20 Paintings in No Particular Order(2/20)
Roses, Vincent van Gogh
"It is clear…that [van Gogh] saw all blossoming plants as celebrations of birth and renewal—as full of life. That sense is underscored here by the fresh spring green of the background. The undulating ribbons of paint, applied in diagonal strokes, animate the canvas and play off the furled forms of flowers and leaves." (x)
Really impressive calligraphic work here. The author of the article where we found it says:
We are so concentrated on typography featuring European characters that we forget there’s the possibility of having great typography from other cultures too.
Check out the rest of this work here.
Chinese artist Yang Yongliang is known for his sprawling photographic collages that depict the devastating effects of uncontrolled urbanisation and industrialisation. At a distance the works look like traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy but when viewed up close, the peaceful mountains and seascapes are found to be choked with buildings, factories, and machinery.
Lazy J ft. Big Guy - 100 Percent (Acoustic)
Ida B. Wells: Princess of the Press
(this is a long post, so click here for easier side-by-side reading of text and image)
This week we switch gears from warriors and murderers, and focus on one of the luminaries of the early Civil Rights Movement: Ida B. Wells, who refused to vacate her train seat 71 years before Rosa Parks, and who led the charge to end lynching in the United States.
Ida was a tough one from the get-go. When, at age 16, her parents died from a Yellow Fever epidemic, she rolled up her sleeves, got a job, and worked to keep her siblings out of foster care. Kind of like a Reconstruction-era version of Party of Five. At age 21, the conductor on a train on which she was a passenger ordered her to vacate her seat – so that a white woman could use it. Ida refused. When the conductor tried forcibly removing her, she hooked her feet into the chair and refused to budge. When he tore her sleeve in the attempt, she scratched at him and bit him. When a gang of men finally removed her from the car, she sued the entire train company, and won. (although it was later overturned via legal shenanigans)
But by far her most significant achievements were in her anti-lynching journalism.
So let’s talk about lynching. I’d wager that mostly what it conjures up is an image of someone being hung by a tree. The reality was usually far, FAR worse than that. We’re talking torture that would make Elisabeth Bathory or Wu Zetian shudder. If you have a weak stomach, you’re forewarned — but try to stick with it. It’s important you understand what this woman devoted her life to stopping. During my childhood, and I’m betting during yours too, these descriptions were constantly censored. Well, I’m not going to do that.
Here’s summaries of just a few lynchings that Ida would report on:
- Tommie Moss, Henry Stewart, and Calvin McDowell, who were shot to pieces (McDowell had literally fist-size holes in him). Moss died pleading for them to spare him for the sake of his pregnant wife. The thing that started this all off was, in all seriousness, a kids’ game of marbles. More on this in a bit.
- Henry Smith, whose clothes were torn off and kept as mementos by the 10,000-man crowd; who had red-hot iron brands placed all over his body for 50 minutes, until they finally burnt out his eyes and thrust irons down his throat; who was then set on fire, and when he managed to jump out (he was still alive!), was pushed back in. Someone made a watch charm from his kneecap. Photographers sold postcards of the event. His screams were recorded and sold on gramophone, like the world’s most fucked-up ringtone.
- Frazier Baker, whose only “crime” was being appointed a postmaster in a small South Carolina town. His house was set on fire, and when he and his family fled, they were all shot — everyone was wounded, with Frazier and his one-year-old baby killed. Their charred bodies were found near the wreckage of the house the next day.
- Sam Hose, for whose mob execution they arranged a special train so that more people could attend. He was first tied to a tree, stripped naked, and then mutilated: they severed his left ear, then his right. Then his fingers were lopped off and his penis sliced off. Then he was set on fire. As his body burnt, the crowd of 2,000 people cut off pieces of him as souvenirs. Bone bits were twenty-five cents and slices of liver, ten. Even the tree to which he was tied was chopped up and sold.
- Luther Holbert and a woman (presumed to be his wife), who were forced to hold out their arms as their fingers were chopped off. Their ears were cut off, their eyes poked out, and a large corkscrew was used to bore spirals of “raw, quivering flesh” out of their arms, legs, and bodies. Finally, they were burned to death.
- Will Porter, who was taken to an opera house, tied to the stage, and shot by people who bought tickets for the privilege.
If you need to go look at pictures of kittens for a second, I understand. I’ll still be here.
Back? Good. Now, remember the Moss incident, the one with the marbles? It’s important for a couple reasons. it’s the first lynching that really grabbed Ida’s journalistic attention (Moss was a friend of hers); it caused a mass exodus of blacks from Memphis (Ida bought a gun and stayed); and it’s a useful microcosm to examine lynchings as a whole. Now, while it’s true that the inciting incident was a kid’s game of marbles, the real story was that the three men killed were associated with a thriving black-owned grocery store that was taking away business from a nearby white-owned one. The white grocery’s owner was the ringleader behind the mob that ended their lives. He orchestrated the horrifying murder of three people for… basically, a better financial quarter.
So Ida got to work. The end result: Southern Horrors, a seminal pamphlet that blew the lid off of lynching myths. Prior to that, the widely-believed stereotype was that black men were out-of-control brutes who were constantly a hair’s breadth from assaulting white women – and somehow this was believable to a large swath of the population. I don’t know, man, they were still doing trepanning in those days.
Anyway, the common wisdom about lynching was that it was in response to black men raping white women. Except that was unadulterated horseshit, and Southern Horrors proved it. By analyzing a huge number of cases and laying them out in an academic manner, Ida showed that rape had nothing to do with a majority of lynchings, and that most of the time the reason was either political, economic, or plain ol’ psychotic violence against loving interracial relationships.
As you could imagine, this did not win her a lot of admirers in certain circles.
A week after she first reported on this, while she was away on business, a mob broke into the offices of her newspaper, the Free Speech, and burnt it to the ground (yes, they were literally eradicating Free Speech). The mob threatened to lynch her if she ever returned to Memphis. In response, she looked into returning to Memphis – only to be informed that a group of black men were organizing to protect her, should she return. Wanting to avoid a race riot, she stayed away, but kept writing, madder than the devil and twice as eloquent.
Her keeping away from Memphis is understandable – race riots were a recurrent problem of her era, and she didn’t want to be party to another one. Even calling them race riots doesn’t quite get at it, because it was usually more of a one-sided assault. A sampling of just a couple that occurred during her life (try and imagine any of this happening nowadays):
- The city of Wilmington, North Carolina had its newly-elected biracial city government overthrown by white supremacists in a coup d’etat. President McKinley and the federal government just looked the other way. The white insurrectionists won, gunning down a great number of black in the process. That’s right, there was never any happy ending here: the black people of Wilmington just packed up and moved away.
- In Springfield, Illinois, a 5,000-10,000 man mob of would-be lynchers, stymied from killing their intended targets by the county sheriff, rioted in black neighborhoods. They burnt down churches, business, and homes, and killed many black citizens.
- In St. Louis, after a confusing early back-and-forth that resulted in some black citizens accidentally killing a police detective, a mob of white people stormed the black part of town, cut the water lines, set black peoples’ houses on fire, and shot at anyone who exited the buildings. Between 40-200 people were killed.
- In Chicago, 5 days of riots ended with 38 people dead, 537 injured, and over 1000 newly homeless. Arsonists took aim at black businesses and homes, laying steel cables across the street so the fire trucks could not pass.
Despite all this, and the death threats, Ida continued putting herself in danger for the next forty years (!) by investigating and writing about lynchings. On more than one occasion, she passed herself off as a widow or a relative of the deceased in order to gain better journalistic access — an act which earned one of her contemporaries, who tried the same trick, his own lynch mob (thankfully, he escaped).
And she would not tone herself down.
Although people wanted her to! Oh, how they wanted her to! Early on, papers that championed her would slip in statements saying she’d “never get a husband so long as she lets those editors make her so hideous.” Even other activists asked her to quiet her fiery rhetoric. She never did.
For a good thirteen years, she was practically the only person doing investigatory journalism into lynching. Once others gained interest in the subject – in no small part due to her herculean efforts, which included speaking tours abroad, the establishment of a great many civil rights organizations, and endless reams of articles and pamphlets – she was relegated to a footnote. Despite her massive contributions to the cause, she was almost left off the NAACP’s founders list, due in no small part to some wanting to distance themselves from her forceful language.
In the end, she did have a family, marrying a man who supported and advocated for her. Together they had four children, with Ida bearing the first at age 34 and the last at 42. She would even bring her children with her on her speaking tours, declaring herself the only woman in US history to travel with a nursing baby to make political speeches. Her entire family got into the activism, too – once, while Ida was feeling despondent about going out to investigate yet another lynching, her son demanded she do so. “If you don’t,” he asked, “who will?” When she came around on the subject, the entire family was waiting, their things packed, to join her on her travels.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me the cutest mental image.
She died at age 68, almost done with her autobiography. The last chapter ended mid-sentence, mid-word.
Thanks to my friend Peta Lindsay, who is both rad as hell and far more knowledgeable about these matters than I, for helping provide the proper context for this entry.
- She is depicted here being tossed off a moving train car, although it was definitely stopped when they forced her off. I wanted the image of her speeding towards the future, into the light (while the conductor is in the shadows).
- She is, of course, striking a very animated princess kind of pose. I imagine a musical number happening at that very moment.
- The train cars and outfit are period-accurate.
- The flying papers represent her reams of writing, with the nearest one to camera being the actual cover for Southern Horrors.
- Underneath the tree is a cut rope, being slowly blanketed by her work. I didn’t want to illustrate an actual lynching, or even a noose. I thought this was more poetically accurate to the spirit of her work, without being overly graphic.
