Tuesday, May 31, 2016

If the Bear Knocks Twice, Let Him In

Greetings! One day shy of June, during which my Dad, my sister, Javier (same day as sister!), and myself all celebrate birthdays. Much planning, perusing, and a handful of packages to assemble. And of course, a time to take stock of one's life, the subjective analysis of which is ridiculously variable for me.

This time around, barring my lax approach* to exercise and a few other things, it's looking pretty good. Baby's thriving: talky, adorable, puppylike in the treatment of her adults**. I am down to a couple last sketches needed for the picture book project and I just delved into linoleum cuts after years of having a couple unused blocks in my basement.

I've been thinking about the small cards I sell. My biggest sellers are birds from a larger woodcut I did many years ago. I love their continued popularity, I love combining these mini prints with pretty decorative papers, I love browsing the paper stores and considering my options. But I also don't feel like I'm growing with them. What's next? That's the smaller and larger question for me now.

I have been giving myself more doodly playtime in the past month, and it's starting to pay off: random characters are showing up in my mind, with more random things to say. This used to happen to me more frequently, before I started funneling my energy into a single larger project. I missed this! And now it seems to be back. Not that I know what to do with all of them. I make note of them and file some away. Some will gain life. The bear design below is an exception, having started with a photograph, without something pointed to say. He'd like to be in your business, though.
the pillow-animal hybrid resurfaces
Like the Oyo, the bear is in-your-face friendly. I doubt he'll have the widespread appeal of the birds, but maybe he'll resonate for the same folk who like the snacky Badger. One acquaintance saw the first photo and said, "Ahh, you're making a kids' card." It could be, but I don't think it has to be.

 Either way, it was a fun exercise to try out the lino block's butteryness.
A fine Friday afternoon!

I carved a few layers for multiple color printing
The flip-side is promising
A certain charm...
...But ultimately I returned to post-print markers

On sale soon -- likely venues: Cakeasaurus Etsy shop, Literati, Bookbound...
--> Next up: pensive chipmunk.<--

*it's true, I approach it. wocka wocka!
**so scrambly, when you sit on the floor, she charges at you, flops into your lap, snuggles for a moment and then tries to push you over. Pushy, pushy child. More bitey than we would like. No pinch, no bite!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Doom, Doom, DOOM!...Or maybe not. WE ARE THE 30%!

...A little less than a third, lacking the outrage of the 99, or the extensive funds of the 1%... {From yesterday}

For some reason, a study that appeared in Demography journal, which Washington Post summarized last Summer has been newly shared by Facebook friends today. The study was yet another that concluded having children negatively impacts a couple's happiness; and I was drawn to it like the cliched moth to its flame. This focused on 2,000+ German participants. The Post headlined it as follows: "It turns out parenthood is worse than divorce, unemployment — even the death of a partner" Niiiiiice. To be fair, about 30% of participants remained roughly as happy as they had been, prior to their first child; but the remaining 70% decreased one to three units in the happiness scale. The surprising part? Gender not a factor.

The heartening thing was that this tracked the FIRST year of baby life, which everyone says is the hardest (in some ways) and HELLO OYO is...well, oyo. Fourteen months, as of tomorrow, so it seems we have come through the fire just fine, bumps included. Javier and my relationship is relatively young, though, so we were dealing with A.) a first pregnancy at the same time as B.) combining households, which I resisted in a skittish way for a little bit and then C.) dealing with everything within my previously owned house instead of having a new neutral space and D.) long work hours from Javier, which he has always been upfront about and does his best to counterbalance. See? You get a broad study, and then one reads it, and tries to make the results fit or not fit at a specific personal, anecdotal level. Ahhhh, solipsism!

...Anyway it cracked me up to see FB friends posting the link: single, no kids: "Enough said"; married, kids "It's the kid's fault!" Heh. Obviously, as a relatively new mother, my feelers are out for all of this kind of talk/coverage. Plus, as someone in a committed relationship of under three years, I still swing between blissful gratefulness, cartoony aggravation (head blows up! yet character still animated!) and grim, push-through-it "Oh we CLEARLY have a lot to work on in communication." Outside of couplehood, I feel like I have managed to maintain a separate life beyond parenting -- though I imagine it would be an entirely different story without money enough for regular babysitting and a partner who values my creativity and independence. No money, at all, at all? With a baby who slept poorly through the first year (not a fault of Oyo. She does fluky things like waking up for the past two nights at 1 AM, for roughly an hour, talking to herself amiably; but sleeps well generally) ? Intermittent homicidal feelings and despair would be the norm, and *natural* I'd assume...

As it is, here I sit in a nice corner of a dark basement level restaurant for happy hour (optimistically rebranded as "Charming Hour" on the menu). When I entered it was empty, aside from a handful of industry folk shoring themselves for their evening shift; but suddenly the room has grown boisterous. Lesson from the next table: Champagne is a teenage drink ("You know, it's close to soda," WHATTTT). An older man is trying to woo younger women at the bar's end by quoting Friends episodes: Stop now. 

****** ...And I also needed to stop then, as my playtime was up. Happy Wednesday, Everyone! For those for whom days of the week have less meaning, Happy...Day!

Monday, May 16, 2016

False Starts, A-Weekending We go

Unsatisfying: to visit your blog posts page and see the top half littered with "draft," "draft," "draft" and remember, too, that you started blog posts at that bar with dodgy internet and that lovely restaurant last month and g*ddamn, why's it so hard to establish habits which honor that which you find to be most important? Turning 44 in less than a month, which I haven't acknowledged until now, and Javier is EVEN older, and I won't give specifics, but it's a milestone*...I'm trying to turn over a new leaf**. It's a pretty low-tech leaf, with pen scrawls over recycled paper with two-week buckets loosely gridded out. I can...ease into...a routine, right? So at the least, I can list out the highest priority tasks for the duration, and that way, given twenty minutes, or an hour, or a few at the end of the day, I can point and shoot, versus waffle around anew each day. We'll see how it goes.

As Sundays go, it was a pretty contented, domestic one, despite May snowflakes and Saturday's momentary hail. For years in make-do jobs, I often wondered whether Sunday's melancholy was intrinsic, or if it would assume a different character without Monday's work looming overhead, with its email backlog and sludge of meetings***. Well, I'm here to report that, yes there DOES seem to be a pleasantly mild, abiding sadness, but why?

Gingerbread pancakes started the day off nicely, paired with the afterglow of seeing Javier bask in his directorial success at the DIA the night before****. I carried Oyo across the street to see my family-friends in the neighborhood; and then we briskly surveyed the Yourist Spring Pottery sale tent. We followed artist Stephen Kerr inside Yourist, duckling-style, as he's
similar. from Lakeside Pottery
often a good person to follow. He talked about his new favorite black clay ("Cassius Clay") and let me hold a piece so I could confirm its buttery pliability. We chatted while Stephen made a round standing form. He sealed a 2 inch clay band to its circular clay base with a rolled coil shape (think: those tiny playdoh snakes from decades past), which he pressed down with a tiny spatula thing. The indents made pleasing little teeth prints. He added a second band on top of the first; and at that point it looked like an oh-so-neatly frosted milk chocolate cake. Also pleasing, but distracting. I thought maybe I could make the gingerbread pancakes with chocolate chips next time; or slather them with nutella.

favorite sweater
Stephen complimented Oyo on her best handknit sweater and told me that he used to teach his third graders to knit, so they could knit while he read Harry Potter chapters out loud to them. Don't you wish you had a similar third grade experience to share? My memories from that grade centered around Mrs. Sudler bullying a classmate to "not draw like a baby" i.e. coloring the sky in broad horizontal strokes, rather than a scribble here and there. Art ruiner. And she put up lots of blackboards of homework, which seemed excessive then but is probably normal now. Multiplication stressed me OUT.
...but not knitting for soldiers. from mylearning
The rest of the day meandered on, much like this post. I had pancakes and tea during Oyo's disturbing naptime*****; and then we visited the grandparents, where Oyo was gobsmacked by her Grandpa repeatedly opening the refrigerator and her Grandma handed her several paper napkins, which she gleefully shredded before eating them. And so it goes...

*as they say, when they wish to convey gravitas to something potentially unpleasant and resented. As with the entire rest of the human race, neither of us really feel we should be the age we are, even though I get carded tons less, "ma'amed" by either clueless young men (just don't address this, unless you're Southern; I get "miss"ed by the same demographic, which also makes me want to slap you; but since I won't slap you, I'll just tip you less) or male idiots who are approximately my age (you should totally, utterly know better; don't spread your paternalistic passive aggressiveness my way because you're not comfortable waiting on me; I wouldn't look down on you, except: now I do) *SECOND NOTE TO THE ASTERISK --he's older and also damn more accomplished. but to say that would be setting the wrong dynamic between us, right? But seriously, he has been following his passion with a passion for basically his entire adult life -- and he's talented -- so, yes, he's most definitely more accomplished.

**And, you know, fix everything about myself before Oyo stops being astounded by my poor whistling (like a bird!!!) and ceases to check in with me from across the room ("Hahaha,"...I mean, is this all cool Mom? This person is picking me up and knows that my feet are ticklish, is this okay?...Okay") and starts understanding terms like "self-thwarting."

***my favorite corporate culture video ever, Conference Call in Real Life and more, recently, Carrie Brownstein's New Yorker piece on eliminating conference calls 

**** A/k/a Rick Sperling, Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit's newest "Midsummer Soulstice," which is really, really fantastic, my bias aside. Seriously talented and professional young artists. Isn't it lovely when you can stop and enjoy what a dear one has wrought, through vision and will? Which, again, is not to give credit solely to one person for the success of an entire play -- this only comes to pass through dedicated and impassioned staff; and dedicated, talented actors. So much hard work, for something to potentially exist for a few nights! But like grows like, right? An impressive display of talent, paired with a sense of command, inspires further pursuit of talent. Thank goodness for the ripple effect, wherever you find it.

*****Odd to sip tea accompanied by an extended bout of gnawing via the baby monitor; the crib rail now has dented spots free of shellack, ohhhh industrious Beaver Baby.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

You Know What Would Fix that Neckline? A Huge Napkin. I'll Just Tie it Around Your Neck.

No museum day tomorrow, but luckily I have more to think about from last week at the Toledo Museum of Art.
1.)                                Portrait of a Young Woman, Horace Vernet, 1831

For me, this painting called Bouguereau to mind, though the sitter is stiffer, more heavily rouged, less lithesome than his mythological figures. The longer I look at her, the more fond I become, though what if she wound up resembling one of Jane Austen's more aggravating characters? Potential character flaws: arrogance, smugness, rigidity. And on what visual basis do I theorize? That she is painted with a direct gaze? As she was most certainly directed. Bahh.

But here we are meant to focus on other aspects of "feminine character." How does she feel about being the embodiment of purity and innocence? Stuffed and bowed, be-ribboned and be-gloved! Even the foliage -- much too aggressive to be called background -- is in on it, being juniper (or chastity, in Victorian flower parlance). DO YOU GET HOW UNBLEMISHED SHE IS, SHE IS A VIRGIN TO THE POWER OF THREE. And they aim to keep her that way until marriage, if the wilty violets indicates her betrothed status, as TMA suggests (Victorian flower dictionary=faithfulness). They are so tiny and limp to indicate something that must be hardy to be of any use, though. Easily dropped and trod underfoot.

2.) But earlier in the day, the first thing I saw after the welcoming Matisse ceramic mural was Paul Manship's charming Dancer and Gazelles on the second floor. The sculptor's "Moods of Time: Evening" knocked my socks off at the DIA a few years ago, so it was refreshing to encounter his work at another museum. {--> see blog post for photos of piece, which was created for the 1939 World's Fair, more on Manship's career}

3.)                                                 BEST FOR LAST
The MOST EXCITING art moment came at the end of the day, in the museum store. I was leafing through a Kehinde Wiley coffee table book when a staff member sidled up to me. He leaned in with a conspiratorial air: "We're getting this exhibit!"

"WHAT, NO!" KEHINDE WILEY. I actually got head chills*.

"I know"

"REALLY??? Like this exact one~"


"It's locked in, solid~"

"February 2017." He nods, triumphantly before whisking himself away. I felt giddy in the moment, and giddy now, in the typing. I can't really explain the visceral quality to my reaction, but maybe that's unnecessary. I love that Wiley uses traditional European portraiture as a springboard, captures its essence and re-envisions them with African Americans at the center. I love that his painting is masterful, so its technique can not be dismissed. I love that he usually opts for massive scale, so the beauty and strength and dignity of his models are unavoidable. I love that when he reduces the background to a design element, those elements never remain solely in the background, but merge/interact with the subject. I love that he usually collaborates with his subjects and tells them (the guys, at least): "You're going to be in a painting, so wear something you're excited about"
Sleep, 2008, DIA in their "30 Americans" exhibit

Same exhibit

So the exhibit that will be coming to Toledo ("An Economy of Grace") was first shown in Brooklyn, and featured the series of portraits featuring female models. He tracked down models for photoshoots by stopping pedestrians near a shopping district. For this series, he determined he would have Givenchy couture pieces created specifically for them, which initially gave me pause in terms of representation -- so the guys wear their own clothes, and in so doing show more of their personality, i.e. personhood? And the women? Get dressed again, prepared for the artist and viewer's gaze?... But essential to his portraits for both genders is the lifting up, the giving/claiming of dignity that is often denied by the larger culture. And dressing the women in bespoke clothing most certainly speaks to that (Wiley relished the sense of "untouchably beautiful" as conveyed by haute couture). Flip your calendar to 2017, pencil in TMA in February! In the meantime check out the PBS documentary about Wiley's creation of this exhibit.

From the video:

"I always think about the exotic. Sometimes the exotic can be right in front of you, I think that when I watch television, participate in the media culture in America, sometimes the way that I see/have seen black people portrayed in this country feels very strange and exotic, because it has nothing to do with the life that i have lived or people that I've known..." -- Wiley

"[In classic European portraiture] The painting is there to reinforce that sense of belongingness --  for Kehinde's subjects it's the complete opposite. These people were not supposed to be there." -- An art critic within documentary, sorry! watch it and find out...


*This weirdness is usually reserved for something which scares the pants off me, or shocks me. I know I *want* to see a horror movie, but absolutely should not see that horror movie, if I watch a trailer and get headchills. Applied when I was 7, applies now. Don't look under the bed and get the hell out of the house. But for an art exhibit? Never.