Thursday, December 24, 2009

My favorite songs discovered this year

      I don't know if it's his dark moody voice or his equally dark and moody lyrics but many songs by M. Ward have appeared on my playlists this year.  I downloaded 'Transfiguration of Vincent" from the libary which I think I like better than "End of Amenisia".  Most notable are "Carolina" and his version of David Bowie's "Let's Dance".   The guy is definitely gifted when it comes to lyrics.  In "Carolina" he sings he "used to feel like California, now I feel like Carolina, split myself in two".  I bet even Tom Waits thought that was a good line for a song. 
     Speaking of Tom and good lyricists I think he is one of the best out there.  Last year I saw the movie 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and just when it gets really intense Tom starts singing "All the World is Green" extracting uncontrollable tears and some serious shock and awe out of me.  It was really hard to leave that movie as they returned to the same song when the credits rolled.
     And then there's Alice.  I do have a really good friend named Alice but I am talking about the Tom Waits song with that name.  If you have never heard it get the cd of the same name from the library and download it.  "....with a secret kiss, comes madness with the bliss, I must be insane, to go skating on your name, and by skating it twice, I fell thru the ice, of al..ICE...".

     Maybe it is because I am in my 50's and I shared similar experiences, but Rickie Lee Jones is another amazing song writer that keeps on giving me 'ear candy' year after year.  Her new album "Balm in Gilead" is all good but my favorite is the one she wrote for her daughter's 21st birthday called "Wild Girl".  This song has everything that I love about Rickie; from her chords, to her pacing, to her particular way of articulating a verse, this song brings forth those salty tears again and again, letting me know she has hit my spot.
     Okay, yeah, I am a sucker for really good ballads.  But I also love a good world music sound.  Balkan Beat Box, who was last scheduled to hit Eugene at the Shed a year or so ago (and was cancelled due to imigration B.S.) put out an amazing song called "Ramallah Tel Aviv".  We are talking middle eastern rap (just for the record I detest rap music) .... and it was music to my ears.  Difficult to describe.  All I can say is it makes me wanna dance unlike any rap song I have ever heard.
     Then there's a band called Bajofondo.  I got into them because I like 'nuevo tango'.  But when I heard "Pa Bailar - Siempre Quiero Mas" I flipped.  Beautifully rhythmic.  Very danceable.  Gorgeous female lead vocals featuring Julieta Venegas.   It gets me all mushy even if I don't understand most of lyrics.
     I also discovered another singer songwriter this year, Devandra Banhart, probably because he was the free single of the week from either Starbucks or I-tunes.  Went to the library to see what else he had done and sure enough his album 'Cripple Crow' is a winner.  I love "Santa Maria da Feira" the most for it's beautiful vocals in spanish mixed with just enough folky guitar to appeal to a '50-something' like me.
   Perhaps none of these are new to you, but if even one is I will consider my list a success.  I would feel even more 'successful' if you left your favorite songs discovered this year.  They don't have to be new, just new to you.  And thanks in advance for reading and responding.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The resurrection of Yo

     Being an artist, for me, has not always been pretty or fun.  Nor does my process fit nicely into the perimeters of a timeline.  I can start a project with a ‘guesstimation’ of when it will be done, but I never really know what will happen once I start.
     In September 2006, I started a life-size mannequin by covering a foam one (I had laying around) with papier mache.  Then, I used the plaster gauze to make a smooth, hard surface to collage upon. I then collaged the entire surface with maps I printed out from various sites I found on the web. In the next step, I laid tissue paper that sewing patterns are made of, and then finally I painted over the entire surface, thinking I was going to sand back through the layers and come up with some interesting texture as skin.  
     By the summer of 2007 she was completely covered. Her torso and arms were sanded down revealing an unusual textural surface with an occasional word showing through. Her legs had red and white striped ‘socks’. Her face had tiny words embedded deep into her skin and eyes.  She sat peacefully in a cross-legged position with her fingers laced together.  And I hated her.  I just could not make any real meaning out of her even though the surface of her ‘skin’  looked just fine.
     Day after day, my frustration with ‘the mannequin’ grew whenever I tried to work on her.  Finally, sick of the frustration, I cut off her arms, then I cut off her legs and I wrote ‘I hate you’ and ‘throw me in the river’ all over her.  That day I promised myself, tears flowing, that I would throw her in the back of the truck, drive down to the river and throw her in.  ‘She will finally stop haunting me',  I thought.

     Then in December of 2007,  I had a near-fatal head injury to the right side of my brain caused by a sinus infection.  I was in the hospital for a month. By the time I got home I still had very little use of the left side of my body.  I could not put on my own clothes, tie my shoes, zip up my coat.  Making art was out of the question.  But everyday for several months I would walk up to the hospital for my physical therapy appointments then walk back.
     Eventually, I learned to read again, type, use my cellphone and most miraculous to me the pictures inside my brain came back.  (I had secretly feared I had lost my imagination).  To make art I would collect things in baggies and hang them on the wall and try to extract meaning from them.  And  I spent a few hours everyday writing.  The mannequin was the last thing on my mind though she still haunted me whenever I went out to the shed.  (I never did make it to the river.)
     I spent the next year volunteering at MECCA trying to learn how to work with others with my new limitations.  The head injury caused a lot of fatigue along with heightened anxiety when dealing with people.  The volunteering helped me learn how to negotiate my new limitations.
     When Mija (the director at MECCA) first said the words ‘Art Challenge’ I immediately knew I had to resurrect the mannequin.  The moment I saw the old lamp I knew that the lampshade was the skirt I had been looking for. And the base of the lamp would be heavy enough to hold up the mannequin.  So inspired was I, that I strapped the lamp onto the back of my bike because I had to start work that day.

      This is when it dawned on me that resurrecting the mannequin mirrored my own resurrection from the brain injury.

     Everyday, for the next two months, I would find little things at MECCA that spoke to me and I knew they belonged with the Resurrection piece.  Death sits on her head to remind me that it is always near, and a skull sits in a closet (or a coffin) on her back to remind me that grieving is a very necessary part of the healing process.  As I first said, for me, making art isn’t always a pretty or timely process.  But, at least this time, it is what makes meaning in my life.