Musings on a Wintery Day

Cozy inside, stormy outside.

We are facing our first snowstorm of the season in Philadelphia and I am glad that I don’t have to go outside. , One of my guilty pleasures on days like these is reading Internet Lifestyle Blogs. The headlines are great: “Don’t Make This Mistake When Roasting Fennel” or “You Might Be Killing Your Houseplants Without Even Knowing It.” And then there’s the Fashionista blogger who takes me through her pandemic daily rituals of journaling, cleaning and scenting her space with Mrs. Meyers products (actually not a bad idea) and then assures me that she doesn’t worry if her day hasn’t been “Instagram perfect.”

My mother got her jollies from reading Women’s Day and Family Circle Magazines which she bought at the grocery store. There’s nothing more stupefying than reading an article on how to bake a killer dessert followed by an article on the latest diet where you have to weigh everything and eat it with grapefruit, but that’s what these magazines were known for.

Things haven’t really changed, Nowadays, Influencers would recommend that you start your meal of organic lemons and aquafaba soufflé with some amazing affirmations (They’re genius!) which are sure to make you forget that you squat in a trailer and have to flush your toilet with a bucket of water.

Fashionista + Influencer = Influenista which sounds like a new disease to me. It’s so new, in fact, that I don’t know how to pronounce it yet. But I don’t even pronounce my own last name correctly. And I gave up on Uranus long ago.

Why the rant? No reason really. I have been working on genealogy for my family, my husband’s family and some relatives-by-marriage who I am fond of and who have expressed an interest in finding out more about their roots.

And I have started to uncover some secrets. But what was scandal 80 years ago doesn’t mean anything today. I mean no one cares if your grandparents weren’t married when they started having children, or similar “scandals.” If you had to wait until you were married, the human race would have died out long ago.

Which means that many of the little things that seem like such big problems to us today will be footnotes in somebody’s family history years from now. So enjoy a few guilty pastimes if you can. A wintry afternoon is the perfect time.

Brunelleschi’s Dome

OK, I’ll admit that I haven’t travelled anywhere in a few months, but I am taking an online art history course and last week I learned about Brunelleschi’s dome, which is the dome that covers the the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, Italy. What is so special about this dome? It’s huge (375 feet tall) and it’s sitting 180 feet up in the air on top of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral. Fillipo Brunelleschi designed, engineered and built the dome on the top of the cathedral and finished the job in 1436. If you want to read about how he did it, I can recommend a book, Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King, which you can get on Amazon, here, or borrow from your local library or from the Internet Open Library and read on line. (Don’t forget to make a donation if you do.) I am still struggling with WordPress’s new block editor which supposed to make blogging so much easier.

The block editor doesn’t cut it for me.

But enough of my whining. Here are some pictures from a trip to Florence.

A shot out of my hotel window
Inside the cathedral looking up at the dome.
Cathedral entrance.

To read more about Brunelleschi’s dome, press here and here.

Waiting This Thing Out

The pandemic is raging again and I joined my family on Zoom for Thanksgiving dinner. I was surprised at how well it turned out. We all just fired up our computers, parked in front of them with our dinner, and had a meal together even though we were in different locations. Much safer than traveling but we did miss the human contact.

The pottery studio is closed
My shelf as I left it.

The pottery studio is closed but I was working on decorating some bowls I had thrown when the closing announcement came down. I’m hoping to get back to them after the first of the year. In the meantime, here are some pictures. Stay safe and wear your mask!

Happy Thanksgiving

Boris chows down!
Stay safe this holiday season

Look! I Made a Mug

Actually, I made two, and snatched them out of the studio before the Fleisher Art Memorial open Ceramics studio closed in response to the latest Coronavirus surge. We had been working in the studio since September with added precautions, masks, a limited number of people, and social distancing. But safety is more important.

I decided to try making a hand-built mug where the handle and walls of the mug were all one piece, and I would add a bottom. In pottery as in jewelry designing, making paper models saves a lot of time and materials. So I made a paper template for the mug.

Mug template with bottom
Mug in the making.
Underglaze painting on greenware.
Mugs after bisque fire. I covered them with a clear satin glaze.

And the scraps from the foot rings inspired me to make a covered jar with a fancy lid. I’ll do some cold finishing on this one.

Electricity from the Mind of Mildred Greenberg

Last week’s post which included a link to a film about the artist Judy Chicago got me thinking.  If being an artist is challenging, being a woman artist is even more so.   I saw a great exhibit at the Tate Modern a couple of years ago on the Guerilla Girls and one of my favorite parts of the show was their Advantages of Being a Woman Artist Poster.  You can get a look at it here.  And Jane Dunnewold has produced another excellent video, this one on Women Abstract Expressionists.  You can watch that here.

I was not familiar with the work of Mildred Greenberg although I had known her daughter, Susan for many years and at one time we had even worked in the same office.  Ancient history.   We fell out of touch and the years passed.  Then we got reacquainted, this time through my husband.   And before the Coronavirus shut everything down,  Susan invited us to the opening of a retrospective of her mother’s work presented by InLiquid, a Philadelphia Arts organization, ELECTRICITY: From the Mind of Mildred Greenberg.

