George Orwell & Salvador Dali


Let me begin this post with a brief background on Mashup Challenger #2. I met Scott the second day of my freshman year of college. We quickly bonded over competitive taunts that we both knew all the words to Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." The taunting become so intense that we actually had a matchoff, which of course, I won. [I'm sure Scott is reading this now, shaking his head in disagreement and yelling out loud: "I would have won the rematch of REM's "It's the End of the World As We Know It!" ] Over the four years of college, we continued to stay friends. I supplied Scott with water and a sleeve of Saltines every time he was drunk, which was quite often. He supplied me with apple crepes on my 21st birthday. I lived with him during my senior year with two other ladies. We dubbed ourselves The Golden Girls (Scott was Blanche due to his promiscuity and I was Dorothy by default), and mocked him for acting like an old man with his penchant for crossword puzzles, Jeopardy!, and rocking in his rocking chair. Ironically, I presently do all of these things. Scott, you were ahead of your time.

Long story short, Scott presented me with this Mashup Challenge: George Orwell & Salvador Dali. Because Scott is incredibly intelligent, I figured he chose these two men because he knew George Orwell HATED Salvador Dali, partially because of Dali's artistic style and mainly because he pussyfooted out of fighting in the Spanish Civil War; a war that Orwell fought and whose experiences inspired the novella, Animal Farm. Orwell went so far as to write an essay, "Benefit of Clergy," where he completely tore apart Dali's autobiography. Orwell writes: "It is a book that stinks. If it were possible for a book to give a physical stink off its pages, this one would - a thought that might please Dali, who before wooing his future wife for the first time rubbed himself all over with an ointment made of goat's dung boiled up in fish glue."

And on to the mashup!

George Orwell's stories, Animal Farm and 1984, have been on the required reading list of high schools for decades. Both are focused around his strong distaste of communism and totalitarianism. Big words, I know. Basically, Orwell believed that greed, corruption, indifference, and ignorance would pollute any sort of Utopian (or perfect) society. Both stories also address how propaganda, spurned by the government or those in charge, can create unrest and fear within a society. With 1984, this propaganda is propelled by the posters ubiquitously placed throughout the land of Oceania with the slogan: Big Brother Is Watching You. [Yes, this is the original Big Brother, who unfortunately was the impetus for that horrible reality show.] Besides this slogan of the Inner Party, 1984 has many great catchphrases including: War is Peace, Ignorance is Truth, and 2+2 = 5, all ideas that seem confusing and impossible. The goal of the Inner Party is to create such confusion, to use contradictory ideas all the time, that the citizens are incapable of independent thought. In this way, the citizens are in such a state of confusion that they must depend on the Inner Party (aka the government) to tell them what to think, which is the party's technique of psychological manipulation. Pretty heavy stuff (and sometimes hits a little too close to home, huh?).

For decades Salvador Dali has been affectionately referred to as that guy with the melting clocks. True, Dali's The Persistence of Memory has quite the legacy, with posters often hung next to John Belushi's Animal House photo in college dorm rooms nationwide. As a Spanish surrealist painter, Dali tapped into the unconscious and his dreams for inspiration, abandoning reason and logic in his paintings. In college I had to write an analysis of Dali's film, Un Chien Andalou [translation: An Andalusian Dog]. Talk about an acid trip gone wrong. The film is sixteen minutes with no sound and opens with a razor blade slicing a woman's eye. Take that Freddie Kruger - but I digress.....

Whether you agree with Orwell's view of Dali and his work or you click the "like" button on Dali's facebook page, you have to admit, the guy was pretty fascinating as were his paintings. In this mashup, I chose to use one of Dali's techniques, a composition of spheres, to create a Big Brother propaganda poster. This challenge was great because it forced me to do two things I hadn't done since 1999: read 1984 and draw with pastels.

In progress....

Scott, I hope you enjoyed the results. Thank you for being a friend. I figured I'd end this post with a little Golden Girls humor for the both of us.

Blanche: I've decided what I'm going to use my bonus check money for.

Dorothy: What?

Blanche: I'm gonna have my breasts enlarged!

Rose: Blanche, why would you want to do that?

Blanche: Rose, breasts are back in fashion! Besides, what God didn't give me, Dr. Newman will. He's the Picasso of plastic surgery.

Dorothy: Fine, Blanche. Just make sure he doesn't attach one to your forehead.

Shakespeare & Scherenschnitte


If I could think of two activities that require an immense amount of concentration, patience, and perseverance, they would be reading Shakespeare and the art of papercutting. For both, the process can be quite a bastard, but the payoff is almost always priceless.

When I was in grad school, I was required to take an advanced-level Shakespeare course. I dreaded it. Not only did I find reading Shakespeare cumbersome, but I also found lugging The Riverside Shakespeare, a hardcover anthology of 7.7 lbs in my backpack, exceptionally oppressive. When all was said and done, I was surprised how much I really enjoyed the class and how much I really loved reading LinkShakespeare. I know Shakespeare is revered for his words more than his stories (predominately because he was the P. Diddy of his time, sampling many of his plots from existing tales), but I just love the drama. The tragedies - they're like bad episodes of General Hospital - one guy will kill his mayoral brother to get his wife and his power. The tortured son is suffering from teenage angst and is leading on his girlfriend with false promises. Her brother is sort of a prodigal son, who returns upon the accidental death of his blubbering father and seeks revenge. Oh yeah, and the mayor who bit it earlier in the episode pissed off another family (let's pretend they're in the mob) and they are on their way to pop some caps in the dead guy's gang. So, I pretty much just summed up Hamlet (in probably the most disgraceful way possible).

Hamlet is right up there as one of my favorite tragedies (Othello and King Lear are close behind) and this mashup allowed me to revisit the classic. It's funny - rereading Hamlet proved to be much easier than I remembered. Perhaps it was because I already knew the story or because I appreciate the text so much more now that I'm older. In any case, I encourage everyone who is hesitant to read Shakespeare or a self-proclaimed "Bard-hater" to revisit the plays one more time.

Scherenschnitte, pronounced "Sharon-shnit-uh," is the German word for scissor cutting. I'm sure you've all taken part in a scherenschnitte or two in your lifetime. Did you ever make paper snowflakes or those people garlands where they all are connected by holding hands? Thought so. There are tons of paper cutters out there, each with his or her own style and subject matter. I didn't realize this fact until I really started to research - and boy are some people AMAZING at this craft. Two of my favorite cutters are Beatrice Coron and Cindy Ferguson.

Beatrice Coron has an extensive resume, showing her papercuts and graphic designs around the world. One of her cuts was featured in the F train, a subway line I often ride. I would stare at this cut, cramped in my subway car, trying not to inhale the noxious odor coming from the person's naked armpit directly in front of my face. One of her series, Identity Project, are life-size cuts of the different "layers" we have and contribute to our identity.

Cindy Ferguson also has numerous years of paper cutting under her belt. She has a great blog called Scherenschnitte, where she posts templates and "How To" videos for others to use as a resource. She was also commissioned to do a series of papercuts for an expo at the Tower of London (how appropriate for Shakespeare!). This image is the beheading of Anne Boleyn - morbid but marvelous.

With all this knowledge and inspiration pulsating through my veins, I set out to do my first schereschnitte for The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. I knew I wanted to incorporate the main image of Hamlet along with some small mini scenes and a quote. I ultimately chose the scene when Hamlet stabs Polonius behind the arras and when he discovers the skull of Yorick. To me, both scenes encompass the mood of the play - death, depression, anger, impulsiveness and hesitation - and echoes the quote.

The materials I used included a cutting mat, X-acto knife, silhouette paper, a drawing I created through various sketches, and a lot of PATIENCE (and let me tell you, this 'lil Italian struggles with that attribute more than any other). There were many times when I wanted to rip the whole thing up. There were many times when I would get a finger cramp or sharp stabbing pain in my back from being hunched over my kitchen table for hours. But, in the end, I was so happy with the way this came out, I might just become a full-time papercutter - now accepting commissions!

A work in progress