Like Clockwork

Don’t you love it when things go smoothly? Even when the means are antiquated—say, when the person involved is kind of, no, extremely low tech—it’s rewarding when the plot in hand goes just as planned, or even better. Clearly, this is somewhat rare, or it wouldn’t be a big deal; nothing about ticking along at speed without a hitch would be memorable.
Digital montage from photos: Mighty Machines

But it is. And we do have technology, however old-school, to thank much of the time. I’m no expert, but I am thankful to have so many handy props for getting the job done, and I hold in reverence the invention and creativity that make my life easier and more pleasant even when I don’t know the cogs are turning behind the scenes to make it all possible.

Inventor, Invented

Photomontage: Blue WorldI was thinking about how I used to see the world through my designer goggles. You know, the way kids see what is and think of it in terms of how terrific or terrible they find it, and what they would do if they were The Boss and could make it exactly to their specifications. Yeah, you know: just as adults do. I still never visit a city or park, or sit in any room, without redecorating it or rebuilding it entirely, to have greater comforts, improved functionality, and superior beauty. All according to my standards, of course.

But as a kid, I got a running start at this by scrounging up every bit of interesting scrap and oddity I could find, and taking my current collections and organizing them into bookshelf-filling houses, costumes for characters I made out of other scraps, or perhaps imaginary landscapes into which I could mentally insert any stories I wanted to create. And, unlike some, I never grew out of it. I have always been surrounded by enablers who have not only permitted but even fed and encouraged my addiction to playing with reality. How would I remake the universe in which I live? I don’t know my plan in its entirety yet, but I am always, always working on it. Photo + text: How I Make this Place

Newness Absolute

Digital illo: CreatingCreating

Atom by atom and cell by cell,

The seconds tick and the hours tell

And up from nothingness and void,

Growing, expanding, and overjoyed,

What was mere darkness, lonely, grim,

Swells from the silence as a hymn;

Out of all absence, beauty came—

Because deep love had called its name.

Fast Times at Edgemont Jr. High

My post yesterday was just a little introduction to the automotive fantasyland of the past weekend’s car show here in town. Though I wasn’t, and am not, car-crazy, I have always had my own bit of admiration for the beauties of slick automotive design when I see it. I do love design, period. Cars are a clear, clean, highly visible example of the good, bad, and ugly in design. They take practical and ergonomic problems and solve them with both structural/mechanical and visual design choices, and the results present a tremendously varied array of marvels for every taste. Or none, in some cases, if you ask me.Photo montage: Car Show

The little ol’ suburbs where I grew up were not flashy, nor was I. So it’s just as well I had no particular need for speed or passion for fashion, when it came to cars. From when I was old enough to take Driver’s Ed, I was more obsessive about wishing I could avoid the class and the test and what to me were the stresses, rather than pleasures, of driving than about any urge to own and drive snazzy cars. At the same time, from my early teens I can recall having a growing appreciation for what made particular cars special. My first skills at determining the probable vintage of cars came from being able to internally populate and visualize them in use by their original owners, who would in my mental movie be dressed in period styles and occupied with period activities, and so they became entwined with the whole of characteristic designs of each era with which they were so associated. I never saw any of the movies American Graffiti, The Transporter, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or Fast Times at Ridgemont High until well after their release dates, but I could see the sorts of cars that were on the screen in any of them and guess a fairly close year of the stories in each case, real or imagined.

No matter, that. What really intrigues me about vehicles, as with so many objects that capture my interest, is the stories that they themselves seem to contain. It’s the cachet of the combined looks and capabilities of the automotive machinery, yes, but far more, it’s the history of every scratch, dent, smudge, crack, and well-worn tire (or perhaps back seat upholstery) that makes me look, and think, twice.

I’ll leave you with a few more images to ponder, and just let you drive them around for a while and see where they take you.Photo montage: Denton Car Show 2015

A Very Brief Tribute—and an Invitation

Life never ceases to astound me, the people in my daily experiences in particular. This Friday evening, for example, I am going to another concert that will involve a whole host of dedicated, skilled, passionate musicians all working together to make history come alive in their performance. There will be wonderful music from greats like George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell, and less widely known stars who also had connections with the London musical scene in a time when instruments were quite different, compositional and singing styles distinct from what we know nowadays, and the world, even of a metropolis like London, much smaller and simpler than the bright lights and wild energy we know now—yet the stories that the songwriters and performers of that age were telling differed rather less than you might think.The College of Music here at the University of North Texas where my husband conducts and teaches is gigantic, in some ways rivaling the sensation of a city itself, at times. Little London, if you will. Nearly sixteen hundred music majors and their teachers and peers work together to make all of these impressive performances, and of course they are far from limited to early music, though that’s the focus of the concert I’ll be attending. Tonight, there was music of Frank Zappa; tomorrow, voice and instrumental recitals precede the early music performance by the Collegium Singers and Baroque Orchestra; next week, along with many more spring recitals, there will be the Grand Chorus performance of Beethoven Nine and Vaughn Williams, and there are more wind symphony and jazz and chamber ensemble performances yet to come before the school year ends. It really is a bustling metropolis of its own kind, dazzling and almost losing me in its complexity. But again, the stories remain the same. It’s always about adventure and drama, love and longing. We seek to connect through the communal experiences of music.

So if you want to join in and can’t get to the campus, you can always tune in via the live stream, with many of our friends and relatives, by clicking on the link here. Or play or sing your own song, among your own friends and relatives. I imagine your stories will be familiar as well. I think I can hear them across this vast city of ours.Digital illo + text: Maze/Amaze

When Too Much is Just Right

We are taught from childhood that excess is inherently negative. Certainly, as a trained artist, I had a certain version of that idea reinforced throughout my studies. But thankfully in that training, there was also the affirmation that part of the purpose of knowing the rules and boundaries thoroughly, and especially the valid reasons for those having been codified as The Way to Do Things, is so that when we choose to break the rules, cross those bounds, and color outside the lines, we will do so intelligently and with purpose as well.

Otherwise there would be no invention at all.

Imagine if those who developed the magnificent decorative beauties of the art and designs prevailing in Art Nouveau work had always held back and refrained from going a bit beyond the norms, never mind whether any of the magnificently ridiculous extremes of the Baroque and Rococo would have bloomed in the darkness. Think, if you dare, of a world where experimentation and thinking outside the proverbial box were forbidden: would any of the useful, meaningful, and beautiful inventions that save lives and enrich them ever have happened?

This idea can be expressed on a much smaller and more modest scale, too. Why not let our joy in excess sometimes shout its existence for others to bask in its reflected glow!

Over the Top

An iconic sight along the edge of Alki Beach in Seattle, this home has grown, literally, into a garden of earthly delights that we all enjoy as we pass along our ways. Sometimes being ‘over the top’ is the perfect solution.

Fugue State in the Studio

It’s not always the case, but sometimes I find that I can lose track of time and self rather thoroughly when I’m deeply engrossed in making art. Writing even a simple email can take ages, if it’s about something or to someone I consider important; an essay or poem can take hours or days, if I get involved and forget where I am. It’s a bit like driving a familiar route; when I’ve been on the same track enough times, I am occasionally startled to realize that I don’t remember passing through the last number of miles, because my brain is so used to noting what is or isn’t as it’s expected and supposed to be that it operates nearly on autopilot, though thankfully if I examine my memory I can indeed recollect noticing real details along that ostensibly missing section of the trip. With making visual images, I can (and sometimes, I think, absolutely should) let go of and turn off my editorial mind for a good period of the work time. If I’ve practiced enough and prepared enough, inwardly, for a session of art-making, letting my attention take a back seat to my instincts and actions before returning to critical mode is at the very least going to produce some worthwhile, thought-provoking, challenging Stuff that will either lead directly to an artwork or, as a bit of not so fabulous yet earnestly glimmering potential, lead to something on the next try.

No matter how that part of the process goes, I’m quite sure that an easy 90% of what I do to make art, whether it’s textual or visual, happens internally and not externally, so it’s no wonder if I wander off at times.Digital illustrations from photos + text: Work Patterns

The Miniaturist’s Challenge

When my family and friends were conscripted to help install the artwork for my master’s thesis exhibition, they could not help but note that it would have been a kindness on my part to specialize in something a little more manageable, say, postage stamp illustration. Hanging murals of up to nine by thirty feet in dimensions is admittedly more unwieldy than mounting a bunch of tidy little framed life-sized insect portraits or installing a series of elfin sculptures made from shirt buttons and walnut shells. Alas, though I did segue into much more portable forms in later years, it was not soon enough for my loved ones’ sakes.

My verbosity is a similar burden on my circle of acquaintance, as I am not famous for knowing when to shut up any more than I am known for limiting my opinion to those who have actually asked for it. But just as I have learned to appreciate and work at smaller and less physically demanding visual media along with my enjoyment of massive and messy kinds of art, I have a fondness for smaller and less epic essays and poems, too, and have been known to craft these with similar avidity. While scale in no way guarantees quality or lack thereof in any medium I know, it is sometimes a relief to me as much as to my friendly audiences when I get my kicks by producing petite expressions of my inventive urges.Graphite drawing + text: Movements in Miniature