Friday, May 23, 2008

Love Letters

Dear Docents--

A fresh batch of love letters to you all has arrived--they're now living in the volunteer room, if you'd like to read them. Double Diamond Elementary School was very pleased with their visit!!


A + E Conference :: Fritz Haeg

For those of you interested in the upcoming Art + Environment Conference, to be held here at NMA October 2-4, 2008, you might find these two short video pieces about the work of artist Fritz Haeg interesting. Haeg is an artist and architect based in Los Angeles who will be presenting at the conference--his most recent work at the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial is the focus of the two pieces included here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Phyllis Shafer :: Hope Valley Morning

Hope Valley Morning, 2007
Oil on Canvas
Collection of the NMA; Gift of Friends and Family of Phil Miller

Hope Valley, located south of Lake Tahoe off State Route 88, is the setting for this plein air landscape painting painted by Phyllis Shafer. But Shafer doesn’t just paint the landscape as it appears to most of us; she paints an arrangement of swirls and squiggles in a rainbow of colors that nearly jump off the canvas. She states that she is especially interested in doing compositional arrangements that juxtapose high altitude vistas with the intimate microcosm of the flora and fauna—for her, the ‘rhythms of nature.’

Phyllis Shafer has lived in several places but each move has brought her closer to nature and farther from the urban setting. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, studied at Empire State College and State University of New York. Shafer received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and exhibited her work and taught part-time in the Bay Area. She now lives and teaches at Lake Tahoe.

Shafer states: “I’m definitely interested in the high desert and the alpine, high-altitude landscapes. I really want to capture the feeling of the space. I want to feel it. I want to smell it. I want to have the sun moving while I’m trying to catch it.”

Research note prepared by Kathleen Durham and Lois Smalley.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Just for Fun

Just because I think the jellyfish are amazing, and so beautiful. I thought some of you might be interested, too.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Hope Valley Morning, 2007
oil on canvas
(c) Phyllis Shafer

Of her commission to do a painting of Yosemite in the Fall of 2004 for the Yosemite show at the Autry the NMA, artist Phyllis Shafer has said, "I felt Bierstadt on my back, but I was honored, and felt very positive, that it was a challenge." She adds that as busy as Yosemite Valley is, you can’t diminish the grandeur, the sense of being enveloped, cradled. She describes the fronds in the foreground of the painting, drooping from the snow. "I love the gesture of these things in the foreground. I’m a foreground fanatic. I luxuriate in the textures and colors of the foreground."

When asked if her work is meant to proselytize for conservation, Shafer explains that she would rather volunteer to help directly in conservation, and just enjoy her painting for itself. Her initial response to the gesture of the land is to dance. She says the rhythm and movement and vibrations affect her style. "I'm looking at landscapes emotionally – I crank them up, the colors also."

She starts very broadly, very loosely. She ends up with about twenty layers of paint. After seeing the size of some of the paintings in the Yosemite show Shafer explained that she would like to learn to paint bigger, and "lose those tiny brushes."

She often torques the perspective so you can feel the periphery. When you're actually there you're aware of everything. Your eye connects colors in their saturated and muted forms.
She mixes burnt sienna and ultramarine to make a dark paint for her background. She takes a rag and spreads it out on the canvas. Since she paints outdoors she wants to do away with the glare from a white canvas. She does a 'take-away' drawing with stiff brushes and then she extends her palette. She says she creates a cartoonish flattening of forms, but she really wants that rhythm. She says she can’t make a horizontal line (contrast that with Maynard Dixon across from her!). "You develop your own language to tell your story." She says it's all there in the field--probably 2/3 of her time on a painting, and then in her studio she does the other third focusing in. At one point she said, "I never want to put a structure in."

Research note prepared by Kathleen Durham and Lois Smalley.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Docent Note :: Jenga in Frank Lloyd Wright

Submitted by Merry Mathers:

Terry Boyd and I were talking about kid tours through FLW; she suggested utilizing blocks to build a structure. The only blocks I have are Jenga -- a game that starts with a stack of blocks (layers of three blocks placed perpendicularly to the next three to create a tower about 18 tiers high). The object of the game is to remove one block at a time to see how many can be removed, yet leave the tower standing. Before entering the exhibit the kids and I sat outside the title wall and started deconstructing blocks instead of building with them. Serendipitously, cantilevered terraces appeared by pulling blocks out partially; windows of light opened; walls were partially removed without effecting the soundness of the tower. Lots of dialogue ensued: extending living space outward, allowing light and nature inside. Once inside the exhibit a child noted that our tower looked a lot like FLW's floor lamp. Jenga is on Colin's desk if anyone wants to try it; there should be enough blocks to split them two or even three ways.