Tuesday, December 29, 2009


It's my favorite time of year. Time to think about all of the awesome things that happened in 2009, as well as all of the hard lessons learned. New Years is becoming more and more my favorite holiday because, to me, it marks a point to make promises to yourself that can spark dramatic self-improvement. I love making lists and setting goals, and it has become a tradition for me to create an ambitious year's checklist to keep the momentum of the previous year going, and to mark turning points in my personal goals and priorities. Last year's list proved to be pretty challenging, and I completed only 11 of the 30 things I set out to do. Regardless, I may not have tried to do any of those things, had I not made the list in the first place. So, pat on the back for the 1/3 of the list which was completed, and let's make myself a promise to get a little closer to completing the list this year.
Problems with last year's list: 1. I only looked at it at the beginning and end of the year. This year's rough draft is written out in my checklist book, so I should not be able to ignore it for months at a time. 2. Some of the goals are a little ambitious while still remaining vague. "#23. complete 2 bodies of artwork" No, Gretchen, "complete all drawings for the 'I'm already married to my habits' series" is much more specific and therefore, more likely to be achieved. 3. dance classes are expensive and I was paying by the class.
So here goes, the New Year's Checklist 2010:
1. Read 1 book a month and post a blog to review
2. Complete 1 drawing a week and post image to myspace.com
3. Submit 1 short story to McSweeney's
4. Complete and update BirdQueenDesigns.com with links to purchase items
5. Apply to vend at ArtsFest (by Jan.29, 2010) and the ArtStar Craft Bazaar
6. Participate in 5 charity events (AIDSwalk: October 17, and others to be named later)
7. Obtain a balance of $5000.00 in savings account
8. Pay $5000.00 extra towards student loans
9. Clean up banking: get rid of M&T, clear CC debt
10. Go to the gym twice a week (starting in March)
11. Show artwork in NYC
12. Finish 'I'm Already Married to my Habits'
13. Get jewelry into a boutique in NYC
14. Finish 'In Loving Memory of Yellow'
15. Visit the West Coast
16. Take 1 week off of buying things per month
17. Cook 1 new meal a month
18. Have a me day once a month (massage, pedicure, facial, haircut, somethin like that)
19. Attend PB critiques at Pafa
20. Apply for 5 grants
21. Watch Art 21 Series
22. Subscribe to McSweeney's AND collect the entire 33 existing volumes
23. Go to NYC once a month
24. Visit the PMA once a month
25. Get a SOLO exhibition in a gallery in Philly.

The End! Keep on me about it!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I went to Borders Bookstore a few weeks ago (or a couple, or a month, you know i have a shitty sense of time), and was looking for books of short stories to add to my to-read list and asked for assistance. The customer service rep pointed me in the direction of the short story and essay anthologies in the literature section. I was looking for Dave Hickey, but was pretty open to anything. I found a beautiful hardcover book with creative cutouts on the front cover and a 60's-looking silkscreened image of 2 space dogs on the first page. I leafed through it and it was certainly beautiful. It was called "McSweeney's 29" which of course didn't mean anything to me until I noticed the 4 or 5 other books with McSweeney's written on their spines. Eack book looked completely different, all hardcover, all beautiful, but in various sizes and with completely contrasting designs and color schemes. Nothing connected them apart from the name, and I immediately wanted all of them. I settled on the space dogs book I had originally picked up and went to the register. I started reading it that night, crying by myself in my room at 2am during the first story by Brian Baise (which is a pretty big deal- I have never, to my memory, cried from something I have read before). The rest of the book did not disappoint, and though 2 or 3 weeks is not fast for most people to read a 178 page book it is a pretty big deal for me so back off.
At any rate, I have begun my collection, and am planning on having the whole lot AND a subscription by then end of 2010. That's one goal. The other McSweeney's-related goal for 2010 is to submit a short story for inclusion in one of their anthologies. Inspired by the book, I wrote a short story based on one of my dreams from this summer at 4am last week, and am considering it for submission. I also did a drawing (shown) based on this dream which will be featured in January's "Things we've made since September" show curated by Gabrielle Lavin. Stay tuned for opening dates and submission updates.

Monday, November 30, 2009


On my cab ride to 2300 market street today I caught a little NPR on the cabbie's radio and heard a man being interviewed by the dude that assists Terry Gross on Fresh Air. He was talking about "cultivating gratitude" and about the benefits of keeping a "gratitude journal" to remind yourself of all of the wonderful things you have in your life to appreciate. He claimed that keeping a journal like this helps people to recognize good things as they are happening in their lives, and helps them focus on the positives, rather than dwelling on the negatives. (He goes on to claim that people who keep gratitude journals and train themselves to think positively have experienced a decrease in blood pressure by about 10%).

In the spirit of this broadcast, in conjunction with my second-or-third-favorite holiday, I'd like to engage in a little exercise that takes this idea to heart.
#1. My Friends. I have always been lucky in my friends, and always surrounded myself with supportive, generous people who consistently demonstrate their excellence through acts of kindness and witty banter. My friends support me, laugh with me and challenge me, and I believe they have had a better-than-positive effect on my physical and psychological health. Emily keeps my stress levels at a minimum and shares so many interests with me that I rarely have to ask, "do you want to...?". Nicole keeps me creatively motivated and grounded, reminding me of real-time demands and the practicality of my own endeavors. Kristin keeps me smiling, Kathryn keeps me thinking, Jeanette keeps my ideals where they are and Jaimeson keeps me questioning and critiquing (I'm sure he will find this optimistic spiel vomit-inducing). This year, because of Didier, I was able to visit Paris, get my jewelry in a French boutique, and network with tons of international artists and gallerists. This has truly been a year of new opportunities.
#2. My Family. It's far too easy for me to under-appreciate my family. Visiting only 3 or 4 times a year for extended periods of time can make any group seem overwhelmingly insane. My parents and both brothers currently live in the same town, wearing on each others nerves for months on end between my visits, so I usually walk into arguments that have been going on for weeks. Regardless, as uncomfortable as 5 people sitting at a dining room table arguing about one of our cousin's facebook accounts can be, I have a delightful one-on-one relationship with each of the people in my immediate family, and I don't know if many people can say that. My parents have always been a good balance between friend and disciplinarian, they have never imposed their religious or political beliefs on us and always made me feel free to pursue any kind of career and education.
3. My Job. I consider myself extremely lucky to have landed a full-time gig during these rough economic times and try to keep other people in mind when applying for extra classes or hours. Teaching has also allowed for me to learn about the business side of art and craft. Without this teaching experience, I would not have taken my jewelry business as far as it has come. In the winter, I will be taking on an intern to help me with all of the extra work, and for Kathryn and Emily and Jeanette helping me out at Moore, I am extremely grateful. This job has also allowed me enough free time to work on my jewelry, my drawings, and to start painting again. I have learned so much in preparation for classes here. I was not necessarily expecting that when I got the job, but it is a delightful mingling of ideas and information; going from buying at the Mood to teaching at the Art Institute, to making jewelry and drawing and showing my work.
4. My Art. I am lucky in my artistic interests, they keep me busy and entertained. I have yet to get bored with making things, it takes up almost all of my free time, and makes me happy. I am lucky in my varied artistic interests. I need variety to keep me balanced. The book of stories, the illustrated short story, the jewelry, the dolls and the new painting projects have all contributed to what I percieve to be a healthy balance of creative interests. Everything influences everything else, and it all feeds me.
Feel free to post some stories about what you are thankful for. Even if you think it's cheezy, it might lower your blood pressure, or something.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Art is for Nerds

Recently I received an invitation to join the Bookish project from my fried Stephanie Beck, and since then books just seem to be appearing all mixed in with my art viewing. Text in artwork has made me nervous in the past, and I find, as I get older, I am starting to develop a taste for it. All of the books I have read by Haruki Murakami have fed my imagery and fueled my artistic practices, and even inspired me to take up the pen. My most recent drawings have been inspired by poetry, song lyrics and conversations about theories of existence.
I have been lucky that in recent months I have been exposed to some outstanding works that involve looking at literature not only as an inspirational tool, but also as a building material, a physical medium. Chava has constructed an entire playhouse (would she be offended to hear me call it a playhouse?) about 5 or 6 feet high, comprised entirely of the rolled pages of romance novels. I was instantly tickled when I saw the images of the finished piece. In my imagination, Chava has kept all of the adult-themed sections of the novels in a binder somewhere and only used the boring storyline to construct the awe-inspiring building. I just love the piece. It seems so serious and so time-consuming, and the material takes it to a place that is much more joyful and giggly. I had the pleasure of meeting Daniel Hoffman at Bambi Gallery at First Friday last weekend. We had a great conversation about utilizing new media, teaching, and creating, and when I got home I had the pleasure of attaching a name to some amazing artwork. The giant elephant head protectively hovering over a stack of love-worn books punched me in the heart. It is just the right amount of something I cannot describe.
There are few things I find more potent than the image of stacked books, piled written pages, or notebooks crammed with handwritten text. In high school and college I would frequently fill notebooks with class notes, and intentionally spill out into the margins so that every inch of page was bursting with words. I would fit two lines of text into one barred line of the paper, keeping my lettering small, and my pen pressure hard. I would segment the paper into little boxes or more organic shapes, separating ideas from drawings from the information from lectures. At the end of class, if I was without a friend in the classroom, I would run my fingers over the tortured paper. It was so satisfying to know that I had recorded so much, and at the same time, I couldn't bear to look at the pages again. Studying was a nightmare, pulling out the necessary bits and mining for questions that may or may not appear on final exams.
It was an obsessive habit, and I occasionally find myself falling back into it, sacrificing order for visual pleasure. There are few things I enjoy more than running my fingers over a handwritten page, and feeling the work that I have done.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What I read about when I read about running

I just finished reading Haruki Murakami's memoir "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." I finished the book in 3 days. For those of you that know me well, this is a pretty big deal. I was not disappointed.
About a year ago I told Michael Moore (not THAT Michael Moore, a personally influential faculty member at Pafa) that I was interested in creating a book of short stories based off of my bizarre, visually striking dreams (see dream exerpts here), and he suggested that I look at Murakami's work. His books are fantastic, and are a perfect complement to the visual and verbal work that I am doing now. He seamlessly moves from realistic representation to fantasy, and is never predictable or melodramatic. It is all so human. I have read "The Elephant Vanishes" and "After the Quake," and I have many many more books on deck. I was trying to complete my collection while shopping on amazon the other day, and chose "Dance Dance Dance" and "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," not realizing that it is a memoir, and not a book of short stories.
The exciting part is, I can really relate to his sentiments, and I can apply a lot of his discoveries to my own writing and artistic practices. He talks about running to achieve a meditative state, that the repetitive action creates a blank space in which the mind can find clarity. I respect his discipline and drive. He runs daily for about an hour and participates in one marathon per year. (I only run twice a week if I go to the gym. More if I am angry about something) He also describes his experience with running an ultramarathon (62 miles, sweet jesus). He spends little time talking about the process of writing, but he communicates very clearly the way that this physical practice has has influenced his strength and stamina as a writer.
In one chapter he talks about his bicycle which is inscribed with "18 til I die" the name of a Bryan Adams song. He explains that it is a joke because, "Being 18 til you die means you die when you're 18."
The whole book is written in this simple and honest and human way, explaining what the process of creating is like for Murakami. It is entirely relatable and I finished the book feeling struck by something profound. This 58-year-old man I don't know is supporting me in my actions as an artist. I have NEVER made this kind of an imaginary connection with an author before. He, by way of this book, is allowing me to do whatever I want to do. I feel more now than ever that I can show my work, I can write this book, I can choose to perform a live-action piece, I can become an athlete, and I don't have to choose any one of these things. It was the perfect time for this text in my life. I had been feeling, quite recently, that it has come time for me to focus on one thing and really try to excel at it. But it has become quite clear now that if I would like to excel on my terms, I will have to do all of these things. I am not only a writer, or a painter or a sculptor or a teacher. I am tiny pieces of all of these things in different percentages. I need all of these facets to be the person I am. It's funny how you can realize the same thing multiple times in one lifetime, and it's not for lack of memory. How many times must we be reminded of who we are? Or is it an infrequent occurance in an effort to keep that feeling sacred and special?
I am inspired.

Highly reccommended reading for anyone who writes or makes art. i definitely went for a jog afterward.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Uniform Project; Gaining Notoriety

The famous charity and accessorizing blog titled cThe Uniform Project is gaining a little bit of public attention through the Nau Collective and is being considered for their Grant for Change, which would supply Akanksha's School Project with an additional $10,000. (Independently, Sheena Matheiken and Eliza Starbuck have already raised $11,844 for the cause). Vote for their cause on the Nau Collective's website! You can also simply visit their site and donate $ directly, offer to donate accessories, or simply view the site regularly for new and exciting ideas about how to update an existing outfit rather than spend the money on a whole new wardrobe.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Little Somethings

As most of you know, my work is being featured in the NATURE exhibition in Caladan Gallery online. You can view the exhibition here, which features 3 of my pen drawings. The originals are for sale, and there are limited edition archival prints available of 2 of the pieces.
Additionally, I was googling my name the other day (as many vain people do), and I came across a most flattering blog entry by designer Kathy Davis. Check it out!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Up and Running

Finally!! The renovations and updates are complete at my website!!! Now you can visit www.gretchendiehl.com for my news updates, my most up-to-date images of my artwork, links to sites of other fantastic artists, and also view my latest revision of my artist's statement and CV/Resume!! I am excited, can you tell?! Anyway, take a moment to review all of the updated awesome and let me know what you think!!

