Journaling

Life in the time of Covid-19

My heart goes out to small businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals who are having it rough in these uncertain times. All news seems grey – almost as if a giant cloud has lodged itself in the sky perennially. But the sun shines the fiercest when it pierces through the pillow of clouds. Now, more than ever, it’s important to look for those sharp streaks of sunlight.

Since March second week, when the lock-down began in the United States, my husband and I have been strictly adhering to the ‘Stay Home Save Lives’ motto. In the beginning, the weeks, which had become open and fluid all of a sudden, demanded some structure. Our home had to be rearranged, spaces created, to accommodate the new lifestyles of two working adults. Visits to the supermarket reduced, and bags of vegetables in the freezer increased.

I would remember this lock-down as the time when mornings were about sipping coffee unrushed, sitting next to a windowsill lined with well-nourished plants, and evenings were about whipping cake batter without a recipe, watching Brooklyn 99 with warm dinner bowls in our hands, and solving crosswords till sleep conquered.

I would remember this lock-down also…

…as the time I asked strangers/friends to send photos of their home office set-ups, and carefully recreated them in black and white illustrations.

(To see the entire series, click here)

…as the time I binge-read books set in Paris.

…and as the time I opened a new account on Medium to write stories focused on art trends and art news. I have been writing artist interviews for a wonderful Philadelphia-based magazine called Artblog, but I had so much more to tell, and so often, that I had to start a blogging account to pour out my words. Follow my art writings here and here.

Life in the time of Covid-19, most importantly, has been about putting in consistent effort to stay positive. It has been about embracing the negative, accepting the lows, but also calmly, like a big round balloon, floating out of it, above it, and into the crack between the clouds where the sun always shines the brightest.

How is your life in the time of Covid-19?

Art · Artwork · Blogging · emotions · Illustration · Journaling · Life in general · Lifestyle and Food · love · Sketch

Love that smells like cake

I remember the taste of my mom’s cake batter. The feel of sugar granules on my tongue, and the shock of seeing so much butter poured into a bowl in one shot. My mom would whisk the egg, butter, sugar, flour and baking powder with a spatula. We didn’t have a food processor, or even a whisk back then. When tired, my sister and I would take the bowl from her and make long strings of the sticky batter; sometimes spilling it all over the floor. Annoyed, the bowl would be taken away, and given to my dad who would patiently bring it to the required cake consistency. Impatient and hungry, we would stand next to my mom in the kitchen, while the cake baked in the pressure cooker. We didn’t have an oven back then. Years later, now, though I cannot recall the smell as easily as a visual memory, what I can recall is how it felt like to be able to slice a piece off the translucent butter paper. It felt like the warmest hug and the softest kiss. Years later, thousands of miles away from my mom, when I tried baking a set of blueberry muffins in the oven recently, all I could think of is that modest pressure cooker that baked some of the happiest memories of my childhood.
Art · Artwork · Blogging · Events · Journaling · Sketch · TRAVEL

Inside Hicks’ world

Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands; The exhibit traveled to the Venice Biennale in 2017, and to Belgium before finding its way to Miami. Right next to the bundles of fabric are tapestries that Sheila wove during her time in Guatemala. 
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In Miami, Florida, our feet coated with wet sand, we enter the quiet galleries of The Bass to see veteran artist Sheila Hicks’ show titled Campo Abierto (translates to Open Field). 

Walking inside a gallery is akin to the experience of turning the pages of a new book, embracing the strangeness, yet hoping to connect with a character. Hicks’ art bypasses this strangeness with the burst of color in her works; like skittles scattered on the floor, like rainbows kneaded into round balls.

For example, standing before Escalade Beyond Chromatic Lands, a fabric installation of gigantic balls of yarn stacked up till the ceiling, we fight the urge to collapse on the fluffy bed. The weaves evoke a sense of mischief, innocence, and playfulness.  The installation, which takes one entire room, demands the same space in our minds too. 

The Silk Rainforest; In Hicks’ work, you see a generous use of silk, linen, wool and cotton, besides nylon, rayon, polyester, bamboo and cashmere. These are woven, knotted, and braided in a style that is both exotic and grounded.  Known to be one of the pioneers in redefining the use of textiles in art, Hicks exploits the intimacy that one shares with the medium to reach deep into one’s mind, and trigger a thought, that helps you discover a little more about yourself. 
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Sheila, 85, was born in Nebraska, and went to Yale University School of Art, where she had the opportunity to study under American German artist Josef Albers. Albers is a Bauhaus designer and artist – he went to Bauhaus Design School in Germany, which was shut down by the Nazis in 1933. However, the thought that the school preached — of combining fine art and craft and bridging the gap between art and industry — kick-started a movement called Bauhaus Movement. It embraced symmetry over asymmetry and focussed on lines, shape and color, instead of floral and ornamental designs.  Hicks’ works are simple, minimalist, and geometric. They concur with the Bauhaus principles.

The Moroccan Rug
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Hicks, who divides her time between Paris and New York, discovered her medium, the fibre, when she went to Chile, on a scholarship from Yale, many moons ago. Over the decades, her mission has been to give textile medium a new meaning. The subtle gold and beige La memoire, made of linen silk and cotton, the naturally handspun Morroccan rug, and The Silk Rainforest made of linen silk and cotton, stand proof to this.  

The exhibition ends tomorrow (September 29, 2019).

Art · Art from waste · Artwork · Blogging · DIY · Finding art in trash · Journaling

Potpourri art

There is a thrill in being able to give new life to things perceived as trash. Be it shoe boxes, empty milkshake bottles, or takeaway boxes from Chinese restaurants…everything can be turned into a piece of decor. A few months ago, when I found that our potpourri no longer let out the pleasant rose scent, I was reluctant to throw it away. Instead it now stays immortalized in this piece of wall art.
Art · Artwork · Blogging · Illustration · Journaling · life · Life in general · Sketch · TRAVEL

Six Flags

Six Flags (Great Adventure) was more than about rides.  It was about this red bottle which never ran out of soda. It was about the overly juicy, pesto-dripping bread that we had for lunch. Of course it was about Nitro, Batman and Bizarro, but it was also about the really funny photo captured of us shouting our lungs out. It was about waiting in line for an hour for the first row in El Toro, and of cheering for the little kid who was too scared before the ride, but too happy after. It was about getting drenched to the bones in Log Flume, and shooting with an unforeseen rage at all the 4d creatures, in Justice League. But most importantly, it was about feeling like a superhuman for one day. Floating in the sky, riding along with the wind…and getting a little closer to the bright yellow Sun.


Art · Artwork · Blogging · TRAVEL

Do not miss these 5 exhibits at the Met

Three hours. That’s all we got to soak in the most of Goya, Rembrandt and Paul Rubens. That’s just a tiny portion of the exhibits at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Short of time, we whizzed past some of the Egyptian mummies, and Indian gods. I clicked the photos of some, and some, I tried to save in memory (fail idea). Two days later, I tried to recall the museum walk, and made a list of the only ones that stayed in my mind from the thousands that I rushed through.

  1. The boy in red (That’s not the actual title, but let’s call him that)

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Some obvious questions…

Who is the kid?

It’s a long name. He was called Manuel Osorio Manrique de Zuniga. He passed away when he was just eight, and it is believed by some that the painting was done by the well-known Spanish painted Goya after the child’s death.

But who is he?

He was an important kid, the son of the Count and Countess of Altamira in Spain. Google Altamira caves, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is best known for the paleolithic art on its walls.

What’s with the bird on a leash?

It’s a magpie, and it symbolizes innocence. If you look closely, the magpie is carrying a card.  Goya’s calling card. There is also a cage full of colorful tiny finches. There are three, yes three (you can hardly see them in this picture), cats staring at the birds. They look almost ready to attack the harmless birds. Art historians say the cats are metaphorical to the evil that would eat up the innocence of childhood in due time.

How old is the painting?

It’s 230 years old! It was first exhibited in the Met in 1928. Phew.

2. Lot and his daughters

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Yes, it is what you think it is.

Who is Lot?

According to Torah (traditional Jewish learning), Lot was an honorable family man living in the city of Sodom, with his wife and daughters. Until one night, when two angels visited him. They were disguised as travelers. Lot offered them a place to stay. But soon, an angry mob surrounded the house and asked him to surrender the angels to their lust. But Lot, driven by idealistic principles to protect his guests, instead offered them his own daughters. (whaaaa!).

And then?

The angels were impressed, they stopped the mob, protected his daughters, and also warned him that the city will soon be destroyed and he and his family should run to some place else and save themselves. Remember: whatever it is, don’t look back — they told Lot’s family. And so they fled. But at some point, his wife turned back to check if Lot was following, and got turned into a pillar of salt (angel’s curse!). So it’s just Lot and his two daughters now.

You see where this is going.

Anyway, they found shelter in a cave. Most of the city was destroyed. His daughters realized that there was no surviving man in the city to give them any kids, so they did the unthinkable. They got their dad drunk and seduced him into impregnating them. Yes, cringe-worthy.

But why did Peter Paul Rubens decide to paint this story?

Apparently, he found a connection. His dad was involved in a sex scandal, back in 1577. He had an affair with his employer, the Princess of Orange (south of modern-day France), and was imprisoned. Art historians believe that this past might have prompted him to paint that scene.

Not many have seen this piece.

This is the first time it is being exhibited for the public. Till 2016, it was privately owned. And then was sold at a whopping 44 million pounds in Christie’s auction.

3. Two children teasing a cat 

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Poor cat. Evil kids.

Who are they anyway?

Not sure. Art historians say that Annibale Caracci would have probably drawn a rough sketch of the kids in haste and then worked on it from memory. Apparently, while cleaning the painting in 2010, the MET discovered that the cat was painted in a different position initially, and later, with skillful strokes, Annibale corrected it to the position it is seen today. TMI?

Never mind. On to more important questions. Why torture the cat?

It’s a renaissance art thing, really. To elaborate, back in the 1500s there was an artist called Sofonisba Anguissola. One day, she sought advice from Michelangelo on one of her paintings of a child laughing. Mike said that it would have been even better if the child was crying. Sadist much. But he had a better reason. Apparently, back then, the work that required more hard work automatically got more praise. And since it is tougher to paint a child crying than laughing, Mike’s was an earnest suggestion. So Sofonisba went back, and did a painting of her sister offering a basket of crayfish to her younger brother. In it, the little boy is seen crying as the pincer of the crayfish is fastened on the boy’s finger. The sister stands there laughing at him.

That’s just mean.

Annibale, in this painting, has consciously placed the little girl’s hand close to the cat. At some point, the cat is going to be annoyed enough by that crayfish that the boy is dangling at it, and scratch the girl’s hand. The smile on her face is going to vanish, and she is going to cry out. Annibale wanted to bring out this looming sorrow, which cannot be seen, but is just round the corner.

That’s sad. Also, too much thinking.

Here are some dancers to cheer you up.

4. Rustic Dancers

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Adorable, aren’t they?

Btw, they are really old. Centuries old! They were made between 25 to 220 AD, and belonged to the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. The idea of fun hasn’t changed much over the years, has it?

Okay, the last one.

But before that, when did you last get your hair done?

5.  Portrait of a young man

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Let’s get straight to the point – what’s with his hair?

It has a name. Like quiff. Or Ducktail. This gentleman’s hairstyle was called a zazzera. A very sought after hairdo in Venice, in the 1480s and 90s.

Who’s the guy?

Nobody knows. But it is said that Jacometto was commissioned to paint a portrait of him. And since Jaco was a popular artiste back then, to have him paint your portrait, you had to be of a certain stature. So guess, he was just a rich guy with soft gold locks.

I intend to go back and do a second tour soon. In the meanwhile, if you have been to the Met, is there any exhibit that caught your attention?

P.s. The Met has an excellent directory of information about the exhibits. The facts for this post have been sourced from the Met Website.
Art · Art from waste · Artwork · Blogging · DIY · Finding art in trash · love

Everybody needs somebody to love

This morning I woke up to a news (in Elle, People, etc) that the print of the painting that Prince Harry bought for Meghan Markle, is now available here. While the original cost a few thousand pounds, the prints are available between £599 and £799. It’s limited edition, and is numbered and signed by the artist. That brings us to who the artist is. It’s a British artist called Van Donna. The name is a pseudonym, a mix of Van Gogh and Madonna – her two idols. Apparently she has also had another celebrity client own her work – the Beatles star, Ringo Starr. What Prince Harry bought was a black stencil image of a boy and a girl holding hands. It is reminiscent of the ones done by the popular graffiti artist Banksy. A two-panel piece, while one has the couple on it, the other has a string of words. Written in red cursive, it reads – Everybody needs somebody to love. ❤

I tried replicating Donna’s work. And to give it a twist, I did it on two discarded boxes of tea bags. Here’s the result.

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Art · Artwork · Blogging · Life in general · Sketch

Sketching my world

It’s been a long time since I posted anything. While travel is a major reason, there is also something else. Writer’s block. It’s a real thing. In the last one week, I did want to share numerous posts about numerous things that I saw, experienced. But sentences stalled, were erased, attempted again, erased again. The screen remained blank. Meanwhile, as the words ran dry, I got preoccupied with something else. Pen-sketching. I had recently bought a set of five Pigma Micron 05 pens, out of which two have already been used up to their last bit. I sketched on index cards, sketchbook, journal, and on canvas. (Expect a flood of posts of my sketches in the coming days.)

To start off with, here’s a recent sketch of mine. I sketched this on (last) Thursday morning. We had a very busy weekend ahead of us. Lots of driving, meeting people, and exploring the beautiful Niagara Falls. So in the calm (before the storm) of the weekday morning, I sat with my cup of tea outside in the patio, and sketched the beautiful apartment that I stay in. A slight breeze tickled my feet, and the ever so melodious chirping of the birds kept me going, as I started from the roof, and worked my way down, one floor at a time.

 

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Art · Art from waste · Artwork · DIY · Finding art in trash

Go nuts

Finding art in trash Challenge: #6

I carelessly aimed the last of sea salt and pepper peanuts from the The Carolina Nut Co box into my mouth. With the container now empty, and swiped clean, I pealed off the cover, which unlike the beer bottles, just required a small pinch and pull. So there it was, a nice cylindrical bottle, which, with a little color could be turned into a beautiful storage box or a simple home decor.

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I decided to make a candle stand out of it. The result was this little stand that besides lighting up the setting, sparks some interesting conversations over dinner.

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The backside looks like this.

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March 2018 · Sketch

The pause: sketch #15

Ever so often, there is a powerful pause in between a spool of conversation. A pause, which, like a necessary punctuation, helps makes sense of a free flow of thoughts. A pause that lets one take a solo journey into the core of their mind, say hello to their conscience, lay to rest the doubts, anxiety, fear and excitement, and get back feeling a little more real, a little more connected to the face beneath the several masks.

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Sketched from a photograph. The model is a friend. 

March 2018 · Sketch

Chop chop: sketch #12

It happened in seconds. A thick lock of hair fell on the floor, and weirdly, it looked like a black kitten asleep. I felt a cool breeze on my neck. Having had a warm blanket of hair for so long, suddenly, my nape was exposed to a world that it had only partially seen through a black screen. Long bob is what my stylist suggested for me. And I went with it. It was the opposite of what I had until then. My deep-U cut was now inverted. Long hair in the front and short at the back. When blow-dried, the front part outlined the jaw. A thick black frame. ‘It’s portrait perfect,’ I wanted to tell the stylist. Once outside, the wind whipped it out of shape. My frame looked cracked. After shower, what’s left of the frame grew spindly, with a few strands, collectively curling up in protest to the recent cut. I longed for the comfort of my high bun then. I longed for the obedience that the long mane showed, neat strands bound by a thick rubber band.

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The original illustration is by Sara Herranz.

Art · TRAVEL

A home for art

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ISG Museum – a timeline 

One of the world’s biggest art robberies of all time took place here. In 1990, two thieves dressed as cops looted 13 pieces of artworks from the museum. Read all about it in this fantastic story by Google Arts and Culture. As a reminder to the sad event, empty frames hang in the museum even today. There is still hope that the works will find their way back to the rightful place.

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The courtyard. If you go in Jan-Feb, you will find midwinter tropics, and between Feb and March, Orchids. The plants are grown in the temperature controlled greenhouses and brought here for the public to see

I visited the museum on a rainy Sunday. If you get a ticket to the Museum of Fine Arts, you get a visit to ISG Museum for free. Unlike the MFA which is HUGE, and you probably might have to plan which floors to cover, the ISG is more intimate and cozy. There are no separate sections for sculptures or contemporary art. A room would contain a mix of everything. You won’t find labels under each painting, but what you will find are neat brochures which contain information about each piece of work that include a diverse variety — from basins to fabrics and even an Ostrich egg!

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Now, just like in every museum, there are guides you can direct your questions to. There is also a counter from where you can take a blank postcard and a pencil, seat yourself wherever you want inside the museum, and sketch something. It’s remarkable how much you observe when you try your hand at realism. As you stroll around the property, you get to see personal letters (there are 7,000 of them) written by the cream of society to Isabella. The list includes famous personalities such as Henry James. Each item was purchased by Isabella after falling in love with it.  And most of them are elaborately described in letters by her chief art advisor Bernard Berenson.

According to the website, the museum is home to “more than 7500 paintings, sculptures, furniture, textiles, silver, ceramics, 1500 rare books, and 7000 archival objects-from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Asia, the Islamic world and 19th-century France and America.”

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This is a painting called El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent. It was painted in 1882 as an ode to the gypsies who faced oppression in the 19th century for their free-spirited lifestyle. The work now hangs in the Spanish cloister of the museum.

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This window was made for the Soissons Cathedral in France. The window that you see here is only 40 per cent of the original size. The rest of it rests in Louvre, Paris. It narrates the story of Nicasius, archbishop of Reins and his sister Eutropia who were martyred by the Vandals in 403

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This is the doorway leading to Isabella’s chamber of meditation. It is said that it is filled with Buddhist icons and other Asian objects. On top right, you can see a statue of Boddhisatva or Guanyin (as they are called in China)

Was Isabella always interested in art? She was born in New York City to a well-to-do family. Her dad was into import of fabrics. She went to Paris for studies, and met Jack Gardner there, fell in love, got married and moved to his hometown in Boston. They had a son three years after the wedding. But unfortunately, he succumbed to pneumonia within two years. This left the couple depressed, and it was Isabella’s doctor who suggested that Gardner take his wife elsewhere to overcome the emotional trauma.

Off they went to Europe and Russia, followed by Egypt, Middle East and Asia. And everywhere she went, she collected what pleased her eyes. Thus over the years, she built a collection enough for a grand museum, which she built after her husband’s death in 1898. She moved to the fourth floor of the museum, and continued to host parties, concerts and lectures for the who’s who of society. As you walk around the museum, you will find it hard to separate this story from what you see. Every collectible screams of a passion for art that Isabella had. A passion that did still thrives in her home, long after her death.