Sunday, March 29, 2009

Priceless vintage collage materials?

Friday I found this stack of vintage books to take home with me from the used book store. But instead of tearing up the books to use them in collage, I started reading them. One book I'm particularly delighted with is 1933 California textbook, Visual Geography of California. The book is loaded with gorgeous maps and photos, and I was so fascinated that I read the book from cover to cover. Here's an excerpt:

"Times are changing very rapidly and airplane speeds are increasing at a very fast rate. It is thought that soon large planes carrying freight and passengers will cross the United States in from 7 to 10 hours."

If I had a flat scanner, I'd scan the California aviation map that shows airports with radio stations (Shasta, Willows, Reno, Oakland, Fresno, Daggett, Glendale, Fontana and Los Angeles). Not San Francisco, not San Diego.

This is great stuff. What if I'm tearing up one of the last books of its kind?

This weekend I rescued all my vintage materials from the garage to add to my growing collection in my art room. But again, instead of making collage, I started pouring over my Great Grandma Niccum's recipe file with a dozen salad recipes--Cucumber Salad, Reception Salad, Spicy Salad, Jello-Sunshine Salad, etc--that marry gelatin and vegetables and fruits in unimaginable combinations.

I found things like a newspaper clipping about my grandfather's music business and learned for the first time that he was a music teacher for four years in Missouri before he was drafted for the war. I knew my grandparents and their stories well, so this was a surprise. Part of me wonders if it was a reporter's error instead of a detail they left out in their stories.

I'm prone to reverie and nostalgia, and it's becoming quite clear that I'm going to have a hard time tearing up any of this material and getting down to the business of collaging.

I remember in about 1990 I was riffling through my grandmother's closet trying to find a Halloween costume and stumbled upon a gorgeous pair of 1960s camel suede shoes. They were brand new. I was stunned. I wore them, but I still wonder about how she could have allowed those shoes to sit unworn. And now I see I may have the same problem. What good will all this stuff do sitting in boxes in the garage? But can I give myself permission to experiment with such precious material?

I doubt it, so I've been spending some time researching printers and scanners, and I'm not quite sure what to do. I wonder what kind of printer to buy. And I'm also realizing that to scan and print these books would quickly add up to more than the materials themselves. How priceless are they?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Metropolitan Diary

Mondays mornings are busy mornings for me. On these days, my morning routine is disrupted, I'm out the door before my eyes are open, and the paper gets a once over or more than likely, completely ignored.

But I've learned that there's one part of the paper on Mondays I can't miss--the Metropolitan Diary. I consider it the spiritual section of the New York Times. Printed only once a week, it often reminds me of what I love about New York and New Yorkers. I may share a favorite every Monday.

Here's today's favorite: Dad's old apartment

Dear Diary:

A woman in her early 20s overheard talking on a cellphone on West 75th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam:

“Hey Dad. ... I’m on your old block. What was your number? ... Oh, I see your building. Yeah, the facade is plain. ... The number plate? ... Wooden? ... Yes, it’s there. ... You made that! In the ’70s? Well that’s cool.”

Katherine Humphrey

Photo: Jeff on the way to the Guggenheim

Cinequest closes: Please see Witch Hunt

The Cinequest Film Festival is over, so now we can go back to regular life. We saw two additional films. One was a bit of a dud, the other was outstanding.

In the outstanding category: Witch Hunt, which will be broadcast on MSNBC on April 12 (Easter). Please watch your TV listings and see this film. Sean Penn narrated and produced the film.

I have Jeff to thank for getting me to this movie. I wanted to see it, but I also wasn't in the mood for another heavy subject.

No doubt this movie is about horrific injustice and lives destroyed in the process. But unexpectedly, this film is also about love, healing, strength, and the miracle of the human spirit. I felt moved and strengthed by the film.

The activist in me says everyone who votes or serves on a jury should see this movie, but fortunately, this film is about much more than a call for justice. When you give the gift of listening to these people's stories, you'll be given much more in return.

The Q&A session was incredibly lively. Someone asked how the hysteria began. While it's not clear, many people believe it started through accusations made during an ugly divorce and custody battle. Also something not mentioned in the movie that the Innocence Project lawyer mentioned in the Q&A is that Bakersfield was not an isolated event. In the early 80s, cases of parents being falsely accused of molesting their children were spread across the United States.

Imagine being locked up for 20 years for something that was pure fabrication. Imagine having your life taken away.

We also saw The Nature of Existence, the Cinequest closing night film, which we waited in line 1 1/2 hours in advance of the film to get tickets. The filmmaker works on Curb Your Enthusiasm, and he has that David Larry, Seinfeld kind of humor. Some parts were preciously funny, and there are a few gems in the movie, but in the end it left me feeling nothing. If you want an intellectual, high-level survey course on what people around the world think about the meaning of life, this is your movie, but not mine.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A very good day

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with V and visited her at her new place "in the country" just past the suburban tracts of San Jose Almaden. Her art/craft room was my favorite. Not only is it her perfect place for creating, but the view is fantastic.

Their property has a (horseless) horse stable that she has a view of from her window. The view was especially beautiful yesterday. After many days of rain, the air is fresh and the hills are emerald green. We planned to do something crafty, but I was like a cat and had to see everything about where she lived before I could settle down.

