Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Irene Hardwicke Olivier: Closer to Wildness :: A Review

Assistant Publisher Becky Holtzman shares her views on new art book release, 

Whenever I am offered the opportunity to write about one of Pomegranate’s books, there is always that first, intimidating look-through of the pages, when I wonder: “How am I going to write about this?” With Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: Closer to Wildness, that sense of awe is stronger than usual. So I will begin with a line from Carl Little, author of the book’s introductory essay: “[Olivieri] brings a generosity of spirit and a personal vision to an art that engages the eye, the intellect, and the heart.” Her work is kaleidoscopic, truly.

Who will save the secrets
of the creatures?, 2013
Many of Olivieri’s artworks pay tribute to animals; they also read as heartfelt appeals to the animals, to share their wild knowledge, and their secrets. Who will save the secrets of the creatures? and Support group, paintings from the early “Hands On The Ground” section of the book, depict women listening, heads cocked to take in what is being “said.” As bursting with life as these artworks are, there is also a quietness that draws you in—there is so much that can’t be absorbed in a glance. There’s also a playful eroticism, a humor-filled approach to Olivieri’s serious business of loving this sensual Earth.

Support group, 2012

Rising above
, 2012
With titles like Coaxing a better me and Rising above resistance, there is no doubt that Olivieri’s work is (in part) about the power of art to transform: emotions, situations, materials. In her Paleo Girl pieces, bones have been extracted from owl pellets and arranged into images of buxom women. Fastened onto wooden backgrounds, these artworks suggest ancient fertility totems, elemental and inclined to melt back into the ground. In the beginning of the book, Little quotes Olivieri on her admiration for “raw imperfect art,” and this respect for the perfectly imperfect is visible across the variety of media the artist employs.
Coaxing a better me, 2013

Paleo girl with ponytail, 2006

Many of the works in the book are accompanied by text. Sometimes the artist writes about the source or inspiration for a work, and sometimes the text is excerpted from the paintings themselves. One of my favorites is the description that accompanies Putting forth your paws: “The girl in the sky is holding the tail of her bigger self, as if to tame her and get her back on the right path.” Those are the words of a woman who trusts the wild creature inside to guide her way. Closer to Wildness invites you along for part of that journey.

Putting forth your paws, 2010
Images © Irene Hardwicke Olivieri. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Author Interview :: Carl Little

Art reviewer, writer, poet. Grandfather, pet owner, snowshoer. 

Author of over 20 art books, as well as two collections of poetry, Carl Little is an accomplished writer. Pomegranate has collaborated with Little on many successful art books, such as Edward Hopper's New England, Hero: The Painting of Robert Bissell, and the recent release Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: Closer to Wildness

Artist Irene Hardwicke Olivieri interviewed Little on her blog, Light Seeking Eyes. Her questions illuminate the many facets of this complex and intriguing man, including his inspiration as a writer, his process, and how his environment influences his work. The following are a few excerpts from her interview. You can read the full interview on Olivieri's blog.
What is the best part about being a poet, a writer?
I really love it when something I’ve written strikes a chord with someone. I guess there’s some ego there, but it seems to make it all worthwhile when an artist responds to an article or review or the audience at a reading laughs at a bit of humor.
What is the worst?   
Writing has taken time away from family and friends and being more active in the community and spending time in nature. I accept that there’s a sacrifice, but at times I know I should be saying no to projects and going snowshoeing instead.
What motivates you to write?    
The great motivator for me is the desire to convey something: to highlight the work of a particular artist in a review or book or share a vision or feeling in a poem. I do make money from my art writing and a little bit from poetry, but the financial benefits are not what drive me. The art spurs me to words; the sound of spring peepers moves me to verse.
What would you tell the younger you, just starting to write?    
“Hey, Carl, push it harder, don’t be so easily satisfied with what you’ve written. When you think the poem is all set, read it aloud again and question its integrity and ask if you’ve pushed it far enough. When you think you’ve perfectly described somebody’s sculpture, look at the work again and consider it from another angle.” Of course, I offer the same advice to the present me.
What kind of pets do you have?   
We had a Springer Spaniel for many years, named Buster (subject of two of my poems) and a cat named Cedar Sox (also the subject of a poem). Right now we are in long-term sitting mode for Welker, my daughter Emily and her husband Charles’s cat, who came to Maine from Charlottesville last summer and has not gone back (considering the winter we’ve had so far, she’d probably prefer to be in Virginia). 

photo from Olivieri's blog Light Seeking Eyes
Read the full Carl Little interview on Light Seeking Eyes for more insights into Carl Little.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Design Blocks :: 16 Color Cubes

Take a gander at one of our newest toys! Switching up the format of our popular block puzzles, we have recreated a bit of toy history with these sixteen color cubes. 

Back in the early 1900s, a company in New York created a set of wooden blocks with different primary colors painted on each of its faces. You could arrange these blocks in a myriad of combinations, combining geometry with art and making a fun toy that helps kids learn about colors and shapes in a fun and engaging way.

In this revamped version of the vintage toy from the Diana Korzenik Collection of Art Education Ephemera at the Huntington Library, you can play with these sturdy laminate paper cubes in so many different ways. To warm up, you may try to recreate the designs from the top of the box—imagine how fun a block puzzle race would be!

Even more fun, you can create your own designs. As the bottom of the box tells you, there are more than 2.8 trillion possible arrangements. You can make them symmetrical or abstract, simple or complex. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless.

Don’t limit yourself to being a square, either. You can get really wacky by making designs in different shapes. Your imagination (and the dimensions of a cube) are your only limitations.

So what are you waiting for? These blocks are just waiting for someone to shape them into beautiful geometric patterns—get your own set of Design Blocks today.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Jules Tavernier: Artist and Adventurer :: A Review

Assistant publisher Becky Holtzman shares her thoughts on Pomegranate's newest art book, Jules Tavernier: Artist and Adventurer.

Pomegranate’s Jules Tavernier: Artist and Adventurer is the catalogue for an exhibition happening at the Crocker Art Museum (February 16–May 11, 2014) and traveling to the Monterey Museum of Art (June 6–October 5, 2014). Like Winslow Homer, Tavernier earned his art chops doing illustrations for publications like Harper’s Weekly. He also rubbed elbows (and collaborated) with Edward Muybridge, photographer and “Father of the Motion Picture.” Tavernier even hosted Oscar Wilde in the studio he shared with fellow artist Joseph Strong, a visit during which Wilde exclaimed: “This is where I belong! This is my atmosphere! I didn’t know such a place existed in the whole United States!”

Born in France to a British father and a French mother, Tavernier came to the United States in 1871. He immediately began working as an illustrator, which included a stint as a fashion artist. Eventually, Tavernier was hired by Harper’s Weekly (along with fellow French artist Paul Frenzeny) to travel across the United States, documenting the westward expansion. Working as a team—with occasional separations to pursue individual projects—the two artists offered their vision of the Wild West to Harper’s Weekly readers, and in many ways they shaped public perception of Western towns, indigenous people, and the progress of the United States.

Smelting Ore in Colorado, 1874
Wood engraving for Harper's Weekly.
Landing in San Francisco, Tavernier was an early member of the Bohemian Club. When he tired of the city life, he lit out for then-sleepy Monterey, where he earned enemies by making fun of the small-town atmosphere. Returning to San Francisco, Tavernier took on commissions and shared a courtroom-studio of mythical proportions (enter Oscar Wilde). He quickly ran up debt, and then offended the patrons that supported his work. When he traveled on to Hawaii, a paradise where he felt he could paint for the rest of his life, Tavernier was in many ways “on retreat.” All the while, he painted and drew.

Sunset in Waioming [sic], 1889
Copyright © 2012 Bonhams Auctioneers Corp. All Rights Reserved.
Moonlight on the Coast, 1882
Collection of Diane and Ronald Miller.
The variety in the artwork is astounding. Tavernier painted sweeping Western vistas lit by sunlight, as well as eerie night scenes. In his best-known work, Artist’s RĂªverie, Dreams at Twilight, ghostly clouds hover above a contemplative outdoorsman/painter. Perhaps Tavernier knew people wanted to see the wide-open landscapes, but in his artist-heart he couldn’t turn away from the darker, more mysterious imagery.

Artist's Reverie, Dreams at Twilight, 1876
Collection of Oscar and Trudy Lemer.
Peering at the engravings and paintings, I realized that what comes up again and again in his paintings, whether they are quiet or dramatic, is fire: campfire flames, an ember in a wanderer’s pipe, skies streaked with poker-red clouds. As Tavernier’s short, blustery life was drawing to a close his paintings became more intense. (He died in his studio, age 45, most likely of alcoholism.) Many of the Hawaii paintings are nearly abstract, with orangey-red lava bubbling and steam rising out of dark volcanoes. It’s as if the artist had been chasing the flame of inspiration across the continent, and finally made the leap into the fiery heart of adventure.

The Volcano at Night, 1885-1889
Honolulu Museum of Art
Kilauea Fire Fountain, 1884
Honolulu Museum of Art

Monday, December 30, 2013

Meet the Master :: B. "Hap" Kliban

If you're familiar with Pomegranate's Kliban publications, you know we're nuts about his cats. But there's more to this artist than those cleverly ridiculous felines. 

An art school drop out, Kliban studied painting and design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and Cooper Union in New York City. He then traveled Europe for years, painting all the while. He kept a daily journal of watercolors and drew incessantly, developing a masterful hand, especially in figure drawing.

Upon his return to the United States, Kliban settled in northern California, taking odd jobs around town, including one drawing showgirls for pay in San Fransisco's "red light" district." In 1962, Playboy discovered Kliban, so to speak, when he responded to an ad for cartoonists. A long standing relationship began, and Playboy published his work for the next thirty years.

So how did Kliban go from illustrating naked women to frolicking felines?

Well, to put it simply, Kliban loved cats. He usually had several living with him, and in the early '70s, four "stripers" were hanging around Kliban, demanding his attention as he doodled some ideas for Playboy. Kliban's editor at the magazine saw his drawings of the striped cats and asked permission to show them to a literary agent. His agent found the right publisher for Kliban's cartoons, and Cat, Kliban's first book, was born!

Kliban became an overnight cartoon sensation. His first book was followed by book after book of his inventive and humorous cartoons. Published up to and even after his death in 1990, Kliban was arguably the first artist to put cat cartooning in the foreground of visual humor. Kliban's Cat was "the bestseller that launched a national cat craze," opening the door for Gary Larsen, Jim Davis, and others who also experienced feline-fame. 

Though he passed away at the early age of 55, Kliban left behind a treasure trove of humorous illustrations that will bring joy to cat and cartoon lovers for a long time to come. Visit Pomegranate's Kliban Cat Gallery to see more of his iconic kitty cuties, and maybe even adopt some of them into your home and heart.

All images © Judith Kamman Kliban