Sunday, August 16, 2015

best. saturday. ever.

Last Friday night around 10:45 we decided to take a shot at one last beach day before school starts back.  So we got the kids up really early Saturday and told them we had a surprise for them.  They guessed every fun thing they could think of and remained baffled until we crossed the Cooper River on I-526.  

 Then they shouted for joy for the next 4 1/2 hours on the beach at the Isle of Palms.

 We made the last sand skull of summer, jumped the last waves of summer, found the last seashells of summer and got the last mild sunburns of summer.

 In addition to seashells, we also found a cool bracelet in the sand and then we found a cool pair of sunglasses buried inside a tidal pool.

 The sky was beautiful.  The temperature was in the 80s and there was a wonderful breeze all day.  It was perfect.

 After we shook all the sand off that we could, we made our way to our favorite seafood shack on Shem Creek.  We ate great food and watched dolphins play right outside the window.  Then, right as we finished eating, we saw a West Indian Manatee breach right in front of us.  Until Saturday, I was unaware that we had manatees in SC.  Very cool.

 Then we walked around Charleston like you do when you are in Charleston.

The kids were in shock all day.  They could not make sense of going to the beach for one day.  They were thankful and ecstatic.  

It's been a great summer.  We are all thankful and ecstatic.

Time for school.

Friday, August 14, 2015

the summer of waterfalls: installment 4.5 or how goofing off with my family led to a better artist statement

We had another art delivery in Greenville this week and with we couldn't resist the opportunity to walk around Falls Park and hike a little of the Swamp Rabbit Trail while we were in town.  We added Reedy River Falls to our waterfall list earlier in the summer but if you follow the river around the corner there's a nice little second waterfall ledge to enjoy.  

 It's at least worth counting as a half waterfall, though it's just as impressive as some we traveled to see this summer.  That puts us at 30.5 waterfalls so far this summer.

After a good walk and some time taking in the beauty, we grabbed some cold drinks and made our way to the Greenville County Museum of Art.  The GCMA has always been a favorite of mine.  My oldest brother took me there to see the Andrew Wyeth collection way back when I was a teenager.  The Wyeths are pretty much always on exhibit there somehow or another and they are as welcome a sight as an old friend.  These classic, realist paintings are usually well balanced with some really old stuff and a healthy dose of contemporary art.  We went a few months back and spent some time with Jasper Johns.  Jasper was present in the current exhibits as well and he was joined by William H. Johnson, Dave the slave potter, Yoko Ono, Eric Fischl and the kids' favorite, Ron Rozzelle.  They've even opened up new gallery space upstairs and I was thrilled to see my friend Diane Kilgore Condon's exhibit in the "Local Talent" gallery.  Admission is free and Greenville is one of the coolest towns around so I highly recommend you go see this museum any time of year.

I don't know any artists who enjoy writing an artist statement.  The artist statement is a necessary evil in the life of an artist.  If done well, it provides an honest glimpse into the mind of the artist as they create their work.  It declares the intention of the artist.  It answers the "why do I do this?" question that every artist has to answer for themselves.

Visual artists, however, are not writers.  We make artistic things much better than we arrange words on a page.  (See this entire blog for evidence.)  In fact, our relationship with words is a very tense relationship anyway.  Most of us feel that words are constricting.  They fit us and our purpose like a tight wool sweater, all itchy and gross.  Most of us probably agree that if words were adequate in expressing our ideas we would just spend our time typing instead of drawing.  Still, we are forced by galleries and exhibitors to wrangle some words together as a means of clarifying our purpose.  

This summer I've entered tons of shows and exhibits and most of those required an artist statement.  I fully believe that brevity is my friend in this endeavor but even so, I found myself trying to edit my old statement down to few enough words to fit the listed requirements this summer.  As I wrestled with what to leave in and what to leave out, I really started to question the accuracy of my words.  I started to see that it was time for a new declaration of my artistic intent.  Of course this was terrifying because the last thing I want to do in summer is write about my art.  And while I spent a good portion of my summer making new things, I have this general feeling that I did a lot of goofing off with my family this summer.  (See this entire blog for evidence.)  I was thinking about this one night while lying in bed and I started to see things from a different perspective.

As the full time summer babysitter, I'm not content to keep the kids busy or out of my way.  Because I'm also a parent, I feel the burden of responsibility to help my kids become good people, good citizens of the world.  The whole waterfall idea was more than just taking the kids to cool places.  It was rooted in the need to help my children learn to see and appreciate beauty.  I can certainly see both sides of this when we go.  We walk the trails and listen for the growing sound of rushing water.  Sometimes the kids can't hear it over their own chatter.  We walk and watch for every example of wildlife.  Sometimes the kids are too busy jumping to notice.  We stand in front of a divinely beautiful free fall of water and we feel the cool rush of wind on our faces.  Sometimes the kids cant really see it because they just want to eat a snack.