Electricity

Mildred Elfman Greenberg hailed from Philadelphia and much of her early work was produced  for the W.P.A.s  Federal Art Project during the Depression.  Her bio from the British Museum, one of the many museums that have her work in their collection reads as follows.   Painter and printmaker. Born as Elfman to Russian immigrant father and American mother in Philadelphia, where lived most of her life. Married Samuel Greenberg. Graduated from Moore Institute of art and Design in 1934; WPA 1940. No work between end WWII and 1974.  That’s thirty years without making art.  I believe at this time that the family had relocated from Philadelphia to California.  It’s my understanding that Greenberg resumed her art career after moving back to Philadelphia in the 1970’s.

Geometric Figures
Student work
Work produced for the WPA
Work produced for the WPA

Later work

You can read more about Mildred Elfman Greenberg here.

New Videos

It’s election night and I don’t want to think about anything and I don’t know how I will feel tomorrow. So I decided to share two inspirational but non political offerings I found on you tube. The first is a video on the artist Judy Chicago by another artist I respect highly, Jane Dunnwold. I could go on with commentary, but there’s been too much of that lately. Just treat yourself and watch the video.

I’ve been enjoying the claying challenges put forth from the Southern Connecticut Polymer Clay Guild even though I haven’t made a cane in the past few weeks they’ve turned me on to some great tutorial sites. But I found one I really like and it’s too good not to share: Clay Zoo. The videos are subtitled and easy to follow. Take a look.

Saturday Night in Our Market

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I have an Italian last name and live in South Philadelphia. So everyone thinks I was born and raised here. Not so. My Mother’s family (and me with it) hails from the Midwest and her Scots-Irish ancestors reached these shores in the early 1600’s. But everyone’s gotta come from somewhere and that’s why when my Mother’s relatives were bragging about their DAR memberships, my Father would proudly announce that he could trace his family “all the way back to the banana boat in New York Harbor.”

The Sicilian half of my family got most of my attention during my childhood, maybe because they were louder than the W.A.S.P. half. My mother would go around saying things like “That’s just not done,” and dispensing other mots of wisdom that I did not begin to comprehend until I reached adulthood. The Sicilian food was better anyway.

The 9th Street Market in South Philadelphia  is commonly called “The Italian Market.” It was predominantly Italian at one time, but starting in the 70’s, there was an influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia. People began arriving from Mexico and Central America about 20 years ago. The market and the surrounding neighborhood is a heady mix of restaurants, cuisines, cultures, ethnic groceries, shops, bakeries and more.

What does that have to do with Cavalleria Rusticana? It started when my friend Doris asked me to join her and another friend for a musical program called Honoring Our Ancestors, presented by the Our Market program and Orchestra 2001,  and held in the 9th Street Market this past weekend.

Orchestra 2001 presented a great program of music from Central and South America, Asia, and Italy.  The last work was  Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana, which is the quintessential Sicilian opera.  The story goes like this:  Mama loves boy more than anything.  Boy doesn’t listen to his Mama.  Boy breaks Mama’s heart.   Boy dies.  We all cry to some of the most beautiful operatic music you will ever hear.  Listen and see if you agree.

Nerikomi In Progress

Now that I have a kiln that can fire to cone 8, I can finally experiment with colored porcelain and Nerikomi on my own schedule without having to wait forever to see how a pot comes out. I am using mason stains to color 257 porcelain which I bisque fire at Fleisher Art Memorial, and then fire it a second time at home, unglazed, to cone 6 . This porcelain was made to be fired to cone 8-10, but it gives very nice results at cone 6 which is how they fire it at The Clay Studio where I first started using it. I only take my kiln to cone 6 to preserve the firing elements. I’m learning as I go by watching videos and reading what I can on the Internet. Most of the books on the subject cost a small fortune and I haven’t found any in my local library. No matter. I’m having fun and that’s the only thing that counts.

How’s this for inspiration? I love the spiral motif and never saw it in a plant before-not like this anyway. Anyone know what this plant is called?

Gray, black and white spirals sliced like jellyrolls
Holes plugged with white clay
This will be the top of the bowl
Bottom of bowl over a form
Inside of bowl inside the form.

When the bowl gets leather hard, I will smooth it with a metal rib. It is extremely fragile when it’s bone dry, so I try to do most of the work at the leather hard stage. After it’s bisque fired, I’ll sand it with wet/dry sandpaper and then fire to cone 6. After that? I plan to experiment with paste wax. This will be a decorative bowl.

Exquisite Copse

Exquisite corpse  is a way of assembling a collection of works that are related in some way.  There is no curator.  Instead, each collaborator adds a work in sequence, either by following a rule (e.g. must be green)  or by being allowed to see only the end of what the previous person contributed.  The Broken Telephone Project a 2013 collaboration of polymer artists, is one example of this form. There are others.

The Da Vinci Art Alliance’s latest sculpture exhibition, Exquisite Copse, is in keeping with the genre of a collection of works,  and is also a play on words being situated in a park with a small group of trees which is precisely what a copse is.  The sculptures are  currently on display at Palumbo Park in South Philadelphia.  Part of Da Vinci Fest, the exhibit runs through November 6, 2020.