Expansion and Changes!

We at the Forsyth Center Galleries are happy to announce that our blog will be expanding!  In the very near future we will be adding new authors to the blog from the staff and student workers at the Gallery.  We also hope to incorporate guest authors and bloggers from around the Texas A&M campus and art-related departments.  The content seen on this blog will continue to be diverse and interesting and we eventually hope to bring you daily posts Monday through Friday.

Happy Halloween, dear readers!

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Featured Artist: Bob Ross

Robert “Bob” Norman Ross, through his television show The Joy of Painting on PBS, made art accessible to a generation of Americans and Canadians and taught them how to paint.  The show ran for 31 seasons, a total of 403 episodes, from 1983 until 1994.  Today (October 29, 2012) would have been Mr. Ross’ 70th birthday and Google produced a special doodle in his honor.  He passed away at the age of 52 after suffering from lymphoma for several years.

Mr. Ross joined the US Air Force after high school and began his painting career while still in the military.  He began developing his quick painting techniques in order to produce more canvases during his short work breaks.  Once he progressed to the point where he made more money selling his artwork than working in the military, he left the Air Force to become a full time artist.  He studied with German artist and television host Bill Alexander (who hosted The Magic World of Oil Painting for PBS) and fully developed the wet-on-wet painting technique with his mentor.

Bright Autumn Trees by Bob Ross, oil on canvas, image courtesy BobRoss.com

While serving in the Air Force, Mr. Ross had to take on positions where he shouted at lower ranking individuals and forced them to complete chores, scrub latrines, and screamed if they were late to work.  He reported that, once he left the military, he would never scream again.  Indeed, Mr. Ross became iconic in American culture for his soft voice and gentle words on The Joy of Painting.  The show still has a large internet presence on YouTube.  He is still teaching people to embrace art and paint “happy little clouds.”

To read more about Bob Ross: click here & here.

Art Links – Saturday 27 October 2012

Click to see photographer Seth Casteel’s process for underwater dog photography!  Here.

Writer Cristian Mihai discusses Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 rules for writing short stories.  Click here.

Click to see a very odd gallery of vintage Halloween costumes: here.

Tatiana Blanco has an amazing gallery of metal sculptures she has created on her website: click here.

Blogger Indubitably Jetsam shows us how to create a Monty Python “Ministry of Silly Walks” wall clock: click here.

Check out this gallery of vintage Apple fashion from 1986: click here!

Artist Alexa Meade creates a combination of painting, photography, performance, & installation art by making her models part of the paintings.

Phil Hansen demonstrates how to paint with the brown soda/pop/cola of your choice.

Art Spotted: Ancient Mayan Dental Decoration

Mayan jeweled dental inlay.  Picture courtesy José C. Jiménez López of National Geographic.

Today’s Art Spotted comes from the Late Classic Mayan Period (from 700 to 900 CE/AD).  Intentional dental modification in the Mayan culture dates back to at least 2,500 years ago.  Jeweled inlays on the outer side of the teeth (the labial surface) required extremely skilled dentists as it would be easy to injure the pulp cavity.  Inlays of turquoise, gold, pyrite, and jadeite were common and anthropologists believe that this type of dental modification was linked with high social status.  Filing crosshatched grooves into the labial surface of the teeth, filing the teeth into points, or altering the shape of the dental crown in other ways were also common.

Crosshatch design on the labial surface of the incisors. Image courtesy UIC.

The Mayans were not the only culture known to intentionally modify their teeth.  Archaeologists have also found evidence of horizontal grooves filed into the teeth of young Viking males dating from 800 to 1050 CE/AD.  It is also interesting to note that intentional dental modification continues into the modern era in both permanent and non-permanent forms.  The piece of jewelry known as the grill, a fitted metal cap worn over the teeth and typically studded with gemstones, appeared in the early 1980s and became widely known and popularized in America during the mid-2000s.

Horizontal furrows filed into Viking teeth. Image courtesy Caroline Alcini, via National Geographic.
USA gold medal Olympian Ryan Lochte with his American flag grill on 28 July 2012. Image courtesy Michael Dalder.

How do you feel about dental modification?  Would you ever consider wearing a non-permanent grill or getting your teeth permanently modified/inlaid with jewels?

For more information on Mayan inlay dental modification: click here to read the National Geographic article.

For more information of the different types of Mayan dental modification: click here.

For information of Viking dental modification: click here.

Also visit the original article from the American Journal of Physical Anthropology: click here (pdf file).

To read about grills: click here.

Art News – 24 October 2012

Here is a wonderful, feel-good piece of art news to remember amongst all of the stories of vandalism and theft that have been recently plaguing the art world.  Our thanks to Mister John Feathers for amassing this amazing collection and his family for donating it to the Los Angeles Public Library so that the world can enjoy and learn from it.

A rare 1944 street map of Los Angeles County, collected by John Feathers

John Feathers spent his life collecting maps and, when he died in February at the age of 56, he had amassed a collection of approximately one million maps.  After he passed away, his family hired realtor Matthew Greenburg to go through the 948 square foot house slated for demolition and rent a dumpster to dispose of the contents.  However, when Greenburg entered the house and saw the incredible collection he couldn’t bring himself to throw everything away.

Realtor Matthew Greenburg holding a shelf with some of the maps from Feathers’ collection.

Greenburg called in the Los Angeles Central Library’s map librarian Glen Creason to evaluate the collection.  He immediately saw that Feathers had collected some very rare maps.  Feathers’ family is donating the incredible collection to the LA Public Library.  The acquisition will launch the library into the top five library map archives in the country, behind only the Library of Congress, New York, Philadelphia, and Boston.  Creason stated that, “This dwarfs our collection — and we’ve been collecting for 100 years.”

Feathers stored his maps all over his home.

The process of cataloging the maps will take up to a year and the shelving to house it is expected to measure 600 feet.  The oldest map in the collection is a map of Europe dated to 1592.  Feathers’ Map Collection will become an incredible resource for researchers worldwide.

Is there any item that you collect and do you hope to one day donate it or pass it on?

To read more on this incredible story: click here.

Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance

“The Skeleton Dance” is a short animated film produced by Walt Disney and animated by Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney, Les Clark, Roy O. Disney, and Wilfred Jackson.  It was released on the 22nd of August, 1929, and has become an iconic, classic animated short to watch during the Halloween season.  The total budget for the animation was $5,386, which calculates out to $72,886.44 if it had been produced in 2012.

Dancing skeletons, black cats, and other spooky, traditional Halloween imagery are used in the animation.  While we may watch the short and simply enjoy it for a sense of nostalgia, having seen it as children, or find the idea of skeletons dancing in a graveyard humorous and silly, the imagery in “The Skeleton Dance” has an extensive history in Western Art that dates back to the early 1400s.  It is a modern adaptation of the danse macabre, or “dance of death,” which commonly features skeletons dancing and other images of death.

The Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut, 1493, a woodcut illustration for the Liber Chronicarum. This is one of the most well known examples of a danse macabre.

The earliest danse macabre images appear in Paris and were dated to 1424-25.  Unfortunately, this mural at the Saints Innocents Cemetery was destroyed in 1669, when the charnier housing the mural was demolished to widen the road behind it.  These images appear only 75 years after the Black Death swept through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia absolutely decimating the population.  In Europe it is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the population and anywhere form 75 to 200 million individuals worldwide perished during the 1300s.  A charnier is a structure built on a burial ground that typically housed the bodies of people that died during the cold winter months until they could be buried after the ground thawed in the Spring or Summer.

An illustration of what the charnier at Saints Innocents Cemetery, Paris, France, with the original danse macabre mural would have looked like during the 1400s to mid 1600s.

The people of the Late Medieval period in Western Europe lived in a world that was dark and full of death.  When these macabre images of dancing skeletons became popular, not only had they lived through the plague within recent memory, but they had also experienced a drastic change in climate with the Little Ice Age intensification during the early 1400s, recurring episodes of famine, and social unrest ran rampant through all of Europe.  During this period wars such as the Hundred Years War claimed around 3.5 million lives.

Medieval people lived in a world where death was an ever present and a pervasive entity.  Scholars believe that genres like danse macabre express the fact that sudden death was always just around the corner, thus heightening the need for religious penitence and constant preparation for death.  They also postulate that portraying images of death and skeletons dancing or doing other humorous activities allowed medieval people to gain some amusement where little was available.

Happy Halloween season, everyone!

The Abbot by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1538, woodcut as part of his Dance of Death series.

To read more about the Silly Symphony Skeleton Dance: click here.

To read more about danse macabre imagery: click here.

To see a great gallery of medieval images of death: click here.

To read more about the crisis of the Late Middle Ages: click here.

Saturday Links – 20th October 2012

I hope everyone is having an amazing and enjoyable weekend!  Check out these links to see some fun and interesting art found around the internet this week.  It’s 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) and sunny here in College Station, Texas…perfect weather for American football!  Stay happy and healthy, my friends.

Hammering coins into the bark of trees to wish for good health and recovery from illness is a tradition in Gwynedd, Wales, that dates back to the 1700s.  Click here!

This video by Phillip Scott Johnson details 500 years of female portraits in Western Art.  It’s been floating around the internet since 2007, but is always enjoyable.  Click here!

With all of the news about stolen or vandalized art, take a look at this stories from ArtLoss.com.  It’s wonderful to see that art can be recovered even years later!  Click here!

These Angry Birds piggy macarons are amazing and adorable!  Click here!

Red makes incredible portraits with unique materials.  Click here!

Drawspace.com has free lessons if you want to practice your drawing skills, but don’t have time to attend classes.  Click here!

Surrealist photography before Photoshop.  Click here!

Check out this amazing gallery of deep sea creatures.  Click here!

Studio Roosegaarde has created an amazing lotus dome made of hundreds of mylar flowers that react to the viewers body heat.  The result is an incredible piece of interactive art.  Click here!

This film by Renaud Hallee uses fire as a musical tool.  Click here!

Damien Hirst created this incredible sculpture, The Anatomy of an Angel, in 2008.  Click here!