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Monday, January 29, 2018

Lotus Temple, New Delhi, India

The Lotus Temple at dusk.
About five years ago, I wrote a piece to which I gave the presumptive title, "The Most Beautiful Building in the World." The focal point of that item was the Taj Mahal, located in Agra, India. That may have been a rather impetuous choice. Quite apart for dozens of other possibilities around the world, India itself, is home to a very strong competitor for such a title. Located about 130 miles south-southeast of Agra in the capital city of New Delhi, we find another similarly exquisite architectural masterpiece known as the Lotus Temple. Notable for its flowerlike shape, the Lotus Temple is a Bahá'í House of Worship which serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent, and has become a prominent attraction in the city. Begun in 1980 and completed near the end of 1986, the temple takes its name from its lotus blossom shape. Around the blooming petals there are nine pools of water, which light up, in natural light. Creating a spectacular glow at dusk when it is flood lit.

New Delhi, India--location of The Lotus Temple.
The temple is actually in the village of Bahapur, Kalkaji, to the South of Connaught Place in Mandir Marg; a secluded area of the bustling center of New Delhi. The Lotus Temple has come to be known as the "Taj of modern India" owing to its distinctive lotus-shaped marble petals surrounded by a landscaped garden. This architectural marvel of the Bahai faith is essentially a symbol of peace. In the Bahai's Holy Writings great importance is given to prayers as is revealed in all the scriptures. But according to Bahai faith, the mere act of praying is not sufficient. The inspiration drawn from one's prayers must be translated into action which promotes the well being of humanity.

Regardless of the time of day (or night) the Lotus Temple is a "budding" rival in its beauty to the centuries old Taj Mahal.
Construction News, a technical journal from the United Kingdom, was the first to give the Lotus Temple the appellation of Taj Mahal of the 20th Century. The comparison brings to mind the words of the famous Indian poet and philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore, who described the Taj Mahal as "a teardrop on the cheek of eternity". Considering that the Bahai House of Worship is an affirmation and a celebration of man's love of God, the Lotus Temple could be described as "a dewdrop on the brow of eternity". The temple is a powerful icon of great beauty that goes beyond its pure function of serving as a congregation space to become an important architectural symbol of the city.

Bahai Lotus Temple, architect Fariborz Sabha
Fariborz Sabha, the architect of the temple, was given an award in 1987 by the International Federation for Art and Architecture. Further the temple itself received an award for its structural design from the Institute of Structural Engineers in UK. It also won a Citation Award for personifying the visual impact of the beautiful Lotus flower and received an accreditation for its outdoor illumination in the year 1988. The American Concrete Institute gave the temple an award for being one of the most artistically built concrete structures. In the year 2000 it received the "Glob Art Academy Award" from Glob Art Academy in Vienna. The Bahai House of Worship at New Delhi is one of the marvels of modern architecture. The temple gives the impression of a half-open lotus flower afloat, surrounded by its leaves. The shining pure white marble, the majestic dome, the petals clearly standing out create a sense of awe. The temple is surrounded by walkways with beautiful curved balustrades, bridges and stairs that surround the nine pools representing the floating leaves of the lotus. It is a remarkable tabernacle of peace and beauty and an engineering feat that will set standards for centuries.

Bahai Lotus Temple sectional plans. First conceived in 1976, the Lotus Temple was under construction for six years.
The temple complex consists of the main house of worship with a basement and the ancillary block, which houses a reception canter, a library and the administrative building. The library contains a rich collection of religious books along with an hourly introductory audio-visual presentation for the visitors. The inner dome is spherical and patterned after the innermost portion of the lotus flower. It is like a bud consisting of 24 petals. Light filters through these inner folds which is diffused through the central hall. While the flooring inside the auditorium is of white marble, the walkways and stairs of the outer portion are of red sandstone, offering a majestic contrast. The Lotus has three sets of petals. The outermost set of nine petals, called the entrance leaves, open outwards and form the nine entrances all around the outer annular hall. The next set of nine petals, called "inner leaves" appear to be partly closed and rise above the rest and form the main structure housing the central hall. Since the Lotus is open at the top, a glass and steel roof provides protection from rain and lets natural light into the auditorium.
The Lotus Temple under construction, ca. 1984.

The interior dome therefore is like a bud consisting of 36 petals and light filters through these inner folds and is diffused throughout the hall. Light enters the hall in the same way as it passes through the inner folds of the lotus petals. The central bud is ringed by three sets of nine petals as they appear in a natural flower--the just-opening petals, the semi-open petals and the completely open petals. The just-opening or inner petals constitute the external dome; the semi-open or outer function as high skylight; the completely open or entrance petals form a canopy over each of the nine entrances.

The temple superstructure is designed to function as a skylight. The interior dome is spherical and patterned after the innermost portion of the lotus flower.

In the architecture of India, perhaps more than in other places, it is possible to the see the religious roots in a clear and different manner. The representative symbols which can be seen on the buildings and in their decorations, and which include the surroundings in which they have been placed, are inspired by the religious convictions of the people; convictions which are integrated and form part of the way of life of the country. The bushes which grow in the corner of a temple courtyard or the color of its walls can indicate to us to which religion the temple is dedicated. In this way we can also discover the allegorical significances which the forms, colors or statues wish to convey to us, in such a way that we can consider Indian architecture as an architecture of story-telling and symbols, in which hidden meanings dwell in every form. These hidden meanings have an intimate and inspired connection with the lives of the people of this place.

Yes, there's a Lego version.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The School of Athens (in depth)

The School of Athens, 1508-11, Raphael
Raphaello de Sanzio,
Self-portrait, 1506
Just about everyone has heard of the Renaissance, the period in Italian art of some forty years from roughly 1480 to 1520. And anyone familiar with the arts is no doubt familiar with the half-dozen or so landmark painting masterpieces produced during this period (or shortly before or after it). They would include at least one each from what I've termed the "big three" of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael--artists so prominent their first names alone should suffice. Two of the three lived long, productive lives while the third, Raphael de Sanzio died young. Born in 1483, he died suddenly (on his birthday, no less) in 1520 at the age of thirty-seven, his lifetime perfectly coinciding with the Italian High Renaissance. We're all too familiar with Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling and Leonar-do's Mona Lisa. But Raphael's comparable fresco, The School of Athens (top), located in the Vatican's Stanza della Segnatura is as underexposed as the other two are overexposed.

A "Who's Who" of Greek philosophy with likely names in black and Raphael's possible models in red.
The School of Athens shows Plato and Aristotle in conversation. Plato, on the left, upwards while Aristotle, on the right, points down. The here and elsewhere, heaven and earth are the subject of these discussions. The fresco, painted between 1508 and 1511 (dates vary) conveys an impressive synthesis of the world-view of the two great Greek philosophers that was formed in the course of the 15th-century and would have been completely inconceivable just a century earlier. This was the result of the rediscovery of Plato which took place in Florence thanks to the efforts of the Platonic Academy and the activities of Marsilio Ficino and his circle. Restored to his master's side, Aristotle, who had never suffered the same neglect, could now speak, and his words took on a new significance.

The elder Plato walks alongside Aristotle.
School of Athens (detail). Leonardo is said
to have served as the model for Plato.
Plato lived in Athens during the 5th-century BC. He was a disciple of Pythagoras' school of philosophy which interpreted the universe as a mathematical system. Plato believed that a link existed between mathematics and music, and understood the heavenly bodies as entities separated by rhythmic intervals similar to those found in music. The heavenly spheres followed the same principles of harmony as those applied in music--heavenly music (so to speak). According to Plato, the entire world of creation, which we perceive with our senses is merely the shadow of the real world--a world of godly causality--the world of music. Further, he believed that only those minds which have been trained in the contemplative use of reason could know the only true world, a world of pure harmony. If that sounds pretty "deep," it is, and Plato's teaching was as much a lost cause in Europe during the Middle Ages as the study and knowledge of the Greek language itself. Apart from individual quotes used by Latin authors, all that was known of Plato's work was the Latin translation of the treatise on mathematics, the Timaeus (an anachronistic bound edition which Raphael depicts Plato holding under his arm).

Zoroaster, Ptolemy, Raphael as Apelles, and Perugino or Timoteo Viti as Protogenes, are arrayed on the right as followers of Aristotle.
Plato was Aristotle's mentor, but he moved away from his teacher's ideas in that he believed it possible for man to understand the laws of the universe with his senses and study them with the help of logic. Aristotelian mind is not contemplative in itself. The main doctrine of the medieval church was based on established Aristotelian thinking, which influenced biblical interpretation and the understanding of the relationship between God and man. Logical mind games were something of an intellectual passion among the medieval schools of theology. Moreover, they were completely comparable to those we know today, which have led to the invention of the computer. The problem was, having been engulfed by logic, left a degree of uncertainty with respect to the body of Aristotle's teaching. In an attempt to explain the world, Aristotelian reason tended to lose itself in a roomful of mirrors.

Cosimo de' Medici, 1545,
Agnolo Mariano
The revival of Platoism began its slow spread in the city of Florence when Manuel Chrysolaras from Greece was invited to give a series of lectures at the University of Florence sometime in the early years of the 15th-century. Chryso-laras' student circle included the young Cosimo de' Medici (right). He and others who were interested in the study of philosophy, gathered around Ambrogio Traversari in the monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The young Cosimo was also a member of that group. Traversari, the general prior of the Camaldoese monks was one of the few men of his time who was fluent in both Latin and Greek. He set about trans-forming the Monastery of Camaldoli, high up in the Casentin mountains, into a workshop for the translation of classical authors. Cosimo withdrew from his phil-osophical studies at the age of forty following the death of his father, Giovanni de Medici in 1429. He was obliged to take over the family business. However, he continued to buy books and spend part of his vast fortune on the support of humanists and their work. One such project carried out with Cosimo's financial aid was a search by Poggio Bracciolino and Niccolo Niccoli of Europe's monastery libraries for the ancient classical texts, which had been preserved for centuries thanks to the efforts of the Benedictines. In 1437, Cosimo de' Medici was present at the Council of Ferrara which brought representatives of the two great Christian churches--Greek and Roman--together in a last-ditch attempt at reunification. There Cosimo met the Greek scholars from the Byzantine delegation and the Emperor of Constantinople, John VIII Palaiologos.

And on the left, the school of Socrates (in the tan robe, a follower of Plato), The School of Athens (detail),  Raphael.
When the town of Ferrara was no longer able to accommodate the Council, Cosimo offered to foot the cost for it to continue in Florence. This single, magnanimous, yet seemingly incidental gesture was enough to change the course of European intellectual history. The Greek scholars who moved to Florence with the Byzantine delegation were the main impetus for "the new Plato." There followed a series of memorable lectures by Georgis Gemisto Plethon at the University of Florence, which was attended by all the humanist scholars living in the city at the time. The importance of the lectures by Plethon, who was over eighty years old at the time, was connected with the fact that Plato's dialogs had already reached Italy a decade earlier thanks to the efforts of Giovanni Aurispa. Aurispa, a humanist, was a bibliophile antique dealer who was constantly on the road between Constantinople and Rome. He had managed to save a considerable number of classical works.

Raphael's School of Athens (right) as seen in the Stanza della Segnatura.
The Cardinal Virtues, also by Raphael, is on the left.

Raphael's rival, Michelangelo,
depicted as Heraclitus,
School of Athens (detail).

Cosimo de' Medici commissioned a young man named Ficino with the task of translating Plato and hence starting a Plato Academy. Ficino translated the Hymns of Orpheus and several other Greek works into Latin. In 1464, he be-gan translating Plato's dialogs. Cosimo was first able to read Plato's words from Ficino's translation while on his deathbed. The Platonic Academy (Euro-pe's first modern academy, was truly es-tablished through the efforts of the small group gathered around Cosimo's death-bed listening to Ficino's translations. It's hard to overemphasized the influence of the Plato in 15th-century Florence on the fine arts and their flowering during the golden age of the Tuscan city. The works of Sandro Botticelli such as his Adoration of the Magi (below), from 1475, are not generally intepreted as a rendering of the Platonic mythology in painting. However, the art of Domenico Ghirlandaio (bottom), who reached the summit of his artistic career in Florence, appears to be based on the philosophy of Plato. Yet the sublime tranquility of the figures rendered by both artists with their imperturbable calm mark them as "ideal" in the Platonic sense. A generation later, Raphael's The School of Athens was one of the direct results of the birth of Cosimo de' Medici's Plato Academy.

