L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Temporary genius

Do you know what? If you're fairly familiar with the form and style of the classic nineteenth-century orchestral waltz - I am - and you happen to be a rather good whistler and/or hummer - actually, I am - AND you happen to have the most marvelous coffee buzz blazing away - I do - you can do all number of the most useful things (Why, I just made my breakfast, prepped several bunches of Lacinato kale for the week's usage, chopped up some bacon and baked it in the oven - so much less mess that way, you know - made a pot of rice, washed some dishes and gave the kitchen the once over) whilst simultaneously and extemporaneously composing really quite creditable waltzes created in the style of la famille Strauss, Waldteufel, Lehár, etc.* If you have acquired the prerequisites, and if the conditions are in your favor, and until the divine caffeinated frénésie deserts you, you will be quite the minor genius.

* The full orchestrations, of course, would be lost on anyone who might be listening but, I swear to you, they are definitely there in my head. I'm certain that any overheard performance would prove much more persuasive if only I could find a way to whistle and hum at the same time.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A painter sews

Some painters get to paint. Just paint. They figure it out as they go. I have to plan. The kind of work I do, and the thinness of the paint surface, means that I have to plot it all out ahead of time; I can't easily or effectively paint over things. In the last few years, especially, I've tried to get smarter in how and how much I prepare. I take more preparatory photographs, I do more Photoshop compositing, I grid. Drapery has always been a challenge. It's pretty difficult to just make it up in your head. As I've gotten older, I've become more adept at doing that, but it's a much better use of my time to arrange and work from photographs.

To that end, this past week I sacrificed three and a half painting days to clothes making. I dragged out the very heavy sewing machine and ran up: one very full (we're talking five-yards-of-material full) floor-length white taffeta skirt with train; the same thing again, but in red satin; one full petticoat, made from a very pretty old white cotton damask bed sheet; and two sets of lace sleeve ruffles, perhaps more properly known as engageantes.

I also re-purposed an old dress shirt to use as an all-purpose bodice. Pretty much all I did was cut off the collar and part of the front, and nipped in the sides and the sleeves. The shirt was a replacement for one I had adapted previously. I had rushed that version and very much regretted my haste. Thinking I could avoid some of the annoying pin-it-turn-it-inside-out-reset-the-pins nonsense, I had turned the shirt inside out to begin with, pinned and then was able to just go ahead and sew the alteration. (If you've never sewn, the preceding probably makes no sense at all.) I soon realized my grave error. Like most people, my arms are not the same size; I'm very right handed, and my right arm reflects that it gets more use. When I turned the shirt right side out and put it on, I had one very tight sleeve and one very loose one. It was serviceable, but it didn't look quite right. I'm glad I had a chance for a do-over.

I can't wait to start using these garment pieces for painting prep. The red satin skirt was made intentionally for use in the final painting I have planned for my show at Winston Wächter in June. I've been calling it, informally, the "big red dress painting". Oh, and there's a squirrel involved. But I won't go into that here. Now if I can just figure out a way to fit all of this pretty yardage into the closet....


This photograph gives very little feeling for how vast the white taffeta skirt is; it looks so innocent hanging there. In reality, it's all papery stiff, holding its shape against gravity and eating up huge quantities of real estate. I love it.

[Those are Nicholas' toys on the floor below; he brings them all out to the living room/studio and, when he's not looking, I kick them all to the end of the hall.]

This was just a Gap shirt. I really liked it, but it got an ever-so-slight-but-definite stain on the front, and now it's given its life in the service of Art.

These are meant to be wrist ruffles, worn with long sleeves, so I don't know if I can actually call them engageantes; the word might be reserved for those dainty articles that attach just below the elbow, worn for almost the entirety of the eighteenth century. Of course the fact that I made them to close with tiny bits of Velcro makes the whole question moot...!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

State mandated amour


No this isn't some screed related to the marriage equality/inequality debate. It's about Valentine's Day. It bugs me. And I know I shouldn't say so. That's one of the main reasons that it bugs me; unless you're single, you aren't allowed a dissenting opinion.

There's certainly a contrarian streak in my nature. Tell me how I'm supposed to feel, and I'll most likely go the other way. And I'll never be afraid to tell you so. With Valentine's Day, though, even if you and the beloved both agree that it's an immature, manipulative, crassly commercial, vulgar little event, there's no way 'round it. You can't not play: What, don't you love your wife?!

Well, yes, I do. Terrifically so. And I try to show it; I'm certainly not afraid to say so. All year round. But somehow today is the day I'm expected to declare it publicly? Said who? I was a little embarrassed, really, to be seen out and about this morning, looking like the stereotypical guy buying his proofs-of-love just like he's supposed to. Champagne and chocolate were already chez nous, but I bought flowers - just to buy flowers - and I had to stop myself from babbling to the cashier, "These are not for Valentine's Day!"

Luckily, G doesn't have huge, lacy, cardboard cut-out expectations for the once-a-year day. Honestly, we're pretty self-indulgent most of the time so, except for the dinner out - nothing fancy - it's not going to be that showy of an evening. After-dinner champagne, a little chocolate, and a movie. At first we talked about sniffing around and looking to choose a "romantic" movie, but we ended up with a very gritty Humphrey Bogart in "High Sierra". Neither of us have seen it before, but we assume it will be delightfully dismal, with the star and probably several others dead at the finish; just our style. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!


Our biggest concession to the holiday is the card. The official card. Each year we take up Photoshop and try and out-muscle each other in Valentinian cuteness. It's always fun and a nice challenge. Here are a few of mine, including this year's: