation, [chime]. The press release prepared by the Museum, describes Welker’s  process in considerable detail and is excerpted below.

Lena Mcgrath Welker Navigation Chimeimage installation by Ryen Welker

Moving through her studio during the last six years have been hundreds of pounds of alabaster waiting to be carved, recently cast porcelain scrolls, weavings perpetually rolling off two looms, fabric collages, huge pastel and silver leaf paintings, stacks of glass, and on and on. Since returning home in 2004, Welker has learned to carve alabaster, to add the making of soft-ground etchings to her repertoire of printmaking skills, and to master historical bookbinding techniques including traditional Coptic, longstitch, tackets, accordion methods. And always, her work is interwoven with drawing.The pace of her work, however, has been determined by her health. Since that first North Dakota show, Lena was diagnosed with a non-malignant brain tumor. In December of 2006, she was treated with a relatively new gamma-knife radiation procedure intended to buy time for the artist— five, ten, or even fifteen years. Yet there are days she cannot work, bound to her bed with fierce headaches. 

Lena McGrath Welker photo by Ryen Welker

Even while living with a brain tumor, she has continued to develop her craft skills. In the alcove of the upstairs gallery, the viewer will find [chart] with small stacks of incised glass tablets. They are accompanied by vitrines filled with hand-dyed, indigo folios embellished with drawings and stitched imagery of what appear to be arcane maps. Floating above them are huge drawings incorporating Ptolemy’s diagrams, star measurements, constellations, abstract counting marks, the geometry of navigation systems, signs and symbols from Greek mathematical texts and scanned images of deep-sky nebulae.The sixteen-foot high, steel skeleton for a dovecote anchors [flight] in the west gallery of the main floor, the inside of which is skinned with translucent paper. The dovecote is home to funerary urns, blackened bronze and copper begging bowls resting on a low slate wall, and 120 often-blank, bound books stacked on the floor. Accompanying the dovecote are some 3,000, nine-inch fabric squares, each having either a single feather attached, or stitching that conveys a sense of writing or counting. They hang from the ceiling beams on fine thread, like Tibetan prayer flags. The feathers represent ideas as the Greeks first conceived them. Repetition abounds throughout the exhibition echoing the repetition of the mantra in meditation, of reoccurring themes in a musical composition, of sewing and weaving and chanting, of waves rolling across a vast ocean.In the east gallery and hovering just above the floor is an empty organdy room made from bolts of cotton fabric donated by the Pennsylvania company Testfabrics. This centerpiece of the installation [stillness] is surrounded by eight, fifteen-foot, vertical, paper scrolls drawn with dry pigment and graphite. Beneath them are rows of alabaster cairns and small porcelain scrolls. Thirty prints embedded in handmade abaca paper comprise [affinis], hanging on steel frames in the space between the east and west galleries. Their images connect [flight] in the west to [stillness] in the east.Welker named the exhibition Navigation [chime] because “chime has poetic and musical derivation, but it also refers to a system in which all the parts are in harmony, showing a correspondence of proportion or relation.” The artist imagines her wordless books as “a continuation of ancient books still with us, so carefully and beautifully bound, with folios of handmade paper, their words so arcane and unintelligible to us now as to disappear from the page.”

 Lena McGrath Welker – Navigation [chime]In the exhibition, Welker deals with uncertainty in an abstract and liminal way. She invites people to move through silence. She suggests the accumulation of experience through the physical massing of repetitive objects and motifs, and, finally, emptying out, as colors fade into transparency and words disappear. The transitions from gallery to gallery are equally subtle and connected. Because she uses mostly translucent materials, people are able to experience the work privately, while being aware of the community of others.

 Lena McGrath Welker Navigation [chime]According to the artist, “Many of the materials are light enough to move with the ambient air currents, and with people walking by. People respond to this movement with a ‘bodily’ intelligence, instinctively becoming quiet and walking more slowly. As sunlight pours through the windows and warms the rooms, the scents of silk and indigo are released.”

The North Dakota Museum of Art is located at 261 Centennial Drive on the University of North Dakota campus in Grand Forks. For more info, contact: 701-777-4195 or Exhibition/currentexhibition.html. The Museum hours are weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm and weekends from 1 am to 5 pm.


Exhibit News: Contained Excitement – Pleasures of the Void

Jiro Yonezawa, Nancy Moore Bess, Hisako Sekijima at Cavin-Morris Gallery Exhibit photo courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery

Through January 22, 2011, the Cavin-Morris Gallery in New York is exhibiting a remarkable grouping of eclectic  cross-cultural, multi-genre objects.  The exhibition, entitled, Contained Excitement – Pleasures of the Void, includes work  by several artists represented by browngrotta arts,  including Dorothy Gill Barnes, Nancy Moore Bess, Lizzy Farey, Mutsumi Iwasaki, Jennifer Falck Linssen, Hisako Sekijima, Kay Sekimachi, Jiro Yonezawa and Masako Yoshida, deftly combined with ceramics, boxes, bowls, books and furniture and more.

Hisako Sekijima and Jiro Yonezawa at Cavin-Morris Gallery Exhibit photo courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery

Mutsumi Iwasaki at Cavin-Morris Gallery Exhibit photo courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery

photo courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery

photo courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery

The exhibition focuses on the way the artists control the sensual expectations of space in an object, which may or may not take leave of its utilitarian purpose. The exhibition features Art Brut, ancient and contemporary ceramics, New Basketry, and other media. Included are Chinese ceramic reliquaries for keeping wrapped sutr as, the transformation of Native American Sweetgrass into deconstructions of molecular perfection in Debora Muhl’s work; the nervous and dark recycling in the forms made by Jerry Bleem and John Garrett; the beckoning toward initiatory revelation in Susan Kavicky and Lissa Hunter; the brooding presence in the lithops-like ceramic sculptures of Kenji Gomi; the Zen poems inscribed in the early ceramics of the Buddhist nun Rengetsu; hidden books of healing and magic from the tribal peoples in Southern China; the incredible repression and resultant freedom in the ceramics boxes of Shuji Ikeda where the clay is woven like bamboo; the opening of soul to the elements of wind and light in the sweeping bamboo constructions of Charissa Brock met by the dark compression of clay into Place and Mortality in the ceramics of Tim Rowan; the erotic beckoning of release through restraint and role-play in the bondage bed made by Sullivan Walsh; the New Baskets of JoAnne Russo and Nancy Moore Bess; and the ancient feminism of the ceramics of Avital Sheffer. A special inclusion will be an installation of Choson-period tea bowls from Korea and two intricate and rare woven rattan shields from early Kongo.

Also included are: Emogayu,  Jill Bonovitz, Polly Jacobs Giacchina, Deirdre Hawthorne, Mei-Ling Hom, Kentaro Kawabata, Gerri Johnson-McMillin,  Shozo Michikawa, Drew Nichols, Akira Satake, Hyungsub Shin, Polly Adams Sutton, Akiko Tanaka, Tyrome Tripoli, and Shannon Weber. The Gallery is at 210 Eleventh Avenue, Suite 201, between 24th and 25th, For more information contact: Shari Cavin, Randall Morris, or Mariko Tanaka: 212-226-3768 or email:

Books Make Great Gifts, Artist Recommendations, Part IV

Oops! The last post was a false alarm. Here is the final set of artist recommendations for 2010. That’s more than 30 titles; enough for an erudite 2011.

Gyöngy Laky is currently reading  The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image by Leonard Schlain, which she says,” is intriguing me in relation to much of my recent work. According to Schlain, a holistic, simultaneous, synthetic and concrete view of the world is feminine while linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract thinking is male! These are opposites that exist in all individuals, he states, but it’s the balance that is critical and the balance was upset first by writing and then by the alphabet – literacy developed the left brain.  Maybe most curiosity provoking is Schlain’s belief that art precedes physics.  Hmmmm….”

The title Gyöngy is eager to read next, Proust Was a Neuroscientist,  by Jonathan Lehrer, is a logical follow up. In his review in The New York Times, D.T. Max called it ” … a precocious and engaging book that tries to mend the century-old tear between the literary and scientific cultures.”  Gyöngy notes that in his July 2008 article in The New Yorker,  “The Eureka Hunt,” Lehrer explored what she thinks of as the basic activity of making art “…the “aha” moment of sudden insight in the brain – “…a surge of electricity leading to a rush of blood.” Lehrer’s most recent book, How We Decide also seems very germane for people in the arts, Gyöngy points out, quoting the review from The New York Times, “Explaining decision-making on the scale of neurons makes for a challenging task, but Lehrer handles it with confidence and grace. As an introduction to the cognitive struggle between the brain’s ‘executive,’ rational centers and its more intuitive regions, How We Decide, succeeds with great panache.

Gyöngy still recommends Zen Architecture: The Building Process as Practice by her friend Paul Discoe (with Alexandra Quinn and Roslyn Banish). “His collection of wood from street trees removed by local cities that he saves and mills, is a marvel,”  Gyöngy writes. “If you’d like to see some of it used in an interior and happen to be hungry in Berkeley, California be sure to visit his new and wonderful restaurant, Ippuku at 2130 Center Street.”


Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part III

Here is the final set of this year’s book recommendations from artists whose work browngrotta arts represents. In the next posting, I’ll list the books Tom and have been talking up in 2010.

Kiyomi Iwata finds The Human Condition, a six-volume novel by Junpei Gomikawa a continuing inspiration.  Published between 1956 and 1958, Kiyomi says, “it is an epic novel about an ordinary man who tried to live true to his own soul during the Second World War.”  It is not available in English, but a well-reviewed film version, Ningen No Joken, directed by Matsaki Kobayashi, can be found on DVD. Among Kiyomi’s favorite books are Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Alusio, who photographed 30 families in 24 countries – 600 meals in all, and  Growing, Older: A Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables by Joan Gussow. And Kyomi casts another vote for Haruki Murakami as best in 2010, ranking 1Q84 as the best book she read this year. (Lena McGrath Welker selected Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore as her favorite read this year.) There are three volumes in the 1Q84 series, which has created a sensation in Japan. The first two have been translated into English and will be published by Knopf in September 2011. A third translation will follow.

Nancy Moore Bess reports, “Some version of How to Wrap Five Eggs will always be on my coffee table, in my studio, or on my lap. The most recent purchase in a Tokyo used book bookstore is a boxed edition from the early 1970s and includes all the images we love, plus many photographs documenting the process of making. What a find! New workshops inspired me to reread (with some care) Kunio Ekiguchi’s Gift Wrapping: Creative Ideas from Japan which is much more than a book about giving gifts. Much of her introduction explains the connection between traditional packaging (tsutsumi) and gift wrapping (origata), something I had forgotten.”  Nancy notes that her “art” reading has been devoted to trying to understand the “vocabulary of beauty.”  She writes, “I have an old, dented copy from the Strand of Japanese Sense of Beauty. I have reread every copy of every book I own that discusses wabi-sabi in Japan. Diane Durston’s Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life is the one I keep by my reading chair. I can flip it open to any page and be delighted. Tim McCreight wrote two books I go back to: Design Language and Design Language: Interpretive Edition. I love the way these books all make me evaluate what I want to look at and touch.”

For continuing inspiration, Helena Hernmarck returns to Gunta Stölzl: Bauhaus Master.  The book includes dozens of key works by Stölzl  accompanied by excerpts drawn from her journals, letters and articles. The writings offer an intimate view of the artist’s life and work as a student, a Red Cross nurse during the war, student and then master of the weaving workshop  at the Bauhaus in Weimar and Dessau and founder of her own hand-weaving business in Zurich. “The illustrations are beautiful,” says Helena, “and it’s so interesting to read Stölz’s impressions of what occurred at the Bauhaus, as it was happening.” Helena is currently reading My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor.  Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist experienced a massive stroke at 37 when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. The stroke taught Taylor that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away and can be accessed by stepping to the right of our left brains.

Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part II

Here are eleven more book suggestions from artists — books that inspire and perennial favorites and best this year.

Ethel Stein offers a wide-ranging list. The first is a new book by her son, Carl Stein, Greening Modernism: Preservation, Sustainability, and the Modern Movement, which has garnered great reviews including this one from Diane Lewis, a professor of architecture at Cooper Union: “A crisp, radical, and luminous book. Stein’s writing and selection and sequence of images offer an inspiring crystallization of the integrity of architecture and sustainability rooted in the principles of the Modern movement.” (Ethel must be so proud!).

