cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (writing)
This week I had two poems published!

The first, "Aboard the Transport Tesoro," appears in Uncanny Magazine, Issue 7, alongside work by fellow poets [livejournal.com profile] mariness and [livejournal.com profile] sovay. Also, I'm pretty tickled to share a ToC with Yoon Ha Lee, a Sirens guest of honor. By chance I was invited to join him and two other Sirens for a last, con-lagged lunch at the airport. (Hope I didn't get him sick.)

"Aboard the Transport Tesoro" grew from my sickbed thoughts about chronic illness and ancestor worship. I got up and wrote it in the middle of the night, cleaned it up, and sent it out. Quickest turnaround between composition and publication I've ever had!

The second poem, "glass womb," is online at Interfictions. This poem has perhaps my longest turnaround between first draft and publication. It took me a really long time to find the poem's final form. I can't say why exactly, why it never clicked, why I never abandoned it. I think I had to wait for tumblr to be born and show me pictures from the Mütter Museum and the specimen still lifes of Frederik Ruysch.

And that's my good news for the week!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Yummy!)
Settled in for the long haul of novel revisions, I know what *I'm* doing for the next few months. So I want to hear what everyone else is doing!

Artists, writers, editors, musicians, creatives of all kinds: What are you working on now? What's going well, what's giving you conniptions? What are your short-term goals?

Pics, snippets, links all welcome in the comments!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
I shared this on Twitter, but now it's time to share with a larger audience. Behold, the cover of my forthcoming collection, The Haunted Girl !

The art is "Texts for a Lost Tribe, #9" by ceramic artist and art educator Jenny Andersen. I am so grateful Ms. Andersen allowed Aqueduct Press to use the image, and thrilled that Aqueduct's managing editor, Kath Wilham, spotted the art and thought of my book.

I believe the manuscript has now gone to the printer, so we're on track for release in the fall.

hauted-girl-cvr-lr
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
Yesterday I knew I wouldn't get any writing done, but I was having a premenstrual power surge, so I continued The Culling. Basically, JJ and I have finally discovered our housepride, and we've been getting rid of a ton of stuff (books, movies, electronics, old toys and crafting supplies, etc). So much so, that Tweetie asked me the other day, "Are we just going to keep cleaning for three months?" (Not sure where she got the three months idea)

We sorted out our DVDs, some we'd never even opened, and I decided to finally watch Stop Making Sense, the concert movie by Talking Heads. Before long, I realized how much bands like OK Go have been influenced by David Byrne's concert-as-performance art. I don't feel the need to keep the DVD, so off it goes to be sold for the women's retreat fund. But in the special features was a "David Byrne interviews David Byrne" skit and two things he said really struck me.

First, discussing the big suit, he said he wanted to make his head look smaller (I guess because of the "stop making sense" theme?) and one way to do that was to make his body bigger, which was apropos because, in art and music, the body often understands before the head does. I sat up and paid more attention.

Later, he asked himself how he could be a singer when he didn't have a good voice, and he replied, "The better the singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying." Which I loved for being the EXACT OPPOSITE of the received wisdom, and for the matter-of-fact way he delivered this countercultural truth without a trace of cynicism.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I love jigsaw puzzles, especially when the subject is a classic artwork. I've done Van Gogh's Cafe Terrace at Night, Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island La Grande Jatte, Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry Mural, Charley Harper's Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, and probably others that I'm forgetting. Lately I've been putting together a puzzle of Edvard Munch's The Scream.

I am not especially fond of The Scream, maybe because the theme is so there, but the pleasure of working on a project like this is that by focusing on pieces, one comes to understand better the whole. For example, I'd never noticed before that one of the screaming figure's eyes is little more than a blood-red splatter. I'd scream too, if my eye had burst. Matter of fact, as my husband pointed out, I have such a paranoia 'bout my eyes, I'd be screaming long before anything got within two feet of them. Nor had I ever noticed how Munch's pastel streaks, especially the blue on the water is so "on top of" the painting. (Forgive my ignorance of the proper art terms, and my equal weirdness about spatial terms. My spatial idiosyncrasies are one reason I'm paranoid about my eyes.)

This weekend, in addition to working on my puzzle, I went to a friend's garage studio for a free-form creative session. While some people worked with watercolors, and others designed blobimals, my buddy Erica and I did some writing. Actually, I only outlined what I had in mind for a YA fantasy short story, but that was a needful task, too. I long-handed notes for each scene or section, giving each its own ink color and scribbling in research questions in yet another color.

