Author: Amanda Bowen (page 1 of 2)

Lucy in the Sky

Peter Malutzki.  Lucy in the sky.  Big Brother is Watching You...

Book artist Peter Malutzki became interested with “selfies” and especially the way young women posed themselves for display on the Internet.  He reused images found online to create a book about fantasy and self-representation, Lucy in the Sky; Big Brother is Watching You.  Superimposed are the words from the Beatles’ song, Lucy in the Sky, a text he found a fitting juxtaposition to the self-presentation of these pictures.

Malutzki has been making books, using a wide variety of found materials and printing techniques, for decades.  With his partner Ines von Ketelhodt, he undertook a 50-volume set created over 10 years and based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges.  Entitled Zweite Enzyklopädie von Tlön, it evokes in visual terms a lost society like the one described in Borges’ story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

Highlighting Artists’ Books

Take a break from studying and liven up your imagination by taking a peek at some artists’ books.  Here are a couple of highlights to get you started!

 

The Book of Warnings by Daniella Deeg

2001 Women’s Studio Workshop

This screen-printed artist book is stunning at first glance, tucked in a box with orange hazard ribbon, with more red warnings blazoned behind.  The pages have lively visuals of odd caution symbols and text, layered in reds and oranges, highlighted with crisp black and silver inks.  The novelty of the imagery and colors is soon coupled with more layered ideas of the reasoning behind taking precautions or taking risks.  The introduction explains the significance of “the human ability to anticipate the future” and how it enables “individuals can plan ahead and prepare themselves for things to come.”

The day-to-day warnings that go with a wet floor or with changing a light bulb are layered side by side with simple imagery of men fist-fighting, or with ideas about relationships.  “People might even try to use this foresight to turn the course of events to their liking” the introduction continues, adding a more active and perhaps devious twist to this idea of warning and anticipation.  Deeg’s work, initially perceived as a simple, vibrant accordion-folded book, suggests that we might need similar orange hazard warnings against something like falling in love or the more abstract risks of living.

How to Talk About Art by Miriam Shenitzer

1994 Women’s Studio Workshop

Looking to expand your vocabulary when talking about art?  Shenitzer’s tongue-in-cheek tutorial shows you how!  Black and white drawings of her adorable rat characters, coupled with pop-up book elements, take you through innovative ways to sound like you know what you are talking about.

This book mocks the language of art terminology as presented in some high-minded art criticism.  Short and sweet, this item is bound to make you smile, both reminding you of childhood pop-up books and make you laugh at the absurdities possible in talking about art.

This is just a taste of the enlightening and entertaining artists’ book collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.  Stop in and we would be glad to show you more!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and for all of her useful contributions this semester!

Take a Trip Around America… at the Harvard Fine Arts Library

A grey, Boston winter is soon upon us, we could all use a sunny postcard or two to brighten the day.  Luckily, the Harvard Fine Arts Library has an enormous postcard collection ready for your viewing pleasure.

Atlantic City

Hotel Traymore and Boardwalk, Atlantic City, N.J.

This collection mainly created in the early 20th century focuses on landscapes, architecture, and historical buildings and sculptures, stretching the world over.  Most heavily collected are cards from France, Italy, Germany and Spain, but a substantial number representing Canada, South and Central America, and the United States have recently been sorted and highlighted within the collection.

Lower New York

Lower New York, by Victoria Hutson

Some postcards are classic, colorized landmarks like the boardwalk at Atlantic City, and others have more stylized architecture like artist Victoria Huntson’s rendering of lower New York City.  Others still are wild shots of nature, like the spitting volcano of Kilauea in Hawaii.

Kilauea Volcano

Volcano of Kilauea, Hawaii

The collection is not without humor, and includes goofier cards such as the highly amusing “Busy Person’s Correspondence Card,” in which the sender checks off phrases to assemble a message:

“This burg is   (  )hot as h***   (  )out of sight!    (  )dead   ( X )a swell joint

(  )off the map   (  )classy”

A Busy Person's Correspondence Card

A Busy Person’s Correspondence Card

A few are even more unique, like this one from Ottawa.  When held up to the light, the cut-outs of the windows, moon, streetlamps, and reflections “glow” with sunset colors.

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa

Chateau Laurier-Ottawa. Grand Trunk Railway System

Whether for historical research, artistic inspiration, or just for fun, take a trip to the postcard collection at the Harvard Fine Arts Library.

Don’t forget to write!

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and helping to sort through the American postcards!

Sporting Portraits Collection

Nicknames and Stylish Hair: all a day in the life of a bare-knuckle boxer.

Take a moment to explore images from the Sporting Portraits collection.  This collection contains over 350 photographs, prints, broadsides, clippings, and hand-drawn illustrations from the mid-18th to the 20th centuries.  These portraits captured the likeness of more than 100 American, British, and Irish boxers.

John L. Sullivan

John L. Sullivan

The nicknames and facial hair alone are worth a look through this collection.  Who can resist the classic masculinity of handlebar mustaches?  Peter Maher and John C. Heenan wear them well.

Mustaches aside, a few tough women held their own in this rough sport, one such notable being Bertha Frances.

Bertha Frances

What good is a boxer without an equally intimidating nickname?

  • John C. Heenan “The Benicia Boy”
  • John L. Sullivan  “The Boston Strong Boy”
  • Valentine Braunheim “Knockout Brown”
  • Johnny Murphy “Birmingham Sparrow” (later a boxing instructor at Harvard College)
  • James J. Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
James Jeffires "The Boilermaker"
James Jeffries “The Boilermaker”
John L. Sullivan embroidery

John L. Sullivan “The Boston Strong Boy” in a “Stevengraph” silk embroidery

While only a few images from this extensive collection are available online, the rest are on their way to being digitized.  The collection includes examples of excellent craftsmanship– such as the silk embroidered portrait (known as a “Stevengraph”) of John L. Sullivan– and striking imagery, like Thomas Worth’s illustration of the Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight.  The print is visually compelling even to the most peaceful observer.

Maher Fitzsimmons fight

Peter Maher and Robert Fitzsimmons fight, depicted by Thomas Worth

Thanks to Alexandra Winzeler for compiling this entry and cataloging the sporting portraits!

Travels in Arabia Deserta

Damascus, the street called “Straight”. HSM.CC:0501.

 

“It is the true Arabia … there can never be another picture of the whole, in our time, because here it is all said, and by a great master”  T. E. Lawrence

Setting off from Damascus in 1876, Charles Doughty travelled for 21 months across the deserts of Arabia, through regions almost entirely unknown to Western eyes. He faced many hazards, from malnutrition and heat exhaustion to attack by hostile Wahhabi communities. Initially he travelled with the Hajj, before venturing into the desert interior alongside a Bedouin family and other nomadic groups. He reached the city of Unayzah, in central Arabia, and finally arrived at the Red Sea port of Jeddah in 1878.

His account of this remarkable journey is considered to be one of the finest travel books in the English language and inspired T. E. Lawrence’s excursions thirty years later. Despite its abundant merits, it was little known until Lawrence became its most avid and practical reader, using it as a guide during his travels across Arabia and admiring its descriptions of a bygone way of life. Lawrence provided a preface to the 3rd edition, published in 1921.

The Folio Society has recently published a new edition of Travels in Arabia Deserta. The new edition includes a preface by the author and politician Rory Stewart, in addition to Lawrence’s tribute.  Stewart underlines the importance of Doughty’s achievement, saying that “no one who is seriously interested in travel or Arab custom, or indeed the extremity of human experience, can afford to ignore this book”.

While the original edition was illustrated with line drawings, the new version also includes 48 photographs from the period, selected from the collections of the Fine Arts Library.  These images, from our extensive holdings of photographs by the Maison Bonfils, provide a new visual context for Doughty’s travels.  Creating digital files for the publication gave us the opportunity to include a few more of these evocative images in VIA, Harvard’s online image catalog.

 

Occuprint Portfolio 2012 Acquired

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a portfolio of 31 prints selected to represent the global Occupy movement.  The works were selected from among hundreds submitted by Occupy groups worldwide and exhibited online by a group called Occuprint; the project supports their educational outreach program. The non-profit Booklyn Artists Alliance helped select the posters to be included, supported the printing and is distributing these works.  This group of posters joins several other graphic portfolios added to the collection in recent years including two from the Justseeds Artists’ Collaborative Migration now and Resourced.

Ben Shahn at Harvard

Ben Shahn at Harvard Commencement 1957

 

The Fine Arts Library holds the collection of Stephen Lee Taller devoted to the American artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969). The Archive contains many thousands of items related to the artist’s work, including books written by and illustrated by Ben Shahn, magazines in which his work was featured, exhibition and auction sales catalogues, commercial work (book jackets, record jackets, advertisements), dissertations, and newspaper clippings. An image inventory attempts to record every know work by the artist.

A separate portion of the Taller Archive held by the Harvard Art Museums includes drawings and graphic work.  The Museums also hold Shahn’s entire archive of photographic negatives.   All of those works may be viewed in the Museums’ collections database.

Shahn presented the 1956-57 Charles Eliot Norton lectures, published as The Shape of Content.  He also received an honorary degree from the University in 1957.

Camerawoman revealed

Capital, San Pedro la Rua cloister, Estella, Spain. Arthur Kingsley Porter Collection.

The Fine Arts Library holds a collection of over 10,000 photographs of European medieval monuments taken by Professor Arthur Kingsley Porter (1883-1933)  in the 1920s.   The Porter collection includes negatives as well as prints and served as the basis for several of his noted publications such as Romanesque sculpture of the pilgrimage roads (1923).

Kathryn Brush, Professor at the University of Western Ontario,  has studied Porter’s work in depth and  recently focused on the role played by Lucy Wallace Porter (1876-1962) in her husband’s photographic campaigns.  There is reason to believe that Mrs. Porter took many of the images and even that she may have been the more accomplished photographer.  It is of course difficult to attribute responsibility in the absence of detailed shooting records.  It was rewarding therefore to locate  this image of Mrs. Porter behind the camera as evidence of her efforts.

 

Embroidery as artist’s tool

Candace Hicks. Common threads

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a unique artist’s book made from fabric with decorations and text created exclusively through embroidery.  Candace Hicks is a Texas-based artist who elevates a common copy book by recreating it with stitchery.  Common threads (2011) is one of several sewn books Hicks has made in recent years.

For more information about this and other books in our artists’ book collection, please contact us.

 

Unique photography book acquired

The Fine Arts Library recently acquired a limited edition publication by renowned Australian photojournalist Stephen Dupont.  Entitled Axe Me Biggie, a rendering of the Dari expression for “take my picture”, it includes ninety black and white Polaroid portrait photographs of Afghanis taken near the central bus station in Kabul, on one day in 2006.  These were selected from over 665 images in total; as part of the project each print was presented to the sitter and the negatives retained to make further reproductions.  Although several of these images have been exhibited and published before, this book presents the largest survey available to date.   This handmade book features images printed digitally on heavy photographic paper.

Dupont has been photographing in Afghanistan since 1993 and the portrait project compliments his more journalistic work in the area.   He has photographed in many war-torn parts of the world to date.  Dupont was the Peabody Museum’s Gardner fellow in 2010 and is currently photographing in Papua New Guinea for that project.

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