Sunday, February 28, 2010

naptime collages

when i lived in boston i used to raid all the great used book stores in davis square. i love books, but in this case i looked for books with old etchings or pen and ink illustrations or typeset to use in collages. oops...sorry to those of you who revere old books and may consider my "defacing" a kind of sacrilege! i just create my own little alters with them....a different kind of worship. anyhow, among the books i found is one called the heritage of cotton. it looks at the history of the cotton industry from the "primitive world" all the way to the southern states' creation of plantations. i never thought to read the book, but as i was cutting it up one day - happening to be in the south section - i skimmed it, and nowhere did it mention the social controversy of cotton plantations. in other words the advent of cotton plantations brought on the abysmal trade and trafficking of human beings as workers in them. i thought about the heritage of cotton in my own homeland and felt inspired to make a collage.

i think it seems kind of peppy on the surface - nice colors, no depiction of struggle - but then it has a kind of sinister undertone that sneaks up on you. well, i guess i am the artist, so that's what i see...i love that so often the meaning or story behind a piece becomes apparent after its completion. the process seems driven by its own accord. but i am wondering, what do you see? is there a story there? does it make you want to look again?
i am not usually political in my artwork as i enjoy creating personal little narratives, but this one tries to skip between the two. the man smoking a cigarette, by the way, lived in my heights bungalow in 1927 when it was first built. i found a scattering of pictures, check ledgers, and notes in the attic once while changing a lightbulb. for the sake of protecting his ghost, and therefore myself form any hauntings, i am not under the impression he was in the business of cotton, but rather a small food store of sorts. but he seemed the right actor for this part.
i'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, February 22, 2010


not too long ago, my husband and i were walking our mutts through our very regular (albeit wonderfully funky!) residential neighborhood. we don't live in the burbs, nor do we live among barns and woods. most nights we're lucky to see A star twinkling. that's houston for you. we are lucky enough to battle LA and mexico city for the most polluted cities in north america. three cheers for us. BUT on this seemingly regular night on our normal walking route, we looked left to see a small barn owl staring unblinkingly at us through the slash of light made by a street lamp. i thought for a moment it was one of those resin owls designed to keep pestering pigeons away, but it's head followed us...probably keeping a watchful eye on our frisky dogs. even though owls are pretty regular birds, it was one of those gifts from the universe to see one in our part of the world. kind of like i mentioned before, a little present that felt like it was especially for me.
i love owls. i love their silence and the whispering flutter their wings make when they spot food. i love the fact that their heads swivel 270 degrees, but not in a freaky exorcist kind of way. instead in a way that makes you feel like a weirdo for NOT being able to swivel your head! completely elegant, in fact, when owls do it. as of late i have been drawing a lot of owls and they have even worked their beautiful way into my wardrobe.

it started with a skirt. it came from anthropologie over a year ago. i love to wear it with my cowgirl boots!

then a batch of onesies i made to sell at my sister's open house featuring her beautiful stationery and my mom's fun necklaces.

then a little guy i made from felt (and on the back some beautiful african cloth with XOX stiched in).

just the other day i purchased this silkscreened t from the lovely and generously wise theresa o'connor at hello lucky!

and finally, i experimented with wool roving to make this handheld little guy for my 9 year old niece. he's my favorite! don't be fooled by his cute exterior...wool roving is done by incessantly jabbing very sharp, long needles into a bundle of fiber until you have the right shape. then you continue to jab details like the heart, eyes, and beak until the top fibers blend in with the body fibers. poor guy. i htink he understands a thing or two about beauty having a price!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

things to come

my dear friend turned me on to the strawberry swing video by coldplay. as a kid who did not grow up with cable, thus, sadly no addiction to MTV, music videos are still not part of my daily consciousness. yes i was a child of the 80's. yes i had short-lived experiments with blue eyeshadow and hairspray. but we missed thriller's debut, aha's take on me, madonna's material girl. my sister and i shared the one pair of parachute pants my mom agreed to buy, and we lip synced to madonna, michael jackson, and bruce springsteen. how we did all of these things without MTV but for the stolen glances at a neighbor's house, i do not know. the pop culture of the day managed to eek in through windowsills and into our realities even in our deprived state. thank god for you tube as we are currently playing catch up to all the videos we missed the first time around.
strawberry swing is one i am glad to have caught before i have to catch up on this decade's videos. it is both fanciful and sweet, smart and creative. it invokes the popularity of comic books and the recent trend of making movies from graphic novels. more than anything, however, it makes me think of my husband's story of his desire to be a much so that his 7 year old boy self wore superman underoos beneath his clothing...just in case. it makes me smile to think of him as the superhero in striped socks and me as the princess trapped in the teacup. i'd like to think he would battle evil flying squirrels, hat wearing land fish, and toothy sea monsters to rescue me from a castle in the clouds. take a minute to let the video entrance you...

once i saw that video, i felt inspired to draw, which turned into a painting i did entitled things to come with lots of little boy toys and playful objects drawn into the background...thinking my own little guy may someday want to be the superhero his dad fancied himself. (don't tell him, but my husband really is a superhero of sorts to me!) my aunt actually owns this painting, and while i did not do it this week, i am still working on a series of similar but smaller pieces. this painting afforded me a little sigh of relief that i can still paint realistic objects when i want to!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

what can i say?

okay, this feels so completely out of character. i don't facebook (my friends update my "status" and add pictures more than i do); i don't twitter (or as my dad says, i have never twatted); i am not prompt with emails (unless i happen to be sitting at my computer at the very moment i receive your email); BUT (it was coming, right?) i journal. i suppose journals are and should be far more personal than blogs, however the similarities are they both seem to attract thoughts worth preserving. thoughts too big or wonderful or sad to keep to yourself.
let me rewind a little....the part of me who is - and quite likes - being counter culture has been known to say, "i will never kiss a boy" (i did); "i will never have sex" (i have a baby now); "i will NOT get a cell phone" (i have an iPhone - albeit a hand me down); "blog?!?! are you crazy?" (and look at me now). i just never thought i had anything worth saying among all the other soundbytes out there. it's all been said, right?
but this morning i woke up, sticky eyed and sleepy, with words i read last night still playing themselves forward and back through my head. and i wanted to share them. i don't, by the way, recommend staying up til 2 am when you have an infant who wakes up before dawn....but i did. i stayed up finishing belong to me by marisa de los santos. i had one of those experiences that is so hugely universal but feels, at that moment, made uniquely for you...or me in this case. i wanted other people to know, "look! this is how it feels! how i feel!" and it felt too big and important to keep to myself (and my very sleepy husband who grunted and fell back asleep when i read it to him). of course i am not the only mom in the world who has been touched by the miracle and wonder of her most perfect baby, but marisa de los santos seemed to be writing for me. when i read what i will share in a bit i wanted to shout, "yes! YES!! that's IT!!" from the proverbial rooftops and add a little jig of my own.

i picked up belong to me a few weeks ago not remembering i had read love walked in a year or so ago. as soon as i started, though, i remembered how much i truly loved love walked in and that i had in fact read it. you know how they (the ubiquitous they) say, "a picture's worth a thousand words?" well sometimes i think words create a thousand pictures. marisa de los santos writes in a way that creates vivid touchable REAL pictures for me. i am an artist, so it's not a stretch for me to think visually as i am armed with pictures long before the words come, so reading a book that is so satisfactorily visual and palpable is near holy to me. so much so that i take a day or two to mourn when the book is over. so since i am in mourning and not quite ready to let this book go, here are the words that prompted me to start a blog today, on a very regular saturday...
That evening, when we got back to the hospital, Teo ran into a radiologist he knew from New York, and I made my way to Miranda and Toby's room alone. As I walked in, I heard a shower running and saw Toby sitting on Miranda's otherwise empty bed, his back to me...."Toby! What is it? Something's happened to Jasper?"
But Jasper was there, in Toby's arms, hatless and perplexed and adorable, and Toby was wiping his own wet face with the corner of his blanket.
"Jasper's great," said Toby. "I just..." He broke off.
"Tobe?" I sat down next to him on the bed. "Honey? Is it Miranda?"
He shook his head. Without taking his eyes off his baby, he said in a hoarse voice, "It's just that this, right here: this room, this day, Jasper. This is my life."
"Oh, Toby. It's a lot to take in. It makes sense that you're feeling overwhelmed."
He smiled at me. "But that's the thing. I'm not"
"You're not?"
"I mean, yeah, it's big. It's colossal. But I get it. I belong right where I am. That's an amazing feeling....I'm Jasper's dad, and it's like that's who I was all this time, but I didn't know it because he wasn't born yet."
"And now he's here," I said, softly....
"And now you're here," said Toby. He was talking to his son.
perfect words. i am toby in this picture. if you ever stumble across this blog, marisa de los santos, thank you.