Monday, May 15, 2017

BestSeatIBW2016- Piet Mondrian*

*This post was originally written as a Facebook post for Babywearing International of Cleveland for International Babywearing Week 2016. Some edits have been made for clarity. 

This ring sling (on its way to becoming an onbuhimo by now!) was cut from a longer wrap (I split it with another art historian and educator!). The wrap is based on the paintings of Piet Mondrian, a Dutch-American artist working in a style called “De Stijl” (meaning “the style”) in the mid-20th century. Though he began his career painting landscapes in his native Netherlands, Mondrian came to reject the object entirely in favor of abstract compositions featuring only red, yellow, and blue with black and white. I’ve paired the wrap here with an example of this part of his body of work: Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow from 1937- 42 (Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 638.1967). In part, this turn toward abstraction was an optimistic expression of his belief in the birth of a new, machine- and technology-fueled age after WWI; the rigid, perpendicular lines and simple color schemes are meant to suggest structure and the geometric elements that create a perfect, orderly world.

More than just a suggestion of machinery, the compositions reflect Mondrian’s fascination with New York City in particular, where he fled at the outbreak of WWII. The straight vertical and horizontal lines look like scaffolding, or the steel skeletons of skyscrapers, rising on Manhattan. But if the picture plane is imagined on the floor in front of us, the black lines suggest the city's grid, the movement of traffic, and the colors become blinking electric lights.

Mondrian was also interested in American jazz music, particularly boogie-woogie; the rhythms of squares and rectangles also created a syncopated beat that visually represents jazz’s irreverent approach to melody and improvisational aesthetic. The colors appear random and spontaneous, but are still grounded by the structure provided by the white background and black bands.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has produced a quick video detailing Mondrian’s fascination with jazz and dance here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

BestSeatIBW2016- Vincent van Gogh*

*This post was originally written as a Facebook post for Babywearing International of Cleveland for International Babywearing Week 2016. Some edits have been made for clarity.

The last few posts from IBW 2016 (#bestseatIBW2016) feature contemporary carriers inspired by famous artists and works of art! Each carrier featured is a different type, though all are a wrap or wrap conversions.

First, check out this onbuhimo inspired buckle carrier belonging to ABE Sarah C. Miller-Fellows​! The design of the wrap from which it was converted is a painting familiar to many: Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night from 1889, which is owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (472.1941). Vincent van Gogh is known for exuberant compositions and rough, excited brushwork, coupled with vibrant colors. Indebted to the Impressionists for their techniques, but not loyal to their sense of the fleeting moment, Vincent painted works from his memory, imagination, and dreams. The Starry Night here includes the cypress trees- often a symbol of mourning- seen from his residence in the south of France. The town nestled into the hillside with its prominent church tower is more reminiscent of the Dutch landscape where he grew up. The church spire is important for two reasons: it reflects Vincent’s faith and his original ambitions to serve as a pastor (dashed when a catastrophic mining accident befell his parish), and it echoes the surge of the cypress, creating a ripple of energy across the canvas. This energy is matched and carried on by the swirling brushstrokes that fill the sky, frequently attributed to Vincent’s often agitated emotional and mental state.

The carrier here is an onbuhimo inspired buckle carrier; an onbuhimo is a traditional carrier from Japan, designed to be worn without a waistband. It typically has looped straps that connect at either side to a long panel. These go over the wearer’s shoulders and the panel forms a seat when the straps are tightened. Traditionally made with a ring finish, there are now onbuhimo inspired carriers on the market with buckles, too (like this one). Best for a larger baby or toddler, they are loved for being quick and comfortable! What strikes me here is that Vincent would probably have loved seeing his work on a Japanese style carrier (if he knew what it was!). He was a lover of Japanese art, particularly the style of print featured earlier, ukiyo-e, and collected and copied many of them throughout his career.