Up, up and away: Swissair's 1960s hankerchiefs

The Swiss have a reputation for producing gorgeous printing on hankerchiefs. What a better way to promote a national airline than with noteworthy, keepers—hankerchiefs to commemorate one’s trip? The exotica of travel from cowboys to Andes natives, from bagpipes to more cowboys—from pretty to actually serving as a menu—Swissair covered the bases with hankies. Please take a look— I will keep searching. Kudos to Flashbak for their lively article .

I particularly love the bottom row—they remind me of Evaline Ness, (April 24, 1911 – August 12, 1986)—a fashion illustrator for Saks who evolved into a children’s book illustrator in her later years. The work was experimental, texture-y and very active.

a little fabulous flying music concurrent with these hankies!!

Aunt Ruth: Ruth Henshaw Miles Bascom (1772-1848)

Ruth Henshaw Miles Bascom, also known as “Aunt Ruth” was a twice married woman who raised children, many many children in her household (sometimes as many as 10)—being paid to help them, teach them and if their parents were not around, to foster them. She was a good wife of a minister—doing good works, caring for the poor, tending to the sick. She was also a solid diarist, who had kept diaries since her late teens through the end of her life….with notations from the weather and daily activities (in the early diaries) to details about her town’s statistics, births, deaths, weddings, expenses, cashflow and the like. The American Antiquarian Society has a very interesting pdf with notes and a list of the diaries they have in their collection. Worth taking a look.

Her portraits according to the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown, NY

“As a minister's wife, Bascom began drawing as a pastime, but was soon traveling to other areas to draw portraiture on commission. She kept a daily journal in which she recorded making over a thousand portraits for money, services in kind, and as tokens of affection. Bascom rendered all her portraits in life-size profile. In order to create a realistic image, she first outlined a cast shadow of the sitter on her drawing paper. She then colored the picture using pastel crayons.”

The way I see it is that Aunt Ruth, in the tradition of parlor activities, would trace the sitter’s profile like a silhouette artist would have done. What is interesting — another point of intersectionality—is that sihouette cutting was popular in America from 1790 until 1840. Why 1840? We know this…the advent of photography!
Silhouette cutting was an activity that was either hired, or something one would do at home for amusement. The twist that Aunt Ruth brought to the process is she took the profile and painted it, using pastels and sometimes colored paper/ foil to dimensionalize the work. What we have is a singularly fresh, modern representation of the sitter that presents the sitter in 1840 as someone we could meet today. This work reminds me of children’s book illustration, and Alex Katz’s portraits.

Profile Portrait of a Young Woman, Her Braided Hair @orn with a comb

Profile Portrait of a Young Woman, Her Braided Hair @orn with a comb

I particularly love the sensitivity of her line work, the blends she does with the back of the women’s hair, and the flat background colors—that complement the sitter, but not overwhelming the likeness.

The image to the right—she takes one step further. Aunt Ruth uses the foil that she used as accents in her portraits and makes it dominant—feeling almost renaissance in feeling and tone. I am so taken with this from the odd placement of the figure on the field, to the use of materials, color, the gradient hair, the linework…its all pretty elegant given the world of 1840, of Ammi Phillips’ grand portraits, the triangular ladies of Field, and the advent of daguerrotypes. Surprisingly, these are not rote images and to me, transcends the change in technology as Bascom changed the process and technique—-bringing silhouettes along with her engaging work.

Erastus Salisbury Field (Leverett, Massachusetts, May 19, 1805 – Sunderland, Massachusetts June 28, 1900)

Oops! Fell down another hole. Learn about Field here >. Yep. He’s a primitive painter—but really was gripped by triangles (you will see). The dude had something going on. Ladies and these nutty organza collars? shawls? like our friend Ammi Phillips had (only Phillips was ever so more puritanical). Some of these paintings are templated (red curtain on left, landscape on right) but many are just sock in the likeness and put a nice neutral in the background. However from his portraits, he evolved to doing these nutty landscapes and architectural images which (at least with the Garden of Eden one really makes me think of Pennsylvania’s pride, Edward Hicks who painted around the same time).

The Garden of Eden, 1860.

The Garden of Eden, 1860.

