rebeccmeister: (1x)
Saturday morning I met M over at the BAP to pick up oars and drive to the Open Water Rowing Center and practice the race course for the OWRC Regatta in two weeks. We were lucky to have S as our course guide. He's half of the Old Man Double and used to sail, so he knows a thing or two about precision navigating.

Our race course will be entirely within Richardson Bay, which is well sheltered compared to other parts of the Bay. Even so, there's a lot of open space to cover, which means lots of room to accidentally steer a very wide course. I guess a couple years ago S wrote a short novel explaining how to effectively steer the race course, and after reading it last Thursday evening I became even more convinced that a practice run would be incredibly helpful.

And it was. I wish I'd had a bit more time to take some pictures, but we were focused on getting the work done. The OWRC's dock is nestled in in a lovely little part of Sausalito - I guess you can check the webcam to see for yourself! The weather was absolutely beautiful and clear, which enabled us to see all of the landmarks and channel markers. It was useful to get the sightseeing aspect out of the way so we can focus while we race. Some of the open-water skiffs stored at the OWRC were cool, too, so I will aim to take photos when we go back for the regatta in 2 weeks.


From there, I hightailed over to the lab to take food away from the crickets, then headed in to San Francisco to meet up with a friend at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

It's challenging for me to try to simultaneously catch up with someone and also gaze at art, but I'm glad to have had a chance to distractedly check out SFMOMA because I probably wouldn't have gone for a visit on my own otherwise. It's a small enough museum that one can visit everything in a single trip, but it's on the larger end of my preferred range of art museum sizes. I also spend enough time at contemporary art museums to find it kind of odd to just look at stuff that's mostly already comfortably within the established artistic canon. I guess I like the sense of freshness and dialogue that comes from viewing very new work, in lieu of just having my eyes land on Duchamp's sideways urinal or Warhol's prints.

I did, however, like William Allan's aesthetic, particularly his landscape paintings of the Sea of Cortez and Deception Pass. In person, it's easy to get lost in their vibrant luminosity. There were a number of other works spread throughout the museum that exhibited similar extreme levels of meticulous painting and drawing, which is interesting as a common element.

Two examples include Lesende (Reader), by Gerhard Richter and Wall Drawing 1247, by Sol LeWitt.

This image tickled my funny bone the most. It reminded me of Stella Marr.
No Radio - SFMOMA
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So last weekend, [ profile] scrottie and I took the train up to Seattle. Our visit had two three main goals ("fear, surprise, and a ruthless efficiency!...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope!"):

-Go skiing
-Visit [ profile] annikusrex and enjoy some primo baby-viewing
-Haul the rest of my belongings and a couple of [ profile] sytharin's things back to California

Oh, also visiting my parents. I keep getting confused about the proper terminology for this, but during our visit my dad was at the low point following his second 5-FU infusion during this set of chemotherapy treatments for his now-chronic liver cancer. Even though he was tired, he managed to share a story with us about a childhood experience with the Madison River ice gorge, and even managed to finish his Saturday chore routine (albeit on Sunday). A short but sweet chance to check in with him and my mom.

Anyway, skiing was successful, to judge by S's grin here:
The look of a happy skier

And also I did not die and I might even consider going downhill skiing again sometime in the future.

Baby-viewing was also successful, and especially satisfying given that F just now fits into the chicken hat that had arrived when I visited last October, 2 days before he got ejected from the womb.
The chicken hat now fits
(of course, my smart-o-phone photography still leaves much to be desired. sigh)

Stuff-hauling was mostly* successful. I only had around 6-7 boxes of things left at my parents' house, which isn't a huge amount, and yet on our last visit it was clear that my parents would appreciate the extra free space and peace of mind. My mom has been one of the ringleaders for clearing out stuff from both my great-grandma's house and my grandpa's house and barn, so she's no stranger to dealing with other people's stuff. But to me that also suggests that she's extra appreciative when other people take the initiative to tackle stuff management.

Some items went straight to the Goodwill pile, after a brief farewell:
Childhood relics
I don't know if anyone really wants ratty old stuffed animals or the velvety shawl, but at least Goodwill knows what to do with them?

Including three t-shirts kept for purely sentimental reasons:
Original rowing kit
Size XXL from my Freshman year of high school, yeesh

Oscar Romero t-shirt from El Salvador, 1994
A favorite shirt from my trip to El Salvador in high school

FMLN t-shirt from El Salvador, 1994
Shirt for the main political party leading the resistance to the Salvadoran government during the Salvadoran Civil War - Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front

I dispatched some old, bad art from college as well. This painting was the least-worst item:
College painting class

...And then we loaded the rest into the back of a rental car and drove it back to California.

