An engrossing portrait of artisanship as a blend of mechanical genius and human fulfillment.

ART | COMMERCE

FOUR ARTISAN BUSINESSES GROW IN AN OLD NEW JERSEY INDUSTRIAL CITY

Dingy workshops incubate unlikely aesthetic epiphanies in this colorful photographic study of small businesses.

Photographer Riskind showcases four artisanal manufacturers in and around Paterson, New Jersey, a faded textile center whose old factories now shelter firms making specialty products. He begins at Jerry Valenta and Sons, a textile company with 10 industrial looms. Many of these pictures are composed and formally elegant, juxtaposing the fiendishly complex and forbidding loom mechanisms—with their starkly lit mazes of oily, muscular steel gears and chains—and the delicately abstract geometries of the gossamer threads hanging on them in dense yet ethereal patterns. He then visits Great Falls Metalworks, a family jewelry maker that once numbered Jackie Onassis among its customers. Here he depicts an atmospheric tableau of workers using hand tools to hammer, drill, solder, and polish, bending over tiny objects while bundled up against the winter cold in an unheated workshop where piles of gems glow against a backdrop of grungy concrete walls. Riskind’s third subject is the Peragallo Pipe Organ Company, an instrument maker now on its fourth generation of family craftsmen. There’s a spaciousness in these photographs of organ pipes that are major architectural elements in their own right, often large enough to dwarf the workers. We see demure smaller variants adorning the wall of a simple white Episcopal church and grander versions towering in Catholic cathedrals, overshadowing statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary; bringing these soaring creations down to earth are pictures of the electronic circuitry that translates keyboard strokes into music. Riskind finishes at the Hiemer Stained Glass Studio, taking viewers through the integrated process of drawing sacred figures, transferring images to colored glass, cutting and soldering panels to frames, and installing them in churches. The photographs of workers peering intently at light boxes and glass panels spread out on workbenches, brows furrowed in concentration, convey an almost spiritual union of art and craft. Riskind’s accompanying captions and commentary are informative if a bit stolid. (“Tying 12,000 knots in fine (and sometimes slippery) threads is extraordinarily time consuming.”) The photographs make the book come alive, showing off odd and intriguing manufacturing processes and the dedication of the people who practice them.

An engrossing portrait of artisanship as a blend of mechanical genius and human fulfillment.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-68425-3

Page Count: 126

Publisher: Steve Riskind Photography

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

HUMANS

The creator of the hit internet series Humans of New York takes it global, chasing down a panoply of interesting stories.

In 1955, Edward Steichen staged a show called “The Family of Man,” a gathering of photographs that emphasized the commonality of humankind. Stanton’s project seemingly has much the same ambition. “You’ve created this magic little corner of the Web where people feel safe sharing their stories—without being ridiculed, or bullied, or judged,” he writes. “These stories are only honestly shared because they have a long history of being warmly received.” The ask is the hard part: approaching a total stranger and asking him or her to tell their stories. And what stories they are. A young Frenchwoman, tearful, recounts being able to see things from the spirit world that no one else can see. “And it’s been a very lonely existence since then,” she says. A sensible teenager in St. Petersburg, Russia, relates that her friends are trying to be grown-up, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, whereas she wants to remain a child close to her parents: “I’d like these times to last as long as possible.” A few stories are obnoxious, as with a Dutch incel who has converted himself into a pickup artist and outright cad: “Of course it’s manipulation, but why should I care? I’ve been manipulated so many times in my life.” A great many stories, some going for several pages but most taking up just a paragraph or two, are regretful, speaking to dashed dreams and roads not taken. A surprising number recount mental illness, depression, and addiction; “I’d give anything to have a tribe,” says a beleaguered mother in Barcelona. Some are hopeful, though, such as that of an Iranian woman: “I’ve fallen in love with literature. I try to read for one or two hours every day. I only have one life to live. But in books I can live one thousand lives.”

A lovely, sometimes challenging testament to the universality of human nature.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11429-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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