Sunday, February 17, 2019

Dali Does Alice

When I was a girl I was a stage actor. I played Alice in a production of Alice in Wonderland. This led to decades of collecting Alice books and ephemera.

I have a number of editions by wonderful illustrators, including Ralph Steadman and Barry Moser, but had never heard of the ones by Salador Dalí. What a lovely surprise to stumble across these vibrant images from an edition published by Maecenas Press-Random House in 1969. The set includes 12  heliogravures  - one for each chapter of the book. It was printed in a limited edition of 2500 copies.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Old Age Advice

Writer Grace Paley told a story about getting advice from her father on growing old.
My father had decided to teach me how to grow old. I said O.K. My children didn’t think it was such a great idea. If I knew how, they thought, I might do so too easily. No, no, I said, it’s for later, years from now. And besides, if I get it right it might be helpful to you kids in time to come.

They said, Really?

My father wanted to begin as soon as possible.


Please sit down, he said. Be patient. The main thing is this — when you get up in the morning you must take your heart in your two hands. You must do this every morning.

That’s a metaphor, right?

Metaphor? No, no, you can do this. In the morning, do a few little exercises for the joints, not too much. Then put your hands like a cup over and under the heart. Under the breast. He said tactfully. It’s probably easier for a man. Then talk softly, don’t yell. Under your ribs, push a little. When you wake up, you must do this massage. I mean pat, stroke a little, don’t be ashamed. Very likely no one will be watching. Then you must talk to your heart.

Talk? What?

Say anything, but be respectful. Say — maybe say, Heart, little heart, beat softly but never forget your job, the blood. You can whisper also, Remember, remember.

via BrainPickings / Image CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Elise Feliz

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Harry Dean Stanton

I had the immense pleasure of watching Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction on a plane over the holidays a few years back. I took notes....

David Lynch: How would you describe yourself?
Harry Dean Stanton: As nothing. There is no self.

David Lynch: How would you like to be remembered?
Harry Dean Stanton: Doesn't matter.

David Lynch: What were your dreams as a child?
Harry Dean Stanton: Nightmares.
My old man used to say, go straight ahead until you hit something.

I've avoided success artfully

It's all gonna go away. You're gonna go. I'm gonna go. The sun's burning out. The earth is going to go. It's all transient. Everything is transient, so it's ultimately not important. It's all fleeting. Passing. But it's liberating. Just everything happens. It's one connected whole that's happening. That's the Buddhist take but I'm not a Buddhist.

David Lynch: What are you?
Harry Dean Stanton: I'm nothing. When you're nothing there's no problems.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Get Busy Living

Actress Elsie Ferguson by Baron de Meyer, c.1921.
The evening chant at the end of the last sitting in a Zen temple: Let me respectfully remind you, life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken. Take heed. Do not squander your life.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Taste of Brooklyn History

“We mark ourselves by what we choose of our past to shield from the churn of change. Much of this, whether an old building or historic landscape, is lasting and durable by definition. That something as soft and perishable as cheese should make it across 75 years of time and space, outlasting brick and mortar — indeed, much of the city — is beyond remarkable.”
A bit of Brooklyn history told through the story of a round of cheese. Delightful!
“I returned to the city with the edible heirloom that was most likely made from the milk of sheep that grazed on the Lazio plain as fascism gripped Italy and Europe descended into war; that crossed an Atlantic harried by U-boats; that dodged the wrecking ball of urban renewal and survived even suburbia; that was finally, safely home.”
Don't miss reading the full piece in the New York Times by Thomas Campanella, a professor of city planning at Cornell University and author of the forthcoming “Brooklyn: A Secret History.”

Sunday, June 5, 2016


San Francisco is being transformed by big tech companies moving their headquarters to the City. For those of us who grew up in SF, the changes are hard to swallow. In my opinion, it is not simply a growing income equality that is what troubles folks. Rather it is the change in cultural values that is hardest to accept. It seems as if those working in the tech industry are drones, working in a value system that simply hopes to "cash in" one day. As a commenter on this blog points out, it's simply speculation. San Francisco's values have not been so much about achieving financial wealth, but rather about living life with political and cultural integrity.  This is why the animosity to the tech workers is so great. In any case, I recently watched Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and found it eerily speaks to the change San Franciscans are experiencing today.

Thanks for watching my first video.

Goshka Macuga: Time as Fabric

It's hard not to be impressed by Goshka Macuga's tapestries on view at The New Museum (on view through June 26, 2016). The scale, detail, and sophisticated production are impressive. -- literally and figuratively. Macuga did not weave these hangings herself; they were produced by the Belgian weaving firm Flanders Tapestries.

My husband and I argued over the artist's lack of personal craftsmanship, however there is a long history of artists designing (but not making) tapestries: Raphael (16th century),  Edward Burne-Jones (1890s), Fernand Leger (1920s), Joan Miró (1930s), Henri Matisse (mid-century), Alexander Calder (1960s) plus many others. Today, Magnolia Editions in Oakland, Ca produces Jacquard tapestries for artists such as Chuck Close and Alex Katz.

Tapestries have been woven for thousands years all over the world. In Europe during the Middle Ages, weaving became a highly respected artistic medium. Tapestries flourished due to the Church's patronage. And for the wealthy, a tapestry was one of the most prestigious items one could own. However, during the Renaissance, oil painting started to displace tapestry as an elite form of artistic creation. The notion of the individual artist was gaining standing over the labor of craftsmanship, creating a hierarchical division between tapestry weaving and painting. (And religious persecution disrupted leading centers of high-quality production dominated by the workshops in Brussels, dispersing a pool of highly talented weavers.)

The decline of tapestry persisted until the end of the 19th century when it enjoyed a renewed attention due to the Arts and Crafts Movement helping to revive interest in traditional craft processes, utilitarian artistic production, and the link of artists with industry. With industrial, automated processes on the rise, tapestry became a means to challenge the hierarchical position of painting and elevate materials that were seen as humble or everyday. In 1915, Jean (Hans) Arp exhibited a series of tapestries, noting in the exhibition catalogue that:
“These works … keep a hostile distance from egotism. They are hatred of the immodesty of human baseness, hatred of images, of paintings." 1.
Arp was strongly anti-elitist and chose the medium of tapestry very deliberately. “Arp had an idealized view of the anonymous pre-Renaissance artist, for whom the division between applied and fine art was irrelevant.” 2. Yet despite his call for egalitarianism, the weavers weren't named; only Arp was.

 Hans Arp, Untitled (Diagonal Composition-Crucifixion), 1915. Private collection.

But weavers weren't consistently invisible actors in the production of art tapestries. 3. The author Jean Lipman explains in Calder's Universe that while Calder designed the cartoons for his tapestries and had wool dyed to his specification, the weavings themselves were true cooperative ventures.
"... both Calder's signature and the weaver's trademark are woven into the fabric ...The tapestry an example of the successful collaboration with skilled craftsmen that has characterized Calder's later years ...The weaver follows Calder's forms exactly but improvises to vary the weaves and textures in a free interpretation of the overall design. The tapestries are fresh works of art in their own right, blending the inventiveness of the artist with that of the weavers." 4.

So back to Goshka. Useing appropriation to warp and weave histories together, she arranges disparate elements to form a new narrative. To argue whether an artist should make every work themselves seems outdated and outmoded in this post-Duchampian era. Of course artists don't have to make their own work anymore! You think Tara Donovan, Jeff Koons, or Tom Sachs make their own artworks? Of course not. That being said, it wasn't easy to track down the name of the weaving studio that made Goshka's magnificent pieces, and that isn't right. The tapestry manufactories of the past are renowned now (Arras, Aubusson, Beauvais, Bruges, Felletin, Gobelins, Oudenaarde). Today's manufacturers also deserve credit, for these massive tapestries are a collaborative feat!

1. Eric Robertson, Arp: Painter, Poet, Sculptor, Yale University Press; 1st ed edition (2006), page 33
2. Bibiana Obler, Intimate Collaborations: Kandinsky and Münter, Arp and Taeuber, Yale University Press (2014), page 126.
3. A number of the Soho Tapestry Weavers were named (18th century).
4. Jean Lipman, Calder’s Universe, exhibition catalogue, New York: Viking Press in cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art (1976), page 157.