So, now what? I think that, for the next phase of things, Project-Land will have two fronts. One front will involve continuing to go through those six or so boxes and deciding what to keep and what to move along. I suspect that, for instance, I will get rid of the Girl Scout manuals, because I didn't quite like Girl Scouts anyway and mostly kept the manuals as evidence for why. I also discovered that the worst object out of the lot, a neon light shaped like an abstract rowing shell, has burned out, and so now I'm free to dispose of it according to local disposal guidelines. Hallelujah and whew. I am still scratching my head over what I will do with the fine china from my grandma that was rarely/never used. We will potentially take it out for an Extreme Picnic.

The second front for Project-Land is the acquisition and creation of new objects. At the moment, I have slightly too many ideas and ambitions, but really that's my default mode. I need to read and learn more about quilting options other than hand-quilting. I'm also getting ready to start knitting something again (a hat, specifically). And there are a half-dozen things I want to make/sew. It has been helpful to look back on all of the older objects, while thinking about future ones, for the sake of deciding to put time and care into planning for the future items.

*Unsuccessful part: [ profile] sytharin had asked us to bring down two of her sculptures, plus her scythe. I remembered the scythe, but didn't remember the sculptures until we had already driven all the way to Portland. Sigh.
rebeccmeister: (Iheartcoffee)
Fortunately, the highs outweigh the lows, by a long shot.

Several years ago, [ profile] annikusrex took a splendiferous End of Law School trip to Scotland, where she got to enjoy all the Scotch and beautiful countryside. She also took photos and gifted me one as a large print on some really cool paper. Seeing as I have generally been terrible about putting artwork in frames, I requested that a subsequent gift series consist of framing the print. Then, of course, shipping a framed print becomes a project in and of itself. And so yesterday evening, I received the long-anticipated beautiful picture! I'm looking forward to hanging it up in a good spot that will encourage contemplation in a landscape-y fashion. It will also provide encouragement for curation of the art gallery which is the bedroom, heh.

So that's a high point. A low point is tied to another weekly high point: as is our usual, [ profile] sytharin, [ profile] scrottie, L and I biked to a coffeeshop this morning for breakfast. This time we went to a place that feels over-wrought, Artis Coffee. A little overwroughtness can be okay, but in the world of coffee sometimes people take things a little too far. Regardless, the espresso was lovely. What was not so lovely was what happened when we went to unlock our bicycles and RAC discovered that someone had made off with her Novara trunk/pannier bag. She had locked her bike up in plain sight and was basically watching it the whole time we were enjoying breakfast. I was kicking myself because I should have realized that strip would be high in petty crime due to its proximity to areas with a lot of criminal activity. I was also incredibly lucky that the thief did not make off with *my* pannier instead, which was expensive (the Arkel one) and contained all my bike tools, my coffee mug, and a favorite wool shirt. While RAC's bag was a loss, it was not a catastrophic loss.

Lesson learned. I won't be complacent about leaving stuff on my bike again, even though it's a hassle to haul everything in with me.

I have such mixed feelings about that neighborhood. It's very close to the boathouse, and Catahoua Coffee, two blocks away, is nice and seems reasonably down-to-earth. But it's also full of Nouveau Riche stuff like Whole Paycheck and Crate and Barrel and the like. Bleagh.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I've been playing a Scrabble-like game online with a friend about once a week or so. She generally completely kicks my butt, but somehow or another I picked up some good tiles yesterday, including all four high-scoring ones (J, Q, X, Z). In addition, I managed to put together a bingo, and I even had a second one in my rack (LUMPERS or RUMPLERS) but I couldn't put it anywhere. S also managed a bingo, and so in the end I won with 396 points to her 378. Maybe I should start keeping track of game totals.

Anyway, here was our final board:
High-scoring game

Later in the day, I told [ profile] sytharin that I would lend her a hand with projects out in the garden. First things first, I went on a quick trip over to the store to pick up more potting soil to replace the soil I'd used up, so she can start a bunch of interesting seeds. Things like a pink banana plant, for example.

When I returned, she was underway with another project, mixing and pouring plaster for a ceramics wedging table:

Plaster preparation

Have you ever mixed and poured plaster before? I've dealt with it a lot, in the context of making ant nests. So I was a touch nervous when RAC said she'd been mixing the plaster and water for about 5 minutes by that point. So then she got ready to pour:
Plaster pouring

...slightly more liquid than she'd hoped...

Plaster pouring

...kind of thick towards the bottom...and you can see how it's starting to leak out of the mold, too...

