Groovy Link of the Month: Beatriz Milhazes at the Perez Art Museum Miami

Beatriz Milhazes, one of my very favorite contemporary artists, is being honored with her first US-museum career retrospective at the Perez Art Museum Miami. The exhibit is entitled “Beatriz Milhazes: Jardim Botânico” and runs Sept. 19, 2014 through Jan. 11, 2015. The works represent the full progression of her colorful abstract compositions from the organic, circular shapes based on textiles and flowers to her recent return to the formal grid.

Milhazes is a Carioca (native of Rio de Janeiro) who trained at the Parque Lage art school in the 1980s. Art runs in the family: Her mother was an art-history professor, while her sister is a choreographer with her own modern dance company (Beatriz has designed theatrical sets for the company’s performances.) Her artistic breakthrough came during a sojourn in Paris, where she discovered Matisse. The idea that painting could be decorative, colorful, and at the same time, rigorously abstract, set her free to develop her own approach to subject matter and style. Other artistic influences include Brazilian floral textiles and lace, the annual Carneval samba competitions at the Sambodromo in Rio, and most importantly, the city’s famed botanical gardens. Since graduating from art school, Milhazes has maintained a studio in a converted millworker’s house in the historic neighborhood bordering the Jardim Botânico.

Milhazes uses a form of decalcomania to create her large-scale abstractions. By pouring thin coats of liquid acrylics on plastic sheets, then scraping the dried paint shapes off the plastic and gluing them onto the canvas, she constructs her images in slightly tattered layers that reveal the colors below.

I first encountered her work in London, where Transport for London hosted an installation of her work titled “Peace and Love”  in the Gloucester Road Tube station in late 2005 and early 2006 as part of its Art on the Underground exhibit/installation series. Gloucester Road is the Tube station closest to the Victoria and Albert Museum. Getting on and off the train and seeing her colorful work really brought a lift to my spirits during the gray, cold London winter. I’ve been a fan ever since.


Making time for an artistic play-date

I’ve signed up for Kelly Rae Roberts’ “Hello Soul, Hello Mantra” online painting course. It should be a great opportunity to play with materials that have been lurking in my drawers, as well as cut loose with a freer, more gestural style. Another reason I signed up was to get a chance to incorporate text with images and experiment with abstraction.
Saturday I spent an hour or so with my vintage Indian wood textile-printing blocks and some liquid craft acrylic paints. If you print on dampened paper placed on a sheet of craft foam for cushioning, you can get a pretty good impression. Above you can see some imprints made with pearlescent peach paint layered over some watercolor washes.
Class starts September 8. Maybe you’d like to join me?

Portrait of a pear: Introducing my Society 6 shop


A botanical art watercolor of a Bartlett pear.

“Portrait of a Pear,” 8.5″ x 11″ watercolor on hot-press Fabriano Artistico paper, by Wren M. Allen

I’m so excited and proud to announce that my first print is now available at Society6! Here’s the story behind this simple portrait of a pear:

Last week I spied the first pears of the season at the grocery store. I sat down this weekend and painted this Bartlett pear on Saturday morning. The angled stem and dried leaves added to the character of the petite fruit.

To increase the challenge, I restricted my palette to three colors: cadmium yellow lemon, cobalt blue and alizarin crimson. Instead of stippling, I stamped the tips of a mostly dry flat brush onto the paper to add the freckled texture of the pear’s skin.

Purples, blues, greens and browns mixed from just red yellow and blue watercolor paint.

All these colors were achieved using only cadmium lemon, cobalt blue and alizarin crimson!

Please let me know what you think in the comments!

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