Jul 7, 2012

Master forger comes clean about tricks that fooled art world for four decades

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Ken Perenyi's memoir reveals how natural cracks and discoloured varnish would deceive even seasoned experts

Ken Perenyi at his home in Madeira Beach, Florida

An extraordinary memoir is to reveal how a moderately gifted artist managed to forge his way to riches by conning high-profile auctioneers, dealers and collectors over four decades.

The book, Caveat Emptor: The Secret Life of an American Art Forger, will be published next month and tells the story of Ken Perenyi, an American who lived in London for 30 years. The revelations contained within it are likely to spark acute embarrassment in art circles on both side of the Atlantic.

Perenyi's specialities included British sporting and marine paintings of the 18th and 19th centuries. He concentrated his efforts on duplicating the work of well-known but second-rank artists, on the basis that the output of the greatest masters is too fully documented. Dealers were usually told that he had found a picture in a relative's attic or spotted it in a car boot sale.

Perhaps Perenyi's proudest moment came when a forgery of Ruby Throats with Apple Blossoms, by the American Martin Johnson Heade, made the front page of a national newspaper and was heralded as a major "discovery". It later fetched nearly $100,000 (£64,000) at auction in New York.

Claiborne Hancock, of Pegasus Books, describes the revelations in Caveat Emptor as "a bombshell for the major international auction houses and galleries".

Perenyi believes he is free finally to publish his story because, although he was investigated by the FBI, the case was closed in 2003 and is subject to the statute of limitations. He said he has never discovered why the case was dropped, but he suspects the art world may have been keen to prevent the exposure of the serial forgeries.

Born in New Jersey 63 years ago to a factory machinist, Perenyi is a self-taught artist who painted his first pictures as a teenager, discovering a natural talent for "the aesthetic and technical aspects of the old masters".

He recalled at first "trying to become a legitimate… artist" [but] every time I needed supplies or food, I would make a fake and sell it… I started to rely on fakery more and more. I eventually turned it into a full-blown career."

Explaining why he kept away from famous artists, Perenyi said: "I wouldn't want to fake a George Stubbs, as paintings… like that are usually… accounted for. However, you take an artist like John F Herring or Thomas Buttersworth and there could always be another one… in somebody's attic."

Sometimes he painted "in the style" of an artist, sometimes as "British School, 19th century". By rotating the auctioneers and dealers and also going to regional ones across the UK and US, he "could constantly keep under the radar", he said. Some assumed he was "another dealer who hunted for paintings".

Asked whether the experts should have detected the fakes, he said: "I pride myself on my forensic expertise. I started with extensive research… the correct canvas, correct stretchers… framed in good period antique frames. I made sure that… the back side spoke to [experts], that it gave them 'a history'. I had fake stamps, chalk marks, old inventory labels."

The book details intricate techniques of faking such as natural cracks and discoloured varnish "that would fool even the most seasoned expert". Salt water created rust and he found that canvas weaves from China had the irregularities of cloth used by 18th-century artists.

Not all of Perenyi's efforts passed muster. Two fakes are featured in a section on forgeries in a scholarly book on the 19th-century American artist Martin Johnson Heade. But elsewhere in the book two more appear as genuine paintings.

The master forger's love of painting and the old masters remains undimmed and today he owns a studio in Madeira Beach, Florida. Asked whether he regrets not finding recognition as an artist in his own right, he said: 

"I've often pondered that myself. If events had turned out a little differently… But to have equalled the hand of such artists as Herring and Buttersworth and many others is for me a tremendous satisfaction."

It now seems Perenyi's exploits will be celebrated in the cinema. The Oscar-winning director Ron Howard has just snapped up the rights to his life story.



Inside Germany's Most Complicated Art Restitution Battle

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Photo Gallery: The Battle over Beckmanns
The legendary Jewish gallery owner Alfred Flechtheim lost dozens of precious paintings during the Nazi era. For years, his heirs have been fighting for their rights to many paintings that now hang in Germany's top museums. It is one of the most complicated art restitution cases the country has ever seen.

The city of Berlin has affixed a memorial plaque to the front of the magnificent art nouveau building on Bleibtreu Strasse. It reads: "Alfred Flechtheim, art dealer, publisher and friend of modern art, lived in this building from 1923 to 1933. In 1933, Alfred Flechtheim was forced to emigrate. He died in exile in London."

Flechtheim must have experienced good times in his nine-room apartment, where he played host to the stars of the Weimar Republic -- actors, artists and athletes. But then the dark days began.
Michael Hulton, his grand nephew, still refers to him as "Uncle Alfred" today. Hulton, 66, an affable, soft-spoken man, now lives in San Francisco. His grandparents came from Berlin, and his grandmother was Flechtheim's sister-in-law. The family name was still Hulisch at the time. Hulton grew up in London and later studied medicine at Cambridge.

'I Want Justice'

For the last four years, Hulton has made regular trips to Berlin, where he rents a room at Pension Gudrun, in the house next door on Bleibtreu Strasse. "I want justice," says Hulton.

He is referring to his inheritance, which consists of works of art that Flechtheim owned and either went missing or had to be sold during the Nazi era. They consist of 11 paintings and six works on paper, which are now owned by German museums, including works by Pablo Picasso, Max Beckmann and Paul Klee. Paintings from the Flechtheim collection also hang in American museums. Hulton and his attorney, Markus Stötzel, estimate the market value of the estate at €100 million ($124 million).

This case of art restitution is probably the biggest and most complicated one of its kind in Germany.

It's complicated because, although all statutes of limitations expired long ago, Germany and 43 other countries have committed themselves to restitution. It's also complicated because Berlin's state government, led by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, has decreed that German museums must return works of art that were lost during the Nazi period "for reasons of persecution." 

And what complicates it even further is that Bernd Neumann, the federal commissioner for culture and the media, constantly insists that Germany "stands unequivocally behind its moral responsibility" and points out that "fair and just solutions" must be found. To date, however, Michael Hulton has received compensation from a German museum for only one relatively insignificant painting from the Flechtheim estate.

But what really makes the case complicated is that it is not entirely clear how extensive the estate actually is, which paintings were in fact confiscated or were sold out of necessity, and when exactly the paintings were sold, that is, before or after the Nazis seized power.

'Something Crazy About Art'

Flechtheim opened his first gallery in Düsseldorf in 1913, and he later managed galleries in Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne and Vienna. As one of the pioneers of modern art in Germany, he once wrote: "There is something crazy about art. It's a passion stronger than gambling, alcohol and women."

But during the chaos surrounding the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the misery of Nazism and the war, virtually all documents disappeared from his gallery. An estate doesn't exist.

Flechtheim was born into a wealthy family in the northwestern German city of Münster in 1878. He completed a business apprenticeship, but his interest in art prevailed.

His parents arranged a marriage in 1910. He married Betty Goldschmidt, who was from one of the richest Jewish families in nearby Dortmund. During their honeymoon in Paris, Flechtheim invested a large part of her dowry in Cubist art -- to the dismay of his in-laws, who managed to achieve a retroactive separation of property.

Flechtheim, together with the "Sonderbund" artists' association, organized exhibits of contemporary art, including paintings by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Munch and Picasso.

A good half year later Flechtheim went to war, serving in the Westphalian Uhlan Regiment, but not on the front. His gallery collapsed and his inventory was sold at auction in Berlin. 

Life of the Party

He reopened his Düsseldorf gallery at Easter in 1919, this time on the stylish Königsallee. It was then that he caught "the publishing bug," as he later recalled, publishing graphics editions, books and a magazine called Der Querschnitt (The Cross Section). The publication, which an editor called the "magazine of current eternal values," dealt with subjects like art, sports and dance.

Der Querschnitt was the zeitgeist magazine of the Golden '20s, and Flechtheim was among those who, in the crisis-ridden Weimar Republic, was able to experience the intoxicating effects of culture, luxury and a libertine lifestyle.

He opened a gallery in Berlin in October 1921, and the parties he hosted there were legendary.

Thea Sternheim, the wife of successful playwright Carl Sternheim, made friends with Flechtheim early on. "How thrilling it is to meet a Jew," she said, "who doesn't hide his heritage but is actually proud of it.

A French journalist bluntly described him by using a pejorative word to describe a despicable man. He could be loud-mouthed and vulgar. Flechtheim used pejoratives himself to describe the painter Otto Dix. Dix took his revenge by painting a portrait of Flechtheim that depicted him as a money-grubbing man.

Even before becoming an art dealer, Flechtheim had bought works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Braque, Cézanne, Matisse and other French painters. And now he was also representing young German artists, including Max Beckmann, Paul Klee and George Grosz.