- The opossum in the tree is a callback to a Loyal League parade float, which featured a black man against a tree with a bunch of dead opossums (which I take were meant to symbolize lynchers). She was never directly involved with the Loyal League as far as I know, but they traveled in the same circles, and I liked the image as a euphemism.
- The title “Princess of the Press” was an actual title applied to her during her life. The name was partly a reference to Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Princess Ida”, a comic opera about a feminist teacher.
I consulted the great-grandaddy of all Ida B Wells books, Ida: A Sword Among Lions. It’s 800 pages long, 150 of which are dedicated to bibliography, glossary, and assorted notes. It was a very long read.
In case you missed it, I instituted an official “you are smarter than I am” certificate! Giving them out for awesome corrections, questions, or for whoever can first correctly identify all the references in the certificate. Give it a shot!
NEXT WEEK ON REJECTED PRINCESSES
The last of her kind, she found her enemies and made them eat Crow.
"I spent like 10 years of my life pretending to fly around on a broomstick and you’re asking me if preparing for a love scene was ‘tricky’ because the other person also had a penis?"
Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest Monastery built from LEGO!
Wow. Add another one to the list of non-Bhutanese people inspired by Bhutanese culture!
Lego is one of the most popular toys in the world but it may not be familiar to everyone: Lego is a type of construction toy that primarily consists of interlocking plastic bricks. From Wikipedia: “Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other models.”
For Anuradha Pehrson, Lego is more than just a hobby or a children’s toy. Anuradha is originally from Pune, Maharashtra, India. She says that Lego wasn’t well known in India when she was growing up. She was lucky enough to have been given a small house building Lego set when she was around seven - she loved inventing different ways to assemble her small set of bricks. Over 20 years later, Anuradha moved to Seattle, USA and rediscovered Lego. She also found a community of other creative people who share her interest in architecture and model building.
Last year, Anuradha built a very large and detailed Lego model of Bhutan’s iconic Tiger’s Nest monastery (also known as Paro Taktsang). She did not simply go to a toy store and buy a Lego set for the Tiger’s Nest. Anuradha spent eight months creating the model with approximately 150,000 Lego parts. She clearly has a lot of ingenuity to be able to construct a replica of this unique and scared place using only standardized parts.
Anuradha was kind enough to talk to GreenTea about her Bhutan-themed Lego masterpiece.
- How did you first learn about the Tiger’s Nest?
Architecture from around the world is a subject that fascinates me. I’m not an architect but like to design and build interesting buildings and structures. For inspiration I look for pictures of buildings and structures from different parts of the world. I came across a picture of Tiger’s Nest on one of these searches. As soon as I saw these pictures I was blown away. The buildings were so beautifully made in harmony with the surrounding nature. I was also impressed by the wood carving work. I read somewhere that in 1998 a fire destroyed some parts of the buildings and they were rebuilt as close to the original with the help of photographs. The thought that people put in so much effort to build something so high up in the mountains, without disturbing the beauty of the place left me speechless, I can’t even imagine how they had originally managed this is 1692. I instantly wanted to build a replica in Lego.
- How were you able to build such a detailed replica without ever having visiting the place?
I had pictures from two different angles. I studied them for a long time. The difficult parts were the windows and the big rock section that ‘juts’ out. The monastery has beautifully carved windows. I built many different versions, until I thought I had achieved a similar design. The big rock was very difficult to see from the photos available. There is a tree right in front of it and from the side, it is covered by a window and roof. Finally I figured it out and built it. There were many iterations to each section and a lot of trial and error.
- Did you build this Tiger’s Nest model for a particular occasion or competition?
Yes, I built this for BrickCon 2013. It is a Lego Convention/Exhibition held in October in Seattle. This model won two awards here. ‘Best Architectural Style’ and ‘People’s Choice Honorable Mention’. Al Pacino the popular American actor had come to see this show with his son. He liked this model very much. He talked to me about it and also took a picture with me. I also displayed this model at BricksCascde 2014, another Lego exhibition held in March in Portland, Oregon. This model won ‘Best in Show’ there.
- Do you have any plans to visit Bhutan and the Tiger’s Nest yourself?
Yes, absolutely. I hope to do so in the next few years, but don’t have any fixed plans.
- What are you working on now, Lego-wise?
Hmm, I think I will just reveal that when it’s ready. :-)
- What else you would like people to know?
Two things. First, I am a spiritual person. I understand the concept of ‘Guru’ and disciple. I think it was always at the back of mind while building this monastery that this is a spiritual place. Gurus have done a lot of meditation and ‘sadhana’ here. I also know that I was able to build this successfully because of the Grace of my Guru and God.
Second, I think Bhutan is a beautiful country. I love the way that they have stayed true to their culture. I haven’t met any people from there but I’m pretty sure they are very nice and friendly and I think their food looks delicious! I do hope to visit very soon.