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Well,  Happy New Year.

I think it’s valid to still say that, as long as we are still in January.

Last night I attended the last Friday night Jazz at the Handlery Hotel. I had only some copy paper, a bic pen and an Arabic calligraphy in my bag ..but was so thirsty for drawing that I started something I was hoping would just be an exercise…but I’m actually happy with it.

I am sure You, Single Reader, have been wondering if the Earth swallowed me whole…

Since my last post I visited Oaxaca, Mexico, then was in New York (each for a long weekend) and finally, in Milano for the Christmas holidays.

Instagram is the reason I have neglected my blog..it is much easier and more immediate to share work there..where in here the point is to craft each post. But I am here today because (thankfully) the Instagram Gods thought my drawing too long to post it there in its entirety..and so I am following my own advice (which I never do) and posting here first..and then a “teaser” on IG.

I have been working on a long New York poem, and still have to share my photos and a drawing from there…same with Oaxaca. I also have couple of artist features to share with you (and which you will love). But, this shall suffice for now…the demands of life and career are calling me- the forces which prey me away from my craft and from this digital room which is my calm and my natural habitat.

The good news is that I am teaching a Drawing/Representation course for design (not Architecture) students, so I have been practicing what I preach. And,  there is more freedom and anarchy to be outside of the realm of my chosen profession.

Until soon…..

Here is to closing parenthesis.

 

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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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The summer is near and it’s time to come back…

Here a quick watercolor from two weeks ago – a day trip with my Graduate students in the Architectural and Urban History Class.

We visited the Getty Villa- a replica of a Roman House in Santa Monica, California ( replica done with some poetic and unpoetic licenses…), contained in the Silvetti Machado contemporary expansion, a poem in stone that sets the Villa in an imagined archeological dig, with strata of travertine marble and concrete to pay homage to Roma.

Architecture is poetry in stone

The days since my last post have been filled with school activities, gratitude, beauty, poetry, reading, and finally.. some sun after the May Gray and June Gloom burned off. Oh, and I’m finally getting my place to where I want to be ( thankyou Marie Kondo).

Things are ( finally ) falling into place. It’s funny but I used to produce more art– and share more poetry — when my life was more chaotic, and centeredness has meant more introspection and less output. Now I’m much more deliberate and mindful of what/when to share…

I still have to steal these moments for art ( the demands of the modern living condition!) but I realize that there will always be more work to do, and let us all stop glorifying being busy.

Art helps us being in the Now- and that is all we have…I want to do less and be more. Thank you for reading, single reader.

Do you meditate? I have been for few months…and have added short gratitude prayers, reading and alignment to start the morning right. They say if you conquer the morning you conquer the day- and if you conquer the day you conquer your life.

Some days are better than others- and this weekend I will be going to my first spiritual retreat.

It has been one good, long day.

I trust all will be shared in time.

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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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A Thousand Churches (Your Eyes). Graphite, Watercolor, India Ink. August 12, 2017.


Dear Single Reader,

You might have thought I had disappeared, and would be the third person in a week to ask me what happened to my sketchbloom…but I’m back for the summer.

An international conference in Hong Kong , research writing /presentations and academia have absorbed me until the end of June…not to mention that thing called life, and heart, and two moves in two months ( apartment renovation). It has been CRAZY. 

I just got back from two amazing weeks in Puebla, Mexico where I was part of ArtFest17 and went to teach at UVM (Universidad de la Valle México) a workshop called Myth of the City.  

Here you can see all the work done with my students and read about Puebla, the “Second” city – the first being of course, Mexico ( Ciudad de). It was an incredible experience, after having co-taught the course in Santa Fe, New México in 2013 and 2014. One could say I went from New Mexico to “Old” México with this.

In Puebla i was surrounded by “my people”, migente, artists, intellectuals..the bohemians and the romantics, and got back my creative juices!  Now, a new beginning…

I have lots of travel photography and new poetry to share so stick around 🙂 

Thank you for reading me and not forgetting about me ❤️ your support means everything to me, as art is and always be my first love- and the true love of my life. 

I am on an art-recovery program but I don’t know what to do about those pesky writing deadlines…#thestruggle. Life is so full, and exciting new design opportunities –like being a juror for Orchids and Onions in San Diego and a Pecha Kucha presentation on Storage Cities — keep presenting themselves. It’s accelerated, beautiful life…yet art needs the half-time of dreams.

Well, wish me good luck, there are some posts in the pipelines so I will see you soon and… work in progress as usual! 

I do hope you are having a glorious summer.

Below are some photos from lovely, lovely Puebla… two of my students’ models and the City that is home of so many incredible riches. A true treasure of humanity/ patrimonio de la humanidad. 

PS: I have been posting on Instagram but have to confess I always feeel guilty if I don’t post drawings/sketches/watercolor/collages… after all it is called Sketchbloom not Photobloom ( but you can follow me [@sketchbloom] there and it would make me so happy😊.) 




Puebla, Estado de Puebla, México:

What a magical city: Baroque churches where Tllaloc and Quetzacoatl are venerated, the fusion called Barroco Indígena ( San Francisco de Acatepec and Santa María de Tonantzintla – Barragán’s favorite church), Aztec temples and cities, 400 year old stone buildings, the tallest church towers in Mexico and the greatest covered stepped pyramid in the world ( Teocalli de Cholula)…finally the oldest public library of the Americas. Puebla is where the battle celebrated during Cinco de Mayo took place and where the Mexican Revolution started. Wow. 

Take a look…




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Piazzetta Basilone e Civico 1845. Little Italy, San Diego.  Graphite, ink, and marker. September 2016.

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You might remember this drawing from November.
I finally finished at the beginning of January, on a cold (for San Diego) night, sitting in front of this 100-yearY building, under a portico.
Balboa Park always takes me back home. This entire drawing was done plen air and took me few sessions over several months to complete.
It will be on its way to San José, Costa Rica soon.

This is a quick photo, but i have a piecemeal scanned version ( sheet too large for my scanner, and the wide format at work is not very kind to graphite).I will try to compose the image and sub for it soon – but it has already been a whole week since this post languished in the draft purgatory and i want to get to my next night photography post.
Clouds make nocturnal old San Diego heartbreakingly beautiful.

By the way, i hope you all had a fantastic Holiday Break.
I just got back from another trip to México, and i have Mayan pyramids,cenotes, colonial towns and caribbean waters to share. I cannot believe i haven’t had the chance to share my two trips to Ciudad de México D.F from last July and November (¡Frida!) ..yet.
So next there will be a series of posts on México “lindo y querido”.

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San Diego Museum of Man in Balboa Park, San Diego, California. Graphite on paper. 24"X30". August 2015.

A commissioned work in progress.
One more plen air session and lineweight application and this baby is traveling to Costa Rica.
[Gracias por la Pura Vida]
I was asked to draw something that, to me, was intrinsically San Diego.
I love this building, and Balboa Park.
This is my neighborhood, my California home.

The buildings in Balboa park were chimeras, they were not supposed to last. They were stuccoed renditions, built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition.
It was San Diego dreaming of a past it did not possess, recreating its version of Spain, a classical city of porticoes, fountains and piazzas. Balboa Park represents both a stage and utopia.

My mind knows i am looking at façade architecture, in some cases as authentic as a movie set. It also knows none of the hundreds of plants and trees in the park are native. Yet, i am seduced.  I indulge in a state ‘suspension of disbelief’, as Wordsworth  asked of his reader.
This is my Romantic ruin.

Balboa Park today enchants as a beautiful urban park, the cultural heart of San Diego with more than twenty museums, gardens, landscaped vistas and hikes through the natural canyons (and, always, street artists).

When I see the blue-tiled dome and its storied tower, emerge like a hazy dream across a bridge that translates in elegant modern forms a Roman aqueduct, i escape.

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Balboa Park, the 'Crown Jewel of San Diego'.

No. This photo was not ‘shopped. The sky really looks like this all year-round here.
And you should see the sunsets.
Don’t hate. We pay for this in other ways.

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Another month of quickening days, of white skies, of scorching heat, of California monsoons has gone by.

The weather in San Diego has been positively schizophrenic.  Life has been full (I dislike the word “busy”), heartbreaking and healing at turns, magic, adventurous, challenging and with an overall trend of daily progress towards balance, harmony and mindfullness. Things are good.

I have been blessed to have crossed paths with soulful fellow travelers.

Since the beginning of 2015, the posts here at Sketchbloom have been so sparse…it’s embarassing. I miss my days before my professorship where I had the luxury of being an artist full time. Yet there were, of course, different struggles at the time.  I always heard that with privileges come responsibilities, and I felt those, so much, this past school year. Although the school year ended, culminating with Graduation at the end of June, I feel I am only (sort-of) beginning to breath now.

I completed my six-week five-credit Arabic course yesterday. I signed up for the class on what must have been an adrenaline rush from the tough Spring I had. The course started during Finals week at my University, which meant a seamless, yet intense/insane transition! I have some calligraphy to share from the course, and I am happy to say I can finally read and write in Arabic!

This month also saw me in Ciudad de Mexico DF for few days. I will post soon  some photographs  and recollections from that city of thousand faces. Alas, no drawings. (no time)

How to sum up a whole year? Only through recollection in tranquility. I am finally on break, and I plan to catch up with all the posts from my travels. I have notebooks full of thoughts and words, that might become verses, once distilled. Yet, this is also the time to make. I read that, a year from now, you will wish you had started today. SO I am starting, again, today. Every time I post here it feels like a new beginning. For those of you who have been following this blog (more than a thousand!), thank you for your patience and for the kind forgetfulness, and forgiveness, of promises not (yet) kept. I started running behind in 2013….no comment. My art and this blog can hardly catch up with my life and travels. I guess that is a good problem to have. Maybe you want to wander here, and see why time flies.

