Friday, December 31, 2010

Down the Drain

Why I have that title will be clear in a paragraph or two, but first I must get my blogging boots back on embrace my keyboard once again. I was going to wait until son #1 went back to college, son #2 went back to school and my husband returned to work, however this topic was rollicking around my brain all night so I had to write it out.

It has been over 25 years since we moved back to Ohio from Pittsburgh. The quick 2.5 hour drive makes for a nice day trip when one wants to see their version of University Circle. I would suggest that the attempt not be made on a day of freezing rain using the direct route along the back roads. Such an adventure only points out that I can drive and the rest of the world turns clueless.  Such weather conditions are not a good time to realize that new tires are needed every so often because treads are put on there for a reason. Also, driving one handed while talking on the phone and going 15 miles under the speed limit really annoys the driver behind you (who just happens to be me in your rear view mirror).  Any wreck that occurs on a two lane road will most likely shut it down so backtracking for another route is a given. Finally, using an in-car navigation system is great, unless the city had changed the highway and exit numbers which explains why we call her “Naggie”. Thank goodness for instincts and memory which can override any mechanical device because once one passes through the tunnels, the view has always been stunning. 

First stop was the Botanical Gardens known as the Phipps Conservatory.  Obviously the outside gardens were closed due to the season but the expanded interior still puts most local venues to shame. A few Chihulys remain in the collection along with a room of trains in various scales set up for the holiday season.

Almost literally around the corner is the Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History. Cleveland is head and shoulders above Pittsburgh in the Art Museum category and probably equal as far as Natural History Museums but they have us beat in the significant history department and their being adjacent to major Universities. Carnegie Mellon and U of Pitt border the museum complex. When first married in 1984, we lived only 2 blocks down the street and I think I went to the museums only once during those couple of years. 20/20 hindsight strikes again.  The neighborhood has changed from bohemian chic to hipster as the colleges have taken over the once trendy shops and stores of Craig Street.  But I digress….

A couple of hours in the Natural History and it was time to venture to the Art side of the complex. In case you go, it is one ticket for both museums which are connected at a number of points within the buildings. Previously while at the Botanical Gardens, one was advised to follow a continuous path by turning right all the time, that way nothing is missed. At the Natural History museum, that advice works fairly well too. The Art Museum is set up in reverse which if one had read the map, would have known. However, being a good creature of habit, at the top of the stairs we turned right into the contemporary art, special exhibitions galleries.  

The ever present philosophy of making it big makes it better, and lots of empty wall space around something means it is really (really!!) important is alive and well without a doubt. I could write for pages on the irritations of “contemporary” art, but I have to get to the drain. My one son was facing a wall laughing. I could not see anything on the wall (although at 6’ 6” he tends to hide a lot.)  He stepped back and embedded in the wall, about 4 feet off the ground, was a sink drain. That’s it…..granted, it was made of pewter so I found out which is what I guess makes it art. I took a picture, and also a picture of the tag located a good 5 feet away on a side wall, and then a photo of my boys standing next to it for scale. All this before the guard who was standing right there told me I could not take any pictures.  He tried to tell me a camera was inside the drain taking our pictures. (ha ha, that works on the little kids, but those of us who know the law, know better….) 

A drain…..yes…in one of the world’s most noted art museums, an acquisition paid for by four different charitable trusts and funds, by a living American artist only a few years older than myself. It is just such moments that make us artists wonder why in the hell are we doing what we do. A simple 4” pewter drain with no real difference from any other found at the Home Depot other than the material from which it is made and of course begin mounted on a wall. Suffice to say I was rather jaded for the rest of those galleries. The special exhibit of metal laundry drying racks with a tangle of cords and light bulbs hung all over them and few clumps of torn sweaters did not enhance my mood.  I could score one victory however! A series of photographs were displayed, all labeled as “untitled”, but…..each one had a number for which “untitled” it happened to be, and… parenthesis’ next to the “untitled” title, was a title much like the subtitle on a book, to further identify which “untitled” photo was which.  I win!! Dear artist person, you had to title them so the viewers could tell them apart, the whole “untitled” thing was a waste of text.  My son pointed that one out before I even got to the display. Nice to know they have been listening all these years.  Even the drain was titled “Drain 1989” which I hope he signed and dated on the part embedded in the wall which we could not see.  I would include the photo with this posting, but that would break the copyright laws. So instead, when brushing your teeth, glance down and you can just envision it for yourself.

While in Pittsburgh, take the incline as well, photograph the skyline at night and do not under any circumstances admit you are from the NE Ohio area unless you swear allegiance to the Steelers. They are a bit sensitive about football, about as much as we are here in the land of the Giant Juicer. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Worth sharing....

Below is one of those things passed around our emails. This one is worth sharing because it does not matter if one is 10, 25, 50 or 90 years old, the wisdom is worth knowing. May you all have a blessed and comforting Christmas. Thank you for reading Snarky Art!

Written by a 90 year old
This is something we should all read at               
least once a week. Make sure you read to the end!

Written by Regina Brett, 90 years old, of the Plain Dealer,
Cleveland , Ohio

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons
life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written.

My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the
column once more:

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick.
Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea
what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't
worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the
second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life,
don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy
lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most  important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words
'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of
anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone
else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

We blew it yesterday...(and a show review!)

My husband and I blew it yesterday….literally. We took a glass blowing class as part of our empty nest practice. Akron Glass Works, owned by Jack Baker in the Northside Arts District of Akron, offers classes periodically to try one’s hand at different techniques.

Such experiences allow one to appreciate what artists do and understand what goes into the process of handmade art and one of a kind craft. Though we as artists can relate to why our product sometimes costs a bit much in the opinion of the General Public, it is those same people who buy a piece of glass from Pier One at half the price and don’t understand the difference. A canvas print from the World Market store may look just as nice on your bedroom wall, but thousands of other people have that same image in their home too. Preaching to the choir, I know.

Another advantage of taking a class in something totally new and different is that it keeps the brain cells active, especially when standing near a 2000 degree furnace. One must be attentive to everything. But, I am not writing about that, I want to talk about  a show that is on display in the lower level of the Akron Glass Works building known as the Millworks Gallery.

I am not sure how much longer the show will be on display, but the fiber creations of Kaitlin Rothacher are worth the trip. The exhibit covers the gallery, almost literally, with pieces from 2006-2010 according to a 2 line listing in the Dec. 4th Artwalk flyer I found upstairs. That is about all I know. There is no statement, no titles, no prices, not even a sign of who is the artist. The space was unlocked for me (no heat either) to see the show and my guide told me this is a senior solo show for the artist who is set to graduate from KSU with a degree in fibers and textiles. Now before I go further, I should mention that at one time an artist’s statement was on the wall someplace, but was missing when I was there. I also want to explain why I get a bit irritated with the lack of labels, titles, prices and dates in any show regardless of student or professional. When submitting for exhibition consideration on the national level at museums, art centers and galleries that put out such calls, it is required that an inventory sheet of all pieces be provided which must include the title, date, size and price of each work in the portfolio (usually 20 jpegs). It is a matter of professionalism and good business practice because of insurance and other such matters. Art schools should be teaching this and requiring it for all graduates when they put on a show.  Okay, enough ranting….back to the wonderful works of Ms. Rothacher.

The pieces on view show an extensive knowledge of many different types of textile techniques plus some creative combinations thereof. One will find felting, coiling, tapestry, loom weaving and hand weaving, collage, mesh, dying and just good old fashioned piling up of materials into big nest like forms. Because all art students take classes outside of their area of concentration, she also has some paintings and collages included, but hung in groupings so as not to distract from the scale of her textiles. The use of the space is ingenious as her structures hang off the vents, wrap around the walls and basically embrace the industrial architecture of the room itself as opposed to working around it as most exhibits have done in the past. Fibers do allow that process a bit better than framed work. 

The pieces are large and colorful and full of patterns, combining materials in numerous ways to achieve little explosions of texture.  From a tiny coiled basket that could belong to Barbie, to a very large nest and surrounding environment of almost interrupted performance art, the pieces are not seen as individual products, but as one long continuous development of her skills. Without dates or any form of reference however, I can only guess as to which direction she is headed with her art. Yes, there are some pieces that should have been edited from the show as they seem incongruous with the skill level of her larger works, but yet again, this is a senior thesis show so we should know by now what that means.

