Thursday, May 28, 2009

When I am old...

I will still love to dance!

(Awesome woman and child, road trip, last summer, Downtown Disney.)

Travel plans for Seattle are settled, though our daily itinerary is still a big uncertain blank (which is the way we want it to be). Only five things for sure, a day trip to Victoria B. C., the Seattle Art Museum, a baseball game, a dance club (of course) and Top Pot, this very chic looking coffee and donut place I saw on a Travel Channel show called, Donut Paradise. I love donuts, am addicted to coffee and enjoy hanging out in cafes as all arty types do, so I wish there was a Top Pot where I live. I'd go every day. Starbuck's, Peets, all well and good, but their pastries are trucked in from some central, far away pastry making place. Top Pot makes their donuts in house, the aroma of freshly fried donuts probably pervading every inch of the place....oh wow, I can't wait to get there! In fact I wrote Top Pot a fan letter telling them how much I looked forward to visiting them. And they wrote back telling me my friend and I would have a gift certificate waiting for us if we visited their flagship store on 5th Ave. OK, I admit I kind of hoped they would do that. But I'm glad I did because, since we don't know a soul up there, it's nice to know some person behind the counter at Top Pot, of all places, is waiting to say, Welcome to Seattle, we've been expecting you!

On the career front, I have been rejected by yet another art gallery. But am looking forward to a group show in July, which is some consolation. I'm also busy on a new set of concept designs which I hope will prove once and for all Pixar or any other major animation studio must hire me.

OK, I'd planned to say more, but it's 2 am and I'm exhausted. Til next time...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Cage of Misdirected Longing

I came across this the other day in an art gallery. I would have walked right by it (fake birds, blah!) if I hadn't noticed the title...and the messages each bird carried...That's me, I thought. I am a bird in a cage of misdirected longing. Complete with invisible ribbon thought cloud saying, how did I get here, how do I get out?

I have been wondering that a lot lately.

But let's not talk about that. When I start to feel adrift I try to remind myself I am the steady worker bee that never gives up, a fine artist restocking the supply, an author learning my craft, an animation story artist with a little time off.

If positive mind talk doesn't work, and it hasn't lately, there's always distraction. For instance, Dan Brown's Angels And Demons. It's popcorn, for sure. But I like popcorn. I need it in certain moods. So rather than a quickie movie experience I've been taking my time with it, reading a few chapters a night. The Illuminati plan to blow up the Vatican? Ha, ha, that's what I call entertainment. I also call it amazing how he can keep me reading and yet put me to sleep at the same time. Marvelous.

Another current distraction is Tucker's super creamed ice cream. I can go without ice cream for months. And then, as if to make up for it, I'll eat cartons of it and counting in a short space in time, most of it from Tucker's. You've probably never heard of Tucker's since it only exists here in my home town, but their motto is, "Life is dessert first!" Ok! Turned down by Pixar? Oh well, time for some ice cream! My current favorite is their Strawberries and Cream. I love its pungent ripe berry aroma, the way it tastes more like fruit than sugar, and is filled with whole berries which are never so frozen they've lost their flavor. In fact they seem to have been spooned in there just minutes before I buy the carton. How they do that, I have no idea.

A perhaps better distraction is hiking which is why I belong to three different hiking groups. One thing I like about it is I sometimes get lost on the way there and instead of a morning of sustained and often strenuous exercise I get to play tourist in some part of this region I'd otherwise never bother to see. And if I do happen to make it, then I get to combine socializing with scenery gazing and ice cream fat burning. Because who wants to burn ice cream fat alone? (Fairfax, a sleepy, two block town somewhere in Marin County. Cute, and scenic. But I wouldn't want to live there.)(Montera, where I got horribly sunburned last Sunday.) (Heading into the waves, Pacifica. It's hard to make out in this low res photo but the water is crowded with surfers, at least one every ten feet riding the waves.) (I like this photo. It reminds me that being adrift is not necessarily a bad thing, a lesson this father may be inadvertently teaching his daughter.)

Arty events, especially ones in cafes and bars, are another useful distraction. Luckily there's an arty event every night of the week here, many of them free. Thursday I went to one called Storytime to hear (and draw) local authors read from their works.
I also like aimless wandering, usually on my way to or from an arty event because I never know what or who I'll see, meet or experience. This is similar to getting lost, except I know exactly where I am. I'm just not sure where I'm going...(inside the SF Ferry building) (police in SF's Mission district)(Shop endorsing big butts - like mine! thanks to too much ice cream and chocolate - on Mission St., SF)(Powell St. SF)

Next weekend L. and I are concocting an impromptu adventure in Seattle. Sure, it might be wiser to stay home to finish another painting or send out more resumes. Or figuring out why I crave distraction so much right now. But neither of us has ever been there before and the itch to distract is too strong to resist. We haven't reserved flights or hotel rooms yet but we have gotten a guide book. Will keep you posted on how it unfolds. Oh, and if anyone has any Seattle suggestions, I'd appreciate reading them.

Monday, May 18, 2009

You call that art?

Enjoying life on a budget, I'm pretty good at finding free or nearly free things to do/eat/see. It's like being an art student again when my friends and I would go to every art reception within walking distance for 'dinner,' order McD happy meals without shame, and make large coffees last all day. I once made dinner for a friend of mine while working on a project together, beef and vegetable stir fry, salad, and berries and cream for dessert. I thought he was just being gracious when he kept thanking me over and over again, - wow, I'm a better cook than I thought! - but I found out later he'd been living off nothing but white bread for weeks, with maybe a squirt of mustard here and there. Not that he didn't have money. He, like the rest of us, just spent it on art supplies.

So when the SF MOMA opened it's new rooftop garden recently, and let visitors see it for free (normally it's $13 to get in), L. and I were there. I like how some forms of modern art challenge my classically trained assumptions and expectations. They are like Rorschach tests, revealing more about myself than the creator. Maybe that's the point. Maybe not and I still have to learn a new art vocabulary. So I try to look without reacting (oh come on! You call that art? My two year old niece can do that!). I try, but don't always succeed...

Look at those people touching that painting! Stop it, people! That's a priceless ugly painting!
Test: do you see a bunch of loyal dogs protecting a cute baby? Or do you see a creepy ring of dogs ominously surrounding a helpless baby? I admit I saw the latter. I see dogs preventing me from getting close to a baby for no good reason. Would a man react the same way? What compulsion, I wonder, drove the artist to create this? Why are the dogs all the same? Does the black and white mean anything? Definitely not living room art. Neither is this. Yikes! Imagine stumbling into your kitchen in the middle of the night and catching a glimpse of this on your wall.
I like this kid (and the painting behind him). I bet his father made him pose in front of every work of art in the museum. Along with every famous landmark in the city. That's what I would do. Hmmm...colorful, messy, interesting, allegory on the wonderful uncertainty of life? I walked by here twice before noticing these boxes. When I did I felt frustrated and annoyed. I wanted to move them around, jiggle them to see if there was anything inside. I also felt hope. Hey, if these boring boxes can make it into the MOMA then, darn it!, my work can too!

The rooftop garden, seen through glass.Models of brains. Stacked high. Makes me feel....nothing. Well, actually the words fragile, balanced, divided and precarious come to mind. Ha!
Pink, gauzy thing. With guard making sure no one touches it. I thought this was pretty, but pointless. Or maybe its point was lost on me because I just wondered how they kept it clean, and how long an artwork made from this material could last. Maybe, because most art is placed on walls or in corners, the point is to experience a work of art, a fragile one at that, which a person has to navigate around. Maybe not.

I'll end with my niece, Vivienne, a few months ago, at the Hirschorn. I was only half kidding when I said I'd make a kid of mine pose in front of every work of art in a museum, poor kid. At least I rewarded her with a lollipop afterwards.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My way or the highway (to Hell)

I usually know better than to open a certain uncle's emails, the ones he sends to the entire de los Reyes universe and beyond. Especially email's with subject lines like, Fw: Obama Fan or Not - Please Read. But I was multitasking, the dismissive fan barely registering and I open it. By executive order, (it starts) President Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in "migration assistance" to the Palestinian refugees and "conflict victims" in Gaza.

The email goes on to review Obama's other heinous acts thus far as president including: 1. His first one-on-one television interview with any news organization was with Al Arabia television. 2. He ordered Guantanamo Bay closed and all military trials of detainees halted. 3. He ordered overseas CIA interrogation centers closed.

Now, it continues, we learn that he is allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refuges to move to, and live in, the US at American taxpayer expense.

It gets worse. This wasn't just a rambling complaint. It was meant to rally support and signatures for a letter from Every real American to the president:

Mr. Obama,

I have had it with you and your administration, sir. Your conduct on your recent trip overseas has convinced me that you are not an adequate representative of the United States of America collectively or of me personally.

You are so obsessed with appeasing the Europeans and the Muslim world that you have abdicated the responsibilities of the President of the United States of America. You are responsible to the citizens of the United States. You are not responsible to the peoples of any other country on earth. I personally resent that you go around the world blah-bi-di-blah-blah...blah...

My eyes swimming, I debate whether to forget the email and accept family as they are even if they're crazy. Or to tell mad uncle what I really think. After all, he didn't pen the letter, he just forwarded it. So I compromise by asking him to please stop sending me these emails because I find them hateful.

But I get another email half an hour later. This one reads, Fw: God, please help us. I know better, but I open this one too. What can it be now? I wonder. In it Obama's bill, HR 1388, or GIVE (Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education) is compared to Nazi Germany's Hitler Youth movement. And as I fume over the stupidity of it, a lifetime of other stupid things my family has tried to force upon me bubbles up to the surface. He may not have written it but I know he (and many of my other relatives) may as well have.

And so I click not Reply but Reply All. Then I write that I not only like Obama, I thank God for him because he's not the Muslim/immigrant/non Catholic hating, war creating, fake Christian hypocrite Bush was. Among a few other things I've always wanted to say.

A few minutes after clicking Send, I call my sister to tell her I've just ostracized myself from the family for a good five years, that they'll be saying rosaries and novenas on my behalf now, and might even come over to force an intervention upon me. "Why?" she asks. I tell her about the emails and as she argues how wrong mad uncle is and why, I get yet another email from him. This one, addressed only to me, reads, Holy Souls, a sermon on the gospel of John 10:1-10. "He sent me a sermon!!!" I yell. She asks what it says even though we already know what it says. But I skim it over anyway to confirm the fact that it is indeed a sermon warning me I have to believe in Jesus or I'm going to Hell.

We are infuriated all over again. What nerve! But we are amused also. Really amused. We joke about all the Christmases mad uncle has ruined with his sermons, the rosaries prayed on our behalf for one reason or another, the lectures, the looks. Good times.

"I'm glad I wrote it," I say. "It was worth it." But she warns me to be diplomatic in my response if I don't want to find myself being thrown into a van one day and taken to some Catholic safe house.

So I thank him for his concern, reassuring him I am still a Catholic (though maybe not his kind of Catholic) and I still believe in Jesus (though maybe not his Jesus). And I repeat my request he stop sending me these political emails. There, we agreed, diplomatic, I didn't try to argue with him, I didn't tell him he shouldn't express his beliefs. And now, since we are family, he and the rest of them have to accept me as the Obama supporter I am. Yeah!

So, as I attended the first communion of L.'s sister's goddaughter two days later, I couldn't help but laugh at how pleased mad uncle would be if he only knew I was in church that Sunday morning. And since the service was in a language I don't speak, Spanish, I also couldn't help but drift into a reflection on Catholicism.
Truth is I rather like church. I like the vast echoey coolness, the beautiful, larger than life architecture, the smells of incense, flowers and burning candles, the music, and the rituals. It's comforting. I feel at peace there. This is what God is to me, this feeling of peace, and when I hear people like mad uncle spout their hateful stupidity I think they can't possibly be speaking for God. They can't possibly understand God either. And yet they say they do. And everything they say sounds topsy turvy. And makes me feel sad. My heart and my gut tells me one thing, and they tell me another.

I remember once telling a cousin of mine, who'd joked I'd probably skipped church that Easter, that I did go. I should have stopped there, but I made mention of the church I'd gone to, Grace Cathedral, because I didn't see why not. And he, knowing every Catholic church in the state, knew this was not one of them. So he lectured me about worshiping false gods because only the Catholic God is the real God. I should have known considering how many times he and the others have done this to me, but I was still flabbergasted. And though I tried to explain what I sensed to be true, that God couldn't possibly care about stupid things like that, it was like yelling at an orange. A total waste of time.

I won't end on that note though. Here's a photo I took during the blessing of the first communioners. Notice anything? If you've ever seen any of those reality ghost shows on cable tv, you might have heard of ghost/spirit/angel orbs. It's just dust, probably. But L. and I couldn't help giggling over how these specks of dust might actually be angels. It's a sign, a sign! A sign I know the de los Reyes clan would interpret as a warning from God to change my ways before it's too late. But I would rather hope it's a sign, or a wink, from God telling me, Everything's alright, Cheryl, and don't be mad because they love you. And maybe, As we bless these children we bless you, too, child of God. And that's all. close up

Monday, May 11, 2009

Local art gallery makes me rethink my assumption that local art is always more interesting elsewhere

Friday, my buddy in crime L. and I went on our weekly sojourn into SF nightlife. We met several nice people, one jerk, witnessed scary lesbians in a riot (because we ended up at the gay bar Fame again), had fun dancing and saw some really interesting art at 111 Minna which I thought I'd share. I don't know anything about them other than their names, but my guess is the artists all have some illustration or animation training. I'm envious of these works, though. I want to take my work in that dream-like, comic bookish, Egon Schiele-esque direction too, and am finding I have to fight against my inclination to make things as realistic as possible. But if it wasn't a challenge I'm sure I wouldn't feel the compulsion to go in that direction.

Anyway, here is Mateo. Is this woman suffering from writer's cramp? Is her head threatening to come apart with all the words stuck in her head, making it heavier on one side so she has to walk in that funny way? Then I'm pretending she's walking away from her computer in that tiny shack behind her, walking towards a beautiful clear lake where the man of her dreams will massage her cramped muscles and feed her strawberries. Hope it makes her feel better.
Erot. I love the cardboardand duct tape. It was also quite sturdy to the touch (I didn't hurt it, swear!) so I'm guessing he (she?) used acrylic paint with a good layer of clear glazing all around to protect the surface. And if I were to review the work like a critic, I'd say the artist is making a statement on man's fear of death by using ephemera (or trash) as his (or her) working surface thereby making something meant to be thrown away or recycled into something he/she hopes will be preserved forever. (Good luck, artist!) He/she also makes good use of normally overlooked surface details (heck, the whole thing. It's trash isn't it?) by blending them into and allowing them to contrast with his/her exquisite and highly realistic images, et cetera, et cetera. I especially like how he/she spells creator kreator. Very klever.
The name of this artist is on the lower right hand corner. Can't make it out? Me neither.
Do you ever feel like this guy? The one down there, I mean. Cheer up big white hairy thing standing in what looks like chocolate! You're standing in chocolate! Just lower one of those super short arms of yours and...oops! Now we know why he looks like that. Poor white hairy thing.
Finally, I know this is a horribly grainy photo (I had to use a flash in near dark conditions) but who do you see in the giant portrait? (Part of the photo, with better lighting, can also be seen in my May 5th The secret of happiness is... post) Hint: it's not Lincoln.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's day to all those who are mothers, have mothers, will one day be mothers, or in any way share in the upbringing and welfare of a child. For this occasion I considered sharing old photos of my own mother and my siblings and I, but old photos tend to bring up bad memories. So I rifled through my computer instead and compiled some of my favorite photos of my nieces and nephews.

I think my sister is a great, great mother. And even though during visits, with the bickering and screaming and horsing around, I at times think, oh my God, these kids need to be put in a zoo, I suspect she and her husband are doing everything right in order to ensure their kids will be well adjusted, confident and happy men and women one day...(the kids last summer in Muir Woods and Disneyland.)

because her kids genuinely enjoy each other's company...(1. the girls goofing around while my sister and I try to enjoy afternoon tea. 2. & 3. the girls playing dress up. No. 3 wants to be a cowgirl, an architect - so she can build herself a pink house - and a rock star...all at once! She once explained how she'd manage this...she'll do her cowgirling in the morning, her architecting during the day, and be a rock star in the evening. You go future cowgirl/architect/rock star!!! No. 4, 'baby happy face,' is a riot, one of the funniest human beings I've ever met, and she's only five! When she grows up she wants to live in the house next to her mother. My cartoon icon up there, btw, was based on her. And the universally adored no. 5 loves puppies. Any animal be it monkey, squirrel or cat, is, to her, a puppy. The family dog has learned to stay out of arms reach of her for fear of being squeezed to death.)

and feel safe expressing their complaints, or sneaking just one piece of candy before dinner, or shining like little stars...(Latest on no. 5 is she's the naughtiest, rottenest one of the bunch. I found it hard to believe that this tiny package of overwhelming cuteness could in fact be a demon child but my sister provided many graphic examples to prove her claim. And I thought, well, if I were there she wouldn't be...OK, maybe not, but I like to think so anyway.)

they take care of each other without having to be asked... (1. & 2. the oldest keeping an eye on the youngest during trips to Philadelphia and the Hudson River Valley. 3. The youngest discovering she didn't want to play in the waves after all. "Baba big!" she kept crying.)

and, even though they're part of a large pack, they're still nurtured and recognized as individuals.
(The girls getting the princess treatment in Disneyland. The first photo reminds me of Rockwell's, Girl At the Mirror.)
(The oldest wants to be an oceanographer so my sister treated him to a scuba diving lesson in Monterey. 3. The boys in Philadelphia. 4. No. 2 goofing around at the Smithsonian. He wants to work at WDW either as a monorail driver or a vet at the Animal Kingdom, and have lots of kids - but no wife! Because girls are gross.)
(No. 2 with his 'little brother' days after the puppy's cast was removed. He'd been attacked by a bull dog, suffering a broken jaw and front leg and was nearly put to sleep because his vet fees were more than my sister could manage. A last minute good Samaritan saved his life by paying half his vet fees, then refusing any repayment. The shithead bulldog owner, btw, refused responsibility.)

I look forward to being as good a mother as my sister is one day.