Tag Archives: art

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Have you visited Paula Kuitenbrouwer’s art blog? She creates delicate drawings; many of the subjects are birds and flowers. Her most recent work is of “still lifes with Killiney Beach stones, succulents, and blue ceramics.” I’ve been a fan for several years now. The other day I picked up my mail only to discover a special gift from Paula, sent from Ireland: a packet of her beautiful note cards. I was so excited I even showed my cats!

 If you visit Paula’s art shop you will see that she has quite a variety of artwork available, including from Buddhist to Pagan to Christian and Jewish holidays.  She even has a lesbian bird couple.

Thanks so much, Paula!

I’m moving forward on the memoir–I’m up to page 130 of 162 (or SO) in streamlining the change in structure. It feels strange to be enmeshed in the story again . . . .

I went to the doctor this week to get my toenails cut (you can stop reading if this “grosses you out”). I had a toe injured a few years ago when my son was dating the wrong person (he’s now engaged to the right person), and I was so discombobulated and clumsy that I banged my toe really really hard and permanently disfigured the toenail.  You should have heard me yell, by the way. Anyway, with my primary lymphedema (which makes me very susceptible to infections), my antibiotic allergies, and my post-tumor foot reconstruction, I figure that I really need the medical help with the old toe nails. Well, they kicked me out of Mayo. I can no longer get my toenails clipped there. And why? They have no room for me. I am considered “moderate risk,” and they only want “high risk.” Notice my tag of #patientabadonment. Well, darn them.

At least they had pretty flowers–a bit on the going out side, but still cheerful. I can probably take them as a metaphor.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

50 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Art and Music, Blogging, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Memoir, Writing

How Do You Like Your Art–Fixed or Unfixed?

For years, it didn’t occur to me that art could be other than how I knew it: something tangible that existed in a (hopefully) permanent form so that the art appreciator could go back again and again and drink at its well.

I learned that I could have a different reaction at different times, but that the art itself was the same–only I had changed. Or its context had changed.

At the Chicago Art Institute my favorite painting was Caillebotte’s “Paris, A Rainy Day.” Anytime I visited Chicago I could go to the gallery and see it again.

from Wikipedia

from Wikipedia

At six, I fell in love with Tchiakovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty Waltz,” probably because I knew it from Disney–having seen the movie before I turned four–and when my mother bought me the classical album, I even carried it to first grade class for show and tell. I fell asleep every night to the entire symphony for quite awhile.

There is a difference between the Caillebotte and the Tchiakovsky beyond art form. The Caillebotte is a fixed art form. Unchangeable. The Tchiakovsky is, as well, except that it can be varied upon because every time a new symphony performs it, something might change. I still consider this a fairly fixed form, though, because I am unlikely to notice the differences. It takes a lot of musical education to know.

The ultimate fixed form, to my mind, is the book. It’s unlikely to change and, unlike art, which draws part of its meaning from its setting in a gallery or on a street corner, a book is the same around the world. As a writer, I like the fixed nature of the art I work in. It suits my hoarding, controlling nature.

I was interested in theatre and dance from a very young age, even writing and directing little plays for the neighborhood kids and my classmates. I created puppet theatres with, wait for it, dolls, of course. But I never stopped to think about this form of art.  Is it fixed, especially after the play script is written, or is it unfixed because there are so many variables–actors, directors, costumes, sets, props, technical crew, and even errors change the art. The audience has the ability to change it.

When my daughter fell head first into the performing arts, I shapeshifted into one of those crazy dance moms running around with a video camera, always wanting to record her performances, even tech rehearsal, because I had grown up thinking art must be captured to exist. If my daughter danced and it wasn’t recorded, had she really created art?

Then I read and began to teach Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony about a half Laguna Pueblo / half white WWII veteran with PTSD. There is a very important scene where Tayo visits a Navajo medicine man for a cure. The ritual involves the creation of a white corn sand painting. The shocker for me was that the painting is erased. Yes, erased. The purpose is in the making, not in the hanging onto it. When you think about it, this is a much more spiritual response to art because it takes the need to control out of the picture. It is not goal or perfection oriented.

When I researched the sand paintings, I discovered that the notion of saving our art, rather than erasing or letting it change over time naturally (like the poems of balladeers), is culturally based. It even intrigued me when I finally read about elephants creating art (I’ve written about that before when I talked about the book When Elephants Weep) that they create and then erase. Of course, they do: humans, not elephants, are ridiculous hoarders. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Or does our culture demand it?

Maybe not. Look at performance art. Poetry slams. Improv shows. “The Million Line Poem” by Tupelo Press. Even New York theatre is reaching out to the audience to participate in many plays. Is this a fad that can’t survive? After all, the sand painting survived as art process because it was a ritualized part of the life of a people. Without this broader context for unfixed art, can these art forms survive?

Another reason we might be stuck with mainly fixed art: iPhones and other technology. Did you hear about an audience member setting up a video camera on a tripod to record Adele’s concert? She was pissed and chastised the person. But it’s a losing battle. No venue can police an entire audience–and what kind of relationship would that produce?

What about your tastes? Do you prefer your art fixed, like books and paintings, or unfixed, like ice sculptures? Or do you prefer something in between–a known script in a new production, a live concert of your favorite band’s best songs?

 

38 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Art and Music, Essay, Nonfiction, Writing, Writing Talk

Sorting and Collecting for Free

I’ve been adding social media to my life for a few years. Some types or platforms I find more useful or more appealing than others. While I have not gotten excited over Instagram, I do love Pinterest. I rarely think about the social aspect of Pinterest. I’m simply infatuated with the intriguing photos that lead to stories, more images, or recipes.

As a collector, I find it addictive to add to boards that categorize some of my favorite subjects, and I’m grateful to other Pinterest collectors for providing pins and for the ease of adding my own contributions.

Something about Pinterest reminds me of  sorting M&Ms by color before eating them. And collecting shells on the beach and sorting them by shape or color. Simple and therapeutic. Sort of puts me at the emotional age of a toddler.

M and Ms

Some of my boards are writing and reading related, as you might expect. Check out Writing, Scribbling, and Jotting for an idea of my boards. If you have a particular blog post (written by you or someone else) that you would like me to pin onto the board, type the link into the comments here, and I’ll check it out!

I have boards for that ever-present child in me (I linked to Dollhouses in case you want to see a sample):

  • Dolls, dolls, dolls
  • Dollhouses
  • Tiny beauties (miniatures)
  • Vintage toys
  • Kestner dolls
  • Children and dolls
  • Puppetry pins
  • Paper dolls
  • Doll art
  • Antique, Vintage and Old-fashioned Nurseries
  • Dionne quintuplets

I’ve got fairy tale boards called Red in the Woods and A World of Snow. The former is one of my best boards, mainly because so many artists have a version of Little Red Riding Hood! I don’t usually pin the highly sexualized ones, but there are a ton of those, too.

For my love of textiles I have Hankies and History, Lace and other fun textiles, and Buttons buttons. Really all these textiles and trimming are related to history.

For history I cultivate these boards:

The apron board is new and was inspired by blogger Sheryl Lazarus here and here.

I’ve got animal boards like Beasties (just because I love that Scottish word), Black Cats Rule, and Children and Animals.

Speaking of black cats, Kana is doing well! Here she is enjoying a little box. No box too small for this girl!

 

Art-themed boards include:

  • Art of the Scrapyard
  • Revision Art
  • Translucent beauties
  • Scrapbook and paper crafts (woefully in need of work–just like my own scrapbooking!)

Most of my recipe boards are gluten-free. I’ve even got a couple of secret boards. Subjects? Hah, that’s why they are secret.

Some people (read: hubby) might think I’m wasting my time on Pinterest, but it sure seems fun to me. And I only “play” over there for a couple of minutes almost every day.

What about you? Are you on Pinterest? Why or why not?

 

66 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Children's Literature, Dolls, Fairy Tales, Family history, Food & Drink, History, Lifestyle, Photographs, Reading, Research and prep for writing, Vintage American culture

Getting All Out of Art

When we visited New York in October, we saw this sculpture:

I didn’t really understand what it was, although there was a sign that said it was the Merchant Mariners’ Memorial at Battery Park. I thought it was amusing because of the bird perched on the guy’s head.

Tourists were in front of it, snapping photos, and I had a hard time getting an angle I wanted.

And there was a fence around it, too.

I was with hubby and daughter and we walked on through the park. After all, we could see the State of Liberty and Ellis Island. I don’t know much about Merchant Mariners other than:

  • my dad’s uncle was one during WWI (he died in his 30s from a car accident)
  • my dad’s friend when I was a kid was one (he was a very sweet guy but used to get drunk and in bar fights when he was on leave)
  • Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon (run to library if you haven’t read it), joined the Merchant Marines at age 17 and practiced medicine on the sailors

Daughter has been visiting (and has to leave today BIG SOBS). She’s packing right now. I just ran across these pix and wondered more about the sculpture. A lot of effort and money goes into these public art projects, so what is this one about?

Apparently, it’s supposed to look like THIS:

American Merchant Mariners' Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

These men were drowning after a Nazi U-boat attacked their ship. And look how powerful it is. Why is it so blocked now that you can’t get the effect of this drama? A beautiful work of art, but because the “setting” or “context” is no longer correct for it, much of the meaning and beauty is lost.

Like a diamond needs the right setting and a painting needs the right placement, does writing need the appropriate context, too? Are there ways that the full expression of a book, story, or poem is lost because the context has changed? Or is writing something that we can always access in just the way someone did 20 years before? or 200? What do you think?

 

 

35 Comments

Filed under #AmWriting, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing

My Mother-in-Law’s Legacy, Part II

Last week I wrote here about my mother-in-law’s painting in New York City in the 40s and 50s. If you haven’t read it, check it out to see samples of the murals of jazz celebrities Diana Dale painted for the Birdland club.

When my husband was in elementary school, his family moved from New York to Michigan.

Here is my MIL standing beside some of her art at the Art Fair at Bronson Park in Kalamazoo.

In Michigan, the subject of her paintings gradually changed. While she still occasionally painted portraits, she began to paint the architecture she found in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan. She also added the surname Castle to her professional name.

 

The above painting of the A.M. Todd factory was painted just before it was torn down.

In the first year I dated my husband, Diana sat in her “burnt orange” Opel, painting the bank building downtown and the old Monarch paper mill. She was hired to paint local restaurants, restaurant chain stores, and the downtown mall.

Here’s a little aside.  It has to do with my MIL, but it takes a moment to get to that part.  While hubby and I were living in our first house, but before we had kids, I was told I needed to get my impacted wisdom teeth removed. Since I thought the recommended oral surgeon was high on something when I went for a consult, I chose a different one.

Impaction means you need to be “put out” and have the teeth dug out. During the middle of the surgery, suddenly I became conscious and, without yet realizing what was going on, I opened my eyes. You should have seen the look on the doctor’s and assistant’s faces! They were horrified. After quick instructions from the doctor, the assistant ran out to get more medication. Soon I was blissfully out of it again.

But that was just the beginning of a terrible experience. Within a day my face swelled up like a very large jack o’lantern. The swelling didn’t go down for a month. I was on Demerol and began having hallucinations. I woke up  in terror, thinking I was being choked to death by all the long bead and chain necklaces hanging on a rack on my dresser. My two sweet dogs wouldn’t go near me; they were terrified. I soon discovered that men wouldn’t look at me. My neighbor, hubby’s friend, every man whose path I crossed: they glanced at me, looked away with a horrified expression, and then refused to look at me again.

The worst part was that I couldn’t eat at all–for weeks. My face was too swollen. So my great MIL came to my house every day. She stayed with me while hubby was at work, helping me with anything she could Best of all, she made homemade soups and then ran them through the blender so that I could swallow them.

She also doted on my dogs and for many years, she babysat them for a couple of hours a day while hubby and I were at work.  Needless to say, when we adopted our son, she was his first babysitter!

35 Comments

Filed under Art and Music, Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Photographs, Research and prep for writing

What About the Little Things in Life? Part 2

On Monday I wrote about an essay in Telling True Stories by Walt Harrington called “Details Matter.”  It reminded me how important are the small things in life.  But, as Harrington shows,  it’s our interpretations of them (in our writing) which are even more important.

Most writers realize that details are important.  In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg writes, “This is what it is to be a writer: to be the carrier of details that make up history.”  Writers obsessively scribble notes to themselves about the shade of a flower petal, the height of a tree, and the sound of a motor.  I know I do this.  I want to remember it all. It becomes part of my history.

But it’s not enough that we add these details to our books.  It’s not enough to give our characters little details which differentiate them.  We need to know the emotional story of their belongings, their accoutrements, their props.

My friend Wilma, aka Jeannieunbottled, asked how we give the emotional story to these objects.  This is what I wrote to her:

I think it’s the context in which you present the details that show emotional meaning. If a man carries a bouquet of flowers next to him on the car seat, we don’t know anything until we know what he does with them or how he relates to them. He might be giving them to someone or he might be dumping them in the dumpster behind the restaurant.

Did I really just do the tacky thing of quoting myself?  Hah.  Well, it’s because I’m too lazy to re-write the thought.

I kind of like thinking of it in a magnified way to see it more clearly.  For the following photo, if I describe the luminosity of the white pearls and how they are speckled by light and shadow, but forget to mention where the pearls are hanging, you might automatically think of an entirely different emotional context.

Art by Janet Orr

12 Comments

Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory