Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hive Collapse

"Colony Collapse Disorder" is an odd name for the dying of bees that is, in all likelihood, due to human activity. It's as if we are faulting them for not knowing which bloom is laced with pesticide and which is benign. "Disorder" has a distinctly human and pejorative tinge to it. The terms "Colony Collapse" and "Hive Collapse" (withought the "disorder") have a more universal ring that might describe the human world as readily as that of bees. I noticed today that the solitary bees have emerged and are buzzing about the garden with their droning Geebee bodies. I have not seen a honeybee this year, while last year we had a colony trying to set up in our attic.

Here is a bee-free view of Lonestar lake, taken yesterday. I often ride around Lonestar for a short but hilly ride, slightely longer if I do the Eastern route until the blacktop ends and then circle back.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Two Bikes and a Print

An attempt at a trick photo shows one of the best presents I ever received (thank you Tom), a cherry red Raleigh (or Hercules?), here fitted out with butterfly handlebars, an analog odometer, and stripped of fenders (superfluous in Altadena, California). I suppose this was about 1966.

onversation at the Spencer Museum with Kris today turned to one of my favorite links
between cycling and printmaking. We got onto the subject of Alfred Jarry (1873-1907), who was as interesting for his activities as a pataphysician, print enthusiast and printmaker, as for his much better-known activities as a playwright. Jarry’s bike, which he dubbed, “that which rolls” was an 1896 ClĂ©ment Luxe racer.

This reminds me that two late nineteenth-century printmakers stumbled upon a recipe for compounding a semi-transparent soft-ground that made use of a substance in bicycle patch kits, but that is for another day.

In response to an earlier
comment I'll post an image of James Ensor's 1888 sulfur-ground and drypoint print of stars over a cemetary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


My bicycling and photographing in the Iowa landscape started during one of my summers in Grinnell, probably in 1971. I had purchased a black Schwinn Paramount with a massively oversized, chrome-plated headlamp for twenty dollars. I started riding out of the city limits just to follow the blacktop and became utterly intoxicated by the experience of riding on country roads through the cornfields, looking not at the road in front of me, but at the “funhouse” reflection in the headlamp; a racing blur of the blue sky, clouds, and passing
fields. I thought I had a photograph of that headlamp, but perhaps not.

hree photographs to share:

Pat Farrell & his Bicycle Extraordinaire. Farrell was a stogie chomping Iowa City eccentric. He was very pleased to pose for this photograph while he was out walking his bike about thirty years ago.

Round Bales. There is no shortage of landscapes featuring round bales, but this is one of my favorite efforts, taken with a hefty 35 mm camera that I kept accessible in a handlebar bag during my mid-1970s Iowa rides.

Finally, there was a great demonstration of color intaglio printmaking in the K.U. printmaking studios today, summarized by Andy's flying, plate-wiping hands.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Oasis Amplified

Bicycling in Iowa in the 1970s and early 1980s was a joy. I was in my twenties and riding somewhat aimlessly until exhausted. This was the counterpoint to working in Lasansky’s printmaking studios and my later forays into art history. By 1977 I was riding my first “serious” bicycle, a bright orange Centurion Super Le Mans, which had (and still has) elegant touring geometry, a beautifully lugged frame, and bar-end shifters. I found one of my photographs of the Oasis Cemetary mentioned in yesterday’s post. This sent me to Wikipedia, where I learned that:

"Oasis is a small village located in Johnson County, Iowa. It lies within section 26 of Graham Township, and was once known as Graham, Iowa. It part of the Iowa City, Iowa Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of 2005, the town has a total population of approximately 20. It contains several homes, a cemetery, and a functioning grain elevator. It was once a stop on The C RI & P Railroad, whose bed has now become the Hoover Nature Trail which runs from Oasis to West Branch. West of town is the Oasis Cemetery. Oasis once featured a sign that greeted visitors but it tragically disappeared one night."

I was sorry to read about the fate of that sign, which I remember vividly, and here it is as it appeared when I photographed it around 1979. I remember straddling my Centurion and taking this photograph to the great interest of one child and one dog. More Iowa bicycling recollections and photographs to come.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Pleasant Hill to Oasis & Back

Recent rides have taken me to Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Franklin County, Kansas. This is a small rural graveyard with monuments that date into the nineteenth century. An old hedgerow provides a little shade, and the headstone for an infant who died in 1901 at the age of 21 days provides some perspective. The hedgerow is true to Kansas, being an actual row of hedge trees (Osage Orange).

This stop, almost exactly thirteen miles out, is a halfway marker for a nice twenty-six mile ride, especially when the wind is from the south, pushing one north on route 1029 into Douglas County. But, more than a milepost with some history, perspective and hedge trees, the Pleasant Hill Cemetery ride brings back memories of bicycling near Iowa City over twenty-five years ago, when I would routinely visit the Oasis Cemetery, a similar mile-marker with its own share of history and irony.

Ensor would have enjoyed etching either of these cemeteries, even without an ocean nearby. He did, in fact, do an experiment with a sulfur ground once, which pretty well corroded the plate, resulting in an all-over pockmarked darkness when printed. He rescued this plate with the addition of a few etched headstones, turning the grey scene into a starry night.