Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Amazing Architecture of Antoni Gaudi in National Geographic

illustration by Fernando G. Baptista & Shizuka Aoki

Having been long enthralled by the soaring, intricate beauty of gothic architecture, I’ve never much cared for the idiosyncratic art nouveau architecture of Antoni Gaudi. It always seemed a bit creepy to me. (It came to mind the first time I watched “Alien” and saw the huge skeletons on the abandoned planet.) Well, the December issue of National Geographic has totally revised my attitude about the work of Gaudi. It contains an article, “Gaudi’s Masterpiece,” by Jeremy Berlin, about the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. This amazing cathedral is a massive structure with a footprint of 48,438 sq. ft., projected to be completed in 2026, 144 years after work started.

The NG article quotes professor of mechanical engineering Adrian Bejan on Gaudi:  “He understood that nature is constructed by laws of mathematics. What is strongest is inherently lightest and most efficient, and therefore most beautiful.” Bejan calls Gaudi a "tightrope walker on the line bridging art and science.”

Gaudi conceived the columns of the nave to represent a forest of trees that would bear the weight of the building from inside, without the need for the gothic flying buttresses. One of the main interior columns in Gaudi’s cathedral supports a load of 1,138 pounds per square inch, compared to a combined 697 psi for one 3-column flying buttress on Cologne Cathedral. The details of how this is achieved are beautifully presented in double sided 4-panel foldout in the magazine, illustrated by Fernando G. Baptista and Shizuka Aoki, from which I scanned the above picture. This fold-out is a work of art in itself.

Gaudi was, of course, a visionary. To quote the NG article again, Gaudi’s “belief in the beautiful efficiency of natural engineering clearly anticipated the modern science of biomimetics.” Take a look at this illustration below from the foldout, showing how Gaudi adapted the structure of a leaf to create the roof of a school. Is this not amazing and beautiful? The building looks like forest structure out of a fairy-tale, so perfect for a place to shelter and nurture children. (I googled an image of the actual building. It really is small, one-story, but its situation in a highly urban setting belies the woodland look.)
illustration by Fernando G. Baptista & Shizuka Aoki

I’ll be looking at Gaudi with new eyes from now on.

All pictures in this post © 2010 National Geographic Society.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mea Culpa with Miniature Cathedrals

I hope everyone enjoyed a warm, nostalgic, lovely Thanksgiving with family and friends! And ate too much, of course.

In lieu (yet again) of a new piece of artwork, here is a little bookshelf landscape, consisting of one of my assemblage pieces, called "Mea Culpa," and part of my collection of miniature souvenir cathedrals acquired in German fleamarkets. The red you see in the assemblage piece, is very tiny writing on struck matches, which states, over and over, Mea Culpa, It's Your Fault, Mea Maxima Culpa, It's All Your Fault, Mea Culpa...etc. The calligraphy is the Confiteor, a Latin prayer expressing guilt. A little commentary on one aspect of my Catholic school upbringing.

Abandoning my collage a day project has broken my heart. How I miss that feeling of accomplishment as I built up a body of work, day by day. What a thrill to be self-assured that I could call upon an inner source of creativity that would not let me down. How bitter that it was external circumstances that brought it to a halt—but how much more bitter if I’d had to quit because I’d simply reached the end of my ideas. Still, it is bitter too, to know that while I am up to the challenge creatively, yet I must let art that might have come forth, stay locked up in my mind, because I do not have the time and constitutional fortitude (sleep deprivation is impossible to sustain for a woman of my age) to bring it into the light of day. *sigh*  I feel all at sea. How typical of me to over-reach, then crash and berate myself. Well. This is a line of thought that will lead only to a dead-end. I’ve found myself in a morbid mood too often as it is. And please forgive me for splashing my personal angst all over my blog. But where else??

I’ve concluded that the collage workshop I took last month did more harm than good. I learned what I did not need, and very little that I did. Which is, of course, educational in itself, but still. So I’ve been trying to figure out what I expected from that course, based on the pre-workshop tasks we were set to collect samples of colors, texts, and imagery from magazines (both which we liked and didn’t)  and how I could achieve those anticipated goals on my own. An interesting exercise.

I suppose there are good points to giving up 3SIXTY5. I was working very small, due to time constraints—now I don’t have to. And it spawned many ideas which will require time to work out , that will beckon me into the future. My biggest stumbling block remains Time, as in, not enough of. Time, as in, spent mostly expending my energy on others’ concerns, in order to pay our bills. Time, as in, Running Out!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I've been up to.

This week I've been working on the calligraphy for an award to be presented to a Harvard professor by a group at the University of Pittsburgh, called the Center for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies. Like that name, this piece is extremely wordy!  I've included a couple of pix of my work area, which is an area about 8 x 10 feet in the library because there's no where else in the house to put it. This house is the first place I've lived in that does not have studio space, in over 20 years' worth of homes. What was I thinking??

The little baroque-style cherub head is a Christmas ornament from Heidelberg, Germany. I purchased a bunch of them while I was living there, and have used them every year on our holiday tree. A few years ago, this one escaped from her storage box after it had been put away (or maybe I just overlooked her?) and since then she has hung and swung over my drawing table, adding whimsy and, hopefully, inspiration.

The calligraphy project will be finished for delivery this weekend, and then I can indulge in more art-making!! I can't wait--I miss it. Which is a good thing, all in all. See you then.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Le Ciel

Where is my blog? From Collagitation to Defunctation?

Biting off more than I can chew is not a new experience for me. A collage a day? Why ever not? Maximum sleep deprivation for a year? No problem! So began my dual adventure of getting my chops back after a decade of minimal art activity, and putting up a blog that would actually not be an embarrassment.  I felt up to the challenge, embarking on my 60th birthday in April, 2010. And I did pretty well for awhile!  Sure, the strain started telling after several months (I also work full time and look after my elderly mother, who lives with me) but I soldiered on, refusing to admit I’d stepped into a bog until the quicksand was up to my neck. I bragged to my Mom about how well I was doing on so little sleep, to which she replied, “Oh, you’ll just age faster.” Just the thing any woman wants to hear! I had my first major melt-down in early August. I didn’t post any new art for about 5 days, which put me into throes of angst. When I resumed my daily efforts, I went from colorful parrots and classical ladies to skulls, skeletons and my own version of the grande macabre.  I figured this was because Halloween was only a few months away. In fact, I now realize it was probably my subconscious sending me dire warnings about the un-sustainability of my new life-style. 

A couple more melt-downs followed, this time met with resignation rather than angst. By mid-October, I was ready to admit that making collage-a-day was probably no longer viable. But good things had happened too:  I’d amassed a body of work the likes of which I’d never produced before, ever; my work has been accepted by my favorite Pittsburgh art gallery, Galerie Chiz; and, last but not least, I've made new friends all over the globe via sharing my artwork online. 

I am still creating, of course, just not at my previous pace. The past few weeks have been crowded with calligraphy free-lance, and with the big holiday season fast approaching, I will have many other activities demanding my attention.  I conceived Collagitation as my art blog, and that is certainly its primary mission. But I have decided to include other things from time to time that catch my fancy, and which I think might be of interest to a wider audience. The emphasis will remain on the visual but will go beyond my own artwork. I think this will be fun…

Meanwhile, I revamped the blog a bit, to get the sour taste of the last few posts out of the air. And here, finally is a new piece, featuring a lovely blue bird I found on The Graphics Fairy.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Theatre of Chance

An experiment. As in, win some, lose some. Or is that a card game? A game of chance. Life.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I'm Back. Sort of.

A bit of ancient history:  a collage I made in 1986, in my sketchbook (where it still is.) This one incorporated some drawing and painting, as well as collage. I was into marbled paper even then.)  The background between the pillars is my hand-made paper, of which I still have a huge supply even though I haven't made any in years! In fact, I still have a good supply of un-sheeted, dyed, dried pulp, and a couple boxes of unused fiber sheets for when I get the paper-making bug again.

This past week was pretty off-the-charts, waaaay too much going on! Some good, some not so good. One of the good things is, we have acquired a new cat! He is a young male, a beautiful orange marmalade, who will be getting snipped VERY soon. He appeared, wailing, on a neighbor's friend's porch for days. She couldn't take him, so we did. Sight unseen, which was a source of some apprehension. But he is a real sweetie! We have named him Dundee, after the city in Scotland where orange marmalade was first manufactured in 1797; and also after an orange marmalade library cat named Dundee, a character in Lilian Jackson Braun's delightful "The Cat Who..." books. (I read those, all 20+ of them, last spring and summer to comfort myself after Rainbow died.) I like a cat's name to have a story behind it.

I also finally stopped in at Gallerie Chiz to see three of my Collagitation works on display! That was a thrill! They are very nicely hung in the gallery entry area. I am pleased, and intend for this to be the start of bigger things.

Well, I am back in harness, and will be posting new art this week--as in freshly made, not unseen for 24 years old!


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