Art Domestic: Welcome to My Crib

Anyone that has rented an apartment in an old house or building knows that you’re likely to have weird or awkward spaces. Those spaces are typically part of the charm. Still, they can be a challenge at times.

For example, when your front door opens immediately into a narrow hallway and you’re not allowed to paint it, how exactly do you brighten or enliven that space? For a while we had paintings and such stacked salon style all the way up to the ceiling, but I had a drawer full of unframed art that I really wanted to liberate despite being unable to frame all of it.

This was our solution:

artdom1There’s a lot of stuff there so I’m not going to get into detail about each and every single piece. Most of the work I received as a gift or as part of a trade. I still plan to properly frame their artwork, but for now at least I can see most of it, which is especially important as people move onto other adventures in their lives.

artdom2In this section: Marie Porterfield Barry, Stephanie Streeter, Amanda Richardson, Liz Layton, Jessica Augier, Stephanie Ott, and just a corner of Ira Pratt’s octopus print. artdom3In this section: Liz Layton, Stacie Williams, Wyatt Moody, Reese Chamness, Marissa Schillaci-Kayton, Keaton Lawson, Stephanie Streeter, Jessica Augier, and Ira Pratt. artdom4Not all of it is art, as you can see. There are also a few wedding photos. We used to have more pictures up, but they kept felling off the shelf, so those are in a drawer for now.

In this section: There’s some more Liz Layton, Ira Pratt, and Marie Porterfield Barry work in this section. Charlie Haskins and Geoff Pratt each have a drawing poking out.

artdom5This is one of my favorite possessions. A little girl named Alex gave it to me.
artdom6“Little Womb” by Taylor Norris. This painting was part of her BFA show and I snatched it up. (Pun intended.)

artdom7Unfortunately I don’t remember what this silverpoint drawing it called, but I can tell you it was made by Jessica Augier when we were undergrad students together.

xx

Interested in participating? Check out the submission page. If a blog post seems like a hassle, you can also post to Twitter or Instagram under #artdomestic.

Art Domestic: REBIRTH

This is a high drama post, in case you couldn’t tell.

A couple friends on Instagram have started sharing photos of art in their home using the #artdomestic tag, which was totally their idea and very sweet of them. (How did I not even think of that?) Here are a few shots:

a-Danaartdomestica-Jenniferartdomestic1a-Jenniferartdomestic2So, if you use Instagram and you’re interested in sharing the art in your home, please use the #artdomestic tag so I can find it! And say a little something (or a lot something) about it. Curious minds.

I missed the last two months because it was my birthday and I didn’t plan properly, then in I went to a friend’s wedding in May and, again, didn’t plan properly. My apologies. I’ll try to be more consistent.

While I was in Portland visiting said friend, I had the mildly upsetting experience of becoming reacquainted with really old, awful paintings of mine, like when you are happily shoveling fresh blueberries into your mouth and suddenly one of them is so sour it momentarily puts you off eating anymore because your mouth is so offended.

Robert and I have the artwork of many friends in our home. A couple of them have expressed the desire for us to put away their old paintings and drawings. (Okay, so, mostly just Geoff.) When I came back from Portland, I emailed my friend to tell her I’d happily give her a new painting if she gets rid of the old paintings. Burn them, re-use the canvases, I don’t care. After I sent the email, it occurred to me that I never thought I’d be making such a request and, to date, I have personally only honored that request once when it was made to me.

Here is a friend that clearly values these paintings — they were hanging in her house without her previous knowledge that I would be staying with her — and they are examples of a short period of my life before college where I was desperately trying to develop some artistic skill and direction within the examples of Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele, mythological storytelling, and Tori Amos. I find them to be embarrassing on their own, and caught myself telling other guests at the house that I didn’t “make work like that anymore”, even though they clearly didn’t care much either way.

So then would it be “okay” if they were juxtaposed with new work? If the fear of misrepresentation is gone, can the embarrassment simply be the harmless embarrassment most people feel about decisions made in their youth? Can it not just be appreciated as a fragment in time that is both lost and ever present? Can I be thankful to my friend for caring enough to keep these paintings through multiple moves spanning ten years or so? Or would pairing them together only heighten the uncomfortable transparency of not only the old work but also the new?

I don’t know. But it all kind of makes me feel like an ass for complaining. After all, it has not ever been my task to tell people what to think or feel about my work, and the life of the art beyond the artist, gallery, or museum is the whole damn point of this series. It’s unreasonable to say to someone, “This object you have in your home, I made it and I don’t like it anymore. Get rid of it.”

Thank you, Marissa.

Birthday Thoughts

I’m skipping the Art Domestic post this month because today happens to be my birthday.

