Media and Art · Personal Entries

A toe in the pool of prepubescent crazy

We have two weeks of stuff to cover here, so let’s all pipe down and focus, shall we?

We have field trips with insane preteens,  a class mural,  swearing off dating forever and ever until I die and the pixie haircut which accompanied this decision,  and a graduation or two.   Where shall we start?

Although I’ve worked myself up into quite a state thinking about the haircut and the swearing-off dating,  I’ll start with the mural because it gives you something to look at.   Complaining about my bad attitude towards dating has no visual hook.

This year, as I have in previous years, I offered to do a painting with Matt’s class.  The idea is this: I provide all the materials, and guide the kids through the process of creating a large-scale collaborative painting.  I provide the steadying adult voice of reason, and they make all the decisions and do all the work.

After much brainstorming and voting, the kids decided to paint an amusement park scene,  anchoring the painting with a horizon line and a roller coaster, and setting the scene at night.  They would all add their own elements to the painting, and each would also draw themselves on the roller coaster.   They worked together to come up with a strong, cohesive theme, and I was impressed.

Which is why I’m so, so baffled about how we ended up with this:

Click to enlarge this fabulousness: 5th grade Amusement Park, 4 ft x 7.5 ft. Acrylic and watercolor on Arches paper.

An amusement park with an erupting volcano, under attack from nine space ships, three dragons, two bears, and many, many zombies.    I had no idea how much time zombies spend at amusements parks.

I’ve learned some things about fifth-graders:  They’ve dipped a toe in the pool of pubescent crazy.  They like to draw very, very small.  Their collective goal is to out-funny one another.  They don’t do collaborative. They erase each other’s preliminary drawings, and this goes about as well as you’re imagining it does.

1.  This, blogosphere, is Tiger Woods on the moon, in a bikini.  His golf club is floating away, and that’s why he’s shouting, “Nooo!”   “Let’s draw all his girlfriends, too!” Said the fifth-graders. “Nooo,” said Ms. Stein.

2.  This pretty little clock and the things drawn around it are the work of a very sweet autistic boy who joins the class for much of the day.  The kids collectively bossed him about his clock being off-theme.  When he left, they all started drawing clocks.  I urged them to erase their clocks, and they took this to mean that they should erase anyone else’s work that they didn’t like.

3.  Bears!

4. “Honey, what is that?” I asked.   “A volcano,”  she said. OK.  By this point I had realized that artistic coherence was a pipe-dream.

4.5.  “I’m confused about why you’re drawing ice cream cones in the sky.”   “I like drawing ice cream cones.” Later, these became ice cream cone rockets.

5.  An upside-down zombie paratrooper with an ice cream cone instead of a parachute.   This drawing was explained to me at the time, but because fifth-graders all talk at once, all I heard was, “MS. STEIN HE ERASED MY CAN I PAINT NOW ZOMBIE PARACHUTE FAIRY ROLLER COASTER FALLING HAHAHAHAHA BEARS!!!!!”

6.  This family of zombies did not make sure they were securely belted in before the ride started.  Luckily, they are the walking dead and so their fall can’t kill them.

7.  Several things are happening in this part of the picture.

a.  A dragon is heating up some pizza.  The dragon was drawn by child A, and the pizza was drawn by child B.  Child B did not discuss the addition of pizza with child A, and child A was not pleased.  Pizza made a mockery of the dragon.

b. Medusa and Frankenstein are getting married.  I have no idea.


The kids, somehow, came away from all that lovely planning with the message, “Go forth and draw twenty-three different pictures!  Make it as random as you can!”  Amused, shell-shocked, baffled; halfway through the first day I caught Matt’s teacher’s eye.

“Wow,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

“I know!”  She said excitedly, “this is the best they’ve worked together all year!

Teachers are not paid nearly enough.





The diamonds are good and gone.

We’ve torn the house apart and gone through every bag, but I knew even before we did those things that the pretty shinies were classing up a landfill somewhere.

It’s probably not reassuring to hear the jewelry artist say “Well, dang y’all!  Where did those diamonds run off to?”   Especially if one is considering putting something precious into my care.  But that’s the point, these weren’t precious.  This was a bag of  quarter carat champagne and chocolate brilliants, which I ordered as I begin to stockpile for Christmas.  I casually tossed them to Karen to take a look at as I worked on two pieces which did have deep value for their clients and therefore deep value to me: a custom engagement ring with a diamond lovingly picked, and the 22k jade ring ordered for an adored wife about to receive permanent United States  residency.  I didn’t give the diamonds a second thought because they were just raw materials to use, with no sentimental value of their own.

When specific stones arrive, either those sent by clients or unique stones ordered for clients, quite a spectacle takes place at my house.  It’s as if the Virgin Mary has appeared in my french toast, and everyone is called to see.  My clients have no idea how many curious eyes watch their jewelry progress, how many well-wishers know their names and their special occasions, how many are as excited about their jewelry as they are.

Look at that color!”  We’ll exclaim, looking at the new arrival. ” Ohhh, he picked a pretty one!”  Or,  “This was her Grandmother’s?  Ohhhhhh!” 

And then the stone is lofted overhead as a procession of the dazzled accompanies it to my studio, where it is placed in a monster-sized Ziploc bag with Sharpie labeling, and push-pinned to the wall.  You missed seeing it?  Tough.  Can you take it down and look at it?  No!  And stop breathing in that direction, you might hurt the pretty.  Lofted overhead might be an exaggeration.

These lost diamonds weren’t due such adulation and interest, which is why I carelessly tossed them to Karen and thoughtlessly left them on the kitchen table to begin with.  These were just generic diamonds still in their generic vendor bags, waiting to have life breathed into them; waiting to become someone’s something special.

And that is what I keep repeating like a mantra now that I’m done vomiting and tearing my cuticles to shreds.

It really could have been so much worse.   Beyond a kink in my finances, these just weren’t important.

Media and Art

Reuben Margolin

Erin is right, and he’s a badass.  Let’s move this up from the comments.

In her comment,  Erin from Bongy Berkeley wrote: 

 Have you seen this guy, Reuben Margolin? He started out building things too. I bet Jake would like this if he likes physics and mathy things.

He is a badass. He’s also a resident in the giant-bong city that I live in.

(Any other artists anyone else would like to share?  Send them in! )

For more of Margolin’s badassness, check out his site.

Media and Art

Martin Puryear

There is something amazingly elegant in Martin Puryear’s sculpture.  His craftsmanship and fluid forms are so tactilely and aesthetically beautiful that one does not realize he’s drawn you in to explore far grander ideas of space and time. I’m amazed by his curves and his angles; he makes it look so easy, and because of this expert execution his work escapes the self-consciousness of so many other modern sculptors.

Puryear didn’t start out in art, and maybe that’s part of what makes his work so accessible.  As a kid he loved woodworking; as a teacher for the Peace Corps in Africa, he fell in love with the basic craftsmanship of the local carpenters; as a student of the Swedish Royal Academy Of Art and Yale’s Master of Fine Art programs he took those basic skills towards what we see today:  there’s nothing pretentious about Martin Puryear’s work (he refers to himself as a wood worker),  and he’s so much better than anyone else.

More Martin Puryear at MoMA

Ash, 64" x 9'11" x 21"
Ash, 64" x 9'11" x 21"

Ladder for Booker T. Washington
Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 35' x 22"


Let’s build a shrine to my bad self

Who’s a little badass?  Oh my gosh, it is ME!  Me, me, ME!

Since the wonderful heads-up writer Rosie Molinary gave me in last month’s Charlotte Observer, I’ve been busy filling orders and haven’t had a lot of time to work on new designs.  But in the past few days, I have.  And because I’m pathologically wired to tackle the things I find most frustrating, I’ve been working on silver.  Or, as I like to call it, gold’s bastard sibling. 

I think we all know how I feel about silver by now (not been paying attention?  See here, here, and here.), and that’s why I think I should get a huge  “WHAT WHAT!” for this new ring:

Maine Seaglass in Sterling
Maine Seaglass in Sterling

What blogosphere?  What’s that you say?  I’m a badass?  You are too kind.  You’re right, though.  I am.

I would like to point out that this ring has no bad juju.   I did not bleed while making it.  I did not curse, not even once.  I didn’t throw it, and it didn’t try to kill me.  This ring and I are friends.  Not the kind of best friends who can leave a two-word phone message and have the other know exactly what’s going on and who did what, but the kind of friends who are happy to see each other and catch up, but don’t really keep in touch.  And I think that’s an excellent start.

AND, it’s a cool ring.  Wicked cool.

Media and Art · Painters

Kent Williams is my hero

Kent Williams, Devon's Back
Kent Williams, Devon's Back

Kent Williams is one of my favorite painters.  He’s one of those painters who you really need to take a look at and think about, even if you don’t like his style.  Because he is that good.

He is primarily a figurative painter and his work is often narrative, in that it weaves a story.   His bodies are sinuous and and sometimes awkward, often squirm-inducing, but always  intensely beautiful in their odd, messy humanness.

Check out Kent Williams’ website.