Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tutankhamun's Funeral at the Metropolitan Museum

Years and years ago, before the idea of becoming an artist was even a tiny kernel in my heart of hearts, I read all I could find about Egyptian burial practices. Perhaps it was the wonderful collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that inspired my interest or just the mystique surrounding that ancient civilization, but whatever it was, I was hooked. (This was also the period when I studied astrology, wore lots of earrings and necklaces and had purple and pink hair.)

Photo of Tut's sarcophagus showing large floral collar (as found)

I bought some of the reproduction jewelry when "The Treasures of Tutankhamun" toured the U.S. in the late 1970s, and several years after that when I had arrived at art school, I even painted a self portrait in the guise of Tut's gold and lapis mask. Of course I'm kind of cynical about it all after all these years, but I did get a rush when I entered the smallish room at the Met that contained these normally unseen relics from Tutankhamun's funeral and nearby tombs.

Papyrus fiber lids used to cover tops of jars, ca.1336-1327 B.C.

The first thing that struck me as being out of the norm were these fiber lids which looked barely worn after more than 3000 years. The broken pieces of pottery behind them were part of a ritual smashing that served some symbolic meaning in the funeral ritual. Many of the jars in this photo had been pieced together from fragments found in the tomb.

This reproduction tomb drawing shows the mummification process where the corpse is prepared by removing the organs and then immersed in a form of salt for 70 days to dry out the flesh. The desiccated body is then anointed with oils and perfumes, stuffed with sawdust or other materials to fill it out (see later in this post), ritually wrapped with linen and talismanic objects and adorned with a collar and mask if of high enough stature and wealth.

These large jars are from the dozen found in the tomb that held "leftovers" from Tutankhamun's mummification. Some held beer or wine and two contained "leftovers" from the embalming of Yuya and Tuya, thought to be Tut's great grandparents.

Linen kerchiefs or head coverings found in the tomb.

A special indigo-dyed kerchief that had been repaired at the top edge.

I didn't photo the label on this, but I think it's Tutankhamun's mummy/spirit on the left with a priest on the right. The tool in his hand serves a symbolic purpose for entering the afterlife.

These beads were part of a large collar found in a tomb that dated to the reign of Tutankhamun. They represent various flowers and fruits such as lotus petals, cornflowers and palm fronds.

This collar contains rows of berries that were originally bright red, interspersed with tiny blue faience beads. The more dimensional areas are composed of rows of lotus petals enfolded in olive tree leaves and other flowers. The blossoms at the edge were originally blue and bright yellow.

With these fantastic collars was an illustrated chart showing botanical drawings and information about the plants used in creating the collars. From study of bloom times of various plants, scholars have been able to determine that Tutankhamun died in December or January of the year although the cause of his death has long been debated and disputed. Apparently the consensus is that he broke his leg and died of the resulting infection due to his weakened state from malaria.

These three collars are all backed by papyrus sheets onto which plants and flowers are stitched.

The collars were probably the most amazing part of the exhibition for me. I just couldn't believe that they could have survived so well after thousands of years. Their survival is due to the extremely dry climate and careful handling by archeologists and scholars.

In case you wanted to see what a fresh collar would look like, here is a recreation of part of a collar that uses leaves still found today.

From a wall plaque in the installation: Collars of beads had been in style throughout Egyptian history, but during the New Kingdom 1550-1070 B.C., collars either solely of flowers and leaves or combinations of beads with real material became popular. These collars signified semi-divine or divine status of pharaohs, deities and the deceased. During the Armarna period (1353-1366 B.C) of King Akhenaten (thought to be Tutankhamun's father), floral collars were in vogue for personal decoration and as love tokens between the king and queen.

 A beautiful little perfume vase about 6" tall, 1350-1309 B.C., from Lord Carnarvon's collection.
( Lord C. financed Howard Carter's expedition and wound up with quite a few artifacts.)

Another view of the faience vase.

An incredibly detailed small carving showing mourners or worshippers. Note the perfume cone on the woman's head on top of her ornate wig. Underneath it all, her head was probably shaved as bald as that of the man beside her (really).

