Let There Be Light on the Bay Bridge – Grand

I was able to catch a glimpse of the stunning light installation on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge last night. We were heading to Park Tavern in North Beach for a holiday party, and through the dark, gloomy, rainy skies shined the beautiful display of over 25,000 LED lights highlighting the lesser-known bridge in San Francisco. The artist Leo Villareal has been working on the light installation for two and a half years with the goal of creating a digital campfire. I personally think he achieved it, because I instantly felt warm when I saw it. The art installation will remain up for the next two years with the hopes of attracting fifty million people to it. Mayor Ed Lee would like to extend the timeframe for the project in the hopes that it will put San Francisco on the map as a world-class art destination.


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Roy Lichtenstein

Huh, I say no, make sure! 1976

Roy Lichtenstein has been referred to as a forefather of Pop Art. He commercialized fine art and was called the worst artist in America because of it, yet he was one of the most consistent artists in the 20th century. He was known for his signature method of using Ben-Day dots, he invented a rotating easel so he could paint at all angles and he worked with mirrors in his studio to achieve a backwards perspective. By the midpoint of his career he was an established and successful artist and famous in his own right, but unlike some of his peers, like Warhol, he shunned the limelight and occupied himself in his studio.

Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop Art style emerged a few decades into his painting career, at the age of 37. Art historian Ernst Busche stated that Lichtenstein’s post-1961 path was unequivocally his greatest achievement. Lichtenstein produced a style of art that was bold and simplified, and his subjects were common exaggerated objects that filled his canvases. His paintings came from ideas he got from comic books, newspaper ads and even the yellow pages. His art reflected life and the American consumer culture. It also illustrated the increasingly industrial nature of America. He considered his first Pop painting to be Look Mickey (1961). Lichtenstein consciously made sure the colors looked flat and smooth to contrast the Abstract Expressionist paintings of the time. In fact, the Pop Art movement is widely interpreted as a counteraction to the ideas of Abstract Expressionism. He did not want any sign of brush marks because he wanted it to look as if it was mechanically printed. That was also the first time he used Ben-Day dots. (Named after illustrator and printer Benjamin Day.) Art Critic, Carter Ratcliff, described Lichtenstein’s way of imparting his own style onto a subject as Lichtensteinize.

Look Mickey, 1962 Washingtonian.com

Look Mickey, 1962

Lichtenstein felt optimistic about the outcome of Look Mickey and continued to produce artwork based on comic books and newspaper ads. He started working with the established art dealer Leo Castelli. Coincidentally, Andy Warhol approached Castelli around the same time with similar comic-book paintings. Castelli recognized a new beginning in the art world, and in 1962 he promoted one of the first Pop Art exhibits ever. “In fact, Robert Rosenblum recalled that ‘for most of the world, Lichtenstein was born at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1962, at an exhibition that dumbfounded with horror or delight everybody who saw it and that can still jolt the memory.’” (Rondeau & Wagstaff, 2012, p.39) It was a success for Lichtenstein because the show was sold-out however; the art critics were not fans of the new movement. Art critic Max Kozloff described viewing Pop art as “acid shock.” Lichtenstein, years later, reflected on the critics review and said: “New things always seem much more startling than they seem twenty years later or when they have sunk into the history of art.” (Alastair Sooke, 2013, p.24) It took several years for the critics to digest the Pop Art images, but the general public seemed to be very ready for the movement. Lichtenstein had a good sense of humor when it came to how people responded to his artwork. In fact, he condoned the Life magazine article headline “Is He the Worst Artist in the US?” Lichtenstein enjoyed the irony of the headline because Life had published an article about Jackson Pollock in 1949 with the headline asking if Pollock was the greatest painter in the U.S.

Takka Takka, 1962 Archive.com

Takka Takka, 1962

For the next thirty-five years Lichtenstein was at the forefront of the American art world. Lichtenstein explains his process with his first Pop paintings in an interview with Diane Waldman: “To begin with, I did as many different things as I could: products and objects and girls and war, all at the same time. I worked on a variety because there were so many things to do at that time. I worked in every direction at once. Later I tended to focus more on single ideas.”(Diane Waldman, 1971, p. 25) In the early sixties, Lichtenstein began the series of paintings that he is probably most known for, weeping women and daring men.  These characters were featured in romance and war comics. One of Lichtenstein’s significant war paintings is Takka Takka (1962). The machine gun is the focal point at the bottom of the painting, with a large text area at the top, and the words “Takka Takka” bisecting both of them. “Lichtenstein thus made a painting that, unlike the comic strip on which it is based, is a statement of powerful complexity.” (Diane Waldman, Guggenheim, 1993, p. 95) Once again, he recreated an everyday image and revolutionized it. Also in 1962, he painted Femme au chapeau after Picasso’s painting. “It’s interesting how Lichtenstein’s use of source material, from comics to masterworks, leaves no room in his work for value distinctions between so-called high and low culture. He approaches them both with the same rigorous attention to detail and holds neither so sacred as to leave them unmarked by his own aesthetic interests.” (Art Institute of Chicago; ARTicle Blog) These two paintings are perfect examples of his range of subject matters. He was attracted to Picasso’s work from a young age. In fact, he spoke of Picasso more often than any other artist. By around 1966, he was no longer painting comic-strip images.

Rouen Cathedral LACMA.org

Rouen Cathedral

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, his style broadened on what he had done before. He focused more on the art done by the masters of the early 20th century such as Monet, Magritte, Dali and Matisse. “He started to concentrate on paintings that were explicitly concerned with art history, such as his 1968-9 canvases based on Monet’s Haystacks and Rouen Cathedral series.” (Alastair Sooke, 2013, p.4) Surprisingly, the entire series was left to Lichtenstein’s assistants to execute however; he determined the design and color relationships and the fundamental decisions. This differed from his comic-strip paintings because he had complete control over those. “A comparison of his ‘Monets’ with the original on which they are based reveals that Lichtenstein’s version emphasizes the play of shape against shape rather than the dissolution of form in light with which Monet was concerned.” (Diane Waldman, Guggenheim, 1993, p. 146) His use of Ben-Day dots in these paintings is very different from all of his past work; it reflects a process more like Seurat.

Barcelona Head, 1992 Barcelonaphotoblog.com

Barcelona Head, 1992

It has been said that Lichtenstein’s paintings speak in a vocabulary of dots. From its inception in Look Mickey, the Ben-Day dots became his signature effect throughout his career. He realized early on that the mass-produced effect of Ben-Day dots could be translated into delicate hand-painting to produce an exquisite high art. There was a certain evolution in executing his dots. At the beginning he used a dog-grooming brush. When this did not work, he created his own stencil out of a thin strip of aluminum. He then acquired an industrial metal screen with large perforated holes from a company in New Jersey.  The first painting he executed using the new stencil was George Washington, 1962. In an interview with John Coplans in 1970, Lichtenstein commented on his use of Ben-Day dots: “The dots can have a purely decorative meaning, or they can mean an industrial way of extending the color, or data information, or that the image is a fake.” The dots were used to depict tone and shading, much like the comic books that inspired him. He later laid thick bands of dots across his sculptures in the 90’s, with an animating effect very different from the comics, such as in the Barcelona Head, 1992 made of concrete and ceramic. In 1950 Lichtenstein designed a rotating easel so he could paint sideways and upside down. “Mrs. Lichtenstein notes that Lichtenstein painted on an easel that allowed him to turn each canvas so he could be sure that its power operated in all orientations. It had to work abstractly, in other words, in a way that couldn’t be missed.” (New York Time, Art & Design 2008) He also used mirrors in his studio in order to study his canvases from back to front. Lichtenstein stated: “Once I am involved with the painting I think of it as an abstraction. Half the time they are upside down anyway when I work.” (Modern Art, by David Britt) His techniques were innovative and on the cutting edge, and he continued using them throughout his career.

Woman with Flowered Hat, 1963 Christie's.com

Woman with Flowered Hat, 1963

Lichtenstein had a long and successful career, and, yet he spent most of his time in his studio rather than wallowing in his success. In fact, his widow, Dorothy described him as being very reserved, the antithesis of the boisterous images he depicted. He had a set schedule each day, arriving at his studio at ten o’clock and leaving each day around seven o’clock. He followed a very routine life, he even preferred eating at the same restaurants. Dorothy also described him as working in a very steady way. “He used to say he aspired to become unpredictable and wild, curmudgeonly even, but it wasn’t his nature.” (Alastair Sooke, 2013, p. 7) That is probably why he was such a consistently successful artist. Lichtenstein’s success was not only in popularity but also monetarily. In 1970, Big Painting No. 6 (1965) was sold for $75,000. Nineteen years later, his painting Torpedos…Los! (1963) sold for 5.5 million. Posthumously his paintings continued to sell in the millions, and in 2013 his painting Woman with Flowered Hat (1963) was auctioned at Christie’s and sold for 56.1 million.  Lichtenstein’s work has been acquired by several museum collections throughout the world. He has received many honorary degrees and awards, and he received the National Medal of Arts in 1995. Lichtenstein died of pneumonia at the age of 73 in 1997, his last words were: “Well, here I go.”

Lichtenstein's rotating easel LichtensteinFoundation.com

Lichtenstein’s rotating easel



Britt, David, Modern Art: Impressionism to Post-Modernism, Thames & Hudson Ltd., London, 1989.

Lambrecht, Laurie, Roy Lichtenstein in His Studio, The Monacelli Press, New York, 2010.

Lynton, Norbert, The Story of Modern Art, Phaidon Press Ltd., Oxford, 1980.

Marquis, Alice Goldfarb, The Pop Revolution, MFA Publications, Boston, 2010.

Rondeau, James & Wagstaff, Sheena,  Roy Lichtenstein A Retrospective, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2012.

Sooke, Alastair, Roy Lichtenstein: How Modern Art was Saved by Donald Duck, Penguin Books Ltd., England, 2013.

Waldman, Diane, Roy Lichtenstein, Harry N. Abrams, Inc, NY, 1971.

Waldman, Diane, Roy Lichtenstein, Guggenheim Museum, 1993.


ARTicle, Blog, Art Institute of Chicago


Churchwell, Sarah, The Guardian, February 12, 2013, Art & Design

Davies, Lucy, The Telegraph, February 5, 2013, Art

Smith, Roberta, The New York Times, 2008, Art & Design

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie…Keith Richards


This is a portrait of Keith Richards by Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones. Who knew he had more talents than just being an amazing musical artist? This hangs on the wall in Ron Wood’s former home in London. Our friends purchased his home a few years ago, and the drawing was left behind because if it were removed, it would ruin the portrait. Isn’t it fabulous?!


David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition

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My husband and I had the honor of attending the opening Gala of David Hockney’s exhibit A Bigger Exhibition on Thursday evening at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. It is not just a bigger exhibition; it is the largest exhibition in the history of the de Young Museum. Close to 400 hundred of Hockney’s pieces were displayed in 18,000 square feet on two floors. Many of the landscape pieces are from his exhibit David Hockney: A Bigger Picture organized by the Royal Academy of London, also seen in Spain and Germany.

The de Young exhibit has so much more than his landscapes; it is also comprised of still lifes and portraits that Hockney depicts in a range of media that are awe-inspiring.  The grandness of many of the pieces is breathtaking.  Reputed for the use of traditional materials such as watercolor and charcoal, he makes use of technologies such as iPhones and iPads as tools for creating his artwork. These medias and his use of digital movies added another dimension to the show.

Hockney has always been candid about his views on photography as being too limiting. He has said it is one singular point of view that loses interest after several minutes. In fact, Pablo Picasso was one of his greatest influences because he depicted multiple perspectives in one painting. In order to show multiple perspectives, Hockney’s Cubist Movies comprise of 18 digital cameras all achieving various perspectives.

A Bigger Exhibition gives an insight into what David Hockney has been creating in the 21st Century. There were no signs of his iconic palm trees and poolsides.  Yet, his pieces are inherently him. He has proven to be himself in any media he chooses to use and any setting he depicts. It truly is a grand exhibition!

Super Quote Sunday: Vincent van Gogh


If Jeannin has the peony, Quost the hollyhock, I indeed, before others, have taken the sunflower.  -Vincent van Gogh

Art historian Martin Bailey claims in his new book, The Sunflowers are Mine: The Story of Van Gogh’s Masterpiece, that Van Gogh painted the sunflower’s painting by his imagination. Bailey conjectures that the sunflowers would have been too heavy to stand in that type of pot. These types of pots were used in the 19th century to store food products, possibly Van Gogh stored his paintbrushes in the pot upside down. The sunflowers may have been in another vase and Van Gogh put the two together in his mind.

He goes on to explain that Van Gogh painted the sunflowers because he was waiting for some models to arrive thus; it was happenstance that the sunflowers were ever painted that day. Whatever the circumstances were, the sunflowers are as iconic as da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.


J. Leone – An Interview


The first time I met J. Leone (Jeanne) was when she and my father were enraptured by each other in a fascinating conversation. I remember thinking how beautiful and dynamic she was. I also wondered how my stepmother, who was seated a few feet away, was not jealous by their blatant chemistry. It turns out their chemistry forged a very deep platonic friendship that lasted decades.

She was one of the few people I know who could be completely forthright with my father. I was so grateful for that; especially one night when I was in college and we were having a birthday celebration for me at my father’s house. My father was wearing his jeans tucked into his colorful cowboy boots. (He was recently married to a woman twenty years younger than him and I think he thought the look was cool.) I was mortified that my friends would witness such a fashion faux pas. Thankfully Jeanne was one of the first guests to arrive and told him to take his pants out of his boots. He immediately listened to her!

Jeanne is a very talented artist/photographer. I had the honor of interviewing her recently in the midst of her moving her home and studio to another state. I really appreciate her taking the time to share her thoughts and insights.

What got you interested in art?  

I grew up with art.  My mother was a fashion designer so art was always just a part of our home.  Also, I was raised outside of Boston in a small, wealthy WASP town, and they all were interested in art so it was never that I got interested in art but more that it was always a natural part of my life.

Have you taken any art classes?

Weston had a strong program in the arts from kindergarten and art classes were mandatory.  But those were the only “art classes” I ever took.

What is your preferred medium and why?

I loved photography from the first moment my mother gave me my brownie box camera when I was ten.  It had such a magical quality to it for me.  I could use my intuition about whether I had gotten onto film what I wanted or not.  Unlike every other medium with photography back in the days when I started, you had to bring the film home and then develop it to see what you had.  I was always surprised by my own work.  It was like I could Mesmer what I thought should be in front of me onto the film rather than what was actually there.  Even when I shot digitally, I don’t use the LED screen, I think it compromises my talent and I become too technical and don’t get what I wish for.  I shot through the viewer and then when I download, I see what I have.

What art do you most identify with?

I don’t.  I like it all for different reasons and go to see all of it.  Art of any time and period always is revealing about the human experience and what people thought was important or what people were rejecting as a way forward and I always find that interesting, sometimes compelling.  Back in the 90’s LACMA had a show on Fauvism.  This was the transitional period between representational art and cubism, which launched modern art.  All the painters of the day, and these were the artists who would later become the impressionists, painted the Pont Neuf bridge endless times.  You either loved this show or hated it.  For me this show was seminal in my work.  I loved the show because you could actually see the creative process at work, as they searched for a new way to express things.  Why were they looking for a new way to express things?  Because the camera had revolutionized the art business.  People were sitting for photographers to have their portraits done and not having them painted.  People were having their estates photographed and not having them painted.  These artists realized that if they didn’t find a different way to express life, they would be out of business.  Surprisingly most curators fail to realize what drove this change but if you read their letters, they were quite aware that they were losing work to photographers.  What I found fascinating about the show was in the paintings, which were hung in dated order so the progression was clear, you could actually track the progression of the creative process.  They were searching for a new way “to see things” and this fascinated me.  At the time I saw this show, I still had not given a public exhibit of my work and I had been working for almost 30 years.  This show had a significant impact on the development of my work and first public exhibit at Harvard University.  I asked the question of myself, “What do I want people “to see” from my work.  The second I asked that question of myself, it was if some door inside me opened and my big installations pieces came into clear focus as if I had been working in that direction for 30 years, which I probably had been but didn’t know it.

What inspires you?

While this seems like and easy question to answer, it was actually quite difficult for me.  I don’t think in those kinds of terms so I actually had to ponder it for a while, and still have no good answer to it.

What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

My camera.

Do you pursue any themes in your artwork?

Not consciously but when I look at the body of my work, it has a consistent theme and this always surprised me but it is hard to miss.  My work has great narrative to it and the narrative always seems to be about the hidden assumptions that people make about things and themselves that creates the reality they live in.

What art period do most identify with?

I don’t.

Which artists have influenced your art? Are there any artists you would like to be compared to?

None, and no.

Can you describe one of your first pieces? What makes it so memorable?

My work did not develop the way most artists did.  I shot for 30 years and refused to exhibit because I knew my work was not about single photographs.  I couldn’t say what it was about but I knew it wasn’t about that.  After the Fauve show at LACMA my work started to take shape internally and then Harvard kept pressing me to do a show and it was actually the space that forced the work out of me.

Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and discovered a whole new genre of art? If so, how did it turn out? 

After my studio flooded and so much of my early work was ruined along with my cameras, I went into a period of deep depression. It was just an awful time in my life.  I stopped working and went into a bad funk.  My niece kept harassing me to go back to work.  I had booked a trip to go to Venice, Italy months before the flood.  I was going to cancel and she kept insisting I go and rent a digital camera and start shooting digitally.  I had resisted digital.  Just didn’t like it, but hadn’t really put any time into it.  I don’t know there was just something about her suggestion that appealed to me.  So I rented a professional Nikon camera and read the manual on the plane over.  Three seconds in, I was terrified.  I had no idea what RAW meant or anything else.  I realized that the digital camera measure light in a totally different way than a film camera.  But the rental was almost $3,000 for the 10 days so I had to come home with some work!  Film and digital are two entirely different mediums and should be treated as such.  What the digital medium gave me was a way to construct small books that I could print myself.  I created my first book “Venice Time” and made a new body of work called “Small Art Originals”.  Some of these are like filmstrips and some are books that fold but that can stand up by themselves and be a piece of art as well as a book.

What, for you, makes a successful artist?

Being able to work.  Being able to carve out the time to work.  As one gets older the demands from life and family really cut into work time.  And yet as I age, this is the time I should be able to do it with no external influences impacting me.  Why as I age?  Because your work evolves, you mature, you understand your own work better and your work understands you better and significant things can happen then if one is allowed the quite time to develop them.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

It stands up and tells you, loud and clear!

*One question you did not ask but that I would like to answer is people that have had a significant impact on my work by what they had to say:

My mother:  My mother was a fashion designer.  She told me from when I was very little, “Learn to judge your work for yourself.  NEVER, let anyone else judge your work.  If you do then you become a slave to their ideas and what they think rather than to your own vision.  Know where your work stands in your field but you and you alone are the judge of it.”  This was incredibly good advice.  I have watched other artists ask people about their work, to judge it, if you will.  My mother was right.  Their own vision gets lots and they become the product of their “professor or art teacher” rather than remaining true to themselves and their own visions.

Phil Gustlin:  Just before I shipped my show to Harvard, I asked Phil to come by and see what he thought of the work.  After showing him the work, I turned around and he had this stunned look on his face and I thought he hated it or didn’t get it.  I asked him what was wrong.  He said, “Well fuck, I thought I knew photography but it’s clear from your work, the rest of us don’t know shit about it!”  I laughed so hard.  But then he started going through the installations and asking me what the title of each.  I said, I don’t know.  I was going to say Untitled 1, etc.  “Don’t,” he said.  “Do your job as an artist!  I don’t want you to tell me what I should see or feel or think from your work but I want a starting place.  I want a start from you with the title then I will take my own trip.  When I look at work that says Untitled, I think the artist didn’t know what the fuck he was doing!  Give me a starting place!  IT was singly the best piece of advice I ever got.  IT is hard to title a piece but it does force you to understand your work.  It is an artist’s job to give the viewer a “starting place” and I always ask that question of myself when I go to title a work, “What is the starting place for them.”  I am indebted to Phil for this piece of advice.

Peter Gelles:  I was doing a series of Iris Jet ink prints.  Peter was looking at them.  There were four in the series.  He stopped at one and looked at it for a long time.  Then he turned to me and said, “Did you shoot it this way?”  I asked him why he asked me that.  I don’t know, he said, it doesn’t feel like you.  No, I said.  The back ground was actually clear but one of my friends who buys a lot of work from me, said that I should put a back ground in it because people wouldn’t buy it the way it was.  So I didn’t but I don’t like it.  Peter became furious at me.  Don’t you EVER do that again!  You do your work your way.  If people buy it good, if they don’t who cares!  People buy because of you not this stupid woman!  Did it sell?  No, I said.  That’s because it is not you he said and he was right.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated – Two Perspectives

This week, show us a photo of whatever you’d like, but make sure it’s saturated. It can be black and white, a single color, a few hues, or a complete rainbow riot; just make sure it’s rich and powerful. Let’s turn the comments into an instant mood-booster!

Last spring break I was sitting under the stars on a warm evening in Palm Springs waiting for my husband to arrive on his birthday. His one-hour flight from San Francisco turned into a seven-hour journey with canceled and delayed flights and missed connections. This is what I captured as I observed the sky above. It was a beautiful night, but I missed my husband.


Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns


This weeks photo challenge inspired by Evan Zelermyer:

“From lines to patterns. We see lines and patterns in the world around us, in nature and things man-made. Sometimes we don’t realize they’re there: on the street, across the walls, up in the sky, and along the ground on which we walk.”

Since reading the weekly photo challenge on WordPress.com yesterday morning, I was inspired to look at the world around me in lines and patterns. This challenge really opened my eyes to a new perspective. It reminded me of when my children were babies and I looked at everything from their eyes. The smallest things roused awe – like a caterpillar on a leaf or a plane flying high over our heads.

Last night, as my husband and I were driving my son and his friend to their school dance we paused at a stop sign. My husband exclaimed that the clouds were perfect layers. He compared them to Aquafresh toothpaste. The boys thought that was a silly description and they burst into laughter. I saw the juxtaposition of nature and man-made when I saw the phone lines intersecting the puffy clouds. I quickly took out my iPhone to snap some pictures before we drove on. The boys thought it was even stranger that I was taking pictures of the clouds from our car. 🙂

I am so appreciative of the motivating photo challenges and the new outlook they inspire in me.

P.S. I used the Aviary App on my iPhone to enhance the colors. Thank you to Janine at “Souladditions” for the recommendation on her blog.