April 2009 Archives

Hoorays + Symposium

| No Comments

First off, I got the wonderful news that my grandmother is out of the hospital and feeling much better. Purportedly, she was even able to go swimming in my aunt's pool and enjoy an afternoon out on the lanai! I was, as you can imagine, ecstatic to hear that when I got home last night.

Other random things to be happy about: the gorgeous weather on Saturday allowed me to go comfortably bare-legged for the first time this year, I wore bitchin' new peep-toe slingback heels, I got to see a dear friend and colleague who flew in from Germany, I ate a particularly fantastic pastrami Reuben, and most of all, I finished my presentation and talk.

Oh, what's that? I haven't mentioned this presentation? Heh, whoops. I've been working like crazy since I got home from Italy to put together a summary of X-ray Fluorescence research from our summer projects in Volterra, which I am presenting this week at the.... (drumroll)...

3rd Symposium on Science and Art:
Science at the Art/Archeology Interface

This is a two-day symposium with many incredible speakers in the fields of material science, art history, and art conservation, and I am honored beyond words to be participating.

If you are interested in attending, or just want to check out the schedule of events and topics, please visit the Facebook event page or the Symposium website. I will try to post a link to the abstracts and maybe even a link to my talk (if it goes well) when all that becomes available.

I am the second speaker at this symposium, which means that while I have been a nervous wreck for the past few weeks, I can relax at 4:40 or so in the afternoon and just enjoy the rest of the talks and events. I'm already thrilled to spend time with researcher friends who came over from Italy and Germany, and I'm excited to meet others in the field. We're even going to the opera together on Wednesday!

I'm going to go through another rehearsal of my talk for Smokey, but otherwise, I think I am actually prepared. Whew! Can't wait!

Muppet Comfort

| No Comments

No news on my Gram. Decisions are being made that I don't necessarily agree with, and I am anxiously waiting. We'll see how it goes.

Meanwhile, I've taken to childish, simple comforts of the Muppet variety.

Like dressing Smokey in a Kermit the Frog doll's frogtographer vest.

Shockingly, I've only done this once before, even though I've had this doll since college and the vest fits Mr Pants ever so perfectly. I laughed so hard I thought I was having a stroke.

I also found what may be the cutest Sesame Street segment ever committed to film, Andrea Bocelli singing Elmo to sleep:


Seriously, swoon. It's crazy adorable. Everyone I've shown this agrees, we'd like Andrea Bocelli to sing us to sleep. Also, Elmo has a pretty sweet life, that lucky little monster.


| No Comments

My grandmother and aunt were scheduled to fly here from Hawaii tomorrow, arriving early Friday morning. Gram was going to stay with us while my aunt went to a conference in Boston and visited relatives in Virginia.

This afternoon we got a call that my grandmother was hospitalized with gastrointestinal bleeding. Details are vague and I have no idea what's going on, but my aunt is still flying here as planned.

If you are of the thinking and praying persuasion, could you please send some good vibes out to Hawaii? I think my gram could use them.

My Gothic Novel

| No Comments

I have some dirty secrets as an artist and student of art history. Probably the biggest is that when it comes to personal preferences, I don't actually like a lot of "smart" art. The kind of names that (what I consider painfully pseudo-intellectual) peers who are overly conscious of theory tend to drop do nothing for me. It's not to say I can't appreciate what these artists do, and after running through Pratt's MFA program, I can play hardball with theory too, but in the end, I'm typically left cold.

This is because in all circumstances of reaction and experience, I rely on emotions and sensations, not thoughts, rationality, or anything that might make sense to other people. I don't like art because I think it's well-reasoned or elegantly demonstrates the disenfranchisement of the proletariat. I like the things that make me feel, even if that feeling is as superficial as "mmm, pretty." I rely a lot on instinct, and I make snap decisions on whether I like something or not. I think, however much they may tell themselves otherwise, most people respond this way or similarly.

My favorite artists are probably Georgia O'Keeffe and Van Gogh, followed by a handful of Impressionists and the Bellinis. I really like pictures of flowers and landscapes. Most of my favorite paintings appear somewhere on tote bags or notecubes. I have a whole long list of other artists I adore, including a lot of abstract painters and photographers, but I'm not likely to talk about any of it with someone who considers themselves an art person because I have been told, over and over, that I have pedestrian taste and that it's not "okay" to rely on my own subjective emotional responses to guide aesthetics.

I have attempted, fruitlessly, to make arguments in favor of beauty as the most subversive and transformative aesthetic principle, to explain why I actually feel that all the art dismissed as "amateurish" dalliances of over-privileged dilettantes is actually much more sincere and intellectually significant that an over-wrought and soulless concept piece. In the segments of the art world with which I've tangled, it is the equivalent of sincerely defending Coldplay (yes, I also like Coldplay). It's a losing proposition and it tends to make the more judgmental roll their eyes and dismiss me as an idiot.

So fine. Let's all agree, I am an idiot. An idiot who knows what she likes and experiences intense aesthetic highs at simple, natural beauty. And takes a lot of trite pictures of flowers and makes precious paintings. I'm finally okay with that.

Another secret of my artistic preferences is that yes, I like Romanticism. A lot. When I say it suits my sensibilities, I don't even mean this ironically. In literature and music and sometimes even painting, I like focusing on the interior life, really slobbering through emotions and sentiments and wallowing around in them.

One of the eye-rolly trends in Romanticism was the way that nature, most often manifested in weather, would correspond with the interior lives of characters or figures in a scene. It was a shorthand for emotional content, a way to externalize the inner subjectivities and experiences. In the Gothic novel that is my silly little life, I don't think it is mere coincidence that there has been an unseasonably volatile Nor'easter going on.

My sophomore year of high school, we read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and I was particularly struck by chapter XI, called "The Interior of a Heart." I became absolutely entranced with this idea, that someone could traipse through events and follow along with a character's musings as a means to dissect the makings of the mind and soul. The chapter includes a fantastic bit on what is true and real:

To the untrue man, the whole universe is false-it is impalpable-it shrinks to nothing within his grasp. And he himself in so far as he shows himself in a false light, becomes a shadow, or, indeed, ceases to exist.

In my heart, feeling is genuine and honest, the most trustworthy and reliable thing. When I speak about love and life, I say that I have to act in good faith and follow my heart, and even if things turn out terribly or I end up alone and unhappy, I know that at least I got there by following my heart... which is kind of its own reward.

I may go through life starry-eyed and idealistic, but I don't really want to change that because it may be the only valid part of who I am. I may, in effect, have something pure within me, which responds viscerally (if stupidly) and feels great intensities of emotion that guide my beliefs and actions.

If I have nothing else, I have that.

Lagoon water

| No Comments

I am consistently mesmerized by light glinting off water. Here is a glimpse of the Venetian lagoon from a vaporetto:

(Animated gif, made in Photoshop CS using this excellent tutorial.)

I'm not sure if 0.3 sec is the right delay time for moving water, but I'll play more this weekend.

Happy Friday!

April light

| No Comments

It's not that the sun is particularly different in April than any other time of the year.

Sure, it comes at a slightly different angle and I suppose that each day's light is different from every other, but I think why April sun seems lovelier to me is an issue of scarcity, the preciousness with which it quietly emerges one day and suddenly sets the world aglow.

This time of year makes my heart come back to life, colors and vibrant tender shoots springing from the ground with new growth, new life, and new hope.

One of the joys of living in New Jersey is getting to live in nature again. It's everywhere all around me - I mean, there's a river at the end of the street and I go by the ocean almost every day. I think that does good things for my soul.

My parents spent a lot of time in their garden this weekend, and I wandered around the yard, dazzled by the sunlight, taking photos and staring at leaves and delicate petals.

They planted two new dogwood trees, and I can't wait to see them bloom.

I also enjoyed a lot of mellow outdoor time with our sweet dogs, who seemed to enjoy walking and laying in the grass as much as I did. Miss Molly never wanted to get up, preferring instead to extend her entire body into the grass and nuzzle it like a blanket.

Smoochie likes to listen to the wind rustling trees, woodpeckers, and neighborhood children, quietly smelling all the scents of spring flowers and the ocean on the breeze. She is quite the contemplative dog when she's not running around being a crazy-ass.

Little Otto Bean is shorter than the daffodils, for which I can't help but adore him.

Everyone is relaxed in the gentle warmth of April light, taking our time and easing into spring. It's so nice to have that calm and benevolence back again.

As you may have guessed, I added a handful of photos to my New Jersey set on Flickr.

Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore

| No Comments

("I lived for art, I lived for love," from Tosca, Act II - fall in love with Maria Callas all over againhere and here.)

Around here, opera love is blooming into full-blown opera obsession. I forget where I heard it (probably in a bad movie), but there is a saying that the very first time you attend an opera, you'll either never fully get it, or you'll fall in love for life. My mother and I both fell headlong, effortlessly, hopelessly in love for life, and it is thrilling to have someone with whom I can share this fanatical and intensely rewarding love.

My first day back from Italy, we saw an amazing performance of Rigoletto. I was confident we'd enjoy it, since we both generally enjoy Verdi and it is a beautiful, heartbreaking story, but I was in no way prepared for just how deeply moving and profound this production would be.

The cast was, naturally, top-notch. Joseph Calleja, henceforth known as Opera Boyfriend, played the Duke of Mantua in such a charming, radiant way that you couldn't help but love him. His voice is exceptional and complex, and he gave so much emotion in deceptively simple songs. We've both been singing "La donna รจ mobile" all week, and I'm pretty sure he is going to go down as one of the great tenors of our time.

Diana Damrou was a sweet, lovely Gilda. Her voice was powerful and clear, without even a trace of shrillness or excess. She perfectly captured a young and innocent girl devoted to her father and entranced in the first blushes of romance. She adorably captured the mannerisms and affectations of a young woman in a light, breezy way that matched her gorgeous voice. She was so very easy to love, which was key to this opera's emotional grasp - had I not so openly adored Gilda, I can't imagine I would have been so deeply affected by the rest of the performance.

Rigoletto himself, played by Roberto Frontali, was phenomenal as well, torn between his life as a bitter, cynical jester at court and a doting, over-protective father at home. He sings of his misfortunes in life, to have been born deformed and to have lost the only woman to love him, with such astonishing sincerity and beauty that it made us both cry, especially through his second-act duet with Gilda, "Tutte le feste al tempio" and his first-act "Pari siamo!" where he compares himself with the assassin Sparafucile.

The music was incomparably lush and wonderful. The chorus is even used in brilliant ways, such as providing the sound of gusting wind from off-stage. The stormy third act was powerful and entrancing, and I sat on the edge of my seat with tears in my eyes, knowing what was coming and trying, in vain, to prepare myself for the anguish of the ending.

I imagine I will never tire of performers singing from the depths of their souls, but this was an especially wonderful experience. My mother and I kept glancing at each other with looks of amazement and overwhelming emotion, and afterward we realized we'd both gotten completely wrapped up in the relationships and feelings expressed in breathtaking arias. The singing was, as I've said, done with fantastic clarity, stripping out most of the coloratura and vibratto (which I typically loathe) to give it a downright contemporary, elegant feel. This is probably a large part of why I found the heart of each scene so accessible, poignant, and alive.

I also can't get over how much I love the translation in the Met's titles, with one lyric as "Love is the sunlight of the soul." Sigh. I have a feeling there will be much more opera-obsessing around these parts soon.

Home springs eternal

| No Comments

I am home! And it is spring! Cherry trees and forsythia are in bloom! The universe is benevolent and lovely and kept its end of our deal!

Last night I had mozzarella sticks and a bacon cheeseburger and massive amounts of Diet Coke and cupcakes! And I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe and I thought over and over that I have the greatest family in the world.

I woke up this morning in my crab sheets with my green blanket, holding a purring Smokey, and he looked at me with his gorgeous little eyes and I just about cried from happiness and contentment.

(Aside - is it weird that I think I prefer guys with green eyes because they remind me of my cat?)

I learned so much about myself and life on this trip, I had amazing experiences, I made huge decisions... I am returning more happy, fulfilled, and restored than I ever imagined I could be. I can't wait to share photos and stories soon!

In the meantime, I'm stoked to have dinner at Il Melograno and then to see Rigoletto at the Met tonight! I am reading the libretto while listening to an excellent recording, and I can't wait!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2009 is the previous archive.

May 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.