Saturday, May 31, 2014

Nuts to You

Little acorns. Maybe not so little, about hand-palm size. The bisque-fired clay (Longhorn White) unglazed is the white of the caps, the black is black iron oxide rubbed into the markings. I never bothered to glaze them so Susan took over and did some magic with alcohol ink on the bottoms and a little gold paint on the top.

School is out for a while so I'm trying my best to drive her nuts.

I'm listening to The Goldfinch from, pretty darn good. Last night we watched Elysium from Netflix (we love to get red envelopes). Nope, just barely 3 stars - overdone acting by the villain and (per Susan) stereotyped characterization of the females. Matt Damon was OK but Jodie Foster ... she could out-do Bette Davis and Joan Crawford on the evil stuff.

I've been asked my opinion about the VA hospital horrors. Yes, I was in the military but qualifying for VA care is on a tiered system and the top of the tier is veterans who have a disability due to actual combat injuries. The tiers go down, at the bottom is the group of veterans who just need to see a doctor and had a very minimum time in the service and who were discharged when they were healthy. That group is pretty large because (obviously) everyone would like free medical care and after all, that was what they were promised.  So I'm eligible for that tier but no thank you, I'll go to a regular doctor and deal with my co-pay.

Do I believe the horrors of the wait time? Absolutely. But everyone is ignoring "the elephant in the room." There wouldn't be long wait times if they had more doctors. But they don't have enough doctors because nobody wants to work for the VA because they can make more money elsewhere and not have to put up with petty turf battles and entitled staff/clerks who will get their salary regardless of how they deal with the veterans.

Footnote to the whole mess: I have a friend who uses VA exclusively. He needed to see a podiatrist so in early May they gave him an appointment in mid-August.  No surprise there, he expected that time delay. But.... last week, Surprise! Surprise! they called him  ... Surprise! Surprise!... and offered him an appointment in mid-June instead.  Somebody is running scared.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Armed and Ready

I got in big trouble over these little arms, about 2" long. Susan painted them for me with Golden's gold and stainless steel paint. And then I went and sold them at our student art sale. Oops! She liked them and wanted me to keep them. I told her I'd make some more and got her typical response: "Oh, sure, I've heard that promise before." In my defense.... well, I have no defense.

She also painted this little squash for me - alcohol inks on the bottom and acrylic on the top with gold dots. It sold late in the day at the sale, which surprised me because I thought it was a pretty good piece.  I used to be hesitant to paint clay pieces (already bisque fired) because I thought everything had to be glazed or it wasn't "real". She's found numerous examples in books and in museums that list "paint" as one of the materials on a contemporary ceramic piece so I've finally gotten over that hangup. It seems that the Old Rules are fading away in favor of just making a piece look the way you want, regardless of the materials or style.

I did set this piece aside for Susan, as I thought it was the best of the three "fantasy" birds I made. The other two I sold at the sale. They are all about 3-4" high.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Remembering, Memorial Day, May 2014

I'm going home
Without the sorrow
Going home
Sometime tomorrow
Going home
To where it’s better
Than before

Going home
Without my burden
Going home
Behind the curtain
Going home
Without this costume
That I wore
Leonard Cohen, from Going Home
Remember Barry Lynn Brown ....

Killed in Action, Vietnam, 1968
Remember James Clifford McKittrick....

Missing in Action, Vietnam, June 1967

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Washington DC, Part 3

Image above by Wolf Kahn at an exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. We were really surprised at the quality of the collection shown - another one of those times when we didn't plan to see the exhibit (it was across the building from a Monuments Men exhibit) but thought we'd just rush through but wound up looking for over an hour.

How can you not want to have art like this in your home? These two in the National Gallery of Art were Susan's favorites this time, Degas' Before the Ballet above and Rousseau's Boy on the Rocks below.  She winds up with different favorites every visit.

Here's one of my favorites:

And here's something at our Metro station that had me Fully Flummoxed:

What the ....? An angel with black wings? Huh? Contrary to New York City where we talk to everyone, Washington DC is very uptight and unfriendly so we just behave ourselves.

Well, not exactly everyone. We happened to be there when the Cherry Blossom Festival was going on so we stopped to watch their parade and wound up talking to these people. You might not recognize him but I've now put his books on my Amazon wishlist -- Andy Straka.  An interesting thing about him, aside from the fact that he is famous and that we had fun talking to him and his charming young accomplice, is that he is a licensed falconer. 

The parade was kind of a bust, slow moving because it kept stopping so people in the parade could sing or perform for the fat cats who had paid to have grandstand seats. The ordinary people like us just waited and waited on the sidewalk for the parade to move on. Definitely not like the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. Not to mention the fact that we had no idea what this float was supposed to be.

The weather was great, the art was great, but it was a very long day and I got really tired and it's really easy to fall asleep on the Metro... or in the station.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Jamie Fine and Lori Katz (DC, Part 2)

Both Jamie Fine and Lori Katz are ceramic artists who are so willing to share information about how they work that it is almost frightening. They are one of the reasons we always go back to the Torpedo Factory.  I didn't know which one to feature as the lead-in picture on this blog so my Blog Wrangler settled my dilemma by choosing a Selfie she made in the bathroom on our trip. She told me if I stared at it long enough the mirror fog would evaporate and she would be revealed in all her splendor, glory and hotel towel.

Above is a wall installation of Lori's tiles, set up at the Torpedo Factory where she has a space. Her website is here.
Below is Jamie Fine giving me an up-close-and-personal lesson in texture tool making. 
Not until I got home and checked her info on the internet did I find out she had studied with Ruth Duckworth, who is one of my favorite artists. We saw a show of her work in Chicago years ago and the book of her work from that show survived our downsizing and has a prominent place in my collection of artists' books.
I've watched Jamie's video several times now.
Usually we see Susan Finsen at the Torpedo Factory but this year we missed her. You'll have to settle for a shot taken through the window of her studio. I really like her idea of "pocket" paintings..
A fine finish to our day? Could you ask more than to have your name on a porta-potty?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Washington DC, Part 1

We go from New York City to Washington DC every spring to see the Smithsonian Craft Show, an absolute 5-star show. Loads of great images of artwork on the website. 
Here I'm showing you just a few of the 90+ artists who are juried in to exhibit there.  The piece above is a purse made of polymer clay by Kathleen Dustin, below is a sculptural piece. No, I didn't realize polymer clay could look that good. There is an interesting video of her working here.

I don't know anything about weaving but the designs in the tapestries by Wence and Sandra Martinez were really eye-catching. 
Jackie Abrams wove baskets using scraps of fabric. We talked about how she would take clothing that people gave her, old childrens' dresses, wedding clothes, their favorite shirts, and use that to make the basket. I told her I thought a lot of military veterans (including me) kept the last uniform they wore so that might be another source of fabric for her. The piece below didn't have old clothes in it but instead had stones woven into it.
Gerard Justin Ferrari made some really cool ceramic pieces and was a fascinating person to talk to, very thoughtful about what he made and why he did the series he did.
Every time we ride Amtrak from New York City to Washington DC we are stunned at the devastation and ruins we see from the train as we go through Baltimore and Philadelphia. If you ever want to know what our country will look like once the Apocalypse comes, just take that train ride and look out the windows to the west. Thoroughly depressing. To top it off, we get off the train and ride the Metro to our very nice hotel, where we are completely isolated from any hint of deprivation. I'd like to claim cognitive dissonance but I really don't have that excuse, I just try to pay my taxes and not wonder why our government can't get anything done but yell at each other.  OK, off the soapbox.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

New York City, Part 6

Let's wrap this up because 6 days days was too long for us in a big noisy city. And expensive! We finished with the American Museum of Natural History because I'm really interested in space (love watching Cosmos with Neil deGrasse Tyson on Sunday nights) and they have the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater there. We saw the Dark Universe show(YouTube link here)  in the Space Theater and then looked at a lot of dead stuffed birds. That was supposed to help me with the shapes in my birds. Maybe.

We wandered through the Poison exhibit. The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland was all about poison - hatters went mad because they were exposed to chemical poisons when making hats. Susan really liked the exhibit (which made me a little nervous) but the best part about it was that we were practically the only ones in there and it was quiet. You had to pay extra to see it so I guess most people didn't bother. Or maybe it's because most people in that museum were children yelling and screaming. Why is it that kids have to scream when they see dinosaur bones? Or any kind of bones?

We finished with Mysteries of the Unseen World movie - there is an excellent trailer for it on YouTube (here). This is what the flea on your cat looks like, not that you really wanted to know:

The museum is interesting but creepy-antiquated and very, very user-unfriendly.

Friends we made on this day? On the C Line subway to the museum we talked to the teacher with 28 first-graders, all excited about going to the museum.  They were from a charter school and were incredibly well-behaved (but probably screamed when they saw the dinosaur). In the line for the Dark Universe movie, Susan and the guy behind her discussed how you said the title "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" in Hebrew and how mice behaved.

Real friends we saw here in New York City know who they are and we love that they can take time to be with us and we love the wide-ranging conversations we get into and we love that they can come to museums with us and not hover and we love knowing people who live in this city because they see their city in a different light than we do and we love that.

Leaving New York City and remembering the world's worst comb-over:

and a creative museum visitor:

Just so you don't think New York City has everything, here's Austin own Nekkid Guy. He rides his bike everywhere and he definitely personifies TMI.

FYI - ArtExpo will be April 16-19 in 2015. Look for Seth Apter there. Mark your calendar.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

New York City, Part 5

We were at the MOMA for a day. The whole day? Just about. But with us "whole day" means starting at 10 a.m. and ending about 4 p.m. with at least two coffee breaks and lunch. After that, our feet and our eyeballs and our brain are fried.  Above is a piece by Mark Tobey that Susan has seen twice now (previously in November) and is totally enchanted by. Maybe it's the title: The Void Devouring the Gadget Era. It was done in 1942 but is probably more appropriate today.

Dave Walker cartoon

She also likes John Cage's Fontana Mix (?) but whatever...

We saw a cool Jasper Johns exhibit where I learned that he used Kurotani Kozo paper so I'm sure that if I used that kind of paper I would be asked to exhibit at the MOMA. We never know what to expect from the "smaller" exhibits but are always pleasantly surprised. Robert Heinecken had some Polaroid prints that he included with some "He said/She said" disjointed fictional dialogue, designed for Mature audiences only, but very creative.

The links above may disappear after the exhibit goes down but you can still do a search on the MOMA website. Unfortunately, sometimes their website is big on descriptions and sparse on works, even those in their own collection.

And of course, a Gauguin exhibit. Sometimes the big name exhibits are just too much to take in at once, sort of like eating too much dessert, but you have to do it because .... it's there! For you! And better than in every art book you've ever seen, but sometimes almost surreal compared to your memory of those art book images.

Making friends again, with Natasha at lunch (she's studying to be a massage therapist) and Allie in the bookstore (she's originally from California). We had also made friends with a Chinese woman with two children, waiting at the bus stop with us. She and Susan had a discussion about the best app to use to see when the next bus is coming, which was not going to be any time soon.

We've been asked why, if we consider ourselves Introverts, do we talk to strangers? Actually, we are Pseudo-Extroverts -- people who pretend to be Extroverts to prevent being labeled as an Introvert, with all the accompanying tsk-tsking that seems to evoke. Talking to strangers is much easier than talking to people who know you because you can literally walk away from the conversation (and friendship) within minutes. It does take practice. When we first started talking to strangers it was a horrific terrible pain to do but then it became a easier challenge and now it's almost like a joke - "Who will we meet today?"

Just to be sure you know it's always about Me, here's Vanton and another birdie.

Sometimes I help with the kiln loading and unloading. You can see some of my birds in with everyone else's works.