parum pa pum pum, y’all

{image above, Amy Huddleston}

Next Saturday (a week from today… December 5th) I’ll be sitting down with a group of artists (see link list below) for Drum of the Draw at Grey Gallery. We’ll be drawing/painting up a storm for four hours, beginning at 5pm. At 9pm all drawings will be for sale at a maximum of $200 each. Art originals for Christmas, anyone? Video of a past Drum of the Draw event here.

Gala Bent (yrs truly)
Chris Crites
Warren Dykeman
Maija Feibig
Robert Hardgrave
Harold Hollingsworth
Amy Huddleston
Christian Van Minnen
Darin Shuler

Hope to see you!


influence tracking #4: costuming

{image from Ann Hamilton: An Inventory of Objects by Joan Simon, Gregory R. Miller & Company (November 15, 2006)}

I just ran across this tiny little image in a book about one of my pervasive favorites, Ann Hamilton.  It’s a hat and veil that were made to be part of a performance piece, aloud, in which costumed volunteers hand-cranked wind machines. (This was performed at the Museum of National Antiquities, Stockholm, Sweden 2004)  Characteristically, Hamilton lit a fire in a spot of my brain I’d been wanting to warm.  I don’t love everything she’s ever done, but the poetry she achieves with elemental symbols is so often a hit with me.  Like her toothpick suit, which she built as a graduate student at Yale, these wool costumes have a nonspecific, but potent mythological effect.  The ubiquitous red cross of medical dress is traded for a perfect thick circle that echoes the silent mouth.  Maybe partly because of the coy look of this particular volunteer, it works as a symbol that seems to fall between medical protection and religious ceremony– an air of calm adherence to a prescribed role.

If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you probably know that I also have an artistic crush on Nick Cave, the visual artist.  He exemplifies an approach that I am drawn to again and again through the years– a fascination with costuming and fanciful extensions of the body.  I’ve been thinking of it a lot lately, and wondering what is under all this fabric.  Maybe it’s an inkling that our bodies are limited pictures of what I/we feel like internally?  Are our physical borders more permeable than they appear?  It also stretches whatever symbolic intent the parts of the body might have… to lift the dome of the head into a tall pile is to overwhelm the intellect, to lengthen the tongue is to emphasize a wicked way with words.

another praxis

It’s no secret that I have a preoccupation with understanding the creative process in other artists whose work I admire.  There are practical crossovers in the work of making music and writing and film and many other disciplines.  While we wrestle with different material and limitations, the mind is still our workspace, especially where the mind connects to the hands.  (Maria Montessori argues that the hands are the seat of the intellect).  Here is a poet’s version:

Self-Portrait   by Adam Zagajewski (Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

Between the computer, a pencil, and a typewriter

half my day passes. One day it will be half a century.

I live in strange cities and sometimes talk

with strangers about matters strange to me.

I listen to music a lot: Bach, Mahler, Chopin, Shostakovich.

I see three elements in music: weakness, power, and pain.

The fourth has no name.

I read poets, living and dead, who teach me

tenacity, faith, and pride. I try to understand

the great philosophers–but usually catch just

scraps of their precious thoughts.

I like to take long walks on Paris streets

and watch my fellow creatures, quickened by envy,

anger, desire; to trace a silver coin

passing from hand to hand as it slowly

loses its round shape (the emperor’s profile is erased).

Beside me trees expressing nothing

but a green, indifferent perfection.

Black birds pace the fields, waiting patiently like Spanish widows.

I’m no longer young, but someone else is always older.

I like deep sleep, when I cease to exist,

and fast bike rides on country roads when poplars and houses

dissolve like cumuli on sunny days.

Sometimes in museums the paintings speak to me

and irony suddenly vanishes.

I love gazing at my wife’s face.

Every Sunday I call my father.

Every other week I meet with friends,

thus proving my fidelity.

My country freed itself from one evil. I wish

another liberation would follow.

Could I help in this? I don’t know.

I’m truly not a child of the ocean,

as Antonio Machado wrote about himself,

but a child of air, mint and cello

and not all the ways of the high world

cross paths with the life that–so far– belongs to me.

feasting and foraging

(photo via Miss Manitach)

There are countless indepth blogs about food, in every direction, of course, but my life has been intersecting with food in new ways lately, so I thought I’d slip a post in.  The trouble is, the more I think about food, the more there is to think about.

A week or so ago, I was treated to not one, but two extravagant dinners that certainly jumped the usual pattern of our lives.  At this point, because of budget and pragmatics, we rarely splurge on amazing meals out– something that both Zack and I have a confessed weakness for.  (If you’ve ever taken small children to restaurants, or arranged babysitters for bedtime, you know the drawbacks begin to outweigh the benefits.)  Instead, Zack has been making the lion’s share of our dinners at home (and they’re fantastic…more on this in a minute).  So when Joey Veltkamp invited me to be an artist at the second New Guard dinner, I was pleased as punch (how pleased is Punch?) to say yes, and to take food-lover Zack along on the day after his birthday.  The entire event was so magical– a candle-fire lit room above bustling Pike street, lots of wine and great conversation with people who began the night as strangers, a stunning array of dishes rolled out by Eliot Guthrie family style, and the crooning of Kate Tucker.  The very next night held another birthday gift for Zack; my parents took us to a dinner inspired by the wines of local boutique winery William Church, designed by culinary arts faculty and students at Lake Washington Technical College, where my mom is an administrator and teacher.  The atmosphere was more pedestrian than the New Guard, but the tears shining in the corners of students’ eyes as they were given a standing ovation for the meal were priceless.  Having the winemakers in attendance, and providing introductions for each wine, was a great treat as well.

Every culture seems to know that celebration works best with food.  But what of the every day?  As we sat down to dinner the other night, my oldest son told us he just wanted to smell the piece of pizza that had just been set in front of him.  Zack had made pizza dough out of a no-knead sourdough bread recipe, and topped it with potatoes, greens, carmelized onions and cheese, and it was, truly, a beautiful fragrance and sight.  We talked about how cool food is– that it’s a treat for your sense of taste, but also your senses of smell and sight and touch.  To top it all, eating can be a profoundly social act, a real love gift, which is something we experience almost every day from Zack’s hands.  Left to my own devices, even though I’m a devoted appreciator of food, I can slip into a more pragmatic habit, thawing frozen edamame and chomping leftover peanut butter and jelly crusts just to get some protein in and get on with the day.

Another side of things that is revolutionizing my idea of food is the benefit of local ingredients.  It’s one of those topics that is an obvious “ought to” when you think about the transportation of food from all over the earth in terms of carbon footprint.  But there are so many “ought to”s in our lives that we can’t keep up with them.  This summer, we signed up for a weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) share, and just totally got spoiled by beautiful, fresh local vegetables fruits and herbs.  My guilty conscience has turned into a strong preference for food that is seasonal and freshly picked.  It’s no accident that we have to eat living things to keep living– a constant shift of life source from one creature to another.  Even vegans take in the life of plants to support their own lives.  And the closer we can get to the healthy living thing, the better.  We have a few boxes of greens planted outside our back door, and I love taking a leaf right off of a plant and eating it.  I swear its goodness is mainlined to my system.  Talk about local.  And then there’s Zack’s new obsession with foraging… but I’m already long-winded on a topic that others are far more eloquently covering.

(I’ve realized lately, with some sheepishness, that I’m not a purist… on almost anything, actually… but I love when logic and wisdom intersect with a life lived, and I’m always in pursuit of that type of inspiration.  I guess I’m much better at acting out of convictions that are rooted in actualities than cerebral suggestions or guilt-induced resolutions for right-living.)