Tag Archives: art

A Closer Look: John Chamberlain

John Chamberlin (1927-2011) is a great example of an artist who made a career out of exploring one material.  For him, that material was crushed car parts.

His sculptures are surprisingly delicate  & elegant considering their source.  I am always amazed at how Chamberlain was always able to find new colors, shapes, and configurations to explore.

Some belive Chamerlian’s use of metal is akin to translating Abstract Expressionist brushstrokes into three dimensions.  Others simply see beautiful compositions.  Whatever the source, these are some of my favorite sculptures to look at.  I hope you enjoy them too.



image 1: blogspot

image 2: daily art fixx

image 3: whitehot

A Closer Look: Louise Nevelson

Louise Nevelson is one of my favorite artists.  A master of found object sculpture, she was known for her room-sized wall pieces made of wood & painted in monotone.  Almost all her work is flat black, but she also created work in gold, white, and green.


By working in monotone, Nevelson was able to emphasize the formal qualities of her objects, elevating scraps of wood to beautiful compositions.   She was a master at joining together disparate forms to create a sense of balance and mystery.


Many people acknowledge a connection between Nevelson’s work and the Abstract Expressionist movement of the 1940s-1950s.  This movement emphasized grand themes like masculinity, the subconcious, and the sublime, and included painters like Jackson Pollack and Franz Kline.

In addition to working in wood, Nevelson also created a large number of outdoor steel sculptures.  These works maintain the vitality of her more intimate works, but on a grand scale.  They can be seen in many public places across the country, inluding a plaza named after her in New York’s financial district.

Louise Nevelson’s unique style continues to influence artists and designers up to the present day.  Take a closer look and see what you discover.


image 1: sfmoma

image 2: art ideas

image 3: dna info

image 4: mutual art

A Closer Look: Brancusi

I love to notice how good art can inspire design and vise-versa.  So you can imagine my delight when I saw the new “Zipper” sconce from Urban Electric Company. 

Designed by Amanda Nisbet, the “Zipper Sconce” draws inspiration from the sculptural work of Romanian-born Constanin Brancusi.  The undulating form is based on his “endless column,” a motif that appears repeatedly in his work.

File:Romania 20060512 - Tirgu Jiu - Coloana fara sfarsit.jpg

Brancusi’s most famous sculpture may be “The Kiss”.  Have you seen this one before?

One of my favorite sculptures by Brancusi is “Bird in Space” (below).  I wonder what Urban Electric could turn this one into?

This is just one example of how the fields of Art and Design are not mutually exclusive.  Take a closer look, and I’m sure you’ll notice many others.


image 1: urban electric co, charleston

image 2: wikipeida

image 3: sheisfrench

image 4: guggenheim museum

A Closer Look: Corporate Art Culture at SAS

When I think of art collectors, names like Cosimo de’ Medici and Peggy Guggenheim come to mind.  But art collecting these days is not limited to individuals and their families.  In fact, many of the most impressive collections in the world belong to large corporations.  The local software company SAS is among them.  I spoke to Roxanne Hicklin, the director of Art and Scenic Operations at SAS, to find out more. 

The Art department at SAS began with a love for artwork and creativity shared by CEO Jim Goodnight and his wife, Ann.  The couple began avidly collecting art in the 80’s and 90’s, and soon after established an Art department at their company capable of managing the growing collection.  They believe that art contributes to a pleasing environment for employees, inspiring creativity and enhancing productivity.  They must be getting it right:  for two years running, SAS has been named No. 1 on the Fortune 100 list of Best Companies to Work For.

SAS has a unique approach to supporting art.  Unlike most companies, who simply buy art from outside sources, SAS chooses a more active role in the creative process.  They strive to create from within, employing two prolific artists-in-residence to create many of the paintings on their 900 acre campus.  The Art and Scenic Operations departments employ nearly 20 additional people with a vast array of capabilities: from CAD design and cabinet-making, to painting and framing.  They even have metal welders, who can fabricate large-scale sculptures like this one at Wake Med Soccer Park:


Among Roxanne’s favorite pieces from the collection are three glass bowls by Dale Chihuly (below) and a mixed-media piece by Antonio Arellanes.  But I discovered from her that the collection is not simply a group of objects;  it’s also a way of enriching lives.


For more information about SAS’s art collection, visit the employee culture section of their website


images: sas.com and caryvisualart 

A Closer Look: Abie Harris

As the Chancellor’s Residence at NC State University nears completion, I wanted to take a moment to recognize Abie Harris, a local artist whose works will grace its walls.

Abie had a long career as the Campus Planner for NC State University.  Now in retirement, he is a tireless and prolific artist creating a variety of works on paper ranging from large abstract drawings to dreamy vignettes of Raleigh.

The Chancellor’s Residence will have a total of 6 works by the artist, including a large mixed-media drawing based on Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Harris created numerous pieces in this series, which feature abstract interpretations of Bach’s music organized in numerous areas of dense linework.  Sometimes, these works are created in real time, as part of a performance with musicians.

Abie’s beautiful and poignant work shows that a second career can shine as brightly as the first.

Thank you Abie, we look forward to hanging your work at the end of this month!

For more information on Abie Harris and other local artists, visit the Roundabout Collective in Raleigh.


image 1: virtual pianist

image 2: rebus works

image 3: ncartblog.org

image 4: pasinfonia.org



A Closer Look: The Furniture of Franz West

FRANZ WEST Divan, 2004 Metal, foam, linen, 38 3/16 x 98 x 32 5/16 inches, (97 x 249 x 82 cm)


It doesn’t matter what art looks like, but how it’s used.
–Franz West

Franz West

Franz West is an Austrian artist whose work began as a reaction to the Action and Performance Art of the 1960s.  Instead of making objects to be viewed, he created sculptures to be touched.  His “adaptives” were sculptures meant to carried around the gallery, so that viewers could observe how they “adapted” to their bodies.

FRANZ WEST (b. 1947)

More recently, West began creating “adaptives” of a different sort – this time they took the form of furniture.  In his chairs, couches, and light fixtures, West blurs the line between furniture and art.  I like how his efforts pay off – art objects become familiar to the viewer on a more personal level, though they always maintain the presence of a sculpture.  One of my favorite pieces is his floor lamp (below) made of rebar topped by a bare lightbulb.

West’s furniture, like his sculptures, have an awkward and sometimes grotesque appearance.  But at the same time, they are surprisingly elegant and beautiful.  Take a look.  See how they change the way you look at furniture.




image 1:  Gagosian Gallery

image 2: New York Times Magazine

image 3: Christie’s

image 4: Phillips de Pury & Co

image 5: Artnet

A Closer Look: Art Inspiraton for the Chancellor’s House at NC State

The Chancellor’s house at NC State is coming along nicely, and we’re starting to think about the decorative touches that will make this house feel like a home.  In such a large house, with both public and private areas, we had to get creative about where to find the right pieces.

We’ve mined the University Archives, Gregg Musuem, and the work of local artists to find the perfect collection worthy of such a grand building.  Below are some pieces that have inspired us….

Mining the Musuem

One of the best sources of art for the Chancellor’s house is the Gregg Museum at NC State.  We will adorn the walls with several loans from their permanent collection.

Some of my favorite pieces are the photographs of esteemed North Carolina Photographer Elizabeth Matheson (above).  Her work is currently in a show at the North Carolina Museum of Art, and we hope to place similar work on the main floor of the Chancellor’s House.

Another great artist in the Gregg Collection is George Bireline, whose abstract expressionist painting (above) will look amazing in the Chancellor’s study.


Mining the Archives

Another great source of art will be reproductions made from the University Archives.  This vast collection includes all sorts of wonderful images.

An illustrated Entomology book by E.A. Seguy (above) is one of our favorite finds.  These large prints of insects and butterflies are striking.

We also discovered the archive’s collection of printed sports memorabilia.  We’d love to incorporate some of this fun and colorful artwork.

The university also has an impressive collection of glass slides from botanist B.W. Wells.  He used these hand-colored slides to instruct his students on the biodiversity of natural ecosystems.  These slides can add a touch of beauty to the house, while also bringing to mind NC State’s role in the sciences.


Finding Local Talent

One of our main goals was to incorporate the work of local artists.  Below are two examples of the artists who have inspired us, and who we hope to work with.

Ashlynn Browning (above) is a talented painter based in Raleigh.  Her bold, colorful paintings are masterfully produced, and can add a punch of color to any wall.

Steve Staresina (above) is a local artist who creates large-scale frescoes.  He is creating a large-scale work commissioned specifically for the Chancellor’s Parlour.


Decorative Touches

To round out the collection, we’re looking to additional sources to add diversity to the collection.

We love the (above) wall piece from Ironies.  Cast resin painted with a metallic pigment make this wall-sculpture look like formed metal.

Another great source for decorative pieces is Natural Curiosities.  They offer many interesting works in a variety of formats, and can add a sophisticated touch to any home.  The abstract paper collection (above) is one of our favorites.

The Jean Baptiste Collection (also from Natural Curiosities) is another collection we’d like to use in the home (above).  The same set of prints was featured in this month’s issue of House Beautiful magazine (below).

We look forward to updating you as the art collection continues to come together.



image 1: http://web.ncsu.edu/this-red-house/

image 2, 3: http://www.ncsu.edu/gregg/collections.html

image 4, 5, 6: North Carolina State University Archives

image 7: http://www.ashlynnbrowning.com/

image 8: http://www.staresina.com/

image 9: http://www.ironies.com/index.php

image 10, 11, 12: http://naturalcuriosities.com/


A Closer Look: Mickalene Thomas

I visited the North Carolina Museum of Art this week, and there was a great surprise in the contemporary galleries – a new large scale painting by Mickalene Thomas called The Three Graces. Painted this year, the piece measures an impressive 9 feet by 12 feet, and is made of thousands of rhinestones and acrylic paint.  And it’s absolutely beautiful!

The painting re-casts the Three Graces from Greek Mythology as African American Women dressed in 70’s clothing.  According to the artist’s website, she “introduces a complex vision of what it means to be a woman and expands common definitions of beauty.  Her work stems from her long study of art history and the classical genres of portraiture, landscape, and still life.”

Mickalene Thomas has gotten a lot of attention recently – a similar painting now hangs permanently in the window of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  I  feel lucky to have one of her most significant paintings in the permanent collection of our local musuem.


image 1: mickalenethoms.com

image 2: artknowledgenews.com

image 3: lehmannmaupin.com

A Closer Look: Francis Cape

Can woodwork be fine art?  After seeing the work of Francis Cape, the answer is a resounding “yes.”

This artist, originally trained as a woodworker in England, has brought the mastery of his craft to galleries and museums in the US, and he’s getting a lot of attention.

But his work isn’t quite what it seems.  Taking paneling techniques from the Shakers and other traditional sources, Cape takes woodworking to a new level.  Unlike its traditional inspirations, the only function of these cabinets is visual.  The doors, even with their carefully-installed hinges, don’t open.

Cape’s removal of function casts cabinetry in a new light,  opening new possibilities for the medium.  Many of his installations reference history and memory, serving as mediator between the physical present and a romanticized past.  His works force us to consider the spaces we inhabit, while reference meaningful architectural spaces outside of the gallery – from church confessionals to historical monuments.

Most of Cape’s work is painted, but his choice of color is anything but expected.  Not-quite-garish colors that are clearly out of fashion set many pieces apart from their contemporary background.  Perhaps these are a historical reference, or a way of bringing an overlooked art more clearly into the open.  Either way, Cape certainly has me thinking differently about cabinetry these days.

For me, Cape’s work hits close to home.  We spend a lot of time as Design Lines creating cabinetry for our clients.  Of course, it almost always serves some purpose. It was an eye-opening experience to see how Cape turns this functionality on its head, transforming simple wood panels into something loaded with meaning.


all images: http://www.franciscape.com & www.murrayguy.com


A Closer Look: Zoe Strauss

In the past few weeks I’ve been busy organizing a show for Philadelphia artist Zoe Strauss to be held next Saturday at Iceberg Projects in Chicago.  Iceberg Projects is a non-profit gallery space that began last year, and so far has exhibited a variety of excellent artists from all over the United States.

Zoe Strauss is one of my favorite artists because her photographs speak intimately about her surroundings and bring dignity to people that are often overlooked.

A heart-warming generosity pervades her work and personality;  at many of her early shows, she gave away her prints for free to anyone who attended.  She also makes all of her photographs available on Flickr, including those that don’t “make the cut” for exhibitions.   It gives the public a rare opportunity to see inside the painstaking process of refinement inherent in her practice.

The Iceberg Projects exhibition will feature a narrated slide show of photographs she took documenting the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  In addition, she will show photographs printed on vinyl banners, a format more closely associated with outdoor signs and advertisements.

gusher site_3827 web

Splash Image


Take a look, and I know you’ll find beauty in unexpected places.


You can find out more about Zoe on her blog.

(all photographs by Zoe Strauss)



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