강서경 / Suki Sukyeong Kang is an interdisciplinary artist whose works, at a glance show a merging of many objects or source material from Korean history and tradition with novel, artistic interpretation. Deeper, it’s her interpretation of the modern, developing world using material from the world that’s existed before.
When I first encountered the art works of Korean artist Suki Kang’s at Pace Gallery last week, I was admittedly confused. I liked them: her hand of materials and choices of color were unique, and being Korean, I also wanted to be supportive of a Korean artist who had her art being exhibited in one of the most powerful, international galleries (still uncommon in 2021….) but I felt I needed to understand the meaning behind them if I were to really be able to appreciate her pieces; “there must be meaning behind her process…. I can’t just be looking at threads and circles and holed metallic cylinders…”
Intrigued, I picked up this book, Black Mat Oriole, which was initially printed for her first major art show in the US in 2018, with the Institute of Contemporary Art, to learn of her process. It’s opened me up to the world of her head, and I am looking back to the art I saw with renewed interest, and a deep desire to spend more time with her art once I get the chance.
From this book, I’ve gathered she is interested in these motifs and questionings: our bodies’ places in the world, hand (by this, I mean craft, touch, materiality), industrialization > modernization > globalization, the limitations of movement (physical and figurative – like our individual freedom figurative), heritage, dance, poetry, literature, the meaning of the grid, material tradition, the symbolism behind weights and measurements.
Some cool material used for her art (steeped in Korean heritage!):
a traditional Korean mat woven with a specific white rush, this mat has a special nod to our history (1800s) as there was a dance conventionally performed for the royal court then, featuring one dancer who would dance within the boundaries of the Hwamunseok). She creates performances with these and also orchestrates the placement and positioning of these mats, beyond the initial designs to convey other, specific ideas.
a Korean musical notation style developed in the Joseon Dynasty that distinctively communicates duration and pitch – she used this material to inform and construct patterns on her mat work.
traditional handmade Korean paper
As I am always very interested in the physical process of an artist, here are some details on how much work and sweat goes behind her works:
“Each mat is produced following a design by Kang and takes approximately one month to complete’ it’s completed with Kang’s hand as she adds threaded graphic patterns onto the died and woven mat as a final touch.” The woven mats (Hwamunseok) are produced with female artisans of Ganghwa Island in the Northern South Korea.
The threadwork woven over her metal cylindrical objects art takes around 3 months for Suki Seokyeong Kang to weave by hand.
J’ai décrouvis l’artiste Coréen Suki Seokyeong Kang à Pace, et au début, j’étais confus. J’aimais ses oeuvres, sa technique avec des matériaux et sa choix de couleur, et comme un Coréen, je voulais soutenir un artiste qui était Coréen, mais c’était difficile pour moi de les adorer, puis j’ai décidé de rechercher son processus et acheté ce livre. Il m’ouvert a son monde, et je regarde son art a nouveau avec un intérêt ranimé.
Elle est un artiste interdisciplinaire, dont les oeuvres, d’un seul coup d’œil montrent un mariage des matériaux provenu de l’histoire et la tradition Coréen avec une interprétation artistique. À un niveau plus profond, ces sont ses interprétations sur la monde moderne développant, utilisant des matériaux de la monde qui a existé auparavant
De ce livre, je suppose que cet motifs et questionnements l’intéressent: les places de nos corps dans la monde, la matérialité, l’industrialisation, le patrimoine, la danse, la poésie, la littérature, la signification de la grille, les poids et mesures…
Paul Cézanne, born in Aix en Provence in the early 1800s, created impressionist and post-impressionist pieces for the duration of his life as painter; most remembered are his Bathers and scenic landscape oil paintings of provincial areas of France. Cézanne explored and fixed colour and nature through a multitude of mediums, leaving behind too striking works of watercolour, pencil, and gouache closer to the end of his life.
Of note are the two extremes in which he was evaluated as a creative over a 20 year period:
April 1874: Once described by a female art critic as a “madman in a state of delirium tremens.”
1890s: Starts receiving critical interest
December 1895: After a successful exhibition with art dealer Ambroise Vollard, Paul Cézanne gains critical recognition and success: “Passers-by walking into the Galerie Vollard, in Rue Laffitte, will be faced with about fifty pictures: figures, landscapes, fruit, flowers, from which they can finally reach a verdict on one of the finest and greatest personalities of our time! Once that has happened, and it is high time that it did happen, all that is dark and legendary about Cézanne’s life will disappear, and what remains will be a rigorous and yet attractive, masterly, and yet naive life’s work… He is a great fanatic for the truth, fiery and naive, austere and subtle. He will end up in the Louvre,” notes Gustave Geffrey, art critic.
