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Art (60 posts)
Why do we do this? Why does it feel so wrong to say "I want" (or even worse, "I need")? If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it has something to do with not wanting to seem incapable. Then I happened upon the "I want" list of the sculpture artist Louise Bourgeois. Part poem, part therapy, part life list, this document feels extraordinary (and not just because of the purple ink, although let's face it, that helps).
"I want to feel," reads the list. "I want to be good. I want to be better. I want to do it." It's striking, reading through this list, how empowering the idea of wanting becomes. It's not about being selfish; it's not about requesting goods and services. It's about connecting with that primal part of yourself, that inner kid who is all want and love and fury. It's about wanting to grow, to change, to connect -- it's a kind of wanting that's about reaching out, not reaching in.
The list is part of a new exhibit focusing on the influence of the subconscious and psychotherapy on Bourgeois' work, at the Freud Museum. According to The Guardian, the list "was inspired by the discovery of a cache of the artist's writing, which revealed that she had undergone psychoanalysis, a fact she had previously kept secret." The show's curator, Philip Larratt-Smith, told the Guardian that Bourgeois went from "making these tall, monolithic statues in the early 50s, then re-emerged with a totally new body of work in the 60s. It was always a mystery how she got from A to B. These writings fill in the story."
Looking inward, it seems, reinvigorated this artist's work. And perhaps pinpointing what she wanted was a part of this process. When you really get to the bottom of things, when you really acknowledge your desires, pushing past the politeness and the inbred "no, no, no!"s -- what is it you really, really want? Above all, the lists suggests, Bourgeois wanted to accomplish mastery. Ambitious. Inspiring. But not needy, or greedy, or incompetent in the least. Even in want, it seems, there is room for graciousness.
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We are living in an era of portraits: the held-at-arm's-length-iPhone-Instagram, the slightly fuzzy webcam profile pic, the Mad-Men-yourself-ed avatar. But artist Moyra Davey, one of the artists featured in this year's Whitney Biennial, has created a different kind of portrait, both older and newer than our everyday barrage of digital images. Davey's work "Mary, Marie," is a portrait of the Romantic writer and proto-feminist (and mother of "Frankenstein" author Mary Shelley) Mary Wollstonecraft, created from letters Wollstonecraft wrote to her lover, along with photographs and other images, which Davey then physically mailed to her own mother, sisters, and nieces.
Here she is, discussing her process in creating her work:
There is something so poetic in the way Davey has taken the original medium -- a portrait created through Wollstonecraft's words -- and added her own dimension. Mailing the hard copies of her creations draws in another floundering medium, the increasingly-old-timey postal service. And the fact that she mails them to the women in her life suggests another way we create the stories of our lives, through the other people in them. After all, we are more than just our chosen snapshots of our faces. We are the people we write to, and we are the people we want to share with.
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Happy Friday, everyone! Here are a few things that made our week cheerier:
Quiz time! Can you guess the classic book based on its cover? (Don't scroll too far or you'll see the answers!)
Grown-ups need secret tree houses too, you know.
Remember that time Andy Warhol got a rejection letter from MOMA?
This week in gratuitous cuteness: Toddlers singing Adele.
You know that really-annoying-but-also-very-true saying "Only boring people get bored"? I was on a flight yesterday, trying to brain-message this thought to a teenager who was complaining of ennui to her mother while flipping through a magazine. Meanwhile, I was glamorously attempting to wrestle my 1-year-old into a sitting position while my 3-year-old slammed the window shade up and down and smashed goldfish crackers into her seat. Being bored, what a luxury! Still, I can relate -- I remember when flying was not a frenzied fever dream of shushing and wrangling, but, well, a bore.
So, should you find yourself bored on a long flight you could watch a dreadful movie you'd never choose, buy a drink for any mothers you see traveling with small children, or you could get really, really creative. Like the artist Nina Katchadourian.
Finding herself on a long flight and, you guessed it, sensing the onset of the dreaded boredom, Katchadourian decided instead to take to the lavatory, where she created a headdress out of toilet paper and commenced to take portraits of herself in the Flemish style. The results are hilarious, pitch-perfect, and rather beautiful. And the reminder -- that truly there is no boredom when you can be creative -- is priceless.
(via Laughing Squid.)
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There is something so important about having someone who takes you seriously, especially when you're a kid and most of the people in your life respond to your Big Ideas with a "Mm-hm, that's nice, dear." I think this is what I love most about this video which has been all over the Internet the past few days: Caine's Arcade.
The short film features one of the most creative kids you've ever seen, a 9-year-old boy named Caine, who spent a summer hanging out in his father's auto-parts shop in East L.A., building an elaborate cardboard arcade. Watch it for Caine's boundless creativity and the intricate arcade games he creates out of boxes, old toys, hooks, and tape. But also, look out for Nirvan, Caine's first (and for a while, only) customer, who ended up making this film:
There are many wonderful moments in this -- when Caine first sees the flash mob Nirvan invited to the arcade is a heart-buster -- but I think my favorite is when Nirvan pronounces Caine's "arcade fun pass," "a really good deal." He's not being facetious in the least. He means it. He thinks Caine's games are awesome, and he thinks 500 plays for $2 is a really good deal, and he's right. And because he takes Caine's awesomeness seriously, others do too, and they come to play at the arcade not to be nice or to indulge a kid or do anyone any favors -- it's because the games are fun to play, thanks to Caine's careful planning and attention to details (the tickets!).
Sometimes that's the greatest gift you can give someone -- a child, an adult, anyone: yout full attention and support. After all, when someone takes your creation seriously it starts to become, well, a real arcade.
I once worked for a few weeks in a balloon factory, I'm not kidding at all, located on the outskirts of an Iowa cornfield. Everything about the experience was a little surreal. Even though I was just answering phones and taking orders, it was all done to the background music of machines filling balloons with air and stamping images on them. Every now and then a balloon would detach itself and go whizzing through the air, unintentionally playful. Sometimes we would all break into a musical number. Okay, not the last part. But there is definitely something a touch otherworldly about balloons, those undeniable signs of childlike dreaminess. Even more so when they become the raw materials of art.
I'm sure this is no news to Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle, masters of a special brand of balloon twisting they call "airigami." These people make balloon-animal-making clowns look like, well, clowns. (Visit their site for some images of the mind-boggling things they've made from balloons.) And filmmaker Catherine Stratton made a lovely short film showing the process the artists use to make their balloon creations. The balloons floating in the air as the film opens...the poignant pop of one that doesn't make it...it's no exaggeration to say this video will have you looking at balloons as never before. Who knew they could be so beautiful...so expressive...so grown-up?
(via The Kid Should See This)
Two themes in my life lately have converged in such a way that this poster, designed by 20-something student Francesca Ramos,is exactly the perfect thing at the perfect time: a dry spell that has me searching for direction--and the arrival of a new desk. The desk is an traditional secretary, a workspace full of nooks and crannies begging for inspirational objects and talismans -- physical ones, not just lovely images and quotes accumulated in cyber-space. And the wall above it needs a poster. It needs a beautiful poster. It needs a poster that will inspire me, and not in a cat-on-a-tree "Hang in there" kind of way. It needs...Gandhi.
Gandhi's Ten Fundamentals for Changing the World are an utterly inspiring source of the quiet wisdom everyone's favorite pacifist was known for. "Take care of this moment," I need Gandhi to tell me every morning. Don't you? "Continue to grow and evolve," he reminds us."Persist." He may have been trying to change the world, and I'm trying to get through the day without damaging anyone, but I don't know, maybe those goals have more in common than I ever realized.
Download the poster here. via Explore.
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Still in beta (for all you early adapters out there), this wonderful site is an encyclopedia of famous and historically significant paintings. Each artwork is accompanied by some information about the work and the artist, and the paintings are grouped by artist, period, style, and what's most popular on the site. Each click leads to another, like a self-directed (and surprisingly uplifting) stroll through the world's best museum. A bit of Basquiat before breakfast! A hit of Chagall for the mid-afternoon blahs! A spot of Renoir at tea time! I'm leaving this site up on my screen and all day hitting, refresh, refresh, refresh.
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Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* How a dad writing software manuals in Iowa became a Hollywood screenwriter with one response to a query on Reddit. (Wired)
* Does the Pope wear a funny hat? Several, actually. (MetaFilter; Time)
* RIP Earl Scruggs. The bluegrass pioneer passed away this week at the age of 88. Here he is playing banjo with Steve Martin. (YouTube; Seattle P-I)
* "Above all, art is a conversation conducted down through the generations."—Novelist Ian McEwan in a thoughtful lecture on art, science, creativity and originality. (The Guardian)
What are the things that you do every day? Go on, make a list. Shower, walk the dog, eat an egg, whatever it is. There's something to be said for routine, and I'll go ahead and admit that as I grow older I get more and more fixed in mine. And sometimes, routine is lovely. There's something soothing about the ritual of making a pot of tea. There's a special joy in walking past the same hedge every day and then realizing that one day the unassuming thicket has exploded into pale flower -- particularly because you saw the same plant covered in snow. Of course, routine can also be crazy-making, as when you're so sick of your same two chicken recipes you're about to choose from.
Designer/illustrator Chris Piascik has found a way to make the daily routine into something creative and affirming: He makes a drawing every day. We've all seen lots of "drawing a day" projects, but what I love about Piascik's are the messages he chooses to illustrate, and that he often shares the origin of the idea. "If everybody likes what you are doing, you're doing it wrong," he quotes Jen Bekman (and provides a link to the podcast he got the quote from).