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A Monuments Contest and More Thanks to Donors

As you read in my editor’s note a couple of weeks back, the monuments to Confederate generals, colonial slave traders, brutal conquistadors, Christopher Columbus, Theodore Roosevelt, and others deemed racist and offensive have been toppling at warp speed in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in May and the swelling protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. One asks: What will happen to all that bronze and marble? Will it go to the city dump, the storage rooms of museums, recycling plants for metal and stone? I have no idea how to find out, but I challenge you, dear readers, to sketch out some plans for replacements.

Maya Lin’s original competition submission for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

There will be many an empty park and plaza waiting for imaginative solutions to the monuments vacuum. Who would you like to see in place or Teddy Roosevelt or Robert E. Lee? Harriet Tubman perhaps? John Lewis? Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Or perhaps a tribute to all the people of color who have been victimized by police brutality. Let your imagination run wild. As noted in the editorial, Banksy offered a fairly anemic sketch of how to deal with the removal of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol, England. You can do better.

Think outside the box. You don’t need to use bronze or marble, but try to be somewhat sensible: Styrofoam and cardboard probably won’t hold up too well (but topiary might be interesting). Send your sketches and plans and proposals (a paragraph or two) to me at I have some wonderful art books and catalogues to give away as prizes, and you will be rewarded with a top spot on the site, where I’ll post all entries. The deadline is, appropriately, Labor Day, September 7.
And the rest of this newsletter is dedicated to more donors who help keep Vasari21 afloat
“The central focus of my work is the experience of the presence of the divine in life beyond any specific tradition or path, with a focus on an expanded perception of reality best defined as the re-enchantment of the world,” Tamara English wrote to me way back in January. “The paintings reveal multiple levels of reality and the atmosphere of interior space or inner worlds, imagining these worlds as types of landscapes with what may be perceived as symbols for divine qualities moving through them. As one expands the range of what is perceived as reality, one may also expand one’s view of what has sacred meaning.”

Tamara English, We Carry Inside Us the Wonders We Seek Outside Us (2020), oil on canvas, 40 by 60 inches

“The human body, with all its vitality, mutability, and scars, is an accretion of stardust. And it oxidizes. So I make its image by oxidizing sheet silver and silver leaf on silk, recycled kimono fabric, or paper, adding oil paint, graphite, or whatever medium adds an element of surprise,” says Trude Parkinson. “I take inspiration from sources that happen to pass my way. Some, like Buddhism, have been around a long time. Some, like Jung’s philosophy of shadow, found me when I was young, browsing through a neighborhood library on a quest for freedom. Others, like Morandi’s repetition of imagery, linger and then surface in my awareness. Still others I find daily in books or in small discoveries like the fingerprints visible in a terracotta figure from the Minoan era. I work slowly, allowing time to seep into my images. I search for accidents as though they were signs.”

Trude Parkinson, Rain Becomes Reliquary (2017), oxidized silver leaf and Renaissance wax on paper, 32 by 24 inches

“I often bury the elements I use as grounds—laser prints of photos, magazine pages, cut paper—but I feel the pulse they create, the call-and-response between paint and pre-existing image or material,” Laura Bell wrote to me in late March. “The picture plane is frequently in flux, and those images are generally a slow burn, not immediately decipherable but always the provocation for the brushstrokes around and over them. In  The History of the World, laser prints of a Mars Rover and a Queens auto-wrecking yard evolved into the overarching theme of exploration and wreckage.”

Laura Bell, The History of the World (2019), oil and laser prints (Mars Rover, Queens auto-wrecking yard) on canvas, 57 by 44.5 inches

In May, Angela White sent me this exquisite tondo, saying that in her “latest series of oil and gold leaf work, I have been using circular canvases. This new shape helps to re-frame the viewer's visual expectations and communicates both the circular processes of nature and of memory and time.”

 Angela White, Enchantment (Eastern Shore, Maryland), 2019, oil and gold leaf on 12-inch round canvas

For his exhibition that closed in mid-January (that’s how far behind I am), Randall Stoltzfus sent a description of his practice from Blank Space in New York: “’Widening’ represents a new chapter in Randall Stoltzfus’ painting. Originally trained as a landscape artist, Stoltzfus turned towards abstraction in the early 2000s as a way of engaging more directly with light as a subject. These early works, which were steeped in both a personal and historical relationship to his Mennonite upbringing, were often dark and monochromatic and built upon the polarity of light and shadow and complementary colors. As he developed his distinctive style of organic abstraction, which uses thousands of hand-painted circles to build the larger image, his palette expanded and the landscapes and natural references of his earlier work began to fall further into the background. For Stoltzfus there are now two relationships at work in his paintings: a poetic relationship to the physical subject and a direct relationship the sensation of light itself.” Below: an installation shot from the show at Blank Space.


“My earliest childhood memories reveal innate senses that were very keen,” writes Vicky Lentz, an artist living in New Brunswick, Canada, who works with diverse materials that seem always to relate to her natural surroundings. “Everything around me on the family farm, and in the wilds of the surrounding fields, set my curiosity on fire. I was fully alive and acutely aware of my environment.  I belonged.  I marvelled at jars of tadpoles and fireflies that I would sneak into my room. My thirst to understand the magic in this world led me to studies in the sciences and landed me with a university degree in archaeology and ecology. This keen sensitivity has remained a constant in my life.”

Vicky Lentz, Be Like Water (2019), plastic unicorn ice cubes, iridized cellophane, cotton on canvas with hanging recycled water bottles, 5 by 6 feet

"My recent drawings have evolved into two ongoing series, ‘Tree of Life/Arbol de Vida’ and ‘The Crown,’” reports critic, artist, and curator David Rubin from Los Angeles  “The distinctions between the two are somewhat blurred, as both are aspects of my concept of divinity. I became interested in the Tree of Life while living in San Antonio, TX, as the theme is prevalent in Mexican art (as well as in my own Jewish heritage).  The Netflix series ‘The Crown’ opened my eyes to the relationship between the British crown and the church. Whether read as Mardi Gras beads, cells, atoms and molecules, or galaxies, my drawn universes reflect my belief that science and spirituality are not at odds, but simply two different systems for understanding matter."

David S. Rubin, from the“Tree of Life/Arbol de Vida” series, 2020, colored pens on watercolor paper, 12 by 18 inches

“In this double-figured sculpture, one ‘bird woman’ is looking outward--across the town, the horizon, and beyond; the other is looking inward—toward the house, the hill, and self,” Leslie Fry wrote to me way back in November. “Birds, angels, and other winged creatures move between earth and sky. They are heavenly messengers that represent divine freedom, liberated from the weight of earthly constraints. Ancient art and architecture have always inspired me. World religions and philosophies, Jungian thought, the connection of all things ecological and mythological—are all part of the influences that have formed my art.

Leslie Fry, Double Visionaries (2019), cast Forton with copper and stainless steel. 40 by 31 by 15 inches

“I work exclusively on paper which, like skin, is fragile and permeable, “ writes Rita Bernstein. “My pieces are typically small, spare, and reticent. In a world where a great majority of contemporary work is big, loud, and competing for attention, I value what is otherwise, and regret that it is often overlooked.”

Rita Bernstein, Expectant (2019), mixed media on paper, 7 by 7.5 inches

“My scientific family and a career in organ transplantation and wound-care research fostered a fascination with the unseen intricacies underneath the skin,” writes Kathryn Hart. “Surgical knots as synapses within chaotic webs of connection.  Weaving alludes to traps, veins, channels, home, and women’s voices. As a plastic surgeon’s daughter, suturing and slicing come naturally after frequently observing surgeries.  Sculptural materials are often twisted, tethered, stretched, and sutured, embodiments of human frailty and the need for visibility beyond the aesthetic gaze. Shapes are figurative turned inside-out; the external body is eliminated.  The focus is the interiority of the body—viscera  blood, bone, and energy.”

Kathryn Hart, Ariosta (2020), found wire and barbed wire, horsehair, pheasant wing, glass ampoules, alpaca fur, monofilament and mixed media, 72 by 53 by 43 inches

“A summertime project, long time conceptualizing, long time creating,” says Robert Parker of his multi-part painting below. “There was no literal concept in mind with the execution of the piece as I allowed myself freedom to play with vertical bands. Bands that varied in size, direction, and monochromatic color resulted in depth and movement and the telling of its own story. In living with the work for more than three months during its myriad stages of execution, its voice emerged, thus the title, Codex 1. Codices are themed ideas brought together in one overall work. This is a breakthough piece that moved away from my usual smaller, colorful, square format. While each panel was planned so that it could be hung separately, I believe now that the whole is stronger than its parts and should remain as one large work of art. It was wonderful not to have an urgency for a final resolution or a deadline for the completion of this piece. This allowed latitude for patience and was very nurturing.”

Robert Parker, Codex 1 (2020), acrylic on canvas panels, 54 by 121 inches

And a very happy birthday today to Ira Wright, whose pup Lucinda—“half-coyote, half blonde lab,” according to the artist—sent several nice bones to the site last week. Wright, now in his 80s, was profiled for Vasari21 in April. As I wrote then, his is an aesthetic as bitingly crazed as Ralph Steadman’s, who made his name illustrating Hunter Thompson’s zany reportage. Lately Wright has been at work on a series of self-portraits, clearly meditations on mortality, though I hope he is around for many years to come.

Ira Wright, Self-Portrait in Pink (2020), mixed media on canvas, 36 by 24 inches
Please note some corrections to my notice last week about Barbara Rachko’s new representation at Galerie SoHo in Västerås, Sweden, and Galleria Balmain in London. The inspiration for Trickster was a carnival mask from Bolivia, not Middle America, and the final version of her pastel painting is below:

Barbara Rachko, Trickster (2020), soft pastel on sandpaper, 26 by 20 inches (35 by 28.5 inches framed)

I think I am up to speed with almost all donors who have sent me images. If I’ve missed you, or if you have yet to send a jpg of your work, just reach out and give me a poke!
Next week we return with more posts: Who was Jeanne Duval, Baudelaire’s Creole muse and the model for one of Manet’s strangest portraits? Plus a photography portfolio from Ed Grant, and another installment of Eat My Memoir. As some readers are aware, I’ve given up on painting and turned to cooking, and food has led to writing about my family, and they turn out to be choice subjects for exploration and excavation. The recipes aren’t bad either.

And, yes, there will soon be an update on the report about art consultants, posted five years ago. I'm also planning to check in again with galleries for another overview of dealers facing down the pandemic.

So stay tuned....and stay safe!

Top: Detail of the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts Fifty-Fourth Regiment, 1884 - 1897. Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907).
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