Love

Fell in love with the coolest paintings today. Finger paintings! Check out the gorgeous artwork from Iris Scott.

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A fun discovery

Have you read anything from UC-Berkeley’s “Greater Good” center? Among their “core themes” of research and writing is happiness, as well as mindfulness and altruism. Explore here. Want something else fun to do this weekend? Take Keri Smith’s advice in the amazing How to Be An Explorer of the World  and uncover a mystery:

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New Books & Interviews….

I’m reading Sonja Lyubormirsky’s The Myths of Happiness this weekend. Her initial chapters focus on family and relationships; for example, how parenting impacts your happiness, why the initial infatuation with a romantic partner fades, and how to revive it, while later sections will cover work and related issues. One interesting thing that Lyubormirsky discusses is how novelty is good for individuals and relationships: couples who add new and challenging activities, like travel, to their life report greater happiness than those who have a set routine, and so do singles. It’s based on a psychological term called “hedonic adaptation”–we adapt very quickly to new jobs, houses, and material possessions and our first blast of happiness fades–what once was exciting becomes merely pleasant or we take it totally for granted. Even though Lyubormirsky’s approach is very grounded in the sciences, I can see a lot of overlap between her data and Tammy Strobel’s suggestions about downsizing in You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap!). That new car? The new wears off, so you’re better off spending more time with family and friends and less time working to buy stuff.

Other cool things that happened this week on the Internet:

News: New column over at the Daily Muse!

  • I am taking over Molly Donovan’s weekly column at the Daily Muse. It’s called “What to Read on the Subway This Week.” Check out my first week of suggestions here.
  • I’m so stretched out from yoga last night. Pigeon pose totally kicked my {always-tight} right hip around, especially since I’ve been avoiding that pose lately. Gotta keep at it.
  • I’ve been painting a lot lately and was accepted into a local art show. I’m trying to decide whether or not to say yes. In the words of Brene Brown, this is one of my vulnerability moments. Manning a booth in front of the public is a scary proposition. Here is one of my new paintings. If I get brave, I’ll probably try to sell this one:

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Celebrating Fall: A List

The weather has been beautiful this week. The semester has started in earnest, so I’m back on-campus in the sunshine. I feel a little wistful because I’m not taking any classes–if money were no object, I’d take more art history, honestly. The department offers Egyptian art now!–but I’m using the free time to do more freelance work, paint, and read. Some fun things worth mentioning:

  • I got very brave and entered a local artists exhibition on campus. Very casual stuff, but I’m hoping I’ll be accepted. Fingers crossed!
  • Tutoring is off to a fantastic start this semester–my new tutoring coworkers are wonderful.
  • YD has a great post on meditation.
  • I really recommend Keri Smith’s How to Be An Explorer of the World. I caved & bought it, after talking about it a few posts ago. It has dozens of wonderful exercises for art and writing projects. In Smith’s words, “Anything can be a starting place. Begin where you are.” Yogic, right?
  • Also fun: Vivian Swift’s When Wanderers Cease to Roam. I received it as a Christmas gift and just started reading it recently. Swift, an artist & writer, traveled the world in her youth with the Peace Corps & has now settled down on Long Island Sound. Part memoir, part graphic novel, When Wanders Cease to Roam is organized by month and contains Swift’s memories of interesting things in her life and quirky daily observations. She does fantastic watercolor and line drawings. You can see an excerpt here on NPR’s website.
  • In a similar vein, this review over at Bill & Dave’s Cocktail Hour has me tempted to–what else?–buy more books! Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life sounds like an interesting project. {I’m diagnosing myself with “Sudden-Onset Book Lemming Disorder,” ladies & gentlemen.} Actually, I think Smith, Rosenthal, & Swift’s books could form the reading for a really fun elective on writing and craft–the intersections of memoir, everyday life, and craft projects. How cool would that be? I could envision students making their own art/memoir journals.
  • Just saw this post on Mason Jar Cakes from Niki Lowry at The Daily Muse. I’m a little klutzy at baking, but these are SO adorable. Mason jars are nifty; I saw a DIY project that repurposed them as  painted pendant lights recently too. My inner southern girl hearts mason jars.

Setting Intentions?

