Quote for Today: Italo Calvino

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Myth is the hidden part of every story, the buried part, the region that is still unexplored because there are as yet no words to enable us to get there. The narrator’s voice in the tribal assembly is not enough to relate the myth. One needs special times and places, exclusive meetings; the words alone are not enough, and we need a whole series of signs with many meanings, which is to say a rite. Myth is nourished by silence as well as by words. A silent myth makes its presence felt in secular narrative and everyday words; it is a language vacuum that draws up words into its vortex and bestows a form on fable.
Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature
Holy Ghost Panel, Horseshoe Canyon, Utah, USA, Katherine McDaniel, 2012

An Obscure Sign: Totem by Katherine McDaniel

What do you see in this spontaneous drawing? I draw first and find meaning later, so you can’t be wrong.

Totem  © Katherine McDaniel, 2014

Totem
© Katherine McDaniel, 2014

 

This drawing is entitled Totem because of its vague resemblance to Native American totems, signs that embody spiritual attributes of a clan, tribe or family. It is what I call a spontaneous drawing, in which I let myself construct something with no prior plan. My goal is to keep my consciousness from shaping the piece as I am drawing it, allowing things below the surface of my thoughts to seep out. Even if I fail, I may still come out with something interesting that I can dissect later.

My understanding of this quirky little piece changes with time. Today I’m interpreting it as an homage to spirits of motion on land, in water and in air, because I see horses, fish, dirigibles and birds all mixed up together. Tomorrow it may hint at something completely different. I’d love to know what you see.

 

 

Quote for Today: Gilles Deleuze

© Andrew Curtis with CCLicense

© Andrew Curtis with CCLicense

Signs imply ways of living, possibilities of existence, they are the symptoms of an overflowing or exhausted life. But an artist cannot be content with an exhausted life, nor with a personal life. One does not write with one’s ego, one’s memory, and one’s illnesses. In the act of writing there’s an attempt to make life something more than personal, to liberate life from what imprisons it.

Quote for Today: Christina Enevoldsen

Korean War refugees Public Domain Image via The National Archives

Korean War refugees
Public Domain Image via The National Archives

The inability to get something out of your head is a signal that shouts, “Don’t forget to deal with this!” As long as you experience fear or pain with a memory or flashback, there is a lie attached that needs to be confronted. In each healing step, there is a truth to be gathered and a lie to discard.

 

Quote for Today: John Steinbeck

Storyteller Under Sunny Skies by Rose Pecos-Sun Rhodes (Jemez Pueblo), 1993 © Wendy Kavener for the Children's Museum of Indianapolis with CCLicense

Storyteller Under Sunny Skies by Rose Pecos-Sun Rhodes (Jemez Pueblo), 1993
© Wendy Kavener for the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis with CCLicense

A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling, or teaching, or ordering. Rather, he seeks to establish a relationship with meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all our life trying to be less lonesome. And one of our ancient methods is to tell a story, begging the listener to say, and to feel, “Yes, that’s the way it is, or at least that’s the way I feel it. You’re not as alone as you thought.” To finish is sadness to a writer, a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done. But it isn’t really done. The story goes on and leaves the writer behind, for no story is ever done.

Quote for Today: M. Night Shyamalan

Rainbow_At_Maraetai_Beach_New_Zealand

People break down into two groups when they experience something lucky. Group number one sees it as more than luck, more than coincidence. They see it as a sign, evidence, that there is someone up there, watching out for them. Group number two sees it as just pure luck. A happy turn of chance. I’m sure the people in group number two are looking at those fourteen lights in a very suspicious way. For them, this situation is a fifty-fifty. Could be bad, could be good. But deep down, they feel that whatever happens, they’re on their own. And that… fills them with fear. Yeah, there are those people. But there’s a whole lot of people in group number one. When they see those fourteen lights, they’re looking at a miracle. And deep down, they feel that, whatever’s going to happen, there’ll be someone there to help them. And that fills them with hope. See, what you have to ask yourself is what kind of person are you? Are you the kind that sees signs, sees miracles? Or do you believe that people just get lucky? Or, look at the question this way. Is it possible that there are no coincidences?

Graham in Signs, M. Night Shyamalan
Public Domain Image via Wikipedia.

 

An Art Overlooked: The Making of Neon Signs

Sometimes we fail to see the craftsmanship that surrounds us. Is the impressive art of neon sign making becoming extinct?

Pattaya, Thailand

Pattaya, Thailand, Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Neon signs have been an eye-catching way to advertise in large cities around the world for a century. Debuting in 1910 in an exhibition by George Claude, founder of Air Liquide, at the Paris Motor Show, their glittering colors took the world by storm. The heyday of neon in the United States lasted roughly from 1920 to 1960, while it peaked in Hong Kong from 1980 to 2000. This wonderful and enlightening video from M+, a museum for visual culture in Hong Kong, explores the culture and process behind the construction of neon signs, an art that is rapidly being replaced by new LED technology. Artisans painstakingly build these signs, twisting glass tubes heated to almost 1500 degrees Fahrenheit. These tubes must be shaped into to designs, some of which are large and complex, fitted with electrodes and filled with gas. The electrical current supplied into the tubes ionizes the gas, which produces light.

Video via wkcda on YouTube.

While neon, argon, krypton and helium, all used to make “neon” signs, are referred to as noble gases because they are largely inert and are not considered dangerous to work with, the craft itself has its perils. True neon lights, which are red, do not contain mercury, which is toxic, but those containing argon, helium or krypton gas do. It also requires a great deal of practice and experience to learn how to bend and handle the tubes. If an artisan does not have a grasp of how the glass will bend, it is easy to get burned or lacerated. The repetitive movement involved is an ergonomic nightmare, while the dangers of electrocution and falling from an installation are very real threats.

These risks may be contributing to the extinction of the art form, but the driving force behind it is economic. There are few workers willing to do such hard work for little pay when LEDs can be built much more cheaply and quickly. Sadly, there is an art being lost and a quality that cannot be replicated. Cities around the globe are taking steps to preserve iconic and historical neon signs, but there isn’t much demand for new work. If it is no longer a viable form of advertising, perhaps neon lighting can survive as an art form in museums and among collectors. Will neon artists find new heights of expression when freed from utilitarian purposes or will the art fade into obscurity?

Mel's Drive-In, Hollywood image © Chuck Coker with CCLicense

Mel’s Drive-In, Hollywood
image © Chuck Coker with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Haruki Murakami

Carina Nebula  Public Domain image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

Carina Nebula
Public Domain image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

Beyond the edge of the world there’s a space where emptiness and substance neatly overlap, where past and future form a continuous, endless loop. And, hovering about, there are signs no one has ever read, chords no one has ever heard.

Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore