Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Midsummer Night's Eve Artist Party

pretty people
light hearted

  This weekend I went to a downtown patio party in Montparnasse.  Okay, so it could have been in Flagstaff.   It was hosted by a popular local photographer, let's call him ManRay, who was celebrating the solstice with his woman and extended family.  I was introduced as "part of the family."

  This is starting off charmingly! I thought to myself.

bonbons = bon amour
  Joni Mitchell was there.  Yes, she was.  She had just stepped out of a big yellow taxi after the opening of her new gallery, with a new dog.  Of course she was radiant and happy, wearing the second signature necklace of the day.  "When I posed for him 20 years ago, with my clothes on..." she started her story.

  The outdoorsy filmmaker was there, let's call him Puck.  And he called me by my nickname, then apologized, but since I always think of him as a mischievous fairy who plays pranks on people, there really is no need for apologies...

  The recognizable yogi was there, with colored strands in her hair and a purple slinky thing that probably should have been illegal.  Her nice husband and kids had just bought her a pole.  Pole dancing was her new thing.  This sounded really exciting.

   I had an a-ha, a mid-party realization; I don't listen or ask for gossip anymore; my esteem went up an inch.

ceviche, ooh-lala
  It was time to pig out.  The tapas were calling me.  One of the top-10-friends-I-don't-ever-see called my name.  I was happy to see her, I turned fast and.. oh my.  I heard glass crash, a disaster at my feet, yet I still looked around and wondered if it was me.  Was it me?  Everyone was so well-mannered that they didn't say.  And the nicest jazz musician in the world covered for my blush.

  A man was referenced.  And referenced again.  Then once more. 

  I met a connection, talked business just long enough to send the receipt to the tax man, and then found a very interesting and magical trail-off.  Amazing.

  The shrimp/mango ceviche, the bon-bons, the white sangria, the conversation, the urban brick walls, the twinkling lights, the saxophone, the weather, the compliments, the friends.

And... then it was time to go.  Sleep well, sun, you might be tired from shining so hard.

sitting on the steps
lights, gold brick, and a Grand Canyon artist

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Immediate Art of Hozhoni

Chris Taylor in front of "Map Monster" by Krissi Schott (left) and his own aboriginal art piece.
  It's not everyday you walk into a studio and the artists are beckoning you over, clamoring to talk to you, and drawing your portrait.  And you just met them.

  That's what happened to me today when I visited the Hozhoni Art Gallery, and got to see their exuberant show "Drawing a map from you to me and all points in-between."  The Hozhoni Foundation provides individualized services for people with developmental disabilities.  The artists have shown in places such as Brandy's, Sundara, and the NAU Beasley Art Gallery, and it's no secret that they produce surprising, endearing, and happy (yet complicated) pieces of art.  In fact, I have a piece of art from a Hozhoni artist hanging in a prime spot in my house.

"Head South, Killer Whale" by Martin Ortiz.
  Chris Taylor, a faculty member in the NAU Art Dept. and manager of the Beasley Art Gallery, along with 10 NAU Art Education students held weekly workshops with the Hozhoni artists throughout the Fall of 2011 to prepare for this current show.  Chris spent a year studying Aboriginal art in Australia, which is largely based on map-making and combines tradition, history, culture and spirituality, as well as a documentation of land into their images.  Chris's experience with the Hozhoni artists was super-creative--he told me how unexpected and fun their interpretations of map-making were.  For instance, when Chris was talking about map-making, Martin Ortiz understood the concept from the perspective of a killer whale headed south.  

  "This is a way for them to tell their stories," Chris said.  "If we slow down and look at their pieces, we'll see that this is some of the best art being made in Flagstaff.  It's so immediate and with such an honesty that you can't ignore it."

  The Hozhoni workshop experience was a good one for Chris and the Art Education students.  He wanted students to experience more diversity in mental ability, and found that once the NAU students came to Hozhoni, they were hooked.  Some got school credit for their hours, but others simply volunteered.

  Indeed, there was something refreshing about visiting the studio.  The artists were so proud of their art.  They didn't seem to suffer from egotism or lack of self-confidence.  And their hearts were so open to visitors!

  "They're not too cool-for-school," said Chris.  "And that's what makes them cool!"

  The Hozhoni therapeutic art program has been running since 1995 by Terri Engel (who was recently nominated for a 2012 Viola Leadership Award.)  According to the nomination letter, individuals really blossomed with the program, exemplified by a dramatic decrease in socially unacceptable behaviors and a significant increase in communication skills, self-esteem and increased independence. 

  But all Terri wants to talk about is how the program is growing.  They have added an "expressive arts" aspect to it, which includes film-making, drama, movement and dance, and it has added another element of self-expression to the artists lives.  Check out their recent film here

Genevieve Parish
Edward Haswood
Billy Sue Dagenhart says
"Be good but don't get into trouble!"

