Sunday, November 18, 2012

Downtown LA: The Eastern Columbia Building and Art Deco Architecture

In October of this year I flew out to visit my sisters in Los Angeles. Along with seeing my second oldest sister's apartment and meeting her two cats, Rosalie and Esteban, I also took the opportunity to see as much art as I could. Some of this art was found in a typical museum setting at the Getty, but I also saw quite a bit of interesting art while wandering downtown LA.

The Central Garden at the Getty by Robert Irwin

My twin sister was nice enough to accompany me on my self-planned walking tour of downtown in return for shopping with her later in the day. Our first stop was the Oviatt Building which once served as a penthouse for owner James Oviatt as well as a haberdashery, or men's outfitter. One of the special features of the building is that it includes glass details by René Lalique. Included below are a few pictures of the entryway.

Other sites included several theatres, the LA public library, Angel's Flight, and the Eastern Columbia Building. I really enjoyed the bright colors and unique fonts used on all of these buildings.

Since arriving home, I was recently reminded of my trip while watching an episode of the Office online. The unforgettable bright turquoise Eastern Columbia building was featured prominently in a Lexus commercial I saw while watching the episode. Included below is one of the commercials that shows the building.

 Eastern Columbia building

The fact that the Eastern Columbia building is included in an advertisement for a luxury car speaks to the current popularity of Art Deco. Apparently it is "cool" enough that a frame of the Eastern Columbia building can fit seamlessly into an advertisement that highlights partying and cruising on a Friday night. From athletic shoes to women's fashion, retro is currently in demand.

Building included at the end of the commercial

What is troubling is that the images of downtown LA included in these commercials are probably not recognizable to many people, even those that live in Los Angeles, because the downtown area in LA is not the social center it could be. While the downtown definitely has nightlife, during the day I saw that many of the city streets were inhabited prominently by the homeless. In some ways the anonymity associated with the buildings downtown works well for the commercial because it makes it so that the audience does not immediately connect the car to a very specific geographic region. This allows viewers to identify more closely with the commercial and the product. Including more iconic buildings, like the Empire State building, would immediately limit the ad.

Still, while the relative obscurity of edifices like the Eastern Columbia building serves the purpose of the commercial, it it does not bode well for the city itself. If these buildings are unfamiliar to most, that means the downtown area is not often frequented by visitors and residents. In the field of urban studies, much has been written about how the downtown areas of many cities are dying and the negative effects that come with this trend. One well-known publication on this topic is Robert M. Fogelson's Downtown: Its Rise and Fall. Much needs to be done to resuscitate America's downtown city centers.

In my opinion, historic buildings have the potential to revive activity in downtown areas that are no longer thriving by promoting tourism and creating interesting and beautiful environments. It seems that the city of LA agrees with me on this because on their tourism website they include several posts on architecture that visitors might want to see. Most notable is their current post on buildings featured in the film (500) Days of Summer. The Eastern Columbia building is one of the edifices that makes an appearance in the film, but it can only be seen for a mere second or two. As the home of Hollywood, it makes sense that much of Los Angeles tourism is connected to film.

In a small way, the inclusion of architecture from downtown LA in commercials can also help promote and build the city center. Yet, for the commercials to succeed in doing this, the landmarks included must be recognizable. I personally do not believe that images of downtown LA are yet ubiquitous enough to be easily identified by the typical American, but I hope that one day soon they will be. I greatly enjoyed my trip to LA and hope that visitors and residents alike are drawn to its historic buildings in the future.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Legal Topics by Call Number:
A Series Project in Cut Paper

At the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library, I work among a sea of KF call numbers. I always have to hold back a laugh whenever a new law student or university student comes up to the circulation desk to ask where they can find KF call numbers because books with KF on their spine are what fill up the majority of our library. Library materials with KF call numbers can be found on every one of the library's four floors. In case you didn't know, KF is used in the Library of Congress system to identify books on American law. The letter "K" on its own simply stands for law.

In order to make the multitude of books and other materials with KF call numbers a little more accessible to our patrons, I decided to create a display for one of our bulletin boards on the atrium level of the library that has stood empty for too long. Sue Altmeyer, one of my coworkers, initially proposed the idea of filling the bulletin board with information on where to find particular legal topics (such as bankruptcy or federal practice) in the library. I decided to go with the idea and develop a display made out of cut paper that highlighted fifteen different legal topics.

Even though I really enjoy working with colored paper, the decision to use paper for this project was largely based off of convenience. Marie Reihmar, the employee who used to create all the displays for the library before she retired, left me and the rest of the librarians at Cleveland State an enormous supply of colored paper in almost every hue you could possibly imagine. Since it was already there and would not cost the library any money, I decided to utilize it. There were times when I was cutting out very tiny intricate designs that I questioned this decision, but overall I enjoyed working with paper.

Despite consciously attempting to avoid spending any money on this project, I didn't think ahead on everything. There was one complaint that I was using too much glue for this project and that the library couldn't afford to supply me with glue sticks, but luckily this didn't turn out to be too serious. I used two of the library's glue sticks, which probably cost us a total of three dollars. Since the glue sticks the library has are purple and caused me a lot of issues with craftsmanship, I ended up bringing in my own glue sticks anyway after going through the first two.

Below are included some images of my individual paper designs as well as a picture of how the display looks now that it has been assembled on the atrium of the law library. The only possible alteration I am still thinking about is lamination. I'm sure that some people are going to find the project a bit juvenile, but I hope that some of the law students will not take things so seriously for once and just enjoy the colors and designs and the bit of information the display conveys. If any of the law students are feeling particularly carefree, they can also play a matching game with the display. There is a space allotted on the bulletin board for when the images are not matched up with a law topic heading. Students can take take the images from this space and pair them with empty headings.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to make this display and have a little fun with paper. Today at work Linda Herman, one of our past Research Assistants, told me that she would love to have a job like mine that would give her the opportunity to make art. It was nice to get some positive comments about the project. Even though making displays is not found anywhere in my job description, I am glad that my job is flexible enough that it allows me to put some of my art skills to use.

Finally, please note that this entire display was made while I was helping patrons at the main circulation desk.

In case some of you aren't familiar with Cleveland, the transit system used to represent urban planning is Cleveland's rapid transit train system. This was one of the images that made me question how sensible using cut paper was. I had to cut out and glue very tiny pieces of paper for that design.

Here is a picture of how the bulletin board looks when all of the pieces are correctly matched with their topics.

This photo shows what the board looks like when all of the images are waiting to be paired with their headings.

For additional information on the call number ranges of particular legal topics, see Northwestern's classification guide on U.S Law Call Numbers.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Olympics are Here!

Even though I can't be in England to see the Olympics as I had originally planned, I am still very exciting about the upcoming games. Unfortunately not having cable is going to make seeing a number of the events pretty difficult, but I will at the very least get to see the opening ceremony tomorrow night at a friend's house. Below are pictured some frosted graham crackers I made in honor of the event.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

High School Ads for my Little Brother

My little brother is going to be graduating from high school in just a few short weeks. Over the last few years I've done a number of quick ads for show choir programs and the yearbook for him and I felt that now would be an appropriate time to share them. Since I am the only person in my family that knows what Photoshop is, these little projects were given to me to complete.

The first two were for the Piqua Invitational Show Choir program. The designs that "frame" the ads are based off of the set design for each of the shows. Although all of the ads have a cheesy message, the funniest has to be the text in the second ad: "Be Indestructible!" This was the title of my brother's show that year, so I felt that the cheesiness was appropriate.

Enjoy the ads below.


Congrats Isaac on your graduation:) I can't wait to see how well you do in the Photojournalism program at OU.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cards: Killing Two Birds with One Stone

Those of you that personally know me are probably aware that I am a card sender. Apparently this is not a common characteristic of people today in their mid-20s, but it is very important for me to at least send out a birthday card each year to the people that truly matter. In addition to finding the sentiment valuable, I have always felt that greeting cards (when done well) are great examples of graphic design.

During this past summer while thinking about my need to create more art projects for myself while also saving money I came up with an idea - I should create my own greeting cards. Although I have not succeeded in pursuing this personal project to the extent I originally conceived, I have created a few cards for friends and family. In doing so, I have helped myself keep my artistic mind alive and also save a few bucks.

The very first card I made to fulfill this goal of killing two birds with one stone was a card of encouragement for one of my very best friends who was soon going to be competing in the Berlin Marathon. The card, seen below, was mostly about font and color for me. Because the marathon was taking place in Berlin, I decided to use the German flag as my main inspiration. In making it on Photoshop, I kept in mind the art of paper cutting and picked the colors of the text and footprints on each strip based on what color would be revealed if the colors of the German flag were layered with yellow on the bottom, red in the middle, and black on top and then cut away. My friend, Paule, is actually going to be running another marathon, Brighton, this upcoming weekend. I am definitely thinking of her and only wishing I had found the time to make another card for her for this marathon.

I also just recently made a card for my little brother's birthday pictured below. Somehow my brother is already nineteen! The design for this card seems to coincide with my academic studies at the moment. I am currently taking a course in Islamic art and am reading a great deal about how their art is known for its obsession with rhythmic surface decoration and the form of the arabesque. Lately I think my study of art has been eclipsing my creation of art, but I hope to keep the two in better balance in the future.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bay Arts - Number Four

This week I sort of struggled with my painting, but at least it didn't turn into a train wreck. I think dealing with mostly greys and blues made this exercise less fun than my more colorful painting last week. As most people know, I enjoy painting mostly because it give me the chance to play with colors.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bay Arts - Number Three

I had to take a pretty long hiatus away from Bay Arts because of work, but I finally made it back to a Friday morning portrait session this week. It was nice to paint again.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Recreating the Jewish Memory: A Brief Study of Two Novels

While reading Edmund de Waal's new best-selling novel The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss, I was constantly reminded of another novel, W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, which I read approximately two years ago. The Hare with Amber Eyes attempts to recreate the history of the grand Ephrussis family through tracing the history of a group of 264 netsuke that were passed down through the family and were eventually inherited by the author, Edmund de Waal. Netsuke are small Japanese carvings that serve to secure pocket-like containers to an individual's clothing at the hip. Austerlitz is the story of the an architectural historian who tries to figure out what happened to him and his family during WWII. Both stories include a smattering of photographs throughout their pages and deal with reconstructing the lost past of a Jewish main character and that of his family.

The photographs of The Hare with Amber Eyes are generally predictable and primarily serve as factual documentation, while the photographs of Austerlitz are often quite thought provoking and sometimes odd. The photographs in The Hare with Amber Eyes are all historical and include many images of the authors relatives. None of the photographs in Austerlitz on the other hand are actually historic, but there is a feeling that they could be. Some of the images include pairs of strange eyes (of both humans and animals) and a haunting image of a woman who is perhaps Austerlitz's mother. Also in the book is a picture of the Gare Saint-Lazare train station, most famously depicted by Monet. Train stations seem to constantly haunt the main character, Austerlitz, and over the course of the novel the reader learns that this may be because he was sent away from his family in Prague on a children's transport to live with a British family during WWII. The picture of Gare Saint-Lazare in the book is especially important because Paris is the last place to which Austerlitz can track his long-lost father. Austerlitz's father is never found, but Austerlitz comes to the conclusion at the end of the book while standing in Gare Saint-Lazare that his father must have left Paris on a train in that very station. As one can infer from the events surrounding the Gare Saint-Lazare, places have special meaning in Sebald's Austerlitz.

Photograph possibly of Austerlitz's mother

The importance given to places and their architecture is another commonality between the two novels. One of the passages that has stayed with me since reading Austerlitz is the book's discussion of the psychology of architecture. Sebald writes that building fortifications of any kind demonstrates that one is fearful. In the end Sebald thinks that building barriers or fortresses has the opposite effect of what one intends. Instead of making things safer, constructing fortifications draws attention to an area's greatest weaknesses. In an odd way, it seems that one is safer and more confident without fortifications. Because Jacques Austerlitz is an architectural historian, long discussions on somewhat random topics like this make sense and allow the reader to find the main character more believable.

The Hare with Amber Eyes also is very particular about the places and spaces found in its pages. Through reading the book, or listening to interviews with the author (like the one included below), one can see just how important it was to Edmund de Waal to spend time in every place that his ancestors had. The author, like Sebald, also believes that architecture can have a psychological effect on inhabitants and passers-by. While exploring the Ringstrasse in Vienna, de Waal shares an unusual observation about his grand imperial surroundings. He writes, "It is so big that a critic argued, when it was built, that it had created an entirely new neurosis, that of agoraphobia" (113). Attributing the creation of the fear of wide open spaces to a street and a collection of buildings is pretty original.

I enjoyed reading both novels because of the different ways that they both incorporate visual elements. The photographs, the subject matter of netsuke and architecture, and the constant descriptions that accompany the characters travels to great cities all emphasize the visual world.

Following this, I hope to read Bruges-la-Mort (1892) by Georges Rodenbach. It is supposed to be one of the first novels that included photographs. If I can manage it, there is a copy in French in the Cleveland Public Library, so I could work on my French while increasing my knowledge of fictional works that incorporate photography.

Some of the netsuke collection