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1-11-10 Jan Van Der Veken Top of the World.JPG

Pollux writes:

Deep layers of snow cover a lot of America and Europe at the moment. While commuters may not be having a good time, skiers have the opportunity to revel in resorts reporting record attendance levels.

Skiers are on top of the world, both literally and figuratively, and “Top of the World” is the name of Jan Van Der Veken’s cover for the January 11, 2010 issue of The New Yorker.

This is the Belgian illustrator’s second cover for The New Yorker, and it depicts, like his first cover, a smiling, winter-bound young couple. However, while Van Der Veken’s December 7 cover was the very picture of closeness, depicting two Christmas shoppers literally wrapped together, the skiing couple on his January cover share the ski-slope and little else.

The young man takes a picture of the snowy landscape. The young woman chit-chats with someone on her cell phone. They are having a pleasant time, but are not really sharing the experience together.

On her blog, designer Poppy Gall has written a post on this cover:

The way artist Jan Van Der Veken juxtaposes a stylized retro ski poster look and digital gizmos makes me smile. This is a familiar scene at any ski area. Skiers with iPhones know they’re worthless while wearing gloves. But those slim cameras do fit nicely in your pocket.

Van Der Veken’s juxtaposition of retro and ultra-modern is seamless. He fuses past and present into an image that comments on our own era while reaching back to artistic styles and designs of the 1950s. Van Der Veken’s young skiers are thoroughly modern, and there’s no better way to depict a couple of 2010 than to include the technological gadgets that we can’t seem to do without.

It would be pointless to lament about how disconnected people are when they are together and connected, not to each other, but to their iPhones, Panasonic Lumixes, and Blackberries.

But that is how we function nowadays, whether we like it or not. While iPhones may be useless while wearing gloves, they may come in handy when it comes to finding directions to the ski lodge or, God forbid, in an emergency situation. A true vacation for some would be to go offline for days on end; for others, the prospect of that would be nightmarish.

Van Der Veken’s mountaintop scene, however, is not a nightmarish vision, but one of splendid semi-isolation.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree