Good artists copy. Great artists steal.
attributed to Picasso
Here's a quick look at what Ripoff Artist Leo Pedersen is up to, as he warms up for next week's 2020 Ripoff Artist Challenge, starting on Monday.
This year, the Ripoff Artists take a flying leap at Marc Chagall’s Blue Circus, painted in 1950. Chagall (1887-1985) worked in many different artistic media: painting, drawing, printmaking, illustration, theatrical backdrops, ceramics and stained glass. He studied and participated in many of the major artistic styles of the early twentieth century. In the 1950s, Picasso said, "when Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what colour really is"
Chagall was born in 1887 near Vitebsk, a small city in Belarus. He knew early he wanted to be an artist, which wasn’t easy for Jews in Imperial Russia. He chose to use his Jewishness as a major artistic theme, but came to see his art as "not the dream of one people but of all humanity." He moved to St Petersburg, then to Paris to develop his art career. In 1914, he went home to his home village to marry his sweetheart Bella Rosenfeld, just as the First World War broke out. They were trapped in Russia. They moved to St Petersburg, then in 1922, they left Russia, never to return. They lived in Paris, then in New York.
Chagall said that every time he was with Bella, his feet didn’t touch the ground, and in his paintings, happy loving couples lift off and float, as in one of his best-known works, The Birthday. Bella wrote about that day in her own memoirs, when she surprised him at his studio with cake and flowers she’d hidden in a shawl. ‘Spurts of red, blue, white, black. Suddenly you tear me from the earth, you yourself take off from one foot. You rise, you stretch your limbs, you float up to the ceiling. You head turns about and you make mine turn. You brush my ear and murmur.’
His work was an outpouring of his inner self onto canvas, and he had more in common with the poets, writers and thinkers of Paris and New York than with many other modern artists. His figures are abstract but recognizable, and his work is full of movement, colour, emotion, dreamlike settings, whimsy and humour, personal symbolism and references to his own life. A fish often appears in his paintings as a tribute to his father, who worked long hard hours for a fish merchant. Chagall set many paintings in his home village, long after it had been destroyed by two World Wars and the Russian Revolution, but the Eiffel Tower may appear in the background. In his work, rabbits play in an upside down landscape, horses fly and mermaids soar above a moonlit sea.
During the Second World War, some prominent Jewish scientists, writers, artists and thinkers were taken to the US on a special visa program, among them Marc and Bella Chagall and their daughter Ida. By the end of the war, almost all European Jews had been wiped out, and of 240,000 people in their hometown of Vitebsk, only 118 survived. Bella died in 1944. In 2016 a musical play about Marc and Bella Chagall, “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk,” was mounted in the UK (A glowing review of the play is here) (And the 1:53 minute trailer for the play is here)
A year after Bella’s death, Chagall began a romance with photographer Virginia Haggard, and they had a child together. She left him in 1952, then his daughter introduced him to Valentina “Vava” Brodsky, a woman from a similar Russian-Jewish background. They married and were together for the rest of his life.
Chagall was already well-known by the time he moved to the US. In the 1950s, his career and reputation exploded and he took on much larger challenges: a painting on the ceiling of the Paris Opera, stained-glass windows for the synagogue at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and in many European churches and cathedrals. He created a stained glass window called “Peace” for the UN. He also did backdrops, set and costume designs for theatre, mosaics and many tapestries. On the day he died, he did a design consultation with the weaver of a tapestry he’d designed for a hospital in Chicago. He was 97.
Blue Circus is one of many images he created of the circus. He would attend with artist friends, taking his pencils and sketchpad. As one writer states, Chagall loved the circus. “Why am I so touched by their makeup and grimaces?” he said. “With them I can move toward new horizons.”
The Ripoff Artists are moving toward our own new horizon by doing the 2020 challenge in a virtual format. Each artist will work at home, and every day during Ripoff Week, July 6 to 11, we’ll share photos or video of our progress. Look for those by late afternoon every day during the week.
Leading up to that week, we’ll be sharing photos, videos and updates as we prepare for the challenge.
Look for “Virtual Studio Tours” and slide shows on our website, ripoffartists.ca,
our Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/southokanaganripoffartists
And our new YouTube Channel, South Okanagan Ripoff Artists! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEdXUR1mEhMerxb0diJTQCA
Ripoff Russell is hard at work on the poster for the Ripoff Artists 2020 challenge! Even though the Ripoff Artists won't be able to work together at the Quail's Nest this summer, we're still going ahead with our challenge, in a new way!
Starting this week, you'll see blog posts, videos, slide shows and other stories popping up here and on our Facebook Page, and maybe a few other pages as well! The Ripoff Artists have been hard at work in their home studios getting ready to take on our latest challenge, and they have photos to prove it!
All of this as a suspenseful and tantalizing lead-up to Ripoff Week starting Monday, July 6 and running through to Saturday, July 11, when we'll share daily updates on our progress. It'll be just like being there at the Quail's Nest as it happens, but without the heat!
At our Zoom meeting last Friday, we decided to forge ahead with this year's challenge. A whimsical painting of a trapeze artist called, "Blue Circus" by Marc Chagall. For the first time in our history, we will be working out of our home studios instead of our usual hangout at the Quail's Nest Arts Centre studio building during the week of July 6-11. Unprecedented times called for unprecedented measures. Plans are in the works to share our works in progress with you. Stay tuned.
Leo Pedersen's "American Gothic" by Grant Wood in the style of Len Norris from the 5th challenge is pictured on the left. It's timeless. Thanks. Leo!
Right from the 1st, challenge. the van Gogh "Wheatfields with Cypress", the public has added an invigorating, integral component. The van Gogh took place in one day from 9 am to 3 pm. The stream of visitors was steady from start to finish. When the bell rang, we already knew that a second year was going to happen.
The above picture is from year 5 when "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. To celebrate, we added a curveball. Russell is especially enthusiastic both with thinking them up and execution. To spruce up the Woods, we had to do it in the style of another artist. We all picked different victims, er, dead artists. The artists in residence above from left, Russell, in black shirt/tan shorts , Barbara, JoAnn and Leo intensely working or mingling with our guests.
We like to approach our works in a lighthearted by meaningful manner. For instance, we sometimes refer to our chosen dead artists as our victims, in the best way possible. Our goal is not to reproduce, but to respectfully interpret our victims' artworks.
At our fall planning meeting, we discussed how to honour our esteemed founding member, Enid Baker, who passed away in the fall of 2019. There hasn’t been a challenge without Enid. It seems fitting to remember by incorporating something symbolic of our friendship with Enid. I like to talk art in general so telling what icons I’m using is part of my fun. In the Ripoff Artist group Enid used 2 main media, quilting and painting. In the Harris Lawrence challenge, she painted three artworks in three different styles! She honed her art quilting skills with the much talented Fabricators quilting group. No more suspense: I will somehow incorporate a sewing needle, a paintbrush and a swirl of purple, which is a hair colouring trend Enid started years ago.
Our featured dead artist for July 2020 is Marc Chagall and “Blue Circus”, the Tate painting. Chagall used symbols known only to him in his works. It was enough for him to work in this personal manner. This was an ‘aha!’ moment for me when I read this in my research about Chagall. How serendipitously did we match our dead artist in the spirit of using symbols! I have high hopes for this July’s challenge at the Quail’s Nest Arts Centre.