Friday, January 29, 2010

The Tim Burton MoMA Show: brain afire

Yesterday I went to the Museum of Modern Art with my friend Jeannie. Thanks to her membership, I got in for $5.00. Thanks to her company, I had a wonderful time. It was a good thing we went at the relatively unfashionable time of one-ish on a Thursday. It was pretty full, from school trips to tourists, to fans from everywhere. I can't even imagine how packed it is on a Saturday.

I learned I am only two years older than Mr. Burton. Made it fun to walk through and check off the influences. In his early years: Disney, Dr. Seuss, Grimm's fairy tales, Mad Magazine, horror movies and Houdini! Then Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel, George Herriman's Krazy Kat, Gahan Wilson, Charles Addams, Van Gogh, Al Hirschfeld, Ralph Steadman, and on and on. But really, anything I was devouring visually, he was too. The show had several walls and cases showing his development as a kid with some (not remarkable) talent into someone who would --with drive and obsession-- develop his themes and vision into a fully realized creative institution.

When I was a girl and teenager I could not keep my hands quiet. Along with a strong pull to my own daydreams in the classroom, I doodled. I drew on any piece of paper in front of me, on the desk, in my school books, on my skin. And if I couldn't draw, my hands couldn't stay still. I tapped my pencil, chewed my nails, rubbed the student inflicted initial scars on the desktop. At home I filled notebook after notebook with drawings in pencil, magic marker, watercolor, and gloppy poster paints. But here my path begins to diverge from Burton's. He never stopped. And in that time after high school he kept drawing. The themes are all there in the early work but they become distinctive, creepier, deeper, more wild as he goes through his 20s. His show made me wish that I had not let myself be diverted, that I had kept pursuing the drawing... but it is never that simple. I had good reasons to quiet down my hands and start paying attention in the classroom. The real story is not why people stop, but what makes them keep going. I don't think talent is the engine really. Artists like Burton have a compulsive need to keep doing the things they do and the will to make it viable to themselves and others. And then there is that mysterious extra ingredient that an artist can't control, call it talent or communication, that makes the effort compelling and marketable. I had art teachers tell me I had great gifts and would end up a successful or famous artist. I also had college professors who informed me my work was listless with precision and no vision. Who was right? Doesn't matter, if I had kept going I might have gotten somewhere as an artist, you can't get there by stopping. And Burton didn't stop.

The best thing was watching his themes devour the influences and grow into his unique vision. He is smart, funny, and able to tap the creepiest fears that rise up from nightmares and shame. I love his approach, a sky is not a color but a radiating energy of lines. Fears become fantastical recognizable monsters. I was laughing out loud through much of the show. Then in the final room, the movie props, wonderful proof that he has been able to make teams of other artists see what he sees.

I am now getting out a sketchpad. I remember how much FUN it was to doodle! Don't worry, I won't give up my poetry and graphic design, but the best thing about seeing a show like this is how it inspires. Like a virus, I've caught the Burton bug.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

IMAGININGS poetry/prose contest

Here is the flyer for this contest,  write up to 500 (probably won't need more than 200) words to go with a slow motion video. 4 videos, 4 chances to win. Winners get $500.00 Poets welcome! Go to: I entered. Deadline extended to January 31st. And since you ask, yes, I designed the flyer, careful to use web safe fonts...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Crafty moments

Getting good comments on my design work for both the Madeleine L'Engle and Jay Marshall biography projects. Yay.  Mostly reviewers don't comment much on design, so when they do, I am delighted:

"Although I expected a wealth of detail from the page count, I was unprepared for how bountifully the book is illustrated and how exquisitely it's laid out, not only with rare photos of Jay but with all sorts of posters, letters, and personal memorabilia."  --Steve Bryant

Since I spent months laying out this 69 chapter book and color correcting and repairing (mildew, rips) the 700 old photos and memorabilia, great to have the work noticed.

And in the evenings, been having fun making beaded gifts for family, friends, and my very own self.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Avatar after party, not

Jim and I went to see the wonderful 3-D Avatar and I deeply wished I was blue, ten feet tall, and able to leap onto the back of pterodactyl-ish transportation. I recommend the film, who needs the plot to be more than it is? It was pure fun.

You would think after all that visual excitement I'd have dreams of the imaginary world, Pandora, and continue the adventure using my own high maintenance avatar unit--my sleeping brain. And I did, but not exactly. Instead of finding myself in the body of a superhuman with a neural telecommunication device growing in my hair and romping through a rain forest (amped on helium and steroids),  I was a balding middle aged, middle management MAN going to work and feeling as sluggish and gray as the office park I entered. I had to sit through meetings, sort out the departmental internecine squabbles, and think about my mortgage and depleted investments. Yes, it was startling to go to the men's room and experience the different plumbing, in both senses, but I felt terribly cheated. This is the true avatar experience, I thought as I rubbed a patch of beard stubble under my right jaw I'd missed in the rushed morning shave, this is how it feels to walk in another man's shoes, literally. And I didn't like the shoes. Dang-it, I shouted at the dream, let me be George Clooney or Viggo Mortensen at least. Although, who knows what's truly fun in an actors life (boring waiting around sets, for instance)...let me be president Obama...oh, wait, talk about a tough job...Never mind.

The cool thing was, I didn't walk or talk like a woman when I was a man. So whoever you are, in whatever world, thanks for letting me borrow your body for eight hours, I have just proved to myself I'd rather be me, thanks.