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Tag Archives: 1960s

The Ama are predominantly female pearl divers from Japan, although their breed is dying out–although new Ama continue to be trained, it is now seen as a grandmother’s job. In a tradition purported to be 2,000 years old, the Ama dived in nothing but a loincloth up until the 1960s. Today, they wear a wetsuit at most. Although this is generally not one’s only job, it is a job that lasts a lifetime–the older divers are reputed to be able to dive the longest.

More can be read about them here, although I prefer to study the images of the Ama through the lens of photographer Yoshiyuki Iwase:

This photograph’s contrast between black and white, extreme posturing of the naked female body, reminds of of Helmut Newton’s fashion photography.

The nude female form in these photographs is presented with awe; their musculature seems asexual in this photo–almost a meditation on human strength. Whereas this:

is a dead ringer for contemporary Western pinup photography. It’s an interesting, mismatched photo series as a whole.

See them all here.

When I first returned from Paris and arrived in Louisiana, I was determined not to lose my French–it has diminished somewhat at this point in overall fluency, but I got myself a tutor and am currently back on the track to learning.

From my meetings at the local Starbucks, I have discovered a few morceaux that are just incredible:

This song, from American crooner Nina Simone, is easy to understand and heart-wrenchingly beautiful (although not in French, I highly recommend you check out the song Strange Fruit, a slow, deep lament for the lynchings of black Americans–lyrics and story here).

This 1968 song by Jacques Dutronc seems like it’s sung by an upbeat and French Bob Dylan–the cool factor remains, check out this picture:

I learned it because it has a lot of verbs conjugated in the imperative tense (orders), but I kept listening because of his incredible voice–listen to the last 30 seconds of the song and you’ll really see what I mean. (P.S. This song is a long list of commands given to a young child, in case you realize the subject matter sounds strange)

Je Veux by Zaz is a throaty love song in which she proclaims that, essentially, her love don’t cost a thing. I love her oddly-direct traipse through craft markets in this video, cellist in tow.

Enjoy!

This photorealistic painting by John Baeder is typical of the diner facades that he painted throughout his career.

As I have mentioned, I’m curating an exhibition on John Baeder this summer at the Masur Museum of Art (although at this point it’s a total toss up as to which paintings are going to end up in the gallery from our permanent collection). From my work so far, I have been able to gather a partially-formed picture of Baeder’s life’s work. Questions hang in the air when his work is first seen: why did Baeder paint diners, and why so many? What do they mean, for him and for us?

Baeder did not grow up in Georgia so much as he grew up in diners; in his written work, Diners, he viscerally described the diners of his childhood as places of wonder, filled with vibrant flavors and even stronger personalities.

Few things can be hailed as more truly ‘American’ than the diner. Over the years, many ideas and items have been reinterpreted and converted within the United States, creating bastardized concepts that hail as much to the Old Country as they do to the U.S. (think hamburgers, democracy). The diner, however, grew from the American working class culture in the late 19th century, fueled in later years by the invention and proliferation of the automobile.

For Baeder, diners were a home away from home: the rattle of the kitchen, the smell of meat on the grill, the flourished, hand-painted script that decorated the menu were all indications that he was at once where he came from and where he was going. His words become weighted with sadness throughout his lifelong journey: he recognizes that the death of an American art form, the diner, is upon us, as much as he stubbornly proves its worth.

This is a later photo of the Empire Diner, which Baeder deplored; he felt as if it had lost its soul as a diner, replacing the ‘diner’ atmosphere with a sleek restaurant copy that capitalized on the past popularity of true diners.

The Empire was a particularly strange case for Baeder–he painted this diner, but grudgingly. It had candles burning visibly in its windows, all steel and lights and kitsch, playing on the popularity of the art of the diner without embracing its imperfect and true qualities.

For Baeder, diners are lucid dreams. They are real yet fragile, subject to the whims of the changing cultural landscape, and Baeder struggles to salvage and deify them, the knowledge that a simple commemoration is not enough to reverse the damage that time has done.

Diners are an anthropological gem of modern-day America. They are the unsung key to understanding the roots of American society, even as their structures rot and give way to high-rise buildings.