October 2006 Archives

Happy Halloween!

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Oh man, Halloween is probably the best holiday ever. Everything about it makes me positively ecstatic.

And since Eric isn't here to censor me this year, I'm gonna wear my bright orange sweater (maybe)! Heheheh!

I hope you have a fantastic, spooky, fun day!

Barring that, please don't be a Halloween grinch like my mother - I only just learned how much she hates my very favorite day. Something to do with children stomping on her porch and being greedy for candy. Who knew!

A quarter century

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It would be easy to get disappointed if I started comparing the person I thought I'd be by 25 with the person I am.

I thought that I would have my career all figured out, my undergrad student loans well on their way toward being paid off, and I'd be working happily at a well-paying job. I never thought I'd be going to grad school, for two degrees, for several years (not accounting for what I do after this), at considerable expense and still kind of unsure precisely what I want to do.

I thought I would live in a house, maybe in another country, maybe in the countryside, which I was working on owning. There was an outside chance I'd have an intensely glamorous apartment or condo in Manhattan or another city. At present, I rent an overpriced loft in Brooklyn on the border of Bed Stuy which is affectionately referred to as the "sophomore dorms" by administrators on campus.

I thought I would be married, have at least one child, maybe two, and a very idealized family life. I live with my boyfriend, who is my best friend and the man of my dreams, and our two adorable cats, whom I probably treat as my children and spoil accordingly. I sincerely believe I've found the love of my life, and now I gotta figure out how to keep him around (like by maybe changing the litter box when it's my turn). I never dreamed I would get to have so much fun and be with someone who understands me so uniquely. This is the kind of love I didn't know existed.

I thought perhaps I would be an artist of some reputation, supporting myself some with painting. I have sold some work, and I do get to paint every day.

I thought I would have figured out my spiritual, political, moral, and social beliefs and been able to face the world with slightly less confusion... instead I find there is only more.

I thought I would have finally lost the weight I gained in college (and thereafter) and been living a healthy lifestyle. I did recently hit the 25-pound weight loss mark, so that's something.

The point is that, if I were looking at these assumptions I'd made about what my life would be like at 25 (that ancient looming number), I hardly measure up.

Then I realize, my concept of my life at 25 was formed by fantasies and an outrageous lack of awareness about the world and myself. What I've phrased as "goals" were more like daydreams or pipe dreams, depending on the chemicals involved.

When I look at my life now, the things I have accomplished, and the person I've become, it's not what I expected.

I may argue that it's better.

As I consider that I'm not living my wildest dreams, I realize - hey - I'm pretty damn close, and I'm on a solid track to getting the rest of the way there. I've found a lot more than I knew I was looking for, and I feel lucky to have all this by 25.

Most of all, my life is not a hypothetical far-off place - I am connected with each day, and I recognize that I am no longer dreaming of my future, but living in my dream. Despite the ego-blows and medium- to high-grade panic attacks I've been having about turning 25 on Wednesday, I feel genuinely thankful for the experiences in my life and all its blessings.

So you'll forgive me if I have little more than a photo of a tiara and some vague self-celebration on my actual birthday.

I'm happy this year. And things are only going to get better.

Such a simple idea...

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Since I spend all my time on projects for my Art of the Book class, I may as well share some of it, right?

This week's assignment seemed very simple: an ABC book, accordion folded, with hard covers.

I decided to do 26 ink paintings, abstractions based on my experience of pronouncing each letter sound and my associations with letters. They were all 9″x12″ on off-white paper.

As I am a master of craftsmanship, this book was held together with flimsy, sloppily glued hinges between pages, though I was happy with the way the inside covers were glued (apart from my inky fingerprints, sigh).

Here Iggs is inspecting pages H & I when the book is flipped page to page. One of the weaknesses is that I didn't really incorporate the accordion structure or use it to effect the reading experience. I accepted this limitation because at the time I was more concerned with the individual paintings and hadn't really thought of flow and sequence until I had put it together and realized it didn't work.

(Left: N & O, Right: Z with inside back cover)

Since I will probably be redoing this assignment, I will make the book more of a continuous image that moves across a larger page. You can see in the view at right of J, K, L & M expanded over my crap on the couch, it's rather large when it opens, but the images don't often move into one another.

I'm also planning to make the images two-sided, to better take advantage of the backside (at present, you can mostly see random ink wash stains - which I love - and patterns from the bottom of the aluminum turkey pans I was preparing them in, which I hate).

(back cover, corner detail)

For the front and back covers, I made two larger paintings and cropped sections out, which I used to wrap binding board. I hadn't thought of a way to distinguish the front from the back cover, nor top from bottom, which I will make a point of in the next version.

This book got the usual skewering in critique. It sucks because when I finish these projects, I'm very well aware of their limitations, and most of the time I hand them in already planning how to redo them, but it is certainly demoralizing to have someone do an impression of my thought process and mock me in the guise of making a constructive point.
I'm increasingly frustrated by this class because the same girl who, without fail, every week, singles out my work to trash, also complains to the professor that no one talks and that we are not working at what she perceives to be her level (she has taken book-making classes before and fancies herself a possessor of all artistic knowledge in the world).

Most critiques start with me trying to point out a positive aspect of someone's work, then this girl decides it's time to pick on me, so we talk about all the faults and limitations of my work. I try not to respond point by point because the professor usually joins in and gives a detailed list of everything I've done wrong, and I realize that this is something I can actually learn from. Afterwards, the rest of the class stares, clearly intimidated and hoping like hell that no one picks on their work next, so the professor gets frustrated and complains that we never talk, then packs up the books with a vaguely threatening "Well I guess I'll be thinking about these things by myself as I grade them then" or similar.


After this afternoon's crit, we went to the library to look at a whole selection of artist's books. I had a bit of a revelation as she showed us Ed Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations, which many consider the first artist's book. That is, this is not some long-established and renowned art form like, say, music or painting. This is essentially an art-making fad which started in the sixties and should have played out with conceptual artists of that time, but it has become institutionalized by a handful of book artists who obviously have a vested interest in propagating the idea that artist's books are somehow their own unique form of expression and not a played-out gimmick.

I dunno. Maybe I'm trying to rationalize being bad at it with a disdain for the form, but I have a real problem with forcing ideas to fit into a contrived structure (because the assignment says I have to) rather than using a structure which best suits the ideas.

