This is why the EPA matters.

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All photographs courtesy of the DOCUMERICA collection in the  U.S National Archives Flickr.

Above: Contaminated waterways, algae blooms, dead fish, uncovered coal trains, strip mining activities, soil that won’t grow anything due to contamination, sulphur gas being emitted, oil spills…..

The EPA was created in 1970 to assess, research, and keep track of the environment in the United States. In the early 1970’s, the United States government sent out several photographers to document the state of the nation. What the photographer’s images revealed, in the early stages of the EPA, was massive contamination of water, pollution of major waterways (including the Potomac), dead and dying fish, pristine landscapes planned for strip mining, and other atrocities.

Today, 46 years later, the human impact on Earth has only become more significant. Climate change is real, as is our rapidly growing global population. The United States, which prides itself on being a global leader (as a historian I can go off on a tangent about that later…) has a duty to help lead the way to enforcement of environment protections, research to preserve our environment, develop technologies that have less of a carbon/energy footprint, and protect our natural environment as well as encourage reclamation of areas that were previously developed for such activities as mining, dumping, etc.

Thanks to the EPA, more and more of us have clean drinking water, we have preserved coast lines, deserts, Arctic regions, forests, and prairies. We have quick responses to oil spills, and those companies get investigated swiftly. We have relatively clean air in most parts of the United States, and most of us (still not all) can live without fear of contaminated soil in our gardens. (As a Montanan, our resource extraction legacy still leaves us with contaminated waterways, energy development projects that threaten our national parks, contaminated soils, garbage piles, and the like.)

If you want rivers that catch on fire, if you want irresponsible, outdated energy development (don’t get me started on coal), irresponsible reclamation if any at all, polluted air, more and more endangered species, and oil spills that don’t get immediate attention and lawsuits for those companies, let’s turn back the clock almost half a century. If not, let’s look forward and do good on this beautiful Earth we all live on.

First year of grad school: DONE

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My first year of grad school has been over for a month now.

I turned in my final papers and breathed, but also couldn’t stop being stressed out. I worked harder this year than I think I ever have. My mind was constantly being bent, twisted, guided into places it hadn’t ever been. My curiosity, which knows no bounds already, was unleashed in ferocious ways. I questioned verbally and mentally. I reasoned and debated and held my ground and changed my opinions and was, in general, constantly feeling alive in an exhausted, electric way.

It has been a month since I posted on here. My sincere apologies. I have been home looking for employment, catching up on reality, being with people I love, and eating good food. I have been catching up with humanity, politics, and the outside world. My life is stressful in different ways now.

The photographs above are from the History program’s end of semester trip to a cabin on Lake Cowichan. We all gather and sleep in a simple cabin. We drink and eat and ponder. Aimless conversations, still beneficial, sporadically pop up. We learn bits and pieces about each other that we didn’t before, though we have spent dozens of hours together. I have been a bit of a recluse in some ways so coming to gatherings like this are wonderful. I realize that even though in some ways this degree is isolating it is also cohesive, and that these humans I work with are in this with me.

 

You can tell a woman did this: Artemisia Gentileschi

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Details from Judith Beheading Holofernes, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

I love Judith and Holofernes paintings quite a bit. Lots of artists have done their interpretations of the scene- and most of them have been men.

The way that men typically paint Judith is either as she’s about to cut off Holoferne’s head or after, or if she’s shown actually beheading him she’s very flimsy about it. Her grip on the sword seems less than realistic, and she usually looks calm and beautiful (you know, for that pesky thing called the male gaze).

Here, we have Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian Baroque painter, giving us her version. While I don’t think it’s been substantiated, this is seen as something of a revenge painting. Artemisia was supposed to have been raped at some point as a young woman and it could be said that this painting is her version of getting back. It certainly is a bloody scene, and much darker than many paintings.

I love how intensely Judith is in the process of beheading him (realistically decapitation is no piece of cake- you’ve got muscles, sinew, ligaments, a spine, etc. to get through) because it feels real. You can see her hand gripping the hilt of the sword while one hand is tangled in Holofernes hair so as to get a better grip. Her assistant holds him down, and his massive form is shown writhing, desperately trying to avoid the inevitable. His blood streams down the edge of the mattress and sprays un-elegantly out of the side of his neck (those arteries!). This feels legitimate. It wasn’t painted for some man to stare at as some gorgeous, poised Judith delicately saws through Holoferne’s body passively- it was created by a woman who imagines if she were actaully given the task to get Holofernes drunk and then dispatch of him. If you were a female assassin, what would you do? This. 

