Monday, February 27, 2012

A Trip to Mazzaro's

A great destination in St. Petersburg, Florida, is Mazzaro's Italian Market, our premier food market. Over the years, Mazzaro's has grown from one small building to a giant complex that requires traffic control on holidays. It's not just a fine market, it's somewhat of a tourist attraction. Let's go in!

The first stop is the wine and cheese room. Mazzaro's encourages sales through sampling — the cheese, not the wine!

Throughout the store, there are lots of interesting artifacts, usually referencing Italian heritage.

Here's a passageway between rooms. Do you get the feeling that there might be something special about the wine below these figures??

I'll bet you didn't know that in 1900, John Deere was manufacturing coffee grinders?

Mazzaro's has the best bread in town (my opinion). Also in this photo are pastries, gellato, and in the background, a coffee bar.

How's this for a selection of olives? You're encouraged to sample. If it's olive oil you're looking for, you can fill a bottle from a tap or choose from a huge selection of prebottled brands.

Here's a wall of pasta. Below, that deli counter seems like a mile long if you don't have a clear choice in mind!

On the way out, there's still something to look at ...


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Wit of Saul Steinberg

Saul Steinberg  |  photo by Inge Morath, 1958

Saul Steinberg (1914-1999) is not easy to categorize within the world of art. His work resides somewhere between cartoons and art galleries, and somewhere between the written word and the picture. In fact, Steinberg considered himself a writer who happened to draw. He enjoyed the visual pun, and he made his line work pass through many dimensions.

Saul Steinberg  |  detail, The Line, 1959

The drawing above is a detail of a much longer and more elegant drawing. With apologies to Steinberg, I've shortened it for the sake of this blog format.

Saul Steinberg  |  The Rabbit, 1959

Saul Steinberg, the son of a book binder, was born in Râmnicu Sărat, Romania. He went to the University of Bucharest, where he studied philosophy for a year. He then moved to Italy to study architecture in Milan, and graduated from the Politecnico di Milano in 1940. Because of anti-Semitic laws, Steinberg fled Italy before World War II. His departure from Italy was difficult; first he went to Portugal and was deported back to Italy. Next he traveled to the Dominican Republic, and then finally to the United States.

It's interesting to note that Steinberg was able to leave Italy in part because he forged a part of his passport. The visual language of passports, proclamations, and bureaucracy in general — along with the texture of elegantly indecipherable calligraphy — remained a major element of his art.

Saul Steinberg  |  detail, ALBUM, 1953

Saul Steinberg  |  Prosperity, 1959

For many years, Steinberg contributed to the New Yorker magazine. His love of the visual pun was coupled with an interest in American mythology and symbolism. Above, Unemployment is skewered by Semantics, and Inflation is skewered by Statistics.

Saul Steinberg  |  Ship of State, 1959
My blogging friend Rosemary's comment, below, induced me to add one more of Steinberg's allegories, Ship of State. Click to enlarge.

Saul Steinberg  |  View of the World from 9th Avenue, 1975

Saul Steinberg's most popular and enduring drawing is the New Yorker's view of the world, an idea that has been copied many times.

Saul Steinberg  |  Nuthatch Still Life, 1974

Saul Steinberg  |  Louse Point, 1969
Late in life, Steinberg began working with oils on paper, painting great vistas over which he rubber-stamped animals, figures and structures.

Saul Steinberg  |  The Tree, 1970

All these images come from Saul Steinberg, an Alfred A Knopf publication that was issued in conjunction with a 1978 retrospective exhibition, held at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Saul Steinberg

Friday, February 17, 2012

Designing a Presidential Candidate

On Sunday, July 13, 1980, Parade Magazine published the following interesting cover:

McAfee   |  Parade Magazine
The famous fashion designer (whose name is now lost to me), pieced together his image of a strong candidate, based on physical characteristics of these former U. S. presidents:

The ideal candidate would have James Monroe's hair (Monroe had an stunning widow's peak, and beautiful gray hair.), James Madison's nose and John F. Kennedy's smile. The candidate would also have Rutherford B. Hayes' brow and eyes (Hayes is shown here at a young age and before he entered politics.). To round out the image, the designer chose Herbert Hoover's jawline (at the age of 24). And to give the candidate a little personality and individualism, he included Harry Truman's bow tie (Truman was regarded as one of the best-dressed presidents.).

I thought the whole concept was very clever, but the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that it was a very, very bad idea. When you piece people together like that, you're playing Dr. Frankenstein, and you know where that leads!

I procured a stack of presidential engravings and went to work creating my own candidate. I chose Franklin Pierce's hair (sexy, wind-blown), Lyndon B. Johnson's ears and jawline (masculine), Ulysses S. Grant's eyes (soulful), Jimmy Carter's smile (engaging) and Richard M. Nixon's tie (conservative). Oh, this should be lovely!

Mark D. Ruffner, 1980

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

19th Century Valentines

In collecting 19th century paper, my primary focus has been the trade cards and rewards of merit that were pasted into Victorian scrapbooks. Many other beautiful things found their way into those scrapbooks, such as lacy valentines, and I've never been able to resist the layered sort that follow. These are all from my collection ...

Shown at a reduced size is the envelope for the valentine immediately preceding it. The valentine was sent to Carrie Poole.

And this is the sentiment found inside.

Happy Valentine's Day, from Mark!

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Western Portraits of James Bama

James Bama (b. 1926) grew up in New York, studied at the Art Students League there, and after a stint in the Army Air Corps, began working there. For more than twenty years, he had a successful career as a commercial artist, producing illustrations for publications like Reader's Digest and The Saturday Evening Post. Norman Rockwell was a great inspiration, though Bama wanted to carve his own, distinctive niche.

A 1966 vacation in Wyoming stirred within him a love for the history and people of the West, and for the great outdoors. He produced 18 paintings, all with a Western theme, which he placed in a New York gallery in 1971. They sold with such success that Bama soon moved to Wyoming and began specializing in the sort of paintings that follow.

TOM LAIRD, PROSPECTOR   |   © Bama, 1972
His paintings are photo-realistic and have the advantage of Bama's understanding of professional lighting techniques. As I study his work, I recognize that Bama tends to have neutral backgrounds, dark and grayed middle tones with high-contrast details, and usually one color that predominates.

BILL SMITH - NUMBER ONE   |   © Bama, 1974
Bill Smith was the World's Champion Saddle Bronc Rider in 1969, 1971 and 1973. Bama described him as "shy, modest and a gentleman."

Mr. Brown was 92 when Bama painted him, the oldest living 24-horse team stagecoach driver in Wyoming.

One of James Bama's favorite sitters was Chester Medicine Crow, son of a famous 19th century Crow chief. Here, along with his father's peace pipe, he's posing with the medal that President Woodrow Wilson gave his father in 1913.

Above is Bama's painting of Chester Medicine Crow with his father's 46-star flag, which dates back to 1900. By chance, I was able to find an image of Chief Medicine Crow from that period, with a similar, but different American flag.


Save the last photograph of Chester Medicine Crow's father,
all the above images come from The Western Art of James Bama,
A Peacock Press/Bantam Book, 1975.

James Bama was inducted into the Illustrator's Hall of Fame in 2000.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Different Day Trip

Associated Press

Last weekend, I joined my friends Sandy and Sue for a visit to the town of Micanopy, Florida. Unbeknown to us, one of Florida's all-time worst traffic accidents had occurred along our route about seven hours earlier. A prairie fire had started in the early morning hours, the road had been closed and then reopened, and then the driving conditions got worse again, with both smoke and fog. At least a dozen cars and six semitrailer trucks were involved in a multiple collision that took 11 lives and sent many more to the hospital. The amazing thing about the photograph above is that, while there was zero visibility, some drivers apparently continued going the speed limit!

Traffic was backed up for miles and we were delayed for almost three hours. We finally reached Micanopy by early afternoon.

Micanopy was named after the Seminole chief Sint Chakkee who ruled over all the Alachua Seminoles in the early 1800s. Sint Chakkee took the title "Micanopy," which meant "topmost king," and the whites simply called him Chief Micanopy. The Indian Removal Act of 1832 required the Seminoles to be relocated in Oklahoma, which is where Sint Chakkee died, in 1848.

Micanopy is a small town lost in time. It's streets are shaded by ancient live oaks, and today the main street is lined with antique stores and gift shops.

After a leisurely stroll through the shops and a break for ice cream. the three of us went to Cross Creek, where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings lived, and where she wrote the 1938 best-seller, The Yearling.

Then we had dinner at a nearby rustic restaurant called The Yearling. Part of the restaurant was arranged like a library, with books for sale.

Sue, Sandy and I ordered different entrees and then shared tastes from each plate, so I can report that my meal consisted of venison, catfish, alligator, frog legs, and grits and cheese. An unusual dinner, but all tasty and good!