Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Great art in little bitty viewing space

Being technology-challenged leads to much head scratching on my part. Quite often I scratch because I wonder how to use some gadget. I was fascinated watching a tour guide use her blackberry to make phone calls, look up phone numbers and addresses and check her messages both email and verbal, and research the locations we were visiting.

Yet, more often I wonder why people use them for the things they do. Oh the blackberry usage made sense to me in her professional capacity, her out-of-office situation where she needed to carry as much information with her as she could. But when people begin downloading art to their cell phones, I tend to wonder why?

A year ago Boston's Museum of Fine Arts began selling downloads to mobile phone users. Downloads of works of art. Monet? Hopper? Sargent? Some of the paintings and works of art that rarely appear in exhibits for fear of damage due to light, will be included in that list of downloads. Would I enjoy seeing The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit via a two inch by three inch window? The original painting is approximately 87 by 87-inches square. Would I feel the same sense of isolation, loneliness, disconnect and sadness as I do when viewing a larger image? Although I admit that the first time I saw the painting was online, so it was only a 17-inch screen's eye view. And since then I've enjoyed a two-page spread of the painting in an art book. With the dark interior that fill the center of the portrait, I find either venue difficult for discerning what lies within those shadows. The four little girls almost disappear within those shadows. And for two of the sisters in later life, madness lurked. It is a sad family and maybe Sargent had insight that influenced his choice of black background and engulfing shadows.

The four sisters' father shared the same profession as Sargent. He was an artist. But his work seems to be brighter, more hopeful, and of interesting locations, not so much about people. I've included a photo of a poster that is for sale online of Boit's Rio Di San Barnaba.

No matter what shape it takes, Sargent's portrait of the four sisters haunts me. Knowing that the two girls shrouded in darkness succumb to mental illness and none of the four girls marry. Sargent's portrait seems prescient, prophetic.

There's just something ironic about Monet's dots being turned into waves and zipped through the atmosphere to the mobile phone of your choice for a mere $1.99 per download. What would Sargent or Boit think of seeing their hard work digitalized? Perhaps they would be, as probably I would, so thrilled and honored that their work is still revered, they wouldn't care what form it was taking.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Missed Messages?

Synchronicity brought me in contact with Carol Wiebe's art on her website and featured one of of her amazing quilts, Messengers, on my Subversive Stitchers blog. Her words that seek to explain the art made me pause and think:

The messengers are gathering in prime formation: 2 butterflies, 3 dragonflies, 5 angels, 7 crows, 11 stars. To truly hear their message, you must kill the ego. Egos are wont to kill the messenger when they dislike the message they are receiving, but that is a useless tactic. The message will simply find you another way, through another messenger.What in the world does this mean?

Accompany that with the quote she included on the work itself -- "Think of yourself as an incandescent power, illuminated and perhaps forever talked to by God and his messengers." -- Brenda Ueland -- and my imagination was piqued.


My search for a topic for my next NANOWRIMO contest entry brought me on this quest. I did a Google search and came up with a long list of references to Islam. But that's not the direction I wanted to go for 50,000 words.

Another response to 'messages' was not what I expected: Jimi Hendrix! From his song May I Whisper in Your Ear? From the art here, "Stairway to Paradise" by Thomas Kincaid, I bet you were expecting Stairway to Heaven.... No it was Hendrix. May I whisper in your ear
from my heart so you’ll clearly hear...

May I take you away
from the evils of today
to the dreams of tomorrow.
You know that Heaven...
Has no sorrow.
You know that Heaven...
Has no tomorrow....

Here comes some news...
Coming down like lightning...
Straight for me and you.
People of destruction
your time is out of date...
People who’s living crooked,
better start getting straight. --Jimi Hendrix

Surprised at the lyrics from a rocker who was outside my modest taste in music, although I admired his abilities and talents and lamented his short life and enjoyed his version of the Star Spangled Banner, I never checked out the depths of the man....his lyrics surprised me. My youngest son saw him with clearer vision than I who lumped him in with 'devil music that will take you straight to hell.' A thought taught by my local church....

And then I clicked on another site and sat up in surprise.

In July, a Sommerville, Mass. resident opened his garden to anyone, invited them to leave messages. Not just any message. His ambition, a bit more cosmic perhaps, invites the sharing of deepest secrets - fears, joys, failures, goals - and leave them behind as an anonymous note, on a scrap of colored paper, to the universe. He agreed to respond to them.

Within 30 days he received 100; now more than 700 and he hopes to receive 1000 before the end of the year. He's established his website crossing the abyss to post his answers as well as the messages.

What messages has the universe tried to tell me? What have I ignored? Should have I acted upon the impulses that urged me to reach out to others, help, smile, share, console? All of those times that would have made me step out of my invisibility and become vulnerable, fearing rejection? Should I have been stronger? Were they as afraid as I? What if I had given more money, food, friendship? What would it have cost me and what would have been the rewards and where would it have all taken me? Paths not taken are certainly ripe for speculation based upon hindsight.

The idea of messengers in our lives intrigues me. I was raised on scripture and the concept of angels in our midst, but our particular sect focused more on social aspects of church and avoided the more mystical aspects of the religion. We celebrated communion, and all of the holy holidays of course. But the holy spirit, speaking in tongues, prophesying, angels, well, we just avoided those scriptures. So now I'm wondering what vital messages have I missed and is it too late?

What is the universe telling me today? I liked Kincaid's words that accompany this piece of art:
"In the most important ways, my life has been a progress. I have been blessed to see my love of painting grow and flourish, my relations with family and friends deepen and mature." — Thomas Kinkade
Gotten any messages lately? I think the one that was meant for me today came from John H. Rhoades:
Do more
Author: John H. Rhoades
Do more than exist; live.
Do more than touch; feel.
Do more than look; observe.
Do more than read; absorb.
Do more than hear; listen.
Do more than listen; understand.
Do more than think; ponder.
Do more than talk; say something.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Seven Wheelchairs off and rolling

Dear, dear Gary Presley has made his debut as an author on the talk show circuit and has done spectacularly!

Who knew he had a sexy drawl and looks pretty flashy in red! Listen to the audio interview recorded on October 3, with Ben Kieffer of The Exchange on Iowa Public Radio. Gary also did a reading at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City.

Seven Wheelchairs, his memoir, currently ranks at 77,822 on Amazon.

Way to go Gary!

Here's a copy of the review I posted at Amazon:
"I've been fortunate to read bits and pieces, essays and writings of the author's for several years as a fellow member of the Internet Writing Workshop, including much of what is his memoir. But it wasn't until I sat down to read the finished product that I realized what an emotional and insightful read it would be. It is a given that this is stellar prose. The writing alone is enough reason to buy the book and read -- and reread it.

But the truth and power of those words. He answers the questions I never thought to ask beginning with the memory of those last steps before polio took away his legs. He told of being confined in an iron lung, not with pity or melodrama, but through the eyes of a devastated, angry teen age boy who was confused and frightened. A boy who had gone from working on his lay up shots to a non-entity swallowed up by a machine. And we move forward with him. We see him making an independent living, but more than that we see him coming to terms with his physical limitations, learning the landscape, what it means to live with disabilities in plain sight, in mainstream culture. We see him moving beyond the anger to find something we all wish we could find -- his true niche where he belongs and can accept and be accepted for the man he is, not for the equipment he must use.

Since this is written in connected essays, much of the problem that arises in first memoir and fiction is left behind. No awkward transitions, no tap dancing to get from one important moment to the next. It is a tightly written, powerful book that takes readers inside of the world of disabilities as none before. And inside of the life of one very human, but determined man.

I met Gary Presley when I joined the Internet Writing Workshop. His writings, his self-deprecating sense of humor, his truth, and his generous supportive ways drew me to him. When my husband became disabled, Gary jumped right in and helped us find our way through that alien culture called 'disability.' Who knew better this new landscape than a man who had been wheeling through it for nearly a half-century!?

He's never maudlin nor melodramatic. It is a book that can be read in pieces or as a whole and the writing itself stands strong alongside the best. A must read for anyone who knows someone living a life fraught with disabilities. A must read for anyone who has ever seen a person in a wheelchair and looked away."

The photo was taken by Ruth Douillette's husband.