art of the seen

Emily Prince (1981-) was born and raised in Gold Run, California (population 125). She studied Art and Psychology at Stanford and completed her MFA at U. C. Berkeley in 2008. One of my favorite things about her is that she incorporates time as a medium and is as enamored with memory as I am. A lot of her work investigates how we as humans respond to the passage of time and catalogue those things that are gone. She currently lives and works in San Francisco.

This is one of her most famous works that I was blessed to see this past year at the Saatchi Gallery in London, American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, nor the Iraqis nor the Afghans)
2004 – to present












Learn more here, but it’s not even her best stuff. Read on.

Prince says her artworks express the way she sees her environment and that all of her works share a common thread: they map her environment and focus on things, one at a time. This is seen in an exhibit called Familiar at the Eleanor Harwood Gallery in San Francisco in which she catalogued in graphite illustration all the skeins of yarn, knives, bikes, and other items in her apartment, page by page.






Another example of her collecting narrative is seen in the work Portraits based on images in Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. On her website, she states: “I felt a deep void in my knowledge of American history, not knowing anything (besides myth) about the indigenous people who lived and live here. At the same time, I did feel a peripheral connection to this history, however oblique, because of where I grew up – in the town of Gold Run, California… A hint at the very realness of this history was directly in my environment growing up and as a child it made me feel like I lived amongst ghosts…after reading Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, I made these embroideries to meditate on a few of the individuals in this history. These faces come from pictures in the book. I felt a need to spend time looking at these figures who were hauntingly absent from my formal education. I was trying to correct that”.








Prince once again focuses on the past and the narrative of memory in the installation We Are Alive in These Canyons (Berkeley Art Museum, 2008), where she dialogues about the experience of sorting through old family photo albums, curious about our nostalgic reaction to the past. Prince questions why we view the past through particular lenses, how old photographs affect the construction of our memories, and what effect this has on our knowledge of history, both individual and collective. The piece is comprised of collages based on family snapshots that are projected through the use of a zoopraxiscope (the viewer must turn the crank). With three projections, and all of them operating independently, the juxtaposition of images is constantly in flux, like memory itself, which moves not in a linear way but by forever shifting associative pathways.












The body of work shown in The Way it Used to Be (Kent Gallery, New York, 2009) once again explores the psychological phenomenon of nostalgia, with a curiosity about how humans cope with loss. Holding on to the past of course depends upon our memory, but what happens when that very armature is unstable and slippery? In this recent work Emily Prince is looking specifically at the romantic impulse to preserve the past while simultaneously “re-membering” it (a combination that is potentially paradoxical, but perhaps so outside of our ordinary awareness) as seen in the piece “Left: doily crocheted by my grandmother, Right: doily replicated in paper”.







The pieces in this series ask many wonderful questions, such as: “First, why do we even perceive memories nostalgically?”… “How is nostalgia related to the pain of loss?”… “More complex than just being sentimental, what does nostalgia have to do with survival?… “Do we experience nostalgia as a species (for really old stuff: rocks and trees, etc)?”… “How does nostalgia color and shape, confine and confabulate our ideas of history, both personal and cultural?”… “What role does photography play, particularly the family snapshot?”… “What are we longing for and why do we feel longingly for things once they are at a distance?”… “Besides for remembering, what does nostalgia do for forgetting?”

The answers to these questions are searched for in a variety of mediums. Because of the non-linear and unwieldy character of human memory, Prince finds it necessary to operate with various means in tandem, experimenting with repeated and failing attempts, toward containing the past. And through this struggle the initial clarity of mimesis breaks down: patterns turn chaotic, things disappear, edges blur, surfaces crumple, the aim of reproduction fails. In memory the visible becomes invisible, the visit-able, invisitable. Visiting memory is a gesture recapture what will inevitably always remain beyond our grasp.






For a good time, learn more on her website.


Chu Yun, born in Jiangxi, China in 1977,  recognizes that the meaning of art often resides in intersecting spaces between maker, object and audience. Chu Yun is able to reveal what remains hidden in a poetic way, as seen in his ongoing work of ‘Constellation’, which I first viewed at the 2009 Venice Biennale. This installation consists of various household electrical appliances divorced from their usual function and installed in a dark room. Their flashing indicator lights comprise a small universe.

In a conversation with curator Hu Fang, Chu Yun described his preoccupation with the everyday as follows: “In fact, what changes us are not necessarily those things of which we are overtly conscious about, or even the things that we are able to remember. I think we are more liable to being unconsciously changed by things we cannot easily observe, and that these things change us even more quickly and drastically.”

Chu Yun lives and works in Shenzhen and has many other very interesting conceptual installations such as women sleeping, soap collections and baroque flower arrangements.

photo Philippe Abergel

“La Cuisine Communautaire,” Musée Maillol, Paris

Ilya Kabakov, or Илья́ Ио́сифович Кабако́в if you prefer, is a Russian-American conceptual artist of Jewish descent, born in the Ukraine in 1933. He has done a wide variety of art over his life, from illustration, painting, sculpture and installation. The piece that first caught my eye was “La Cuisine Communautaire” or the Communal Kitchen, installed at the Musée Maillol in Paris. This piece, as well as many others, evokes the visual culture of the Soviet Union, though this theme has never been the exclusive focus of his work.

Kabakov refers to his work as “total installations” and believes that “an installation is a world its own.” Kabakov’s installations are complex environments. He has immersed his viewers in communal Soviet apartments, a studio of an untalented artist, as well as an old Russian school.

This is a great link to read more about Kabakov and his art partner/niece/wife, Emilia.

Ground-level view of "The Communal Kitchen," 2010.

2002 Watercolor, gouache, ink and pencil on paper, 60 3/4 x 119 1/2 inchesNatural history superrealism overlaid with Surrealism? Have I finally found the perfect blend of Audubon, Bruegel, and The Museum of Jurassic Technology? In his watercolors Walton Ford personifies the animal kingdom in a large-scale, highly detailed, critical observation seen through the mirror of humanity. In his bizarrely colorful paintings of bird, beast and fowl, Mr. Ford communicates his views on society as it is and has been.

Born in Larchmont, New York, in 1960, Walton Ford is a 1982 graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.  He is the recipient of several national awards and honors and now lives in the mountains of The Berkshires in Massachusetts

Jack on His Deathbed (2005), displayed at the artist's studio Photo by Luigi Cazzaniga

Ford drew his early inspiration from the work of nineteenth-century artist and naturalist John James Audubon—particularly his prodigious Birds of America series–as well as from visits to the American Museum of Natural History.  Other influences include J.J. Grandville and Sir John Tenniel, the French artists whose caricatures of part-human, part-animal subjects satirized nineteenth-century French and British society; Edward Lear, an artist and writer known for his nonsensical poetry and limericks; George Catlin, a self-taught painter of Native Americans; and Francisco Goya, the Spanish artist working at the turn of the nineteenth-century. But true stories are the underpinnings of all of Mr. Ford’s work, which he once called “fake natural-history art.”

“I’m looking at this stuff all the time,” waving in the direction of a pile of moldy illustrated books on hunting and trapping while being interviewed by Leah Ollman of the Times (1999). “I get all my inspiration from things I read or see. There are very few times that an image pops out at me from some inner recess of my soul or that kind of stuff…

tryptich "Le Jardin," which is based on sketches by George Caitlin

…Anyone walking in the countryside would have seen this 100 times,” Mr. Ford said, brandishing an 1887 copy of “Camp Life in the Woods and the Tricks of Trapping,” by W. Hamilton Gibson. “This is a lost world. I can’t even imagine a place where there’d be deadfalls in the woods everywhere and snares and an abundance of wildlife constantly being trapped. There’d be big nets strung from trees, barrels full of birds going to market – just enormous quantities of flesh on the hoof and in the air. It’s a piece of American history I don’t remember being taught in school.”

“Baba B.G.”

Several of the paintings are quite specific in their references. The one seen here, I was pleased to see in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof “BESTIARIUM” exhibition in April of 2010. It responds to Microsoft chief Bill Gates’ visit to India in 1997, when Ford and his family were spending an extended time there. It shows “Baba B.G.” as a North American kingfisher holding court to eight other brilliantly plumed birds sitting lower down on the same branch. A large fish, skewered by the branch where it meets the trunk, hangs nearby, spilling smaller fish from its slit gut. Some of those tumbling from its belly are shown in the process of eating even smaller fish. Such is the law of economic imperialism.

2003 Watercolor, gouache, ink, and pencil on paper, 60 x 119 inches Courtesy the Artist and Paul Kasmin Gallery

A Sensorium (2003), 60 x 119 inches

In keeping with Audubon’s practice, Ford often identifies each of the creatures he depicts through numbered captions, and in the same deliberately old-fashioned script, he pencils in “field notes”–quotes and clippings that help forge the metaphoric link.

In “Na raamro,” the starlings beleaguer a Himalayan bearded vulture by pecking on its wing and teetering on its head. Next to the work’s title, Ford has written in a short glossary of stereotypical tourist phrases steeped in cultural condescension, such as “The food is cold,” “Where is the porter?” and “I have diarrhea.”

Like a finely tuned system of counterweights, the paintings balance between clever self-consciousness and unencumbered sensual reverie. They are clearly, solidly grounded in history, irony and cultural critique, but, as often is the case, it is beauty that catches the eye and makes them fly.

"Monument of the yellow colour, Kamchatka, 4307"

My first encounter with the art and critique of Pavel Pepperstein was in September of the 2009 Venice Biennale. It seems, after the long year of travel (visiting many musuems as well as contemporary exhibitions), that Pepperstein’s work jumps into my mind most vividly and is continually referenced. I guess that is why he is my first (in the upcoming list of recent inspirators).

shown in "Landscapes of the Future", Russian Pavillion, Venice Biennale 2009

"The Great Egg of Easter, 2124"

"The Artificial Clouds in the Year 2488 "

"The huge spiral of DNK, erected in the West Sibyria in the year 3021"

"The Attack of the Old Houses"

A little bit about: Artist Pavel Pepperstein was born 1966 in Moscow, Russia, he now lives and works there as well as Tel Aviv (more information here). “The Muscovite artist is a modern-day Renaissance man. In the art world, he’s acclaimed for his annotated watercolours, where free association and surreal wit rules. In delicate washes of paint, political and cultural symbols are set adrift in a fantastical landscape peopled by knights, spacemen and figures of Russian folklore, while accompanying scraps of text play wry word games. But while Pepperstein has shown his work all over the world, in his home country he is better known for his best-selling novels and his eloquent, politically minded rapping” (

Chinon, France

For the first post I would like to outline my intentions.

I am under the impression that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, and this for the very simple reason that it is in the act of beholding (which requires something to behold). So often we are unaware of our surroundings, the beauty possible in the banal, the oddity found in the everyday. G.K. Chesterton once said, “The world will never starve for lack of wonders, but for lack of wonder.” I say, if curiosity killed the cat, then that cat died nobly. 

Affectionately, Megan Elizabeth

%d bloggers like this: