Sunday, November 30, 2014

Our Butterfly Gallery

This time of year, in recent years, we like to remember the brighter season when butterflies are visiting. With that I thought I’d end November on that same note. To be sure, with the move now well behind us, we have also left behind our Butterfly Ranch (Rancho Mariposa). But we are at least mentally preparing to see our friends at this new location too—and to make it welcoming to Order Lepidoptera.

Meanwhile, of course, butterflies are still in motion—constant motion, you might say—on the ceiling of our sunniest upstairs room. As a mobile. Air heated by our floor-hugging radiators keeps them turning, turning near the ceiling, and what with the fascinating design of this genre of sculpture, kinetic sculpture as it is called, our paper creatures exhibit a quite life-like behavior. They move so much that it was quite a labor to find one photograph of a dozen that showed them all fully.

We got to wondering about mobiles. We’re very fond of them. Another, with swallows, hangs downstairs. Who made the first of these? I was dubious of discovering a single inventor, but Brigitte had a name in mind if only it would come up with it. With that encouragement, I went on a search and discovered Alexander Calder (1898-1976), an American sculptor, and the originator of this genre. The first mobiles of the sort shown here, thus moved by currents of air, date to 1931. They were named “mobiles” by Marcel Duchamp, a fellow artist, in 1932; thereafter Calder classed his immobile sculptures “stabiles.” Mobiles took the world by storm after a 1946 showing in the Galerie Louis Carré in Paris.

We live in a world of mobility—and mobile device. Ours, sure enough, go back to about the time of our birth. The kind you carry around with you, to make you mobile, are a bit too complicated for such as us entirely to master.

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