Monday, February 29, 2016

February Book Report

February is coming to a close -- I feel I have to acknowledge I'm posting on that special day of a leap year!  All the hoopla aside, it's time for a quick recap of some of the books I've read this past month and can recommend.

My book group read Whiskey and Charlie by Annabel Smith this month and we all enjoyed it.  Whiskey and Charlie is the story of identical twin boys, how they perceive each other, and how the way others perceive them influences the feelings they have about themselves.  It's also about grief, regret, love, expectations, and what it can mean to be a sibling, partner, child, and friend.  It's as easy as a beach read, but offers a lot to think and talk about.

I finished The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner.  What a fascinating, and humbling, book.  First, I realized how much cultural world history I didn't know... but now I (sorta) do.  Second, I enjoyed traveling with Weiner as he recreated environs of millennia and centuries past to describe the unique settings and circumstances that helped spawned pools of genius.  Third, I really liked the investigation into creativity, creative people, and the receptive audiences that are necessary to recognize genius.  Yep, a genius is just an undiscovered talent (or a crackpot) if what (s)he does isn't recognized as adding value.  I also appreciated the value of discourse for the genius's growth.   The examination of contrary ideas, of educated debate, is critical to the development of a genius's ideas.  Living in isolation doesn't produce more dynamic inventions and thoughts, nor does living in paradise.  Stirring the pot is a component of genius, as is living in a place or time that recognizes failure not as a stigma, but as a part of the process.  One of the final segments I highlighted in the book is as follows:

We need to begin thinking of creativity not as a genetic endowment, a gift, but as something that is earned -- through hard work, yes, but also through the careful cultivation of favorable circumstances. We need to begin thinking of creativity not as a private indulgence but as a public good, part of the commons. We get the geniuses that we want and that we deserve.


Reading about particular circumstances of human genius has led me to this book:

Now I'm reading about the social and cognitive genius of dogs, man's best friend.  How did these two vastly different species that evolved on opposite sides of the globe  come together?  What particular skills and genius does a dog have that have made it so successful on such a widespread scale?  I'll let you know.

P.S.  For my Anonymous Reader (you know who you are), here are a few good non-fiction books about Western Expansion that have my husband's stamp of approval.  Sorry it took so long to put the list here. You might be familiar with and have read a few of these, but hopefully there's a new title here for you to enjoy.

Kearney's March by Winston Groom

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

Nothing Like It in the World by Stephen Ambrose

Blood and Thunder by Hampton Side

Friday, February 26, 2016

Feeding my Inner Geek

I'm at it again. I've decided to take another class with MoMA, this one called "Seeing Through Photographs".  The coursework has been fascinating from the start.  There's relatively a lot of reading with this course, but that's not a problem.  You know how much I love to read.  Here are few excerpts from The Photographer's Eye by John Szarkowski, himself a photographer and the Director of Photography at MoMA from 1962-1991, that I had to write down.

Our faith in the truth of a photograph rests on our belief that the lens is impartial, and will draw the subject as it is, neither nobler nor meaner.  This faith may be naive and illusory (for though the lens draws the subject, the photographer defines it), but it persists.  The photographer's vision convinces us to the degree that the photographer hides his hand.

To quote out of context is the essence of the photographer's craft.  His central problem is a simple one: what shall he include, what shall he reject?

The photograph's edge defines the content....The photographer edits the meanings and patterns of the world through an imaginary frame.

I love these somewhat poetic descriptions of the photographer's craft and intent. Yes, we should always stop to think: what else might lie just beyond the frame?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Progress Here and There

This week has been filled with bits and pieces.  Tasks checked off the to-do list, though nothing really finished.  Still, it's good to see progress.

I'm working on a project for one of my girlfriends.  The pile of wrinkled schoolgirl hair ribbons she sent to me

has been ironed and reorganized.  I arranged, re-arranged, and wove them together until I had them placed in a way I thought made for an interesting pillow center.  I'm happy to report that my friend likes the way this looks.  Always good news.  Now the collection looks like this.

I've spent a LOT of time on the phone with Apple Care.  You know things aren't going too well when the supervisor asks,  "Are you going to be around in half an hour?  I don't know what's going on and have to do a bit of research."  Yikes!

All I can say is that it's critical to back up your computer in the event something happens unless, of course, the problem is with the backing-up system -- as mine was -- and then you're in trouble.  Thankfully my techie was true to his word; he called back and things are working again.  Progress!  Further progress: I now have a techie's direct number and email address should anything go wrong again.  This is very reassuring since my computer also suffered from an "internal" panic about two weeks ago. We'll see what happens from here.    I feel a bit like I'm on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" with my direct help line.

I've also been reading, reading, reading to get up to speed on the research assistant  front.  It's slow going, or slower than I'm used to.  There's so much to learn!  I really have to think hard to be sure I'm understanding some of these more scholarly analyses of contemporary art-making and where this particular aspect of it fits into the arc of it all.  Did that make sense?  I hope so.

I also made progress on the home front.  It was my husband's birthday yesterday and I baked a pretty good cake, if I may say so myself.

I love to bake; have I ever told you that?  Well I do.  Yesterday I also baked an apple cake and an apple tart for my daughter's school staff appreciation day.  I figured it was the least I could do.  The art teachers have earned my utmost respect.  I've said before that I believe the art program is great.  Well, here's the proof.  This is my daughter's Still Life in Pencil.  I have to give a shout-out of kudos to the teachers that can help my daughter achieve this.

© Morgan Zepf

I'm pretty much in awe.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Nice Souvenir

At the close of every exhibition, the museum staff boxes up the "extras" for storage, the leftover brochures, catalogs, and postcards, along with the educational materials that were developed for the show.  

As docent trainer, I developed a self-guided tour for SupraEnvironmental so that museum-goers unable to participate in a tour could get some additional background on the artists and art, and mull over some thought-prompts.

Now that the exhibition is over, the staff offered to let me take one home.  Oh yeah!  It's fun to see it again, to think of all the prep work that goes into a museum visitor experience, to re-read my work, and to reflect on the overall exhibition.  I'm also thrilled to have a meaningful keepsake. Yep, I think it's all pretty cool.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Unintentional Texture

I'm getting time in my studio again and I'm trying to brush up on my skill before working on anything too important.  So I pulled out an old piece that had gotten stalled.

I still couldn't figure out exactly what I wanted to do next, but I figured I'd best do SOMETHING.  And that something was stitch.  Just stitch.

My initial goal was to stitch the background with enough white thread to mute the background a bit and help the chairs come forward.  Though I haven't completely finished quilting, it appears my plan has failed.  The thread just gets lost in the patter of the cloth. It doesn't tone down the background or highlight the chairs.  The texture looks cool though, and that's an unexpected bonus.  (Sorry about the coloring on the picture below; it looks very washed out.  The colors in the picture above are true.)

But now I have two problems to solve.  1) Now that I've created all this texture on top of all the pattern, what do I do?  2) I still need to do something to amplify the whole piece and make it more interesting. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Freaking and Geeking out

This skink unexpectedly photo-bombed my picture of a snake.

The last two days have brought some unexpected and delightful surprises.  First, a local bookstore sold three sets of my cards.  Not only did I get a little bit of cash, but they asked for others, and I'm happy to oblige.  One of the store staff members is a former Sotheby's auctioneer who told me she'd like to do what she can to help promote my photography. She's even getting together with the store owner to determine if they can hang a few of my photographs in the shop. I'm pretty excited about her enthusiasm and any opportunities she might be able to create.

Second, I'm thrilled to say that I'm a curatorial research assistant!  I'll be gathering information to support the KMA's Associate Curator, especially for artwork she's gathering for new exhibitions that she's developing.  I'm going to be researching, researching, researching, much to my heart's content.  I'm elated and so thankful for this opportunity. (I know, can you believe it?)  

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Everything Doesn't Have to be a Masterpiece

I have a picture of shadows from several years back that I'd love to turn into a quilt.  I think it's dynamic and different.  And I want to dive right in.

But I'm not going to.

I'm stopping myself from going full-steam-ahead into the project because I have a lot of ideas to sort through.  Yes, that's a good thing.  But it also means I'm not committed to one idea.  So I'm going to make a few stitched studies.  Some folk work through ideas in sketch books, and I haven't been successful with that approach.  But I this might work for me.  I got started this weekend.  I traced my image, backed some PFD fabric with interfacing,

and got to work.

Stitch and watercolor
There's only one done thus far, but already I see the benefits of working this way.