Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Couleurs sans danger

Antique children's paint sets, brilliant.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Le Météore de la Nuit

There are countless images of the Eiffel Tower, but I love when it appears like an imposing spaceship from a faraway place, no doubt struggling with French to warn anyone looking up from their déjeuner.

Rene-Jacques, Tour Eiffel 1947

George Garen, La Tour Eiffel 1889

The airship Le Jaune by the LeBaudy brothers glides by the Eiffel Tower in 1903

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A thousand words

Coming in May 2014 (I can't wait!)...

Described on Amazon and Barnes and Noble for pre-order customers:  Girls Standing on Lawns is a unique collaboration between renowned artist and bestselling children’s book author Maira Kalman and New York Times bestselling writer Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket. This clever book contains 40 vintage photographs from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, more than a dozen original paintings by Kalman inspired by the photographs, and brief, lyrical texts by Handler. Poetic and thought-provoking, Girls Standing on Lawns is a meditation on memories, childhood, nostalgia, home, family, and the act of seeing. The gorgeous visual material sets the stage for what Handler succinctly describes as “a photograph, a painting, a sentence, a pose.” Girls, women, families, and even pets from days gone by grace the pages, looking out at us, enticing readers to imagine these people, their lives—and where they have gone.

I love the idea that a picture (photograph or painting) often contains a moment, a story, an entire world. I bought a book years ago, Transforming Vision: Writers on Art,  a delightful collection (pub. 1994) of poems and prose, inspired by familiar art from our country's finest museums. Joyce Carol Oates wrote a wonderful piece on Edward Hopper's painting, Nighthawks:

Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, 1942

Joyce Carol Oates

The three men are fully clothed, long sleeves, even hats, though it's indoors, and brightly lit, and there's a woman. The woman is wearing a short-sleeved red dress cut to expose her arms, a curve of her creamy chest; she's contemplating a cigarette in her right hand, thinking that her companion has finally left his wife but can she trust him? Her heavy-lidded eyes, pouty lipsticked mouth, she has the redhead's true pallor like skim milk, damned good-looking and she guesses she knows it but what exactly has it gotten her so far, and where?--he'll start to feel guilty in a few days, she knows the signs, an actual smell, sweaty, rancid, like dirty socks; he'll slip away to make telephone calls and she swears she isn't going to go through that again, isn't going to break down crying or begging nor is she going to scream at him, she's finished with all that. And he's silent beside her, not the kind to talk much but he's thinking thank God he made the right move at last, he's a little dazed like a man in a dream--IS this a dream?--so much that's wide, still, mute, horizontal, and the counterman in white, stooped as he is and unmoving, and the man on the other stool unmoving except to sip his coffee; but he's feeling pretty good, it's primarily relief, this time he's sure as hell going to make it work, he owes it to her and to himself, Christ's sake. And she's thinking the light in this place is too bright, probably not very flattering, she hates it when her lipstick wears off and her makeup gets caked, she'd like to use a ladies' room but there isn't one here and Jesus how long before a gas station opens?--it's the middle of the night and she has a feeling time is never going to budge. This time though she isn't going to demean herself--he starts in about his wife, his kids, how he let them down, they trusted him and he let them down, she'll slam out of the goddamned room and if he calls her SUGAR or BABY in that voice, running his hands over her like he has the right, she'll slap his face hard, YOU KNOW I HATE THAT: STOP! And he'll stop. He'd better. The angrier she gets the stiller she is, hasn't said a word for the past ten minutes, not a strand of her hair stirs, and it smells a little like ashes or like the henna she uses to brighten it, but the smell is faint or anyway, crazy for her like he is, he doesn't notice, or mind....She's still contemplating the cigarette burning in her hand, the counterman is still stooped gaping at her, and he doesn't mind that, why not, as long as she doesn't look back, in fact he's thinking he's the luckiest man in the world so why isn't he happier?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Blue Marble

Five hours after their launch into the Apollo 17 mission, the crew of the spacecraft took a photo of our humble planet. It wasn't the first photo of Earth seen from space, but it was spectacular in its beauty and familiarity.  There's Africa, Saudi Arabia and Madagascar suprisingly huge amid all the cloud swirls. Apparently, there's a cyclone visible in the Indian Ocean, a storm that brought flooding and havoc to Tamil Nadu in India several days later. 

Apollo 17 crew, Blue Marble (1972)

In Night View,  Berenice Abbott's lens becomes a bird's eye over a Manhattan cityscape that is pure magic. We are floating high above the cacophony of honking horns, sirens, squealing elevated trains, wailing musicians and buzzing neon lights.

Berenice Abbott, Night View (1932)

How does a thing so complex, with parts so at odds with itself, with so many random bits and pieces, so much noise and drama and absurdity, and devastation and need and mystery....how can it even function?  It helps to see a bigger picture....with a telescopic lens if possible.  How is Night View like Blue Marble?  They are awe-inspiring. Awe is a good way to start a new year.

Happy New Year!