Monday, May 28, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spring fever

Things are slow around here because I've been spending a lot of time in the sun with this regal lady.
That's a sprig of rosemary in her collar because she likes to smell nice.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Skagit Valley Tulips

You didn't think I would go the entire spring without posting a million photos of flowers did you? These are from the annual Skagit Valley Tulip festival. In the past few years the festival has unfortunately lapsed into a big tourist trap where you have to pay $5 to look at a field of flowers. It may look like a peaceful valley of flowers, but these photos are deceptive, there were people everywhere! And most were ignoring the signs like in the photo above. A lot of people where doing this thing where they squatted down in the flowers and had someone take a picture of them squatting there in the flowers... Future awkward family photos for sure. Despite all the people squatting and tramping through the flowers, it was very pretty to look across and see the huge swaths of color across the valley. I just don't know if I want to make a return trip next year.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak

When I was 6 years old every little girl in Seattle had a poster for the Pacific Northwest Ballet's production of the Nutcracker. Most of those little girls were terrified of that poster. There was a girl who lived across the street from me who had one hanging on her wall and she told me the wide-eyed grinning face of the nutcracker himself would move at night! Her father never figured out why she almost never made it through the night sleeping in her own bed. He invented "monster spray" and helped her memorize a chant to keep the monsters away, he checked under the bed every night before putting her to bed, but he never knew the monster wasn't under the bed or in the closet it was out in the open hanging on the wall.

The reason I'm sharing this story is because I think the artist responsible for that poster would have gotten a kick out of it. Maurice Sendak helped design the costumes and sets for the PBN's annual performance of the Nutcracker in the 80s and they're still using his designs today.

As a kid I appreciated Sendak's honesty. He wrote and drew about the things that most grown ups wanted to deny existed. My mom is a huge fan of his work (that's her shelf in the photo) so Sendak stories were a big part of story time growing up. Her favorite was In the Night Kitchen, which was actually widely banned because Sendak drew in what my mom always referred to as the character's "little winkey". It's pretty absurd to censor an author/illustrator for drawing what children already know exists. Sendak knew that childhood is made of monsters and fears and cruelty, but also an intense curiosity. When children want to know something they will find it out any way possible. We so often expect children to be bubbly and giggly and (ugh) innocent that we forget that our own childhoods were filled with fears that ran so deep they could make us terrified of a piece of paper hanging on the wall.

My childhood was certainly not filled with happy, glittery happenings all the time, so it was frustrating when grown-ups tried to make me into a happy, glittery girl. Sendak didn't expect children to be innocent little pixies, that is why his books were so popular with children when he was alive and I'm sure it's why they will continue to resonate with children after his death.

A trailer for PBN's performance of the Nutcracker. Sets and costumes by Sendak.
When I was little I remember dressing up and going out into the freezing cold to go see this. I was so excited I only complained about my mom making me where tights a little bit. I had seen friends perform the Nutcracker so I already knew and loved the story, but watching this was an experience I can only describe in cliches. It was amazing, like being transported to another world, I sat enthralled with the sets and the costumes, as well as the dancers and wished with all my heart that I was Clara.

The face that terrified a thousand little girls.

Pierre was my favorite. He taught me you should care, or a lion will eat you.

My favorite Sendak quote (and possibly favorite quote of all time):

"Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it. I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.” Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.” That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mid-Week Masters: Eva Hesse

Eva Hesse is often used as a warning to young art students. I think more discussion goes on about how she died and how it may have been related to the materials she used, and how the materials she used are now causing all her work to disintegrate, than actual discussion of the genius of her work.

Images via here, here, and here. Click the pictures for individual photo credits.