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Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category

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Postcard from the Chagall Exhibit at the Palazzo Reale in Milano, December 2016 | Fountain ink drawing of Krishna’s silhouette on Muji thin sketchbook paper.

Art is a refuge from the busy hive of activity…and I’m lifted.

Sometimes I even float.

A fleeting instant, the diver coming up for air.

Digital painting on Sketches app. January 19, 2020.

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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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Digital drawing done on IPhone 7 Plus with Sketches app by Tayasui. June 27, 2018.

Napkin Sketch for fundraiser auction; poem La Ciudad by Octavio Paz. Fountain ink on Napkin paper. April 2018.

Yann Tiersen in concert at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, June 20, 2018.

Quick sketch using colored pencil and pastels. June 30, 2018.

My corner in the plaza of the Getty Villa in Los Angeles. June 2018.

One more post before the month is done.

This Spring was filled with intensity in and outside of my University.. the final stretch of the school year. Accelerated timelines, accelerated heartbeat. Stealing time between deadlines to go up to LA once more for a life-changing Yann Tiersen concert ( of Amelie fame), participate to sketching and art+Jazz events and jot down few lines to be shared later (after all, poetry is emotion recollected in tranquillity).

Stealing time from time… to be and to feel alive. Sketching (almost) everyday is doing wonders for my spirit- and glow!

Single reader, I hope you have time to disconnect and renew. Happy Summer.

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Carillon. December 16, 2017. San Diego, California.

Carillon. December 16, 2017. San Diego, California.


They had put together a delightful album with the postcards that Pietro Crespi received from Italy. They were pictures of lovers in lonely parks, with vignettes of hearts pierced with arrows and golden ribbons held by doves. “I’ve been to this park in Florence,” Pietro Crespi would say, going through the cards. “A person can put out his hand and the birds will come to feed.” Sometimes, over a watercolor of Venice, nostalgia would transform the smell of mud and putrefying shellfish of the canals into the warm aroma of flowers. Amaranta would sigh, laugh, and dream of a second homeland of handsome men and beautiful women who spoke a childlike language with ancient cities of whose past grandeur only the cats among the rubble remained. After crossing the ocean in search of it, after having confused passion with the vehement stroking of Rebeca, Pietro Crespi had found love. Happiness was accompanied by prosperity. His warehouse at that time occupied almost a whole block and it was a hothouse of fantasy, with reproductions of the bell tower of Florence that told time with a concert of carillons, and music boxes from Sorrento and compacts from China that sang five-note melodies when they were opened, and all the musical instruments imaginable and all the mechanical toys that could be conceived. Bruno Crespi, his younger brother, was in charge of the store because Pietro Crespi barely had enough time to take care of the music school. Thanks to him the Street of the Turks, with its dazzling display of knickknacks, became a melodic oasis where one could forget Arcadio’s arbitrary acts and the distant nightmare of the war.”

“Habían hecho un precioso álbum con las tarjetas postales que Pietro Crespi recibía de Italia. Eran imágenes de enamorados en parques solitarios, con viñetas de corazones flechados y cintas doradas sostenidas por palomas. «Yo conozco este parque en Florencia», decía Pietro Crespi repasando las postales. «Uno extiende la mano y los pájaros bajan a comer.» A veces, ante una acuarela de Venecia, la nostalgia transformaba en tibios aromas de flores el olor de fango y mariscos podridos de los canales. Amaranta suspiraba, reía, soñaba con una segunda patria de hombres y mujeres hermosos que hablaban una lengua de niños, con ciudades antiguas de cuya pasada grandeza sólo quedaban los gatos entre los escombros. Después de atravesar el océano en su búsqueda, después de haberlo confundido con la pasión en los manoseos vehementes de Rebeca, Pietro Crespi había encontrado el amor. La dicha trajo consigo la prosperidad. Su almacén ocupaba entonces casi una cuadra, y era un invernadero de fantasía, con reproducciones del campanario de Florencia que daban la hora con un concierto de carillones, y cajas musicales de Sorrento, y polveras de China que cantaban al destaparlas tonadas de cinco notas, y todos los instrumentos músicos que se podían imaginar y todos los artificios de cuerda que se podían concebir. Bruno Crespi, su hermano menor, estaba al frente del almacén, porque él no se daba abasto para atender la escuela de música. Gracias a él, la Calle de los Turcos, con su deslumbrante exposición de chucherías, se transformó en un remanso melódico para olvidar las arbitrariedades de Arcadio y la pesadilla remota de la guerra.”

“Avevano fatto un grazioso album con le cartoline postali che Pietro Crespi riceveva dall’Italia. Erano immagini di innamorati in parchi solitari, con illustrazioni di cuori trafitti e nastri d’oro sorretti da colombe. “Io ho visto questo parco a Firenze,” diceva Pietro Crespi sfogliando le cartoline. “Stendi la mano e gli uccelli scendono a mangiare.” Certe volte, davanti a un acquarello di Venezia, la nostalgia trasformava in tiepidi aromi di fiori l’odore di fango e peoci marci dei canali. Amaranta sospirava, rideva, sognava una seconda patria di uomini e donne belli che parlavano una lingua da bambini, con città antiche della cui passata grandezza restavano soltanto i gatti tra i ruderi. Dopo aver varcato l’oceano alla sua ricerca, dopo averlo confuso con la passione nei brancicamenti pieni di veemenza di Rebeca, Pietro Crespi avevo trovato l’amore. La ventura portò con se la prosperità. Il suo magazzino occupava allora quasi un isolato, ed era un semenzaio di fantasia; con riproduzioni del campanile di Firenze che davano l’ora con un concerto di carillon, e scatole musicali di Sorrento, e portacipria di Cina che se aperte cantavano temi di cinque note, e tutti gli strumenti musicali che si potevano immaginare e tutti gli artifici a molla che si potevano concepire. Bruno Crespi, il suo fratello minore, dirigeva il magazzino, perché lui non aveva tempo che per badare alla scuola di musica. Grazie a lui, la Strada dei Turchi, con la sua abbagliante esibizione di cianfrusaglie, si trasformò in una gora melodica per dimenticare gli arbitri di Arcadio e l’incubo remoto della guerra.”

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One has to start somewhere…

After finishing my sketch I ran into two dear friends who had come to the cafe.

Perhaps the cafés can be the new piazzettas somehow.

Here’s to spontaneous gathering and holiday cheers.

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The French poet Paul Valéry said that all things are generated from an interruption. I learned this from my favorite Italian thinker, Alessandro Baricco, here in en español, whose lectures – to be found only in Italian – I listen to to learn about literature, writing, and life.

There were many interruptions this year, and not just personal. I can think of the devastating Hurricane Irma in my beloved, beautiful Puerto Rico, or the September 19 earthquake in my favorite city this side of the Atlantic, Ciudad De México – which occurred on the 32nd Anniversary of an earthquake that killed more that 10.000 people.

My personal earthquake and hurricane happened on August 21 of this year, when my dad passed away. I can now finally begin to write this sentence, and about it, without being swallowed up in the chasm that this loss left in my life. I know his spirit went back to his sea, where he returned, and I feel he is near, both inside my heart and dancing around in freedom and light. I like to think I can take him with me wherever I go now, and share my life in a more immediate way. I like to think his energy was transformed into waves of the sea. The sea can hug you, yet you can’t hug the sea, his immensity. I like to think he is in a butterfly, sometimes in a song. A friend of mine wrote “I heard your dad went back to the Universe”. I like that.

