Monday, April 30, 2012

Quote of the Moment #8 - On Grief

Well, this is not what I had planned.

I have not posted in over a week, mostly because I haven't known what to say. I still don't, but I feel like breaking my blog silence will do me some good. My Aunt Vickie died unexpectedly in her sleep on Sunday, April 22. She was 53 and left behind three boys, Robert, Michael and John, and her husband, my Uncle Bob. I saw her the night before she died. She wasn't even sick.*

We were shocked by the call that came on Sunday afternoon. We have remained so all week, despite attending to the practical concerns related to funeral preparations. Many words could be used to describe my family's state; grief-stricken and heart-sickened come to mind. The primary word I use to describe the past week is impossible. I have not yet grasped this absurd new reality. I don't think any of us have. We are still staggered by the loss of my aunt; her death is beyond understanding. I feel sick. I am in mourning myself, and I am also devastated for my cousins and my uncle. Thank goodness for family, the ultimate solace, and the good friends who stand strong and keep you from collapsing under the weight of unanticipated grief. The pain would be overwhelming otherwise. 

My Aunt Vickie's death was so very, very different from my Grandma's death. My Grandma died less than two years ago. Near the end, she told her children she had lived a good life and was ready to go.  Her going felt right, although we were saddened when she died and miss her still. My Aunt Vickie, on the other hand, was in her prime with so much more on her agenda. This is one of those times when you scream, "Why did this happen?", "Life isn't fair!" or "This is wrong!" And you don't really come to any easy answers.

I asked my dad how you go on, as a death like my Aunt Vickie's feels like too much to process. He said prayer and time help, and that is when and where you receive comfort and peace. Each loss provides an education, although I do not wish to learn. What have you discovered about life, people and/or yourself through grieving?


*That we knew of.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Experiments in Light & Motion

When I showed my brother these photographs, he asked me if I had ever looked at light drawings (or camera paintings). I had not, but now I have. This type of experimentation is quite old, although I discovered it independently through play and thought. As much as I wish I had originated this way of working, I did not.

That does not negate the experiment nor falsify its results. When I started working this way, I was thinking about the camera - how it allows light in over time and how the motion of the camera can distort light. Light can be smeared or dragged or pushed or pulled along with the the camera as it moves through space and time.

The camera was attached to my hand. It became an extension of my body, like any other hand tool. While working this way, I thought of the camera as a pencil or a paintbrush, and even as a hammer or a saw.

The light was the lead or the paint, the nail or the board. This is not a new analogy, but I came to it on my own through an interest in tool use, repetitive motion and mark making.

I slid my camera from side to side, I pushed it and pulled it, I wove it in and out of space, and I traced invisible patterns in the air. I even whirled like a dervish, and felt just as inspired.

I couldn't or I wouldn't sleep, as I considered new riffs - how a little more time and little less light might change the results of an unvaried movement; how a slight variation in my repetitious path might affect an unaltered exposure to light and time.

Each result led to the next set of parameters, a new Eureka!

I found scratches and smoke and squiggles and lines, even atmosphere and emotion or a digital reality.

Light filtered by by space and time, impressions made by hand with the assistance of a sighted machine. A pseudo-science made sincere through rules and regulations, computations and escalations.

If this, then that - not nearly as predictable as anticipated.

 I am excited to make marks using the camera as my drawing tool, an extended emotive roving eye taking in light and pacing through time. I may at some point reverse roles and draw with light onto the still canvas of the camera lens. 

As long as my body in motion is part of the process, I am willing to attempt the reverse - use light as a pen and time as a penetrable plane.  

What types of creative experimentation have you engaged in lately? Have you modified or developed a recipe? Have you written a story in a nontraditional format? What have you done to allow the epiphanies to flow and let the mind take you where it wants?

Alison :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sweet Birthday Present Idea

Photos taken just before I walked out the door to attend Party Central!

Thank goodness I don't usually attend two birthday parties and give three birthday presents on the same night! While celebrating friends is fun, it's stressful to make an appearance at concurrent events! When I realized I was going to have so much birthday excitement going on over this past weekend, I knew I wanted to give each birthday lady her due. I also wanted to make things easy on myself. Whenever I have presents to give, I like to think of some sort of unifying theme, such as "after work cheer" or "the color yellow." That makes gift purchasing, making or gathering an enjoyable project (prospect??) for me.

When you have multiple people to celebrate, coordinating your presents under a theme that suits all the recipients can simplify the gift-giving process even further. For my party weekend, I chose to focus on cupcakes and how they might be presented. The three girls I was celebrating adore a good cupcake, and they all appreciate a variety of serving dishes. 

I bought each friend a strawberry cupcake from Babycakes (and tried a lemon cupcake myself! It was scrumptious!), and I found each girl a dish I thought she would find appealing. You don't have to spend much money on a gift like this to make it look thoughtful and pretty. The cupcakes were under $3.00 apiece, but you could make your own to save big. I lucked out and found the mini-cake plate for under $5.00 at a thrift store, the red-orange candy dish was $25.00 (not a steal, but definitely a hit), and I found the handmade pottery piece for $15.00 at a local shop. You can go high end, low end or anywhere in between as long as the piece will please your pal... and your wallet.

A tip for giving a cupcake in a dish: glue the cupcake down. I used agave syrup to stick the cupcakes in place, but I should have used something tackier - honey or maybe even rubber cement! I'll be honest. I had a little accident with my cake plate. The cupcake rolled when I was getting out of the car. Boo! Luckily, the recipient was a good friend and didn't hold the smeared frosting against me! Ramekins or other small dishes will work the best, as far as keeping the cupcake in place. I think using a lidded dish is really cute!

What are your favorite, "I'm going to a party and need a cute gift" ideas? Anything you go back to time and again? I can definitely see myself "wrapping" cupcakes in dishware again.

Hope you're having a spectacular day!

Alison :)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Friend Conor

Goofing off in the photo booth at the recordBar.

The other day my friend Conor asked me to be a reference for a volunteer position he was applying for. I first met Conor nearly seven years ago (WOW!!) when we worked together at the Arabia Steamboat Museum in the Kansas City River Market. We originally bonded over some mutual artist friends and the band The Ssion. In fact, going to see The Ssion was our first outing together. Since then, Conor has been a constant in my life. We have even lived in the same apartment building for the past few years. In my statement, I referred to Conor as "one of the best human beings I know." This is the story I wish there had been room to include on the application:

A couple winters ago after a snowstorm had left the streets packed with snow, my car became stuck in a snowdrift on a side street in our neighborhood. I tried to wiggle my wheels, and I even put my car in neutral to try to push it into motion. The car did not budge. Nothing I tried worked, so I called Conor. I knew he had a snow shovel, and I hoped he would be home. When he answered the phone, I explained what had happened and asked if he could help me. He said yes without hesitation. A few minutes later, he appeared on foot, shovel in hand. We must have prodded, cajoled and cursed my car for 45 minutes, until my toes were popsicles and Conor sagged from the exertion of trying to free my car. While the two of us couldn't get my car to move without the added strength of some people who lived in a nearby apartment building, Conor never once acted like he had somewhere better to be that evening. Nor did he give up. That is a true friend. 

Conor is a person who would do anything for a friend, and I have called upon him on many other occasions. He has carried furniture up three flights of stairs to my apartment, has been my steady date when I haven't had another one, and he is always available for a good rant session. Thanks for taking a moment to read a little bit about what makes this hilarious, thoughtful, creative and interesting guy so special to me! And thanks, Conor, for being such a great friend!

Who are your good friends? How have they improved your life?


Alison :)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Night Senses

I hear the fan's squeaky rotation, a dog crying for his mistress, laughter from my neighbor's front porch, and the occasional car passing by.

I see inspirational quotes above my computer screen in a half-darkened room.

I feel smooth keys depress beneath my fingers and the edge of my desk cutting into my palms.

I smell pizza and long for a bite. 

I taste minty fresh residue left from my nightly teeth brushing ritual.

What are you sensing at this very moment?

Alison :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Real World

A couple spring days off work? Can life get any better!?

I'll be rejoining the real world tomorrow, but I sure enjoyed my long weekend. I spent it 1) shopping, 2) looking at art, 3) spending time with family, 4) reading, and 5) getting a pedicure.

Evan-Piccone Dress now in my closet - I know, I know. It's not exactly what I thought I was looking for, but it really suits me! Plus, black-and-white is oh, so versatile. I can add colored accessories to suit any mood or situation, not to mention this baby is washable and wrinkle-free!

1) My mom, sister and I went shopping for Easter dresses/spring staples on Friday. We all found some springy wardrobe updates, and my sister and I both found Easter dresses. Because the one I found (a really pretty American Living dress) was dry clean only, my mom and I went back out on Saturday, where I found a more user-friendly dress. Yay for dresses that are washable and don't wrinkle! Looking for dresses can be trying, so I am grateful I found more than one option! 

My cousin really enjoyed Jennifer Onofrio's work on display at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art. Her work is gorgeous and inspires me, too. Above: The Space Between, 2010, Silver gelatin print with ink, 38 3/4 in. x 27 3/4 in. x 3 1/2 in.

2) On Friday night, my sister and I took my 16-year old cousin Robert to his first First Friday. I felt really good about introducing him to the modern art world. Oddly, enough, there were lots of skulls and skeletons featured in the exhibitions we saw. This was great, because that is one of Robert's favorite art subjects. After we walked around taking in all the art, we treated Robert to dinner at Rosedale Bar-B-Q. Rosedale's been around since 1934, but it was our first time. The meat was divine (especially the pulled pork), although the sauce was a little spicy for me. The baked beans also had a little kick, which I liked. All in all, I think Robert had a good time. It's hard to read teenage boys.  

I felt a great deal of responsibility while sharing art with Robert. My goal is to impress upon people, and especially young people, the value of art in and to our society. If more people grow up learning and believing art is meaningful, then art programs will be valued even when things get tough economically. Maybe. Hopefully.

Easter Eggs!

3) I stayed with my parents over the weekend. I always feel recharged after spending time with them. It's true, there's no place like home. I also saw all my cousins on Easter Sunday. After a really thought-provoking church service, we drove down to my cousins' home in Raymore, MO. They live on Silver Lake, and they know how to throw a party. We had good conversation, a delicious potluck and an Easter egg hunt. Growing up, we always collected candy during our Easter egg hunts, but my cousins fill their eggs with money... Aaaaand, I am still considered a "kid." Maybe I'll be one until I have kids of my own?? Or perhaps until I have a few noticeable wrinkles? 

Enjoyable read.

4) I have made it about a quarter of the way through The Girl Who Played with Fire, the follow-up to Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I am really enjoying the series. It's dark. It's suspenseful. It is filled with intriguing and "human" characters. The first book hinted at Lisbeth Sander's disturbing past, and in the second book we begin to learn how and why Lisbeth is who she is. From reading the book jacket, I know there's another large-scale mystery or two to untangle. As soon as I finish here, I am going back to reading!

5) My mom treated me to a pedicure today. What more can I say? Thanks for the luxury-treatment, Mom! Now, my feet are fit to be seen (but no pics to prove it).

How do you fill your time off of work? What do you do to treat yourself when you have a few days of your own?

Alison :)

Friday, April 6, 2012

100th Post!!

Pretty wildflowers in the park across the street from my office. Perfect for a great day!
Hi, all! Woo! I'm writing my 100th post today! Thank you all for reading along!! I truly appreciate you guys for taking an interest in my various outings and inner workings!  Blogging has been a tremendously satisfying creative outlet for me, and knowing you guys are here keeps me at it. Thank you!

In addition to reaching my 100th post, I have the next four days off work! As you can imagine, I'm feeling pretty good right now. I am operating in vacation mode. Let this post reflect that! My mom, sister and I are going shopping tomorrow, and I am hoping to find a fun springy dress or two. Maybe something like this -

Donna Morgan dress. I love the bold shape and its off-center placement.
or this -

Mango maxi dress. Ooh, Impressionistic Easter egg-like!

I don't know what I'll find, and that's part of my anticipation. All I know is I will be coming home with something, hopefully something I can wear on Easter Sunday.

In other style-related news, my friend Chalanna turned me on to soak-off gel nail polish when we recently treated ourselves to manicures. I have had this nail-do for a week, and my hot pink nails still look perfect and shiny. I am hard on my hands and tend to use my nails as tools, so this is pretty thrilling. In fact, tonight I did a ton of dishes.  Dish-washing normally damages my manicure, but my nails didn't suffer a bit. My hands, however, are a little dry.

Here's the major difference between a regular manicure and a manicure using soak-off gel nail lacquer: between each layer of polish, you briefly place your hand into a little dryer where ultraviolet light cures the nail polish to a hard finish. This is the creepy part of the process. That and the fact you have to soak the color off with acetone for 15 minutes or so. For special occasions or an occasional treat, though, I am in. This nail color makes me feel like a grownup and a professional. Chipping nail polish looks tacky, and gel nail lacquer makes me look a lot less lazy about my nails than I actually am! Oh, and because it looks so nice, I am not at all temped to peel it off, which I know is bad, bad, bad for one's nails. 

I like to get at least one pedicure in the spring to scrub away the winter, but I haven't had one yet this year. Maybe that will happen this weekend... Have you had your first mani-pedi of the season yet?   More importantly, do you have any hot tips on cute spring dresses? Cuz I'm on the hunt!

Alison :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April Showers

I'll take it!! Find this outdoor shower and much more at the awesome EMMAS DESIGNBLOGG.
I think of showering as a workaday necessity that isn't nearly as much fun as making art, blogging, watching tv, talking on the phone, reading a book, or anything else I might be doing while hanging around the house. Thus, I try to put it off for as long as possible (which isn't saying much - my hair is too greasy to skip washings, so the shower is completely unavoidable). Although I hate dragging myself away from whatever fun thing I'm doing just to go wash away the day, once I'm actually in the shower, my opinion changes drastically. It is so hard not to fall under the spell of running water. It heals. It cleanses. It feels pretty darn good. This is how I feel when I'm actually standing under the flow:

Yes, showering is truly a workaday romance. It doesn't matter whether the water is cool or hot or if the flow caresses or pummels; the shower seduces me from the moment I FINALLY step into the stream until the last drops of water swirl down the drain. I really do love to shower, no matter what I say! What have-to do you enjoy even though it strikes you as something you could skip altogether to reserve time for other undertakings? Cuz, you know, there's never enough time in the day...

Alison :)

P.S. And, yes, I sing in the shower loudly and gloriously! I won't say obnoxiously!!