Monday, January 23, 2017

Vickie makes a little book

When I wrote last fall about making a book of "newspaper poetry" and invited readers to copy the idea, Vickie Wheatley left a comment that she was going to make one herself.  Yesterday I was so happy to see her finished book, and it's wonderful!  She gave me permission to share it with you.

I had used early/late as the theme for my little book; Vickie used up/down, and found lots of raw material.  Since both "up" and "down" are parts of so many idioms, she had a lot more variety than I found with my theme.  Here are a few of her pages:

Just as I found when making my book, Vickie discovered that some of her pages strongly resembled poetry.  Best of all, her husband, who writes music, used some of the "poetry" as a basis for a new song!

Well, done, Vickie!  And thanks for sharing your work with us.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

My favorite things 4

My paternal grandmother played the harmonica, but she called it a "mouth organ."  As a kid I was terribly impressed that you could get tunes out of a tiny box (somehow I wasn't quite in awe of getting tunes out of the large box piano).  I'm sure she never had a music lesson in her life and I don't know where she learned to play the harmonica.  I don't think she had a very large repertoire; the only tune I recall her playing was "Home, Sweet Home."

But the harmonica was a part of our bedtime ritual (we lived with her until I was five), along with several songs in German.  The one best remembered is "Müde bin ich, geh zur Ruh," a traditional child's bedtime prayer ("I'm tired and going to rest...).  The way we pronounced it, the name of the song was "meedee beedee."

Although everybody in my grandmother's generation (all born in the US) was bilingual, they spoke German in the home and in the church.  But they largely abandoned it during World War I.  It was my father's first language, but he switched to English at age five when we entered the war and never was very fluent despite a lot of time spent in Germany in later life, as a soldier, teacher and tourist.

By the time I came along, German was used for bedtime songs, for talking about things that children shouldn't hear, and for the occasional curse.  When I got to college and took German I once asked my grandmother why she hadn't taught me German in infancy; it would have been so simple.  She said it never dawned on her that an American child should speak anything but English.

Her harmonica was made in Germany by the Hohner Company and was the "Unsere Lieblinge" model -- "Our Sweetheart."  The writing is faint, worn down by years of use.  I found several on eBay advertised as 80-90 years old but I'm sure this one is a lot older.  If you still have the original box you can get $75 or maybe even $95, but I'm not going to sell mine.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Think about this...

Lyndon Johnson once said, "If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket.  Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

-- referenced in "White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America" by Nancy Isenberg (a great read, although long and a bit scholarly) 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

An art experiment

My art book club (in which we don't actually read books) had an assignment this week to bring in a report on an artist that nobody else had ever heard of.  I have been consumed with activities surrounding my gallery show and left it till the last minute to prepare, so I had to go with an artist that I own a whole book about, H. N. Werkman.

Werkman was from the Netherlands, born in 1882 and died in 1945, executed by the Nazis just two days before Canadian troops liberated his town of Groningen.  He owned a printing business and used type to print artwork that looked quite avant garde and sometimes painterly, but it wasn't produced that way.  Here are two of his pieces:

I love his work and after I re-read the book I decided to try my hand at some Werkman-style art.  I found two capital Ls, two capital Os, a hyphen and an exclamation point in my type case and set to playing.  I inked the type with a foam brush and printed each character individually onto the paper, unlike Werkman's typical process of setting up his type face up on a flatbed press.  So my characters weren't as neatly lined up as his.  Also my hand-inking left blobs of paint around the edges of some of the characters.  But after the paint dried I decided both these irregularities added something to the effect.  Werkman often used the bottom of his type to produce plain rectangles rather than letterforms.  I did a little bit of that too in my experiments and liked it.

I think I'll try more of this technique in the future.  I might even decide that this qualifies as "text" and thus can count as my daily art.

Monday, January 16, 2017

What is this stuff?

Cleaning out my studio I'm finding a lot of mystery stuff.  A lot of it I realize that I don't want or need, and put it in the grab bag bag.  At least I know what it is.  But I am totally in the dark about this big bag.

Think dozens and dozens of absorbent sheets, kind of like disposable diapers, maybe a half-inch thick, of a shape and size that must be suited for something but I can't imagine it.  Somebody must have given them to me thinking that they would be useful for some phase of fiber art, and I must have agreed, but ??????

Does anybody out there know what these things are?  How would one use them in fiber art?  How would one use them in non-fiber art?  If I wanted to give them away, who would use them?

All suggestions gratefully accepted.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My favorite things 3

Starting in the late 1950s my father went to Canada frequently on business, and he liked to bring home souvenirs.  Not tacky refrigerator magnets, but Inuit soapstone sculptures, an art form that he discovered early on.

At the time I thought this was a traditional folk art, but have learned more recently that the first peoples hardly ever carved in stone until 1949.  At that time the Canadian government decided to encourage the production of artwork among natives who no longer followed the old subsistence lifestyle.  While they had traditionally carved ivory, bone and antlers, now they were steered toward soapstone, which was found in the Arctic.  (Interestingly, some of the Inuit artists are importing their soapstone from Brazil.)

Dad bought sculptures of varying sizes, the largest being about the size of a shoebox, but mostly little things that would happily sit in your palm. Three of the pieces that I was given at the time or subsequently inherited are faces or masks, but most are animals of one sort or another.

Carvings done before 1990 are now called "vintage," so I guess my little trove might even be valuable if I ever needed to part with it.  Meanwhile, they live on a little glass shelf within reach of my place at the dining room table.  Isaac likes to rearrange and play with them and I like to think of them keeping me company while I sit and eat or read.