Monday, February 15, 2010

Scott Musgrove - The Late Fauna of Early North America

My 6-year old self always took pride in his vocabulary, and positively glowed when an adult recognized my precocious parlance. I loved being able to use my most treasured word when said adult invariably asked me what I would like to be when I grew up; "paleontologist". Sure, there might have been a slight lisp, and every once in a while I might have reversed a vowel or two, but regardless it was sure to get a reaction. The best reactions always came on my birthday when the telltale weight of heavy, rectangular presents revealed themselves to be books replete with full color illustrations of Dinosaurs and other Megafauna of our world's earlier days.

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon said "Whatever was possible for Nature to produce, has actually been produced", and in those early, heady days of new discovery it certainly seemed that way to me. But time has a way of stealing the luster from discoveries of our youth, and it's not for nothing that 'familiarity breeds contempt' maintains its freshness as an idiom long after other idioms have become just as extinct as the dinosaurs from my old books. So imagine my joy upon discovering Scott Musgrove's pseudo-scientific (tongue held firmly in cheek) tome The Late Fauna of Early North America, 'Featuring many Depictions of Hitherto Undiscovered and Now Extinct Animals, Creatures, and Other Beasts." Filled with drawings, paintings, and images of sculptures all rendered in loving detail by Musgrove in his hauntingly humorous signature style, this satisfying hardcover brings back the magic of discovery and the thrill of possibility that even when we've plumbed the depths of the earth around us completely, there are still the endless and oft unexplored strata of our imaginations. Available in our web shop or stop by the Leliegracht and peruse in person.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Tree Show & Fushigi Circus

"The tree that moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way... some scarce see nature at all, but to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself." - William Blake

Of course I borrowed that directly from The Tree Show book itself - I mean, I love to do research as much as the next guy, but c'mon, to get a quote this apropos? I can't help but think it's more than just a happy coincidence that it could just as easily be regarding art as nature; the whole 'beauty in the eye of the beholder' vibe is just too clear to be ignored. And in a lot of ways I feel that this literal-ambiguity-yet-clear-sentiment mirrors the work of Ryden himself. The visual vocabulary used by Mark Ryden is filled with plush pets, virginal vixens, religious iconography, alchemical symbols and slabs of meat painstakingly rendered against a backdrop of primordial, Arcadian splendor. In the Tree Show he skillfully weaves together images of the cute and cuddly, the stately and striking, to create bittersweet canvases that manage to celebrate nature at the same time they mourn its loss.

And since more of a good thing is always better, for those of you not satisfied with just one Mark Ryden monograph we also have the deliciously disturbing Fushigi Circus, a survey of 55 of of Ryden's most impressive works from past shows to the present. This gorgeous hardcover is clothbound and sure to be a treasured gem in any art lover's collection. Both available in our webshop or come by the Leliegracht to peruse them in person.