Sunday, December 6, 2009


#340, Upper East Side, NYC

Sugar? Snow? Salt? No, just a carving over the doorway of a building on the Upper East Side. As I sit in New York City, pining for rain to turn to snow already, it seems fitting to have this 340 to, well, rub it in.

A few months ago, while trawling design blogs for typographical eye candy, I came across some breathtaking images both playful and ephemeral. The pictures -- words and designs delicately crafted in sugar -- were the work of Canadian graphic artist Marian Bantjes. The detail in the images is so arresting that it's hard to not draw closer even as you hold your breath, both out of awe and a fear, maybe, that one sneeze could send the whole thing packing. I admire an artist willing to craft something that inevitably will crumble to dust. This is the fate of all projects eventually, but I'm talking about the artists who embrace this very aspect and make it part of their work.

On the subject of art and the ephemeral, few things are as beautiful to me as the meditative, painstaking projects of Andy Goldsworthy, the subject of an excellent 2001 documentary by German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer, "Rivers and Tides." Watching Goldsworthy, this stoic man, hunker down in the woods, stringing together a magnificent chain of leaves simply for the sublime pleasure of watching them float down the river, enduring every nuisance of nature -- bad weather, errant winds, broken stems -- in his quest to do so, is both tragic and inspiring, mundane and heroic. In an interview, Goldsworthy speaks in simple, direct terms of his craft:

All that effort goes into making something look effortless.

A better expression of the creative process (apart from the one where I bang my head against a wall, repeatedly, which is satisfying only marginally and hardly eloquent) I have yet to find. If you're curious, you can check out a clip of "Rivers and Tides" here, though I can't recommend highly enough seeing the full-length feature -- beautiful, meditative, stunning. And don't miss the chance to admire the intricate, ornamental beauty of Bantjes' sugar images. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.

1 comment:

Julie said...

Trouble getting my head around that 3.

Would not want the Bible set this way.