Artist: Louis Comfort Tiffany

Louis Comfort Tiffany was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany. He began his artistic career as a painter but then became interested in stained glass. Originally he worked with cheap jelly jars and bottles because the mineral impurities in the glass he found compelling. He later made his own glass because he was unable to convince glass makers to produce opaque glass and glass with the impurities he sought. His work followed the ideas of the Arts and Crafts movement and William Morris.

Tiffany’s family money and connections allowed him to found Tiffany Studios. Tiffany not only created stained glass lamps and windows, his company had a full line of interior design items, metalwork pieces, jewelry, mosaics, and potter. He directed a full team of designers that created his beautiful floral patterns, art nouveau designs, and other decorative elements. Tiffany not only created single pieces, he designed private and public interiors. He redecorated the White House for Chester Alan Arthur.

Tiffany’s leaded-glass brought him the most recognition. Tiffany and one of his rivals, John La Farge, revolutionized the look of stained glass. Since medieval times craftsmen had utilized flat panes of white and colored glass with details painted with glass paints before firing and leading, Tiffany and La Farge experimented with new types of glass. By creating a more varied palette capable of richer hues, they could get a different level of realism in their depictions. Both Tiffany and La Farge patented an opalescent glass. The opaque glass was internally colored with variegated shades of the same or different rainbow hues. The piece titled “Magnolias and Irises,” was made by Tiffany Studios around 1908. It was created as a memorial window based on the “River of Life.” It depicts magnolias composed of opalescent drapery glass, heavily folded or creased glass, and irises in multihued tones showing off Tiffany’s innovations and ability to paint with glass.

Beautiful dragonflies adorn desk lamps, multi-panel scenes decorate churches, and a riot of color and illuminating innovation are Tiffany’s legacy.

Olympia by Manet

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In 1865 at the Paris Salon a painting was first exhibited. Some such as Emil Zola declared it a masterpiece. Others thought it a vulgar, immoral abomination and there were repeated attempts to destroy the painting as it hung on display.

It was not such a remarkable painting. Certainly there is a long tradition of artists painting naked Venus lounging supine, eyes drooping with satiation.

But Olympia was different. Manet chose not to create a representation that idealized feminine sexuality. Rather he painted a woman revealed. The painting proclaims both the power and the brutality of her nakedness. It greatly offended many people in the time period, but moved art in a different direction. Manet has been quoted as saying that rather than correcting nature and idealizing women and the female form, why not paint the truth?

So, he took the symbols of the day and changed them. Rather than including the black dog that symbolizes fidelity in paintings, he included a black cat to symbolize prostitution. Olympia lies on an oriental shawl, she wears pearl earrings and an orchid in her hair, and a black maid brings in flowers from a man–flowers that Olympia does not bother to acknowledge. The image is of a woman who stares out from the canvass and she has power within her circumstance. She has wealth and sensuality and is not beholden unto a man. The style of the painting is such that Olympia is not bathed in the golden tones of lowlight but rather a harsher, more illuminating and direct light is inferred. This reinforces the message of the painting.

The painting echoes and reverberates with ambiguous meaning. Olympia is powerful. Powerful because of her naked sensuality. Powerful as a woman. But there is a brutality to her situation that is as mean as the direct gaze that emanates from her eyes. She stares potentially across the room at the face of a lover who has entered her chambers. She stares at her present but where is her future? The flowers that the maid holds will wither and die. Is Olympia’s power only because of those who gaze upon her? Or settled behind her eyes that gaze out onto the world?

Alexandre Farto aka Vhils

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Alexandre Farto is a Portugese born artist. Currently he is working with materials and spaces that he finds in situ. By vandalizing buildings he is carving out art– transforming everyday decay into works of beauty. The artist a day website says that he is currently working with a mix of Quink ink and bleach and describes his work as: “Vhils art is poetic, complex, and ambitious, often focusing on the needs we have abandoned in favour of our wants, and the realisation that trading pleasure back in for happiness will be a less than straightforward exchange.”

Please visit Alexandre Farto’s website at http://www.alexandrefarto.com

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Thoughts Released Like Birds

I have too many ideas fluttering through my mind all at the same time and they are playing tug of war with my attention to establish which one will receive the prize of my concentration. Currently none of them are winning so this post may be a little scattered. I am going to release them all in a flock.

Poetry
I awoke this morning with lines of poetry flitting like sparrows at the edges of my dreams. Must deal with the poetry. I wrote a few yesterday that did not greatly impress me, but the poetry nags at me sometimes until I work on it. Poetry can be worse than a spouse and much harder to clean up after.