Once I saw the story structure on the page, it became clear that the conflict emerged too late, and if I fronted with the conflict, it would become an "issue" story. More upsetting to me, the outline made unavoidably obvious that the one scene I was really and truly excited about writing was completely superfluous. This was worse than "kill your darlings." This was "kill the only scene that makes you giddy and has become your whole reason for wanting to write this story at all."

And once that became clear, I realized that the story was already sunk. I might be able to make it work technically (and don't get me wrong, I haven't thrown anything away; I'm a recycler), but there isn't any danger to it. No desperate pulse, no ganas. So rather than forge on in my leaky boat, I went back to shore and thought about what does get me excited.

My poem "Hello Kitty, Hello Blood" will be appearing in the inaugural issue of Lakeside Circus. The poem features young adult characters, and a fantasy element, and an off-kilter danger that amuses me, even so long after having written it. So I'm going to try expanding it into a short story. I have the premise and my main character has fresh eyes that see the world in saturated hues. I'm not excited about one scene, I'm excited about the whole thing, so I know I'm on the right track now.

And that's the progress I made this weekend on my various puzzles! What about you? Any niggle-some puzzles teasing your brain of late? Or maybe you had a breakthrough you want to crow about? Do tell!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (scheming)
I have not even had breakfast yet this morning, but I HAVE read an amazing poem by [livejournal.com profile] shadesong at Strange Horizons: "And The War Is Never Over." Right now, my favorite part is "Some essential part of me / has burned...Chalk-bone-dust / to spiral up my arms. / This is my armor now." But I do think the turn in section 7 (Or we may yet prevail.) is a stroke of genius and opens up the poem to healing.

During the Open Secrets reading at WisCon, Emily Nordling tweeted: "I just want to listen to poetry all day every day and I don't think that is too much to ask." I concur.

My book haul from WisCon includes two new coloring books, Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace and Unicorns Are Jerks. I didn't realize the creator, Theo Nicole Lorenz, was actually AT WisCon. *smdh* Just as well, as I'm not the smoothest operator even when I'm not starstruck.

I also dropped a bundle at the PM Press table. I'd been mooning over Barred for Life: How Black Flag's Iconic Logo Became Punk Rock's Secret Handshake for over a year, so I picked up that. Also, Anarchist Pedagogies, because, as I told [livejournal.com profile] diatryma, when anarchists talk about eradicating public education, I get chills--the bad kind--because if it weren't for public ed...I don't know where I'd be. And I bought Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities and Ursula Le Guin's Wild Girls, Plus...

From Crossed Genres, I picked up INK by Sabrina Vourvoulias, which has been on my to-buy list for a long time. And now I've got a signed copy!

And from the freebies table, I snagged The Arbitrary Placement of Walls, a collection of short stories by Martha Soukup, which I know nothing about but it was reviewed by Locus and blurbed by Neil Gaiman, so...all signs point to Yes?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hangover)
...pictures tend to clear it. -- Magnificent Ruin

I squeaked when I stumbled across this on tumblr, because I had clipped this very juxtaposition of images from a magazine and taped it to my nonfiction bookshelf about eight years ago.

matisse picasso

I adore Matisse's collage work. I once read that he took up collage when it became difficult for him to paint. He couldn't stop making art, so he made a new kind of art. And it's so happy, like Look at me go! Nothing can stop me! I don't care for Picasso or his work (well, there is *one* drawing of running horses). But seeing the two images together made an impression that I wanted to hold onto.

Since Tweetie often played in my office space as a baby, she saw the pictures a lot. I explained that they were drawings done by two artists who knew each other, and how someone put them next to each other to compare them. One day she handed me a drawing of yellow and blue lines. She indicated it was her rendition of the drawings. I taped her artwork on the bookshelf underneath the inspirations.

Not long ago, I finally removed all three pics from the shelf, because the first two were rippled from humidity, and Tweetie's had faded to nearly nothing in the sun.

And then! Tumblr gave them back to me.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (silver teapots)
While in Wisconsin, we visited the small but expertly curated Racine Art Museum. On display in the ceramics exhibit was--to my great but gleeful surprise--a Richard Notkin teapot:

Notkin ironclad hostage 2

This one was labeled Ironclad Hostage II. Many moons ago, I posted another Notkin teapot (Hostage Metamorphosis II) on my cafenowhere tumblr:

RNotkin_Heart_Teapot_Hostage_Metamorphosis_II

Somehow I never imagined I'd see one in person.

I also saw two marvelous teapots by Irvin Tepper. I can't find images of them online. Tepper's website shows some of his other ceramics, but the ones I saw were nearly ethereal glazed porcelain, flattened and "threadbare" in places, as if the "dough" had been rolled too thin, that weird white that wants to be blue...One was titled "Teapot from the Happy Room of Mystery."
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (sugar in my coffee)
This weekend is our weekend to clean ALL THE THINGS, and in the process I rediscovered some found poetry I did over a year ago. To give my back a break from cleaning and to discard two more sheets of paper, I shall transcribe the worthy poems here.


__________________

golden honeycomb
pregnant with
the world



#


gold spheres
blossom and flourish
disrupt unidirectional rations


#


baskets and rugs
richly textured
present trajectory and identity


#

skyscraper deeply influenced by
false starts
and comic enlargements
of ancient monuments

_______________________
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (gun)
This weekend, I watched We Need to Talk about Kevin. I'd not read the book, but I knew, vaguely, the storyline: mother feels antipathy toward her first child, insists that there is something wrong with him, which everyone else blithely dismisses, and in the end, she is proven terribly right. But was it a self-fulfilling prophecy?

J left the room halfway through the movie because he said it was too depressing. It's pretty clear from the first few minutes that something awful has happened to this woman, this town, and the story is working its way to what and how, if not why, it happened. J's attitude was, why endure this slow-motion tragedy?

Personally, I found the performances by Tilda Swinton and all the boys who play her son to be absolutely riveting. Here is an awesome photo of Swinton with the four versions of Kevin:



Note the haircuts, how the boys are all "behind bars." The oldest, Ezra Miller, is especially terrifying, partly because he is so beautiful. Like an angel. Deadly and distant, a sizzling permafrost. And he usually wears white.





Incidentally, that second image is Kevin shortly after he's poisoned someone.

True, there are plot points that niggle: if the mother so hated her son, why did she end up being his primary caregiver? who took care of him when she went away for two months to work on a travel book? and nobody else's internal alarms went off about this boy? etc., etc. To work, the movie focuses on mother and son so tightly as to be isolationary, like a prison *and* a womb. And that's why I was able to watch the movie to its conclusion, and even feel hopeful at the end. The director makes us feel that no one else is quite real. The same thing that makes the boy a monster, really. No one else matters, not if these two people can finally work out some understanding of one another.

(We see this happen a lot in possession movies: the victim, usually a girl or young woman, undergoes terrible tortures so that the male lead can have his epiphany. In We Need to Talk about Kevin, the mother is emotionally tortured, but it's other people who pay dearly so she and her son can connect. This may be a worthwhile departure from the norm, but it's not really what I'm concerned with right now.)

Granted, there's the possibility of voyeurism as motivation to watch the movie to the end. Like the train wreck you can't look away from, rubbernecking at a car crash to make sure it's not you who's dead, you might persist until the end credits because you want to know just how bad this boy is. But, honestly? We know this story, and there's nothing sensationalistic about the film. So if you hold out just for that, you're not rewarded. And I wouldn't say there's catharsis at the end.



Marion Wrenn had an essay in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of American Poetry Review titled "Catastrophist." She compared Brueghel's painting Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, noting its portrayal of benign indifference to Icarus's death, to the accidental death of professional wrestler Owen Hart in front of a live audience. (Icarus is the pair of legs in the water at lower right corner.)

Wrenn argues that pro wrestling fans "enact the opposite of benign indifference. They are deeply engaged in the choreography of disaster....'the spectacle of suffering'." Rather than being stupid, as the stereotype would have us believe, the fans are quite aware of the staging and usually delight in the blurred line between authenticity and spectacle. Wrenn likens it to a magic show: the pledge, the turn, the prestige.

But Hart's death was horrific and destabilizing to fans. The live audience struggled to make sense of the events while not wanting to believe they'd just watched a man die. The pay-per-view audience struggled differently: they knew from the (initially also perplexed) announcers that Hart was dead, but supposedly there was no footage of the death. Wrenn writes, "It's still hard to watch. But now it's got the traces of the tragic, in the classical sense: we hope that he's not dead, know he is, pity the folks who are finding out in front of us. We are secure in our knowledge, the unfolding narrative cannot traumatize us as it did when new...but there's something under the surface that needs to be re-seen." [italics mine]

I think it is this sense that we still have something to learn, something we halfway know, that determines if we choose to watch a catastrophe play out in art. Obviously it's a different level of catastrophe, but I, for one, cannot watch humiliation comedy because I'm overwhelmed by empathy. I can't get past what I would feel like if I were in that situation in order to learn anything. (And I daresay, typically there is nothing to learn from these scenarios.) There is no catharsis for me, and no lesson learned.

I *can* watch Tilda Swinton's character face-off with her son because (1) I identify with [am forced to identify with?] the "wrong" characters; wrong in the sense that, if these events really happened, I'd sympathize with the victims, not the perpetrator, and also in the sense that a mother who does not bond with her child--as I did not at first and Swinton's character never does--are automatically considered "wrong" or suspect by society. And thus (2) I feel like I have something to learn from the film. Still no catharsis, but there's the hope of intellectual payoff.

Days later, I am still processing what I saw. I think watching the catastrophe play out was worthwhile. The ending felt "right" to me. I can see being that mother and doing the things she did in the aftermath. I can see doing penance for something that isn't quite one's fault, accepting a burden that will never lighten anyone else's load because that is the only way to endure. If there are more questions than answers, at least they are the kind of questions worth considering. 


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
Tweetie and I have been researching our upcoming trip to Chicago. I think I've negotiated a tour of the museum of contemporary art in exchange for stopping at the American Girl and Disney stores. At some point, I've also got to get her to Millennium Park to play in the fountains, though it looks like a significant walk from our hotel. I'm in favor of not paying for anything, but JJ is eager to show Tweetie the museum campus she slept through as a toddler. It will be pricey, but at least this time she will be awake for her visit with SUE the T-Rex. (Did you know SUE has a Twitter account? She's following T-Rex is Trying, of tumblr fame.)

Speaking of bones, I've been following Mike Egan's work for about a year now. He's a folk/street artist out of Pittsburgh, with a tumblr and FB presence

tears of joy mike egan

Egan's artist statement explains that he's influenced by his work in funeral homes, as well as Dia de los Muertos. I like his art, and the fact that he's "abandoned" some of it in public places, to be discovered by lucky passersby. 

mike egan street art

His work has been exhibited all over the country and internationally. Earlier this summer, at Comic-Con, DKE Toys sold limited edition vinyl dolls designed by Egan. 

mike egan DKE vinyl toys
I so would have bought one of those little fuckers.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
The only things that seem to be thriving in this drought are the Queen Anne's Lace and the fairy handkerchiefs. I'm seeing Queen Anne's Lace popping up near curbs and on people's lawns where it's never grown before. And the spiderwebs in the grass are thick and early. Usually they don't show up in this number until fall, when it seems like they're bits of fog left behind.

Here's a picture (snagged from tumblr and unattributed) that always gives me pause:

woman on olmec head

That's an Olmec Head, and why is that woman sitting on top of it? Why, when the man has a small rag and is so gingerly wiping another part of the sculpture? It's so staged. But it's marvelous to see the face rising out of the dirt, and it helps to have humans in the photo to establish scale. And the woman's red clothing provides a pop of color in the "right" place, and there is something intriguing about her headwrap, because the head is also wearing headgear, part of a ballplayer's uniform. 

A more personal reason the photo always drags me to a stop is that it reminds me of a photo in my family albums (now in my mother's possession, so I can't provide a scan for you). My mother is posed in front of or beside what I suspect is this replica of an Olmec Head in San Antonio:

olmec head replica in san antonio

(photo by Terribrittross  http://blog.travelpod.com/members/terribrittross)

Our family photo is a more full-face angle on the head, and if my mother is in fact touching the statue, she's leaning one hand against the cheekbone or temple. I remember it as greener. As you can tell from the caution tape and placement on planks, the statue has been moved, so it may have been among trees and greenery when my parents visited it. Also, cheap photos discolor with age, so there's that. I don't know if my mother realized the statue was a replica; she certainly didn't explain it to me as one when I asked about the picture (but I was young). I wonder...if she thought it was an authentic statue, did she lean against it, and if so, why? Does she get a pass because she's my mom or because Dad made her pose or because she was beside it, not on it?


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
Here's another calaca that's been sitting in my tumblr likes for a while now: Skull of Sarah Winchester by Ron Ulicny, 2011.

skull of sarah winchester by ron ulicny

Inspired by the story of Sarah Winchester, widow of the gun magnate William W. Winchester, this mixed media piece has a whole lot going on in a small space--much like an actual human skull. From other images on the artists's website, one can see that the gold leaf does not extend past the orbital cavities and inadequately covers the teeth, which I take to mean that the obscene wealth of the Winchesters was unable to overcome mortality.

The placement of the heart medallion is over the "third eye". Perhaps her imagination or second sight is occluded by love? It also serves as a dinky decoration (compared to the bullets) performing femininity; I see the feminine persona as thin and pasted on. The medallion may also reference the flourishes throughout the Winchester House that serve no utilitarian purpose. Likewise we can look through the fancy eye sockets into a mundane emptiness. For all the energy and madness poured into the Winchester House, it is not a home so much as a memorial to the fear of death, which so many of us experience, why would we ever need a memorial?

The skull lacks a lower jaw, so Sarah cannot speak for herself. The teeth remind me of the stairs going nowhere in her house. Bolted to her upper jaw is the "magazine" of Winchester bullets. These are oriented in such a way they cannot be deployed without destroying the orbital cavities, so attacking another presupposes Sarah's obliteration. They are too substantial to be decoration. I think they represent the burden of her family's reputation.

The bolts protruding from the top of the skull are reminiscent of the nubs of horns. If Sarah is a devil, she is a small one. (Much more damning are the weapons.) Or maybe we are to wonder what is/was going on in that skull? What machinery, what gears were turning when she decided to build and build and build? Clearly her husband's legacy infiltrated her own identity. Did the very mechanics of her husband's industry set up shop inside her head? Is she more machine than human?

The gold leaf veneer becomes more sinister then. Is metal encroaching on the organic? Did she perform humanity only a bit more convincingly than she did femininity? Or is our instant recognition of the object as a skull indicative of the ineradicable nature of humanity?



cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
Glory, Glory! Last night was not heinously hot, and for the first time in about a month I didn't want to claw off my meat suit to escape the misery.  And this is the first morning in equally long that I've been able to throw open the doors and windows to air out my house. Relief! Salvation! Ollie is parked in front of a window and giving thanks. Now if only it would fucking rain. Night before last, I saw impressive heat lightning, but there wasn't thunder or rain.

Here is a photo I've had sitting in my tumblr likes for months: La Cabeza by Niki de Saint Phalle (2000)

niki de saint phalle la cabeza

I love the texture, especially on the teeth. You can get an idea of scale from the person standing to the left of the 14-ft tall, 12,000-pound sculpture, which you can apparently SIT INSIDE OF.

inside niki de saint phalle la cabeza

One enters through the ears and may sit on a bench behind the mouth or look out the eye sockets. The interior chamber is lined in reflective material, providing one with a unique memento de mori experience. And I am thrilled that, though de Saint Phalle was a (totally awesome) French artist, this piece feels so true to its Mexican calaca influence. La Cabeza and other works are at Bechtler Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina

Top image from Flickr user mistone, who has other photos of de Saint Phalle's grand sculptures in hir photostream. Bottom image from Daniel Harper.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)
I'm reading a conversation between several writers in the March/April issue of American Poetry Review, and Timothy Donnelly discusses the sublime:

  I remember when studying the sublime in college it was stated over and over again that the experience of the sublime depends upon the observer being in a position of relative stability/security. Then the powerful force that threatens or confounds or dizzies or otherwise overexcites the observer does so without posing actual harm. The difference is that between terror and horror. It's leaning over the railing at Niagara Falls versus actually falling in  .

And I am thinking about those of us who live in interstitial zones, which are inherently unstable, and what this philosophy means for us. Do we not experience the sublime? (Do we want to?) We are threatened, confounded, dizzied, and overstimulated by powerful forces that do in fact pose harm. The line between terror and horror may be as flimsy as the few seconds between contemplated harm and actualized harm. The line is less a railing than a fault line, still moving, still hungry.

Checking my external memory (aka Wikipedia), I see that the security of the observer is a facet of only some theories of the sublime--Edmund Burke's mostly: "The sublime may inspire horror, but one receives pleasure in knowing that the perception is a fiction." My own sense of the sublime is more in line with Schophenauer's: "The feeling of the sublime...is pleasure in seeing an overpowering or vast malignant object of great magnitude, one that could destroy the observer." Thus driving home the observer's nothingness and yet oneness with nature.

When I think of the sublime in art, I remember the scene in Cloverfield where, by proxy of a doomed character holding a video camera, we finally get to see the hitherto obscured monster full in the face. I think of the blue-skewed panoramic view of Hell and Leviathan in Hellraiser (which, not incidentally, is seen from atop the walls of an infinite labyrinth into which the characters may at any moment fall or be dragged). The only railing here is between art and audience.

Experiencing the sublime in real life is the domain of the privileged (or clueless), I think. The rest of us are just scared shitless--or experiencing "tragic consciousness," to use Max Dessoir's high-brow terminology. But the sublime in art gives us the illusion of being safe and secure while confirming our intuition that we are, at times, powerless. In this way, art is lies and truth in one.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (garcia)
I continue to think about my encounter with the artist at the Farmer's Market, and how it could've gone better and what about her art was so disappointing. In email discussion with a dear friend, I hashed out some additional thoughts. This entry is a re-framing of that conversation. (Hence the formatting quirks. Sorry 'bout that.)

First of all, the fact that the artist was fair-skinned and blonde could've been irrelevant. I didn't even notice her at first, though when she emerged from behind the table to talk to me, my gut instinct told me she was "Anglo." My gut notwithstanding, skin color is not indicative of Mexican heritage. My husband, JJ, for example, is so fair he burns when we *talk* about the sun, and his parents are first-generation Mexican-Americans. But since the artist zeroed in on me (and I don't even know when/if my family immigrated from Mexico), I knew she was making assumptions based on skin color, which confirmed that she wasn't Latina herself, or even particularly savvy about the culture she had mined for material.

Now, some context for my reaction to the Lady of Guadalupe imagery: Honestly, I am drawn to that imagery because I grew up with it, same as I pine for incense and candlelight and stained glass at times. I have not bought anything with the Virgin on it, however, because I am most definitely *not* religious or Catholic. People who know me would assume I'm being ironic (which would be a green flag for them to co-opt the imagery) and people who don't know me would make assumptions. At the Farmer's Market, I was probably on guard from the moment I saw the art because I'm aware of having to police myself. If I don't get to claim the Lady, then I don't want people with less direct cultural contact to be using the imagery willy-nilly.

As to my interaction with the artist: I would've been happier if, instead of making the conversation about me, she'd just told me about her art or a particular piece. She could've explained where she bought the materials and asked me, "Are you familiar with that area of Mexico/loteria cards?" She could ask *anyone* that, but if I (as a brown woman) felt like sharing, that would be an opening for me. The key is invitation, not (implicit) demand.

I don't 
want to imply the proper mode of interaction is just a matter of asking the right questions in the right way, however. It's more a realization of the give-and-take nature of equality. It's never a zero-sum game in human relations, but sharing about oneself is always a good start. By the time the artist started sharing, it was already too little, too late. By sharing, I mean she told me about the town she visited and how much the materials cost--which was nigh meaningless to me, since I haven't looked at the peso to dollar exchange rate in over a decade. And, as my friend pointed out, isn't it kind of gross when people gloat about the "deals" they get in other countries? "Yay for economic inequalities!"

But about the art itself: 
I found this an interesting puzzle. I think of collage, which is what this woman was selling, as the selective assembly of disparate elements and symbols into a whole that makes personal "sense" to the artist, and hopefully to the viewer. So I'm not sure I could look at a piece and say, "That's appropriation," just because it employed elements nonnative to the artist's primary culture. It'd be like reading someone's dream and saying, "Stop! You're appropriating!" (Granted, it's different when someone decides to display or profit from art utilizing another culture's imagery, but I'm not prepared to say one can NEVER use that imagery.)
I looked at this woman's art, hoping to see a sense to it. One canvas had several women's images on it, including a pic of Frida Kahlo, but I couldn't tell if there was meaning to the assembly. And the artist never alluded to themes or her intent. She was quick to tell me how much something cost though! So I came away with the feeling that Mexican culture was just a jumble of shinies to her.
In contrast, I have a friend who incorporates loteria cards into her art even though she's not Hispanic. I love her work, and I've even given her some of our loteria cards to use. But she uses these elements judiciously for their symbolic and graphic qualities, not just because they're cool or "primitive" or colorful. She integrates them into her personal vision; she doesn't just throw them together and expect meaning to arise. As I said earlier, I'm leery of the use of the Virgin imagery. I think it can be used effectively by folks from various cultures, but it takes some doing.

In sum, I was hoping for more thoughtfulness--both in the sense of human kindness and of conscious introspection by the artist. This woman wasn't trying to be rude or mean or diminishing. She struck me as more...scatterbrained? Definitely artless. Which is kind of sad, when you think about it.

Questions welcome. But please note I am in Mommy Mode and may not respond immediately--and it won't be any reflection on your question, so don't be worrying, "Oh no, I really stepped in it, didn't I?" I'll let you know, gently, in private even, if you did.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hammer head)
Our family went to the Farmer's Market this morning. One of the tables that caught my eye had bright, glittery collages incorporating Our Lady of Guadalupe imagery. I drew closer to examine the art, and a blonde woman came around the table to talk to me. She was the artist.

She asked me if I was from Mexico. (She at least had the decency to stutter.)

I kind of blinked and said, no, not originally. What does that even mean? I'm not sure--there was a lot of WTFery going through my head already--but it seemed to convey enough, because she nodded and said she'd had several second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans come by. I blinked again, imagining how many other folks she'd forced to go through this conversation, and at what level of detail, if she knew what generation they were. She asked (knowingly) if I recognized the loteria materials she'd incorporated, and I said yes, although I conceded there was one set I'd never seen before. So she told me about the city in Mexico where she'd gotten it and how many pesos they cost.

I nodded and ate my cherry turnover while appraising her work. It was colorful and interesting, but not technically proficient. I imagined the collages falling off the canvases as the humidity changed. Eventually I walked away and met up with J again.

I told him, "I didn't even know what to do with that."

He nodded and said, "No, I know, sooo many things there." 

"I don't even know where to start," I said, still marveling. "The racism? The appropriation? The obliviousness?"

We walked on, agreeing that We Don't Even.
cafenowhere: close-up photo of gray cat with big yellow eyes (claire)
"Watchful and Alert" by Molly Keenan (retrofutures.etsy.com):




I bought this 3 x 3 inch collage on canvas because it captures a feeling I sometimes have, of "How did I end up in charge of a small child and these cats and a house and....!" I can't believe I'm being trusted with such treasures, so, although I'm terrified, I'm also committed to being "watchful and alert".

"Lulu was a Gold Digger" Killhouette by John Fair



John Fair makes delightfully creepy Victorian-style cut silhouettes. The one I purchased doesn't seem to be on his website right now, but it's shown on his Facebook page. I chose "Gold Digger" because it looks like a scene from a Munly song.

"Terence" the aging skateboarder by GrrMonsters



I had the pleasure of sitting beside the artist when I attended a panel, and I watched one of her creatures go from a bald blue monster to one with a nice head of blue hair. One of the things I love about these monsters is that they each come with a story. Terence's is here. I couldn't buy Terence (this time!) but I may swap the funds allotted to my booze and art budgets for next WisCon.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Quinn McDonald has a great twist on found poetry that's bound to wonderfully disrupt your day. (oh Cthulhu, forgive me the puns; it's a sickness.) Use the titles on your book spines to compose poems. Here are two of mine:






The concept really lends itself to haiku, as you can see. The first one created some angst, because I couldn't BELIEVE I didn't have a copy of Alice in Wonderland. I'm convinced it's been STOLEN, or maybe just mis-shelved, perhaps downstairs in nonfiction. (heehee) But I do love the second. It's practically a synopsis of my novel in progress. 

Feel free to share your spine poetry in the comments!


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)
I spent a completely reasonable* amount of time today going through my "likes" on Tumblr and getting rid of ones I'd already reblogged and reblogging the ones I hadn't yet. Because I try to keep all my Tumblr posts somehow relevant to my Cafe Nowhere 'verse, I still have over a thousand likes. The bulk fit roughly (we likes it rough) into the following categories:

1. Cute animals, mostly CATS

2. Hot guys, mostly from SUPERNATURAL

3. Hot cars, mostly classics and custom

4. Politics

I'm wondering if I need a whole 'nother Tumblr, just for my non-Cafe likes...

Here's a fine example, Brad Phillips' "Richard Prince":

 Brad Phillips' "Richard Prince"

*which is to say, completely unreasonable, as judged by any sane and objective party, to wit, anyone not yet sucked in to Tumblr.

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