Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fall Arrives. More Rain Indoors and Out.

Time is becoming difficult to fathom. It feels like this lately, though it may just be today. I think it's the environs. Possibly limited to this house. For one, it has rained inside about five times in the past ten minutes.

My ambitions are limited: I'm just trying to do some dishes, which doesn't seem like too much to ask.*  "It's raining inside!!" my 2 1/2 year old sings out and hoists up the umbrella. Mostly hoists. It covers her upper body and careens drunkenly.

"We need...our rain boots," says the umbrella and I abandon the sink in favor of the closet and some boots. "You need to put your <sing-song> raiiiin boots onnnnn </end sing-song >" says the umbrella, before the girl re-emerges. "Here," she says, "I will help you. Put your foot in there" I obey and am sufficiently protected.

Next come the rain coats, which I veto and she sighs, before I return to the sink and lo and behold, the wily below-roof clouds have dried up and it has stopped raining. After commanding me to take my rain boots off, she takes matters into her own hands and wraps herself around one of my legs, aggressively tugging. This pretty much wins the award for least efficient boot removal, apart from being an amusing balance test. I volunteer to take them off and she agrees with an air of long-suffering ("thank you for lightening my burden...after all.this. time...") 

She then flounces off to announce from the other side of the kitchen: "It's raining inside again!" I dive to share the shelter of her umbrella, while she giggles. "I'm taking CARE of you," she intones, before jabbing me in the eye. She is relatively indifferent to this turn of events, though I'm slightly bitter, as I hadn't really been wet to begin with; "Oh! My car windows are slightly open!" She abandons me to do something fiddly with the nearby dining room chair, which also magically closes her car windows. "Ok, they're closed now."

Note: This excessively quick weather turn-around is also repeated for the cruel and fake napping game, in which this same toddler will cajole//bully her parents into getting snuggly under their covers; will turn off the lights only to almost immediately declare it's time to wake up and precariously stepping on pillows to either side of our heads** so she can turn on the A.) two dimmish wall sconces and the B.) very bright overhead light.***

*And really, what a sad thing to ask, if one can muster the energy to ask a question.
** "<sing-song> I'll be carrrrreeeeeful! </sing-song>" less than accurate 
*** gleefully delivered, "Is this too *BRIGHT*?" Our affirmative answers never lead to her turning it off again.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Trio of Makers (Ann Arbor Art Fair)

In years past I was all about the Ann Arbor Art Fair, started thinking about it the month prior, researched some of the upcoming artists, planned out routes to maximize work lunch hours and exhausted evening hours; took pics, googled and wrote and felt compelled to publish a post for whosoever may care to read. Then it shifted to childcare hours and who and when and not really time to process later, but at least not sandwiching the sun-hammered art walks between office hours. This time, a few days ago, I glanced online before giving up -- other more pressing research items weighed in -- new car, travel, toddler tendencies and how to handle. This time around: I'll find what I can find.

It was only as I marched on Liberty, having drained my pricey Avalon latte, striding between Holy Mary, Mother of God and the Mars Society booths in nonprofit row, that I realized how happy I was. Excited, joyful, freed up! No matter how jaded I become, no matter the various life pressures, this kind of thing always feels like a reward, an unwieldy present to be opened. There's always treasure, hiding below the layers of wine slushies, lawn ornaments and neon-colored Warholalikes. You may maintain your ideas of where the best art is and dismiss all other regions (the fair is actually four fairs glommed together), but for treasure hunting, one must be open and far-reaching. Far-walking.

And here I was, walking along to meet Compatriot (who I haven't mentioned in forever, but who is the perfect Art Fair fellow attendee -- we travel well, we overhear well, we investigate and muse). And here, suddenly, was an old friend from a former life, exclaiming in my path! She can't understand people who hate this*, she arrived at 7 AM**, parked just like that, dwelled over an hour long breakfast at Afternoon Delight and now at 11, she felt done for the day. We were pleased with ourselves and exchanged brief chatter about unknown children (my toddler, her grandchild, about the same age), and happily parted ways. Mildly discombobulating, but a fine start to (my experience of) the fair, nevertheless.

Highlights:

Tina Leto (booth #A152): Gorgeous black and white plant photography. Simple and stunning. Savvy lower price points -- I mean way lower -- am tempted by her wee $25 prints, which one could easily center in a pre-made shadow box or floating frame; small sleek tin of 20 (? maybe) shots together at $150. The subtitle of her photography business card lists Alley, Garden, Prairie, which appeals to me somehow. They all have equal footing, these plants, regardless of categorization. Again: search for the treasure, right? We talked toddlers -- she affectionately described her granddaughter as "a demon child" -- and it's obvious, Leto's a pistol. I imagine she'd be a fun drinking companion. She most definitely has stories.

Back home, it was interesting to see a wealth of journalistic photography on her website -- Romania, small town America, portraiture. All this documentation of "moments in time" exist in stark contrast to the timeless, sleek visuals of her plant photography. On Day Two, I asked her how about the shift. She raised her eyebrows, half-shrugged: "Ehhh? What happened, I turned 50. I don't know." Also on day two, the fair jurors came around with a foam-core sign about her winning an Excellence Award. She waved it at the artist next door, "See? I wasn't lying." She returns inside the booth: "I exclaimed a lot when I heard they were awarding me, everyone around here probably heard it." 

Amanda Outcalt (/Out of Print) (booth #A260): 2D, mixed media with a strong emphasis on intaglio, drawing, painting. Self portraits, circus elephants, fish hooks, and polka-dotted sheep. Magical realism, no unicorns. Website here plus rich instagram.












"Putting Out Fires"
She also teaches art to kids K-5, so she often feels like she's handling mini crises -- "Everything gets so big for them, like from the outside you think it's something that doesn't matter much, but they have a huge reaction, so that's the title (at right). You just try to help them to a better place and sometimes something good comes out of it, that's why you have the balloons."

Outcalt, a first timer to the show, also won an Excellence award.

Emily Howard, a/k/a The Diggingest Girl (booth B4003): Talented and groovy, Howard balanced visitor chatter with restocking, and carving a Frida Kahlo linocut. She is an art school graduate with not one-but-two masters! (I keed, I keed --> a sensible pairing of MFA and arts education), who came into printmaking relatively late in her arts schooling. She took a class in 2006, liked it; and dove into printmaking on a more professional level in 2009. She said she always knew she wanted to do the art fair circuit, which I had every intention of asking about, because it seems so incredibly difficult to me, but different strokes. Why did she opt for prints over other media? "Practical reasons, actually. I love painting and sculpture, but those are hard to lug around; and I want to create beautiful things for people, that more people can afford, so that's prints." To me, that's 500 point answer**** 
"Gwendolyn,"

I like how "Gwendolyn" calls up Love & Rockets characters and Ghost World. I'm also a sucker for a nice herringbone pattern. Who's Gwendolyn?












 


Extra Credit
In my alternate, wealthy life, I'd send my personal shopper to Booth B2023 to fetch glittering, mesmerizing mosaics from the Canadian transplant with the best name your mouth has spoken in a long time. Check out Giampietro Filippetti's work here. If you aren't going to the art fair, the photos are probably the best you'll see, though they fall woefully short, since you can not walk back and forth, back and forth, to watch the tiles glitter in the light. Just shy of magical.

*I can, I used to work retail in its midst.
**the fair opens at 10AM
***Not redeemable for cash, not translateable to other real-world usage. But you know, gold star.

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.