Adoration of the Magi, 1475, Sandro Botticelli
Zachariah in the Temple (detail), by Domenico
Ghirlandaio, depicts four humanist philosophers
under the patronage of the Medici.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Fox Art

Frogs for Breakfast--Red Fox, Bonnie Marris
Vulpes, Danny
In painting wildlife, there are several directions an artist may go. There is, of course, the natural, wild environment demanding a realistic rendering (above). On the other end of the scale is the symbolic, in which the artist strives only to capture the "essence" of the animal, usually with as few strokes as possible strategically placed to merely "sug-gest" the animal being depicted (below). Expressionistic renderings (right) have much the same qualities. All of this is especially true when that animal, though wild, is as familiar to viewers as a domestic canine lounging on the couch. It's easy to forget that such a beautiful dog-like creature as the red or silver fox is, in fact, a vicious predator, albeit one unlikely to be a threat to humans. A hungry fox, particularly one with up to a half-dozen pups to feed, can be as lethal to smaller animals as a hungry lion would be to us. Moreover, a fox will eat about anything from frogs to other canines, felines, or asinine rodents--with the exception of skunks, virtually anything smaller than it is.
Fiery Fox, Apofiss
In between these two extremes are any number of degrees of realism, expressionism, even abstraction (right). In large part these make up the greater part of the artist's "style." Add to that the differences in techniques and effects of var-ious painting media and you quickly realize all the variables which slice across the entire realm of modern-day painting, but seem es-pecially not-able with regard to wildlife art. The fox, being the highly intelligent (sly) yet exquis-itely grace-ful creature it is, makes it a highly desirable subject worthy of the painted image.

Mr. Fox, Yhodle
of Yhodesign

Eluding the Fox, Bruno Lilejfors
The fox is a very social creature which lives a very flexible life. They are found all over the world—in North America, Europe, Asia and North Africa—and utilize a wide range of terrains as home. As much as we tend to stereotype wild animals, the fox is one which defies the practice. Most foxes are around the same size as a mid-sized dog. Yet, since foxes are smaller mammals, they are also quite light. They can weigh as little as 1.5 lbs. and as much as 24 lbs. The fennec fox is the smallest living fox and doesn't get any bigger than the common housecat. It weighs in at about 2.2 to 3.3 lbs. Other species can grow to 34 inches from their head to their flanks. Their trademark bushy tails can add an additional 12 to 22 inches to their length.

Culpeo Fox gives us a lesson not so much in how to
draw foxes, but how to think of them.
Given the penchant artists and others possess for gravitating toward babies of virtually all animals (well, not so much flies, perhaps), it should be noted that unlike many wild mammals, even those which have been domesticated, raising fox pups is a family affair. Foxes are usually monogamous, having only one mate for life. Strangely, they also sometimes take on nannies to help with their pups. The nannies are female foxes that are not breeders. Sometimes, a male fox will have several female mates. Females that have the same male mate are known to live in the same den together--apparently the foxy ladies are not the jealous type. Divorce is rare and alimony is unheard of.

The Chase is on--Red Fox, Pat Pauley.
Foxes can run up to thirty miles per hour.
After mating, females make a nest of leaves inside their burrow upon which to birth their pups. This special room in the burrow, called a nesting chamber, has a fairly short period of preparation in that the pregnant female only carries her pups for about 53 days. It must also be rather roomy since the mother fox may have a litter of from two to seven pups. Add to that the fact that both the mother and father share the care of pups. Even older siblings (from the year before) will help take care of their younger brother and sisters by bringing them food.

Full House, Fox Family, Carl Brenders
In the wild, foxes live surprisingly short lives. They often survive only about three years. In captivity, they can live much longer, as many as ten to twelve years. Carl Brender's Full House, Fox Family (above), was obviously not drawn from life, nor even from a photo. Fox puppies are never that cooperative. And like most mothers, Mrs. Fox is overly protective of her brood. Despite an excellent sense of hearing (they can hear the low-frequency sounds of rodents digging underground), in the wild, fox cubs can easily fall prey to eagles, coyotes, gray wolves, bears and mountain lions.

Silent Grace, Tim Donovan. Like humans, foxes can identify each other's voices. Despite the title of the painting, the red fox has 28 different vocalizations consisting of various yips, growls, and howls.
For the benefit of artists, coloration of red foxes ranges from pale yellowish red to deep reddish brown on the upper parts and white, ashy or slate gray on the underside. The lower part of the legs is usually black and the tail usually has a white or black tip. Two color variants commonly occur. Cross foxes have reddish brown fur with a black stripe down the back and another across the shoulders. Silver foxes range from strong silver to nearly black and are the most prized by furriers.

Say What?, Isaiah Stevens,
the silver fox.

As with most "how to draw" charts this one renders a stereotypical, symmetrical front view, which is rather static for a hyperactive creature like a fox.
There are two typical errors artist sometimes make in drawing wild animals such as a fox. They center on posing and composition. If working from a photo taken in the wild, neither are likely to be a problem. But when working from memory or other sources, the temptation is to treat the fox like any other canine, even to the point of posing a long-nosed dog such as a collie then attempting to convert the dog to a fox. In fact, any head-and-shoulders pose takes on a posed, artificial quality removing it one step from its true nature as a wild animal. Marcia Baldwin's Red Fox Head Study (below), with its natural background coloration, three-quarter pose, and avoidance of eye-contact is about as good as it gets, allowing for the limitations of a close-up study.

Red Fox Head Study, 2009, Marcia Baldwin

Cute, captivating, yet natural.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Josh Harker--3D Printing

Crania Somothrace, Josh Harker

It takes one Burning Man, some steampunk, and one pioneering artist to set new limits of what it means to be one of the best 3D printing designers in the world. As an instigator of the #1 most funded sculpture project in the history of Kickstarter, Joshua Harker is the proud owner of this title that comes with the artistic ownership of an impressive high-tech skull sculpture located in the fields of the uber-cool festival, and, at the same time, an aggressive evidence of the possibilities of art in tech.
MIT Lotusbrain, Josh Harker
For artistic explorers, the time of 3D printing is ripe with potential. By accumulating more than a 20-year experience in the area, Josh Harker has been immersed in exploring the skills with the idea of letting the world know just how tangible 3D sculptures can be. His groundbreaking tech art is a way of showing how 3D printing work can be subtle and sublime as a technology, yet aggressive and complex in the message.
3-D printing artist, Josh Harker
Harker was born in 1970, an apt time for growing up in a post-hippy childhood, learning software and testing the mix of a formal art education with individual learning dedicated to materials engineering and 3D tech. His formal education includes the Kansas City Art Institute, the School of Representational Art in Chicago, the Evanston Art Center and Northwestern University, as well as several other prominent art schools in the country. As a lecturer, advisor and consultant, Josh Harker has been active for more than 25 years on a worldwide level, including teaching and speaking events in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Paris, London and Vancouver, BC. He authored more than 60 exhibitions and a dozen public art and large-scale installations, including the one in Black Rock City for the 2017 Burning Man.

3-D Transcendental Permutation or not, it's
something you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley.
The Tangle collection is a culmination of the public recognition for his efforts invested during a quarter of a century of testing the possibilities of 3D printers. He was learning software and fabricating filigree-fit materials that can be turned into the amazing world of 3D sculptures glowing in full glory only at a place such as the Burning Man--full of three-dimensional skulls, buffalo horns, desert winds and eagle wings.

Some of Harker's best works.
Joshua started his landmark skull sculpture work with a Kickstarter campaign, proving that he is not only a talented sculptor, but also a motivated entrepreneur. Having a good start in the tech industry in the nineties, where he was surrounded by innovative tech companies helped Josh make the decisive move toward experimenting with 3D printing. While he was enjoying the CEO position as late as 2008, the fascination with art took over and he turned to 3D printed sculptures. You can find more about Josh Harker final transitioning process from business to art in the video below:
Making the Unmakeable - The 3D Industrial Revolution: Joshua Harker at TedX Binghamton University

Digital sculpting enables complex dimensionality, one that can not be attained with traditional methods. Nowhere else can an artist work with dynamic 2D and 3D media, using image mapping and sculpture animation to bring the fourth dimension of time, as he can in 3D sculptures. And he is right--the journeying with static and kinetic sculptures that change over time offers unique stories to the captivated audience.

Mazzo di Fiori 16, Josh Harker
The experiential installations of this visionary sculptor go way over 3D printing basics and well into radical contemporary art, with a hint of abstract new-surrealism. The discernible filigree twists are combined with the experience collected with his beginnings in 2D automation and resemble (in his own words) the work of ”André Masson and practiced notably by Miró, Breton, Dalí, Arp, and Picasso.” The depth of his work is not only due to the lyrical aesthetics of the printed filigree and the homage to the great masters of painting, but also due to the one-of-a-kind polarity provided by the wireframe construction and the dynamics of time.
Serpente Anatomica, Josh Harker
Josh Harker is, without doubt, an artist of the future. There is nothing like a personal artist’s statement to tell the story of his revolutionary tech art. In Josh’s own words, this is his vision:
 “Bolstered by the advent of organic modeling software, 3D printing technologies and material engineering, my visions are now able to be realized sculpturally in archival materials. Never before have forms of this organic complexity been able to be created. This boon of technology is a revolutionary time for the arts and one which will be boldly marked in history. I am honored to be considered one the pioneers in the medium.”
Quixotic Divinity Headdress
 --3D printed polyamide, Josh Harker

Till Death Do Us Part,
Josh Harker

Monday, January 1, 2018

John Wagner and Maxine

Meet John Wagner's crabby Maxine.
Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. I'm as guilty as anyone of making and breaking such promises to myself. This year, my New Year's resolution is to write less and paint more.
That is, starting today, Monday, January 1, 2018, I'll be posting new items here only once a week on Mondays. For once, that's a resolution I think I can keep. I've made that decision with the advice and consent of a friend of my wife's, John Wagner's Maxine. She's my spouse's favorite cartoon character, probably because they have so much in common. They're even starting to look alike. Don't worry, it's safe to say that--my wife never reads what I write. She thinks I only write about art. Of course, today, momentous as it is, I continue writing about art, just not as often. Today we take a look at Hallmark Greetings' favorite artist, John Wagner--not to be confused with the British writer by the same name who write's (but does not draw) the adventures of Judge Dredd.
Meet John Wagner, Maxine's creator, whom she refers to as "Arty-Boy."
Maxine takes on any issue fearlessly, from New Year's resolutions, to work and driving. “How long will my New Year's, resolutions last? Got a stop-watch?” and, “I’m willing to put in longer hours at work, as long as they’re lunch hours,” and “Caffeine is for people who feel they aren’t irritable enough on their own,” are a few examples of John Wagner’s clever sense of humor through Maxine. Wag-ner created Maxine in 1986 as a new character line for Hallmark's Shoebox Greet-ings™ card division. He came up with a brazen older woman with a stooped back, a mop of curly gray hair, and most of all an abrasive personality little short of sandpaper. He patterned her after his mother, grandmother, and an unmarried aunt, who provide inspiration for his comic creation.

John Wagner has always been a cartoonist at heart, even as a young child. He remembers doodling as a preschooler. As he got older, Wagner was encouraged by his mother and grandmother to be artistic. His grandmother bought him art lessons when his skills developed beyond grade school art classes. Later, he attended the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, Massachusetts, then began work as part of a new Hallmark artists’ group following graduation. (The Vesper George School of Art closed in 1983.) Since her inception some thirty years ago, Maxine has become a bit of a celebrity. She (and John) have been the subject of media stories, including People, USA Today, Good Morning Amer-ica, The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg (Florida) Times, and Las Vegas Journal-Review, and they have been included in a major Associated Press story.

It was the birth of the humorous Shoebox Greetings (a tiny little division of Hallmark) in 1986 that added a new dimension to John's professional life. The Shoebox way of seeing the world unleashed the talents, of John Wagner, spurring the creation of Maxine. She took on an individuality of her own, taking sheer delight in making high-spirited, crabby remarks about almost everything. Though she was truly funny, the character had the staff at Hallmark™ concerned. A spokeswoman for the company noted that, when Maxine first came out, they were worried that older people might be offended. It turned out to be just the opposite; they loved her.

Some of Wagner's worldly wise wit and witticisms of Maxine (no last name).
Wagner points out that, "Cartoonists are sensitive to the insanities of the world while trying to humanize them. If Maxine can get a laugh out of someone who feels lonely or someone who is getting older and hates the thought of another birthday, or if she can make someone chuckle about stressful interpersonal relationships, then I'm happy. Putting a smile on someone's face is what it's all about." The character was so popular with card-buying customers that Maxine jumped from greeting cards into comics syndication in the 1990s through Universal Press Syndicate, a first in cartooning. It’s usually the other way around, the comic first and then the greeting cards. The strip, titled Crabby Road, was soon published in over 100 newspapers across the United States. It was withdrawn in 2002. Though no longer in syndication, fans can still chuckle at the character’s acidic wit, now featured in five books of cartoons.