Saturday, May 2, is Tape Day at the Science Museum of Minnesota
From 12:00 - 4:00 I will be demonstrating tape sculpture techniques, and showing some of my tape sculptures.
Animals, bowls, masks, and my large scale Chinese dragon will be on display.
It's been a lot of fun getting ready for this show. Tape definitely has its limitations as a sculpture material--but there's also a lot you can create from a basic, flat, adhesive strap.
...is a pretty big deal here in Minnesota. We have it now. The blossoms in my yard are there to show me that. But, yes, there was a scattering of horizontally driven snow today just to remind us: this year we have it good.
I redid my webpages today. Partially in honor of the day, partially because... these pages remain lamentable hand-made, and once the html gets a bit loony, there's no going back.
So--green, at least for now. On these pages and out my window.
The Science Museum of Minnesota is running a wonderful exhibit titled Tapescape, from now until May 10. Tapescape, sponsored by 3M (who donated all the tape products used) is both a wonderful play structure and an opportunity to create sculptures with all-the-tape-you-could-ask-for.
Tapescape is the brainchild of artist/architect Eric Lennartson, who is having the fun that a good artist deserves, installing these structures in science museums across the country. The exhibit uses math and engineering to give shapes to its art (many of the shapes in TapeScape are 3D mathematical forms like parabolas, circles, and ellipses).
For me, after a jaunt through the tubes, the real attraction was the building table. Anyone can stop by and build a sculpture out of tape--to take home, or donate to the weekly collaborative sculpture. This is pretty much my definition of a heavenly way to spend a Saturday afternoon...
Mark Strand, in Memory
One of the pleasures of being the child of a teacher or professor or mentor, in whatever field, is the one degree of separation one can find oneself from highly accomplished people out on the landscape of life.
As a child I watched my father, in particular, in his relationships with clever, brilliant people, who were for a short time learners from him, and then moved on. Both intact--but both enriched from the time they shared.
Mark Strand was not quite one of these people--he was my father's contemporary, not his student, but he came and went through my life with some feeling of this curious, transient intimacy that I got to witness before I was able to understand.
" I am not thinking of Death, but Death is thinking of me.
He leans back in his chair, rubs his hands, strokes
his beard, and says, “I’m thinking of Strand, I’m thinking
that one of these days I’ll be out back, swinging my scythe
or holding my hourglass up to the moon, and Strand will appear
in a jacket and tie, and together under the boulevards’
leafless trees we’ll stroll into the city of souls."
Man & Camel, 2002
(Photo via a BU site that rambles, rather, about Mark's relationship with visual art and language. That's Mark on the left and the painter Neil Welliver on the right--I can smell the paint and summer heat of Welliver's studio as I look at this picture, remembering them both, so vaguely, as much younger men)
A personal loss, but OUR loss too.
Bad Art History
I was recently looking for a certain type of face, and William Bouguereau's (1825-1905) late work Priestess (1902) caught my attention. Bouguereau, I quickly discovered, has a less-than-enviable reputation: "As the quintessential salon painter of his generation, he was reviled by the Impressionist avant-garde"--and it's not just Wikipedia who is saying this.
Scanning the internet for a quick, more general look at Bouguereau's artwork, I could see why Bouguereau's reputation has suffered since his glory days as one of the most popular painters in France. But still, I was interested--enough to call up what books might be available on him via Inter-library loan.
Bouguereau is the artist of some surprisingly familiar paintings--when my books came, I was not surprised to read this line in one appreciation: "reproductions of Bouguereau's paintings are frequently the best-sellers in their respective museum shops, and the curators, responding like the nineteenth-century critics, despair over the public's taste."
But what did surprise me was... the books I ordered up on Bouguereau.... I'm sorry, but they were not good books. I completely understand the cultural tick that causes people to sneer at those who choose to go to college to major in Art History. Yes, yes, I know. How is one to earn a living in that field? But--how truly frustrating, to be unable to discover any kind of decent analysis of an artist who has retained his popularity for more than a century.
Don't get me wrong--I'm no rabid fan of the Victorian Alma-Tadema school. I like my Impressionist paintings. But there are some pictures by Bouguereau, or a series of pictures, that I find very interesting.
Are these the same person? Members of the same family? What was the artist's relationship to this model? I'm not the first person to be interested by this question. And yet--the art books I received through Inter-Library loan--they did absolutely nothing to address this question. Page after page of (ghastly) multi-figured quasi historical paintings were reproduced--at the expense of reproducing his more popular "genre" small groupings pictures--and, worse than this, there was almost nothing by way of commentary on the people who appeared in the paintings. Bouguereau, one author complained, was not much of a letter-writer. He kept close at home, "his personal life was his own."
Really? It seems to me... if, as a researcher, your only source for personal details is a man's (or perhaps his wife's) personal letters and perhaps his journal... you are not much of a researcher. You have plucked the low hanging fruit, and moved on. It's sheer laziness. Why not even a catalog, distinguishing the figures appearing in each painting? Perhaps this might be guesswork, but you could acknowledge your guesses, and the work wouldn't be in vain. You'd be laying the groundwork for the next researching generation, giving a place to start, allowing us a better understanding of these paintings.
Who is this girl, aging before Bouguereau's eyes into a young woman? A servant? A paid model? What did she mean to the man, to the painter? What could an investigation of the man's interactions with his subjects reveal about the psychology behind these paintings?
It seems to me the Art Historians who are filling out the written columns that accompany the plate reproductions--they really don't have much feeling for what they are looking at, or for, or even why people continue to like this man's paintings. Okay, Bouguereau's not a Millet, ennobling the dirt and the sweat and the work, in a peasant setting, and he's not an innovator when it comes to the surface and brushwork of a painting. But there's still something interesting here. Why not dig out that story?
Becca Golins is a polymer clay artist who does amazingly cute dragons, and other completely adorable critters, which she sells through her store front at Etsy and via eBay. Her DragonsAndBeasties moniker is... I'd say deservedly popular. A large number of people are copying her work and trying to imitate her success. One of the fascinating aspects of following Becca's work is that she is clearly aware of these people, who range from guilelessly enthusiastic fans through to artistic grifters who are obviously ripping off her designs. She manages not only not to be (publicly) angry about this, but also to graciously encourage her fans' artwork and to provide tutorials for working with polymer clay. At auction her pieces command impressive prices, but Becca also tries to remain loyal to her less-well-heeled-but-devoted-fans by offering periodic sales of more modestly priced pieces... which sell out within minutes of being posted to her Etsy store. It's easy to see why so many people are trying to replicate her formula.
Of course, there's no copyright on miniature sculptures of dragons. Lots of artists have tried their hands at this particular figure. For myself--one of the reasons I enjoy Becca's work so much is that it reminds me somewhat of my old friend Bard Bloom's ceramic dragons. The green guy in this picture was a gift from Bard back before I went off to graduate school in 1988. I have held on to him all these years and continue to enjoy him, for many of the same reasons I enjoy Becca's work.
It may not be clear from seeing just a single sculpture or two, but the work of both of these artists has a consistent, delightful, and utterly personal gestalt. That's something that maybe allows for individual pieces of artwork to be copied, but it can't be replicated in "original" works by those copier artists.
So, yes, I have been making a dragon or two of my own these past couple of months. There's no way I can duplicate what Becca does. I can think of at least two qualities that she puts (so effortlessly) into her work that... mine don't include. Nevertheless, it is Becca's awesome gentle Beasties that got me going with this. Thank you, Becca Golins, for your inspiration.
On Writers You Want to Punch in the Face[book] (by Rebecca Makkai)
I have been thinking about this article since a friend shared it with me, a month or more back now. It's a wonderful piece, in its own delightfully twisted way, and has provoked a fair amount of internet discussion. The article describes the imaginary-but-all-too-real "Todd Manly-Krauss," a writer who uses social media to write smugly and blithely and self-servingly about even the least of his achievements--with a nauseating undercurrent of tone-deaf gender insensitivity.
Here's my standpoint--and it's a strongly visceral one. My toes literally curl in revulsion when I read anything, in the real world, in the style of Todd Manly-Krauss (hereafter TMK!). And not least--when I'm reading something I have written myself, or am even just reviewing an idea in my head, and my inner ear alarmedly senses that first beat of TMK intonation.
The truth is not something that pleases me. Because the truth is this: My fear of the TMK tone has stalled me out, and indeed inhibited my work, many, many more times than TMK writing has actually been a sin in which I've overindulged.
And that's the element that has led me to loathe dear old (imaginary!) Todd Manly-Krauss so obsessively this past month.
I'm not alone in my TMK fears. One person commented on Rebecca Makkai's article: "It’s the authorial equivalent of the Christmas card letter that talks about the family’s perfect year." Point taken. But this very real, fierce dislike of TMK--it feeds and spawns that wretched, powerful TMK fear.
And what, really, is so bad about getting a poorly written Christmas letter? I'd rather get a sheaf of Christmas letters--some poorly written, some good--than not get any mail at Christmas. I don't want my friends to turn the letter task into a process so lengthy, so weighted, so significant, that the letter would just absorb too much energy to actually complete, so--I never hear from them.
The same goes, somewhat differently expressed, for the writers whose blogs I enjoy. Don't get me wrong. Most of the author's logs I enjoy have a high proportion of really great posts. But they also have dopey ones too, ones I can recognize that the writers concerned are not expecting me to take too seriously.
TMK fear: it's just another hydra-head of the paralysis-perfectionist impulse.
Todd Manly-Krauss! Oh how I hate him!
Okay. This is for anyone who love comics.
read the week's worth of cartoon strips that starts here:
take a look at Pearls Before Swine creator Stephan Pastis's Facebook post of June 6, 2014--and follow the link through to read to his blog post about the same topic.
Reimann High Chair
The old proverb: "the shoe-maker's children run barefoot" doesn't always hold true. Indeed, one of the delights of growing up in an artistic household is the fact that some of the furnishings and surroundings are unique, hand- made items that perform good service and enrich a home's comfort.
I had the good fortune to grow up in such a household. Whether it was carved rhinoceri, miniature toy dogs, a dollhouse with a beautiful cupola, or numerous household items, my Dad kept his family well-supplied when his children were young, and continues this work to this day.
He originally constructed and carved this chair in 1963 for my oldest brother; it has since been used by all his children and grandchildren.
The tray had needed refurbishing for a number of years; Dad recently completed this work over the summer and photographed the results.
Click here to see how beautifully the piece cleaned up.
Washington County Fair
Horse Pull, Light and Heavyweight Divisions
I manage to coordinate being in town, driving out of town, and getting to see this event, about once every seven years.
But--it's magnificent, and if I had a doppelgänger, this event would definitely be one of the places I'd send her.
If you've never been to a Horse Pull.... it's hard to describe, the primal electricity in the experience.
The teams, the best ones, almost dance on their way to the sled, they're so eager. Then, when they are putting the burst on and moving into the pull, they suddenly become--so small, so nimble, so lithe. They almost no longer look like horses. They move like snakes, or something feline.
I first saw this kind of competition as a child, at the Chester Fair in Connecticut. Those competitions took place after dark (cooler I suppose for the horses), with floodlights, and the horses visibly steaming and throwing out droplets of sweat and spray in that silver light. Images from those nights are indelibly ingrained in my head, the noise and the light and the great heart of the animals. I'm so grateful I get to connect back to that as an adult.
The Minnesota State Fair, which is a lot easier for me to get to, doesn't sponsor this kind of competition.
Other delights of the Washington County Fair include a potato dressing competition. Here, in the "Age 12 & Up" category, a 12 year old took first place with this fetching Star-nosed Mole.
Overall the crafts and arts I have seen in recent years at the State and County Fairs tend to depress me. I see a lot of crafts made straight up from kits, and the paintings tend all to be wooden representations of photos. The Lego constructions are especially dreary--the last decade or so of Lego kits has really done a job on the American child's imagination, or so it feels.
But potato dressing--there were some great entries. Nice to see the creative mode in action, and so refreshed!
Sites I recommend
These ones are maintained by long-time personal friends.
is a consummate artist. There are so many images to enjoy on this site. His carved wooden long-leaf red pine Rhinoceros (which he made for me when I was ~11 years old) is a personal favorite.
Is the U.K. based caving gear store run by serious hard-ass Tony Seddon. This link goes to the 'caves' section of the store's site--complete with alarming portrait photo of Tony ("After 7 days underground and 700m prussiking").
The Oxford University
Maintained by Steve Roberts, a guy who is extraordinary in so many ways, I'll just limit myself here to saying "Steve is a man who knows about motors."
John Bedell is an archaeologist, historian, and father of five living in Maryland. His blog is a fascinating grab-bag of historical, artistic, and political materials. This entry about work and leisure gives a good example of his voice.
This is Liz Manicatide (now Liz LaManche), principal at Emphasis Creative's personal art & graphics site. I love Liz's work, panache, and aerial artistry, which leads me to-
Flying Squirrel Consortium
Phil Servita's site, and the place to go for custom fabricated circus equipment (either freestanding or fixed point), and aerial classes, if you happen to live in the area.
Paul's site is... unique, authentic, & expressive, and pretty much exactly what I think of when I think of a website as an artform.
Metro Bikes Trails Guide
(St. Paul, MN)
"Reviews and Reports on over 70 bicycle paths in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area!"
Maintained by the tireless Seamus Flynn, and a great little site for those local to the Twin Cities area.
I enjoy the Ukrainian/Russian artisanship on this website.
Sites I enjoy
I don't know these people, but I appreciate their work.
What's That Bug?
The title says it all. A useful site for both the non-bug-phobic & the consummate bug-phobe.
Margaret & Helen
Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting…
I'm not a grandmother (or raging!), but I appreciate this site. Especially the fact-checking part.