Click on photos to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Kazuhiko Sano

Dinosaurs and Friends, Kazuhiko Sano
There was once a time when science was not yet so advanced and many people thought that dinosaurs were giant bipedal crocodiles. Today we have discovered that many dinosaurs actually had...feathers! Like a peacock with teeth! When I was growing up I liked three major activities, drawing, playing "cowboys and Indians," and playing with my toy dinosaur collection (which I still have, by the way). By rights I should have become a dinosaur artist or the next John Wayne. Either way I might be rich and famous by now, like Kazuhiko Sano. Of course, like Sano, I'd also be dead by now. He died in 2011.

Kazuhiko Sana hold a self-portrait painted in 1974 while in college.
Kazuhiko Sano was born in 1952. He was raised in Tokyo, the son of an architect. He struggled with the post-war environment and new attitudes of the country. Kazu (his nickname) pursued drumming, with influences of the Beatles, the Kinks and Drifters. He also loved the music of James Brown, Elvis and Jackie Wilson. He became a pianist prior to a life-threatening motorcycle accident on the streets of Tokyo. His father was involved in the booming business of rebuilding Japan from the allied bombing of World War II. His father pressured Kazuhiko to become an architect. The pressure yielded somewhat when instead, Kazuhiko's younger brother chose to follow in his father's footsteps.

An untitled Kazuhiko Sano illustration. Often illustrations
are not titled by artists as when they are canvas.

Sano began noticing the color and musical shift in society with 1960s acid rock and the psychedelic culture. He felt that the level of complexity was beyond his skills as a drummer, but the world of paint and illustration began to fascinate him. He tried to enter the prestigious National Univer-sity in Tokyo with a focus on Graphic Arts since there was no field of illus-tration in Japan at that time. However, Sano's efforts failed to land him a place in the university, which focused on academic prowess. Therefore, Sano left Japan to enroll in the San Francisco Academy of Art. There he once more entered as a Graphic De-signer, but was quickly guided into Illustration by astute staff once they observed his work. Sano’s self-driven assignments during his three failed years trying to enter the National University in Japan, proved to be what set him apart. He couldn’t speak well in English, but he was able to arti-culate his images in English very well.

Anyone you recognize?

Kazuhiko Sano created the winning design for
the 2008 Frank Sinatra commemorative stamp.
Mammoth and elephant comparison.
Sano reached heights within the field of illustration and painting that couldn’t have been attempted without the solid base set by his father’s artistic sensibilities and work methods. Even though his profession was not what his father would have chosen, or hoped for, Sano's career was shaped by his father. His life was allowed to progress to the highest levels of success only through the foundation laid by his father and, undoubtedly, his father before him.

Dinosaurs--where art and science meet.

It's unclear whether Sano's dinosaur paintings came before, after, or simultaneous with the other major success in creating book covers for many Star Trek paperback books (below) and posters for the competing Star Wars movies. If Trekkies don't recognize the name Kazuhiko Sano then they should. I counted some thirteen different covers, which may not include them all.
Kazuhiko Sano was Star Trek's most prolific cover artist.
Take your pick. Which Sano poster do you like best?

Monday, September 18, 2017


Cupid always has wings, rides a dolphin, lingers in trees, and is usually naked.
It's not uncommon that when someone mentions Cupid, the first image we bring to mind is that of cute, chubby, little flying toddlers, flitting around the mythological or valentine worlds, armed with bows and arrows, zipping them off randomly at whom they please. Of course, it should be added that it is uncommon for people today to mention Cupid in the first place. Yet he (Cupid is always male) is without doubt the most identifiable figure in all of mythology. Cupid is Roman, by the way, his Greek identity being Eros, while his Canadian-American persona is Justin Bieber.

Amor Vincit Omnia (Love Conquers All), 1602-03, Caravaggio

I mentioned the pop heartthrob in jest, but in fact, his image is much more closely akin to the numerous paintings of Cupid that have accumulated in the major museums all over the world than the cute little valentine putto (top) we usually associate with the son of Venus and Mars (his parentage is actually somewhat debatable). Vulcan and Mercury have also been mentioned as his fathers. In art, Cupid often appears in multiples as the Amores, or amorini later in art history, the equivalent of the Greek Erotes. Eros was a relatively minor figure in Greek art, but Cupids are a frequent motif of both Roman art and later Western art of the classical tradition. In the 15th century, the iconography of Cupid starts to become indistinguishable from the putto.

Cupid Shoots an Arrow at the Lover, 14th century Italian
In Classical Greek art Eros is generally portrayed as a slender winged youth. However during the Hellenistic period, he gradually came to be portrayed as a chubby boy. During this time also, he acquired the bow and arrow which represent his source of power. Anyone, even a deity, who is shot by Cupid's arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire. In myths, Cupid is a minor character who serves mostly to set the plot in motion. He is a main character only in the tale of Cupid and Psyche. When wounded by his own weapon, he experiences the ordeal of love. His tradition is rich in poetic themes and visual scenarios, such as "Love conquers all" and the retaliatory punishment or torture of Cupid.

From the iconic to the virtually unknown, artists for centuries have found Cupid to be a socially acceptable use of nudity and relatively subtle eroticism (and sometimes not so subtle).
Although not as common in sculpture as in painting, by the late 18th and 19th-centuries numerous marble sculptors such as Johann Christian Lotsch, Edme Bouchardon, Filippo Tagliolin (below), Antonio Canova and others were producing freestanding winged boys which now, and perhaps then as well, have come to be favorites of the gay community. Most were not cute little putto.

It might be well to note that with sculpture, it's sometimes easy to mistake a Cupid for an angel. The main differences being, angels seldom sport bows an arrows and are usually not depicted quite as nude as Cupid.
Romans identified with their Cupid the Greek Eros and the legends concerning him. In the Christian era, Cupid is usually depicted as an angel, a chubby, winged boy stripped of his bow and arrows. Sometimes the ancients represented Cupid as riding on a lion or a dolphin, or sometimes as breaking the thunderbolts of Jupiter, which were all ways of signifying his power. Cupid is usually spoken of as blind, or blindfolded. As such, he figures in a large num­ber of legends. His name frequently occurs in literature, and, as seen above, he has always been a favorite subject with sculptors and painters.

Cupid Sharpening his Arrows,
1798, Robert Lefèvre
One of my favorite Cupid stories is the tale of Cupid the honey thief. The child-god is stung by bees when he steals honey from their hive. He cries and runs to his mother Venus, complaining that so small a creature shouldn't cause such painful wounds. Venus laughs, and points out with poetic justice that he too is small, and yet delivers the sting of love. The story was first told about Eros in the Idylls of Theocritus (3rd century BC). It was retold numerous times in both art and poetry during the Renais-sance by Edmund Spenser and furnished subject matter for at least twenty works by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his workshop. The German poet and classicist Karl Philipp Conz framed the tale as Schadenfreude (taking pleasure in someone else's pain) in a poem by the same title. In another version by a German writer, the incident prompts Cupid to turn himself into a bee.

Cupid the Honey Thief,
1514, Albrecht Durer,


Sunday, September 17, 2017


Ephesus as conceived by an artist, seen from the city's amphitheater, where Paul was nearly run out of town by a mob for his preaching.
For anyone wishing to, in effect, travel back in time to get a feeling for what life was like in the first century during the time of the Apostle, Paul, and the birth of Christianity, there is no other place on earth more authentic than trekking through the Ephesian ruins of ancient Turkey. Virtually every other major venue dating from biblical times either no longer exists or has been largely overrun by 21st-century life. Ephesus is located near the western coast of Turkey and the Aegean Sea, has not. Ephesus today is the result of an ongoing archaeological dig--a search for a city abandoned since the 16th century, even its exact location forgotten until modern times. Only Pompeii comes close to it in importance; but that city was definitely not Christian.
Ephesus as seen today from the same amphitheater. Notice the absence of the harbor, one of the chief reason for the city's decline.
In visiting Ephesus during April of 2010, one of my first questions was why the second largest city in the Roman empire (after Rome itself) fell from an estimated population of well over 100,000 inhabitants to virtually zero in little over a thousand years. The answer is long and complex but basically starts with a century or more of clear-cutting the surrounding forests for wood to build the city, not the least of which went into the roof of the Temple of Artemis, the city's main claim to fame during the Roman era. As any agronomist will tell you, no trees means a heavy soil runoff, which gradually filled not just Ephesus' harbor (which was never that big to begin with) but the entire bay connecting it to the sea. The map below gives a better idea of the extent of the topographical disaster than I can describe.
Compare the enhanced satellite maps, the top one showing the biblical map of the area and the extent of the silting. The lower map indicates the location of the present-day ruins and the Cayster River which drains the area leading from the old harbor to the Aegean Sea.
The Temple Artemis is at top-right.
The harbor is at the lower-left.
The ancient city of Ephesus developed in a kind of "U" shape around the three sides of a hill called Mount Pron. Today's tourists coming from the port of Kasudasi enter by way of the right arm of the "U" shape to trek down the main thoroughfare past the ruins (some slightly reconstructed) of temples basilicas, palaces, an agora (marketplace)--the city boasted two of them--and various baths. In fact, there is one called Varius Baths. It's a journey of about one km. The Celsus Library is at the end of the street where one makes a right turn.

The white triangle at bottom-center is metal canopy covering a privately funded archaeological dig to uncover the "terrace" houses built by wealthy Ephesians during the Roman era.
The "main drag" down through a street
lined with ruins leading to the Celsus
The Celsus Library (below) is one of three major landmarks in the city, and by all ac-counts, the most recent (if you count 125 AD as recent). It was not in existence at the time Paul visited the city during the first century. The façade of the library has been carefully reconstructed from original pieces. It was built in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, a Greek who served as governor of Roman Asia from 105 to107. Celsus paid for the construction of the library with his own personal wealth and is buried beneath it. The library was mostly built by his son, Gaius Julius Aquila and once held nearly 12,000 scrolls. Historians speculate that it was designed with an exaggerated entrance so as to enhance its perceived size. On that score the design was a success. The structure is not nearly as big as it looks.

Built into a hillside, the structure is about two rooms deep and was originally two stories tall. The design suggests that by the second century, Roman architecture was becoming quite visually complex--almost Baroque.
The Preaching of St. Paul at
Ephesus, 1649, Eustache Le Sueur
The broad base of the "U" shape is a street paved with marble which passes between main agora where the apostle, Paul preached, and several brothels, before reaching city center and the amphitheater where Paul was per-suaded not to speak in lieu of the fact that his earlier preaching had aroused the ire of silver and goldsmith making a handsome profit from casting small images of Artemis (Diana). The amphi-theater is quite well preserved and is said to have seated 25,000--the largest in the ancient world. Built into the Mt. Pron hillside, it's built slightly off center but nonetheless faces down the broad central avenue toward the harbor. The opening photos (top) give some idea of its size.

Burned once, damaged and rebuilt numerous times, the Temple of Artemis is something of an anticlimax. Today only a single, reconstructed column remains, serving as a glorious base for a pelican bird nest.
Artemis was the goddess
associated with fertility and
the newborn. Her worshippers
apparently had a breast fetish.
Ephesus was once the home of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the astounding, Temple of Artemis which occupies the end of the left "arm" of our "U-shaped" layout. Not only was it the largest such temple in the world at the time, it is described as the most beautiful, some would say, even by modern standards. Today the Temple of Artemis is a quiet stop just outside the city of Selcuk in Turkey on your way to (or from) the ruins of ancient Ephesus. The outline of the massive temple is mostly visible and completely encom-passes a little pond. Roman contemporaries describe a temple with extensive décor-ations. The pediment friezes have been lost but both archaic and classical Greek carv-ings have been found suggesting a long period of construction, reconstruction, or at least the incorporation of former decorative elements into the newest iteration of the Temple

The Temple of Artemis (in red) was almost twice the size of
Athens' Greek Parthenon (in black).
The Temple of Artemis had a legendary end. In 356 AD, a young man named Herostratus set fire to the temple in an attempt to gain fame. Because of its wooden roof, the temple was almost completely destroyed. The people of Ephesus sentences him to death and vowed to punish anyone who repeated his name. Of course, the story of the Great Temple’s destruction and its arsonist were recorded by contemporary historians which in essence giving Herostratus his wish in that we remember his name today.

The most recent archaeological exploration involves what have become known at the Terrace Houses, a group of what we'd call townhouses today, spacious and lavish in their décor, allowing us some idea of how the more well-to-do lived during the classic period of Roman rule.
The ruined interior of the Jewish Synagogue
at Ephesus. Was Paul a "guest speaker" here?


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Christopher Boffoli

Playing with food. Most of Christopher Boffoli's
images don't move.
One of the most popular postings I've ever written had to do with "Food Art." Also high of the list of the number of "hits" were items on "Sculpting Food," "Photographing Food," "Food Presentation" (Nouvelle Cuisine), and "Food Still-lifes." Just when I thought I'd pretty much covered edible art from every angle, I stumbled upon the art of the Seattle photographer, Christopher Boffoli. Christopher's art could best be described by the title of his book Big Appetites. Sometimes he refers to it as Disparity Art, the disparity having to do with the scale of the food and the tiny "tiny people" he imports from European toy makers to populate his edible world.
Among the best food photographers in Seattle.
Christopher Boffoli is young. I could find no reference to where or when he was born, but judging from his photos, I'd fine it hard to believe he's yet to reach thirty (or maybe they're just old photos). He lives and works in Seattle where he is first and foremost a freelance commercial photographer, though his book and gallery photos seem to be more and more the "tail that wags the dog." It's hard to imagine even a superb commercial or news photographer gaining as much recognition in a lifetime as Christopher has in just the few short years of his professional career. He came to his art with the consummate skills to produce good photographs, but it's the imagination, call it creative genius if you like, that has placed his work in art galleries literally all over the world.
Pumpkin Pie ATV, Christopher Boffoli
Except for nighttime football games, food may well be the most difficult type of photography to do...and especially to do well. Food is, over time, perishable, subject to discoloration (even in the short term), and does not take well to the heat of studio lights. Food photographers typically either work fast, attempt to control the working environment, use substitutes, or do a lot of photo editing as a last resort. Boffoli likely does a little of each, but most of all he seems to be "in tune" with the food he chooses, prepares, arranges, lights, and in essence, "toys" with as his tiny figures play out before his lens their daily lives. And most of all, there's a keen, ever-present sense of humor which is the first attribute of his art that appeals to his fans and collectors.
Little people, big food, and even bigger photos.
It all comes down to scale disparity.
Food architecture.
Boffoli's Disparity Art is not limited to gallery walls. He also uses in as the basis for many of his commercial jobs. With his noted experience and success in photo-graphing food, Boffoli has found these skills to be much in demand in producing ad art for various food companies and distributors. The juxtaposition below gives some idea as to the way in which his "tiny people" can be helpful in selling "big people" foods. When he began shooting some of the very earliest images in his "Big Appetite" series around 2003, food was a conscious choice as one of the components of his work in that it can be very beautiful in texture and color, es-pecially when shot with available light and macro lenses. Combining food and toys makes Boffoli's work instantly identifiable to nearly everyone. Regardless of lang-uage, culture and social status, everyone consumes food, and almost everyone can identify with toys from their childhood.

Fine art can become ad art in the right hands.
As all artists come to realize over time, not every image they create, by whatever means, will be a major masterpiece or equally popular with those admiring his or her work. One of Christopher's images, which he titled Zesty Mower (below) was not only a popular gallery showpiece, but became the cover for the December, 2012 issue of the French magazine Photographie. Christopher later used it for the cover of his book.

Zesty Mower, Christopher Boffoli. The photo cut a wide swath.
Our relationship with food is complex. For many years now Americans have had extensive access to a broad selection of foods on our supermarket shelves to the point we've come to take such bounty for granted. Even as I was growing up half a century ago, bananas, a quart of strawberries, even oranges in the middle of winter were costly exotic treats. Today, we not only have a huge range of exotic foods year-round, but we have entire cable television networks airing nothing but shows about cooking and food (my wife is their biggest fan). Beautifully photographed, food magazines offer us features on the farms and vineyards that supply our produce augmented by endless cookbooks offering us everything from shortcut cake recipes to the masterpieces of top chefs, their dishes bearing more than a passing resemblance to Faberge eggs. All of this plays into Christopher Boffoli's art.

Many of Boffoli's photos have two titles, a short one
(which I've used) and a longer, more dryly humorous one as well.
The photo of the portly gentleman challenging the French fry barricade around the Big Mac bears the lengthy title: It was the precise moment that Larry knew those advanced judo lessons would pay off. The image below is titled: Gary always uses too much mustard. But no one can say so. It’s a union thing. The title brings to mind the image of a simple condiment, usually associated with the ordinary backyard barbecue, which suggests a problem that bears a much greater complexity when you're less than an inch tall.

Gary always uses too much mustard.
But no one can say so. It’s a union thing,
Christopher Boffoli


Friday, September 15, 2017

Giraffe Art

Giraffes Drinking, 1998, Johan Hoekstra
Giraffe, Alan M. Hunt.
(What you lookin' at?)
It's always gratifying to find an art topic or area of content that is popular with those who follow my pontificating dissertations. Re-cently, my series on individual types of wildlife has garnered the highest levels of readership I've ever seen. I've done items on zebras, tigers, elephants, and an all-inclusive zoo art. Today we look at giraffe art. In discussing elephants I recited the old parable of the blind men describing the massive beast based solely on touching it. If they were to do the same with a giraffe, they might describe it as a deer based on its body, an ox based upon its tail, the forehead of a wolf, the hoofs of a cow, and a fleshy horn like a unicorn. The neck would likely defy comparison to any animal in existence. The whole creature looks as if it were put together by committee.
Giraffes have served as diplomatic “gifts” for thousands of years, not unlike the “giant panda” diplomacy that China conducted with the United States in the 1970s. Part of their appeal has been the sheer unlikelihood of such an strangely proportioned animal even existing. Even today, many people who see giraffes for the first time on a prairie in Africa see only one animal where there are actually several. Giraffes are so unusual they seem to overwhelm the senses. The brain does not know what to do with its input.
Despite the illustration, camels do not lend themselves to
being servants of mankind.

Giraffes, David Stribbling
As natives of Africa, giraffes were known in ancient Egypt, and were often depicted in their wall paintings. Giraffe tails were also presented as tribute to Tutankhamun in the 14th century BC. They were likewise represented in the rock art of the African Bushmen and the Hottentots. In China, a giraffe first appeared in the early 15th century, captured when the Chinese fleet visited East Africa. It was presented to the Chinese Emperor Zhu Di, who immediately proclaimed it as a sign of heavenly blessing for his rule. His claim was based on a totally fictitious linkage of the giraffe to the legendary Chinese animal, the quilin. This giraffe was the first of many such tributes in later decades.

How do you describe a giraffe?

In Europe, the first giraffes were brought from Cleopatra’s Egypt by Julius Caesar in 46BC. Caesar’s intentions, however, were neither diplomatic nor philanthropic. The giraffe marched in his triumphal procession while hundreds were later imported for the Circus Games, to be mauled by lions as a public spectacle. The Romans called giraffes “camelopards”, based on the idea that they were related to both a camel and a leopard. Camelopardalis is still used today as its species name. After the fall of the Roman Empire, giraffes were mostly forgotten in much of Europe for the next thousand years. They didn't reappear until the 13th-century in a Sicilian menagerie and in English literature in The Travels of John Mandeville published ca. 1356.
Giorgio Vasari and Marco Marchetti da Faenza, Lorenzo the Magnificent receives the tribute of the Ambassadors (c 1558), Palazzo Vecchio, Florence.
Each giraffe habitat
has its own
distinctive markings.
Most spectacular, however, was the appearance of a tame 16-foot-tall giraffe imported from Cairo to the Italian city of Florence in 1487. The giraffe had been a crucial bargaining chip in tough negotiations between the Egyptian Sultan and the Florentine leader Lorenzo de’ Medici, who had a burning desire to emulate Caesar’s giraffe exploits in order to add to his own power, prestige and mystique. Though it only survived in Florence for a short time, the Medici giraffe, proved to be a sensation, inspiring numerous paintings by artists such as Vasari, da Faenza, and Andrea del Sarto, in his Journey of the Magi in 1511 and The Triumph of Caesar in 1521.

A Giraffe and its closest relatives,
the okapi (pronghorn antelope),
and deer.
The Medici camel proved to be so desirable that it aroused a sur-prising passion in Anne de Beaujeu, daughter of Louis XI, who believed that Lorenzo had promised to pre-sent her with the giraffe. To this day, one of the seventeen neigh-borhoods of nearby Siena is named after the giraffe (the Con-trada della Giraffa). The giraffe was seen by Europeans as a living mythological combination of creatures--a gentle and mysterious sort of horned cam-el whose hump had been straight-ened by stretching its neck, with legs as tall as a man, the cloven hoofs of a cow, markings like a leopard, and its startling, blue-black, snakelike twenty-inch tongue. Of all the animals in the world, the giraffe has the strongest tendency to be homosexual.
Don't be afraid, we're (chomp, chomp, chomp) herbivories.
With such a long and colorful history, its strangely graceful appearance, and a face only a mother giraffe could love, it's little wonder that artists down through the ages, and especially today, have painted their affection for this enigmatic creature. It lends itself quite easily to just about any type and style of painting imaginable. First of all the giraffe is almost overburdened with humor, something of a clown in real life as well as at the hands of painters. Only the ornery primates supersede it in being funny, and then only because it's much easier for us to identify with our nearest DNA neighbor.

Wall decals are a relatively new development in the
fine art of displaying fine art and interior design.
With their colorful markings, peculiar anatomy, and amazing versatility as to poses, as Salvador Dali discovered, giraffes make ideal models and content for virtually any style of art from Surrealism to Expressionism, Cubism, and beyond. Interior designers have recently fallen in love with them as they employ various wildlife decals similar to those seen above. How would you like to have a group of long-necked mammals spying on you from behind your couch? Just don't hang any potted plants nearby. Giraffes will eat virtually anything green and are especially fond of flowers.

The mother giraffes are in charge of the young. Males seldom stick around after the mating, preferring to hang out with others of their sex in segregated groups.
And finally, as with all members of the animal kingdom, the real show stopping scene-stealers are the babies and toddlers (giraffes likely invented the word "toddler" their young do so much of it). Like the elephants, giraffe mothers are quite loving and protective of their young. Though giraffes can run at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, to avoid predators (mostly big cats), their offspring can't.

You're leaving? Guess I'll duck
our for a drink.