Category Archives: international artists

Re-Drawing the Map of the Art World

In her NY Times review of Saul Steinberg:  A Biography, by Deirdre Bair, Deborah Solomon reminds us that Steinberg was most famous for his “View of the World From 9th Avenue”, a Manhattan-centric remapping of the world.

Steinberg was a prolific cartoonist for The New Yorker.  In addition, his drawings and sculptures were shown in high-brow galleries and museums, and prized by art collectors.

Solomon, who authored a forthcoming biography of Norman Rockwell, has good reason to be well-versed on the topic of “fine art” vs. “illustration”.  About Steinberg, she comments:  “In his heyday, art critics butted heads over whether his drawings should be considered cartooning, illustration or museum-worthy art.  By now such attempts at classification seem beside the point.  Most of us do not believe that an invisible velvet rope separates museum art from magazine art, or that a painting hanging at the Museum of Modern Art is automatically superior in aesthetic terms to a children’s book illustration.  The truth is that any genre can produce works of enduring power” (italics mine.)

Solomon cites an anecdote from the biography that mirrors this pedestal-busting view of art:  “(Steinberg) once described Picasso, after visiting him at his villa outside Cannes, as ‘an old Jewish man in the Florida sun– all torso and shorts.'”

What do you think?  Is there an important distinction between illustration and fine art?  Does it matter?

Art Fraud Case Begs Question: What Makes Art Valuable?

Today, two parallel stories of art authentication/fraud enquiry appeared in the news.  “Old Man With Beard”, thought since the 1960’s to be a skilful copy by one of Rembrandt’s students, was examined with the latest x-ray technology, revealing a hidden drawing of a Rembrandt self-portrait beneath the painting, clinching its authenticity as his work.

On the other hand, the New York Times reveals in an explosive story today that millions of dollars of paintings purported to be by Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Richard Diebenkorn may be fakes.  They were brokered by Glafira Rosales, who claimed they were from the personal collection of a “close family friend” who insisted on anonymity, and sold by blue-chip galleries and art dealers, including Knoedler & Co., which abruptly closed its doors this week.

The Times article details the FBI investigation, which is fascinating.  In addition to a lack of provenance (the documented ownership trail of a work of art), the paintings were not subjected to simple pigment tests, which have now revealed that some of the paints used to create them were not yet available at the time, to the artists who supposedly created them.  Curators and dealers with sterling reputations are falling under the juggernaut of this investigation.

It is incredible to me that these fakes, which convinced the experts (who weren’t looking too hard), could have simply been done without anachronistic paints, and might still retain their “value”.  The lack of the most basic due-diligence on the part of the “experts” is stunning, and calls to question their complicity in the fraud.  How many more are out there?

Beyond all the detective work, I wonder:  If a painting looks like a Pollock or a Motherwell, and is loved and respected for its “inspiration”, is it really less of a “masterpiece” than an authentic work?  If we really can’t tell without the help of a lab, is it really that special?  I like Motherwell, Rothko and Pollock, but $17 million??

I daresay that convincingly faking a Rembrandt would be beyond the technical and artistic abilities of anyone alive.  The Rembrandts that have been called into question were produced by his students, under his tutelage, perhaps with help from his own hand.  If a painting is so easily copied, what’s all the fuss?

What do you think?

(For a fascinating investigative journalism piece on the mechanisms of art forgery, see “Three Indicted in Sale of Fake Famous-Name Prints” from the Chicago Tribune, April, 2011.)

“Knittivists” Repairing The World

There is a wonderful project called “Tikkun Tree”, which is organizing fiber artists to contribute knitted, crocheted, embroidered and sewn leaves and doves to a fiber olive tree.  The tree will be a symbol of peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians.  It is inspired by  “the courageous and remarkable efforts of Jewish and Palestinian citizens and activists in Israel and Diaspora who have been working toward peaceful coexistence” and also by “the many recent knittivist community needlework projects, including the pink tank, knitnotwar 1,0o0 Project , Knit a River, and the Red Sweater Project“.

I can embroider and sew, I think it will be fun to foliate!  If you want to participate, send your leaves to:

The TikkunTree Project
P.O. Box 2088
Philadelphia, PA 19103

I love to paint olive trees.  Here are some works which include olive trees from my portfolio:

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Re-Purposing Hubcaps for Art

"Birth of Earth", re-purposed hubcap art by Judith Joseph for Landfill Art Project

Back in December of 2008, artist and gallery owner Ken Marquis contacted me and asked me to participate in the “Landfill Project”.  At the time, he had over 100 international artists on board; by now, the project has grown to over 800 artists!

The idea was to salvage hubcaps, clean them up and give them to artists to have their creative way with them.  I’ll never forget the day my hubcap arrived in the mail.  There was much laughter in my house, as I pulled it from the box and tried to explain to my family that it was going to be an art piece.

I pulled together a scrap of silk I had hand-painted as an experiment, brass foil and wire, and went to work.  The silk looked, to me, like the roiling soup of primordial creation, at the beginning of the universe.  So, I thought about Earth being born, like a baby, gasping for its first breath, emerging from the amniotic caul.  I thought of my mother, who emerged from birth wearing her birth caul “like an undershirt”, which her father proclaimed to be a sign of good luck.  (He was right; so far, at age 84, she’s had a very lucky, happy life.  I can only wish good luck to our Mother Earth, who could use some!)

Ken Marquis’ idea sounded kind of crazy at first, but if you peruse the gallery of his hupcap art, you will be amazed at the inventiveness of artists from around the world, in re-imagining these metal disks.  The take-away message for me is, why don’t we approach all of our environmental problems with this kind of creative energy?

Landfill Art was just profiled in an AP article:  Hubcaps As Canvas:  Artists Turn Junk Into Jewels (where you can see my hubcap in slide #4).   Ken needs 150 more professional artists for the project– see application and the complete “Gallery of Metal Canvases” at the Landfill Art website.