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kottke.org posts about art

A Moment of Reflection: On the Paradox of Individual Creative Work

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2020

After producing over 220 art history videos in 6 years, YouTube channel The Art Assignment is going to take an extended break to “reassess what educational art content should look like in 2020 and beyond”. In the video above, creator Sarah Urist Green reflects on her experience so far and what’s happening next. I’m always interested in what people have to say about their projects at inflection points like this, but I was blindsided by the almost total resonance of Green’s remarks with my own thoughts about the advantages & limitations of how I’ve chosen to work here at kottke.org. Here’s an extended quote from the transcript of the particularly resonant bit:

I don’t actually enjoy being on camera, but individual authentic voices have always been at the core of what makes YouTube great. And I’ve been glad to be able to lend my own voice in the hopes of making art and art history more accessible.

Over time I’ve learned to appreciate the specificity of my own point of view — but also its limitations. I’m a person who’s more interested in art from the 1960s than the 1560s. I have a deeper background in art from North America than South America.

Making this channel has been a hugely rewarding way to stretch beyond my formal education and natural inclinations. But any channel on YouTube, and indeed any experience, is shaped by bias and perspective — both the content itself and the way that each of us interprets and responds to it. The fact that my voice sounds grating to some and comforting to others is a reminder of that.

I’ve also learned that these biases are often reinforced by the recommendation algorithms that govern the platforms we frequent. Whether we want to or not, we citizens of the internet work in collaboration with these algorithms to curate information feeds for ourselves. And even if our feeds feel objective, they never are.

The Art Assignment isn’t, and has never been, the history of art or an introduction to the art world. It’s always been my history of art and a glimpse into my art world. I hope that’s been part of what makes it good, but it’s also part of what makes it limited, subjective, and necessarily incomplete.

The more videos we make, the more aware I am of the vast amount we haven’t covered. Trying to make content on this platform that is both educational and also clickable can be a challenging task with many pitfalls.

We’ve used what I think of as a buckshot technique — making a huge variety of kinds and formats of episodes to see what might possibly stick.

In doing so, we’ve discovered that more people click on names of art movements they’ve already heard of, artworks they’ve seen before, and already famous artists (mostly male).

More people watch when I do a hot take about those rare moments when art hits the wider news, like a Banksy stunt or a banana duct-taped to a wall.

I’ve also learned what YouTube viewers are less likely to click on, which is artists they’ve never heard of, artworks they haven’t seen before, and topics that don’t court controversy or outrage. This says something about the YouTube algorithm, but it also says something about what kinds of information we’re all drawn to online. Who wants to watch an educational video when you can watch The Try Guys eat 400 dumplings? (Seriously, I just watched it, it’s great.)

But because I know what tends to get clicked on more and watched for longer stretches, I’ve been more likely to try to serve that to you. Not all the time of course, but even when served in moderation that’s not really good for art history. It reinforces dominant narratives and offers up the same boring old menu of famous artists again and again.

However, I’ve also learned that you all are willing to dive down lesser-known and unexpected rabbit holes of research and bear with me as I simultaneously cook poorly and attempt to understand the eating and cooking lives of artists. You’ve taught me you’re willing to reconsider art and artists you didn’t think you liked, and you’ve tried approaches to art that are far outside of your comfort zones and made beautiful and vulnerable work in response. You’ve tackled really difficult questions with me and been willing to linger in grey zones and leave questions unanswered. I mean we’ve never even established a definition of art on this channel.

Because of your capacity for the abstract and lesser-known, we’ve been able to keep going all these years. And, with the incomparable backing of PBS, we’ve been able to make content not just for the most people, but for an open-minded and discerning audience like you.

I can’t adequately relate to you how unnerving it was for me to hear her say all that — change a few specific references and I very easily could have written it (but not as well). Doing kottke.org is this constant battle with myself: staying in my comfort zone vs. finding opportunities for growth, posting what I like or find interesting vs. attempting to suss out what “the reader” might want, celebrating the popular vs. highlighting the obscure, balancing the desire to define what it is I do here vs. appreciating that no one really knows (myself included), posting clickable things vs. important things I know will be unpopular, protecting myself against criticism vs. accepting it as a gift, deciding when to provoke & challenge vs. when to comfort & entertain, feeling like this is frivolous vs. knowing this site is important to me & others, being right vs. accepting I’ll make mistakes, and saying something vs. letting the content and its creators speak for themselves.

I know that all sounds super dramatic — I don’t intensely feel all of that when I’m working, but that video made me reflect on it hard. And I suspect that many people who do creative work in public struggle in similar ways. Like Green with respect to PBS, I am grateful to kottke.org’s members (“an open-minded and discerning audience” if there ever was one) for their support of my work and trust in the limited & imperfect human who does it.

ISO Isolation

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2020

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao

Felicia Chiao’s illustrations depicting isolation, dissociation, and loneliness have taken on an added resonance during the pandemic. In a caption for one of her illustrations, she explains where the drawings come from:

I dissociate a lot. I like to think of my brain as a series of rooms. On good days I’m up front engaging with the world, and on bad days I’m waaay in the back. I can still kind of see and hear what’s going on outside but it’s far away and I don’t feel a part of it. It’s not unpleasant but time moves weird and I feel everything and nothing. A lot of you are connecting with my work because you’re literally stuck inside and probably a little depressed too so…Welcome to my rooms! Please take your shoes off and be nice.

Prints (and more) of Chiao’s work are available. (via colossal)

The Sculptor Tasked with Completing Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 09, 2020

In this meditative short film, Etsuro Sotoo talks about what made him want to spend 41 years working as a sculptor in an attempt to finish Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona. From a website dedicated to Sotoo:

In 1978 Etsuro Sotoo arrived in Barcelona. He had just graduated in Fine Arts, he had just one year of experience as an Art teacher. When impressed by the unfinished temple: “It was the most fabulous pile of stones I had ever seen” …He asked for a job as a stonecutter. He wanted to continue the Nativity façade (the only façade that, thanks to his work, would be declared by Unesco World Heritage). He did a test and they gave him the position. Since then, he has completed what Gaudí did not even have time to think about. When he finished with the gaps, he started with the architect’s notes. When the tracks are over, it’s up to him to make decisions.

According to the video, Sotoo even converted to Catholicism as a way for him “to know Gaudí”. (via craig mod)

New Cartoons from The Far Side’s Gary Larson

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 08, 2020

Gary Larson New Work

In 1995, after his massively popular single-panel cartoon The Far Side had run daily in newspapers for 15 years, cartoonist Gary Larson retired at the top of his game and scarcely a peep has been heard from him since. Until recently. Back in September, Larson launched a website for The Far Side with a daily archival cartoon. But then yesterday, Larson revealed that he’s been working on some new stuff with “a digital tablet” (likely an iPad).

The “New Stuff” that you’ll see here is the result of my journey into the world of digital art. Believe me, this has been a bit of a learning curve for me. I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. (True, I don’t get out much.) But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there — a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run and sometimes coming up with “Cow tools.” (Let’s not get into that.) But as a jazz teacher once said to me about improvisation, “You want to try and take people somewhere where they might not have been before.” I think that my approach to cartooning was similar — I’m just not sure if even I knew where I was going. But I was having fun.

There are only three new pieces so far, but I’d guess more are on the way. The new stuff is more painterly and definitely has that drawn-in-Procreate feel to it, but the Larson’s trademark humor is very much in evidence.

See Intricate Details in Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper in a New Gigapixel Image

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 30, 2020

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper

The Royal Academy of Arts and Google teamed up on a high-resolution scan of a copy of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper painted by his students. Even though the top part of the original is not depicted, this copy is said to be “the most accurate record of the original” and since the actual mural by Leonardo is in poor shape, this copy is perhaps the best way to see what Leonardo intended.

