Looking out for that Starry Starry Night

I’m posting early, so you won’t miss something at the end. When you think if VanGogh, you might think of this one painting, Starry Night. It’s iconic. It’s the one that pops up first in Wikipedia. I is a masterpiece too. It’s also interesting to see how it can be used in other ways — to educate, for other artists, public art…

Starry-night_AIE_via Wikipedia

I know we’re still in summer and have a lot of enjoyment of it to do — before we get back to school and/ or work (although I haven’t stopped), but I though this was interesting. The Camp Ernst Middle School in Cincinnati  has painted a version of VanGogh’s Mural as a math project. Who says learning can’t be fun.

Camp Enst Middle School_ via Cincinnati.com on AIE

Like my previous post, Kristen Dillenbeck-Anderson has painted a subject inside a mural of VanGogh’s painting, creating a “living” piece of public art.

Living Mural_plymough Canton Patch on AIE


This painting’s subject is actually a Cafe Terrace at Night that VanGogh painted from a street scene in Arles, which I have also reproduced, many moons ago and have it on my website. I did this after I took a pastel painting course while traveling in France and I was taken with the town of St. Remy. Van Gogh’s painting, although of Arles, could have been exactly where we enjoyed a midday lunch.

VanGogh_Repro-painting by Ashley Spencer 0059_blog

Speaking of stars, this is the time to be looking for them. It’s around this time every year that the Perseid meteor shower happens — around my oldest son’s birthday. Piers turns 25 today, when this year’s meteor shower is at its peak. I can’t believe he’s this old!! What a milestone, especially considering his birth was surrounded by many health concerns and so much uncertainty. It’s amazing how he’s grown into a responsible, independent adult with his own career path, domicile and girlfriend. He seems happy and enjoying life. That’s the most a mom could wish for but I’m also very proud of him and couldn’t even imagine my life now without his existence. I’ll be thanking my lucky stars as I make note of all the many blessings with each falling star. I already have this wish granted.

Here’s a great explanation of what to expect and you can even get the free Meteor Counter app for counting all those meteors!


Traveling to the Unknown

This will be new for me. Rarely do I do decorative painting projects where I need to travel but this one is different. I’m traveling this week to paint two pieces of large furniture for an interior designer’s client at their vacation home. I’ll post an update, but for now, know I’ll be here this week….Can you guess where in the world this small town, USA might be?

travel spot for work, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

And I may be needing this…As it is always discomforting not sleeping in your own house and bed. This is an EnergyPod — not a Sleep-pod by MetroNaps.

sleep-pod-prototype_NYTimes_as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Google and other companies acknowledge the power of giving the brain a mental rest to recharge during the day. I might just need it for the night. Here are some good pull quotes to express the importance of sleep — but some of us, like me — just do not get enough ;):

Most people, Dr. Ellenbogen says, think of the sleeping brain as similar to a computer that has “gone to sleep” — it does nothing productive. Wrong. Sleep enhances performance, learning and memory. Most unappreciated of all, sleep improves creative ability to generate aha! moments and to uncover novel connections among seemingly unrelated ideas.

Steven P. Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, once defined creativity as “just connecting things.” Sleep assists the brain in flagging unrelated ideas and memories, forging connections among them that increase the odds that a creative idea or insight will surface.

What do Steve Jobs – Missoni – The Housing Market Have in Common?

When too many different things mention a topic within a coincidental time frame, then that is a sign to me write about it.

I attended a presentation recently by Walter Isaacson, the author of the Steve Jobs Biography. He relayed insightful stories about our late, modern day genius. The most telling to me was how Steve Jobs equated science and technology merging with design as art. Like any artist, he was concerned in getting his vision correct with all the minor details making a difference. He was constantly simplifying – distilling the purity of his design. He reorganized the motherboard that most people wouldn’t even see so it would be aesthetically beautiful. Once completed, he had all the original creators sign their names, just as artists would. This is on the inside of his computers where you will never see but they know it’s there. Like some artists, he was egocentric and difficult to work with – his vision or the highway. OK, I admit that I can relate — with my artwork and business — but I can certainly collaborate with clients on their vision or help them obtain one. In fact, that is my favorite part of the creative process. It was a very inspirational speech and particularly to learn that Steve Jobs said, there is a shift that occurs in business when you’re more concerned about profit and it can bring a business down. With all those folks working away in China to create his products, this seemed a little contradictory. Above it all however, he was a scientific artist who has great designs for Apple products that have completely changed today’s technological landscape with their everyday use. Therein, they happen to be making a big profit because the design of their product comes first and drives sales.

