Thursday, April 7, 2011


A few days a week, I work at an upholstery fabric store. I recently helped a woman who wanted to buy 15 yards of fabric to recover a couch. When an order arrives, we roll out the fabric and go through it looking for flaws. When this particular fabric arrived, I was told to look very closely at the fabric because said customer is notoriously picky. So, I rolled it out and slowly assessed each yard. It was a sand colored linen that had earthy specks in it. Linen is known and loved because of its natural beauty. When the woman came in, we went through it together and she kept finding little 'flaws'. I had to explain to her that these were not flaws, but rather, irregular texture that exists in the natural linen texture. After a long conversation with her, I came to realize that this tension over the condition of linen, is much like how we view many other things in our lives.

Why is it that we are drawn to natural-looking things, but yet expect them to be flawless?

Why is it that people are drawn to the human figure, but culture places high standards of 'perfection'?

We are set up for failure.

I once saw 'before' and 'after' pictures of a woman who lost 100 pounds. Usually, when a transformation like this takes place, the pictures are portrayed as before (sad, lonely, self-conscious) and after (happy, confident, glowing). However, in this particular set of pictures, I thought the before picture portrayed the woman as more beautiful than the after. See, in her before picture, she was wearing a beautiful red dress and stood laughing as the picture was being taken. However, in the second picture, her style and poise had completely changed. She no longer looked carefree, but looked as though she was trying to fit into a culturally contrived ideal. She had lost all 'personal spice' and stood there, covered in make-up, wearing revealing clothing.

The surprising thing about these pictures, was that I saw more 'flaws' in the 'after' picture, than the 'before'.

What is beauty? Is it intensional size and attitude or unawareness?

There is something to be said for beauty that is unaware; beauty that has flaws.

The same thing that draws us to the natural timelessness of linen, also draws us toward classical sculpture. It's the irregularity.

It's beauty of not being symmetrical.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Epiphany: It's really quite simple.

I am the master of over-thinking. There are many times that I approach a simple situation and in what seems like a second, I have made this minute issue seem life changing. Some may blame this on gender cliches but, in the last few weeks especially, I have come to the conclusion that I am a rare case. Not to worry, I am consistent! You can always count on me to dissect the issue, consider how it affects those surrounding the issue and how their response will in turn, affect me.

Food. Yes, however basic, actually does affect everything. Huh, interesting... It affects me, not only on the inside but the outside. Years and years of nutritional fads have taught us that there are certain 'danger' foods. Yes, we know that sugar can be used to get that caffeine boost, but then also results in a drop and lets not forget that it, sometimes more than not, is stored as fat. So, what's so ground-breaking? Well, I'm just going to tell you right now. I'm not promising to turn your world upside down. All I know is that something has 'clicked' with me and for the first time in my life, I am addressing the manditory issue of food with a different angle.

It isn't about what isn't in the food that you eat, it's actually all about what 'is'.

It's not about eating food that is low in calories or high in fiber. The issue is that we are complex beings, created out of the dust of the earth. Eating aspartame, high-fructose corn syrup and hormones only mess with the system that makes us who we are. Food dictates everything. It affects moods, energy... and my biggest 'bad food identifier', skin.

I spent about a year of my life as a vegetarian. I had decided to cut out meats to make me more aware of what I do put in my mouth. Though I don't regret this wonderful learning experience, I am realizing now that I was barely scratching the surface of a much deeper issue. I was focusing on avoiding meat rather than what I was replacing it with. Yes, I was healthy. I love vegetables so thats never really been an issue. However, I would eat meat substitute products such as store bought veggie-burgers. Yes, they are made of vegetables. However, they are highly processed and, at least the kind I frequented, had many additives to make this "burger" taste more like a... well, burger.

Today, I got out a box of crackers. This particular box had been given to me and though I didn't love them, I had been eating said crackers because they were "healthy". They were low-fat and thus concluded, that I would decide they were good. Today, I realized that though they were supposed to be a grainy cracker. Nothing about them tasted like whole grains. Yes, they were a hugh of brown so one could equate brown with grains, but why oh why was I identifying the color brown with cardboard? Nothing about them tasted like what it said it was on the box. I couldn't recognize about half of the contents below the nutrition information and thus realized that up until this point, I had essentially talked myself into thinking these crackers were good based on what wasn't in them. So, instead of eating a little extra fat, I was eating more chemicals than could be found in a high school chemistry lab.

It's simple. Eat what you know.

I've never been good at science... so I'll just avoid the chemicals.

Apple, anyone?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tennessee's own, Courtenay James

The River Gallery here in Chattanooga's Art District recently showcased the work of Tennessee artist, Courtenay James. I walked through the gallery, slowly milling through the almost 3 dimensional pieces of various individuals in their context. Besides the detail, which reminded me of the almost photo-like style of Chuck Close, I was taken by the posture of the individual subjects. I recently had an apprenticeship where I spent a lot of time alone. These photo's remind me of the countless hours that were spent at the throwing wheel or standing at a table working with molds. Much like working alone in a studio, these images capture the placement of man working in a space- just them and their task. There is something unassuming about capturing people like the way James planned the positioning of 'Chris'. Yes, Chris is mindful of the painter but it he isn't adjusting anything about himself in minding the artist. It is just as if Chris and Courtenay were just having a casual conversation. There is a sense of comfort and ease. James understands place and the use of color in creating depth.

'Chris' by Courtenay James

'Andre' (bust) by Courtenay James

'Self-Portrait' (1996) by Chuck Close

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

That one time I tried to be someone I wasn't... HA!

I recently had an interview at a Marketing firm. Other than Human Resource Management, I would rank Marketing the second most bearable (even slightly enjoyable.... if under the right leadership) corporate business job I would actually consider.

PROBLEMO. I was picking it apart before I even got in for my actual interview. I sat in this seating area and kept feeling like the doctor was going to call me in for a shot. The magazines on the coffee table looked boring and a bit TOO intensional. People and Sports Illustrated? Really? Is the human race THAT cookie cutter that all audiences can be compelled by one of these two choices? All I could do was notice the terrible paint job, florescent lighting and how incredibly drab everyone looked. In planning for my first ever corporate job interview, I realized that I have no boring clothing. This made it really difficult in deciding what to wear. I had committed to my purple pencil skirt, black sweater and grey and black heels. I get into my interview and all I can do is critique the man's poor question choice (of course, only in my head) . I thought they lacked relevance and even interest. At the end, he asked me something about the weather and it was at that point that I realized two things.
1. His office had no windows
2. I could be both walking to a lobby and sleeping at the same time

You know that term 'beggers can't be choosers'? Well, I guess thats why I even went for this interview afterall. This particular firm was in its first year of business and I was meeting with the head man, so naturally I had a few questions. I was curious about his vision for the company and how much growth was expected. He replied, sitting back in his black leather chair (yes, cliche I know), and said- 'When people all over the world consider improving the marketing of their company, my bla bla bla company will be the first thing that comes to mind. THAT is how big it is going to be.'

I felt like I was trying to be sold something. I don't handle salesmen well. Leaving the interview, I felt like I had just tried to buy a car or some big vacuum cleaner....thing.

You know when you experience something and the next thing you know, you feel like you have morning breath?

Potential good news on the future to be coming soon. Stay tuned!

disclaimer: i really didn't mean to make this sound all like anti this and anti that or like some crazy 'hold a banner and put your fist in the air' kind of thing. I just want to be happy and not claustrophobic.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011. The Year of Resourcefulness.

Click: FRUGAL IS THE NEW BLACK (updated... link does work now!)

Though the above video clip is from early last year, it stresses an important cultural shift that is occuring around us. Instead of buying, we are making. Our small wallets are forcing us to not just spend carefully, but view what we have as a possibility for something else. This year, as needs arise, the question will not be 'what store carries this?', but rather 'how can I make or substitute this?'

I am in the process of going through and organizing boxes for an upcoming move and I'm realizing how much I have accumulated over my short 22 year old life. I don't consider myself a pack rat by any means but yet, I own so much. This year, rather than making a list of all the things I want, I want to first be aware of all that I own and either make use of it, transform it into something usable or get rid of it in a condusive fashion. This year is the year of Resourcefulness and I will not be stopped!

Updates to follow as to the ramifications of this years prompted lifestyle.

Monday, December 13, 2010

‘Nowhere Boy’… a story of the misunderstood

I recently attended a showing of Nowhere Boy at the Strand in Rockland. I went into the showing not really knowing what to expect. A movie about the early life of John Lennon, I figured it could only be better than the last movie I saw regarding The Beatles, Across the Universe. Across the Universe was a rare flick with stars Jude and Lucy. I don’t know. I mean, I’ve always THOUGHT I had a semi-good sense of humor but, seriously? Well, needless to say, Nowhere Boy did more than exceed my expectations. I loved it. I think its because it really showed the true humanity of John Lennon. He, like Michael Jackson, will live forever as a legend. But, who was he before he was a legend? Who was he before he even learned how to play the banjo? He was John- a teenage boy who lived with his aunt because his mom was mentally unstable. He was a Liverpool schoolboy who appeared to be going nowhere… until he found Elvis; until he found Rock N’ Roll.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"Did you just use 'film' and 'cinematography' in the same sentence?"

Some parents sign their children up for cheerleading at the age of four or buy baseball cleats as a Christmas gift to prepare their barely walking child for t-ball season. I, on the other hand, grew up with a mother who's passion was beauty. Beauty was all around me and thanks to her, I had the eyes to see it. She used her eye for beauty in decorating our home, and translated her skill to me as she taught me how to draw horses out of ovals, and use grids to recreate reality on a sheet of paper. Whenever I visit my parents, my mom pulls out her portfolio and shows me all of her studies and watercolors she has done since I last saw her. She shares with me the irritations and struggles leading up to her finished product and shows me new techniques she picked up along the way. It's interesting to see art in progress and to understand that a finished product isn't (usually) the result of divine intervention. It is a growing and stretching of the mind and a bettering of ones self. It is growth and progress and it is just as beautiful as the finished product. It's like watching a baby struggle as it tries to take its first steps. They fall and sometimes start to cry but each attempt is a celebration. It is a mother calling the father at work just to say that the baby stood for a WHOLE minute... and then fell. It's about growth, practice and work and through the grueling process, being able to run across the room or frame a stunning watercolor.

There is a film that recently aired at The Strand called Cairo Time. In this film, noted for its incredible cinematography, a woman travels from New York to Cairo to visit her husband who works for the UN. While he is held up working at a refugee camp, she explores the beauty and culture of the great historic city of Cairo. At one point in the movie, Juliette (played by Patricia Clarkson) is walking through a garden with a huge canopy of trees. As she takes in the ornate beauty of the trees around her, her tour guide and friend remarks something to the effect of, 'look at these trees that get to live alongside their ancestors!' Old trees are something that we, as Americans, know little of. The size of the tree trunks were bigger than any I have seen and their mere size reflected of the history they have lived through. Though this scene wasn't even a prominent aspect of the movie, it stuck out to me more than most others. Though the scene only lasted a short moment, it sparked much thought as I considered ancestry and different people and accomplishments that have taken place in my family line.

Could you imagine living alongside your ancestors? I would have so many questions and I think I would have paid more attention in History class growing up if I had actually known people who lived through it all. I'd love to walk around the quarries of Vinal Haven with my Great Great Great Grandfather on my fathers side who migrated to Maine from Scotland to work in the quarry industry which provided streets to great cities like Boston. I'd want him to lead me around the island with his thick scottish accent and tell me about the oppression and starvation in Scotland which lead to his courageous move to the young country of America. I'd want to sit with my Great Great Great Grandmother as she gutted her catch of the day to prepare her cheap New England dinner. I'd want to sit with Harriett Beecher Stowe from my mothers side of the family and hear about her journey of writing Uncle Tom's Cabin. I'd admire her bravery and hope that maybe an ounce of her strength could be seen in me. Lastly, I think I'd want to sit down with my grandmother who died just a few years ago. Since moving to Maine, I have met people that knew her well. What saddens me is that I feel like many people here knew her better than I and have testified of her great charactor and skill on the piano. I would want to have tea with my Grandmother and hear her perspective on things having gone from daughter of a Philadelphia banker who barely felt the depression to marrying a baseball player from Clark Island, Maine.

Just think of all the wisdom that we could obtain! Instead, we are left with stories. With the way my family tells stories, I wonder if there is more truth than fabrication, but stories are the only thing we have to truly link us to our rich ancestry. We can only know what we have been told. There are a few little things that I've picked up. I have been told that my sisters and I laugh the same way that my grandmother would laugh with her sisters- loud and proud. I gain my musical flare from my father's mother and grandmother and thankfully, I have been given the wonder genes of humor and an eye for beauty from my mother.

It is easy to think that we create our own future. We are told from a young age that we can accomplish whatever we want as long as we set our mind to it. Though this may be true in part, it is important to remember where we came from and who has made it possible. Just think if Harriet Beecher Stowe had never revealed the harsh realities behind slavery or if the quarries of Maine had never been worked, establishing the foundation of one of Maine's most prominent industries. Where would we be today? Probably standing in dirt harboring racial anger. No thank you.