Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father's Day 2015

Arthur Singer
a 25 year old artist
in the "Ghost Army" during WWll

Let's all get together to think about Father's Day, even if your father is away - or maybe like me, he passed away 25 years ago.  Of course every person is unique and we celebrate them for their individuality, but we also look for relationships.  In regard to my father, Arthur Singer - this means that I look a bit like him, and my relationship was complex and we also worked together as I got older.

Paul and Alan Singer circa 1953

I always admired the artwork my father made, since he had a studio at home - when I was little I would watch him work on his art - how did he do all that!  Now in 2015, my brother Paul, and I are working on a book about my father, and this calls up all sorts of memories.  Then we both have an archive of materials, including letters and reviews to consider, as well as hundreds of pieces of art that still remain in the family.

My mother and father were both artists who met when they went to college in New York City at The Cooper Union.  They were able to go to college in the 1930's because Cooper charged no tuition then and only a few students were admitted each year.  They graduated in a class of men and women who went on to become influential artists and designers.  These folks were like our extended family.  Then World War ll intervened and my father joined with other artists like Bill Blass and Ellsworth Kelly, as part of the "Ghost Army", a secret operation of deception along the German front.

Sports Illustrated cover art from 1955
by Arthur Singer

After the War, one of the designers my father graduated with was Jerome Snyder ( who later wrote "The Underground Gourmet" with Milton Glaser ) - and Jerome worked for Sports Illustrated as an art director.  Jerome gave my father a plum assignment - the cover art for an issue of SI that would celebrate the birds of the United States, and this would acknowledge a new interest in bird identification and also be of interest to the hunters who bought the magazine.

So, as a youngster I watched my dad create the art that then graced the cover of this magazine and then so much changed after that experience in 1955.  My father began to earn his living as a working artist and developed his lifelong interest in wildlife illustration.  I was also able to learn a lot watching his method of working and witness the progress he made in his career.  And he was instrumental in helping me establish my direction.  Some children rebel and do exactly the opposite of what their parents do but in my case I loved what my parents did, and I wanted to do that ( art ) too....

State Birds and State Flowers stamps from 1982
by Arthur and Alan Singer

Fast Forward thirty years and I struggled as a young artist in New York City, with some years being good financially and others sort of blah.  What saved me was working on jobs with my father - he put me to work painting backgrounds for many of his images.  In the 1980's we went to work for the U.S.Postal Service designing and illustrating a best selling series of stamps that made many millions of dollars for the government.

Our last major project was a book published by Lodestar called "State Birds" and we put a lifetime of love and dedication to nature as a subject into the pages of that book.  It was one of those very rewarding experiences that can change a life.  It certainly did for me.  Thanks, Dad!

Painting for "State Birds" Lodestar Books, 1986
Arthur and Alan Singer

Monday, June 15, 2015


Namaste at Ock Hee's Gallery, Honeoye Falls, New York
Flower portraits by Mary Buchan

I went over to see the art on view at Ock Hee's Gallery in Honeoye Falls the other day.  This was the last day that the show "Namaste" hung on the walls and this group show had a bit of melancholy to it - this gallery will soon be history.  Ock Hee has decided that she wants to devote all of her time to her passion which is gardening.

Elyse Capell

In the meantime there are a few more shows slated for this year, and later this summer I will show a few new things there as well.  This present show ( "Namaste" ) has a group of ten women, many of them involved in the visual arts for years.  I paid attention to the flower portraits by Mary Buchan, and since I try to do this myself from time to time, I enjoyed seeing how Mary rose to the challenge!

There are some interesting paintings by Elyse Capell that have real resonance, especially if you like visiting some of the quiet ( but substantial ) streams and rocky places on your nature walks.  The rise in interest in plein air painting is just incredible.  There must be clubs that have formed all over the country - for the sole purpose of going outdoors to paint on any given weekend.  It has become a social sport.  I like working outdoors myself, but I like the solitude of finding the right time and place for my painting affairs..

Kurt Feuerherm at Warren Phillips Frame and Fine Art
at the Hungerford Building, Rochester, NY
1115 East Main Street

Back in Rochester, there is a new exhibition of paintings and prints by Kurt and Judy Feuerherm at Warren Phillips place.  My studio is just upstairs, so I don't have far to go to see this new work.  I had the opportunity to show something alongside Kurt in last year's show "Bird is the Word" at Ock Hee's Gallery, but in this present venue Kurt has only one of his little bird sculptures, but it is charming.
Surprisingly, this new exhibition is all about the city, and more to the point it is about space and architecture.

Judy Feuerherm in the new "Two For The Show"

There are prints and paintings and collage from both of these artists that engage you and get you to see things from a new perspective.  Judy Feuerherm has strength in her abstractions which are very tactile and they feature minimal descriptive elements that are mostly linear, but create tensions due to their angular disposition on the surface of her paintings.

Kurt Feuerherm

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summertime,Summertime, Some Sun, Summertime

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York

Ithaca, New York is more than just Cornell University, the gorges and Lake Cayuga; in fact, it is the people I have met there which mean the most to me.  Yes, I met my wife, Anna there, and so many good friends over the years.  I still see teachers I have had, and this time I also found a small retrospective of the art of Hans Peter Kahn installed on the hallway walls on my way up to the Ink Shop at 330 East MLK / State Street.

Relief print by H. Peter Kahn ( 1921-1997 )

In New York City, at The Cooper Union, I had studied with Wolf Kahn, so when I was accepted at Cornell University for graduate school, I sought out H. Peter Kahn - Wolf's brother.  Peter Kahn became my advisor, and we spent hours in conversation, and I learned how he had studied with Hans Hofmann, and I also got a chance to see his artwork underway.  Now you can see some of it including relief prints, paintings, and drawings, many of which are based on landscape imagery that Peter favored.  Peter was not just an able art historian, but a practitioner too.  He was on the faculty at Cornell for almost thirty years.

The Ink Shop Annual Member Exhibition
"Cloud Dance, Red" print by Kumi Korf

Up the stairs at the Ink Shop, they were holding their annual Member Exhibition so we took some time to look over the prints from Kumi Korf, Christa Wolf and Pamela Drix.  Jenny Pope has a marvelous manic image called: "Plan B, Mirrors in space" featuring penguins and spinning geometry which seems to evoke cosmic storms and sheer energy.  Christa Wolf has delicate water-based monotypes that shimmer and hint of dreams in a land that she titles: "Night Shade".  Kumi Korf has a brash red print that reminds me of a cross between Matisse and Hans Arp, because it's so design oriented and self-confident.

Cornell University campus from the upper floors of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum

Take in the view of Cornell University from The Herbert F.Johnson Museum and then work your way around their Asian collections and on down into Western art on the lower floors.  Looking at Asian art, I came across wonderful sculpture from Pakistan and decorated ceramics from China.  Every time I visit I like to come up here and challenge my knowledge of the Far East - and there are always some surprises and much to learn.

Triple Gourd Shape Vase
18th century Chinese

There was a fine six fold screen of the Rimpa School that features painted fans, and very recent Japanese ceramics that stretch the definition of what ceramics can do.  

On lower floors I found some familiar names in sculpture like Lee Bontecou and Sol Lewitt
( see the photo at the top of this post ) and a very powerful painting by Milton Avery.

Milton Avery

Also there is a mini-retrospective of Jack Squier who was teaching in the Sculpture area when I was a student at Cornell.  The main show on the bottom floor is devoted to protest artwork in a show that I feel could be expanded.  The exhibition is called "Aesthetics of Dissent and Disgust" and it has strong images like the one below - that has blood on its hands.

"Aesthetics of Dissent and Disgust"

In this exhibition there was one of the paintings of "Big Daddy" by May Stevens who also was one of the teachers at Cornell while I studied there.  May Stevens was involved with anti-war protests, and also developed her imagery at a time when feminism was finding its footing in Ithaca, and elsewhere.

May Stevens "Big Daddy" 1973

We were witness to the protests against the war in Vietnam; there were still struggles for equal rights, and the era of Richard M. Nixon was coming to a close.  America as well as other countries had issues to deal with, to come to terms with, and people were upset and were not going to take it anymore.  And during this summer of 2015, there are loud echoes of the past that bring out the protesters and set up the dramas to be acted out.  Power to the People!  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Different Degrees of Life

Rochester Contemporary Art Center
137 East Avenue
Rochester, New York


I was looking at a six inch by six inch assemblage that included two burnt out candles on top of a thermostat in this most recent edition of RoCo's famous fundraiser: 6x6x2015.  I said to a visitor standing next to me, " I thought these pieces of art all had to be anonymous - but this one is signed and it says Honeywell".  And he said to me, " I just like this show, there are different degrees of life and they are all here".  So, you could almost feel the gap between what I said, and what the visitor said, and in between that somehow is the work of art, and the intent of the artist.  Honeywell isn't an artist - it is a brand, and my comment was meant to be funny, and in fact for some reason, I picked up on the artworks in this show that have a sense of humor, or at the very least get you to look at the piece because it is oddly curious in some fashion.

Buy your lottery tickets: the winner gets to take George Condo home!

This year, someone painted a half eaten sandwich.  Another person painted a row boat with the middle section missing.  Some of the images are a bit risque, and some are unusual for other reasons, including the large work by George Condo ( he didn't get the memo about the six inch measurement on all sides) which will be won by lottery ticket.  In this specific case we already know the name of the artist, and we get a sense of how much this work would normally sell for ( buy those $40. lottery tickets now! ) and win the prize.

Something for everyone at RoCo's 6x6

In this new exhibition which opened June 6th ( the sixth day of the sixth month ) you can walk in and find a work of art to purchase and take with you when the show closes - and not spend more than a nice dinner might cost ( $ 20. )  RoCo sold a lot of these bargains last year, and this year is full of promise.  Some of my students made little prints for this show in my Digital Art / Printmaking class, as I wanted to give them a project which would allow them to show their artwork and support the local art scene.

Some artists submitted a series.  for example you can find portraits of all four singers in the band ( The Beatles ), you can find four sets of eyes looking out from green knitting, you can find lots of birds, and a variety of printed, sculpted and drawn forms - all at 6 inches by 6 inches.  In this show there are wonderful photos, many geometric shapes, and little dimensional tableaux.  Go online to view the works if you can't get to Rochester, and starting June 9th, 2015 you can go online to purchase your art. Here is the link:

This writer paints a watercolor

It is around this time of year that I usually want to be outdoors; the temperature has warmed up, and I like the freedom of being able to work on a painting, now that my classes are done for this session.  Here I am in my yard working on a portrait of a poppy.  These are the deepest red poppies I have ever seen, and there is just no color on my palette to match these flowers!  So, I took a break to do this watercolor, and try to get back into practice.  That old draw and paint routine is still a challenge, you have to slow it down, so I just sit there and work at it.