Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

30 APRIL, 2014

Lisbeth Zwerger’s Imaginative Illustrations for Alice in Wonderland

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“Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined…”

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, commonly shorthanded to Alice in Wonderland, isn’t only one of the most imaginative and influential children’s books of all time, but also one of the most enduringly alluring to artists for visual reinterpretation — no doubt precisely due to its fanciful nature and bold subversion of reality. Since John Tenniel’s original illustrations, the Carroll classic has been reimagined by such visionary artists as Leonard Weisgard, Ralph Steadman, Yayoi Kusama, John Vernon Lord, and even Salvador Dalí.

As an enormous admirer of Austrian artist Lisbeth Zwerger’s mind and work, I was thrilled to track down a used copy of a sublime out-of-print edition of Alice in Wonderland (public library) featuring Zwerger’s inventive, irreverent, and tenderly tantalizing drawings, published in 1999, three years after her enchanting reimagining of The Wizard of Oz.

The book begins with Carroll’s prefatory poem from the book, which recounts the afternoon boat trip on which he first told the Alice in Wonderland story to the three little Liddell sisters — Lorina (“Prima”), Alice (“Secunda”), the real-life girl who inspired the tale, and Edith (“Tertia”):

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.

Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale of breath too weak
To stir the tiniest feather!
Yet what can one poor voice avail
Against three tongues together?

Imperious Prima flashes forth
Her edict to “begin it”:
In gentler tones Secunda hopes
“There will be nonsense in it!”
While Tertia interrupts the tale
Not more than once a minute.

Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast —
And half believe it true.

And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by,
“The rest next time—” “It is next time!”
The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out—
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand,
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band,
Like pilgrim’s wither’d wreath of flowers
Pluck’d in far-off land.

What makes Zwerger’s aesthetic particularly bewitching is her ability to render even the wildest feats of fancy in a soft and subdued style that tickles the imagination into animating the characters and scenes with life.

Though Alice in Wonderland is currently out of print, you can still find used copies online and at the library. Complement it with some radically different takes on the Carroll classic from Ralph Steadman, Yayoi Kusama, and John Vernon Lord.

Some of Zwerger’s prints, including one of the Alice cover illustration, are available on ArtKandy.

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29 APRIL, 2014

Salvador Dalí’s Rare, Erotic Vintage Cookbook

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A surreally sensual love letter to the palate.

“When I was six years old,” Salvador Dalí once professed, “I wanted to be a cook.” But it wasn’t until his late sixties that he channeled his childhood fantasy into Les Diners de Gala (public library) — a lavishly illustrated cookbook, originally published in 1973 and featuring Dalí’s intensely erotic etchings and paintings. The twelve chapters each cover a specific class of dishes — from exotic courses to fish and shellfish to vegetables — rendered with a surrealist twist both gastronomically and aesthetically, but nowhere more so than in the tenth chapter, dedicated to aphrodisiacs.

Prefacing the recipes is Dalí’s unambiguous cautionary disclaimer, penned at the dawn of the first major dieting era of popular culture:

We would like to state clearly that, beginning with the very first recipes, Les Diners de Gala, with its precepts and its illustrations, is uniquely devoted to the pleasures of Taste. Don’t look for dietetic formulas here.

We intend to ignore those charts and tables in which chemistry takes the place of gastronomy. If you are a disciple of one of those calorie-counters who turn the joys of eating into a form of punishment, close this book at once; it is too lively, too aggressive, and far too impertinent for you.

Also found throughout the book are Dalí’s amusingly dramatic proclamations, vacillating between the semi-sensical and the philosophic, applied here to the realm of gastronomy. To wit:

I only like to eat what has a clear and intelligible form. If I hate that detestable degrading vegetable called spinach it is because it is shapeless, like Liberty.

I attribute capital esthetic and moral values to food in general, and to spinach in particular. The opposite of shapeless spinach, is armor. I love eating suits of arms, in fact I love all shell fish… food that only a battle to peel makes it vulnerable to the conquest of our palate.

And:

The Jaw is our best tool to grasp philosophical knowledge. Disgust is the ever present watchman of my table, sternly overseeing my meals obliging me to choose my food with caution.

CONGER OF THE RISING SUN

6 slices of conger eel
6 slices of fatty bacon
1 caul (casing which will be stuffed)
12 small lettuce leaves
12 oz raw soya beans (or canned soya)
6 teaspoons of heavy cream
1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of flour
1 teaspoon of curry powder
Cayenne pepper

First of all, let us prepare the slices of conger eel by removing the skin and the central bone, one by one. Then place the pieces on a strip of bacon (cut to match the size of the piece of eel) and each of these on to a much larger piece of the caul. Add salt and pepper, then, on each piece of the eel, put a leaf of lettuce, on top of which you add 2 oz of soya beans (raw soya is the best, but canned soya will do). Sprinkle then with curry powder, salt, pepper. Pour a teaspoon of heavy cream over it, cover with a second leaf of lettuce and tuck in the caul on the four sides to wrap up all the ingredients of this recipe.

Using a very large skillet cook the fish slices on top of the range, simmering slowly, in a tablespoon of butter for 40 minutes. Be sure to go about it gently. Remove the slices and keep them warm; in the skillet, add the flour. Do not let it get brown; combine with the heavy cream and curry, taste for seasoning. Let it all boil for a little while and pour over the slices of the conger eel.

CRAYFISH CONSOMMÉ

2 ¼ lbs of crayfish (or shrimp)
2 quarts of water
Cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of paprika
saffron
1 lb of veal chopped
4 fistfuls of rice
4 egg yolks

In a big pot you pour the water, salt, a dash of Cayenne pepper, paprika, saffron, chopped veal, and rice.

As soon as the broth begins to boil, crush your crayfish in a mortar, one after the other. Be sure to really crush them to a pulp and add them progressively to the broth. Keep it boiling for 45 minutes.

The broth is then strained “Chinese style” i.e.; in a sieve that you can push with a wooden spoon so as to get all the juice out. Put back on the fire, stir and add the egg yolks without letting it boil. Your consommé is ready. May I suggest that you serve it with thin garlic toasts.

THOUSAND YEAR OLD EGGS

1 dozen eggs
1 ½ quarts of water
5 whole cloves
3 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of vinegar
Tabasco sauce
2 lemons (cut in 8 pieces)
¾ teaspoon of thyme
4 tea-bags
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic

You certainly know these thousand year old eggs, one of the crowns of Chinese cuisine. We will not presume here to reach their ultimate perfection, but we will simply try to help you follow an amusing recipe which has the advantage of being prepared ahead of time.

First, boil the eggs for ten minutes in salted boiling water. Then take them out, put them under cold running water which will make it easier to shell them. In the same water in which the eggs had boiled, add the cloves, sugar, vinegar, a lot of Tabasco sauce, the lemons (cut in eighths) and thyme. Boil for 15 minutes. Shut off the flame, dip in the tea-bag and let them steep for 10 minutes.

In a jar, put the diced onions and garlic. Add the shelled eggs, and pour the broth so that the eggs are completely immersed. Close the jar and keep it on the lower shelf of your refrigerator.

Be patient for three weeks before opening the jar and serving. These eggs go well with cold meats and fish.

TOP ROUND “EROS”

1 tablespoon shortening
1 Toulouse sausage
2 lbs top round
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 anchovies
2 onions sliced
6 tomatoes seeded and cut into pieces
2 red peppers
6 stalks celery
3 quarts water

First buy the sausage then hand it over to your butcher so that he can cut a piece of top round that will wrap around it. Fry the sausage in the shortening for about 10 minutes. Brush the one side of the top round with mustard; put the anchovies on top, then the sausage, roll, tie up with string.

