My Hero: Artist Laurie Lipton

When I came across Laurie Lipton, I was just absolutely blown away by her work. It is rare for me to come across an artist whose technical skills and content are equally brilliant, drenched in my favorite type of macabre loveliness. After spending some wide-eyed time poring through her work, I scream-Tweeted at her in all caps: @laurielipton – YOUR ART IS SO INSPIRING AND AWESOME. I’M IN AWE OF YOUR WORK. JUST SPEECHLESS. THAT’S ALL I CAN SAY. And I fanned her on Facebook. Because that is what fellow artists do when they are star-struck by such juggernauts of talent.

Watch this terrific video of her explaining the reasoning behind some of her pieces – which makes me want to give her a gigantic hug to thank her for “asking the questions rather than answering them”. Her inspiration surfaces through her sense of social responsibility and appropriate outrage towards the media and society which is so delicately expressed in shades of black, white and gray. Her quiet artistic aggression appeals to me as a feminist and her work’s sharp social commentary is nothing short of brilliant. There are artists and then there are smart artists…and Ms. Lipton is a smart one. Her tools of choice are mostly charcoal and pencil on paper for her art but she also has lovely commissioned color pieces. One could spend hours gorging on her gallery drawings – they are like a 7-course gourmet feast of artly awesomeness.

When you are done viewing this clip visit her gallery at www.LaurieLipton.com. God, if I could amass a mere FRACTION of her talent by my life’s end, I would be ecstatic.

According to her website, LaurieLipton.com, she was born in New York and began drawing at the age of  four. She was the first person to  graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine  Arts Degree in Drawing (with honours).  She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany and France and has made  her home in London since 1986. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA.

Lipton was inspired by the religious paintings of  the Flemish School. She tried to teach herself how to paint  in the style of the 16th century Dutch Masters and failed. When  traveling around Europe as a student, she began  developing her very own peculiar drawing technique building up tone  with thousands of fine cross-hatching lines  like an egg tempera painting. “It’s an insane way to draw”, she  says, “but the resulting  detail and luminosity  is worth the amount of effort. My drawings take longer to create  than a painting of equal size and detail.”

“It was all abstract and conceptual art when I  attended university.  My teachers told me that figurative art went  ‘out’ in the Middle Ages and that I should express myself using  form and shapes, but splashes on canvas and rocks  on the floor bored me. I knew what I wanted: I wanted to create  something no one had ever seen before, something  that was brewing in the back of my brain. I used to sit for hours  in the library copying Durer, Memling,Van Eyck,  Goya and Rembrandt. The photographer, Diane Arbus, was another of  my inspirations. Her use of black and white hit me at the core of my Being. Black and white is the color of ancient  photographs and old TV shows… it is the color  of ghosts, longing, time passing, memory, and madness. Black and white ached. I realized that it was perfect for the  imagery in my work.”

Advertisements

Charlie Chaplin Makes Me Cry

In one of my graduate classes we examined the subtext of Charlie Chaplin’s films and the social commentary he presented in a time when it was rather risky to do so. We watched part of Chaplin’s Modern Times in class. I had to put both hands over my mouth to stifle the uncontrollable laughter I was gripped with during the following “eating machine” scene. Tears were coming out of my eyes and my husband, who was also in this class, just laughed at me as I tried to contain my hysterics. Imagine, a silent film causing me to laugh harder than I have laughed at a film in years. That’s what I call a great time-transcending comedic art.

We plan on walking over to Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center this week as I am in luck – Charlie Chaplin films are currently being featured.

The context of the clip below: the men are testing out a more efficient way for a factory worker to quickly eat lunch, to maximize productivity. This was blatant commentary on industrial working conditions and employee treatment during the Great Depression.

Modern Times Movie Plot

Modern Times portrays Chaplin as a factory worker, employed on an assembly line. After being subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a “modern” feeding machine and an accelerating assembly line where Chaplin screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery, he suffers a mental breakdown that causes him to run amok throwing the factory into chaos. Chaplin is sent to a hospital. Following his recovery the now unemployed Chaplin is arrested as an instigator in a Communist demonstration since he was waving a red flag that fell off a delivery truck (Chaplin intended to return the flag to the driver). In jail, he accidentally eats smuggled cocaine, mistaking it for salt. In his subsequent delirious state he walks into a jailbreak and knocks out the convicts. He is hailed a hero and is released.

Outside the jail, he discovers life is harsh, and attempts to get arrested after failing to get a decent job. He soon runs into an orphan girl (the “gamine”), played by Paulette Goddard, who is fleeing the police after stealing a loaf of bread. To save the girl he tells police that he is the thief and ought to be arrested. However, a witness reveals his deception and he is freed. In order to get arrested again, he eats an enormous amount of food at a cafeteria without paying. He meets up with the gamine in the paddy wagon, which crashes, and the girl convinces the reluctant Chaplin to escape with her. Dreaming of a better life, he gets a job as a night watchman at a department store, sneaks the gamine into the store and even lets burglars have some food. Waking up the next morning in a pile of clothes, he is arrested once more.

Ten days later, the gamine takes him to a new home – a run-down shack which she admits “isn’t Buckingham Palace” but will do. The next morning, Chaplin reads about a new factory and lands a job there. He gets his boss trapped in machinery, but manages to extricate him. The other workers decide to go on strike. Accidentally paddling a brick into a policeman, he is arrested again. Two weeks later, he is released and learns that the gamine is a café dancer, and she tries to get him a job as a singer. By night, he becomes an efficient waiter though he finds it difficult to tell the difference between the “in” and “out” doors to the kitchen, or to successfully deliver a roast duck to table. During his floor show, he loses a cuff that bears the lyrics of his song, but he rescues his act by improvising the story using an amalgam of word play, words in (or made up of word parts from) multiple languages and mock sentence structure while pantomiming. His act proves a hit. When police arrive to arrest the gamine for her earlier escape, they escape again. Finally, we see them walking down a road at dawn, towards an uncertain but hopeful future. (According to Wikipedia)

About Charlie Chaplin

(Born April 16, 1889 – Died December 25, 1977) In 1915, British-born Chaplin burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through World War I. Over the next 25 years, through the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler, he stayed on the job. … It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most”. George Bernard Shaw called Chaplin “the only genius to come out of the movie industry”. He co-founded United Artists with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. This meant more freedom in producing his own films. His high-profile public and private life encompassed both adulation and controversy. Chaplin’s identification with the left ultimately forced him to resettle in Europe during the McCarthy era in the early 1950s. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Chaplin the 10th greatest male screen legend of all time. In 2008, Martin Sieff, in a review of the book Chaplin: A Life, wrote: “Chaplin was not just ‘big’, he was gigantic.

Illustrator Aubrey Beardsley: Victorian Ink Lord

When I was a freshmen undergrad at Columbia College Chicago one of the first reports I gave was on the Victorian illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. I remember spending hours thumbing through his works and admiring his editorial-like style, with sweeping curves and masterful line control. His use of standard black and white mixed with provocative and sexually erotic subjects juxtaposed biting social commentary – he pulled culturally profound statements out of bottles of India ink. This I have a huge respect for. While Aubrey’s frustrations with Victorian society were apparent his scandalous drawings were consumed almost as a precursor to Playboy magazine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Per Wikipedia, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (21 August 1872 – 16 March 1898) was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, executed in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler. Beardsley’s contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau style and the poster movement was significant, despite the brevity of his career before his early death from tuberculosis.

Bursting with talent from an early age, Aubrey began illustrating literature that he owned at age 15 (Madam Bovary and the like). A mix of the industrial age in which he lived and Greek art which one would find on a classical urn, his style was often described as “grotesque” and “naughty”. A homosexual who carved his name into art history with subjects including the evil female power figure Salome holding the severed head of John the Baptist, there is no question that a Victorian sensibility could be so easily offended. Amongst his famous works are illustrations for Le Morte D’arthur.

According to Erin Smith, he was fully aware that challenges to Victorian values came not only from the avant-garde, but from the Women’s Movement, which by the 1880’s, had made some gains in the areas of education and economic rights. Through his bizarre and symbolic style, Beardsley’s drawings blur gender lines and mock male superiority. They also play on Victorian anxieties about sexual expression and men’s fear of female superiority.

As a feminist, I am truly drawn (forgive the pun) to his fantastical and masterful ink drawings.

Further Resources:

The Savoy: The Art of Aubrey Beardsley

Ragnarokpress.com

VictorianWeb.org