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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Name That Plant (August 26, 2010)

It's not a tall weed, despite what you're thinking. You see, if you give it a name, it can't be considered a weed. It's a plant you've nurtured and grown on purpose. And yes, it's more than six feet tall.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunset for Roxie (Aug. 25, 2010)

I took this photo tonight, since the sunset was so intensely colored. Some people might not like that the wires from telephone poles are in the photo but I actually think it makes it prettier. Telephone wires are everyday stuff, and intense sunsets are amazing. I like the contrast between the mundane and the extraordinary.

This sunset is for Roxanne. Happy Birthday to my most frequent blog-reader. Thanks, RoxStar!

The Elephant Tree (August 25, 2010)

One day, as a boy was getting into the car with his mom, he spotted a wild animal exploring his suburban neighborhood. "Mom, there's an elephant behind our neighbor's house," he shouted with a mix of excitement and disbelief.

His mom looked in the direction he pointed and sure enough, there did appear to be an elephant behind the house across the street. "Let's go check it out," his mom said, and they got into the car, feeling very much like they were on a real safari.

A block away the boy and his mom found the elephant in front of someone's house. It was taller than a house, and it held its head toward the sun. It was actually a tree, growing in a way they had never seen before. Why was it not growing straight up, as many trees do? Why did it have one rebellious branch, growing diagonally in the exact shape of an elephant's trunk? Why did the part leading up to the trunk look exactly like an elephant's head? Neither the boy nor his mom had answers to their questions, and they were just a little bit disappointed that it wasn't a real elephant. But they gazed at the tree with wonder and felt glad that such a magical tree lived in their neighborhood.

Sometimes the boy and his mom imagine that the elephant tree has a secret life after dark. All day long he stays still while others look at him, but night time is his chance to look around. When the neighborhood shuts its eyes and goes to sleep, under the light of the stars the elephant tree stretches his trunk, shakes his ears, and slowly lifts his legs, eager to explore. Through the silent streets he tiptoes (as much as an elephant can tiptoe). Nighttime is his favorite time because he talks to the moon and smells the jasmine growing at his neighbors' houses. Only the moon knows the elephant's secret, because no one ever has ever seen him during his discoveries in the dark. At least not yet...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cement Block Party (August 16, 2010)

Recently I became hyper-aware of a cool design element. I’d noticed it before, but suddenly I saw more of it and was fascinated. Isn’t it funny when you suddenly become attuned to something you know was there before, and you wonder why you hadn’t become interested in it much sooner? Do you know Decorative Cement Block? I LOVE it! A little background on what I dig. I’m an artist and an architecture enthusiast, so I tend to notice architectural elements. The neighborhood where I live is a 1950s and 60s development of Ranch-style houses. Ours was built in 1958 but has no cement block. However, there are two houses a few blocks away with decorative cement block. In my immediate neighborhood of several hundred houses, why are there only two with this decorative element? I want more back story!

Today my newfound infatuation with the decorative block led me to drive through a neighborhood a few miles away, where I’d seen decorative block. I slowed down to take photos, wondering if the owners were inside, thinking that my camera and I looked suspicious. Of course, with my ponytail and red Mickey Mouse shirt, I probably looked unlikely as a spy but maybe that’s what real spies do—they try to look unthreatening! Upon returning home I raced to the computer and (with anticipation mounting) Googled “decorative cement block.” My heart raced with excitement at the images. Google is a treasure trove of info about these blocks, and it connected me to sites created by others who are as excited as I am about vintage architecture and design. I had a memory of seeing a Frank Lloyd Wright design as a child, and decided to research Frank Lloyd Wright’s use of cement block. Here is his quote:

“What about the concrete block? It was the cheapest (and ugliest) thing in the building world. It lived mostly in the architectural gutter as an imitation of rock-faced stone. Why not see what could be done with that gutter rat? Steel rods cast inside the joints of the blocks themselves and… why would it not be fit for a new phase of our modern architecture? It might be permanent, noble, beautiful."

As ideas and images of the blocks swirled through my head, I recalled the first two times I was aware of them. It was when I was a kid. I remember seeing decorative blocks used as a room divider in someone’s house. I’m not sure whose house it was, but there were some 1960s houses not far from where we lived. I must have been less than ten years old, but I remember it. I was intrigued by this divider—the materials were not what I associated with the inside of a house. It divided the space, but let in light. As a child I drew daily and as a teen discovered architecture, but at eight or ten years old I didn’t have the vocabulary yet to identify what I saw and liked. And yet 25 years later I remember this room divider. It made quite an impression.

My other memory about cement blocks involves my Aunt Betty. She is an artist and teacher and when I was about ten, she took me to an art exhibit where she had a piece of art. I remember the experience, and her telling me how I could apply to enter exhibits, too. For that particular show you had to be at least eighteen, which seemed light years off. But I remember that day! I recall the bright lights from the ceiling, the white walls, the art displayed, and all the people milling about. We must have gone to Hollyhock House that day, too, as it was in Barnsdall Park, where the exhibit was. At ten I’d never heard of Frank Lloyd Wright, but seeing Hollyhock House was my introduction to the legendary architect. (Thank you, Aunt Betty! I’ll always appreciate that you wanted to nurture my creative spark, showing me art beyond my own collection of crayons.).

The block is interesting to me in its geometry. When made into a wall it has vertical and horizontal lines but also has creative shapes within it. It is structural and functional but also decorative. I like that it is humble, too. Cement can hardly be called pretentious, but it still has such a cool look. I read today that decorative block was a staple in midcentury modern design, a style I like for its geometry and innovative use of space. A trip to Palm Springs to ogle the 1950s architecture is in the works. I drove by another house today, a mile from mine. Just a few days ago I'd noticed its wall of decorative cement block, which is painted a Notice Me shade of turquoise (bravo to them for appreciating their block, as well as color!). Why had I not noticed the house before? I started to really look for more block and discovered three more houses on the next street, houses I’d driven by hundreds of (or a thousand) times. How could I have missed it? Now I’m on a hunt for block. Some people might not understand my appreciation of this material, but if it’s a block party just for one, that’s ok by me!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Perfect Combination (August 11, 2010)

Some matches seem to be made in Heaven. This happy couple met the day that each finished a contract in the Food Service department. Although it was their final day at work, once they met neither felt empty, instead filled with joy. They say that while their origins are different, they have a lot in common and feel like yin and yang, the perfect complement to each other.

They celebrated their union on Saturday, surrounded by many friends. The bride was resplendent in white and the groom cut a dashing figure in black. The bride's attendants were Rosemary and Ginger, long-time friends she had grown up with in The Cabinet, a neighborhood marked by diversity and flavor.

The couple is honeymooning in the Spice Islands and is excited to start their new life together. As Pepper said when he toasted his bride, "From now on, wherever you find one of us, you'll find the other."

Friday, August 6, 2010

You're Fired! (Aug. 6, 2010)

Firing changes everything. Just ask Donald Trump.

On second thought, let's leave him out of this. His gigantic ego is too big to fit in this blog!

Back to firing. The ceramic variety, that is. Here are two photos of a tile I painted. The top photo shows the tile before being fired in a kiln, and the lower photo is what the tile looked like after firing. Isn't it cool to see the ways in which the colors have changed due to firing? What I loved about my time at the ceramics studio was the freedom I felt. I kept layering color, with no fixed expectations about which would dominate after the tile was fired. So it's a fun surprise to see how it turned out. The yellow and orange parts are now brighter. The red surprised me by really coming through, even though there were all kinds of colors layered over it. The purple, blue and green became darker.

This serendipity is one reason I love tie-dye, too. With certain art forms, the artist creates but there is also an element of surprise in the result. Embracing life's unpredictability is probably key to survival (physical as well as emotional). We often cannot control the result.

Nobody wants to be fired. But if it happens, maybe it can be the catalyst to something even better: like the kiln, it might bring about change that is even brighter than you imagined...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Work in Progress (Aug. 5, 2010)

Here are two photos of a mosaic piece I'm working on. I designed it myself, and it features my favorite animal: the flamingo. I love this creature for several reasons. They are pink (a happy, beautiful color). They are so different from many other birds with their curvy, long necks. I love their one-legged stance. If you hadn't seen them with your own eyes, you'd think they were the creation of a cartoonist because their anatomy is so exaggerated--almost comical!

Usually I don't show a piece of my art until it's finished. I'm sure it has a lot to do with wanting to show something at its best. But I'm challenging myself to be less concerned with peoples' reactions/approval. Showing something in progress is a baby step.

I also wanted to see if I could post 2 photos in the same posting. I'm in the Fred Flintstone-era when it comes to technology. In case you haven't watched an episode of the Flintstones lately, at Fred's work there is a brachiosaurus who lifts things up on his head. Isn't that how you "upload?" Yeah, my reference point is not exactly cutting-edge. But ALL BY MYSELF I figured out how to upload more than one photo per post. Yippee! Progress, baby!