Category Archives: Exhibitions

Drawing Connections

I know it’s a crazy time of year to suggest it, but if there’s any way you can get to the MFA in Boston before December 10th, do it!


Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, 1632, oil on panel              It’s hard to connect with many centuries-old portraits because they give such a stern and removed impression, making it hard to imagine the subject expressing any emotion beyond stiff disapproval. Yet Rembrandt’s painting of Aeltje Uylenburgh, despite its dark and limited palette, presents an image so approachable that one can feel the warmth of her humanity. I find the blush in her cheeks and the kindliness in her eyes quite endearing.

My main reason for visiting was that I was anxious to see the newly acquired collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings, a grouping that will serve to further distinguish this museum from other major art institutions in the country. Including an assortment of Golden Age still lifes, landscapes, marine paintings, portraits, genre scenes, historical and architectural paintings, the MFA is rightfully proud of this exceptional gift that offers something for virtually every taste.

Fashionable Firefly Hunting

Yokokawa Takejiro, Fashionable Firefly Hunting, 1860                             Kunisada and Kuniyoshi’s woodcuts are spectacular images of detail, pattern, and color. There is so much to be seen in each image that making my way through the 100 prints was almost overwhelming.   I am struck by a few basic similarities between this portrait (of a male actor in character for a female role), and Rembrandt’s portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh above. Both images are relatively dark, yet despite their obvious differences, they share an accessibility that is expressed in both their faces and their clothes (the crisp white cap and collar, and the fur around the neck soften the austerity of Uylenburgh’s environment, while the patterns and colors of the kimono bring life to the stark and minimally defined face in the portrait of the actor Sawaura Tanosuke III).

It was just blind luck that there are several other equally exciting exhibitions simultaneously on view – among them a remarkable collection of one hundred Japanese woodblock prints by rival masters Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Utagawa Kunisada, a series of Rothko paintings, a selection of Inuit art prints, and an eclectic pairing of contemporary painter Takashi Murakami’s bold, cartoon-like works alongside classics of Japanese mastery, handpicked by Murakami and Japanese art historian Professor Nobuo Tsuji from the museum’s permanent collection.


Pieter Claesz, Still Life with Stoneware Jug, Wine Glass, Herring, and Bread, 1642, Oil on panel                                                                                                                                                     Pieter Claesz was celebrated for his “breakfast pieces” that present the viewer with an almost literal taste of foods, both local and exotic, during the 17th century. His artfully arranged still lifes have surfaces and textures so articulately described that one can almost smell the display and feel the smooth, cool surface of the glass. Whenever we’re on the road, the one time I can usually count on squeezing in a quick sketch is during breakfast. While the only safe comparison I can make between my sketches and Claesz’ masterpieces is our shared penchant for making images of the first meal of the day, seeing his paintings gives me an enjoyable sense of camaraderie.

As diverse as these exhibitions are, connections between them can’t seem to help but bubble to the surface in hindsight as I’ve let the experience simmer this past week. Perhaps it’s just human nature to try to make sense of what we see by attempting to braid together assorted impressions into a whole, but the sub-conscious must definitely play its own part as well.


Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Shimosuwa: Yaegaki-hime, No. 30 from the series Sixty-nine Stations of the Kisokaido Road, 1852                               Images of animals are very hard for me to resist. These sacred foxes act as protectors for this mythic princess, running ahead of her over the ice to show where she can safely walk.


Kuniyoshi, Hayakawa Ayunosuke from the series Eight Hundred Heroes of the Japanese Shuihuzhuan, about 1830                             Although the subject of this piece is the legendary warrior Hayakawa Ayunosuke, it’s the tiger that caught my eye.

Proud Hunter

Pudlo Pudlat, Proud Hunter, 1987, Stonecut                                                                                             I am always fascinated by pattern. The graphic quality of the marks in this piece create a sense of pattern that is just as striking as the intricate depictions of printed cloth within the Japanese prints.

For years, when traveling I used to try to go to locally owned fabric shops to refresh my “palette”. It became amusingly uncanny that, more often than not, despite choosing fabrics at random with only an eye to diversifying my stash as much as possible, once I had a chance to go over my spoils later, the fabrics seemed to work together in perhaps a deeper and more meaningful way than if I had purposely intended it.

Dog at Rest

Gerrit Dou, Dog at Rest, 1650, Oil on panel                                                                                            I love this little painting for obvious reasons. But I was also struck by the differing means of convincingly portraying fur in this piece, as well as on Kuniyoshi’s tiger and in the sealskin coat and wild prey in Pudlat’s print, both above.

Much of the fun of experiencing something new is the fact that it is just that: a novel occurrence. But the unexpected connections that arise later enrich and personalize the experience, making it all the more enjoyable while lending an undeniable staying power to any lasting impressions. I don’t doubt that you can think of examples when this has been true for you as well.

Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.       ~ Charles Eames

Sustaining Creativity

One aspect of art that feels like an ‘ace up the sleeve’ is the fact that it is truly a lifetime activity.

Clogs 1

Clogs,1     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, Pen & ink

While many pursuits are curtailed with the vagaries of age, the desire and ability to bring ideas into physical form can remain undaunted despite advancing years (e.g. Louise Bourgeois, Mary Delany, David Hockney, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe) and even disability (Chuck Close, Frida Kahlo, Henri Matisse).

For inspiration on the subject, check out Paul Stankard’s op/ed “Artistic Risk and the Ticking Clock” from the latest issue of American Craft, in which he discusses the scary prospect of leaving his successful comfort zone for new horizons in his work. It is a wonderful testament to the longevity of artistic growth and the strength of the creative flame.

Clogs 2

Clogs 2,      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, Pen & ink

Last February I recommended Stankard’s book Studio Craft as Career: A Guide to Achieving Excellence in Art Making. As in that book, this latest essay maintains the same unflinching acceptance of reality while accentuating Stankard’s propensity for mentorship as he reaches to pull others up alongside himself, encouraging an unflagging drive for achievement via the pushing of boundaries.

A quick search on the subject of the resilience of creativity into elder years unearthed this NPR interview with Nicholas Delbanco discussing his book Lastingness: The Creative Art of Growing Old which “examines artists who either maintained or advanced their work past the age of 70”. Despite the somewhat mixed reviews, I’m looking forward to borrowing a copy from my library.


Oboz,      ©2017 Elizabeth Fram, Pen & ink

I have encountered numerous individuals whose creativity bolstered them in their later years, and I bet you have as well. It makes the future look bright, don’t you think?

On a Different Note______________________________________________________________________________

For a special treat, add the Shelburne Museum’s current exhibit Sweet Tooth: The Art of Dessert to your list of shows to see this winter. Clever and enticing, it’s a calorie-free confection that will leave you smiling. It remains on view through February 18, 2018.

Sugaring 1

Miniature Sugaring Scene, Artist and Origin Unknown                          This carved wooden sugaring scene is part of the museum’s permanent collection.

Sugaring 2

Miniature Sugaring Scene,                                                                                                                     I found its enchanting details irresistible. Note the dog’s posture, the sugar on snow to the right, and the squirrel climbing up the corner of the sugarhouse.

A Confection

A Confection  ©2014  Dirk Staschke,  Ceramic                                                  “Tightly stacked like stones in a wall, the cakes and other baked goods featured in A Confection become metaphors for consumer excess”

Lemon Meringue Wedges

Lemon Meringue Wedges, ©2017 Chris Campbell, Shoe Bakery, mixed media             Shoe Bakery’s ready-to-wear lines of footwear are whimsical dessert-themed shoes described as “sweet treats for your feet”.

The Universal Language

“There are two kinds of borders: borders in the minds and physical borders. And often it is art and artists who cross these borders and exchange, way more easily than most.”                                                                                                                                                              Kiff Slemmens

Have you watched Borders and Neighbors, the two latest episodes of Craft in America? If not, you have a treat in store for you. Highlighting the ongoing cultural exchange between the US and Mexico, both episodes feature master artists whose work addresses contemporary issues while continuing to honor and embed layers of tradition within their processes.


Quinn     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                                                                                                            My daughter recently gave me a set of .003 (.15mm) Micron pens. I love the quality of the extra, extra fine lines they make, especially when drawing my snoozing pal!

It cannot be coincidence that these shows have surfaced this fall.
And while I can’t say for sure they were created in response to the divisive rhetoric that has become so prevalent in our country, their message offers hope that the arts are, and will remain, a universally inspirational and reassuring means toward building and maintaining connections between people and nations.


Snooze     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

I hope you find the programs to be as rich as I did, and if you are lucky enough to be in Los Angeles between November 16, 2017 and February 25, 2018, there will be an accompanying exhibit, Borders and Neighbors: Craft Connectivity Between the U.S. and Mexico, that “honor(s) the spirit of creativity that transcends physical and cultural barriers and that unifies our cultures”.

I wish it weren’t so far away; I’d love to go.

“Art is the most profound human expression. Art creates bonds even if we don’t speak the same language. We communicate through art and have a universal language.”                                                                                                                                 Carlomagno Pedro Martinez

Along the same line of thinking…

Catalogue Cover

Last week I received an envelope from the State Department that contained three copies of the beautiful catalogue they produced illustrating the Art in Embassies exhibition I am participating in at the U.S. Embassy in Riga, Latvia. The following is a quote from the introduction:

…the U.S. Department of State’s office of Art in Embassies (AIE) plays a vital role in our nation’s public diplomacy…selecting and commissioning contemporary art from the U.S. and the host countries. These exhibitions provide international audiences with a sense of the quality, scope, and diversity of both countries’ art and culture. …AIE exhibitions allow foreign citizens, many of whom might never travel to the United States, to personally experience the depth and breadth of our artistic heritage…

Catalogue Page

It is so important to acknowledge and honor art as a powerful voice, speaking a universal tongue that underlines our human similarities more than our differences, especially at this point in history when nationalism seems to be rearing its ugly head.  You can read more about Art in Embassies in this post.

An Eye to the North

As promised, this week’s post is a taste of the some of the art we experienced in the Atlantic Provinces a couple of weeks ago. Three exhibits in particular stood out, making for a wonderful combination of textiles and drawing.
I could almost pretend they knew I was coming.

But first…
I think this public sculpture is worth sharing.

Migration Pathways #2

Migration Pathway #2 ©Giorgia Volpe                                                                                               Suspended over the St. Lawrence River near the Quebec Public Market, “th(is) piece ties together past and present in notion of migration, a seminal influence shaping our society and evolving territory. Migration Pathway #2 shows the vulnerability and endurance inherent in human and animal migratory and nomadic lives. Woven canoes rise in the air approaching the banks of the St. Lawrence in a surprising parade-like movement. The work pays tribute to Quebec folk traditions, the beliefs of early sailors, and First Nations traditional knowledge, and occupies a traditional site of meeting and dialogue for all these communities.”

Migration 2


The Museum of Civilization in Quebec City was a very happy discovery. With exhibits involving history, science, art and culture, there was way more than we could absorb in one visit. However, two concurrent shows stood out.

The first, an extensive retrospective on the work of Hergé, the Belgian cartoonist and creator of The Adventures of Tintin. It’s a show that would be appealing to any age, and certainly inspiring to young drawers.



It was fascinating to study the extensive display of his working drawings up close, then to follow his progression through gouache color proofs, and onto final finished prints. You can’t help but admire in his ability to capture and express so much through a judicious economy of line that is all one weight and lacks crosshatching, a style he pioneered that became known as “ligne claire” (clear line).

Captain Haddock

The following appeared on one of the museum labels:    “Although comics have long been regarded as a minor art, figures like Hergé have propelled them to unrivaled artistic heights. Certain lead pencil sketches of Captain Haddock, Tintin, or Professor Calculus, for instance, are exercises in style with enough complexity, astute turbulence, and accuracy of tone to rival works by such masters as Dürer, Holbein, da Vinci, Ingres and others.”



Next, in a neighboring gallery, Carole Simard-Laflamme’s installation Dress of Nations is a work at once ethereal and imposing. Created to evoke every stage of life, from birth to death, this work is made of 6,000 “seed dresses” — textile miniatures made from pieces of recovered garments, threaded together and suspended from the ceiling in rows, composing the bodies of two large dress forms.

Dress of Nations, ©Carole Simard-Laflamme                                            Statement: “Our garments tell our stories. They reveal our identities and present the symbols of our cultures. With this work, I wish to underscore our differences and our uniqueness…”


Over 400 people from different cultures sent the artist a piece of clothing along with a testimonial. The garments were cut, mixed, reassembled, and stitched together on wires, each seed-dress bearing a golden stamp. The overall effect was quite moving.




Finally, it was pure luck that Zachari Logan’s exhibit Topiary opened at the Anna Leonowens Gallery of the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design the day before we arrived in Halifax. What a great bonus that we were able to attend his lunchtime talk, a part of their visiting artist series.


Green Man, Natural Drag series     ©2012 Zachari Logan, pastel on paper, 50 x 100 inches.

Logan’s detailed pastel and pencil drawings explore the intersection between “masculinity, identity, memory, and place”. He discussed in detail the parallels between his subject matter and the way he sees himself within society as a queer man.

Zachari Logan, blue pencil on mylar

His highly skilled draughtsmanship is mind-blowing, but the depth and intelligence in the metaphors he constructs based across a spectrum of art history, interlaced with an unflinching confrontation of some of the more poignant challenges many face within our world today, completely swept me away. I am still thinking about his work due to his seamless pairing of concept with execution.

Although this exhibition had none on display, ceramics are another component of Logan’s overall practice and the statements he makes through his art. Obviously I was intrigued by his marriage of the two disciplines in light of my own quest to coherently bring my drawing and textile work together.

Visit this page on his website to see more of his art and for a greater understanding of the ideas behind these and other works in his various series.

Datura, from Eunich Tapestries series     ©2013 Zachari Logan, pastel on paper, 10 x 5 feet        I was quite moved by Logan’s discussion of his portrayal of “ditches” and the plants that appear there. Having grown up in Saskatchewan, ditches were a familiar part of the landscape for him, filled with plants that are scorned as weeds. But he asked us to consider the term “weed” and how classifying certain plants as undesirable with that epithet can be equated with the words we use to label people who, for whatever reason, society rejects as well.

Our trips north never disappoint. Because art seems to be such a valued and public part of Canadian life, I’ve been seeking information about their dedication to investing in culture as a nation. This 2016 article from the Washington Post is quite an eye-opener. Considering the ever-precarious state of the arts in the US, I’m tempted to say: read it and weep.

Road Trip

If you haven’t had an opportunity to travel through the Atlantic Provinces of Canada, add them to your destination list.

Peggy's Point Light

Peggy’s Point Lighthouse, Nova Scotia     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Last week we carved a fun & relaxing loop by driving up to Quebec City, skirting the top of Maine, then descending to bisect New Brunswick while making our way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. We hopped onto the ferry in Yarmouth for the last leg, bringing us back to the US via Portland, Maine.

Sidewalk Cafe

SIdewalk Cafe, Quebec City     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

It was a week of beautiful scenery, non-existent traffic, and delicious farm-to-table food and microbrews accented with abundant fresh seafood — all fused with local civic appreciation for the arts, walking trails and lovely gardens at every stop.

Public Garden

The Public Garden, Halifax     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Opportunities to draw have become a treasured part of vacationing for me, my sketchbooks being the most enduring and powerful of souvenirs.

High Roller

High Roller, Yarmouth     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

It was a happy discovery to notice that Canadians don’t seem to be surgically connected to their cellphones as is so ubiquitous here. I feel like we hardly ever saw anyone walking and talking or texting, and restaurants seemed to be virtually mobile-free.

Breakfast Coffee and Fruit

Breakfast Fruit and Coffee, Halifax     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

While it made sketching people a bit more challenging, it was lovely not to have the same bend of the neck and hand placement on each and every subject, not to mention avoiding being a captive third party in a conversation you want no part of.

Alexander Keith's

Alexander Keith’s, Halifax     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram                           Don’t let this sketch fool you. We didn’t really have a Dr. Bunsen Honeydew sighting.

In addition to the omnipresent public art that Canadians apparently and appropriately feel is an important investment in their quality of life, we caught several wonderful exhibitions that I will share next week; I hope you’ll return to read about them.

Ferry Line

In the Ferry Line, 6:30am, Yarmouth     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

On A Different Note______________________________________________________________________________

My piece “Dichotomy” will be showing on home turf through the end of November in the upcoming exhibit Fabric of Our Lives at the Grange Hall Cultural Center here in Waterbury Center. The opening is Sunday, October 1 from 3-5pm. I would love to see you there!

Fabric of our lives postcard

If you are local, keep your eyes and ears peeled for future offerings at The Grange. Our community is very lucky to have a creative venue that offers something for everyone: theater, music, exhibitions, workshops, yoga classes, etc.

And finally, I just discovered the 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop podcast. The name says it all, each episode is a short and sweet glimpse into the process of a wide variety of well-known writers. The ideas are valuable for writers and readers alike. You can find it on iTunes.


I am just back from a fun weekend in Portland, Maine — the main objective being to visit “Selvedge”, the group show I am part of at Able Baker Contemporary. Kudos to curator Tessa Greene O’Brien who has compiled a thought-provoking mix of work that is challenging, eclectic, and highly conceptual.

Gallery view

“Selvedge” at Able Baker Contemporary

Despite the artists’ varying approaches and objectives, the work maintains a comfortable sense of integration and, as the week has worn on, the strength of “Selvedge” has become more and more evident as I can’t stop thinking about it. I regret that I wasn’t able to attend the opening so I could talk with some of the other artists about their ideas.

Salon Wall

Salon Wall : “Shift” ©2011 Elizabeth Fram, Wrapped-resist, Discharge and Stitching on Silk and Cotton, 10 x 9.5 inches (green lower half with horizontal stripes in upper right corner), just above the dark piece in the lower left corner of this image.

Tessa’s enlightening essay, which I encourage you to read in its brief entirety, clarifies her curatorial intent:

Each artist has developed a distinct visual language using textile techniques to resolve the two-dimensional concerns of color, space, form, and light. The artists’ use of non-traditional materials does not represent a rejection of painting’s history; instead, these painters embrace the medium with lively curiosity and sincerity.

It is an honor to be included and to see my work hanging in this beautiful gallery in the city next door to where I grew up. “Selvedge” runs through August 5.

Floe (left) and Crystallized (right) © 2015 Elizabeth Fram, Paint, Dye and Embroidery on Silk,  12 x 12 inches

Parterre (left) and Parterre 2 (right) ©2015 Elizabeth Fram, Paint and Embroidery on layered Silk, 12 x 12 inches

“Selvedge” participating artists: Cassie Jones, Elizabeth Kleene, Erica Licea-Kane, Susan Metrician, Maria Molteni, Tessa Greene O’Brien, Isabelle O’Donnell, Martha Tuttle, and Elizabeth Fram

Able Baker Contemporary


Escaping the News

I need a break from current events…how about you? This week I’m sharing three artistic escape valves that caught my eye. Each offers a healthy measure of food for thought and moral fortification for moving forward since putting our heads in the sand isn’t an option. Hopefully one or two of them will interest you as well.

Townley Untitled 1979

Untitled 1979, ©Hugh Townley, Mahogany and maple relief, 26 x 15 inches

If you’re in Vermont between now and September 10, please consider a trip to Rochester to see the Hugh Townley exhibit at BigTown Gallery. It is a lovely collection of Townley’s sculptures, reliefs and prints, highlighting his strong sense of design with a healthy dose of play. You couldn’t ask for a better example of the power of art to lift one’s spirits in pure joy; it’s just the ticket for getting your head in a better place.

Dark Night 1992

Dark Night Tuba City 1992, ©Hugh Townley, Obeche relief, 26 x 16.5 inches

Townley’s painted works are bright and amusing, and his prints are strikingly engaging. Yet I was drawn to and favored the oiled wooden wall relief pieces. His manipulation of light, shadow and shape draws one into each imagined space, accentuating the natural grain of the wood while emphasizing each piece’s rhythmic layers of depth. The work is vaguely reminiscent of Louise Nevelson yet never loses its infectious sense of playfulness. I found myself smiling as I made my way through the gallery, and realized later that, in addition to being a bright spot on a dark and rainy afternoon, my visit was also a very welcome respite from the anxiety that has been hovering over my shoulder with each new revelation from Washington.

Townley Lost in Space

Lost in Space 1996, Hugh Townley, High-gloss painted wood color relief, 35 x 19 inches

To maintain the good mood, cap off your visit with a slice of homemade maple cream pie from the Rochester Cafe a couple of doors down from the gallery. There is much to be said for the art of a good baker!

Townley Untitled 1998

Untitled 1998, ©Hugh Townley, Mahogany relief, 23 x 18.5 inches

Fortuitously, the next day Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings article “Wallace Stevens on Reality, Creativity, and our Greatest Self-Protection from the Pressure of the News” showed up in my inbox. It is a lengthly, but oh-so-worthwhile read if, like me, you are feeling a bit overpowered by the unrelenting media onslaught. As the world continues to spin, I think many of us are wondering how our work can fit in and remain relevant; whether it can possibly stay abreast at a time when it seems an artistic perspective is more important than ever.  Which leads to the question: what exactly is an artist’s responsibility in such times?

Townley Fight Night

Fight Night 1996, ©Hugh Townley, High-gloss painted wood color relief, 31 x 24.75 inches

Popova’s article includes the following quote from Stevens which addresses that specific question:

Certainly it is not to lead people out of the confusion in which they find themselves. Nor is it, I think, to comfort them while they follow their readers to and fro. I think that [the artist’s] function is to make his imagination theirs and that he fulfills himself only as he sees his imagination become the light in the minds of others. His role, in short, is to help people to live their lives.

For further reading on the subject, check out the links in my post from last January: Art as a Responsibility; Art as Superpower .

Townley Soaring

Soaring (Ups and Downs) 1992, ©Hugh Townley, Mahogany relief, 22 x 11.25 inches

And finally, consider giving a listen to Joseph Todorovitch’s interview on the Savvy Painter podcast to see how the act of buckling down and doing your work can be a remedy in itself. I found much to connect with in what Todorovitch says, but what struck me most was his articulation of an overarching truth I am coming to understand through stitching and drawing — the value of slowing down and being present. Ironically and counterintuitively, it is perhaps the best escape of all.

On a Different Note…                                                                                                                                  

I crossed another big project off my list this week. I invite you to take a swing through my newly updated website — it’s reorganized and simplified with new work added.


Outside the Studio

Happy June!    …month of the summer solstice and the Beta Taurids meteor shower.

I am really looking forward to being part of two exhibitions that open this month, one here in Vermont and another in Portland, Maine. No matter the venue, there is always a sense of liberation in getting work out of the studio and in front of public eyes. I am particularly excited about the Maine exhibit because it’s my first opportunity to show in Maine’s “big city”, the town next door to where I grew up.

Wild Fibers

Wild Fiberswhich opens locally on June 2, will be on view through July 9 at the Emile A. Gruppe Gallery in Jericho. It’s a collection of work from members of the Vermont chapter of the Surface Design Association, an international organization focused on “inspiring creativity, encouraging innovation, and advocating for artistic excellence … in textile-inspired art and design”.

We who are part of SDA Vermont are fortunate to have a very active committee that has devoted countless volunteer hours securing and organizing exhibitions across the state in an effort to expose the public to the wide range of possibility that exists within the world of surface design.* I think the growth of our membership can be directly attributed to the success of these shows. I am always amazed at the breadth of skills among our members, so if you have a chance to stop by the Gruppe Gallery in the next 5 weeks, I’m sure you too will be struck by the diversity of work and process on display.

For those of you who might be interested in activist artists who use knitting as a means of voicing their ideas and concerns about the world, let me give a quick plug to my friend and fellow SDA member, Eve Jacobs-Carnahan, who will be presenting the talk “25 Years of Knitters Speaking Out” in conjunction with Wild Fibers. Her talk will be on Friday, June 16th from 6:30-7:30pm, also at the Gruppe Gallery.


Knitters at Town Meeting Day, Waterbury, VT     ©2016 Elizabeth Fram

Next week I will be shipping five pieces to Able Baker Contemporary for the upcoming show Selvedge, which runs from June 16 to August 5, 2017. If your travels take you anywhere near Portland this summer, I hope you will stop in. Curator Tessa Greene O’Brien has assembled work from nine artists, all of whom incorporate textiles in their practice while strongly maintaining a fine-art approach. The work is process-driven and carries a strong conceptual component. I’m thrilled to have been included and can’t wait to head to Portland in July to experience the show in person.


Able Baker Contemporary is on the Portland Stage block, within 300 yards of The Maine College of Art, Space Gallery, and Space Studios and the Portland Museum of Art, (where I’m excited to see Hans Hofmann; Works on Paper will be showing from June 16 to September 3), — in other words, a cultural hotbed that, combined with Portland’s fine restaurants and oceanside location, makes for an excellent weekend getaway!

Meanwhile, back to the unglamorous…I am slogging my way through an update of my website, and, as is probably to be expected, it’s way more time-consuming than I’d anticipated. There’s no escaping computer chores! However, to leave you on a happy note, I came across this  worthy diversion — a wonderful mix of metaphors and animation by Greg Condon that made me smile; I hope it will amuse you as well.


First Harvest     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

*Surface design encompasses the coloring, patterning, and structuring of fiber and fabric. This involves creative exploration of processes such as dyeing, painting, printing, stitching, embellishing, quilting, weaving, knitting, felting, and paper-making.


During my first months at college the world began to crack open.
Taking the obligatory introductory courses, each as different from the others as you might expect, I remember coming back to my room one afternoon and realizing that, despite their apparent disparity, threads of information were weaving together and overlapping such that a web of connection was beginning to form. Rather than merely providing separate pockets of information to be remembered for the inevitable test, a pathway was suddenly opening toward seeing the world as a unit composed of links and associations layered upon each other, offering a widened and enriched viewpoint reliant upon that interdependence. It was a seminal moment that has stayed with me.

