Brain Pickings

Created Equal: Parallel Portraits of Cultural Difference

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Nearly two years ago, we explored Exactitudes — a visual study of similarity within subcultures. Now, we turn to the opposite: From photographer Mark Laita comes Created Equal — a visual study of diffrence between subcultures.

The stunning series of parallel portraits juxtaposes people from opposite ends of the cultural, ideological or socioeconomic spectrum, offering a subtle reminder of our shared humanity despite the clash and separation of our circumstances.

In America, the chasm between rich and poor is growing, the clash between conservatives and liberals is strengthening, and evil and good seem more polarized than ever before. At the heart of this collection of diptychs is my desire to remind us that we are all equal, until our environment, circumstances or fate molded and weathered us into whom we have become.” ~ Mark Laita

Country Fair Livestock Show Contestant / Cajun Man

Ballerina / Boxer

Homeless Man / Real Estate Developer

Baptist Minister / Ku Klux Klan

Polygamist / Pimp

Gangster / Mafioso

Company President / Janitor

Mariachis / Elvis Impersonators

Fur Trapper / Woman with Dog

Baptist Churchgoer / White Supremacist

Amish Teenagers / Punk Teenagers

Bank Robber / Deputies

Astronaut / Alient Abductee

Completed over the course of eight years, Created Equal captures the poignant polarity of contemporary culture.

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Waiting for Hockney: Documenting a Dreamer’s Determination

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Patience and devotion are necessary ingredients for almost all art. But for Baltimore artist Billy Pappas, they exist on an entirely different plane. After becoming obsessed with the idea of drawing the richest, most real portrait in history, Pappas spent eight years meticulously crafting a reproduction of an iconic Marilyn Monroe photograph, pouring up to a day into a single hair of microscopic anatomical accuracy. When he was finally done, he realized it would take a special kind of eye to truly appreciate his feat. So he set out to put it in front of iconic contemporary artist David Hockney, who Pappas came to believe was his ticket to success in the art world. But what happens when Pappas, flying from Maryland to Los Angeles armed with a cake his mother baked for the occasion, finally scores the big meeting?

Waiting for Hockney is filmmaker Julie Checkoway‘s fascinating documentary about Pappas’ obsession, narrated by the artist himself and featuring interviews with his unusually supportive family and friends, revealing the anatomy of an eccentric obsession.

Though about art, Waiting for Hockney, isn’t an art documentary. Rather, it’s the moving and deeply human story of a dreamer’s determination, exploring the extreme end of the same spectrum of single-minded dedication across which all of our aspirations slide.

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Visions of the Future: Isaac Asimov’s Unrealized Pilot

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What vintage computers have to do with unrealized TV series and the future of humanity.

We love iconic science fiction author and futurist Isaac Asimov, whose keen insights on creativity in education were a favorite last month. Two years before his death, Asimov recorded a pilot for a TV series synthesizing his visionary ideas about where humanity is going. When he passed away in 1992, the pilot for the series was adapted into a tribute documentary titled Visions of the Future, now available on YouTube in four parts, totaling 40 minutes of rare footage and biographical background on the great thinker.

The series was intended to cover new breakthroughs in science and technology, preparing people for the coming future — essentially, the antithesis to the Future Shock series narrated by Orson Welles.

Most fascinating of all are Asimov’s thoughts on computers, which may seem like common sense today but in fact presage the modern applications of computing, from mobile technology to consumer electronics to artificial intelligence, by two decades.

Perhaps the most revolutionary development of recent years has been that of the computer. Because for the first time we’ve discovered a machine that can substitute, at least in part, the human brain. Before that, it was just a matter of saving human muscles, of using machinery to spare what human muscles couldn’t do very well.” ~ Isaac Asimov

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