Posts Tagged ‘tradigital illustration’

The Simple Truth?

May 4, 2020

 

TRUTH-ELLIPSE-FLAT.jpgIn mainstream and social media, truth is frequently distorted or labeled ‘fake news’ and propagated by those with shadowy ulterior political and/or financial motives who view our well-being as an inconvenient roadblock to those motives. In 1994, I wrote this little story for my ‘Visual Fiction’ column in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that now seems naive, yet strangely relevant…

Everything Midas Moodle touched turned to gold.

Well, not literally; that’s just what the financial media gleefully trumpeted since the software entrepreneur was the most successful man in Wall Street history. Everyone wanted to be his friend and though he was nothing to look at, he suffered no lack of beautiful women. When he wasn’t attending board meetings or scanning spreadsheets, Midas indulged in fits of arcane software coding, ‘just for fun’ he told himself. Of course, he knew these electronic forays always became mega money-makers. Yet the King of CrabApple Computers was profoundly unhappy.

One day, in his office, as he scuffled despondently down the information highway, he heard something crunch beneath his mousepad. Cautiously lifting its corner, he discovered a half-eaten fortune cookie, its fortune still intact. Brushing away the crumbs, he read the simple words that would change his life forever: “Seek The Truth.”  

“Hmmph.” he muttered, then sat back and munched the cookie for a moment. Moodily, he reflected that as his empire had grown, the truth had quietly disappeared from his life. Midas had long ceased to worry about it as lies and unkept promises became the coin of his realm. Would my legendary ‘golden touch’ have survived otherwise?” he wondered. Impulsively, he decided to find out. Pouncing on the escape key, he veered off the internet and headed home.

Creeping impatiently through rush-hour traffic, Midas made up his mind to follow the cookie’s advice. Speeding up the labyrinthine driveway to his palatial estate, he headed for his home office where he sealed the slip of paper into a plastic amulet which he placed around his neck. He packed a small valise, then arranged to distribute his worldly goods to worthy causes. Finally, without a backward glance, he set out to scour the four corners of the earth, leaving no city, town or village unturned in his search of the ‘truth’.

Then, in the seventh month of the seventh year since he’d left home, he heard about a cave in a distant mountain where a strange old woman and her companion had lived for longer than anyone  could remember.

Laboring up the mountain towards a grassy plateau, Midas was unprepared for the chilling sight of a ghost-like figure that seemed to float towards him enveloped in an odd but compelling fragrance. Involuntarily, he shivered, then gazed curiously up at a tall, gaunt woman in a shabby grey tunic beneath a colorful, intricately patterned shawl. Bright azure eyes shone from a wizened face scored by a thousand wrinkles and framed by long, wispy white hair. The entrepreneur listened awestruck as her nearly toothless mouth parted to release a clear musical voice that welcomed him to her humble home.

Because Midas Moodle hadn’t a clue as to whether ‘truth’ was something tangible or merely an idea, he introduced himself and humbly stated the purpose of his quest. The strange old woman glanced shrewdly at his fortune cookie amulet with an inward smile and settled delicately onto a throne-like rock.

“Mr. Moodle, I am Truth”, she began. You simply didn’t recognize me because I left you years ago. You had no need of me as I appeared, naked as Eve in Eden without her fig leaf. At first, my plainspoken manner frightened and annoyed you. Later, as your lies grew more fanciful, I tried to embarrass and scandalize you but to no avail. You pretended that I didn’t exist, condemning me to a lonely eternal life. Midas cringed with guilt.

“Then one day,” she went on, “as I wandered sadly down an alley, I was nearly knocked over by an elegantly dressed fellow whose name turned out to be Parable. He apologized profusely. Then, noticing my wrinkled birthday suit and miserable slouch, he abruptly frowned, “Is there something I can do for you?” he asked solicitously. Sunk in self-pity, I wiped away a tear and moaned, “Oh, I’ve become so old and grungy that no one wants anything to do with me!”

“No kidding,” he sniffed delicately. “Forgive me for saying so, but your breath smells rather like a sewer, too. Anyway, listen; no one cares if you’re old! Look at me,” he preened. “I’m just as old as you are. Why, the older I get, the more attractive and interesting I become! Want to know my secret?”

I nodded half-heartedly.

“Well,” said Parable, “I’ve found that people just can’t handle a naked, truthful idea, but they’ll always entertain one that’s dressed up and smells good!” “Here, I have something for you.” From a deep pocket in his fine velvet cape, he drew out a packet that held a beautiful shawl and an atomizer of Eau de Mystique. “Here you go,” he patted my bony shoulder and turned around so I could try on his gifts. “Ah, that’s much better!” he smiled approvingly.  He then offered me his company and ever since, Parable and I now travel everywhere together! You see,” she continued, “When a truth cannot be told or accepted, we work our magic to make it easier to tell and a bit less painful to accept.”

“Will I ever see you again?” Midas asked hopefully. Truth laughed a lovely musical trill. She had divined that the entrepreneur, having lived without her for so long, wasn’t really sure he wanted her back. “That all depends on you,”  she answered. “We travel as a team, so you can summon us whenever you wish! By the way,” she added, “Don’t worry about your ‘golden touch’. When you employ our services, it will probably glow brighter than ever!” Sighing with relief, Midas admitted, “I’m so tired of living my life in virtual reality; lying and making promises I can’t keep!” “I know,” Truth nodded gently. Then she turned and chirped sweetly at the cave entrance.

An ancient man in an Elizabethan doublet and a russet velvet cape emerged. His deep green eyes and smile were those of a wise child as he quizzically regarded his companion and their visitor. With obvious affection, Truth introduced Parable and explained the nature of Midas’ quest. Parable tilted his head sympathetically and offered a taste of his own wisdom…

“Once you believed that lies were the only coin of your realm,” Parable said, “but you’ve forgotten that your coin really has two sides; truth and lies. Each side can be useful if the coin is flipped with good intentions! The choice was always yours to make!” “But,” he winked, “from now on, when you must tell a lie, remember that it will only be convincing if you mix in a little truth with it!”

Midas stood quietly for a long moment. Then, with a dawning sense of déjà vu, he understood that truth and lies had always been folded inside of him, rather like the fortune in the cookie.

At last, Truth and Parable said to their guest, ” Well, Mr. Moodle,  have we been of help in your quest?”

“Oh, yes!” Midas enthused, feeling reborn. He cordially thanked his hosts and promised to engage their services regularly. As he prepared for the long journey home, a worried expression creased the entrepreneur’s high forehead. He turned to Truth and Parable. ” I was a very wealthy man once,” he said, but thanks to you both,  I’ll be rich again soon enough. Is there anything I can do for you in return?”

Truth pursed her thin lips thoughtfully, shaking her head. But Parable, whose face crinkled mischievously, leaned over to whisper something in his companion’s ear.

Finally, her eyes glittering, the old woman answered, “Oh, okay. You can do just one thing for us. When you speak of us to your friends, tell them that we are as young and beautiful as a god and goddess!”

 

 

The Incredible Slowness of Patience

August 22, 2017

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As I worked to complete the final drawings and haiku for Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation, I learned about Tim Pearce, Ph.D, the Assistant Curator of Molluscs at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, here in Pittsburgh. When I contacted this walking encyclopedia of snail facts and lore, I was pleasantly surprised at his accessibility and eagerness to talk about the intricacies and nature of his favorite subjects. When I told him of my book in progress, we made arrangements to meet at his department for a private tour of the museum’s vast holdings of snails, shells, and other obscure, mysterious forms of life beneath the seas.

Here is a photo of the Snail Man himself wearing his favorite hat!

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And what a collection! Giant conch shells once used as trumpets by ancient island tribes to gather their people for special events or war:

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many varieties of cone shells that had contained carnivorous snails who project a tiny dart from their bodies that are loaded with a compound containing 50+ different toxic chemicals! Their shells are very attractive but don’t get too close,  Mr. Pearce warned.

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We think of snails as carrying their own houses, but this chitons’ shell reminded me of a knight’s armor or shield!

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Their names are a mouthful to pronounce but these Xenophoridae or carrier shells are worth a closer look for their ability to disguise themselves in the deep seas against predators by secreting a sticky substance which they use to glue many abandoned shells to themselves as camouflage! Below is the Xenophoridae spread from Codex Gastropoda which I’ve envisioned as a gathering place for a summit of snails:

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Finally, I was introduced to Tony (i), a snail whose name Tim spells with both an ‘i’ and a ‘y’ because this tiny creature is an hermaphrodite; it hosts both male and female gender characteristics. If you can be patient for the three minutes it takes for this little video clip, you can see tiny Tony (i) emerging from his/her shell! Just click on this link to view the video:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/7spialg7hn0fj8b/TimPearceSnail-Trimmed.mov?dl=0

I have a small edition of Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation (Imaginarius Editions, 2017) available for preview and purchase with credit card or Paypal for $30.00 at my Magic Eye Galleryhttp://bit.ly/2vzsSTM or at my Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/Imaginarius

You may find that the images and haiku that comprise Codex Gastropoda: A Visual Meditation are a fine antidote to turbulent times like ours for they encourage us to patiently look, listen and THINK beyond the obvious…

 

A Celebration Of The Number Eight

October 2, 2015

R.Gamliel-JugglingWithFire-SimchatBeitHaShoeivah

Two of my many eclectic interests dovetailed nicely this week; the High Holiday festival of Sukkot of which much has been written* and the art of juggling; specifically as practiced in the ancient but less familiar custom of Simchat Beit HaShoeva (Water Drawing Celebration).

Sukkot began in the mostly agrarian society of ancient Israel as a seasonal harvest celebration when a portion of fresh produce was offered as tribute to the Temple in Jerusalem. After the destruction of the first and second Temples, this holiday became characterized by a ‘sukkah’ or three-walled temporary ‘house’ and a ‘bouquet’ representing the four species associated with the holiday as mentioned in the Torah.**  These ‘arba’a minim’ are: an etrog or citron fruit, one sprig each of myrtle and willow and a palm frond or ‘lulav’. These are held together and blessed in a special way upon entering the sukkah’. In addition to offering prayers, meals are shared with family and friends during the eight days of the holiday. In time, the Sukkot holiday acquired deeper significance as a beautiful spiritual recognition of life’s finite nature and of the importance of living joyfully despite hardships both natural and man-made. SukkahRGBAnd here is where my interest in juggling, particularly as it relates to Jewish history, comes in.

Though I do not have the requisite skills, I’d become interested in the art of juggling and its colorful traditions many years ago when one of my sons demonstrated a special talent for it and turned professional at age nine, maintaining his career and associated travels until beginning college. But I first learned about jugglers in Jewish history upon reading a fascinating article by Raphael Harris in a 1995 edition of Juggler’s World***, one of the magazines my son received as a member of the International Jugglers Association.

In it, Mr. Harris, who was a professional juggler in Israel at the time, describes the ancient custom of Simchat Beit HaShoeva which occurs during the Sukkot holiday when waters are drawn from a spring near Jerusalem for use in the Temple service. It seems that juggling at joyous occasions was inspired by the prophet Isaiah (“with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.” –12:3) and practiced by several distinguished sages and scholars such as Shmuel bar Abba (180-275 CE), Levi bar Sissa (150-220 CE), Abaye (280-339 CE) and Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel (10BCE-70CE), the titular head of the Sanhedrin or High Court who was the earlier juggler mentioned.

Rabbi Ben Gamliel was known for his ability to juggle eight lighted torches. He would toss them in the air in a pattern to ensure that they never touched each other. In addition, he would then prostrate himself on the ground, raise himself into a headstand and manage to kiss the ground before standing up again, an unheard of feat until then. Juggling eight of anything, let alone flaming torches is a masterful feat but I became curious as to the significance of that number and eventually came upon a 2002 article by Calgary Rabbi Eliezer Segal.

Writing in  the Jewish Free Press, Rabbi Segal relates that juggling eight objects, symbolically represents various aspects of Jewish learning and observance during the eight days of Sukkot such as the eight disciplines of Torah study: Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, Aggadah, received traditions, scholarly debate and the secret doctrines surround the Creation story (Genesis Rabba) and Ezekiel’s vision of the Merkabah (mystical Chariot). He also notes that, “one Rabbi Henokh Zundel observed that the juggling of torches served as a demonstration of how the scholar had mastered (grasped in his hands) all eight disciplines. Tossing them into the air represents the spiritual and intellectual elevation that comes through study. The fact that the torches never got confused symbolized the sages’ ability to apply the distinct mode of learning that is appropriate to each area, without mixing them up into an indistinguishable mess.”

All of this led me to portray Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel and his eight torches for the illustration above as part of a new series of drawings in tribute to the art of juggling that I’ve been developing during the past few months. In addition to the ‘The Art of Juggling Dangerously’ (published here on August 10th, 2015) which also addresses fire torch juggling but from a different perspective, I’ll post some of the others here at Imaginarius as they are completed.

Meanwhile, I wish all who observe and/or appreciate the Sukkot holiday much joy in its remaining few days ahead !

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukkot

**Leviticus 23:40

*** http://www.jewishmag.com/7mag/juggler/juggler.htm

Two Days Remaining To Fund This Unique Sweatshirt Design!

September 21, 2015

RealConnoisseursRealConnoisseursCollectIllustration

For much of my life until the beginning of my professional career, I had identified as a (‘fine’) artist, but invariably received rejection comments for my work (particularly from exhibition jurors and gallerists) like, ‘Your work is good but it’s too illustrative.’ What!? Illustrative of what? Did these ‘experts’ imply that my work was unacceptable because it told a story, provoked ideas, questions or emotions? Isn’t that what good art should do?

Nevertheless, I knew I had something unique to offer. Inspired by a long list of historic and contemporary illustration luminaries from Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer and William Blake to Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Moebius and Andy Warhol whose surviving original work is ironically now considered highly collectible, I defiantly re-branded myself as an illustrator. Joining ranks with illustration’s many brilliant practitioners, I embarked on a career full of risks and rewards that also offered priceless social and cultural experiences. By embracing the changing technology along the way, I learned how my work could grow in scope and impact and have rarely looked back.

Accordingly, to celebrate the ‘fine art’ of illustration as a collectible commodity and a good investment, the image shown today is my new design for reproduction on a sweatshirt. From the Threadless site, here is a bit of its background:

This design, built from my original alphabet, Garrulous Gothic (©2015 Ilene Winn-Lederer) was inspired by the notion that brilliant illustration can be as fine an art-form as any of the ‘fine art’ that draws wealthy collectors to glitzy events like Art Basel, Art Miami, etc. It’s high time for a new Golden Age of Illustration!

I’ve posted it on a site called Threadless.com based in Chicago which has operated since 2000 with an interesting business model  that is somewhat similar to other online crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter. Once a design is accepted by Threadless, an artist has ten days to promote it. If enough votes and funding commitments for a design have been posted, my ‘Illustration’ sweatshirt will be produced and  sent to anyone who has ‘backed’ it. Threadless doesn’t charge your card unless a design is fully funded.

So if you are an illustrator, friend of one or an art collector looking for an edge, you need one of these! Check it out here:

https://www.threadless.com/designs/real-connoisseurs-collect-illustration-2

Project Update #1: An Illumination Of Blessings

June 19, 2013

ImageToday marks the 17 days remaining (until midnight of July 6, 2013) to bring An Illumination Of Blessings to life via Kickstarter. I’ve received much warm encouragement thus far and although the project is only 42% funded to date, I am moving ahead with my work in anticipation of eventual success. Accordingly, I’ve just completed a new blessing from the 36 that will comprise the book.

Shown above is the ‘Netilas Yadai’im’, the blessing recited when washing your hands.
My image, however is more than a literal accompaniment to the text of the blessing. In the borders you can see an alchemical icon for the element of water suspended above and below between two ‘mems’ the Hebrew letters whose shape represents the waves of water and which begin and end the word ‘mayim’ for water. This is to emphasize the importance of water not just as a medium for cleanliness, but as a metaphor of the wisdom of Torah within the process of Creation and in our daily lives.

During the days remaining in this campaign, please take a moment to forward the links to this page to anyone you know who would like to be part of this unique effort. Just copy and paste this link into your emails: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1330347473/an-illumination-of-blessings With your help, I look forward to completing An Illumination Of Blessings and sharing the fruit of my labor with you. Until then, I welcome your questions and comments!