Sunday, September 23, 2012

Typing Out Loud: ArtPrize Awesomeness

Another self-portrait. I a-muse myself!

I'm really trying to muster the energy and enthusiasm for ArtPrize this year. I think it's more of a case of fighting a cold/strep/whatever the hell this is than anything else. You'd think I was burned out from creating 1,000 pieces of art, but in a fit of "oh my God those are field trip school buses, we are gonna run out!" Cara and I created an additional 250 pieces, so that is not the case.

There are a lot less pieces this year, but I have found in visiting some of the more popular hot spots such as UICA, the BOB and Women's City Center, less is more. You don't feel like there's a million things going on at once, and have a little more time to linger instead of "ohthat'scool,next!"

Overall, lots of politically-charged entries. Lots of large-scale pieces. A handful of fountains.

That said, there are a few things that have stood out for me, other than what me and Cara put out there, of course.

Corporal Hoffman Series
Pair 5 wounded U.S. military veterans & active servicemen/women with an established artist/designer. Together the two parties collaborate to share that hero's story through the medium of art & graphic design. Moving, thoughtful and creative without heavy-handed, Hallmarky patriotism. Honest.   

Egg Prize 
Sounds familiar... two friends with a passion for art collaborate on a fun project to inspire creativity and joy. But instead of 2,000 2,250 pieces of art, they filled 40,000 red Easter eggs with toy prizes. There's no great political statement, no scathing commentary on American consumerism, just plop a quarter in the machine (which will be donated to the GR Children's Museum) and have fun with what you get. I stood in line three times and got: a sticker; a dinosaur; and a tiny snake, bow and arrow and parrot.  

Imagine an episode of Hoarders as an exhibit. I experienced a wide range of emotions while exploring the exhibit, which was the content of a 900 sq. ft. house abandoned in Detroit. Fascination at the antiques. There was the voyeuristic thrill of snooping in some one's crap. Quaint nostalgia at the kitchen ware. Curiosity at the show ribbons from the State Fair, dating back to the 40s, 50s. Shock at the stacks of Styrofoam coffee cups. Horror at the thousands of accumulated plastic forks. Disgust at the mounds of trash. Confusion and embarrassment at the personal items (bills, letters) exposing the privacy of the hoarders.

Then sadness when witnessing, displayed slightly apart from the bills and letters, the cardboard embossed envelope for the death certificate and funeral arrangements.

That in and of itself changed the way I saw everything after. This wasn't just the trash of someone suffering from OCD, but some lonely person's desperate grasping at a life that was, an open scrapbook for someone that LIVED and wasn't ready to throw it away, no matter who tattered, dirty or insignificant.

Newwoman Mosaic
I love the artist statement: "As women, we are all compelled to spend copious amounts of time and money decorating ourselves, relentlessly seeking approval in mirrors. NewWoman stands boldly decorated in the very medium we use to validate our carefully constructed physical images. The precise geometry of the tiles is a testament to our meticulous efforts at achieving stylistic perfection. Perfectly postured, she is unapologetic for her provocative designs." This is one gorgeous piece, and I appreciate the above boldface. Enough of our self-inflicted self-esteem issues, rock on sisters.

Microdoodle Moon
We met the artist at the BOB, a curious man who was rapidiographing with all his heart while handing spectators magnifying glasses to appreciate his tiny strokes. And tiny it is. Meticulous, well-crafted and fascinating, it was a magnificent juxtaposition to everything at the BOB which is about being big, bigger and biggest. And he loved what he was doing.

He was interested in our work as well, and he was also planning on giving away art throughout GR this week just for fun. Not an ArtPrize vote grab, art for art's sake. His theme? Finders keepers. I hope I find something.

Imagine the 10 commandments in modern day language, dealing with modern day moral dilemmas such as divorce, abortion, same-sex marriage and global war. Then see the challenge put up by the artist: how would Jesus address the issues? Viewers are asked to answer that challenge by putting their answers on cross-shaped notecards and nailing their answers to a foam board. What is compelling was reading the non-answers to the challenge. In the few minutes I had to view the art and ponder the question, I could not come up with a quick, thoughtful response. Even now, I'm pondering how Jesus would take in our modern world.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What's Right With the World: Candy Ladies

Gimme somma' dat!

I grew up in a blue-collar, ethnic neighborhood. We had the railroad to the south, the Catholic Church and grade school to the west, and tree-lined neighborhoods full of a colorful cast of characters to the north and east. How so? Oh, we had the young marrieds, the married forever, the widowers, WWII vets, a pimp and his girls, Polish immigrants, the guys bunking at the fire house that used to play dodge ball with us, and... the candy ladies.

As I was putting my birthday treat together for work, I remember fondly the candy ladies of the neighborhood. There was Mrs. O., our next-door neighbor who was good for those thick, chalky pink or white peppermints. Up the street in the white house with the black shutters was June, who kept her treats in a big glass dish on her enclosed porch. And over on Pringle, on the corner of Tomlinson, was the unnamed lady who sat on her porch and beamed when all we little kindergartners would troop by, say hello, and she would dole out the safety suckers to our tiny, outstretched hands.

What I love about this was the sheer generosity of these ladies. At first glance, there was absolutely nothing to gain for these ladies handing out sweets randomly to neighborhood kids, and everything to gain for us. But I think this simple gesture did so much more.

Mrs. O was a widow, and our next door neighbor. We loved her, and she shared a birthday with our dad. There was more than just candy between us, we helped her pick pears from her huge tree in the back and she always sent us home with a basket of fruit for ourselves, plus a tomato or two for dad, a rose for mom. But we also helped her rake leaves and play with her two little dogs. In turn, as latchkey kids, I also believe Mrs. O, sitting on her front or back porch, kept an eye on us for our parents when we were home alone.

June too was a widower, and an avid gardener. Her nieces were our classmates, and she would watch them on occasion after school. We rarely went to her door with our hands outstretched, she would instead call us over after shopping to announce she got a new kind of candy, and did we want to share in her new stash? June had a gate in the back of her lawn that allowed us to cut the corner to get to school a few minute earlier. I think being a widower without children of her own left June a bit lonely, and with kids in her front yard willing to pull weeds or play in the street in front, left her with fine company. I remember thinking of her as being much older than my parents, but she is still alive and wow, I'm over 40, so that makes her... really old?

And the unnamed lady on the corner over my the Tomlinson school? It kills me not to know her name, I just remember a flowered apron, a sweet smile and thinking maybe she was a million years old. Remember, blue-collar in the 70s, so not a whole lot of extra money going around. We kids always managed to scrounge a few pennies somewhere for candy (sorry mom, think we hit the tootsie roll bank a few too many times), but not all kids in the neighborhood could manage even that. I'd like to think maybe she was a girl during the Depression that as an adult, provided a little lift to the kids around her whose parents were struggling during the recession.

When I think of them visually, in abstract, I see a fabric basket weave, in butterscotch, pinks and greens. I think of peppermint and chocolate. There's the lingering scent of mothballs, clean dirt, and roses. When I think of them as a being, I see them larger than life, protective watchdogs that could tell a worried mom, a cop, or a babysitter who, what, where, and when. As for the why, they would just shake their heads, and offer a peppermint.

We moved into our first house in Wyoming in 1997. First thing I did was buy a large jar of sour kids gum to keep in the house just in case the neighbor kids came by. Sure enough, Lindsay, Guy, Zach and the little blond kid from across the street would wander by, wondering if I had any treats for them. Then they stayed to tell me all about it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why Art Matters: Being a Cusack Girl

The iconic Llyod Dobler. I'd totally fall for this romantic gesture.

Anyone reading my blog for the last year knows I'm an 80s girl through and through. While I loved all the Brat Packer/John Hughes movies, my favorite actor of the era/genre was on the fringe of this definition.

To hell with Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, and Charlie Sheen, I was a Cusack girl.

To celebrate the art of the man who created some of the most romantic and funny figures of the 80s, I give you his best.

Sixteen Candles - Cusack played Bryce, comic sidekick to Anthony Michael Hall's Farmer Ted, the geek. His freshman awkwardness and wish to see a female extra-terrestrial's assets was a little bit of hilarious.

Allison getting her college education in how-to shotgun a beer.

The Sure Thing - Walter "Gib" Gibson walks the thin line between being a guy and being a man. Does he choose love or does he choose an easy lay? It was a smart teenaged rom-com, and I'm sure I was one of many bookish gals that cheered when he took a chance on love over the sure thing. Extremely quotable.

Better Off Dead - blackest of humor with Lane Myer getting dumped by his superficial blonde girlfriend. His half-hearted suicide attempts are not taken serious by anyone, but does attract the interest of curly-haired brunette Monique. Lots of funny catch-phrases and a spectacular claymation sequence to Van Halen's "Everybody Wants Some!!!"

Man in uniform.

Eight Men Out - not a teenaged comedy, but a historical drama surrounding the scandal of the 1919 White Sox. He played third baseman Buck Weaver with earnestness as well as a quiet rage in an effort to play the game with integrity while maintaining his innocence. One of my favorite baseball movies. As a Tigers fan, leave it to Cusack to make me sympathetic to the plight of an effing Sox player.

Say Anything... - He's simply beautiful as Lloyd Dobler. The ladies in the movie, from his sister to his best friends to Diane Court, adore him. So do his guy friends. He's sincere, romantic, and while still a teenager, he prefers to be honest with his love instead of "hanging out at the Gas 'n' Sip on a Saturday night, no women in sight anywhere." Him shivering in the backseat while holding Diane in his arms warms my heart. Then there is the iconic boombox grand gesture of love. *sigh*

A mixtape... I'll make her a mixtape.

High Fidelity - All grown up, this is my bonus pick. He plays crabby Rob Gordon, an anti-hero music geek who is a complete opposite of his funny, romantic teenaged characters, a major screw-up that still manages to turn it around. I love his music geekdom, making top 5 lists for any situation and of course, creating the ultimate mix tape. His contemplative review of affairs from the heart are funny, dark, tragic and self-revealing. Funny bit: best death song, "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Monday, September 3, 2012

If I Were a Celebrity!

Funky self-portrait, soon to be iconic celebutante!

A recent read of fluff on Yahoo! revealed the latest not-so-secret dieting tips from a Sports Illustrated cover model who is also starring in a movie for the first time. Another article dissected the celebrity fragrance market. Finally, I heard from Dave that the aunt of an Olympic gymnast he knows will be walking the red carpet at the MTV Music Awards.

The lesson I guess is that fame is fleeting and in today's world, the PR machine for those in the spotlight is set towards making the famous a threat in as many avenues as possible. Why - maybe it's a money grab, maybe it's trying as much as they can to see what sticks, maybe it's a way to prolong the celebrity's popularity as long as possible.

Successful example of how that works: Beyonce with Destiny's Child begat Beyonce the actress, begat Beyonce the solo artist, begat Beyonce the clothing designer, begat Beyonce the perfume mogul.

Fail example: Snooki the reality star begat Snooki the author begat Snooki the perfume mogul.

So in honor of Labor Day, cue the dream sequencer's foggy fade out and Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver", because if I were a celebrity...

Famous because: confessional blog turns into funny memoir which become "it" chick lit, which becomes summer must-see chick flick. I cameo in movie as wise-cracking pop art street painter.

Noted for: crazy hair, thrift store shopping becomes a craze, adult skating becomes the new "in" exercise.
Woo hoo!: cover of Rolling Stone ("Mom-olution" looking adorably harried with Will at Chuck E. Cheese wearing a Heart concert t-shirt while Dave plays a claw machine in a Rush tee) and Glamour (laughing in couture cobalt blue gown while eating chocolate) the same month.

Celebrity hanger-ons: Madonna, for a while, citing the Michigan connection. Andrew Zimmern, Bizzare Foods host, over love of peppers. Nicki Minaj, on a dare. Rush, for Dave of course but an opportunity to tell Alex Lifeson I've had a lifelong crush on him. The Detroit Tigers. Various figure skaters. Rock stars. You know.

Adding time to my 15 minutes: media discovers my forays into pop art. I get a guest column in Rolling Stone and SPIN on how to be a rocking cool mom, of course getting a few things deliberately wrong. Celebrity hot sauce, featuring tomato, jalapeno and smoke. Celebrity fragrance, a musky jasmine with a hint of green apple. Couple other books on the 80s, rock concerts and sports from the female POV. Will gets a guest spot on Yo Gabba Gabba and the cover of Nick magazine.

