02 Aug 2014

American Artists Appreciation Month: Four Featured Artists

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When it comes to artists, Europe tends to steal the show in the Western world. Van Gogh, Picasso, Michelangelo, Monet, Rembrandt – these are some of the more recognized names. At the same time, the US has its share of famous artists, and for this reason a month is dedicated to appreciating them. August, the month of highest museum tourism, is American Artists Appreciation Month.

Here we highlight four historically-noted modern American artists, each representing a different style.

Mary Cassatt (1844-1926)

Born in the Pittsburgh area to an upper middle class family of French descent, impressionist painter Mary Cassatt was influenced largely by her time in Europe. She spent several years there as a child (her parents believed travel was integral to education), and returned to Europe after her art studies in Pennsylvania during the Civil War. Both her family background and her talent garnered her mentorship from the likes of European artists Edgar Degas, Camille Pissaro, and Thomas Couture. Mary Cassatt is most known for her portraits of women, and in particular mothers and children, depicted in the particular fashion of the times – wide-brimmed hats and long, flowing dresses. Cassatt had a talent for showing the endearment of motherhood.

Walter Elias (“Walt”) Disney (1901-1966)

We tend to think of Walt Disney as a businessman, setting up Disney World and Disney Land theme parks with his Mickey Mouse line of characters at the core. However, it was his cartoon artistry, screenwriting, voice acting and film producing that formed the basis for spearheading his being a Hollywood business  mogul.  In fact, Walt Disney was so successful in the film industry that he won more Academy awards and nominations than any other individual in history – 26 awards out of 59 nominations. And here’s a bit of trivia: Walt Disney himself was the voice of the original Mickey Mouse.

Ansel Adams (1902-1984)

Ansel Adams’ work can keep any onlooker gazing for a while with his photographs  which pointedly detail natural landscapes in either stark color or black and white. Ansel Adams focused mostly on the American terrain – in particular, Yosemite Park in California. Adams’ photographs are a top choice for calendars, posters, and coffee table books, making him renowned to the masses. If you are longing for a bit of calm, stare at an Ansel Adams photo, and take in the sites.

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)

Jackson Pollock is most known for his seemingly haphazard painting style, dubbed “drip painting”.  He would fling paint onto the canvas, using the canvas not as a place for representation, but rather as an arena for action.  Some say he would even place globs of paint on a supine canvas, and then lie underneath it, punching  upward in order to redistribute the paint in splash manor.  In using this type of painting technique, Pollock brought to question the meaning of art altogether. A common thought from seeing his paintings is, “I could have done that,” to which an art teacher might ask, “Well, why didn’t you?” Pollock’s cutting edge approaches broadened the parameters of art, bringing admiration for his innovation and leaving controversy in its wake.

This August, take some time to look into American artists. While at Rockaway Care Center, you will likely not be venturing out to a museum; however, you can engage visitors to bring you material on these artists, perhaps even postcards of prints to hang up. Art is superb for stimulating focus and discussion, and in doing so, improves mood and recovery all the more so.


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