Monday, April 17, 2017

...And Many Happy Returns!

Not an elephant.
Hey-ho, my baby girl turned two years old last Saturday! {one month ago...and this is only getting posted, with thanks to PBS and my morning break called "Sesame Street."} Grand visions from months prior of a party -- appealing to both children and adults, possessing just enough DIY touches to give it a special feel, without sucking up too much time -- those wafty visions fluttered away, while everyday life trundled along. Perhaps a party for 3 year old? Or, maybe-just-maybe we'll host gatherings in the coming year? I would like to believe this would be so. Our track record sets a low bar, but at least we are a couple who goes *out* to do things. We confess we adore our leather sofa, but we aren't simply creating sofa craters.

In the week and half leading up to the birthday, I felt crummy and crummier. I downshifted plans to: An elephant crown! Special birthday sour cream cookies with jam. And balloons! And family skyping and visits. That'll do, right? It did, it most certainly did. Little girl was fascinated with the cookie rolling process, loved all the treats and attention.

My health rallied, I bustled around like most fools who have come off a fever and now think they're superstars; which resulted in a lost voice by the evening and a confused daughter. Why was I trying to whisper songs? "No. No, LOUDER, like THIS"  Hmm, no, afraid not.
Also not an elephant. Repurposed block prints.
Making short work of the paper measuring tape
"Oooo, My TWOWN," she says. We don't do hard C's  yet.

In her party dress, barrettes intact

"Special Birthday Cookies" vs. dried apple rings, which she thinks are normal cookies
{Not my fault! She came to this conclusion on her own: "Tooties! My abbel tooties!" ...yeah, sure. Have at it! Trying to delay her transformation into a sugar fiend.}

tugging on Grandpa's ear
Crown denuded of flowers, crash imminent
Crash accomplished, pajamas await

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fun Field Trips: the Hospital Edition

The world premiere exhibit of my Cakeasaurus Picture Book Project happened this week, in my happy hometown of Ann Arbor, MI. Sound the trumpets, unroll the red carpets, get ready to sip wine and munch sweet, flaky niblets! Alas, no opening reception, since it's at a hospital, but Rick delayed his cross-country travel by a day to see it, and we had an unlikely restaurant + hospital date. Not the first such date, I recall now -- in general, I do not recommend it.

This, however, was quite satisfying. The photos I took don't really capture the scope of "Cakeasaurus: Scenes from a Picture Book." It's one thing to have half-done sketches taped up on the dining room wall to spur one on; to have prints and sketches occupying a basement wall in order to work through a narrative -- but how different to see the story laid out, in public, across ten display panels, all properly framed, along with extra frippery and signage nonsense! 

Five display panels in back, cleverly paired with Janet Kelman's glass art
The cruelty of non-edible confections

Digital prints and original block prints share the wall
At the penultimate panel, but is it this story's end?
"One Fateful Night" print (L) vs. double page picture book layout
Possibly dingy at night, but wonderfully bright during the day
The gallery, one of several throughout the University of Michigan Hospital, was deserted in the evening. Metal gates were locked to clinic floors. Janitors wheeled carts of cleaning supplies around the perimeter. Medical staff coming off shift bade each other goodbye; an older couple wandered past from the nearest parking structure. The quiet suited our visit.

Special three panel version of "Cakeasaurus Left Happy for Another Day"...
...Which led to failed attempts at recreating Cakeasaurus' triumphal strut. I may have been on a heavy prescription at the time. Still, a fairly accurate depiction of how it felt to see the exhibit up!

Here's hoping that adults and children who must frequent the hospital for any extended time will chance upon the exhibit, dive into the story, and be distracted from the heavier side of life.

We are fortunate to have top-notch hospitals in our community -- and that more hospitals have programs like "Gifts of Art," which connect art with healing and vitality. Check out their Facebook page and  current gallery schedule here.    

Monday, March 13, 2017

Which Would You Rather?

At a certain point, you don't write, because you *haven't* written and beyond the normal level of chaos, self-flagellation -- though quiet -- exerts its own weight.

So first thing's first: what's happened since the Fall? Well! The biggest, most exciting piece is our move to New Orleans. I never did make my own Calas cakes after that first jaunt so many years ago. Memories of glorious expanses of wrought iron, great buskers, and Django Reinhardt-esque performances at the Spotted Cat surfaced periodically in my mind. So Javier and I entered into discussions and you know how Rilke said that once you commit your will to making a thing happen, somehow the stars align? Well, the stars aligned. So long story short, now it's Javier, the toddler & myself, keeping company with the likes of Anne Rice, dusting off Nic Cage's pyramid, and collecting little plastic babies for the next round of King Cakes. Points to us in the game of Life!  We will happily accept all rejoicing, advice, undercurrents of envy...

Or....hmmm. What WAS true was that by October of 2016, training for the Iditarod was already entering high gear. My mushing skills were woefully underdeveloped, much to the confusion of my canine team. By the end of the first week, I was nursing bruised ribs and a deflated ego. I couldn't help remembering that one day in college when I convinced myself I would spend a summer on an Alaskan fishing boat, banking money and hardening myself to life in one fell swoop. Regardless of the animals involved, Alaska did not seem to be such a good plan for me...

And so here we are in Michigan, a few days out from a massive power outage (the more fortunate among us, that is). Snow has been falling since early morning and I have been checking out heavier decorative papers in the basement that could be used for a birthday crown for the little one's second birthday.

I go back and forth on the amount of time to invest in a crown, as she was delighted by the first one, before ripping it up and crying over it in less than 15 minutes. "Tape it! Tape it!" she demanded. "Bwwwoken," she moaned. She spends a lot of time destroying things and then getting upset about it. She has grown supremely confident in my limited fixing skills. A relative newcomer to language, but she weighs in, like everyone else. "Tape it!" she tells me, when the dining room light won't turn on. "Not worrrrrking," she observes from her car seat, as I curse my non-starting Subaru. She sighs.

The will to be an active agent, and the confidence to forge ahead in spite of reality, is definitely one of the most endearing aspects of toddler-hood. Any time a kitchen timer buzzes, she shouts, "I GET IT!!!!" before she barrels ahead, from wherever she was. No matter that the timer is never remotely in her reach. No matter that I get it every single time. There will be a time, some indiscernible time, when she will take charge of the timer. And know what needs to be done afterward. In the meantime, here's to the agency of the almost 2 year old.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

Art at home ain't enough: Ignoring the Inner Curmudgeon

Inti with mural, Wynwood Walls
I already visit museums when I can, but am lax about attending other arts-related functions.  Last week was a good reminder: attend events! Go to lectures, even if your inner curmudgeon pfffs at the description: "The writeup is probably better than the talk itself. And that'll be great: disappointment AND misused babysitter time! Irritating in advance." 

On Thursday I checked out a Penny Stamps lecture on Wynwood Walls, one of the largest, devoted sections of murals in the country, occupying what was once yet another expanse of industrial wasteland. Ahhhhmaaaazing! The narrative of its creation, and the thriving community it gave birth to, was an easy feel-good to myself as an audience member (woohoo, creativity saves the day!), but the message extended far deeper, as in: public art can change you. It can change your life and the way you view the world. It's not a brand new message by any means, nor did it show pie charts with crunched up data, but the delivery was strong.*

Plus we got to see slides of the work of globally renowned street artists, listen to Tristan Eaton extol the virtues of spray paint (the most malleable and democratic of art supplies!; and responsible for his artistic success), hear a jet-lagged French artist Kashink explain her decisions to: depict only male figures (we are too trained to "perfect" female figures, and she neither wanted to rebel from or add to that tradition), to ink on a thin mustache daily for the past several years, and why funtivism wins out over activism.  Such a blast to be transported outside your life for a couple hours. And like all the best events,****

a Tristan Eaton/Kamea Hadar collaboration, from the former's website 

(NOT from Wynwood Walls)

Wynwood Walls -- "Street Art Heaven"
"Florida on my mind #Orlando" -- @Kashink1 on Instagram

detail of one of eL Seed's "calligraffiti" murals...
"Perception," 2016, photo courtesy Ahram online 

...which actually spans 50 buildings across a slum in Cairo
Fascinating coverage from New York Times, The Telegraph, or in the own artist's words (including Ted talk); Pilerats underscored the mural would have been a jail worthy offence if  the prohibitive Egyption government had detected the mural's creation.
*Though Widewalls cites studies linking increased property values with more public sculpture/murals/etc.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

...Starts with a "B"

    Something's Up.


What's up?

 I'll show you.

Or Bahwlllllllll, to be more precise. Dogs know they're magic. Babies know they're magic. My 18 m.o. daughter gathers them from room to room, and gives them rides in her cart. She spots them everywhere. Linoleum print to a baby's obsession. In black, 20 copies. Brown and blue editions still drying in the basement.

Color Variations

Rich brown won out over pale shade
Happy Saturday, All.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Your Birthday was Gross; Separately, Puppy Prints!

Vinology lowered their lights drastically at 6 PM on the nose, and the music developed a heavier, echoey beat, but on the booth side of the restaurant, the two filled tables are doing nothing to add to the hip, safely dangerous feel. There's me, who's drinking but wearing my knotted up scarf against the chill; and the family next door celebrating one of their two young adolescent's birthdays. The kids are mostly game, though McDonald's was mentioned wistfully. The mother started with brief  "how you were born"/ wonder of life anecdotes. The kids are mostly grossed out and no less confused for her forthright manner.

The girl, accusingly: "The baby PEED inside of you," as in: you allowed this to happen and you are, by extension, gross.

Mom: Well, no, not exactly, when you are pregnant, you are feeding the baby inside of you, and there is hardly any waste, because the baby is using everything to grow, to develop~~

Girl: ****

Boy, helpfully, to girl: You peed from your mouth.

Girl: No.

So, on that note, I'm out of the house, and Javier's putting Oyo* to bed this evening. Given her current habits, she will likely sing over him tunelessly while he reads to her, attempt to climb over him to the reverse side of the glider chair, as if she would flip into some grand new world; and then whisper-coo "Daddy Daddy Daddy" at him from the crib in an obvious attempt at re-engagement. But, uh, I'm away from that. I guess this is what happens, right?

Summer has blurred into Fall, with plenty of gorgeous, refreshing days. The Moppet is tossing out various new word surprises every couple of days, though some are only discernible to Javier and myself. Yes! has been added to Yeah, 'ouse has appeared for buildings, a few key people have their own lovingly-but-consistently garbled names (Sadie reads as Adezede in her brain somehow); she is still on a mission to grab as many balls as she can.

I am down to three blocks left to carve for the Cakeasaurus picture book, woohoo!

Separately, I found time to do my first pet commission (linocut):

I'm pretty excited about this new design, both its finished state, as well as the potential it represents for future work (view Etsy listing here). I was dismayed to encounter a bit of printing difficulty on a mechanical level, though I have leads on some different routes to take for other larger soft linoleum cuts. Hmmm and hmm. It had been so long since I tried to print anything other than my usual shina plywood on the wheeled press, that it didn't even occur to me that something significantly softer would need such different attention. SO very much easier to carve, but much harder on my hands and wrists to print. Minor aging complaints...

*the one year old, whose name expires in March 2017. never use ages for nicknames! Should be obvious, yet this is the third time I have done it (prior instance: two adorable sisters, separated by one year in age)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Goodbye Summer, Hello BookFest.

Fall is upon us and we are re-entering the school groove. There is nothing of school about me, specifically, but as the partner of a youth theater director, whose schedule will now exponentially ramp up, late nights proliferate, and Saturdays be claimed by football, I feel it settling in about me with a certain sense of...dread? Doom? Anxiety? Surely not, we are: up! for the challenge, gazing lovingly and expectantly upon our growth opportunities! Perhaps the caffeine just needs to kick in.

Anyhow, Javier needs to leave earlier than normal today and is getting his shower out of the way so he can give me a little time to myself before driving into Detroit. Estimated shower times are difficult to discern for someone like Javier, as they may include him taking a shower and they may include his sudden reappearance to announce things like, "BREAKING NEWS: HUMA ABEDIN IS SEPARATING FROM HER HUSBAND" before he closes the bathroom door once more. And as you know, something is always breaking, whether news, or furniture; spirits or tree branches. Dizzying existence washes over us. But this morning, nothing especially noteworthy, the shower pressure sounds impressive from one room away; and I am listening to the Moppet throw progressively larger and heavier toys outside her play area in a ploy for our return.

On Saturday evening, we returned from a week-long road trip to visit my parents and sister in Pennsylvania -- a long overdue collective reunion with Oyo. It was heartening to see them all get to know each other again, though we have skyped sporadically (dodgy internet connections and hyper-mobile toddler permitting). Oyo excitedly christened my Dad "Dada!" but refrained from settling on a name for my Mom. At meals, Mom would intone, "I'm Grandmom. Grannnnd....Mommmmm. Who am I? Grandmom!...Oh, it's okay, it doesn't matter...Grandmom!"  Oyo continued to refer to my sister generically, but also continued to be snuggly and trusting with her, so all was well. The visit was short and the trek was long; and when the baby slept she slept very well, and when she would not, it was horrid. Or something to that effect.

*** {Minutes, hours, most of a day}*** Well, if this was gaining any steam earlier, I'm not feeling it now. This is my problem with the idea of getting all kinds of things done after the baby goes to bed, though I know this is when a lot of productive parents must take care of things. My will seems to dissipate once I turn on the fake crickets of the sound machine each evening. I just haven't ironed this out for myself yet.  

ANYhow, what I most definitely AM building toward is BookFest on September 11th, in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown. I'm really geeked to be a first time exhibitor in this robust event -- excited to be among our local booksellers, writers, printmakers and book artists (including John Gutoskey and his new A2 Print Studio, Ephemeral Books, Fineburg Art Studio, Sloe Gin Fizz).

I'll have not-one-but-two! tables, of woodblock prints from my picture book, an expanded line of linocut cards, and - brand spanking new! as of today! - two tote bag options: "All Good Cakes are Born from Books" (cream tote) and "Lost Cake Anxiety" (black tote). Both feature Cakeasaurus on the back, scrutinizing a recipe.
front and back of "Lost Cake Anxiety"
The black one is really soft, and hangs nicely against the body; the "natural" one is more structured, with a wide gusset sewn in -- both are surprisingly roomy.
Same "Cakeasaurus Prints" image, entirely different feel
"All Good Cakes..." tote
nice side action!
For the original woodcuts the totes are based on click here (Lost Cake Anxiety) and here.