This version was made around the same time as Leonardo made his original. It’s oil paint on canvas, whereas Leonardo’s was painted in tempera and oil on a dry wall — an unusual use of materials — so his has flaked and deteriorated badly. It probably didn’t help that Napoleon used the room where the original hung as a stable during his invasion of Milan.

A zoomable version is available here. The resolution on this scan is incredible. The painting is more than 26 feet wide and this is the detail you can see on Jesus’ downcast right eye:

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper

Wow. You can compare this painting to a high-resolution image of the original on the Haltadefinizione Image Bank or Wikimedia Commons. And you can learn more about the copy and how it relates to the original on the Royal Academy website.

The genius of Leonardo’s composition is much clearer in the RA copy. The apostles are arranged into four groups of three and there are many subtle interactions between the figures. Leonardo believed that gestures were very important in telling the story. He explained that the power of his compositions were such that “your tongue will be paralysed with thirst and your body with sleep and hunger before you depict with words what the painter shows in a moment”.

There are many elements in the copy which are more distinct that the original, such as the figure of Judas clutching his money bag and knocking over the salt. The landscape beyond the windows with its valleys, lakes and paths is well preserved in the copy, but has almost disappeared in the original. Leonardo’s use of colour was was greatly admired, but in the original the colours are very faded — Saint Simon on the extreme right clearly wears a pink cloak, but this is not visible in the original.

(via open culture)

Fixing Racial Bias in Journalism

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 26, 2020

For her series Counternarratives, artist and media critic Alexandra Bell takes newspaper articles and layouts from the NY Times that demonstrate racial bias and fixes them. For example, Bell took the notorious double profile of Michael Brown and his killer Darren Wilson and placed the focus entirely on Brown:

Counternarratives Alexandra Bell

In this video, Bell explains her process:

I think everything is about race. Black communities, gay communities, immigrant communities feel a lot of media representations to be inadequate, biased. There’s a lot of reporting around police violence and black men, and I realized a lot of the arguments that we were having were about depictions. I started to wonder how different would it be if I swapped images or changed some of the text.

See also Kendra Pierre-Louis’ recent article for Nieman Lab: It’s time to change the way the media reports on protests. Here are some ideas.

Barcelona Opera House Reopens With a Concert for 2,292 Plants

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 24, 2020

Plants Opera

As promised last week, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu reopened on Monday with a string quartet performance of Puccini’s Crisantemi played before a packed house of 2,292 plants. You can watch the performance here:

A strange & beautiful performance. I love that they did the “please silence your mobile phones and no pictures please” announcement before beginning.

The performance was the brainchild of artist Eugenio Ampudia, who wanted to “offer us a different perspective for our return to activity, a perspective that brings us closer to something as essential as our relationship with nature”. Afterwards, the plants were donated to healthcare workers who have been battling Covid-19 for the past few months.

See also A Forest Grows on an Austrian Soccer Pitch.

Twist, Spin, Tuck, Jump

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 15, 2020

In the second video in his Concatenation series (check out the first one), Donato Sansone edited a bunch of footage of Olympic divers, gymnasts, and track & field athletes together to make a single twisting, jumping, tucking, spinning routine that’s both seamless and completely disorienting. (via colossal)

Kadir Nelson’s Powerful New Yorker Cover Honors the Black Victims of Police Violence

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 14, 2020

Kadir Nelson New Yorker Cover

This week’s issue of the New Yorker features a cover designed by artist Kadir Nelson. The magazine has an interactive version of the cover online that identifies the people shown, along with their stories. Along with George Floyd, there’s Tony McDade, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, Rodney King, the victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre, and too many others. The cover also features periwinkles, which have been used to locate the often unmarked graves of slaves.

