Category Archives: Art

Kathe Kollwitz, German Expressionist artist & activist (1867 – 1945)

KatheKollwitzPhotograph                       KatheKollwitzSculpture

Considered one of the foremost artists of social commentary of the 20th century, Kathe Kollwitz (formerly Kathe Schmidt) grew up in an open minded German middle-class family that encouraged her to pursue a career in art.  Studying painting in Berlin and Munich, she eventually found her calling in graphic art, focusing on etchings, lithographs, woodcuts and drawing.

After marrying Karl Kollwitz, a doctor, in 1891, it was in his working-class patients in Berlin that Kathe discovered new subject matter.  With empathy and insight, she began to depict in her work the day-to-day struggles of poor and working-class families.  She directed her attention to portraying, in particular, the oppression of women and children, and discovered printmaking as a worthwhile medium for creating and distributing what would be regarded as controversial artwork.

kathe-kollwitz-at-the-church-wall-1893          Kathe-Kollwitz-Gretchen1899

Kollwitz was additionally influenced by such writers as Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Gerhart Hauptmann, whose play “The Weavers” had inspired her first series of prints. The series portrays the story of a group of Silesian weavers who staged an uprising during the 1840s to revolt against extremely low wages and poor working conditions.

In 1920 Kollwitz was elected a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts, the first woman to be so honored.  Membership entailed a regular income, a large studio, and a full professorship. When Hitler came to power in 1933, however, Kollwitz was forced to resign from her academy post.  Her art was classified as ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, who barred her from exhibiting her work.  She was humiliated and marginalized by the dictatorial regime until her death, which came just two weeks before the end of World War II.

Ultimately living through both World War I and World War II and losing a son and later a grandson in each of these, Kollwitz’s art reflects the upheaval and turbulence of the first half of the 20th century.  Devastated by the death of her son in 1914 in the first world war (that lead to a prolonged depression), Kollwitz worked for several years to create a memorial in his honor entitled The Grieving Parents.  Her art was both personal and political.

NoMoreWar1922              Kathe-Kollwitz-Germany_s-children-starve-1924

Lynda Barry — hello again

This week I ran into an old friend, Lynda Barry, at least it felt that way, however I’ve never
actually met this woman.  For some time in the mid-1980s to early 1990s I knew this writer/illustrator from her comic strip “Ernie Pook’s Comeek” that was published in the back pages of a free local weekly alternative newspaper located in the city where I was living.  Barry’s unique sensibility seemed to capture the minds and hearts of my peer group at a time when venturing further and further into adulthood and its responsibilities we found there weren’t many reliable guideposts to lead us.  Lynda Barry helped soothe in an odd way somehow our adult laments.

Before this recent encounter with Lynda Barry I had a few years ago worked with children in a library and purchased Ms. Barry’s book “What It Is” with the hope that an interested child would find this book inspiring.  The day a boy chose it from among the other art and illustration books in the children’s collection I was secretly happy both for him and its creator.

Now, this week, I saw in the Sunday New York Times Book Review (7/31/2016), filling an entire page, a Lynda Barry comic strip has appeared.  “When Heidi Met Carrie: Scenes from the Book I Needed When I was 12” is something you hoped this friend would create (and she has done so without your knowing you need this).  It’s good to see you again, Lynda Barry!

MarlysAdviceonLife                      PoodleWithaMohawkLyndaBarry

Sunday in the Park with George

“Putting it Together” from Sunday in the Park with George



A cool thing I stumbled upon at a nearby library was an old cigarette machine stocked with handmade art objects instead of cigarettes (!)  The machine, now known as an “Art-o-mat,” is a former bona fide 1950s or 1960s era dispenser and now requires metal tokens to make a purchase instead of real money (the library staff just a few feet away sells each token for $5.00).  With said metal token, a person can choose his/her art object; on the machine’s small outside panels each object is briefly described.

In the name of all things artful and to benefit all such endeavors, I gladly gave my $5.00 for a token.  To choose a small art piece was a bit hard, and it turns out my first choice had sold out.  The next choice turned out all right and after pulling the knob dispenser I received a small brown box that had a label running across it entitled “Heart House.”  Contained within the box was a lovely crocheted heart pin that has a bright yellow ribbon woven through it. The crochet thread is bright white.

It turns out that this work of art was actually hand crafted at a place known as “Heart House” in Bangladesh.  A slip of paper describing “Heart House” was included along with the crocheted heart pin.  Here is the background provided on “Heart House” in Bangladesh:

Heart House was founded in the 1970s to provide income for women widowed by the war for independence.  Making craft items kept many from being forced into prostitution. 

                Heart House is now made up of more than one hundred widows and handicapped artisans.

Art Work includes:

–Hindu Bride dolls

–Muslim Bride dolls

–Angel dolls

–Doll in a Lungi (men’s skirt)

–Doll in a Sari (women’s dress)

–Mama Doll

–Mru & Tripura Tribal Dolls

–Lizard Doll

–Crocheted Heart 

Each piece is individually crafted and painted by hand

Where to find your nearby Art-o-mat

Art-o-mat machines are located throughout the U.S.   There is a website that describes the Art-o-mat concept and provides listings of locations.  Here is the link:

Who knows what handmade art object awaits you in your nearby Art-o-mat dispenser?!