“If I’m as normal as I think I am, we’re all a bunch of weirdos.” ~ Joe Brainard
I love it when one good thing leads to another.
Kenneth Koch’s poem “Permanently” (which I shared last June), sparked my interest in New York School artist, writer and set designer Joe Brainard (1942-1994).
Both his visual art and writings were new to me; unlike his more famous contemporaries Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, Ron Padgett, James Schuyler, Andy Warhol, Fairfield Porter, and Koch himself, Brainard had somehow slipped under my radar.
If you’ve been a Brainard fan all along, then you know he was a prolific creator who left behind an impressive oeuvre of innovative, pop culture inspired collages, assemblages, paintings, drawings, and comic book collaborations, as well as multiple collections of mostly autobiographical poetry and prose.
1. How about a bit of nature, whimsy, nostalgia, and coziness? New Hampshire artist Madison Safer’s work has a charming storybook quality to it that feels safe and comforting.
Hers is a world of owl apothecaries, rabbit beekeepers, people wearing mushroom hats, and fairy birthday parties where ladybugs, squirrels and wee folk chat over cake. I love that humans and animals are on equal footing, and that woodland creatures of all kinds co-exist peacefully.
Madison studied illustration at Montserrat College of Art and she works mainly in watercolor, gouache and acrylics.
She’s inspired by Eastern European art, folk art traditions, vintage Victorian postcards, old 50’s field guides, and classic children’s books like Frog and Toad Are Friendsand The Wind in the Willows.
In addition to creating narrative illustrations, Madison is keen on plant and natural education, perfectly in keeping with the abundance of wildflowers and wildlife right outside her door. Favorite pastimes include daydreaming, drinking tea, napping, and stealing flowers. She is happiest in a field of mushrooms.
Since its release in May, this exuberant feast of wacky-fun hand-lettered text and cartoony gouache paintings has earned a bevy of well-deserved accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.
And why not? In just 48 pages, Jessie has accomplished the seemingly impossible, chronicling Julia’s entire amazing life!: as a “gangly girl from Pasadena,” her prankster days at Smith College, her stint doing Top Secret work for the OSS in WWII and marrying bon vivant Paul Child, learning to cook at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, traveling to Germany and Norway, writing and publishing her cookbook masterpiece, and finally launching her TV chef career. Yes, it’s all here, in this frenetic comic-scrapbook hybrid that perfectly captures Julia’s boundless energy and contaigious joie de vivre. There’s even a 32-step recipe for Chicken Galantine (“Here’s a little something I just whipped up!”) and Jessie’s very own recipe for Crepes. I’m sure Julia would get a kick out of every scrumptious detail. Formidable!
Before we hear from Jessie, please put on this Ecole des Trois Gourmandes badge in honor of Julia. She first wore it when she and her co-authors Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle started their cooking school in Paris, and Julia continued to wear it on “The French Chef.” Thanks to Julia, we can all be Hearty Eaters!
Now, please help me welcome Jessie Hartland to Alphabet Soup. We thank her for sharing all her wonderful personal photos and insights about creating this marvelous book! Continue reading →