Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy 75th Birthday Helen Carlson

It was a crisp and sunny October 30th.

Projecting my mother into the present gets harder after 32 years...

The black hair would be mostly white and she'd need bifocals; but unlike her mother's they'd be progressives in light-weight black and silver titanium frames. I suspect her opinions on everything would be just as snappy, even if everything has changed.

I'd give her a &75.00 dollar Starbucks card (she would love the espresso shots) and a soft sweater in her burnt oranges. More than that, I'd take her to dinner with my daughters, my husband and me. But that is too small a group, I'm sure she'd have a bevy of fellow teachers, poets, and eBay ephemera merchants to toast her. We would make her laugh...

Too bad she can't be here, it would have been a hell of a party.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Emoticon at Princeton

Touring campuses with my daughter and ex is like falling down a rabbit hole. I imagine an avatar of my daughter jauntily walking from dorm to classroom as buildings are named and the campus briefly fills in and falls away behind us. Down and down we fall.

I'm wondering "why are looking if we can't possibly afford this, would she be happy and challenged here, why do so many of them wear those preppy wool jackets, does everyone belong to an eating club?" By this you can see we spent yesterday touring Princeton. "Very pretty," says Caitlin, referring to the stone and ivy clad walls and vistas of trees obligingly multi-hued. We heard about revolutionary war battles taking place on campus "right here a musket shot from Washington made a dent under the ivy," the 6-to-1 ratio of students to profs, the senior thesis, and the joys of a year abroad.

Just as our group of 20 was about to walk into another history drenched quad someone shouted "I HEART PRINCETON!!!!"

"Wow, yeah," shouted back our tour guide, adding that such unsolicited comments were usually much worse. But how perverse that the word love, represented by a heart symbol online, should then be used in a shout that is clearly seen in the shouter's mind as a text message.

Caitlin whispered to me, "at UCON they shouted: 'Send me your virgin daughters.'"

Friday, October 19, 2007

My first digital life drawing

I drew this with a wacom tablet and digital pen. I sat next to another laptop artist who told me I might consider NOT emulating natural media. "Draw it like it is done on a computer," she urged me. I'm sure she is right. Faced with something new, you can't help but look back. Gutenberg's press emulated monk's calligraphy, the Model T looked like a horseless buggy, and I used the "pastel" mode in Photoshop.
I peeked at the forward thinking artist. She was doing something wild with a starfield, superimposing the model on infinity. Maybe next time...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Stickley to the Man

I work near furniture showroom windows. Half of them have Italian sounding names and feature chrome, black leather, and glass. The other half have earnest Anglo Saxon names and feature oak, orange pillows, and golden lampshades. Both sell single's pads to corporate bonuses. To afford even the merest of foot stools in either camp is beyond my means.

I've been thinking about the yin / yang of the colors in the windows. One is a medley of browns, hugging just one warm corner of the color wheel; the other zips from blacks to whites and generates electric sparks of accent color. There are no pastels. In fact, it is the anti-pastel. I think you have to go to Martha Stewart to find those tints.

And where is the showroom window with the couches and chairs I really need? Surfaces that resist cat, dog, teens, and my own casual gestures with foods and liquids? Where? You too can shop at the Salvation Army Boutique, Housing Works, and shops liquidating during bankruptcy. Some of my furnishings were inherited from my Grandma Rose, another sort of liquidation. Think eclectic, please.

If my rooms were placed in a showroom, nobody wanting to create an impression would buy. But you could walk in and get comfortable in no time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rolling in Dirt with Eiko and Koma

My daughter Natalie tells me that only freshman pronounce the "Wang" in The Wang Center with an "a" so I learned "it's wong to say wang" and now when you visit Stony Brook University, you can sound smarter than a freshman.

Natalie is taking a movement class and one of the visiting dancers, Eiko, of Eiko and Koma, taught her class warm-up exercises. She rolled gently on the floor and showed them all how to stretch like animals in "delicious movements." Natalie said Eiko was a lovely old hippie who mentioned her sons were embarrassed by having parents perform in the nude.

"Eiko and Koma," my husband said, "I saw them once, they roll around naked very very slowly, you go into a zen-like state watching them. Hmmmm, I'll stay at your parent's house and read science magazines with your dad." So I went to the Wang with my daughters.

The title was Mourning, it wasn't going to be jolly. We were seeing it in previews, the premier will be October 18th at the Japan Society, New York City.

The stage was covered in thick dirt. Two semi-clad middle aged people lay on the dirt. A tree-like prop hung in the back of the stage. Off in the wings a woman, Margaret Leng Tan, sat at two pianos, one a grand, the other a toy. Which reminded me of a dog show with big and toy breeds except dogs don't have 88 keys. Of course toy pianos don't have 88 keys either and I wasn't close enough to count the octaves of wee keys...

After a long wait, in which I heard a great deal about shopping at a Long Island Mall from people sitting behind me, the man and woman began to roll very very slowly in the dirt. The rolling and movements changed and the music changed I was aware that Eiko and Koma were exploring natural and unnatural, human and animal, experiences of death and, finally, recovery and rebirth. The rebirth involved some fresh leafy branches that they carried and rolled through. Do they get scratched I wondered.

The zen-like state, as experienced by this viewer, was very close to nodding off, which my daughters observed with stifled mirth. They particularly liked how I made it look as if I was tilting my head to see better.

Tan's artistry on toy piano was surprisingly moving and odd and memorable.

We stayed for the Q&A since Natalie's class was there and expecting to write a report. Some people asked if it was all spontaneous. How odd that anyone should think so, it was clear to me that everything was choreographed, thought out, designed. Eiko and Koma were warm and humorous.

We agreed that if we saw it again we'd get more out of it. Like mime or shadow puppets, a new art form that takes getting used to.

"How was it?" Asked the stay-at-homes.

"Slow, slow rolling," I replied.

Monday, October 8, 2007

"Possess Your Own SoHo" sez Trump

Near where I work, a Trump condo-hotel-luxury-tower is going up. Soon it will block all the morning light as I head for the office. Thanks Donald for the gray carpet.

I cannot stop wondering why I would want to possess my own SoHo. Couldn't I possess other more worthy edifices? Such as my own mind, for instance, it shows signs of being periodically vacant. Maybe I'd rather possess my own Paris (not Hilton) or possess my own really good diner on Rt. 347, the one with the moist grilled chicken and crisp but sour pickles? And what about all the other places that don't make it into the Trumpamerican skyline? Possess your own Levittown. Possess your own plot at Pinelawn Cemetery? Possess your own dreams, possess your own verse, repossess your own passion. If you must possess your own SoHo, please do it quietly and among consenting adults.

The traffic gets awful around here when folks try to drive to New Jersey after work. For some reason once drivers see the Holland Tunnel signs they no longer pay any attention to traffic laws, lights, cross streets, their memory of yesterday's commute, and pedestrians. They express their desire to have a revised reality by honking. I've seen traffic cops ticket one guy after another and none of them can stop themselves! They honk, they gridlock, they get ticketed, it's another form of possession I guess...

I was plotting a route across the mess when a woman in big sunglasses saw me looking at the satanic "Possess Your Own SoHo" sign and shook her fist at it. She shouted her story. Her neighborhood association had been so busy fighting towers of glass a little north of here, that they'd figured SoHo would quash the Trump thing. But nobody got on it. So, quite legally, Trump's tower goes up, up, up. Air rights. And once one too tall building comes in, it brings in more and when all the rich folks move in, out go us artists. "My daughter," she told me, "just graduated art school and do you know where she's moving, where she can afford to live and be an artist?" I didn't know. "Philadelphia, Philadelphia! That's where they're all going--forget Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Queens, no artists can afford New York City anymore."

Ok artists, you and Rocky can now Possess Your Own Philly. Really.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Jazz, models, and a glass of wine

Tonight I sketched while listening to a jazz duet, two models posed in fascinating angles to each other, and I sipped a glass of Merlot without spilling any of it. There is something richly perfect about life drawing at the Society of Illustrators.

The last few weeks I've sketched on my laptop using a digital pen and wacom tablet. And it was fun, the unfamiliarity of the medium--slippery plastic--and the odd disconnect of drawing on one thing and having the sketch show up elsewhere, kept me off balance as well. It lead to fairly wild stuff (for me) as I grabbed brilliant hues from photoshop and gave up any desire to have it look like anything.

But tonight, I just felt I had to draw with charcoal again, I love how it can dig into the tooth of the paper and give sharp lines or sweeping smudges. Once I get going, all my fingers get involved in rubbing the shadows into being. I draw and I see bone and muscle and attitude in the posture, in the way one person's ratio of sharps and curves repeat over their whole body. Sometimes the models made each other laugh. The shorter model took brave athletic poses with arms raised and body twisted.

Hard work, for the models and mucisians. Pure fun for me. And the jazz was so right for the room, inventive but smooth. The guitar was red, red as a tomato and the trumpeter wore red shoes.

Some of the regulars came by and were disappointed to see I was back to the ordinary magic of paper and pencil.