Plaster pouring

After things reached this stage, I stopped taking pictures and started helping out. A spare board helped reduce the leak rate, and then we managed to scoop a bunch of the plaster back into the mold. If you ever find yourself wanting to make a plaster clay wedging table, I have a small piece of advice: put a small strip of clay along the seams, to seal them off.

Oh, actually, multiple pieces of advice. I think the mixing ratio that RAC used was probably okay. It was the ratio on the package. Anyway, other advice. Do what she did and get one of those drill attachments for mixing paint. Always add plaster to water, not the other way around. And maybe put the form onto something that's slightly easier to tap/vibrate/relocate to knock out as many of the bubbles as possible. In this case it would have helped to have something like a moving dolly. That would have helped with the splashing, too.

For clean-up, have a bucket of water ready to go for immediately after you pour. Use the water to rinse out and dilute the plaster that remains in your mixing vessel and on your mixing equipment. You don't need a ton of water, but enough to loosen things up. Removing hardened plaster is often more difficult, but another alternative is to work with a flexible mixing vessel. If you generate a bunch of waste liquid, pour it into a big bucket and let it sit for a week or more. The plaster residue will sink to the bottom and you will be able to pour off the water. Then, once things have dried out, you'll have an easier time disposing of the residue. I believe there's actually a way to recharge it, but it might involve temperatures that are too high for doing this at home.

Then I did some cooking, and I have no idea where the rest of the day went.
rebeccmeister: (cricket)
This morning on Twitter, I have encountered this article describing what has become of Facebook, and, you know, it's true. One of the most irritating elements is how, if I look at something, and then ten minutes later, I want to go back and look at it again, I have to work darned hard to actually track it down.

Yes, there are many parts of the internet that I would rather pay for directly instead, like LJ, which doesn't meddle with the presentation order. Harumph.


Every time I sit down to work on an academic presentation, I am overcome by a powerful itch to draw things. Sometime in the near future, I am going to give a talk at a brunch seminar series that is hosted by the insect museum here, so of course I started feeling like all of my visual aids needed updating. And you know, they did need updating, because the last time I sat down to draw out crickets was towards the beginning of all of this cricket work, before I really got to know their anatomy in greater detail.

I'm really glad to have worked on that freelance illustration project last fall, because retaining familiarity with Illustrator helped me massively streamline my cricket illustrations yesterday.

For some reason, I haven't been putting my illustrations online. But I've changed my mind. Here are a few favorites. They are very un-fancy, but that works best for presentations, eh?




Riot Grrrl

Jan. 11th, 2016 05:36 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I think I was largely introduced to the whole Riot Grrrl movement through friends in high school. That was a funny period. I didn't care for grunge, so I basically ignored it and most other popular music from the time, concentrating on classical music instead. But some feminist elements leaked through; I can remember going to hear Ani DiFranco (and Utah Phillips!) at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and encountering Riot Grrrl elements while there, and shortly thereafter [ profile] annikusrex got really into Sleater-Kinney and Miranda July, so I got into all of it by proxy. Empowering stuff for teenage girls in high school and the beginnings of college.

That said - the Alien She exhibit of artefacts from the Riot Grrrl movement made me aware of additional things about the movement that have affected my view of the world, from the feminist perspective on boy band culture to the ways that women have taken ownership in the DIY movement. This is my cultural heritage, in ways that I can never quite articulate to people when I live in places like Boston, Arizona, Texas, and Nebraska.

I wasn't in the right space to fully take in the show, but I suspect few people have been in that kind of space, because aspects of the movement were prolific. There's a huge collection of zines, for instance, many of which can be taken down off a shelf and read. There was a panel collage of someone's mixed tape collection covers, and there were multiple short films running on loops that would take an hour or more to view. I can only say, try and watch some of Miranda July's other films to get some idea as to the distinct approaches she has taken to the medium that challenge conventional ways of doing things (although Me and You and Everyone We Know will give you a taste, at least).

But here - have a few pictures. I don't even necessarily want to put a lot of words around the photos because a lot of these things just want to interact directly with YOU. Maybe you'll get something of a sense of who these people are and what they're trying to say to you.

I suspect if I ever return to the Portland Museum of Contemporary Craft, I'll have a completely different experience. Most likely another good one.

Pieces created for The Counterfeit Crochet Project, started by Stephanie Syjuco (read more here):
Alien She

Work by Allyson Mitchell and others:
Alien She

These figures seek to challenge your assumptions about beauty and the feminine.
Alien She

Alien She
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I feel as though I got lucky on this trip to Arizona. When I went to visit Lux, just north of downtown Phoenix, I also checked to see the hours of the Burton Barr Public Library, which remains one of my favorite library buildings. In doing so, I learned that there was an exhibit of work by one of my favorite Arizona artists, a guy who goes by the name P. Nosa. You might be able to figure out why I like his stuff so much by reading this sign that accompanied the art:

Artwork by P. Nosa at Burton Barr

Fellow grad students and I first learned about him when he was coming up to sew at the Phoenix First Fridays artwalks, back before the artwalks exploded/imploded with people more interested in public spectacle than art (and I'm not referring to performance art).*

Here's an example of one of the sewn drawings on exhibit, which of course my camera didn't photograph especially well, but which should at least give you an idea of some of the incredible things P. Nosa does with his sewing machine:

Artwork by P. Nosa at Burton Barr
Detail of artwork by P. Nosa at Burton Barr

There are photos of a couple other pieces in my photostream. Also a photo of one of the solar features on the top floor of the library.

Then, last night, as S and I headed over to Endgame, a bar/video gaming establishment, we discovered that the Arizona State University Ceramics Collections have relocated into the Brickyard, in part of the space that used to be occupied by a Borders bookstore. Not only had they relocated, they also had a special display of artwork by my ceramics instructor, who passed away this past August due to an inoperable brain tumor.

Ceramic exhibit of Bridget Cherie Harper's Work

Her pieces didn't photograph especially well, either, due to glare off the glass, but it was wonderful to see both older, familiar pieces as well as some of her more recent work.

Ceramic piece by Bridget Cherie Harper

The ASU ceramics collection is an amazing treasure-trove. We only had about 15 minutes to walk around prior to closing, but even that short time was richly rewarding.

In other incidental art encounters, I was also amused by this "Anti Ghetto-Blaster" on display in Cartel Coffee, in Tempe.

Thank you, Arizona, for the encounters with beauty and light.

*When I rode through the area, I couldn't help observing that the artist who made the "Future Site of Gentrification" stickers has probably also moved on, based on the number of new condo developments going into that historic neighborhood.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
"And then, outside a greengrocer's, it happened - something that sooner or later always happens to me on a long trip away from home. It is a moment I dread.
"I started asking myself unanswerable questions.
"Prolonged solitary travel, you see, affects people in different ways. It is an unnatural business to find yourself in a strange place with an underutilized brain and no particular reason for being there, and eventually it makes you go a little crazy. I've seen it in others often. Some solitary travelers start talking to themselves: little silently murmured conversations that they think no one else notices. Some desperately seek the company of strangers, striking up small talk at shop counters and hotel reception desks and then lingering awkwardly after it has become clear that the conversation has finished. Some become ravenous, obsessive sightseers, tramping from sight to sight with a guidebook in a lonely quest to see everything. Me, I get a sort of interrogative diarrhea. I ask private questions for which I cannot supply an answer. And so as I stood by a greengrocer's in Thurso, looking at its darkened interior with pursed lips and a more or less empty head, from out of nowhere I thought,
Why do they call it a grapefruit? and I knew that the process had started."

-Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island

Bill Bryson is an excellent traveling companion. Initially I had only carried along an intense book by Simone de Beauvoir for my trip to Europe, but on the extra day in Chicago I decided to track down a local bookstore to find slightly lighter fare. Bryson's book hit the spot, especially because it's about adventures around England and English culture.

I read the above passage on the train during a point in the trip where I could relate all to easily to it. In addition to traveling all the way to Europe for the sake of a one-of-a-kind bicycling experience, I wanted to see other cities and their sights and sounds, to get a feel for what this whole human experience is all about. To get perspective.

The first time we visited Paris, some of the immigrant neighborhoods caught me by surprise. Sure, we have Chinatowns in the US, but there's nothing quite like walking down a huge city block filled with narrow shops all specializing in African weaves, each with a guy standing out front to entice you inside. There were drifts of hair blowing along the sidewalk on that street. Then there are parks that consist of small patches of gravel, completely overrun by people (men, mostly) just lounging around, looking like they have nothing to do and nowhere to go (not necessarily homeless, just without purpose). Even the crowded US cities don't feel like this.

The human experience can be uplifting, inspiring, discouraging, depressing, the whole gamut. I know I wrote briefly about feeling like London was soul-crushing without elaborating much on the sensation. If I was traveling for a sense of perspective, London and Paris both gave me that, just not the sort of perspective I'd expected. I left London with a sense of my own unimportance. It's a city that doesn't care about you and your petty aspirations, especially if you lack social class. So, why even bother? How can I continue to churn out blog entry after blog entry, knowing that most of the subject matter is trivial and will gradually disappear into a dusty corner of the Internet? Wouldn't it be better to take a more refined approach, only putting out and sharing maybe one or two all-time incredible gems, cultivated and polished over a lifetime? Could I channel my energies in that fashion? It's not that I have any wish to be famous, whatsoever. I just want to feel purposeful.

