Tell It Like It Is

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Over the weekend, after another rough week at work, The Good Man and I found our way to the big main branch of our city’s library. It was like an awesome haven from the mean old world.

I immediately found my way to the fifth floor where they keep the art books. I needed an infusion of art and creation in my life to erase the financial and business blues of my workweek. I decided I wanted to look at some Frida Kahlo prints. I am a huge fan of Frida.

As I plucked a slim book of her paintings off the shelf, I found another small book hiding behind it. It was a book of letters written by Frida to her friends and family.

I love reading old letters. You learn a lot about who a person was (or is) by reading their handwritten letters.

I had always thought that Frida was so strong, powerful, fierce and uncompromising.

Boy was I wrong. Through her letters, I found her to be very sweet, quite insecure, and almost childlike.

She often would write letters to friends and ask their advice on big life decisions. For example, at one point her husband, Diego Rivera, had a terrible infection in his eye that had spread to the side of his face. She asked a friend, a fellow painter, if he though she should take Diego to New York to see American doctors or stay in Mexico and take the guidance of Mexican doctors.

Now that seems like a pretty big life crisis, something you would want to decide along with your husband and instead she was soliciting, nay begging for, the advice of a friend. She actually did this quite a lot, begged her dear friends to tell her what to do.

I found that so counter to the fierce woman I see through her paintings.

And then, over time, as she got older she did seem to become a lot harder edged. A lot more sarcastic and passive aggressive.

Clearly the philandering ways of her husband and his over bearing need to be controlling had taken a toll on her psyche.

That and years and years of immense pain in her spine, leg, and foot, all massively unresolved injuries from an accident in her teens.

Her physical and mental anguish become so forceful, it drove a little bit of the lightness out of her words. She became more bitter. And so maybe that is the Frida I came to know, the rough around the edges and hard woman who had been hurt too much.

But even then, as I understood how she could come to be that way, I was a bit shocked to read (in the book) a quite long essay that was to accompany an exhibition meant to honor Diego Rivera.

I came across this section and burst out laughing. I mean, wow.

Here, read it and see what you think. She is describing Diego’s physical form from many angles. In this section she refers to his chest:

“Diego’s chest — of it we have to say, that had he landed on an island governed by Sappho, where male invaders were apt to be executed, Diego would never have been in danger. The sensitivity of his marvelous breasts would have insured his welcome, although his masculine virility, specific and strange, would have made him equally desired in the lands of these queens avidly hungering for masculine love.”

Um. Did she just say her husband had moobs? Cuz I think she did.

In another section she describes seeing him naked as looking something like a child frog. Paraphrasing here, she said that his skin takes on a greenish tone and is pale under his clothes and only tan in his face and hands.

Yeah. Green moob guy. Awesome.

This was, I’m sure, taking a bit of her own pound of flesh from him for the years of unkindness. And also a bit of the ol’ anti-bourgeoisie taking the piss out of what might have been a flowery ode to her husband.

I’ll tell you what, that image is sure going to stick with me for a while.

Actually, the whole book will stick with me for a while. The letters so quaint, so childlike and such a deep glimpse into one of my creative heroes. Quite something.

Oh, and she liked to invent words of her own. My favorite was when she would refer to her life or other things that were not working out as expected as fuc-bulous. Oh yes. I can use that. I may have to adopt it myself.

Next up, I have on my bedside table a book of letters by Vincent Van Gogh. He was quite prolific in his letters to his brother, and it is a thick tome. I am both wary and excited to dip in.





Photograph by Martin Munkácsi





Image found here.





Round and Round The Mulberry Bush

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I find myself with a rare few hours this afternoon where my calendar does NOT have somebody’s name and silly meeting title plopped across wide spans of my time.

I mean an afternoon with no meetings is pretty damn rare. I’m almost scared. Like “did we all get the afternoon off and I didn’t know about it?”

So I figured I’d make good use of some found time and tip tap away at a post for my little ol’ blog.

Of course, when I actually have some time and some room to stretch my word wings, I have zero, zip, zilch, nada things to say.

Probably not surprising given that my last post was about my walnut bladder.

I went to my trusted fall back method of using a random word generator to spark ideas.

The word that was presented to me was: Mulberry

As in pop goes the weasel? Hmm. So I went to Google to see what I could links might give me interest in writing a couple words.

First I sifted through the voluminous links about Mulberry, the British leather accessory company. Boring.

Then I read the Wikipedia page about the plant. *yawn*

Then at the end of the Wiki entry, I saw this sentence:

Vincent van Gogh featured the mulberry tree in some of his paintings, notably “Mulberry Tree.”

What’s this, then? A Van Gogh mulberry? Now that’s interesting. I would not call myself a scholar of Van Gogh’s work, but I have done some poking about. Read some books. Have even seen one of his works live and in person at New York’s MOMA (I cried because I was so profoundly affected).

So today my lack of creativity and reliance on a tried and true prodding method caused me to discover a new (to me) painting by a favorite artist.

That’s not so bad, now is it? One might say both inspired and inspiring.

Here’s the painting. It touches me deeply in ways I can’t quite describe. And that’s the beauty of art.





The Mulberry Tree by Vincent Van Gogh





Image used under a Creative Commons license from Wikimedia.




On Tenacity

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Earlier this week I received the results of a competition I had entered, and for which I held out great hope. It was related to my writing and even an honorable mention would have been a huge step forward for me.

While entering I knew it was a long shot, but I really believed I had a chance.

Predictably, when the results were announced I was nowhere in the list, and yes, this got me a little down.

That’s the trouble, sometimes, with having hope. A burgeoning flower bud of belief can so easily get ravaged by insatiable locusts (over dramatic metaphor alert!!!).

When one is a rather sensitive artist type, it’s hard not to feel steamrolled at such times. Then again, what separates the doers from the dilettantes is tenacity.

So after feeling mopey for several days I am starting to rally. In defeat my resolve becomes just that much stronger.

For almost two years I have been using a really wonderful service that forces me to submit writing to literary journals every quarter. They are strict taskmasters and they keep me focused.

Once every three months I send out about thirty submissions, of which most of them are rejected. This means piles and piles of both email and snail mail arrive at my door just to say “you are not a good fit.”

Amazing how something like two hundred rejections can really make a girl immune to the woes. It’s like a pair of ill-fitting shoes. At first it hurts, then it makes a really painful blister, then finally a callus forms. The thin skin has toughened to endure the scraping.

Like that.

This morning I was thinking back to about seven years ago, back before The Good Man and I had married, and he was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. A really cool new art store had opened on Columbus Ave. near his place and I was just beginning my foray into the visual arts. Visual arts were a big departure from writing, which had dominated my creative juices for so long.

I loved everything about the art store and bought quite a few supplies there. One day they had posters up announcing an auction. Customers were invited to submit art works and the store would display them and then at the end of the month, the store auctioned them off for charity.

Great! I was on board. I created an item to give to the auction and when The Good Man turned in my piece for me, he was asked to put a starting bid. Because he loves me and encourages my work, he put the amount of $50 as a starting price instead of starting at zero as most other artists were doing.

Later, when we walked into the store to see my stuff on display, my piece was at the very, very back of the store among the tools and shelves where they stretch canvas. My work was clearly more amateur than the rest of the offerings and it stood out as the only one using the photographic medium, but ok. It was on display which was a huge rush.

When the auction was finished, they called to ask me to come pick up my work. The rather arrogant and sniffly clerk informed me bluntly that my piece was the ONLY one that hadn’t sold (meanwhile, he gave us a flyer so we could attend his exhibit of butt ugly paintings at a local small gallery).

I was, of course, embarrassed beyond belief, humiliated and totally crushed. Being judged by a more experienced (and in my mind, more talented) artist just about did me in.

Just thinking about it still gives me shudders of embarrassment. This morning in the wake of my recent defeat I thought again about this experience. I recalled today that among all the donated pieces, my work was the only one that listed a starting bid.

All others put in a starting bid of $0, and they all sold. Snotty clerk said they didn’t have a lot of bids and bidders. All of this means that at the end of the auction, someone could have thrown $5 at a piece of artwork and would have won.

Today I understand that instead of being sheepish about that whole thing, I should be proud. I may not have sold my work but I valued my art enough to put a price on it.

Which is stronger? Valuing my own work and not selling it at that auction, or giving it away for free, thus saying the value of my work is nothing?

I know which one I choose. Today I have straightened my spine and I feel a little better.

In defeat, my mettle is being tempered, and that only makes me stronger.









Image from ScienceGuide.nl.




And The Wheel Goes Round

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To get the ol’ creative juices flowing, I’ve been working a little, here and there, on a lesson book of painting techniques. I’m pretty comfortable working with a brush and craft quality acrylics, but now I’m learning methods to create an image from scratch using real big boy paints and brushes.

It’s a big deal!

Today’s lesson was to paint my own color wheel. At first, I thought “Meh. A color wheel? Boring.”

It turned out to be a really interesting and useful exercise, and helped me learn both the paint and my new (fancy) brushes. When my work was done, I fell a little bit in love with my hand crafted color wheel.

And since I can’t seem to separate my High Arts from my Craft Arts, when I was done, I noticed the little bit of imperfection at the center of my wheel. That place where all six colors meet? There was paint overlap and some small white spaces.

So I did what any good crafter does. I hid it with rhinestone. Fabulous!




Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth. Subject to Creative Commons license.


I must have colors and color theory on the brain. Here’s a photo I snapped earlier today:




Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth. Subject to Creative Commons license.