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Archive for January, 2010

Take Your Meds!

Medicine bottle labels at the West Virginia State Museum.

These labels are on display at the new and wonderful West Virginia State Museum, where I could happily spend days and days. If you live near Charleston, go there! You will love it. And, if you visit West Virginia, this should be on your must-see list of destinations.

But the labels got me to thinking: One day, I suppose, the likes of Lipitor and Prozac will seem as quaint and ineffectual to someone as these so-called medicines do to us. Not that I would want to return to the yesterday’s medical cabinet. Just the same, I can’t help but think that, while medical science may have advanced considerably, medicine bottle labels have deteriorated drastically. Why can’t we have meds with fun drawings on them? Or, given the advances in the graphic arts, medicine bottles with holograms and flashing lights? Or, for heavens’ sake, why don’t medicine bottles text you and tell you it’s time to take your Lipitor?

Entrepreneurs out there…that was a pretty good idea, actually. And http://www.text-o-medic.com is available. Call me when you need a logo design for that. I will make a pretty drawing of Dr. B.W. Hair with his iPhone.

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Ice and Leaf

Leaves embedded in ice along the Carriage Trail.

The temperature has plummeted and the Sunrise Carriage Trail is decorated with curtains and spangles of ice. The icicles hanging from the rocks are impressive and large — I wonder what Andy Goldsworthy would do with these specimens, and maybe tomorrow I will go up and try to construct my own little imitation of a Goldsworthy sculpture. For today, it was enough to hold my camera close to a flat a leaf was almost, but not quite, submerged in ripples of ice.

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Window Box Art

This beautiful burst of color was in a window box beside a garage in South Hills. I guess it’s an ornamental cabbage. Below is a closeup of a pansy from the same window box.

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Winter Beauty

Today’s walk up the Sunrise Carriage Trail yielded a couple of lovely things. These dried pods of the Pawlonia tree exhibit the sort of elegance I overlook when there are spring flowers or autumn leaves competing for my attention. But they are amazing: beautiful orbs (not unlike the shape of the bittersweet berry, but larger) with an almost ceramic texture and complicated colors. And they are attached to the branch by those flared sepals.

And above is the texture of a hand-hewn stone step on the steep, narrow stairway near the top of the trail. These steps are not often used, and are very old; moss is beginning to collect  along the ridges. It makes the closeup look like a topographical map of mountain ridges, or the ridged pattern of sand beneath shallow waves.

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The Joy of Anomaly

What is it about anomaly that delights the eye? I am fascinated with this concept and its many manifestations.

I came upon this forest early in on a November morning, in Aurora, West Virginia. I loved the way the sun gave a pinkish glow to the trees, but what I appreciated most about the composition was the single broken branch that hung at an angle across all those vertical lines.

A quilter once gave me an explanation for the variations in some quilts that are too noticeable to be mistakes. “The older quilters do this,” she said, “because only God can make a perfect thing.” A quilt historian has since told me that this explanation is probably an attractive myth; more likely, quilters, like other artists, are attracted to the anomalous element in a work of visual art. Who knows? I, personally, think it’s such an attractive myth that some quilters (and, perhaps, potters and basketmakers and weavers) have adopted the spiritual reason and thereby “verified” the myth.

I think anomaly is attractive to artists in many media: songwriters and musicians, for instance, sometimes break the rhythmic pattern in a song just to add interest and beauty.

But…what’s beautiful about it? Is it that it “shakes us up” and prevents the eye or ear from being bored? Is it funny? Is it, in fact, spiritual? All of the above?

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Ice Art

Ice on the Kanawha River

Ice floating on the Kanawha River makes abstract art

The weather has been very cold for the past few days! When I walk across the South Side Bridge to reach the Sunrise Carriage Trail, which I do nearly every day, I have been enjoying the patterns created by broken, shifting ice on the river. We don’t often see ice on the Kanawha.

These overlapping shapes of ice are creating patterns that employ what a visual artist would call “transparency.” I think I remember when, as a beginning graphic artist, I first began to understand what a powerful tool transparency can be when you use it intentionally and with skill. It’s what makes the Apple logo work, of course, that transparent “bite” out of one side. When you overlap two shapes and reveal the overlapping, you have the ability to “take a bite out of” each shape and suggest a third. That’s what these floating pieces of ice are doing. In this case it’s not intentional, of course, but my eye is just as pleased as if it were.

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New Year’s Walk

Nature Center, Davis & Elkins College, Elkins, WV

The year got off to a good beginning: I was snowed in at Michael’s house in Elkins for a couple of cold, snowy days. I had a wonderful time walking in the nature center at Davis & Elkins College. Neal Peterson was snowed in with us, which made for a happy time. He brought us a huge cabbage (bigger than a person’s head), and he brought me some herbes de Provence from the real Provence, where he spent some time in the fall. So we made split pea soup (with herbes de Provence, of course) and Neal made us an apple/cherry/raisin pie. And in the mornings we ate big bowls of oatmeal with cranberries and bananas. It was a good weekend to be holed up together, cooking and watching movies and playing Scrabble. And, amazingly, the roads were clear when I drove home this afternoon.

Tomorrow, of course, the New Year must become the New Working Year. Drat. Earning a living is such a nuisance sometimes.

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