Fast food is not the usual subject of creative vision, but the gyros signs of Chicago are masterpieces of prosaic art. This calendar features photos from The Gyros Project. You can order a copy here.
A review of the recent book about Bill Arnett, one of the most important collectors and advocates of self-taught art from the South.
Meanwhile, the sad news arrived that Mose Tolliver, one of the best-known southern black artists of the last century, died Monday.
Economically marginal businesses haven’t been pushed entirely out from the area around Chicago’s Loop. That’s good news for interesting signage.
Check out a bunch of great new signs from coast to coast.
This comment from the business name page deserves featuring since it is an instance of the all-important “things” concept.
Today a marketing research video showed a respondent talking about her laptop. Her affection was so palpable that, as the analysis pointed out, it looked like she was ready to embrace it.
And for good reason. It truly is not just a unit for computing. It’s the place where she keep so much that is important by any fair measure — probably all the pictures of who she loves and where she’s been, all the music she listens to, all the phone numbers she calls. It’s got all the letters she’s written, and most of the answers. It’s where she stores her ideas, if she has any. It projects her movies. It’s got the basic tools she uses for running her life. It’s liable to be full of jokes, things to see and tasks to do.
What’s amazing isn’t that the computer matters to her, it’s that she sees it at all. This is a brief historic moment when the technology is good enough to bring all that stuff together, but new enough that anyone notices. In another few years the laptop — or the device that replaces it — will just be a machine, just so much junk, the way the desktop PC or the Walkman are just things we use, amazing as they were in their time.
The firm that did the research really should preserve the clip for a future museum of technical progress. It’s always striking to see how the things that are utterly normal to us today meant something totally different in another context.
I should admit that I sometimes get a flash of that same feeling about my laptop, as wheezy a solution as it is for holding much of what I treasure. While it still matters, I suppose I should get myself one that I too can treasure, if only for a few moments before it fades into the routines of just so much stuff.
The creativity on display from Florida to Chicago can’t be beat. There are two new pages of roadside signage, the second devoted to Albany, Georgia, a great example of how lean times can preserve a certain slice of our visual culture.
Yes, the Georgian doorways are charming, especially given that the Georgian facades are otherwise remarkably spare. These buildings could be 20th Century low-rent apartment blocks if not for the massive chimneys and lovely doors. That makes the prominent addition of burglar alarms even more striking, with the alarm boxes typically placed immediately adjacent to the door.
The same artistic brilliance to be found on Chicago’s city roadsides is abundant in its older suburbs.
It was behind-the-scenes night at the Field Museum in Chicago and the anthropology department had staff members displaying some of its wares. Here was my chance to ask the question that had been bothering me for years: What had happened to the shrunken heads? Like the baloney people and fetuses at the Museum of Science and Industry and the Ivan Albright paintings at the Art Institute, the Field Museum’s shrunken heads were a crucual rite of passage for generations of Chicago kids.
A staffer answered that they were in storage — at least they hadn’t been thrown out. The museum was no longer a place for curios, he said.
Aspiring to a more scientific mission is admirable and even appropriate. But that shouldn’t require denying the museum’s own historical legacy. Displaying curios is part of its history, and the highpoints of that history should remain accessible. And besides, between Bushman the stuffed gorilla still displayed in the basement and Sue the dinosaur, the museum’s multimillion-dollar T-Rex, there seems to be a continuing commitment to at least some curios.
Meanwhile, here’s the not entirely satisfactory explanation from the Field’s own Web site:
Why were the shrunken heads from South America taken off display?
“The shrunken heads from the Shuara (Jivaro) culture of lowland Ecuador were taken off display when the South America Hall was recently converted into the new Museum store. However, the exhibit in which the heads were showcased was outdated and needed to be revised. Today, we now know that headhunting was a part of the complex religious belief system of the Shuara, who placed a strong emphasis on creating a rich mythology and used shamanistic practices to unify the real and supernatural worlds. From ethnographical research conducted by anthropologist Michael Harner, we also know that the Shuara shrank heads not only of enemies caught in battle, but also of revered members of their community as a way to incorporate their spirits into those of the living.”
Associate Curator, Anthropology