There is Nothing Harder at Task for Haida the Mask

Among the Haida people from the Pacific Northwest of North America existed secret religious societies that performed dances in which they wore wooden masks or carried wooden puppets that represented gagid, or the spirits of the forest.

gagid mask can be either male or female and usually has a wrinkled face and a gaping mouth. The masks tend to be painted bluish-green but sometimes earrings were added to the mask.

Masks were also worn at potlatches, (ceremonial banquets where a family observed a wedding or a funeral with feasting, dancing and speeches). The culmination of a potlatch came when the host distributed gifts of food and blankets to its guests.

  • Once Christian missionaries made inroads among the Haida, the secret societies died out and so did the Haida mask-making.

The Haida had a very long tradition of wood-carving. Beginning about 2000 years ago, they made canoes and rattles; carved and painted boxes and chests; and fashioned the equipment and furnishings necessary for a potlatch and they traded these items with neighbouring tribes for food, furs and other necessities.

  • When the visiting sailors, explorers, traders and settlers arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the 1840s, they were astonished by the high level of craftsmanship of Haida woodcarving.
  • In response, recognizing that they had a new market, Haida artists began creating pieces for Americans, Canadians and Europeans. One of the most popular items were Haida masks, which to meet the demand, the woodcarvers turned out by the thousands.
  • Today, most Haida masks found in private and museum collections were made in the 19th C, not for religious rituals but for the tourist trade.

No need to feel ripped off, just be aware, because, the Haida the Mask; the Harder the Task – for full authentication.


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Lotte Lenya and the Ballad of Mack the Knife

Portrait of Lotte Lenya by Saul Bolasni.

The famous Austrian-born singer and actress, Lotte Lenya  was born Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer on 18 October 1898, to Catholic working class parents in Vienna. In 1914, she studied in Zürich, taking her first job at the Schauspielhaus, using the stage name Lotte Lenja. She later moved to Berlin in 1921 to seek work.

The following year, Lenya was noticed by German composer Kurt Weill, (who later became her husband), during an audition for his first stage score. She was cast, but owing to the  loyalty to her voice coach, she declined the role. It would take another two years before Lenya and Weill would meet again, in 1924.

It was then, that she accepted the part of Jenny in the first performance of the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill play, “The Threepenny Opera” (Die Dreigroschenoper) in 1928, which  became her break-through role.

  • Although Lenya and Weill married in 1926, they divorced in 1933, only to reconcile in September 1935, after emigrating to the United States.
  • They remarried in 1937.
  • Kurt Weill died in 1950.
  • Lottie Lenya died in Manhattan of cancer on 27 November, 1981, aged 83.
  • She is buried next to Weill at Mount Repose Cemetery in Haverstraw, New York.

The following is from one of the Operas’ most famous songs: Die Moritat von Mackie Messer (“The Ballad of Mack the Knife”).

“Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight”.

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Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

Above is the cover design for Japanese ‘Rainbow’ Ne-Ne stationery note-paper designed ca. 1969.

Japan has a plethora of smart pieces of stationery with both practical and sophisticated design elements. Japan is the design stationery capital of the world. Stationery fans love to visit Japan for so many reasons but most of all it is to see a thriving culture of loving stationery! Precise, elegant, and refined, design stationery notebooks, pens, pencils and accessories ‘Made in Japan’ are of the highest and most enduring quality.

  • As for information about the image above: The artist details are unknown, but the paper appears to be related to Nakamra Seiko, who produced the Seiko Quartz Astron 35 SQ, which was the first quartz wristwatch on the market.
  • Regardless of its Seiko connection, it sure is colourful, and if you wear some flowers in your hair, …

maybe … summertime will be a love-in there.

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Nothing Like Passing Through Air When You Are Feeling a Bit Like ‘Head in the Clouds’

Passing Through‘ (2010) oil on canvas 91 x 116.5 cm

Taiwanese born artist Joyce Ho was born on 9th October, 1983 in Taipei. She received a Bachelor of Arts (International Studies), University of California, Irvine (2007) and a Master of Arts (Painting, studio art), University of Iowa (2010).

