Thursday, November 24, 2011

Semi-Artsy Projects at the CSU Law Library

In my attempt to successfully work three jobs, I have had to somewhat put on blinders for the last few months to get through this feat in one piece. The time I spend creating art has suffered greatly from this schedule. Luckily, I have managed to fit in some artsy projects into the jobs I get paid to do.

Back in August I helped the CSU Law Library set up a smartphone tour of the major reference materials (like Am Jur, ORC, ALR, CJS). For this project, I created small placards to identify these references. Although completing the job only required that I spend a little time playing with fonts, color, and placement, I still enjoyed getting the chance to use a few of my art skills. Read my blog post on the Law Library's website for more information.

One of the Library Tour placards

I also got the opportunity to create a small display for the library for Octavofest, which is a yearly celebration of the book and paper arts that takes place in October. Typically one many not think that there are many law books that are aesthetic enough for this type of a festival, but even the Law Library has some artistic treasures. One of these treasures is The Comic Blackstone written by Gilbert Abbot A Beckett and originally illustrated by George Cruikshank. Please read the short description that follows that I wrote for the display for more information:

The Comic Blackstone (1844), by Gilbert Abbott À Beckett, is a satirical metatext of Sir William Blackstone’s famous work Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769). In addition to being known as the author of The Comic Blackstone, À Beckett is recognized as the most prolific contributor to the magazine Punch. The first edition of The Comic Blackstone was illustrated by George Cruikshank, who is well-known for creating engravings for many of the novels of Charles Dickens. The images included in this display were made by Harry Furniss, who was an illustrator for Punch and The Illustrated London News. After Gilbert Abbott À Beckett’s death, his son, Arthur William À Beckett, edited an additional version of The Comic Blackstone, which is on view in this case.

Despite the amusement one gleans from reading À Beckett’s humorous prose, it must be remembered that without Blackstone’s original text we would not have this entertaining satire. Furthermore, without Blackstone’s Commentaries the history of legal education in England and America would be greatly altered. Blackstone is credited with establishing law as an academic discipline in England partially because of his extremely influential text Commentaries on the Laws of England. In addition to its effect on English legal education, Blackstone’s Commentaries was a touchstone text in American universities. By 1900, almost one hundred editions and abridgments had been produced in North America. Blackstone was also a judge and a university administrator, but none of his other endeavors have matched the widespread prominence of his Commentaries on the Laws of England.

I greatly enjoyed learning about this nineteenth-century text (nothing beats Victorian literature) and perusing the illustrations. Hopefully our patrons also enjoyed the display pictured below.

Although it seems impossible to ever be fully satisfied with one's place in life, I have to say that I am extremely grateful to have my job at CSU's Law Library. Beyond giving me this chance to learn a little more about and nineteenth-century literature and illustrations, the job has also allowed me to continue formally studying art history for free through the university's staff development program. In my mind, there are very few benefits that could be better than free art courses. I hope my job at the Law Library will give me future opportunities to work with art in both the workplace and the classroom.

An illustration by Harry Furniss showing the development of Law through the ages

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bay Arts First-Timer

I finally made the time to go out to Bay Arts for a figure painting session. The organization is found in Bay Village, Ohio, right across from Huntington Beach. Most of the group I painted with worked at American Greetings for awhile, but unfortunately no longer do. They joked a lot about how Bay Arts is the place where artistic professionals "come to die." Although a bit on the cynical side, I think everyone can understand their sentiments in the current economic situation. I'm glad to get to be around such an extremely talented group of people and will be using the sessions to help me keep my art alive. Look for future posts with my paintings and drawings from Bay Arts sessions.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cowan Pottery in Rocky River, OH

Not only am I currently employed as a librarian, but I often find myself in libraries outside of work. Right now I have five different library cards in my wallet. The card I most recently acquired is for the Rocky River Public Library. The Rocky River Library is unique in that it doubles as an art museum which showcases the ceramics of Reginald Guy Cowan and other Cleveland artists associated with his pottery company. The museum was established in 1978 when John Brodbeck bestowed over 800 pieces of Cowan pottery to the library. Visiting the museum and seeing some of this collection made me want to learn more about this artist who lived just a few miles east of my current home. Cowan also grew up in Syracuse, NY and went to college at Alfred University, which additionally made me identify with him since I attended school at Syracuse and know Upstate New York well.

As an artist, Cowan's work ranged in style from Arts and Crafts to Art Deco. Aligning with William Morris's call for simplicity in art, Cowan felt that ceramics should rely only upon purity in form and colored glazes for their decorative elements instead of complicated embellishments. Cowan was known for his development of many new glazes such as his Egyptian Blue, Oriental Red, and Clair de Lune. In the beginning of his career, Cowan was recognized for his Italian-style ceramic tiles. Today some of these tiles can still be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art. He also spent years working on ceramics which combined an iridescent glaze with a drip technique which he called "Lakewood Ware" after the town he lived in worked in. Other work that Cowan is especially acknowledged for are his flower and dancing figures.

In addition to his own work, Cowan spent a great deal of his life teaching pupils and developing the professional talents of other artists. One of Cowan's first jobs was to set up Cleveland East Technical School's pottery department. He also was a faculty member at Ohio State University. In addition to his students, some of the most notable artists he worked with professionally include Waylande Gregory and Alexander Blazys.

Cowan's pottery in Rocky River reminded me once again that good art is all around you if you look for it.

Bookend ceramics in the Rocky River Library

For more information go to the Cowan Pottery Museum website.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Japanese Monster Art and the Magical World of Harry Potter

Though not typically brought together in a single thought, Japanese monster art and the frightful and humorous creatures that populate the pages of J.K. Rowling's novels actually have a lot in common. In fact, they may have fallen from the same tree.

In Japan, supernatural creatures variously identified as monsters, spirits, ghosts, demons, phantoms, and specters are all categorized as yōkai. The most famous of yōkai include the Kappa, a frog-like monster associated with water, and the Kitsune, a shape-shifting fox often depicted with multiple tails.

Though these two monsters do not find their way into Rowling's plot, it seems obvious that she must have been familiar with other monsters from Japanese folklore. Everyone that has read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies remembers the giant spider Aragog. It just so happens that a similar gargantuan arachnid, called Tsuchigumo, is a legendary monster in Japan.

Tsuchigumo Zōshi, Kamakura period, 14th century. Tokyo National Museum.

Mary GrandPré - Aragog's Burial

For me, a more striking connection is found between the Japanese bathroom-haunting ghost Toire no Hanako and Rowling's Moaning Myrtle. Both ghosts are young girls dressed in school clothing and neither one is overly dangerous. Most people probably remember Moaning Myrtle's comedic pursuit of Harry Potter in the prefect's bathroom in The Goblet of Fire. Though not something one is excited to encounter, generally it seems that the school girl ghost is harmless. Unlike the spider yōkai mentioned previously, the first recorded appearance of the Toire no Hanako only dates back to the 1950s, so there aren't as historic of images to share. Because most of the images of this ghost today are from horror movies and focus on being extremely frightful and or gruesome, I have decided not to include an image of the ghost on this post, but feel free to google for some.
Moaning Myrtle and Harry in The Goblet of Fire

Whether or not J.K. Rowling got her ideas from Japanese art and folklore, it is interesting and almost comforting to see that very different cultures can hold similar beliefs. In both Japan and England, it seems that the claustrophobia of being in a bathroom stall has triggered each culture to make up a story accounting for the feeling of unease one might have when alone in the W.C.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cincinnati Museum

My family visiting the Museum around Halloween years ago when we were all young