Monthly Archives: February 2013

THE LIFE OF AN ARTIST: BOOKMAKER, EDUCATOR, ADVOCATE

On Valentine’s Day, artist Beth Thielen spoke at FIT as part of ARTSpeak’s series, “Open Book: Conversations on Art and the Book.” Instead of love letters, she brought books.

Thielen is an artist known for her beautiful and fascinating book structures, like this one:

Beth Thielen’s “The Tower,” a tiny architecture from which four books unfold.

Take that, Kindle.

She loves the primitive technology of monoprints, a printmaking technique in which each impression is unique. The imperfections make the images look antique and wise.

But the technology that truly mystifies her is the interaction of writing and consciousness. “These little scratches of black on white paper jump through 12 inches of air into my mind,” she said. (Hue finds that the scratches jump more easily through 36 inches of air; perhaps it’s time for reading glasses.)

Beth Thielen, at right, with an admiring audience.

She talked about teaching art to inmates in California prisons, and she showed both their work and hers that they inspired. The images of struggle in the face of natural and cultural disasters were often haunting, but the forms–pop-up books, a miniature house–retained a sense of play.

“There’s something about people in prison and artists that understand deeply the need for freedom,” she said.

A collection of Thielen’s art books.

Her presence in the prisons served a second purpose, perhaps just as important: watchdog. When she was teaching, a prison guard killed an inmate; she helped ensure that justice was served.

“Almost all the prison art programs in California are gone,” she said, “which means there’s a lot less transparency in the system. It troubles me.”

SO FAR OUT OF STYLE, IT’S BACK IN STYLE

On a sleety snowy day like today, Hue, like many fashion merchandisers of yesteryear, likes to curl up with a good old paper catalog. (Sometimes a digital catalog will suffice, if it captures the spirit of the paper one.) And nothing beats J. Peterman, with its illustrations instead of photographs and hi-larious blurbiage worthy of the best Hue Too posts.

Yes, the celebrated merchandiser (and catalog) from Seinfeld actually exists, and he has the show to thank for putting out the catalog today.

Some of Hue’s favorite Peterman copy:

For the J. Peterman Panama: “This hat is for leaders. However, should a follower pick up this hat, they will be looked on as a leader and discover hidden leadership skills.”

Looking good, pardner.

For the J. Peterman Shirt: “Of the thousand castles, mansions, châteaux you can walk through today, only Monticello, only Jefferson’s own mansion, makes you feel so comfortable you want to live in it. I think you will feel the same about his 18th-century shirt.”

For men, women, or Thomas Jefferson.

For the Long-Sleeve 1947 Dress: “Rita Hayworth wore it. Coeds and secretaries wore it. Your mother wore it. Women looked wonderful in it. Still do. And always will. Unless the female form undergoes some kind of radical transformation.”

Diane von Furstenberg, eat your heart out.

Ah, but that’s not all! Search through the “Containers and Buckets” section to find a one-of-a-kind $450 gunpowder flask or a $495 copper cauldron. Just in time, too: Hue has been searching high and low for a cauldron to replace the one stolen after his community production of Macbeth.