Saturday, December 13, 2008

Pottery, etc.

I started a pottery class this past week with a local potter, Talle Johnson.  Today I got my first pieces out of the kiln.  Glazing is always a bit of a gamble, because it never quite happens the way you expect it to.  But accidents are part of the process, so it's fun to see what explosions of color come out.  I was really excited about the metallic spots and matte glazing on this first one:

...and wheel work borders on hypnosis (staring down into a spinning bowl for extended periods of time requires good hydration and mental preparation).  It's actually really interesting to feel clay find it's center.  Think of a noisy room going silent.  At first you have to wrestle with the clay a bit while it spins, and then its lumps smooth out into a circle, and your hands are cupping this perfectly round lump of clay, spinning silently and effortlessly.  It still takes me a long time to get it centered, and I think I am holding my breath the entire time.  Then, the thumbs open up a hole in the middle, which creates the sides of the bowl or mug.  Patience is key, at least right now, because sudden jerks knock the clay out of center, so every move is doubly slow and meticulous.  I think of the spinning wheel as one force, while the hands are the opposite force, working in contradiction to the rotation in order to pull a pot out of nothing.  Maybe it's like a flower blossoming in fast-motion: a burst of shape and form.

This is an older, hand-built piece I made in 2007.  You can see the coils on the top half.  The notches are to help bind the coils together, but here are more for looks than necessity.  Everything about it is off-balance... the handles, the glaze, the coils.  It has four sides at the base but warps into 3 at the top.  I also took clumps of different colored wet clay, and splattered it all over, which makes it look like it has been underwater for while.  I guess I tend towards the messy, so it's good that I am back on the path towards symmetry.   

close-up of a handle

On a personal note: I am moving to the opposite end of Chattanooga, which I am truly happy about.  My current house is rather drafty and cramped.  It's nice on rainy days, because Lookout Mountain gets this thick fog all over it and the trains rumble off in the distance, and I can open the old glass windows in my kitchen and drink tea, but that's really the only positive.   

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Halloween Critical Mass

I was so excited to find out that a critical mass had been planned for Halloween.  It was really perfect: I am still trying to meet people, and I didn't have any plans for the evening.  What a better way to spend Halloween than a mass of costumed bike riders taking back the streets?
Critical masses have never caught on in Chattanooga.  About 50 people showed up for this one, which was enough to take up a lane of traffic and to have a sort of group synergy.  In a pack of 50, we all felt more or less invincible.  We got lots of cheering from people on the street, which made it even more exciting, and we started cheering, too.  Note: bike horns and bells are essential for a good mass.  
The costumes varied:  lion costumes, Bob Ross, a dad dressed as Tigger toting his waving kid in a trailer, also dressed as Tigger, duct-work robot outfits, rednecks and rock stars, jazz-ercizers, hipsters and farmers that didn't need to dress up any different than any other day, and one girl that wore an accordion.  I had to work that day, so I didn't have anything elaborate.  I wore my faux-Icelandic sweater and toboggan, hoping to look like Jonsi from Sigur Ros.  We rode an interesting lot of bikes, as well:  road bikes, mountain bikes, old clunkers and professional racers, bikes with lights, bikes with stereo speakers, single speed surlies and a bicycle made for two.  
We rode a big loop through town, running red lights, and boggling traffic.   I was all smiles. Finally(!)  something is happening besides work.  Finally, I am back on a bike again.  Finally, I am meeting people who are interested in finding interesting ways to have fun.  I miss so much the weekend rides that I took in Honduras, and this was, in a small way, a reclamation of that.  
We stopped at pub for a beer, but that split the group in half.  Some of us kept riding, well into the evening, getting lost, finding parties with free food and bonfires.  I think it was a good start.

stopping for a drink...

sunset behind the bridge

a glimpse of my icelandic sweater, and robotic legs...


some interesting grafitti....

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On a lighter note...

I saw Sigur Rós!  

I saw Sigur Rós!  

i am still processing all of the music... they made some of the wildest noises imaginable.  

sometimes i think that they have made the final statement on music.  

maybe it's all those  ð sounds, or the hopelandic mewing?  

Sigur Rós gravitates between sweaty-brow drone and nectar-ine iceberg anthems.  

Their best music swells (upwards of 10 minutes), before they turn it into something shimmery, something noisy, something epic.   Their opening song was "Svefn g Englar" and each band member had a yellow-green light behind him.  The effect was a black silhouette sunken in light, as if they were emerging from the darkness, with what sounds like an underwater radar bleep.  Jonsi starts by raking a violin bow across the strings, which makes long, growling noises.  Sort of like dinosaurs. or trains. or humming powerlines.  

Maybe most impressive were the quiet songs. Everyone sat in a tense hush, biting nails and hanging on every word.  I've never been to a "rock" show where people put such trust in a band, or such authority in their art.  In a way, it was more like a symphonic concert, or an art show. Everyone clapped politely after the songs.  During their song "Festival," they stopped playing for a solid 30 seconds and stared at the crowd before continuing.  No one made a noise.  In fact, I think we were all holding our breath.  I was amazed; thousands of people loving the silence as much as the noise.  

No one can explain Sigur Rós in words... reviews always end up using metaphors of grandiosity: glaciers, icebergs, garden of eden, etc. and they simply fall short (mine included).  You really just have to listen.  Start with the album Takk..., and devote an hour to it.  Listen all the way through.  It was made as a whole album, and like a movie, you can't go skipping around and understand it.

 Here's a link to one of their acoustic songs:


Off Main Street

Buildings being rebuilt,
cities bustling out of cities,

gray slab evidences its weathering,
trickling its age 
down the drabbiness of coarse cement

light skirts through the patchwork boarding
and half-sealed windows onto barnacled piping.

The wind whistles around corners, tugging at scowling windows that scare off the would-be intruder 

Doorways are 
frameworks, contexts, glimpses,
memories that you can't quite remember

and these old buildings are piles of gravel,
dinosaur bones half-buried,
history that has fallen to its geometric elements,

to be reshaped, reformed, reinterpreted

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Second Glance

The photograph pretends to be objective, as if it shows what is truly in its frame.  It is actually very subjective, manipulated even, because the photographer tries to catch something that isn't obvious, or that may only exist in the moment... photography is about creating a second glance.  If it doesn't foreground itself as interesting or mysterious or intentionally simple, what is there to grab the eye?  
I've been playing around with reflections, and trying to catch new perspectives.
The photo above shows foreground (the window with the shadow) and background (the arched window), and what is behind the camera (the buildings), which technically shouldn't be seen.

{a small puddle, the kind no one notices... contains images on ashpalt}

A second glance is required for any sort of art... what would the point of a poem or painting or album be if you could "get it" upon first glance?  A certain complexity, or obscurity, is required.  Art ought to lead to questions, and then more questions, as if it is continually out of reach.  

I am interested in the frame of the picture, and moreover, finding a new frame inside that frame.  
{a mirror behind ferns?!}
I am interested in the combination of foreground and background, and juxtaposing the subject and the object.  This means getting caught in the picture.

{A window of the mind?  Accidents can be pretty cool.}