Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Art Fair Revisted (So Many Links, I Can Barely Lift It!)

I'm hoping against hope that I'll still be able to do significant fair wandering this week, but it's difficult to say.

This is also just around when I began my blog last year, so I thought I'd revisit some old posts and see which artists are returning. If you care to read any old posts -- super cool -- if not, swing by the booths of a few good artists. And have a gyro and some funnel cake or wander a few blocks over from the crowds, to Babos and get a glass of wine and a cheese plate (they're awfully nice over there).

Michael Paul Cole (photography) and Shandor Madjar (jewelry)

Have they returned?

Cole: Pssssssh. Doesn’t look like it. Go visit him in Minnesota and Idaho in August…

Madjar: Yes! Booth… On E. Liberty St/ South Division.

Cody Miller

Has he returned?

Miller: Doesn’t look like it.
Drunken Men: Yes, most assuredly.

Chris Roberts-Antieau, John Whipple, Lynn Whipple.

Have they returned?

Roberts-Antieau: Sho nuff. Booth # A252
Whipples, Whipples, Where are the Whipples? Hiding somewhere, I expect.

Joachim Knill and Matthew Naftzger

Have they returned?
‘Fraid so. In cahoots and causing trouble at #A379 (Knill) and at # A377 (Naftzger)

Bill Skrips

Has he returned?
Skrips: Sadly noooooooo, he has flown the coop for nicer climes. Good luck to him, but booooooooo.

I wrote about approximately one tenth of the artists I wanted to focus on last year and I expect to be even worse this year, being ONE WEEK AWAY from using my passport for the FIRST TIME EVER, so um, here are a few snaps from last year:

The sweetness of Floridian Kana Handel. Holding one of her "Things on My Head" watercolors. She just makes me happy.

Brilliant booth display from Joan Rasmussen (will she be here? Look her up.)
It invited audience chalk participation, though most of us were too timid
I am blanking on this ceramicist's name, but she was in the Yourist Gallery, I believe
She's also really sweet and has written a children's picture book. Picture book people are the best!
Peewee repetitions. Recycle, Haha!
I just like it. No parking, but so much shining.
And here we have the creation of one of my favorites, Rebecca Bashara (and husband Scottt MacDonald)

The jeweler herself. Though she sure doesn't want to be photographed.
One of my absolute favorite rings (tied with one from Shandor Madjar) is from Ms. Bashara. The year I bought it, her husband patiently wrapped some wire around the band to tighten it up for me. Nice, talented people. I skulked around her their booth last year and talked to her mother; she told me three anecdotes, all of which were variants of running into an unknown woman, wearing her daughter's jewelry and asking said woman about the piece in question. "You KNOW who MADE that??? That's my DAUGHTER!!" The woman was amazed and so she'd get to repeat it. A very proud Mama. FAN.TAST.IC.
See, now doesn't he look sad? Almost as if he knew his maker, Bill Scripps would not be coming back this year.
 Other awesome:

Nick Wroblewski, printmaker from Viroqua, WI
I usually moon about his booth until I get embarassed and leave.
Feel free to embarrass yourself at Booth A247.

Eric Silva, metalworker, jeweler. Loves to play with natural elements, but render it gritty. If he could use antlers for your necklace, he would. But nooooo, he's more refined than that.  Booth A216.

Brigitte Lang, ceramicist. I just love her. Ann Arbor, MI   Booth A300.

I'll stop there, though there are obviously SOOOOOO many artists worth your time and attention!

Wow. LAZIEST BLOG POST EVER. In any case, I hope everyone who cares to goes out and explores! You never know when you'll find something inspiring...

More armchair art fairing:

Original Art Fair Artist List:

South University Artist List

The Guild of Artists and Artisans (Main, Liberty, State)

On the Unintended Consequences of Buying Art

As this year's Ann Arbor Art Fair draws near, I feel it is my duty to share an experience that began last year, with no less of a purchase than a small painting from one John Whipple. I don't know what *exactly* it was that drew me to the painting of a somewhat woeful looking man within the larger square of an antique ceiling tile, but I gazed at him and thought,"Yes, I could have that, Yes." And it was so. The boyish man's face filled most of the frame, with only a tiny bit of darkness on either side; the flesh tone was russetty, with flecks which echoed the tile's rust. His dark eyes were at disturbingly different levels.  The artist wasn't around when I made my decision, so I asked his lovely wife and fellow artist Lynn Whipple to set it aside for me. I wandered beyond my stamina, before trudging back to the appropriate row of tents. I talked with John for a few minutes, though honestly now I don't remember very much. But what was the title?

"Ohhhhh, I don't think he really has a title. You should just name it, I'd call it something corny like 'Tinny.'"

So with that I was off, wrapping my sweaty self around the bagged up art. It seemed like hours before I got home, but most likely I did something self-indulgent like stop at Washtenaw Dairy for a towering single scoop of Mackinaw Island Fudge or some such.

Within the next day or so, I decided on hanging him near my dresser. I felt ridiculously pleased with myself for pounding yet another nail into my wall. A couple days passed before the first time I heard a voice. "Judging from appearances, you're old enough to put your clothes away properly."

I shot a glance at the running clothes far beneath him on the floor. "...Well. They need to air out."


I shot a glance around the room, though there was no one to share my look of outraged irritation. WTH? And with his ocular orbits, how could he even see properly? I mean, really? It hadn't occurred to me that I'd need to live up to my art. His image certainly didn't seem like he would be the demanding type. And it's true, clothes have a habit of getting tossed. Perhaps they take a little siesta before reaching the laundry basket. I knew I should be better, but had not quite gotten my habits on board. Hmmm.

"Perhaps you have another less messy room that I could live in. You may want to consider that. Or change your habits, which, frankly, could stand to be changed."

"You know what? I think I like you there." Which maybe I wouldn't, if this mouthiness was going to keep up. But damned if I was going to ferry him around and encourage his pettishness.

There was a silence.

"I didn't have to come home with you."

I waited.

"There are others who would have bought me."

I exhaled noisily. And then gave in: "It's true. You're right, you definitely would have been bought. But *I* am the one who bought you. And I think that's a good amount of wall space, and it goes nicely with your coloring."


"Yes, the robin's egg brings out the rust and those red accent lines you have."


So, we tip-toed around each other for the next few days, or rather, I tip-toed around him. Sometimes I'm good about the clothes, other times, not so much. And he has issues with the Mexican Madonna, who is too colorful and shiny for his taste. But it works. The point is, your new art will become a part of your life, and sometimes in ways you hadn't anticipated. Look well and choose wisely.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Chicago and the Closest I Get to Reading About Pythagoras...

Let's return to last Sunday, spent in the Wicker Park/Belmont Area of Chicago. It was a sunny, blousy day, perfect to wander in and out of establishments, while away the hours in book stores. The weird and appealing Quimby's Books, while only a few blocks from the Bongo Room on North Milwaukee, nevertheless gave opportunity to gawk at painted wrought iron fences, listen as The Cure's Fascination Street wafted from the open windows of a sleek, pointy townhouse that was all brushed metal, floor-to-ceiling window panes and neat second floor balcony spaces; and spot the cultural and political icons painted onto the neighboring wall.

More photos? More here.

Quimby's is the most independent of independents, with significant space granted to zines, alternative/underground publications, graphic novels and fetish materials; and while I appreciate it, I didn't go in expecting to buy very much myself.

But then I opened the cover of this oversize, lavishly illustrated graphic novel and fell into the middle of a conversation between a caged tiger and a monkey. The monkey was a bit secretive and bashful; and was reading a book; the tiger continued to reach out to him. The monkey said he felt a little anxious; his slumped posture conveyed despondency. "How long have you been here?" inquired the tiger. "Have they given you a name yet?"

"They just call me monkey."

"What's your name?"


 So, clearly I had to buy that. Euclid! His name was Euclid! Incidently, he was reading a book on Pythagorean theory. I'm sooooo glad for this purchase. There's a bombing by a terrorist faction of animal rights activists (who are themselves, animals). While people still have pets, and they are loved-but-lesser, the animals also talk. It's a sprawling work, is supposed to be one of nine; sometimes too heavy-handed, but nevertheless, fascinating and mysterious.

Check out The New York Time's take on the first graphic novel by one Adam Hines, here.

Or cut to the chase and read it here for free (lucky, lucky you), but I'd also say it's a lovely addition to one's bookcase.

Looking at the walls is also a good idea at Quimby's-- there was a Jay Ryan poster (nfs), which made me wish they had other Jay Ryan designs available there. Years ago, I had picked up a fantastic fake travel poster by Alana Bailey, as part of the now defunct Lady Dissident Chicago Travel Auxiliary series (at right). This time around, I was tempted by the alarming "Springtime in Pilsen," which was also sadly not for sale (but you may view it here).  Apparently she does her lettering using something called rubylith, which I am still a little unclear on.

Nice Chicagoist interview from 2009.

The other artist whose work I was quite happy to revisit: Nikki McClure. I bought a few notecards of her designs from Quimby's maybe 5 or 6 years ago (same trip as Thurber on the Couch) and they promptly took up residence on my fridge.
McClure Cards in upper left. Also, Mincing Mockingbird magnet and Karin Wagner Coron pastel landscape in middle
There was a fine array on the spinner, with more detailed linework, but the same sense focus on domesticity, food and food sources. Usually black and white, plus one other color: clean, with a nice, solid contrast with the areas of busier linework. All of the designs result from intricate paper cutting of a single layer. Whew! When the clerk showed me a children's book and a short recipe book with her illustrations, it fit together perfectly.  Her work is nourishing and quiet.

As you look at this composition of ravens in a tree: remind yourself -- cut from one sheet of paper. I snagged this one! Sadly, the darker Witness was not there.

The day didn't end on that note. We lugged our sacks back onto the L, siesta-ed, and emerged again for a late Sunday evening meal. But by that point, we were pretty tuckered out and already focused on the original reason for the trip: Monday morning's visit to the Chinese consulate. In theory this is all in order now -- I was told they'd send the visa in the mail this past Friday. So maybe I'll have it in my hot little hand, come Monday. Hard to believe it's all coming together, but in less than two weeks I'll be in the air for 14 and a half hours. And then there will be dizzying (and also deadlocked) traffic, dazzling lights, no clothes dryers, office spaces like the ones I already know and all manner of unexpected things. Unicorns. Or at least noodle shops and dim sum and older generations wearing pajamas on the street. Somehow the prospect of daytime pajama wearing is highly pleasing to me. Oh guidebook, I hope what you say is true.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chicago, In a Trice

I don't know where to start, so let's start with some music. Fiona Apple, if she's not too annoying. Her interview with Jimmy Fallon hints at the usual melange of strength/discomforting brittleness/unwieldy underground psychological territory, but I found  the accompanying musical numbers to be more enjoyable. Not currently loving her vibrato, but I like the Roots backing her and I like the bluesy lark of "Let Me Roll It." One could easily argue that current darlings Alabama Shakes blow her out of the water in this genre -- the lead vocalist has soul in spades-- but surely you have space for this song as well?

So. Impromptu trip to Chicago this past weekend, so that I could pick a paper ticket number on Monday (#39, half an hour after they opened for the day; one of three different ticket lines.several of us fist pumped when the counter person would call the next number, to answering silence, after which she'd advance it. Bonus!). Ginger the ever-kind, agreed to drive out with me (which, uh, meant he drove, bless his soul) and we made a fun weekend out of it. When hassle becomes a short vacation: priceless.  Man, Mastercard hit it out of the ballpark with that campaign, didn't they? Not sure for how long, but it has certainly entered the cultural lexicon.

ANYhoo. As with Compatriot, so goes traveling with Ginger, in that we know each other so well, we're kinda siblingish. Think: a bit less foodie, a bit more urban vinyl/graphic novels/industrial music. At one point, during which we had both become entrenched about the better way to approach the subway (3-day unlimited pass vs. rechargeable pass), he exclaimed: "M! Cakeasaurus! You drive. ME. CRAZY!" In rather the same way the famed Honeymooner would say, "One of these days, Alice, Bang! Zoom! Straight to the Moon!" Not that either of us were alive to see such things, but somehow you, know, floating out there in the zeitgeist. We both laughed in an aggravated fashion and remained irritated for only a short while. And by then we were both riding on the El anyway, off to La Creperie* and some solid stand-up at the Comedy Bar.

*Isn't it interesting to revisit places you have tried, in a different lifetime? Having visited this with a long-ago ex, it had remained kind of idyllic, even though at that point, the relationship was less than ideal. Many years on, it wasn't perfect -- I didn't love my savory mushroom crepe, but I would have snapped up Ginger's seafood crepe in a hot minute. The outdoor seating in the back, though, remained more than a sum of its parts: wobbly cheap tables covered with vinyl checkered tablecloths, mismatched string lights around the periphery and hanging plants in various states of health dangling from tree limbs; crepes, the patter of neighboring discussion, a soft night breeze and a good wine selection all combined to whisper, "This is the good life and you could have it."

Meanwhile, the Raffaello Hotel (at which we had the nifty surprise of an upgrade to quite a nice suite) sports one of the teensiest elevators you can find. Going back out on Saturday night meant a longer wait than it would have taken to walk halfway down from the twelfth floor. But it was also entertaining. I heard the women from several floors away. They were post-sorority, pre-Cougar and dressed to the nines: flowing fabric, careful and bold makeup, abundant cleavage and diamond-cousins, if not the rocks themselves. While there would have been a scootch of room to wedge into, a thin woman with glossy black ironed hair slowly shook her head in warning, while mouthing: "I'M. SORRY." A woman began teetering and another squealed as the doors slid shut.

Just take the stairs. You'll get to Cornelius sooner.
On Sunday morning, we were in for a similarly long wait on our way to the decadent Bongo Room of Wicker Park. Eventually, the doors slid open to a solid mass of guys and suitcases. Whatever their purpose, their stay was done and they meant to arrive at the lobby simultaneously, damnit. A couple guys held their suitcases aloft, as if they were bulging trophies. One glared grimly and inquired of Ginger, "You gonna try to get in?"

"Not unless you're gonna lift me over your head," quipped Ginger and the doors slide shut. Muttering could be heard from the descent: "...Because someone pushed the fucking button, THAT'S why..." Chillax, hungover guys, we're just going to brunch. Without suitcases.

Our lovely, unbaggaged Wicker Park Sunday bears more mention, but it will have to wait. My little ranch house lacks an elevator, so there's no substantial thing standing between myself and the waiting bed. Sweet dreams, All.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

...And From His Lips She Drew the Hallelujah

Last night Compatriot and Fixer took me to see Rufus Wainwright perform at the Power Center, as a birthday present. Rufus is SUCH an amazing present, I wonder how often he is given! I'm not even going to pretend to attempt a bloggish review, what do I know about writing about music? Not that my lack of art history knowledge prevents me from nattering on about art, but perhaps we shouldn't go there.

The few things I'll say: he did a pared down set, just a piano and the occasional guitar. Sadly, no gold lame or feather boas or leiderhosen. Just a patchwork blazer, jeans. Sometimes when he sang at the piano, he would swing his upper body side to side, with his glossy hair flopping back and forth, reminding one of a row of school girls singing on a bus. But not when he was singing intently: and then, it was glorious, the way his voice swelled to fill the hall. If you're going to feel surrounded, this is one if the best possible scenarios. Frequently, his voice luxuriates in languor; it is silky, draped across your sofa, suffering from ennui, but ready for something more exciting. His songs are filled with longing, passion, despair over love lost, absurdities of daily modern life. Some part of me was convinced that if I stared hard enough,I'd be able to see more details of his face, but no, I only got the sparkle vision...Which was suitably starry-eyed.

For the last song of the second encore, Rufus covered Leonard Cohen's* "Hallelujah." Most likely you already know how great this song is, but in case you don't it'd be fun to tool around in! The original continues to inspire passionate responses, easily (and yes, perhaps minorly) demonstrated by the 8,000+ YouTube comments, which naturally devolved into pettishness around differences of opinion, re:

"My deepest and most sincere apologies. I'll take my slovenly ways elsewhere, and leave you to enjoy and fully comprehend this piece of brilliance. I'm terribly sorry for infringing."

Here's Cohen's unmistakeable voice, during a performance in Helsinki (I liked the instrumentation better on this one). {apologies if the videos are a bit wide -- I had trouble altering the width. hmm...}

The version I first knew and loved, incidentally was the lush one from Jeff Buckley, of which one YouTuber said,"Buckley's version's good, but it's a bit over-sung. He's wanking on it too much. Cohen's original has levels that Buckley could not possibly have perceived." See for yourself:

Another? K.D. Lang gave her all at the Juno Awards in 2005:


And to close the circle,  back to Rufus. He sang a wonderful version, but the ones I encountered on YouTube lacked the power he delivered on Saturday. Instead, here we have a cool live one (with expected shoddy video quality) -- with bonus singing from his sister Martha. Segues into "Little Sister" around 4:40.

 Good Night, All. Here's to a wonderful week!

Venturing Farther Afield...

While I have worked for other companies which tout their global status, until joining my current office a couple months ago, I had yet to be in a place where I was as likely to be seated next to Michigan natives as I was across from Europeans, Asians and staff members visiting from Germany. It's refreshing, feels healthier somehow; and makes me more self-conscious about not having passed the U.S. borders, beyond having gone to Canada (no disrespect, Canada!). When people ask where I have been and I don't have much of anything to report, the answering silence isn't snobby, it's just more a sense of it...not making sense to them. How curious...But there is a world out there. Meanwhile in my office, I still need to remind myself that email I wrote at my noon is someone else's midnight and that if I have issues with project X, I had better call or email before noon, to have any chance of reaching that one golden person who possesses the answers I need.

A fellow coworker, who loves a piece of cake in the afternoon, returns to her desk and plunks herself down. Her face is cross: "I am sick of being mistaken for being French. I do not even sound French!" Her ordinarily straight posture slumps. She frowns, her fork poised above swirls of chocolate frosting. I want to issue a collective apology: even in this university town, most of us don't know. We just don't...


An overheard phone call from the end of May.

"Oh, no. Actually our office is closed on Monday, in observance of Memorial Day."


"Oh, well, it's to honor soldiers who have lost their lives in service of our country."


"...No, it could be any war."


"...Honestly, we mainly just have lots of barbeques?"

Those kind of exchanges happen a lot. And I love how it brings you back to square one: Oh, right, this isn't automatically known. But ahhhh, will I love it in bigger doses? I am about to find out. Due to shifting staff on a larger project, which I am involved with, it came to light this past week that I'll be working overseas for several weeks, starting in the end of July! My head's spinning with all the details to be worked out. I expect it to be quite a hectic time, but am also hoping that it will be wonderfully stimulating and eye opening. Without any additional stops, flights to Shanghai last 14 hours; the time difference is exactly 12 hours. Quite an initiation to global travel! Whew. More to come, certainly. At least from Wikipedia, it looks like blogspot is blocked in China (as well as most of the major sites I am used to using~~), so I probably won't be able to post updates....Hmmm. I have lots of research ahead of me!