The Periwinkle Initiative derives its name from the flower that certain scholars believe was the most common wildflower brought to gravesites of enslaved Americans. This perennial flower has guided researchers to many abandoned burial grounds that would have otherwise gone undetected. The resilient Periwinkle is a perfect symbol to represent the endurance of enslaved Americans and their legacy.

One other thing. According to the NYer, the name of the cover is “Say Their Names”. This is a take on the #SayHerName hashtag that was created to bring “awareness to the often invisible names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police violence”. Phrases and associated hashtags like “Say His Name” and “Say Their Names” have been used over the past few weeks, but some activists say that co-opting specifically takes the spotlight away from the victims the original hashtag was meant to highlight. Here’s Precious Fondren for Teen Vogue:

Since Floyd’s death, there have been uprisings around the country. There’s also been an influx of people using hashtags like #SayHisName and #SayTheirNames to remember the names of other male victims of police violence. While everyone deserves to be honored and remembered, especially when they are being murdered at the hands of those sworn to protect us, it should be noted that such hashtags muddle the very reasoning behind the creation of the #SayHerName.

Conceived in 2014 by the African American Policy Forum and the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies, the #SayHerName hashtag was meant to amplify the names and narratives of Black women and girls who have also been the victims of police killings; people simply couldn’t name them the way they can name Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, or Freddie Gray.

The Redemption

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 10, 2020

Tawny Chatmon Redemption

Tawny Chatmon Redemption

Tawny Chatmon Redemption

Directly inspired by the paintings of Gustav Klimt’s Golden Phase, the intention of Tawny Chatmon’s project The Redemption is to “celebrate and reinforce the beauty of Black hair, features, life, and culture”.

In the United States and abroad, the hair types and styles that are distinctively akin to Black people and culture continue to be policed and labeled as unkempt, unruly, unattractive, and unprofessional. While we proudly celebrate and adorn these styles with beads, barrettes and other accessories within our cultural norms, they continue to be labeled unacceptable. In schools worldwide, there are rules set in place deeming cornrows, barber designs, hair beads, afros, locs, and protective styles that use hair extensions as “violations of the dress code”. “Violations” that are punishable by ridicule, suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities and expulsion. Still, in 2019, Black women and men are faced with similar discrimination in the workplace.

Great work — definitely click through to see the entire project. (via colossal)

Stolen: Unfinished Portraits of Black People Killed By Police Officers

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 08, 2020

Adrian Brandon’s Stolen is a series of portraits of Black people who have been killed by police officers. He colors each portrait in for as long as the person was alive: 1 minute of coloring for each year of their life. (From top to bottom: Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown.)

Adrian Brandon Stolen

Adrian Brandon Stolen

Adrian Brandon Stolen

Tamir Rice was 12 when he was murdered, so I colored his portrait for 12 minutes. As a person of color, I know that my future can be stolen from me if I’m driving with a broken taillight, or playing my music too loud, or reaching for my phone at the wrong time. So for each of these portraits I played with the harsh relationship between time and death. I want the viewer to see how much empty space is left in these lives, stories that will never be told, space that can never be filled. This emptiness represents holes in their families and our community, who will be forever stuck with the question, “who were they becoming?”

Brandon is revisiting this series on Instagram with portraits of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. Here’s a time lapse video of the creation of Taylor’s portrait.

“Be Bold By Being Simple” - The Art of Sungi Mlengeya

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2020

Sungi Mlengeya

Sungi Mlengeya

I love this work by self-taught Tanzanian artist Sungi Mlengeya. From an interview with the artist:

I stumbled into the minimalist space in one of the earliest paintings I made, and I remember how free I felt knowing that I could choose to paint or leave out anything I wanted, and that I could still be bold by being simple. Using negative space makes me focus more on my subjects, and the high contrast it creates makes it difficult not to pay attention to them.