I'm gonna have to work this crap out myself and stop worrying about it all the time. Or just plan on doing every assignment at least twice. Bleh.

Blustery Day

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It has been crazy windy around here lately. Howling through the air conditioners, freezing out the apartment kind of wind.

Yeah, we uhh still have our air conditioners in the windows.

Anyway it's been ridiculously cold, and all I've wanted to do is wrap myself in fifteen layers of clothing and blankets and snuggle up with the kitties. They are only too happy to oblige.

There has been some stormy weather on the emotional and interpersonal relations front, mainly because I have been flying off the handle and overreacting to things, which, duh, hurts people's feelings. The trouble is that even when the wind stops blowing, the chill remains. I'm not really sure how to undo the damage I've done. Uff.

In this coming week, I have a ton of work to do (par for the course), I turn 25, and Eric gets back from Hong Kong.

Maybe I can calm down some and things will be less tumultuous and confusing. Perhaps one day I'll learn to manage stress better than this.

So what are you like, an old student?

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Oh man.

I started grading midterms and realized the answer key is missing answers to the last two sections. They are simple True/False and matching, and I know that I could look them up in the book and get the right answers... but off the top of my head? Not a clue.

Yes folks, I am assisting in the education of our youth. Next week I will guide them through a museum... learning about the material just an hour or two before they hear it.

Some students, by the way, still don't understand the concept of a TA and persist in thinking I am just an older, fatter classmate with nothing better to do than organize review sessions and hang out with the professor over break.

(Comic via)

And while we're at it...

I suddenly feel transparent...

Knitting while angry

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I've been brooding (pouting) about some things that a nearly 25-year-old woman really shouldn't. Perhaps more on that later (likely not).

While simmering, I was making great progress on my Ballet Style Wrap Sweater. I knit the back up without incident and had moved onto the Left Front piece. Once again, I learned my least favorite lesson in knitting:

Always read your pattern carefully, all the way through.

I thought I was very clever for working out the decreases and zipped through them all, then thought "okay, now I'll just have to knit even until it reaches 11-1/2 inches..." and whipped out my measuring tape to figure out how much more that would be.

Umm, whoops. Turns out it was 3 and a half inches ago.

I reread the rest of the very important paragraph I'd only skimmed and realized I'd missed the "AND" in the beginning of the bit which told me to decrease for the armhole at the same time as decreasing the rest.


Wedding pics

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As I was telling my mother stories about Rick & Heather's wedding, I realized I hadn't yet posted photos.

They're all Eric's, but I've put them in a captioned Flickr set, if you'd like to check em out. Man what a great time!!!

(That title references one of my favorite books as a child, as well as an idea I've had lately about saving myself some time and subway fares and just moving into the Met.)

One of my recent very favorite artists, Brice Marden has an upcoming retrospective at MoMA which is supposed to be delightful.

I read Roberta Smith's Times piece today and I'm looking forward to it all the more now.

At the Met, there are some really exciting upcoming exhibits this fall and winter, though it should be said that some of what's up now is simply amazing.

I mentioned the Brush and Ink Chinese calligraphy show which is really worth checking out. I've uploaded some of my photos to a Flickr set, though as so frequently happens when I bring my lesser camera, they came out pretty junky. It's always trouble shooting work in museums, particularly work on paper in slanted display cases within dimly-lit rooms, but my reluctance to carry my ever so slightly heavier digital SLR results in well, what you see here.

At any rate, this exhibit was wonderful, with massive scrolls of calligraphy (which were amazing) and surprisingly interesting texts accompanying and explaining them. The curators really considered their audience, discussing nuances in forming characters like abstract painting, which gave access to understanding the social and political implications in how someone may write. I came away with a much clearer understanding of the importance of calligraphy, as well as an intense love of the shapes and forms.

They further incorporated decorative objects and contemporary artists using scrolls and writing in their work - a really engaging treatment.

Just before seeing this show, I had read an incredible essay by an 11th century painter named Kuo Hsi, discussing the practice of painting which - with no exaggeration - has changed my life. The levels on which he discussed it, the spiritual ramifications of painting... they are almost too personal to discuss. Suffice it to say, seeing this scholar's desk so carefully set up beneath the windows to a courtyard brought tears to my eyes.

Like walking through grass barefoot or feeling breezes on my face, painting is something I will always have, which connects me to this world and makes sense of the next. When all the politics and stress and careerism and competition of grad school is over, I will still have painting... and if I do it right, I will still love it.

In my last studio post, I tried to explain this recent compulsive need to use ink, no doubt influenced by the essay and this exhibit. For my next book-making project, I've been assigned an accordion folded abecedarian (which is an ABC book to you and me). I've decided to create 26 ink paintings based on the sounds and associations I have with letters. It is a bit difficult to explain visualizing sound or expressing what an accented "E" looks like, but soon enough you will see what I mean. I'm intensely excited for this project because however it functions as a book, I will get to do 26 (or more) ink paintings.

I wasn't allowed to take photos, but the Sean Scully Wall of Lightshow currently on view at the Met is really quite remarkable. They've cleared the top floor of the Modern gallery and filled it with Scully's, such that the light streams down from the skylights and the paintings just dazzle.

I attended a talk about Scully a few days before seeing the show, and the speaker named among Scully's influences the ways that buildings in places like Mexico (or Costa Rica) would have areas of bright color butting up against one another creating the strangest combinations. I have a whole set of photos from Turrialba demonstrating just this effect, so of course I really appreciated it.

While I'm gushing over the Met (I'm not kidding - I've really spent a lot of time there lately), the Vollard show is also incredible. It is organized around the dealer Ambroise Vollard and some of the paintings that passed through his hands, including major heavyweights like Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, etc.

One of the notes I scribbled down from the wall texts was that 2/3 or more of Cézanne's 680 paintings passed through Vollard's shop. The show was fantastic, showcasing some real pivotal moments in 19th and 20th century painting, with Impressionists, Fauvists, Cubists - you name it. I rediscovered artists I had only a vague idea of and I got the chance to really examine some gorgeous lesser-known works, especially by Cézanne. After theCézanne & Pissarro show last fall at MoMA, I'm not sure I can ever get away from Cézanne, and I'm glad I finally get it and see how much I have to learn from him.

The room that actually made me laugh out loud was a set of portraits of Vollard by many of the artists he showed. Quite hilarious.

I have not made it to as many of the galleries as I'd wanted this season, as obviously I've been concentrating on older artists and museum shows. And it happens that I will be at the Met again next week (I have to guide a tour for my survey students - eek!), during which time I plan to check out the Americans in Paris show that I've heard good things about.

When I get some time (ha!), I want to see Lucio Fontana at the Guggenheim, maybe the Picasso influenceat the Whitney, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to the Frick with one of my classes this semester. Of course I will never forgive myself if I don't make it to Annie Leibovitz at the Brooklyn Museum.

Also now that I've discovered chelseaartgalleries.com (thank you Edward), I'm sure I will be schlepping on the A/C/E a little more frequently. The calendars? The maps with thumbnails? The Last Chance section?! Absolutely brilliant!

Sigh... I love New York.

Way to go New Jersey!

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Finally some progress in gay marriage.

I wish we could cut to the chase and call marriage marriage already, but at least this is a step in the right direction.

My concern now is that this will mobilize crazy right-wing folk (Wisconsin, don't be those jerks, okay?), but let's not give them any ideas.

Helpful little guys

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As Eric got ready for his trip, the cats made themselves both useful and entertaining.

Go on, say it with me, "Awwww...."

Love is nowhere near strong enough a word for the way I feel for these guys. When Eric gangs up with the cats, I absolutely melt.

God help me if I have children and the cats cuddle up with them - I will probably have a stroke.

I like the way our cats are trained to look into the camera as well.

Iggy helped Eric pack his suitcase.

Upset that Iggy took time away from what we call their "Best Buds Forever" position (wherein they hold each other, usually on the blue chair), Smokey spent some time alone on the bed. Head-buttingly alone.

If I'm to be honest, I sleep in that exact same position quite often. Daily, I suspect that Smokey and I are the same being in two bodies.

Iggy also helped me with my knitting. If there was ever a question as to why my yarn photos almost always have cat hairs in them, perhaps you can now understand.

Later, Smokey joined Iggy and they both turned into prawns.

In the interest of full disclosure, I may have promised Eric that I'd post more kitty photos while he's away so he can see their sweet faces. I don't think I'll have any problem doing this, and if the several hours of dinosaur fighting are any indication, I'll probably have some video too.

Transgendered Bathroom Equality

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Recently, NYC passed a law allowing transgendered individuals to use the bathroom of either gender with which they identify, in many ways a step for greater equality. (Story here and here)

Local reporting on the story centered around one Helena Stone, who had previously been arrested on several occasions for using the women's restroom in Grand Central Station.

In many ways, I'm surprised this is news or that proper sensitivity toward transgendered individuals requires legislation. People have come to accept that homosexual individuals can use the same bathroom as those they may find sexually appealing and civilization will not crumble, so why do we continue regarding transgendered folks with such suspicion and ignorance?

My evening news included a requisite clip of idiots who were very "uncomfortable" with this idea, one woman saying something like "I know they say they're women, but they're men, and who's to say they're not really just perverts?"

Seriously? There are still people who think this way?

I understand the elementary schoolyard temptation to envision lecherous men claiming they are transgendered so they can gain access to lady's rooms, but it is the leering and inappropriate behavior which should warrant legal action, not the individual's gender.

Who says women can't be perverts?

If I were to use a stall and be made to feel uncomfortable by someone peeking, hanging around, or in some way receiving gratification by listening, smelling, or whatever, it would be that person's behavior which would trigger me to call the police in, not that person's identity, be they male, female, hetero- or homosexual, transgendered - whatever.

Personally, I also think it is likely that a transgendered individual would be as sensitive - if not moreso - as any other woman in the lady's room, in that said individual self-identifies as a woman and sees other women as peers.

If we live in a day and age where we can only distinguish inappropriateness as a boy in the girls' room, I think we have much bigger problems.

In the meantime, let people pee in peace.

Cookie Book

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For my Art of the Book class, we were assigned to make a book using non-traditional materials (i.e. anything but cardboard and paper) and any binding technique we wanted.

I chose to create an unbound book in the form of a tin of cookies to be sent to American soldiers still stationed in Iraq. This is as close as I get to political, and of course, it's rather complicated. My professor said reading the collophon helped immensely, so perhaps you'd like to do so as well:

To create the cookies, I made cornstarch-based dough using this recipe, which actually dried more like porcelain or very fine clay... good to keep in mind for future (non-cookie) projects. I kneaded the dough and rolled it out, then used four different sized star shaped cookie cutters. I cut out exactly 50 stars.

You know how Elmer's glue dries to your hands? Yeah, they've got nothing on this stuff.

I set the cookies out on wax paper to dry.

In the meantime, I worked on the tin.

I purchased a plain white tin at a craft store, then used masking tape to mark off stripes. To make things easy on myself, I used the width of the tape to determine the width of the stripes.

I also figured out how to tape off a star. I was quite happy about that. Sometimes it's the small things.

On hindsight I realized that this arrangement more closely resembled a Puerto Rican flag than an American one, so even though I was going for the patriotic feel, I should have stuck with my original design (solid blue top, letting the 50 stars come from inside).

I used enamel paint to give the tin a slick, industrial finish. Unfortunately, this bled all over the place and evaporated the adhesive on the tape (whoops), so I needed to paint in the white areas with acrylic.

I was unhappy with the finish, but it certainly had a strong impact - I got quite a few strange looks walking around with this tin while transporting it to and from my studio.

Because the enamel was still soft days later, it got budged up a lot in handling, which added to the rough feel and the sort of shabby care package concept.

I used text culled from various sources around the internet to give an assortment of mixed messages and cultural commentary. I deliberately presented positive, supportive views, negative or cynical ones, and ambiguous, complicated statements.

Lettering was done with a thin blue Sharpie, though my professor felt it should have been in different colors and handwriting. I'd considered this and opted for the misleading effect of uniformity... but because it was personalized by my own handwriting and not machine printed text, this was a little problematic.

I arranged the cookies in the tin in a randomized way. The collophon (seen above) was adhered to the inside of the lid.

The sequence of the book is determined as the reader reaches in and selects cookies, with meaning accumulated through the ways the messages conflict, influence, and alter one another, a metaphorical replication of the cultural consciousness encountered by soliders faced with the landscape of varying opinion about them and our country.

