Finding the Art in Everything

27 March, 2009


This summer, I started making my own books. I really love my Moleskine, but I wanted something with the same design of different sizes, distinct appearance, and varying page count. I need to tell one notebook from another.

From my moleskine design, I kept:

  • blank, non-lined paper (a must! also hard to find in notebooks instead of sketchbooks)
  • a closure
  • a hard cover
  • pocket
  • a bookmark ribbon
  • and hand-sewn pages that lay fully flat
I added:
  • unique cover art
  • varying page count
  • wider page width
I have made about twenty now, and I gave most away as gifts. This is my most recent and some of my most favorite work:

25 March, 2009

Art and Museums

I took a class when I lived in England taught by an Art History professor called “Art and Museums”. We met once a week at a gallery somewhere in the city, which made me explore art galleries AND the city. Apart from being a fun class, it changed the way I spend my time in a gallery.

First, we go there to see the art, not the collection. With Art Museums, in order to “survive them”, we are always supposed to assume we are coming back. Pleasure comes from depth of personal experience, which can’t be hurried, can’t be checked off a list, and can’t be done 50 times in a day. Less is more. To see everything is to see nothing.

Second, the best way to see a pieces is to imitate it. Look where the subject looks, assume their poses, try to speak and listen to it. (it’s less embarrassing when all of this is subtle and non-verbal). It’s imitating art that imitates life. Or is life imitating art?

Third, the goal is to take something away with you from every gallery experience. You should have at least one piece which spoke to you—often, like a poem, because you worked at it. For the last few summers, I have taken two dozen kids to London, Paris, and Rome. Their first gallery experiences, for many of them,(because we live in an art-starved area) is in 2-3 of the most important galleries in Western Art. I deploy them into the Lourve, point them to the Mona Lisa, and then make them promise me they will at least bring one other piece out with them.

Last, the more time you spend in galleries, the more you appreciate each gallery experience. I have been in galleries all over Europe and the United States. It’s amazing to see the way a dead artist’s oeuvre has been strewn all over two continents. Going to many galleries helps reassemble Raphael, Bougereau, Rembrandt and Chagall. This takes longer with artist like O’Keefe and Monet, because it’s hard to find a gallery that doesn’t have one of their works.

The more you see of a particular artist, the more his work means to you. The more the work means to you, the more worthwhile the Art Museum visit.

18 March, 2009

Seattle Art Museum

Not all art is created equal, despite SAM’s best attempt to assert its own significance. Significance comes when a gallery displays pieces that are actually important.

What makes a work of art important?

It is something that challenges the way we think or see already, if not bringing us to a new place of thinking with an original idea, new technique, or superior craft.

Unfortunately, these pieces sparsely populated SAM’s collection. More often, they were pieces produced for a commercial purpose (i.e. commissioned by a wealthy family), created for their own sake and self contained.

Most of the best works were visiting pieces from the YALE collection, such as Paul Revere’s Boston Massacre Engraving, John Trumbull’s Signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the piece I personally enjoyed the most, Winslow Homer’s The Old Mill (Morning Bell).

I love Homer because he presents such an intricate narrative with such compositional simplicity.

What I don’t like are academic landscape paintings, like SAM’s feature Bierstadt. It bores me (unless it’s part of a J.M.W. Turner-esque depiction of the Sublime).

Other highlights include Georgia O’Keefe’s A Celebration, one of her few canvasses without flowers or cow skulls or cityscapes, and this one, Jesseca Penn in Black, by Robert Henri.

I looked everywhere for an artistic rendition of Mount Ranier--no luck.

Seattle Photos

I have more writing coming, but I thought I would put these up since I have them ready.

16 March, 2009

Travel top-fives

I've spent a lot of time in airports this week, which got me thinking about my travel routines, particularly when I travel alone.

Five things I always do in an airport:

1. Buy magazines. I rarely indulge my appreciation for the Economist or The New Yorker.
2. Buy a bottle of water-- because I can't carry one through security.
3. People Watch. I usually travel alone, so while I am in the airport, there is a constant internal commentary on the people I see and the fiction I impose on them.
4. Wish I were carrying less.
5. Try not to look like an amateur. I don't know why I care or where this comes from. I always walk with purpose and go through security with the efficiency of a person who does this every day. I really don't, but this mindfulness let's me internally judge all of the other apparent "amateurs".

Five things I consider irreplaceable
I can't live without them.
Ironically, they are the five things I must have when I travel, which is where I am most likely to lose them.

1. My makeup bag--It's taken me years to find just the right versions of everything and to acquire that designer collection.
2. My Notebook--It's always worse on the way home, because I'd have lost my most recent travel notes.
3. My ipod. I shouldn't have to explain this one.
4. My pen. Since I spend so much time by myself, I always want to write more. This requires a good pen, but then if I lose one of my pens here, I'll never get it back.
5. My red messenger bag. I got this one in Florence, Italy, after years of searching and saving. It has all of the right travel pockets, including one for my boarding pass, drivers' license, and phone. I often get compliments on it; it's distinctive and beautiful, as well as (for me) uncommonly utilitarian.

06 March, 2009

Imagism and Transubstantiation

I read some more of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this morning. I'm 2/3 of the way through it. It's summer in the book, and there's been a devastating flood because of a tropical storm.

Even her most benign descriptions move me, and I hardly ever know why.

At the end of this week, we looked at the Art of Modernism in my AP Class: Hopper, Stieglitz, Okeefe, Demuth.

I showed Demuth's The Figure 5 in Gold and the corresponding poem by William Carlos Williams.

It reminded me how much I enjoyed the work I did in college on the Imagist poets, particularly Williams.

I love the aesthetics of vacillating between the literary line and the figurative one, and I'm fascinated by the emergence of meaning from the point where language meets visual perception. I think this is why I like Dillard so much: meaning emerges from the point where language meets biology and place--only with Dillard, the emergence is more of a transformation.

Her language does to nature what transubstantiation does to the bread and wine of the Eucharist.