Art & Design

I’ll Just Move to France

There is nothing I admire more than a talented woman who knows her worth. A woman who pursues her dreams, without limitation and fear. Mary Cassatt was definitely that and more. If you’re not familiar with Cassatt, I suggest you read the rest of the post. Reading her story is nothing but inspirational and probably would’ve dominated the social media world if she were here today.

Born around the 1840s, Cassatt was born into a pretty wealthy and established family; her father being a real estate and investment broker. Skip ahead to the 1850s where her mother of all trades taught Cassatt the following: homemaking, embroidery, music, sketching and painting. As she grew older, her family lived in Europe for several years to experience culture; eventually becoming a very well-rounded individual.

Of all the trades she was taught at a young age, painting became her passion. So much so, that she wanted to go to school to become a professional painter. At the age of 16, she enrolled in Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. It was uncommon for women to attend school or pretty much anything that was male dominated, so she wasn’t welcomed with open arms. With a mixture of negativity and the school’s curriculum, Cassatt grew tired and moved to France to learn from Old Masters. All by herself. You go girl! 

Passing over Cassatt’s story where her father’s disapproval, submitting work under a different name, the Franco-Prussian War, and becoming an established artist from 1872-74, she befriended Degas in 1879! It started as being an admirer of his work to being one of his strongest friends. Through the connection, Cassatt was able to submit 11 pieces of work with the Impressionists of 1879 (Monet, Manet, Degas, Caillebotte, need I say more?). It was definitely the highlight of her artistic career.

Most impressionists are known for landscapes, light and movements. Cassatt was known for her portraits of women, more specifically, mothers and their children. Which brings me to The Child’s Bath. Painted in 1893, it shows the relationship between mother and child.

According to The Art Institute’s Art Access online, it states, “In rendering this subject, the artist relied on keen observation rather than idealization, yet still portraying great intimacy. The woman’s gestures—one firm hand securing the child in her lap, the other gently caressing its small foot—are both natural and emblematic, communicating her tender concern for the child’s well-being. The two figures gaze in the same direction, looking together at their paired reflection in the basin of water…The many paintings, pastels, and prints in which Cassatt depicted children being bathed, dressed, read to, held, or nursed reflect the most advanced 19th-century ideas about raising children.”

The Child’s Bath creates various feelings for me. Whenever I look at the painting, it reminds me of the relationship I had with my grandmother. Our bond was like the painting, effortless and filled with love. My grandmother was the type of person who would do anything for the people she loved, even on her toughest days where the world got the best of her. With that said, the painting reminded me of summer days where the house was too hot. We’d go outside, turned on the water hose, filled up a bucket, and cooled ourselves off. Once we were done, she’d sit next to me with a towel (just like the lady in the painting) and dry me off before I entered the house.

I believe the toughest part about losing someone you cared for are the memories. They hit you in tiny waves and all at once, but they’re all we have left. The Child’s Bath  hits me like a tidal wave, but that’s why I hold the painting dear to my heart.

I am completely grateful for Cassatt’s existence and influence in the art world. She managed to almost always show women as the main subject, relationships between them, and relevancy in women artists. Cassatt was the second woman impressionist to showcase her work amongst Impressionist giants. To display work next to influential artist is probably the most intimidating feeling to have, but she just focused on her art and craftsmanship. Taking an opportunity and creating beautiful artwork that shows more than a technique(s) is what I aspire to do as a designer.

-Michelle

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References

  1.  http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/exhibitions/Impressionism/Cassatt
  2.  https://www.biography.com/people/mary-cassatt-9240820

 

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Art & Design

Holding My Own Hand

This week, I will be talking about extraordinary women in art. I thought it’ll be a great opportunity to highlight the women who’ve inspired me to dig deeper into art and my voice as an artist. Today, it’s all about Frida.

I was blessed to have an elementary school art teacher who loved culture. Her room was surrounded with posters and books of various artists and styles from all over the world. Naturally, I absorbed them all. One of the posters I’ll never forget is Frida Kahlo’s, “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird.” I was (and still is) captivated by her imagery, color palette, and the honesty about who she was as a woman, a Latina, and a person who lived to challenge herself artistically.

The painting I’ll be writing about is the 1939 piece titled, “The Two Fridas”. This painting was created shortly after her divorce from Diego Rivera. It depicts the Frida who is heartbroken (left) and the Frida who is independent (right). This piece reflects her loneliness and depression from Rivera, but with their extremely complicated relationship, can’t really say anyone was shocked with the divorce. Regardless, she was in love with him ; mainly with the connection she had with him on a soulful, spiritual level. Along with that, their love of art, culture commonality and evolution of the modern world.

