Rooted in America’s Heartland

18 September 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

‘I simply don’t care a damn what happens in Nebraska,” ranted a New York critic, “no matter who writes about it.”

Or so Willa Cather claimed. In the long leisure of the grave, the alleged scoffer may ponder how it is that a century after its September 1918 publication, Cather’s “My Ántonia,” its every page rooted in Nebraska, remains very much alive and in print—while he is neither.

Reading Virgil in college, the narrator of “My Ántonia” is struck by the lines “for I shall be the first, if I live, to bring the Muse into my country.” For the Roman poet, “my country” was rural Lombardy; for Cather, transplanted to New York, it was the prairies, cottonwoods, bleak winters, cornfields and homesteaders of 1880s Nebraska. Her first novel, set in patrician Boston and Savoy-Hotel London, she acknowledged a mistake. Turning to “the people and the country that are my own,” she made a second, truer beginning with “O Pioneers!”

“My Ántonia,” published five years later, returns to the prairies. Its voice is that of middle-aged Jim Burden, recalling his Nebraska youth, especially the fascinating Bohemian girl Ántonia. The ward of prosperous grandparents, Jim becomes a town boy, goes off to university and Harvard Law, achieves big-city success, marries an heiress. Ántonia slogs on the farm to help her impoverished family, works as a hired girl in town, and later, seduced and deserted, returns to the farm. Years later, Jim revisits Nebraska to renew their friendship.

Early reviewers, Cather joked, thought “My Ántonia” would interest only the Nebraska State Historical Society. With “no love affair, no courtship, no marriage, no broken heart, no struggle for success,” it lacks the usual staples. Nor did she care about plot. “I didn’t arrange or rearrange,” Jim describes his narrative. “I simply wrote down what of herself and myself and other people Ántonia’s name recalls to me. I suppose it hasn’t any form.” Cather cheerfully agreed: “If you gave me a thousand dollars for every structural fault in ‘My Ántonia’ you’d make me very rich.”

But “My Ántonia” doesn’t lack passion—“real feeling,” as Cather wrote, the “one thing you cannot fake or counterfeit.” The early chapters trace a romance—not with Ántonia, but with the prairies’ long sweep and rolling swells, vast as the sea, radiant with beauty, open and free as Eastern cities were cluttered and crowded. “The blond cornfields were red gold, the haystacks turned rosy and threw long shadows,” Jim describes autumn sunsets in a passage rich in biblical allusion. “The whole prairie was like the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed….It was a sudden transfiguration, a lifting-up of day.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Colorful Statements: The Art of Illustrator Eliot Wyatt

18 September 2018

From Adobe Create Magazine:

Eliot Wyatt likes to say that his personality and his work are quite similar: “a bit weird, fun, and loud.” An illustrator based in Bristol, England, Wyatt creates colorful—and sometimes a little trippy—work that has enlivened high-profile campaigns for clients like Airbnb, Buzzfeed, and Nescafé.

. . . .

Wyatt’s subjects range from politics and social issues to celebrities, delicious-looking foods, fantasy automobiles, and really cool sneakers. A candy-colored palette and a flat, nearly two-dimensional look make for a very distinctive body of work.

. . . .

When asked about how his approach is unique, Wyatt is thoughtful. “I don’t know if it’s a bad thing, but I wouldn’t say there is anything particularly unique in the way I approach my work,” he says. “I will sketch out ideas, develop the best ones, and then move into a final image. What is unique is the thoughts and ideas that run throughout my illustration work and the way that becomes identifiable as my style. It’s not necessarily the way you approach a project; rather, it’s the way you think about it. For example, it could be thinking about a different way to view a particular scene or object, or how you may be able to refer to something without directly placing it in the image. These decisions contribute just as much to your ‘style’ of work as the aesthetic you choose to work in.”

. . . .

And what, in his mind, constitutes a successful piece? “For me, it is when both the aesthetic and the ideas are strong in a single image. Sometimes an illustration can lead too much with the aesthetic, which ultimately makes for a weaker image. Typically, all work, either client or personal, starts out the same way. My initial sketches are developed further in to larger sketches, which allows for more focus on creating a solid composition and framing of the image.”

Link to the rest at Adobe Create Magazine, which includes several examples of the Wyatt’s art.

PG is familiar with writing exercises but wondered if authors engage in other practices that help jumpstart or expand their creative efforts.

For example, is a character sketch the equivalent of a visual artist sketching out an idea?

To the best of PG’s recollections, visual arts and writing are centered in different parts of the human brain, but he could be wrong.

The society of dead authors

18 September 2018

The society of dead authors has this advantage over that of the living: they never flatter us to our faces, nor slander us behind our backs, nor intrude upon our privacy, nor quit their shelves until we take them down.

~ Charles Caleb Colton

Photographer Says Artist Stole His Photo, Artist Claims ‘Remix’

18 September 2018

From PetaPixel:

South African photographer Graeme Williams was attending the opening of the Johannesburg Art Fair earlier this month when he was shocked to see his own photo on a gallery wall with credit being given to African American artist Hank Willis Thomas.

. . . .

The photo wasn’t exactly Williams’ version: it had been “remixed” by Thomas.

. . . .

“By slightly whitening part of the image (possibly some comment on whiteness vs blackness) African American artist, Hank Willis Thomas, has attempted to make this image his own,” Williams wrote on Facebook after his discovery. “My unaltered image has been published and exhibited many times. In 2008, as Barack Obama sought the Presidency and raced for the position against John McCain, Newsweek magazine ran a story asking each candidate to discuss what best personified their world view. This image that I took […] was used to illustrate Obama’s world view.”

The Guardian reports that Williams was even more disturbed when he saw the price tag on the photo: it was being sold for $36,000, or 25 times more than what the photographer has ever sold the photo for (around $1,200).

. . . .

“The changes were absolutely minimal,” Williams tells The Guardian. “It’s theft, plagiarism, appropriation. It’s a kind of fine line where you say it falls. Within the art world there’s an acceptance that you can use images within the artistic framework to create something that has meaning different to the original image. This was the exact same of my original photograph and all he had done is take an image that he likes and call it his own.”

. . . .

“I can see why [Williams] would be frustrated,” Thomas tells artnet News. “He said to me that he didn’t feel like I had altered the image enough. The question of ‘enough’ is a critical question.

“This is an image that was taken almost 30 years ago that has been distributed and printed hundreds of thousands of times all over the world. At what point can someone else begin to wrestle with these images and issues in a different way… much the way that people would quote from a book?”

Link to the rest at PetaPixel

The illustration at the top of this post is a partial copy of each artwork. You can see the complete version of each at the OP.

Can Barnes & Noble be saved?

18 September 2018

From Retail Dive:

The intensifying struggles of the last remaining national U.S. bookstore chain indicate a hard truth: big-box book selling may be over.

Sure, Amazon can be blamed in part — the ease of browsing titles and buying online (nearly always at a discount) then having items shipped directly to one’s door for free is a convenience play that’s hard for consumers to pass up. But the rise of e-commerce and e-books aren’t the only reasons Barnes & Noble has been spinning its wheels on a turnaround plan. Consistently declining sales may have more to do with an inability to remake itself in a different era of retail — and a lack of stable leadership to guide that transformation.

Over the last five years, four first-time CEOs have walked in — and quickly out — of the chief executive role.

. . . .

[Chairman Leonard Riggio] noted that the company needs to do more than simply cut expenses in order to be not just a viable, but growing business. Consolidated sales in its most recent quarter decreased 6.9% to $795 million, a decline executives were quick to blame on a poorly rolled out buy online, pick up in store service. “Comparable store sales sequentially improved each month throughout the quarter declining 7.8% in May, 6.1% in June and 4.5% in July,” CFO Allen Lindstrom said on the call, adding that August comps declined just 0.8% and the company is set up for positive comps over the holidays.

Despite obvious financial and management instabilities, the Barnes & Noble brand is still strong — so strong in fact that a bookseller made a bid for the retailer in the spring, but ultimately withdrew the offer after doing due diligence, Parneros’ lawsuit disclosed. A Barnes & Noble spokesperson declined to comment on this story aside from its public statement on Parneros’ lawsuit and its recent earnings announcement.

It’s unclear exactly why the bookseller ultimately dropped the deal, but executives and some industry insiders still see a path forward for Barnes & Noble. Others say it’s on borrowed time.

Link to the rest at Retail Dive

My initial response

17 September 2018

My initial response was to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized that I had no character.

~ Charles Barkley

Defamation lawsuit over alleged fake Western painting tossed

17 September 2018

From a 2017 story in The Santa Fe New Mexican:

With Western American art long dismissed as unworthy of the fine art world, few collectors would have even cared 25 years ago if an early 20th-century oil painting of cowboys or Indians on the frontier was authentic or not.

Now, the owner of galleries in New Mexico and New York City is suing one of the world’s largest Western American art auctions, a Nevada gallery and others for defamation, accusing them of falsely claiming a $1 million painting he sold is a fake.

Gerald Peters of Santa Fe seeks unspecified damages from Peter Stremmel Galleries of Reno, the Coeur D’Alene Art Auction of Nevada and auction partner Mark Overby of Hayden, Idaho. The defendants’ lawyers say the claims have no legal basis. They filed motions in federal court in Reno last week to dismiss the suit.

. . . .

“It wasn’t really until the late 1980s or mid- to early-1990s that a lot of art historians and museums began to start taking Western American art seriously,” said Amy Scott, chief curator of the Autry Museum of Western Art, founded in Los Angeles in 1988.

The lawsuit centers on The Rain and the Sun, which Peters says is the work of Iowa-born Frank Tenney Johnson (1874-1939), a onetime illustrator for Field and Stream magazine who became famous for his oil paintings of nighttime frontier scenes.

Peters sold it years ago for $750,000 as part of a trade with other artwork to R.D. Hubbard, a well-known Western art collector, business tycoon and horse-track owner.

Peters says he took back the painting from Hubbard last year after Stremmel, of Reno, repeatedly insisted it was a forgery.

In its current tainted state, the painting is worthless, his lawsuit says.

“Word travels quickly within this small community when a work of art is called a fake,” the suit says. “It is hard, if not impossible, to unring that bell.”

. . . .

In this case, he insists the work is that of Johnson, dubbed the “master of moonlight” for his nocturne paintings known for their remarkable depth and color.

. . . .

But Johnson almost exclusively painted scenes of cowboys, Native Americans and their horses. More than a dozen have sold at Nevada’s massive annual Coeur D’Alene Auction, most recently Cowboys Roping the Bear for $965,250 in 2012.

In 2008, when the auction sold a record $36.8 million worth of art, Johnson’s The Sheriff’s Posse went for nearly $1.1 million.

Less famous than Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, Johnson is of special interest because he worked with Hollywood studios to create backdrops after he moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s when the Western movie genre was being invented, said Scott, of the Autry Museum.

Link to the rest at The Santa Fe New Mexican

And the rest of the story from Business Insider:

A federal judge has thrown out a defamation suit a Western art collector filed against a prestigious auction house and the owner of a Reno gallery who claimed an early 20th century cowboy painting he sold for $750,000 was a fake.

The judge in Reno dismissed the lawsuit last week against Peter Stremmel Galleries and the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction of Nevada.

Gerald Peters, who owns galleries in New York City and Santa Fe, New Mexico, said in the lawsuit filed last year that the defendants told his longtime friend and business partner R.D. Hubbard a 1937 oil painting wasn’t an original work of Frank Tenney Johnson, who is well-known for his paintings of cowboys.

Defense lawyers argued Peters wasn’t maligned because the statements about the authenticity of “The Sun and the Rain” didn’t refer directly to Peters.

Link to the rest at Business Insider and thanks to The Art Law Blog for the tip.

Here is an illustration created by Johnson as the frontispiece of a book titled Riders of the Silences. A Google Images search for Frank Tenney Johnson will show many more.

Bookstores are finding creative ways to survive and thrive in the age of Amazon

17 September 2018

From Crain’s:

When the Barnes & Noble in Baychester closed in 2016, Noëlle Santos was determined to ensure that the Bronx would not be bereft of a bookstore for long.

Nearly two years after opening her first pop-up shop, Santos, who recently walked away from a six-figure salary as a human resources executive, is putting the finishing touches on The Lit. Bar, a bookshop-wine bar in Mott Haven opening in the fall.

But Santos’ plans go well beyond retail success: She wants her 2,300-square-foot shop to become a focal point for connecting Bronx residents to a literary world she didn’t know existed when she was a local public school student in the 1990s. Her store’s website makes playful use of that backstory, declaring: “The Bronx is burning … with desire to read,” upending the infamous epithet from the 1970s.

To critics who contend that the idea of opening an independent brick-and-mortar bookshop is a good 20 years behind the times, Santos counters with a broader-than-books-alone business plan. She envisions publishing original content and running a bookmobile—she has even been approached about possible franchising opportunities.

“The Lit. Bar is a media company that sells books and wine,” Santos said. “We’re creating our own literary ecosystem.”

. . . .

In the past year, SoHo-based McNally Jackson expanded to Williamsburg; Kew & Willow Books debuted in Kew Gardens, Queens; Book Culture expanded to Long Island City; Café Con Libros opened in Crown Heights; Shakespeare & Co. launched a kiosk near Hunter College; mobile merchant Boogie Down Books began selling at Mottley Kitchen in Mott Haven; and Codex Books debuted on the Bowery.

More independent outlets are in the works. McNally Jackson has deals in place for two new outposts, and Shakespeare & Co, which is opening a shop in Greenwich Village early next year, and Book Culture have been scouring prime Manhattan retail corridors as part of ambitious national expansion plans.

These entrepreneurs are reinventing the traditional brick-and-mortar bookshop model—and boosting profit margins—by increasing their assortment of nonbook offerings and stepping outside their stores to sell books off-site. Funding options are more creative too, including crowdsourcing and community-based lenders in place of traditional banks.

Link to the rest at Crain’s and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

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