Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Recent Reads

Well, since it's Memorial Day weekend, I'm back to my summer job at the beach. I love my summer job, and one of the reasons is because it affords me large chunks of time to catch up on my reading.

Here are the books I managed to read.

Everyone's talking about Everything, Everything now because the movie adaptation is currently in theaters. I liked the book, but I probably won't rush to see the movie. I just feel like the story is fresh in my head, so I'll probably save the movie until I feel like revisiting it.

I hadn't read a middle grade book in some time, because I've been reading so much YA and adult fiction, so I decided I need to read some so that I'm equipped to make summer reading suggestions to the kids in this month before school ends. Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere is a heavily illustrated read, not quite a graphic novel, but the illustrations are much more present and larger than Diary of a Wimpy Kid or similar titles. At first I wasn't sure what to make of this book because it's so ridiculous; Olga is a little girl who loves animals, and one day she finds some animal that she can't identify. It doesn't sound that weird, until she says that he poops out Skittles. Wait, what? There are many more instances of absurd bathroom humor, like Fart Balloon and Nacho-Scented Toilet Paper, but eventually I just got used to it, and chuckled as I read.

I've been in a historical fiction rut for months now, so I decided to fix that by checking out To Stay Alive, a novel in verse which is narrated by Mary Ann Graves, one of the members of the Donner party.I know what the Donner party was, but I never did much research on it, so this was a really interesting and informative read. The portions of the text that refer to the claims of cannibalism are not graphic, focusing instead on Mary Ann's internal struggles with her will to survive and her moral beliefs. The part that affected me the most is when the pioneers realize that they are not making good time in their journey, and they start to lighten their loads. They leave behind tools, cooking skillets, trunks of clothing, furniture: anything that might help make the wagons lighter and faster- that part in the story is when I could feel the desperation setting in for these doomed people.

After the grimness of a story about the Donner party, I wanted to go back to something lighter. The Lunch Witch is a graphic novel that was a fast and funny read. Grunhilda is forced to take a job as a lunch lady the local elementary school. As much as she tries to stay true to her witchy ways, she ends up liking one of the students (it happens).

This book is the story of Sachiko, who survived the atomic bomb dropped in Nagasaki, but it's more than just that. Rather than focus on the bomb itself, Stelson develops a narrative that emphasizes the price of peace. She begins by providing a tiny piece of information on the European politics prior to World War II, and the narrative includes information on Gandhi, Helen Keller (who visited Nagasaki after the bombing), the Korean War, and the Civil Rights movement. The end result is a beautifully written non-fiction book that has some horrifying parts of history, but is deeply reflective and remains hopeful.

"Every word is precious.
One word can make you feel loved.
One word can hurt. One word can make you cry.
One word can break your heart.
One word can do so much damage.
One word can do so much good.
Even one word can lead people.
One word can protect world peace.
Every word is precious."

-Sachiko, p. 112

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Doc's to Watch

I've been in the mood for documentaries lately, and there are definitely some good ones to choose from.

I watched Blackfish, which is the story of killer whales that kept in captivity in places such as Sea World.

The film begins with the 911 call that was placed when Dawn Brancheau was killed by Tilikum, a whale that had already been involved in the deaths of two other people. The film shines a harsh light on for-profit attractions like Sea World, and how they exploit the animals that they claim to care for: from separating the babies from their mothers, to training them to perform unnatural stunts in artificial environments, sometimes using cruel methods such as food deprivation. I'm already uncomfortable with for-profit entertainment that relies on captive animals such as circuses and some other establishments, so this just reaffirmed my decision to stay away from places such as those. I love to visit zoos, but now I find myself researching any place I might be tempted to visit because I want to ensure that it is a non-profit organization that has a stellar reputation.

I also recently watched Mommy Dead and Dearest.

This chronicles the story of Gypsy Rose Blancharde, and the abuse she suffered under her mother Dee Dee. Dee Dee used the guise of a loving, devoted mother to fool almost everyone into believing that her daughter was very sick, and the ailments ranged from hearing and vision problems to leukemia. She shaved her daughter's head and controlled nearly every interaction her daughter ever had, social or medical. In 2015, Dee Dee was found murdered in their home. The police quickly discovered that Gypsy was not who she appeared to be; instead of a frail wheelchair-bound waif, she was on the run with her boyfriend, whom she had met online and asked him to kill her mother. This is certainly the most well-known case of Munchausen by proxy in recent memory, and it has everyone buzzing, speculating about what 'should' have happened.

And I also have two other documentaries started, but I haven't had a chance to finish them yet, so I'll postpone writing about them:

Friday, May 26, 2017

Love Warrior

I just finished reading Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton.

 Melton's memoir was inspired by the break-up of her marriage following her husband's infidelity, and she writes that it is the story of a marriage, but I think it focuses more on her struggle to define herself on her own terms; her own essence rather than a role she plays in relation to other people.

She writes that when she married her husband, as soon as the minister declared them Mr. and Mrs., she thought "It's done. I am a new person. I hope I will be better as her. I hope I become."

Rather than viewing her wedding as a day or even a life event, she saw it as a portal to a new identity. Now she was a married woman, and as a wife she would be __________. Whatever word filled in the blank, it had to be better than what he had been previously (bulimic and alcoholic).

The conflict of course is that we are not transformed by titles. Going from Miss to Mrs (or to Ms.) doesn't really change a person, it just changes the salutation used in correspondence or in formal introductions. It may seem obvious, but I think pretty much any woman can relate to this conflict. Who we are on the inside versus the role we think we should be performing.

I know at certain pivotal points in my life, I have struggled with the question of "Who am I?", when maybe I was actually asking, and answering "Who should I Be?":

Now that I'm in grad school I should ___________________

When I get married, I need to ______________________

I'm pregnant, so shouldn't I be feeling ____________________?

Coming to understand who we are at our inner-most cores instead of who we should be because of certain roles or statuses can be an intense and painful process. Melton thought that becoming a wife and mother deleted her previous identities as a bulimic and an alcoholic, and realized that although those struggles might not be all that she is, they are still a part of who she is. They didn't just get shuffled away, neatly and quietly like winter clothes getting stored in the attic. As painful as the struggles were in their own times, it is also painful when we realize we cannot escape our own past.

"Pain splits us in two. When someone who is suffering says "I'm fine" it's not because she is fine, it's because her inner self told her outer self to say the words "I'm fine."

I really liked the first half of the book, because it was all about her past struggles and how they related to the conflicts in her marriage and the conflicts she had with her own mind and body.

I admit that I glossed over much of the second half of the book because she started talking about God and yoga a lot: two things in which I have little interest.

But I like her conclusion that "growing up is an unbecoming", and it's when we're courageous enough to peel away all the layers we've built up nd the titles we've accumulated that we can know who we are.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Clouds Illusions

Last night I took a painting class that was offered through Dover Adult Learning. I love to paint, but I've never been good at painting realistic scenes, so I always do abstract. But one of my New Year's resolutions this year was to try some different types of art, and this was a good opportunity to develop a new skill.

The course was called Paint Clouds Step-by-Step, and the description read:

"Whether stormy, or soft and fluffy, clouds are always an interesting subject to paint. Join us for a relaxing evening out as you learn step-by-step how to show the mood of clouds."

I figured that since clouds have no definite shape, this would be a good way to transition from abstract painting to realism.

The reason I love using acrylic paints is because they dry so quickly that it's easy to layer them without the colors running together. While I was in class, I kept thinking about the scene in Girl with a Pearl Earring in which the artists Johannes Vermeer asks Griet what color the clouds are. At first she answers "white" but then she considers them again, and answers "yellow, blue, and gray."

This scene in the film (and book) shows how painters accomplish the depth of color- by layering colors on top of each other. Last night was like a crash course in mixing colors and then layering them in order to achieve depth.

(sorry the photo is so blurry)

Last night I thought my clouds looked awful, like random splotches of paint, but looking at them again I think they look okay. I wish that my 'sunrise' looked a little better, but I've never been able to make nice horizons.

I also forgot to paint a door on the house, so I'll have to go back and add one.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Keepers docu-series

After I binged on the new season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I started flipping around on Netflix for something a little more thought provoking. My interest in true crime was piqued by a new Netflix docu-series titled The Keepers.

Netflix had huge success in 2015 when Making a Murderer was released, and the response to it from many people was a visible shake in our faith in the justice system. When we’re kids, we’re taught that if we do something bad, we’ll probably get caught, and there will be consequences to face. This series stirred up a lot of conversation in the audience about our justice system, and if it victimizes people who are easy targets, people who have prior offenses, or people in a certain economic/social classes, or people who have below average intelligence.

Most of the people I talked to about the series had hesitations about the central character Steven Avery; maybe he didn’t do it, but maybe he did. But almost everyone who watched the series seemed to feel that his nephew Brendan Dassey was tried and convicted for playing a role in a murder that he was innocent of. Dassey's confession was ruled as involuntary in 2016, and his conviction was overturned, but he remains incarcerated.

The Keepers isn't really the same type of true crime story; this one focuses more on the various kinds of cover-ups that occur when powerful institutes such as the Catholic church are involved. The Catholic church has been in the spotlight the last couple of decades for the widespread incidents and allegations of sexual abuse involving priests and young parishioners, and the first half of the episodes are mostly interviews with the victims of Father Joseph Maskell, a counselor at the Baltimore all-girls school Archbishop Kenough High School. The victims allege that Sister Cesnik, who was beloved by her students, knew about the abuse, and was murdered in order to prevent her from coming forward with the information.

The number one suspect seems to be Father Joseph Maskell, but as the series progresses, a larger cast of suspects emerges, suggesting that even though a handful of people knew who was responsible, nobody wanted to come forward for fear of being targeted themselves, or from being excommunicated or alienated from a religious community.

The murder occurred in 1969, so almost 50 years have passed, and yet a dedicated group of people, some former students, are seeking justice.

The interviews with the Maskell's victims are disturbing to listen to, so if you're the type of person who can't stand to watch The Magdalene Sisters, then this isn't a recommendation for you.

Right now, there is no physical evidence that links the priest to the unsolved murder. However, there does seem to be a significant number of allegations against Father Maskell, and the Archdiocese of Baltimore does have records of large sums of money paid to his accusers, and when the case gained interest again in the 1990's, he fled to Ireland. He stayed in Ireland until he died there in 2001.

I recommend this series for anyone who enjoyed Making a Murderer, or is a fan of true crime stories, or anyone who has an interest in the Catholic church: the iconography of it, as well as the scandals that have come to light in the past couple of decades.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Preach a little gospel, sell a couple bottles of doctor good

After neglecting the dollhouses for a couple of months, I started getting back to them. Last week I was at Salvation Army, cruising for treasures, and I picked up a piece from a Christmas village set. It's not the usual, New England-type village with ice skaters and snowmen, it's from one of those sets that's meant to look like Bethlehem. I'm assuming it's supposed to be a rug seller's stall at market:

I had no interest in collecting the rest of the set, but I thought it'd be perfect to turn into a fairy house or gypsy hang out. And then a couple days afterwards, I was at Savers and  I found some little porcelain dolls that are about 1:12 scale so I scooped them up, too.

I finagled a little mattress out of some foam and leftover materials, and sat the little doll down, and gave her a pet kitten. I added a gold glitter banner with some extra flowers, and some lace to the sides of her tent to make it  a little more feminine. After all, it's supposed to be a bohemian love nest, so it needs lots of plush bedding and overstuffed pillows. She also has a little bedside table with some wine on it; I wish I had my own life-size version of this!

It's still a work in progress (that's pretty much my motto in life) but sometimes it's fun to have such a small little world to breathe life into with lots of accessories, the perfect character, and of course my own imagination.

And the whole time I'm working on this fun little scene, I'm singing this song:

Not in my head, either.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Mothers and More 13 Reasons Why

This past weekend was Mother's Day, and it got me thinking about a lot of stuff.

First of all, I am very lucky. My husband made the day wonderful for me, and I got to spend time with him and our beautiful, happy, healthy son. I know that Mother's Day isn't as simple as breakfast in bed/flowers/handmade cards for everyone, though. Some people never knew their mother, some people have strained or estranged relationships, and some have been abused by mothers. And the day can also be hard for mothers, such as mothers who have outlived their children, or women who desperately wanted to be mothers but were never able to. Whoever you are, reader, I hope the day meant something to you.

I just finished Jodi Picoult's book Change of Heart. Ever since I first started reading her books, I have maintained that she is gifted at describing the mystery of motherhood. I don't know how she manages to capture the essence of the bond over and over again in ways that are so relatable, and with words that are sincere and not cliche.

"We pretend that we know our children, because it's easier than admitting the truth- from the minute that cord is cut, they are strangers. It's far easier to tell yourself your daughter is still a little girl than to see her in a bikini and realize she has the curves of a young woman; it's safer to say you are a good parent who has had all the right conversations about drugs and sex than to acknowledge there are a thousand things she would never tell you."

The plot of the book isn't important right now because I want to focus on that one paragraph, and how it relate to a very hot topic right now: Thirteen Reasons Why. The 2007 YA novel by Jay Asher was recently adapted into a Netflix series, and it has schools and parents in an uproar.

I have read numerous Facebooks posts and blogs and articles that decry this tv show because of the suicide storyline. Hannah Baker slits her wrists, and the scene is intended to be raw and disturbing. But before she did that, she recorded her experiences on audio cassette tapes, and bundled them all together in a box. Each side of a tape narrates an incident or relationship with a specific friend or schoolmate, and the people on the tapes are all given the opportunity to listen to them, and learn what role, deliberately or unwittingly they played in Hannah's high school career.

Critics of the show say that it's romanticizing suicide, and that Hannah blames others for her decision to end her life. I read the book, and watched the show, and that's not the way I see it at all. She's not blaming other people, she's just exposing the conflicts that teens face in the hidden worlds they navigate. I was a teen; there was a lot that I never told my parents. And now that I work around teens, and I watch how they interact with each other, I know they are not inviting adults into every aspect of their lives. Even the best kids, who are smart and nice and responsible and come from good families and get along well with their parents are not telling their parents everything. Sometimes they're embarrassed, sometimes they're ashamed, sometimes they just are starting to desire privacy, even about silly things like listening to music alone, and sometimes it's because they think they should be able to "handle it" (whatever it is) by themselves.

Whatever their reasons are, they are real, and they are often valid. All teens have secrets. Some teens also struggle with issues such as depression or PTSD or other circumstances which might make them vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. But I still fail to see how schools and parents banning the show, or the book is going to help. If a school library removes the book from the shelf,  it just means the teens are going to find it someplace else. And rather than have someone to talk to about it, like a parent or a guidance counselor or even a librarian, (if they choose to talk about it) they're going to end up going it alone.

It's easier for us to say that we should not allow teens to watch this show because it might give them ideas, rather than admit to ourselves that the ideas might already be there. We like to pretend that as adults we remember accurately what adolescence was like, when of course we don't. We also like to pretend that teens are overdramatic and lack a firm grasp on reality, believing everything they see on a TV or computer screen, when in fact adults are the ones creating the content they are watching, and marketing our products to them, flooding them with technology and tornadoes of mixed messages and misinformation.

It's easier to remove a book from a shelf, or post something on Facebook about why we shouldn't let kids watch the TV show rather than reflect on why the story is attracting so many teens in the first place.

If none of them watched the show, nobody would be worried.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Working Stiff

My latest non-fiction read: 

I've always enjoyed topics that most people find macabre or disturbing or just plain gross. 

*If you do not enjoy similar topics, you might not want to continue reading.*

I was talking with one of my friends recently, and we both shared how we came to accept death when we were children. It's inevitable, for every living thing, and maybe that's why it has interested me for so long. It's the great equalizer.

Judy Melinek thought she wanted to be a surgeon, but realized that a life of endless 36 hour shifts would eventually be the death of her, so she began investigating the deaths of others. She's not a death-obsessed ghoul; she simply determines a cause of death and assists the police in deciding the manner of death so that the family and loved ones can begin the healing process.

I was a long-time fan of the show Bones, which centers on a forensic anthropologist who solves crimes with the help of her FBI agent partner/love interest, and I think the process by which these doctors and scientists work in order to solve crimes is fascinating. Although Melinek is quick to point out how unrealistic those shows are, the processes and methods she uses in her work are equally intriguing.

I will admit that reading chapter after chapter about individual deaths and John/Jane Does got a little monotonous, but just as I felt my eyes starting to glaze over, I came to Chapter 10.

Chapter 10 was actually a little difficult for me to read because it recounts her experiences documenting and identifying (or, attempting to identify) people who were killed on 9/11. In our school, the students do projects every fall on 9/11, but these kids weren't even alive in 2001; to them it's just another piece of history. But for so many people, that day is still a blur of nightmarish images. I had never even been to New York City before, but I distinctly remember the eerie feeling I got as crowds of college students gathered around the small TV in the cafeteria. I was in a World History classes, taught by one of my favorite professors, when someone popped his head in and said we'd better turn on the television. So there in a lecture hall that seats 500 people, on the gigantic projector screen, we watched the Twin Towers fall and students' faces froze in horror as we realized what was happening a couple hours away downstate.

I knew then, and I know now, that the events that occurred that day were so large in scale that comprehending them would take years. I know that millions of people live in NYC. I heard the death tolls announced, along with the photos of the missing posters that plastered the city for months. I knew people at college that lived in the city, and I heard them speak about what they saw or heard. I guess I'd always imagined the victim's bodies being pulled from the rubble in tact; my imagination seems to want to award them some dignity since they were killed in such a merciless, inhumane way. But Melinek writes that very few bodies were brought for identification, speaking instead of the trucks that drove to the makeshift labs. She writes :"A tractor trailer can hold alot of body parts."

Melinek concludes her memoir by reaffirming her passion for her work, and when people ask her how she can do such a job, she replies "To confront death every day, to see it for yourself, you have to love the living."

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A History of Dollhouses

I received a pleasant surprise today at work. A colleague who knows about my dollhouse hobby gifted me a book she found at a library sale. 

A History of Dollhouses is from 1953, so the photos leave something to be desired, but it smells wonderful! I just love the smell of old books- that sweet, papery fragrance is one of the reasons I love being a librarian.

I love reading vintage books- it's usually because I enjoy the irony or the misinformation in them, which was once believed to be absolute. But this book hooked me on the first page by opening with a short anecdote about the rocking chair's origin. It was believed to be an American innovation, until a child's toy rocker was unearthed in London, amid other items, and people, who had been buried during the plague. Victims of the disease, and their possessions, were buried as soon as possible in order to try and control the spread of the plague.

The author writes that although the plague's victims were decomposed to the point of being barely noticeable, that the items buried with them are often in good shape. The child's rocking chair even had its original seat cushion in tact!

And so, while most people would dismiss a dollhouse as a child's play thing, and some might deign to view them pieces of art, they are historical artifacts. They present a better view of how children and play throughout the centuries, and along with women and racial minorities, children are often deleted from historical accounts. Dollhouses can also reflect domestic history, especially since many dollhouses were actually intended as a pursuit for women, not necessarily children. 

So now within a very short amount of time we have: dollhouses, history, vintage books (complete with vanilla-esque aroma!), forensic anthropology, and a discussion of the history's disenfranchised. 

This is right up my alley!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Secrets Revealed

What is one thing you've never shared with the creative community?

I firmly believe in the idea that one can sell her soul. Not with the Devil, and sometimes it's not even with actual money, but the idea of trading a piece of your most sacred inner self for something else: money, fame, popularity, job promotion, whatever, is something that really disturbs me.

Can you share a secret?

Keeping secrets is better.

Do you enjoy working more intuitively or carefully thinking through your process?

Intuitively. Sometimes I think about if there's a way I'd like the finished product to look, and I use that as a guide, but it often ends up changing anyways.

Do you think creative types are moodier than those less artistic inclinations?

Possibly. People are who drawn to creative endeavors such as music, or writing or art tend to have very complex worlds within us, and sometimes we get lost in them. While our words/actions might make sense to us in those times,  it can make us look very moody to people on the outside and we probably don't even realize it.

Have you ever lost a friendship over art?

I don't think so.

 What is one current trend you wish would go away?

This is very selfish, but I wish the big DIY/thrift store flipping stuff would wane. I've always been into that stuff; even as a kid I would walk to nearby garage sales to see what I could find. Now that it's trendy, the prices in thrift stores have gone up quite a bit, and I feel like my ideas aren't original anymore.

What expresses the innermost you? 

The way my house is decorated. There are antiques mixed with furniture that I've re-done- lots of colors, and vintage items. I don't think it matters if my pillowcases don't match each other, or if I have a plastic pink flamingo in my yard or a dollhouse in progress on my dining room table- I just like to surround myself with things that make me happy.

Do you create art to work through inner issues, or is studio time more of a distraction to keep you from facing your problems?

Distraction. It's not to avoid facing problems, but it's better to keep my mind busy on art than to let it wallow on other things, some of which are beyond my control and cannot be changed.

Is creativity built in, learned, or both?

I have met some people who are artistically inclined, just as other people are athletically inclined. I have also met some people who claim to not have a creative bone in their bodies, and I always wonder if it's true, or if they've never really tried to be creative. If being creative means good at the arts, then maybe some of it is built in. But if being creative is looked at in a broader sense, like a willingness to try new things or unique problem-solving solutions, then some of it can be learned.

How has the Internet changed your artistic practice?

I LOVE Pinterest! It allows me to see others' ideas, and then create my own versions of them or build on them to my own preference. I also love all the dollhouse/miniature making tutorials that people put on YouTube.

What is your biggest fear?

Selling my soul. I doubt I'd ever become a commercial success, so it probably wouldn't be for money and fame. But the pressure to fit in and be like other people can wear on me, and sometimes I wonder if I made my house look 'normal', with Pottery Barn decorations and matching furniture, and stopped pursuing hobbies like building dollhouses and took up something like running 5K's, if I'd feel more accepted; if I did, what would it cost me?

Have you ever received artwork from others and reworked it as your own?

Not really. Sometimes I buy used canvases at thrift stores and then I gesso over them to create a blank canvas, or I make a collage on the canvas that covers the original art, but that's because I want to save money and re-use items rather than always buying brand new. I do get alot of inspiration from Pinterest, and use it for ideas, but it's never for profit, and I never claim it as as an original idea.

What do you think your preferred art medium says about your personality?

I think my art journals, collages and dollhouses say that I love to create my own worlds. They are an escape from the real world, in which I have very little control, and allow me to work within a world which I can design myself, and does not contain any ugly realities. I think the furniture I re-do and the wind-chimes I make say that I'm eclectic and I believe everything has its own beauty.

What is your secret dream as an artist?

That one day when I am long gone, the people who knew me (like my son) will share stories about all the weird creations I made over the years, and all the adventures I had collecting junk from the side of the road.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Passion in Action

This is the second set of questions that artists answered in the book The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed by Seth Apter:

Who has had the most impact on your creative life?

My husband. He always encourages me, and even though I don't really consider myself an artists, he is always telling others about what I do, and complimenting all the various collages, windchimes and furniture that populate our home.

How do you express your passion in your artwork?

Details. The more details I include in something (collage, dollhouse, whatever) the more energy I've invested in it because I feel strongly about getting it "just right."

If you had your choice o fame versus income as an artist, which would you choose?

Income would be nice. Not so much that my art became real work with little enjoyment left, and I felt pressured to constantly produce more, but just a little supplemental income.

What is your most quirky habit?

I constantly pick things up and save them. I tear ads out of magazines, pick up shells on the beach or stones and branches in my yard, or whole pieces of furniture off the side of the road, with the intention of using them for art.

What is one choice as an artist that you regret having made or not made?

I wish I had taken an art class when I was in college. I was so focused on choosing a major, and getting my General Education credits out of the way that I missed out on a lot of opportunities to try new things.

Is there an emotion that shows up more frequently than others in your artwork?

Nostalgia. I love to use images and found objects that represent the past. I have an entire altered book that just includes antique and vintage photos; I don't know any of the people in the photos, I just found them at flea markets.

What obstacle has stopped you from achieving an art-related goal?

Insecurity. Since I never really thought of myself as an artist, I rarely look for opportunities to exhibit or sell my creations. I'd love to have a place show an exhibit of my work someday, but I don't think I'd ever make the first move.

How do you express anger in your artwork?

I don't tend to use a lot of black, but there are a couple of pages in my art journal that have very thick, black lines (made with an oil pastel crayon), and those drawings reflect some anger.

If you could sell one piece of artwork to anyone, who would you want to buy it?

I guess I'd want someone I know to buy something not knowing who created it, and then when they found out it was me, be like "Oh my gosh- this is amazing. I never knew _________ about you before!"

How do you express vulnerability in your artwork?

By letting others view it, either in my home, or by posting pictures of it online. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Pulse

I recently got the book The Pulse of Mixed Media: Secrets and Passions of 100 Artists Revealed by Seth Apter from inter-library loan. I’ve been reading a lot about mixed media and assemblage art because I want to get inspired and learn some new techniques to try out in my collages and art journals.

The photos of work in this book are good, but I think I enjoy reading the artists’ responses to the questions even more, and every time I would find myself answering the questions (silently, in my head). I figured I might as well write out some of the questions here and answer them honestly.

The first set of questions is from the first chapter, titled “The Artistic Ingredient”:

If your artwork could talk, what would it say?

I was created with love.

What three words do not describe your artistic style?

Meticulous, planned, pretentious

What shows up from time to time in your art that surprises you?

[I really struggled with this question. I read it, skipped it, answered everything else, and then went back to it again, and I still didn’t know how to answer.] Laziness. I don’t create art to make a living, I do it for pure enjoyment, so I’ve never felt pressure to make something perfect. Whether it’s a piece of furniture, or a collage, or a dollhouse or whatever, I’m pretty okay with little imperfections because I want to have fun and not lose sleep over it. But occasionally I see something that just doesn’t look right to me, or a mistake that would have been an easy fix, and I never bothered to correct it. I don’t usually consider myself a lazy person, so that surprises me.

What art material or genre have you been hesitant about but always wanted to try?

Pottery. I’d really love to learn how to use a pottery wheel to make pieces. If I found an opportunity to try it, like a class, that wasn’t too expensive or time-consuming, I think I’d go for it.

What is the one secret ingredient that makes your artwork uniquely yours?

Most of my supplies and materials come from thrift stores, or the side of the road.

Do you deliberately hide messages in your artwork?

I don’t think so. If I’m trying to get a message across, it’s pretty apparent. Otherwise, I’m probably just experimenting, and seeing what comes of it.,

What is your current art obsession?

Mixed media. Art journals, collages, assemblage sculptures.  .  .anything that involves mixing different materials and colors and textures. I like to experiment with them and see how they can all work together in a piece.

What is your biggest pet peeve in terms of art?

Snobbiness. Art and creativity are so subjective that judging someone else’s work is like judging their soul. It’s not anyone’s place to say that what comes from someone’s complex inner world isn’t “good enough” or that it’s not “real art.”

Is there one art material you couldn’t live without?

Acrylic paint. It’s not expensive so I can splurge on lots of colors at once.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Geek Pride Day

With Star Wars Day tomorrow May the 4th (he he he) and Free Comic Book day on May 6th, and Geek Pride Day later this month (the 25th), the library's display this month is about embracing our inner geek.

I love that Geek Pride is a thing now, although to be honest, my geekiness for certain topics/activities was never really hidden away to begin with.

We have a large piece of poster paper on the wall outside the library, and markers so that anyone passing by can jot down what they "geek out" about. I wrote a couple of things down, but I couldn't help but wonder what my list would look like if I wrote them all down.

-dollhouses and miniatures

-antique vintage dolls and toys

-classic film (specifically, pre-code era and Golden Age of Hollywood)

-thrift stores/finding stuff on the side of the road

-New Kids on the Block


-books and tv/film adaptations of them

-children's literature (books obviously, but also the study of it and literary theories)

-author appearances/book signings

-ghosts/ghost stories/haunted places

-my blog

That's all I can think of for now.

Anyways, I love this Geek Pride trend because being a geek about something just means that we're passionate about something. What's the point of living without passion? I have a pretty diverse group of friends and they are all geeks about something: hiking, death metal, hockey, baseball, punk music, history, psychology, politics  .  .the list goes on and on. If someone is not a geek about anything at all, then I probably don't have a whole lot to talk to them about.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Mixed Media Dollhouses

I was looking for some instructional/inspirational art books a couple of weeks ago, and I came across one titled Mixed Media Dollhouses by Tally Oliveau. Since I've been creating dollhouses for many years, and I've been dabbling in mixed media/assemblage art for the past couple of years, I thought it would be interesting to combine these two passions and see where it led.

I decided to try it on on a very small scale first, to see if I liked it. I had this tiny box with no lid and I also had some random 1/144th scale doll furniture that I didn't have a use for (I work in 1/12 scale usually). I decided to use these little structures to try out some new ideas and looks. I really wanted to move out of my comfort zone.

This is the first one I created. Not only is it in a different scale than my usual dollhouse creations, but it's very modern looking. My dollhouses are always in a historical time period, or set in an imaginary place. I've never done a modern dollhouse because I live in the modern world, and I use my little worlds to escape the modern world. But I like the look of the exposed brick inside it (a magazine ad); it looks like an apartment in an old mill building in a trendy urban neighborhood. This is also a very minimalist piece, which is also kind of a struggle for me. I love to fill my little houses up, and it was hard to leave these tiny pieces of furniture as they are, and not put food on the table or find some little figures to sit in the chairs. It's pretty much the opposite of my style, but I'm okay with it because I was able to try something new, and it doesn't take up any space, and it didn't cost any money.

I am in the habit of saving magazine pages that have interesting colors/designs/photos. The page that is the back wall of this next piece was in my collection for years and years. I love the gingham, the gerbera daisies, and the vintage camera, but I couldn't find a good use for the page. I decided to let it inspire a new mixed media dollhouse; a modest mid-century dwelling for a young woman. Maybe it's a dorm room, or a studio apartment. It doesn't matter if it's tiny and cramped because it's her own. Maybe she's a grad student, or an editorial assistant at a publishing agency. 

I wasn't originally going to have an occupant for this house, but then I saw this vintage paper doll, and she looked perfectly at home in there. This one was closer to my usual style. It could actually be 'played' with, and it's about 1/12 scale, but like I wrote before- modern really isn't my thing.

The last one I have (for now) was inspired by a new TV show I'm watching: Harlots. I like the characters and the storyline, but I love the sets and the costumes. The colors and stylistics remind me a lot of the 2006 Sofia Coppola film Marie Antoinette, so I infused those cotton candy colors and delicate details into this assemblage.

Obviously this one is really more an assemblage, kind of like a shadow box, rather than an actual dollhouse. I had to keep reminding myself that it's OK if the pieces are glued down, or if pieces are different sizes/scales because the point is to communicate a theme, not for everything to have a function.

It's about excess, and indulgence.

This is my favorite part of the movie:

Now I need to go eat a million desserts.