Tag: art

Reading Lately: Three Books on Art, Artists and Life

A black bird sitting on the edge of an infinity pool.
Stillness. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Writing the post on Marina Abramovic got me thinking about artist biographies or memoirs, something that I always love reading.

I’m thinking about posting a list of my favorites. But how could one ever compare and rank books (all art forms, for that matter)? It is an almost impossible task. And unfair. We’ll see.

Cover of the book Frida Kahlo A Biography by Hayden Herrera

Hayden Herrera, Frida: The Biography of Frida Kahlo

Another artist who lived her art. Her life, her house, her clothes – art, pure art, all of it. Hayden Herrera is an art historian, and it greatly benefits the book. A great read. Bonus: watch the life and art of Frida Kahlo in a four minutes video from TED Education. The animation is exquisite. Lesson by Iseult Gillespie. Animation by Ivana Bošnjak and Thomas Johnson.

Keith Richards  (yes, he of the Rolling Stones) – Life. I didn’t have any expectations, I didn’t know what to expect; and I loved it. He lived the rock and roll life, and now he’s telling us about it in a very personal, funny and honest way. Absolutely fascinating.

And last but not least, Patti Smith’s Just Kids. One of my all times favorite books in which she remembers her remarkable relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the late sixties and seventies in her unique, lyrical style.

I have met Patti Smith in 2011, when she came to Stockholm to receive the Swedish Polar Music Prize.

I met her as in ”I queued for several hours in the rain so she can sign my book”. I was so star struck that I couldn’t say a word when my turn came, I just looked at her in awe; she understood and smiled.

The line outside NK, the department store where the signing took place. It rained, of course.


Walk Through Walls

Cover of Marina Abramovic's book "Walk through walls" featuring a close up of the artist.

I’ve just finished reading Marina Abramovic’s memoir, Walking Through Walls, and I was blown away, even though I’m not a fan of performance art. The book is ghostwritten, but you can clearly hear her voice throughout the whole book – well done indeed. It’s fascinating reading; her whole life is a performance, she truly lives the art. She says somewhere in the book that art shouldn’t be seen as something isolated, holly, and separated from life; art should be a natural part of life. And she lives by that.

After attending Susan Sontag’s funeral in Paris (who very few people attended), she made detailed plans for her own funeral because she wanted that funeral to be her last piece of art. The last performance. I hope not to see it any time soon (she’s 74 years old). All in all, very inspirational. Read it! 

Bonus: see Marina Abramovic performing 7 Deaths of Maria Callas at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich (the recording is available until October 7th, 2020, 11.59 am CEST).

And watch her TED Talk about performance art An Art Made of Trust, Vulnerability and Connection  (15 minutes).

Enjoy! I’m off to the garden to plant about 25 kg of spring bulbs. Toil now, enjoy later.


About Art and Artists

A Sea Star
Sea Treasures Photo © Mihaela Limberea

A few weeks ago I’ve stumbled over an interesting article about art and artists, How to Be an Artist, by Jerry Saltz, the New York Magazine art critic. The whole article lists thirty-three points and is worth reading in full. I have inserted below a few points that resonated with me. Especially the last one. LOL.

  • Tell your own story and you will be interesting.
  • Your skill will be whatever it is you’re doing differently.
  • Writers need editors.* No exceptions.
  • Life is your syllabus: gather from everywhere.
  • The best definition of success is time – the time to do your work.
  • Be delusional: I have one solution to turn away these demons: After beating yourself up for half an hour or so, stop and say out loud, ”Yeah, but I’m a fucking genius”.

* My comment: definitely; it’s sufficient to compare Andy Weir’s The Martian (self-published) to Artemis (published by  Ballantine Books). QED. I love Science-Fiction and I did read the whole Martian. But I wished all the time for an editor. I almost grabbed a pen and started editing it myself.


Fragmentary Blue

Man and Pegasus statue by Carl Milles, at Millesgården, Sweden. Photo © Mihaela Limberea www.limberea.com
Man and Pegasus by Carl Milles, Millesgården, Sweden. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Why make so much of fragmentary blue

In here and there a bird, or butterfly,

Or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,

When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)—

Though some savants make earth include the sky;

And blue so far above us comes so high,

It only gives our wish for blue a whet.

by Robert Frost (1874–1963)


Cultivate The Habit Of Zest

Shadows of leaves over a parking sport in black and white. www.limberea.com
Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Cultivate the habit of zest. Purposefully seek out the beauty in the seemingly trivial. Especially in the trivial. The colors and shapes of the foods you eat. The shadows a vase makes on your table. The interesting faces of the people on the bus with you. – Karen Salmansohn

I snapped the image above with my iPhone (remember, the best camera is the one that you have with you) on my daily walk. A play of light and shadows, tree branches over a parking spot.

I’d make this the first rule of photography: always bring the camera; and your attention.


