Thursday, December 22, 2011

Only Remembered

This was a happy happy day. After class, I finally made the successful trip to Cass Art to get that box of artist's supplies. And used some coupons and got a piece of paper for my final project. This meant walking home with a bag chock-full of stuff slung over a shoulder. The box had a scarlet inkwell, two oil paints, two acrylics, masking fluid (which I am informed is for making white space in watercolor paintings and it rubs off unlike crayon), a watercolor tube, and some sticks that are like charcoal/chalk/crayon hybrids. I am inexpert with those. But if I figure out how to use them, they should be fun. So with this chock-full bag (I was also carrying my backpack) I found my way to the Handweaver's Studio before heading home because I'd wanted to for a while. I found a hand spindle that is much better than my cd-pencil-and-clay handmade one (because it is balanced) and got some wool of various types for not too much because they weren't huge hunks of wool and besides that they gave me the student price on the spindle because that's what I'd been told it was when it turned out not to be. But I like it. It's served me well, and I'm actually almost out of wool already, and that wasn't even a month ago. Yeah, I liked it. It's actually kind of addictive, and after a bit you can spin while doing almost anything else. You know, if you need your hands, then you run into a problem, but's great!

Then the best part of the day. I was sitting there spinning while some people were headed to War Horse feeling kind of disappointed because that was the one play I wanted to see here (the rest were Broadway plays, really; better to watch them in the States) (and okay, I would have been majorly upset if we hadn't seen some Shakespeare plays, but I got 3 of those in!) (I'd actually wanted to see it since before I even knew I was going on the program after watching a video about the puppet they made for it) when Karen came up to me and said “Hey, you coming?” Huh? “Don't you remember you paid for this in September?” I probably didn't shut up the rest of the way there from excitement. (Remember how the NH museum said I have a bad memory? Yeah, it just confirmed something I already knew.) And let me tell you, so very worth every pound.

The play started with a gentleman coming in and just standing while some birds flew; he started singing later as another military man walked in and sat sketching a bit. Then came a young foal puppet—he had two people for the front legs, two for the back, and one for the head. They were basically part of the puppet; I guess you could say they were the horse. The foal had stiff, unjointed legs which worked well for getting the jerky-legged young foal movement. He was alone on stage for a while, then rounded up and sold at auction after two brothers had a betting battle over him—the brother who won was just drunk and stubborn and held a grudge against the other brother (who, it was later revealed, thought less of the first brother because he hadn't gone to war while conveniently forgetting that someone had to stay and run the family farm, which the brother who liked drinking left later but before the play started to get his own farm) when he'd been at the fair to buy a cow. And it was doubly hard for everyone to understand when the foal was a hunter/workhorse mix who, because of his hunter blood, wouldn't be much good for farming purposes. His wife was furious but decided that the only way to make a profit was to raise him and then sell him, and turned his care over to her son. Which is a bad idea with an animal you want to sell, because of course the boy developed an attachment. He named the foal Joey and taught him to come at a whistle, a few other tricks, and rear when he said (I think) “Way up!” And he reared at the back of the stage and suddenly the full grown horse was standing there, moving out from the shadows of backstage as the young foal puppet dissolved. (Someone said it basically split in half, but I missed it, being focused on this new huge animal.) The grown Joey was impressive. He's basically a wicker construction, but the working of the horse is almost all interior—two inside working legs and breath and tail, and the one on the head. I think the one standing outside working the head also worked the ears, which moved individually. With all of this, he moved almost just like a real horse, and sometimes watching the play I could believe that he was alive. Not real, perhaps; he had too little hair to be real, but definitely alive.

The boy—Albert, I think—was of course fond of his horse. He raced him across fields and jumped fences with him, which caught the attention of the military gent from the beginning who began sketching the pair, and of Albert's father's brother and son, who became rather covetous. So they got Albert's father drunk and bet him that he couldn't get Joey to plow in a week, 32 guineas (the price originally paid for Joey which was the most that year by far) against Joey himself. Albert's father stumbled home drunk and tried to put a collar on Joey who reacted...strongly...and Albert and his mother rushed out to see the commotion, whereupon Albert was told to teach Joey to plow or he'd lose his horse, so he said he'd teach him and if they won the bet, his father had to promise to never sell Joey. He did teach him, too, because Joey trusted him—it only took a day or so each to get him used to the collar and being directed by the long leads, but the week passed and the bet time came without his actually having been able to move the plow. Of course, it being a play, the plow was pulled the required distance among much cheering and disbelief and Joey astonished them all. (The plow had fabric on the front that it pulled to make a furrow.) At this point, the bells rang and WWI was begun. The next scene saw Albert's cousin joining the war, given a knife for luck which had seen his father and his grandfather through their wars, and Albert's father hearing that 100 (pounds? Guineas? Whichever is more, I think) being offered for a good officer's horse. And shortly thereafter, Joey was on stage and already switched hands before Albert ever showed up to protest. When he couldn't get his horse back, he tried to enlist but was only 15. The officer—the same one who'd been sketching—promised that he'd take good care of Joey and bring him back; after all, this war would only last perhaps a week. He also promised to show him the sketches he'd made.

Joey entered the war service and was introduced to Topthorn, the other full horse-puppet on stage (He was black, Joey was a bright chestnut) and had a quick fight with him to establish pecking order. The first charge began—Joey and Topthorne with riders, the other cavalry being represented by horse puppets that were just heads and backs resting on one person with officers who were heads and torsos mounted on them and held by another on the side charging into a flash of cannon fire—and Joey's officer was shot from his back by either a piece of shrapnel or a bomb, a huge piece of wicked-looking metal coming from across the stage through flashing light and the captain fell backwards, lifted and carried backwards and laid down by stagehands. Around them, the others also fell one by one, leaving the stage littered with bodies as the stagehands laid down to join the dead. The halves of horses and humans that had almost been comical before suddenly became grotesque reminders of the shattered bodies of war. And among all this came Christmas at Albert's home, where he received a bicycle from his parents (which he was unenthusiastic about, seeing it as an inadequate replacement for Joey, which disappointed his mother and caused his father's temper to boil over) and a package from the front which he received eagerly, and then read the news of the officer's death which came with the sketchbook with Joey's picture. He was devastated by the news and his mother went to get something to cheer him up, only re-arriving after he'd taken the sketch of Joey and ridden off on his bicycle.

The next scene was of Albert's cousin being told to ride Joey (He belonged to your family, right? *moment of tension for the cousin*) and they rode into war, met with machine gun fire, the stage went black, and cut for intermission. Cruel, cruel people who leave me hanging at a scene like that.

When intermission was over, Albert had joined the war and been shuffled from the unit he was trying to join to the infantry, where he told the (colonel?) in charge (whose every sentence was interspersed liberally with “effin'”) that he was looking for his horse, showed him the sketch, and was mocked for it (“Do I look like a horseman? Do I look like an equine enthusiast?” with his favorite word thrown in) and they were told to grab a shovel. They laughed. And were sent packing for the shovels with all due speed.

Meanwhile, Joey and Topthorn, with riders, had been captured by the Germans, the leader of whom was very distraught at the need to go to the battleground and put the poor horses, caught by and hanging from the barbed wire, out of their misery and angry with the English for making the horses ride into this. His second in command was, well, he was one of the people who enjoyed war. He was bloodthirsty, suspicious, overeager to attack, and in the end killed Albert's cousin who was just trying to keep the knife his father had given him. With the boy's own knife. The officer who had ridden Topthorn was taken prisoner, and then they were going to take the horses back to the front (which the first German officer was upset about) when the ambulance showed up, pulled by the two other full horse puppets. If you can call them horses. The skeleton of these puppets showed through starkly, accentuated by more wood to make a spine jutting out from their backs, and instead of a firm mesh coating their sides, they had ghastly white tattered fabric around their stomachs, obviously dead on their feet. The ambulance was obviously in desperate need of the two fresh horses to pull it. The officer (who had taken an instant liking to Topthorn) tried to put a collar on him to save him from the front but Topthorn was skittish and wouldn't accept it (which the officer both admired and was sorry for—the Germans must be crazy to want such horses to be reduced to wearing a collar), when Joey approached cautiously. “You've done this before? It must be the English who are crazy!” On seeing his example, Topthorn allowed himself to be collared and the ambulance was pulled away.

Albert's company was in the war zone and he and a friend got separated.  Albert heard a horse and almost went to it when his friend, Davy, I think, pulled him back and Albert told him about his horse, even showed him the sketch.  Davy laughed at him for going all this way for a horse, and told him about his girl back home.  Albert asked to see a picture, looked at it, and said "Well, at least Joey is supposed to look like a horse!"

When the officer and two horses got to the hospital, the officers were dead and the hospital a wreck, so the officer decided to take one of their uniforms and pretend he was a hospital orderly and stay there with the horses.  Which really worked rather well for a while; the horses got to sit and do little, the officer made friends with a little girl who liked the horses and her mother which was difficult at first since they were French and the lady didn't trust him at all.  But then the other officer, the one who had stabbed Albert's cousin, came along with a huge gun carriage and the skeletal horses, one of which died there, and he commandeered the two horses again, taking the officer with him.  The last skeletal horse died on the way and Topthorn wasn't doing well, either.

Meanwhile, Albert's company was following a gun carriage and ran across a dead horse by the side of the road.  Albert noticed it was still slightly alive and had to kill it, in front of a little French girl who was looking for her horse and she cried, and Albert gave up, deciding that Joey was already dead.  At this point, they were attacked by gas and Albert didn't put his mask on, and Davy pulled him out and to the hospital.

Topthorn died, there was a face-off between several of the Germans who were arguing about the war--Topthorn's German officer, who had wanted to take him home after the war, was angry with the fanatic officer because he'd worked the beautiful horses too hard, he ended up shot, and then a bomb came and killed most of them, but Joey was cut free and he ran off in a panic and got tangled in some barbed wire in No-Man's-Land.  The German and English trenches on either side were surprised to see a horse, white-flagged each other and got out to rescue him.  The English side won the horse in a coin toss and took him to the hospital.  The officer in the trench was Albert's first officer, actually.

The trench officer took Joey to the hospital and was asking if they could save him, because the men had decided he was a miracle horse.  Meanwhile, Albert was just across the stage.  He had been blinded by the gas but wasn't responding to anything, encouragement or otherwise because he was depressed.  The doctor looking at Joey decided he was infected and couldn't be helped, mostly because there would be no one to watch him during recovery which he needed, and pulled out a gun to shoot him.  His gun was empty, so they started reloading it and then an officer got upset at the delay and pulled out his gun.  Albert was talking about Joey and whistled the whistle that called him.  Joey perked up and started moving as he could, Albert heard the horse and his response and went wild, and the trench officer, connecting it at last, pushed the gun away from Joey the instant it went off.

You can imagine the reunion that followed, and the play ended with Albert's mother and father at their farm, his mother looking back wondering at the man who had turned into their lane, and both of them dropped their loads in surprise to see Albert and Joey riding up the road to their home.

As far as giant's shoulders go, I like this one.

He is my ideal.

Of all the art shows in all the world, and we managed to end up in this one.

For those of you who don't know, Da Vinci is a flipping genius. At everything. And this show only focused on one aspect, his art, and at one time of his life, in Florence, and we still got a taste of everything because he incorporates it all into each other because he's a genius. Not to overuse the word. But his face shows up as the definition in the dictionary. Chuck Norris takes his hat off to Da Vinci. (Sorry. After the dictionary comment, I felt it was necessary to use another word-meme.)

Anyway, here's the story. The National Gallery decided to put on a Da Vinci exhibit. They got all of his paintings that were allowed to travel (the Mona Lisa and one other are stationary they-do-not-leave-home paintings, but there were 5 others) which meant, for the first time in their existence, the two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks, Da Vinci's two interpretations of one theme, Mary with John and the Christ Child in a rocky setting, were in the same place. Facing each other, even. As well as a contemporary full-size copy of the Last Supper, about as close as we'll ever get to see it in its full glory and not cracked and faded. Or much less faded. And all of these were from his time in Milan. They also had loads of sketches and so forth, and all of this was in one place. And we went there. Day 1 of the exhibit. I was giddy.

Some interesting things—

Da Vinci's idealized figure (female) seems to be a narrow ovular face, small chin, long thin nose, tall and wide forehead, small mouth and large eyes.  You can find it in Lady with the Ermine, Virgin of the Rocks, and so on.  

Lady with an Ermine--look at the ermine.  Why is it there?  It's a symbol of purity--white ermines were said to be caught by putting dirt in their path which they wouldn't touch because they wanted to keep their white coats pure.  Which I would have said is more vanity, but they said purity.  So he idealized the ermine, too--it's got dog paws and a bear's face, if you look at it.  Literally; not just looks like--he actually used dogs and bears as models for his ermine.

Last Supper:  In order --> direction:  Bartholomew, James the lesser, Andrew, Judas, Peter, John, Christ, Thomas, James the Greater, Philip, Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon.  Also note:  This is by heads.  There are a few who stick their heads behind others and get it out of order.  Like Peter.  Which makes sense because he drew Peter as a hot-headed person.  All of them were idealized men (which is different than the women) except for Judas who he wanted to portray as ugly--he'd done a lot of studies on beauty and ugliness.  Also, all of them portrayed the traditional characteristics of the apostle.  Peter, as stated, is hot-headed and impulsive.  Bartholomew is built like a warrior.  James isn't so much concerned as utterly outraged.  Philip is supposed to have a look of "pleading inquiry."  John's face and Christ's are extremely similar, in my opinion.  And Judas knocked over a salt cellar with his elbow.

My favorite quotes which they had posted/pasted/sketched on the walls (no, not backwards, but I probably could have read them anyway)

"That figure is most praiseworthy which best expresses through its actions the passions of its mind."  (See also:  Last Supper.)

"A true understanding of all the forms found in the works of the way to understand the maker of so many wonderful things and the way to love so great an inventor..."

"When you make a figure, think well about what it is and what you want it to do, and see that the work is in keeping with the figure's aim and character."

"If the poet says he can inflame men with love...the painter has the power to do the same, and to an even greater degree, in that he can place in front of the lover the true likeness of that which is beloved."

"A good painter is to paint two main things, namely man and the workings of man's mind.  The first is easy, the second is difficult, for it is to be represented by the gestures and movements of the limbs."  (Do you notice a theme here?)

And the poem by Bernaro Bellincioni will finish this post off for me.  Notice the Petrarchan sonnet structure which I'm sure rhymed in Italian.  (It's about Lady with an Ermine.)

     Who stirs your wrath?  Of whom are you envious, Nature?
Of Vinci, who has portrayed one of your stars;
     Cecilia, today so very beautiful is she
Whose lovely eyes make the sun seem dark shadow.

     The honour is yours, even if with his painting
It is he who makes her appear to listen and not speak
     Think only that the more alive and beautiful she remains--
The greater will be your glory--in every future age.

     Give thanks therefore to Ludovico
And to the talent and hand of Leonardo,
         Who wants to share her with those to come

     Everyone who sees her thus, though too late
To see her living, will say:  This suffices for us
         Now to understand what is nature and what is art.

Travel Weekend: Definition: Relax at home.

Do you know what happens when the professors on a study abroad tell the students that they are free to go wherever they want for an entire weekend starting Thursday? No? I'll tell you. Wednesday morning, you wake up in a ghost town.

Okay, it's not completely empty. But your one class of the day doesn't do anything (well, we watched Art 21 videos on contemporary artists rather than a drawing lesson) because it's little use when 70% of the class is gone to do something gradeable. Maybe 50% was there, but that was in the beginning of class. Couldn't have been more than 30 by the end. And I rather liked it. See, I figured that the group I would have wanted to go with was going to Wales, and I was going there after the program ended anyway, and it would have cost me more and I didn't want to spend more, so I decided I'd take advantage of the empty center. Hey, there were still places to go and things to see in London, anyway.

I don't know if I mentioned, but I became somewhat well known for my corner. See, it's a busy center and I like my privacy, so I found my own privacy in the form of a corner of the parlour, which was one of the less populated rooms normally and had the added advantage of being where people gathered for dinner so I didn't have to worry about missing it, with my computer, whatever homework/artwork I was working on or book I was reading, and my wool. Did I mention I started doing some spinning? (Wait, that was a week after this post, so I probably didn't. Well, consider this not so much foreshadowing as foreoutrightstating.) So that's where I was when I wasn't out and about, in classes, eating, or socializing. Fond memories of that corner. Kind of. Which was also nice because people knew where to find me. End side note. I mean, I did spend time here over the travel weekend, but not important. NOW end side note.

So that Wednesday, people left for Wales, Barcelona, Portugal (not sure which part specifically), Madrid, Milan, I don't even know if I've got them all right and I'm pretty sure I don't have everything, but you get the idea. I spent the time doing a bit of schoolwork, a bit of fun work (I may or may not have been thinking of costume ideas and how to put them together and sketching them out) and kicking back from a *coughcough* strenuous semester of work. Stop that, I have too been working. Just differently and slightly more casually than normal school demands.

The next day I slept in, ah bliss, until probably 10 (See, unless you're in seminary, have a 7 a.m. class or just inflict early rising on yourself, you probably get up later than I normally do. Adjusting for time difference. Because otherwise you probably got up hours after me.) and got my sketchbook, then went to the British Museum to sketch. I had a bit of difficulty with my sketch of a tea house (They have an entire Japanese tea house in the British Museum! I mean, the entire thing! According to the plaque, some people came from Japan and constructed it specially. Oh, and there's one in the Korean area, too.) because the angles and distances were disagreeing with my idea of where they were, but I spent a while on that, then walked home. I took a bus halfway, anyway, then walked back across the parks. It was a beautiful fall afternoon and the sun was beginning to set even though it was only probably 4 or 5 (I may have taken longer to start out than I acted like.) but then again, it's 3.39 as I'm writing this and the sun is already dipping pretty low to the horizon. Reminds me how far north I am sometimes, when I forget because Provo's colder than here. They were setting up some sort of fair in Hyde Park which I was later to learn was the Winter Wonderland park, a pretty big attraction apparently. I was also passed by a gang of bicyclers who I recognized as Fat Bike Tour bikers, partly by their beach cruisers and also by the sign. Down by the Long Pond, assuming, I have my park geography correct, there was a feeding frenzy as the aquatic birds mobbed a person who was feeding them. Slightly more politely than that—they only ganged up on each other. I also ran across SSID, the severely survival-instinct deficient squirrel, who, when I first saw him, was climbing up a guy's pant leg. The outside. I assumed the gent in question had been standing there coaxing him for a good while and I was going to get a picture. However, upon my pausing probably 2-3 yards away, Ssid looked over, saw me, and charged across the gap to go climbing up my jeans. I laughed, took a step, he vaulted clear of this suddenly moving and unsteady perch, noticed I'd stopped again, charged back up and, after I took a picture of him, started climbing over my camera. I began leaving and after vaulting clear again, he started following me. An elderly couple who had been watching found the whole thing highly amusing, offered him a piece of cooked pasta, which he grabbed, nibbled, and threw away in disgust. When you're survival-instinct deficient, I suppose you can be a food snob if you want. But then he tried to grab another piece they were offering a different squirrel. By this time, I was concerned for his continued existence because I knew a lot of dogs frequented the park, but then one showed up and Ssid showed as a gray streak on his way to a tree trunk, assuaging my worries and I continued home merely highly amused.

The next day was Remembrance Day, which I discovered was also Veteran's Day (I didn't realize this until people began posting on veterans on Facebook with what I was sure was more than coincidental numbers and I finally ran across a post that explicitly stated that it was Veteran's Day). I spent the afternoon (following another sleep-in and a late brunch) at the Natural History museum, where I picked up my own Remembrance Day poppy which I had no lapel for so I ended up carrying it. I think I explored pretty much the entirety of the NH museum, from Dippy the diplodocus (sp? Spellcheck doesn't like it but I don't see anything but “diplomatic” in the corrections.) to the geology and all the sparkly rocks in all sorts of colors (ooOOooo...sparkly minerals! And other types of hardened matter! Some of which is polished and some not! In an impressive array of colors people sometimes don't suspect rocks of being capable of!) where some children were, from what I could tell of the running back and forth and conversation, either saving the world or stopping a spy or possibly both, to the dinosaur section with their animatronic T-rex who was not full-sized or he would not have fit in that tiny room and probably was very frustrated that all these juicy meat bits are passing by staring at him when his feet are glued to the floor and many other fossils (and a few more animatronic dinos scattered about who also seemed vaguely hungry, but that's probably just because they haven't eaten for several thousand years, at an understatement). There was also a mammal side which I'd been through before, a cross-section of sequoia that was as old as some of the fossils but had been living a good deal more recently, a preservation area, a plant section, the Planet Earth area that I actually went through instead of speeding past (I sat in the shaking earthquake grocery store through two vibrations and saw a bit about volcanoes), and the ecology bit. One thing I thought was interesting was the comparative ecology, Africa to Australia bit. The dingos and hyenas were comparative, obviously, as were the kangaroos and zebras, I think (they showed the African animal and when you pressed it, they showed the Australian equivalent and then why—this was because they travel in herds and eat grass and are therefore a large prey source), and giraffes and koalas. Which made me laugh because they're both such singular animals, but it's true, they both eat leaves up top of trees where the other animals can't reach. They had a display about the life cycle of a rabbit, and by life cycle I mean it was sitting there innocently, died, and went through various stages of decay. Wow, I thought, definitely a kid-friendly exhibit. But that was nothing to the human biology exhibit where they had displays on hormones and how much you have at any given time, had displays on pregnancy, and some other things. I mean, there wasn't anything graphic, but it was still kind of surprising. They also told me I had a bad memory, or short-term. I hardly thought this was fair; the page full of acorns and the page full of peanuts look rather similar, and having seen a lot of pictures, I've probably seen them before anyway even if not on that screen. (They showed about 40 pictures, which you'd obviously never remember all of when you only saw each for one to two seconds, then asked you if you'd ever seen one of 10 others before, some of which weren't on there. As in the example above, but I can't remember which was actually there. Or even if that's the one I got wrong, just that I only got 5 or 6 right.) They also had a bit about memory in high-stress situations, which I thought was funny because I read The Alloy of Law not long after in which one of the characters starts writing down details of the robbers during a robbery because she knows in stressful situations people don't always remember everything or even remember the instance incorrectly. So you can see why I didn't have time for much else that evening.

Saturday I spent mostly at home. There was a good deal of writing going on, as well as a bit of drawing and calling family. And people were returning from their breaks. The girls who'd stayed home—well, me, Ashley, and Sara, anyway, went to Nando's for dinner which holy tastebuds, Batman, is worth it by a lot. Oh, wow. I got a medium-heat chicken which is among the juiciest, most flavorful chickens I've ever had the opportunity to taste and I'd get it again in a heartbeat. Okay, maybe not. But only because I would want to try, say, the steak which was only a pound or two more, or the wraps or so on. Because their sauces and their food in general are a veritable party for the taste and otherwise mouth-wateringly delicious. I mean, not to be over-enthusiastic or anything.

And so ended the second weekend of the month of November. And verily it was a weekend of great delight.

Richter left?

Gerhardt Richter. What can I say? The guy's pretty awesome. I really respect anyone who can work with the variety that he displayed.

This post is about a trip we took to a special exhibit at the Tate Modern on Gerhardt Richter, a man who's been producing art for decades. I mean decades. Some of his earliest stuff is about WWII, and his latest stuff is still coming out.

What does he do? Well, he is a modern artist and he kind of helped develop the contemporary art world. (There's a difference between modern and contemporary art, by the way; by “modern artist” I meant he is living and working now, and “contemporary art” is the style he works in, which is the movement currently happening, I guess. Modern art is a former movement and has become part of art history, really.) But Gerhardt Richter is skilled. He makes photorealism stand at attention—some of his works are indistinguishable from photos until you get close enough to notice the brushstrokes. Then he does some that are photorealistic until he messes with them—blurs edges, changes things, makes it hazy—to create the effect he wants. And then he does some things that are not even vaguely realistic, working with huge canvases and lots of paint and huge squeegees. I kind of like the effect squeegees have on art. We'd seen some of his stuff previously that was on permanent display at the Tate Modern, but there was so much more and some of it so much more colorful. Oh, yeah, and he works with sculpture—especially glasswork.

All in all, color me impressed. (Ha ha, 'cuz he works with art. Get it? Get it? Okay, just slap me now.) Beautiful work, and again, does well across mediums and styles. I am not so good with that. I think it takes impressive brainpower and skill to change up your style.