Friday, October 29, 2010

United in Color

I love it when there is a game-changer in a community, when suddenly everyone you know is talking about something, is excited about something, is changing his or her behavior because of something. Right now, I’m thinking of the color Orange.

On a grand scale, several years ago, Christo erected his monumental “Gates” project in Central Park, linking and re-ordering the park in a way which compelled everyone who witnessed the Gates to see the park and the city differently. A green park became orange, walkways were created, gentle strolls became promenades, and people became a moving part of an artwork.

On a much smaller scale but stretched out across a much bigger landscape, pumpkins are everywhere in celebration of Halloween. I am thrilled as much to find the self-expression of a carved pumpkin sitting on the sidewalk in a most unlikely back alley as I am to see some of the more extravagant displays in wealthier neighborhoods. No one is too hip or too traditional, too urban or too rural, to partake in the ritual of pumpkin carving, and through it, we unite as a country, linked by orange.

Even fashion is getting into it. Just this week the Times reported on the sweep of red hair in celebrity circles. Maybe it’s been the national fascination with Joan on “Mad Men”. Maybe it’s a desire for the lighter times of Lucille Ball. There is no doubt that red – er orange – hair is an attention grabber, and doesn’t want more attention?

In my fair city, the biggest blaze of orange right now is in support of the San Francisco Giants. Their presence in the World Series has galvanized and united the city, fans and non-fans alike, men and women, straight and gay, black, white, Latino and Asian, Republicans and Democrats, young and old. Go Giants. Go Orange. Now, if only we as a country could be so united in purpose.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Should I Be Wearing These? (Reprise)

A few things happened today which returned me to musing about style and aging. In the Sunday New York Times, two very different style icons, Dominique Browning and Keith Richards, commented on their unique personal styles and the issue of age- appropriateness. And, in addition, I whipped out my swashbuckler boots, only to wonder whether I might be too old for them.

Browning dealt with the issue of long hair and older women. We all know those television commercials showing sexy desirable women with long, swinging, shiny hair, the kind that is promised to us if only we use the right products. Yet, the target audience with the most disposable income for self pampering, “mature” 50+ women, is told(as Browning noted) that it is inappropriate to hang on to this symbol of desirability, that it is inappropriate for successful or established or – let’s just face it – older women to flaunt their tresses. Is it the association of sexuality with long hair that is supposed to be quashed or the association of witches with long grey tresses which is to be avoided? Either way, I don’t get the taboo, and wholeheartedly support Browning in her determination not to go the “sensible” route (even though I, personally, can never achieve that long swinging hair, given my birth gift of a mop of curls).

And as for my boots? They are a few years old, radical when I purchased them, and interestingly are very much in style this fall. With the advent of the first fall rain, I pulled them out for a jaunt around San Francisco, wondering if now that young women were wearing similar styles, might I be perceived as too old for these? It’s a curious thing about fashion, how once a style is adopted by the young it appears to be young. And what are we “mature” women of style to do? Ignore the trend? Move on? Or embrace the notion that as long as we are comfortable with ourselves, we can and should wear what we choose? That flaunting style and sexuality is actually OK for a woman over 50?

I would like to believe that in some small way I am giving other women who see me the courage to dress as they want, not as they think they have to. The number of “great boots” and “where did you get them?”comments from women young and old which I received today certainly let me know both my boots and I were noticed and admired. I don’t expect to be the fashion icon my 22 year old daughter is; frankly, I am no longer that interested in fashion. But I also do not expect to be banished to some preordained style for the mature, a dry, uninteresting , and unnoticed place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purple is the new Black

I am not a purple person, but today I am wearing the only purplish item in my wardrobe as a statement of support for opposing the bullying - or should we call it torturing - that led to a teenager's tragic suicide.

It was so many years ago that we could chant "sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me" and know that that was a remote possibility. Today, we can spy, post, rant, text, smear, brag and tag with no greater purpose than to instantly and rampantly violate someone else's privacy. No better example of this exists than the depiction in the movie "The Social Network".

Why humans feel the need to degrade someone else has many roots and causes. That we do it intentionally is horrible. That we might encourage it through our own actions of indiscretion needs to be checked and curbed, and I am definitely talking to myself with this. That we observe it going on and do nothing about it is inexcusable.

Wearing purple today won't end bullying, but it is recognition of the issue. If wearing purple every day would change the world, I would consider giving up my wardrobe of black. Speaking out when we see observe reprehensible behavior, teaching our children, and not condoning emotional torture is the only way forward.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Sickness and in Health

I have been thinking about commitment lately, about who we care for and why and how, about the fifty/fifty nature of a relationship, the willingness to give and take, about marriage vows and family vows and friend vows and lover vows, both spoken and unspoken.

We take no vows when we make new friends, yet the commitment from a friend can be the fiercest we know. It is not a coincidence that I just read "Let's Take the Long Way Home" by Gail Caldwell, a story of the most impassioned, meaningful friendship between two women. Over the past few months, I have been cared for by friends, by friends of more than 30 years who know me better than I know myself, by friends made in the past year with whom I have formed powerful bonds, and even by friends made in the last month. What I realized is that the give and take of friendship is based on mutual openness and sharing, by a willingness to be there for someone else and put yourself in the other's shoes, even when the shoes are sticky or sweaty or bloody or ugly. What I also know is that I love my best friends, no vows necessary, yet I wish there was, in fact, some ceremony which honors these relationships.

We take no vows when we are born into a family, inheriting people with common blood who we may or may not like, acquiring siblings, inlaws and step-families along the way. No vow is necessary for me to know that I will do anything - anything! - for my family members closest to me, and the feeling is absolutely reciprocated. It's not obligation, it is love at the deepest level.

The classic marriage vow includes the commitment to care "in sickness and in health". I truly can't remember if I included this in my mid-70's marriage commitment, yet here I am, separated, on my way to divorce, knowing that not only will I care emotionally for my ex for life, but, in fact, will be caring financially as well due to his health issues. This bothered a man I was dating recently, bothered him enough for us to end the relationship, in fact. I had taken no vows with this new man, had merely opened my heart to him in the opening stage of love, and learned that we had different notions of give and take.

We have to sign agreements online before we can submit personal information to a website. We have to sign NDA's when engaging in early business relationships. We have to get licenses to drive and hunt and fish, but not to form friendships or have children or date where we have the ability to grow love or inflict hurt. Those unspoken vows of honesty and caring are supposed to be enough, and thankfully, they usually are.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Generosity and Creativity of Artists

While traveling in North Carolina last week, one of my planned stops was to visit with Deb Karash, an outstanding jewelry artist represented by Artful Home. Deb had said, “You have to see my studio. You have to come to Marshall. And by the way, I hope you can see my new gallery, too.” Who knew? My expectation was to see her studio and see more of her work, and what I got instead was a fabulous introduction to a high energy wealth of creativity and generosity in the beautiful, tiny town of Marshall, North Carolina, and an example of how artistic vision can change the landscape of a place.

Deb’s studio is in a building called the Marshall High Studios, in Marshall High School. Abandoned as a high school and slated for demolition, artist Rob Pulleyn led an effort in 2006 to save the building and convert it into studio and exhibit space. Today, the building houses 28 studios , a gallery, plus fabulous community spaces where the artists have costume balls, performances, and other joint efforts.

I have not met Rob Pulleyn, but have an admitted crush on him nonetheless. First I had heard about his vision and energy resulting in the revitalization of both this building and several in downtown Asheville. Then I saw his ceramics; be still my heart. His forms are strong and sensuous, often in painterly colors with strong calligraphic markings, evoking shapes both modern and ancient, as if dug from a excavation of the future.

Deb’s work demands, deserves, and requires attention to the detail she puts in to each piece. Working in metal with color applied with colored pencil, Deb creates miniature sculptures to wear in organic, graceful forms.

Completely new to me was the painter, Gayle Paul, whose juicy canvases pulsated with a quiet fervor. I want one. Badly! I think that Gayle captures much of what is so seductive about the south in her paintings, that blend of an iron fist in a velvet glove, strength and grace with a drawl.

In the little downtown of Marshall close to the studio, we found a terrific real general store, a really great coffee house (Zumi) up to Bay Area standards where they individually brewed cups of iced coffee, a terribly-named nail salon (Ain’t that Cuticle), and the new cooperative gallery that Deb has started (Flow) with other artists from her studio. In a time when galleries are closing throughout the country, this is no doubt a bold venture on Deb’s part. But given the mecca for craft that western North Carolina has become, and given Deb’s critical curatorial eye, zeal and passion, I suspect this could become a destination gallery, much like the fabulous ceramics gallery, Crimson Laurel, in nearby Bakersville.

Deb didn’t need to devote the better part of a day showing me around. She didn’t need to start a gallery. She didn’t need to let me in to so many talented people’s lives. But she did, with generosity, and I am utterly grateful.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inspired Lives: David Willard

It was my intention on my recent trip to visit both the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Tennessee. Arrowmont’s reputation lives somewhat in the shadows of the better-known Penland, so I was less prepared to be impressed on my trip there. So much for preconceived notions!

They say that an organization often mirrors its leader, and clearly this was the case with Arrowmont. David Willard is the Executive Director of this 100 year old institution nestled against the entrance to the Great Smokies National Park. He had graciously invited me to visit and tour, and from the moment I arrived, it was clear that his love, passion, and generosity of spirit pervade the atmosphere of the school. The place was quietly abuzz with enthusiastic students, residents, teachers and staff. While feeling something like summer camp for adults with its buildings and location, the reality is that serious art takes place here, and David's mission is to gently foster that creativity, to provide a place with outstanding studios, faculty, library, and spirit.

The current gallery show of work by the 2010 faculty was dynamic and exciting, exhibiting a fearless embrace of both contemporary explorations as well as more traditional in craft. It makes me wonder why the craft world as a whole can’t embrace the new and the old with the same enthusiasm, why there so often seems to be a divide between artists who came of age in the ‘70’s and the current generation who see things so differently when working with similar materials. It takes bold leaders like David to show the world that craft new and old can cohabitate. It takes gentle leaders like David to show the world that this can be done in an environment of gentility. And it takes, and will continue to take, ongoing sponsors to financially support and acknowledge crafts as a vital part of our country's culture.

Blessing Bowl by David Caldwell
The Overseer by Lanie Gannon

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inspired Lives: Andrew Glasgow

10 days of travel to see art, meet with artists, educators, curators and arts mobilizers have filled and inspired me in a way I had not imagined. As a result, my next several blogs will be dedicated to what I am calling "Inspired Lives".

It is with absolute purpose that I begin my tribute to my friend Andrew Glasgow, a man who is living with terminal cancer, a man who has astounded the medical world with his strength and tenacity, a man who has created such a global imprint on the world of craft and design that everyone knows him and has been affected by him, and a man who by example is teaching those he encounters how to live a more meaningful life.

Andrew's home in the hills of North Carolina is more than just a reflection of Andrew; it is Andrew. Gutted, redesigned and remodeled for him by his friend, artist and architect Randy Shull, every detail is a considered, personal choice with a meaningful story behind it: the orange cabinets, with their initial color pow and which upon closer inspection reveal painstakingly layered and rubbed colors; the windows which create the illusion that Andrew is the sole inhabitant of this gorgeous part of the country; the GammaPar and terrazzo floors both cool and warm at the same time, displaying an attention to detail and an expansive vision; and the built-in cabinetry meant to house his exceptionally curated and deeply personal collection of art and craft.

As Andrew cooked me a southern breakfast complete with cheese grits, my eyes flitted about, landing on one remarkable object and detail after another. In my dreams, I will someday have a home as beautiful as his. But it was Andrew's words which had the most profound effect on me. He knows his days are limited and has accepted that inevitability with grace and yet without succumbing. He told me that once he learned to embrace his cancer, it gave him greater strength to live, strength to defy the odds yet look life squarely in the eyes for all that it can be. Chemotherapy is a necessary nuisance, so he plans for it without dwelling on it. As he recognizes that he still has more to give to this world, Andrew is re- entering the work arena with a balanced fervor that so many of us strive for with limited success. His friends are his tribe, and their/our common language is honesty, as nothing less has meaning.

I am having technical issues posting images today, so a link to my images can be found at

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


It started out as a melancholy day, a day for me of feeling tender and vulnerable, one in which I wished to be wrapped in gentle layers to ease the pains in my soul. The end of another short-lived possibility of romance was causing me to re-think my readiness for love and partnership. The imminent death of a family member for whom I have strongly conflicted feelings was hovering overhead as I anxiously awaited message of her passing. Other worries far too personal to write about were looming as well.

Was it any wonder that the artwork which resonated so strongly with me today was that which spoke to this tender feeling? I went to visit the studios at Penland, and found solace in artwork. Margaret Couch Cogswell works in imagery both gentle and soulful. A mouse-like animal with a sign over his heart saying "soft spot" called out to me. And beside it, a tiny folded book which fits into a tiny hand, with words that read "There are days when a heart needs holding"

Comforting as a warm blanket, these works soothed me, reassuring me that today's pain was part of the human condition, that art could help me heal, that I was not alone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rejection Letter

Is there any good way to be rejected? Whether in love or school or career, I think there is no good way, and that is a simple, hard, painful truth, as none of us likes being rejected, told that we are not " the one". But there are better and worse ways, and I remain dumbfounded that mature adults often do not have the courage nor the courtesy to handle doling out rejection with respect, with the silent treatment getting the prize for worst form.

Some of the greatest offenders are potential employers, and even worse, recruiters. While I have had the luxury and good fortune in my career to have been steadily employed, I have watched with horror as friends who are seeking positions have to endure the agony of the no-news rejection, the cowardly and inconsiderate practice of delaying rejection through dropping contact, compounding the ultimate rejection with the anxiety of waiting, waiting, waiting to hear.

I was once scolded for breaking off a relationship by email, rather than in person or at least over the phone, and in retrospect, I think I deserved that scolding. It seems to me that anyone for whom one has cared enough about to spend large amounts of time with, to say nothing of becoming intimate with, deserves some face time or voice time, no matter how uncomfortable that encounter may be. The person being rejected deserves that, and although it doesn't eliminate the searing pain of rejection, it helps preserve dignity at a most vulnerable time.

Schools, colleges, and competitions may do it best. They are direct, have prescribed dates and procedures, and one knows when one applies that the chances of being rejected are high. Perhaps if we walked into interviews and relationships with this recognition from the get-go, the roads of relationships and job seeking would be smoother. But with so much on the line, whether it is the hope for love or the hope for a salary, it is hard to keep that in perspective.

In my year of dating (which sometimes feels like my year of living dangerously), I have been both rejector and rejectee, and sometimes my skin has been rubbed raw from licking my wounds. But I hold firm that a rejection letter is an inferior form to a real conversationl