Many addressing the idea of spirituality have reported that they have found find spiritual fellowship and nourishment through making art. This weekend, three Philadelphia artists will talk about the relationship between their art and spirituality. Artists Tremain Smith, Emily Brown and Roger Wing will share their artistic and spiritual journeys at this interactive sharing at the Friends Meeting House.
The Art and Spirituality Forum will be held Saturday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Friends Meetinghouse at 4th & Arch streets. There will be time for questions and answers after their initial presentations. The event is free and open to the public.
Smith has four works in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her multi-media works reside in corporate and private collections across the country and have been showcased in a number of solo exhibitions. Smith’s mixed-media technique combines multiple layers of oil glazes, collage elements and transparent beeswax. She uses a grid to create order in much of her work; the grid serves a both a reference point and also a point of departure.
“I utilize a technique that is called encaustic painting, which is actually hot beeswax with pigment in it,” said Smith. “So, there is a lot of texture and a lot of depth to the work … I do a lot of collaging. It’s a very hands-on process. My work is abstract, so I don’t have a plan when I start to work. I just let it flow and move intuitively, and that ties in very much with how I want to be spiritually as well and how I want to move in the world. If I could be in my life the way I am in my studio, my life would be a lot more calm.”
Brown has drawn and painted primarily from the natural world for most of her life. She works both outdoors and in the studio with a variety of dry and wet media on paper and other supports. She is perhaps best known for her large ink wash drawings based on textures and surfaces found in the wild; other forms include oil paintings, dry medium drawings, collages and prints.
“It’s very rejuvenating to me spiritually to be so conscious of it later I work with it and draw from it also just the physical experience of just working with ink which is just it’s a runaway — water and ink are hard to control — and it is a dialogue with the material much more than with oil paint, when I was doing oil paint I could control it so much more than I wanted to. So you have a partner there in the material and you respond to what is there and then move on,” said Brown.
Wing is a sculptor who carves wood, stone and ice. Although he is known to create using any materials at hand, such as river rocks and fallen branches, Wing’s most deliberate artistic expressions are large wood carvings of figures, both human and non-human. Despite the physicality of his chosen medium, Wing seeks to reveal or suggest more than the merely physical, what he calls “The Unseen”. Since his youth he has favored carving – or subtractive work — the use of hand tools and traditional materials.
“I mostly fashion figures, human figures, but I sometimes do animals — and, I love the process of subtracting carving,” said Wing. “I begin with a block of material and by taking away I somehow create more. And, that ties then again as we’re talking spiritual practice because how is it by removing what doesn’t belong, taking away the clutter, coming to the core of what’s most significant and meaningful and you get at the truth or the beauty or the essence of form. I think in life if we could imitate our highest aspirations and live them out more fully then we could simplify our lives and remove the clutter and focus on the things that we care about.”
For more information, visit www.archstreetfriends.org.
Since opening in 1922, the Barnes Foundation has welcomed more than 300,000 visitors from Philadelphia, the region and the world. This week, artist Ellsworth Kelly had a chance to witness his art displayed in an historic exhibition — “Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall.” The 89-year-old Kelly, just weeks away from his 90th birthday, beamed as he reviewed first contemporary art exhibition organized by the Barnes in 90 years. The instillation features several major Kelly sculptures ranging from 1957 to current work.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is “Sculpture for a Large Wall (1956–1957),” a masterful realization of Kelly’s aspirations. Composed of 104 anodized aluminum panels, the monumental “Sculpture for a Large Wall” will command the longest wall of the special exhibition gallery. Commissioned for the Philadelphia Transportation Building, the work was removed in 1998 when the building underwent renovation and is now held in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. “Sculpture for a Large Wall” has returned to Philadelphia for the first time on the occasion of this exhibition. At the Barnes, the work will be installed at eye-level as Kelly intended.
The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture” and holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings (works byCézanne, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Van Gogh and other masters), along with important examples of African sculpture and Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles, American paintings and decorative arts, and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. Kelly’s current exhibition coincides with the first anniversary of the opening of the Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“Ellsworth Kelly’s career spans the last years of Albert C. Barnes’s collecting practice to the present day, and is brilliantly concentrated on the visual elements of line, form and color that were key to Barnes’s aesthetic theories,” said Derek Gillman, executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation. “We are thrilled to inaugurate our program of contemporary exhibitions with a presentation of works by Ellsworth Kelly, an acknowledged master of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The exhibition program will complement and illuminate the celebrated and encyclopedic Barnes collection and honor the founder’s commitment to contemporary art.”
Nearly a dozen museums around the world are celebrating Kelly’s 90th birthday this month. They include the Tate Modern in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Art Institute of Chicago, along with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation — where Ellsworth’s 40-foot sculpture, “The Barnes Totem” graces the entry site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“To be able to show in this building, well that means so much. I used to go to the old one, which is a great an excellent place, but I am so happy to have been asked to enhance the front there with that sculpture,” said the near-nonagenarian in a clear, strong voice before pausing to muse, “Art continues — no matter what’s happening.”
“Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall” is on view in the Aileen and Brian Roberts Gallery from May 4 through Sept. 2 with member-only days May 2-4. The Barnes Foundation is located, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia 19130. Reservations are required. For more information, call (215) 278-7000 or visit barnesfoundation.org.
“Clearly Now, the Rain: A Memoir of Love and Other Trips” (ECW Press, $17.95) is a beautifully written memoir about loving someone you cannot save. It traces the decade-long relationship of Eli Hastings and his friend and lover Serala from 1996 to the very last days of 2004.
This deeply personal rumination on the existential explanations for the desperation and sadness experienced by those suffering from addiction and mental disorder, brings to life the troubled relationship. At family events, Serala wore saris and ate delicately from plates of curry. But elsewhere, she wore a lip ring, designer shades and a cowboy hat; would regularly drink frat boys under the table; would sleep less than five hours a week and would place herself in dangerous situations for another bag of heroin. Serala’s complex character and seemingly haphazard choices are made real, from ill-advised quests for narcotics in Mexican border towns to unplanned 50-hour road trips from L.A. to New York City. Although her dark and traumatic journey concluded tragically at age 27, Hastings writes with hopeful resolution about his unique friendship.
“I met Serala Advani while visiting the college where she was enrolled in 1996,” recalled the author. “She was drawn together like a bundle of sticks on a desk chair in pajama pants even as the poisonous Southern California sun set over her shoulder. She leaked Marlboro smoke from her nose and stared me down. I was frightened and thrilled and could not have said why. I entered the same school the following year.”
Serala is sure to haunt readers of this nuanced and unbiased elegy.
The Boston Marathon bombing was the first major terror attack in America during this digital age of smartphones and social networks. According to media reports, when phone service was disrupted in Boston last week, only texting and social networks were up, and going strong. Twitter and Facebook immediately filled with images, videos and updates from the blast site. Social media played a major role for the public following the subsequent manhunt and capture of the suspected bombers.
Social media specialist Kim Garst said 2013 is the year of social upheaval as Americans have increasingly taken to social networks to voice their beliefs on the most divisive issues facing the country. “It helps to see that most of us have embraced the application of technology in our lives,” said Garst. “We’ve had to. Even a lot of older people, as they are the largest growing demographic on Facebook. They are what I consider grandparent age, and that is exactly why they are doing it: so that they can connect with their families and get to know their grandkids through Facebook. Sad, but true. So, I think there is some application for us to be that bridge and help the older generation realize that social media and technology it is here, it’s cultural today. It’s not so much that we don’t use the library anymore, most of us just Google it.”
Garst, named by Forbes as one of the Top 50 social media Influencers, is the co-founder and CEO of Boom! Social, a corporate branding and social media consulting firm that services over 32,000 subscribers and 100+ clients. Garst, a Gen Xer born in the 1960s, feels we have a generational duty to bridge the technological divide between post-World War II baby boomers and the millennial generation of the 1980s and beyond. She is extremely passionate about sharing how “you can do” social media.
“Me, for example, I had never seen a computer until I went to college,” said Garst, laughing. “I actually think that we are kind of the bridge between the older and younger generations. Because we remember what it was like before we had a mobile phone. The kids that are coming up behind us they have always had a smartphone in most cases, and so it is a totally different environment and they have no connection points, honestly, to the older generation. It is hard for them to envision life without some form of technology.”
To keep up with the latest from Kim Garst, visit Twitter.com @kimgarst.
Erinn Cosby is a true Cosby kid. While her father, actor/comedian Bill Cosby, made a career in the spotlight, the younger Cosby choose a life behind the camera. With travel to most of the world’s continents under her belt, the noted photographer has curated an upcoming exhibit which she simply calls “Beauty,” to capture the magnificence that she discovered in the everyday lives of the women and children of the diaspora. Cosby, a photographer since age six, credits her parents for supporting her vision.
“It’s important and you have to be realistic about things and you cannot shelter yourself from realities,” she said. “That is something that has always been instilled in us, as my mother (Camille) and father have always done that …We were out there staying with the people. And I think that that is probably very much a part of why I really photograph as naturally as I can. I love being with people, I love being around people — I don’t like being around anyone who’s negative or weird or dysfunctional — but people, especially when you’re just out there, you don’t know what you’re going to get or who you’re going to meet. It’s just wonderful to have those discoveries and to see it.”
In addition to documenting her world, Cosby is in Temple University’s graduate studies program studying educational psychology. Although she is studying mere blocks from where her father grew up, people do not recognize her or her famous name, so it is with great anonymity that she traverses the city of her father’s birth.
“I love attending Temple, because you are in it,” she said. “It’s that diverse city and you are in the middle of it. For instance, you turn on an avenue and — boom! — there you have it and you are not sheltered. And you can really see that, and I think that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you shelter yourself from reality. I’m not talking about walking into a line of fire if you know that that’s there; however, it is important to know that that does exist and you’re not segregating yourself from that fact. You can’t disconnect yourself and say, ‘I’m going to stay over here and that’s going to stay over there.’ That’s also why I love New York, because New York is also a city just like here in Philadelphia where you can’t help but be constantly around and with everybody. If you’re on the subway, you have the world on the subway. Different personalities, different social economic, whatever — it’s important to be around.”
For the Art Sanctuary’s executive director Valerie Gay, it is equally important to highlight Cosby’s images, as they are in keeping with its “Celebration of Black Writing” yearlong theme, “Launching Beyond Legacy: Celebrating the Literary Achievements of Black Women.” This year, the annual Lifetime Achievement Award will honor poet, playwright and author Ntozake Shange and veteran journalist Annette John-Hall.
“For us, as we look at hanging this exhibit in connection with the ‘Celebration of Black Writing,’ what we are talking about is the extension of who we are,” said Gay. “For us to bring together all of the things that we do because the ‘Celebration of Black Writing’ is absolutely about celebrating the written word, and it is also about celebrating the people and the culture around which those words are written. We are excited about this exhibit because it really does connect to our theme for our Lifetime Achievement Award, which culminates the year-long celebration of Black women artists and literally brings everything together for us through the medium of film photography.”
The 29th annual Celebration of Black Writing will feature “Beauty,” Photography by Erinn Cosby from May 1- May 31. Select images will be available for private sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting the Art Sanctuary.For more information and to get a full listing of the 29th Celebration of Black Writing lineup, visit www.artsanctuary.org or call (215) 232-4485.