Archive for the 'art' Category

Goofy outtake

September 20, 2014

I did indicate that Jordan took more than one picture of me yesterday.  Here’s what happened when he tried to make me laugh.  He succeeded — but for some reason that resulted in my closing my eyes.


I also noticed when I looked at the picture up on a computer screen that I blend right in with my home decor — did not think of that when I was getting dressed in the morning with no thought of doing this.  The wallpaper predates our ownership of the house, so I’m not sure it’s just that “those are my colors.”  The shawl colors matching the dining room colors (the room is behind me to my right) I can see as having to do with my particular taste.   I love sculptures in which the figures can be seen emerging from the block of stone or wood from which they are carved — maybe I’d like to think of this as a sort of live version of that.


More on mosaics

July 23, 2014

When I was watching the co-owner of the mosaic studio begin to cut the broken cup pieces in preparation for reconfiguring them (see previous post), one of the things she showed me was how by cutting a curved piece, she could in effect flatten it.  (I think it was that by cutting the curved piece along one plane and making it smaller, the contrast producing the curve became reduced in each of the smaller pieces, and so they were flatter.)

Now that suggests to me a spiritual parallel, because I think we human beings are faced with trying to perceive more dimensions of the universe than our everyday world deals with.  So when we perceive something from another realm, maybe we hear it as music, maybe we channel it into poetry or a visual art;  but some of us plug into a small fragment of the much larger thing with many dimensions and try to translate it into linear rational thought and language.  When we try to do that, I think it’s only by limiting the attempt to bringing only a small piece of it into this world that we are able to bring it into this world at all.  It can feel as if we are flattening the idea in breaking it into smaller pieces while we are still remaining consistent with the curves of the original idea as a whole.

The blind men feeling the elephant in the traditional telling of the tale generalize from their personal understanding, and my usual understanding of the tale is that we all need to communicate and share our understandings in order to get at a more profound understanding and peaceful relations with each other.  But today I got to thinking more along the lines of the difficulty of bringing the whole (understanding) into the world at all, no matter the method employed.  With the arts, something of the multidimensional experience I think is being reproduced, but it doesn’t usually become understood in rational thought and integrated into our mundane activities.  So it seems to me there is a trade-off even there, and that it is difficult if not impossible to bring the curved surface completely intact into a realm of flatness:  the universe is curved but our material world is in a sense flat.  When we as inhabitants of this material world poke our perception into, or permit our perception to take in, other realms, we perceive the curves of things.  Bringing them back into this world to share with others here is a whole other project.

Elephants reconfigured

July 21, 2014

Back in April I posted a picture of a broken cup:

Broken Item

It had been broken in transit, during some portion of its journey from original vendor to me.

There’s a mosaic studio down the street, and I brought the pieces of the broken cup in.  The co-owner of the studio and I discussed what might be made out of the pieces, and she started cutting the pieces with a very impressive tool.  She observed the cup was made from good china as she cut.

I left after we had reached a pretty good understanding of what she would make out of it.

Here’s how it turned out:

elephant cup project photo1


Pretty wonderful  —  by which I mean, very wonderful.

It’s for hanging necklaces from.

I had told the co-owner I would like the elephants to be “on parade.”  We had agreed on hooks of some sort underneath — she had thought for hanging keys, I had suggested for hanging necklaces, instead.  When she told me over the phone about how the project was going, during the intervening week, she said she was using “cup hooks” to hang the necklaces from, and I pictured those little metal hooks with a convex shield against the surface the screw goes into — I didn’t realize she meant handles from real china cups.  So I was pleasantly surprised — kind of thrilled — when I went down to pick up my reconfigured broken cup today and saw the real cup handle hooks.

In any event, this sort of thing is a version for me of making lemonade from lemons, of recycling, of finding a way to create from something broken.  I did, though, defer to the co-owner for the actual craftsmanship, although she had offered to teach me how to do it myself.  I’m sure there’s some significance there, it just hasn’t yet occurred to me what it is.  And it took her, a person experienced in this kind of craft, 4 hours to do it, and over the course of a week –twice as long as she anticipated.  So I may not have been incorrect to defer.


Bunnies and birdies and deer, oh my

April 16, 2014

I’m visiting out in the “wilds” of suburban New Jersey, and while I’ve been here, we’ve seen out the back windows, at some surprise to my host, a large rabbit and a youthful-looking deer.  There have also been plenty of birds and squirrels sighted, too.

Well, I am thrilled to see a bunny, and excited to see a deer, although I am concerned about the latter animal’s safety and eating prospects.  The deer clearly wanted to come into the yard this morning, perhaps to eat the leaves and flowers, but a town fence prevented it.  It went up on its hind legs to try to eat some shrubbery hanging over the fence and kept looking into the yard as it walked along its boundary.  The rabbit had found a way into the yard yesterday and had eaten its fill of wild rose bush leaves, before resting beneath the bushes in the yard.

A veritable garden statue come to life.

It does give me pause when I find myself seeing life in terms of an imitation of art — what’s wrong with that picture? — but I have to admit that I kept thinking of statues of St. Francis or angels or cherubs welcoming deer, birds, and rabbits, which I see in other people’s yards as I take walks while I’m visiting.

Fish car

January 12, 2014

This has been parked at my local gas station.  I like it as sculpture, as well as as novelty car.

When teachers get in the way

December 5, 2013

A friend of mine took me to the Museum of Fine Arts yesterday, and we saw the exhibit of Sargent watercolors.  The paintings were wonderful.

The exhibit was crowded.  It was difficult to get a position to view a painting from a distance from which one could see the detail, and it was difficult to get a position to read the supporting information on the wall.  The written material I thought was especially helpful, more so than these explanations, pointers, and interpretations often are.

I was standing close to a painting, reading its explication and looking back to it from time to time as I did so.  An older woman walked up and stood herself between myself and the wall.  I waited for her to do what she had come to do and then move so I could resume, or for her to realize she was blocking my view and move in some way so that we could share access.

She didn’t.  She remained there, pulled in the group she was leading, which then blocked even more of my access to what I had been trying to view, and commenced a lecture on the painting.

When I realized she was acting as if I weren’t there, I moved on.  I did not see having even a polite confrontation in a museum.

I looked at some more of the paintings in that room, and when I got to the doorway, I saw a museum guard, so I went up to ask her about whether groups are allowed to displace single viewers.  I explained to her what had happened and she told me she sees it all the time, it bothers her a lot and it is not acceptable behavior from the museum’s point of view, and that the process is to let the Visitors Center know.   I came to find out later that the person leading the group was actually a docent under the museum’s auspices — I had been willing to believe they were an ignorant visitor leading a group she had organized to bring to the museum.

This was not the first time I have found my access to viewing art at the Museum of Fine Arts blocked by the staff.  It happened a year or two ago, I think it was, when I wanted to see the colossal statue of Juno and they were setting up for a lecture in the hall and had closed it off.

In the iteration of the pattern that occurred yesterday, the woman lecturing on art got between me and a source of information provided by someone else.  She was quite self-assured, in her presentation to her group, of her own interpretation of the painting, but she was excluding me from having my experience of the painting.  I was reminded of people I am related to getting between me and spiritual resources, and instead insisting that Art and Culture were the only way to go, that I had to accede, as well, to their controlling my access to what art and culture were available to me, and that I was not part of the preferred  audience.

In the version I experienced yesterday as a grown-up who has found her own way back to what sources she needs, the whole thing was reduced to an annoying but almost silly incident.  I had some distance and detachment and it didn’t feel existential, more like a metaphor to help me process a past, more painful experience.  And when I did mention the incident to the Visitors Center to get some clarification about what the customs of the place are, and they insisted that I fill out a form, I thought later, “Ah, there’s the ‘Complaint Department’ my relatives were always telling me to take my complaints to.”  The kaleidoscope had turned enough to give me closure through a literal enactment on the physical plane.

That night I was fielding my mother’s regularly scheduled phone call, and, as usual, it was all about everybody else, and when I brought up a current consumer fraud issue that is on my plate and not getting resolved quickly enough for my emotional comfort, I got the response of her changing the subject.  We talk about other people’s consumer fraud issues ad nauseum and I am required by her to troubleshoot them and provide referrals, if not outright help.  It does not feel like a healthy role for me to play, and it probably isn’t, but what came to me last night is that if I put aside the issues of unfairness, unequal treatment, and even my own distress, I can make the case that the situation doesn’t work because I don’t actually need her help — the universe gives me another resource and that is the one apt for me.  What I do about being pulled into service on behalf of everybody else, willingly or not, is a separate issue, and clearly, if one looks at my life, a central one.  That will take me longer to sort out.  In the meantime, I will see what today brings.

“Be careful or you’ll end up in my novel”

February 20, 2013

I’ve wondered about this, and actually about what looks like the phenomenon in reverse.  What do you do when distinctive pieces of your life wind up as prominent parts of the art of someone you don’t know directly?

The “Be careful …” line suggests the person whose life gets publicized has some control over the situation:  behave in such a way as to preclude this from happening.  That ignores the fact of free will and that we don’t control other people.

But it contains, I think, the germ of what makes such a usage okay according to human convention:  a relationship.

In fact, when the person finds herself getting to know (there was an indirect connection through a neighbor who was a relative) a person who has written, say, a song that talks about a woman who works in an antique store and drives a used Mercedes, he will tell her, accurately from his point of view, that it’s just a song, not about her.  Her friends will tell her that he’s “getting into her stuff” (not necessarily consciously) and advise some equivalent of a “cease and desist” order.  But what would really resolve the tension is a relationship, on the physical plane, of some sort, that would make the usage seem not an experience of being used for another’s benefit.

In the case above, the connection that might have turned into a relationship seemed to be between the songwriter and the woman’s younger son, and had he (the songwriter) taken the boy under his wing in some way, of which he was sorely in need, that would have been enough.  Turned out the man had enough trouble being there for his own children (by the first of his two ex-wives).

So what’s the lesson?  Same as I’ve written before, that it’s analogous to trying to explain microscopic germs to someone who doesn’t believe that’s why they’re getting sick.

They don’t have to see it that way.  In this case, they don’t have to compromise the “wrong” through a social bond of some sort.

At some point, I think, the lesson is to let go anyway, without the resolution that would have eased the negative feelings that arise from a sense of having felt used, to forgive the person for not experiencing the issue in a way that allows them to perceive the damage that the person feels they have incurred.  Getting stuck in requiring that request be fulfilled becomes worse than finding some other way forward.  The bottom line is that the other person just won’t see it, and no amount of pursuing them or arguing about it, if they will give you the chance, will change that, and the helpful thing, it seems to me, is to figure out unilaterally a new way to perceive the situation that allows it to be resolved.

Make friends with your subconscious

November 18, 2012

I should be outside pruning rose bushes, but I just wanted to write something brief using a different type of approach to, not so much the subjects of my previous two posts, but to a comment I wrote in response to one of those NYTimes sort of philosophical pieces in “The Stone” subset of their Opinionator section.

My point is about how there are multiple strands to our “selves.”  Most of us using the internet dwell (and overly so, in my opinion) in only some of these strands and may not be aware there are others.

So that’s why I called this post “Make friends with your subconscious.”  People not adverse to theism or spiritual development tend to do this through prayer and meditation, but I think other people may do it through the arts (especially music), sports, nature, communicating with pets.  I think some people may do through higher math, but I think it’s trickier to lose the intellectualizing self enough through doing that as a way to be in the strand of the self that slides around without the constraints the intellectualizing strand has.  Of course, some people do this (whether intentionally or not) in ways that cause them and others distress, and it can become extreme enough that we label it an illness (as in, mental illness) — I certainly don’t advocate doing that.

But just as we talk about parents spending quality time with their children, I think we need to spend quality time with our subconscious.

Stolen paintings

November 3, 2012

I forget whether I’ve mentioned this before, but someone I know recently picked up from her lawyers’ office some paintings returned by family members as the result of a lawsuit, I believe.  And it turns out they’re not even the right paintings, the specific paintings in dispute.

Having been to the Isabella Stewart Gardner this past week, stolen paintings were also on my mind — those blank frames are so sad, the museum is such a well-crafted and unified aesthetic whole that their absence has repercussions to the experience of what is still there.

But as I was doing yard work this afternoon, it occurred to me that in the spiritual version of this, it’s not that specific paintings — that is, visions or insights — are missing, even though some of the participants complain as if that were so.  It is that the ability to see has been lost.  If it was lost due to the consequences of damage inflicted by someone else, perhaps the participants view this as its having been stolen.  But the good news is that it’s not like stealing particular objects or particular crafted art or even like stealing someone’s glasses.  The ability to “see” again can always be restored, it’s not something finite and able to be permanently removed.

So stolen physical art is a material loss, disappointing and painful.  But the mystical analog of art, even if it misplaced or temporarily difficult to locate, can be regained and without needing the cooperation of any thieves.

Dissipation of the fear of death

October 8, 2012

I was having another reaction to a Richard Rohr daily meditation, so I thought I’d express it here.

I think I got over my fear of death, and I think it came about as the result of becoming able to spend time in the spiritual realm during this life; which in turn came through some kind of deep need expressed from the heart during a difficult time in my life.  So for me, “There are no atheists in foxholes, and if the atheist emerges from the foxhole, they are no longer afraid of death.”

Maybe that’s what the meditation is saying, or consistent with what it is saying, I’m not sure.

But for me, an element in the process was a very personal experience, threats to my own sense of being able to manage my own situation on my own, not something I could have picked up from just working with others in dire straits.

Here’s where I think the concept of reincarnation may make a difference.  I suspect that people whose connection to the spirit realm and whose fear of death is dissipated by less personal crises have already had those more personal crises during previous lifetimes.  The exposure to others in similar situations may then trigger the responses, I’m thinking.  Because at some point in a person’s experience, I think they need to express that cry for help from the deepest part of their heart, soul, gut in order to make the connection.

But maybe not, maybe some people can establish a spiritual connection through an experience that would not precipitate it for others.  It’s hard to know what other people have experienced or how things arise (what the causation actually is, as opposed to what it may seem to be, even from the actor’s point of view), whether we are even using the same vocabulary to mean the same things.  That’s part of why generalizations can be difficult, it seems to me.

My concern is that coaching people that the spiritual connection they get from diving into others’ misery will produce enough of a “death” that they no longer fear death may be misleading if the spiritual connection they do forge doesn’t pierce deeply enough.  I don’t want to reduce it to “No pain, no gain,” but I do think at some point we each need to cry out from the heart as deeply as is possible.  To me, that’s what the Jewish foundational prayer, the Sh’ma, is all about, especially the anguished interval sung on the first “Adonai.”

And if people actually haven’t made that deep entry into the spiritual realm, I worry that what they do with their experiences in the trenches may overwhelm them or may be used to feed their egos or may result in some other less-than-helpful outcome — I am pretty sure two-dimensional experiences can be mistaken for something with more depth, the way a really effective trompe l’oeil can look like what it is trying to suggest.

But I’m no pastor or teacher, so maybe I just haven’t seen enough of how other people’s spiritual lives develop, maybe I’m just generalizing from too small a sample.

My motivation in putting this out there though is that I’m pretty sure some people end up being overwhelmed and with shattered souls when they get in over their heads in new situations that they enter into thinking they can handle but their faith connection turns out to be less comprehensive than they thought.  I’m heavily into preventing spiritual emergencies, the way some people are into preventative medicine in the physical world.