As I perused my memory bank for recollections of long-ago childhood Halloweens — boy, did we get a lot of candy in our neighborhood! and really big bars of it, too! — the image of a small decorated milk carton soon surfaced. Yes, the Unicef collection device. Me in my costume, the candy bag in one hand and the little carton with the coin slot in the other. I would dutifully bring my carton back to school and watch the dimes and nickels and pennies get poured out into a larger container, never really knowing where the money went. I just had faith that it went where it should. And I certainly didn’t give thought to how such a simple, ubiquitous and persistent charity device came about.
Until yesterday morning when — sitting in my kitchen wondering how many miniature bars of candy to lay in for my trick-or-treaters — I read the obituary of Mary Emma Allison in The New York Times. She died just the other day, at age 93. Yes, it was her idea. And today is its 60th anniversary. Alive and well.
As recounted by Margalit Fox, Mrs. Allison — a young mother, the wife of a minister, a woman who “had long been concerned with social responsibility” — conflated seeing a parade of costumed children who were already involved with a Unicef campaign, with the parade of costumed children who would come by her house on Halloween. Need and a way to address that need coincided in her imagination and she “came up with a world-changing plan.”
The project remains vibrant. According to the Times, “Since its inception, Trick-or-Treat for Unicef has raised more than $160 million. The money buys food, clean water, milk, medicine and much else for children in more than 150 countries.”
Always looking for proof of the power of individual ideas, I relished Mrs. Allison’s story — again, quoting, “All on account of a thoughtful young woman who, driving though town on a long-ago autumn, opted to follow a children’s parade.”
“Looking at how an idea evolves from a sketch into a finished painting can be instructive and fun. It reveals both the initial inspiration and then the process by which an artist figures out how to translate a raw image into a more complex work of art.”
From “Processing Alex Katz, from Sketch to Finish,” in the February 25, 2010 issue of The New York Times.
“That way, you can be spontaneous. Prepared with the proper tools, you can go with the flow and take direction from the paint.”
From a profile of painter David Rothermel by Louise Hafesh in the October 2010 issue of The Artist’s Magazine (quoting Mr. Rothermel on why preparing his set-up of surface, brushes, colors and so on is the “most vital stage”).
Re: “Ivan’s idea,” posted here on October 8, 2009
One of the ripples from Ivan’s idea reached me recently, when Ivan and the Irish side of his family arrived here in San Francisco for a visit with the American side of his family, and I was invited to meet him. What a privilege to sit and talk with this man whose gentle curiosity about his long-ago mother ended up enlarging two families, bringing delight to so many.
Ideas don’t always involve pushing the boundaries out into a place where no one has ever been. That, at least, is my reading of the art of Deborah Remington. As The New York Times noted in its May 21, 2010 obituary of the abstract painter, she “defied trends by using ideas that were seen as obsolete.”
What was “obsolete” was that she used time-honored ways of introducing light, space and illusion into her work at a time when the tenets of Abstract Expressionism demanded a focus on objectivity. And she held her own, being an active member of the San Francisco art scene — one of the co-founders of the famous Six Gallery in 1954 — and its New York counterpart.
“If inner fires warmed Redon’s imagination, they were often fueled by his reading.”
From a Robin Blake consideration of Odilon Redon’s prints in the October 31/November 1, 2009 issue of the Financial Times.
“These are not conventional landscapes. Messy, delicate and sketchy, featuring a flattened, eccentric depiction of space, Hutson’s work shows an intuitive understanding of color and form. (‘The reason I am a “modernist” is because I am very near-sighted,’ he once said.)”
From a review of a show featuring landscapist Charles W. Hutson (who painted in the early part of the last century) in the April 2010 issue of ARTnews.
In my quest to notice ideas that are different, I came across a story about a show of photographs by Philippe Halsman, who died in 1979. The show, reviewed in The New York Times by Roberta Smith on May 24, 2010, features people jumping, or as Mr. Halsman called it, people on whom he was practicing “jumpology.” The photos were taken in the ’40s and ’50s and involved well-known figures — Audrey Hepburn, Salvador Dali, Ed Sullivan, Robert Oppenheimer, Marilyn Monroe, Aldous Huxley, Grace Kelly, Richard Nixon, among almost 50 others.
Mr. Halsman’s idea was that asking his subjects to do something as unusual as jumping was a way of getting to know them better as a photographic subject — and for his purposes, to arrive at a unique image. When a person jumps, he said, “his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping, and the mask falls, so that the real person appears.”
“Jumpology” seems to have been a way for Mr. Halsman to enliven his practice of taking studio portraits of famous people and replacing what we think we know about them from the public arena with what this child-like physical act could reveal.
Jumping to a new conclusion, perhaps.