Wednesday, June 19, 2013
as i move to the next stage of decorating my torso (it's finally the color i want it to be - funnily enough, based on leftover paint from my beloved blue room), i find myself turning to saul steinberg. a jew who fled europe in the years leading to WWII, he became the quintessential new yorker and was, for years, a cartoonist at the new yorker.
i'm drawn to his simple lines, his use of rubber stamps, his clever fingerprints, his small topographies and the way in which he mixes styles. especially that last bit.
i do like to draw and mostly i draw plants and feathers, but also buildings - barns and houses. i had a couple of steinberg's books from the library a couple of months ago and i snapped these iPhone shots of the things i wanted to save.
there's something about me and inspiration and i never know when i will actually use it, but i am a compulsive collector of things which inspire. but, if you've been coming around here any length of time, or follow any of my 119 pinterest boards, you know that.
i love this passport photo steinberg made with his own fingerprints. a passport is an identifying document, and what could be more identifying than a fingerprint. it's genius.
this seems to have been made of spilled ink - i love the notion that something artistic and beautiful can come of a mistake and i imagine being able to use that on my torso somewhere.
here's some of that mixed style i was referring to - all within one piece. the man in the middle is my favorite. people aren't really something that i draw much, but i'd like to try something like that.
i love the way these small, disparate drawings are connected by ladders and stairs, it has an autobiographical ring to it that i think will be perfect on my torso.
and a collection of meaningful objects - this is the kind of thing i draw in my art journals - just collections of the random things which are lying around the house.
and this use of rubber stamps in an unexpected fashion just speaks to me. i guess i'd better get to work.
what/who is inspiring you?
Thursday, February 28, 2013
our torso project approaches. 26 women. a shitload of plaster for casts. nudity. breasts. i'm both excited and worried. honestly, there will be no hiding. i'm not super fond of my body. and it's going to be cast in plaster for all to see. and for posterity. and let's face it, gravity isn't kind. and i'm not getting any younger (tho' i did recently realize that i've thought, for nearly a year, that i was already thirty-sixteen and it turns out that i will only be that on march 22. however, i'm not sure at this age that it makes that much difference.
but i'm looking forward to the laughter and high spirits that will undoubtedly ensue on friday afternoon and most of saturday. bonding. laughter. art. in the company of women. they all have breasts too. and they're undoubtedly about as fond of theirs as i am of mine.
if you were going to pick music for such an event, what would it be?
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
"i began to work the clay of my own life again, to mold the territory of my own belonging." - david whyte, crossing the unknown sea.
i'm reading david whyte's crossing the unknown sea: work and the shaping of identity. i have this notion that we come to the books we need to read at the moment we need to read them. and if we come to them at the wrong time, they don't speak to us (the snow child is just not doing it for me and i'm going to return it to the library without finishing it). it's not the book's fault, it's something within. but when the book and your need align, hello! it's magical.
my encounter with last evening's troglodyte reminds me that i have spent a number of years trying not to be defined by what i do for a living. this is partially because i think that the nature of work is changing and partially because i don't think that my work (or my car or my house) is who i am, i'm far too complex for that.
thus, i only reluctantly listed my current (and several former) workplaces in my mini-bio on our group website because i have come to feel that it is expected of me. plus, the things i have done lend credibility to me and my story. no one in denmark can bring themselves to look down on someone who worked for denmark's biggest, most revered company and people also have respect for those who have their own business. so i have ended up in a position where i felt like i had to list those things to be considered legitimate. otherwise, i'm just some foreigner trying to horn in on local business. (if you can make out danish, you'll notice that many of the members have listed how long they're lived in town to boost their credibility.)
for two years, i answered the question of "what do you do?" with a list of the many things that fill my days - horses, kittens, chickens, cooking, laundry, writing, photographing, gardening, conversations, thinking, volunteering, sharing, laughing...but people look at you like you're mental when you do that. a few got it, but mostly, they acted like they thought my danish was bad and i had misunderstood the question. that begins to eat away at you after awhile, so you just revert to custom. perhaps i gave up too easily.
maybe it's time to begin to work the clay of my own life again, to mold the territory of my own belonging.
Monday, February 06, 2012
in one of the settings, i've made an active decision not to belong anymore and tonight will be the last time i put myself through what has become a nearly painful evening. the decision to withdraw from that group has more to do with pony abuse, tho' it's also connected to language abuse, than with not feeling like myself. mostly, i think tho', it's a clash of values - or perhaps culture. in my model of the world, it matters more to do all you can than to righteously follow arbitrary rules. i also value good arguments and "that's how we've always done it" is simply not a good argument. once i've lost respect for a person or a group, it's over for me. quite probably my own shortcoming, but nonetheless true. i just hope that i can hold my tongue tonight.
with the other group, i hold back because i'm new and i'm getting the lay of the land. i can also see that my purpose for being involved is different than what the group is currently preoccupied with. but i think it will be ok, as there's room for both my purpose and their preoccupations. but i definitely do hold myself back because it's all in danish in a way that i wouldn't if i could speak english in that context. however, that's not all bad. it's a good lesson for me to learn. and a bit like taking your husband's last name when you get married, it's a way of starting with a fresh, clean slate. and life doesn't present us with that many chances to do that.
but back to language and the way it constructs us. how we articulate, the words we choose, the history and weight behind those words (both our own and linguistically) - it all matters. we use language to include and to exclude - think of the way doctors speak so that patients can't understand or how when you join a new company and don't yet know all of the acronyms - language is both a way of marking who belongs and perhaps more importantly, who doesn't.
but things do get interesting when the intersections of language involve other languages and other histories and other memories and other baggage. or maybe i'm just preoccupied with all of this because reading murakami makes me even more introspective than usual.
Thursday, February 02, 2012
i've been thinking a lot lately about whether you can ever truly be yourself in a language not your own. are you recognizable as yourself? and to yourself? i've had occasion to feel that i wasn't myself several times of late in danish. and yet, i can also have moments of feeling comfortable in danish and feeling like my sparkling self. but i wonder if i will ever truly feel like me in danish.
so i asked husband about this, especially since he has spoken exclusively english with me for going on 15 years now and we will never switch to danish (it feeling most unnatural to both of us). i asked him if he ever felt something was missing. he said it was the cultural references, especially those of childhood - books, films, television programs - that he felt most acutely. but he said it never made him feel like he wasn't himself, just that he didn't have the full breadth of expression that would be at his disposal in danish.
i actually at times feel like a different person - one who is quieter, who holds back when she would normally say something, who thinks more before she speaks (admittedly not a bad thing), one who sometimes sounds sharper than i mean to because i get something slightly wrong (tho' i'm sure there are those who would argue that i am at times sharper than i should be in english). it's partially that different words and grammar express things differently, it's partially intonation, and i guess it's also a feeling of awkwardness. maybe i'm simply never truly comfortable in danish, so i can't fully relax.
i know some of you live outside your native language too...do you ever feel this way? do you lose a bit of who you are when you're speaking a foreign tongue?
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
it was a glorious afternoon on the beach. much better than legoland. no one was wearing any shoes at all. and sand feels gloriously wonderful on your feet. the only unpleasantness encountered was my own inner prudish american, who i was surprised to find was still there (after 12 years) and in apparent robust health. she was suitably shocked by the sight of a 60 (possibly 70)-something german woman with more than a slight mustache sunbathing topless on the beach.
i know, i know, i'm in europe, it's not unusual here. and really, after 12 years, shouldn't i stop being shocked by such things? on one hand, i really wanted to admire her and her body confidence and on the other, well, eww.... sometimes, as a member of a civil society, you have to participate in societal norms and being properly clothed in public is frankly one of those. especially if your bits are hanging down to your waist. real life is not an issue of national geographic.
but speaking of that, i do wish i'd dared to sneak a photo, if only to subject all of you to what i was subjected to...but i guess i'll have to leave it to your imagination. and honestly, we should all be thankful for that. the picture in my head is haunting enough.
am i just a prude, or is it a bit ew?
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
i heard about a study today about consumerism and identity and how so much of who we are today is defined by what we buy. even if you decide you're not going to buy stuff, you're just building another identity and it's still about you as a (non)consumer. how can we get away from consuming and just be?
it's dizzying when you start to think about it. when i put organic milk in my basket or sew with organic fabric or drink fair trade coffee, i'm signaling my identity. our car, my bike, my camera, my computer (definitely), my phone - all send signals of who i am. it frightens me a little bit to think that i might not even know who i was without my stuff.
Friday, January 07, 2011
the room i'm sewing in these days contains our dining table and most of the boxes of stuff we haven't yet unpacked (and won't 'til we have the space - stuff like everything from my blue room). it also features hideous carpet (visible on lower right of this photo) and a hideous ceiling where the "cornices" are actually made of rope. yes, rope. what WERE they thinking? oddly, i turn on the iYiyi, light some candles and i can ignore it. i guess because i know it's not a permanent state (this bit will be gleefully
last week, we had some friends over. friends who, like us, have bought a falling-down farmhouse that no one else really can see the potential in. happily, they live nearby (we may have bought in a falling-down farmhouse sort of area) and happily, they totally get us, so they don't mind sitting in our rope-ceilinged, box-lined dining room, eating dinner and enthusiastically discussing ten-year plans.
and casper said something that has really echoed in my head ever since. he said when they first moved in (they moved here about a year before we did), he spent so much energy apologizing to people who visited. apologizing for what is essentially the visitors' inability to see the potential. but also apologizing because you don't want people who don't know you very well to think that the the place is really YOU. (as if that's not obvious.) and i realized i had expended an awful lot of energy on exactly that.
a colleague from husband's former workplace visited us between christmas and new year's with his totally lovely wife and two gorgeous, well-behaved children. they live near nyhavn in copenhagen, in an undoubtedly fabulous 4th floor apartment overlooking sweden. *sigh* and so the minute they came in the door, i found myself apologizing for the house. for the 7 different ceilings, the rope, the fake formica (who knew there was such a thing as fake formica?) countertops, the pink cupboards, the low ceilings and doorways. and honestly, they were perfectly lovely and even, on some level, through their oh-my-odin-why-didn't-they-childproof-this-place eyes, got it. and they knew it wasn't us, but could respect that we saw the potential in it and that in its current state it wasn't who we were. but for some reason, i didn't trust that, even tho' the former colleague
and i even DO have more confidence than that. so what is it? we both are and aren't where we live.
but we are our wegner chairs (tongue firmly in cheek). but i should trust more in that.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
i never identified myself as an american until i was 27 years old and in russia for the first time. before that, my identity was my state, my hometown, perhaps my family, my university, but never my country - but when you're actually IN a place, and OF that place, it seems you have less of a need to call yourself by its name (or at least that was true before sept. 11, 2001 - but i'm not going to go there at the moment).
ever since that first experience abroad, i have to admit that whenever i've been abroad, i've been wary of the ex-pats, as they always seem a waspish bunch. not in the terms of the bush clan sense of WASPs (as in white anglo-saxton protestants), but of actual stinging and nasty and generally-to-be-avoided. i've found them generally condescending towards the locals and more nationalistic than usual.
there's something in us that paradoxically wants very much to belong where we are, but also does not, which wants to be special and other. part of the not wanting to belong is a defense mechanism, we reject them before they can reject us.
i think this whole phenomenon isn't just limited to national cultures, but sub-cultures, like a company culture, for example. do you identify yourself with the company? do you feel proud to see your company's name and products when you're out there in the world? do you want to identify with that logo and brand or not? i think in the past, i've wholeheartedly given myself over to the company culture, even when i accidentally worked for microsoft (sorry, mr. jobs). but i find myself holding back now, wanting to preserve myself for myself and actively resisting. why is that? what is it about certain groups that makes us want to identify more than others? identity is a mysterious thing.
Monday, November 08, 2010
whether you mean it to be or not, every journey is a voyage of discovery. often self-discovery. in the wee hours of a long-haul flight, when sleep eludes, or in the quiet moments soaking in a sinfully deep bubble bath in a luxury hotel room, there is time for reflection, time to hear your own thoughts, time that doesn't necessarily appear in the reality of everyday existence.
travel is also jarring...the fact that a few hours on a plane can transport you to a different climate, to a different culture, to the other side of the world...is hard on the body. and the mind. and sometimes it's hard to catch up. but it's mostly amazing. and a privilege.
travel makes me feel alive. it inspires me. it clears my head and gives me the time to think that i crave. breathing new air, drinking in new experiences, talking to different people, these things feed my soul. make me feel complete. and even when the journey is long and tiring, i find it somehow exhilarating.
traveling to distant shores helps me know who i am.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
there's something about blogging. something real and true and when you're not being real and true, people can feel it. they might not be able to put a finger on what it is, but they can feel it. and so, because they're lovely and despite not knowing you in real life, they email you and ask if you're all right. and you answer that you are, that it was just because you lacked internet. you do this not because you were intentionally lying or concealing, but because even you yourself hadn't really seen what the problem was. and then you have a fantastic, very grounding visit to an art museum and find that that you were totally out of sync with yourself, but the visit has settled you back in so that you feel once again comfortable in your own skin.
and so you begin to wonder what it was that was different about you and your posts. you know yourself that you hadn't been feeling the vibe, but that it was never so bad that you didn't feel like blogging at all, you just had a vague awareness that you lacked inspiration, mostly because all of the things that were foremost in your mind were things you weren't really prepared to blog about at that moment. so you were holding back. not lying, just holding back. because some things just can't be blogged about. at least not at certain moments. things like health fears (easy there, not serious ones) and work issues and money issues (part of work issues in that they are rubbish at paying my travel settlements and in case you haven't noticed, i travel. a lot). but there all that was, lurking in the background and keeping me from being the real me here in my little corner of the blogosphere. (aside: they said blogosphere yesterday on BBC World and it made me smile.)
all of this personal, internal revelation makes me realize once again that the nature of blogging as a genre is such that we can't really hide ourselves out here. and to be honest, i wouldn't even want to.
and i really want to say thank you to all of you for noticing and emailing me and well, for caring. it means a lot. and it helped. a lot.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
in my own head...i'm not:
- snobby (ok, maybe a little)
- ponderous (ok, maybe a little)
- brooding (ok, maybe a little)
- kinder than i seem
- softer than i seem
- less ponderous than i seem
- not huggable
- domestic (at least the cooking part)
- someone who follows her gut
- always, always thinking
- constantly analyzing
- someone who has not used her time wisely
- looking for what's next
Sunday, July 12, 2009
note: this is a previously-revealed secret, but it might have escaped your attention since a lot of you came to MPC quite recently. i originally revealed it here. (do check it out to see how i rocked the tiara.) and i made a little list about it here.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Polly: I know you've lived in Denmark for some time now. As An American in Copenhagen, (Gershwin's new tune) what do you like the most & the least about being an expat in Europe?
me: it's so strange to realize that i've lived in denmark for more than ten years now. where did all that time go? it's been so full of experiences and laughter and fun, that i really can't believe how it's flown by.
i have to say that i feel less like an expat than i once did and that now i really only have that expat feeling when i choose to, which does still happen occasionally and usually after an encounter with an especially cold, unfeeling aspect of danish culture.
what i like most about being an expat in denmark is that i more or less have permission (at least psychologically) to treat situations which bewilder me in some sense from an anthropological standpoint--as an analytical observer of the strange behavior of the natives.
what i like least: during the bush administration, answering for all of its sins just because of the passport i carry. i didn't vote for the man, and could definitely not explain him. but thankfully that's over. actually, the same happened during the waning years of the clinton administration, where i was asked to explain what we were doing to our president over the whole monica lewinsky thing. my response was always the disarming comment that i would have been doing what monica had done if i'd been given the chance--clinton was totally magnetic if you ever saw him in person.
the other thing i like least is that i fear that i will become a permanent speaker of the language we affectionately call "danglish." this is a mixture of english and danish, which pretty much takes the worst of both and throws them into a grammatical/verbal mishmash. i feel at times a distance from the vibrancy of living within a culture of which the native tongue is your native tongue and therefore you are hip to all of the neologisms as they happen (staycation, carmageddon and the like). i fear i will preserve some mid-90s version of english for all eternity (or at least the rest of my life).
Polly: And if not in Copenhagen, where do you think you would be right now?
me: this is a very interesting question, not least because i've pondered it on occasion. but even more so because if you'd told me fifteen years ago that in fifteen years, i'd be living in a house with my husband and daughter in a small town of 18,000 in denmark, married to a guy i met in macedonia, and commuting to work in the shipping industry in norway, i'd have laughed and said it was completely impossible. i could never in my wildest imagination have imagined the series of events that would have to happen for me to be in that situation. and yet, here i am, doing all of those things. so i think it's not a question we can ever really even imagine the answer to.
what i imagined would happen with my life was that i'd finish my Ph.D. and be teaching slavic literature at some american university somewhere (preferably somewhere like berkeley, but more likely somewhere like KU (no offense to kansas, they at least used to have a perfectly good slavic program with an emphasis on the south slavic even, i almost went there but instead chose chicago)) because you have to take what's available the year you graduate.
instead, i am ABD on the Ph.D. and don't intend to ever finish. i unexpectedly met a nice danish boy in the balkans and followed him home. in a fit of boredom i ended up working in the software industry and accidentally worked for microsoft for a few years. then i found myself in the maritime industry, which feels strangely like home for someone who grew up in the middle of the US about as far from big-ass ships as you can get.
i guess if it wasn't copenhagen, it could be oslo or singapore or hong kong or manila. i could see myself ending up working for lloyd's list or trade winds or fairplay, reporting on shipping industry news.
but, you really never know where life will take you, so i try to stay open to the possibilities that present themselves.
Polly: Your latest obsession is eyeballs and you seem to be a very creative and crafty person. What inspires your creativity?
i think a lot about this and am trying to tune in to what inspires me, in the hopes that i can make it happen a bit more. but what i'm learning is that you can't make it happen. but, what i think you can make happen is being in a state of openness to inspiration. but i find that i'm not very good at predicting what will inspire. a flea market or a museum visit often can do it, but of late, the light falling a certain way on a branch might be what grabs me. sometimes i'm surprised by what makes me feel inspired.
flickr almost always inspires, but i sometimes feel it mires me down too much and actually serves more to overwhelm me or lead me astray than truly inspire me.
i get a lot of inspiration from my reading and i read a lot...articles, books, fiction, non-fiction. i think it goes without saying that i find a lot of inspiration in the blogosphere (and yet i felt compelled to say it, hmm...).
i have a couple of highly creative friends who i try to spend time with when i have a lot of ideas swirling in my head, but can't see a way of making them come together. because that's the thing about me, sometimes i have given myself so much input that i get stuck on the output part. i think i need to develop a more disciplined way of dealing with that (but that's the stuff of more pondering and another post).
i'm also a person who is inspired by a deadline. together with a friend, i signed up for an art exhibition at the end of october, because i need a goal like that to go for. i know that the pressure of needing to have enough things to exhibit will inspire me and spark my creativity. it's just how i work.
but probably what inspires me most are the daily conversations i have with husband. he's a super smart, funny, thoughtful person. he thinks about things and articulates his thoughts very well. he has lots of wacky ideas, but usually they only appear wacky at first and then you realize they're really deep (and probably somehow related to evolution/cultural capital/the industrial revolution). he's also got a marvelous ability to see things in fresh, new ways. if i'm stuck on an idea, i tell him about it and he always, always helps me see it from a fresh, new angle. i love that about him.
and i do think i'm getting over the eyeball thing, because i've started to notice and think about nests...oh, and stones. and i'm developing a bit of a thing about windmills, especially old decrepit ones. i hope this new obsession doesn't go all cervantes on me...
Polly: A fashion question: If you could only live with one accessory for the rest of your life, which would it be and why? Only one item! (I've been asked this question, it's a good one... )
me: i have a lovely pale green (we have a cloudy day and it doesn't look very green in this photo) embroidered pashmina that i bought in goa a couple of years ago. at the time, i didn't really need it, but i also didn't want to go home empty-handed after a very eventful trip. i almost didn't buy it because the guy selling it rubbed me the wrong way, but then one of my colleagues was going to buy one too and the price suddenly got better if we both bought one, so i went for it (totally to help her out, you know, altruistic me).
i'm so glad i bought it, because i have used it so much. i've bought two seasons of winter coats to match it, i've used it as my only "coat" on a cool summer evening. it dresses up any outfit and gives it a touch of exoticism and luxury. just yesterday, i wore it to the funeral and some of the other guests were trying to appropriate it from the coat rack at the house, thinking it had belonged to the deceased and was now fair game. (luckily, i retrieved it in time.)
it wears beautifully, i've had it dry-cleaned a couple of times, but it continues to look like new. it's a color i never tire of and now that i'm doing a bit of embroidery myself, i find myself carefully inspecting the marvelous stitchwork. so my one accessory would most definitely be this scarf.
but i'd be pretty sad to give up my "obama won" ring.
Polly: Everyone in this chain of interviews have asked and answered this next question so now it's your turn :-) If you had to choose a flavor of ice cream that most fits your personality, what kind do you think you would you be? Feel free to make one up if necessary.
me: i asked husband this one, actually. and since his favorite flavor of ice cream is licorice (silly dane), he said licorice. it's unusual, a bit peppery, not at all normal, rather strong and can be a bit overpowering. not everyone likes it, but if people like it, they love it.
i actually think that fits pretty well. but i can tell you that licorice is not my favorite ice cream.
i'd personally probably try to concoct something like a gin & tonic sorbet if it were up to me. grown-up, sophisticated, relaxing, refreshing and with a bit of sass. something you'd like to spend time with every day.
thanks, polly, for these fun questions (i may have to actually invent a G&T sorbet now). if anyone wants to play along, knowing you have to identify yourself as an ice cream, please let me know. :-)
Sunday, March 01, 2009
or is it, as denis dutton (editor of the fabulous arts & letters daily) suggests, that appreciation of art is the result of human evolution--sexual selection--to help us find the right mate. actually, he's talking more about the ability to appreciate beautiful, artistic things, rather than the ability to produce them, but this quick overview of his theory is worth a click and a bit of a think anyway.
my theory, and it's still under development, is that this desire to hold the fruits of our own labors in our hands is a reaction to the world having gotten so fast. information travels at light speed. i'm spending a lot of time hanging out in cyberspace with people from around the world, having what i can only term real friendships with people i've never met in person. so some part of the core of who i am desires to have something that's here and now with me, in my own two hands (and which isn't a pretty mac keyboard, which is often what's at least near, if not in my hands). there's so much information out there that our grasp of it is only fleeting, and by the time we might grasp it, it's already moved on to the next thing. therefore we feel a need to have something to hold onto.
maybe it's a product of a childhood spent reading the laura ingalls wilder books over and over. i just want to homestead. homesteading in the 21st century, that's what this is. i really can't wait for spring so i can get started on the garden. i vow that we're gonna have enough tomatoes to can some next summer!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
just as an example--i fall too easily into those invites for my photos to be part of groups of flickr--i'm so flattered that someone wants me to be part of the group that i don't even look at the other photos in the group before i submit it, just immediately click submit. i should be more choosy than that.
part of it is flattery. i'm a sucker for it. i'm easy. i remember once we were in prague and i had let husband answer the inevitable "where are you from?" question from some vendor at a glass stand. of course husband answered "denmark." then, a few minutes later, the guy trying to sell us some whimsical martini glasses complimented my english. for a second, i blinked like a purring cat and felt flattered, then i remembered that of course my english was good, i was a friggin' native speaker. and then we bought six martini glasses. they were, after all, very whimsical.
it's no doubt a product of growing up in a small town. in a small town, what people think of you matters. you're at the mercy of public opinion for your standing and position. belonging is everything. of course, now i've lived more of my life outside that small town than in it, but somehow, that need to belong never wears off.
anybody got some advice for removing freckles?
Monday, June 23, 2008
Sunday, June 22, 2008
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. What is your favorite drink?
7. What is your dream vacation?
8. What is your favorite dessert?
9. What do you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. What is one word that describes you?
12. What is your Flickr name?
• Using only the first page of results, pick one image (this didn't prove possible for me, I must admit, I went to page 2 a couple of times)
• Copy and paste URLs for the images into Big Huge Lab's Mosaic Maker to create a mosaic of the picture answers.