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Editorial Staff Art


A new book by scholar, curator, and artist Deborah Willis, The Black Civil War Soldier: A Visual History of Conflict and Citizenship, explores the author’s lifelong fascination with photographs documenting the African American experience during the Civil War. Vogue sat down with Willis to discuss the genesis of the book and what she learned after its completion. (Guardian/Vogue)
The Outsider Art Fair is live and in full swing. Check out the online viewing rooms and in-person events across New York City, where you will find the inventory of dealers like Steven S. Powers, whose winter catalogue The Design his Own is now available and very much worth perusing. Steve turns up some of the most wonderful objects that pivot between the genres we know as antique, folk, and outsider art. (OAF/Steven S. Powers)
Houpelands, chaussembles, baldrics, and burlets. A four-volume illuminated manuscript by Gaston III, count of Foix—known as Phoebus for his golden hair— (1331–1391) has as much to teach about wealthy medieval huntsmen’s fashion sense as about the pursuit of hares and foxes. Want more? Check out this album of sixteenth-century fashion plates, which features modish getups from Europe and the Near East. (Morgan Library and Museum)
Available for streaming next week on HBO Max, Black Art: In the Absence of Light is a new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard that offers a cinematic starting point for constructing the story of African American art. The film centers around the groundbreaking 1976 LACMA exhibition Two Centuries of Black American Art and pays homage to the career of its curator, the late David C. Driskell. We’re looking forward to it. (ARTnews)
Musical types apparently see plenty of similarities between our current locked-down state of life and the situation of sailors who sallied forth across the high seas in days of yore. So it would seem if you’ve spent any time on TikTok being bombarded by sea shanty samples, recitations, and remixes. (Conversation)
How does one approach four hundred years of African American history in a single book, accounting for the variety of perspectives and evolving narratives over the course of that period of time? In Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019, historians Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain have chosen to compile writings by historians and scholars, journalists, activists, and poets. Coupled with the review you can find at the link above is a condensed conversation with Kendi. (Smithsonian Magazine)


“In their expensive pursuits [of virtual- and augmented-reality technologies], companies like Facebook misrepresent the ‘magic of presence’ as a technological achievement, when it is actually an aesthetic one that emerged as part of modern mass visual culture,” writes scholar Brooke Belisle. Camera obscuras, magic lanterns, stereoscopes, and other technologies laid the groundwork for AR and VR, and the question remains: are immersive technologies ever an adequate substitute for reality? (Art in America)

Scientists experimenting with rare elements stumbled upon a wonderful surprise—that yttrium, indium, and manganese when combined with oxygen at two thousand degrees form a durable and vibrant shade of blue. It’s been called YInMn. The first blue discovered in two centuries is now commercially available. (Hyperallergic)

There was no one better at synthesizing the arts and sciences than Alexander von Humboldt. A powerful intellectual influence during the nineteenth century, the German polymath sought to develop a unified theory of the entirety of nature. He “aspired to be a visionary for whom the analytical mind, however remarkable and revelatory, is insufficient to register the magnificence of nature.” Despite recent scholarly efforts to revive Humboldt’s ideas through books, essays, and exhibitions, they remain something of an ‘antiquarian curiosity. (New Atlantis)

One person working to revitalize Humboldt’s reputation was Eleanor Jones Harvey, whose exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture went on view last year at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition was “the first to examine Humboldt’s impact on five spheres of American cultural development: the visual arts, sciences, literature, politics, and exploration, between 1804 and 1903. It center[ed] on the fine arts as a lens through which to understand how deeply intertwined Humboldt’s ideas were with America’s emerging identity.” (TMA)

Humboldt’s influence on the arts was profound. For instance, Frederic Edwin Church literally followed in the German scientist’s footsteps on a painting trip to the Andes in the 1850s, and strove to reproduce in paint what Humboldt expressed in ink. As critic Laura Dassow Walls writes, Church’s “mountains are studies in geology, his clouds are meteorologically exact, his plants and birds are rendered with the fidelity of the scientific illustrator. Yet these details are governed by the impression of the sublime whole to which they variously contribute, a whole visible only through the details that compose it.” (Flashbak)

Nineteenth century Vermont farmer and self-educated meteorologist Wilson Bentley loved the snow. Dubbed “snowflake man,” he devised a clever method for photographing snow crystals, and of the five thousand he shot, no two, of course, were identical. Here are some wonderful examples. (Atlas Obscura)

Finally, have a look at this little naturalist getting acquainted with nature. While we aren’t thrilled about the use of elephants in the circus, the charming photographs depicted here show the love between a small child and her best friend. (Vintage Everyday)