Category Archives: Art
And as promised, I will now post some pictures of my more recent masks. These range from around 7 years old, to a few weeks. Most of my work lately has been in clay, but I am contemplating some more mixed-media creations, especially a new shell-mask a friend has commissioned me to make for her house.
Well, I know it took longer than I expected, but I am back now!
Two days ago, I experienced the craziest day of my life. For one thing, I went into surgery to remove what remained of my cancer. That would have been a big day by itself.
However, I woke up after my surgery to learn that I had become an aunt. I won’t go into great detail, but my sister-in-law had to have an emergency c-section. She and baby are fine, though the latter will be in intensive care for a while. Wonderful, bizarre, crazy day.
And now, I promised you all masks when I returned to this blog. I will keep my promise with two whole posts. Here I will give you the rest (some are in my first mask post) of the original set of fourteen I made in college. In the next post, I will display my more recent creations.
The skull-mask above comes with a story. I made it as a release for anger, and as a statement. Shortly before creating the Muri Kai, I learned that cosmetics companies had been (and presumably still are) going into impoverished places all over the world and convincing people to buy their products. Forget having enough money for shoes, you need lipstick!
And there you have the old guard. Tomorrow, I hope, I will post pictures of my more recent creations.
Glad to be back! I look forward to catching up on your blogs!
Some beauty in celebration of the day of liberation.
Glory to the Lamb of God!
Blessings upon us all.
I am not good at record-keeping. That statement will make family and friends laugh because it is a huge understatement. Because of this, I am not sure what year the following image was taken. I know I was in college, and it was before my senior year, which means I was between 20 and 23. I will make a wild guess and say 21.
I loathe pictures of myself. For every one that looks like me, there are fifty in which I look like someone else or like a marshmallow with hair. No one in my immediate family is photogenic, though my father is better than the rest of us. The only reason this picture exists is because a professor required it. I was taking a basic photography class, and in his wisdom our prof required us to have at least one self-portrait per roll of film.
Yes. Film. That camera in my hands? That’s my baby. I haven’t used it in too long, something I intend to remedy, but it gives me a feeling of control I have never felt from using a digital camera. The image was taken with silver film, developed and printed by me.
So, why am I posting this? I turned 31 in February, marking around a decade since this picture was taken. This got me to thinking about the passage of time and what that means, and made me want to take another picture of myself now. And so I did. This time I used my father’s digital Nikon. I dressed, as closely as I could, in the same way. Here is the image in black and white, for comparison, and in color as it was originally.
The shirt in the first picture has gone through a metamorphosis. It is now part of a quilted prayer-rug a good friend made for me.
The moonstone necklace around my neck now has a crack from side to side. Why? It was run over by a car on a gravel road in the Smoky Mountains.
The coat. Ah, the coat. That is my magic coat. It belonged to my father, and he gave it to me when I was in high-school. It is never too warm, but always warm enough, even when I was in Salzburg, Austria, on a snowy New Years Eve and someone poured vodka all over me. All that has changed about it, since the first picture, is that my cat, Geoffrey, managed to bite all the way through one sleeve. It’s thick leather, too, which makes me wonder about the strength of Geoffrey’s jaw.
The ring on my finger in the first image, though identical to the one in the other two, is not the same ring. The one I currently have is, if I am counting right, number 3. The first one was lost whilst gardening, and has never been found. The second one split, my active hands being tough on silver. The third, though scratched, is in good shape.
And then, of course, there is me. The creases between my eyes are deeper, but I had that long before I turned 21. The eyebrows drawn together in thought is an expression everyone who has met me will recognize. We even have pictures of baby-me with that expression.
I had glasses at 21, too, but I must have been experimenting with contacts when I took the first image. Contacts and I don’t get along. The rings, evident in all the pictures, have left a good callous on my hand. I worry, with the surgery ahead of me, that I will no longer be allowed to wear the ring on my right.
There is silver in my hair now! Just a few strands, so far. I like them.
I am a happier person now, than I was then. Depression has been my shadow for a long, long time, but it used to jerk me around a lot more. Time has softened that cycle, at least for now. I’ve grown and changed in thoughts, in faith, in experience. I still have respect for that 21-year-old who was me. She had come a long way from the 11-year-old me. Though I have changed a lot, she and I still have the same foundation, and pretty much the same orientation in the world. The biggest difference is what I have learned about myself and about the world that she did not know.
Most of all, I am struck by the complete strangeness and unpredictability of life. I mean, shirt-to-prayer-rug? Necklace run over by a car? And finding myself fighting cancer is far from the strangest thing that has happened between then and now.
My strongest feeling as I look at these images and think about the time in between?
It’s not nostalgia, or regret, or triumph. It’s simply awe. Awe that I have been alive for ten years since that time, and that so much has happened and not happened.
I am not alone in this.
I have heard other writers express the same feelings time and again. Many writers battle these extremes.
Sometimes we feel our work is good, even great. Then we are either overcome with fear that it is trash, or we “know” it is trash.
I am at the low ebb of this, and have been for a few weeks. It is disheartening even though I know, in my mind, that it is a cycle. My heart knows nothing of the kind. I am never satisfied with my work, but this is something darker than dissatisfaction.
My muse is active enough. The little monster is happily chewing away at my surroundings and then latching onto me with its sharp little teeth until I write out the results of its feasting. I can only hope those results aren’t shit.
But how does one know? There are great writers, both from the past and the present. There is also a lot of mediocrity, and this has increased as the dissemination of information has proliferated. Yikes, that was verbose. I had a point in there somewhere… oh, yes. Some of those mediocre writers, at least, must have believed that their work was great.
If they could not fairly evaluate their own work, how can I?
Oh mother, I owe you so much for raising me on good literature, but it is a double-edged sword. I know greatness. I have stared at pages, retracing words again and again in wonder. In order to even put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, I had to tell myself that it was enough to write, that I did not have to compare myself to Wodehouse, Solzhenitsyn, Austen or Shakespeare.
That sufficed when I wrote only for myself and for those who were curious to look over my shoulder. The creation of something to be let loose on the world requires more, doesn’t it? The last thing I want to do is unleash more mediocrity.
There is pride tangled up in this as well. I don’t want to be mediocre.
Then again, perhaps the greats were in doubt, as well. Does anyone really know, truthfully, whether their creations are worth reading? The helplessness is depressing. Do I have to spit out what I can and trust humanity to sort out the rest?
…Yes. Perhaps I do. The only other option is to bury it.
In reply to that option, I will quote Tycho, from Penny Arcade. He is talking about reactions to offensive materials, but the same principle applies, I think, to mediocrity:
The answer is always more art; the corollary to that is the answer is never less art. If you start to think that less art is the answer, start over. That’s not the side you want to be on. The problem isn’t that people create or enjoy offensive work. The problem is that so many people believe that culture is something other people create, the sole domain of some anonymized other, so they never put their hat in the ring. That even with a computer in your pocket connected to an instantaneous global network, no-one can hear you. When you believe that, really believe it, the devil dances in hell.
Round two of my pictures from Canada posts! This is going to focus on Ottawa, in the area around Parliament. Other sights of Ottawa will appear in the next post.
My first impression of Canada’s capitol city is that it is very beautiful. It has an open feel to it which I like. I was constantly distracted by interesting architecture, only some of which I am able to share here.
The above photograph is my best shot of the locks of the Rideau Canal, next to the Bytown Museum. None of my pictures of that old building pleased me, therefore I give you a link to their website. I enjoyed the museum, but the best part was the interaction between my party and a staff member taking surveys. I won’t bore you with the story (it was funnier in person) but my friend and I met up with an Australian couple we know (and later with another friend from the U.K. who lives in Canada), which caused some surprise and confusion throughout the rest of our trip.
As one might expect, there are some royals around Parliament. Here is Queen Victoria in the most ornate statue arrangement I saw. There is a lion and a lady with garlands at her feet.
The current monarch, Elizabeth II, has a more subtle (and awesome) representation. Does Queen E. II ride? I am fairly ignorant of the doings of current royalty.
There are many statues of Canadian leaders as well. Here, we have Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation, and a victim of assassination. Gulls do not care about such things.
The young lady below, however, is on the case. She is primly trying to inform McGee that he has something on his head.
Sadly, I have no idea what this delightfully round building behind Parliament (and facing McGee) is, but I love the colorful stonework, and am a sucker for anything that smacks of Gothic Architecture. Pardon me while I drool over the arched windows and small flying buttresses.
Being Canada, there were members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police around, though few in formal attire. I felt a little bad for these gentlemen, as they were constantly stopped by tourists asking to have a picture taken with them. …and yes, I was one of those people. I am duly ashamed.
Parliament! The sky makes a gorgeous background, no? Again, Gothic arches and decorative stonework (though no flying buttresses).
I honestly did not notice the street performer until after I took this shot, but what a perfect touch! Luck of the camera, I guess. I was trying to capture the metalwork on the roof of this bit of the Parliament buildings. It is light and lacy, a strange contrast to the heavy stone structures.
And here is a poor shot of a gorgeous door. I need to sit down with my camera’s manual and figure out the settings. I know I am not using it to its full potential.
Now I will delve into the stonework on the Parliament buildings. Here, over the main entrance, we have the national animal of Canada, the beaver. Below him, on the posts of the door, are the lion and the unicorn. If it hadn’t been for another carving I will show, this would have been my favorite.
This guy speaks for himself.
Almost every niche and nook had some interesting carvings. Being the plant-lover that I am, I was thrilled by the variety of flora depicted.
Weird, but great.
And this. This is the piece that transfixed me! I literally obsessed about getting the perfect shot of it. Just ask my bemused friend. This snail, so beautifully textured, was near the main entrance. I am so glad my friend was with me, because she allowed me to drop briefly out of the line for our tour in order to take this picture. Thank you, my friend, for putting up with me!
I took few good pictures inside. Again, I need to figure out the settings on my camera. I cut off the bottom of this picture because there are people in it. I like to avoid posting pictures of random strangers without their permission. This will give you an idea, though, of the beautiful architecture inside. There is also much stained glass.
Halberd window. Need I say more?
Last and smallest but not least to me. Some stonecrop amid the stones. I took this at the tail end of the changing of the guard ceremony. It takes a ridiculously long time and a lot of formalities to change the guard before the Canadian Parliament; too long to hold my deficient attention, I fear. The tartans were great, though.
Meet the cutest bit of graffiti I have ever seen and enjoy the first of what promises to be four posts on my Canada trip. I am sorry for the delay, but I had to sort through all of my pictures.
So, the story is that my friend, who has been to Canada before but never to Ottawa, wanted to make a trip this summer, and she invited me along. Her plan was to fly to Niagara on the U.S. side, take a taxi over the border, spend the day in Niagara Falls and take a train the next day to Ottawa.
Our taxi-driver was Kurdish, and when he learned that we came from Nashville, which has a large Kurdish community, he really opened up and we had a good long conversation with him. The border-crossing was much easier (and in consequence much less hilarious) than my last crossing into Canada.
We were dropped off near our hostel where we were greeted, interestingly enough, by a young and very friendly Irishman. The hostel was the most friendly of any I have encountered. The whole staff felt like a family, and were beyond helpful. Once, they even offered to share some chicken wings with me.
The area around our hostel was pretty run-down. I took many pictures of abandoned-looking buildings. There is something beautiful, as well as sad, in urban decay. Below is my favorite shot, with crumbling bricks like moth-holes in a tapestry, and wires like cobwebs.
Despite the ravages of economic stress, beauty of past prosperity endures.
And as I said above, the people at the hostel could not have been nicer to us. The friendly Irishman, in answer to our question about good lunching, pointed us to a Caribbean restaurant around the corner. In my opinion, this Caribbean meal, suggested by an Irishman in Canada, was the best food we had on the whole trip. Behold!
After lunch, we walked to the falls. As we moved towards the center of tourism, of course, the apparent prosperity of the place increased. We passed many nice-looking bed-and-breakfasts, but I wouldn’t have traded our hostel for them. We also passed a bridge that caught my eye. Oh how I love perspective!
Niagara Falls, which I had never seen before, are magnificent and beautiful. For those that don’t know, there are two falls, one on the U.S. side and one on the Canadian side. The U.S. side, pictured below, is smaller and lower, but also more natural in appearance. Of the two, it is my favorite.
That is not to say that I do not also love the Canadian side. It is overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful in its own right. The two following pictures are of it.
The stormy sky was a great gift for my camera. The rain was overkill, though, as we were wet enough from the “Maid of the Mist,” a short boat ride near the falls. We also walked behind the Canadian falls in tunnels, which allowed us to see them from a different angle.
Sadly, Niagara is also a huge tourist-trap. It reminds me more than a little of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (don’t get me started unless you want a loooong rant). Look below to see what I mean.
And no, that chap in the foreground isn’t an escaping ghost (though that would be fantastic!). I merely like to avoid posting pictures of random strangers without their permission.
Despite some frustrations with a bus-system in transition (the day after we left it was set to change) we had a good time. Being me, I grieve for the existence of a tourist trap next to such natural beauty, but tourist-trap culture is at least interesting to me. If you ever travel to this place, I suggest staying at this hostel. I did not take any pictures while on the train to Ottawa, but it was a pleasant trip. Next post will be set in Ottawa itself.
The drought that was June has been broken by rain. My home is greening, the trees can drink, and there are beads, brighter than silver, on the leaves.
I am grateful.
The day before yesterday, without visible reason or explanation, a drought in my soul was quenched as well. I was doing a job for which I have no fondness and listening to music that I have heard many times before. As I wiped coal-dust from the 1800’s off fragile pages, I realized that my soul was singing and I did not know why. It certainly had nothing to do with the bitter estate-dispute I was cleaning.
I have been praying. For a while, my mind being what it is, I had found it difficult to pray, but in the past few weeks I have pushed on and forced myself to do it. In order to focus, which is difficult for me, I write most of my prayers out. I look at them now, and most are short little nothings, like touching base with a family-member in passing. A complaint here, a thank-you there, a rant or a statement of love. There are many requests for rain, both literal and metaphorical. They are the bare minimum.
Apparently God is willing to answer even small and pathetic attempts to seek Him. For that I am grateful. It is easy to take up the false assumption that only truly great and faithful people are answered by God. Jesus, of course, shows us differently by his behavior, but the false assumption still crops up like a weed to strangle and discourage us from making any effort. “What is the point of doing anything,” I ask myself, “if I can’t do anything worth doing?” “Why pray if I have nothing to say? Why try if I expect to fail?”
But He has placed the answer in my soul, and my soul sings it to me without words. I am unfaithful, and yet He does not abandon me. He seems to value even my attempts at fidelity.
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love! Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it…” There are many lines in that hymn that speak to me at this time, but that one is the loudest.
My mother recently said, quite rightly in my experience, that spiritual things come in waves. Others have described mountains and valleys. It is clear, though, that walking with God is anything but monotonous.
I will continue to strive for my soul’s desire. I know that I will stumble, wander off, get lost and get hurt, though I will try not to fail. I know, also, that I will never be abandoned. As always, I feel that words fail to do justice to what I mean, but at least language allows me to release some of this fullness in praise.
“Here I raise my ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.”
It has been nearly a year since I created a mask. I only realized this recently when the hunger to do so came on me suddenly. There has been too much going on in life for me to stop and look around for the faces hidden about me. My dusty supplies, and my clay which has mold on it (yuck!) make my hands itch to create.
I have taken steps. My clay class begins this coming Monday. By this time, for me, the class serves more as studio time than a normal class. It makes me take a couple of hours in the evening to work, and it lets me join with other people to fill and fire the kilns. I want to do other work as well, though. The hardest question is, what do first? There are a few masks waiting to be finished, and they have my attention, but after that?
There are a myriad of shells in wait. Then again, I have done four shell masks already.
I have a few boxes of found-objects, from bones to keys. These things produce surprising results, and I have a mess of ideas. I look over my work to date, and there are some things I want to try again. There are things I think I could do better, or just differently. I have never worked with leather or wood, and both are things I would like to try.
Deciding seems impossible, I may just have to flip a coin, or ten coins, or twenty… but the point is, it’s time to see faces again.
Then comes the harder question of what to do with these masks once I make them. Oy…