• David Byrne, former head of the Talking Heads, is a writer and artist as well as a musician. In 2009, he published The Bicycle Diaries, a book about his bicycling in urban areas. As an artist, he has designed bicycle-locking posts for use in New York City. Each is designed for the area in which it will be used. At the Museum of Modern Art, the bicycle-locking post is a blob. At the Ladies’ Mile, the bicycle-locking post is a high heel. Mr. Byrne says, “They were doodles I did for the amusement of the Department of Transportation [DOT]. Their response was, ‘We love these. If you can produce them, we have the authority to put them up.’”
• Mike Sheehan loved his 1969 Ferrari convertible so much that he wanted to keep it near him forever in his Costa Mesa, California, home. In 1982, he enlisted the help of a professional artist and had the car crushed into a chunk that the artist pounded into shape and painted a bright red, then added a base and a glass top. The result? Mr. Sheehan owned a 2’ by 2’ by 4’, 1000-pound table.
• Cartoonist Will Elder, who has worked for MADmagazine, grew up poor. He double-dated with a friend who owned a car. When the date was over, and Will had to be dropped off, the friend would let him out in front of a very nice house, and leave. Will then walked the rest of the way to his own home, which was not a very nice house.
• War sometimes has unexpected results. For example, Michael Foreman, the author and illustrator of many books for children, was a child in England during World War II, and he lived in a town that housed POWs. The POWs worked on the farms near the village, and they would participate in games of soccer. Some of the POWs married English women. For example, a German POW married Michael’s cousin Gwen. When the Germans bombed the town, many gardens were destroyed along with many buildings, resulting in the scattering of seeds. Growing among heaps of rubble could be found flowers such as marigolds and irises. Also growing among the heaps of rubble was something very valuable during wartime: potatoes. During the blackouts to prevent bombs from being dropped on buildings, a danger arose from accidents because people were driving vehicles without using the lights. Therefore, men were encouraged to leave their shirttails out while walking at night because the light color of the shirt would show up better at night than the men’s usually dark jackets. A farmer even painted white stripes on his cows just in case they wandered onto a road. In addition, the cards that came inside packs of cigarettes became a source of valuable information as the cards explained such things as how to wear a gas mask properly and how to dispose of incendiary bombs. By the way, a sailor once let a very young Michael take a puff on a cigarette, and Michael has never smoked since.
• British abstract painter Terry Frost became an artist in World War II. He was taken prisoner of war, and he spent four years as a POW. In Stalag 383 in Germany, Mr. Frost met Adrian Heath, a painter who inspired him. To paint, Mr. Heath and Mr. Frost used brushes made of horse hairs. For paint, they mixed pigment with oil from sardine cans. Boredom was a problem in the POW camps, and the prisoners once started competing in an imaginary Olympics. Mr. Frost’s son Anthony says that “the Germans thought they’d gone mad, so they took them for a walk. Dad always said he couldn’t stand those walks — the freedom without freedom. But he made sure he took in every flower, every leaf.”
• War can be horrible. During World War I, French painter Edouard Manet reported that at the butcher shops people were buying dogs, cats, and rats. In addition, no cabs were running because the horses that pulled them had all been eaten.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART
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