Steve jobs book by Walter Isaacson_as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Then, I got notice of a new book by Jonah Leher entitiled, Imagine How Creativity Works. He describes how great inspirations come from the friction that occurs with different types of people “mixing.” Here’s an excerpt:

He cites the example of Pixar Studios: Steve Jobs “wanted there to be mixing. He knew that the human friction makes the sparks, and that when you’re talking about a creative endeavor that requires people from different cultures to come together, you have to force them to mix; that our natural tendency is to stay isolated, to talk to people who are just like us, who speak our private languages, who understand our problems. But that’s a big mistake.”

I like this cover too — very creative and colorful and reminds me of quilling.

imagine_book by Jonah Lehrer, as seen on Art is Everywhere

Be on the lookout, btw for Steve Jobs, the movie, coming to theaters soon. It’s in the works now. In the meantime, Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview is out in select theaters now. It was originally part of the PBS documentary series, Triumph of the Nerds, in 1995 and presumed lost. How he describes his product as having “feeling” and “taste” are instrumental to his vision that Apple has become.

Earlier that same day that I attended the Isaacson presentation, I listened to Luca Missoni, artistic director for Missoni, the fashion family and now home accessory and hotel empire, give his insights on design at the DC Design Center. Luca is far left in this family photo.

Missoni-family as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Luca relayed stories about the start of Missoni and how the origin was from his father’s sportswear business, from which knits spun (no pun intended). They were comfortable, easy wearing on the body, flexible yet practical. He showed us a wonderful video, sublime in it’s approach, with no voice overs to show the production of the designs: inside the plant facility, the machines working, dyeing the yarn, assembly, cutting, shaping and sewing, and finally, to the models getting ready to wear for a fashion show and then back to the machines again. Beautifully done. They weren’t looking to start their Home Collection but it was a natural progression from his mother’s family textile business producing bed linens. The fashion of home furnishings just mixed with Missoni. He said that they didn’t realize what a big deal the Target launch was — when all of their products sold out in a single day. They are getting ready to launch a line of fabrics and textiles with Stark.

Stark-Missoni window display, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Hmmm, I wonder if they have wallpaper? He was so down to earth and approachable but I just did not get the chance to speak with him with other conversations taking place. His inspiration, as he explained, comes from the artistic way of looking at something. For instance instead of saying how would this design look, he asks If I was a textile, how would I feel? In fact, his exhibition, The Art of the Moving Textile that chronicles the 60 years of family fashion and design, will be touring Slovenia, from where his father hails. Like Steve Jobs, Luca cited always coming “back to the essence of design” to distill the essential quality of their work, preserve it and start again with a fresh take. I was also moved by the biggest lesson he has learned from his father is to have joyful passion for your work and the work will come to you. They never go seeking it – it finds them.

How fascinating. I was already bubbly from the artistic discussion and the to have the author of Steve Job’s Biography, who is also from New Orleans and his uncle was Walker Percy, speak later that evening was a bit mind-boggling.

Finally I got this study from Houzz on what homeowners want and was hopeful to learn that 86% are looking to improve their space rather than remodel for profit. They want to enjoy what they have and make it better for their own lives. This shift is economic but also goes back to the importance of what is quality? The answer returns to functional, beautifully pleasing design that we thoughtfully fill our lives with and notice around us daily as living art — and what all three of these have in common….Art is Everywhere.

A Master Mural Discovery

My last post was about discovery as much as it was about technical, artistic wizardry. This post is about both as well.

Leonardo da Vinci was a master painter and a technical genius with his talent. He is known the world over for his artistic masterpieces. Imagine the delight of the art world that recent evidence supports that one of his long lost murals, The Battle of Anghiari, has been discovered behind a false wall with Georgio Vasari’s painting, The Battle of Marciano, in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio.  Read further on psychorg.com on exactly how it was discovered. It was scientific technology that helped make the discovery possible, and of course funding and support led by the National Geographic, University of California, San Diego’s (UCSD) Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3), in partnership with the City of Florence.  UK’s Daily Mail Online shows very descriptive picture.

1_Leonardo mural via mail online, as seen on Art is Everywhere

Leonardo mural via mail online, as seen on Art is Everywhere

Leonardo mural via mail online, as seen on Art is Everywhere

Interestingly, this has been a long ongoing search. In 1970, a scientist discovered the words, “cerca trova” written on Vasari’s mural, which translates to “search and ye shall find” and could be a clue itself that a false wall was purposely built to protect Leonardo’s mural before painting Vasari’s visible one. This theory adds to the mystery that only science and technology may be able to prove with “exploratory surgery” of sorts, so the top mural won’t be damaged in the process.

