Category Archives: Uncategorized

Jimmy Reagan’s “Outsider” Art

Jimmy Reagan is a Minnesota artist in his twenties. At age 2, he was diagnosed with a complex form of autism. In his teens, he began working as a serious painter, and he’s had a lot of success. Above is a self-portrait. I saw his work in a recent exhibit in St. Paul.

Above is another self portrait: “Jimmy Painting Pretty Girl in Orange Dress and Pearls.”

He does a lot of portraits. Above is his mom.

Apparently Jimmy has done some traveling. Above is a portrait of a “Girl from Italy.” He often paints his backgrounds and sometimes his frames with what he calls “ticks”–bright splashes of brilliant color.

Jimmy lists his artistic influences as Picasso and Van Gogh. I can see the influences, but to me Jimmy seems totally original.

This is “The Emperor.” Looks pretty self-important, don’t you think?

I like his “Golden Hair Man.”

I’m an aspiring painter myself, and I know what a challenge it is to develop a distinctive style. It really takes a distinctive way of looking at the world.

My painting teacher recommended the book pictured above, “The Innocent Eye” by Jonathan Fineberg. I highly recommend it. Many artists we think of as “modern,” like Picasso, Klee and Kandinsky, were fascinated by children’s art. They actually collected and studied it, and even collaborated with children.

Picasso famously commented that all children are artists. He said that when he was age four, he could draw like Raphael–very probably true. But he said that it took him a lifetime to be able to draw “like a child.”

I especially like Jimmy Reagan’s animal portraits. Above is “Blue Sheep,” acrylic on foam carving.

Here is “Cow, Pig and Rooster.” Jimmy has sold a lot of prints of many of these pieces. I can see why.

“Just Cow” may be just a cow, but what personality. She’s acrylic on carved foam.

Elizabeth” is another cow, an especially joyful one.

My very favorite animal of Jimmy’s is “Dirty Happy Pig.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful there are “outsider” artists, and people who nurture and encourage them. I’m also thankful to be setting off on a trip, hoping to see lots of art. I’ll take Jimmy’s unique way of seeing the world with me.

Jimmy’s website is jimmyreagan.com.

Paul Klee’s Cats, and Mine

If I could choose one artist to invite over for dinner, it might be the Swiss painter and multimedia artist Paul Klee. He lived from 1879 to 1940. I’d have him bring along one of his favorite cats, maybe Fritzi. Paul Klee loved cats. He painted “Idol for House Cats” in 1924, shortly before Fritzi died.

It’s a watercolor, unusually done on primed canvas instead of the traditional paper. He made it multi-media by pasting on a black lace veil, maybe as a sign of mourning after Fritzi died. The cat looks inscrutable, a little intimidating, yet he has a sweet heart-shaped mouth. Cats are thought to be aloof, but try telling that to anyone who loves them.

“We are mourning him as if he were our child and best friend,” Klee wrote.

I saw quite a few Klee paintings recently at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California.

I loved “Tomcat’s Hunting Ground” too, from Klee in 1919. I think it was on loan from the Albertina in Vienna. I love the childlike joy in so much of Klee’s work.

Back in my home state of Minnesota for a fall visit, I saw an exhibit by a young artist who reminds me of Klee. Jimmy Reagan is a young autistic man in his twenties.

He’s been painting seriously for about ten years. I loved his cat, titled “Barbara.”

I loved his “Orange Lion” too. He carves some of his images into sheets of foam, then paints them. I think he’s wonderful. I’ll devote another post to Jimmy’s other work.

Then there are the ceramic cats one of my grandchildren made recently. This cat knows exactly how beautiful and amazing she is.

This one is a jar that holds things, maybe cat treats.

And last but not least, there are the gorgeous, brilliant, not-at-all-aloof actual cats that share my house with me. I’m inspired to try painting their portraits. We’ll see how that goes!

The Ungrateful (Royal) Dead of Denmark

Now I’ve heard the ultimate First-World problem:  what if a man married a queen, naturally expecting that would make him  a king, and had to settle for being a Prince Consort? Not even a King Consort? Horrors! That is what happened to poor Prince Henrik of Denmark.


