Georgia O’Keeffe’s Always-Modern Style

Modern black-and-white dressing even in 1917. Photo: Stieglitz.

Like any home sewer, she was fond of certain fabrics and put a lot of love and care into crafting something she wore (and wore out) through important decades of her life.

In Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art through July 23, you will experience the pristine care this home sewer gave her hand-tucked tunics for over 60 years after she made them – crème silk, tiny stitches, thin bow ties, and shortened hems, all from the 1920s.

Brooklyn’s had a blockbuster season with this O’Keeffe show. It’s where Georgia had her first museum show in 1927, when she was a fixture on the high-art scene in New York, wearing a dramatic evening wraparound coat with rainbow-surprise lining – an upscale step from the loden cape that was her signature look a few years earlier.

Although many knew her for her Southwestern landscapes, she studied at the Art Students League and got her teachers training at Columbia in New York City. Only then did she take a teaching gig out west at Texas A&M. Stieglitz, her future husband was already showing her work in New York.

Clean lines of handmade silk dresses that Georgia made in the early 1920s.

For years, Georgia lived in Midtown, not too far from Bergdorf’s and other fancy shops. Although she chose an austere, modern look, the proximity to luxury and knowing the detail behind how elegant clothes was part of who she was.

Glimpse items from the show on our Flickr feed.

Once she moved out west permanently after Stieglitz passed, she adopted a select portfolio of western wear – denim shirts, 501s or Lady Levis, and rubber-soled PF sport shoes. No crazy fringe or cowboy frou frou.

Although there are no photos of it in the show, the curators say that her iconic adobe home featured mid-century modern furniture. It’s interesting how she kept up with modern fashion and surrounded herself with sophisticated, sleek lines from her remote perch in New Mexico’s redlands.

Working McCardell and a concho belt in this 1956 Todd Webb photo

She acquired one of the first Puccis sold in the United States – a stark black-and-white “chute” dress — and had a beloved collection of Marimekko and Clare McCardell sport dresses. She felt that McCardell was the greatest designer America had ever produced. So much so, she had the designs copied by local seamstresses.

Georgia’s trips back to New York included stops at Bergdorf’s and at her favorite old neighborhood tailor. Although she wasn’t sewing anymore, she invested a lot of effort to work with meticulous artists who could fashion austere black wool suits into the perfect expression of her, with just a subtle detail added her or there.

The paintings, clothes, and photographs coexist throughout the show, informing your vision of one of the most famous artists of the 20th century.

It’s quite remarkable to realize that every great photographer (in addition to her husband) sought her out (or received an assignment) to capture her no-nonsense image – Ansel Adams, Bruce Weber, Richard Avedon, and Annie Liebowitz.

Sparkling 1980s Warhol shows how Andy feels about Georgia.

Appropriately, one of the highlights is the miniscule Polaroid that Andy snapped of Georgia some time in the Eighties. Her head is closely wrapped in her signature black scarf and she’s as serious-looking as she can be. Andy used it as the basis of a photo-silkscreen portrait that he sprinkled with diamond dust, which gives it an Interview magazine quality.

The piece is surrounded by fashion multiples, large-scale portraits by other famous photographers, big painted abstractions, and multiple images where she sports her Calder art-piece brooch. Her all-knowing, of-the-moment glittery visage peering out of the Warhol frame shows Georgia right in tune with the the modern, changing times.

Watch this brief overview of the show:

Georgia’s multiples from the 1960s — Balenciaga suit, copies, and custom pieces and slacks.

How to Build an Empire at The Met

Close up of Qin chariot horse replicas (221 – 206 B.C.). From: Qin Shihuangdi Mausoleum Site Museum, Lintong

You can’t take it with you, or can you? The Chinese emperor with the terra cotta army thought so. See for yourself in Age of Empires: Chinese Art of the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 B.C-A.D. 220), on view through July 16 at the Met.

There are only a few horses and men from that monumental undertaking on display, but the terra cotta visitors are stunners. They and the other luxury and art objects on loan from 32 museums and archeological institutions in China provide a vivid look into the culture and pride of a people who were just forming an identity as a nation in 221 B.C. Previously, the Chinese continent consisted of warring ethnic tribes.

Heavenly Han horse and military groom in bronze (25 – 220 A.D) from Mianyang City Museum.

About a century earlier, classical Greek style, art, and ideas washed over Europe and Asia due to Alexander’s empire-building success. At the time of the Qin dynasty, when the Great Wall was being built, scholars wonder whether the Chinese emperors had seen (or heard about) large-scale classical Greek sculptures and asked their artists to out-do their Mediterranean counterparts.

Why not build full armies, cities, entertainment troupes, cavalries, and watch towers and bury them in tombs of the emperors, princes, and princesses to serve them in the after life? Like the Egyptians, the Qin and Han emperors and princes wanted a lot of stuff to use in the afterlife. But unlike the Egyptian style, it was all about personality.

Each large-scale sculpture is imbued with individual flair in their apparel, expressions, hairstyles, and weapons. If you listen to the audio guide, the curators tell us that the large-scale terra cotta armies were mass-produced using molds, but the artists were told to give each sculpture-person a dose of individuality before they were done.

Terracotta cattle (206 B.C. – 9 A.D.) from the Yangling Mausoleum.

That holds true for the animals in the show, too. The Han dynasty had a thing for beautiful, spirited horses and the center gallery in the show displays some beauties. Grooms come along, too.

Apparently the conquering Han rulers kept menageries and ranches, as seen in the show’s room full of rhinos, elephants, cattle, pigs, and animals-turned-into-art-lamps. There’s a twinkle in each of their eyes, too.

Another highlight is the jade suit made for a princess, which was supposed to form added protection in the afterlife. Another is the money tree. Who wouldn’t want one of those?

The show’s objects reflect how many tribes and influences crossed paths over the course of the Han dynasty (think Silk Road) to create the modern view of a single, all-encompassing Chinese culture – diverse textiles, gems, inventions, and ideas.

Han Dynasty belt buckle (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum

The final object, a bronze mirror from the Han dynasty, reflects it all – the first recorded inscription expressing the desire for the peoples of the “Central Kingdom” (a.k.a. China) prospering for generations to come. It’s the earliest inscription to reference many ethnic groups considering themselves as one people, one China. 

Take a look at all the objects in the collection on the Met’s site, or look at our favorites on Flickr.

Browse through the catalog to see more spectacular stuff that Han dynasty emperors just had to have:


Magical Masterworks End Tour at Met

Boy’s 1870-1900 hide shirt decorated in glass beads in geometric pattern by female Crow artist

Exquisite detail and spiritual power are evident in every item showcased in the Metropolitan’s show, Native American Masterpieces from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection, closing March 31.

The Dikers have spent a lifetime collecting objects of incredible detail, spirit, and beauty and sharing truly dazzling works with the public, most recently in the Indigenous Beauty show which ends its national tour here in New York.

Every time we have visited the small showcase inside the Met’s African and Mesoamerican galleries, visitors have been pouring over every detail of the weave, beadwork, paint, inlay, and woodcarving on the masks, clay jars, baskets, shirts, coats, hats, headdresses, war shields, and hide canvases on display.

Magical colors, geometric patterns, attached talismans, and even mysterious paint splotches pack powerful messages as animals, spirit-creatures, and half-human beings emerge in two and three dimensions.

1840s man’s European-style hide coat created by a female Naskapi artist in Labrador

The majority of artwork and clothing dates from the 19th and early 20th centuries, but pieces are earlier, such as a nearly perfect Anasazi clay pot from 1100 A.D., which uses geometric 2-D wizardry on the curved surface to convey the interconnection of underground water reservoirs that enable agricultural communities to thrive in the Southwestern desert.

Native designs and magical powers are sometimes merged with European style, as in a man’s painted hide summer coat, which was created by a female Naskapi artist from Labrador, Canada. Designed inspired by European coats, with images for a good hunt, but worn by the hunter for only one season

The curators have taken care to cite the artists in cases where they are known, such as an1880s buffalo-hide shield painted by Joseph No Two Horns, a Lakota artist who participated in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.

1910 woven quilled basket and 3D lid by Elizabeth Hickox of Northern California

The show puts a spotlight on innovators, who began making monumental works for collectors, such as the large pottery jar by Nampeyo, the first well-known Hopi artist and Elizabeth Hickox, who became known for her three-dimensional embellishments in woven basketry in Northern California.

Enjoy all of the details of our favorites from this show in our Flickr album.

Navajo Jewelry Masters Offer Glittering World at Customs House

Bracelet of coral, opal, suglite, lapis, turquoise, gold, and silver by Raymond Yazzie. Courtesy: NMAI/Knight collection. Photo: S. Franks

Bracelet of coral, opal, suglite, lapis, turquoise, gold, and silver by Raymond Yazzie. Courtesy: NMAI/Knight collection. Photo: S. Franks

If you’d like an immersion into a chamber of glistening silver and gems, enter the National Museum of the American Indian’s exhibition of stunning beauty and tranquility — Glittering World: Navajo Jewelry of the Yazzie Family.

The Smithsonian is providing New York with a unique chance to view 300 remarkable necklaces, bracelets, rings, and buckles from a New Mexico family of artists known for catapulting Navajo symbols, colors, and gems into a modern-art context.

Lapis and gold bracelet by Lee Yazzie, 1984. Photo: E. Aboroso, NMAI.

Lapis and gold bracelet by Lee Yazzie, 1984. Photo: E. Aboroso, NMAI.

The focus is on Lee and Raymond Yazzi, brothers whose award-winning, intricate creations are sought by collectors worldwide. You’ll see five magnificent pieces as soon as you enter, including work by their sister, Mary Marie – representing lifetimes of master craftsmanship inspired by the mountains, sun, sky, spirits, and family in Gallup, New Mexico.

Photomurals inside the door will transport you to the red rock monuments of Navajo Nation, 1950s trading posts along the old Route 66, and maps to turquoise mines that have supplied native peoples with high-end bedazzlers since 300 A.D. The Smithsonian will be returning it all to private collectors after January 10, so be sure to enter this beautiful realm before then.

Watch this testament to artistic inspiration and dedication to beauty:

And take a trip to the Navajo world to hear more on a lifetime of creation:

AMNH Highlights Species Living at the Limits

Tartigrades rule the show -- the micro-animal can survive at high heat, high altitude, high pressure, inhospitable climates, without water, and even outer space.

Tartigrades rule the show — the micro-animal survives high heat, high altitude, high pressure, without water, and even outer space.

If you’ve ever wanted to take a magic carpet ride to visit all the animals, plants, and environments you’ve ever seen on National Geographic or Nova, spend some time inside the special exhibition Life at The Limits: Stories of Amazing Species, running through January 3 at the American Museum of Natural History.

The curators and exhibition staff take you to the absolute limits of life on Earth in a “wow factor” show, organized into topics sure to astound.

How high into the atmosphere do animals live? How deep in the ocean? Who is the world-record holder for bite force? Who makes the longest migratory journey? Who is the award-winner for survival in the extreme?

The show will take you into deep caves, to life among the black smokers in ocean depths, to high altitudes, and even into outer space.

A deep-sea diving champion -- the Southern elephant seal can hold its breath for 2 hours and dive to 5,000 feet

A deep-sea diving champion — the Southern elephant seal can hold its breath for 2 hours and dive to 5,000 feet

And they’ve even thrown in some live creatures, too – the popular Axolotls, who retain their juvenile amphibious form into adulthood, and swimmers using the jet-propulsion method – chambered nautilis. Check out a few views on our Flickr feed.

Not to give anything away, but you’ll find out that vultures have been known to fly at 37,000 feet and beaked whales have been known to dive at least 10,000 feet below the ocean’s surface.

Live Chambered nautilis demonstrates jet propulsion

Live Chambered nautilis demonstrates jet propulsion

Crocodiles have a bit force of 3,700 pounds, electric eels and hammerheads can deliver 600 volts, and eagles can subdue animals of up 20 pounds in weight using only their claws. Arctic Terns may migrate 25,000 miles.

