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Archive for April, 2021

To get this shot the photographer had to have been sitting or kneeling on the floor at the edge of the coffee table with the flower arrangement.  Seeing this photo in the newspaper (NYTimes) may have been shocking to some people who may have thought it simply was the only shot they could get from that event in the Oval Office.  I don’t think so.  I think it was the BEST shot.  I think it was chosen among many because this view is artful and expressive.

To appreciate this photo with the out-of-focus flowers in the foreground, let’s remind ourselves of the standard Oval Office photo. (I have blurred out the faces to make it easier to concentrate on overall composition and the gestures of these four characters.)

Symmetry rules!  Look at the placements of the paintings and the sculptures.  Why are these important? Because symmetry conveys the feeling of rationality, stability and order.  That’s what we want in our government.  Even the placement of the four people is symmetrical in the photographer’s frame.  Wonderful.

Then why is this picture comical?  Because the rationality of the geometry in the picture is contradicted by the absurdity of the non-communication taking place here.  The woman is articulating a point to which the man on the couch respectfully listens. These two are completely disconnected from the two figures in the background.   In the chair at the left someone has arranged a department store dummy. In the chair on the right, two pectoral fins are flapping while a long ventral stripe defines this noisy benthic entity.

The drama in this photo, therefore, consists in the contrast between the rigorous geometry of the stage set and the disorder created by the characters on the stage.

Now back to the first picture, the one with the out-of-focus flowers.

There is no symmetry, not even Jefferson’s portrait is in the middle.  No symmetry = no stasis = movement.  Movement here doesn’t mean somebody jumping, it means excitement in the mind.

We don’t even get a sense of the three-dimensional space of this room.  The photo looks like a collage. Your eye moves through this restless collage: flowers, man, portrait, lampshade.  The focus is on Biden, partly because you recognize him as the president, but also because the lines of the portrait’s frame behind him converge on his head, like an arrow.  Notice how the lines of the Jefferson frame direct your attention at the president’s head.  But that masked presidential face occupies a very small part of the photo surface.  What actually dominates the composition?  The flower arrangement in the foreground! About a fourth of the whole photo!  And it’s out of focus!!

Why is this important?  Because we’re looking not at the documentation of an event but rather at a juxtaposition—yes, a collage–of elements that invite interpretation. Your mind races to see connections:   Biden-Jefferson,  flowers-environment, decisions-environment, past-future,  known-unknown,  et al.

So, this photo is a work of art.

 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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A man is walking in front of a pile of discarded clothing three times his height.

Online you can now snatch up a Remy Rag Chair for $6,800. A bit steep, you say.  But maybe it’s the least you can do for the planet.

The above image is from last month’s Atlantic about discarded clothing: “Ultra-fast Fashion Is Eating the World.”

Here are some points made by this article:

  • There’s a fashion company that offers fresh styles twice a week, driving competitors that are “slower” out of business.
  • The fashion industry stays competitive by producing cheaper, less durable clothing made from synthetic fibers.
  • Americans believe that clothes should be cheap, abundant and new.
  • Americans buy a piece of clothing every five days, on average.
  • It’s estimated that the fashion industry generates 4 percent of the world’s greenhouse-gas emissions. The United Nations says it accounts for 20 percent of global wastewater.
  • The human toll of fast fashion is inestimable since prices are kept low through labor by systematically exploited workers.

And what role does social media play in all this?  No surprise here:  the more we use social media, the more time and money we spend shopping on line.

One teenager who used to buy tons of clothes and promote them (paid by the clothing line) on social media matured into a pre-med student who now makes stylish clothes out of what she already has.  Re-purposing!  She says: “Secondhand clothing and thrifting is so hot right now.”

That’s good news.  Now if we could just figure out how to make the Rag Chair in the garage, with some friends helping. Maybe Rag Chair parties could become hot.

What if every small town and neighborhood had its own environmental artist?

Environmental art started in the ‘60’s.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

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Is this a joke?

Looks like something you could sit on if you had to.  But wait, is that a bunch of old rags?

Tejo Remy is a Dutch designer.  His 1991 Rag Chair “is created from layered clothing and discarded rags. The reused textiles are collected and shaped with black metal straps to form a large, bulky and eccentric lounge chair. The concept behind the chair is to provide a unique piece of furniture, while at the same time providing a collection of memories that can be flipped through and treasured.”* Every chair is different, of course, and can be custom made for you from your old clothes.

He also designs chests of drawers, called “You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories,” which are composed of random drawers bundled together by metal straps.

As you look at these, both the chair and the drawers, do you get the feeling that what might be operating here is irony?

In the case of the chair, if you really treasured your old clothes and the memories they associate to, you would preserve them in a more, shall we say, loving way.  You might re-tailor a jacket or a skirt for whimsical evening wear, to go to the theater, say.  You could engage a quilter to go wild with her imagination or donate your stuff to a painter friend for incorporation in a mixed medium piece.  Such re-purposing comes with a dose of irony, sure, but it would be irony cultivated out of a sense of history, melancholy and affirmation.

The bundled up drawers are even more ironic than the Rag Chair because they come with a didactic name attached:  ‘You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories.”  You’re saying I’m trying to lay down my memories?  But I can’t?!  You’re saying, memories are all a jumble and they will never fall into place in an orderly pattern that makes sense. Might as well face it and live with the randomness that is called your memories.

If your past—personal, social, historical—makes sense and was orderly, then you will have a place for everything and everything in its place. You will be offended by Remy’s pile of mismatched drawers. You will restore and treasure an antique breakfront or china cabinet. Like this, perhaps.

 

Both the Rag Chair and “You Can’t Lay Down Your Memories” are in museum collections and valued in the thousands.  These designs are freighted with, yes, irony, which means you are being challenged to think and interpret.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a Remy Rag Chair.  Next time I go there I’ll hover around the Rag Chair waiting to hear someone say to a spouse, Oh, honey we’ve got to have one of these, perfect for the TV room, looks cheap and the kids wouldn’t have to be careful.  That won’t happen.  People will continue to look confused and challenged by modernism.

Next, we’ll look at our contemporary need for re-purposing.

In the meantime, allow yourself to be fooled by something today, this April First.

*Quoted from Chair—500 Designs that Matter. Phaidon.

Tejo Remy, b. 1960

 

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

www.katherinehilden.com

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

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