Monthly Archives: May 2012

grebo


grebo n. a youth of a group favoring heavy metal or punk rock music and long hair

Today I could go for some Metallica. Some “Enter Sandman.” Ever since I saw the Metallica documentary I can’t stand Lars Ulrich, but I still like Metallica. I also am a big Guns and Roses fan, but are they even really considered metal these days? There is something great about metal. Without it there wouldn’t be Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins. There is nothing like it when you are feeling rotten or just need to get going. I don’t listen to it enough, but I used to be really into it when I was around 13. I remember getting into trouble when my parents found the Appetite for Destruction cassette tape in my bedroom. It had some gratuitous cartoon nudity in the little booklet inside the case. I remember feeling defiant and grown up. When I was done listening to it, I’d turn on the Wonder Years and stare at Kevin Arnold.

I bet the next thing hipsters try to pull off is Grebo – chic. As much as I don’t like hipster lifestyle, I love people watching them. Their intentionally tacky thrift store outfits and tattoos of useless, meaningless things. Not taking a shower on purpose and stinking on the G train. I also love their mecca – Williamsburg. I remember looking for an apartment on Berry St. a few years ago. It was a 4th floor walk up and when we got to the top there were 4 stoned guys sitting on kitchen chairs and watching porn on a small black and white TV. They had built an elevated bunk bed out of 2 x 4s and were using a wheelchair as a desk chair. It was a railroad apartment and there were garbage bags stuffed in several alcoves. At a different apartment in Williamsburg, the tenants had just moved out and left garbage all over the floor. There were random pieces of furniture parts and food. It was so exciting to view authentic hipster habitats.

Needless to say, we didn’t live in Williamsburg and that was a very long day. However, there is a certain street with a little rocky beach to sit on and watch the dirty water ebb and flow. The same street has a great modern furniture store, a garden shop called Sprout and an architectural salvage shop that makes my mouth water.

I’m not a grebe or a hipster. Just a mom who likes Metallica, the Wonder Years and Brooklyn…and needs a nap.

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pastiche


pastiche n. an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist or period

I had always associated this word with a great little dessert restaurant in Providence on Federal Hill near Cafe Dolce Vita, which will always be one of my favorite places. I was surprised to learn what it actually meant. It seems very apropos as I have embarked on the “Artist’s Way” journey and am finding it to be very useful in unblocking my creative spirit. It has also caused me to think a lot about art, specifically the state of art at the present.

The old adage goes that “life imitates art,” but sometimes when I am working on something creative I feel like art imitates art. For example, I am currently cutting a lino block for a new project and I can’t help but think that my creation is starting to look like a Nikki McClure work. I love her work and have a bunch of children’s books that I purchased for Graham that we read a lot. I think I am subconsciously channeling her style…and it’s frustrating. In college, we used to have numerous exercises where one would have to write in the “voice” of a different, notable author. This helped to jump start creativity and develop style. One could say that this is what I am currently doing now with this particular piece. I think that all artists struggle with the overwhelming pressure to create a mark in this universe that is completely unique, unlike anything that has ever existed in the past and present. It is a tall order to fill and I think that most will probably never reach that goal. Perhaps being an artist is the endless pursuit towards just that.

The other day I was speaking to my husband about being creative and making prints. He said, “Just make something beautiful.” Sometimes when the brain gets full and I get too far ahead of myself, I need to remind myself of this simple advice. I don’t think there can ever be anything wrong, or useless or unworthy by adding a little bit more beauty to the world. It shouldn’t matter if it looks similar to something else that already exists or if it doesn’t have a voice that tells some complicated, convoluted story. Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Goya made beautiful art that didn’t always overtly express who they were or their view points. It was their style, their indelible mark on the world that expressed their personality. They embodied their artistic voice in their technique and style.

In our present age it seems artists struggle to make work that screams about who they are, their tragedy, their woe. Many times it is vulgar, ugly and meant to evoke emotion or reaction in the viewer…having nothing to do with technique, practice or ability. Art has become a kind of therapy for individuals where creating a tangible example of ones catharsis is the end result and goal. This is not the type of art I aspire to create.

I am “old school” about a good many things. Taking care of my son and cooking are two examples, especially meatballs. They can’t be too bready or too dry and meaty. They should have pignioli nuts, raisins optional. They should be pre browned in a pan and then finish cooking in a nice pot of homemade gravy. The first one you eat should be sprinkled with parmesan cheese and a little gravy. They get better every time I make them. I don’t want to reinvent the meatball. I just want to add something beautiful, simple and delicious to the world.

Now I just need to find my recipe for creativity…

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mansuetude


mansuetude n. meekness; gentleness

Mary, the mother of God, has always had a special, quiet existence in my life. She is a constant, graceful reminder to me of meekness and gentleness and has marked my life from childhood to this day.

I remember going to my grandmother’s house while my mother was ill and my father working. Being an Italian immigrant, she had several religious statues around the house, including a fully dressed infant of Prague who had it’s own wardrobe. Next to the prized infant was a stark painted statue of Mary as well as Saint Theresa. I remember having to sleep in my grandmother’s bed when I stayed over. She snored so loudly and I was up for most of the night imagining that her wheezing and snorting had a rhythmic beat. During those nights I would stare at Mary and she would stare back at me until I feel asleep.

In school, we would prepare for the crowning of Mary with flowers each May. All of the names of the little girls in class would go into a hat to see who would be chosen to walk up the aisle and crown the church statue during our First Friday mass. There was even a song we would sing – “Oh Mary we crown thee with blossoms today…” that I still remember fondly. I never was chosen to crown Mary, but it was always my favorite mass. Mary was my icon of quiet strength and mansuetude as she held up her hands, looked up to heaven and stepped on the snake with such beauty and gentleness.

As I grew older, Mary took on more profound meaning in my life. During one of my sleepless nights when caring for my dying father I remember seeing a water stain on the ceiling above his bed that had a shape like the silhouette of the Virgin Mary. I hadn’t noticed it before and it comforted me to think that she was watching over my father. As he progressed through the final stages of dying, he would speak to invisible people and one of them was named Mary. He could have been seeing his mother who was named Mary and had died when he was just a child. Nevertheless, in my memories it is was Mary who watched over and protected him; who held him in her arms as he died. It was her song – Ave Maria – that was played at his funeral that I cannot hear without crying and remembering the loss of my father.

Mary is who I pray to when I am most scared and alone. When the plane is taking off or I am in fear of losing someone I love. She is the saint that I imagine quietly standing in my corner through out my life. She watches over me without pomp or circumstance, never asking for anything but my faith in return. As Mother’s Day approaches and I watch my son grow and thrive each day, I pray to become an example of gentleness and meekness in his life…the eyes he can stare into as he drifts to sleep, the arms that will hold him in times of pain and sorrow. Always silently, gently in his corner as his mother.

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braaivleis


braaivleis n. a picnic or barbecue where meat is grilled over an open fire

I can track my life in barbecue memories. From the crack of the Naragansett tall boys and fireworks at McCoy stadium in Rhode Island to the outdoor shower and savannah bugs of our Brooklyn deck, barbecues have become an important part of my summer life. This summer we add a third chapter to our barbecue memories here in Maplewood, NJ…and it has me pondering the urban vs. the suburban.

There is something about the summer barbecue that brings a smile to my face. It reminds me of one of my favorite bars in the world – the Gowanus Yacht Club in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Eating and drinking outside while wearing shorts and talking to friends is one of the most fulfilling simple things we have in life. I miss Brooklyn often for this reason. Here in the suburbs, I feel like people are locked up in their pretty houses, not having to face the unwashed masses out in the street. The city forces you to deal with people on a daily basis whether you want to or not. Sometimes interactions are good, other times you’re having a trash bag of urine soaked clothes swung in your face by a homeless man on the subway (true story). I think this is why I was always so exhausted when we lived in the city. Our apartments were utilitarian and small – for sleeping and eating during the week. We had to get outside just to stretch out and live life.  In the city, your neighborhood is an extension of your apartment. Once a week I would drop off the laundry downstairs and almost daily I would stop into the Ki Grocery for milk or yogurt covered pretzels. I could probably walk into both of those places today and the owners would still know who I was. Our landlord had a man cave under our deck and we could always count on leaning over the deck railing and seeing him a few days out of the week to catch up on neighborhood gossip. There were block parties and festivals almost every weekend of the summer – sometimes too many. When you went outside, it still felt like your living room…sometimes it was great and sometimes you wanted to run.

The suburbs are…different. Transitioning to life here has been a bit of a challenge. Since we have a mortgage, we spend a lot of time “feathering our nest” rather than going out. Every one seems cooped up in their houses making it prettier and better – hell, we paid enough for it. Our neighbors are great, but people just don’t spend unscheduled, unorganized time outside waiting for conversation. People feel like puzzle pieces here – as if they have a space carved out for them – a square peg for every square hole. Things are much more scheduled and routine. There are also a lot less watering holes and spontaneous conversations with strange / interesting people. We go to our local pub almost every week and the damn hostess is still a bitch to us and acts like she’s never seen us before.

This summer, we will have a few braaivlei in our yard as opposed to our old deck in Brooklyn. There will be more mosquitoes and less cockroaches (the huge kind that live outside…scary…won’t miss them). I suppose we are beginning a new chapter in our barbecue history book. Quite some time ago, grilling out in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and catching the Red Sox game in the den was a weekend past time. We shall see what this summer brings…

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