Quite unexpectedly, I woke up sick this morning and spent half my birthday in bed. Also unexpectedly, this did not particularly upset me beyond the physical discomfort of expelling bodily fluids a little over-enthusiastically. I did what one might do for their birthday anyway — I read, watched something entertaining, napped, and pet my cats.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about my relationships, perhaps because my Facebook page was blowing up with messages and well-wishing comments, or because my husband bought me a really moving album that makes my soul tingle like its about to be struck by lightning, or because my dad called and I received flowers from my in-laws. And about 10 minutes ago, I received an email from a very dear friend of mine.

It tipped me over from thoughts without shape to word-shaped thoughts. Thoughts that reflect a wealth of feeling I am most often incapable of expressing. A sincerity that I am often questioning into exhaustion, and for the moment I have decided to follow without reservation.

While reading Hicksville this morning, I came across a passage in which the character Grace is described: “I thought her strong – hardened, wiser. But now I think it was fear: the appearance of strength people have when they’ve grown accustomed to fear.”

It struck close. I paused and then kept reading.

As it often happens when something is haunting your thoughts and feelings, other external situations and moments point back to it.

When I think about my relationships with people that I love, it seems that primarily what may make them difficult to love or to feel loved by is the prevalence of fear. Fearful people are difficult to love, find it difficult to love. The performance of unwavering strength and control is too exhausting yet self-sustaining to allow much spontaneity.

And what is love if not spontaneous?

I didn’t really know how afraid I was until my life stabilized and I was with someone who loved me fearlessly, recklessly. The tools I had sharpened during a decade or so of fear and uncertainty culminating in painful explosive bursts were not needed with him. I still tried to use them, and he pointed out the failings of my self-designed certainty, which also reflected the issue in friends and family. I found myself in a new context and it was, at first, crippling.

Only at first.

I have a lot more love in my life than I used to, in part because of psychoanalysis and knowing some truly amazing people, but also because I have come to want to be more than just strong (read: fearful). I want to be brave enough to love. I want to be brave enough to be sincere.

No one can give that to me. I can’t buy it for myself. And having it once does not mean I will have it always. I have to work at it, constantly. Thankfully, the shifting context in which I shape myself allows for more bravery and sincerity. It has to. It’s dark and uncertain.

And I have never felt a deeper appreciation for other people in their nuanced, weird, uncomfortable, unknown, fearful, vulnerable, courageous beauty. I won’t be able to keep this moment, but I have it now.

Thank you.

Art Domestic: Amongst Dried Flowers, Heirlooms, and Friends

This post is the first of this series to be of someone else’s home and I’m really excited about it. I have been in this home multiple times and there are many treasures there. If you’re interested in participating, check out the submission page.

xx

My name is Liz Layton, and I am sharing my home (Halldór the Cat, Mirian aka Little Cat aka Baby Cat aka Mel, the Kitten, Sid the Significant other, and Strummer the Baby) for this edition of Art Domestic!

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The piano is a favorite place for Baby Cat to roam around.  It also houses some of our art treasures.

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One of these treasures is a Christmas present, made by Sid’s mommy.  This is a fabric & embroidery piece, that depicts the “Dala Horse”, a Swedish symbol that is often seen carved out of wood, but is branded onto many materials.  The symbol originates from Dalarna, Sweden.

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Further down our dining room is this photograph, given to me by my friend and BANDMATE, (we did one show to a one person audience in our school’s painting studio, once, as The Fiber Optics, and it was not at all bad or embarrassing), Andrew Scott.  This piece was featured at his B.F.A. show.  He is easily one of my favorite artists.

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Hiding between a pearled photograph I took of a horse, and a melon colored scarf thing I use as a window decoration, is another Andrew Scott original.

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This mixed media piece is postcard size, and features a stamped astronaut, some mysterious gold script, and layers of paper that culminate into a soft surface that is gilded with crayon of the Crayola variety.

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In the corner of the living room is a piece from my own B.F.A. show, as well as a tiny golden goose thing we found from the basement of our previous house, and now use as a shelf that holds the LP cover of whatever record we are listening to at the moment.

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This is Sid’s most recent LP he’s acquired, by Guerilla Toss, entitled Gay Disco.

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Above a tiny bookcase lies an original artwork I purchased from a British artist’s Etsy shop.

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The artist’s shop is called “SeeSusieBean”, and the illustration features one of my very favorite musical artists, Grimes.

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This pleasant and exceptionally symmetrical fiber art is made by my grandmother, who made SO MANY QUILTS.  Many of her works were rather large, but I very much enjoy and cherish this pink heart embroidery loop piece, as well.  And it perfectly captures her personality- warm, sweet, old fashioned, cheerful, hardworking, precise, meticulous, prolific, and highly skilled.

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Her name was Miriam Jane (Race) Alspaugh.

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My latest acquired work of art is a print from my friend Patrik (who performs locally as Mannequin Hollowcaust).

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I LOVE seeing his print beneath the “Moon in My Room” that I gave and then permanently borrowed from my little sister.

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I enjoy the simplicity of the image, and how it simultaneously evokes a strong sense of mysticism.  I hope Patrik is okay with his print being presented within my gold spray-painted frame.  His illustration is entitled “Ominous Rituals Under Harvest Moon.”

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Our mantelpiece is my favorite place in our whole house, to decorate.  The area is divided into a warm/yellow side, and a cooler/blue tone/melancholy/ moon side.

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The piece on the left is an illustration of my family that I commissioned from the highly detailed Marie Porterfield Barry.  She is  also a very favorite all-time artist of mine who happens to be a colleague and dear friend.  The little green-gold wooden box in front of the family portrait is a tiny keepsake made & given to me by my friend Diana, who is from Romania, and can speak three languages and has an amazing family, herself.  The box holds some of my strangest tiny treasures.  Next to the family portrait, on the right of the dried yellow roses, is a porcelain (or ceramic?) tile-shaped piece that I cherish, depicting a graceful farm scene with a prominent windmill.  My mother got it as a souvenir, from the Southern California Danish community of Solvang.

Yay.

Art Domestic: Preserving & Disintegrating

livingroom1Another section of our living room for this month’s Art Domestic post.

livingroom2livingroompratt1We received these paintings from Geoff Pratt years ago, though my husband had the “mask” much longer than that. When I met R, it hung above his bathroom door. He had pieces of Geoff’s work in various places throughout his apartment “because otherwise Geoff will destroy them”. Geoff complained about them whenever he came over, claiming he’d replace old pieces with new ones if we’d just get rid of them.

When he moved to Portland, he offered to let us pick through a stack of framed paintings, which we did very appreciatively and enthusiastically.

livingroompratt2On the adjacent wall, more of Geoff’s paintings with one of his brother Ira’s small sculptures and a card from a friend’s trip to Thailand stand amongst the paintings. Unfortunately, the sculpture is disintegrating despite our very careful effort to prevent any damage. Ira gave it to us shortly after his BFA show, before he moved to Portland.

When I first noticed that the sculpture was coming apart, I was tempted to coat it in something and put it in a box, like an enclosed diorama, but the attempt at preservation would change the work drastically. I decided to let it continue to be what it is. I’m planning to keep it until it completely falls apart.

Dueling Lovers: Words + Art

The writer in me has a hard time leaving images alone, the artist in me keeps smacking words away. And there are so many words. Direct, poetic, truthful, manipulative — they occupy various roles and in within those functions carry degrees of weight and sharpness. I feel each one in an attempt to decipher its necessity. The artist in me shakes her head regardless, unimpressed, even though writing is so much part of the process of creating the image in the first place.

Words are also a big part of how people interact with art. Stand by and watch people in an art museum — they will look momentarily at the work, then look for a label, read the label and possibly the description if there is one, then look back at the art object. If they’re still having difficulty with the object, they might return to the writing or move on. In galleries, they tend to seek out an artist statement or bio. Art institutions spend a lot of time and money attempting to offer the right kind and the right amount of information to their visitors. People expect words because a room full of art objects is terrifying.

One of the powerful aspects of viewing art is how intimate it can be if you simply walk up to the object and look. Really look. Instead of worrying about that crabby lady wearing an American flag fanny pack behind you, trying to rush you along so she can rush along onto the gift shop, or wondering if anyone thinks you look stupid wearing red eyeglasses, or whether or not you should like the art because it’s very old or made by some famous white dude, you can give yourself over to that moment and look at an object that demands nothing from you.

Literally nothing.

If you get something from the object, it’s because you allowed yourself to see it, you allowed yourself a response. I would like to say art is for everyone, but frankly, it’s not for people too lazy or busy to peel an orange. It’s not for people who hate cats because they don’t rush at you with an abundance of love and acceptance the way dogs do. I’m sorry. Correct me if I’m wrong, please. But some people are just not wired for loving art. At most, they may appreciate a very selective and limited range of art.

While they may not be in the same boat as the rest of us, they are definitely coasting along in the same river. Movies, television, YouTube videos, video games, advertisements, magazines — an excess of media fills our everyday lives. Yet Americans are not particularly familiar with art. Two people are more likely to bond over a funny commercial on television than they are to enthusiastically talk about their experience viewing a Vermeer or Titian. That’s not a judgment call I’m making. That wouldn’t be fair. It’s easy to find yourself near a television or magazine, even if you generally avoid them. You might not like the Kardashians, but you’ve heard of them, right? Maybe even talked about them?

In the cacophony of daily life, where art may or may not be recognized, it makes words and writers, including and excluding critics, potential lightbringers to the dim. Throughout history, many writers of varying backgrounds and agendas have offered their words to art: Charles Baudelaire, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Jeanette Winterson, Donald Judd, Roberta Smith, James Elkins, and Jerry Saltz. Some artists write about their own work or include text within their work itself, such as Jenny Holzer, Tracey Emin, Christopher Wool, and Carolee Schneeman. And let’s not forget a grand, romantic, and sometimes embarrassing history of manifestos. (I’m looking at you, Futurists.)

When I first read Marlene Dumas’ writing in Suspect, an earthquake of feeling and purpose shook my body. I didn’t know I was allowed to write. (I also didn’t know that I was secretly seeking that permission.) Have you ever read Kara Walker’s writing? It’s like laughing while being stabbed. On the opposite end of the word appreciation spectrum, if you’ve read a fair amount of artist statements and writing, you’ve undoubtedly had some moments when you inwardly rolled your eyes, laughed, felt baffled, or some combination thereof. Maybe it caused you skipped the writing (and the art) altogether.

Last year Jerry Saltz visited East Tennessee State University and he talked a bit about art writing during his lecture, which I asked him to elaborate on during the following reception. He said artists can’t really be critics because we want to write in support of our friends, “not unless you can be an asshole about it”. What I forgot to ask was, “How the hell do I write at all?”

If you offer any words, they will be attached to the interpretation of your work. Even if you are writing about a boxing match and your art is safely tucked away on another website minding its own business. The writer in me has already made peace with this while the artist in me resents explanation. The writer is not concerned with how neatly the fragmented pieces line up. The artist is considering how to make entire sections disappear beneath a single, veiled image. She is already spinning a story. The writer is not interested in one story.

Art Domestic: Call to Rooms

Sitting in the passenger seat and looking out the window during one of our many trips to holiday festivities this past December, it occurred to me that homes without art in them feel foreign to me, not because I grew up around art, but because art is part of how I define Home. Every space that I have controlled, whether it’s a bedroom or an entire apartment, has art in it. A lot of it. Rooms without art in them feel inactive, almost lifeless in their complacency as kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms. This train of thought led me to consider our general expectations about art: where we expect to find it, who can possess it, how art ends up in our homes, and what we want from the art in our homes.

I’m curious about the lives of art in private residences. I’m curious about the relationships that exist between the art object and other objects. I’m curious about intended audiences and hidden away pieces. There is already Great Art In Ugly Rooms, but the art I am curious about is not necessarily “great” or “famous” or “collectible”. (And furthermore, the rooms are not necessarily ugly.)

Whenever my husband and I have looked for new apartments and the landlord finds out I’m an artist, each time they had something to show me, some painting or embroidery made by their great aunt or sister or cousin. Or a giant ceramic vase they found at a garage sale, probably made by an undergrad ceramic student. Each time they seemed a bit nervous, but also excited. Amongst piles of dirty clothes or above a carefully made bed or hung next to a print of Jesus in a plastic frame — there were these objects they identified as Art.

The enthusiasm of others is sometimes daunting. I want to like the object. I don’t want to be reduced to a stereotype. I don’t want to demean their grandmother’s fish scale collage or wife’s painting of her childhood home. I love the paintings and drawings of children, though I often don’t know what to say about them. I don’t want to appear critical of the one time this person bought art.

When I cannot appreciate the object itself, I can usually rely on appreciating what the person has to say about it. Why do they have it? Where did they get it? Why did they put it in their bathroom? Is this the first and only piece of art they’ve ever bought? Did they feel like they needed “permission” or a lot of money to own art in the first place? Did they grow up with artists or art collectors in the family? How often do they visit museums and galleries?

I want to know.

Share the art that lives in your home.

xx

I will start with myself for obvious reasons.

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This is a fragment of our living room. There used to be a lot more photographs and paintings on the wall, but we altered the space quite a lot and haven’t really “finished”.

Stephanie Streeter made the drawing in the frame during undergrad. The first time I saw it was a group student show downtown and as I looked at it, many people nearby talked about how funny it was, how much they loved it. I remember thinking that Stephanie was really getting somewhere with the dog imagery in her newest work and that graphite was her medium, where she combined poetry and banality, bodily impulse and sophistication.

Later when she had her BFA exhibition, I saw her bring the same language to painting except with the added lusciousness that oil paint offers.

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Before Stephanie moved to Cleveland, we traded artwork and this was one of the pieces I received from her. It’s still a piece of art that people often comment on when they visit. They almost seem surprised by it.

Somewhere in the next year

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
― Neil Gaiman

I don’t know where this quote came from, other than Neil Gaiman’s Good Reads page, which seems legitimate enough. Of course, I wouldn’t put it past me to intentionally share an illegitimate quote that said something I felt legitimately worth sharing.

About five or six years ago I decided I was too cool to be someone who cared about New Year’s Eve beyond wearing sparkly dresses, drinking champagne, and kissing. After all, it is just some arbitrary beginning that many of us happen to agree on, unlike the arbitrary beginnings you might set for yourself to start spending more time with your kids, eating less fast food, or saving money to travel. It’s everyone’s favorite joke, an easy punchline, to mock your own non-committal to this new year beginning.

For whatever reason this year, I am feeling a bit warm and fuzzy about the one following. I considered that maybe I just want an excuse to dress up, drink champagne, and kiss (a lot of kissing, actually), but I’m not someone who really needs an excuse for all  that. It could be a Wednesday. I don’t mind. Being honest with myself, it may just be that I am caught up in the momentum of potential (the scary and exciting kind) that myself and my loved ones appear to be experiencing for various reasons.

What I want for myself and for them is what Gaiman has expressed (or maybe didn’t express) in this quote (which is maybe not a quote). So, I won’t go so far as to make a resolution in the formal sense.

How about a wish?

And that’s how I was magically all better

Dear Body,

I realize I should just be thankful that you don’t get sick very often and that your response to stress or poor decisions (such as living off of coffee and crackers) is just a tough love wake-up call to adjust my behavior lest bigger problems emerge down the road, so first of all, let me say thank you. I appreciate your unwillingness to let me get away with behaving like a raccoon trapped in a adult woman’s body. As anyone that has ever lived with me knows, I am not very good at being a living thing. I’d be a much better unicorn, mermaid, or vampire. So, you’re ceaseless slaps on the wrist are useful.

However, I can assure you that on this particular occasion, the occasion of my seemingly endless sickness that lasted through Christmas and appears to intend to plow on through New Year’s Eve, the lesson has been learned and you can stop punishing me. I have plans, mostly work plans, but also plans that involve exercising and eating salad. A real salad. Remember how a few months ago I was thinking, ‘I want do long distance endurance racing on my bicycle so I need to turn into Sarah Connor (T2 version, obvi)’? I wasn’t kidding. This isn’t another ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to be one of those acrobatic strippers?’ moments. And you know what I can’t do when you’re making me dizzy and weak every time I try to be upright for more than 5 minutes? Ride my bicycle.

So, you can stop it now. Focus your energy elsewhere, my friend.

Love,
Jaime

Dear Jaime,

You just want to be well so you can drink and have sex. I know you.

Sincerely,
Body

Dear Vengeful God of a Body,

Yes, I will do those things. I will also take care of myself. Besides, if I can’t have sex, you can’t have sex. Don’t try to convince me that you’re asexual. Remember when I tried to convince us that we’re asexual? It didn’t work then, it’s not going to work now.

Emphatically,
Jaime

Dear She-Beast Trickster Jaime,

Fine.

Some ground rules:
1. Coffee is not breakfast. It’s also not lunch, for that matter.
2. Calling wine “PM Coffee” does not make it dinner. It’s also not funny.
3. If it comes out of a box and you can eat it with your fingers, it also doesn’t count as a meal.
3. If you’re going to eat pizza two to four times a week, at least make it at home and eat it with vegetables. (Beer does not count as a vegetable.)
4. You don’t get a free pass on eating actual meals just because you’re busy or the sink is full of dishes or you want to keep watching videos of puppies on your laptop. I know your natural inclination is to sniff around all the cabinets and the refrigerator to find some easy, quick thing you can eat while crouched on the kitchen floor like you’re in a romantic comedy about how a woman raised by wolves finds love, but you need to eat real meals made of real food. Besides, your husband thinks it’s creepy when he finds you using your hands to put leftover macaroni and cheese onto leftover pizza before stuffing the whole disaster into your stupid face at 10 AM.
5. That reminds me. Pizza is not a plate.
6. For the love of all that is holy, drink some water! You like it. You have it. Drink it.

Agreed?

Sincerely (even though you don’t deserve it),
Body

Dear Body,

Fine. Agreed. But only because I want to be Sarah Connor.

Sincerely (because we’re stuck together),
Jaime