In making this project, I was obviously not trying to insult soldiers or anything like that. The book is meant as a reality check for the reader, raising questions about what it means to be an American (or global) citizen, what kinds of mixed messages we give to those we ask to defend our way of life, what kinds of hipocrisy that lifestyle may entail, and similar.

It was an interesting challenge for me because in addition to working the physical materials, I really had to think about fitting the content to the format and vice versa. I considered the politics of these statements and how to compile them in such a way that they would have an impactful accumulation. In doing this, I've gained a lot of respect for book artists and those rare political artists who really make you think without veering off into propaganda. Neither task was anywhere near as easy as I thought.

More from my studio

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In classic me style, I haven't photographed the recently finished painting (though you can see part of it below), but I've got some more views of my process and current work.

This week I was sporting some green paint rather hopelessly gobbed in my hair while leaning over a painting. I tried to pull it off as if it were no big deal, but everyone noticed. I was very glad I managed to get it all out in time for the wedding.

This painting is where I got my green from, and it is a radical stylistic departure for me.

I had been doing ink paintings (which we'll discuss below) and getting frustrated that I couldn't control the flow in quite the way I wanted.

For this painting, I applied a layer of viridian green with a palette knife, then worked up the surface to create texture. I mixed the pale lemony yellow with a significant portion of mineral spirits so that when poured over the surface of the green, it would not only flow, but would also mix into the green and encourage it to flow and pool as well. I blew on the surface to create turbulence (the sort of blossoming shapes) and to get the paint to move.

Less successful uses of this technique:

At left, I think the ground was not thick enough to give the washy layer anything to react with. I also am not sure there is enough contrast between the colors. At right (this is a very small piece), I mixed the colors into the ground layer, then used an iridescent white in the wash... didn't really work the way I thought it would.

I haven't even begun to decide what to do with this one. It's mostly mineral spirits more than anything else, so I want to check up on it after it's had a few days to fade out.

In a recent critique, my professor and I talked about ways of applying paint that are not my usual suffocating overpainted style. I set myself the personal challenge of facing my fears of texture, lack of control, movement, etc, and what I found in that process was incredibly inspiring and freeing.

Now I want to find a way to integrate the liveliness and splashy, liquid feel of this kind of painting with the subject matter I typically work with to (ideally) come up with something indulgent, pleasurable, visceral, and exciting.

I started a rather large painting (2′x4′) based somewhat on this photo of my artichoke leaves from Easter dinner. There was something very appealing about its loose outline stages, and I carried that into my first pass at painting.

I am very excited with this painting, though I know I'm treading lightly because I don't want to lose the possibility I see in it in this stage. My painting class agreed, which was a relief. I usually don't show works in progress, so they only see the finished products that I've fussed and toiled over... which end up completely without energy and become exhausting. It's nice to know that the stuff I see is as gratifying to others as me.

Now my current struggle is frustrating but fascinating to me.

I went to a friend's thesis exhibition a few weeks ago, and she had these absolutely gorgeous ink paintings. As I know she's practiced Chinese ink painting for years and is truly a master of it, I can't possibly come close to her expertise... but it's been plaguing me and I think about those paintings every day.

I also checked out the Brush and Ink: Chinese Art of Writing show at the Met (highly highly recommended) and have found myself rather obsessed. In particular, I am intrigued by the way ink flows and is absorbed by the paper - being able to see this seeming captured movement is so enticing and alluring.

In addition to working on paper, I had some panels of pine that my Mom gave me (leftover boards from karate), so I tried some diluted ink washes first, finding the wood is capable of absorbing an amazing amount of ink.

What's genuinely heartbreaking about this is that what I see as I'm working fades and becomes much more diffuse and... blech... when it's dried. This is something I have to learn more about - maybe more layering will help, less water, etc.

These are all the same painting. At left, the first washy version. Then, I worked it back over with thick ink and was pretty happy... until it dried (image at right).

I have to work with this more, though I did find paper more receptive than wood.

In another case, I found the process so much more interesting to watch than the finished product, though now that it's fully dry, I do not *hate* the end result.

I saturated a piece of paper with water and placed it in a butcher's tray which happened to have bits of oil paint and mineral spirits in the base (having used said tray on some of those earlier washy paintings). Obviously the oil stuck in places to the paper, changing the ink flow.

I applied ink with an eye dropper, dousing the paper so I could watch it move. It was absolutely gorgeous and hypnotic.

(I'm really glad I took these photos)

At left - it looked more like this when dry - can you see how frustrating that change is?? At right - the way the ink stuck to the tray as it dried was equally interesting. I liked this process for creating a double-sided image which will become the basis of an accordion folded book (more on that soon).

In an opposite effect, making enamel splash (get it? like ink splash?) paintings are completely different. They look cloudly and dull and like a solid field as I work them, but as the mineral spirits evaporate and enamel particles settle down into pools of color, they become a lot more intense.

Here is a bit of a secret. I made that painting while cleaning my brush. I'm becoming increasingly interested in the things I can't control.

Meanwhile my new studio set-up is working very well. I've moved my easel, paint & medium table, and palette tabouret to the left of the door. The only downside is the very intense work light which now shines on my head while I work. A major upside is that my easel faces the couch, so I can sit and contemplate my work in the heighth of luxury and comfort.

At right (and to the right of my door), Eric made me a supply cart this summer by attaching casters to a shelving system that used to be in our office here.

I will need a very large storage locker when I no longer have this studio...

Flickr Studio set

Hooray for newlyweds

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Congratulations to Rick & Heather who were married this Saturday!!!

The wedding was an absolute blast, and it was great to see so many friends.

I have bunches of photos (of Eric's), and I will post them once I get around to editing them... though in the meantime I have a ton of work and a midterm review to plan (booo).

Eric left for a two-week trip to Singapore & Hong Kong this afternoon - I miss him already!

Who needs original content...

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... when the internet is so full of awesome?

(This is my way of saying this post will be pretty much all linked material.)

One Week of Art Works:


Very fun project.

By the same people, Puzzle:


There is an awesome scene in one of my favorite movies where the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat stares at a pile of tires and hallucinates them being painted and arranged into a piece we see later in the movie. I can't even begin to express how exciting it is to see art spontaneously appear, and I have intentions to animate some of my in-progress painting pictures to get the same feeling.

Almost as cool as watching paintings appear in time lapse footage is watching paint itself gushing and exploding to classical music (why can't I remember what song this is?) in an ad for the new Sony BraviaLCD television:


I can even forgive the scary clown. Mostly.

And somehow I missed this other Bravia ad, which has my current favorite song (José González's "Heartbeats"), Balls:


I have to give it up for ads which are this well done. Way to go Sony.

I also have to give it up for people who make wonderfully nerdy things like this Mario cube tissue box coveror DS Lite case.

A smattering

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This is pretty interesting - in 90 seconds you can see who has controlled the Middle East over history atMaps of War. I'm tempted to suggest showing this to my ancient survey students, since it would help them visualize who was where when... but maybe only I find it interesting (via).

Speaking of, I feel all responsible for my students now, as I've scheduled a midterm review session for them. I have to talk to the professor about how he would like me to conduct it, but at least I've booked the room and committed myself to it. Of course, the thought of being alone with the class, during which time I'll likely reveal that I know nothing about the course material... well that's a little nerve-wracking to say the least. I really want them to do well, so I have to figure out what would be the most helpful preparation.

Joke Interlude:

A notoriously difficult professor receives a knock on his door the day before the final exam. A buxom young co-ed wearing a tight sweater and short skirt saunters in.

"Professor O'Connell," she coos, "I really need to do well on the final exam tomorrow, and I would do anything to get a good grade."

As she twirls her fingers in her hair and licks her lips, he raises an eyebrow and asks, "Really? You'd do anything?"

She giggles and says, "Oh yes, I would do anything."

He asks again, "No seriously, you'd do... anything?"

The co-ed can barely contain herself, squealing, "Oh yes - absolutely anything!"

He leans across the desk and looks into her twinkling eyes. He lowers his voice and says, "Would you.... study?"


I briefly mentioned that our satellite TV has been out for the past week or two, which was kind of frustrating - not because I really missed television, so much as I got really tired of Eric pointing out how life goes on without it and we don't really need it...

It was bizarre because there had been a very windy, stormy night during which our signal wasn't interrupted at all. The next morning, the sky was clear, sunlight streaming down, the world glowing in beauty and perfect weather - and that's when the signal went out. The DirecTV people were as confused as I was. After several days in a row of Eric and I trying to goad the other into going up on the roof to check it out, I finally broke down and scheduled a service call for this afternoon.

In my nomination for Stupidest Resolution of Minor Life-Event this Month, it turns out our satellite dish was just plain gone. Someone actually went to the trouble of setting off the world's loudest roof alarm and prowling around to steal one of dozens of satellite dishes up there. A satellite dish which is essentially useless without subscribing to DirecTV service. What a douche.

(But I have satellite back in time to watch the Project Runway finale, and we all know my life has been leading up to this.)

(Okay if I'm being really honest? I couldn't care less who wins and I'm kind of bored with it, as always seems to happen by the season finale.)

I'm going to a dear friend's wedding this weekend, where I'll get to see a bunch of beloveds from Trinity - I am ridiculously excited!

Now I just have to figure out what one wears to a wedding in October and find it, preferably quickly and without going bankrupt.

I had a very productive studio session this evening, and I will post photos perhaps tomorrow. I'm supposed to have a critique with my afternoon painting class, and for once in a long time, I'm looking forward to it.

I had started writing because I was too amped up from painting to imagine myself sleeping, but now my eyelids are getting heavy and that little white sailboat is beckoning me to sea.


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The always-thoughtful Deborah Fisher has written a really interesting and rather poetic piece about being an individual in the Vastness of the contemporary world - highly recommended reading.


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My midterm exam and all its accompanying hysteria (literally I've had nightmares and panic attacks about it) are over. I survived, and possibly, I even did well.

Now all I can think about is eating a tub of vanilla frosting in its entirety. Though I'd also settle for like, a cupcake tree. Or several hundred caramels. Anything dessert really.

Dan introduced me to the world of Igor Bars the other night (only imaginatively - I have not yet experienced the glory)... I haven't stopped thinking about audacious decadence of the ultra-sweet variety since.

I'm going to the library now before my thoughts somehow manifest themselves as fat deposits.

Mid-semester faltering of confidence

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Basically I feel like a complete screw-up and I wonder what the hell I'm doing in grad school. (Commence whining.)

I spent a painful amount of time making this whole fake cookie political book project (there will be photos and an explanation later), and then it's like.... she'll just give me a check anyway.

I have this obsessive need to do well at things and get A's in all my classes, and I have a really bad feeling I will end up with a B in this class. To top it off, I don't even enjoy it, and most days I leave feeling completely discouraged and demoralized. Oh also? All the work I'm putting into projects that get a very "meh" response is time I should have been spending painting, reading, researching, or working on all the other things I'm very behind in.

That brings me to tomorrow's midterm. Somehow I am able to remember every trivial fact about all three seasons of Project Runway and can quote minute nuances of language from poetry I read ten years ago, but for the life of me, I can't remember who painted what when. Ironically, I am in charge of maintaining a (very bad and error-riddled) website with all of the course images - I could (and should) have been reviewing this stuff all along, but noooo, I wait until the day before to realize that, "Hey, I don't know any of the dates foranything." Oh except it's all 17th century, so I've got that going for me.

The survey professor whom I assist drove home the importance of knowing the facts to his students after many of them did poorly with dates on their recent quiz (which, yeah, that was interesting). He said it is akin to attempting to have a political discussion without knowing any of the names or dates or events you're talking about - you'll end up saying, "Oh you know, it's that guy in Washington, a little bit ago, with the thing and the stuff."

(Or if you want to go the Simpsons route, "Those clowns in Congress did it again. What a bunch of clowns." "How does it keep up with the news like that?!")

Incidentally, I mostly don't have political (or any) conversations unless the other person is willing to fill in all the you-knows and whathisfaces for me or just pretend they know what I'm talking about.

I feel like a moron because in the beginning of the semester, one of my professors gave us the syllabus with all of our reading assignments (umm as they all do), with a complete list of all the books (it's a frightening amount), and I completely forgot to make any arrangments to procure any of these books ahead of time after the first week was a lot of photocopying. Usually it works out that I drop twenty bucks copying all this stuff each week or scramble around trying to find a copy of a book if we need to read the whole thing, leave myself without enough time to comprehensively read (I'd call it a smart skim at best), and grumble that I'm stupid, ill-prepared, lazy, and [insert pejorative of choice - I usually like to throw in "fat" for good measure.]

This week, I can't even find a place that will sell the book in the tri-state area. Which means that I will be photocopying a 225-page book (which will cost approximately $22.50 if I don't make any mistakes) which is available on Amazon for $1.88 and lower.... or $1.26 for the hardcover with plates. How hard can I kick myself? For real.

I could get the book from the NYPL - and I can see it's available. EXCEPT I have put off getting a library card since, oh, last August or thereabouts (actually I've been meaning to get one since before starting school), so it will become a much lengthier ordeal than simply strolling in and getting the stupid book. If I had a library card, I wouldn't even have to go to the library because it's available on JSTOR online. Which my school doesn't have access to, but the NYPL does. Damnit.

But I'm putting off the book thing until tomorrow since I have all this reading to catch up on in preparation for the exam. And somehow I plan to fit a couple hundred paintings into my frazzled little brain before 9am tomorrow.

Is now an appropriate time to say that if there were no books, my world would be a much simpler place? If all writing were available free online and I didn't have to make artist's books for this class, I think... I think maybe I wouldn't feel so panicky and angry right now.

Oh also, I can't paint, and I don't know why the hell I try. Like seriously, this is a farce. We have open studios this Friday and the thought of people walking into my studio and looking at all my stuff in comparison with the rest of the MFA program is making me quake with terror. At the last one of these, I closed my studio and left after less than an hour because I just couldn't stand it. I have no idea how I'm going to deal with this one (especially since I really need to go shopping for a dress for a wedding this weekend instead of standing around feeling bad about my art and the first available time I'll have to do that is... Friday night). My plan is to have a huge bowl of candy corn on the table and sit on my couch smiling dumbly. Then no matter what an awful stuttering hack I reveal myself to be, they can't be too disparaging because hey, I was nice and gave them candy corn.

And that art history thing isn't really working out either - I'm terrible at research (see the library card extravaganza - I can't even get in the door), I don't know how to manage my time, I'm shallow and stupid and mostly, I just don't know what I'm doing. How I'm going to put together a thesis or in any way present intelligent ideas or (Good Lord) get a job doing this, I cannot possibly say right now.

Does anyone know of a postgraduate program in knitting and photographing one's cats? Because umm, I'm afraid that's really all I'm good for lately.

Actual Friday Cat-Blogging

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(who knew?)

To begin, I don't really like dressing up cats at all. Dressing up dogs is fine because as we all know, they are the dorks of the animal world. I've considered making Smokey a pumpkin costume for Halloween, but that's as far as it goes.

That said, these are two of the funniest cat clothing attempts I've ever seen (via):

Smokey says he desperately wants that bikini.

My little guys meanwhile have been taking advantage of their time in Handsome Kitten Modeling School and working it in the sunlight.

I love when Smokey shoves his face in the crook of Eric's arm.

These two have the same stare of concentration:

Look at these little couch potatoes. Iggs is just chillin, but Smokey is totally like "Back off, I'm watchin' ma stories!"

The funny thing is that our satellite has been out for a week now, so Smokey's the only one getting any use out of that remote (sob).

I could be wrong, but I think these are pretty happy guys...

A touch more yarn gluttony

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I really am trying to stop stashing because I really hate the concept, and I always go all eye-rolling at people who talk about this compulsive need to accumulate yarn.

But I had two more lovely things come in the mail...

Knit Picks Gloss, 70% merino wool, 30% silk sock yarn (yes, I know what I said about wool) in Burgundy.

Knit Picks Shadow, lace weight 100% merino wool in color 23663, Lost Lake. I really and truly love this yarn - it has these incredibly subtle color shifts, incorporating deep greens and browns with flecks of blue. This is intended for Eunny Jang's gorgeous Print o' the Wave stole, which, if it comes out well enough, may become a birthday present for E's mother.

Even when I'm trying to be good, I end up with yarn. Last night I went to Michael's to get some supplies for a bookmaking project, and I came back with Paton's Brilliant, DK weight acrylic / nylon / polyester novelty yarn (color 3008, Crystal Cream, if you're curious). This will become a headband or headscarf or similar I think.

I actually made progress on my Ballet-Style wrap cardigan yesterday. I've discovered that when scanning a whole pile of slides, the best way to maintain my patience and/or sanity is to knit while the scanner runs. I'm averaging around 5 inches of knitting per 50 slides.

Let's talk about art (finally)

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I've been promising to talk about art since, well, probably before the summer?

You'll be happy to know that I have moved one of my digital cameras to the studio, where it will live so that I may document my process, works in progress, etc. This may be of little interest to anyone but myself, but it is amazing to me how much I forget if I don't make images of it. Also, I do a lot of work which doesn't make it to my art website because it's not really intended as a finished piece... but sometimes it's still interesting.

Following my mother's advice, I returned the whorey boots and spent my money on more art supplies (huzzah!).

Basically I stocked up on drawing and study materials, as I had this revelation that my studio was only set up for making finished, highly invested pieces, which was paralyzing me in a lot of ways.

As with my love for synthetic yarns, it happens that my favorite drawing paper is pretty inexpensive - the basic Strathmore off-white Drawing series in tablets. It's just hard to beat.

Also in that pile are a canvas pad (I know, I know) and two smooth Bristol pads. To the left are some canvas boards, including really fantastic 12″x12″ square ones, which I'd never seen before. I recently learned that calling Japanese-milled paper "rice paper" is not really politically correct or even kind of accurate fiber-wise, but umm, yeah that roll was pretty pricey.

I also got drier and Copal medium, and because I've never used gouache before (you should see how many tries it took to spell that!), I grabbed some in lamp black and sepia.

Incidentally, remember how I got an awesome couch for free? Behold its loveliness:

That thing is crazy comfortable.

I recently cleared all the work off the walls of my studio and packed up as much stuff as I could so that the working surfaces are all clear and I have a blank slate so to speak.

This has worked wonders, despite the 80-odd pieces now hulking in the corner in an arrangement that appears engineered by Dr Seuss.

I think for open studios, I'm going to have to reorganize or hang a curtain or something, but it's quite an immense relief to not have all that scattered around my work space.

