Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Visitation - Nicolas Tesla (1846-1943): part I

Nicolas Tesla was an inventor and engineer. He made several important discoveries including AC current and the Tesla Coil. The unit for measuring magnetic induction is called the tesla in his honor. He did some of his research in New York. He worked with x-rays on Fifth Avenue and mechanical resonance on Houston street. He did his radio wave research on 27th street. He lived at the Waldorf Astoria. He died at the New Yorker Hotel which, ironically, ran on DC current at the time. Tesla's adversary, Thomas Edison was a promoter of DC current and fought something referred to as the War of Current with George Westinghouse who was pushing AC with Tesla. They had a contract which would have made Tesla the world's first billionaire, but he tore it up. He didn't care about money and died penniless, with debts.

I have had a hard time with Tesla. There is so much information about him and very few images. Apparently he didn't like to sit for portraits so this is the picture that appears most often.

I tried working with it because he looks kind of handsome in a period sort of way. But the pose is so awkward, the jacket buttons in a strange way, and I had a horrible time with his hair. This was a few weeks ago when I was exploring drawing. I would spend all day working from this picture. I hated everything I drew. I don't know why I needed to relive the drawing vs. photography polemic at this time in my life but there you have it. Meanwhile, I continued sifting through the information on Tesla, finally coming to the conclusion that he was pretty crazy. He had obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was celibate even though the ladies of the day thought he was quite a catch. He had a deep love of pigeons, especially a white one which he claimed to love like a wife. Personally, I truly dislike pigeons with their stupid faces and ugly beaks. They always seem to have some horrible disfigurement from living in the city, like a missing claw. While I was struggling with Tesla's picture, I would walk the streets and the pigeons would wobble around me, cooing and mocking me. Finally a friend suggested I try a different picture which is how I ended up with the image at the top of the post. I drew in the lines missing from the low res image and added a little color. I like how he looks a little like George Clooney and I love the lines on the high frequency transformer.

Once I solved the image problem, my sympathies for Tesla grew. He was a little nuts in life and people treated him like a stereotypical mad scientist. Since he died he has continued to inspire people and shows up in art and music as well as science fiction. My favorite is this cartoon by Kate Beaton

I wish I could draw like Kate Beaton. She really solves his hair and the jacket.

A fair share of odd characters feel Tesla's theories prove their claims of UFOs or whatever. There are quite a few conspiracy theorists. I rather like this blurb from a book on Tesla's theories of ether (the stuff in space, not the gas)

...these discoveries have been hidden from the world primarily through Relativism, which began to be promulgated by the media giants in 1919, the same year as the Treaty of Versailles. It is my opinion that Relativism was intended to wipe "ether physics" from the mind of the scientific world, because the media giants, owned and controlled by the industrial giants and international banking interests, feared the consequences of an ether science which would destroy their monolithic control and interests. Hence, I have resurrected this hidden (i.e., "occult") ether science, in "Occult Ether Physics", which is used in the secret UFOs possessed by the interests controlling the national security establishments of the major governments of the world.

Once the international conspiracies show up it all becomes sadly familiar. I also found a blog about astrology by someone named Robert Phoenix and he makes a post on Edison's birthday giving astrological explanations for his and Tesla's conflict.

Here is where Edison’s Moon in Sag, conjuncting his Mars in Sag, both in his first house drew Tesla into his life. Sag represents different cultures and distant lands and with The Moon’s magnetizing influence, Edison would no doubt draw many foreigners into his life over the years, but none would ever compare to the strange, young man from Austro-Hungary. With his Mars in the first, it would signal a dynamic working relationship as well, as Tesla would help Edison create new technologies and patents. But it was also a contentious pairing as well as Edison’s Mars helped create a quarrelsome relationship that was built on envy and awe. One would think that Edison would be a man of his word, but it seems as though he breached some serious trust, by treating Tesla in less than scrupulous fashion.

Running through all these postings is warm affection and respect for Nicolas Tesla. He certainly comes off looking better than Edison, even if he does attract the wild ones.

In the next week or so I will give Tesla a little visit of the places where he worked and lived. I don't know if I can put him up near the Waldorf, but there are lots of other places.

Nicolas Tesla Information Center
Kate Beaton Website
Lots of Weird Tesla Stuff
Robert Phoenix Website

Friday, March 20, 2009

Equinox Snow

The weather is often strange on the first day of spring; icy cold or windy or snowing. Today's unexpected snow showers ruined my plan of photographing the midday sun shining through the window of St. Mark's of the Bowery. It is the only church in Manhattan that faces south and the sun makes its noon appearance in the window on the equinoxes. Well maybe I will have better light in September.

I went to St. Mark's anyway on the off chance that the sun might pierce the clouds. No luck though, in fact a rather dark one moved in. I stood in front of the church and pointed my camera where I thought the sun might be.

Then I turned toward the church and felt like a point in a triangle with the sun and the window.

I didn't go inside because I didn't want to photograph without the sun.

The crocuses are starting to poke through which is nice and springlike.

The other day I came across this little plastic flower squished into Third Avenue in Brooklyn. It was the first sign of spring.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Forward

I have spent the past few days trying to catch up for the lost hour from daylight savings time. The days have been grey so it is hard to notice the extra hour of light in the evening. I have been trying to make a decent drawing of Tesla, but he looks like a goblin when I draw him. I feel that I have to work through this sudden desire to draw things and I am on the verge of a breakthrough with Tesla. It is all taking so much time, though, and I am missing that hour.

On the bright side, the moss has come back

I know I have photographed this peeling red paint before. I love the way it resonates with the moss.

The sun came back too this morning, but so did the cold.

I really can't wait for spring.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Absent but not Idle

Although I haven't posted pictures for a while, I have been working. The results are not really blogworthy, however. There has been lots of experimenting and not much to show for it.

This picture is my plan for finishing up my hanging sculpture. It took me a week to get things the way I like them. Click for bigger and to see all my erasure marks. While I worked, I could almost hear my old high school drafting teacher grumbling about how messy I was. And yes, the spiral is a bit organic, perhaps less mathematically accurate than a true draftsman would have done. But I like it's lopsidedness and I think it will all come together really well.

I have been working on my black and white prints but I don't have enough that I am pleased with. The black and white project is really tricky, I did similar work in color a few years ago. I can't decide if I am developing the idea into a new direction or just rehashing old thoughts. I had another dream about them in which I had found the perfect place to photograph. I don't know where it was though. I have been also dreaming about being in the Bronx near the Harlem River, so maybe I should go there.

It is about time I go out and do some more street art. I was planning on going out this weekend but a late winter storm has blanketed the city with snow, ice and below freezing temperatures. It will be warmer this weekend (and raining). Maybe I will find the resolve needed to go out in the middle of the night and make art. I may need to change my subject. I was planning on doing Nicolas Tesla. But he is from the same time as Audrey Munson, and he was a little crazy too. Maybe all notable New Yorkers are a bit mad. But perhaps I should mix it up a little and focus on a different time period and then come back to Tesla. Then again, maybe I should just get the wackos out of my system.

Regardless, I will try to be better about updating.