Among other places, the prince is prominently featured in the spectacular series of seventeen wall-sized tapestries created to celebrate the 50th birthday of Queen Margrethe II in 1990. They actually took ten years to make, so they were finally hung in the Great Hall on her 60th birthday, in 2000.


The prince gets to wear any number of medals and attend elegant events in the Great Hall. The photo is from a poster in the hall–sadly, my invitation to the event must have been lost in the mail.


I wasn’t invited to eat in the adjoining dining room, either.


Among other royal perks, there’s a royal yacht. We happened to be in Stockholm last spring when the Crown Prince of Denmark, son of Henrik and Margrethe, sailed in for a visit.


We stood around for quite awhile so that my granddaughters could lay eyes on an actual Prince and Princess. They duly emerged and waved to the small crowd.


The Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard painted the “cartoons”–the full-size color plans for the seventeen tapestries in the Grand Hall of Christiansborg Palace.


A gift from many Danish businesses plus the state of France, the homeland of the prince, the tapestries depict the entire history of Denmark. They throw in some guesses at the future to boot.

All through 50 years of marriage, the prince has been grousing about the slight he suffered. Now he’s 83, and he’s fed up. So the Prince Consort is refusing to be buried in the specially designed sarcophagus waiting for him and the Queen in Roskilde Cathedral.


As resting places go, Roskilde is pretty nice.


The medieval cathedral has been the burial place for Danish royalty for hundreds of years.


There’s a King’s Door which can only be used by the King and/or Queen to enter. Now, it’s not clear to me whether the Prince Consort can enter through it, but I don’t want to add insult to injury. So I’ll assume he can. In any case, he and anyone else is allowed to LEAVE through it after attending a wedding, confirmation, or funeral (obviously, not his own funeral). The bronze doors, polished and patinated to look like gold, replaced carved-oak ones from the late 1800s, were newly designed and installed in 2010.


Royalty and nobles occupy beautiful chapels. I especially like the ceilings.



The memorial sculptures range from medieval times to the 1950s or so.


Bjorn Norgaard was commissioned some years ago to design a modern-yet-traditional monument for the future burial chapel of Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik. Instead of the typical stone effigies of the great and good, it features their images sandblasted into a large gleaming egg of glass.


What’s not to like? But Queen Margrethe will apparently occupy this resting place alone. I wonder whether the Prince might still get a promotion, and if so, whether it will change his mind. On the other hand, my egalitarian, practical mind has to wonder why a lifetime of royal luxury wasn’t enough. Maybe I’m missing something.

A couple of articles about the brouhaha are at:

http://m.startribune.com/denmark-s-french-born-prince-causes-a-stir/438498423/

http://www.theguardian.com › world › … › royal-snub…

A Bad Day for Santa Croce


A Spanish tourist was just killed by a falling stone fragment inside Florence’s Santa Croce Basilica. How could this happen?


Santa Croce is one of the major sights in Florence. The interior is warmly lit and surprisingly peaceful, considering the number of visitors.

People pause to pay their respects at the tombs of the great and good:


Michelangelo…


Machiavelli…

Dante…


Galileo…


Rossini, and many others I feel like I should know.

Santa Croce is said to be the largest Franciscan church in the world, with beautiful Giotto frescoes honoring the humble monk from Assisi. 


St. Francis is believed to have actually founded this church. 

And now, it’s closed while the authorities investigate why an unsuspecting tourist was killed by a chunk of falling stone.

No tourists will be gazing up at the beautiful ceilings for awhile. The faithful will have to light their candles and murmur their prayers elsewhere in the city.

Italy has artistic treasures everywhere, but it seems there is never enough money to properly take care of them, or to accommodate the number of visitors lining up to see them. 

In 1966, the Arno River overflowed its banks, flooding much of Florence. Damage to Santa Croce took years and years to repair. There are still high water marks in the building, and some of the artworks can’t be completely restored. I hope Santa Croce can be made safe again.

No doubt lots of ink will be used as the investigation goes forward. One article about it is at:

https://www.msn.com/en-my/news/world/falling-stone-kills-italy-church-tourist/ar-AAtKeGo.

Plas Newydd: Royalty and Green Skilly 

I admit to being a hopeless Anglophile. I can easily see myself sweeping down a grand staircase to greet visiting royalty, as the  Angleseys of Plas Newydd in Wales did for centuries.


The house has Tudor origins, but much of it was built in stages beginning in the 1700s. According to a docent, it was more or less a summer cottage, so costs were kept down. The stone walls and pillars in the entry hall? Faux painting. Works for me.

Royals attended Anglesey weddings as a matter of course. And royals stopped by Plas Newydd to play cards in the saloon (toffspeak for the main living room, where everybody gathers. If there are children, this is where they play checkers and race around on tricycles).


Show me a drawing room or saloon, any room where my betters relax, and I’ll head straight to the obligatory black-and-white framed photos, casually strewn on the grand piano or the museum-quality writing desk.


I love faded chintz, tastefully worn Persian rugs, and slightly shabby velvet.


I asked whether this little ceramic pair represented any couple in particular. No, the docent said, it’s just a prince and princess. This figurine was probably mass-produced, but somebody liked it enough to set it on a table alongside family heirlooms.


In another lifetime, maybe I was a British aristocrat–not a snooty one, but a slightly eccentric one who welcomed artists of all stripes. The artist Rex Whistler would have a permanent room in my mansion.


I’d look over Rex’s shoulder as he worked on whatever he wanted, maybe costumes and stage design for a production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” I think this is Alonso, Prospero’s brother.


Caliban is spiky and green.


Miranda looks lovely, and remarkably like Caroline, a daughter of the family (to whom the artist was devoted).


The 6th Marquess of Anglesey had a fine sense of humor. These are his photos of his four daughters. I’m guessing that none of these daughters inherited any of the property. British families kept their estates intact by passing on everything to the oldest son. Most of them still do. But growing up as an aristocratic daughter looks like a pretty good life all the same.


In the breakfast room, there’s a special side table with a screened box to keep the family dogs away from the sausages.


The bedrooms were completely redecorated in the epitome of 1930s country house comfort and style. I’ll take the pink one, please.


I’ll be down for dinner when the gong sounds. Just let me fuss a bit more with my hair…

In the kitchen far below, servants bustle with pots and pans and silver platters. They sit down to their own dinners. Do they say grace after the meal instead of before? Sounds like it:

We thank the Lord for what we’ve had,

It wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad.

The sodduck was stale, the skilly was green,

But thank the Lord the plates were clean.


I’m blessed with a husband who likes old stuff as much as I do. We celebrated our 49th year of wedded bliss at Plas Newydd. This year, we made it to 50! I’d like to go back to Plas Newydd for a nice cup of skilly (tea), green or not.

Golden Kingdoms at the Getty

Sometimes I come face to face with how little I know about non-European cultures. For example, who made this life-sized mask and how  was it used? Was it made to scare the pants off anyone who looked at it, or is it just me? Well, this particular mask was found in the grave of a high-ranking person in Peru, dating from around 900 to 1100 A. D. Possibly there were demons to scare off?


In the fall of 2017, the Getty Center in Los Angeles has a spectacular exhibit called “Golden Kingdoms.” I was immediately attracted because the poster had kind of a Viking look. But no! Instead, it’s a completely different set of cultures, with artifacts from all over the Americas. The objects, all of them with sacred meaning, date from 1200 B.C. up to the beginning of European colonization in the 1500s.

It’s not all bling, at least as we understand bling. The Incas valued feathers and textiles above all else. There’s a perfectly preserved wall-sized rug made entirely of tiny blue and yellow feathers. It was preserved because it was hermetically sealed in an ancient grave.


Peruvian artists of the Moche culture, around 200 A.D., made these heavy mosaic ear ornaments, about the diameter of baseballs. They depict a pair of gorgeous running animals, maybe owls.


I was puzzled about how some of these ornaments would be worn, until I took a close look at a breastplate and diadem belonging to a ruler of the Calima-Yocoto, Columbia, all the way from 200 B.C. to 800 A.D. They wore nose ornaments! Not for the faint of heart.


Nose ornaments were really a thing in these parts.  They look pretty uncomfortable to me–heavy, with a little slot cut out so they can be worn in the nostrils. Special occasion jewelry, I have to think.


