Sunday, October 17, 2010

The death of not one, but two, visual icons

In a strange convergence, the deaths of two iconic contributors to global visual culture were announced yesterday.

Barbara Billingsley's performance as June Cleaver on the classic sitcom "Leave it to Beaver" has come to define, especially for those who didn't live through the era, the experience of women in 1950's America. She represented the postwar family ideal of the ever-sweet, ever-helpful, stylishly dressed, upwardly mobile stay-at-home mom who lived an all white suburban existence where she and her family were blissfully unaffected by the civil rights movement and other social issues of the times. Billingsley's obituary is here.

At the other end of the spectrum, is eccentric mathmatecian Bernoit Mandelbrot. In contrast to Billingsley, whose visual image became synonymous with her iconic character, few would recognize a photo of Mandelbrot. They would, however, recognize images based on the fractal geometry he described. And, of more direct relevance to this blog, the fractal notion of self similarity is at the core of Andrew Abbott's brilliant analysis of sociological theory -- The Chaos of Disciplines. Mandelbrot's obituary is here.

They will each live on in their own distinctive ways.

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