Art
I was thinking on art last night and decided that I like the idea of art in the here and now. Something that takes on value for the uniqueness of being placed in a particular context and at a particular time. If I draw a chalk drawing on the sidewalk, it has a certain interactive life that a museum masterpiece will never have. It is by its nature temporally situated. Not timeless. Because even as a memory it will change and fade. It can only be actively encountered by someone who takes the time to observe it and remember it and maybe photograph it. It has to be experienced in some ways. If it rains, the art changes. If it is smudged by foot traffic, it is a new piece. If it is vandalized, it has been co-opted or enhanced. It becomes potentially a dialogue in any of these situations as opposed to being static communication. Further, does it change the sense of geography? I am not sure.

Culture
Is culture a function of geography or mind? I live on the North American continent and consider American culture part of Western culture as opposed to Eastern culture. But American culture is certainly not European culture and American culture is certainly not remotely like any of the tribal cultures of the native people that occupied this continent prior to the invasion of people from Europe. So what defines culture and where is it derived from? How long does it take for a distinct culture to arise in a geographic location?

New Orleans and New York have distinct personas and a sense of unique cultures. Writing from the American South has a unique regional flavor so to speak. The Midwest of America is really only unique as a region in its sense of blandness. So is this Midwestern culture? Recently I was reading about Theodore Roethke who grew up in Michigan and how his poetry has a definite sense of nature about it. Michigan, outside of Southeastern Michigan, is very rural. Would writing that comes from Michigan then have a rural, natural aesthetic? Or a gritty urban feel because of the factory culture and the automotive industry? What defines and creates culture?

Over the weekend I was in a discussion about cultural appropriation. It occurred to me this morning that as an American I am not sure that I can do anything but appropriate other cultures. The US is such an infusion of different cultures I think it is unavoidable. I live in Ann Arbor. We have a huge international community in Ann Arbor. There are several Asian and Middle Eastern grocery stores. We have Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and every conceivable religion in our small Midwestern town. I have met people from every continent on the planet in Ann Arbor and heard many different languages. I don’t know that I could describe succinctly the “culture” of Ann Arbor. Which part of Ann Arbor? Which subgroup?

I came to the conclusion over the weekend that for the purposes of writing fiction, I am nervous about the idea of cultural appropriation with the intent of creating a certain flavor in the fiction. I still feel this. I think if an author is creating a piece with a certain theme or intent and pulling a trope from the folklore of a culture it needs to be well thought out, respectful, and done in a quality way to preserve cultural meaning or expand meaning. Creating something that is shoddy is derogatory to the culture of origin and does damage. A superficial treatment of cultural elements does not introduce that culture to a wider audience or broadened anyone’s understanding, it creates misunderstanding. It also could lead to a type of overexposure and non-caring dismissal of the trope. As in the case of vampires.

A Vision of a Computer Virus

What Would a Computer Virus Look Like?

Alex Dragulescu, who is an artist, created a vision of what he believes a trojan virus embedded in a Word document would look like. A Vision of a Computer Virus.

Using Art to Envision

This last fall I spent some time considering what an artificial intelligence would look like. I dismissed the obvious idea of creating a human image from 0 and 1’s– a kind of “Max Headroom” sculpted via a type of pointillism.

I spent some time thinking about how data might layer and what this type of being would look like. Would it be a chimera of images shifting and changing as it processed information? Would the information merge like a transporter accident? In the end I never decided on what the image should look like. But I was sure that it could not be represented in a fashion similar to that of a biological entity. Further, I concluded the world/reality of an electronic being that thought and traveled in nano seconds within coded packets would be vastly different than anything in the physical world.

The idea of a vision of a computer virus became a philosophical construct for me.  While only a thought exercise, I came to the conclusion a visual representation of a virus is translatable into an artistic medium, but it might be the kind of thing that I’ll know when I see it. And it would take a certain genius to capture the essence of a computer virus.

Dragulescu

While they are very interesting and generate further thinking in regards to what a computer virus might look like, Dragulescu’s representations don’t quite represent coded viruses for me. He made a good attempt. They look too much like the biological, microscopic world that the ‘viruses’ derive their name comparison from for me. This strikes me as less than the complex things these viruses really are.

The question that I’ll pose is this: What do you think a computer virus would look like? Do you have any sketches or poems or whatever that you think would represent such a virus?

The link at the BBC News service for more of Alex Dragulescu’s visions of what computer malware and viruses would look like is:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/08/programmes_computer_virus_art_by_alex_dragulescu/html/1.stm

Further, there are general written descriptions of what all the images represent.