You can follow Mlengeya’s work on Instagram and purchase her art through Afriart Gallery. (via claire salvo)

This Is What I Know About Art by Kimberly Drew

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2020

This Is What I Know about Art by Kimberly Drew

Author, curator, and activist Kimberly Drew has published This Is What I Know About Art, a book aimed at young adults about her experience studying art history in school and then working in the art world. In a piece for Teen Vogue, Drew outlined why she wrote the book.

For far too long, people across the globe have suffered due to the direct effects of colonialism, patriarchy, state violence, and so much more, but it is our art and creativity that have helped us to communicate our collective rage. Art has helped us build bridges intergenerational so that we do not feel alone — and so we can make sure that we do not forget our own history.

And from the introduction to the book:

I am not your typical art historian. I am not your typical activist. I am still learning what art and protest mean to me. And so, this book is more about my journey through art toward activism. This book is about discovery, confusion, and progress.

I love how she ties “discovery, confusion, and progress” together here — a powerfully messy combination for growth.

Postmastectomy Tattooing Helps Women with Breast Cancer Heal

posted by Jason Kottke   May 27, 2020

Postmastectomy Tattoos

Postmastectomy Tattoos

David Allen is a tattoo artist who does postmastectomy tattooing. He works with women who survive breast cancer to design and implement tattoos that cover scarring from mastectomies, transforming what might be seen as a destructive disfigurement into something creative and beautiful. Here’s Allen writing for The Journal of the American Medical Association (abstract):

I am a tattoo artist who works with women after they’ve had mastectomies to transform their sense of disfigurement and loss of control into feelings of beauty and agency. On a good day, I can heal with my art.

The women with breast cancer with whom I work share a feeling that they’ve been acted upon — by cancer, the health industrial complex and its agents, the sequelae of their treatments. Their physical and psychological points of reference are destabilized, having changed so quickly. A successful tattooing experience establishes a new point of reference, a marker that’s intimately theirs that replaces their sense of rupture and damage with an act of creation and, in my work, images of natural life.

Allen even does “solidarity tattoos” for his clients’ partners and friends. You can see more of his postmastectomy work on Instagram.

Meander Maps for Imaginary Rivers

posted by Jason Kottke   May 18, 2020

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

Robert Hodgin Meander Maps

I have written previously about cartographer Harold Fisk’s wonderful meander maps of the Mississippi River produced for the Army Corps of Engineers. Borrowing the aesthetic of these maps, interactive artist & engineer Robert Hodgin wrote some software called Meander to generate meander maps for fictional rivers.

From an input curve, the terrain, land plots, side roads, highways, marsh land and mountain peaks are generated and prominent features are named. The map is then weathered and rendered in the style of old US Army Corp of Engineers maps from the 1930s and 40s.

You can check some of the generated maps out on Twitter or on Instagram, including some prototypes and animations (this one is my favorite). Hodgin has promised a full write-up of the project; I’ll link to it when he publishes it.

Coincidentally, while I was writing this post I got an email from a reader about an audiovisual installation called Meandering River that displayed “real-time visuals generated by an algorithm and music composed by an A.I.”

Synchronicity!

Update: Hodgin wrote about the Meander project on his website and included several more gorgeous examples of his output.

The Rijksmuseum Has Released a 44.8 Gigapixel Image of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2020

Night Watch

One of Rembrandt van Rijn’s most iconic paintings The Night Watch is currently undergoing restoration at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. As part of the effort, the team took hundreds of photographs of the Dutch master’s painting and stitched them together into a massive 44.8 gigapixel image, which they have released online in a zoomable interface. The level of detail available here is incredible. Here’s the max zoom level on the right eye of the gentleman in the middle, the captain of the company that paid Rembrandt to do the painting:

Night Watch

Crazy right? You can see the brushstrokes better than if you were standing in front of the actual painting in the museum.

The Rijksmuseum’s imaging team led by datascientist Robert Erdmann made this photograph of The Night Watch from a total of 528 exposures. The 24 rows of 22 pictures were stitched together digitally with the aid of neural networks. The final image is made up of 44.8 gigapixels (44,804,687,500 pixels), and the distance between each pixel is 20 micrometres (0.02 mm). This enables the scientists to study the painting in detail remotely. The image will also be used to accurately track any future ageing processes taking place in the painting.

Ok, I told you a little fib just now. Actually, this is his eye at the true maximum zoom level:

Night Watch

Each pixel is 0.02mm across — and keep in mind that this painting is almost 12 feet high and more than 14 feet across. An astounding level of detail and a gigantic image.

Pandemic Creativity: Edible Versions of Famous Artworks

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2020

Claire Salvo Food Portraits

Claire Salvo Food Portraits

Claire Salvo Food Portraits

In yet another example of how the constraints of the pandemic are fostering creativity, LA-based artist Claire Salvo is creating edible versions of notable artworks and posting the results to Instagram. Says Salvo of her new pursuit:

i make art using a bunch of media, but one sleepless night a few weeks ago, i thought i’d try playing with food. these pieces make me laugh while i’m creating them, and i’m really enjoying the response from everyone watching the process. thanks for all the kind feedback.

i’ve spent nearly 30 years honing my drawing skills, and approximately 1 week pushing banana peels and lentils around a canvas. but i’m learning to #trusttheprocess because #art.

I think the Dali portrait is my favorite, closely followed by the Lichtenstein. And you know I love this: Girl with a Pea Earring.

See also Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic. (via jenni leder)

This Japanese Man Paints a Picture of Every Meal He Eats

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2020

Itsuo Kobayashi

Itsuo Kobayashi

Itsuo Kobayashi

For 32 years, Itsuo Kobayashi has been painting top-down pictures of the meals he eats. The paintings are accompanied by descriptions of each meal. Kobayashi worked as a chef for years until he suffered an illness that left his movement impaired, causing him to double-down on his art.

Famous Art Recreated at Home During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 30, 2020

With art museums closed and people quarantined at home, some folks have taken to recreating famous artworks using stuff laying around the house. Some of the best recreations are from the Covid Classic Instagram account.

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Tussen Kunst & Quarantaine is pretty good too.

Covid Art Recreations

Covid Art Recreations

Museums like Rijksmuseum and the Getty have also been getting into the act, challenging people to send in their creations.

Covid Art Recreations

The British Museum Puts 1.9 Million Images Online for Public Use

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2020

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

British Museum Collection

As part of a website refresh, The British Museum has made over 1.9 million photos of its collections freely available to the public. Visitors to their online collections website can download images, and share & adapt them for non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license. Museum director Hartwig Fischer said of the refresh:

The British Museum Collection Online makes millions of objects accessible to the citizens of the world, wherever they might be. Whether you are a student, an artist, a scholar or are a lover of history and culture, this is an unparalleled resource to explore the richness, diversity and complexity of human history contained in the British Museum’s collection. It is also a platform where we can share the latest knowledge and research. We are delighted to be able to unveil this major revamp early, and hope that these important objects can provide inspiration, reflection or even just quiet moments of distraction during this difficult time.

Pictured above from the collection are the Townley discobolus, a drawing by Raphael, a Greek amphora, the Sloane astrolabe, and a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. And pictured below are a print by George Cruikshank, a portrait of William Shakespeare, marble metope from the Parthenon, the Rosetta Stone, and Albrecht Dürer’s print of a rhinoceros.

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

British Museum Public

However useful the new online collection is, it must be noted that the ownership of several of the items in the British Museum’s collection — including the Parthenon Marbles & Rosetta Stone — is disputed.

For more large collections of images for public use, see also Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use, Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million High-Res Images Into the Public Domain, A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago Has Put 50,000 High-Res Images from Their Collection Online, and Met Puts Huge Digital Image Trove Online. (via ianvisits)

Jason Polan Postage Stamps

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 28, 2020

The artist Jason Polan passed away in January from colon cancer. A group of his friends are trying to memorialize Polan and his art with a commemorative postage stamp from the USPS. Kelli Anderson created mockups for the stamps.

Jason Polan Stamps

Jason Polan Stamps

Polan loved mail and the USPS. A few years ago at his own expense, he took out a small ad in the New Yorker for the post office:

Jason Polan USPS Ad

FWIW, here’s how the USPS’s stamp selection process works.

Homemade Maps of People’s Limited Surroundings During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Covid Maps

Covid Maps

CityLab asked its readers to “draw maps of their worlds in the time of coronavirus”. They drew floor plans, neighborhood walking diagrams, and more abstract representations of their surroundings.

You charted how your homes, neighborhoods, cities and countries have transformed under social distancing and stay-at-home orders around the planet, from daily work routines and the routes of your “sanity walks,” to the people you miss and the places you fled.

While most used markers, pens, and computer-based drawing tools to sketch maps by hand, some used watercolors, clay, and photography. Some were humorous, others heart-wrenching - between them all, a full spectrum of quarantine-era emotion emerged.

(via @ctsinclair)

Chris Ware’s NYC Still Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Chris Ware's Still Life of NYC

For the cover of this week’s New Yorker, Chris Ware drew several vignettes of NYC arranged in his trademark grid as a companion to this incredible piece about a single day of the Covid-19 crisis in the city. About the cover, Ware wrote:

Teeming with unpredictable people and unimaginable places and unforeseeable moments, life there is measured not in hours but in densely packed minutes that can fill up a day with a year’s worth of life. Lately, however, closed up in our homes against a worldwide terror, time everywhere has seemed to slur, to become almost Groundhog Day-ish, forced into a sort of present-perfect tense — or, as my fellow New Yorker contributor Masha Gessen more precisely put it, ‘loopy, dotted, and sometimes perpendicular to itself.’ But disaster can also have a recalibrating quality. It reminds us that the real things of life (breakfast, grass, spouse) can, in normal times, become clotted over by anxieties and nonsense. We’re at low tide, but, as my wife, a biology teacher, said to me this morning, “For a while, we get to just step back and look.” And really, when you do, it is pretty marvellous.

A Virtual Tour of the Van Gogh Museum

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 27, 2020

Van Gogh Self Portrait

One of my favorite museums I’ve visited in the past few years is the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Van Gogh’s art career lasted for only 10 years, and the museum provides a fascinating account (through his work, letters, and other material) of how a talented but unremarkable painter made the conceptual breakthrough for which he is now known the world over.

The museum is closed due to the pandemic, but anyone with an internet connection can experience the collection at home thanks to the museum’s dedication to accessibility. This 15-minute tour of the museum filmed in 4K resolution should get you started — here are the first two parts:

The museum has also digitized and put online hundreds of the artist’s paintings, sketches, and letters. The high resolution scans allow you to see details that you probably couldn’t in person. This is a close-up view of the 1887 self-portrait pictured above:

Van Gogh Self Hat Detail

It’s mind-blowing to see all of those brushstrokes in such detail.

The museum’s website offers a number of other ways to engage with van Gogh’s art, including coloring activities and lessons for children. And for those who exhaust the museum’s offerings, try browsing van Gogh’s works at Google Arts & Culture, MoMA, the Met, and the Rijksmuseum. (via open culture)

Human After All

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 21, 2020

Human After All

Human After All

I am not quite sure what to say about Human After All, a collaboration between photographer Jan Kriwol and digital artist Markos Kay, other than it seems like a metaphor for something these days. (via colossal)

Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 15, 2020

Directed by Halina Dyrschka, Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint is a new feature-length documentary on the groundbreaking abstract artist Hilma af Klint.

Before Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Klee made a name for abstraction in visual art, another artist had already beat them to their discovery. But until very recently, her name was absent from the history books. Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) painted her first abstract canvas in 1906, four years before Wassily Kandinsky, originally thought to be the movement’s pioneer. It would be more than a century before she would receive the same acknowledgment and acclaim as her male peers.

The film follows the recognition af Klint’s work received due to the 2018 show at the Guggenheim, which was one of my favorite exhibitions from the past few years.

The trailer is above and the film opens “in virtual theaters” in the US on April 17 through Kino Marqueecheck for your local theater here. (via colossal)

Fashion Skeletons

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 14, 2020

Bradley Theodore

Bradley Theodore

Bradley Theodore

Fashion icons painted as skeletons by artist Bradley Theodore. More from Colossal, Theodore’s Instagram, Maddox Gallery, and Artsy.

Gustave Eiffel’s Original Drawings for the Statue of Liberty

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

Statue Liberty Eiffel Drawing

Statue Liberty Eiffel Drawing

Long thought destroyed or lost forever, a cache of original engineering drawings & blueprints for the Statue of Liberty done by Gustave Eiffel were found among some of Eiffel’s papers purchased at auction last year. Smithsonian magazine has the story of how they came to be found and why the drawings are so significant.

Berenson thinks the drawings may nail down something that historians have long suspected but not been able to prove: that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel’s engineering plans when it came to the statue’s upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm — a more structurally sound arrangement. But one of these sketches (below) was marked up by an unidentified hand with red ink that tilts the arm outward, as Bartholdi wanted. “This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,” Berenson says. “It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.”

High-res digital versions of the drawings & blueprints are available to view at raremaps.com. (via @mapdragons)

Dazzling Coronavirus Painting by Biologist David Goodsell

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2020

Coronavirus painting by biologist David Goodsell

Since the early 90s, biologist David Goodsell (previously) has been creating scientifically accurate paintings of the structures of cells, molecules, and, yes, viruses. In early February, Goodsell completed a painting of a SARS coronavirus (above).

This painting depicts a coronavirus just entering the lungs, surrounded by mucus secreted by respiratory cells, secreted antibodies, and several small immune systems proteins. The virus is enclosed by a membrane that includes the S (spike) protein, which will mediate attachment and entry into cells, M (membrane) protein, which is involved in organization of the nucleoprotein inside, and E (envelope) protein, which is a membrane channel involved in budding of the virus and may be incorporated into the virion during that process. The nucleoprotein inside includes many copies of the N (nucleocapsid) protein bound to the genomic RNA.

In a brief interview with the NY Times, Goodsell explained why he made the image:

“You have to admit, these viruses are so symmetrical that they’re beautiful,” said Mr. Goodsell, an associate professor at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. “Are bright colors and pretty stuff the right approach? The jury’s still out. I’m not trying to make these things look dangerous, I want people to understand how they’re built.”

Seeing the infection count rise, Mr. Goodsell said he worried about the health of his aging parents in Los Angeles. But he hopes his painting can quell fears about the novel coronavirus by educating people on the virus’s workings: “I want people to think of viruses as being an entity that we can learn about and fight. They’re not nebulous nothings.”

Goodsell is currently working on a painting featuring the life cycle of a coronavirus and sharing his progress on Twitter. (via @christopherjobs)

Portrait of a Coronavirus

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 04, 2020

Soon after the CDC started to mobilize to address Covid-19, medical illustrators Alissa Eckert & Dan Higgins were asked to create this illustration of a coronavirus that could be used as the “face” of the epidemic.

Coronavirus Portrait

The novel coronavirus, like all viruses, is covered with proteins that give it its character and traits. There are the spike proteins, or S-proteins — the red clusters in the image — which allow the virus to attach to human cells. Envelope or E-proteins, represented by yellow crumbs, help it get into those cells. And membrane proteins, or M-proteins, shown in orange, give the virus its form.

In a video released last February, Eckert explained a little about what she does at CDC.