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Thursday, July 06, 2006


Today's tie is one of several I've collected that feature a watercolor painting by New Orleans artist Grace Newburger. This one is called Swans, for reasons which should be apparent. The paintings on her ties fall into two broad categories: wildlife (swans, egrets, pelicans, fish) and New Orleans life (Mardi Gras, gambling, fortune telling). They are always painted in brilliant colors with high contrast and use gold hairlines to emphasize shapes and borders. It's not often that you will see a picture "of" something on one of my ties, but Grace Newburger is one of a handful of representational artists who overcome my abstract sensibilities (when it comes to ties).

"Swans" was also the name of a New York band led by Michael Gira, whose early works were loud, slow, and violent songs about pain, degradation, humiliation, and abuse. After Jarboe joined the band in 1985, an element of beauty was introduced into the Swans' music, which came to full fruition with the 1989 album The Burning World, produced by legendary producer Bill Laswell and featuring a lovely remake of Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home," which is still a minor alternative-radio staple today. And some pressings of the CD include a bonus track of "Love Will Tear Us Apart"! The album is more Laswell's than Gira's, with most of the musicians coming from Laswell's stable of usual suspects; but they alleviate the morbidity of Gira's voice and (much less violent) lyrics. The overall feel is world-beat-tinged gothic folk, and it's a little masterpiece, even though Gira has disowned it. Recommended!

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