Thursday, August 30, 2012

i painted a watermelon

I would say, extra points for identifying my 'cultural' reference point of the post title, but it's mildly embarrassing to admit. Still, what other chance would I have to riff off the phrase. My other option was 'nice melons'.
This is a detail from a painting I'm almost finished with, full size is 11"x14", oil. What can I say? I was proud of the melons, and it seems like an appropriate subject in the last weeks of summer.

On the topic of fruit (I know I've used that segue before), I just baked my favorite plum cake. Upon searching online to confirm my memory of the (very simple) measurements- since my own smudged handwritten recipe is somewhere else- I learned that the recipe was printed for many consecutive years in the NY Times, dating back to 1981. In '89, the food writer pleaded for cooks to 'clip and laminate' the recipe instead of repeatedly demanding its reprinting, as if that in itself was part of the tradition.
I thought about my mother's recipe binder filled with yellowed clippings and typewritten index cards, a scrapbook of dishes, some frequently made, some rarely or never, but saved just in case. The pages are more of a personal cooking history than you can find in even the most well-thumbed published cookbooks. Although these too can be annotated with adjustments and additions, the favorite recipes clearly more spattered than the rest. I do like sifting through the wealth of recipes online, being able to learn how to cook/bake ANYthing, with any ingredient, but it's a very different experience. No need to clip or beg for reprints. You just have some idea of what you're searching for, then determine if it's worth making based on its accompanying article, blog post, or review. Two hours later, the butter melted, I stagger into the kitchen with my mind full of variations.
I remember, when I was little, sitting on the counter eating chocolate chips and watching my sister whirl efficiently around our tiny kitchen assembling flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla for our cookie-making sessions, the recipe stored in her head. I was so impressed. Years later she pointed out it was printed on the bag. "Yeah, but you never even had to look at it," I persisted, ever the adoring kid sister. Sometimes it's about the challenge and fun of digging into a new unknown recipe, poring over the method, but sometimes I just like moving around, grabbing basic ingredients and watching the familiar treat come together under my hands... and I realize I have a lot of recipes in my head too, after all.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

grow light

In the week since I got back, I've been doing a lot of painting and some wood-stacking. My first goal was to finish four paintings I had been in the middle of, not that they will necessarily be in the show, but I wouldn't know for sure until they were done. Then I planned to start a couple more and see how it went. Amazingly I am focused and it's happening. 
More photos from the trip of some things I liked:
overflowing planters on one of the industrial buildings at Bergamot Station

outside the Santa Monica Museum of Art

From a gallery-owner's personal neon-sign collection. A neon milk bottle?

I had never seen anything like the desert garden at Huntington Library & Gardens in Pasadena

green bamboo in the Japanese garden there

at Inn Paradiso in Paso Robles, one of the most terrific places I have ever stayed (and possibly ever will)

on the last day of the trip, shortly before driving out of Big Sur

Thursday, August 23, 2012

pacific coast highway

Continuing the series of trip-to-California photos. Drove north up the coast from LA to, ultimately, Palo Alto, with a stop in Paso Robles. These are from the drive though Big Sur. Except the first one which is  just north of Malibu, and the elephant seal is from Piedras Blancas near San Simeon. Stopped off a few times for hiking. Falls, redwoods, then beach. And also for the Henry Miller Library, which I loved seeing, and the Big Sur Bakery. What a trip! More to come, of course.

Friday, August 17, 2012

los angeles

I visited the Getty Museum today and was thoroughly awed. It is one of the most stunning, well-designed amalgamations of architecture, landscaping, and art that I have seen in my life so far. I had a vague idea of what to expect, but I'm glad it was partly a surprise. I didn't know that you take a tram up the winding hills to reach the Center, perched above the city of LA, and that you then wander freely through open plazas and gardens, in & out of the warm-beige stone structures (travertine, brought in from Italy) looking at art, trotting up & down exterior & interior steps to take in views of everything below. I loved the fluidity between the indoor and outdoor spaces. 
There was a beautiful special exhibition of Klimt drawings, some finished works but mostly studies for paintings or friezes/murals, and several photography shows, including L.A. Style, Herb Ritts' gorgeous fashion/art photographs. All these sensuous nudes within, and sensuous architecture beyond the glass. In the permanent collection, I found van Gogh's irises and works by Monet & Degas that I had never seen in person-- even if similar to paintings at the Met, these were new to my eyes. Of course I admit I am always excited to look at art in museums in different places. The other day we went to the Huntington Library with its art collections & gardens in Pasadena, where I found a Hopper seascape and a huge orange canvas by Frankenthaler. There was also an exhibition called Beautiful Science: Ideas That Changed The World, not just a cool air-conditioned escape from the sunny grounds, but a fascinating overview of science's greatest achievements in the fields of astronomy, natural history, medicine, and light. In between these outings, I snoozed on the beach, ate sumptuous dinners in Santa Monica and Malibu with various interesting friends of my traveling companion, and managed to connect with an old friend of mine from SVA who lives here and whom I hadn't seen in a long time. The only stars I've seen have been the ones in the sky, but I haven't really been in the high-glitz areas of LA... and that's all right with me.

Gardens at the Getty Center

Calder's Jousters

Klimt's ink drawing Fish Blood

van Gogh's Irises

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

california. dude.

I arrived in LA on Sunday afternoon and was on the wide beach in Santa Monica within the hour, getting my feet wet in the Pacific at last. I'm here with a friend, visiting a couple of his friends and then driving up the coast on the weekend to Palo Alto. The last time I was in California was 14 years ago, in San Francisco for a few days with my sister & 2-month-old niece. I loved it, but hadn't managed to return, to SF or anywhere else in this beautiful state. So this is my first trip to LA and it will be my first drive along the Pacific Coast highway.
We rode bikes along the oceanside path past the Santa Monica Pier down to Venice Beach.
Walked along the canals in Venice, with the funky little houses (varying architecture) and overflowing flower gardens. The canals were dug in the marshy land in 1905 to build a resort town.

Went into numerous shops, upscale yet artsy, took some good photos, drank freshly pressed juice. Today after a couple hours on the beach, we biked to Bergamot Station with its cluster of galleries in an improbable industrial area- reminiscent of Chelsea, but more pleasant to walk around. Saw some art and photography I liked, and imagined showing my work there. It feels more possible than it did a few years ago. This increased sense of possibility is due both to my growing confidence in what I am making, the positive reactions of others to my paintings- and my thoughts behind the work. The feeling of "... and why NOT try?" which I didn't have before.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

light reading: windows on main

For the window of Beacon Reads, the used-bookstore adjacent to Beacon's Howland Library, I created a piece to reflect my lifelong love for books and reading. For every reader, books are portals to other worlds, drawing you into their depths. You walk around libraries and bookstores, lost for hours, you reread favorites, you learn new words and places, characters and ideas. The large, oversized book I constructed represents this enormous passion, one that beckons you to peer within it, even as it reflects something about you. I made an infinity mirror and sandwiched it inside the cardboard/foam book, illuminated it with LED lights, and painted the cover with an abstracted infinity-symbol/ balloon design (to carry you away).

Part of my motivation for choosing this window is to draw attention to the fact that the bookstore, staffed by volunteers, has been a steady local presence here and all sales benefit the library. They frequently accept donations and there is always something new on the shelves.

My piece doesn't photograph very well. During the day, your own reflection (and that of the street behind you) shows up the most, but if you put your face close to the blurry glass you can vaguely see the effect of the mirror appearing to recede into the distance. At night, there's a subtle blue glow and the illusion is more visible. I am still proud of my giant book. My small silver-painted wooden letters which I suspended above to dangle merrily in the air, kept falling due to slippery fishing line, so I hung them over the shelves within the store. An exhibition called 'Tiny Windows' is on view in a local shop/gallery Dream In Plastic (177 Main), featuring small works by participating WOMS artists. I contributed a 6"x6" painting I'd made in New Mexico of a colorful little window and wall.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

summer like that

 A few photos from last week at the lake and a few from this week back home; working on several projects currently, so no photos of new work yet. I finished my piece for Windows on Main and am installing it this week, plus I am painting signs for the Beacon Farmers Market. Painting actual signs for a purpose is always an interesting balance to doing paintings OF signs. In my head I wrote a long paragraph on the subject of signs in general, but it was not as compelling as I thought it was at first.
My family and I made s'mores no less than 3 times last week, and this frequency led to ingredient experimentation. A s'mores bar was assembled with a variety of chocolate, the fire kindled, the coals coaxed hot and the marshmallows impaled on sticks. I vote for either a dark chocolate square or half a peanut butter cup, smashed flat, placed between a toasty brown mallow and one graham cracker, left open-faced.
 We climbed down this dock into the lake, bobbing on foam noodles and dodging weeds, to drift on the gentle waves. Happiness, splashing in the water with various family members. Or playing wiffleball on the sloping lawn, or gathering for dinners out on the big porch. One afternoon some of us drove to Ithaca, where we ate at the beloved Moosewood restaurant, visited the Johnson art museum on Cornell's campus and walked around the plantations and lake. Memories of my one eventful year at Cornell ('96-'97) piled up in my mind. I've been back a couple times since, and it felt so much more peaceful than when I was a student.

 I imagined laying my beat-up wheelbarrow down like a baby in this gleaming wood-paneled bed of the orange-and-white '71 Chevy pickup for sale I spied on the road near the lake. Not that I would ever really use it for a work truck. Not that anyone's handing me the keys. But it was a beauty to behold, and though I can't own it I can paint a picture of it. Much less maintenance that way. I say this as I'm anxiously recalling my car's interior shuddering and currently blinking engine light. Unsurprising that I entertained the notion of cruising down the road in this dreamsicle of a truck.
There was also an excursion to a mini-golf course adjacent to cornfields and a pb&j picnic under the hot sun. "And don't you guys want to stop at this antiques store we're passing?" I hollered over the wind to my nephews in the backseat as we drove home. "No, no!" they cried, and cranked up the Beach Boys.

 Another gratifying view of the lake while making the steep descent down to it.
 All the heat has made this a great year for tomatoes. This juicy flavorful one came from a friend's garden, along with the fragrant basil, and all that was needed was a drizzle of olive oil and a couple pieces of toasted bread from the Ithaca farmers market. Not pictured are the sweet ears of corn and crisp cucumbers, the plump blueberries and tart cherry tomatoes that I could live on. Lest people think I subsist only on ice cream. I supplement this varied diet with cold beer or red wine, with riotous flowers to fill my vision.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

ice work if you can get it

Here it is, my ice machine on Chronogram's August cover! It came out yesterday. On their website currently, as well as in the magazine, is a quite nicely written short article on me and my work and studio: On the Cover: Erica Hauser. (please click to view & read.)
Accompanying this is the little film, which someone else might be able to embed here, but which I cannot achieve. However, it is up on their home page and I am very glad to have something like this, which seems to have a lot of info packed into its 3 minutes, as a sort of audiovisual tool should the need arise.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

by seneca lake

Spending the week with my family in a rented Victorian house by Seneca Lake, which is 38 miles long to Cayuga's 38.1, but which has the largest area of all the Finger Lakes in terms of depth & breadth. Big, beautiful and blue. So far we visited a couple of wineries, hiked along Watkins Glen, played and did crafts, lounged about on the porch, made dinners & s'mores, and ate ice cream (can I mention ice cream in every post for the rest of the summer? Easily). I brought painting materials, but might not use 'em, which is ok too. 

tasting at Red Newt Cellars

vineyard view

watkins glen state park (765 steps to top)

waterfall heart carved into the rocks