Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Another Parodist

The current New Yorker has a review of an art parodist I had never heard of, but it definitely intrigues me. Here's what it says:
The guileless heroine of Ernie Bushmiller’s long-running comic strip “Nancy” is an unlikely icon in contemporary art, recurring in work by postmodern cartoonists like Bill Griffith and Scott McCloud, in an Andy Warhol painting, and in rock posters by Frank Kozik. But no one put her to better use than Joe Brainard, in whose irreverent, effervescent paintings, drawings, and collages (occasionally produced in collaboration with poet friends like Ron Padgett and Frank O’Hara) Nancy appears as an ashtray; a medical illustration; the subject of pieces by de Kooning, Picasso, and Leonardo; and part of Mt. Rushmore.

The Nancy Book by Joe Brainard (1942-1994) is in just out in a new edition. The Mona Lisa Nancy is in the collage. I always read Nancy in the St.Louis Post Dispatch when I was a kid -- I think I even remember my mother reading it to me before I went to school and learned to read to myself. She would have been shocked at some of the images...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman

One of my favorite mystery authors has died. His books are entertaining and informative. When I read a book about his Navajo detectives Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, I feel that I've entered a world that is unknown, but that this is an author who can make me understand and respect their world. Since the Navajo themselves honored Hillerman, I felt that the insight I was getting was probably authentic, too. I also liked the PBS series.

See this obituary in the LA Times: Mystery writer Tony Hillerman dies at 83

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In the Doll House

It turns out that Miriam's and Alice's dolls also like Mona Lisa, and have a reproduction on the wall of their bedroom. The dolls have various activities, too, including working on the computer.

Monday, October 20, 2008

India at the Sackler Gallery

Yesterday our visit to the Mall in Washington allowed us to experience several far-away countries and cultures. At the beginning of the day, we went to the Museum of the American Indian, and then to the special exhibit on art from Pompeii at the National Gallery of Art.

Finally, at the Sackler Gallery of Asian art, we heard the Rupayan ensemble of Jodhpur perform bhajans, songs composed by Maharaja Man Singh, an Indian ruler who reigned 1803–43. Singh also commissioned many of the paintings in a newly-opened exhibit called "Garden and Cosmos." The performance was part of the introductory ceremony for this exhibit. The musicians and dancers wore very colorful costumes, and played on folk instruments. Fortunately, the lead singers explained many of the words and gestures when introducing each song. Miriam was completely fascinated by the performance, and watched the dancers intently.

We also spent a little time in "Garden and Cosmos." The paintings in the exhibit were so incredibly detailed that the museum supplied magnifying glasses. The two themes, garden and cosmos, intertwined most fascinatingly. I especially liked the detail of many dark-skinned elephants with pink ears. Some were swimming in mysterious lakes or rivers, illustrating various Hindu myths. A blue-skinned hero appeared in several scenes from his epic adventures. I tried to take in the details of flowering trees, garlanded columns, and of rows and rows of worshipers or of courtiers. The cosmos of Hindu mythology is as unfamiliar as the exotic plants in the gardens.

Unfortunately, the museum allowed no photography of the paintings. I also did not spend enough time there. For a thorough review see "India's 'Garden' State: Lust, Asceticism Flower Side by Side in Sackler's Jodhpur Exhibit" by Paul Richard in the Washington Post (source of the image at right).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Poison Ivy Palate

And a bee inside a flower:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Money: not what it used to be

Mona Lisa: could she be a US President?

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Mona Lisa Banquet at Sea

Late in 1962, as the ocean liner La France crossed the Atlantic from Le Havre, France, to New York, passengers became nervous about suspicious activity around one of the first-class cabins. As a response, the ship's captain had to reveal the identity of the top-secret occupant. In Cabin M-79 the Mona Lisa, inside an ingenious packing case and bolted to the floor, was on the way to New York.

La France was known for its remarkable cuisine in both first and second class. The revealed presence of the world's most famous work of art inspired the kitchen, as well as the passengers:
The ship’s captain broke out the fine wine and champagne. Apprehension quickly turned into celebration as passengers engaged in Mona Lisa costume parties and drinking games. The superliner’s butchers, pastry-makers, and table cooks prepared delicacies of roast beef Leonardo, salad Mona Lisa, and parfait La Gioconda to celebrate the painting’s transatlantic voyage. Passengers feasted under a 52-foot, star-studded dome in the first-class dining room and danced until dawn.
Mona Lisa made two appearances to vast crowds, first at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, then at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. The visit took place thanks to the diplomacy of Jackie Kennedy.

Dinners were held for the museum openings, but I doubt if any food rivaled that served on shipboard.

An entire book is about to be published about this, the last voyage of Mona Lisa: Mona Lisa in Camelot, by Margaret Leslie Davis. International standards for conservation of artwork no longer permit a fragile painting on wood, like Mona Lisa, to be shipped overseas; insurance and security conditions would probably preclude it anyway.

The current Vanity Fair has an excerpt from the book: The Two First Ladies. It's illustrated with great photos, including those above. Thanks to my friend Olga for writing me about it.


Since the Dow today so far has fallen 550, on top of the huge drop last week, the dollar isn't worth anything any more. So let's do like Mona Lisa:

We might as well gamble. Though if you played cards with 5 mona lisas, you might have trouble knowing when she was bluffing. That smile....

Here's the deck I'd choose:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Another non Mona Lisa

Of course you recognize "The Lady with the Ermine" don't you?

Well, ok, here:

Mona Lisa: The Lily

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Guess who is a student here?

Mona Lisa evidently agreed to have her card used as a sample in a mass email reminder for students with expiring cards.

Who feels the financial meltdown?

The LA Times today offered more insight into how the disappearance of certain kinds of credit hurt ordinary people, especially small business owners. As I said yesterday, I've been trying to get a grasp of what all this means in human terms. A quote:
As lenders tighten their fists and consumers tighten their belts, businesses from small restaurants to industry titans such as AT&T are getting squeezed.

Some are slicing inventory as they struggle to find financing to buy new merchandise. Others, unable to get loans to cover payroll and operating costs, are laying off employees or closing their doors. Even businesses that have healthy revenue and are up to date on their payments are having their loans called in or their interest rates raised. ...

... the National Small Business Assn. reported that 67% of small businesses said in August that they had been affected by the credit crunch -- and that was before September's market turmoil. The number of small businesses using bank loans was at a 15-year low and 32% said their loan terms were getting worse. The same was happening with credit card rates, 63% said.
Specific examples illustrated business that couldn't make payroll -- so had laid off workers, and business owners who had good credit and lines of credit on tap, but with banks that failed. And so it goes...

The article: Credit freeze puts businesses on thin ice by Marla Dickerson, Tiffany Hsu and Jerry Hirsch in today's LA Times.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Financial Crisis

I've been trying to grasp how the Wall Street meltdown would impact the ordinary voter, who (we hear) opposes the bailout. Thomas Friedman (who misled me on Iraq, but whatever) had a great formulation in his column today:
Well, you say, “I don’t own any stocks — let those greedy monsters on Wall Street suffer.” You may not own any stocks, but your pension fund owned some Lehman Brothers commercial paper and your regional bank held subprime mortgage bonds, which is why you were able refinance your house two years ago. And your local airport was insured by A.I.G., and your local municipality sold municipal bonds on Wall Street to finance your street’s new sewer system, and your local car company depended on the credit markets to finance your auto loan — and now that the credit market has dried up, Wachovia bank went bust and your neighbor lost her secretarial job there.
For what it's worth: I have been following the events very closely but can't imagine trying to write about this complex issue, as I doubt if I can come up with anything original in the least. To date my favorite comments have come from John Stewart and Rachel Maddox on TV and Paul Krugman in his NYT columns and on TV interviews.