The Rainbow

The Rainbow ©1967 Marc Chagall

Since then, it’s always a joy when unexpected associations appear between seemingly unrelated events/subjects, the discovery of which elevates the routine with a bit of the magical. Visiting Montreal this past weekend was one of those occasions when serendipity held the reins. Partway through the weekend I realized that the three major events we attended could not have been more interconnected, even though I wouldn’t have thought so at the onset.

VOLTA Cirque du Soleil              photo credit: Patrice Lamoureaux

First, Cirque du Soleil never, ever, disappoints. An example of sensory enrichment on overload, the troupe’s mastery of color, light, sound and daring physical feats is unsurpassed. At a time when I sometimes feel we are sadly in danger of building immunity to a state of wonder, due mainly to our media-driven saturation of deadly events and despicable behavior world-wide, it is utter pleasure to put aside any jaded perspectives for a couple of hours in order to experience the pure joy of human creativity. The current show, Volta, “is a story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and the power of the group to make that possible. It celebrates freedom as a movement”.

Dancer with Tambourine

Costume design for Daphnis and Chloe: Dancer with Tambourine ©1958 Marc Chagall

In hindsight it makes total sense that, in the midst of the surplus of color and visual excitement on view in Chagall: Colour and Music at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, I began to draw parallels with what I had seen under the big tent the night before. So much more than a chronological compilation of a lifetime’s work, the Chagall retrospective is also an extravaganza of color, light, sound (Chagall’s lifelong devotion to music was an integral part of his work), and daring physical feats — as seen in the trapeze artist below, or in the soaring lovers so often associated with his work.

The Blue Circus

The Blue Circus ©1950-52 Marc Chagall

Standing in a room devoted to paintings of the circus, the proverbial lightbulb went on as I realized that Chagall, who had escaped to the United States just in advance of World War II, created art that offered a source of respite and joy amid a world seemingly run amok. And similar to Cirque du Soleil, his work honors the principle Volta espouses: being wholly true to oneself. Reading the following quote on the wall of a gallery filled with Chagall’s circus collages and paintings made the connection with Cirque du Soleil all the more meaningful:

The Circus as a Metaphor for the World
Depictions of the circus, present in the imagery of Chagall’s earliest creations and an essential theme until the end of his life, arose from his vision of the world firmly rooted in Hasidism. This branch of Judaism conceives of the world as a game of divine will and apprehends God through overflowing joy, ecstasy, singing, dancing, music and acrobatics. For Hasidim, clownishness and humor are the incarnation of spiritual values that ensure the salvation of humanity. Traveling performers and musicians enlivened religious celebrations with their little shows in which biblical themes were intermingled with comic interludes, pantomimes and humorous plays accompanied by music.

Chagall stained glass

Marc Chagall

And while I was aware that Chagall had worked with stained glass toward the end of his life (read about the windows he created for the Art Institute of Chicago in this post), there was much I didn’t realize. He also designed tapestries and was a sculptor and a ceramicist. His love of opera ultimately pulled him from a deep depression and an inability to create after the sudden death of his first wife. His return to work involved designing extensive costumes and sets for multiple operatic and balletic productions, culminating in the creation of a nearly 2,600 square foot painting that now graces the ceiling of the Paris Opera House. Immersed in his colorful world, which honored music as much as visual art, the fact that he had synesthesia makes perfect sense.

Fox Costume

Fox costume designed for the ballet Aleko, Marc Chagall

As a final nod to the power of imagination and creative spectacle, we were incredibly fortunate that our visit coincided with the weekend that the giant marionettes of Royal de Luxe (a street theater company based in Nantes, France) roamed the streets of Montreal as part of its 375th birthday celebration. Leaving the Chagall exhibition, we made it to the Place des Arts just in time to get a ‘ring-side’ seat for the arrival of the Deep Sea Diver. Despite his enormity (50 ft.?), he was spectacularly deft as he strode into the square with eyes that blinked and seemed to look right at you. The acrobatics of 20-30 handlers, swarming over him like Lilliputians, brought him to life, enabling his movements via pulleys and ropes. They did nothing to break the spell he cast on the crowd and I don’t think I’m being too dramatic to say we could all only gasp in awe to be in the presence of a living giant.

Deep Sea Diver

The Deep Sea Diver arrives at Place des Arts, Montreal

Deep Sea Diver

Deep Sea Diver by Royal de Luxe

The word circus derives from the Greek kirkos, meaning “circle” or “ring”. How appropriate that these three exhibitions formed an unexpected circle of connection between each other, looping back and forth in their collective presentations of color, light, sound, and daring physical feats. And how serendipitous to have experienced them all in a single weekend.

The exhibition Chagall: Color and Music runs through June 11, 2017

Cirque du Soleil Volta will be on view in Montreal through July 23

San Francisco, Part 2

Who doesn’t love a “twofer”?
Not only was I incredibly lucky to have caught Matisse and Diebenkorn together in the same exhibition at the SF MOMA earlier this month, but our visit to the Museum of Craft and Design included the unexpected windfall of two fascinating and quite different exhibitions for the cost of one admission.

I first learned about Wendy Maruyama’s work at SOFA Chicago in 2014. At that initial viewing I felt quite small gazing up at just one of her expertly crafted life-sized elephant heads, made from flat wooden panels held together with twine and hanging at the height of a living beast. To be in the presence of six of these creations is utterly awe-inspiring. Maruyama’s traveling wildLIFE Project, an exhibition which is now at the MCD through May 2017, was created as an advocacy project to bring awareness to the issues surrounding the poaching of wildlife.

wildLIFE Project

Wendy Maruyama’s  The wildLIFE Project                                                                                           L-R: Ghost ©2014, Orkanyawoi ©2014, Sonje ©2014; Front: Sarcophagus ©2015

Equally imposing, Maruyama includes a cache of blown glass “tusks”, also life-size. Enclosed within a wood and glass reliquary made by Maruyama, the casket of tusks symbolizes the preciousness of both the elephant and its ivory.


Wendy Maruyama     Ghost ©2014     Wood, String, Paint

To round out her quiet yet emotionally stirring treatise, a series of Maruyama-built shrines elegantly and straightforwardly honor the elephant species and its growing loss. You can read more about the Bell Shrine on her blog. Stunningly beautiful, they reference the aesthetic qualities of Maruyama’s Japanese heritage. All the objects in this show are a nod to the fact that often the strongest statements are deceptively simple, holding tremendous weight due specifically to their lack of extraneous information. This is one of the truths behind The wildLIFE Project as a whole: the effect of Maruyama’s potent message, which addresses the devastating impact poaching has on wildlife, owes much to the simplicity of its delivery. Viewing the exhibition is a poignant and humbling experience.


Wendy Maruyama      Satao ©2014 (detail)     Wood, Burlap, Paint, String

Deeply moved as I left the gallery, I couldn’t help but think of the gravity and urgency of this exhibition and the message it carries — another instance of the power of art as a  go-between and translator. Which begs the question: How could our government possibly question the viability and necessity of the arts and the NEA? It is a viewpoint that is truly beyond me…but that’s a subject for another post.

Arnold Tent

Janice Arnold      Felted Drape

Leaving Maruyama’s emotionally charged work behind, the neighboring gallery offered a comforting contrast. Cushioned in the story and products of felted wool, one can’t help but become aware of the stark dichotomy between the sustainability of harvested wool and the devastation and endangerment of species created via poaching. FELT DECODED, Wool: Nature’s Technology encompasses a comprehensive collection of art by Janice Arnold, who has passionately spent her career learning about and exploring the expansive world of wool felt. Free-standing sculptures, framed textural wall pieces, massive draped hangings, and tent-like enclosures all give voice to Arnold’s complete immersion in felt as an art form and her dedication to investigating the full scope of its history and its possibilities.

Felted Panel

Janice Arnold      Felted Panel

Aside from Arnold’s felted art, this exhibition also explores the timeline of felted wool, offering a myriad of examples that underline its fluidity and versatility throughout time. Having made it her life’s work to trace the material’s expansive background and use, Arnold aims to share her copious knowledge through various projects and in exhibitions like FELT DECODED. Her research spans from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia and Mongolia to the high-tech world of industrial felt, emphasizing the beauty and utility of this sustainable fiber. Her artist statement speaks to felt’s unexpected ability to bridge the divide between our past and our future:

“The current high tech world with its synthetic surroundings has taken us far from the natural world and our historic traditions of making things by hand. We are starved for natural textures, fibers and irregular forms. I believe wool Felt connects us with our natural history in a way no other fabric can.”

So there you have it: two completely different, yet equally captivating exhibitions under one common roof. Seen in parallel, the implication of each is bolstered by the other… I would say a “twofer” at its very best!

Click here for Maruyama’s flicr page of photos surrounding the creation of The wildLIFE Project.

And, as promised, a couple of quick sketches from our week away. There was time to draw each day, but it was mostly done on the fly.

SF Cup & Saucer

Cup and Saucer; Lori’s Cafe     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park     ©2017 Elizabeth Fram