Monday, November 29, 2010

Artist, JoAnne Russo

This is the work of JoAnne Russo, contemporary basketmaker from Maine. This is part of her "Pod" series. What attracts me to her work is her use of unexpected materials like buttons, and zippers, and eyehooks. her application creates an unusual sophisticated surface design, they transcend their use and take on a new meaning.

Ms. Russo started making baskets in 1984. She was inspired by the works and basket techniques of the basketmakers of long ago from Mount Agamenticus in York, Maine. She was able to learn their techniques and incorporate them into her work. It involved selecting the right kind of Ash tree, splitting the wood for handles and rims using tradtional tools and then finally weaving the basket. She was also inspired by basket makers from Native Americans from the north east and the southwest. She started to incorporate porcupine quills and other natural materials which gave texture and individual presence to each peice she refers to as "Animism".

Here is a close-up. These pieces are from the "zip it" series.

Above is a shot of the inside. The buttons used create a wonderful 3d textural element to the
surface. Below is a basket whose top is made using acorns.

Her use of simple acorns adds a certain quiet elegance to this piece.

The pieces also look wonderful together as a group in the "chili pepper" series.

The curves in the eye hooks look like an ornate surface design I featured in my last blog, the
surface decoration of architect Robert Adam .

I am always impressed by taking unconventional materials and using them in such a poetic way. Russo has won numerous awards. Her pieces have been purchased by several museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

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Scottish architect Robert Adam became one of the most successful and fashionable architects in the 18th century in England. He was the leader of the Neo-Classical movement, also known as Adam Style. He influenced western architecture in Europe and North America. He did not just design buildings and homes, but accessories and furniture. I am particularly fond of his surface decorations within his rooms. Above is an example of one of his ceilings. the paintings were subcontracted, painted on canvas and applied to the ceiling later. the curly foliage you see is taken from antiquity and is known as "Grotesque Design". Taken from the Italian word, "grotto" which is a subterranean garden.

Above is another example of an Adam ceiling. also, the use of unusual colors like pale greens, blues and even pinks became his signature. He would provide a set of plans to be purchased by the owner and various artists and artisans would execute the designs using elaborate mouldings.

above is an example of a wall and doorway using colored glass panels, gilding, and painted mouldings.

Here is an example of how the design of the arch of the doorway is repeated as a surface decoration on the ceiling creating continuity of design as well as the "movement" for which he is known.
Neo-Classic or Classic Revival are all terms used to describe design vernacular from the Greco/Roman culture circa 5th century. The revival came after two cities in southern Italy were discovered by accident while digging a tunnel. These cities were Pompeii and Herculaneum.
They were buried under volcanic ash and revealed all kinds of frescoes, architecture and art that were reproduced through an 18th c filter.


This is one of his most well known exterior structures in Bath, England called the Pulteney bridge.
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