I've finally learned that it's all beautiful.  The sounds of nature, the wildlife, the waterfalls AND the chatter, the jumping and the snacks.  Heck, there was even beauty in the nasty little motion sickness incident.  Each place, each moment was beautiful.  

My hope is that Blue and Violet will remember The Summer of Waterfalls fondly when they are adults.  I'm realizing, though, that it may not be the waterfalls we all remember most.  Perhaps the things that will stick with us are the sweaty uphill conversations about Legos.  Or the seemingly natural way Violet gets out of the truck and grabs for my hand as she walks.  It might even be sharing the beauty of a peanut butter and jelly and some cookies on a big rock while talking about flatulence.

These are not the things I plan for us when I lay out a waterfall trip.  Yet, without these things each waterfall would be completely meaningless.  These common, ordinary moments have a transformative affect on me, on us all.

I clumsily tapped out a rough draft that night in bed on my phone.  I corrected and sured up those ideas in the weeks since and while I may not have finished a new sculpture or drawing in several weeks, I did manage to finish the new artist statement.

 Artist Statement 2015

My work attempts to find beauty among the ordinary.
Working with common materials like plywood or steel, I seek to use those materials as transmitters of sublime concepts, mirroring the idea that ordinary people can be transmitters of sublime actions.  Using everyday moments and experiences as a starting point, I strive to highlight their uncommon beauty and draw attention to the possibility of their transformative teaching.

Violet and Blue at the GCMA

Thursday, August 6, 2015

the summer of waterfalls: fourth installment

Summer is slipping away.  The kids go back to school and regular life schedules in just over a week.  The Summer of Waterfalls will have to wrap up soon.  

But we will go out with a bang, not a whimper.

This week I used my waterfall guidebook and my map skills to locate several waterfalls in one area.  We have to drive a considerable distance now so we needed to make the most of our gas money.  I located 6 near Brevard, NC, got the kids up early, made some lunches and we headed out on a long adventure.  The adventure was made even more adventurous by two tiny disasters that happened during the day.  The first disaster didn't wait long to spring on us.  

I cut 30 minutes off our travel time by driving up Hwy 276 through Caesar's Head.  The road literally climbs a mountain through a series of switchbacks.  G and I both get queasy on curvy roads unless we are driving.  The kids are always fine.  Since G had to work, I took the curvy road.  About a mile from the top of the mountain and the picturesque overlook, I heard that sound from the backseat.  If you're a parent, you know the sound.  If you're not a parent, man oh man, you will get to know the sound when you have kids.  It was the sound of your child throwing up inside your car.  

It's always a little different but you know it instantaneously each time.  There's no mistaking the sound of puke on your upholstery.  

G and I talked about it afterwards and as best we can remember, Violet has yakked only three times in her life.  Two of those three times she has managed to yak inside my truck.  I guess I'm just lucky that way.  

 I'm not good with puke.  I figure no one is.  But we definitely needed to stop at the overlook to regain our senses.  And to clean up in a sink because I'm not smart enough to take my kids a change of clothes.  When the kids get wet on these outings, there are always towels in my truck to sit on.  Those towels got an early workout with the "incident".  Ever the problem solver, I proposed that Violet bathe in a waterfall and we'd get her all cleaned up so no one would know she had vomit on her shorts.  Off we went to the first waterfall of the day.

 Connastee Falls was tall and impressive, but I object to viewing waterfalls from the top.  You have to be able to look up to them for the full majestic effect.  This one is only viewable now from the very fenced in observation deck.  The kids were not impressed.  They're sorta waterfall experts now and this one just didn't deliver what they need.

 A short ride later we were in Dupont State Forest.  Our first waterfall hike was a short one to Hooker Falls.  This was my first visit to Dupont and I was surprised by how crowded it was.  The parking lot was so full we had to lurk for a space.  The short hike to Hooker Falls was easy enough for everyone so this place was teeming with humans.  

There were millions of signs posted asking people to not climb the waterfall and I'm trying to teach my kids to respect nature and the reasonable posted rules, so we stayed back at the swimming/wading area.  There were plenty of rocks there and lots of shallow water to keep Blue and Violet happy.  This was when tiny disaster number 2 occurred.  Blue lost his balance jumping from rock to rock and went horizontal in the shallow water.  He recovered quickly but I think he only managed to keep a small spot on his shoulder dry.  His pants, hair, and 90% of his shirt were soaked.  He came up laughing and walked over to me and that's when I noticed the rectangular box with rounded edges in his pants pocket.  He forgot to leave his iPhone in the truck when we got out to hike.  (No, my 8 year old does not have a cell phone.  He inherited my old iPhone a year ago and it works for him like an iPod Touch.)  He lost his laugh quickly and the sadness started.  I put the phone in my dry pocket and told him to say goodbye to it.  

 But there were more waterfalls to see and miles to go before we drove home.  So we set out on a longer hike to Triple Falls.  Those are the three different waterfalls that make up Triple Falls and you can walk out to each one at the three different levels.  Still a lot of humans, but plenty of room to move around and play in the water.

 We stopped at the middle one and carefully and slowly ate our lunch.  

Our dessert was this beauty, High Falls.  This one was much farther up the trail but very worth the hike.  It's a huge waterfall in height and width and there are enough rocks to climb on for days.  It is viewable from a distance but you can also walk along the rocks around the edge of the river right up to the base of the falls.

 The water was refreshingly cool.

 They both got to put their heads under the waterfall.

 Blue found this great little relaxing spot.

 We had hiked about 5 miles at this point.  In the parking lot before we left, I happened across another roadside waterfall in my guidebook.  It was only three miles away.  We had to find it while we were there.  So three miles down a dirt road turned into 10 miles.  We missed it.  But we drove so far, we made it to a different waterfall that I did not plan to visit.  Lake Cascade Dam Falls.  The falls are created by a dam so I wasn't going to put it on our list, but since it was right outside our windows, I stopped and tried to find a good view through the trees.  The kids were not up for climbing down the steep embankment for a better view and I probably couldn't have kept them both safe doing that anyway, so this photo will have to do.

 We saw this thing nearby.  No idea.

And since we are not easily deterred in our adventures, we opted to make a 7 point turn on the narrow dirt road and backtrack until we found Merry Falls.  It was a quiet but impressive little waterfall by the road.  The 8 waterfalls we added on this trip puts our total up to 30 waterfalls so far.

Back home and thoroughly showered, we pulled out Blue's phone and pressed the button.  It came on.  It's perfectly fine.  I know tons of people who have submerged their phones ever so briefly and every single phone has died as a result.  Now, every one but one.

Monday, August 3, 2015

summer visit to columbia museum of art

The Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia, SC has done a nice job in recent years of bringing in good exhibits of well known artists.  I drag the family there a couple of times a year and one of those visits is usually during the summer when I'm on full time kid-duty.  It's pretty reasonable to take Blue and Violet, financially speaking, and if you take them to Bojangles they'll put up with whatever "educational" or "cultural" event I force them to do.  

The current exhibit is a collection of screenprints by Andy Warhol.  A famous artist, recognizable works and brilliant colors - what's not to like about that?  We've been looking for the right opportunity to go this summer and since we had to drive back through Columbia on our return from St. Augustine, we figured this was it.

Blue and Violet are lucky enough to have seen more Warhol prints in person than most of my college students.  They were familiar with the faces and the colors but they still learned a great deal on this trip.

 That's a photo of Andy back in the day.  

The exhibit was divided up by category.  These prints of Muhammad Ali lined one wall of the sports/athletes gallery.

 This was one of my favorites.  It's a portrait of artist Joseph Beuys, a sculptor and performance artist.  He served in the German Luftwaffe during World War II and was shot down in 1944.  He developed a very interesting story about how he survived and was nursed back to health after the crash which served as a creating myth for his artistic identity.  He was a strange guy, but very interesting.  

In 1965 he performed what he called an "action" called "How To Explain Pictures To A Dead Hare" at a private art gallery in Dusseldorf.  I've always been attracted to the raw honesty communicated in this performance.  And I couldn't help but think of it when I turned and saw the scene below...

 I call this one "How To Explain The Word Transvestite To An Eight Year Old Blue" performed by G in 2015.  This gallery featured printed portraits of transvestites that Warhol used as his subjects.  There was a description on the wall and when Blue asked what the word meant, G stepped up.

 Then Blue walked into the next room and said, "Well you can tell that that one is a man dressed as a woman."  He had mistaken Chairman Mao for a subject from the other room.  This gallery was empty except for the wall of Mao prints.  Obviously the curator wanted you to have the space to focus your attention on the series, but we all couldn't help but feel the emptiness on the other three walls.  Violet took the time to notice the subtle differences in the "scribble scrabble" lines (her words) on each print.

 The Museum did a great job of embracing the younger generation by allowing photos of the exhibit and setting up this "face mash-up" for the kiddos to play around with.  

 And they created a "selfie station" on the cow covered wall and encouraged visitors to upload their selfies to social media with a suggested hashtag.  Smart marketing.

 This was one of the kids' mash-up creations.

 Einstein with my reflection.

 Mick Jagger

 And of course, Marilyn Monroe.

The exhibit did have some spaces where more work could have been hung but it delivered what you expect when you go to a Warhol exhibit.  It even sparked some kid giggles and allowed the kids to interact with the creation of a portrait.  

The museum even gave us the added free bonus of playing in funhouse mirrors as we walked in the front doors.  The mirrors were not intended to be funhouse mirrors but they were sagging and bent which allowed Blue and me to goof around for the camera.