Cover Considered

We link to essays and articles, as well as profiles and book reviews from this magazine constantly, but never previously to a cover and only once, by reference, to cartoons. The cover of this week’s issue merits consideration:

Birgit Schössow’s “The Future Is Here”

The artist talks about incorporating environmental themes in her work, and the historical inspiration behind her cover for the Climate Issue.

Françoise Mouly,  Birgit Schössow

Hokusai’s “Under the Wave off Kanagawa,” circa 1830-32, is said to have inspired Debussy’s piece “La mer” (The Sea) and Rilke’s poem “Der Berg” (The Mountain).

In her new cover, the Germany-based artist Birgit Schössow drew inspiration from an artistic masterpiece. Starting in the late seventeen-hundreds, the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai created woodblock prints in a genre called ukiyo-e, part of an artistic movement known as “the floating world.” One of Hokusai’s best-known works is one of a series called “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” that shows a giant wave cresting in the foreground. The wave’s dramatic curve and stature, topped with a skim of frilly foam, are so eye-catching that you might miss the slender fishing boat it’s about to topple onto. That work shows humanity at the mercy of nature. That was before our carbon emissions started reshaping the atmosphere, putting nature at the mercy of humans. In the Climate Issue, New Yorker writers reëxamine that relationship in an era in which climate change is affecting today’s oceans and the stories we tell about the future.

Do you find that your environment affects your work?

I live near the Baltic Sea. The sea is part of life’s cycle. The large wave on the cover is menacing but, of course, there are also so many positive sides. In summer, I often sit for a long time in a big swimming ring, splash around, look at the sun-drenched landscape, and think up stories for my picture books. Or I build ideas in my mind for book covers or suggestions for a New Yorker cover. It’s likely that my Hokusai-inspired wave was dreamed up then. So of course my environment flows into my work. Again and again, I create illustrations and stories in which the sea plays a role.

Is climate change affecting you personally, and what changes are you making to address it?

I buy a lot of organic food. Since I live in the country, I need a small car, but I’ve kept my fourteen-year-old one. It doesn’t use much gas. I don’t fly around. And we have lots of trees on the property…

Read the whole discussion here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s