Culture Making is now archived. Enjoy five years of reflections on culture worth celebrating.
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Posts tagged visual arts

Family,” by Andy Crouch and Nathan Clarke

Nathan:
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"Haitian Crucifixion 2000," by Sister Helen David Brancato, via Senior Artists Initiative
Christy:
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"Of the Peculiar," by Barry Krammes, Image, September 2009
Christy:
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"With Expectancy We Wait," India ink 36" x 40", by Alison Stigora, 2008
Christy:
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detail from "The Return of the Prodigal Son," engraving by Lucas van Leyden, c.1510 :: via Museum of Biblical Art
Christy:
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from "WALL·E end title sequence + Jim Capobianco & Alex Woo interview," The Art of the Title Sequence, 22 June 2009 :: via Daring Fireball
Andy:
Nate:

So how does one design a building where people actually use the stairs? There are three key features.

1) Fewer turns between the stairs and the closest entrance.
2) Stairs with large surface areas (not too narrow and steep).
3) Create a view, either up, down, or across, from the stairwell. No one wants to walk up a tiny, white box.

The Booth School of Business staircases meet all of these requirements (perhaps it’s no surprise the building won a major design award last year). For those who can’t build new stairwells, there are a few other nudges to try. Displaying motivational signs in the lobby and throughout the building, and playing music in the stairwell can increase stair use. Together, these two nudges can increase usage by as much as 9 percent. Hanging artwork on the stairwell walls, closing elevators occasionally, and offering incentives like fruit are also known to work.

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"Ontbijtje," gouache on paper, by Robert Amesbury, from the 2007 show "Pronk" at the Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston, Bernard Toale Gallery
Nate:
Andy:
from "My Favorite Research Paper," by John Maeda, Our (and Your) RISD, 4 November 2008

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I have carried a reprint of John Lasseter’s seminal paper on computer animation, “Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer Animation,” for the last 18 years. This hardcopy document has been to Japan, both coasts of the US, and has really been near/dear to me and is yellowed from age and embarassingly food-stained and so forth. It occurred to me today that maybe this paper might be available online, and I just found it in excerpted form here. I’m not sure what to call it … but maybe I had a kind of myopia when it came to this one document in my life. I felt that unless I held onto it in print, that I would never be able to handily access the information. Discovering that the content is available online right now seems truly freeing to me. And yet oddly enough, I am still hesitant to place my tattered reprint into my recycling box before I leave to my next engagement this evening.

There’s always the “just in case” when it comes to any information around you. Even in this digital era we know it’s easy to lose information forever. Nothing is truly permanent. But I’ve carried this paper around for 18 years — hmmmm, as old as an RISD freshman. Ah. The power of perspective. Looks like this paper will be sticking around me for many more years to come. Dilemma resolved. Paper wins.

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"City and Forest," by Katy Wu, from the Totoro Forest Project benefit auction, on exhibit at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, September 2008–February 2009 :: thanks Shu Ming!
Nate:
Nate:
from "Annals of Culture: Late Bloomers," by Malcom Gladwell, The New Yorker, 20 October 2008

But for Zola, Cézanne would have remained an unhappy banker’s son in Provence; but for Pissarro, he would never have learned how to paint; but for Vollard (at the urging of Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, and Monet), his canvases would have rotted away in some attic; and, but for his father, Cézanne’s long apprenticeship would have been a financial impossibility. That is an extraordinary list of patrons. The first three—Zola, Pissarro, and Vollard—would have been famous even if Cézanne never existed, and the fourth was an unusually gifted entrepreneur who left Cézanne four hundred thousand francs when he died. Cézanne didn’t just have help. He had a dream team in his corner.

This is the final lesson of the late bloomer: his or her success is highly contingent on the efforts of others.

Andy:
from "The Island of the Misfit Toys Part II," by Makoto Fujimura, Refractions, 18 October 2008

Especially in evangelical circles, many will argue that earth is to be burnt up in the Judgment fire of God, and everything will be destroyed anyhow, so why worry about culture at all. Wright walks through this issue carefully in his book [Surprised by Hope], noting and clarifying many theological nuances deftly, correcting the knee-jerk anti-culture stance of the “Left Behind” theology. Even if you do not fully agree with all of his theological conclusions, his arguments are worth exploring.

I’ve always wondered why, for instance, in 2 Peter 3:10, it is not the earth that is burned up, but heaven. (“The heavens will disappear with a roar.”) And why 1 Corinthians 3 gives a resounding nod to the remarkable idea that even our works, and not only our souls, will remain after the Judgment. Further, as another theologian, Richard Mouw, points out in his wonderful book, When the Kings Come Marching in: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem, Isaiah 60 and Revelation seem to point to the final celebration of the coming of this new Reality, would have pagan Kings and secular ships sailing into the edges of New Jerusalem. In other words, cultural influencers of all types, whether classified as Christians or not, seem to end up joining the parade in some way. . . .