From fridakahlo.org, it states, “In this painting, the two Fridas are holding hands. They both have visible hearts and the heart of the traditional Frida is cut and torn open. The main artery, which comes from the torn heart down to the right hand of the traditional Frida, is cut off by the surgical pincers held in the lap of the traditional Frida. The blood keeps dripping on her white dress and she is in danger of bleeding to death. The stormy sky filled with agitated clouds may reflect Frida’s inner turmoil.”

Knowing about Frida’s background, she has had her fair share of heart-break and trials prior to her divorce. From her bus accident to multiple miscarriages, Frida showed us her feelings through paintings, so the painting of “The Two Fridas” was expected. In this particular piece, we’re getting a glimpse of her trials, pain, depression, loneliness, perception of herself, yet with a sense of independence and acceptance of the situation.

I truly believe the choices we make the how we overcome them is probably one of the best feelings to have as an independent woman. Strong enough to cry, but able to wipe our own tears. Confident enough to know that our bodies aren’t perfect, but able to contently get dressed in the morning. Knowing that everyday isn’t going to be great, but realizing that’s more than fine. With “The Two Fridas”, she conveyed her struggle, yet she would eventually be complacent with herself again. She depicts a moment or insight of what it is to be a woman.

What I’ve learned from Frida is that sometimes you have to hold your own hand through obstacles, heartbreak, and unexpected life events. Being able to pick yourself off from the ground, to live candidly, and to move forward while wearing your heart on your sleeve. Frida was/is the image of ultimate strength, creativity, culture, and a woman who sought change; she’ll be the woman I’ll always admire.

-Michelle

*For more information about Frida Kahlo’s and Diego Rivera’s relationship, feel free to click on the link below.

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http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20171204-frida-kahlo-and-diego-rivera-portrait-of-a-complex-marriage

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The Disney Diaries

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle

Last Disney history post (for now)! I am such a fan of Disney’s work and what it has become, that it would be impossible for me to ever stop writing about the topic. I’ll definitely come back to talking about Disney history soon, I promise.

Now, let’s get to it.

The castle welcomed guests on July 17, 1955. Modeled from one of Germany’s castles Neuschwanstein Castle (link below), the cotton candy pink structure would soon be known as one the most recognizable castles to date. Regarding the name Sleeping Beauty Castle; there isn’t an exact answer. I’ve researched everywhere and the best answer (or made the most sense to me) was that Disney wanted to promote his next animated feature film, Sleeping Beauty. So to build “anticipation”, that’s why the castle is known as Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Perhaps if Disney knew the movie would have taken four years to release, he would’ve chosen a different name for the castle. Maybe he would’ve called it “Snow White’s Castle?” Imagine that?! *cue cackle of the old hag

It wasn’t until 1957 when Disney had Sleeping Beauty’s Castle become a walk through. He wanted visitors of Disneyland to have that magical experience of walking through a castle. Back then, visitors heard When You Wish Upon A Star by Cliff Edwards (original voice of Jiminy Cricket) himself, along with seeing original dioramas drawn by Evyvind Earle (production artist of Sleeping Beauty).  Fast forward to today, it’s now a walk through that shows the story of Sleeping Beauty. It’s told through multiple images that move and light up. It’s obviously cooler than how I’m writing it, but that just means you’ll have to check it out yourself.

I leave you with this: people’s faces light up when they see the structure. Young or old, there’s a sense of amazement and I live for reactions like those. Although the castle is only 77 feet tall, (tiny for a castle) it manages to show charm and capture the hearts of Disneyland visitors.

-Michelle

Neuschwanstein Castle http://traveltips.usatoday.com/neuschwanstein-castle-3453.html

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The Disney Diaries

it’s a small world

I’m back! Sorry for the long (but necessary) break. Over the course of two weeks, my entire family and I got sick and it was terrible. Worst of all, my grandmother got extremely sick and is still recovering. In honor of her, my next blog post will be about her favorite Disney attraction.

The Disney tradition you’ll either love or hate: it’s a small world. If you’re not a fan of the attraction because of the hundreds of animatronics dolls and the song that’s on loop and sung in like 50 languages, then I understand. It could be a lot at once; especially if you’re a first time rider. But if you’re a fan of the attraction, art and Disney history in general, then I suggest you keep reading.

The idea: of it’s a small world all started with the brilliant minds of Disney’s Imagineers at the 1964 New York World Fair. According to disneyworld.disney.go.com, it states, “it’s a small world was created for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Personally overseen by Walt Disney in support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the attraction was a huge hit for 2 seasons at the fair and was eventually shipped back to Disneyland park, where it reopened on May 28, 1966. In 1971, it’s a small world was recreated to become one of the Opening Day attractions at Walt Disney World Resort. Due to its immense popularity, the attraction has been replicated in every Disney Resort around the world and is considered a Walt Disney classic…”

The song: Famous composer and songwriter Richard and Robert Sherman (brothers) were approached by Walt Disney himself to create a song that all children could sing and remember. Although they were working hard on the music and lyrics for Mary Poppins, the brothers created it’s a small world, which has become a classic that we all know and most of us love. The coolest part of the process would probably be having children all over the world record the song in their native language and incorporating that within the attraction. Not only does it create harmony, but symbolizes what we all hope for: togetherness and world peace (definitely a Miss Congeniality moment).

The art: Mary Blair and Alice Davis. If you don’t know who both of them are, I suggest you do some research on them. Those ladies were absolutely brilliant and talented and I want to be like them when I grow up.

Also on disneyworld.disney.go.com, it states, “With her distinctive use of color, geometric shapes and a simple, child-like art style, Mary Blair was known for her visual aesthetic—felt in every aspect, in every nation, of “it’s a small world.” As you glide through the many scenes, colored paper in bold hues vividly create collages of some of the world’s most beloved countries, giving you the impression of sailing through a classic children’s book…Under the direction of designer Alice Davis (and her husband Marc Davis), Disney seamstresses gathered and sewed every inch of clothing to create a faithful portrayal of each nation’s traditional attire. That’s over 300 outfits in all! Authentic materials were used for each region, from silks for the saris of India and fine wool for the Scottish bagpiper.”

So many elements and hard work went into the attraction and it continually shows. Regardless of how you might personally feel about it’s a small world, it’s a ride that shows culture and different perspectives. The first time I rode the ride, I was three years old. As a three-year old, I don’t remember much about my first Disney trip, but I do remember when I rode it the second time (when I was ten). Wall to wall colors and sparkle, props and scenery that represented various countries, and a boat ride that emerged me into a world of many different worlds. Looking back, it was my first experience with knowing about what made us culturally different and what made us the same. At the time, I’ve only known my own, which is Mexican-American.

I’m thankful it’s a small world continues to celebrate culture and differences. I truly believe it creates conversations and curiosity between children and for those who want to know/learn more about what’s out there in our world; like it did for me. The more we tell people and children about the joys and fascinations about other parts of the world, the more they will become accepting and understanding of traditions and rituals. It could definitely do us some good.

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The Disney Diaries

Snow White Grotto

Today, I’ll be posting a photograph of Snow White Grotto. While researching, I found this particular story of its development a fascinating one. Which for me, makes the grotto more significant.

It was the year of 1961 when Snow White Grotto was installed on the eastern side of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, near the wishing well. Before installment, there was an issue with the white, marble figurines themselves. It all started when these figurines were given anonymously to Walt Disney from Italy. Disney obviously loved it, but there was a problem with proportion: Snow White’s height was similar to the dwarfs. So, Disney gives John Hench (Disney’s Renaissance artist and a brilliant genius with many trades) the task of creating a solution while keeping their sizes in mind.

Due to Hench’s brilliance, he figured out a way to incorporate them into the park. In DisneyParks Blog, it states, “Then he found an ingenious and elegant solution. The major elements of the scene were scaled to create the illusion of distance and height and Snow White was placed at the top of the diorama, where she stands majestically above the scene. This created a forced perspective. Viewed from the adjacent footbridge, Snow White appears perfectly proportioned in relation to her friends. Hench did such a magical job creating the scene that two other Disney Parks have since incorporated the montage – disproportion and all – in their Castle forecourts (Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland).”

Additionally, the song “I’m Wishing” from the animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, plays from the grotto. Having a water fall flowing and the greenery that surrounds the place be the vignette to Snow White Grotto, makes the site serene and just as magical as Disneyland itself. Having seeing it personally, I must say it’s a great place to escape the crowds and enjoy the historic and artistic qualities in its entirety. With that said, if you’re planning on going to Disneyland soon, I highly suggest making a mini pit stop when you visit.

-Michelle

P.S.- For a little more information on the magnificent John Hench, please check out this link: https://d23.com/walt-disney-legend/john-hench/

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Disneyland, No.148, ca. 2017. Anaheim, California.

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The Disney Diaries

The Plaza Inn

I’ve been a freelance photographer for about 6 years now, and I must say that my love for photography continues to grow. I take pictures of nature, architecture, and different places or things in Chicago. Oh, and kind of obsessed with black and white photography.

Last year, I went to Disneyland in Anaheim, California for the first time and I absolutely loved. As a Disney fan, it doesn’t take much for me to love anything Disney related. But I thought that I would have had some conflicts having been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida multiple times. Just being at Disneyland and experiencing the more traditional side of Disney culture was such a beautiful experience. Hopefully, I’ll return soon; preferably around a holiday. With that said, this week on The Michelle Chronicles, I’ll be sharing a photo each day from my trip and do what I usually do: find some cool history facts and share a personal experience and/or reflection. Here we go!

The first photo of the week is of The Plaza Inn (shown below). Initially known as the 1890’s themed restaurant, The Red Wagon Inn (1955-1965), was refurbished to The Plaza Inn; the restaurant for elegant and sophisticated dining (1965-today). Located in the beloved Main Street U.S.A (which I believe is the heart of Disneyland), it still remains one of the most popular places to eat. So when I went, I had to eat there!

The moment you walk inside, you are transported to the Victorian era. From disneyexaminer.com, I believed they summarized The Plaza Inn’s surroundings the best. It states, “The restaurant features a Victorian stained-glass ceiling which is known as “Tiffany-Style paint.” Its marble foyer and ornate gingerbread woodwork were salvaged from an old home in the St. James Park neighborhood. The restaurant’s soda machines appear to be made of bronze, but are really made out of wood. The cabinets in Plaza Inn originally had Lillian Disney’s personal belongings stored in them.”

You feel that sense of elegance and authenticity from the moment you walk in. The curtains, chandeliers, and marble floors are just some of the interior standouts. My favorite feature is the view from the windows. You’re able to see their tables, chairs, and the sea of pink umbrellas, along with the joyous guests that sit under them. On top of that, the beautiful sights of Main Street U.S.A.

The food was fantastic. My mom, sister, my cousin and I went there for their character dining for breakfast. It’s served buffet style, meaning once you are seated at your table, you’re able to get a plate, go to the different food stations of your choice, and indulge in delicious food . The Disney breakfast must have(s): french toast, bacon, and Mickey waffles. Overall, I loved The Plaza Inn and the history it continues to hold and share with guests who visit. I’m already looking forward to my next breakfast there.

-Michelle

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Disneyland, No.65, ca. 2017. Anaheim, California.

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Art & Design

A Quiet Place in a City full of Noise

Fountain of the Great Lakes by Lorado Taft will be the last piece I’ll discuss from the Art Institute of Chicago (for now).  The statue was created in in 1913, relocated in 1963, and now resides in the South Garden.

The title of the structure is self explanatory. It’s a piece that represents the five great lakes: Michigan, Ontario, Huron, Erie, and Superior. The website publicartinchicago.com states, “…The five women are so arranged that the water flows through them in the same way water passes through the Great Lakes. ‘Superior’ is on the top and ‘Michigan’ on the side both empty into the basin of ‘Huron,’ who sends the stream to ‘Erie’ whereas ‘Ontario’ receives the water and gazes off as it flows into the ocean.”

On warm Chicago days, I would walk to get to the bus that would take me home. I would usually take two buses to get there, but Fountain of the Great Lakes would always be on my way. I always looked forward to those warm, windy days because that meant the gates were to be open at the South Garden; meaning the public was able to see the fountain up close and personal. The amount of times I’ve sat there and taken photos of that one piece alone, is a pretty substantial number.

I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks this, but I feel like whenever I visit, it’s extremely quiet. Usually when something or someplace is located downtown, quiet is not the word you would think of. With that said, visiting Fountain of the Great Lakes at the Art Institute of Chicago, there’s peace. Occasionally, I’ll take photos or bring my sketchbook, but my favorite thing to do while I’m there is sit on a bench and gaze at Taft’s masterpiece. It becomes a place where time gets lost and stress falls away. Additionally, it’s cute to see ducks visit from time to time.

My experiences at the Art Institute of Chicago has taught me to enjoy art in its entirety and its moments. There is nothing more beautiful than finding a place where you’re able to find a piece of yourself. For that, AIC will always have a place in my heart.

-Michelle

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Probably the 100th photo of Fountain of the Great Lakes and was taken by yours truly. 

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