So what I have been doing with all this space and new stuff?

Mostly a lot of drawing:


I learned a surprising amount in working on some of my bookmaking projects recently, which continues to influence me, including one with roses:

And another where I painted upwards or 30 or 40 versions of the same species of jellyfish (Aurelia aurita, the common moon jelly) on parchment paper. This is one of the test ones, shown with enhanced contrast at right:

After the jellyfish book, I made another one of altered photos printed on absorbent off-white paper (they became kind of diffuse and strange - it was nice) called Thalassophobia.

I'm planning to work through a set of paintings based on some of these, but you can get the idea (Flickr set here):

I've also done a bunch of little painted studies, some loose and others more closely resembling eventual paintings:


And of course I've also been working on actual, full-size paintings.

(I finished that one earlier this semester)

These two are in progress. I have most of my hopes on the orange and purple one.

If you're interested in keeping up with more work, I've made a Flickr Studio set, and I will occasionally be posting (mostly finished) things here as well.

Now so long as I can get to my studio and not fall asleep on the couch, I should have lots more to share soon.

Oh by the way

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Remember how I got my hair cut?

Yeah there are pictures.


(Incidentally, this is also what I look like when I have the flu, in case you were curious.)

(And no, I was not driving - I showed up to the appointment like 45 min early and had to wait in the parking lot for the owner to open the building.)



One of these days I'll maybe get a photo without my sunglasses on my head (who does that anymore, seriously? Yeah, uhh me, everyday, often even when it's cloudy out. Once I went into a lecture, put my sunglasses up on my head, then put my regular glasses on - you can imagine how stylin' I was before I figured that out.)

Maybe one day I will also wear a little makeup.

But you get the idea.

Those shoes are the ones that destroyed my feet last week, but I am still totally willing to forgive them.

Anyway, I'm much happier with my hair now because it doesn't get in my way, and even when it does, it's in a fun, shaggy bangs way. I don't wear it tied up every day, which I'm sure is better for it, and surprisingly I have more options for when I want to style it than when I had just long straight (stringy, heavy) hair.

So wheee.

Also, and I'm just putting this out there... if I were to decide to be Martha Stewart for Halloween, I think I've got the hair in the bag with a little fluffing...

Martha Stewarting

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I think "to Martha Stewart" should be a verb.

It would describe the little hypnotic domestic tasks that give inexplicable pleasure and calm in the midst of one's day when done fastidiously and right, thus achieving a Zen state.

Preferably in coordinated colors.

suggested usage:

1) Hi Vicki, how's it going?
Pretty spectacular - I've been Martha Stewarting all day.

2) Hey Vic, you look awful, stressed, and disorganized. What's up?
Ehn, I'm cranky, but once I get home and Martha Stewart for a while, I should be fine.

3) Dude, your girlfriend's gotten pretty fat lately...
I know. She Martha Stewarts whenever she has free time from school, but she's incredibly happy, so I can't complain.

(Feel free to invent your own uses and apply accordingly)

I gave Eric the flu that I had recently, and I've been returning the sweet care he gave me as best I can. I tend to show my love very specifically, and that is with food. Yesterday I got him a bunch of soup (including Italian wedding and sausage with pasta and pepperoni - wow), whole grain Fig Newtons (delicious), chocolate marshmallow fat-free frozen yogurt, and in the evening, I made a homemade sausage lasagna with extra cheese.

This morning he woke up feeling appreciably better - hooray!

In the course of cooking (and cleaning, which was necessary to be able to cook and/or perambulate) I started feeling all autumn weather domestic goddess-like, so I started knitting my Jaywalkers while the lasagna ingredients cooked.

Because the post office and several other places were closed this morning (thwarting my intentions to be productive), I had the opportunity to completely screw up the socks, which were going quite well up until that point.

I did, however, manage to rip them back to the ribbing, which I dreaded doing over, and I more or less got them back on the needles and moving forward again without too much trauma. I mean yes, the row that I picked up is the sloppiest row of knitting I've ever produced, but at least I didn't have to redo the ribbing...

I love this yarn despite it being 75% wool, but I don't think it's a coincidence that I sneeze and my eyes water while I work on these. Aside, if you suspect you have a wool allergy, don't keep rubbing your eyes while handling wool yarn. Just, you know, in case you're like me.

I don't know if I'm going to be able to wear these socks once they're knit, seeing as they are already causing no small amount of allergic response, but either way it is fun to do, and they may just make a nice gift. See? It's a good thing.

New look

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What do we think?

(I reserve the right to categorize it as "in progress" until I'm satisfied.)

The boots

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After some considerable telephone discussion and agonizing appraisal of blurry-mirror photos, it has been concluded that the boots, they are whorey. Back they go.

I am sad because they had such potential, but I knew my misgivings were for a reason and I should not have been so impulsive last night.

That said, what do we think of these?

They are considerably more expensive, but also vastly superior quality and I think I like the style a lot better.

Dear internet, I'd really like your advice on this one since I desperately want boots of this sort but I don't want to look all "lady of the night" if I can avoid it.

Yarn binge

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I realize it's been a while since I've posted about knitting, for the simple reason that I haven't been doing much of it. I don't know how people are able to maintain strictly-knitting blogs and get anything else done.

Anyway, though I haven't been knitting, I have been buying yarn and swatching like mad!

I made a table of patterns I wanted to try with yarn selections and yardage, needles needed, etc so that whenever I get in one of those late-night yarn accumulation sprees, I can bankrupt myself more efficiently. As an added benefit, when the yarn arrives, I don't look at it like a drunken hookup the next morning and wonder "Why did I want this?!"

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess something about me and yarn.

(Deep breath)

I don't really like wool. I'm not wild about merino or alpaca or a lot of other fibers either. Years ago, I had an angora sweater that was devastatingly beautiful, but I couldn't ever wear it because I'd spend the entire day tearing my skin off, even with a blouse underneath it. I know it's absurd for someone who calls herself a knitter to prefer cotton and acrylic to everything else, but I have ridiculously sensitive skin and a lot of allergic tendencies and well, I just am that way.

It's a good thing that synthetics are vastly less expensive too, since I would get really angry if I spent in excess of $150 to knit a sweater that gave me hives.

So I've made it a personal mission to find the best yarns for me and not care if yarn snobs sneer.

I am very pleased to have found such wonderful yarns lately, so without further ado, my new yarn and the projects I intend it for:

Caron Simply Soft, in dark country blue. Talk about an understatement in naming - this yarn is softer than any I've felt in recent memory and it's absolutely dreamy to knit with. I took the swatch photo at night because I needed the needles, but the color is beautifully complex and looks great with my skin and eyes. It's going to become a March Basic cardigan which I plan to wear so frequently I become known as "that eerily tranquil girl in the blue sweater who touches her arms all the time."


Caron One Pound in Espresso. You know, one pound of yarn is really a lot. This is just basic worsted weight acrylic, though softer than many that I've felt. The color is exactly the shade of brown I want for a Bristow cardigan, which I also plan to wear constantly.

TLC Essentials in Citrus. This one wins extra points for having a cute cat on its label. It too is surprisingly soft, and as you can see, I've gotten over my hate of variegated yarn (so yes, Carson, Eve will be back on the needles soon). The colors are definitely bordering on '70s throwback, so I will have to traipse lightly, but I'm contemplating using that for a Clapotis (I know, I swore I wasn't going to knit one). If I don't like the way the stripes work on that, I'll make some legwarmers (heee).

Speaking of stripes, I've decided to put the Hederas on hold and make Jaywalkers my first socks, for which I'll use this Patons Kroy in "krazy stripes." Points off for name, but the colors are just fabulous.

See the thing with variegated yarn is that it seems there are always colors in it that make it look muddy. Ones which sit next to each other and look too grey by desaturating each other or are too similar and look simply like modeled solids. Here, I think this problem has been avoided by staying in a harmonious color scheme while changing tonality frequently enough to be interesting and vibrant. I think it will look really good with the chevron stripes, and I can't wait to see these knit.

This is Red Heart Grande, a bulky yarn which I had my suspicions about.Wendy voiced some of the concerns about bulky yarn knits recently, but I think the cut of the Ballet-Style wrap sweater (may require registration, but they have a lot of good patterns so you probably won't mind) will ameliorate some of these problems.

I cast on for this one last night because I want to finish it to start wearing soon and the best part of bulky yarn is how quickly it knits up. Now the only issue is that it kind of hurts my hands to knit, which may be the inelasticity of the yarn or it may literally just be pulling the bulkiness through itself in a relatively tight gauge. We'll see.

Lastly, and probably my favorite... gorgeously soft Red Heart Luster Sheen in dark mulberry, a sportweight acrylic that is so fine and silky and wonderful I can't believe it. It is genuinely appropriate that the word "lust" is in its name because, oh, swoon. This will become the Ivy sweater, a truly lovely garment.

You'll note the abundance of cardis and wraps, which is not accidental. I think I'm going through a cold-weather nesting phase and somehow I've found myself with a lot of ill-fitting stretch cotton oxford-style shirts as well as short-sleeved blouses, neither of which I want to wear by themselves. So... layering, huzzah.

Now I just have to get knitting.

Maybe I'm a shoe obsessive...

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Recently Eric accused me of being addicted to shoes. Like many women, yes, I own so many pairs of shoes that I require multiple storage solutions and even those are getting cramped.

And I will admit that many a time, I've planned an outfit around which shoes I'd like to wear.

... and that even though the shoes I wore last week injured my feet so badly I had trouble walking the next two days and am still sporting enormous wounds on my heels and toes, I still consider them my "new favorite shoes."

But really, an addiction?

He pointed out that despite living off student loans in a self-described state of destitute poverty, I buy shoes at least every month, and when you average how many pairs I buy in that time, it starts resembling a frightening amount of shoe-purchasing for someone limited to "essentials only."

I gave feeble excuses, like that I needed hiking and rafting shoes for Costa Rica or new ones for a wedding, but even I realized that when you add up the amount of shoes I've bought in the past few months, it's looking a little compulsive.

Just to explicate a tiny bit, I present to you the shoes I've bought since May:

When put in the context of the rest of my shoe wardrobe (which I will photograph when I reorganize them, as I swear, I really am going to do...), even I can admit it's more than the necessities.

Yesterday we were bickering about why I felt it was okay to have five pairs of shoes between our door and the kitchen in our apartment (it was actually six), and as I gathered up an armload, I had the weirdest thought I've had in a long while:

Maybe I have too many shoes.

I quickly abolished any notions of such absurdity and resolved that what I really needed were practical, versatile shoes: very plain flats that I could wear on an everyday basis and not mutilate my feet, in brown... and black (sigh).

As it happened, I had to go shoe-shopping last night for one of those pairs of horrible tacky rubber rain boots (Wellies, yeah?), as I've been required to find rubber boots for a papermaking class on Monday (do you see the world conspiring against me?! How many of you are actually *required* to get certain footwear for your classes or jobs?) I was assured by the internet that Target had them for around $20, but of course they had zero. DSW had none either.

DSW did, however, have my new dream shoes (bonus Iggs):

In both brown and black.

And of course, how was I to resist some chocolate brown stetch leather heeled boots?

I'm not fully certain I'm going to keep those, as in my head they strike a delicious balance between stylish, fabulous, and a little seductive... but I recognize that I am from Jersey and currently living in Brooklyn, so one girl's saucy may be another's tarty and/or dominatrix, nay, whorey. I'm waiting to see if Eric's response is lascivious or appalled, and failing that, I'm gonna have to ask my mom. But they do make my legs look spectacular.

As for the Wellies thing, I've decided I don't really want to have rubber monstrosities littering my shoe closet the rest of my life, so buying them for this one purpose is pretty damn impractical.

Yes, I really have had a logical thought regarding shoes.

Instead, I'm going to wear my overpriced rafting sandals, get pulp on my toes, and not care because - ha! - I've already had feces-like mud and God knows what else all over my feet wearing those, and now at least they'll get a second wearing.

Art Show

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Just a reminder that through October 29th, I will be in the BWAC Fall group show, Experimentation. It's open weekends 1-6pm.

I worked site prep last Friday and checked out the show - it looks fantastic!

Also, the Fairway across the street has really wonderful baked macaroni and cheese (among scores of deliciosity). As per the suggestion on the hot foods bar, you can take it out to the canal, watch the wind blow across the water, and enjoy streaming gorgeous sunlight and fresh air. Quite a nice complement to taking in art, I believe.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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