Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Artist of the Week: Edward Kienholz


Looks like this whole week is going to be pretty L.A. heavy. What can I say? That city was GREAT. Another fun excursion from our trip out west was our visit to LACMA. Besides the fantastic California Design exhibit that initially drew me to that veritable culture compound (they had Charles and Ray Eames’ entire living room with all of its contents cataloged, moved, and set up inside the gallery, down to the very same tumbleweed the couple collected on their honeymoon hanging from the ceiling; a lovely, romantic mobile), I really wanted to see the Edward Kienholz exhibit that was also installed on campus. (Seriously, this place was SPREAD OUT. There were buildings upon buildings upon buildings FULL of art. And! It’s where I had my one and only celebrity sighting all week: Jon Voight on his way to the men’s room. [Celebrities! They pee just like us!])

Edward Kienholz was born in Fairfield, Washington in 1927, and was a major player in the California avant-garde art movement of the 50s and 60s. Kienholz is primarily known for his assemblage sculpture and large-scale installations where he combined found objects with figures cast from life to depict scenes that commented on racism, violence, sex, corruption, and the moral hypocrisy of society. 


Five Car Stud 1969-1972, Revisited is a graphic life-sized tableau that depicts four cars parked in a circle in a large dark room with a dirt floor. The only source of light in the space comes from the cars' headlights shining on a gang of angry white men castrating a black man who had just been discovered with a white woman in a nearby pick-up truck. The viewer is permitted to walk into the scene and among the brutality, to peer into the ugly faces of the monsters who are ripping this man apart, his body cavity ripped open to reveal letters that spell a racial epithet, floating in a pool of water inside him. The fact that you could get so close to the violence, the darkness of the space pushing you right into the action, the gravity of the situation enveloping the viewer entirely, was something I'd never experienced before. It is even now, years after it was originally created, still incredibly disturbing to behold. Created at the end of the Civil Rights movement in the United States, it was one of Kienholz' most controversial works, and because of this, it was only shown once in Germany, after which it was purchased by a Japanese collector and has remained in storage for the last forty years until now. Nancy Reddin Kienholz, the artist's wife and collaborator (LOVE that!), restored the work in advance of its exhibition at LACMA.


I read that after Edward died in 1994 while hiking in the mountains near their home in Idaho, his body was buried in a Kienholz installation; in the front seat of a 1940 Packard Coupe, a dollar and a deck of cards in his pocket, a bottle of wine by his side, and the ashes of his beloved dog in the backseat, the car steered into a big hole by Nancy. Seems to me like a truly fitting and poetic way for the artist to ride into the sunset.

- Cathleen 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kleenex, Anyone?

Let's be honest, Kleenexes, or "tissues" as my husband likes to call them, are an inevitable part of life. Finally (!) a high-style and unique way to house them in the house in a house. (Jigga what?!) 

Available through Umbra and priced at an ultra affordable $5, bring this home home today. Available here. 

And while we're at it, this Kleenex box reminds me of this amazing house (below) in Tokyo designed by Jin Otagiri for Datar Architecture in 2006. 


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Just got back from celebrating Thanksgiving in L.A. with Micky and friends. It was an amazing looong weekend spending time with some very fun funny people, touring a beautiful sunny city I’d never seen before. The summer after I graduated from college I had planned an epic drive cross-country with an impractically long list of odd Americana destinations (The World’s Largest Ball of Twine was definitely a highlight) I wanted to visit along the way. The Museum of Jurassic Technology had always been at the top of my agenda, but sadly, once we finally reached the West Coast we were running short on time and had to bypass the city entirely. Sigh. But this time—THIS time I was not going to let this strange little museum get away from me!

I’d read a fascinating little book about the museum a few years back called Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology by Lawrence Weschler, so I was eagerly expecting to see all of the items enumerated in the title and then some. Once inside the museum’s dim, dark warren of galleries, I was elated to discover that there was indeed oh so much more. There was a whole room devoted to oil portraits of the dogs from the Soviet Space Program, and another full of trailer park dioramas, and still another with exquisite micromosaics visible only through the narrow lens of a microscope. I may end up splitting this into a few posts so I can do the collection justice, but for now I’ll start with what I came for: the human horn.

