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For the first time, the public has the opportunity to see a dinner service like no other.
The evocative piece of feminist art, produced between 1932 and 1934, includes 50 plain Wedgewood white china dinner plates, each featuring portraits of famous and often overlooked women throughout history. Created by artistic partners Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, who were members of the clique of intellectuals known as the Bloomsbury group, the work includes 12 writers, 12 dancers, 12 queens and 12 beauties, along with plates depicting Bell and Grant themselves.
The set includes famous writers like Mary Ann Evans (better known by her pen name George Eliot), Charlotte Brontë, Christina Rossetti and Bell’s sister Virginia Woolf. There are notable monarchs like Mary Tudor and Marie Antoinette as well as outsized figures of history like Sappho, Helen of Troy and Jezebel. Contemporary figures of the day, including Greta Garbo and Marian Bergeron (crowned Miss America at the age of 15 in 1933), also are included. There are some figures included whose names might take little Googling, as well, like Eleanor "Nell" Gwyn, the actress and lover of Charles II, letter-writer Dorothy Osborne and Eleonora Duse, praised by some critics as ''the first modern actor."
All in all, the set is a playful and challenging chronicle of women through history. “It’s a major proto-feminist work,” Matthew Travers, director of Piano Nobile gallery, tells Cascone. “All of the women they depicted did something interesting and powerful, and often were quite scandalous—the Bloomsburys might have said ‘liberated’—in the way they lived their private lives, and often did not conform to the patriarchies they were living in.”(Piano Nobile)
So why hasn't the complete piece been on view before? According to Hana Leaper at British Art Studies, the set was originally commissioned by art critic Kenneth Clark in 1932. While he ordered what he thought would be a nicely decorated dinner set including mustard pots and sauce tureens, what he got was the dinner set. It’s not clear what Kenneth thought of the work, but it appears his wife Jane Clark was onboard with the project, communicating with Bell throughout the process.
Cascone reports that the Clarks did hold onto the set and they even used it at dinner parties. After they died, the set was sold to a collector in Germany and was essentially lost. But last year, a client of Piano Nobile revealed that they had the entire set. “What was so exciting is that they were all there and in perfect condition,” Travers says. “It’s so easy with ceramics that one or two could have got broken or lost. And no one knew if they had been sold in Germany as a group or individually—they could have been totally scattered.”
The gallery put the set up for auction last year for $1.3 million, but it didn’t sell. Now, Piano Nobile is holding the set so that Charleston, the house in Sussex where the Bloomsbury group was based and where Bell and Grant lived, can raise funds to purchase the dinner set at a discount.
The idea of engaging with women’s history through a dinner set, a symbol of domesticity through the ages, is not unique to Bell and Clark. In 1979, Judy Chicago famously created the “Dinner Party,” a large banquet table, that includes table settings laid out for 39 "guests of honor" that span pre-history to the contemporary age. Floor tiles list the names of another 999 other extraordinary women. That work is on permanent display at the Brooklyn Museum.
But if you want to catch "The Famous Women Dinner Service" at Piano Nobile, it will only be on view until the end of April. Then, if everything goes according to plan, it will be transferred to Charleston, which currently houses several test plates and early designs for the set.
In 1963, John Coltrane was something rare in jazz—a commercial success and an innovator who was always pushing the artform to new and interesting places. What’s more, he was the leader of one of the greatest jazz bands of all time, known at the classic quartet, which produced landmark albums including Coltrane (1962), Crescent (1964), and his magnum opus, A Love Supreme (1965). Now, a new “lost” album from that period is being released, reports Giovanni Russonello at The New York Times.
The album is not just a collection of odds and ends and outtakes, either. It’s a fully formed album that belongs in the Coltrane discography next to his most popular works.
