Mount Rushmore, as a tribute to a profession

April 9, 2018

It’s sort of a game: Which four people should be ensconced in much larger-than-life stone sculptures on the side of a mountain (preferably an ugly mountain that is not sacred to any First Nation, but I digress)?

Found a puzzle slanted toward a Rushmore of science, featuring Einstein, Curie, Newton and Darwin.

Puzzle created by Discover, honoring four greats of science.

Puzzle created by Discover, honoring four greats of science.

You can purchase the puzzle at MyScienceShop.com.

We’ve featured the Rushmore of Chicago blues here before, Mount Bluesmore, featured in Buddy Guy’s Legends bar and music venue. I understand the painting moved when Legends moved.

Mount Bluesmore, in the old Legends venue: Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin' Wolf.

Mount Bluesmore, in the old Legends venue: Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and Howlin’ Wolf.

Heck, this could be a great game: Name four people in any profession, art, field of endeavor, who should be featured on a Mount Rushmore-style monument. Above we’ve got science and Chicago blues. On the real Mount Rushmore, we’ve got the Rushmore of U.S. Presidents.

The real Rushmore, in South Dakota. It features Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, left to right. National Park Service image.

The real Rushmore, in South Dakota. It features Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, left to right. National Park Service image.

What other monuments could we have? Painting? Picasso and Rembrandt . . . but there are so many.

Renaissance painting. Abstract painting. Landscapes, portrait painters. Architects. Rock musicians. Classical musicians. Baseball. Football. American football. Fiction authors. Engineers. Women scientists. Tuskegee airmen (that would be tough; every one of them deserve it).

Who do you nominate, for what field?  Put nominations in comments. Include pictures if you find one. 

Others have played this game: 

Rushmore of Disastrous Presidents, featuring Trump, Hoover, George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon. By Dan Adel for Vanity Fair magazine.

Rushmore of Disastrous Presidents, featuring Trump, Hoover, George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon. By Dan Adel for Vanity Fair magazine.

Adel’s original, in 2007, featured Warren G. Harding in place of Trump.

Vanity Fair's Disastrous Presidents Rushmore, in 2007, by artist Dan Adel, adding Warren G. Harding, before Trump.

Vanity Fair’s Disastrous Presidents Rushmore, in 2007, by artist Dan Adel, adding Warren G. Harding, before Trump.

A ghost Rushmore, featuring Native American leaders:

Four Native Americans posed as alternatives for Rushmore. (Challenge: Can you accurately identify the four? Please do.)

Four Native Americans posed as alternatives for Rushmore. (Challenge: Can you accurately identify the four? Please do.)

A classical music proposal (would you choose differently?)”

Left to right, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Gagambo, at Deviant Art.

Left to right, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. Gagambo, at Deviant Art.

Sioux tribes have undertaken a drive to respond to what many consider a desecration of their sacred lands, with a massive monument to Crazy Horse, still being carved, and incredibly impressive (if you visit, spend a lot of time at the museum):

More: 

Tribute to Sonny Boy Williamson at the Chicago Blues Festival, 2010:

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Chess games of the rich and famous: Daumier’s Parisian players

March 7, 2018

Honore Daumier (1808-1879), 1863 painting

Honore Daumier (1808-1879), 1863 painting “The Chess Players” (“Les joueurs d’échecs”) Wikimedia image

You can find these two men playing chess in the Petit Palais, Paris.


Impromptu and confusing art. Or is it construction?

February 28, 2018

Our family, our sons and my wife, will recognize this thread, in spirit at least.

Funny enough.

Then . . .

The whole thread is worth reading.

My family? Well, there was that tour of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth a few years back . . .

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth - Diagonal of May 25, 1963 1963 Dan Flavin American, 1933-1996 Warm white fluorescent light, edition 2/3 96 inches

Diagonal of May 25, 1963 1963 Dan Flavin American, 1933-1996 Warm white fluorescent light, edition 2/3 96 inches Although Dan Flavin is invariably described as one of the patriarchs of Minimalist sculpture—along with his colleagues Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Robert Morris—he has generally rejected the appellation “Minimalist” and even the term “sculpture” as too confining a designation, often pointing out that his works are ephemeral, temporary, and installed in relation to given architectural conditions. Flavin began making his signature works of industrially prefabricated fluorescent tubes and fixtures in 1963. Emanating different colors of light, Flavin’s installations have an indeterminate volume and appear virtually without mass, and it is true that their ethereal presence remains distinct from the emphatic physicality of most Minimalist sculpture. A more rigorous connection can be seen with Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades, which offer an important precedent for Flavin’s off-the-shelf materials and his reliance on the common, found object. Like Duchamp, Flavin considered his works to be “proposals” rather than sculptures, part of a system of investigations rather than static objects. Diagonal of May 25, 1963, 1963 is one of Flavin’s first and most important investigations into the formal possibilities of using standard fluorescent light fixtures in commercially available colors. The image of the diagonal was a critical early theme executed by the artist, in series and according to simple mathematical configurations. Flavin made a number of diagonal “proposals” in different colors, alternating their angles from right to left. Flavin executed the first diagonal in gold light, subsequently making diagonals in green, yellow, and red. The Museum’s Diagonal of May 25, 1963 may be the most conceptually and formally pure work in the series: pure white, ultraviolet light. In his 1965 essay “‘…in daylight or cool white.’ an autobiographical sketch,” Flavin refers to the Diagonal of May 25, 1963 as a “diagonal of personal ecstasy” describing its “forty-five degrees above horizontal” position as one of “dynamic equilibrium.” The artist envisioned the diagonal as a contemporary symbol that “in the possible extent of its dissemination as a common strip of light or a shimmering slice across anybody’s wall, had the potential for becoming a modern technological fetish.”(1) – Michael Auping (1) Dan Flavin, “‘…in daylight or cool white.’ an autobiographical sketch,” Artforum 4 (December 1965): 20–24.

For the record, we tend to seek out modern art pieces that compare to Flavin’s work now, having found some in later visits to Fort Worth, some in the Dallas Museum of Art, and some in the Whitney Museum in New York, and in other places, that offer wonderful opportunities to ponder modern life, what is art, and to laugh.


FDR’s hands, and Fala’s ears

January 24, 2018

How do humans interact with sculpture?

This is a photo (I do not know the photographer) of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his dog Fala, from the FDR Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., sculpture of President Roosevelt, in his Navy Cape, in his wheelchair, and his dog, Fala. (Do you know the photographer?)

FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., sculpture of President Roosevelt, in his Navy Cape, in his wheelchair, and his dog, Fala. (Do you know the photographer?) (Photo borrowed from the Facebook page, The Commons)

Some sculptors understand people want to touch the statue, and design them for touching. Others do not — but the public tends to have its way. Bronze statues within touching distance of the public offer an opportunity to see where people actually touch the things, over time. At my visit to this memorial in 2012, only the tips of Fala’s ears showed the affectionate touches of the public.

An exception can be found near this extended garden of statues (the FDR Memorial includes statues of his wife, Eleanor, and bronze portrayals of American life in the Great Depression, whose ending Roosevelt presided over). At the Korean War Memorial, a stunning and sobering display of statues, a patrol of 19 U.S. Army men prowls across the landscape. So many people walked among the statues and touched their sometimes delicate features that the National Park Service, with approval of the sculptor I understand, chained it off. Look but do not touch.

What do these repeated touchings of statuary tell us about ourselves?

More:


History and art: Lyndon Johnson, Civil Rights, Vietnam, Stephen Stucky, the Dallas Symphony, and “August 4, 1964”

August 4, 2017

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jaap van Zweden, presents the premiere of Steven Stucky's oratorio

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Jaap van Zweden, presents the premiere of Steven Stucky’s oratorio “August 4, 1964,” with soloists, from left, mezzo-soprano Kelley O’Connor, soprano Laquita Mitchell, tenor Vale Rideout, and baritone Robert Orth. Photo from the National Endowment for the Arts, Jason Kindig

In an era when our president and Congress appear unable to deal with one issue on a good day, it may be instructive to look back to a day upon which one U.S. President handled a lot, all at once.

On August 4, 1964, President Johnson awoke to the news that two U.S. Navy ships cruising in the Tonkin Gulf had been fired upon by North Vietnamese Navy gunboats; then the FBI called and announced that the bodies of three civil rights workers had been found, young men registering African Americans to vote in Mississippi.  Both of these events rumble through history like a Rocky Mountain avalanche to today; either was a make-or-break event for any presidency.  

Lyndon Johnson dealt with them both, the same day. And though Vietnam did not turn out for the best, it’s useful to note that Johnson’s call for Congress to grant authority to act on the Tonkin incident got results just three days later.

Sadly we note that Stephen Stucky, the composer of this great piece, died of brain cancer on February 14, 2016.

“August 4, 1964,” is an oratorio covering a remarkable and fantastic coincidence in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.  On that day, the bodies of three civil rights workers who had been missing for nearly seven weeks, were found in shallow graves near Philadelphia, Mississippi — they were the victims of violence aimed at stopping blacks from voting.  The incident was a chief spur to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

And also on that day, the U.S.S. Maddox reported it had been attacked by gunboats of the North Vietnamese Navy, in the Gulf of Tonkin.  The Gulf of Tonkin incident led to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the authority to expand and escalate the war in Vietnam, which he did.

Cover for the CD of the Dallas Symphony's performance of Steven Stucky's

Cover for the CD of the Dallas Symphony’s Grammy-nominated performance of Steven Stucky’s “August 4, 1964,” Jaap van Zweden conducting.

The Dallas Symphony commissioned the work, from composer Steven Stucky and librettist Gene Scheer, in commemoration of President Johnson’s 100th birth anniversary — he would have been 100 on August 27, 2008.  The works were premiered in Dallas in 2008.

The music is outstanding, especially for a modern piece.  The Dallas Symphony played at its flashiest and most sober best, under the baton of new conductor Jaap van Zweden.  It was a spectacular performance.  According to the New York Times:

Mr. van Zweden, hailed in his debut as music director a week before, scored another triumph here. And the orchestra’s assured and gritty performance was rivaled by that of the large Dallas Symphony Chorus, both corporately and individually, in shifting solo snippets charting the course of the fateful day.

The strong cast, mildly amplified, was robustly led by the Johnson of Robert Orth, last heard as another president in John Adams’s “Nixon in China” in Denver in June. Laquita Mitchell and Kelley O’Conner, wearing period hats, were touching as Mrs. Chaney and Mrs. Goodman. Understandably, the taxing role of a high-strung McNamara took a small toll on the tenor of Vale Rideout in his late aria.

The entire thing deserves more commentary, perhaps soon.  There is stellar history in the choral piece.  And there is this:  Consider that Lyndon Johnson, the best legislator and second most-effective executive we ever had as president, got hit with these two crises the same day.  On the one hand the nation got the Voting Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, executive orders and government support to end segregation and the evils it created.  On the other hand, we got stuck with the disaster of the Vietnam War.

How would the nation fared had a lesser person been in the White House on that day?

(August 4 is a busy, busy day in history; much to think about.)

More: 

This is an encore post.

Much of this is an encore post.

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Quote of the moment: Kennedy, art is truth, not propaganda (reprise)

June 26, 2017

President John F. Kennedy at the ground breaking of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College, Massachusetts, October 26, 1963

President John F. Kennedy at the ground breaking of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst College, Massachusetts, October 26, 1963

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” 

Remarks at Amherst College upon receiving an Honorary Degree (439),” October 26, 1963, Public Papers of the Presidents: John F. Kennedy, 1963. Via JFK Library

More:

Audio of the speech at Youtube:

Amherst student newspaper report on the event, image:

The Amherst Student, front page, special convocation edition, October 23, 1963. Headline,

The Amherst Student, front page, special convocation edition, October 23, 1963. Headline, “Kennedy given honorary LLD, envisions a future America.”

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Beethoven’s birthday and baptism, and accident on the way to the concert hall

December 18, 2016

Beethoven takes an unplanned swim in his rush to the concert hall in Google's Doodle honoring the composer's 245th year. Image from Google, via Washington Post

Beethoven takes an unplanned swim in his rush to the concert hall in Google’s Doodle honoring the composer’s 245th year, 2015. Image from Google, via Washington Post.

Maybe we should say “happy baptism.” The infant Ludwig von Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770; he was born the previous day, perhaps (some historians disagree). In 2016, Beethoven is 246. No longer alive, of course.

But the point is, Google honored Beethoven with an interactive Google Doodle in 2015, one of the best they’ve ever done. The Doodle features the composer finishing scores and heading to the concert hall — with a series of mishaps along the way that scatter his musical scores and leaves them torn up, speared and generally out of order.

Then you, Dear Reader, get a chance to re-arrange the score in order. When you do that, it plays. Finally Beethoven gets to the concert hall.

It’s a great learning device, really. Can Google do this for history? Can we figure out a way to create these for use in our classrooms?

Here is the intro to the piece (I’m not skilled enough to embed the entire quiz). Click to Google for the entire piece, with the quizzes.

Now that you’ve finished the quizzes, relax for 42 minutes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, The Pastorale, performed by the Bremen symphonie, directed by Paavo Jarvi.

Information:

Beethoven: Symphony No.6 in F, “Pastorale”, Op.68
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Jarvi, dir.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience. Just teaching history requires patience.

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