Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Louise Bourgeois: A small sample of so many dimensions

“I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole.” Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois
5 panel piece, fabric and stitching
18 x 14 inches, per panel
45.7 x 35.6 centimeters, per panel
CR# BO.11749
One of her better known textile works is a fabric book created in 2004, called Ode â l’Oubli (Ode to Forgetfulness). The book was constructed of fabrics she had collected over a lifetime and it incorporates a variety of textile techniques, including appliqué, embroidery, tufting, rolling quilting, weaving and layering. Read more about it in an excellent article in the New York Times by Amy Newman.  More to be seen here.
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled, 1996, Fabric, lace and thread, Courtesy Cheim & Read, Galerie Karsten Greve, and Galerie Hauser& Wirth, © Louise Bourgeois Photo: Peter Bellamy.  Resource: here.http://arttattler.com/archivebourgeois.html
An exercise currently making the rounds on Facebook involves leaving a "like" in exchange for being assigned the name of an artist whom one is to research, to whatever extent, and share, along with an example of the artist's work.    It is not a meaningless FB distraction.  In a scant few hours (so far) gathering  remnants, a word I use intentionally, of Louise Bourgeois, whose name and some work were familiar to me, I have been expanded.  Thank you to long-time friend Natalie Douglas, who may be found here, among other sites, for the perfect assignment.

I have included multiple links to those who share what they know of the life and work of Louise Bourgeois for I could not distill such richness after so brief an acquaintance.  Even the used copies of books by and about her are fairly pricey on Amazon.  How fortunate that my son has ties with an art school library.

Because fabric and sewing have always spoken to me, that is the aspect of her art which felt the most accessible.  Also, reading of how in her final 10 years she began to exhibit a lifetime of saved clothing and linens, either in as-is states or reworked into other objects and forms, resonated for me particularly since earlier this month, in the good beginning of a massive de-cluttering, I donated 4 30-gallon bags of clothing, shoes and purses to a local thrift store.  I could not, in my 60s, imagine the energy, the vision, necessary to reconfigure them into art.  She was in her 80s and 90s when she produced these works.

The past, how it can seem a sentient other that seduces us away from the present, has been very much in my thoughts.  Louise Bourgeouis' use of its pieces to create a new whole suggests a variant on that reality.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gloria contemplates

As a teenager, Gloria worked part-time in an office.  The staff was all women.  The room had eastern-facing windows that caught the morning sun around 9 a.m. and on one of the sills was a red clay pot with an African violet.  One of Gloria's assignments was to heat water in an elderly electric percolator for tea or instant coffee and before she refilled the pot each morning, she'd been instructed to use the residue left from the previous day to water the plant.  In spite of everything, the violet bloomed and kept blooming, at least a long as Gloria was there.
Violet photo credit.
She thought of lime deposits from the hard tap water, leached metals from the aluminum pot and who knows what other wayward and life-crushing compounds were dumped around the plant's velvety leaves every weekday morning.  Still the purple blossoms thrived.

With memories of long-ago moments pleasantly crowding her head, Gloria wondered if she, if any or all of us, was a finite vessel.  Not finite in time, years, but in capacity.  What she wondered specifically was if one contained too much of the past, did that leave too little room for the present and the future.  She was aware that pieces of her own story seemed to travel with her like a chaperone, a duenna who feigned drowsiness with lowered lids, chin resting on her black bodice, yet missed nothing.  Since meeting The Reading Man, Gloria preferred to feel unaccompanied by a history that seemed to have less and less to do with this, whatever this was.

It was not ghosts she was dodging, traumas she sought to defuse.  It was simply that yesterday was beginning to take up too much space in the small, free, allowable carry-on bag in which she toted her essential self from place to place.  Her best guess was to consider it real estate of the mind or the opening night preview of a long-anticipated movie for which they'd oversold the tickets but let pleading patrons sit on the floor, throwing caution and fire laws to the winds.  Such a notion was new to her, as she'd always been so comfortable with the past, hers and that exemplified by the objects which delighted her, the linens, china, silver, enduring beauty.

Letting her body move about the kitchen, allowing her hands and arms and back to begin the familiar preparations for a jolly, toothsome day at the shop, her mind held itself apart.  This was her first encounter with the thought that she was being given an opportunity to create change, subtle yet significant and entirely internal.  She knew this thought, this messenger, would turn up again and again as she grew to know it better.  Even in this violet-sparked awareness, Gloria knew there was truth to be learned, possibilities to be entertained.  She was not sure where one put the past when it had overstayed its welcome.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The adaptive life meets Christmas

Today my heart is with a long-time friend whose father died this morning, with a blogging writer who has new reasons to be hopeful, with all who do and do not find what seems to be missing from the hollow place within as Christmas charges straight at us.
Sees Candy
A measure of my relative comfort/discomfort level is how much I crave sweets.  I would have said that tranquility had the upper hand.  One of my addictions says otherwise.  How fortunate no one sent us a two-pound, or even a one-pound box of Sees Candy, the Christmas-Easter-Valentine favorite of yore.  The gourmet, mammoth malted milk balls that arrived at the perfect moment last week are long gone.  I have made considerable peace with Christmas as it exists around me, as it existed in the past.  As a treaty, it is respected and understood.  As an emotional state, there is room for, shall we say, growth, awareness.

I do believe everything is a process and this is simply another example.  I am the pop-up card that has not been unfolded.  I remain flat, inhabiting the territory between subdued happiness and just subdued.   I have been places so much worse.  Here, it is what it is, filled with clearly identifiable reasons for joy and gratitude, no reasons for discomfort.  Nothing is wrong.  I have learned not to overextend, learned to keeps the lights low, the voices muted.  This year I could listen to Judy Garland singing, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and not think, for the first time since I understood the words, that I would be waiting another year to have troubles banished.  For the first time, THIS is the year that when troubles are out of sight, a miracle and I'm not kidding.

Here is what I think:  we spent so many  years, a lot of us, especially of my generation and middle-class circumstances, being engulfed by Christmas everything from Thanksgiving onward that to have negotiated a truce in which the tone is low-key feels unnatural, at least unfamiliar.  I have not yet adjusted to the fit, the itch, the look of this quiet celebration and in amnesiac moments panic temporarily, thinking something is missing.  It is not.  It is all here, all is well.  If it takes a last-minute trip to Trader Joe's for dark chocolate covered cherries to sedate nagging doubt, I won't be too critical.  And I will spend far more energy in love and wishes and hope for all who need it most, managing to remember this year I am not on the disabled list, if I ever really was.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beauty and happiness, according to Gloria

Examples of embroidery on vintage kimonos.
With thanks for the photo to Ruby Lane Vintage.
Another Ruby Lane treasure.
The list of things which caused Gloria happiness was long.  She did not edit or attempt to shorten it.  Beauty in its uncountable forms was a sufficient theme, as it could indicate something for the eye to behold, something to taste, smell, feel, hear.  A nourishment for the senses, as she offered at the shop, a nourishment that had become more substantial for all those present when The Reading Man arrived with his Noel Coward, then Dickens.  She would not be at all surprised to learn that he sang well, too.  Singing might, however, turn the shop into a cabaret.  She would need an additional license, one for entertainment.  She could see the progression - strolling violinists, close-up magic, scenes from Shakespeare, cocktails, a neon sign.

In rare moments when stress threatened her equilibrium, Gloria felt herself lean back into what was beautiful, its firm, gentle embrace cushioning any fall.  We are all tortoises, she thought, whom circumstance would see flipped over onto our shells.  Beauty is the handy rock by which we can, with effort, maneuver our limbs and engineer an escape from peril.  Beauty is the secret weapon in our bag of tricks.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Reading Man counts the days in wonder

Mr. Apotienne had not been that long in Billington's Cove.  The open-ended lease on his cottage had scarcely begun, the season had not changed, could it be possible he was only in his second month?  So much had happened.  His time sharing tea, cinema and a clothing adventure with Jack Guscott could be counted in days.  He needed to check his calendar to see when life's pointy stick had encouraged him to read out loud at Gloria's that first day.  Was time expanding or contracting, was he living a Rip Van Winkle experience, had he somehow pivoted into another dimension, what did he do before all this and, if he could remember, did he have any intention of going back?
He would not call it a muddle exactly, or, if so, a happy one.  If questioned in that moment, he would have said that clarity of thought is over-rated, that all is enhanced by mystery.  He likened it to falling asleep on the train you'd boarded for Chicago, only to wake up on the outskirts of Istanbul.  Good fortune does not take well to close questioning.  Accept it, say thank you, wonder about it when you're old.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Seriously Vintage Rubbermoon Samples and some envelopes

These are ancient samples, from the 1990s, before so many of the classic images - and additional designers - became part of the family.  I was in the catacombs over the weekend and found these.  Not King Tut's tomb, yet still pleasing.  (all coloring and  backgrounds by me, stamps, unless otherwise stated, are from Rubbermoon - Dave Brethauer, Jane Cather, Joanna Taylor, Marylinn Kelly.)
And some envelopes.
With carved erasers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Teacup tower, Gloria and patience

The round-about road, from Emily Dimov-Gottshall's Pin and tinywhitedaisies.tumblr.com, with thanks for a perfect photo.
You wonder just how many of the cups you can stack before they fall.  Handles of all shapes at all angles, cups of generous capacity and circumference, others deep and flared of lip, nothing to form an orderly nesting the way bowls would do.  Is it a balancing act, dependent on luck or determined practice with failure as part of the learning curve?  Or is it trust, knowing when the limit has been reached but pressing on until that exact moment?  Life tells us what it will be.  We can argue or surrender.  Patience makes what might have been impossible into something that could work.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An autograph for Gloria

Houdini skills, fashioned out of necessity from no more than, as his grandfather might have said, spit and baling wire, had long ago seen Mr. Apotienne through some near-misses.  For decades now that segment of his life seemed to belong to someone else.  As one of the volumes shelved in his interior library, it took on the aura of a family fable, the truth of which had become so embellished, so overworked with satin stitches and French knots of conjecture and pure fiction, that invention was accepted as fact for it was all that remained.   He had no wish to liken himself or a slice of his past to a character introduced by Graham Greene.

