Poisonous Pigments: Scheele’s Green

Have you ever stopped to wonder where your paints came from? The history of pigments has a vast and fascinating history that ranges from natural extractions to synthetic discoveries. But even as natural or synthetic extracts, some pigments can’t escape the harmful elements that can eventually lead to someone’s death! With this, I think it’s important that I share with you some of the history’s most poisonous pigments just in case you find yourself with a can of paint labeled “Lead White” one of these days.

Because there is a wide variety of these poisonous pigments, I have decided to focus on one specific color each week and go into detail of its deadly upbringings and usages. For my first post, I will discussing the pigment that some have labeled as the “Invisible Killer” – Sheele’s Green.

Scheele’s Green

 

Chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele from Svenska Familj-Journalen 1874.

This color was invented in 1775 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who was a Swedish chemist. It was an artificial colorant that was made by heating up sodium carbonate, adding arsenious oxide, and stirring until the mixture was dissolved. Copper sulfate was then added as the final solution which ends up giving it its vibrant green color. According to color historian Victoria Finlay, Scheele invented this green “almost accidentally.” A year before the color went into production, he wrote to a friend that he thought users might want to know about its poisonous nature. “But what’s a little arsenic when you’ve got a great new color to sell?” Finlay tells us.

The vivid green used in Victorian wallpaper was derived from toxic copper arsenite. CREDIT: JOHN TODD MERRICK & COMPANY, LONDON, UK, 1845/2016 CROWN COPYRIGHT, THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES, KEW.

The coloring was cheap and easy to make, so it quickly began to replace the older green pigments and was used in a variety of daily products ranging from children’s toys to home furnishing. Other names the color was called were Paris Green and Emerald Green. So why was this color so poisonous? In case you didn’t pick up what the key ingredient was – Scheele’s green was loaded with copper arsenite, one of the deadliest elements to have ever been discovered.

Accidents caused by the use of green arsenic, 1859.

I won’t go much into detail about what the side effects of arsenic poisoning are (I’ll just let you analyze the picture above for a bit), but arsenic is a highly toxic substance that causes skin lesions, vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases, cancer. So of course, the 1800’s was riddled in this substance. You could find this arsenic-laced color in candy, paper, toys, and medicine. It was also used as a dye for clothing and accessories, even as far as colorant for the leaves of flowers to make them look more alive and vibrant.

But perhaps one of the most interesting things about this color is that it has been rumored to have killed the famous Napoleon Bonaparte.

Scheele’s Green for Light Grey Art Lab’s Color Anthropology show. Art by Lily Nishita.

After being handed his final defeat by the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon was sent to exile on the tiny South Atlantic island of St. Helena in 1815. During this time, we know that he stayed in a very luxurious room painted with his favorite color – green. Six years later he died of what was most likely stomach cancer, although some speculate it might have been ulcers. Analysis of his hair samples, however, have revealed significant amounts of arsenic. But how can these wallpapers kill someone who was once the most powerful man in Europe? There are two theories: one is that tiny flakes of the paint can break off the wallpaper and become airborne that can therefore be absorbed by the lungs. Alternatively, toxic gases can be released when the compounds undergo certain chemical reactions when exposed to heat and moisture. This means that when wallpaper becomes damp or moldy, the pigment undergoes a chemical reaction which causes the release of poisonous arsenic gasses into the air. Since St. Helena has a humid climate, it is possible that fungus grew of the walls of his home.

It is crazy to think that a color so vibrant and beautiful was also the cause of death to some people. But those were the old days, now you don’t have to worry about a green dress killing you.

Illustration by Rachel Vermeer.

Adam Matano for ARC

One of our very own instructors, Adam Matano, has been selected for the ARC! The ARC is the Art Renewal Center, a non-profit and educational foundation that is leading the revival of realism in the visual arts. They host one of the largest online museums where you will find anything from old masters, contemporary art, articles, letters and other online resources. This year they host the 13th annual ARC Salon Traveling Exhibition, and Adam Matano will be part of it!

Adam Matano, The Hunter, 2017, 81.28 x 111.76 cm | 32 x 44 in Resin.

We were very excited to hear this news here at LAAFA, so we quickly jumped to ask him some questions about his experience. Below is a mini-interview with Adam:

-What does it mean to you to be chosen for this exhibition? Especially as an “honorable mention.”

“I am very excited to be included in this exhibition. I was awarded 3rd place in the animal category and as an honorable mention in the sculpture category, which means I can participate in the physical show that will travel from New York City to Los Angeles and end in Barcelona, Spain. I will be in the catalog for all three shows, but physically I will only be showing at the L.A. show at Sotheby’s auction house.”

 

-Tell me a bit about your piece, The Hunter. What was your thought process for it and why was it the piece that you chose to submit?

“The Hunter is a sculpture I did of a black African leopard. There is a strong juxtaposition in the pose versus what we may see on the surface when we think of such powerful animals. We’re at first taken aback, recognizing their incredible strength and powerful weapons, which, one on one, have the ability to kill us. What we fail to recognize is that there is much more to nature, theirs as well as our own, which given consideration and time will reveal something much more beautiful and complex given the chance. Leopards, specifically, are not the biggest, strongest, nor the fastest of the big animals, but they’re smart, and very adaptable. They are able to live close to man and are spread out on more contents than all the other cats. They’re the underdogs, as we are, surviving.”

 

-What advice do you have for our current (or future) students who are looking to submit to this kind of traveling exhibition?

“What is good about the ARC Salon exhibition is that it’s international and online. You have the opportunity to show with artists all over the world and potentially sell, without the added risk and expense of shipping. You can submit up to 3 pieces and to any or all your relevant categories. If you place in the competition, then you can join the traveling exhibition. Showing in person is ideal, because certain aspects of the work don’t translate in photos, such as scale, texture, etc. Also, you really need to walk around my sculpture to experience it. Every angle tells a different story.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations, Adam!


Adam Matano will be showcasing his work at the Sotheby’s, Los Angeles from December 4 through December 13, 2018. Opening reception will take place on December 4, 2018 from 6PM-8PM.

 

The Art of Comic-Con

What a week! This year marked my very first time at not just THE Comic-Con, but my first time at any “con.” A new friend I met on line waiting for coffee let me know just how incredibly lucky I was to have had this experience. She explained that most people, members of the expanded “fandom” universe, spend many years going to much, much smaller cons before finally being lucky enough to make it to THE con of all cons, Comic-Con International, San Diego. Well, what can I say, when I go, I go all in. Go big or go home, ya know? That said, let me take you on the magic ride that was my first Comic-Con. 

First, a little context. Like most things in our hyper-commercialized world of today, CCSD today is almost unrecognizable from its humble beginnings as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970. Back then a bunch of comic book enthusiasts, most of whom were still in high school, gathered in a tiny rec center gymnasium to celebrate all things comics. Less than 100 folks were present at that first one, but by the next year attendance grew to 300 as the Con moved to the Grant Hotel. Flash forward 48 years and the Con has now outgrown the San Diego Convention Center, spilling out into nearby hotels and the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter, with an estimated attendance of over 130,000 and economic impact of over $140 Million. Not too shabby!

Of course, growth comes with a price. Today’s Con, according to some, is more about splashy studio panels in Hall H and surprise celebrity appearances. In these terms, 2018 did not disappoint. Nicole Kidman made her first Comic-Con appearance alongside Amber Herd and Jason Momoa. Millie Bobby Brown showed up with a giant lizard that may still be more famous than her, and Johnny Depp shocked the hall when he appeared seemingly out of thin air in full Grindewald…the production value of these panels rivals the movies they are meant to promote themselves. As I’m writing this on the convention floor I can hear the cheers of fans of KJ Apa, Lilli Reinhart, and Cole Sprouse. I would much rather meet Mark Conuelos, but I digress. 

Some say that this new iteration of Comic-Con is nothing more than people paying to stand in line to see an advertisement. Before being here in person, I may have shared this thought. After being here however, I couldn’t disagree more. You see, just like in 1970, Comic-Con is still about one very important thing, THE FANS! It is four and a half glorious days of fans getting to immerse themselves in their beloved worlds. And all those worlds, be they in movies, TV shows, video games, or printed form, have something very important in common…they all come from the world of ART! 

Make no mistake, Comic-Con is still all about the art. Sure, the “big studios” are here, but for every one of them, there are dozens of independent artists here to connect with their fans. There are demos of every kind. Drawing, sculpting, watercolor, make-up, digital and more. Have a picture of your favorite pet with you? There is an artist known for her work with animals to create a piece just for you. Your favorite comic book artist will sketch something special for you. Most importantly, the artists are happy to talk to you, to answer your questions, and to inspire you. The artists are here for their fans, and it shows. 

There are also miles and miles (not joking here, the convention center floor is over a mile and a half long!) of comics books, brand new to classics and everything in between. Memorabilia ranges from first run Peanuts strips drawn by Charles Shultz himself to props and costumes from your favorite films. And the merch, oh wow the merch. If you can’t find it at Comic-Con, it doesn’t exist. 

Returning to the “big boys” for a moment, one of the things that I had NO IDEA existed are what Comic-Con refers to as “activations.” Studios are getting creative with how they promote their upcoming productions. This year you could work your way out of a Jack Ryan inspired escape room, fight off walkers in AMC’s 4D-VR Walking Dead experience, visit the house from A Good Place (that one still confuses me), get spooked out in Castlerock, and more. The activations are intense and can only be described as living art. They immerse you in your soon-to-be, if not already, favorite show. What more could a fan ask for? 

And, of course, there are the costumes. Whether it’s a 6-year-old and her dad dressed as Rey and Kylo Ren (the parent/kid combos were my personal favorites) or a group of friends dressed at the crew from Guardians of the Galaxy, the cos-play is truly a sight to behold. 

Comic-Con is the excuse everyone needs to, simply put, be a kid again. Whether it’s the young in age, or the young at heart Comic-Con is for everyone that wants a day (or four!) of pure, unadulterated joy. I say, WHY NOT!?! As the world gets crazier and crazier, as more and more hate is spewed into the zeitgeist, why not have joy? Four and half days of capes, pointed ears, and tights (oh, so, so many tights) and that’s all right! So, keep bringing the joy Comic-Con! All hail the art. All hail the FANS! 

…and oh yes, see you next year! 

Hidden in Plain Sight

An 18th-century Spanish Baroque painting, that has been missing for more than one hundred years, has apparently been hiding somewhere in Los Angeles for the past sixty years.

The artwork is nicknamed “Española,” or, “Spanish Girl” because of the dolled-up child in between a man and a woman who appear to be her parents. This work is from a set of sixteen paintings by Miguel Cabrera (c. 1715-1768), one of the greatest painters in Mexico during his time. These paintings are part of the celebrated set of casta, or caste, paintings that depicted and categorize the hierarchy of interracial mixings among Indians, Spaniards, Creoles, and Africans.

Las castas. Anonymous, 18th century, oil on canvas, 148×104 cm, Museo Nacional del Virreinato, Tepotzotlán, Mexico.

These paintings were usually commissioned by white elites during the viceroyalty of New Spain in the early 1700’s. They were seen as a sort of souvenir that they can bring back to their home country of Spain and show it off to their elite friends. More than 120 casta paintings still exist today, each painted by different artists depicting their different styles.

Of these set of sixteen paintings by Miguel Cabrera, only two of them had disappeared. One of the two was found in 2015 rolled up and stored under a couch in a Northern California home. The painting had apparently been passed down by the family of mining tycoon John P. Jones, who was a co-founder of Santa Monica in the late 1800’s. After the discovery, LACMA (Los Angele County Museum of Art) quickly acquired it.

Miguel Cabrera, “6. From Spaniard and Morisca, Albino Girl,” 1763, oil on canvas. (LACMA)

No. 6’s first exhibition after returning was “50 for 50: Gifts on the Occasion of LACMA’s Anniversary.” Shortly after, Ilona Katzew who is the curator of Latin American art at LACMA, received a mysterious envelope with no return address. When she opened the letter, it read:

As you can tell, the letter was written in the voice of Española, then signed at the bottom as if by the little girl herself. The five snapshots in the envelope were finally able to show what the painting looked like since there were no pre-modern images or even written descriptions of Cabrera’s set.

Sanpshots of the long-shot casta painting showing luxurious details and a modern frame. (LACMA)

Katzew did everything to try to find some hint of where this envelope came from. A 2 mile radius might seem short, but it ranges a lot of houses and apartments which would make it impossible to pinpoint. The stamps that she looked into were not canceled by the post office, which would have narrowed her search. They stopped making the thirty-seven-cent a decade before the letter was sent, and the commemorative stamp honoring writer Jack London was issued in 1988. As for the snapshots, Katzew even took the snaps to Sammy’s Camera to see if they can get some information about the prints only to come out empty handed as well.

“3. From Spaniard and Castiza, Spanish Girl,” became its official full title. This painting is specially important in the set of sixteen because of its uniquely lavish details that represents a momentous occasion in casta history. You can see the aristocrat Spanish father dressed in a dove-gray frock coat and tri-corner hat. The castiza mother, who is the offspring of a Spaniard and a mestiza (half Spanish, half Indian), is dressed in regal splendor with a refine black lace mantilla, embroidered silks, delicate lace, pearls on her wrist, and an extravagant coral necklace. As for the little Española standing in the middle of her parents, she is dressed in crisp pink and gold silks, white lace, and a sparkling pearl necklace that highlights her porcelain face. All these details are especially important when you think about the white culture’s fabricated racial and social hierarchy. In this mix between a Spaniard and a Spanish Indian woman, the child produced has enough European blood to be considered fully Spanish.

Will we ever get to see little Española in real life? As much as we hate that the owner is keeping her “hostage,” I appreciate what their cleverness in composing a letter in Española’s voice, as well as appreciative of providing scholars with snap shots of what the artwork looks like. At least the letter lets us know that she alive and well kept. One wonder now if we will be able to see her in our lifetime.

If you would like to read more about this discovery, check out this LA Times Article.

LAAFA Shines at CAC Gold Medal Exhibition

This year marked the 107th Annual Gold Medal Exhibition held by the California Art Club. Since its founding in 1909, the club has been dedicated to house artists in the contemporary-traditional fine art field. Their annual Gold Medal Exhibition was first held in 1911 and has since become an environment for artists, scholars, and collectors to explore and discuss topics surrounding representational art forms. Specifically for the artists, The Gold Medal Exhibition has also become a platform to creating new standards of excellence for works that in the traditional art techniques of painting, drawing, and sculpture.

Two of our school’s alumni were fortunate enough to participate in the exhibition. Rohini Sen’s Chinook (charcoal on paper) and Nkita Budkov’s Victim of Fate, John Dee (oil on board).

 Rohini Sen & Chinook

From Sen, “It was an honor to be included in such a prestigious event. Meeting and getting to know fellow artists and collectors from California and out-of-state, immediately broadens your community. I’m thankful to be a member of the California Art Club and am excited for future events!”

Nikita Budkov & Victim of Fate, John Dee

LAAFA also had two instructors featured; Adam Matono, Divinity (pictured), David, and Giraffe in Tree (all in bronze) was featured along with fellow instructor Ron Lemen, Dappled Light at San Dieguito (oil on canvas).

 Divinity

LAAFA is committed to continuing support of its students, faculty, and alumni as they pursue their artistic goals and careers. Congratulations to Rohini, Nikita, Adam, and Ron!

*Ron Lemen’s Dappled Light at San Dieguitofeatured piece.

Find Your Niche in LA’s Museum Scene 

Getty, Broad, Hammer, LACMA, these are just some of the names that have helped elevate the Los Angeles museum scene from New York City’s ” oft-ignored kid brother” to a prominent player on the world stage. LA is now home to world-class galleries and museums, both public and private, and continues to garner respect from international artists, critics, and patrons alike.  But what if you’re looking for something…different?

Looking for something a bit more interesting? Unique? Maybe even, quirky? Los Angeles has far more interesting and exciting places operating under the radar of the established art gate-keepers. Check out these gems that you probably have never stepped foot in… but should! 

 

A portion of the overstuffed collection you can find at the Valley Relics Museum.
(Photo courtesy Tommy Gelinas/Valley Relics Museum) 

Valley Relics Museum  

(Yes, YES you really can find awesomeness in The Valley!!!) 

Hours: Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Price: Free 

The San Fernando Valley often gets treated like the black sheep of the L.A. area, but this museum tries to give it the tender loving care it deserves. 

Much of the collection feels like a shrine to kitsch, from neon signs to classic cars, cute T-shirts to an old school Jack In The Box drive-through intercom. You’ll find rare documents, postcards, BMX bikes, yearbooks (what are they wearing?!), an Alvin (of And The Chipmunks fame) statue, and much more. 

It’s the brainchild of private collector and Valley native Tommy Gelinas, who opened the museum in 2013. And it’s got something that those who love the Valley know all about: free parking. 

 

Classic cars shine under the lights of the Nethercutt Collection’s epic showroom. (Photo by Steve/Flickr Creative Commons) 

The Nethercutt Museum/Collection 

Museum Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Collection Hours: Advanced reservations only; tours Thursday-Saturday at 10 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
Price: Free 

This is a car museum that’s not just a car museum. Tucked away in Sylmar, the Nethercutt Museum is a wonder in and of itself, with more than 130 antique cars restored and in working order. That’s due to the institution’s philosophy of function above all, with a staff dedicated to making sure their stuff actually works. 

But beyond the museum, there’s the collection. It requires advanced reservations for a guided tour, but it lets you see a wonderland of functional art. The big showstopper: The “Grand Salon,” a giant, marble showroom designed to match car dealerships of the early 20th century, filled with 30 stunning vehicles from that time period. But the collection also includes music boxes, a 5,000-pipe Wurlitzer Theatre Organ, even antique furniture that you can actually sit your butt on. Remember: It’s all about function. 

They also offer concerts throughout the year, using that giant organ to help you enjoy silent movies, special Christmas concerts, and more. But there’s one piece of functional, fine art you’ll need to use to get a spot — a phone, because tickets are only available by phone for a two-hour window. (We failed to secure a spot the last time we tried for a Christmas concert, so may the odds be ever in your favor.) 

 

The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Maciek Lulko/Flickr Creative Commons) 

The Paley Center For Media 

Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 12-5 p.m.
Price: Free, with a $10 suggested contribution; tickets to PaleyFest and other special events range in price 

The Paley Center was formerly known as the Museum of Television & Radio, and before that, the Museum of Broadcasting. Despite changing names as much as P. Diddy did, those names still give you an idea what the center is all about: the stuff we watch. 

You can see exhibits, showing artifacts from your favorite shows, ranging from South Park to The Crown. You can also go deep — their archives include more than 160,000 TV show, radio programs and ads. Visit and watch everything you’re not getting in your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions. 

Their signature event is PaleyFest, with panels featuring stars and creators. Get good seats, and maybe you’ll be able to grab an autograph, despite guards trying to move you along. 

 

Signs from the Museum of Neon Art. (Photo by Jeremy Brooks/Flickr Creative Commons) 

Museum of Neon Art 

Hours: Thursday-Sunday; 12-7 p.m.; Sunday, 12-5 p.m
Price: $10 general admission — and only $5 for Glendale residents 

Get ready to burn your eyes’ rods and cones out. Come see the world’s only museum dedicated to that bright light that calls to us by day and especially by night. 

The museum has traveled since first opening in 1981, previously setting up shop at Universal CityWalk, Grand Hope Park and the city’s Historic Core. After closing in 2011, it reopened in a new permanent Glendale home in 2016. 

Some of the highlights in their collection include neon signs from the Brown Derby and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Their current featured exhibitions are “There’s More to Neon Signs Than Liquor, Motels and Live Nude Girls” and “Motel California,” with previous showcases including women in neon, plasma (as seen in those cool globes), and more. 

Beyond the museum, they also offer a “Neon Cruise” — a Saturday night bus tour of neon signs, movie marquees and other neon installations throughout Hollywood and Downtown L.A. 

 

VPAM on the campus of East LA College. Photo Credit kid101.com 

Vincent Price Art Museum 

Hours: Tuesdays through Saturdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Price: Free 

Vincent Price was most known for his myriad roles in horror cinema, but his side hustle was studying art history and building a formidable art collection (he got an Art History degree from Yale before embarking on his acting career). In the 1950s, he also acquainted himself with East Los Angeles College, eventually recognizing how students of the college could benefit from more opportunities to see art on their campus. In 1957, he donated some of his and his wife’s art collection to kick start the school’s collection. 

The museum, which is named after him, has since grown to include a much larger collection and regularly hosts temporary exhibits. Currently, the first comprehensive exhibit of Laura Aguilar’s photography ever mounted is on display. Also, because it is attached to ELAC, it regularly showcases student work as well. 

 

W Magazine: How the Family-Run Underground Museum Became One of L.A.’s Most Vital Cultural Forces. Photo Credit: Deana Lawson 

The Underground Museum 

Hours: Wednesdays through Sundays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.  

Price: Free 

The Underground Museum was established in 2012 by the late painter Noah Davis, who dreamed of bringing “museum-quality” art to Arlington Heights, a predominantly working-class neighborhood. The first exhibit was called Imitation of Wealth; in it, Davis re-created famous pieces of art because no museums were willing to lend their work. The exhibit asked questions of artistic hierarchy, class structures, and authenticity, and set the groundwork for a small museum that has grown into one of the most important art spaces in Los Angeles. In 2015, the Underground Museum began collaborating with MOCA, setting up an exchange where Davis would curate exhibits with works from MOCA’s permanent collection. Davis primarily focused on exhibits featuring the black experience in Los Angeles and America; his brother, artist and director Khalil Joseph, installed his video piece m.A.A.d at the Underground Museum before it showed at MOCA under the title Double Conscience. Davis unfortunately passed away at the young age of 32 back in 2015, but his vision and aesthetic are being continued via the new museum director and guest curators. The Underground Museum is also a strong community player in mid-city and South Los Angeles (Black Lives Matter and other groups often use the space to organize). 

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Sources: http://laist.com/2017/10/26/hidden_gem_museums.php 

http://laist.com/2018/06/19/museums_you_probably_ha.php