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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books I've read in 2013

I have been hibernating the last few days, and just finished the Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala. Wow. The NY Times review says the book "opens beneath you like a sink hole". I don't think I stopped reading the 228 pages once I started. My sister warned me when she gave the book to me, and it was so true. This is a raw account of personal loss from the December 26th 2004 tsunami that hit Sri Lanka. I read it from front to back, breathlessly waiting to find out how Sonali would live/heal from the unimaginably real trauma of losing her sons, her husband and her parents all in one freakish afternoon. Like my sister said, I also believe to be true, these words were not written to be published, but as a way to heal.

Looking back over my list of books read this year, more than a few were about death: The last Time I Saw You by E. Berg, Please look after Mom by Kyung-souk Shin, The End of Life Handbook by D. Feldman & A Lasher, Jr., and Paula (amazing)by Isabel Allende.

I also read poetry books: most recently Forth a Raven by Christina Davis (thank you Gwen), Aimless Love by Billy Collins, Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson, and Poems for the Heart by Ania Fernandez.

I read whole books by and about artists: Brice Marden by Eileen Costello, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (argh! Did I really read this in college?) by W. Kandinsky, Alice Neel (difficult and convoluted writing) by Phoebe Hoban, and Calder's (sweet!) autobiography edited by a distant step uncle of mine.

I read social histories:  Guest of the Sheik/Life in an Iraqi village by Elizabeth W. Fernia, Memoirs of a Farm Boy by Marvin Van Benschoten and edited by my dad, Far from the Tree (mind expanding) by Andrew Soloman, Mountains Beyond Mountains (a reread) by Tracy Kidder, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, At Home by Bill Bryson, Salt by Mark Kurlansky, Big History by Cynthia S. Brown, and Vermeer's Hat by Timothy Brook.

Always drawn to self-help and self awareness books I counted a number of them this year: Mindfulness by M. Williams & D. Penman, Palms of South Florida by Stevenson, Einstein's God by Krista Tippett, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin,  and Why We Write by Merideth Maran.

And a couple extra fiction books: Tom Wolfe's Back to Blood (could be listed under a social history of Miami), and Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, Tapestry of Fortunes and Beginners Goodbye by Elizabeth Berg, Daniel Martin by John Fowles, Pink Hotel by Anna Stothard, and Gone (probably my least favorite after Mindfullness) by Cynthia Hanauer.

I am looking forward to what the new year will bring to my library!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

I am totally blissed out, surrounded with my favorite people! I am experiencing a real treat. My boyfriend, my sons and my mother could not be in a more positive frame of mind. We are eating well, counting our blessings, sharing our concerns for 2014, and expressing our love for each other. The stories just flow from every side, containing every emotion and lesson of the years.

For the last week my sons have been living at my mother's apartment, eating every scrap of food, and staying up all night. They come and go during the day and yet always show up for dinner.  They adore her, and I think she is having fun with them too. Just knowing they have a place that welcomes them, makes me rest easier in Miami, further away. This is the best gift of all for me right now.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Seeking a visual chill

It is hard to imagine that Christmas is tomorrow when it is 69 degrees F and sunny in Miami. The changes of season are so subtle it has taken me three years to even notice anything, and often I miss it. Just when I think the toads have gone to hibernate and that it is too cool to swim, the pool fills up with kids splashing, and the pathways seem littered with dark hopping creatures. Again. Parrots swoop in and vultures hover. Large brown and green anoles duck under banana leaves. Dragonflies poise themselves on top of palm spikes. A siren blares from the highway. Another day in paradise, as the saying goes.
But Michael and I are determined to relate the extreme nuances of a tropical winter. We are missing all our friends and family up north. There is something inside of us that craves the "white winter" of songs. Some of our neighbors have dangled lights from their balconies and lined their window ledges with white cottony "snow". Cars in the parking lot are festooned in reindeer antlers and red button noses. We are all trying to do the conjure thing...

