Tag Archives: art

scaramouch


scaramouch noun, a boastful but cowardly person

scaramouch

“I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me”

– Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen

Today I opened up the old OED the way I used to when I started this silly blog and flipped around looking for a word. I landed on scaramouch and am pretty happy with it. I have heard, like everyone else in the world, the song Bohemian Rhapsody a few hundred times throughout my life, I am sure. I always glazed over this word and didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t even really sure it was a word until I found it today. I thought maybe Freddy Mercury just made it up. Naturally I went to Google and looked up the lyrics because now I was intrigued. I may be wrong but I took the singer, the subject of the song, to be the scaramouch and I ended up reading the lyrics as if they were poetry…and my mind opened up for me this beautiful morning.

I am not a huge Queen fan. I enjoy Queen here and there but am not an aficionado in any way. They are part of a large collection of music I enjoy. Until today I did not appreciate this song for what it was, which is a mini opera in 6 minutes. It is a work of genius. I have always known that it was because everyone told me it was. Forgive my naiveté. I am not musical in a way that musicians are and I have never studied music. I am merely someone who enjoys listening. I have never approached music the way I would a book or a poem but now I see that I should have. I suppose it’s harder for me to do that with music because the enjoyment is two fold. The lyrics may be amazing, but if the music or voice is not quite right, well then I have no patience. With a book, if it is written well and the story is compelling, I will happily read along. With music, I have no patience if it doesn’t hit my sweet spot.

I also find that I am more willing to forgive a song if it is catchy. I’ve listened to “Call Me Maybe” a few thousand times and it’s a horrible, gibberish song…but it makes me energetic and empty brained for a few minutes, and sometimes that just feels good. The problem that I am seeing now is that because I don’t have the patience sometimes to give some music a chance to develop or to listen more closely to the lyrics and forgive the less than perfect instrumental, I am contributing to the rise of Justin Beiber and his ilk. It scares me to think that my children will be listening to the music that I have listened to my whole life and not their own generation of musicians . Or even worse, listening to Justin Beiber and Selena Gomes vocally gyrating and thinking it’s good music.

I’ve watched David Bowie and Prince die so far this year. Along with many other things declining in the world right now, I feel like music is also in a bad state. The radio is dismal and filled with manufactured pop stars. One really has to dig deep into Google Play or Spotify to find something inspiring. I don’t mean good, or catchy or enjoyable. There are plenty of songs like that. I mean something different. Music that can change your life, mix genres and blur the lines between instrumental and art. There are only a few people like that born every hundred years or so. I just hope we find out who they are soon so as to take the sting out of watching the ones we know and love die without replacement.

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maplewood


maplewood noun, a suburban township in Essex County, NJ

Shadows of children playing soccer are seen on a wall at street in Benguela

Even with all of the things that are so awful, if you walk into your yard and stay there looking at almost anything for five minutes, you will be stunned by how marvelous life is and how incredibly lucky we are to have it.

– Alice Walker

This year for my office Secret Santa I received a tshirt that said “I Hate New Jersey.” At first I thought it was funny and then I got to thinking about it and changed my mind. It actually bothered me after I thought I about it for a while. I commute everyday on NJ Transit, which is notoriously known for delays and inconveniences. It makes my life depressing most days and lately I haven’t had my heart in it. I do audibly complain about it at work, but people don’t know me very well there and only know what they hear the next cube over. Lately the world misconstrues opinions and preferences for negativity and unhappiness. For an opinionated person like me, that sucks. If you know me, you know that I much more than someone who complains.  The truth is, everyday,  I miss my son, my house, my husband.  I actually love New Jersey – Maplewood to be exact, but I’ve built my entire life in a way that often prevents me from realizing that I do. So the other day, after I came to this realization, I decided to list in my head the things I love the most so that I don’t forget them.

I love Maplewood…

…because of those little kids always playing soccer in the driveway of Cactus Charlies. Every Thursday or Friday I end up picking up beer at the liquor store on Highland Place in Maplewood Village. There is never parking and I end up trolling the block until someone pulls out of a parallel spot or pull over on the non parking side of the street and put my hazards on. It takes 2 minutes to buy beer and there aren’t generally cops looking to ticket. I usually park near Cactus Charlies, and there are always a small group of young boys – 8 or 9 years old, kicking around a soccer ball against the side of the restaurant in the driveway there. Rain or shine, winter or spring, they seem to be there having the best time. There are no overbearing parents coaching or standing around bragging, just these kids playing around. I never wish for them to be playing in the park or even on the grass. In my heart I feel it is the way that soccer is meant to be practiced – where  ever it’s convenient and natural. And I love Maplewood for this impromptu game of soccer that I always see in the driveway of the Mexican restaurant. It’s because it feels so natural and un choreagraphed, which can be rare in our affluent suburb.

… for my yoga music playing coffee shop that serves Tiramisu flavored coffee once a week. Whether it’s after a tough Crossfit WOD or a lazy Saturday morning after a restless sick toddler night, I walk into Village Coffee and am greeted by the soothing sounds of dharma chanting and a smile. I find buying coffee much more soothing and happy here instead of the trendy bakery down the block. No fuss or pretension. As a friend once said, it’s just normal, not fancy, and that’s what I prefer. Sometimes I’ll head there early before my train and sit at a table and drink my coffee for a bit before heading into the city. It’s peaceful and calming even when it’s crowded and it feels like home.

Speaking of Crossfit, I love Maplewood for that too – but not just because it’s whipped my ass into shape. For so long after we moved from Brooklyn, I struggled to find a workout that would keep me coming back. Flywheel spinning was great for a while, but what I didn’t realize is that having support from others is what was needed to keep me coming back for more. I’ve always been shy and not the most outgoing person in general, but on my first day at Crossfit, I had teammates that cheered me on when they didn’t even know me…when I wasn’t even in very good shape and couldn’t keep up. It reminded me of track practices from so long ago that were my lifeline during tough times. Crossfit made me open up and meet people – different people that I would have never met had it not been for our common interest in exercising.  It’s been nearly a year and I still go at least 2 or 3 times a week at the minimum, mostly at 6 am. I am part of a team. I’ve made great friends. There may come a time when I have to take a hiatus for a while, but I know I will always be back for more.

… for 1978 Arts. Never heard of it? It’s sad that many people don’t know where it is, but I think 2015 will be the year I try to spread the word to more people.  I knew a little bit about it from my neighbor from when I first moved. It’s a small artist community that exists on Springfield Ave in a small cinder block building that isn’t open a lot. The building itself was gifted to Maplewood by an artist and it is run by volunteers that live in the town. It is an undiscovered gem. For the past few months I’ve been able to use the space for life drawing and finally found the motivation to take my love for my AS220 drawing nights in Providence and make them a reality in Maplewood.  I’ve met talented and wonderful people from Maplewood and neighboring towns. People that were hungry for the same type of interaction and creative outlet as I was – a quiet, safe and beautiful space where for a few hours we can reconnect with that neglected, artistic, creative side that probably spends most days latent and brooding.

…because of my neighbors. Yesterday while my strep inflicted son napped, I went out to check the mail and found a cellophane bag of cookies and a note in my mailbox from our neighbor. The note was an entertaining account of their year and the cookies were delicious. On other occasions, different neighbors have delivered the food share when I had forgotten it was ready that day, or walked our dog while I was in labor with my son in the hospital. They’ve mourned the loss of our dog with us, weathered multiple hurricanes and shared bulk garbage pickups. Each year I look forward to the Memorial Day parade that runs down our block just to see everyone out in front of their houses, the first days of blissful summer upon us.  But most beloved of all is the space in our In our yard the shrubs that borders our neighbors yard separate slightly –  where our son and the neighbors children sneak through to visit each other. It’s like something out of an old novel or storybook and I think it might just be the best thing about living in Maplewood – the gateway – as I like to think of it. As I sit here writing this on the most gloomy, damp of days, I know in a few months the sun will be shining and there will be children sneaking into each other’s yards looking to play and enjoy the day.  Even if you took away everything else, I would still love Maplewood if only for this.

Oh yeah….and Garden State was filmed in Maplewood too 🙂

 

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ecdysiast


ecdysiast n. a striptease performer

demi_moore___striptease_by_lord_iluvatar-d50cjyg

Such a classy name for such an unclassy practice. I’d love to make a business card for myself with this listed as my profession just so people would go home and look up the word – then gasp in shock. When I first saw this word, I thought of Demi Moore and that movie she was famously topless in. I also thought of that chick from Saved By the Bell who starred in that movie Showgirls. Every now and then VH1 airs it with the addition of very obviously digital bandeau tops to cover the dancers breasts – which are prominently displayed, bare, in every scene. The digital tops are very entertaining as they don’t always move with the dancers correctly…thus taking on a comical life of their own.  I also think of Scores – that famous smutty strip club in Manhattan that you can see while walking down the High Line in the city. It’s such a clash of environs that it always makes me stop and giggle.

I actually think that the art of strip tease has taken a bad rap in our modern society. It has quite a rich history, as mentioned on Wikipedia:

The origins of striptease as a performance art are disputed and various dates and occasions have been given from ancient Babylonia to 20th century America. The term “striptease” was first recorded in 1932, though “stripping”, in the sense of women removing clothing to sexually excite men, seems to go back at least 400 years.

I suppose at some point, someone added the pole and G String, stripping away all of the enticement and attraction of the traditional art of stripping. As much as pole dancing takes quite a lot strength and agility, I don’t consider it an art at all – maybe a good workout, but that’s about it. In my new found learning of the word “ecdysiast”, I think that in order to call it performance art it should maintain some type of dignity and grace – and doesn’t have to show all of the skin to be entertaining. Take this performance by Gypsy Rose, which is perfect for this blog post I might add…

I believe pornography also has much to do with the modern day connection between smut and stripping. When women became more liberated sexually and seeing naked or near naked women became something that was common in the day to day, most of the mystique was lost. These days, you seemingly cannot avoid catching a glimpse of risqué appendage just waking down the street – even in my little suburban village. When you turn on the television, you are instantly accosted by sexual images. About the only channels where you don’t run into it are the Disney and Sprout channels – which is only because they are for children. Even PBS splashes some boob here and there usually on Art 21 or National Geographic.

We’ve also combined stripping – or staring at scantily clad females oddly…with eating…Hooters being the best example.

The genesis of food, drink and naked ladies can most likely be tracked back to the Playboy Club. A few years back I read Gloria Steinem’s “A Bunny’s Tale.” The infamous feminist went undercover and became a bunny at the famous club and wrote about all that the women had to go through to don the satin bodice and cotton tail of the Playboy Bunny. It was really fascinating. I didn’t walk away from it thinking about men being like pigs. The women wanted to do it. They voluntarily wanted to dress up like busty bunnies and serve drinks to men. It carried an elite status for them. What stands out to me is how Hooters is the antithesis of that older attitude. The bunnies had to stand a certain way, the costumes were painful. It was a strange art form, but admirable in a strange way. At Hooters, you only need the right…ahem…proportions to don the orange shorts and ogled owl tank top. Let’s hear it for women’s liberation?

We are simply no longer shocked by the visage of the nude female body and this is why, in my opinion, the erotic art of strip has become synonymous with lewd and classless in the opinion of many. Why buy the proverbial cow when the milk is free?

But perhaps the world has had it’s fill of Victoria’s Secret Angels, Hooters girls and celebrity sex tapes as burlesque and “pin up” are making a comeback. Instead of swinging around a pole to Motley Crue in see through 6 inch heels and g strings, these women are bringing back performance and confidence to the art of the strip tease – like our lovely friend Gypsy Rose’s apropos performance earlier in this post. Perhaps ecdysiast won’t be regarded as such a dirty word after all and feminists will have more time to deal with that pesky 50 Shades of Grey business…

 

 

 

 

 

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Rubenesque


Rubenesque adj. (of a woman’s figure) full and rounded

 

Rubens,_Peter_Paul_-_The_Three_Graces

I have been listening to a lot of Prince and Queen lately – mostly because my 16 month old son really gets into those particular artists. He loves Killer Queen and Raspberry Beret especially and bops around to Fat Bottomed Girls as well . I feel like I am schooling him in a new form of radical feminism when we listen to these songs. They embody a sense of admiration for the full figured female we seem to have lost in this day and age. Here’s what I mean…

In Raspberry Beret, Prince notes:

Built like she was
She had the nerve to ask me
If I planned to do her any harm.

Since Prince is a pretty small dude one would have to assume that the beret wearing girl could hold her own because she was larger – but it’s not a bad thing in the song. It makes her memorable and attractive. In fact, she seems quite proud as he describes her as not wearing much else than the beret.  In Get Off, he also mentions explicitly:

Honey, them hips is gone
That’s alright, I clock ’em that way
Remind me of something James used to say
“I like ’em fat”, “I like ’em proud”
“Ya gotta have a mother for me”
Now move your big ass ’round this way
So I can work on that zipper, baby

I would bet there are other references to his preference for larger women in his music, but what I find really interesting is that even a few decades ago, there was a certain appreciation for the voluptuous, womanly body. Whether it be Sir Mix A Lot or Prince, models still had asses and boobs and I am pretty sure no one was trying to lose all of their muscle mass to be attractive. What happened between then and now to so drastically change our preferences when it comes to the female form?

I think about body image a lot. The smallest I have ever been was a size 4 and that was when I was in college. It was a lot of fun. I could walk into any clothing store and fit into anything I wanted. I had no breasts so the shirts buttoned perfectly. Low rise denim sat on bone, not muffin top. Being able to wear whatever I chose made me forget that I was absolutely starving all of the time. Now as I write this in the bootylicious leggings of a size 10/12 (gasp!) shopping is more akin to getting a pap smear than having fun. The fashion world has banned me from being able to look attractive easily. At 5’2 , I am petite, but with an ass and boobs, I am full figured. Anyway you slice it up, I am fat by the standards of the fashion and clothing industry and deemed unattractive by the anorexic minions of Madison Avenue.

Every time I see the standards for womanly attractiveness shrink, I pray that this time they have gone too far and that next year the new “it” size will go up instead of down. I fear that when I am hitting 40 the new goal will be to fit into 2T pants. How I long for the days of Rubens and Botticelli whose lovely ladies flaunted flesh. I think there is a definite connection between Modern Art and the cultism of waifishness that is prevalent amongst women. In the same ways that traditional, beautiful, skillful art is rejected these days, so is the traditional female body. Much of a woman’s free time is spent plucking, waxing and toning so as not to be regarded as some barbaric, poorly groomed gorilla in public. It’s as if we’re supposed to stay 14 forever.

…and the music about Fat Bottomed Girls and Raspberry Berets has faded away as well. Prince has been replaced with Justin Beiber and One Direction singing about hair flipping insecure 12 year olds in between rapid successions of “ohs” and “ahs” instead of actual lyrics. Even Jennifer Hudson lost her booty and Anne Hathaway looks like she’s dying. Good god, even the Twinkie is a thing of the past.  Alas, I lament the loss of substance in all of it’s historical forms – art, music and womanly flesh…bye, bye Miss American Thigh…

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osculate


osculate verb kiss

My son just recently learned how to kiss on demand. He opens his mouth wide and suctions it to your cheek with a loud “mmm—ahhh” sound when you ask him for a kiss. It is my favorite thing in the world. When I was kid I used to dread family occasions or holidays when people were over and I was forced to kiss or hug people. I remember I would run and hide when I heard the doorbell ring just to avoid it. I come from an Italian family so the formality of kissing friends and family is important and one is considered rude if you do not do so. I suppose the main reason I clam up is due to being shy – an attribute I truly believe I was born with.

The world can be very cruel to people who are shy. It is not a trait that the majority of people find endearing. Shyness is often misunderstood and in our extroverted culture, not something that gets you very far. I have been shy since as far back as I can remember. You probably wouldn’t tag me for this trait these days as I most often disguise this aspect of my personality.  There are still clues to it but I fear that most people mistake it for weirdness, snobbery, or pretension – which is most unfair.

It seems most people stereotype shy people as being sweet and mouselike, hiding in corners, timid and shaking. But that is not the case at all. Shy people have opinions and passions just as strong as extroverts. Just ask someone who is shy and I am sure you will get an ear full – once they get to know you. I don’t know if all shy people are this way, but I just enjoy observing and not participating. I’d rather take in everything and make a story about it than participate. I don’t enjoy making the first move. I like to go slow and ease myself in when I think it’s safe and when I’m ready. There’s nothing wrong with this in my opinion. And shyness doesn’t mean that one has to be a wallflower either. Shy people are like little secret packages waiting to be opened.

I have always channeled my shyness through writing. The first time I did this was my senior year in high school where I wrote an article in the county paper about not going to the prom…and about how happy I was not to go. I received many cheers and jeers from it, but for once I had a voice and I didn’t have to speak to put it out there – and people listened. In college, I wrote for the newspaper for 4 years in the commentary section, no less. Unfortunately, upon graduating in a bad economy, I wasn’t able to work as a journalist as I had planned and gave up my voice for a long time…until most recently with this blog. My writing has become an extroversion where my everyday life is lacking.

My shyness makes me fear being the center of everyone’s attention, yet long for it with all of my being. I believe there are many people like me. Instead of overcoming or ridding our lives of this attribute, we find a different language – writing, dancing, singing – that releases our voice in a different way than just playing a role at a party and keeping up conversation.

Shyness is at the core of creativity, grace, humility…all of those traits that people find lacking in society and that most people strive for. Perhaps they are so rare because most people misunderstand them as negative attributes…the way the world mistakes shyness for so many other unsavory things.

 

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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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