Posts Tagged ‘Moby-Dick’

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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Move over American Idol. Presenting: Studio 360’s American Icons.

Sure, Abraham Lincoln isn’t most people’s idea of a triple threat (though his voice was said to be a reedy tenor). But his memorial in Washington, DC, has staying power. History was made there, and continues to be made there. It was the backdrop for opera singer Marian Anderson’s barrier-defying concert in 1939 and the setting for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. Last week we explored how the monument became America’s soapbox and guidepost – with the help of Sarah Vowell, David Strathairn, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Doris Kearns Goodwin.

The Lincoln Memorial is just one episode from Studio 360’s American Icons series. American Icons shows take a work of art – something that’s changed the cultural conversation – and unpack it, often with surprising results. Among these special episodes, Lincoln shares top billing with Superman, Barbie, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, and “The Wizard of Oz.”

One of the defining aspects of an American Icon is that it can both reflect and absorb our interpretations. We all have our own memories and experiences of these works of art. Now we’re at work on our next series, and we’d love to know what you think of the new Icons we’ve chosen  In the fall of 2010 we’ll broadcast episodes exploring The Autobiography of Malcolm X, “I Love Lucy,” Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Do you have particular memories about these works?

Post them below…we’re eager to hear…

– Michael Guerriero

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Here’s a Black Friday deal that the big-box retailers can’t beat.  Buy the new album from the up-and-coming indie band Ezra Furman and the Harpoons and you’ll get a personalized song thrown in, for no extra charge.  Just send them a letter with your life story (or a condensed version, perhaps), and they’ll churn out a folk-rock ditty with your name on it.

Moon Face: Bootlegs and Road Recordings 2006-2009

Moon Face: Bootlegs and Road Recordings 2006-2009

Since coming together at Tufts University, Ezra and his band mates have written so many songs and played so many live shows that there were plenty of cuts left off of their first two releases.  Those songs find a home on Moon Face: Bootlegs and Road Recordings 2006-2009 — alongside that unique, personalized track.  There have been more than 100 orders in the first weeks since the album’s release, which means the band will be busy writing odes to its fans during any downtime on its current tour.  (Ezra plays a solo Thanksgiving Eve show tonight at the Lincoln Park Whole Foods in Chicago).

Ezra Furman and the Harpoons

Ezra (in the center of the frame) and the Harpoons

And speaking of harpoons, we’re serving whale for Thanksgiving this year in “Studio 360.”  You can hear all about the classic novel that Ezra’s band took as inspiration as we rebroadcast our Moby-Dick episode, the Peabody Award-winning installment in our “American Icons” series.  Guests include playwright Tony Kushner, artist Frank Stella, and science fiction writer Ray Bradbury.  Get hooked this weekend to find out if Herman Melville’s 1851 masterpiece still holds water. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

– Jordan Sayle

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