creativity looming

Have you heard? There’s a new fiber group in town! The Isabella Fiber Arts Guild, which meets the second Thursday of the month in Mount Pleasant. We’ve been meeting for a few months and the group is growing – if you haven’t been but want to join, you’d be very welcome! The members of this group have a wide variety of talents: knit, crochet, weaving, and more I’m forgetting at the moment, I’m sure.

Isabella Fiber Arts Guild January meeting - table looms

Each month we focus on a particular skill or technique or topic, and this month the demonstration was on table looms. Several members brought their table looms to show how they work and let everyone have a chance at trying them out.

Isabella Fiber Arts Guild January meeting - table looms

This is a rigid heddle loom. Isn’t it cute? I love that it’s so portable and can be used on a stand like this or just set on a table or even used on your lap if you have something to balance it on.

Isabella Fiber Arts Guild January meeting - table looms

These are assorted other types of table looms. I remember making a table loom (though I used it leaned up against the wall most of the time) when I took a weaving class in undergrad. (My major was English and Secondary Education, but weaving counted as some kind of general requirement. If I were going to school now, I’d be all about the art/making classes!) We also got to use the big floor looms in that class – I was sad to hear from someone at the IFAG meeting that CMU has apparently gotten rid of all of their floor looms. Those things were so cool! I feel lucky that I got to use one in that class. The table loom I made was basically a square frame formed by four pieces of wood, with a ton of tiny nails along the top and bottom on which I strung the warp. I remember that we had our choice of yarns to use from the cupboard in class – it was a huge cupboard with giant cones of all sorts and colors of fiber. It felt like a treasure chest!

At our next meeting we are going to be cold dyeing! I’ve never done this before and I’m quite excited to try it!

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Hamilton Home

When we were house-hunting, I became aware that there are quite a few kit homes in town, especially in the Old North End – one of the older neighborhoods (the one in which I bought my first house, and where we ended up buying this time). It occurred to me that this house might be a kit home, so I did some searching and happened to see an image that looked remarkably similar.

Hamilton

I’d say it’s a match! (Alas, there is a large maple tree blocking access to the exact angle shown in the catalog picture.) This home was sold in catalogs by Aladdin, a company based in Bay City which was a very popular manufacturer of kit homes. The Clarke Historical Library at CMU has a ton of information about Aladdin – I haven’t had time to get there during their open hours yet, but apparently I should be able to look up the receipts from our very home!

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Heroes

The CMU Art Gallery had a show earlier this winter called Heroes, which featured artwork that addressed that concept in some way. It was terrific!

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Linda Stein is a multimedia artist who creates for what she terms gender justice. All the works on display as part of this show had feminist themes and focused, as per the show theme, on superheroes.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I really enjoy the way she mixes media in unexpected ways to extend the themes of her artwork. Hers is the kind of art I could look at for hours and keep noticing new things.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Mark Newport‘s knitted superhero costumes are life-size or larger and are really impressive to see up close and in person.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

I enjoy the ways that Newport plays with texture, color, and knitting techniques in these supersuits.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Brett Sauve is a sculptor whose work I’ve seen around town before. I really dig his style and it was neat to see some of his 2D art as well.

Heroes exhibit at CMU Art Gallery

Delita S. Martin‘s displayed works use a variety of techniques to create layered, detailed, powerful works. Her combination of hand-stitching, printing, and collage is really striking.

I wish I could tell you to go check out this exhibit, but sadly we visited it on the last day and it’s now gone! Hopefully it’ll come back again at some point, as it is well worth checking out and I’d gladly go back to spend more time with these pieces.

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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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on forgiveness and drawing lines

[please do not cross the line]

Please do not cross the line by rhinoneal

There have been so many stories in the news lately about people making choices, being faced with the consequences of their actions, and then being forgiven without having shown much if any remorse and/or suffering actual punitive consequences. On the surface, this forgiveness seems fine and maybe even noble. But there’s something about these particular stories that keeps bugging me: the ease with which we forgive and forget when the circumstances make it convenient to do so.

Just this week in my small town, a college football player took a plea deal after being charged with three felonies. And just like that, he’s back on the team. Because OF COURSE he is, because football=money and we all know that’s much more important than a person actually taking real consequences for their choices. It’s so disappointing to see my alma mater make this kind of choice. I expect better of them than I do of the NFL, for example (though I’d love to see the NFL improve on its laughably poor handling of its latest debacle).

It seems that we are especially willing to forget when the crime/poor choice was a man doing harm to a woman or any form of misogyny.

For instance, most of us remember that Chris Brown beat the crap out of Rhianna. He pled guilty and was given the equivalent of a slap on the wrist (this brings up another element of these stories – we all seem to take it for granted that, if you’re a rich guy, there’s no way you’ll be held to the same standard of consequences as someone who isn’t), and now it’s like, oh, whatever, never mind, that was awhile ago, now he’s fine. Websites that I usually respect, like the AV Club, still review his new album as if nothing ever happened. I’m not in favor of never giving anyone a second chance, but I don’t think we have to do it automatically, and I think that forgiving people for awful, criminal acts just because time has passed is really shitty. Where was his apology and amends for what he did? I don’t think it ever happened. I’m sure the AV Club wants to have a wide range of reviews, but it would be easier for me to respect them if they chose not to review works from artists who are known misogynists.

Those are just a couple of examples out of many. It’s so tiring to see this happening over and over. I don’t think it’s probably even possible to participate in contemporary culture without separating artists from their art at least a little bit, BUT I don’t think we have to completely look away from these things, either. If you love a Woody Allen movie, at least be aware of the almost-unbelievable things he’s done in his personal life and the way his actions have affected the people in his life. There’s more awesome art than you can shake a stick at being created by good people who aren’t guilty of misogyny/violence/predatory acts/etc., so why not choose to fill your life with that? Or at least more of it? If I hear a song/see a piece of art that I like, I’m likely to try to find out more about the creator(s). At least then I’ll KNOW who I’m listening to or appreciating, and I can determine whether or not that affects my appreciation for the thing they made. As ever, problematic military toy G.I. Joe’s PSA writers had it at least a little bit right when they said, “Now I know. And knowing is half the battle.”

This all leads me to a thing that is happening right now in my profession. Two women who called out a man for sexual harassment and predation are now being sued by that man. We work in a female-dominated profession, but that doesn’t stop one of the relatively few men in that profession from doing horrible things (and, worse, AT THE SAME TIME being lauded as an industry leader). And then trying to intimidate those who called him out into silence with a ludicrous lawsuit. People get away with a lot of terrible behavior – was the CMU football player’s arrest the first time he did something criminal? Had Chris Brown ever abused a woman before he was caught? I don’t know the answers, but it sure seems possible. We look away from things that are difficult to deal with, and in doing so, we enable the perpetrators to keep on doing those things and, probably, to escalate. We should all be holding one another accountable, which sometimes means doing the difficult thing. Those with less power especially need to support each other and call others out on their behavior.

As someone who works with/for the public, I try to have empathy for everyone. The person who comes in the door with a terrible attitude and shouts profanities at me because the computer isn’t cooperating is probably just having a really shit day. I don’t take it personally and I look forward to future visits when they won’t be in such a bad mood, because it usually is truly just a bad moment for them (and we all have those). I imagine that the football player at CMU was motivated by wanting more – it seems plausible that he gets his room and board covered by a scholarship but might not have much in the way of running-around money, which would totally suck when all his friends are going out to a party or for food or whatever. However, he still made the choice to commit a crime, and his possible desperation does not justify that. It’s a little more difficult for me to find empathy for a man who beats or harasses a woman, but I still try to understand where that person is coming from and hope that they get the help they need along with the punitive consequences for their actions.

I wish I had some solutions to these problems that would really make a difference in our society. Rather than feel hopeless, though, I’ll choose to continue to make good choices in my own life, to try my best to call things out when I see them, and to support those like #teamharpy.

Sources-
http://sideeffectsofxarelto.org/xarelto-lawsuits/

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Hallowed Grounds

Last weekend we went to see the current exhibit at the Baber Room: Hallowed Grounds, the work of Michelle Wilson.

Hallowed Grounds - exhibit of Michelle Wilson's art

“Through this collection of fiberart, the artist explores historical and ecological links, examining how social and environmental justice often go in unison.”

 

Infrasound II, 2013

Infrasound II, 2013

Wilson makes her own paper from invasive plants that she clears to create room for native plants. How awesome is that? She uses a variety of techniques to create her art, including collage, drawing, printing, shaping, and hand-stitching.

 

Chacaltaya, 2011

Chacaltaya, 2011

This paper cutting was done by hand!

 

Listening, 2013

Listening, 2013

I love the multi-layered look of this piece. It reminds me of a book cover from when I was a kid, though I can’t place the book. The outline figure and silhouette of the cat especially stand out to me.

 

Kasha Katuwe, 2011

Kasha Katuwe, 2011

This piece is one of a five-edition set, each one hand-stitched. The stitching is precise and yet retains a natural feeling.

 

Solastalgia II, 2013

Solastalgia II, 2013

Though the artist doesn’t live in this area of the country, this piece reminded me of here.

 

Accord, 2012

Accord, 2012

I like the effect the three panels have in this piece: two figures walking toward one another but with a large – even more significant due to the separation of the panels – distance between them. The cool blue colors really work to set the tone, and I find the contrast between the dark figures and the lighter background very effective.

This is yet another exhibit of art at the Baber Room that I quite enjoyed. I feel so lucky that we have a number of art spaces with rotating collections here in Mount Pleasant.

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S-A-TUR-DAY Afternoon!

Yesterday was just the kind of day I love. We woke up and had some delicious scram with spinach and ham (courtesy of awesome K) and had a leisurely morning doing laundry and catching up on reading and social media. Then we headed out to see some exhibits! We saw the current exhibit at the Baber Room, which I’ll post about separately later this week. We then hit the new exhibit at the Clarke Historical, which is entitled Photography: Process, People & Preservation.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

This exhibit is really nicely curated. The graphics and displays are eye-catching and convey a lot of information without overwhelming you.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

Check out this print of the Marching Chips before they were the Marching Chips. Quite a far cry from the 250+ people I marched with when I was a student.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

The exhibit has a lot of information about a variety of photographic techniques and formats, with examples of many types of prints and negatives.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

They even included some nostalgic examples like these flash cubes, which I remember just a little from when I was a young kid.

Photography: Process, People & Preservation exhibit at the Clarke Historical Library

Also included are some neat vintage and antique cameras and, like in this case, advertisements and information about them. I love the image of this person being amazed by the photo they’re taking while they’re taking it.

Things have been so busy lately that it was really nice to just have a day to do exactly what we wanted to and not have other obligations or deadlines looming. I recently did a professional thing that I worked really hard on and which came with a lot of nervousness and anxiety, and I am so glad that I did it (and that it’s over). I accomplished a thing that I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even get the chance to do, and it feels good to have done it. I’ve also had a variety of other things going on that were weighing on me (huzzah for mammograms! But even more for follow-up mammograms that turn out to be nothing!) and it feels so good to just be. Anyway.

After the photography exhibit, we attempted to see the current faculty exhibit at the art museum, but apparently whoever was supposed to work there today didn’t show up, as the doors were locked and no one appeared to be around. Too bad, as it was CMU and You day and campus was packed with people who could have enjoyed seeing the art. We’ll try again another day.

Then we did a little retail exploration, including picking up some seasonal brews at a local liquor store (verdict: their selection of craft beers and ciders was okay, but nothing likeĀ www.mulberrymax.com which is worthy of writing home about. We’ll try another shop next time – locals, any recommendations?) and some sausages at the local meat market (verdict: YUM. The market is attached to the meat processing facility, so these were made on site and you can really tell that they’re superior quality). Then on to the fabric store to pick up some crafty bits and fabric as I work on putting together my Halloween package for the Blythe Swap Group. After lunch, I sewed and crafted some of the goodies for that swap package and I’m so pleased at how everything is coming together. It’s not even halfway through the month and I’m almost finished! I’m truly not sure how that happened.

Followed up by an evening of chilling and enjoying some good TV (new Doctor Who!) and the company of each other and Coraline the Wonder Snuggler, it was a really nice day.

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CMU: New Acquisitions art show

My goodness! So much has been going on lately that I have a bunch of stuff to post that has just been waiting for me to make time to sit down long enough.

We found out (through a careful reading of our new lease documents, NOT through the direct questions we asked the office staff, mind you) that the new owners of our apartment complex decided to raise the rent AND give us the bill for a number of things that were previously covered in the rent (water, trash, etc.), which has effectively priced us out of living here. In addition, our current non-smoking community will no longer be such, and that is a big issue for me (remember when we had to move to a new building here, only a month after moving in the first time, because our neighbors inside the first building were smoking a lot and it was invading/permeating our unit? I am NOT doing that again). So, we’re going to have to move AGAIN before our next, hopefully final for the foreseeable future, move when we buy our next home. We are, as you can imagine, not thrilled about this, but we are trying to see the bright side (even after paying movers, we will still likely save money in the long run due to paying a much lower monthly rent at the new place) (*fingers crossed* that we get the place we’re looking at). We also have to go through all the hassles of moving, having our mail forwarded, and so on – it’s just a huge time- and energy-suck that we were not anticipating.

ANYWAY! On the bright side, I recently went to see an exhibit of new art on CMU’s campus, in the beautiful Baber Room at Park Library.

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Paint by Number (ceramic) by Amy Dziesenski (2014)

I love the juxtaposition of something ephemeral, generally considered to be “low art” with a fine art like ceramics. This piece is really fun (note: all my photos from this show are TERRIBLE and should not be considered to be accurate representations of the artworks).

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

The Spirit: Graham, Dickenson, O’Keefe (multi-media quilt) by Ann Kowaleski

I was really excited to see that CMU acquired one of Ann Kowaleski‘s art quilts from her show earlier this year. I am a fan and admirer of her work.

 

CMU New Acquisitions art exhibition

Batman (ceramic) by Brett Sauve (2013)

This piece was an unexpected delight. It’s Batman, of course, but it’s also a lot more than just that. I really like the artist’s interpretation of the character. I feel like this piece highlights the humanity of the character (rather than focusing on the brutality or sex appeal, as the movies so often do). For me, the eyes especially convey the haunted, lonely life that led Bruce Wayne to take on the Batman mantle. The ears are almost dog-esque (this may just be me – given my love for bat-eared dogs) and their waver-iness gives a feeling of vulnerability. The way his cape is tied reminds me of how a child would tie on a cape, which also leads to that feeling. At any rate, this piece is also just really cool.

This show will be up through July 18 and I highly recommend checking it out.

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Free Comic Book Day 2014

Last Saturday was Free Comic Book Day. As per their usual, our local public library had a wide array of programs and activities leading up to and on Saturday. We were pleased to pick up some free comics (well, K mostly – despite my appreciation for them, I’m not a huge reader of comics), take in a few activities, and attend the panel discussion about all things Marvel.

me and an Imperial Spy at FCBD 2014

One of the members of the Great Lakes Garrison 501st Legion, Michigan Chapter, was there for photo ops. It was awesome to see a ton of kids cosplaying and getting their photos taken. There were also a lot of games and activities that we left to kids of appropriate ages.

Free Comic Book Day at Veterans Memorial Library

One of the fun things happening was that the library had held a contest for which patrons could create their own superhero poster, and the entries were on display in the Library Annex community room. I snapped a few of my favorites, including Thunder Woman! Look how she rides her thundercloud to water the flowers, with her hair flowing dramatically in the wind. That’s my kind of superhero.

Free Comic Book Day at Veterans Memorial Library

Name of superhero: Awesome. What more needs to be said?

Free Comic Book Day at Veterans Memorial Library

Bubble Spider Woman likes spiders!

Free Comic Book Day at Veterans Memorial Library

SkySea: Jumper of Peace. Bonus points for using fabric to make the cape!

Free Comic Book Day at Veterans Memorial Library

The Marvel panel was interesting. It was moderated/hosted by Joe Sommers, a professor from CMU (my alma mater), and the panel was composed of three graduate students from the English Department. Some time ago, Sommers acquired a shield that was used in the filming of the first Captain America movie and had it there to show off and pass around. That was neat, but he was surprisingly reluctant to share any details of how he came to have it, which was a bit of a bummer. It was more of a Q and A rather than a discussion of any specific topic by the panel, and the audience asked a lot of questions about upcoming Marvel movies (or movies they hope will be forthcoming). It was interesting to hear what people are looking forward to and interested in.

I was especially interested when one young audience member brought up the topic of women in comics and comic-based movies. She asked how the panel members felt about the representation of women in comics media and how they thought that women could play a more evenly balanced role. The panel’s answer was pretty much, “support women with your entertainment dollars,” which, while certainly a factor, is not in my opinion going to solve the root problem. Until the pen-holders and dollar-holders include more women, we’re going to continue to see a male-dominated industry. We live in a patriarchy and just buying tickets to see a Wonder Woman movie (if such a thing were ever to even come to be) is not going to solve all our problems. I’d have liked to hear the panel encourage that young woman (and others) to get involved in creating and doing herself, and I hope that there will be some women on the panel in future years.

(Note: you can kind of tell from this photo that one of the panel members is cosplaying as Wolverine, which I thought was great.)

me and Kristin at FCBD 2014

Of course my favorite thing was seeing Aquaman, AKA my pal Kristin, who helped put together the day’s awesomeness. She recently spoke at C2E2 about libraries doing FCBD programming, which you can read all about over at Lisa‘s. All in all, it was a fun day and I’m very glad to have a public library who does so much neat stuff.

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Piecing a Life: Quilts by Ann Kowaleski

It is a quilt-tastic time in Mount Pleasant! In addition to the Lenore Crawford exhibit at Art Reach, we also have the amazing Ann Kowaleski story quilt exhibit currently on display in the Baber Room at CMU’s Park Library. Kowaleski is a well-known quilt artist whose work is influenced by folk art and the cultural traditions of Mexico and Guatemala, as well as everyday life – the way she translates the commonplace into these beautiful handcrafted art pieces is truly inspiring to me.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

The Spirit: Graham, Dickinson and O’Keeffe (98×45″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This large quilt is a tribute to three well-known inspirational artists from various fields: Martha Graham, Emily Dickinson, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Kowaleski has given each woman a distinct section of the quilt, but uses organic shapes to ease the transitions between the three so there is a feeling of flow. The color palette of each section is fitting for its subject, and, also fittingly, the quilt has a rhythm that evokes the emotions inspired by dance, poetry, and painting.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

The Emily Dickinson section includes representations of her poetry as though they are sheets of paper floating in the air around her. Kowaleski uses embroidery to include excerpts from some of Dickinson’s famous poems. I love this technique.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Life in Ordinary Times (45×60″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This piece features Crewel embroidery in combination with traditional quilting and the use of some mixed media such as buttons and ribbon. It also incorporates a variety of fabrics: you can see in the photo above that she used a netting over top of a more traditional material to make part of the woman’s dress, in addition to several other fabrics, some of which are also nontraditional for a quilt.

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

So many things about this piece really captured me: the fact that the woman’s hair is at once somewhat wild, coming off her head in great swoops, but also beautiful and with great texture detail; the way the Crewelwork creates her expression both in the actual embroidery and in the way it affects the fabric it has been applied to; the way the woman’s hands clasp one another (a position that I admit looks quite familiar); and the use of a multitude of colors and patterns in the embroidery and fabrics that make up the woman’s dress to indicate the barely contained mayhem that so often makes up our daily life.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Midlife Musings (60×44″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

One of the things I really appreciate about Kowaleski’s quilts is that she captures the beauty of people, especially women, in a way that is not glamorous but instead evokes a more emotional response. These women are each unique in their appearance, though clearly all of a particular cohort. The women here are all supporting one another, and each appears to be wearing a mask. The use of the traditional (as a quilt subject) tulips around the edge of the quilt is a satisfying foil to the scene she’s created at the center of the piece. Likewise, the inclusion of the bread tray doily and the two small works of art on either side evoke thoughts of “women’s work” and the domestic expectations that women have faced (and still do).

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Meet Me in the Bathtub (45×69″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

This quilt is another that uses a variety of materials to create an emotional response. I especially love the use of photographs printed on fabric as well as the use of ribbon and other embellishments.

 

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

Two Women (45×46″)

Piecing a Life: quilts by Ann Kowaleski

I especially like this quilt. It features two women who are, again, supporting one another. They are similar in shape and dress and yet you can see that they are two distinct individuals with distinct personalities when you look at their faces. The way Kowaleski has put together the fabric of their dresses is so pleasing to the eye: the diagonals of each dress bodice point inward, toward the heart, but also create a very flattering effect; the use of ribbon, buttons, and chain; and the color palette which is at once feminine and strong.

These story quilts are such an inspiration. I’m just getting into quilting myself, having only been doing it for a couple of years so far, but seeing artwork like this gives me so many ideas for possible projects and ways to take my quilts to be something beyond just useful or warm. I highly recommend checking out this exhibit, and I hope to see more from Kowaleski in the future.

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