PLACE: Burlington, VT
This beautiful, large -scale drawing by Ethan Murrow is now for sale.
I bought this piece in 2006, when Murrow had a show at Burlington City Arts. Ethan was raised in Vermont, and has many friends and admirers here. I hadn't know Ethan when he lived here, but I had been somewhat friendly with his father when we were kids because his father (Ethan's grandfather, Edward R. Murrow) was very good friends with my father, Lou Cowan. The small-world effect of the Cowan family has ceased to surprise me.
But that's not why I bought this piece. I bought it because it's that good. THAT good. I bought it to sell, because at the time, I was running Pine Street Art Works. I had it framed by my favorite framer, Jennifer Koch of Frames For You And Mona Lisa Too, and it hung at PSAW for several years. Finally, when we closed, I had no place to hang the work, so I loaned it to the University Of Vermont, where it has been on view at the Davis Center, much to the delight of the thousands of students, faculty and visitors for the past 5 years.
Now it is for sale. If you are interested, or know someone who might be...just click this link to my online store, Small Equals.
The piece is avaiable framed, but I'm also willing to have Jennifer Koch take it out of the frame, for much much easier shipping and delivery.
Ethan Murrow website.
Four years ago I found the artist TMNK, The Me Nobody Knows. I was searching for art about Obama, because I believed in him passionately, and wanted to spread the word about him through art. I was running an art gallery at the time. I found "Nobody" on a google search for Obama art. Thus began a wonderful relationship.
Once again, I passionately support Obama for his second term as President. So here is a small re-visit of some of TMNK's Obama paintings.
In 2010, TMNK presented his work at my gallery during Art Hop, which is New England's largest art fair. Close to a thousand people saw his work during Art Hop, and over the next month. "Nobody" came to spend the weekend with me during the Art Hop, and to meet what turned out to be an adoring public.
This weekend (September 7, 8, and 9) is Art Hop in Burlington, Vermont. I no longer run a gallery. And Obama is running again. "Nobody" is doing phenomenally well in his career. Visit his website HERE, The painting "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" hangs in my living room.
And once again I say, Obama Or Else, 2012.
Pine Street Art Works was gorgeous space. The first time I saw the showroom at 404 Pine Street in Burlington I recognized the great bones. Although it was not living up to it's potential then, it was easy to see what the former fiber factory could become. High ceilings, brickwork, skylights and wooden beams made this a former city dweller's fantasy space.
I divided up the 4,000 sq. ft space into three rooms and a hallway with walls that didn't go all the way up, interior vintage divided light windows and doors to add more light and charm to the rooms. And I painted the walls. It took three of us to paint, using many layers of custom blended paint, hand ragged and wiped...but what an effect. If I could have sold the ambiance I'd be a millionaire by now. People would walk in and just go, "Wow. Love your space." It didn't hurt that I also added halogen lights to show off the art, and lots of ambient lights for added coziness and atmosphere. Throw in a series of leopard print rugs, vintage furniture and, of course, the ever changing art on the walls, and you pretty much have my dream space.
When I closed the gallery another organization moved in. First thing they did was prime the walls white. They took away all the color. They either left on the primer or didn't chose their whites carefully. Now, I know that there are wonderful whites and a space can, I suppose, look grand if it's done in the right tones of white. Kauffman color specializes in finding just the right whites for gallery spaces and seem to do a great job. I've read their books and learned a lot from them about how to color a wall. But the walls here are dingy and cold looking.
Then they took away all the ambient light. Not a good idea. Next, they covered up the show window - a main source of warm south light - with a backdrop wall. I understand the impulse...it makes one more show wall inside and in some ways makes it easier to do a show window...but in my opinion the trade off is a disaster.
The floors...well I liked the look and history of the well-worn concrete, but I placed area rugs all over for pizazz and to soften the standing surface. They added visual appeal and much needed cushion for the legs and texture for sound absorption. Concrete is hell on the legs and all that brick and concrete makes sounds bounce all over.
Why would anyone re-do a place so that it looks worse? I can't say. And I won't say who is running the place now...but I will say it's an arts organization and in my opinion they should know better. At first I was embarrassed because I was afraid people would walk in and, not knowing I'd closed Pine Street Art Works, would think I'd lost my mind. Or my taste. Now it just makes me sad and a bit mad.
I try to avert my eyes when I walk by.
Liza Cowan et al, Paint By Number, at Pine Street Art Works on Art Express, PBS
I've just found this video by Paul Larsen, host of Mountain Lake PBS' popular show Art Express. The show segment is about Paint By Number, Anonymous Works from Mid 20th Century America, one of the most successful, and one of my favorite, of all the exhibits I curated during my five year tenure as Director and owner of the Burlington,Vermont art gallery, Pine Street Art Works.
The video features Harry Bliss, Mark Waskow, Christie Mitchell and Liza Cowan.
Here's what I wrote in 2007 about the exhibit on the Pine Street Art Works Website:
Paint by number. The craze of the 1950's - paint by number swept the nation in the era of Eisenhower, Levittown, post war prosperity, and a post war concept of leisure time - which probably had more to do with women being squeezed out of the workforce and back into the home than with any real decrease in the need for labor. It doesn't seem surprising that paint by number was marketed to women, although plenty of men did enjoy making the paintings.
Is Paint By Number art now? Was it art then? Do time, distance and a changing art market alter our perceptions and judgements?
At Pine Street Art Works we love them, or we wouldn't be showing them. We are fascinated by their subversive allure - the tension created between the pleasure of viewing and the original - and ongoing - horrified responses by the gate keepers of high culture.
Although now PBN has been the subject of a show at the Smithsonian, and of many academic and popular essays, and regularly show up in design magazines and blogs, there is still the vacillating response - are we allowed the pleasure we get from looking at (or making) these paintings?
Most of the paint by number sets of the fifties and early sixties depicted nostolgic scenes: historic and pastoral landscapes, christian religious images, adorable or noble animals, sentimental glimpes of far distant cultures as well as copies from the canon of romanticized European figurative art. Critics at the time were disgusted with the mechanized mass produced nostalgia.
But now, with our vantage point from the 21st century, these paintings have aquired the patina of age and distance. Have they aquired the "aura" that Walter Benjamin wrote about? Or are we nostalgic for the more innocent nostalgia of the 50's? Are we caught up in second order - or even third order -nostalgia?
The August Paint By Number show doesn't answer these questions but provides some gorgeous evidence for future theories.
The website I refer to in the video, where I saw the post about the room-sized Paint By Number that inspired me to curate the show, was Apartmenttherapy.com and the painting was by Curtis Robinson. You can see it HERE. I was very pleased that Curtis actually came to Burlington to see the show.
When I was designing posters for the Burlington Vermont No Lockheed Campaign, I realized I had a real taste for agit prop (see them HERE). So when Occupy came to town, I set my hand to designing a series of posters. You can see them on my Flickr sets HERE.
This one is my favorite. It is available through Occuprint
Occupy Vermont. ©Liza Cowan/CowanDesign
I know that local Occupy movements are important, but I decided to focus on an overarching theme: Occupy Patriarchy. The drawing is one I made in the early 1970's copying an image from a Greek Vase.
Occupy Patriarchy poster by ©Liza Cowan/CowanDesign 2011
If you are interested in the ideas behind Occupy Patriarchy you can find a great resource HERE
Below is one of my favorite Occupy Burlington posters, using what my regular readers know is a constant source of pleasure, vintage postcards. This one from 1906.
Early 20th Century postcard, City Hall Park, Burlington Vermont. Site of the Occupy Burlington actions and General Assemblies. Postcard from Cowan Ephemera Archive. Adaptation:CowanDesign.
Once in a while, I come across a place or an event that renews my faith in Burlington Vermont. Today, I ventured into Maglianero Cafe, which has been open for just six weeks, in one of my favorite culs-de-sac in Burlington's post industrial South End.
Housed inside of the former Burlington Wholesale Grocery building, which fronts on Maple Street, the cafe is owned by the partners at JDK, one of Burlington's most prestigious PR firms. The building also is home to the Iskra Print Collective, who made the gorgeous screenprint murals inside the cafe.
My regular readers will know what a huge fan I am of Burlington's industrial architectural history. So you can imagine my delight in finding this old warehouse re-imagined as a cafe. The interior is large. Huge, even, with various spaces that flow into each other, yet can be separated for various large or small functions.
The iced coffee was delicious and refreshing, served with style and the only kind of warmth I wanted on such a hot day, by Maggie, the barrista.
The theme of the Malianero cafe is bicycles. They have bike parking and even have showers for cycling commuters - which invokes another old passion of mine, community bath houses. (Another time, dear reader, I might post an essay I did on Bath Houses and community bathing in early 20th Century New York City)
47 Maple Street
Burlington VT 05401
Farmers Markets, Burlington, VT. Community building, great food, great for the environment, supports local farmers, AND retail theater at it's best.
Screen capture: Healthy Living/South Burlington Facebook Page
City Hall, Burlington Vermont. Saturday Farmer's Market. All through the summer.
Perfect Saturday morning event in Burlington Vermont. There are several excellent Farmers Markets around town, and in South Burlington and Shelburne. Each one has a micro regional flavor. But in all of them Vermont organic farmets display their produce and flowers, local small bakeries bring their breads, cookies, tarts. Organic beef, chicken, turkey, all raised practically right around the corner. Tibetan tea and momos, hand blended oils, maple syrup, wine. Home made root beer, candles. And a bit of craft, art and music in the mix. Good times.
Church Street, Burlington Vermont. Postcard circa 1940. Liza Cowan ephemera collection.
On May 12th The New York Times ran an article about Burlington Vermont activist group, No Lockheed, and the struggle to prevent a partnership between the city and the war profiteer arms dealer Lockheed Martin.
I'm a part of the group and the story featured two of my 14 agit prop No Lockheed posters.
