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Wallis Simpson: Beautiful, Dirty, Rich (Part 1)

The 5 STooGES is a team of factory artists that create some of the gallery’s most iconic pieces.The group applies a neo-Warholian pop art twist on classic paintings that transforms them into bold, modern pieces.

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One of the most beloved subjects of the 5 STooGES' pop art is the Duchess of Windsor, more simply and notoriously known as Wallis Simpson. She was the Marie Antoinette of the Jazz Age, the careless Yankee for whom a king abdicated his thrown for, and the ultimate “other woman” of her time. Wallis Simpson was not merely beautiful, dirty, and rich - she was a public obsession that still has the world encapsulated by her mystery.

So who was Wallis Simpson? Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in the summer of 1896 to well-established parents in a hotel on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. She was an only child, and her father died a few months after she was born. As a result, her mother often had to rely on the kindness of family acquaintances to get by.

Fortunately, her uncle was able to send her to the most expensive all-girls private school in Maryland - Oldfields School. It was there where she befriended heiresses and future socialites, including her lifelong friend, Mary Kirk. It’s an interesting observation that notable figures in history are often distinguishable from a young age. A fellow pupil at one of Wallis’s schools recalled, “She was bright, brighter than all of us. She made up her mind to go to the head of the class, and she did. She was always immaculately dressed and pushed herself hard to do well.” Another biographer wrote about her, “though Wallis’ jaw was too heavy for her to be counted beautiful, her fine violet-blue eyes and petite figure, quick wits, vitality, and capacity for total concentration on her interlocutor ensured that she had many admirers.” To the unknowing outsider, Wallis was simply a young woman who managed to get lucky. Upon closer inspection, however, she was a remarkably intelligent young woman who, despite the setback of her father’s death, molded herself with sheer discipline into a fine lady suited for high society.

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Wallis Warfield in 1915 upon leaving Oldfields School. She had long dropped the “Bessie” in preference for the more mature “Wallis”.

 

A Trip to The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

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I had always pictured Washington D.C. as a city populated with austere government employees and security guards surrounding the White House. Much of this impression was shaped by Hollywood Presidential movies and the popular television show Homeland, but to my surprise, D.C. was a city that consisted of an incredibly exciting arts and culture scene. A major aspect that contributes to D.C.’s outstanding culture is the National Gallery of Art, which I had the opportunity of visiting during the August long weekend.image

Leonardo Da Vinci, Ginevra De ’ Benci, 1474-1478

Upon arriving at The National Gallery I was absolutely starving since it was a thirty-minute walk from by hotel, and I had to eat something fast in order to be able to pay attention to the beautiful art.  This was no problem since there was an excellent café located on the bottom floor, where I grabbed a delicious lunch consisting of a chickpea and red bean salad and a whole grain baguette.  Now that my tummy was full, it was time to partake in some serious art viewing.

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Kandinsky, Improvisation 31, 1931

The National Gallery of Art is composed of two parts-the first part contains art from the Byzantine, Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococco periods, whereas the second building contains modern art.  As an art history major, I felt the need to immediately explore the Renaissance and Baroque sections of the gallery.  The Renaissance section consisted of artists such as Fra Angelico, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Perugino, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael.  I also viewed the Dutch Baroque section, which featured artists such as Rembrandt, Judith Leyster, and Vermeer.

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Vermeer, Woman Testing a Balance, 1662-1663

The modern art section consisted of a temporary modern art exhibit that focused on the relation between modern art and ballet, which held beautiful costumes and abstract films.  They also had a permanent modern art collection that included artists such as Picasso, Kandinsky, and Diego Rivera. 

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Rembrandt, Self-Portrait, 1659

If you’re thinking of a great road trip destination before the summer ends, Washington D.C. is truly an excellent choice.

Fashion Influenced by Art - Mondrain for YSL

Piet Mondrain was the major painter in the De Stijl movement. This highly intellectual and even mystical movement depended upon a very rigorous limitation of form to simple rectilinear divisions of space into variously sized color fields. Mondrain specifically focussed on the essentials

Meanwhile, St. Laurent introduced an innovative silhouette that established him as the trend setter for years to come. St. Laurent experimented with less closely fitted styles and created an “tubular” silhouette. This simple silhouette permitted him to sculpt shapes that stood away from the body.

In 1965 Mondrain and YSL joined forces and created the beautiful Mondrain dress!

 

This grid-like dress was an epic combination of Mondrains purist theme and St. Laurents silhouette that perfectly depicted the modern designs of the 1960’s.

(Source: navillus.ca)

The Museum Explorer’s Game-Plan

By: Sean Lee (@seanleelee1)

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Exploring a gallery, especially a large or intimidating one, can often be a daunting task for those who don’t often go. Some people whiz by an exhibition without taking anything in, while others spend too much time at each piece, in fear that if they move on, others will judge them for taking so little time. Many would rather stay at home than visit a gallery in fear of performing a social faux-pas, but there’s something to be said about a society that judges people that make an effort to better themselves.

 

So in an attempt to help anyone who might have an inclination to go gallery hopping this week, but isn’t sure about social protocol in a gallery, this little guide might help. Now, disclaimer, this is only a guide. People are free to enjoy art however they want, and in a perfect world, would be free from judgment. But unfortunately, we all have friends that judge.

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When visiting a gallery, it is very helpful to take a map or brochure in order to scan for the works that interest you the most. Then, you can map out a game plan and route that would be best for hitting each of the desired pieces. Go one time quickly around the museum or gallery, and then, come back a second time to the pieces that actually caught your attention. These are the pieces where it would be good to spend at least a solid minute absorbing content. If you go with a group, you can either decide to meet up after everyone explores their area of interest, or collectively decide on the most noteworthy pieces to come back to.

 

Following these guidelines always help to maximize the experience in a gallery and minimize any potential faux-pas. Be sure to test out these gallery tips by visiting us at the Navillus Gallery!

New York Fire Escape

The objective was to find a random picture and create something that’s related to it.

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"New York Fire Escape"


She leaped from the third floor

Past the balcony of her father, staggering, screaming and spewing poison into the face of his weary, willowy wife

And her grandfather’s too, and remembered the pelting fists her father once knew whenever his anger grew

She was a reverse firework, raining down from the sky in front of the bustling crowd before exploding into a splash of brilliant color

She was cinema, and like a movie, it was over in two hours

She walked up to the third floor

past the first floor balcony of her grandfather, crestfallen on his creaking chair, cradling his cracked ego

then past her father, slouched on the couch as the dull television light numbed his subliminal plight

As light as a feather, she tiptoed into her apartment on the third floor, and kissed her little son asleep by the New York fire escape

She was a story

He was a blank page. 

This poem is a juxtaposition of two alternate scenarios, incorporated with alliteration, rhyme, similes, and metaphors. These literary devices we learned in middle school represent the walls that hide our private lives from transparency. The application of these devices is also satirical because they were acquired in a state of innocence and applied in the state of innocence lost.

The Fantasy World of Christian Louboutin

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When I entered the Christian Louboutin exhibit at the Design Exchange Gallery in the Toronto Dominion Building, I felt as if I was immersed in a fantastical and horrific scene from a Tim Burton film.  Alarming red carnival lights surrounded the perimeter of a dark theatre, extraordinary shoes hung from strings attached to colorful carousel installations and rotated slowly in mid-air, and faint images of distorted acrobats emerged from the dark background.  However, this unique exhibit was surprisingly difficult to find, as it was hidden away in the Toronto Dominion Building but perhaps the exhibit’s concealed location served the purpose of adding to its mysterious nature.

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The way the exhibit was arranged was much like an art exhibit at the AGO, as there was a main section that held displays of beautiful shoes, and separate rooms that each had a particular theme.

