July 31, 2007

DO NOT REJECT THE MYSTERY

A regular stop for me each time I'm in Houston is The Menil Collection. I am always curious to see what interesting exhibit they're featuring, but I really go there to walk through the rooms of their permanent collection of Surrealist works. The bulk of their collection consist of paintings by Rene Magritte. I have always loved Magritte's work--his witt, the confidence of his brush, his use of text--but his paintings are absolutely magical in person.

As luck would have it, the Museum of Fine Arts was exhibiting a few works by Magritte, as well. And alongside his painting The Promise, was a quote:

People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image...By asking "What does this mean," they express a wish that everything be understandable. But if one does not reject the mystery, one has quite a different response. One asks other things. ~Magritte

DON'T FORGET ABOUT PINO AND HIS PIE

You can learn about Pino's Pie right here, and you can support his efforts by going here.

TEN THOUSAND THINGS THAT BREATHE

During my visit to Houston, I, of course, carved out some time to visit the Museum of Fine Arts. It seems all anyone could talk about was the new exhibit, Red Hot: Asian Art Today From the Chaney Family Collection. It was a pretty interesting collection of work. Most of all, though, it was sensational (in the political sense) and quite a coup for the MFAH, since it seems that people--primarilly young people--were flocking to see the show. I have to say, anything that gets young people flocking to a museum is a good thing.

But as I walked through the quieter halls of the older and less in-your-face Carolyn Weiss Law wing of the museum, I stumbled upon something wonderful: a hall of recent acquisitions to the drawing collection. Featured there were two drawings by Renato Orara. One was of an open matchbook; the other one was of the top of a paper sack. Both drawings were small in scale (they looked like the were torn out of a sketchbook, actually) and were done in ballpoint pen. It was as if the pen hardly touched the paper at all, yet there was such detail. They took my breath away. The drawings happen to be from Orara's ongoing series, Ten Thousand Things That Breathe.

The Andrea Rosen Gallery offers a wonderful description of Orara's work:

For over a decade, Renato Orara's medium has been ballpoint pen on a small piece of paper; depicted is a single item. Similar to the Zen meditation that he has studied, his artistic practice is an exercise in contemplation – both in the time each piece takes to make and for the viewer. Though his subject matter is uncomplicated – a vegetable, a toy, a tool – his interest and the outcome has its own transcendent reality. The definition of the object represented is secondary to the many associations that Orara's drawings conjure, due to what the object is or, more simply, the shape that it is. Attended to with results similarly seen in scientific renderings, Orara's deft and meticulous touch nods to the historical role of documentation that drawing has occupied. However, because of his unapologetically compulsive execution and his choices of subject and placement the whole is very much outside of science and quite emotional in effect.

For Orara, meaning comes from the act of rendering an object; the object itself carries no meaning. The untitled drawing of a block of uncooked Ramen noodles above is certainly a wonderful example of this. I can see how Orara could get lost in the details of creating this image.

For me, though, objects carry with them a history--a collection of stories--and it's these stories that I am trying to bring to life in my Portraits of Objects series. While I love Orara's drawings, he can keep his noodles.

The drawing featured here is from Paris Art. More of Orato's work can be seen at the OSP Gallery.

VISITORS WELCOME

This petite little butterfly paid me a visit in my studio over the weekend. He sat right there on my work table for what seemed like forever. At about half-past-forever I decided to take pictures of him. He was a pretty active fellow, but he stayed in the vicinity of this old Altoids tin that holds some choice paper scraps. I think, though, he was really interested in the cut paper below the tin and for obvious reasons. He didn't seemed disappointed to learn that the flowers that tempted him to the table were made of paper, though. In fact, he seemed all the more intrigued. He has good taste, my butterfly friend.

I'm heading out of town once again, so the blog will be quiet for a few days. Still, I plan to make a few posts before I hit the road. Happy reading and thanks, as always, for visiting.

July 30, 2007

GO AHEAD


Add a cone. You know you want to. Mine's going to be chocolate.

Taken in Houston, Texas, in front of the James Coney Island on Shepherd Drive.

Yum.

July 26, 2007

LOVE FOR PINO'S PIE

Fairly recently, while spending some time over on Abby Creek Art, I learned about a blog called Donkey Dreams & Pino's Pie. You may not know that I am in love with donkeys, but you certainly know that I love pie. It was natural, then, for me to become instantly obsessed with Donkey Dreams & Pino's Pie. What's more, though, is that Pino, a donkey, and his friend, artist Katherine Dunn, have big dreams of bringing happiness and pie to everyone. They've created an outreach program, with Pino as president and a platform of pie for all.

Katherine, Pino, and I have become fast friends. In support of them and their efforts, I'm offering some of my very own pie photographs for sale in my etsy shop as a fundraiser for their venture. 100% of the sales will go directly to Pino's Pies. Please check out their site and consider buying some original Amy Art to offer your support. If nothing else, go bake a pie and share it with someone.

Your friend in pie,
Amy

AMY ART IN EDIBLE LOWCOUNTRY MAGAZINE

Edible Lowcountry is a Charleston-based magazine that celebrates local foods in the Lowcountry area. My friend and colleague, Sheri Castle, was recently awarded the Edible Communities Award for her short story "Cornbread Communion." I was asked to illustrate Sheri's story for the magazine.

I'm not asked to do illustrations like this very often. Usually, people are interested in my photographs. I do love doing this kind of work, though. To me, a hand-drawn image feels much more personal and specific than a photograph. Or maybe it's just because I was collaborating with a friend in some small way. Cornbread communion, indeed.

July 25, 2007

BACK ON MISSISSIPPI SOIL

Whoo-wee, Texas was a whirlwind. And there was lots of barbecue. It'll take a few days for me to recover from it all. Thank goodness for our garden!

Terribly sorry the blog was quiet while I was on the road. I had every intention to continue making daily posts but well, my good intentions got away from me. The barbecue--and the tacos and the friends and the beer--took over. Thanks to those of you who still stopped by and said hello while I was gone.

Now that Made in Mississippi is back in Mississippi, I'll be posting to my heart's content. I have donkeys to talk about and pie and art and the homestead and oh-so much more. Stay tuned.

It's good to be home.

July 17, 2007

MORE CAKE

You can never have too much cake, right? Or pie, of course. Well, I just had some of the most wonderful coconut cake, ever. So good, in fact, that it might rival some of my favorite pies.

I'm in Houston--my hometown, by the way--to see my mama, of course, but to document bbq, too. I'm collecting more fieldwork for The Southern BBQ Trail. Today, I interviewed Jerry Pizzitola of Pizzitola's Bar-B-Que, one of of the oldest bbq joints still in operation in Space City. Mr. Jerry gave me a great interview. His mama bakes a killer coconut cake. Not only is the cake moist and the icing fabulously coconutty, but the thing is filled with pineapple curd. Wow.

Speaking of cake, here's a picture of the red velvet cake I baked last weekend. Unfortunately, I don't have a photo of the finished cake, only one of it during the icing stage. It's quite a cake, though, no? Two rounds + two squares + a ton of icing = this layered beauty.

Again, speaking of cake, I did this painting entitled Eat Cake about five years ago. As you might be able to tell, it's a self-portrait of sorts. Actually, I now consider the image of the cake more of a self-portrait than that two-headed monster beneath it. It's hard for me to look at this painting anymore and yet, I'm sharing it with you. And I've held onto it because, well, it reminds me of my wedding.

Three years after I created Eat Cake, I married my husband. I wore a green dress with a bodice of embroidered flowers, and we had red velvet cake at the reception. It was a completely unconscious incarnation of this painting. And actually, my husband had to point out the eerie similarities. It's like the painting was a vision of my future. Stranger things have happened, I suppose. But I do like those full-circle moments. I haven't worn the dress again, but I sure have been eating cake.

July 15, 2007

I LOVE PIE

But yesterday I made a cake--a red velvet cake for a friend's engagement party. And while I was mixing the batter, I realized that the vision before me was a combination of two of my very favorite colors.


This color combination inspired my outfit for the party: a turquoise dress with my favorite necklace. And then at the party, we ate the red velvet cake on blue plates. Inspiration everywhere!

All day I couldn't help but think about this painting I did a couple of years ago, "Superior." It was inspired by some tomatoes from our garden, nesting in a collection of turquoise bowls in our kitchen. It was also inspired by the glorious collection of vivid color combinations we witnessed on our honeymoon in Xcalak, Mexico, hence the Superior reference.

The party was super fun, the cake a hit, and the painting, well, it sold. But how 'bout that mixer? They just don't make them like that anymore.

And now, I think, it's time to make a pie.

July 11, 2007

MY FATHER-IN-LAW, THE BILLBOARD PAINTER

My father-in-law, Nelson Streeter, was a very talented man. He was an artist, designer, sign painter, and creator of billboards. Back when billboards (and signs) were painted by hand, of course. Imagine.

Kurt traveled to Syracuse, New York, about two years ago to visit Nelson when he was in a hospital there. He came home with a photo album of his father’s work. There’s some incredible stuff in there. The sheer size the billboards just blows me away, but I am also amazed by the confidence in Nelson’s brush and the detail he was able to achieve on such a large scale. The photograph above is of Nelson painting in his workshop. The photo below is one of his finished billboards.

Nelson passed away a few months after Kurt’s visit. I never met Nelson, but I feel I know him through his paintings.