Cézanne struggled with euphoria, depression, and feeling despair throughout his entire life. While renowned as a great artist, he spent much of his life as the reclusive type, and avoided the company of most females due to having a shyness, fear, and mistrust in women that developed from childhood. It is recorded, “I am under orders not to touch him, not even with my dress when I go past him.” – housekeeper Madame Brémond
Cézanne to his mother: “I begin to find myself superior to those around me, and you know that the good opinion I have of myself had only been reached after mature consideration. I must always work, but not to achieve a final polish, which is for the admiration of imbeciles. And this thing which is commonly so appreciated is only the accomplishment of an artisan’s skill and makes every work resulting from it in artistic and vulgar. I must strive after completion only for the pleasure of giving added truth and learning. And believe me, there always comes a time when one arrived, and one had much more fervent and devoted admirers than those who are flattered by vain appearances.”
Here are some of my favorite works from Paul Cézanne:
Regarding his painting style: “Nothing in the individual areas of colour bears any specific relationship with the visible world of objects, and it is not possible to identify trees, fields, or houses. Only the interaction between the different elements within the painting asa whole enables us to recognize an objective reality.” – Ulrike Becks-Malorny
“Nature is not on the surface, it is in the depths. Colours are on the surface expression of this depth. They grow up from the roots of the world. They are its life, the life of ideas.” – Cezanne
“So Cézanne’s concern was far from being that of conveying the illusion of a three-dimensional world to the viewer. Rather he was creating a new reality using the two-dimensional surface of the painting. He simply sought to create an awareness of the two- dimensionality of the picture, this new “realization” of nature, and so it was important for him to avoid using traditional linear perspective, which creates the illusion of three-dimensional depth. In addition, if he had used strict linear perspective, he would have had to depict every object the size required by perspective. But what Cézanne wanted to do was to show each object the size which he saw it. Apart from rejecting linear perspective, Cézanne also steered clear of the superior perspective so beloved of the Impressionists, in which the colours and forms of objects become more vague and indistinct the farther they are from the viewer.” – Ulrike Becks-Malorny
“Light is not a thing that can be reproduced, but something that must be depicted using something else: colours.” – Cézanne
How Paul Cézanne Viewed Color
“To Cézanne, colours are only the constituent elements of an image. Its form is determined by the way they are applied; the boundaries between colours are also the boundaries between forms. The light in his paintings has no existence in its own right; it is created by the colour.” – Ulrike Becks-Malorny
Cézanne depicts light with the brightest and strongest colors to signify its strength and brightness. So instead of a white bluish sky, he’s painting his skies with rich blue, greens, whites, etc.
Light is not a thing that can be reproduced, but something that must be depicted using something else: colours.” -Cézanne
Catch an exhibition running through September 26, 2021 and showing 250 of Paul Cézanne’s drawings, studies, and watercolours at the Museum of Moderrn Art.
I’m really excited about the talent of this artist.
Arcmanoro Niles is a D.C. born and Brooklyn based artist. He is represented by Gallery Lehmann Maupin.
I saw his paintings in person recently for the first time, and I was initially very struck by all the pink and the glitter canvassing every painting. Once my eyes adjusted to this, time had given way to a deep feeling of appreciation for the beauty he redefined and created.
His portraits are invitation.
He explores identity, the things we hold in our private space (people, home, hidden desires) and memory in ways that come out as quite elegant, dignified, intimate, and slightly Johnny Bravo throwback emoji.
“A lot of my references come from old family photos or pictures I take myself with my cell phone or a point or shoot camera. I’m always thinking about how the painting will come out to the viewer so I use quite a bit of reflective paints and shiny materials like glitter. But I think that, at the end of the day, I am a painter who is interested in color and stories that talk about who we are. Little moments that give us a glimpse into what life feels like.” – Arcmanoro Niles
In every painting is included a Seeker, little spindly– some with mischievous bent– characters painted in dark color close to the canvas’ margins.
The Seeker signifies a human desire of the lesser kind. These symbolisms juxtaposed with the virtuous renderings of the people in his paintings invites the viewer to look deeper.
Some things I immediately took away from the paintings of Arcmanoro Nile’s style:
Despite the intimacy of the home or his subjects’ state of dress, Niles paints each with a grace and regalness– similar to how Kehinde Wiley paints the character of his subjects.
He’s a glitter guy.
He paints skin so beautifully: The color of the skin of the people in his life he painted was absolutely striking. What from afar would appear as a light brown skin tone, is skin painted on with a multitude of colors. And the result glistened.
How did Arcmanoro Niles become an artist?
As a kid, he would always be drawing, and this eventually took him to an art high school, Duke Ellington— all was natural progression. He’d then find himself watching a movie of Caravaggio one day in class which would be a source of inspiration for how he would continue on to paint his subjects and treated light.
Influence and process behind Arcmanoro Niles’ art
He’s really interested in color and the color of skin. In a former lecture, Niles says even the colors in the backgrounds of his paintings are made with consideration for making the skin look better. Having recently graduated undergraduate and graduate art school, he references his experience at art school; in the things they were studying, he didn’t see any African Americans in paintings nor were Black artists, people like him, included in studies. That component is a source of meaning for him as an active artist.
Coupled with his desire to highlight African Americans and his heritage more and naturally, the whole interest behind his practice is beautiful.
He is fascinated by color and is interested in the oppositional qualities of color, and often asks himself how to not lose any color in the painting he is rendering.
On indirect painting
“when you have two colors, if you have the orange, and then I put red on top of that, and then if I go over the red with a yellow thinly, it kind of creates a third color. But if I do that with three colors and they are all very saturated, then it will keep on making more colors, and that’s sort of what gives it [the painting] the glow.”
Arcmanoro had his first solo show on the West Coast at the UTA Artist Space. I feel like it’s only a matter of time before Niles has his own show at the MoMA, Whitney, or New Museum.
I’m really excited for that day.
Hey Tomorrow, Do You Have Some Room For Me: Failure Is A Part Of Being Alive runs through August 28, 2021 at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, 536 West 22nd St., NY, NY
To follow his Instagram and journey, click here.
To see art that spans the breadth of his youth (from his high school years to — now) you can get glimpses of them here.
The first time I encountered Brooklyn-based artist Carol Bove’s works was at David Zwirner Gallery almost 6 years ago.
She was making a very different kind of sculpture art then (see Polka Dots), but was still working with transforming steel and using paint to facilitate a part of its manipulation.
What follows are photos from her recent exhibition, Chimes at Midnight, at David Zwirner Gallery, W20th Street (running through June 18, 2021) and excerpts from her conversations with art historian Johanna Burton and art curator Phillip Kaiser:
Johanna: Again, pervasive narratives around large-scale metal sculpture usually foreground a kind of battle of wills behind the maker and the material, with, in the end, the maker wrangling the material into a certain configuration. It seems that what you’re talking about is more of a discursive or dialogic dance, where you’re showing an innate quality of the material in a form that is not usually seen. And this negotiation enables different ways of thinking about that process. You do leave certain subtle hints about the process that I think are interesting, such as the use fo bolts and the seams that are produced from welding. There’s a very different logic or purpose in deciding whether to put things together with a bolt or through welding.
Carol: Yes, you can see the decision-making most in the connections. There’s some sort of narrative to either decision too. When parts are welded, it is an instance of two pieces of the same type of material being melted together along a seam. When parts are bolted together, it is a temporary and reversible connection. Bolting is a more erotic relationship because one discrete entity penetrates the other. I tend to choose the mechanical connection when I’m bringing two different materials together. There are reasons for breaking this rule, but in general, if I’m connecting a highly polished, fabricated element to a matte, manipulated tube element, then I could use a bolt. The bolt underscores the way these two elements sit uneasily together, that they can’t be reconciled.
Johanna: So you’re allowing the distinction but forcing the union.
Carol: Yes, and these connections are very erotic. Just as two people can be fully sympathetic and sexually engaged, they are never going become a single person. There will always be difference.
Johanna: And there’s a kind of violence to it?
Carol: There’s violence to it, and desire. The connections have all the pull for me.
Phillip: Are you talking about the fictional nature of any presentation of art?
Carol: Right. That’s how we know something is a sculpture, because in the context of art it’s bracketed out of the world of regular objects. But, because I’m putting a lot of work into this dimension of display, it’s like putting a bracket around the bracket, so you can look directly at the framing devices.
Phillip: This makes me think of your MoMA exhibition a few years ago titled The Equinox, where you included a large riser that elevated and unified various sculptures. Does this presentation form elevate them in a different state?
Carol: I think when something is on a pedestal, especially a big pedestal, we imagine that it’s in a different type of space. It’s qualitatively different, as if it were a live broadcast on television. There’s a belief that the pedestal space isn’t real in the same way that something in “our” space is. Part of my ongoing play with pedestals and display strategies is to understand how that language works and what it means. How much of its meaning is from convention and how much from physical poetry? It seems very much to be about ontology: is this thing on display real? If it’s real, in what way is it real, and to what degree?
Johanna:… How do you listen to the material in a way that feels more like a dialogue and less an exertion of will? Or maybe you disagree with that.
Carol: No, I agree. I want to find out what stainless steel does, what its qualities are. We think stainless steel is hard and strong, and I’m wondering if this is really the case. Is there a gentle and persistent way to act on it so that it will behave differently? Can it be tricked into showing a different side? Under what conditions is it soft and supple? I never force the material to do something it doesn’t want to do. I let it lead me as much as I lead it. I’m invested in an improvisational process where I’m making and solving a puzzle simultaneously.
I also imagine a mirror effect on perception, where the material’s plasticity acts on the imagination. What we know about the material is contradicted, so maybe our grip on reality should be a little lighter, too, enabling us to see what is in front of us rather than only what we think we see.
Johanna: what are the conditions that render the material supple?
Carol: It has to do with the way I prepare the tubes, by pressing them with a series of differently shaped tools that we make specifically for this purpose.
JB: Can you say more about that? In the resulting works, the material looks so distinct from how we ordinarily conceive it, rendering the process a mystery. In discussions with you, you don’t take the pains to hide the process, but if a viewer simply encounters the finished object, how it is produced can feel kind of magical.
Carol: Right. We use a hydraulic press to start bending and massaging the tubes, and then we pull the bends closed using a chain-hoist system. Through this process of manipulations, the geometry of the steel becomes very complex, making the tube seem more like fabric, or something with a softer texture. It takes some patience, and my ability to manipulate the tubes has developed over a few years.
I think it’s interesting how incidental the illusionism is. I leave a lot of evidence of the work’s construction, and you can even come to the studio to see the tubes being manipulated. But in the end the labor is invisible, and in some way the tubes don’t look fully real.
I screenshot a photo of my younger sister during a ZOOM call the other day, and spent the evening illustrating the woman I see in my head.
A notification from Kasmin Gallery alerted me to an exhibit that I was very excited to see: Lee Krasner: Collage Paintings 1938-1981
Lee Krasner is better known by some as the famed abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock‘s wife.
The exhibition was a tightly curated ensemble of works from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and private collections.
I admit I was initially interested in seeing Krasner’s works as
1. I’ve read about more than experienced her,
2. I was intrigued by her relationship with Jackson Pollock as an artist and as a partner in life
3. I was interested in exploring how her works have influenced the style of Jackson Pollock and vice versa.
She is also known for her large canvas and Neo-cubist works, and while the exhibition primarily displays Lee Krasner’s collage paintings, I was able to see one or two paintings that reflected her other “periods” of style:
Things to note if you have have the chance to visit Kasmin before it closes
A couple things caught the attention of my friend Georgia and I:
- The way some had glass/plexi-glass on top and others didn’t. We wondered whether it had something to do with who owned the work that is being displayed; from what I’ve learned so far through self-teaching and asking peers in the art business, owners’ and collectors’ preferences sometimes have a lot of sway in regards to curatorial decisions.
Curious, I went up to the gallery assistant and asked him whether this work belonged to someone else and did not belong to the Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Verdict: It was in fact from the private collection of another!
- Her changing artistic styles from monochrome to stark color contrasts.
- Her heavy handed use of various materials; her interesting use of something that looks a lot like blue tape.
- That she seemed to prefer more jagged, angular shapes vs Pollock’s round style of paint application. We did see some marks reminiscent of Pollock’s trademark shapes and textures in a couple of Lee Krasner’s paintings on display.
Josef Albers is a German artist I am a great fan of, him along with his German-American partner and fellow artist, Anni Albers. Both were students and teachers at the Bauhaus, with Josef specializing in abstract painting and Anni in textiles.
I can only dream of the kind of youth they had, studying under Johannes Itten (Swiss abstractionist painter, color theorist and part of the Weimar Bauhaus), brushing shoulders with Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky– becoming masters of crafts.
Most of the painted layers for the square paintings were layered on from center to outwards. There were some where Albers changed up his layering process for, which was very interesting– occasionally he’ll make the smallest center square as the final (top) layer.
If anyone could help me get Josef Albers’ Midnight and Noon book (it’s sold out), I would be extremely grateful.
Very interesting in person:
There’s a small part of me that always wonders if I pursued the creative route.. what would life have been like?
What would life be like with a partner who is equally or more in love with art? What it’d be like for us to chase visions and beauty
As I illustrated these, my mind took me back to a bible verse in Matthew Chapter 4, when Jesus spoke to the men who would become his apostles, saying, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
I also illustrated an avatar of my sister with the thought that it would be nice if there was more open-sourcing of avatars and characters of multiple ethnicities (e.g. Pablo Stanley’s Humaaans project, but even more diversified). It would long term serve the greater good– in company efficiency and racial equity.
Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented at MoMa. On view through April 10, 2021
Things I loved about this exhibit:
It was interesting to see the works of artists who promoted more utopian, democratic schools of thinking and then went onto become fascists.
I loved seeing the works of Swiss graphic designer Max Bill, which I love, in person.
Loved studying the reigning types and typography of these artists in regions of Germany, Poland, Latvia, etc. in the period between WWI and WWII.
The exhibition showcased the works of many influencers of or from the Bauhaus school– for that alone, this exhibition is worth seeing!
I loved the story behind this artwork so much. The photographed man was involved in the design of some project involving pool, but was not permitted to utilize-enter the pool because he was Jewish. His friend creates this collage piece with him in pool. The work is an impressive act of protest– and one that signals the dignity of the subject:
Another collage I liked, this one the size of a palm:
I appreciate how much the exhibit focused on showing the final versions and the maquettes of magazine pages and spreads.
As someone is largely self-taught-teaching-herself art, these maquettes and the finished magazines offer a fascinating view into process.
I loved the design of these postcards:
Of lesser importance, but one that provided an opportunity for me to learn more about architecture (I’ve recently developed an interest in learning more about architecture as an acquaintance of mine is one).
At the end of February, I put to image some verses I’ve leaned on during periods of uncertainty, worry, and when I needed to remind myself what I believed in. Tools used were my handy MX Ergo mouse and Adobe Illustrator.
I call these kinds of my illustrations Adult Bedtime Stories, as they are (picture books) children’s books made for adults like me.
The illustrations that follow span scripture from Matthew Chapter 6, from verses 25 to 33 in English and French.
I hope they are useful and bring comfort to anyone who stumbles on them:
Here is a link to the original illustrations:
My values for work and my work ethic have been influenced by many,
some through direct experience and demonstration by great and horrible bosses, and others through minds in books: Ernest Hemingway on the attractiveness and persuasiveness of brevity; Ray Dalio on embracing the natural bents, strengths, and weaknesses of others, Shane Parrish on the many mental models I could employ to make smarter decisions, and Marcus Aurelius’ father on how to treat your co-workers, to name a few.
I give credit to the Bible for most of the underlying values in work I’ve cultivated in my professional life; They are things I strive to abide by and commit to at the age of 28.
Here are some lessons I learned from the Bible on how to live as a Christian in work:
Rest and relaxation must become a familiar presence in your life.
Having work physically, emotionally and mentally consume one’s life and identity is against the character of a Christian life.
As a Christian, participating in the Sabbath is an act of obedience, a reminder for me that I am not a slave beholden to my work (“How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!” (Matthew 12:12)), and a demonstration that I’m putting my money where my mouth is when I say I believe God is sovereign, at the center of my life and my purpose for being.
It’s also an healthy act of rest: to rejuvenate, restore, and re-center myself in the things that matter most to me in life.
So, we keep the Sabbath. (Deuteronomy 5:12-14):
Listen and actively seek and embrace guidance and counsel from others.
Be humble and open minded in the counsel and feedback of others.
Proverbs 15:22: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.”
Proverbs 11:14: “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”
Proverbs 24:6 on being a wise and successful king: “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers”.
What these verses do not imply is to accept the guidance of anyone, or to always embrace the guidance of close counsel. They simply state the value of taking into deep consideration the counsel of one’s advisors. Who do you see as an advisor in your life? Hopefully someone close, who reflects principles and values you respect, and someone you trust and respect.
Despite demonstrated differences in values, principles, and/or opinion, have respect for and be respectful of placed authority.
It is important to show a level of respect to those placed in specific positions as they have been “elected” and placed there by people, whether it be by the board of your company, or by your nation’s people. (Romans 13)
While I struggle with showing deep admiration for someone when his/her principles are at odds with mine, regardless of position, I learned that is different from being able to show thoughtfulness and respect for the dignity and position of another.
Shane Parrish, founder of Farnam Street, has also savvily quipped once: “you can disagree without saying anything.”
Engage in and pursue work that has purpose and meaning.
Being involved in work that is “beneficial,” “constructive,” or benefiting the “good of others” is in close character with Jesus Christ.
Celebrate and compliment your colleagues’ strengths and accomplishments. Mentor your juniors; actively give credit to them.
Lift up your peers [hype them] when there is any true opportunity to do so. BUT avoid flattery.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)
“For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:18)
“For there is no truth in their mouth…. their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.” ( Psalm 5:9)
Magi© Bullet , by AA Johnson, first installed at the height of the AIDS crisis in 1992.My friend and I stood under the ceiling of semi-deflated pills for some time, wondering how we’d be able to get a balloon down so I could take one home with me. If I weren’t flying out to South Korea the next day, I would have gone back to the museum in the morning to see if there was one ready for me to pick up.
See it at the MoMA.
My Favorite Wife is a romantic comedy that ends happily ever after, per many of the films featuring Cary Grant, centered on an indecisive husband and an independent wife. If I was a young woman in the 40s this movie would have been the inspiration.
Multiple scenes and dialogues bring me back to The Parent Trap, my most favorite childhood movie; it turns out My Favorite Wife heavily influenced The Parent Trap, namely the elevator scene when Dennis Quaid (Nick) catches his ex-wife inside the elevator with his fiancée— an exact nod to a scene from this 1940 film’s.
I was delighted.
Pieces I particularly enjoyed this month at the MoMA:
I’ve recently discovered that embroidering is a very meditative activity for me.
I’ve been working on this for a couple church services.
I believe the doodling also helps me to focus on sermons a little more too.
For my birthday this year, my older sister asked me what I wanted to do with her to celebrate. She wanted to take me out to dinner, but I asked her if we could just grab dinner to eat casually and quickly; I told her I just wanted to paint with her and make art, and so we did :). She managed to persuade me to agree to making this a painting session of making one of Joan Miro’s famed paintings, The Birth of the World.
This is hers. I made mine off of my favorite colorway which are the 3 primary colors, and I added a boa constrictor digesting the elephant which is another “favorite” of mine from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince.
That was a great evening for me.
I really appreciated having a moment to rest, being in a relatively quiet environment, and being able to do something mindlessly, unambitiously, and completely for my pleasure–my pleasure alone.
Just another packaging proto using a lot of makeshift materials:
If you want to be excellent – a.k.a. not kill the plant, you ought to drill some holes:
And so many Bonne Maman Jam Jars:
If we are unable to recognize the beauty and gifts that take form in the humdrum events of our daily lives, can we say we know happiness?
or to pose my question more bluntly: If I can’t even be happy with the things I already have, how certain can I be that I’ll be happy once I get the thing(s) I’m chasing after?
I recall three excerpts from writers whose words and pieces I look back to often, that give my mind’s thoughts on happiness [or rather the precipice between discontentment and happiness] more flesh.
Marcel Proust, 20th century writer
“Once he had been dazzled by this opulent depiction of what he called mediocrity, this appetizing depiction of a life he had found insipid, this great art of nature he had thought paltry, I should say to him: Are you happy?
When you walk around a kitchen, you will say to yourself, this is interesting, this is grand, this is beautiful like a Chardin.”
and Charles de Montesquieu, French judge and philosopher of the 18th century
“If one only wished to be happy, this could be easily accomplished; but we wish to be happier than other people, and this is always difficult, for we believe others to be happier than they are.”
Lastly, we have the thoughts of 20th century English writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic, G.K. Chesterton, contemplating on the habits of the one, great thinker:
“But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun.; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic monotony that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
Earlier this week, I went to see Belgian Brooklyn-based painter and sculptor Harold Ancart’s exhibit at the @davidzwirner gallery.
The gallery was exhibiting Ancart’s series of tree paintings he made during the pandemic.
The painting with a green tree and pink skies made me feel like I was looking at a tree in a Japanese animé.
This red and blue painted piece reminded me of René Magritte’s hand. My photo doesn’t capture the blue color well, but Ancart paints the sky in the Surrealist master’s trademark blue.
It was very interesting to see throughout his paintings how he would sometimes choose to layer on the sky atop the tree instead of keeping the sky behind it– adding to the surrealist element of the naturescape.
and sometimes one would find a painting with a trunk that is not even part of the tree.
You like espousing ethics and break
promises in the same breath,
you say you value communication, but here’s the silence I
You wanted trust, but pulled away before we’d even built a foundation
you said you like to give, but push came to shove and all I got was the taking.
trauma is a scary thing
You think it’s gone,
but then you find it lingering
where the nails meet skin
the sharp things live
where the speedometer runs high
when the loud sounds ring.
Complement with this reading: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van der Kolk, M.D.
My favorite work by Max Bill: 1932 poster for Zurich design manufacturer and retailer Wohnbedarf
While the materials used did not pass muster, I was very content and happy with my first attempt at making a tote bag with little to no direction. I am also happy and proud of the fact that I engaged sustained effort (pretty much guaranteed need with hand-stitching) and focus into this (Even a couple years ago, I was not keep my attention on one art project. I had (still have, but less) a hard time focusing, and would always flit about to the next thing before finishing my project because I would get bored after 2 hours). This finished product is a reflection of my progress over the years in improving my ability to focus on one thing at a time.
I did enlist the help of an unused bag; what I did was deconstruct it by its panels, and study that. That must have influenced the success story above.
Learnings from Experience
I understand now why all sewers use thimbles. Sewing with a metal needle for hours on end feels like playing the guitar for hours without any calluses having formed on my fingers. It leads to a unique, unpleasant burn.
I understand fully now why totes are made often with lighter, more thin material, and things that are more structured are made with more durable fabric. It has a lot to do with desired aesthetic.
What I’d Like to Do Better
I would like to start with materials (fabric, straps, colors) that are ideal.
I would like to improve the evenness of my stitching while also getting better on time.
I was inspired to read this poem by Emily Dickinson after finishing a piece of the world by Christina Baker Kline:
“This is my letter to the World that never wrote to me”
“This is My Letter to the World”, goes like this:
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,–
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
Kline’s a piece of the world revolves around the life of Christina Olson, the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s most renowned masterpiece, Christina’s World (you can find it at the Museum of Modern Art, 5th fl). Margaret Steiger, a fellow peer and art lover, also my supervisor at MoMA!, recommended me this book as she knew how much I loved Christina’s World.
Christina suffered from a life long illness (initially thought as having polio, modern day neurologists believe she actually suffered from Charcot-Marie Tooth (CMT) disease, which causes progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation) that started to render the nerves in her arms and legs pretty much kaput as she entered adulthood.
In this novel, the character Christina (will now move forward referring to novel’s character as ‘Christina’ and the real Christina as ‘Christina Olson’), coming into her teenage years, and with a body severely limited in movement from the effects of a mysterious illness’ onset at toddler-hood, begins to develop a curiosity and ferocity of mind, and this coincides with her discovery and subsequent exploration of Emily Dickinson’s words at school.
“I agree. Rest is stupid. I am tired of this narrow bed, the slice of window above it. I want to be outside, running through the grass, climbing up and down the stairs. When I fall asleep, I am careering down the hill, my arms outstretched and my strong legs pumping, grasses whipping against my calves, steady on toward the sea, closing my eyes and tilting my chin toward the sun, moving with ease, without pain, without falling. I wake in my bed to find the sheet damp with sweat.”
“MRS. CROWLEY TOLD me once—the nicest thing anybody has ever said to me—that I’m one of the brightest students she’s ever taught. Long before the others, I have finished my reading and arithmetic. She’s always giving me extra work to do and books to read. I appreciate the compliment, but maybe if I could run and play like the other kids, I would be as impatient and distracted as they are. The truth is, when I’m immersed in a book I’m less aware of the pain in my unpredictable arms and legs.”
“I’m so tired of this mutinous body that doesn’t move the way it should. Or the low thrumming ache that’s never entirely absent. Of having to concentrate on my steps so I don’t fall, of my ever-present scabs and bruises. I’m tired of pretending that I’m the same as everyone else. But to admit what it’s really like to live in this skin would mean giving up, and I’m not ready to do that.”
“’Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.” Maybe so, I think. Maybe my memories of sweeter times are vivid enough, and present enough, to overcome the disappointments that followed. And to sustain me through the rest.'”
“My chin drips blood, my wrists throb, I am facedown in the wet, soiled dress it took me weeks to sew. The skirt is bunched up round my hips, my bloomers and misshapen legs exposed. Lifting myself slowly on my elbows, I survey my torn bodice. All at once I am so tired of this—of the constant threat of humiliation and pain, the fear of exposure, of trying to act like I’m normal when I’m not—that I burst into tears. No, I am not all right, I want to say. I am fouled, degraded, ashamed. A burden and an embarrassment.”
On Christina’s first experience with love:
“It feels as if my life is moving forward at two separate speeds, one at the usual pace, with its predictable rhythms and familiar inhabitants, and the other rushing ahead, a blur off color and sound and sensation.”
Reflecting on Christina’s World
I have felt a deep connection with Christina’s World, ever since I first encountered Christina’s World as a university student.
The work is an incredible sight and experience; numerous people from all over the world will tell you so as well: painted is a young, youthful girl, in stark contrast against the muted landscape of a field and barn/farmhouse. Your eyes settle intensely on the seemingly feeble, yet remarkably dignified, stoic, and bold girl in pink dress.
I was very sick when I was 13 and in my teenage years. The utter prison I felt like I was in, of not being able to wield my body at will, not being able to do things other kids do nor be carefree was a formative experience in my youth.
Thinking about my future was scary.
The picture my mind drew of my life was monstrous; It was only filled with more ifs, doubts and and despondence from wondering whether I’d ever be able to live the life I wish I had instead of living through it with a body I abhorred.
The memories do not go away easily //
Having to stay a couple nights in the St. Judes hospital deprived of sleep and watching Shakespeare in Love and The Man in the Iron Mask with my mother who bravely tried to stay awake with me and laid on a cot bed by me.
Stubbornly demanding and begging I get my license like all my other high school friends and be allowed to drive with my parents in car, and my father finally relenting, only to find myself losing control of the wheel, with my foot off the pedal and my hands fallen to their sides [and off the wheel] one day driving my family.
Crossing the road, beginning to feel time slow, seeing my dad not far behind me running to catch me before I blacked out.
I was engaged with this painting before I had learned of its background story and the life of Christina Olson.
Looking at her was as if I were seeing myself. Or seeing what I’d have liked to see in myself back then: a portrait of strength, boldness, and ferocity– dignified living.
I stood staring at her for a very long time.
And I’d come back to it again, and again, and again. As if I was drinking from a well.
Fast forward to 2020, having finished this book, which was a light and lovely spin-off and depiction of Christina Olson’s life, I find myself glad to be seeing Christina again, anew.
“The House of the Seven Gables. ‘So much of mankind’s varied experience had passed there that the very timbers were oozy, as with the moisture of a heart.’”
Andrew Wyeth & Christina Olson:
“‘ I wanted to show the contrast with your skin. To highlight you sitting there.’
Now that we’re having this conversation, I realize that I am a little angry. ‘I look like I’m in a coffin with a lid half shut.’
He laughs a little, as he can’t believe I might be upset.
I stare at him evenly.
Running his hand through his hair, he says, ‘I was trying too show your…’ He hesitates. ‘Dignity. Solemnity.’
‘Well, I guess that’s the problem. I don’t think of myself as solemn. I didn’t think you did, either.’
‘I don’t. Not really. It’s just a moment. And it’s not really ‘you.’ Or ‘me.’ Despite what you think.’ His voice trails off. Seeing me struggle with the heavy oven door, he comes over and opens its for me, then slides the baking tray of biscuits in. ‘I think it’s about the house. The mood of it.’ He shuts the oven door. ‘Do you know what I mean?’
‘You make its seem so…’ I cast about for the right word. ‘I don’t know Lonely.’
He sighs. ‘Isn’t it, sometimes?’
For a moment there’s silence between us.
I reach for a dishrag and wipe my floury hands.
‘So how do you think of yourself?’ he asks.
‘You said you don’t think of yourself as solemn. So how do you think of yourself?’
It’s a good question. How do I think of myself?
The answer surprises us both.
‘I think of myself as a girl,’ I say.”
“EVERY WEEK OR ten days a thick letter in a white envelope with a two-cent stamp arrives in the mail. He writes from the library, from the dining hall, from the narrow wooden desk in his dormitory room, by the light of a gas lamp after his rugby-playing, gin-guzzling roommate has gone to sleep. Each envelope, a package of words to feed my word-hungry soul, provides a portal into a world where students linger in wood-paneled classrooms to talk to professors, where entire days can be spent in a library, where what you write and how you write it are all you need to worry about. I imagine myself in his place: strolling across campus, peering up at thick-paned, glowing windows at dusk, going to expensive dinners with friends in Harvard Square, where the waiters wear tuxedos and look down their noses at the unkempt students, and the students don’t care.”
Some Fall 2020 Hits
What one with a penchant for subtlety could wear: beiges, wraps, and mixing hard with soft
A Loungish Fairytale w/ global color pattern +/- flora influences
“Let’s say I want to show off a bit of individuality”
The color pattern and play for Christian Dior’s Look 63 is masterful. Can see this diluted down to so many digestible mass styles
My body may be landlocked, but my dreams are flying out to a faraway place, namely a lush garden with whorls of silk, gems, decadence, and books. With stars ablaze against a light, yellow-blue sky.
Bookmarks and cards to encourage friends during coronavirus days
Inspired illustration from listening to the song Highlands (Song of Ascent) by Hillsong United one morning meditation before work, and I then proceeded to take the illustrated characters from a children’s book I love called Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss to help depict the scene I imagine the song is singing about: to sing when the mountain’s in our way, and to sing when we’re on top of the mountain 🙂
Recycled unused accessories: deconstructed all the materials, organized them in colors, and then began to make things out of them. Here’s a ring, my favorite kind of accessory.
Part of a love letter I made for my younger sister waiting it out in Cambridge.
Don’t know what’s going on here, looks like some kind of pulmonary situation bearing fruit (a la the tree that reaps) – air to my lungs?
There’s a model (originally economics) called hyperbolic discounting, which speaks to the human tendency of choosing a reward now over wanting the greater reward that will happen later. In liberal application, this law can allude to our relative inability to see beyond the seeable, comprehensible distance over the things up close: what is happening or might happen in the immediate future or present. I believe this rings true for the scenario we find ourselves in in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The pain, the discomfort, and the anxieties of the circumstances we find ourselves in are absolutely real. But, we (I) can choose to see beyond for what could happen that could be greater and more meaningful in magnitude over the mess in the immediate– see the good being written even now.
The motifs and the arc defining this story remain to be set in stone. We don’t know what lies ahead for us. We don’t know what the larger picture will be. I’m not referring to the next 2 or 3 years. I’m talking about the next 10, 20, and 30 years.
We must press on in hope, thinking and choosing to look to more hopeful outcomes– to where the real story might be. And in the meantime, be present and do as as much as we can for our family, our friends, and our people.
Some quotes from my journal that I’ve leaving for added contemplation:
"I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them: 1. To vote... for the person they judged more worthy. 2. Speak no evil of the person they voted against, and 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side." - John Wesley, English cleric, theologian, and philanthropist
- What does it mean to really respect instituted authority, respect entities, and respect individuals despite encountering drastically differing opinions, values, or personalities?
- What does it mean for our mental and emotional states when we choose to do the opposite?
My Faith Grounded Musings:
Romans 13:1 on Submission to Governing Authorities
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
As a Christian, I can rationalize the validity of this command or “rule”. When one considers the grounding tenets that define Christianity, a quick survey will reveal some very constant albeit complicated narratives that frame our faith: an everpresent dance and balancing act between the subject of God’s sovereignty, having free will and its impact, and the concept of time that is not linear or as we see it according to modern physics. Following God is not about always having the answers and the whys to everything from the start (I would say I struggled with this question as a believer my whole life until maybe about last year!). Sometimes a situation requires obedience before we are able to see and understand 20/20, even with a controversial verse and command such as this that many Christians either outrightly ignore or struggle with (including myself!)
The fact of the matter though is that God’s word is God’s word. When we say we give our life over to him, we are surrendering our right to picking and parsing things we like and dislike, accept or reject, and that includes where we stand on the merits of the Bible’s commands. When one accepts the truth of the Gospel, the only requirement for being “Christian,” this implies a full and total acceptance of the Bible as the living word (Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”).
*For context, the word of God referred to the written or spoken word of God, and the Bible is accepted as the word of God.