Thursday, January 22, 2015

Pyrromania and the cat

 My daughter salvaged 16 or 17 strays with a lot of work, energy and Brian, who is devoted to saving cats and has a network to pick them up, have them altered and find them homes.

He doesn't like to take cats from Chelsea because many of them have diseases, but he tricks the giant, as my daughter would say, picks them up anyway.

This old guy had been around for many years. He was fed by two people on the street in back and by me, when the birds didn't eat his food. If you could see closely, you'd see that I dropped a lot of food on him after he hustled me from the car to the bowl.

I hadn't known whether he was eating the food I put out, though I could see his footsteps in the snow, or whether the birds were getting it all.

But Brian got him. He left a cage here early on Saturday and by mid-afternoon, the old guy went in and sat there, waiting quietly. Brian later called me to say that he was very calm and had obviously been an indoor cat that was abandoned. There's a lot of abandoning of cats around here.

I felt seriously guilty that I'd pulled him from his routine since he'd worked out a life, but I felt much better after Brian told me how calm he was and that it won't be hard to place him.

 This is purple, or Geileise, trying to get on my lap. She could easily squash me with her clumsy eagerness.

The Wolf Hound seems to be primordial, like wild turkeys that I saw recently near Mim's house where seven or eight seem to have quite a happy existence.
These are the pieces for the pyromania show. They looked very quiet in that lovely space, so nicely sunlit, but okay.

There's a lot of writing and a little drawing and the paper is quite terrific. I bought a bunch of sheets from someone, intending to draw mushrooms on them. But I didn't. And couldn't imagine that I'd have any use for them, but they worked well for this…lovely paper with odd edges and a heavy texture.

Thank you for reading…and take care...
This is the last of the gorgeous scarecrow that my daughter made for the community garden a few summers ago. It was a painted mask of her face with shells for eyes and ears, the head attached to a stick body. I liked it a lot and it wore quiet well until I just had to bring it back here and finally, finally, finally sent it off….    I'm sorry I didn't hang on longer, but that's often the way it goes…hanging on too long or letting go too soon….

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Oh, man, 2015………musings….

 So, 2015. Quite amazing.

 The lights went out at six on New Year's Eve and I got in bed with the New Yorker and a flash light. They came on at nine and I thought, "Now, I'm in business," but they went off again. I vaguely thought about whether the heat would go on again, but there was nothing I could do, so I went to sleep.  I do think about death, as much as I always have. And clearly it's closer since I'm 75. But I feel as if I'm just starting…….how can that be? All this energy and clarity. Quite amazing. I hope for ten more years and health.

And I also hope that my beloved dog, hardly hearing and not seeing much, barking sharply when he's lost me, stuck in the kitchen alone, makes it to 15. The evenings are a great trial because he wants special treats, bits of food, something delicious six, eight, ten times adding little tidbits to persuade him to eat his food.

The young men working on the windows had lunch outside near the fence and dropped a tiny piece of bread, maybe the tiniest bit of chicken and Bogie found it. And hopes that someone has dropped more. He hunts in the leaves, hoping.

But all the work those fellows did seems to have worked. The wind doesn't blow the curtains inside or rattle the windows. I don't have to put up plastic! What a big change.

I joined a small gallery that's a throw back from the sixties…all that freedom and lack of fussing.  Nothing organized. I don't even get the emails since there's some disconnect somewhere. But who cares...The first group show is about Pyromania and the drawing above is one of my two pieces. It's rather formal and I imagine that most everyone else has produced wilder work….. But we'll see at the meeting on Tuesday night. I wish I'd joined years ago because it gives  me a chance to expand beyond photographs. And it's truly wacky-packers…. just what I like.

 When Mim made tea and offered these gingerbread fellows, I honestly had a hard time eating them. My father used to buy packages of sugar coated almonds, bundled in pink or blue blankets with little baby faces. I couldn't eat them either, but he happily bit the heads off. It's incredibly silly not to have wanted to eat a cookie from this plate, but I'd been drawing one of the man that she gave to us at the Bagel Bards, nicely each in a sandwich bag. I brought mine home and Sherlock knocked it off the kitchen table. I followed Bogie's obviously delighted self as he high-tailed it to his bed, the bag in is mouth, intending to eat it and then the cookie. He managed to knock the arm off before I rescued it and I've been drawing it. That made my attachment to Mim's
cookies more intensely personal...

Sherlock got two new boxes from Costco for the holidays. He still has his slightly larger regular box, but seems to prefer the new smaller ones.



 Lee felted this hat and it happens to look reasonable on me. I'm not a hat person, but….  It looks fine. I can't wait to wear that glorious scarf. She knits while sitting in front of the TV because she'd incapable of just sitting. You will find videos of  the Irish Wolf Hound puppies that she whelped about eight months ago… on www.pennyanteproductions.com     And you'll see the house she lives in, the stallion and an old mini-horse named Napoleon.
We've stopped giving presents, thank goodness, but when Jim gave me this card from he and Orson, I opened it and said, "Oh, no, it's not a photograph of you both on vacation!" I never learn to keep my big mouth shut. He's had an exhausting year, they didn't have time to print a vacation photograph, it was a lovely card…and I have it, alone with an image from a past vacation next to it.     (They are so gorgeous, improbable, huge and overpowering men….and they take elaborate vacations. Orson particularly loves Cairo. And Jim does, also...

I've gotten by/through the season, from Thanksgiving until this last week-end of the holidays, by watching Hercule Poirot on Netflix in the mornings. I don't like Agatha Christie, but I thoroughly enjoy a pleasant murder and it's been very comforting. And I'm trying to learn from him to make a vague statement rather than blurting out what I really think.  But I've only started taking these lessons, so they haven't had a serious effect yet.

I'm seventy-five and haven't learned to shut my big mouth yet, but there's always hope.

I had a nice talk with a friend who now lives outside of San Francisco, laughing about the bottle of rum from which we added to the store-bought egg nog…she remembered that we talked about being old ladies, still drinking egg nog and nipping at the rum. That wonderful loft she had on Eldridge Street, the kids running in all that space… That was a 'real' loft with all the advantages and disadvantages. I used Kahula (sp?) with yogurt ice cream a few nights…in spite of my determination to drop five pounds… An instant buxx.

Tomorrow's a repeat mammogram. And then in February I'll have a laser treatment for my eyes so they will be back to the glorious clarity that I had after the cataract surgery. The eye doctor confirmed my sense that I don't see nearly as well, explaining that 20-25% of people have this problem…the clear film that fills the space in the back of the new lens sometimes becomes like wrinkled wax paper, making it hard to see as well. But as easy problem to solve.

This is a nicely designed show at the MFA… those unimaginably elegant dresses from movies…in the 30's and 40's. I used to wear a white satin dress that had been my cousin Patsy's and let my best friend, Cinnie, wear the purple one which might have had white grapes. Hard to imagine that Patsy had gowns and I played dress-up..and that I kept the best dress for myself.
And Mim making an apple tart…very beautiful.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

December 27, 2014

The season is over! From Thanksgiving to X-mas a cloud comes over me. But I fought it mightily with morning doses of BBC mysteries and with the help of good friends and family … It comes over my brother, also, who is 91 now and not in great shape. So, it's a family thing.

But I'm grateful for having had more than a decent time and for the lovely moments with friends.

All my new photographs are locked on my glorious new iPhone, so there's nothing special to put up… wait a week and they will appear…  I can't tell you how much I love this expensive toy which I bought to start a new series of daily self-portraits. I'm allowing myself the luxury of composing backgrounds into which I peer. They have a formal quality which I'm not generally interested in, since I like a bit of mess here and there. But it's been an interesting month of following this particular idea in this long project….   and, even though using the face of the phone as the camera produces a smaller file, that's what I've done. Did I say all this before? Probably.

And the great thing about my phone/camera is that it counts my steps. I always get up to a mile. And with effort, I get to two or three miles…   which hasn't helped because I gained 8 tens of a pound this month. I go to Weight Watches on the last Saturday of every month to check on myself. The problem can't have been the  wonderful apple tart that Mim made…I know she used very little sugar and only the minimal amount of butter in the crust…but I caved into cake and icing at Jim and Orson's….rather than eating his pear pie…      So, it's back to kale soup and 3 miles a day.

Maybe I've showed Big Face before. I'm hoping that in 2015 that the fellow who rescues cats is able to get him. He's been out for years and comes around for food fairly often. I put cat nibbles on the  first floor porch (which the birds also eat) and bird seed upstairs which gives Sherlock something to watch from inside.

When I sent to the eye doctor a week or two ago, he confirmed that my vision really is worse, nothing like the way it was after cataract surgery. And he thinks it's caused by a membrane that fills the space in back of the new lens. In 20-25% of people, this becomes like wax paper, with wrinkles. This has most probably happened to me which makes it harder to write since I can't accurately tell what I've written unless I enlarge the image on the screen, which I just did. It's not a serious problem and can be corrected with an in-office laser treatment. Magic of modern medicine…or the skill of modern medicine.

It's been hard not to be depressed by the new of the CIA and the so-called enhanced interrogation. Read torture.



But the sun is shining and I'm glad to be alive, missing a dear friend who died last year, but still very glad to be alive and grateful to other friends...

And wishing happy new year all around….




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...