June 22, 2017

Bathtub Light Box

I know I've mentioned somewhere in here that I no longer have my diy light box and cheap-o clamp lights for taking product photos or for digitizing the yonis. I've been making do with uneven natural light from a single direction, bouncing the light (badly) with a big sheet of white foamcore, and a whole lot of time and frustration erasing shadows in Photoshop. Not ideal. Then again, we do not have space for a light box or lights in our current digs. (Links at the end of this post to tutorials for building your own light box.)

But, AHA! Another brain wave while showering (I've previously mentioned shower insights here). With a window in the bathroom, directly inside the tub surround, I have a decent source of natural light. The tub itself is white, the tub surround is tiled with white tiles and white grout, the shower curtain liner is white, and the bathroom walls are white-ish (I refer to them as nicotine). My tub is a perfect light box! With all the whiteness reflecting the light from the window, there are minimal shadows. Conditions are absolutely perfect for shooting yonis on overcast days.

I use a tripod, mount my camera facing directly downward, and prop the item to be photographed on a "table" consisting of 2 stacked yoga bricks with a couple sheets of white printer paper on top. (And a couple of towels under the yoga bricks in this shot since I tested my brain wave immediately after finishing my shower. Used to shoot Yoni # 14, there were no shadows to erase!)

June 20, 2017

What Is Art?

Image credit: © Albert Cappuccio 2017. Woman contemplating Jackson Pollock, National Gallery of Art.
Image source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BVcI24mlt4d/
To be or not to be, that is the question. At least that's the question if you're Hamlet. The question that I, and so many many many others return to time and again, is how to define art. What makes one object a work of art while a similar object isn't art? What distinguishes a professional artist from a hobbyist or dabbler? What escalates some pieces to coveted status, fetching millions at auction while more stimulating pieces never see the light of day? I could spin out variations and nuances of the core question all day, precisely because I ask the question and attempt to answer it each and every day.

What I both love and despise about this question, What is art?, is that there is no definitive answer. Any answer I myself create or that I have heard espoused - be it nebulous, self-referential, historical, market driven, etc - is unsatisfactory. Which is why we keep asking or should keep asking. I've engaged in countless conversations in which we - myself and other artists, creatives, and those who work in the arts - try to answer the question. These conversations tend to be circular and frustrating. Many conclude with yet another question; Does it matter? By which I mean are the distinctions, definitions, categorizations, accolades, and lack thereof all that important? Isn't the curiosity to ask questions - any questions - and the creative impulse to engage with the questions more valuable than the outcomes?

All of which is a preamble to the show I recently visited at The Fabric Workshop and Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed the questions raised, explored, and resultant conceptual pieces by Lenka Clayton in her exhibit Object Temporarily Removed. In particular, I went to view the responses included in the piece Unanswered Letter. Clayton found an inquiry from 1978 in the archives of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The letter writer sought to open a conversation about what makes one object a work of art worthy of museum display while a nearly identical object is not. There is no evidence in the archives that a response was ever sent. In Clayton's words:
I sent a copy of the letter to 1,000 curators and museum directors – as well as other art professionals – whose collective labor influences what does and does not get seen in museums and what is and is not considered art in the first place. I invited each person to imagine that the letter was addressed directly to them and to respond to Mr. Morgan from their own particular perspective. 
179 people replied.
Those 179 replies, displayed on the gallery wall, are what I went to read. Of the responses I read in full, what surprised me and disappointed me, was the lack of engagement from the respondents. No, it's not a question easily answered or even able to be answered. But, within the letters I read, no answer was attempted nor acknowledgement given to the complexity and elusiveness of the definition of Art with a capital A. There was no evidence of intellectual curiosity from the string-pullers, the taste-makers, the upholders of the establishment. Really? Anyone who replied did so with full knowledge that their letter would comprise a work of art on display in a museum. And yet they replied without addressing the meatiest of snarly questions in their line of work.

Happily, the selection of replies included on Clayton's website are more engaged and full of curiosity. Perhaps I just happened to randomly sample the duds. The show ends soon, and the need to view it with a guided group does not lend itself to lingering for hours reading all the replies (nor could one digest them all in one go), but I have signed up to receive a copy of the response letters, one per week, on Clayton's website. I, for one, hope to be engaged in this conversation of what is art for the rest of my life. If you have any thoughts on the matter, I invite you to comment to broaden our conversation.

One last thought: I came across this definition yesterday on the Selvedge blog from artist Channing Hansen, "Craft solves questions; art asks them." Personally, I find this is an extremely oversimplified sound-byte, but it does offer an interesting jumping off point for debate. What do you think?

June 15, 2017

Messages

Messages. As in messages from the Universe. Synchronicity. Convergences. Surfacings. Whatever name you put on it when everywhere you turn, the same message comes knocking on your door.

The message of small has been recurring for me for a few weeks now. Various ideas, suggestions, philosophies, and permissions to shift focus from the overwhelming big picture or overarching, final goals to the small, everyday, imperfect efforts. That large change starts, and snowballs, with one small intention. That small gestures have wide, rippling impact. Just in case I missed the point, the fabulous poem above crossed my path twice today. From two different sources. Within minutes of each other. And the same message, in a different form, was also waiting in my inbox, within a newsletter to which I newly subscribed.

Today I will listen and honor the message that is trying desperately, in all ways possible, to sink into my little pea-brain. I choose to turn off the "shoulds" and leave the to do list for another day. Or better yet, I will revise the to do list to contain one and only one focus. I will keep it small and give it undivided attention. And I grant myself permission to do anything I want. Because what's the point of abandoning the to do list if one merely shifts focus to another "should"?

The small thing that will bring me much joy today is to restring a bunch of pendants. I haven't worn them for years because the chains, strings, fastenings, etc. are worn out or no longer to my taste. I miss my pendants. I miss the person I was who chose them at various stages of my life as outward symbols of pieces of my identity and values. I can end that longing, that melancholy. I can revive the pendants. I can reconnect with the symbols and the personalites that chose them. I can make the pendants wearable again and wear them with joy. And I will overcome the nag in my head that says this is frivolous. Because I know it is not frivolous. It is a small - yet grand - gesture toward myself, my happiness, my joy that will ripple outwards.

June 13, 2017

Melting

You may have heard that it's always sunny in Philadelphia (those of you with a television or ability to watch questionable quality programming, that is). While not true on the whole, it certainly is relentlessly sunny today. And relentlessly hot. You may remember that I hate hot. I am enervated by heat. So what does this brilliant lady chose to do today? Four loads of laundry, of course. Up and down 3 flights of stairs and around one stifling courtyard to another. But, despite melting, it is really great to have the laundry room to myself, as the only one fool enough to run clothes dryers when it's already nearly 100 degrees.

And then, an afternoon correcting the mistakes made by the income tax accountant I hired. Granted, the mistakes were on the one tax form he had never worked with previously. But it's not rocket science, folks. He simply didn't follow the directions. And I paid him. That stings a bit. But only a bit because hiring him saved my sanity at the time. An afternoon filing an amended return and drafting a letter to the State of Ohio explaining why we don't owe them an exorbitant amount of money as they claim, but rather, they owe us money wasn't all that bad. Could be the icy cold beer I drank while wading through the garbled tax language and bizarre calculations has something to do with my good attitude. Then again, the beer my accountant drank while filing the original forms (judging by the empties in his office) could be what led to this point. 

That's what I've been up to, besides sweating profusely and overheating. And that's the reason for nothing much happening here in this space today. It's too hot to write intelligibly (yeah, it took me 6 tries to even spell intelligibly correctly) about working small and taking risks. It's too hot to think. On that note, no more babble from me.