How Erté Shaped Art Deco Design and Style (Invaluable)

Original article here.

Erte, “Queen of the Night” (detail), 1987. Sold for $2,375 via Freeman’s (April 2015).

Much of what we recognize today as Art Deco design was crafted by Erté through his strong and timeless aesthetic. Spanning many areas of visual culture, including illustrations for fashion magazines, costumes for opera and ballet, and sculpture and set design for theater, Erté’s signature style set the tone for the modern era.

Romain de Tirtoff

Born Romain de Tirtoff in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, Erté broke free from the conventions of his aristocratic family and moved to Paris in 1910 to follow his ambitions as an artist.

After a couple of years, his breakthrough, and arguably his biggest influence, was brief collaboration with famed Parisian couturier Paul Poiret, who renamed him “Erté” (the French pronunciation of his initials). This set Erté’s trajectory into the fashion world and before long, he was selling illustrations to Paris fashion houses and magazines. World War I and the ensuing economic decline in Europe subsequently caused Erté to focus his attentions to the American market and led him to secure a long-term contract with Harper’s Bazaar magazine in 1915.

Erte, design for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, 1935. Sold for £6,545 via Sotheby’s (May 2005).

His exuberant style came into its own in the French theater world, where for 35 years, he designed the costumes and sets for esteemed productions such as Folies-Bergere in Paris and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, and for a brief period worked on several Hollywood silent films.

Working right up until his death in 1990, Erté produced some 22,000 designs during his career, applying his talents to everything from lighting and furnishings, accessories and jewelry. He eventually branched out into the realm of limited edition prints, bronzes, and wearable art and had his work had a major revival during the 1960s with the Art Deco revival. Erté’s final swansong was in the 1980s when he completed 100 new designs for a Glyndebourne opera production.

Erté Art

The impact of Erté’s contributions to the principles of contemporary fashion, design, and theater, and setting the visual pace within the 20th century, cannot be underestimated. His work set the precedent for the interconnection of art and culture. Erte art majestically encapsulates the taste and aesthetic of the time, with influences drawn from diverse sources such as Russian iconography, Byzantine mosaics, Greek pottery and Indian and Egyptian art.

Admired by celebrities of the time and emulated by the everyday woman, he is one of few artists who has had significant influence over cultural trends. Erté introduced the image of a stylized body draped in beads and furs, which would define and capture the essence of a generation: spectacle, exoticism, and fantasy.

1. Erte Fashion Illustrations

Erté introduced a sense of theatricality into Art Deco fashion, making popular velvet evening wraps with Chinese sleeves and gold embroidery, and long gowns covered in crystal and pearls. His silhouettes, asymmetrical hemlines, eye for unisex clothing, use of metals in fashion, and tailored professional-wear, influenced fashion designers such as Yves Saint Laurent in his 1976 Ballets Russes collection, Oscar de la Renta’s signature embellishments and draping, and the décor of London’s famous fashion emporium Biba, among others.

Erte, “‘L`Inoubliable Nuit, No. 45’,” 1917. Sold for $1,800 via Shapiro Auctions (June 2014).

It is primarily through his contribution to Harper’s Bazaar magazine that Erté became known within the fashion and publishing world, changing the trajectory of fashion illustration. Erté worked for the publication for 22 years and designed more than 240 magazine covers, where he oversaw the magazine’s art direction. Harper’s Bazaar was the perfect medium to reflect the newfound freedom and love of spectacle in early-20th century American society. He portrayed the modern woman in scenes of everyday life, donning exuberant and vibrant colors and textiles, thus putting a new spin on what is perceived as glamorous.

The sense of movement and his painstakingly detailed work, as seen in Sports d’Hiver (pictured below), where Erté drew each individual dot of the snow by hand, is what makes these pieces “outstanding works of graphic art” and “quintessential art deco masterworks,” according to Christine von der Linn, a specialist at Swann Auction Galleries.

Erte, “Sports d’Hiver.” Cover illustration for Harper’s Bazaar magazine. Sold for $8,125 via Swann Auction Galleries (May 2017).

However, most of Erté’s surviving original cover designs for Harper’s Bazaar remain in private collections, therefore, is quite rare to find them at auction. His reproductions from the 1990s as serigraphs or the original Harper’s Bazaar magazines are more affordable and easier pieces to find.

Among the many projects he took up within fashion are the design illustrations and prints Erté created for New York shoe manufacturer Herman Delmanare and the designs for premier New York store Henri Bendel and B. Altman & Co.

2. Erte Jewelry

Erté’s ideas transcended a variety of media, and he even experimented as a jewelry-maker. Though Erte jewelry is less common at auction, they reflect the same principles and aesthetics established in Erte fashion illustrations.

A set of sapphire, sterling silver and gold jewels by ErtŽe, from the limited edition “Nile” collection. Sold for CAD4000 via Dupuis Auctions (June 2018).

Erté started designing jewelry in 1979 for the Circle of Fine Art (CFA) with great success. Together, they produced a total of 328 limited edition designs. Based on the artist’s intricate style and detailed designs, his jewelry is known as Erte “Art To Wear.” He would also draw inspiration from the nautical world (his most recurring and favorite theme), animals, birds (the peacock being his favorite), and Egyptian culture, amongst other sources. From rings to earrings and pendants, he would design each collection under a different theme, such as “Fantasy,” “La Mer,” “Tempest,” or the “The Nile.” Erté’s last “Art to Wear” designs were for a series of numerals in gold. Also keep an eye out for jewelry design sketches, which prove to be highly collectible.

3. Erte Costume and Set Design

During the 1920s and 1930s, Erté designed sets and costumes for a great variety of Broadway theater productions. His innovations in costume design range from performers adorned with large, plumed headdresses, pearls and embroidered trains, and costumes that evoke tableaux vivants. Erté was further set apart from contemporary theater designers by the quality and detail of his finished designs.

Erte, Costume Design: Blue Robe. Via Sotheby’s (February 2018).

Erté’s designs, silhouettes and movement influenced dancers of all genres and styles, inspiring countless imitations. Erte artwork also influenced future costume designers such as American designer Adrian Adolph Greenberg, better known as “Adrian,” and best known for his work in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.

His first introduction to the film industry was in designing sets and costumes for Hollywood director Louis B. Mayer, such as the 1925 film Ben Hur. However, his relationship with Hollywood ended fairly quickly, partly due to the fact that Erté’s designs did not translate well into practical costumes. Not fitting within the film industry, Erté moved onto industrial design, conceptualizing utilitarian objects and domestic interiors.

Erte, “Cosi Fan Tutte-Décor of the 4th act,” 1947. Sold for €3,640 via Artcurial (May 2015).

Erté’s highly detailed gouaches played a crucial role in his legacy and ensured the long-term success of the artist. This could be due to the fact that many of his costume and set designs have not survived and it is the gouaches that were preserved by Erté that still allow for a comprehensive overview of his achievements today.

4. Erte Bronze

From the 1970s, utilising the revival of his work, Erté reproduced many of his gouache artworks through serigraphs and lithographs as a way to reach more audiences. In 1980, he produced a series of bronze sculptures, also based on the characters and costumes of his designs. Erté believed that these bronze sculptures allowed him to translate his ideas to an extent that was not possible on the stage or on paper. Erte’s ultimate goal was for these sculptures to become objects of beauty and desire.

Erté, Cold Painted Bronze Sculpture: “Ready for the Ball,” late 20th century. Sold for $1800 via Heritage Auctions (May 2017).

In the 1960s Erte’s career experienced a renaissance, becoming again the reference for a new generation. In addition to his popularity as an artist, it is still evident how Erté’s art has had an effect on almost all aspects of visual culture, both by defining the Art Deco aesthetic and remaining timeless to this day. Erté’s ability to create worlds immersed with glamour, spectacle and fantasy still remains relevant in the 21st century, speaking to the sensibility of a cross-cultural era.

Hallmarks of Erté Art (& How to Spot a Counterfeit)

To better understand the hallmarks of Erté art, and the defining characteristics that collectors should look for, we sat down with Ray Perman, specialist in Erté art at London’s Grosvenor Gallery. Here are his recommendations.

