Friday, April 30, 2010

mis en scene

which means: starting the story somewhere in the middle. the story I'M in the middle of is my dastardly kitchen table. it was blessedly and adorably bequeathed to us by elizabeth, one of our favorite waitresses at roxy's. what makes it dastardly is its pressboard-looking-ways.

keep in mind that people LOVE to tell you that painting a veneer finish will last for about a half hour before it peels off. (i am usually the sort of person who gambles with temporal fixes. for example, i have a temporary fake front tooth from the tender age of sixteen and no dental insurance.) but it's true, and they're right, so be prepared for these comments and for addressing the Veneer Situation. when i consulted the man who looks like benjamin franklin (WHOSE NAME I LEARNED TODAY IS FRANK) at the hardware story, he told me that all i need is a special sort of primer to cover the veneer before painting. he directed me to this guy, and i bought it. i know $17 is a little steep for this blog, and i'm sorry. but i did it for us all.

i have applied the first coat of primer to the table, and now i am in the midst of deciding on a design i can stand. i have thought about doing something geometric or colloquial, but in the end i would love to incorporate some poetry into this project.maybe something from one of these:

from fishing on the susquhanna (billy collins)

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one --
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table --
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

from stones (charles simic)

I have seen sparks fly out
when two stones are rubbed,
so perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
perhaps there is a moon shining
from somewhere, as though behind a hill--
just enough light to make out
the strange writings, the star-charts
on the inner walls.

from i carry your heart (e.e. cummings)

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
igher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart.

what we need is here (wendell berry)

geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. and we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. what we need is here.

(also, i am really opinionated, but i am always interested in suggestions. i am putty in your hands.)

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them. today's guest is tim hoover, a gentle and brilliant soul working at lancaster's infantree gallery. tim's prints are poetic, thought-provoking, and still. this is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

after the cups, the marmalade, the tea (t.s. eliot)

before the usual Dog and Pony Show, let me first redirect you to this, the best idea ever. (essentially, the five boroughs of new york have begun compiling business and enterprise waste into a giant warehouse for re-purposing by artists and organizations without the funds to buy supplies themselves. it's good for the artist, obviously, and it benefits the businesses to tax-deduct donations AND save on costs of trash hauling. if anyone in the harrisburg area has it in their heart/budget to help me make this happen, i will, oh i dunno, blog about you or something.) end plug for AN INCREDIBLE DISPLAY OF HUMANITY. now onto my bland kitchen:

the item: wooden door
the source: the green street dumpster
the story: we have a sunny kitchen, but it is pasty. in this Renting Situation, there's only so much you can do to the walls till the landlord notices. AND SO, i screwed hooks into this old, heavy-as-a-heart door so that i could hang garish, chartreuse flower pot mugs within easy reach of the tea drinkers at my table. it was a simple task, but it offers six tiny splashes of color. (stay tuned for the post when i tell you what i finally end up doing with that ridiculously ugly table in the foreground.)
the cost: $0 (reclaimed wooden door) + $5.50 (six brass hooks from the hardware store run by a man who looks like benjamin franklin) = $5.50

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them. today's guest is tara chickey, a local artist who is quickly becoming incredibly inspirational to me. i first saw tara's work hanging from local poles in the form of show posters, and then later learned her connection to the mantis collective. (if you live in harrisburg, you will want to know about the mantis collective.) tara is on my list both for her work and for her insistance in providing space for other artists (including myself, and thanks for all those times i forgot to bring a table to the oddones craft fairs and you let me sell crafts anyway SORRY).

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

i had nothing better to do than listen. i mean this seriously. (mary oliver)

the items: a recovered window shade; a household's collection of earrings
the source: the decrepit basement of the sycamore house; the wealth of three girls
the story: a straightforward tale. i saw the screen beneath stacks of dust, and i saw my earrings awry on my dresser, clinging like crabs in a bucket to each other. so i put them together like slant rhyme. it helps me adorn my ears, and having handsome ears helps me listen.
the price: $0 (window shade) + $Years of Collected Pairs of Earrings = $Sorta 0

and now, welcome to a segment we call This Person Has Surpassed Me in which i catch wind of someone doing excellent work, and i want to tell you about them.

today's guest is justin arawjo, one of my very favorite local artists AND people. his screenprint designs are at once bizarre and familiar, and his style is recognizable from across the room. here is my favorite design of his.

Monday, April 26, 2010

for dappled things (gerard manley hopkins)

the item: an antique type set box
the location: a garage sale during college
the story: this is less about innovation and seeing-for-what-isn't-obvious as much as it is about seeing-what-is-and-remembering-why. inhabiting a reality of knick knack nostalgia, and also wanting to keep a clean home and an eye for beauty, i came to store smallwonderfulthings in this old box and keep it on the living room table. not only does it provide an interesting conversation piece (as in, when you have totally exhausted all topics, you can at least say something like "what the- why in the h is this here?"), but now i know exactly where to go in my house if i need A Haitian Gourdes or A Pendant That I Made With Some Fifth Graders at Danzante Art Center or A Flower Pressed Between Two Glass Slides That My Sister Bought For Me Ten Years Ago In New Orleans From A VooDoo Priest And Which Had Since Been Crushed Beneath The Haughty Heels Of A Fellow Restaurant Worker That Summer Before College When I Lived In A Beach House With Twenty Europeans And No Mother, etc.

The cost: $3 (type set box) + $Years of Nostalgia = $3

Sunday, April 25, 2010

we'll be all right. we have our looks. (the national)

welcome to the second project.

the items: oversized window; pile of ties
the sources: green street; a lady from my church's husband's closet
the story: i'm the sort of person that people unload their Unwanted Things on, easily my favorite trait about myself. sometimes, the end goal is way ambiguous (for example, i have a stack of x-rays and a huge bag of corks, and every idea i've tried to use them for has bombed. TELL ME YOUR IDEAS), but sometimes they hang around my studio for about a minute until i decide how to use them. this time, it was the latter. lynn, my friend and aforementioned church lady, gave me a pile of her husband's ties from the middle of the century To Do With What I Would. i also had an oversized window like those mentioned in previous blog posts.

the process was simple. i cut the ties to size, arranged them according to optimal clever pattern sequencing, and nailed them to the frame. (keep in mind: when you are using old windows, there is often a lot of crumbling paint and grout to deal with. i had to sweep a ton after this project.)

when you put that crap together and hang it in your art studio, it looks like this:

(i only used about 2/3 of each tie for this project, and my plans are to make a smaller scale version of it to give back to lynn. DON'T TELL.)

the cost: $0 (oversized window found on green street) + $0 (ties from lynn's husband's closet) = $0.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

the shape of what is made (wendell berry)

welcome to the first project.

the item: a broken section of fence
the location: james street, harrisburg
the story: we began, finally, to start owning pots and pans. we did this, without space to store them. i could tell you the reason for that is because we have an abnormally low amount of cupboard space, but i would be leaving out the truth: my roommate/soulmate, borne out of the goodness in her heart, hoards these huge cups from gas stations with intentions to reuse them. they, in the meanwhile, and in addition to a strange assortment of muffin tins, crowd our shelves and cloud the possibility of pots inhabiting the same space. these things were on my mind when, one fateful day, i was circling the block to find the four oversized windows i had been told were abandoned on green street. IN ADDITION TO THESE, i found this fence in an open lot next to an aquarium (which i did not take. because it had been. used for something.)

the fence, in its original state, had been exposed to the elements for, oh, a jillion years. peel-y paint, general horror, etc. i won't lie to you, dear reader. i showered with that thing to clean it. (it worked.) once it was Not Gross Anymore, i went to the local hardware store, bought some S-hooks from the dude who looks like benjamin franklin, and hung those pesky pots.

it hangs in our kitchen directly below our chalkboard. it looks pretty great.

the cost: $0 (fence) + $0 (pots and pans given to us by megan's mom's attic) + $6 (eight S-hooks from the hardware store owned by a man who looks like benjamin franklin) = $6.


about a year ago, i made a decision that was almost entirely based on not having money. that decision was to use my smarts to make my situation prettier. my volition, combined with not being grossed out by the prospect of getting into dumpsters, has since accounted for every scrap of time i can scrape together. i love trash. now, understand me. i don't love egg shells and cracker wrappers (yet). please don't send me any. what i like are things that i cringe to see laying on the side of the road. windows. doors. drawers. etc. i like the challenge of finding a new way to see them.

which brings me to the title of this post. palimpsests, historically, were pages and scrolls that had been scraped and used again, but with the original text leaking through a bit. when i was in a film class in college, we used the word to describe the jarring experience of watching an actor play a role outside of what we were used to. (john wayne playing anything other than a cowboy? please.) in these designs, it's important to me that the original text is visible despite all the scraping. the Making New, the Redemption part of it only works if you can tell this thing used to be crap. these projects have been good for me to stretch my creativity, to make do with what i have, and to subvert traditional recycling.

speaking of recycling, i will go ahead and attribute this new/old venture to my deardear friend joy bauer. i love her work, and i love her words, and i love that she is stirring up all sorts of trouble with her sewing machine. let this project of mine be as genuine and hearty and sneaky as her's.