To prove that we are seasonally or regionally promiscuous, today we’re talking about Christmas across the nation. Several years ago, our good friend Jan Fleming gave us a wonderful catalogue of holiday cards. The Deer Crest collection for 1960 describes the cards as having “the magic touch of truly cognitive artists.” I guess this means they weren’t brain dead or operating at a purely physical or unemotional place. If that were the case, perhaps they would be white cards with black Helvetica type that says plainly, “Holiday”. Oh wait, I think I saw those at Crate and Barrel. The cover of the catalogue is remarkable. There are many wonderful cards in here, some very sappy, and others religious. My favorites include the demon Santa in the Jack-in-the-box. Why? What does it mean? Is the falling key metaphorical? I covet the yellow, green, and pink Christmas trees on the Santa sprinkle card. I’ve always wanted a seafoam colored tree, but the world is in a “good taste” phase, so I’ll need to wait until everyone is comfortable and begins to love the garish again.
Archive for September, 2009
My reputation may include a preternatural optimism paired with bright, cheery colors and forms with a touch of a pop sensibility. Like most people, some of this is warranted, but I’m contradictory. I like the ordinary and banal. The photographer, Stephen Shore, is a master at taking everyday aspects of the modern environment and making art. His images seem unstudied and spontaneous. The color is naturalistic and the settings are ordinary. The imagery is related to photo-realist painters such as Richard Estes. The composition is impeccable. Every aspect of angle, proportion, scale, and tone have been carefully managed. The content of the image tends toward those mundane moments in life. I like the subtext; the everyday, ordinary world is beautiful and remarkable. Each moment of life, beyond the dramatic and eventful, is meaningful and amazing.
It’s really remarkable what you can find digging around your grandparents house. This button was made for the Richard Nixon campaign. The big question is: did my grandparents know what this means? If so, I’m shocked. And kind of disturbed.
A few weeks ago, Lou Danziger called and told us he was willing to part with his history slide library. Noreen immediately took him up on the offer and drove to his house to retrieve the treasure. I’d seen these slides before. Many, many, many years ago I was in Lou Danziger’s history of design class. This class was after lunch in a dark, warm room. Clearly, set up for sleeping. Now I wasn’t a kiss-ass (well, sort of), but I sat next to Lou and the old slide projector and was riveted. I remember the Lou’s description of the compositional structure of a Jules Chéret poster, and the ambiguity of color of a Josef Müller-Brockmann piece, but I was especially drawn to Alvin Lustig.
There was something tragic about his short life. He went blind from diabetes, insisted on continuing to design, and died at forty. His work is sublime. As usual, Steven Heller is the authority on Lustig, and his article “Born Modern” is an insightful and comprehensive analysis. I continue to be inspired by Lustig’s book covers. Including many of his pieces, I use the cover for Lorca’s 3 Tragedies as an example of juxtaposition in my class at Art Center. I like to think that this is a tribute, teaching at the same place he studied and lectured, and using his work as the highest example of an idea.
This is how I feel when I visit other designers’ houses: I usually feel like I live like an animal after I leave. Down the road, I’ll track down images of some of my favorites: Michael Vanderbyl’s Napa house, Debbie Millman’s slice of Palm Springs in Manhattan, Jennifer Morla in San Francisco, and others. But today, I only have photos of my own renovation. We moved into the house a couple of years ago. The family who built the house in 1954 lived there until we bought it. Fortunately, they had maintained most of the original qualities. Most of the renovations had to do with making things more functional, or better suited for the way we like to live. The most recent addition was the flagpole I got for Christmas last year for the lawn. Next up is the oddly enormous laundry room that is mysteriously bigger than the bedrooms. This comes in handy when I throw dirty dishes and laundry on the floor so I can really live like a wild animal.