Meet the Masters

August 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

“After Bath” by Edgar Degas.

Yearning to step back in time to see masterworks before contemporary art took hold? You’re in luck. We’ve compiled a short list of exhibitions you’ll want to check out this fall at museums around the country.

“Degas’ Dancers at the Barre: Point and Counterpoint”
Oct. 1-Jan. 8, 2012
The Phillips Collection
Washington, D.C.

“Monet’s Water Lilies”
Oct. 2-Jan. 22, 2012
Saint Louis Art Museum
St. Louis, Mo.

“George Inness in Italy”
Oct. 7-Jan. 8, 2012
Taft Museum of Art
Cincinnati, Ohio

“Degas and the Nude”
Oct. 9-Feb. 5, 2012
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Boston, Mass.

“Pissarro’s People”
Oct. 22-Jan. 22, 2012
Legion of Honor
San Francisco, Calif.

Fall Arts Preview: New Life, New Spaces

August 2011 | BY | Fall 2011, Issue 77 | NO COMMENTS

A major expansion project at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is expected to support a permanent collection that has more than doubled in size.

Museums reborn, museums resurrected, museums opening (some in the most unlikely places): the art world is bubbling up with exciting and unexpected things to see and do in the 2011 fall arts season. The word “contemporary” comes up a lot as museums continue to find ways to engage arts patrons and enthusiasts alike.

Among the new additions to the American museums world is the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Both an expansion and a transformation, it houses seven galleries and triples the display space for contemporary art to 80,000 square feet in the dramatic I.M. Pei-designed building. A 24-hour celebration starting Sept. 17 leads up to the public opening the following day and the debut of its new 24-hour video acquisition, Christian Marclay’s “The Clock.” The video is a compilation of movie and television clips of clocks that tell the current time at any given moment. The opening exhibition is “Ellsworth Kelly: Wood Sculpture,” a survey of 19 works by the noted artist, on view through March 4.

Playing with the idea that “all art is contemporary,” Jen Mergel, senior curator of contemporary art, said, “We hope to build curiosity, context and an exchange about contemporary culture as an unending story.”

Named for long-time museum benefactors Joyce Linde, her late husband Edward and their family, the galleries also include educational facilities and events space.

A grand reopening takes place on Sept. 16 for New York’s National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, which has been closed since last July. Architect Bruce Fowle reinvigorated the Beaux-Arts Fifth Avenue mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“Will Barnet at 100” is the opening exhibition, with 43 paintings and prints that date from 1935 to 2008. It’s the first New York museum retrospective of the renowned artist, who celebrated his 100th birthday on May 25. In addition, ”An American Collection,” a show of 100 works from the museum’s repository, will chart the course of American art from 1820 to the 1970s, including works by Winslow Homer, George Bellows, Isabel Bishop, Richard Estes and William Merritt Chase.

Among works on view throughout the wing are pieces by internationally recognized artists including El Anatsui, Lynda Benglis, Jun Kaneko, Mona Hatoum, Ken Price, Eva Hild and Betty Woodman.

For more of “New Life, New Spaces,” pick up the Fall 2011 issue of AmericanStyle, on newsstands Sept. 6!
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2011 Top 25 Arts Destinations

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | 7 COMMENTS

Located in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world, with approximately 42,000 works—from Impressionist paintings to contemporary craft. CREDIT: Ken Rahaim

Readers were pumped up and fully engaged in casting ballots for their favorite arts places in AmericanStyle’s 2011 Top 25 Arts Destinations competition. It’s the 14th annual edition of our wildly popular readers’ poll, and the results are now official. For the fourth year in a row, no other major city in the country has been able to unseat the Big Three: New York City held on to first place in the Big Cities category, with nearly 40 percent of all votes cast; Chicago remained in second place, with 23.4 percent; and Washington, D.C., stayed in the No. 3 spot, with 20.2 percent. San Francisco came in at fourth place, followed by Boston at No. 5.

In the Mid-Size Cities category, St. Petersburg, Fla., held on to the No. 1 spot with 26.9 percent of the vote. Former sixth place city Savannah, Ga., leapfrogged four places ahead into the No. 2 spot, pushing last year’s second place finisher New Orleans down a notch to No. 3. Rounding out the top five in this category are Charleston, S.C., at No. 4, and Scottsdale, Ariz., at No. 5.

The tightest voting margins played out in the Small Cities category, with Asheville, N.C., winning by a hair with 16.7 percent of the votes over No. 2 Santa Fe, N.M., with 16.5 percent. Third place went to Gloucester, Mass, a total newcomer to the Top 25 Small Cities list, which pushed Saugatuck, Mich., down a notch into fourth place. Sarasota, Fla., held its position again this year at No. 5.

Click the links below for a complete list of the Top 25 Arts Destinations in each category.


Santa Fe’s House of Glass

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

“Ashore,” by artist Bobby Bowes, incorporates 20 blown glass vessels of varying sizes and is part of the Ehrenbergs’ extensive outdoor art collection. CREDIT: Chris Corrie

On any summer evening, high above the Santa Fe Opera open-air theater, Richard and Betsy Ehrenberg’s unique residence lights up like a crystal jewelry box against a star-scattered sky. Topping a ridge with 360-degree views of northern New Mexico—the Jemez mountains to the west and the Sangre de Cristos to the east—there could be no better setting to showcase their stunning fine art glass collection.

The Ehrenbergs both grew up surrounded by art. Betsy’s mother was an accomplished painter and museum visits were regular family events. Richard’s father, Raymond Ehrenberg, began collecting American paperweights in 1932, buying his first for $2.50. He went on to purchase from the foremost paperweight makers of his time, including Baccarat, Clichy and Saint Louis, amassing a collection that was the envy of his most competitive colleagues. The collection eventually passed on to Richard and Betsy and served as the catalyst for an amazing studio art glass collection of their own.

Initially the couple sought out modern paperweights to add to their antiques collection, but they soon found themselves enchanted with larger, three-dimensional sculptures in glass. They attended the Pilchuck Glass School’s annual fundraising auction in Seattle and purchased seven sculptures. At artist David Bennett’s studio they watched a piece being made and, as Betsy remembers, “the process fascinated us—it was like watching a baby being born!” They were hooked.

For more of “House of Glass,” purchase the Summer 2011 issue of AmericanStyle.
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Vicco Von Voss: Organically Inspired

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

The heart of the home is the kitchen, with a cozy dining area nestled into a windowed tower suffused with natural light. CREDIT: Celia Pearson

Trees. For studio furniture maker Vicco Von Voss, they are his teachers and his building materials, the inspiration that links his life with his livelihood. His reverence for them is evident in the airy contemporary timber-framed house he designed and built in 2004 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Set back on five secluded acres overlooking Island Creek near Chestertown, the house is constructed mostly from local salvaged wood, in keeping with Von Voss’s belief in sustainability. Only 33 of the hundreds of trees used to build the house were cut—and those were white pine trees from a friend’s property “that we cut with the intention of giving them a new life,” he says.

“Every tree has a spirit in it,” notes the lanky 42-year-old as he tenderly rubs the massive red oak “summer beam” that serves as the structure’s primary support. “This tree used to stand where the stove is now,” he explains. “By incorporating it into the house, I’ve brought the spirit of the land into my home.”

For more of “Organically Inspired,” purchase the Summer 2011 issue of AmericanStyle!
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Arts Tour: Seattle

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

The Chihuly “Bridge of Glass,” a pedestrian overpass that links the Museum of Glass to the Thea Foss Waterway, features work from Dale Chihuly, a Tacoma native. CREDIT: Mahesh Thapa

First time visitors to Seattle may find themselves experiencing déjà vu. The coastal city has hills like San Francisco, cobblestone streets like Boston, the international ambience of Manhattan, and craft galleries like Santa Fe.

Seattle style, however, is unique. Northwest sophistication paired with casual elegance fosters a vibrant art scene that stretches south to Tacoma, across Lake Washington to Bellevue, and beyond. Arts and crafts are as much a part of life as the morning mist rising from Puget Sound. It’s small wonder that Seattle is a perennial favorite on AmericanStyle’s list of Top 25 Arts Destinations.

For visual arts aficionados, Seattle is synonymous with glass. Glass culture got a big boost here more than 40 years ago when Dale Chihuly spearheaded the founding of the Pilchuck Glass School in nearby Stanwood. More glass artists work in the Seattle area than anyplace else in the country—making it the art glass capital of the U.S.

Among the city’s many virtuoso glass artists, Chihuly has achieved international celebrity. He pioneered the use of glass for large sculptures. He has devised new techniques. His daring public and museum installations inspire awe. Wherever you roam in the Seattle area, you’re likely to encounter the Tacoma native’s drawings and art glass.

To see the largest permanent collection of Chihuly’s work, visit the Tacoma Art Museum, less than an hour from Seattle, where he’ll celebrate his 70th birthday in September. With your cell phone, access an “Ear for Art,” the museum’s self-guided walking tour of the exhibit. The 12 stops include Chihuly’s massive “Monarch Window” at Union Station and his 500-foot pedestrian “Bridge of Glass,” an eye-popping confection of colors and shapes that takes visitors under a canopy of Chihuly Seaforms and along walls of his Venetians.

Cross the bridge to the Museum of Glass, a showcase for avant-garde objects by international artists-in-residence, including Americans Lynda Benglis, Beth Lipman and John Kiley. The “Kids Design Glass” gallery delights with children’s drawings that artists interpret in glass. The creations include everything from a pizza cat and brilliantly hued birds never found in nature to a fleet of wildly futuristic vehicles.

On your return trip, consider a detour to Bellevue, Wash. In addition to studios and galleries, the city draws more than 320,000 visitors during the last full weekend in July when the craft-centric Bellevue Arts Museum hosts the largest and most prominent arts festival in the Northwest.

Back in Seattle, be sure to visit Pioneer Square, a vibrant downtown neighborhood featuring more than 20 city blocks of historic 19th-century architecture and dozens of galleries. First Thursday, Seattle’s largest Art Walk, takes place from noon to 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month, when leading art galleries throw open their doors to introduce new exhibitions and artists. After three decades, it has become a must-attend for art-loving residents and visitors alike.

Glass enthusiasts find much to admire at Traver Gallery and Vetri. Traver, opened in 1977, is “theater for the eye,” says founder William Traver. The gallery represents many of the top artists of the region, including Preston Singletary, Hiroshi Yamano, Richard Marquis, Sonja Blomdahl and Dante Marioni. In 1998, Traver launched Vetri gallery to exhibit emerging artists.

Another Pioneer Square favorite is the 3500-square-foot Pacini Lubel Gallery, which presents a mix of cutting edge ceramics, glass and contemporary paintings by artists including Bennett Bean, Lisa Clague, Rick Schoonover and Charissa Brock.

If furniture is your passion, you won’t want to miss Northwest Fine Woodworking, an expansive 29-member artists’ cooperative at the corner of First and Jackson Streets. The gallery presents studio furniture by local and regional artisans, including third-generation cabinet maker Robert Spangler, who describes his aesthetic as “classical American” influenced by an “interest in Asian furniture.”

Some of the city’s most talented artists demonstrate their craft at the Seattle Glassblowing Studio on Fifth Avenue. The facility’s art glass gallery features jewelry, sinks, custom lighting, vessels, and Guy Paul Michelson’s glass spinners.

Pike Place Market, one of the country’s oldest farmers’ markets, is a Seattle institution and a great place to start exploring the city. Before dawn, while the fishmongers and greengrocers, bakers and flower vendors busily arrange their wares, patrons wait with steaming mugs of coffee for the galleries to open.

Lots of craftspeople do business here. Sandwiched between the Three Girls Bakery and Jack’s Fish Spot, you can see Earth Wind & Fire’s unique clothing and jewelry by local artists. Myriad stalls offer pottery, textiles, hand-tooled leather, woodcarvings and other crafts. Coffee shops, restaurants, and hotels also highlight art, including The Four Seasons Hotel, which commissioned Seattle artist Gerard Tsutakawa to make the bronze sculpture “Thunderbolt” that stands outside the hotel entrance overlooking the bay.

It’s a short walk from the market to the galleries that cluster around the Seattle Art Museum, the city’s cultural nexus. SAM, as the museum is affectionately known, exhibits not only contemporary glass but a wide range of art from different periods and cultures in its permanent collections. Its popular Olympic Sculpture Park, open and free to the public 365 days a year, is populated with massive works in bronze, granite, fiberglass and steel by 20th-century masters including Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder and Richard Serra.

Whether it’s your first visit to Seattle or your tenth, you’ll always find something new to see and do. It’s a city glimmering with possibilities, unique and original as the stellar art being created there.

Miles Van Rensselaer

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

Miles Van Rensselaer.

Glass flows like water between a series of bronze hands, becomes a smooth tusk in a tribal mask, and intertwines with metal to form the support for a portrait head. Monumental in scale, Miles Van Rensselaer’s sculptures merge two molten materials in ways rarely seen. He plays with a variety of glass-making techniques and shapes, incorporating these often abstract elements into bronze figurative pieces.

His work springs from a desire to communicate about the things he loves: the raw qualities of unworked (or hot-cast) glass spilling into smooth bronze; the symbols and forms of ancient cultures; and a family tradition of art making. “It’s like breathing,” he says. “I have to create.”

Born in New Jersey in 1973, Van Rensselaer was raised among artists and imaginative personalities. His father is an engineer, his grandmother was painter, and his sister is a jeweler. One of his earliest memories is of sitting under the dining room table during family meals—drawing feet. He recalls that he especially appreciated the wrinkled variety belonging to the elder relatives. Along with a nurturing environment for making art, his parents gave him a passion for travel.

Van Rensselaer spent his junior year in college studying in East Java and Bali. After the intensive language immersion classes ended, he traveled throughout Indonesia and New Guinea, staying at the homes of friends and absorbing as much of the culture and language as possible. “Eventually, I got to the point where I started thinking in Indonesian,” he remembers. “When I went back to Kenyon College for my senior year, I had a hard time transitioning back to English.”

After graduating with a B.A. in sculpture (and one in English), the artist traveled to Danville, Ky., where he witnessed the theatrical nighttime glass-blowing demonstrations of Stephen Rolfe Powell. He was hooked and wanted to make glass of his own. Of his general education and lack of formal training in glass making, Rensselaer says, “It was liberating, because I did not believe there was anything that couldn’t be done with glass.”

Within a week of graduating, he began assisting a professional sculptor and met two Japanese glass artists who would become a great influence, teaching Van Rensselaer a more visceral, experimental approach to glass. By age 30, he had a solo exhibition at Heller Gallery in New York.

Van Rensselaer continuously pushes the limits of the material, perhaps most evident in his Maori Moko series, monumental 4×6-foot slumped glass heads engraved with traditional Ta Moko (tattoos). These sacred markings are unique to each individual, like an identity card.

The sculptures are among many of the artist’s works that refer to what he calls an “indigenous” vocabulary of images. When asked why “a white guy from New Jersey” is dipping into the imagery of other cultures, Van Rensselaer says he has no intention to imitate or offend. Quite the opposite, he asserts: these works pay tribute to cultures he greatly admires, especially in a digital age in which human contact is increasingly rare.

In 2003, Van Rensselaer set up shop in a former abandoned marble quarry in northwestern New Jersey, conveniently equidistant from New York City and Philadelphia. The first floor contains his studio and foundry, while the second serves as a gallery space and apartment. Artists also visit his woodland haven to learn his techniques and share their own ideas.
His current work incorporates materials beyond glass and metal to include rattan, Macaw feathers, shell and oil paints. The paints and brushes once belonged to his grandmother—honoring her as an artist and as a beloved source of inspiration.

Van Rensselaer’s sculpture is on view in the traveling museum exhibition “Primal Inspirations: Contemporary Artifacts” and in Habatat Gallery’s annual International Glass Invitational exhibitions. His work is housed in public and private collections worldwide and has appeared in numerous museums and publications, including the Museum of American Glass and ArtNews magazine. He is represented by Studio 7 Fine Art Gallery in Bernardsville, N.J.; Wexler Gallery in Philadelphia; Sandra Ainsley Gallery in Toronto; and Habatat Gallery in Royal Oak, Mich.

Style Spotlight: Craft Series Continues on PBS

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

Joyce J. Scott, known as the “Queen of Beadwork,”will be featured in the PBS documentary series, “Craft in America.”

Exploring themes of personal and political expression, the award-winning documentary “Craft in America” returns to PBS this summer. “Craft is once again proving its relevance as people return to the handmade,” says executive producer Carol Sauvion.

Debuting nationally on May 24, the next installment of the television series features four craft artists who use their work to tell a story, comment on issues or make a point.

The subjects of the newest episode—glass artist Beth Lipman, santero Charles Carrillo, mixed-media artist Joyce J. Scott, and Thomas Mann, a jeweler and metalsmith—each use their work to communicate a message about America’s history and current affairs.

The television debut will be accompanied by screenings, museum exhibitions, and expanded web material at

Style Spotlight: Artists Lend a Helping Hand

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

A basket donated to the auction by Kenneth Williams Jr., made by RoseAnn Whiskers, San Juan Paiute.

A culture rich in creative history has gathered its forces to aid a nation that has long supported its artists, as Native American artists auction works of art to benefit disaster relief in Japan.

Darryl Dean Begay, Lyndon Tsosie and Raymond Yazzie —all prominent Native American artists —created “Native American Artists for Japan,” asking their fellow artists to donate works to be auctioned on eBay, with proceeds benefiting the Red Cross in their Japanese relief efforts. “We are a community of Native artists giving in the Native way, as our ancestors did,” explains Begay.

Donated works by more than 40 artists include sculpture, jewelry, paintings, mixed media, wood and more. The first auction, scheduled to last seven days, launched in early April, with subsequent auctions planned for later weeks. The organization is also accepting monetary donations.

For more information, visit

Arts Travel: Airport’s Public Art Takes Flight

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

Kendall Buster’s “Topograph.” CREDIT: Bruce Damonte.

Travelers at the San Francisco International Airport’s newly renovated Terminal 2 will be treated to near museum-like experience, with the introduction of five new art works and the reinstallation of 20 works already in the airport’s collection.

The new installations include “Topograph,” by Kendall Buster, two sculptural forms suspended above the departure lobby, as well as woven sculptural forms by artist Janet Echelman. “World class art is a part of the fabric of everyday life in San Francisco,” said Luis Cancel, director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC). “Travelers passing through Terminal 2 will be delighted and amazed by the new artwork, and airport patrons will enjoy seeing some of the older works from the collection recontextualized in the new space.”

A project of the SFAC, the renovated terminal also features works by Walter Kitundu and Charles Sowers in the children’s play areas, and a site-specific installation by Norie Sato for the building’s facade.

Arts Reader

May 2011 | BY | Issue 76, Summer 2011 | NO COMMENTS

Nothing gets the creative juices flowing more than a little friendly competition. Over the course of two years, an online community of 12 quilt artists from around the world challenged one another to create handcrafted quilts based on 12 changing themes. The results of their individual interpretations are documented in the new book, Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge (Lark Books, $22.95). With each chapter devoted to one of the themes, including passion, identity, illumination and chocolate, the book combines personal narrative and creative exploration, resulting in 144 amazing 12×12-inch quilt creations. The book also includes helpful sidebars on how to start your own group, as well as quilting tips.

Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous work may be an interpretation of a starry sky, but throughout his career many of his lesser known drawings and paintings were focused on the tranquility of outdoor spaces. Vincent’s Gardens: Paintings and Drawings by Van Gogh by Ralph Skea (Thames & Hudson, $19.95) surveys the gardens and parks that were most dear to Van Gogh, from the garden of his childhood home in the Netherlands and blazing flower beds in Provence, to the asylum gardens that provided the artist with seclusion and calm in the final months of his life. Divided into sections based on the stages of Van Gogh’s artistic career, this book is a must-have for gardeners and art lovers alike.

The ingeniously accordion-folded volume Glimmering Gone (University of Washington Press, $60) is a visual feast for the eyes. Part book, part exhibition, it explores the collaboration of Swedish artist Ingalena Klenell and American artist Beth Lipman on three large installations on view through Sept. 6 at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Wash. In works titled “Landscape,” “Mementos” and “Artifacts,” they examine concepts of landscape, both physical and symbolic, and material culture. Interspersed between images of the glass installations are essays by Andrea Moody, Melissa Post and Anders Stephanson about the artists and their inspirations. Packaged in a black slipcase, it is a welcome addition to any glass lover’s library.

Jewelry by Artists: In the Studio 1940-2000 by Kelly H. L’Ecuyer (MFA Publications, $55) surveys American studio jewelry over the course of 60 years. Experts in the decorative arts, design, fashion and adornment explore the short and rich history of studio jewelry—one-of-a-kind pieces made by artists in independent studios—in five essays. Accompanying the essays is a lavishly illustrated catalogue of more than 150 examples, from bracelets to brooches, selected from in the Daphne Farago Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. More than just a book, it is a guide for any collector, artist or teacher of studio jewelry.

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