In a Dutch oven, brown the meat in shortening. When the meat turns golden, replace it with the onions, and when they are golden, add the tomatoes as well as the garlic and red peppers.

Cover after a while. The tomatoes will produce a juice and start boiling; put the meat back and salt carefully (because of the anchovies).

Simmer gently for 1 ½ hours.

Pare the celery stalks, cut off the green parts and tips of leaves, peel the root.

Cut it in half and wash thoroughly, especially between the leaves.

Bring salted water to a boil and cook the celery for 15 minutes. Cool under running water. After half an hour, place the celery around the top round.

It will cook in the meat juice for one hour.

CASANOVA COCKTAIL

The juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon bitters (Campari)
1 teaspoon ginger
4 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons old brandy (Vielle Cure)
1 pinch Cayenne pepper

This is quite appropriate when circumstances such as exhaustion, overwork or simply excess of sobriety are calling for a pick-me-up.

Here is a well-tested recipe to fit the bill.

Let us stress another advantage of this particular pep-up concoction is that one doesn’t have to make the sour face that usually accompanies the absorption of a remedy.

At the bottom of a glass, combine pepper and ginger. Pour the bitters on top, then brandy and “Vielle Cure.” Refrigerate or even put in the freezer.

Thirty minutes later, remove from the freezer and stir the juice of the orange into the chilled glass.

Drink… and wait for the effect.

It is rather speedy.

Les Diners de Gala is now so rare that surviving copies, to say nothing of those very rare signed ones, cost a fortune. Complement it with more little-known treasures at the intersection of food and the arts, including The Futurist Cookbook, The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, Dinah Fried’s beautiful photographs of meals from famous fiction, and Wild Raspberries, the little-known cookbook young Andy Warhol did with his mother.

For more of Dalí’s lesser-known creative projects and commissions, see his illustrations for Don Quixote, the essays of Montaigne, Alice in Wonderland, Romeo and Juliet, The Divine Comedy, and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Thanks, Elena

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28 APRIL, 2014

Drawing Autism: A Visual Tour of the Autistic Mind from Kids and Celebrated Artists on the Spectrum

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Pattern-recognition, demon-taming, and a humbling invitation into a different way of experiencing the world.

Autism and its related conditions remain among the least understood mental health issues of our time. But one significant change that has taken place over the past few years has been a shift from perceiving the autistic mind not as disabled but as differently abled — and often impressive in its difference, as in extraordinary individuals like mathematical mastermind Daniel Tammet or architectural savant Gilles Trehin. And yet despite the stereotype of the autistic mind as a methodical computational machine, much of its magic — the kind most misunderstood — lies in its capacity for creative expression.

Three years after the original publication, New-York-based behavior analyst Jill Mullin returns with an expanded edition of Drawing Autism (public library | IndieBound) — a beautiful and thoughtful celebration of the vibrantly creative underbelly of autism, featuring contributions from more than 50 international graphic artists and children who fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, with a foreword by none other than Temple Grandin.

Kay Aitch: Lost in Thought

For artist Kay Aitch, who was diagnosed with Autism at the age of fifty-one, the creative process is a form of pattern-recognition — one of the typically recognized fortes of the autistic mind. She tells Mullin:

Everything around me inspires me to create art. What inspires me about creating art is the process of making marks, the feel of things, the seeing shapes and patterns in things.

Eleni Michael: Dancing with the Dog

Artist Eleni Michael celebrates the soul-expanding power of dogs amid trauma:

This was painted in 1995, not long after I had moved into a housing project for people with special needs. I was euphoric about my new home—a self-contained flat surrounded by a huge garden in a rural setting. (This idyll did not last long.) I brought my dog Jasper with me. He was the only lively animal there and brought great pleasure to me and all of the residents in the project. They loved him too and enjoyed playing with him and petting him. Jasper was a healthy presence and completely indiscriminate with his friendships.

Emily L. Williams: Leap Years

Urging that “talents need to be carefully nurtured and directed,” Temple Grandin writes in the foreword:

When I was a child, my mother nurtured my artistic ability. I was always encouraged to draw many different subjects. As an adult, I used my artistic talent for my business of designing livestock handling facilities. One of the lessons my mother taught me that really helped to develop my skills was to create pictures that other people would want.

In elementary school, I drew many pictures of horses. Individuals on the autism spectrum often become fixated on their favorite things. As a child I would keep drawing the same things over and over. The great motivation of these fixations has been channeled into the creation of all the beautiful art featured in this book.

As a longtime admirer of Gregory Blackstock’s obsessive visual lists, I was especially delighted to see his artwork included in the book:

Gregory Blackstock: The Balls

Repetitive patterns and visual taxonomies, in fact, are a recurring feature across a number of the pieces, such as this magnificent visual list of birds by 10-year-old David Barth:

David Barth: Birds

Kevin Hosseini: New York at Night

Eric Chen: Mirror Mind (1)

Eric Chen: Mirror Mind (2)

Eric Chen: Mirror Mind (3)

Eric Chen: Mirror Mind (4)

Emily L. Williams: They Take Away Your Razors, Your Shoelaces, and Your Belt

Some of the pieces blend broader symbolism with the harrowing specificity of the artists’ lives. Emily L. Williams reflects on the artwork above:

This is a small portion of a larger piece that’s yet to be completed. The larger piece is one of three in a series, focusing symbolically on psychiatric units, utilizing hell as an analogy. The demons in the piece were inspired by twelfth-century works depicting hell and the Final Judgment. The piece was also inspired by some of my own hospital stays in the past. While I was never a suicide risk, I always found it odd that none of the patients could have any of the items listed in the title of this piece. I understood the logic and the risk to suicidal patients, but nevertheless still found it strange to be walking around in shoes with their tongues hanging out or to have unshaven legs.

Wil C. Kerner: Pals

For 12-year-old Wil C. Kerner, it is his grandmother who explains the inspiration behind his piece:

The key in understanding Pals is the brown-rimmed, off-white donkey ear. Four facial expressions depict the bad boys turning into donkeys in the movie Pinocchio: purple-faced Pinocchio is stunned by his new ear and considering what to do; it’s too late for the horrified yellow face; the green trapezoid is oblivious to his pending fate; the blue head is looking away, hoping he’s not included.

Drawing Autism is absolutely wonderful in its entirety. Complement it with artist Bobby Baker’s visual diary of mental illness.

All images courtesy of Akashic Books / Jill Mullin

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28 APRIL, 2014

Six Rare Recordings of Denise Levertov Reading Her Poetry, Illustrated by Artist Ohara Hale

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Love songs, muses, and paradise in the dust of the street.

Between 1963 and 1991, British-born American writer Denise Levertov — recipient of the prestigious Robert Frost medal, a Guggenheim fellow, and one of my all-time favorite poets — gave several spectacular readings at the 92nd Street Y in New York, the recordings of which have been slumbering away in the institution’s vault. In this second installment of my partnership with the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92Y — following Susan Sontag’s wide-ranging lecture on the project of literature — I’ve selected six of Levertov’s poetry readings to bring back to life.

But this is a double delight: I asked Montreal-based artist Ohara Hale — one of the most original and bewitching illustrators working today, and an enchanting musician — to respond to Levertov’s poems in the style of her singular visual haikus, creating one piece of art for each recording. The resulting three-way labor of love, months in the making, is a celebration of poetry, comics, and the cross-pollination of the arts — please enjoy.

As is customary for the Brain Pickings artist series, we’ve made prints of the artwork available, with 100% of proceeds benefiting A Room of Her Own, a foundation supporting women writers and artists.

Dive deeper with The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (public library), treat yourself to Hale’s delicious forthcoming book of comics, and see more of her unbearably wonderful work on her site.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.