1. Limited Edition Prints

  • Check publications. Erté produced 469 limited editions over the span of 30 years, which are fully recorded in three publications, Erté at Ninety: The Complete Graphics, Erté at Ninety-Five: The Complete New Graphics, and Erté: The Last Works: Graphics / Sculpture.
  • Know the hallmarks of his late works. Later works were produced with embossing and hot foil-stamping, but there are no known fakes of these late editions as the process is too expensive to be viable. The earlier serigraphs and lithographs are printed on high quality Arches paper.
  • Check for blind stamps, signatures, and certificates. All editions have a blind stamp of the publisher and the signature of the artist. A certificate was provided for each print. Potential buyers should ask for this and the provenance of the work.
  • Understand print type and edition size. A number of book and calendar illustrations are often offered as original prints, but these can be easily identified because of the quality, size, and lack of edition number.

2. Sculpture

  • Check publications. Erté produced 146 bronze editions. All are recorded in Erté: The Last Works: Graphics / Sculpture.
  • Look for a foundry stamp. All bronzes bear a foundry stamp, edition number and the signature of the artist. There are no known fakes of Erte’s original sculptures as the cost of reproduction is high and any cast from an original sculpture would be of different dimensions.
  • Understand the difference between Erte and Jules Erte. There have been a number of sculptures offered mastering as Erté, and there are also works produced by a different artist, Jules Erte, that can be confused for the work of Romain de Tirtoff. However, the difference in image and style is easy to detect.

Detail of stamp on an Erte bronze.

3. Original Works

  • Understand the artist’s preferred medium. All known works, with one exception, are pen and ink for early fashion drawings and gouache on paper for theater, Revue and Harper’s Bazaar covers.
  • Look for numbers and stamps on works on paper. Erté kept a record of all his original works, which is unusual for an artist. Each gouache or drawing has a unique number and brief description on the back, and is also stamped “Composition Originale.” The number is noted in the written records along with details of the production and the name of the person who commissioned the work. Fakes can be determined by reference to the records and examination of the work.

About Fiona McKay & Xenia Capacete

Fiona and Xenia are fashion curators and exhibit makers, and founders of White Line Projects, a curatorial and creative studio based in London. White Line Projects curates, designs, and produces a diverse range of outcomes including exhibitions, installations and digital experiences, and websites for a wide range of clients in the fashion and cultural sectors. Fiona, Xenia, and the team at White Line Projects bring a diverse combination of skills and background experience ranging from visual communications and 3D technologies to architecture, art history, and exhibition design to theater design and performing arts.

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How Not to Write About Women Artists (Hyperallergic)

August 27, 2014, Original article here.

Spread from Boris Friedwald’s ‘Women Photographers’ (all photos by Alex Heimbach/Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)

Gertrude Käsebier and Rinko Kawauchi have two things in common: they’re women and they’re photographers. Käsebier was an early American photographer who took portraits of Native American medicine men and worked with Alfred Steiglitz. Kawauchi is a contemporary Japanese artist who makes abstracted images inspired by Shintoism.

Nonetheless, they sit right next to each other in the aptly titled Women Photographers: From Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman, Boris Friedwald’s survey of female photographers published by Prestel this past spring. The book collects the work of 55 practitioners, from pioneers of the form to contemporary photojournalists. Friedwald also includes short bios of each artist as part of his goal to present “the variety and diversity of women who took—and take—photographs. Their life stories, their way of looking at things, and their pictures.”

Cover of ‘Women Photographers’ (via randomhouse.de)

Sounds admirable enough. Yet it’s impossible to imagine an equivalent book titled Men Photographers: From Eugène Atget to Jeff Wall. Male photographers, like male painters, male writers, and male politicians, are the default. The implication, intentional or not, is that no matter how talented, female photographers are women first and artists second.

Ideally, endeavors like Friedwald’s serve to illuminate lesser-known artists, who may have been discounted because of their gender (or race or sexual orientation or class). But more often such exercises become a form of de facto segregation, whether it’s a BuzzFeed quiz on how many of the “Greatest Books by Women” you’ve read or a Wikipedia editor isolating female novelists in their own category. These projects are often undertaken in a spirit of celebration, but their thoughtlessness generally renders them pointless at best and misogynistic at worst.

Unfortunately, Friedwald’s editorial choices only exacerbate the project’s questionable gender politics. As the unlikely pairing of Käsebier and Kawauchi suggests, the photographers are arranged in alphabetical order, which allows for little meaningful interplay between them. And without any general background to give them historical or artistic context, the artist bios feel equally unhelpful. By striving for breadth over depth, Friedwald has created one more collection unified only by the gender of its artists, thus suggesting that being a woman is the most important factor in these photographers’ work.

The issue with Women Photographers isn’t just that it bunches female photographers together; more importantly, it fails to justify how they’re important to each other. Context is vital to historical surveys, and Friedwald provides almost none. That’s too bad, because the overlooked role these women have played in the development of their medium is well worth exploring.

As a newer art form that requires relatively little training, photography was open to women from its inception in a way that painting and sculpture weren’t. But, as Naomi Rosenblum writes in the introduction to her 2010 book A History of Women Photographers, despite women’s comparative success in the medium, histories and critical surveys of it often ignore their contributions. As such, Rosenblum’s book aims not only to highlight the work of female photographers, but also to dig into what their gender means for their lives and careers. Rosenblum offers not just a who but a why.

Spread from ‘Women Photographers’

Friedwald, on the other hand, fails to provide a compelling reason for grouping these women together or to illuminate any connective tissue between them — and in doing so ends up creating exactly the sort of gender ghetto he supposedly wants to avoid. He would’ve been better off listening to the artists he aims to champion, including Eve Arnold, whom he quotes: “I didn’t want to be a ‘woman photographer.’ That would limit me. I wanted to be a photographer who was a woman, with all the world open to my camera.”

Boris Friedwald’s Women Photographers: From Julia Margaret Cameron to Cindy Sherman is published by Prestel.

The Secrets of Roentgen Writing Cabinet

Discover the hidden features and intricate interior of this cabinet.

One of the finest achievements of European furniture making, this cabinet is the most important product from Abraham (1711 – 1793) and David Roentgen’s (1743 – 1807) workshop. A writing cabinet crowned with a chiming clock, it features finely designed marquetry panels and elaborate mechanisms that allow for doors and drawers to be opened automatically at the touch of a button. Owned by King Frederick William II, the Berlin cabinet is uniquely remarkable for its ornate decoration, mechanical complexity, and sheer size.

This cabinet is from Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and is on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens: http://www.metmuseum.org/en/exhibitions/listings/2012/roentgen

Footage courtesy of VideoART GmbH and Kunstgewerbemuseum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Why I Teach Plato to Plumbers (The Atlantic)

 
 
Once, when I told a guy on a plane that I taught philosophy at a community college, he responded, “So you teach Plato to plumbers?” Yes, indeed. But I also teach Plato to nurses’ aides, soldiers, ex-cons, preschool music teachers, janitors, Sudanese refugees, prospective wind-turbine technicians, and any number of other students who feel like they need a diploma as an entry ticket to our economic carnival. As a result of my work, I’m in a unique position to reflect on the current discussion about the value of the humanities, one that seems to me to have lost its way.
 
As usual, there’s plenty to be worried about: the steady evaporation of full-time teaching positions, the overuse and abuse of adjunct professors, the slashing of public funding, the shrinkage of course offerings and majors in humanities disciplines, the increase of student debt, the peddling of technologies as magic bullets, the ubiquitous description of students as consumers. Moreover, I fear in my bones that the supremacy of a certain kind of economic-bureaucratic logic—one of “outcomes,” “assessment,” and “the bottom-line”—is eroding the values that undergird not just our society’s commitment to the humanities, but to democracy itself.
 
The problem facing the humanities, in my view, isn’t just about the humanities. It’s about the liberal arts generally, including math, science, and economics. These form half of the so-called STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects, but if the goal of an education is simply economic advancement and technological power, those disciplines, just like the humanities, will be—and to some degree already are—subordinated to future employment and technological progress. Why shouldn’t educational institutions predominately offer classes like Business Calculus and Algebra for Nurses? Why should anyone but hobbyists and the occasional specialist take courses in astronomy, human evolution, or economic history? So, what good, if any, is the study of the liberal arts, particularly subjects like philosophy?  Why, in short, should plumbers study Plato?My answer is that we should strive to be a society of free people, not simply one of well-compensated managers and employees. Henry David Thoreau is as relevant as ever when he writes, “We seem to have forgotten that the expression ‘a liberal education’ originally meant among the Romans one worthy of free men; while the learning of trades and professions by which to get your livelihood merely, was considered worthy of slaves only.”

Traditionally, the liberal arts have been the privilege of an upper class. There are three big reasons for this. First, it befits the leisure time of an upper class to explore the higher goods of human life: to play Beethoven, to study botany, to read Aristotle, to go on an imagination-expanding tour of Italy. Second, because their birthright is to occupy leadership positions in politics and the marketplace, members of the aristocratic class require the skills to think for themselves. Whereas those in the lower classes are assessed exclusively on how well they meet various prescribed outcomes, those in the upper class must know how to evaluate outcomes and consider them against a horizon of values. Finally (and this reason generally goes unspoken), the goods of the liberal arts get coded as markers of privilege and prestige, so that the upper class can demarcate themselves clearly from those who must work in order to make their leisure and wealth possible.

We don’t intellectually embrace a society where the privileged few get to enjoy the advantages of leisure and wealth while the masses toil on their behalf. Yet that’s what a sell-out of the liberal arts entails. For the most part, the wealthy in this country continue to pay increasingly exorbitant tuition to private prep schools, good liberal arts colleges, and elite universities, where their children get strong opportunities to develop their minds, dress themselves in cultural capital, and learn the skills necessary to become influential members of society. Meanwhile, the elite speak of an education’s value for the less privileged in terms of preparation for the global economy. Worse yet, they often support learning systems designed to produce “good employees”—i.e., compliant laborers.  Then, money for public education is slashed, and tuition soars. Those in the middle class, let alone the poor, have to fight an ever-steepening uphill battle to spend their time and money on the arts appropriate to free people.

As a professor with lots of experience giving Ds and Fs, I know full well that the value of the liberal arts will always be lost on some people, at least at certain points in their lives.  (Whenever I return from a conference, I worry that many on whom the value of philosophy is lost have found jobs teaching philosophy!) But I don’t think that this group of people is limited to any economic background or form of employment. My experience of having taught at relatively elite schools, like Emory University and Oglethorpe University, as well as at schools like Kennesaw State University and Kirkwood Community College, is that there are among future plumbers as many devotees of Plato as among the future wizards of Silicon Valley, and that there are among nurses’ aides and soldiers as many important voices for our democracy as among doctors and business moguls.I recently got a letter from a former student, a factory worker, thanking me for introducing him to Schopenhauer. I was surprised, because I hadn’t assigned the German pessimist. The letter explained that I’d quoted some lines from Schopenhauer in class, and they’d sparked my student’s imagination. When he didn’t find what I’d quoted after reading all of volumes one and two of The World as Will and Representation, he started in on Parerga and Paralipomena, where he was eventually successful. Enclosing a short story that he’d recently written on a Schopenhauerian theme, he wrote me a long letter of thanks for inadvertently turning him on to a kindred mind.

Once, during a lecture I gave about the Stoics, who argue that with the proper spiritual discipline one can be truly free and happy even while being tortured, I looked up to see one of the students in tears. I recalled that her sister in Sudan had been recently imprisoned for challenging the local authorities. Through her tears my student was processing that her sister was likely seeking out a hard Stoic freedom as I was lecturing.

I once had a janitor compare his mystical experiences with those of the medieval Sufi al-Ghazali’s. I once had a student of redneck parents—his way of describing them—who read both parts of Don Quixote because I used the word “quixotic.” A mother who’d authorized for her crippled son a risky surgery that led to his death once asked me with tears in her eyes, “Is Kant right that the consequences of an action play no role in its moral worth?” A wayward veteran I once had in Basic Reasoning fell in love with formal logic and is now finishing law school at Berkeley.

The fire will always be sparked. Are we going to fan it, or try to extinguish it?

Recovering the History of Sound in Video Games (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on September 2, 2014 original article here.

Video Games Live orchestral performance of the Tetris theme (photograph by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr)

Video Games Live orchestral performance of the Tetris theme (photo by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr)

The sound of video games has transformed from something seemingly mechanical accenting action to incredibly elaborate acoustic landscapes setting the mood for play. To preserve this history, and show why it’s worth exploring, a new documentary and archive project are underway.

Beep: A History of Game Sound — currently crowdfunding for production on Kickstarter — is directed by Karen Collins. A sound designer and the Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the University of Waterloo, she has written extensively on audio in video games, including in the book Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games, released last year by MIT Press. Beep is aiming to be the first film on video-game sound history, and also a means of gathering interviews with key figures in its development that will be available as an archive.

As the funding page for Beep states: “We can’t go back and interview early film composers, but we can interview game sound designers and composers from the early days.” The majority of those people are largely unknown, even to gamers. “Most of us could hum the theme song to Super Mario Bros., but how many people know the name of the composer who wrote that music?,” says Collins in the Kickstarter video. (It’s Koji Kondo, who also did The Legend of Zelda and a prolific number of other Nintendo games.)

 

Image for "BEEP: A History of Game Sound" (courtesy the filmmakers)

Image for “BEEP: A History of Game Sound” (courtesy the filmmakers)

In a technologically nostalgic way, the impetus for Beep is aligned with projects like the Museum of Endangered Sounds. Created in early 2012, the online “museum” is focused on the preservation of sounds from now obsolete electronic media, whether it’s AOL Instant Messenger, Space Invaders, or Encarta MindMaze. Exploring the museum, you start to think of how the sounds of technology have gotten more subtle, from jarring 8-bit noise to gentler, composed sounds. However, in video games, the progress of play is so concentrated on visuals that it can be easy to overlook how audio has been essential to making gaming experiences engaging. Back in 2011, “Baba Yetu” by Christopher Tin for Civilization IV received a Grammy, the first video-game music composition to do so, suggesting that the music of games may be expanding into the mainstream.

The ground Collins is hoping to cover with Beep is ambitious, stretching from Victorian mechanical games to arcades of the 1970s and ’80s, to contemporary responses like the Video Game Orchestra, which gives the full instrumentation treatment to game sounds in live performances. As video games get more recognition as an art form, it will be integral to their history to have a record of these sound creators.

Beep: A Documentary History of Video Game Sound is fundraising on Kickstarter through September 30.

Walking the Mysterious and Monumental Nazca Lines (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on August 12, 2014 original article here.

Edward Ranney, “Viscas River Valley” (2001) (© Ed Ranney) (all images courtesy Yale University Press)

Sandstorms shifting the terrain of southwest Peru recently revealed new Nazca Lines. Hundreds of the geoglyphs in the desert were already known, showing animals, plants, and geometric designs etched in the earth at an incredible scale, the largest a 935-foot pelican. Yet the purpose of these ancient drawings, produced between about 500 BCE to 500 CE, remains one of history’s enigmas.

These newly exposed Nazca Lines were spotted by pilot Eduardo Herrán Gómez de la Torre, Phys.org reported. It was also from a plane that Long Island University Professor Paul Kosok first perceived the lines in 1939, an observation that would launch them into contemporary archaeological study. The allure of the puzzle of their function, from theories on an astronomical purpose to a labyrinth, has enticed researchers for decades. However, from the air isn’t how they were seen by the people who carved away iron-oxide stones to reveal the lighter clay in one-line images of a hummingbird, lizard, spider, whale, flowers, zigzags, and odder figures that appear like humans with animalistic features. It was from the ground.

Edward Ranney, Palpa Valley, 2004. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Palpa Valley” (2004) © Ed Ranney

It’s this perspective that photographer Edward Ranney has documented since 1985, walking the 2,000-year-old lines with his large-format camera. Traveling in Peru as well as in Chile with archaeologists and local guides, his perspective in black and white gives them a majesty and mystery similar to early landscape photographers like Carleton Watkins.

This month, his newest monograph on the ancient art — The Lines, including an essay from Lucy R. Lippard — is being released by Yale University Press. Ranney told PetaPixel in a July interview that the book “represents one person’s interest in finding these glyphs and photographing them in the context in which their creators experienced them.” He adds that he hopes “pictures of them will increase others’ respect for them — they are by nature very fragile, easily wrecked by vehicles and even excessive foot-traffic.”

Despite their high-profile and restrictions on trespassers to the Nazca plain, there’s been recent destruction like in 2013 when some were wrecked by heavy machinery. And by viewing them from the surface, where the incredible distance of the lines can be more readily perceived, you can also see the delicate side of this ancient art dug from stones out on an arid plateau.

Edward Ranney, Nazca Pampa, 1985. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Nazca Pampa” (1985) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, Nazca Valley, 2009. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Nazca Valley” (2009) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, Nazca Pampa, 1985. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Nazca Pampa” (1985) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Cerro Unitas, Pampa Tamarugal, Chile” (2006) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Aroma Valley, Chile” (2006) © Ed Ranney

The Lines by Edward Ranney is available from Yale University Press. Photographs of the newly revealed geoglyphs can be found at Peru’s El Comercio.