Famous writers’ art and design July 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: art, arthur rimbaud, Books, charles baudelaire, charles bukowski, Design, dylan thomas, e.e. cummings, edgar allan poe, elizabeth barrett browning, famous writers, garcia lorca, george bernard shaw, h.g. wells, henry miller, Imprint, jack kerouac, joseph conrad, kurt vonnegut, lewis carroll, mark twain, roger hollander, rudyard kipling, steven brower, sylvia plath, william burroughs, Writers and Writing
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Visual work by William S. Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, Sylvia Plath and other greats
By Steven Brower,
I attended the High School of Music and Art in Harlem, graduating in 1970. As one might expect, it was a place rich with talent. The program was split in two (as the name implies), and as I walked the halls, music would pour out from every corner. What I found interesting then was that many of the talents spilled over from one side to the other. I can’t speak to the visual art of the music students, as it was not so evident, but many of the art students were among the best singer-songwriters and rock musicians in the school. Indeed, our most famous classmate, Paul Stanley (née Stan Eisen) of Kiss, was an art student. I played in bands for fifteen years or so myself.
Of course, the musician-as-artist is not an uncommon idea. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Tony Bennett, John Mellencamp, Ron Wood, Patti Smith, Leonard Cohen, and even Paul Stanley are all known to paint. Less well-known is that the world’s literati also are cross-talented — that in addition to writing works that have shaped our culture, many poets and authors have practiced visual art as a vital component of their creative output. From William S. Burroughs and Charles Bukowski to Henry Miller and Sylvia Plath, renowned writers of the twentieth century made paintings, drawings, and collages. These creative outpourings enhance our understanding of their authors’ written works and stand on their own merits, as well. Some of the art is whimsical; Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut, for instance, were inveterate doodlers. Other examples — such as the work of e.e. cummings — is astonishing in its mastery. Here is a look at the visual output of 19 literary greats.
A Sylvia Plath self-portrait
Plath made these paper dolls and dress designs as a child
Plath’s Tabac Opposite Palais de Justice (pen and ink)
Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) studied art at Smith College. Her interest began as a child, and her attraction to design and fashion is in evidence early on. While at Smith, she became quite accomplished in various media, including oil, collage, and pen-and-ink. She created myriad scrapbooks filled with collage and artwork. For a time, she hoped her illustrations would accompany the stories and articles she wrote for publication.
William S. Burroughs with two of his gunshot paintings
A Burroughs collage
Ever the provocateur, William S. Burroughs’s (1914–1997) most famous artworks were his gunshot paintings, made by targeting spray cans with a shotgun and splattering their contents onto blank canvases. Throughout his writing career, Burroughs created collages — and indeed, his most famous literary work, Naked Lunch, was a kind of collage itself. (Burroughs cut up the manuscript and reassembled the pieces randomly.) His interest in the visual extended into multimedia with the Dreammachine, a flickering light device meant to be viewed with one’s eyes closed, which he created in collaboration with Ian Sommerville and the artist Brion Gysin after reading William Grey Walt’s book The Living Brain.
A Lewis Carroll drawing of Alice
Wonderland drawings by Carroll (Click to view larger)
In addition to his classic tales, perhaps Lewis Carroll (1832–1898, née Charles Dodgson) is best known for his photography. But he also drew throughout his life, illustrating Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass himself (although the published books featured the work of illustrator John Tenniel). In addition, Carroll was a mathematician, a logician, an Anglican deacon, and an inventor. [On a related note, Print once asked four designers to storyboard their favorite scenes from Alice in Wonderland. --ed.]
A Henry Miller watercolor
Miller decorated the wrapper for the typescript of Remember to Remember with this self-portrait (pen and ink, 1946)
Tropic of Cancer author Henry Miller (1891–1980) painted for most of his life, producing upwards of 2,000 watercolors. He was self-taught, and not just as an artist — Miller attended the City College of New York for only one semester.
An e.e. cummings illustration for The Dial
A cummings portrait of Marion Morehouse, who was a fashion model, a photographer, and his third wife
The poet e.e. cummings (1953–1962) created hundreds of paintings and drawings and wrote about art, as well. He fashioned line-art and caricatures for The Dial, an avant-garde literary journal published in Greenwich Village. He would paint in the afternoons and write at night. In 1931, he published a collection of his drawings and paintings, titled CIOPW (for charcoal, ink, oil, pencil, watercolor), and he showed his worked regularly at galleries in New York.
