Wednesday, February 25, 2009

when things suggest and/or resemble... (or when portraits are in the center of scrawlings...)


thomas eakins portrait of rowland

atop is one of the most wonderful and strange cdv's i've ever found. it's from a photograph studio in evansville wisconsin, circa 1890, featuring a strange combination of a photograph of a guy with a horn and a small toy drum, floating in the center of some seriously wonderful scrawlings.

the boy in the center of this universe is clarence baker (at least that is what is scrawled on the back), and the rest of the images are "his chums" (at least that is what is scrawled on the back).

i've never seen a cdv that contained an image surrounded by drawings, and i would assume that the "drawings" are actually scratches etched into the negative. certainly dr. freud would have a field day with clarence's "chums", particularly all the snakes and the man with the horns (oh poor clarence has only one).

i wonder if the bloke in profile with a hat is clarence's alter ego and perhaps the old dude with the top hat pushing clarence forward into life - and oh what a life - is his father. i'm not sure about the strangely scary elf at the top, but clearly the horned guy with the pointed tail in his mouth is the devil - who clearly has clarence's smile...

the cdv kept reminding me of a painting, which i finally remembered was by thomas eakins, pictured below the photo of clarence. since the photo and the painting are from about the same time, i can't help but wonder if the approach of one was influential on the other. eakins painting is an 1897 portrait of henry rowland, who was considered "the highest known authority in this country upon the subject of the laws and principles of electricity..."

it is one of my favorite eakins paintings, not just because of the beautiful notational scribblings on the frame, but also the prism in the center, suggesting not just science, but perhaps some deeper mysteries and alchemical truths...

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Blogger Justin said...

wow! i grew up not far from evansville. it was certainly part of my world. strange when something so removed returns from such an unexpected place. it prompts me to tell a quick story that i thought you might appreciate about a tree just outside of evansville. along the main highway between janesville and evansville was this amazing, solitary oak tree at the edge of two corn fields. we passed it with some frequency. i was particularly enthralled with it in the colder months when it had lost its leaves and its structure was left bare. then one day ( i was already away at college by that time), my mom decided to go out and take a picture of it. she knew i was fascinated by the tree and can only guess why she had the idea. she had been meaning to get out there for a few days. when she arrived at the site, the tree was recently cut down. it was arranged neatly into rows and piles. while i would have welcomed a record of the transformation, she didn't consider the option at the time. funny. my image of it now is stronger as cut despite having never seen it that way. thusly, evansville will always be conjured by this tree. thanks for the reminder!

8:20 AM  
Blogger Joey said...


8:43 PM  

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