Historical Monument of the American Republic , 1867–1888 Oil on canvas, 9 feet 3 inches x 13 feet 1 inch, Museum of Fine Arts, The Morgan Wesson Memorial

Historical Monument of the American Republic, 1867–1888
Oil on canvas, 9 feet 3 inches x 13 feet 1 inch, Museum of Fine Arts, The Morgan Wesson Memorial

Another view

Rob Cassetti talks about the change in opera when it had competition. Opera was challenged for audiences by the advent of the motion picture. Movies pushed Puccini, for example, to create a big “The Girl of the Golden West” (La fanciulla del West)—creating big, live music that could not be replicated in a movie theater. New technology drove art to change…putting movies on one path, and forcing the traditional medium to change—to keep audiences and to stay relevant. This is the case of illustration—-and the whole schism around traditional media and digital…with digital being poo-poo’ed for not being “real” or legitimate. Technology challenges the status quo—and those either adapt or move aside. Technology may not subsume the traditional—but it does challenge it.

To that, I was plugging away at looking at Ammi Phillips (April 24, 1788 – July 11, 1865) work and discovered in a “no duh” moment that he was working when the first daguerrotypes came on the scene while he was painting (the last 25 years). This creates an interesting time— a blend—when technology, technique, and art purpose can shift due to a new media—a new availability to create images. One can have an oil painting reflecting tradition, wealth, and privilege which would associate you with like people or have a daguerrotype made—showing you “in the moment” with out romanticism, with no softening. A daguerrotype was a singular image like a painting, but very portable and very real. Lively, living breathing people.

Interestingly, as I looked at the Library of Congress pages— daguerrotypes showed not only living people, but people who smiled, laughed and who had joy in others (pairs of children, groups of sisters). Having a daguerrotype made was something that was a democratic process— with every shape, size, age, race, background and the Library of Congress' collection brought that home while scrolling though all the images. These images show what these people really looked like, how they chose to show themselves—unvarnished—from images of dentists pulling teeth to sweet brothers holding hands.

Clark sisters, five women, three-quarter length portraits, all facing front
Grandmother and aunts of photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston. Digital Id cph 3d02003 //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3d02003 . Library of Congress Control Number 2004664300

I thought I would go grab a selection of women’s images from the Library of Congress’ online collection to see how a woman might portray herself in a daguerrotype versus the staid portraits that were frozen in time and romanticized by the limner, Ammi Phillips. Could there be clues from a fashion standpoint? layout? design? connection with the viewer? Love Phillips, but let’s just look at what else was happening….even beyond Matthew Brady and his game-changing work and vision.

Here we are (selection was made from images 1840-1849)— and what a group of lovely, real women we have in front of us….women we might know today —work with, socialize except for the clothes that they are wearing and the impossibly time-consuming hair. Many of these wormen are connecting directly with the photographer showing their inner self either with confidence like the awesome Clark sisters, the coy flirtiness of the lady (third row/left), to the insecurity of the picture taking and her youth (center top). These are people who want to be seen, to be captured in the moment—perhaps as a present for a family member, friend or love. These were women with edges, with inperfections, with wit and personality and were not icons of “nice girls”. How did Ammi Phillips respond to this? How did he address this freshness, this change, these portable portraits that were a window into the sitter’s life—many showing similar poses (proper ladies with books, caps) but not romanticized—complete with physical imperfections and souls showing through their eyes.

Technology changed portraiture. People continued to have their portraits painted, but having an option, a more democratic option which was more affordable, portable and a true window into a living person also had it’s appeal. There were couples together, babies together, and families together. There is a daguerrotype of a father and his sons with the bible. There were many, many images of black people—who took advantage of this shift. No conclusions here…just observations on how daguerrotypes touched a much wider swath of people—and captured more of the reality of the time.

Ammi Phillip's bonnet

I am doing a bit of research on “primitive” American portraits and enjoying jumping in with both feet. I was looking at limner painters and found Ammi Phillips ( April 24, 1788 – July 11, 1865), also referred also as the Kent Limner . I love the formats of the time that were de rigueur and am am collecting images to better understand and categorize them. Unfortunately, I will be torturing you with my findings.

Philllps was born in Connecticut and starting painting when he was young. Wikipedia says:

“He enters the documentary record as an artist in 1809, at the age of 21, with advertisements in both The Berkshire Reporter[3] and a Pittsfield, Massachusetts tavern[4] proclaiming his talent for painting "correct likenesses," distinguished by “perfect shadows and elegantly dressed in the prevailing fashions of the day.” Although Phillips also advertised his talent for "fancy painting, silhouettes, sign and ornamental painting,"[3] he soon specialized as a portraitist. His work satisfied the local standard, and within two years Phillips was receiving regular portrait commissions from community leaders in this area of western Massachusetts.[3]

I find it interesting that he comes from a decorative background, silhouetting and stylish painting. Phillips was a practitioner of an expected style with his artistry being a plus. His figures reflect that paintings were made to be sn to illustrate how a member of the household would be remembered as a legacy as a justifying the privilege they chose to embrace.

Detail of the bonnet.

Detail of the bonnet.

Part of Phillips’ props “kit of parts” included this highly ornate, organza, embroidered and beribboned bonnet that was placed on many customers for their portraits. What a silly, over the top bonnet—on all sorts of ladies from young, to old—with the bonnet telling us that this woman has married well (married women wore inside bonnets), and she spends her time doing lady’s work—reading, needlework. You will also note a common collar in three of the portraits—perhaps also pre-painted or part of the artist’s prop closet? The older lady (the first image) has a decorative ribbon which shows up in other portraits Phillips has painted.

As a limner, it almost suggests that these paintings were already set up in advance, and only the faces were painted live. Limners were itinerant painters, so to have pre-painted paintings made the transaction quicker as the faces were painted in…and on you went (leaving the paint to dry). Just a thought.

I am looking at other models to better understand this particularly American period of decorative art, portraiture and design. This seems to click with all sorts of things I love to bits.

Sunshine in a rain storm

Welp. You just never know.

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Thursday night , I mourned my little athletic dog—and the life he could have had. I grieved about the time we had together and the life in the future I took for granted. I reflected on his quirks from playing with doors with his nose, his herding me whenever he had an idea of what we needed to do, to his broad curiousity around the world that his previous life as “Mitchi (their spelling) from Queens” to Mitchy Ray Sunshine of Trumansburg. Country squire, lover of people, crowds, squirrels, deer, NYS sharp cheese, white hots, aand the opportunities to flee or tease us to chase him. He was verging on zombie dog that afternoon. After the cycle of being taught by a very precise and loving vet, it seemed that there were two options—Mitch lives, or Mitch dies. I was not right with any of this, but as I said choking down the emotions to Rob while we waited to do the hard work on Friday morning, I want to be mindful. I want to be there for Mitch. I believed he would tell us what to do.

And he did.

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We were back at the Cornell Companion Animal Hospital getting the full experience from the amazing scene of the waiting room with animals of every shape and size, breed and age, with their handlers who reflected the same spectrum. It is always very exciting and funny. Truly, I could sit there a day a week for the happy factor. Dog people want to hang with other dog people. It’s i a great place to make life long dog friends and share the love of dogs, their companionship and quirks, and the import they have in our lives.

Rob and I were shuttled into another one of the holding rooms to wait, and then spend time with our bully boy. He blazed into this space, tail twitching, ears up—fully alert and delighted to see his people—who are two poles of electricity—-his alpha and his beta—and he is the charge in-between. For Mitch, black and white is nice, but there is a lovely spectrum of grey. And so, we decided to take him home. No doubts about it. If we could have a little more time of lake breezes and long drinks, of snapping at bugs and sleeping on a puff—then we will take it.

So, armed with a plastic bag of meds and a magical punch list of what, when, how—we took our little prancing boy to the car on a rainbow leash. He was ecstatic. And, in the Cassetti tradition of, “you do well at the doctor, there is a treat”—Mitch got a full order of hot chicken nuggets which, after not eating his whole time in the hospital was heaven— which he (Mr, Temperature Sensitive) inhaled— smacking his lips and snapping his jaws. And so it began. He is so, so happy. Rubbing his head against us. Sleeping on his puff with all four legs in the air. Drinking heartily from the tub faucet—breathing in energy wherever it is.

My thinking is that time with our guy — who is living off the standard for his kidneys, every day is a gift. My job is to run the best canine hospice for our brave boy, and let him savor the tings he loves. So, food is whatever he eats. There are drives. Everyday, our drive to the lake (normally a 12-15 minute drive) is 45 minutes to an hour with the windows open, frequent stops to inhale to fragrances and smells. Oh my goodness, the smells. He absolutely drinks it in—tongue out, swiping at the essence of fresh grass, or flowering milkweed. Standing still—with the car still as well—-hearing the sounds, watching the birds and tasting the country.

Our first night of our long drive through the countryside— we drove through a light rain in a brilliant blue sky summer day. Sunbeams in the rain. My tears despite Mitch’s mindfulness. “ Look at what we have now, Q.” is his encouragement. And so, I turned off the radio and stopped the car to smell the cut grass and flowers in the air. To confirm this—we pullled onto the road that is populated with an Amish school and several farms. I saw two young amish boys…maybe 5 or 6 years old…I only saw heads/hats and their shoulders until they emerged out of field—with one boy in an electric wheelchair pulling his friend in a little wagon. They were in the moment, taking advantage of what they had—and not mourning what they could have or be. They exuded life and joy. “Learn from that Q.”, Mitch reminds me.

He is drinking robustly but being fussy about eating. I got a big talk from the Vet about dog food…and though I have done all of that, he turns his nose up. So, I am nurse in charge at hospice…pushing the pills and giving him food he will eat. It may not be the perfect medical solution, but he is eating….and that gives both of us pleasure.

Mitch is still here. Waning, but fiercely still here. And I will be here for him until it’s time.

Meet Mitchy Ray Sunshine.

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Our Shady Grove died—and it was a very sad time. I didn’t know I missed her so much—but I did. So, I started to look for dogs often driving to the SPCA to have the dog that was posted online, gone before I got to even say hello. This was multiple years of “almost” getting a new, used dog. So this went on and on—and I wasn’t having any luck. I decided that the only course was to get a puppy and raise it. After some research, I found a great goldendoodle breeder nearby and put money down on a pup and waited. I wont go into detail on that thread, but as everything seems to be—it was not simple.

Kitty came to visit and she participated on an “almost” moment with a rescued havanese/maltese mix who was adorable. But it was “almost” with no cigar. She and I were crushed. So, she started talking it up in NYC to all of her friends.. One friend knew of a dog who was “coming up”—the brother to his dog (also rescued)—and would we be interested. After about a minute, the answer was absolutely- and that is how Mitchy and the Cassettis connected. Only thing is that I needed to drop everything to go get him. And I did.

Mitch (Mitch was named Mitch by his first owner) grew up in Queens, living in a small one bedroom apartment. After meeting him, I was stunned to thing this cuckoo bananas dog lived in a tiny apartment with a very circumspect life. I get ahead of myself.

Kitty’s friend picked him up in Queens and drove him (and Mitchy’s sister for company) to Reading PA where he was visiting family. Kitty’s friend was awesome— trying to get him in some order, trimming hair and getting himin working order. prior to their trip to meet me. I drove down from Tburg—taking a very fun bunny route (not the highway, but the biway) to Reading through coal country. I checked into a hotel in downtown with a convention of the most lovely Christian people—all dressed up and so kind. I had dinner at the hotel bar watching a few of my Christian friends slam a few cocktails—and waited. At 9 p.m. the phone rang and the message was for me to be downstairs for the pickup/drop off. Up pulled this little orange car filled with two over energetic airedales —straining at leashes. I handed over the rehoming fee and was handed a leash and off my new friends went leaving me with this maniac, Mr Mitch. He was unlike anything I had ever seen—-vigilant, funny and smart. Too smart.

Mitch and I went up to the room at the hotel —I had set it up with food/water etc. and he was franticly checking all the windows and doors (and mirrors as they are kind of doors) all night. Poor devil—it was this circle of windows and doors, windows and doors and then strange sounds with this strange lady. It was not a restful night for either of us. Morning came at 5 a.m when I told Mitch we were going home, and we did. He got in the car and was stunned at the smells as we drove through the countryside to the lake. As soon as we got home, I got him set up—and clipped to a long leash around a chairleg on the porch, both of us passed out with the lake breezes wafting over us. That was day one.

Starting some sketches.

I got a crazy project. Kee RAY Zee…

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The way it worked was I got an email from a man who I never had met—for a project I never ever would have thought would cross the transom of my office. But it did. And, I have rearranged my life to do the work. I negotiated a pretty impressive contract (in another language), figured out how to get paid, processes and tools to use to make the project flow be smoother….It is a bit stunning. I still have hair on my head, and can hold a pencil despite the backdraft…but truly it has given me life and a little more spirit than I have had in at least 4 years.

I cannot tell you about the work, but maybe a few snapshots from the sketches will humor you. Things to know are…1. be an expert or known for a subject matter and tag the crap out of the illustrations. 2. own that topic…so that when the topic is searched…your name and images come forth. Truly. That is how this client found me. And the nutty thing is, that it works that I am both a designer and an illustrator for this work—- the discipline and knowledge of how to be “in brand” is lapping over into the illustration work. The client has a very specific palette—very definitive signature elements that they love seeing it surface in the illustrations. That plug and play approach that branding has instilled in my thinking really makes that so easy—and fluid. And for that, I am grateful.

Spring is here. Mitchy is here (and you havent met him)—and life is continuing in a sweeter way. For that, I am thankful and so glad. I am back from a deep dark hole….and so pleased to be back.