This beautiful ceremonial knife from the north coast of Peru, around 900 to 1100 A.D., gave me pause. What kind of ceremony would that be? No doubt some kind of sacrifice was involved.


From the exhibit poster, I expected the dragon-like gold figure to be huge. But it was tiny, and took some hunting to locate. It’s an Aztec “labret,” an ornament signifying political or military power. It’s from Mexico, 1300-1500 A.D.


It was a mouth ornament in the shape of a serpent, made to fit in front of the wearer’s lips.


The tongue can be retracted, or flicked side to side in scary fashion.


An Aztec effigy vessel from the same time period in Mexico depicts the Sun God.



I especially liked this image of Chalchiuhtlicue, the Aztec goddess of lakes, rivers and moving waters.  Her name means “Jade Her Skirt.” Jade and other gemstones were valued more highly than gold in this time period, around 1500 in Mexico.


Spanish conquistadors began arriving in the 1500s, changing the native cultures forever. The spectacular painting above could not be photographed, but I sneaked a shot from the exhibit catalog. It shows a political leader from Ecuador and his two sons. In exchange for swearing fealty to the Spanish king, they were allowed to rule a large area. They naturally began dressing somewhat like Spaniards, but they kept their traditional nose and ear ornaments.


Christianity began to replace the age-old beliefs in gods and goddesses. This 1539 piece, composed of gold, paint, and tiny feathers, is a visual explanation of the new-to-the-Americas sacrament of the Catholic communion.


The new rulers of the Americans needed to catalog their new possessions. The book shown above is part of the Codex Mendoza. It carefully lists everything paid as tribute from the native Aztec people to their conquerors, the Spanish. It reminds me of the Domesday book that the Normans compiled in 1086, after they conquered England in 1066.


The mask above is from the grave of a long-dead young warrior, around 525 A.D.  He’s a fearsome sight, but does he also look a little apprehensive about what comes next? None of us know what’s in store for us. Still, we keep studying the past for clues and maybe some understanding.

There’s an article about this exhibit at:

http://www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/golden_kingdoms/index.html

Chagall on Stage at LACMA

In his long career as an artist, Marc Chagall designed sets and costumes for four stage productions. I wish I had seen any one of them, but the next best thing is the glorious special exhibit this fall at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). 


The exhibit begins with some borrowed paintings that illuminate Chagall’s lifelong passions for music, performance,  and colorful memories of his childhood village in Russia. The painting above is “The Red Circus,” 1956-1960.


Violinists were always prominent in Chagall’s work. “Green Violinist” was from 1923-1924. It’s a fiddler on the roof–literally. This image was used in one of seven murals in the Moscow State Jewish Theater in 1920.


Like countless Jewish artists, intellectuals, and ordinary people, Chagall had to leave Russia. But for the rest of his long life he celebrated and mourned the lost life of his village of Liozna in his work. 


By 1942, he was in Mexico working on a production of the Tchaikovsky ballet “Aleko,” which opened in New York City. I love the costume for my favorite animal, the fox. Chagall did all the set design and hand painted the costumes and sets. The work had to be done in Mexico because American union rules prohibited hands-on work on costumes and sets by the artist. His wife worked alongside him, organizing materials and seamstresses.


In 1945, he did the same for a production of Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.”


The sets and costumes were fabulously wild. I love the alligator and the green bird.

In 1945, Chagall did sets and costumes for Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe.” 


The pirates were as lovingly costumed as the pair of lovers.


The exhibit at LACMA displays not only the costumes themselves, but the artists’ joyous renderings of them as he worked.

Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute,” in 1967? Sure, coming right up!


Mozart’s fantastic story required fantastic sets and costumes.


Chagall said, “I adore the theater and I am a painter. I think the two are made for a marriage of love.” Amen to that!


If you have a chance, go see this exhibit, and take your time seeing it. The painting above is “The Dance,” 1950-1952. 


The 1965 photo above is by Yousouf Karsh. The artist was still working, twenty years later, on the day he died at age 97. No doubt he still had the same joy in life and in his work. We should all be so lucky!

There’s an article about the exhibit in LA Weekly at: http://www.laweekly.com/arts/lacma-exhibits-marc-chagalls-fantastical-ballet-costumes-and-backdrops-8483565