Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

10 APRIL, 2012

500,000 Strangers’ Secrets: PostSecret Founder Frank Warren at TED

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Cracking open the shell of the human condition.

A friend once told me she believed secrets were these beautiful things that “break” when shared. But the breakage itself can be a thing of beauty.

Since January 1, 2005, strangers have been writing, drawing, collaging, doodling, and otherwise revealing their most tightly guarded secrets on anonymous postcards and mailing them to Frank Warren’s PostSecret project. Last month, Warren took the TED stage to share the remarkable story of this collective exercise in compassion and crack open the shell of the human condition.

Secrets can take many forms. They can be shocking or silly or soulful. They can connect us with our deepest humanity, or with people we’ll never meet.”

The project has since been adapted in a series of books, dancing in visceral detail across the entire spectrum of being human.

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06 APRIL, 2012

Waterlife: Exquisite Illustrations of Marine Creatures Based on Indian Folk Art

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From walls to paper, or what the eye of the octopus has to do with swans and women’s role in the arts.

I’ve been a longtime fan of independent Indian publisher Tara Books, who for the past 16 years has been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on remarkable handmade books, including I Like Cats, Do!, and Tara’s crown jewel, The Night Life of Trees. But now comes what’s positively the most exquisite book I’ve ever held in my hands: Waterlife by artist Rambharos Jha, who explores the marine wonderland through vibrant Mithila art, a form of folk painting from Bihar in eastern India.

'The Lobster's Secret'

'Crocodile Smile'

'Snake Festival'

Jha writes:

I was born in the culture-rich district of Darbanga, in the Mithila region. But my father moved along with all of us to Madhubani, where he started work in a government-supported art and cultural project. This project sought to breathe new life into local art traditions and also to help artists earn a living. Since women had traditionally decorated walls and courtyards, they participated in this project in large numbers…

Living as we did in Madhubani, I had a chance to look at what they were painting. I would spend hours watching them work. I had not known of this art earlier and wondered why I was drawn to it, and what purpose there could be in my being attracted to these lines and shapes? Mixing colours and ideas, the women drew pictures that took hold of my mind.

Jha eventually learned to draw himself, initially drawing on stories from Hindu mythology and eventually moving on to more secular subjects, pursuing his own creative impulse but remaining deeply inspired by tradition.

Mithila art was originally painted on the walls of houses during festival season, but in the late 1970s, it migrated from walls to paper.

The book comes in a limited edition of 3,000 hand-numbered copies and, like all handmade Tara gems, is screen-printed by local artisans in Chennai using traditional Indian dyes, whose earthy scent you can smell as you leaf through the thick, textured pages.

Waterlife was among 10 books I curated for the TED 2012 Bookstore and is, without a shadow of exaggeration, the most beautiful book I’ve ever laid eyes on. The screen does it no justice whatsoever.

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06 APRIL, 2012

Joel Robison’s Whimsical Photographic Abstractions of the Joy of Reading

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Imaginative visual vocabulary for that feeling you can’t put your finger on.

As a lover of books and advocate for reading, I was instantly enthralled by photographic artist Joel Robison’s whimsical visual abstractions of the reading experience and the joy of books that capture with equal parts imagination and reverence the familiar mesmerism of getting lost in a great book, the pleasure of curiosity tickled, and the explorer’s wonder of discovering new worlds.

Some of Joel’s prints, though sadly not the reading ones, are available on Etsy. You can see more of his wonderful work on his Flickr stream.

r/books

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