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Puppets have been with us for a very long time. Amusing us, sometimes scaring us or making us mad–and by “us”, we mean people of just about any age in any country. Small figures made of simple materials become actors in a play. This is theatre the way we all like it. We laugh, we cry. Applause applause.
The above 200-year-old puppet troupe, supporting cast to the beloved character Guignol, is from Lyon, France, found here.
But happily, puppets are as much a part of the present as they are a reminder of the past. Today, right now, puppet making and puppet theatre are as widely appealing and inventive as ever.
This is one (of dozens) of small figures imagined and made by Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer for a show called The Surgeon and the Photographer. Each is made of cloth and paper cut out of magazines and books. Are they “puppets”? They are to us, and the room full of them was, by a long shot, the best thing we saw in an art gallery in 2015.
Above, Mr Farmer’s puppets on parade at the Barbicon in London in 2013. Happily, all these little people have been gathered in a book.
Whatever their actual age, puppets seem to belong to a time all their own. This lad, who is Italian and just waiting for the show to go on, is about 300 years ago.
This past August, many of the fine performances at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival featured puppets and puppetry of the highest and most hilarious order, the most absurd, unsettling, laugh-in-spite-of- yourself kind of stuff you’ll find in any theatre anywhere…
Like Bruce, a sponge puppet, with quite a story to tell. Created by Australian company The Last Great Hunt
And Foxy, one of the stars of Sing for your Life, a “Hideously hilarious taxidermy puppet cabaret”written by taxidermy performance artist (!) Charlie Tuesday Gates. Don’t look toooo close.
Puppet festivals thrive today in many cities–like Istanbul, below
Montreal Festival Casteliers Afternoon of a Foehn.
So we encourage you to get off your hands and head out to a puppet show near you or way over there in Istanbul. Near or far, the delight remains supreme. We love these little creatures, don’t we?
G. Farmer. Mlle Puppette. Enchantee. Merci.
These days, not many of us stop and take note of what we are walking on or where we stand. But over the years, lots of talented people have been putting lot of thought and creativity into the stuff that goes under our feet.
Treat your feet and feast your eyes: Viva Terrazzo…..
Above is just a peek at the bedazzling variety of patterns produced by the terrazzo process–part construction part sculpture pure elegance that lasts a lifetime
If your two feet happen to prefer wood to stone, but you still want the visual variety of Terrazzo, you need to budget for Parquet wood floors.
Above selection, tip of the parquet iceberg, found here
The idea certainly appealed to the folks at the St Petersburg Winter Palace–the Hermitage, nice photo from here.
But what do you do in 2015 to satisfy the floor fetish in your own contemporary home?
Well here’s one idea:
Grey wood is all the rage. It seems we now favour a neutral background for our lives and ourselves, a bare stage on which to strut our stuff.
But what does that say about us and how we value ourselves relative to the things around us? Have we lost a step or two in always clambering to be the centre of attention? If Princes and High Priests were willing to share their habitat with the likes of this…
Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
Why can’t we just suck it up and give ourselves a floor worth dancing on?
But, hang on, you don’t have to run out and replace your floor; what a waste. The truth is you can dramatically raise the creative temperature of any room by covering parts of it with a piece of hand-woven cloth. Oh yes you can…
Zoe Luyendijk gets it and she’s got it, woven by hand in silk and wool to slip nicely between your foot and the floor while your eyeballs explode. Fall in love here:
Surely we are ready to revive the art of the floor. Why should fridges, counter tops, and faucets get all the attention. Look down, imagine the possibilities. Imagine your personal terrain.
Floor of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice
Don’t stand for anything less.
And what about that ceiling?
Music, good music SOUNDS good, of course. But we’ve noticed that the best music also LOOKS good.
That’s Edythe Turnham and her Band up there, lookin’ good. photo Dorothy Hilbert Collection seen here
Small music groups, particularly, seem to have great visual appeal. This is something like a family portrait–the resemblance is there–but where everyone has their own special piece of equipment and job to do. Found here.
When we go to see live music, we go to watch as much as to listen. What we experience at the time, and what we take away, has a lot to do with what we looked at, what we saw.
Artists of every era have used musicians as subjects. It’s just natural.
Fernand Leger, two performances, same band, new look. See here.
Jan Miense Molenaer painted this portrait of a family musical event in Haarlem, Holland, in the 17th century.
Lots of paintings of musicians at work here
This scene of how to walk like an Egyptian while playing a tune is from the Metropolitan Museum collection, found here
In our time, some of the most eye-appealing performances, we think, are given by the string quartet.
Performers at the Kairos chamber music festival, go here.
But for our money, nothing quite beats the genius solo performer deeply in tune with the music and the moment
Miss Holiday, the song, the look, none before or since quite like that.
Mr Hendrix was an eye magnet as well as an incomparable musician. Fine photograph by Tom Gundelfinger O’Neal, lots more here
Glenn Gould, Joni Michell. Music like no one else. Looking like no one else.
Listen up and look on.
The world is (still) full of wild things, plenty of them pretty weird in appearance and habits. Yet we humans have never been satisfied with nature’s menagerie. Since way back when, we have imagined things even more wild and more weird. Like this unnerving critter photographed by Nhung Dang (spotted here).
No surprise the Japanese have been heavily into conjuring up unusual creatures from the imagination. There was a whole show of them in London.
The USA can claim many producers of eye-poppng imaginary animalia, sometimes under the banner of Folk Art, sometimes Outsider Art, sometime…Art. This wild dog was here.
And in the USA, there is no shortage of well produced, well attended shows featuring objects and drawings of creatures who have never actually roamed the earth, but which are very much alive in the minds of some artist.
And then there is England, which might hold the all time record for the number of its citizens who have turned their imagination and their natural skills to the rendition of new life forms. The above drawing is a collaboration of two sisters born in the 1840’s with time on their hands and wonderful, playful minds. Here’s the story.
Kate Bradbury, a current artist from England, emerged late, blossomed quickly, makes things no one else could never dream of. This is her Angel. More
Let’s give the last word and image to the Asians. Eunmi Chun is Korean, and she makes animal figures out of dried intestinal skin and human hair (sometimes gold-leafed), beautiful forms sewn together, see here.
Wild. Thing. You make my heart sing.
Nature is the crucible, churning out an infinite variety of living things. And still, some of us turn our heads and minds to the invention of things that, so far, never were.
Gotta thirst at the end of a day? Well, there is no shortage of colourful, solutions to be concocted–by you yourself or by a licensed professional (image from here). Cocktails are back. Lucky us.
The mixed drink for adults that goes beyond the quick and simple rye and ginger, rum and coke, scotch and water, tequila and tequila is very much in favour just now and shows no sign of retreating any time soon.
Funny how things come and go. Not so long ago, the thing to do was to keep everything simple, including your brain buzzing beverage of choice. Open the bottle, pour a healthy slug, add something a child might drink, and repeat as necessary–or just make a giant jugful.
But now, it’s all about multiple ingredients, hard to find, mixed in just the right proportion, requiring some care and skill, served in a special glass, beautiful to look at.
They say the cocktail craze started way back before we let television in the house. Almost a hundred years ago, people of means and money looking to fill the void between the afternoon nap and dinner decided the thing to do was to have friends over for drinks, real drinks, stiff drinks crafted with expertise made from hard-to-get components, just like their hats and furniture.
Great design above by Beverley Nichols found here.
Those who looked into it seriously say the cocktail hour was born sometime between 1917 and 1924, somewhere between London and America, moving inevitably from houses to bars, cafes, nightclubs, fund raisers…
The bunch above are slurping their cocktails during prohibition in America, meaning you needed a password to get in and you had to lie to your mom when you got home. From this article.
This crowd is on the town Berlin at a time when, it seems, nothing was prohibited (and just before just about everything was prohibited).
Wherever you are, the cocktail seems to be best consumed in the presence of someone you think is swell.
Or at least someone you used to think was swell. This is a fine photo by Irving Penn was taken in Lima and found at this eye-opening site.
Then again, some gals just like to put on their best cocktail hat and go it alone.
OK, so back to the here and the now. Below is the bar at the Brasserie NYC in the one and only Seagram’s building where, we can tell you, you will not go wrong in acquiring a satisfying cocktail, New York style: big, quick, yummy, and served by someone who won’t make you feel like you don’t deserve this.
If you find yourself near NYC or just thinking it, it would be a fine occasion to have a Manhattan cocktail.
Wherever you are, spare an hour late in a day to seek out seat at the bar somewhere in your town. Give the bartender a chance to try something new on you–or challenge him/her with something little known.
At the r of l, our official cocktail is the negroni.
Why? it tastes really good in any season and any time of day, it only has 3 ingredients, and it goes very well with any activity, whether you are being quiet and reflective (wondering where you put that note reminding you to do something) or hosting a gathering of 20 friends and neighbours in celebration of the fact that you have 20 friends and neighbours. (Image above, History, and more from Swide)
Find your cocktail, find your reason to sip it.