Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chinese printmakers leave me ponderous.

"Why'd you think I'd put out your fire? 
Why'd you think I'd put out your fire? 
Don't you know I breathe in fire? 
Breathe out fire?" -- Tuneyards

I'm relatively chill this evening. Come on in, feel free to chillax. I'd offer you a G&T, but the fridge shelves are barren of tonic. Perhaps a cuppa? Too lazy to make proper chai, even though it would smell so nice, but I could certainly heat up the wonderfully speckled orange tea kettle. The cheap boombox has swung away from its heavy rotation of  Soundgarden and Pearl Jam and back to the Tuneyards end of things. The Regret woman is drying on a wooden panel in the basement, under her starry sky.

The gnatty things in the kitchen are still flitting about, despite a ruthless paring down of three different cupboard areas. I discovered some ridiculous things like unopened black bean garlic sauce from 2004, two jars of hoisin sauce that were at their prime before 2005. I have 3 POUNDS of cornstarch. Wanna thicken a sauce? I'm your girl.

So, as you can see, a quiet night. Fall is settling in.

Am contemplating a week's vacation, starting tomorrow late afternoon. It's been a long time since I have taken/given myself this much time. Respite. Would have loved to taken it while it was hot, so I could spend the days basking out in a park, eating ginger scones and melty chocolate, reading and falling asleep on a blanket. But now maybe I'll divide it between artwork in the basement, running in pleasantly chilled air, going on little day trips. I simultaneously want to fill it with tons of plans/outings and to leave it this blank sheet of possibility. So luxurious! Like window shopping, but with time. The pleasure of the holding, without possession.

On a similar note, Maestra & I checked out the UMMA Chinese woodblock print exhibit today. It was her third visit and she idly mused over which pieces she would own, if she could. Simply put, the exhibit is mind-blowing. If you haven't bothered because you thought: "quaint" or "staid," clear off some calendar time before the 23rd. The scale alone of most of the pieces is impressive, but the artistry of the line work, and the variety of line, especially when considering every single line--out of thousands--reflects a cut or a gouge into wood...whew. I can't really say anything adequate.

Tried to locate a good image of Builders by Dai Daguan, though this is all I could come up with. You can see snippets of it behind him. The powerful torso and amazing hands of a workman yielding a shovel. A half-erected skyscraper arcs up behind him, but the energy in the lines is reminiscent of the sea. The woodblock is easily 7'x 4 1/2', if not larger.

If you visit the link at the beginning of the paragraph, you can see one of two reduction cuts by Lin Yanpeng. Her landscapes are rich, lush, quiet. You can almost feel how thick the vegetation is, hear the rustling of tall grasses. I'm not being precious.

Two stunning self-portraits are also on offer from Wen Mujiang -- if you're not in the area, visit the link for a cool slide show.

I usually jot things down in art museums, but I kinda fell down on this score. The only quote I snagged was from Fang Limin:

"In the end, human beings are at their most direct and most honest without clothes. That's why I like to draw naked bodies. That is why in my prints people are tangled and piled on top of one another. Even people who look not at all connected are tied together by so many little strings. It doesn't matter how you struggle."  

The sentiment has been expressed myriad times, but it still holds. I like the string imagery, followed by the more fatalistic or ominous sentiment, though obviously the connections are a mixture of freedom and limitation, like anything else...


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rust Belt Market Day. Novices and Seers.

After a brutal workweek (not dwelling), I returned to sell at the Rust Belt Market yesterday. Using the "sell" term loosely, as it wound up being one of a couple times I did not even break even. I think I have signed up again as much for the experience, exposure and connections as for the sales.

For exchanges like this: a young couple came through toward the end of the (long) day. "Ohhh, here are the prints we liked," the girl-woman said to her guy. I balanced between being attentive and present and unobtrusive. The three of us start talking. They have both just begun doing lino cuts. They have discovered they are not very good. They are chagrined to find they can't draw. "We thought we would be good." They realize the humor in this. They are maybe freshly out of college, clear-skinned and sparkly. Well, I told them. I can't draw. I am confronted with that every time I make a new design. In your head it's so much better. "YES!!!" says the woman. She's demonstrative, as we women often are. I tell them to keep going. I have been doing this for 12 years. Their eyes rake over the table. They nod. Okay, that makes sense. They'll let me know how it goes. They won't. But how refreshing to be on the other end of this exchange. I am so used to seeking out my mentors, looking for encouragement or reassurance, not this other way around. Nice.