I put the top down on my old Cabrio and we meandered up the road to the open space preserve for a hike. Along the way, we passed the historic miner's homes and the historic post office still in operation. Within five minutes from her house, she has access to gorgeous hiking. After our hike we turned on the heater and tootled some more, passing the reservoir that is now full, up to another open space preserve. Heaven.

Back to V's room, we hung out perusing a couple of books about encaustic painting and collage. She and I took an encaustic painting/collage class in January, and while I loved the process, I was less enthused about the product. This book changed my mind. Encaustic painting is equipment intensive, so we talked about setting up the "studio" at her place and working together.

I've been futzing around with collage and was in the process of converting half of the yoga room to a dedicated art space, but vacationing in Mexico, getting nasty sick again, job hunting, looking for our new house, and, did I mention, Cinequest, has derailed me. Without realizing it, I had lost my inspiration and was acting like I didn't know how to do it anymore.

V sent me home with Collage Journeys. I read it in bed last night like a sleepy kid who will do anything to force her eyes to stay open for just a little more fun. I'm inspired. My first step is getting set up. The kitchen table isn't working for me anymore and between job search and some contract work, neither is my desk.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cinequest Film Festival 2009

Life has been slightly out of whack for the last week or so while we've been attending one movie after another at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose. Out of character, we've sacrificed good health in the name of what seems like dozens of art film. In actuality we've only seen eight so far, but given that last night's film was a three-and-a-half-hour event, it's no wonder I feel feel cooked. Jeff's back is killing him, we've been eating out all week, and our workouts have ceased. But we've discovered, it's worth making sacrifices for good films.

Of all the films we've seen, two have been outstanding, most very good, two were funny, and only one one made us want to slit our wrists. Given that almost every film dealt with heavy topics like plight of the poor and exploited in the world, I'd say this is pretty good. We've traveled to every corner of the globe in these films to see a slice of life's challenges for modern day Pakistanis/Indians, Israelis/Palestinians, Nicaraguans, and American-Vietnamese and historical challenges for Canadian Eskimos, ancient Babylonians, 16th-century French, and 1920s Americans. I feel like I'm back in college cramming for my history degree--exhausted, but loving it. And, yeah, I never been much good at pacing myself.

If you're an independent film lover, find a film festival--there are hundreds of them across the country--and go. The best part is having the filmmaker and actors in the audience stand up and take questions at the end. While we waited in line for the premiere of All About Dad, we heard the guy in front of us say to his friends "Yeah, they don't have a special line for the stars." Sure enough, there he was on the big screen as the movie opened. For this film, a San Jose drama/comedy about the generation divide in Vietnamese-American families, most of the films actors were present for the Q&A after the film. Almost all were professional actors except the star--the guy who played dad. We loved the filmmaker's story about how he couldn't find a professional actor for that role (he wanted actors who could speak both English and Vietnamese and apparantently, it wasn't an easy task.). So he put up an ad for anyone to try out, and only one guy responded. He got the part. "Dad" was a hoot in the film and charmed us during the Q & A with his over-the-top excitement about his new experience as an actor.

Here's a synopsis of the movies we saw. Some of these will be readily available at other film festivals, some might make it, and for everyone, read below about Intolerance:

Dust of Words--I can't help mentioning this film even though it's last year's film. I loved it then and can't stop thinking about it. Poetic, spiritually haunting and sublime.

Ramchand Pakistani
--This may have been our favorite film. Visually beautiful and tender. I'm struck by how much was communicated in this movie with the sparest of dialogue.

Heart of Stone--I'm extremely hopeful that this documentary will inspire someone to make it into a Hollywood feature film. It has all the elements of for the making of a mainstream movie, and it's a subject near and dear to my heart. While on the surface, it looks like your typical Stand and Deliver movie, this movie has a unique angle on this genre and points the way for a radically different approach for solving one of our nation's most important issues. The timing is right for this movie, and the filmmaker has a connection that makes it highly likely Obama will see it.

All About Dad--Someone during the Q&A described this movie as a Vietnamese-American sitcom. It's a good description. It's really the story of every immigrant family who struggles with the divide between the new generation and the old. It's a San Jose made movie that feels particularly relevant with the recent Little Saigon/Nguyen recall debacle that has gotten national attention. The best part of being in the packed audience for the premiere of this movie was hearing the young Vietnamese-American audience belly laugh over parts that the filmmaker nailed culturally. Having a special affinity for Vietnamese-Americans, I enjoyed learning more about their world.

The Necessities of Life--This film was Canada's selection for the Oscar's best foreign film category. People have slammed this movie as a cliche in blog posts, but I disagree. One of the things these critics miss is a message about how much we've lost as a modern culture living our lives surrounded by concrete and driven by light switches. This film, among many things, celebrates the power of living a simple life by the rhythms of nature.

For My Father--Some people thought this was the best film at the film festival, we thought it was very good. There's a lot to say about this film, but for now, I'll keep it at that.

Intolerance--A 1916 silent film. For any serious film lover this film is a must. Watch the schedule at your local preserved old movie theater with a pipe organ. See it with a live organist. It's a hoot, and it's important message about intolerance in the world is timeless. Griffith is a lover of Jesus' message and example, but not a lover of religious intolerance.

Esther's Inheritance--Beautiful cinematography. Great acting. And, I'm sorry, I just don't get it.

El Camino--We wanted to slit our wrists at the end. This movie needed an editor. Painfully long. This was the only film we attended that the audience didn't applaud at the end.

There are two more days left.