It wasn't often that he felt even distantly connected to certain aspects of who and where he'd been.  Holding the book again, reciting a portion of the review, took him to the room where he he wrote it.   A folding metal typing table, too narrow and low for his legs to fit beneath it, his Royal portable, a still-useful window air conditioner moved from a previous house, fluorescent lights - not a favorite - and the shallow wooden drawers of typing paper and carbons, it was a familiar lair.  He couldn't remember why or for how long he put up with that impossible gray typing stand.  After the flight from Australia, he needed sleep.  As soon as he awoke, all he could think of was Maura, distilling her unique embodiment of wonder if the right words could find him.

At the Sagging Shelf, he bought the book and gave it to Gloria.  She asked if he would sign it, date the signature and any note he cared to add, and describe, briefly, the circumstances of their outing.  He showed her the lifted eyebrow, she laughed, he began to fill the slightly aged end paper with foolishness that almost masked his feeling that if he just kept writing, the moment would not  have to end.

"For Gloria," he wrote, "whose best efforts to see me wearing fisherman's pants have been thwarted by brisk and rigorous striding in fair weather and foul."  He went on to add that day's date, then rhapsodized about the countryside between Billington's Cove and the shop in which they stood, assigning the characters about whom he wrote the names LeMar and Valencia and making them pre-adolescent children who were somehow permitted to drive a car. He thought the driving could be explained by letting them be badgers or foxes but figured he had started down an absurd road and he might as well stay the course.

Gloria watched him write, not exactly hovering and not reading over his shoulder.  She stood next to the shelves on the other side of the aisle with Dan.  When Mr. Apotienne's exaggerated description required the back side of the end paper, she smiled at the shop owner.  At last Robert handed Gloria the book, unsure whether he wanted to watch her face as she read the two pages or not.  For the time being, he stayed put.  She looked up once, said "LeMar and Valencia?" then resumed reading  and turned the page.  "This will do nicely," she told him.  "Thank you."

Tim Hardin, "Reason to Believe"

A life much too short, an enduring discography.  Tim Hardin's version of his own "Reason to Believe" has always been my favorite.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Oh, pioneers

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be...
  This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking.”
Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction 

Yes, I AM currently reading Isaac Asimov.
An astrolabe.
Each morning I, and I suspect most of us, awake to a new planet, as though we've traveled through a night made of years, suspended.  In so many ways the world begins afresh every day.

What was true yesterday may no longer be so.  How I felt yesterday may have pivoted, spun like the arrow on a wheel of fortune, aiming now at peace and optimism when yesterday's forecast spoke of overwhelming dither, borderline hysteria based on nothing other than my thoughts.  The mercurial qualities of human emotions, beliefs and apprehensions keep me off balance more often than is comfortable.  Stability is gained through plain hard work

Gravity shifts, don't let them tell you it doesn't.  What was solid beneath my feet 30 seconds ago could become quicksand due to some slight adjustment of the earth's plates or a reversal of circumstance.  What we have is this moment and, if we are very lucky, the next and the next without expectation but also without fear.  Try and make those pieces fit together.

I become disappointed in myself when I find I am being too critical, too judgmental of actions chosen by others.  I forget what they do is mostly not my business.  Any time I spend looking too hard at their questionable, often troubling antics is time I no longer have for cleaning out my own disturbingly over-filled closets.

Consistency doesn't just elude me, it avoids me, dodging behind the hibiscus when it sees me on the sidewalk.  That hasn't yet stopped me from trying to find it, somehow enticing it to my uncertain embrace.   It may be that not all of us are intended to be steadfast, though I can't imagine why.  Reliability is such a virtue.  But then, is any of us intended to be anything other than human.  Some of the variables are far beyond our control.

That each day is its own separate entity demands flexibility, improvisation.  What worked on the planet we left as we fell asleep may have no value or possibility in this new location.  What adjustments we make to glide or lurch through today with as little damage as possible may serve no purpose tomorrow.

It is change that is our constant, not only as a society but in our small, day-to-day lives.  I envision a well-trained boxer, light of foot, quick to dodge surprising blows, ready for anything.  I think, too, of ships setting forth with hope but not absolute certainty of a round planet, oceans which would eventually lead them home.  We forget that we are still conquistadors, Vikings, pioneers, Lewis and Clark.  We forget that, each day, we find a new path through uncharted lands, somehow traverse uncrossable waters.  If we are occasionally weary of such adventure, it is fitting.  We have never been here, right here, before.