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Posts Tagged ‘American Icon’

Illustration is hardly a new art form — after all, it’s been around for just about as long as stories have, although it’s generally been confined to children’s literature (where it’s thrived).  But illustration has recently had a bit of resurgence in the grown-up art world.  Take Zak Smith‘s exhaustive project to depict every page of Thomas Pynchon’s dizzying epic Gravity’s Rainbow.  But my favorite is the cleaner and more colorful vision of a different American classic: Moby-Dick.

Matt Kish insists that he is “not an artist” — he could have fooled me.  He started his project last August. Working at the breakneck pace of nearly one per day, he is creating a small piece of art for each successive page of Herman Melville’s iconic novel. With about 300 pages down and 250 to go, he is set to finish sometime next spring.

Kish’s process goes something like this: he opens his copy of the book (the 552-page Signet Classic edition, to be specific), he reads the day’s page, pulls a particularly juicy sentence, and illustrates it on found paper (scraps discarded from the used bookstore at which he worked as a grad student). The finished pieces vary considerably — some are collages, some are paintings, but Kish is at his best when his work has a basis in line art.  The illustrations are meticulously detailed and often filled in with bright, colorful paints or pencils. And the outcome is nothing short of remarkable:

The recurring characters and images of the novel appropriately reappear throughout Kish’s series. Captain Ahab, for instance, appears as a bucket-shaped head with a single, staring eye and a lightning-shaped mark down his temple, while Moby-Dick himself is huge, ominous and, of course, strikingly white.

I adore this kind of art.  When I was little, I wanted to be an illustrator — every single entry in my first-grade journal is dutifully complemented with a careful crayon drawing depicting the words above.  These days, I’ve settled for doodling while I couple prose with sound instead.  But I’m dazzled by what Kish has already accomplished. I love watching him take a classic work of American literature and vitalize it with the sort of astoundingly beautiful images it deserves.

Here at Studio 360, we’re also fans of Ahab and the great White Whale.  Listen to our American Icons hour deconstructing Moby-Dick with Tony Kushner, Ray Bradbury, and Stanley Crouch.

— Becky Sullivan

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Sometimes we cling tightly to things we deem “traditional” without realizing they’re not as deeply entrenched in our history as we thought.

Take Uncle Sam: he hasn’t changed much since J. M. Flagg’s iconic World War I recruitment poster, in which he appeared as an older white man wearing a snazzy red, white, and blue outfit — these days, he seems to be busy selling air-conditioners at rock bottom prices.  Yet lost to time is his young, female compatriot Columbia, another once-beloved embodiment of our country who had her heyday in 19th-century political cartoons.  This all got us thinking that it’s time to challenge some of the symbols for American that we’ve come to take for granted.

In honor of our nation’s birthday, Studio 360 wants you to come up with a new take on Uncle Sam.  Here, Kurt outlines our challenge:

[AUDIO=http://audio.wnyc.org/studio/Blog061810_4thJuly.mp3]

You can see all the entries and submit your own HERE.

"Kid America" by Flickr user nicoleyfun

nicoleyfun cast America as “a small child, jam-packed with pure potential, a good heart, a curious little mind, naïveté, fearlessness, and an unrelenting eagerness to please.”

The deadline to enter our challenge is this Sunday, June 20 at midnight.  We’ll reveal our favorites on the show broadcasting the weekend of July 4th.

– Becky Sullivan

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In this week’s show, Kurt says that we can find the Lincoln Memorial on the back of any old penny. Well, that old penny is getting a new backside. Last week, the United States Mint released a new one-cent coin, in honor of the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. While it still features his head on one side, the memorial will no longer be engraved on the tail.

(courtesy of usmint.gov)

In its place is a union shield — with 13 vertical stripes, representing the states, joined by a bar inscribed with E Pluribus Unum, “out of many, one.” That shield has a special association with Lincoln. An artist commissioned to create work for the U.S. Capitol building during Lincoln’s presidency used the shield in frescoes that still hang on its walls. And the union shield is prominent in some Civil War memorabilia.

Feeling nostalgic for the Lincoln Memorial? Listen to our show about the American icon:

– Jess Jiang

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This week on Studio 360, we take an in-depth look at The Wizard of Oz, assuredly one of the most beloved (and bizarre) fables to capture Americans’ imaginations. This year marks the 70th anniversary of Warner Bros’ film adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s children’s book and for the past year the studio has been throwing the movie quite the birthday party. The festivities will come to a gloriously over-the-top conclusion next month with an event Warner Bros. is calling “The Emerald Gala” in New York City.

Betsey Johnson's take on Dorothy's ruby slippers -- try skipping down the yellow brick road in these puppies

Betsey Johnson's take on Dorothy's ruby slippers -- try skipping down the yellow brick road in these puppies

Getting into the event (hosted by Tavern on the Green) seems about as likely as the average munchkin’s chances of seeing the wizard, but if you do finagle your way in, oh the wonders that await! A yellow brick road! Ashanti (fresh from “The Wiz” on Broadway), munchkins! (that is, a few of the actors who played them in the original movie). Most intriguing to me, however, is the exhibition of designer ruby slippers, on display for the last time before they are auctioned off (for charity of course).

For those of us who will not be granted entrance to the Emerald City, Warner Bros is offering a slightly less swanky affair — screenings of the movie in high definition at theaters across the country.

Find a screening location here.

Listen to our American Icons show on The Wizard of Oz here.

– Annie Minoff

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