They just don’t make them like they used to.

July 10, 2007

WHIRLIGIGS MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY

Except for maybe this man. He looks so dour. But he is a maker of whirligigs, so maybe his holds his happiness on the inside. I am terribly sorry to say, though, that I do not know this man's name. My mom took this picture before (or maybe after?) she purchased the whirligig he happens to be holding (somewhere in northern California of all places) as a gift for Kurt and me. The photo below is a close-up of said gig of whirl. We are thrilled. This is one talented man. He has certainly made us happy. And so have you, Mom. Thanks!

I don't know if y'all know that Vollis Simpson is the undisputed King of Whirligigs. His work is incredible.

All of this whirligig talk also reminds me of a folk artist from Georgia, R. A. Miller. I had the pleasure of visiting his home and studio way back in about 1992. Whirligigs were everywhere. I left with one of his well-known Blow Oskar figures. I've always regretted that I did get a red devil. But then again, devils don't make people happy, do they?

July 9, 2007

Z IS FOR ZINNIA

One of our flower beds is chock full of zinnias right now (photo below). Fortunately or unfortunately, they're all the same color. I don't mind, though, because I happen to like this coral color very much. Lucky me, since I had no idea what color they'd be when I planted the seeds.

When the zinnias made themselves known, I remembered a drawing of some zinnias that I did in a sketchbook a couple of years ago (photo above). We've grown zinnias just about every year. I love how sturdy and colorful and filled with personality they are. And I love how I gave this vase of zinnias a little monogram, much like Laverne De Fazio's "L." Milk and Pepsi, though, that's another story.

July 8, 2007

A LITTLE PRINTMAKING PROJECT

Part of my time in the studio yesterday was spent making tags for my etsy shop (tags to go on sold prints, that is). I made fifty of them. That's 200 hand-stamped "s"s and 100 "m"s. That's also fifty slices of hand-drawn pie. If I could have fifty slices of actual pie before me, I would be a happy girl.

GARDEN UPDATE: MORE SQUASH

We harvested more squash this morning: one ball and acorn. I'd never had one ball squash before this year's garden, but I'm now officially hooked. This stuff tastes like it grows with a stick of butter inside.

The photograph of the squash looks all soft-focus because, when I took my camera out into the Mississippi heat from inside our comfortably air-conditioned house, the lens fogged--one of those happy accidents that makes for an interesting image. And the resulting photograph reminds me of one of my favorite paintings.

I've blogged about Juan Sanchez Cotan before. He painted the the still life above, Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, in 1602. You can find out more about him here.

Perhaps there's a painting of squash in my future.

July 6, 2007

FREE GIFT WRAP WITH PURCHASE

Good news: I've experienced my very first etsy sale, which, I must say, is a pretty exciting thing. It's kind of thrilling to put all of that vintage Amy Art out there and actually have people respond to it. And it definitely feels good to share the Amy Art love.

So with the etsy sales comes the creative challenge--opportunity, really--of how to pack the prints for mailing. I am a big fan of wrapping and tagging and labeling and tying and all of that, so this was a welcome task. The challenge is, though, to come up with a method--a style of wrapping that can serve me for my entire etsy existence. I think I came up with something cheery, yet utilitarian, which is what I decided I needed to be shooting for. And, as an added bonus, every package gets an extra little happy or, as my friend Katy would call it, a sercy. The photo above is a just a little hint of the whole kit and caboodle. Fun stuff.

When I think about wrapping and art and prints, I can't help but think about Christo. If you're not familiar with his work, he wraps entire islands and buildings and things. His installations are, in a word, impressive. But I'm more a fan of his drawings and prints. They're much more accessible, obviously, but they also show process and the evolution of an idea. The lithograph below is entitled "Wrapped Bottles and Cans" and is from 1958, the year he began wrapping objects. His first large scale public project was in 1961: Project for the Wrapping of a Public Building.

I think I'll stick to wrapping prints.

July 5, 2007

PATTERNS & PICKLES

Here I go with the "p"s again....

Kurt and I spent part of yesterday turning our bounty of homegrown cucumbers into pickles--ten quarts of pickles, to be exact. That's a lot of pickles. And we had a lot of fun canning them. I'm a process-oriented person to begin with, so the pickling thing is right up my alley. First, there was the harvest, then the cleaning, the slicing (by hand, mind you), the soaking in pickling lime, the preparation of the spices, the sterilizing, and--my favorite part--the filling of the jars. As I placed each little green disc inside a jar, I couldn't help but think that I should be trying to create some kind of pattern in pickles. My thoughts quickly turned to art made in jars.

A couple of years ago I happened to catch an episode of The Antiques Roadshow that featured an appraisal of a sand painting in a bottle. It was the most intricate, beautiful, and odd thing I'd ever seen. Turns out that it was made by a man named Andrew Clemens. The bottle pictured above is an example of his handiwork. Born in Iowa in 1857, Clemens began making these bottle paintings , using homemade tools and sand from a local river bed, while he was a student at a school for the deaf. He obviously mastered his technique. You can see more of his incredible work here. By the way, because he made so very few, his bottles now fetch tens of thousands of dollars.

Painting with sand is, of course, an ancient art that is practiced in many different cultures: Native Americans create sand paintings, as do Tibetan monks and Australian Aborigines to name a few. The beautiful image below is from the late 19th century and shows a Hopi sand painting that was created inside a sacred kiva.

















I don't think I'd ever reach this level of craft with a jar of pickles. A girl can dream, though.

July 4, 2007

OPEN 24 HOURS
























My etsy shop is officially open. Stop on in for original etchings, linoleum cuts, lithographs, and silkscreens that were, ahem, not made in Mississippi but Baltimore. While it’s a pretty schizophrenic portfolio of work—so may styles and images and ideas!—it’s also a rare peek into my former life as a printmaker. I hope you get a kick out of it all and maybe—just maybe—decide to collect some vintage Amy Art.

If you head on over that way, you’ll notice that there are only six prints in the shop at the moment. I plan on adding new things daily so keep checking back.

Thanks, in advance, to anyone who points their browser to Made in Mississippi on etsy. Happy looking!

ART & MUSIC

Some musician friends of ours, Gloria Edwards (vocalist) and Nelson Mills (trumpeter & arranger), drove all the way from Houston, Texas, to spend the 4th of July with us in here in Mississippi. They are truly some of my very favorite people. Not only are they both super talented, but they are great, great friends. We absolutely loved having them here.

One of the many highlights of their visit was when Nelson played his trumpet in our living room. What a moment.

Another memorable moment happened when we were sitting on the front porch, playing cards. Nelson started talking about how you have to know the arrangement--the musical foundation--before you can start improvising. And I mentioned that it's the very same with art: you have to know about form and line and color before you can even approach abstraction. A very interesting conversation, indeed.

Music was a very big part of my life, when I lived in Houston. I spent many a weeknight sitting in dark jazz clubs, listening to folks like Gloria and Nelson do their thing. In Mississippi, though, live jazz is a rare bird. Blues and bluegrass abound. So it was especially nice to have Gloria and Nelson here, listen to her sing, listen to him play, and pour through all of my jazz CDs, comparing notes and making copies of things that they didn't have. I've got the music in me all over again. And I feel a painting coming on, too.

July 2, 2007

PIGEONS & PEARS
























As you may or may not know, I have a BFA in printmaking. I haven't made a print in years. Sure, there's been the occasional linoleum cut Christmas card or wedding invitation detail but nothing more. When you graduate with a degree in printmaking, the press—and the chemicals and the plate cutter and handy drying racks—stay behind. Another thing that is true when you graduate with a degree in printmaking is that you amass reams of prints. That's the thing with the craft of making prints: you work in editions, so there's always at least ten of everything. Like I said, reams of prints.

My project this holiday weekend has been to create an inventory of all of my prints, scan them, and work towards opening an etsy shop from which to sell them. I've been sitting on this work for years—twelve to be exact—hording it as a testament to my life as a printmaker. I’ve found that this unruly collection of prints has turned into a scrapbook of sorts—a history of influences and experiences. But now I am ready to share them. They should be shared. They should have lives of their own.

I'm still scanning an organizing and—the best part—revisiting my life in a printmaking studio in Baltimore: my first etching, those pesky lithographs, my favorite silkscreen. The print I've featured here, "Pigeons & Pears," is a linoleum cut I did while spending a semester abroad in Cortona, Italy. I think I did some of my best work there. And today, as I uploaded this image, I was struck by the similar sensibility found in today's Painting of the Week, the alliteration in the titles, especially (what is it about the letter "p"?). But there's something there that connects these two images for me. Part of it has to do with place. Part of it is process. Something else speaks to food. Most of all, though, I think it has something to do with that sketchbook idea.

Like Ethel Wright Mohammed, I create images that document—however abstractly—specific moments and experiences. Instead of putting together an album of photographs, I create art. Which is ironic, considering the fact that I am a documentarian, too. My professional world revolves around the photographic image. I suppose my art is a more private, personal expression. And it happens to be filled with the letter "p."

GARDEN UPDATE: OUR NEW SCARECROW

Meet our new garden bouncer, Jethro. He moved in yesterday. We haven't had any undesirables in the garden yet, but the tomatoes are starting to blush, so we thought it wise to take precautionary measures. So far, so good.