Sunday
Dec232012

Separation

Motivated to finally write something by an email from my friend Jacques in Paris. He and wife Celeste (arguably my best friend) noticed on a TV show what appeared to be a clue to the burial location of her dad's great grand-parents in Berlin. This caused the ever-resourceful Jacques to do a massive Internet attack, finding images and maps. This morning, watching old people's TV, during the movie reviews, they opined that holiday films (with Bing Crosby singing "Tura, Lura, Lura" on screen) are frequently about separation. Which brings me (finally) to the point - separation.
I have wanted to say something about the recent passing of my friend, Randall Tiedman. Randall was an extraordinary painter. He had a remarkable talent for showing how it feels to live in the city in a loving, but unvarnished, way. People would describe it as dystopic. He would disagree. If you looked ,
you could often see the same little islands of color that we find in a real city. Most of my artist friends here are open and giving. They have a little bit of Randall in them. I still look for Randall at every show opening. They are all diminished by his absence.
Randall participated in Precious Objects. He did not like his portrait because it was done at a time when he was not doing well physically. That did not stop him from coming over and telling his story. Out of respect, I have cut his object out even though I thought he looks fine. As an good friend should.
Many, many of the stories in Precious Objects are about separation. Some are about death, but equally as many are about those times when our paths diverge from friends and family. Letters (I fear I am showing my age my mentioning letters) are all about separation. In a way, we are not adults until we separate from our parents. Years later, like Robbii, we always regret that we did not talk enough to our parents when we could. In closing, just want to note that Celeste and her dad, Martin, both participated in Precious Objects. Martin is now 92 and the envy of this "youngster".

Sunday
Oct072012

The Great American Dream

Lustron home at Kansas City Kansas Community College from my current Lustron Stories project. Fabricated in 1948 in Columbus OH.While working on Every Place (I Have Ever Lived) - The Foreclosure Crisis in Twelve Neighborhoods, it was easy to see the problem as an attack on the "The Great American Dream."  We employ the term loosely, particularly during a political season.   It is useful to ask what that means. Some things certainly arguable.  Nevertheless, I would suggest that somewhere at its core is the idea of home ownership. It is impossible to overstate the damage that the foreclosure crisis has done to our belief that we all can, and should, aspire to owning our own home. It certainly shattered it for those that have lost their homes.  For those lucky enough to hold on, their homes worth perhaps 30% less than they were a few years ago, maybe less, may or may not have the equity they were counting on to cushion their retirement.  For those starting out, they no longer believe that it is safe to stretch your resources to buy that first home.  While we here a lot about the recession being driven by lack of housing starts, the actual damage is more spiritual than economic.  This will take a long time to fix. The good news might be the message in Precious Objects - that everything in life is cyclical and no matter how good or bad things appear, you are only a single event away from a very different path.
Speaking of Precious Objects, when the Maltz Museum picked their preliminary choices for the exhibit (that ended a week ago) tone was John K. John was a colleague from my first career. His piece talks about his career.  It represents work as more than a way to make money but a, rewarding, fulfilling aspect of a full life. Having that kind of work and career was another part of The Dream. Sadly, we put a stake in the heart of that idea many, many years ago.  John did spend his career at that company (I was gone after 25 years - they and I had had enough) and realized The Dream. His success is both a testament his talent, integrity and hard work and toThe Dream's value and truth. At least at the time. I felt John's portrait and statement did not make that clear and was pleasantly surprised when the people at the Museum chose it. When they later dropped the piece from their choices, I had them include it - the idea behind it is just too compelling to lose.

 

Wednesday
Aug222012

My World and Welcome To It

WYesterday there was an obit for William Windom. Long ago, he starred in a little known television comedy, My World and Welcome To It. The show was based upon James Thurber, was a personal favorite and, as far as I can tell, the personal favorite of just about no one else. There are a few clips on YouTube. It apparently preceded LaughIn, a show which was enormously popular and influential. The show was very much like Thurber, quirky, bookish, even what we would call nerdy. That is to say, there is virtually no evidence of its influence on contemporary television or any other form of media. Even though we are in an era of nerd hipness there is nothing quiet or literate that is visible to me in the current version of nerdiosity. In fact, some very expensive color management equipment purchased last year thought a video was a better way for me to find out how to use it than a manual. Arrghh.
The only reason I saw the obit was the the fact I was reading a newspaper. That raises a question, does anyone page through online obits and death notices? More importantly, should we take those people into custody? Anyway, in the obit it mentions that Windom was named for his grandfather who served in James Garfield's cabinet.  It was Garfield who was not allowed to make a speech at what is now Hiram College (he became their president)  that caused the building of the Union Chapel in South Newbury, OH. The Chapel became a rallying place for the women's suffrage movement hosting all of the luminaries, Susan B. Anthony, Louisa May Alcott, etc. I photographed it for the Cultural Landscape Foundation's Landslide 2011 calendar last year. (If you were wondering how I would get to my favorite subject, me, hold on, you ain't seen nothing yet.)  It is truly an under appreciated landmark given the challenge I had in finding it. Finding South Newbury was a challenge all by itself.
This year The Cultural Landscape Foundation asked me to donate a piece to their auction on Sept 29-30 at the American Society of Landscape Architects Convention. SInce most of my recent work is not landscape, we had some fun picking a piece (I hate sending old stuff) but settled on Two Birds done in Key West this winter.
Would love to travel Phoenix so I skulk in the background why people made adoring comments about my image but am opening the installation of Every Place - I have ever lived (The Foreclosure Crisis in Twelve Neighborhoods) at the Argus Museum in Ann Arbor the evening of September 28.
Now it is time to get dressed and go to my opening of Precious Objects at the Maltz Museum.

Saturday
Jun092012

Time

Please bear with me on this post as it ties together a lot of stuff. At least it attempts to do so. 

The Music Settlement had their performance party for the Music Therapy program last week. Isaac did Bach's Prelude in C, something he and his therapist have been working on for a long time.  Isaac, though he has  perfect pitch and does reasonably well keeping rhythm tends to play notes on the piano sequentially without a lot of concern with how long he is supposed to hold them.  This gets to one of the fundamental differences in how he sees the world. Proportion does not mean much; everything is discrete. His therapist used the Prelude to teach about arpeggio, broken chords. Instead of playing all of the notes of a chord at the same they are played evenly one after another.  The listener still understands the chord. This was was a brilliant invention at the time. You can almost see it as a photograph in reverse. In a photograph, we take many moments in time and condense them into a single instance (at least some photographs do.)  While there is a lot of beautiful music, when it contains both beauty and invention it is very special. Bach is rightly considered a genius. This is where Isaac's perfect pitch helps him. Since he hears the chord more "perfectly" than we mortals it helps nudge him into playing more evenly than a more complexly structured series of notes.
Why does Isaac struggle playing things for duration  written if he knows the symbols and understands all the components?  I do not believe that Isaac perceives the continuous passage of time as we do. Rather he sees it as discrete events on many axes.  One axis is holidays. For example, his birthdays. His 37th birthday is one from his his 36th birthday, two from his 35th, three from his 34th, etc. Another is days.  June ninth is one after the eight, two after the seventh and so on.  Times Sylvester tried to eat the Tweety bird when Isaac and dad were watching TV on Saturday morning.  Everything is catalogued in his head this way and he seems to forget none of it. it is sliced similarly to how physicists do space-time maps Courtesy of Nomad Office Architects. This was not the illustration that I was originally seeking but was so lovely......to show the effects of gravity. If you look at the pages in The Album Project, this is how he labels his events. Thanksgiving 1991Thanksgving 1998While he does not have the kind of language to confirm this, I absolutely believe that, in his mind, the seven difference between Thanksgiving 1991 and Thanksgiving 1998 and the seven difference between 1 PM today and 8 PM today is the same, seven. To us the difference between an hour and a year is huge.   To him it is the same.
My "bad parenting" example of this was a few years ago when I was supposed to be picking him up after his work day at the courthouse which is on the north end of the center of downtown Cleveland not far from the lake.  We were having one of our occasional freak snowstorms and the city was completely gridlocked. Sitting in traffic, looking at my watch, my blood pressure rising, surely the end was nigh. Finally, roughly 30 minutes late, I pull up. Standing there, encrusted in ice, he gets in the car. "Hi dad, how are you?"  Exactly the same greeting he gives me every time he gets in the car. I expect to be sent to horrible parent prison for a lifetime in the hotbox with a bevy of insurance salesmen and HE DOES NOT EVEN REALIZE I AM LATE.  There are advantages to different. To him, everything is still in order - Finish work at 3:30,  tinkle, wash your hands, pack your Square Rigger, put on your coat, take the elevator to the first floor, walk out the door, wait for dad, drive home with dad…..
Cannot leave the subject of discrete and continuous time without mentioning my other run-in this week. I proposed a project last week and suggested that it would probably would be on film but might be digital because there would be some situations where there was not enough light for film, film might be too labor intensive and film would be much more expensive (actually more than buying a very nice digital camera with enough left over for a new MacBook Pro and that new tripod I have been lusting after.)  Turns out the digital camera being considered comes in two models, one without an anti-aliasing filter. I will avoid yet another digression about how everything was invented at Bell Labs and that now they are gone we are probably doomed.

Suffice it to say, there are two very real ways to observe time, continuously and discretely.  The greatest minds of the past few hundred years have been pushing us back and forth over those boundaries. Bach did it. Newton did it.  Even my kid is doing it. Go figure.

Thursday
May242012

A little scare reading today's Cleveland Plain Dealer

Those of us old enough to still enjoy the morning paper do not always find it enjoyable. Partly due to the ongoing decline of the thing and partly due to the nature of a newspaper, three pieces of bad news for every piece of good. So it was this morning when I came upon an article  about the Sight Center being forced to close their snack stands. Sight Center Article This follows yesterday's article about the state considering commercializing the rest stops on non-interstate highways. The core of the highway debate is about large national concessioniares replacing local off-highway truck stops, restaurants and other travelers' delights.  Overlooked is the fact that the current vending concession is run by the visually impaired and the facility maintenance is done by folks with developmental disabilities.  So, once again, people with differences are the invisible losers in the game.
But, the Sight Center also had a more personal concern. When we did the opening for The Album Project at 1point618Gallery in 2009, there was a mob of people. In addition to the art folks and the normal family and friends, we had people from the autism community and from Isaac's job. As I was walking around meeting people, I ran into Marty and his wife. Marty runs the snack shop in the County Courthouse. At the time, Isaac (The Album Project is about him for those that are new to my work) worked at the Law Library Association which is housed at the Courthouse.  Isaac's afternoon snack is very, very important.  He would go down every day and buy a can of diet pop and some chocolate thing.  Isaac and Marty were buddies.
I do the usual, thank Marty and his wife for coming,etc. He turns in the direction of the gallery, spreads his arms and says, "This is wonderful."
Marty is blind.
Turns out that the Courthouse is not one of the Sight Center sites that are closing.
I am crying...