Decorrrrrrrr

You know, I literally have five more days of Poetry and Decorating Month, so don’t rush me.

I have seen segments of the British Antiques Roadshow with a host, three similar objects, and an expert in those particular objects. The host and surrounding onlookers try to figure out which object has the highest monetary value. All the objects are aesthetic delights.

I told my friend Sandy (link to her blog post about my blog) that I would post during Decorating Month about the bone we pick with the Boston Globe Sunday magazine “home” features. The theme of our rants is simple: How to Decorate Big Space with Big Money is of little use to a lot of us.

Frankly, I love looking at “real estate porn”, and most simple/edgy/boho/unusual home design fascinates me. I am also a fan of Marni Elyse Katz, who writes these features now. She’s good!

My own object/decor jam is more thrift, gift, and foraging. People write about that, too. I have six books on the topic and counting, and they’re mostly second-hand. And I practice. My glass square that came from an old job when they closed contains a highly curated collection of park tree branches, pond driftwood, and a stick I grabbed out of a community garden compost area. I mean, this thing is curated. It’s an arrrrrrangement.

I have framed book covers, book pages, and postcards on the wall. The pleasing display above my desk contains a thrift-store glass cylinder of stones and shells in colorful layers, a birch log, two ocean stones, a framed collage I made from a beat-up book, and the fired clay figure I made in Sunday School crafts class, who vaguely resembles Buddha in a beret. This is how I roll, and a lot of interesting authors have encouraged my roll.

So let’s play the Roadshow game and decide what is my most valuable work of art in the photo. If the Ansel Adams were the real deal, then yeah. But it’s posterboard in a frame, and someone left it in the building when they moved out. So it cost me nothing, but it is full of value. First thing I hung in this apartment, it connects me to the tree outside, and my gaze often wanders into its deepness when my gaze needs to wander.

The one on the right is a print of King’s Chapel, the wonderful 18th-century historic site where I used to work and hope to work again. It’s likely from a re-issue the artist’s son did in the 1970s. I know this because artist Jas Murray did a lot of local scenes and still seems to be very popular. I found it in a charity shop, hanging there waiting for me, which I’m sure is what it was doing. It fills my heart up every day, like a lover’s portrait.

The piece on the left is by artist and parfumier John Biebel. The pensive woman carries a long-stemmed flower and has a lovely old home growing out of her head. It was gift to me from my friend John. I find it exquisite and inspiring, and it represents the generous kindness of a friend I love.

Cost winner? King’s Chapel at $6. Value winner? Nope. Each one is beautiful to me, makes me happy when I look at it, surrounds me with Creativity. The Creative finding of Creative things is decor my way.

Crypt(ic) Creativity

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Jack-o-lanterns and, um, dismemberment. Winged skulls on gravestones and scones on strings. My October Creativity has been much focused on writing spooky history fun facts and trivia questions for this virtual event.

As sorry as I am that the historic site’s candlelit crypt tours could not happen this year, the first trivia night was a real hoot. Hoot…owl…Halloween…RIGHT? It was so good, I was sorry you all missed it.

The second and final event is tonight. If you’re looking for a new Halloween activity please join us. Play to win, or just enjoy the fun facts and scary stuff in good company. You will be supporting one of the many non-profit cultural institutions knocked hard by this murder hornet of a year. And it’s a piece of Creativity I’m proud of!

http://www.kings-chapel.org/history-events.html

Sticks and Stones: Stones

KC stone 1KC stone 2

When I took these photos, I was doing an exercise in Looking at the familiar objects in the historic site where I work. There was a quiet 30 minutes one day last winter, and I decided to pay closer attention to the sculptures and memorials on the walls. Not to the people they remembered, but to perfect stone ivy leaves or rich abstract designs. Each pointing to someone’s artistry, time, and focus.

That experience is a cliché you could read in a thousand blogs, right? So I’m not going to write about slowing down, being mindful, observing the present world, feeling appreciation, or any of that.

I’m also not going to offer this stone only as rarefied beauty in an historic church. I do find this work beautiful, and I miss being near it this spring.  My heart does find Creativity sacred.  But like much art, this art exists because of past financial privilege and white privilege, and sometimes that privilege existed because of the organized kidnapping and labor of enslaved people. It’s information the site shares with visitors as part of its History Program.

This is one of the longest periods the building has remained empty since 1754, and right now it might seem to have its own closed-off existence. But it doesn’t exist outside the world, and it holds a lot to Look At. Beautiful and otherwise, sometimes at the same time.

 

By the way, please visit King’s Chapel in Boston, with its fascinating, difficult history and remarkable building, at the History Program’s pandemic-expanded web site.  We’ve worked hard on it and hope you will explore. When the building is open again, please visit in person. We have a lot to share.

 

Uplift of the Week II

BEK 1BEK 2

“From one extreme to another” defines my 2020 so far. As do the initials of my friend Wilhelmina Twinkletoes Forestbather.  (We’re at home all these hours, and we’re allowed to make people up. FYI.)

From early January to early March, all I did was…keep going. An elder relative’s long hospitalization in the state next door had me juggling two jobs, two households, and that crisis. Let’s just say time was spent on trains back and forth. That’s fortunately past, and in the current wider chaos, I can’t even cross the state line and come back. Understood.

That’s the background to this Uplift, an artist who added a lot of fun and eye-pleasure to many hours on many trains, BEK. Or BEK 86. I’ve tried to look up the right way to introduce BEK, and I’m going to go with Graffiti Letter Artist. No idea who BEK is, but their work on buildings, track walls, and freight train cars became the best part of many stressed, tired commutes. Looking for a new BEK. Spotting a new BEK!   BEK fan!!

BEK’s letters sometimes angle sharply, sometimes bubble. They always seem cheerful and eager to connect with eyes. I like the letters’ strong “feet” and the way they take up their space. And I love BEK’s colors. They get attention from BEK and deserve attention. Melon orange darkening upward to rich red. Lavender and purple.  A stunning sort of pearly blue-white.  Simple black and white with turquoise, but also some complex combos.

I took these two and other photos through the dirty windows of a moving MBTA commuter rail train and am irrationally proud of them. BEK’s Instagram gallery was clearly NOT taken through dirt while in motion and displays the real Beauty.

Like body art, graffiti art has a past and a mixed reputation. To some, it’s putting images where no images should be. I’m not a property owner, so I can’t comment on that. In the last few years, I’ve learned a lot about graffiti and street art from student papers.

(The college where I teach dates from the era that loved concrete, and, apparently, felt  windowless, cinder-block classrooms in shades of white with fluorescent lights were a great idea for humans. I’ve always felt the best thing would be to give these artists one wall in every room, and then just walk away and leave them to it. I write about real estate, and I can tell you, accent walls are Out for 2020, but this is an emergency.)

I find Creativity in places not intended for it fascinating. I like these artists’ engagement with spaces and surfaces not really made to be looked at or enjoyed. This art stands up to weather, and even to rules, and I like that, too. My BEK search has made me see the talent, effort,  humor, and Creativity they’ve got going on.

The hope of getting back to seeing BEK out there uplifts me now as much as seeing BEK did then.

 

 

Uplift of the Week

Alice

So many ways to experience Creativity. Including when it sneaks up on you and throws a little surprise party just when you really needed one.

Some days just, as we used to say in Rhode Island in the 70s, rot. I recently had such a day, a bit of an inner Nor’easter.  Well, an inner “car swerves to slam a wall of puddle water onto you” anyway. Somehow, two of my favorite creative people suddenly appeared to offer some serious uplift.

One was “writer who draws” Austin Kleon, who books are delightful, advice-filled kicks in the pants for creative people. His recent newsletter called my attention to the soul-swirling fact that artist, writer, and goddess Maira Kalman has illustrated…are you ready?…wait for it… Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.   I know!

And not only that. Kalman has done a short film, performing excerpts from the book as Alice B. Toklas, presumably in her, or someone’s, apartment in New York. It is outrageous and splendid and sort of nail-biting. I will watch it many, many times.

There was no choice but to be lifted. I love to explore and consider Creativity in many forms in our brimming-over world, but sometimes You and Someone’s Art is just a joyful encounter. Someone’s Creativity helps you find the spring breeze on a bad day, and up you go.

Chance Creativity

AGW

At the risk of a blog overrun by shadows and cemeteries, let us proceed. I am a happy collector of Chance Creativity wherever it’s found, whether in Nature or in human effort. I collect moments of connection between what’s around us and what we perceive. (Oh, right, yeah, that’s…Creativity.) But sometimes you come across something surprising that uplifts.

I love the extra layer of creativity in this tomb door plaque in the Hancock Cemetery, Quincy Center, MA, observed by my ever-curious and history-minded colleague. There’s a wonderful variety of materials and surfaces, an attractive font, and fine stone artistry. Certainly it makes sense to have the names in alphabetical order.  But look at the Chance Creativity in Appleton, Greenleaf, and Woodward: “wood” rises into “green leaf” rises into “apple.” I’m going to believe that, after all the time and attention, the stone carvers saw it, too.

What is in play here? The ways we memorialize, and what stone symbolizes. Space and landscape. Style, even in burial, that reflects people, regions, and eras. Human relationships and how we express them. They all came together here, our eyes joined them, and there is the image of a tree in stone, made of words.

Thank you to Christina Rewinski for her historic explorations and the photo.

The Haiku Board

Hey, remember April? Me, either. I think it was the last time I thought about this blog with any sense of fun, since I’ve been overworking at my jobs since then. These things happen. It is what it is. This, too. This too shall pass. Moving on.

April definitely happened, though, and it was definitely National Literature and Poetry Month. The historic site in Boston where I work has some share of literary fame. King’s Chapel’s location is where some of some of The Scarlet Letter takes place. Poets Sarah Wentworth Morton and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. were members. Louisa May Alcott’s grandfather has a Memorial, Herman Melville’s grandfather is buried close by, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather owned a tomb in the crypt. Mrs. Morton’s grandfather was also a member, also buried there, so we are the Champs when it comes to Writer Gramps.

Special displays of people, prose, poems, and quotations filled the chapel for the month. We also offered space and post-it notes for visitors to write Haiku about their experiences. We enjoyed and admired them. Here are some poems left by our visitors on The Haiku Board. I don’t know their names, but I thank them for their Creativity.

Some people focused on what they saw:

Some people focused on history, including the presence of the Enslaved and free People of Color:

Some just cut to the chase. Fair enough.

And some, well, I don’t know what inspired this, but we all loved it!

So Creative, It’s Scary

elvis skellylicious

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s exhibit of Richard Avedon’s photography focused on his fashion work, with evolving style and glamor over the decades it covered. He used the camera over the years to say many things about humanity, and even these images had his Creative Muscle in them.

We’d just seen the last gallery and were thumbing through the coffee table books on the benches by the exit. The long wall near us contained an unusual photo shoot, with the models posed in an urban, post-apocalyptic world that I remember as windy-looking and trash-strewn. But artfully. The couture, of course, was flawless as they posed together, one model a lovely young woman and the other a skeleton in male attire. She seemed not to notice.

I liked them because they worked well as, and also laughed at, fashion photography. But if I’d been a little kid, I would have run. Petrified of skeletons back then, I would have felt the earth shake beneath as the nice museum betrayed me with this unexpected Terror. The photos brought back that old fear of coming upon skeletons in museums and historic sites. I could laugh in the gallery, but once upon a time, it wasn’t funny.

There was a little girl, about five, in the gallery with us, looking with her adults. She was wearing a pretty little dress, the sort of outfit that makes girls look all sugar and spice. After viewing these images, she walked back to where they started, gathered herself, and began an assertive stomp-march along the wall. Marching with as much attitude as any runway requires, she pointed up dramatically at each photo and declared, “Scary! Scary! Scary! Scary! Scary!” Her tone was 10% outraged complaint and 90% putting these pictures in their damn place. And then her work there was done.

Wasn’t I vindicated. Maybe an Art Critic was born. But also an artist: this was performance, with space, action, and dialogue carefully planned and executed. It was splendid.

I have no conclusion or message to add here. Two expressive people impressed me with their Creativity, one in answer to the other. I think I’m writing about it just to join a Creative conga line I admired. I guess sometimes Inspiration can be the feeling of “I want in on this!” The only thing better than going to spend time with a Creative you know is suddenly meeting a new one while you’re at it.

The image is of Production Design by my Creative Cuz Elvis Strange, of Designing with Strange, Inc. Skellylicious, and used with his permission!

First Love

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I clearly remember my First Time, and it was with someone very special. I always have and always will love him. It was a stormy summer night, outdoors in a park, and we got rained out halfway through.

I’m talking about Theater, Darlings. My first real Major Playwright relationship was with Edward Albee, and we’ve been at it since 1982. And when I say “at it,” I mean he was writing, being a Towering Pillar, winning Tony and Pulitzer awards. And I was adoring him, reading him, watching him, among others, working backstage (creatively) part time, and coming to love his and all related art forms.

The thing I can tell you that all the recent articles and obituaries could not is how lucky I am to have someone like this writer come early into my creative (part-time) life. That play in the rainy park, and I did get to see it whole and dry on another night, was my first experience with live, non-musical American Drama. It was The Ballad of the Sad Café, based on the short story by Carson McCullers. I was fifteen, a novice without context and with a blown mind. I learned from him that the Uncanny is where Humanity is, not just with Victorian people on darkened moors. He taught me the huge, truthful power of the utter Absurdity of Us, and the possibilities of a wide-open imagination. He still reminds me that language is a precision tool, an echo chamber, and an animal howl, All at the same time. I met Beckett, Brecht, Sartre, Marina Carr, August Wilson, and probably even Salvador Dali, holding his hand. He touches my shoulder with a finger when I write, gently directing me away from what I think other people will understand and accept easily. His first lesson, that writing for the theater is writing for the THEATER, not WRITING for the theater…well, I seem to have annoyed a lot of people in academia with that one, but I hold up my little banner and always will.

Rest in peace, Edward, and thank you.  I’m glad you’re the one I met at the door because it made me want to stay, and it’s a fabulous party.

(BTW, my First Love that I actually knew personally is in the picture. Theater’s so great.)