Just chilling in Miami. This is how we entertain ourselves. Merry Christmas Eve everybody!!!!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

the Five necessities for Xmas

1. Candles. Winter is a season of increasing and massive darkness and the eternal hope of new light. Lighting a candle is a powerful symbolic act. It brings awareness and vision. I wish I had taken pictures from last evening when the whole apartment was lit by islands of candles.
Cooking by candlelight was an interesting experience. at one point I think I used cinnamon instead of pepper!
2. Mistletoe. Any excuse to get kissing seems like a good one. It is very poisonous to digest unless you are a bird. According to ancient European custom, Mistletoe is hung (never touching the ground) to protect the house from fire and lightening. A good things when you have so many candles!
3. A red dress. Or any new dress. The holiday isn't a celebration unless you deck yourself up in finery to participate. I am going to add a bit of glitter with earrings and eye make-up.
4. Music. It's hard in the tropics to conjure up a white winter without a little song. Here is my favorite CD by Leesah Stiles.
5. A baby Jesus. It is what Christmas is all about. We celebrate the birth of new life and the awareness of God's love in our life. In a season where "the rivers turn to stone and the trees show their bones", (my friend Cait Johnson said that), we need the hope of planting a seed. Jesus was a seed. He brought love and showed us how to live on this earth with it. I can't find my creche. It's in storage or in an unlabeled box out of my awareness. So I gravitate to the fresh kittens outside, or the smiling toddlers in the stores. They are full of innocence, wonder, and still have the capacity for awe.
Bonus #6. We need gifts. gifts to show our affection for each other. Gifts to acknowledge the light between us. (Time to..uh no... go shopping.)

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Its the shortest day of the year

so I am not getting out of my pajamas! Why bother?

Of course- there is that maddening rush to mix in with a crush of holiday shoppers, and there are a trillion last minute details to attend to before leaving town tomorrow.

But I am curious if I can do this.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Making an blanket of love

Last week I decided to try to make a blanket as a gift for an ailing friend. Like the prayer I ask for, where I request a bright yellow light to "wrap my friend in health", I decided to make a soft one myself. A literal manifestation.
At first, I was way over my head. When I went to Joanne's Fabrics I wished I had my stepmother with me to help. (But she wasn't in Miami. She's snowed in at her farm up north.) I picked two of the SOFTEST no pill plush fabrics to use. Then I swept out my studio and laid the fabric on the floor.
I sandwiched two pieces of fabric together and trimmed the top one to match the bottom one...which was a mistake because the two pieces got smaller and smaller until it seemed as is if I was making a shawl instead of a blanket!
Then I went for the
"no sew" method of creating a double blanket by cutting fringes all around the perimeter that could be tied together. The top fabric is a dark polka pattern. (this view is the underside)
The job was hard with dull scissors until I retrieved a friends rotary blade.
After the knots were tied, I chose an orange yellow embroidery thread to sew in the words of prayer. Michael wanted to help. For three nights we sat together and embroidered words such as: Love, Health, Healing, Light, Power, Strength, Breath, Hope, Pax, Now...
Thank goodness for Utube. I thought I knew how to embroider, but I was making "chicken scratch". After a couple viewings, we got right into the swing of it. Each stitch, though not perfect, was certainly a prayer.
We love Ben.

Sandy, Salty and coated with a side of Copper Sulphate

This was me last weekend at Bill Baggs State Park, on Key Biscayne.
This is a work of art at Basel. The work of Roger Hiorns, two engines coated in copper sulphate and suspended from steel.
See the similarity between my feet the sculpture?
Both the feet and the engines are meant to move and are now frozen
They no longer work! Today, school got out for vacation.
Both my feet and the engines were buried temporarily. I was buried in work, and also in the smooth crystal sand of the Sunday bliss.
Both are out of context in a hoity paloity art show.
Both the glittery heavy sculpture and my painted toenails are extravagances.
... Both are doubles, crusty and framed by a confluence of lines...

OK, I am reaching. But I like them both and needed a reason to post them.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I feel like this frat boy