This painting is magnificent. I wish I had known about Artemisia when I was at the Uffizi in 2009- I was much more obsessed with seeing Botticelli and Michelangelo at the time. Someday I will go and honor this wondrous woman’s creation in person properly. Until then, she has all my respect.

 

Current project: Evelyn Cameron

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Images via the Montana Historical Society

I am currently writing a 30 page academic paper exploring the diaries of Evelyn Cameron, a British woman who moved to a ranch outside Terry, Montana, in 1893 and lived in Montana until her death in 1928.

I am researching the first 10 years of her life in Montana- how she breaks horses, makes curry, acquires her cameras and begins to become an avid and talented photographer. This project has become deeply personal- I have grown so attached to Evelyn that I am already planning a trip to Terry this summer so I can see where she built a new life.

To try and describe Evelyn would be a difficult project. She was strong, hardworking, incredibly creative (two diary passages in 1895 are entirely in rhyming verse!), as well as patient and loving. She lived in Eastern Montana, a land prone to cruel temperatures, prairie fires, wolves, coyotes, and all sorts of challenges.

So far I have discovered that she writes in Italian and French when she wants to write some private thoughts. She often worked from 6 am to 10 pm, while managing to read quite a bit. Her husband, Ewen, often seems to be quite the grump (he was 15 years older than her, and apparently previously married), but she writes often of missing him when he makes overnight trips. Evelyn definitely did the work around the ranch- entries documenting her gathering hundreds of pounds of potatoes or spending hours repairing fences, watering animals, etc make me tired just reading them (and give Ewen a dirty look). Evelyn was very good with animals of all kinds as well. Many diary entries write of boarders at the ranch having a go at breaking stallions, to no avail, until Evelyn comes in and does the job. She and Ewen moved to Montana with the dream of sending polo ponies to England, but the travel often stressed the animals, and they were not as broken or tame as the buyers in England wanted.

Overall, reading Evelyn’s diaries has been an overwhelmingly wonderful experience. I am heavily considering turning her diaries into a thesis. Donna Lucey already published a marvelous biography of Evelyn with all her gorgeous photographs in 2000 but I am tempted to turn her diaries into a sort of lens into food habits of British expats or something (I doubt there were many homesteaders making curries or sago pudding at the time in Terry!).

 

Headframe Spirits

Butte is a proud city that saw some of the nations first unions, had an incredibly diverse immigrant population, and a world famous Red Light district, among many other accomplishments. It also saw some serious mining disasters and has battled environmental issues and dwindling populations at times. There is a sturdiness to Butte, though, that leaves you with the impression that even if you regularly drive past empty or dilapidated buildings or get the feeling of decay, that these issues are not real setbacks. They add to the cocktail that is Butte. The folks in Butte (like many fellow Montanans) are incredibly friendly and Butte itself always seems to surprise me with how much I learn or discover.

Headframe Spirits could be argued to have these ideals woven into it as well. Each variation of the alcohol brewed is named after an important mine within Butte, and I particulary enjoyed this aspect. Seeing as I will soon be a master’s candidate in History, I especially love how much history is reflected. The Headframes website itself is full of historical facts, with links to various historical museums and updates.

Kristin and I went into the taproom on Montana Avenue and I immediately admired the large old fashioned wooden bar with tall windows. The taproom was well lit and comfortable, without any feeling of pretentiousness. Aesthetically I enjoyed how neat everything was- the glinting of the glasses, a lovely vase of purple tulips that we sat near, and the menus which are tied with cord. Our bartender was really friendly and there was no rush- maybe this is because it was a Sunday afternoon.

Our drinks weren’t too expensive, and while I’m no gin connoisseur I greatly enjoyed my basil gimlet. Kristin and I agreed that there could have been more alcohol in proportion to the mixes in our drinks but nevertheless they were delicious. I definitely plan on going back.

Exploring the past

My grandfather has left me with several boxes full of Kodak Carousel trays of slides to scan! Mostly Kodachrome, they start right around 1960, and chronicle my grandparents marriage, their times before they had kids, and my mum and uncle growing up.

They were very insistent on road tripping, camping, and the outdoors. My grandmother was a school teacher with a  Master’s degree, which was not very common back in the 60’s. She once told me about how when you went to interview for a teaching job showing up with an engagement ring wasn’t smart because it showed you were probably going to get married and then immediately have children.

My grandfather was in the Air Force in the 1950’s, where he met my grandmother in Texas. From there the rest is captured in hundreds if not thousands of slides. He was an avid photographer but won’t speak about it too much.

It’s beautiful to see my grandfather’s photographs. He has an eye for good images and he captures images that are quietly significant to me. I love seeing them appear in my scanner on the screen from the tiny little Kodachrome slide.

They’re  visiting for the next two weeks and I’ve been showing them the images that I’ve found and I am showing you a few here.

Day off

 Today was my day off.

I woke up early and played with my dog, drank mint tea and ate muffins. Then I headed downtown to read on a sunny bench. I’m currently reading about 3 or 4 different books, all with very different ideas. One is Margarted Atwood’s The Robber Wife, which thus far is very much from the early 1990’s and different, if not still good. A biography of FDR has revealed that he was a ridiculous momma’s boy, but still incredibly good as a man and president (we can’t all be perfect!).  I shared my books with a spider that literally blew in on the wind, but didn’t want to hang around for whatever reason.

I wound up at the Montana Museum, where I saw Charles M. Russell’s depictions of cowboys, Native Americans, and life in Montana 120 years ago. I feel very grateful for modern furnaces and adequate clothing, as well as bug spray!

Among many of the treasures there, however, a beautiful red dress adorned with elk teeth always catches my eye. It’s such a beatiful color and elk’s teeth are smooth and symmetrical, and on the dress they are beautiful. I am not sure if they were elk ivory (elk have two ivory teeth in their mouths, per elk. They are beautiful!). I also visited the eerie creamy white bison that inhabits the second floor the Historical Society. Blue glass eyes add to the effect, making me never want to spend much time in front of the creature.

I came home and promptly fell asleep for 3 hours of odd afternoon dreams, and woke up in time to help make dinner and wish I’d done more with my day. I was going to drive to the Deerlodge Car Museum but decided that I couldn’t afford the gas (GAH) and so stayed within the town limits for the day, but nonetheless still had a lovely time!

World War One and Harold Gillies

EYEBROW-GRAFT tubed-pedicle-graft-harold-gilliesThese are two images from Harold Gillies’ 1920 book “Plastic Surgery of the Face”.

I’m doing a rather greusome and graphic study on medical innovations that resulted because of World War One, and it’s painful to know that thousands of people had to suffer massive disfigurements, wounds, and other fates. Treatments were done with the aid of ether or choloform, sometimes mixed together- both were not as medically sound as they could have been, although no other options existed at the time.

Harold Gillies pioneered a lot of plastic surgery techniques to restore a realistic face to many men- he performed over 11,000 surgeries (along with the first sex change!) and his work, while not perfect and often with scarring, gave many soldiers hope that they could return to society and not feel the need to hide. He grafted cartilige, injected fat (sometimes paraffin wax), and gave men lips, eyebrows, and eyelids where they were burned off or blown off by the massive artillery or chemicals.

I’m doing this paper and every word I write makes me grateful for the medical science around me as well as feeling immense compassion for the surgeons and men who had to work under such conditions.

 

For some reason I always think the Defenestration of Prague happened on Valentine’s Day

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I literally always wake up on Valentine’s Day and imagine a bunch of Bohemian guys being tossed out of windows. The first Defenestration (de = from, fenestra = window in Latin) was actually on July 30 in 1419.

Here’s an engraving of the event- I think dudes should highlight their burly man-calves in tights and shoes with petite heels more often, no? Also, note the guy on the far left about to be tossed out- he doesn’t even look that upset.

In any case, enjoy your day, because I think I can safely say you won’t be tossed out a window!

 

 

My love for Edvard Munch intensifies.

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The Dance of Life (showing Munch accosted by Lust while Love waits and decays on either side)edvard_munch_scream

The Scream- considered a possible drawing of a human soul, inspired by a bloody sunset on a bridge, also a culmination of anxiety and fear.edvard_munch_seperation

Seperation- a lithograph where the memory of one of his lovers pervades as hair over his shoulder on the shore of his summering place in Norway, probably.edvard_munch_the_kiss

The Kiss- his response to a kiss with an early lover, all-encompassing, overwhelming, but gloriously so. munch_ashes

Ashes- Edvard often felt “used” by women, drained by them (this inspires his “Vampyr” series, where life force is taken by various lovers, particularly Tulla, an obsessive wealthy girl who stalked him all over Europe). munch_self_portrait_1895

Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm- Edvard would put fetuses, skeletons, and corpses in the borders of some of his prints, which I love.

