Archive for the 'The Library' Category

The Fantastical Art (and History) of Early Mardi Gras

It’s Mardi Gras season!

 

Darwin as an ass costume designed by Charles Briton for the “Missing Links” theme, Mistick Krewe of Comus, 1873: Carnival Collection, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University — Source.

 

From The Public Domain Review,

 

Illustrating Carnival: Remembering the Overlooked Artists Behind Early Mardi Gras

For more than 150 years the city of New Orleans has been known for the theatricality and extravagance of its Mardi Gras celebrations. Allison C. Meier looks at the wonderfully ornate float and costume designs from Carnival’s “Golden Age” and the group of New Orleans artists who created them.

 

“On March 6, 1889, the New York Times breathlessly reported on the recent Carnival spectacles in New Orleans. The Krewe of Rex’s pageant, themed around “Treasures of the Earth”, included a “Crystal” float “attended by figures in gorgeous costumes and prisms by the thousand”, and a “Diamond” float featuring “a rocky diamond dell” through which flowed “limpid streams where nymphs sported and played with the gems”. The Krewe of Proteus, meanwhile, dazzled with their “Hindoo Heavens” pageant, where in one scene appeared Agni “God of Fire” riding a ram that “strides the flames, attended by the fire sprites.” This opulent, and highly exoticized, interpretation of South Asian religion concluded with a tableau where “Vishnu, under the guise of a horse with silver wings, shatters the earth with his hoof and rises to the celestial abode.”

 

The modern American Mardi Gras owes much of its bombastic revelry to this late nineteenth-century “Golden Age” of Carnival design. From the invitations to the costumes to the hand fans carried by spectators, artists designed entire identities for each Krewe (a group that organizes a Carnival event). Carnival and its culminating day of festivities — Mardi Gras — was brought to the Louisiana area by the French in the late seventeenth century. Mardi Gras as it’s celebrated today is often linked to the Mistick Krewe of Comus, an Anglo-American group which in 1857 organized a debut parade themed “The Demon Actors in Milton’s Paradise Lost”. It was a departure from previous Carnivals that were more informal and tied to the Roman Catholic community. Following the Civil War, new Krewes emerged, each attempting to outdo the others with increasingly elaborate wood and papier-mâché floats pulled by teams of horses. One year it might be Medieval legends coming to life on the streets, the next flying monkeys of Chinese mythology terrorizing the crowds…”

 

For all of it (so many amazing illustrations!), click here.

 

 

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The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents

As you know, we love scents. Perhaps this little one-of-a-kind spot is worth a field trip?

 

The perfume organ holds hundreds of natural perfume oils. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

 

From KQED,

 

New Museum in Berkeley Worships the Art of Smell

By Bianca Taylor

 

“The first thing I notice about the Aftel Archive of Curious Scents is that it doesn’t smell.

 

Mandy Aftel, the museum’s founder and the author of “Essence & Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume,” says this is not an accident.

 

“I think people are worried that it will be very smelly like a department store,” she says.

 

Aftel tells me that the natural oils in her perfumes are not as pungent and long-lasting as the synthetic oils that you’d find at a makeup counter.

 

The Aftel Archive of Curious Scents was founded as a way to share her love of natural fragrance with the world. The small museum is in a garage behind her house in Berkeley, just over the fence from Chez Panisse…”

 

For the rest, and a video, click here.

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Your Life’s Plot Points: What’s your narrative?

As we embark on the new year, here’s a little piece on the narratives of our lives…

 

 

“So when people drop the cheesy pick-up line “What’s your story?” at a bar, like a man who nicks his carotid artery while shaving, they’ve accidentally hit upon something vital.”

 

From The Atlantic,

 

Life’s Stories
How you arrange the plot points of your life into a narrative can shape who you are—and is a fundamental part of being human.

by Julie Beck

 

“In Paul Murray’s novel Skippy Dies, there’s a point where the main character, Howard, has an existential crisis.“‘It’s just not how I expected my life would be,'” he says.

 

“‘What did you expect?’” a friend responds.

 

“Howard ponders this. ‘I suppose—this sounds stupid, but I suppose I thought there’d be more of a narrative arc.’”

 

But it’s not stupid at all. Though perhaps the facts of someone’s life, presented end to end, wouldn’t much resemble a narrative to the outside observer, the way people choose to tell the stories of their lives, to others and—crucially—to themselves, almost always does have a narrative arc. In telling the story of how you became who you are, and of who you’re on your way to becoming, the story itself becomes a part of who you are.

 

“Life stories do not simply reflect personality. They are personality, or more accurately, they are important parts of personality, along with other parts, like dispositional traits, goals, and values,” writes Dan McAdams, a professor of psychology at Northwestern University, along with Erika Manczak, in a chapter for the APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology.

 

In the realm of narrative psychology, a person’s life story is not a Wikipedia biography of the facts and events of a life, but rather the way a person integrates those facts and events internally—picks them apart and weaves them back together to make meaning. This narrative becomes a form of identity, in which the things someone chooses to include in the story, and the way she tells it, can both reflect and shape who she is.  A life story doesn’t just say what happened, it says why it was important, what it means for who the person is, for who they’ll become, and for what happens next…”

 

For the rest, click here.

 

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