Annnyyyyhow…..Here are the rest of this spring’s nudes from Monday nights at the San Diego Arts Institute.

I noticed, going through the various drawings done there, that I tend to experiment with a different medium and paper each time. I guess I really miss my collages. I had the time to scan these drawings (i always feel quick and dirty when I post shots from my phone), and, well, what a difference.

One good piece of news is that I will get back my art studio in the Fall. I was part of the Brokers’ Building Artist Colony from 2003-2008 and I cannot wait to have a special place for my art again.

This summer – this year, really – feels like the long backward run, the gathering momentum

overdue

of the pole jumper.

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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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On Saturday, I participated to Dr. Sketchy San Diego, a fun artistic encounter involving life drawing.
This month’s event was centered around ‘Animal Instinct’ :).

We had a very fun model.
I realized I need these ‘art dates’ to keep me engaged with making art as I find my way back… back to my art studio.
Also, I may just, finally, have found my tribe.

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Camilla and I ( and watercolor ). Drawing by Gianni.

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Ta-Da! I want to walk this city with you.

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Ink on Moleskine paper. Schneider Hybrid 0.5.  San Juan, Puerto Rico. June 2014.

Ink on Moleskine paper. Schneider Hybrid 0.5.
San Juan, Puerto Rico. June 2014.

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Luminaires- Café Lulu. San Diego, May 9, 2014. Ink, marker, digital collage.

Luminaires- Café Lulu. San Diego, May 9, 2014. Ink, marker, digital collage.

 

 

On Being an Artist

Noelle Kocot

 

Saturn seems habitual,
The way it rages in the sky
When we’re not looking.
On this note, the trees still sing
To me, and I long for this
Mottled world.  Patterns
Of the lamplight on this leather,
The sun, listening.
My brother, my sister,
I was born to tell you certain
Things, even if no one
Really listens.  Give it back
To me, as the bird takes up
The whole sky, ruined with
Nightfall.  If I can remember
The words in the storm,
I will be well enough to sit
Here with you a little while.

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San Francisco, Samovar @ Yerba Buena Gardens, April 6, 2014. Drew Fish (left) and Miti Aiello (right) . Ink, Watercolor.

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I found and lost myself inside of that night. Collage. Graphite, fountain ink, found objects. San Diego. December 9, 2013.

I found and lost myself inside of that night. Collage. Graphite, fountain ink, found objects. San Diego. December 9, 2013.



These collages are starting to need a change of byline for SketchBloom: Art Therapy. Oh well;)

Above, a work in progress (and, darling aren’t we all?)..not sure which way it will go.

In the midst of nude painting to be done from memory (and I have started sketching, too bad the final product won’t be posted here), there’s been art and feelings on fire.

In the quest for ASCII hearts ( yes, lots of hearts are needed ) I found these lovely images.

All credits to benjscott.com

All credits to benjscott.com

The image above is from http://www.benjscott.com/artscii/. Click to be taken to more exquisite ASCII art images and his program.

The ascii art images above are from http://www.benjscott.com/artscii/. Click to be taken to his program.

This is a program called ASCIIART – which goes beyond recreating images in characters to delving into typography…and…this had me at hello.

I cannot wait to experiment with some black and white art.


Also, a return to poetry, literature and tender music. Maybe a new poem will blossom soon…the ingredients are there once again.

Some quotes from a book I am finally finishing (quotes that became a poem): The Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.
Freedom and loneliness overlap, look in the mirror, my face, these words reversed.


Hearing his name caused him to turn back again

looking into her eyes was like standing by a door slightly ajar

how could you not push open the door

see what lay inside?

And that door seemed to open a little.

and the glimpse he had beyond the door tortured him

he wanted to say more, to say everything on his mind, but he couldn’t.

It wasn’t a question of language.

He doubted the words existed in any language.

He  forced himself to look away from her then.

It was like prying a magnet off steel.

It was as though, outside of that room, there could be such a thing as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.

And then there was her.

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La Baracca del Bucaniere, Cucina. Graphite. Calabria, Italia, 2013

Few days ago I started this drawing, which I am hoping to finish in the morning. It’s time to pack and head back to my California.

I take with me many images, sounds, voices, messages…my metaphysical bag is always full after such extended trips to Italy, my home.

As a promise of things to come, I have been working the past few days on many posts that will feature the work of my father, my father the fisherman, painter, drawer, sculptor and designer.
My rugged, difficult, wonderful, talented father.

Then I have few posts on Calabria, my beloved and challenged Southern Italian region- sorting through three years of photos has been both grueling and rewarding.

Lastly, dispatches from my travels to Buffalo, New York City and Santa Fe.
The whole organizing effort has been quite the task.
This is the price for not posting enough this summer ;/

I always like to alternate drawings and artifacts to photography, so I offer today this humble work in progress which will become a watercolor.

Yesterday I was talking about sketchbloom to my friend Annamaria, who is a an apothecary with a lovely herbal store (erboristeria) in my little Southern Italian town.
Her store is called Radice Nuova or
New Root.
I was telling her that the days I do not share and make my art I feel I am neglecting a fundamental part of me…
‘as though you are not watering the plant’, she finished my sentence.

In fact, behind the stage,  in darkness and silence, seeds are growing and blooming…thoughts and ideas are taking roots. Philosophy lessons, Japanese pillow books. Russian classics, Italian troubadours of the anarchic 60’s…this is the water I have been drinking this summer.
And time, alone and together, time for many coffees with my father, time for night yoga by the sea, full moon, with my mother, time to pick figs and grapes, time to work and to rest, time to spend with beautiful friends of youth and the soul, family time with my people, time to fish, time to swim and soak, meditate, in the sun, time to write, think and renew, time to listen to Italian music and reconnect to my roots, time to love hard, time to read.
Time to finally have time.
Always time that processes, metabolizes and purifies..time that brings strength and clarity.

Above all, I am thankful for the time this summer to be, think, live like an artist, to make and organize art, storing things for the winter of the soul.

Leaving California is exciting, especially when I get to use my passport, but returning, having filled my eyes, mind and spirit elsewhere, always means new beginnings.

I travel to remember (Southern California is light, has neither memory nor regret…nothing like the weight of the past felt in Italy), and return to forget
— and live in the Now.

I always said it,
the year starts in September.

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Today is my mom’s birthday, she didn’t want me to buy flowers, so I painted her some…

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Graphite on Grumbacher paper. Calabria, Italia. August 2013.



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Ink on Hand Book paper and digital manipulation. Berkeley, California, 2010.



Sometimes it takes finding a portrait you do not remember drawing….a sketch you do not immediately recognize as your own- yet find intriguing and technically correct, to remind you you are an artist, you can do these things.
You, in fact, do these things- it is your work, a beloved toil- your ink on paper is like rubber on the road for others.
Days with no art are never complete, nor true – or honest, as Papa Hemingway would say.

I can’t help but thinking one should not need such reminders….

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Fountain ink pen on Moleskine paper. May 2013

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sanfrancisco_vignette_wb

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Ink and lipgloss on hand. book paper. November 2012.

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Drawing by Jackie McDowell.

I am posting the first of a series of samples of student work from the exhibit  History of Architecture: Analysis and Synthesis Through Visual Notes. Moving chronologically, today we start with the Beginnings of Architecture.  This body work was completed for the Graduate History of Architecture sequence, comprising of three courses, which i taught during the 2011-2012 school year.

I will also post some photos from the Exhibit.

These visual notes are by Jackie McDowell.

Drawing by Jackie McDowell.

Drawing by Jackie McDowell.

And here is the  paper abstract summarizing the project objectives and research purpose.  The full paper will be presented and published next Spring. 

History of Architecture: Analysis and Synthesis Through Visual Notes

Miti Aiello, Full-Time Faculty

NewSchool of Architecture and Design, San Diego, California

The need to update and make relevant the study of History of Architecture in an evolving profession and academic environment has never been more urgent: our discipline demands not only an expanded scope (mandatory inclusion of global or ‘non-western’ traditions and architecture of the vernacular), but new methods of delivery and course projects that are interdisciplinary, that bridge the divide between studio courses and history and that educate the young practitioner in reading history utilizing the same
methods learned in design practice.

Spiro Kostof, the legendary UC Berkeley architectural historian, advocated giving students “something tangible to carry away to the drafting table”.

It is possible to adopt an educational methodology that questions monumental architecture of the past and the traditional, vernacular “architecture without architects” in the same way as students approach a design problem in studio. Hans Morgenthaler’s “Chronology versus System: Unleashing the Creative Potential of Architectural History” – which served as this paper’s catalyst- denounced the inadequacy of relying on the chronological organization of history and suggested designing the History course as a series of design problems or buildings/events, illustrated through architectural drawings (the language of our profession) and not photos. History of Architecture instructors are encouraged to “occupy themselves simultaneously with the study of the past, with critique, and with invention”.

The argument for learning history through drawing, in this case in the form of student-generated visual notes based on textbook reading is related to the ‘invention’ mentioned above and supported by Morgenthaler: “This approach derives from the understanding that a drawing is capable of communicating information about buildings impossible through other means. In addition, as a subjective record, drawings could become part of the history of ideas, as opposed to photographs, which are only evidence. Moreover, drawings express the “belief in architectural precedent and typology which gave relevance to history.” Rachael McCann in her “Exploding the History Survey” also introduced ‘graphic summary pages’ as active inquiry in her course at Mississippi State University, breaking down her large lecture course in smaller sections which would investigate a question brought forth by a particular building, through visual analysis. It is clear that History of Architecture lecturers are seeking novel, more critical models to articulate the course, and better narrate “a story of architecture”.

