Category Archives: Art

Kehinde Wiley’s Portrait of President Barack Obama

Presidential Portrait of Barack Obama, Kehinde Wiley, Oil on Canvas, 2018
Presidential Portrait of Barack Obama, Kehinde Wiley, Oil on Canvas, 2018
Artist Kehinde Wiley and President Barack Obama, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Official Portrait Unveiling.
Artist Kehinde Wiley and President Barack Obama, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Official Portrait Unveiling.

President Barack Obama’s official Portrait by Kehinde Wiley was unveiled at the Smithsonian National  Portrait Gallery,  Monday February 12th, 2018. The portrait has been met with criticism by some, and applauded by others. I for one am a huge fan of Wiley’s portrait. That said, I wanted to try and wrap my mind around some of the controversy that I’d seen on social media from those who felt it wasn’t ‘on par’ with the tone and tenor of previous Presidential Portraits. So I decided to do some research…

John F. Kennedy Presidential Portrait, Elaine de Kooning, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
John F. Kennedy Presidential Portrait, Elaine de Kooning, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
William Jefferson Clinton, Presidential Portrait by Chuck Close, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
William Jefferson Clinton, Presidential Portrait by Chuck Close, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

What I discovered is that President Barack Obama wasn’t  the first to buck classic portraiture for his official portrait.  Both John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton are represented by the avant-garde artist  of  their day.  As is frequently the case, stories on social media are tailored to reinforce a specific point of view. Namely, that Obama was wack for choosing such an outrageous artist that didn’t represent the traditional norms of the office.  When taking a closer look at the ‘norms’, one can clearly see that there’s been a broader range of painting styles presented at the Smithsonian over the years. Follow the link below to view all of the Presidential Portraits from the last century.

Artnet News: 100 years of Presidential Portraits 

I’ve been a fan of Kehinde Wiley for over a decade, and was thrilled to see his paintings on the tv show EMPIRE. It’s a brilliant choice to have a fictional character like Lucious Lyon, a black music mogul, fill his home with the art of such a highly regarded black artist, thus supporting those at the top of his community.

Kehinde Wiley, Studio Portrait
Kehinde Wiley, Studio Portrait

Here are a few more examples of Wiley’s work.

Starlit Nights, Kehinde Wiley, Oil on Canvas, 2013
Starlit Nights, Oil on Canvas, Kehinde Wiley, 2005
LL Cool J, Oil on Canvas, Kehinde Wiley, 2005
LL Cool J, Oil on Canvas, Kehinde Wiley, 2005
Jean de Carondelet III, Oil on Canvas, Kehinde Wiley, 2013
Jean de Carondelet III, Oil on Canvas, Kehinde Wiley, 2013

As an artist, I absolutely love the magnificent size of his paintings, as well as the lusciousness of the background behind his subjects. His ability to beautifully render skin tones is out of this world, and to quote Obama: I was struck by the degree to which they challenged our ideas of power and privilege. Kehinde juxtaposes contemporary urban culture with centuries old postures and wallpaper like backgrounds.

When I composed my own painting of President Barack Obama in 2011,  I also chose a lush green background to represent his  emotional life. I wanted my image to be reminiscent of a gothic stain glass window with the presidential seal as his halo. My overall theme was about the religious fervor surrounding the election of our first African American President. The ionic column represents democracy, with the red and blue states being represented on their respective sides of the column, blue on the left, red on the right.

Obama and the Tree of Knowledge, Oil on Canvas, Artist Romi Cortier
Obama and the Tree of Knowledge, Oil on Canvas, Artist Romi Cortier

For Wiley, he wove chrysanthemum  into the greenery of the background  (the official flower of Chicago),  and Jasmine for Hawaii, as well as African Blues symbolic of Obama’s heritage. Like the fictional character Lucious Lyon,  President Barack Obama chose one of the finest artist from the black community to forever represent the first African American President  in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. It was a bold choice that I absolutely applaud, and I believe  it will certainly pass the test of time. Great men must be ahead of the curve, not behind it,  paving the way for others to follow.

www.kehindewiley.com 

The Buddha’s of Artist Metis Atash

Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show 2017, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2017, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018,  Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2017, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
Buddha by Metis Atash, L A Art Show, 2018, Photo Romi Cortier
LA Art Show, Romi Cortier, Recio Young, JD Miller, and Melanie Engle
LA Art Show, Romi Cortier, Recio Young, JD Miller, and Melanie Engle

The Buddha’s of artist Metis Atash took the L A Art Show by storm. Covered in nearly 20 thousand Swarovski crystals, her Buddha’s radiated light in every direction, enticing patrons to take countless photos and videos of  her sculptures. JD Miller of the Dallas based Samuel Lynne Galleries, was a fantastic host on both days of our visit to the art show.

We were there opening night, and then again on the fourth and final day of the show. Opening night was fun and very conversational with several gallery owners and artists. Therefore, we didn’t make it to every booth. So we returned early Sunday morning and made our way to the booths that we’d missed. Our last stop was back were we’d begun… at the Buddha’s!

Atash sculpts in fiberglass, covers her creations with acrylic paint, and then meticulously bathes each piece by hand in upwards of 20,000 Swarovski crystals. The completed works can be an homage to icons like Chanel,  Lichtenstein, Warhol, or Hirst, with a zen vibe rooted  in Daoism. Her artwork has been exhibited in select galleries throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, and has been featured in Vogue, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest and Haute Living.  And most recently her work has been seen on CNBC’s the Secret Lives of the Super Rich.

If one of these beautiful creations is in your future, then reach out to Samuel Lynne Galleries in Dallas and tell them Romi sent you.

Samuel Lynne Galleries, 1105 Dragon St., Dallas TX. 75207

214 965-9027

 

METISH ATASH

The Art of Michael Muller & Sage Vaughn

'Hitch Hiker' Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Paper, Micheal Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
‘Hitch Hiker’ Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Paper, Micheal Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
'Attacker 1', Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
‘Attacker 1’, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
Echo Chamber, Acrylic, Ink & Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
‘Echo Chamber’, Acrylic, Ink & Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
'Peeper', Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Sage Vaughn & Micheal Muller, Photo Romi Cortier
‘Peeper’, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper,  Micheal Muller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
'Garden Party Crasher', Acrylic, Ink, and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael fuller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
‘Garden Party Crasher’, Acrylic, Ink, and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael fuller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
'Attacker 2', Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael Miller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier
‘Attacker 2’, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Archival Photograph Paper, Michael Miller & Sage Vaughn, Photo Romi Cortier

I LOVED the recent art exhibition of Michael Muller and Sage Vaughn. I’ve been aware of Sage’s paintings for years, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see his work in person. This  recent exhibit featured Vaughn’s painting over the photographic images of Michael Muller.  Most images were 48″ x 60″ and some as large as 60″ x 90″, ranging in price from $16,000 – $22,000. I was elated to see so many red sold dots on the pieces.

Over the last decade Sage has had multiple solo shows, from New York to London to Germany and Geneva. There have also been several group exhibitions from Los Angeles to London, San Francisco  to Belgium… it’s safe to say, Sage is everywhere. I wish I would have known about his work a decade ago, as it might have been a bit more affordable. But that’s what drives prices up: the international solo shows and a list of top notch collectors.

Below are a few more images of Sage’s work from his web site www.sagevaughn.com.

I'm not Trying to Forget, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Paper, Sage Vaughn, SageVaughn.com
I’m not Trying to Forget, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Paper, Sage Vaughn, SageVaughn.com
The Gazer (R Prince) 2014, Oil, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Canvas, Sage Vaughn, SageVaughn.com
The Gazer (R Prince) 2014, Oil, Acrylic, Ink and Vellum on Canvas, Sage Vaughn, SageVaughn.com

As an artist, I’ve been very enamored by Sage’s use of the Butterfly, combined with his drip paint technique. Below you can view a YouTube mural making video that I created in 2014 inspired directly by his paintings. I have no idea if he’s ever seen my work, but I do hope that he would be flattered and not offended by my interpretation of his beautiful fine art.

 

Meeting Peter Shire

Belle Air, Chair, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Belle Air, Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood,  Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair Installation, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair Installation, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Belle Aire, Chair, 2010, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Belle Aire, Chair, 2010, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Chair, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Bel Air, Memphis, 1981, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Bel Air, Memphis, 1981, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Romi Cortier
Olympic Lamp Installation, MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Recio Young
Olympic Lamp Installation  &  Romi Cortier,  MOCA, West Hollywood, Peter Shire, Photo Recio Young

I never imagined that I’d have the distinct pleasure of meeting Peter Shire, the only American artist to serve as part of the Italian based Memphis Group…. but I did!!  It happened on the last day of his recent exhibit at MOCA, West Hollywood, down to about the last hour of his show that closed on July 2, 2017.

I kept nudging my fiance that morning… lets go, it’s closes at 6. Himyou still have a few hours, why rush. Ugh. You know that feeling when you’re so excited like a kid who wants to go to the carnival?  Well that’s me when it came to seeing this exciting show, because it held so much history for me.  I’d been aware of the Memphis Group, since they burst on the scene in the early 1980’s. As a young guy who’d just moved to Seattle from the boonies, I was awestruck by the bold and colorful furniture that I’d seen in a few of the Italian based furniture stores. And then, there was that crazy fun movie ‘Ruthless People’ starring Better Midler and Danny DeVito in 1986 which solidified the outrageous design movement known as Post Modernism.  To be honest, I think they were poking fun at the Memphis furniture style  by stuffing the characters Bel-Air home on Belagio Drive with loads and loads of it. But it made an impact that stuck.

To be clear about this design movement, a lot of people hated it. But I’ve always believed in it. My professors at the UCLA interior design school taught us that it takes at least 20 years for the scholars to look back on a design movement and put it in perspective. Well… it’s been 30 years, and guys like Peter Shire and Ettore Sottsass, who founded the group, are getting museum shows all across the country. That’s a good sign.  And auction sales for their work are also very strong, another good sign. I own a few pieces of furniture from this era, and I’ve used them daily with great pride. In the photo below you can see the First Chair by Michele de Lucchi (blue disc on the right), that I’ve owned forever. I use it as my painting chair in my art studio because it’s durable and resistant to paint.

Romi Cortier painting in his Art Studio, Laurel Canyon, Photo Sylvan Scott
Romi Cortier painting in his Art Studio, Laurel Canyon, Photo Sylvan Scott

So, back to the exhibit. When we walked into MOCA, the receptionist mentioned that Peter might still be upstairs.  Whaaaat? Oh my god, really? I was so nervous as I climbed the stairs to the upper gallery.   He was there. In the corner. Chatting away. Well…. I circled the gallery, enjoyed and photographed my favorite pieces… but I just couldn’t bring myself to say hello. I was chickening out, but my fiance pushed me: say hello, say hello. You would have thought I was trying to work up the nerve to say hello to Brad Pit or some Hollywood A Lister. The thing is, in my eyes, men like Peter Shire are way more important then Hollywood celebs. They’re artists. They create something from nothing and change the way we view and experience the world. I was just as giddy  meeting the iconic photographer Julius Shulman and artist Francoise Gilot.

Mr. Shire was very kind and easy to talk to. He also thanked me for taking the work so seriously and for coming to his show. Please… I would have gotten down on my hands and knees and polished his shoes in that moment. I went downstairs, purchased a book from the show, and went back up for an autograph. He asked his famous architect friend to hold the book while I looked on: Too many famous people!!! In one room. To two very nice people!!!

www.petershirestudio.com 

Romi Cortier, Peter Shire, Friend and Architect, MOCA, West Hollywood, Photo Recio Young
Romi Cortier, Peter Shire, Friend and Architect, MOCA, West Hollywood, Photo Recio Young

Chihuly Glass lifts my spirits after the election

Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa. Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa. Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa, Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa, Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier

This is my second post about Seattle’s Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum which I had the pleasure of visiting in February of this year. Bright colors like this make me happy and help to transport my spirit to a better place. The metaphor of a boat filled with Chihuly glass couldn’t be more poignant at this time. The word Chihuly starts with chi, which in Chinese culture can be interpreted to mean ‘life force’. Therefore, I’m hopping aboard this little boat full of life force that’s traversing a black sea, taking me to places unknown with a whole lotta faith. And faith is what is needed in light of the recent presidential election here in the states. It left half our country feeling completely  devastated, as well as some countries abroad. We’re in a time of transition and it’s anyones guess where we’ll end up.

I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and spent ten years living in the downtown area of Seattle, moving to L A in the mid 90’s. Chihuly has always been part of the local vernacular there. I had clients who owned pieces of his work, and  downtown office buildings have permanent  installations of his blown glass in their lobbies, such as the one below. Plus, there were always frequent gallery openings or museum shows that anyone could attend. It was just one of those things you sorta took for granted. But now that I live in earthquake country, I appreciate his work even more. My own small blown glass collection made from Seattle glass blowers, which I love tremendously,  remains in storage for safety reasons.

Chihuly Glass Installation, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier
Chihuly Glass Installation, Seattle, Wa., Photo Romi Cortier

The other thing that I’m reminded of when I think of my time in Seattle, is how I was perceived as ‘other’.  With my black hair and olive skin, I was constantly asked my ethnicity. Are you Egyptian, Mexican, Persian… I was oddly exotic in those days. Then I moved to Los Angeles and all of that changed. I was stunned and excited at how remarkably diverse the culture here was. It was rather mind blowing to me that people came to this little plot of land from all over the world, to share in the California dream.  At that point, I became much more aware of how white I actually was, and that I was also a minority here in a completely different way. If I were living on the westside, say Santa Monica or Brentwood, then I may have blended in more.  I never gave it much thought, it was just the way LA was… a melting pot of really interesting cultures from all over the world. And now, with my silvery white hair and paler skin,  I  feel like the old  waspy white guy. Wow, how did I get here in 25 quick years.

Romi Cortier with sisters Tami & Tina
Romi Cortier with sisters Tami & Tina

The reason that I bring this up is because most of us in white america never know what it means to be ‘the other’.  For a period of time, I did. I  think that is why so many of my friends here in Los Angeles, as well as my clients at the salon,  feel completely devastated by this election. Some of them truly fear for their safety when they travel outside of our diverse little L A bubble.  Honestly I’d never given white privilege much thought, until I discovered that I’m actually pretty white.  My very handsome fiance is black, which also helped shifted my point of view, opening my eyes to the challenges he and his family have  faced over the years.   For me,  people are people. Color has never been an issue. In fact, I’ve always thought people with darker skin than me were much better looking… maybe it’s the artist in me.  And at my salon,  I’m hearing interesting points of view from my clients who’ve immigrated  from Ireland, England, Iran, Paris  and Armenia. Even though most of them pass for ‘white’,  they’re still concerned at what all of this rhetoric from our new president elect may mean for them.

As a progressive guy, I was very excited about the possibility of a female president, regardless of her baggage. To me, she was the most prepared for the position. I’ve since learned that over half of our country doesn’t feel included in the current american dream, and was willing to shake things up in an unprecedented way.  Since the Donald is a complete wildcard, it’s anyones guess what the next four years will bring.  This forced me to look deep into myself and ask myself what was important for me. It helped me to get clear on my soul purpose once again. Below is what I shared on my facebook page the day after the election.

Today I am a citizen of the world. I renew my commitment to focus on what is beautiful and right in this world, and will do my best not to go down the rabbit hole of fear, hatred and anger. I will continue to celebrate that beautiful piece of art, or a glorious piece of architecture that came from our higher source. I will celebrate man made elements that reflect our better selves, holding us to higher standards born out of our infinite source of creativity. To me, that is being godly, while staying connected to this world in a way that serves us all. #LoveWins

Thank you again for joining me on  this journey of art, architecture, interior design, and anything else I find worthy of sharing with you.  I really appreciate having a forum to think out loud, hopefully bringing a new perspective to things. Besides, beautiful things never go out of style.