Mounted and hung on a wall with other animal horns on display, the human horn was dark, hairy, and wonderfully repulsive.

Here’s the museum placard:

Ok, so I guess we are being led to believe that this isn’t the ACTUAL human horn from the description. 1688? It would probably be a pile of dust by now, unless they had gone to extraordinary lengths to try and preserve it. Maybe it’s just a model of the real thing. Either way, I’ll take it. 

While I do love specimens and oddities of all sorts, it is Mary Davis' story that really captivated me when I did further research. Horns and hair and hooves are all made of the same keratin protein, so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility that one could grow on a person’s head. That I can wrap my mind around. But apparently, Mary Davis eventually had it removed only to have it grow back again a few years later. Then when she had that one removed, it happened again. Shudder to think.

I'm sure there's a cornucopia/horn of plenty joke in there somewhere. Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving!

- Cathleen

Friday, November 25, 2011


Claes Oldenburg: Scissors as Monument, from National Collection of Fine Arts 1967.

Fishs Eddy, Tailor Scissors $22.95.

I love a good pair of scissors. I have a few pairs that are so wonderful they have followed me throughout my life.

Once Martha Stewart had a whole section of her magazine devoted to scissors throughout history. It was an epic Martha moment- but let's be honest, all Martha moments are epic. 

In the art room at the school I teach we have various scissors and one pair of all metal scissors. That old pair of scissors is beast. It has long blades and cuts through everything. They are beautiful in their banality and their dependability. 


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Paper Art: Bicycle Edition

At website Upon A Fold you can buy this amazing paper bicycle kit. Designed by Shinichi Iwami of Japan this Michaux 1864 bike model is part of his series titled "Micro Museum". Made from thick black paper this can be made using a scalpel, tweezers and some glue. Costs $45 but you can impress your friends with your steady hand for a lifetime. 



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Artist of the Week: Esther C. Werdiger

My friend Neal's friend Esther C. Werdiger (I did meet her in person once, so that would make her my friend once removed, right?) makes these super funny irreverent and great-ly drawn comics called The League of Ordinary Ladies that she posts on The Hairpin. I really like them. I really like her. And I wish she would leave Israel and move to the states so we could hang out in dark bars and I could laugh at all of her jokes in person. Check out her website to see more of her art, listen to her weekly music podcasts, and read the clever quips she leaves on twitter:

- Cathleen

[Comic via The Hairpin]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Design Always Repeats Itself: Beware of the Dog Edition

Have you ever thought about the entomology of the term and signs that warn 'Beware of the Dog?' I sure hadn't.

I came across this today:

Cave Canem

From the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii. This floor mosaic reads 'Cave Canem' which is Latin for 'Beware of the Dog.'

Pompeii was covered when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD which means the term Beware of the Dog is from before then. 

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. I am just sitting and thinking about how we still use this term today casually scrawled on signs in front yards and yet it's been around for 2000 years. 



Monday, November 21, 2011

Perpetual Calendars

Vintage 1960's New York Thruway Calendar, $28
from ElasVintageLiving on Etsy

A relic of old-time-y offices and banks where one might find themselves signing and dating documents and checks, my Grandpa Otey had one of these beauties on his desk when I was little. Except his was from Hawaii and I was forbidden to touch it. Because inevitably, I'd want to flip it to the next number, and the next number, then turn those alluring knobs on the sides, setting the whole month out of whack. And it was an antique! From Hawaii! So if I broke the thing, they wouldn't be able to easily replace it. But that was in the time before Ebay. And Etsy! The latter of which I have combed to find the coolest calendars this side of the continental US. Check it:

Vintage Red French Pencil Sharpener Calendar, $14.95
from MademoiselleChipotte on Etsy

Vintage Brass Calendar, $35
from Pickins on Etsy

Vintage Red & White Space Age Ball Calendar, $28
from 26olivestreet on Etsy

Mod Flip Calendar made in Hong Kong
w/ Tiny Drawers and Pen Caddy, $34
from RoomServiceVintage on Etsy

Vintage PASTA ITALIANA Calendar, $8
from RetroMagnetism on Etsy

The pasta calendar is far and away my FAVORITE! And is currently at the top of my Christmas list.


- Cathleen

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pretty Pretty Oven Mitt-y!

Not only will these beauties keep your hands burn-free whilst baking, but they tell a love story to boot!

" This cotton oven mitt/glove records a love poem written by a boy to a girl in the "language of flowers", the Victorian-era means of communication in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken. Starting with the left side of the wreath to the right side, each flower reveals one more part of the missing puzzle. Included in the poem are amaranth globes, black eyed susans, daisies, poppies, dandelions, tulips, morning glories, roses, magnolias, laurel leaves, laurestine, forget-me-nots, honeysuckle. Try to decipher the poem with your guide here: " 

Designed by the lovely and talented Brittany Jepsen from The House That Lars Built blog (one of our favorites around here), one glove (or two!) can be pre-ordered on Etsy to arrive in time for Christmas at the bargain price of $23.75 each. It would surely make a sweet sentiment for any sweets (or savory!) maker you know. 

- Cathleen 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Design Always Repeats Itself: Insect Pottery Edition

German artists Beate Reinheimer and Ulrike Rehm created this collection of limited edition bug shaped and inspired glazed porcelain.

Images via

Pretty cool.

 These bug vases though reminded me of French potter Bernard Palissy (1510-1590) who produced lead-glazed earthenwares.

Palissy applied frogs, lizards, and crustacea many cast from nature surrounded by water, shells, and rockwork. Only a few pieces can firmly be attributed to Palissy as he had students and was copied often. 

Seems to me Palissy started something that has a long way from playing itself out fully. 
Bravo Palissy! 

Reinheimer and Rehm's work can be purchased here


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Artist of the Week: Naia del Castillo

Normally I wouldn't be inclined to feature an artist in this weekly forum unless I completely loved their entire body of work. However, I feel compelled to include most of the images from this particular series of photographs titled Trapped created by mixed-media Spanish artist Naia del Castillo in the year 2000 because ever since I stumbled upon them on whatever blog it was months ago, hung in some architect's highly designed and decorated duplex, I haven't been able to shake them from my head. Not that her other work isn't nice. It's fine. But lately I've noticed that I'm inexplicably drawn to images and portraits with faces obscured, and these are some of the best in the bunch. 

- Cathleen 

[All photos from the artist's website:]

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ferdinand Cheval

 Cheval went on to spend the next 33 years building the above building titled the Palais Ideal.Working at night after his shift as a postman he spent the first 20 years building the outer wall and binding the stones by lime, mortar and cement. When he began collecting stones he put them in his pocket soon upgrading to a basket and finally using a wheelbarrow (no idea how he delivered mail and wheeled a wheelbarrow). Cheval was so proud of his creation that the armature architect wanted to be buried in his creation. He built the following mausoleum and died approximately one year after he built it.

Crazy right?! You should see the My Little Pony house I built out of kleenex boxes when I was a kid- that's about it for my architecture skills.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The NESTING Series, Times Five: Tent Nests

The latest chapter in The Nesting Series: the beautiful, the diaphanous Eastern Tent Caterpillar Nests!

The Eastern Tent Caterpillars start building their nest as soon as they hatch from their eggs. Created in the crotch of a tree and oriented with the broadest side of the structure facing the morning sun, the caterpillars spend the entire larval period constructing and expanding the nest to accommodate their growth. 

Photo from The Flying Kiwi

Photo from A Prairie Haven

Photo from Allan Bovee Photography

Photo from BioKIDS

The caterpillars feed three times a day on the leaves of the tree, often denuding all of its foliage while they reside in its branches. Each time they leave the nest to eat, they add another layer to the outside of the nest by walking back and forth over its surface, leaving a trail of silk as they go. As the new layers of silk contract, they pull away from the previous layer creating gaps where the caterpillars bask in the sun between feeding and building. 

Photo from Henderson State University

When fully grown, the caterpillars leave the nest and form individual cocoons elsewhere, transforming into adult moths about two weeks later. Mating and egg-laying typically occur the same day the moths emerge from their cocoons, with the females dying from exhaustion soon thereafter.     

Photo from A Prairie Haven

- Cathleen 

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