My dad loved the Old Man and The Sea, drawing boats and fish, Jonathan Seagull, reading, Venice, watching documentaries on nature, fishing, and working on his boat. He loved his friends and he loved me. He is the reason art is in my life. He is the reason I read One Hundred Years of Solitude in middle school (I used to raid the books of his youth unbeknownst to both my parents). It became my favorite book, it still is, and magical realism, anarchy and arcane literary worlds shaped who I am.

I thought about coming back to SketchBloom with a post on Van Gogh, and the film Loving Vincent, which I saw this month. The movie reminded me of my dad, of his love of painting, his simple bedroom , and his fisherman shack on the beach, La Baracca Del Bucaniere, which he lovely composed for the last ten years of his life here on the Earth school.

That post is in the pipeline, and I took new photos of his sculpture when I was last in Calabria –  but I wanted to return with a sketch, a return to art.

I just got back from Mexico (that is how the locals call it, Mexico…no need to use “Ciudad de”) yesterday, where I finally got over my protracted artist’s block.

Here, a simple sketch (above) and some photos/vignettes/stories I bring back from my trip.

Walking in Coyoacán – Frida’s neighborhood:

Scenes from Roma, one of the neighborhoods of DF:

This is Barba Azul, a cabaret from another era, where salsa is danced from midnight till dawn, where there is an altar upstairs (I have seen them in parking lots, too) and where the exit is a tiny rectangle carved into a decorated garage door- something out Pinocchio’s Paese dei Balocchi (toyland)…or a circus in a Fellini movie. One of the many surreal vignettes of this metropolis.

Unfortunately I could not take a better photo of it (with the usher emerging!) but it is on my list for next time. I also learned about the ficheras , the ladies of the establishment who sell a dance for a token (and more, at their discretion).

The obligatory photo of the Palacio De Bellas Artes, November 2017 version:

Where I had the chance to see Diego Rivera’s murals…

…and learn about the Rojo Mexicano (the red pigment from cochinilla bugs found inside the cactus fruits in Oaxaca, which was utilized in paintings around the world from the XV Century to the XIX) and see Van Gogh’s Bedroom At Arles with my own eyes (!!!).

I also visited Cuernavaca, La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera (The City of the Eternal Spring), where i completed my yearly self-evaluation for #work in a garden within Jardines de Mexico, surrounded by butterflies. Talk about INSPIRING.

Italian Garden at Jardines De Mexico (my favorite, obv)

In Cuernavaca, I stayed in a copy of Unité d’Habitacion (but if you follow me on Instagram you already know this).

I want to close with a poem by Octavio Paz — who is considered the greatest Mexican poet and thinker — and, of course, was a native of Mexico City.

This is his poem Hablo de la Ciudad | I Speak of the City. Below the text in the original Spanish and the translation in English.

This poem perfectly encapsulates what Mexico City is. I have more posts on La Ciudad to craft, from my previous visits, and more poetry- but this shall suffice for tonight.

Here is to more gentle earthquakes and hurricanes in 2018, inner ones to bring soul renewals, and to a kinder year.

For the Aztecs, this was the bellybutton of the Moon.

Nos vemos pronto, Tenochtitlán.

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Reflection through glass of my favorite morning view, the terra-cotta tiles from my windows. I feel my gaze is always southward, Mediterranean, drawn to the Sun

I love the aging cracks of my favorite lilac mug. These cracks represent our relationship, and countless mornings where the heat of coffee or tea strained the enamel into a filigree of imaginary landscapes, or sea creatures


When choosing amongst different photographs of a subject, I always ask myself “Which one makes you dream more?”

I want to leave you with this quote today, shared by my Yoga teacher Michael Caldwell:

“Love is paying deep attention to your life.”

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 Little brothers and sisters: 

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Joseph Campbell

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A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.

Diane Arbus

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And, suddenly, you are gazing at the eternal sublime. Venice’s borders are the dream realms. This is a city that starts on water and ends in the soul. Venice is a portal between reality and myth. A city that is real, but also impossible. My little cousin declared, at ten years old, that ‘this is the most beautiful city in the whole world.’ In no other country man-made and natural Beauty is so entrenched with the national psyche and identity. Beauty is elevated as the greatest national virtue, privilege and asset. Beauty is Italy’s doctrine and her true religion. We are, after all, Il Bel Paese.
Venezia, Italia, January 1, 2017.



‘There is still one of which you never speak.’
Marco Polo bowed his head.
‘Venice,’ the Khan said.
Marco smiled. ‘What else do you believe I have been talking to you about?’
The emperor did not turn a hair. ‘And yet I have never heard you mention that name.’
And Polo said: ‘Every time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice.’

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities





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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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Dear Single Reader (as Stephen King used to say),

I fear you might have given up on me.

Here is what I have to show from the months of June – September: the publication of my first academic research paper, presented to the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) International Conference in Santiago de Chile.  I went there in June, and from there onto Buenos Aires.

This, and irresponsible happiness.

Late September was Baja California, Mexico, and its searing sunrises.                 Halloween saw me as Frida; Diwali, the Indian Festival of Light ( October 30- November 3) saw my home, and heart, ablaze.

“Being a candle is not easy; in order to give light one must burn first.”

Rumi 

Happy last night of Diwali, the Indian Festival of light. This is a time where light banishes darkness,a time of renewals and new beginnings.

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Mission Beach, San Diego, California. 19th of June, 2016

Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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We are the Stargazers,
We are the Memorykeepers

We are the stargazers,
we are the memorykeepers
the nightwalkers
the moonseekers
we are the solitude dwellers
we pause, head lifted to look at clouds
moving fast through the night skies
like steam raising from hot coffee
in a makeshift cafe.

[ stop looking at your phone
and look at the stars ]

We are impractical madness.
We are the timeconjurers,
propelled through dark hours
chasing follies
– we pause to take photographs when we’re late; we always answer the muse
and she comes at the most inopportune moments.
We are the harbingers,
we are the jesters.
We sit on street corners in the cold, listening to the banter of clochards.
Our hands hurt
we write poems no-one will read.

We are the stargazers,
we are the memorykeepers
we are the storytellers.
We are the art warriors,
we battle against the loss of words,
which come unexpected and vanish so quickly, like the tendrils of love in the morning.

We fight against time which consumes.
We succeed – and steal one verse or image from the frenetic chasm.
We indulge in vain attempts to capture stars.

We are the dreamers,
we are the songcollectors
we are the last romantics.
Our job is to always have innocent eyes.
We are the wanderers.
Our job is to remember and coalesce.
We preserve life’s gossamer fragments of beauty, we keep them like strands of lights in a jar.

We are the butterflies,
we are the petal priests,
we run red lights.

We wander at night and are consumed by fire.
In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

San Diego. January 18, 2016

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The light in your soul is far greater than the darkness. Shine your light.

Lailah Gifty Akita

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No se trata de velocidad
Si no de resistencia
Para lograr lo que se quiere.

To achieve what we want
It’s not about speed,
But resistance.

I wish you a Glorious 2016.

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Beginning of a collage, or perhaps the finished piece. Santa Fe, Summer 2013.

The material you see here comes from that magical city, Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have been going through drawers as part of my decluttering project with The Life- changing Magic of Tidying Up- The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and found two collages, loads of beautiful art magazines and some cutouts.
As mentioned before, there are many moments of art in the past three years that never got recorded here.
The cutouts came to life last night:

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Snow Hare and the Reading Man. San Diego, December 25, 2015.

I have been inspired by my blogsister Ghadah at prettygreenbullet and her Eve silhouettes which inhabit nooks and crannies of her atelier.
Perhaps a (re)viewing of Nightmare Before Christmas at the San Diego Symphony on Halloween inspired the surreal. I dig it. I hope you do too.

It is too late to wish you a Merry Christmas so I will just say I hope the New Year brings a lot of art, beauty and wonder to us all.

I am finding a lot of presents through my decluttering process…a lot of things that are new to me again, books and gorgeous butterfly binders, for one!
I highly recommend it as a end-of-the year/new year resolution.

The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t.

Marie Kondo

Clear your stuff. Clear your mind.

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Mixed media collage. Santa Fe, Summer 2013.

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Sunset and stars, for Martha. Acrylic paint and Encaustics. San Diego, 2003.

 

I finished this painting with encaustics (wax dripping) in 2003, for Martha, my oldest and dearest friend in San Diego.

This is how the painting looked for years:
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I was dissatisfied with it.
It just seemed an ‘experiment’ with golden acrylics, was too heavy on the left side and just, in general, looked like a 90’s Dave Matthews Band CD cover gone wrong.

While there were some reedeming moments ( the night sky/ starry side had a loveliness to it) the demarcation line was too abrupt and the piece as a whole did not make sense
.
So, I took it back sometimes in 2010 to ‘work on it’. Poor Marthita..who does that? Thank you, ever-patient friend.

This untitled ‘thing’ sat on an empty wine rack in my kitchen for years, becoming mine again, in a way, a de facto piece of furniture.
I was at a loss…I knew I had to give it back at some point, yet had no idea how to fix this obvious statement on dichotomy that just looked wrong.

Enter Beverly. One night, a couple months ago, my very eclectic, ageless, artist neighbor Bev was talking to Mingus, her black cat ( I am pretty sure it’s a familiar 😉 ) on the walkway we shared.
It was one of those rare days my place was guest-ready, so I invited her in for a glass. She was interested in the painting on the easel, still turned the ‘wrong’ way. I shared my conundrum with her. She just walked up to it and said ‘What if you turn it this way?.
Now, “thing” was a fiery California sunset. She found the sea in the paint, and it took 12 years.

Something like this gives me faith that everything comes into its own in time.
That timing is always right.
That years are necessary.
That the right person comes in and points to you what has being staring you in the face, what you could not see.
Thank you, Bev.

….
Below, a flipped, filtered version I think
it really is what this painting wants to be, in its dreams.

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We’re Always Under Stars

 

You took me star-gazing
the first night
I was looking for Orion.

(when i went home
I found him,
hung low over my window
at 5 am.
I could never sleep
after you.)

You shared the impossible poetry of Hikmet, which nobody in their right mind should reveal to someone they just met.

On the second day
you came with your convertible,
the passenger side devastated
by an accident.
I had to get in from your side,
for a month.
Climbing in, crossing over,
my body awkwardly tilted while trying to maintain grace in my version of
a courtship.
I did not mind, not one time – though I always forgot.

I should have, maybe, read the sign.
Instead, I thought it was endearing
it meant you had your wounds, too.
I did not feel so bad about my messy house, my scars.

We drove to the beach,
California style.
It was a semi-deserted nudist beach, and we had to hike a steep cliff
to get there.
There was always a sense of the
unexpected
with you.

We talked while girls with bouncing boobs
and men with various appendages
were too away for us to really see
–I was, at once, at ease with and acutely aware of the french strangeness of the situation–
another would have thought about
how progressive it all was.
Unaware until later that that was a choice, I kept my top on.
In hindsight, perhaps,
you were testing my boundaries.

When you touched me,
you touched me
the sun kissed me
another star, on our second date.
We dipped in Mediterranean warmth.

I looked at you
like Sicily looks at Calabria
over the Strait.

I thought this time things would be
different, because we shared the same language.
I forgot stars rise and set at night, too.
And we are always under them.

 

San Diego, November 2015

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We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.

Pascal Mercier
Night Train to Lisbon

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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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I walk at night.
You can keep mornings, with the aftershave of salesmen, rush hour…with the Starbucks lines and hair perfectly
well done.

(Mafalda says that everything good in life messes up your hair)

You can have the morning with its blinding light, its lack of nuances…leave the night to blur lines, to hide and to reveal.

The morning of road warriors, weekend warriors, commute warriors, checkers of life’s milestones – I lost count, and it is not my race.

Leave me the profound night, let me walk at hours of my choosing, when empty streets whispher poetry lines, if you just listen.

This is my queendom, let me patrol my land of empty office buildings, of Mexican night workers, of quiet and shadows.

The night of orange streetlights, of vacant lots and sleeping churches.

Of red windows, where the artists burn.

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Attraversiamo! Let us cross!

Not knowing where to start, we can start from here, from tonight.
Of all the nights, why not tonight?

I picked up my electronic pen, my fingertips, so many times, only to put it/them back in the drawer.
Fragile, breakable souls…we get overwhelmed so easily…we take so much time to process.
Life is always a zero or thousand percent experience to an artist…we know no ‘efficiency’ or safety…and we crave intensity because, for some of us, that is what art and life is made of.
I tend to store moments, spaces, bodies, souls, words, in mental collages as white-hot and dangerous as rocket turbines.
Fuel for the winters of life, emotions that could only be collected in tranquility.

Yet, what if life moves so fast that there is no time to process it through artwork?

The real life of absorbing work, passionate friends, culture, travel, service, relationships, often happens faster than art, words, and poetry…and demands to be lived with our heart on ‘fingertips and tongues’, as Fernanda Pivano writes.

To be an artist, which is never a choice –or at least not a choice than any sane person would make– requires that not only we live life at its fullest, but that we show up to our craft, that we transform the energy of our life, entropically, into artwork.

As soon as things get a little off- balance, that is, too much time passes without creative outputs, the feeling of being overwhelmed begins. Because the storing of information and experiences that will translate into artwork never stops in an artist.
Sacrifices need to be made…time-outs need to take place for the alchemical crafting of life into art, yet that doesn’t/can’t always happen.

Where does one start, then?

Digging through more than a year’s worth of raw, brilliant life, stupendous falls and magnificent failures….when does collecting become hoarding?
When there is no sharing. Most of us are compelled ( condemned? ) to offer up our work. These words, these ideas, these posts, need to leave my mind so that I and them can be set free.

Then there is time, and guilt.
Time away from the craft that is transformed into guilt.
This is an evil cycle for artists, made worst with each passing day. It is a sort of paralysis, a mental block due not to lack of ideas, but due to too many — coupled with the most peculiar fear of success.

And muses, muses inspire, but also distract, and disrupt. It is in the nature of muses and we won’t fault them.

How many times have I promised myself the return of myself – in full glory? Is this it?

Then I read an introduction to an art exhibit in Rome, something about the concept of  ‘taking time’ — the fact that art is also made of the fallow time it took to process life, that the in-between time of silence is an intrinsic part of evolutionary works….

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Thank you to Carlotta Pisano for this photo and inspiration.

A work of art is not only what is visible to the eye, but the result of a complex journey, of going-away and re-compositions

The exhibit, which I will never see and exists as a sort of Borgesian riddle
( I have the instructions, yet no machine; this being the whole point of the instructions) aims to
“underline the value, priceless, of that golden moment which is the possibility of producing a kind of thought that looks at art , without the anxiety of having to furnish a product. These works ( we will never see them, therefore we can imagine them as we wish )  have a baggage full of the process that matured and realized  them. It is the difference between looking and seeing.”

