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07 NOVEMBER, 2011

A Painting of Cancer Cells Inspired by Carl Sagan

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What supernovas have to do with cancer cells.

When she lost her friend Cathy to cancer, artist Michele Banks (whose stunning biological watercolors you might recall) set out to tell her friend’s story in the language she speaks most fluently and eloquently: painting. But she didn’t want it to be another “cancer painting.” Instead, she found unlikely inspiration at the intersection of the deadly disease and Carl Sagan’s iconic, life-affirming idea that we’re all made of “star stuff” — she saw a striking parallel between supernovas and dividing cancer cells. The result is simply breathtaking.

I was reading about astronomer Carl Sagan, who often expressed the idea that humans are made of “star stuff”. That is, that all the basic elements of life on earth derive from “space debris” from the gigantic explosions of massive, ancient stars. This concept is at once so simple and so mind-boggling that it’s a struggle to absorb, much less to express artistically. I started looking around for ideas of how to visually portray the basic elements such as hydrogen, helium and nitrogen. Um. This is difficult, because you can’t see them. If you do a Google image search on Carbon, it comes up with a lot of gray-black cars. But when I thought about how the elements were released, I found supernovas. Not only are supernovas beautiful and awe-inspiring, they bear a strong resemblance to dividing cells, especially explosively dividing cancer cells.” ~ Michele Banks

Curiously, Sagan himself also had myelodysplastic syndrome, or “preleukemia,” and underwent three bone marrow transplants before losing the long and difficult fight in 1996. Banks reflects:

This painting, besides celebrating the cosmic connection that all living creatures share, goes out to Cathy and Carl. From the infinitely tiny cells deep in the marrow of their bones, to the billions of stars in the sky.”

You can find Banks on Twitter and her beautiful prints on Etsy.

In a similar vein, don’t forget composer Alexandra Pajak’s Sounds of HIV, which “plays” the patterns of the AIDS virus nucleotides and amino acids transcribed by HIV in 17 eerie, mesmerizing tracks.

via It’s Okay To Be Smart

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07 NOVEMBER, 2011

Gerhard Richter: Tate Modern Celebrates One of the Greatest Artists Alive

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An ambitious retrospective on one of the most influential and prolific artists alive today.

Born in East Germany in 1932, Gerhard Richter is one of the most colossal and influential artists alive today, celebrated for liberating painting from the legacy of Socialist Realism in Eastern Germany and Abstract Expressionism throughout Western Europe. To celebrate the artist’s 80th birthday, the Tate Modern is hosting Panorama — an ambitious major retrospective of the artist’s work, including his most iconic pieces — “Ema (Nude descending a staircase)” (1966), “Candle” (1982), “Reader” (1994), “Stoke (on Red)” (1980) — and his hotly debated response to 9/11, “September” (2005).

The exhibition’s excellent companion volume Panorama: A Retrospective collects more than a half-century of Richter’s genius, including photo-paintings, abstracts, landscapes and seascapes, portraits, glass and mirror works, sculptures, drawings and photographs. From his early black-and-white paintings to his renowned abstractions to his paintings of family members who had been members, as well as victims, of the Nazi party to his photorealist depictions of candles, skulls and clouds that shaped 20th-century photorealism, the volume features Richter’s most celebrated paintings alongside comparative works, studio photographs, archival images, and Nicholas Serota’s revealing interview with the artist.

Gerhard Richter's 'Demo,' 1997 / Image courtesy of Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter's 'Mustang Squadron,' 1964 / Image courtesy of Gerhard Richter

Serota’s conversation with Richter was also released on video, very much worth the watch:

via Susan Everett

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04 NOVEMBER, 2011

Harris Tweed: The Story of the Greatest Cloth of All

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What Scottish sheep have to do with timeless fashion and the humanity of craftsmanship.

Harris Tweed is a unique fabric hand-woven by the islanders on Scotland’s Isles of Harris, Lewis, Uist, and Barra, using local wool and vegetable dyes. Despite its rustic roots, this unusual cloth has risen to international fame, appearing as anything from a premium finish on limited-edition Nike shoes to the attire of choice for celebrated fictional characters like Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code, the Doctor from Doctor Who, and Agatha Christie’s detective Miss Marple. Known for its distinctive flecks of color and peculiar scent, produced by the lichen dyes known as “crottle,” Harris Tweed is as much a material as it is a fascinating story about tradition, community, collaboration, and heritage.

In 2010, British photographer and Royal Society of the Arts fellow Lara Platman spent seven months on the islands of Scotland, documenting the intricate human machinery of Harris Tweed production, from the backs of the Blackface and Cheviot sheep to the artisanal looms to the high-end tailors of Savile Row. The result is Harris Tweed: From Land to Street — a stunning large-format tome that captures a group portrait of the men and women who spend their lives and make their living crafting the legendary textile.

'The box room contains all the colours of yarn required for the recipes created by the mill's designer from the colour palette of the mill.'

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

On a farm in Berwickshire in the Scottish Borders, Will and Ruth Dickenson set up maternity wards next to the farmhouse during lambing season. The children play with the newly born lambs and give them names. Along with their extended family, they help look after the lambs.

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

Patrick Grant captures the cloth’s magical tradition and heartfelt humanity in the book’s foreword:

I love the island and I love the people who live there and make the tweed. Harris Tweed is made by enthusiasts, craftsmen and women who understand its history, have had its methods passed on by hand and mouth through generations of their families and their neighbours’ families. This cloth, painstakingly woven, from yarn locally spun, from wool of the local clip, is imbued with something personal and humane that no other textile comes close to possessing. And the wearer, in his or her turn, adds something more to it by the wearing. He softens it and scuffs it and shapes it, cherishes and repairs it, and all in good time he passes it on so that a new owner may enjoy it anew. All of this makes Harris Tweed the greatest cloth of all.”

'Bill Walton is one of the best-known faces in the British wool industry, having worked in the business for the past forty years. He has been responsible for grading wool and helped adapt the new wools going into the Harris Tweed industry, working on the production of carding machines in the new double-width looms.'

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

'Donald John Mackenzie, one of the younger weavers, tried a number of careers before he thought he would have a go at this one. He likes the fact that weaving is a regular commitment and you know what salary you will achieve if you work a full week. He has a small croft and has written for the local community about the weaving process.'

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

'Neil Mckinnol came back to Lewis to work as a weaver after working in the Merchant Navy. The work is a change from the traveling he was used to. His shed at Leurbost is large and he has a garage at the front of his property where he keeps the tweeds he has woven, ready for the mail lorries to collect.'

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

'Donald Murray started weaving in 1987. His shed is very spacious and has great light. There is a top bar on his loom and although his tweed will be checked when it goes back to the mill, he checks it on the bar under the light before it goes.'

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

'When the weavers have completed their work, the mills' lorries collect the lengths of tweed and bring them back to the mills to be finished. The tweed arrives in bales, which here Donald John Mackenzie is unloading at the Shawbost mill. First the tweed is sent off to be darned. Then it is washed: the process is similar to any domestic wash, and takes place in a big washing tub. Finally it is pressed.'

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street. (c) 2011 Frances Lincoln Ltd. and Lara Platman

Ultimately Harris Tweed has transcended fashion in terms of transient trends and been prompted to timeless style. As the tailors of Saville Row will tell you, no wardrobe is complete without an item in Harris Tweed, and this will always be the case.” ~ Guy Hills, Dashing Tweeds

Harris Tweed is a follow-up to Platman’s 2009 book, Art Workers Guild 125 Years: Craftspeople at Work Today, and peels the curtain to an extraordinary subculture that’s equal parts cult, craft, and tradition — a rare self-contained universe that bleeds into our own just enough to hook you with its fascination, but not so much as to lose its mystique.

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