By Diane Richard
When Robin Wall Kimmerer was being interviewed for college admission, in upstate New York where she grew up, she had a question herself: Why do lavender asters and goldenrod look so beautiful together?
Her question was met with the condescending advice that she pursue art school instead. But Kimmerer, an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, took her interest in the science of complementary colors and ran with it — the scowl she wore on her college ID card advertises a skepticism of Eurocentric systems that she has turned into a remarkable career. …
By Stephanie Mann
I have always been fascinated by language, how we use it not only to communicate but also to express ourselves, to illustrate complex ideas. More than just a function of society, language is an art form all its own, in literature, film, theater, and music. Indeed, it even has a surprisingly rich history in visual storytelling, as seen in the work of artists across the world. In Chinese literati culture, painting and verse went hand in hand. In Islamic culture, calligraphy of the Qur’an is an art in and of itself.
Here are some examples of literature in art at Mia, including a work by Harriet Bart, who is featured in the exhibition “Harriet Bart: Artist Books + Works on Paper,” on view virtually and in-person at Mia through January 17. …
By Stephanie Mann
Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and leading voice for the human rights of immigrants. He’s also an undocumented immigrant himself, which he revealed in 2011 in a groundbreaking essay for the New York Times Magazine. That same year, he founded Define American, a nonprofit that counters injustice and anti-immigration rhetoric by consulting on film and television projects and producing its own.
Mia recently hosted Vargas for a virtual talk, where he expanded on his story and asked us to consider the complexities of immigration — including the motivation for moving on in the first place. In his opening, he remarked that he isn’t often asked to speak at art museums, but he believes that “more than ever, we need storytelling, we need art, to transcend politics and policies and insist on our shared humanity.” …
By Tim Gihring
In the 1620s, Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Lievens were both in Leiden, the small town in the southern Netherlands where they had grown up. They were both teenagers, Rembrandt just 15 months older than Lievens. They had apprenticed with the same master painter. They shared models and possibly a studio. They even modeled for each other. They were friends and rivals — frenemies.
And for a long time, they copied each other. Lievens was inspired by Rembrandt, for example, to etch a series of imagined portraits of men in fanciful dress. Rembrandt, in turn, copied all four of them. When Lievens experimented with scratching paint, using the butt end of his brush, Rembrandt copied that, too. Back and forth, they imitated each other’s work — Samson and Delilah, Christ on the Cross, The Raising of Lazarus — with Rembrandt apparently backdating some paintings to suggest he was the leader, not the follower. …
By Gretchen Halverson
In the early 1900s, the sociologist Lewis Hine taught himself photography and began documenting the thousands of immigrants arriving every day in New York Harbor. Eventually, he turned his camera on the conditions of child workers, sometimes posing as a fire inspector or Bible salesman to get into factories. (This work is now featured in Mia’s Just Kids exhibition.) Over the next hundred years, other photographers would follow his lead in capturing the social impact of major turning points in history, from Dorothea Lange during the Great Depression to Margaret Bourke-White during World War II to Danny Lyon during the Civil Rights Movement. …
By Tim Gihring
If you’re staying close to home this summer, you’re not alone — and you’re not without options. Call it a vicarious vacation or an armchair adventure, or maybe this is how you prefer to travel, without the hassle of the real thing. From the collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, here are 10 places to escape to in your mind.
By Tim Gihring
In 2009, the painter Kehinde Wiley flies to Brazil. He’s there to make some portraits, in his signature style: painting brown-bodied men in the heroic manner of old European portraits — like Napoleon on his horse. He’s the artist selected by former President Obama for his official portrait.
So he goes looking for some models. He’s looking in the favelas, the poor neighborhoods in the hills around Rio. And he finds a couple young men who agree to pose.
By Gabriel Ritter
The work of Kenneth Tam takes shape as video, sculpture, and photography that challenges our received ideas and societal norms regarding the male body as it relates to physical intimacy, sexuality, vulnerability, and private ritual. His practice involves the participation of strangers — often recruited through online message boards and forums such as Craigslist and Reddit — in situations orchestrated by the artist that range from tender to awkward to absurd. …
By Ian Karp
In 1988, after a life of relocation, the punk artist, writer, teacher, activist, and squatter Fly Orr — known as Fly — landed on New York City’s Lower East Side. Soon after, she moved into an East Village squat (an illegally occupied building, usually neglected, vacant, or abandoned) and became involved with the community art space ABC No Rio, a center for performance and squatter arts and activism. There, Fly dove into countercultural scenes on the Lower East Side, surrounded by other musicians, artists, activists, and squatters.
In addition to her work as a comics illustrator, muralist, and squatter activist, Fly was an archivist, collecting printed matter and other artwork that circulated in the underground communities she had been part of since the mid-1980s. After 35 years of accumulation, Fly’s collection had grown to more than 1,900 art objects from around the world, spanning the 1980s to the present. Fly’s collection consists mostly of zines, a type of self-produced publication that has long connected the various strands of the underground. …
By Tim Gihring
On October 12, 1846, William Spencer Cavendish dropped by the studio of Raffaelle Monti, in Milan, Italy, to inquire about a lady. Cavendish was the 6th Duke of Devonshire, widely known in England as the “bachelor duke.” He had eight of the finest homes in Britain. He had 200,000 acres of British soil. He had a banana named after himself — the Cavendish, cultivated in his gardens and soon to become the world’s most popular variety. And now, at 56, he wanted a certain young woman, demurely and paradoxically hiding behind a veil of stone.
Veiled figures, usually carved from marble and suggesting a face or body partly obscured behind fabric, had first become popular a hundred years earlier, in the 1700s. The effect is an illusion, of course, enabled by translucent marble and a sly composition. It is no more real than a lady being sawed in half onstage, a kind of parlor trick for late Baroque sculptors to show off their chops. But as illusions go, it’s mesmerizing, and sculptors competed to put all manner of subjects under “see-through” garments, from the Virgin Mary to Mary Magdalene. Cavendish was friends with Antonio Canova, a fellow bachelor and popular Italian sculptor, who adored a veiled Christ carved by Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753 and declared that he would have given up 10 years of his life to create such a masterpiece. …