In these two years, I learned the importance of chaos, and that one must respect it and love it as an akward child.

I learned of nesting, and of working on a home as a temple.
Without order, at least for me, there can be no art, just escapism.
I learned I solve myself by working on external harmony.
(Or maybe I was just avoiding myself, and procrastinating.)

I learned patience, which is not burning anymore, but peaceful. I learned that forgiveness is part of the creative  process. And so is letting go.

I learned I am not reading enough books.

I learned that, when I am too tired to do anything else, and sleep does not come, words are there, images are there…and I can go into my vaults and cellars and create something to share with you.
I can write.
It is not academic writing –that will come in time–but something that likes to combines poetic prose or poetry with images. This is the sound my soul would make, if it could sing.

This output brings me immeasurable joy. More importantly, it keeps me alive.

I was recently, and repeatedly, reminded of the quote :

Find what brings you alive,
and do it.

The truth is that without showing up here, my soul atrophies. Simply put, it has become a matter of survival.

A lady I know and love likes to say, in matters of home organization,

You are not behind! I don’t want you to try to catch up; 

I just want you to jump in where we are. O.K.?

So I will start from where I am tonight, and work my way back, back through these past two years in images. As I said, I can offer more words and photographs than drawings and paintings at this point.
I decided to stop beating myself up for this.

I will jump in where we are too, with current (attempts at) drawn and painted work, back to using my hands everyday.
Consider this my artistic physical therapy after the most wonderful accidents.

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La Mujer Que Lee ( Woman Who Reads ). Pastel, Paint, Newsprint Collage on Board. 2004

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Picture the two of you lamp-shopping at IKEA, orchestrating a from-scratch dinner, and generally being capital-T Together.

Refinery29.com

No Te Enamores De Una Mujer Que Lee.
[Do Not Fall in Love With A Woman Who Reads]

By Martha Rivera-Garrido

No te enamores de una mujer que lee, de una mujer que siente demasiado, de una mujer que escribe… No te enamores de una mujer culta, maga, delirante, loca. No te enamores de una mujer que piensa, que sabe lo que sabe y además sabe volar; una mujer segura de sí misma. No te enamores de una mujer que se ríe o llora haciendo el amor, que sabe convertir en espíritu su carne; y mucho menos de una que ame la poesía (esas son las más peligrosas), o que se quede media hora contemplando una pintura y no sepa vivir sin la música. No te enamores de una mujer a la que le interese la política y que sea rebelde y vertigue un inmenso horror por las injusticias. Una a la que le gusten los juegos de fútbol y de pelota y no le guste para nada ver televisión. Ni de una mujer que es bella sin importar las características de su cara y de su cuerpo. No te enamores de una mujer intensa, lúdica y lúcida e irreverente. No quieras enamorarte de una mujer así. Porque cuando te enamoras de una mujer como esa, se quede ella contigo o no, te ame ella o no, de ella, de una mujer así, JAMAS se regresa”.

Don´t fall in love with a woman who reads, with a woman who feels too much, with a woman who writes… Don’t fall in love with a cultivated, magician, delirious, crazy woman. Don’t fall in love with a woman who thinks, who knows what she knows and also knows how to fly; a woman sure of herself. Don’t fall in love with a woman who laughs or cries while making love, who is capable of turning her flesh into spirit. Don´t fall in love with a woman who loves poetry (those are the most dangerous) , who could spend half an hour staring at a painting and can’t live without music. Don’t fall in love with a woman who is interested in politics; one who is rebellious and suffers enormously because of inequality and injustices. A woman who enjoys football matches and ball games but doesn´t like to watch television at all. Don´t you dare to fall in love with a woman who is gorgeous no matter her face or her body – an intense, playful, lucid and irreverent woman. You don’t want to fall in love with a woman like that.  Because if you do so, whether she stays with you or not, whether she loves you back or not, from her, from a woman like that, you´ll NEVER EVER return.

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Plaza de Panama. Balboa Park, San Diego. December 2014.



I was trying to find a poem
To describe your skin, night
But the poets don’t know
the hours, or the look i just tried on you–
I cannot find you in their words.

I am always hiding in their verses,
moon behind clouds.
Distilling memories, crafting them into images, words:
what is the wine that we drink?
and who can write about the way you held me?

They do not have a name for this, for how perfect we were, the amber and coffee
of our hips.
Your kind chest,
your arms, taut as steel,
and the fact that i did not look at you, not once, afraid of learning too much
from the way you walked,
or the way your clothes fell.

Drowning so sweet,
tender fire.

Name the nights this year,
count them on the palm
of one hand.
Indifferent city, i stole moments of brilliance
from your stingy months.
I ride dark, subversive waters
and capsize
continuously.

‘Until the inconscious is made conscious, the subconscious will rule your life,
and you will call it Destiny.’
Carl Jung

Do the poets write
of a lion lying with his lioness?
Of fleeting things?

You drove and i held your hand
You told me one must laugh, pray and cry,
everyday.
I argued the last point.

San Diego, December 2014

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These Rocks Were Put Together By Cats {American Officer}

These Rocks Were Put Together By Cats {American Flag}

Bobby Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Bobby Doesn’t Live Here Anymore


Decoupage: A technique were text is disassembled and reassembled, leading to new interpretation. Used by David Bowie to compose lyrics.
. …

Love in the Morning

By Annie Finch

Morning’s a new bird
stirring against me
out of a quiet nest,
coming to flight—

quick-changing,
slow-nodding,
breath-filling body,

life-holding,
waiting,
clean as clear water,

warmth-given,
fire-driven
kindling companion,

mystery and mountain,
dark-rooted,
earth-anchored.

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Break my Heart in Three Hundred Words – Or Less


The light is lilac in the morning
Red at night
A blush of time
I was shedding skin
When I met you


San Diego, May 2014




….and that is the only thing I want.
And since I can’t have that, I don’t care about the rest.

I don’t care about anything, anything.

Anna Karenina

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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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Don Draper: As much as I would like to join all the ads making fun of the ubiquitous San Francisco hippie, let’s try to trade on the word ‘love’ as something substantial.

– I don’t think that it’s possible in this context.

Don Draper:
So why are we contributing to the trivialization of the word? It doesn’t belong in the kitchen.
” I love this.”
” I love my oven.”
” You know what I’d love ?
I’d love a hamburger.”
We are wearing it out.
Let’s leave it where we want it.
We want that electric jolt to the body.
We want Eros. It’s like a drug.
It’s not domestic.

What’s the difference between a husband knocking on a door and a sailor getting off a ship?

About 10,000 volts.

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Making Bracelets [Nights at Bassam's]. Digitally manipulated photographs. December 2013.

Making Bracelets [Nights at Bassam’s]. Digitally manipulated photographs. December 2013.


“We all need someone to look at us.  We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under.
The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public.  The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes.  They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners.  They are happier than the people in the first category, who, when they lose their public, have the feeling that the lights have gone out in the room of their lives.  This happens to nearly all of them sooner or later.  People in the second category, on the other hand, can always come up with the eyes they need.  Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love.  Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category.  One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark.  And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present.  They are the dreamers.”

Milan Kundera


-the definition of unconditional-


daydreamer
stargazer
we make an unlikely couple
– we sure do –

 

i’ve been in my head
dangerously close to the sun
i don’t have icarus’ wax wings –
mine are made of foil
they will not melt, but burn.

 

turn your journals into songs,
irresponsible happinesses,
stringing beads and giddy smiles…
i always, still, get lost in the immense, dark pools of your eyes
drawn to, swim in, drown.
undeniable whirlpools, deep waters: as far as i am concerned, the whole building tilts towards them.  i can’t escape the pull.
their whites, though, is like the white of clouds
i could stare at them, and calm myself,
like one does with cumuli and strata, cirri.

 

i’ve been making a mixtape –

 

each song was bought and paid for in heart pieces.

 

i have traveled
through winters in fargo,
my freshman years,
nights in Florence,
i have opened lost love letters in california.
for you, it’s always for you.
and if i’m wasting my love
if you are stealing it
I’m a more than willing victim
fake-fainting in the arms of the gentleman thief.
your handling always extracts poetry from me,
you are an expert player – and I am pliant.

 

we don’t live in paris or rome, i know, but i swear on our stolen nights i was walking by the river and looking at the stars —
we are not on park boulevard: we are in heaven.

 

perhaps it was just need that brought us together
we wanted fire
and it was provided.
I am convinced we are each others’ figments of the imagination.
because nothing is ever real when we are together: it’s vivid, surreal pura vida, and exists in air chambers.
or, perhaps what i have with you is reality, only feeling, only present, only now –
the rest is a filler.
time is relative under the bell, we are forever kissing – every action continues in perpetuity.
months go by, but i just held you.
the silence is absolute, and you can’t hear my screams.  I know better now.

 

i wake up with sentences fully formed,
i have not left your eyes or your chest where I slept.
where you let me sleep for the first time.
i am still there.
i am letting the days go by
as one gazes, mesmerized, at colorful and bland socks
tumbling in the dryer.

 

this is what i really want to do,
tell you that i replay your words in my mind,
that i am happy you feel my eyes on your
[caressing] eyes.

 

that you kissed me with lips of pillows and petals
and that i slept in them.
that your skin is made of the most exquisite silk
and that each kiss i gave you was my blessing.

 

i wanted to use our bodies as instruments
make love, no, a symphony.
the words that part us will never come from my lips
or my fingers.
we both know that i am unable.

 

there is an overlap between
freedom and loneliness.
i’m perhaps utterly lost,
but finally at peace.

 

i want you to know,
i would never take a single touch or word
for granted. or your soulheartbody.
the night dissolved in your arms
faded
devotion made touch, flesh, verb, breath-
you are the definition of unconditional.

 

more paper trails for me to burn on,
Love is not warm milk.
i want to
adorn you in precious metals and words
last night’s embers are still glowing.

 

when i die, i will be made into fireworks.





San Diego, December 16, 2013

………


We want what we want.
We love what we love.

From ‘ Beautiful Ruins.’


songlist:

playlist3web


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Steel. Digital manipulation, text brush. December 2013.


Movement Song

By Audre Lorde


I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
without goodbyes.

Do not remember me as a bridge nor a roof
as the maker of legends
nor as a trap
door to that world
where black and white clericals
hang on the edge of beauty in five oclock elevators
twitching their shoulders to avoid other flesh
and now
there is someone to speak for them
moving away from me into tomorrows
morning of wish and ripen
your goodbye is a promise of lightning
in the last angels hand
unwelcome and warning
the sands have run out against us
we were rewarded by journeys
away from each other
into desire
into mornings alone
where excuse and endurance mingle
conceiving decision.
Do not remember me
as disaster
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
watching
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
only ourselves.




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Found material and quotes from Tolstoi's Anna Karenina. Collage. San Diego. December 2013.

Found material and quotes from Tolstoi’s Anna Karenina. Collage. San Diego. December 2013.

Untitled-1web

Collage part I.

Untitled-2web

Collage Part II.

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before…

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after…

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still waiting after three days for the glue to dry on the rosebuds ….

“We will never walk along the river again,
So walk with me in this poem.”
Eric Jirek

The night shift belongs to the poets.

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Timing Is Everything Exhibit Poster- digitally modified.

Timing Is Everything Exhibit Poster- digitally modified.


An apropos message from the Universe tonight- in form of a collage.

This is a promising exhibit at the UCSD University Art Gallery-
up until December 6.

In my non-teaching/working hours (very few since October) I have turned from an artist to a professional architecture/art/urban design event goer, organizer, supporter, disseminator and even instigator.

I was even called a ‘charming mistress of ceremony’ yesterday {blush}.

I miss my art, poetry languishes, yet I am galvanized by the many opportunities for interconnectedness between the non-profit sector,art,architecture and public space. The potential for a seachange in the urban landscape of San Diego is finally palpable.
It is so exciting to be contributing from the Academic angle, and involving my wonderful, patient students.

Yesterday Milenko Matanovic of the Pomegranate Center spoke about the difference between cleverness and creativity, and of being an artist, and an artist who is a community organizer.

Being clever involves prioritizing one goal above others, often the furthering one’s artistic vision. It is a solo flight.
True creativity contains a collaborative element, and is welcoming and sensitive to the goals of others. It is Mindful of the collective good, of timing, and rhythms.

Creativity is like farming.

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You have to keep breaking your heart
until it opens.
Rumi

Without the use of a camera Portland-based artist Jim Kazanjian sifts through a library of some 25,000 images from which he carefully selects the perfect elements to digitally assemble mysterious buildings born from the mind of an architect gone mad. While the architectural and organic pieces seem wildly random and out of place, Kazanjian brings just enough cohesion to each structure to suggest a fictional purpose or story that begs to be told.
Reblogged from here.

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Jason De Caires Taylor. Underwater sculpture.
Reblogged from Cosmic Machine. Click to view more.


Staccato II

 

‘We should be so anchored in that stillness of the ocean,

so much so that waves do not bother us.’

 

‘Avoid the bridge, he says.

We need all the poets.’

One last brilliant morning, and watch,

I become seagull.

 

Has poetry ever brought back a lover

except in dreams

Has it ever changed one heart

Have words ever mended

That is a job for Time.

 

My poems are songs for no-one, you see.

I sing them on a street corner

For the wind, for the rare passerby

There is no hat on the pavement,

You can keep your change.

 

Respectability will not keep you warm at night.

All these books, my house is made of them,

their wondrous stories

they are but paper and weight in the dark.

 

The sun kisses me and I fall asleep

in a room bathed in golden light

the sunsets are getting longer these days

– look at this cloudless sky, the heat of summer in January,

how can one not be happy?

That is not what I came for.

 

There are constellations on my skin

You will never see

Here is Ursa Major,

Orion’s belt.

 

Yours was the final, absolute silence

Of deep space –

I was tethered

 

Night stars are beautiful to look at

But, oh, they cannot warm you

Diamonds are heartless

and perfect.

 

In the dark,

He speaks  a tongue I do not understand.

During the day he absolves me.

He says

When Life gives, take.

She is a miserly landlady, sometimes

And this is not a kind Winter.

 

When the thick walls of the city are besieged,

they absorb the injury of cannons,

fiery arrows, climbing soldiers.

To a point.

A fortress, like a ship, like a dam,

is still made by human hands.

Lo, the smallest breach and the tiniest rivulet

Bring down civilizations.

 

 

San Diego, January 2013

 

 

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Poetry After the Fact

This is something that has been marinating for weeks in my mind.

Poetry and art exorcise life’s sorrows…they bring closure when/where there is none to be had.
Surrender is accepting that you will not know all the answers…it is making peace with not understanding- something that is incredibly arduous for someone who seeks clarity and communication in all things.

And yet, words deliver, they free and heal us. For poets, a sealed, completed poem makes sense of the arcane.
Poetry allows us to move unencumbered by the baggage of emotions (as these are now, at the same time, crystallized and released) , unrequited feelings, unanswered pleas.
Poetry is the answer, it is the peace we seek. The poet finds words, and like breadcrumbs, they guide through the forest. Poems are maps through the dark regions of the heart.




Poetry Came Instead
{Closures}

Tonight the sky is cold and clear
– trace filigree of stars.
The moon,  mother-of-pearl,
the constellations are aligned.
It is a night for leavening.

I was precipitating towards him
I could not resist him,
more than one resists gravity
(he had me at ‘epitome of inevitability’).

We first made love
on sheets of paper
I wrapped myself in his words

I sent him distress calls –
we were two ships in the night.
He told me I didn’t have to
explain myself when I unraveled,
he quoted my poems
-the only one who ever
kissed the tips of my fingers,
or my forehead every time i saw him.
How does one forget ?
A gaze that caresses,
the perfect first kiss.
How does one erase?
The only cure for love is more love.

I told him better later than never
he said never late
is better.
I called for him so many nights –
the days of forgetting were so long.
When I am upset I wash walls.

I said
we’ve been dancing around the fire for so long
he answered
it’s time to get burnt.
I was ready to,
Poetry came instead.

Nothing extinguishes the flame
of fickle lovers
as a yes.

My heart bled wasted ink,
a dumb moth continuosly scarred.
I will never know the hieroglyphs of his skin, or the sound of his singing-
the light of his eyes was not for me.
A beautiful vessel,
the essence deserted him
and eluded me.

As for the girl,
pepper and spice,
I can finally look back at her eyes
-those wells, the light that pulls everything towards her as an
undeniable whirlpool-and not sink.
The angles of her face
don’t bruise any more .
There is just love.
The careful letting go
of a butterfly.
Maybe next time, Luna
.

These days,
I am surrounded by Beauty.
The spring i pursued
was but a mirage,
my thirst was quenched
by the sweetest sand.

There is drought,
but I am hearing thunder
a strong, kind rumble that displaces air–
has the rainy season finally come
or is it another summer shower?

He kissed me a suspended, light kiss
held my face
like one holds a vase
i was not sure if he was drawing me closer, or letting me go.

You were not a dream,
you were more like
a moment of clarity after
months of drowsiness
.

I know precariousness
And things that don’t last.
I sleep with pen and books.
Do you know what it means to
spend the night writing?

Everything you do
can be a prayer.

I was lying next to you
like a big yes.
Unrealized dreams
are the only ones that last
forever.

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Staccato | Fragments

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1.Time and Vessels:

“She had a way of moving that moved him as much as music, which was what moved him most of all.
Surely the spirit animating that peerless body must be unusual too?
Why would nature make a vessel like that, if not to contain something still more valuable?” ― J.K. Rowling

Love is always the same
-it is only the vessel that changes-
that’s what the poet meant,
it took me a year to understand.
Love moves from one heart to another, selfsame.
You can never lose Love.

2. Skins:

Listen to songs from around the beautiful Earth.
Angel, you can always find the seven notes therein, sleeping.
The same Love is asleep in the Other.
Until it is awake.
You can find the same warmth on skins
milk to dark chocolate,
sand dunes to ashes.
The same kind fire lights all eyes.
The same Sun and Moon no matter
where we are…or how far we are from each other.
All is Good.

3. Love:

I am full of Love for you.
The flower can’t keep from opening.
God is the Love in the lover.
The lotus-heart is hidden beneath layers.

4. Fire:

a. The main function of fires is to warm,
not to burn. My heart is singed, but tempered.
b. The unattended fire dies.

5. Words:

Your words kept me warm
on the long walk home.
Thoughts you had for me,
caresses on a winter day.
Now, try to imagine
a flooding river
forced through
an eyedropper.

6. Let Go:

There is nothing to go back to
there are no mistakes
nothing to miss, fix
or understand.
There is only driving.
I leave my cities of salt behind,
the Nothing,
I see the lonely Friday afternoons,
the hardest,
on the rearview mirror.

Live as though
you are soon moving to a new city.

7. The coldness of stars:

“But who could bear to know which stars were already dead, she thought, blinking up at the night sky; could anybody stand to know that they all were?” ― J.K. Rowling.

The further you look in space,
the further you look in the past.

8. Constellations

The sun is a benign star
made of fire
It burns as I burned for you
It is a star that colors my skin
– my body responds to it the way it responds to the moon.

Gypsy: You are both stars, don’t forget. And the stars exploded billions of years ago, to form everything that is this world. Everything we know, is stardust. So don’t forget, you are stardust.

A handful of stars in your hand.
A candle is meant to become just flame.
Do not render a perfect heart when you go.

9. Silence:

The silence of the Sphinx
protects me-
Ice in my veins, it slayed me.
He taught me
one does not learn
by speaking
and to do so only if what i had to say
was more beautiful than silence.

10. Poetry and Poets

Empty this bucket heart,
My poems are puzzle pieces
put together in the heart of the night.
Milk the night ravings – distill them as grapes with wine.
Stolen words feed our ravenous souls.

11. Life:

There are problems that can’t be solved
they can only be lived
-some say there are no problems.
Do not chain eagles or falcons.
If you don’ t believe in God
believe in Love, or another.
Peace is a religion, too.

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Enhanced still from 'Albert Nobbs'.



And, in the dawn, armed with a burning patience, we shall enter the splendid cities.

Arthur Rimbaud



Only burning patience will allow us to conquer a splendid happiness.

Martha Medeiros



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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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El Templete, Habana Vieja (with water from the Malecon).
Ink on hand.book paper. Habana, Cuba. April 2012.


Example of Moorish (Mudéjar) Architecture in Habana Vieja.
Ink on hand.book paper. Habana, Cuba. April 2012.



….

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Music is a total constant. That’s why we have such a strong visceral connection to it, you know? Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, or a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment.”

Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

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‘Habana is very much like a rose,’ said Fico Fellove in the movie The Lost City,

‘it has petals and it has thorns…so it depends on how you grab it.

But in the end it always grabs you.’


“One of the most beautiful cities in the world. You see it with your heart.”

Enrique Nunez Del Valle, Paladar Owner

Habana’s real essence is so difficult to pin down. Plenty of writers have had a try, though; Cuban intellectual Alejo Carpentier nicknamed Habana the ‘city of columns,’ Federico Llorca declared that he had spent the best days of his life there and Graham Greene concluded that Habana was a city where ‘anything was possible.’

ARCHITECTURE

Habana is, without doubt, one of the most attractive and architecturally diverse cities in the world. Shaped by a colorful colonial history  and embellished by myriad foreign influences from as far afield as Italy and Morocco, the Cuban capital gracefully combines Mudéjar, baroque, neoclassical, art nouveau, art deco and modernist architectural styles into a visually striking whole.

But it’s not all sweeping vistas and tree-lined boulevards. Habana doesn’t have the architectural uniformity of Paris or the instant knock-out appeal of Rome. Indeed, two decades of economic austerity has meant many of the city’s finest buildings have been left to festering an advanced state of dilapidation. Furthermore, attempting to classify Habana’s houses,palaces, churches and forts as a single architectural entity is extremely difficult.

Cuban building – rather like its music – is unusually diverse. Blending Spanish colonial with French belle epoque, and Italian Renaissance with Gaudi-esque art nouveau, the over-riding picture is often one of eclecticism run wild.

Brendan Sainsbury


















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“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” 

Vincent van Gogh




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Dream before Nonno died. He was a fisherman. Ink on notebook paper, 2003.





Fragments {and a cashmere wrap}


The cashmere wrap finally arrived in the mail

so much weighs on this stole

‘opportunity a thief makes’

he said before giving me homework

— how we love.

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep”

Saul Bellow

A lot weighs on this stole:

conversation is rippled with diamonds

they tumble , heavy, they are words, quotes

…out of the mundane…

a pearl – grasp it and keep it.

Wisdom is the only jewelry I wear this season

and my greediness awaits

meaning.

He who grasps more than he can hold, would be better without any.

If a house is crammed with treasures of gold and jade,

it will be impossible to guard them all.

Lao Tzu

Did you hear the sound of wisdom, Heart?

The message you sought.

My only wealth is my memory.

Like a mendicant I gather precious words,

fragments of light that I bring back,

puzzles I spend days composing.

– You, collector of spirit, feeder of souls.

Everyone wants to go to Heaven, no-one wants to die.

The falcon, scarred wing, alighted the sill.


– the magpies, once they have caught the prey,

lose interest

and look around for the next creature to pursue-



Yogis come and go,

grasp their message

Catch leaves in the wind

take them home, make a nest.

Heaven is simple:

let go of anything that is not love or peace.


San Diego, December 15, 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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Paris, 2011.

Paris, 2011.

Paris, 2011.

Paris, 2011.

Paris, 2011.

Balzac called the boulevards of Paris what the Grand Canal was to Venice,

saying that whoever stepped onto them was lost to their charm:

“on y boit des idees.’ (here people drink in ideas).

Edmund White, The Flaneur

” If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man,

 then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you,

for Paris is a moveable feast.”

Ernest Hemingway



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Lanternes et Notredame. Paris. 2011

 

To walk in Paris is to behold, and be part of, a living and continuously changing painting.

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“Inside a lover’s heart there’s another world, and yet another.”

        Love

        rests on no foundation.

        It is an endless ocean,

        with no beginning or end.

        Imagine,

        a suspended ocean,

        riding on a cushion of   

        ancient secrets.

        All souls have drowned in it,

       and now dwell there.

        One drop of that ocean is

        hope,

        and the rest is

        fear.

        Rumi

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Ink on paper. September 2011

In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Borges, we find the description of a hrönir.

In the most ancient regions of Tlön, the duplication of lost objects is not infrequent.

Two persons look for a pencil;the first finds it and says nothing; the second finds a second pencil, no less real, but closer to its expectations.

These secondary objects are called hrönir and are, though awkward in form, somewhat longer.

The methodical fabrication of hrönir (says the Eleventh Volume) has performed prodigious services for archaeologists.

It has made possible the interrogation and even the modification of the past, which is now no less plastic and docile than the future.

Curiously, the hrönir of second and third degree –the hrönir derived from another hrön — exaggerated the aberrations of the initial one;

those of fifth degree are almost uniform; those of ninth degree become confused with those of the second;

in those of the eleventh there is a purity of line not found in the original. The process is cyclical: the hrön of twelfth degree begins to fall off in quality.

Stranger and more pure than any hrön is, at times, the ur: the object produced through suggestion, educed by hope.

Things become duplicated in Tlön; they also tend to become effaced and lose their details when they are forgotten.

A classic example is the doorway which survived so long as it was visited by a beggar and disappeared at his death.

At times some birds, a horse, have saved the ruins of an amphitheater.

Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges

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Today I want to stray from the visual and go back to words (even though visual work is piling up by the scanner, waiting to be shared.)

The visual permeates every aspect of a designer/artist life…it is the expected outcome: something that all can see. Here in sketchbloom I share works and progress/process in form of JPEG images, pixels on the screen. Even my words are translated as pixels and a visual experience as I type. To truly appreciate words one needs to go back to audio, in a dark room, eyes closed, and listen to the sound…absorb its meaning. Listen to the words, embrace their message, intensity. In the visual world we hear people’s voices translated into impersonal pixels (emails, texts and, for those who partake, chats). The visual has become an acid which burns the eyes, making it challenging to sit still with a (pictureless) theory book, so dependent on visual candy have we become. The world of ideas, that I am so incredibly fortunate to inhabit as a profession, is threatened by the constant stimula and incessant buzzing of the digital revolution, which rides on the visual. The digital revolution that was supposed to connect us all (and it does, superficially) but in reality has made us feel alone in a different, emptier way. The comfort that one gets from the words of an author, from a book with paper and weight, is to me the comfort of flamenco guitar music on an analog cassette tape. Billie Holliday on a scratchy record, as opposed to the robotic voice of online text.

So today I just want to turn off and just listen- going back to dear words, words that imagine Bruce Mau reading to me, and to you.

  • Allow events to change you.
    You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
  • Forget about good.
    Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
  • Process is more important than outcome.
    When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
  • Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
    Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
  • Go deep.
    The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
  • Capture accidents.
    The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
  • Study.
    A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
  • Drift.
    Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
  • Begin anywhere.
    John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
  • Everyone is a leader.
    Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
  • Harvest ideas.
    Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
  • Keep moving.
    The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
  • Slow down.
    Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
  • Don’t be cool.
    Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
  • Ask stupid questions.
    Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
  • Collaborate.
    The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
  • ____________________.
    Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
  • Stay up late.
    Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
  • Work the metaphor.
    Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
  • Be careful to take risks.
    Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
  • Repeat yourself.
    If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
  • Make your own tools.
    Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
  • Stand on someone’s shoulders.
    You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
  • Avoid software.
    The problem with software is that everyone has it.
  • Don’t clean your desk.
    You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
  • Don’t enter awards competitions.
    Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
  • Read only left-hand pages.
    Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
  • Make new words.
    Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
  • Think with your mind.
    Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
  • Organization = Liberty.
    Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
  • Don’t borrow money.
    Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
  • Listen carefully.
    Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
  • Take field trips.
    The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
  • Make mistakes faster.
    This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
  • Imitate.
    Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
  • Scat.
    When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
  • Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
  • Explore the other edge.
    Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
  • Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms.
    Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
  • Avoid fields.
    Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
  • Laugh.
    People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
  • Remember.
    Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
  • Power to the people.
    Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.

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Architecture Depends by Jeremy Till Book cover

On April 08, 2011 I attended Till’s  provocative  lecture on his new book ‘Architecture Depends’. Here is a review from The Architects’ Journal (UK).

Here are some quotes from that day, from my notes, which i hope to be as faithful as possible:

The book was initially titled ‘Architecture and Contingencies’. The publisher made me change it to ‘Architecture Depends’. There are problems changing the title of a book once it is finished- and structured around a different title.

This book is a polemic. Architects detach themselves.  This detachment starts here in academia. Architecture students go in as humans and come back as architects.

Architects are separate from life. Autonomy in architecture is detachment.We witness the treatment of buildings as though they are detached objects, displayed in the media as something apart. This detachment is a dissolution.

All we got is Vitruvius: commodity, firmness, delight. Recycled through the ages!

Of all the impossible task that modernity sets for itself, order stands out. How does modernity achieve order? By exterminating ambivalence. Modernity is behind the Holocaust.

Corbu didn’t invent modernity. He was a symptom of it.

Modernity cannot get rid of contingency.

Contingency is getting rid of the idea that things may turn out differently. In architecture contingency is inevitable.

Architects would be banished by Plato.

Contingency makes us have to make choices.

Abstract vs. situated knowledge.

“All architecture is waste in transit.” Peter Guthrie

Le Courbusier tried to banish domestic inhabitation.

Parametric people are as conservative as the New Urbanists, the latter caught in an aggressive past, the former in a progressive future .

Modernity: concerned with purity, the color white…modernity is this gleaning table with this aesthetic of getting rid of dirt.

‘You don’t know how wonderful dirt is.’ James Joyce’s last words, from Gideon’s biography.

Architects ‘make space’…negative space…what does that even mean?

‘Social space is a social product’. Henri Lefebvre

The production of space is not the agency of architecture alone!

Sustainability=sustain the status quo. This word has become meaningless.

Elvis Costello and Lo-Fi architecture: I heard Elvis Costello once in an interview saying that when you record in the studio you get caught up in a certain kind of environment. He would ask to have the record played back on a cheap transistor radio, because that’s how the music is going to be experienced by most people. The same with architecture. We have to have in mind low-fi, transistor radio architecture as we stay in front of the computer, believing what we see. The more it looks real the less real it is.

Architecture cannot be about aesthetic alone: it deals with the social and ethical. It has to be alert to the context.

I don’t like to use pictures in my presentations because, as soon as I provide pictures, the argument becomes about aesthetic.

Professions set themselves apart by setting up problems they are the only ones able to solve. Professors do the same.

‘Architecture and Agency’ will be my next book.

Sensemaking vs. problemsolving.

In architecture we have created phony ethics, we have associated ethics with aesthetics, morality with beauty…God is in the detail, etc.

Doing good by doing beautiful buildings?

Professional codes of conducts are an example of phony ethics: these are not ethical guidelines, they are principles for relating to the client.

You can’t be ethical by doing beautiful buildings! You have to assume an ethical stance, a responsibility for the other. If we start thinking that every line on a piece of paper is an act of social responsibility, then every line assumes significance.

I am against ‘Anyone is Anyone’ conferences.

From the paper ‘Lost Judgement’ from the 2003 EEAA Prize by Jeremy Till – and referred to during the talk:

The Other for architects is the one or ones who will be part of the social space our buildings help construct. In this way we can be the architects Unger would wish us to be, “enabling people as individuals and as groups to express themselves by changing their situations. …(the architect) lives out his transformative vocation by assisting someone else’s.”

An ethical person is a person who gathers discordant opinions and makes the best decision. Hope is with given given circumstances. Stop investing in objects.

The next project I will do will be on scarcity. Scarcity is much more interesting to me.

Architects sold out the profession to the agency of Capitalism. In building Dubai they forgot it was going to be built by slave labor. If all you offer is commodity you have got nothing to offer. Spatial intelligence will get us away from the cul-de-sac we got ourselves into. We should be gathering contingencies and make the best possible solutions.

I like to think of architects as angels with dirty faces.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Ink on paper. February 2011.

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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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Ink and coffee on paper.

One more post before the month is over. I still have a lot of sketches to share and  am working on finding time to do some more collages (wow, the previous sentence needs to have more conviction to it!). Lots of changes going on around the world…. I am just sitting and seeing it all turn.
Wanted to share some words I received today:


Events of these past weeks remind us that as designers, faculty, engineers, authors, landscape architects, students, and architects we build landscapes and cities that fuel revolutions. Of knowledge and of hope…..Act of civil disobedience in Tunis and in Cairo are fueled by the spark of indignity. And in their Main Squares, we are reminded that Cities are embodied energy too. Below are words on cities. There are many.
 
Come, let yourself fall with me into the lunar scar of our city, scratched by sewers, crystal city of vapor and mineral frost, city witness to all we forget, city of carnivorous cliffs, city of immobile pain, city of immense brevity, city of the motionless sun, city of the long burning, city of the slow fires, city up to its neck in water, city of playful lethargy, city of black nerves, city of three umbilical scars, city of yellow laughter, city of twisted stink, city between air and worms, city of ancient lights ,old city nested among birds of omen, new city next to sculpture dust, city reflection of gigantic heaven, city of dark varnish and stonework, city beneath glistening mud, city of guts and tendons, city of violated defeat, city of submissive markets, city reflecting fury city of anxious failure, city woven with amnesia….
 
Carlos Fuentes
See you in February!

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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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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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John Hejduk. Sketch from Lake Baikal, part of the Vladivostok oeuvre

John Hejduk. Sketch from Lake Baikal, part of the Vladivostok oeuvre

John Hejduk. Sketch from Lake Baikal, part of the Vladivostok oeuvre

John Hejduk has been called one of the most influential architects and educators of our time..
He was also a poet, an artist and the Dean of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the uber-prestigious Cooper Union in New York.

I am reviewing couple of his books, Vladivostok and The Mask of Medusa and thought I would share some of the ear-cornered pages.  Like Marco Polo, John Hedjuk’s travels start from Venice. Some of you may know my mother is from the Venice region, Treviso to be precise, and it was endearing to find the Serenissima in this book, a fascinating fusion of East and West, and even Milano, my birthplace. From the foreword:

 

The journey I have been on for the past ten years followed an eastern route starting at Venice, then moving north to Berlin through Prague, then northeast to Riga, from Riga Eastward to Lake Baikal and then on to Vladivostok. This has been, and is, a long journey.

Bodies of water mark the trek. Venice of the Adriatic, the lagoons, the Venetian canals, the river Vitava of Prague with its echoes of Rilke and Kafka, the waterways of Berlin, the Gulf of Riga, Lake Baikal, and the Sea of japan in Valdivostok. The elements giving off their particular atmospheres, and sounds, impregnate my soul with the spirit of place, place actual…place imagined.

The works from this journey are named and form trilogies.

In Venice;

The Cemetery of Ashes of Thought                                                                                                                                  

The Silent Wtnesses and

The 13 Watchtowers of Cannaregio

In Berlin;

Berlin Masque

Victims, and Berlin Night

In Russia;

Riga,

Lake Baikal, and

Vladivostok

[  ]

I state the above to indicate the nature of a practice.

[ ]

I have established a repertoire of objects/subjects, and this troupe accompanies me from city to city, from place to place, to cities I have been to and to cities I have not visited.  The cast presents itself to a city and its inhabitants. Some of the objects are buit and remain in the city; some are built for a time, then are dismantled and disappear;some are built, dismantled and move on to another city where they are reconstructed.

I believe that this method/practice is a new way of approaching the architecture of a city and of giving proper respect to a city’s inhabitants.

It confronts a pathology head-on

John Hejduk, 1989 

Hejduk’s work is provocative, political, polyedric. Read Errand, Detour, and the Wilderness Urbanism of John Hejduk, part of  Paroles d’Architects, an excellent collection of writings on architecture.

Also Sorkin on the Mask of Medusa, in Exquisite Corpse: Writing on Buildings.

Reading this book, at the nexus between literature and architecture reminds me of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. One of the future anterior projects: to illustrate Calvino’s cities. But it’s been done.

Cultural Minister

The Minister of Culture reads the works of Hawthorne, Flaubert and Hardy.What impresses him is the extraordinary love of women by these authors. Somehow the three writers are related through the strenght of Zanobia,Madame Bovary, and Batsheba. The Minister of Culture is aware of their seductions. He imagines, fabricates, and sews the dresses they had worn. He folds each garment and places it in an oblong box and waits for sundown. He precisely selects his victim, follows her, commits his crime, redresses herin the dress from the box, and places the body at the edge of the water. At Dawn he reads from the appropriate passages in a trembling voice.

 

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Ink on paper. October 1, 2010.

Today was the one year anniversary of the official launch of SketchBloom!
Let’s drink a cup of tea to that:)

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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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image

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.

image

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”. 

image

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…