And for exchanges like this: This happened throughout the day. Sometimes I wearied of it. I never knew when it would happen next, but it happened somewhat frequently, sprinkled across the hours. Remarks mysteriously uttered as if they were part of a conversation that only I knew had interruptions to it. My table neighbor was an older woman who I have spoken with in passing a few times. She once bought a small woodblock card and sent it to her mother in Australia, who loved it. On that occasion she deliberated over it, came back maybe three times, before settling on a small bird card (the bird cards are also my Mom's favorites). She has a quiet voice, with Aussie highlights to it, casually upswept blond hair and flawlessly done--not overdone -- makeup. She is given to pronouncements.

"Oh, your Mother is proud of you." She has never talked to my Mom and we were not speaking about her.  Well, yes she is. She has been saying that lately. Ahh, yes, she nods.

"You moved here for school."
  --- No.

"Your sister is married, with two kids."
-- No.

"Hmm. That's what I saw." I fall short of shrugging.

"But she's younger."
-- No, five years older.

"Your Mom wants grandkids."
-- Well, yeah. There's less chance of that happening at this point... [This is not my favorite line of questioning-through-statement. Seriously? Can we stop this? I return to my letter, where I am ranting about how someone else is vexing the hell out of me. This endeavor is more fun: it has the prospect of release anyway, plus a sympathetic ear. I think of the letter recipient, who is already fully aware of my family's dynamics, will most likely lambast the vexer and will not tell me who I am, because she already knows, very well. And her replies will be witty and lyrical.]  

Midway through the day, she comes across new information.

"You are going on a big trip next year, I feel it very strongly. That is something for you to be excited about."

I choose to let this soak in, because I would like it to be true. I tell her I just got my first passport earlier this year, but haven't used it yet. For the rest of the day, she pops over with trip-focused snippets.

"So where do you think you'll be going?"

--Europe probably. Maybe Sweden, I have friends in Sweden. I have been meaning to visit them.

"Oh, yes and maybe you'll meet someone there. Maybe you'll move there."

-- Well, I don't know.

"You'll save money if you can ship your bags over in advance. Because you have quite enough time before your trip."

--Right, I say. Yes, true.

"You should go home tonight and start looking at flights."

-- Mmm, you know, I just can't plan that right now.

"But at least look. Then you'll know how much money you need to figure on"

"Oh, you're going to have SO MUCH fun. This will be great for you."

I try teasing her: You could move it up to this year if you want.

She peers at me. "No, there's too much, you've got too much right now. It's next year: March or April.You're going to have so much fun."

Later on, she is examining my signature on a few hanging rogue prints.

"Oh, you're a bit shy! I didn't realize that. But you are, aren't you?" She says this affectionately. I feel caught out.

--Sometimes. I mean, I CAN be really outgoing. But other times, it seems like too much. I'm kind of a mix.

She looks at another. "Oh, but here's a nicer signature, you're stronger over here." I feel relieved, because the latter is closer to my usual signature. "Yes, you were more settled into it there. You must have been tired when you signed the other one."

Maybe so. On that note, I need to throw on some studio clothes and head over to Maestra's printing press. I have nailed down most of the designs for the hospital show and want to include a Cakeasaurus print that I have yet to edition. Fingers crossed for a productive printmaking day. I see an ink-filled afternoon. I feel it very strongly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Worse with chocolate almond milk/Better with stars

It's a good thing you're not near me. On my way to the computer, I managed to simultaneously toss my chocolate almond milk upward in its cup so that it splashed down in a sickening coating over my ipod (horror!), muddied my ice water and bubbled up the surface of my opened journal; with my right hand, I tossed my innocent little panasonic across the room, where thank god it landed without breaking on the kitchen floor. I am ambidextrously clumsy. Almost athletically clumsy. Oh, that's right, I *AM* athletically clumsy!--First time running on a wooded path, I tripped going downhill, shot the (already moribund) discman like a discus into the underbrush and then skidded downward on knees and hand palms. Ahh, the embedded gravel/wood chips, oh the silly little streams of blood, clouds of happy mosquitoes and the weeks of slowly healing scabs. Riiiight. Though that was several years ago. So, anyway, impressive that I manage to not get stains on everything.

Where was I? Oh, there was lots of spray paint in my unventilated basement. This could certainly be linked with general discombobulation (don't you LOVE that word?? LOVE it.)
 Do you remember the Reclaimed series? I added stars to the one with the Regret woman.

I may have gone a little overboard with the stars. but she definitely needed some lightness. The color is darker, deeper than the photos would have you believe. I have since affixed two other designs in the series to wooden panels. The bubbling came back, which is aggravating, but will perhaps bother myself more than anyone else. In any case, I'm pleased with what came out of this exercise. But as printmaker, I'm not used to these one-offs -- I think of the satisfaction of selling them, but I would also be sorry to see them go. Not to be precious or anything.

Oh dear, it's getting late. Many other things I'd like to make note of, they'll have to wait another day. Have a good week, Everyone.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pop Quiz, People. One-Two, Sharpen your Pencils.

There's something rotten in:

B.) the economy
C.)my life, generally
D.) something beyond the produce drawer, as those itsy gnats won't go away
E.) all of the above

On my walk I noticed:

A.) a chipmunk, bounding like a squirrel or wee deer
B.) acorns the shade of Granny Smith apples
C.) gnomes of larger stature, across from the house of 20 gnomes (better nutrition)
D.) rankness wafting from the center line
    --> there's something rotten in...
E.) white lilies in the neighbor's yard, that smell like my Mom's
F.) you know. Too much, too little.

I am so tired I could:

A.) cry
B.) impulsively buy a children's book on nifty words with fabulous graphics, from the grocery store, to console myself
C.)  impulsively buy a children's book on Wayne Thiebaud, from the grocery store, to console myself
D.) frown and shake my head at the phone as it rings, thinking: Bad idea.
E.) punch someone, ineffectually. Kicking better? Or flogging.
F.) Woohoo!....meh.

If I were currently a food, I'd be:

A.)bitter chocolate
B.) a marzipan pig, forgotten behind the sofa (shout out!)
C.) a Kraft cheese single, in a tidy cellophane wrapper
D.) that large, unidentifiable packet of tinfoil in the freezer. Does not bode well.
E.) Mustu apple, with a few softish spots
F.) oh noooooo, casserole

Pencils down.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Trees to Dean: We dapple the sunlight, in humble thanks.

When I finally woke up yesterday morning, I woke up angry. The compatriot was calling about going to one of the best book sales you'll run across, which I had also been anticipating. If only I hadn't STILL been sleeping at 11, NOT having done any of the tasks I had envisioned and soon it would be the end of the weekend and I had no time. Words weren't coming well; I was still swimming upward.

"You NEED COFFEE. Look at it this way: you're 6 hours overdue. It's going to take time to switch to this new schedule. Coffee."

Now this actually computed. I lumbered awake, crossly knocking myself against an odd door frame. Scowling at the radio but laughing at Paula Poundstone. I eventually called her back to inform her that no, I really had no time, I *knew* there were things I had to take care of and there were simply too many things going on this weekend. I hung up feeling sensible but dour.  I hunched before the monitor, feeling punished; then called her back within two minutes to come pick me up when she was ready. She agreed, laughing at me.

It was, of course, a fabulous outing, only curtailed by my standing robot store appointment. We encouraged each other to elbow old women out of the way and took our maps of the book sale layout. She made a beeline for cookbooks and I for fiction hardcovers (Hardcovers! Yay!). Two guys to my right had a red wagon of books and were scanning bar codes with beeping machines (like the ones we used to use for inventory nights at Borders, only smaller). The one grudgingly told me they were gathering books to resell. I felt hostile toward them -- narrowing the choices for us booklovers. Hmmmph. "Oh no," said Comp, "They're always here. Same with estate sales. Mostly resellers, snapping things up."