Rudyard Kipling’s pen-and-ink design for his short story “The City of Dreadfull Night,” 1888
Kipling’s drawing for “How the Wale Got His Throat,” from Just So Stories
Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) grew up around art. His father was a sculptor, a pottery designer, and a professor of architectural sculpture at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy School of Art in Bombay. And two of his aunts were married to painters (Edward Burne-Jones and Edward Poynter). Rudyard worked in pen-and-ink; his Just So Stories, which combined his writing and illustrations, was published in 1902.
An untitled Charles Bukowski oil painting
A self-taught artist, Charles Bukowski (1920–1994) created more than 1,000 paintings in his lifetime. As with his writing, these works display an art-brut vitality. He worked in any media at hand: acrylics, oil paint, watercolor, pastel, crayon, and pen. Many of these works were bound into first editions of his books from Black Sparrow Press.
Jack Kerouac, comic book artist: Kerouac created this sequential page, “Doctor Sax and the Deception of the Sea Shroud,” to amuse Carolyn Cassady’s children, in 1952 or 1953 (Click to view larger)
Kerouac’s pencil sketch for the cover of his breakthrough novel, On the Road
Like Bukowski, Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) was self-taught in the visual arts and produced paintings, drawings, pen-and-ink pieces, and sketches. His artwork exhibits the same spontaneity as his writing and shows evidence of the influence of the abstract expressionists he befriended, including Willem de Kooning, Larry Rivers, and Franz Kline.
Mark Twain, “The House That Twain Built”
Twain, “Morning Song”
A rebus letter from Twain to his wife and daughters, 1881
Mark Twain (1835–1910, née Samuel Clemons) wrote essays on art and doodled in his journals, letters, and manuscripts, sometimes to entertain his children and sometimes for his own amusement. In addition, he used his artwork to secure patents for three inventions, including an “Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments” (to replace suspenders); a history trivia game; and a self-pasting scrapbook coated with a dried adhesive that only needed to be moistened before use.
Kurt Vonnegut, “Business Man”
Vonnegut, “Tout in Cohoes”
Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) also doodled in notebooks, and he created a combination self-portrait/signature that he would reuse often. He also produced incidental illustrations for his novels Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and Breakfast of Champions (1973). His grandfather and his father were both architects, and later in life, Vonnegut began to take art more seriously, which eventually led to a one-man show at the Margo Feiden Gallery in Greenwich Village in 1983. In 1995, he created an Absolut Vodka advertisement as part of the company’s American artists series. [See also: Seymour Chwast's great illustration of a Kurt Vonnegut quote.]
Edgar Allan Poe, portrait of Elmira Royster and self-portrait
Poe’s cover design for The Stylus
Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) tried his hand at drawing, making pencil sketches of his childhood sweetheart and eventual finacée, Elmira Rosyter, the inspiration for his poem “Lenore.” He also designed the cover to The Stylus, a literary journal he hoped to produce but that failed to gain financial backing.
Charles Baudelaire self-portrait, 1860
The French poet Charles Baudelaire’s (1821–1867) father was a drawing teacher and instilled in his son a lifelong appreciation of art. In addition to creating his own art, Baudelaire wrote several essays of aesthetic criticism titled “Salons,” and he was a close friend of Édouard Manet.
Arthur Rimbaud, “Three Citizens of Charleville,” drawn on the back of a map of India when he was 15 years old
Although he abandoned poetry by age nineteen, Arthur Rimbaud (1854–1891) continued to draw throughout his life. An inveterate world traveler, Rimbaud made many of his pencil sketches on the backs of maps.
Joseph Conrad, “Six Drawings of Women”
Another world traveler, Joseph Conrad (1857–1924, born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) recorded his travel experiences through art. In contrast to his exploration of humanity’s dark side in books like Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim, Conrad’s pen-and-ink work displays a light, refined line.
Federíco Garcia Lorca
As a young child, the Spanish poet, playwright, and theater director Federíco Garcia Lorca (1898–1936) played piano, sang, acted in plays, and decorated his letters and writings with fanciful drawings. Friends with the surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí, Lorca drew throughout his life. He also collaborated on a puppet theater with the painter Manuel Angeles Ortiz.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Flush”, 1843
The Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861) was home-schooled (and the eldest of twelve children). She would decorate the inside of the covers of her notebooks of poetry with pen and ink.
George Bernard Shaw
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) spent three years as an art critic for the London World. In addition to doing costume and stage design, he was an amateur photographer, drew numerous lighthearted cartoons and caricatures in pen and ink, and also worked in watercolor.
It is well known that Dylan Thomas (1914–1953) spent much time in pubs. What is less well-known is that he would entertain his companions by drawing caricatures of the other patrons on napkins.
H.G. Wells’s sketch of himself giving a talk at the Royal Institute, 1902. “I regard this picshua as a masterpiece only to be compared to the Paleolithic drawings in the Caves of Altima.”
The author and science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells (1866–1946) never took his artwork too seriously, but he kept a diary in the form of humorous drawings, numbering in the hundreds. He called them “picshuas”: “silly little sketches about this or that incident which became at last a sort of burlesque diary of our lives.”
For more drawings and sketches by creative minds, check out the book An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers, now on sale at MyDesignShop.com.
Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2012.
Salon is proud to feature content from Imprint, the fastest-growing design community on the web. Brought to you by Print magazine, America’s oldest and most trusted design voice, Imprint features some of the biggest names in the industry covering visual culture from every angle. Imprint advances and expands the design conversation, providing fresh daily content to the community (and now to salon.com!), sparking conversation, competition, criticism, and passion among its members.
Steven Brower is a graphic designer, writer and educator and the former Creative Director/ Art Director of Print. He is the author/designer of books on Louis Armstrong, Mort Meskin, Woody Guthrie and the history of mass-market paperbacks. He is Director of the “Get Your Masters with the Masters” low residency MFA program for educators and working professionals at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa. @stevenianbrower More Steven Brower.
Tags: art, artists, brendan smith, city parks, culture, first amendment, manhattan, mayor bloomberg, new york, new york city, nicola armster, nyc, popular art, popular culture, roger hollander, street art
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Last week a bubbly woman from Ohio stopped by our table in Union Square. “This is why I love coming to New York!” she explained as she flipped through our silkscreens. “Everywhere else I go, it’s the same imported crap in the stores. But out here, I can meet local artists making art with their own hands.”
Well, not for long…
Mayor Bloomberg’s legal henchmen have unilaterally issued an administrative ruling effectively barring most art from New York’s City’s parks. Under the false guise of “public safety” and “congestion” they’ve crafted a complex set of rules banning 80-90% of artists from even displaying their work in Columbus Circle, Union Square Park and any other public park in Manhattan. The rules range from permitting only four artists to set up in Columbus Circle to barring artists from coming within fifty feet of a monument or five feet from a garbage can.
The effect of the de-facto art ban, according to the Associated Press, is to “dramatically alter a colorful part of the cityscape that has for decades served as an outdoor gallery popular among tourists in a city known worldwide for its arts.”
Bloomberg deems us a “public nuisance” because we do not fit neatly into plan for New York as an uninterrupted commercial venture where public space is rented, bought and sold. As Robert Lederman, president of the 2000 member group ARTIST, points out:
If preventing congestion in public parks was a genuine concern…why are there daily corporate promotions in NYC parks by companies like Disney, Nike, Best Buy and JP Morgan Chase and a thousand others that involve huge displays, giant trucks, powerlines and other dangerous infrastructure?
Bloomberg’s rationale for the new rules is that artists are blocking walkways and creating a safety hazard. But the administration allows — indeed, encourages — commercial vendors to set up at these same locations, as long as they are paying rent to the city. In Battery Park, for example, artists are to be chased out but eight hot dog vendors will be allowed to stay in the most high congestion areas. Bloomberg isn’t worried about congestion; these rules are part of his larger plan to privatize and “monetize” our city’s parks.
New York Law School’s City Law journal wondered this week if Bloomberg and his Parks Department are privately “feeling hypocritical about their proposal”, since last year the administration “successfully defended in court its decision to install a commercial restaurant in Union Square’s pavilion.” Bloomberg argued that Unions Square is a “traditionally commercial area.”
My partner and I have been selling on the streets of New York City for nearly a decade and not once have we seen Mayor Bloomberg in a city park — although we’ve often seen his political minions blocking walkways to campaign during election time.
While he’s been dreaming of higher office and courting Wall Street, we’ve quietly joined musicians, farmers, social justice activists, gardeners and others in an effort to breathe life back into public spaces and revive a local, sustainable cultural economy in Manhattan. We choose to display and sell our work in city parks rather than in cloistered Chelsea galleries or Soho boutiques. We see ourselves as part of a long tradition of New York artists embedding ourselves in local community efforts to make the world a better and more beautiful place.
Bloomberg, who chooses to spend many of his weekends golfing at his Bahama resort, might find our work of little value, but average New Yorkers tell us every day that they treasure this flowering of grassroots culture in their parks. Just last week a 100 random NYC park-goers were stopped and asked if street artists enhanced or detracted from their park experience. Ninety-four of them stated that artists enhance New Yorkers’ park experience.
Our cracker-jack first amendment lawyers tell us we have a decent chance of beating Bloomberg in court — as we did against Giuliani in 1996 when a federal appeals court ruled that artists are protected by the First Amendment. And just this week the ACLU called on Bloomberg to withdraw his proposal. According to NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg:
Parks have historically been recognized as vitally important for social, artistic and political expression. The Parks Department should make every effort to accommodate our city’s artists, poets and authors. It must withdraw its proposal until it can publicly demonstrate it is meeting its First Amendment obligations.
But at the end of the day this battle is about far more than artists’ first amendment rights. This is a battle for the cultural soul of New York City — and every New Yorker has a stake in the outcome. As Lederman warns, Bloomberg and the Parks Commissioner see themselves as real estate agents “trying to get the highest price per square foot for all of our public parks. If the people of NYC don’t wake up to this soon, there will be no more truly public places left in America’s greatest city.”
Brendan Smith and his partner Nicola Armster have sold their green art on the streets of New York City for more than a decade. Read their Green Art Manifesto at www.nicolaandthenewfoundlander.com
’1934′: Reflecting On America’s First Big Art Buy March 5, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Economic Crisis, Labor.
Tags: art, artists, betsy broun, depression art, dorothea lange, earle richardson, elizabeth blair, franklin roosevelt, golden gate bridge, great depression, library of congress, migrant mother, morris kantor, national endowment arts, nea, New Deal, new deal artists, npr, photographers, ray strong, roger hollander, smithsonian, smithsonian american art museum, workers
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NPR, March 5, 2009
“Looking back on the legacy of the 1930s program … what we see is [that] they gave us back to ourselves.”
Betsy Broun, Smithsonian American Art Museum
Who Was Eligible?
Morning Edition, March 5, 2009 · The economic stimulus package Congress passed last month includes $50 million in emergency funding for the National Endowment for the Arts — money some legislators didn’t think belonged in the bill.
Doubters and supporters both, though, should find food for thought in a timely new show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum called “1934: A New Deal For Artists.” The show looks at the first time American artists — thousands of them — got direct government support.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, like today’s lawmakers, caught some flak for wanting to include artists in his relief program. He justified his decision, as American Art Museum director Betsy Broun explains, by saying, “They’re workers, and they need to eat, too.”
Broun says you can almost tell the artists were thankful, based on the vivid studies of the American experience they produced: a vibrant painting of a nighttime baseball game in West Nyack, N.Y., by Morris Kantor; an almost regal portrait of African-American cotton pickers by Earle Richardson; a wide view of the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge by Ray Strong.
“There was a lot of despair … and shame at being on government relief,” says Ann Wagner, one of the curators of the “New Deal” show. For both artists and Americans at large, “these works showed there was plenty to be proud of in their home areas.”
Wagner says the program ultimately produced more than 15,000 works, all of them intended for public spaces such as post offices, libraries and hospitals.
The success of the program led to more government investment in art and artists, with various programs throughout the Depression.
Accomplished photographers, for instance, were sent out specifically to document the effects of the Depression on rural America.
One result was Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother photograph. In a 1964 interview with the Smithsonian, Lange said the people she photographed were often grateful she was there to help record their stories.
“It meant a lot that the government in Washington was aware enough even to send you out,” said Lange.
Broun points out that Roosevelt once said, “A hundred years from now, my administration will be known for its art, not for its relief.” Looking back on the legacy of the ’30s program, Broun says, “what we see is [that] they gave us back to ourselves.”
Today, when it comes to arts money in the economic stimulus, expectations are different. Artists and arts organizations need to prove their work will pump money into the local economy.
But the New Deal did validate the role of artists in American society. Then, as now, the government did give money to artists — just so long as the artists give the country something practical in return.