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“storytime with esther pearl watson”

Yes, that’s THE Esther Pearl Watson – and her trusty sidekick, Gherkin – out in the middle of the California desert. Esther is a Los Angeles based artist and she also teachers at ArtCenter in Pasadena. I like to think of her as a modern day Grandma Moses… if Grandma Moses painted narrative scenes of a slightly dysfunctional childhood in rural Texas. I loved Esther’s “memory paintings” years before I ever met her… let’s face it, she had me at “pink UFO”. So, Esther once told me that she reads strange stories from art history to her students while they’re painting, so I asked her to bring those stories over here! Yes, it’s officially “Storytime with Esther Pearl Watson”… psst… there are a lot of stories that involve pee, so consider yourself warned! You can listen right up there under Esther and Gherky, or subscribe on iTunes.

First up, a few of Esther’s paintings, complete with titles that definitely tell a story:

I love everything Esther does, and how she does it – finding humor in some not funny situations. So vulnerable, and so empowering.

So, let’s have a look at Grandma Moses. She painted “the good old days”, unlike Esther’s “dysfunctional days”:

See, all she needs is a UFO in the sky, and BAM, she and Esther could be art twins.

Alright, onto Esther’s stories! First up, tyrian purple:

Liz gets it. Purple from head-to-toe in every scene as Cleopatra. Ah, soooo many snails, so much pee. If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, that should make you curious!

Next up, van Gogh’s vibrant, and kinda random, color choices … thanks to Julien, the paint salesman:

Ta-dah, the white roses that started out as pink roses! Oh Julien, make sure your products stand up over time, dude.

And of course, Paul Cezanne‘s “grotesque” bathers, butt cracks and all:

Apparently he didn’t work from models, but I wonder if he just needed some good glasses. Ah, we’ll never know.

And finally, I had to include this awesome photo of Esther WAY above the Los Angeles skyline. I assume she’s waiting for the mothership to beam her up:

And that’s that. Now, at the end of the episode, I said I wouldn’t be back until January, but I think I’ll pop in with a bonus mid-holiday episode between Christmas and New Year’s Eve… just in case your family is driving you crazy and you need a little escape to the studio! Thanks so much to Esther for digging up these amazing stories for us, thanks to THRIVE for supporting yet another episode, and huge thanks to you for listening! ~ Danielle

Other links:

  1. Esther on Instagram
  2. Lili Todd on Instagram
  3. Mark Todd
  4. Hey There Gallery, Joshua Tree
  5. Susanne Vielmetter Projects {at Art Miami with Esther this weekend!}
  6. I was right about Monet’s vision… kinda.
  7. Mark Liam Smith, painter
  8. Jenny Saville, painter
  9. Mickalene Thomas / Her exhibition at BMA, Baltimore {Now till May 2021}
  10. Book: Secret Lives of Great Artists by Elizabeth Lunday


“ask martha”

Ahhh, one of my very first art crushes… Philadelphia based artist, illustrator and teacher Martha Rich! Today’s we’re diving into, “Ask Martha – it’s like Dear Abby but not at all like Dear Abby.” Basically I invented this segment because I looooove asking Martha questions. Her answers are usually hilarious, she’s super smart, AND she has a really inspiring attitude when it comes to life. You’ll see what I mean when I ask her the questions that you guys sent in. Yep, I asked my Instagram crowd to send in some questions, and you did! I picked 5 or 6 of them – some serious, some silly and then I followed the whole thing up with a bunch of really dumb trivia questions, because listening to Martha answer trivia is hilarious. You’re welcome. You can listen right up there under “log head” (aka the photo I took of Martha while our show was being installed in Joshua Tree a few weeks ago), or subscribe on iTunes. ps. My intro is all about creating your own visual vocabulary!

First up, a couple of quick snap shots from the opening of “Crush It”, a group show at Hey There Projects in Joshua Tree featuring Martha, Bruce Lee (far right), and me! ps. The show is up until December 13, 2019:

“Double doink”. Yeah, I’m not sure what’s happening here, but it made me laugh so I threw it in! That’s me and Martha with Aaron Smith (left) and Mark Todd (right), the founders of Hey There, both of whom are fabulous artists and teachers at ArtCenter in Pasadena. Hm, maybe the “double doink” is for all the name dropping I just did! Ok, moving on…

Here’s just a little taste of the work Martha’s being doing lately, and yes, I love it all:

Donna Did It. Hahahaha! Oooh, and all of that pink FURY up there is a perfect lead into this:

YES! Martha’s new book, “The Furious Notebook”, perfect for “releasing your rage” and “chilling the heck out”. I held this furious little beauty in my hands when we were together last week, and not only is it filled with Martha Rich fantastic-ness, it’s also very helpful in the current political climate. Blarg. Anyway, let’s not dwell on that. Here’s a peek at the mural Martha is finishing up on Monday at the airport in Philadelphia:

Um, hello “selfie-opportunity” while waiting for your flight! I like the blue guy and his yellow beard. I hope he finds his missing dipping sauce. ??? (This is why I love her).

Now, I’m sure you were interested in this part of our conversation. BlueQ and Martha have been working together for a few years now, turning her artwork into bags, coin purses, socks, oven mitts, and PASSIVE INCOME:

So. Good. ps. I buy that “Random Crap” bag for people all the time. Hilarious, because it’s true.

Next, this is the fabulous artist Martha named as one of her faves, and the woman she’d love to have paint her portrait. California based artist Georganne Deen:

Oh my word, love love love! Okay, well now I need to see what “Martha Rich by Georganne Deen” would look like.

And finally, because she brought up the pineapple glasses, I have a perfect excuse to pop this beauty into the post as the final image:

Luv ya, mean it. Seriously, I’m so glad my art crush from eleven years ago turned into a really wonderful friendship with an incredible woman. Thanks so much to Martha for answering all of my questions – even the dumb trivia about cow graffiti in Texas; Thanks to THRIVE for being such a fantastic partner; and of course, thank YOU for listening. There will not actually be a new art for your ear next weekend. Saturday November 30th marks the one year anniversary of losing my dad, and I’ve decided to give myself the weekend to just be still. I’ll be back the following weekend though with Esther Pearl Watson, and she’s bringing a whole bunch of weird ‘n wonderful stories from art history. See you then ~ Danielle

Links from my intro:

  1. The Artist’s Way, book
  2. Kirstin Lamb, Episode no. 54
  3. Meghan Hildebrand, Episode no. 97
  4. Mando Marie, Episode no. 100
  5. Martha’s current show at Webb Gallery, TX (up until mid Dec)


montserrat duran muntadas

Gasp! This is the incredibly beautiful, deeply personal work of Catalan-born Montreal-based artist Montserrat Duran Muntadas. She uses delicate blown glass and boldly patterned fabrics to tell her story:

It all started with change; an inner transformation. At the age of 13, the artist was diagnosed with a uterine malformation that endangered her fertility, as well as her potential  of living as a normal woman. But what is a ”normal” woman these days?  That is the underlying question that the artist ponders with this work, in an era where illness or anomaly is a shared condition, through its infinite trajectories, that can  represent normalcy.

To accept and describe the anomaly, to show its beauty, to create from the inability of procreating, that was the challenge encountered while assembling the blown glass pieces of this intimate yet public installation.  The outcome resulted with deformed pieces that seem ornamental, where the inner space notions and the visceral art became literal.

The pieces presented are themselves a sign of an artistic change, uniting glass and padded textile, which by  their play with transparency and textures, reciprocally transform themselves.

So vulnerable, and incredibly powerful.  ps. I’ve included a few photos so you can understand the scale of Monterrat’s work:

naomi devil

Seafood, anyone? Oh my word, these are a few of the most recent oil paintings by Hungarian artist Naomi Devil … and I LOVE THEM. Did you notice the lemon glasses? Gah! I’ve written about Naomi before, and those ‘past-meets-hilarious-present’ portraits were fantastic too, but the first platter of oysters above? Clearly, I had no choice but to write again. Fabulous technique AND humor… easily one of my favorite combinations {almost as good as lobster with lemon}.

túlio pinto

Blown glass and steel. What? This is the jaw-dropping work of Brazilian artist Túlio Pinto. I can’t find any information on why he does what he does, but I can tell you that my breath has been taken away by what he does. Oh my word.

fares micue

Gasp! She had me at ‘glass head filled with flowers’. This is the colorful, bold, surreal self-portraiture of Spain based artist Fares Micue. Here is the description found on her Saatchi Art page:

“Fares Micue is a self taught fine art/conceptual photographer. She started photography as a hobby when she discovered Flickr back in 2009. Little by little that hobby started to take more and more of her time until she realised, almost 6 years later, that what has started as just an entertainment was now her biggest passion. As a self-portrait photographer she loves to observe, and uses her own perception of the world to create stories based of human natural feelings like fear, love, desire or desperation.”

Well thank goodness she found Flickr. I think this new career is going to be a long one!

mary baum

“presence of absence” and “where two worlds touch ii”… the titles of these two earthly bodies of work by Oregon based artist Mary Baum.

Her work deals with themes of belief and mysticism; the connection between the natural and spiritual worlds; and the relationship between magic and miracle. 

Any magic involving shattered glass, soil, sand, and stone is okay by me … sigh. Beautiful.

christina bothwell

Gasp! This is the strange and stunning work of American sculptor Christina Bothwell. She studied painting at art school, but ultimately found herself drawn to glass and clay… so she taught herself how to do it. So inspiring! Here is part of her artist statement:

“Since I was very young, I have been fascinated with the concept of the Soul… the idea that the physical body represents only a small part of our beingness. I am always interested in trying to express the that we are more than just our bodies, and my ongoing spiritual interests and pursuits have run parallel to the narrative in my pieces … I am drawn to the processes of birth, death, and renewal. What lies below the surface fascinates me and I try to capture the qualities of the “unseen” that express the sense of wonder that I feel in my daily existence. I am attracted to glass because it can do everything that other sculptural media can; in addition, it offers an inner space and transmits light.”

It certainly does! And speaking of renewal, almost exactly one year ago, Christina’s studio burned to the ground. She lost everything… not only all of her equipment and supplies, but a huge amount of the work she’d created over the past twenty years. Devastating. That said, I’m happy to report that she and her husband Robert D. Bender (also a fabulous glass artist who she often collaborates with), have picked up the pieces and are forging ahead. Again, so inspiring. ps. Don’t be distracted by sweet Gosle in the video… she’s just there to give feedback if Christina needs it.

luba zygarewicz

This is “RISORGERE” (meaning, to rise again). It was created by New Orleans based installation artist Luba Zygarewicz while she was at Chalk Hill Artist Residency in Healdsburg, California. Here are Luba’s words on this very moving installation:

“[RISORGERE] is comprised of hundreds of remnants from the Sonoma Fires of 2017, which I collected at a Fire Debris Site in Windsor, CA. These vestiges are organized and woven together into columns to create groupings symbolizing different “areas of a house or belongings”.   The perpendicular structures are strung together horizontally to create a cohesive structure that is suspended with some pieces just above the ground.

Undergirding the structure, much like an offering, lay hundreds of pieces of melted glass salvaged from the fires. The glass pieces are arranged from light to dark and stand as symbols of the frailty of life, while serving as reminders of strength and resilience.  

While sifting and digging at the salvage yard, I felt a strong sense that each piece I found represented a person’s life, and possibly their dream of a house, car, phone, baseball bat, etc. I also imagined how those affected by the fires had searched and dug for things they could recognize and reclaim. This process of gathering was a heart wrenching experience. Back at the studio, after cleaning each piece, I set out to arrange them in a way that created a narrative by finding common elements among a disparity of objects. The symmetrical lines from the vineyards in Sonoma County inspired the overall visual design.

I am deeply honored to be considered to have this work on display as an homage to the many individuals and families who have risen again, and have rebuilt their lives one piece at the time.”

Beautiful. And sad. And hopeful.

pamela tan

Gasp! This delicate white wonderland is ‘Eden’, a permanent installation by Malaysian architectural designer Pamela Tan. Here are a few excerpts from the description of this project:

‘Eden’ blurs the boundaries between man-made wonders and the beauty of nature. Opening up your senses to a world of delight and new sensations through a curated retail experience. ‘Eden’ is a celebration of natural elements, merging the lush greenery of the existing site-163 Retail Park with a wondrous landscape referenced from the mythical story of the ‘Garden of Eden’. Providing visitors with a refuge away from the hustle and bustle of daily life; as a space of solace and contemplation … Upon closer observation, glass spheres can be seen delicately perched on the cusp of the hanging vines; echoing water droplets balancing on the edge of leaves after rain has subsided. A cathedral-like space is achieved with the varying heights of the vines casting an intricate play of shadow upon it’s surroundings …  ‘Eden’ wishes to bring you to re-discover the joys of looking closer, to cause you to momentarily suspend your beliefs and become a child once again. To believe, if only for a moment, that you are actually in paradise.

Well, mission accomplished! ‘Eden’ can be found at 163 Retail Park, Mont Kiara, 50480 Kuala Lumpur.