The Beauty Salon’s own Justin H Brierley is this year’s URI Department of Communication Studies Academic Excellence award winner! Congratulations! We need more exclamation points around here!!!
This week on the Beauty Salon, we talked with Tom Gillette of Eyes of the World Yoga in Providence. Tom described (and performed) the practice of sound yoga, in which practitioners focus on the physical and sensorial experience of sound. You can see a video of Eyes of the World music yoga below, or sign up yourself by clicking here!
This week on the Beauty Salon, we talked with Christopher Welch, mystery writer and Newport resident, about his new story that deals with the world of art forgeries.
And this lit up a bulb in my brain: Hans van Meegeren, master forger. I’ve used van Meegeren as an example when teaching in the past (particularly, Denis Dutton’s analyses) to make the ideas of “genuine” and “fake” much more complicated.
(A nice summary of the van Meegeren affair, by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, in Dutch with subtitles, via Essential Vermeer)
Here’s a back-of-the-envelop summary of the van Meegeren saga. Hans van Meegeren was a struggling, mediocre painter through most of his life, though he finally found success as a portraitist. Van Meegeren wanted to go further. In 1932, when he was 43 years old, van Meegeren started a multi-year project to create an “undiscovered Vermeer” painting, Christ With the Disciples at the Supper of Emmaus, which was appropriate because van Meegeren had studied in Vermeer’s home town of Delfft in the Netherlands.
(Christ with the Disciples at the Supper of Emmaus, 1937, Hans van Meegeren, attributed to Johannes Vermeer)
The trick worked. And then it worked again. And again! As he sold paintings, van Meegeren honed his craft. His work came under increasing scrutiny, but van Meegeren’s technique and his use of material fooled even skilled and seasoned art historians. It is believed that all together, van Meegeren made 2 million dollars (roughly $40 million today).
Once the forgery was revealed after one of his paintings in Nazi war criminal Herman Goering’s private collection was traced back to van Meegeren by Cpt. Harry Anderson, something funny happened. People were more amazed by van Meegeren’s accomplishment than angry at his fraud. Not only are original van Meegeren paintings now very valuable, the most valuable of all are “genuine” van Meegeren fake Vermeers.
(“Christ and the Woman Taken into Adultery” Hans van Meegeren, via the Damforst Museum)
The story is not over. There are fake genuine van Meegerens circulating around the world, some painted by his own son Jacques. It seems strangely appropriate, the son following in the father’s footsteps. Yet, there is a sadness as well. Jacques van Meegeren’s fakes are marked by their lack of his father’s inventiveness, vivacity and composition. Where his father was more Vermeer than Vermeer, the son is less van Meegeren than van Meegeren.
There was a little Beauty Salon kismet following Monday’s episode. On Monday’s Decoding Rhode Island, Anastasia Azure talked about her use of “dimensional weaving,” using a double cloth technique (two sets of warps, two sets of wefts to create dual pieces of fabric you can then join together to form three-dimensional shapes.
(Image via AnastasiaAzure.com)
For those who don’t know, weaving is a process of making fabric by interlacing horizontal and vertical fabric.
(Image via Marianne Metcalf, Loominous.co.uk)
The warp refers to longitudinal or vertical thread (technically “yarn”), and the weft is the lateral or horizontal thread.
(Image via Weaver and Loom Handmade Rug Boutique)
Anastasia also discussed how her work Within, the ways of water (below) draws upon and tries to mimic both the luminescent color of water and the patterns of movement observed by oceanographer Larry Pratt.
After the interview, Ian connected Anastasia’s inspiration from nature to the ways in which human architecture models itself from objects found in nature: vast ancient cities, for example, taking on the spiraling structure of a plant. By mimicking nature, human beings were able to create structures that were intricate and sophisticated without needing any sort of abstract formal knowledge. Supposedly primitive people, then, could create lasting, efficient and highly functional structures and systems by learning from nature’s master builders. We call the study of how nature can inform human design and creation “biomimicry.”
Resident fabric expert (and producer) David Howard pointed out after the show that warp and weft weaving is itself an instance of biomimicry. Essentially, humans had learned how to braid or otherwise wrap together long leaves (and then threads and such) to make things like baskets, roofs and mats. Weaving as a process of making sheets of fabric from interlocking vertical and horizontal thread, most textile historians believe, was born from observing nature.
Eric Broudy in The Book of Looms: A History of Handlooms from Ancient Times to the Present collects together different folk legends about the invention of weaving to show how different geographic regions credit the weaving found in their particular ecosystem. In vertiginous India, the Kaman Mishmis tells of a girl named Hambrumai who was taught to weave by the god Matai. Hambrumai would watch ripples in the water and would lie on the ground, looking up as tree branches, vines and bamboo intertwined.
In Africa, the myth is of a great hunter who observes the web of the spider and uses the design to make nets out of sticks. The hunter’s wife then notices that the spider has created a fabric and asks that her husband make her fabric in the same way he has made his nets. The hunter goes to the spider and asks to learn, and sees that the spider uses thin thread rather than sticks, so the hunter weaves now with thin grass and makes the most beautiful fabric anyone has ever seen.
In the bright and arid southwest, Spider woman and Spider man show Navajo women how to weave with shafts of sunlight streaming down, sky and earth running side to side.
In China, the story focuses on the silkworm. Prince Hoang-ti asks his wife Si-ling-chi to study the silkworm and give a gift to her people. Si-ling-ti learns to keep and raise the worms, and one day she accidentally drops a cocoon in a boiling pot, which releases the silk threads from one another. She then designs a loom to make fabric from the silk thread, and is revered as the Goddess of Silkworms.
It is interesting that in each of these cases, the invention of weaving is taken as a gift from nature, something that the animals and gods have given to us rather than something we have created through our own mastery of things. Today, biomimicry is informing design of buildings:
(RoboLamprey via the Northeastern University Biomimetic Underwater Robot Project. Want some weird cognitive dissonance? Check out the homepage. Subject: UNDERWATER BIO-BOTS [awesome], font: COMIC SANS [wut?])
And yes, fabric:
(Butterfly-wing inspired iridescent fabric, via eMorfes)
Our friend the spider still has things to teach. One particular area of interest for biomimesis is the orb-web spider and its many different types of silk used for different parts of the web:
(image originally in “Decoding the Secrets of Spider Silk,” Lukas Eisoldt, Andrew Smith and Thomas Scheibel)
From nature, structures perfected over time through great change, we ourselves learn to live in the world—and are inspired to make new creations.