Thursday, April 29, 2010

Revealing Books

Click any image for larger view!

Click any image for larger view!

Click any image for larger view!

Click any image for larger view!

ALEXANDER KORZER-ROBINSON MAKES BOOK SCULPTURES and paper art whose work focuses on what he calls the “inner landscape.” He lives in the United Kingdom. What he does is a biblio-excavation, cutting away the book until the only parts remaining are what he chooses. Indeed, what is left is something new—a book whose inner images are selectively revealed. See more about his work here.

Korzer-Robinson’s work is remarkable similar to the American artist Brian Dettmer. I’m not sure who came first—but does it really matter? Dettmer seems to push the creative envelope more than Korzer-Robinson—but you be the judge. What do you think? I have written about Brian Dettmer’s work before, so you can see that work here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Early Mourning

(Above) Tintype of two women in mourning. Click for larger view.

(Above) Detail. Click for larger view.

HERE’S A VINTAGE, SIXTH PLATE (2.25” x 3.25”) TINTYPE of two women in mourning. The rare part of this early photograph is the woman with her head down in despair, an act of informality and spontaneity rarely seen in an era of posed, and formal photography.

Image spotted on eBay.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Memory Painting of Sing Sing Prison

(Above) As acquired, original watercolor and pen & ink drawing of Sing Sing Prison, in original frame from late 19th century.

(Above and below) Nothing makes your heart sink more than an artwork that has been against a wood backing for 100 years. You can just feel the acid burning—the pain.

(Above) The back of the framed watercolor. Ouch!

(Above) Poster from the 1932 Spencer Tracy, Betty Davis movie drama, “20,000 Years in Sing Sing.” Sing Sing and Alcatraz were the most infamous prisons of all time.

(Above) Newly framed watercolor in an acid free environment.

(Detail) Detail of inmates lined up in the Sing Sing Prison yard. (click image for larger view).

(Above) Detail... click for much larger view.

(Above) Detail. Praying for Survival... click for much larger view.

(Above) Detail... click for much larger view. Notice you can see the weather vane directions.

(Above) Detail... click for much larger view. Prisoner talks with prison guard.

ABOUT A MONTH AGO I WAS THE WINNING BIDDER ON EBAY for this beautiful anonymous watercolor and pen/ink drawing of Sing Sing Prison. Sing Sing—the original big house. Home of the electric chair—where prisoners went to spend their allotted time in hell.

This piece can be dated by the warden pictured in the drawing—I surmise his image was possibly traced from an engraving done during the period. The reason I say that is that the style of the warden’s image is different from the rest of the painting.

Warden W.R. Brown was at Sing Sing for only two years, between 1891 to 1893.

So, I thought it would be good to share this recent find with the readers of Accidental Mysteries— an opportunity to see a new item in my collection. Down the road, I plan to have this amazing piece of documentary history fully restored, but for now—it’s in a safe and archival environment.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Amazing Randi

JAMES RANDI HAS BEEN DEBUNKING SO-CALLED PSYCHICS for decades. He has offered $1 million dollars to any psychic who can prove their abilities actually exist. That is, have their “powers” put under the scrutiny of scientists or, his organization. So far, no takers. James is an engaging speaker, brilliant—and I'll bet you’ll enjoy this speech put on by TED.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Embroidery Your Grandma Never Did

THIS IS THE FIRST SERIOUS ART THAT DEBORAH SLABECK BAKER has made in nearly 25 years. She’s been occupied with her family and children . . . and dance had been her creative substitute. In the last year and a half she started making these embroideries and they have just been pouring out of her. They are a synthesis of all her past media and efforts. There are many references: needlework, samplers, hankies, silhouettes, and folk art. But they are also very personal, as this kind of work can be. She thinks of them as drawings, or poems/stories. She works directly on the fabric with thread — no pre-drawing or marking of the fabric — a kind of automatic embroidery. And this year. . . one of Baker’s images is being used as a holiday card for The Art Institute of Chicago!

Via Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago. All images © Deborah Slabeck Baker.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Photojournalism at It’s Best

Click images for larger views and to read text.

Click images for larger views and to read text.

Click images for larger views and to read text.

Click images for larger views and to read text.

Click images for larger views and to read text.

THE DENVER POST HIT A HOME RUN BACK IN 2007 when photojournalist Craig F. Walker followed a young man by the name of Ian Fisher from his decision to join the military to basic training, to eventual deployment to Iraq—and finally documenting his return home. I discovered them buried deep in the Denver Post web site, and knew immediately I had to turn my readers on to them. These pictures are extraordinarily sensitive and revealing, showing the power of images to tell a story.

I have given you a few images from each chapter of Ian Fisher’s personal journey into (and out of) the US Army, but I highly encourage you to see them all here. Your eyes may just open a wee bit wider, like mine did.

And, btw, Craig’s work was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Saving Lanning Garden

(Above) The main sign for the Lanning Garden.

(Above) Bidders at the auction.

(Above) left to right: Kelly Ludwig, John Foster and Wade Thompson from Missouri State. Click image for larger view.

(Above) Bidders listen to the auctioneer start the bidding.

(Above) Sadly, as happens to many estates where there is no will, everything—down to the spoons and forks, were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

(Above) This concrete church was a key item between bidders. MSU won.

(Above) A unicorn stands watch next to the checkout. This horned fellow was saved.

(Above) Strange Bird, saved for a new sculpture garden at MSU.

(Above) The Angel Gabriel, saved by MSU.

(Above) Two headed dragon, saved!!

(Above) Lady Godiva, saved.

(Above) Children , saved.
(Above) Ballerina, saved.

RALPH AND GRETCHEN LANNING were not just my friends, they were friends to anyone who happened to stop and visit their concrete garden. Ralph was a soldier in WWII, and received 5 Bronze Stars for his service in major battles, including the Battle of the Bulge.

S0metime in the 1970s, Ralph began building concrete sculptures and placing them in and around his 7+ acres of land. Right in front was the concrete heart, announcing you had arrived at Lanning Garden. The Garden was really a love story, a testament to his undying love for his wife Gretchen. Gretchen was a sweetheart—his sweetheart—and they were quite the pair. She was a textile artist, he was a sculptor. Neither were trained whatsoever—Ralph’s knowledge came from practical experience building dams and other public works projects for the CCC during the Great Depression, and so much other everyday experience there was nothing Ralph could not do if he set his mind to it. And in his Garden, he created two headed dragons, mythical creatures, houses, and angels. And it was the angels who came into play after his death.

Gretchen died of cancer a two years ago, and Ralph never quite recovered from it. It took him a year to finally give up and he died in his sleep this past December 19, 2009. I received a call from his court appointed attorney the next day.

Ralph didn’t leave a will. For months prior, I literally begged him to do so. More than anything, Ralph was obsessed with keeping his artwork together, keeping what he called “a museum” for the public to see and visit. He just didn’t plan on dying. He wanted to see it.

But, it didn’t happen. After Ralph died, his estate went into probate, and everything in his life was sold to the highest bidder. That meant the house, the land, the sculptures. Thankfully, the angels I spoke of came into play after his death. The Kohler Foundation of Kohler, Wisconsin stepped up to save as many pieces as possible.

And the beautiful part of all this is that Missouri State University agreed to have the work reinstalled on their campus—a place for the public and their students to continue to enjoy the work for the years to come, carefully reinstalled in a new sculpture garden in honor of Ralph and Gretchen Lanning. All in all, almost 30 major sculptures were saved by the Kohler Foundation and Missouri State University from being scattered to the high winds.

Thanks go to both entities for having the foresight and courage to do the right thing. Ralph and Gretchen are looking down... and smiling. I like that. Though Ralph’s dream of keeping everything intact and there, on his own property was not to be, this is a darn good second best. Stay tuned for more news, as this incredible story continues to play out.

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