Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S9 E23 | FULL EPISODE

"Monet and Boston," Artist Dave Cole, and more

The Museum of Fine Arts has put all 35 of its Monet works on view for the first time in 25 years. Artist Dave Cole’s installation, “New Landscapes” at UMass Dartmouth’s University art gallery in New Bedford. Visual artist and sculpture Teresita Fernandez’s recent retrospective, “Elemental” at The Perez Art Museum in Miami and Nevada plein air artist Monika Piper Johnson.

AIRED: January 08, 2021 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen.

Coming up onOpen Studio,

a rare chance to see all manner of Monet.

>> There's something that can be so transportative

about Monet's beautiful vision of nature

and about Monet's willingness to see

variety and splendor in the mundane.

>> BOWEN: Then artist Dave Cole creates a fiery landscape.

>> The longer I do this,

the more I become convinced that my job description really is,

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," you know?

It's up to guys like you to figure out

whether it belongs in a museum or a yard sale.

>> BOWEN: Plus, artist Teresita Fernández

considers the state of the world before us.

>> I've been spending a lot of time thinking about

what the landscape actually looked like

before colonization.

>> BOWEN: And an artist finding nourishment

in nature.

>> I've lived in Tahoe 23 years, and I, I still

get blown away with the colors

and the beauty of the lake-- it never gets old.

>> BOWEN: It's all now on Open Studio.

First up, we can thank Bostonians of the 1800s.

They had the presence of mind

to collect Monet when he was a daring contemporary artist.

Now, in a once-in-a-generation show,

the Museum of Fine Arts

has put all 35 of its Monet works on view.

The museum is currently closed because of the pandemic,

but we have this tour with curator Katie Hanson.

There he is on film.

It's 1915 and Claude Monet is talking,

smoking, and painting at home in France.

He's real and regular-- Monet as man, not monument.

But as he fades from view, the legend takes hold.

>> There's something that can be so transportative

about Monet's beautiful vision of nature

and about Monet's willingness

to see variety and splendor in the mundane.

>> BOWEN: Katie Hanson is the curator of

Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression,

a hallmark event of the Museum of Fine Arts'

150th anniversary celebrations.

It puts all of the museum's vast Monet holdings on view.

>> Boston was a great champion for Monet

during the artist's own lifetime.

He knew his works were here.

>> BOWEN: The show moves chronologically,

with the first work coming from a teenaged Monet.

Who is Oscar Monet?

>> (laughing): Oscar Monet is someone who was teased

about his name during his military service.

And so he switched to his second name, Claude,

but we do have one caricature that he drew as a teenager,

and it's signed O. Monet, for Oscar,

because that is how he began his career

both as Oscar and also as a caricaturist.

>> BOWEN: The caricaturist would turn Impressionist

in short order,

after an artist in his hometown

recognized Monet's early talents

and pushed him outdoors to experiment.

>> Try the landscape, try color and the vibrant air.

And Monet was, was open to that kind of exploration.

>> BOWEN: Monet explored his native Normandy,

from villages to harbors.

>> He touches the canvas with the brush

and squiggles it in one gesture

to confidently create the reflection

of the mast of a ship

on the rippling surface of the harbor water.

>> BOWEN: Katie, I love this painting, because you feel like

you can feel that little bit of heat

that might be coming through with the sun.

>> I love about this particular painting

that it's really about Monet and where he lives.

I mean, he's living in this house.

He's renting this house with the green shutters.

And so, you know that he saw

this kind of commuting happen daily,

and that he saw art in it.

He saw beauty.

>> BOWEN: As he did wherever he went,

especially along the coast, where he filled his palette

to meet the explosions of color in nature.

Eventually, Monet settled in Giverny,

where he could make hay, or haystacks,

of his lush environment.

And where he'd be the stalwart of Impressionism.

>> You more and more see artists

creating their own sensibility, their own touch.

>> BOWEN: All the while, Boston collectors wrote him,

visited him, and purchased works,

for which Monet signed his own receipts.

The painter John Singer Sargent

was both an admirer and a conduit to Boston patrons.

>> Sargent painted Monet painting one of the pictures

that's in the MFA's collection,

The Meadow at Giverny.

And there is a letter in the exhibition

that Sargent wrote to Monet, and he's saying it was,

it was a pleasant afternoon,

despite the Bostonian air of the ladies who came.

>> BOWEN: This dramatically lit gallery is lined with

later-in-life works in which

Monet vigorously tackled the same subjects

or views with multiple impressions:

cathedrals, coastlines, and yes, water lilies.

Katie Hanson has titled this space "Monet's Magic."

>> In 1911, the MFA hosted

its first solo show for Monet,

here at this location.

And one of the critics writing for a Boston newspaper

was completely awestruck

and talked about the magic moment,

being surrounded by all the colors in a rainbow of dreams.

>> BOWEN: His process wasn't always dreamlike.

Here on the French Riviera,

where Monet had vacationed with his friend Renoir,

he met his match in the blazing light.

>> One of the things that he says when he's on the Riviera

is that he had to joust and fight with the sun.

>> BOWEN: Monet relished challenges,

and for it, his paintings evolved.

Ultimately, he would make a splash

with his water lilies, depictions of the gardens

on his own property-- places he saw every day,

but to Monet, never stayed the same.

>> A critic for theGazette des Beaux-Arts, Roger Marx,

in 1909, when those paintings were first shown,

he says, "No more earth, no more sky, no limits now."

For Monet, there were no limits to the canvas.

He continued to be curious.

He continued to look at the world around him

in new and invigorating ways.

>> BOWEN: Next, California wildfires

and World War II prison camps served as inspiration

for artist Dave Cole's latest installation.

It's calledNew Landscapes,

and transforms UMass Dartmouth's University Art Gallery

in New Bedford.

Dave Cole, thank you so much for joining us.

Great to see you again.

>> Good to see you again.

>> BOWEN: You're coming-- we see, it's very evident,

you're coming to us from your studio.

>> I am.

>> BOWEN: Well, take us outside your studio

into the landscape you've created in New Bedford,

this perspective.

What's your intention here?

>> I was able to combine this body of work,

these landscapes that I've been working on,

these giant encaustics,

with an installation of broken windows

that put the viewer in a position

where they have to look through ruins

to see paintings of ruination.

It sort of removes that, that safe space from the viewer.

>> BOWEN: Well, I do remember from the last time we spoke,

you don't necessarily want to tell people what to think.

But, I mean, that's kind of a dark sensibility.

We're in dark times.

Is this a product of where we

and who we are right now?

>> Yeah, I think it is.

My process is very-- like, my generative process

is very spontaneous, that, you know, I, I read intensively,

I have wonderful conversations with people, like this one,

and then the, the idea tends to come fully formed.

And this-- this idea has been percolating

for a really long time.

It was a, sort of a corner-of- the-sketchbook sketch

maybe ten years ago that's been following me around,

and for whatever reason,

right now felt like the right time.

>> BOWEN: Well, what do you-- I'm always, of course,

curious about process.

What's the scope

of what you read that lead to your ideas?

>> I...

Well, I-- first of all, I listen to audiobooks

pretty much continuously in the studio,

so I listen to a lot of popular science and history,

listen to a fair amount of science fiction.

I've been reading a bit,

listening a bit of World War I history,

sort of rise of modernism history,

and that sort of,

the sweep of the 20th century and...

You know...

Coming to terms with technology and things like that,

and this vast landscape

that is sort of ominous and foreboding

just felt right right now.

>> BOWEN: And when you say the ideas emerge fully formed...

I interview lots of artists,

I see lots of artists' notebooks.

You see those fragments come together.

But that's not the way it happens with you?

>> The pieces that, of mine that I've made

that I, that I feel most proud of,

that have, have resonated with me the most,

are the pieces where...

I, I get out of the shower

and I say, "Hey, I wonder if I could make a music box,

like, out of a steamroller."

Just boom, there it is.

>> BOWEN: Well, you just used example of the steamroller,

which is where I last saw you,

at the Fitchburg Art Museum, for the music box.

I know that you're fascinated by materials.

How much does that drive where you end up?

>> Immensely.

I had this, this sort of fragment of an image in my mind

of this ruined tower and a vast, empty landscape,

and I tried paper and charcoal and,

and then hit upon this cement board

that's used to hang tiles on, and,

and shoe polish and beeswax,

and this very kind of basic, visceral materials list

and these very basic, kind of brutal techniques.

I'm using a hot iron and a giant blowtorch

and moving them around.

And, you know, it's sort of one part cave painting,

one part stone tablet, one part prison camp, you know?

What's, what's the circumstances

where a person would want to document this empty landscape,

and all they would have to hand is concrete and shoe polish?

>> BOWEN: Is this new material for you?

Are you always pushing forward?

I mean, I can't imagine that

you had worked with steamrollers

to make a music box in the past,

or you had much experience with giant knitting machines,

as we saw at Mass MoCA.

So it's always got to be something new?

>> It's always got to be something new.

And it's, you know, it's just...

It's what keeps me interested, you know?

And right now, this is, this is a lot of fun.

It's a big challenge.

I haven't done, really, anything in the past that,

that would be considered...

Like, what I would consider true painting.

It's a fun challenge,

you know? And...

And to a certain extent, that's how I can tell

that I'm on the right track,

is that I find it satisfying.

And then, when I get done with the final piece,

I step back and I'm, like, "Yeah, that feels...

That feels right."

And I'm, I'm immensely proud of

the way that the show in New Bedford came out.

It, it was a stretch for me

and it was a challenge for me.

But I really, I'm very pleased with the way

that it plays with the viewer

and the location of the viewer and the specific space.

And it all kind of comes together

as a piece, which I like.

>> BOWEN: Well, how much of that is important to you,

the experiential nature of your work?

I mentioned the others, the knitting machine,

the music box, everything is big.

There's an encounter that people have with your work.

>> I kind of wanted to use the opportunity

to activate the space in

a way that kind of forced the viewer

into the painting a little bit.

And I honestly don't know where the paintings end

and the installation begins.

>> BOWEN: I'm very intrigued, too,

by the fiery nature of the paintings.

And you work with the fire department

where you live.

>> Yeah, I...

I don't know.

About six years ago, I decided

I wanted to be a fireman when I grow up,

and got it half-done so far.

(both chuckle)

So I, I...

Yeah, I serve with the

Churchtown Volunteer Fire Company Number One,

up here in upstate New York.

And, and my friend and, and fellow firefighter

was, was helping me get ready for this show.

And the whole time that we were,

you know, working on constructing these giant panels

and these structures that were going to go in the gallery,

you know, the fires were ravaging California.

And, you know, we were, you know,

listening to fellow firefighters,

you know, reporting from, from the fire line.

And it was very present in my mind and...

And so that, that sense of fire, I think, crept in.

>> BOWEN: Well, Dave Cole, congratulations

on the exhibition.

And thanks again so much for being with us today.

>> Thank you, Jared. Great to talk to you.

>> BOWEN: Joan Baez has a big birthday,

and we're celebrating in Arts This Week.

>> ♪ The night they drove Old Dixie down ♪

>> BOWEN: Saturday,

singer and songwriter Joan Baez turns 80.

The Boch Center streams her concertMischief Makers 2.

Then stay for a birthday reception and interview.

Sunday, visit the Addison Gallery of American Art

forCurrents/Crosscurrents: American Art 1850-1950.

It shines with art all-stars including Edward Hopper,

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock,

and many others.

Club Passim hosts

the 18th annual Boston Celtic Music Festival

with a virtual kick-off Thursday.

Events are free with a suggested donation

and they stream until the 18th.

Thursday also features the virtual premiere

ofSonia Se Fue, a Spanish-language translation

ofSonia Flew by Boston playwright Melinda Lopez.

>> (playing piano piece)

>> BOWEN: Friday, Rockport Music presents a virtual performance

from Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Kenny Barron.

The pre-recorded concert takes place

at the Shalin Liu Performance Center.

Next, Teresita Fernández has also dotted

the contemporary art landscape with her take on the subject.

The Pérez Art Museum in Miami recently featured

a retrospective where we found her examinations

of the natural world then and now.

>> A landscape that might have one meaning for me

and another meaning for you.

It opens up possibilities

for interpretation

that take us to other places

based upon personal experience.

My name is Franklin Sirmans.

I'm the director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami

and I'm also a co-curator

ofTeresita Fernández: Elemental.

Think about landscape, for instance, as,

in terms of being a genre, specifically

of sort of traditional art-making experiences.

She explodes that traditional idea completely on its head.

One way that she describes her relationship

to creating landscapes is, she calls them

stacked landscapes, to suggest

this idea that there is almost, like, sedimentary layers,

which relates to geology in the same way,

but more metaphorically,

in that we are looking at layers of time

that are part of the experience

of any landscape, so there is a...

There is a direct reference to a colonial landscape.

>> I've been spending a lot of time thinking about

what the landscape actually looked like before colonization.

The landscape and the land in the Americas

was manipulated in very sophisticated ways

for thousands of years before Europeans ever arrived.

>> I like to think of, like, Italo Calvino,

this idea of invisible cities, in a way, right?

They're, they may have a reference point in the mind

of the artist, or when she's creating them,

but they allow for us to see things

in a way that is much broader.

This isNocturnal Horizon Line,

work that's been created by graphite,

all of it.

Painting or, shall you say, sculpture.

It has elements of both.

When you look at the top of that surface,

you see this kind of...

This sheen, this kind of

glare that almost makes it have qualities of reciprocity,

of being almost like a mirror.

And then you go down a little bit,

and the graphite is kind of a little bit thicker,

creating this horizon line

and creating this kind of texture that almost looks like

it could be waters, perhaps, it could be a seascape.

And then you go a little bit further

and it gets thicker, and it feels like the earth.

So maybe we've gone from

the sky down below to, through the ocean,

and into the ground below.

Maybe.

At the end of the day,

this is a really beautiful painting.

It's one of my favorites in the exhibition,

and I'm glad we got to talk about it a little bit.

Our exhibition ends

with a series of works that are around the,

the thematic of landscape and fire, right?

The entire exhibition being calledElemental.

And you can see the hand in that, and you can see, like,

there are little tiny pieces of mosaic

that make up this whole, and so much of her work is about

looking at the things that make up a whole.

In the case of going directly on the wall,

I think there's clearly

an immediacy to that gesture

that is part of the moment,

and it cannot be divorced from the moment.

>> You know, they, they came at a moment where

it just seemed completely inappropriate to be subtle.

You know? Those pieces were about American violence,

and they were about

the land and, like, the destruction of the land

in many ways, right?

And so just the climate, just seemed like

it wasn't appropriate to just

make it about something abstract, you know?

>> And a part, a big part of who she is, is an activist,

in addition to being an artist.

And I think those things can be one and the same,

and in her body and practice, it really is.

So they're coming to the fore

in a much bigger way,

I would say right now, but they've always been there.

>> BOWEN: The wide expanses of the Lake Tahoe region in Nevada

are virtually all artist Monika Piper Johnson

needs for her landscapes.

Well, that and a palette knife.

>> I live in Incline Village, Nevada,

and I'm a plein air oil painter.

I love painting aspen trees,

and I love mountains, I love big,

wide-open meadow scenes that have

mountains in the distance.

Most of my plein air painting is around the Lake Tahoe area.

Some of my favorite places are up at the Mount Rose Meadow.

Any of the east shore beaches that you can hike down to.

I also love the Mount Rose Lookout, because it's just easy.

You can pull right up, it's right there

on the side of the road.

It's just a great vantage point in all different directions,

and it's never the same.

Some days, the wind's up,

and the lake's really blue, deep blue, and then sometimes,

it's calm, and it's like a total glass reflection.

When I paint the lake, I wear polarized glasses.

(chuckles): So that I see the color more intense,

'cause I can see through the glare.

When you're painting outside on location,

you know, obviously you're dealing with, you know,

the weather is doing its dance, and the light's changing,

and the shadows are moving, so you really have to work quickly.

So you gotta seize the moment, carpe diem.

Just, you know, you can't mess around,

and that lends itself to having kind of a looser painting,

because you're working under just a quick impression of it.

The progression of my paintings normally is,

I start from the back or, either

work top to bottom or back to front.

I start with the thing that's the furthest away

and then gradually get closer and closer.

And I like a spot where

I can have something that's in the foreground

and the middle ground,

and the distance,

'cause one of the challenges of painting

is getting that right relationship between

the sky and those first couple of layers of mountains.

And then once I have that,

I usually just kind of gradually keep

getting darker and warmer, and, of course, bigger.

The mountains get bigger as they get closer, and then

the trees get bigger, and the trees get greener,

and your eye starts to see color more and more

as it gets closer, and I'm always trying to get

as much depth in the painting to, you know,

kind of pull you in and make it feel like it's 3-D,

like it's actually going back.

I paint with a palette knife,

and painting with a palette knife allows me

to get texture in the different ways that I use it.

It lends itself to the water having movement, you know,

look a little more choppy,

and if I just don't smooth the paint as much

and I leave the paint a little rougher,

it also makes the water look a little rougher.

And then, you know, putting little bits of white here

and there also kind of helps it look like

it has more movement to it.

As long as I don't overwork it or overmix it,

if I just put it on and leave it, you know,

it gets some really great texture marks,

so that the skill really to get the texture is to stop yourself.

It's kind of like if you were buttering your bread.

If you spend a lot of time,

it's gonna be all perfectly spread,

but if you just put it on quick,

you're gonna get lumps and chunks of butter.

It lends itself to a looser, more impressionistic style.

It's hard to get too perfect.

I mean, I've managed to get some skill and some mastery

so I can get a little more precise with some detail,

but you're never gonna be too perfect, you know?

And so this just helps me to, I think, loosen up.

And I love thick paint.

No one's gonna look at my paintings and wonder, like,

is that a print or is that a giclée, or is that...?

Like, it's a painting, you, it has paint.

I feel like if you're gonna have, buy a painting,

you should have some paint. (laughs)

I've lived in Tahoe 23 years,

and I still get blown away with the colors

and the beauty of the lake, it never gets old.

Being out there painting on location, it just,

it's very relaxing, it's very soothing, it's very calming.

There's a, the time flies by.

The closest thing I could maybe equate it to

would be maybe the experience

some people get when they meditate.

But there's a zone that you get into, connecting with nature,

and it does feel like a spiritual experience for me.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, he caught the world's attention

with the Beijing Olympics.

Now choreographer Shen Wei turns to painting.

Plus a picture-perfect language.

Until then, I'm Jared Bowen, thanks for joining us.

As always, you can visit us online at GBH.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioGBH.

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