The second is a children’s title,The First Dog, the story of Adam and Eve’s dog, written by Benjamin Cheever and illustrated by Tim Grajek. Finally, she recommends, La Cucina di Lidia: Recipes and Memories from Italy’s Adriatic Coast by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and Jay Jacobs, which contains her favorite recipe, Smothered Escarole, which she says is simple and delicious.

Architecture Without Architects, by Bernard Rudofsky, the landmark volume that accompanied the exhibit of the same name at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1964, remains a favorite of Adela Akers. “[V]ernacular architecture does not go through fashion cycles. It is nearly immutable, indeed, unimprovable, since it serves its purpose to perfection,” Rudofsky wrote in his highly influential work. Another favorite of Adela’s is The World From Above (a Terra Magica Book) by Hanns Reich and Otto Bihalji-Merin, a small book of black-and-white images taken from the air.

Presently, Adela is reading books on or about Agnes Martin, including Briony Fer’s essay, “Drawing Drawing: Agnes Martin’s Infinity,” from 3 x Abstraction: New Methods of Drawing by Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz and Agnes Martin, reprinted in Women Artists at the Millennium and “The Untroubled Mind,” by Agnes Martin, which is included in Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art – A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings.

Ceca Georgieva made four recommendations, including The Book of Bamboo by Vladislav Bajac, a poet, publisher and novelist who has translated the Beat poets and Leonard Cohen from English into Serbian. His first novel, The Book of Bamboo, has been translated into Bulgarian, French, and Russian but apparently not yet into English, though his award-winning historical novel, Hamam Balkania, has. Ceca also recommends Let Me Tell You a Story, by Jorge Bucay, which one reviewer called, The Book of a Thousand and One Nights in a Paolo Coehlo style. This book can be found in the original Spanish and in French, while Bucay’s The Power of Self Dependence, can be found in an English translation. She also recommends To Have or Be by Erich Fromm and finally, a Bulgarian book, The Herbs: Food and a Cure by Boris Michev, Alipi Naidenov, Sonia Chortanova and Todor Malinov.

Books Make Great Gifts 2010: Artist Recommendations, Part I

I asked the artists whose work browngrotta arts represents to weigh in with book recommendations again this year. Specifically, I asked them to provide a list of any or all of the following: “What book(s) inspired you in the past?” “What book(s) continue to inspire you?” “What book(s) remain among your favorite(s)?” and/or “What was the best book you read in the last year?” As always, people responded swiftly and thoughtfully, with enough suggestions to fill a few posts. Here are ten suggestions to start.

For Lena McGrath Welker, books that provide past and continuing inspiration include Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels, Dark Nights of the Soul by Thomas Moore, which has an excellent section on creativity, Wabi-Sabi, the original text by Leonard Koren, and poems by Anna Ahkmatova (You Will Hear Thunder and Complete Poems) and Anne Carson (Nox, Decreation and Glass, Irony and God, among others). Welker has been very involved in preparing her one-person exhibition this year (currently at the North Dakota Museum of Art – more on that in an upcoming blog) but she says the best book she listened to this year was Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Debra Sachs says, “I mostly prefer fiction but after hearing Barbara Strauch in an interview I decided to read her book, The Secret Life of the Grown-up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind. It is so affirming to those of us of a certain age who feel like our minds are constantly betraying us.” Sachs adds; “How does it influence the artist me? I can’t remember!!!”

Heidrun Schimmel has been very interested in books about New York as “the metropolis of modern and contemporary art,” including  Just Kids by Patti Smith and Fifth Avenue by Stephan Wackwitz, of the Goethe Institute in New York. Fifth Avenue was published this year by S.Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt and has not yet been translated into English. Wackwitz’ previous work, An Invisible Country, is available in English.

The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey Without Borders, is recommended by Tamiko Kawata. The serious and studious book looks at the life and art and racial problems that faced the artist, who once said that his “longing for affiliation” was source of his creativity.

Scott Rothstein recommends Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection and the Stella Kramrisch Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz are collectors of American Outsider Art. In Kantha, which are made by self-taught artists, they saw the same spirit and vision as in the art they have acquired over the last 25 years. Scott played a role in growing the Kantha collection for his hometown museum’s collection, having discovered some of the Kathas in the Bonovitz collection while he lived in India. Scott shares the couple’s appreciation for Outsider Art. See his blog: Art Found Out: for more on Outsider Art around the world.

More to come.

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