Friday, April 29, 2011

David Hilliard: Photographs

For this volume, David Hilliard has made two main kinds of pictures: forthright images of his own dad going about his day-to-day life, and mysteriously erotic images of young people set in the lush woods of the American South. As you'll see from the images I choose to excerpt below, the former category of images tends to resonate with me a bit more than the later (I'm a sucker for this sort of devil-in-the-details domestic-life-of-the-older-generation thing--witness my never-ending fascination with the work of Elinor Carucci and KayLynn Deveney). But I must say that the cover image, which falls squarely in the later camp, is one of my current all-time-favorite photographs.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Poem Series About Fall 2005 Carries On

 September 8, 2005
Had an enjoyable evening to myself last night except for the fact that

The whole time a part of my mind was always thinking
of the next thing
I did not much like this
Maybe it makes sense while making dinner
to look forward to eating dinner
(yummy white mac and cheese in the big blue bowl)
But while eating and reading at the table I’m thinking “and then I’ll take a bath”
while in the bath “and then I’ll get in bed”
while in the bed “and then I’ll have some ice cream”
Why look forward to the next pleasure when the current pleasure is actually happening?
Your actual life
the ever-elusive
they’re always talking about
is happening
and you’re not in it
What a waste of a perfectly good present
The future will get there whether you tell it to or not
Do I think there’s any chance I’ll forget to eat the ice cream?

Also in my book there was a mention
of how well someone could recall a house after many years away
So I tried to think of houses I haven’t been in for years
And found I can float through the rooms of Granna and Geno’s in my mind
turning this way and that
remembering each nook each piece of furniture
as I proceeded on my mental tour from living room to dining room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom,
to the room that I slept in
the room that I thought of as mine
I realized that
beyond remembering how the rooms looked
the exact texture of the grit on the windowsill
the type and kind of heat
I could smell them
I don’t mean I could remember the smell
I mean I found the scent of those rooms in my nose as I lay on my bed in San Francisco in 2005
It’s been fifteen years since I was in that house
like Proust’s Madeline in reverse
something physical summoned up out of the air

image source is here

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There's been a fair bit of chatter, the past couple of days, not only about the launch of Barnes and Noble's newly updated Nook Color tablet-style e-reader, but also about the ad campaign for it. With the tagline "read forever" it depicts folks (for instance in the above and below images) reading both print and ebooks. It has some snappy language, too, about reading "by hook or by crook, by Nook or by book." Actually, this all resonates quite a bit with some thoughts I was thinking, here, about digital books the other day. Just goes to show, I guess, that none of us think in a vacuum. We're all partaking of the zeitgeist all the time, whether we know it or not.

Anyhow, I found it interesting that this message, the command to read, which used to be the province of American Library Association PSA posters (and as such always came across as a little dorky, a little do-good-y) is now being promulgated by those in the book business. Those old 80s and 90s posters, it turns out, are surprisingly difficult to find good images of online. But I did find a few...

Actually, I remember hearing a while back that the big concern, all through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, that television would destroy literacy, has abated somewhat in recent years because of the advent of the internet, email, instant messaging, and texting--apparently people now read far more words per day than they have for decades, if not longer. Of course, that's mostly people who have access to computers. Something we're all too prone to forget is the fact that that's still far from being everybody. I'm sure the computer will eventually be like the phone or the tv, something that's in pretty much every house regardless of income level, but we're not there yet. And by the time we are, who knows, maybe it won't involve reading anymore, it'll all just be brainwaves or whatnot.

Amusingly, it turns out the ALA is still hard at work making those celebrity reading posters. Sometimes with unintentionally hilarious results:

But, ultimately, I think my favorite image advocating reading (though those Muppets are a close second) is this one:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hooray for Art

Here's a little gallery of a few artists whose work I've been feeling inspired by lately. I seem to be gravitating towards witty illustration and photorealist painting, among various other things...

 Karen Kilimnik

Maira Kalman

Marisa Haedike

Michael Hsiung

Annie Galvin

Ralph Goings

Jen Tong

Jill Wignall

Claudia Pearson

Jessica Hess

Monday, April 25, 2011


For the past couple of months, Mabel has been eating solid (which, those of us just learning the baby lexicon discover, turns out to mean barely-solid) food. She loves all manner of mushy cereals--rice cereal and baby oatmeal and a multigrain cereal we call porridge--as well as pureed fruits like apples and pears and prunes and strawberries, and yellow/oranges vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and squash. The green vegetables--peas, broccoli, green beans, spinach--seem to be growing on her gradually as her pallet matures. She'll even put up with some protein like ground meat, egg yolks, or beans, if she gets to alternate bites with some more preferred food. Sometimes she is very prim and tidy about the whole eating process, but more often, as was clearly the case at breakfast on April 9th, above, it is a gloriously messy affair.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Vivienne Westwood

Seeing the Balenciaga show at the de Young the other day reminded me of the other notable fashion exhibitions I've seen there over the years (at this point I will make the requisite mention of the fact that there are folks in this town who think it's inappropriate for a major art museum to exhibit fashion, and would like to make a controversy out of such, but I pooh-pooh them, and will now move on). Yves Saint Lauren a few years back was amazing, but I think my favorite of all was the Vivienne Westwood show back when the museum building was pretty brand new. Thinking about it made me dig out the show catalog from my shelf to be today's art book (yes art book).