Joyce Ho is an interdisciplinary artist who presents painting, sculpture and theatre.  She has exhibited at the:

  • Kobe Biennial,
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai,
  • Today Art Museum and Museum of Fine Arts Shanghai; and the
  • Asian Arts Biennale.

The images Ho creates through her paintings, installations or performances all have some disturbing quality, whether it’s the angle of the character’s head or the awkwardness of the distorted bodies. But in order to complicate these unsettling images, Ho uses strong yellow hues to create a warm overall lighting that emanates throughout the entire space to seduce the viewer with bright colours, while simultaneously confronting them with the damaged characters.

Above Image: ‘Picnic‘ (2010) oil on canvas 100 x 150 cm

Through her use of this luminescent palette and theatrically charged compositions, Ho works to create a decidedly feminine perspective that embodies her generation’s precarious state of unbalance.

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The Story of Angélique and the Illustrator

[Above: Book cover for Angélique]

These illustrations are from various dust jackets from the “Angélique” series of 13 French historical adventure books, written by the novelist duo Anne and Serge Golon known collectively as ‘Sergeanne Golan’. Some of the titles in this series include: Angélique in Love, Angélique and the Sultan, Angélique and the King, Angélique in Revolt and Countess Angélique.

From these titles, you could easily hazard a guess that the emerald-eyed Angélique is a  tempestuous and adventurous girl who seems to ‘get around’ and get involved in some historical fictional hi-jinx. The stories are set in 17th Century France and often revolve around King Louis XIV, his cohorts and various characters of the Parisian underworld, to name but a few.

This series published by Heinemann provided colourful dust jacket illustrations by Italian commercial artist Renato Fratini, who was born in Rome, in October, 1932.

  • He studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and began his career working on illustrations and comic strips.
  • In 1952, Fratini joined the Favalli brothers’ studio, which was Italy’s biggest producer of film posters.
  • Following the collapse of the Favalli studio in the late 1950s, he moved to Milan and later to London in late 1958, despite not speaking English.

Fratini (along with Eric Pulford) produced cinema poster artwork for Whistle Down The Wind (1961), Phantom of the Opera (1962) and From Russia With Love (1963); as well as many others. Together, they also illustrated most of the posters for the Carry On films starting with Don’t Lose Your Head (1966) up to Carry on at Your Convenience (1971).

Fratini - Angelique 2[Above: Dust jacket for Angélique and the Sultan]

As for book covers, Fratini  completed work for publishers Corgi, Coronet, Hodder, Heinemann and Pan amongst others.  As well as the Angélique series, he illustrated covers for other historical romance novels by Catherine Gaskin, Victoria Holt and Norah Lofts.

[Above: Dust jacket from Angélique In Revolt]

In 1959 Fratini met the fashion designer Georgina Somerset-Butler at a party and they married in 1961 after which she went by the name Gina Fratini. They later divorced.

  • Fratini was known for his exuberant love of life. His ex-wife Gina said of him:”He loved food, drink,  cigars, dancing … he just liked to generally live it up. He adored jazz, and we were always out at Ronnie Scott’s.”

He left for Mexico circa 1970 and attended a beach party in Mexico in 1973 where he died suddenly, reportedly of a heart attack, thus ending his great illustrative legacy.

And if you want to know the fate of Angélique, you won’t find any spoiler alerts here – that would only end In Revolt.

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Truly “Chihuly”: The Beauty is in the Eye of the Glass Beholder

Both images featured are from an untitled group from the Macchia Series (1982).

Dale Chihuly (Born September 20, 1941 in Tacoma, Washington) is an American glass sculptor. In 1960, Chihuly was studying interior design at the University of Washington, Seattle, where he learned how to melt and fuse glass. Without finishing this course, he transferred to studying art in Florence, Italy in 1962.

  • The following year, after travelling to the Middle East, Chihuly returned to his studies where he received an award for his work from the Seattle Weavers Guild in 1964.

Chihuly graduated from the University of Washington in 1965 with a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design where he began experimenting with glass-blowing and in 1966 received a full scholarship to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He then studied under Harvey Littleton, who had established the first glass program in the United States.

  • In 1967, Chihuly received a Master of Science degree in sculpture. He then enrolled at the Rhode Island School of Design the following year and was awarded a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant for his work in glass, as well as a Fulbright Fellowship.
  • Chihuly traveled to Venice to work at the Venini factory on Murano, where he first saw the team approach to blowing glass. After returning to the U.S., he spent the first of four consecutive summers teaching at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine.
  • In 1971, with the support of John and Anne Gould Hauberg, Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School near Stanwood, Washington. He also founded the Hill Top Artists program in Tacoma, Washington at Jason Lee Middle School and Wilson High School.

Sadly, in 1976, whilst in England, Chihuly was injured in a head-on car accident during which he flew through the windshield. His face was severely cut by glass and he was blinded in his left eye. After recovering, he continued to blow glass until 1979 when he dislocated his right shoulder in a body-surfing accident. No longer able to hold the glass blowing pipe, he hired others to do his work.

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Sacre Couer – Sacre Bleu

Above: An example of cover edition from notorious French violently anti-clerical and Republican  journal La Lanterne.

  • The illustration displays a sinister priest-like vulture squatting over the newly-built Sacre Coeur Cathedral at Mont Matre, in Paris.
  • La Lanterne was founded by Henri Rochefort and began as a daily magazine from 1868-1870, and became reinvigorated until in 1876.

The cover of this issue was illustrated by French poster artist Eugène Ogé, who was born in Paris on 5 May, 1861. He died in May 1936.

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Viva Vivat Bohmen

Above: Vivat Bohmen cup and saucer, supposedly the oldest surviving Bohemian porcelain from  Klášterec nad Ohří (1794). The cup measures 5.6 cm high.

  • Klášterec nad Ohří, was a Bohemian factory founded in 1793, by Mikuláš (Johann Nicolaus) Weber with support from the landowner Count František Josef (Frank Joseph) Thun. The arcanist employed was Johann Gottlieb Sonntag from the Rebengrun factory in Thuringia.
  • Together they fired the first kiln on 15th September 1794. This is also the date of the first known and preserved Czech porcelain coffee cup with saucer inscribed Vivat Bohmen (see above).
  • The cup and saucer are on display at the Museum of Porcelain at Klášterec Castle.

The Neo-Gothic castle in Klášterec nad Ohří, houses a rare exhibition of porcelain from the collections of the  Museum of Applied Arts from the city of Prague in the Czech Republic. The exhibition on the ground-floor hall in the southern wing houses the remnants of the original Renaissance building built in 1600. It offers in its four halls; a brief history of the old Oriental and European porcelain production.

Twenty-one rooms on the 1st floor are dedicated to the development of Czech porcelain production from its beginnings to the present. It includes porcelain ware of individual porcelain factories produced in various periods, such as Empire, Biedermeier, Second Rococo, Neo-Renaissance, Art Nouveau, etc., with examples from the areas of Horní Slavkov, Klášterec, Březová, Loket, Dalovice and Chodov.

The Klášterec Castle was built on a promontory of the river Ohře at the foot of the Ohře Mountains. It is one of the most important historical sites in the north-western region of Bohemia. The name of the castle and town is an Old Czech term for a small monastery (derived from the Latin” claustrellum), which was founded around the year 1250 by Benedictine’s from Postoloprty, in places of the present-day town.

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Bear With Me – You’ll Adore These

Paola Pivi (b. 1971 in Milan, Italy) is an Italian multi-media artist who lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska. In her work, she uses a wide range of art techniques, such as photography, sculpture and performance. Some of her works contain performance elements, at times involving live animals and people. In 1999, she received a Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale.

All of the above are featured in her installation “You Started It…I Finish It” Pivi’s set of 8 life-size sculptures of polar bears adorned with psychedelic coloured plumage. Their carefully modeled figures each have distinct personalities and body language. Together, they create an enigmatic scene of Baroque excess and surreal desire recalling fables and fairy tales, dreams and allegories in which unexpected forms become strangely familiar and the pleasure principle prevails.

  • As with much of her work, this set also invokes an animistic spiritual wonder and deep concern about the vulnerability of the natural world.

A little something for you to ‘bear in mind.’

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I Will Keep an Open Mind – Is It Art or Science?

Above: Plaster model of the brain by [unknown maker]. This item is one from a display at the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne. The Museum and Library is part of the University’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

  • The Museum is one of Australia’s largest collections of real human tissue specimens offering students and researchers a unique insight into the human body.
  • The collection includes over 10,000 dissected anatomy and pathology specimens, moulages (such as this model), death masks and historical teaching models.

Although not usually open to the general public, there are opportunities to visit the Museum including the University’s Open Day held each August. Tours of the museum are available for external health professionals and student groups by appointment.

As for this plaster model, is it art? or science? If it were in an art gallery it would be art, but this is in a museum, which would indicate science. – To answer this, I think I’ll hand this over to the brains trust.

Come to think of it, it’s been on my mind for so long … I just can’t get you out of my head!

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Not Sure About You, But, “I Leica His Art”

French humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson was born on August 22, 1908,  in Chanteloup-en-Brie, Seine-et-Marne, France. He is considered a master of candid photography and an early adopter of 35 mm film.

Young Henri took holiday snapshots with his Box Brownie camera; and later experimented with a 3×4 inch view camera. By 1927, Cartier-Bresson entered a private art school followed by study at the Lhote Academyl the Parisian studio of the Cubist painter and sculptor André Lhote.

Two years later, he met American expatriate photographer Harry Crosby. Embracing the open sexuality offered by Crosby and his wife Caresse, Cartier-Bresson fell into an intense sexual relationship with Caresse that lasted until 1931, two years after Harry Crosby committed suicide.

  • This left Cartier-Bresson broken hearted and he escaped from France to the Côte d’Ivoire in French colonial Africa, for some adventure.
  •  He returned from Africa to France to recuperate from Blackwater Fever and deepened his relationship with the Surrealist artists.
  • It was around this time that he bought a Leica camera with 50 mm lens which would accompany him for many years.
  • In 1937, Cartier-Bresson married a Javanese dancer, Ratna Mohini.

During his career, Cartier-Bresson pioneered the genre of street photography capturing the proverbial decisive moment.

  • Cartier-Bresson died on August 3, 2004.

As for Photographer Cartier-Bresson – I Leica His Art

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Why Not Take Part in Viewing Some Drive-By Art

Various artworks have decorated Melbourne’s Peninsula Link Freeway. These sculptures and art pieces have been placed at various sites along the route.

  • A total of 14 sculptures have been commissioned over the next 25 years and will be rotated to various sites along the 27-kilometre stretch of freeway.
  • The sculptures will be replaced with new artwork every two years until 2037.

Motorists will have noticed artist Louise Paramor’s piece, Panorama Station, at the interchange between EastLink and Peninsula Link. Driving towards Frankston, it features a 16.5 metres in high colourful and wacky piece, which depicts a space station with a rocket launch pad.

Other sculptures include Dean Colls’ Rex Australis: The King is dead, long live the King. It depicts a giant sheep’s skull and was commissioned for the Peninsula Link Freeway in 2011 and completed in December 2012.  Dean Colls was born in Kerang in 1968 and currently lives and works in Melbourne.  Between 1987 and 1990 he developed his sculptural practice first with Richard Mueck and then Artworks in Bronze Foundry. From 1991 to 1996 he worked as a freelance sculptor and set designer in theatre, film and television industries. In 1997 he began collaborating with Melbourne sculptor Louise Skacej and since then they have produced a number of commissioned artworks for both the private and public sectors. Further information can be found on Dean Colls website.

Also on display is Phil Price’s Tree of Life.

  • Depending on how fast you travel – it might be a case of blink and miss it – however, in a traffic jam, you can savour the moment and enjoy your surroundings and appreciate your visual drive-by art.
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Tennyo “Magokoro” – The Goddess of Sincerity

Tennyo “Magokoro” (The Goddess of Sincerity) is a statue constructed by Gengen Sato, who spent more than 10 years at the task after it was commissioned by Mitsukoshi Ltd.

Consisting principally of Japanese cypress “Hinoki” about 500 years old that was selected from the woods surrounding the Kibune Shrine in Kyoto, the statue is painted with clay pigment and chemical colouring and decorated with gold and platinum. The figure represents the cloud-swathed Goddess of Sincerity descending lightly to the fruitful earth, accompanied by a phoenix bearing an offering for her tray of heavenly flowers.

Dimensions: height 10.91m, height of figure 2.73m, width of statue 4.39m, one side of hexagonal base 2.12m

Back in 1969 this was on display in the Central Hall, 1st floor, of the Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi department store in Tokyo. It was still on display in 2007, but unsure if it is still there today.

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How Many Kinds of Sweet Flowers Grow In an English Country Garden?

‘In a Chelsea Garden’  (1913) oil on canvas (87.5 cm x 61 cm)

Dora Meeson (1869–1955) was an Australian artist and an elected member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in London, England.

While living in London, she married fellow artist George James Coates, on 23 July, 1903. In order to establish themselves, she supported her husband’s art by producing her own artworks for ‘quick and ready’ sales in the art market.

  • After the ‘Great War’ she and her husband toured Australia for 6 months.

In Meeson’s ‘In a Chelsea Garden’ she has presented an almost idealised scene of a woman in a garden. Dressed in Grecian-style clothing and carrying a fashionable Japanese parasol, the subject is isolated from the mercantile city surroundings. This work combined Meeson’s strength in portraiture with her love of picturesque gardens. It sits firmly within the body of the British Impressionist movement during the Edwardian period.

  • ‘In a Chelsea Garden’ is on view at the: Castlemaine Art Museum, Victoria, Australia.

As a suffragette, representation of Dora Meeson’s banner for the British Artists Suffrage League was used for the design of the Australian 2003 commemorative dollar coin celebrating the ‘Centenary of Women’s Suffrage‘.

  • “Ohhh, Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am” – for Suffragette City [David Bowie acknowledgement]
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The Lady and the Unicorn

The Lady and the Unicorn is the modern title given to a series of six tapestries woven in Flanders from wool and silk, from designs drawn in Paris ca 1500. The tapestries were created in the style of mille-fleurs (meaning: “thousand flowers”).

The tapestries supposed sponsor was Antoine II Le Viste (1470-1534), a descendant of the younger branch of the Le Viste family who was quintessential within the court of Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I.

  • The tapestries ‘meaning’ is obscure, but has been interpreted as representing ‘love or understanding’.
  • Each of the six tapestries depicts a noble lady with a unicorn on her left and a lion on her right; and some include a monkey within its scene.
  • Nearly all of the six tapestries include the five sensors: Taste, Hearing, Sight, Smell, and Touch. The sixth displays the words “À mon seul désir“.

The tapestries were rediscovered in 1841 at the Boussac Castle, where they were assessed for damage and levels of dampness and mold. By 1863 they were restored and transferred to the Musée de Cluny (Musée du Moyen-Âge), in Paris.

In varied music, movie and literature genre:

  • The Lady and the Unicorn is the title of English folk guitarist John Renbourn’s 1970 album, featuring early music arrangements. The album cover includes a depiction from the tapestry “À Mon Seul Désir”.
  • The tapestries are also depicted in Tracy Chevalier’s novel ‘The Lady and the Unicorn’.
  • Hanging examples of the Unicorn tapestries are displayed on the walls of the Gryffindor Common Room in the Harry Potter series of films.

I leave you with this well known piece:
The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town

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