Good Ol’ Gregor Brown

Robert Sikoryak is an American artist whose work is usually signed R. Sikoryak. Born in New Jersey (1964), Sikoryak earned his BFA from the Parsons School of Design in 1987. Shortly after graduating from Parsons, Sikoryak worked on staff at Raw (a more intellectual counterpoint to Robert Crumb‘s visceral Weirdo), before embarking on a freelance cartooning career.

He specializes in making comic adaptations of literature classics, producing a mashup of high and low cultures. Under the series title Masterpiece Comics, these include Crime and Punishment rendered in Bob Kane–era Batman style, becoming Dostoyevsky Comics, starring Raskol; and Waiting for Godot mixed with Beavis and Butt-Head, becoming Waiting to Go. In Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, told in the style of Charles Schulz, Sikoryak decides to tell the story as if this was yet another problem of Good Ol’ Gregor Brown

 
 

The Richard Avedon of Asia

Self-portrait

 
 

Russel Wong is a Singapore-born Hollywood celebrity photographer. He had his primary and secondary education at Anglo-Chinese School. His celebrity portraits have earned him celebrity status. He is heralded as “the Richard Avedon of Asia” –an association Wong doesn’t seem to mind.

Like Avedon, Wong creates stunning portraits that are minimal, dramatic, and brilliantly composed. However, his photographs lack the cool indifference and stiffness of Avedon’s work; instead, the imagery is warm, personal, engaging.

Where does that gift comes from? “It’s difficult to explain”, he begins. “When I shoot someone, I feel like I’m dancing. The idea I’m working with is equivalent to the melody I hear in my head… then I improvise what that song’s ups and downs. I often try something wild at the end.”

The legendary celebrity-photographer the late Richard Avedon [1923-2004] had once sharply noted ‘my portraits are more about me than about the people I photograph’. This observation from the towering figure who chiselled his reputation on photographing the celebrated and the powerful suggests that the portrait-image could reveal as much about the photographer as it does the sitter-subject – or more. Russel Wong [b. 1961-] who (as stated before) has been christened the Richard Avedon of Asia by the popular media, wields an inventory of celebrity portraits that would exhaust most name-droppers. Joining the tradition of celebrity photographers like Avedon, Annie Leibovitz [1949-] Helmut Newton [1920-2004] and Herb Ritts [1952-2002], Wong’s practice ruptures the slender line between celebrity photography and fine art. Whilst some critics banish this genre as a soft art form shaped by the pressures and demands of celebrity publicity machines, most agree that this species of photography remains one of the most potent and most difficult to commandeer. It is one thing to wrestle for access to celebrities and quite another feat to persuade strong self-willed celebrities who are well-acquainted with camera tactics to trust if not share, one’s vision.

Several pivotal shifts in Wong’s practice occurred after his enrollment in the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1984 for a fine art degree (Photography). There he encountered tutors and mentors whose personal charisma and professional triumphs exerted great influence over his formative development. In his second year, Wong made a 4-month ‘immersion trip’ to Milan, Italy – ‘the Mecca, where all aspiring fashion photographers go to, and where all the big-name photographers pay their dues’ [Russel Wong, interview 2004]. Wong learnt the language, ate the food and hung out at the Italian fashion cafes, like The White Bear, where models and photographers congregated. Most importantly, his photographic style and approach changed radically, and these shifts were not lost on his mentors. Amongst these was Paul Jasmin [1935-], the renowned fashion designer and photographer who worked with Vogue and Interview. Jasmin introduced Wong to his agent who also represented Herb Ritts.

The agent subsequently became Wong’s first agent in his career – opening the doors to major magazine assignments. Another seminal figure was Antonio Lopez [1943-1987] the flamboyant Puerto Rican fashion illustrator noted for his portraits of Jerry Hall, Jessica Lange and Grace Jones. Lopez, a cult figure in the circles, had in the 1970s, run a Paris salon with Karl Lagerfeld for fashion celebrities. Lopez noted Wong’s work and connected Wong to the remarkable photographer Art Kane [1925-1995] who had photographed The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan among others.

“Antonio said, ‘Go to New York. I will help you!’ He invited me to his New York studio in Union Square and he called up a bunch of photographers. At the point when Antonio introduced me to Art Kane, I was ready to be an assistant, intern, anything. I didn’t really care, because I just wanted to see what it was like to do real photographic work in a New York loft.
I would have waited tables, carried the photographer’s lights, made coffee… you name it. But it turned out that I didn’t have to do any of that. I don’t know if this is good or bad but I didn’t have to assist any photographer on my way up. They liked my work, and it all began.”
[Russel Wong, interview 2004]

 
 

Antonio Lopez

 
 

David Lynch

 
 

Isabella Rossellini

 
 

Kenzo Takada

 
 

Helmut Newton

 
 

Oliver Stone

 
 

Joan Chen

 
 

John Galliano

 
 

Cindy Crawford

Tuning for Life

“When I grew up, what was interesting for me was that music was color and life was gray. So music for me has always been more than entertainment.”

Pete Townshend

 
 

Pete Townshend of The Who, shot for Life magazine in 1968. Photo by Art Kane

 

Art, Stars and Stripes

Childe Hassam, The Fourth of July 

 
 

Henri Cartier Bresson, Independence Day on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1947
 
 

Robert Mapplethorpe, American Flag, 1977

 
 

Helmut Lang 1998 ad campaign

 
 

Jasper Johns

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Litography by Robert Rauschenberg

 
 

Martin Luther King, Jr. photographed by Steve Schapiro

 
 

Pictures by Robert Frank

 
 

Still from Mr. Freedom (William Klein, 1969)

 
 

Photo by Gordon Parks

 
 

Poster designed by Seymour Chwast

 
 

Photo credit: Art Kane

 
 

Liu Bolin

 
 

America’s Declaration of Independence from Britain on the 4th July, 1776, resulted in the birth of a new national flag in 1777. The first Flag Act, passed by the Continental Congress, resolved that the flag of the United States be made of thirteen alternate red and white stripes and thirteen white stars on a blue field, in order to represent America’s thirteen states and the country’s democratic Government. The colours red, white, and blue, though clearly derived from British sources, are open to interpretation. George Washington declared: “We take the stars from heaven, the red from our mother country, separating it by white stripes, thus showing that we have separated from her, and the white stripes shall go down to posterity representing liberty.” A book published in 1777 by the House of Representatives stated that “the star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.” Although the first Flag Act specifies no particular symbolism to the flag, white is a colour believed to signify purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valour; and blue, vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The first stirring of the flag’s power was documented at the battle of Fort McHenry in 1814. In a poem that would later become the American national anthem, about the banner that survived British bombardment, the poet Francis Scott Key wrote: “…broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight… Oh, say, does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave… and the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave.”

We The People

We The People. Art Kane, 1961

 
 

The Constitution of the United States of America is the oldest written national constitution in use.  It was completed on September 17, 1787, with its adoption by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was later ratified by special conventions in each state. It created a federal union of sovereign states, and a federal government to operate that union. It replaced the less defined union that had existed under the Articles of Confederation. It took effect on March 4, 1789 and has served as a model for the constitutions of numerous other nations.

The Constitutional Convention began deliberations on May 25, 1787. The delegates were generally convinced that an effective central government with a wide range of enforceable powers must replace the weaker Congress established by the Articles of Confederation. The high quality of the delegates to the convention was remarkable. As Thomas Jefferson in Paris wrote to John Adams in London, “It really is an assembly of demigods.”

On July 24, a committee of five (John Rutledge (SC), Edmund Randolph (VA), Nathaniel Gorham (MA), Oliver Ellsworth (CT), and James Wilson (PA)) was elected to draft a detailed constitution. The Convention adjourned from July 26 to August 6 to await the report of this “Committee of Detail”. Overall, the report of the committee conformed to the resolutions adopted by the Convention, adding some elements.

From August 6 to September 10, the report of the committee of detail was discussed, section-by-section, and clause-by-clause. Details were attended to, and further compromises were effected. Toward the close of these discussions, on September 8, a “Committee of Style” of five was appointed. Its final version was taken up on Monday, September 17, at the Convention’s final session. Several of the delegates were disappointed in the result, a makeshift series of unfortunate compromises. Some delegates left before the ceremony, and three others refused to sign. Of the thirty-nine signers, Benjamin Franklin summed up addressing the Convention, “There are several parts of this Constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them.” He would accept the Constitution, “because I expect no better and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

 
 

Page one of the original copy of the Constitution

 
 

Annotations to the Preamble:

 
 

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 
 

Although the preamble is not a source of power for any department of the Federal Government, the Supreme Court has often referred to it as evidence of the origin, scope, and purpose of the Constitution. Its origin and authority is in “We, the people of the United States”. This echoes the Declaration of Independence. “One people” dissolved their connection with another, and assumed among the powers of the earth, a sovereign nation-state. The scope of the Constitution is twofold. First, “to form a more perfect Union” than had previously existed in the “perpetual Union” of the Articles of Confederation. Second, to “secure the blessings of liberty”, which were to be enjoyed by not only the first generation, but for all who came after, “our posterity”.

This is an itemized social contract of democratic philosophy. It details how the more perfect union was to be carried out between the national government and the people. The people are to be provided (a) justice, (b) civil peace, (c) common defense, (d) those things of a general welfare that they could not provide themselves, and (e) freedom. A government of “liberty and union, now and forever”, unfolds when “We” begin and establish this Constitution.

Child Is The Father Of The Man

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but … life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”

Gabriel García Márquez

 
 

Popeye and Friends (1911),  Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine

 
 

Kate Moss with children. Photos by Bruce Weber

 
 

Drew Barrymore as scout by Mark Seliger

 
 

French kids imitate Dizzy Gillespie’s cheeks in Nice (France) by Milt Hinton, 1981

 
 

Bob Dylan and kids,  Liverpool, England, 1966. Barry Feinstein

 
 

Donovan. Photo credit: Chris Walter, circa 1965

 
 

Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention. Art Kane, circa 1968

 
 

For this Life magazine session, Art Kane wanted to portray the musical group as a family and took the idea of mothers — and their babies — as a theme.  He gathered some of the musicians’ infants, then booked about thirty more from a modeling agency.  As soon as they began to shoot, one of the babies urinated, which inspired the others to do so as well, creating in Kane’s words, “the fountains of Rome.”

 
 

Brotherhood, Art Kane

 
 

Norman Rockwell at Oak Mountain School (Georgia)

Only a Dad

Art Kane’s self-portrait  holding a camera in order to take a picture of his father, circa 1958

 
 

Only a Dad

Only a dad with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame
To show how well he has played the game;
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come and to hear his voice.

Only a dad with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men.

Edgar Guest

The Kids Are Alright (Still)

“I’ve always considered myself an illustrator, a literate photographer interested in producing images that reflect the essence of an idea…I wanted to interpret the human scene rather than simply record it.”

Art Kane

 
 

 
 

“They were great. They made me think of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Fagin’s gang. Irreverant, lovable. The first to wear clothes made from the British flag. I had the flag made from 2 Union Jacks. I was influenced by a Cartier-Bresson photograph of a vagrant asleep under a statue in Trafalgar Square.”

 
 

Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI, 1937Trafalgar Square on the Day of the Coronation of George VI. Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1937

 
 

Photo session and sleeve design by Art Kane

 
 

The Kids Are Alright is a soundtrack album by British rock band The Who, as a companion to the band’s rockumentary film of the same name directed by Jeff Stein. It was originally released as a double album in June 1979 on Polydor Records in the UK and MCA Records in the US.

 
 

 
 

Pepe Jeans advertisement, circa 2002.

Photo-Songs

“I realized that photography isn’t merely an act of selection, but is equally an act of rejection, deciding what you won’t allow in.”

Art Kane

 
 

Lady Madonna (The Beatles, 1968)

 
 

“…Lady Madonna, children at your feet.
Wonder how you manage to make ends meet…”

 
 

Eleanor Rigby (The Beatles, 1966)

 
 

“…Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?…”

 
 

When I’m Sixty-Four (The Beatles, 1967)

 
 

“When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine?…”

 
 

Life magazine did a big issue on the Beatles. I was illustrating lyrics. I think it’s a complete failure as an illustration, but I’m glad I took the picture, he’s a beautiful guy, a Chelsea Pensioner, with pride and self esteem.”

 
 

With God on Our Side (Bob Dylan, 1963)

 
 

“Oh my name it is nothin’
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side…”

 
 

Desolation Row (Bob Dylan, 1965)

 
 

“…Cinderella, she seems so easy

It takes one to know one, she smiles

And puts her hands into her back pockets

Bette Davis style…”

 
 

Who Killed Davey Moore (Bob Dylan, 1963)

 
 

“Who killed Davey Moore,
Why an’ what’s the reason for?…”

 
 

We Shall Overcome (Pete Seeger, 1963)

 
 

“Hey we shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Darlin’ here in my heart, yeah I do believe
We shall overcome someday.Well we’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand…”

The Peacock Enthroned

Earthquake Damage. Lily Cole photographed by Tim Walker in Whadwhan Palace, Gujarat (India), 2005

 
 

La Grande Odalisque, 1814,  Jean AugusteDominique Ingres

 
 

The Peacock Room, 1876-7, James McNeill Whistler

 
 

The Peacock Throne is the most notable piece of furniture of the Moorish Kiosk, a building located at Linderhoff Palace in Bavaria, Germany. It’s the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria

 
 

Illustration of Sir Vane Peacock, JJ Grandville, 1852

 
 

The Kiss, 1896 Will Bradley

 
 

Aubrey Beardsley

 
 

Alphons Mucha

 
 

Kimono by Iida Takashimaya. Circa 1904-1908

 
 

Erté

 
 

George Barbier

 

bilibinIllustration to a Russian fairy tale about Жар-птица (The Firebird), 1899, by Ivan Bilibin

 
 

Walter Crane

 
 

Orson Lowell

 
 

The Majestic Peacock, by Elisabeth Sonrel

 
 

Vogue Cover , March 18, 1909 as illustrated by James St. John

 
 

George Wolf Plank, 1911

 
 

Frank Xavier Leyendecker, 1921

 
 

Page from Winter 1965 Lanctan catalogue, illustration by Paul Christadoulou

 
 

Flapper style headdress

 
 

Photo credit: Art Kane

 
 

Katharine Hepburn. Photo: Cecil Beaton, 1961

 
 

Gabrielle Coco Chanel. Photo by Boris Lipnistki

 
 

Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes)

 
 

Michael Jackson’s Dangerous. Cover by Mark Ryden