There’s no doubt that the stars of the survivalist show are miniscule tartigrades (better known as “water bears” or “moss piglets”). These miniature eight-legged water creatures inhabit climates that no human could. They are able to survive at temperatures colder than Pluto and hotter than boiling water and have been known to survive in the void of space for up to 12 days.

Moreover, tartigrades are prolific: nearly 1,200 species inhabit Earth in lichen, moss, beaches, and dunes and hold the distinction of residing at the International Space Station and being part of Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final flight.

Artist recreation of tube worms absorbing chemicals from ocean vents three miles under the sea – an environment unknown until 1977

Artist recreation of tube worms absorbing chemicals from ocean vents three miles under the sea – an environment unknown until 1977

How did life evolve to adapt to such extremes? Darwin explains it in his theory of natural selection, which leads to gradual adaptations within animal populations.

But you are left to wander and wonder at the engaging displays, animals, specimens, and movies.

Glimpse some of this fascinating exhibition in this video with co-curators John Sparks and Mark Siddall. By the way, the cover photo below is the Axolotl featured in the show:

Texas Retirement for World Famous NYC Dinos

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus passing by the Empire State Building on their way to the Queens fairgrounds

A 1964 New York Times photo of the Sinclair Dinosaur and Stegosaurus viewing the Empire State Building on their way to the Worlds Fair fairgrounds

The Sinclair dinosaur was a sensation when he arrived in New York City to star in the 1964 World’s Fair. Millions of visitors queued to have their pictures taken with him and get a glimpse of life-size replicas of the scale and scope of the Mesozoic megafauna.

T. Rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Trachodon…never mind that they lived millions of years apart – just to see them inspired science geeks, wonder seekers, and future paleontologists – an unforgettable childhood impression.

It may surprise you to learn that Sinclair and T. Rex are living a blissful retirement in Texas where there are no Unispheres, freeways, lines of tourists, or ticket booths…about 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth in a state park with another unique connection to New York.

Sinclair relaxes in a Texas corral

Sinclair relaxes in a Texas corral

The gargantuan dinosaur trackway up on the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History is from the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park, where these two former New Yorkers have retired.

Back in the Thirties, AMNH field explorer Roland T. Bird told his boss, Barnum Brown, about the Texas trackways. In 1940, aided by WPA crews, the submerged tracks were excavated, cut into 1,200 pieces and shipped off to the AMNH, the Smithsonian, the University of Texas, and a few other places.The excavation was a media sensation, with chronicles appearing everywhere.

In New York, the jigsaw-puzzle track pieces were eventually reassembled and placed under the Apatosaurus/Brontosaurus, where they remain today.

Apatosaurus atop Paluxy trackway in New York at AMNH

Apatosaurus atop Paluxy trackway in New York at AMNH

The big, round blobby tracks that appear to match those of Apatosaurus are reckoned to be those of Sauroposeidon and the three-toed tracks running right alongside are those of Acrocanthosaurus, a predator.

Even though this spectacular trackway got moved to New York, there are still plenty in in the park. There are at least five big sites, which have all been documented in the Dinosaur Valley State Park footprint-mapping project. See the results here. When you click on each photo mosaics or track overlays, they will open in Google Earth. Find the R.T. Bird site under Track Site Area 2.

But how did the New York dinosaurs get to Glen Rose? The entire dinosaur group toured the United States for a few years after the Fair, right around the time that Texans lobbied to have the Paluxy Trackway declared a state park. No dinosaur fossils at the time, but there were lots of footprints, mostly underwater but a few on the shoreline. Neighboring ranchers donated the land, hoping to keep the site intact and spur tourism dollars.

Sauropod footprints underwater at the Paluxy River, Glen Rose, Texas

Sauropod footprints underwater at the Paluxy River, Glen Rose, Texas

When the Sinclair tour concluded, Atlantic Richfield’s idea was to donate all the dinosaurs to the Smithsonian, but when the Smithsonian said they didn’t want the group, the band broke up. One went to Vernal, one to Cleveland, but Glen Rose was the only location that managed to get the two biggest stars. Did the New York connection make the difference?

It’s hard to know, but the recently opened Perot Museum of Nature and Science features a pop culture corner in its dinosaur hall with replicas of all of the NYC’s World’s Fair dinosaurs!

For the complete story, check out this video of the tracksite and an introduction to the Google Earth mapping project, old videos of Mr. Bird’s historic 1940s excavation, and cameos by the Sinclair dinosaur and friends.

World’s Fair T Rex enjoying a quiet life in Texas

World’s Fair T Rex enjoying a quiet life in Texas

Frida Khalo Extravaganza Ending with Colorful Surprises

NYBG’s Haupt Conservatory is transformed into Frida’s Casa Azul

NYBG’s Haupt Conservatory is transformed into Frida’s Casa Azul

Ever since the New York Botanical Garden installed its Frida Khalo: Art, Garden, Life show, it’s been a nonstop party and feast for the eyes, ears, and tastebuds.

Not sufficient to import fourteen of Frida’s rarely seen paintings for the formal gallery upstairs in its library building, the creative NYBG team has made environments, commissioned artists, designed apps, booked acts, hosted special events, transformed the conservatory, made a wall of cactus, redesigned menus, and even brought in a taco truck to give everyone an immersion into her sophisticated Mexican lifestyle.

This blockbuster sensory experience is in its last week, going out with a bang with a Dia de los Muertos theme as this traditional Mexican holiday collides with our own Halloween. Sugar skulls and whimsical skeletons are taking over Frida and Diego’s pyramid that serves as the centerpiece of the garden portion of the show.

Tissue-paper dresses for The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola

Tissue-paper dresses for The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola

It’s an appropriate mix, given Frida’s own proclivity to merge the everyday with the surreal in her own works. The Library has an exquisite collection of her self-portrait and still life paintings, featuring flowers, animals, and deep-rooted Mexican myth and culture.

Downstairs in the Britton Rotunda, there’s a stunning installation of The Two Fridas by artist Humberto Spindola – side-by-side mannequins wearing tissue-paper dresses in colors that Frida sported, but with the surreal outer heart that she painted more than once. Visitors approach as if it were a shrine with special powers.

Frida’s workspace

Frida’s workspace

The Haupt Conservatory serves up a riot of color with floating blue containers of vivid flowers, the dynamic blue of the recreated Casa Azul, where she lived, pops of the types of flowers with which she adorned her table and sills, and the intensely painted Mexican-style pyramid in the center of it all.

The sensations are so bright that it’s easy to miss the recreation of Frida’s studio, tucked away in the trees to the left of the main event – brushes, paints, paint sticks, and other tools.

Outdoors, the curators have succulents jammed into every piece of oversize Mexican pottery near a “wall” of cactus, replicating a natural fence that Diego had outside his studio for decades.

Soloist from Capulli Danza Mexicana channels her inner Frida for the crowd

Soloist from Capulli Danza Mexicana channels her inner Frida for the crowd

The “Life” portion of the show’s title is represented by the generous schedule of music, performances, films, and events that the NYBG has featured throughout the show’s six-month run. Dance companies, all-female mariachi bands, chefs, and authors provide sensuous infusions of movement, wit, gaiety, and sophistication that Frida embodied her entire life. Flashing red skirts, exciting beats, fast footwork, dramatic flourishes, and meaty conversation all contribute to the experience of who Frida was, how she lived, and what she loved.

Download the exhibition panel to see all the parts of Mexico City that meant so much to Frida and Diego – images of parks, gardens, markets, and historic sites, including photos of Casa Azul.

Download the app for your visit, and go to our Flickr site to see the photos and a few videos of the dancers in action.

Take a look at what the NYBG team achieved:

If you have time, check out the YouTube of the all-star kick-off symposium dedicated to Frida last May.


