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Archive for March, 2010

So often people think of art as something to be viewed in a museum. Or, if you live in a city like Boston whose neighborhoods host an annual roster of artists’ open studios, you might think of it as something to be viewed within a very specific art scene on a particular schedule.

If you live in the Greater Boston area, I can’t encourage you enough to visit some of the local open studios. They take place in the spring and in the fall (for complete schedules, check with the Boston Open Studios Coalition at http://www.cityofboston.gov/art/visual/openstudios.asp). These are weekend-long events. During open studios, some artists can be found at retail and community outlets, but many can be visited in their work/live spaces. Brickbottom Artist Association in Somerville is one example of a work/live community, with almost 150 artists’ condos now occupying two buildings that were abandoned until the group purchased them in the early 80s. At 450 Harrison Avenue in Boston’s South End is the SOWA Artists Guild, which not only participates in annual open studios, but opens their doors to the public the first Friday evening of every month for a chance to meet the artists in their studios and see their work.

Franklin Cafe

Franklin Cafe

But looking beyond the planned art event, I’d like to point out that art is everywhere. If we’re open enough to notice it, it brings visual interest, charm, personality, and humor to our daily world.

There are some store signs in my neighborhood that remind me of this fact. On Shawmut Street in the South End of Boston, there is the Franklin Cafe’s sign with its simple wire sculpture of a martini glass; the metallic pig that burns white hot in the afternoon sun heralding chef Ken Oringer’s new Coppa restaurant; and the appropriately feathery image above the front entrance to Flock, a women’s apparel shop. (By the way, you can click on any of these images to enlarge them.)

Coppa

Coppa

Flock

In the North End of Boston, Modern Pastry Shop on Hanover Street (modernpastry.com) boasts a sign with a 1950s-inspired aesthetic (for all I know it may have been there that long), and the cigar parlor across the street from it known as Stanza dei Siga (stanzadeisiga.com) hangs its shingle from a robust likeness of a cigar, despite that this shop encourages shoppers to take part in the “hookah experience.”

Modern Pastry Shop

Modern Pastry Shop

Stanza dei Siga

Stanza dei Siga

In my South End neighborhood, local artist Yuko Adachi received a public art commission in 2008 for this treatment of a…hmmm, what exactly is that thing, anyway?…well, some kind of functional but drab utility box on the corner of Tremont and Dedham Streets. She’s turned it into a cosmic rainbow of light and color that makes me not mind one bit having to sit at that busy intersection waiting for the light to turn green.

Yudo Adachi's painted utility box, Tremont Street view

Yuko Adachi's painted utility box, Tremont Street view

Yuko Adachi's painted utility box, Dedham Street view

Yuko Adachi's painted utility box, Dedham Street view

Just around the corner from there is the Betances Plaza at Villa Victoria, with its vibrant, multi-textured mosaic mural made from ceramic and concrete. The beautifully optimistic Ramon Betances mosaic wall is forty-five feet long, and was created by 300 local children. It’s spectacular any time of day, but try to catch it in mid- to late-afternoon when the sun is far enough to the west to make it glimmer.

Villa Victoria Plaza mosaic wall

Villa Victoria Plaza mosaic wall

Villa Victoria mosaic detail

Villa Victoria mosaic detail

Villa Victoria mosaic detail

Villa Victoria mosaic detail

I couldn’t end this post without asking: Has anyone besides me noticed that the new Clarendon Back Bay building on the corner of Clarendon and Stuart Streets, when viewed from the south, looks like a dollar sign? Considering it has condos for sale from $900 to $1600 per square foot, can this merely be a coincidence?

Clarendon Place

Clarendon Back Bay

Let me know if you have any favorite public art!

Cheers,

Paula

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Color My World

Doorway, South End of Boston, copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

It’s been a wet weekend here in Boston, with the kind of rain that flies diagonally in fierce, prolonged bursts. It hits the ground in huge drops at high speed, making the puddles dance and shake with activity. Things can look rather grey and bleak during times like this, so I’m shifting my focus to color.

As an artist, awareness of color and the mood it suggests are always there, even if I’m not thinking about it consciously. Color becomes part of the language of expression. Part of that expression has to do with color relationship and context – if you’ve studied color even a little, you probably know that a particular shade of any color can look very different depending on the colors it is paired with. Pairing two colors is sort of like putting two personalities in a closed room together and seeing how they affect each other. They are each separate entities on their own, but in relationship to one another, it is as if they have created a third entity with their mutual dynamic.

(You can click on any of these images to view them larger.)

Huntington Avenue, Boston, copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

Contrast can really set a mood too, making an image more dramatic. In this photograph I took while standing on Huntington Avenue looking skyward, the contrasting colors I applied through Photoshop bring out the drama. The brightness of the buildings brings them forward and the dark blues of the sky cause it to recede. I love how the energetic yellow gives the buildings an almost animated feel, as if they are huddled in a group and bending down to get a better look at the viewer! The depth of the textured dark sky makes it feel mysterious, even ominous. It isn’t that the photograph didn’t have drama to begin with — it did — but the use of color and contrast heightens the sensation.

Old South Church, Boston, copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

Another example of this effect is this photograph taken during the day of the Old South Church on Boylston Street, and then altered in Photoshop. This Northern Italian Gothic style church (built between 1872 and 1875) is constructed from brown and grey stone, giving it a very earthy feel. Yet the image shown here has a completely different effect, having been painted in bold color with high contrast, bringing the architectural detail forward. The color treatment has brought out details in much the same way that the architectural charm of a Victorian home is highlighted by the use of a range of complimentary exterior colors. The shimmery gold gives it an opulence that doesn’t exist in the real structure.

"Meet You at the Corner," copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

Muted colors can hush an atmosphere, softening edges and lessening distinctions. In this photo-based digital art piece that I call, “Meet You at the Corner,” a toned-down brick red was lightly applied over the apple green sky, muting the intensity. In fact, those cloudy puffs of muted brick red are applied over the buildings as well, toning down the overall mood. Little pops of yellow add reflectiveness and light while emphasizing some details.

I didn’t think this brief, spontaneous exploration of color and mood would be complete without this image of 111 Huntington Avenue — a building that some people refer to as the “R2D2” building, probably for obvious reasons. 111 Huntington is the building’s given name. It’s a lovely structure, made of glass panes with a majestic open-dome crown at the top, and I think it deserves a more regal name than either 111 Huntington Avenue or R2D2! It is a joy to photograph because it’s almost never the same, depending on the sky and weather. At night, the lit crown seen in a foggy sky is visually stunning and gothic. There are many ways this could have been treated, but I was remembering the heat of August when I first moved to this neighborhood and got a chance to look at this building close-up on a regular basis. The cool blues are meant to express the cool glass and metal facades of this building and the taller Prudential Tower to its left. The reds and oranges of the sky, reflected in the glass, expressed the thick, moist feel of summer air in New England.

I end this installment a little amazed by what comes out when I start to write, and with a renewed excitement about this beautiful city I get to live in. It doesn’t really matter that it’s raining rhinos and elephants out there – I can still see it all any way I choose to see it.

Cheers, Paula

"Red Skies," copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

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