Books are beautiful! So often we think of them as perfect objects with spectacular “concept” covers (à la Chip Kidd!) on the shelves of Barnes & Noble, but the old and imperfect have their charm. Recently I came across a small travel guide to Niagara Falls I purchased a few years back. Published in 1893 by the printing concern Knight, Leonard & Co. of Chicago, it has a lot of travel advertising, scenic views, and info on possible vacation spots, but doesn’t give us information about things as they are today.
But to leaf through its pages is to travel back to another time. The ornate typography of the cover with its generous swirling curves and strong knife-like verticals is not something you’ll find in a WordPress theme (no offense–I love WordPress!).
The printing isn’t great, and even the most basic self-published book today is technically superior. But it adds to these images, which seem rendered in a painterly, almost pointillist style.
The color isn’t full-scale, but it’s so pretty! So very green! Even the crumbling binding adds a layer of texture. I wonder if a company like Blurb or My Publisher should offer an “antiquing” option. There might be demand.
So this tiny book that doesn’t have informational value today was able, through typography, images, and ads, to take us back to an earlier time. Would we have gotten the same from an e-reader? Probably not. The message is also in the medium, and the medium here is physical print, paper and cloth, which continue to enlighten and endure.
– Catherine Kirkpatrick
On a haunted, wind-swept plain two sisters meet and embrace, a huge incandescent orb rising ominously behind them. This is no ordinary place and these are not ordinary women.
Thus began the recent production of Sophocles’ Antigone at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. I saw it in September with my friend and colleague, Anne Bartoc, and her design students from Pratt. Their assignment was to see the play, then create a poster and other items (web banner, T shirt, or key chain) based on the production. I thought it would be interesting so see how each interpreted the play, maybe learning something about how literature and drama affects each of us in similar, yet different ways.
I visited their class a week ago, and was not disappointed. The students are a terrific bunch, and it was clear a lot of time, effort and imagination had gone into their work. Each one was moved by a different aspect of the production, yet each managed to capture something of the play’s essence. Here are their wonderful designs, with some of their thoughts and mine.
Lee saw the play as “the shame of Creon,” and wanted to bring that character into the artwork along with Antigone. By featuring both, he captures the sense of shared tragedy and fate. In the giant glowing sun, he also conveys the Greek sense of man as small and insignificant in relation to the gods and natural world. Note the dominating red-orange color. You will see it again.
Misra was impressed by the moon, and “embossed” the powerful actress playing Antigone (Juliette Binoche) upon it. In this design, the moon floats in a void, symbolizing how Antigone’s disobedience (and courage) have cut her off from society. The image also suggests the sonogram of an unborn child, not inappropriate for the young heroine who laments that she will never marry and bear children. Her life is short; in a sense, she also is unborn. As in many of the posters, the color red plays a strong role.
Frigura’s design joins the mask of classic Greek theater with a distorted, doll-like face, suggesting both horror and youth. It is bold and pared down, much like Greek tragedy where action is stripped to the bone, language is stark, and the audience knows where it’s going and gets there fast. The face is looking up as if asking “why?” of the gods who in the Greek universe were always in control of individual fates. The red-orange part of the spectrum is utilized, the tones also suggesting Greek red-figure pottery. This design seems almost too big and bold for the computer screen, and would pop off the wall as any good poster should.
Holoman present the funeral materials in a dark void, the flower petals falling like drops of blood. He spoke of wanting to convey “that ominous glow you felt all over the play,” and achieved a beautiful sense of mystery and solemnity that makes the viewer stop and wonder, then take a closer look. The red orange colors suggest human blood and the fire used in the funeral rites, as well as the fire in Antigone’s heart.
While Soojin Joo said she “couldn’t 100% understand the play,” she captured a sense of classical tragedy in the white, mask-like face, and dark hillside from which it emerges which suggests Antigone’s entombment. This is almost an “after” take on the play, with the shadows not solid but made of ashes, the heroine, at peace, gone from the troubled land to join her family in Hades.
Inspired by the production’s first scene in which Antigone moves from darkness into light, Slater used a strongly lit image of Juliette Binoche in motion. The vertical rule on the right (red again!), symbolizes the rigid forces thwarting Antigone, the hard line between what society sees as right and what it judges to be wrong. The figure’s movement is mirrored in the fluid type which to Slater “had an organic feeling,” as well as a sense of femininity.
This poster and the idea behind it haunts me. Chu said that she was “struck by the emotion of the opening,” and wanted to capture it in her art. But she removed Ismene, leaving Antigone embracing a void. As she does on her journey to death. This stark concept is offset by type that suggests ancient Greek lettering, but with a modern look.
In Min Gi Ha’s work we see movement and speed, suggesting perhaps the heroine’s short life. Antigone, almost out of the frame, is running, but pursued by a dark tornado-like shape (the Furies?) which has wrapped itself around her neck, foreshadowing her manner of death. Humans go about their lives, oblivious to the fates that will descend upon them. Though it is hers, Antigone never sees it coming. Again, red plays a big part; its presence in the type fading away as does her human existence.
To all the artists: well done!
On Monday, November 17th the Brooklyn Historical Society hosted a panel discussion called Brooklyn’s On Fire: Bushwick is Burning. Moderated by Johathan Mahler, a New York Times media reporter and author of the critically acclaimed Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning, it included photographer Meryl Meisler, a tenant lawyer, an FDNY fire marshal, a Community Board manager, and a displaced resident. It was a lively discussion with spirited responses from the audience that included people who grew up in Bushwick, those who fought fires there, and residents who live and work there now.
Meisler, a special friend of the New York Book Society, has had great success with her 2014 book, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick. It was reveiwed by Johathan Mahler in the New York Times, and was featured by the New Yorker, and by many prominent publications and websites.
(With special thanks to Heather O’Mara for permission to use her image of the panel)
Yesterday was a great day for the kingdom of Brooklyn and the kingdom of books. All kinds of readers, writers and artists descended on Borough Hall in search of wonderful stuff at the Brooklyn Book Festival. And wonderful stuff there was–everything from Tugboats of New York to the young adult Do You Know Who You Are?, with large and small presses, authors who’ve sold millions of books, and newcomers with a single volume. They all shared one thing: a love of books. Maybe they published them, maybe they wrote or illustrated them, maybe they read them, but they all turned out for them and that is a glorious thing.
There was something for the literary-minded and the visually inclined, for old time New Yorkers and curious tweens. Parents brought their kids, browsed, chatted with writers and booksellers and exchanged ideas. Noted author James McBride happened by our section. I said I was reading his novel The Good Lord Bird (a new take on John Brown), along with Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 classic Gone With the Wind–two very dissimilar books on the South and Civil War. All he did was raise an eyebrow and say: “a different perspective.”
Which is what great culture is all about: ideas, talent, freedom, and exchange. So three cheers for the borough where so much is happening, for Janet Matthews and the dedicated people who put the festival together, and most of all for those who quietly, without promise of reward, write, illustrate, photograph and produce those magical, life-changing things we call books. Here’s to you!
On Sunday, September 21st the New York Book Society will be a part of the Brooklyn Book Festival! We will share table #309 with the Bushwick Daily and photographer Meryl Meisler, whose recent press includes an article by the New Yorker where New York Book Society founder, Catherine Kirkpatrick, is quoted. Here are some of the unique books we will feature:
Backstage: Broadway Behind the Curtain
Rivka Katvan is world-reknowned for her photographic studies of the Broadway theatre, as seen in her recent Abrams’ book, Backstage: Broadway Behind the Curtain. She has also donated photographs to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which, according to Tom Viola, Executive Director, have raised more than $120,000 for the nonprofit organization. She has won numerous awards and acclaim for her projects and exhibits, and with her husband, Moshe, runs a state-of-the-art photo studio in Manhattan.
On the Beat
Jane Hoffer is a New York photographer who documented the first female NYPD officers on patrol. This project, which included a night at the “Fort Appache” precinct in the Bronx, was exhibited in 2011 at the New York City Police Museum and the subject of an article on the Professional Women Photographers’ website that was named by PhotoShelter to its List of Best Photography Blog Posts of 2011. Jane attended McGill University, and holds an advanced degree in art from Columbia University, with additional training at the School of Visual Arts and the International Center of Photography. With over 20 years experience in commercial photography, she is recognized as a leading photographer in the non-profit and public relations industries. She exhibits her fine art work frequently.
Gays in the Military
Vincent Cianni is a documentary photographer whose work has been exhibited widely, including shows at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, George Eastman House, with a major survey at the Museum of the City of New York in 2006.
His landmark Gays in the Military (Daylight Books, May 2014) is told through photographs and interviews made over three years on road trips across the United States. This oral and visual history tells the stories of gay and lesbian men and women who served their country in silence, and will be archived at the David M. Rubestein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University. It is also available as an exhibition and multi-media installation.
Coney Island and Harlem Street Portraits
Harvey Stein is a photographer, lecturer, author and curator based in New York City. He teaches at the International Center of Photography, and has also taught at the School of Visual Arts, New School University, Drew University, and Rochester Institute of Technology. His books including Parallels: A Look at Twins, Artists Observed, Coney Island, Movimento: Glimpses of Italian Street Life, Coney Island 40 Years, and Harlem Street Portraits. He is currently Director of Photography at the Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan’s East Village.
Mary Teresa Giancoli is a New York photographer with a deep interest in exploring Spanish Culture. Her Mujeres Poblanas features her images of the women and life around the marketplace and festivals in Puebla, Mexico, the region that sends the most migrants to Brooklyn and the tri-state area. Also featured are images from Mexican dances and customs as lived in homes, work and on the street in New York City. Giancoli has a BA in Italian Culture from Wellesley College and an MFA in photography from Hunter. Her work combines a lush visual style with an almost anthropological interest in the customs of the Spanish communities she documents.
Blood & Beauty
Pamela Greene spent several years photographing Manhattan’s Meatpacking District as it was becoming hot. She took it in with a compassionate eye, capturing the sense of passing history and new history being made, the mix of wild bohemians, working class people, fashion designers, hot young things and nouveau riche who flocked there every day. In 120 vivid color photographs, she captures the energy in the street, the trendy boutiques and clubs, the businesses that had been there for generations and were slowly but surely fading away. In 2009, this work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Show Walls Gallery of the Durst Corporation.
Bacalaitos & Fireworks
Arlene Gottfried is a well-known New York photographer who has freelanced for top publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Fortune, Life, and The Independent in London. Her work has exhibited at the Leica Gallery in New York and in Tokyo, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and has images in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Berenice Abbott International Competition of Women’s Documentary Photography. Gottfried is the author of Bacalaitos & Fireworks (powerHouse Books, 2011), Sometimes Overwhelming (powerHouse Books, 2008), Midnight (powerHouse Books, 2003) and The Eternal Light (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1999). A lecturer and a teacher, Gottfried lives and works in New York City.
What Might It Mean?
Nancy Garniez’s artistic life spans many styles, centuries, venues, and activities, from performing and teaching, to writing and recording. Nancy holds a Bachelor of Arts, Phi Beta Kappa, from Oberlin College, with a concentration in organ under Fenner Douglass. Under a Fulbright grant she studied organ with Helmut Walcha in Frankfurt am Main. Subsequent piano study was with Hans Neumann at the Mannes College of Music.
For many years Nancy performed solo piano and ensemble recitals annually at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, as well as throughout Europe. She is currently presenting in-house solo recitals in series centered on such themes as “Bach and Sons: Listening for the Future.” Her 3 unedited live-performance solo CDs available for purchase at www.tonalrefraction.com.
She is also an author whose works include What Might It Mean? An Uncommon Glossary of Musical Terms and Concepts for the Stuck, Bored, and Curious, and Tone Perception Visualized: The Mozart G minor Piano Quartet, 2013 with state of the art digital graphics.
The Brooklyn Book Festival will take place on
Sunday, September 21st
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at:
Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
2, 3, 4, 5 to Borough Hall
R to Court Street
A, C, F to Jay Street/Borough Hall
By Car from Manhattan:
Coming over the Brooklyn Bridge
Stay Straight on Adams Street
Turn Right on Joralemon Street
Edison Park East, 134 Schermerhorn Street, 718-246-0367
Central Parking (No trucks), 333 Adams Street, 718-222-1032
Livingston Street Parking (No trucks), 111 Livingston Street, 718-855-1180
(Daily Rates Vary)
Last night legendary journalist and creative writer Pete Hamill read from his work at Word, an independent bookstore in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It took place in a small room down in the basement with a few peculiar odors floating near the back. There was a pile of broken-up doughnuts, a pitcher of water, and some kind of wine, probably not of a vintage served at Nobu. The lighting was bad, the speaker’s platform creaky, the folding chairs uncomfortable. But it was great. An evening to remember.
Between the covers of a book, a writer creates a unique world filled with atmosphere, characters, drama and life. And so in that room last night did Pete Hamill bring his work and an earlier day in New York City alive for the audience. Reading from S’Wonderful, a short story from The Christmas Kid, he took us inside Rattigan’s Bar and Grill to meet bus driver, Dinny Collins, and some of his guzzler pals. We overheard their gossip, learned about their wives and Wonderful Kelly, a local paragon who seems a touch too good to be true. An entire world in six pages.
You can talk about his stories, but really you need to read them. They are special and so is he. He filled the room with kindness and wisdom. He took questions from the audience and answered them with patience and humor in great detail. He spoke about writers of the past and the lessons he had learned from them. He talked about his writing habits, about libraries and the changing face of New York. He inspired us with his understanding and compassion. We all left better for having been there. Which is what great writing and great people and the great city are all about.
– Catherine Kirkpatrick