Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is. - Oscar Wilde
Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things
This is that post I mentioned in the Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn post, and Cynthia von Buhler is the artist that sent me down this rabbit hole.
Ms von Buhler not only drew the cover art for the Evelyn Evelyn album, but joined Mr Webley and Ms Palmer in creating a companion book to the disc that further details the lives of Eva and Lyn Neville:
Enthusiasts of genuine tragedy and celebrity intrigue, gird your mental loins for an authentic tale of unbelievable hardship and epic catastrophe! This wholly true and accurate account details the extraordinary lives of Evelyn and Evelyn, a darling but unfortunate pair of conjoined twins who brave extreme circumstances of calamity and adversity
…and while poking about on the intertubes to learn more about the Evelyn Evelyn album I went through a side door somewhere and ended up at one of those pages that is art. (and i don’t assign that lightly. at least i hope not… the word really deserves a completely different font as well, but you have to work with what you have)
It is digital magic when an artist’s work and the internets come together to make more than the sum of each (remember retropolis?) and But Who Will Bell The Cats is a terrific example. Another of Ms von Buhler’s sites, The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside, is also a work of art.
Ms von Buhler has illustrated several children’s books, but The Cat Who Wouldn’t Come Inside and But Who Will Bell the Cats? are the only two with their own websites. (though you can get a look inside any of the books in the library) BWWBTC is her latest and looks to be the first Ms von Buhler has also written.
Cynthia von Buhler is an internationally exhibiting visual artist, illustrator, children’s book author, and performer living in New York City. Von Buhler uses traditional as well as unconventional media: painting, sculpture, performance, video projection, installation, living fauna, collage, photography, human detritus, and electronic audio. By innovatively combining these media, often enhanced with text and electronics, von Buhler’s canvasses frequently become elaborate kinetic installations. In March 2006, Art & Antiques named von Buhler “one of the top contemporary surrealists”, however she has also been linked to the Fluxus movement.
The sculptures she creates for these two books are rich and warm and invite you to poke around looking for the little details and surprises. (the reason the books are so popular with kids, no doubt. the library got a dozen copies or so of both books a few weeks ago. got several of evelyn evelyn too, for that matter. but i digress…)
The same attention is given to her websites as well and is what puts them on my ‘best of’ list. Ms von Buhler’s primary site is at cynthiavonbuhler.com and her blog, or rather, one of her blogs is at cynthiavonbuhler.blogspot.com. Both are incredibly packed pieces of imaginary real estate and, much like her books, are great places to poke around in – you’ll never know what you’ll see next or where you’ll end up. Just trying to find the way back to something often has me finding something new. They are also fairly well linked together, so you can pretty much start on any one of Ms von Buhler’s sites and find yourself on her bio page as easily as on the ‘Find the Mouse‘ card trick page. I heartily endorse the ‘click everything’ method of site exploration.
Marwencol is a small town in Belgium during World War 2. It is completely populated by women – the men having been slaughtered by Nazi soldiers. As the story begins they save a downed American pilot, Captain Hogie who, after he recovers opens a bar that becomes famous for it’s staged “catfights”.
The alter ego of Mark Hogancamp, Captain Hogie is the anchoring character in an ongoing drama that helps Hogancamp rehabilitate himself from a vicious attack that left him brain damaged. Marwencol itself is literally ‘a little town’ at 1/6th scale and is populated by Barbies and other Barbie-sized dolls.
Mark populates the town he dubs “Marwencol” with dolls representing his friends and family and creates life-like photographs detailing the town’s many relationships and dramas. Playing in the town and photographing the action helps Mark to recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of the attack. (via)
Events in Marwencol are more than simply parallel allegory or a retreat into fantasy, although they have resonance in both, they give Hogancamp a way to re-discover himself. The attack left big gaps in his memory and abilities; he had to re-learn the basics, to walk, talk, and eat. His coordination and simple ability to think coherently were severely impaired. He has almost no memory of his former marriage, raging alcoholism, Naval service, or stints in jail. He’d forgotten his fondness for women’s shoes and clothing.
Hogancamp’s portraits, if they had been of actual human events, would depict those small unscripted moments of life, not the heroic acts and poses, but what goes on in between. All of it steeped in the fear and sometime brutality of a World War Two-like alternate universe and captured with the eye of a photographer from Life magazine. His sense of position, of body language, is remarkable, and that is what gives Hogancamp’s creations enough heft to easily allow the viewer to replace the peach colored plastic with flesh.
Remember now, this isn’t art by some bohemian in a loft (no, there’s nothing wrong with being a bohemian in a loft, it’s just an example…) but began as a way for Mark to deal with the world around himself after his state-sponsored physical and occupational therapy ran out.
I came across Mr Hogancamp and his art via a documentary called, appropriately enough, “Marwencol“. It is a fascinating look at the man and his unusual art.
…with the vocal stylings of Joni Mitchell singing The Big Yellow Taxi. (From the documentary Crumb.)
This is actually 12 panels Mr Crumb drew in 1979 (colorized and collected into a poster in 1981).
Later he added a 3 panel epilogue to try and cover bases on the question asked in the 12th panel; “What Next?”.
(oddly enough, this is not a digression. call it more, uh, a warning shot across the bow)
I came across the work of Polish graphic artist Paul Kuczynski several weeks ago and keep going back to look at many of the pictures again; sometimes finding a subtlety of brush or idea I missed before, or perhaps I’d finally cogitated on it enough to see some nuance.
Or perhaps I simply read more into the work than was really there. Truth be told, I’m not sure that’s really possible when it comes to art, and especially when looking at Mr Kuczynski’s well-rendered satire.
Artful commentary is generally leveled on newspaper opinion pages and is wielded much more bluntly than Mr Kuczynski’s subtle, velvet-lined bludgeon. Geopolitical hypocrisies interspersed and interwoven with our own everyday deceits.
What makes his pieces stand out to me, though, is the art itself; the texture and style somewhat reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks with color gradients to give it that chromatic noir feeling.
Without regard to the subject the art itself is good. You can check out more Paul Kuczynki’s work here.
h/t to Nag on the Lake (a most excellent blog. go visit. yes, now is fine, i’ll wait)
Anymore it seems rare to come across a website that is simply beautiful and exudes a scent akin to fine digital Corinthian leather.
In the case of Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual the scent is probably closer to light machine oil and Naugahyde, but the craftsmanship is in clear evidence.
Straight out of the retro-futuristic worlds of the old sci-fi pulps and World’s Fair ‘Worlds of Tomorrows’, Bradley W. Schenck has put together an astounding collection of work over at Webomator. Over several projects, Mr Schenk restores and re-imagines vintage graphics at The Retrovert, as well as gives us various glimpses into Retropolis (The Future That Never Was). Considering my partiality to the art deco style, this self-admitted front for a widely varied catalogue of merchandise is a potentially serious danger to my credit card balances.
Containing such departments as The Retropolis Transit Authority, Travel Bureau, and more. (even celtic art. seems kinda left-fieldish at first thought, but celtic and deco styles do have some affinity really)
Thrilling Tales however, is my favorite portion of this steampunkish empire. Currently it presents two tales; an interactive story, The Toaster With Two Brains, and an in-progress serial, The Lair of the Clockwork Book.
The Toaster With Two Brains is less like the Gates (by hal hefner) digital graphic novel and is more akin to the ‘Create Your Own Story’ book format. With a primary illustration per page, the text serves more to fill in the story around the detailed image and lets the art be what pulls the reader through the tale. What sets this divergenary account apart, besides the extraordinary art, is the ability to ‘look’ at the objects the character you are following is carrying, reminiscent of countless MUDs and RPGs I’ve played. Another nice, interactive bonus to The Toaster.
Between his 3 sites one could certainly get lost for hours just clicking around gawking at Mr Schenk’s artwork, as I can attest to personally, and it is a worthy trip indeed.
Now, you can chalk it up to a sense of duty, a need for entirety, or (as is the actual case) the seizing of an opportunity to digressively promote Good Things; I’d like to note that Seattle Public Library has their own version of Thrilling Tales every couple weeks Monday noon. Granted a brown-bag lunch-time mystery short story reading appears to be a far cry from Retropolis’ Tales, but here again something other than the words themselves pull the ‘reader’ along, namely the story-teller – the voice. If you’re in the neighborhood it’s worth a listen in on. (and remember to support your local library. and read a book. and sit up straight)
Most often the beauty of a book is contained within it’s words, sometimes it’s the rich cover or heavy paper, maybe it’s the art- or information-filled photographs.
But a few artists are bringing out a book’s different kind of beauty.
Su Blackwell creates some stunning art from old books; beautiful scenes reminiscent of the classic places and tales of youth.
She has also ‘sized up’ her art for commercial installations to great effect.
To my mind’s eye, however, a book is more than just a medium.
Every single book is printed for a reason. It’s not always a good reason, but enough of one to get it to press at least. What is held between the front and back cover is the reason for it’s existence. The very soul of the book.
And in a very interesting way Julia Feld has been baring those souls of select books.
Favoring out-of-date reference books Ms Feld uses various sharp implements and plenty of glue to create these intricacies that bring out the artwork within the book itself.
She’s building quite the gallery of beautiful work. Check it out at her Hokey Stokes! blog.
We have told stories since our species could walk and talk. Passing along history, personal or tribal exploits, cautionary tales to our young, the art and performance of the story is a bulging lobe of human racial memory.
Some of the earliest performances were pretty much debriefings from successful hunts and ceremonies honoring gods or scaring away spirits. Props in the form of totems and masks were often fairly specific in who or what they represented and, over time, were refined and stylized as the ritual and story spread through a culture.
And this is where our story begins…
Ancient China’s way of scaring off evil spirits, warding off disease, and petitioning for godly blessings involved a patterned step called Nuo that developed sometime between the 1000 and 200 BCE. Over centuries Nuo evolved into a dance and eventually reached the stage. Camphor and Willow wood masks were an integral part of Nuo ritual. Read more of this post