You may have seen this in the news already from other papers:

• Discovery.com shows Peter Paul Ruben’s painting of Leonardo’s Mural, which serves as documentation for its existence.

Rubens painting via discovery.org, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Live Science discusses the science behind the discovery.

•  The National Geographic provides in depth analysis and their part in the effort.

•  ABC News breaks the story and references past Leonardo discoveries as background.

I’m just as amazed at how quickly the news traveled around and what’s new news today may be old news by the time you read this. Here’s The National Geographic’s trailer to their upcoming special with more details on the reality of the Lost da Vinci Mural Revealed.


A Musical Feat

You may have seen this Pipe Dream video before, but I keep coming back to it. At first I thought it was animated — and guess what, I was right. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic combination of animated engineering and artistic, nusical efforts.

This is the email that has been circulating for background reference and this is the snopes article that disproves it:

Who would even think up something like this???  Read this  first, then watch.

This incredible machine was built as a collaborative effort between the Robert M. Trammell Music Conservatory and the Sharon Wick School of  Engineering at the University of Iowa.  Amazingly, 97% of the machines components came from John Deere Industries and Irrigation Equipment of Bancroft, Iowa.  Yes, farm equipment.  It took the team a combined 13,029 hours of set-up, alignment, calibration, and tuning before filming this video but as you can see, it was well worth the effort.  It is now on display in the Matthew Gerhard Alumni Hall at the University and is already slated to be donated to the Smithsonian.

Just so you are a little  prepared, balls (hundreds if not thousands) during the performance come out of a tube, hit an object (remember – tractor parts) and sometimes multiple objects before going back into another tube. Of the all the balls you will see, NOT ONE hits the floor!!

It takes a minute for it to load — but well worth the wait + you’ll like the jazzy music too!

engineered musical instrument, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Here’s the “real” version and video comparison, Industrial Concert Control by Intel. The original design, however, can be credited to the animated video by Animusic, however. This conceptual video was the inspiration to build the actual robotic controlled machine. The real balls are projecting so fast that you cannot see them except for the light display where they hit:

A musical feat indeed, regardless of how the egg hatched and if it came before the chicken or not. I investigated Animusic a little further and they bring a whole new meaning to ELO (Electric Light Orchestra), with their Beyond the Walls video:

They have quite a lot of videos uploaded but I’ll include this one, Cathedral Music, for my father-in-law.

I  like the Acoustic Curve for it’s harpsichord-like sound.

Artful Eyes

There are a small number of trained ocularists — only a few hundered in the country, as it is a niche industry requiring a “trained eye” and skill to create realistic prosthetic eyes.

I found this CNN story thought-provoking on Christie Erickson’s talent for painting and making prosthetic eyes It takes a lot of work and it’s something that often gets overlooked. As the article states,” people who want to enter the profession must spend 10,000 hours, or five years, of apprenticeship to become certified.The career blends the fields of art and science — as only people with a creative side and anatomical knowledge can duplicate the organ that gives the gift of sight.Click here to read more….and a link to the American Society of Ocularists for more information.

Ms. Erickson has an interesting toolbox.

Prosthetic eye toolbox, as seen on Art is Everywhere

And this is the result of one of her creations.

Prosthetic eye by Christie Erikson, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

With the way I’ve been spending time on the computer, I feel my eyes are giving out on me and this is tough for an artist and I hope it is not the case. I’m now using glasses to compensate and hopefully stop further progression of blurred vision.

There is a lot of music I could post in relation to eyes to Kick Start the Weekend but I think it’s always intriguing to see the actual band performing, so I like to post this when I come across such footage; even though there may be higher quality videos. Here’s The Black Keys with Them Eyes.

Cellular Art

Microscopic art that we would never see if artist Jo Berry had not brought them to light.

Berry describes his collection, “The project is celebrating the human body, the use of new technology, the collaboration between science and art.”


Cellular art by Jo Berry as seen on Art is Everywhere

Cellular art by Jo Berry via MutualArt.com

Cellular art by Jo Berry as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Here’s a link to some cell-like looking paintings from a previous post.

Here’s a true classic, Thomas Dolby’s Blinded me with Science, to Kick-Start the Weekend.


Math, Art & Science Connection

I believe there is a direct connection between art, math and science. Why, not because my last post proves the point on another level, but because artists think analytically, from how to get to point A (blank canvas for instance) to point B (painted artwork) and construct this process and composition for getting there. This often requires subconscious, abstract mathematical and scientific thinking.

The following articles further explain this interesting concept. Jesse Rosten explains using his fascination (mine too) with butterflies as an example in his article, Art & Science, that art would not exist without science and conversely, new scientific discoveries happen through creativity. [Love these butterflies. They remind me of some that I’ve painted.]

Jesse Rosten, butterflies - Art & Science as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Jesse Rosten, butterflies - Art & Science

Interesting that I found this next post, Math and Art in Education,  from the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate, a “liberal perspective on world, national and local politics.” I normally pass on political blogging because I’m surrounded by it daily in DC. I’m progressive enough, however to reflect on what might be views contrary to my own. I agree with this perspective, however,  and there’s a lovely drawing of Waikiki Beach to view here, as well:

We tend to view students in two very broad categories: “artistic” kids and “intellectual” kids. This is a crass generalization, but it’s true. Society, by and large, expects people to be one or the other. Rarely both.

Which is to say that there is not an expectation that an artistic kid will be any good at math, science, or engineering. Nor is there any expectation that intellectual kids should have any interest in or aptitude for art.

Frankly, I think that’s crap. I think that every kid has a creative side regardless of their skills in the sciences. And I think that every kid has an analytic side, regardless of their skills in the arts.

And I know, because I’ve lived it myself, that math and art can reinforce one another. Math can be used to teach art and strengthen one’s creative side. The desire to make art can be used as a springboard from which to teach math.

The Secret Art of Math is discussed in The Irish Times. I’ll have to check out the book The Secret Mathemaeticians as well, which describes how artists have used math in their creative process. You can watch the webcast of the presentation here.

The Chicago Art Magazine also explores the relationship between scientist and artist. Daniel Nolan was a nuclear engineer before he decided to become a resin painter, for example. He describes the original idea can be obtained by both artists and scientists but the difference is how it is applied in their work. Why, even the Lego exhibit is discussed in this article, which brings me full circle back to my belief that Legos have built the foundation for my son’s engineering career path.

adam-reed-tucker11 lego exhibit via Art Chicago Magazine, seen on Art is Everywhere

Lego exhibit via Art Chicago Magazine

Finally, I found my Kick Start your Weekend music, coincidentally, from a YouTube video of Marc Spijkerboch’s painting, who I posted on previously, and who must also happen to like Radiohead. Here’s his work filmed to Radiohead’s “All I Need.”

Hyperbolic Hyperbole not to be Gridironed

This is the second part of a previous post from when I went exhibit hopping while my son was in town over Winter Break. Since spring is officially here (thank goodness), it’s nearly overdue for posting.

Piers and I went to see the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Exhibit at The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, on view until April 24th. I was surprised how much Piers enjoyed it. It must have been the mathematical nature of it that struck his interest. It was pretty fascinating that all of the forms had been crocheted to represent a pretty accurate coral reef. The reason it is called hyperbolic is because it represents a  geometric form that cannot be replicated by a formula. Since many sea life forms, such as coral, represent this geometry, which maximizes surface area in a limited volume, it was technological feat to combine this math with art to represent what occurs in Nature. The entire coral reef was composed of individual crocheted elements by individual crocheters worldwide and assembled for the first time in this exhibit. I last wrote about wanting to see this last fall, so I was glad we had an opportunity to do so. Here are some of the pictures that we took.

A1_hyperbolic-coral_Art is Everywhere

Hypberbolic Coral Reef Exhibit. Photo by Piers Spencer

It was pretty amazing that the coral looked so real made out of yarn and in some cases was made with unusual materials, such as wire, confetti, bottle caps, metallic ribbon and plastic bags, etc.

2_hyperbolic-coral_Art Is Everywhere

Hyperbolic Crotcheted Coral. Photo by Piers Spencer

3A-3_hyperbolic-coral_Art Is Everywhere

Hyperbolic-coral. Photo by Piers Spencer

Other fun family activities. Piers was in town recently with his girlfriend and we all went to dinner at PS7 in DC. We almost didn’t make it because of the major hullabaloo caused by President Obama attending his first Gridiron dinner, which made almost impossible to get a parking spot because many of the streets were closed off, including the one where our restaurant was located. We finally made it and it was well worth the effort, even with a $25 parking ticket waiting for us when we returned to our car. The combinations of foods were so unusual and I’ve never had venison that tasted so divine. The deserts were also exceptional and the unexpected finish with little squares of strawberry and peanut butter flavored turkish delight made for a surprising P&B twist when eaten together. Piers thought it was one of the better meals he’s had. Just download these menus to see for yourself how artistically creative food can be. Modern, Eclectic, Innovative are all words I relate to and would use to describe this dining experience perfectly.