According to a press release, on March 6, 1963, Coltrane and his quartet, which included McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums, spent the day at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood, New Jersey, recording a mix of new compositions and covers. Coltrane brought home a copy of the tape, but an album based on the session was never produced for reasons unknown and the master tapes were likely disposed of by Van Gelder sometime in the 1970s. Thankfully, his first wife, Juanita Naima Coltrane, held onto the copy. Coltrane’s family recently discovered the surviving tape, bringing it to the attention of the recently revived Impulse! Records, Coltrane’s label during the classic quartet period.
The new material is being released later this month as an album called Both Directions at Once, and it will include seven tracks, two of which were completely unknown, unreleased pieces, “Untitled Original 11383” and “Untitled Original 11386,” that you can sneak a peak at on the album preview. The album also features a short melodic version of “Nature Boy,” which Coltrane later recorded as a rambling, experimental mind-blower in 1965. Excitingly, the only studio version of “Impressions,” the centerpiece of his live shows, and the track “One Up, One Down,” previously only released as a bootleg from a Coltrane concert at Birdland, also appear in Both Directions at Once.
The jazz critic John Fordham tells Ben Beaumont-Thomas at The Guardian that the album fills in some blank spots in Coltrane’s evolution as he shifted from commercially successful melody and standards to the deep, nuanced music he would be making by the time he cut A Love Supreme. “Coltrane was looking back at bebop – the virtuosity and melodic resources of which he had stretched to breaking point – and the song-based lyricism of jazz he had recently explored with Duke Ellington, and was about to with Johnny Hartman,” he says. “But he was also looking forward to imagining the more intense, mantra-like, spiritually-driven music”.
Coltrane’s son Ravi, a saxophonist and composer in his own right, who helped prepare the record, agrees that the music here captures a snapshot of a musician in transition. “In 1963, all these musicians are reaching some of the heights of their musical powers,” he tells Russonello. “On this record, you do get a sense of John with one foot in the past and one foot headed toward his future.”
In 1965, after recording A Love Supreme, Coltrane’s music became much more avant-garde and exploratory. Over the next two years, he would push the limits of music before dying from liver cancer at the age of 40 in 1967.
For his legions of fans, having new music from Coltrane’s most celebrated period is a windfall, period. “This is like finding a new room in the Great Pyramid,” as the saxophonist Sonny Rollins puts it in the press release.
Over the years, his music has never lost its popularity. In fact, it’s even spawned its own congregation, the Saint John Coltrane Church, which holds Coltrane masses and monthly meditations on A Love Supreme.
"Love Is the Thing to Make it Fall": African-American Music in Alabama before and during the Civil Rights Movement
The earliest vertebrate animals to walk on land were ancient four-limbed tetrapods that waggled their way across the ground like salamanders. Yet researchers still haven’t found many intermediate species showing just how swimming fish evolved to walk on land. Now, an endangered species only found in a handful of caverns in Thailand might finally help straighten things out.
The species in question is a type of blind cave fish called Cryptotora thamicola, or the waterfall-climbing cave fish. Documented in a study recently published in the journal Scientific Reports, the creature uses its four fins to crawl over rocks and up slick walls. The fish even has a full pelvis fused to its spine—a skeletal feature absent from any of the other 30,000 fish species in the world. This particular feature, however, is found in terrestrial vertebrates and fossils of the earliest tetrapods, making the waterfall cave fish a unique window into evolution.
“It’s really weird,” John R. Hutchinson, a biologist at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London tells Carl Zimmer at The New York Times. “It’s a good example of how much fish diversity there’s left to be discovered.”
The species was first found in Northern Thailand in 1985 in eight caves near the Myanmar border. The Thai government is now extremely protective of those caves, allowing only a handful of researchers to examine them and their strange fish.
Last year, Apinun Suvarnaraksha, an ichthyologist from Maejo University in Thailand and Daphne Soares, a biologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology observed the fish on an expedition to those caves and took a video . When Soares shared the images with her NJIT colleague Brooke Flammang, a biomechanics researcher, she was stunned. “I was like, ‘Fish can’t do that,’” Flammang tells Diane Kelly at Wired. “That’s ridiculous.”
Flammang hoped to get specimens of the rare fish to study, but that was not possible. So she began working with Suvarnaraksha, who returned to the caves and began briefly capturing the fish and putting them in an aquarium for filming before releasing them. He was also able to perform a CT scan of a preserved museum specimen of Cryptotora thamicola at a local dental school.
Armed with that data, Flammang began to unravel the secrets of the cave fish. It didn’t take long. “When they sent me the files, I thought someone was playing a trick on me,” she tells Kelly. “There was this gigantic pelvis [on the CT scan] that looks nothing like any fish pelvis.”
While it’s highly unlikely that the waterfall cave fish is an ancestor of ancient tetrapods, its evolution sheds some light on how other fish could have evolved to move on land. It also calls into question some of the 400-million-year-old tetrapod “footprints” scientists have found in recent years.
Researchers may now need to evaluate those prints—the next likely candidate is the giant waddling fish. “The physics are the same,” Flammang tells Zimmer.
This rectangle of yellow cloth is small, only seven by nine inches, but it tells a much larger story. It begins in January 1917, when the National Woman's Party (NWP), led by Alice Paul, set up a silent picket outside the White House gates.
After years of meetings with President Woodrow Wilson that had failed to produce results, suffragists decided to use the White House building as a stage to influence the man inside.
Their goal was to make it "impossible for the President to enter or leave the White House without encountering a sentinel bearing some device pleading the suffrage cause," according to an article in the Washington Post on January 10, 1917. Women took turns standing with signs bearing slogans such as, "Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?" and "Mr. President What Will You Do For Woman's Suffrage?" Their actions were covered extensively in newspapers across the country, sparking intense debate and garnering both support and derision from crowds that gathered to view the spectacle the women made.Virginia Arnold, a teacher from North Carolina and executive secretary of the National Woman’s Party, holds a "Kaiser Wilson" banner in 1917. (Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
As the protest continued, suffragists created a series of banners taunting "Kaiser Wilson." The banners compared the president to the German emperor and were intended to point out what the suffragists saw as hypocrisy on the part of President Wilson to support the cause of freedom in the First World War yet not support the freedom of women at home. The statements came across to some onlookers as disloyal and unpatriotic, particularly during a time of war.
On August 13, 1917, a crowd began to taunt and intimidate the suffragists. Some even began pelting the women with eggs and tomatoes.
Soon the growing crowd graduated to tearing the banners from the suffragists' hands and ripping them up for souvenirs. Defiant, the picketers produced still more banners, only to have them taken from them as well. By the end of the day, the women had lost at least 20 banners and 15 color standards to an angry crowd that grew to more than 3,000. Two men were arrested in the fracas, and the scrap of fabric from a banner reading "Kaiser Wilson Have You Forgotten…" was seized by District of Columbia police. It remained in their possession for 25 years, until the department gifted it to the National Woman's Party Headquarters.
Eventually, the fabric scrap made its way into the belongings of Alice Paul, the founder of the NWP and leader of the pickets. It was donated to the Smithsonian in 1987 by the Alice Paul Centennial Foundation as a tangible reminder of the hard-fought battle for woman's suffrage. But it is also part of an important story about the relationship between the people and the presidentSuffragists picketing the White House in 1917 (Harris & Ewing, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)
The women on the picket line were participating in an American tradition that had been in existence since the nation's founding: that of bringing the grievances of the citizenry directly to the chief executive at his home, the Executive Mansion (as the White House was then known). "The People's House," as the nickname suggests, was conceived as a building belonging to all citizens, akin to the democratic government itself, and contrasted with the untouchable palaces associated with a monarchy.