It was just the other day my head snapped forward from a sudden drowsing off at 4pm in the afternoon. There is a fine line between me and the plaster sculpture by Nicole Eisenman, seen at the shared fair display of the Koenig and Clinton Gallery, NYC. "Working from the heart and driven by the body, Nicole Eisenman explores the human condition in her critically acclaimed works. As she explains: “I reflect a certain desire in my work, I want my work to be authentic and reflective of my body, what it’s interested in. The work is nothing if not feeling-based.” She reminds me a bit of the abstract expressionist turned cartoonist, Philip Guston.
I feel as though I only have one eye open, with need of sleep and a good scrubbing shower. My energy level is way, way low. I think I may have drunk too much wine last night. A third glass?
At work we made it through the last week of this semester's classes and the first half of the exams. I proctor. While doing so I make lists, search through art supply catalogues, write student recommendations, and give the kids the "evil eye". Between exams and after school I work at cleaning out my classroom, consolidating the paint supply, soaking and renewing the brushes, clearing the racks of orphan artworks, and checking out the links in old emails I never have had time for. Still come home exhausted.
Is it really almost Christmas? It looks like summer through my windshield in Miami.
Now, I have made my lists and it is the weekend... and I find excuses not to shop. The malls are anthill metropolises. I am afraid of maneuvering through the parking lots. Michael had his car totaled there a few weeks ago by someone who was in a rush to get into Saks.
I keep thinking I just might find the time, the right idea and the energy to make something...Something for everyone on my list! Meanwhile I just have to take a quick snooze before...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Artpun points among the whispers of the Miami paradise

In spite of all my pre-MiamiBasel artworld angst, I actually have to say "it wasn't that bad". It was actually pretty nice. There were some darn magnificent moments. The setting was awesome. Clear blue skies, soft ocean breezes, the ocean always in sight... Everyone also seemed very happy- from the dealers to the gallerists there could be overheard intelligent talk about the art. I saw plenty of red dots dispersed throughout, attesting to a presence of a collecting audience.

Galleries from around the world showed their best art.
And, in my opinion there was some clever use of materials, some brilliant humor.
I loved the sculptures of Larry Kagan at the Canadian based Longsdale Gallery. He used steel and shadow! And then there were Andres Basurto's broken beer bottle and epoxy putty skulls shown by New Orleans' Red Truck Gallery. The dealers were having a fine time at Scope. They also had tiny works drawn on the insides of matchbooks displayed under glass domes. Then there the Cavalier Galleries Inc from Greenwich, CT. Artist Bradley Hart showed a giant copy of Seurot's Bathers at Asnieres, a turn of the last century painting...only this time it was produced by injecting paint into individual bubble wrap pockets.

Of course, Andy was and still is everywhere in Miami. Somehow he just resonates with the Miami mindset. Kyoto artist turned movie industry make up Santa Monica based artist, Kazuhiro Tsuji displayed his 7 foot tall Andy, price on request.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

a walk on the wild side

Wynwood this weekend has gone crazy... the regular monthly art night has stretched through out the fair week. Restaurant help and security guards look exhausted.  On every corner new painted walls are springing up... and artists are spray painting in the dark anything that moves- like this parked cement truck. We followed the beer sign and found a "pop up biergarden" with paint for each picnic table to be decorated while you drank.
Everybody who has wheels has it retrofitted with a loud amplifier and turned it into a Mad Max creation. I am too shy to photograph the people... the night was punctuated with flashes as everyone snapped photos... a majority of regular looking dudes photographing the sprinkling of lovelies that are just as colorful and shocking as the imagination.

Miami written in the teeth and bones of artworks... Food trucks, aromatic pushcarts and stomping street corner dancers, drunken frat boys and bristling gangsters, Latina babes in HIGH highheels pushing babes in strollers, cops with poker faces, and swelling gutters of plastic trash.
It's a city of searching dreams and lit up debris

Fair game

Attending as many art fairs as possible in just a few days, I have come to the shocking realization that my body and mind are often disconnected. I admit that standing in front of a work of art can be a visceral experience, but most often it is an intellectual tease, a visual piece of candy, or a mental conundrum. It is when I leave, get to the cafe, take a seat and then rise again that I feel my aching legs and feet. This has been a weekend of pilgrimage... walking for miles and standing for hours searching for that "elevatory" moment when the creative spirit lifts us and defines a moment in Time.
I've given my students a scavenger hunt, and decide to try it myself.
A modern work of art that utilizes aerial and linear perspective, and I truly love... Ashenbecher, oil on paper by 30year old Berlin artist Pius Fox. I caught up with his gallery, Pablo's Birthday from Brooklyn NY, Friday night at the Ice Palace/ PULSE fair.
I have also found that once I leave my ego and insecurities behind, I love the fairs. It is such a wonderful thing to have so many various galleries from around the world displaying their stuff and sharing a passion for the creative mind. there are a ton of ideas... in fact, words continue to be big. They are in neon, in paint, on posters and stickers and in this flashing mirror...