PS7 as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Since my husband and I went spontaneously dancing this past weekend at the Black Cat’s 80’s Flashback Night to blow off steam from a hefty few weeks of work that never stopped on the weekend, I thought playing a quintessential 80’s songs would be appropriate for Kick Starting the Weekend. This is  just one of the many that these youngster DJ’s didn’t deem significant enough to play — probably because they didn’t know what was really popular in the 80’s; although, they did have the hairdo, which was so ridiculous — even for back then. Only Boy George could have pulled it off.

Right Round by Dead or Alive:

Here’s a newer cover by FLO Rida and it’s not bad, but you have to give the credit to the original source.

Fall 2010 Art & Exhibit Roundup

It will be hard to remember amidst all the upcoming holiday activities but here is the latest roundup of exhibitions to keep your eye on and hopefully attend this fall. These are just three that I’ve parceled out from an ongoing list previously mentioned (still time to catch a couple through Jan 2).

1) Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey — National Building Museum until January 9

  • Featuring many of Palladio’s drawings and pairing them with American examples that used the style of his architecture, like The White House, for instance. In fact there so much of his Classical ideas pervade the great buildings of American Architecture that it’s easy to forget the origin. Thomas Jefferson, among many forward thinkers and builders during his time, brought Palladio’s influence to University of Virginia and Monticello
  • Andrea Palladio’s Influential Architecture, Washington Post article for further explanation
  • I’ve been stuck on Palladio ever since I learned about his work in Art History classes and then was able to tour the actual Italian Villas in the Veneto with my husband during our honeymoon. This exhibit will have special significance to me.

Palladio-Drawings_AIE, via Washington Post, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

2) Artisphere on Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn, VA — new arts venue with ongoing events. artisphere.com

  • One stop shop for theater, visual arts media, cultural center, and music

AIE_Artisphere on Art Is Everywhere

3) Oklahoma at the newly restructured Arena Stage — Ist play since the new construction playing through December 26.

  • I’m not a big musical fan but this play is one of my favorites. I learned all the songs when I first saw it as a young girl and it still makes me happy. The production is not your usual take on Oklahoma, however, since there is a mixed cultural cast, which might surprise your expectations if you didn’t know in advance. Nothing wrong with mixing it up a bit but this is a classic musical. Some things, like the Wizard of Oz for instance do not well when they are not changed. I’m sure the actors’ talent will make it interesting to see as will the Frichlander Theater in the round.
  • I cannot wait to see this newly constructed venue. I received some of my first experience in decorative painting when I worked as an intern on the set design at the Arena Stage’s Main Avenue location. This is bigger and better and there are three stages included in the Meade Center for American Theater. It’s the largest performance venue in DC since The Kennedy Center. It officially opens to the public on October 23…mark your calendars and click here to plan your visit.
  • Finally, my son Piers’ employer this summer, Clark Construction, built this theater and he’s already been inside. Lucky duck. He said it was pretty breathtaking.
  • The Post did a really great interactive and comprehensive online article on the Arena here.
Arena-Stage_WP, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Arena Stage Overview. Credit Wilson Andrews and Alberto Cuadra / The Washington Post

Here are some pictures for your visual interest but be sure to go to their website and photo tour to view more.

Arena-Stage as seen on Art is Everywhere

Arena-stage-inside, as seen on Art is Everywhere

Arena-snowmaggeddon2010_AIE, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

4) Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef at the National Museum of Natural History, through April 24, 2011

  • It’s hard to believe that his coral reef is crocheted out of yarn. I’ll have to go see it myself. What an unusual thing, combining soft sculpture, marine biology and mathematical science.
  • Be sure to view the TED lecture by Margaret Wertheim at this link and learn about how she and her sister Christine, with many help of others filled a 3,000 space with crocheted reef creations as tall as five feet. Interestingly enough, the only way to model such real sea creatures and their hyperbolic geometry and amorphous is with crochet, surprisingly. She describes the math correlation very well and I found it pretty fascinating. See for yourself.

Crochet Coral Reef via National Museum of Natural History, seen on Art Is Everywhere

If you’re into Techno and I’m usually not, then you’ll like this choice. I can actually deal with this mix, Hold On with Amber Coffman, but I chose it for the performance. It’s pretty amazing what a following this DJ, Rusko has, coming to America out of UK to a music hall near you. He’ll be in DC on Oct. 24th. It’s a good song to Kick-Start the Weekend, starting early this week. This regular post is moving to Thursdays.

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