Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trick-or-Treat for Halloween

I love Halloween.  I love it even more as an adult than I did as a child.  It has less to do with candy and costumes than the simple fact that in comparison to holidays like Christmas and Easter, Halloween requires very little from me.  I used to think Thanksgiving fell into the category of easy holidays simply because no gifts were exchanged, but after all of the grocery shopping, preparation, cooking, cleaning, and last minute trips to the grocery store for forgotten items, Halloween feels like a vacation.  For me, Halloween just isn't Halloween without some of my favorite, standard, spooky programming.

I hate, repeat hate, scary movies.  I am of the opinion that the world in which we live is about a scary as I can handle and I don't need demented clowns forcing me to amputate parts of my own body keeping me awake at night.  Nor do I need an angry, burn victim with knife-hands terrorizing me in my sleep.  One year I went to a friend's Halloween party and in a continuous loop, the television displayed "best of" clips from some of the most famous horror franchises.  I am haunted to this day.  As much as I detest horror/slasher movies, I love mildly-spooky, Halloween programming with 5-to-10-year-olds as the target audience.  Gimme a good cartoon and I am happy.  No surprises here - I refuse to let a Halloween pass without watching Disney's Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  Who doesn't love the Washington Irving tale of the New England school teacher chased through the woods by a headless horseman?  Who doesn't get a kick out of the heavily-Mary Blair influenced animation?  Who doesn't want the opportunity to let the mellow "boo-boo-boo-ing" of Bing Crosby's mellifluous voice ingrain itself into the soundtrack of another holiday beyond Christmas?  I ask you, who?  To get you in the Halloween spirit, here are some pieces of Mary Blair's (it is never too soon to feature Mary Blair again) concept art for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and the finished cartoon in three parts.

Concept art for Icahbod Crane - Mary Blair

Concept art for Icahbod Crane - Mary Blair

Concept art for Icahbod Crane - Mary Blair

Concept art for Icahbod Crane - Mary Blair

The "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" portion of Ichabod & Mr. Toad (1949)

And just one more for good measure...


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoroughly Modern Tiny

All that spaghetti and just one meatball.

On a recent - and increasingly unusual - free day, we headed up to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in a Modern Way", an exhibit of everything modern from California in the middle part of the last century.  I am not sure who curated this exhibit; it was rather small and a little scattered, but it suited the wacky tacky sensibility quite well.  I must say, I felt a guilty satisfaction as we strode by the hoards of folks lined up to see the Tim Burton exhibit.  The feeling quickly changed to pure excitement when we walked into the gallery and came face-to-gleaming-face with this 1930's Airstream trailer.

Sadly, we couldn't get close enough to get photos of the interior.

"Take it easy!"

From automobiles to clothing to plastic pitchers, the exhibit was composed of everyday objects.  It was great to see utilitarian pieces transformed into something artful; of course, these objects were allowed an elevated level of distinction because of the setting and thoughtful installation.  It seems, however that mid-20th Century California was such a great time/place for experimentation in form and function.  Consumer products of previous eras, however artful, seemed to be exercises in adornment and decoration.  "Modern" designers, however, had the freedom to play with color, line, shape, material, texture, and even ergonomics.

I actually have a few pieces in this pattern...I might have to start my own museum.

A stellar light fixture/mobile

I loved this bookrack/lamp that diffused the
uplighting by way of the suspended moon pendant.

Before I took any photographs in the exhibit, I asked one of the docents if photographs were allowed.  He responded in the affirmative and warned me against using the flash.  When I approached the "Eames House" (a full-scale, case study/diorama), another docent practically tackled me to prevent the photo I was snapping.  Sure, she was 5'2" and an AARP member in good standing, but she was fierce!  Fortunately, I captured the shot before she tried to confiscate my camera by slamming my face into the concrete.

The "Eames House" - a forbidden photo.

I loved seeing the 1962 Barbie Dream House immediately after the Eames House.
It was a great juxtaposition of highbrow and low brow -cerebral design versus everyday living.

How could one avoid being vain seated before at a vanity of this magnitude?

I have a thing for chairs.

A great desk from 1947


This 1930's era "Airline Chair," named for its aerodynamic lines was an IKEA forerunner.
It was mass produced and sold "ready to be assembled" by the consumer.

One of my favorite items was the Eames, bent-wood, toy elephant.

Every day objects were also included in the exhibit - radios, clocks, flatware, ray guns...
RAY GUNS?!?!?!
The "ray gun" (top-left) is actually an Opco Ice Gun, a personal ice crusher from 1935.

I saved my favorites for last.  I am a sucker for textiles and clothing from my favorite period in history.
I would like to order at least 10 yards of the hand-printed sombrero fabric from 1941.

Western wear!!!
I love western wear whether it comes from the 1930's (the dungarees and silk rodeo blouse on the left) or the 1950's (the ensemble on the right).

These 1940's hostess pajamas are indescribably cool.
Everything about them is pitch-perfect modern -
the color, the cut, the fact that the hostess is wearing pajamas!

The exhibit featured some incredible swim & play suits as well.

The his & hers lobster bathing ensembles by Catalina Swimwear (1941) were a highlight.

Some of my favorite items include this printed dress and this amazing, gathered, green-chintz, tiered skirt and midriff-baring top trimmed in white ric rac...that was actually A BATHING SUIT!!!  Coincidentally, Mary thinks a recreation of this ensemble should be my next sewing project. Hmmmm?

The Cole of California creation

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

"California Design" runs October 1, 2011 through March 25, 2012.


Mr. Tiny

Friday, October 21, 2011

wacky tacky Icons: Mary Blair

Thanks Google Home Page for stealing my thunder!!!  I have been planning this post for the last four and a half months - I just got a little sidetracked after I began the first draft on June 7.

Mary Blair
(October 21, 1911 - July 26, 1978)

One of my many intentions with this blog was to highlight some of the artists that inspire me and give credence to the wacky tacky ideal.  Mary Blair may be kind of trendy.  She may be kind of hip.  She may be the Disney nerd's trump card in the Disney history card game (to those folks, I have just two words "Peter Ellenshaw" - look it up).  Nevertheless, Mary Blair is truly awesome and deserves as much recognition as the wacky tacky world can grant her.  In honor of her 100th birthday, I thought I'd share a few of the images that made me love Mary Blair.

The kids in my family were raised on the classic cartoons as well as the animated and live-action films of the Walt Disney Studios.  We were one of the first families to have The Disney Channel when it arrived on cable television because we were the family used in the commercial to promote said channel (I finally transferred the video cassette rough cuts/outtakes to DVD but they are lengthy and probably only amusing to those involved).  This deep connection with classic Disneyana is in every way associated with the brilliance of Mary Blair.

I first started to love Mary Blair before I even knew who she was.  Her concept art was the template for so many Disney productions including one of my favorite Disney cartoon shorts, "The Little House."  Oddly enough, it is the story of a charmed, little house that endures the urbanization of its once bucolic home and the ravages of time to eventually rediscover happiness as the restored, dream cottage of a newly-married couple.  Incidentally, the story is narrated by the inimitable Sterling Holloway.  Really, Mary Blair and Sterling Holloway, how could you lose?

Concept art for "The Little House" - Mary Blair
Can you find the little house down there amidst the sprawl?

"The Little House" (1952)
Sterling Holloway

I love Mary Blair because she was more than just an artist, she was a trailblazer.  The 1940's and 50's saw few women at the Disney Studios working outside of the ink & paint department.  Mary Blair and her art were not just an early attempt at equality in the workplace, they were a driving force behind the look of golden-era Disney.  While her concepts were invariably softened by animators both in tone and in form/line/color, the "Mary Blair" stamp is unmistakable on all of her work.  She was also one of the only women hand-picked by Walt Disney as part of El Grupo, the group of artists/animators who would accompany him on his government-sponsored tour of Latin America that resulted in "Saludos Amigos," "Pedro," "El Gaucho Goofy," "Aquarela do Brasil," "Lake Titicaca," and "The Three Caballeros." 

Walt & El Grupo (1941)

"Aquarela do Brasil"

A Blair costume sketch

I love Mary Blair because her art inspired more than my favorite cartoons, it also inspired immersive, interactive experiences namely, It's a Small World.

Concept art for It's a Small World - Mary Blair

Concept art for It's a Small World - Mary Blair

Concept art for It's a Small World - Mary Blair

Disneyland's "It's a Small World" - Anaheim, CA

I love Mary Blair because she was an unintentional style maven.  When one sees photo stills of Blair and the film reel footage of her included in the documentary film Walt & El Grupo, it is clear that her personal style was anything but Main Street, USA.  Blair was an artist, a bohemian.

I love Mary Blair because her work had such a specific point of view.  Her art was not only distinctive among her contemporaries, but it continues to be so singularly attributable to Blair.  Her use of shape and color is inspired.  While she was an employee of a company that has a reputation of strict, corporate control and painstaking consistency, her work was representative of a unique vision.

Concept art for Peter Pan - Mary Blair
Concept art for Peter Pan - Mary Blair
Concept art for Peter Pan - Mary Blair

Concept art for Alice in Wonderland - Mary Blair

Concept art for Alice in Wonderland - Mary Blair

Concept art for Alice in Wonderland - Mary Blair

Concept art for Cinderella - Mary Blair

Concept art for Cinderella - Mary Blair

Concept art for Cinderella - Mary Blair

I love Mary Blair because she had a career beyond the Disney Studios.  Some of her best work was as a commercial and children's book illustrator.

Images from Meadow Gold Dairy Calendar (1954 & 1955)

I love Mary Blair for all of these reasons and I hate her just the same  - but only out of sheer artistic jealousy!

Happy 100th Birthday Mary!!!


Mr. Tiny