Sunday, Genevieve decided, as part of an elaborate game of playing “bank,” that we needed a sign for “Tassava’s Bank for Northfield.” Here it is, in all its crazed but also well-punctuated splendor. The key parts are across the top – “Tassava’s” (note the apostrophe!) – and in the center “BANK” (love the N that looks like a W) – and along the bottom (“FOR NORTHFIE/LD”). The sign also includes some great extraneous letters and pseudo-words: “Bisca’s” and “ICSES” and “BSEi” and the line along the left, “STBE.”
The other day, I received an email from a “promotional services” company asking me to hire them to handle the College’s “recognition” needs. Even if I had the interest in or the authority to do such a thing, I wouldn’t hire this firm, for their email said, “Recognition doesn’t cost, it PAYS! Now more than ever, it’s crucial you keep your name in front of your donors at all times!” and offered this impressively poor sample – with photos pulled directly off the front page of the College website – of their product. It cracks me up every time I look at it.
Toward night, frail flurries of snow. Fingernails of willows scratching frost from the edges of the kitchen window where I watch the field beyond the fence where once corn was taller than a man can reach but now I gaze into the kitchen of the next farmhouse and watch the man with a bad leg hobble from sink to table to feed his mother with a spoon. I keep the lights off and study snow to augur from the flakes what fortune I may. The furnace does its duty and cars pass, swirls of flurry captured in fading prisms of red. If I stood on the road it would glow and crackle beneath my feet. The air would be muted, my own breath sounding as though it came from another body, a shadow leaning faintly toward me as though to whisper any comfort. Animals would unshelter themselves to stand waiting at the fence. Snow would settle everything. I would cup my hands, realizing I had become what it was I wanted to be. The body beside me would breathe on. The two of us.
Maybe it’s just high expectations for tomorrow’s feast, but I’m a little bit emotional right now, and I’m being pushed toward tears by discovering that it’s the tenth anniversary of the Onion’s immortal “How To Make A Hand-Turkey” instructions. sniff sniff
The graphic designer and visual artist Milton Glaser, drawing while talking about why drawing matters to him. My favorite line comes at about 2:08: “Now while people have what they need perhaps for their professional life, what they don’t have is a fundamental instrument for understanding the reality of that life.”
One of my coworkers fell ill this week. She’s already on the mend, but both girls were immensely interested in and worried about her. Being inclined to create “cowds” (as Vivi says) for any and every occasion, they both got right to work on making get well cards for her.
Julia’s card was pretty and relatively conventional (though I did have to pare back her 1,000 word essay on being sick and getting better), but Vivi’s? Whoo boy. I’m not sure that faces with stringy hair, two-color noses, and scary-clown grins will cheer anybody up very much, but on the one hand Vivi means well, and on the other hand, any illness will seem less bad than whatever happened to this guy.
Vivi – no doubt with some, but not much, help from her teachers – made this wonderful little piece of autumn art at preschool last week. What’s not to love? (It reminds me strongly of the Chicago skyline, which makes it all the better.)
Those public schools just won’t stop with the indoctrinatin’. First, they subverted American schoolkids’ liberty by making them watch the president on TV, and now they’re forcing my daughter to learn 19th-century notions of sanitation and hygiene. What next? Math?
On the plus side, I think that this “book” (as Julia calls it) suggests that Julia can look forward to a career in medical illustration. Or horror-movie director. “The GERMS! They’re on my HANDS!”
With the girls in a wonderful early-bedtime, deep-sleep groove, my evenings have become radically more open to doing something besides dealing with the awful bedtime routines of last spring and summer. (May they be gone forever, and may I forget them soon.) I can now go off and do stuff without guilt (or a penumbra of ire and exhaustion) at 7 p.m., which both makes life a lot more tolerable ad coincides nicely with the high season of activities at the colleges. Accordingly, I’m indulging, especially but not only in the evenings. Over the last month, I’ve seen one rock show at Olaf and one at Carleton, done some figure drawing at Carleton’s open modeling sessions, seen art exhibits at both Olaf and Carleton, and attended the opening artist talks of a new exhibit at Carleton’s art gallery. Over the next month, I’ll hopefully draw at more of the modeling sessions, see another concert (at Carleton this time), squeeze in some runs in the dark autumnal Arb, and try my legs at a cyclocross race at Olaf. Northfield is a good place to be right now, figuratively and literally.
I spent the evening at the artists’ talks and opening of “War Work: Artists Engage the Iraq War and Other Wars,” the new show at the Carleton art gallery. The talks were delivered by John Risseeuw, who makes paper objects to decry the epidemic of land mines (and to raise money to help victims of land mines), and Megan Vossler, who teaches at the alma mater and makes drawings based on photographs of the Iraq War. The talks were great, and the show is fantastic, too – often in a depressing, intentionally revolting way, but also full of beautiful stuff. It’s well worth a visit.
I came home one day last week to find this incredible series of drawings by Julia about how to bake a pie. The drawings are – I say with a father’s pride – wonderful, but what really knocked me out were the captions, which she sounded out by herself. Click on the images below to go to the big images on Flickr, where you can better appreciate not only each drawing but the little details she obviously worked hard to capture: the same two windows in each picture, the hearts on the kids’ pants and skirts, even the light switch (at left) and the hairdos. (I tried unsuccessfully to get her to finish coloring in the second and third pictures, but her muse had apparently fled.) “Pays careful attention to detail” will be the first bullet point on Julia’s resume.
Chopup the Frut = Chop Up the Fruit Gonup Kut the Stuf = Grownups Cut the Stuff
Micxs Up the Stuf = Mix Up the Stuff
Kids Test = Kids Taste
Big Kids Micxs = Big Kids Mix
Bak the Pie = Bake the Pie
Big Kids Woch = Big Kids Watch
On Sunday, Julia and Genevieve’s maternal grandfather, whom they call “Boppa,” was taking a long time to come downstairs for breakfast, partly because he likes to move slowly and partly because he can’t move quickly. Shannon had the brilliant idea that Julia should write up a menu for him to consult when he finally made his way downstairs. Here’s the result:
Note the drawings of Kix and Kashi and the little drawing of Boppa in the lower right, apparently overjoyed by his choices.
Any weekend which includes seeing two great art exhibits is a great weekend. Friday, I hit the Carleton Art Gallery for “In Between,” a small and beautiful show by Kelly Connole, the College’s ceramicist, and Beth Lo, who works in mixed media. Lo’s works – especially a charming book on her family’s tradition of mah-jongg – were very nice, but the show is dominated – overrun? by Connole’s ceramic rabbits, which were aw-shucks adorable until I started looking at the details that set them apart from one another: patterns cut into their backs, their eyes and faces, and especially their human hands:
The rabbits didn’t get less cute, exactly, but their cuteness receded behind considerable intelligence and quite a bit of mystery. The same thing happened, from another direction, with the black birds – crows? ravens? magpies? – that also figure prominently in the exhibit: at first they were worrisome presences, if not slightly threatening ones, but when I looked at them more closely, they revealed their variety and personalities. It was a pleasure to take another few passes around the gallery, looking again and again at the bunnies and birds – and also noticing some other startling works, such as the life-sized “birds” made from stainless steel formed to look like bolts with legs. In short: highly recommended. (The show closes on Saturday, October 17.)
and the cardboard-and-plywood “Stump #1.” Though my girls didn’t come along to the show, they would have liked the tiny “Detritus” paintings, especially the one of three stacked Cheerios. To me, though, the best piece in the show was a massive “sketch” of a pile of garbage, but actually made not from ink, paint, or even the actual garbage itself, but from sticks and twigs hotglued to the wall. It looked a lot like this, which is to say, stop-in-your-tracks striking. Again, I highly recommend the Lefkowitz show (which runs until January 10, 2010) – and the drive through the autumn prairies and woods to Rochester doesn’t stink, either.
(As someone who works with words and not images or things, I must include an aside: both David’s and Kelly’s artists statements and other texts were perfectly lucid, engaging, and interesting. I’ve “read” – or at least passed my eyes over – plenty of horrible artists’ statements, but these were the utter opposite. Every word helped me understand the art better – even the whimsical names for Kelly’s rabbits!)