Tag Archives: art

Small moments in democracy

Yesterday, we hung out in the parking lot of an urban carryout, looking at the side wall of a restaurant called “Chicken Gem’s.” During the years we lived in this Ohio State campus-area zip code, I don’t know exactly how many times I drove through and saw this exact lot in the Weinland Park neighborhood filled with police cars, investigating some neighborhood crime.

It was the official unveiling of this mural, featuring the brushstrokes of more than 40 adults and kids from the neighborhood (at the corner of 11th & 4th):
A friend got in touch with us Saturday afternoon, in need of a free PA for the event, and wondering if we knew how to procure one. Dan still has enough equipment left over from the club, that, with the help of another friend, he was able to cobble one together.

“Clean up the neighborhood, clean it good! Clean your room, too,” a group of kids told the crowd, in between Sunday school songs and a song they made up about Obama. There was a table of chicken wings, mac & cheese and peas & peanuts for anyone who came by to see what the fuss was about.
The organizers of the mural spoke, along with Max Kennedy (the ninth of RFK’s 11 children), who was there to pump up the crowd. Another local man offered a prayer for the neighborhood, for people involved in “bad things” that he said had happened just the night before.
Here’s the group portrait. There’s more about the event posted on Barack Obama’s Ohio campaign blog, tied to his “Plan for Urban Prosperity.”
“If you lose hope, you lose the vitality that keeps life moving. You lose that courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all. And so today, I still have a dream.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. (The quote on the mural.)

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Give me light

I had the remarkable opportunity to interview artist James Turrell a couple of weeks ago and preview his light installation at Franklin Park Conservatory.

I hope that the story I wrote gives local people a broader understanding of his work, and a sense of what makes this such a special addition to our local landscape.

The official illumination of the piece is tonight.

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Have your cake and be one too

Like a girl in a field being showered with apple cores (or maybe noodles… or slips of paper?) as they are cast from the gallows of a flying submarine, my birthday hit me with a barrage of little surprises. There were several unexpected emails and phone calls and messages, and a visit with a sweet and feisty two-day-old boy – so much like Dec was as a newborn – all of which made it really enjoyable. To be thought of is a fabulous gift. (I also got a non-birthday related award this week.)

The amazing drawing above, by this artist, was my most spectacular material item, bestowed by my mother. Behold! I also received a jazz voodoo potholder and a portrait of my family in cake:

Me, hogging the computer.

Declan, agog at the planets.

Dan, apparently wearing some kind of Mankini.

Better still, it was delicious.

Have a happy Independence Day. Hope to see some of you locals at Doo Dah.

P.S. Those battling mommyblogging factions I mentioned? They seem to have worked things out. Now there’s going to be some giant knitting circle and Magic Garden sing-along at BlogHer in celebration of unity. Huzzah!

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Robert Rauschenberg, R.I.P.

Almost precisely eight years ago, I lugged a large canvas bag stocked with a notebook, a tape recorder and microphone up a couple of downtown escalators. My destination was a hotel lounge overlooking the statehouse, where I was able to sit down with artist Robert Rauschenberg for better than a half an hour. He was in town to accept the Wexner Prize, so the topic of conversation was broad and about his remarkable career.

One of the most affable people I’ve ever interviewed, he made me laugh a lot. And every time that I laughed, it seemed to fuel him to make me laugh more. That made editing the tape for the public radio segment I was producing about him a challenge, but it did not detract from the serious passion that he had, particularly when it came to shining a light on art’s relationship — or really art’s necessity — to politics and to science.

Beyond his obvious contributions to American art that many better informed individuals will eulogize this week, it was his philanthropic work – helping to advance humanitarian causes and education through art, as well as creating support for artists — that he expressed particular pride in during our conversation. The chance to talk to him face-to-face ranks among the most special privileges I’ve had in my career as a journalist.

He had been working on his Apogamy Pods, and explained what he was doing in a way that was profoundly (and simultaneously) scientific, spiritual, gentle and challenging. It occurs to me, thinking about him, that some of my best preparation for having a child that is so deeply interested in science has come from years of covering visual art. My son is impressed that I once spoke with one of the first and only artists in a mini-museum that was smuggled to the moon in 1969.

I was saddened to hear of Rauschenberg’s passing on Monday night. What a big life he led, what an immense personality he had, and what a legacy he has left.

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Cheese for the snow

Declan and his dad went out on dog poop patrol this morning, since the snow has finally begun to melt away. He was rocking the cute in last summer’s hat, so I pulled out my camera to snap a few pictures.

“Cheese for the snow,” he said.

This week, he started snatching the camera from me, wanting to take his own pictures (like his first self-portrait). He was particularly assertive about his desire to do this today, so I let him document our deck for a few moments.

I may be speaking more as mommy here than art reviewer, but I think that his two-year-old sense of composition is pretty amazing:

If I get the digital SLR I’ve been dreaming of this year, maybe I’ll just give him my camera.

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Things to do on a Friday (or Saturday) night, Part One

Last summer, I briefly heralded my family’s new found normality (after lo, these many years of my husband’s reign as a local independent impresario) in a post called “What we do on a Friday night these days.” It wasn’t a very exciting read, but posting it was sort of… illuminating.

To this day, handfuls to dozens of people still visit that post every week, and it’s not because they think my Cosmic playlist is brilliant. It’s because, come Friday, a number of people from all over the world apparently go to the search engine of their choice and type “things to do on a Friday night,” hoping the bots will show them the way to a good time. Somehow, they end up here instead, tripping the light fantastic through my domestic burbles.

If you are one of those souls meandering through cyberspace, looking for weekend inspiration, I actually can help you. It just so happens that despite of the fact that I am kind of a shut-in these days, I am still something of an expert about things that people can do on a Friday or Saturday night. Over the course of my career, the two jobs I actually had to go into an office to complete involved localizing a well-known national chain of websites and writing for a local alternative weekly – both publications were deeply involved in informing people about the myriad ways they might spend their free time.

I also waited until my mid-30s to become a parent, so that I could enjoy many years of going out on Friday and Saturday nights before giving them up to drool and intergalactic renditions of “The Farmer in the Dell.” I’ve seen enough that I’m not so worried about what I might be missing these days.

My unsolicited advice
For starters, if you are one of those people who lives in a mid-sized-to-major city and scrunches up their nose in confusion or non-recognition when I mention the name of a local free alternative weekly newspaper, you probably aren’t well-enough informed about what your city has to offer to viably complain that there isn’t anything to do. Start there – look for the free rags in the foyers of restaurants, coffee shops, libraries and bookstores, or search for “free weekly + (name of your town)” online. Hunt through their calendar listings and see what you’ve been missing, then consider going someplace you’ve never heard of. If the unknown scares you, pack hand sanitizer and low expectations.

Otherwise, here is my all-purpose, non-geographically specific list of suggestions about things you can do on a Friday or Saturday night.

Part One – Going Out
Gallery openings
I weep when I consider the uneaten cheese cubes cast into garbage cans when an artist loads up a snack table, hangs his or her work for all to see and no one comes.

Actually, in my town, I’ve found that it’s rare that no one comes, even if it’s just people questing for free cheese cubes. Whatever your motivation, it would behoove you to become one of those people. Don’t think that you have to know what you’re looking at. It’s better that you come with questions.

See live, original music in a smaller venue
I obviously have my biases when it comes to this one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t evangelize a little about live music. The fact is, if you love music, and haven’t ever seen it live, in an intimate venue, your relationship with it is effectively stuck at second base.

While it’s true that if you are anywhere between 35 and 65 years old, you can probably have a fairly intimate experience with some band that specializes in covering all the music you sang in the shower when you were twelve, that is not the same as seeing an original act. Connecting with a bunch of people through drunken nostalgia can be fun, but connecting with something new and stirring can actually be transcendent. (Don’t expect that at your first show, but believe me, it happens.) It also makes you smarter and better looking.

I haven’t gone to them as often, but all the same concepts may apply to theater, dance and other live performances.

Go to the drive-in or an independent movie theater
I’ve found the cost of mainstream Hollywood movies offensive in recent years, especially given their soggy quality. I don’t know if exorbitant numbers of writers, directors or film editors are snorting bleach these days, but an awful lot of big-budget films seem to be about 20 minutes longer than they should be. This makes entertaining movies mediocre and mediocre movies excruciating.

The fact that my city still has a drive-in has made many a burdensome movie almost bearable. (I’m talking to you, Titanic.) I can sit there and groan over the scenes that ought to be deleted and only annoy my husband. Because drive-ins now send audio through your car radio signal instead of on those old window speakers, you can still be moderately awed by the actions of magical creatures and things blowing up on the screen, and also have the steering wheel conveniently handy to bang your head against during inexplicable jumps in plot and/or dialog.

And yes, supporting independent films (or at least independent theaters) is healthy for you and me. Although I’ve been disappointed in several indie movies lately because they too often seem like shallow vanity projects for award-seeking stars, when they are good, they are really good. And worth seeing on the big screen.

Do guerrilla theater
Why are you hellbent on being entertained when you could be the one doing the entertaining? You don’t have to have an agent or a cause. Join or look to these people for inspiration. (I’m especially fond of their freeze series. Another great one is Look Up More.) Going to public places in full costume when it’s nowhere near Halloween is also a good idea. Consider it an anthropological investigation.

My brother had a few of these inspired moments in his youth. Like the time he and a friend made up fake fliers in support of building a canal in the center of Broad Street here in Columbus. The kicker was the suggestion that our city’s replica of the Santa
be floated down the middle of the canal as an innovative form of public transportation.

To be continued next week, with suggestions about what to do if you’re staying in.

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Can you read this?

For the past few days, Declan has had an insatiable appetite for books. He’ll want to read eight, nine, twelve in a row. Some are stories and others are just picture books that let him identify shapes, animals and emotions or count vegetables and fruits. Every fifth one is, naturally, about space.

But he’s also taken to pulling art books off the shelf. Marc Chagall is a favorite of Dan’s – a fact that is well known to several friends and family members – so we have a number of books in several sizes with reproductions of the work. Declan pulls them off the shelf and brings them to me, usually presenting them with a Vanna White wave.

“Mommy, can we read this?” He asks. “Because this painting is so, so beautiful.”

My mother taught me to read paintings in Manhattan museums, often by standing me in front of one, covering my eyes with her hands, then lifting them and asking me quickly “what do you see first?” We would talk about what the colors, images, shadows and textures might mean, what was happening, the feelings of the beings and objects depicted on the canvas, even which ways the artist’s tools might have been used to create a particular mark.

Every day, Declan’s ability to read a painting is growing exponentially. I’m looking forward to our next visit with his Giga (my mom) at the museum.

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