Sunday, June 26, 2011

Karen Caldicott: An Illustrator in Plasticine Clay

(click on any set of images for a larger view)

BACK IN THE DAY WHEN CORPORATIONS went all out to impress their shareholders with full-color, perfect bound annual report extravaganzas, I remember the big dollars that were spent sending a photographer out to shoot the CEO and Board of Directors. Individual portraits, group pictures. We’d spend all day getting everything just right so everything was perfect. Oh, and when the CEO came in—you’d better have your shit together because Mr. G.T. Gotrocks (that’s what my dad called any rich guy) was only going to give you 5 minutes. How cool would it have been to have had artist Karen Caldicott create their likenesses out of plasticine clay! It would have been waay cool—for the right client. Those were the days, huh? Now, Darlene in accounting is doing the AR because she has Pagemaker on her computer.

Today, I am sure the Board of Directors of GM and CitiMortgage will be lining up at the local 50¢ photo booth... which actually... might in itself be kind of fun! Now there’s an idea.....

FROM HER WEB SITE: “Although capable of working in a multitude of styles, Karen Caldicott has found a niche rendering celebrities in plasticine. The unique portraiture won her a year-long commission from New York magazine creating weekly likenesses of the rich and famous for its listings pages. Born in England, the 47-year-old moved to the US in 1987 and lives in New York state. Fancy a plasticine bust of yourself? Caldicott also accepts private commissions.”

Tel: 1.518.329.9011


An AM repost from 2/22/09

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Todd Webb: Capturing the Ephemeral

(Above) Silver print, 1946
(Above) Silver print, 1946
(Above) Silver print, 1945
(Above) silver print, 1963
(Above) Silver print, 1945

TODD WEBB (1905-2000) WAS A FRIEND OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER HARRY CALLAHAN, and together they studied with Ansel Adams. Later Webb was befriended by Alfred Stieglitz, who introduced him to Georgia O’Keeffe. Webb photographed extensively in New York City in the mid-1940s. He worked for Roy Stryker after WWII, and received a Guggenheim in 1955 and 1956, where he walked across America with his camera. From 1955 to 1981, he made numerous photographs of Georgia O’Keeffe and her Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch houses, including the rugged Northern New Mexico landscapes that surround them.

Webb, who came to be a photographer late in life (he did not start taking pictures until 1939) was a great photographer, though not as well known (or appreciated) as his counterparts. One of my favorite Todd Webb series were these images of grafitti and torn billboards. Additionally, he did an amazing series of photographs of storefronts converted into churches. More on Todd Webb at a later date.

His wife just passed away in January of 2008. She was 101.

Webb’s work is available through Carl Mautz Gallery and at the web site which handles his estate: Evans Gallery.

An AM repost from 1/27/09.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rooftop of Leather Trades Building, St. Louis

ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, I found myself on the roof of the old Leather Trades Building, at 16th and Locust Streets in downtown St. Louis, doing a walk-through for a development company that bought it with the intentions of turning it into Lofts. The design firm I was with was to design a new graphic identity for the place. The inside was a wreck, but finally we got to tour the roof. When I got there, a new world opened up to me. The client thought I was taking pictures for the project (which I was), but in my head I was seeing something much more personal and beautiful—images that had nothing to do with the assignment.

An AM repost from 11/27/08.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ex-Votos: Fervent Prayers From the Heart

(Above) Ex-voto: 1852, Size: 7” x 10”
This is definitely a very old piece. The spelling and writing is old style but apparently traced over during restoration.

“In the year of 1852 it happened to Niconor Ruiz that having burned the powder in the Palmillas Mine, he was enveloped in the flames. He sent up a prayer to the Señor de las Agonîas who favored his plea and he offers this (retablo), for perpetual memory of the faithful.”
(Above) Ex-voto: 1857, Size: 10” x 14”
Most of the writing survives on this very old ex-voto. It is painted on a very large, thick piece of tin. The kneeling figure is wearing the chinaco style pants of the period. The artist had beautiful penmanship.

“It happened on 8 December 1857 that a band of thieves, with the intention of killing him so he found out later, entered in the village. Even after robbing and injuring him the bandits did not recognize him. Being so close to God at that moment, he was persuaded that in the midst of his suffering, God heard his supplications. Then he commended so fervently to the Señor Santo Entierro and the Divine Señor de Sacromente that he was free from all his enemies. In gratitude for such a singular favor, he dedicates this retablo so that everyone can give thanks to God for his wonders.”

(Above) Ex-voto: 1890, Size: 10” x 14”
This is a relatively well-preserved ex-voto. Not much furniture except a colorful bed and importantly, the bedpan.

“On the 31st day of March, 1890, finding herself at the doors of the grave, Doña Jesus Coronel for reason of giving birth to a child and not finding any remedy, her husband Juan Piñeda, with a true heart, prayed to the Most Holy Virgin of Sorrows that is venerated in the Santuario de Paila, and (thus) healed and in an act of thanks dedicates this retablo.”

(Above) Ex-voto, 1916. Size: 6” x 8”
The captors were faking an execution to scare the daylight out of the man who is kneeling. You can see the red fire coming out of the rifles.

“The 4th of October of 1916, Francisco Maravillo accused with the crime of robbery and threatened with death by the law with several simulations of being executed. (He) at that moment prayed for the help of the Lord of Clemencia who is worshipped in his temple at Tamayo. Our Lord Jesus Christ attended him, returning him to his grieving mother, safe and sound, (and) she being very grateful, dedicates this retablo in testimony of such a singular favor.”

(Above) Ex-voto: 1969 (1968 incident): 8- 1/4” x 11-1/2”
This fairly recent ex-voto tells how a group of people were tragically ambushed. It was composed approximately five months after the incident which accounts for the two different dates.

“On the 10th of November of 1968 it happened that while going to the Rancho de Arreguin nearly all of our family were victims of an ambush by many bad people from that same ranch. Being injured I, Victoria Ramirez with a shot to the foot and another in the arm, and being injured as I could to relate this to Saúz. In view of so much gunfire in which my daughter fell dead, my husband received 10 shots but remained alive by a miracle, and Señores Aniceto and Santos Santa Rosa whom also fell badly wounded and finding ourselves in this conflict, the Señora Isabel Ramirez de Saúz implored from the heart to the Santa Cruz de la Gavia, praying that the rest not die. And having performed for us this miracle we declare it in this retablo for its maximum veneration.
Rancho de Arreguin Arriba
April 1969”


Ex-votos and retablos are devotional paintings (or carvings) that are illustrated to tell a story of a particular accident or dangerous, harmful event to a person or family. There are certain requirements that must take place: it must thank the gods or saints for a miracle or act of kindness; it must explain the event that occurred and it must portray divine imagery, like Jesus Christ, The Virgin Mary or other saints or gods.

I can’t claim to know a lot about this area of religious folk art as it’s an area that I have not studied deeply. I do know that there are a lot of fakes like this on Ebay and in shops you may come across. Of course, there are a number of reputable dealers of this material, so do your homework before buying. The ones above range in price from $300 to $2,000. These are part of the inventory of Vernon Kostohryz, who has an online gallery from his home in San Miguel de Allende, Gto.; Mexico. His phone number is (from the USA): 011-52 (415) 152-3482. You can learn more and see more Mexican and Latin American art at Vernon’s “Border Antiques.” (The hyperlink to his site is not working, so just google his store— you’ll find it at the top). The comments and translations above are from Vernon’s web site.

An AM repost from Dec 29, 2008.

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