Well. Way of the world, I guess. Way of the world, indeed. I was happy to get  my book bargain-hunting need attended to, since I haven't been able to bring myself to enter the moribund Borders. I worked at the Ann Arbor location for 4 years and all their shared fault in their downfall aside, I worked there almost fresh from college, during (my second stage of) formative years. Depressing, sad. So a used book sale held the triumph, without the sense of picking over a carcass...

 Behold, my haul:

I have already read Gilead, Year of Magical Thinking and the David Sedaris book, but thought they would be nice to have. Gilead, with its wisdom and gorgeous prose, will be lovely to revisit.

The rest of the day passed in a whirl and would take too long to recount in a good fashion. The robot store, the opening for "Actual Size" at Whitdel Arts in Detroit, margaritas at the Side Track and finished off by dancing at Plastic Passion, in the red room of Necto. Bed at 3 AM, which is rather rare for me at this point. This afternoon there was a neighborhood grilling get-together with new couples introduced, multiple desserts consumed, including freshly churned ice cream (the chocolate was SPLENDID), and young children repeatedly gifting the adults with leaves ("Wow, that makes five, THANK you."). I feel like I could use another weekend day to address more necessary tasks, but such is life.  

At the risk of sounding grossly Hallmarky, while it can be overwhelmingly busy, often the things I most love are little encapsulated moments. Often these involve strangers (possibly due to the heightened feeling of randomness?)

Some good recent sightings:
  • I am at a chichi grocery store. A tiny blond boy wearing a jacket adorned with numerous badges and POLICE written in white block letters across his shoulders is volleying questions at his Mom. Mom, meanwhile is trying to disconnect the concepts of age from height. She looks at him, "For example, *I* am *FIVE* years OLDER than Daddy." He frowns at her dubiously. He will not be easily won over.
  • Art student curled around a small metal cafe table. She is dressed in black, as rebels also like to be identifiable. The white lettering on the back of her t-shirt reads "SHUT UP AND DRAW."
  • Sign at veteran's park: "Trees made possible by the Elizabeth Dean Fund." I know what they mean, obviously, but the wording also strikes me as odd. Kittens made possible by Susan Whittaker. Mosquitoes made possible by Joe Schemmler, that jackass.
  • The other night I was making gujarati green paste and flouncing happily around the kitchen; through the screen door came a cyclical grating sound. Too soft to be a muffler, too loud (and too early) to be rake tines on cement. I glanced out and saw a tween girl, riding her ten-speed. Tied to her back seat was a winter sled, full of stuffed animals and dolls. Her bike tires traced lazy arcs on the pavement, while the sled skittered in her wake. Soon she's going to be too old and too cool to acknowledge any such thing took place.
  • After weird bruises kept appearing on my legs, I decided to start a short, brisk walk every morning after initial reports were delivered, to wake my body up a bit more. The nice thing is this brings me back to noticing tiny neighborhood bits. Current favorite landmark: the house of twenty gnomes. If this is the outside decoration, what can we hope for from the interior?
  • Also on walk: a little boy, maybe 8 years old, is about to step onto the sidewalk on his way to school (a few blacks away). When he sees me walking in his direction, he retreats, standing just inside his parents' garage. As I pass by, he keeps watch, frowning at me. Points for the well-trained child!
And points to you, in the coming week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Next Up: Wood Panel Addiction.

A better photo of the piece I finished yesterday. The color is a bit more green-y than this, but it still conveys it better than the last shots in yesterday's post. I poked the bubbles with a needled yesterday evening -- and this morning, everything had settled nicely, barring one edge. More wooden panels are on order.

That is all. Back to re-watching Jude Law and Scarlett Johansson in Matchpoint.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Reclaimed, part two!

Surprisingly, listening to Soundgarden hasn't lightened my mood. Nor does the prospect of being cold for the next six months or so. But there we are: Happy Fall. On a happier note, I wound up making some good progress on the Reclaimed piece over the weekend and aside from some unfortunate bubbling issues, I'm pretty excited. So, let's take a gander, shall we?

So, we left off with a bunch of charcoally images, right. This continued along, but was joined by the demon/spirit figures, re-purposed from "The Demon You Feared Has Already Found You." 

There was liberal fixative spraying. I was aghast to run out on Saturday -- which means I blasted through an entire can on this project. Oi.  If the backyard raccoons are still hanging about, there could be three-eyed raccoons in the near future.
So I was initially geeked about the long demons and the nice dark red color pop, but this gave way to a frustrated sense that things were not hanging together and compositions were suffering a bit. That'd bring us up to the despondent post on Friday.

However! On the next day, it occurred to me to try out the old woman from Regret and the border from an ancient garden print and this got me going again.

 Of course, a lot of the border would be cut off when I fit it onto the wooden panel.

So! Back with the excitement and hands blackened with conte crayon.

Sunday was more colorful.

The woman came out entirely too dark. Am thinking of stencilling gold stars around the top of that one. 
After they were all hanging about, I was torn between five of them. I only had one wood panel to place it onto and they only want one piece from me. I kept wandering down to the basement, thinking that this time would settle it. No dice. Luckily, Maestra was about, refinishing her dining room table in her family's driveway. Any time I mention studio time, or talk about a printing press, it's her studio and her press. Aside from being a talented artist, a way cooler Mom than her adolescent and teen children realize, she's a spectacular high-energy blend of insight, nurturing, wicked humor, zen calm (hee! sometimes) and the ability to kick your ass (really. she has a black belt.) So, with that lead in, really all I want to say was that she helped me out. I laid them all around her studio and she walked from one to the other, pointing out merits and detractors. She thinks the gold stars would help the woman. She underscored my fear that a couple lacked focus and picked out which ones struck her as the strongest. Bolstering! I wound up opting for one of two with the garden border. 

So the exercise is, for all intents and purposes, done. If I can rectify the bubbling issues, I will probably go through a wood panel phase, in which I'll slap all manner of prints onto them before slapping myself on the back. Huzzah!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Itchy Mustache Finger, Speedy Pigeons. Faces Optional.

Virtual Mom was right: things feel better come morning. Steaming coffee bowl, more headstone papers with fixative drying out back, a little This American Life*  and now some Benny Goodman. How could it NOT be a good day?

*PLEASE do yourselves a favor, take two minutes to listen to the skit from the Neo-Futurists at 24:41-- one of my favorites EVER

So. To hop back a week to some more People's Art Fair . I really fell down on taking photos, didn't even take one of my setup, nor any crowd shots, friends, favorite artists. But I'll share what I have.

To start, when I looked up, this was what I was looking at, from my wobbly director's chair:
What you're looking at is a portion of the Russell industrial Center, one of a couple buildings, reclaimed from past manufacturing, to house artist studios. We were told that one unit  contained a medical marijuana growing set-up, which certainly answered our questions about that intermittent faint sweet smell, which was not quite the sweet smell of burning. Those of you who partake would have identified immediately, but Heaven Sent and I were a bit clueless and noticed customer comments in our booth ("It smells SO GOOD in here!") before we actually noticed the scent itself.

Shifting my gaze down to booth level, here's what I was treated with, all day for two days, when I forgot to NOT look over 6 inches. Joy. Insert here (hah!...unfortunate) my disclaimer
A preponderance of asses
 that a.) yes, I'm certainly a feminist and b.) I also appreciate a well-done nude. Some of my favorites were painted by Modigliani and Matisse though an artist pedigree is not needed for them to be acceptable. I think there needs to be a sense of respect there, even as, yes it's usually a welcome invitation for the viewer, right? I don't buy that only men are visual creatures. I think the body was made to be beautiful and pretty much all of us look. Whether in the straight or gay world, we assess, we appreciate, we dismiss.I guess what gets me here from the get-go is the preponderance of asses. Seriously? Textbook objectification, even moreso than a usual study of the female form.  Aside from the middle one (and a couple others, the painter shifted them around between the two back panels throughout the day), faces rarely made the grade. So many g-strings, so little time! Hard not to conclude that these were painted from magazine spreads or online softcore. Especially nice when guys came around (and some couples) and stood by me, to gaze at them throughout the day and evening. 
The painter (short guy/short pony tail/insert joke here haha!) and I chatted enough to establish civility (gorgeous weather, couldn't be better! One aisle over, there is no escape from the sun for those vendors, wow the parking lot is crazy-windy).

Later on I caught snippets of him talking about his "racier" paintings, something to the effect of them originating from photos that non-professionals took/had taken, online, in different cities. The tail-end (unfortunate punning is proving unavoidable) of the exchange was a remark along the lines of: "...Yeah, there's an interesting trend, more women are showing their faces in the photos. Which, fine by me, but if you were doing something like that, would you want people to see your face/know who you were?" Dude, if you think you're a rebel, that position couldn't be more traditionally aligned. Desire + denigration of the desired object. And yes, I know, as long as the photos were on the up and up, the subjects were adults and gave full consent, I got it, I got it. Ugh.

To extend the theme of gazing, so very much time was spent by glorying in the passing parade. It is motley and meandering, with the good-hearted, the appealing, the obnoxious, and the unfortunate (fashion choices, life, etc.) This parade was rich. There was an outcropping of  Theater Bizarre folk, with some strutting their gothy/steampunky/freaky glory and others not quite carrying it. The latter individuals were trying rather hard, their posture rigid with a simultaneous desparation to be SEEN in their freakiness and adolescent horror of same. 

Isn't she cute? So happy, funny. She has two mustache tats.
A wealth of tattoos, also running the usual gamut of quality, beauty, contentedness, rebellion and a dated need to have fake beastie claws ripping fake tears from the interior of one's rib cage. A pale, shirtless guy strode past, with the words "My Beast Is ME" tattooed down the right side of his torso. Upside: no need to buy a pet. 

I watch an extremely thin woman shuck off her shirt so she can show someone a detailed black-work tattoo covering 3/4 of her back; a guy sporting a utilikilt holds her clothes. 

Gazelle-like women wandered past, with their hair in curlers. Which was confusing until we figured out they were models for the fashion shows scheduled through the day.

one of two crazy peace-pants guys.
Ginger, one of my best friends, drops by midway through the day. I expect him to stay for 15 minutes, because usually his craft event visits are brief, but this time he stays for a good long while. He checks out pony tail's paintings and parks his nasty soda near my feet while he ventures out. I already know most of the artists he will drool over; I know him very well. He tells me about a prohibitively expensive rabbit shaped cookie jar he almost bought for me earlier in the day; I momentarily mourn not having this gem. He knows me very well. He returns to contemplate how much the health of his credit cards should be tested. Ginger loves spending money. We settle into watching the parade.

She wears the lashes every day, different colors.

One especially thin, leggy model with shorter platinum blond hair, short bright purple shorts and hot pink high heels can not stop walking past (not pictured). Is she practicing for the runway? But the walk is lacking in attitude. I label her "Pink Heels," while Ginger prefers "America's Next Top Model." "How can she be everywhere at once?" Ginger wonders. I'm sure I have seen her at least 20 times by fair's end.

A very large bearded man wearing a front-facing pack with a tiny dog in it comes into view. "Look at this guy," Ginger murmurs at my elbow. Seconds later this is followed up with, "Oh my god I *know* him!!" Ginger hops up and I join them. Ginger introduces me as his ex-girlfriend, which completely throws me, since we haven't gone out for 3?4? years. I grimace at him, wth?? And he backpedals. The dog is a 13 year old blind chihuahua, with one visible tooth. He bites his tongue when distressed. He docilely hangs in his pouch. The man is an old work friend from several lives back. 

Our attention is caught by pigeons repeatedly settling on some of the studio window ledges, high up. "Oh," says Ginger, "Someone's probably racing pigeons."

"Racing pigeons? People don't race pigeons. They keep them, they don't race them."

Ginger is otherwise convinced. "People do, they race pigeons." I can't remember the term carrier pigeons at the time, but this was what I wanted to reference.

Heaven Sent: "Mike Tyson raises pigeons!"

Ginger: "See!?!

Me to HS: "Racing, he's saying racing." And to G: "She said raising not racing." 

Both: "Oh."

This happily travels into the fact that her 13 y.o. son tries to get out of tutoring so he can watch his beloved Ellen talk show. Apparently Mike Tyson -- now sober and vegan! -- was recently on the show. 

Stand-out Tyson quote (approximation), uttered while gazing at old photos of himself projected on the stage screens, "Oh Ellen, there's nothing worse than a fat cokehead. You just don't think of cokeheads being fat, but some are and that's what I was. Nothing worse than a fat cokehead..."

Ellen, nodding: "No, there's nothing worse. Nothing worse than that."

And really, this is an odd note to end on, but the second Benny Goodman CD is done and if I don't hop in the shower, I'll be late for volunteering. The weekend was a fun one, definitely! The unexpected always arises, and usually I am glad for it. 

Happy Saturday, Everyone!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Can't Keep Those Optimists Down

After the work day, a great extended late lunch, full of intense conversation; a sweaty tramp through a small pine forest and steep(ish) inclines, along dirt paths with gnarled roots; and a descent into the refreshingly chilled basement for some progress on that Reclaimed piece. I dabbled, but the progress part didn't really happen. Nothing gelled. I have three more papers with headstones that are otherwise untouched. So maybe I can play with those without ruining them as well. {It *is* a three day weekend, after all. Finally, a wee respite.} Calls to mind a Beckett quote that resurfaced in my head recently:

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
--Samuel Beckett

Cheery, hunh! It is Beckett, after all. Not actually a big fan of his, but it seems to sum things up right now. Grim steadfastness? It's kind of surprising too, that while it's totally depressing, it also holds the kernel of optimism. Because otherwise, why even bother trying again? The thinnest sliver of light, needling its way in. 

Which also brings me to the lyrics from "Picture Window," a collaboration between Ben Folds and great writer Nick Hornsby: 

"You know what hope is? / Hope is a bastard / Hope is a liar / A cheat and a tease / Hope comes near you / Kick its backside / Got no place in times like these." 

If you're not familiar with the song, it's about a mother with an extremely ill child; she sees fireworks from the hospital window and is lifted by hope, even as she knows the circumstances have not changed. The song struck me from the first listen; and while optimism serves most of us better than pessimism, it also strikes me that this hope can arrive so suddenly, with such force and with no real connection to circumstances that it can take on an air of cruelty, and leave one feeling naive, caught out.  But perhaps the value of hope resides in the experience of the sentiment itself: the temporary lift, the momentary possession of a generalized sense of faith. 

Whew, how did we get here? And nothing drastic is going on here. I have no sick child, was frustrated by the basement endeavors and probably should have gone to bed hours ago. That's right, says virtual Mom, patting both my arms, why don't you go to bed now? I bought you some nice new bath towels, they were on sale and you won't believe how soft they are.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

People's Art Fair

Hi-ho, Virtual Folk.

Another too-long break. Work was a bit less hectic, though still stressful: and then the compatriot received a fresh batch of True Blood from Netflix, so obviously we had to loll about on my sofa, chortling over campy/clever dialogue and leering at the gorgeousness.

The People's Art Fair last weekend took the stuffing out of me. I mostly packed it back in, but you know how it is, it's like after your Mom tossed a stuffed animal IN THE WASHER and then one arm grew to  twice the width of the other and it's not like it was a stoopid Popeye doll: it couldn't carry the look. You had to invent some story about how it became all addled and less favored; and the nose melted slightly in the dryer, to boot. Well, not like I'm that fragile, I'll pop back obviously (I *know*, you were SO concerned, right?), but I think such things are inevitably a mixed bag: a blast and a half!... and boring. And really gratifying! ...and demoralizing/irritating/exhausting.

And with each event, more possibilities open up: fellow artists/crafters/customers lean in and say,"Oh, you know what event you SHOULD do, you will do SO WELL at X, the contact person's name is and you can mention me~~" I love this. I love how much people care to share, want to help you along, are hopeful on your behalf. This really is heartening and sweet. I never used to do this with other people, but with all the generosity coming my way, it's higher up on my radar now and I try to pass things along. Mostly what I wind up doing is being really vocal about talking people up, when I love what they're doing. It's little, but it's something.

