before November gets away from me

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November was a very busy month, including a week in Nova Scotia and a lot of writing and thinking. The Snark was hunted, various boojums appeared, and my forkety fork fork mode continued as I explored Time and its Passage ( http://oook.info/Conviv/TimePassing.html ). All that is recorded on yellow pads. A few photographic forays, but the leap into Blurb book production is still gathering itself. A lot of music played, and listened to. The usual forest of books read and heard, and more are in the pipeline via (mostly) Amazon. It sounds pretty scattered, but makes sense from day to day. More of that should find its way to the blog.

scanning photo albums

Yesterday I began sorting through some accumulated heaps of Abandoned Ancestors and came upon a slim and anonymous sixteen page album which I scanned and reordered and uploaded as a Flickr Album. The most remarkable image is surely

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but this one is a close second:

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One rarely finds such direct engagement with the photographer as seen in the riveting gaze of the woman on the left, and there’s the further enigma of the evidently symbolic arrangement: the five participants seem to be holding hands in an expression of solidarity.

The album also includes nine cyanotypes, all of male subjects doing outdoorsy things. This one is especially gripping:

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But what does it all mean?

Learning to read albums of snapshots is challenging, since context is often missing and all one usually knows is that the assembler of an album cared about the photos included, and invested energy into arranging the images on the pages. What can we make of this pair, from the disintegrating and faded remnants of a small album from perhaps a century ago?

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(see the scanned album and try figuring out its story)


Perhaps further exploration of that album will give us some hints, but it’s a salvage operation. Most of the photos are faded, and so needed extensive work with Lightroom. There are a few captions, but nothing definitive. As vernacular as it gets.

Clark Island at low tide


“The Mysteries of Pebbles” by Paolo Mucciarelli and Enrico Ranzanici (via BoingBoing)

(and review How did I arrive at this fascination with imaginary beings?)

Yes, well… today’s photographic expedition took us to the intertidal zone at Clark Island, where I discovered all sorts of Personages and some lovely Surfaces. The Flickr Album offers the whole set, more or less sorted into a Narrative. I can’t pick a favorite.

landscapes

In the middle of the 2022 Joint Show I’m starting to wonder what comes next? A new desktop machine is on order for me (a Mac Studio), and I expect to be working on several Blurb books during the fall and winter. One subject that keeps nudging me is Surfaces, which are mostly abstract patterns of ambiguous scale, often manifesting as Landscapes of the Imagination. While rifling through the sprawl of desktop files I happened upon a collection of candidates I started several years ago, which I should augment with recent images.

Huizong

The Song Emperor Huizong (1082-1135) was famous as an artist himself, and he had a special bent for collecting rocks. Here’s a cautionary tale, perhaps a bit overwrought in the telling, from Paul Prudence’s marvelous Figured Stones: Exploring the Lithic Imaginary:

His biomorphic rocks were so prized that they were given names and inscribed with gold calligraphy. Rocks resembling birds, animals, and demonic forms were collected from the furthest reaches of the province. Solemn figures stood in gardens, their countenances frozen within the cryptic seams of time—each a messenger from the earth’s unconscious underside. And, by some providential twist of fate, Huizong’s destiny was written in his amassed collection. In a desire to quench his unabated thirst for stones he dismantled bridges to allow boats to bring him increasing mounds of rocks and stones. So obsessed was he with such a seemingly surreal addiction that his eye was turned from the invading Jurchen nomads who set his fate by using his precious rocks as fodder for their catapults. In a twist that would seem to mock any fiction, poor Huizong’s collection was used against him. And not just his empire was lost but his entire rock collection, which to him was more precious than any universe… (pages 79-80)

Albrecht’s pillows



Albrecht Dürer, 1493

How can I not have seen this before yesterday? Here’s AD imagining and then drawing faces in 6 pillows… 530 years ago. On the other side of the page there’s a marvelous self portrait, with a 7th pillow with a face:

Think of the fun he must have had…

Leonardo’s Approval

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This from my friends and co-conspirators Daniel and Tamara:

Daniel says that Leonardo would approve;
that all you need for inspiration
is to look at cracks on walls.

I decided to hunt down the background to that excellent precis, and found two nice versions as extracted from Leonardo’s A Treatise on Painting:

Look at walls splashed with a number of stains, or stones of various mixed colours. If you have to invent some scene, you can see there resemblances to a number of landscapes, adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, great plains, valleys and hills, in various ways. Also you can see various battles, and lively postures of strange figures, expressions on faces, costumes and an infinite number of things, which you can reduce to good integrated form. This happens on such walls and varicoloured stones, (which act) like the sound of bells, in whose pealing you can find every name and word that you can imagine.
(from Goodreads)

***

Leonardo da Vinci advised the budding artist with creative block to leave behind his blank canvas and stare at the stains on walls: ‘If you look upon an old wall covered with dirt, or the odd appearance of some streaked stones, you may discover several things like landscapes, battles, clouds, uncommon attitudes, humorous faces, draperies, etc. Out of this confused mass of objects, the mind will be furnished with an abundance of designs and subjects perfectly new.’ Leonardo’s technique, which encouraged the viewer to search for meaning in chaos, referred back to myths about the origin of art in accidental shapes.

(from Tate-etc Christopher Turner ‘The deliberate accident in art’)

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on the Whimsy account

As I begin to work on my Artist Statement for the mid-September Joint Show, I find myself trying to account for the whimsicality of most of my images. So here’s an preliminary summary of my take on Whimsy:

Whimsy lives in the irreverent and allusive zones of the Imagination,
where things are built that cock snooks at
conventional boundaries of the factual.

The whimsical rests upon
risible analogies,
wordplay,
and a fine sense for the absurd.

Visible manifestations of the whimsical
are frequently paredoliac (“…it looks like…”),
often grandiose (what can I conjure out of this rock?),
and are generally calculated to amuse
(think Grandville)
or sometimes to warn and admonish
(think Gargoyles).

The whimsical is likelier to elicit a snort than a guffaw.

But it is wise to remember
that some folk are annoyed by the whimsical,
and that the most literal-minded are often simply baffled.

So choose your audience mindfully
and avoid poking the bear.

Before July gets away from us

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July has been busy with summer stuff, including the arrival of [really quite magnificent] metal prints for our Joint Show in September. I’ve added a link to some other images from Flowers Cove to the page summarizing my part of the show.

A Convivium Question about Myth led to another exploration of the Twelfth Imam.

And there’s been the usual daily pleasure of eclectic reading in the barn, and the garden is burgeoning. A visit from John and Laura and Kian will round out the month!