What stood out most to artist Randall Rosenthal about the February 2009 Smithsonian magazine cover was that behind the side-by-side portraits of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were two different shades of black.
Paying attention to such subtle details is what's helped make Rosenthal, a trained painter, architect and carpenter, a success in both the craft and fine arts world.
From his Long Island home, Rosenthal creates wooden replicas of newspapers, baseball cards, and stacks of hundred dollar bills out of solid blocks of wood. He then hand-paints the sculptures to resemble, say, a post-election day Washington Post, or a legal pad complete with scribbles.
"From 6-feet away, they look dead-on real," Rosenthal says. "And when you get close you have to convince yourself that they're not."
After reading and enjoying the Smithsonian article about what unites Darwin and Lincoln, Rosenthal took out a block of solid wood and whittled it to look like the February 2009 issue stacked on top of two old magazines, mailing address and subtitles included.
It took Rosenthal two weeks to complete the sculpture--a week to carve and a week to paint. Getting Lincoln right was a challenge, though Darwin was easy, Rosenthal says, "all you need is the white beard."
He brought the work to the Smithsonian Craft Show held last weekend, where it was popular with attendees. It was not the first time Rosenthal flattered us. The long-time subscriber won "Best in Show" with a similar piece at the 2006 Craft Show.
And as the quality content of Smithsonian magazine expands to the Web, we at Around the Mall can't help but wonder whether Rosenthal will consider a woodblock replica of Smithsonian.com for 2010.