Texas is the Reason

I love Houston!

Texas has its own mythology. Its own place in the American imagination. Depending on who you ask Texas is the reason for the United State’s current political mess, or the greatest place in the US, or somewhere in between. It is a universe unto itself, a huge and diverse place, full of long drives and very pretty countryside. I was lucky enough to spend a few days there in mid-September and take in some of the cities and sites. And of course, the Tex-Mex food.

The Orange Show

The Orange Show, Houston, TX

When I first got to Houston I felt overwhelmed by the highways, humidity and strangely quiet downtown. I hid in a Starbucks and tapped away on my computer. Thankfully, the next day some native Houstonians helped me get hip to the more alternative and arty side of Houston. One of the huge highlights is the Orange Show, a folk art environment created by a postal worker named Jeff McKissack that was began in 1956 and completed in 1979. I loved the Orange Show’s immersive space and the passionate group of people behind the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art that are working to preserve it and other “folk” or “self-taught” art environments and traditions in Houston.

Ladies Only

Ladies only in this part of the Orange Show

Purity

Purity of the orange is celebrated at the Orange Show

I also soaked up some more “traditional” art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston where I soaked up a room sized mural of mountains and flowers that looked like a traditional Chinese ink painting, but was made out of gunpowder by Cai Guo Qiang. I also discovered the self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon and spent several minutes in front of it contemplating her sheer determination to paint and make a life for herself as a woman artist.  In their gift shop I picked up two Frenchie books – My Little Paris (en anglais because I am a cheater) and Ines de la Fressange’s guide to Parisian style.  I visited the Menil Collection, including their hotly contested Bzyantine fresco chapel which is being returned to Cyprus next year, and some smaller art spaces like the awesome Spacetaker artists resource center and gallery.

I love this self-portrait of Suzanne Valadon

I love the sheer determination shown in this self-portrait by Suzanne Valadon at the MFA Houston

A little bit of Paris (France) in Texas!

In the MFA Houston gift shop I found a treasure trove of books about Paris!

Artist commissioned cross walk

The sidewalks outside of the MFA Houston are painted in collaboration with a local artist

I also fortunately got away from the corporate style restaurants downtown and found one of my favorite things about Texas: spacious coffee shops with nice breakfast menus and outdoor seating. These places are so inviting, like you just want to hang out all day eating and sipping fair trade coffee. I enjoyed both Brasil and Empire Cafe (which are quite close to one another and the Menil Collection) as well as the super El Real, which has great Tex-Mex and is in an old movie theater!

El Real Neon

Neon at El Real!

Old Western at El Real

Westerns at El Real

After Houston I took a quick, few hour stop in San Antonio, and then rolled on to Austin. After some frenetic days of work on the road I took a little bit of time to unwind with my friend Jennifer. We took a drive about an hour outside of Austin to Krause Springs. Located in the rolling hill country it almost feels like a folk art environment as well, with rock pools, wind chimes and a spring fed lagoon. While Krause Springs felt like an oasis, Texas is going through one of its worst droughts on record and we drove through the remnants of a fire on the way there, charred trees with ashy leaves making the landscape look otherworldly.

Enjoying the spring fed pool

Krause Springs, in Spicewood, Texas

I couldn’t skip eating Tex-Mex in Austin either, of course, and Austin is home to even more fantastic cafes with outdoor seating and of course, coffee shops that serve the delicious (and huge!) breakfast tacos.

IMG_4866

Tex-Mex, Austin style!

But of course, after all that Tex-Mex I took a little break and Jennifer, her friend Jennifer and I had a lovely girlie dinner at a perfectly French brasserie called Justine’s with lovely food and delicious cocktails (also check out the “amazing” section of their website).

Justine's Brasserie

Cheers!

Toast to Texas friends at Justine's

The Saturday Night Crowd at Justine's

The Saturday night scene at Justine's

Austin photo shoot

Photo shoot outside of Arthouse TX

I also managed a visit to the Austin Film Society, Arthouse Texas and Domy Books, where we saw a wonderful opening, I connected with an old zinester friend, and purchased a book called I ♥ Macarons. Indeed, it seems like I found a lot of France and a lot of art and a few friends in Texas, even though I didn’t visit Paris (Texas).

Detail of the Art Show at Domy Books

Detail of an exhibition at Domy Books, Austin

Interview with Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts on NYFA Current!

The ILSSA Reference Reports, a component of the ILSSA Quarterly, are an ever-growing and collaboratively generated annotated list of resources relevant to ILSSA members. The group's founders call the Reports “our analogue Internet.”

Impractical who? Speculative what? What is she on about? If you love bookbinding, zines, letterpress printing, type writers, old Polaroid cameras, and any and all things that have to do with obsolete technology, you will love this project. Impractical Labor in the Service of the Speculative Arts was started by Bridget Elmer and Emily Larned, two artists who are letterpress printers and bookmakers that I greatly admire. It was Emily who suggested I intern at Booklyn, a Brooklyn-based book artists alliance, my first internship in New York. I also worked in Emily’s studio all through college, binding books, scoring and folding CD covers, and sorting type, in exchange for the use of her beautiful Vandercook press and lovingly homemade lunches. It was this kind of impractical labor, and Emily’s inspiring example of how to do it, that made me think very carefully and clearly about what it meant to be an artist and how one builds an artist’s life and balances their life and work.

Set letterpress type for the ILSSA leaflet, What is craft and why does it matter?, included as part of an ILSSA Research Quarterly.

Bridget and Emily’s project/organization is a membership organization that borrows from ideas of a labor union and a research institute and a performance project all rolled into one. I was very flattered to interview them for NYFA Current and I hope you will read the full interview here about their activities.

The Utopia Project Volume III: The MacDowell Colony

The library at the MacDowell Colony

The main building at the MacDowell Colony

Far into the wilds of southwestern New Hampshire, down a back road shadowed by pine trees, is the MacDowell Colony. It is an artists’ residency that is over 100 years old tucked away in the small town of Peterborough. It was founded by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife Marion, a pianist, who bought a farm there in 1896. Edward felt he created his best work in on the farm and when he passed away Marion championed the idea of giving artists a chance to thrive in the same environment he found so inspiring.

Kitchen garden at MacDowell

MacDowell Chickens

The MacDowell Colony invites artists from all disciplines to take part in a residency where they work in a community with their peers. Artistic excellence is the only standard for acceptance and all room, board and tuition is covered.

Inside the library at MacDowell

Entering the grounds of MacDowell feels stepping into a unique microcosm of society. Each resident is given a bike to use to travel around the campus to their studio, residence and the library. There are regular talks and presentations. The food is locally produced, much of it grown on the MacDowell campus. A local sheep herder brings their sheep to graze on the fields of the colony during the day.

Residents' wine bottles in the dining room

I also admired MacDowell’s openness and interaction with the local community in Peterborough and Southwestern New Hampshire. They regularly host lectures, presentations, screenings, and performances that are open to the public both on the campus and in downtown Peterborough, a super cute New England village if I’ve ever seen one (and I’ve seen a lot!). The Resident Director David Macy is very involved in making Southwestern New Hampshire a culturally vibrant place and is involved in town and regional planning organizations. I think this speaks volumes to the strength and history of the colony and how it is not just an isolated place for artists to perfect their craft, but a dynamic organization that helps serve as a cultural anchor for the region.

I have a secret dream to move back to Maine and start an artists residency and organic restaurant on my parents’ farm. David’s involvement in cultural development in Southwestern New Hampshire helped me see that my vision could also combine my interest in city planning and public policy and that a pastoral artists residency can also be a responsible community member.

My review of Gary Indiana’s “Last Seen Entering the Biltmore” on NYFA Current!

Gary Indiana

There was a New York City that I dreamed of when I was growing up. It was a mixture of Greenwich Village during the Beatnik era and the Lower East Side of the 1980’s. It was full of punks, dreamers,  activists and artists. The dangers that might have been lurking there were more aesthetic than real. Poverty and hunger were stylish accouterments. All who were there possessed the ability to transform the urban environment. While obviously this political, arty urban paradise existed only in my imagination some lived it in all its gritty, dangerous, complicated, hungry reality. Patty Smith lucidly captures it in her recent book Just Kids.  Gary Indiana’s new compilation out from MIT Press, Last Seen Entering the Biltmore, collects his poems, prose, short plays and works of art from the late 70’s to the present, chronicling through his artistic production his time in this environment after he made the decision to “not to do anything he didn’t want to do” and to become a writer. Last Seen Entering the Biltmore captures Indiana’s sense of absurd and also his strong artistic integrity. I wrote a full review for NYFA’s online magazine for artists, NYFA Current, and would be honored if you checked it out here.

The Utopia Project Part II: Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild

Why do artists need to get away to create? Does creativity really flow better in a rural idyll where one could shut out the outside world if one so chose?  Does modern life really hamper creativity and the ability to produce as an artist? Over 100 years ago Byrdcliffe was founded in Woodstock, New York to test out these ideas as a utopian Arts and Crafts community. The Arts and Crafts movement believed that industrialization and urbanization was compromising peoples ability to live and create and put a great value on the handmade and the skill of the craftsman.

The Byrdcliffe campus certainly seems the embodiment of the Utopia Project. It is transporting: a series of arts and crafts cabins from the turn of the century connected by dirt roads and trails. A stream runs through it and light filters through the birch trees. After I finished working I spent the afternoon hiking up the nearby Overlook mountain to explore the ruins of an old hotel and to look with awe over the Hudson Valley stretching out below me. I used to think that the golden, soft quality of light in Hudson River School paintings was a whole lot of Romantic bullshit.  However, the more time I spend in the Hudson Valley, the more I see that painters like Asher B. Durand and Thomas Cole were actually capturing the quality of light that they observed.

The view from Overlook mountain

Ruins of the Overlook hotel

I cooked dinner in the communal kitchen the residence where I had given a room for the night and spent the evening eating and talking about art, politics and building a creative life with some of the resident artists. I felt privileged to be able to be able to step into the world of actually living as a resident artist for a night. Byrdcliffe is like an artists summer camp where there are few rules besides respecting the quiet and focus of others. As a child I never liked summer camp, but I found myself reluctant to leave Byrdcliffe. I think that’s because it combines the fun, peace and isolation of camp with the focus and autonomy of adulthood.

One of the residency bedrooms

Lunch at the Byrdcliffe Cafe

Just invoking the name “Woodstock” brings up a whole trope of myths in American culture. To an outsider like me I wondered how the region around Woodstock, which is sleepy and rural and mountainous, was host to such an important cultural event back in the 1960’s. Places like Byrdcliffe help provide an answer. Byrdcliffe was founded in 1902 as an experiment in utopian, artistic, arts and crafts living, supported by a wealthy Englishman. It has grown into a nonprofit arts services organization that now provides acts as a touchstone for artists throughout the Woodstock region offering exhibitions, performances, and many professional development opportunities. In addition to those who participate in the residency program, artists can also rent cabins and studios for the summer.

Screen porch artist studio

Artist studios behind the birch trees

As I become more deeply a New Yorker I savor more wholly the opportunities to get out of the city and to immerse myself in rural experiences. Byrdcliffe provides a place for retreat from the pressing concerns of modern, urban life, which is what the Arts and Crafts Movement focused on. There one can concentrate on creativity and artistic exploration in the midst of small town life and natural beauty. In what I think is becoming a resounding theme of my visits to Northeast artist residencies: I can’t wait to go back.

Mt. Guardian trail

The Utopia Project I: Vermont Studio Center

Red Mill Building, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, Vermont

Vermont Studio Center, Writing Studios, Johnson, Vermont

What compels an artist to create art? Is it internal or external? Is it the environment, inspiration from peers and community members, or simply having the space, time and opportunity to work? What environment is most nurturing  to art and what type? Do artists create better in urban centers, buzzing with life, where their daily peregrinations and haphazard meetings can be the source of inspiration? Or do they need peace, quiet, solitude, nature and focus? While I live and work in the first set of circumstances (Brooklyn has the highest per capita of artists of New York’s five boroughs), I’m curious about the second. Specifically, the intentional artist’s community.

Roof of the wood and metal shop, Vermont Studio Center

This summer I am setting out to explore artist residencies, retreats or schools that have consciously built themselves away from urban environments. They are all situated in locations of surprising natural beauty, yet each has a particular history and offers artists a particular experience.

Bird houses, Vermont Studio Center

Swimming hole, Johnson Vermont, near the Vermont Studio Center

Places like MacDowell and Byrdcliffe reach back one hundred years or more, while others, like the Vermont Studio Center, reinvent the tradition. This summer I will be traveling to residencies, retreats, art schools and colonies in Vermont, New York State, New Hampshire and Maine, reaching out for work, but documenting these unique places for myself and for this project. I’m searching for insight into artistic inspiration, ideas about what binds an artistic community, and educating myself about an important tradition in the history of making art in the United States.

Deck of the Trustees House, Vermont Studio Center

Old Town Hall, Vermont Studio Center

Old Town Hall, Vermont Studio Center

My first stop was a seven hour drive north of New York City to Johnson, Vermont, which is practically on the Quebec border. I visited the Vermont Studio Center, which is a relative newcomer to the artist residency scene, and was founded by artists in 1984. Housed in a series of old mill buildings, and even the old town hall, the Studio Center integrates with the tiny town of Johnson. The residency itself is very independent—residents, who are visual artists and writers—come together for meals and studio visits, but that’s about it. Otherwise, they work in their studios and many of them work to keep the residency running. The residents themselves are diverse and hail from all parts of the world and are at all stages of their careers as artists. Serious, community oriented, independent, all set in a very tranquil northern landscape of lush hills, rivers and forests. While I’m generally unmoved by northern landscape (having grown up in one), the Vermont Studio Center felt like an escape for me as well. I hope one day to return as a resident.

Sign on the kitchen door, Vermont Studio Center

Inside the Red Mill, