Because they’re beautiful: Here are three neon love letters.

fionna banner be there saturday
1. Fionna Banner – “Be There Saturday Sweetheart” 

This 30-foot-tall neon sign was constructed in 2000 on the top of the New Art Gallery in Walsall, UK. I don’t think it’s there anymore, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is this: The simple statement comes from the love letters of artist Jacob Epstein to Kathleen Garman. Although she was married to another man when she met Jacob, Kathleen fell in love with the sculptor and eventually left her husband for him. They stayed together until his death. Despite the rocky start (or perhaps because of it?) their letters are filled with sweetness and light. “With you I have every joy and every happiness,” Jacob wrote to his lover. “My nights are my worst time. I lie awake and think of you. Last night, Sunday, was wonderful moonlight and I thought of you, picturing how you were, how fascinating you looked on the balcony beside the lake in the moonlight and the lantern lights… I am always yours Kitty. Be there Saturday sweetheart.” Neon art about ghosts
2. Robert Montgomery – “The People You Love”
 

Truth time: I’m making this list today because I’m in a melancholy mood. I have a migraine hangover and my brain is fuzzy and unwilling to focus. I feel like a ghost of myself. I’m being lazy and wallowing—I’ll admit that.

But don’t let that take away from the art, because all three of these pieces are wonderful, lovely and haunting, modern and retro, sweet and sad. Artist Robert Montgomery created this piece after the death of a close friend. For him, ghosts are a positive force, a way of keeping in touch with the people he has lost. “I find the idea that love can somehow triumph over death an idea I need to keep sane,” he said.

But you know what I really love about this piece? It’s not just the ghost-y-ness or the eerie setting or the sparse and square font. It’s the way it turns light into a metaphor for humanity, for that elusive thing we call the soul or the spirit. Stare at a neon sign, then look away. The afterglow remains, spots on our vision. An imprint of what was. A visual ghost. More than a memory, less than a presence.

Tracey_Emin_neon_art
3. Tracey Emin – “I Listen To The Ocean And All I Hear Is You”

I saved my favorite for the finale. I find Tracey Emin so inspiring, both as an artist and as a human being. I love her brash attitude and her feminist message. I love her sensitive, neurotic, erotic works (I stumbled across “Everyone I’ve Ever Slept With” when I was in college and that piece blew my freaking mind). I particularly love her neon ladies, all naked and glowing with legs spread and toes pointed. I would have shared one of those, but I try to keep my blog SFW, so instead here is one of her text-based pieces (another good one reads: “People like you need to fuck people like me”—not as poetic, but pretty damn funny). Emin’s extremely prolific and likes to work with light-up letters, so if you like this as much as I do, you can see more of her work here.

And you know what? After writing all this and doing the work of inserting images and googling details, I find myself feeling much, much better. I think it’s Tracey’s good influence (or I’m just going to pretend that’s it and not the glass-and-a-half of wine I drank while waiting for my internet to catch up to my thoughts). Thanks, lady.

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How to be alive, according to Willa Cather’s grave.

georgia_okeeffe_paintingI’ve never understood why people visit the graves of famous people. I’m a very morbid person, yet this never struck me as something I wanted to do. However, I’d like to see Willa Cather’s grave, for as I recently learned, it holds a rather incredible message about happiness, life, and death. The line—”that is happiness, to be dissolved into something complete and great”—comes from her novel My Antonia. Here’s the full passage (found via Brain Pickings):

The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers. Queer little red bugs came out and moved in slow squadrons around me. Their backs were polished vermilion, with black spots. I kept as still as I could. Nothing happened. I did not expect anything to happen. I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become a part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.

Although I love the entire passage, I think my favorite part might just be: “Nothing happened.” I’m such a speedy person—impatient to my core. I frequently describe my motions in fiery terms. I burn through my work and blaze through books. I light up and burn out. I consume the world with big steps and fast motions. You know what doesn’t come naturally to me? Slowing down. Letting nothing happen. Being quiet and calm. Sleep.

I often wish I were different, that I could dissolve more easily into a moment. But perhaps that will come with time. If not, I’ll just try to keep Cather’s words in mind. At the very least, it’s a lovely way to think about death—a self disbanded, a body dispersed, a part of something entire.

Image by Georgia O’Keeffe, since the theme of the day is badass ladies of the American west, apparently. 

Get outside and worship in the Tree Church.

Church_front_thru_trees_resize-960x600In the past two weeks, I have gone mountain biking at Sugarloaf, hiked Bradbury Mountain, swam in three rivers and one pond, tried stand-up paddleboard yoga for the very first time, went bouldering and fell on my butt, and climbed up a slippery waterfall. I’m proud of this fact, even though it means I’ve been neglecting my blog and my books and my work. But the easiest way to recalibrate my inner system—to reset my mental state to neutral, to flip the switch from madness to sanity, to stop the centipede from whirling around my skull—is to go outside.

I won’t get weird and preachy here, but I don’t know how to say this without sounding a little too earnest. So I’ll just go ahead and keep it short: I need green things. Nature makes me whole and balanced and good. It’s my jam (friluftsliv FTW).

Tree-Church_web_front_full-colourSo naturally I fell in love with this outdoor church in New Zealand made almost entirely from living things. “After traveling the world and being a keen observer of Churches, Barry Cox decided to construct a unique Church of his own using living trees,” reads the website. Construction started in April, 2011 and now the church and garden grounds are open to visitors. You can also book it for weddings. How nice would that be?

Sadly, it’s too expensive for my nuptials (not to mention halfway around the world). But what a great idea! It reminds me of earthwork artist Olafur Eliasson’s piece at Bard, the Parliament of Reality. It’s an art installation that also functions as an outdoor gathering space, and I used to visit it often when I was in school. It’s been years; I wonder what it looks like now…

See more about the tree church here and here.

Food for thought: Lee Price paints oral cravings.

Lee Price Eating CerealFood is something I think about all the time. As I’m eating lunch, I’m silently planning what I will have for dinner. I know many people don’t operate this way; my obsession is born from two things: a history of disordered eating and a real compulsion to savor everyday joys. I know, that’s a lot of contradiction. But I think it’s true. As much as food has given me grief in the past, it’s also something I adore. It’s the easiest, fastest way to gift yourself with a moment of happiness, a burst of pleasure. Out of all our cravings—and I know you crave more than just food because everyone does—it’s the most harmless to indulge (except earworms, but that’s a craving of another aural/oral sort).

lee price happy mealAnd yet. Food is still so fraught, and that’s especially true for women. Hyper-realistic painter Lee Price digs her heels in and confronts the complex rat-king tangle of emotions that is nourishment in her recent series of self-portraits. “The areal view evokes the feeling of an out of body experience: the subject is watching herself engage in a compulsive behavior but is unable to stop. There is an absurdity to this act of compulsion. At the same time it is an attempt to find real nourishment,” she explains. There’s something at once both comforting and disturbing about these pictures. They feel brave. And yet. To call them brave seems strange. It’s just an artist eating food in a bathtub, right? It’s just a woman chowing down, right? But like, is it ever? (No.)

lee price is bossI won’t go into a big feminist rant here because I’m sleepy and that’s not really what I do on my blog anyway. But I will say this: I love her work. I love food. I hate food. I can’t imagine a world in which I would ever let someone photograph me eating in a bathtub. But Price did that to create her uncannily seductive paintings and that’s freaking badass.

lee price bonsSee more.

The ultimate mombod.

great mothers of the stone ageIn honor of Mother’s Day (and since my mom reads my blog more than anyone else, probably) here’s a very cool graphic of mombods compiled by the smart ladies at etsi-ketsi. (Don’t know what a “mombod” is? It’s cool, it’s a stupid made-up thing that happened on the internet.)

It’s also interesting to note that these aren’t all Stone Age sex symbols as some might assume. “Erroneously, perhaps even cynically, many of the statues and sculptures shown here have been named Venus statuettes by patriarchal archeologists, as in Venus of Willendorf and Venus of Laussel; names based on the well-known nude depictions of the much later and slender Roman Venus,” explains scholar Eva Sawada.

Here’s another amazing graphic, this one shows “Goddess Sculptures” from the early Bronze Age. There’s something so amazingly modern about these, so geometric and cool, especially the top row.  With their sharp angles and big shoulders, these femmes remind me of 80’s business ladies in power suits. How would you worship a boss-bitch goddess? By burring a pyre of vintage Vogues? By using lipstick as warpaint and reenacting the ancient ritual of the power lunch? By sacrificing your toes to the torture of a pointy heel? One can only imagine. goddess sculpturesAnyway, happy Mother’s Day or whatever. Enjoy the history lesson.

I mean, yeah, it’s a bad idea. But it’s pretty.

crimes-art-marco-evaristtiA Copenhagen-based Chilean artist was just sentenced to 15 days in jail for creating the above work, which involved pouring a bunch of pink food dye into the Strokkur Geysir. On one hand, it’s kind of a dick move (and his “defense” makes him sound like a pretentious jerk—totally unheard of for artists, I know). On the other hand, damn. I kinda dig it.

Sweet science: deer beds.

Katherine_Wolkoff_DeerbedHere is something I learned today: Deer beds are beautiful.

Here’s another thing: Deer travel and live in herds. They’re social animals—to an extent. While the bucks are off… doing whatever it is bucks do, the lady-deers come together. The female deers and their little dappled fawns bed down together in large groups, while the bucks only hang out in groups of three to five (they are constantly fighting for dominance, which weakens the herd dynamic, kind of like when you go out with a few guys and they start playing darts and the night quickly dissolves into puffed chests and hurt feelings).

Hunters often track deer based on the imprints they leave when they lie down to rest. They create oval-shaped indents on the ground, crumpled swirls of grass. In the winter, their body heat melts the snow beneath, so if you see a few round melty spots, that’s probably a deer bed. Katherine_Wolkoff_deerbed_2

Photographer Katherine Wolkoff has created a series called “Deer Beds,” and I’m absolutely in love. To capture these images, she followed deer around Block Island, stopping where they did and training her camera on their nocturnal nests. The photographs (above) are strangely intimate and human. Touching and wild. Sweet and subtle. Imagine stumbling on a one of these deer beds in the wild grass. Lie down, it’s still warm from their gentle heat. Smell the plants, prickly and pungent, green and growing. Go to sleep. Dream of the herd, prancing away without you. Oh, deer.

A funny little squirrel.

squirrel_tommyThis silly little guy is Tommy Tucker. In the 1940’s, he became mildly famous when LIFE magazine photographer Nina Leen decided to turn her lens on Tommy. His owner made him some sharp new outfits (all dresses, because, I have to assume, squirrels hate pants as much as I do) and a rodent star was born.

Hyperallergic has the full, creepy-cute story.

A good death is hard to find.

momento mori soapsMemento mori is a Latin term that means “remember that you must die” and apparently, that’s what inspired a California artist who goes by Eden to create these beautiful soaps. Her project, which was launched on Kickstarter, has been fully funded though she’s still accepting orders. Embrace your mortality while cleansing yourself of all earthly sins! Bathe in the knowledge that death comes for us all! (And when it does come, do try to have a good death, yeah?)

As anyone who reads this blog probably knows, morbid-pretty is my favorite kind of pretty. Poe once wrote that “there is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion” and I just love that. Strangeness in the proportion. Ugly-beauty. Morbid-pretty. It does feel like this is becoming zeitgeist-y as of late, with lots of female morticians speaking out on Twitter and lots of trendy blogs posting about Goth-y topics. But I think I like that (as much as I ever like it when my pet subjects grow larger than me). Let’s all embrace the strangeness of our proportions and plan our funerals and hold hands with our deaths and dance until we all fall down.

Things that make me happy: Japanese string gardens, Dylan Thomas & a song for Spring.

hanging string gardens japan1. In Tokyo, the “experience designers” at teamLab have created a beautiful, kinetic hanging garden made with a form of bonsai called Kokedama. Tied with string and bound with moss, the plants are able to grow mid-air, roots burrowing into little contained bundles of dirt. And because art and science are just natural bedfellows: This floating field is also mechanized to move with your body, parting the way for views to walk amongst the blossoms unhindered. What a lovely, happy thing to create. It reminds me of another untranslatable word I’ve been digging: Shinrin-yokuTranslated literally it means forest-bathing, but it’s often used to refer to a short, rejuvenating walk in the woods. Nice, right?

2. One of my all-time favorite poems is “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas. Just go read it to see why. This is one of those poems where all the parts are the best part, but here is a sample:

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
     The night above the dingle starry,
          Time let me hail and climb
     Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
          Trail with daisies and barley
     Down the rivers of the windfall light.

3. A perfect song for warmer weather!