Most municipalities around the world view sewage manhole covers as a mundane part of the urban infrastructure. At best, they try to make these heavy metal plates functional and inconspicuous. Instead, cities and towns focus their civic beautification efforts on creating a broad range of public art installations — murals, sculptures, archways, fountains, and the like. But ignoring the artistic possibilities of humble manhole covers is a missed opportunity. These metal plates, typically 34 inches in diameter, are the perfect size for casting images and decorative patterns that relate the culture, history, industry, and flora and fauna of the area.
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Some design feats deserve to be recognized. This “Birds of North America” poster by Pop Chart Lab is such a remarkable accomplishment. The aviary chart features all 740 feathered friends that inhabit North America, from barn owls to bluejays to whooping cranes and California condors. The chart includes both native and introduced birds on the continent, as designated by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It took a team of artists more than 400 hours to draw the birds in intricate detail, organize them by species and arrange them in relative scale. Included on Pop Chart’s poster are some 14 species that are on the endangered list, and that is not counting the 46 million turkeys that will meet their doom this week so we can contentedly consume them on Thanksgiving Day. Above is a picture of a turkey in happier times.
Op-ed columnists write copious essays laying out carefully reasoned arguments to support their point of view; editorial cartoonists sum up their take on current events in one iconic, thought-provoking, and often humorous image. A case in point can be seen in Barry Blitt’s new book, “In One Eye and Out the Other.” A long-time cartoonist and illustrator for The New Yorker, Blitt uses analogy, exaggeration, and irony to make people think about events of the day.
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With the exception of The New Yorker’s Victorian dandy, Eustace Tilley, American magazines haven’t had any memorable mascots. The haughty fop, peering at a butterfly through a monocle, debuted on the cover of The New Yorker’s very first issue in 1925. He was drawn by Rea Irvin, the magazine’s first art director. Irvin, who also designed the New Yorker’s distinctive font, based his illustration on an 1834 caricature of the notorious social gadfly, Count Alfred d’Orsay.
The New Yorker’s icon acquired the name, Eustace Tilley, from a series of tongue-in-cheek articles called “The Making of a Magazine: A Tour through the Vast Organization of The New Yorker,” written by Corey Ford in 1925. Ad buys were slim in The New Yorker’s early years (along with subscribers), and Ford’s humorous articles published in 20 installments were used to fill pages that advertisers weren’t buying. Ford named his fictional expert on magazine-making “Tilley” after his maiden aunt and “Eustace” because he thought it sounded good with Tilley. In time, Eustace Tilley and the top-hatted dandy on the cover of premiere issue became identified as one.
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Six internationally recognized artists contributed original works for this year’s NatureBridge gala fund-raising auction in San Francisco. A nonprofit educational organization, NatureBridge provides hands-on environmental science experiences to some 30,000 students and teachers annually. Their “classrooms” are six of the most magnificent national parks on earth.
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