June 14, 2010
Whenever something odd, new, magical, or troubling happens in the world, I like to see how artists have responded. With the recent events in the Gulf and the horrific images of seabirds covered in oil, I wanted to see images of birds and be reminded about their place in our lives, the visual arts, as well as the written word, poetry and prose. When I typed "birds" into American Art's search engine, I was able to view multiple artists' different takes on the natural world. I came across Seacoast and Flying Birds, a colorful woodblock print by Frances H. Gearhart (1869-1958), and decided to explore the work of an artist I knew nothing about.
Gearhart was born in Illinois but moved with her family to Pasadena, California, at the age of eighteen or nineteen. She attended the State Normal School (now UCLA) and was largely self-taught. Both of Gearhart's sisters were artists and studied with renowned printmaker Arthur Wesley Dow, though Frances apparently did not. In the 1870s and 1880s, Western audiences admired Japanese woodblock prints, which influenced California printmakers (Gearhart became a member of the Printmakers Society of California in 1919). These California artists created a uniquely West Coast style of color block print.
In Seacost and Flying Birds, Gearhart captures California's beautiful rocky coastline. And there are the birds, in the right-hand corner, completing the scene. As Emily Dickinson says, "Hope is the thing with feathers." The birds seem like messengers from another world. We should take better care of them.
Yes, I had this thought as well. It will be interesting to see what art is created in response to the ongoing oil spill.
Posted by: Author | Jun 14, 2010
I love the watercolor woodcut, thanks for this post, I will look for more of his work. Seacoast and Flying Birds is a wonderful example, I just love the composition, design and colors.
You might like a post I wrote about WJ Phillips, a Canadian artist who did many watercolor woodcuts.
Posted by: Terry Krysak | Jun 17, 2010
Thanks for the comments on the post. I'm sure artists are already responding. Meantime, my two parrots and I are rooting for the birds.
Posted by: Howard Kaplan | Jun 22, 2010
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