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The first room was dedicated to Christian Louboutin’s biography and career, and it began with a small clip that outlined Christian Louboutin’s career path.  However, as opposed to presenting the information in a detailed and academic manner, the information was presented in the form of a light-hearted children’s story. For example, a line from the clip was “and with the tap of a wand, Christian Louboutin became a designer.” Although this fairy tale may not have provided a completely accurate account of Christian Louboutin’s career, it represented his unusual and whimsical perception of his life.  The rest of the segment consisted of posters containing Louboutin’s biographical information.

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Another room consisted of Louboutin’s sketches, which I thought were interesting because he does not draw realistic human feet, but rather curvy and elongated feet that have a bulge at the ankle.  The room that followed displayed how the designer transfers his creative and artistic sketches into a practical clothing item.

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The last room consisted of a display of shoes that represented fetishes.  For example, the curves of the shoes were reminiscent of a curvy female body, which complimented the images of a nude Marilyn Munroe painted on the walls. This is essentially the idea that the surrealists had, as they attempted to create objects that tapped into one’s sexual unconscious.  These shoes were not made for wearing, as they consisted of short heels, suggesting that they were merely art objects stripped of their practical function.

This is definitely an inspiring exhibit that you should see over the summer break! Be sure to check it out before it ends September 15, 2013.

http://www.dx.org/index.cfm?PAGEPATH=Exhibitions/Current_Exhibitions/Christian_Louboutin&ID=49282

Rembrandt Flash Mob

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Last Spring, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam created a flash mob to reenact Rembrandt’s infamous The NIght Watch, the staple and central piece of the national museum. The final result is pretty amazing! We wonder whether this would this work in Toronto. What if someone tried to reproduce a Group of Seven piece, would anyone know what it is supposed to be?

Check out this video and let us know what you think! 

The Depiction of Human Emotions in Landscapes

Peter Fischer, Above Massawippi

Viewing a painting of a landscape is similar to reading a description of a landscape in a novel-although the viewer perceives a detailed image of nature, the image often contains underlying emotional significance.  In literature, the literary device that authors use to portray human emotions in the form of nature is called pathetic fallacy. For example, if the author wants to convey a character’s feelings of isolation and sadness, they may describe a cold and chilly night, and if they want to convey a character’s feelings of anger, they may describe a drastic and vicious thunderstorm. 

Peter Fischer, Misty Morning II

Similarly, artists use a visual form of pathetic fallacy to convey human emotion in the depiction of landscapes.  However, it may be harder for the viewer to recognize that a landscape consists of underlying emotional significance since the viewer is not aware of the artist’s life or back story.  For example, an artist may depict a beautiful blue sky with dark clouds in the background to allude to an emotional event that took place in their life.  Artists may use pathetic fallacy in paintings for personal and emotional reasons that are not directly clear to the viewer.

Peter Fischer, Lower Saint Lawrence

This is essentially what Navillus Gallery artists Peter Fischer and Philip Sybal accomplish in their artwork, through their juxtaposition of bright and dark landscapes.  For example, in Peter Fischer’s piece Above Massawippi, the foreground consists of a wooden cottage lying amongst a beautiful and lush golden field, but in the background is a storm that is gradually worsening and drawing closer.  In his painting Kamouraska Misty Morning II, a beautiful emerald green field is amongst a foggy white sky.  In one of Philip Sybal’s landscapes, the viewer witnesses a Muskoka like setting, consisting of a rocky island surrounded by a beautiful blue lake.  However, in the foreground is a developing storm that extends into the viewer’s space and draws them into the composition.

Philip Sybal, Georgian Bay

The landscapes by Peter Fischer and Philip Sybal display their ability to depict nature, as well as their ability to add mysticism and suspense to their paintings.  They are great paintings to hang in your home.

The Versatility of Paintings

When you’re thinking of buying a painting, in addition to the importance of finding a piece with subjective meaning and aesthetic beauty, it is important to consider the painting’s visual appearance in a particular room.  Although a painting’s colours may be bright and eye-catching, there is something beautiful about a painting that interacts with the colours of the room, as opposed to overwhelming and consuming it.

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Mary Conover, Darkness Thinking Light

If the walls in a particular room are light, such as off-white or pale blue, you might want to consider an artist that paints with subtle and monotone colours, like the works by Mary Conover, who is featured at The Navillus Gallery.  In contrast, if the walls of a particular room are bright and vivacious, paintings with chaotic colours, like the works by Francoise Nielly, would make for a good choice.  However, an artist’s paintings become extremely versatile when they contain a mix of different colours, as it is likely that one of the colours in the painting will interact nicely with the colours of the room.

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Francoise Nielly, Shanghai

One such versatile artist featured at The Navillus Gallery is Kirk Mechar, whose paintings consist of bursts of colour in the form of expansive floral patterns.

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Kirk Mechar, Cascade Green

His floral pattern for Cluster (Blue), which is placed on a blue background, is composed of dark purple, pastel green, yellow, and beige.  Although the inclusion of yellow makes the painting seem like a burst of bright light, the dark purple, pastel green, and white provide it with more subtlety, and thereby this painting can be placed in a bright or a monotone room.

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Kirk Mechar, Cluster Blue

Mechar’s floral patter for Cascade (Green), which is placed on a bright green background, consists of bright red, bright yellow, and white.  The use of white makes this bright composition more subtle, and the green and red interact with each other since they are complimentary colours in the visual system.  This painting can also be placed in a bright or a monotone room.

If you have the chance to stop by Yorkville, visit us at The Navillus Gallery to come and see some of Kirk Mechar’s beautiful and versatile works!

The Art of Vintage Clothing

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When I was a child, my grandmother took me on frequent trips to the Royal Ontario Museum.  Despite the unlimited amount of culture, artifacts, antiquity, and biological science presented at the ROM, the only exhibits that appealed to my six year old mind were the ones that were the most perceptually stimulating-the virtual dinosaur exhibit and the bat cave.  I was completely disinterested by displays such as Victorian England clothing, because to a six year old, there is nothing exciting about old garments.  As an adult, I currently think that vintage clothing is one of the most interesting types of artifacts, as its rustic texture and its delicate construction allows one to visualize the nature of a particular time period.  In fact, vintage clothing has the same educational effect on the viewer as particular types of paintings.

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There are many similarities between vintage clothing and paintings made in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries.  For example, they both display the challenges that people had to face during a particular time period. In Medieval illuminated manuscripts, one can witness the atrocities of the Black Death Plague, with images consisting of skeletons and sickly people on their death beds.  Similarly, clothing made out of thin pieces of wool can make one envision the struggle that Europeans endured during the months of cold winter winds, which surely enough brought on disease and sickness.

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As well, clothing and painting both display class.  In many Renaissance and Baroque paintings, the viewer may know that the painting was commissioned by a wealthy family because the patrons are smothered in gold and jewels.  With vintage clothing, one can identify the class based on its material-if the clothing has a thick and more durable material and it is made out of bright and luxurious colours, the viewer may conclude that it belonged to a wealthy individual.

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Displaying clothing in an art gallery setting seems to be more prominent, and as a matter of fact, vintage clothing is currently being displayed at The Navillus Gallery.  In front of my desk are three cases with souvenirs from the Anne of Green Gables television show, which aired in February of 1986.  Although these pieces of clothing are only props, their aesthetic effect allows me to envision the Maritimes in the nineteenth century. A small orange hat and tiny shoes reminds me of the fragility of a young girl, and the intricate stitches on a pair of black gloves reminds me of the precision and tediousness required to make clothing. 

Come down to The Navillus Gallery and witness beautiful vintage clothing in the setting of an art gallery!