  Hozhoni Art Gallery is located at 2133 N. Walgreens St. and is open Mon. - Fri. from 8:30 - 3:30 p.m. and Sat. from 10 - 4 p.m.  The art is for sale, at very reasonable prices.  This current show is up until June 30, so you better hurry!

My portrait by "Eddie Eddie Edward" Haswood.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Hammock Book Reviews: How to Read Poetry

  To me, reading poetry is like eating dark chocolate.  You don't want to eat the whole bar at once, but you instead put little pieces in your mouth and let them slowly melt, savoring each little molecule of flavor.

  Nicole Walker is an assistant professor in the Dept. of English at NAU.   I've been savoring Nicole's book "This Noisy Egg" like pieces of fine chocolate.  She's a wonderful person, and hanging out with her makes you feel like you've downed a cup of triple espresso.

  Nicole and I talked about the best way to read poetry.  She agrees that it's something to be lingered over, and says it helps to read poems aloud, and sometimes even sing them. 

 Nicole is so fun, and so talented, that I was flattered when she got excited about my dorky little game, "poetry tarot."  You ask a question, and flip through the book with your eyes closed.  Oftentimes the page that you land on has some random, exciting connection to your query.  We came up with a few questions and then I flipped through "This Noisy Egg."  It told me some very helpful answers.

1.  Question:  What should I wear today?
     Answer:  Houndstooth
  (from "Picking St. Augustine's Cherries")
   "I wore houndstooth and called out Doctor,
    even though that's not your name,
                          can't you let me in?"

2.  Question:  Who should I love?
     Answer:  Very carefully...
  (from "The Unlikely Origin of the Species")
 "Darwin cites Bacon citing God
  that Man cannot search too far
  or too well in the book of God's Word
  and in the book of God's works
  or in the margins of good science."

3.  Question:  What do you recommend for dinner tonight?
     Answer:  Cabbage and gooseberries.
  (from "The Unlikely Origin of the Species")


  See how different the leaves of the cabbage are and how
  extremely alike the flowers; how unlike the flowers of the 
  heartsease are and how alike the leaves; how much the fruit of
  different kinds of gooseberries differ in size, colour, shape, and 
  harriness, [sic] and yet the flowers present very slight difference."

Poetry is meant to be both specific and universal.  Nicole says that she tries to make connections, but to make them "surprising connections."  I will try to emulate her, and make links from the page to my life--the more personal and unusual they are, the better.   And believe me, I will be wearing houndstooth and eating cabbage and gooseberries for dinner, all while searching far and well for love.

P.S.  One last question:
What will I be when I grow up?
Answer:  A trufflehunter!!
(from "Glasses")

"Turn your back on the door.
Invite them in.  Or offer them water.
They're coming in anyway.
Truffle hunters in their wooly hats
have to beat the pigs off the hundreds of dollars 
of mushroom.
Truffle hunters hae begun to trade their pigs
for dogs.  Dogs prefer to please their masters.
Pigs prefer to eat the raw bounty."

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hammock Book Reviews: Sci-fi

  This summer I'm going to work VERY HARD at reading in my hammock.  I'm going to read pages and pages of very fun books, from local authors, processing words in my brain so quickly that I will occasionally break out into a sweat.  And then I will stop reading and take a sip of my (coffee, tea, beer) to fortify myself.  And then I will continue.

  As you can see, I've got ambitious plans.

  Just when I had laid out these plans, I got an email from Patricia Marchesi, a lecturer in the Department of English at NAU.  Patricia's nom de plume is P.H.C. Marchesi, and you should look her up.  She's an award-winning finalist at the 2012 International Book Awards in two fiction categories, Young Adult and Science-Fiction, for her debut novel Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes. 

  Patricia's novel is a science-fiction/fantasy tale about two twins with special talents who are asked to take part in a dangerous mission in another space dimension on the planet Miriax.  Between the two of them, they have the largest concentration of positive energy on the entire earth.  It sounded look a good-vibe-hammock book.  I asked Patricia if she would lend me a copy.  

  I received it in the mail on Friday afternoon and I finished it by Saturday night.  I loved the story line, and the details were too cute.  For instance, the food on Miriax is an adventure in and of itself.  Eating sticky rice makes talking practically impossible, because, well, your mouth is stuck together!

  There will be no spoilers, but let's just say the book follows a classic sci-fi route, and like many sci-fi books, the pleasure is in the journey (to another planet.)  Space travel and inter-dimensionality; these are just the things to ponder over the relaxed days of summer.

  The book also has a good theme reflecting acceptance of one's self, something that is instructive in young adult lit, but important to remember at any age.  For instance, the secondary characters, Vanessa and Jit wouldn't have been able to help with the space mission if they didn't have their unique talents for resilient cheerfulness and creative thinking.

  This book seems to say that it's important to look at our place in the world through both a macro and micro lens.  If we're paying attention, the story makes us aware of the dichotomy of our existence.  We are single beings in a very large universe.  And yet, we have the ability to make a difference through our thoughts and actions.