Several pieces to note are the pod-like forms of brightly colored fiberfill encased in wire that has been crocheted for lack of a better description. They hang as part of a larger creation reminding me of a scene from Alien only in a psychedelic world. On the far wall is collage piece that is part Kim’s Game and part treasure hunt. Encased in many, many little baggies are items ranging from a McDonald's ketchup packet to a birthday candle, with shells, pennies, keys, wrappers and other things enshrined and lined up row upon row. Without a title or anything type of reference however, I can only wonder as to her point with this piece and whether the intent is a positive one or a negative one. Perhaps that IS her point however, for the viewer to decide if this is trash or treasure. We both liked it quite a bit.

On the floor is a work made from a type of sheer fabric that has been worked in such a way as to resemble an eddy, also containing little encased items that upon closer look are metal washers. Other places of the fabric contain only the shape of the washer thereby creating a very complex positive and negative relationship within the seafoam green mesh fiber. It is this color and the ripple effect created by her manipulation that reminded me so of the movements of water and appropriately displayed on the floor like a puddle.

Textiles and fiber arts as a major is no longer offered at Akron U but is obviously a very strong department at neighboring Kent State most likely because of the fashion school for which they are noted. Ms. Rothacher is a very talented artist in this media and I hope we will be able to see more of her work in our local galleries and shows, this time with some prices next to the pieces because I am sure there would have been less in the Millworks room if such information was posted.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Cards show you care….or not

The first news column regarding holiday letters and cards appeared in the local paper this morning, right on time! As I sit with my old address book held together with a rubber band, a baggie full of ripped off return address labels from previous cards, and scraps of paper with names to remember from last year, I wonder yet again why we continue the tradition of sending cards when electronic media has made communications via the postal service obsolete at best. I suppose we send cards for the same reason I still put a slice of lemon in the water glasses on a formal table setting, because it has always been done before for as long as I can recall. But what do cards say about us?

Personally, I like the long family newsletters. Ever since my boys were young, I have written a long and funny Krew Year in Review insert, but this year, that tradition comes to an end (for now). As a creative person, I take great care in selecting just the right card image, if not making all of my own by hand (which I gave up a few years ago too….). Making cards became too commercial with all the scrapbooking stuff out there, the challenge was gone, so I quit.  So now, the commercially produced image has to meet some standards of design and composition and quality. So too must the inside greeting be “holiday neutral” I supposed, however I have resorted to buying different boxes for different sets of people so as not to offend. My personal studio cards to fellow arts district venues will not be so neutral however, what fun would there be in that? Snarky has an image to maintain regardless of whether it is true, deserved, and valid or none of the above. (The answer is none of the above btw)

Here are a few questions regarding cards…. If you use a preprinted name on the inside, and a printed address label on the outside, do you even know you sent me a card?  Yes, your children are adorable on the beach from the summer vacation shot, but how does that say “Merry Christmas”?  I can’t stand it that I have to choose a language on the ATM let alone get a card in Spanish. On a side note, Navidad, Felize is still absent. (Old story from my teaching days and still funny as heck.) If you include photos, please send one of you in addition to the kiddies, I want to see how much YOU have aged too! Frankly, your summer vacation photo on the beach would add to my future painting stash quite nicely.  Is it too much to ask for a return label to be on the envelope? If you moved or never really made it into the 1989 address book pile, I need to know where to send my card back to you. 

Cards reflect our times as well. Just yesterday, we got one from the company that is going to replace an appliance in our house. They have not even done the job yet and we are part of the company mailing list, with kudos for actually using a pen and signing the company name inside. Small town family owned businesses are the best!  I guess E-cards are nice, but I won’t open any of them for fear of viruses getting into my computer. My older cards used to contain a spoonful of glitter which certainly did not win me any friends, especially those who opened them over their keyboards. Who does that? (The over the keyboard part, not the glitter part).  Sometimes I get a card in the mail with my own artwork on the front and I did not even know it was being used, which I guess is flattering.  I look at the stamps too. Each year would require my getting the Christmas issue stamp for use on Christmas cards only, bills and such got the regular stamps (how OCD)  and the return label had to color coordinate with the stamp and the color of the envelope (when red was still an option). The handwritten message inside had to be in a contrasting ink as well so as to set apart from the pre-printed words because I wanted the recipient to know that I took the time to do that. Most probably didn’t care because after the glitter drop, all else was pretty much ignored in favor of getting something to pick up the mess.
Below is a “song” I included in a newsletter from the mid 1990’s sung to the tune of Jingle Bells…..enjoy (and Merry Christmas). Consider this your official Blog Card!!
Judi’s Tune (sung to Jingle Bells)

Dashing through the stores,
My arms around the kids,
I haven’t got a clue,
What day this really is….

What fun we soon will have,
Wrapping all I bought,
Lying through my teeth that night,
That the budget wasn’t shot….

Oh….traffic jams, ice and snow,
The holidays are here.
Having such a great old time,
Spreading that good cheer.

Oh….sending gifts, writing cards
Forgot someone I fear,
That’s okay, they will never know
So have a great New Year!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Top Ten Lists

Ever wonder why the “top” anything seems to be centered on the number 10? Perhaps it was chosen phonetically as the best place to begin or end a ranking. A good looking woman is considered a “10” but the winner of a beauty contest is number one.  Some surveys ask for your number one choice of something and then to rate it on a 1 to 5 scale with 5 being the best. It is no wonder I was never a fan of math class, it is not logical no matter what people tried to tell me. My favorite story from when my oldest son was little (car seat years) is when we were at a stop light next to a billboard advertising a can of beans for nineteen cents (there is no cent symbol on the keyboard anymore btw) which shows you how long ago that was. From the backseat, I get the following question….how come we say “nineteen” when the nine comes second in the number? Snarky little prodigy even then, but he was absolutely right as far as visual logic is concerned.  The idiot behind me blowing his horn due to the green color in front of me was obviously not as amused by this stunning revelation of understanding by a 2 year old as I was however so I let him know he was still number one in my book, in a “friendly” sort of way of course.

What got me thinking about this ranking thing was a question from the student who interviewed me the other day. Essentially, she asked what my best piece of advice would be for (blank) because the question applied to several different stages and scenarios of being an artist. After dispensing my words of wisdom I started to think of all the wisdom I have supposedly acquired by becoming older and realized most of it was not something told to me, but something learned from that pesky shadow called experience which follows us everywhere. Only when asked to verbalize the value of such battle scars does one realize just how much weighty wisdom we carry around. Such baggage is then sorted in a number of ways by different people.

First and most annoying are those who insist on sharing their baggage contents with you whether you want to inspect it or not. They know what is best for you and how to do something, when, where and why, but you can’t ask them “why” because that challenges their authority.  Some people insist on using only a carry-on which is crammed with stuff but refuse to parcel any of it out to ease a bit of the burden, instead insisting on cramming everything into a tiny space then complaining about it. I better stop this analogy before spirally into a commentary on airline security, which was not my initial point.

Back on the wisdom bus and approaching my next stop in Lack-of-Logic Land, (we have left Limbo for now), I also wonder why we award a best in show when we also have a first place. Would not the first place person be the best? If we have a best in show, then first place is really the runner up. Top ten lists don’t have a “best of” thereby making it a top 11 list. Countdowns always go down (duh) to number one, but song lists rise the charts to number one so being number one means you are either on the top of the heap or at the bottom of the pile based on personal perspective.  I remember competing in the running long jump at a track meet in junior high, probably my first and last time ever, because I came in 4th place.  There was some ceremony with a “whoop-di-do ribbon” for coming in at 4th place. Even I knew that out of 4 competitors, that translated to my being last. My memory seems to be that I quit sports not because they were time consuming or I was lousy at them, but because they seemed illogical and silly. Last is last, you suck, try harder. Don’t give out some pretty reward for trying…you need to try harder, lesson learned. Ahh..but I am digressing yet again.

Perhaps I should make a list (in no particular order) of the great pieces of wisdom I have acquired throughout the years from all of the wonderful art professors, not so great art instructors and truly inspirational friendships that have been a part of my career. After all, that was my original intent when I started this blog. However, due to having to tackle my daily list of errands (arranged logically mind you to make sense driving from one place to another), that missive will have to wait for another day. The bus is still moving and the Land of Lists is still a ways off.

