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Archive for the ‘Cures for the Nothing’ Category

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Butterfly Closures (a type of band-aid for deep cuts and stitches sold in the U.S). Mixed media on paper, ink and graphite. Better Buzz Coffee Roasters, Mission Beach, San Diego. September 22, 2018

 

The belief that women talk too much is rooted in the understanding that women should be silent.  “The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence,” is how well-known feminist Dale Spender explained her reasoning in her book Man Made Language written decades ago. “Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.”

Emily Peck

 

This is another novella.

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.”

William Wordsworth

 

Angel comes from the Greek angelos, the messenger, the sent one.

 

Who more than the poets can speak about love?

-she said I contain worlds-

after six days his kisses stopped

he who told me all my no’s became yes’s

he who brought the wind

he who said I talked too much

-but could not spell-

and taught me to stay

by being the one who left.

 

“Never gift a book to someone who doesn’t understand vowels.”

 

I’m just removing the pebbles I’ve had in my shoes for two months, yes tonight- yes he was sweet, boiling ice. Yes he was heartless.

It’s the light in your eyes I cling on to save me

-or distract me-

my fallacy

the shine of yet another city – and i am the magpie with butterfly wings.

 

Of eyes i like when they tighten to focus like the lens of a camera

a mind is sometimes a beautiful forest, and layered people

a cosmos

he was my mirror, but you are on the other side of this screen

 

I have been running for seven years

but i was never more beautiful than the night we first went out – that glow was hope.

Seven years is what it takes for all cells in the body to renew

therefore in November I am, molecularly, a whole different person than the one she knew.

 

In July the old woman asked me why I was not married.

“God has to send me an an angel.” I replied. “An angel.”

 

We made fire in August. Consume.

We were southern blood, I was like sea.

To suffer for love is the greatest privilege.

In the morning the sun would wake me up by warming my feet; at one the vendors made their way back from the beach. We passed black bodies picking tomatoes in the fields of Sardinia.

They started pulling the umbrellas from the sand in the clubs in September. The light in the house was always crepuscular, like Tara in Gone With The Wind.

 

I guess it boils down to a lack of belief, a lack of patience

I am impetuous, and impulsive – female like guerra

if two pieces in a puzzle are too much alike, they don’t lock

I never thought your tattoos could cut me

I followed their path : they taught me the root of the word “seduction”

your eyes stopped seeing me, and it felt like violence.

 

Poetry is making pain elegant, and writing with broken hands.

Cruelty is not giving the beautiful words you say you have- to someone who lives by them. Mercy is never knowing when the last time comes.

 

“What we initially fall in love with is what hurts us the most in the end; he dressed really well, he was early, and his hair spelled trouble.”

I ran away to the ease of palmtrees and terracotta tiles (a cop-out)

because you cannot heal where you got sick – and I know you take yourself wherever you go, but 7,000 miles in between help.

They say it’s enough if only one of the two loves

and we know that i’m in love with the feeling,

the person is just an excuse.

it is not you who i missed- but what came with you;

I belong to freedom, and my art.

I steal words from my travels.

 

I can tell you in real life (IRL) men do not come in the middle of the night to tell you they don’t want to lose you- no matter how pretty or intelligent you are. nothing is fought for any more, and stories end for a nothing, for fear, on cloudy mondays.

 

Poets are one soul in the end, share one collective heart

the only ones who are not ashamed of being publicly immolated

but on the contrary, they show their wounds to the sun

they never explain them

– and that’s how they heal.

 

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Song of the Open Road, IV

Walt Whitman



The earth expanding right hand and left hand,

The picture alive, every part in its best light,

The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,

The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?

Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?

Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,

You express me better than I can express myself,

You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,

I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,

I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,

I think whoever I see must be happy.

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Digital experiment using layers from the Tayasui Sketching app + Procreate app on IPhone 7. Excerpt from the novel Chokher Bali by Rabindranath Tagore. November 15, 2016.




For lifelong companionship, it’s not necessary to live together.

We have gone as far as we had to go.

From here, our paths diverge.

It’s better for both of us.

I will atone for my mistakes by serving other people. If you settle down, I swear, I will be really happy.

Now I have no grievances in this life. Life has done us a big favor by bringing us together again. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to resolve our grievances.

I was at fault, but you didn’t let your love for me wane.

Your Binod will learn to live with the help of this thought.

Before leaving, all I will ask is that…

..in our next birth, you should only belong to me.

Don’t belong to anybody else.


From the last letter of Binodini to her beloved Behari. 

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Digital painting made on ProCreate app for IPhone. November 11, 2016.



Dark days here in California.
Days of mourning, but also poetry, catharsis, resolve for Resistance.

The Sun broke through the clouds today.

Words, thoughts, and memories flowed and something beautiful is emerging from the summer blush, the gentle nights, the dawns of Bahia de Los Angeles down in the peninsula.

The blood and ink spilled on the battlegrounds of a war lost before it began.

Red like the heart, yellow like the fire, orange as the light.

Some days all of this will make sense. The humbleness of things not going your way, not going as predicted.

For now huddle with your familiars, write manifestos, memorize lines of poetry

To leave as flowers as you bid your adieu.

In the end nothing mattered, not eloquence, preparedness, not even expertise.

It boiled down, as it always boils

down

to

emotion.

In love, in war, in politics.

These scars will become constellations.





I recently switched to an IPhone.

I was  always an Android/PC person, but did it all for the camera (and the IPhone 7 larger screen, which brings it closer to a tablet). Today after some research I downloaded ProCreate, a painting and layering app and Tayasui Sketching, a drawing and watercolor app. I’m looking forward to exploring them with my Sensu brush. The layers aspect of ProCreate pushes this app beyond what I was used to with Paint Commander, my Android painting app. If I don’t sound as my usually excited self is because I’m still numb.

The spontaneous construct above was an experiment with ProCreate inspired by Rothko, some photographs I took in September in Baja California, the recent elections and the high-strung feeling running through social media- especially related to some alarming episodes of intolerance already happening.
I guess things have to fall apart before they are made anew, and I guess the heart has to break in a myriad of pieces to become a mosaic, a kaleidoscope. This was the autumn of earthquake faults and fractures, of buildings and people.

There is a Japanese custom of repairing broken antique vases with gold, making the wound not only visible, but the whole more precious for having being shattered.


I was dead then alive. Weeping then laughing. The power of love came into me and I became fierce like a lion then … then tender like the evening star.


~ Rumi 

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First experiment in Digital nude painting on my Android HTC ONE phone, using the Paint Commander App and the Sensu brush.

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Two months to the day of my last post, I return.

Like a lover who walks into the door surreptitiously, I offer no explanations.

Just Kidding.

This quarter saw me teaching three courses with a total of 120 students, so, dear Single Reader, the reason for my hiatus is self-evident. It was a ten-week long journey into different periods of History of Architecture and Urban Design, Urban Issues and so. much. more.

Here are snapshots of my bimonthly art dates. I have quite a few drawings, but could not conjure up the time and mental space to scan and post them. Ideally, these will be scanned version soon..but here they are.

I embarked on an Arabic adventure as of Monday, and this will be a spectacular summer, I feel and know.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”


Anne Bradstreet

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Shift #5

Ali Liebegott

for Seamus Heaney

 

 

a box of coconut water
two cans of coconut milk

so many looking for help

some people care when a poet dies

a poem is a conscience
a report card, a confession:

today my lies were a motor that spun the Earth

how can you get truth from a hill
when I am the continent that drifts?

how can I taste what I’m mourning
when soon everything will be salt from the sea?

 

—8/30/13, Register 6
1 PM—5:15 p.m.

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Narciso, parole di burro
Si sciolgono sotto l’alito della passione
Narciso trasparenza e mistero
Cospargimi di olio alle mandorle e vanità
Modellami…
Raccontami le storie che ami inventare
Spaventami
Raccontami le nuove esaltanti vittorie
Conquistami,inventami, dammi un’altra identità
Stordiscimi,disarmami e infine colpisci
Abbracciami ed ubriacami di ironia e sensualità
Narciso, parole di burro
Nascondono proverbiale egoismo nelle intenzioni
Narciso, sublime apparenza
Ricoprimi di eleganti premure e sontuosità
Ispirami
Raccontami le storie che ami inventare
Spaventami
Raccontami le nuove esaltanti vittorie
Conquistami inventami, dammi un’altra identità
Stordiscimi, disarmami e infine colpisci
Abbracciami ed ubriacami di ironia e sensualità
Abbracciami ed ubriacami di ironia e sensualità
Conquistami
Conquistami
Conquistami


Narcissus, buttered words
Melt under the breath of passion
Narcissus, transparency and mystery
Cover me with almond oil and vanity
Mold me
Tell me the stories you love to make up
Scare me
Tell me about your new exciting victories
Conquer me, invent me, give me another identity
Numb me, disarm me, and finally hit
Embrace me and intoxicate me with irony and sensuality

Narcissus, buttered words
Hide the proverbial egoism in your intentions
Narcissus, sublime pretense
Cover me with elegant cares and sumptuousness
Inspire me
Tell me the stories you love to make up
Scare me
Tell me about your new exciting victories
Conquer me, invent me, give me another identity
Numb me, disarm me, and finally, hit
Embrace me and intoxicate me with irony and sensuality
Conquer me
Conquer me
Conquer me



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One of my most cherished books.

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Lord Byron’s handwriting.



Stanzas Written On the Road Between Florence and Pisa



Oh, talk not to me of a name great in story;

The days of our youth are the days of our glory;

And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty

Are worth all your laurels, though ever so plenty.

What are garlands and crowns to the brow that is wrinkled?

‘Tis but as a dead flower with May-dew besprinkled.

Then away with all such from the head that is hoary!

What care I for the wreaths that can only give glory?

O Fame!—if I e’er took delight in thy praises,

‘Twas less for the sake of thy high-sounding phrases,

Than to see the bright eyes of the dear one discover,

She thought that I was not unworthy to love her.

There chiefly I sought thee, there only I found thee;

Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee;

When it sparkled o’er aught that was bright in my story,

I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.


George Gordon, Lord Byron

November, 1821




Romantics, for more on the lives of the Poets, you might hide here for a few days, and spend the evenings at your local cafe reading poems accompanied by a well-tempered clavier.  For my part, I have ordered Ugo Foscolo’s Le Ultime Lettere di Jacopo Ortis (The Last Letters of Jacopo Ortis)–and  look forward to sinking in its lyrical, poignant song that so well describes the passion and contradiction of the Italian spirit (and carries me back to the Halcyon days of Literature and Poetry studies in high school).  A presto, more watercolor portraits await…

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Do not write love-poems. Avoid those forms which are too trite and commonplace: they are the hardest, for a great and mature power is needed to give of one’s own where good and often brilliant traditions throng upon one. Therefore betake yourself from the usual themes to those which your everyday life offers you. Paint your sadnesses and your desires, your passing thoughts and your belief in some kind of beauty

—paint all that with quiet and modest inward sincerity; and to express yourself use the things that surround you, the pictures of your dreams and the objects of your recollections. When your daily life seems barren, do not blame it; blame yourself rather and tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for the creative worker knows no barrenness and no poor indifferent place. And even if you were in a prison, whose walls prevented all the bustle of the world from reaching your senses, even then would you not still have your childhood, that precious, kingly wealth, that treasure-house of memories? Turn your attention towards it. Try to recall the forgotten sensations of that distant past; your personality will strengthen itself, your loneliness will extend itself and become a dusky dwelling and the noise of others will pass by it far away. And when from this turning inwards, from this retreat into your own world verses come into being, then you will not think of asking anyone, whether they are good verses. Nor will you try to get journals interested in these works, for you will see in them your own loved and natural possession, a part and an expression of your life. A work of art is good, when it is born of necessity.

Rainer Maria Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet

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The girl with the ukulele. Oakland, Feb. 19, 2012. Ink on hand.book paper





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San Diego, December 14, 2011.

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San Diego, November 25, 2011. Third Avenue Pedestrian Bridge.

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San Diego, November 25, 2011. Third Avenue bridge and context (canyon).

Bridge, De-constructed.

” In recent years , the modern understanding of social responsibility as functional program has been superseded by a concern for context. But contextualism has been used as an excuse for mediocrity, for a dumb servility within the familiar. Since deconstructivist architecture seeks the unfamiliar within the familiar, it displaces the context rather than acquiesce to it. What makes it disturbing is the way deconstructivist architecture finds the unfamiliar already hidden within the familiar context. By its intervention, elements of the context become defamiliarized. In one project, towers are turned over on their sides, while in others, bridges are tilted up to become towers.”

Mark Wigley

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Thoughts set free. Ink on paper and trace. November 9,2011.

“If neurotic is wanting two mutually exclusive things at one and the same time,

then I’m neurotic as hell.

I’ll be flying back and forth between one mutually exclusive thing and another

 for the rest of my days.”

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, Chapter 8

 

I have to thank my colleague Alan Rosenblum for sharing the concept of thinking with one’s hands and the visual poetry of The Mystery of a Murmuration. His advice is to watch this in silence.

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It has been ten long days since my last post, ten days of travels, of letters written and not sent, of (re) search.

In the middle of it all, I experienced the ‘biggest blackout in the history of San Diego county’. Thursday, September 8th, 2011, power went off for millions of people in Southern California, Baja California and Arizona. No ATM’s , shuttered stores, nowhere to buy food or water in a world where, when the machines stop, the city stops. The blackout lasted for almost nine hours, from 3.30 Pm till just before Midnight, and it was all it took to plunge my two neighborhoods in an atmosphere that was at times apocalyptic, at others, surreal, magical, “european”. Beyond the novelty, even excitement, felt by some there were people trapped in high-rise elevators, in trolley cars over canyons, in mid-rise buildings without water. It was a time where everything stopped and a battery radio and candles (my only emergency preparedness) help whiled away the hours. It was a movie. And a dream.

Before I share what I have been working on in the past few days, here is my dispatch from the Blackout and some urban moments caught on camera.

PS: From http://www.nakedtranslations.com/en/2004/entre-chien-et-loup  nakedtranslations.com:

Entre chien et loup is a multi-layered expression. It is used to describe a specific time of day, just before night, when the light is so dim you can’t distinguish a dog from a wolf. However, it’s not all about levels of light. It also expresses that limit between the familiar, the comfortable versus the unknown and the dangerous (or between the domestic and the wild). It is an uncertain threshold between hope and fear.

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The night we saw the stars.

Full moon, venus, motherlight.

Flaws and flames

Not multiplied

It is so quiet

we can hear ourselves

If the end of the world comes

I want you to know

We are fine.

By Moon Light.

 

Read ”La Noche que Volvimos a Ser Gente”or “The Night We Became People Again” by José Luis González, a short story on the big blackout in New York City.

If you are left with a battery powered CD player when the world ends- and speak italian- you could do worse than listen to Caffe’ Letterario.

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Embrace All Your Selves. Digital Collage. August 16,2011.

Embrace All Your Selves, Exhale. Digital Collage. August 16,2011.


 

The title of the book began as a very sophisticated literary joke, an allusion to John Donne’s “Meditations on Emergent Occasions.” But as sometimes happened in O’Hara’s poetry, the joke turned out to have a surplus of meaning. His poems are meditations — but not the kind that comes after hours of quiet thought; they proceed from the heart of noise; they are written on the run, in a hurry, on a lunch break, in a perennial emergency. O’Hara’s poems perfectly capture the pace of a New York day in 1962. He is a master of the art of gentle self-laceration: “Now I am quietly waiting for / the catastrophe of my personality / to seem beautiful again, / and interesting, and modern.”


Meditations in an Emergency

Frank O’Hara 1926–1966

Am I to become profligate as if I were a blonde? Or religious as if I were
French?

Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous (and how the
same names keep recurring on that interminable list!), but one of these days
there’ll be nothing left with which to venture forth.

Why should I share you? Why don’t you get rid of someone else for a
change?

I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love.

Even trees understand me! Good heavens, I lie under them, too, don’t I? I’m
just like a pile of leaves.

However, I have never clogged myself with the praises of pastoral life, nor
with nostalgia for an innocent past of perverted acts in pastures. No. One need
never leave the confines of New York to get all the greenery one wishes—I can’t
even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record
store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life. It is
more important to affirm the least sincere; the clouds get enough attention as
it is and even they continue to pass. Do they know what they’re missing? Uh
huh.

My eyes are vague blue, like the sky, and change all the time; they are
indiscriminate but fleeting, entirely specific and disloyal, so that no one
trusts me. I am always looking away. Or again at something after it has given me
up. It makes me restless and that makes me unhappy, but I cannot keep them
still. If only i had grey, green, black, brown, yellow eyes; I would stay at
home and do something. It’s not that I’m curious. On the contrary, I am bored
but it’s my duty to be attentive, I am needed by things as the sky must be above
the earth. And lately, so great has their anxiety become, I can spare
myself little sleep.

Now there is only one man I like to kiss when he is unshaven.
Heterosexuality! you are inexorably approaching. (How best discourage her?)

St. Serapion, I wrap myself in the robes of your whiteness which is like
midnight in Dostoevsky. How I am to become a legend, my dear? I’ve tried love,
but that hides you in the bosom of another and I am always springing forth from
it like the lotus—the ecstasy of always bursting forth! (but one must not be
distracted by it!) or like a hyacinth, “to keep the filth of life away,” yes,
there, even in the heart, where the filth is pumped in and slanders and pollutes
and determines. I will my will, though I may become famous for a mysterious
vacancy in that department, that greenhouse.

Destroy yourself, if you don’t know!

It is easy to be beautiful; it is difficult to appear so. I admire you,
beloved, for the trap you’ve set. It’s like a final chapter no one reads because
the plot is over.

“Fanny Brown is run away—scampered off with a Cornet of Horse; I do love that
little Minx, & hope She may be happy, tho’ She has vexed me by this Exploit
a little too.—Poor silly Cecchina! or F:B: as we used to call her.—I wish She
had a good Whipping and 10,000 pounds.”—Mrs. Thrale.

I’ve got to get out of here. I choose a piece of shawl and my dirtiest
suntans. I’ll be back, I’ll re-emerge, defeated, from the valley; you don’t want
me to go where you go, so I go where you don’t want me to. It’s only afternoon,
there’s a lot ahead. There won’t be any mail downstairs. Turning, I spit in the
lock and the knob turns.

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Thinking of Valerie. Ink on paper. August 10,2011.

From 'Art and Anarchy', Edgar Wind. 1965

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Marker on paper. August 3, 2011.


Il Nostro Canto

by Silvia Signorelli

il tuo passo a Milano

di cento stagioni

presso di me ha colorato l’aria

di silenziosa neve

d’inverno il calore

dell’estate abbracciata

di luce loquace

gazzelle

azzurre di mitezza

nostro canto

di bene grande

raggianti

Nuestro Canto

tu paso por Milan

de ciento estaciones

junto a mi ha llenado de color el aire

de silenciosa nieve

de invierno el calor

del verano abrazada

de luz locuaz

gacelas

azules de masadumbre

nuestro canto

de amor grande

radiantes

Our Song

your stride in Milano

of a hundred seasons

colored the air around me

with silent snow

warmth in winter

beheld by summer

by loquacious light

gazelles

blue with gentleness

our song

of a great love

radiant

From: La Tua Voce Sonora | Tu Voz Sonora

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In Tea Veritas. New York City. June 2011.

Well, this is no good! August is almost here and once again balmy summer days flew by with traveling, urban escapades and some R&R…while the postings have been mighty sparse.

I have been a curious tourist in my own city and state, and, in between summer courses,  the roamings included a visit to Joshua Tree National Park, Much Ado Abouth Nothing, a tour of the Getty Villa in Malibu, an evening dreaming of Cuba and its Architecture and finally, a retro movie under the stars. There have also been some further experiments with jewelry design. And many caffe’ shakerato’s. And many of foreign movies.  And declutterings, of tangibles and intangibles. I have been busy.

I am back from my adventures for good now, just in time to be blindsided and crushed by Amy Winehouse’s death (more on this later).
I have some shots to share from my travels, the challenge now is not to turn this into a photography blog (after all it is called *sketch* bloom) so i will be back tomorrow with more sketches and plan to alternate photos with drawings and collages for the next few posts.

It’s good to be back, renewed and energized.  I hope this month was good to you too.

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City of Salt by Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. Image via amazon.

“Here is a splendid volume from the Terry Gillam school of fictional photography… The book comes in a sturdy slipcase and features complex landscapes, painstakingly created, and digitally peopled by actors playing out scenes which conjure up a mystical Middle Eastern civilisation. Enigmatic, but beautiful.”
AG Magazine

“This is a beautifully structured text with an imaginative use of words and photography. This wondrous book of tales is a complex work of art that will be read throughout our generation.”
Focus: Fine Art Photography Magazine

“City of Salt… creates and documents alternate realities in miniature, accompanied by narratives inspired by Sufi tales, Italo Calvino and more.”
Michelle Wildgen –Publishers Weekly

 

The City. Image via kahnselesnick.com. Click to enlarge.

Suspended! Image via kahnselesnick.com. Click to enlarge.

 

Two Streets. Image via kahnselesnick.com. Click to enlarge.

 

The Flyer. Image via kahnselesnick.com. Click to enlarge.

 
From Amazon:
 
Panoramic photographs of fantastical landscapes make a bizarre Baedeker to alternative realities in City of Salt, by Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick. The second volume, after Scotlandfuturebog, in an intended trilogy of such otherworldly guides juxtaposes those scenes with similarly inspired texts: Sufi tales, the writings of fabulist Italo Calvino, and parables by the artists themselves. The strange deserts, marshes, sandy shores, villages, and fields are often traversed by wandering figures, frequently in peril or precariously alone. Kahn and Selesnick’s process combines sculptural and photographic media. The artists first construct the intricately detailed worlds in three-dimensional miniatures and dioramas, then digitally photograph the scene and populate it with characters in allegorical, though intriguingly puzzling, tableaux.
…………………………..
 
I ran into this gorgeous, oversized, substantial book few years ago while visiting UCSD’s excellent Architecture library. Words and images weave imaginary tales and create an escapist landscape. May days verge on the surreal, time is suspended, perhaps in a cruel, paradoxical loop. To travel through time, for once forward instead of backwards…to harness the days as though wild horses, bridle their energy. May seems to slip through my fingers, each time. I am lulled by the calm (before the storm? No, before more tense calm.)
Dreams and collages await. I find the only cure for restlessness is mindful awareness, in brilliant execution of each undertaking- as small as it is, as humble as it is. Ambition can paralyze you in May, when mid-year approaches and mental harvests take place. Each day we need to reconcile heaven and hell within us. Refusing to attemp the feat, or lack of acceptance of our opposite instincts,  is the only way the battle is lost. In numbness lies defeat.

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Ink on Paper. January 2011.

 

As designers, architects, artists, we use the ability to first visualize then communicate  a desired outcome. Implementation means having the courage, discipline and perseverance  to  bring that vision into the physical realm. I love to write, and to write lists, but this year I am doing something different with my 2011 resolutions. I am drawing them. It sems to be working. On good days, and they are abundant here in San Diego, you can find me in the park, chasing the sun and reading. An old-school physical book.  The previous specifications is now necessary due to the variety of reading options we have (what is your pleasure, or rather, your poison: smartphone, kindle, ipad, TMZ on your laptop?). These are my immediate, must-finish charges: 

Ink on paper. February 2011.

Books:

Inchoate: An Experiment in Architectural Education. Angelil, Marc and Liat Uziyel, eds.

The Architect: Chapters in the History of the Profession by Spiro Kostof

Sketching and meditating. Two resolutions, perhaps one and the same.  

Ink on Paper. January 2011.

 

Pondering on drawing, as opposed to writing, resolutions led me to think about visual vs. written and oral communication.

While drawing-or diagramming-a goal may help provide us with clues, visual or other, that help us actualize it, I don’t buy the argument that ‘visual’ people can only best communicate their intent through images. This is also known as ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ syndrome. By the same token, I refuse to accept that ‘visual’ people only understand material if it’s accompanied by images and therefore should be excused if they are poor readers or listeners. That is plain laziness. There are notions and topics  in this world that cannot be boiled down to neat Powerpoints (even though, heaven knows, we have tried to even run wars through the ubiquitous slide application), but require flight of the imagination, suspension of disbelief, and the ability to follow (picture-less) complex arguments. In trying to explain critical thinking, images run the risk of appearing like obtrusive clip-arts, obfuscating rather than enlightening.

The tyranny of the visual often lets us  get away with having inferior written and oral communication skills. I don’t buy the ‘visual’ doctrine (or fallacy) with my students or my architecture colleagues. Maybe it’s because I come from a linguistic lycaeum, was an English Minor, and come from Italy, but the way a person speaks or writes is more important to me, or revealing of their character, than any imagery or composition she or he can conjure up on a board. And here I need to say that, lest I behave like a whitened sepulcher, I know I have failings when trying to communicate: typos due to late night writing, listitis (I make too many lists), lectures that tend to go on a tangent and probably what is called mild A.D.D in this country (or severe A.D.D…depending on what day you ask my students;)). Lastly the fact that, no matter how many years I live here, my soul is Italian and so is the way to express myself, and we do use lot of what here are called ‘run-ons’ in writing, and perhaps even talking. We are peripatetic, scenic-route communicators.

Ok, so I am not perfect: let the flawed still admire and aim at beauty.

I ask the person I listen to to paint a convincing, even seductive picture with their words, to evoke the sense and meaning of their process. Of course exact,clear words go well with exact, clear drawings and diagrams, but seductive images without substantive explanations or clear, logical statements leave me dry. The literary arts are for the most part lost to modern architecture students, beyond the required ‘humanities’  and enticing (but seldom frequented) advanced elective courses. The result is professionals who are literate in CAD, codes, building, or even ‘architecture’, but illiterate in the sense of the global collective written word, and therefore culture. Shouldn’t the designers of shelters for the human race understand its most lyrical expressions?  Shouldn’t they design for man and woman’s highest aspiration, rather than the lowest common denominator? We ask architects to create places of Beauty, places that inspire, to design poetic aedifices. Without knowing what poetry is, without at least having been exposed to it, that is an impossible feat. If architecture is the Mother of all the Arts, should it not contain them? Literature, philosophy, liberal arts, music…Where are you Muses in our curricula? We have modified –and are moving towards transforming–the academic requirements for the make-up of the future architect based on the needs (vocational at best ) of field practice, a large number made up by corporate building farms, where architecture is just a sign on the door. Of course we aim for graduates ready to enter the profession, but hopefully we are also aiming for critical thinkers, whole individuals who can inspire, not just perform.  What should lead, follows. The trend can only go downward. I am talking about cad monkeys, or people who are paid ‘to draw, not think’ –I was actually told that many years ago. Call me irrational,  but I call for mandatory poetry courses (mandatory poetry! an oximoron). Call me utopian, but world literature should be as much part of an architecture curriculum as world architecture. When you know, you cannot unknow. I always say that. When you are exposed to possibilities and ‘big questions’ you cannot accept passively that things are just the way they are because they have always been. Poetry and literature are democratic expressions, highly dangerous to the status quo. And therefore highly desirable.

In my quest, I ran into this book. I am collecting a body of critical readings (for myself!) and this book will definitely be included.

Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in 20th Century French Thought, by Martin Jay

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Bjarke Ingels came to speak to our school Friday night.

The venue was the Museum of Natural History in scenic Balboa Park.

I am still blown away by the lecture and, more importantly, the message.

It was truly (r)evolutionary.  The fact that BIG’s insanely brilliant concepts not only get built but a) give back to the community in terms of urban interaction b) are socially and ecologically responsible and c) are giving him fame and making him a household name is galvanizing.

Expanding the collective idea of what is possible through architecture: this is the optimism we need after years of gloom, in face of all the naysayers and ‘pie-in-the-sky’ disablers.  Something is blooming in the state of Denmark.

What an event. My friend Alan Rosenblum told me it would be as if  ‘Lady Gaga came to San Diego’.

And. It. Was.  The students loved it. Three days later, and we are all still giddy.

I could not agree more.  Thank you Mr. Ingels.
You intensified the dialogue between students and educators, and showed us how the ‘crazy’ ideas that are developed in studio and propose new typologies for the city are not only possible but timely and welcome. This creates a better learning environment, where pragmatism actually means being part of the solution, not propagating the problem.

I had the same dilemma when working in traditional, corporate offices and found refuge in academia. BIG showed us that there is a third way, the ‘Bigamy’ way. You can have it all. You can be good and successful. You can be extremely famous
and not be arrogant. He spoke of pragmatic idealism, and hedonistic sustainability. He demonstrated how to create building that are fun to experience as inhabitants and city neighbors and yet are sustainable. He showed us the intellectual approach and use of hybridization of traditional typologies to achieve new functions and forms. To wit: the Garbage to Energy plant in the middle of Copenhagen, which will be the city’s tallest structure and will house a ski slope (!) and blow smoke rings each time one ton of CO2 is burned. These are usually ‘crazy’ projects that we see coming from the upper studio division, when we ask the students to ‘dream big’ (pun intended) and question the drab, anti-interactive reality of center cities such as San Diego. The students, deep inside, try to dream but are conditioned to think that projects such as the one we saw in the lecture could never be built due to various factors such as financial interests or politics of control, or even lack of relevance of our role as architects.

We have been liberated from all of this because we can now point to BIG’s projects. Here it was demonstrated that the only limits we have as architects and human beings are those self-imposed, or those we feel ‘reality’ has burdened us with. I know that as faculty we felt validated by BIG’s successes ( does it make sense?). The music and videos, the whole presentation and BIG’s  infectious enthusiasm, warmth and positive energy were, in the words of a student ‘AWESOME’. Another student told me he learned a lot about diagrams from the lecture.
The lecture also was a model for engaging presentations. I have been toying with the idea, but now I am committed to use music and pop references in my History of Architecture classes; I ran the idea with few students and they were all for it. 🙂 I will quote Ingels when he says that we need to ‘cease to consider the building as objects but focus on what they do for the city’ : this informs and generates a new approach to ‘sacred architectural monsters’ and teaching history of architecture (or as I like to think, architectural stories).

A big thank you to Allen Ghaida, the AIAS and all my colleagues at the NewSchool Arts Foundation for making this dream of an event a reality.

I sketched feverishly- and took down all the provocative quotes. Here are my hybrid/computer-augmented notes.

I will add all of the proper building names and location as soon as possible.

click to enlarge

…..and this was my present 🙂

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The Flâneur: A Radical-Chic Icon

The Flâneur. Ink on trace paper. February 26, 2011

The Flâneur and his turtle in the streets of Paris. Digital collage. February 26, 2011. Background photo from San Francisco’s artist David Blumin. Click for his website.



Then I heard the phrase ‘Walk with a turtle’ on NPR, during an interview with Council of Dads’ author Bruce Feiler–and had an epiphany: I, too, had been a flâneuse in my early years. When I was 9 years old I used to tie a red ribbon to the shell of my turtle Stefania/Stefano (we are still not sure) and take her for ‘walks’ around my building and in the field of olive trees nearby. This cannot just be explained by mere coincidence or a sense of equanimity (i would take my giant schnautzer Zorro for walks- or rather, he would take me- and treated Stefania/Stefano to the same). By walking the city (ok , in my case the field of olive trees) at the pace of a tortoise, we are bound to pay attention to life around us, to read the city–not just skim it from the wheel of our car or glancing up from smartphones while we traverse sidewalks. Having a turtle as a guide nudges us to stop rushing. I am reminded of the buddhist monk in the documentary ‘Baraka’, slowly pacing the street with small steps , at the sound of a bell–in the midst of a hyperactive Japanese metropolis. The realization of possible multi-layered readings on the figure of the flaneur prompted a small research.

Historical evidence of The Flâneur? Or just man waiting for his wife? Undated image from: storify.com/virtualdavis/flaneur

The  Flâneur

The term comes from ‘flâner’, which means to stroll in French. From this verb Baudelaire coined the word  flâneur, a person who walks the city in order to experience it.  The flâneur is driven  by an  insatiable  hunger  for  passion; he  seeks  the  streets and  the  city  life  for they  provide  inspiration  and  cure him of the malaise and loneliness  of  being human. He practices mindfulness, or conscious dilly-dallying. In US they would call him a ‘loiterer’, surely shoo him away…or perhaps fine or even jail him (I always tell my students there is no such thing as the word ‘loitering’ in Italian….what else would we do in Piazzas!?). My friend Bruce and I were discussing the flâneur few days ago and he reminded me of  the symbology of the turtle and this quote from Rumi:

The soul needs as much time to wander as the feet.

Rumi

 

Baudelaire writes of the flâneur:

 The  crowd  is  his  element,  as  the  air  is  that  of  birds  and  water  of  fishes.

 His  passion  and passionate  spectator,  it  is  an  immense  joy  to  set  up  house  in  the  heart  of  the  multitude, amid  the  ebb  and  flow  of  movement,  in  the  midst  of  the  fugitive  and  the  infinite.

To  be away  from  home  and  yet  to  feel  oneself  everywhere  at  home;  to  see  the  world,  to  be  at the  centre  of  the  world,  and  yet  to  remain  hidden  from  the  world

impartial  natures which  the  tongue  can  but  clumsily  define.  The  spectator  is  a  prince  who  everywhere  rejoices  in  his  incognito.  The  lover  of  life  makes  the  whole  world  his  family,  just  like  the lover  of  the  fair  sex  who  builds  up  his  family  from  all  the  beautiful  women  that  he  has ever  found,  or  that  are  or  are  not  -­‐  to  be  found;  or  the  lover  of  pictures  who  lives  in  a magical  society  of  dreams  painted  on  canvas.

 

A Process of Navigating Erudition

From Wikipedia: Flâneur is not limited to someone committing the physical act of peripatetic stroll in the Baudelairian sense, but can also include a “complete philosophical way of living and thinking”, and a process of navigating erudition as described by Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s essay on “Why I Walk” in the second edition of The Black Swan (2010).  A Sunday Time review called The Black Swan  one of the twelve most influential books since WWII.

Benjamin  in his Arcades further describes the flâneur utilizes the city,  which becomes an  extension of  his residence:

The   street   becomes   a   dwelling   for   the   flâneur;   he   is   as   much   at   home   among   the facades  of  houses  as  a  citizen  is  in  his  four  walls.  To  him  the  shiny,  enameled  signs  of businesses  are  at  least  as  good  a  wall  ornament  as  an  oil  painting  is  to  the  bourgeois  in his  salon.  The  walls  are  the  desk  against  which  he  presses  his  notebooks;  news-­‐stands are  his  libraries  and  the  terraces  of  cafés  are  the  balconies  from  which  he  looks  down on  his  household  after  his  work  is  done.


Some of the questions I have been thinking about are : Can the flâneur be a flâneuse? Must he or she always haunt the city aloof and alone, or is ‘Flâneurie’ an activity that can be enjoyed in small groups, maybe of separate actors, each with his or her own turtle?

The flâneur is enjoying immense popularity on the Internet and blogosphere, among the hipster and (pseudo)intellectual crowd.  He is radical chic, a gentleman stroller whose eccentricity is afforded to him by indipendent wealth. He is a man of leisure who can make a statement about the bondage of work and busyiness: he is above it and does not need it.
On the other side of the coin, we might re-evaluate the ‘homeless’ people, the figure of the clochard (sounds better in French doesn’t it) as flâneurs without means, but with the same intellect and intent.  They also make the city their living room and library.

In “American Flaneur: The Cosmic Physiognomy of Edgar Allan Poe“, James V. Werner describes how ‘ highly self-aware, and to a certain degree flamboyant and theatrical, dandies of the mid-nineteenth century created scenes through outrageous acts like walking turtles on leashes down the streets of Paris. Such acts exemplify a flâneur’s active participation in and fascination with street life while displaying a critical attitude towards the uniformity, speed, and anonymity of modern life in the city.’

Hmm…Sounds like The Situationists.

A new interpretation of the activities of the flâneur appear in the writings of Guy Debord, the dérive also being a protest against the processes of consumption and capitalism:

One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive [literally: “drifting”], a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.

In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their relations, their work and leisure activities, and all their other usual motives for movement and action, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there. Chance is a less important factor in this activity than one might think: from a dérive point of view cities have psychogeographical contours, with constant currents, fixed points and vortexes that strongly discourage entry into or exit from certain zones.

–Guy Debord

While the flaneurs practiced ‘aimless wandering’, the Situationists devised processes to purposefully get lost.

There is no English equivalent for the French word flâneur. Cassell’s dictionary defines flâneur as a stroller, saunterer, drifter but none of these terms seems quite accurate. There is no English equivalent for the term, just as there is no Anglo-Saxon counterpart of that essentially Gallic individual, the deliberately aimless pedestrian, unencumbered by any obligation or sense of urgency, who, being French and therefore frugal, wastes nothinincluding his time which he spends with the leisurely discrimination of a gourmet, savoring the multiple flavors of his city.

Cornelia Otis Skinner.

Elegant Wits and Grand Horizontals, 1962

Watching is the chosen pleasure of flâneur. He is an ‘urban stalker’, as Susan Sontag defines him in her 1977 essay On Photography.  Modern flâneurs, let’s arm ourselves with cameras or a moleskine . Let’s pretend we are all ‘The Sartorialist’ and many, many other envoys on particular missions. Would you enjoy the streets of your city if you thought you were spying on someone, an urban detective, privy to secrets no-one else can know? What would the intelligence gathered from today? What stories could you tell(or draw)? What stories would the city reveal to you. There is so much life out there. And buildings are lessons.

Let the urban voyeurism begin.
Here are some useful links:

And, finally, my very own books for Parisian flanerie.

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The Creative License by Danny Gregory. Click for his blog and links!

Everywhere I turn these days i see the word Creativity..could this be a sign …cause I have not been posting that much???

This post is more like…four…but so be it.

The back of the book. Do you dare to be creative?

A dear student let me borrow this fantastic book: The Creative License: Giving yourself permission to be the artist you truly are. What a wonderful title. So this post, like the book is dedicated….

From Danny Gregory's book The Creative License.

This book is full of helpful suggestions, assignments and encouragements for artists, wannabe-artists and artists-to-be.
There are helpful tools, techniques and a great section on negative space. The style reminds me of Michael Nobbs and his ‘Start to Draw Your Life’ [find link to download his e-book here]
I love this quote:

I believe in the energy of art, and through the use of that energy, the artist’s ability to transform his or her life and, by example, the lives of others.

Audrey Flack

Inspired by the ‘sketch your life’ vibe,I finally got around drawing something that has been giving me JOY lately:

Ink and watercolor on paper and tracing paper. A bit of digital manipulation. Feb. 09,2011.

Yes! These magnific Illy concoctions have come to a freezer near you…I love these babies.
I also picked up the Oprah magazine…i do enjoy this publication…as a reader said ‘it brings a little magic into my life’. I devour news and ‘serious’ books ( I love novels, but have started a stack of non-fiction and architecture-related books in the past four years …and I am determined to finish it by the end of the year)…so sometimes Oprah reminds me to feed my spirit. Go ahead and judge:P
This month’s issue caught my eye, for the focus was creativity.
This is the un-quiz I am taking…designed by filmmaker Miranda July and Artist Harrell Fletcher, creators of the website Learning to Love You More. Click for creative assignments!
The results will be uploaded at oprah.com.
If you are so lucky to have an Ipad, you can check out Oprah’s own sketchbook app, SketchBook O.
Here are:
7 WAYS TO SPARK YOUR CREATIVITY:
(from designer Anna Rabinowicz)
1. Read Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
2. Go Outside
3. Start a collection
4. Touch Stuff
5. Travel Solo
6. Go Analog
7. Grab every opportunity
(read about this on this month’s issue of O, the Oprah Magazine)
One of the things I am always reminded of when I read Oprah is to give gratitude. It has been difficult lately, between my hypercritical mind, a full-out technological meltdown and a string of missed yoga classes. Nonetheless, I would like to give a shout out to these three creative individuals who are an inspiration!
1. Ghadah Alkandari @ prettygreenbullet: my blogsister, who elevates blogging to a religion, source of daily inspiration. I love you, woman.

Ghadah Alkandari, Goddess of Daily Goodness. This is her post from February 5,2011. Click to Ghadah.

2. Abbey Ryan @ abbeyryan.com

From Oprah's February Issue: the blog abbeyryan.com. She has posted an oil still life every day since 2007. WOW! Click to find Abbey.

3. St. Loup and his Secrets and Lies
Always thought-provoking…my virtual literary cafe’.

From St. Loup's Secrets and Lies: Maurice Ronnet Le feu Follet - Luis Malle (1963)

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Before the first day of the month comes to a close…

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Santa Maria Delle Grazie with Bramante's apse. Milano. Pilot pen on paper. January 2011

 In the monastery adjacent this church, just a few minutes’ stroll from my house, one can find Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’. The apse (widely attributed to Donato Bramante, and dated around 1490) is significant as it signals a crucial transition from the Late Gothic style of the nave to a splendid Northern Italian Renaissance in the apse, the choir and cupola.

.25 technical pen on cardstock. January 2011.

Photoshop manipulation of pen drawing. January 2011.

MITI’S RECIPE FOR SKETCHING:

Day One: Look. (First Encounter)

Day Two: See. (Visual Analysis;walkaround…resist the urge to take photos. Training your eyes will not only lead to better sketches, better lessons learned from the Architecture itself, it will lead to–if you are so inclined–even better photography in the end. Notice, examine and mentally record -on the exterior- connections, details, rhythms, proportions, materials; on the interior: spaces, rituals, light, sequences, apertures, passages…)

Day Three: Sketch. (even quickly…by now you learned the lessons, you acquainted yourself with the building. You begin to understand.) Use the verb ‘to draw’ as in drawing water from a well, draw information (this last advice comes from Travelling the World with an Architect’s Eye)

Tips for cold-weather sketching: stop when your legs fall asleep. Wear half (I call them ‘homeless-style’) gloves to keep the hands free. Listen to warm music on your ipod. Bring a thermos or mug with hot, organic, unsweetened english breakfast tea.

And…

for impromptu urban sketching, carry your pens with the very handy penholder by Muji (did I mention before that I love Muji?)

Sketchbook by hand book, penholder clip by muji.

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Window of an interior designer studio, Milano.

While the first day of 2011 is coming to a close here in Milano, I think of what my mom always says: ‘What you do the first day of the year, you do all year’. I am happy to report I sketched today and fed my mind with architecture, art, and words. I also wanted to post my Milanese wishes to set the tone for this fabulous (I just know) 2011.

It was a week full of adventures here: walking in the city, enjoying aperitivi in cool lounge bars, ringing in the new year with family first and then in a club inside a deconsacrated church (can someone say adaptive reuse?). I saw two exhibits at the Palazzo Reale: Dali’ (thankyou Sara!) and, today Al-Fann l Islamic Art, the Al Sabah collection from Kuwait.

I sketched my favorite pieces, took notes (and even some clandestine photos), and have couple of ideas for near-future experiments.

For now, Happy New Year (I’m feeling good, are you?); may it be your best yet.

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The Fortress of Lost Time. Graphite on paper and magazine cutouts. December 28, 2010. Miti and Gianni Aiello.

Genova. Graphite on paper and magazine cutouts. December 27, 2010. Miti and Gianni Aiello.

 

These collages start with a drawing my father sketches out on thin notebook paper; I then proceed to create possible scenarios.

And this is the conversation at the end of the day with my mother, a retired judge — which i have entitled:

Talking about art with my (practical, realist) mother

[Me , retiring for the night, putting my art paraphernalia away] I’m happy about the collage. It was a good day.

Oh, did you have fun?

Mom, I don’t do art to have fun (recalling an earlier conversation about not turning your passion into an hobby).

But, didn’t you entertain yourself while you did it? Didn’t you stop worrying about other things while you were making it?

No mom, that’s not the point. I am creative. I have to create/work on  something everyday.

But what’s the use? Something is useful only if someone appreciates it.

Mom, I appreciate it, then it’s enough. I do it to satisfy myself. The people who read my blog appreciate it. Art doesn’t have to be useful in the pragmatic sense.

Then it’s psychotherapy.

No, mom don’t diminish me, if you think it’s psychotherapy then that means there’s something wrong with me.

But if it benefits you it’s like psychotherapy. Ok, like fitness. Mental fitness…..It’s like writing books.

Mom, art is not about fitness.

But I don’t understand art.

Ok, how about this: I do it for something you don’t understand : for pleasure.

No, I don’t understand it.

It’s okay mom. The world is beautiful because of its variety. (Italian saying: ‘il mondo e’ bello perche’ e’ vario). [Exiting the room].

I love my practical mom! She keeps me and my father out of trouble 😉

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Christmas Day finds me in Amsterdam this year, on my way to Milano. Internet access may be intermittent the next few weeks, and while I plan to do art and sketch (well, as much sketching as subzero temperatures will allow), I won’t have my scanner so the quality of the drawings, collages and whatever else I may do will not be pristine, so bear with me. After all, this is the beauty of traveling: not having your usual environs, trappings and equipment leads to creative problem solving and a bit of experimenting (even though, judging from my luggage, it sure does look like I am carrying all my trappings :P). I plan to use a very nifty feature I discovered in WordPress: post by SMS (text). I am not sure my Italian sim card will allow me to use my Android phone as modem or that I will have internet on it, but I sure will be able to text so I am looking forward to post some impressions of Milano in winter, maybe even some life ephipanies (ha!).
For now I want to leave with some quotes I took down from the movie Eat, Pray , Love (don’t judge, it was playing on the plane and I happen to dig the author, as I mentioned before):
 
 
Italy:

Americans know entertainment, but they don’t know pleasure.

In Italy we have the expression ‘dolce far niente’ ; the sweetness of doing nothing.

Maybe you are a woman in search of a word.

Ruin is a gift. Ruin leads to transformation and evolution.

Bali:

Learn to see with your heart, not with your eyes, or with your head.

Meditate while smiling. Smile not just with your face, smile with your head. Smile even with your liver.

India:
You don’t have to be married or have children to have a family.

You have to learn to select your thoughts everyday, just as you select the clothes you are going to wear everyday.

God dwells within me. As me.

To live is to trust.

What if you had the capacity one day to love the whole world?

…..
A Merry, Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let’s hope is a good one
Without any fear.
(And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?)

 

Here is to new beginnings without old nonsenses.

Here is to lots of art and growth (and lots of good things to share)

 
 

 

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Photograph, December 19, 2010

This is my piazza, do you want to join me? We can walk inside the Battistero and talk about Islamic influences in the architecture of the Rinascimento in Firenze…or maybe just stroll about like tourists. Let’s take that via,the one on the left, do you want to come with me?

Every time I consider  imaginary spaces, my mind wanders to The Forgetting Room, that magnificent book.

Should we build a forgetting room for this year (to let bitter memories flow onto Oblivion)? Or a remembering one (to extract poetry and melancholy …even, ah, wisdom…out of hardship? – the feeling of seeing a familiar river in winter). God knows I built enough altars, and burned enough. I haven’t yet learned if sadness is better than anger.
2010, what a stubborn, bittersweet, impenetrable year you were….I release you, since I could never reach you, no matter how hard I tried, or how much I mentally applied myself to understand you.
Perhaps you were never meant to be comprehended. Perhaps you were not worthy.

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Marker on paper, digitally modified. December 2010

Think better, and multiply- The Vedic way. Thank you for existing, Open Culture.

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Photograph- Digitally retouched. December 18, 2010

Photograph- Digitally retouched. December 18, 2010

This is a continuation of my experimenting with words from the Arab Film Festival in San Francisco.

Lastly, an irregular haiku:

How quickly

the lizard

loses its tail!

San Diego, December 16, 2010

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This has started to be a weekly blog, and I am not too happy about it. This Quarter has been so intense in a stupendous way: I am involved in a myriad of exciting projects at the school and became involved in new committees – and that has meant less free time, but an overall brand new meaning in what I do. And did I mention the books ? In my studio class we are talking about designing negative space and casting shadows and in history we are in the Golden period of Classical Times : Greece (what have the Greeks done for you lately) and Rome. Who could ask for more?

Throughout it all, we have ‘got to keep the heart’ as Wanda, my sweet ex-neighbor said. Brain food needs to be augmented by daily spirit-food, soul-food…heart-food. As fully-realized human beings we have to ask an incredible amount from each day, but I believe it’s the only way to go…or you could just go on auto-pilot and become numb. Art and what happens here is just that for me, an outlet and inlet of pure ‘heart-stuff’, to balance the facts and seductive theories I’m immersed in everyday. Could we say this is my Dyonisian to the Apollonian? The days that I don’t get to post or practice are somewhat overcast, a bit stuffy, as though not enough light or air was let in.

I finally completed my Viva La Revolucion post and a related ‘revolutionary’ piece {see previous}. It took FOREVER. I don’t know why I keep giving myself homework. But I hope you enjoy that line of thinking, always trying to put it all together in a somewhat cohesive way that has to do with the nature of this forum.
The Holidays are coming and I am looking forward to post more frequently and produce more work. And I have a long list of things/topics so definitely stay tuned!
I finally had some time to do a new collage today.

It all started with this catalog of this year’s Arab Film Festival in San Francisco, and an image of the Salk Institute in San Diego.

I knew I wanted to make a collage using the two for some time, and the inspiration came from a dream last night.

I did not know the word part would materialize. Using the titles of the movie in the Festival, I created a game for myself, a sort of stream-of-consciousness poem generator. Here is one of the early results.

Here is how it all came together, unwritten an unspeakable words, fragments of poems, figments of my imagination…

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Students in Roma protest using 'literary shields' and have given rise to the so-called Book Block.

Students revolts have spread in Italy and England in the past few weeks. The images that I see coming from my country remind me of interactive urban installations organized by Coop Himmelblau in the 1960’s and 1970’s .

These are called ‘soft explosions’, such as the covering of a street in Vienna with foam,or the appearance in the streets of Paris of habitable ‘bubbles’.

Soft Space. Coop Himmelblau. Vienna, 1970.

Bubbles.Coop Himmelblau. Paris, 1968.

Coop Himmelblau’s approach,according to the pleasantly subversive Spatial Agency, is similar to that of Haus-Rucker-Co, based on the Austrian heritage of Freud’s psychoanalytic approach– this led them to explore the relationships between the architectural environment and our individual perceptions of it. Their early work leading up to the late 1970s consisted of performative installations and actions involving the spectators as participants. [read more at
Post-traumatic Urbanism ]

Italian students today put the art in revolt.

During the Book Block protest in Rome (so called by the collective writers Wu Ming— see Black Block for reference ), which took place November 24, 2010 in Rome, University students fashioned ‘literary shields’ to defend themselves against the riot police (members of the Italian police have been charged with murder in several cases involving student demonstrators, sports fans rioting outside of stadiums and G-8 protesters in recent years). The shields become what the students are fighing for: the right for education against drastic government cuts. What better symbol of the predicament Italian Universities are in, than to take to the streets books relevant to today’s Italian young adults. A plank of wood sandwiched between two sheets of cardboard become the book covers. Here are some of the texts, and the titles are sometimes surprising:

 

Tropic of Cancer
by Artur Miller
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Italian Constitution
Decameron by Boccaccio
Naked Sun by Aasimov
A thousand plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia by Deleuze
Gomorrah by Saviano
Don Quixote by Cervantes
Moby Dick
by Melville
The Prince by Macchiavelli
and…my favorite book of all time: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez

From Studenti.it

As the students recount, it was a spontaneous process started one November afternoon at the University. Each student proposed titles of books;they wanted to represent that ‘ culture is the only defence against a government who wants to demolish it’.

Gian Mario Anselmi, professor of Italian Literature at the University of Bologna says: : “These kids used culture as shield, our true and only identity. We defend ourselves with classical texts. The titles they chose are incredibly diverse, fruit of who knows what advice and suggestion, but it does not matter. It is the smbol that matters. And on these shields told of utopia, history, courage and love.”
The Book Block protest plans to make an appearance again on December 14 in Rome.

The writer Roberto Saviano, in his open letter to the newspaper ‘La Repubblica’ –written to condemn the violence emerged in some recent student revolts –praises ‘intellectual’ and creative demonstrations such as the ‘Book Bloc’. He writes:
‘C’era allegria nei ragazzi che avevano avuto l’idea dei Book Block, i libri come difesa, che vogliono dire crescita, presa di coscienza. Vogliono dire che le parole sono lì a difenderci, che tutto parte dai libri, dalla scuola, dall’istruzione… La testa serve per pensare, non per fare l’ariete. I book block mi sembrano una risposta meravigliosa a chi in tuta nera si dice anarchico senza sapere cos’è l’anarchismo neanche lontanamente.’
The kids who had the idea of th ‘Book Block’ did so in good spirit, books as defense, books that signify growth, self-awareness. Books are there to say words come to our defense, that everything starts with books, school, learning…Your head is there for you to think , not to use it as a battering ram. I think the Book Blocs are a wonderful answer to those who call themselves anarchic, wearing black overalls, without even knowing what anarchy even means.’

As I was preparing this post, I collected these quotes and thoughts on revolution and books:

Promise yourself to live your life as a revolution and not just a process of evolution.

Anthony J. D’Angelo

Do not read, as children do, to amuse yourself, or like the ambitious, for the purpose of instruction. No, read in order to live.
— Gustave Flaubert

“There is not a particle of life which does not bear poetry within it”
— Gustave Flaubert

“The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen … Perhaps it can’t be done without the poet, but it certainly can’t be done without the people. The poet and the people get on generally very badly, and yet they need each other. The poet knows it sooner than the people do. The people usually know it after the poet is dead; but that’s all right. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.”
— James Baldwin

“The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletariat to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeoisie.”
— Gustave Flaubert

“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
Gustave Flaubert

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Toolenburg- Zuid. Steven Holl

All images are from a research project completed by my student, Mariam Thomas, on Architects as Artists and their rendering/design techniques.

The relationship between architecture and art, and the study of practitioners who are also artists (with the mindframe of artists), whose design process transcends design practices and pragmatism to include enlightment, discoveries and art- wonderings is of immense interest to me. Not only because I come from Italy , where the greatest architects of ‘our’ Rinascimento where first and foremost artists, but because I believe Architecture (with the capital A) is meant to embody Art and , in the best cases, become visual poetry (or frozen music). The relationship between the word and the built, i.e, literature and architecture, and architects/artists who are poets and writers…all these are dynamics that not only fascinate me, but give me hope and recharge me. I would love to one day explore these themes through one of more courses.

It’s fantastic to see the relationship between Steven Holl’s initial sketches and watercolors and his buildings, which preserve intact the spirit of their inception. I saw one of his works on the water in Amsterdam: it was similar to an e. e cummings poem, minimal and undeniable.

The line is so thin between his grayscale watercolors (an obsession of mine lately) and his white-grey walls. Holl’s book ‘Written on Water’ is one of my favorite books in our library, I steal it often.

Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful. I need to complete some collages soon, semi-architectural, archigram-style.

I have only been collecting ‘collage material’ for eight years. I hold on to fragments that could one day be part of a piece, it is time to justify these attachments.

I can hear the words in my future memoir:

At the end of the aughts, beginning of the twenties, there was no work. We were all doing collages….they were beautiful. We had time to think, sometimes not, but we still had books, and paper, and ink.

 

Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum(1992-1998). Steven Holl

Kiasma Contemporary Art Museum(1992-1998). Steven Holl.

Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture (2002-2009). Steven Holl.

Nanjing Museum of Art & Architecture (2002-2009). Steven Holl.

Knut Hamsen Museum (1994-2009). Steven Holl.

Knut Hamsen Museum (1994-2009). Steven Holl.

Knut Hamsen Museum (1994-2009). Steven Holl.

Chapel of St. Ignatius (1994-1997). Steven Holl

Simmons Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1999-2002). Steven Holl.

Simmons Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CAD drawing. (1999-2002). Steven Holl.

Simmons Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1999-2002). Steven Holl.

Toolenburg- Zuid. Steven Holl

Toolenburg- Zuid. Steven Holl

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The measure of a good book is its ability to haunt us. I have been delinquent; the past few days’ in-between moments, usually dedicated to art and this blog, stolen away by a classic charmer of a book, Jane Eyre.

Yet I have been thinking, almost pining, for another book –and the time and the place of its reading. This particular story begun for me on a train to Nice, on my way to Provence, during a fall where everything changed.
A  book, unlike anything read online, is forever tied to its place of discovery and unfolding. This alone speaks to the mindfulness of reading books.

The images, feelings before words, that keep coming back to me like a calling are from an exquisite, excruciating novel by Marguerite Dumas (of ‘The Lover’ fame- if you have not read the book or watched the movie, you are in for a ride) called, simply, Blue Eyes, Black Hair. In Italian though, it does sound better, more poetic, and less like a description of a convicted felon: Occhi blu, Capelli Neri.

The story, and premise of the book are meant to be forgotten, but not the feeling, the soul state (stato d’anima). The book is filled by silent presences and vocal absences; the words, the dialogues take place in the mind of the two main characters, but alas, they are never uttered.

Occhi Blu, Capelli Neri is about longing, isolation, deprivation and a love/passion/dependence that is meant to be measured out and sipped slowly (the italian word I am thinking of is centellinare); each moment, each degree of ‘closeness’, each kindness, must be begged for. The object of this liason is the breaking down of any vestige of pride till all is left is naked, raw need.

At least this is my interpretation of the book: while I do not remember all the particulars, I see ‘shots’ of the book as if, in reading it, I was already seeing the movie. If this ever became a film, it would be one of those French movies where the waiting replaces the action, where the climax is anticlimatic but intense. It would be a difficult, anxious, art house  movie that would no doubt not work for the majority of the moviegoing audience in this country (hard to eat popcorn to this, Eddie Izzard docet). But it would be a poignant, bittersweet movie that would leave a beautiful lingering sadness. Well, beautiful if you happen to believe that there is something arresting about sadness.

I read this review of the book, and have translated some sentences from the original Italian. I found the words used to describe the book intoxicating. Is it possible to get drunk on prose?

I enjoyed the nod to Dumas’ architectural awareness, I enjoyed finding in this essay a communion of feeling for the book, which became for me a shared human experience. It is surprisingly comforting to discover that I am not alone in the feelings elicited by this strange novel, and that there are people walking about, being haunted by the same imagery, poetry, longing.

 I owe this post to St Loup, a literary inspiration. Thank you, flâneur . And to these word I accompany some grayscale objects from my life, some recent watercolors (wanting chiaroscuro).

Here are some excerpts from the excellent review of Occhi Blu, Capelli Neri {Blue Eyes, Black Hair} by millenovecentosettantatre on ciao.it.

..Libro d’arte. Espressione vera di capacità e sensibilità, oscillanti tra le tre stoffe di prima. Una pièce, più che un romanzo

Arthouse book. True expression of ability and sensitivity, fluctuating between the swaths of fabric aforementioned. A pièce , rather than a novel.

Una concentrazione di parole fluide e belle, strutturate con la parola del narratore ad interferire e le intenzioni espresse a chiarire, spiegare, provocare.

A concentration of words, beautiful and fluid, structured with the narrator’s voice to interfere, and expressed intentions to clarify, explain, provoke.

Finta sceneggiatura di qualcosa, tra teatro e recitazione astratta e pensata con personaggi predefiniti, semplici nelle iconografie, fortissimi, tremendi, assurdamente complessi nelle logiche individuali.

Fake scenography of a something, between theatre or abstract acting with predefined characters in mind, simple in their iconographies, powerful, tremendous, absurdly complex in their individual logic.

L’amore è il Nuovo Romanzo francese, di cui l’autrice è figlia legittima. Quella struttura che in Alain Robbe-Grillet vede il fautore della nuova comunicazione scritta, che passa negli oggetti, nelle fantasie degli oggetti, nelle descrizioni paranoiche e reiterate, nell’immobilità e arriva al marchio finale, provato anche dal lettore alla chiusura del libro.

Love is the New French Novel, and the author is its legitimate daughter. That structure which, in Alain Robbe-Grillet witnesses the proponent of the new written communication, which traverses objects, fantasies of objects, paranoid, reiterated descriptions, stillness, and reaches the final stage, the selfsame felt by the reader at the closing of the book.

E’ l’amore mio per esso e per quel senso di configurazione deciso che prescinde dalla trama del racconto per lasciare un’orma, un’impronta, come se il libro fosse un album di foto personali, che non si riapre più ma che impolvera nel diritto di essere stato e avere dato.

It is the love I have for [this book] and for that impression of deliberate configuration which transcends the plot of the novel and leaves a footprint, a fingerprint, as if the book was an album of personal photos, which is meant to be open no more, yet gets covered in dust with the right of having been, and having given.

Località di mare. Non è nuova l’Autrice a parlarne. Spazia dall’Indocina alla cittadina francese dal mare freddo e bianco, tra architetture nate apposta per essere fuori stagione e spiagge testimoni di passeggiate silenti.

Seaside resort. Nothing new to the author. She ranges from Indochine to the French town endowed by a white,cold sea, to architectures born to be out-of-season, and beaches witness of silent walks.

Pareti, finestre, pensieri, silenzi, pensieri mentre l’altro o l’altra dorme. Nuovo romanzo puro. Silenzi. Dovrebbe essere pieno di pagine bianche, un libro come questo. Ne rimango sempre tramortito. Sempre.

Walls, windows, thoughts,silences, thoughts while the other (woman or man) sleeps. A New pure Novel. Silences. A book like this should be full of blank pages. I always end up stunned. Always.

Le pagine scorrono mentre montano le storie. Il distacco iniziale si fonde in una miscela densa che prende corpo e dona il sapore della trama, senza in realtà che ci sia mai stata.

The pages run as the stories mount. The initial detachment coalesce into a thick mixture which takes form and lends the  flavour of a plot, without a plot actually ever having been there.

Grande la Duras, in questo. Il romanzo corre via e sembra accompagnato da una musica di piano, leggero, struggente, assolutamente non enfatico o retorico. Neanche Chopin, forse Mahler per quel che ne so io.

Duras is great in this work. The novel spirits away and seems to be accompanied by the notes of a  piano, light, poignant, absolutely not emphatic or rethorical. Not even Chopin; for all I know it could be Mahler.

Sembra accompagnato da balli senza senso, modello maliarda, tra effluvi e movimenti di veli di seta, come nella descrizione della ragazza, spesso si legge. Un tourbillon di dorsi di mano e lacrime e sonni precari, tra “ieri ero lì” e “ieri era lì…” e così via con ogni coniugazione e meditazione possibile. Senza dolcezza sprecata, assolutamente.

[The novel] seems accompanied by senseless dances, as if by sorceress, betwixt efflusion and movements of silk veils, as we often read in the descriptions made by the girl. A tourbillon of backs of hands and tears and precarious sleeps, between “yesterday I was there” and “yesterday [he/she was there] and so on with every variant of conjugation and meditation possible. No wasted sweetness, whatsoever.

Un giorno di nubi diventato libro, con la stagione presumibilmente in decadenza e la noia che abbraccia e bacia le ore, una per una, come fossero tutte figlie sue, conosciute per quel che possono dare e odiate per quel che danno.

A cloudy day which becomes book, with the high season presumably decaying and boredom embracing and kissing the hours, each by each, as if they were all her own daughters, known by what they can give and hated for what they do give.

Il romanzo è complesso, intollerante di distrazioni o scivolate inerti. È un libro per persone sveglie e zitte, leste di emozioni nel torpore di un dolore qualunque.

The novel is complex, intolerant of distractions or inert slides. It is a book for those alert and quiet, quick of emotions in the torpor of any given sorrow.

È un cortometraggio breve di vita e di proibito di essa, girato e concepito dentro i privilegi tipici delle realtà durasiane, senza ipocrisie.

It is a short-lived, forbidding short, filmed and conceived within typical privileges of Durasian realities, without hypocrisies.

Un attacco ai piani alti dell’esistenza, condensati nelle bramosità e nelle ovvietà più inconfessabili. Condito ad arte dentro le attenzioni meravigliosamente femminili che l’Autrice dispone con senso teatrale, quasi da architetto d’interni oserei dire, che dispongono negli occhi blu a pelle chiara e capelli scuri, il fenotipo perfetto per la rappresentazione così disagiata di sentimenti forti e originalità estreme.

[It is] an attack to the lofty spheres of existence, condensed in the most inconfessable longing and obviousness. Artfully seasoned with wonderfully feminine attentions arranged by the author with theatrical sensibility, almost as an architect of interiors I dare say, which display in the blue eyes with fair skin and dark hair, the perfect phenotype for a most uneasy portrayal of strong feelings and extreme originality.

La passione, unico motore in un contesto straordinario dipinto d’arte, come è il libro, frutto di enorme talento. Se ne prova distacco e attrazione insieme. Antipatia per il fulgore di quei caratteri somatici così caldi e freddi insieme, tanto da far innamorare o incazzare senza  vie di compromesso. Il titolo ne enfatizza l’antitetica possibilità contenuta.

Passion, sole engine within an expertly painted, extraordinary context is, as the book, fruit of enourmous talent. One feels detachment and attraction at the same time. Antipathy for the blinding light of those somatic traits together so hot and cold, such as could make one fall in love or in a fit of rage without any way of compromising.
The title [of the book] underscores the antiethical possibility contained therein.

Niente di scomodo. Niente di decisamente scostante. Le pieghe scomode sono nell’essenza stessa semmai. Nella cerchia ristretta degli identificanti possibili: personaggi a parte, il mondo durasiano è fastidiosamente elitario a volte. Di quell’élite da sturbo, ideologica e strutturata nei salotti, di cui mi lamento ovunque. Una selva di cose belle per persone belle che ad una lettura profonda si immaginano poi neanche così belle. Alla francese più che altro.

Nothing uncomfortable here. Nothing decidedly unsettled. The uncomfortable folds are, if anything, the very essence of the story. Within the narrow circle of the possible identifiers: aside from the characters, the Durasian world is bothersome in its elitarianism at times. That self-numbing elite, ideological and designed around parlours, which I complain about everywhere. A moltitude of beautiful things for beautiful people who, upon further analysis, we imagine, are not even that beautiful. In French fashion, more than anything.

Il libro avanza, si srotola e finisce. Passando per la Duras, va letto assolutamente. Non passandoci, si può anche regalare e basta.
Un libro da donna non più giovane ma lontana comunque da tutte le donne possibili.

The book advances, unravels, then comes to an end. A must read, if your literary wanderings traverse Duras. In case they don’t, this book can be given as a gift. A book suited for a woman no longer young, yet invariably far from all possible women.’



The intricacies of the human heart, the complex workings of our minds are the true subject of Occhi Blu, Capelli Neri.

Catharsis: intense hatred must invariably stem from intense love; they are but two sides of the selfsame coin. I am humbled.

‘Never worry
About things
That you are unable
To change
Change your own way
Of looking at truth.’

Sri Chinmoy

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How to pin a heart to a sleeve. Ink on Paper. 2002

A Time for Everything

There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven ~
2 A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes

Watch: {Buddha Bar IV – Agricantus – Amatevi  in Sicilian and Armenian}


“Know

The true nature of your Beloved.

In His loving eyes your every thought,

Word and movement is always-

Always Beautiful.”

– Hafiz

 from poetseers


“Amare, non significa convertire,
ma per prima cosa ascoltare,
scoprire questo uomo,
…questa donna,
che appartengono a una civiltà
e ad una religione diversa.
L’amore consiste non nel sentire
che si ama, ma nel voler amare;
quando si vuol amare, si ama;
quando si vuol amare sopra ogni cosa,
si ama sopra ogni cosa.”

Charles de Foucauld

 Prete cattolico e religioso che visse tra i Tuareq nel Sahara dell’Algeria

 


“To Love, does not mean to convert,
but first of all to listen,
discover this man,
this woman,
who belong to different civilizations and religions.
Love consists not in feeling we are in love,
but in the will to love;
When one is willing to love, she loves;
When one is willing to love above all else,
she loves above all else.”

Charles de Foucauld

Catholic religious and priest living among the Tuareq in the Sahara in Algeria

 

Happy Eid, Cammellino.

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In the courtyard of Space For Art, Barri Logan, San Diego. Sept. 4, 2010.

Art installation by Curtis Bracher. Click on image to be taken to his website.

The studio of May-Ling Martinez. Click her to see her blog.

May-Ling welcomes us.

Some of her pieces. Like 3D drawings! There seemed a current of 'retro' inspired pieces at the Space for Art. May-Ling is drawn to black and white drawings, attention to lineweight and retro ads.

My friend/twin Richard (we are both born on Sept.12!) and one of May-Ling's works.

Gothic Cathedral. Crutches, Xrays, Pipettes, Test Tubes. 9'L x 7'W x 8'H Artist Statement: This piece addresses the 'illuminations'- the questions, convergences, and contradictions of spirituality and science...

Flying buttresses, crossing and apse.

Roof expression of the apse and crossing.

The nave and aisles, their paving beautifully detailed.

Another noir work by May-Ling, guarding the door to the courtyard.

Misgivings in Barrio Logans, ghosts stories, ominous hands that prey (still too close).

Misgivings II. The burnt witch.

Pardon the quality of the photos, my Panasonic camera is still out of commission, hope to get it back in working order soon!

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The Archangel Michael leads the Army of God. According to Wikipedia, {argh}. Michael is an Archangel in the Christian, Islamic, and Hebrew traditions.
He is the patron of the warrior.
I love the power of iconic images, the symbolism of the Catholic faith I have left behind yet respect in its ability to give visual comfort to the afflicted.

Justice is represented by the sword. How do we define it? I found these thoughts of comfort, as I have been slaying dragons and cutting the last of the hydra-heads. I am a woman who knows evil, yet art in the form of protective, powerful imagery gives solace, hope for deliverance and, of course, just retribution (hell hath no fury…etc. etc.).

Someday some abstract rendition will come out of this; I will be able to process it all and turn it into art, or in one of Ghadah’s women/girls..but today I am literal like a church fresco, I tell my story as if to pheasants, through illustrated stained- glass windows. The via crucis is made not by twelve stops, but more like one hundred and nine, or seventy-seven – a year-long Lent. I am a cathedral of crutches* and all the lessons are learned on my skin.

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So, on Justice:

The great American trial lawyer, Gerry Spence, wrote, “There is no power like the power of justice”.
British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, in a speech to the House of Commons in 1853, stated, “Justice is truth in action”. 

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The above picture represents the “power of justice”.

The shield protects, the sword destroys. The power is strong, like the young warrior. The power comes quickly, as if on wings, out of the heavens.

[ source here]

Here’s to shining fingernails, the female version of swords.

* more on this and local art happenings in the next post.

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Platonic Solid Exercise. Graphite on Paper. 2007

Happy September. Post coming late today, but it is a new month and I hope this, my birthday month (yay) will be better than the last- and all summer for that matter.  Lots of challenges and growth but…they don’t call them growing pains for nothing.

In my classes today we shared links on artists, visual notes, wonderful quotes, and great books.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Things are getting really exciting and we are all growing by leaps and bounds. Good stuff and a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of this intense summer quarter. 

Few unrelated topics that I have been mulling over lately:

1.  Working out shadows in axonometric settings, like solving algebraic equations, helps to solve ourselves and gives us mathematical certainties (certainties that cannot be so cleanly and clearly found in real life).  I always heard math is not an opinion, and I am appreciating its impartiality, its justice even. I know now its compassion.

Still, a solution is relative to the light angle  we construct a priori, a philosophical question if there ever was one.

Shadows, like math, are either ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ relative to the established angle of light;  no room for fuzzyness, approximation, guessing. How refreshing. How pure the solution.  These (platonic) objects exists in an utopian airtight chamber or world, and the light is absolute, the light of truth.

The ‘real’ world (and ‘real’ shadows), like all matters of architecture and design and their ‘solutions’, are much more subtle, nuanced, grayscale— as opposed to black and white.
And so even truth is relative in our confounded orb.

2.  I am thinking of ways to design the freehand drawing classes to transcend drawing as transposing what we ‘see’ and help it become a design tool (depicting what may be, or possible scenarios).

It is a challenge, because the basic drawing techniques still need to be mastered, but the course could be imbued with and define a research path, becoming not only a stronger vehicle for learning, but generating material for publication. Exciting stuff, now it’s just a matter of  tightening up my interest areas and plan for action.

The Freehand Drawing and Rendering and Delineation classes will meet again next summer, and I have held some meetings to design its contents(more on this on coming posts) . Some words buzzing in my head are collages/assemblages, words, poetry, architecture, grayscale abstracts, visual notes/sketchnotes, inventories, data gathering quests, urban scavenging, pattern and in-formation.

3.   The more I grow as a passive designer- passive because I have been in an observing, absorbing mode for a while now…just storing information until the right moment comes- the more drawings i do, I am realizing that the challenges of design are not additive ones, but subtractive.

Learning what to remove, what to take away, leaving just the essential, is the challenge. Architecture is a matter of reduction, not addition.    Let me try to explain myself better. During our architectural education and pedestrian work experiences we are taught to include so many details, turn in complete drawings, complete construction documents sets etc. All of this is techniciams’ stuff. It is the drafter’s realm, or the CAD operator’s realm. It is not the Architect’s or designer’s province, which should aspire to loftier expressions. Design is abstraction of thought and ideas. It is reducing your concept to your most pure expression, cutting away all the fat and the unnecessary. Even the best art, I am finding, is painfully created by reducing your concept, feelings, ideas, to the most clear image, the prime number, the denominator. Significant work is created through ruthlessly leaving out all unnecessary data, information. Including too much is just self-indulgence; the disciplined designer pursues truth as she or he defines it and does not or cannot have time for self-indulgence. The purity of the idea is what one needs to be faithful to, everything else is interference by bureaucrats, technicians, pencil pushers.

Am I sounding like Howard Roark? WellI am in the process of defining a design philosophy and given the person that I am, this definition comes first in words , which will guide the action.  As my dear friend Lamees said, one is not to do without being first.  Be first–then do– then have…it all happens spontaneously.

Part of being an architect is accepting an elitist role, necessary not to set apart one from the rest of humanity, but to preserve the purity of the design idea, its drive and execution. Part of being an architect and an artist is learning to let go of many things once thought necessary and just rendering our work in the most pure, direct, potent way.

Finally, a quote that is driving my days, these days:


“What we think or what we know or what

we believe is, in the end, of little

consequence. 


The only consequence is what we do.”

 

John Ruskin

 

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Ink on paper, trace, digital collage. August 27,2010.

Ink on trace. August 27, 2010.

The spoils of Archangel Michael (the Archangel of Justice). Ink on paper. August 27,2010


From

St Loup’s secrets & lies:

All you have to do is take these lies and make them true…

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We interrupt this broadcast due to a bout of homesickness and wanderlust.

The Pacific is, to paraphrase Coleridge, ‘ Water, water everywhere (and not a drop to swim in)’.

I miss my home.

Exhibit A: My home in Milano.

Exhibit B: Calabria, small harbor with 'historical' outdoor nightclub attached, Blu '70.

Exhibit B1: As if it weren't enough, there is an(other) outdoor club in front this rock (Pietragrande), considered one of the most scenic in Europe.

Exhibit B2, Calabria, the coastline near my house. Tomorrow morning, this is how it will look, and August is the hardest month to be away.

Sit down, let's have an iced, sweet espresso. Hear the music.

Let's take the train next week, go to Firenze, we can stop by Venezia, certainly. Do you remember that olive bread?

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Photograph, Lumix Panasonic Camera, July 2010.




From Rear Facing Window

Alfred Hitchcock


Lisa: I wish I were creative.
Jeff: You are. You’re great at creating difficult situations.


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I hope everyone’s having a fabulous beginning of August.
I am really trying.

How are you doing, fabulous?

I plan to go to some movie under the stars, or at the park, or on a roof, like Cinema Paradiso. A good black and white movie, preferably a noir Hitchcock, would be the cat’s meow.

I am officially suffering from wanderlust.  If I could be in five places at once I would be home in Calabria (Southern Italy), in Cuba, Ibiza and Greece and of course right where I am, having a Summer of Art with my students. They really need to get this teleportation thing going, so I could just zip away for the weekend, or we could just do three days of plein air sketching in Florence!

Le Corbusier said that we need to see with new eyes. How true; in Architecture, drawing, and, most of all, in life.  Looking is not seeing. SO part of the renewal  is to give your eyes something different to contemplate (i.e. do something new!).  I pledge to pick up my local weekly and get out of my comfort zone (even my beloved neighborhood! I know, hard to believe). Yesterday, to start the month right, I trekked couple of hours to the beach (with my sketchbook, of course!)

Pacific Beach. August1,2010. Ink on paper.

To develop new eyes, and to stretch different parts of the brain, we have been working in class from “Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain.” One of its famous exercises  is to draw an object without looking at the paper, preferably without lifting your pen or pencil. I tried it out with my hand.

The fingerprint/pattern was inspired by a) this fascinating article on The NewYorker on fingerprints, art and forensic science and b) paying attention to things we don’t even see anymore, or take for granted. Here is our uniqueness. We are all snowflakes, and just as fragile.

Felt Tip on paper. August 2, 2010.

Draw your hand without looking at the paper, take a photo and send it to me (sketchbloom at gmail dot com) or linkback.

I am curious.

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"How fine you look when dressed in rage. Your enemies are fortunate your condition is not permanent. You're lucky, too. Red eyes suit so few. " Cheshire Cat 2.1. Ink on tracing paper. June 30, 2010

From Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (1951).

Cheshire Cat: Oh, by the way, if you’d really like to know, he went that way. 

Alice: Who did? 

Cheshire Cat: The White  Rabbit. 

Alice: He did?

Cheshire Cat: He did what? 

Alice: Went that way. 

 Cheshire Cat: Who did? 

 Alice: The White Rabbit. 

 Cheshire Cat: What rabbit? 

 Alice: But didn’t you just say – I mean – Oh, dear. 

Cheshire Cat: Can you stand on your head? 

 Alice: Oh! 

 

  

It must be Halloween in July (seriously, wasn’t it Christmas?).   

I have material for three new posts and some serious  retroactive editing to do; have been drawing, reading short fiction, poetry, and fascinating stories about forensic art curating- all of which I will share with related art.  But let me start with saying that at times intense reading  (input) for the ambitious –or obsession-prone– designer/visual artist can be considered a passive-aggressive behavior, when so much needs to be in output mode, expressed, exorcised. Indeed, Julia Cameron in her Artist’s Way asks us to refrain from reading for one week, as we need to temporarily pause others’ voices and opinions to recognize  and strengthen our own.   

Lately my work, alas,  has been hindered: I had to hunt (and was haunted[1] by) a ghost with sixty-four  teeth. The wheels of karma turned and I , who once called someone-undeservedly- a ghost, have had to suffer one.     

Hello,  setbacks.    

So for today’s art, folks, this page is my canvas and my collage. This is where the work is done.  

Let me tell you about the Cheshire cat. He appears to di-sappear only to re-appear!    

All this to say (and yes, Art is process, it is a filter, it exorcises…it is a strainer, a sieve.  She is a savior):   

Ink on Paper and digital collage. June 29, 2010

I have been walking under a black cloud for three months   

Holding my breath   

Only it was not a cloud   

-though it hung like a pale, hungry moon-   

It was the Cheshire smile of a ghost   

Useless, hideous ghost that would not go away   

Spoke maddening riddles, multiplied hydra-like,   

Says I…. I….I….   

    

That single grin is fading again   

Waning   

And I, tethered, am starting to exhale.   

    


Thank you. How about how good it feels to finally forget forgive you.

   

 [1] Definitions from  The Free Dictionary:  

haunt // (hônt, hnt)   

v. haunt·ed, haunt·ing, haunts   

v.tr. 1. To inhabit, visit, or appear to in the form of a ghost or other supernatural being.   

2. To visit often; frequent: haunted the movie theaters.3. To come to the mind of continually; obsess: a riddle that haunted me all morning.4. To be continually present in; pervade: the melancholy that haunts the composer’s music.   

v.intr. To recur or visit often, especially as a ghost.   

haunt   

vb 1. (Myth & Legend / European Myth & Legend) to visit (a person or place) in the form of a ghost   

2. (tr) to intrude upon or recur to (the memory, thoughts, etc.) he was haunted by the fear of insanity3. to visit (a place) frequently4. to associate with (someone) frequently   

n 1. (often plural) a place visited frequently an old haunt of hers.   

 

 

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Apart. Photograph, Lumix Panasonic Camera. June 4, 2010

Soundtrack of  ‘Apart’

The center cannot hold. Photograph, Panasonic Lumix camera. June 4, 2010.

Soundtrack of  ‘The Center cannot hold’

Spooning (one. is broken). Photograph, Panasonic Lumix camera. June 4, 2010

Soundtrack of ‘Spooning (one. is broken)’

Gordon Matta Clark (son of an artist, trained as an architect in Cornell) Splitting 32, 1975 Five gelatin silver prints, cut and collaged 40 3/4 x 30 3/4 (103.5 x 78.1) framed Collection of Jane Crawford and Bob Fiore Courtesy the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark and David Zwirner, New York

Gordon Matta-Clark Conical Intersect (detail) 1975 27-29, rue Beaubourg, Paris courtesy of David Zwirner, NY and the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark

More on Gordon Matta-Clark

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Graphite on paper. May 2010


Here is a flower for you from my new
phone.
I usually would not mention such details, except for the fact that I will be able to post from the road now and the 5 megapix camera is spectacular. You can say that I am happy today.

Bankers' Hill, San Diego. Photograph from HTC Hd2 Phone. May 20, 2010

There are huge, full-bodied roses around the corner, yellow in yesterday’s  moonlight.Their scent was a a promise of a life untroubled, full of beauty, and grace.   I wanted to show them to you, but today they were gone. And the finality of life hit me.

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Jealousy Ouverture I. Digital Manipulation. May 2010

Jealousy Ouverture II. Digital Manipulation. May 2010.

Entwined. Digital Manipulation. May 2010.

Jealousy as an Object. Digital Manipulation. May 2010.


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Diagrams from Graphic Thinking for Architects and Designers by Paul Laseau


The image above aptly illustrates the process behind diagramming, which is one of summarizing and and rendering a concept more abstract, more immediately communicable. Abstract in this sense is intended as ‘ reduced to the essential’.  Diagrams are, according to Joe Nicholson:

1. a simple drawing showing the basic shape, lay-out, or workings of something

2. a chart or graph that illustrates something such as a statistical trend

3. a line drawing that presents mathematical information

A leap of faith here, and some poetic license, can bring you from the diagrams above to these sketches, inspired by yoga poses.

The link? The day after my landscape /yoga explorations, Joe showed the above slide on a presentation. Serendipity.

Ink on Paper, digital manipulation. May 2010

At-one-ness. Ink on paper, digital manipulation. May 2010


Using CAD as human landscape generator. May 18, 2010


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Ink on paper. May 2010.

Coffee is my aeroplane (The Mondays). Ink on paper. May 2010


I too am having one of those days weeks.  Monday with Les Misérables. Something about the number 17, a confounded number that brings misfortune and mishaps in Italian lore.

Coffee is one of those rituals that encourages pondering, aids concentration–perhaps even mindfulness– and never fails, at least for this aficionada, to lift the spirit.  

Sometimes, some days, a trusty coffee travel mug may just be your aeroplane.


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The Tarot Players, Fresco by Unknown Early 15th Century Master, Milano, Casa Borromeo


I finished the audiobook for Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ (good yarn, interesting theories-some heard before- anticlimactic ending) and painted for a couple of hours.  Since I am specialized in becoming engrossed in whatever is not on my to-do list (one of my dear,wise  students told me that ‘It’s not so much that one works well under pressure: it’s that under pressure, one works) I picked up one of my history/travel books on my city, Milano, and found this treasure, which is a fresco in the ground floor of Casa Borromeo- most of the house was lost in the 1943 bombings.  This work captivated me, perhaps because of the gossamer, otherworldly manner in wich the tarot players are depicted, perhaps because this work is now more than 500 years old yet it has a very contemporary dynamic in the parts left ‘bare’ and reminds me, for example, of Ghadah’s girls (especially in the rendition below)

As for music,this has been the soundtrack of today (Flume especially…and the whole acoustic Transmissions Series archive is candy to the soul…thankyou Suzie…).

A friend of mine also shared some wonderful poetry from the spanish poet Antonio Machado.


Dreams

To know yourself – is to remember

the miry canvases of past dreams

and to walk with open ears

on this sad day.

For the greatest gift of memory

is the bringing back of dreams.


Antonio Machado

Poem via Bruce Matthes

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Sea Fruit. Watercolor, charcoal and white Prismacolor pencil. March 13, 2010

This is a mental recollection of an exquisite painting, smaller than 8 X 10, that I once saw in my friend Sophia’s place. It was an oil painting, varnished, and the raspberry on the beach looked so large, lustrous and luminous. You could tell the translucent quality of the skin. This is my humble attemp at recreating that piece in watercolor: oil paint allows for more luster, and maybe one day I will try that as well, even though most of my painting are done in acrylic .

What symbolism this piece recalls, and what do you see, I wonder…

I had a wonderful art session with my favorite artistes today, a lunch at my favorite French Bistro and a stroll through Little Italy’s Farmer’s Market, where we picked up fruit and vegetables (our models). A good, full day, not untouched by worries ( hard times to be had by all) rather, a respite…and realizing that, in the words of a fellow New York Times reader:

‘A good academic degree pays for itself in a flexible mind and an ability to adapt as well as the richness of inner resources to survive hard times without despair.’

Sitting in Cafe’ Italia, with my watercolors, and my ‘model’ perched on a napkin, envisioning faraway beaches and the quality of the water in Calabria– and feeling glances from patrons–I realize Art is a wonderful privilege, an ability to lose one’s self and a giving of kind, compassionate time to one’s self. Like every privilege, to me at least, art is also a responsibility.  Of course the endless list of chores awaits, yet I felt what art offers is more than escapism or absorbing creativity produced by others , as in savoring a book or basking in a glorious movie ( I love both): with art we create our own narrative, as in writing a book vs.  reading one. Does it make sense to be then a bit exhausted after a creative session? Perhaps it is all about resistance…learning to teach the wrist and mind to embody ‘effortlessness’.

Not to mention the refinement of the medium. This was the fourth serious attemp/experiment with watercolor I have done.

I will never forget, while following ‘The Artist’s Way’, one was to go for a week without reading. Reading has been in the past a way to procrastinate creating in the first person, a way to be vicariously creative . We must watch that.

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I started a new sketchbook exchange with Mike Riggin, a Teaching Assistant at my school.

My initial contribution: illustrating two of my friend Sarah‘s poems, and an origami heart– due to my recent infatuation with Between the Folds).


Also I must, must, must tell you about an art show that could have possibly changed my outlook on life, art, etc.

Tara Donovan, Untitled (Styrofoam Cups), 2008, Styrofoam cups, hot glue, dimensions variable. Artwork © Tara Donovan, Courtesy of the Artist and PaceWildenstein. Photo by Dennis Cowley.

One of the most mesmerizing collection of works  I have ever seen, Tara Donovan’s opus has left San Diego this past weekend, but I for one will find her wherever she will show next.  And don’t buy the book, or even look at my link, which is here for reference only.  No reproduction could ever even attempt to duplicate the sense of wonder experienced in front of one of her works. This is phenomenological art at its best, an art that cannot be reproduced, but must be experienced and uncovered tactically, body-in-the-room, primordially.

You can find a podcast that will guide you through her works here on Itunes. And, while you are there, you can check out Artists on Art.

The shock of understanding will rock you. You will see why Tara was awarded the 2008 MacArthur ‘genius’ award.

No virtuality , no screens.  How refreshing. Hers is one of the faces of Art, and I will refer to her, over and over, when I am asked :”What is Art”?

Art transcends the medium to achieve the sublime.


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I can't wait to design a home with a sunken garden and a wind tower. Or the italian tradition of operable windows. Both would be ideal for San Diego's breezy and sunny summer weather. Look ma, no HVAC!

Last week I had the privilege to attend two remarkable lectures. The first, on Vernacular Architecture in Persia by the Architect Simi Razavian of MSA&Associates, Inc. Architecture, was a guest lecture part of my Non-Western Traditions seminar class. Simi masterfully shared with us passive-solar techniques used in her native Iran, the lyrical wind towers of Tabas and the use of natural elements in residential design, such as adobe for construction, wet straw and water for convective cooling (in conjunction with wind towers) and gardens and fountains as evaporative cooling channels and elements of sensorial delight.

I wonder how Leed points would work for buildings that seek to return to Nature, since Simi commented that , in all the Leed lectures she attended, Passive Solar was not even mentioned (but the lates triple glazed glass was, along with ways to maneuver the artificially calculated Leed ‘points’).

Through this lecture I was reminded of of my interest in school in adobe and Pueblo construction, and of two of my favorite books, Thermal Delight in Architecture (which incidentally contains an incredible description of a Persian hanging garden) and Earth to Spirit : In Search of Natural Architecture. Notions such as these, plus genius loci and architecture as humanities-based discipline is what initially drew me to Architecture (this and Antoni Gaudi). Yet I found in practice, with very few precious exceptions, what Le Corbusier calls ‘Construction. Not Architecture’ .

Where is the poetry?

Which brings me to the other lecture I attended later that day: James Brown  of Public, one of the most ‘soulful’ architecture firms in San Diego ( I have been aware of the reputation of Public for years, and James had me at hello with his phrase on ‘spirituality of material‘, his graceful demeanor and humble approach to defining architecture and process).  The courage of design conviction, the dedication to values such as meaning and pushing, nay, nudging boundaries is the best cure for the Nothing (yes, as in Neverending Story) that is swallowing the practice here in the US.

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