Thursday, February 28, 2013

Added Information

Rethinking my earlier post...I think this picture above gives you a more accurate rendition of what it looks like from my dock if I turn away from the sunset.  According to my neighbor that lives in the million dollar house just to the right of this photo...all will be gone by summer. No, no one is building anything here.  They are just trying to keep the red barge from sinking as it has rusted through!   She promised last year it would be gone and then this fall the red barge was joined by the black barge and tug!  (Click on the photo if you are a machinery/equipment person.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Got Points?

I am going away for a week's vacation.  Since I am retired you may ask why in the hell I need a vacation.  I don't.  But because I am in the elite upper income bracket I have something called "points" that I will lose if I do not use.  Do not ask me to explain this point system because I will have to tell you that is is like joining a fancy country club where you give them $10,000 for a year's membership and they allow you to eat rubber chicken next to another person who has $10,000 to give away.  Instead of this they give me a week in some questionable hotel in another country along with all the rubber tortillas that I can eat next to other people with 'points.".

I promise to come back with stories about food, culture, scenery and nature.  I am going to one of those areas where all the tourists go...not the rich tourists...just the people who like to drink margaritas on a beach and look at women in bikinis.  I am not one of those people either.  I like a beach for a day or two, but then I want to see the faces of the people who live here, the faces of the animals that live here and the culture and geography that makes these faces the way they are. 

In the between time I have posted a photo of what I currently (and all winter long) have seen from my dock.  My neighborhood is not as high class as you may think.  The trailer behind the tug and barge has been empty for a few years, but it may be for rent if you are interested.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Who is Responsible?

I have posted on the artist Al Weiwei twice already and from all the interesting examples in the very limited exhibit that is currently touring this country, I will select just one more.  He did some beautiful works in wood and those I will save for another time, perhaps, when the writer in me is looking for something to say.  These next examples are about children, corruption and government ... in somewhat that order.  The photo below is one of my children when they were very small with some friends in Indonesia.

The photo above is distorted because this post is about an earthquake and children.  We had earthquakes in Indonesia, but this is about an earthquake in China.

This description above is blurred because in most museums you may not use a flash and therefore it was taken in dark light requiring a steadier hand than I have.  But since this is about earthquakes, I think a bit of shaken text is appropriate.

This rebar in the photos above of the artwork came from the actual schoolhouses that collapsed like houses of cards after the earthquake.  Many Chinese parents lost their children due to schools built with very poor quality materials and questions about corruption and kick backs were made.  The metal bars are arranged a little like a river and seem to have waves across its surface like the waves of an earthquake.

Chinese officials remained in denial about how many died, and about how the poor construction of the schools contributed to these deaths. The government refused to release the names of the children.  Thus Weiwei made his artistic protest.  An entire wall in the museum lists the names of the children who died and an audio track is run in this room saying each their names.

You can learn more about "Al'  here  <>  and here <>  You will need a kleenex.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What is Valuable?

The bowl is from Japan and the rice is from Italy and this photo was taken in my kitchen.  This is the beginning of an homage to Al Weiwei.  If you don't quite get it, you will have to read the prior post for help.  As I look at this photo I remember driving by a busy corner as I was entering the city of Jogjakarta in Indonesia and seeing a totally naked and very thin woman who looked well into her 60's with an empty rice bowl held out in her hand.  Others stood around her trying to cross the street and truly appeared not to see her.  That image will never leave my consciousness.

If you  look closer at this photo above you will realize that these two bowls do not contain rice.  The bowls are made of the finest porcelain from China and the shiny objects are a half-ton of freshwater pearls.  (Weiwei 2006)  The bowls are exactly one meter in diameter.  I think I am in sync with Weiwei by putting these two photos in the same blog.  Which do you think is worth more?  Depends on who you are and how full your belly is I guess.

  I was very tempted to let my hands feel the tactile sensation of of these shiny orbs.

"The choice of materials and the use of traditional techniques show his determination to highlight in these artworks both his “Chineseness” and his active subversion of it, as in Bowl of Pearls (2006). This sculpture consists of a pair of bowls one meter in diameter filled with freshwater pearls. While abundance of pearls can symbolize wealth and provoke a strong desire, the large number displayed in the bowl is such that it triggers an opposite feeling. The feeling of value and preciousness commonly associated with pearls, when displayed in a small quantity, is replaced by an ordinary feeling despite the pearls’ inner beauty." Review from Mori Art Museum.

This is my small personal collection of both freshwater and salt water pearls, and since some were handed down from an elder relative, their value is much greater to me emotionally than practically.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Is It Art?

In what must seem as an addendum to my prior comments on art and artists, I expanded my experience by visiting an exhibit of one of the more famous dissident artists in the world.  This is his first U.S. exhibit which was successful on its first stop at the Hirshhorn Sculpture museum in D.C.  I am, of course, writing about Al Weiwei who is "waiting" for China to return his passport.  He was unable to attend the opening of this exhibit months ago, although over 200 diplomats from around the world were there to see it.

Whether one considers his work art, a statement of dissident symbolism or moments of Zen interspersed with his black and white photography, I was drawn to each piece and it left me thinking about art and humanity.  Could he be as famous an artist without the repressive government in China motivating him and giving him fame is a question made by some.  He lived in the U.S. for twelve years and returned to China where he became more interesting and more motivated.

In repressive China he has been arrested, beaten around the head (photos of the x-ray of the head concussion are part of the exhibit) and thrown in jail.  He has also had his newest studio bulldozed.  He currently faces charges on tax evasion.  He has won international awards and fortune which makes it awkward for the government to keep him out of the public eye.

I feel that China is a bomb of youthful energy and ideas waiting to explode.  When, not if, this happens, the global community (art, finance, health, etc.) will be forced to sit up and take notice.

The first work of art that you see when you arrive at the museum is outside in the courtyard.  It is the Zodiac of animal heads (12  bronze heads) that stand outside the Hirshhorn over-sized re-creation of twelve bronze animal heads that once adorned the Zodiac Fountain in Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, in Beijing before being destroyed by British diplomat James Bruce, the 8th Earl of Elgin after the Opium wars.  The history of this destruction includes burning people alive and looting.  This is a perfect example of Weiwei's desire to connect the ancient with the contemporary and to connect art and politics.

 "The original heads had been made by Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), an Italian Jesuit who, while living in China, had executed commissions for the Chinese emperor in the 18th century.
In other words, Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist who has been considerably influenced by Western Postmodernism and who lived and studied in New York for over a decade, had recreated works made by a European who had lived and worked in China in the 18th century. What had spurred Ai Weiwei to make another Zodiac?"  John Seed

It gets even more complicated from here.  Questions are raised on authenticity, value, and who owns art anyway?  Just today CNN reported on some wall graffiti/mural by the now in-demand street artist Banksy being stolen right off the side of the building on a London street!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Letting in the Real World Now and Again

My leadership on a landscape committee for our local museum has taken more time than I anticipated when I first volunteered.  There is maintenance of the email lists, planning of spring activities, composing the meeting agenda and trying to assign tasks, getting a meeting room reserved and a date on the calendar, and finally, since most of us are old ladies, making sure there is coffee and coffee cake!

Then my husband has volunteered for a new project on getting fresh food to the food pantries by getting volunteer gardeners to contribute and talking to the local staff, at another museum, to incorporate this into their summer camp with children.  I have been attending a number of meetings regarding that which takes up more time, but meeting cool new people as a result.

All of this has taken me away from my birding, photography, reading, writing, blogging and new attempt at more exercise.

Today I drive up to my daughters house and am spending all day tomorrow with her perusing some of the Smithsonian's special museum exhibits.  It is her treat to me for a belated birthday gift.  It gets her out of the house even though the venues are not her favorites.  She might rather be clothes shopping or some spa enjoyment.  But it does give her the opportunity to get away from obligations and kids.  We will stop at a bar early in the evening and talk and laugh and then head to a top  restaurant for some high end food.  These are the golden times because we have no expectations from each other.  We have that special genetic connection that sometimes appears in family relationships and is worth all the money in the world.

Hopefully my return will provide some blog posts more worthy of my discriminatory readers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Madonna and Child

I have been thinking about the article that will be (may be) requested this month that I mentioned in the prior post.  After all, they may have room only for half a dozen photos and no text.  That little task would only take me days.  I love all my photo children and how could I choose.  I also realize that you must pick things that go together artistically.  Now most artists have developed a style...not so much me.  My photos are all over the place in subject, mood, realism vs. romance. 

But let us assume they want some text.  Should I explain that in being myself I have spent hours today uploading my photos to Photobucket and backing up again the more precious of these to a separate hard drive?  I use this site because it allows me a full resolution download, makes a good backup site, and for a small fee I have unlimited gigabytes.  It is expensive to print albums of stuff so most of my work is kept digital.  I do not think other photographers want to hear about the time-consuming maintenance tasks of choosing the thousands of photos one wants to save for posterity nor the unique folder names that one creates to help find stuff.  Needles in a field of haystacks is what we have created with digital photography.  Within my software I can add words to an index that tags each photo, but I do not think this data transfers to the internet site.  I am a very organized person so I dread to think of how others are going to lose masses of history with their casual storing of camera and phone captures throughout their young lives.   

Most of my readers suggested I just be myself in writing about my (hobby) artistic endeavors.  Well, I have thought about it and come to some simple out-of-my depth conclusions.  I tend to favor red.  I like nature but on a rare occasion can capture a memorable face.  I cannot divorce the emotion I feel from a photograph I have taken which may leave others cold.  And, of course, I am addicted.

Well, it seems that my upload of 262 sunset photos is finished, and that number is just for 2012!  (As I said I tend to favor red.)   Hubby and I took a hike yesterday as the weather almost reached 70F in mid-February.  (Photos above and below) I always bring a camera and while rounding the path in the late winter afternoon sun a young woman with curly red hair (lots of hair) was holding a young baby in her arms and trying to take a picture of the two of them while she sat on a bench.  The sun caught the golden red halo of her hair and the soft fuzz of the baby's head and I wish I had taken a shot of this amazing silhouette.  But I was polite and instead offered to take photos of Madonna and child with her camera.  She had a small camera so I am not sure how they turned out, but I was really having fun!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Captive Audience

The past few years I have grown more fond of BBC television programs that are purchased by our public television stations and then re-broadcast here in the USA.  Most of the programs are mysteries or detective stories.  Others are humorous stories taking place in small towns in the country side.  There is one series Masterpiece that re-broadcasts some fun costume dramas.  I have wondered why I find these shows so appealing.  The stories in small towns are simple and old fashioned, nothing that leaves me in deep thought after watching.  The mysteries are pretty traditional and usually have just enough red herrings that I can resolve them only in the last fifteen minutes.  But that doesn't mean anything because I even re-watch them the very next season!  The costume dramas are a guilty pleasure but not as fulfilling perhaps as reading an historical novel of several hundred pages.  So once again I ponder what it is that I like about these shows from "across the pond."  ( I do watch too much TV, but I try to do something like folding clothes or sorting files or straightening the living room while watching so that my guilt in this addiction is not so bad.)

I think the reason I like these shows is that:
  1. All ages are represented and not just in token small roles. Ruggedly handsome includes gray hair and a paunch sometimes.
  2. All ages are not usually stereotyped but presented as interesting faceted characters
  3. People look real with wrinkles, weight issues, and non-model proportioned faces. (NO Barbies)
  4. If someone has an idiosyncrasy that they were born with, it fits gently into the role they play (right now I am thinking of Chummy Browne in "Call the Midwife.")
  5. They can be edgy but still keep some sense of decorum and humanity.
The one thing that is difficult in watching is translating, on a regular basis, when I watch with hubby.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Soul of an Artist

When you pursue some skill that you love you reach a point where you wish people to take notice no matter how shy you are.  When I first joined the RedBubble, a photography website out of Australia (far away where no one knows me), I thought it would be a good source for feedback from professional and amateur photographers to help me grow.  I was most naive.  I posted a comment about how there was so much praise and no suggestions for change and improvement which was met with deadly silence!  As the months passed I submitted a few very veiled critical suggestions to others and they were taken with a grain of salt.  But I also noticed some very angry discussions unbecoming photographers when I perused other sites and journal entries.  It became clear to me that some artists have very sensitive egos and do not appreciate critical input.  Fortunately I was never on the receiving end of this, but I would not have been dismayed, and just accepted that I had bruised someone's sense of self.  Thus, I realized this was just a site to post and wait for praise or silence.  There is one venue for input from others, but it is somewhat complicated for me to figure out how to post the photograph for review so I have only posted one or two items!

I have entered contests on this site which are primarily set up to stimulate membership and have over 100 features of new work or photographs that have been selected for top ten praise in challenges that are put forth by volunteers hosting the various groups.  Some of these groups leaders are professional photographers, so I am honored in this selection. 

I have submitted photos for free for publication and been rewarded.  I have not won any of the local contests to which I submit.  I have sold a few photos as greeting cards.

Some of my readers of this blog are artists.  They write, paint, take photographs and feel comfortable that they are a perfect fit into the artist mold.  They are not intimidated by anyone or do not show it.  I, on the other hand, have a tiny ego in this world of the artist and see myself as a really struggling persona.  (Please note, I am not a shrinking violet and do NOT have a tiny ego in other areas of my life.)  While I love the praise my readers send with love on my photos and my prose and poetry, I never really feel as if I deserve it.  I accept it as encouragement and a pat on the back from a loving parent, but not recognition of  small genius...which we all would really love.

Okay, what is my point in this long, self-involved post?  I have recently been selected as a feature artist in a small (very small) online journal.  I do not know what is expected.  It seems to be not an interview but more so a write up by me of who I am and a selection from my works.  The surprise for me is that I have only entered two works into this group that selected me...others I have entered dozens.   I was told not to worry about that!  So, please wish me luck and tell  me how you would get in the mind set of an artist for this!

Sunday, February 03, 2013


It is early on a lazy winter morning at my daughter's house.  All is ominously quiet since there are three little kids that live here who could awaken at any moment with amazing energy that has been restored by a good night's sleep.  Actually two of them find mornings a bit of a challenge and on cold winter days burrow deeper into their soft blankets begging to be left alone.

This leaves the oldest, now at seven, who has always been an early riser.  He used to rise in the mornings by screaming his lungs out as if having a root canal.  Thankfully he outgrew that in a year or so and now awakens gently with a mischeivous smile on his face.  He skips downstairs to where I am reading my kindle and drinking my first cup of coffee.

After greeting me, he then snuggles for about three seconds before the squirming and stretching kicks in.  He had a bad dream that he tells me about in glorious detail.  Then he had a waking dream which he begins to explain.  Finally he changes the subject to Harry Potter and how well he can read small parts of this book with his mother and I tell him I am amazed at that.  Then we switch without segway to discussing comic books.  He asks if I know about Loud Boy, which I must answer in the negative as my reading genre is somewhat limited.  I must admit that my eyes begin to glaze over when he explains in all the dreadful detail how Loud Boy makes his escape from a video game and also saves the world from an asteroid with a configuration of rubber bands.

Finally he sighs and then asks if he can play some Wii before breakfast.

I never realized how much I could love a ball of imaginative energy.