When he gave a party to celebrate his 50th birthday in the spring of 1928, at the Hotel Kaiserhof on Wilhelmplatz in Berlin, friends made a commemorative publication that contained tributes by Joachim Ringelnatz, Ernest Hemingway and other authors. Max Beckmann, George Grosz and other artists contributed drawings. The party guests included Tilla Durieux, the poet Gottfried Benn, the publisher Hermann Ullstein and the boxer Max Schmeling, who said: 

"If I were a painter, I would want Flechtheim to represent me."

Target of the Nazis

By now, the art dealer had opened additional branches of his gallery. But the 1929 global economic crisis put a stop to his expansion, and soon the Nazis had declared him an enemy. When the Nazi Party magazine Illustrierter Beobachter (Illustrated Observer) ran a cover story called "The Race Question is the Key to World History," it featured a portrait of Flechtheim on the cover. A populist politician with an interest in art castigated the "insolent Jewish-Negro contamination of the soul of the German people." In March 1933, members of the SA, a Nazi paramilitary group, forcibly ended an auction in Düsseldorf in which Flechtheim was participating.

During this period, Flechtheim's Aryan business partner Alex Vömel took over the Düsseldorf gallery. Vömel eventually joined the SA. To pay the gallery's debts, he pawned works of art, including some from Flechtheim's private collection, and sold sculptures to Switzerland. After the war, the former Nazi Party member Vömel claimed to have almost no recollection of Flechtheim and even filed an application for reparations, which was rejected.

Half a year after the Nazis had come to power, Flechtheim was destitute and living in Paris. "What horrifies me the most is the senseless fear that has taken hold of Flechtheim," Thea Sternheim wrote in July 1933. "In a completely empty restaurant, he looks left and right, even during the most harmless conversations, to make sure that no one is listening to us."
A liquidator sold off the contents of his Berlin gallery. In Paris, Flechtheim tried to work for his old business partner, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. He also organized exhibitions in London for artists ostracized in Germany.

He suffered the last blow of fate in London. After slipping and falling on an icy street, he went to a hospital, where he contracted blood poisoning from a rusty nail on his bed. His leg was amputated, but it was too late.

 Flechtheim died on March 9, 1937, in "misery, pain and despair," as his English acquaintances recalled.

Part 2: 'Forfeited to the Reich'

Betty Flechtheim, who had stood by his side until his last days in London, returned to Berlin. In December 1941, a friend reported: "After Betty Flechtheim had received orders to pack 25 kg of her belongings and be ready for deportation to Minsk, she made rice pudding, added the necessary amount of (the barbiturate) Veronal, and ate the pudding." When the Gestapo broke down the door the next morning, she was still breathing, despite having taken an overdose of the powerful sedative. Betty Flechtheim eventually died in a hospital.

The remaining assets, which were "forfeited to the Reich," also included paintings. Attorney Stötzel estimates that the Flechtheims' private collection consisted of 100 to 120 works of art, of which 60 to 70 were paintings. They also owned a collection of tribal art from the South Pacific, which is now in museums in Cologne, Zurich and other cities. It is generally unclear which paintings were still hanging on the walls when the Gestapo sealed Betty Flechtheim's apartment.

In his will, Alfred Flechtheim had named his nephew Henry Hulton, previously named Heinz Alfred Hulisch, the son of a sister-in-law and the father of Michael Hulton, as his sole heir. After the war, Henry Hulton filed a request for the return of the property that had been stolen from Betty Flechtheim. 

In May 1954, the Berlin District Court awarded Hulton 20,400 deutsche marks, of which 12,400 were for furniture and household goods. The court estimated the replacement value of the paintings by "Hofer, Klee, George Gross, Matthiess, Monet and Renoir, that is, world-renowned artists," at 8,000 Deutschmarks.

Battling over Beckmanns

Almost 60 years later, the sums at issue have changed considerably. Art historian Andrea Bambi, director of the department of provenance research at the Bavarian State Picture Collections, has now been asked to determine whether the Munich museums own works that were illegally taken from their owners during the Nazi years. She received legal papers from Stötzel in March 2009, in which he wrote that six paintings by the great expressionist Max Beckmann did not belong to the state of Bavaria, but to the heir of Alfred Flechtheim.

One of these paintings is a portrait that Beckmann painted of his second wife, Mathilde von Kaulbach, called "Quappi in Blue." Flechtheim bought it in 1928. The art dealer acquired another portrait, "La Duchessa di Malvedi," and four still lifes in 1931.

But after Flechtheim and Beckmann had parted ways, Flechtheim wanted to resell the paintings in January 1932, and offered them to Israel Ber Neumann, an art dealer who had emigrated to New York.

The paintings found their way to Neumann's gallery in Munich and were later taken over by his partner, Günther Franke. In 1974, Franke donated the paintings, together with 24 other works by Beckmann, to the state of Bavaria in return for a lifetime annuity for his wife and children.

Michael Hulton assumes that Neumann never paid money for the paintings, but instead took advantage of his partner's precarious situation. At any rate, there is no documentation of payments made for any of the six paintings. In the summer of 1933, Flechtheim wrote a postcard from Florence to the artist George Grosz, in which he said: "Please say hello to your dear wife and to Neumann. He should pay me for the Beckmanns, at least something. I have no money."

Flechtheim was probably no longer in a position to assert his claims against debtors. But provenance researcher Bambi believes that Neumann did pay for the paintings, although she is unwilling to comment in detail.

Stalling for Time

Michael Hulton is experiencing what many Jewish heirs experience with German museums when they inquire about lost works of art. The directors or legal advisors play for time. Studies and expert reports are commissioned, probably in the hope of wearing out the heirs, who are usually older.

There is no question that the Nazis publicly denounced and persecuted Flechtheim, driving him into exile and ruin. Nevertheless, Hulton and his attorney Stötzel have reached an agreement with only one museum in four years, the Kunstmuseum Bonn.

For the painting "Lighthouse with Rotating Beam," by expressionist painter Paul Adolf Seehaus, the heirs received compensation of €25,000, or half the market value, in April.

The Munich museum officials, who are dealing with the vastly more valuable Beckmann paintings, have broken off contact with Stötzel. He is now thinking of appealing to the Advisory Commission for the Return of Cultural Assets Seized as a Result of Nazi Persecution. The goal of the commission is to issue recommendations on what a fair solution could look like in disputed cases.

But in another restitution dispute, the Munich museum officials already refused to deal with the commission.

Hulton says that he doesn't want to auction off the paintings in his inheritance at Sotheby's or take them back to the United States. The paintings, he says, should stay in the museums, and he intends to donate the proceeds from their sale to AIDS research.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.



Another Gallery on Historic Canyon Road ... When There Are Already More Than 100 –

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The personality of Last Gallery on the Right, 836A Canyon Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, is unpretentious, pragmatic, and earthy. Aptly named, because that’s where it’s located, the walls and courtyard of this historic building feature art by five New Mexico artists who apply earth, air, fire, and water to their paintings and sculptures. Real leaves are strewn about the floors as decoration. The delicate web of a friendly spider is left to be admired in the courtyard. The gallery is alive with palpable creativity. An artist is always present, often at work on a painting, and always ready to share a story. The paintings range from 2 inches to 10 feet tall. Last Gallery on the Right is a “Featured Business” on SantaFe.com.

Collaboration among the artists and the community is a priority. Guests might witness artists painting together on the same canvas, and the gallery always sponsors a community organization at their events. The gallery’s all-day art openings include music, dancing, interesting conversation, and the comfort of homemade chocolate chip cookies. The gallery’s artists make it their business to share their joie de vivre.

The gallery’s mission is to offer the beauty of our natural world, and to give back to the community. A gallery guest stated, “It would be wonderful to see art from this gallery in commercial buildings in big cities; it is warm and inviting and reminds me of nature.”

About the artists at Last Gallery on the Right:

Thor Sigstedt creates at his foundry in Santa Fe County. Recently he completed a very large bronze raven and put it out to cool in a field. Soon afterward he was laughing as dozens of ravens landed near it, squawking, croaking, and walking around it with tilted heads. 

Juniper Storm paints images of children scaring away colorful fuzzy monsters; ideal art for children's rooms. 

Touché paints horses, a favorite of which is a rainbow colored horse titled Celebrate Diversity. He captures their regal stance and graceful motion on canvas. His New Mexican landscapes are vibrant and full of depth.

Jacqueline Almond incorporates barbed wire, flowers, butterfly wings, and accidental seeds into her abstracts. 

Linda Storm's infatuation with myths and mysteries is made clear on her canvases. Many of her paintings glow in the dark and have a completely new look after the lights go out. Once a man convinced her to sell a painting she was creating at the gallery before it was finished. It had a glow-in-the dark moon in the night sky, below it a day sky, and then bare canvas. He sent a thank you note with a personal explanation; "The empty canvas reminds me of my life, it is always evolving, the sky is the constant."



Art world divided over Caravaggio 100 works discovery

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The art world is divided over claims that 100 previously unrecognised sketches and paintings by Caravaggio, worth 700 million euros (£556 million), have been discovered in a castle in Milan. 


Caravaggio discovery: to find 100 new works is simply astonishing
Judith Beheading Holofernes 

The row came as the newly "discovered" works were published in a two-volume, 477-page e-book, 'Young Caravaggio – One hundred rediscovered works' by Amazon. 

The book, which compares the newly-analysed drawings and paintings with known works by the Renaissance master, was available for download to Kindles for $17.50 (£11.30). 

Art historians Maurizio Bernardelli Curuz and Adriana Conconi Fedrigolli said they found the Caravaggio creations in a collection of art works from the studio of a Milanese artist, Simone Peterzano, under whom Caravaggio studied as a teenager from 1584 to 1588. 

Their research was praised as "intelligent" by Claudio Strinati, a prominent expert in 16th-century art and an authority on Caravaggio. 

"It is plausible that at least some of these drawings are by the young Michelangelo Merisi (Caravaggio's real name)," he wrote in La Repubblica newspaper.
"There are documents which attest to the fact that he spent four years in the studio of Peterzano. It's clear that he would have produced some works in those years." But other experts were dismissive of the claims. 

Dr John T. Spike, a Caravaggio expert at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, said the quality of the sketches was better than Caravaggio's earliest known work, Boy Peeling Fruit, painted in 1592. 

"The sketches from the collection show robust, competent drawing, yet in Caravaggio's earliest painting he was struggling to draw competently," he told The Daily Telegraph. "How could he have gone backwards in terms of his artistic skill?" 

He said one of the sketches acclaimed as the work of Caravaggio appeared to have been based on a sculpture from 1601 – more than a decade after he was working under Peterzano's tutelage. 

"These sketches could have been by anybody. Young artists studied in groups and used the same artistic language," he said. 

The curators of the collection, which is kept in Milan's Sforzesco Castle, said it had been studied by many well-qualified scholars in the past and none had claimed to have identified Caravaggios. 

They said the two art historians who made the claim had only studied photographic reproductions of the drawings, not the originals. 

Francesca Rossi, the current curator of the collection, said: "We were in contact with them a year ago when they asked for photographic reproductions but I've never seen them here. "These are generic drawings, it is impossible to be certain (that they are by Caravaggio). The attribution seems overly ambitious and not very credible." 

"I'm very perplexed," Maria Teresa Fiorio, the former director of the castle's collection, told Corriere della Sera. "A serious scholar doesn't produce an e-book – they would publish their findings in the appropriate journals. 

Everyone who has studied the collection has asked themselves – is it possible that some were drawn by Caravaggio? No one has drawn that conclusion." The director of the castle collection, Claudio Salsi, also said the art historians' conclusion was "without critical foundation". 

Francesca Cappelletti, who a decade ago helped identify a painting owned by the Jesuits in Dublin as a long-lost Caravaggio, said: "To me they still look like typical drawings by Peterzano." Other experts said they would keep an open mind until further research was carried out. 

"We must be very prudent," said Cristina Terzaghi, an art historian at the University of Rome III and the author of a book on Caravaggio. 

"Their research must be carefully studied and verified by the scientific community." But the art historians stood by their claim. 

They said they had set out to solve the "mystery" of Caravaggio's earliest artistic development. 

When Caravaggio moved from Milan to Rome, where he was to achieve fame and notoriety, he took with him a "sort of mental suitcase" of drawing and painting techniques which he later refined into his famous chiaro-oscuro technique of contrasting light and darkness, said Mr Bernadelli Curuz. 

"If you go digging around in Italy's incredibly rich cultural heritage, it is still possible to find extraordinary things." 



Jul 5, 2012

Bountiful woman uses artistic talent to sculpt memories

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(NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Betty Jo Hixson holds one of her carvings at her Bountiful home.
Betty Jo Hixson holds one of her carvings at her Bountiful home

Betty Jo Hixson has made it her life’s work to portray the beauty she sees in the world around her.

As the 87-year-old artist sat in the living room of the home she has owned for 53 years, she pointed out her unique sculptures of wood and bronze found on almost every shelf and tabletop. Oil paintings, penciled sketches, and hand-carved wood sculptures adorned her walls.

“Anytime I can work on any kind of art, I just love it,” she said. “If I could take a class on art anywhere, I would do it.”

Earlier in her life Betty Jo created sofa-sized oil paintings of landscapes and scenery that she found beautiful. Many of these paintings now hang in her children’s and grandchildren’s homes.

When Hixson retired in 1989, following 20 years as the secretary at Viewmont High School, she and her husband decided to take a woodcarving class at the Golden Years Senior Activity Center in Bountiful.

Betty Jo signed up for the class in hopes of finding her husband, Gene, a hobby, said her daughter Cheryl Ann Wood.

While Gene created a few sculptures for the class, it was Betty Jo’s talent that blossomed into a new artistic passion.

“She just fell in love with it, and she got so good at it so fast,” said Wood, 61.

Betty Jo studied under Ellis Olson, who allowed the class to duplicate his patterns.

One of her first woodcarvings, entitled “All God’s Children,” is a unique group of children representing several nationalities. It is now displayed in a glass case in her home.

She entered many of her carvings into state and county fairs, as well as competitions exclusive to woodcarvers.
The result is a shelf full of ribbons, many of which announce her work as the “Best of Show.” 

Betty Jo won first place in a Great Salt Lake Woodcarver’s competition for “All God’s Children.”

As the years passed and Betty Jo became more skillful in her carving, she began to create her own designs.

She explained how she would sketch her designs on a block of wood, each of the four sides with a different sketch to represent the viewpoints seen in the finished carving.

The block would then be cut with power tools to reach a basic shape for the sculpture.

Then Betty Jo would go to work with her hand tools to create the shapes and details she had envisioned.

She said that the smaller carvings would take a few weeks to create, while some of the larger pieces took months.

Her painting skills often came in handy as she used acrylic paints to embellish many of her finished works.

Betty Jo became so proficient in woodcarving that the senior center eventually asked her to teach the course.

Karen Henderson, director of the Golden Years Senior Activity Center, said that Hixson’s classes were quite popular.

“She’s had the class full at times,” Henderson said. “She has done a lot of work at the center, and helped so many people... She’s been a great teacher for all the 10 years I’ve been here.”

Betty Jo eventually used her skills in woodcarving to learn how to sculpt in clay. 

“She’d get bored with something and decide she wanted to try something new,” Wood said. 

So many people enjoyed her sculptures, and wanted their own, so she took her works to an art studio in Salt Lake where molds were created from her clay sculptures. The molds were then used to create bronze statues.
Many of these bronze statues are what Betty Jo considers her favorites.

She pointed out a specific sculpture of an Indian down on one knee with his head bowed.

She explained how her nephew, who competed in the Mr. Utah body building competition, was the model for the kneeling Indian.

“That’s one of my favorites,” she said. “I’ve always liked Indians. I’ve painted Indians. They are a very beautiful people.”

Although Betty Jo’s arthritis has progressed to the point that she can no longer paint or carve, she still enjoys talking about and showing off her work.

“This was her release. She just loved it so much, and it didn’t matter what she was working on. It was just relaxing to her,. It was soothing to her,” said Wood.



Vietnamese sand paintings introduced

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Artist Thuy Van and the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

Pure Art is among events of West Midlands region to welcome the visit by Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her 60th anniversary on the throne.

Vietnamese artist Thuy Van has created a large-sized sand portrait of the queen, 1.25x0.9m, based on the original oil painting “Elizabeth II” by Leonard Boden, for this event.

The artist used 10 colors of sand, 8 of them are natural colors. Only two are artificial colors, in order to make the color of the queen’s royal robe to look natural. The portrait was completed after two months, weighing up to 160 kilos.

Enframed sand paintings appeared in Vietnam over ten years ago. This is the first time this unique art is being introduced in the UK. The event attracted the attention of some famous people in the UK.

Artist Tri Duc and Millionaire Kevin Green.

Millionaire Kevin Green was very interested in the sand portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and agreed to be a speaker at the exhibition, with a presentation entitled “Art and Commerce.”

Another artist – Tri Duc – will join the event by a 30-minute performance to tell about the 60-year life of Queen Elizabeth by sand paintings.

To prepare for the show, Tri Duc read a lot of books about the queen and carefully selected music in order to bring about an unforgettable feeling to British audience.



Artist infuses science in paintings

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PPR Kevin Raines again 0705
Artist Kevin Raines poses with work-in-progress "Mossy Cascade."

Take any primordial or compromised wildlands, artist Kevin Raines is there with paint and brushes to capture the natural landscape wherever he may be in the world. 

For the last 25 years, he has worked with the Nature Conservancy to identify significant ecosystems.

“We essentially identify remote areas that are being worked on by the Nature Conservancy and ultimately will become sites that are protected,” said Raines, who is a professor of art at Notre Dame of Maryland University and a Wadhams resident. 

Several of his paintings are on exhibit in the summer opening of the Corscaden Barn Gallery in Keene Valley. The group exhibition includes photography by Amy Kosh, recent paintings by Joan Dixon, collage by Sandra Leonard, ceramics by Julia Gronski and anthropoliths by Harry Matthews. 

Through his association with the Nature Conservancy, Raines has had numerous exhibitions paired with explanatory text of the ecological systems highlighted. 

“Right now, I’m looking at a painting called ‘Beaver Meadow Pond.’ It’s an animal-centered ecosystem that was created by animals. It looks the way it looks because of that element. I exhibit work that is intrinsically beautiful.

 The idea is to make paintings of the extraordinary beauty of nature and infuse some science into the painting,” he said. 

Raines has participated in the Summit Stewards program, a collaborative initiative with the conservancy and the Adirondack Mountain Club. 

“And I think the DEC,” Raines said. “The Nature Conservancy installed graduate students in environmental studies below the summits of Marcy and Algonquin. They would mount the mountain every morning and greet hikers and explain about the alpine meadows. Hikers trampled the meadows almost to extinction.” 

On the mountain summits, hikers were educated about the alpine meadows’ fragility and how walking on rock faces was preferred.

“The meadows came back. In 1991, I painted the denuded mountains and Boot’s Rattlesnake Root. It’s a tiny little plant. The painting I created, it was tucked under an overhanging ledge. The time I made the painting, there were only three known plants: one plant on Algonquin, one on Mary and one on Whiteface. Recently, I’ve gone back to the mountain and made a painting on the same spot. It’s completely changed. In the end, it reveals the success of the conservation efforts,” Raines said. 

He’s also worked with the Adirondack Council on the newly established Bob Marshall Wildlands Complex, 410,000 acres in the western corner of the Adirondack Park. He’s creating 40 to 60 oil paintings on sized paper and panel paintings of this tract. 

“Essentially what we’re doing is the same kind of thing with pristine wilderness,” he said. “I backpack, kayak or canoe into these areas. I do work on location. Black flies eat me, and I work them into the paintings. My blood and black flies will be in the paintings. Watercolor dries brown, so you don’t have to worry about it. As far as permanency, I’m not sure.” 

The paintings will ultimately tour the complex’s gateway communities as well as Saratoga, Albany and New York City.

“They are used as an educational tool. In this series, I’m integrating figures into it. The beauty of the Bob Marshall Wildlands Complex is it’s really a state of the art sustainable stewardship,” he said. 

The Adirondack Council seeks input from residents, businesses and scientists.

“My job is to chronicle the wilderness of the existing site and the special ecosystem and also include the people — children, adults, old people — kayaking, canoeing, skiing, fishing, using and blending into the landscape,” Raines said. 

Noted Adirondack guide Joe Hackett took him to Slant Rock Camp in the Cranberry Lake area.

“It’s a campsite that Remington loved to camp in,” Raines said. “We’re infusing the history of the area. The whole idea of the paintings is to offer the beauty of the world with a little bit of explanation and bring people in to participate in the stewardship of the land.” 



Jul 4, 2012

Frank Bowling and the politics of abstract painting

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He graduated from art school second only to David Hockney then gave up on the British art scene. Frank Bowling on pigeonholes, prejudice and waiting for that really big show

'There were lots of fights' … Frank Bowling in his London studio.

Last February, the painter Frank Bowling turned 78. It turns out he almost didn't make it. When he moved from London to New York in 1967 – because New York, he says, was "the frontline of artistic aspiration" – he narrowly escaped being knifed by another artist. "He followed me home after an argument; the woman I was with just managed to push me out of the way before the blade cut open my greatcoat." Bowling smiles wryly. He is sitting in a corner of his flat in Pimlico, central London, jaunty in green braces; the walls teem with the Technicolor daubs and drips of his abstract paintings. "I'm sure it wasn't the first time human beings have come to blows over culture. There were lots of fights."

When Bowling left the Royal College of Art in 1962, he was hailed as a leading talent in an exceptional year, one that included RB Kitaj and David Hockney. At their graduation, Bowling won the silver medal to Hockney's gold (and was thought by some to have deserved the higher accolade). Several exhibitions followed, but he was soon eclipsed by his former classmates; the move to New York was born partly out of frustration at being pigeonholed as a "Caribbean artist".

"It seemed that everyone was expecting me to paint some kind of protest art out of postcolonial discussion. For a while I fell for it. I painted a picture called the Martyrdom of [Congolese independence leader] Patrice Lumumba." 

In New York, he moved away from these figurative paintings to the abstract approach that would define his art for the next four decades ("because," he says, "it isn't hidebound by colour or race").

And what a lot of art there is: the gallery on Bowling's website contains more than 750 paintings. At Tate Britain in London, you can currently see 15 of them: huge fluorouscent canvases dominating a white-walled room, all of them produced in New York in the 1970s, in the space of just five years. Another recent series of eight paintings is on display at London's Hales Gallery.

The Tate show is a landmark for Bowling, who moved to London from Guyana in 1953, aged 19. He hasn't exactly been ignored here: in 1987, the Tate bought his painting Spreadout Ron Kitaj (a vast stippled canvas in the reddish colours of dying embers), the first painting the gallery had purchased from a living black British artist. He has had solo shows on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 2005 became the first black British artist to be elected to the Royal Academy; an OBE followed.

But, to his evident chagrin, the Tate has never given him a major retrospective. He and his partner Rachel Scott – a textile artist and prodigious knitter who sits quietly in the opposite corner of the room as we talk – hope to change that. Bowling says: "We've been trying – not just me personally, but my friends, to talk the Tate into giving me a retrospective. They say they can't, because we can't guarantee 80,000 pairs of feet crossing the threshold. My friends think they can; so this show is a sort of compromise." (When I put this to the Tate, a spokeswoman confirms that there are no plans for a retrospective, but denies this is because the gallery is worried about potential footfall.)

Bowling was close to Hockney while at the Royal College: the two artists would go drinking together, and then fast ("for two weeks, we ate only apples and oranges and the odd bowl of rice"). They remain friends. Lucian Freud was another early mentor. "He'd go out of his way to encourage me," Bowling says. "He'd often drop by – but that didn't last much past the time I stopped doing figurative painting."

Perhaps his most significant friendship was with the late American pop artist Larry Rivers. It was Rivers who pressed Bowling to move to New York (where he continues to spend half the year, working in a studio under the Manhattan Bridge). "Larry was one of the first artists who was able to trade his art for a Cadillac," Bowling says.

 "He paid his doctors, his psychiatrist, everybody, by giving them art. It was marvellous. I ate in a restaurant for years without having to pay – the [owner] got three of my paintings."

Bowling remains frustrated by the fact that few young black British artists are achieving mainstream success today – but believes this is down to class and money rather than overt prejudice. "There's a handful of young black artists who are coming up," he says. "But the support system just isn't here. In New York, people are looking for younger artists to promote. The fact that so few of the population, who also happen to be black, want to make art – it's a double bind. Traditionally, black people aren't encouraged to make art: you get a decent job. Even the sons of doctors, lawyers and stockbrokers are discouraged from going into making art as a way of living."

Despite his increasing frailty (he has diabetes and chronic back pain, and needs help to get to the furthest parts of his canvases), Bowling still paints every day. Naturally, he is pleased by the recent resurgence of interest: six exhibitions so far this year, while the Royal Academy has just published a monograph of his work. "It feels," he says, "just like the first five years I spent in New York – the working, and writing, and toing and froing from London. I've never felt this interest in my work quite as intensely." And he gives the broad smile of an artist very happy to be rediscovered.