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Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD: Pulling Out a Plum–Part 1 of who-knows-how-many (22) ARTSY Symbolic Design

JEAN SHEPHERD: Pulling Out a Plum–Part 1 of who-knows-how-many (22) ARTSY Symbolic Design

Little Genie Bergmann sat in a corner/Reading his Shepherd pie./

He stuck in his thumb/And pulled out a plum/

And said, “What a good buoy am I.”

I’d like to think that my work regarding the legacy of J. S. (especially in EYF!) helps buoy his creations–that is, helps steer the sea-faring seeker-after-enlightenment clear of some shallows and through navigable channels.

 Thus, noting some uncertainty and forgetfulness among acolytes including myself  from time to time, I’m gonna cull my EYF! for what I believe are memorable and significant passages and add some of the info about Shep that emerged after that book was published. For anyone thinking that my self-esteem quests beyond propriety–my bad!

EYF cover

EYF!

At least in the beginning of this Pulling for Plums, I’m going to follow the sequence of the book. (Remember that the book is not a biography, but a description, documentation, and appreciation.) I don’t guarantee that this ideal will continue–but I’ll try to remember to include page numbers for those interested in finding context for the plumbed material.

 COVER PHOTO

This is the iconic image of Shep, so, of course, it had to be the cover photo. It was taken by Fred W. McDarrah during Shepherd’s November 30, 1966 broadcast. McDarrah had taken other photos of Shepherd the same day. (I hope that 11/30/66 broadcast surfaces some day–it would be fun to hear just what Shep was saying the day the photo was taken.) The 8 X 10 glossy sent to us for use on the cover had a strange line that appeared to be one of the headphone wires, but close examination revealed it to be what must have been a scratch on the neg! (Taking a magnifying glass to the 8X10 glossy, one can see that the offending black line begins and ends before a “wire” would have continued around Shep’s back and before it would go down behind the desk. And the line is far sharper than any other part of the entire photo–which is a bit fuzzy.)

There is no such line on the photo as used for the large poster. (Jim Clavin did a good comparison of photos to prove the point.) Compare with the more complete photo–that has no such line (but which contains some other objects such as what appears to be a typewriter on a stand behind Shep’s hand, and, on the desk, a phone on the left and a jews harp directly below the buttons on Shep’s shirt). I had the offending line airbrushed out for our cover. Two books published at  about the same time as EYF!, each containing some pages on Shep, reproduce the image with the offending black scratch mark. McDarrah was offended and didn’t believe it when I told him about the line–yet it is incontrovertible.

Full photo below.

1966-11-30__Poster

shep f.w.mcD photo

Cropped photo with the offending scratch,

as reproduced in the two other books.

Don’t judge a photo by its reproduction–or a book by its cover, or an entertainer by his cover. It’s hard to tell from Shep’s variety of covers who he is. Indeed, it is hard to tell which Jean Shepherd is the “real one.”

More parts to come.

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(22) SYMBOLIC DESIGN

One day, when my supervisor at the commercial exhibit company I worked for didn’t have much to assign to me, he asked me to design a series of logos for the various branches of Cyanamid, a large company manufacturing chemicals, pharmaceuticals, etc., a client of our company. This seemed just right for me, as I was familiar with symbolism in literature and, through my industrial design background, with its frequently used slogan that “form follows function.” I like to find mental images that express the essence of a subject’s function.  Working with an item and manipulating it into an attractive, visually identifying equivalent. A schematic correspondence. I came up with a dozen that fit the criteria.

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[After 50+ years, rub-down letters have loosened:

MYCOLOGISTS. POLYMER CHEMISTS. NUTRITIONISTS.]

Does that seem kind of corny? Maybe it’s a very high level of artsy fartsy.

Seeking a more intelligent and humane work environment than the commercial exhibit world, I made sure to include in my portfolio, my dozen science-oriented visual symbols. They must have attracted the Exhibition Chairman at the American Museum of Natural History, because I got the job.

WHAT’S AN INVERTEBRATE?

Never having taken a course in biology, I didn’t know what an invertebrate was and that was the subject of the first exhibit I was to design in the permanent Invertebrate Hall—the entire classification of the world’s 17 groupings of invertebrates. (I was much more interested in anthropology, with its study of artifacts—its artwork.) Fortunately, designers don’t have to know the subject they are designing—experts capable of articulate language for laymen describe the details to them and the designer uses design skills to express the subject.

Invertebrates (animals without backbones) make up the vast majority of animal types. The scientists I worked with described five major categories, and in each there are groups called “phyla,” and within the phyla there are anywhere from one to a half-dozen or more “classes.”  The most advanced, final class, the “chordates,” contains all the animals with backbones.

tree of life

One Configuration of the Tree of Life

A previous designer, working with rectangular shapes for all the text, photos, and diagrams, had failed to solve the visual problem of depicting all the relationships and interconnections. An accurate visual arrangement couldn’t be done with straight-line configurations. (For example, visually, the four-sided rectangle for the phyla, could not easily accommodate more than four related classes.)

Seeing the problem, I began with the more easily configured circles, as their tangents accommodate an infinite number of associated circles. Large diameter hemispheres with clear plexi covers became my phyla. For the varied numbers of classes within the phyla I used smaller opaque disks of the same color. To tie each of the five groups together and string them along, branch-like, innumerable small globes, giving a certain “biological ambiance,” as I put it. A “tree” of the animal kingdom is usually diagrammed as an upright growth. (Various scientists may have different ideas as to groupings.) As I had a series of horizontal cases to work with, I “pushed the tree over and stretched it out.” The scientists liked my colored paper layout with my full-size mockup of a phylum, a class, and the ambient spheres. We went to work.

ARTSY Inv. installing0003

A Museum Preparator Installing the Parts
ARTSY Inv. Classification 10002

ARTSY Inv. Classification 20002ARTSY Inv. Classification 30002

CONTINUITY IN LIFE

The scientist in charge of the next exhibit in the hall did a very rough but accurate idea of how she envisioned her exhibit, showing the varied ways that animal life proceeds from one generation to the next. I altered the sketch, formalized it, and we built the exhibit. The self-contained yellow disk at the left is for asexual life. The remainder shows sexual life. (The branch to the left describes a dead end.)  In the orange area, the two disks on the left represent two aspects of dead-end mutation. The completed exhibit depicts the story from simple forms of life through varieties living in water, air, and on land. The finished exhibit looks somewhat like an organism designed maybe by Juan Miro.

ARTSY Inv. Continuity 1

ARTSY Inv. Continuity 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These “permanent” exhibits in the “permanent Invertebrate Hall” lasted only about 25 years, until the museum’s administration tore the entire hall down and replaced it with a more topical subject than the seemingly immortal invertebrates. Permanence doesn’t last very long these days. Even in a museum. When my Exhibit Chairman gave the Museum Director a tour of my just-completed two exhibits above, my Chairman said to me with a smile, “You’re in!” I outlasted several Chairmen and three Museum Directors, for a 34-year total. But, from what I gather, immortal invertebrates called “roaches” will probably outlast us all.

ARTSY ARROWS0010

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