Filed under: Art, Capitalism, Economy, Education, Fun n Games, Politics | Tags: Crayons, How Thing Are Made, Pigment and Wax and?
I love watching assembly lines, seeing how things are made. It’s no wonder so many science fiction stories portray a society that suddenly doesn’t work at all; and we’re all left to try to cope, and we don’t know how to make anything useful. Did you learn how to make fire in Boy Scouts? And snares? We are useless without our electricity and creature comforts.
Filed under: Politics, Science/Technology, Environment, Art, Energy, Architecture | Tags: Theo Jansen, Strandbeests, Kinetic Sculpture
Theo Jansen makes wind-fueled kinetic sculptures specifically for walking and “surviving”on the beaches of Holland. He calls them Strandbeests and they are extraordinary. His 2007 TED talk explains in more detail how “the animals” move and survive. You can find more videos on Vimeo.
Filed under: Science/Technology, Humor, Environment, Art, Entertainment, Freedom | Tags: Kinetic Sculpture, Strandbeests, Theo Jansen
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Fun n Games, Politics | Tags: Anamorphic Illusions, Believing That Which Is Not Real, Perspective
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Freedom, Heartwarming | Tags: Industrial Design, Irving Harper, Paper Sculptures
Paper doesn’t require any special equipment—“All you have to do is sit down, cut paper out, and score it, bend it, and glue it.”
A beautiful Herman Miller interview with designer (and paper engineer/artist/sculptor) Irving Harper. As design director for the Nelson Office in the 1950s and ’60s, he created and collaborated on iconic furniture, products and textiles in midcentury design.
While working on the Chrysler Pavilion for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, he began making sculptures in his off hours to relieve stress. Some 50 years and roughly 500 pieces later, almost every surface of his Rye, New York home is besieged by evidence of his remarkable skill and creativity.
Irving Harper’s book, Irving Harper: Works in Paper, chronicles his intricate sculptures of paper, toothpicks and other household items.
( h/t: thekidshouldseethis.com)
Filed under: Art, Heartwarming, History | Tags: How Do You Get Them Inside?, Ships in Bottles, Working in Miniature
Ships in bottles. Sea stories. Bottled History. “A nice little hobby.”
Ray Gascoigne has been around boats his whole life, as a shipwright, a merchant sailor, and now as a ship builder on the smallest dry dock there is: a bottle. This short film, by Smith Journal and Melbourne-based production studio Commoner, picks through the wood chips to tell the story of a craft honed over 60 years, the knowledge that goes into it, and the man behind it…
Filed under: Architecture, Art, History | Tags: Abraham and David Roentgen, Extravagent Furniture, Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Berlin Secretary Cabinet is just one of the extraordinary pieces that was part of a recent show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It ran from October until the end of January.
The workshop of Abraham Roentgen (1711-1793) and his son David (1743-1807) blazed across eighteenth century continental Europe. Their innovative designs were combined with ingenious mechanical devices that revolutionized traditional French and English furniture types. Their customers were the royalty and aristocracy. Beautifully inlaid, stunning marquetry, with hidden drawers and surprising unfoldings, concealed writing surfaces, easels, candle stands and clocks.
The video of the secretary cabinet, above, is amazing, and best viewed in full screen to grasp all the intricacies of their work. Other pieces can be seen at this link from the Museum. There are videos of many of the pieces. Don’t miss the automaton of Marie Antoinette playing the dulcimer.
Back in the real world, I have trouble finding what I want in my ordinary desk. No marquetry, no hidden drawers, no musical clock. Just a desktop computer, a keyboard, a lamp, and two cat baskets. Fortunately, in the 18th century they weren’t asking ‘where did I put my car keys,’ and ‘what did I do with the stamps?’ I wonder what they did do with all those drawers?
Filed under: Art, Entertainment, Fun n Games, Humor, Pop Culture | Tags: Learning to Juggle, Rubik's Cube, Solving Puzzles
Have you ever tried to solve the Rubik’s cube? How about solving it while juggling? Thought not. Never fear. Just Google Rubik’s cube and all sorts of helpful guides will appear, or videos if you prefer. Ravi, however is pretty amazing.
Filed under: Art, Environment, Freedom, Heartwarming, Science/Technology | Tags: Crocus Coming up?, Spring Sunshine, The Grayest Skies Are In Seattle
Reposted from last year. Thought you might need a respite from Obamageddontalk.
Filed under: Art, Freedom, History, The United States | Tags: Founding Father., Our First President, Washington's Birthday
(Reposted from last year) Be sure to click on the links to the forensic reconstructions, which is the whole point of this post: A search for the real George Washington)
The George Washington that most of us see most often is the engraving after the Gilbert Stuart portrait on the one dollar bill. Reproductions of the Gilbert Stuart portrait and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln used to hang on the front wall of every elementary classroom, with an American flag standing in the corner. But then we celebrated separate birthdays, and didn’t lump them together into 3-day weekends in which no one remembers any president at all.
The portrait above, was painted by Charles Wilson Peale, who I believe to be the most skilled portraitist of his day. He painted 6 major portraits of Washington from life, and nearly 60 others based on those life portraits. If you look closely at those and at the life mask below by Jean Antoine Houdon, they are clearly representations of the same man. In an age when there were no cameras, portraits were the only way people who could not see the subject in person had of knowing what they looked like. Only a few of the portrait artists were skilled, and many were no more than sign painters — and if they got the hair and the costume more or less right, it was the best they had.
We all know, I think, that George Washington had dreadful false teeth. A terrible pity, both for the President — because they must have been instruments of torture in his mouth — and because they distract our attention from far more important things about the man. Certainly Washington must have had access to the very best dentists of the day. By 1789, he had only one of his own teeth left. The teeth were horrible-looking contraptions made of substances like hippopotamus ivory, hinged at the back and operated with springs. He complained that they distorted his lips, and they must have distorted his appearance as well.
Gilbert Stuart was the most celebrated of portraitists. He trained in London, and was thought to be a potential successor to the famed Sir Joshua Reynolds. However Stuart was extravagant and fled in debt from London. He turned up in Philadelphia during 1795, hoping to pay off his creditors by creating a multitude of portraits of the world’s greatest man. Washington sat to him for three separate portraits, and Stuart made hundreds of copies. Take a minute to get out a dollar bill, and recognize the Gilbert Stuart image from which the engraving was made. It is a cruel portrait.
According to James Thomas Flexner’s Washington:The Indispensable Man, Washington and Stuart did not get on. The portraitist usually kept his sitters amused and their faces alive by a flood of showy and outrageous talk. Washington always felt uneasy at having to remain still and being stared at and was put out rather than being amused.
Stuart, who felt that “artists were fundamentally superior to all other men including Presidents, resented Washington’s formality. He could not forget what had resulted when, in trying to unstiffen the hero, he had gone to the length of saying, “Now, sir, you must let me forget that you are General Washington and I am Stuart the Painter. Washington replied (as it seemed to him politely), Mr. Stuart need never feel the need for forgetting who he is and who General Washington is.”
Stuart emphasized, as no other portraitist did, the distortions of Washington’s mouth. Flexner suggests that since Stuart was known to have angrily used General Knox’s portrait as the door of his pigsty that perhaps the harm he did to Washington’s historical image was somewhat deliberate.
This life mask by Jean Antoine Houdon gives us more clues as to what Washington actually looked like. He was tall, about 6’2″, and most verbal descriptions mention his ‘roman’ nose, so it was perhaps a little prominent.
This is not the face of the Stuart portrait, but looks more probable, and it is close to the Peale portraits.
Washington was an outdoorsman who spent much of his life in the saddle, and his complexion would have reflected that — more wrinkles, more weathered. They didn’t have sunglasses and baseball hats with a brim to keep the sun out of the eyes, lots of squinting. The portrait above seems to match the life mask fairly well. A far cry from the disagreeable Gilbert Stuart portrait.
I’m going a bit out on a limb here, but I spent some years in art school attempting to capture likenesses, and the smallest errors in size and distance relationships can lose a likeness completely. Also, people see likenesses differently. Some will insist that two siblings look just alike while others will see no resemblance between the same two. I have no real explanation for that.
I suspect that Gilbert Stuart had such a reputation as a great portraitist, undoubtedly aided by his own self description, that perhaps people were apt to accept his work as the “right” one. Portraits are an odd matter. One tries to capture a mobile. alive face that changes its expression constantly and represent it on a flat surface. If you have ever had photographer’s proofs of pictures of you to choose from, that will explain the problem. They’re all you, but you’ll like some much better than others.
Here are “reconstructions” done by a forensic reconstructionist of Washington at his inauguration, as a general, and at around the age of 19. They are startling in their realism. I suspect (nit-picky as I am) that the face is too free of wrinkles, and too pinky-white, and not rawboned enough. (I said I was being picky) But they give you a vastly different impression of the man. Haul out a dollar bill and compare. Stuart played a cruel joke on Washington.
Washington didn’t know much about being a general when he was appointed by Congress to lead the American armies, but he was the best we had, and he did fine. His men loved him, and he gradually taught them to be soldiers. He was elected unanimously to be President when he wanted nothing more than to return to Mt.Vernon and retire from public life. The people idolized him. He could have been a king or an emperor, or like some — a dictator for life. But it was he, with his sterling character, who set the nation on the right path. He was consummately aware that he was setting a path for those who were to follow him. He had a horrible temper, and mostly kept it under firm control. Any of his deeds alone would have made him famous, but in twenty-four years he led our armies, won the war, led the country, shaped a constitution, set a nation on its path and then went on home.
Here’s a Gilbert Stuart portrait. If the forensic reconstructions, the Houdon death mask, and the Peale portraits all agree, we can probably assume that Stuart was just mean. Pity that Stuart’s portrait is the more commonly seen one.
Filed under: Art, Cool Site of the Day, Education | Tags: Educational Possibilities, Essay on Comparative Size, Scale of the Universe
Understanding everything from microscopic to unimaginably vast: An Interactive Scale of the Universe. Or you could call it an interactive visual essay on size. Fascinating. At the same site are also “Powers of Ten.” “The Most Astounding Fact,” and “the Observable Universe.”
Changes your perceptions a little, or a lot. What a lot of work went into this video. Aside from just being really cool, it gives a hint of what education could be, if it were enhanced with interactive maps and timelines, pictures and portraits. You can read about a person, read their writings, but they don’t become fully real until you have some sense of what they look like.
I was unfortunate enough to have a history professor in college who was date obsessed. He would even give Saturday morning pop quizzes in which we had to construct a timeline of events from, say, 1872—1882. Developed a deep dislike of history for me, and it was only several years later that I began to read history and learned that it could be fascinating after all.
Filed under: Art, Capitalism, Cool Site of the Day, Freedom | Tags: American Entrepreneurs, Skilled Craftsmen, Work of the Hands
I love these videos that show how things are made, because there are so many things and I am so ignorant about how it is done. Skilled craftsmen are a joy to watch.