Category Archives: Starchivists

Frida Kahlo Archive Drama

48901846The LATimesChristopher Knight reports on the archive of the “magnetic, self-mythologizing” Frida, little-known and drama enducing.

Barbara Levine displays the few pieces of ephemera by one of the biggest names in Mexico’s Modern art history here.

The findings include: “16 small oil paintings, 23 watercolors and pastels, 59 notebook pages (diary entries, recipes, etc.), 73 anatomical studies (some dated prior to Kahlo’s disfiguring 1925 trolley accident), 128 pencil and crayon drawings, 129 illustrated prose-poems, and 230 letters to Carlos Pellicer, the Modernist poet and Frida’s close confidant, many adorned with sketches — skulls, insects, lizards, birds… a small box holding 11 taxidermy hummingbirds. There are pistols, such as an ornate 1870 Remington; a tricolor Mexican flag, its central white panel altered to celebrate Leon Trotsky (“Troski”) and the Communist Party, to which Kahlo and Rivera belonged; hotel bills; photographs; receipts for sales of Rivera paintings; an embroidered huipil, a traditional Mayan blouse; an intimate diary, with one entry expressing Frida’s intense (and unrequited) erotic attraction to lesbian ranchera singer Chavela Vargas; a French medical text on amputation, painted over with blood-red pigments; and more.”

Nudity? In an ART MUSEUM?

kathleen-neill-nudeThis is old news, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the hubub caused last week when a (live! nude! girl!) model posed for photographer Zach Hyman in the Met’s Arms and Armor gallery. Model Kathleen Neill was stopped by museum guards some 30 seconds after disrobing, and was arrested shortly thereafter.

On one hand, the photographer seems like publicity hound, and by posting this we’re playing right along with his plans. The lawyer’s statement: “There are nude sculptures and paintings all over the museum. It’s the height of stupidity accusing a live model of showing the same thing in a house of art” is spot on, except that Hyman has also posed his nude models in subways, so the “but there’s naked ladies EVERYwhere in a museum!” defense loses some credibility.

But look: fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

It’s a truism, but we’ll say it anyway. The history of art includes a long line of radicals challenging conservative tastes, often using sex and bodies. See: Lolita, Last Tango in Paris, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Manet’s Olympia, Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, and Sargent’s Madame X, which was considered so prurient in its day that the artist painted over an earlier version in which the model’s dress strap dangled from her shoulder. Oh, and Madame X hangs in–you guessed it–the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The fact that Neill is facing charges of public lewdness is disappointing. Will she have to register as a sex offender because of this? Come on, Met. You can do better than this.

A photo of Madam X as she originally appeared (1881)
A photo of Madam X as she originally appeared (1881)

In related news, the Gorilla/Guerrilla Girls’ take on female nudity at the Met:

“In 1995, a “weenie count” done by the Guerrilla Girls at the Metropolitan Museum showed that 85 percent of the pieces that depicted nudes depicted naked women while only five percent of the displayed artworks were created by women. This statistic prompted one of the Guerrilla Girls’ critiques, a poster asking, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”

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Madame X as she appears today, with strap on shoulder (1883-4)

So the question is, do women have to be naked images to get into the Met?

National Geographic Archives Cracked

Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden, c. 1894-1906. One photograph of a series illustrating the Greek myths.

The New York Times reveals that the National Geographic Society is entertaining the idea of opening up its archive of more than 11 million images to the fine-art market for the first time. Maura Mulvihill of the society recognizes photography’s (specifically, photojournalism) emerging role in the fine art world.

For many years, the collection has only been accessible to a few people. Mulvihill is excited to expose the vintage black-and-white prints and later color images “richly documenting the life of the 20th century, from Uganda to the Mississippi Delta to remote lamaseries near the Mongolian border.” National Geographic is seeking private and institutional collectors for the archive.

photo: One of a series to illustrate the Greek myths. Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden, circa 1894-1906.

Atlas Obscura

atlas obscuraWe’d turned off our twitter, ignored our to-blog bookmarks, and generally gotten-the-fuck-outta-dodge when erstwhile SD contributor JC sent us a link to a new project from some old favorites. It’s Atlas Obscura, a wiki-like compendium of the odd by the founders of the Athanasius Kircher Society and Curious Expeditions.

We love the graph paper background, the Medical Museums, the Real Life tours in Philadelphia!

We are reborn!

rip judith krug

judith krugJudith Krug, Librarian Superhero, passed away on Saturday. Per the Times Obit, she fought against banned books since the 1960s, defending the public’s right to read and access “Huckleberry Finn,” “Mein Kampf,” “Little Black Sambo,” “Catcher in the Rye,” and sex manuals. More recently, she fought against restricting children’s access to the internet.

Thank you, Judith Krug. We are sure you will be missed.

chew on this

paperAn enlightening documentation of the archival restoration process of a collection of old paper materials, in this case, the Chew Family Papers, from maps to scraps. Here’s a rundown:

Dry Clean / Surface Clean – Use vulcanized rubber sponge and strip yourself of all emotion!

Humidify and Flatten – Use a Flattening Press, not an old dictionary!

Wash – Make sure the Ink is not water soluble!

Mend – Especially necessary when somebody has CHEWED your paper. OK sorry. Wheatpaste, not just for street artists like Swoon.

retrograde design

retrogradePatty is one of our favorite commenters. (Why aren’t you one of our favorite commenters? Maybe because you don’t comment? Please comment!) Weirdly enough we came home the other night to find her in our living room. We don’t normally encourage this from our commenters, but in this case it turns out she’s a friend and a colleague of our museum-employee roommate. So that’s cool. We didn’t even know we knew her (like knew knew her) and we were gonna post her blog anyway, so here it is: Retrograde Design. Keep it up, Patty. We hope you don’t mind if we steal some of your posts to bloat our own contnet. And don’t be a stranger.