Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Polar Bears to the Bayou

I am giving birth today!! It has been a long and arduous nine months of planning and preparation, but today is the day. Oh stop looking so shocked, at 49, I am not actually carrying a child, I am carrying 165 of them. Take that Octo-mom!!

For the better part of 9 months now, I have worked (with the true help and dedication of my son’s best friend’s mom and my partner in crime) to deliver the Jackson High School marching band to New Orleans so they can participate in the Sugar Bowl at the Super Dome. That little combo has been known as the “super bowl”, “sugar dome” and “super sugar” at various moments in time. Finally, it just became “the Game”.

Today, (okay, tomorrow at 1am) I report to the delivery room in full labor and start pushing these kids out the door a few hours later to buses waiting to take them hither and yon for a delightful experience with the airlines of 3 companies, at two airports, going to 2 hubs, on three planes (6 with transfers). Easy.

The only screaming babies may be the 23 adults going along who have to oversee these kids and all the activities. I am the 24th so count among that group as well though my crying is long over. Going to New Orleans, at New Year’s, for a college football event, has been a challenge in the reservation department. Calling a venue to seat “Jackson, party of 200” who don’t drink, does not get welcomed at the Inn very often. We made it happen however thanks to good people, with small town values, that see the benefit of supporting our youth. 800 breakfasts have been packaged or planned, 54 hotel rooms worked out, 4 buses and 4 swamp boats lined up, and a moving van with 36 wardrobe boxes, 165 instruments, 189 suitcases and a whole bunch of other stuff is navigating the roadways as I write this, to meet up at the loading dock in downtown new Orleans.

At my worst moments, I referred to having been “royally screwed” 9 months ago which lead to this big adventure, but in truth, it has eased my way into the empty nest years. The internet proved to be invaluable for communication with hundreds of parents to make this all happen. Is everybody happy? No, far from it, but then not everyone will ever be pleased with how things turn out regardless of the situation.

Tomorrow, my newborns will experience a city and activities with wide-eyed wonder (it is New Orleans at New Years remember…..with inebriated college kids all over…….) and they will not sleep (no time) and be fussy eaters (Cajun cooking ya’all) and whine when they get tired. They may fuss at wearing their uniforms for hours on end, and play with their toys at the wrong time, and throw a tantrum or two when their love bunny is not on the same bus, but all in all, this group of Jackson students it the best one I have ever worked with (and this is my third time traveling with the band…I must have memory problems…)

Soon it will be time to cut the cord and turn them over to their foster parents, the band directors, while I sit back with my fellow chaperones and get increasingly sleep deprived to the point that everything will be funny as heck. So what does this have to do with art? Well, it proves that all art is not visual, some of it is the art of organization (okay, the purple door hangers were rather crafty of me), and now it becomes the biggest performance piece of my career. March on kids! And Go Bearcats!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Townies vs Transients

Walking a few miles to pick up my car last week, I had plenty of time to think while passing places I see every day. I live here, almost 17 years now, but I still don’t think of this as “home”. It is not my “home town” as in the place I was born. I only lived there for a few days so that does not count. I don’t think of my childhood home where I graduated high school to be my “home town” either. Only one bond of friendship remains from those days.

Around mile number 2, I realized, I don’t’ have roots to anyplace. My “home” is my studio. I feel most at home in that location with the thoughts and ideas inside my head. My children will always call this house and this town their home. It is all they have ever really known. It is the address I can fill in with my eyes closed, but I remember all the previous ones too, they are numbers and letters that define a segment of my life.

Does this bother me? No. I feel at home other places too. Sitting in church over the holidays, I felt a twinge of being “home” since it was the place we married and where our children were baptized. But it is not my “home church”; I don’t have one of those. I feel at home in the woods, hiking along trails where the sun makes puzzles out of shadows. I feel at home in school buildings because I was (and still am theoretically) a teacher. I feel at home in some museums, but not all of them. I have to be in a gallery where the art is speaking to me on a creative level, inspiring thoughts for new projects, not just sitting on pedestal or hung on the wall. I feel at home with some members of my family, but not all of them. My friends are more of a family to me than some of my relatives because it is my friends that I can call at 3am in a crisis or who have provided a shoulder when needed. I could go on and on with this type of analogy but you get the idea.

So when asked the question, “Where are you from?” I often don’t know how to answer with any sincerity. The closest city is my standard response since my town is not really known (unless you are from here too). “Where do you live?” is just as bad. Being the snarky person that I am, I like to reply “in a house” (or in a tent if I am particularly perturbed at the time). Where’s home? Is the one I like the least because the honest answer is “I don’t have one, I am homeless”. Most people take that literally. I mean it figuratively. Home is anyplace where I feel comfortable, happy, inspired, safe and so forth. Think about it, we “clean house” or “clean up the house”, we do “household chores” and “housework”; we are called a “housewife” and make “house payments”, all of which sound silly when substituted with “home”. I live in a house, sometimes it is home and sometimes it is not. I consider myself like a tortoise. I carry my home with me, inside my heart, around my shoulders, able to carry others if needed, able to retreat inside at will. It is a strong shelter with a soft underbelly; I stick my neck out now and then, while plodding along at a steady pace. And it was my steady pace that got me to the car repair shop in a timely manner, having noticed lots of places I never really saw before. Ensconced in my car, it was back to rabbit speed, racing towards some goal or another, wondering if I would make it “home” on time to pick up the house.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Note to readers....

All the works in this blog will be mine. A reader can find specific information about works or shows referenced by spending a few moments on Google. This site is my journal so to speak. I am not affiliated with any media outlets. I think of this place like I think of designer clothing in that if some brand wants me to wear their overpriced merchandise because it has their logo on it, then that designer can pay me for the advertising time and space. So if you expect to see other artist's work on here, sorry. This space is mine.

The book "Sex and the Salad, with a little Undressing on the side" is now out and available for sale. A combination of art, food, stories and individuality, make up a unique cook book by Tommy B. Google the title, you can found out how to get one, only $25 each. (okay, $24.95)

"Shattered Expressions" are now public emotions.

Big Brother is alive and well and staring down at us from 5th and Cleveland in Canton. Public art is one of those things that I often wonder if the public was consulted as to whether they wanted something in their space in the first place. A new piece of public art has gone up in our local arts district. Called “Shattered Expressions”, it is made up of 3 over-sized (ten feet or so) foam rubber faces. Painted in a semi mosaic geometric pattern, each face depicts an emotion, joy, rage and sorrow. Hmmmm.........2 out of three are rather depressing. In a city where times are tough and the arts are struggling to remain alive, why put giant negative imagery on our streets to stare down and remind us of the sorrow of unemployment and our rage over the bad news seen and heard every day?

Was any consideration given to the fact that the giant screaming face is going to scare the bejesus out of children who are the next generation of art patrons? Many kids can’t even approach Santa Clause let alone look up at a 10 foot tall foam face full of rage. The artist says we can’t experience one emotion without the others. True, but there are other emotions to choose from that could have made the piece a bit more inviting. Joy is one of the three. How about joy and laughter or joy and surprise? Even a mischievous grin or a smirk of inquisition would be okay too. I just don’t understand why artists are so fascinated with negative imagery. If my office window overlooked this piece, I’d have to move. It would freak me out every day. I believe that we have full control over our emotions starting with our attitude and with the things that surround us. This installation reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode where a family puts on masks of horrible distortion and when the masks are removed, their faces have conformed to the masks’ hideousness for all eternity. I guess we are now stuck with these expressions of emotion for all eternity too.

Personally, I would want my arts district to be a place of positive energy, fun and creativity. Public art is a great idea; it makes people more aware of their visual world and spices up some boring brick walls. My issue is that the public should have some say in the art chosen if it is called “public art”. The supporters have said it will “raise eyebrows”, “spark a little controversy”, and “give context to the arts district”, you can count on that. I just don’t know if it will result in the desired outcome of raising arts awareness and support for the arts themselves or leave people wondering why they give money to the arts only to be screamed at. The GP should well wonder what the heck were these people thinking. Rather than saying “come on down and be a part of art”, I see Jacob Marley on the door or the gates of the Emerald City with giant scary faces saying “go away, we are guardians of this domain”.

Survivors of domestic violence have seen that screaming face far too often, children of troubled homes feel that sorrow deep inside, and the joy seems forced. I know my reaction to this piece is not going to sit well, but I can’t lie and say I like it. I don’t. Bravo to donating space and supporting the arts, but please think about the far reaching messages of such a permanent thing in our little community. The counter argument/reaction is going to be that the arts and artists need to acknowledge all emotions, have a right and a duty to express themselves, and we(as artists) need to be honest about life in general. All true and all valid observations, now consider the marketability of the work as a representation of our town. How does it look on a brochure mailed out to other cities? Maybe “laughter” was not a chosen emotion for that very reason.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Come ride the exhibition submission roller coaster.

Does anybody else out there feel like the system used for exhibition consideration and calls for submissions needs a real overhaul in the courtesy department? Building an exhibition record is like riding a roller coaster. As artists, we chug our way up hill, working and working and working towards something exciting that lies ahead. Some days is seems as if we will never get another opportunity. Then suddenly, we crest the hill and things come rushing at us fast and furious. We scramble to stay on track, shipping out to shows, painting a last minute commission and sending out postcards, press releases and insurance papers. Before we know it, the ride is over. The show is down, the work back in storage and the press clippings filed away. The ride to the top begins all over again, chug, chug, chug…..

Each month, I dutifully look through the listings on my deadline service and select several to which I submit a complete packet of materials including a professional cover letter and the obligatory SASE for “exhibition consideration”. Then I wait, sometimes as long as 2 years for any kind of response, after which I consider the packet lost. I used to use a delivery confirmation to make sure the contents arrived. After 5 years with a 100% delivery rate, I decided to drop that practice since statistically I could count on my things arriving safely. Every 3 or 4 months, I send a follow-up email asking about the status of my materials. My response rate is about 1 in 10 that the gallery or venue will answer. Most places just ignore my question. About 50% of the time, I will get my materials back in the mail, sometimes with postage due since it has been so long and rates have since gone up. Last week, I got back a packet containing slides (slides!?) which I had sent out 8 years earlier. I liked reading the enclosed letter on that one….”sorry for the delay…” Sorry, apology not accepted.

Yes, the enclosed letter (if I am so lucky as to get one) often contain gushy accolades that may or may not be addressed to me. Usually it is a form letter that says "dear artist" but sometimes it has been auto filled and gives me somebody else’s name. I often wonder what poor “Diana” thinks when she reads her “Dear Judy” letter (can’t even spell it right….). As for the work itself, 25% of the time my CD has not been opened which I can tell by the sticker used to seal it closed.

So my issue here is that I try and be as professional as possible. I do all the things asked, send all the materials requested, and then get treated like junk mail. If a gallery is listing a call for submissions, then please have the decency to let us know you got the materials. Return them in a timely manner if an SASE is included, but only after you have actually looked at our work. Try to send a letter addressed to the correct applicant. I understand that America is getting more casual and people don't learn the basics of courtesy and manners much anymore (and artists tend to not be the best left brained business people), but if I am spending my time to answer your request, at least you can spend a few moments to answer mine. I know you are overwhelmed with the responses at times, and that is okay. Let us know our materials arrived and that it could be 6 months or more until you get to it, but that you will get to it. The excuse that you just got too many submissions is not really a good one since the deadline service reaches thousands upon thousands of artists, what did you expect? And finally, thank us for helping to keep you in business as we thank you for reviewing our work.

On the flip side, sometimes I get the nicest letters back. They recommend other galleries where I should apply as my work would fit well there. Some mention a specific piece that made the committee laugh out loud (but I still don’t fit the venue), and every now and then, I get a handwritten sticky note probably by some poor gallery intern that says “Sorry we cannot offer you a show at this time, but I really liked your stuff!” Apology accepted.

Time to get back on the roller coaster and start up another hill, that stomach dropping thrill of excitement which comes with each show is probably just around that next curve…..

Monday, December 14, 2009

Save the audience participation for game shows!

I am a "Sitter". Not a baby sitter, but a person who sits during a concert or play, and listens to what is going on in front of me. There are not many sitters out there anymore. Concerts and plays would be a whole lot more enjoyable if the following would just stay home.

The “Talkers” - “Talkers” are those people who feel the need to talk during an entire show. I don’t mean just that annoying whisper chat, but a full on conversation about things. Dirty looks over the shoulder are useless as these folks just ignore the evil eye or glare back in indignation that grandma’s growing gambling addiction is not as important to me as it should be.

