Margret

I regularly collect old images off of pinterest for painting subjects, and was kind of thrilled to discover a 2nd and then 3rd of the same woman, sporting a big red beehive and what looked to be a post-coital cigarette. She kept popping up from time to time, and finally one image linked to an article on a book all about her. The book documents all of the photographs, paraphernalia and notes found in an abandoned suitcase found in an apartment in Germany. The estate was obtained by Delmes and Zander Gallery in Cologne, ( who have an amazing roster of outsider artists) and was made into a book and a show: "Margret – Chronik diner Affäre", which then traveled to White Columns in NYC. 

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The photographs, paraphernalia and notes in the suitcase documented a 1969-1970 affair between Gunter, a 39 year old businessman, and Margret, his 24 year old secretary. Despite both being married, he photographed their many trips together, and apparently kept obsessive notes on the details of their sexual encounters. He collected her hairs, empire birth control packets, even a scab and a bloody tissue. 

I also became obsessed with Margret, and wanted this out of print book. I found one online for $195, and discovered it happened to be in a local bookstore. Alias Books in Atwater, Los Angeles - very cool shop. I wrote and asked if they would consider less if I came in with cash, and I ended up buying it for $160. I felt a little weird as the guy was counting my money, so I tried to lighten the mood by saying "That's my mom there on the cover. We're trying to get all of these out of circulation."  Awkward pause.  "...OH." he says.  "Uh, just kidding." I say. He looked at me like I was nuts, and I scooted out.

I knew the book was in German, but I underestimated what a hard time I would have translating it. But maybe I'm better off just painting Margret, and wondering.

carrion flower cactus : I smell dead things...

I went thrifting with my friend Catherine the other day in Morongo Valley, and bought a whole mess of crap. The dumbest thing I bought was probably a massive floor-to-ceiling macrame hanging lamp - it's truly hideous, but it's my sarcastic tipping of the hat to the new macrame trend I've been seeing everywhere. I got it at a strange little store tucked behind a house, where there was also quite a collection of cacti for sale. And not for sale - all the cool ones had "sold" stickers on them, which I figured out was the proprietors way of keeping them. When we first walked in, he said to Catherine, "I'll give ya ten bucks if ya sit on oneof em!", gesturing to a huge coffee table full of prickly phallic plants. She's British, and only responded with a shocked "OOOOooooH!"

  One of my finds - a pair of big heavy ashtrays hanging from a chain. Ah, the good old days.... I'm going to use them as planters instead. The macrame beast has yet to be hung - stay tuned...

  One of my finds - a pair of big heavy ashtrays hanging from a chain. Ah, the good old days.... I'm going to use them as planters instead. The macrame beast has yet to be hung - stay tuned...

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On our way out, I spotted a "sold" plant with an eye catching flower, and recognized it as a carrion flower, which I've only read about. This kind is actually a succulent, native to Africa, and it's flowers look and smell like the rotting corpse of an animal in order to attract flies for pollination (some carnivorous species attract them for food). I got all excited, because I thought these were really rare (I was thinking of a massive species at Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, which is news-worthy when it's 5 foot corpse flower blooms every few years). Like an idiot, I stuck my nose right up to it and took a big whiff.... dead animal smell, alright. I was sick to my stomach for over an hour. The guy said he would give me a cutting next time I visit (probably only if I buy more macrame fails).

On Aug. 23, 2014, a rare Amorphophallus titanum or Titan Arum (a.k.a. the "Corpse Flower") bloomed at The Huntington in Pasadena, CA. It's 5th blooming since 1999.

On Aug. 23, 2014, a rare Amorphophallus titanum or Titan Arum (a.k.a. the "Corpse Flower") bloomed at The Huntington in Pasadena, CA. It's 5th blooming since 1999.

October is mating season! At least for tarantulas and goats in Joshua Tree.

I encountered an unsettlingly large tarantula marching across the patio a few days ago.... I pulled out my phone and filmed it (I couldn't handle getting too close), then set it to music on instagram: (click here to see the video)

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Then today I saw another post on Instagram from Desert Sun magazine, announcing that October is mating season for these guys, and the time you will most often see them out and about in Joshua Tree. I found more info on the National Park Service site:

When a male tarantula reaches sexual maturity, between eight and ten years of age, he begins a journey that will both aid the survival of his species and cost him his life. Should you observe a desert tarantula in Joshua Tree National Park this autumn, it is likely to be a male in search of a mate. The male follows the scent of a female tarantula to the receptive female's burrow, which she has typically excavated in dry, sandy soil and lined with silk webbing. Tarantulas are solitary animals; there is only one spider in this burrow. (sounds familiar)               To alert the female of his presence, the male taps one of his legs against the ground until the female emerges. The male must then participate in a dangerous mating dance, wherein he fends off the female, who wishes to devour him, by using hooks on his front legs. His death will give the female a needed boost of nutrition, as she must now produce 500 to 1,000 eggs and a silk cocoon where the eggs will be protected. Even if the male escapes being eaten by the female, he will still die within a few months. Females, on the other hand, often produce eggs for 25 years or more.

They also say a bite is no more dangerous than a bee sting to humans. Good thing I passed on the idea of taking it down - I never imagined the little guy was eight years old! It's also goat mating season - and mine are being as loud and obnoxious as ever.

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airbnb - how do I love / hate thee?

I owe a LOT to Airbnb.... I started hosting almost four years ago, and then crafted it into a full time job. I've managed to pare it down to a part time job, and dream of phasing it out almost completely. Yes, it seems odd and I'm ashamed to admit it, but I daydream about quitting my day job (that isn't even a 9-5 job). Though I am super grateful to be able to have set up my life this way - I rent out my house in Los Angeles most of the time, which allows me to live out in Joshua Tree with lots of land, beautiful vistas, space to work and keep a little flock of chickens and a few goats. And then I get to go into the city about once a week, so I can enjoy the best of both worlds.

I used to rent out this studio attached to my Joshua Tree house regularly, but now I just do occasionally as a pet-sitting exchange, giving me some goat-free time in the city.

I used to rent out this studio attached to my Joshua Tree house regularly, but now I just do occasionally as a pet-sitting exchange, giving me some goat-free time in the city.

Small-scale, it's a great little side business with flexible hours, but I've been renting out four different residences between LA and Joshua Tree (which are 2.5 hours apart), and then co-hosting two more listings in Palm Springs. I bought more property in the desert while the getting was good (prices have since sky-rocketed), and became an Airbnb machine.

Talk about anxiety-producing.... while it's not 9-5, it can be a 24 hour job. You never know when you're going to get that call - the toilet is backed up, the lock box won't open, the key won't work, we lost the key, the cleaner forgot to come, I gave the cleaner the wrong dates, wifi is out, the water heater failed and flooded the house, the fridge died, the AC died and it's 112 degrees, the police have been called at 4am because there's a huge party.... all of these and much more have happened (some several times).

One of the perks of co-owning this lovely Airbnb listing in Palm Springs is staying here and swimming in the pool when it's not rented! (not a perk - cleaning the toilet after guests! ;P )

One of the perks of co-owning this lovely Airbnb listing in Palm Springs is staying here and swimming in the pool when it's not rented! (not a perk - cleaning the toilet after guests! ;P )

And while the vast majority of guests have been quite lovely, some can be a BIT of a pain in the ass. Many will not treat your space as if it was their own... you'll find your cherished vintage dish or souvenir from Italy used as an ashtray or in broken pieces in the trash. Dirty foot prints on the couch, on the walls! Unattended children coloring the sheets and bedspreads with markers (happened on two separate occasions). A steady flow of guests really takes it's toll on a house and furnishings. It's a delicate balance - you want to have an interesting space with nice things, but it's hard to watch those things become gradually trashed. You start to realize why hotels have bulletproof furniture and everything nailed down. You start to realize why you should always tip the hotel maid. I've had to clean up some things so disgusting I don't dare write them here. I don't have the time or the stomach to do all of the cleaning, so I juggle a few cleaners in the different locations, and live in fear of pissing them off and losing them! And then there's the looming fear of bad reviews. In this Yelp age, people use reviews as a weapon. Even when they've told you what a great time they had, many will still drum up some negatives to write about - I suppose to give a thorough survey of their experience. Recently a guest who crammed several of her friends into the house, complained in the review that it was "too bright" for those sleeping in the living room, and that I should get curtains for the big windows. The big curved 1920's window is my favorite part of the house! Why would I cover it up, to be a flop house for a bunch of 20-somethings to sleep off their hangovers?

My dog, Bruno, loves our trips to the city (and this big window) as much as I do.

My dog, Bruno, loves our trips to the city (and this big window) as much as I do.

One thing I think is really important when hosting, is to once and a while be a guest yourself. When traveling, it's great to be on the other side of the fence and rent from another airbnb host. It helps you to discover what little comforts are really important, what details are easy to overlook. Apparently it's also good to blog about it, because doing so made me realize what horrible photos I have on some of my listings! I'm embarrassed to put in a link to my LA house, but maybe doing so will force me to go update the terrible old cell phone photos I have on it! It's easy to leave it on autopilot, and forget to check and update your listing. 

   I had a giant 2000 lb TV I was going to throw out, but as kind of a joke I instead bought a VCR at a thrift store and several odd VHS tapes. Turns out, people LOVE it! I keep adding to the collection, as there's usually an abundance of cheap choices at thrift stores. I keep meaning to print up "be kind, rewind" stickers.

   I had a giant 2000 lb TV I was going to throw out, but as kind of a joke I instead bought a VCR at a thrift store and several odd VHS tapes. Turns out, people LOVE it! I keep adding to the collection, as there's usually an abundance of cheap choices at thrift stores. I keep meaning to print up "be kind, rewind" stickers.

So while I love Airbnb and all it's done for me, I am down-sizing and renting some of my places long term so that I can preserve some of my sanity. Not to mention focus on making a living as an artist, instead! I also want to keep from getting too bitter - I really enjoy hosting people from all over world, and am so thankful that a platform like this exists.

interactive acrylics

Trying out some new paint - atelier interactive acrylics. They have an "unlocking formula" medium that you can use to prolong the drying time or reactivate the paint when it's completely dry. Although I've been finding that just water will reactivate the paint and let you rework it (though this may be with just thin washes? I'm not completely sure if it's a good thing..... I splashed a little wet paint on a study that had been dry a few days, and when I went to wipe it off, it took off the paint beneath it. And not in a way I intended! So I'm guessing these have to be coated when finished. It does open up a lot of possibilities!

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goat stew

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Goat stew is something that floats through my mind often.... on days when my two pet goats are out of control. Luckily I've managed to "train" them to not expect to be fed very early, but for some reason 9am is the time that some clock goes off and they want to be fed NOW. Veronica gets indignant, circling the house and wailing, and then starts head-butting the front door. This morning she slammed into it so hard that she forced it open, despite being locked. How reassuring. Though the only intruder I really fear are these two with the horns. They can cause all sorts of destruction in minutes, and live to do so. I have an arrangement with the FedEx guy that delivers my art supplies, where he now puts them in the back of my van with a delivered note on the gate. This was after boxes were torn open and canvases gored (seriously). Last week, however, I suspect one of the goats ate the delivery notice, so there were new paints and canvas baking inside the hot van for four days until I decided to track the shipment. As I was excitedly bringing the boxes in, Veronica slipped out the gate. So began a half hour of chasing, cajoling, and finally dragging her back by the horns. As I was getting her in the gate, Betty managed a switcheroo, and took off to trim the neighbors tree (after watching Veronica hit that buffet out of her reach). Luckily I had corn husks from dinner the night before to lure her back with. (see instagram video of this scene here: https://instagram.com/p/3MrOeZNPNP/?taken-by=ranchokelly )

So why do I even have them? I ask myself that often. While there's days of intense frustration with them, they will then go back to being quite charming for many days - somehow, their personalities win you over. I love looking out the window to see them reclining in the shade of a tree, beards billowing in the breeze, peacefully chewing on their cud (which always has the relaxed look of someone chewing gum).

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famous palettes

Since 2007 photographer Matthias Schaller has photographed raw, abstract paintings. The paintings however are not found on canvas, but rather smeared onto the tools used to craft each work of art—the palettes. His series, Das Meisterstück (The Masterpiece), claims these behind-the-scene objects as portraits of the artist, while also giving a direct insight into the detailed techniques performed by each painter.   (You can read the rest of the article on This IS Colossal here).

I usually use various food containers as palettes (here's several that used to house shiitake mushrooms from Trader Joe's). 

I usually use various food containers as palettes (here's several that used to house shiitake mushrooms from Trader Joe's). 

I wonder how my palettes stand up? It never occurred to me to save them. I used to flatten out beer carriers to use, and they had a handy handle. I've felt guilty because I don't use glass and then scrape it clean , like I thought you're "supposed" to do.

now that's some painting

I don't even know where my scattered brain landed on this Australian artist, Laura Jones, recently, but I keep coming back to her site and staring. There's a clear link to Matisse, but wow, she's almost better than Matisse. That's right, I said it…. I think her still lifes (lives?) blow his just a tad out of the water. 

Laura Jones, Windflowers and glass jars 2014, oil on linen, 60 x 50 cm

While I love still life and landscape painting, I really have to force myself to do it - like vacuuming.   And like vacuuming or going to the gym, I'm quite happy I did it afterwards. Hopefully I'll take this inspiration and run with it. I feel like Jack Nicolson in that movie where he's kind of a dick and he says to Helen Hunt, "You make me want to be a better man."    These make me want to be a better painter.

the big bowl that could

Working in ceramics results in a lot of "win some , you lose some" and throwing away hours of effort due to breakage or some thing you stupidly didn't take into consideration. This bowl was a big mess of stupid things, and I re-built it twice after having it break and crumble during the drying process.

I realized the problem was that I was building it onto the underside of a bowl as a form to follow, and as it would shrink it cracked and fell apart.I tried taking what was left (after I had started from scratch a few times), and jamming it into the inside of the bowl to try and make it work. I knew it was probably a lost cause, but figured it was an experiment. I had just started working with paperclay, which is touted as having many forgiving qualities. It has a high ratio of paper mixed into the clay body, which burns off during firing, leaving a lightweight but sting result that looks just like any other clay ceramic. Supposedly you can build onto dried or even fired clay with it. So I took the broken shell I had and applied a thin skin of paper clay on one side.

After firing the original red clay had cracked considerably, so I then patched it with more paperclay. Being lazy and not sure if this would work, I then glazed it before firing again. The many cracks and patches are visible, but not obvious under the glaze. I'm not crazy about the glaze result, so I may re-fire it. And if you're wondering why on earth I would make a bowl with holes in it, it's meant to be a fruit bowl - the holes let air in and prevent rot.


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Looked great, until it dried and cracked....

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here I put a skin of paperclay, to try and reinforce it

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and this is what it looked like when I turned it over.

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There was so much rebuilding involved, I would have been better off to start over. But I considered it a learning experience!

Herradura barrel project

Many months later, I'm finally getting around to posting photos of my Herradura tequila barrel commission. Besides having great tequila, they have a pretty cool marketing campaign. I think this was the 2nd year they did this - they selected 10 artists in various cities around the US (I was one of the lucky folks from LA for 2014), give them all barrels to go crazy with, then have a big opening event with LOTS of tequila, and judges who decide on the best three and hand out big cash prizes. Sadly, I didn't win, but I will say I had a barrel of fun.

the process - making tons of ceramic tiles, glazing and firing, plus these ceramic "port holes" that I then fired partially to slump glass inside. I probably should have put some make up on for this shot, but yeah, #Imaketileslikethis

the process - making tons of ceramic tiles, glazing and firing, plus these ceramic "port holes" that I then fired partially to slump glass inside. I probably should have put some make up on for this shot, but yeah, #Imaketileslikethis

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The tile-making was just tedious - the hardest part for me was drilling big holes into the thick wood of the barrel, making them just the right size for the port holes to fit, then wiring it up to light up from the inside. The best part was the smell of inside of the charred oak barrel reminded me of chardonnay.

the finished piece on display at the amazing Vibiana in downtown LA

the finished piece on display at the amazing Vibiana in downtown LA

several margaritas in.....  that's me in the back, 3rd from left.

several margaritas in.....  that's me in the back, 3rd from left.

blockage

It used to be that when I felt "blocked" (sitting in front of a blank canvas with nothing coming out of me), I concluded that I wasn't a true artist - it wasn't really bound into my guts. Now I realize that it's something almost all artists (and writers, musicians, etc) suffer through. It's so reassuring and liberating to know that.

But being blocked still sucks. I had some great quote from Chuck Close scribbled in a notebook, which I now can't seem to locate, but the gist of it was that creative block was for amateurs, and the real artists just keep working through it. So I tell myself it's okay when I feel blank, but don't allow myself to wallow in it anymore. Since I have the attention span of a gnat and am always trying different mediums, it's easy enough just to start working on something completely different. So last week I just walked away from painting for a while, and pulled out the clay again. I made a big pile of little pieces and filled up the kiln - how exciting! It's such a roller coaster of the joys of discovery and the disappointment of screw-ups in this learning process.

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If only I was a tetrachromat

I heard a fascinating podcast on Radiolab yesterday about color perception. I knew that most animals see less colors than humans, but never knew that some animals can see vast amounts of colors we can't. Humans normally have three types of cone cells and are therefore trichromatic…. however it has been suggested that as women have two different X chromosomes in their cells, some of them could be carrying some variant cone cell pigments, thereby possibly being born as full tetrachromats and having four different simultaneously functioning kinds of cone cells. One study suggested that 2–3% of the world's women might have the kind of fourth cone that lies between the standard red and green cones, giving, theoretically, a significant increase in color differentiation.

This of course made me wonder and hope… could I possibly one of the chosen few with super color sense? Researching the phenomenon online I found a test here, but after taking it my hopes were dashed with a crappy score. Of course, I do have a pretty dirty laptop screen.

There was so much amazing information in this podcast (here's a link)…. they went on to talk about someone who noticed in Homer's Odyessy his odd descriptions of colors. And then that he never once mentions the color blue. Studies of ancient texts reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last. Theories are that it's due to how rarely blue occurs in nature and the fact that it's the most difficult pigment to create for paint or dye. Because of this, many cultures have no word for blue. 

I think I'll paint something blue today.

 

Yay! I'm a finalist for Herradurra Tequila artists competition.

Just got the news, and I'm so excited to be accepted as one of the 10 Los Angeles artists in this years Herradurra competition to make a sculpture out of an old oak barrel! They chose 10 artists in 8 different cities, and will have a big event in each one. They haven't set the dates yet, but in Oct-Nov they will deliver a barrel to me and I have 6 weeks to finish it. I have a lot of ideas, but they're complicated, so I better get to work on a prototype… I'm picturing protrusions (like the piece pictured below) that have windows to the inside of the barrel, that will be lit from within.

Here's a link to last years event - http://www.herradurabarrelart.com


Ugliest dish

I'm granting myself the ugliest dish of the year award.

even as I was putting on the glaze, I thought "what the hell am I doing?" 

 

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