Smithsonian Magazine December 2020

Smithsonian Magazine takes you on a journey through history, science, world culture and technology with breathtaking images from around the world.

Land:
United States
Språk:
English
Utgiver:
Smithsonian Institute
Hyppighet:
Monthly
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11 Utgaver

i denne utgaven

3 min
discussion

“So often, it’s people behind the scenes who never get the recognition they deserve.” Forgotten Brilliance Although I hadn’t heard of Rosa Bonheur (November, “The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur”), her story and her artwork blew me away. I can’t believe she was once lost to history. I am so grateful to Katherine Brault for acquiring Bonheur’s chateau and restoring the atelier. I hope to someday visit the place where this amazing artwork was created. — Kay Johannes | Random Lake, Wisconsin It was quite a coincidence that only hours after reading “The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur,” I saw that she is cited in the Netflix film The Queen’s Gambit. It just shows again that the Smithsonian’s digging into the past can have current resonance. — Herb Boyd | New York City Snake Venom Antidote As a clinical…

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2 min
strong suit

AFTER THE SMITHSONIAN collects an object, what happens to it? Some objects go on display, some become vital resources for researchers and scientists, some are loaned to peer institutions or federal agencies. But none of this would be possible without conservation: the complex technical work to preserve, restore and research the 155 million objects in the Smithsonian collections. From pigment to porcelain, silk to stone, our conservators support the material needs of every Smithsonian museum. Whether protecting revered artifacts from rare bacteria or pioneering new methods in spectroscopy, Smithsonian staff combine object expertise and state-of-the-art technology to better understand the natural world, history, aerospace, archaeology and art. I am awed by this work. It requires great technical acumen, ingenuity and meticulous attention to detail. Many of the objects we collect need serious…

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5 min
every wear

IN THE SPRING OF 1965, demonstrators in Camden, Alabama, took to the streets in a series of marches to demand voting rights. Among the demonstrators were “seven or eight out-of-state ministers,” United Press International reported, adding that they wore the “blue denim ‘uniform’ of the civil rights movement over their clerical collars.” Though most people today don’t associate blue denim with the struggle for black freedom, it played a significant role in the movement. For one thing, the historian Tanisha C. Ford has observed, “The realities of activism,” which could include hours of canvassing in rural areas, made it impractical to organize in one’s “Sunday best.” But denim was also symbolic. Whether in trouser form, overalls or skirts, it not only recalled the work clothes worn by African Americans during slavery…

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1 min
the indigo clash

IT MIGHT SEEM ODD to outlaw a pigment, but that’s what European monarchs did in a strangely zealous campaign against indigo. The ancient blue dye, extracted in an elaborate process from the leaves of the bushy legume Indigofera tinctoria, was first shipped to Europe from India and Java in the 16th century. To many Europeans, using the dye seemed unpleasant. “The fermenting process yielded a putrid stench not unlike that of a decaying body,” James Sullivan notes in his book Jeans. Unlike other dyes, indigo turns cloth vivid blue only after the dyed fabric has been in contact with air for several minutes, a mysterious delay that some found unsettling. Plus, indigo represented a threat to European textile merchants who had heavily invested in woad, a homegrown source of blue dye. They…

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1 min
look again

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, says the Finnish photographer Niko Luoma, “my whole photographic process moved from the front of the camera to the inside.” He had already been pushing the boundaries of photography with minimalist landscapes and color studies, but now, rather than training his lens on the outside world, he would compose images in his Helsinki studio with overlapping colored filters and templates on a light table. For his new book, For Each Minute, Sixty-Five Seconds, Luoma found inspiration in the canon of Western art. His color-saturated images, each representing “a dialogue with the painting,” offer tributes to Vincent van Gogh, David Hockney and Pablo Picasso, artists whose very familiarity may, ironically, blind us to their brilliance. Luoma’s interpretations encourage us to see anew. “The most familiar thing in the…

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8 min
from bambi to bethlehem

IN A GLASS-FRONTED, SUNLIT studio on a wooded ravine in the San Fernando Valley, Tyrus Wong spent summer weekends painting Christmas imagery with a bamboo paintbrush while listening to Harry Belafonte holiday albums. From the 1950s through the ’70s, this room was where Wong designed some of America’s most popular Christmas cards, in a style that would exert a timeless appeal. Today, Wong is best remembered as a Hollywood sketch artist whose evocative scene illustrations were instrumental in the making of the beloved Disney classic Bambi, but in his lifetime, holiday cards are what made the Chinese immigrant a household name. In 1954, his design of a minuscule shepherd standing under pink tree boughs while gazing at a shining star sold more than a million copies. Wong’s rise to fame as…

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