Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Art, Art, I want you.

Recently, I was reading an article in the New York Times about photographer Zoe Strauss, who is having an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  There are all sorts of things one could say about her work, which I think is provocative in a good way and pushing some boundaries that I, personally, enjoy seeing pushed.  But one thing in the the Times article really stopped me in my tracks.  The author made mention of the fact that she keeps a blog about her working process and labelled that activity as "an amateur tic".  To give some context, the author was noting that Strauss herself does not avoid the label "amateur", indeed sometimes embraces it.

I know other artists - famous and not-so famous - who keep blogs but I have to say that they mostly all keep strictly to posting about their work and/or ideas that relate directly to their work.  It isn't so hard to then make a leap and ask myself what, exactly, I am doing with this space.

This isn't a knitting blog.  It isn't a spinning blog.  It isn't a yoga blog (although that has been hard to tell lately).  It isn't a Buddhist blog.  It isn't a homeschooling blog.

It is my art blog.  Welcome to it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What are we fighting for?

This morning, in mysore practice, when one of my teachers was giving me an adjustment and she said, "if the practice were fighting, you would be a professional."

Another teacher, this one of the Zen persuasion, recently said to me (after I had finally "figured something out" with the something being something that he had been telling me for years over and over but I had only just got it as if he had never before bothered to mention it), "Well, sometimes when a student is done arguing...."

Wait.  What?

There seems to be a theme developing here.  But I am not an argumentative person.  I hate fighting.  And I actively seek out the goals of these practices.  So what I am fighting for?

There's a good question.

Meanwhile, today I had two new asana added to my mysore practice as well as the dreaded drop backs.  You can be sure I fought my way mightily through them.

Here is Kino MacGregor giving some good instruction on dropping back and standing back up.  Let's just say, I am not quite there yet.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Tough but Fair

Scene:  The interior of an Earth-friendly hybrid car heading onto the BQE.  A minivan, seen ahead on the road, behaves erratically and nearly causes a dangerous situation.

F:  What do you expect.  They are driving a minivan.

R:  Driving a minivan makes you drive poorly?

F:  They are already dead.  They have nothing left to lose.

R:  Huh?

F:  Get married.  Have kids.  Be boring.  Get a minivan.  They are already dead.

R:  I was married.  I have kids.  Am I boring?

L: (from backseat)  Yes!  Duh.

R:  Well, you are my kids.  One could say that you are the cause of me being boring.

L:  You were just making the best of a bad situation.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Look Homeward Angel

Chance--the hinge of the world, and a grain of dust; the stone that starts an avalanche, the pebble whose concentric circles widen across the seas.
Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward Angel

This spinning wheel belongs to my wonderful friend Martie in Taos, New Mexico.  We will be visiting her very soon and she wondered if I might carry this wheel away with me.  You see, this beautiful antique wheel was made in Canada - the east coast of Canada - and Martie hopes to return it there.  It functions perfectly but Martie has never really used it so she is hoping to find it a new home, or rather, send it back to its original home.

Alas, as I drive an Earth-friendly hybrid car, I can not fit this wheel in my vehicle.  But Martie is willing to ship!  If you live on the east coast of North America (I think borders, in this instance, are not that important) and are interested in learning more about the wheel and possible ownership of it, please email Martie at taossunflower (at) gmail (dot) com.  Just replace the you-know-whats with you-know-whats.

'Tis a beauty.  It needs your love.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

One Thing Leads to Another

A friend sent me a link to an early Jim Henson short film - before he created the Muppets.  You can see it here. I am sure I am not the first to describe Henson as a man ahead of his time.

In the way of the internets, one thing led to another and I found this excerpt from another of his early films.

Love it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Avenue of Trees

Shared here with deep gratitude to all those who contributed to this project.  Thank you!  And I hope you like it.....

ETA:  Did I leave off your name at the end?  Please let me know and I will correct it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Public Art and Community Engagement

On Monday evening, I will be participating in a panel discussion hosted by the New England Foundation for the Arts about public art and strategies for community engagement.  Among the people presenting, I will be there with Michele Cohen, who was the curator at the Trustman Gallery at Simmons College when I did my project, Unconditional Yes, there.  Click here for all the details.

The panel starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Hibernian Hall in Roxbury.  There will be some time for refreshments and informal talk, as well as question and answer time during the panel.  Please stop by and say hello!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


What does my work and contemporary burlesque have in common?

I am asking myself that same question.  But who cares really!  Why does everything have to "make sense" all the time anyway?

If you share my laissez faire attitude about art, then come on over to Brooklyn this Sunday and check out The Holdouts, an exhibition curated by Brett Rollins and featuring work by six artists.

Yes, there will be burlesque.

There also will be crocheted and knit squares.  Hundreds of them.

The Corridor Gallery, 334 Grand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.  Reception from 4 − 6 p.m.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Studio Visit

One of my goals for the new year is to spend more time working in my studio.  When I had younger children, it was impossible to get to the studio to work so I sublet it for years and years.  Finally, when it seemed more possible, I took back the space.  But my work had evolved to suit my life with young children.  It had become so collaborative and so well-suited to being worked on while sitting on the living room couch.  Did I even need a studio anymore?  Why was I paying rent on a space that I hardly ever used?

These questions continue to come up, even as more time becomes available to me as Finnian and Lucy gain independence in their daily activities.  Yet, I have kept the studio, now with a studio mate (who I love, btw) to help pay the rent.  There is always something about having a space where I can be alone and shut the door.  Virginia Woolf was right - a room of one's own, even if you share it with another artist sometimes, is essential to an artist.  For me, going back into my studio also is to become reacquainted with older work that was more studio-based i.e. more suited to hanging on a white wall than on a tree on a highway in Korea.  These works are more intimate and personal in nature and recall, for me, very specific times in my history.

For example,

Obviously I didn't have children when I started this one!  But then they must have come along shortly thereafter because it was never finished.

Yes, I was making a beaded pair of lumberjack underwear, why do you ask?

Maybe I do need to finish that one.  

On Friday, however, I was there to prep some things for a visit from a curator putting together a show at a space in Brooklyn.  I managed to get two boxes of squares into the studio with assistance from Finnian, who was delighted to help as you can imagine.

The squares are very, very dirty.  Here is the very first one I made last summer in Newfoundland:

It used to be pink.

The plan for the show is to stack them, like the photo above, around the perimeter of the gallery with an aim to get all 700 in the space.  I think it is possible.  Note to self:  bring some soap.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kukku for Kukkutasana

It is the middle of January and I know the thing top-most on your mind is how my kukkutasana is coming along.  Two weeks into the new year and I am happy to report that one of my teachers gave me a golden piece of advice.  So golden that I thought it worth boring you with yet another yoga post in the hope that someone reading this also finds this asana to be a challenge and could benefit from this nugget of wisdom.

It is thus:  after garbha pindasana - after rocking around in a circle - let your arms come out of their position between your legs in padmasana a little.  For garbha pindasana, arms should be tucked through to above the elbows.  Now pull them out to below the elbows.

After only one week of trying this, I was able to get up and stay for five breaths.  Amazing!

But looking at this photo of none other than BKS "Light on Yoga" Iyengar himself, I see that he is below his elbows too.  

I feel even more brilliant today!

PS.  Today also is my most brilliant son's birthday (although I don't think he can do kukkutasana).  Out of respect for his privacy I will only make this mention of it.  Happy birthday Finnian!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Two Films

First, a short film about John Daido Loori Roshi by Rachel Loori Romero.  I can't embed it here so please click this link to view it on youtube.  Lots of beautiful images about a remarkable man.

Second, I had the enormous pleasure of seeing this film yesterday evening.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hooked on You

As much as I would love to spend all day watching the kitties watch the raindrops roll down the window panes - they watch with such eagerness, ready to "get" them - the truth is that I have rather a massive job of work ahead of me.

On Tuesday, I came home from my early morning mysore practice to find four Korean gentlemen waiting at my door.  Their message to me was clear, "You must take these boxes for they belong to you."

Exhibit A
Sure, in the slanting mid-winter light (is it really winter?  It has been hard to tell), they look almost romantic.  But do not be fooled! Within them, they contain the hard work of a summertime and early autumn.  Not just my hard work, but the hard work of many, many hands.  Perhaps your's, dear reader?  Do not be further fooled!  While the boxes say "no hook" on them, I can assure you that many, many hooks were used.  Needles also.

Exhibit B
My goal today is to get the contents of at least two of the boxes to my studio, where they will be shown to a curator who is putting together a group show at a space in Brooklyn.  I am not sure he will want or be able to show all of the 700 squares, but it would be pretty amazing if he could.  The boxes themselves are so heavy that I can not lift them singlehandedly, so I don't exactly know how I will get them to my 3rd floor studio.  Given that this project even exists, I think finding a way to get them upstairs is but a minor issue.

Details on the Brooklyn exhibition are forthcoming.  Stay tuned.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Joe, I hardly knew ye

Against all stereotypes, South Korea was not a land of tea and honey.  It was a place of milk and coffee.  On nearly every street corner in both Cheongju and Seoul there stands a coffee shop/cafe.  From Dunkin Donuts (I kid you not) to my favourite, called Angel in Us, the preferred drink was, by far, coffee.  So much so that I started drinking it again out of sheer desperation for my morning caffeine.  About five years ago, I quit coffee after having one too many cases of the jitters and have been a dedicated, not to mention smug, black tea drinker ever since.  

But then I went to Korea.

But then I read that Sharath says "coffee is prana."

But then I did the Rohatsu sesshin and got about twelve hours of sleep during the entire week, cumulatively.

See, I must be an intellectual.  I drink coffee and isn't that the New York Times open to...the op-ed page?
It feels good to be back.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Familial Love

Well, there it is!  A stunning slice of history, isn't it?  Leaves you kind of breathless.  Wait, what?  You fail to see the significance of a graffiti-covered cement wall on Staten Island?  Pull up a chair, my child, while I tell you a little story.  It is the story of a family that has great pride in its Irish heritage and will stop at nothing to find connections to the good, bad and ugly events that make up Irish history in the late 19th/early 20th Century.  

It is here, dear friends, at 194 Richmond Terrace in Staten Island, that Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, beloved patriot to the Irish Republican movement and murderous criminal to the British, once lived.  Here is a rare photo of the famed Uncle David, who has his own personal connection to Staten Island and to JO'DR, looking pleased as punch about finding the site of the late hero and supposed ancestor's home.

Here is the view that JO'DR would have had from his home, minus the SUVs and tall buildings in lower Manhattan.  This is a real slice of history, kids!

Um?  Kids?  I guess Finnian wasn't that interested in his own family history and preferred to read Tintin in the backseat of the car while the more adventurous among us took in deep draughts of the past made alive in this very moment.  Sheesh.  With a name like Finnian, you'd think he would have a little respect for his cultural heritage.  Apparently not.

While we were there, UD treated us to a tour of Staten Island, including a quick visit to the campus of Snug Harbor Cultural Center.  We visited the Connie Gretz Secret Garden, which was very sweet even in its January state of being.  Although, as Finnian said, how secret can it be if there is a big sign over the door?  The kid is sharp on some points.  

We followed this with a driving tour of some other highlights of the island and then had a fantastic lunch at one of the several Sri Lankan restaurants that dot the St. George neighborhood.  Staten Island is an oddball kind of a place but well worth a visit (speaking as someone who lives in two oddball places that are well worth visits).

And by popular demand...  

...some better photographs of the afghan my mother knit us for Christmas.  It is a beauty and worthy of more attention than my quick mention of it allowed.  She knit it in three panels and then stitched them together.

We love it more than words can say.

Monday, January 02, 2012


Enter 2012.

One of my favourite ways to welcome in a new year would be....

...with a lovely skein of lace weight handspun made from BFL/silk combo hand painted by Widdershin Woolworks.  Rumour has it that this particular fleece was purchased after my vow to not buy any more fleece until a good percentage of my current stash, I mean, inventory is used up.  Well, rumours are ugly things so don't you believe it.  Instead, delight in its beauty and soft sheen.  This little baby will be in my etsy shop either today or tomorrow.  It would make a stunning shawl, if you are of the shawl making persuasion.  There may be a slight whiff of dishonesty that hovers over this particular skein but I assure you that any suffering that may result in consequence will be all mine to bear.  To you, it will be pure heaven.  

Despite all signs that the apocalypse is upon us, I feel quite optimistic for this year.  We have our upcoming trip to New Mexico where we will finally meet the wonderful Carol, Martie, Monty and Ani.  I will begin an advanced yoga teacher training program (in the Desikachar tradition for those who need to know such things) starting in March.  Also in March, I am attending a workshop with Kino MacGregor, one of ashtanga yoga's best known teachers and center of the now-famous short-shorts controversy.  

(Warning:  more yoga talk ahead!)

Speaking of ashtanga yoga, it is time once again to set my goals for improving one or two asana in the primary series that I find particularly challenging.  Those with 365-day long memories might recall that the 2011 asana were bhuja pindasana and sirsasana.  How did it go?  Well, my bhuja pindasana is much improved.  In Janaury 2011, I was still very scared to actually get my head to the floor and getting back up was more fantasy than reality.  (I wasn't even thinking about jumping into the pose from ardho mukha/downward facing dog- 365 days isn't that long!)  Today, I easily get my head to the floor.  Getting back up remains a challenge on many days but I am slowly improving my control so that I don't land on my bottom.  Or face.  Moving into bakasana is still nearly impossible but partly because I have never actually done bakasana successfully on its own let alone coming out of an asana that leaves me slightly stunned.  As for my dear, dear sirsasana, we have become good friends in the way that friends know all your joys and sorrows, highs and lows, noble intentions and base faults.  In December, 2011, I even tried it in the center of the room.  And it only took me two years to get to this place!  Sirsasana and I, we go way back.  

For 2012, I am sticking with sirsasana.  We are too close now to abandon each other.  And I will focus on kukkutasana.  My goal is to simply to be able to lift my lead bottom off the mat, even if by a millimeter.  Who will measure that millimeter remains to be seen.

So there you have it.

Enter 2012.  Welcome!