Culture shaping is not an escapist activity from our current woes: instead it is breathing life into the very ashes from our present and our past, and finding, with T.S. Eliot, “the still point of the turning world.” Generative creativity flows out of not just Eden, but out of this reality of “Life after Life after Death.” We can begin to deposit our efforts into the future, rather than hope to escape into our Edenic past. Our earth, no matter how bleak, is full of promise on this side of Easter. Heaven can invade into our art of life, right in the midst of our ground zeros.

And if the earth acts as a conduit of heaven, then this yeast-like hope can be worked into the dough of culture. Naturally, as I pondered Wright’s comments, I began to ask what if art is infused with heaven, what would that art look like? If true understanding of heaven is not mere escapism, but the physical manifestation of the “substance of things hoped for,” (Hebrews 11:1) then art needs to echo this promise into tangible reality. If Wright is correct, then even ephemeral expressions done in faith will remain etched in eternal reality, and somehow earth, all of earth, is fair game for heaven’s invasion. And every act, done in faith, will count.

image Sorted books
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from "Sorted Books," by Nina Katchadourian :: via Bob Carlton
Andy:
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"Human red cone pigment gene" (double-sided quilt, 63" x 63") by Beverly St. Claire, Genome Quilts :: via Boing Boing
Nate:
Andy:
from "A Cultural Conversation with John Maeda," by Dominique Browning, WSJ.com, 2 September 2008 (Non-subscribers can access this article through 9 September 2008 here)

A RISD education is classical and rigorous; first-year students are required to practice the fundamentals of drawing and sculpture. Foundation Studies are taught in rooms filled to the ceilings with thousands of skeletons, taxidermy, minerals, reptiles, birds. (A sign warns “The doves are out so please close the door.”) Other departments cover everything from photography to ceramics. The curriculum is so conservative as to be radical.

Some of RISD’s studios probably haven’t changed in a hundred years. The stuff of art and design is everywhere, in the charcoal dust, the heaps of wet clay, the scraps of wood. A RISD education focuses on what you can do with your hands; an architecture student is expected to be able to draw, a print-maker to use a press. . . .

“A designer is someone who constructs while he thinks, someone for whom planning and making go together,” says Mr. Maeda, cocking his head, widening his eyes, moving his hands as if he were shaping a pot. Mr. Maeda considers himself post-digital; he has outgrown his fascination with hardware and is driven by ideas. “I want to reform technology. All the tools are the same; people make the same things with them. Everyone asks me, ‘Are you bringing technology to RISD?’ I tell them, no, I’m bringing RISD to technology.” He describes a visit to the campus by an executive from Yahoo. Mr. Maeda took him to see the visual resources center in the new library. Hundreds of thousands of drawings, photographs and news clippings, and images of art, architecture and decorative arts—on slides—are cataloged and stored in old-fashioned metal and wood file cabinets. The Yahoo executive was stunned. “This is a real live Google!” Better, says Mr. Maeda.

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Today marks the launch of a new online magazine from the New York-based International Arts Movement, The Curator. As editor-in-chief Alissa Wilkinson writes, The Curator will seek “to encourage, promote, and uncover those artifacts of culture . . . that inspire and embody truth, goodness, and beauty.” Amen to that, sister—expect us to follow The Curator’s progress with great interest in the coming weeks and months, and no doubt to steal, er, I mean, excerpt and repost, some of its best material.

Alissa was one of the early readers and reviewers of Culture Making, and I’ve been grateful for her intelligent enthusiasm for the book, and more importantly for her discerning eye for signs of hope and opportunities to cultivate and create. Best wishes, Alissa and team!

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"Biology #1," carved textbook, by Brian Dettmer, from the show "Book Work: Dissections and Excavations," at Aron Packer Gallery, Chicago :: via wood s lot
Nate:
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panel from "The El", by Daniel Hauben, photo by David Goldman for the New York Times, from "Bronx Artist’s Glass Work Is Recognized," by Sewell Chan, NYTimes.com, 13 August 2008
Nate:
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photo by Jacob Antonio Jr., from the article "Los Angeles thwarts family in fight over graffiti," by Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 13 August 2008
Nate:
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detail from The Lacemaker, by Johannes Vermeer (oil on canvas, c.1670), The Louvre, Paris
Nate: