10.29.2015

happy 10th blogiversary to me!

Ten years ago today, I wrote my first post on this blog. Back then it was called Wazo Cafe Gallery ("wa-zo" is the phonetic notation for the French oiseau, which means bird, which is my maiden/middle name). We had recently moved from Oakland, California, to Boston, Massachusetts, where I was about two months into the MFA program at SMFA. Rather than wax poetic about how much has happened in those ten years (or bemoan how quickly they've gone by), I thought I'd make a simple list of 10 of the topics I've enjoyed writing about between then and now, in no particular order.


1. The Makery! For awhile, this series of posts was "fresh on Mondays!" with crafty projects posted weekly. It started as a way to sneak creativity back into my life after the birth of my first kid and eventually spawned a different kind of offspring in the form of felt Android phone cases that were featured on Mashable, Geek Sugar (now POPSUGAR), and Apartment Therapy. Then I got wicked carpal tunnel syndrome and had another kid.


2. The MFA Thesis. The whole shebang. The convoluted thought process leading to it. The travel writing via Athens, London, and Nashville, Tennessee. The digressions that occasionally involved tasks such as re-watching The Last Unicorn. The exhibition itself. And some reflections since. In my mind, at least, this is still very much a work in progress.



3. The cats. The now geriatric cats, Sophie and Xander. We adopted them a little over 16 years ago, so they've been with us the entire 10 years this blog has existed. I've written about them quite a bit, in one way or another. And they've inspired at least one crafty project.


Today is National Cat Day, after all, so they had to make the cut. They've earned it.


4. The TV show. The all-time favorite reality TV show. So You Think You Can Dance, of course. I'm not as committed to watching and reflecting on the show as I used to be, but I will get to see the live tour in San Francisco in December (this will be the second time; the first was in 2007, when this blog was just 2 years old).


5. The jobs. All 15 of them. Well, I'm up to the two jobs I had right before I started this blog, anyway. How fitting.


6. The family. I have another blog devoted to this topic (wait a second, am I a "mommy blogger"?!) but it's woefully outdated. Seriously, the toddler was a baby last time I updated it. Even so, occasionally, that part of my life spills over onto this blog. What can I say, it's messy.


7. The travel. The travel that was/is not thesis-related (or paid for with travel grants, sadly). I'm particularly nostalgic for the sightseeing done during our first summer in Boston, which coincided nicely with reading and listening to Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot.


8. The handmade marketplace. No, not that one. You know what I'm talking about. The one where I ran my micro-business for 4+ years until sales tanked and I found myself stuck between a rock (stay-at-home-mom) and a hard place (day job).


9. The running. The first marathon took place before this blog was started, but I wrote all about the second one, the 2012 Oakland marathon, here. These days, I'm content to run the 3 mile lap around Oakland's Lake Merritt two to three mornings each week, so there's not much to write about.



10. The food! Last, but certainly not least. The food, you could say, is what ties it all together, don't you think?

I was hoping to turn at least one of these topics into some sort of book, if for nothing else than to satisfy my own archival desires, but this'll have to do for now. Here's to 10 more years of writing. Oh, and I have a newsletter/mailing list sign-up box to the right. I'll start a newsletter as soon as I have 10 readers signed up. Deal?

Thanks for reading, guys. I cherish each and every one of you.

9.25.2015

let's play polo: let's go shopping!

So where does one purchase a yellow polo? Obviously if you already have one, you're all set! If you don't and/or if you're buying for a friend or family member(s) to accompany you on October 10th, here are some suggestions:

  1. Online: lots of options online if you do a simple search for something like "where to buy yellow polo shirt". I'm seeing some solid examples from Adidas, Land's End, Nike, Ralph Lauren, and department store options such as Land's End via JCPenney. You can also find a lot of these options on Amazon.
  2. To that end you can also actually go shopping. This isn't something I have a lot of time for, especially with two kids in tow at most times, but I hear it's still done. A mall with both department stores like Macy's or Sears and clothing retailers like H&M are probably your best bet. And there's always Target. The downside here is you may spend a fair amount of time searching for a specifically yellow polo shirt (vs. just buying one online). Anecdotally speaking, I was at UNIQLO recently and while they had polo shirts, I saw zero yellow ones.
  3. Make the rounds to your local thrift stores - consignment shops, Goodwill, etc. - to try to find something used.
  4. Vintage!
Image courtesy of FachyFlash on Etsy - link in suggestion #4, above.

I hope that helps. If you have suggestions, share them in the comments or on the event's Facebook page.

9.11.2015

let's play polo: hijacking hashtags

One side-effect of this project that I'm really enjoying is using social media hashtags already used for something else. #letsplaypolo is used by people actually playing polo! Imagine that.


The more people participate, the more interesting this little side-effect will be. Join along on the event's Facebook page and share with your friends. I'm personally planning on "attending" (October 10th at any museum/gallery of your choice - take pictures!) with at least one other family so there will potentially be 9 of us in yellow polos. I can't wait.

PS - more on where to get your yellow polo in a near-future post! Stay tuned...

8.31.2015

Let's play polo: you down with SPP?


I wanted to keep my introduction to this project as short and sweet as possible, but I have a few ideas I'd like to introduce or elaborate on here between now and October 10. Since grad school I've been interested in projects that occur at least in part under the umbrella of "social practice", particularly the participatory nature of many social practice art projects. More recently, I'm further intrigued by the intersection of these kinds of projects with ideas around "creative placemaking", which is a far broader term that applies to much more than the visual arts.
"Placemaking is a process, accessible to anyone, that allows peoples’ creativity to emerge. When it is open and inclusive, this process can be extraordinarily effective in making people feel attached to the places where they live. That, in turn, makes people more likely to get involved, and to build shared wealth in their communities."
On "social practice placemaking" (SPP) then, Cara Courage notes "the agency of such projects to galvanise people around arts and place." In this way, this project continues my exploration of the complex idea of place, coupled with a growing interest in community, both literally and figuratively.

You can help put the en masse into dressing up and going somewhere en masse! Join on the event's Facebook page and share your reasons and photos there, via email, and on social media using #letsplaypolo and/or #artmacro.

8.27.2015

my week: my summer (part two)

As I figured when I wrote part one, the summer installments of my "weekly" updates will likely conclude with this, the second report. School started on Monday, meaning summer vacation is officially over (but, as my son will quickly remind you, Summer the season continues for a few more weeks). It's been a busy few weeks since my last update, too, with the launch of two new projects on the art macro blog. The first is equal parts weird science, a celebration of randomness, and a penchant for felt. The other is a project I've been mulling over for some time now (8 years, to be precise). I hope you'll save the date and help put the "en masse" part into the idea behind dressing up and going somewhere en masse.


Otherwise, here are just a few things I've been thinking about more recently:

ART

After letting it nearly die a slow, expired domain, I kinda forgot how to use Dreamweaver death, I revived my website! My new URL (I've had a couple over the last ten years) is now my full name. A little boring but pretty standard practice for artist types. And all the possible alternatives were already taken. Have you noticed my handle on other social media has also changed? "I am also Becky G.", after all.

If you're in the DC area, you have but another week or so to dive into the giant ball pit created by Snarkitecture. I have one Facebook friend who went and posted pictures and I'm #sojeals.

I had a brief Twitter exchange with Miranda July (!) when I asked how she and Harrell Fletcher drummed up participation in their web-based project Learning To Love You More. Answer? Word of mouth.

Speaking of Social Practice, CCA (where you can currently declare it a concentration as part of another graduate degree) is rolling out a Master's Degree focused in it, currently recruiting for the first incoming cohort to begin next fall.

Finally for the art category, and perhaps most importantly, I was introduced to the work of Amanda Palmer last week when she did this amazing thing outside the New York Public Library. Then this week she wrote this incredible essay on Medium in response to a "worried" fan about the fear that just about all women have, but particularly creative ones, around juggling career and motherhood and how this little person will affect your art. There's a lot I could write about this and I hope I'll find the time one day soon, but I guess one lingering thought I have right now is, you know, even if she was crowd-funding her baby, how is that any different than mom bloggers taking one freebie after another, writing about it on their blogs with, we can be sure, their honest, unbiased opinions (as my friend Meredith pointed out, free cruises usually make for pretty fantastic family vacations), and then using those blog posts to secure additional advertising income?  And as Palmer articulates much better than I can, the resources she'll need to raise this child are no different than the resources she'll need as an artist when it comes down to the day-to-day nitty gritty of living a creative life. Personally, I hope she uses some of that Patreon support for quality childcare.

CRAFT (and design and stuff)

I'm going to file this under craft because the art file is full this "week." Did you watch  Wet Hot American Summer? Hilarious, no? Of course, one of my favorite lines was when the arts & crafts counselor, played by Molly Shannon, says, "I finally get to put my arts degree from RISD to good use." LOL (oh, wait, the kids aren't saying that anymore).

Okay, I guess I do have one more contribution to the craft category. This yarn installation is designed to help you experience music physically. Far out.

DANCE (and all the other stuff)

I finally watched American Sniper. I have this pet peeve when TV shows or movies use much older babies - obvious 3, 4 or 5-month olds, for example - to represent a newborn. But after seeing how obviously uncomfortable the actors were handling "fake baby" I think I prefer the 5-month old newborn, after all!


I can't believe SYTYCD will be over in a couple of weeks. As usual, it feels like the season only just began. I'm really, really hoping I can make it to the live tour this year (my birthday is right around the corner - hint, hint). How hot was that Argentine Tango that choreographer Leonardo performed with JJ?! This is hardly the first time Leonardo has danced with a contestant and that's okay by me.


Finally, I got reading glasses. I'm still telling myself it's just eye strain from looking at a computer all day. #thisisnoteven40

Let's play polo! A call for participation.


While visiting the Tate Modern in London in 2007, the visit took on a new dimension when I noticed that several of the other art-watchers were dressed exactly as my husband: jeans with a yellow polo shirt. It was as if, on that day, the uniform of a museum visitor was a yellow polo shirt. I quickly captured a few moments of this coincidence in photo. Suddenly, art spectators had become art participants. But then again, aren't they always? As this was happening, I wished I could do more than share the photos, but that I could share the experience of being in that space and feeling like we had become the art.

On October 10, 2015, I invite you to help me recreate this serendipitous event in a deliberate way but on a much grander scale by visiting a museum dressed in a yellow polo shirt, documenting your experience, and sharing it. Why? Let's disrupt the conservatism of museums with a playful "demand" for practices that challenge the boundary between art and spectator. Let's celebrate participatory, social art practice in the space where art is "at home." Personally, aside from being a fun excuse to visit a museum and support artists, I look forward to slightly embarrassing myself for my art!

At least, those are my reasons for doing this. Want to participate but for different reasons? I'd love to hear yours. Share them along with your photos, via email, on the event's Facebook page, and on social media using the hashtag #letsplaypolo and/or #artmacro.

8.17.2015

the water bear makes an appearance on art macro

I have so many blog posts brewing, but this is just a quick update to let you know about a new project over on another blog I haven't updated in almost 5 years! You can read a little more about it there but in a nutshell this project combines my fascination with tardigrades, my interest in celebrating silly (and sometimes not so silly) things on a daily basis, and my love of felt. And somehow that's all related to another project about yellow polos and art museums that I'll be announcing very soon!


In the meantime, hop on over to my other blog for more information about what the water bear is celebrating today.

7.23.2015

my week: my summer (part one)


It's been a minute, hasn't it? Last time I wrapped up my "week", summer had just begun. Now we've passed the halfway point (last weekend), with just four weeks and change until the first day of a new school year which, for my son, will be at a new school. Interesting timing, too, since Oakland-based Design Mom just posted this thorough explanation of why she doesn't stress about school choice. Her younger kids actually attend the same school my son attended for Kindergarten and 1st grade. And it's a great school in a lot of ways (I liked it; I never loved it as so many do), but the final straw that motivated me to spend a lunch break at the student assignment office a few weeks ago was the lack of after-school options. Kids get out of school at 3 p.m. most days, 1:20 on Wednesdays and all other "minimum days". But I don't wrap up work until between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Dilemma! So, yeah, it's easy to not stress about school choice when you have the flexibility to get your "work" done, whatever your "work" may be, during the school day. If you need supervision before and/or after the school day, your thought process about schools in light of your child's overall day might change just a bit. And the school my son will be going to is that much closer to home, meaning just a smidgen more time each morning and evening.

Other than schools and after-school programs and extended day enrichment classes, here are a few things I've been thinking about over the past six weeks.

ART

I recently got to meet one of my favorite artists, Allison Smith. She teaches at the college where I work and just happened to be sitting next to me at an office birthday thing - an unofficial perk of working at an art school, you could say.

MoMA acquired the rainbow flag as a design icon.

Also via Brainpickings, I was introduced to the work of Oliver Jeffers. He's a visual artist who works across various media, including children's books. I'm particularly smitten with this project and immediately snatched up this book to read with my kids.

Speaking of kids, I love, love, love this article about creativity and age in The Atlantic, about how "Everyone Was an Artist in Kindergarten". This line in particular has really stuck with me since reading it: "Creativity is contingent on willingness to be judged." So true.

Speaking of a more, how shall we say, mature demographic, I finally watched Noah Baumbach's While We're Young. It's no Kicking and Screaming but pretty good. Best line in the film: "What's the opposite of 'the world is your oyster'?"

I just got my print in the mail yesterday! Jaime Rovenstine partners with Design Milk and Sebastian Foster to offer affordable, high quality art prints. I love the print I got but I'm also really digging her paintings with darker, space-like backgrounds.


Take me back to Boston so I can see Amanda Parer's giant, illuminated rabbits!

CRAFT (and design and stuff)


I planned a Pokemon-themed party for my 7 year old. It was the first time I've made his party invites in three years, creating a 5x7 inch invitation in the style of a Pokemon trading card with the help of Beagle Cakes on the anime style illustration of my son as the centerpiece (I loved it so much I'm having her make one for my daughter, too). Unfortunately, I just don't have the time to get too crafty with these sorts of shenanigans these days, but I did transform the gatorade into energy bevvies:


...and Costco pizza into pokeball pizza!


Kids really dig gatorade, by the way. They had a lot of energy by the end of that party.

Oakland and CCA, where I work, both get a nice mention in this article in American Craft Magazine. If you're from here you probably remember when CCA (California College of the Arts) was CCAC (California College of Arts and Crafts). The college has actually changed its name 3 times in its 100+ year history.

DANCE (and all the other stuff)

Misty Copeland is the first African American woman promoted to principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. Did you know she didn't start ballet lessons until she was 13?! Her life story so far is quite the read.

Speaking of SYTYCD (Copeland was a guest judge a couple of seasons ago), are you watching? Do you love it? Are you #teamstage or #teamstreet? While I'm not a huge fan of the revised format of the show, I'm "Team Street" all the way and happy to see the distinction isn't a huge deal, after all, with dancers from both teams not only dancing together but in all the usual styles. I'm not sure how I feel about the threesomes, though. Officially dance crushin' on both Jaja and Yorelis.

By the way, tomorrow is National Dance Day. Have you learned the choreo yet? There's still time!

7.21.2015

burning bridges: pink toilet paper

Me, atop the Dune du Pilat, about 60 km west of Bordeaux, France.
Summer 2000.
Last time I updated this series, I wrote about my work with painter/professor Katherine Sherwood while an undergrad at UC Berkeley. Turns out I skipped over a summer internship with a bit of a twist. In 2000, less than a year after transferring to Cal, I decided to apply to a summer exchange program to supplement my French major, since, as a transfer student, I didn't want to be abroad for an entire year or even a semester. The main reason I decided to double-major, after all, was to extend my credit "ceiling" which allowed me to spend three years at Berkeley instead of just two. So during the summer of 2000 I traveled first to Paris, then to Bordeaux, as part of a work exchange program with the goal of being perhaps not fluent exactly but certainly "conversational" in French by summer's end.  My exact goal was to be able to watch French films without subtitles and more or less understand the plot.

For most of my 11 weeks abroad I completed a "stage", or internship, at the Office of Tourism. Normally in these "burning bridges" posts, I write about the job. But the job itself was mind-numbingly boring, with most of my journal entries from that summer about other things like the pink toilet paper in Paris, the dog poop problem, and the incredible food (skip to the post-script below if that's all you're really interested in). I was led to believe I'd be working in the information area of the Office of Tourism but they stuck me instead in one of the offices upstairs, where I interacted with just a handful of regular employees each day and spent most of my time translating various documents into English and responding to email and phone inquiries in, you guessed it, English. “I’m not at information nor will I ever be, hence no need for all the navy blue skirts and white blouses I bought,” the dress code for the folks who worked the floor, so to speak. Seriously, that was really challenging, like trying to find school uniforms to fit a grown woman. Anyway, while this occupation did little to enhance my French speaking ability, I was a whiz on French keyboards by the end of my internship. And I spent much of the first three weeks and a bit of the last week or two on free walking tours, "dégustations" (wine tastings), day-trips to nearby châteaux, etc. The days I did no sightseeing could be summed up in four sad words: "all work, no wine."


While in Bordeaux, I stayed with a host family, the son of which was participating in the same program, working at Great America in Santa Clara. I'd grown pretty fond of my host family by the time I returned home in August but initially found the entire experience to be incredibly awkward and frustrating. My hostess spoke little English, criticized me for not dressing "elegantly" enough for shopping in Le Bouscat, a suburb of Bordeaux, and took me on epic sightseeing adventures that had us visiting old churches and castles until 9 or 10 p.m. most balmy Sunday evenings. One of my most vivid memories is when she picked me up from the train station and I complained, in French, that my trees (mes arbres), not my arms (mes bras), were tired from schlepping my luggage through Paris during the first three or four days of my summer in France. Talk about first impressions.

My French hostess, elegantly dressed in a skirt and heels for a rainy tour of a medieval town.
Other than all the free tours and wine-drinking in and around Bordeaux, I spent, as I mentioned already, my first few and last couple of days in Paris, where I'd been a few times before (lucky gal that I was to spend grades 4 through 12 in Germany and England). I love Paris. I could totally live there. Additionally, I spent one mid-summer weekend in Toulouse, and a few weekends away with my host family, first on the Ile d'Oléron, where they were spending their August vacation, and my final full weekend in Blois, for a traditional French wedding. I could write entirely separate posts about each of these weekend adventures!

Ile d'Oléron at sunset. Just heavenly.
I saw just two movie-theater movies: Le Gout des Autres and Les Destinées Sentimentales. I developed a bit of a film-crush on Emmanuelle Beart, writing in my journal that she had "a great face." The films were, obviously, not subtitled and sure, I got the gist of what was going on. Mission accomplished!

The final entry in my journal, written during my final night in Paris before my flight home to SFO, details the few regrets I had about my summer in France, primarily this: "Didn’t ever get around to writing in here in French! But, see, if I read this in, say, twenty years after I’ve forgotten all my French I’ll be glad I stuck with English." Writing "twenty years" probably seemed like an exaggeration at the time but here I am, going through my box of Bordeaux memories 15 years later. And yes, I'm glad I wrote my journal in English!

PS - A few more words about the incredible food...

Most breakfasts consisted of croissant or baguette with jam, coffee or cocoa, juice, and occasionally yogurt. Dinners in Bordeaux with my host family were usually buffet style and served outside since it's so hot there in the summer. Some examples include: “first some tomatoes, tabouli, and spicy chicken wings, then salad, then some cheese and bread, and finally apricots for dessert.” Another night: “first some radishes and bread, then salad with tomatoes and cucumbers and a piece of ham, cheese and more bread, and strawberries for dessert.” And another example: “half of an avocado, followed by a green salad with these little crab meat stick things, bread and cheese (of course), and pudding for dessert.” One more example: chestnut mousse one night for dessert, following a dinner of salad, 3-cheese “tart”, and bread & cheese. Weekend lunches were the heartiest and most formal: “melon, some sort of beef thing and fries, bread and cheese, and cherries for dessert.” This next example, I wrote,  "lasted four hours!" - aperitif & hors d’oeuvres of cheese trays and toast with salmon pate. This dinner called for fancy table settings including “little salt servers that resembled very small ashtrays with tiny little spoons.” First course was a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and green peppers with vinaigrette and feta cheese, served with bread. There were two different kinds of meat - bayonne ham and “some sort of pork thing” served over green beans. “Also, some chicken McNugget things but with broccoli instead of chicken.” Full cheese course, with bread and for dessert - individual fruit tarts (I had lemon). Another Sunday lunch included “three aperitifs, mussels, cheese trays, and what essentially seemed like duck ‘bacon’ to me, followed by salmon pate hors d’oeuvres, some sort of duck main dish (too much! enough duck already!), served with berries and nectarines, cheese and bread, and chocolate gateau for dessert. The cake was so good - consistency of a great big brownie, served with creme anglaise.”

The Bastille Day Dinner that blew my mind: “I had some sort of gratin dish for starters, with avocado, cheese, some sort of seafood and a few mussels. The main dish was kind of like a salmon shish-kabob with some sort of very rich sauce and rice and for dessert … fondant au chocolat with creme anglaise. I don’t know exactly what ‘fondant’ means in English, nor have I ever had anything quite like this, but it was so tasty. Kind of like a cake but really dense, essentially fudge, but with a creamier ice cream-like taste. There were two slices of this swimming in creme anglaise and garnished with sliced almonds.”

Labor-intensive seafood on the Ile d'Oléron: "Lunch was an adventure - assiete des langoustines - like little lobsters, unbelievably difficult to eat, but delicious. 'Dos de maigre' was some sort of fish, for the entree, and nougat glacee for dessert." "Had my first real 'gaufre' with chestnut spread at the port." Another lunch at the port included family style "platters of seafood, again all very labor-intensive to eat - langoustines, shrimp, ocean snails, crevettes, mussels, oysters, and crab."

In short, lots of meat, much of it unidentifiable (or was it that I was in denial that I was eating a cute little bunny rabbit?). And cheese. Lots of cheese.

7.13.2015

kids: the natural antidote to wanderlust

I love traveling. Scratch that. Since having kids, I love the idea of traveling. Because with young kids, especially the toddler (not to point fingers or anything), a vacation is a "trip." That changes as they get older (I don't feel bad saying my one-on-one road trip with my son was overall more enjoyable than our cross-country travels with both kids in tow). For now, we focus on visiting family while saving fun stuff like Disneyland and Hawaii and, I dunno, Marfa, Texas for when the children are a bit older. Perhaps in college. Which is not to say visiting family is not fun. It is, but it's also far less expensive so maybe it has less to do with where we are and who we see and more about how much we spend versus how exhausting the kids are. Anyway, in the meantime, my son and I took our second road trip together, just the two of us, and we successfully flew cross-country and back again with both kids. A few highlights from those trips included:


A Japanese cultural festival in Bend, Oregon. I forget now the connection with these dancers but they were fun to watch. They gave an epic performance that my 7 year old son sat through with keen interest.


I also realized that while we've made the trip to central Oregon together countless times over the past 18 years, since I initially moved from Bend to Berkeley (after less than a year in Bend), this was the first time I attempted the 8+ hour drive on my own. Needless to say, we split the drive home over the course of an afternoon and following morning, my son and I stopping for a dinner of ice cream in Klamath Falls.


So what did I learn from our east coast travels? For starters, a red-eye with two young kids is miserable no matter how well they do and I hope to never have to do it again. Fortunately, that first leg of the trip was the most grueling.


We sought out the best donuts in Williamsburg. Naturally.


And capped off our return trip via Boston with a wee bit of art. Actually, a huge aerial sculpture by Janet Eichelman.

It was strange to be back in Boston after six years. It simultaneously doesn't seem possible that it's been that long while also seeming unbelievable at times that I ever lived outside California (this state has a way of doing that to you; it's far worse if you were actually born here). The weather was deceptively perfect, meaning we must have lucked out on visiting during one of the three to four weeks out of the year when the weather is not either painfully cold and snowy or miserably hot and humid. We saw quite a few old friends, colleagues, and even our old landlord, showing my son where he lived his first year of life. The people were friendlier than I remembered. I rode the T a lot when I was pregnant with my son and can only remember one or two times someone giving up their seat for me. And yet almost every time we rode the T someone gave up their seat so the kids could sit. I'd almost consider moving back if not for those long, brutal winters. Even so, Boston is still one of just a handful of cities I'd consider calling home.

7.09.2015

a little ice cream helps the art go down

As you may recall, I don't have a lot of time these days to make art. Or you could argue I'm not disciplined enough with the little bit of time I do have. That's a fair argument. To which I respond, "It's my kids' fault!" I go from my full-time day job to my main moonlighting gig as toddler-wrangler, kitchen cleaner-upper, tushy-wiper, bedtime story-reader, and lullaby-singer from about 5 until about 8 or 8:30 every evening. After that I spend about a half-hour doing "chores" - making lunches, doing laundry, and so on. So yes, technically I do have about 30 minutes to an hour each evening all to myself (I go to bed early because sleep is important, especially after many years of being chronically sleep-deprived, and because my early morning workout is non-negotiable). I guess I could do something with that time.


This past Monday, for example, I caught up with a friend from grad school (Elizabeth Amento) during the last evening of her show at LESS SPACE in Oakland. But this sort of evening shenanigan is highly unusual. Most nights I prefer to watch TV while eating popcorn and chocolate, after which I read, on average, about 3 pages of my current book before falling asleep. Sometimes I throw in some half-assed yoga poses while watching TV.

I don't mean to complain. I love my kids and I'm so glad I have them. I wouldn't change a thing. But they do make making art extra challenging given I'm a FTWM these days (you could argue it's actually the work that makes making art tricky but to write about the decadent luxury that making art would be at this time in my life would constitute a whole 'nother post). Which is frustrating because, for the first time in nearly 7 years, I have a pretty concrete idea for a new body of work. Paintings, even. I know, right?! Alas, I don't have the time or space to make them just yet. In the meantime, there's plenty of research/prep I can tackle (research that, conveniently, includes watching some TV and a handful of movies). I've also been doing a lot of writing not yet published on this blog, and I'm trying to pull together a more participatory art project that stems from this half-baked idea - in other words, projects I can chip away at without an actual studio space or a whole lot of time.

For the latter, I've been thinking a bit more about social practice, looking at artists like Miranda July (which won't come as a surprise if you read my last post), Harrell Fletcher, Julie Ault, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and David Robbins. Robbins' long-term, multi-platform project Ice Cream Social has been a project I've looked to in the past. There's something about meshing the act of looking at art with the social aspects of food as something that brings people together in often celebratory ways that's very appealing to me these days. It reminds me of one of my thesis-related trips to London to view the Elgin Marbles.


While there, we saw Shakespeare's Othello at the Globe Theatre, and afterward enjoyed one of many soft-serve cones from a food truck parked nearby (I lost count of how many of these we had during that trip).


These memories are so intertwined, not just because of chronology and geographical proximity. It's like the memory of the play is inextricably linked with my memories of eating ice cream, perhaps even enhanced by it! Food for me has always been key to triggering memories. So I like this relationship between food and art, perhaps not unlike how salad dressing, it turns out, can actually help your body absorb more nutrients from the vegetables in your salad. You follow me? At any rate, I feel it's a hypothesis worth further investigation.

7.06.2015

summer reading

Summer reading lists always leave me a bit mystified. All this gearing up to read more during a two- to three-month period that isn't really any less busy than the rest of the year. I mean, I still have to work and take care of my kids, right? That said, I did resolve to read more this year. "Well-read" is not necessarily a phrase I'd use to describe myself (although I did read 'Of Mice and Men' in the 4th grade). So far I've read some really great stuff. I thought I'd share a couple of suggestions here today.


First up: Rebecca Solnit's 'A Field Guide to Getting Lost'. Overall I really enjoyed it. There were some really amazing passages and some that were a little more meandering, but it averaged out to a great non-fiction read, especially if you're into ideas around place, travel, loss, and so on. My favorite passage is in the section called 'The Blue of Distance,' where Solnit compares running to film:
Movies are made out of darkness as well as light; it is the surpassingly brief intervals of darkness between each luminous still image that make it possible to assemble the many images into one moving picture. Without that darkness, there would only be a blur. Which is to say that a full-length mirror consists of half an hour or an hour of pure darkness that goes unseen. If you could add up all the darkness, you would find the audience in the theater gazing together at a deep imaginative night. It is the terra incognita of film, the dark continent on every map. In a similar way, a runner's every step is a leap, so that for a moment he or she is entirely off the ground. For those brief instants, shadows no longer spill out from their feet, like leaks, but hover below them like doubles, as they do with birds, whose shadows crawl below them, caressing the surface of the earth, growing and shrinking as their makers move nearer or farther from that surface. For my friends who run long distances, these tiny fragments of levitation add up to something considerable; by their own power they hover above the earth for many minutes, perhaps some significant portion of an hour or perhaps far more for the hundred-mile races. We fly; we dream in darkness; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured.
Incredible, no? I look forward to reading more of what Solnit has written. Next up, though, and speaking of "small bites", I wanted to tackle something I could read in smaller chunks of time, since I typically only read during the few minutes between going to bed and giving in to sheer exhaustion (which is why it took me over three months to finish one book). So I finally read Miranda July's collection of short stores titled 'No One Belongs Here More Than You,' a book that has been on my bookshelf since shortly after it was published in 2005 (I know, right?!).


Oh man, it was so good. So entertaining. Full disclaimer: I'm a huge Miranda July fan. There's really no project, piece of writing, performance, or film of her's I haven't totally loved. That said, I think you'll like it even if you don't dig her other work as much as I do. I was talking to a colleague recently who isn't as into her work as a performance artist, for example, but enjoys her writing. My favorite story was 'The Swim Team,' in which the main character teaches a group of adults how to swim without having access to a pool. It's hilarious in a uniquely Miranda July-esque way. I also loved this passage from 'Ten True Things,' when the narrator attends a beginning sewing class at an adult education center after learning that her boss' wife is taking the class, a woman she feels she knows pretty well, despite having never met her, because she talks to her on the phone almost daily. At her first class she observes:
It was not immediately obvious who Ellen was because we did not play any name games at the start of the class. Past a certain age, they give up on name games, which is regrettable for someone like me who loves anything that involves going around a circle and saying something about yourself. I wish there was a class where we could just keep going around the circle, around and around, until we had finally said everything about ourselves.
Another funny exchange is in the story 'How To Tell Stories to Children.' This isn't really central to the plot or character development or anything; it's just funny because it's so mundane. The main character runs into another character at Trader Joe's:
He said his bread always god moldy before he could finish the loaf. I said he should freeze the bread to prevent this problem. He said, Won't that ruin the bread? I said, Not if you're making toast with it. He said, You can just toast it frozen? And I said, Yep.
Yep. It's true, too. You can toast bread that's frozen.

6.10.2015

my week: pre-vacation wrap-up

My son's last day of 1st grade is tomorrow and my nephew is graduating from high school on Saturday (how is that possible?!). In Virginia. Which is 3000 or so miles away. So on the heels of a mama-son trip to Bend, Oregon a few weeks ago (a trip I'll write a little more about later), we're hitting the road again, this time with the entire crew. Our two options to make it to graduation without my son missing any school included traveling on a red-eye flight tomorrow night, with a 4-hour layover in Boston, arriving in Richmond early afternoon on Friday OR taking a crazy early flight leaving Friday morning with multiple layovers that would get us into Richmond pretty late Friday night. We opted for the first option which, as it approaches, I'm now starting to question. But hopefully that first leg of the trip will be the worst. My main worry is that my 2+ year old daughter will refuse to sit in her own seat during take-off and we will be that family that gets booted off the plane. And no, I'm not going to make goody bags or buy cocktails for all the other passengers. Did you see the Louis C.K. bit about flying with kids (specifically crying babies but a 2- and 6-year old aren't much better) in his latest stand-up routine at the Comedy Store?



Yeah, it's like that (also, I highly recommend you watch the entire special, which you can purchase for just five bucks on his website.)

But before I go, here are a few things I've been thinking about the past few weeks.

ART

I think I should have a sub-heading for my Twitter/Instagram hashtag #artistsinoffices for things like this video about corporate jargon. When Neal and I both worked from home, we totally qualified as "uber introverts".

Mad Men is over. Forever. Give this a listen if you haven't already.

Art day trips! If you're in the Bay Area, hop to it because the first suggestion - 'Blow Up' at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek - is only open through June 21st.

CRAFT (and design and stuff)

This article about Portland's start-up scene is several years old, but I've been seeing the phrase "high craft" quite a bit lately.

DANCE (and all the other stuff)

SYTYCD has begun! I've (distractedly, admittedly) watched the first two auditions episodes. I don't mind Paula Abdul after all, although she's no Mary Murphy. I continue to be enjoy Jason Derulo on the judges' panel. I promise to be a better viewer once the real competition begins.

Sadly, I'll have to miss this as I'll be returning from our east coast travels, but if you're local, save the date for June 20th, when Oakland will attempt to set a record for the longest "Soul Train" line.

The articles I've been reading lately - here and here are just two examples - about how important play is for kids are particularly timely as a somewhat challenging school year comes to an end. I can't wait for my son to enjoy 10 weeks of summer traveling, getting covered in dirt from head to toe each day at summer camp, catching up on summer movies, and just generally not sitting down and following a gazillion, sometimes mysterious rules.

On the other hand, he learned to read this year which, if you stop and think about it, is pretty amazing. A year ago, he was basically illiterate and now he's making his way through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Incredible. And yet, that kid could stand to burn a little more energy each day.

Wish me luck tomorrow. I'll have a complete two-trip travel recap for you in a few weeks.

5.18.2015

my week: my month

The past month at work has made it challenging to keep up with much else other than family shenanigans and basic housekeeping. I generally try to avoid using the expression "crazy busy" but life has felt a little like that over the past three or four weeks. Last week was, however, from what I hear, a bit of a grand finale around here, with final committee and board meetings and commencement on Saturday. The blow of a one-day weekend was softened a bit by listening, back-stage, to chills-inducing speeches from Joan Jonas, and mostly, for me, anyway, as amazing as meeting Joan Jonas was, Molly Prentiss. She talked about writing and making art and the kind of work artists must sneak in to the corners of their lives to get it all done, including something along the lines of "embezzling time" from employers. Which is not to say that's what I am currently or ever doing, but in that spirit, I wanted to at least catch this blog up on a few things that have kept me inspired at the end of more than one soul-draining 12-hour day over the past month.


ART:

Piet Mondrian-inspired cake, nails, and swimwear, via Design Milk.

Musings on footprints, a final blog post on Printeresting before they shake things up a little.

Ollie Wagner, getting a little love in what I assume is his local paper. The only person in grad school who understood my Kicking & Screaming references.


I recently checked out a possible studio space at Hive Artist Studios in Oakland's Jack London Square. I can hire a housekeeper or rent a studio, it turns out. But for now, I'm doing neither, since realistically I wouldn't even have time to move in (let alone much time to get any real work done) until after 4th of July. But I think the studio debate is not a question of if, but when. 


It's been awhile since I wrote about my mysterious obsession with The Last Unicorn and how it may or may not relate to my work over the past ten years, but recently I purchased both the DVD and the book, so perhaps she'll make an appearance again soon?

Adding this to the itinerary for my Boston trip next month: Janet Echelman's aerial sculpture over the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

CRAFT (and design and stuff):


Think you've had the best chocolate chip cookies? Think again. Leave it to the Smitten Kitchen gal to make a couple of delicious improvements to my personal kryptonite.

DANCE (and all the other stuff):

In preparation for Joan Jonas' visit, as mentioned above, I read this interview
QUAYTMAN: What was the downtown performance scene like that you entered in the '60s?

JONAS: I didn't really enter a scene, so to speak. I saw Oldenburg's happenings and dances by Yvonne Rainer, Deborah Hay, Simone Forti, Steve Paxton, and Trisha Brown, and also pieces by Rauschenberg. I saw this collaboration between dancers and visual artists. What attracted me was that you could be a visual artist and do something time-based. I think Oldenburg called his work performance, but there wasn't anything like performance art yet. There was a feeling, rather, among friends. There were sculptors, painters, dancers, musicians; it was all these different people working in different mediums. So there wasn't one, isolated scene. Everybody went to see everybody's work, including mine.
I'm intrigued by what she writes about the early performance art "scene" and the collaboration between visual artists and dancers and it makes me wonder if this is a thing to research, this shared enthusiasm for dance among fellow visual artists? I'll let you know what I find.


Finally, snakes in a park! File this under "oh Oakland".

4.19.2015

my week: stay positive

I'm a couple of days late with my weekly recap. But Sunday is basically an extension of Friday, right? Anyway, I don't have much time - my daughter, a little under the weather today, is napping, while my husband and son are at Target buying Pokémon cards, so I better make this quick:

ART

8 things nobody warns you about art school. The nudity does get old real fast, I have to agree.

Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
On Friday, I posted this article about artist Jay Mercado, who makes paintings of donuts (sent to me by a coworker after I brought in two dozen donut holes from Dick's Donuts - best basic donut shop in Oakland). I love that he turned his morning routine - grabbing a donut on the way to his studio where he'd make still-life paintings of fruit - into the subject matter of his art. Sometimes it's right in front of you and you're actually working harder than you need to.

Later that night we finally watched Blackfish and I temporarily lost all faith in humanity ... until I remembered Jay Mercado and his donut paintings. Less animals for entertainment, more paintings of fried foods, okay?

CRAFT (and design and stuff)

Via Buzzfeed, I found out that there’s a campaign to send same-sex wedding save-the-dates to the Supreme Court Justices. I dig it.

Has the maker bubble burst? Handful of Salt seems to think so, read via Makers Nation, which I recently started following on Twitter. They post some pretty interesting stuff.

Image via thestreet.com
Anyway, Etsy clearly doesn't think so. The company went public on Thursday. Man, I could write a whole 'nother post about the wave of mixed emotions that brought on. As I tweeted, I alternated between channeling Bradley Cooper's character in Silver Linings Playbook ("I got nothin' but love for you, brother!") and Unikitty in The Lego Movie ("Any idea is a good idea except the non-happy ones. Those we push down deep inside where you'll never, ever, ever, EVER find them!"). Anywho, there are a lot more observations and links and such on my Twitter feed, if you're interested. And maybe one of these days I'll get around to writing about it here. Or maybe I've said enough about Etsy and will finally move on? Stay tuned!

DANCE (and all the other stuff)

"Soft, velvety" lawns make me cranky. And this is from 2008, when it still rained in California. It also makes me cranky when people don't think critically about the stuff they do by default. Y'know?

Dancing, however, makes me the opposite of cranky. I think that's called happy. Most nights, now that the days are longer and it's still light out between dinner and bedtime, I shoo the husband and kids outside while I clean up. But some nights we play music and on really good nights we all dance, even the two-year old (actually, I think she's the best dancer in the family). One such night last week, somehow the kids got hold of a screen of some sort, I can't remember whose, and watched other stuff while Neal and I put on a karaoke-style performance of Indigo Girls' 'Midnight Train to Georgia'. That led to watching this.



Obviously. Which led to me wondering if 6-almost-7 is too young to watch School of Rock?



It's hard to remember why that movie is rated PG-13. What do you think?

4.10.2015

my week: shut it down

Today's another vacation day to round out spring break with both kids. But I'm feeling tired and uninspired. I have a little bit of Etsy work to do, which is just a drag after working a full-time job, family shenanigans, and all the other stuff. So I've deactivated all custom listings in my shop. Again. In addition to a limited inventory of ready-to-send stuff I'd be happy to exchange for cash, honestly, the only reason I keep them open is because closing them felt like not only ending that chapter of my life, but almost erasing it entirely. I need to figure out how to "archive" my 7+ years on Etsy before I officially shut it down. Shut it down!

In the meantime, here's some of the media I consumed this week:

ART

I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up: a philanthropist! Now to figure out the minor detail of independent wealth.

CRAFT (and design and stuff)

Handmade bags made from Lego bricks. I'm a big fan of color, but I love the more minimal black and gold one. My son would be #sojeals.

DANCE (and all the other stuff)

Did you learn the Michelle Obama/SYTYCD "Gimme Five" dance to Uptown Funk over Easter weekend?

And if, like me, you just can't get enough of the first lady dancing, check out the "evolution of mom dancing" she did with Jimmy Fallon.



If you live in Oakland, you probably saw this commentary on The Bold Italic, from an Oakland mom who had to, in her words, "hate Oakland before I learned to love it." It's the totally vaccuous story of a bougie white girl who came to appreciate the "character" of Oakland when really she would have rather lived in San Francisco. I wrote last week that I'd been feeling a little down on Oakland, too, but in reading this I realized for totally opposite reasons. Indeed, it's the increase of folks like this writer and their blue bottle coffee and $800 per week summer camps that's ruining the Bay Area for the rest of us, who just want to enjoy the nice weather and send our kids to public schools that show some evidence of the crazy property taxes we're paying every year. I mean, it's all relative, right, but seriously, read it. And then vomit a little in your mouth.


Anyway, I'm getting my hair cut tomorrow - first cut of the year - and Game of Thrones begins on Sunday so it's gonna be a good weekend. Same time next week? See you then...

4.03.2015

my week: 10 years

We survived spending a night in one hotel room with a two- and a six-year old! My daughter proved that she has boundless energy just like her big brother, refusing to nap in the car on the way there and back, and staying up about two hours past her usual bedtime on Saturday. Yeehaw! In addition to Easter-related shenanigans we visited Sacramento's version of Fairyland and a nearly five-star ice cream joint, where I experienced mud pie, on a stick.


Yum. It was a short escape, but I needed every second (and calorie) of it (I've been a little down on Oakland lately, for various reasons I'll write about another time), especially considering I'm just about the only person I know not going to Hawaii for Spring Break next week (last year it was Legoland, this year it's Hawaii). I've had a bad case of the Mondays ever since. Thank goodness it's finally Friday.

ART

A children's book about Frida Kahlo, via Brainpickings.

I think articles like this only serve to perpetuate the stereotype that artists are these wild, carefree creatures who can't thrive in more conventional environments. On the contrary, I've known many artists in offices. And indeed, we should be encouraging employers to hire creative types.

Speaking of arts integration, this week I came across an article my boss wrote for Huffington Post back in December. In it he mentions the STEM to STEAM movement, which I feel like I've heard about but never really taken the time to investigate. STEM + Art = STEAM. I dig it.

CRAFT (and design and stuff)

Yesterday was my tenth wedding anniversary. I'll also be celebrating a ten-year blogiversary later this year. It's been almost ten years since I initially left Oakland for grad school in Boston. It's strange to have all this bubble up over the course of a few months, and because those ten years have passed so quickly, it's got me feeling very introspective lately, thinking a lot about my relationships, my definition of home and sense of place, and my goals for the future - personally, professionally, and ... geographically? I've called Oakland home for awhile now, and I've tried really hard to ignore my chronic itchy feet, but when the longest you've lived in one place is four-going-on-five years, it's hard to settle down.

So what does all that have to do with craft? Well, when you get engaged like this...

Yep, he hid the ring in an egg, emptied, sterilized, and filled with gelatin.

...you celebrate ten years later like this!

Eggs, Easter - get it?

I had no idea what one special thing to give Neal for this landmark anniversary up until about a week ago, when I decided to get him ten things instead, one token gift representing each year, based loosely on the traditional gift suggestions for each anniversary. Paper, cotton, leather, flowers, wood, candy, wool, linens, pottery, and tin/aluminum. I filled an aluminum tub (that we can use later for drinks when entertaining and such) with plastic, turquoise Easter eggs (our wedding colors were turquoise and red). All the little stuff I put in the eggs, with a few larger items left loose in the tub. The contents of those eggs come from the past, in terms of wedding details and things I know, after nearly 18 years together, that he likes, and reach into the future, in a sense. Zinnia seeds (our wedding flower and a native of Mexico, where we honeymooned) to plant this spring, a blank leather journal/sketchbook to fill, and wool socks to wear somewhere cooler than here (whether on a trip or a lengthier displacement is yet to be seen).  In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out how to slow down the next ten years. Ideas are welcome in the comments section.


DANCE (and all the other stuff)

This is so timely as we've been talking a bit lately about the lack of organized religion in our lives, particularly as it pertains to raising children. What do you do for spiritual guidance when you're more interested in, you know, how not to be a jerk, and less interested in God and Jesus and stuff?

Fairytale Town, Sacramento

Speaking of, will you be going to church on Easter Sunday? I was raised Catholic. Mostly a holidays-only Catholic (my Mom worked on Sundays for at least part of my childhood). I went to church for a few years on my own (tagging along with a friend's family) after my Mom died, finally receiving my first communion when I was in 6th or 7th grade. At some point, I stopped going, I think after realizing that communion was my favorite part of mass not because of those tasty wafers, but because that meant church was almost over. I may have fallen asleep once or twice, too. But my lack of religion is something I think about more the older I get. I'm not sure if it's the spiritual guidance or the sense of community, but it's interesting to think about finding that in other places.

Somewhat related to all this spiritual pondering, I finally read Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question", which you can read in full online. Neal sent me the link over a year ago. I can't remember exactly why. I think we were talking about entropy and stuff, as we naturally do from time to time.

Phew, that was kinda heavy ... let's lighten things up a bit!


Did you create a "dance attack" to the song Ryan Gosling posted from the Lost River soundtrack?

Cheers to a great weekend, however you spend your Sunday (you should definitely incorporate some dancing, either way).