“Plains Indians, Artists of the Earth and Sky”, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular

It’s hard to miss the relationship of these triangular shapes: the tipi on the lawn and the huge Claes Oldenburg/Coojse Van Bruggen shuttlecock in the background at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum in Kansas City. Even the angle of the sidewalk wants to get in on the visual action.

TiPi and Shuttlecock triangles

TiPi, Shuttlecock, and Sidewalk Triangles

Angles are everywhere in “Plains Indians: Artist of the Earth and Sky” (in Kansas City until Jan 11 -2015).

I was struck by what appear to be red hand print shapes on these leggings. Hand prints, a potent symbol since the time of prehistoric cave paintings, weave their way into our consciousness across cultures, continents, and millennia.

Man's Leggings, Pawnee Artist, Nebraska, c 1865

Man’s Leggings, Pawnee Artist, Nebraska, c 1865

Red handprints: detail on Leggings

Red handprints: detail on Leggings

Tobacco Bag with porcupine quillwork, Great Lakes artist, probably Ojibwa

Tobacco Bag with porcupine quillwork, Great Lakes artist, probably Ojibwa. c 1700-1721

Bags like this inspired many made by Plains artists a century later.  According to the curator’s notes, “In 1721, French-Canadian officials labeled the bag an ‘artificial curiosity’ and sent it to France.” It’s on loan from the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, one of the organizers of this exhibition along with Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins and New York’s Metropolitan Museum.

Tobacco Bag with Thunderbird in Porcupine Quillwork - detail

Tobacco Bag with Thunderbird in Porcupine Quillwork – detail

Apologies for the light-reflections — I don’t use flash, but the glass case enclosure reflects the ceiling lights.

Here are a couple where I managed to avoid the lights:

Pipe Bowl and Stem, Osage Artist, Oklahoma, c. 1875

Pipe Bowl and Stem, Osage Artist, Oklahoma, c. 1875

Hand Drum, attributed to Sheo Sappa (Black Prairie Chicken), c 1880-1885

A Healer’s hand drum used for ceremonies, attributed to Sheo Sappa (Black Prairie Chicken), c 1880-1885

Of course I had to notice that hoarders wouldn’t get far on the Great Plains. For nomadic peoples like the Prairie tribes, there’s no possibility of collecting excess stuff. Every object has to have a purpose, to be both useful and beautiful. In this exhibition, many also have something else, something I can only call a “presence”. Like the red hand prints, it inspires a thrill of recognition. It speaks across cultures and calls to something deep inside us all.

Beaver Effigy, Omaha artist, c 1800

Beaver Effigy, Omaha artist, c 1800. When turned over, it’s a bowl.

Here in the US, Thanksgiving Day is almost here. Popular legend has it that the “first Thanksgiving” was a feast in which the pilgrims and the native peoples shared their harvest. We didn’t share much after that, and I can’t help but spend a lot of my time in exhibitions like this thinking about injustice. Still, it’s a gorgeous show. See it if you’re in Kansas City or a future venue.

One more look:

Shell Mask, Late Mississippian artist, 1500-1700

Shell Mask, Late Mississippian artist, 1500-1700. Photo courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

And don’t forget to be thankful… on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

For more on red hands  (think “what is the sound of red hands clapping?”) don’t miss the section titled Acoustical Engineering in this article.

For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Angular

 

 

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Keeping Vintage Linens in the Family, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement

I have to admit I have no achievements this week — having an achievement would mean I finished something, right? But if I can declare progress as an achievement, I’m in.

Vintage Linens and Crochet

Still unpacking: I found these vintage linens.

These came from Bob’s family. I’m not certain, but I think his mother made them, and I’m elated to learn that her granddaughter, Bob’s niece, wants them.

Here’s a closer look at the embroidery:

Vintage embroidered dresser scarf

Dresser Scarf: delicate colors, tiny stitches, hand-crocheted lace

When I see things like this for sale in flea markets, I’m always sorry the family link has been broken. Like abandoned family photographs, linens are often set adrift. I packed a big box. These went into it too…

Bob's father's knitted hats

Bob’s father knitted these hats.

Bob’s father was a man of many achievements. He was in the hospital and needed something to do to keep busy, so he learned to knit. That year, we all got hats. Bob and I didn’t get around to wearing ours. Now I’m hoping the great-grandkids will want to. Here’s the comforter that’s underneath the hats – it’s going too.

Green patchwork comforter

Progress: the comforter, hats, and linens are packed and ready to go their new home. I’ll take them to the Post Office when I take these book and magazine donations to the library.

Boxes of linens and donations ready to deliverAs for progress vs achievement:

“If you can’t do great things, Mother Teresa used to say, do little things with great love. If you can’t do them with great love, do them with a little love. If you can’t do them with a little love, do them anyway.  Love grows when people serve.”

— John Ortberg: The Me I Want to Be  

And by the way, as frustrating as it gets sometimes, I’m still doing this sorting-out job with love. Of course I’m hoping that one of these days my progress graduates to achievement. In the meantime, I’m grateful whenever I can pass things along to family.

For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Achievement

Repurposing, Upcycling, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

I’m going for a photo of a minimalist object — one of my favorites from a show at MAD (the Museum of Art and Design) that Sam and I saw on last week’s art-fix trip to New York.

The U Rock Chair from the Museum of Art and Design, NYC

The U Rock Chair from the Museum of Art and Design, NYC

Why is it call the U Rock Chair? Easy: turn it upside down and it’s a rocking chair — too bad I can only do that with a photo —

Envision the U Rock Chair as a rocker

Envision the U Rock Chair as a rocker

The chair is designed to be made from PET bottles made of recyclable plastic, a good example of repurposing. Brazilian artists Davi Deusdará, Érica Martins, Raphael Studart, and Tais Costa proposed this project for the Battery Conservancy outdoor seating competition.

Repurposing (or “upcycling”) is one of the themes of the “New Territories” exhibition at MAD. Here are a couple more examples:

Thierry Jeannot -- Green Transmutation Chandelier, 2010 (made of reclaimed PET plastic bottles)

Thierry Jeannot — Green Transmutation Chandelier, 2010 (made of reclaimed PET plastic bottles)

Pedro Reyes, "Guitarra", 2013. This artist refashions confiscated guns into musical instruments, such as this guitar form.

Pedro Reyes, “Guitarra”, 2013. This artist refashions confiscated guns into musical instruments.

Pedro Reyes, "Guitarra", 2013, detail. This artist refashions confiscated guns into musical instruments.

Guitarra: detail.

Repurposing is important on my own road to minimalism, (Hoarder’s gotta come clean somehow, right?) though my own examples are much less dramatic. Most recently, I’m proud to have found a home for three quilts. My aunt bought the already-vintage quilt tops at an estate sale back in the early 1970’s, and my mother had them finished by a local quilter. They’ve had some good use over time, and now, at the hands of a friend and expert seamstress, they’ll be made into new items fashioned from existing quilts. Since quilts are made to repurpose fabric scraps in the first place, I’d call this a double victory.

Here are two of the quilts, ready to enter the 21st century — a few of the fabric pieces are worn through, so most but not all is re-usable.

Quilt with green backing

Blue and red quilt with dark red backing

— with thanks to Pip and her blog at Sustainablility Soapbox for reminding me that repurposing is worthy of sharing. Here’s her post about using scrabble tiles for art. I like the comment about using the term “artcycling” instead of “upcycling”.

What are you repurposing, upcycling, or artcycling this week?

 

Related posts:

More on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist

New Territories at the MAD Nov 4 2014 through April 6 2015

(see more about New Territories on twitter: #NTrepurposing and #NTspace)