Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Well, It's Cute on a Four Year Old~~~

Life with the 4 year old continues in its chaotic, joyful, histrionic fashion. This weekend the girl and I had a full calendar, mainly with errands and appointments, plus a little social relief. Saturday morning was her first appointment with an allergist, as directed by her primary doctor -- I was mildly concerned with how resistant she would be to allowing the scratch tests -- but she came through that part just fine -- laid on her belly, then propped herself up to marker in a little notebook. "They will open the door and think I am a boy because I have no shirt on! I will surprise them." I jinx things by sending Rick a text with her coloring, "All going well at the allergist!" At which point, I colored something differently than she wanted, so she naturally lobbed a marker at me, and demanded "YOU FIX IT RIGHT NOW!" which also failed to yield the desired results. I confiscated the markers and notebook and now she tried to hit me and wailed. So crying sounds came from our room after all, though not from a scratch test. Upside: no allergies! So far, mostly good.

Prior waiting at a different locale, favorite El Harissa
A long day ahead, so we tried out the nearby Golden Egg diner. Classic, bustling, chrome and old vinyl. I allowed her a small chocolate milk, and that certainly focused her for a bit. Then she crumpled a teensy piece of paper straw wrapper into a "worm," and we played baby/mommy caterpillar for awhile. We were both tiring of the new game, and she tried halfheartedly to peel open several jelly servings (thwarted); the older woman across the aisle who periodically tried to engage the preschooler said:"You have been waiting A LONG TIME for your FOOD!"

PS*: ....yeah, SO. LONG!

Me (internal): Not really helpful to point it out, thanks~

Woman: WHAT are YOU going to eat!!

Brain melting
PS: [ticks off food items, before turning to me] WHY do we have to wait SO LONG, it has been FOREVER [drapes herself dramatically across the tabletop].

Me: Yes, we have been waiting a while, but it's really busy, you can see them working in the kitchen and they're also making food for people who are just coming in to pick up food~~

I make eye contact with the waitress, raise my eyebrows, and she returns my gaze. She's clearly an experienced waitress, so I feel confident she knows the questioning look likely translates into "where's our food?"  Either it's just simply taking a bit, or she'll follow up. I settle in. My daughter, however, has other plans.

"Excuse me!" she pipes up in her far-reaching little girl voice. "Excuse me!" The waitress turns around and bends down to her, with a humoring a face.

"We have been waiting so long for our food that I have begun to worry you are not focusing on us." I bang my forehead on the table in an effort to hide my guffaw and the waitress also adjusts her face not to smirk. Her delivery is smooth, without pause. Well, she says, she will go check on our food. As luck would have it, the order has just come out, and our server delivers the food with a flourish:

"Here we are. Are you still worried~~?"

"No..." She dimples and eyes her meal.

"So, how old ARE you?"

"I am four," says the demanding one. Or she holds up her fingers.

"You know, you are VERY well spoken for four years old"

"I know," she says, digging into her bacon.

Following this exchange, the waitress was initially quite friendly, but then she cooled. I suspect she decided my daughter was simply parroting something I said. Had I not had *this child*, I imagine I would have come to the same conclusion. I felt embarrassed, but what can you do? This is merely the first decade of emotional hot potato -- lobbing embarrassment back and forth, all in the family.

*PS= preschooler

Friday, August 2, 2019

Just Add Water

Laaaa-di-da, I've been spending my mornings poolside. A slight breeze ripples the water, the sun urges me to just layyyyy back and clooooose my eyes. True, it's only half an hour, but pool time is like beach time -- slower, divorced from life*-- a respite, however long. Also true, the air is filled with squealing, shouting. Some wailing, or, at the very least, performative hitched breathing. But the wailing is not yours, it does not belong to you: breathe in, let it float away, as it will. From a distance, one can murmur, "Ahh poor thing, he's having a *hard* morning" and nestle against the vinyl lounge chair. I'm happy to say my preschooler's also enjoying her swim lessons. She bobs up, proudly floating with her foam barbells and gives me a cartoony thumbs up. She is convinced she can already swim now ("I'M A GREAT SWIMMER!) -- she *can't* -- which is a handy reminder for continued vigilance around the water.

The weather has been beautiful this week, though often a touch chilly in the mornings, which has helped with transitioning her from the pool and back into the car (damn transitions, so tricky). A young "tadpoles" class has coincided with our daughter's individual lessons, so I get to watch the parents dipping their mostly happy toddlers up-and-down up-and-down into the very shallow section, with much clapping and wide eyed encouragement. A little curlyheaded girl -- the same size, but probably two years younger -- than my daughter is intent on running away in an endearing-if-you're-not-involved fashion; the grandmother in pursuit says, "You want an extra one? You can have her for the day, no charge!" We laugh and she scoops her up in a dripping, giggling,wrestling bundle.

A few minutes later, as my daughter drags her towel slowly along the wet ground, and I trip over my feet, trying to herd her toward the locker rooms, I hear the same woman noting to her older charge: "No, I do NOT need to be yelled at again~~" I make some kind of sympathetic noise with raised eyebrows, because, I, as well, do NOT need to be yelled at again. And the shorter set do not seem hampered by us explaining this. And yet, we must start somewhere. We try not to return the yelling. We round the corner into the pre-timed showers. A different woman lathers and says grimly: "If you yell at me one more time, I'm not taking you to the library." The wet girls look indifferent, or bemused. They will most certainly yell again. The showers are short, the day is long. And for the mothers, it will most likely be longer without the library trip, but it's hard to balance it all. These interactions were oddly comforting. It is a loud time. It is a Summer of Yelling.  

Several minutes later, in a move one only expects in a sitcom, the first woman pulls next to me on the road and rolls her window down.  With the windows down, one hears a loop of hoarse endurance bellowing. The older brother, who has been chill through everything, stares straight ahead. Bright and cheery: "Offer still stands!" Oh, how I like her.

"She was at the pool," my daughter informs me. 

"Sure, just lob her through the windows!" We laugh and roll up our windows, my daughter wrinkles her brow, and off we drive.  

*especially if you dropped your phone in the car, in your mad dash over

Friday, July 19, 2019

Ann Arbor Art Fair Day One: Old Friends, New Friends, Bears and Down Pours

"I am READY for my SHOWER!" said the 4 year old, appearing naked and in her helpful guise*, as I attempted to wrench my head from my pillow. I primed her last night that we would be doing things a bit differently today: no lollygagging, but straight from bed to shower, to breakfast table**, and off to an early start at her preschool.

"I AM GOING TO BE AWAY FROM YOU ALL DAY TODAY," she announced experimentally. I agreed, glancing at her through the rear view mirror: was the veiled tone was one of pride or worry? "So. WHY am I going in the MORNING, when you always...APPRECIATE the afternoons?" I often love the feeling of active translation occurring in conversations with her. It was true, she normally goes in the afternoon, but what lead her to choose and emphasize appreciate? I told her I would be going to see the Art Fair all day and I would be walking A LOT and it would be hot; and that I was going to meet my friend Stephen's twin Kevin, so we could enjoy the art fair, while thinking about Stephen (see my last blog post, if confused).

With Kevin Kerr,  before the crowds descend
Meeting at Ignatius Hats was perfect, as Stephen has brought literally hundreds of friends to meet the Virginian millinery team of Joseph Ignatius Creegan and Rod Givens. My Ignatius purchases predate my friendship with Stephen, but I have several mutual friends who own their hats at least partially due to his encouragement. If you like hats at all, it's pretty difficult to not just try a couple on, and then of course, take some incriminating photos. "You'll buy one, though right," urges Darcy, as if it's the only decent course of action. "You know, in honor~~"*** She wears her vintage Ignatius hat, and it feels more organic, less cartoony on her, as it melds with her personality. I make no promises, as there is much to see in the next few days, and really, Stephen would approve of any art purchase I had really committed to. Which is not to say that he would agree with my taste, but yes, supporting fellow artists and surrounding one's self with visual fuel.




with ceramicist & printmaker Darcy Bowden
Now 20% more fascinating!...Ahem.
What you *hope* to look like in their creations, from their Insta, see below

...but you may look happier and goofier.
Kevin & I in front of Groover's booth
Other mutual artist friends arrive and mill around a bit before we go off to explore other booths. We visit some of Stephen's favorite artists, including ceramicist Nancy Gardner,  printmaker Nick Wroblewski, and painter Debo Groover. They all greet Kevin warmly, express condolences, and we look at new work. "How many years ago were you featured artist?" he asks Wroblewski, who sighs and murmurs: "Maybe 4 years ago?...Your fame really PEAKS...and then just declines~~" He hangs up a "Keep Your Wits" sticker at one edge of his booth. I have the privilege of meeting more Kerr family members and other retired teachers who taught with Stephen decades ago, and who have gone to the Art Fair with him every year. Kevin speaks of collectors who are at sea, having broadened their collections under Stephen's guidance.


In between arting, I get little glimpses into Kevin. We have met three times max, but never with an opportunity for substantial exchange. I remember from Stephen that he ran a Dairy Queen for many many years, but otherwise? Hmmmmm. I just hadn't seen him very much. 

And no wonder: he spends 7 months out of every year in the Anna Maria Island, just off the Florida panhandle. "Oh, you'll enjoy this. The cafe I always go to says 'open at 7,' which really means it opens...whenever. Well I complained enough that they eventually just gave me my own key and said fine, you go when you went to. And so I did, and I open it up, I make coffee, people come in, and I know everything that goes on in the Island. Everything. But only coffee, I don't do the food. Just the coffee." He clearly shares his brother's love of good stories and droll asides. 

And what about Kevin and art creation? He has talent, but not the patience. "If I can do it in 5 minutes or less, I'm good." His next anecdote points to a flow state: he speaks of an old log cabin up north, and being sent out to mow the lawn...and then being called out for not having finished it, much later. "...But look at these beautiful stars I made out of twigs and branches!...That's what I do."  He shows me a couple of phone shots of recent twig and button constructions. My daughter would A.) be convinced fairies had taken up residence and B.) be compelled to dismantle them all. And then cry about it.

Elsewhere within the confines of the Original:

Leonard, posing with the rooster block he carved in Wroblewski's class
Printmaker Stanley Leonard praises Nick Wroblewski and credits him with his ability to register prints -- that is, to accurately match up colors from multiple blocks to create the finished image.


















obscuring a backyard bear in Stryzinski's booth
 We admire the encroaching bear in Dylan Strzynski's "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" painting and he deadpans about his shifting focus: "My [landscape/house] paintings are all kind of lonely. And I was thinking: People like animals. And *I* like animals~~....But it's hard because any time you make a change, a lot of people are like BUT I WANT WHAT YOU WERE DOING" We all do a little sympathetic head bobble ("ehhh, it's a balance~~") All of his pieces have a nice degree of texture to them, but the bear piece is especially satisfying. The bear itself is layered-on tar paper, the picket fence another layer, and staples punctuate the grass. 






Ceramicist Robert Hessler (booth IN267) has a wonderful counting series, all about meditation: each dot is a breath, each dot counted, and the final tally becomes the title of the piece. Whew! 

Hessler, sharing one of his tally sheets
my personal trainer will tell you I can't count to ten, over three reps...

So very much more, but another day awaits. Storms threaten and my usual sandals are still soaked from yesterday. Off to catch the bus! Enjoy the Art Fair, Folks! Or avoid the Art Fair, Folks! Either way, Keep Your Wits.

*The helpful guise didn't extend through the meal, wherein she allowed her banana yogurt to slime back out of her mouth, and directly onto the table, before explaining:"My body told me to do that."

**there's no separate breakfast table, but maybe I'll invent a nook. With one black pleather banquette curving around a round formica table top. With golden sparkles in it.

*** I write that lightly, but I am NOT making light of it. Darcy is serious and if you knew Stephen, you'd know it would be a fitting tribute.

**** You design the poster for the Original fair, and versions of your artwork are artfully plastered across t-shirts, baseball hats, scarves, etc. Monetary prize, as well?

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Art Fair Cometh -- But without its Best Town Crier

Each Summer, my relationship to the Ann Arbor Art Fair changes a bit. My stamina and crowd patience vary, along with the luxury of meandering time. Still, something in me begins stirring in early July. Before I suss out official websites, prior to reminders of limited wall space & financing, the musing starts. Which favorites will return? Which streets hold surprises, and how long before people resentfully mash into too-small store fronts, waiting for the end of a downpour? 

This year is bittersweet, with the recent passing of Stephen Kerr, beloved arts community supporter, artist & retired art teacher. Ever the champion of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair -- "the Original,"* one could reliably spot Stephen orbiting the info table/metallic robotic busker or any of the new or returning artist booths. Did you glance at a shirt? Hed readily sell you one. Did you seem too hurried? He'd slow your roll. Otherwise, how could you be sure you'd seen everything worthy of being seen? The name of the game was appreciation. Discernment, yes, but also delight. Wry or wicked humor. Surprise. We always traded the names of artists who excited us. Sometimes Stephen would materialize as I surveyed an artist's work ("Did you know? He puts serial killers in all his cereal bowls, aren't they wonderful?" "Did you know, she has work at MOMA?") At other times, he'd startle me* with a breezy introduction to the artist: "Oh do you know Marian, she's a writer, I bet she'd write about *you*, she wants more things to write about~~"  That's the way he worked: seeking out the joyful, connecting people through that, & spurring people onward. 
 
Stephen appears in a couple of my past art fair posts --> here.
 
I never had the pleasure of being taught by him in an "official" capacity, but the (glowing) consensus was that he held you to high standards, helped jog you outside your comfort zone and far, far beyond your own perceived limitations. Stephen's beautiful memorial service was a testament to his, his wife Mary and their family's shared generosity of spirit and love. 

The opening poem was read by a grand nephew:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/55345/when-i-am-gone
Artist Chris Roberts-Antieau, said:"I know he believed in me and so I was able to believe in myself." His nieces' tribute opined:"An ordinary life is heroic in its own way. And that was our Uncle Stephen...He embraced a life of meaning...didn't drape himself in ego...He lived a life of good intent." The service underscored the astounding amount just one person can do with a life, and how far it ripples out.  To never lose sight of how interconnected we are, to pursue delight & meaning~~! 

Kevin, Stephen's twin brother, handed out stickers bearing his motto, which I imagine most of us hear in his voice, as he frequently concluded conversations by uttering it:



Naturally, this post falls far short of the fabulosity and wonder of Stephen -- and how multifaceted he was. I just know in a few weeks, maybe I'll cross paths with you at the art fair(s). Seeking out old friends and new. Hoping to be amazed, or amused. I know when I experience this, the first person I'll want to tell will be Stephen.

*As all fans hasten to add,  lest we forget the mammoth fair is actually four very differently juried fairs.
 **I startle easily.



Thursday, May 16, 2019

Rotary Phones, Emily, and Art Hops


Begging for a plant.
Last Saturday’s Makers’ Mart in Toledo was the culmination of incredible hustle & inventory bolstering. A tiring-but-rewarding event, made infinitely more enjoyable by All Who Stopped By. Thanks, Friends! The event was sadly under-caffeinated, but the burnished food truck fries and buttery crab rolls were splendid. People watching, as always, is one of the best things about any fair; and this did not disappoint, though, what with the day’s hustle and the passing of a few days, the more deliciously freaky interactions/overheards have dissolved like dream fragments.

On the basis of visual entertainment alone, I’d like to award extra points to the vendors of tiny-cacti, planted in teeny clay pots, the new owners of which walked about, awkwardly holding their new succulents. Waiting for friends, cradling a cactus; browsing, one hand held aloft, away from the body.  I am quite certain that, sans packaging, I’d be unable to make it home without crashing the little pot, or spilling it across an unrelated display, or inadvertently abandoning it in some murky spot. They were much more confident than I. I envied the guy who passed by with a medium sized cactus, planted in a retro black table model rotary phone, spiky leaves arcing out where the number/letters had been. That was cool. But to commit, I’d still need a box.

Mystifying
I brought a couple art books and an Emily Dickinson volume to riffle through, and was quite happy I
did so. A full day of friends, strangers, new fans and casual dismissal is always a few hours beyond my limits – best to bring some book friends, for an instant oasis. And when is this NOT a good idea? This browsing, however, brought with it some unwelcome news: somewhere along the way, my ability to read and discern meaning from poetry has diminished. I used to read a LOT of poetry. A LOT. And I don’t think I was a tool about it – I wasn’t wandering around randomly quoting passages and missing the substance – but…I don’t know. On Saturday, I picked up Dickinson – read and re-read – considered death, the bee, captivity – and knew I missed a lot of each one. Sad little brain, what happened? I eventually ate the aforementioned fried food and felt better. Still disappointed.

Fast forward to a quick table break down under lowering clouds, a peaceful drive home, and a blissful reading bath the next morning, on Mother’s Day. I drew a bath on the sly and snuck into the tub, since my daughter would want to clamber in the moment she realized there was bath water to slosh onto the walls. I steamed and sunk into my water logged copy of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing; ate clementines and drank ice water. Lovely. Midway through, the child burst in:

“Oh! You surprised me, I didn’t know you were taking a bath.” A pause before she shrugged one arm from a sleeve, announced: “I will JOIN YOU!!”

I hurriedly said No, the water was too hot for her; I just wanted to read, not play (“—I will read WITH you!” countered the pre-literate); I would be out in a little bit~~

She stopped mid-negotiation. “I didn’t realize you could DRINK in a bath. I didn’t know you could EAT in a bath!...Next time I’m going to have a bath WITH A BOOK AND AN ORANGE AND WATER” I was able to scoot her out while she was all filled with purpose about future bathing options. A good start to a classic Mother’s Day. See also: breakfast in bed, chocolates and apricot ruggelah; flowers, and card drawings. All fine, and fine. ‘Course there were also meltdowns, anguish, and fury much later on in the day. But the start? Golden.

What comes next for prints and cards? So glad you asked! I happily delivered a new batch of cards to Nicola’s Books yesterday, so they will have a robust Cakeasaurus Prints card inventory for the Summer months.

Next up, the last show I will do for a while: Westside Art Hop. If you’re local, this is a really cool art fair/art walk to explore!

This Sunday, from 10-5, over 50 artists will display their work across 20 homes and businesses, across a handful of streets in the Westside of Ann Arbor. I’m excited to be at Gretchen’s House on 700 Mt. Vernon Ave, along with thirteen other artists. All participating venues will be marked by two red balloons, plus area signs. Check here for list of artists and here’s a handy dandy map:

No cover and a nice meander! Don’t forget to ask your artist for a sticker with purchase, to take advantage of the following local deals:
  • Conor O'Neill's - special reduced rate Art Hop menu
  • Washtenaw Dairy - adult size for the price of a kid size
  • Sweetwaters - Free 16 oz coffee or tea with any food purchase
  • Parrish framing - percentage off of next framing job. 
 Happy Thursday, All! I hope to see some of you this weekend. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Buttercup, Travolta and Gazelle Board a Car to Toledo (--> Maker's Mart, That Is!)

It's almost here.  It's almost here! For the past month I have been gearing up to sell at Handmade Toledo's Makers Mart and NOW, here we are, one day away! Last year's Winter show boasted a fabulous vendor list, plus ridiculously good grilled cheese and mac-and-cheese balls, so I have high hopes all around for this May show. Please come visit me in the tent adjoining the main hall! Scroll midway down to check out the robust vendor list.

I'll pack up my car after Rick returns from the first student matinee of his final Mosaic play-with-music, "Detroit to Dakar," which he also wrote and directed. It officially premieres tomorrow -->  tickets for this weekend or next may be purchased here.  His over-the-top production week coincided with my own intense week, which perforce coincided with a more tearful daughter. Harried fun for all!

Coming with me: spiffy new handcart, delusional blue footed boobies, improvised card sign bases to replace the *perfect* ones (now 20% bulkier, with uncooked rice!), bullying squirrels, angst-ridden groundhogs, hedgehog stickers, and random art books and Dickinson poems to leaf through on the off-moments.

Wishing Fellow Artists and all Attendees a Wonderful Show!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Venn Diagrams FTW Plus Say Goodbye, In Dog

A couple weeks ago, the girl and I had a rough patch. It was exhausting and infuriating, and followed close on the heels of a couple months of trading illness. The collective household was rundown, pining for Spring, and just a mite peevish. Now, the homefront norm -- at least with the under 4 y.o. set -- is debate over every possible thing, market haggling over bedtime variations, selected water glass, cutlery facing the wrong way; harsh words over block tower aesthetics, the slowness of adults, furniture climbing constraints, etc. This, we are used to. We get pulled in; or we skillfully manoeuvre around the verbal roadblocks (“Re-routing,” intones parental GPS. “Re-routing…re-routing~~”)

This rough patch, however, delivered us into different terrain. Without a pause, we had left the suburbs for…What? Off-roading in the wrong vehicle, with towering bramble hedges, hostile natives, and a high potential for ambush. To be fair, on my daughter’s end, there’s probably new construction underlying – and fueling – most behaviors. I DO know that a lot of our emotions must be listened to and then also grown and shaped by our peers and elders  – and ALSO that preschoolers are often “trying on” emotional ways of being. But it’s disquieting when a person shorter than a yardstick seems capable of contempt and menace. In short, one of the few highpoints from the week was doodling the following Venn diagram:


"Our daughter's in the center, right?"





A brief, inspirational selection:
  • “If you do not do [X ridiculous thing], I will take your skin off” 
  • “No YOU just don’t REMEMBER because I’m SMARTER THAN YOU”
  • Silent, grim plotting [inferred]
  • Sitting on top of a play structure, chortling, while the girl she has pushed to the ground cries. Glances triumphantly at father, as if he will share the moment.
Disclaimer: We have no kitten.

In truth, the following proportions may be more accurate:



On the more innocuous side of things, our daughter often informs us of surprising skill sets. While we think the world of her, we are apparently we of little faith, as far as she's concerned.

Yesterday evening* I was driving her home from preschool. *Also from a couple weeks ago.

"Sooooo," she begins from the darkness of the backseat. I turn down the radio. "I was thinking: tomorrow we could go to gymnastics."

"Uh hunh."

"Gymnastics won't be open, but they have a lot of ice?"

"Ohhhkay"

"So we could go and skate on it."

"Hmmm. Well ~~"

"Oceane [preschool classmate] says I'm not ice skating, I'm SLIPPING. But I can ice skate, so we could~~"

"Is there actually an ice rink?"

"~~No but there's a lot of ice and it's cold. And Daddy [principal ferryman to gymnastics] doesn't believe that I can ice skate. He doesn't want me to be in the parking lot. So I have to TRUST him and show him so he believes it. You. And Me. And Daddy, we can all go."

"So usually when people ice skate, they wear special shoes?" I steer and make eye contact with her through the rear view mirror. "And they have metal blades on the bottom and so you wear them and go along, wooooosh in them, across the ice--" I make weird slicing motions with my hands and arms.

She peers at me. "Maybe. But I don't think so."

Oh the certainty~~!  Part bluster, part wish. Or verbal doodling. Maddening, but fascinating. The first couple times she professed an enthusiastic love for something i just cooked, I relaxed into pleasure, ready to file the recipe into the child-friendly section of my mind. And then, less then two bites later, she sniffed:"Actually, I don't really like this. What are my other choices?" Wait, whaaaat? I have given up on trying to debate that one. It seems like she has warm up reactions, or specific faux-social reactions that she tries on; then abandons. And where does the true preference reside? I suspect she knows a small portion of the time, but she's game for playing whatever the role demands.

In any case, we have thankfully -- if mysteriously -- swung back to a more pleasant part of the behavioral spectrum. Whatever, however, we'll take it! She turned four on Monday (!!!) and so far, she is pretty much like a 3 year old, but more cake-filled, and armed with a Frozen bike.  

Favorite snippet from this morning, while out on her scooter. Two larger dogs lunge at their fence, across the street, as we draw level to their house. 

PS [shouting]: "WHAT...ARE YOUR NAMES??" They bark at us.
PS [to me]: I think they are saying, in dog, 'WE DON'T KNOW WHAT OUR NAMES ARE, BUT WE ARE DOGS'"
ME: Or maybe they're saying, 'HEY, don't come in our backyard! This is our house!' Because dogs tend to be very protective and they don't know us.
PS [pauses then shouts]: I GET IT! 
PS [to me]: I was letting them know I understand and we won't come over.  
Me: Ohhh, okay.
PS [shouting over her shoulder]: WOOF! WOOOF, WOOF!!
PS [to me]: I was trying to say goodbye, in dog. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scooters: the Newest in Animal Transport, Plus BookEndless Kitchens

I did a thing. I did a new thing! Well, not BRAND brand new, it's a two color linocut. But for my first time in all these years using some nice sharp Pfeil gouges instead of my usual throw-away student things. After ALL THESE YEARS, you ask yourself, If I was going to continue with this endeavor, WHY would I deem proper tools an extravagance?

As well, last week marked the first week of using my mini hairdryer to soften up the linoleum blocks, even though this wee hairdryer has been stored in my work space, for just such a purpose, because god knows I don't use it on my head. Why does it take so much time to shift from the idly contemplative, "Mmm, yeah, that seems like a good idea"/ "Hmm, that beats what *I'm* doing~~" to a positive follow-through? I must first overcome my own crotchetyness before paring away the crotchety aspects of my process or surroundings. So: Bahhh! And wheeee! The lino -- supple;  the tools -- sleekly sharp. I had hesitated over the return, after decades, to palm-held tools, but once I picked them up, they felt natural. A calming, more controlled experience. Hopefully they will show through in my work -- but the process alone is an improvement! Nice to hole up in a warm corner of my basement while Winter rages on up above. I also spent some time since January going through the basement and my work area, getting rid of and finding places for the various just-in-case possessions. My work area feels more ready to work these days.


 

So, here we have the latest, on mulberry paper:



Visit Etsy listing here and check out my Instagram here for the second variation (bright pink, currently drying in the basement).

On the homefront, we have emerged from high fevered nastiness for the little one, capped off at the end with a plummeting geode bookend that landed on our daughter's big left toe. Justified wailing + pool of blood = hours in Urgent Care Random. We eventually had very good care*, and, but for some pitiful hobbling, she soldiered through. 

Per usual,  interactions with the resident preschooler range from the ghastly to perplexing, to goofy-cute. From this morning:

Me, startled by a suspicious pool: Why is the floor by your bed all wet?
PS, matter of factly: Oh, I was spitting there.

Me, failing to run my fingers through her hair: Why is your hair all crunchy?
PS: Oh I had a lollipop in the car last night
Me: Oh, you *know* you're not supposed to touch your hair with lollipop hands!
PS, indignant: I *DIDN'T*! ... (more as an aside) But then I forgot and I touched the lollipop to my hair.

Breakfast Humor
Q: Why did the pantry cross the road?
A: Because it has a handle!

Eating her avocado toast

Q: Why did the piece of avocado cross the road?
A: Because it was green!

From a couple days ago. She is at a work table in the basement, seriously inking a couple small lino blocks. I am reorganizing the space. I turn up the radio, sing along. She gazes up at me for a moment.

PS: NO dancing. [I shimmy and purse my lips at her]. NO DANCING. [she pauses, and mutters to her paper] ...This is not a wedding, NO ONE is getting married. 


*barring the ONLY nurse I have ever actively disliked. She batted an impressive pair of fake eyelashes at my slumped daughter and proceeded to coo over her, repeatedly likening her to a a little baby doll in a toy box, she was THAT PRECIOUS, NO SERIOUSLY, THAT PRECIOUS, and finally addressing the patient directly:"So, darling, who are your THREE FAVORITE PRINCESSES???" Celie kind of stared at her. She has discovered Frozen, and is as smitten as most -- Rick and I are inevitably on call as Elsa- or Ana- stand-ins -- but this question caught her up short. She seemed confused an adult would be posing it to her. The nurse pushed on to some other rote obnoxiousness, without ever addressing her about the reason for the visit, etc. She took the blood pressure gadget from the wall and I noted she could actually talk to my daughter about that. She asked sweetly whether Celie wanted to be a doctor and she exclaimed yes! Without missing a beat, Gender Stereotype upped her Weirdo game:"Oh GOOOOD, you'll make LOTS OF MONEY! You could buy your Mommy a NEW CAR, VROOOM VROOOM, YEAH wouldn't THAT be FUN and your MOMMY would LOVE THAT!" Celie remained uncharacteristically silent. She could tell something was different here, but didn't know what to do with it; I was just waiting for her to leave. Which she did, thankfully, soon after that. WTF.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Final Days for the Flowers; Go for a Ride in the English Countryside

New year, new creativity, right? Best to stoke the creative fires with a good museum jaunt. First outing of 2019: a trip to to the Toledo Museum of Art to find out whether Rebecca Louise Law's "Community" exhibit is as magical as all that ("It was magic?" asked my 3 1/2 year old. Well, no, not technically). It definitely falls in the category of more than the sum of its parts and good lord, it had a TON of parts. An attendant opens the frosted door as you draw near, so you glimpse the room only at its threshold. Hundreds (thousands?) of dangling garlands of local flora create pathways within the bare white gallery space. The flowers themselves (or seedpods, wheat stalks, berries etc.) were strung by kind, creating areas of suspended color, swaying ever-so-slightly. The beauty/sweetness is balanced by the dried/decaying aspect, though any decay falls into the faded/desiccated variety. I was too late to catch the "fresh" part of the fresh and floral exhibit (it went up in June 2018) -- I imagine it was initially verdant, lush -- but the delicately dried curtains were still rich. 

 










First reaction: quiet delight. I wandered about, grinning like a fool -- and making vain attempts to capture the wonder with mediocre picture taking. Second reaction? "How LONG DID THIS TAKE??" Even the more masochistic artist types would lose it before stringing a third of the room's garlands. And this, naturally, was the community aspect of the installation, which I failed to grasp until I watched the artist conversation video back home: Law invites local volunteers to participate in garland creation, so that her vision is collectively brought into reality. Back in the exhibit, you can see everyone else shuffling through, craning their necks upward, partially obscuring themselves for floral portraits. On this Friday, the audience is overwhelmingly female, barring a couple seeming boyfriends. A couple women tick off Latin plant names to each other; a handful of older women joke about their rowdiness (minimal); a young man and woman in matching blue "Dunder Mifflin" tee shirts come off as generally embarrassed. At the same time I lose my will to wander,  the gallery room strikes me as newly small. My picture taking isn't going to improve, and I'm not suddenly going to possess a deeper knowledge of flora and fauna. Do I feel more connected? Not so much to the community, possibly to the moment, or at least the day overall -- the freedom of being able to wander without hurrying to chase a child.  





"You're just so tickled!" says the woman at the door.  She extends her hand toward the door handle.

"Oh, it's delightful."  She asks if I'm related to someone who works there. No, I say, but it's a lovely place. Is she a volunteer, or staff?


She leans in conspiratorially: "I'm security. I'm the one whose supposed to break your bones if you get out of line!" As Rick often says of me: she fails to intimidate.


"...Wellll, I'll try to be good."


"Yeah," she says gruffly, "Tone it down."

--> This exhibit closes January 13th.


****
Next up is a short walk to the "Sights & Sounds" exhibit in the newly renovated contemporary art gallery. I am rarely drawn to, or have the patience for, extended video pieces, so I'm surprised to immediately get sucked into David Hockney's "Woldgate Woods, Winter 2010," a nine screen video showing an English road and woods from his childhood. It's 52 minutes long, silent, and hypnotic. The screens are displayed in a tight 3 x 3 square; and everything almost-but-not-quite lines up. Despite the deliberate jarring, and the ongoing driving forward of the camera/car,  it remains calm. 
 



The tire tracks ahead are deep, the tree branches and underbrush are all coated thickly with snow. It looks cold, but feels cozy with the trees on both sides. The sky lightens. A car pulls ahead, on our right, and travels far down the road, before mysteriously stopping. To what end? Eventually they pull away and dwindle to a dot. Birds dart in and out of frame. It's like front porch neighbor-gazing, without the pleasantries; fireside snoozing, barring the crackle and snap. 

Suddenly, the trees open up the left: And now! Such a feeling of freedom and space! And then, someone walks toward us. Obviously we don't know him, but will he interact somehow? But no, he tucks his head down, hands pocketed, and passes to the right. Second piece at the museum, second time being mesmerized,  contented. A voice inside me sneers: "Are you just predisposed to LOVE everything today?" in the tone usually reserved for "WHAT IS *WRONG* WITH YOU?" Maybe so, maybe not. Maybe I'm more open than I tend to be, but it's also a strong opening exhibit for this refurbished gallery. Artist-takes-on-nature is a classic, and as a classic, is in danger of falling into the trite. I haven't thought deeply enough to comment on the cohesiveness of the exhibit, but I will say the artist roster is impressive, as are the number of appealing, engaging pieces. 

From the Woldgate Woods, one also hears the ocean, and possibly sitar music.* Takashi Ishida's fantastic "Wall of the Sea" is responsible for the ocean's intrusion into the British countryside. Three screens, three identical white rooms. A projector in the middle shows a seascape on the far wall, which quickly overflows its smaller screen and pools out across the floor. Each room is rapidly consumed by different depictions of water -- calligraphic ink swirls in one, broad watercolor splashes, white paint on black surface; each screen is overtaken, before all recedes, the space is new again, then overtaken. Photographic footage of the sea is grey, grainy, blurry vs. the rich blue pigments used by Ishida. I love the whole experience of it, without fathoming intended messages.

Other favorites: "Frank," by Robert Longo (ESPECIALLY his process, haha!), Kiki Smith's "Seated Nude"** (clearly not a child's figure, but the overly large head is still so endearing to me. Creepy, but endearing), the elegance of Maya Lin ("Dew Point 18," "Silver Erie"), Jonathon Borofsky's business men screenprints ("2740475"), "Mount Rainier, from The United States" (gorgeous woodblock print from 1925, by Hiroshi Yoshida).



Definitely worth a trip. This exhibit is up through February 24, 2019. 


*Nope. Just a guitar. But very plinky!
**this leads me to a SUBfavorite, particular to all the 3D works: the overly large ALL CAPS


Signs. Hard to not imagine the total aggravation behind it. ...For the love of God, you're in a museum, people!! WHY MUST WE ALWAYS STATE THIS. People, people, people.