When it comes to modern warfare, we’ve seen so much through photographs: mass graves, explosions, the faces of soldiers the instant they’re shot. And we’ve also seen the aftermath of war–devastated landscapes, soldiers carrying their dead, and returning home to their families. We’ve become accustomed to a depth of visual coverage that has brought deep familiarity with the realities of war from start to finish, a stark contrast to the experience of civilian audiences prior to the advent of photography.
Blog Category: Features
In 1862, amateur photographer William H. Mumler of Boston took a self-portrait in his studio, unaware of a ghostly apparition lurking directly behind him. It wasn’t until he viewed the resulting image of a pellucid arm draped casually across his shoulder that he realized the camera must have exposed the lingering spirit of his deceased cousin. With this eerie, novel image, Mumler, a jewelry engraver by trade, became the first of many photographers to claim having photographed a spirit. Photographs like Mumler’s provided timely evidence that spirits of the deceased freely interacted with the world of the living–a discovery he would milk for profit within the framework of the Spiritualist movement.
An interview with the graduate student curators of Avery/GSAPP Architectural Plans and Sections
The second phase of Avery/GSAPP’s collection of 20,000 architectural plans, sections, and related materials was recently released in the Artstor Digital Library. To celebrate the completion of our two-year collaborative project with Avery Library and GSAPP, Lisa Gavell, Artstor’s Senior Manager of Metadata & Content, spoke with five of the graduate student co-curators who contributed to the project: Sabrina Barker, Serena Li, Ernest Pang, involved from the beginning of the project, as well as Sharon Leung and Ayesha S. Ghosh. Working with Avery staff, they pored over a vast array of Avery’s holdings in order to compile a selection that reflects the most important modernist architectural works of the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is a resource of essential documentation of modern architecture, shared online for the first time.
In 1846, dentist William T. G. Morton assembled a group of doctors in the operating theater at Massachusetts General Hospital, a sky-lit dome located on the hospital’s top floor. As the doctors watched from the dome’s stadium seating, Morton waved a sponge soaked in a mysterious substance called Letheon inches from his patient’s face. The patient quickly lost consciousness and remained completely still as a surgeon removed a tumor from his neck. Upon waking, the patient declared to his astonished audience that he had felt no pain. This surgery marked the first time the effective and safe use of anesthesia was demonstrated publicly, ending centuries of agonizing pain during surgery. It would also quickly spiral into a dramatic controversy surrounding Letheon’s discovery.
Professor David Efurd’s collection of nearly 10,000 photographs of Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain art and architecture was recently released in the Artstor Digital Library. We were particularly impressed by the variety and complexity of the rock-cut cave temples he photographed, and he was kind enough to answer our questions.
Artstor: What is the importance of caves as the sites of some of these temples, as opposed to more typical, free-standing temples?
David Efurd: Regarding Buddhist caves, monks appear to have lived in natural caves and rock-shelters since the time of the Buddha. In fact, texts describe the Buddha as spending nights in caves at a variety of locations in northeastern India. Over time, simple shelters were enlarged by cutting away stone, and masonry walls may have been added to the front to make them more architectural.
In western India, these Buddhist sites are a bit later, perhaps dating from the second century BC at the earliest. Unlike the caves the Buddha lived in, they do not appear to be natural caves that were enlarged. Rather, they were carved deeply into outcroppings of stone or cliffs and tend to be architectonic, meaning that they resemble the interior spaces of architecture, despite being hewn into stone. Few free-standing buildings and monasteries from this period survive, so these caves provide crucial insight into a tradition of architecture that has all but disappeared. Rock-cut or cave architecture from this period draws upon both this early tradition of living in natural caves and the later monastic complexes consisting of residential buildings and places for instruction and worship.
Sculptor Benvenuto Cellini is best remembered for two things: his bombastic autobiography, the Vita, in which he confesses to multiple murders and a spectacular jailbreak, and for his salt cellar. Yes, that’s right—a dish for salt.
We invited Barbara Anello to tell us about her photographs of graffiti in Lower Manhattan, newly released in the Artstor Digital Library.
I photographed graffiti, stencil art, wall paintings, and murals on New York City streets during the 1980s and early ’90s in Lower Manhattan from about 14th Street south to Battery Park, and from the Hudson to the East Rivers, but generally in Soho, Noho, the Lower East Side, and “Alphabet City.”
At the time, Soho, where I lived, was still the neighborhood of artists and galleries, but rapidly gentrifying, forcing younger artists east and out. While much of the public art and graffiti was anonymous, the neighborhoods where I photographed embodied the “art world” of the time; these were the streets where artists worked and played, dealers bought and sold. So my photographs included works and writing by artists who became “art world” figures, such as Kenny Scharf and Keith Haring, by artists who built reputations in their neighborhoods as “writers” and social activists, as well as by dedicated, working artists who made statements independently on the walls of abandoned buildings or squats, intended for the people, for the neighborhood, outside the confines of commercial galleries.
On May 5th, Merete Sanderhoff, curator and senior advisor at the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst), presented “Sharing is Caring” (you can see her slides here) at the Artstor offices for a group of professionals in the arts and cultural heritage fields, as well as members of the American Friends of SMK. We took the opportunity to do a brief interview.
Artstor: The SMK is working towards releasing its digitized collections into the Public Domain. How does that fit in with the museum’s mission?
MS: The museum is a public institution, and we see ourselves not as the owners but as stewards of our collections. We believe these collections are for everyone, so making them freely available very naturally aligned with our mission.
It’s also a way to show the breadth and depth of our collection, instead of just the canon. The Rijksmuseum provided a great example: they have gone the farthest in making their public domain materials free and providing the tools to work with them, and today everything they have online is being seen and used. It’s the Long Tail in action—the more obscure works get much fewer views than the peak, but together the views of the lesser-known works add up to much more than for the canon.
If you’re still trying to adjust to the start of Daylight Saving Time, we’d like to give you a little bit of advice: don’t let the mythological gods of Greece and Rome catch you napping. Seeing mortals sleeping seems to bring out the worst in them.
Here are three of the most notorious examples:
Endymion and Selene
Depending on whom you ask, Zeus either offered the beautiful shepherd Endymion a wish and Endymion chose to sleep and remain youthful forever, or the eternal sleep wasn’t a gift at all, but rather a punishment because Endymion had attempted to seduce Zeus’ wife, Hera.
Frida Kahlo is world-famous for her self-portraits, which were a big part of her relatively small oeuvre (55 out of 144 paintings), while her husband Diego Rivera, despite producing much more work than Kahlo, only painted himself approximately 20 times. Why is that?