So one show begets another, leading me to wonder how often I should really follow up. I can see how people get sucked into this show/festival life. And I don't necessarily want to spend my days sitting in a wobbly director's chair, trying to look open, but not hovery. Developing a thicker skin than I sometimes have. Occasionally falling into really fun or really random banter with people and happening across deeper connections; other times wandering off like it was never my booth in the first place. I'm not a huge seller and I won't lie that it never gets to me. Should I be altering what I'm doing? But nooooo, that way also lies madness. These daily affairs always stir me up.

I was pretty glad I brought a framed version of this along. Quite fun to see people look over, laugh at the first panel and either a.) laugh harder at the second panel or b.) kind of pull back, grimace, or look around for a friend to mouth, "creepy!" I'm a fan of both reactions. I love when people laugh/snicker/snort or seem surprised; and then bring friends back, pointing at the image in question. It also cracks me up when one member of a couple is clearly a fan of my humor and the other member is clearly not on the same wavelength: Folks, you are doomed.  Ahem.

I am sharing a booth with the sweet, warm-hearted Sara of Heaven Sent Crafts; she sells journals and jewelry, using only recycled materials (game boards and old book covers, for the journals, plus a cool assortment of different kinds of paper within each; and diecut pop cans for the jewelry). She does quite well (as demonstrated by the link to her etsy site -- 1500+ sales!). We both keep our customer patter going, though she is more outgoing with it. After a few hours, I think the feeling I give off is: "I'll be slumped in this chair here, if you need anything. Maybe I'll get up and show you a woodblock. No? Ok, No."

While the idea of music throughout was cool, I hadn't really accounted for placement. From where we are, we can vaguely hear two bands performing at opposite ends. Let's call them Rage Against the Russell and Gaia Folk. Clearly, Rage wins out, though Gaia floats through in wisps. To be fair, I couldn't hear any band properly, so toss back some salt with my two-bit dismissal. Rage sounded like a Rage sibling, though. Add to the mix the decision made by several vendors to play boom boxes for their little area, which obviously included us as well. Yay! Simultaneous mishmash=Rage + Gaia + classic rock + baseball play-by-play. Oi.

As the day eeked into night and drinks flowed more steadily (and WHOA the bartenders provided strong pours at the rum tent. by golly.), browsing definitely took on a different character.

A middle aged woman with a poof of greying hair flipped through Sara's journal selection. We think she may have been juggling drinks with mental issues. She was accompanied by another more stoic woman, who didn't bother interacting with us. The first woman turned to Sara and myself, "We have to go on this MAZE and REFLECT and WRITE ABOUT THINGS~~" Her tone is outraged and she appeals to us to agree about its absurdity/idiocy. She waves a hand up by her head, a half-shrug. Maybe we can somehow help her avoid it? The woman in the background remains there. She waits for this exchange to end.

"Oh," says Sara.

"And my father is DYING, so I want something to reflect him." She looks down at the table. "But I don't see that here."

Oh, we're sorry, we say. Well, good luck~~

"OH!! Smurfette!!" She seizes on the diminutive journal. We momentarily think that this will be the one she gets. We exchange startled glances. She puts it back down and they walk away.

Ahh people, bring out your wild cards.

Even later -- less crazy, more drinkie -- three younger women come in. They coo over Sara's journals and finger the earrings. They are pretty, somewhat polished, chatty. One turns to my side of the booth and squeals at an older framed print,"OH MY GOD!! That's.THE.CUTEST.DOG!!" She turns to her friends, "Look! The dog's holding a cupcake!" 

I hadn't run into this one before. She turned to me, "Did you make this painting? It's SO.CUTE."

"Oh, thanks," I say,"Yeah it's a woodcut. It's actually a mouse." I don't know why, but my tone veers on being apologetic.

"I thought it was a dog." She peers at it and slides her fingers through her hair. "I guess it could be a mouse."


Naturally the weekend held way more, and I have a piddling handful of photos, so I may return to this. Regardless, I will always return to people watching. Should I have the good fortune to live a long life, I'm totally going to be in neighborhood business, sitting on the porch, twitching my curtains aside for a peek at unusual activity. And hopefully telling someone about it.