Crate of Curios part 54

Autumn is here with its promising, yet betraying weather – short-sleeve warm during daytime, suddenly-chilly after sundown – it’s the in-between period where it’s possible to see people wearing anything from shorts and T-shirts all the way to puffy winter jackets. Some unnamed tree is apparently blossoming or doing something that spreads the most obnoxious sweetish smell. But I digress. After a short period of floating it seems that Sunday night is after all the best time for publishing the Crate. So let’s get to it without further ado.

  1. “I have learned through Picasso that the really good art lies in the ability of not knowing how to do something. And the journey of trying to articulate something you don’t know how to do is where the art is.” Jenny Saville has followed her artistic journey by observing and painting the nude body in all its reality. (The triptych on the right is ‘Strategy’ from 1994)

2. What is the relation between productivity and creativity? Willa Cather gave it a lot of thought. (via The Marginalian)

3. Find the British system of measurements confusing? You’re not the only one, so here’s a handy little chart.

4. Can spirituality or religiosity help against depression?

5. What’s the furthest city from yours? Find out here.

6. And to finish off for this week, here’s a little friendly reminder from good ol’ Clippy (by Redpenblackpen)


And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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Crate of Curios part 53

A week has passed without a Crate, so it seems to be high time to get one opened again. I have enough material about South America to keep going for another two months, but in order for us not to get bored, I will finish this series today and keep the rest for the future – this will not be the last instance that the Crate will look towards South America. So, let’s have a look at the last of the Surrealists flourishing in Mexico City and proceed to opening this Crate without further ado.

  1. I am as mysterious to myself as I am mysterious to others.” – Leonora Carrington was famously loath to explain her work throughout her life, and struggled with presenting public persona as an artist. This “neglectful daughter, selfish sister, and absent aunt” who also worked according to herself “with a baby in one hand and a paintbrush in the other” created dreamy worlds full of otherworldly creatures, at least partly based on her own vivid life experience and interest in the occult, and was apparently referred to as ‘one of those European bitches’ by Frida Kahlo.

2. We don’t really know any more if the truth is out there, but there definitely are a lot of weird objects. And yes, I am referring to space and not Roswell.

3. Just in case you happen to be going to India any time soon, it’ll surely be handy to know how bread is called in the different regions.

4. Brutalism as architectural style had golden days in the Eastern Bloc during the Communist era and left a number of imposing buildings behind, among others hotels and resorts.

5. Cannot separate your greens from your blues? Blame the sun.

6. And to finish off for this week, some poetry spamming – one of my very favourite poems from Sylvia Plath.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 52

As it seems, the Crate is going to float a bit from one day to another now, due to the general busy-ness of the season, but have no fear, it’ll be here providing its usual eclectic oddities and perhaps adding a few new ones. As the South America series has progressed, a number of interesting artists from the region has surfaced, so instead of finishing it off as initially planned, I’ll continue and remind you of some you surely already know and introduce you to some artists that you most likely encounter for the first time. So, let’s get to it without further ado.

  1. Maria Izquierdo is the most ‘classically Mexican‘ artist if Diego Rivera, her teacher at the Academy of Fine Art is to be believed. As a student at the school during 1927-28, she already had a different type of life experience to draw upon than most of her peers – having been forced into marriage at the age of 14, she had divorced her husband in 1926 and become in effect a single mother of three in Mexico City. She also had embarked on the road of fulfilling her dream to become an artist – in 1930 she would become the first Mexican woman artist to have a solo exhibition in the United States.

2. Self-improvement can sound like an utterly daunting task – the Kaizen method, however, makes it look quite manageable.

3. Do big cats like water? Big Cat Rescue made a little experiment to find out.

4. Wonder, which cities on Earth are the most polluted? At least in 2020 most of the top 20 was occupied by just one country.

5. We tend to think of ancient Greek cities as pristinely marble-white, but as the recent reconstruction of the ancient city of Ephesus shows, they were anything but.

6. And to finish off for this week, have a look how your favourite genre of music would look as a chair. (by Wrong Hands)

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 51

And finally-finally, this is the day! The Crate has been around for a whole year, opening its boxy jaws every week – to be honest I did not expect it to last this long or more precisely to keep producing it this long. Yet it’s still fun, so I guess I’ll just keep on doing it. Continuing with the South American series, this time we’ll go a long way back in time to look at some marvelous art.

  1. Cave paintings have fascinated the public for many years now and it looks like there a new name on the stage, stealing the spotlight from Lascaux. Amazon rainforest in Colombia has revealed a stunning wall of rock art dating back to the end of the last Ice Age. The discovery was in fact made 2 years ago, in 2019, but kept quiet as it was to be a part of a Channel 4 series “Jungle Mystery – Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon”. Despite the initial thrill of the discovery, the real work of analysis only just beginning in order to reveal and understand the meaning and significance of the drawings to the people living there at the time.

2. Decisions can occasionally be a real nuisance. The model of imagining them as one-way and two-way doors might make them more palatable.

3. If you happen to be an aficionado of Jules Verne or steampunk or bothLes Machines de l’Ile will be your next dream destination, full of giant mechanical wonders and machinery.

4. If you tend to wonder about the people who unerringly manage to pick out the edible parts of the greenery around them, here is your key to the mystery – Alexis Nikole Nelson and her TikTok account.

5. Not sure what you want to do with your life? Approach it like the mission of finding your ikigai.

6. And to finish off for this week – a little comic with Calvin and Hobbes from the master Bill Watterson himself.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 50

Autumn keeps approaching and twilight embraces the city already before 9 o’clock, cafes and eateries are full of people and finally finally this weekend saw us through the much-missed comics festival, illustration festival and Athens Art Book festival. Evenings are still warm and still quiet, parks are open and besides the ubiquitous face masks life seems more or less back to normal. Which brings us to yet another Monday evening and yet another Crate, so let’s get to opening it without further ado.

  1. Two weeks ago I wrote about the legendarily productive Mexican illustrator Ernesto Garcia Cabral who left behind between 25 and 30,000 drawings and sketches. At that time this seemed like a whole lot. However, when it comes to arts, South America is the land of plenty, as J. Carlos (José Carlos de Brito e Cunha) from Rio de Janeiro is estimated to have produced about 100,000 drawings during his 50-year-long career. In 1922, he started working as art director at a magazine called ‘Para Todos’ and from 1926-1930 drew all of its covers, producing some of the most stunning examples of Brazilian Art Deco illustration.

2. We speak about ‘mind’s eye‘, but what if your mind happens to be blind?

3. Something we probably never think about, but… how was it to be a vegetarian in the Soviet Union?

4. London and Tokyo are both big cities, right? Well… it depends how you look at them.

5. A really important secret to productivity? Disagreement.

6. And to finish off for this week, here’s some poetry spamming from Federico Garcia Lorca from the beginning of 1920’s.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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Crate of Curios part 49

It’s Monday again and in this Crate we take a jump from a happy clearly outlined Mexican Art Deco to moody and dark Cuban expressionism that rather than providing cheery aesthetic pleasure fulfills the viewer with a vague unease and a premonition of dark things that are yet to come. And as another point, I’ll turn the gaze again towards female creators of the area as I have come to a realization that besides the brilliant-yet-ubiquitous Frida Kahlo, I know no other South American woman artists. So… time to open this week’s Crate.

  1. The word ‘Cuba’ usually calls up a range of associations starting with the bearded figures of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, moving on to sun, rum, elegant vintage cars and salsa-dancing women in fruity headgear. The work of Antonia Eiriz‘ is the antithesis of all that – Goya rather than Carmen and ‘The Scream’ rather than sunsets between palm trees. At the age of 2 she caught polio, that left her left leg damaged for the rest of her life. Youngest of six children of poor Spanish immigrants in Cuba, Antonia learned various crafts as a child, but turned towards painting when she applied to San Alejandro National School of Fine Arts at the encouragement of her sister. During her student years, she joined the artist group ‘Grupo de los once’ (The Eleven), who rejected the earlier picturesque style in favour of a more expressive and abstract approach to painting. After an intensely prolific period of creation during the 1960’s, Antonia ceased painting in 1968 when the death of her mother and the announcement by the Cuban government declaring her work counterrevolutionary made her decide to withdraw from artistic circles. She spent the rest of her life teaching crafts and giving private art lessons in the neighbourhood where she had been born and raised and only resumed painting when she moved to Miami with her husband in 1993.

2. And, speaking of crafts, Mariko Kusumoto‘s transparent textile sea life shows just how thin the line between arts and crafts is.

3. Why it’s important to own books that you’ll never read? An antilibrary reminds us of the things we don’t (yet) know.

4. Do you know the three temperature scales? If not, here’s an easy way to remember.

5. How much can we trust our own minds? Not that much as this infographic of 50 cognitive biases shows.

6. And to finish off for this week, here’s the most tranquil little comic Nathan W. Pyle has ever created.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 48

Another Monday, another Crate, celebrating the warm sensommer as this period is so elegantly called in Danish. Not yet the time for monochrome or minimalism or Weltschmerz – quite the opposite, in fact, as this Crate will continue the series on South American artists and infuse us with an explosion of life and colour.

  1. Ernesto Garcia Cabral, or ‘El Chango’ meaning ‘little monkey’ is to date the uncontested most prolific Mexican illustrator and caricaturist, having left behind between 25 and 30,000 drawings and sketches. Born in 1890, he is said to have published his first illustrations in the local newspaper at the age of 10. Later he studied art in Mexico City and was sent with government-sponsored scholarship to study art in Paris and Buenos Aires when his involvement in Mexican political satire publications was just about to get him in trouble. After his return to Mexico, he worked for a number of publications like ‘Revista de Revistas‘, where he created colorful art deco style illustrations. Later on, throughout 1940’s and 1950’s he became known for his expressive Mexican movie posters. And if you think that’s it, you’re much mistaken – Cabral was also an expert tango dancer having learned the dance in his student years in Paris, as well as a silent film and television actor.

2. Flexibility is good, both for the body and for the mind. Cognitive flexibility for instance, is the foundation for learning and creativity.

3. Wondering how to find the best books to read? Here is the ultimate reading list for all seasons.

4. Want to know if you have faith? A trip to Abuna Yemata Guh, the Ethiopian ‘Church in the Sky’ will surely provide the answer.

5. Having a job is something most of us cannot escape – are there even any good ones out there?

6. And to finish off for this week, a great explainer of the strained relationship introverts (like myself) tend to have with the telephone. (By lizandmollie)

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 47

Summer is slowly coming to a close, night temperatures are getting friendlier to sleeping and taking a cold shower actually leaves one shivering for a moment instead of instantly evaporating. All of this means that it’s time to inject some extra colour and vivacity into this newsletter and what better way to do it than to start a new series that looks at the art and artists of South America. So let’s get to opening this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Oswaldo Guayasamin did not have a start in life that would have immediately pointed towards an artist’s career. Born into a poor family in Quito, Ecuador, as the eldest of 10 children in 1919, having lost his mother at an early age, he’s nevertheless known to have been drawing and painting with watercolours since the age of 6. In 1932 he lost his best friend who was shot with a stray bullet at a demonstration. Never successful at school, Guayasamin eventually left in order to enroll in the School of Fine Arts in Quito and spent 7 years there, graduating with honors. His first personal exhibition was just a year out of art school, at the age of 23. After that he spent years travelling in South America, gathering experiences that culminated in his first formal series ‘Huacayñán. Deep involvement in politics and interest in themes of human suffering characterized his work throughout his lifetime and it earned him a UNESCO prize for “an entire life of work for peace”.

2. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘if you are so smart, then why aren’t you rich’? Well… turns out that these two have no connection whatsoever.

3. We all know that the Olympic Games are an exciting and uplifting spectacle. Now, imagine if they were held on the Central Asian plains 500 years ago…. I give you the….the World Nomad Games.

4. A chair is not just a chair. It might just be a piece of design history.

5. We’ve learned that there are three main trauma responses – fight, flight or freeze. However, there is also a fourth one – fawning.

6. And to finish off for this week, here’s a little scientific take on a fairy tale by Tom Gauld.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 46 – Afghanistan special

Today’s Crate is yet again really late, but for different reasons than usual. It’s been a dark day in the news – Taliban has overtaken Kabul and all of a sudden a collective deja vu has taken hold of the media, suddenly we remember the Fall of Saigon as the scenes from old movies and news clips seem to repeat themselves on the screen. History feels close to one in these moments even though it’s happening thousands of kilometres away. So, although I had already prepared a Crate for today, I decided to gather a new one from scratch, in order to take a look at the sides of Afghanistan that we might not see again for a while. And without further ado, let’s open this Crate.

  1. The first things that come to mind when one thinks about Afghanistan are probably somehow related to war. However, besides that, Afghanistan is also a home to some of the richest archaeological sites ever found. One of them is Tillya Tepe (meaning “Golden Hill”) in Jowzjan province in Northern Afghanistan that was excavated in 1978. The Soviet-Afghan team of archaeologists led by the Greek-Russian Viktor Sarianidi literally struck gold. The hoard found from six burial mounds consisted of over 20,000 ornaments, coins, etc items made of gold, silver, ivory and other precious materials. And the story of the Bactrian Gold doesn’t end here. It was considered lost for years, until it dissipated that in 1988 the current president of Afghanistan, Mohammad Najibullah had ordered to have it locked in a safe vault underneath the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul. The keys were distributed to five keyholders (tawadars) who were sworn to secrecy. In 2003, the vault was discovered and almost ordered to be cracked open by force… but the five keyholders successfully assembled just in time.

2. Fashion is another thing not usually connected with Afghanistan. Fatimah Hossaini, fashion photographer and activist, has made it her purpose to show it to the world.

3. Afghan rugs are probably the art form best known in the West from the area. However, it’s not that widely known that they have different names and origins.

4. Contemporary Afghan art has had to adapt to greatly varying conditions in the recent decades. The 2018 collective exhibition ‘Afghan Art: A Land in Conflict and Hope’ in New Delhi, provided a glimpse into the local art scene.

5. Where there’s streets, there is also street art. Meet Shamsia Hassani, the first female graffiti artist in Afghanistan.

6. Just about 33 miles north from Kabul, there is a small town that’s been known for its pottery and skilled craftsmen for centuries. It’s called Istalif.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.

Crate of Curios part 45

Yet another week with a day’s delay of publishing this week’s Crate, and considering the number of views last week’s one got compared to pretty much all the previous ones, I’m considering moving it permanently to Monday evening. After all, one is vain and wants this little weekly collection to be seen and read by as many eyes as possible. That said, this time I’ll start with someone who was able catch their contemporaries’ eyes both by their looks and their extraordinary work. And now… it’s time to open the Crate.

  1. Lee Miller was born in New York in an upper-middle class family, but had for several reasons for the lack of a better word, a rather complicated childhood. A chance encounter with the magazine publisher Condé Nast on Manhattan led to her becoming a model for Vogue in 1927. However, Miller’s inner restlessness and desire to create led her to move to Paris in 1929, at the age of 24 to become an apprentice of the Surrealist photographer Man Ray. The Paris phase in her life is fascinatingly described in Whitney Scharer’s “The Age of Light”. By 1939, she had moved to London owing to a relationship with a Surrealist artist and sculptor Ronald Penrose, and started to work as a photographer and contributor for Vogue. In 1942 she got her accreditation as a war photographer and left for Europe to report on the horrors of WWII. After the war she seems to have suffered from heavy post-traumatic stress (which went non-acknowledged at the time), leading her to periods of depression and bouts of drinking. In 1947 Miller, her now-husband Penrose and their newborn son Anthony moved to Farley’s House in Sussex where she lived until the end of her life. She stopped working as a photographer, reinventing herself instead as a gourmet cook and never showed her earlier work during her lifetime. Her son Anthony found the archive of her photographs containing thousands of images, in their attic after her death. The photograph used for illustration is Lee Miller taking a bath in Hitler’s bathtub.

2. Video games always seem to be full of action… except for this one that lets you “do nothing in particular in a suburban Russian tower block”.

3. Is it a treasure chest? Is it a rainbow? No, it’s just Linda Miller Nicholson’s rainbow pasta.

4. Ever wondered how strong is the bite of different animals? Time to find out.

5. I’ve mentioned Austin Kleon in this newsletter before and I’ll undoubtedly also do so in the future. This time around it’s his piece about reading first and writing after that resonated with me.

6.  And to finish off for this week, here’s Freud’s little secret of giving a good lecture.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!
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If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.