The Last Museum

My last museum outing? Before *gestures at everything*

I had a great day with my father in law at the small, quirky, and absolutely hidden-gem level of beautiful Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis. This was in September of 2019. My 2020 started in 2019, as I spent the year stumbling toward a big surgery at year end. It’s a bit of a blur, but anyway –

Your immune suppressed pals are tired, folks. We are tired.

The Museum of Russian Art sits in a Spanish Mission style Church-Turned-Funeral-Home-Turned-Russian-Art-Museum – a building which sits out proudly in a pure “well that’s different” refusal to just be normal in this town, you really can’t miss it.

And you shouldn’t miss it.

If you do the Art track in a liberal arts college when I did it, you had a certain compulsory amount of art history coursework. I don’t mind – it’s a good thing and I love art history – although I think that the actual “I make art” art students had more compelling and vital art historical discourse on a regular basis than the art history majors – we were living breathing eating and sleeping theory and always made to know where we were coming from and who was the visual ancestor of just about every line we drew. It was….intense, and weird.

But my point in saying this, is that nobody teaches the Russians. (Unless you take a film class, then Russia exists and is a thing.) You can’t go through a program without exposure to Raphael or Matisse, you can’t get through it without Cezanne or El Greco, Giorgione or Giotto, but you can absolutely graduate a top program and have no idea who Shishkin is.

I mean, they don’t even teach the British, to be fair. Not one Reynolds. No mention of where Holbein was busy Holbein-ing.

So I’ve never really compensated to the extent I should for this deficit. I hadn’t made it to the Museum of Russian Art in over a decade of it being around.

The thing that got me out and motivated for this last hurrah of the almost-normal was this show:

Mystical Imprints: Marc Chagall, Ben-Zion, and Ben Shahn

The Russian-ness of Russian-born Jewish artists is…complicated. Kind of a bold idea to claim folks you drove out when they were under 18, no? Even ones who went through the bother of becoming American citizens?

I love Chagall, but not for his printmaking, you know? Worth a peek, sure.

Ben-Zion is all right, kind of dark and lumpy and very early modernism, reminded me of the art in our mid-century down at the heels working class temple. His series showing the righteous men as shtetl regulars was moving, though, and more forthright in a way than Chagall’s mysticism. These righteous men are not experiencing their oppression and limitation as a colorful dream. I appreciate that.

But I was there for Ben Shahn, not gonna lie.

Categorizing American artists Ben Shahn and Ben-Zion as anything but American is really pushing it and still sort of pushes my buttons in a not-good way. BUT – HOWEVER – ignoring where an artist spent their childhood is to ignore a bigger part of their worldview. Do you make any kind of art? Where are your real dreams hopes nightmares and preferences forged? When you’re 34 or when you’re 4?

It’s not completely unreasonable to get these three guys together as a supergroup, and frankly, I really didn’t need a reason to see more Ben Shahns than I usually can in person.

Ben Shahn Alphabet of Creation 1957 Hill Museum and Collection

I was pretty awestruck by them. I don’t know what I expected. Something illustrative, jittery, Ben Shahn-ish. Instead I got the lettering. Wow.

I don’t read Hebrew, and I think it’s actually an asset in looking at these. They possess a pure graphic knockout power – anyone with even the least curiosity about hand lettering should see them. You don’t have to read Hebrew and you don’t have to know Kabbalah to be knocked on your butt by the mystical power of the presence of Words.

We even got to wrap this last really good day up with a good enough bagel, definitely feeling my roots, and not a bad set of memories at all. Hopefully some new ones soon!

Painting In the Gaps – Quick Loose Roses

When we talk about stealing just a couple of moments for creativity and self-care this is what that can look like.

Things that help me create quickly and consistently?

  • Putting some of my tube watercolors into a pan set – I like the inexpensive metal cases with plastic half and full pans with colors I use the most.
  • Using scraps of paper – they tape down easily and I don’t have to stretch them to paint something really small and simple. The paper in the video is Arches 90 lb cold press – cheaper than the 140 pound and fine for smaller work or for stretching!
  • Scanning things and not worrying so much about using reverse sides, keeping everything forever, having a “messed up” leaf on the same page as a really good bunch of leaves. Digitization is easier and more accessible now, and it’s a great way to help us both keep and let go in our work!

Hope you like the video!

For Real Though? (Favorite at the Met)

I’ve been going places in my memory.

It’s all I’ve probably got for my forseeable, so let’s do some museums together! I’m going to post my favorites in a number of my favorite collections.

I’m going to start with my home base of sorts, the Met in NYC. I can’t count the weekends I went there, the school trips we all went there – some of my earliest memories are of being in the echoing massive galleries.

What’s your favorite item in the Met collections, if you have been there?

Is it the unicorn at the Cloisters? Magnificent!

Maybe you’re into more obscure B sides – and this Bronzino portrait knocks your socks off!

Maybe no matter how familiar it may be, you can stare at it forever.

Maybe it’s a huge influence on your own artistic interest and practice, like this George Innes, in my case?

Honestly? My favorite piece at the Met –

In an institution where the strong points are ancient to early 20th c, my favorite piece is modern. It looks nothing like my work, but I think it has influenced my work in its way.

The reason for my love of it is experiential. Sitting. Taking it in. Nobody but me in the space on a weekday afternoon. You hear it before you see it.

Water Stone by Isamu Noguchi.

It’s been copied to death, and you probably know of some derivative in a public indoor or outdoor space. But these copies are copies and distanced from its specificity.

This short doc about its installation captures the feel of seeing this piece at the end, and shows the hidden level of intensity needed to make minimal and subtle work that works. Noguchi’s level of involvement is striking – a lot of contemporary sculptors would be less involved in an install.

I know that a lot of people would scoff at this choice. It’s not “important” enough. It’s not even the most “important” in Noguchi’s catalog. It’s too soothing, too simple, too comfortable, too corporate, too contemporary, too eighties, too whatever.

But those “more important” works aren’t the first ones I visit in my mind. They aren’t the place I go in my mind when I’m talking myself through another medical adventure, or coping with this trash fire of 2022.

They aren’t there for me the same way. Art is a lot of things, but there isn’t any place for that in your concept of Art, it’s not an Art I want a part of.

Next time we’ll visit a smaller and weirder venue. Stay safe till then and happy creating! If you have a good Met story leave it in the comments, I’d love to know.

Just Added to The Etsy Shop – Christmas Cardinal Original and Limited Edition Mini-Print

So happy to share this as a print and painting – choose from a 5×7 limited edition MINI PRINT, 5×7 inches on cotton paper, printed in archival Epson Ultrachrome inks, or one lucky person can opt for the special original painting – a sweet whimsical version of a Northern cardinal. These sweet little birds are the best part of a Northern North American winter, but as I shared this work I’ve learned how much the Cardinal has become the whole world’s darling. Where I am I’m lucky to call these visitors frequent – but never ever common.

Paint Your Heart and Soul 2022

So exciting! It’s time for Paint Your Heart and Soul 2022 – and you’re in the right place for a giveaway.  Read on and you can enter for your very own spot in this yearlong creative celebration! I love that I get to give a spot away to a lucky participant!

I love teaching with this creative and vibrant community so much – a whole year of delving into paint and developing in paint. Whether you are a total beginner or a passionate and consistent painter, there is SO much for you in this experience. This is truly the place where beginner painters “click” – I’ve seen it over and over in my own lessons here, and I’ve seen it in so many other instructors’ lessons.  Read all about what you will get when you sign up – and what you stand to WIN in this giveaway!



If you have already registered for the class, you can still win the giveaway – you’ll be refunded any fees you have paid IN FULL if you are the winner of this spot.

I will be selecting a winner through a random number generator and announcing the winner OCTOBER 3rd, so get those entries in 🙂

Can’t wait!  Enter by filling in the form below.  Share this post on social and let me know about your re-post/share through the contact form, and I’ll enter you for each share.

This form is PURELY for the purposes of giving away a spot on Paint Your Heart and Soul. You won’t be added to anything BUT the giveaway through this form – that’s how I roll!

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