Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The white box.

Dear Viewers,

You know how I love the white box, the white cube, the white room, with a tiny bit of formal art in it.  I love it like ponds pocked by rain drops, like the sound of poplar leaves in the wind.  I love the white room with a small amount of art in it.  But, I worry.  It isn't sustainable, to use the parlance of the day.  It isn't very friendly for humans, either.  It's like those people you know, who have three sticky kids, a great dane, and a cockatoo, and what do they get?  A white velvet chesterfield.  It just seems all wrong.

I know a woman who has a very lovely home, there's nary a white wall in it, and she has lovely objet d'arts on the tables and shelves, and drawings, prints, paintings and sculptures on the wood paneled walls.  My own abode has white walls all over the place, but the art stuffs are chock a block-  little sculptures are two deep in the nichos, and folk art is crammed into the glass-fronted oak cupboards.

I want you, for the love of Mike, to want art, to want things that have been made by human hands, in your space, even if it is a 16 foot canned ham trailer.  Art, and I know it well enough to speak for it, wants to be near you; it's lonely in the white cube, where it never changes, because a team of curators and conservators are always fussing with it.  Art spends most of its time, truth be told, in climate controlled storage.  It's sad, really.  A bunch of beautiful things, with stories to tell, with feeling to elicit, stuffed in the museum basement packed in bubble wrap and naphthalene.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A long way down.

Dear Readers,

O!  There are things coming soon-  a little reminiscence of a cassette tape, an essay on marionettes,
a consideration of where art should be seen, and for today, this terrific song that my DJ played for me a few days ago.  If you want to hear it again, try this live recording.

PS  Junior Brown calls that nifty thing he plays a "guit-steel."

Friday, July 13, 2018

Never Been Anything but My Experiences; or, Only Made it Out to Needles.

Dear Beings,

My dj played this song not long ago, and I tell you what, this song is the perfect expression of existentialism.  Of course I had to play it on my guitar.  It's a wonderful song to sing, because it is true, for now; I have never been to Spain.  I had a ticket once, but plans fell through.  It's a pleasure that awaits me, and in the meantime I have this great song. 

Once again. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Play Dress Up.

Dear Enthusiasts,

Many of you will have already enjoyed this fun film from Planet Roller Skate, but for those of you who might have missed it, here it is:

It's positively charming, and doesn't it make you want to wear a tie when you skate?  Today I was wearing a very sad skating ensemble of an aged and torn grey jersey skirt, a pilled and lint-covered black tank top and pink striped socks.  The socks were fine, but the rest is strictly from hunger.  What if someone dropped by?  It's tricky, because not that much goes with all the beastly black knee, elbow, and wrist pads I insist on; plus, things do get a bit beat up and grungy when you sit on the pavement or fall onto it. 

The issue of what to wear roller skating bears further consideration.  It needs to be tough, dark colored, and flexible.  A scuba knit short dress might be nice.  When I go out to the sidewalks I wear a skort and a tee shirt that isn't too terribly old.  But this, too, lacks imagination and panache compared to a tie.  This winter, I think I will try one of my menswear blazers for skating the streets.  The menswear blazer is a very affordable piece of formality available at any thrift shop.  They can be had for as little as three dollars, and it lets people know that you mean business.  I am especially fond of the pinstripe ones, because they are so mobster/banker/attorney.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Ocean Ipseity

Dear Underwater,

I spent enough time in the sea with a snorkel to breathe through, that I began to feel fearful about my foreignness there.  I began to feel too far submerged in this other life.  Too close to forgetting my terrestrial origins, I might try to breathe the tiny bubbles of the sea water.  The enchantment of it threatened to annihilate my ordinary world. 
The motion of the water had subsumed my sense of self, and I felt the thinness of the membrane between ourselves and everything else.  The feeling of oneness is dizzying and scary, because when you are a part of everything, individuality has no meaning, you may come or you may go; it matters not to the world of land or sea.

I had to return to the dry, unmoving, beige, and bland, sand.

At the concert hall, I love to sit in the high, steep, cheap seats.  There is a walkway along the lowest row of highest seats, along the curve of the balcony.  It has a low rail, and I am compelled to bend down to grip it, because I don't trust my self not to throw myself over.  Not an accident, but a kind of instantaneous craziness, a confusion between up and down, and a wild, destructive impulse that exists almost outside of my mind.

Under the water I heard the clicks and taps of urchins moving their spines, and the scraping sound of parrotfish crunching the coral.*  The way light was diffused by wavelets was shimmering and all encompassing.  The space under the surface was a beautiful and complete world.  I was sorry to leave it.

*Listen for yourselves, and learn a little more about it here.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Waters of Oblivion.

Dear Valerie, Vivian, Marion, and Marianne,

Your songs for today:  One and two.  Your project for today is to get yourself a Bob Dylan version, too.  It's nice and bluesy, and grittier than the other two.  After that, you'll want to play it on your guitar,

Sunday, July 1, 2018

memento mori

Dear Contemplating,

I am ruminating today on a red abalone dish with three little Lucite legs setting on the coffee table.  It isn't quite right on my coffee table; last year I painted the top of the table an orchid violet color.  It had previously been a sort of muted sage-pine color.  Before that, it was a 20 dollar table with a bright (meaning varnish over wood) top from a college student who sold it on Craigslist after he graduated.  It's a bit clunky, cheap, and rock solid, the way hotel or college furniture can be, but the more delicate, mid-century modern, walnut veneer table doesn't have enough space for the potted succulents, books, pencils, letters, coasters, and frequent projects that the table must accommodate.

The red abalone dish used to be on the round, white marble coffee table of our friends home.  The marble was very cool to touch, and yet soft, in that way that marble is, because of the way the stone diffuses light, the way you can see down into the surface of the marble, like a sheet of ice.  The marble had some fine, pale gray streaks in it, too, which always looked a little blurry; comfortingly out of focus. 

The red abalone dish sat on the marble table for years, until last year, when our friends began a move they are making to another country.  The dish sat there with books, two exemplary kaleidoscopes, and a set of coasters with illustrations of Great Authors on them.  When you would sit down around this table you would pull James Joyce over to you and set your coffee or prosecco on him and admire the red abalone dish, and see what was being read lately.  You would also probably take a look into the kaleidoscopes, because the view in them is never the same twice.

It's very lovely to have the red abalone dish, as you can imagine, but you can also see how much is missing when I look into its concave emptiness.

Several years ago artist Maira Kalman re-presented some objects in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt museum - please enjoy her thoughtful consideration of objects and stories. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Without You

Dear Cruel World,

Here is your song for the day  Sing it like you mean it.  I adore Lene Lovich.  She makes the fourth in a quartet of singers that were a part of my youth and that I remain devoted to: Nina Hagen, Siouxsie Sioux, and Exene Cervenka.  These women used their voices in exciting, varied, riotous, raw, and unusual ways.  I adore both the intelligence of their songs and the operatic sound of the vocals. 

Can you imagine Adele or Lady Gaga covering one of these songs?  I was one lucky 12 year old to have women like these four around to sing to me.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

New Music.

Dear Radio Listeners,

Here is a piece from an album that I cannot play often enough.  In my usual remarkable good fortune, a kind fellow at the place I work introduced me to it.  If you need to arrange forms in appealing patterns, or compose little bits of dark on pale fields, then Landfall is your music.

Monday, June 18, 2018


Andrew Borde's 1542 Diagram Depicting the Universe

Dear Sundown,

Researchers at the Dodo have corroborated an observation:  the sun does set slower on your porch, with pink wine and a cheap guitar, in the summer.  It does it in the winter, too.  Read about it here, and be sure to enjoy the heck out of the extra half a minute of the sun slipping down and out. 

Friday, June 15, 2018

fiftieth state















Friday, June 8, 2018

How To: Look at Pictures.

Flesh Art, Joan Snyder, 1974.

Dear Nancy Drew,

I thought for today we'd talk about how to look at pictures.  How to look at art really, and specifically, how to look at the flat, illusion-of-space of paintings.  Approach the painting with the thoroughness of a detective.

Begin by noting how you feel- in many ways, looking is an awareness thing:  Like a guided meditation on seeing pictures.

