Saturday, July 7, 2018

Farewell, Chicago



At the end of June, I flew to Chicago to help my daughter pack up her apartment.  Movers took the furniture and boxes.  We climbed into a tank of a minivan, with her dog Piper, for the 2,000+  mile drive to San Francisco.

Driving across a significant chunk of America seemed daunting at first.  All those miles.  All those hours. 

I'm so glad we did it. 

I always knew it would be great to spend so much time with my daughter.  We don't have that many opportunities to be together, given that we live so far apart.  I was relishing that aspect of the trip.  The driving, as it turn out, was relatively easy.  The hardest part was fighting scenic boredom at the start of the trip.  Illinois is flat and swathed in hundreds of miles of corn fields.  It didn't get interesting until we crossed the Mississippi, a perfect example of a swollen river.  It seemed stuffed to its limits and about to burst.

IOWA:
The hills of Iowa break up the monotony of the corn fields.  White boxes painted on the highway are a visual aid to help with aerial speed monitoring.  We watched as a helicopter with specially mounted equipment hovered over the highway for just that purpose.   Giant wind turbines speckle the fields.  Did you know that 35% of Iowa's electricity comes from wind generated energy?


NEBRASKA:
At first, Nebraska seemed like a copy of Illinois: flat and overflowing with corn fields.  But just past Lincoln,  the highway seems to take a right turn into a new landscape.  The corn fields disappear, and long views filled with bluffs and sage-covered hills emerge.   In a remote town, at least one Nebraskan business owner has a sense of humor.  


WYOMING:
The scenery took another uptick in Wyoming. Craggy mountains that seemed to have been inspiration for the setting of the Pixar movie, "Cars" popped up suddenly.  We spied pronghorn antelope in the distance.  The  windy, mountainous roads were a bit unsettling with a 75 mph speed limit, especially in a van that shook violently at those speeds and pulled hard to the right.  We managed the ear-popping mountain passes safely, but others did not make it home. We saw the aftermath of a horrible crash between two semis that kept us at a standstill for more than an hour.  Road signs abound that warn of driving fatigued.  It was very sobering.

UTAH:
The land around Salt Lake City looks post-apocalyptic.  I can't imagine how the settlers traversed the barren wasteland in 103° -- the temperature the day we drove through -- wearing long sleeves and floor length skirts.  The mountains in the distance must have been a terrible tease.  That said, it was also remarkable.  I've never seen anything like it.  From a plane, yes, but there's a completely different feel of it from a car.  I was transfixed though the view didn't change dramatically.   As we neared civilization, dinosaur "fossil" sculptures seemed to rise up from the desert floor.   Great idea and perfect for the landscape. 

NEVADA:
Nevada is beautiful.  Wild, with isolated clusters of buildings that are called towns.  Stallions battle between herds of mares. Pronghorn antelope graze amongst the horses.  The mountains aren't as white-knuckled for driving.  Seeing Reno was a bit of shock after all the open space

CALIFORNIA:
California was breathtaking, almost immediately after crossing the border.  Lush forests sometimes obscured the horizon as we wound around the mountains.  The highway occasionally mirrored the path of the Truckee River; we crossed it numerous times, spying mini-canyons as we drove over the bridges.  I had forgotten that California has strict laws about interstate commerce.  We would have had to surrender any produce we had at the border.  (Please, we were snacking only on carbs.) For most of the trip, our fellow highway drivers had been polite.  All bets were off in Sacramento.  The drivers were nuts.  As someone who is completely comfortable driving in New York City, that's saying something.

SAN FRANCISCO:
It was a clear afternoon as crossed the Bay Bridge to enter San Francisco.  A few more miles and my daughter was at her new home.  That night, we went to the "Off the Grid" Food Truck Friday event at Fort Mason. Welcome to San Francisco.

  

Epilogue:
My daughter's furniture took a much longer vacation.  It arrived 10 days after we did.  Ah well. 


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Collaborative Quilt Project -- Part II

My brain and Muse waged a great battle to complete my second half of the Collaborative Quilt Project.  Here's the piece that I received from another participant.  As a football fan, she was inspired by the prompt "half" to create a football halfback.

I do enjoy going to a few college football games each season.  There's great energy in the stadium and the games almost always coincide with a visit with one of our children.  But I consider most of the prime-time TV football season to be the perfect time to hang with my husband on the couch.  He watches and I do needlepoint. I occasionally stop to respond to a good play.  Football's just not really my thing.