The “Wrappers” – “Wrappers” show up prepared and time their activity perfectly to the performance so as to unwrap candy and snacks in a slow and methodical method thinking it will make the noise less intrusive. Cellophane is not theater friendly. Can’t you hear it yourself? Neither are bags of small candies that fall out and make their way down the floor like pin balls and usually followed by crying.

The “Chewers” - These people feel it is essential for their survival to chew gum or other items (I don’t care to know) that pop, crack and slurp. Doesn’t all that noise in the jaw block the fine art of hearing? If you feel a sneeze coming on, please cover your mouth because that wad of gum has a tendency to relocate itself into my hair or on my coat only to be discovered later. Thanks kindly for not telling me too.

The “Tip Tappers” – Primarily younger, people who text and think I can neither see, nor hear, the constant motion of your thumbs as some urgent message about nothing important is relayed to another person located only a few seats away really drives me nuts. Mutual smirks between the two of you about whatever is on the screen tells me that it is not life altering news being shared, but I do like the dramatic eye roll in response to my squint of annoyance.

The “Passers” – Equal opportunists for sure, the passers are those who decide in the middle of something crucial, that your coat can no longer be tolerated and it must be passed up and over your body to someone nearby who is not aware it is coming and therefore must make personal adjustments of their own. Go ahead, hold it up and block my view while you and the recipient discuss why it has to come over there right now.

The “Sliders” – Yes, the reason I always ask for an aisle seat is because of the sliders, the late arrivals or those who stand around in the aisle and chat until well after the lights have gone down and then ask to just “slide by” to their seat located in the middle of the row. Even if I am a dozen rows back, this blocks my view too. Because there is not much room between knees and a seat back and most of the human race are not runway models, this process often takes a bit of maneuvering.

And finally, those who annoy me beyond all others are the “Flippers”. These offenders are becoming all to frequent. Flippers feel it is necessary to open their cell phones every couple of minutes so as to look at something. Each time that happens, a bright light from your screen sends a bolt of brightness to my peripheral vision temporarily blinding me on one side. Flash photography is not allowed for a reason, but I can’t imagine that these points of light in the audience are not just as distracting. Flippers are the worst because the often morph into Tip-Tappers and Talkers.

Alas, I have no solutions to these audience dilemmas, but I have multiple theories as to why this is common and evidently acceptable behavior. Sometimes I wish all the actors or musicians would stop performing and just wait. Like a classroom teacher tired of the chit chat, stop doing what you are doing and wait until whatever disruptive audience activity has been completed. Eventually the guilty will catch on that something has happened. Maybe a good stare down from Mr. Scrooge would make a difference. (Oh, and turn up the house lights too. Better yet, maybe even move a spotlight onto these people!) I tend to think not however. The added attention may be just what they are seeking.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Having a Breakdown

Not a mental one and not a physical one….yet!

It started with the washer. Not a good sign when one opens the lid to find a pile of wet clothing and the display panel flashing some combo of letters to let you know what is wrong. Could that code be printed on the door panel? Heck no, you have to go searching through the stack of manuals to find the right one, still not throwing out the old ones for remotes long gone and coffee makers whose carafe is all that remains (would make a good watering can someday). Genius at work here could probably tell you that it is not spinning therefore not draining, but best to get a professional second opinion. Yep, no drain means big pain. Call repairman….bad. Spending a few forced hours of down time at the laundry mat….good! Except the lady there is really into Matlock so I caught up on some past episode I must have missed in the ‘80’s.

Big oil spot on garage floor…bad. Look under car…not good. Call tow truck and repairman. I think this is God’s way of saying “stay home you idiot, and get those presents wrapped and pick up the piles of stuff or you sure has heck will trip over something and really mess things up!” Well okay, I don’t think God really talks that way….okay, yes I do and it is called the inner voice of reason. Which is really just my way of justifying all these little “inconveniences” without getting all wacked out about it because….

….refrigerator bombs are the worst! Sitting at the kitchen table, I hear a big noise as if my kid had thrown his size 16 shoe from the office to the kitchen and it bounced off a cabinet. Having checked out that possibility and confirmed it as a negative, I began a sweep for landmines. Even the cat was on high alert (or else I nearing the food dish and hopes were running high). I heard another boom but nothing was visible. We have a ghost but that is another story, he lives in my oven vent. Nearing the fridge, the only possible source, I cautiously open the door….. bad. Reflexes at my age…..still good or I would have had a sour cream shower. That puppy came flying out the door. Inside I found the evidence of pop bombs. …all over the inside and running down the shelves. Words out of my mouth…bad. (very bad). Seems the thermostat had a bit of a breakdown and froze all the pop cans. In an anti global warming moment, the expanding glacier demo was quite successful as they escaped the confines of their man made aluminum casings to set themselves free! This week’s Nobel Prize for scientific invention goes to the wipes in a container guy….he’s the best.

Today, I shall wander my house and give the stink eye to all things mechanical. The next one that decides to blow a gasket, or a belt, or a circuit or whatever else runs their evil little innards, is getting kicked to the curb!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Down in the Dumpster

I truly felt a bit down in the dumpster last week. Personally, I won’t say “down in the dumps” because that phrase is for those who are seriously depressed. Think about it. A dump is huge place where time after time after time, truckloads of garbage gets piled on top over and over again. If you are down in the dumps, life is just not going to get any better until you dig your way out of the continuous mountains of crap and make a break for it.

Being in the dumpster is a lot better. It is a smaller self contained place in which to feel dumped upon, but the garbage is usually bagged up, so one can merely toss it back out again if needs be. Once in awhile a big load comes down on top of you, which is what happened to me. Within a short span of time (the walls of my dumpster), I had several big jumbo bags of stuff to deal with. The nice part of dumpster sized downers is that each bag can be opened and searched for the hidden treasures one needs to build a pile high enough in which to climb out of the stink.

I knew the bags were coming at me, so I pressed my calendar coat and made a plan. Plans are great until somebody has one and it messes up yours. (You know that phrase “plan ahead”, forget it, I say “plan first” before somebody else does!). Over the course of the week, my calendar coat got wrinkled several times and a stain will remain from an exceptionally leaky bag (must have been a bargain brand) but at least the banging open of the lid each time gave me fair warning to seek cover under the already piled up name brand bags. (Another Nobel Prize to the guy who put the self enclosed handles on a trash bag.)

So what kind of riches did I find? Well….. little treasures pulled from the trash are different for everybody. In my case, I got to meet some new people whom I had known by name only. I got to spend some time with people I only see once a year. I was able to spend time with people I only knew a little bit, and got to know them better. I shared a few hours with people I have known a long time and work towards a common goal and finally, I got done what needed to be done with the help of willing people. My gems, my stairs out of the dumpster this past week, were all people. For many of you “people person” types, I can hear the “so what” out there, but I am a loner by nature. Maybe because I am used to a solo studio situation, this past week of meetings and events and required activities is what dropped me into the dumpsters in the first place.

Another week is upon me now and I can sense another round of dumpster diving fast approaching. However, each morning when I pass my official prayer spot, I will consider myself blessed and give thanks to (insert your higher being of choice here so as not to offend…) to have found other trashy people like me who, without knowing it at all, pulled me out of the dumpster once, and may be called upon to do it again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Even a little rust can be helped with some primer….

“Something from Nothing: Contemporary Recycled Sculpture from America’s Rustbelt”
Canton Museum of Art 11/27/09 – 3/7/10

When it comes to works of art and art shows, I have a real thing about titles, make them relevant, make them logical and make them thoughtfully so as to help the less informed understand what is being shown. The current show at the Canton Museum of Art is called “Something from Nothing” which is not really true. Everything was something before it became something else. I understand why the title was chosen as the materials used are supposedly all recycled, but saying those items were nothing is not fair to the former use of the objects or materials in question. Now before everyone gets all bent out of shape about my point of view, let me explain how I view (or review) art exhibitions.

As far as I am concerned, my opinion of what is good and what is bad, what is successful and what is not so great, is not relevant. One should not see a show because of what I think of it or because I tell you what you should think of it. I approach a show with the intent of finding what one can get out of it as a viewer. Museums are not “galleries” in the sense that an art gallery is “commercial or retail” in the vernacular of the general public. A “museum” is a place to go see “art”. The difference being to the general public, (henceforth known as the GP) is that labels in galleries have prices on them. A “museum” is intimidating to the GP at times. We need to make them more viewer friendly so that the next generation will be encouraged to continue supporting the arts in the future. That being said, I look at a show the same way I did as an instructor at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the children’s education department. I have to figure out how I can make the work understandable, applicable and worth the time spent.

The current show is all sculptures and constructions, made from discarded objects. Nothing has been carved, cast or created from nothing. I am not a sculptor and I don’t have much hands-on experience in the 3-D media outside of a class or two in all of them for general educational purposes. Therefore, my experience in the galleries was not as an artist, but as an educator. Some of the pieces I could walk right past, their message not touching me at all. If I can move an item or two from here to there and it does not change anything, then I guess I don’t get the point. Other pieces I find engaging and amusing, like the King and Queen which could be part of Alice’s wonderful garden along with the Darkness and the Rainbow sculpture. Both of these were visually interesting from multiple points of view, inviting the eyes to keep searching for different elements. Other works are delightfully logical and elegant in their simplicity as was the bare bones fish sculpture, Kikokuryo. Sometimes less is more as “they” say.

I look for purpose and inspiration in pieces as well. A tin can is a logical steamship funnel and constructions like “Ship of Fools” can hold the attention of a child for quite a while, picking out various objects whose purposes were well thought out. Some pieces tell a story like Pedal to Petals and some inspire stories like the Octopuses suspended in the middle of the room. Those two serpentine sea creatures held my interest the most as they are elegant and graceful to the point that I could almost feel the artist dancing with the limbs as he (she?...with the first name Chris, one can’t tell anymore these days), decided just how they should swirl. The glass eyes and protruding body part (what it is called, I don’t know, but you see it all the time in horror movies before it swallows the submarine) are translucent and rich in color like shallow sea water.

A common gallery teaching technique for works of non-traditional art is to ask a child what title would he or she give a particular piece and why. When the actual title is revealed, watching the mental gears start turning to make sense of it is often very interesting. I felt that way about the 1+1=1 piece. Such situations inspire the imagination or leave one befuddled. Overall, it is good to see something completely different at the Museum and especially good for this time of year when kids are out of school and parents need something to do with them. Visit this show, ask lots of questions, let them search for familiar things used in unfamiliar ways, and in some cases, reach out and touch the art itself as requested by a few of the artists.

What is missing, or should I say “who” is missing, are Mark Soppeland and PR Miller, a couple of local icons in the use of recycled stuff. I could ask why, but I believe I already know the answer and it is just another paragraph in the same old story. Do I get the overall message of the show in its historical and contemporary context? Yeah, I do. I got A’s in art history and artistic philosophy, but so what. To most viewers, this kind of work is not that “deep” in meaning. It very well may be, and some works are just so “out there” intellectually that I doubt the GP would understand them, but nonetheless, it is a well curated exhibition of contemporary artists from the Rustbelt and a show that makes sculpture a bit more relevant to those outside the artistic inner circle.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Life Is A Mess

My life is a mess. Not in the sense you may suspect upon reading that comment, I mean that my immediate environment that defines my “life” is a complete mess. No, I am not a hoarder or the hotelier to 50 cats, I am a busy person, a creative person that probably could use a bit more time and the ability to say “no” a bit more often, but in the meantime, I step over and around (which is good for the glutes I might add…..), summiting a pile now and then before conquering another. My messes symbolize success and satisfaction. Allow me to explain….

In the family room are piles of clothing, a laundry basket of stuff, and stacks of books that tell me I have a child home from college for a few brief days. I will suffer his contribution to the foothills in order to enjoy his presence back in the home.

In the dining room (the proverbial staging area for most families) are stacks of paperwork related to an upcoming event that I agreed to chair, a big deal for the students involved, just another activity to me, but I want it to be great for the kids. On the floor are boxes and boxes of food for the students, yet to be sorted and packaged. Behind that are a few items needing thank you notes written and sent, a sign that people cared about me enough to give me gift.

The kitchen cupboards and fridge are disheveled and picked over, a sign that my children have been fending for themselves, having a good time, having friends over, growing up. I don’t have to make snacks or meals anymore during the middle of my day.

The laundry room….well, it never seems to go down, the view just changes every few days. Only the cats get disgruntled about that room as the source of buried treasure lies behind the piles and inside the closet. Digging for buried treasure is a daily event around here. The guy who invented clumping litter should get a Nobel Prize!

The garage and driveway become the family motor pool. The recycle pile grows higher each day. Bedrooms and bathrooms are disheveled at best, but will get a nice makeover when their occupants return to other locations.

My office and studio have lost contact with open floor space. It may look like the aftermath of a category 5 but I can find anything anybody needs at anytime. No late night runs to the all night store for supplies of any kind. Projects are in various stages of completion or are being prepared for shipment to show or sell .When all is picked-up, it means I have nothing going on.

I have some related family members that get all worked up over messes, everything has to be put away or gotten rid of the second it is no longer needed, used or has been outgrown. I can’t live like that. Fortunately, my husband believes in desktop composting as well. My “stuff” and my space symbolize my success, my love of others, their caring for me, and a certain level of comfort knowing life is happening all around me and I get to be a part of it. The messes will eventually go away perhaps to be replaced by others.

The monster of all messy seasons will soon be upon us. As kids come back home, friends stop by, gifts are exchanged and opened, meals prepared, decorations going up and free time going down, the stuff will pile up yet again. I promise not to look at or comment on yours, if you promise to not trip over mine. Yes, my life is a mess and I am proud of it! I worked hard to get it that way. So how does this relate to art (besides that fact that creative people tend to be messy)? Well….If I were to put it all in a nice white gallery space in some major city, it could be “art”. If I called it a performance piece, I might even get help with the laundry!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy New Year, Today and Everyday!

Happy New Year!! No, I have not completely lost my marbles; it is a new year today, as it is every day. Why fall into the lemming line and have to go with Jan 1 as being the “new year”? All the good resolutions are taken and after the hangover wears off, nobody remembers what was resolved in the first place.

As a former teacher, my “year” always feels like it begins in September and ends in June. Those wonderful 3 paid months off (which exists only in fantasy land for those who teach) are spent basking in the sun eating bon-bons and telling stories out of school about who had the hardest hooligan. A nine month “year” works for pregnancies too. The extra 3 months are spent in a fog of sleeplessness so they don’t count.

Early years of marriage are counted by anniversaries with each being a “new year”. Those who go through rehab may consider a date of sobriety as being the benchmark of a “new year”. People blessed with the gift of life via an organ donor may consider their surgical date as a “new year” milestone. My point is that any date, any time, is a good time to reevaluate those requisite resolutions and start over if they are not working. For artists, the “new year” moment may be when we discover a new media or a new direction for our work. The possibilities suddenly become endless and a year is not enough time to explore them all.

There are “fashion years” as in this “this is the year of the leopard print”, which never seems to make it past one season, and there are Chinese new year’s which make no sense to me but I like to find my animal on the placemat each time. We have dog years and leap years, good vintage years, and bad investment years, but no matter what label is given, none ever add up to 365 days exactly, except for my favorite form of measurement.

The best “new year” to me begins on a birthday as the starting point of fresh ideas and better living. Friends and family remind you of that date whether you like it or not. We get cake, we make wishes on candles and we receive new things into our lives. All the good resolutions still apply, like eat better (after the cake is all gone of course), save money, exercise…you know the top contenders on the list, most of which don’t make it past the following week. And that is why every day can be your “new year”. If one falls off the wagon so to speak, just pick another event to kick off the resolution game and start over. The event does not have to be major, it could be as boring as switching the brand of detergent one uses. Any excuse will do if our personal expectations for resolutions are not met. Jan 1 is for those who need the peer pressure component or resolution righteousness. Meanwhile, I had a passing thought about those lemmings……some of them must be pretty smart and stay back in the burrow making more lemmings. We never seem to run out of them. If all their friends are jumping off a cliff and lemmings are the quintessential peer pressure rodent, we should be out of lemmings by now. But no….they keep coming so either the cliff is not all that high and the little buggers are bouncing off and going back for more, or a few are smart enough to say “hold it, I made a resolution to not always be first in line so have fun kids….I’ll be right back here in the burrow building up the next batch of bungee babies!”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Keyboards and Canvas, can they live happily ever after? Should they?

This past fall, I was asked to be the guest judge for an art show at a major Texas university. One of those all expenses paid trips which is flattering to the ego, but not all that practical for the sponsoring organization. I accepted, but also “declined”, suggesting that the money it would cost to fly me down, put me up, chauffeur me around and feed me, would best be spent on scholarships for students in the arts. Yes, it would have been nice to add that to my resume, but in this economy and with the arts suffering like everything else, other chances will come my way. With a “judge’s mindset”, I recently viewed the Annual Myers Juried Student Exhibition at the University of Akron (on view 11/16/09 – 12/5/09) to see what is happening in art schools today and what was selected by their jurors as representative of the best works. However, when I walked through the doors, my teacher’s instincts took over and rather than judge any works, I decided to learn from them. I wanted to see what is happening in the minds of art students these days and what is influencing their art education. I learned a lot.

First and foremost is the influence of the digital camera and computers to make decisions. Canvases are far larger than 30 years ago with figures at oddly angled viewpoints, rendered realistically. A camera or computer obviously cropped the images for the students as the viewpoints could not be drawn from life for any extended period of time. I see this in high school art too, way too much. Paintings of figures looking up and down and at the viewer from extreme poses are becoming more and more prevalent. No futzing of the sides to make things work or fit. All the decisions are worked out ahead of time by technical means. Sometimes I wonder, why not just show me the photo?

Oddly enough, what used to be rendered by hand is now photographed. A series of objects or a luscious surface are captured on film, not in paint like Wayne Thiebaud could do with much flair and sparkle of color. The subjects of the chosen photos (which could be based on a class assignment so I have no way of knowing), show lots of people or complete isolation which is an interesting concept when one considers this generations’ obsession with social networking. They sit isolated at a computer screen but want lots and lots of people as their “friends” as if craving a crowd but in reality, unable to deal with actual people.

Missing from the show are any more than a few examples of hand crafted works. A series of wheel thrown pots, a welded metal sculpture, a wooded sculpture, three metalsmithing pieces, one crafted book, all of which struck me as sad in their runner up status like the states nobody notices in a beauty pageant, poor Miss Idaho comes every time. They were included as if to say, we still teach this stuff too, but it is not all that important anymore. Gone is the weaving department and full scale drawings from the advanced levels of art class. Even the printmaking pieces are digitally influenced. I understand that technology is the way of the future but I fear the loss of the artists’ hand in his own work or in the development of the artist’s “eye”. When a computer can crop an image so the artist just applies it to canvas, where has the decision making gone? Where is the fun of trial and error and having to make adjustments? That being said, the show does have large canvases of works which show no digital influence that I could find. The best in show is one such piece. Could it be that the judges too have somewhat of a tinge in their soul over this development?

The one big negative peeve I have with all shows, student or otherwise, is allowing works to be hung as “untitled”. To me, that is a sign of laziness and lack of creativity. Especially for a photograph, seriously people, nothing moves you about the image enough to give it a title even though you took the time to print it and mount it? I counted 7 untitled pieces which is very annoying to me as a viewer. A title gives me a bit of insight into your thought processes. If I had fulfilled my jury duty in Texas, any piece untitled, is out. If you can’t care enough to come up with something, then why should I care about it?

Overall, it is a well hung exhibition, each piece given a fair amount of space so as to be viewed without interference. The students must have more money than we used to as the mattes and frames are sometimes professionally done. The gallery is well suited but I have to wonder how many people have fallen down those narrow twisting stairs. Stay to the outside of them or a hip replacement could be in your future. And speaking of the future, it would be interesting to see a show that has two sides, one of pieces which used cameras and technology and one that relied completely on the artist’s natural abilities. This Annual Juried Exhibition at the Emily Davis Gallery is a show worth seeing however, especially if you are a high school student deciding where to go to art school. Looking at student work will give you the best insights as to what opportunities lay ahead.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

When Ideas Take Flight

Ever since those stupid twisty light bulbs came to be, the “ah-ha!” moment has just not been the same. By the time one of those bulbs gets to full brightness, the idea will be long gone.

“Ah-ha” moments come at any time, mine usually while engaged in some other task like cutting the grass when stopping to write it down is not possible. Hence the need to repeat it over and over, sometimes out loud, so passing neighbors think I have completely lost my marbles. Fortunately some ideas occur under normally acceptable circumstances such as staring out a window. Never assume that a creative person who is staring out a window is looking at what is really out the window. In my case, the window frame, the way it is divided by panes or blinds, the contrast of light and dark, the shapes of what is outside in relation to the edges of the frame, the scale and perspective of…….okay, you get the idea.

One particular life altering ah-ha was the result of pigeons. It was college English class (back when we called all language arts programs “English”) and I was totally tuned out of whatever was happening because my seat was near a window. The window overlooked the corner roof of the library so the relationship of the edge of the building to the window and how the light changed each time I was there held endless fascination. One day, the edge was occupied by a row of pigeons, perfectly content to sit there and get ruffled by the wind, much like the other students in my class. All except for one bird, one stupid bird that kept flying away and coming back as if to get the other birds off their birdie butts. I watched this bird the whole class. We got to be buddies. The blonde and her birdie buddy. Weird.

The next class, there they were again, all lined up on the rooftop, sitting on the edge of possibility watching their one comrade test the winds and get more aggressive and adventurous as the winds shifted. Today that pigeon would be diagnosed ADHD and booted off the edge of Bierce (the name of the library) once and for all, destined to challenge squirrels for dropped potato chips and poop on those who do not contribute. Birdie Buddy kept trying though. Off he’d go (random gender assignment since I was not about to search for pigeon parts), back he would come; off he would go, longer each time. Those birds sat there for about a month before it probably got too cold and instinct clicked in.

One day, they were gone. I felt very sad at the loss of my “friends”. But I never forgot them. I looked around the class at the room full of pigeons and realized that my Birdie Buddy had taught me far more than the professor at the front of the room. When everybody else is content to sit on the edge and wait out the wind, those who have the most fun (and success?) are those who jump off and go with the currents, sometimes with and sometimes against, but always moving. We can try to encourage others to follow us, but when it does not work, nature proves they will move when it gets too uncomfortable to stay put. In the meantime, we will be that much further ahead, fat and happy on potato chip crumbs and pooping all over the windshields of trucks carrying those danged light bulbs to market.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes three rings just aren’t enough.

Age 5 – I am running away to join the circus.

Age 16 – OMG, my life is a circus!

Age 25 – Why do I still work with these clowns?

Age 30 – Who birthed these monkeys? Get off the bookshelf!

Age 42 – Of course we like her! (…and other 500 pound gorillas)

Age 49 – Since when did I join the circus?

The answer to that last question is when I chose to become an artist. Like most of us, I have moved through the various acts to find one which fits me best. While most multi-taskers perform with the plate spinners, I feel more comfortable with the jugglers. Artists are supposed to be plate spinners however, as we are advised over and over again to focus only on one “style”, with one voice and one technique to build our name and reputation. That makes sense if one is bound for super art star land which happens to be over the rainbow from where I live. Hence the reference to spinning plates in that the projects in progress are all the same, and must be kept going or they will all crash to the ground. Constantly churning china is a lot of tension and stress with running back and forth to keep everything going smoothly. Juggling is more my speed.

As a juggler, I can wear a T-shirt with my identifiable style on it, stand still in the middle and people can see who I am what I do. However, my hands are into many different projects that get tossed around to hold my interest and keep me active in the arts especially when people are tired of looking at my T-shirt. All my projects can be different too. Some jugglers focus on one object at a time like apples, bowling pins, chainsaws (never could understand that one…..), but I can toss many different things at one time, like pastels, digital photography, illustration work, patch design, fibers….and if I drop one, I don’t cut my foot off. Granted, it is a role in the circus that must be earned over time, after walking tightropes, taming lions, and sweeping up after the elephants, but all creative people need to know it is okay to try something different and add a few objects to the rotation without losing sight of who you are. The hard part is convincing those who are buying the tickets to see you, that you are still focused on one vision and speaking with one voice and that your core creature is still the same person. So to those who speak out from the bleachers that I am no longer a professional because I have moved from spinning to tossing…..this chain saw is getting awfully heavy……

Friday, November 20, 2009

Paying it forward, giving it back, or just realizing one is older and wiser.

