SchoolArts Magazine

AUG-SEP 2013

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Looking & Learning Investigating Pull-out Resource What does an artist investigate? M ost people have an idea of how a detective investigates a crime or a scientist investigates a natural phenomenon, but what does an artist investigate? For artists, investigating can mean many different things. Some artists choose to investigate a particular artistic process such as drawing; a material such as acrylic paint; a subject that has inspired them such as history, poetry, or science; or an idea that fascinates them. Whatever an artist chooses to investigate, the results of his or her investigations can be found in the artwork he or she has created. The artworks chosen for this article represent very different ways of investigating. For example, Utagawa Sadahide's woodcut print, A Hollander, demonstrates his attempt at investigating what a European man looked like during a time when Japanese and European cultures knew very little about each other. In contrast, Ursula von Rydingsvard's sculpture, Luba, investigates the process and qualities of working with wood. About the Artists/Artworks Utagawa Sadahide, A Hollander As early as the 1500s, the Japanese had contact with Westerners, although foreign merchants were strictly regulated to an area near Nagasaki. The insular nature of Japanese society up until that time engendered a great curiosity in the Japanese on the customs, costumes, and even physiognomy of Westerners. The curiosity about Westerners was revived in the mid1800s, when the United States and other Western countries forcibly opened Japanese ports to trade with the West, resulting in an influx of Westerners living in Japan. Some Japanese artists even traveled to Europe and America to investigate the foreigners' cultures. A Hollander is most like a copy of a depiction of a Dutch trader from the 1600s or 1700s, based on the costume. One interesting aspect of the Japanese depictions of Westerners is the prominence with which they treated the subject's nose. Ursula von rydingsvard, Luba Although she studied painting, Ursula von Rydingsvard turned to sculpture when she moved to New York in the 1970s. She was committed to abstraction. Although she was interested in the logic and clear vision of the minimalist sculpture of the period, she preferred a less formalistic and more expressive approach. From the beginning, she worked in wood. Unlike other artists working in wood, who sought to enhance the inherent qualities of it, she was more drawn to rough, expressive surfaces. Utagawa Sadahide (1807–1879), A Hollander, 19th century. Color woodcut print, 12½ x 5¼" (31.8 x 13.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum of Art. Image courtesy Davis Art Images. Von Rydingsvard's sculptures explore a unique process in which she constructs large wooden forms from 4 x 4" (10 x 10 cm) beams, usually of western red cedar. She then carves, gouges, saws, and chips away at the form to create organic works that contradict the basic characteristics of the wood. She often rubs the surface with graphite dust to create an interesting patina, removing the excess with a steel pad to drive the dust into the wood. This creates a beautiful surface appearance that mimics the natural effects of time. schoolartsonline.com 25

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