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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

Nadie’ en tus arquiadas
En tus piedras llore’
Tus plazas me acogieron

Respire’ en la sombra de tus arboles
Sufrie’ por su cara
–los abrazos olvidados en la rena
estan alla’ hasta otro viento–

En tu son
Tu sol
Comprendi’ tus ojos infinitos
El calor the tus brazos dorados
Me calento’

En la noche el agua va corriendo en las fuentes–
Todavia estare’ alla’,
En los pasajes y las calles,
En las escaleras y las puertas serradas,
y en tu corazon de sal.

La Habana, Cuba, Avril 2012

Havana

I swam in your porticoes
On your stones I cried
Your piazzas welcomed me

I breathed in the shade of your trees
I suffered for his face
–the embraces forgotten on the sand
   there remain, until another wind.

In your sound
Your sun
I understood your infinite eyes
The heat of your golden arms
Warmed me

In the night
The water will continue to run in the fountains
I will be there still,
In your passageways and streets,
In your staircases and closed doors,
And in your heart of salt.

Havana, Cuba, April 2012

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





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Crocheting Cathedrals. Il Duomo with parasitic architecture (stage for New Year's festivities). Ink and watercolor on hand.book paper. December 31, 2011.

Aperol and Spritz. Most of the older ladies in my neighborhood are incredibly fashionable, decked in the latest trend winter coat. Here's two enjoying a mildly alcoholic aperitivo at 11 AM. Ink on hand.book paper. December 31, 2011.

Santa Maria Presso San Satiro. The obligatory pilgrimage to the second Bramante's church. Last year I drew Santa Maria Delle Grazie, which is near to my place. I am always amazed by the playfulness and modernity of the oculi (round windows) on the Northern Romanesque facade. I found out that the space in front of the church is called 'Largo Jorge Luis Borges'. Can it get better than this?
Ink on hand.book paper. December 31, 2011.

Window of the Pio Albergo Trivulzio. In an act of Flanerie, I got lost trying to reach the Roseto, and found these whimsical, almost Gaudi-like windows on a palazzo I had not seen since my childhood, painted in the typical warm 'Milanese Yellow' (think saffron rice and add a patina of melancholy, smog and time). Ink on hand.book paper. January 1, 2012.

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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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The Spoiled

Ink on Paper. November 19, 2011.

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Ink drawing, Watercolor. 16 November 2011.

Ink drawing, Watercolor + Digital Manipulation. 16 November 2011.

I was recently reunited with luggage lost 45 days ago.

Three items were missing: a bottle of Cinema Eau De Parfum by Yves Saint Laurent, a beloved collaged orange umbrella bought in Barcelona and a pair of Sketchers shoes. Go figure.

Immediately i set out to substitute my lost umbrella. As said in one Law and Order episode (I paraphrase): “Hardheaded Calabrese: the people there are very stubborn… once something is taken away from them, they don’t rest until …they get it back.”

My mind went back to the orange umbrella I bought for my mom in Milano last Christmas (probably with her money;)), from one of my favorite stores: Muji.

In my quest, I ran into this glorious essay on a particular shade of orange.

I have a box of orange objects in my house that I have been meaning to combine into a series.

Tomorrow seems like a good day for it, and orange thoughts are perfect for winter-short days and too much yin.

Before you read, keep this in mind:

Fire in Arabic is ‘Nar’.

………….

My Orange

by Michele Foyer


If we lived during the time of the Dutch West Indies Company, I would tell you that the color that so captured me was the child of paprika and chocolate. The world no longer swoons over spice willing to risk a sail beyond the end of the known. And yes, sadly rape and pillage in its desperate greed. I had only to pass the window of the Muji store in Manhattan’s Chelsea to discover this color in an umbrella.


What is it that grabbed me? Is it a vibration for which the color is only a foil? Or is it something about the color itself lodged between memory and desire? This redder orange infused with luxurious chocolate yielded a strangely jazzier yet muter tone than orange. But if we are mapping out its terrain inevitably the orange relation comes up.


My “Muji Orange” is a distant relative of the neon orange of warning, as well as a “tangerine streamlined baby” of sixties psychedelic abandon. Its crazy older paternal cousin might be the Tang of astronauts or maybe the impossible orange of orange Crush soda, or possibly even Blake’s Tyger burning bright, but its doting grandmother, is definitely — yes, most definitely — a bittersweet French marmalade.


There is some mystery to orange. Orange is the only color in the seven-color spectrum besides violet that originates as a noun, naming a particular thing. It refers to the berry fruit of the orange tree, something very concrete and specific and not as abstract as the other colors. Was the experience of the orange fruit so strong that it came to stand for the orange experience?


The Old English Dictionary (OED) states that in Medieval Latin “the forms ‘arangia’, ‘arantia’ (Du Cange) whence ‘aurantia’ have “popular association with ‘aurum’ gold from the colour.” Perhaps, the OED postulates, there is an etymological relationship between the Old French “orenge” for “arauge” after “or” gold. The OED traces the “loss of the initial ‘n‘ in French, English and Italian” as “ascribed to its absorption into the indefinite article” resulting in “narange” absorbing “une” and “narancia” absorbing ”una.”


Also from the OED we understand that the “native country of orange appears to have been the northern frontier of India, where wild oranges are still found and the name may have originated there.” In Late Sankrit the word for orange is “naranga;” in Hindi it is “narangi” (OED, p. 2001)


Is “orange” related to the color of the fruit and/or to gold and the word “ore” (OED, p. 2001)? Are both these not only things, but also perhaps experiences of light? More questions arise as we consider other correspondences that I call “rhymes and ricochets.”


In Persian the world for pomegranate is “nar” (OED, p.2001) which echoes the nar of narange. Is this coincidence or relationship? The OED states it is not certain. Was the “nar” / pomegranate the fateful fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden myth? It is possible because the pomegranate rather than the apple was the indigenous fruit. If the pomegranate was the tree of knowledge, what was the knowledge that this golden ball embodied? Might it have reflected a relationship of light to dark?


Is there anything other than coincidence to the resonance of the pomegranate which also figures in the myth of Persephone who spends half her days in a descent into Hades when the earth experiences the dark of winter and the other half above ground when the earth experiences the light of spring – alternations or gradients of light and dark?


In one narrative color is dependent upon history and culture. The OED by definition is a history of the English language, tracing the history and values of the western world with its migrations and roots to the East. Today we think oranges are synonymous with the warm climates of Florida and California. We often believe they are indigenous to North America. However, they were planted by conquistador sailors who needed to create supplies of vitamin C to take with them to guard against scurvy on their long sea journeys.


What is orange in cultures outside of the European? In other cultures closed off to our own for so long by the migration and exchange of trade, say the Japanese or Chinese, what is the etymology of the word orange? In Cantonese Chinese (but not in Mandarin), the word for orange is related by sound to the word for gold. At New Year’s the Mandarin orange embodies good wishes for prosperity. Are “gold” and “orange” a conflation of all these color experiences of light?


What about other earlier societies? I wonder whether orange might “rhyme” with “fire.” Fire had the life-giving power that made a large difference to a culture. If gold wasn’t the commodity of value, it might make sense for the word for this experience to be “fire.” Might gold be in part only an imitation of the light of fire?


These richoceting ruminations about gold and fire are vital, because it is precisely the light of gold or fire that starts to go missing in “my” Muji Orange. It is that chocolate brown in addition to the red of the orange that makes the color “step back” toward the shade. Muji Orange recedes from the saturation and almost clear brilliance of an ordinary orange that lags just behind the brilliance of yellow—whether the origin is the light of sun, gold or fire.


Muji is a Japanese company and that perhaps contributes and infuses a measure of its aesthetic into that of the west. The store’s name is related to “mujo” which evokes “transience” in Japanese. I once heard about Japanese “killed colors.” These colors had a little bit of death in them, fading from their original brilliance and glory. I couldn’t find reference to them again but only to the rikuyu colors made from graying. In Muji Orange the quality of orange steps away from the brilliance of the sunny orange into the shade, holding a note of something that is darker. It is not a sinister dark to be avoided but one to be savored like a fine chocolate.


Is my “Muji Orange” so beautiful to me because it captures the life of light and its brilliance — and the life of dark and its recession? To me “Muji Orange” is a kumquat color par excellence. First like the sweet rind of the kumquat there is a “taste” of brilliance and then immediately, almost simultaneously, just as the fruit yields a sour taste, my Muji orange bursts with another very different moody, darker earthy “taste.” Does Muji Orange with its paprika jazzy zest want to dance the tarantula? Is it death or lack of light that gives my Muji color its kick?
I have questioned whether it was the vibration of the color that pulled me into the Chelsea store — the umbrella an extraneous element. But I wonder if the precise color of orange might also be a “rhyme” with the function of “umbrella”? Are the form and the vibration related in the poetry of memory?


Recently I recalled an earlier encounter with umbrellas. When I studied in Madrid in my 20s, I would often take the subway to go downtown to the Turner bookshop. I’d climb the stairs of the appropriately named Sol subway stop that spilled out onto Jose Antonio, emerging more often than not into a scorching sun.


On my way to the bookshop I would pass outside the window of a store that made confectionaries of violets sold in white and purple miniature hatboxes. But my favorite was the neighboring shop entirely devoted to umbrellas with a placard handwritten in a swirly old-fashioned cursive script in the window that read “Manana llovera.” Both its whimsy and its sales-minded craft were not lost in the English translation — “tomorrow it will rain.”


Last December, many years after my sunny Spanish sojourn, when to me it is now irrefutable that night and day, death and life are folded into one another and that Persephone must braid both dark and light — the Muji Orange color caught my eye. Manana llovera. Tomorrow it will rain. Dear Reader, I bought the umbrella.


Bibliographic Note The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, Volume I, AO, (Oxford University Press, United States, 1982).

Copyright Michele Foyer. Web: http://michelefoyer.com/news.html

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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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Fill in the blanks. Ink on Miquelrius paper. October 2011.

This drawing was inspired by this one , by my blogsister Ghadah Alkandari.

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Namaste. Ink on paper, digital manipulation. October 2011.

MENDING WALL

Robert Frost


Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn't it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

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Orsetto

Orsetto. Ink on Miquelrius paper. October 2011.

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Chez Miti @Sea

Ink on Paper. Calabria, Italia. September 29, 2011.

Someday, somewhere — anywhere, unfailingly, you’ll find yourself, and that, and only that, can be the happiest or bitterest hour of your life.

Pablo Neruda

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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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Ink on Miquelrius paper. September 20,2011.

Ink on Miquelrius paper. September 20,2011.

You can write anytime you like,

But you can never reach.

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Connecting|Disconnecting over the New York Post. New York City Subway, Line 5 Uptown, June 21, 2011.

Presently and present in New York City.

Conference sessions, museums, walking walking walking. Design, Architecture, Art.

The energy of the City. Ideas like kites move slower than the city moves. Slower than pedestrians at a busy intersection, slower than subway trains with their human cargoes.

A musical: Death Takes a Vacation.

Absorbing and consuming the city, which becomes a commodity. Getting lost in the city,  a bus to New Jersey, a ride to the Bronx.

Will post few dispatches, I have been absent with no written excuses.

………………………….

My fabric city map is almost done, it took almost a month. I have the utmost respect for seamstresses.

Until next time, with a summer-light heart, looking forward to sharing more experiments.

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Marrakesh. From ‘Domestic Architecture of the Arab Region’.

 

 

 

 

 

From 'Domestic Architecture of the Arab Region"

Digital manipulation. Commissioned artwork.

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

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

.25 technical pen on cardstock. January 2011.

Photoshop manipulation of pen drawing. January 2011.

MITI’S RECIPE FOR SKETCHING:

Day One: Look. (First Encounter)

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

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

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

And…

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

Sketchbook by hand book, penholder clip by muji.

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

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

 

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

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

Talking about art with my (practical, realist) mother

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

Oh, did you have fun?

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

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

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

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

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

Then it’s psychotherapy.

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

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

Mom, art is not about fitness.

But I don’t understand art.

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

No, I don’t understand it.

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

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

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Marker on paper, digitally modified. December 2010

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

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Toolenburg- Zuid. Steven Holl

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hear the words in my future memoir:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toolenburg- Zuid. Steven Holl

Toolenburg- Zuid. Steven Holl

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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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Ink and Watercolor on paper. September 30,2010.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Sri Chinmoy

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

A Time for Everything

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

Ecclesiastes

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


“Know

The true nature of your Beloved.

In His loving eyes your every thought,

Word and movement is always-

Always Beautiful.”

– Hafiz

 from poetseers


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

Charles de Foucauld

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

 


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

Charles de Foucauld

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

 

Happy Eid, Cammellino.

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

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

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

May-Ling welcomes us.

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

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

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

Flying buttresses, crossing and apse.

Roof expression of the apse and crossing.

The nave and aisles, their paving beautifully detailed.

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

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

Misgivings II. The burnt witch.

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

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Ink (Pilot Pen) on paper. 2008

Felt Tip Pen and Sharpie on paper. 2008

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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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From yesterday’s Rendering and Delineation Class. So proud of my color-wary students.


Queen Califia Session

Quen Califia Session II

Queen Califia III

Read the story of the mythical Queen Califia.
California is named after her!

See Niki St. Phalle Sculptural Garden ‘ Queen Califia’s Magical Garden’ in Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California.

Previous posts on the subject:
California and Califia
Listening to Baroque Music in San Francisco
Working with Color
Queen Califia’s Magical Garden {Continued}

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Loose Rendering. Ink, watercolor, prismacolor pencils. August 2010.



Lately, I’ve favored the watercolor and pencil technique, but want to get back to working with markers.

I found these two great tutorials on marker renderings from my blog friend and Urban Sketcher extraordinaire Suzanne Cabrera at An [Open] Sketchbook: can’t wait to share them with my students!

{ Tutorial 1: Furniture/Fabric }

{ Tutorial 2: Interior Rendering }

As usual, the wonderful Color Drawing book by Doyle will provide a lifetime’s worth of lessons.


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Marker Test @ Queen Califia's Magical Garden

Initial Sketch. Felt tip on heavy bond (sketchbook) paper.

Felt Tip on Marker (Rag) Paper.

Applying Watercolor 1.

Applying Watercolor 2.

End of ession at site. 20 Minutes. Wanted to have a loose base of color.

Adding Pencils (Albrecht Durer- Made in Germany), texture, few days after.

Do you remember Niki St. Phalle’s ‘Queen Califia’s Magical Garden’?

Well, I went back with my students for some loose watercolor and pencil renderings.

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My client gave me this card and asked me to create a composition based on the flower/butterfly graphics.

I first mixed in the colors for the purple background my client wanted, then drew the graphic motifs with black grease pencil, went over with white pastels, only to realize that the black was not going to be easily cleaned at the end.              So I had to wash away all the black lines, and lost most of the white drawing.  I used the second drawing as a basis for the painting.

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Floral Composition with Butterflies (3'x 3'). Acrylic on Canvas. June 12, 2010.

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Explaining (imperfectly) the joy of sketching/vignette and perspective making to a student. Graphite on paper June 11, 2010

Drawing is thinking. Hand-eye coordination is essential not only to accurately render what you see, but to bring forth and execute what you see in your mind’s eye, i.e designing. I read once that we should use the word ‘draw’ as in ‘drawing information’, as from a well. To draw a building  or space is to understand it, to make it our own –to impress it on our brain’s matrix.  Photography, while wonderful and an art form in itself, leaves the lessons of buildings on the camera’s hard drive, not on ours.

Not to mention the warmth and ‘tactability’ , as my friend Luisa says, of a sketch or a vignette, the volumes it adds to a presentation, the process it unveils. Revit has the capability to render photorealistic imagery, with incredible texture and lighting. But it is in the process that a project is appreciated in all its nuances, that poetry can happen, that the design and the architect eye, mind and hand can be sipped, like fine, expensive wine. Without process architecture becomes a shot of cheap wiskey, vulgar.  Design, like diamonds, has no mercy… “They will show up the wearer if they can,” says one character in The Sandcastle, an early novel by the famous British author, Iris Murdoch. (I borrowed this bit on diamonds here).

Drawing is analysis. It is a deliberate act of  interpretation, and abstraction (as in capturing the essential).  In the book ‘Compositions in Architecture’, Dan Hanlon says:

‘I have found that since the act of drawing requires a high degree of graphic editing, each drawing emphasizes a particular quality of composition. Therefore, the information in each drawing is highly selective. This is what I mean by a work of interpretation.’

A drawing can be tuned to reveal and emphasize certain characteristics, and not others. It is a process of selection, of sharpening the way our brain takes notes of details. It is never alienating, never mindless, never automatic (unless as automatic art/ flow of consciousness), never repetitive, never listless as drawing on a computer can be.

In the introduction of book Non-places: Introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity, Marc Augé mentions the many devices that, by keeping us ‘connected’ at all times, alienate and separate us from the place we physically occupy. Drawing keeps us grounded (in the here and now?), and is an exercise in fully experiencing our surroundings, of mindfulness.

And after the alarming The Shallows: This is Your Brain Online , on the ability to train our brain (and affect its physical make-up) by our daily habits, anything that can help with the collective scattered focus we are ‘learning’ from too much technology should be a worthwhile endeavor.

So yes, the Zen of Drawing, or drawing as meditation (architectural therapy not just art?). Like yoga, unplugging and plugging in at the same time. By drawing we fully inhabit this place, this body, as architect and artists.

My blogfriend Suzanne Cabrera at [An] Open Sketchbook turned me onto Michael Nobbs, a Blogger/Artist into time management,who advocates drawing everyday. Here is his free, fun and inspiring e-book.
I already started drawing loved objects before I ‘release’ them.

Here are the books mentioned:

And here, the first part on the importance of drawing.

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Graphite on paper. May 2010


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

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

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

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(Follow the) Butterfly, Bone, Koa, String(s). Ink on trace paper. May 2010

Koa and Bone. Graphite and Watercolor. May 16, 2010


Some of you may remember my koa and bone set; here it is in ink and watercolor. The ink version is the one that surprised me the most: I noticed that by scanning the back of the drawing, the bracelet/string become more realistic, acquire thickness. The translucent properties of the trace paper and the shadows/distance/spaces created in the crevices lend this effect…something to keep in mind for the future.


We wander at night and are consumed by fire

I have been thinking and reading about Situationism:  there was once a time in which we were all Situationists.  I remember, as a teenager, roaming in the deserted streets of my neighborhood, on the ‘marina’ side of a small Calabria town. The whole neighborhood was a seasonal development and, in winter, my family (comprised of my mom, dad, and yours truly) was the only one living by the sea. Sometimes I would take off with my moped, the latest Stephen King tome and explore the abandoned villas, hide in construction sites, or walk over dried river beds– before exams, I would memorize historical dates while jumping from summer cabin to summer cabin, in the spring, when the grey beach and the deep sea were laying dormant, awaiting the summer sun, awaiting the brilliant cobalt colors and the golden heat…like they are probably doing now.
The Situationists would be proud of this roaming, untouched as it were by what they called ‘the consumer experience’.
Today I was an urban bedouin again, gathered in my scarves, on my pilgrimage (when you travel by bus it does feel like a pilgrimage, especially on Sundays) to the sea. Only grey waters reflecting grey skies today, but the sound was what I sought: this is my church and this is where I worship.