Participating in the Cannon

Summer Sun on top of Sun Rug
Although I would not say that these rugs were inspired by the work of Sonia Delaunay, after a series of drawings I did last year that were circular, someone directed me to look at her work. Of course I knew of her work before, she did both costume and fashion design, and when I was studying costume I stumbled across her renderings of geometrically influenced clothing many times. She was never as famous as her husband Robert Delaunay, but like Josef and Anni Albers, they were both artists of some repute.

Electric Prisms by Sonia Delaunay
An example of one of my inspirations, Sonia Delaunay’s “Electric Prisms”

Her work is geometric, but full of movement. In a book that I have called Cubism and Fashion, one of her circular drawings, a little like the one above is titled “Las Danseuses” (The Dancers), and you can see the circles as the spinning motion of dancers.

I suspect that this drawing, called “Electric Prisms” is about the intersection of people moving, though I’ve read no theory about it, so my guess may be incomplete. I think that because of a video of her from the Centre Pompidou in which she talks about wanting to contribute to the new generation of painters in the way that they learned from the previous generation.  She names Cezanne, specifically.

But towards the end, she explains where her interest lies now in the context of the “We were [working] with color and with rhythm, because all of life has rhythm. [I try] to see it, to feel it, but now, I’m disengaged from the theoretical aspects our research, and I express myself […] like poetry”*

In my own work, I play with color, line, shading, and form to create motion, to evoke emotions, as she says, seeing it and feeling it and making poetry visual vocabulary.  These rugs, though they are practical objects are about more than just pretty things for your floor.  They are inspired by a feeling, a desire to connect both to the older generation, as my grandmother taught me many hand-crafts, and to give something to the future by using sustainable practices as an artist when they are available to me.


*The translation/transcription is by me.  That’s why some things are in brackets: to make the translation understood more readily, I changed words that were either inaudible [working], or sound clunky in the informal English context of blogging “Il s’agit de le voir, le sentir” is literally “It acts upon,” but often treated as “The work is about” where I decided on “I try,” because the others felt too clunky.  Towards the end (1:09-1:18 or so), maybe my vocabulary fails me, or maybe it was just difficult to understand until she gets to the end about “like poetry.” Filling in or corrections welcomed.

072:365 Think 3 Steps Ahead

072:365 Think 3 Steps Ahead

072:365 Think 3 Steps Ahead
This morning, despite Monday’s brief foray into shorts-weather, there was nearly an inch of snow on the ground when I went out the door. Although it was barely an inch, it was more slippery than some of the piles of snow we got in February, maybe because it is a little warmer outside and so it melts and re-freezes as you drive on it.

After my morning errands, I arrived home and decided to walk in the bright cold air to get us some coffee and donuts. I realized that I haven’t taken many snow-photos, so I snapped a few.

So much for an early spring!

Then on the way back, one patch of sidewalk had been un-trampled and I decided to do a playful photo of my footsteps being laid out before me. Of course it is a simple photo to take, you just jump off your footprints, walk around the outside of where you’re going to frame the photo, and then snap it. But it adds a touch of surprise since the footsteps usually go behind the person, not vice versa.

And it got me thinking about how people make plans, play games, run politics. It’s almost as if we think we can know what the next three steps are in life. But it isn’t like chess, which already has a lot of permutations of moves, in life, there are so many ways of being that who we were and who we are do not predict who we will become as people.

Making the choice of studying to be an artist or an engineer; a lawyer or a novelist, changes the possible outcomes to an extent because in a world as big as ours, having qualifications is extremely important.

But I have a friend who has an engineering and a law degree who works as a circus artist and teacher. And I have an art degree, but am currently making the most money from the little bit of computer-geekiness at manipulating data and light coding that I’ve accrued by osmosis and necessity. Even my father, who speaks several languages and graduated with English and Russian majors, didn’t work in his fields of study until retirement, now publishing articles, teaching, and researching.

And those are only the very concrete things that make us who we are. How we treat other people, how we choose to react to problems, and how we are able to solve daily problems are a whole other field of being that qualifications say nothing about on paper. We may guess that a person who is good at engineering will have a neat house, or that a lawyer likes to argue, but I’ve met messy engineers and reserved lawyers.

When I was twenty, I knew who I was. It was a certainty that I had defined. Allida is this, she isn’t that. But in the last several years, choices and opportunities have come that changed my direction. I’ve met and got along with the kinds people who I always thought hated me. I’m more flexible and stronger than I thought, and though life has been difficult sometimes, I now feel a graceful balance at the core of myself. It was always there, but now I feel it more deeply.

But now, seeing all the choices ahead of me; all the steps that show the way forward in the snowy sidewalk of life, I’m not sure of myself. Those three steps ahead seem to open up an infinite number of other steps in an infinite number of directions. There are limitations set down by the first step which will mar the snow. Perhaps I’m afraid that this next first step will limit the next three.

By now, I know that you can’t always go back, but with a little creativity, like the photo, you can get around things and get somewhere that seems impossible when you start.

025:365 Ways of Being

Ways of Being 025:365

Even though I haven’t finished my first rag rug, I’m planning another. The first one I intend to keep, but the next one I plan on selling.

This drawing represents the idea, using similar colors, that I want to try, using the texture of the threads (rags) to create a forms. This yellow and the pink are the most similar colors I have in oil-pastel, but I’m thinking colors that are even closer. Maybe two or three reds, or just white, cream, and off-white sheets.

Incidentally as the drawing progressed, I liked the way the lines created arrows, directing the view left, right, up and down. These in turn made me think about the icky snowy day today and how many near-misses I saw as people drove in their usual overly assertive ways. I’m pretty good in the snow, now that I remember what I’m doing, and people would zoom around me only to careen and fish-tail ahead of me.

There are so many different ways of living and moving through the world. We leave an impression on the world as we go through it, much like the fibers in the rag-rug or the tracks of cars through the snow.

The slippery bits aren’t the lanes, where people have gone before, creating an easier path. The parts that slide beneath the wheels are the places between the tire treads, where slush builds up between the lines, damp and icy, but impossible to avoid when changing lanes or turning.

We tend to ignore things that are not explicit, the things in our lives that are between the lines, but really, those places we seldom tread, where nobody goes, are the most complex to navigate.


Observing things from different angles or different vectors allows us to see things differently.

This seems like it should be common sense, but actually, in the moment of seeing, it is hard to imagine things from any other perspective.

Making art activates different levels of perception. This morning I made an image of a tree. It brings to mind a variety of ideas and forms. This evening’s piece is abstract. Instead of working from something I’ve seen, I chose to look at color and form.

Both pieces invoke a visceral meaning, an emotional one, and can both be interpreted from a rational perspective.

They are my own works, so perhaps this is a bit stilted, but, I’d say viscerally they are similar. They each use bright colors and contrast, which makes the eye vibrate in a certain way, emotionally one is more controlled, evoking the tree as a body in the world, and the other is form without definite boundaries. And rationally, one is based upon a remembered observation, while the other was created by following a formal rule, even though it’s result is less grounded.

Life is a little like that. We make choices based upon a variety of criteria. Our values for different parts of our lives and different qualities inform our decisions about what to do when and how. But if we don’t take the time to look at those values, qualities, and actions, we can continually make the same mistake, time and again.

When other people see our lives from the outside, sometimes they make judgements about our choices. But it is just as difficult for an uninformed observer to judge our decisions in the moment as it is for us to do it ourselves. Each of us has constructed a value system by which we elect certain qualities and acts over others, and each of our elections have changed the way we see the world.

In making art, I change perspective frequently, and while it doesn’t allow me omniscience, even over the vectors of my actions, it changes my fixed perception of the world and allows me to better understand the qualities of my actions in the world.

This piece is about the different spheres of perspective, value, and actions. They are all connected, rippling across each other like raindrops on a pond, but each one has it’s own vector and frequency, which create harmony or cacophony.

Urban Desert

Getty Cactuses and LA Skyscrapers

Los Angeles can feel like an urban desert.  Things are far apart, and people are ambitious in a way that makes it hard to break the ice sometimes.  Having a dog helps, but it’s taken me awhile to get my nerve up to try some of the things that I know are out there.

For my birthday, my aunt was visiting from Northern California, and we went to LACMA.  Yesterday, H and I finally went to the Getty.

It is an Urban Oasis.

Unlike many other art museums I’ve been to, LA museums seem to be an EVENT in and of themselves.  I’m not sure if it is because of the climate, or because the ones I’ve visited are on somewhat isolated campuses.

The gardens at the Getty are beautiful and labyrinthine, and the little wheeled cable-car that goes up the hillside turn the whole thing into an adventure, like a visit to Cercedilla.

The courtyard vibrates with energy, and people sit and chat in the breezes next to fountains.  The whole thing is enclosed by the views of city and ocean.  I say enclosed because the location makes it seem wrapped in the surroundings rather than exposed to them.  Maybe it’s the way the courtyards are stacked and interwoven with smallish buildings.  Maybe it’s the way the carven rock walls jut out here and there.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why looking at pre-Renaissance paintings was more inspirational yesterday that it has been for me for years.  But I felt some of my old attraction for the slightly stilted paintings in egg tempera on gold ground.  And even more for the hyper detailed Flemish and Dutch trompe l’œil panels.

Plus the collection is pretty impressive.  A few paintings each by Rembrandt and Titian, plus a lot of unusual more minor painters.  A couple by Bruegel and Van Dyck.  Although it was surrounded by a group of sketchers, I thought I spotted a Caravaggio.  A smaller collection than some, but full of stellar beauties.  It makes me wish I’d spent more time at the Prado when I lived in Madrid.

Instead of riding the tram down the hill, we walked.  Seeing the encinos with their little bellotas* reminded me of walking in the hills of Segovia with W,C, & B.  It provided a nice few moments to process all the visual input of the previous two hours.

Visiting museums, especially places like this, brings out lively ideas in my mind.  Museums activate me and spur me to look more closely at the world, at myself, and at what I can do.

*The Spanish always insisted that they were acorns, and since I’d never seen an encino in the US until I moved to California, I’m not sure that is the correct word, though bellota is an acorn on an oak as well.