Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Another Post...

 It's nice that this photo came up first, a stained glass rainbow piece made by Michael who died unexpectedly more than a year ago. He was a gentle soul with the most gorgeous face, of Greek descent with great bone structure and an excellent personality. I got to video tape as he put in a gorgeous window that he'd made for a man who turned out to be entirely untrustworthy and is now in jail. Michael was the picture of health, but died of an aneurysm.
Jimmy Sullivan died last week, or as Smith says, he's really cruising in Florida. His fifteen lives are finally officially over, though I can hear him talking still.

I was fortunate to meet him through Jim Anderson, his good friend when we were both there for dinner…. When I heard Jimmy tell part of his story…being gay bashed in the early 80's and recovering from brain damage, returning to being a male after a heady time as a female prostitute and so on and so on, one story after another from this man who lived large and fully, I couldn't stop myself from asking whether I could make a video…

 Unfortunately I started  it right after I'd been sick and I just wasn't able to do him justice, make a film that was strong enough to allow viewers to understand his trajectory from an abusive home through drugs and addictions that substitute for love.

I wish I'd been able to make a better film….  But I thank him for all he told me and Jim Anderson for introducing us and showing me what being a good friend is…He was with Jimmy to the last, having gotten him into the hospital and then out of it so he could go back to his elegant apartment.

When I visited Jimmy while he was in palliative care, the nurse asked if I'd give them the film so they could see who he'd been. I didn't get around to it before he felt well enough to leave…but I should take it to them now…    


I have no idea why this dinosaur is here, but I like this drawing. I'm trying to get back to drawing after spending months working on videos for a new website pulling together long, long, long video interviews of folks who worked on the backside of the racetrack.     www.pennyanteproductions.com
I can't imagine that many people will have the patience to look at them since they aren't shortened and dolled up into soundbites, but I'm glad some of them are finally viewable…

The dinosaur was a present to my daughter from her grandfather quite a few years ago. I'm afraid that I liked it better than she did and have used it in watercolors of objects that are meaningful to me. He also sent her the skeleton of a giant beetle he'd found outside in Nova Scotia. She didn't like that either, but I kept it…


And old photo from my mushroom collection. What does this mean? What does it all mean?
One foot in front of another.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Pyromania and change..

Pyromania is the title of the January show at Atlantic Works. This drawing was done with red clay from Georgia and dirt…It's one of six on a large sheet of handmade paper and will have text. I've never tried to think about this type of problem…  The camera is so limited.

The transformation of the downstairs apartment into a studio, at least temporarily, involved days of work by a clever friend capable of carrying heavy cases and thinking about organization.

Though I planned to use all these cleaning supplies, I ended up hiring several woman who whipped through the place in a blink of an eye. I'd had it cleaned professionally a few months earlier so it needed very little.
I've started to see a new therapist who approaches these sessions in an entirely different way -- I have had many therapists, but of the old variety who didn't ask questions about functioning in daily life and practical goals. One of the phrases that she threw toward me was the idea of executive function. As if mine is a bit wobbly. I hadn't told her that, while I had her address, I'd forgotten her name. That didn't particularly bother me because I assumed she'd tell it to me when I got to the office or I'd muddle though, somehow. But it became necessary to take the elevator in the building. I had to show my license and tell the guard where I was going. I  knew the floor and the room number, but the not her name. Luckily he figured it out.

 And this week, when I drove to Salem, I got lost as I usually do, trying to find Peabody Essex Museum, which wasn't bad. The problem was when I went home … that was major league getting lost.  
It wasn't until I was almost home that I realized that I have an iPhone, a new one, and that there is Siri inside of it who at least could have told me where I was.
And there's also a map, not that I could have read it since my map reading skills are nil. But I could have used the woman who talks the driver on her way.
I don't know these systems yet, but when I learn them, hopefully I'll remember to use them.

And then, I promised myself that I'd go out on Wed. night to a poety reading…so that I wouldn't fall prey to the dreaded winter horrors that attack as soon as it gets dark. I hate the dark. I'm not depressed, actually, just filled with hatred for the dark. I'm functioning quite as well as usual, thank you very much, in daytime, but night…               No………….  
At any rate, I'd promised myself to go to this reading, early, 5:00, so I could do some work on the computer…          but……..I  didn't.      Since I hadn't bothered to notice who was reading…I didn't know that I was going to miss a reading by George Kalogeris, one of my favorite people.

Did that teaching me a lesson?

I hope so………………………..

I have to work on executive functions. I used to drive the chairman of the art department absolutely wild because of what he called my 'inattention to detail.'   I wish I'd understood it better then, It would have saved me a lot of grieve and allowed me, at least, a protective layer. Luckily I had friends, like Lorie Novak, who helped me when I was in the worst of the dog houses.



Sherlock thinks this is his apartment, rather than my studio. He's an absolutely gorgeous creature, if only I weren't allergic to cats and he was nicer to Bogie who he deliberately taunts by lying across any doorway the dog wants to go through. Sometimes he pounces when Bogie's asleep in the morning (he doesn't get up before 11, usually,) thinking that if he wakes him….he'll get a second breakfast….
Bogie is 14 and eats special food, so he gets more servings and much coaxing with tidbits. I think that cats, in general, and Sherlock in particular, watch carefully, judging the fairness of food distribution and he's quite right that he doesn't get fed as much, as often, usually.


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...