Man oh man, the older I get the more I nostalgically love 80s fashion. This image reminds me so much of shots I poured over in Elle and the big old newspaper-y staple-bound W and the Esprit and Benetton catalogs (also big and newspaper-y and staple-bound) when I first discovered fashion in about 1988. There was always this group of motley-yet-matchy beautiful young people hugging each other and looking at the camera. As a lonely bored 12-year-old in a catholic school uniform I so wanted to be those people (actually, now that I think about it, that goes a long way to explaining why I got into the theater crowd once I got to high school). I now think it entirely possibly that the divine Ms. Westwood invented that entire thing.

Sadly, I had no idea who she was way back then. But nevertheless outfits like this one absolutely cemented in me a notion of how to dress, and specifically how to use color, that survives to this day. 

But she was always pushing the envelope, of course, always about as far forward as fashion-forward can go. I distinctly remember having an debate with my father in the early 90s in which I maintained that big chunky platform shoes, such as were starting to turn up in couture at the time, would never become popular in the mainstream. Ha! Then I blinked and the next thing you you knew we had Doc Martens and the Spice Girls. 

One disconnect that strikes me, here, is how, when you see a museum show of fashion, what you spend the whole time looking at is clothes on mannequins. And a very satisfying experience that is. So then you buy the book, and the book is inevitably full of pictures of clothes on models, which are so great that the mannequin shots start to look stilted and weird. Which is a pity because, really, shots like the above are so great for really showing in detail the amazing genius weird construction of clothes, in a way that model shots almost never do.

I have nothing to say about the above, or the below images, except that they are totally amazing. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Series of Poems About Being Married to a First-Year Teacher in the Fall of 2005 Continues

September 7, 2005
Sometimes the world seems to narrow down to nearly nothing

Yesterday it was hard to see anything at all
but Bill’s unhappiness
and if we’re being honest
my unhappiness about his unhappiness
It’s more complicated than that
of course
In fact the complexity is part of what makes it
so relentlessly absorbing
For one thing he’s not unhappy
in the true sense of the word
he’s harassed and anxious and fretful
but he does a pretty good imitation of unhappiness
And I’m thinking I’ll be left with
little more to record
than an impression of his soft tan velour jacket against my face last night
and his crisp laundered blue and white shirt against my face this morning

But then there was one moment on the walk to work this morning
Some soaring wordless music was playing on my ipod and I caught
a glimpse of the sky
just the ordinary sky
fog beginning to burn off
soft luminescent gray and blue
And the gray and white tops of the buildings
looked like crenellations against this sky
The whole thing was
really quite moving
Music’s not a thing I naturally connect to strongly
the sky and buildings a bit more so
Smells, flowers, fabrics, food, light, color
are all so much more immediately present to me
But it’s reassuring to know that one can stretch oneself
or rather find oneself stretched by the things in the world

image source is here

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In Praise of Smallness

I love small art books. Love them. An art book that feels in your hand like a reading book, or like an even smaller little found treasure? Perfect. Sure, there's a time and a place for giant art books that rock your world and bowl you over, but those tend to get a lot of attention all on their own just by virtue of their sheer dimensions. What I'd like to do today is sing a little song of praise to petite art volumes, the artists who created them, and the publishers who chose to make them such a pleasing size--

How to Cook the Perfect Day by Nikki McClure, published by Sasquatch

 Serious Drawings by Marc Johns, published by teNeues

 Cityscapes by John King, published by Heyday

 Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory, published by Princeton Architectural Press

 A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson, published by Princeton Architectural Press

 The Day-to-Day Life of Albert Hastings by Kaylynn Deveney, published by Princeton Architectural Press

 Ok Ok OK by Mike Slack, published by Ice Plant

 Things are Really Getting Better by Barry McGee, published by Museum Het Domein

 Two Lines Align by Ed Fella and Geoff McFetridge, published by Red Cat

 Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky, published by Penguin

And (watch out, shameless self-promotion ahead), I've been inspired to help create a few small art books myself--with more to come in the future. Here's a little shelf of  some of my favorite small books that I've worked on:

Paper Cutting by Laura Heyenga, Apples I Have Eaten by Jonathan Gerken, 100 Girls on Cheap Paper by Tina Berning, Mixed by Kip Fulbeck, The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie by Malu Halasa and Rana Salam, Everything Is Going to Be Ok, and Nests by Sharon Beals, all published by Chronicle Books

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Could Live in This House

I mentioned a while back my love affair with British shelter magazine Living Etc. On average, I'd say that there is one house per issue that I wouldn't mind moving into lock, stock, and barrel. And, when you consider how many empty white modernist boxes there inevitably are in all homes magazines, that's really a pretty good ratio.

I know I could never be as restrained with color as this lady is. And really, I wouldn't want to be. But I can certainly still admire, and even in a sort of a way covet, this light-and-dark / natural materials / pops of bright color thing she's got going on. 

But even beyond that, this house has that ineffable quality. The one that allows you to easily slip your imaginary self right in there. Living a fantasy life, cooking in that kitchen and bathing in that bathtub and sleeping under that hot pink duvet.