Street Art, Key West, Florida Keys

Street art of a giant cephalopod's tentacles lifting a sail boat

A pink and turquoise kraken seizes a sailing boat

Kraken are giant, predatory sea creatures from the North, something like an octopus or squid. This one has, not unusually for its sort, seized hold of a passing sail boat and now has the terrified mariners at its mercy (unless, as we cannot see any onboard, they were all partying onshore when the kraken sneaked into the harbour). It’s a detail from a painting on a hotel car park wall we stopped to admire.

Strictly speaking, the second is fence art. It’s a detail too, of a large design featuring birds, animals and vegetation that runs around the back patio of a restaurant in Key West. It’s worth reading this one upwards, so you get used to each level of the story before taking the next leap.

Pink flamingos, one with a crown, painted on a fence

Pink flamingos painted on a fence

First, leafy foliage with two pink flamingos. So far so good. They wear a decorative form of eye makeup.  One is wearing a coronation crown that Queen Elizabeth II would not be ashamed of (it looks lighter than her own). The artist has added a scroll and swirl design to add movement and break up the background. A space craft is leaving the scene to fly off into a universe of stars. Continue reading

Sculpting With Wool: Debie Deaton, Mixed Media Artist

Bird, bug and goldfish made from felt

Crow, bug, goldfish and tealfish wool art waiting for new homes

At Chimneyville Arts Festival in Jackson last year, one stand was a Shakespearean comedy, full of colour, reverie, laughter and life. Was it just in my imagination that Falstaff, Feste, Caliban and The Man In The Moon cavorted with felt acrobats, goofy-looking puppets, elves, Pod people, birds, bees and bugs?

A lady dressed in a bright jacket sat quietly by the stand, rising to greet visitors with a Duchenne smile. This was Debie Deaton, a member of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi. Continue reading

Playing With Wool

Bug with pink nose and cute expression

Wool and metal bug by Debie Deaton

Debie Deaton sculpts with wool, creating colourful, upscale toys and puppets like this little bug. I met her at Mississippi’s Chimneyville Arts Festival earlier in the month and was immediately taken by her lovingly made, character-infused creations. A whole booth of these animated figures, each one unique, but all united by her humorous house style, is a carnival.  Continue reading

Fragile

Tombstone in the woods with Fragile inscribed on it

Visitors who walk through the woodland at Ian Hamilton Finlay’s old home, Little Sparta, in Scotland, happen upon a mossy tombstone placed at an angle between the ferns. Like many of Little Sparta’s artworks – paths, blocks, even beehives – it bears an inscription.  Continue reading

Ness Botanic Garden Penguin: Grow Your Own

Penguin with eyebrows shaped like peppers

Placed like an invocation in a winter vegetable garden is a penguin with a story to tell. On last month’s visit, this part of Ness Botanic Garden was looking (I won’t say sorry for itself, as it was well-tended) out of season. It wasn’t going to feed a family of four any time soon, though nature being what it is, I’m sure magic was taking place under the soil.

For plenty, we had to look to the surrealist style painting of fruit, roots, leaves and tubers that covered the surface of the bird. I spotted onions, cauliflowers, garlic, parsnips, garden peas, carrots, sweet and hot peppers, grapes, lemon, marrow, fennel, cabbage, broccoli, aubergine, lettuce, gourds and an assortment of mushrooms, but that’s not all, by any means. I’m glad nobody needs to find shoes to fit our penguin’s sweetcorn and celery stick feet.  Continue reading

Life In Clay: Mixed Media Artist, Harold W. Miller

Wind figure by Harold W Miller

I’m a fan of Harold Miller, a contemporary sculptor, who works in mixed media with a focus on clay and ceramics. His largest works are staged on 3D surrounds that have more in common with a theatre set than a traditional frame. Heads and figures, often embellished with tin or jewellery, emerge from textural backgrounds made from clay, stone and/or beautifully stained driftwood.

These two smaller figures show Harold’s technique and storytelling ability. The figures look self-contained, but their silence is lyrical. The man above is one in a series of wind figures wearing stylised, windswept cloaks. It’s almost impossible for the viewer not to imagine the story of his life, as if the clay could have its own history.

Woman by Harold W Miller

But when I first saw Harold’s work exhibited at Chimneyville Crafts Festival, it was this lady, captured in prayer, that I admired most. Her slim frame seems vulnerable and she is rapt in her faith. Though she is made of clay, she overflows with humanity. I can’t tell you her story, but I seem to feel the strength of her heart.

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J. W. Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs: A Modern Debate

The Manchester Art Gallery recently removed what is probably their best-loved painting ‘to prompt conversation’. The story of Hylas and the Nymphs dates back to the Ancient Greeks and Romans and has come down to us in a variety of tellings which means the story can be interpreted more than one way. I like J.W. Waterhouse’s painting of the subject and was sorry to learn it had been taken from view.

Controversy was intensified by this Guardian interview with the curator Claire Gannaway which included the quote:

“We think it probably will return, yes, but hopefully contextualised quite differently. It is not just about that one painting, it is the whole context of the gallery.”

By the time my sweetheart and I called in to the gallery earlier this week, the picture had been replaced, now above a sea of post-it notes.

People looking at a Pre-Raphaelite painting with post-it messages

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