Art Escapes at Oak – The Nordic Journal

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The art offerings of the Nordics are well established: from the capitals’ gleaming national galleries to the scrappier artist-run spaces in their less-polished neighborhoods. But travel away from the established centres and you may stumble upon some of the region’s most visually arresting art sites. In each of the following three art escapes, in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, a unique alchemy fuses the site with the place in which it sits, and together they yield something almost magical.

For volume nine of Oak – The Nordic Journal, I wrote about the Steilneset Memorial (above) in Norway, Artipelag in Sweden, and Cisternerne in Denmark.

Photo: Karen Gardiner

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Lynda Benglis: Water Sources at Storm King Art Center

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

I was recently invited to attend a preview of a new temporary exhibition at Storm King Art Center, an open-air sculpture park in upstate New York.

In the Hudson Valley, about an hour north of New York City, Storm King sits on more than 500 acres of rolling hills, fields, and woodlands, and is home to a collection of more than 100 large-scale sculptures by artists including Alexander Calder, Maya Lin, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg, and Richard Serra, David Smith.

Its two special exhibitions for the summer season are Lynda Benglis: Water Sources and Outlooks: Luke Stettner. With more than a dozen outdoor sculptures, as well as more inside the museum’s building, it is the first exhibition to display a major grouping of Benglis’s large-scale sculptures and fountains, which she has been producing since the early 1980s.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

This piece, North, South, East, West, features a crustacean-like piece called Crescendo, which sits atop the very first water fountain she made in 1983-84 for the New Orleans World Fair (it was lost for a long time after the World Fair went bankrupt.)

The surroundings of her early life influence her work. Benglis grew up in Louisiana, always around water and a witness to oil spills in bayous.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

This 2014 piece, named Pink Ladies, is inspired by a kite Benglis saw at a kite-flying festival in Ahmedabad, India. Benglis reminds us that pink is a natural colour, though we may not see it as such. The texture, she says, is inspired by the brain coral she sees on her frequent scuba diving trips.

Lynda Benglis: Water Sources
Lynda Benglis: Water Sources

Hills and Clouds, her most recent work, glows after dark. Natural phosphorescence, such as in bioluminescent waters and phosphorescent caves, in another of Benglis’ indfluences. She also cites the glow-in-the-dark displays at funhouses in the South that she visited as a child.

Storm King are offering special evening visits to see this piece glow in the dark. Even without the full effect, in a blazing hot June sun in my case, it is well worth the visit for the rare opportunity to see these pieces.

Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory

By now, you’ve probably heard of artist Kara Walker’s massive installation at Domino Sugar Factory. So, in short: the 132-year-old sugar factory will be torn down this year to make way for (guess what) luxury condos — despite a high-profile campaign that fought to preserve the building. Continue reading “Kara Walker: A Subtlety, at Domino Sugar Factory”

An Artist with a Dream

Badr Abd El Moghny. Photo by author.

“Everything is becoming really hard.” Badr Abd El Moghny is apologizing for raising the modest entry fee to his mud and sandstone, fairytale-like home and art gallery. Since the revolution and in the midst of uncertainty, he tells us, prices have risen and he has to pay more for the postcards of his work and brochures that detail his biography.

Badr Abd El Moghny is a self-taught artist who was born, and continues to live in, the Farafra Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert. He describes the house that he built in the Oasis as his “dream” and embraces his self-appointed moniker “An Artist with a Dream.”

Surrealist paintings and sculptures fill the house, and it is easy to see why he cites Dali and Picasso as inspiration. El Moghny has exhibited in England, Germany and Cairo and says he has opportunities to travel more with his work but prefers to stay at home. That way he doesn’t get homesick.

Photo by author.
Photo by author.
Photo by author.
Photo by author.