Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Tactile Art

leave a comment »

John Lee Clark writes at the Poetry Foundation:


Downtown St. Paul is home to one of the most extensive skyway systems in the world. The sprawling maze connects buildings via enclosed bridges above the streets. The skyway solves one of our challenges as DeafBlind people traveling through a city: crossing busy intersections. My family lived there for as long as we could afford to because it was such a joy to be a mouse racing inside and out, up and down, plying my long single whisker. Following my nose, I found all the best places to eat and, following other instincts, I infiltrated all the cleanest bathrooms hidden away from the masses.

One day my partner, Adrean, an ASL Deaf artist, came home to tell me about something she’d spotted. It was a sculpture of a giant open Braille book. She had never gone that way before, but I’d passed by it several times. It stood in a building’s courtyard, some paces from the street. You had to see it to see it.

A few days later friends from out of town were visiting. We took them out to our beloved Ruam Mit Thai, and after our feast we gave them a tour of the city. I remembered Adrean’s sighting and asked her to show us the public work.

It turned out to be a huge sheet of metal propped up, its bottom edge near the ground and its top edge a foot taller than I. Each Braille dot was the size of a golf ball. This made it impossible to read the text, which was supposed to be a passage from a Walt Whitman poem. Although the sheet mimicked the open face of a book, with two facing pages, each line ran across both pages.

There was a plaque with the title, artist name, perhaps a statement. Did the statement pay tribute to Braille? This information was not available in regular Braille.

As I struggled to read what the golf balls had to say, a security guard trundled out of the building. He spoke no sign language but we got the message. One of the nice secret restrooms was close by, and we hurried there to wash our hands.


Museums are difficult to get to. They don’t want me to touch anything. They require that I make an appointment—by phone, no less. So my information about mainstream aesthetics has largely come from ducks.

They rule over gift shops, Goodwills, and garage sales. Squeaking rubber versions have long been infants’ first encounter with artifice. Minnesota’s state bird is the loon, and many homes and stores here feature wooden, ceramic, metal, stone, plush, and glass loons. Waterfowl are a favorite of woodcarvers. There is even a DeafBlind Canadian who whittles, paints, and sells ducklings. What they all have in common is a flat bottom. A goodly portion of their natural anatomy is taboo. They are meant to appear floating on the still waters of a tabletop, a windowsill, or a bookshelf.

The hitch is that were I to handle a live duck paddling across a pond, I would be able to feel it as a whole, for water is not a tactile barrier as it is a visual one.

Small wonder, then, that one of my definitions of beauty is a certain stuffed wood duck in the nature center at Richfield, Minnesota. A piece of ordinary taxidermy, its feathers are ridiculously soft. “Wood duck,” I was inspired to write in a slateku, a form I invented using the Braille slate, “I feel for you/You never had hands to stroke/Your own wings.” Even more bewildering are its round velvet bottom and granular webbed feet, which bespeak a master creator.


“Here, you can touch my face.”

“Thank you, no.”

“No, it’s fine. Really.”

“Nah. I just—”

“I want you to.”

Well, I want to tell them, what you are offering for my inspection is just a skin-covered skull.

“A head,” jokes the eighteenth-century British comedian George Alexander Stephens, “is a mere bulbous excrescence, growing out from between the shoulders like a wen; it is supposed to be a mere expletive, just to wear a hat on, to fill up the hollow of a wig, to take snuff with, or have your hair dressed upon.”

A friend once showed me a prized possession of his, an egg-shaped sculpture. I could feel its eyebrows, nose, and mouth, but they conveyed nothing. For my sighted friend, it had an exquisite expression of serenity. “Peace,” it’s called.

At least it was bald. The bust of Mark Twain in a museum I visited in New York had him wearing a futuristic helmet, with fantastical whorling grooves. A terrible tumor grows under his nose. Ulysses S. Grant was similarly helmeted but had an iceberg stuck up his jaw.

Helmets notwithstanding, sculptors were onto something with nudity and gesture until the Victorians began to manufacture a statue for every philanthropist and politician. Of these “leaden dolls,” G.K. Chesterton grouses, “Each of them is cased in a cylindrical frock-coat, and each carries either a scroll or a dubious-looking garment over the arm that might be either a bathing-towel or a light great-coat.”


Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 June 2020 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

How to Draw in Six Steps

leave a comment »

Andy Wright has an interesting NY Times article on how to draw, with brief videos to illustrate the six steps. The article begins:

Drawing can be a meditative way to relax. Do you want to learn today? Here, let us show you!

Binyamin Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times, focusing on business and economics. He also doesn’t know how to draw, so we made him try this out as our model.

You will need:

  • Any pencil, pen, or even Sharpie will do. Artists we spoke with especially love No. 2 pencil and Uni-Ball pens

  • Paper

  • A timekeeper


Copy paper does the job but cardboard, old takeout menus, and mail are also all acceptable canvases.

Arshile Gorky sometimes drew on napkins and newspapers; Pablo Picasso’s obsession with scrap of all kinds, from Vogue magazine pages to hotel letterhead, is the subject of a recent exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

“We all have art supplies at home,” said Diane Olivier, a San Francisco-based artist and educator who has been teaching basic drawing classes to college students for over three decades. “We’ve just never looked at them that way.”

STEP 2 . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, including the videos.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 May 2020 at 8:15 am

Posted in Art, Daily life, Education

Twelve Tones, by Vi Hart

leave a comment »

So far as I’m concerned, this is a must-watch.

Some thoughts I had as I watched:

One thing about learning a new language is that it requires the acquisition and understanding of new patterns because two lanauages don’t really fully match up any more than the lives of people in the same line of work in the same village match up: there are commonalities, but there are also differences difficult to match.

A mild example from this morning: Esperanto has the word kuri, to run, which matches the English verb quite well: replacing to run with kuri  works well: “He runs” and “Li kuras” mean the same thing..

But I could not think of a simple Esperanto verb that would match to walk. There is marŝi, but that definitely includes the idea of walking in step — it matches “to march,” not “to walk.” And there’s promeni, to walk to see sights or for exercise, but it has for me overtones of “to promenade,” “to stroll,” and “to amble.” I wanted a neutral word, in the same way that “to run” is neutral.

I posted a question in the Lernu forum, asking for an Esperanto verb that means “iri per piedoj” (to go by foot) or “iri piede” (to go footwise). An immediate response: piediri. And that does seem to match, and it also illustrates how in Esperanto (as in Forth) one constructs new words to do the exact job you want, whereas in English one must dig through the drawer of words to find the closest match and perhaps be satisfied with a phrase — though it should be pointed out that the poet’s role is to take current words and, through context, stretch them to take new shapes and do new jobs. By putting a word in a new context, the poet fills it with a different color and charges it with a different energy. And not only poets: writers of fiction and drama do the same — think of some of the significant words in (say) “Death of a Salesman,” or “Macbeth,” or some stories of Raymond Carver, and how the impact of those words in that context differs from their workaday use.

A second thought was how the real numbers, being a continuum, contain many numbers and properties that we can never know — very interesting numbers and very interesting properties, if we could only know them. I suppose one of the reasons mathematicians are constantly generalizing is that moving to a more general level you can get a kind of overarching “knowing” of a class and its structure that frees you of having to know the individual elements.

At any rate, I found it a fascinating video, and as I write this I’m listing to Schoenberg (via YouTube), and his music — at least this piece — is indeed very nice.


Written by LeisureGuy

6 May 2020 at 5:43 pm

Online exhibits from Stanford University Libraries

leave a comment »

It turns out that there are many online exhibits to peruse.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2020 at 1:45 pm

Hamlet as a vlogger

leave a comment »

This is fascinating. From Gary Cook’s description of his work: “An adaptation of Hamlet where Hamlet is a popular vlogger who frequently posts his breakdowns online”

He’s got several pieces up on Youtube. Here’s his (well-done and interesting) version of the soliloquy:

Written by LeisureGuy

23 April 2020 at 10:53 am

Posted in Art, Movies & TV, Video

A look at Monet’s Water Lilies

leave a comment »

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2020 at 8:23 pm

Posted in Art, Video

Three poets to help you understand ancient Chinese poetry.

leave a comment »

Lee Moore writes in SupChina:

This month, in which we are all locked indoors, happens to be National Poetry Month. Several people, getting tired of the same plot lines in pulpy fiction, have asked me, What should I be reading? My answer is always the same: Tang Dynasty poetry.

The Tang Dynasty (618-907) is the golden age of both China and its poetry. And not just that — there is probably no time and place in world history when poetry was more important. The imperial exam, a ticket into the social elite, required test-takers to be thoroughly familiar with poetry. Social life for elites was dominated by parties where people sat around drinking and writing poetry. To move up the social ladder, you had to be able to write poetry. And so, not surprisingly, the Tang produced an abundance of poets.

Because of the sheer number and diversity of works, Tang poetry can be intimidating if you do not know where to start. The Complete Tang Poems (全唐诗 quán tángshī), an 1705 anthology that attempted to gather all Tang poetry into a single collection, has 49,000 poems and 2,200 poets. Even that is really just a “Best Of” collection. How does one begin to break into them?

Luckily, during the Tang era and subsequent ones — the Chinese have never stopped reading Tang poetry — cream rose to the top. Three poets from that time distinguished themselves and remain celebrated to this day. They make for a fine entry point into Tang poetry — let’s take a look at who they are and a representative poem from each (all three poems translated by yours truly).

Dù Fǔ 杜甫

he first poet in the Tang Trinity is Du Fu. Textbooks and other official channels largely agree that he was the greatest of the Tang’s poets. Although it is a simplification, Du Fu represents the Confucian tradition, to the point where, during the Song Dynasty, he was sometimes called the “poet-historian.”

Like the two other poets you’ll be introduced to shortly, Du Fu lived during the Tang Dynasty’s most tragic period, and his poetry is redolent of the sadness at the breakdown in government institutions and the violence that that breakdown inflicted on the lives of the people. The Tang state was at the height of its power when a non-Han Chinese, Central Asian general named Ān Lùshān 安禄山 tried to overthrow the Tang emperor. Du Fu, along with the emperor, fled the capital and did not return until after An Lushan had sacked it.

Much of Du Fu’s best poetry focuses on  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 April 2020 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Writing

%d bloggers like this: