American Dog Walker: The Art of Bruce Thayer

There is currently a terrific exhibit at the CMU Art Gallery, featuring the works of CMU alum Bruce Thayer, an artist who is heavily influenced by the Chicago Imagist movement.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I have to admit I knew nothing about the Chicago Imagists before going in to this exhibit, and I hadn’t heard Bruce Thayer‘s name before. I’m so glad I went, though, as I learned a ton and really enjoyed the art on display.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Alice in the Wonderful Dog Walk, 2013

Much of Thayer’s art is political, but some is more telling of his daily life and routines, like this watercolor. (Also: I am a sucker for dogs.)

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Blame Game, 2013

Thayer was an auto worker for many years and experienced firsthand the struggles of the economic downturn and the effects of the changes in American manufacturing over the last few decades.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Working Stiff, 2005

Thayer’s combination of drawing, painting, stamping, and other techniques is very effective, I think, in conveying the anxiety, uncertainty, frustration, and anger that auto workers and others felt during these troubles. Thayer’s ability to combine different techniques and themes reminded me of some of They Might Be Giants’ early music (the Pink album and Lincoln). Both use imagery from popular culture, political themes, and seem to have a sense of humor. I’m not sure I’m really putting a finger on why the one reminded me of the other, but it did.

American Dog Walker: the Art of Bruce Thayer exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Shift Change, 1989

This piece is one of a few cut out assembly-acrylic sculptures in this show. I like the way that this piece brings the auto workers to life as they appear to be dancing. It seems that the balancing act of being an auto worker could easily have felt like a dance at times (juggling productivity with diminishing resources and increasing demands and trying to maintain one’s self-respect).

This exhibit will be on display at the CMU Art Gallery through November 8, 2014. I highly recommend checking it out.

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FO Friday: Fawn Beanie and Wine-Tasting Shawl Scarf

Two more finished knitted objects this week!

Fawn Beanie

First, I finished this Fawn Beanie, so named because the yarn colorway is called Fawn. It’s 100% wool and has a very nice drape. The way this pattern is written provides a nice square X shape on the back, which looks pretty cool. I might end up embellishing it with something colorful on or just above the brim, but I haven’t decided yet. This one is going in the holiday gift pile, so I need to decide pretty soon.

Wine Tasting Shawl Scarf #knitting

Next up is this Wine-Tasting Shawl Scarf, again named for the yarn colorway. This will be a nice shawl for work-wear: it’s colorful and warm but not huge or too bulky. I haven’t 100% decided yet, but I think this is one I’ll keep for myself.

superhero fatigue

02292008 Photogamer

I admit it: I’m experiencing superhero fatigue. There are Just So Many of them around these days! I’m all for the geek uprising and the popular-ification of media that was formerly relegated to “stuff for nerds,” but I just can’t dig up an interest in all of it.

Or even in everything superhero. I have enjoyed most of the Avengers movies, but the more of them that come out, the less interested I am. Winter Soldier was just meh for me – and I think that this is probably because I’ve seen so many similar movies lately. If it had come out without being sandwiched between a bunch of other similar flicks, I might have enjoyed it more.

I was watching Agents of SHIELD, but it hasn’t held my interest. I watched the pilot for The Flash, but again, felt meh about it. I tried Misfits and Arrow, but nothing really grabbed me. I’m sure there are more I’m not thinking of at the moment.

With a new Batman movie in production, I am trying but failing to get excited about it. The last reboot was fine at first but got SO heavy and dark and dude-centric that I was struggling to enjoy them after the first one.

I don’t think it’s just superheroes that I’m burned out on. I think it’s partially that, but also that everything is trying to replicate the other successful franchises/brands, and it all ends up feeling the same. I’m sick of movies where the action sequences are blurry, frenetic messes that your eyes can hardly track and which depict the so-called heroes blithely destroying the cities they’re supposedly defending. I’m tired of media where the majority of characters are beefy males and I’m supposed to think the lone female character is badass because she acts just like her ridiculous male counterparts while wearing high heels and skin-tight garb. (Don’t forget her carefully coiffed hair, which she will NEVER put back in a hair-tie or anything else practical to keep it out of her way.) Just writing about this feels exhausting.

Does anyone else feel this fatigue? Seen anything great that revitalized your interest?

FO Friday and a free pattern

I recently completed another hat and a lap blanket for a friend’s father who recently went into hospice.

Thunderhead Watchcap #knitting

This is a pretty standard watchcap pattern, but with a twist: you knit into the back of the knit stitches, which gives the whole thing a little bit of an angle.

Thunderhead Watchcap #knitting

I love the decreases on this pattern! They turn out so crisp and tidy and symmetrical! So pleasing. The friend for whom I made this hat has been going through kind of a rough time lately, and I tried to think positive thoughts while I was knitting it.

Sequoia Lap Blanket

This lap blanket was pretty simple to come up with and make. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and I hope that it will be useful. The colorway of the yarn I chose (and for which I named the pattern) is Sequoia, and I thought, what better metaphor for the strength one needs when going through or helping someone go through a hospice situation.

Sequoia Lap Blanket

I wrote the pattern for this and published it as a free download on Ravelry. Please feel free to download it and share it with your friends! I think this might make a nice project for making give-away items as well as for those you might know who could use one.

writing and expectations

So the fall TV series are back on, which means that many shows have returned to Hulu+ (where we watch most of our current TV, as we don’t have cable). I’d been feeling some fatigue with some shows already, but a few that we’ve watched as the new season started have been Just Awful. Warning: spoilers, probably.

Castle, for instance, is a show I have quite enjoyed in the past and really want to like because it has a female main character and has Nathan Fillion, who is generally good and in good things. The first episode of this season picks up where the last one left off (spoilers, I guess): Castle is in peril on the way to marry Beckett. I have a problem with this already, because it feels like SUCH a cop-out when shows resort to putting their main characters in mortal danger. It’s not enough that they’re in the regular, every-day-for-a-crime-solver danger. They have to be attacked and kidnapped and who-knows-what-ed by The Bad Guys. So we’re starting off poorly already. Then we add in some seriously poorly written actions for our main characters. It appears to the completely oblivious eye that Castle has been hiding out to avoid getting married to Beckett, and in about no time at all, Beckett and the sidekicks from the police department have all shed any benefit of the doubt they ever possessed and are convinced that Castle has made terrible choices and is wronging everyone he ever loved. They treat him like he’s a horrible person and are pretty obvious about how much they’re hating him, despite the fact that he just got rescued, has obviously been traumatized, and has little memory of what happened to him. We’ve had how many years of them building up their relationships and they’re willing to give up on him in a matter of days? This is so inconsistent and not in character for basically ANY of them. The fact that Castle just takes all this abuse is pretty annoying, too. I won’t even get started on the long-running problem of Beckett running around with perfectly blown-out hair, getting into scrapes and tumbles without a hair out of place or even a fleeting thought of a hair-tie. COME ON.

Anyway! I’m going to give Castle another shot, but it should consider itself On Notice. A number of other shows have recently fallen off my will-watch list. I generally have a certain amount of loyalty for a show in which I’ve invested a season. But I was a bitter-ender for How I Met Your Mother and look where that got me! (NOWHERE. We actually watched the first half of the two-episode series finale, not realizing that there was a second one, and thought, well, that’s it! When we did realize there was a second part and watched it, I didn’t feel that it really added anything to what I had previously thought was the wrap-up.) Watching the returning episodes of a few comedies, I’ve realized that entire episodes will pass with not one laugh or even a chuckle, and I’m calling it quits. Modern Family, there are so few jokes in your episodes, and the ones that are there aren’t actually funny! Big Bang Theory, fat jokes still aren’t funny, and all of your characters being plain mean to each other isn’t funny, either. ESPECIALLY when you resort to all the mean girls crap that a show with three main female characters so utterly does not need. So I’m officially freeing myself of the compulsion to keep watching these. My thinking here was informed by the second episode of Bellwether Friends, which – if you haven’t checked out this podcast yet, do it now! It’s far more worth your time than any of these TV shows.

FO Friday: Hat-tastic

I’ve been knitting lots of hats lately, as I use some yarns I’ve had stashed for awhile and begin to prepare for holiday gift-giving time. I’m sort of working my way toward writing some original grown-up human hat patterns – making a lot of patterns by others is good inspiration and provides me the opportunity to think about how I want to write my own. Check out my Rav for more info on any of these!

Arrow Swish Hat

Nottingham Hat

Feathered Cloche

Hairy Llama Beanie in Knit Picks Swish Pacific Tonal

Molly Hat

Art Assignment: Photo a Friend

One of my favorite YouTube channels is the Art Assignment. It’s a PBS show that features a different artist(s) each episode, and they talk about their art and give an assignment to make some art yourself. There’s also a brief but really useful overview of the history of art in that artist’s genre.

I’ve been watching the Art Assignment for months but this is the first time I’ve actually made the effort to do the assignment right away. Partially because I like photography and have been trying to practice my skills already, and partially because it was pretty easy – I already had the materials/tools on hand and it wasn’t difficult to reach out to a friend who was happy to participate as my subject. I also felt inspired by the artist, Tanja Hollander. Making the time (I do wonder how she funds her life when working on such a grand, time-consuming project!) to travel to see and photograph each of her Facebook friends is a massive undertaking! I also appreciate the care with which she photographs each of her subjects. I think that choosing to photograph them in an environment in which they feel at home creates the opportunity to capture more of who they are than if the picture was taking in a more formal way.

The gist of this assignment is to take a photograph of a friend in an environment in which they feel at ease. I asked my pal Sam, who agreed and suggested that we go to the woods near where she grew up. It was an amazingly beautiful day and she happened to pick a spot that had great light, so all the factors were in my favor to take a great photo. I actually took, like, 100 photos, but I was playing with different settings on the camera so I could learn more about what works for me and how, which seems like a relatively good excuse for taking so many. A number of the manual ones came out unfocused, so it wasn’t hard to weed them with minimal effort.

art assignment - photo a friend

The assignment also asked us to write a little something about what a friend is. I thought this was a really interesting question to ask in the age of Facebook and social networks where we can form bonds of friendship without ever having met the other person face to face. I have plenty of people I call friends who I mostly communicate with via Twitter, and I don’t feel any less their friend because we either haven’t met or don’t often see one another. When I think of it, though, this isn’t all that different from the pen-pals I had while growing up – a number of them lived overseas and the chances of us getting to meet each other or spend any significant amount of time together was slim or nil. Yet we corresponded for years sometimes, sharing the details of our lives and rooting for each other to be happy and satisfied in our lives. So, I guess, to me, that’s what a friend is: someone with whom you have a mutual rooting-for-each-other.

Alpaca Fun Day and quilt update

Last weekend my pal Sam invited me to go to an Alpaca Fun Day event at a local alpaca farm. I didn’t even know that there WAS a local alpaca farm! It’s called Isabella Alpacas (no web presence that I could find). I was pretty excited to see what it was like.

The alpacas were SUPER CUTE, of course. They had some who were young and had just been sheared for the first time this year, and others who were older.

Alpaca Fun Day

One of the folks there handed Sam a bowl and the nearby alpaca was VERY enthusiastic about eating the kibble. He also made some really cute snorting noises that reminded me of Coraline.

This weekend I also made a beeline for CraftyTown and worked on my current quilt project. Hooray! I haven’t been making enough time for it lately so I was really happy to have several consecutive hours to give to it this weekend.

Day off means quilting and podcasts #joy

I’m working on the background of the quilt in quadrants which are six squares (each 3.25″ square) square. I find that I have a neater result when I do it this way, though in the case of an art quilt like this I’m not 100% upset if things aren’t perfect. I have my sketch drawn out on graph paper (you can see it on the left side of the photo above) and this helps me to know what fabric I want to put where.

Quilt in progress

Having the 36 squares laid out, I then match them up so I can do smaller sections and then attach them to each other to make the whole 6×6-square quadrant.

Quilt in progress

I’m using a non-traditional seam allowance on this quilt. I’m not entirely sure why I decided to do this – it’s been ages since I started this project – but when I picked it back up, it was obvious that’s the seam allowance I chose, I’m going with it.

Quilt in progress

Not too long ago, Susan hipped me to these Wonder Clips, which I now adore. They make piecing SO EASY! I love that they’re red on one side and clear on the other, so I can use that to remind me which was is up, if I happen to jumble my clipped squares. They’re also a lot easier to put on and take off than pins are – though I will often use pins along with the clips to designate the position of various sections so that I remember which way it goes throughout the transport from the cutting table to the sewing machine and back.

Quilt in progress

I’ve also started to use chain piecing, which for a project like this is saving me all kinds of time. Thanks to the Wonder Clips and my pin “labeling” system, I can sew a bunch of bits together in one go and not worry about forgetting which piece goes which way.