**Addendum note – It was recently pointed out that my postings have become less review oriented and more “slice of life” commentary. How ironic, since my life has recently been sliced and diced in a number of ways, some incidents opening old wounds, some which will seep for a while to come and others that are healing but will leave scars. Humor is my weapon, writing is my medication and painting is my therapy. The reviews will come when I wish to share those thoughts and words. Stay tuned….

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

"Fascinating Faces from Interesting Places" opens January 14th, 2011 at Studio M. This space is located on the lower level of the Massillon Art Museum. 
25 over-sized soft pastel portraits will be on display. I only started working in soft pastels in October of 2009 and completed my first full portrait in January 2010.

Please mark your calenders now for the opening event 1/14/11 from 6-8pm. The exhibition will remain in view until February 20, 2011.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Here I am... in Limbo Land

Welcome to Limbo Land….I am sure we have all been there at one time or another. No, I am not referring to a tropical beach and that state of inebriation where one joins a limbo contest and can’t remember why…. I mean those times in your life when plans cannot be made and decisions finalized or really much of anything can get done because of “things”.  What kinds of things? Well…for all of us they are different and for the most part, happen suddenly, thrusting one into Limbo Land. The only “thing” one can really do is wait until told what to do next.  Okay….. so… time filler is to watch an episode or two of hoarders and realize that no one really needs a stack of magazines from 2002.

If you have such a stack (or two or three or…..) which I might (for now), then wintery days in Limbo Land are a good time to find out what one may have missed in 2002. Most of mine (ummm….I mean the ones I located) are art related (Art News, Modern Art, Contemporary Art in America, American Artist, etc….okay, so I like magazines….).  Most of them were used as sources for lesson plans, nothing like a little Cy Twombly for second graders! 

A quick flip through the pages no longer held my interest about past shows, new movements and the next “big star”, who I still never heard of ….but I still looked for inspirational pictures, yes, I buy the magazines to look at the pictures (call it painters porn).  I also ripped out the Artist’s Directory sections from the back if the issue had one. These listings are quarterly “ads” purchased by artists that feature an image and some contact information with 9 or so to a page, so hence rather small and very pricey!  At one point I considered buying one myself, but wanted to see how well the investment paid off. Using the emails and websites, I picked out a few of the artists and asked that very question.  Positive responses matched the score of the 2010 Jackson football season…0-10.  Maybe the realists were having a bad year in 2002.

Limbo-ville also applies to the times between big projects, major shows, and/or commissions, the “real” meat of our careers. Currently I am a voracious vegetarian cranking out “guins” for the sake of marketing.  As I told a young art student today, this retail gallery/studio situation has increased my personal menu of choices and I am not sure how to handle it yet. 30 years of making art, marketing art as a show, packaging art to ship for exhibition, traveling the show itself and so on, selling one or two at every venue here there and everywhere…it never occurred to me to make pieces just so someone could buy one!  So to meet this expectation of having smaller art for art’s sake (no messages, no agonizing details, no framing and finishing concerns), is a bit liberating, but also very foreign to me.  This stage of my career will take some getting used to as far as why I do what I do and when and for who. I sold an 8 x 10 painting of an olive today, just a big green olive on a yellowish background, nothing more, which I had done for an upcoming event.  It never occurred to me that someone would buy it outside of the event for which it was done but that is my frame of thinking brought on by years and years of building a career in the “show” business so to speak. So am I to paint another one or just be happy somebody liked the little pitted condiment… I don’t know!! I liked that little olive. I was sorry to see him go, a problem I have with what I refer to as “prop art”.  I do know that I can blame my way of thinking on my own college professors. Back in the day, it was all about the message, nobody told us about making money.

If you are a non-art type person, Limbo Labor is always a good alternative. Did you know that light bulbs get dusty? Yep, good time to just look around at all that stuff we don’t really ever “see”.  Wash out some under the counter trash cans, tighten the screws on the door knobs, get the dried cat hack out of the carpet to name a few often overlooked chores.  Did you know there is a whole website devoted to pictures of people’s junk drawers? I suppose rather than cleaning it out, document the inner array of items and post it as digital art, which sounds more like an excuse to get out of cleaning the thing.  So….guess I will go find another stack of old magazines to de-hoard and see if any treasures are to be found, a perfect dessert to yet another day in Limbo Land. I wonder if people would buy pickles?