A few days ago, I came full circle, a journey that was 30 years around. It was one of those déjà vu moments but this time I was on the other side of the mirror. (and male so don’t be really literal about this.)

Soon I will finish the first of two college courses needed to keep my teaching certification active. Life drawing class has been wonderful, allowing me to brush up on long dormant drawing skills. The other students for the most part are about 19 years old, beginning art careers, deciding majors, finding their inner voices and developing a creative vision. 30 years ago, that was me, a graphic design major at the time, or so I thought, a direction practical in nature even if I did not feel it in my soul.

At the drawing horse next to me all those years ago, was a scruffy character in a biker jacket with long stringy hair, maybe tattoos (I don’t remember) and he scared me a bit (okay, a lot) so I avoided him and his constant glances at my drawings. One day after class he asked me my major to which I replied graphic design. He looked at me and at my drawing, and back at me and said “no, you are an artist; you should be a painting and drawing major”. My response has long since left any functioning brain cells but it was along the lines of needing to be practical and prepared. He smiled at me (which did not make him look quite so scary, but he could have used some dental work), and said “you will be unhappy for the rest of your life unless you follow what you know is inside. You should be in fine arts.” (Weird how I cannot remember a thing I said, but everything he said…) He was right. I was already unhappy with the thought of pens and grids and typesets filling my future (remember, this is 1980 so we still used a ruler, no computers). I switched my major; I wanted to be a painter.

Slipping to the other side of the mirror now, I had a young man in class next to me in a funk about his work, not feeling the poses, mentally burnt out. I offered my colorful pastels as a change of pace from the black charcoal. He drew with renewed energy and a growing sense of excitement over the possibilities of color. At the sink after class, I asked his major….it was graphic design. I pointed out his obvious talent and we started talking. It was my story all over again, I was listening to myself (with a much deeper voice and in need of a shave, but work with me here). I told him he should be a painting and drawing major. We discussed possibilities as it is a whole new and different art world now, but listening to one’s inner voice never changes. This was the first time after 9 weeks that he ever spoke to me…must have been my van-driving, long haired, wrinkle cream wearing image that scared him off to the other side of the room. I have nice teeth though.

Even more amazing is what the power of sharing will do. Whether it is a stick of colored chalk, a warm and genuine smile, a word of advice or the voice of experience, one never knows when it will make a difference in someone else’s life. That biker boy of so long ago will never know the impact his simple observation made on my life. Maybe someday this young man will think back to the old lady in his drawing class and remember the time his talent was acknowledged by someone other than an instructor and realize that sometimes the soul has to take priority over the sensible.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A League of its Own

We have a team in our troop that does what I christened, a “crash and dash” which is a quick in and out visit to a meeting for the purposes of recruitment by dropping in unannounced, filling the limited time with info and splash, then dashing back out the door before anyone can really register what just happened. So far, after three years of this, it is working pretty well for our troop. Last night at the opening of a local art show, I did my own version of a C&D since I was on my way to a troop meeting, a rather ironic sequence of events.

The show is staged in the upper atrium area of a local State College, a center of education, which is ever so fitting for the tenor of this type of exhibition. The few moments I had to view the show was not really spent viewing the works, but observing the people viewing the works. I find those stories the most interesting. The show is not “professional” by any means, which probably explains why many of the “cool kids” in town don’t sit at this particular lunch table, a situation I find irritating at best and a subject for discussion some other time. This show is art at its core purpose, to educate, to share and in some cases, to entertain. It is a local show, by local artists who may be new to the game or have played for a very long time but still like to toss the paint around on Sundays. The gems are not just in the pieces, but in the people who delighted in them. Allow me to share a few of those moments….

A young couple was studying the signature of one painter, talking about how he wrote his name, deciding what type of brush he used, and questioning how a few marks were made in one area of foliage. I heard others discussing the placement of a signature and how it affected a piece. There was an older couple sharing a funny story about what inspired a painting. The people were laughing and talking about art and the moments that can be captured by those who take the time to preserve them on canvas. Further down the row were some people with noses almost pressed to the glass wondering about how a technique was done and a fingertip just grazed the surface to see if it was dimensional before realizing that glass prevents such exploration. There were other such interactions that took place in front of various pieces. In my few moments of lurking behind the other guests, it was good to see people treating art not as something to stand back from and “look at”, but something to step closer to and “discover”. Each piece has something to offer as far as educating the viewers. I know there will be those who scoff at some of the works for one reason or another, but do so quietly unless you have one on that wall too. Artists take a risk each time we show a piece in public, we are putting a bit of our heart and soul up on a wall for others to judge. Take time to look very closely at something you may not think is all that great and ask a few questions. Take the time to discover very faint pencil marks that indicate early stages of thought, look through layers and layers of collage to find the first piece put down, count how many different materials or media are used in one work….you see, sometimes it is not the big picture that makes a show, it is the little gems and joys found in small places that make the biggest impact.

For those of you with small children, this is a good venue to see art up close without the unwritten rules of gallery etiquette. “A league of its own” is in the right place for the right purpose and congratulations to those who continue to share a piece of themselves with the rest of the community regardless of playground politics.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lets Hear It For High School Musicals!

It is unfortunate that so much press is given to teens who do wrong, or score big on a playing field, but so little is given to those who make a scene. Have you attended a local high school musical production lately? I have and the talent, dedication and professionalism of the students are stunning. The stage was filled with gifted singers, dancers and actors who obviously had put in hours and hours of practice. The pit produced live music worthy of any theater venue. The sets and backdrops, lighting and sound, were dropped, raised, moved and directed with precision and expertise that only hours of rehearsals could hone. Which school and which musical do not matter, it is the same all across town. These students work together hour after hour towards something spectacular. Someday, a few may be stars on television, in the movies or on Broadway and as well they should be! I noticed in reading the paper today that many pages had photos of kids on the playing fields with long descriptions of the game, quotes from coaches and sports writers and detailed analysis of the outcome. The local section had lots of small articles on teens caught drinking, or selling drugs, or breaking into businesses and so forth. And then towards the back, were two photos of students in elaborate costumes from their school musicals. Each school got one photo. No article about the production, no names of the stars, and no review of the show…just a single black and white photo stuck in the back after pages of color photos of yet another kid catching a ball. To me, someone along the way has dropped the ball. The paper should be giving these youth a color photo or two, encouragement for the community to attend, and as much PR for the star as any quarterback gets each week. How many people can sing, dance, and hit every cue while wearing an often cumbersome costume? Every high school musical I have seen hits a homerun and also finishes in a timely manner. No delay of game for anything that goes wrong. The students just keep on going as any good actor is trained to do. So buy a ticket, take along your good theater manners, spend a couple of hours being fully entertained and salute these rising stars, a game where everybody wins!

I’M NOT BUYING IT! (but I wanted too….)

I hate shopping, most of the time anyway. Shopping for leisure as in just something to do can’t be any more mind numbing. Shopping for something specific is fine. I consider myself a Kamikaze shopper! I know what I want, usually where it is, go in, grab it, pay for it, and leave. So this morning, I want this red dress. It sits in front of me in an ad from a major fashion magazine, current issue, with the store web site on the page several times. Major retailer too so I figure if the item is pictured, the price and brand listed, how much easier can it get? I’m thinking great! I can sit here in my jammies, jump online, type in the info or browse the other dresses, order, click and be done with it. Wrong.

I get on the website…major retailer mind you, go to dresses…..scroll down under brands….nada. That brand is not listed. Are you kidding me? Okay, maybe it is a department and not a brand. So I use the finder service since I know the color, the length, the style and the fabric which should eliminate about 90% of what else is in the dress department and there it should be! Wrong.

No listing. Okay fine, off to “contact us” which gives 2 pages of questions and a link for each one. None fit my question. Go to the “if you don’t find your answer here, contact us”. Okay, click that link and I get a page of FAQ’s….now if my question were frequently asked; do you think this company would still be in business? Let’s advertise an item all over the country in full color, tell you how much it costs, then not really carry it. Sounds like a smart business plan to me, but I am an art major so what do I know. I dutifully click on another “contact us” and get back to the other page mentioned. Fine, guess it is time to ruin somebody’s day. I click on a random question, skip all the “how do you rate…” questions because “you s**k” is not on there, and proceed to type a rant into the box about false advertising. Now mind you, I still want this dress. So I go online to type it into a search engine. Guess the engine blew a gasket because NO dress like this one exists online that I can find.

Now I don’t intend to search on page 104 as I am a three pager when it comes to search engine findings. If something I want is not on the first three pages of a search, I can’t be bothered. That is my equivalent to rack rooting. If an item is too far back on the rack, forget it (unless all the small sizes are gone and one must look to the rear of the rack to see if someone hid one there so they can come back later….yeah I’ve done that, it works.)

Going back to the red dress issue for which I am now seeing red, I will give this Major retailer, whose store name begins with the same letter that stands out in this sentence, about 24 hours to get back to me. Of course, I will probably find it somewhere somehow, try it on, hate it, and return it. You see, I still wear clothes from when I taught school in the 1980’s, things that still fit from the 1990’s and whatever treasures can be unearthed at the local Salvation Army to which I hold a frequent shopper card. The only down side to thrift store shopping is coming across items that I already own. Oh well, the dress was rather pricey anyway.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Remember that song “I’m in the money”? We all know the tune, so sing this with me….
I’m in the paper,
I’m in the paper,
They even spelled my name right
After all these years!
Yes, I made the paper today. (Friday 11/13/09) I do check it every day starting in the obits and then moving to the crime reports. Finding nothing, I can move on to the other possible locations. Today, it was a drawing of mine in the arts announcement section. But today is a special day as my husband also made the paper. He is in an article about his profession too. What are the odds of that? (Us being in the paper on the same day, not his being in an article related to his job.) Actually, he got mentioned in 2 papers, but they are owned by the same parent company so I guess it counts for 2 points because the bills go to 2 different names which is really stupid as it is the same address. But I got a picture of my work in one paper so do photos count as 2 points? But then he got a long quote in one of the papers so that adds another point. Not that I am keeping score or anything. His story was much more endearing. But my name was spelled right and after 17 years I am glad it finally sunk in. I used to collect misspellings of my name, all 8 letters of it, which got to be rather amusing.
Being mentioned in the paper is always an interesting event. One waits to see how many emails arrive saying “I saw you in the paper!” If have a photo of me, that is a true statement, in this most recent case, the response should be “Do you like my mustache?” in hopes that the writer will realize the grammatical faux pas that it was not ME in the paper, it was some guy I drew for a portrait study. Speaking of which, the title is not his real name as I needed an “R” name to work with the word “robe” and I could not even remember the model’s name, which is a whole other essay on something or other if I can remember to write it.
Long essay short, hopefully people will see the show in which this piece is going to appear. (Stark State College, 2nd floor through Dec.) It is a new direction for me though I am not abandoning my ladies. The girls are just off shopping and going to the spa. I will catch up with them again next fall (Sept 2010).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcome to SnarkyArt where you may discover something fun and fabulous!

Welcome to SnarkyArt! I finally got so frustrated with traditional art reviews that I felt a need to add my own $1 (adjusted for inflation of course) to the list of writers who tell others what they think. I can’t tell you how many times I have avoided going to an art show because it sounded so boring! Art critics often do just that, criticize, analyze and pick apart a show so much so that who would want to go see it? On the flip side, (does anyone under 40 know where that phrase comes from?) when there are kind words or praise for pieces rendered, then I have to go get a thesaurus (a book with definitions in it, much like a dictionary, that can be lovingly held in one’s hands) to figure out if a compliment is back-handed, upper-handed or heavy-handed.
On this blog site, I will offer my own reviews (and/or impressions, observations, annoyances, complaints, compliments…..) in simple, easy to digest, fiber free servings of personal opinion. If I see a great show, I want you to see it too. If it really bites, well, you will learn that too without having to consult any reference books.
This won’t be all about art all of the time however, as lots of things ruffle me enough to say something. Usually I resort to canvas to do my dirty work, but here, the laundry will be hung out in the open. Speaking of which, in my neighborhood we are not allowed to hang our laundry outside because it could detract from the ambiance of our garbage can free curbs and matching mailboxes. Consequently, I also encounter many good things being done by good people that go completely unnoticed; I want to alter that situation as well.
So please join me here at the clothesline every so often while I lay things on the line and air out my observations.