Back at Millesgården

The stairway from Little Austria/Olga's Terrace to the Upper Terrace, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
The stairway from Little Austria/Olga’s Terrace to the Upper Terrace, Millesgården. All photos © Mihaela Limberea.

One of the joys in otherwise a pretty bleak summer (hey, COVID-19!) has been the re-opening of Millesgården. Not only for me but apparently for a large number of other people. I’ve been there several times since the re-opening at the end of April, and there were a lot of people every time. Mostly Swedish tourists though, usually there are busloads of foreign tourists. In any case, it’s good to see Millesgården open again, and so many people enjoying it.

Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
The Venus Fountain at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The Venus Fountain (1917) showing the godess’ birth from the sea.

The Middle Terrace, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The Middle Terrace with its’ row of lemon trees.

The Middle Terrace, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

Middle Terrace – on the right hand you can see The Genius (1940).

The Genius at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The statue is a replica of a grave monument to the Swedish actor Gösta Ekman.

Cymbalaria muralis grows on the steps of  Olga's Terrace, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

Cymbalaria muralis grows on the steps of Olga’s Terrace.

Olgas Terrace, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

Olga’s Terrace, Carl Milles tribute to his Austrian-born wife. Olgas was an artist too; she was a painter.

Olga's Terrace, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
The Aganippe Fountain at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The Aganippe Fountain (1955). The indoor fountain was created for the Metropolitan Museum but has later been moved to Brookgreen Gardens (South Carolina). I like how Milles re-interpreted the Greek myth and changed the muses, typically portraited as women, to young boys.

The Water Nymph at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The Water Nymph, part of the The Aganippe Fountain.

The Aganippe Fountain at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
The Aganippe Fountain: the musicians (and in the background, the painter). Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The Aganippe Fountain: the musicians (and in the background, the painter).

Roses at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

Rose is a is a rose is a rose. (Gertrude Stein)

Clematis at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

Small flowered clematis on the upper terrace.

Roses at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
The Lower Terrace with St. Martin at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The wonderful flower beds on the Lower Terrace with St. Martin sharing his mantle with a beggar in the background. The statue of St. Martin is part of the St. Martin Fountain from 1955, Carl Milles’ last completed work of art.

The Lower Terrace at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The flowerbed has been created by Ulf Nordfjell, a well-known Swedish garden designer. The theme this year is Bumblebees and bees go pink.

Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
Angel's trumpets at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

You have no idea how hard it was to take this photo. This is a small service area, and water hoses, buckets, wheelbarrows, or other garden tools are very often strewn about. This time there were two wheelbarrows and one huge waste bag (the kind of bag that has to get picked up by a truck due to its weight).

It is a quite pleasant spot, when not encumbered with wheelbarrows and the like, and I really wanted to capture it. I know that many people would just retouch the photo and remove the stuff, but that’s not me. I like a challenge, and making the most with what there is, not create an illusion. I also think that creating those composite photos, adding bits and pieces to create one fantastic image, is not what photography is about. As all artists know, creativity thrives on constraints.

Angel's trumpets at Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

The large flowers of angel’s trumpets Brugmansia suaveolens. All Brugmansia species are amongst the most toxic of ornamental plants!

Lemon trees at Anne's house, Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

Lemon trees in from of Anne’s house, a two-room house built by Carl Milles for his secretary.

Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com
Millesgården sculpture park, Lidingö, Sweden. Photo by Mihaela Limberea. www.limberea.com

I’ll stop here for now (congratulations if you’ve made this far!), but you can be sure there’ll be more Millesgården posts on this blog.

 In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and soldier on. And don’t forget to laugh. 


There Is No Time For Despair

Photo © Mihaela Limberea

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. This is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge – even wisdom. Like art. – Toni Morrison

As always, books are comforting. Both to write and to read. To give away, to loan, or to borrow. To read aloud or listen to. A shelter from the madness outside. Consolation. Oh, the “sweet serenity of books” as Longfellow puts it. 

I write a bit, I delete a bit more, I pause, I stare through the window at the rough sea and the white clouds of surf. A blackbird jumps back and forth on the grass, looking for worms. The cat suns herself, lazily licking her paw. I write away the virus, the anxiety, the madding crowd.


A Brief Visit: Millesgården

Angel Musicians by Carl Milles. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

While other countries in Europe are under a lockdown or the freedom of movement has been much limited, Sweden goes its’ own way. The elementary schools, kindergarten, and shops are still open, the limit for permissible meetings is 500 people* and there is no mandatory curfew. However, more restrictions apply almost every day so it’s likely we’ll see more movement constraints eventually.

* A few hours after writing this, the limit has been set at 50 people.

Some of the museums and theaters have already closed on their own though, so my husband and I went to Millesgården last week in case it would close too. And right it was because Millesgården closed as well – the day after. We saw the announcement when we returned home.

Angel Musicians by Carl Milles. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Carl Milles (1875 – 1955) was a Swedish sculptor. Millesgården, that he designed and built in 1908, was his home and is now a museum with Milles’ antique collection, sculpture garden, and art gallery.

The Hand of God by Carl Milles. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

This is my favorite sculpture of Carl Milles. I probably have hundreds of pictures of it, I never tire of photographing it.

Angel Musicians at sunset. Photo © Mihaela Limberea
Millesgården – the Lower Terrace. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

The garden is inspired by Italy’s Mediterranean gardens and it’s a work of art in itself. Carl Milles and his Austrian wife Olga, an artist herself, spent the winters in Italy that both loved.

Angel Musicians by Carl Milles. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

My husband and I both love Millesgården. We used to visit it very often as we’re annual cardholders and it lies 10 only minutes from our home. During our seven years in Switzerland, these visits were one of the things we missed most, and we were looking forward to them when moving back to Sweden. Unfortunately, the corona pandemic put many things on hold, Millesgården visits included.

The Hand of God by Carl Milles. Photo © Mihaela Limberea

But life goes on and even the coronavirus will eventually be contained. When Millesgården will open again, you can be sure we’ll back in a heartbeat.

In the meantime: stay healthy, stay safe, stay calm and wash your hands. And don’t forget to laugh.


It Was A Hand In The Darkness And It Held A Knife

Tree
Photo © Mihaela Limberea

I finally found some time to listen to Neil Gaiman talking to Tim Ferriss in ”The Tim Ferriss Show” (a podcast that I highly recommend, it’s one of my favorite podcasts). The interview is almost two hours long and I wanted to have time, and peace of mind, to really enjoy it. And take plenty of notes.

It’s always such a pleasure listening to Neil Gaiman’s hypnotically soothing voice talking about creativity and writing, books, his friendship with Terry Pratchett, fountain pens (he writes with a fountain pen) and the New York Fountain Pen Hospital (yes, there’s such a thing, the place to go if you want to buy a new fountain pen or repair the one you have).

I have included below a few points that have resonated with me. It wasn’t easy, I could have gone on much longer but wanted to keep the length of this post manageable.

About Ian Fleming’s writing process (yes, James Bond’s creator), who didn’t like writing. His method? Lock yourself up in a not too good hotel, in a not too good room in a town you don’t want to be in (as to avoid distractions and getting comfy), and just write ”like a fiend” until you’re done.

Most important writing rule: you can sit here and write, or you can sit here and do nothing; but you cannot sit here and do anything else. All you are allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write. You give yourself permission to write or not write, but you end up writing eventually as doing nothing is boring and your wandering mind will start sparkling ideas. Not having to write takes off some pressure as well.

On first drafts: nobody is ever meant to read your first draft. That is just you telling the story to yourself.

Setting up a Groundhog Day: writing (a novel) works best if you can do the same day over and over again. Figure out a daily practice that works for you, and repeat that day, every day, day after day after day. Austin Kleon used the same image in his new book ”Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad”: every day is a Groundhog Day. 

You can read the whole podcast transcript  (and, of course, listen to/watch the podcast) on Tim Ferriss blog.

Neil Gaiman Quotes from the Podcast

All I’m allowed to do is absolutely nothing, or write.

What I love about that is I’m giving myself permission to write or not write, but writing is actually more interesting than doing nothing after a while. (…) I think it’s really just a solid rule for writers. You don’t have to write. You have permission to not write, but you don’t have permission to do anything else.

Part of what I discovered, particularly about being a novelist, is writing a novel works best if you can do the same day over and over again. The closer you can come to Groundhog Day, you just repeat that day. You set up a day that works for yourself. (…) I would do that day over and over and over and over. 

 I also think that the most important thing for human beings is to be aware of the change. The biggest problem we run into is going, “This is who I am, this is what I’m like. This is how I function.” while failing to notice that you don’t do that anymore

The biggest thing, looking back on it, that I learned from Terry <Pratchett> was a willingness to go forward without knowing what happens. You might know what happens next, but you don’t know what happens after that, but it’s okay because you’re a grownup and you will figure it out. 

Bonus: listen to Neil Gaiman’s audiobooks read by himself. Such joy! My favorites: Art Matters (this should be handed out for free in all schools, by the way!), The Graveyard Book, and Coraline.

Complete with: Tim Ferriss interview with  Amanda Palmer (singer, songwriter, playwright, author, director, blogger and Neil Gaiman’s wife); and Austin Kleon’s A Portable Routine.

Wondering where the post title comes from? It’s a line from one of Gaiman’s old notebooks that eventually become the beginning of The Graveyard Book; Gaiman talks about its genesis in the interview.


Orhan Pamuk on Painting

Photo © Mihaela Limberea

Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight. Orhan Pamuk, “My Name Is Red”

Orhan Pamuk is one of the most prominent Turkish novelists, and recipient of the first Nobel Prize to be awarded to a Turkish citizen in 2006.

Orhan Pamuk – My Name is Red