Check out our newest fully digitized collection: Robin Forbes’ slides of Soho. It is a fabulous time capsule of the art scene in Soho in the ’70s. Of particular note: several photos in box 1, folder 5 of an unidentified artist in a sweet shark costume (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to them).
Top to bottom:
Two men carrying a painting in Soho, 1976 Nov.
SoHo gallery exhibition installation, 1976 April
all photos by: Robin Forbes. Robin Forbes’ slides of Soho, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Curious Fact of the Week: Shilin Stone Forest Torch Festival
The Shilin Stone Forest in the Yunnan Province of China is one of the most otherworldly places on earth, with towering limestone formations that seem like trees suddenly petrified. The Stone Forest is especially important to the Yi people, who have lived in the area for over 2,000 years, and each 24th day of the sixth lunar month (falling sometime in August) they hold the Torch Festival in the shadow of the rock giants.
A Yi story holds that one of the pillars of the Stone Forest is in fact a girl named Ashima who turned to stone after she was forbidden from marrying her love. She’s a key figure to the Torch Festival, where many of the young Yi court potential suitors through dance and song. But that’s just one part of the incredibly elaborate festival.
There are also pole-climbing competitions, traditional wrestling, and lion dancing (presumably a style of dance, not parading lions). Dancing is central to the festival, and one dance has the men and women facing each other while the men play a traditional stringed instrument and the women clap the beat while kicking in time.
There is also bull fighting, but in this case it’s not some puny human taking on a powerful beast, it is actually two ox battling. But the most staggering spectacle is saved for last. 400 torches are lit and paraded into the form of a fire dragon that casts its glow against the silhouettes of the stone forest in the night. The Stone Forest Torch Festival isn’t the only Yi Torch Festival, but it’s likely the most stunning with its stone landscape.
For so much more, keep reading the Curious Fact of the Week: Shilin Stone Forest Torch Festival on Atlas Obscura…
Unknowingly Making History — The First Ever “Selfie” (1839)On November 19, 2013, the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year for 2013 to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”Although it’s current rampant incarnation is quite recent, the “selfie” is far from being a strictly modern phenomenon. Indeed, the photographic self-portrait is surprisingly common in the very early days of photography exploration and invention, when it was often more convenient for the experimenting photographer to act as model as well.In fact, the picture shown above is considered by many to be the first photographic portrait ever taken was a “selfie”. The image in question was taken in 1839 by an amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius. Cornelius had set his camera up at the back of the family store in Philadelphia. He took the image by removing the lens cap and then running into frame where he sat for a minute before covering up the lens again. On the back he wrote “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”
Stunning Time Capsule House Opened After 100 YearsAn eccentric wealthy civil servant, Louis Mantin, wrote a will stating that his house was to be closed then reopened to the public a hundred years after his death, shedding light on how people lived back in the 19th century. This peek into life a century ago shows a world of opulence and change. Electricity and hot running water were new phenomena in houses, as were indoor toilets. The living areas were made for women who wore long skirts and sat sewing or at other gentle pursuits while men’s spaces were big and dark and bold.Louis Mantin’s bedroom is a jewel of opulence with its carved four poster bed, but most extreme are the walls covered in gilded leather. This material was made in 1812 and covered in silver leaf, then varnished in yellow to give it a golden look.The bed in the Ladies Salon was hung with curtains in the same pink material the walls are covered in. Called “Four Seasons”, Allaire’s room was extremely feminine, with painted ornamentation above every door showing seasonal scenes.Wanting the best of everything, Mantin’s was the first house in Moulins to have electricity, and one of the only ones to have hot and cold running water as well as toilets on each floor.
The electric lamp shown here came from the catholic church. The assistant curator says: “Mantin wanted to have comfort—he was very interested in modernization.”Mantin was interested in all sorts of eclectic things, and in his house you could find not only the stuffed wolf but also a diorama of real dead frogs fighting a duel in a glass globe. There is also a rat playing a violin and a stuffed blowfish.The toilet is porcelain covered with wood, and the bath of course is a modern (for the time) version of the hip bath. The screen in front of the fire was intended to prevent drafts when people were soaking in the warm tub.The formal living room is opulent in the extreme! It contains marble-topped tables, a chandelier, embroidered chairs, and rather than the usual mirror above the fire place, there is a window into the next roomAlthough the house is stunning, Mantin only partially set out what he intended to show. He did indeed conceal his home for 100 years to reveal the dramatic differences between houses of today and his house from a century ago. However since Mantin was rich and owned a mansion, he is only showing how rich people lived in opulence 100 years ago. This is certainly not how most people lived then.