Plains Indians Wearable Art at The Met

1780 Plains Indian horned headdress assembled from a powerful mix of materials including bison horns, deer and horsehair, porcupine quills, glass beads, wood, metal cones, cotton cloth, silk ribbon, and paint. From the Musée du quai Branly in Paris

1780 Horned headdress assembled from a powerful mix from mighty bison , deer, and horse. From Musée du quai Branly in Paris.

With all the attention this week on the couture gowns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art ball and Costume Institute show, don’t forget that some of the most elaborately embellished mixed-media wearable art is installed on the second floor in the expansive tribute, The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky, through this weekend.

The masterworks have been gathered from select European and North American collections and feature beadwork (mostly on leather), symbolic headdresses, and magical objects that directly telegraph the wearer’s connection to nature, the universe, and supernatural power.

The show was organized by the Musée du quai Branly, Paris, in collaboration with The Met, and in partnership with The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, and features works from the 18th century through today (like the China exhibition in the other wing).

All-over beading on contemporary platform shoes by artist Jamie Okuma, 2014.

All-over beading on 2014 platform shoes by artist Jamie Okuma.

The curators track changes in materials, styles, and concerns of the Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, Crow, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Lakota, Blackfeet, Pawnee, Kiowa, Comanche, and Meskwaki nations from the time they dominated the Midwest through the demise of the buffalo, the great wars, the transition to reservation life, and participation in 21st century art and culture.

Take a read through the curators’ story on this exhibition site and see some of our favorite looks on our Flickr feed, where we’ve organized the pieces in chronological order. We’re giving you a close-up view of some of the bead, quill, and embroidery work. You can see the transition from more shamanistic embellishment to use of imported Venetian glass beads, to the all-over bead style, and finally to current creations, such as Jaime Okuma’s beaded platform shoes.

Central painting on large-scale Mythic Bird robe from the Illinois Confederacy, 1700-1740. Courtesy: Musée du quai Branly in Paris

Central painting on Mythic Bird robe, Illinois Confederacy, 1700-1740. Courtesy: Musée du quai Branly in Paris

Much of the painting and handwork was divided according to gender – men painted figures and women did the beadwork and painted the geometric forms. This beautiful robe with a geometric mythological bird is one of the earliest surviving large-scale paintings from Plains tribes, and the beaded geometry of the 1895 Crow wedding robe is another marvel.

Compare the mixed-media horned headdresses from 1780s Missouri with Chief Red Cloud’s dramatic all-business trophy-feathered war bonnet of 1865. The fluffy-feathered 1925 creation from Cody’s Buffalo Bill Center almost makes you wonder if that version were strictly for wild west shows.

It’s also interesting to learn that the powerful symbolic paintings on shirts and shields were essentially “owned” by their creators.

Close up of the tiny Venetian seed beads used to decorate a Lakota woman’s dress (Teton Sioux), 1865. From the Smithsonian’s NMAI

Tiny Venetian seed beads decorate a Lakota woman’s 1865 dress. From the Smithsonian’s NMAI

Similar to what we learned about 1920s French couture designers’ concerns about unlicensed copies in FIT’s recent Faking It show, anyone wanting to replicate a particular war shirt or shield, had to be granted formal permission. The Met exhibition explains that replication permission of Plains Indian designs were closely held and protected for generations.

A full database of the amazing objects in the show is on the Met’s website, as well as the complete audio guide to the exhibit on the museum’s Soundcloud site. As you click on the audio tracks, you’ll see a small thumbnail of the object.

Listen to curator Gaylord Torrence, explain how French culture and embroidery techniques collided with Plains Indians culture three hundred years ago to such magnificent result:


Bird Watching with Audubon: Forget the Binoculars

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Havell plate no. 307, 1832

Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), Havell plate no. 307, 1832

If you climb up to the second story of the New-York Historical Society to see Audubon’s birds, grab the magnifying glass right inside the gallery door. See the magnificent details painted by the watercolor master of all time in  Audubon’s Aviary: The Final Flight (Part III of The Complete Flock), running through this weekend.

NYHS is the lucky owner of every watecolor JJA produced to make his historic Birds of America subscription project in the early 1800s, which documented over 700 species.

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), Havell plate no. 397, 1837

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber), Havell plate no. 397, 1837

The watercolor collection – from which engravings were made – is so large that NYHS had to split the exhibition into three parts. It’s a joy to look at the life-size paintings that Audubon produced through the magnifying lens, seeing the tiny brushstrokes on lush feathers and miniscule detail on the small hummingbirds.

Paintings featured in all three shows are hung in the sequence that JJA painted them. Although JJA traveled extensively throughout the East and South, he never actually saw birds west of the Missouri in the wild.

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), Havell plate no. 311

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), Havell plate no. 311

By the time Audubon began cranking out the watercolors needed for his final installment of his masterwork, lots of new birds were being discovered out West. Scrambling to keep up – after all, he committed to documenting every American bird – he accessed specimens collected by recent Western expeditions, Lewis & Clark’s trove, and other American specimens archived in Europe.

He holed up in Charleston, South Carolina in the winter of 1836 and worked, worked, worked to finish all the watercolors, which would be shipped to Mr. Havell in the UK for engraving.

How did Mr. Auduon’s studio work compare to the real thing? See for yourself in this bird-watching documentary shown inside the gallery. The birds featured are from the previous installation of the exhibit, including the rare, rambunctious Prairie Chicken at 1:25.

For more, go to the show’s excellent website, explore some of JJA’s works in more depth, and listen to the bird calls for the exhibition, courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Nature Meditations in the Land of Fire and Ice

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Haul IV (2004) travelling landscape-in-a-box on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Katrín Sigurðardóttir, Haul IV (2004) travelling landscape-in-a-box on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

When the weather dips below freezing and people think they’re in the Arctic, there’s no better place to get out of the elements and meditate on the landscapes of long, dark winters than the third floor of Scandinavia House on Park Avenue. Until tomorrow, January 10, you’ll join eleven contemporary artists from the sub-arctic on their journeys in a show mounted by the Katonah Museum of Art, Iceland Artists Respond to Place.

Bjork may get all the media attention, but do yourself a favor and walk through this three-gallery show, which beautifully and simply presents the work of Iceland’s other leading visual artists. See the land of fire and ice through their eyes.

Olafur Eliasson, The Aerial River Series, 2000 on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist. Installation photo: Ben Blackwell

Olafur Eliasson, The Aerial River Series, 2000 on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist. Photo: Ben Blackwell

Olafur Eliasson takes you on an aerial journey along a 60-mile meltwater river, from the mouth to the source. Ragna Róbertsdóttir splatters miniscule lava rocks against a wall but it’s not what it sounds like. Far from a violent eruption, it’s an undulating, mesmerizing meditation that you’ll spend time contemplating.

For sheer romantic and modernist punch, enjoy Georg Guðni Hauksson’s two works – a large landscape memory and a solid dark blue canvas evoking the long winter nights (like an emotional Ad Reinhardt).

Lava rocks “talk” in Egill Sæbjörnsson’s Pleasure Stones installation (2008) on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Lava rocks “talk” in Egill Sæbjörnsson’s Pleasure Stones installation (2008) on loan from private collector. Courtesy: The artist.

Egill Saebjornsson takes home the whimsy award with a multimedia installation in which rocks speak (seriously!). Eggert Pétursson zeros in the microscopic natural phenomenon – painting flowers (life sized) in patterns that read like tapestries. You’ll wish you were on some hikes with him. Katrín Sigurðardóttir simply packs up her landscapes into boxes. Tiny, tiny recreations of vast, romantic landscapes.

When we visited the galleries this week, visitors were asking if there was more they could see. Scandinavia House always hosts classy, elegant shows, so although the exhibition space is limited, we have to admit they always leave us wanting to see what’s next from that part of the world.

Seth Myers was recounting his Icelandic adventures this week on Late Night. If you can’t get to the country like Seth or visit the show, at least you can spend chilly days and nights like the natives do, courtesy of this instructional video produced by Scandinavia House: