Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Steve is in Birmingham; I'm stuck at Mouse House!

Yesterday Steve headed to Birmingham, England to visit Mathias and see BRB's Nutcracker. I have lined up two altered books and individual pages on which to work while stuck at Mouse House. This project will use the African mask images I recently shot at Ginny Newell's art conservation business. Dimba, the West African artifact dealer, had set up for a single late afternoon in front of her shop and allowed me to take pictures--over 124 after I parred them down from over 250!

I heard from Mathias and Steve this morning. Steve arrived safely, despite being afraid of railway connects and being in a foreign country all alone. He makes terrific travel arrangements but he's really hilariously funny about following them by himself! Mathias will take care of him! Hopefully, Steve will insist on the "rat" photograph.

Mathias said that yesterday there were two performances of Nutcracker. He was a cadet, a rat, and danced Spanish in both. He claimed to be exhausted but he sounded totally exhilarated! He wished Alex and I luck in foraging for fast food in Steve's absence! (Steve is pathetic as a single traveler; I'm equally pathetic as a "stay-at-home" housekeeper!)

Anyway, I finished the "nuts and bolts". They were fast, fun, and a great time to do while watching the last Harry Potter movie that is now on HBO or Cinamax or whatever channel we get! They are headed to the Archeology Project, which I should start calling by its proper name. (I should, but I know I won't! It's the Archeology Project to me and likely always will be!)

I'm thinking about the proper name though. Yesterday Janet Kozachek sent me an article she'd composed for our joint effort. We would have liked for someone else to have written it. Janet really wanted an interview format. Neither of us could find anyone, competent and deadline conscious, to do this. Perhaps, this was for the best.

As it turned out, Janet's article was should I put this?....a problem. It was overly long, verbose, and attempted to be a scholarly work. It was written, in parts, in first person but without really introducing the writer. It included the name of a defunct gallery, a former art show, and had the incorrect date of this exhibition. Had I seen this in a free, newsstand publication, I would have ceased reading somewhere in the second paragraph.

Yet, like the article that initially inspired me, it was full of ideas and conjured up beautiful imagery. There was a format buried in the long sentences. There was hope for a successful re-write. Most importantly, Janet is able to see how our work fits into the great art world. She is brilliant. Her intelligence sung in every poorly written phrase. She understands how creativity relates to psychology. She knew how to compare our collaborations to the Dada movement. I saw the incredible Dada show in the East Wing of the National Gallery only this past spring, but I never would have seen the relationship! I'm just not that smart.

So, I had to risk offending her by editing the work. I was nervous but it was worth the effort. In a sense, the resulting article is yet another successful collaboration. Neither of us could write alone what together we did via emails! I think the article now has a reporter's straight forward approach with hints of an intellectuals deep passion. I hope it brings readers to the show! We will submit it, with images, to Carolina Arts, the State Newspaper, The Free Times, and also to Skirt! I will do a little research into how a proper press release is to be formatted, but at least we've got something with which to work.

Here it is:


A two-person exhibition of mixed media works by Janet Kozachek and Susan Lenz opens January 5, 2007 at the Pinckney Simons Gallery, 1012 Gervais Street in downtown Columbia. The exhibition features individual and collaborative art through January 31. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, January 18 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM.

Collaborations can yield amazing and often serendipitous results. When artists dare to relinquish what two hundred years or so years of history has considered sacred, they step across traditional boundaries. By letting go of ego, identity, and property, Kozachek and Lenz have torn down old ways of working and traveled into each other’s creative space.

An article in the May 2005 issue of Carolina Arts brought the artists together. The article detailed Kozachek’s art and work processes for an exhibition of mosaics and companion oil paintings reminiscent of archaeological sites. The concepts resonated with fiber artist, Susan Lenz. Both artists are intrigued by cultural mystery, fragments of civilization, and their artistic identity within the scope of history. Both artists find a parallel between ancient ruins and the chaos of accumulation in their own studios.

The first collaborations resulted when Lenz’s small fiber fragments were positioned on Kozachek’s unfinished paintings. The blend of color and texture effectively completed the work. The two artists described their experience as “finding the missing puzzle piece in one another’s studio”. They had tapped into the Jungian “Collective Unconscious,” that morass of signs, symbols and archetypes that lie at the foundations of all civilizations. They also had to relinquish individual artistic control and develop a link to a greater creative unity.

The second collaborations tested their trust in one another’s unconscious choices. Kozachek and Lenz challenged each other to create art using artifacts salvaged from one another’s studios. The results are both startling and amusing. They were taking the Dada practice of “ready made” art even further by using found objects that were found for the artist rather than by the artist.

Ironically, even within the confines of these limitations, the identities of the assembling artists shine through. In addition to their collaborative artwork, Kozachek and Lenz are also displaying individual pieces that explore their joint interests in history, archeology, and cultural remains. The exhibit strives to create a narrative where there was once merely an amalgam of facts.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Carolina Ballet's Nutcracker 2006

Photos: Alex as a Rat and Mother Ginger. Also Claire Yaghjian, daughter of another Columbia artist with a studio at Vista Studios, and Alex.
Last week was the annual start of Nutcracker Season here in Columbia. Believe it or not, we have four productions each year (minimum!) Both "professional" companies rent the Koger Center back-to-back December weekends, starting with Radenko Pavlovich's group this coming Friday night. Vibrations Dance Company puts on "Sista Girl and the Solider", an ethnic version of the classic. Carolina Ballet, the civic group, started it all off at the Township.
There was first a "sold out" performance for Richland School District One's fifth graders last Tuesday. On Wednesday there was a show honoring firefighters and city employees. Lots of pre-sold tickets went to such groups. The public opening was Friday night. It was followed by another evening performance on Saturday and a matinee on Sunday. This is the only group using live music, which is a real bonus but does not necessarily mean that the horns ever hit the right notes or that the tempo is even paced throughout any scene.
This was Alex's fifth seasonal appearance in the production. He's been the Nutcracker Prince (not to be confused with the Sugar Plum Cavalier!) This has been a real dancing roll before (as when Joseph Phillips, then age 12 or thereabouts, danced it) The kid dancing the part this year has some potential. When Alex did it (sixth grade), the part was strictly an acting role. Of course, I'm partial, but Alex was excellent, quite a ham. Then he grew. By seventh grade he was as tall as Jim Moon who plays Clara's Dad. By eighth grade he was nearly six foot tall. Yet, that first Nutcracker experience made him totally loyal to Carolina Ballet, civic companies, and non-profit arts organizations.
In past years he's headed the Chinese dragon, been a solider, a party gentleman, and this year was a cadet, the rat buffon, and Mother Ginger (third year in this part). As a rat, Alex is the one shot by a cannon and carrying others off-stage. He is hilarious. As a cadet, Alex actually partners one of the party girls. As Mother Ginger, Alex steals the show. The Bon-Bons all call him "mommy".
As for the rest of the production, what can I say? These are kids. There's two hundred or more of them. There are never enough boys and men. There are always too many three and four year olds. There are only so many costumes in so many sizes. All the young girls want to be Clara. All the older ones want to be in lead roles, whether capably of dancing the part or not. There are dozens of "helpful" mothers gossiping in the hallways, and there's fund-raising, poster distribution, and an eighteen-wheeler to move the production. Casting must be a total nightmare. Every year it is a different show.
Last year, Steve and I went to Friday, Saturday, and Sundays shows. I went into the theater for the end of the school performance. Steve went in for the end of the Wednesday show. Of course, Mathias was dancing the Sugar Plum Cavalier role. He partnered Anna Varn, one of the local girls, something that generally only happens when the company is forced to hire a professional man for this part (as they do for several of the second act variations). It was wonderful to see both our sons on stage at the same time. There were plenty of talented high school girls in all the variations, but they've all graduated now.
This year, we went to Saturday night's show only. Keith Mears and his partner Abigail Mentzer from Pennsylvania Ballet dance the final pas. Keith is from here. His sister Sarah is a soloist at NYCB; he's an apprentice in Pennsylvania. I'm not sure if Abigail is in the corps or also an apprentice. They did an adequate job but were rather lackluster. Perhaps it was just me. I did feel sorry for Keith especially. It must be very, very hard following Mathias and Joseph (who danced it the autumn after winning gold in Jackson) and having such a talented sister. While the experience might have been absolutely wonderful, I doubt if it was the "home" Alex found in Carolina Ballet.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Archeology Project: Spools as miniature, semi-figurative "relics"

Spools. Wooden spools. Lots of them. Some came from my grandmother's sewing box, some came from sewing supplies bought at yard sales and auctions. Some came from thrift shops. I painted them, half one color and half another. I cut out images of heads and eyeballs for both ends in order to lend them a figurative quality. Assorted yarns and threads were wound around each. Most of these fibers were those unraveled by my mother while we were in Hilton Head, a leftover tangle used as public school teaching supplies. I button-hole stitched into the twirl of yarn. On some I added French knots and on others I added chain stitches. I used lots of metallic blending thread too. I never use this thin thread anymore but I had plenty of it from over a decade ago when I did some cross stitch (yuck!) I'm considering these spools as relics from an imaginary civilization. Currently, I'm using the same techniques on a box of semi-rusted, large nuts and bolts I found in a back room at Hiller Hardware before they moved. Steve is calling them "little Chinese men" or strange pawns for a chess set. Pictures of these to come!

Blues Chapel Update: Going to Mac's on Main for Black History Month

I just posted two obituaries, both available on-line, of two female blues singers that were among the twenty-four pictured in my work, Blues Chapel. I created the piece last spring for Artista Vista, an annual art gallery festival in the downtown area of Columbia known as the Vista (our city's arts and cultural district). The installation was asked to the Sumter Gallery of Art for my first solo show in a "real" museum setting. This was held during the month of July. (Photo on top at right. A mini-video is available of this installation on MySpace, link at right!)
The photo on the lower left is the work in my studio for Artista Vista. Only sixteen of the twenty-four images are visible from this vantage point. Black theater curtains blocked all the other walls, focusing attention on the grouping. Ruth Brown is on the top row, second image seen from the left. Anita O'Day is in the same column in the bottom row. At this time, these two singers and KoKo Taylor (top row, first picture on left) were still alive. The past week or so changed things. O'Day and Brown have passed on.
As these events were unfolding, I was making arrangements for the group to be on view at Mac's on Main, a popular jazz club in Columbia. This will occur for Black History Month, all of February. I will meet with the owner to decide hanging location, lighting, and publicity tomorrow. I haven't decided whether to add the death dates or just let the group reflect the time at which I created the artwork. I'll think about it. I'd like to do what would be most respectful to the singers. I just don't know what that might be.

More Mourning in Blues Chapel: Anita O'Day dies

Obituary: Anita O'Day, 87; renowned singer billed as the 'Jezebel of Jazz'
By Dennis McLellan, Times Staff WriterNovember 24, 2006

Anita O'Day, who shot to fame as a singer with drummer Gene Krupa's swing band in the early 1940s and became one of the most distinctive voices in the history of jazz, died Thursday. She was 87.O'Day died of cardiac arrest in a convalescent hospital in West Los Angeles, according to her manager, Robbie Cavalina.She was recovering from pneumonia and had been in declining health with Alzheimer's disease.

Hip-talking, blunt and feisty, O'Day launched her singing career as a teenager to make extra money while competing on the Depression-era walkathon circuit.She was still a relatively unknown singer in jazz joints in her native Chicago when Krupa hired her as his $40-a-week vocalist in 1941.

Billed as the Jezebel of Jazz a decade later, O'Day titled her 1981 autobiography "High Times Hard Times."In it, she described a troubled life that included back-room abortions, a nervous breakdown, two failed marriages, jail time for drug possession and more than a decade-long addiction to heroin that nearly killed her in an overdose in 1966.

"She was a wild chick, all right, but how she could sing!" Krupa once said.O'Day sang with what jazz critic Leonard Feather described as a "note-breaking, horn-like style and hip, husky sound."As a result of having her uvula (the small, fleshy part of the soft palate that hangs down above the back of the tongue) accidentally cut off by a doctor during a tonsillectomy at age 7, O'Day had no vibrato and was unable to hold notes.

"I'm not a singer; I'm a song stylist," O'Day insisted during a 1989 interview with the New York Times. "I'm not a singer because I have no vibrato…. If I want one I have to shake my head to get it. That's why I sing so many notes — so you won't hear that I haven't got one. It's how I got my style."

In a 1981 Newsweek article on O'Day, writer Charles Michener observed: "The dynamic range of her voice may be smaller than any other jazz singer's except Blossom Dearie's, but her flexibility with it allows her to scat, slide and skitter through a song the way a cat's tongue laps up milk."The same year, O'Day told the Christian Science Monitor: "When you haven't got that much voice, you have to use all the cracks and the crevices and the black and the white keys. That's all the range I've got. I'm no Lily Pons or Sarah Vaughan."

O'Day scored one of the Krupa band's greatest hits with "Let Me Off Uptown," with the great trumpeter Roy Eldridge, in 1941.It featured Eldridge's memorable plea, "Anita, oh Anita! … say, I feel somethin'!" before he launched into an electrifying solo passage.Named New Star of the Year by Down Beat magazine, O'Day went on to amass other hits with the Krupa band, including "Alreet," "Kick It" and "Bolero at the Savoy."

In his book "The Big Bands," big-band chronicler George T. Simon wrote that O'Day's "rhythmic, gutty, illegitimate style first confused but soon converted many listeners. Whereas most girl band singers had projected a very feminine or at least cute girl image, Anita came across strictly as a hip jazz musician."Indeed, O'Day even set a style for female band singers by wearing a band jacket, skirt and shirt instead of a gown while performing on the road."

Few band vocals," Simon wrote, "can compare with her renditions of "Georgia on My Mind," "Green Eyes," "Thanks for the Boogie Ride," "Murder, He Says" and "That's What You Think."Simon described the latter as "a slow, swinging, totally infectious, almost wordless opus in which, as [Krupa] points out, you can hear how much she sounds like a jazz horn."

Mourning in Blues Chapel: Ruth Brown dies

R& B's Tireless Voice
Ruth Brown Made Hits And Made Sure Artists Got The Money They Deserved
By Richard HarringtonWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, November 18, 2006; Page C01
She'll always be Miss Rhythm, the powerhouse belter of those 1950s blues hits that made Atlantic Records.
Ruth Brown could swagger on "Teardrops From My Eyes" and turn imperious on "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean," its very first word rising like a squealed exclamation point. There was a world of hurt in those songs and an insistence on some justice, a boldness of voice that Miss Rhythm reached for as Miss Righteous, the crusader who forced the record industry to pay her fellow artists the royalties they had never received.

Brown, who died yesterday at 78 after having been in a coma in a Las Vegas hospital for almost three weeks, was a pioneer of rhythm and blues. Even her initials bore testimony to that. Blessed with jubilance, sass and high spirits, and wonderfully expressive features that simply broadened over time, she influenced such greats as Etta James, Stevie Wonder, Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin and Bonnie Raitt.

In the mid-'80s, Brown came often to Washington, as engaging a lobbyist as you could ever find, determined to persuade Capitol Hill lawmakers and music writers at influential newspapers to shine a light on suspect practices. Whether you were a politician or a reporter, Brown didn't just buttonhole you. She'd lean into you, working at close quarters, poking important points one at a time into your arm or chest, as if her truths would only become self-evident through tactile confirmation. In hearings, she would shake in indignation, that voice rising and falling, and congressmen were mesmerized. Reps. Mickey Leland and John Conyers professed their complete infatuation; even Sen. Jesse Helms voiced his support, saying, "The record for me was '5-10-15 Hours.' "

She gave the best hugs in the business, even in print. In her 1999 autobiography, she credited my extensive Post coverage with pressuring Atlantic to readdress royalties, then continued to bend my ear about the plight of her fellow hitmakers of the '40s, '50s and '60s. For Ruth Brown, it was unfinished business as long as every label wasn't onboard the royalty reform train.
Raitt, who inducted Brown into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, yesterday praised "her genuine caring about trying to get [veteran artists] justice, not charity." A close friend and frequent duet partner, Raitt called Brown "the preeminent R&B queen and diva we all appreciated and looked to -- in that world, there's only one Ruth Brown."
Little Richard said much the same at one of Brown's last performances, at the end of September at the San Francisco Blues Festival. Bringing her back onstage for a duet, he credited Brown's squeals, records and style with being a major influence.

By the time Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame -- on her 65th birthday! -- the singer was a decade into her crusade for royalty reform, centering on royalties from her Atlantic tenure as well as earnings from CD reissues, best-ofs and anthologies, all of which made money for the label but none for Brown. Howell Begle, a communications and entertainment lawyer and ardent R&B fan, made Brown's cause a personal crusade, working pro bono on her behalf and signing up several other former Atlantic artists, including the Coasters, the Drifters and Big Joe Turner.

In 1988, as part of its much-covered 40th-anniversary celebration, the label announced it had wiped out past "debts" and made lump-sum payments of retroactive royalties for 35 acts; Brown's $30,000 check was her first from Atlantic in more than 20 years. Atlantic also ponied up $2 million to launch then-Washington-based Rhythm and Blues Foundation, where Brown remained a trustee, fighting the fight with as much determination as when she'd begun it.
Sam Moore, of Sam & Dave, a beneficiary of her royalty battles, said Brown "would never bite her tongue when it came to sticking up for the rights she believed we were all due. She was a loyal friend.

"And if you ever saw her on a stage, she owned it," Moore said from Japan, where he was touring. "Even with numerous health issues, if you saw her perform, you'd never ever sense there was anything wrong."
A few years ago, Brown had a devastating stroke and couldn't walk or talk. After more than a year of physical and vocal therapy, she was back onstage, her only concession being that she performed sitting down. A gifted interpreter able to deliver gorgeous ballads as well as her trademark bawdy blues, Brown could also tell jokes about friends like Ray Charles, whose very first band was actually Brown's touring band. Still, he apparently scoffed at Brown's suggestion that Halle Berry play her in the film "Ray." According to Brown, Charles said, "I may be blind, Ruth, but I'm not that blind!"

Brown didn't get much airplay anymore, except on oldies stations. Yet a 50-year-old hit was all over television this year when "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin'," written especially for her by Bobby Darin, popped up in a Hummer H3 commercial and seemed as fresh as any modern hit.
But the song that defined her life and stayed in her repertoire 60 years was the one that helped her win first prize at 15 at the Apollo Theatre's fabled Amateur Night: "It Could Happen to You," a Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen standard. The song's interpretation would change for her over the decades, particularly the lovelorn ballad's counsel to "Hide your heart from sight / Lock your dreams at night / It could happen to you / Don't count stars, or you might stumble / Someone drops a sigh, and down you'll tumble."

Tumbles there would be, many of them cruel and capricious, yet Brown survived, standing up for herself, her music, and the rights, royalties and dignity of her peers.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Imaginary Text

The Archeology Project is coming along beautifully. I've never stopped working on it even while
concentrating on the Elements of Architecture Series or the Life Everlasting Series or the Growth Series. Earlier, when first embarking on the Archeology Project, I wrote that this was a series on which I could spend a lifetime. This becomes truer with each passing month. The work just seems to weave in and out of everything else I am doing. The ideas flow more quickly than the pace of the work. I love this project. I love combining little scraps into interesting "relic-like" objects. I love the imagination of an invented civilization. Instead of tossing the discarded pages from an old turn-of-the-last century book, I covered them in watercolor and a section of black acrylic paint. I used metallic and neon oil pastels in cryptic symbols (sort of like that shorthand I tried to learn in eleventh grade) and reapplied more watercolor. There are dozens of these pages. It is a perfect thing to do with the sheets removed from a book to be altered. I've made mysterious notes that celebrate the beauty of text, even nonsensical text!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Two collages on 1655 pages of Tableavx dv Temple des Mvses

I gave some of the loose pages from the 1655 Tableavx dv Temple des Mvses to Janet Kozachek. I've used some myself. Please note, we did not actually have the entire book. It was already "broken" when we got it for its incredibly detailed engravings. We've never destroyed an old, valuable book and don't think we will ever do so! We look for volumes that are in terrible shape, with missing pages and destroyed spines, and "ex libris" stamps all over the contents! This book was just this sort of thing. We did get the title page, however! The binding was a twentith century replacement. Several plates were gone already. We framed and sold nearly all the other engraving, even kept two for ourselves. Then, I removed well over half the pages and applied gesso to one side of these. I also thinnly applied gesso to the pages in what was left of the book. It became my "sketchbook" for the Pritchard's Island artist retreat four years ago.
I thought such ancient paper was a perfect substrata onto which to record the experience of a pristine barrier island, one unaccessible except by boat. The island is still similiar to how it was in the seventeenth century. Anyway, the reverse sides of these two pages is the side covered in gesso. I made sketches of nudes on them during the single session I went to "About Face", a drawing group that meets in our local museum weekly. They aren't very good, but they looked much better when I applied smears of paint. I'd upload them too, but Blogger is being difficult right now (again!) The results almost make me want to return to the drawing group. Maybe I will!

Calligraphy Series

This morning I am able to upload some of the images from the Calligraphy Series. There are a total of sixteen. Janet Kozachek carved the stamps, wrote the calligraphy, and mounted the thin oriental paper onto another thin sheet of paper. (There's a term for this. I really don't understand it but Janet learned this while working as an apprentice to a family of artisans who mounted scrolls in China.) Anyway, Janet gave me these pieces for my artwork. I collected up things from here, including a broken piece of pottery that my parents brought back from Greece, for her artwork. I also gave her several loose pages from Tableavx dv Temple des Mvses dating to 1655. I had applied gesso to one side, making the pages ready for all sorts of painting. I can hardly wait to see what she's creating. I'm quite pleased with this series. The best part is I still have more things from Janet!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the past two days I've been in my studio working with the items Janet Kozachek gave me. We decided to try an unusual "collaboration". Basically, I gathered things I thought she's like for artistic pursuits. She gathered things she thought I would like. We exchanged them earlier in the month. Well, I just recently got to my new items.
To be honest, I knew what I would do with these sixteen pieces of Chinese calligraphy upon first glance. I even fused linen to the reverse with Fusion 4000 in my heat press. I just didn't get to working on them until two days ago. Then, the series took off like a rocket. They are all completed, matted (five framed), priced and put into the inventory. They've been photographed, as you can see. I selected this piece (which is not one of the framed ones!) because I was hoping my sister Wanda would like it. She likes dragons. This one's got two.
Of course, Janet carved all the stamps and wrote all the calligraphy. She can read it aloud and translate it. To me, I just see the beauty of the ink patterns and tried to combine each piece with fabric scraps, metallic foiling, and machine embroidery. All but one includes hand beading. They will be headed to our Archeology Show in January.
I tried to upload other images, but no luck at this time. Maybe tomorrow.
More importantly, it looks quite definite! I'm having a solo show at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, California during the months of January and February. I will be going out for a closing reception and staying nearly two weeks through the opening of the annual Spring Obsession Art Show and Festival. Steve has booked the flight and the car. We will work on the accommodations tomorrow.
Last night I baked the pecan pie using all the nuts Alex shelled from our own pecan tree. Today, I made pecan stuffing. Steve cooked everything else. Fortunately, we've never gone all out for Thanksgiving. We skip sweet potatoes and yams, cranberries, bread, and pumpkin pie. We stick to a small turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and green beans. We limit ourselves to the pecan pie! It makes cooking easily, clean up a breeze, and eliminates weeks of leftovers. Still, the day was strange. It is our first Thanksgiving without Mathias. Yet, we are thankful nonetheless; he is living his dream and Nutcracker opened tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Piece I stitched during the Ohio State game

Furiously I stitched all the handwork on this piece during the very exciting Ohio State vs. Michigan football game last Saturday. I did the free-motion machine embroidery on Sunday and framed it on Monday. Never have I completed one from this series so quickly! The image is an impression of Notre Dame in Paris. I created backgrounds for another sixteen and have started one of these. It isn't progressing quite so fast but I am inspired!

My other creative work has been sheets of invented text on painted text pages. This is for the archeology project. I've also started to prepare two books for the African images. One is called Black God and the other has a title something like A New Song in a Strange Land. Both are novels of early to mid-20th c. people living in Africa. Both include endpapers with African patterns and imagery. I've removed half the pages in order to alter the books without them becoming "fat" with all the additions.

The removed pages of one will become more imaginary text or made-up symbols using metallic oil pastels and watercolor. Those pages removed from Black God will become individual pieces. I am still contrast and color correcting and Photoshoping the pictures. This will be a good thing to complete when I'm stuck at Mouse House next week. Steve will be in Birmingham visiting Mathias.

Oh, Mathias called. He's dancing Spanish more often than any other dancer and quite happy about this. I told him, though, that I want a picture of him as a rat!

Dinner at our favorite restaurant

Yesterday Steve surprised me with dinner at Gervais and Vine. I think he just didn't want to cook and was anxious to take advantage of the time we'll get together during a week when Alex is gone, rehearsing and performing in the civic production of Nutcracker! Whatever the reason, the evening was divine, a three course Italian.

First Course choices:
Stracciatella-Roman Egg Drop Soup with a Lemon Pepper or seared Scallop Salad of Mixed Baby Greens with Caperberries, Artichoke Hearts, Tomatoes and Parmesan with Rosemary-Lemon Vinaigrette Parmesan or Polenta-fried Calamari with spicy Sun-dried Tomato Basil Aioli

Main Course choices:Bistecca alla Pizzaiola or Char-grilled Angus Ribeye with Pizzaiola Sauce and Cambazola Cheese or Wild Mushroom and Veal Ragout Baked with Three-Cheese Ravioli or Scampi alla Gervais-Jumbo Shrimp sautéed with Garlic, White Wine, Italian Parsley and Proscuitto tossed with Roasted Red Pepper Papperadelle or Citrus-marinated Grilled Swordfish with Oven-dried Tomato Caprese Salad with extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic Syrup

Choice of Desserts from the menu.

Steve had the calamari with the ribeye followed by bread pudding. I had the salad with the swordfish ending with pumpkin cheesecake.

This is definitely the way to start Thanksgiving week! I'm sure it is all calorie-free!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Busy Weekend

The Weekend started on Thursday. It almost promises to connect through Thanksgiving. This is a busy, busy time of the year!
Thursday was Vista Lights night. The crowd was steady and in great holiday spirits. Stephen Chesley came late and left early; as I mentioned before, this really wasn't his "scene". Later, however, he talked positively about a family visiting his studio. The father was quite interested in the artwork but nicely more interested in the opportunity to show his young children how artists work, think, and create art.
I have to remind myself, from time to time, that this is a far better reason to present oneself to the public than selling. Outreach, fostering understanding, education, and an opportunity to touch others while sharing art is so much more important. Yet, I did manage to sell three small pieces, one from the Life Everlasting Series. I also made a trade with Andrew Weber. He fell in love with one of my earlier "NO" pieces, the one called If I've Told You Once, I've Told You a Thousand Times!
The Blues pieces and the Stained Glass pieces seemed to make my biggest impressions. Maybe it's because they are the biggest pieces? Whatever! I had plenty of nice conversations. Steve stayed with me for the most part. Alex took Erica to most of the other art galleries. At 10 PM there wasn't much to clean up. We didn't serve any popcorn. This is what tends to make all the mess. So, at 10:05 we headed up the street for Wim Roefs' new gallery. Steve hadn't seen it yet. We stayed only for a few moments.
Friday was a big day too. After tackling the paperwork/applications for Columbia Open Studios and the Verner Art Sale, I got to the studio early and worked until nearly 6:30. At home, we were all preening infront of mirrors for the black tie gala. (I wore my vintage kimono with the micro mini-skirt/sweater set underneath.) We picked Erica up and made it to the State Museum just after 8 PM. The food was great, especially the jumbo shrimps. The atmosphere was festive. The trees and wreathes were beautiful. We say lots of people, many were former clients whose names I've quite forgotten. Everyone looked lovely though. We bid on one wreath but weren't successful. My platter looked great. We don't think Alex's tree got a bid, but we weren't expecting it to get one!
Saturday continued the "big" days. I was in the studio before 10 AM and worked steadily until 3. I managed to find some old heat activated paints and created sixteen new designs for future "Elements of Architecture" pieces. In fact, I ironed one onto polyester and took it with me to watch the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes. With all the hype surrounding the OSU vs. Michigan game, I figured that it couldn't possibly live up to its own fanfare. I was wrong. It was truly intense. I stitched furiously through a win that wasn't quite secure until the very end. Then I continued through the later games. In fact, I actually finished all the handwork on this new piece. I've never embroidered with such speed and determination!
Steve called Mathias on his cell phone to announce the Ohio State win. Mathias was at a friends apartment. From the noise in the background, it had to have been a party. Both Steve and I felt pleased and happy that Mathias was out and having fun on a Saturday night.
Today, Sunday, I applied all the free motion machining to the latest "Elements of Architecture" piece, ironed the other fifteen to polyester, and worked on collaged papers for the Archeology Project. Alex spend most of the day, as always, at CMFA rehearsing for Nutcracker. The company has moved into Township Auditorium for the coming performances. It seems more than a year since last Thanksgiving when Mathias came and danced the Sugar Plum Cavalier.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Mouse is the Mother of Two Rats!

I forgot to mention that Mathias wrote and called. Birmingham Royal Ballet has been back in their hometown for the past week and is working hard to prepare for the upcoming holiday extravaganza, Nutcracker. Mathias has several parts, as do all good male members of the corps! He is a soldier/cadet; a rat; a "cover" for Russian; other "corps" parts; and second cast for Spanish.

I was most thrilled to learn about the "rat" role. Mathias will be one of six rats in every performance. What is thrilling about this is that Alex is also a rat in the local, civic show here in Columbia. That means that I am the mother of two rats! Imagine, me, owner and head of Mouse House, the HEAD MOUSE....well, I'm a mouse-mother of rats! It's obviously in the bloodlines! Both rat-sons laughed about this!

Steve will be headed to Birmingham in two weeks to see the show. I wish I could go too but it is just not possible. However, both of us will visit in February during a week when we can see two different performances. This should be wonderful!

One more thing, Mathias is trying to figure out a way to purchase the Ohio State vs. Michigan game next Saturday. If anyone reading this knows how this might be possible, please leave a comment!


Vista Lights is next Thursday, November 16 from 5 PM until 10PM. It is a big, annual fall event in Columbia's downtown area known as "The Vista". All the galleries, shops, and restaurants stay open late and start to celebrate the coming holiday season. Gervais Street is blocked off and there is generally live music. Each year, Vista Studios selects a "theme" for our art show. The title for 2006 is "New Crop: Art and Artists."

I could be polite and vague and mention no names, but this is my blog and these are my impressions. I'll just "tell the truth".

Laura Spong insisted that our show feature the two newest members of Vista Studios, Stephen Chelsey and Jeff Donovan. Of course I voted for these two artists to join our group. They are both my friends. Stephen Chesley is my mentor and has taught me too many valuable "art lessons" to list. I own one of Stephen's pieces and four of Jeff's. Jeff is one of the nicest people I've ever known. We have a personal friendship and an art conservator/framers relationship to boot. Yet, I absolutely do not think that our show should feature two members apart from the group. This idea is totally Laura's. Laura is nearly 81 years old, so I can understand how and why others go along with her opinions.

Anyway, The Carolina Arts article makes it clear enough. This is the "Jeff and Stephen" show, though neither of these artists were particularly keen on the idea. Stephen didn't even know this was being done! It is contrary to his creative approach anyway. Why did Laura do this? Well, she's just thrilled that two artists (especially Stephen) have joined the group. She thinks that their reputations will bring in lots of interested buyers and help sell more art work, especially hers. She thinks she's doing them a favor by featuring them above everyone else.

I decided not to deal with the situation at all. I planned my "themed" pieces to be hung on the wall outside my studio--not in the main gallery or even in the atrium. Each hallway is generally hung with pieces from those artists whose doors open onto that hall. I got permission from Stephen, Sharon, Robert, and Heidi for our hall. This is where I hung my Growth Series. I finished them on Friday and hung them that evening before going to Wim Roefs new gallery opening on Lincoln Street.

Frankly, I think they look perfectly suited to this wall. I'm not overly mad about the series or any one of the pieces. Yet, I do feel good that I found a way to both "participate" in the theme and "non-participate" in the show. Thus, the show can still be the "Jeff and Stephen" show and I can still be part of Vista Lights. It is a win-win situation!

Alex went to a USC basketball game on Friday. I had a great time at Wim's opening and met some nice people. I even had a fantastic conversation with one of my embroidery idols, Lee Malerich. Steve was in DC. In fact, Steve went to the Kennedy Center to hear the National Symphony and said it was a fabulous performance. The next day, Saturday, he went to the second of the antiquarian book auctions and was able to buy three lots. One is a good grouping of botanicals. One was a group of three ancient ruin engravings. The last lot was the best. SHELLS. We now own the best 18th c. shells we've ever had. I was truly floored by their size, detail, color, and beauty. They are fantastic. He drove home by 8 PM and I even cooked dinner. (He called on his cell phone every few minutes with OSU and Michigan football scores!)

Today, Sunday, was a busy one for Alex. He had "strike" at Trustus theater and then we set up his tree at the State Museum. He was assigned a prime location for his tree, right in the main entry hall. Nutcracker rehearsal went on then until past 7 PM. I spent the day in my studio. Between Saturday and Sunday, I finished over 30 single pages in the Life Everlasting Series. They look great. They will be in my studio for Vista Lights. I'm almost totally ready!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Tuesday was Election Day!

Yes, this past week was busy. I wrote about it on the previous post but forgot entirely about Tuesday. It was Election Day. Both Steve and I voted. Alex and his girlfriend were out of school and spent much of their time constructing the tree for next Friday's black tie gala charity event called Festival of Trees, benefitting Children's Hospital. Alex's tree is called "A Gift for Dad". It was made using three pieces of over-sized Foamcore, green and brown spray paint, an extra-large round mailing tube (trunk) and over 200 men's ties. It will be delivered on Sunday to the State Museum.

Also, Alex finished and uploaded the mini-video on my recent artist book The Extinct Language Book. It can be viewed on MySpace: While there, click over to Mathias' newly reconstructed (sans Sasha) MySpace. It isn't hard to spot. He's using the Hunter Photo.

This has been a busy week!

My Growth Series for next week's Vista Lights event is coming along nicely. I should finish sometime today depending upon framing/client/telephone interruptions! (I'm minding the shop alone.) I plan to hang them after 5 PM this evening, continue working on my Life Everlasting Series in my studio, and finally going to Wims Roefs new galleryopening at around 6:30 or 7 PM. (if ART Gallery, 1223 Lincoln St. 803-238-2351 or; opening receptions throughout the weekend, even Sunday from 1 - 5 PM)

Tonight, Alex is going to a USC basketball game with the exchange student from Norway. Alex is having trouble with his drama teacher due to the fact that he opted out of being in the last school production of Pirates of Penzance. Alex cannot sing and knows the high school shows are quite lame at best. He was pre-committed to Carolina Ballet's Nutcracker with its conflicting weekend rehearsals anyway. Now, however, his teacher has decided that he didn't put in enough "production hours" and refuses to count any of the countless hours Alex has worked toward Nutcracker. John Whitehead (CMFA and Carolina Ballet Executive Director) even sent a letter to her with a cc to the principal. Alex has a D in this area of participation and is (for once) freaking out. The situation is entirely ridiculous. I'm expecting a telephone call from the teacher and feel like I've been sent to detention already! I was always a "good kid", too afraid of getting into any trouble at all.

Steve is in DC and attended one of two antiquarian book auctions yesterday evening. One volume of absolutely stunning early 19th c. Indian lithographs had been valued at $20,000 to $30,000. It was the highlight of the sale, especially when it sold for $87,000. To that amount is added a 15% buyer's premium!

We were interested in a broken book of mid-19th c. musical instrument prints. The estimate was $200 to $300. Steve said we'd go to at least twice the price. Steve dropped out at $900. They sold for $950. These auctions are now being held simultaneously on a branch of eBay, with several telephone lines, and have on-line catalogs. We may never be able to buy anything again, but at least the price of our own collection and merchandise is going up, up, up!

Alex has Nutcracker rehearsal on both Saturday and Sunday, long ones--full cast, complete run-throughs. He also has "strike" at Trustus (closing of a show) on Sunday at 10 AM and we are to deliver his tree to the State Museum for Friday night's Festival of Trees gala. He and his girlfriend Erica are suppose to find an hour or two to go purchase a gown for the gala that can double as a prom dress. So, it'll be a busy weekend!

The week wasn't exactly "quiet" either. Karen Watson, executive director of the Sumter Museum of Art, came by on Wednesday. I had a chance to pitch the idea of showing the Archeology Project to her. The museum is currently booking 2008. I gave her a CD and a proposal. She took several pieces, including some vessels, back to the gift shop.

After Karen left, I went to Terrace Oaks with merchandise and on to the Artisan Center in Walterboro with my artwork. There I got to meet the new retail manager and tour the as yet unopened new building. It is FABULOUS!

I've finished another piece in the Elements of Architecture Series, took slides of several other pieces, and finished up nearly a dozen more of the single pages in the series called Life Everlasting.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Greenville Open Studios
The link above is the one for Greenville Open Studios. Steve and I spent Saturday night in Charlotte and drove through the autumn colors to Greenville on Sunday morning. We arrived at the magnificent home/studio of Linda McCune just as the day of studio touring was beginning. Linda McCune's studio is a wonder to behold. Artists of her caliber sometime overwhelm me. The depth of their knowledge, the steadfastness of their work ethic, the quality of their craft, and the sheer power of their work are awesome. I felt as if I were standing in a sacred place of creativity.

The Art Bomb cooperative is more than I dare hope for Vista Studios. It is rightfully a non-profit organization and a place of vivid color, pulsating energy, and high productivity. Entering each studio was an adventure. The other, newer cooperative space has promise too. We went to all the other studios in the West End art district of town and also to the Metropolitan Art Council office. There a 12" x 12" (x 12") piece by each of the participating 80 artists was nicely on display.

I hope the upcoming Open Studio planned for Columbia is at least half as well done and nice!

Innovative Works by North Carolina Dance Theatre

It has been at least two years since Steve and I went to Charlotte to see North Carolina Dance Theatre. We used to have season tickets. Now, we are both wondering why we still don't subscribe! The performance was wonderful.

There were five pieces:

Seed was choreographed by company member Heather Ferranti Ferguson to traditional Japanese and Chinese Folk music by YoYo Man and others. It was charming. The costumes were very nice, especially the way the pointe shoes were dyed only in part--to look like "slippers". The piece moved along in interesting ways and featured unique movements while focusing on ensemble work. (The work premiered on Thursday night.)

you/me/we was choreographed by Septime Webre to three songs by Nina Simone. For me, this was the highlight of the evening. Young Randolf Ward wowed the audience to "Put A Spell on You". He danced with all the energy, frustration, and pride that is part of Nina Simone's life and music. Traci Gilchrest and Andre Teixera smoldered with a lazy, Southern, sexual partnership that put as much steam into the dance as one imagines in a hot Carolina summer night. This, too, demonstrated a part of Nina Simone's music. The final segment featured my favorite of the company's dancers: Rebecca Carmazzi. She danced with Sasha Janes to "Ne Me Quitte Pas". It was as romantic and ideal as the former piece had been physical and down-to-earth. The entire piece, which premiered just days beforehand, was wonderful. I hope it is performed many, many more times.

After the intermission came the Charlotte Premiere of Daniel Gwirtzman's Cycles. It seemed slowly paced at the beginning. Finally, the music by Terre Thaemlitz clued the audience into the reason behind the strange tension that isolated one dancer then another from the group. I think I would have liked the piece much better had I become awared that the struggles were about domestic abuse long beforehand.

If I weren't writing with my program close by, I likely would have forgotten that the next number was Mark Diamond's Aqua Terra Flora. It wasn't bad; it just wasn't as strong as the other pieces. I got the feeling that the choreographer was trying really, really hard to show literal messages and meanings. I'm not sure I "got" it but felt that I was "suppose to". The best part of the work was the accompaniment. Adam Whiting played Carolo Domeniconi's guitar music on stage for the dancers. This piece, too, premiered the other evening.

The final number was resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden's Moody Booty Blues. It was fun, energetic, up beat, and great. The audience was mad about it though I think the final song in the medley (Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Love Struck Baby") was a little too far over the line. What I mean by that is that the dancing became almost like a Broadway musical, not a dance needing strong ballet and technical background. I much preferred everything that came before this "finale". Randolph Ward, Andre Texeira, and Addul Manzano could have danced all night as far as I was concerned. They were awesome, showed great attitude and style, and dazzled with appropriate displays of "tricks" accompanied by strong entrances and unison work and solid partnering. This was the best part of the last number.

We saw the show after having dinner at ARPA's a tapas restaurant a few blocks away from the Blumenthal Center. We met Seia Rassenti, a member of NCDT 2 and former Kirov grad with Mathias, and her parents Olivia and Steve. It was fun to talk about our children, their dance experiences as professionals, and about future plans and past stories. We will likely come to see Nutcracker in which Seia will dance parts (depending on the night) of party parent, snow, Spanish, and other corps roles.

Hilary Gifford's "rag" scarves

Well, I went to Hilary Gifford's website. It was nice but not overwhelming inspirational for me. I don't think this was it's aim! The "real" goal was obvious! It operated perfectly as an easily navigable website to bring interested viewers closer to purchases! This one image, however, did touch the creativity I felt while in Hilary's booth at the Charlotte convention center. I am not altogether sure how she created this scarf, but I know how I will approach this same idea! I really MUST send off for more dissolvable fabric!

American Craft Council Show in Charlotte

On Saturday Steve and I left early for Charlotte, North Carolina. Though we couldn't check immediately into our room at the Residence Inn, we were able to park our car in the lot and walk to the Convention Center. It show was as wonderful as I remember last year's event to have been. There are dozens of aisles with professional booths full of remarkable works of fine craftsmanship.

I noticed, however, that there weren't quite as many "new" artists displaying for the first time and there weren't as many "funky" booths either. The work being shown tended to be more conservative. This was quite obvious in the women's apparel booths. Most of the custom-made creations were tailored, traditional, and business like. There were even more jewelers than before. Yet, both Steve and I noticed the affordable pricing, the high level of quality, and the engaging personalities of all the artisans. Most accepted all forms of payment and had plenty of colorful business cards easily available. I even examined the program carefully. I found that about 177 of the booths had websites compared to 55 without cyber representation. Everyone, of course, had an email address.

We went up and down the aisles methodically, trying to avoid nothing accidentally! Then we returned to the booths at which we had decided to make purchases. Steve bought a coffee mug; I bought an art glass tumbler; we bought a gift for my Dad (won't tell, since he might read this!); and a covered ceramic pot for our kitchenware.

We went to a late lunch at a nearby Tex-Mex restaurant. I spent some time writing down all the good ideas that I had seen and might want to try. The some fascinating fibers were by Hilary Gifford of Trumansburg, NY. I haven't been to her website yet, but it is:

USC Dance Program: November 2 and 3

The University of South Carolina presented its autumn showcase for ballet on Thursday, November 2 and Friday, November 4 at the Koger Center. The program was in three parts: Balachine's Sur Les Pointe followed by Balachine's Who Cares? (concert version) and concluded with Alan Hineline's Glennies. We went on Friday night. The auditorium had a nice crowd but far fewer than for most past performances.

We have seen the students dance Who Cares? at least twice before. Portions of it have been danced on even more occasions. So, we knew what to expect. There were a few typical bobbles and errors but overall it was nicely done. Sarah Coats was featured, which is normal. Many said she ought to have pursued a ballet career. She is very talented. Yet, I don't think she auditioned anywhere. She isn't even a dance major. Happily, she will graduate this spring and enter graduate school for a degree in Nurse Anesthesia. This has always been her goal. She had problems with the movement called "Fascinating Rhythm" but this could just be fatigue. She was cast in major roles in all three dance selections.

It was also nice to see freshman Bonnie Boiter-Jolley in several soloist roles. She did very well for the most part. Having watched her dance since she was eight, I knew to watch her arms, a weakness. They are still not as fluid and natural looking as they ought to be (or how wonderfully strong they had been in the last production of Martha Graham's work). Yet, she is overall an accomplished college dancer, even at her young age.

Susan Dabney was also very nicely featured. Ben Hankinson did a good job too, but is unfortunately way too short for partnering. Dancing most of the other male soloist roles were Norbert Nirewicz and Serguei Chtyrkov. Serguei is quite adequate and Norbert even appears to genuinely enjoy the Balachine. This is especially funny since I personally know he hates it.

Glennies was interesting. Barry Sparks commented on how much he enjoyed doing the unique lighting. I liked how the movements flowed together. Later in the weekend, we saw a video of Evelyn Glennie in performance. It was on the Arts Channel (available in Charlotte, NC--not here in Columbia, of course!) I likely would have enjoyed the dance more had I seen it first.

Now, the first piece was Sur Les Pointe. It was a nice piece that left me wondering how differently it would look had I seen New York City Ballet perform it. Of course, it would be better but I was continually aware of how much less I was witnessing. Much of this feeling was a result of Leonid Flegmatov's inability to grasp anything "Balachine" or even show much of a flair for ballet in general. He was down right poor. His best asset seemed to be his handsome looks. I really don't know much about ballet styles, but I do know when one is suppose to point ones feet, leap at least a little into the air, turn on one's axis, and TRY to dance! Poor kid, he was likely under rehearsed and under experiences for the part. He was appearing courtesy of Columbia Classical Ballet. Radenko and his "crew" were at least all there for support.

We didn't stay to greet or talk to anyone after the show. Alex had gone to Dreher High School to see (required) the drama production of Pirates of Penzance. He said it was terrible. I tried to explain a few things about appropriate expectations, like not expecting NYCB at a USC show. I think my words were lost on him though!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Burning

Last summer I had my Pardoning Altar in two different art events. One was a spirituality show in Greenwood and the other was my solo exhibition at the Sumter Gallery of Art. I set the altar up as an installation instead of just a sculptural piece. By this I mean, it invited viewers to "participate".

A ballot box, a stack of blank index cards, and a dozen pencils were provided. The signage asked people to write their own petitions for forgiveness on one of the papers and deposit it in the box. I promised to burn all the petitions at a later date--without reading them.

Well, I decided Halloween was the perfect time for a sacred burning. We never get any trick-or-treaters at Mouse House (largely due to the fact that four of the five houses on our block are businesses!) Burning the petitions was my way of celebrating Halloween.

To me Halloween isn't just a pagan day; it's All Saint's Day; it's a day to think about death and an afterlife. Putting ones transgressions behind oneself is an important way to prepare for the inevitable. So, burning the petitions for forgiveness just seemed to fit into Halloween. Okay, it's strange but the night was beautiful and the burning did seem quite sacred.

I put all the petitions into a basket (including those I wrote over five years ago when I created the altar--they were attached to the back with hat pins!) I read only my own petititons and was surprised to see what I wrote. I sought to forgive those who had hurt me in a quest for my own forgiveness (as in St. Francis' prayer--It is in the pardoning that we are pardoned). I had forgotten and forgiven many. It felt good to burn all these papers and watch the "sin" melt away into smoke and air.

Everything burned including the basket. There was nothing but ash remaining. I smudged the ashes with my shoe and will let the next rain take care of the markings.