I've heard rumors over the years that people save copies of Chronogram. Not the way people once did with National Geographic, where you would walk into someone's house and see shelves stacked with distinctive yellow spines as if the family was waiting to be asked a vexing question about ethnology that would require knowledge of both the marriage practices of aboriginal tribes in Papua New Guinea and the conventions of 18th-century Swedish architecture. I'm talking about the covers of Chronogram—covers separated from the magazine and mounted as art. This may be an apocryphal tale, but I heard that one enthused fan wallpapered a room in their home (guess which one) with covers saved over a 10-year period.
If there's anything that comes close to the status of sacred cow here at Chronogram, it's the cover. Since 1999 we've chosen not to run cover lines on the front of the magazine, showcasing the artist's work unadorned. This, in turn, has transformed the cover into an iconic statement, framing the work of a local artist within the context of time. And these artists who have been gracious enough to allow their work to be featured on the cover, they—like all else that is dynamic and brilliant about the Hudson Valley—have helped us show what a wonderful place it is we're living in. If Chronogram is great, it is because their work has made it so.
What's your favorite cover? Perhaps it's Mark Seliger's portrait of Natalie Merchant as Frida Kahlo (1). Maybe you're more into finding beauty where it's least expected and Jeff Milstein's colorful junkyard shot (2) is more your bag. What about graphic minimalism? Julian Opie (3) turned a few heads. If you're into paintings, we've got you covered too—Denise Orzo's Tomfoolery (4) has equals parts painterly finesse and unalloyed menace. If you like breaks with convention, then you must have liked Vladimir Zimakov's illustration of giant flies falling past a tenement building (5); it was one of the few instances when we broke our cover template and ran (most of) the Chronogram logo down the side of the page.
(And while it's hard for me to choose a favorite from among the almost 200 artworks we've featured on the cover—as my mother says of her children, I love them all equally—my sentimental pick is Arlene Topple's Twisted Joy (6), a close-up of a young woman wearing a flapperish headpiece who seems completely without care. That we ran this image on the cover of the September 2001 strikes me as perfectly appropriate. I don't believe we would choose to run that photograph now, even nine years on from 9/11. The prevailing mood shies away from unabashed displays of happiness.)
Nevertheless [insert throat-clearing noise here], we're quite excited to be mounting an exhibition of 75 of our favorite covers (chosen by the magazine's staff) at the Art Society of Kingston this month. "The Covers Show: 1993-2011" runs from February 5 through 26. It will provide an interesting opportunity to see the images we've featured on the cover return to the fine art setting of a gallery, but also to examine the differing sensibilities of the magazine's four art directors—Amara Projansky (co-founder), Molly Rubin, Carla Rozman, and David Perry (current)—and how the magazine's aesthetic itself has evolved through 17 years of size changes, redesigns, and reimaginings.
To kick off the show, we'll be hosting a big to-do of an opening reception at the Art Society of Kingston, 97 Broadway, on Saturday, February 5 from 5 to 8pm. We've invited all the artists whose work we've been lucky enough to feature on the cover, and consider this an open invite to you as well, dear reader, to join us in a celebration of all things Chronogram. Lara Hope and The Champtones will be playing their brand of sassy rockabilly to keep things swinging, and we'll have plenty of refreshments, provided by Keegan Ales, Esotec, The Merchant Wine and Liquors, and Ship to Shore. For more details, visit us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/chronogram) and view the "The Covers Show" event. I hope to see you there.