Wednesday, September 28, 2011

To Live and Die with ArtPrize - a pictoral with editorial

Been there, done that, got the socks.

Cara and I went down to AP on Friday night, just us girls. We went to Rumors, then up to the Hub where we went shopping. I got a tee, a button and a Monroe/Belknap chocolate bar (milk chocolate with gummy fish and kettle chips). And free socks! Cara did some serious shopping, and scored all that plus a tour guide and a Center City chocolate bar (dark chocolate with chilies and lime).

We were up at the Children's Museum, walked the neighborhoods, and went to XO for Asian food. It got chilly, but we insisted on the festivity of eating on the sidewalk cafe. This changed my order from sushi to Thai.

We headed towards Rosa Parks Circle, enjoying the sites, looking at the art in the shop windows and debating the merits of each. Hearing the bands, we went to the BOB.

Oh holy crap. The BOB was a mass chaos of food, booze, art, performance, and... well... stuff.

Here's the problem with the BOB as a venue. Outside, no problem - it was a carnival of color, light, music and motion. It was fun, the crowd was into it, there was lots to see and do. I loved the artist on the scaffolding next to the bandstand who would "paint" the concert as it was happening. There was a sand artist there too, creating a new sand painting every day, so beautiful. There were large sculptures, viewer participation, and of course beer tents.

Then we headed inside... ugh. The experience immediately became hot, chaotic, loud, and annoying. We headed into Crush, with their dress code and judgement, to check out the pieces that were there. The sequined portrait was cool, but similar to what we've seen before with push pins, BBs, corks, etc. The DJ was playing everything as loud as humanly possible, and being our chic but obviously 40-ish selves, a little out of place among the high heeled and minidressed little girls that were there to be seen.

It got progressively worse, as we wove our way through the throng, attempting to peruse without interrupting some one's dinner or conversation. Some of the work deserved better of the venue, four amazing portraits with the subject's stories etched into the lines on their faces, were sequestered to a corner of the Monkey Bar.

We anticipated our Saturday with one vow:


There is an artist whose whole concept is giving and seeing where his art ends up. The results are 10,000 little Buddha statues all over the city. When we saw the Buddhas at the UICA, we vowed we would get one for ourselves.

Saturday, we crawled up Fulton on our way to Rumors, and there they were on the ledge, three Buddhas remaining. Like a woman possessed, I pointed and shouted "BUDDHAS! Go, go, GO!"

Cara bolts out of the car, leaps over a shrub, shimmies between spectators on the sidewalk and snatches two of the three while I randomly shout coaching/encouragement from the car.

Cara leaps back into the car and triumphantly hands me the porcelain figure. Without skipping a beat, we joyously shout "BUDDHA!" and exclaim over our good fortune.

Cara spotted all these t-shirts spread out on one of the Heartside's side streets. When we stopped to inquire, it was a "happening" orchestrated by Assocreation, an artists' group/collective based in Belgium/Ann Arbor. They were looking for volunteers to be team leaders in getting the project started, and we agreed to do it.

I was in charge of a paint station, wetting sponges with paint for people to step on and then step on the tees. Since we were juggling Will, Cara took over taking the completed stomped shirts over to the venue to be hung.

The whole project fascinated us on several different levels. According to the artists' statement, the idea behind the project was to create a visual impression of our footprint on the world. It was also fascinating as a group artwork, watching how participants worked at leaving their mark on the shirts.

It was also interesting from a psychological standpoint. We spent a precious afternoon hour cheerfully working at an event in which the only benefit to us were free crappy t-shirts that had been stomped on in the dirty street. And we were not the only ones -- there were 20 of us that cheerfully went about this work as directed by the slim redhead with the voice of a bullhorn. She bossed us with authority, and just enough positive reinforcement to keep us going.

That puzzled me, and when I attempted to read the artists' statement, one of the Assocreation team members, a blonde with a camera who was capturing the event, stopped me to ask why I was leaving. I told her, "I wanted to read what your philosophy was on the project. I'm doing all this work for this event for free, and I hope the message is positive. I'd hate to do all this only to have you mock us for being suckers." That is when I read about the footprints on the world, and she assured us the message was a good one.

So, a few moments to participate in a group art event, and three free tees. Yes, Will got one too.

Leaving a choice phrase behind in honor of one of my professors. One might ask me, "what have you learned?"

Any regular reader *crickets* knows I have some self-esteem issues. When it comes to me being in ArtPrize, I worry someone is going to scornfully rip the facade away and expose me a hausfraud (get it?!) Even though I gave the painting lots of thought in terms of color, composition, message, meaning, right down to the rose petals, I self-consciously worry about the legitimacy of considering myself an artist.

Perhaps, finally, I can put those fears to rest.

Unloading the painting from the car and into the venue, the tough but sweet bartender, a seen-it-all kind of gal, assisted me getting the painting up and her weathered face warmed when she saw it.

Meeting artist #1 at the reception, I handed her a card and she gave me hers, explaining our art's meaning. We shared our stories as moms, me with the child who survived his dangerous beginning and she with tales of the one who didn't. We hugged within 5 minutes of our initial meeting.

I was introduced to yet another artist, a 94 year old fabric artist. Drinking fruity drinks, she drilled me on my concept and my message, which I was able to share in depth. With tears in her eyes, she shared a family story that took place 89 years ago. Her mother gave birth to her younger sister at the same time a sickly young woman gave birth to her child. Unable to care for her newborn, doctors asked the artists' mother if she could wet nurse the child until the mother was strong enough to come home. She took care of the baby for two months. When people came to take the baby, the children in the family protested, but the mother protested, and told them that God gave them a wonderful opportunity to nourish the child and give her health. Again, another hug.

A Rumors regular had fallen in love with it, and has asked, if it's not too much trouble, if I'd be willing to leave it up for his Breast Cancer Awareness benefit in October.

A makeup artist burst into tears seeing it, as his boyfriend's grandmother recently died of breast cancer, and said "I have to bring him to see this, he will love it."

I've recieved compliments on my choices of color, the composition, the curly hair signature, my subject matter, and how fresh the petals look as a non-traditional frame.

Then there's the artists' attitudes. Of course I had one smarmy guy dismiss me in an exchange of cards. But so many others have been kind, respectful, and have been welcoming in a kinship of creative I haven't felt since college. One artist, whose smile made my painting glow, asked me if I considered myself an abstract expressionist or a conceptualist. I bashfully admitted that I was a graphic designer by training and didn't consider my style to be anything but my own quirky thing. He accepted this and my work with appreciation.

Finally, there was this, from Dave's cousin Liz:

"So we discussed ArtPrize today in my drawing & design class. I was the only one who knew someone who is participating. My teacher thought your piece was inspirational because you based it off of Will. She loved it. Just thought I'd tell you (:"

I was the matter of discussion in a high school art class! I bored freshman art students! There's something nerdy-cool about that.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Typing Out Loud: "I wanna be the girl with the most cake..."

So... how do you think Marie A felt about bread pudding?



Two of my less charming traits.

I acknowledge every day how lucky I am: I have a nice house, a great family, wonderful friends, and am involved in some pretty interesting pursuits that has made my life rich and full.

So why do I want more?

Is it good old-fashioned ambition? Ambition is a wonderful thing: Olympic champions rely on it to go faster, higher, swifter; scholars depend on it to pull down A's; artists need it to make their craft unique; for doctors, it's a high bar set that quite literally life or death.

It has been said before, however, that ambition is a wonderful assistant, but a cruel master. That can be interpreted as ambition is a great tool to help one achieve goals, but should not a sole motivator.

That brings me to jealousy. Even though I have so much, the desire to be richer, thinner, more talented, prettier, and funnier hasn't gone away since I became aware these things are important for success in life. Sometimes, I'm oddly philisophical about the fact that while I don't possess A, my B compensates for it and then some. But other times, the green-eyed monster devastates me when I hear of another's good fortune, as I wonder why this didn't happen to me.

I consider this jealousy also a sign of greed, or "being the girl with the most cake." I feel like I'm fighting human nature in this scenario, because even though I try to be a fair as possible, when it comes up to slicing that proverbial cake up, I'm looking to score the slice that's just a sliver bigger or at least has a big frosting rose on it.

So does age help you combat this? I don't want to be bitter while surrounded by ever-increasingly empty prizes at the age of 70, yet I don't want to give up on pursuing the various goals I have in life. To quote Dear Abby and sis Ann Landers, perhaps the best advice is to MYOB, and quit competing against others on some sort of imaginary score card and do for myself and also, cut myself some slack.

Besides, I don't really like cake -- I'm more of a chocolate gal.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why Art Matters - Tales of Two Mermaids

Gaga as Yuyi the Mermaid

It's just amazing how a song can grip you and change how you see and hear things. Even alter the course of your world.

Cases in Point: Lady Gaga's "You and I" and Rimsky-Korsakvo's "Song of India."

First is Gaga. I've been trying to love the album "Born This Way" without a whole lot of success. I *liked* but didn't love most of the songs, but one song Gaga would perform here and there simply on piano would stop me cold, but I never found out what it was or managed to get through the album to the song.

Then comes this trippy little slice of Gaga life, where she's a dude named Nebraska that she herself is travelling to reunite with. She's a mermaid! A scarecrow! A bride! A country hick! A rocker!

The lyrics are hilarious mashups of country/rock ballad cliches. A sample:

"You takes like whiskey when you kiss me oh,
I'll give anything to be your baby doll...
Something something about this place,
Something about lonely nights and lipstick on your face...
It's been two years since you let me go,
I couldn't listen to a joke or rock and roll,
Muscle cars drove a truck right through my heart...
Cuz you can't buy a house in heaven!"


But the beauty of it is IT ALL WORKS. She sings it beautifully, she creates this bizarre little world where she is believable as a guy, a mermaid, a virginal piano player in love with Nebraska, the dude. There's something about that mashup of cliches arranged *just right* that you are right there with her, lipstick, daddy and Jesus Christ.

Well played, Stephanie.

Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom

The second song that took me completely by surprise is an aria from the opera Sadko, Song of India. I heard it the Valentine's day episode of Mad Men, as Don gazes at Betty while she descends the stairs at a very posh society outing.

It's gorgeous, it's lush, and the melody has captured my imagination. A search online has informed me this uncommon opera is about a man from Novogord who leaves his home in search of adventure and riches. Classical paintings that depict the underwater wedding are lush and beautiful and establishes that crazy ain't confined to modern-era Lady Gaga.

So, lushness, love, crazy fantasy are the words of the day. And Song of India couldn't have come at a better time, as I have completely butchered U2's "All I Want Is You" in an attempt to condense a 7 minute song into a competitive 2:10 program.

Yes, I'm skating to Song of India, pending coach approval.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Birthday, Birthfest - Creating An Aura of Princess

Really, any one will do...

I'm a complete diva/princess/queen when it comes to the subject of my birthday. I'm grateful to people for tolerating the "aura of princess" that I project starting around September 7 that typically continues through the weekend after; this year festivities will wind down on Sunday, dinner with the inlaws.

Not to say all birthdays are awesome. Believe me, I've had some dog year birthdays. My 15th was a disaster due to unrequited crushes, diva girlfriends that forgot and the lack of hype. My 23rd I felt oddly old and forced gaiety that resulted in an unfortunate streaking episode in the forest. And my 32nd was post 9/11, and I don't think anyone had any fun that week at all.

I cannot explain why I love my birthday. Maybe for someone who shied away from attention, it was the one day/week that I could be comfortable being showered with attention and affection. The weather is usually picture perfect, not too hot, pretty sunny and relaxing. There's the expectation that something special could happen - Dinner? Party? Flowers? Candy? Balloons?

But it always comes back to presents. This year I got the aerial class from Dave and Will; but that is the tip of the gift-giving iceberg. And the free stuff from companies has blown me away:

A grande blend from Biggby Coffee;
Nail polish from Ulta;
A custom-blend perfume from Aveda;
Bottle of perfume from Yves Rocher;
Bubble bath from Sephora;
Lunch from Noodles.

That's not even mentioning all the free desserts, knick knacks, drinks and specials from other peeps.

Most of all, I think it's people going out of their way to say or do something special to help me celebrate that gives me an extra glow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Aerial fitness a.k.a., my Midlife Crisis; a.k.a. 42 or 24?

"She flllies through the aaaaaair with the grrreatest of eaaaaase..."

In one of my more spontaneous moves, I agreed to enroll in a 6-week aerial fitness class with my friend Monica from work. Of all of the things I have ever wanted to try, I can honestly tell you this was never on any short list, wish list, bucket list, to-do list. But as luck would have it, Monica talked to me the week prior to my birthday.

The significance? I'm a complete diva when it comes to my birthday, and for the week prior, it is ALL about ME.

Add that to my not-so-unique situation of turning 42 while attempting to maintain my mental and physical age of 24 a.k.a., a classic mid-life crisis.

What you get is an overweight female Walter Mitty-type with a thirst for new experiences swinging from the rafters of a tiny martial arts studio.

I showed up for the 7:30 class in skating gear since I deduced that would be the most appropriate. The level 2 class was finishing up, 6 long, lean, flexible yoga-types. I worry.

Then it's our turn to take the mat for stretches and warm-up. The two teachers are a laff-a-minute-"girlfriend!" instructors who put us at ease immediately. Jackie and Sabrina have a love for what they do and it shows as the class ticked into prime time.

In no time flat, we are warmed up and ready for the silks. The first lesson is to wrap the silk around our right leg and lock it by clamping down on the silk with the left. In order to do this, you also have to pull down on the silk then pull yourself up while twirling the silk around your leg.

This is harder than it sounds. In eight attempts, the best I manage is 3 inches off the ground but typically I end up with the silks wrapped around my foot, which is flat on the mat. Being a skater, I had a tendency to point instead of flex, which doomed me. But I did it a couple of times, which earned a few high fives.

Next up was attempting to shimmy up the silk using the wrap and grab. I failed miserably at this.

Then we tried the knot. You started with the wrap, then doubled the silk back over the foot to secure the knot so it wouldn't slip. I excelled at this, and rocketed up the silk and swung, kicked, flexed and didn't want to come back down. Monica and I traded turns scaling the silk and being pretty.

Last, it was time for conditioning, stretching, cool down and dialogue. Conditioning consisted of a series of push-ups from different positions. I did 10 standard push-ups, but only managed 5 decent and 2 crappy ones from hands under the ribcage. We switched to crunches, and did 25 standard, 8 with my feet in the air, and 8 with my legs spread. I'm not quite sure of the quality of the crunches there towards the end.

We took turns stretching each others arms and as we were going through these paces, shared small talk and were asked what we liked about our first day and what we wanted to work on. I said I really liked knot work but wanted to improve the wrap and inch up that silk.

I was exhausted, but felt like I accomplished something. Working with a small group, it was nice to get to know the other 3 instead of try to remember everyone in a group of 6 or more. Also, the instructors were fun, engaging, and most of all, encouraging. They gave us enough to make us work towards a goal while giving us something that gave us a sense of accomplishment.

I'm looking forward to next week.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September Playlist: ArtPrize, hell people!

My inner Kelly Bundy sez "I...! am an artist!"

While studying art history at Ferris, I had a professor who was passionate about art in all its forms. Dr. James Walker's lectures were filled with students, enraptured as he, carried away by color, form and action.

"Lookit that form!" he'd shout, clicking frantically from slide to slide. "That bust is not the bust of a stone, it's alive! The curves! The colors! Hell people, that's art!"

All his lectures were like that, an exhilirating journey that was an adventure and a love affair. He made you passionate about art. And in turn, as an artist, made you want to create GOOD art.

So this episode of the Playlist is dedicated to music that is inspiring, tunes that help me slip into my creative zone and hopefully I've created something that Dr. Walker would find dynamic.

Bullet the Blue Sky, U2 - the essential U2 song, earnest vocals by Bono about the political crisis in El Salvador, paired with the aggressive play by Adam, Larry and The Edge. My sleeper pick for their best song ever.

Edge of 17, Stevie Nicks - imagine being an impressionable young girl of 12, 13 and have this be a hit. It opened a world of possibilities. Ooh, baby, ooh, said ooh.

Claire de Lune, Debussy - It sounds like soft spring rain. It also feels like early morning summer dew, a lover's kiss, a pastel drawing, a sugar cookie, and your favorite, soft sweater.

Flamenco Sketches, Miles Davis - the song looms large in the legend of Dave and Mel, but take that story away, and you have a long, romantic jam that gently swirls.

Calypso, John Denver - This song has a physical movement, you can feel the roll of the sea, as well as a distinct color, the blues and greens of the ocean.

All Through the Night, Cyndi Lauper - I feel like this is the girly version of a Bruce Springsteen song, that wistful two crazy kids in love racing through the night, clinging to and being with each other.

Venus as a Boy, Bjork - the dreamy quality of the song marries well with the loopy delivery of the lyrics. You can imagine this mortal from Iceland falling for a god.

Groove is in the Heart, Dee Lite - because sometimes your brain needs a kick in the pants of pure energy.

I'll Take You There, Staples Singers - inspiring gospel/soul.

Melt With You, Modern English - fall in love and let's dance.

Ode to Billy Joe, Bobby Gentry - I love Southern Gothic. What did they throw off the Tallahatchee Bridge? Why did Billy Joe himself jump?

Pink Houses, John Mellencamp - another story to tell, one of my top 2 favorite JCM songs.

Pop Muzik, M - "Shoo be do wah, pop pop shu ah"

Stay, U2 - this song again?! Yes, especially when you tumble in for a pack of cigarettes when you don't even smoke.