You may have noticed that lots of individuals and organizations are setting intentions as the season changes. You can read more about them here. My intention is too incorporate more physical activity in my day as the weather gets cooler. And paint more! I’m finding the painting commitment easier to follow, because it is so relaxing.

This is my newest painting, inspired by the artist Flora Bowley.

BohemiaNotes: Paintings

Back when I wrote regularly for The Polycultural, I had a mini-column I called BohemiaNotes. I chose the title as a play on “bohemian” and a place to document things I thought were cool and somewhat different from the norm in terms of education & creativity. I wrote about Black Mountain College, the 1940s-60s-era NC art school that encouraged studio time and on-campus work as part of their degrees, as well as the Unschooling movement. Unschooling is a type of fluid curriculum where kids are homeschooled, but in a self-directed, creative way.

I intended to review Laren Stover’s Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living on the Edge for The Polycultural, but never got around to it. Stover’s book is a pleasant read, filled with anecdotes about bohemians from the nineteenth-century to the late 1960s. She finds stories and quotes about the creative process that are interesting. Her critics might suggest she’s a little slick, a little too commercial–she avoids the downsides of unheated flats and the book is prettily illustrated with cute watercolor beatniks–but still. It’s nice to glamorize artistic eccentrics in this era, which seems so different, so much faster, and yet, sometimes narrow and self-limiting. That’s what I get from The Bohemian Manifesto and a lot of the writers on my blogroll: we have much more creative potential than we give ourselves credit for. How many times have you heard someone say Oh I could never do that?  But do we really know until we try?

Recently, I dragged out a bunch of canvases and supplies from my undergrad art classes–as an Art History major, I had to take studio art credits and at the time I was just petrified that I would failfailfail, but it was a really fun experience. I had a great teacher named Eric Lawing–and I was surprised at how much I actually liked the old paintings. Back then, I was obsessed with  texture and Monet.  Still am, actually–I like texture and roughness more than polish, even in writing.

I’m playing with my art supplies again, inspired by Mae Chevrette. Here’s a mixed-media I did over the weekend and this week, with a Picasso quote from Stover’s book and a copy of a photo taken in Paris years ago. I’m not entirely happy with the smudginess of the letters, but I’m going to keep working on it.

Body Art & Art Fraud (Yes? No? Maybe?)

If you haven’t discovered the website Brainpickings, you’re missing out. It’s a trove of fantastic articles on creativity, education, science, writing and other topics. My favorite new post from them is one on Keri Smith’s book, How to Be An Explorer of the World.  

My favorite piece of Smith’s advice? “Everything is interesting. Look closer.”

And I did get to watch the documentary Here’s Looking at You: A Celebration of Body Art (2005) this week. It was fascinating. If you’ve read Studs Turkel’s Working, a collection of interview accounts of people and their jobs that Turkel transcribed in the first person, I would say this documentary takes a Turkel-ish approach to body adornment. Subjects talk about their tattoos, hair color, piercings, and other choices without mediation from the filmmakers. You get access to individual voices in an interesting way. However, as the subtitle suggests, this is a positive look at body art–no stories of disappointment or regret–just people talking proudly about their choices.

 I also watched the My Kid Could Paint That (2007) about the controversy surrounding child artist Marla Olmstead. Acclaimed for her abstract paintings at four years old, the authenticity of Marla’s work was later called into question by CBS news during the filming of this documentary; Charlie Rose’s 60 Minutes broadcast essentially accuses Olmstead’s parents of faking her work themselves. As the scandal unfolds, the filmmaker and interview subjects grapple with the implications of being accused of cheating and you see various reactions–denial, grief, opportunism. This documentary was more painful to watch than someone being tattoo’d, actually.

Little Marla is shown as being confused and sometimes seems anxious at gallery events, while the stress surrounding the film highlights the differences between her parents. Her mother wants her to have a normal life, while her father seems more attracted to the attention and fame his daughter is receiving. One thing I found irritating was the filmmaker’s repeated reliance on Elizabeth Cohen, a local news reporter who first covered Marla, to give perspective and context. My issue with Cohen is that she seems a little too self-satisified, frequently proclaiming that she saw this all coming. I don’t think anyone could have honestly anticipated either the success or the scandal surrounding this little girl.

What could be anticipated, however, is the art world’s fascination with fame. There’s a scene in My Kid Could Paint That where the gallery owner representing Marla talks a rich older couple into buying a particular work. He keeps reassuring them, “this one is in the movie {a film of Marla painting a work, done to prove that she was doing the work herself}, so it will be really famous.” Despite the fact that the couple doesn’t seem to actually like that painting, they give into his pressure and buy it. What’s interesting is that the scene implies that Marla’s fame as a child prodigy–not the individual works of art–is the thing that really matters, even to buyers. As you watch the couple drive off in a flashy Hummer, you suspect that they bought the painting so they could say they owned “a Marla” to impress someone else rather than buying something for their own enjoyment. The “Marlas” are status pieces, at least for many of their buyers–and that is reflected in their behavior towards Marla herself. They want to get close to her or ask her about her opinions, despite the fact that she is obviously a normal preschooler. It’s alarming to watch.

This resonated with a book I read this week, Aly Sujo and Lainey Salisbury’s excellent Provenance: How A Con Man and A Forger Re-Wrote the History of Art. By focusing on a famous British case, the authors reveal how much fraud and forgery is at the heart of the art world. They describe how this hunger for famous art allowed John Drewe, a con artist, to falsify provenances for work by a struggling single father and pass them off as Braques, Picassos, Matisses, and Giacomettis.

What about Marla? Was her art real? Does it matter? My Kid Could Paint That avoids a simple answer. She’s now twelve years old. And she’s still painting.

Yoga Miscellanea

Miscellanea is a word, right? It’s one of those that seems made-up, I think. Some things I’ve been doing lately that fall under the general category of yogic hodge-podge:

    • I’ve just finished reading Lucy O’Brien’s Madonna: Like An Icon. That might not sound overly-yogic, but O’Brien looks at Madonna’s self-invention and influences, including yoga and eastern culture. It’s a solid biography because O’Brien, while sympathetic, isn’t afraid to reveal the inconsistencies in Madonna’s behavior. What’s interesting to me is how much Madonna typifies “complex personhood,” Avery F. Gordon’s description of how human beings will do things that contradict their stated intentions or seem counter-initutive. In Madonna’s case that means embracing yoga and mysticism, but also marrying the ultra-macho Guy Ritchie and subsequently taking on the very un-mystical and un-yogic persona of an English aristocrat and remaining a competitive businesswoman (among many other examples). But Madonna’s reasons for taking up yoga—at least according to O’Brien—leading to her  Ray of Light album are actually fairly relatable. O’Brien describes her as frazzled, frustrated by the reception of her previous work, tired of her current lifestyle, and looking for something settled and meaningful. Those are the same reason many women (and men) are drawn to yoga, even if they aren’t pop icons. The difference between Madonna and the rest of us seems to be the degree to  which she revamps her life in response to her frustrations–like Jane Fonda, another Hollywood icon of transformation–she seems deeply mutable. O’Brien pegs this as a sign of Madonna’s deep-seated insecurity stemming from her childhood, claims that are hard to dispute.
    • I’ve also been reading Christina Sell’s My Body is a Temple, which acts as a kind of meditation-slash-workbook for questions of wholeness, body image, and goals. While I’m not really a guru-oriented person like Sell seems to be {read: I don’t have a spiritual advisor or guru}, I think the questions she raises at the end of each section are fantastic what-if exercises that can help you, if you’re trying to figure out where you are in your beliefs, practices, and goals. Sell talks about her own struggles with body image, eating disorder, and how difficult it can be to remain consistent with your goals. She argues that sometimes you just aren’t ready until you’re ready–seeing it as a spiritual process–and that willpower alone sometimes isn’t enough, if you’re struggling with addiction. I haven’t finished the book yet, and will probably write more about the exercises later.
    • Rosie Molinary is doing a series of free exercises in August for her Shine program and Mara Glatzel (of Medicinal Marzipan fame) has retooled her website.
    • In my free time, I’ve been thinking about crafts, jewelry, and adornment. I have a PBS documentary from the library on body art that I want to watch this weekend that talks about tattoos on a spectrum of bodily art and adornment. I’m not quite brave enough for a tattoo {yet–maybe one day!}, but I do love jewelry. I made this little craft bracelet myself: 
    • I’ve also been writing a lot this month and listening to Krishna Das on Pandora. I’m particularly drawn to Om Namah Shivaya. I don’t know why it appeals to me more than other kirtan songs and mantras, but it does.