And so, I struggled with how to incorporate myself into the piece I received.  I got interesting help from an Urban Dictionary definition of halfback: 

A person originally from the northeastern U.S. who retired  to Florida only to later move "half way back" to the southern Appalachain mountains." 

I thought, "Yeah, I can work with that."

I thought I'd keep things tongue-in-cheek, to make it seem as if the halfback was seeing a visual representation of the other halfback definition. I started to add a change of address note, lawn flamingos and mountains.  


Ugh.  No.  Definitely not.

At this point, there was only one thing I could possibly do to salvage the situation. I cut the whole thing up. I was a little nervous, but didn't think I could possibly make things worse.



I cut one and a half inch strips, sliced those into smaller sections and sewed them back together, adding a few fabrics from my stash.  I then reassembled them into a new pieced cloth.


Much better.  But I didn't think I could/should just cut this cloth into a 15" square and leave it at that.  My first half in the project was a wonky pieced composition.  Doing something like that again seemed like a cop-out.  I also didn't think it would be fair to Ann to make something that didn't reflect her inspiration.

How could I make this thing reference football again.....?


Viola!  Here we have a new 15" x 15" piece called, "Football and Flamingos".   I cut out football shapes from the pieced cloth and re-emphasized those shapes with black outlining to create an abstract composition.  Elements of both definitions of halfback exist in this piece:  Ann's in the repeated football shape, and both of us in the fabrics.  (If you look closely at the right side football, you can see a snippet of the original change of address note I'd made.)

There was a HUGE transition from the piece I received to this one.  I don't know if the original maker likes it.  I think she's in shock; there's been radio silence.  But I'm pleased.  I tried hard to be respectful of her inspiration, but also fit myself into the final piece as well.  I made every effort to do my best work and I think this looks pretty cool.  The piece will eventually be wrapped around a 10" canvas when presented with the other finished pieces.  Most of the white border will disappear behind the back, making the football shapes even more prominent.  

This was a mind-bending experience for me.  It was a creative puzzle and also an exercise in relinquishing control.  Remember, I had to give up my first half to someone else -- not the same person I got this piece from -- for completion.  I haven't made up my mind as to whether or not I'd participate in something like this again.  I think there was a wide range of skill sets in this group.  The  quality in what was made varied greatly, too.  I think this might be good project to do if you could handpick the participants in order to know the commitment they have to the project and their quality of work.  This case was an "are you interested" kind of project which meant a whole host of different things to the participants.

At any rate, I'm glad I was part of this round of the project.  I hope I get this piece back because I like it.  But who owns the final piece hasn't been officially decided yet.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Acceptance: Daily Bar Code

I'm thrilled and honored to announce that my quilt, Daily Bar Code, has been juried into the Dinner@8 exhibition curated by Jamie Fingal and Leslie Tucker Jenison.  The exhibition will debut at the Houston International Quilt Festival this fall.

Daily Bar Code, ©Vivien Zepf
30" x 50"
Since this is the exhibition's final year, participants were asked to make a 30" x 50" quilt that responded to one of the themes used over the course of the exhibit's nine year history.  I chose to respond to the Pattern prompt.

Daily Bar Code shows the pattern that emerges when I color-code my activities, 24-hours per day for five days.  So that the pattern wouldn't look too lopsided, I began each 24 hour period at 3AM. In that way, my sleep segments could be visually split between the two sides of the quilt.  Each row represents one day, with the most slender segments equating to one hour.  Fatter segments = longer blocks of time.

I skewed the pattern mid-week when I attended my dad's birthday celebration.  It really did take place mid-day on a Wednesday.  I decided that the best way to represent that fun was with a confetti-like pattern.  It  made for the perfect mid-week break.

I quilted the entire piece with monofilament thread so that the quilting, a vine-like pattern with triangular "leaves,  wouldn't obscure the color pattern.  Here's a detail shot:

Detail, Daily Bar Code
©Vivien Zepf
I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to be included in the exhibition.  I'm a bit awestruck by the company I'll be keeping in the exhibition.  You can read the accepted list of artists here.

There's been a hiatus in my making and, hence, my exhibiting.  That fact makes this moment even more special.  This was also a great making experience.  In many ways it felt like I was rediscovering this form of artistic expression.  It was fun to create something that was completely abstract, in a kind of creative voice I don't recall using often.  But I felt engaged with the process, so much so that I'm already thinking of the next piece I'd like to make.  This may well be the start of a new series.  I find that pretty exciting, too.



Sunday, June 24, 2018

Book Report

It's been a while since I've shared what I'm reading.  Here are some of my recent reads:


A Gentleman in Moscow is worthy of all the hype and accolades it's received.  It's lyrically written and, though it seems like there wouldn't be much going on for someone under house arrests in a hotel, it's a delightful page turner.


I bought this book years ago and just had the opportunity to read it. If you like a story that blends psychology and Salem witches and history with a bit of mystery, then The Lace Reader will be a good summer read for you. The notion of reading the future in a pattern of lace was original to me.


I got The Speed of Sound as an Amazon Prime free read but I would have paid for it. It's an easy, fun summer thriller.  It has an interesting premise: Eddie, a young man with autism, believes sound waves may deteriorate, but they don't disappear unless the structure containing them is destroyed.  As a result, he builds a device so that he can locate, reconstruct and listen to his mother singing, something he never heard since she died in childbirth. But others want the technology for more political purposes. How will Eddie keep it safe?

Next up:


I'll keep you posted.


Saturday, June 16, 2018

Manet, Rousseau, Rivera - OH MY!

Walking up to the house through the gardens
Last week I was one member of a group lucky enough to tour a local area resident's art collection.  Now, when I say art collection, I mean ART COLLECTION.  Yes, this is someone who played with the big boys. Someone who has sold art at Christie's for almost $30 million. But someone who also was the most gracious host.  Who welcomed us at the door of his home in a jacket and tie.  Who, despite the publicly-recognized masterpieces hanging throughout his home, showed me his most precious artwork:  a drawing done by his granddaughter, installed above his desk.

That was the perfect illustration of an art collection built of items that were loved and appreciated.  Yes, the collection had impressive artworks, but most had been purchased by the owner (or his parents) before the artists were famous. They were purchased because the owner loved the artwork and also thought the artist had potential.  The scope of what he loves is very broad.  There were surprises at every turn.  Contemporary assemblage was displayed on the wall next to turn-of-the-century photography.  I couldn't take pictures of everything nor find titles for the works, but here are some of the "big name" pieces I saw.

Manet:


 Rousseau:




Picasso:






Lautrec:



Rivera:


Any favorites?


Monday, June 11, 2018

A Very Good Day



I was able to surprise my dad for his 89th birthday.  Happy birthday, Papa!  A very good day.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Climbing to Condors

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might have seen this picture not too long ago.



It's an endangered California condor.  We hiked in Pinnacles National Park, along the Hike Peak Trail to Condor Gulch, for the chance to see it.

First off, did you even know about Pinnacles National Park?  The area had been known as the Pinnacles National Monument but in 2013, President Obama redesignated the area, along with an additional 3000 acres, as a National Park. It was new to me.

The craggy landscape seems to spring out of nowhere. The park only gets about 150,000 visitors per year, mostly in the spring and winter.  The temperature can reach 112°in the summer and fall.  That's definitely something to consider before you visit, especially since there's limited shade and no water along the trails.

The day we hiked the temperature was about 85°.  That was warm enough, thank you very much.  In the park literature, the hike we took is labelled as "strenuous".  I'm not in that great of shape but with several rest and water stops along the way, I made it.  We finished the 6.5 miles in about 3.5 hours, including condor viewing and water and rest stops, climbing 97 floors according to our iPhones.

We hiked to the ridge-line saddle you can see in the picture below, where the large form the left side of the picture comes down. The final destination: the stand-alone rock "tower" you can see on the right.  That's where the condors sometimes gather and fly on the updrafts.




There were some sections of the trail where I was thankful the engineers had come before me, cutting stairs out of the rock and adding metal railings.  These all appeared by  narrow and steep inclines with nice drop-offs to the side. 



I stopped often to catch my breath and enjoy the views.  




All that's left to do is hike to the back side of that large outcropping.  It was a bit of a tease.  We seemed so close, but alas, we had to go down slightly before we could climb up.


Seeing the condors wheeling and soaring was amazing.  They have a 9 1/2 foot wingspan.  It's hard to imagine and appreciate that size because they're flying in the open expanse.  Still, we were lucky.  A few soared close enough to get a good sense of scale.  Did you know they weigh 20 pounds?

We also watched large ravens play.  They flew up high and then tucked their wings in, doing barrel-rolls as they swooped downwards.  I'd never seen such behavior before.  Eventually we had to head back down, taking the trail you can see in the picture below.  Not much cover, is there?



Hopefully we can head back to explore other trails in the park, such as the trails through   the caves to see roosting bats.  I recommend this park to anyone interested in some rugged scenery and some good exercise.  A few endangered condors certainly adds to the appeal.