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For years my most popular blog post was about leprechauns…so I need to make some Saint Patrick’s art pronto! However before we get there, here are some weird green flounder artworks to lead up to the holiday. Spring is almost here, even if the thermometer says otherwise. Some kelly green artwork should remind us of that fact (even if flatfish are not traditionally spring green).
Drop everything: Pantone has just announced the color of the year for 2017! Although the “color of the year” is nakedly a publicity ploy by Pantone (a New Jersey branding corporation), it is also relevant since large groups of industries work together to put the color everywhere in clothing and consumer goods. Additionally the color of the year really does represent the zeitgeist of an era (if not through mystical aesthetic convergence, at least through talking and writing about it). I had some reservations about the color of the year last year (the only year with a dual winner: cool pink and gray blue), yet the contrasting/complimenting nature of the shades ended up representing the divisive political, gender, and class battles of 2016 perfectly while still evoking the lost conformity of the 1950s. Maybe it is better not to speak of the bleeding liver color of 2015, which was suited only for haruspices and die-hard Charles Bronson enthusiasts.
Marsala (Color of the Year 2015)
This year’s color is back to being a single shade—a mid-tone cabbage green named “greenery”. Yellowish greens are among my favorite colors (or maybe they are my favorite colors) so I love greenery. I think it is magnificent, and any devoted readers who want to express their affection for Ferrebeekeeper should feel free to send me shirts, cement mixers, or three-wheel mini cars of the verdant pastel hue.
The Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute (snicker) writes “Greenery bursts forth in 2017 to provide us with the reassurance we yearn for amid a tumultuous social and political environment. Satisfying our growing desire to rejuvenate and revitalize, Greenery symbolizes the reconnection we seek with nature, one another and a larger purpose.”
I personally do not feel especially optimistic for 2017: I believe the nation is headed off in a profoundly wrong direction, and, additionally, nothing particularly good is happening in my personal life. But how do we learn other than through terrible mistakes? (well…aside from, you know reading and thinking, and nobody in America is likely to do those things). Plus you never know, maybe popular culture will seize on flounders or eclectic zoology/history/aesthetic blogs as the flavor of the year for 2017. We need to keep an open mind and be ready to seize on opportunities.
Populists and fascists generally push policies which create a “sugar rush” of short term economic euphoria and froth crony capitalism (before state intervention, protectionism, and price fixing set in and create economic death spirals). Perhaps greenery–which, now that I look at it, is also the color of money—will represent this short lived false dawn. When the real slump arrives and recession and scandals shake the nation, Pantone can choose some different colors. Spray-tan orange, blood red, concrete gray, or gold and black .
In the meantime let’s enjoy Greenery: a color which I really do uncritically love. I think this shade would be perfect for room painting and some craft projects. Maybe I will make some yellow-green flounder drawings too. Above all I plan to see lots of Greenery in the garden (which I also plan to write about more). Also, the color of the year announcement kicks off the end-of-the-year holiday season, so I will put up some festive posts while we enjoy eggnog and ornaments and remember the tulip bulbs in the ground, waiting to burst forth come spring.
The Brazilian Goldsmith Carlos Martin manufactured the Imperial Crown of Brazil in 1841 for the coronation of Emperor Dom Pedro II. The crown is also known as the Diamantine Crown—because it is covered with 630 diamonds—ooh, so sparkly! I guess, the crown also has 77 large pearls too, but nobody really talks about them. The imperial crown of Pedro II replaced the unremarkable crown of the extremely remarkable Dom Pedro I, a revolutionary and reformer who was responsible for many of the things which went right for Brazil. We’ll have more to say about him later this week.
With 8 magnificent golden arches meeting beneath an orb and cross, the crown of Brazil echoes the crown of Portugal…and rightly so, since the great South American nation began as the most magnificent Portuguese colony (although Goa, Macau, Agola, and Mozambique were quite nice too). Here is a picture of Emperor Pedro II looking exceedingly magnificent (and perhaps a bit silly too) as he opens the annual Parliamentary session in 1872.
So lovely was the crown of Brazil that is was the central motif of the Brazilian flag until the monarchy was abolished in 1889. Unlike other crowns which were sold or stolen after independence, the Brazilian crown has remained in posession of the Brazilian republic and can currently be seen at the Imperial Palace in the City of Petrópolis.
Color transcends history. The wavelengths of light…the chemical compositions of the pigments…these things are part of the physical universe. Yet how we apprehend color is a part of our eyes, and our minds, and our upbringings (and involves some quirks unique to human physiology—as demonstrated by the colors magenta and stygian blue). Most of the colors I write about were first mentioned in the 18th or 19th century. Some colors are vastly older—like Han purple (which I like more all the time, by the way). However today I am writing about a color first mentioned in the distant year of…2009. This color found a name after the rise and fall of Britney Spears. The great recession had already set in by the time this color made the scene. I am talking, of course about “Arctic Lime” which was invented by Crayola’s for its “eXtreme” line of ultra-bright colored pencils.
At first gasp, Arctic lime seems like a sad effort by a marketer who was not at the top of his game. Chartreuse and the Arctic do not initially go together in the popular imagination (nor do tropical limes belong in the frozen tundra). Yet the more one looks at this hue, the more it makes sense. It is not the color of ice, but it is the color of the aurora as it sweeps past inhuman vistas of alien frozen waste. Also, Arctic lime may not have a beautiful name, but it is a beautiful color (in its own unnatural and eXtreme way). Perhaps people of the far future will think of this color the way we think of Han Purple and they will imagine us going about our lives in Arctic Lime leisure clothes and neckties. Come to think of it, the color is pretty similar to the high-visability fluorescent green of my bike helmet. Maybe the imaginary people of the future are imagining us more accurately than we imagine ourselves!
Sorry for the empty space here last week. But now I am back, refreshed, and ready for a whole theme week dedicated to eggs. I conceived of this theme during Easter as I feverishly dyed goose eggs from my parents’ farm, but now that I start to write, the enormity of the subject hits me. Almost all arthropods, vertebrates, and mollusks reproduce by laying eggs. We mammals are in a minority among animals (and even then, there are certain exceptions). The fertilized offspring of the vast majority of animals develop to viable lifeforms inside an egg. Eggs consequently hold a huge place in mythology, biology, and agriculture. A surprising number of cosmologies (and biographies) start with an egg cracking open. Likewise, an understanding of animals beyond hydrozoans requires one to contemplate differing sorts of eggs (and indeed the universal name for female gametes happens to be “eggs” as well).
So that is what I will be writing about for the rest of the week, however I am opening “egg week” with this little miniature essay as an introduction…and with the literary allusion pictured above. Do you recognize it? It is green eggs and ham! It occurred to me as I began to unpeel the eggs that I had accidentally re-created Sam-I-Am’s famous feast. The eggs are really dyed chicken eggs. This is the only mention I will make of eggs from a gastronomic context—but trust me, those eggs were quite delicious and, if we didn’t have so much ground to cover, we could dedicate an entire blog every day for a lifetime to eggs’ central position in cuisine. But alas, there is no time for custard pie recipes—we need to move on. Tune in tomorrow for one of those egg-based cosmologies!
A Shamrock is a bright green spring clover–the species is unclear….but probably common clover (Trifolium dubium) or white clover (Trifolium repens), just like your garden variety pony eats. The shamrock has been an instantly recognizable symbol of Ireland for a long time…or maybe not. Anecdotally Saint Patrick utilized the humble plant in order to explain the nature of the trinity to his nascent flock in the fifth century AD (in which case they were the only people to ever understand the incomprehensible mystical unity-yet-separation of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost).
More realistically, however, the association between the Irish and the plant is less clear. English sources from the 16th century mention Irish “shamrocks”– but largely in the context of destitute Irish eating field plants (once again the species in unclear, but it seems like it might have been wood sorrel or watercress). Edmund Spenser, who lived among the Irish (and hated them), wrote approvingly of seeing Irish people starving to death after a failed rebellion left them with no crops, “…they spake like ghosts, crying out of theire graves; they did eat of the carrions …. and if they found a plott of water cresses or shamrockes theyr they flocked as to a feast for the time, yett not able long to contynewe therewithall.” Of course, since Spenser reportedly starved to death himself he might have later found occasion to eat these harsh words (literally and figuratively).
All of this leaves (!) us no closer to understanding how the shamrock became so indelibly affiliated with the Irish. Increasingly it seems like it may be a connection which was made in the early modern era. However, pre-Christian Irish were known to hold the number 3 in greatest esteem. Certain Celtic deities had three aspects and the number 3 was obviously sacred. This is strongly reflected in pre-historic Celtic art. Some of these mystical gyres and whirls do indeed look oddly like shamrocks…so you will have to judge the merit of the little green plant on your own. In the mean time I am going to head down to the great Irish restaurant, McDonalds, and see if I can find a shamrock shake. Usage maketh the myth and by that token there is nothing more Irish than a three-leafed clover.
It should additionally be noted that in the modern world, “shamrock” has become the name of a bright Kelly green color. You may even see it today reflected in spring foliage, or jaunty banners, or on a furtive leprechaun or two (although, leprechauns traditionally wore red until they became standardized and bowdlerized in the early twentieth century). Have you ever wondered whether everything you know if blarney made up by marketers less than a lifetime ago?
Wha…? That is clearly a four-leaf clover! Curse you infernal tricksters!
There are four living species of the genus Gallus. The most familiar (by a ridiculously vast margin) is Gallus gallus—the red junglefowl, aka the chicken! Yet there are some other sorts of junglefowl still out there living in the primordial jungle. My favorite (for purely aesthetic reasons) is the green junglefowl (Gallus varius), also known as the Javan junglefowl, the forktail or the green Javanese junglefowl. Like the red junglefowl, the green junglefowl lives in tropical and semitropical forests and scrubland. It is an omnivore, living largely on seeds, grain, and fruits which it supplements with whatever insects, arthropods, lizards, snakes, and tiny rodents it can catch.
The green junglefowl lives in Indonesia on the islands of Java, Bali, Lombok, Komodo, Flores, and Rinca (and on some smaller islands near to these large landmasses). The birds live in small flocks of two to five. Usually a single male lives with a few females which he protects with his sharp spurs and fast beak (although these are poor protection against Komodo dragons and tigers…to say nothing of Indonesian humans). At day the junglefowl forage through the forests. At night they roost about 15 feet up in small trees or bamboo. They are slightly better at flying then the red junglefown of South Asia. Males fight (sometimes to the death) over hens.
At first the common name would seem to be a misnomer. The male junglefowl does not look green, but rather black with orange wings, gold highlights, and a dazzling superman-colored head of bright red, yellow and blue(!). Yet close up, it becomes apparent that, like the ocellated turkey and the Cayuga duck, the green junglefowl has iridescent feathers which are many colors in different light—but mainly dark glistening green. Aviary owners and exotic bird enthusiasts are quite familiar with the green junglefowl because of its dazzling appearance and its unique mating call “Cock-a-blargle-ack!”
These birds of the Indonesian jungle are shockingly beautiful and yet also oddly reptilian and alien. The undomesticated chickens are a reminder of just how strange our familiar farm animals really are. Although, in some ways the green junglefowl are swiftly becoming green chickens. They keep interbreeding with domestic chickens to form a peculiar hybrid—the bekisar.
I’m sorry I didn’t write a post last Thursday or Friday: I was away from Brooklyn on a whirlwind family trip to see the farmstead and visit my parents and grandparents. Now I love Brooklyn with all of my heart, but it was a great relief to be away from it for a little while. It was lovely to feed the thousand gentle farm creatures, to assess the growth of the plums, apples & nut trees in the orchard, and to walk back through the soybean fields into the true forest.
Unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of writing time (and there isn’t much internet access in West Virginia and southeastern Ohio anyway). However I have a few little drawings which I doodled while I was home. My favorite is at the top of the page—it is a view of the soybean fields as the viewer emerges from the forest and is struck by the dazzling deep green of the plants. Soybeans are a critical crop in numerous ways, but I never really noticed them as a child–perhaps because I didn’t yet love edamame, or maybe because I hadn’t become used to living in a world of asphalt and bricks. Anyway, I will write a post about soybeans, but I wanted to share a quick impression of their overwhelming glowing greenness. The second picture is a drawing from the road of Parkersburg, West Virginia. The town is actually both much prettier and much uglier than the sketch—there are numerous picturesque Romanesque and “Jacobethan” churches and buildings, but there also some truly dispiriting strip malls along the outskirts (which I represented with a Kia dealership). Still the town has been improving incrementally for decades—perhaps thanks to my parents’ lovely yarn shop and quilting shop (which you should totally visit if you are ever in the Midwest/Appalachian region).
Speaking of quilting, I also drew a purely abstract picture of paisleys after I became fascinated by the printed patterns of the bolts of quilting cloth. Ever since the age of the Mughals, paisley has regularly come into fashion and then fallen out of it. Yet the concept seems to be much more ancient than the Scottish textile makers of the early industrial revolution or the Mughals. Paisley is another subject I need to blog about—because I think it is tremendously beautiful.
Finally there is a little drawing of the goose pond. I sketched it quickly (and from a distance) just before we drove off to the airport, but you can still see a few little pilgrim geese swimming about on it. My parents’ flock of these creatures has succeeded beyond all measure and now it is like their farm is infested with miniature dinosaurs. Everywhere you look there are geese busily gnawing on grass, biting each other’s tails, or jumping sadly (with expectant open beaks) beneath tantalizing green apples. I am sorry I didn’t do a sketch that really does justice to the lovable avine miscreants, however I am afraid that if I had stood among them long enough to draw them, they would have begun to nibble on me like a big ear of corn (which is their affectionate way of gently reminding visitors that geese get hungry for corn and lovely for attention). Thanks for looking at my drawings—now that I am back from my trip and my mind is refreshed I will try to blog about some of these new subjects!
As everyone knows, the Statue of Liberty (which is actually properly titled “Liberty Enlightening the World”) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture which stands in the harbor of my beloved home city, New York, New York. This is the 130th anniversary of the statue arriving in New York from France. The 93 meter tall statue was a lavish gift from the French people, who obviously know how to give astonishing amazing beautiful presents! I won’t get into the elaborate political, engineering, and fundraising history behind the statue’s conception, fabrication, and construction: suffice to say, it has a very complicated story (as one would expect in a monumental joint artistic venture between two of Earth’s greatest nations).
I will note that the statue has greatly overshadowed its creator, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi—which seems inconceivable today when most art is an afterthought to the virulent self-aggrandizement of art world personalities. If something similar were attempted now we would probably end up with a 90 meter tall statue of Jeff Koons…or of some part of his anatomy (though I shudder to write that down, lest I give him any ideas).
Bartholdi was an Alsatian and a freemason. He studied architecture and then served in the disastrous Franco-Prussian War (a conflict when the excesses of the Second Empire came back to haunt France—and a war which provided dark foreshadowing for the great industrial wars of the twentieth century). Bartholdi conceived of the statue as a tribute to democracy and freedom just after the American Civil War—when France was under the dictatorial regime of Napoleon III. Because of the authoritarianism and inequality of the time, the idea was shelved until after the Prussians drove this second Napoleon into exile and ushered in the third republic.
The Statue of Liberty is so universally iconic that it is hard to look at as a work of art—which is a shame because it is very lovely. The fluid Roman robes belie the practical architecture beneath. Atop the statue is a glowing crown of radiant beams—the neoclassical symbol for divinity. The enigmatic face is simultaneously stern and compassionate (though it is said that Bartholdi based it on his mother which might explain these juxtaposed emotions—and the very human tenderness with which the artist wrought the giant metal face).
It is frustratingly difficult to find pictures of other Bartholdi sculptures. I see here that he created a work titled “Genius in the Grasp of Misery” which sounds incredibly relevant and germane as I scrabble piteously for rent, but sadly I can’t find any photos of it. He designed a fountain “The Little Vintner of Colmar” which features a handsome youth drinking a never-ending stream of wine. The statue is as delightful as its description and was a gift from the city of Colmar to the city of Princeton New Jersey…What was going on in the nineteenth century that cities were all giving art to each other? It seems like an amazing trend which has passed.
Speaking of which, it occurs to me, that I have never thanked the French people for their far-sighted generosity. Allow me to do so now! Everyone here loves the statue and we deeply love our beautiful exasperating intelligent friends across the Atlantic (even if it sometimes seems like we are at odds). Vive la France et merci pour le cadeau magnifique!