Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reading Fingerprints

Here's another advertisement from the August 1944 issue of Popular Mechanics. What can you read in this finger print? There is a secret hidden in it, just as there is in every finger print.

Study the advertisement from the Institute of Applied Science above and you will see the answer: Your Fortune. The words appear twice.

Learn about the History of Fingerprinting and read two books of historical interest on the Internet Archive: Francis Galton's 1895 publication Fingerprint Directories and James Holt's Fingerprints Simplified published c.1920.

The first London printing of Galton's book Finger Prints published by Macmillan in 1892 is commanding the whopping price of $1,500 on Biblio.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reference Links No. 62 & 63

I've been adding to my list of Reference Links lately. It's winter, the world of retail is frozen in limbo in my area of New Hampshire, so I'm spending more time searching the web. As a result I am finding more and more inspiring visual material! This morning I started off on the site of boxed assemblage artist Frank Turek. (Frank is out of Portland, Maine and I know him through participation in his contemporary clown art show at Ubu Studio.) Frank's site led me to Early Visual Media, which has become link number 62. on my reference list.

From there I visited Cornell University Library's site (link number 63.) on The Fantastic in Art and Literature. Here's an excerpt from their introductory page:
Because of its rich and varied modes of representation the Fantastic also lends itself quite easily to interdisciplinary approaches. Psychology and sociology, art and literary history, anthropology and folklore among other disciplines, can provide avenues of investigation useful in the study of such basic critical or analytical concepts for the Fantastic as repression, the uncanny, indeterminacy, or the postmodern. The image bank may thus also be useful for broadening discussions in areas of study quite removed from the Fantastic per se, and it is indeed our hope that it will do so.
First I discovered the marvelous wood engravings of Bernard Zuber. Then I found their complete book list of 75 or so titles which you will not find on the shelves of your local public library! Down near the bottom of the list I noticed this book with images from one of my favorite Mexican artists, Jose Guadalupe Posada. The image illustrating the top of this post is by Posada-- from a 35mm copy stand photo I took for a library school project on the art of Edward Gorey where I attempted to show Posada as a possible influence.

And I could not resist cropping the dot below from Plate 7. of Sphaera Coelestis Mystica, a hand-colored geometrical diagram of biblical passages.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beautiful Book Bindings 1830-1910

I added two new reference links today. One is to a fabulous collection of book bindings--the University of Rochester's Rare Books and Special Collections online exhibit titled Beauty for Commerce: Publisher's Bindings 1830-1910. I added it to my list of reference links under Bindings 1830-1910. I love the way their photographs show both the front cover and the spine together.

So much so that I gave similar treatment to an interesting dump find from my collection. Below are two pages from Samantha in Europe by Josiah Allen's Wife (Marietta Holley) and illustrated by C. DeGrimm (NY: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1896).

I've also added a second new reference link to a site called Gallery of Graphic Design. It's an amazing collection of magazine advertisements, dating 1930 -1969, conveniently sorted by advertiser (3121 of them!), illustrator, magazine, product and keyword. Check out this one by Salvador Dali illustrating for De Beers Diamonds.

Here the product is industrial chemicals but the artwork is anything but industrial. The tag line for this one is "No Sibling Rivalry" and the illustration reminds me of a Rorschach inkblot test! And here's a third one for the same company, Celanese, that's also got eye-catching artwork.

And finally, here's a very dramatic advertisment for Drano. Don't let this happen to you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Introducing Biblio - Dots!

I started another blog today for showcasing the "old and odd" illustrated books in my collection. The first discussion is on one titled Fascination, or The Philosophy of Charming published by the phrenological Fowler brothers (Lorenzo and Orson) and Samuel Wells in 1885. I thought this would be a good choice since I am currently reading Madeleine B. Stern's Heads & Headlines; The Phrenological Fowlers.

The new blog is called Biblio - Dots. I'm still not done fussing with fonts and colors yet but it's getting there.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Space Race Square

I've been playing with some lovely vintage cover art from an old issue of Popular Mechanics. I love the pinwheel effect when the image is turned and repeated!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Nose Thing Dot

I started getting into my old magazines tonight. These advertisements are from an August, 1944 issue of Popular Mechanics which is missing its cover.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Barbara Kruger Does Barbasol

I just started reading a fabulous book: Barbara Kruger (NY: Rizzoli, 2010). Even if you are not familiar with the name you probably would recognize her signature artwork: black and white photos with bold captions on red backgrounds.

The book is 312 pages and so far I have been skimming and skipping. Imagine my surprise to see that Kruger appropriated one of my favorite Barbasol advertisement images (original ad pictured above; blogged earlier here) from a 1950's Life magazine! I learned from her Wikipedia entry that the typeface she uses is Futura Bold and she studied art and design with Diane Arbus at Parson's School of Design. The entry pointed me to a clever Graphic Standards Manual. And a nice selection of her work can be seen here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Re-Visiting Grandmother's Flower Garden

Back in the early 90's I got off onto a serious "Grandmother's Flower Garden" quilt tangent. Patterns are created from interlocking hexagons. The trick is to baste fabric over precisely cut paper templates so all the angles meet exactly when the pieces are assembled by hand. I would run off sheets of hexagon shapes (outlined in thin black marker) on a xerox machine and spend hours cutting them out. Then I would baste fabric pieces over them. I became totally addicted to the process, spending hours in the evenings after work. I had a little tin of paper and fabric hexagons that I carried in my purse so I could baste on the train, while being driven in the car, while camping, and even once while killing time on jury duty.

My first quilt was hexagon shaped. It hangs on the wall behind my computer--unfinished.

Above is another quilt (also unfinished) I called "Communicating With Extraterrestrials." I used little beads in place of traditional quilting or tying.

My most ambitious quilt, an experiment in color shifting, was an excuse to collect cotton fabric in as many solid colors and small prints that I could find!

I constructed hundreds of hexagons and pinned them to a huge piece of foam board which took over the kitchen table and provided endless amusement for cats. The piece was disassembled when I moved to New Hampshire and exists only as a photograph.

Recently I spent some time sorting the pieces after 15 years and made a little test piece to see how I liked them collaged with space between the units. So far I am underwhelmed, although I do rather like the photoshop manipulated version at the top of this post.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Collage as Gesamtkunstwerk

I'm still reading my way through "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" which is a chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment ( Adorno & Horkheimer, 1944). There I came across a marvelous German word: gesamtkunstwerk.

Translated as" total work of art," the idea of gesamtkunstwerk implies ideal work of art, universal artwork, synthesis of the arts, comprehensive artwork, all-embracing art form, or total artwork. The term was first used in 1827 by the German writer and philosopher K. F. E. Trahndorff. As a "supernaturalist," Trahndorff opposed theological rationalism and embraced the indeducible, supernatural and mystical nature of religious revelation. German opera composer Richard Wagner used the term in his 1849 essays "Art and Revolution" and "The Artwork of the Future", where he speaks of unifying all works of art via the theater.

I see collage as a synthesis of both the visual arts (painting, photography, graphic design, etc.) and of the ephemeral bits of life, memories and dreams; a curio cabinet of the soul.

And, in keeping with the German theme, check out Alexander Korzer-Robinson's amazing collages constructed with the German encyclopaedia Brockhaus Konversationslexikon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Whispering In the Closet

The Art Group will be showing new work at the Gafney Library during the month of February. This is good. I have a definite deadline for the work in progress. That said, I have spent the day so far exploring tangents, one in particular.

I wanted to title this post: "A Collage Artist and Former Librarian Considers ETEWAF (Everything That Ever Was--Available Forever)" but it was too long. I credit the blog Retrospace for starting me off in this direction. The idea of having access to every book ever written is a librarian's dream. And what collage artist wouldn't like to have access to every image that ever was, printed with indelible ink on acid-free paper?

But, reading further in Wired Magazine and Inhabitatio Dei, I began to ask myself if this ETEWAF phenomenon is really such a good thing. The comments on the Inhabitatio Dei post were instructive, leading me to consider the book Dialectic of Enlightenment by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, the chapter titled "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception" in particular.

And if all of that didn't give me enough to think about, I also stumbled upon a summary of Walter Benjamin's essay titled "The Work of Art in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction." Does making use of found images in collage result in the loss of "aura" that Benjamin discusses?

Time will tell. Bottom line is I have four works in progress for the February show and damn little progress has been made so far today!