Saturday, March 31, 2012

Digital Musing: '68 Mustang CS Rear Fender

Click to enlarge. Digital manipulations of an image of the passenger side rear fender of a limited edition 1968 Mustang California Special, photograph taken 1980 at a local car show. Superimposed, is a painting of mine, Checkerberry Memories, 2007. Just playing around for an hour in Photoshop on a very chilly and rainy day.

Friday, March 30, 2012

As Seen From the Couch

My Work From a Completely Different Angle

The other night I had just sat down on the couch to watch an episode of Ancient Aliens, one of my favorite "documentary" TV shows, lol. I started to look around at all of the art on the walls, wondering if I should change out some for the "extra" ones I have leaning against the walls in every room. I have about 75 pieces at home right now, and perhaps a dozen more out on loan. I liked the way they interacted with each other from the odd angle created by sitting on the couch so I grabbed my camera and shot away. Above, Roses Are Green is highlighted.

All images clickable to enlarge.

Besides my art, I "decorate" with my vintage collectibles and posters. I like the juxtaposition of three-dimensional items and my flatter wall art. In the center above is one of my very few pieces on stretched linen, The Cook, based on a portrait by my grandmother of a worker at one of the area's turn-of-the-century hotels. The butterfly toy dates to about 1930 and when pushed on its wheels, its wings flap up and down.

One of my lesser-seen pieces, Pals, includes a typeset poem of mine from the 1980s, as well as scans from a 1920s children's book, Kitty Cat. Learning a lesson told to me by a wonderful local artist known as the "Nut Lady," Elizabeth Tashjian, sadly now deceased, I frequently photograph my art pieces and then use those images in new art. Referencing her earlier work in new pieces was something she did quite often and I was really smitten by the concept.

Another closeup detail view of Roses Are Green. That's my aunt Hoohoo's face peering out from the bottom. We used to see how many nonsense poems we could make up, hence the title. And the green rose in the center, of course, lol.

One of my more subtle pieces, and one that I seem to like more every day, is Hands Across the Sea. It utilizes scans of World War One-era collectibles of mine. It's created from two salvaged chestnut floorboards from a more than two hundred year old house that was being dismantled.

Twentieth Century Modern, bottom, includes vintage linoleum scraps given to me several years ago by a friend that knew I liked things like that. The rest is paint and graphite. At the top is What They Fought For, and is based on a photograph my father shot in 1946 aboard his Naval destroyer. The sailors are holding a puppy! At the bottom of this piece, arranged like military medals, are small images of cars, homes, games, clocks—cherished items that might have been in their homes safe and sound as they fought in World War Two. On the top left is Gifts from Charles Sanborn and is a portrait of my grandfather taken by my grandmother in 1924. Around the perimeter of that piece are images of collectibles from his home and actual two-cent stamps he used on postcards sent home during the first world war. The black and white ink piece is by my friend Meghan.

A nice closeup detail view of Twentieth Century Modern. I encourage people touch my art, to run their hands over the surfaces. This piece is so smooth and softly burnished it feels like velvet.
I have vintage beads hanging around my apartment, too. I like their colors and shapes, and they contrast nicely with the rigid geometrics of the wall pieces. In the center is a hand-tinted photograph of my little three year-old mother taken in 1921. I placed it in a vintage shadowbox frame with dried flowers and raffia. Top right, almost out of the photo, are faux leaded-glass bric-a-brac I made from crafts kits when I was ten years old.

Scoop! Works in Progress:

Partially hidden behind a '68 Mustang fastback, a 1950s bowling ashtray and a vintage tin box, is a brand new piece of mine, not quite finished yet. The image is of my mother and a friend of hers from 1921-22, each about 3-4 years old. Barely visible behind it to the right, is another work-in-progress, a self portrait from a 1965-66 photo of me. The beautiful color portrait of the woman, right, is a dumpster find, a hand-tinted portrait by Harold Haliday Costain, 1897-1994, a Scarsdale, New York based photographer of some renown. It was quite the find!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We've Been Waiting For Them!

2012 Flowers Begin Blooming at Pink Gardens

It's still very early in Spring, and last week's 70° temperatures have dropped back into the 50s (and low 30s at night!), but Pink Gardens' flowers are slowly making a comeback. And not a second too soon for me. Above, lavender azaleas always contrast well against the oldest part of the house's clapboards, and granite foundation.

My mother's chives pot is going on thirty years old. I think this will be the year I sand it down and give it a new paint job. The succulent young chives have jumped up six inches in the last two weeks.

Grape hyacinths are a fairly new addition to the main flower garden, this only their second year. The stems will double in size in the next week or so, but it's interesting the flowers mature first. Foxgloves leaves can be seen to the left, and several varieties of day lilies and irises in the background.

White full sized hyacinths, a gift a few years ago from my friend Nikki, smell really great. Besides lilacs, I think I like the scent of hyacinths the most.

Vinca, or as I know it, myrtle, is a wonderful plant to naturalize. I planted this all around the base of the large decaying tree trunk that is in the center of my main flowerbed, and the way the myrtle vine creeps up and into the crevices is really beautiful.

Late summer blooming sedum looks absolutely fantastic as it starts to grow. The leaves curl like little cabbages and the plants are so full. I'll pinch every little "head" you see here several times throughout the growing season, (and on the 15 or more other sedums I have), until July or so. This keeps them from growing too tall and falling over. I like to keep them bushy.

A white and yellow variety of daffodils. These were the first flowers I learned to love. My aunt Hoohoo was obsessed with these early blooming spring bulbs, and every fall we planted hundreds of them all around. They were in front of every stone wall, every building, every large boulder, every flowerbed border and then we planted them in the woods, lol. She had several varieties including a gorgeous peach colored variety, but I only have a couple different ones right now.

A yellow and orange daffodil. This one is the "showgirl" of the garden, kinda brassy but tall and proud of it, lol.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Night on the Town, Tokyo, 1954

Two Drinks Each—Colorized detail of a photograph taken of my parents in a Tokyo nightclub in 1954. My dad was stationed in Japan in the early 1950s before being transferred to Germany where I was born in 1957. The entire photograph is great, see below, but this detail says a lot. Both of my parents are drinking what they always drank in later life, too, daiquiris for my mom and rum-and-cokes for my dad. I still have the tie he's wearing, so those colors are correct, but I guessed on the rest of the objects.

I was also able to identify my mother's Mikimoto pearl engagement ring, which I have in its original box. Pearls were definitely my mother's choice in jewelry all her life, be they necklaces, rings or brooches. I also recognize the Lucky Strikes cigarettes, their choice back then. I'm just surprised they're not housed in any of my parents many, many decorative cigarette cases. In fact, one of the more interesting "objets" in my collection is an unopened box of Lucky Strikes from the late 1940s, in a beautiful case from the Ivory Mart in New Delhi, India.

Original photo. My parents are on the left, next to a good friend of theirs, also in the Army. I'm guessing that this picture was taken by one of those classic nightclub photographers of that period.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Were FDR's Fireside Chats Heard on my Radio?

This is a Thorola Model 57 desk radio, dating to 1926. After spending decades in an attic, the wooden case was quite worse-for-the-wear, so I've refinished it. The painted front panel was pretty much intact though, and the interior is quite good. I was able to replicate the correct finish luster by the interior wood that had been protected from dirt and dust. There is also a separate, round wooden speaker, about 18 inches tall. I'd love to know what radio programs were heard on this set, who listened to it, what their discussions were at the time, what was being knitted or otherwise created at the same time. Imagine the history that was broadcast through these "doughnut" coils and vacuum tubes and wiring. FDR's Fireside Chats most definitely. Did my family hear about the stock market crash of 1929 on this? Did they hear "Happy Days Are Here Again" through its speaker?

Happy Days are Here Again, from 1930. This was once a victory song for the Democrats. I'm sure it was heard over and over again in my family's home!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Know You Ought to Slow Down . . .

You Been Working Too Hard and That's a Fact!

The past couple of weeks I've been working on the production of a book in a series new to me. I've  been using a new iMac and a new version of the paging program I'm used to, CS InDesign 5.5. It's really been a strain on my old brain learning all of these new things throughout the 350 pages, lol! I'm down to just details now, and I need to wait until morning for a few answers before I can wrap it up and send it off via the electronic Pony Express.

As soon as I quit the program and switched to checking email, this old Disco song began playing in my mind. I haven't heard it for years, but it always put me in a good mood and I have no idea why it suddenly popped into my head. This dance song made me smile a long time ago hanging with my friends, and it makes me smile tonight. My friends may not be here next to me, but they're even closer now—they're inside me—young as we ever were, loud as we ever were, bright-eyed and bushy tailed as we ever were. Opening a Sam Adams Alpine Spring and gonna slow down tonight. Enjoy!

Take Your Time (Do It Right)
by the SOS Band

You know you ought to slow down,
You been working too hard,
And that's a fact.
Sit back and relax a while.
Take some time to laugh and smile.
Lay your heavy load down,
So we can stop and kick back.
It seems we never take the time to do
All the things we want to, yeah.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Photopourri: Temps Ain't All That's Rising

All Rise! Powder Biscuits, Palm Shadows, Planted Pansies

Biscuits Rising—I did some baking this weekend, freeformed baking powder buttermilk biscuits. I've been working on my biscuit process for a few months, and this batch came out really well—very light and fluffy. Besides the usual ingredients—butter, flour, buttermilk, baking powder and soda and a bit of salt—I added freshly ground dill seeds, rosemary leaves, and cayenne pepper. I was going to use these biscuits with baked fish filets, so I topped them with Old Bay, a longtime New England seafood seasoning. Note the term "freeformed." Most biscuit recipes call for all of the biscuits to be made from the "first rolled" dough, saying that any scraps from the circular cuts be, well, scrapped, instead of reformed into biscuits. Apparently they don't rise as much once they're rolled out a second time. I hate to waste anything, so I don't cut them into rounds at all. I just cut them into vague squares and then whatever shapes the outside edges are. They all taste great, and the added unique shapes always seem to look as great on a plate as perfectly symmetrical biscuits. To me, anyway!

Shadows Rising—Enjoying a few hours of sun outside on my porch, my potted palm is getting used to the stronger spring sunlight. This palm seems to have done better this winter inside than it did last summer outside, so I'm not sure it's going to "live" outside this summer at all. I think from now on I may just put it out a few hours a day.

Spring Flowers Rising—Pansies have made their spring appearance in front of our Post Office for 2012. This little square seems to be seasonally planted with spring pansies, summer impatiens and autumn chrysanthemums and pumpkins. There's a nice large clock on this corner, so if you look up you can tell what time it is, and if you look down you can tell what season it is, lol.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Cleaning, Javelin-Style!

Today's the first day of spring, 2012. Yay! We've been having great spring weather for a few weeks, well, most of the winter actually, lol. I found this beautiful 1970 AMC Javelin last week being brought out of its winter hibernation. It's hard to believe this car is 42 years old now! This is as great an image of spring cleaning as any I've photographed...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Caring Hands, 2008

"Caring Hands," Paint. paper and polyurethane on two pine boards, approximately 20 x 23 inches.

M Y   A R T — This piece uses a detail from a vintage photograph of my grandmother and a friend of hers, below. It's actually an early double-exposure, and I fear if a "mistake" like this was captured on a digital camera today it would be deleted immediately. 

There is such a loving feeling between these two women, the way they're holding each other's hands. My grandmother at this time worked at the Indian Point House, a summer resort hotel in Stony Creek, Connecticut. Her diaries show she did whatever was needed, from scheduling dinner parties, to making sure the wealthy guests had their clothes washed and pressed and laid out, to choosing the flowers for the dinner tables. The woman behind her was the woman in charge of the maidstaff. I have her name on the back of just one photograph which I can't find right now. I think I'll probably use this image full-frame for a piece sooner rather than later, but for this piece I concentrated on their hands.

A Bit of My Art "Theory" and Nature of Memories
Since these two women physically cared for not only their staff and guests, but their families, I made this piece seem as if it had been lovingly cleaned and polished for generations. I used wall joint compound sanded down as if cleaned and cleaned and cleaned proudly until the woodwork was revealed below, and then cleaned again. As in the vast majority of my art, I try to incorporate every color in the "book" on this piece, to show metaphorically that we can all get along no matter what we are like physically. I print out the scans of these vintage photographs with various tints—some green, some blue, some pink, some lavender, some gold. Sometimes I print them saturated, sometimes I print them very faintly. What I'm trying to express is the nature of memories. Some of our memories are vivid and bold, others are barely there, Some memories are complete, some memories are just bits and pieces floating around in our minds' eye. Personally, I tend to compartmentalize memories. In my head, I mentally flip through "pages" and I put my memories in boxes and grids. This is why my work is largely based on grids and repeated squares, rigidly expressed at the same time they are ephemeral and wispy.

Detail from "Caring Hands." The brightly colored squares are bits of "Color Aid" leafs, silk-screened colors of pure hues used in color theory art classes. Mine date from the late 1970s at Vassar. I use my own history in many pieces.

Detail from "Caring Hands." I've scratched squares into the wall-joint compound, in a porcelain-tile effect, a surface that might be scrubbed and cleaned over and over again by "caring hands."

Original ca. 1921 double-exposure of my grandmother and a friend. Photograph taken at the Indian Point House in Stony Creek, Connecticut, one of Connecticut's turn-of-the-century summer resorts.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bit of Ugly, Bit of Pretty, Bit of Touching

Beware the Ides of March. Born on this day was a person most responsible for the early childhood trauma in my life, and responsible for unspeakable pain to my parents and aunt and uncle, truly ruining all of our lives. I hate this day more than any other day of the year.

Wallowing done for this year, let's celebrate the day honoring a truly innocent artist taken from us far too early, Keith Haring, 1958-1990. Just a year younger than I am, it was always great fun to find "new" Harings in the East Village in the 1980s, painted on walls and sidewalks and lamp posts, really every surface imaginable. I had no idea he would become not only popular and collectible, but iconic. I can hardly look back to those days without his distinctive figures dancing in my head right alongside my memories of friends and jobs and clubs and days and nights wandering around "Gotham." I never had a chance to meet Keith, or buy him a beer and laugh about our world, but due to the incessant marketing machine of our world, his work stares at me every single day—I have three refrigerator magnets of his work given to me by my late friend Andy. Here's to both of you!

  • I found this video through a link at Joe.My.God, the most important political blog there is for LGBT rights, and one that is proudly listed in my blog roll listing. This video was made by a friend of Keith's, Marcito in Omaha. The music is perfect, the artwork is touching, and it's cut together perfectly. I'm sure Keith would smile seeing his work portrayed in this manner. THANK YOU Marcito for allowing me to share your work with my readers.
  • Keith's early work, 1978-82 is being showcased at the Brooklyn Museum, beginning tomorrow. Information, here. If anything is going to get me back to the city after an almost ten-year absence, this could be it.

Spring is Springing Around Town

Lovely purple crocuses coming right up through the leaves and twigs in a downtown yard.

Walking around town this week, I've noticed that Spring is definitely here. While Thursday is going to be in the 50s, it was close to 70° Wednesday. Windows were thrown open, heat turned down, laundry hung on the line, flowerbeds cleaned off, short sleeved Ts and cargo shorts reappear. I don't have anything blooming at Pink Gardens yet, but these flowers were found all over downtown and the beach area today. I can't wait to have flowers in the yard again! 

Blooming in front of our downtown jeweler, this beautiful yellow jonquil enjoys the sun.

A neat cluster of mini Crocuses growing right in the yard of a beach house. They were barely three inches high. I've never seen miniature Crocuses before.

Another jonquil in front of the jeweler downtown. Majestic flowers they are!

Another cluster of mini Crocuses, bright orangey yellow this time. The flowers are less than an inch wide.

Daffodils look best in clusters and best in a woodland setting, in my humblest of opinions! My aunt Hoohoo and I planted hundreds of daffodils all around her six acres of woods, in front of colonial-era stone walls, alongside boulders and trees, and in nooks and crannies everywhere.

Again, with the miniatures! These are mini Daffodils, and were approximately four inches tall with blooms only about an inch wide.

 This cluster of mini Crocuses featured a pale butter yellow variety, a color I've never seen on "regular" Crocuses.

B T W :

The Turtles are Back!

Last week I saw one lone turtle sunning him/herself at their favorite downtown pond, but today they were out in droves. Or in hordes. Or in herds. Whatever groups of turtles are called! It's truly Spring when these turtles come out of their winter sleep.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"I, Violet, I, Daisy." Hilton Sister Homage

"I, Violet, I, Daisy," mixed media, approximately 32 x 22 inches on two black foam core boards with luan backing, 2004-05.

This is one of my earliest pieces after I stopped working full time and decided to pursue "fine" art. It's an homage to a pair of early twentieth century actresses, conjoined sisters from birth, Violet and Daisy Hilton (Wiki, here). I first became acquainted with their story in a book I designed for the Globe Pequot Press in 2002, Shocked and Amazed, by James Taylor (Amazon listing, here). They were a fascinating pair, appearing in the now-classic 1932 movie, Freaks, a flim based on the life of those in the circus sideshows. In real life, they always began their sentences with "I, Violet," or "I, Daisy" to make sure everyone understood that while they shared parts of their body, they were distinct people with distinct personalities, needs and desires. They were lady-like, enjoyed fashion, and were rumored to own a Frank Lloyd Wright home at one point. They died in 1969 in rather more subdued circumstances, having worked in a grocery store at the end of their lives. Sadly, if they were born today, there is no doubt they could have been separated. They were connected only at the hips and buttocks and shared no major organs.

My homage is on two separate boards, joined only by six vintage pearlescent buttons, evocative of the sisters tastes and lot in life. Besides the obvious floral motif, violets and daisies, I've used feathers from a vintage boa, dried flowers and stems and bits and pieces of fabric. The checkerboard pattern is similar to Depression-era architectural details, and the bright colors and looseness of the painting is meant to evoke a circus-like feeling. I find it very interesting to look back at this "early" work of mine and see the nascent styles, motifs, and techniques I would use in all of my future work.

Vintage pearlescent buttons join the two separate boards, as tenuous a connection as the Hilton sisters' physical connection actually was. And as elegant as Violet and Daisy would have liked.

Further details include dried flowers, stems and feathers from an antique boa.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Early Spring, Late Christmas. (Cactus, That Is)

It might not have been much of a winter, and it may have been almost 70° today, but inside, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, lol. One of my Christmas cactuses is still blooming, the bright pink one. Besides my huge cactus which is now more than 90 years old, I've got three small plants and I'm going to combine those three in one container soon. That is if they ever stop flowering!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bedroom in a Puddle, Face in a Muddle

On the Road Again, Literally—Walking towards home the other day, my bedroom window was perfectly captured in an afternoon puddle in the road. Soon, the woods will fill out with leaves and Pink Gardens will hardly be seen until you're right in front of it.

On the Road Again, Figuratively—Playing around with the built-in camera on my new iMac late last night, (on loan from my publisher), I wondered, "When did I turn into Willie Nelson, lol?"

On the Road Again, Psychedelically—With that awesome Sixties perspective, posted today is Canned Heat's cover of a 1953 song by Floyd Jones, not Willie Nelson's classic of the same name. Skip the ad in the beginning if it shows up. I hate the fact that YouTube is placing ads in videos now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

And Now Let's Hear from the Gals . . .

The Day Lady Arrived—My Mom and her new puppy, Lady, circa 1930. I know my mother never used a ScooPup Pocket back then, but if they were around I'm sure she would have loved it, lol.  Approximately 14 x 22 inches on clapboard siding; paint, paper, silver foil and polyurethane.

Doggone It, It's Over
I stole that headline from my longtime pal, Bette, owner/writer of Walking the Dog blog and inventor of the innovative ScooPup Pocket. Bette, an animal lover and rights activist, came up with an answer to the question every dog owner faces on a daily basis: "On a walk, what do I do with the poop, lol?" Almost four years ago she designed, patented and had manufactured, the ScooPup Pocket, and sadly, instead of creating the 15 million jobs this country needs right now, dog owners of this country apparently preferred the errant plastic grocery bag, their used lunch baggie, or, well, I don't want to know that "or" is. Bette's calling it quits on her cool product. I'm so proud to know someone that had a vision, sat down and thought of all the pros- and cons- of developing a niche product no one else had before, and followed through with it, finding a manufacturer, coming up with the marketing plans, and hiring lawyers. When I heard about the lawyers I knew she was serious!

So, dear readers, I'm announcing that for the month of March, at least, Bette is selling her cool, and colorful, ScooPup Pocket, and then taking Riley, her awesome dog, out on a really long walk, lol. If I had a dog, I'd order one in every color, just because I think they're awesome.  Watch the 1-minute promotional video Bette made and see if you don't agree. Hey dog owners out there! You need this!
  • Bette's heartfelt blogpost about this venture, at Walking the Dog. Click here.
  • TinyGrowl's website for the ScooPup Pocket is here.

Planting the Seeds of the Future
Soon, the Hummingbird Gate to our vegetable garden will be swinging open as a new growing season begins. We won't have to wait until May to start our veggies this year!

On a lighter note, beginning a new chapter, my friend Nancy Wolff, writer of Prudent Living On the Homefront, which I profiled recently, has filmed her first segment for the website. I predict, once again, I will be someone's "little people" in their past! This is a segment aboug starting your Spring vegetable seeds indoors. As in "right now!"

  • I've listed Nancy's Prudent Living website in my blogroll, but you can just click here, too.
Lastly, a Tiny Bit of Blog Business
I recently changed the "commenting" procedure at this blog—I stopped using the "Captcha" system which helps cut down on spam comments. Blogger had changed their format so that the captchas were longer and more difficult to read. I rarely had to delete spam comments, so I thought I'd give it a try and see how it worked—if it was easier to comment, and I didn't encounter any spam, it would be a win-win situation. Since then, I've had to delete anywhere from 10-25 spam comments every day, though. The weird thing is I get the notifications in my email they are posted, but when I come to the blog to delete them, they're not here. They're making me nervous that they're embedding themselves in some way, and they do seem to be getting more numerous. They're not just fake Gucci bags anymore either, so in order to protect the integrity of this blog, and to make sure none of my readers are confronted with anything "nasty" I'm going to go back to the captcha system. Thank you for coming here, I value your readership and comments!