Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kid Stuff

Weaving Intangibles
acrylic, ink, pencil, thread
Ellen Sereda

I never tire of putting my children into my art. I do however have a few half finished portraits of my kids in idyllic settings - the beach, near pretty flowers in the park, all very cliche and certain to never be finished. A camera catches these moments in time better than a brush or a pen. But let me loose with other materials, like thread so I can do some wonky sewing, then add a crow and I'm a happy artist.

I have an astonishingly good memory of childhood. Luckily my childhood was pretty normal and happy, so a good memory isn't a curse. I don't romanticize those years or long for the perceived innocence of them. If you watch children for any length of time, you'll realize naivety is not the same of innocence. An example this past weekend:

Me to my youngest daughter: You need to apologize to your sister for poking her in the eye.

Her: But I didn't mean to poke her eye!

Translation - I meant to hurt her in another part of her face and not get caught

The lecture on my part went on about the importance of taking responsibility for actions and making amends. She then started mumbling under her breath, "I don't know what you mean, I don't know what you're saying". In my frustration I blurted out, "What! are you Billy Bob Thorton?!" I was so pleased with myself for getting in a topical reference even if she didn't know what the hell I was talking about.

Kids at any age are fascinating to watch and listen to. They share some of the qualities of manic depressives. Their highs are really high and their lows are like the end of the world. The key difference of course is everything in childhood is so transient, nothing lingers. Their best friend is their worst enemy until another day passes and it's all reversed. I think what we most treasure about the memory of childhood is not innocence but the intrinsic qualities of children that lead them to explore, imagine and discover.

One of my favourite picture books is Maurice Sendaks', "Where the Wild things Are", a simple book that has just the right balance of excitement and fear. When I heard a movie was being made from it, I thought, NO, not another Cat in the Hat, trying to flesh out a 32 page story into a bad Hollywood moneymaker. But then I saw the trailer. This might be good. An Arcade Fire song in the trailer? I am sold. (I just noticed if you have a 14" computer screen, the trailer will be cut off when you view it. Click on it to get the full widescreen version on YouTube)

**Just a note for those of you who subscribe in a reader. Yesterdays post didn't seem to show up in any feeds. 2 posts in 2 days? Quirky I know, can't imagine it becoming a habit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Turning Over a New Leaf

I read a blog last year by an extreme plant lover. She wrote about plants having feelings, consciousness and good karma associated with being good to plants. If this is true....


However, I am convinced that my plant above, a philo - whatever, a green houseplant of some kind, is dying not so much from my neglect as it is from fright. I think it's being haunted by the ghosts of all the plants I've killed...uh, yeah, I guess that doesn't help my case any. But I'm changing, really. I feel bad. I've been learning a lot about plants as I have a big project in the works. With the help of this book....

I will be turning the side of my house (about 1/3 of my yard) from this....

to something a little like this urban homestead. 1/10 of an acre in the city of Pasedena has been cultivated to produce 6000 lbs of fruits and vegetables a year.

We've started work on this. I chopped down a 15 foot bamboo patch that had mostly died from our particularly harsh winter. My husband has started the plans for grading the yard and getting together the wood. Eventually we hope to make more of our property productive. I wonder how our neighbours would feel about a mini wheat field in the front yard. Baby steps...baby steps. First, I need to get good with my karma and try to save my poor houseplant.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Art Workshop

Untitled (work in progress?)
Ellen Sereda

I had the privilege of taking an assemblage workshop this past weekend given by artist Michael de Meng. I would love to show you pictures, but in my worry to make it there on time I forgot my camera at home. Thinking I would arrive early, I ended up late. My sense of direction is freakishly bad. I'm like a homing pigeon whose been given Timothy Leary doses of LSD. I start out with good intentions but somewhere along the way the journey gets wildly confusing.

I am glad I wasn't too late because it was one of the best workshops I've ever taken. We transformed ordinary, in some cases extraordinary, boxes, containers and found objects into strange and compelling works of art. Michael has a great spirit and I learned a lot. Not the least, I faced my fear of power tools. In truth, I didn't actually use any. After improperly locking a cutting tool on a dremel and have it fly off a few feet, I got an itty bit nervous and asked someone to kindly cut something for me. Okay, I'm a wimp, but now I see the amazing options in using these tools and I'm psyched to try again. I may even go off and spend a few hours just slicing up cutlery for the heck of it.

My piece above was meant to hold the ceramic figurine I made a few years ago. When I came home, I scrounged around my house for more things to add to this assemblage and the ceramic piece has now just become part of the narrative. I'm a pushover for narrative. Not narrative that is obvious or definite, but ambiguous, mysterious and layered. That's why I was taken by Michael de Meng's work when I first came across it several months ago. His transformations of objects into a strange new reality are mesmerizing. Bits and pieces of junk and often some interesting obscure paraphernalia are made into a haunting, cohesive whole. When you examine them closely you notice more details emerging from murky depths of oily and rusty paint finishes. Far more articulate reading about his work can be found here. He is also the author of Secrets of Rusty Things: Transforming Found Objects into Art.

Also check out his blog for the video of his recent trip to the Dead Doll Island in Mexico. Bizarre. We're planning a Mexican trip soon, I'm disappointed we'll be nowhere near this place, although my daughters are more than relieved.

Here's a few examples of de Meng's work: