In the NY Times, Patricia Cohen reports on the Art in Embassies program. The Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, a nonprofit group chaired by Robert Storr, works with the State Department to create and donate custom-made artwork for American outposts abroad. They've commissioned about a dozen large-scale installations including one that Dorothea Rockburne is creating this month at the Queens Museum.
"Dorothea Rockburne, with help from a team of artists, is working on a gargantuan mural of deep blues, shimmering aquas and luminous gold leaf that is headed for the American Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica. 'It shows the constellations in the nighttime sky when Colin Powell was born,' Ms. Rockburne explained, referring to the former secretary of state and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose roots extend back to Jamaica. And now, on this rainy June day, the project has hit a bump. Titanium white, the color needed for the underlying coat, is running out, and the paint manufacturer (American this time) said it would take two weeks to deliver more. Ms. Rockburne had been wrangling to speed up the delivery and that airlifted phone call told her she had succeeded.
"After hanging up, she ran her fingers over the canvas. 'I think it needs more texture,' she said. Not so heavy that it looks like stucco, but not flat, she explained. 'And it should be extra heavy in the middle section where the Milky Way is.'
"The artists assisting her have been practicing the unusual technique she developed, which involves dabbing paint on a canvas in layers with round masonry brushes — each about the size of an old 45 r.p.m. record. 'It has to do with getting light between the layers of the paint,' she said. The iridescent colors will cause the night sky to sparkle, giving 'spatial mystery to a flat surface.'" Read more.
Photo of Dorothea Rockburne at top: H Thomson.