Friday, April 29, 2016

Arty Farty Friday ~ Mary Petty, Alan Dunn & the Fermi Paradox .

While searching for a painter, illustrator, photographer or sculptor to feature today I came across Mary Petty's name in a list of April 29 birthdays. She was one of The New Yorker's cover artists and cartoonists for many years.

From a 1994 article by Victoria Donohoe, Inquirer Art Critic:
It's said that the decades after the Civil War in America produced, in a rising level of prosperity, some of the most powerful and picturesque personalities in our nation's history.

That was an era of robber barons and incompetent politicians, to be sure, but also of utopian reformers with dreams for the betterment of mankind. And it was an era of major creative talents in the arts and literature who had to make their mark in Europe before finding patrons on this side of the Atlantic.

During this period, a series of women ruled social life in some major cities - in New York, for instance - with particular vim and vigor between the third quarter of the 19th century and World War I. Afterward came flappers and another round of prosperity in the 1920s, but those good times were quite unlike the ones experienced earlier.

Seemingly in response to this contrast of eras, Mary Petty staked her whole 40-year career as a cover artist and cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine between 1927 and 1966 on elucidating the difference. She zeroed in on what, to her, was the clear superiority of a way of life being lived around her in her youth

There are lots more examples at Google Image

 29 Apr.1899 New York City (12 noon)
There's precious little about Mary Petty's personal life on the internet, no photographs of her other than one from a school yearbook. I've added her natal chart, just for completion.
She was part of a generation with both Pluto and Neptune in communicative Gemini, a generation which, in adulthood during the 1920s onward gave us some memorable writers, artists and communicators in general. Her natal Mercury sextiles both Gemini outers, while Saturn opposes Neptune from Sagittarius. The Saturnian reflection upon Neptune's creativity could be seen as Ms Petty's gravitation to, and preference for, illustrating older, traditional lifestyles.

Ms Petty was married to another cartoonist, Alan Dunn, and thereby does hang a tale. A cartoon of Dunn's (below) is credited with inspiring the Fermi Paradox.

From Wikipedia:
In 1950, while working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Fermi had a casual conversation while walking to lunch with colleagues Emil Konopinski, Edward Teller and Herbert York. The men discussed a recent spate of UFO reports and an Alan Dunn cartoon facetiously blaming the disappearance of municipal trashcans on marauding aliens. The conversation shifted to other subjects, until during lunch Fermi suddenly exclaimed, "Where are they?" (alternatively, "Where is everybody?"). Teller remembers, "The result of his question was general laughter because of the strange fact that in spite of Fermi's question coming from the clear blue, everybody around the table seemed to understand at once that he was talking about extraterrestrial life." Herbert York recalls that Fermi followed up on his comment with a series of calculations on the probability of Earth-like planets, the probability of life, the likely rise and duration of high technology, etc., and concluded that we ought to have been visited long ago and many times over.


Sonny G said...

just popping in to say Hi.

I hope all is well with ya'll Annie and Mike.

Hope you got my reply Mike- miss ya bunches too.

Life is good but busy right now..

good wishes to Ya's

mike said...

I like her artistic depictions of the NYC aristocratic life from the servant's view..."Upstairs, Downstairs". The American collective of the 1920s and 1930s seemed to have a fond and obsessive, but jealous disdain of the wealthy class and their "help". I remember so many black & white movies from that era centered on the upper crust, their lives rendered in satiric fashion by petty, shallow, self-centered, daily affairs, usually rendered in comic relief, and often peppered with a servant's view.

I'm not sure how so many artists escape leaving biographical information, but she and her husband are two more, as you mentioned. Sadly, Petty's life was disrupted by a criminal:
"Petty's career was tragically cut short when on 1 December 1971 she was assaulted and badly beaten by a mugger. She was found on Ward's Island three days afterward, bruised and incoherent, and never wholly recovered. She died five years later at the Pine Rest Nursing Home in Paramus, New Jersey."

Alan Dunn passed in 1974. Their brief bios often mention they were both recluses, so her mugging and incapacity probably prompted his downfall, too. Tragic. My mother was the victim of a home invasion robbery at the age of 79 and it ruined her sanity and sense of security. International terrorism is nothing to dismiss, but the criminal, homegrown, local terrorists among us have been more destructive by far.

mike (again) said...

Sonny - Geeeeez...long time, no hear! Message? Nope. I did have some weird dreams last night...don't recall your being there, though...LOL. Hope the last three months have been kind...write and tell all.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Hi there! Waves... nice to see ya! :-)

Twilight said...

mike ~ Her illustrations strike me as gentle and affectionate, no true animosity about the class difference depicted in many of her New Yorker covers - reminded me of "Upstairs Downstairs" too. That was their way of life, back then, and few questioned it.

I missed that tid-bit about Petty's mugging - very sad. Thanks for the addition.