Monday, February 28, 2011

Exploring MoMA

We had a great time exploring the Museum of Modern Art in NYC on Saturday. Luckily, I had borrowed the picture book Seen Art? by John Sciezca and Lane Smith, so the whole family was familiar with many of the more well-known works. But it was also great being exposed to some new ideas and to try to expand our definition of art. Sometimes it was a stretch - "modern" art seems to have such a wide definition and ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. I'll start with the ridiculous: The piece below is titled "The Middle of the World" by Gedi Sibony and it consists basically of vertical blinds lying on the floor. As my ten-year-old said, "I don't get it." Another that confounded us was nothing more than a stack of newspapers on the floor (didn't get the title or artist on that one). But there were some that were a little more fun, like the Needle in the Haystack which was a large cube of stacked hay bales wrapped with gold wire, which had an 18-karat gold needle on the end. The girls enjoyed searching for the needle and were happy to have found it!
We also enjoyed the photography exhibits. The photo below caught my husband's eye. It's called "Hands of Marionette Player" by Tina Modotti. Truly a picture worth a thousand words.
I really enjoyed Picasso's many renditions of guitars, including the collage below. One of the paper collages on display was not even glued - the paper was pinned in place, as though he hadn't made his final placement decision yet and might still make some changes. I think I'm only beginning to understand Picasso's approach to art. There's something very childlike and appealing in his use of everyday materials like old newspapers, wallpaper, cardboard, pencil and glue. You can tell that he was having fun - playing and exploring, but also breaking new ground. (My husband thinks modern art is about breaking rules. Maybe he's got something there...)
Matisse also seemed to be having great fun. His pieces always look so happy, especially "The Red Studio," below. Standing next to this piece, you feel like you can almost step into that big open space in the middle of the room, pick up one of the crayons in the open box on the table, and start coloring. The clock against the far wall has no hands, as though time is inconsequential while he's there happily working.
Here are a few Impressionist favorites of mine - Seurat and Monet. After the confusing and nonsensical contemporary stuff we saw first, these seemed like such a relief. My mind was searching for something that made sense, something rational and beautiful.

Finally, my favorite of all - The Starry Night. It was my first time seeing it in person and it was breathtaking.
I'm not sure how my recent exposure to modern art might influence my own art. Maybe it will help me define and appreciate my own personal sense of expression. Or maybe it will inspire me to break a few rules! Only time will tell...

Friday, February 25, 2011


Yesterday the girls and I headed down to the Katonah Museum of Art to see their latest exhibit, "Drawn /Taped /Burned: Abstration on Paper." Of course, it was interesting and sparked many discussions about the definition of art, which in this case was really more about process than product. Click here to see some of the works currently on display. Some of our favorites were "Reverse Polarities" by Jason Peters, a piece constructed of long fluorescent light bulbs and a black mirror which was in a room all by itself, and the untitled piece made from painters tape by Christine Hiebert.

The museum is small, really only two main exhibit rooms, but they have a great arts-and-crafts room for kids. Even though my girls are older, we mosied in there to see the drawings by Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator. His two most notable picture books are titled Ish and The Dot, both about making your own mark and being satisfied with it because it is uniquely yours. (He will be visiting the museum on April 3rd.)

Below is a template drawn by Peter Reynolds and provided by the museum to get the kids started. The craft of the day was using painters tape to make some art, so the girls and I dove right in!
And this is my first piece. It's all tape, except for the central piece which was a textured and metallic paper.
Here is my next piece, sort of a mosaic. It was really fun working with the tape. They had so many different colors, and it's so quick and easy to just rip pieces off and stick them anywhere. It was a good exercise in not overthinking and overplanning - just doing. It was also a good exercise in seeing and using the negative space around a shape or shapes.
This last piece was collaborative. I gave two of my girls strips of tape and I took a third. When I said "Go!" we all started ripping and sticking until our tape was used up. "Look at that energy, that movement!"
Tomorrow we are heading into NYC to visit the Museum of Modern Art - another opportunity for learning, inspiration, and discussion!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Colorful Pick-me-up

Here is the charm necklace I made for myself in turquoise and copper. That color combination whisks me away to the Mediterranean (not that I've ever been there, but how I think it must be). I can't help thinking of ancient ruins rising in rocky cliffs above the turquoise sea, Greek statues and Roman baths - a place of depth and mystery (maybe I'm channeling one of my Sicilian ancestors!). The giant clasps I bought to hold the charms had the word "talisman" on the label. Even though that word connotes superstition and luck (which I don't really believe in), I decided I would use it to hold items that have some personal symbolic meaning. Of course there are references to water, also creation and eternity. I even added a bead made from a scrap of the painted and stitched burlap I used to cover my sketchbook for The Sketchbook Project. I hope when I wear it, I will be reminded of who I am deep down and what is important to me.

On another note, I received my "declined" letter from the Schweinfurth Gallery in Auburn, NY. It was what I was pretty much expecting, but it was still a little let-down (although "declined" sounds so much better than "rejected"!). More positively, that leaves those two pieces free for the Putnam Arts Council member show, which runs for the month of March, so one of them will be seen locally, which is probably a better place for me to start. I think I'll go with the more colorful one, "Rhythm of the Earth." I'd better go put a label on it... this way it will be all ready to drop off.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Little Diversions

I haven't started any new or large projects lately... just been making quick little things like the charm necklaces last week, and these little button and ribbon brooches. I got the idea for these from a library book titled 200 Creative Crafts for You and Your Home edited by Megan Hiller. Right around this time of year I start to think my wardrobe could use a little spot of color - everything outside is so gray and I'm tired of wearing subdued winter clothes! These are perfect on a coat, hat or scarf - just the bright lift I crave! They are very simple to make, with only a few supplies needed: some buttons, ribbon, needle and thread, maybe some beads, and a pin backing. The ones above I made myself (it's easy to get carried away with the combinations of colors and textures!) and have been giving them away to various friends, family members, coworkers etc. The ones below...
were made by the women's Creative Playgroup that I meet with once a month at the library. A couple of them used barrettes rather than pin backings, so little girls can wear them in their hair. I think I'll make a little travel kit with all the materials to make these - they're perfect quick projects to do in a doctor's waiting room or on a road trip. I hope to get the initiative up to delve into a bigger, meatier project soon. I must have a case of the winter blahs or something... seems like my get-up-and-go has got-up-and-went! All I want to do is snuggle under the comforter with a good book...!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

These are the "charming" little pendants I made for my daughters for Valentine's Day. Most of the red things I crafted from polymer clay, and I found those cool giant clasp-type rings to hang the charms from at the craft store on Friday. Aren't they great? This way the girls can easily change out the charms and the ribbon when Valentine's Day is over! Fun! I think I'll go make one for myself, maybe in copper with turquoise beads and baubles (what else?). Hope your Valentine's Day was filled with love (and chocolate!).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Playing Around

I haven't been very conscientious about my goal to do some kind of 8x10 art on a weekly basis. Last night one of our cats woke me up around 3 am (she has not been going outside due to the nasty winter weather - she doesn't like ice between her toes and she has major Cabin Fever!) and I wasn't able to get back to sleep. I figured I might as well get up and do something, rather than lying there wide awake, so I cut up the rest of the canvas I bought for the sketchbook and played with some acrylic paints. Here are the two designs I came up with. Obviously, they're not really finished pieces in themselves, more like background designs or elements I could cut up and use in another finished piece. I think I'm going to have to treat these weekly pieces more this way, or I'll never do them. I'm going to leave the rules Wide Open - the only requirement will be the size. They might be on fabric, paper, or a combination of the two, so long as it's weekly and art. I'm not going to go crazy trying to make a "finished" piece, just play and experiment with some materials and techniques.

These were done with watered down acrylic paints on canvas, with copper acrylic paint stamped over it. In some places, I went back over the copper acrylic paint with the watered down pinks and greens to soften the look a little. I'm not sure what they'll end up as!

Another thing I did this week was revisit some of my children's book manuscripts (I came across them while reorganizing and straightening up). Now that I've put them away for a while, I can look at them with better perspective and a fresh eye. One of them (The Timid Seahorse) I completely rewrote in the middle of the night (it wasn't the cat's fault that time - I don't know what woke me up) but when I was done, I thought it was so much better and I couldn't wait to find a prospective publisher. Unfortunately, in the light of day, the manuscript didn't seem as magically perfect, and I began to have doubts again. Maybe I should run the whole thing by some other writers to get some feedback. In any case, I think it is good enough to be read by a wider audience and deserves some greater effort on my part. I also reread my board book proposal, a Halloween poem called "Halloween Countdown" and I definitely think that also qualifies for publication. I need to figure out what my next step is... Anyone out there know an agent or editor? I could use a miracle...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Getting Organized... Again!

After a long couple of weeks with too much time stuck indoors, I finally had a free day on Friday and made my way down to the nearest fabric and craft stores. I found some great organizers, like the turntable above, which is on the same table where I have my sewing machine and do most of my work. It now holds everything I might need close by: pencils, pens, markers, scissors, paintbrushes, wire cutters, presser feet, rotary cutters, and various glues! I wasn't sure it would work, but I'm liking it! The only problem is that it's a little heavy for the plastic stacking drawers I got last summer; I may have to replace those with wooden ones eventually. With that area looking neater, I also started to tackle the rest of the studio/play area.

I share my "studio" space with the girls' play and craft area. We bought open cubby shelving for the girls' toys and games when we first built the play area, so the girls could reach everything easily (and put things away easily!). But the contents of the cubbies look haphazard, even if all the games and things are stacked nicely. I went through everything and managed to make a decent pile of stuff to donate, throw out, or sell. More work needs to be done in this area, and I think I'll pick up some cardboard boxes next time I'm at Staples, to make the cubby contents look more uniform and less distracting.
Meanwhile, I organized a pile of UFOs and other stuff I didn't know what to do with, and put them in the flat basket, above. I know what i really should do is finish them or reuse them somehow, but I can't think about them yet. At least they don't look so discouraging now!

One way of evaluating if your storage works is if you can find everything you need. I usually can, and pretty quickly, but the way everything looked kind of bothered me. Now that it's looking a little better, I hope it will be conducive to greater productivity!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another Artsy Snowday

We had another winter storm blow in yesterday and the schools and library were both closed. It felt like a holiday! I baked pumpkin spice muffins for breakfast and spent some time relaxing and creating the postcard, above, to mail to Quilting Arts magazine for their 10th anniversary. The girls and I played scrabble and worked on a jigsaw puzzle and enjoyed each other's company. It was a fun and pretty stress-free day.

But this morning the snow had turned to ice, and although the schools were closed again, everyone seemed to be tired of it all, and tired of each other! We have some dripping around the inside of two of our windows, a result of too much ice and snow damming up the gutters, but we never lost power, thank God. The girls really pitched in to get the ice and snow off the driveway; it was soooo heavy and we have to heave it up to the tops of the mountains lining the driveway! But it's done and we should have a couple of normal school days coming up. Let's hope the groundhog's prediction is correct this year!