Joan Miró

Joan Miró i Ferrà is a world renowned Spanish Catalan painter, sculptor, and ceramist working through out the early to mid 1900’s, and had a significant impact on defining the role of art during and after WWI. Miró maintained an independent approach to making art and never formally joined an art group, though it was acclaim for his  Surrealist paintings that brought him international fame. His style is singular and cultivated from his expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society. He spent his career at war with convention and famously declared an “assassination of painting” in favor of upsetting tradition. Miró experimented with many art techniques, the the final work always expressed his unique style that embodied his Catalan heritage and anti-art ideology with child-like whimsy.

Miró was born in Barcelona the son of a watchmaking father and a goldsmith mother on April 20,1893. No doubt his parents’ occupations privileged him with early exposure to art. Drawings by Miró have been recovered dating to 1901, when he was only 8 years old. Miro enrolled at the School of Industrial and Fine Arts in Barcelona until 1910; during his attendance he was taught by Modest Urgell and Josep Pascó. After overcoming a severe case of typhoid fever in 1911, Miró devoted his life entirely to painting at the La Lonja School of Fine Arts in Barcelona, taught by Francesc Galí. In 1918 set up his first individual exhibition in the Dalmau Galleries, still in Barcelona. His works at this time reflect the influence of  many different art movements, such as the pure and brilliant colors used in Fauvism, shapes taken from cubism, influences from folkloric Catalan art and Roman frescos from the churches.

Joan Miró Painting of Rooster

From the start Miró had a very precise style, picking out every element in isolation and detail and arranging them in deliberate composition. But in 1920 he took a trip to Paris and the art he witnessed there inspired a radically altered style.  Miró befriended Andre Masson and participated in developing Surrealist movement. In Paris, under the influence of Surrealist poets and writers, he developed his unique style: organic forms and flattened picture planes drawn with a sharp line.  Miró’s style has been interpreted as Surrealism combined with the playfulness and whimsical nature of a child born from his use of automatic drawing – a way express the subconscious by allowing the hand to move randomly across the paper. Miró was interested in automatism for its anti-art technique and in the use of sexual symbols (for example, ovoids with wavy lines emanating from them), and he and André Masson were among the first artists to develop automatic drawing as a way to undo previous established techniques in painting. But Miró still purused his own interests and ideals; as displayed by his additional involvement with Expressionist and Color Field movements.

Joan Miró Painting of Tol

Because of his work with Masson and love for automatism, Miró is associated with the founding of Surrealism as an art movement and is often considered a Surrealist. Historians further theorize that Miró’s surrealist origins evolved out of “repression” because during World War I Miró was forced into exhile to escape the Franco regime pursecution of Catalans.  Miró, however, refused to subscribe to any art movement, despite apparent evidence that his style was influenced in varying degrees by Surrealism, Dada, and the war. This refusal demonstrates Miró’s pursuit of complete freedom to experiment with any artistic style he wanted. He pursued his own interests in the art world, ranging from automatic drawing and surrealism, to expressionism, Lyrical Abstraction, and Color Field painting. 

In 1921, he showed his first individual exhibition in Paris, at La Licorne Gallery. The culmination of his early style was The Farm (1921–22). The rural Catalan scene it depicts is augmented by an avant-garde French newspaper in the center, showing Miró sees this work transformed by the Modernist theories he had been exposed to in Paris. The concentration on each element as equally important was a key step towards generating a pictorial sign for each element. The background is rendered in flat or patterned in simple areas, highlighting the separation of figure and ground, which would become important in his mature style. He concentrated his interest on the symbol, not giving too much importance to the representing theme, but to the way the symbol emerged as the piece of his work.  In 1928, he exhibited with a group of surrealists in the Pierre Gallery, also in Paris, but as always Miró maintained his independent qualities when adopting ideologies of different art groups.  Miró made many attempts to promote his unique work, but his Surrealist colleagues found it too realistic and conventional, and so he soon turned to a more explicitly surrealist approach. From 1929-1930, Miró began to take interest in reconstructing the object through collages. This practice lead to his making of surrealist sculptures. His tormented monsters appeared during this decade, which gave way to the consolidation of his plastic vocabulary.

Joan Miró “Carnival of Harlequin” Print – 1924-1925

Miró dabbled in Cubism too; though he started after Picasso and Braque had established Cubism as a monumental art movement in Paris. Specifically, Miró responded to Cubism by declaring that he would “break the guitar” referring to Picasso’s paintings, with the intent to attack the popularity and appropriation of Picasso’s art by politics. He also experimented with many other artistic forms, such as engraving, lithography, water colors, pastels, and painting over copper. He created over 250 illustrated books known as “Livres d’ Artiste”  (the book was displayed in “Joan Miró, Illustrated Books” at the Vero Beach Museum of Ar in 2006).

It was at the end of the 60´s when his final period was marked and which lasted until his death on December 25,1983. During his final years, he concentrated more and more on monumental and public works. The murals are characterized by the same art language and freshness with which he carried out his canvasses, as well as the special attention he paid to material and anti-art informalism. In the final decades of his life Miró accelerated his work in different media, producing hundreds of ceramics, including the Wall of the Moon and Wall of the Sun at the UNESCO building in Paris. He also made temporary window paintings (on glass) for an exhibit. In the last years of his life Miró wrote his most radical and least known ideas, exploring the possibilities of gas sculpture and four-dimensional painting. Four-dimensional painting was a theoretical type of painting in which  Miró proposed that painting would transcend its two-dimensionality and even the three-dimensionality of sculpture. Truly Miró was a visionary with a singularly eccentric style that is the embodiment of his unique approach to his artwork.

Joan Miro Painting “Sonnens”

Joan Miro Painting “Daybreak”

Joan Miro Painting “Kissing”


James De La Vega, and an Apology

Hey readers! I just want to say that I am sorry about the delay the Miley Cyrus conclusion. I took a break from the computer for Labor Day, and had some job interviews this week, so I have been away from the computer for a bit. But be assured that I have not forgotten. IT IS COMING! I have most of what I want to discuss briefly drafted, I just feel that my readers deserve the best that I can give so I am not going to rush it. I hope you guys understand.

So until then enjoy looking at the work of James De La Vega.

James De La Vega

The sidewalks of New York City are La Vegas’s primary canvas. The native New Yorker, who is of Puerto Rican descent, has been scribbling inspirational quotes in chalk on the streets of the city for years. One of his most well-known messages “Become Your Dream” is an inspirational call to action, to live up to your potential. La Vega’s outside pieces could be categorized as a graffiti, but he and his fans prefer to regard him as a community-inspiring artist because of the motivating and encouraging nature of his work. However, the love of his fans could not prevent him from being convicted of vandalism for a mural he painted on a blank wall in the Bronx. He was offered one year’s probation in exchange for a guilty plea, but he refused to say he caused “damage” to the property (it was for the advancement of art of course!) and thus sentenced to 50 hours of community service. This incident did not tarnish his success, thankfully. He was the 1999 recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, his work has been featured in Christie’s auction house, and he has collaborated with Tory Burch to create a line of accessories that benefited the Tory Burch Foundation.  La Vega continues to work as a muralist and community-inspiring artist and until 2010 fans could visit his studio to have an intimate view of his work. Now he has an online portfolio and store , on, that you should all go visit.

James De La Vega

James De La Vega

James De La Vega

James De La Vega

James De La Vega

James De La Vega

James De La Vega

photoallegory of sarolta bán

These black and white modern surrealists photographs are pretty compelling. They have a quite but solid resonance and her editing and finishing techniques are flawless. I love the fresh perspective too! I find that most of the pictures comfort me as much as the disturb me. Go follow the link to see Sarolta Bán’s amazing portfolio website!

photoallegory of sarolta bán.

Kustaa Saksi

Wow. Behold the psychedelic tapestries of Finnish artist Kustaa Saksi.

In his his current series, “Hypnopompic,” the thread master combines surreal imagery with the traditional practice of jacquard weaving, resulting in a series of wild textile artworks that mimic that semi-dream state we all experience right before we wake up. And man, some of the creatures in these dreams would make me want to wake up. But they are so beautiful, the graphic quality is stellar, the patterns are hypnotic, and the medium, weaving, gives the final result an incredible richness. I love his color statements too. I think my favorites are the ones with grasshopper. I like the elegant lines made by their long antenna and thin legs. Has anybody else picked out a favorite?

