AND TAKE THIS, CANCER!

Life is so weird.  Grand pianos from the sky can be just missing your head, and most of us wouldn’t notice.  And then there is some universal equalizer in life that smooths down the bad parts if we can simply see it, coming to us at the same time.

With Kathryn, I would have thought the message would have been received with more clarity.  It took three car accidents within months, falling down the back steps on ice, all events happening on the left side of her body, to get her to notice that something else was going on there.  And it wasn’t pregnancy.

Although the cyst was as big as a baby, the surgery was certainly not the same.  Then there was the colon cancer part.  This is where the universe presents problems, and then solutions.  Kathryn’s friend, me, has sooooo done this colon cancer thing.  Here I can help.  Colon cancer was the pivotal event in our family (my parents and three girls), and then important in my life, but not the most.

She is going to lose some body parts, for sure.  Here is another place where the universe provides:  I stitched a womb in a new series of embroideries, and gave it to her two years ago.  If she wants one, she has it.  Kathryn is my same age, and those parts mean nothing to me, but they do to some.

frankly my dear

The cancer lingo is different now then when I had colon cancer.  The last woman who did my mammogram called those years of the mid-nineties the “dark ages” of cancer (for my dad, dying in the ’70s, it must have been the Paleolithic).   Looking up what docs now call “frank” cancer, meaning that they are sure cancer is present, I would say, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”.  And keep thinking that while you do everything medical.  Brain shift in whatever age one finds oneself is required.  Feed yourself the correct narrative.

And find symbols.  Like the stitched womb, for a start.  Kathryn will find her own.

hammered aluminumCollecting hammered aluminum objects during my chemotherapy and long after, they shielded and comforted.  Also had two pairs of purple suede penny loafers during that time; wore them every day and wore them out too, but they stomped over cancer cells.

loafer

Do you know the first life affirming thing she did from the hospital bed?  She bought a sweet little house!  She has it down.

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THE SPACE BETWEEN THINGS

the-hat-makes-the-man-1920.jpg!Blog

The Hat Makes the Man“, 1920,  Max Ernst

Images of things seen push around and populate the crevices of my brain.  Or maybe not the images themselves; the feelings experienced when seeing images is what lurks there.  In the example above, finding the image again and presenting it here was a surprise.  It looked unexpected, but was the one.  An artist takes away what she needs and flings away the rest.  Steal the core of the thing and push on.  “You take it, it’s yours”, Picasso said.

Why do I think of this famous image?  It has to do with the way aluminum tumblers are piled up on my fireplace.  They are not all the same size or color or style, but they are cylinders, irregular, unstable.  They have potential energy, but happily, they do not fall.

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All things are connected: from Max Ernst and Surrealism to my sister to my husband to my father to men in hats to my St. Louis childhood and then back to art like a cat who chases her own tail.  Inside that circle is my reality.

“Hats are chick-magnets”, said my stepson.  He is right.  He learned that from his dad.  I love his hats and caps.  In St. Louis this weekend, we went to Levine Hats.  Glenn had spoken of this place, and I wanted to see it.  Glenn wanted a hat.

The place is a hundred years old.  The pattern and organization there is stunning.  That is what art IS,  bygawd, pattern and organization.

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Did not expect the hovering hats when I walked in.  Or the beautiful armature.  It was magic.

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British royalty?

1-levine 2Straw caps.

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Upstairs, better deals.

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And a closer examination of the shelving structure.  Common string stretched in diagonals between parallel lines, letting the hats breathe and making them seem to hover in space.

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This color is a neutral, try it with anything.

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For use on March 17, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police in the back.

On both levels of the building, one can see the original metal pressed ceiling.  Long ago, felt hats were actually made here.  Now they are only modified when sold.

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Love this misalignment of shapes which approaches the Ernst image.  They are only similar in that there are hats present, but the variety of sizes of shapes between the hats feels familiar.

When I showed the pictures on my camera to sister Nancy, she recognized Levine’s immediately.  Said she had been there when small with our dad; the business had been almost fifty years old then.  I missed out on what would have been an important early experience for me.  Always keep your eyes open.

GOOD BONES

A little crazy recently about clear coating most of our collection of old lawn chairs and gliders, I have been spending too much time with a wood chisel eliminating dense and easy rust for the upcoming application.

Playing mind games while working and wondering why these old chairs mean so much to me, I thought about other collections, including those of my husband.  He wears a fedora (has many), listens to music from the forties and collects old suitcases, and loves old trucks both toy and not.   I have collected old dinette sets, hammered aluminum tableware, those multi colored aluminum tumblers, aluminum chairs from WW II submarines, and gawd knows what else.

As a child, we did not own those tumblers.  Or hammered aluminum.  But they are very evocative and comforting to me.

Andy Warhol put frames around mundane things to elevate them to symbolism.  Could the things themselves be canvases?

We did have a dinette set.  You know the ones.  Tubular, sometimes with a great insert that tucks away underneath, and always with that pattern.  This pattern is stunning to me as it is so evocative of my youth.

I  stared down this surface every day while waiting for my Chef Boyardee or Cream of Wheat.  I ended up going into a field of art that is totally organized around pattern.  Pattern, the way to understand the world.  Pattern, my comfort.

In art history class, in discussion about non-objective or non-representational art work, I urged the students to forget about the “middle man” of subject matter, and and to look at this work as representative of pure emotion.  You don’t have to paint, for example, a man being sad to express sadness.  You can simply paint the sadness.  The pure emotional form.

Now, working on these old chairs, the question is whether or not these chairs could be a canvas on which emotion can be layered.  Their shape is evocative, their layers of paint are history.  Can I modify these surfaces at will and make an artistic statement?

BEFORE AND AFTER

In these dog days, reality around here felt like one of those stress dreams where you cannot get your legs to work, or you keep trying to fit through openings that are too small for you.  Things were moving slowly in construction, my art, and the pool deck.

Painting has been going on, as you can see from the images above.  And I have stuccoed the cinder block foundation wall in the last two days.  One hand is nearing twice as big as the other now.

But two men arrived ten minutes ago, and the interior floor of the new master bedroom is being laid!  We had a short discussion about the threshold, and came to a quick agreement.  Having tons of marble recovered through dumpster diving years ago, we will make a pieced, in sections of eighteen inches, threshold stretching the length of the french doors between the main house and the new master.   This marble has been used in the main house as thresholds between rooms, as fancier windowsills, installed on top of the wooden ones, and (more interested in aesthetics than cooking) as my kitchen counter tops.

Between the great room and the dining room in the 1939 big house,  I needed to piece together marble to fit the vacant space left by removing a wall.  The marble was found in 18 inch lengths.  You can see this length also in my counter top.

A wider eighteen inch length was set up the wall under one of the kitchen windows and three courses around the stove, here to the right.  In the foreground is a fancy hammered aluminum coffee pot with its original cord.  Crazy about those old cords!  Behind that is an old mixer.

Above are the marble lengths used as window sills in the laundry room with part of an old iron collection poised for use.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE CHEAP METAL

A personal seminal event occurred in NYC years ago when traveling with my friend Clay.  We went to a commercial gallery associated with the Whitney, and on the back wall they had installed metal outdoor roofing.  OMG, it was one of those moments where you worry about not having had that experience because it looms so important in your life story.

Since then, and that was the eighties,  old fashioned metal roofing has been used in traditional or nontraditional ways on every building I have built or refurbished.  It is such a statement about southern culture.   Above is Glenn’s sculpture studio in the new barn.  He brought this old roofing from his acreage in Missouri, so installed here is part of his old homestead in his new space.  You can see a bit of the actual tin roof that covers the whole barn at the top of the image.

This is the entry to my old studio, now more of a guest house, and this building is also covered in and out, with metal roofing.  Below, we are under this porch roof, and looking out to the “big” house, which is glowing under its tin roof.

When my daughter was about seventeen, the two of us installed the ceiling tin in the guest house.  What a job, cutting and drilling above our heads.

At the table above are two examples of aluminum side chairs from WWII.  They are light as a feather and were made for use in submarines.  They introduce my other cheap metal love,  aluminum, especially “hammered”.  Below, Glenn’s latest piece stands in silhouette along with a couple of my camera-shy mosaics.  The ceiling illuminates the window to one of the gardens.

Don’t get me going about the aforementioned hammered aluminum, or old chrome tubed dinette sets.  We will be here forever.

Synchronicity:  As I write this post, the building supply company’s truck just drove up with the metal roofing for our new addition.  Isn’t it grand when actual life is like a strange movie? And the movie is about tin roofs?