Pulling the coffin toward the tomb.

Linen wrapping tape left and linen rolls stuffed with sawdust that were found inside the mummy. After the organs were removed and placed in canopic jars, the body became flat and needed to be stuffed to retain its form.

Mourners at the funeral ceremony dressed in wigs and sheer linen.

You know it's all over when you hang up your sandals.

These details are from a painting of the funeral procession from the tomb of the Vizier Ramose who lived and died around the time of Tutankhamun. The tempera painting was made about 1930 by Nina de Garis Davies, one of the unsung artists of history.

The journal of Howard Carter, who found Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. It was written in such light pencil that it was very hard to decipher anything, but I found it thrilling to see the real thing after reading so much about his work.

Finally, papyrus growing in the reflecting pool at the Metropolitan Museum.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Questionnaire: Debra Claffey

The Questionnaire is meant to be a lighter version of a bio, a little more revealing in some respects and personal without all the facts bogging it down. I supply the questions and the respondents supply the answers. Either one or both of us supply the images.

             D e b r a  C l a f f e y            

What is your favorite color?  
Sap green or lapis blue

Debra Claffey, "Behind and Through", 2010,
Encaustic on panel, 24"x24"

What is your favorite word? 
Yes or imagine

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 
Nature and pattern

Debra Claffey
What turns you off? 
Selfishness and greed

What profession other than artist would you most like to be?
Musician - pianist or singer

What is your favorite book or movie? 
The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers or the Raj Quartet, miniseries and book

Who is your favorite musician, musical group or style of music? 
Jazz - Thelonious Monk or Keith Jarrett

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Sphere Monk (October 10, 1917 – February 17, 1982) was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser" and "Well, You Needn't". Monk is the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, which is particularly remarkable as Ellington composed over 1,000 songs while Monk wrote about 70.

What do you most value in your friends? 
Honesty and empathy

Name three (or more) artists whose work has influenced your own or whose work you most relate to. 
Degas, Picasso, Jim Dine, Matisse

Edgar Degas, After the Bath

Pablo Picasso, "Portrait de l'homme a l'epee et a la fleur

Jim Dine, "Jessie With Skull"

Henri Matisse, "Odalisque au tamarin"

Name an artist (or more than one) whose work you admire but which may be unlike yours. 
Michael Mazur, Frank Auerbach, Louise Bourgeois

Michael Mazur, "Branching"

Frank Auerbach, "Tower Blocks, Hampstead Road"

Louise Bourgeois

What is your idea of earthly happiness? 
Free time to explore from a safe home with good food and great love.

Realized I can't give single answers to anything!


"Pipe Dreams, Revision 2," Encaustic on Panel, 24" x 24", 2010

"Mandolin Airs," Encaustic on Panel, 24" x 24", 2010

"In Reverence," Oil, acrylic, encaustic collage, 6"x6", 2009

Repercussions, Encaustic, oil, paper on panel, 20" x 20", 2008

Check out Debra's websites:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Arting in New York

Both times this year that I've been to New York there have been weather extremes. Last February Binnie and I trudged through 17 inches of snow to see El Anatsui and Leonardo Drew in Chelsea. This past weekend, we drove in through torrential rainstorms on Friday and trained in on Saturday in temps that were 90-plus degrees by nine in the morning in the Connecticut exurbs. But what's a little weather when there's so much to see!

So I went a little crazy with the photographs of course and now the thought of resizing and adjusting them is making me feel tired already. But I never expected to use them all.

Conveying the vast richness of what we saw seems daunting and better approached by dividing to conquer it all. I propose doing a series of posts with images and details of those I thought were outstanding. Some of them have already been covered extensively and unbeatably by Joanne Mattera, so I'm going to skip those but maybe mention some of my personal favorites in those shows.

An assemblage of NY memorabilia including a photo of Binnie and me waiting in line outside the Whitney on Friday evening, snapped by a Keds' promotion staffer.

So here is a list of prospective posts with an image from each of them to pique your interest. I'm not sure about the order in which they'll actually appear, but these are things I would like to cover.

Tutankhamun's Funeral at the Metropolitan Museum 

One of the necklaces/collars of beads and leaves found in Tutankhamun's funeral cache, ca. 1336-1327 BC

This was a fabulous show of objects that I have never seen the like of. I was especially bowled over by these collars and other fiber items that have survived more than 3,000 years.

Famous Paintings/Sculptures that are mind boggling in person (mostly at MoMA)

Detail from "Rebus" of 1955 by Robert Rauschenberg, 8'H x 10'11" W

Henri Matisse - we saw the 'Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917" show at MoMA but no photography was allowed. I'm going to use some images from the website (I hope) to discuss it. Meanwhile, here is one of my favorite Matisse paintings that was not in the exhibition because it is was painted earlier.

"The Red Studio," 1911, about 6' H x 7' W

Charles Burchfield, Heat Waves in a Swamp, at the Whitney Museum

"An April Mood," 1948-1955, 40"x54", watercolor and charcoal on joined paper.

This is a fabulous show of huge, extremely dynamic watercolor paintings. The Whitney did an excellent job with this show and have it installed on the whole 3rd floor. Since they have an asinine policy of no photography anywhere in the museum, I couldn't photo it myself, but I bought the wonderful book and will take some pix from there to show you. 

Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography

Annette Messager, "My Vows," 1988-1991. (Framed photos and hand-written vows hanging from strings push-pinned to the wall.)

I'm not a photography buff, but I was really impressed with this extensive, inclusive and very well organized show of photographs spanning the entire history of photography. Pretty stunning!

Big Bambu, Mike and Doug Starn, an installation on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum

The enormous and intricate bamboo structure alone is worth the trip, but when you view the New York skyline through it (and the back of Binnie's head), it is a totally unique experience.

Other Faves - mostly sculpture - from all the museums

Yayoi Kusama, Violet Obsession, 1994, rowbow and oars covered with "phallic forms" made of stuffed fabric.

My New York posts will begin later this week after the next installation of The Questionnaire - this week featuring Debra Claffey.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Questionnaire: Milisa Galazzi

Misa, as she is called, leads off in the first post of a recurring feature of Art in the Studio. The Questionnaire is meant to be a lighter version of a bio, a little more revealing in some respects and personal without all the facts bogging it down. I supply the questions and the respondents supply the answers. Either one or both of us supply the images.

TheQuestionnaire: Milisa Galazzi

Misa in her favorite color in her alternative occupation
of Camp Director at Brewster Day Camp

What is your favorite color? 
PMS 266C

What is your favorite word? 

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 

What turns you off? 
Rude behavior

What profession other than artist would you most like to be? 
A Camp Director (and I am!) 

What is your favorite book or movie? 
Broadcast News – I guess that dates me…

Who is your favorite musician, musical group or style of music? 
Patsy Cline or anything classical.

What do you most value in your friends? 
Their love, support, and honest feedback.

Name three artists whose work has influenced your own or whose work you most relate to. 
Mary Cassatt, Kiki Smith, Antonia Contro

Mary Cassatt, "The Boating Party," 1893-94.

Kiki Smith, "Sojourn" at The Brooklyn Museum.
February 12 - September 12, 2010
Brooklyn Museum

Antonia Contro, Installation at Newberry Library, 2008.
Image courtesy of Carrie Secrist Gallery (see more of Antonia Contro's work here)

Name an artist whose work you admire but which may be unlike yours. 
Jim Dine or Chuck Close

Jim Dine: "Two Big Black Hearts", bronze, 1985, 12'x12'x33", installed in the sculpture park at the DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Mass. 

Self portrait by Chuck Close

What is your idea of earthly happiness? 
Swimming in Pleasant Bay on a hot Sunday afternoon on Cape Cod in mid July! 

Work by Misa Galazzi 
(from my post about her show at Springfield College)

Misa giving a gallery talk at Springfield College, work in foreground is "The Bitter End"

"Layers of Time", encaustic and dress patterns

"Hatching", encaustic and oilstick on panel

Check out Misa's website: