Monday, November 22, 2010

You had me at "Jewels Verne."

I was recently inspired to look up some funky engagement rings by a friend who confided in me that he is thinking of "popping the question," and now I have become completely obsessed with jewelry websites and making myself familiar with some very talented designers working in upscale materials (as well as some fun plasticky etsy designers).

First, I was looking for engagement rings and I came across the ring of MY dreams, which isn't necessarily helpful when suggesting sites and rings to someone else. To the left is the interesting-enough-for-me-to-care-a-little-about-diamonds masterpiece by Shaun Leane; a designer who sells through the Astley Clarke website and specializes in organic-looking enamel and precious metal pieces for the chic hippie. This particular piece is the most understated in a series of oversized cocktail rings, pedants and earrings that incorporate cherry blossoms and buds. His other works featured on the site are also inspired by flowering trees and the juxtaposition of metals, precious stones, enamel (occasionally in fun colors) and pearls.

Another designer on the Astley Clarke website is Stephen Webster. While a little goth, I can definitely appreciate his sense of humor in both design and titling. His "Jewels Verne baby jellyfish" collection had me rolling around on the floor (inside), whilst still admiring the simultanaeity (?) of beauty and ridiculous punny-ness.

If you are looking for something a little more affordable, this lovely bird cutout bracelet is sure to make any nature-lover happy. Fresh and lightweight and great for matching with winter whites and spring and summer brights- a real year-round treat from Etsy designer Miss Blue Bird and Oscar. Also, it's only $14.00. Lovely.

And, lasty but not leasty is a couple of adorable elephant cufflinks for the distinguished gentleman in your life- available in purple or blue, these enameled sterling silver cuff-buddies march proudly around the end of your man's sleeves. Designed in-house by Astley Clarke for the well-dressed man with a cool sense of humor.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Memory's Not What it Used to Be...

But, I think, in some instances, it has actually gotten better.
For those of you who know me and the bodies of work I have been kicking around for the last couple of years, you know that memory has played an important role in my subject matter. Whether it is sketching out an idea for an installation or fleshing out the details of a dream-inspired short story, I rely on my fractured memory to piece together the details. In the short story I am presently working on, I deal with this issue directly. In an effort to honor my grandfather, I am trying to tell the story of my relationship with him, through a series of conversations which prove what I "know" about him to be false. This story is based on actual conversations and, since beginning this project, I have all but lost faith in my ability to recall accurate information.
However, there is still something beautiful to be found in this inability to conjure. The invented events do not change the amount of love that I felt for my grandfather. They are simply born of assumptions I made about him based on clues that I remember quite vividly (for example: I thought he worked for YELLOW trucking company because of a notepad he always had next to the phone in the kitchen). My ability to "make something up" has leaked out into my day-to-day activities and perverted my ability to recall facts... but has not affected my enjoyment of these snack-sized memories. I loved my grandfather, I loved his notepads, and I loved the fact that I believed Mentos didn't exist outside of my grandparents house.
To counterpoint, I actually HAD a memory today. As in, I recalled something that I hadn't thought about or known in a very long time. My friends and loved ones know it is very common for me to forget something, but this moment of remembering (without someone saying, "remember when...?" and describing a scene until I finally recalled it), is rare and special.
I was working on a drawing for Fleisher's Dear Fleisher invitational biennial benefit exhibition (not the piece featured above, I won't be able to show this new piece until the sale and exhibition at the end of September), and the particular blue I was using to fill in an area of the drawing looked, for a moment, EXACTLY like the sky at my cousin Courtney's house when we were kids. Then I remembered how special the sunsets were there. She lived in Bethlehem, and I lived in Stroudsburg. In my hometown, uninterrupted skies were impossible to see through miles and miles of dense forest and rolling hills. Bethlehem, however, was fairly flat (where Courtney's house was) and, on clear evenings, you could ALWAYS see the sunset from her swingset. We would make sure that we were sitting on top of the monkeybars at the right time to see the pinks and oranges in the sky, and we would talk and laugh and hang upside-down.
She also had romper-stompers (hand-me-downs from Grant), a monkey swing, and Grape Escape. My only punishment for this bounty of worldly delights would be the occasional dinner with beets as a side dish. I still think they taste like dirt.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Worth Saving For

Ok. I just made a 29th birthday pledge to myself to cut down on my material posessions. I intend to root through my closet, bookshelves, art supply bins, and that dreaded cage in my basement that houses my most expendable items to find the things I do not use and purge them from my life. But of course, in the spirit of all things born of good intentions, I have already deviated from this good natured task. Yesterday I stopped at Ann Taylor to use the birthday gift card they gave me on a new top (it expires at the end of August! I HAD to!), I brought a discarded storage box and a sewing machine in from the sidewalk (someone HAS to have a use for it, I just need to check and see if it works before I offer it up), and today I have already recieved a lovely birthday present from my coworker, James, and a beautiful fashion illustration textbook from my boss, Alison.
And then I went to the Fabric Workshop's website.
I am putting together a sheet of information for my Product Development students about block printing and silkscreening, and (in the off-chance that one of my students becomes interested in textile design) I wanted to put together a sheet of information about the Apprenticeship program at the workshop, and was snooping around the website for info and cool images. One of the special things that the workshop offers are artist multiples... and one of the featured artists is KIKI SMITH. YES!!!! So I have posted images here of some of the items you could purchase at the gift shop by Kiki- a creepy peoplehead bird that has a motion detector inside and it makes some sounds or something, and a ceramic sheep bank.
So, once I get rid of 100 or so of my worldly posessions in this mega-purge, I'll reward myself with my very own work of Kiki Smith art. *sigh*

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nightswimming in Murakami

I don't consider myself to be what anyone would call a prolific reader. I made a goal for myself at the beginning of 2010 (and the same goal for every year for the past 3 or 4) to read a book a month. To a lot of people this would seem like the opposite of a challenge. My older brother can park himself in a quiet room for 7 hours solid and polish off a good-sized novel. I have simply never had that ability. I find my mind wandering while I read and often have to re-read a paragraph 3 or 4 times before the information sinks in. Needless to say, reading is not quite as relaxing for me as it is for some, it is an exercise in concentration.
Murakami was suggested to me by my grad school professor, Michael Moore (not that Michael Moore) when I told him I was interested in writing short stories based on my dreams. At first it seemed like a marriage of convenience (I couldn't pay attention for long and most of his stories were under 30 pages), but after a while I realized that there was something truly magical about the worlds that he painted and I fell madly in love with his writing. Jeanette once told me, of a person she admired that she wanted to "go swimming in his brain" and that is the best combination of words to describe how Murakami's work makes me feel. He is adventurous in subject, adept at wordplay, and unafraid of cliches and inexplicable situations. I admire Kiki Smith for the same reasons; They are both exceptional at what they do, and are unafraid of laying their brains out naked for everyone to see.

But enough gushing.

I just finished Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman," and it is my FIRST book that I have read this year. A little behind schedule. The balance and flow of the 24 stories was impeccable. Some stories remained unresolved and frustrating while others tied up as neatly as Murakamily possible. Some stories revolved around perfectly realistic happenings and others involved mythical characters and talking monkeys. My favorite was "A 'Poor Aunt' Story," which involved a little of all of the above- ordinary situations with ordinary people, and an element which is inexplicably ...hazy. The reader leaves the story not knowing what has actually transpired, with no real reason to pick the story apart to solve that mystery. Every Murakami story is just the way that it is, leaving you wondering if that name appeared in another tome, and if that has some significance to the present story. I feel a strong sense of the present in his work. A lack of nostalgia. No real pretext for the future. Just ... is.

I'm not really making any sense, but I wanted to share how I feel right now, after JUST having finished this marvelous book; Supported, encouraged, and inspired.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Fair-Weather Health-Nut on the Broad Street Run

It's kind of silly that it took me this long to blog about the Broad Street Run that took place on May 2nd, but better late than never.
Emily asked me to participate in the 10-miler with her about 6 months before it happened and I gave her a hesitant 'yes.' While most people were training for the challenge, I shoved running to the back burner with the excuse, "I can always quit and catch the subway." I started "training" about a month before the race. I was surprised how easily my body adapted to running, and quickly realized that my stamina is better now than it was in high school... you know, when I was taking 5 dance classes a week and cheerleading for 2 hours every day after school.
In my junior year of high school, Kristin and I tried to train to run a mile for our presidential fitness testing in gym class. The fitness testing was insane. As a student, you were graded on how flexible you were, how many chin-ups and sit-ups you could do and how fast you could run a mile. The grading was not based on improvement, it was based on ability, and as one of the more 'in shape' students in the class, I couldn't even imagine what it would have been like to be an overweight or sedentary student. The mile grading scale went like this: under 8 minutes= A, 8-9 minutes= B, 9-10 minutes= C, 10-11 minutes= D, 11+ minutes= fail. I got a "C" and felt like someone had hit me with a bus when I was finished. If you had told me then that in 12 years I would do that x10, I would have peed myself laughing.
Before the Broad Street Run, I had been eating uncharacteristically well under the supervision of my hippie-holistic-chiropractic-dietitian-spirit guide. He had put me on a strict diet of no red meat, dairy, sugar, vinegar, coffee, alcohol, corn, or wheat. I lined up the first week of the cleanse with my period, so I had this amazing coffee and sugar withdrawal mixed with menstrual exhaustion and I was a miserable bitch. After that hump, I started to feel light and amazing. I carried over some of the dietary suggestions to my everyday life (it was a 30-day diet), and by the time the run came along, I had begun to re-introduce food items to my diet. For some months before the run, Emily and I had gotten into the habit of (in my case, erratically) attending spinning class at the 12th street gym. The intense cardio must have prepped me for the run, because the first time I practiced I ran 3.2 miles in 30 minutes and didn't have to stop to walk.
The Actual Run:
Standing at Broad and Olney, City Hall is nothing more than an imaginary dot behind gently rolling hills of concrete. Suddenly running for 2 hours solid sounded horrifying. The morning was hot and the Broad Street Run staff decided to open the fire hydrants along the route to cool us of as we rolled down the street in a river of bouncing Phillies caps. Emily and I ran for the first 4 miles solid and then lost each other. RAN FOR FOUR MILES SOLID. INSANE. Obviously, the run got harder and harder as the miles ticked away, and progress seemed a lot slower when I hit mile 7, but overall the experience was inspiring. 30,000 people moving together in relative synchrony. From Olney to the Naval Yard, spectators lined Broad Street with signs to encourage their friends and family members. I never thought I would be so excited to see Girard Ave.. Around mile 8 or 9, I started to feel really worn. Nearing the finish line my feet clumsily slapped the ground without rhythm, and I eeked out one more bit of energy to finish as strong as I could, crossing the line at 1 hour and 57 minutes. I felt very peaceful and happy for about 4 hours afterward, and around 6pm I experienced a depressing crash. It was kind of annoying that I am so emotionally sensitive that a natural endorphin rush can result in an emotional low. My joints ached that evening, and for the next 3 days my muscles ached... but that was it. My knees kept with me the whole time, only complaining the evening after I made them do twice what they had ever done in the past.
Needless to say, I haven't been back to the gym since... but I am going to try spinning tonight.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kiki Smith: Sojourn, at the Brooklyn Museum

I "met" Kiki Smith in Philadelphia in 2007. She was here for an opening of an exhibition that featured her print work at the Fabric Workshop. I immediately recognized her from an Alex Katz painting that I had seen in W magazine. I began swatting at my companion, whispering raspily "that's Kiki Smith, that's Kiki Smith!!! What do I do???" when she touched my arm and said, "The other artist will be speaking in the next room in a few minutes." I turned and stared at her with wide eyes, saying nothing until she wrinkled one of her eyebrows and walked away from me. I'm smooth.

The point is, she is my absolute favorite artist. Her work is so diverse and inspiring- I frequently think of her when I feel like I am dipping my hand in too many pots and need more focus. I believe she chooses her media in the same way that I do; first the idea comes, and then you think of a way to translate that idea into something visual or experiential, hopefully finding the method which enables the most people to feel something of it... And then you have to go out and learn how to use that media. Her drawings are my favorite, but she also works in paper mache, cast plaster and metals, paint, wooden construction, and cut paper. It's freeing to see her work because you feel simultaneously stimulated by many different types of work, as well as unlimited in your own methods of communicating with the public.

I found out a few months ago that she was installing a solo exhibition on the fourth floor of the Brooklyn Museum where mostly feminist art resides, and I knew I needed to see it. Now that I have seen it I know I need to see it again. Dan and I decided to make a day of it and see Sojourn, and the William Kentridge show (as well as the Tim Burton show) in the MoMA. We started out in Brooklyn, which was beautiful- I had never actually been to that part of New York, and we spent a good long time taking in Sojourn, and happening upon Judy Chicago's Dinner Party, which I had never seen in person.

Sojourn was incredible. Smith chronicled the lives of a few women, and in her intimate, awkward way, displayed private moments, dealt with platonic love, death, and lonliness, and filled and utilized the space in her many rooms with greatness. Lightbulbs covered with glitter hung from the ceiling, beaming rays of wax paper and toothpicks. The image shown is my favorite moment from the show. There is the old woman with a young woman flying from her lap (which I loved only slightly more than the sexy lady in lingerie with a little dove perched on her hand). I'm not going to pretend I know what she was trying to express, but there was all at once, a serious sense of letting go, loss, and freedom. I especially loved the way her world surrounded me and held me. The good news is, it is up until September 12, and the Museum is right next door to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens... I smell a girly day coming up!
I would encourage anyone to go see the show; it's endearing, inspiring, and heart-breaking.

The Kentridge show was also incredible. I have to go back to see it again, because it was extremely heavy and political, and there was a lot of video work, which I can only watch for so long without getting museum-head. I saw about 60% of it and needed a break, but what I saw was fantastic, visually stimulating, masterfully executed, and full of intense messages of loss, depression, and the emotional effects of racism. I need to go back to take in the other 40%.

The Tim Burton show was overcrowded and a little disappointing. It was more of a collection of his movie paraphernalia than an exhibition of his works. There were lots of dolls from his stop-motion movies that he did not create, lots of storyboards that he didn't draw, and interpretations of his drawings in the form of sculptures that he did not mold. If you love Tim Burton's movies, and know what you are going to see from the get-go, then go see it. If not, it's completely missable.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

New Artist's Statement

I had to come up with something a little new because I am applying for a few exhibitions and I think my last artist's statement does not apply to my current body of work. Let me know what you think:

My current bodies of work deal with sequence and storytelling. Born from the stuff of illustration, these intricate drawings and embellished sculptures enable me to bring my dream life into the realm of the real. I am frequently inspired to give a visual voice to my own writings, inspired by my overactive nocturnal imagination, as well as the poems and short stories of friends and professionals. The result of this is sometimes embarrassing, often beautiful, and always uncomfortably intimate.

Monday, March 15, 2010

this is a holdover

i know it's been a while, and i plan to post some smarty-arty-farty writing soon. but for now, enjoy this; my favorite animated music video. xoxo, gretchen

Sunday, January 24, 2010

2 girls with no sense of direction take a day trip to New York

Mariya and I planned to meet around 10:15 at 10th and Market to take the 10:30 Chinatown bus to New York for the day. I was a couple of minutes late, and we decided we were hungry, so we stopped into Wawa for macaroni and cheese and bottles of water before sitting on the 11:00 bus and waiting the 20 or so minutes for it to fill up and depart. The trip was relatively un-notable. There was a baby who made surprisingly little noise, a squeaky bar in the stowing compartment, and everyone slept in silence like a big group of old friends when a slumber party finally dies down.
Neither of us have ever navigated New York. Each of us were used to coming from Philly with someone who knew where they were going who would guide us around, neither of us independently paying attention to street names or whether we were walking North or West. When we got off the bus, we realized we didn't even really know what direction we should be walking in to get to Chelsea. Finding our way to things proved difficult. Remembering our way back was braggably easy. We asked strangers for directions, texted friends for advice and high-fived when we realized we were actually better at getting around than we had previously given ourselves credit for.
Let's go join the circus.
You can take the trapeze.
I will tame the lion.
Walking around Chelsea was interesting. The first 10 galleries were awful and we were starting to collectively lose our interest in stopping in any more when we stumbled upon the work of that guy up there. Paolo Ventura. Actually it was that exact piece that made us stop and turn around to check out the Hasted Hunt Kraeutler Gallery. His work was delightful. He puts together these little models and photographs them. This exhibition was titled "Winter Stories" and included mostly circus themed scenes, or circus-y happenings. In one scene a man is being lifted off the ground by a cluster of balloons tied to his back. There was just something excited and pure and lovely about the little models which were available for viewing in a plexiglass case in the center of the gallery. In this gallery, there was also the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky- that guy that photographs industrial sites. His work was beautiful, too. And for me to say that means something- I am not typically partial to photographs.
We walked a little further and noticed a sign outside Kent Gallery that announced a show for Irving Petlin who was one of the critics at Pafa when Mariya and I were in grad school. We climbed the stairs and were excited to see his interesting and beautiful paintings that blended various styles and, to me, seemed obviously the work of someone who has been making art their whole adult life and is effortlessly cramming all of this information into a single picture plane. It was mature and lovely, and each piece had enough variety of subtle colors and textures to keep a girl interested for a significant amount of time. We walked toward the back of the gallery and noticed a group of important people in the backmost room, talking shop. I asked Mariya if one of them was Irving, and she said yes. At the receptionist's encouragement, we went in and said hello, and he was kind and happy to see us.
We ate in the garden section of an Italian restaurant between 24th and 25th street on 10th avenue.
We left Chelsea to look for KGB Bar in Greenwich Village.
Oh, the building numbers in New York, why don't you make any sense?!?!
We picked up the C subway to 4th Street and made our way east looking for KGB Bar at 85 East 4th Street, but got really confused when we found 86, and crossed the street to find 91, and nothing else but a Bank of America. Frustrated and walking around in circles, we finally crossed to the opposite block and found our destination. Seriously, New York City, 85 and 86 should be on the same block. It's confusing enough that you are mostly comprised of numbered streets and avenues, with random names strewn in between. Paris is the same way, 88 and 59 are across the street from each other.
So, we found the bar and went up to the second floor to find a charming red-draped room with a long bar at one end. I found my cousin Matthew, hugged, and exchanged introductions. Mariya and I found a place at the bar and got cozy with a drink. The bar was full of candlelight and it was warm. Before the poetry reading there was a buzz of conversation that kept itself at a reasonable volume. Shelly Reed got up to start the reading and Matthew was first in line. I was familiar with a few of the pieces from Pearslip, and he read a few poems that I hadn't heard before. His voice was soothing and had a beautiful performative quality about it. It was nice to hear a combination of familiar and new pieces. This was my first poetry reading ever. I did not know if I would enjoy it, or feel uncomfortable. Something about poetry sometimes makes me feel 17, like it's so personal I shouldn't be reading it. But the nature of the reading alleviated my discomfort, and I think I was able to diagnose the problem. When I read poetry, it is my voice in my head, my stories being told, and the subject matter is usually alien to my own life experiences. I have a hard time getting out of myself. The truly fantastic thing about a poetry reading was that I could let them be someone else's stories. I could hear them, instead of telling them to myself.
The combination of dim lighting, warmth, and collective silence in the room allowed me to leave the building, and my head behind.
Matthew finished and the crowd applauded emphatically.
Other readers followed. Elizabeth Rees's work was good, serious work, and was, at times a little merciless. Some of the stories were painful to listen to, and written in such a way that it took me a second to understand the actual events taking place. I picked up a copy of Elizabeth's chapbook for Nicole on my way out. Christina Olson's work was hilarious. I met her for a minute in the bathroom line only to find out that there wasn't actually a bathroom line and I had just sauntered up and joined in on a group conversation with a bunch of ladies I didn't know. The girls were gracious, giving me compliments on my boots and ushering me through to the ladies' room. Christina gave me a pin with a lobster on it that said her name, encouraging me to keep an eye out for her book that would be published in a few months. Damian Dressick read last and his work was really wonderful. He would quickly switch back and forth from funny to shocking to awkward, leading the listeners through a full range of emotions while never losing our trust. I am excited to see his work in the future. It smacks of McSweeney's in it's unexpected intimacy.
Mariya and I chatted with Matthew and his roommate for a few minutes before walking to the Chinatown bus to go home. We walked down Broadway to Division and Forsythe and wandered around a less-than comfortable chunk of Chinatown before finding our way to a couple of buses parked on the street near 88 East Broadway. Hear that, Mariya? 88 East Broadway. Now we can always get back when we take a day trip.
I won't get into the scene from Malibu's Most Wanted that unfolded a seat behind us on the way home, but I think if I heard the phrase "nah, son" one more time from one of those polish northeast Philly mama's boys, I was just going to lose it.
All in all, it was a stellar day.