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"Ash Nest; Hai no su"

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

"Balustrades des Orchestres de la barriere du Trone"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Design for a panel articulated at the upper section with three distinct vertical rectangle sections, each separated by a thin red line, and decorated with abstracted patterns of grey, black and gold. Below this section is a thin horizontal band decorated with red squares and dots. Below, partially shown, is the lower portion of the panel with a very simple, unadorned design consisting of a white rectangle, bordered in a thin red line and surrounded by a cream background.

"Benefit Foundation" Poster

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor" at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Bill Traylor (ca. 1853–1949) is regarded today as one of the most important American artists of the twentieth century. A black man born into slavery in Alabama, he was an eyewitness to history: the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation, the Great Migration, and the steady rise of African American urban culture in the South. Traylor would not live to see the civil rights movement, but he was among those who laid its foundation. Starting around 1939—by then in his late eighties and living on the streets of Montgomery—Traylor made the radical steps of taking up pencil and paintbrush and attesting to his existence and point of view. The paintings and drawings he made are visually striking and politically assertive; they include simple yet powerful distillations of tales and memories as well as spare, vibrantly colored abstractions. When Traylor died in 1949, he left behind more than one thousand works of art.

"Butterfly Grove; Cho no mori"

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

"Candelabre du Pavillon Orchestre place dans le bassin des Tuileries en 1834"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Design for a candelabrum surmounted by a t-shaped superstructure, which is topped with a red polyhedron lantern and two smaller blue lanterns suspended from the perpendicular arm of the superstructure. Below this is the yellow, fluted and cinched columnar body of the candelabrum, which rests on a tall base articulated with abstracted vegetal ornaments in gold, black and blue, which in turn rests on a blue plinth with light blue and red circular ornaments. The candelabrum is nearly identical to those represented in Blouet's drawing of a music pavilion, 1991-17-7.

"Colonnes rostrales, fetes de Juillet 1838"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Design for a white polyhedron rostral column articulated with abstract designs in red, yellow and blue, and interrupted with three successive basin-like forms that appear to run through the post. The top of the column is surmounted by a ribbed ball structure and the base is articulated with three plaques, upon which the numbers "27", "28", and "29" are written. The whole structure rests on a plinth with tripartite divisions, with a marbleized red or green geometric form on each section.

"Con treinta balazos de odio..."

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Contrathemis", Frame 2401

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Contrathemis", Frame 590

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Contrathemis", Frame 787

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Crystal Flower; Kesshoka"

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

"Cymric" lines

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Flat circular silver with soldered loop shank on reverse. Obverse with chased pattern of abstract curves and interlacing, inlaid with green trans-lucent enamel, Recessed circular motif between curves, inlaid with yellow and red translucent enamel.

"Cymric" lines

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Flat circular silver with soldered loop shank on reverse. Obverse with chased pattern of abstract curves and interlacing, inlaid with green trans-lucent enamel, Recessed circular motif between curves, inlaid with yellow and red translucent enamel.

"Cymric" lines

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Flat circular silver with soldered loop shank on reverse. Obverse with chased pattern of abstract curves and interlacing, inlaid with green trans-lucent enamel, Recessed circular motif between curves, inlaid with yellow and red translucent enamel.

"Cymric" lines

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Flat circular silver with soldered loop shank on reverse. Obverse with chased pattern of abstract curves and interlacing, inlaid with green trans-lucent enamel, Recessed circular motif between curves, inlaid with yellow and red translucent enamel.

"D" in Descartes

Smithsonian American Art Museum

"Dr. South, Locke, Sherlock, Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas Sutton", from Illustrations to the songs from William Blake's "Island in the Moon"

Smithsonian American Art Museum
At age nineteen, Charles Seliger drew illustrations for songs from the unfinished satire, An Island in the Moon by William Blake (1757-1827), an English poet, painter, and printmaker.

Written around 1785, the manuscript combines classical Greek satire with a critique of one of the intellectual salons of the London bourgeoisie. Each of Seliger’s drawings depict one or more of the absurdly named characters from Blake’s fictional island, some of whom also represent friends and contemporaries of the author. Suction, the Epicurean, for example, is believed to correspond to Blake’s brother Robert, and Quid, the Cynic refers to Blake himself.

Blake’s song lyrics range from vulgar to menacing to humorous. While Old Corruption is considered an allegory for sin, the song for which Seliger drew O, I Say You Joe, Throw Us the Ball was the first recorded poem to focus on cricket, an English bat-and-ball sport.

Abstract Drawings, 2012

"Emily's Oz" brought a little girl's imagination to life

National Museum of American History

Our storeroom has a tiny web-footed lion that defies logic. It is a three-dimensional portal into the world of a little girl, and one of thousands of models in the museum's collections. Model-making begins in the imagination. An intriguing thing about models is that they are both practical and aesthetic objects. They translate something abstract, like an idea, a hunch, or a brainstorm, and the design determines the success of the translation. An artist or inventor needs something concrete with which to work, similar to the way children model crude snakes from clay. Engineers need models to demonstrate to others what is in their head. For those with a software bent, models are a way to process information. In fact, every object is a model of something that came out of someone's imagination. 

Model of a small boat. Shaped like a canoe. White on inside, green on outside.

Models provide a way to track the path of an idea as it comes to fruition. They allow us to trace a developing idea (the way fluorescent jellyfish proteins light up the movement of an altered cell so scientists can see it moving through the human body). Models inhabit that realm of necessity in which communicating the invisible or barely glimpsed becomes possible. The museum has numerous examples of models in our collections that pull ideas out of the imagination and into real time. There are some 10,000 patent models alone, of everything from cannons and fishing reels to artificial limbs.

Model of a home. It has eight columns in the front, with three doors and many windows with green shutters. It is mostly white with a red brick roof.

All of the museum's models were made by visionaries, who relied upon their sight and insight to build their models. The models from the Michigan School for the Blind, for example, depict architectural forms such as skyscrapers and corn cribs that sighted teachers wanted students who were blind to learn about through touch. They were constructed in the 1930s and '40s for teaching history and civics.

The lion has large, hooded eyes and an oval-shaped mouth. His face barely has a nose. His face is very round and somewhat worm-like. He has a fluffy brown mane around his head, duck feet in the front, and stands on his front feet. His back feet arch over his body and hang in front. His body, somewhat worm-like, is a tube covered in textured, thick fuzzies, also brown. His tail is made of the same material as his mane, fluffy and frizzy.

But what if a model were reverse engineered? Instead of fixing something by working backwards from a problem, it worked forwards from the sensory image of a blind person to a three-dimensional space? This is what happens in "Emily's Oz." We recently collected a model that jumps across sensory realities. In 2015 the mega-media conglomerate Comcast was looking for a splashy and disability-appropriate way to launch a new product designed for people who are blind or have low vision. Their lab had created a talking TV interface that provided navigational instructions about channels and what happened on the screen. 

A woman with red hair and glasses holds a model in her hands. It has a poofy mane, webbed feet, and a thickly fuzzy tubular body. Its face hasn't been attached yet and is just a fabric nub. The table on which she holds the model is covered with scissors, supplies, and other craft items.

The launch team worked with a seven-year-old girl named Emily, whose favorite film is The Wizard of Oz. Emily is blind, and the designers set out to create models of the characters as she imagined them in her head. We collected Emily's Cowardly Lion. The Lion is proportionally much smaller than the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. It walks on its two front legs, has webbed feet, and sports a shag-rug textured body similar to the soft buffing cylinders at a car wash. Emily's Lion is about the same size as the toe of her eight-foot Tin Man (he only has one toe on each foot).

A little girl with her eyes closed gently touches the webbed foot of the lion. Her facial expression is happy--we see her in silhouette. The lion's poofy made is visible.

Models leap the gap between intuition and possibility, allowing what you understand without words to be shared through your hands, eyes, and senses. Looking at a model is like looking into someone's brain. They are often surprisingly eloquent in the way they pierce barriers and pull us into another person's reality. 

There is a giant metal toe with a toe nail and a sheathed metal pant leg on the right. On the left, the lion model is much smaller. It stands beside the toe, its back feet dangling and front webbed feet helping it stand. Its mouth is open wide. The background is green, as if plants are growing there.

Another image of lion model. The lion has large, hooded eyes and an oval-shaped mouth. His face barely has a nose. His face is very round and somewhat worm-like. He has a fluffy brown mane around his head, duck feet in the front, and stands on his front feet. His back feet arch over his body and hang in front. His body, somewhat worm-like, is a tube covered in textured, thick fuzzies, also brown. His tail is made of the same material as his mane, fluffy and frizzy.

Graphic including the text "Help conserve Scarecrow's costume" and an image of the Ruby Slippers plus Scarecrow's hat.

Katherine Ott is a curator in the Division of Medicine and Science.

Posted Date: 
Friday, November 4, 2016 - 08:00
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"Feuilles"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Cigarette case decorated in red, black, and yellow enamel with a bold geometric pattern of rounded arrows arranged in diagonal stripes, the total effect resembling abstracted leaves
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