Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Kitchen and Night Tables

This is where I've been living every free moment of these last few weeks;  I don't even clean up at mealtimes. I've been amplifying, augmenting and clarifying the docent training materials I'm writing for the KMA.  I have everything at my fingertips and though it looks like a mess, it's actually a very exciting collection of research.  I can't believe how much I've learned in this process.  I'm so thankful, already,  of this chance to really delve into an artistic topic and exhibition, and I'm figuring out that I can figure things out and not be a complete boob in the process.  Hopefully I'll have addressed the edits I received last week well enough that the table can get a bit tidier next week.  Fingers crossed.

My artist's itch has been scratched and satisfied by all this cool research and work, but I still read for pleasure each evening.  Somehow, reading at bedtime helps to clear my mind of today's what-I've-left-undone list and tomorrow's to-do list so that I can fall asleep easier.  Since reading is such a part of my life, I've decided to report back to you what I'm reading or have just finished.  I've kept a reading journal next to my bed for years so I can record titles, authors, and a brief impression of each book I've finished. (I only record partially read books if I stop reading them because I can't stomach them any longer; I don't record books I've become distracted from.)  I've already read some wonderful books this year including All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  I highly recommend this book.  It's a beautifully told account of WWII from a French girl's and German's boy's perspective.  It covers new territory so it's not a rehashing of stories you have already read and the chapters are short, making it easy to stop when you need to.  Do try to find it if you can.  I look forward to hearing how you like it.

Right now I'm reading Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration.    This book is written by Ed Catmull, one of the original three founders of Pixar and Amy Wallace, a free-lance writer from LA.  (Since this is written from Ed's perspective, I can only assume Amy's job was to polish what Ed said.)  In a nutshell, Ed shares managerial experiences from his career, but most notably at Pixar, in order to share lessons he's learned as he strives to cultivate a working environment that embraces creativity, idea development, hard work, team spirit and an honest post-mortem review of what worked and what didn't.  I haven't finished it yet, but it's engaging enough to hold my interest even at the end of the day.  Of course, it helps that I'm a Pixar fan and, though I've heard versions of topics before, some sections still resonate with me.  Here's one:

For most of us, failure comes with baggage -- a lot of baggage -- that I believe is traced directly back to our days in school.  From a very early age, the message is drilled into our heads: Failure is bad; failure means you didn't study or prepare; failure means you slacked off or -- worse! -- aren't smart enough to begin with.  Thus, failure is something to be ashamed of.  This perception lives on long into adulthood, even in people who have learned to parrot the oft-repeated arguments about the upside of failure.  How many articles have you read on that topic alone?  And yet, even as they nod their heads in agreement, many readers of those articles still have the emotional reaction that they had as children.  They just can't help it: That early experience of shame is too deep-seated to erase.  All the time in my work, I see people resist and reject failure and try mightily to avoid it, because regardless of what we say, mistakes feel embarrassing.  There is a visceral reaction to failure: It hurts.  

We need to think about failure differently.  I'm not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth.  But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil.  Mistakes aren't a necessary evil.  They aren't evil at all.  They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we'd have no originality).  

I belabor my choices when I work.  I take FOREVER to make up my mind.  What if I make a mistake?  I may have to print this section from the book and post it in my studio to remember that, without risk and the possibility of crashing and burning, there won't be anything original coming out of my studio.

Good thought.  I want to be original.  Do you fear failure?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In the Thick of Things....

It's been a busy few weeks here.  For the most part, I've been immersed in research, meetings, and writing for my role as docent trainer for the upcoming exhibition at the Katonah Museum Art.   I'm learning so much and I absolutely love it.   The exhibition opens at the end of March and I'm already very excited about it.  I'll be sure to give a summary here in the next few weeks.

Not to give the wrong impression, I've also been having loads of fun.  At the end of January, three college girlfriends and I got together for a weekend in NYC.  We hadn't all been together since one of the girl's wedding 18 years ago.  Despite the very cold weather we walked around the city, ate and drank, saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime -- which I highly recommend, went to a comedy club, and stayed up talking until 2AM two nights in a row.  I don't recover that quickly from such late nights any more but it was worth it!

Four gals in the City
I also had a Friday - Sunday weekend away at my daughter's dance competition/convention.  I don't know where she finds the stamina for dancing on Friday night, going to Saturday classes 8-3PM, competing group dances until 10PM, and then up again for more classes on Sunday from 9-2.  Somehow, I get exhausted during these weekends even though I'm not doing any dancing.

Dramatic lighting during her solo
No, she's not falling; she's somehow she's balancing

I also sent off my contribution to Virginia Spiegel's Fiberart For A Cause fundraiser.  On February 4th, 100 generous folk donated $100 to the American Cancer Society.  In return, 100 artists donated artwork to send to these patrons as a thank you.  I was honored to be asked to be a participating artist and I Dreamt of Spring went to a new home this past week.

I Dreamt of Spring, ©Vivien Zepf, 2015
This piece is a bit of a departure from other works of mine; actually, I think it's an evolution.  I've done lots of work with paints, watercolor, and fused appliqué, but not all together with hand stitching thrown into the mix as well. I think this was the perfect opportunity to give it all a try.  I'm pleased with the results and I hope the donor is as well.  The stitched painting (I don't know what else to call it since it doesn't have batting or quilting) is 10" x 12" and mounted to an 11" x 14" canvas.  I'd love your feedback.  What do you think?

And now, it's off to bed.  There's lots to do tomorrow: more writing, a trip to the vet (Harvey sliced off a part his paw pad on the ice and needs the bandages changed tomorrow), and hanging with my husband and daughter who will both be home tomorrow.  Hope you're staying warm; it's supposed to be -4 here tonight.  Brrr!