Growing up in Kristiania, which is now Oslo, to a fiercely religious father and a sickly mother, Edvard Munch watched his family succumb to sickness, death, and insanity. His mother slowly wasted away, his best friend and dear sister Sophie died (he kept the chair she expired in for the rest of her life), and his sister Laura descended into madness and schizophrenia. His Aunt Karen, his father, and his youngest brother and sister lived on but forever in debt, living in more and more decrepit apartments.

Edvard was a master drawer, and very creative, but plagued with depression and bouts of extreme sickness. Because of his father’s religious beliefs, he from an early age recalls thinking about how he would surely perish and end up in Hell. He also never managed to escape the idea of love/intimacy with being sinful- making every relationship with women he ever had doomed.

He would starve for days to afford paint, and in the papers he was known as Norway’s most infamous artist, hated and feared. He “disgraced” his family and eventually moved between Oslo, Berlin, and Paris, borrowing money and drinking all day, creating gorgeous paintings laced with his common experiences with death, sickness, poverty, and emotional twists and turns that we could only barely portray.

Munch was a genius in how he showed his ideas- they are universally understood. Where other artists followed symbols and color ideas, Munch just painted how he felt. And it’s so easy to feel exactly that- grief, exhaustion, terror, anxiety.

The intense psychology and the influence he exerted later on the Die Brucke movement in German Expressionism has spawned some of my favorite art- free of “rules” and expectations, but uninhibited, active, and gorgeous, in oft unsettling ways.

He is the ultimate master of manipulation. I feel loss of innocence, terrible guilt and immense sadness when I look at his things.

Only a few short months until I will be in New York to stand in front of The Scream, where I am totally sure I will weep a bit- Munch’s things are so saturated, I don’t believe I could help myself (I’ve only cried in front of Guernica, Picasso’s huge canvas, and Seurat’s Bathers before. The list will grow).

Paul Rule photography archive continued

I am slightly infatuated with Kodachrome tones, saturated skies, cateye glasses, and the feeling of mid-century Americana that absolutely saturates and charms in Paul Rule’s photographic archive (Flickr set HERE, all photographs sourced to there).

I don’t know any of these people, and a large majority of the photographs haven’t been labeled very specifically. It’s this sort of anonymity that makes it possible to love these vintage slides even more. You can easily imagine pulling out the dusty Kodak Carousel projector and sitting there, hearing the satisfying click, seeing another image from the past come to life in front of you.

While I merely click ahead on my laptop, and while these people are strangers, I still feel wonderfully transported on their adventures grand and minute. I hope you feel even a whisp of the whimsy I do!

“Diner People”

“Paris Street Vintage Slide”

“Russian Metro Vintage Slide” (P.S. How did these people make it into Moscow in the late 50’s?)

“Grand Imperial Hotel”

“Frying Pan Wallpaper”

“Does This Hat Make My Head Look Big”

“Blue Skirt, Black Dog, Red Bug”

William Hope’s spirit photography: Creepy things

 

William Hope supposedly was able to capture spirits whilst taking your portrait. Do I believe that? No, I do not- by the early 20th century I think dark-room manipulation was advanced enough that Hope could have easily made fraudulent positives for his customers.

Nonetheless, they give me the most delightful chills.

Washington D.C. Part 1: Or, how to use three rolls of film in one museum.

Hello readers! I am so sorry for my extended absence. I have been back for over a week, but work has taken a turn towards total chaos, and things like seeing Moonrise Kingdom, writing about Frida Kahlo, and sleeping have become more important to me.

Alright, my adventures on the East Coast! They were mostly either extraordinarily hot or either severely air-conditioned.

The moment I landed in DC, the change from the dry dry heat of Montana has so noticeable, I think my curly hair rose a few inches from all the humidity- it continued to defy gravity for most of the trip. That evening, we drove around the Mall, where I got to meet Einstein, gawk at the tourists on the Segways, and admire D.C. for all its POWER. And yes, that is the word I want. Power in the solid, stoic buildings that convey strength and independence and all those good old American (‘MURICA!) values. You know, all those patriotic things that only Americans value? (Joking: I have a running streak of cynicism with American Special Snowflake Syndrome: that is for another post).

Anyway, the next morning, Meghan and I took the D.C. metro, a creaking but clean form of transportation into the city and went straight to the Museum of Natural History. I could have spent a week exploring each nook and corner of this gorgeous space- the mineral collection alone could have sustained my curiosity for eons, no doubt! Meghan imitated giraffes and turtles, I photographed skeletons with a fever I normally reserve for food, and we spent half the day there- hardly scratching the surface on the beautiful things there!

After that we went to the Hirshhorn Gallery, where we played in 3-D sculptures and imitated Francis Bacon and other modern artists. The security gaurds were wary but amused when I went into a pose like Francis Bacon- I hope we made their day a bit more interesting.

Afterwards we decided to devote our afternoon to the Holocaust Museum. I don’t know if my words are even going to come close to describing the museum and the experience it attempts (and succeeds) in giving- total claustrophobia, darkness, cold, general feelings of being uncomfortable- the museum highlights suffering and tempers it with facts about genocide, racism, and how this managed to occur in Germany (and all over Europe).

I’ve been to both the Dachau and the Auschwitz concentration camps- however, both were in the open, with much of the artifacts largely removed. Auschwitz was another story- a creepy sinister feeling hung over everything, but when we went in April everything was blooming- purple flowers grew close to the brick buildings where women were sexually abused and experimented on, and green grass gave the whole place a fresh smell, when in reality Auschwitz should be plagued forever by the terrible stench of death. It felt too bizarre.

The Holocaust Museum gave me the sinister vibes WITH the artifacts and minus the creepy spring everything-in-bloom-renewal feelings. We left emotionally exhausted, and wandered the streets until we decided we were good to ride the metro.

 

A material Utopia: The Metropolitan Museum of Art collections

Aquamanile- Lion, c. 1400, Nuremburg

 The Lamentation, 1480, Spain

Detail of “The Hunters Enter the Woods”- Tapestry, c. 1500, Flemish

Velvet Panel, late 15th century, Italian

Standing Cup, late 16th century, Breslau, Germany

Minnekätschen, 1325-1350, German

Julius Caesar, by the workshop of Colin Nouahilher, French, 1541

Ivory casket, 14th century, French

Grisaille panel, 1240, French

Fresco on canvas, 12th century, Castile-Leon, Spain

Gold casket, 16th century, Italian

Once upon a time…

Or, in 2010, I went to New York City with my friend Exa. We took the train in from Westport where I was visiting my aunts, and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. WHAT. A. COLLECTION. My heart literally could not stop beating super fast the entire time we were there. It was a utopia of visual delight- my eyes were drawn to every corner, ceiling and floor tile- every surface had some form of art on it. I’ve recently begun the AWESOME process of going through the collections they post online, and I spent a good couple of hours drooling over some particular things.

Please revel in the glory of  material objects! That sounds bad, but they’re too lovely to ignore.

All images from http://www.metmuseum.org

Picasso

My sophomore year of college, I took an Art History course focused on one of art’s most fascinating figures: Pablo Picasso. It was taught by Professor Stanford, a brilliant and witty professor from Cornwall.

He taught the class as a personal view into Picasso’s mentality as he was creating his works, and he illuminated so much about Picasso for me. I had always wondered why this guy who drew portraits like an insane person was so famous.

Picasso was a born genius, a bad ass, an insanely intelligent and talented man who was extraordinarily prodigious- I think he produced over 30,000 pieces in his life. However, the more I learned about Picasso the artist and Picasso the man, the more I was disgusted by the man.

Picasso, for all his brilliance, was an ass. He was a womanizer who never remained faithful to his lovers, and he loved babies and children. However, as soon as his children were grown, he didn’t want them anymore- the naivete of children did something to him, but as adults they were more nuisances than anything. Paloma Picasso had to fight to keep her father’s last name. He left behind chaos with the various lovers he had, and he seemed to feed off of the drama he created himself.

When people quote Picasso and worship the man rather than the art he produced, I have a problem with that. Morally, he was twisted at best. There is nothing wrong with finding melody and poetry in paintings of his or any of his work at all. However, people should know that the man who created these pieces was a rather cruel person prone to creating heart break, disappointment, and destruction, along with emotional abuse.

To speak personally, when I visited the Reina Sofia in Madrid, I saw Guernica, his amazing masterpiece- and I was emotionally overcome by the violence and pain writhing within the painting. I was touched by this work, utterly entranced, and could have spent hours in front of the painting. However, I was not entranced by the man the more I learned about him.