I live in Metro NYC and see a lot of contemporary art. I also find images online. You can too. The Internet is a great resource for information and images.
The image above is a flower painting by the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (born 1929). Notice the colors are red, green yellow, black and blue. It’s a stylized flower with stem and leaves and a crackle-texture black on red background. Notice the detail and pattern. You may think it looks like a simple flower painting, but probably also think it is very appealing.
Kusama is known for obsessive, dot-covered art and pumpkin motifs, as well as the use of mirrors to create mystical “Infinity Rooms.” The image below shows the artist in a saffron orange and black polka dot dress sitting on the edge of a platform installation with walls and floors in the same color and polka dot design with a pumpkin sculpture behind her in the same colors and design. The artist is part of the installation. The image was reproduced in an Artsy article titled The Top 14 Living Artists of 2014 and was taken at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (2010). I have the image, on a Pinterest Board titled Yayoi Kusama. I have 117 pins that show Kusama and her art. It is the most popular board of all (image of Yayoi Kusama courtesy Artsy, published January 18, 2015).
Kusama says “My artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease.” She has been plagued by mental illness and hallucinations since childhood. She uses her hallucinations and mental illness as material to stimulate an incredible artistic output in every discipline. Her colors and patterns are opulent and decorative. At the age of 88, Kusama is one of the most unique and famous contemporary female artists alive today. Her works include paintings, sculpture, photography, installation, performance and Conceptual art. She lives in a mental hospital in Japan and works every day in a nearby studio.
The image above is a view of Infinity Mirrors, originally at the Hirschhorn Museum, Washington, DC. Read about Infinity Mirrors. The show is currently at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles, CA (closes Jan 1, 2018) and will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (March 3-May 27, 2018), the Cleveland Museum of Art (July 9-Sept 30, 2018) and finally to the High Museum of Art (Nov 18, 2018 – Feb 17, 2019).
There are plans to build a museum for Yayoi Kusama’s art in Japan this coming year. Read more about Yayoi Kusama life and art here.
In a previous post, titled Connections, I wrote about an art project I organized and took to Albuquerque, NM in September 2017. The project included 21 mixed media collages by regional members of the Society of Layerists in Multi Media (SLMM). I am a regional coordinator for the Society.
I got email from Sharon Eley. She is a Midwest regional SLMM member and participated in the SLMM group exhibition I organized. She asked me to edit the post because I didn’t mention that her twin sister, Shirley Nachtrieb, was the person responsible for an exhibition I mentioned in the post. Shirley is the regional coordinator for the South Central SLMM membership. I edited the post and gave Shirley credit.
I was curious to see Shirley’s art and visited her website. She is an amazing watercolor artist. I saw flower images and it made me think about writing this post to show (and share) the images of Yayoi Kusama’s art and include images of flower collages by my students at the Pelham Art Center. See the images below. The student collages don’t look like Kusama’s flower paintings. They’re interpretive and personal. They are collage paintings because they include cut and pasted flower images (from flower magazines) and painted papers on a painted and embellished Bristol paper substrate. My students loved the flower collage project because it included so much mixed media. But, they also love other collage projects we do. Not everything is a flower.
Lynn Evansohn did the collage above. The flowers are cut from a botanical catalog I brought to class. Some of the papers are painted. Lynn painted the background with black acrylic and etched spiral twirls into the wet paint. The vase is all paper collage. Notice Lynn cut and pasted green painted paper dots at the bottom edge. I remember she said it was a tribute to the polka dots in Yayoi Kusama’s work.
Patty Towle did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic embellished it with tiny dots of various colored painted papers. The flowers and stems are cut and pasted decorative papers. Some flower petals have polka dots. She cut flowers and leaves from images in a flower catalog. Notice the dots that decorate the blue vase. Notice the blue painted paper tiles Patty used to create the table, and notice the black spaces in between. The design mimics the black on red in Kusama’s flower painting seen above.
Mimi Wohlberg did the collage above. She painted the background with black acrylic and embellished the surface with dots and circles. She painted the flower papers and stamped them with more dots. Notice the stem and leaves are cut from patterned green painted papers. The design is layered and all the pieces overlap with a sense of dimension.
Sylvia Lien did the collage below. Notice the landscape imagery behind the cut and pasted flower in a vase. Sylvia was inspired to create a collage that quoted a Kusama flower sculpture in a landscape setting. Notice how Sylvia’s flower petals and leaves are made with various papers from a flower catalog. Notice the flower stem. Sylvia cut and pasted yellow painted papers to shape a curved stem. I like the vase. It’s a simple rectangle shape, cut from a page in a flower catalog. This collage juxtaposes decorative papers and photo images to create abstract and natural elements.
Sandra Graciadei did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic and etched the open dot design into the wet paint. The vase was cut and pasted from a magazine image found in ArtForum. Sandra painted papers for the leaves in the vase. The tiny flowers are cut from a flower catalog. Notice how Sandra fitted all the leaves and flower stems into the vase and how the flower stems extend beyond the edge of the black painted background. Notice how the stems mimic the width and abundance of the lines in the design on the vase. Details!
Estelle Laska did the collage below. Her collage is an interpretive quote of a Kusama flower sculpture in an outdoor setting. Estelle painted the collage background with blue acrylic and used a palette knife to build texture as she painted. Her leaves and flowers are large papers cut from a flower catalog. Estelle added red and green painted paper polka dots to a rich golden yellow leaf shape at the bottom. Notice how the leaves extend beyond the borders of the painted background.
Harriet Goldberg did the collage below. She painted the background in black and green and added yellow and green polka dots. The yellow dots are press-on papers you find in stationery stores. The flowers are cut and pasted from painted papers and images from a flower catalog. The vase is decorative paper with dots. Notice how the flowers extend beyond the painted background. See all the patterns, colors and layered papers. This collage is a riot of dots and definitely Kusama-inspired!
Leslie Cowen did the collage below. She painted the background with acrylic in blues and greens. There is a sense of diagonal movement as well as decoration. She etched into the paint with a palette knife. The large pink flower at the top extends beyond the painted background. Leslie cut and pasted her papers to make the flower image look dimensional and realistic. Some of the leaves and flowers are created with painted papers and some are images cut from a flower catalog. Realistic and abstract imagery is juxtaposed in this design. Notice how the leaves also extend beyond the edge of the painted background.
Ilene Bellovin did the collage below. She painted the background with black acrylic and created her flowers with papers from a flower catalog. Notice the variations in color in the pink, yellow, red and violet flower petals. Ilene created the leaves with green painted papers. This collage is almost realistic. The flowers are cut and pasted papers arranged like a beautiful bouquet.
My students include adults at all skill levels. Beginners quickly become highly skilled collage makers. We work with fine art papers, everyday media, art magazines, including ArtForum, postcards and found papers. We embellish collage with drawing. We paint papers.
The flower collage project is a favorite. We’ve done it more than once. All the flower collages above include painting and mixed media collage on 14″ x 11″ Bristol paper substrate.
Sometimes I get resistance to projects that quote a famous artist. I argue that there is no way anyone can copy. Everything is an interpretation. And, more important, the process is an exercise that teaches you how to look carefully and study what you see. You notice colors, relationships, scale, proportion, and other design elements.
Question for YOU: Can you be inspired by an artist and make collage that quotes but doesn’t copy? Send me your comments.