Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Books, cooks and thoughts about transience

Latest books: I hugely recommend Jane Flanders book on the Victorian home, a marvellously researched and very engagingly written social history of the Victorian era in England, really entertaining even if you are not a social history fiend as I am.

Did you know that in the early days of the postal service, the letters arrived up to 12 times a day (to houses that were affluent enough to be using mail at all, it was expensive) and that the post man had to collect the money at the door? which meant that the poor old housemaid had to keep on stopping blackleading the grate, scrubbing the floors, sweeping the kitchen, etc., take off her dirty apron, run to the door, arrange about the money, take back the mail, and resume the apron and the work. Over and over again.

Then Hill, the inventor of the whole shebang, had a rush of brains to the head and invented the Penny Post! you could send a lightweight letter anywhere in the UK for one penny, paid in advance at the post office. So the postman could just leave the letters and keep on going. Post then meant, not the letters, but the route the postie had to take.

The only bits of the book I skipped over were the medical ones, too awful to read about "treatment" for serious ailments. But I can attest to a lot of the fog and dirty air anecdotes, since the same was still true in the 50s in some English cities.

There are hilarious accounts of the early interior designers influencing the people who were now able to afford some extras, very dogmatic, very funny. why you should have major mirrors over the fireplace, extra shelves, a lot of ornaments and clocks and stuff on the mantelpiece, very very tasteful...

Then, in the world of fiction, on the detective front, two great writers, Susan Conant, a dogtrainer detective protagonist, owner of Malamutes, very knowledgeable about the world of Dog, and a good mystery writer. And then there's the other dog related attorney turned investigator, located in Paterson NJ, and very authentic stuff, and if I can remember his name, dangit, it was there a minute ago....anyway, I will supply it when I can get it back from the outer reaches of my brain. Or if anyone reading this knows who I mean, he's really good, I know this is not much help to someone looking for a nice book to read...

And, if you're up for real mental work, Karen Armstrong, on religions of the world, particularly Islam, truly wonderful writer with great understanding of the historical underpinnings of a lot of our religious assumptions, and well worth working on and with.

Did you know that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, that one, I mean, approved of Christianity since it was based on the written word, and he profoundly relied on the written word for his own thinking? and that at the founding of Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Islam were seen by most of the middle eastern population as equally valid religions, no friction on that front? most of the friction has been a politically driven afterthought, sigh.

And our local cook, i.e. me, made Tibetan pizza today, always goes over well. It's Jacques Pepin's Tibetan Flatbread from one of his fast food books, which I use as the pizza base, put mushrooms and home made pesto, tomato paste, etc., and a handful of Mozzarella cheese on, very good with a nice mixed green salad. Not hard, since I usually already have the ingredients in the house so if it's one of those oh dog, what to eat today, kind of days, it works in just fine.

Jacques Pepin's tv programs are wonderful -- he's a food artist, really, just watching his knife skills as he chats away unconcernedly, is a whole education. And he can make a wonderful black rabbit out of a giant olive! slice off the side, so it sits on its side, take the sliced off bit and make a slit behing the "head" end (the place where the stem was is the bunny's butt), halve the sliced off bit, insert in slit and voila a rabbit! very funny and cute and good to remember at Easter.

And there's always art. I'll post a few pix of my main thrust of last year's work, kind of crossover work, mixed media around the concepts of quilting, including the notion of "handwork" being forced on women at some periods, whether they were up for it or not. All the way to quilting as an art form, and via quilting as a fine craft where attention to workmanship is very important.

But I don't believe in conservation -- I think once art has served its purpose, it's okay to wave goodbye. Now admittedly, Vermeer has not yet finished serving his purpose, and The Demoiselles d'Avignon will continue to exude force for the foreseeable future, and Vlaminck will continue to be worth seeing, and Judy Chicago's passion will continue to be valuable. And so on.

But I do like to say that the opposite of conservation is not destruction, it's creation.

And tomorrow on the subject of moving on, I'm waving goodbye to my Gocco printer, a lovely little machine no longer manufactured, to another artist who's been wanting one for a while. It's a great little screen print shooter and printer all in one machine, and I had great fun with it, created everything from fine art to art opening invitations (I hate the photo type cards people use now for opening announcements, much prefer the ones that are artworks to keep!) You can find out material about the Gocco by an internet search. It was taken very seriously in Hawaii as an art tool, less so on the mainland, where size is perhaps more of the essence, and it makes small images. It's been overtaken by high tech, but there are still devotees out there.

I'm not into keeping art for its own sake, I guess. We do have a lot of it on our walls at home, mainly becaue Handsome Partner loves to have it around. If it were up to me, it would be either recycled or in boxes in the studio, waiting to be improved.

In fact now and then people have called me to try and buy a piece they saw months earlier in a show only to find that it's now ripped up and part of another piece, or pulped to make mixed paper, or just being used as a backing for a new painting....this sort of mystifies people who have a sacred feeling about art.

Well, I do too, but it's about the need to do it, the process, the developing of the vision, not really about the end product. If people like it, that's wonderful. If they need to have it in their houses, even more wonderful! but it's not the mainspring of why I do it!

Anyway, clearing up the studio a bit, hopeless task, is part of my next foray, into clearing the decks for the artist books I promised and will definitely get to as soon as I get the concept organized in my mind. I've been drawing constantly for the last year, so drawings may feature in them, not sure yet. But they will be the sort of book that is intended to be drawn and/or written in by the recipient, so I need not to overload them with my own concepts and get in the way of the writing and drawing of the person who will have custody of them.

The other thing is that I turn off the heat in the studio this time of year to conserve the horrible cost of heating, so that's a bit of an issue moving the materials downstairs to work on them. It will happen, folks who have requested a book, it really will! and if anyone else wants to get in on this, just lemme know and your new year's free gift book will eventually be in your hands. It's just a thing I like to do now and then as a friendly thing. Be sure I know your actual address though, okay.....can't email them.


  1. David Rosenfelt, the attorney investigator, Golden Retriever lover, I knew I'd remember the author as soon as I stopped trying. Okay, that's him.

  2. Judith Flanders not Jane. This is why I don't make a living as a book reviewer.

  3. Really enjoyed your blog. re Books - do you read Anne Perry? I prefer those with the William Monk and Hester Latterly characters. Your Victorian book reminded me since these are set in much the same times and Hester's nursing experiences rang a bell with me. Those were the days! Couldn't agree more with your "art is a process" comment. I have been known to respond to the question "what will you do with it?" by saying "did anyone ask Rembrant what he was going to do with it?" Put my name down for one of your free books please.

  4. I have gone off Anne Perry since I found she was a murderess in real life. But I guess it's better if she keeps her instincts within her books!

    will add you to the bookie list!

  5. I think her criminal experience is reflected in her portrayal of the prisons...reality smells...

  6. Hrrumph! Will you please stop reviewing books that I simply must read - I got Mrs Woolf and the Servants for Christmas and haven't had a minute to crack the cover yet - and now you come up with another. The good news is that it's in my local libe.


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