Burlington Vermont Community YMCA, circa 1940. Postcard.
Liza Cowan ephemera Collections
for more on Lockheed Martin, see here
Poster by Liza Cowan CowanDesign for NoLockheed
Do not listen to the poison that spills from the pens of the Public Relations department at Lockheed Martin. To earn your trust, they spend more per year than you make in a lifetime.
Will you let them buy you?
I have a nice bridge I could sell you.
Lockheed Martin, whose mission is profit through endless war, will never beat their swords into snowplows. Liza Cowan/CowanDesign
No Lockheed, Burlington Vermont
(where we are having a snowy winter)
for more information go to FB: No Lockheed
Burlington, Vermont makes pact with the Devil aka Lockheed Martin. Old woodcut adapted by Liza Cowan
Lockheed Martin makes their profits - which are huge - from endless war. The mayor of Burlington Vermont has signed a letter of intent to bring Lockheed Martin to Burlington to head up our climate change initiatives.
Faustian, you say?
How do vintage perfume bottles lead to an historic Lumiere Brothers factory in Burlington Vermont? Follow me.
Yesterday I stopped by to chat with my friend Mary Heinrich Aloi at her wonderful antique store, Vintage Inspired Antiques/Whistle Stop Antiques, on Flynn Avenue in Burlington. I went to discuss business but I cant help looking around her packed- to- the- gills shop whenever I stop by. I spied some antique vintage perfume bottles. Not only were they beautiful, but I'm kind of a perfume nut.
I bought a few bottles and carried them back to my store, not to sell but to photograph, and to delight in the lingering scent of Bandit by the infamous perfumer Germaine Cellier, and whatever delightful aromas might be waiting in the other bottles.
In addition to Bandit I found Tabu, Geoffrey Beene and the alluring Private Collection 1973 by Estee Lauder.
I set up the bottles in many different configurations, with the sunlight changing as I went. The next one, along with the one at the top, are my favorites. The bottles have a strange sensuality, evoking not just their scent, but a presence bestowed by the somewhat anthropomorpic shape of the glass itself.
Two Perfume Bottles,Estee Lauder Private Collection and unknown, photo @Liza Cowan 2010.Available online at small equals store
These photographs reminded me of the work of a photo secessionist artist, but I couldn't remember who, so I went on a little cyber hunt to see what might be lurking in the back of my visual memory.
Heinrich Kuhn, Austrian photographer. 1866-1944. Worked initially with the multi-gum bichromate process, and platinum and oil transfer prints, In 1907 he met up with Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen, and they began experimenting with the new process developed by the Lumiere Bros, the Autochrome.
Here's a Kuhn Autochrome.
How does this lead to Burlington Vermont? It's a little known fact that the Lumiere Bros. set up a factory to make autochrome plates in Burlington Vermont. The factory was here in Burlington for about ten years, starting around 1902. And where was the plant? In the very building, or at least on the very spot - because the original factory building burned down - on Flynn Avenue where I bought my perfume bottles at Vintage Inspired Antiques/Whistle Stop Antiques.
Want to know more ? Use these links to get you started.
I hope some of you will be able to come to this one day event. Several of the artists from The S.P.A.C.E. Galery, (home of Small Equals) will be there too. I'll be selling my Keepsake Card Kits, and many of the fun and exquisite things that go in them.
See you there!! If not, remember to check my
Next week Pine Street Art Works will be closing. After five years. I will be opening another small shop, with a much tighter focus, so I'm excited about that. But meanwhile here's a small photo review of most of the shows I've curated since 2005.
My kids used to like to sit in the window and pretend to be mannequins. Liza Cowan Photo 2005
same window without kids. David Klein, Beanie For Peace. Liza Cowan photo 2005
David Klein, Beanie For Peace. Liza Cowan, FAKE! photo by Liza Cowan 2005
Show card Richard Gombar. Design Liza Cowan 2008
Heinrich Harrer photographs, Seven Years In Tibet. Curated by Leslie DiRusso. Card design Liza Cowan. 2008
Showcard Aline Smithson. Liza Cowan design 2009.
Aline Smithson photos at Pine Street Art Works. Photo Liza Cowan 2009
OK, well that's the brief tour.
I'm moving, reinventing, reincarnating, all of those things. Opening Sept 10th at S.P.A.C.E Gallery 266 Pine Street in Burlington.
As soon as I'm settled, Seesaw will continue as usual.
This is big news but I'm telling you in a tiny post. Seesaw, the blog, will remain the same but the shop - Pine Street Art Works - will be radically downsizing and moving down the street.
Basically I'm going from a 2,000 sq. ft space to a 90 foot space and will be selling only small goods like my beautiful Keepsake Card Kits and the small treasures that fit inside them.
Huge Sale at Pine Street Art Works. 404 Pine Street Burlington VT.
Come over if you are nearby. Keep tabs on what's for sale on the Moving Sale CataBlog
call or email if you think you want something that I can ship. I will ship small goods, hold larger ones for pickup, but large items, like furniture, I cannot ship.
802 863 8100