28 March 2021

separated at birth = elective affinities

I was looking at the September-December 2019 issue of Visual resources, a special theme issue on "Art and the periphery: in memoriam Foteini Vlachou." Vlachou died in 2017 at the age of 42. The obituary essay in the issue included a mention of her blog - https://iknowwhereimgoing.wordpress.com/ - which is still available, without new entries. I went to look at it and was intrigued by her series called "Elective affinities" in which she did about three dozen posts with a pictorial comparison or reflection. The last one, done two months before she died and marked "hors série," was a book cover for Estrela solitária by Ruy Castro compared to the Barberini Faun.

"Separated at birth" just seems so mundane relative to "elective affinities" and "hors série" is pretty esoteric too. Still, I really enjoy doing my "separated at birth" posts and won't appropriate "elective affinities" though I'm really glad I found Vlachou's posts. She credits the comparison to Arthur Valle who used the juxtaposition on his Facebook page.

22 March 2021

separated at birth: ladder to the river, ladder to the sky

"ladder to the river"
posted to Flickr by Alberta Mayo, copied here with permission

Martin Puryear
"Ladder for Booker T. Washington" (1996)
(installation at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2015)

21 March 2021

separated at birth: firehose or is it art?

The Allentown Volunteer Fire Company
offered 700 feet of four-inch hose, free to a good home.
Tammy suggested it would make for a good stretch of walkway ...
but all I could think of was "Civil tapestry 5" (2012) by Theaster Gates.

 (now in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery)

I do not mean to make light of Gates's allusion in this work to the history of the civil rights movement in the United States and the use of fire hoses to spray protestors during demonstrations. The collection entry linked above gives a brief description of the history of the works that Gates did with decommissioned fire hoses.

20 March 2021

armchair traveler: biking to Terlingua or Antwerp

Sherry Volk does an amusing column in the local paper, The Alfred Sun, called "Scene about Alfred." She does one or more pictures from around town with a story or theme. She and Bob go down to Big Bend for a while during the winter and they're down there now so the "scene ABOUT Alfred" is not a scene IN Alfred. This week's paper had some pictures of bikers on the Big Bend Run, stopped in Terlingua at the Alon gas station on Route 118, at the intersection with 170.

Sherry and Bob stay in an RV camp near the intersection. There's a motel there too and Arno and Marvin and I spent a few days at the motel in 1995, very happily, while we hiked (aka walked) in the beautiful arid mountains, drank margaritas, and ate yummy Tex-Mex food.

Sherry's pictures took me to Antwerp as well. When I was there in 2014, there were a bunch of bikers in the Old Market Square.

It may be sacrilegious but there was a hymn this morning in church that had the words "'till traveling days are done." Nope, I'm not done yet.

15 March 2021

thinking about my carbon footprint

There's a panel discussion on resilient communities this afternoon based on the 2018 NOVA documentary about "Decoding the Weather Machine." The discussants are an Alfred University environmental science professor (Frederic Beaudry), a sustainable food systems undergrad (Dale Mott Slater), and an MFA graduate student in ceramics (Marianne Chénard). The scientists in the film laid the groundwork for resiliency in the face of climate change and then spent the last portion talking about what we humans can do: we can do nothing; we can adapt; we can act to mitigate the circumstances. The more you mitigate, the less you have to adapt to, say, flood waters, wildfires and smoke-filled skies, and extreme storms.

I was feeling pretty good about my overgrown lawn which captures carbon and stores it. And then I remembered my leaky old house in which I have ten rooms to myself and my stuff (and the heritage stuff that comes with serving as "trustee" for the family homestead). All that space needing heat, presently provided by natural gas. There's plenty I could do to mitigate my carbon footprint beyond my reliance on walking as much as I can to do things around town and letting the plants go wild with capturing carbon. I did establish "Embedded carbon" for the Avery Index as part of my indexing. That doesn't mitigate my carbon use but I could consolidate my winter residing to a few rooms. But then I'd have to decide if I wanted to be upstairs or downstairs.

When I moved to Alfred in 2009 after retiring from New York University, I pretty much lived in the whole house but mostly used the kitchen and bath downstairs, sleeping upstairs. I consolidated downstairs when I rented most of the upstairs to a student friend of my brother's. I spread out again after he graduated and moved to a different space. Then I consolidated upstairs when my ex sister-in-law needed a place to stay after separating from my brother. The upstairs is less encumbered with heritage materials since my parents had rented it quite consistently for several years in the 1990s. I have felt more like I was in "my" space. After Jeanette moved to her new house in Almond (she likes to own a house which I see more as a noose), I spread out some but kept most of my living needs upstairs. That is, my study as well as the kitchen and bath stuff. It works well and I get exercise using the stairs much more. BUT ...

It isn't very smart for energy consumption. It's difficult to close off space when it gets really cold or hot. Upstairs is generally colder in winter and warmer in summer. Alfred rarely gets hot for longer than a few days and generally gets cool overnight so summer works pretty well. I do feel silly that I have to heat the downstairs air in order to have heat upstairs.

With all of this in mind, I took off with enthusiasm to walk downtown to do a bank errand, thinking I'd come home and start pushing and shoving some of that heritage stuff before the panel discussion this afternoon. By "pushing and shoving some heritage stuff," there are some simple tasks like sorting through my dad's and my mom's desks and consolidating all of the paper clips, pencils, pens, paper pads, and other office supplies, keeping what is useful and sharing the surplus. That might make one of those desks usable again as more than a storage cabinet. There are more significant and difficult tasks but it's difficult to get to them with the stacks of unnecessary and generic materials in the way. You see, the house is overgrown too.

27 February 2021

cataloger tools & reference questions

Meredith Hale, metadata librarian at the University of Tennessee, asked on ARLIS-L if anyone could provide an authoritative source for the birth and death dates of the photographer who signed his photos Wasow. She needed the information for rights clearance and authority record creation. She noted that there are several images on Wikimedia Commons, including this portrait of art historian Heinrich Wölfflin from 1924.

Spyros Koulouris, archivist at I Tatti in Florence, responded with the link to Wasow's record in the Deutsches National Bibliothek authority file. The DNB records, as well as those of the Library of Congress, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Getty Union List of Artist Names and several dozen other organizations, can be searched together in the Virtual International Authority File or VIAF. This is a really useful tool in name authority work.

Reflecting on this exchange on ARLIS-L, I was reminded of a little reference question I helped a fellow graduate student with, way back going on fifty years ago (early 1970s). Caroline Boyle-Turner (then Caroline Rachlis) was studying the French symbolists and was trying to verify some book by one of them. Paul Gauguin, I think. It had been elusive and she mentioned it to me. I had done plenty of searching in the book catalog of the Bibliothèque nationale when I worked on the reclassification project at Cornell University. She told me the title and we went to look in the BN catalog. I don't remember the details of the book but she was very happy to find that the book did actually exist. Catalogers can be successful reference librarians. Cataloging tools can be good sources of information. Of course, the BN book catalog, which has been supplanted at least for newer items by an online version, was not just a cataloger's resource but it wasn't on Caroline's radar. Fast forward some fifteen years or more, Caroline and I were delighted to coincide at a reception at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

[my photo of the Van Gogh Museum from a later trip, 2016]

22 February 2021

birth control and a living wage

So I read the headline "Lack of birth control deepens women's burden in Venezuela" on the front page of the Sunday New York Times and thought why aren't the men taking some responsibility here. (The online title varies from that of the print edition, as quoted.) Then I read the sentence that said a packet of condoms around Caracas costs $4.40 which is three times Venezuela's monthly minimum wage of $1.50. Birth control pills are more than twice the price of a pack of condoms.

(photograph by Meridith Kohut from the article)

21 February 2021

LCSH, literary warrant, heading deprecation, today's news

The Program for Cooperative Cataloging held its semi-annual meeting last week. It would normally be held in conjunction with ALA Midwinter or Annual but was virtual again this time around. Judith Cannan, the head of the Policy, Training and Cooperative Programs Division at the Library of Congress, gave a very interesting thought piece called "Emerging thoughts on LCSH" (the link is to my notes on the meeting) which she cautioned was purposefully unpublished (not even lecture slides) but was to encourage thinking about the future of LCSH.

The Library of Congress Subject Headings originated in 1898 though I'm sure LC did subject access in their catalogs before that. It was maintained for LC and by LC. In the century and more since then, it has expanded far beyond LC and many other libraries contribute subject headings, most through the Subject Authority Coooperative Program or SACO.

Cannan's thoughts focused on four areas: the support of LCSH as an international standard is not sustainable with LC resources; the current model is built on literary warrant in published resources and a possible expansion to newspapers, TV, magazines as terminology sources; deprecation of terms which are outdated or offensive; and pre- or post-coordination of terms. How to handle deprecated terms has generally been handled by making a reference from the old term to the new term. There is significant effort going on with revision of headings as the U.S. and the whole world are dealing with systemic racism, social injustice, and other issues. The old terminology is important for some research and may appear in transcribed and descriptive portions of the bibliographic record. Much to think about and the chat box in the iCohere software was very busy.

I was listening to Weekend Edition as I drove to Wegmans for my Sunday morning fix: the Sunday New York Times and the week's groceries. One of the stories was "Newsrooms revisit past coverage as editors offer a fresh start" by David Folkenflik. One phrase he said really stood out in light of thinking about literary warrant from newspapers. He called news reporting "the first draft of history." This so lined up with Judith Cannan's thoughts on the role of history in how we catalog. One of our intentions is that our cataloging can be as objective as possible and therefore last, if not forever, a long time. But words cannot be objective. They are loaded with cultural significance and that changes over time.

15 February 2021

armchair traveler: Venice to Palmanova to Sabbioneta

 Mom used to travel vicariously with me. Now, we all can just about only travel vicariously when it comes to European destinations. I was writing up my Venetian adventure as a Pandemic Escape for the Alfred Sun and couldn't remember the name of the artist who did the painting of the Ospedale Civile in Venice that is at Yale now.

Walter Richard Sickert
L'Ospedale Civile 
Yale Center for British Art, Mellon Collection

As I was thinking about Venice, I went to flying over the city and zooming in on Google Maps. I had meandered to the northeast and noticed a name -- Palmanova -- that seemed familiar and probably telling. I zoomed in and there was the 16th century fortified city. Designed by Antonio Scamozzi (but that leads to a different story).

Thinking about Renaissance planned cities led me to think about Sabbioneta, over in Lombardy, north of Parma, where Christie and I stopped in 2001. 

05 February 2021

morality/ethics and land vehicles

From the Subject Headings Manual, memo H 1095:

$x Moral and ethical aspects (May Subd Geog) (H 1998) Use under individual land vehicles and type of land vehicles, individual wars, and non-religious or non-ethical topics for works that discuss moral and/or ethical questions regarding the topic.

I was stopped in my tracks by this a few minutes ago. The red text is new. Why the heck would you need to add that this free-floating subdivision was used under individual land vehicles and type of land vehicles if it's valid under most non-religious or non-ethical topics. I guess if you're religious and cultish about your land vehicles, there might be confusion about the non-religious aspect. Or maybe land vehicles don't have a pattern heading so you have to be specific about some free-floaters. Cataloging is fun but sometimes inscrutable.