Saturday, December 13, 2008

ANNOUNCEMENTS! Buy from me and look at my pretty things

Sorry for the super-long blog hiatus!  Things have been CRAZY in Nora-land.  The upcoming Christmas deadline is giving me finals flashbacks; I was up until 4:15 this morning working on presents!  I feel like I have been making things constantly for the last few weeks!  If I'm not physically knitting, sewing, or making shrinky-dinks I feel like I'm wasting time and the world might end at any second.  AND!  The internet seems to be boycotting me.  Our home internet suddenly decided not to function a week-and-a-half ago and the connection at work is SOOO SLOW it feels like dial up (and then I feel like throttling the computer).  We should be connected at home again on Tuesday and I will be throwing an all-night internet party with myself and my frantic knitting.  I'm thinking a Daily Show/Colbert Report/Rachel Maddow marathon with a little AfterEllen lesbian blog reading in there to break up the hilarity.

But more importantly, I have ANNOUNCEMENTS!!  Christmas and Me- related Shopping! and Awesome! announcements!!

1.  My artist website is up and running!  The super-super talented Melissa McFeeters, a local Philly designer, has been working diligently over the last 8 months and, drumroll please, DONE!!  (Except for the bio, which is definitely MY fault...  I seem to be unable to make my life both concise and interesting.  Anyone want to write it for me?)  GO NOW!  AND LOOK AT IT!

2.  My Etsy Shop is also up and running!!  I finally got off my ass and put a some hand-made goodies on Etsy and although they're getting a lot of looks, nothing has sold yet.  So go buy stuff!  If you buy things before NEXT SATURDAY, I will try my darndest to get them to you by Christmas!  There isn't much up there yet (mostly because I'm hoarding what I'm making to sell at the Punk Rock Flea Market, see below.)  But whatever doesn't sell there will get posted online!)  I will be selling:  recycled canvas tote-bags and wallets, cotton print wallets, small/flat 2 pocket belt bags, larger belt bags, and anything else I whip up during all that free time I have.  Check it out!!

3.  PUNK ROCK FLEA MARKET- NEXT WEEKEND!!  Amazing artist and friend Ketch Wehr and I are sharing a table at the Annual Punk Rock Flea Market:  

R5 Productions Presents:  The Punk Rock Flea Market, Holiday Edition!
Saturday December 20th 10:00am to 5pm
At the Starlight Ballroom / Club Polaris (460 N. 9th Street - Just Below 9th and Spring Garden)
All Ages To Enter / 21+ To Drink / Food & Drink Served All Day
$3 Admission Donation

Ketch will be selling one-0f-a-kind and pre-framed artworks, and I will be selling hand-made wallets and bags!

(You know you want one.  And another one for your friend.)

We'll also be selling hand-drawn plastic shrinky-dink charms!  50cents a pop!  Flora, fauna, vegetables, lightning bolts, Sandman, Batman, Calvin and Hobbes, the Little Prince and many more images!  You can make buttons, jewelry... they're great little objects.  AND!  Melanie and Sarah will be selling used house-hold items and vintage clothing at a nearby table, so, clearly, you have no excuse for not being there.

So come on out and see us!  And give us some of your money!

Yay for getting things done before the end of the year!  I'm very excited to have all these things finally accomplished.  But now... It's been almost an hour since I knit something and the world is feeling a little apocalyptic so I better get home and get back to work.  See you on the internet!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Teach Me to be an Activist:" What YOU can do about Marriage Equality

I received an email today from a good friend who was grieving over the passage of proposition 8, the amendment to the California constitution that stripped gay couples of their right to marry.  The amendment reads: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California"- and it completely overrides the recent CA Supreme Court decision that marriage rights between same-sex couples were a "human right."  In her email, my friend said that, upon hearing the decision she cried and called out to friends and family:  "teach me to be an activist.  What can I do to make that small difference?"

As I crafted my response, I realized that I wasn't only writing to her; I was doing the research for myself and for all of my friends who had been expressing the same reaction over the past few days.  (Tears, then anger... we're working through the stages of grief...)  So, with the thought of many of my closest friends in mind, here are a number of ways to be an activist about this.

(*A note of warning:  sorry for all the links!  But they're to some integral stuff, I promise!  Also, my copy and paste function doesn't work in this browser for some reason, but the link tool does.  Go figure.*)

1.  Go to one of the many many protests being organized all over the country!  Tell your friends!  Print posters and hang them EVERYWHERE!  Post blogs!  Send text messages!  Get out the... uhm.. anger?  (Providence, Chicago, Boston, Prescott AZ, Baltimore, Manchester NH, DC, Ithaca NY )  I cannot believe the number of protests that are scheduled for Saturday!  At least one in EVERY STATE!  I don't think I've ever seen a better organized protest campaign.  Anyway, for links to more cities, posters, video advertisements and anything else about the protests check out the Join the Impact website!  (Also- anyone know how to ensure that your local protest gets news coverage?  Is it possible to just email your local paper or news station with a heads up?  I don't know, but I'm it would be great for the ultimate size of this event to be properly publicized for once.)

(get your poster-paints and big-gay-flags outta the closet- we're goin' protesting!)

2.  Never stop being angry at the Mormons.  Never.  (They bankrolled most of the $ spent on the campaign to pass prop 8.)  In fact, I've even heard rumors on a queer boycott of the state of Utah.  Seriously!  I don't know if that's really practical, but for what it's worth, I'm not going to Utah for the forseeable future!  Take that!  
(Seriously, guys.... no Romney, ok?)

3.  If moving to California to join the fight there is not quite possible for you right now, check out the marriage equality status of the state you're living in.  Unless you live in Massachussets (or sort-of Vermont and New Jersey with their "civil union" versions,) your state probably has some dubious laws that are being tirelessly fought by some very weary non-profit people.  Look 'em up and go help 'em out.  (Even if it just means sending them a coupla' bucks or showing up to events they organize... they need participants almost as much as they need volunteers.)

4.   Stay informed in upcoming months about national and local political stuff about Marriage Equality.  I've heard that 2010 is the year to overturn the California decision, but 44/50 states have laws on the books than negatively affect gay marriage.  There have got to be things in the mean time that we can do.  I suggest listening to pundits like Dan Savage (of the Savage Love column and podcast) and watching the ever-HOT Rachel Maddow, and of course Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert...  and any other national or local news sources you rely on.
(why-oh-why won't they let her wear her glasses on the show?!? Soooo hot....)

Please please please let me know if there are any other things that anyone can think of to do to be of use on this (and any) issue!  I would love the blog to be much more interactive... with comments, clearly, but also with guest writers on related topics and maybe even actual discussions of issues.  So please, talk to me, people!  And...

Get off the internet, I'll meet you in the streets!!  (City Hall, Saturday, 1:30-4pm.  I'll be the really gay one.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Taking the Long Way Round (And Round And Round...)

So... I know I was crazy to start my first sock project on size 1 dpn, I know.  But... come on!  Harry Potter KNEE SOCK??!  How could I resist!!  And they actually looked pretty simple!  So I bravely cast on.  (Back in September.)

(look at me being all organized and shit.)

And got through the toe and foot before I realized I had no idea what I was doing.

(Me trying to figure out that darn "short row heel" nonsense.  Nonsense, I tell you!)

At which point I took a break to knit the afore-mentioned Amelia Earhart hat in an attempt to learn how to make short rows.  Then!  Back to the task at hand:

(Ok, clearly this photo was taken at the same time as the first but, I swear!  I was still just as confused!)

Anyway, I labored on, trusting the pattern (sort-of) and finally made my way through the heel.  Then came the easy part, the leg.  Only thing was... the easy part was also the deadeningly boring part.  4 knit, 2 purl ribbing for a bajillion and a half rows.  2 months, 18 inches and 5 seasons of Buffy later I was done!  Stripes and all... and then.... TRAGEDY STRUCK.   And that tragedy was my own laziness and stupidity.

And so, I learned something important while making these socks.  Never trust how long socks look on the needles:  TRY THEM ON.  I put on my newly finished sock and... it didn't fit!!!  It came to about 4" below my knee and the bind off was too tight to fit around my calf! (I had been too lazy to use the elasticized bind off suggested in the pattern.)  I HAD TO TAKE OUT 7" (that's about one month's worth of knitting and I was running out of Buffy to take my mind off of the overwhelming depression.)  I was CRUSHED.  So crushed, in fact, that that was over a month ago and it took me until now to be able to speak/write about it without tearing up a bit. 

So here is the sock (still the first one) now.  Le sigh.  I have to admit that, although I knew this project would take a while, I had no idea it would so greatly cut into my christmas present making time!  So... even though I'm so tantalizingly close to finishing the first sock I'm going to do the right thing and put it away until after the holidays.  That way I'll have time to knit some presents and throw together some crafts for the upcoming Punk Rock Flea Market!  (More on that as it gets closer.)  Anyway... alas, my poor Hufflepuff socks...  one day we shall be together...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Changing America!

"We don't know what the next president's going to face.  If we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas... someone who's connected to the other people's lives and cares about making them better...  if we choose someone to inspire us...  then we'll be able to face what comes our way and achieve things we can't imagine yet."  (-Toby Ziegler, The West Wing, season 4.)

Politically speaking, I have never been part of the winning team.  The only presidential races I have voted in ended with embarrassment and despair- and the only political satisfaction and inspiration I could find was from the fictional characters on the West Wing.  (And come on, I know I wasn't the only one thinking "Bartlett for America" all the way through the primaries!)  Politics weren't anything I could support in real life, just a fantasy pipe dream brought to us by Aaron Sorkin, and my role in politics was activist, radical, revolutionary and general mal-content.  But last night made me feel like maybe something else was possible.  

I was a nervous wreck all day:  I woke up at 7:30 with stress dreams, dressed and walked down to my local Mafia bar to vote.  (Technically, I think it's called a "private club" on my voter's registration card... but it was pretty clearly Mafia owned.  Also, just in case you were wondering, the mafia voted for McCain.)  Work was just a blur of me trying to destract myself from the election...  mostly unsuccessfully.  There were texts and calls from family and friends:  "Have you voted yet?  Have you seen the numbers?"  Yes: I voted, no: I'm trying to remain calm.  (Mostly unsuccessful.)  I watched the election in the basement of a friend of a friend, surrounded by like-minded queers and plenty of snack food, adorned in my Hufflepuffs for Obama t-shirt, my "I voted for Change!" sticker and my lucky underwear. 

(underwear not shown.)

Now, Philadelphia has been rioting for the past week straight (first the Phillies winning the world series on wednesday, then Halloween and the Phillies parade on Friday, then the world's largest pinata on sunday... don't ask about that last one, it's still sort of a sore spot)  but when the clock struck 11 and the west coast polls closed... we could hear the rumble of celebrations all the way in a south philly basement.  People started honking and screaming all over the city.  We stayed and watched McCains almost unbelievably humble concession speech (he almost sounded like the old McCain- the one from before the campaign!) and then Obama's wonderfully amazing speech.  We had goosebumps... and seeing Jesse Jackson crying was possibly the cutest thing ever.

(did you catch that gay shout-out at the end?!  A president mentioned gay people!  Unprovoked and unapologetically!!  also... sorry this link doesn't work... copy and paste?)

And then we hit the streets. 
(Along with a few other people.)

I have been to protests.  I have been to marches.  I have been to rallies and teach-ins any many many other political gatherings, but NONE of them were this joyful.  For the first time, our gathering wasn't based on anger or frustration.  It was about desperate relief and sheer joy.  It was amazing:  people of all races and ages out in the streets at 2am!  It was a moment that I will never forget.  Ever.

(Josh, Sarah and Q. at Broad and Chestnut at about 1:45am)

So now comes the hard part:  now Obama has to live up to everything we see in him.  But today, we celebrate.  Today I'm not reading any incendiary political material, or making any activist art work.  I'm not going to stress (too much) about prop 8 which is still up in the air, or complain (ad nauseum) about the 2 other states that passed anti-gay marriage amendments.  Today, I'm going to bask in the rosy glow of being politically successful on a national scale, and invest energy in the belief that things can be and are going to be different.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Studio Day #2: NYC

In the name of grad school I have managed to finangle my way into having wednesday's off so that I can "work in the studio."  Which is totally what I'm going to do!  But while I get back on the "making stuff" horse, I've been catching up on my museum-going.  Last week I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Gee's Bend Quilt Show (which I had already seen in Baltimore, but, c'mon, why pass up a chance to be in the presence of those quilts?!) and a show at the Perelman Gallery on African American Quilts.  Both shows were very impressive and although I meant to do an entry about them... clearly I didn't get to it.  Sorry.  Today I decided to try to get over my (vaguely irrational) fear and loathing of New York City and check out the Museum of Art and Design's new facility and a Ghada Amer show at the Brooklyn Museum.  So I got up early (aka the same time I get up when I have to go to work) and caught the Chinatown bus to the Big Apple.  

The show that most interested me at the MAD Museum was one called Second Lives; Remixing the Ordinary.  It featured art made out of "ordinary" materials- materials that were created for something else, like disposable plastic spoons and vintage records (see left: Paul Villinski's My Back Pages, 2006-07).  I feel like there has been a lot of art shows lately that focus on similar issues, for example, the Green Show that I participated in last month at Cafe Estelle's.  I don't think that this show was
 specifically designed to be recycled art but the concepts tend to overlap.  As the world gets more and more "green" themed even the art world reacts.  On one hand I think: "jeez, it's about time.  We've been over-producing and obsessively collecting shit for years!  Everyone on the bandwagon!"  On the other hand, some of the pieces in MAD's show seemed more like a waste of materials than they would be if they were used for their original purpose.  Which just doesn't seem... productive to me.   I guess there are a couple of things that this kind of art needs to get my motor revving.  (intellectually, duh.  Get your minds out of the gutter!)  Below are a couple of highlights that demonstrate some of those things that make my art-heart twitter. 

Transcendence of Material:

Long-Bin Chen: Reading Chair w/ Buddha Heads (2007)
NYC phone books, catalogues, wood.
(Unfortunately, I couldn't find a picture of the exact piece from the show, but this is the basic idea.  It was a reading nook in the back and a sculpted face in the front.  It was accompanied by a Buddha face that was similar to the one below.)

To take a mundane material and make it art there needs to be some sort of transcendence into something worthwhile- either functional or thought provoking in a way that makes it more important than it's original functionality.  I liked this piece a lot because at first glance you can't even tell what the sculpture is made out of.  The artist statement that accompanied the work said that the phone book pages looked like wood and although that is true (and definitely karmically appropriate what with the pages originating in tree form and all) to me, the sculpture looks more like stone.  It transcends even the material past of it's own origin and questions the relationship between stone and wood and paper.  Between place and time and alchemy.  The imagery used propels the comparison:  books for reading, reading into knowledge, knowledge into life.  

It's like drag:  the reveal is part of what makes it so compelling.  You can almost believe your eyes, but the artist doesn't let you.  Instead, they give you the power to understand the entire situation- all the past incarnations and implications.

Cultural/Political Statements

Hew Locke: Golden Horde (2006)
Plastic toy shields, tow swords, metal chains, mirrors, plastic christmas decorations, plastic/metal beads, toy guns, baby dolls, rhinestones.
(Again, unfortunately, images of the specific pieces seemed unavailable, but these "Hordes" were also part of the show and can almost illustrate my point.)

The pieces by Hew Locke that I appreciated most were not the free standing, float-like sculptures shown about, but were smaller sculptures that resembled absurdist coats of arms.  They hung from the wall in clusters, recalling overly decadent collection of taxadermied animals.  Each cluster was completely covered with plastic toys, gold beads and rhinestones along with fake flowers and the heads of baby dolls.  There was also an anachronistic collection of weaponry protruding from hidden depths:  plastic swords and toy machine guns crossed behind mutilated plastic faces that peered out from under words like "congratulations".  The result of this plastic cacophony is a mockingly modernized and hauntingly familiar object that hangs in defiant pride.

We are achingly familiar with all of these objects, but when combined in such a greedy manner they seem almost a tribute to over production, the hording of useless junk, the game of violence and a general sense of contemporary glut.

Also they made me think of sorority pirates.  Which made me giggle.


Yuken Teruya:  Untitled (2006)
Cut paper bags.
I seem to have noticed a trend in the pieces that struck my fancy in this show: work that involves the history of paper on it's uses in capitalistic society.  (Hey look, my dad's an environmental codger, ok?)  I loved these bags and I loved them for their beauty.  Teruya managed to create a full environment within the given spacial limitations using nothing but the bag itself and it's own history.  

Look at how pretty they are!  The beauty of a simple act of amazing craftsmanship is sometimes enough for transcendence. 

So... how does all of this fit into my own art making practice?  Well, not only have I been trying to focus my creative energy into reusing preexisting materials, but I've been thinking a lot lately about art and... well, worthiness.  As someone who's trying to balance being a studio artist and a full time employment struggling to make ends meet, it's actually a terrifyingly difficult reckoning:  Do you give up one day a week to making art, even if it means eating less or not getting new shoes?  Do you spend your money on art supplies, yarn, fabric... or PECO bills?  On some levels the answer is mind-numbingly easy.  PECO bills, duh.  Your house needs heat.  Food, duh.  You need it.  And even though I was convinced when I graduated from MICA that I would never make art again... i yearn for it.  I miss it more than I even knew I loved it.  I hate the fact that our capitalistic society does not provide me with the wherewithall to just create, to think for hours on end, to read at leisure.  Money reigns supreme here and I've been building up this this resentment that makes me feel like I deserve to relax whenever I'm not at work.  Which inevitably ends with me alone in my room drinking beer, knitting and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for hours on end.  (And loving it.  What.)  But then I end up feeling guilty about it.  Like I should be spending that time changing the world through my art work.  Which makes me question the hubris of my opinion of myself, and then doubt the worthwhile-ness of my own art.  Which brings us to todays word: worthiness.  

I guess at this point it's just one day at a time.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bring It, Amelia Earhart!

So.. originally, I started knitting Harry Potter House Socks... but I got really confused with the heel turning business so I thought I would knit a hat while I waited for a chance to get to loop to ask what the hell the pattern was talking about.  And, well, I sort of knit a whole set!

The hat is an Amelia Earhart cap from a pattern I found on the internets.  
(I picked the pattern because it is entirely constructed of short rows... exactly what I needed practice with for my sock pattern!)  I knit it with the same sock weight wool/nylon I used for the feather and fan scarf.  I LOVE this color combo and wish I had an infinite number of skeins of it!  But unfortunately, I only had the one.  I knit the hat first (on size 8 needles, which makes the hat a little lacy) but had almost half a skein of yarn left, so... wristlets!

It was really fun to see the different patterns that the yarn colors made with different guaged needles (the wristlets were done on size 5 dpns).  

Check out these sweeeeet buttons I found in fabric row!!  Each wristlet closes with a button on the wrist and the hat has one on each ear.

(grr... arr.. I am tough.  Bring it, Amelia!)

(All right, I get it.  You're still hotter than me.  Whatever.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Paper Jamtastic!

The My House Gallery's opening event for the show Paper Jam was amazing! Unfortunately, I was not personally amazing at said event and ended up only staying long enough to check out the phenomenal work before I headed home. (But in my defense, I felt a little crazy: 1. I think I had a fever and 2. my "date", who, by the by, is already in the doghouse and should know better, was a half-hour late.) Anyway... like I said: the work was amazing. Alex Gartlemann, curator at large, estimated that about 150-200 people came through the gallery throughout the night!

(Ooooh... Art.)

(Alex is the bearded fellow looking at the camera.)

(I don't know if that's a cape, a messenger bag, or just a really snazzy vest... either way I like it!)

The show featured almost 50 artist's work based on the 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper as a cultural icon. I entered my Women's Suffrage Memorial Handkerchiefs: machine embroidered images of Women's Suffragettes and motifs on sheets of silk screened notebook paper. (I made the piece in college, but it felt so appropriate- I was thinking a lot about paper and potential and history at the time.) I was surprised to see a number of other notebook pages among the other pieces of work. One artist knit a sheet of ruled paper, almost identical to mine (a nice and indicative duplicate). She stitched the lines in on top of the knit substrate and then stitched doodles similar to mine in look but not focused on any one theme (as far as I could tell in my fever/tardy friend related crazy state.) A lot of the other work dealt with communication... but I didn't get any photos. Sorry!

Among the teeming crowd were a few reviewers and I was startled and humbled to find that my work had made it into a review! (Well.. technically, I think it's just someone elses blog, but Alex sent it out as a "review" so... either way, it's pretty cool!) Check out the blurb about the event and see pics of my work (At the bottom of the blog there's a link to a flickr page; check it out for images of other work from the show):

And other press stuff that doesn't feature yours truly but are still pretty rad:

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the gallery! And if anyone else is interested in seeing the show, the gallery is open by appointment, so drop me a line and I can put you in contact with Alex.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Reconceptual Fashion

No seriously.  I was flipping through the New York Times last week and remembered that it was fashion week!  (I was later also bombarded by multitudinous images of Linsday Lohan and Sam Ronson at fashion shows all weeeeek looong.  Oh wait.  Did I say "bombarded" I meant looked up obsessively online)  Anyway, let me just say that I was completely blown away by the Marc Jacobs Ready-To-Wear Spring 2009 line!  

Wow... that was the dorkiest fashion thing I've ever said.

But seriously!  

Jacobs quotes all sorts of history as his inspiration for this line:  1940's tailored pants lines and prints, straw boater hats, something about an Yve's St Lauren's show from the 1970's, and the fashions of the women's suffrage movement!!  (Did I mention swooooon??!)  But what most of the reviewers are talking about is how Jacobs managed to create a complicated line of clothes that "embodies America."  I'm not so sure that any one fashion line can embody ALL of America but I like watching him try.

(I want that waist-coat more than I want... well.. pretty much anything.)

What I do appreciate is the acknowledgment that fashion is complicated.  Fashion, history, the history of fashion, historical fashions... all seriously complicated.  Gender constructions inevitably factor in, and nothing is new.  I like this line because I feel like Jacobs acknowledges these complications, pays tribute to them, and still manages to make something new and exciting.

(Really really really exciting.)

I've actually been thinking a lot about fashion this season, but not in the super-hip up-to-date kind of way.  My most excellent friend Ketch has introduced me to "reconceptualizing" one's wardrobe!  Basically, you pick a theme and a look and shop/dress accordingly.  I love this idea!  I think it helps to add some confidence and fun into the changing of the seasons!    I'm thinking of going with something like a Glam Giles.  (You know... from Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Duh.)

(Picture him with more sparkles.)

I mean, sure, he's a librarian... but you should see him kick vampire ass!  I'm thinking a little british librarian, a little disco glam...  a little Jack Sparrow goes to Oxford...  I can't wait to go shopping.

(Three Words:  Huge. Shiney. Stripes.)

Check out the New York Times website for more photos of the Marc Jacob line.  Just search for Marc Jacobs spring 2009.  (I'd post the links myself, but my computer seems incapable of copying and pasting into the blogger site. ??)  If you're on the nytimes fashion blog site, go to "view slideshow" to see all 54 outfits.  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Paper Jam! Show Opening This Friday!

My House Gallery invites you to attended its opening of PAPER JAM on Friday, September 19th from 5:30pm to 8:30pm.

The 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper has become a fixture in our
contemporary culture. This standard image confronts us every day.Containing advertisement, files, faxes, business contracts, photocopies, and a myriad of information, we take in the information, oftenover looking the spatial context within which it is contained. What ifour standard paper size was drastically different? What if it was halfof or doubled in size? How would this change our perception andunderstanding of information? Paper Jam puts the 8 1/2 by 11 piece ofpaper under the hand of the artist to allow them to expand or contracttheir artistic understanding of the parameters of space presented.

PAPER JAM features:

Aimee Christopher

Jenny Kanzler

Hannah Heffner

Fernando Ramos

Hilary Grisham

Eoin Burke

Dana Vachon

Alison Nastasi

Austin Dodson

Robyn Hill

Jen Gin

Phu Pham

Julianna Lose

Bonnie Brenda Scott

Maggy Hiltner

Shelley Spector

Nate Butler

John Oliver Lewis

Jessica McCambly

Mark Price

Hope Rovelto

Alex Gartelmann

Bryan Rice

Daniel Payavis

Laura Conklin

Nora Renick-Rinehart

Alyson Gianasco

David Willburn

Amity Kurt

Maria Kretschmann

Iris Bechtol

Ted Carey

Mike Ryan

Jill Wasserman

Jim Burton

Nike Desis

Alexandra Torres

Jim Dessecino

Adam Oestreicher

Stephen Kent

Libby Rosof

Roberta Fallon

Sarah Provencha

Ed Waisnais

Alex DaCorte

Jake Allee

Heather Smith Jones

Michael Grothusen

Nathaniel Ross

Toby Canfield

Alex Montgomery

Courtney Todd

Chris Vereb

Melissa Sweeney

Lisa Scarpello

Tim Strazza

I hope you can all make it out to this great opening! Visits by appointment.


Alex Gartelmann

Executive Director,

My House Gallery

My House Gallery

2534 S. 8th Street

Philadelphia, PA


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Myth and Modern Art

I don't even remember what my mother and I were talking about when she handed me a little book entitled "A Short History of Myth" but it has certainly influenced my thoughts over the past few weeks. The short tome by Karen Armstrong is a succinct exploration of human development, both psychological and sociological, and how our myths shifted in order to reflect our evolutions: starting in the Paleolithic Period, it travels all the way through the industrial revolution (aka, the Axial Age) and into the "Great Western Transformation." Even from the first few pages, it was startlingly apparent that "myth" is intrinsically linked to my own definition of "conceptual art." So, I have been working out how that is and what that means for my art and for society at large.

Ideas of "truth" are very complicated in modern times. For us, something can be scientifically proven, or historically reliable and objects are objects- they have their own production history, but their symbology is limited to what they are and nothing more. However, human beings thousands of years ago had no way of distinguishing between reality and the sacred. In language it's referred to as the Holophrasic Theory of Language. Think of it as a "star with the points representing where we are today- cognitive language, scientific language, emotive language, poetic language, utilitarian language- and the center of the star symbolizes that earlier linguistic imploded time when myth was science and science was belief and belief was poetry" (Campbell, 54.) In other words, we have multiple truths as defined by the different languages mentioned above: an emotional truth, ie: "I love you", cannot be proven or disproven by the language of science (although that doesn't seem to keep us from trying: pharamones, what?) It's truth is not denied because of it's lack of scientific proof. But back in the Paleolithic Period (c. 20000 to 8000 BCE) even objects took on all qualities of their sacred implications. Stories were told to help people understand the sacred ramifications of the world around them. "The earliest mythologies taught people to see through the tangible world to a reality that seemed to embody something else. ... When these early people looked at a stone, they did not see an inert, unpromising rock. It embodied strength, permanence, solidity and an absolute mode of being... (Armstrong, 16.)

Now that, to me, sounds a lot like Joan Watson's Introduction to Sculpture class. I think it took her an entire semester to get us seeing material for what it embodies, not how easy it was to work with or whether we would be forced to use a hot glue gun (what?!? Hot glue!! Fired from art school!) But I'll get to this in a second.

Ok, so back to myth. Throughout human development myths, in this case orally transmitted stories, were told in order to help us figure out how better to be "more fully human." Logic and reason can allow us to kill animals and eat them in order to avoid starvation, but it could never help us cope with our grief or with the greater questions of humanity that were inflicted by such a violent action. They were stories about how to act toward eachother, toward the planet, and toward the animals we hunted. When we turned to agriculture, the stories turned toward tales of copulation and fertility. Once we developed cities, our myths and "gods" shifted to reflect city-living. It wasn't until we started to live by the rules of industrialization and capitalism that that the Institution of Myth was fatally challenged.

The birth of Western Civilization in Europe (c. 1500 give or take a few hundred years) was closely followed by the fracturing of Christianity, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial/Consumer revolution. As each of these developments were solely founded upon ideas of Logic the human need for myth was negated. Myth was now seen as something useless, false and outmoded. "Unlike myth, logos must correspond to facts; it is essentially practical;... it constantly looks ahead to achieve a greater control over our environment or to discover something fresh" (Armstrong, 121). The world that we are living in today has been without Myth- Myth as human beings have understood it since the dawn of understanding- for almost 500 years, and the psychological toll has been obvious. "As early as the sixteenth century, we see more evidence of a numbing despair, a creeping mental paralysis, and a sense of impotence and rage as the old mythical way of thought crumbled and nothing new appeared to take its place" (Armstrong, 122).

I think that the evidence of our looking forward is obvious: we can see it in the technology we strive for, the pop culture we cling to, and the fact that nobody respects their elders any more. The grand anomie is obvious, too: anyone living in a big city like Baltimore or Philadelphia can express that sense of overwhelming ennui, that feeling that everyone is trying so hard for no real gain, no change in life, no real ramifications. But are humans capable of living without myth? It seems to me that even as the definition of truth splintered, especially more recently with the rise of postmodernism, we have found ways to fill that need: Art. "In art, liberated from the constraints of reason and logic, we conceive and combine new forms that enrich our lives and which we believe tells us something important and profoundly true" (Armstrong, 9-10).

The parallels between myth and modern conceptual art are astoundingly multifarious.

Art exercises it's own rituals similar to those practiced with mythological story-telling. Where myths' ritualized actions included dance, song, and litany, art has it's own trappings: shows, openings and critiques. Where the responsibility for passing down myth and it's implications rested with chosen individuals, so, too, does the art world have it's hierarchies: artists, critics, art-historians. Art even has it's own sacred spaces- museums, galleries, institutions- in which one is expected to behave in a properly awed and respectful manner.

Artistic concepts are basically metaphors that make social and historical references.  Materials take on certain (and uncertain) symbologies through their inherent characteristics and their history:  how we as a species (and more specifically our place in the species: race, religion, nationality) have interacted with a given material effect how we think of it and thusly, how we read certain art expressions.  Art pieces are basically combinations of situations that make new statements.  The topics that artists choose to explore reflect society, history, technology, future, anthropology- the things that are pressing on the minds of society.  Modern art is a place to ask the important questions away from the baggage of religion.  Secular experiments for a secular society.

However, there are a few differences between myth and modern art that, I feel, are truly rooted in contemporary culture.  Where as myth was the responsibility of one story teller to carry on the traditions and to pass down the stories, modern art is utterly postmodern in it's availablility to anyone with a voice; it accepts that any truth is truth as long as the artists can convince you.

I really like thinking about my participating in the history of myth and humanity.  I love exploring the world through metaphorical eyes and proposing ideas and starting conversations.  I'm glad to be a part of this community.

(Books Referenced:  A Short History of Myth, by Karen Artmstrong, and Artistic Citizenship, by Mary Schmidt and Randy Martin.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Closer to AWESOME!!

Ok, guys, sorry for the delay.  Even as it is:  artists are such slackers!  Apparently, nobody took any photos of the event!  (Which is a lie, but I'm trying to get over it.)  Anyway, here's what I've got:

The Closer to Fine show opening went AMAZINGLY!  Melanie and myself worked diligently all day thursday night making hella-gay cupcakes 

(Dexter is a crazy-cupcake maker extraordinaire!  Total powdered sugar count:  12 cups!!)

and all day thursday hanging up the art.  

(Thanks so much to Sheila, Caroline and Ketch!  Our art-hanging heroes!)

But when evening came,  everything came together! 

(Even the cupcakes were gay!)

(Co-conspirators, co-curators, co-hotties at large!)

(Ted, Sarah, "red-hat", Lexy!)

(Sarah and Lexy love art.  And cupcakes.)

(Ketch= overwhelmed by art and awesomness.)

(So many people that we had to congregate outside!)

We estimate that almost 100 people passed through over the course of the evening!  So, thanks so much to everyone who came by to show their support for all the artists!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Scarf that took FOREVER.

Ok, so as you could probably tell from the title:  this scarf took me FOREVER.  And if I could do that super snazzy internet-type crazy link thing, I would link this to the entry where I started it... all the way back in February.  (?!?)  The pattern is a simple Feather and Fan, a 4 line repeat with yarn overs and k2tog to create this sweet structure!  I got the pattern from my dearest knit-sib, nellyface.  So why did it take me so long to knit?  Because I had 64 stitches across on size 4 needles so every row took me an eon and a half.  The yarn is a wool/nylon blend that is stretchy and soft!

I don't know if any of you do this, but while I knit I have tons and tons of ideas for other knitting projects that are never destined to be.  For example, while i was knitting this scarf, I wished I was knitting a large, drapey scarf that would wear like one of those hipster wrap scarves.  But instead of knitting one thing and pining over another, I decided to make this scarf do that instead!  

I knit button holes into the ending selvedge and sewed some nice Tagua Nut buttons (and one plastic, 'cause I'm a spaz and never buy the right amount of anything) to the other side, and... lo and behold, it worked!  

I had my doubts about this scarf while I was knitting it.  I loved the colors on the ball, but the color combos it made in the F&F pattern seemed.... a little Molly Weasley to me.  (Not that I don't love me a good Molly Weasley, but... well... I'm trying to stay away from 23yr old magical matron.  Magical, fine; matron... not so fine.)  But, I have to say that I am totally satisfied with the ending product!  I'm going to go ahead and do a light steam iron blocking, just to open up the lace work, and then...  ??  Gift it?  We shall see.

And now I can move on to all those other, coveted knitting projects in my brain!  As soon as I get paid I'm going to start some socks and get a head start on my holiday knitting!

***PS!  I'm still, STILL! going to post images of the Closer to Fine Opening!  I'm still, seriously, waiting for good photos.  But if I don't get any by the end of the weekend, I'll just put up what I have, cool?***

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Thread of Conversations...

Sorry for the photo quality- I still haven't gotten my camera fixed!  Anyway, here are some photos of the thread dress in situ at Cafe Estelle's:

The opening was a really nice affair:  there was beer and fruit and veggies and a fair few people.  A huge group of my awesomely supportive friends came, which was lovely.  I have mixed feelings about the Estelle's group shows because, as you might be able to see from this shot, a lot of the art tends to be... of a different ilk than my creations.  I tried to express this to another artist in the show (don't worry!  Someone that I knew and who had also made awesomely creative work!)  but she proceeded to tell me that I'm getting snooty.

Am I getting art-snooty??!?  I was really more commenting on the fact that my art doesn't tend to fit in with coffee shop art.  The cafe wanted to make sure I put a price next to it in case anyone wanted to buy it, which I did, but.... I can't quite see anyone deciding to spend $100 on an unwearable dress made entirely from recycled thread ends over their morning coffee.

Anyway.  I think it's pretty.  But I made it, so... there.  :0)

***PS:  I still totally intend to put up photos of the Closer to Fine opening!  But if I've learned anything from this whole experience it's that artists are fricken' flakey.  I'm waiting to get some shots from the event so that I can prove that there as many people there as I say there were!  Soon soon soon... hopefully!***

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Green Show: Extremely High Thread Count

So, I know I promised photos of the Closer to Fine opening, and I will!  I promise!  But I didn't get a chance to take too many photos during the amazingly successful event! so I'm waiting to collect some from other people.  Thanks to everyone who came by!  Anyway, I have another show tomorrow, so here's some stuff about that:

As previously mentioned, I'm a little OCD.  I've been a seamstress for about a year now... but since the very beginning I have been collecting the little bits of "waste" that accumulated through the repetitive sewing process.  You've already seen the crazy (CRAZY) amounts of fabric I've taken home.  But here is the sincerely obsessive thread collection:

But c'mon!  Who could resist collecting this when it's such a magnificent material!!

I had a bunch of ideas of what I wanted to do with the mass of thread:  crazy lace, spin it into yarn, hair-spray sculptures...  so when I got a call-for-entries from the cafe next to work for a Green Show focusing on recycled materials, I was excited to start playing around.  I decided to try to make something lace-oriented.

I ordered a whole bunch of water-soluble stablizer and went to town!  I sandwiched the thread between two layers of stablizer, playing with different colors and patterns and structures, and then used my sewing machine to sew a grid pattern through all of the layers.  The grid provided enough structure for the material to stay together!  Success!

After a few weeks of samples, I decided that I wanted to make a sexy lace neglige out of this new-found crazy-lace material.  Any functional object would call into light the amount of waste created in industrial processes, but the neglige specifically, I hoped, would comment on the conditions that many seamstresses around the world have to endure.  I read an article once about how Mexican seamstresses in the Victoria's Secret factory make so little money sewing that they also have to work as prostitutes in order to live.  The terrible irony was that because they were so poor, they had to make their own sexy lingerie out of the scrap material from the Victoria's Secret production.  (Unfortunately, I couldn't find the article, or I'd place a link to it.)  I didn't design this piece with any intention of specifically referencing that phenomenon, but I thought a lot about it while I was making it, and maybe some of that thought will come through.

Anyway, so I started working with sexy lace patterns:

And I bought a neglige to pattern and used ALLL of the black thread that I had collected since I started working at Viv Pickle!  (And all the black thread that the other seamstresses had been collecting for me since I started this piece!  See?  OCD is totally contagious.) 

It was soo hairy!I hadn't really been prepared for that (which was silly, in hindsight.)  I had thought that I would be making something chaotic but functional, and potentially even sexy.  But the thread was bodily, and barely controllable.  But it worked: and once I had all the pieces sewn, I serged the edges...

Et Voila!  

I then soaked it in luke warm water for, like, half an hour to remove the stablizer and let it dry.  It's fantastic!  Which is good, because I have to drop it off at the cafe this afternoon.  Ha!  Talk about cutting it close!  Anyway, I would have also included a photo of the finished, dried neglige but my camera DIED! this morning!  Right when I was sitting down to write this!  Gah!!  

OH WELL!!  Cause you can go see it yourself!  The Opening is Tuesday night!

The Green Show
Cafe Estelle
441 N. 4th St, Philly
Opening Event: Tuesday, Sept 4th, 6-9pm

I will definitely put up photos of the opening and the piece in situ, but you all should definitely come and see it yourself!