oranje - recent posts from my current home

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Doodle revisited

Back in May, I posted a doodle. Well, that series of casual drawing has progressed a bit. Above is the most recent drawing. I'll be posting more of them on my site shortly.

July 30, 2006: I have just finished posting a page of these drawings on my site. It's not hooked into the main site yet, but can be viewed at this link.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Hill House Summer arts projects: Week Two

So, I met Terri Baltimore at the Hill House on Thursday and we did a walking tour of the Hill and visited some of the sites. The Hill House has artists working in four different sites with multiple groups at each site this summer. Terri is an enthusiatic and knowledgeable supporter of the Hill district. She hopes that by injecting the arts into the community, she can leverage revitalization of a neighborhood that has seen some decline over the last four decades. I think she's right. Terri is pictured at left.

We started the day at the YMCA on Centre Avenue with the High School students enrolled in the ACE program. We were asked to provide arts programs for one third of the students enrolled in the ACE program. Demonstrably, the program has achieved success with the students. They keep gravitating to the artists that are on site.
Tina Brewer has been working in artist-in-community projects for many years. This summer, she is working with a group of ACE students on a pillow project. The project stems from the Women of Vision exhibition Migration, at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts.

The students spent their first session with Tina at the center, where they viewed the exhibit and talked about the meaning behind the work presented.

While Tina has been working with one group on the first floor, Deanna Mance has been working with another group in the second floor computer lab. Her students are producing a cd, combining sound and vocals. The groups have been small, but the immersive quality of the contact has proven to be very effective in engaging the students. One young lady that Deanna has been working with has spent hours outside of class developing her portion of the project.

Our last stop was with LaVerne Kemp at the Bedford site. This site has proven to serve as the greatest source of confusion for the artists working in the program. After visiting the site I think I can understand why; it is difficult to find. But well worth the effort! The facility is pleasant and welcoming. One would never know that it is terribly understaffed because LaRay Moton, who runs the facility, is a real powerhouse of an administrator.

LaVerne is working with her students on a project related another Hill House endeavor: Find the Rivers. Her students are making quilt squares that express river and travel themes.

Eye Candy

I started emboidering a few years ago. Generally, I do this or one of a couple other things (origami, doodling) during the last hour or so of the day. Too tired to think, just something to occupy my hands. Over the last couple years, the embroidery projects have been what has most occupied my hands. The thing I like most about it is that the aesthetic and conceptual ideas can be settled on in a relatively short period. Actually bringing the ideas to fruition takes much longer in the scale of things. The work tends to eveolve as they progress, too. It's not as apparent in the above pieces. These really are eye candy; made solely for the purpose of delighting the eye.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Summer arts on the Hill - week one

The first full week of the Summer arts projects on the Hill is over and the second week is about to begin. On Thursday, I went to one of the sites, the YMCA on Centre (pictured above), to check in with the artists and the children in the ACE program.

Kim Ellis, who performs as Dr. Goddess, had the students completely in her thrall. They were playing a rhyming game, with finger-snapping, hand-clapping and laughter. All of the children had been writing poetry with Kim for the last three days and were working on spoken word performances. A very enjoyable experience for me as well as the children.

The YMCA does not have air-conditioning and Pittsburgh has been meltingly hot this past week. Even leaving the lights off in the room did not help much in relieving the heat.

The other group of ACE children were meeting with Maritza Mosquera. Maritza took the children a river tour, where they took phots and made some drawings that she has since turned into coloring books. She will be producing these books for the Find the Rivers project that the Hill House has organized.

While I was waiting for Maritza, the students and I got into a discussion about what they had seen on the river. They all seemed to be enjoying their experience with Maritza.

There were a few glitches during the first week, with confusion about which artist was working with which group at the five sites involved in the summerts program. But I have never seen a program of this size go smoothly right out of the door. This is the first year that the Hill house has taken the summer arts program off of its own campus to partner with other community organizations on the Hill. And no matter what else happens or doesn't happen over the next three weeks, the children so far have been engaged and are eager to work/play with the artists.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Ash

I have been meaning to do this all week. Two very good friends of mine, KL and Ash, moved into a house in Verona last spring. Ash thought it might be a great time to have a housewarming party last weekend. Sounds simple, no? invite a bunch of people over, fire up the grill and make sure there's plenty of ice.

You've never met KL, have you?

For two weeks, Ash called up friends and family and invited them out to Verona for the party on SATURDAY night. Nothing big, just a barbecue, some beer, yes so-and-so is coming and you can get a ride from them. Following right behind her was KL, rubbing his hands together in glee and whispering No, the party is on SUNDAY. Hee-hee. And it's gonna be a birthday party for Ash. So everybody, you tell Ash that you'll be out on SATURDAY, but don't forget that the party is really on SUNDAY. Hee-hee.
(Back story:
KL did something similar last year. Ash invited everybody to their apartment for her birthday. KL told them to gracefully decline, but to show up anyway.)

Well, everybody showed up on Sunday for the party and Ash had a birthday party that she wasn't expecting and KL got to laugh and giggle all day about how he got her again this year. Weirdly enough, we all went along with him on this one.

I don't know how he'll top this next year. But anyway, Happy Birthday, Ash.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pittsburgh; jewel of the Rust Belt

Hey, Pittsburgh is a really beautiful city. John Morris has this link up at Digging Pitt. The quote from the top of the page:

Brendan Gill, architecture writer for The New Yorker, 1990: "The three most beautiful cities in the world are Paris; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Pittsburgh. If Pittsburgh were situated somewhere in the heart of Europe, tourists would eagerly journey hundreds of miles out of their way to visit it."

Followed by a wealth of great pictures showing off the hills of Pittsburgh. Check it out.

Pack 'em in

I don't know what it is about triangle blocks, but I'm becoming obsessed. This is an aerial view of Plummer and Butler streets. As I was walking past there a day or so ago, it struck me that the very tip of the triangle was extremely packed. From the street, I could barely tell which part of which structure was connected. This is as close as I can find in the google map search and it really isn't very clear here. There is a lot of confusion on these lots with additions built back in the direction of Plummer (which, in this view, runs from bottom left to upper right). In some case, the back of the building runs parallel to Plummer while the front runs parallel to Butler. There are odd little decks and patios that are perched and railed on the lower-level roofs. All in all, a strangely dense little patch of urban dwellings

Sunday, July 16, 2006


There have been a number of blogosations lately about the museum system, paticularly on Edward Winkleman's blog and at Bill Gusky's Artblog Comments.

It seems to me that museums taking on the appearances of popular venues is their reach for making art relevant in consumer society. By placing art in an environment that is somewhat familiar they hope to attract consumers. I don't think that placing art in a restaurant is the solution, though. It is possible that visual arts are less relevant to consumers because artists are not creating art for the general consumer. Everybody is concerned with appearing oh-so-edgy. Obtuse and obscure visual language has come to dominate the plastic arts, marking any attempt at accessibility as pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Nor do I think that educating the consumer is the answer. That seems so condescending. As artists, maybe it is us that need the education. I don't think the general public is uninformed just because they don't get the message an artist purports to be making. Especially when said artist is using a visual language that is superficially obtuse, so self-referential that only someone immersed in the obscure reaches of the culture of art will pick up on the references or so repugnant that only the most thick-skinned are willing to take the time to understand it. Artists that make a practice of obtuse or repugnant language should be prepared to absorb the consequences instead of moaning that nobody understands their work.

I've noticed a dichotomy in presentation in my home town. The Cultural Trust manages several performing and visual arts venues downtown. For the most part, they bring in blockbuster shows in both areas. But what is blockbuster for the performing arts(Beauty and the Beast, Forbidden Broadway) have a much broader appeal. By contrast, they have brought Doug & Mike Starn's ABSORPTION + TRANSMISSION to the Wood Street Galleries. While I have no argument with the work presented in the exhibit (it was quite lovely. Heart as Arena reviewed it here), I will observe that their appeal is to an entirely different demographic. The gallery certainly didn't come close to packing them in the same way that Beauty and the Beast did. While the Cultural Trust does bring more challenging shows to their stages, it is unheard of that they would bring in a visual artist whose appeal would be on the same level. Thomas Kinkaid at Wood Street Galleries? It would never happen.

With the information age has come an incredible diversity of sources. There are innumerable ways in which the public is bombarded with messages about every topic from the environment to the impact of poverty and the lowly standing of fur-bearing creatures. In some instances, visual arts have lost track of this availability and are putting themselves in a position where the have antiquated views on our society. We are out of step and walking backwards.

Like a number of artist bloggers, I am seeking a solution.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Hill House Summer Arts program

For the next month, I will be managing artists and coordinating workshops for the Hill House Summer Arts program. The Hill House is a really wonderful organization that provides invaluable services to the residents of the Hill district. Arts programs have always been a part of what the Hill House has offered to the community. The last few years, have seen an increase in the programs, with artists working with the community and within the district.

Over the past two weeks, I have been working at lining up artists from several disciplines to work with elementary through High School aged students. We have a number of very fine local artists for the summer programs. This is a rough list, but it does give an idea of the range of experinces the Hill House is offering to students this summer.

Sankofa project
Papier Mache’ project. Creating a sankofa symbol in relief

Tina Brewer (Women of Vision)
Migration Pillow project

Christine Bethea and Brenda Brown (Crossing Cultures)
Seussville on the Hill
From hop on pop to hip hop we explore rhythms, rhymes and beats.

Kim Ellis
Acting project

Vanessa German (Women of Vision)
Migration project

LaVerne Kemp
Find the Rivers project

Christiane Leach
Front cover – artist-made ‘zine

Denise Lewis

KL Brewer, Ashley Cole (innertainment Live)
Poetry and spoken word

Mary Martin (Women of Vision)
Migration Collage project

Maritza Mosquera
Find the Rivers project

Shannon Murphy

Debbie Pollard
Excerpts of “Two for One”

Jessica Sommer
Pirate Craft Projects

Staycee Walters

I've known many of these artists for several years. I'll be posting images from the workshops and information about the artists over the next month, so stay tuned for developments.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Kinky Friedman: Save Your Vote For Kinky

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Eden Way and 43rd and-a-half Street

Eden Way runs below Butler Street for several blocks. It's a narrow alley, wide enough to let one car through at a time. The road itself is broken asphalt, patchworked in places, gravel showing through in the tracks left by passing vehicles. 43rd 1/2 Street intersects Eden Way in a T, between 43rd and 44th Streets. The last house of a group of row houses conforms to the acute angle of the inside corner of the T. It is difficult to see in this aerial photograph, but the side corner of the house is cut at an oblique angle from the roadbed, which allowed the builders to put in a side door with a small stoop.

The backyards of this set of row houses are individually fenced, which is not unusual. What is unusual are the gates that connect all of the backyards, each of which is placed along a direct line. Except for the yard that runs closest to Eden Way, all of the yards run parallel to each other. The fences are all of different construction, providing varying degrees of privacy.

43rd and 44th are broader, more traveled streets. Originally, the lots from both of these streets ran all the way back to 43rd 1/2, with that narrow alley providing back-door access. Gradually, small houses (referred to as mother-in-law houses) were constructed along the access ways.

There are pocket mazes like this one throughout Pittsburgh. In them you can find angles acute and oblique, with odd-shaped lots and architecture that serves the expedient and the utilitarian.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Mean Stream

Okay, so I've been busy with a lot of things lately. One of them is a book of poetry. The following is excerpted from the prologue. I plan to have this project complete by the end of August. It's been interesting working on this. Sometimes, I feel like all my words are going into this project, with very little left over for anything else.


Sometimes, when she came home late
Mary would throw onions into a pan of hot grease
Sauté them to sizzling translucence
John would come home on her heels
Savory scent permeating the small house

Afternoons spent with her sister-in law
Drinking cold beer in smoky pubs
While the children were at school
John working day shift at the mill

None the wiser

Standing on the stoop, a whistle pierces the air
John calling the children for supper
Down the stairs they tumbled to the kitchen
Spirits high, faces flushed from exertion
Clambering, jostling around the table,

Always, there were more than he could lay claim to
Squabbling at the table each late afternoon
Justice for all infractions was swift
It was John's home, John's rules

Mary's children

Children blew around Mary's knees
Laughter and rage swirling in the air
Belling from the throats of the youngest three
No more than two years apart in age
Ascending from a boy and two girls

Two older boys teetered on the edge of manhood
Able to assume awesome responsibility
John was the one they minded
Paying her no more attention than a gnat

Two stepdaughters

John's first wife left this world early
Their two daughters set adrift by the loss
Working at the mill filled John's days
Coming home to a foreign world of girls
So he searched for someone to ease the burden

There was Mary, plain and strong
Though old for a bride, a willing back
Good enough, to John's thinking
Raise his girls as proper wives

Heartburn, heart burst

John complained about pains in his chest
He even went to a doctor, a drastic step
Thinking that John was strong and young
The doctor gave him something to settle his heartburn
Admonishing him to stay clear of onions

One night the pain seared across his chest
Intense light scrabbled behind his eyelids
Grey and shaking, sweat drenching his hair
His arm a numb and useless weight

Newly widowed

Eighteen years John and Mary spent together
Long enough for contentment, to short for security
John died at the age of fifty three
Survived by his wife and seven children
Only one had passed before him

John's girls were married by the time
His heart had pounded through his chest
The boys were lost to Mary, wild and dangerous
Leaving her with the three youngest children

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tenth Annual Sacred Arts exhibit

Last night was the artists' reception for the Sacred Art exhibit at BoxHeart Gallery. Two of my paintings were in the exhibit (the ones at the top of the page) I have been pursuing spiritual imagery in my work for the past few years and this exhibit seemed like a good fit for me. Other images of work from this series are on my website, mostly in the Original Sin portfolio.

BoxHeart Gallery has been holding the Sacred Art exhibit for ten years now. The exhibit draws entries from all over the world and this year's exhibit was no exception.

One of the most striking paintings in the exhibit is Stephan Phillip's The Virgin and Child (pictured at left). Very somber in tone. The distortion is what really drew me to the painting. The gigantic legs, soft belly and round breast are topped by small shoulders and head. Through this distortion, the figure has taken on the proportions of some unclimbable mountain.

The Sacred Art exhibit strives to find work each year that steps out of the mainstream of spirituality, that challenges the viewers' preconceptions of the monotheistic religions with which our culture is most familiar.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Horse of a different color

Do you remember Nathan Nissim, the accumulator? When John and I were at his home, he asked if I would make an origami horse for him. For the life of me, I can't recall how the subject even came up. But since I've been in a paperfolding groove lately, I thought I'd put this together for him.

This horse is wet-folded from artisan paper and mounted on balsa wood. It stands about 10" in height.