Stronger than one building

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest 

Shotgun, Third Ward #1, 1966, by John T. Biggers.


John T. Biggers painted this image, Shotgun, Third Ward #1, in 1966–yet to me it hauntingly resonates with recent headlines.

Likely inspired by a rash of arsons in black churches during the early-to-mid-1960s, Biggers chose to focus on the community, rather than the sensationalism of the fire.

Then as now, the church is more than just a building, although churches were a central gathering place for the African American community during the Civil Rights era. Thus, attacks on black churches were attacks on civil rights activism, as well.

The word Shotgun in the title refers to the houses, not the weapon–and not, as popularly alleged, because a fired shell would travel through from one end to the other. Indeed, the African word “shogon,” which means “house of God,” is more likely the origin of the term (bringing us full-circle back to the church).

Shotguns, 1987, by John T. Biggers

The narrow, rectangular design, in which several rooms in a row open directly into one another (with no hallway) was popular for several decades, especially in the South. By the 1960s, however, “Shotgun houses” were associated with poor people, especially impoverished African Americans. Biggers returned to the image of the shotgun house for his iconic 1987 painting Shotguns

IMAGES: Many thanks to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for the image of Shotgun, Third Ward #1, and to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) blog, for the image of Shotguns. I deeply appreciate both.

A glimpse from Capricon 38

The Artdog Image of Interest  

Paper sculpture by Jan S. Gephardt, as displayed at Capricon 38, in February 2018.

I’m in Wheeling, IL, for the weekend, at Capricon 38. So far, it’s been fun. I’ll probably have more thoughts about Capricon in future posts, but here’s a look at my Art Show panel, as it appeared before the show opened.

IMAGE: I took this photo, in part for this blog post. If for any reason you re-post it, please do so with an attribution and a link back to this page. Thanks!

Improvisation on a classic

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

Kehinde WileyOfficer of the Hussars, 2007Collection of the Detroit Institute of the Arts Museum

Today I get to feature one of my absolute favorite pieces by Kehinde Wiley, an artist I’ve been aware of, and admired increasingly, ever since I ran across one of his amazing portraits several years ago at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. That painting was part of a traveling exhibition, I didn’t retain the name in my memory, and I haven’t been able to scare up information about it online.

But periodically I’d run across another Wiley–and, as you can imagine (if this is your first Wiley, God bless you, now you know!), once you’ve seen Wiley’s work you don’t forget it. Recently, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art acquired another Wiley, his painting St. Adrian

Wiley’s Officer of the Hussars is based on another painting I’ve known and loved for years, The Charging Chasseur, or An Officer of the Imperial Horse Guards Charging1812, by Théodore GéricaultYou may remember seeing a reproduction of the artwork (the Wiley, not the Géricault), if you’ve watched the Fox TV Show Empire.

I’m a Géricault  fan, too, not only for his dramatic compositions and masterful renderings, but because he liked exotic places and people who didn’t all look just like him. At his best, he portrayed many of those “exotic” people as individuals.

do tend to think Wiley improved on the original–but you can compare, and decide for yourself.

The Charging Chasseur1812, by Théodore Géricault – Collection of the Louvre, Paris.

You’ll see more Kehinde Wiley art from me in the months to come, if all goes well. He’s got so many wonderful paintings to share!

NOTE: While researching this post, I also discovered that former President Barack Obama shares my enthusiasm for Wiley’s artwork: he recently chose Wiley to paint his official presidential portrait. It will hang in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, alongside an Amy Sherald portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama.

IMAGES: Many thanks to Deadline Detroit and Alan Stamm, for the photo of Wiley’s Officer of the Hussars, and to Wikipedia for the photo of Géricault‘s painting.

Remembering Jake

The Artdog Image(s) of Interest

I’ll write the planned post about another endangered beauty spot a different time. Today I simply want to remember a beloved friend. My dog Jake has gone on ahead of me, as dogs too often do, taking a journey I’m not yet ready to take.

Jake in the back yard with me, in October 2016–Photo by Signy Gephardt

Jake was my writing companion, the co-inspirer of certain dragon body-shapes in my artwork, and my exercise buddy who made sure I took walks as often as possible–at least until his lungs gave out.

He was a rescue dog, an Italian greyhound-whippet mix (thus, a “whiggie”) who came into my life around the turn of the decade. He died this week of lung cancer, at the age of almost eleven.

He will be sorely missed.

Mine’s missing someone at the moment, alas.

IMAGES: Many thanks to my daughter Signy for capturing a moment between Jake and me in 2016, and to Defining Wonderland’s post “Adventures in Dog Watching,” for the Roger Caras quote. The source they cite for the quote image is no longer there.

Drill, baby, drill?

The Artdog Images of Interest

As I noted last week, this month’s theme is working toward a better future, and my Images of Interest for the rest of the month feature amazing places in the United States that are threatened or actively under attack. As long as they continue to exist, we can still fight to save them, even if things are looking bad at the moment.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is one such place that is under threat. Not immediately, but the Trump Administration has green-lighted the initiative to begin drilling there, so the process has definitely started. 

What kind of damage is that likely to do? That first link may have a dated lede, but the rest still applies. It’s also true that tundra “heals” after disruption extremely slowly.

ANWR is so enormous, no single picture can hope to capture its variety and beauty. It’s true that five won’t do it either, but I’ve tried to find a good variety to give a small taste of what’s at stake.

IMAGES: Many thanks to William Bonilla and Defenders of Wildlife for the polar bear photo taken in the ANWR; to Robert Salazar and Origami for an Interdependent World (what a cool idea!), for the photo of the famous Porcupine Caribou, a subspecies; to Peter Mather and The Wilderness Society for the lakeshore-and-clouds image from the refuge; to Florian Schulz and The Audubon Society for the aerial photo of the braided river, plains and mountains in the refuge; and to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the photo of the mountain foothills. sloping down to a plain in the ANWR. I deeply appreciate all!

Mining here?

The Artdog Image of Interest 

In keeping with this month’s theme of working toward a better future, my Images of Interest for the rest of the month will feature amazing places in the United States that are threatened or actively under attack. As long as they continue to exist, we can still fight to save them, even if things are looking bad at the moment.

Today’s image is a stunning photo of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon at sunset, chosen in response to the current administration’s recent (early November) moves toward opening areas adjacent to the second-most-popular US national park for uranium mining, despite the concerns of environmental groups and local Native American groups. Local mining interests have been opposed to an Obama-era ban on such mining since it was put in place in 2012.

IMAGE: This photo appears to have originated on Shutterstock (photo by Erik Harrison), but it has migrated widely all over the Internet since it was listed in 2014 (thanks, TinEye!). I first found it on the Grand Canyon West website.

A daring, creative choice

The Artdog Image of Interest 

The new year has begun, and if you’re like me you’ve begun to think about the year to come. What new initiatives will you take on? What changes will you make? What new insights will you bring from the year just past?

I’d like to challenge you to look at things afresh, to rethink some of the areas where you may have settled into unconscious habits. To dare to make divergent, creative choices.

Can’t imagine a cooler way to say it–or a more badass attitude to carry into the year to come. Be creatively bold!

IMAGE: Many thanks to Aga’s Pinterest Board, via NanouBlue’s Drole Pinterest Board, for this image!