Backlash: Widely criticized by frat boy magazines like MAXIM for making the female mid-life crisis funny and popular "want to be the girl with the most cake? Here's your mom jeans, now shut up!" Vogue snarks on flea-market fashion, I make worst-dressed list. Ex-boyfriends hit the tabolids with "that's not how it happened" stories. PR disaster proudly declaring love for the Tigers during a Yankees broadcast on ESPN.

Last gasp: Skating with Celebrities. My celebrity partner is Ryan Bradley, and our broadcast eyeroll and me telling a Real Housewife to get real dooms us to third.

To obscurity! A failed potato chip endorsement contract, I cite fatigue and the wish to spend more time at home with Will and Dave. I'm doomed to guest appearances on WOOD-TV news spots and local celebrity fundraisers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

September Playlist: She's a Rainbow

Let me temporarily put aside my love of The Fabs, and throw some devil horns in the air for the dirtier, gritter Brits, The Rolling Stones.

While Mick is the frontman, I prefer Keith and his crazy swagger. I discovered a newfound appreciation for him a few years back as he wrote and presented the greatest musicians that ever lived in a issue of Q magazine, a bi-monthly Brit rag that is a perfect blend of the US magazines Rolling Stone and SPIN.  He wrote with passion, knowledge and keen insight about these musicians - essentially he did his homework with intelligence and I totally respect that.

I find it appropriate to honor Keith and the boys during my birth month since one of my favorite songs was the #1 hit the week I was born.

Honky Tonk Woman: #1 song the week I was born, which is why September playlist. Little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.

Ruby Tuesday: lush orchestration over classic rock. Was that a pan flute?

She's a Rainbow: sometimes you have to back into a favorite. I am guilty of falling in love with this song based on its use in an Apple computer ad, promoting their collection of colorful cabinet desktops. And Mick sang this to Kristen Wiig as a farewell on Saturday Night Live. Aw!

Sympathy for the Devil: I was always fascinated by the lyrics, an awesome bit of storytelling throughout the ages. The devil's music? I think this sophisticated piece demonstrates how easy it is to fall prey to his influence and the unfortunate consequences. Actors and authors have attempted to give him a voice, Mick did just that. Cautionary tale? Brilliant.

Gimmie Shelter: I love that scrit-scrit-a-scrit and the wailing-in-the-Baptist-choir backup singer. My first exposure? American Red Cross disaster relief PSA ads inbetween Beatles cartoons and Monkees reruns. What an exposure I had to great music at a young age.

You Can't Always Get What You Want: more Baptist choir, more heavy, bluesy lyrics. "My favorite flavor, cherry red." What does that mean?!

Miss You: Dave and I solidified out Trivial Pursuit dominence when someone asked me to name this song by reading a few lyrics. I will forgive Mick for welcoming Justin Timberlake onstage to sing this as a duet at SARStock.

Tumbling Dice: R&R HOF really needs to recognize the Stones backup singers, this song is MADE by the backdrop they create. There's so much to love about this song, I'm really at a loss what to say 'cept effing brilliant.

Paint It, Black: the dark urgency made this song the ultimate creepy cool. Have you seen the video? Crazy fat guy in overalls climbing the roller coaster? What does that mean? There's quite a few skaters who have tapped that brooding energy, the best of my recollection being Matt Savoie, the most underrated skater of the last decade.

Faraway Eyes: more honky-tonk than Honky Tonk Woman, the lyrics both mock and embrace the storytelling typical of country and western. I could see slow-dancing to this half in the bag at a backyard bbq at midnight.

Start Me Up: Hit big in 1981 when I was in the 6th grade. I remember dancing to it while raking leaves, a loathsome chore made easier imagining making grown men cry. We danced to it at my cousin Michelle's slumber party. We danced to it pretty much whenever the opportunity arose.

Harlem Shuffle: The Rolling Stones and the MTV generation. Paula Abdul wasn't the first to dance with a cartoon cat.

Undercover of the Night: Mick as a Nicuragan drug dealer, and Keith with some fierce wah wah, and Charlie with strong thump. I loved this song.

Parting shot of Keith, because I can.