Friday, November 21, 2014

Work of the more distant past and the just a few weeks ago past...


Laura Montgomery curated a show of ceramics at Bunker Hill Community College. She's so gracious that she came over with her truck and students and hauled the boxes downstairs and away and they all set it up. Naturally I missed the opening because I wanted to see Jim Greene talking about why it was so important to keep Suffolk Downs open by picking Revere as the casino site..that came on at 7 and by the time he'd talked it was DARK…and I absolutely hate the dark…   It's late fall and often dark and the opening was, by then, in the dark. I could have gone if I'd left here at 5:30 and gotten there by 6 when it opened…Alas. But it's a very nice show, like a little jewel to come upon in that huge campus of  hurried and hurrying students. As someone who paid for parking at UMass/Boston, I can't imagine paying only $20 a year for parking…perhaps most students are commuters. Anyway, it's a nice campus…  And a delightful show.   The small grid of six self-portraits in which a nude using her body as if it were clay weren't included. I think that makes the piece stronger, but I'm glad to have shown it and that Laura was able to do that.


(I should add that the casino license was not given to Revere which endangers the existence of a Thoroughbred racing track in Massachusetts and thus the lives of many people from grooms, to hot walkers, to horse shoers to trainers. I've been working on video taping interviews with many folks and some of them are on a new website   www.pennyanteproductions.com

and more will be added….  Nine years of work.)
I absolutely had to do something with the paper I made in Cathy McLaurin's class… eight hours of driving back and forth and something like $220 for the class… (not that I begrudge the expense of those classes because the ones I've taken have been interesting…and quite inexpensive and Cathy is terrific)…but anyway, it was an investment and here I was with a huge piece of drawing paper covered with interesting shapes made by flicking a string held on a thin dowel and dipped in ink…   I loved the process, quietly standing there while others applied paint in various ways including with a toy bow and arrow…  their pieces were far more colorful, dense, intense, but I liked the process I used. And wanted to do something with it. The problem, I found out, when I decided to make an accordion book is that it was drawing paper and the paper cracked slightly in the folding. I had to buy linen tape to reinforce the back of the folds. It wasn't particularly easy since math isn't my forte…nor is cutting even slightly heavy book board… and it's a bit formal. But I liked the idea of using ink drawings of the some of the mushrooms I've been photographing for the last four or five years.  It's a bit formal, another book with a black cover.

By the third class, I realized that I liked the surface design I'd created and wanted to use that technique again. We were supposed to use a variety of tricks/methods to limit our way of applying paint..using a long stick with chalk at the end of it, applying a splint and tucking a paint brush in it.

But I used a toy I'd bought for Sherlock, four feathers on a stick, and flicked ink on BFK Reeves that I'd brought. (I did make another sheet of the supplied drawing paper using the same technique, but since I knew I was going to make another book, I finished the class using my paper.)

Since I'd applied the design using the cat toy, I thought I'd use drawings of Sherlock Holmes as I'd used drawings of mushrooms.

But as I walked by the kitchen table, I noticed refractions of light from the fruit bowl, pale, delicate lines which I traced.

I'd made many line drawings of shadows as they crossed the wall at the first landing of the wide staircase in Les's old dowager of a Victorian where I lived for five years. I loved those drawings and never though I'd find anything to replicated here in my little apartment.

I liked a lot of the work in the show Laura curated..from rather primitive figures to very finished elegant pieces. All of it was more than competent. But along with taking photographs of my own work, I took a picture of this piece by Sparky and two of the three 2-D pieces by a man who now works at Feet of Clay, but came from Bosnia, if I'm correct. He worked on clay tablets as if he were drawing and added a clay form. They are charming as is Sparky's piece, I thought, of found female forms.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Essex Art Center

I've been taking a class or two a year for the past five or six years. I have no idea how I discovered the Essex Art Center, but driving up Route 28 to Lawrence is always a pleasure. Inevitably I think of something I hadn't realized about whatever I'm working on. I hate highways, but this is a nice road, in and out of small towns.

I've taken drawing and watercolor and now am taking the third session of a class that Cathy McLaurin teaches about different ways of approaching work. It's not really relevant to my work since I'm not a painter, but I like her, enjoy her approach and the people who keep appearing whenever she offers it. It is, for me, a lark.

The first class involved driving this very small vehicle over different objects and then printing from then.

Barbie dolls are indestructible. Running a 1,000 pound roller over them multiple times doesn't crack the surface.    

In fact, not too many items were squash able. My objects were bought in a gift shop in housing for somewhat elderly folks…and the 93 year-old woman who runs it was pleased with my $30 donation. She had discounted all the items and I was happy to carry away three bags of cutlery, eye glasses, wire baskets, a silver vase and two metal dish wracks.

My plan was to squash a dinner service and print that, but I didn't even put the fork under the roller. The wire baskets worked since they were delicate enough to flatten. And I printed them along with various berries for additional color. Not too interesting. What I liked was taking photographs, except that my battery ran out.

And of course I drove the roller.

I had to do that. The first time I jumped into something I'd never driven before was when someone was asked to volunteer to drive the new 14 person van in the shelter where I was working. My hand went up automatically. It took me two weeks of driving before I noticed the side view mirrors, but I did no damage. The woman got to their alternative sleeping arrangements and the van was unscratched.

My next favorite ride was in a golf cart that I drove up a small mountain with someone I'd known in middle-school…I hadn't seen her in years and was completely surprised when she apologized for something she said well over 50 years ago about my mother's death. Of course, I didn't remember it, but it was so touching that she has carried a worry about what she felt was a harmful comment all these years. What we store in our minds is fascinating.

Driving the roller was a bit difficult. I got on it before it became apparent that nothing thick would crush, so it was a bit bumpy as it traveled over candle sticks and other such stiff stuff. Later when I drove it again, we'd figured out that what was useful crushing material and it was a much less bumpy ride.

During our second class, we worked on large sheets of paper with odd tools. I've moved my sheet where I can work on the floor, using strings dipped in inks. It was interesting enough and I will try to make a book out of it. Since it's doubtful that anything I do in Cathy's classes will be incorporated in my work, I am making an effort to use this particular product.

As if I don't have enough to do.

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's November…..

and soon I have to hide under the mattress to avoid the coming holidays.

I've been working really hard…in part to keep adding to a new website www.pennyanteproductions.com
It has interviews from folks who work on the backside of the local racetrack…   If you like very long, hardly edited interviews from people who work with Thoroughbreds, take a look, please.

Occasionally I find a recipe in the New York Times that I think I can manage. And I can't. They are expensive, extremely expensive and time consuming. I spent a fortune making two dishes for a Thanksgiving with Orson and Jim that no one ate since Orson is the most fabulous cook….and my onions, even though I'd bought a clever new dish to serve them in, were hardly necessary on that laden table.

This time I decide to make a tarte tatain (that's not the right spelling, probably…) just because it looked beautiful. And it is.

And it also served the purpose of distracting me, preoccupying me with shopping. I've been quite nervous and fretful with a stomach that's out of sorts, so this was a tricky, but ultimately safe activity since I could toss it out if I failed.
      The recipe called for eight apples of a particular type that don't have a lot of excess liquid. Wholepaycheck didn't have the specified type, but it had the two allowable alternatives….
     And it had frozen puff pastry. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS for a package. I didn't blink as I paid for the nifty box. Nor did I read the direction which said it had to defrost in the refrigerator for two days before  I started peeling and cutting the apples in quarters in order to refrigerate them for a day (it wouldn't hurt them, the recipe said, to stay in that lightly covered bowl for two to three days) so that they would dry out sufficiently.
     You get the drift. It was never going to be ready for the occasion I planned to take it to.
   
     But two days later I baked it and took it over to share with friends. We ate it warm. Excellent.                  
     And then I used the leftover puff pastry to make the ugly little things shown in the photo above. The first time I laid it out, sprinkled sugar on top, put another layer on with more sugar and stuck it in a very, very hot oven, the fire extinguishers in three areas went off which meant I had to take it out, refrigerate the unshapely dough until the next day and clean the stove of all the apple-sugar juice that had spilled from the tart and charred.          
     Nothing is simple.

 Then I took the left-over half tart when I went to visit Margo. It wasn't nearly as good cold, not nearly! But she's very polite.

As I was leaving, she gave me flowers from her garden.  I photographed them along with another bouquet of marigolds from the Chelsea Community Garden along with these particular flowers, daisy and borage which grew wild in the path between my plot and the next.
     After having cut no bouquets all summer, I have four in the house as fall starts….           The cat is pleased.
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For the last couple of years, I have been collecting photographs of mushrooms, an enjoyable activity.

And I was tempted to start another collection called red. And another called yellow.

Luckily I decided this is more folly so I am only collecting photographs of dogs I meet (I do ask the owner usually, and he or she is usually pleased by my nuttiness and never asks what I'm going to do with the images), mushrooms and images from museums.

There is a very good article by Donald Hall in Poets and Writers this month…about aging. A book of essays he's written will be published in December. Evidently one you get to the mid-eighties, you stop worrying and take every day as it comes and enjoy it.
     I've got ten years to go. Right now I have to say that the changes aging are bringing are worrisome… and I find myself running as fast as I can to escape them. When I'm not running, I watch Netflix.
     Take care of yourselves…and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Staying

So, I have very little time since I'm going to lunch with Elsa Dorfman and have to stop at FedEx to mail a box, but here I am, trying to add to the blog which is tucked so far in the back of my mind that I hardly remember it.

But, I stayed in the house, thanks to Genevra, who agreed not to force me to sell because I'd signed papers agreeing to do that. And I spent money on it for the first time.  Oh, I'd put on two roofs and replaced an oil burner and fixed the downstairs bathroom and had my bathroom floor repaired when the toilet threatened to fall into the apartment below…

But I hadn't done anything else. I hadn't decided that this is my house, even though I've lived here for 30 years. It was still temporary with all my collapsable furniture and clutter.

But Elsa suggested Delson, the most magnificent contractor imaginable. I didn't imagine that I could afford him. But he's reasonable and has lovely Brazilians working for him -- his son-in-law, two nephews and various assorted others who he's hired. The first photo show the remains of the porch that he thought he'd just have to repair, but that I knew was in dire shape.

For years, Joe and Pam lived next door with his parents. Pam did a lot of work on the garden, in the yard, which was undone by the folks who bought it. They even took down a pine tree taller than the house that his mother had planted when he brought it home in a styrofoam cup from kindergarten. Pam has volunteer petunias and offered me some, but I somehow never got around to take them. But here's one that was growing by the sidewalk and I dug it up with a spoon, at night..   There was another one, but two days later, all of that was clipped. The folks next door like everything clipped.  So, here is the petunia in a tiny garden that I started in all the madness of having done nothing, nothing, nothing to the back yard when the house was supposedly going to be bought as was.

And this is the phlox that's growing wild back there. I fell down the backstairs on my way to transplant it…madness of madness. Why?

I ended up as a pretzel with my legs lodged above my head in the twist of the stairway. I am lucky to have only gotten a swollen ankle and a limp for a few weeks. Needless to say, I didn't transplant it, them, anything.

I had imagined that it wasn't going to be an easy job. The railings had not been up to code and I thought that a family with a young boy was going to stay in that apartment and wanted that fixed. This is what it led to, a very elegant downstairs porch. Nicely stained.

And then the upstairs porch was stained, in the nick of time, because the pressure treated wood was parched and starting to crack.
An agency for Massachusetts was giving trees, planting them, with just the stipulation that I water them every week for a year.

I wasn't pleased with this particular one which looks half dead, but she assured me that it will be fine in spring. They put in five, including this one. I wanted to replace the lovely cherry that finally gave up, two cherries to be exact. One used to hang over the driveway next door and Joe's father used to pick cherries to put in brandy. No such luck now because they had no actual fruit trees and I wouldn't have bought one because I can no longer dig a sufficiently large hole and dump in humus.

The new double pane windows might save me from paying $700 a month (or more) for heat in this little apartment. At any rate, they look gorgeous, though the photograph doesn't show them..that's just the covering of the outer sills..which took Alex days to cut and bend and fit into place...the windows were inserted after that was done and then there was caulking.

I felt terrible when the guys left, as if they were leaving home. They had a strange sweetness, as if they weren't judging me or my house, just trying to make it better.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

New Hobby

 In order to keep myself totally distracted so that I accomplish something, I start endless projects. This is the new one and it involves going to the MFA for two hours on Sunday morning…getting there before there's no parking on the street, just as it opens, wandering with my camera…you are allowed to take pictures anywhere as long as you don't use flash or a tripod. (Well, maybe not everywhere…) And I'm collecting images. Usually I collect sculpture. And have even, get this, used raw for the digital camera (but not today) so that I'll get the maximum details for whatever I don't do with these.

And the don't doing is fine. I start enough that it's alright that I don't finish everything.

Actually I am in the process of putting up a new website…www.pennyanteproductions.com for the long, long, long interviews with folks who work at the backside of the track. And a wonderful editor, Maia Lynch, is working on an inter-active documentary site. So, I'm not lying in bed eating chocolates, much as I'd like to be.  When I do lie in bed, I'm rereading Kitchen Confidential and wishing I'd had some experience of that wild life which was, let's be honest, pretty much only available to men.                                                                                                                                                                 Today, I went to the Shinique Smith show, new… as you will see by the photo below which isn't really representative of her painting, though they also use cloth. And then took an hour tour, wandering around after a woman named Mead who spoke nicely about Copley.

This was in the Egyptian area which has, basically moved, from the upstairs. A lot has been changed as the museum was tarted up. I suppose that's a good thing, larger, fancier, more glistening, etc., etc.

And on Saturday, I had the delicious time with the great-grandbaby of Arlene and George Brown while we watched the races in the grandstands. George won one out of two races…and I had this freedom to take image after image of Colin. I am deeply obsessed with taking photographs and wouldn't know what to do with myself if I just had to sit there since I know too little about the finer points of Thoroughbred racing.















This is the house that I still have after all the chaos I caused by thinking I should sell it. Instead I'm putting in new windows, insulation upstairs,  and also fixing the back porch and who knows what else. As Susan said, "Why haven't you ever done anything to it?" That was a great question. I'd put on two roofs and put in one new oil burner, but nothing else that might have made life easier, improved the climate inside during the winter and saved on the oil bill.
                                                                                     
                                                                    If you should go to that new site, which isn't entirely finished, you will find videos of Lee Loebelenz and the Irish Wolf Hound puppies…they are listed under Lion Spring Farm. I'm not entirely finished editing them or editing the site, as I said, but at least it's up. I'm quite pleased by that, though I have many, many more interviews to add. It will be a reference point for those interested in the stories of folks who work with Thoroughbreds and about Thoroughbreds which go on to have new tasks, new lives once they leave racing and then there are the Wolf Hound pups…going from what look like tiny pit bulls, to real long-nosed dogs...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Big Time Catch-Up


A lot has happened.

As a friend said, remember you'e an alcoholic, given to precipitous decisions … and regrets.  Technically, I'm an adult child of an alcoholic, but what the hell, it's all the same.  I leap, then look, there's no ground, I've almost sold my little two family, almost bought a condo, but…

I want to go backwards.

I'm not ready to leave the little two family and all the light and all the problems, yet…maybe in another couple of years. By the skin of my teeth and much gnashing, I extracted myself from the sale (that's to a very, very kind buyer…) and got out of the purchase (thanks to a very nice relator) and am still here in a big mess that definitely needed a shop vac which Bogie and I bought today.

He wasn't entirely happy riding in the cart, shivering with dismay, and he definitely must have considered the advice by three young girls that it would be better to have him in a stroller, close to the ground, to be a good thought…

I had considered myself very clever to have gone on-line to find a filter for my 30 year old stop vac, but it had no umph… the new one does, except that I had it hooked up to blow, not suck, so you can imagine the dust of the ages blown around in that attic.

Ann-Marie came to help for a week, when I still thought I'd sell it, a great deal of sorting, carting, looking through…it's an endless amount of work, was, is, will be…don't worry, of course I'm making a video about the process, my grim face as I survey the wreckage…..    whatever is gone is gone and whatever is going will get out there, including the old shop vac…

The inspector from MASS Saves comes in the middle of the month and I'll find out about windows and insulation, etc….and whether they sponsor a loan…            so, that's good… interesting. Why, as S. asked, have I never done any of this before?  Good question. Excellent question. I wasn't ready? I didn't know how? I didn't think about it? This winter was so awful I had to move or face it? I'm have the duck-and-cover tendencies of an alcoholic?

Who knows…………..




In the beginning of all of this, I paid to enter a show…and was sort of chosen to be part of it, relieved to finally exhibit this landscape work…………took endless effort, carting it downstairs, all those boxes, setting it up, wrapping it again, taking it………….    

and the show is terrible, horrible, ghastly, worthless…
a mass of work from an endless amount of people, everyone it looked like, who sent in checks.
I'm so sorry I did it and now this is in the never-again-category that another friend often reminds me of….  

but it was nice to see it set up downstairs…the insane installations I made at Feet of Clay in Brookline without ever thinking about what I'd do with them, how I'd show them…

The good thing is that I decided that the blobs, otherwise known as "For No Earthly Reason" which were on my regular website…could be given away for donations at the community garden during the Art Walk…        and they went like hotcakes, 8 or nine boxes of them…money tucked into a jar…

I still have ten or twelve tucked into my own garden…and they are sort of friends, and the rest have tiny cacti growing in them or serve as decorations…can you imagine…

Now I have to figure out what to do with the porcelain boxes and the 1,000 little figures of nude ladies...

this is back to the landscape…
670 something little formations from different types of clay, different uses of slip and glazes..

crazy…what do I do with them now?
wait until next year and the Art Walk??

Anyway, I'm grateful still to be in the wreck of a house and to have had such success with the physical therapy…………  I will do the exercises, faithfully…

please do look at
www.run-to-the-roundhouse-nellie.com
Susan Landry's on-line journal about memoir.
I like Alan Helms reply to my questions and think his book is extremely important….for many reasons….

thanks….

Friday, March 28, 2014

Physical therapy & horses

 Since shoveling twice, the sciatic nerve called a halt…and I got another prescription for physical therapy. But first, a week earlier, I tried the advice of a friend and went to the Russian bath house, Dillons, here in Chelsea.What an amazing place. Women's night is Monday, 4-9, and one woman told me she's been going for 20 years, with the exception of an illness, brings her dinner, leaves with her pajamas on when it closes. Quite an amazing place. $23 to get in and use the sauna and steam, neither of which are to my rase, and $45 for an hour massage (plus tip,) four women in a narrow dark room, new age music. My woman had fingers of steal and I could straighten up the next day. Quite amazing. What would my feelings for this little city be if I'd started doing this twenty years ago?

We'll see if the physical therapy works. It did last time, six years ago. But I haven't made much progress so far, one visit only… and an hour drive to the drawing class and too long spent bending my neck over to complete a curious exercise in redrawing into a failed drawing and continuing to work on it. The class is designed for folks who are painters, so I'm a bit lost, but I've watched the bit kids long enough to have learned a few tricks so I knew I could use charcoal, and ink and scissors..all sorts of tools that I could never have imagined using. If I'd been able to stand up and do more than hobble afterwards, it would have been totally successful. I'm so type A that I get furious if I'm impaired, as I often am, by some ache or another.
I've had a lot of chances to take photos of Lee's chickens and Seamus, her Irish Wolf Hound. Now I'm making weekly visits to photograph the puppies that Goose had via c-section. Lee was lent this huge dog to whelp the puppies, a task which is, probably, a good deal harder than helping Thoroughbred mares. She's virtually watched them, except for four hours a night, since the five of them were brought home from the vet, each just about a pound. To me they look like pit bull puppies… or little rats. Highly unimaginable that they will become huge shaggy dogs that lope along agreeably.

The first time I drove to Lee's farm, Lion Spring, it took three hours and many questions to strangers. Now it takes about an hour and 15 minutes. And she's great company, a exuberant talker, my favorite kind of person.
This is my experiment, whether it's possible to link a vimeo video to the blog because I need to make one for the Chelsea Community Garden….
so, hopefully, if anyone gets to watch this video about the puppies, I'll know that my next task, or is it the one after the next task, will be possible.
Lee Lobelentz, Goose & 5 puppies+
https://vimeo.com/89583951
And I've been working on a project with Linda Hart-Buuck about her Thoroughbred, Layla…video taping as she moved from the racetrack to her next career, whatever that turns out to be. Recently, we went out to the barn, another very long drive, and I had the chance to photograph this horse which is a special something or other breed, not a Thoroughbred, but special none-the-less for some reason or another…I don't like horses, actually, they are too big and, to me, unpredictable, especially Thoroughbreds. So I maintain a level of fear about them, but this horse is such a beautify with those gorgeous eyes. The owner has two others and seems to collect them…

So, it's one foot-after-the-other, though I can't keep thinking about discomfort and aging and sorrow. A dear friend died not that long ago, unimaginable. I think about those early days in New York, sharing the kids, all the help she gave me, her laughing nature and sheer practicality. She was the only person I knew who had a similar career as a photographer and teacher, though she worked far harder than I have, and was a far better academic who took all that very seriously. I'm so sorry she's gone.

But it's still one-foot-after-another to accomplish what I can before I can't.