Artist Review: Frank Stella, “Eskimo Curlew” (1976)

“I like real art. It’s difficult to define ‘real’ but it is the best word for describing what I like to get out of art and what the best art has. It has the ability to convince you that it’s present – that it’s there. You could say it’s authentic… but real is actually a better word, broad as it may be.” — Frank Stella

Frank Stella was born in Malden, MA in 1936 and attended high school at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA.  He went onto to study history at Princeton University, then moved to New York in 1958, where he could focus on his work as an artist.  He is a painter, sculptor and printmaker, whose work has been featured in various exhibitions in the United States and Worldwide, including those held at Haunch of Venison in London, England; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY; Gagosian Gallery in New York, NY; The Phillips Collection and National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; the Guggenheim in New York and Online; and Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland. He has also received numerous awards including a National Medal of Arts presented by President Obama and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Sculpture Center.

Before Stella turned 25, he had gained notoriety for his series of Black Paintings, consisting of precise parallel black stripes, produced by smoothly applied house paint. The striped pattern, in Stella’s words, forced “illusionistic space out of the painting at a constant rate.”  In other words, it emphasized the flatness of the canvas, rather than giving into the notion that paintings had to recreate the illusion of being three-dimensional.  Stella’s paintings celebrated the two-dimensionality of the canvas. His work was a catalyst for the Minimalist art of the 1960s.

During the 1970s, Stella introduced relief into his art, which he called “maximalist” painting for its sculptural qualities.  He completely shifted focus from eliminating depth to extending the depth of his work outward from the canvas.  He introduced wood, aluminum and other mixed media to his ever more elaborate and exuberant pieces.  By the 1990s, Stella began making freestanding sculpture and then, in 2001, he introduced a monmumental sculpture outside the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

“Eskimo Curlew” (1976) is introductory piece of his Exotic Birds series (1976-1981).  The series was Stella’s first experimentation with his complete deviation from a recognizable system or order to his work. Influenced by Abstract Expressionism, he utilized curves and linear forms derived from draftsman’s tools. The Eskimo Curlew is solidly anchored within the rectangle, which contrasts with the exuberant handling of paint and glittery crushed glass on the sweeping, curving surfaces of the aluminum.

The piece was acquired by the Portland Art Museum and now sits in their Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art.  It is quite massive, sitting 98 3/4 in H x 127 in W x 18 in D and takes up most of the wall space in its new home.  Upon entering the 2nd Floor room, where the piece is located, you are drawn into the work by it’s expansive French Curves and spontaneous etchings in the aluminum.  Unlike Stella’s earlier work, “Eskimo Curlew” has a strong sense of freedom.  Counter to his Minimalism influence, the mood of this work is much more joyful and confident.  It gives the viewer a reason to stand in awe for nearly 20-minutes or more, pondering the inner workings of the piece, whereas Minimalist pieces tell no story and ask nothing more of a viewer than a quick glance as a passerby on the way to something more interesting, more real.

Sites Referenced

Artist Review: Dance Theatre of Harlem

Founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, Dance Theatre of Harlem was considered “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings” (The New York Times, 1971). Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mitchell was inspired to start a school that would offer children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to learn about dance and the allied arts. Now in its fourth decade, Dance Theatre of Harlem has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution with an extraordinary legacy of providing opportunities for creative expression and artistic excellence that continues to set standards in the performing arts. 

AND!!! After a 30 year hiatus, they returned to Portland for a two-night show, ending last night with an overwhelming welcome back to the city. Rounds and rounds of ovations, applause and moments of quiet as we absorbed the sheer brilliance of their performance on stage. This, my friends, is what I am thankful for today – S and I had the opportunity to see this wonderful dance ensemble perform last night, at the beautiful Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall – just THREE blocks from our house!

Beauty is all around us, you just have to look.


The Arts Gives Us the Opportunity to Grow

Published in the Dec ’14/Jan ’15 Issue of Arbus Magazine and online at

As you enter the signature atrium at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts (DA), it’s easy to see how this high school is set apart from most. Just behind the warm, smiling front desk attendant, there is a wall covered in beautiful art work. In fact, when you look around, you will see paintings or photos placed on each wall of the lobby. The atrium itself houses a small art gallery with amazing sculptures, stunning photography and breathtaking paintings. Each piece is a gift from a student, created while attending school here. At a time when the arts are being cut, or severely underfunded, in many school districts across the country, DA strives to enhance students’ creative abilities while empowering them to succeed academically.

DA is nationally recognized as a leading institution for its programs in Music, Dance, Theatre, Creative Writing, Cinematic Arts and Visual Arts, and the school’s faculty believe that “the arts enrich all human endeavors by bridging differences among people” and that teaching creative and critical thinking skills is crucial to their students’ success.

In 2010, DA was honored as the #1 National GRAMMY Signature School for having the best high school music program in the nation. The school also ranks among the top three public schools in Duval County on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). In addition, more than one-hundred and eighty students have been recognized as outstanding artists by the YoungARTS program, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts.

DA 9aBuilt on a rich and complex history, the school was originally erected as the The South Jacksonville School in 1922, serving students grades one through nine. In 1945, the school changed its name to honor the man who helped spearhead the construction of the original structure, along with providing the only free bus service to black students for many years — Douglas Anderson. Between 1955 and 1959, DA morphed into a high school and became an educational and cultural epicenter for the African-American community, until it closed in 1968 after desegregation. Re-opened in 1985 as a high school continuing its dedication to arts and academic excellence, coupled with strong community involvement, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts is still the only school of its kind in Duval County today.  Dr. Nicholai Vitti, superintendent of Duval County Public Schools, summed it up best when he referenced DA as a “Mecca and jewel for the arts” of Jacksonville.

The teachers’ dedication to their craft, quality of instruction, and passion for students’ success have inspired parents like Wendy and Philip McDaniel to devote a total of twelve years driving their four children eighty-miles round trip back and forth from St. Augustine each day. It was important to the McDaniels that the kids receive both a solid high-school education and the opportunity to cultivate their skills as artists.

“Confidence, diligence, time management, respect, ability to collaborate and create with others, coupled with good study habits and academic excellence are just a few of the skill sets our children took away from their days at DA,” Philip McDaniel shared at the recent groundbreaking ceremony that marked the school’s third round of renovations since its inception.

DA dancer 600Now, five years after the last of the McDaniel children graduated from DA, two of their daughters sing and dance on Broadway and the McDaniels remain remarkably active in fundraising efforts for the school. “Perhaps the most important thread that bonds not only our children, but likely all who are fortunate to have the opportunity to study at DA, is this: They are caring, thoughtful and kind human beings who respect and value the diversity of people, places and cultures. In many cases, they will enrich the lives of all who they touch. Perhaps this will be the greatest legacy of the school.”

Yet, not all students who attend DA have the same access to the type of resources that the McDaniel children have had. Since many of the students attending DA cannot afford the additional costs of art supplies, costumes, equipment, or other various items needed for their chosen program, “creative problem solving” comes into play, as the school’s principal, Jackie Cornelius, likes to call it. It’s helped students like Tyveze Littlejohn, a young man with autism and a gifted ballet dancer. Upon entering DA, Tyveze was reading at a third-grade level, so his teachers raised the money needed for one-on-one tutoring to improve his reading so that Tyveze could graduate and move on to his career as a dancer on Broadway.  “It’s not that we can’t, or the student can’t, it’s a matter of how can we make things happen,” Jackie attests. “We have a responsibility to the student to provide support based on their unique needs. That’s what we do best.”

DA 36 600As the emphasis on arts education expands, so do the needs of schools like Douglas Anderson. Dr. Vitti argues, “The arts aren’t something to protect. They’re something to enhance, expand and promote.” In order to stay competitive with the needs of ever-evolving (post-secondary) conservatory schools, DA has expanded their curriculum to meet those requirements so that graduating students get the invitations to audition from the schools they have always dreamt of. The $13-million expansion is an investment, not only in the dreams of each student, but in the city of Jacksonville – to become a cultural Mecca and a jewel of the nation. When you consider how many DA students have been positively impacted, and how many will impact the lives of others, we must continue to seek ways to keep the arts alive in all of our schools.

FreeKHG – It’s a Wrap!

“Imagine a city where graffiti wasn’t illegal, a city where everybody could draw whatever they liked. Where every street was awash with a million colours and little phrases. Where standing at a bus stop was never boring. A city that felt like a party where everyone was invited, not just the estate agents and barons of big business. Imagine a city like that and stop leaning against the wall – it’s wet.” –Banksy, British-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter

Five weeks ago, it was an idea. Now, OccupyArtJAX is a reality. Thank you to all of you who came out on Saturday to show your support for Chip Southworth (aka Keith Haring’s Ghost) Rikki and their family.  The kick off to this new campaign for social evolution in our city was not only successful, it was incredibly awe-inspiring.

25 local artists and small business owners donated over 40 pieces of art, books and services to support this grassroots effort. We are deeply appreciative the commitment to your craft and this cause: Curren Lopez, Sharla Valeski, Toni Bravo, MF Deshonga, Alexis Lorvanna, Dan Davis, Desiree Davis, Yarn Bomb JAX, Cindy Platt Hammock, Chaz Back, Autrelle Holland, Mary Atwood, Tommy Armageddon,  Jen/Chamblin’s Uptown, Tabbatha Roux, Rachel Cross, Anna Miller, Chip Southworth, Margete Griffin, Matthew Underwood, Josean Rosario, Vicky Thompson, Jason Wright, Tim Hartman, and John Glessner/Avondale School of Dance – yes, we are talking to each of you.

To Keary and Rebecca from Smorgasbord (#DTJax’s soon-to-be newest Entertainment Venue), we applaud you for opening up the space so that we could not only appreciate the amazing work donated for the evening, but also view some of the remaining work that ‘Keith Haring’s Ghost’ created.  Rebecca went above and beyond to help make this event special – from helping with set-up to securing artwork. It is a powerful reminder of how important it is that we love one another, hold one another, and hold up one another during times of need (as well as times of celebration).

For the sonic accoutrement provided by Catharsis and Cry Havoc, THANK YOU, gentlemen for setting a soulful tone to the evening.  Because of your dedication and deep understanding of the power music has to connect us to one another on a global scale, you added a sweetness to the evening that can only be found through harmonious vibration.  We’d also like to give a special shout out to First Coast Audio Visual for contributing great sound and lighting which the music feel more rich and vibrant.

Without the help of Tracy Rigdon, our logo and flyers would not be as fly as they are, so thank you to a dear friend for the beautiful design.  Your assistance in getting the word out about the event has been commendable.  Joy Leverette, thank you for helping with the set up and for giving the space your unique attention to detail to help us bring everything together at the last minute!

To J&T Coffee Truck and Community Loaves for adding flavor and style to our event, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to let you how appreciative we are of your effort and contributions to the auction!

It is with deep appreciation that I also thank my co-creator, co-conspirator, and cohort, Chevara Orrin for her guidance, advice and assistance in this endeavor.  And to my partner, S.P., thank you, my love, for every single way you support my madness and hair-brained 3’oclock in the morning ideas and schemes.

Last but not least, thank you to all those who attended, bid, donated, danced, conversed, and all-in-all showed mad love to our amazing community of artists!

#OccupyArtsJAX #FreeKHG #PublicArtRocks #OneLove

Peace, love and ART!

View the pics