Sunday, October 28, 2012

So, These Ideas Just Pop Out of Your Strange Little Brain?

Um, well, yes. That's pretty much what happens. This, uttered by an older man, who, together with his wife (/partner), have bought prints from me before. He is not unappreciative. He compared my sense of humor to that of New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast, which that's pretty flattering. He asked about the Cakesaurus project and I laid out a couple bullet points. He held up "Sus Pasteles..." and said, "That's a weird thing to be carrying around in your head, M." Well. I didn't have a brilliant response. I was operating on a sleep deficit and the double thermal layers weren't doing their job in the barn. He arched an eyebrow and said to his spouse, "Well I think we should buy lots of things from her, so she can just be an artist." But then this somehow morphed into my adopting THEM because they were ponying up in my direction; I offered my small guest room, but apparently they already HAVE a guest room, and GOODBYE LIFE CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES, even the BEST LAID PLANS, yadda yadda yadda. Pssh. I was all ready for patrons!

A small group of women were in hysterics over a larger, older woodblock print, which may or may not have been about online dating; I wandered over and told them that shockingly, no one ever wanted to buy that one. "Your sense of humor is hysterical, do some people not GET you?" Which was nicely timed, as a few minutes before a man had stood before a framed "Birds Don't Like You"; he frowned and shook his head once. "Strange." He muttered this to himself. To be sure, this is better than someone bubbles, "CUTE!," and fails to notice the stalker's eyes in the next panel. 

So Art on the Farm passed pleasantly along, with moderate sales, heartening interactions and lovely connections picked up once again...

Yesterday I stopped by the Ann Arbor Art Center to investigate the sophomore Liberty Local. Would have loved to join in this time, but schedule did not permit. The artists and craftspeople put on a nice show, though the general consensus was that the crowd was down from its first year -- hopefully third time is a charm, as it's a lovely event -- nicely organized, presented, marketed. Some favorites were there, including Sloe Gin Fizz (a/k/a Nicole Raye), Janelle Songer and Aromaholic.

What especially struck me this time was the photography of Janna Bissett (a/k/a LilacPOP). She sold there last time, and the larger part of her display was given over to her industrial jewelry (lots of repurposed machine parts). I was noodling about with various necklaces, oggling a really cool one Bissett was modeling herself; and just idly began leafing through a couple small bins of sale photos. I scored a number of smaller photos from her "1950s Housewife Goes Mad" series (used as proofs to determine which ones were worthy to blow up). While the link takes you to a happy-happy one, most shots channel tension and domestic unrest, delivered in campy kodachrome tones. Super fun! Apparently this was the first ever shoot for our 50s gentleman, Michael Pack, a football player for Wayne State. He's trouble, that one! They're both adorable, really. The dress she's modelling was designed by Matthew F. Richmond; I think this is a shot of one of his creations made from Kroger bags. 

I wanted to get a snap of the necklace Bissett was wearing yesterday, but my camera was acting up. I fear it's close to giving up the ghost. Here's an instagram shot from her Twitter feed -- NOT the necklace in question, but undoubtedly another one she made. She does photography shoots for some of the automotive big shots, Live Nation and her work recently appeared in Vogue Italia. See more of her great photography here.

On an entirely different note -- and with full understanding that weather isn't subject to well wishes -- am wishing the East Coast well. May Frankenstorm sputter out/dissipate/underwhelm us all. My family told me about gas stations sold out of gas, barren grocery store shelves and possible hotel stays. Fingers and toes crossed.

Art on the Farm Today!

Oh my People,

I don't think coffee's going to carry me through the day today. Woe is the silly person who stays at the Halloween Bang* till close, the night before a full fair day! I am so. so. so. very tired. HowEVER, I did 90% of my setup for Art on the Farm yesterday afternoon, hammering nails into the far barnyard wall for a gallery of framed prints; laying out new cards and new designs and figuring out the holes, which I shall rectify this morning.

It will look something like this:
Table set up, 2011
I encourage you to come out! Laurie Longo, who won top prize in Edsel & Eleanor Ford House's "Grimmly Inspired" exhibit, will be selling great journals and cards made from repurposed older books, right next to me. Nancy Melet and M. Royal Schroll will be set up in the other barn...A fine mix of artists and craftsmen, bluegrass music, hot cider and girl scout baking...10-4 12075 Island Lake Drive. For more...

*Male and female Snow Whites, Astronauts, Rosie the Riveters; the inevitable dancing banana and those yearning to mash underwear and masks/glitter into costumes of sorts. A fabulous red hoodied Elliot with his ET in a wire bike basket attached to his front; a fine cat woman; a fine showing!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Respite

Posting at nonstandard times, whaaaa?

My favorite American ex-pats (are they really? not sure. they moved out of country 5 years ago) are off meeting a former neighbor at a cafe, so I am whiling away the time until we can go have lunch at Chela's (there is a dearth of Mexican food in Sweden). How satisfying to have loved ones swoop in for a visit! They arrived at my house last night around 7:30; I had been puttering around, hearing phantom door knocks for a couple hours at that point. A green bean sweet potato curry was in its final stages, some Virgen of Guadalupe candles were glowing softly about the house and I was happy, happy. They were, naturally pretty bleary eyed, but being fine conversationalists and now stolid transplanted Swedes, we had a lovely evening, even as their circadian rhythms cursed them. We touched upon the classics of family dynamics (see also: dysfunction, impressive powers of denial, strong-love disclaimers, deft ability to trigger age-old emotional reactions in ten minutes flat); being thwarted in the office and academia; feeling displaced in other countries. Having children correct your rudimentary second language skills. Luckily, frustration is good fodder for creation. Their eyelids began to flutter around 9:30 and thus the day was done.

It was oddly enjoyable to sleep as a guest in my house. Following the sense of huge displacement during the month in China, I have come to the conclusion that I also like feeling displaced in small ways. Primarily, life is the same. But let's skew it just a tad. It's good for you. Anyway, the bed was just fine, though the room's dusty. In the morning I noticed the Calderesque mobile had become all janked up, with discordant angles causing slight rocking, rather than the fluid glide. Hmm. I heard slight rustlings and set water to boil for the French Press. J1 was playing with a new tablet from his workplace, at the dining room table. I opened the deck curtain. "Hmm. Sun," he noted. "We're all gearing up for when there's no sun. We used to laugh at the natives walking around the corner of a building, and when the sun would hit their faces, they would just...stop." He craned his face upward, eyes closed. "They'll literally lean against buildings, like this," his face continued to reach upward, in an intent, yearning gesture. "But....yeah."

"The weather has been very bad the past...Few Years." decides J2.

"Not to put too fine a point on it!" J1 raises his eyebrows in a shrugging fashion. "Well. We had a good Summer. Two years ago."

"You're making me feel better about Michigan weather. I am NOT looking forward to the Winter." We nod, drink more coffee; they make little pleased noises over the Zingerman's scones. It's low-key, but I can't help feeling we could catch up for many more days than today. What a relief, what a grateful pleasure it is to spend time with those with whom you share deeper understanding. There is no pretense. Maybe I'm just cynical at this point, but it strikes me as rare. That, and there's simply no way for us to collectively fit in all the newer good food in this short time! I'm not quibbling, even a day is quite nice, as is the opportunity to write for a bit before meeting up again.

We get distracted by the various animals traipsing/scurrying through my yard. Or maybe I get distracted and pull them in. The chipmunk appears one shift before the orange striped cat (larger, not the astounded one from weeks ago). The next door dog goes crazy because he still thinks my yard is his domain.

While a handful of felines stalk through my apportioned outdoors, the startled cat has somewhat claimed my backyard in the past few weeks. Much prettier than badgers of yore, less disconcerting and industrious than the below-deck raccoon.

Mournful that I won't permit entry.
Piteous mewing.

All for now. A Happy Thursday on this fine Fall day.


Monday, October 8, 2012

What is Eaten, What is Known

Greetings, All! 

Soooo, I just had an evening conference call for work, and it was the most painless one so far. Things are looking up? I see progress... Which means I had time to do something else, yay!

This is the second of three woodblock designs of the Nutritive Triptych I carved for a group exhibit at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, called “Grimmly Inspired” (10/12 still on display at their gatehouse!) These prints were based on a lesser known tale called “The White Snake.” Like most self-respecting Grimm's tales, The White Snake brings cruelty, task challenges under pain of death, talking animals, food imbued with magical powers, subversion of class and the age old quest for true love...

This design came from the part of the story that most shocked me: the would-be prince, slew his horse for raven babies to eat, after they had been ousted from the nest. Sure, cruelty abounds in Grimm’s tales, but his horse~! Without hesitation! Though our protagonist has gained a Doolittlish power to understand beastly banter, for every animal we hear, there are others which are not given voice. The horse is one of them.

Too, I found this tale fascinating for its attention paid to knowledge gained through eating…the earliest way of exploring the world~~

Check out a translation of the tale here:

“What is Eaten, What is Known” measures 9X12, has an edition size of 48, and was printed onto bleached mulberry paper, with black Daniel Smith oil based ink; and individually hand-colored with art watercolor markers all by yours truly.

May you eat wisely and well, and gain magical powers in the meantime.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Eight Yaks is Money, Yo.

This was my late Sunday afternoon a couple weeks ago:

The peaceful cafe goers of the Crazy Wisdom Tearoom are perturbed. There is one larger conference table with available plugs and seats; and one young woman seated at it, talking loudly on her cell phone. The South American flute music does nothing to mask the details of the data plan she is discussing. I have unpacked my laptop, but now hover. Would the sofa with collapsing cushions be any better? But her voice is audible everywhere in the small room. I scanned the neighboring tables. A woman pointedly cleared her throat and snapped her newspaper as she gazed at it. Another guy widened his eyes at me and thrust his hand up to one side of his face, as in, "Do you believe this shit??" People muttered to their table mates and cut their eyes in her direction. She talked about smart phones and the limits of downloads. The young counter person with fading pink hair offered to set up my rose tea* in the conference room. And so here I now sit: no people watching options here, but really quite spoiling otherwise. A sofa AND a huge table next to it. "We close at 8 PM, tonight, so you have about three hours." Psssh. If I had pajamas with me, I wouldn't leave. 

*Ok, and yes, chocolate cake. No matter how many times I opened the fridge this morning, no chocolate ever materialized.

This Sunday doesn't feel that much different, except more cold and grey. Mulligatawny stew is simmering on the stove, a cup of Korean corn silk tea is mellowing beside me and Beth Orton's newest is on repeat on Spotify.

The newly editioned "After the Snake, Before the Bite" is now up on Etsy, as of this afternoon. I'm hand-coloring the two remaining designs and should have those up soon.

Otherwise? Two of my favorite people are flying from out of town this week and I get to see them for the first time in five years! (maybe five? close)

In their honor, let's take a few moments to contemplate one of my absolute favorite bronze pieces for the Shanghai Museum. What does it have to do with them? Nothing, outside of the fact that I can not fathom them not being delighted by it...

So...I glimpsed this the first time I went to the museum, minutes before closing. It was the final straw determining that YES, despite the myriad places I hadn't had the chance to experience even once while in the city, I HAD to take another day to return.
We're almost there! Do you see it? ...No, because there are always people around it.
And why wouldn't there be, I ask you. 
Behold, Cowrie Container, with Eight Yaks.
Western Han 206 B.C. - A.D. 8
Attributed to the Dian people, from the Yunnan Province. 

The Dians' bronzes are renowned for their naturalistic approach; being an agriculturally based people, it's not surprising that animals figured in much of their sculpture, whether the items were ritualistic or more utilitarian. Since cowries shells were used as currency, this would certainly have advertised the ruler's prosperity. Of course to me, it's the idea that metalworkers, or those who commissioned the work, were like, "Okaaay, another cowrie container...Yaks! Yes, I see it now: there must be yaks. Six --no-- EIGHT of them. And the handles must be tigers."  
And it's not just that they're done *well* but that each yak has a personality. Unlike the more cartoony tiger handles, these are completely believable as animals. Some seem garrulous, others resolute, and at least one, timid. It's a different story from every angle. To see them in the round, in all their wonderful specificity, they amount to more than the sum of eight parts. It feels more like a proper herd.

He couldn't stop laughing.

Of course, to assume that their depiction on such vessels automatically indicates their beloved status in society would be a bit naive. And indeed, an interesting article from Anthropoetics (The Journal of Generative Anthropology) tells us that from their excavations in the Yunnan, they determined that: "oxen were not used to plough the fields nor to pull carts, but as sacrificial domestic animals, sources of food, and symbols of property, wealth, and power, whence their appearance on the lids of bronze vessels made to contain seashells. There are also war scenes, slaves weaving ... [on similar vessels]."

For a fascinating break-down of another vessel, which depicts "human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, and communal feasting" on its lid and somehow crams 125+ human figures and numerous domestic animals, click here

Pillow with 5 Yaks suffered from proximity. Only five? Really?
I don't know, I'd probably go with down anyway...