(My site renovations were made possible by otherpeoplespixels.com. Any artist who is interested in designing their own site should totally look into working with them. Mustafa told me about their services, which are totally affordable. You can set up a free trial website, and then pay for it if you like how easy it is to use!!! They make updating and even selling through paypal really simple! Let them know that i referred you and i get a free month! and then you get a free necklace from me! ...or something, we can negotiate!!)

Monday, July 20, 2009

man babies

I've always been interested in the reasons people have for procreating. At 27, I am undecided as to whether or not children will be in my future, which does not particularly stress me out one way or the other. As a child, I collected Cabbage Patch dolls, and had, like, 50 (no exaggeration). I had a Barbie kitchenette, a kid-sized hutch and doll-sized cradles and strollers taking over my room. I thought that getting married and having children was the only way that becoming an adult would happen, and that unmarried women had some kind of social disorder. Once I started going to college, I started questioning all of the bizarre mommy-training that had been going on throughout my childhood (and almost every other woman's childhood), and have since been quite interested in my biological urges and the extent to which they can be attributed to conditioning. In this situation nurture obviously outweighs nature, but to what extent? When I think of myself as a mother in the future, is it because that is really what I want, or is it only the remnants of this strange doll tradition? When I believe that is not a part of my future, is that really what I want, or is it a backlash against the doll tradition? Who thought of giving little girls facsimiles of babies to play with in the first place?! I think almost every woman has to deal with the assessment of where these urges and counter-urges come from, whether or not it matters, and which ones win out in the end.
At the end of graduate school I started exploring this idea a little more intimately, and created a series of stuffed rabbits with masks of babies faces on them. They came out extra creepy and funny, and I called them the surrogates. I liked the idea that one object can stand in for another, or be a place-keeper for a period of time. The idea was training for motherhood, and the weirdness of that venture; stuffed animals get traded in for dolls, which are then traded in for pets, and eventually babies. We learn over time to make living things dependent on us, and we start to love the feeling of being needed. The second series I was sketching out was a similar idea that involved the idea of blending genes, or keeping a man. I was going to do a series of collages of images of mothers and babies, with and without fathers, where the babies were wearing masks of the father's faces. It was supposed to illustrate the idea of taking some of a man and transferring it onto a dependent new human being. It's a little sick, but sometimes I think it's part of the motivation to procreate.
Well, I never did carry out that collage series, but Emily did show me this amazing website that did what I wanted to do only better. I know they are probably just trying to be creepy and funny, but I think there's something poignant about it. Enjoy Manbabies.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Uniform Project Revisited

Sheena Matheiken's brainchild The Uniform Project seems to be garnering lots of support for educational programs in India. The last time I checked, there had been about $250 donated by fans supporting the site, but today that total is over $5,000!!! If you have not checked out The Uniform Project, do so today. It is tons of fun, and an inspiring use of fashion as vehicle of social consciousness. I like anything that makes me feel good about my job.
Also, she featured one of my necklaces (designed by me, drawn by caitlin kuhwald) on Jun 27, 2009.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Mom, you have way too many hats"

In an episode of Home Movies where Brendon gets writer's block, Paula attempts to help him get through a most delicate situation with some motherly advice:

Paula: "as someone who has worn the hat of a writer AND the hat of a teacher, I think I can be of assistance"
Brendon: "Mom, you have way too many hats"

When he brings up the issue of writer's block, she tells him "don't get it"
(HEY!! I found a picture of this EXACT moment!!)

At any rate, I am finding that I may, in fact, have WAY too many hats. Last night I had a dream that one of my college professors sat me down and lectured me about committing to achieving my goals and remembering my dreams. Now, anyone who knows me well and who has read my dream journal or my short stories can tell you that my dreams are never so cut and dry, and NEVER so realistic and logical. The only explanation I can come up with is that my sub-conscious is trying to tell me something, and that something is that I am in danger of spreading myself thin creatively. My jewelry business is taking off and becoming a healthy source of extra income, I have been in more gallery exhibitions this year than I was in throughout all of graduate school, I am teaching full-time and using my own personal experience as a retail manager and store buyer as fodder for my ever-adapting fashion marketing classes at AI, I'm working steadily on my book of short stories and I have been making drawings for the 32 page graphic short story I intend to plop in the middle of my first collection. But where is my identity in all of this? I have never wanted to be the type of person who ignores one kind of opportunity because it isn't close enough to exactly-what-I-have-my-master's-degree-in, or the type of person who settles for mediocrity when something outstanding is waiting right around the corner. I love that dissatisfaction is a driving force and that being open to new experiences has gained me some degree of local notoriety. I love the ride. I love not knowing. I love 9. But something here is WRONG.
So, what to do? I can continue on this path of living 4 or 5 separate lives at the same time or I can decide what needs to be focused on. Is this the moment in which I realize that it can't all be done, or do I just need to commit to not sleeping or having a social life? Should I be meditating instead of blogging? UGH.
but enough about me, how are you all doing?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

the 10! show

hi everyone!
real quick, my jewelry is going to be featured during a daily candy segment on the 10! show (local: NBC 10) sometime between 11am and noon today. if you have access to some tv at this time, check it out, and let me know if it was cool- I'll be at the Mood.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A short rant about 9

When I was in high school I was a very high-strung person, hell-bent on perfection, which I theorized was perfectly achievable, and everyone else in the world must have just been too lazy to get there. I made the connection in more recent years that, at that time in my life, I was forcing myself into too many holes in which I did not fit. Some of the holes were straight A's, being the best dancer in my classes, and being the best artist in my school.
The main hole was religion, cliche as it may be to fade religion. I had a good experience at my particular church and was VERY involved. The other congregates were super-friendly, and at 16, I became the president of the youth group, as well as a kindergarten Sunday School teacher. At night however, I would frequently cry in bed, terrified at the thought of infinity, and equally terrified at the thought of time ending. While weighing out my fears of infinity and finity, I decided that time ending was the much more horrifying reality, and forced myself to become more and more involved in a religion that my mind simply could not believe in. When I got to college and distanced myself from the church, I slowly realized my stress and anxiety were melting away. I don't think that religion in general is a bad choice for all people, or even that it was bad for me, but I do think that forcing myself to believe in something that I could not, or forcing myself to "be something I am not" was causing all kinds of fears and stressors to surface. Losing "God" was initially horrifying, until I realized that I wasn't losing anything. If I don't truly believe in it, I am wasting time and energy on upsetting myself. It was simply not logical.
That was the first major sigh of relief in my personal philosophies.
The second actually came at the end of my graduate program at Pafa. While writing my thesis I had to flesh out my working methods, and try to come up with the inspirational force behind what I am driven to do on a daily basis. I would suggest that everyone do this at some point, or at various points in their lives. In finding my direction, I actually loosened my grip on the concrete endpoint I had in sight for the way my life would be in the future. In writing about what I wanted for myself, I began to realized that it was a forked and windy road, and at 24, i would not be able to see the end of it, and that is beautiful. Christ, who wants to know exactly what is going to happen to them in the future? It would be dreadful.
I realized, through writing my thesis that I had a distaste for photorealism. If you are going to spend 1000 hours painting something and it is going to look exactly like a photograph, why don't you just take a photograph? That version of "perfection" actually put me off a little.
I noticed a trend:
- I like to get a 96% on a test better than a 100%. a 100% just implies that the test was easy.
- I've always liked silver better than gold.
- I like my own drawings best when something is a little weird. You know, like, someone doesn't have anatomically correct elbows or something. My drawings are absolutely the best when you can tell something is awkward, but you cannot identify what that is.
The conclusion: I love near perfection. On a scale of 1 to 10, I love 9.
Aesthetically it is the prettiest #. In numerology it is like, the top thing you can do. In spoken German, it means "no" which I love to say.
I've talked to people about 9 before, and Emily had heard about it a lot. Today she sent me an email that inspired this post:
"im working at the pma right now, writing a lesson about super heroes. im reading this article about the xmen, and it says that they "challenge us to accept the beauty of difference, the libetration of imperfection." that reminded me of you, you know, like 9. so liberating." I am totally flattered that Xmen made Em think of me.
If you live your whole life trying to be 10, you can miss out on all of the wonderful things that make you a human being. You might never get drunk and embarrass yourself, you might never let anyone get to know your hilarious flaws. If you content yourself with 9, you can always be striving, growing, knowing there is something more you can make of yourself, never plateauing, and still never regretting. 9 is bliss. It's an A-, and I have become comfortable with not being valedictorian.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hard Pressed. (ehhhhh....)

I have been really lucky recently in my press coverage, and i just wanted to share a few links with everyone. All of this positive press is in response to my jewelry designs which are available at BirdQueen.etsy.com, as well as 9 stores in the greater Philadelphia area (see listing below).
During the ArtStar Craft Bazaar, which served up beautiful weather and live music, 215 Magazine was around photographing vendors and their interesting items. Today I am featured in Daily Candy, which I am SUPER-PUMPED about; they feature some of the most interesting and creative goodies on their blog, and I am so honored that they took notice of my fledgling business.
Laura Draper wrote up a lovely piece about my jewelry, my artwork, and my professional double-life in the Philadelphia Examiner. Lastly, after Emily G bought a pair of my earrings at the Trenton Ave Arts Festival, she featured them in a blog about the big bike race on PW blogs.
Keep an eye out, too for The Uniform Project, I will be posting a little something when Sheena wears Caitlin Kuhwald's Owley necklace.

Shops that currently carry my jewelry:
Arcadia Boutique: 819 N 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
Arts+Plus Gallery: 704 Haddon Ave., Collingswood, NJ
Bambi Gallery: 1001-13 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA
Bohema Consignment: 6152 Ridge Ave., Philadelphia, PA
The Fashion Center: 16th and South Streets, Philadelphia, PA
Mew Gallery: 906 Christian St., Philadelphia, PA
The Point Store: Old Vilalge Road, Chadds Ford, PA
Tselaine's: 1927 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
WILBUR: 716 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Uniform Project

Christine Finckenor recently sent me a link to a very interesting website that I have to share...

Sheena Matheiken of Brooklyn, NY has pledged to wear what amounts to the same thing for a year to support the Akanksha Project, a grassroots education initiative in Mumbai that helps young people stay in school while supporting improvements in education in general. She calls this The Uniform Project.
In Sheena's "What's this all about?" section on her site she describes what is behind her seemingly unsanitary practice:

"Starting May 2009, I have pledged to wear one dress for one year as an exercise in sustainable fashion. Here’s how it works: There are 7 identical dresses, one for each day of the week. Every day I will reinvent the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accoutrements, the majority of which will be vintage, hand-made, or hand-me-down goodies. Think of it as a daily uniform with enough creative license to make it look like I just crawled out of the Marquis de Sade's boudoir.

The Uniform Project is also a year-long fundraiser for the Akanksha Foundation, a grassroots movement that is revolutionizing education in India. At the end of the year, all contributions will go toward Akanksha’s School Project to fund uniforms and other educational expenses for slum children in India."

Anyway, visit her site and get inspired. You can participate by contacting Sheena to donate personally designed or hand-me-down accessories to help fuel her creativity, or you can donate funds to the cause. Sheena herself has agreed to contribute $1 per day on top of the work she is already doing to draw attention to this important cause.

I contacted Sheena a couple of days ago and she has agreed to take one of my necklaces, giving props to my jewelry design, as well as the beautiful illustration work of Caitlin Kuhwald. I'll mos def let you guys know when she sports it on the site!!!

So join in and check it out, I find it truly refreshing!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Spirit

I got a chance to see The Spirit, Frank Miller's adaptation of the Will Eisner comic last night, and it is thus far my favorite of the Frank Miller comic book adaptations. Or maybe I was just really prepared for all of the cheesy this time around.
I got to see the Miller/ Rodriguez adaptation of Miller's Sin City, and the Zach Snyder adaptation of Miller's 300 in that order over the past couple of years. I had thought, until I imdb'd the shit outta these films, that they were all directed by the same person and all written by Frank Miller. I guess I should pay more attention, but I will still compare and contrast the 3 films, as if they are sisters.
Sin City was great the first couple of times that I watched it, and there were definitely some haunting and creatively disturbing moments throughout, but the movie as a whole was dripping with too much drama. Parts of the film were so high-key and overemotional that it becomes uncomfortable to watch. I will always love Bruce Willis's performance, and some of the scenes are really artistically rendered. Miller's use of white is just so striking, and it really translates well to the big screen (see image of Mickey Rourke with totally badass band-aides to the left). Also that famous image of Marv sinking in the tar pit- completely badass.
The nice thing about The Spirit was that it incorporated a lot of that same beauty and high-contrast imagery without the melodrama. I think some people disliked it or critiqued it for being silly, but I think that is the right solution to these films. I would much rather that a film be silly-funny than painfully, awkwardly, unintentionally funny.
...Like the 300. Man, am I the only person on this planet that totally hated that movie? It sure took itself seriously. I just can't get on board with all the drama. The rock-music-slow-motion-kick-a-guy-into-a-huge-pit-garbage destroys anything beautiful in the film. Then the scene where that kid gets his head chopped off, but you can't really react to it or have any feelings about it because it is filmed in such ridiculous slow motion that you see it coming from 45 miles away. And, holy crap, that sex scene has GOT TO GO. Now, I am all about a well-done sex scene, but don't tease me with implied-sex tastefullness and then punch me in the face with royal doggy-style. I mean, seriously.
And don't get me wrong, The Spirit started like every other shitty superhero movie, with a 15 minute explanation as to how the hero's city is "like a woman, and i am her guardian, and she is not proud, but she needs me and I need her, and I live inside her, and she is a woman, like I said..." and on and on and on. But there is a grain of salt. Right there.
Samuel L Jackson does an amazing job of being an over-the-top super villian. The first fight scene between the Octopus (Samuel L) and the Spirit occurs in a giant mud puddle and involves all kinds of hilarious props like a huge anchor, the head of a dead guy, and a toilet. His costumes are many and various, full of fur coats and paste-on sideburns. Also, you get to see Eva Mendez's ass. That thing defies gravity.

Friday, May 29, 2009


I was walking home on Bainbridge today when I saw a little object on the sidewalk in front of me. It looked like one of those smooth, translucent yellowish-white pebbles that you find in a body of water, but as i got closer, realized it was a tiny plastic fetal bird. I had seen a similar object at Seraphin Gallery at Hiro Sakaguchi's "My Dog Speaks" exhibition (Cheap, by Darla Jackson, shown left). I crouched down to look at the object more closely, and started to really admire the craftsmanship of the piece. Its large, black, perfectly spherical eyes were veiled with a cloudy layer of wax that perfectly mimicked developing eyelids. A deep red object was embedded in the bird's chest. So many layers of what appeared to be milky wax built up the flesh and sinew of the baby bird. The beak seemed to be made out of an entirely different material- opaque and hard and bright yellow. When I noticed that there were 2 tiny abrasions on the bird's perfect skin (which shone only slightly red for lack of a complete cardiovascular system), I thought of the possibility of this bird being real, but there was no setting or crime scene. The little corpse was alone on the sidewalk. There was no shattered egg or fallen nest. It had to be fake. Someone's sociology experiment or just a sick little art kid joke.
I had to move him. If he was fake, I could put him in the trash, if he was real, I needed to think of something else. I could not bear the thought of someone stepping on him.
Luckily, there was a bag of paper recyclables next to the body, and I found an empty Claritin box. With the help of a receipt from my purse, I rolled the little friend into the box. As he limply flopped into the box, I realized it was entirely real. I don't recall ever holding anything dead in my life, but you definitely know when you are. There is nothing there but cold weight.
I carried him in the Claritin box for a few blocks, trying to decide if I should be upset or confused, trying to understand if it was possible that this little creature could have gotten to where he was, in the condition he was in. I found a garden box that had no flowers planted in it and i picked up a stick and started to carve a deep, tiny hole with my right hand, holding the box in my left (which was developing a cold spot in the middle of my palm through the thin cardboard where the bird was lying). I tried to pour him gracefully into the hole, but he flopped in a tiny heap. I tried to imagine that the cool soil felt good on his skin as i packed it tightly around him. The soil, at least, felt good on my hands. I walked with the Claritin box for about 6 blocks, as Bainbridge is not particularly rich with trash cans.
It is weird to shift from objectifying something to realizing it is or was a living thing. I had enjoyed this creature's skin and transparent layers so much when I thought it was a fabrication. It punched me in the gut to realize my folly.

An interesting aside; the first sentence of my horoscope for today reads:
"Your life is complicated by your ability to see the truth, especially when this awareness makes it impossible to keep up superficial appearances."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Neko Case Live in Concert

Apparently Neko just couldn't get enough of Philly and is comin' back for more in July!! If anyone is a fan and has not seen Neko perform live, you should really make it a priority to see her. She is natural and engaging with her audience, and manages to always sound even better than her albums during performances. I have seen her at the Trocadero and at the Keswick, and was absolutely blown away both times.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Neko's work, check out the video in this post.
Concert details:
WXPN welcomes Neko Case, the fiery singer-songwriter touring in support of her hugely successful new album, Middle Cyclone to the Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall on Wed., Jul. 29 at 8pm. SPIN Magazine gives it a 9-out-of-10 and The New Yorker calls it "the best album of her career." This new release follows her hugely-acclaimed Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Also appearing is Jason Lytle of Grandaddy. Produced by AEG Live & Kimmel Center Presents.
(Honestly, I think I still like Fox Confessor the most of all of her albums, but each one is a tiny jewel wrapped in a beautiful silk brocade of delectably human moments, wrapped in a burrito of interesting metaphors).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Chick Habit/ Laisse Tomber Les Filles

On Cheerleading, Acting, and Early Romances

My new roommate, Nicole has been raving about a movie from 1999 called "But I'm a Cheerleader," which initially sounded truly awful. We were supposed to wait until Nicole got her copy back from a friend to watch it, but we both became impatient and rented it from TLA. We've watched it twice already, and it isn't due back until Tuesday, so i think we have a good 2 or 3 more views left in us. At any rate, it was really charming, and I only tried to hide my tears at the end because Nicole wasn't obviously crying. Turns out she was doing the same, even though she has seen the movie 106 times.
The premise is that a 17ish blonde cheerleader who believes herself to be straight, gets shipped off to a gay-be-gone camp called "True Directions" by her friends and family who have become concerned with her vegetarian lifestyle and Melissa Ethridge posters. The main male camp counselor is a "former gay"and wears a series of hilarious t-shirts, one of which reads, "Straight is Great," as he continually, lustfully eyes the camp directors son, Rock.
It is one of those movies where the acting gets more convincing as the film progresses, and it makes me wonder if that is some kind of film formula, or if it is the natural result of the actors and actresses getting more into character over the months and months of filming (assuming that the movie was shot in sequence). It would make sense, if you are trying to win over an audience, to lower their expectations at the beginning of the movie, and strengthen the characters as the plot progresses.
And, yes, that is RuPaul out of drag.
The painfully fantastic soundtrack didn't really help matters when it came to crying, either. "Glass Vase Cello Case" by Tattle Tale killed me a little. It takes me back to college days where boys would play that kind of music with the desperate hope that it would inspire a girl to put out. That IS a tip, by the way, to any late-teen, early-twenty-somethings reading this: add this to your "bring a girl home" playlist on your itunes. I can't promise results, but you can bet a girl will call you "sensitive" when gossiping to her girlfriends the morning after.

The video is absolute garbage, but I wanted you to hear the song, so deal.
Other freaking phenomenal songs on the soundtrack include:
April March- Chick Habit** (my fav)
Funnel of Love- Wanda Jackson
We're in the City- Saint Etienne
If you should try and Kiss Her- Dressy Bessy
Clea DuVall is truly fantastic. Her character starts out a little 2-dimensional and her beauty slowly emerges as the movie goes on. I've always liked it when a movie can make you fall for someone that you don't find particularly attractive in the beginning (think of Peter Gibbons in Office Space- he just gets exponentially sexier for the entire 89 minutes of the movie). I think it mirrors real-life love-interests in that you can become more and more physically attracted to a person as you learn more things about them that you like or are impressed by.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Support the Arts!!!

Stephanie Beck sent out a mass email today and i followed the link and sent a message to our state rep and legislator about the issue at hand; depriving Pennsylvania Art Students and Artists of important grants and funding opportunities.
please take a moment to check out Stephanie's email below, and follow the link to support the Arts in Pennsylvania:

(May 6, 2009) - This afternoon, the Pennsylvania Senate passed its version of the FY 2010 state budget (SB 850) with a 30-20 vote. The bill, introduced on May 4, eliminates all arts and culture grants in the state through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

It still has to go through the House of Rep., so there is still time. https://www.philaculture.org/action/hottopics/2875/save-arts-cultural-funding-pennsylvania


Saturday, May 9, 2009

"My Dog Speaks" Animal Narrative in Contemporary Art, as curated by Hiro Sakaguchi featuring work by:
Alina Josan & Amanda Miller, Anne Canfield, Bonnie Brenda Scott, Nancy Sophy, Caroline Picard, Darla Jackson, Erci McDade, John Karpinski, Laura McKinley, Sarah McEneaney, Sherif Habashi, and Caitlin Emma Perkins.
Opens at Seraphin Gallery at 1108 Pine Street in Philadelphia TONIGHT from 6pm- 8pm.
I will not be able to attend, as i will be selling my jewelry at Arts+Plus Gallery in Collingswood, NJ from 5pm-9pm, but if you are in Philadelphia for the evening, stop by the opening before hitting up the bar. I took a peek inside yesterday after the Pafa ASE opening, and was overwhelmed. It is just fantastic. I am so jeal that I am not in this show, but it is SO COOL, i am promoting it without any prior affiliation. Just love, for all of that awesome.

Time to Blog, Baby

This is my first blog entry! ever! I know you're all so proud of me. I have decided that I will use this space to promote my own art exhibitions and events, as well as other awesome goings-on in the Philadelphia area and around the world.
Thanks for taking the time to check out my new space!
the BirdQueen

birdqueen designs
artwork by gretchen diehl