On that train trip, reading Bryson's book, however, I remembered something else.


Magnum opuses don't come out of thin air. They are born out of hundreds of small attempts and failures. I *do* need to keep at it, even when things seem utterly futile and I don't have any idea what the future holds (by the way, this is also related to gearing up for another round of job applications). The act of writing keeps me in touch with myself, and this is necessary for the sake of channeling my voice and using it for good. Besides, the demons compel me to write, and I have a hard time ignoring them, which means I probably shouldn't ignore them.

Shortly after I returned from Europe, my ceramics instructor from Tempe passed away. She had been diagnosed with an inoperable form of brain cancer a year or two prior. I haven't seen her since moving away, only heard the news indirectly. She lived such a public life, as a teacher, and yet I have also always had the sense that she was also a very private person, perhaps as a defense mechanism. Only every once and a while would this side of herself slip out. Just a few days after I learned that she had died, I received an alumni magazine with an article about her and her work, talking about the ceramic sculptures she's had exhibited around the world - the list of her accolades. What's most striking to me, however, is the photo showing her in her home studio space, putting on a bright face and smile even while the ravages of cancer are evident (but only to those who know). Despite the smile and warm, loving attitude, B did not have an easy life. Everything she has accomplished has been the result of tireless persistence and dedication. Porcelain clay is an unforgiving medium in an artform that is often overlooked because it's traditionally in the female "craft" arena. She was also one of the people who was a consistent champion of the things I did as a graduate student, and I know she will continue to be a source of inspiration through the low points.

And so, onward.


Jul. 24th, 2015 03:59 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
This less-clickbaity New Yorker article on the benefits of trees reminded me of a visit, years ago, to the Henry Art Gallery with [ profile] annikusrex, that she may or may not remember. My memories of the Henry are deeply layered; I have seen so many things there. In this specific instance, the smaller space on the lower floor of the museum was occupied by a single installation piece that consisted of an enormous screen. Colors and shapes continually cascaded down the screen, accompanied by gentle undulating noises. As we walked around the room, we stepped in front of motion detectors that would cause subtle shifts in the projected image. It was like a life-size screensaver, only aesthetically better than any screensaver I've ever seen, for some reason. We interacted with it for a good long while. The net cognitive effect was similar to what I experience when lying underneath a tree, staring up at its branches and leaves or blossoms. It's also similar to what I observe when watching a ship or ferry's wake. I can watch those patterns for hours; peace in motion.

The vast majority of other forms of interactive artwork haven't tickled this funny bone successfully. There's an interactive light display in the Denver airport that changes colors as people walk by, and I found it tremendously depressing. The lights had that buzzing flicker of a tired lit-up display, and the first time I passed it, one of the plastic covers over one light was busted. It was an enormous plastic grid of big plastic buttons.

I would have traded it for a real tree in the airport, any day of the week.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Here are three videos from art-installation pieces that I could sit and watch for hours, or days. The first one is difficult to find online because of how this artist handles his work, but it gives at least a tiny sense of what the installation is like to experience. I think the full video is closer to 10 minutes. I cannot fully describe what it does to me.

Storm Sequence, by Shaun Gladwell. (for some reason, the flash plugin crashes when I try to load this through YouTube, but I could get it to play through Facebook...not sure what's going on there with Australian-based videos)

Echo at Satsop, by Etsuko Ichikawa

boom. by Susie Lee
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
I've wanted to make this graphic for several years by now:


First, I had to draw pictures of individual worker ants - there are five different ant poses in this image. Then, I had to figure out how to extract the colors from the original Very Hungry Caterpillar: hand-position ants, one by one, on top of the caterpillar drawing, then merge them into a single image. Select all of the ants via a color threshold, then put the ant layer underneath the caterpillar layer, flatten the image, invert the selection, and press the 'delete' key.

Popular search engine searching-fu really didn't help at all for this one.

Noted here in case I or anyone else wants to employ this trick again.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
Today, instead of sitting in my former advisor's office and dispensing advice to passers-by, I spent part of the day sitting in the 21-desk graduate student cubicle farm, which was a potent reminder of how irritating I found that environment as a graduate student. It shares soundscape qualities with my current lab-desk arrangement, which involves overhearing all kinds of conversations I'd rather not be privy to while I am trying to think. I still miss the office space I eventually wound up in, a small hallway to several faculty and postdoc offices that I shared with DM and TS. We would have occasional conversations, but for the most part the space was quiet and focused.

Eventually, I gave up and left to wander around the campus and take photos, and to visit the free university art museum.

There's a nod towards art at my current university, sure, but my doctoral institution has gone far beyond a nod. It hosts a top-notch ceramics program, and there's ample evidence of other fine arts and creative endeavors around campus. Even the landscaping reflects this attitude - I'll post some photos later.

This time around, the campus museum hosted a collection of video installations, interestingly juxtaposed. The first room I visited was all about musical instruments put out in beautiful natural environments, played with thrown rocks. The next rooms I visited contained videos based off of contemporary events in the Middle East. Isabel Rocamora's abstracted twin videos on womens' experience of border crossing out of Iraq was simultaneously hard to watch and hard to NOT watch.

As with other favorite museums, the museum building itself is a reward to visit - it gives the visitor a sense of entering deep into the bowels of a temple.

I hope I can hold on to these aesthetic memories upon my return to Texas. My art-starved soul has fed, but may perhaps always feel undernourished.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
This evening, we have a Courteous Mass ride to the First Friday Artwalk in downtown Bryan. We haven't been successful at attracting very many riders to the ride, recently. I think I need to draw up advertising to put on the sides of the Jolly Roger's basket. Of course, I'll only barely be in town for the next one (600k brevet that weekend), so it's hard to know whether to bother. Regardless - the ride needs to feel like more of a rolling party. One of these days, maybe I'll get a more functional noise-making device, but for now, this is what I've got:

Ready to roll and rock

It even doubles as a taillight - when powered up, the middle turns red.

Since I got the mowing done yesterday morning, I spent yesterday evening working on a painting project. One of my painting instructors once said that a person has to paint about 200 paintings before he or she really gets settled in to painting, and she's probably right about that. Colorwork with oil paints is very different from colorwork with watercolors. I need to be careful to avoid developing the bad habit of using colors straight out of the tube, so as an exercise, I mixed up and put together a small color chart first:

Color chart

The above photo also shows the stage of the painting when I started working on it yesterday evening. By quitting time, I got this far:

Colorwork 2

I always love how much better stuff looks on a computer screen compared to real life. The start of the rower is just roughed out, and the same goes for the moon. Don't look too hard at them. That said, I think the band of trees came out well, and I don't hate the colors as much as I did at the beginning of the evening.

With any luck, I'll manage to add more paint on Sunday, and then maybe more again on Tuesday. It's for a silent auction fundraiser for the Aggie rowers that's happening next Saturday, but I'm leaving town next Wednesday. Tight timing.

Maybe if I ask really nicely, I can get another oar blade to paint when this one is finished. It would be nice to have as a memento.


Feb. 20th, 2014 04:59 pm
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
On my bike tour in Washington last summer, I rode past Elma and noted a large, lumbering nuclear cooling tower perched on the horizon. I remember making a mental note to learn more about it, but I can't remember now if I learned much. It turns out I was looking at the Satsop cooling tower, and apparently right now there's an art installation in a Seattle gallery that features the tower.

By itself, the video is pretty compelling. I bet the installation is even more amazing in person.
rebeccmeister: (bikegirl)
So, this happened this morning:


I staged the photo after salvaging the bread dough. I left it on the counter to rise, and it smelled so good Luna figured she'd help herself. If only I had listened to that little voice in the back of my mind that recommended putting it up out of her reach.

In some ways, it was only a matter of time before something happened to this pan. I have another square baking pan that I made in ceramics that I find to be kind of ugly that developed a crack at some point in the creation process, and it will eventually die as well. All ceramics pieces do. The first ones to go are generally the ones that are most heavily used. Which means, the most precious ones.

This would not have been a huge tragedy if I were still taking ceramics classes. But now - an analogous purchased replacement would cost at least ~$50, and would involve shopping and shipping and all that.

Perhaps over the summer, instead of rowing, I should try to get out to one of the ceramics studios here. There are two studios. One is 7 miles away and only offers classes Monday evenings. Or there's a God-happy one open until 8 pm weekdays and on Saturdays 5.5 miles south of campus, that only does low-fire ceramics. Studio fees are reasonable, and I could work on certain things while there and other things at home (staining pieces).

I need to finish this quilt.

I should finish paintings for the crew silent auction, too. I'm stuck on them. Watercolors are hard, and I have a hard time creating art that's just designed to hang on walls. I like interactive, functional pieces.

This Art

Jan. 8th, 2010 04:59 pm
rebeccmeister: (Acromyrmex)
Today I spent a long day in front of a different microscope, in a different room referred to as an Environmental Growth Chamber (EGC). Picture a room the size and shape of a walk-in freezer, but slightly warm instead of cold. The EGCs tend to elicit awe in undergraduates, whenever I take them on a tour of our building, probably because the undergrads have never before seen temperature-, humidity-, and light-controlled rooms. The rooms allow the students to imagine doing all sorts of the experiments that they consider to be Science, where Scientists wear white labcoats and subject animals to strange physiological conditions to advance the cause of medicine.

Admittedly, that does sort of happen in one of the EGC's, where a lab is studying the effects of oxidative stress on insect development and metabolism; the insects are reared in chambers that are maintained with different oxygen levels, and their physiological characteristics are measured. One of my undergraduate minions can tell you, though, that such research is not nearly as glamorous as it seems. She was quite happy to return to our lab's brand of science instead. [Perhaps that's because ants are cuter than cockroaches, though].

Anyway, today I sat in one of the EGC's because D kindly tipped me off to the fact that there was a better dissecting microscope in the room, and it wasn't being used. So I continued sorting fungus from brood for a good portion of the day, and managed to get three more colonies done. Now I only have four or five to go.

The downside of the EGC is that it is loud. I suspect the air-handling system. I couldn't hear my computer's sound system, even with the volume turned all the way up. So I'm feeling a little shell-shocked, on top of the day's usual visual fatigue.

Whenever I am in the middle of collecting this sort of data, part of my mind is free to wander and think. Aside from half-formed thoughts about the project I'm working on, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about art, lately. Mostly about how people choose to define themselves or not define themselves as artists. This takes the form of some fairly self-indulgent daydreaming, wondering what it would be like if I held an organized show of my artwork. A show would require, first and foremost, declaring myself to be an artist, and declaring the things that I make to be worthy of admiration and enjoyment as art (not everything I make is worthy of this title, by far, which is why the plan to hold a ceramics-smashing party still exists). A challenge in trying to assemble my imaginary show is that my creative energies manifest in a thousand small and fairly unrelated items; probably the main relationship they share is their general functionality in my everyday life, either as useful objects (a mug-cozy) or objects of beauty (a painting). The other relationship they share is evidence of my hands at work; I tend to minimize my use of complex machinery (exceptions: a potter's wheel, a power drill).

I wish I'd had a chance to visit the Museum of Craft while in Portland. I suspect it would have provided some nice context for the way my creativity manifests. In any case, this daydreaming is mostly caused by the fact that I've been out of ceramics for too long and am itching to get back to creating things. I cannot not create things; does that make me an artist by compulsion?
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I just remembered that I haven't uploaded pictures in a little while. You can find various photographs below the cut for your entertainment.

Gardening, bicycling, art, and rowing )
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Yesterday's bike rides:

-to the farmer's market, somewhat early (though I slept in until 7 for a total of not-enough-sleep)

-up to Lux: I lost a mitten on my way up, one of the blue mittens that I knitted for myself sometime early in college. The moment I realized I'd lost it, I turned around to re-trace my steps. Just when I'd resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to make a new mitten, I found it, about 50 feet behind where I'd discovered it was missing.

-over to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: my friend L had asked if any of us members of the Scrabble Society wanted to go and see the Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting show before it ended (today, Sunday), so I rode over to meet her there. She'd arrived a bit earlier than me, and in wandering around she discovered the Scottsdale Farmer's Market, which sounds like it's now large enough to merit checking out.

Overall, the show was okay, but a few pieces definitely stood out, and one in particular deserves mention. The piece was entitled "Filigree Car Bombing," by Cal Lane. I thought I'd read a review about it on The Stranger some time back (maybe on the Slog?), but I can't seem to find it, so I'm not sure. Anyway, I can remember thinking about its unusual juxtaposition of many elements: beauty and violence, delicacy and solidity, permanence and decay. The piece was utterly out-of-place in Arizona, but perhaps that's the point of it: Arizonans rarely directly experience the terror of car bombs, nor do they have many opportunities to experience decay.

-home, groceries, etc: The rest of the day was mundane, occupied by the usual list of Saturday chores, and then I spent the evening quietly, perhaps as penance for staying up too late the night before.
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While I wait in the airport to see if I will actually be able to get on my flight, I might as well fill in the gaps from the last couple of days. Mostly Sunday, actually. On Sunday morning, I got up early and met up with P and R to ride over to Camelback for a bike&hike. I managed to reach mile 5000 on the Jolly Roger just as we reached the trailhead for the hike. Of course, my odometer read 6803 because I never reset my it from the year before (see pictures below the cut at the end).

I've been thinking about what 5000 miles means ever since I reached it. Does it mean I should try to ride more miles next year? Not necessarily--I don't really care about setting a new record. I also don't have a frame of reference for it because it's the first full year I've had the odometer, and it isn't like I was trying to go particularly fast or anything. Still--5000 miles. Almost 100 miles a week.

It does give me a reason to think back to the most memorable of those miles, for example, riding on the north rim of the Grand Canyon and riding from Seattle to Portland. There are also countless picnics to remember, and other grand adventures, on top of all of the trips to the farmer's market, the Orange Table, various cupcake establishments, and countless coffeeshops. And I'll never forget the trip out to Seven Springs. So it has been a good year, maybe even the best year of my entire life. Altogether, I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been in, especially compared to the prior year when I had mono and couldn't ride for two months.

So that made for a memorable Sunday morning.

Sunday afternoon was a completely different experience. There has been a fair amount of hubbub about artwork by Chihuly on display in the Desert Botanical Gardens. I figured it would be fun to check it out as a special event to celebrate the winter Solstice. The plants were beautiful as usual, and it was great to get to hang out with J without trying to keep up with the boys, but Chihuly's stuff left me decidedly underwhelmed.

I approach Chihuly's work from the perspective of a ceramicist. Several months ago, when I was focusing on throwing pieces on the wheel, my ceramics class contained a couple of guys who were new to our program, though not new to ceramics. The primary concern of these guys quickly became apparent: they wanted to throw BIG pieces. My ceramics instructor gently pointed out that in her experience it's pretty common for male ceramicists to focus on making BIG things, while losing out on the creativity involved in delicately shaping clay. I wasn't particularly surprised by this observation, but tucked it away in the back of my mind for future reference.

This idea applies well to Chihuly's stuff. He makes big, bold pieces. But that's about it, and they're decidedly boring and uninteresting. One of the only interesting parts of the show was a video of how the Chihuly group actually creates sculptures at the Museum of Glass. This video, which had an utterly ridiculous quasi-"badass" soundtrack (ugh), highlighted the skills required to construct and shape so many giant, tubular, squiggly things. Clearly, one must have high heat tolerance and big muscles to heft around huge pieces of molten glass. Monstrous furnaces and other heating implements that require vast amounts of energy are also imperative. That's all impressive, I suppose, and it's nice to know that someone has become a superhero for championing an underappreciated medium, but still.

The DBG contains an exquisite collection of desert-adapted plants, which are most remarkable for their subtlety. The giant glass sculptures interspersed between cacti did little for the natural beauty of the plants and stuck out as too bright and obnoxiously loud and squiggly. They didn't respond to the plants or the space or resonate in the unusual context in the way I'd hoped. Putting art among the plants was an unprecedented opportunity, but it was wasted.

Rather than dwell on mediocrity, I'll just say that seeing the process of glass-blowing made me grateful for art forms that are more hands-on, that carry the mark of their maker. Ceramics also involves glass (glaze-work), and yet in a completely different fashion because the glass is applied to the outside of hand-shaped materials and interacts with the clay. It seems to me that works of clay would respond more effectively to the shapes and colors of the natural world because clay presents a more versatile palette. Much more could even be accomplished with pure glass: I was awestruck after seeing the collection of glass flowers at Harvard's Peabody Museum, though those lifelike flowers are so delicate they cannot be moved, let alone put out in the elements. But they suggest that there's a lot of untapped opportunity in the medium.

So, do I think anyone should go see Chihuly's work on display in the Gardens? Not for the artwork, though the plants are always a pleasure to behold.

various photographs from the day - clicky for larger )
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Well, I'm a bit afraid that one of the potential recipients of this project will end up seeing these and the surprise will be ruined, but I can't help myself ([ profile] annikusrex might be the closest to knowing who, but it isn't [ profile] sytharin--sorry, sis). I have to show them to you.

These are a long-term project that is finally nearing completion. I made the bodies in ceramics, with some help from my ceramics instructor. I had to buy fake sea-glass because I couldn't get enough of the real stuff. I strung the glass with copper wire that should develop a patina over time, and then figured out how to add in the lights. The lights were a pain--I got everything put together, and then at the very end I apparently wired them backwards so they wouldn't light. Last night, I figured out how to wire them properly.

I probably love them more than you do, in the way that mad scientists love hideous monster-children. They were probably too expensive to justify the effort. But they look awesome at night.


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