So, how do you feel?  Itchy?  Confused?  Comfortable?  Are you anxious, sad, or elated?  Do you feel something subtly or Big Time?  Are you hugely impressed?  Why?  Be as specific as possible- does looking at this painting feel like a slice of cake?  Like a bad news phone call?  Like another election?  Like finding a lost earring?

Okay, now, what else is here- where are your eyes sent?  Observe where your eye is resting, moving, and returning to.  Where are the edges?  Where are the directional lines?  Where are the brightest bits?  What is, or isn't, in the center?  What are the darkest places?

What is the rhythm, the sound of it?  Are the colors a clue to the emotions the painting might be trying to evoke?  Are there feisty colors?  Angry or sad colors?  Is it somber or punchy?  Quiet or loud?

Lastly, and really do try to do this step last, what specifically is here?  Is it purple, is it insects, is it sky, is it skin?  What is it that we could name?  What, now, then, do these things suggest?  What is the story of this painting?

What tale could this be telling?  Who are these characters, and what are they doing, what is their purpose in the world of the painting?  This step isn't just a list of what is in the painting, for example, a barn, two trees, a rock, and a cow.  Your questions should be along this line:  Why is that cow heading away from the barn at this hour?  Has the tree grown up around the barn, or was the tree there long before the barn?  How is the weather?  Is a storm coming?  Is that rock there to prevent my eye from leaving the canvas, or is it a symbol of some kind?  An immovable chunk of prehistory that will remain long after the cow, barn, and tree have been blown away by the passage of time?

My Life, Joan Snyder, 1996.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Tickled Pink

Dear Pink,

A short film for you today, filled with sight gags and silliness, illustrating the perils of street skating.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

flip, flop, fly

Dear Builders,

Here's the thing:  I am completely in love with that little object in the middle- Richard Tuttle's White Rocker.  You might be thinking it doesn't look like much, but, oh!  It's absolutely perfect.

I insist.  It is a perfect sculpture.  You will need to stay with it, examine it, until you cry uncle and admit it's fabulousness. 

Once you let it into your life, you may thirst for more Richard Tuttle.  Try these works on paper, and when you have absorbed a goodish bit of that beauty, consider getting a book, like this one.  As for me, I am going out to my studio to make little Tuttle-esque watercolors, plywood assemblage paintings, and wire drawings.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Red Roses.

Dear Florist,

Send a dozen roses to my beautiful dj!  She played this song that I'd forgotten- I could just kiss her.

Go ahead, play it again!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

on my list

Dear Readers,

I have a word here, for our consideration:  peroration.  I found it in the 'bonus section' of a 50th anniversary edition of Catch 22.  I know I looked it up once before, but I couldn't remember what it meant.  As for Catch, I have been meaning to read it for decades.  I took the book from my parents' bookcase, in '95 or 6.  I think I put it aside at page 37.  I might even have taken it earlier than that, but I know that I have had it in three different domiciles, and on four different book shelves.  I lost it, in fact, and searched all over for it before capitulating and getting it from the library.  My paramour thought he had a copy too, but that also couldn't be found.  I don't know for certain that I would even have gotten it read yet.  Here's what it took to read it; a short version:

Taking the book from my parents to begin with, many moons ago, then hauling it around for a long time.  Meanwhile, I dated a lot of people, thinking it would be nice to have a mate and maybe offspring.  More time passed.  I finally found someone I could stand and we got married.  At this point, it was rather late, biologic-clock-wise, so we next had a baby.  Then, he grew and changed and learned to read, and 13 years later he wanted to read Catch 22.  But, we couldn't find the book.  We got it from the library and he read it and he told me little bits and he laughed at it, and he said: 'you should read it- it is a great book.'  The library has a very generous renewal policy, and you can have a book for three months if no one else requests it, so I read it.  Near to the end of reading it, I found the old missing copy- with its dyed leaf edges, in a deep blue green color that suggest a sulfurous smell.

And that's what it takes to read a book, and you can talk to me about your puny procrastination and your perverse pride in it, but I, dear ones, took 22 years to read Catch 22.  Beat that, if you dare!

If you do beat that, then set your sights on this:  I found in my journals (which, you will recall, I am transmuting into sculptural objects) an intention to read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom in 1992.  I haven't even opened it, but my consort* read it 4 or 5 years ago, and so the book is on the shelf and the clock has been ticking already for 26 years, and counting!

* A partial list of unsatisfying words to be used instead of 'husband:'  concomitant, mate (ugh!), spouse, partner, helpmate, other half (dear god!), old man.  It's enough to keep a person from getting married in the first place.  'Swain' is worth a closer look, but it's aimed a bit more at the time before a marriage, like the word suitor, or beau.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Just looking.

Dear Fellows,

Your song for today is a fabulous slice of the road, the times, the places, and the people.  This song is pretty much perfect, except for the fact that there is also this song (the orange bled the blue), and this one, competing for pre-eminence in the Paul Simon oeuvre.

Play them all and send me your preference by pigeon, or bottle; or leave a note at the Greyhound station for me.  Mark it 'For Catherine.'

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Thinness, Openness, Perforations, and Wrinkling.



Details of Ten Views of a Lingbi Stone, Wu Bin,
China, Ming dynasty, Wanli reign, 1610.

Dear Interested,

These compelling images show a scroll detailing Spirit Stones.  These special rocks are thought to be living and able to change shape.  I am pretty certain they could do it.  This scroll is on display at the LA County Art Museum right now.

Here are a few examples of these stones, and here is a short film detailing the history of Spirit Stones. 

And here is a song that is only tangentially related.  Try it on your guitar, the chords are not too tricky.  Until next time, keep your eyes open for a stone to study- they're built like light.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fred (or, Friends and How to Spell Them).

Dear Peers,

I met with my beautiful group of women artists recently, and the notion of friendship came up, and Mr. Rogers.  It reminded me that I have been meaning to talk to you about Mr. Rogers. 

Fred Rogers had a wonderful sense of ceremonial time and ritual.  There were several distinct worlds, circles, of intimacy.  There was the outside world, which he would enter from, and the inside world, which he would change garments for, and then there was the Other world, the imaginary world, where a cat could look at a king. 

These spheres were close neighbors.  The Neighborhood of Make-Believe was just the other side of the wall of his house. Right next door.  It was these sections you really looked forward to- the royal family and the castle, the beguiling architecture of Make-Believe.  There was a kind of elder in the land, a witch, a shaman really; she had supernatural powers.  There were kindly animals, too; cats, tigers, an owl.

Mr. Roger's put a very high value on friendship, and there were many examples and parables to demonstrate the proper way to be a friend, and there was a wonderful song, to further ingrain the ideology.  I loved it especially because it was helpful to me in spelling the word friend, which I always tried to spell f-r-e-i-n-d.  I had a great love of writing when I was young, and I wrote letters and cards to friends, so I had need of spelling mnemonics.

He would speak low, only to you, or rather, to me.  It was an intimacy of the kind that certain radio voices possess.  He suggested, I remember, that you do something without being asked.  That you seek out a way to serve, find something to do for those you love, and do it- without prompting or cajoling.  It was a kind of astounding notion to me.  I tried it, secretly, to see if it worked, if people would respond in gratitude and happiness as Fred Rogers suggested.  I remember I did something for my Mom, but I don't remember what it was specifically.  She was thankful, and happy, and I saw what a powerful societal tool this was.  I tried several things, and I felt very deflated when I found that people didn't always notice that you'd done something for them.  I kept at it though, and I reasoned that the more you did these kinds of things, the less you'd be disappointed in people who might not notice.

Fred Rogers is in vogue right now, and there will soon be a film.  I don't know that I will go to see it.  Many years ago I heard some criticism of the Mr. Rogers show, and it didn't fit my personal narrative.  I guess I am not sure I want to take the time to reject whatever they tell me my experience of my childhood really meant.

Limited Time Offer.

Dear Tuned In,

Good golly Miss Molly, my dj was burning down the house yesterday evening!  She played an awesome set of songs all from 1978.  Hear it, but hear it fast, because it's only available until next Tuesday.

Monday, May 14, 2018