The White House building is both a means for and a symbol of the people's access to and participation in their governance. Throughout the 19th century, the American people had been accustomed to almost unlimited access to the house and to the president. Tourists wandered in and out of the building and petitioners waited for hours to bring their particular concern to the president. In 1882, as a plan to replace the deteriorating mansion was being floated in Congress, Senator Justin Morrill made objection on the grounds that the building itself was inextricably tied to the people's relationship to the president:
"'Our citizens have long been wont to visit the place, and there to take by the hand such Chief Magistrates as Jefferson, Adams, Jackson, Lincoln and Grant. They will not surrender their prescriptive privilege to visit the President here for the drowsy chance of finding him not at home after a ride of miles away out of town. He must be accessible to members of Congress, to the people, and to those who go on foot; and we have never had a President who even desired a royal residence, or one so far removed as to be unapproachable save with a coach and four. Our institutions are all thoroughly republican in theory, and it will be agreed they should remain so in practice.'" (S. Doc. No. 451, 49th Cong., 1st Sess. 1886)
Like so many Americans before them, the picketers came to the White House to use the voice American democracy had empowered them with. Unlike so many others, they found the best way for them to use that voice was outside the White House, not within. When the NWP took their conversation with President Wilson to the gates, they effectively established a new form of public interaction with the White House, a new way in which the people could access and "own" the "People's House," a tradition that would only become more popular over the next several decades, and which continues to this day.
While Washington sweltered through the long, hot summer of 1862, Abraham Lincoln made the momentous decision that would define both his presidency and the course of the Civil War.
The great question of what to do about slavery had provoked increasingly bitter debates on Capitol Hill for months. Back in March, Lincoln had asked the legislature to pass a joint resolution providing federal aid to any state willing to adopt a plan for the gradual abolition of slavery; without the approval of the border-state representatives, it went nowhere. Meanwhile, the Republican majority in Congress, freed from the domination of the Southern bloc, began to push its own agenda on slavery.
Within the cabinet, too, the rancor over slavery infected every discourse. The debates had grown "so bitter," according to Secretary of State William Henry Seward, that personal and even official relationships among members were ruptured, leading to "a prolonged discontinuance of Cabinet meetings." Though Tuesdays and Fridays were still designated for cabinet sessions, each secretary remained in his department unless a messenger arrived to confirm that a meeting would be held. Seward recalled that when these general discussions were still taking place, Lincoln had listened intently but had not taken "an active part in them." For Lincoln, the problem of slavery was not an abstract issue. While he concurred with the most passionate abolitionists that slavery was "a moral, a social and a political wrong," as president, he felt he could not ignore the constitutional protection of the institution where it already existed.
The Army of the Potomac's devastating reverses in the Peninsula Campaign that June made it clear that extraordinary means were necessary to save the Unionand gave Lincoln an opening to deal more directly with slavery.
Daily reports from the battlefields illuminated the innumerable uses to which slaves were put by the Confederacy. They dug trenches and built fortifications for the army. They were brought into camps to serve as teamsters, cooks and hospital attendants, so that soldiers were freed to fight. They labored on the home front, tilling fields, raising crops and picking cotton, so their masters could go to war without fearing that their families would go hungry. If the Rebels were divested of their slaves, who would then be free to join the Union forces, the North could gain a decided advantage. Seen in this light, emancipation could be considered a military necessitya legitimate exercise of the president's constitutional war powers. A historic decision was taking shape in Lincoln's mind.
"México Lindo" by Natividad "Nati" Cano from ¡Llegaron Los Camperos!: Nati Cano's Mariachi Los Camperos
Before Lucille Ball became one of the most groundbreaking women in American comedy, she was a girl from Celoron, New York. Needless to say, the town has long been proud of the celebrated television star, and in 2009 local leaders presented a bronze statue to honor her.
Unfortunately, much like an episode of "I Love Lucy," the unveiling didn't go quite like officials may have hoped.
Inspired by the 1952 classic episode “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” the sculpture by artist Dave Poulin depicts Ball holding a bottle of a fictitious health supplement called “Vitameatavegamin.” There was just one problem with it. In trying to commemorate the episode, Poulin gave the sculpture an awful grimace. Almost immediately, local Lucy fans began calling for the statue, now nicknamed “Scary Lucy,” to be replaced, Kwegyirba Croffie reports for CNN.
"From the day of its installation I have shared my disappointment in the final outcome and have always believed it to be by far my most unsettling sculpture, not befitting of Lucy’s beauty or my ability as a sculptor,” Poulin told Emmet McDermott for the Hollywood Reporter in 2015.Dave Poulin's 2009 sculpture, nicknamed "Scary Lucy." (Adam Moss via Flickr)
The statue drew all kinds of unkind comments, with many comparing its likeness to the zombie extras on “The Walking Dead” along with a host of other monsters. Town residents began organizing to get the statue removed, and Poulin says he has even received death threats, The Guardian reports. While Poulin later offered to fix the statue, local officials declined and sought out a new artist. Now, after years of arguing and just in time to celebrate what would have been Ball’s 105th birthday, a new statue has been unveiled in Celoron’s Lucille Ball Memorial Park.
Sculpted out of bronze by artist Carolyn Palmer, the new Lucy is clad in her trademark polka-dotted dress, high heels, pearl necklace and perfectly coifed hair, Amah-Rose Abrams reports for artnet News. Palmer refers to her statue as "New Lucy," Liam Stack reports for The New York Times.
"I am relieved that the response has been positive. I went back to the park incognito and sat on a bench and people were there looking at her and touching her and it was great. All that work was not done in vain. I am very pleased tonight," Palmer tells Croffie.
While Ball’s fans can relax with the knowledge that their idol is being honored with a statue that better captures her likeness, those who hold a candle for “Scary Lucy” don't need to worry. Though it may not be the best memorial for the comedian, the odd-looking statue has been moved just 225 feet away from "New Lucy," Stack writes.
"We left it here because it has been such an attraction. We've had thousands of people here over the past year from all over," Celoron Mayor Scott Schrecengost tells Croffie. "We had a family here just last week from Hungary that was in New York and traveled an extra distance just to see that statue itself, not knowing that we had a new one coming."
Now fans pilgrimaging to Celoron to honor the iconic performer can have their pick when it comes to statues—see the one that celebrates Ball in all her glory or walk a few feet away to consider the one that takes some, well, creative license.
Art history is plagued with questions. What if Vincent van Gogh had lived to paint another wheat field? What if Leonardo da Vinci had roped Mona Lisa into another portrait? What would another painting by Rembrandt look like? Usually, those intriguing inquiries go unanswered—but new technology just revealed a possible answer to that final query.
A “new” painting by Rembrandt was just revealed in the Netherlands, bringing the master’s talent for portraying light and shadow back to life. Don’t worry, the project didn’t involve reanimating the master's lifeless corpse—that’s still resting somewhere beneath Amsterdam’s Westerkerk. Rather, it used Rembrandt’s other paintings as the basis for an ambitious project that combines art and today’s most impressive technology.
The painting, which is being billed as “The Next Rembrandt,” was created using data from more than 168,000 fragments of Rembrandt’s work. Over the course of 18 months, a group of engineers, Rembrandt experts and data scientists analyzed 346 of Rembrandt’s works, then trained a deep learning engine to “paint” in the master’s signature style.
In order to stay true to Rembrandt’s art, the team decided to flex the engine’s muscles on a portrait. They analyzed the demographics of the people Rembrandt painted over his lifetime and determined that it should paint a Caucasian male between 30 and 40 years of age, complete with black clothes, a white collar and hat, and facial hair.
Using what it knew about Rembrandt’s style and his use of everything from geometry to paints, the machine then generated a 2D work of art that could be by the Dutch painter himself. But things didn’t end there—the team then used 3D scans of the heights of Rembrandt’s paintings to mimic his brushstrokes. Using a 3D printer and the heigh map, they printed 13 layers of pigments. The final result—all 148 million pixels of it—looks so much like a painting by Rembrandt during his lifetime that you’d be forgiven if you walked right by it in a collection of his work.
Though the painting won’t be on display until a later date, it’s sure to draw curious crowds once it’s shown to the public. That’s precisely the point. A release explains that the piece is “intended to fuel the conversation about the relationship between art and algorithms, between data and human design and between technology and emotion.”
But does it belong on the walls of a museum? Images created by Google’s Deep Dream neural network, which creates the trippy imagery the company calls “Inceptionism,” has already been sold at galleries and displayed at art exhibitions. The Rembrandt project takes that idea a step further by spinning off pieces based on a human’s collected output—an idea that could lead to the resurrection of other beloved artists.
If a painting is ultimately generated by a machine and spit out by a printer, does it contain the soul of the person whose data seeded it? Who should get credit for the image—Rembrandt or the team of engineers and art historians who helped create it? Is it art, or just a fun experiment? Sure, the painting may tell Rembrandt fans what his next piece of art may have looked like, but like the best art, it leaves behind more questions than it answers.
As a jobless architect living in the Great Depression, there’s no way Alfred Mosher Butts could have foreseen the 1933 board game he invented would one day be found in three out of every five American homes. Initially dubbed “Lexiko,” the game underwent several retoolings in the decade that followed, but failed to gain any traction. It was only in the early 1950s—just a few years after the game had been rebranded “Scrabble”—that it began to fly off the shelves.
But the game still needed to be standardized. According to David Bukszpan’s book Is That A Word? From AA to ZZZ: The Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble, it was Scrabble’s growing popularity in the 1960s, and its adoption on the “penny-a-point” chess club circuit in Manhattan (aka “once money became involved”), which forced the game to adopt an official dictionary. By 1978, the first edition of The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary had made its debut.
This week, the sixth edition of the dictionary has dropped. Brace yourself, Scrabble fiends: More than 300 new words have been adopted, and the compilers have embraced some millennial mainstays like “twerk,” “emoji” and “listicle.”
“For a living language, the only constant is change,” says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster in a press release.
The new additions bring the acceptable Scrabble lexicon up to more than 100,000 two- to eight-letter words.
It’s a sure bet that many players will be pleased to find that among the new entries are some long-awaited two-letter power plays, such as “ew.” In an interview with Leanne Italie at the Associated Press, Sokolowski refers to two-letter and three-letter words as the “lifeblood of the game,” and says that the inclusion of words like “ew” fit an evolving English-language lexicon. “[S]o much of our communication [now] is texting and social media,” he says.
New words don’t just enter the Scrabble dictionary willy-nilly (which, incidentally, is not included in the game’s official dictionary). Specific requirements must be met: According to the press release, the words must be entries in a standard dictionary, be between two and eight letters in length, and can’t be abbreviated words, capitalized words or words containing hyphens or apostrophes.
No change comes without controversy, of course, and the addition of “OK” in the latest edition, for instance, might excite some serious debate. Normally, the rules of Scrabble prohibit acronyms that are always spelled with capital letters like IQ or TV, reports Mark Abadi at Business Insider. But nowadays, “OK” has been appearing more and more often in lowercase, which is what finally garnered its inclusion in the game.
“OK” certainly breaks precedent: It’s the first valid word ending with the letter “K” to be inducted into the Scrabble dictionary, which will cause a shakeup for serious players of the board game.
Jackson Smylie, who ranks among the top 10 tournament Scrabble players in North America, described “OK” as an initialism “that [is] not very word-like” in an interview with Abadi of Business Insider, but gave his own “OK” to its inclusion in the game.
The latest batch of approved entries also shows an increasing nod to terms derived from other languages. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these words—like bibimbap (the well-known Korean rice bowl with flavorful toppings), cotija (crumbly Mexican cheese) and sriracha (the beloved Southeast Asian hot sauce)—involve a favorite American pastime: eating.
Notably, Merriam-Webster’s version of The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary is far from the be-all-end-all. In tournament play, overseen by the North American Scrabble Players Association, Scrabblers dip into an augmented edition containing nearly 190,000 words, reports Ruben Kimmelman for NPR. The two main differences? Longer words—up to 15 letters in length—as well as obscene or offensive words, though a 1996 update shaved off some of the worst offenders.