Jan Lievens

Self Portrait

Jan Lievens is an artist that history seems to have forgotten. He is best remembered as  a contemporary of Rembrandt, but the two were actually friends even shared a studio for five years! They developed a very similar style, probably from working so closely, and painted many of the same subjects. And while the two did have a heated competition going at one point, they remained friends long after they stopped working together around 1631, and in 1656 Rembrandt still owned many paintings by his friend. But “Rembrandt” is the name that we remember. Even people not familiar with art understand that Rembrandt is praised as an artistic genius and we even use his name when complementing an artist’s skill. But Lievens is an absolutely fascinating painter just as good and arguably better than Rembrandt, yet no one seems to know anything about him.

Back in his day, Lievens was judged to be the more talented artist. According to Arnold Houbraken, Jan was the son of a tapestry worker, and was trained by Joris Verschoten. At about the age of ten, he was sent to Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam for two full years. Lievens then, as a boy of twelve,  began his career independently in Leiden. He became somewhat of a celebrity because of his talent at such a young age. Specifically, his copy of  Cornelis van Haarlem’s  illustration Democriet & Herakliet, and a portrait of his mother Machtelt Jans van Noortzant, were greatly admired. This attracted the attention of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange, around 1620, who bought a life-size painting of a young man reading by the light of a fire.

Jan Lievens- King Guy of Lusignan and King Saladin 1625

Shortly there after, Lievens collaborated with Rembrandt in a shared studio from about 1626 to 1631. Their competitive collaboration resulted in some two dozen paintings, drawings and etchings, and their style and subject matter were so similar scholars and critics had difficulty attributing works from this period. Though in Constantijn Huygens‘ assessment, Lievens was more inventive, yet less expressive than Rembrandt. During this time, Lievens’s paintings show a talent for painting in a life-size scale, and his dramatic half-length figure compositions suggest the influence of the Caravaggisti.  Often these large paintings were “historicizing portraits,” in which he placed his sitters in a scene from antiquity or the Bible.  The two artist split in 1631, when Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam and Lievens to England.

Jan Lievens “The Four Elements and Ages of Man Fire and Childhood”

Aspiring to become an internationally renowned court artist, Lievens left Leiden in 1632 to work at the court of Charles I, king of England. There, he was greatly impressed by the shimmering canvases of Anthony Van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens and developed an elegant, refined portrait style. With his new softer style, he moved to Antwerp in 1635, where he painted genre scenes and landscapes, as well as large-scale religious subjects for the Jesuits. At some point he married  Suzanna Colyn de Nole, the daughter of the sculptor Michiel Colyn. In 1644 Lievens relocated again, this time to Amsterdam, where his sophisticated international style of painting was greatly admired and greatly demanded. He received many major commissions, including paintings for the Amsterdam town hall and many Dutch political, business, and cultural leaders sat for his portraits and avidly collected his landscape paintings and drawings. Despite his achievements, Lievens faced financial difficulties at the end of his life, probably due to the Rampjaar, and he died in poverty.  After his death in 1674, his children were so afraid of inheriting nothing but debts, they appealed to the courts for the right to refuse the inheritance.

While Lievens enjoyed great artistic success in his lifetime, after his death his reputation was diminished by the shame of financial ruin. And because he was so traveled  and his style so diverse there were many  erroneous attributions of his best paintings to other artists, including Rembrandt. All of these factors obscured his considerable accomplishments, and so that is how Lievens came to be a great overlooked artist. But this just illustrates how we tend to write and rewrite history, so perhaps one day I’ll have my own museum and I can organize a show of painting by both Lievens and Rembrandt as young artists that would put their works side by side just as they were in their shared studio.

Jan Lievens, Profile Head of an Old Woman (“Rembrandt’s Mother”), ca. 1630

She’s Just Being Miley: An Exploitation of Developing Sexuality Part 1

The Big Show, y’all

So before I start I want to present this disclaimer: Do I truly feel that Miley Cyrus was making some profound and insightful artistic statement? No. I do not. Miley (or her publicists, whichever) was making a vulgar spectacle of herself for attention and exploited the phycology symbolism of her props, the set and costume colors, her behavior and her bare body to justify her erotic outburst as “art.” Also, the performance aired on a program that was rated PG14. A PG14 audience is too immature to understand any of the concepts desperately and loosely alluded to in that performance.  At this age nudity and erotic gestures are no more enlightening or insightful as a swift kick to the gonads, these gestures are perceived as comical or offensive. Her reps wanted ratings, not art, not insight, and lets face it, no matter what age they deemed the show appropriate for, the MTV audience is not the kind of audience looking for enlightenment through the artistic use of the body, dreams, and symbols. They want to be shocked and entertained, and that is what they got. So it is my feelings that while the performance had the potential of being a rich and luscious exploration of waking sexuality through artistic pursuit of dream psychology, it was shown to the wrong audience, in the wrong place, by the wrong people and therefore became a trashy trampy offensive spectacle. But again, this is what they wanted because boy did it get ratings.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, lets move on to the main event. What and where is the meaning in that meaningless stunt? I will analyze symbols observed in the performance using Hodson’s methodology for interpreting dreams, as well as relying on documented and social associations generally attributed to colors and behavior (twerking). The more I worked on this, the more complex it became and I decided it was too much for one post. The best I could come up with was to break it down into two parts: Part 1: Colors, Props and Twerking/Behavior, and Part 2: The Body. So in Part 1 I will discuss the social and psychological meanings of the props, colors and behavior and then in part two I will explore the symbolism of Miley’s bare body, with some of the insights from Part 1 spilling over into Part 2. That last bit about exploring Miley’s bare body sounded a little dirty, but this is in the name of art and cultural revelation, and so must be done.

The Foam Finger is a Lefty

Let’s start with that annoying Foam Finger, with the red nails. In Hodson’s dream theory, your hands represent your relationships with those around you or your position in the world/society. This makes sense because your hands are literally how you “grasp” your environment. Figuratively, to dream that you have unusually large hands denotes success in achieving your goals. And boy is this hand large. Hands also serve as a form of communication and through gesture can represent authority, hate, protection, justice, etc.  In this case the gesture, one massive pointing forefinger, is declaring something by pointing us in some direction. In dreams fingers stand for nonverbal communication. Specifically, the forefinger signifies authority, direction, judgment. On the surface, this oversized gesture is making a point about Miley’s power as a pop-culture icon.

However, the foam finger is a lefty, even if she is wearing it on her right hand. (Fun fact, apparently Miley is naturally a lefty, but her father forced her to learn to use her right hand at some point) In dreams the left hand symbolizes femininity, receptive qualities, graciousness, and submission; while the right hand symbolizes the masculine and active attributes. Gender biases aside, the left hand is generally considered the submissive, weaker hand. Which is interesting because now all of the accusatory and declarative actions of the forefinger gesture can be interpreted as a front. This is just a show, a bluff of her confidence, or will, or a means of compensation. Supporting this reasoning  is that in dreams, when hands are detached or disembodied, like a giant foam finger that can be removed, they then indicate that you are not getting your point of view across. You are not being understood. This can also symbolize feelings of loneliness or isolation. And blood on your hands signifies that you are experiencing some sort of guilt, and yes I know that the finger nail was “painted” red, but still thats pretty darn close to blood… Either way noticing your fingernails in your dream indicates that your defenses are up.  She’s also chewing her nails, which indicates that a problem is too tough to handle and you are not sure how to go about resolving a situation. You may be literally losing your grip on life. But what could have poor Miley so torn up?

Since I mentioned colors, let’s try and figure it out by talking about the predominate colors on that stage, Pink and Brown. Brown is a down-to-earth color signifying stability, structure and support. This serious color is associated with practicality, conservatism, simplicity, and a materialistic character. Brown can also represent worldliness, domestic bliss, physical comfort, and earth/primitivism. The first thing you see is a massive and freakish looking Brown TeddyBear that Miley emerges from to enter the stage. Teddybears are very powerful psychological and social symbols. As gifts they remind us we are loved, they refer to the comfort of soft touch, and they remind of us of the innocence of childhood. It is appropriate that this TeddyBear is Brown then, because he represents the safety, the innocence, and naivety of childhood. But he also represents the limits of childhood, if you stay a child you deny yourself the pleasures of adulthood.  But those mature pleasures can be perverted.

Big Brown TeddyBear

That perversion is what the  crazy Hot Pink Pink TeddyBear Nightmare represents. Pink is pretty much the polar opposite of Brown. Pink is carefree, energetic, high-strung, unpredictable, and immature. Pink is also naive, or innocent, but in this case we’ll stick with naive and immature. We like to remember our young dreamer as embodying  many of these qualities, but those freaky TeddyBears are not really Pink, they are Hot Pink. Hot Pink is a very different color and is associated with curiosity, sensuality and exploration of sexuality or promiscuity. Hot Pink is a passive representation of exploring ones sexuality, compared to the aggressive pursuit of sex characterized by red. But Hot Pink is still very much a sexual color, even if a more innocent one driven mainly by curiosity. All of the TeddyBears after the first one are Hot Pink. Teddybears are not supposed to be a sex symbol, conventionally, they are a love symbol. But these Hot Pink TeddyBears are very abstracted, twisted, and almost frightening. They are a perverted representation of a teddybear and they pervert our feelings about love and mature sexuality.

Twerk it

The dancers sporting Black and Red and twerking up to wahzoo, represent sexual pleasure, expertise, exploitation, and mockery. Black is a warning color, it is dark and mysterious and indicates that you should proceed with caution. Red, as I said earlier, is very much a sexual come-on color, full of energy, aggression, and dominance. The twerking dance they perform is a parody of real sexual behavior that illustrates an immature understanding about sex. The dance is an imitation, a poor and ridiculous one, and reduces sex to a comical and absurd spectacle. The clash of Black and White on the pants of the twerking dancer whom’s butt Miley nuzzels with her face and Robin Thicke’s suit illustrate a clash of opposing forces, in this case sex and childhood. The randomized pattern of these costumes indicate the chaos engendered from trying to resolve the two. They just don’t go together. And a premature observation of sexuality can only result in something that twists sex into a perversion of itself, and it can no longer be taken seriously. It is now offensive or comical.







So where does Miley stand in this sexual perversion? Well, at the start she’s wearing a bear outfit. But she takes it off to revile a beige costume (skimpy as it is). Miley’s costume, well the itty-bitty bits that are there, are beige. Beige, a neutral relative to Brown, represents the basics, the essentials and the barest form. It may also indicate your neutral or unbiased position on some matter. This color could be an indication of the position on social sexuality taken by the “innocent” dreamer in the TeddyBear Nightmare. Miley does her best to mimic the twerking dancers and blend into the world around her. She dry humps Robin Thicke, simulates doggy-style with him and with the Foam Finger she pretends to masturbate or seductively gnaws on the enormous finger. But looking at the behavior in context with what we understand about dream theory and color associations, we can assume that this behavior as a childlike mimicry of the sexually explicit atmosphere we are observing. She does not understand what she is doing, she is just doing it because it looks fun and pleasurable. But this is a satirical representation of real sex and makes a mockery of what sexuality can be. And all the while those stupid TeddyBears look on with that dull look, seeming to encourage this twerking lunacy and sex play acting. I just can not get over how tainted teddybear image is in this performance. I feel that what is so disturbing about it, is that Teddybears are supposed to reconnect us to our child-like innocence and remind of us of being nurtured and cared for by others, again they are love symbols.  And at first the big  Brown Bear does just that. This Bear is the stable Brown safety of childhood that we struggle to leave via puberty to embark on defining our sexuality, only to then spend the rest of our lives trying to relive our glorious childhood. When Miley emerged from this Bear she was abandoning something like a “home” or a protective “mother bear” kind of symbol, her roots. She emerges from this first Brown TeddyBear to explore this brand new chaotic world of pattern and Pink and sex. My instinct is to tell Miley that she needs to get back to her roots. Just go home Miley, you’re drunk on off your ego.

Sad TeddyBear

So that concludes Part 1. Part 2 will be up in a few days so be patient. If you have questions or comments, opinions and insights, I welcome them all! But please support your claims with something other than just your opinion. I want analysis and depth, and even a little criticism, no one is a perfect writer after all! Oh but no hating; you are allowed to disagree so long as you can justify your position.