Rolywholyover Log, part 2. Museum Circle continues:

10. Crazy quilt.
Comic, calithumpian patterns out of as many different fabric scraps as possible. Intentionally rough zig-zag stitching designed to show and be "crazy" too. African American quilters made this kind of asymmetrical, improvised, playful aesthetic central to all of their quilting styles, not marginalized as a "crazy" style breaking of all the rules while other, "proper" styles were symmetrical and less cacophanous in their choices of fabrics. A wholly roiling circus quilt: "there is a plurality of centers, a multiplicity of centers," as JC said this show should have.

Glancing over the Whitman photo and the quilt later, as I'm leaving the exhibition, I notice that I was paying so much attention to these 2 items that I did not notice the minature metal cannon parked right nearby....


[to left:] Feifei Zhang on an Adirondack millstone

30. "Nonsense on the Nile," costume designed for Jokers Fancy Brigade, Philadelphia Mummers parade, 1993. "Synthetic satin, lamé, sequins, rhinestones, foil, feathers, and fringe."

Real Men can wear "lamé, sequins, feathers and fringe" in public only at certain times.


45. After Lucius Annaeus Seneca. A handwritten manuscript on parchment of seven of Seneca's tragic plays, from Europe's "Middle Ages." University of Pennsylvania libraries.

The margins are filled with notes and comments by a "Nicolas Trivet," the program guide tells us. Some of the marginalia seem to be written backwards, in mirror-writing---the ink from margin comments on the other side of the page has, in time, seeped slightly through. After Seneca....



28. Thomas Paine, Common Sense, plus a receipt for the loan of Common Sense to a delegate to the Continental Congress, 1781.

"Only by chance were the book and the loan form reunited 174 years later."

What does this mean? 1781+174 = 1955
Both of these items are in the collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia. What happened in 1955? Someone gave to the Library Company a collection of their things, which happened to include this receipt?

How much time needs to pass before our receipts become Valuable?

Until I did the math I was hoping that it was Cage's Circus that had brought these two together....


35. Chinese Mother Nursing Child. Phildelphia Maritime Museum.
"This painting may be an advertisement for a ferry company. The side-wheel steamer seen through the window is the Ta-Kiang, which was built in New York ... [and] made regular runs between Shanghai, Ningpo, and Hankow, China, beginning in 1862."

Both mother and child are indoors and gaze dreamily off into the distance, in separate directions. Neither of them looks through the room's window, where the ferry can be seen busily steaming about. What does this advertise?

Also, how does an ad for a ferry made in New York and in service in China come to be part of a collection on Philadelphia maritime history?


2. Photo of the Hilldale Club (Negro Baseball League). Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, Philadelphia.

As I'm looking over the men's faces in this photo---they are both dignified and playful---a group of viewers comes up to it. The group includes an older man who's obviously been through this exhibition before, and now has brought some friends. "See? Here it is," he says. Then he points to one of the men: "I knew his uncle. Lived just down the street from me when I was coming up. He told me he was a helluva player once."


Near the photo of the Hilldale Club is a detailed drawing of a man with a tanned face and eerily white hands. "I've been studying to draw like that---that scientific realism," a viewer next to me says. "It's so much fun. When you do it right things just leap off the page." I forget to look up this work's number and title.



I go to some drawers in the "library" cabinets in the center of the room and pull three of them open. A book on Mondrian. A book on funghi. Robert Motherwell's The Dada Painters and Poets, an old favorite of mine.

All these seem lent by Los Angeles libraries. I decide to sit down at the table and open the mushroom book at random. It is One Thousand American Funghi, by Charles McIlvaine. Revised Edition, 1902; rpt. West Glover, VT: Something Else Press, 1973. I know Cage was a devoted hunter and eater of edible mushrooms and also that he had to have his stomach pumped several times from making mistakes. I like the fact that a composer took such an interest in decomposers.

From pages 158-59, a description of one of the thousand:
Hygrophorus fuligineus, with a beautifully done line illustration "about one-half natural size."

"Frost---resembling soot." [??]

"The color varies from grayish-brown to a very dark or sooty-brown with the central part usually darker or almost black, but never with an umbo. The flesh and gills are white....

"The plants grow singly or in tufts. In the latter case the caps are often irregular, from mutual pressure....

"The plants occur in early October and November in pine woods or woods of pine and hemlock intermixed....

"Found at Angora, near Philadelphia, August 1, 1897.
"Raw it tastes like dead leaves. Tender and of fine flavor when cooked."

Remember to look up that word "umbo."


rust branchings on steel

As I read and take notes on my program, I hear a soothing, shuffling sound: other people are opening and closing cabinet drawers.

Two teenagers, a guy and a girl, sit down at a chess board near me. "Are you in the mood?" "I guess so. Go ahead." They begin playing.

Nice Shaker-like cabinets, table, straight-back chairs. Come to think of it, there's a lot that the Shakers and JC have to share. Including the shaking.



I get up, put the book back, and walk around some more, until I am drawn to a small bright cube-like object on a shelf on the wall.

31. Twelve-bladed Scarificator for Bloodletting. Brass and steel. Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

This scarificator---scarification means to cut and scar the skin---is scary. One side has screws, another twelve edges like razor blades. It fits easily into the hand of the doctor who will operate it. The brass glows like gold.

This scarificator, the label says, is designed for bloodletting: the industrial revolution constructs a replacement for the leech.

Were there scarificators for other tasks?

Weird---Mütter means mother. I remember that recently this Mütter Museum was written up in a local paper as one of the coolest museums to visit in the city, off-beat and off the beaten trail.

As a piece of technology loses its utopian promise it becomes just mundane, and then equal parts horror and camp. Or, a consoling mother becomes an avenging father....

Is scarification the opposite of calithumpian?


39. Igor Stravinsky, "A Tracing of Stravinsky's Foot," c. 1941-57.

Did the Master trace his own foot? Perhaps Robert Craft did it for him. Still, he's listed as the "artist" of this work.

It appears that Igor had fallen arches, or at least one fallen arch.

What happened in 1941 and 1957 to make the curators so sure the drawing was done within those dates? Or perhaps the Master's foot was traced with such care that it took all those years to complete!?


34. Jacob Lawrence, Dream Series #5: The Library.
I remember this painting from the Academy of Fine Arts, where I've seen it before.

Dreams about reading, about books---who has such dreams anymore?

The bookshelves in the painting are dishevelled with use:
the fever of reading is like the fever of love.



Go to Rolywholyover, Part 3