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Sempé Fi (On Covers): Rosy-Fingered Dawn

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9-21-09 Jorge Colombo Finger Painting-New Day.jpg

Pollux writes:

When the rosy-fingered, golden-armed, saffron-robed Goddess of the Dawn, the child of Morning, appears, she illuminates the earth, bringing a sense of freshness and newness to whatever is to come.

Jorge Colombo conjures up this goddess for his September 21, 2009 cover for The New Yorker, called “Finger Painting: New Day.”

He does so on an iPhone, and uses only a finger to create a city skyline still mostly enshrouded in the shadow of night. The city awakens.

You can see how Colombo creates his piece in a 29-second video at The New Yorker website. Unfortunately, the video does not include a spoken commentary, and it would have been interesting to hear the story behind the cover or Colombo’s thought-process as he created this latest piece.

Colombo starts with the sky and all of its complex tones. Because the art tool he is using is a phone, Colombo can work undercover discovering the hidden beauties of the city.

But the cover’s value lies not so much in the fact that it was done on an iPhone or on how well Colombo depicts a city skyline on this appliance.

The cover’s worth lies with how well he creates an interesting cover with that indefinable quality that all good art pieces possess, whether they’re done in celadon-glazed clay or on a computer screen. That quality can best be described as soul-stirring or thought-provoking, or at the very least, artistically attractive.

There is grace in the cover. Instead of being created with fingers the size of umbrella handles that violently jab at a little screen, there exist instead soft and subtle tones summoned by an improvised but effective brush.

The city becomes beautiful in the soft light of dawn, a city sometimes made ugly with a rash of scrawled graffiti. It is a city pockmarked here and there with little imperfections and defects.

It is a city from which emerge the uneven teeth of water towers, ventilators, and rickety wooden stairs. Colombo beautifies them all as creates the subtle tones of dawn. There is a plane on its way to some international destination, and an office building slowly lighting up from the inside. We imagine inhabitants of this metropolis slowly rubbing the sleep from their eyes and hoping that the new day will be a good one.

For me, such images are what make Colombo’s cover a good cover, and it would be so even if it were created on canvas or paper.

Colombo is a serious artist and his iPhone art has crossed the line that separates the gimmicky and the innovative.

I appreciate the fact that The New Yorker website features his work and how he creates it. I would appreciate even more if we could see on The New Yorker website how all the cover artists create their pieces, whether it’s Blitt and his pen, McCall and his brushes, or Staake and his digital creations.

In the meantime, we enjoy what we have, as we look forward to each new day.

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