Tag Archives: Cleveland Museum of Art

Op Art in Ohio

The state of Ohio has many virtues, but pioneering art doesn’t usually make the list. In the 1960s one of the cutting edge art movements was Op Art. Think dorm posters that were usually considered psychedelic with their vibrating abstract forms. The Op Art movement was named after Ohio artist Julia Stanczak’s first major show, Julian Stanczak: Optical Paintings, held in New York in 1964. How one of the leading pioneers in Op Art came to Ohio is a strange tale that shows how life can be stranger than fiction.

Julian Stanczak began his life in Borownica, Poland in 1928. At the beginning of World War II, Stanczak was forced into a Siberian labor camp with his family, where he permanently lost the use of his right arm and his dominant hand. In 1942 his family escaped from Siberia, and ended up in Uganda after passing through Iran, Pakistan, and Kenya. He spent his teenage years in a hut in a Polish refugee camp in Uganda where he learned to write and paint left-handed. He then spent some years in London, before his family moved to the United States and settled in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1950.

Stanczak received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1954, and then trained under Josef Albers and Conrad Marca-Relli at the Yale University, School of Art and Architecture where he received his Master of Fine Arts in 1956. He became a United States citizen in 1957, taught at the Art Academy of Cincinnati from 1957–64 and as Professor of Painting, at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 1964-1995. Until his death in 2017 he lived and worked in Seven Hills, Ohio, which is outside Cleveland.

What draws me to his work? His colors and transparent see through effects. I feel his artistic purpose was to paint the effect of light on color. Rudolph Arnheim said, “He presents us with transparencies, a sophisticated blend of defined objects and mere apparitions. And he makes a plane change so subtly that we cannot be sure whether it is still the same or transformed into its neighbor.” (p. 45, Julian Stanczak Retrospective: 1948-1998.)

I’ve mentioned his work before in a post about a trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art. His painting “Filtered Yellow” riveted me. The background is made up of alternating thin vertical bands of red and green, while the yellow is laid into those bands to produce a diagonal folded effect. While some works fall apart when you get close, this painting becomes far more complex the closer you look. The technical mastery in the painted lines is impressive, and the color shifts to an intense yellow are subtle. Yellow can indeed take over like Japanese knotweed, yet Stanczek allows its full intensity only in the two innermost long triangles. The red and green bring it to heel elsewhere.

“Filtered Yellow” 1968

Such precision and minutely planned color changes are not my gift, but I can appreciate their mastery in the work of others. Even the gradation in Stanczak’s jars of mixed colors was art.

I’m linking to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Commentary

Forever Home Found

I am always happy when I find new caregivers for my pieces, so I was especially happy last week when my dear brother asked if he could have two of my quilts. I was thrilled to have him visit me IN PERSON after over a year, and his request was icing on the cake. A look-see at my work is often on the agenda for his visits, and so I subjected him to an informal show.

The appeal of art is so subjective. You never know how others will react to your work. I found my brother was drawn to strong color and line. Here are the pieces he selected. Good thing he had plenty of room in his suitcase.

“Primary Directive” My brother liked the fabric with writing in this improv piece.
“There Are Strings Attached” (Sorry for the old crooked photo.) I based the design of this 2012 quilt on the work of Sandi Cummings.

Of course we did much more than look at my work. One of our jaunts took us to the Cleveland Museum of Art where I enjoyed exhibits of Panamanian molas, photos by Bruce Davidson, and woodcuts by Gustave Baumann.

Iguana Mola Panel, c. 1950-70, Republic of Panamá, Gunayala Comarca, Wissubwala, Guna people

I discovered a painting by northeast Ohio artist Julian Stanczak. The lines can’t be more than 1/8th of an inch wide, and I love the transparent effect.

“Filtered Yellow”


Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects

Museum Meandering

Drawn by an exhibit of Tiffany glass, my husband and I visited the Cleveland art museum recently. We admired the stained glass, but found many other works we didn’t recall seeing on earlier visits.

Detail of Hinds house stained glass Tiffany window. Some of the glass is an inch higher than the rest.

First, an exhibit of mid 20th century Swedish printed textiles made me recall the influence Swedish design had on U.S. decorative taste. More details are on the museum’s holdings website. The examples below are printed on linen.

I had to include the Orrefors bowl for the shadows cast by the lighting, and who doesn’t love cobalt blue.

Random meanderings turned up a few works that would make great quilts.

“Merging Emerging” Skuodas I’m thinking paper piecing here.
“Blue Bloc” Mieszkowski

In the local artists room I was struck by “The Pie Wagon,” which vividly conveys Cleveland’s industrial past. On the drive up we passed factories that look just like the one in the picture.

“The Pie Wagon” by Carl Gaertner

Finally, I came across a portrait of Nathaniel Olds which, for sheer goofiness, won me over. I can see a steampunk addict crushing on those glasses and the hair.

Explanation of the glasses

I’ve linked to Off The Wall Friday.


Filed under Commentary, Project Ideas

Artistic Endeavors – Yayoi Kusama

Atrium of Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art is now showing the much heralded Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrors, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I joined many, many others who shelled out $30 to stand in lines for an opportunity to spend about 30 seconds in each mirrored box.

I have no photos of the box interiors because I spent my brief time taking in the effects. However, this exhibit description contains a photo of “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away,” as well as other exhibit items. It is indeed all done with mirrors.

Besides those marquee items, the exhibit spans other work by Kusama from the 1960s to the present. Some of her more recent work shows further evolution of her trademark polka dots.

What great ideas for quilt borders!

One of my favorite pieces was “Flower” (1975,) in part because of the reflections off the glass that protects this collage. I think it goes well with the exhibit’s theme.

I also saw dots on other items displayed at the museum, especially these two pottery pieces from the central Andes, made sometime between 600 and 1000 AD.


Filed under Commentary, Exhibits

Around The Corner

My recent visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Jazz Age exhibit revealed a surprise near the end – a quilt. The exhibit features scads of diamond and platinum jewelry, stylish but uncomfortable looking furniture, impractical coffee and tea sets, flapper dresses, intriguing textiles, and all sorts of room interior designs. However, its sleek styles didn’t find their way into period quilts.

Yet as a portent of the 1930s, Mrs. Shaw’s Prosperity quilt can’t be beat.

Herbert Hoover’s quote “prosperity is just around the corner,” inspired this wonderful humorous quilt created by Fannie B. Shaw between 1930-1932.  It is 72″ x 86″ and is hand appliqued, pieced, and quilted. It’s in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.

The applique figures depict women, businessmen, baseball players, a farmer, a cowboy, and more peeking around the corner expectantly. Mrs. Shaw even included herself in her hallmark apron.  She used a variation of the attic windows pattern and quilted footprints in the sashing to show movement and the search for jobs.Apparently the farmer behind the plow represents her husband, a Texas farmer.

In the lower right corner, Uncle Sam finally arrives with farm relief, money, and legal beer. Priorities priorities. Mrs. Shaw included the Democrat donkey and the Republican elephant in her blocks, maybe “a plague on both your houses” sentiment or a suggestion that both parties need to work together.

Some contemporary “message” quilts strike me as unduly heavy and shrill. In contrast, the Prosperity Quilt is fun to look at, inventive in its use of the attic windows block, and yet it conveys effectively the widespread distress of the 1930s. You can catch more flies with honey …


Filed under Commentary

Around Here Week 15

A recent trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art reminded me that I need to visit more often. Admission is free, per the instructions of the museum’s founding benefactor, though parking is another matter entirely. It’s easy to forget how much wealth was in Cleveland at the height of its manufacturing glory, given its current status as the punch line of rust belt city jokes.

The old and new parts of the museum are connected by a glass roof atrium that makes a lovely spot to sit a spell and partake of refreshments. You can get a birds eye view of ground level action from second floor balconies. I happened to catch the sunbeam at just the right moment. It looks like it’s slicing through the benches.


Filed under Inspiration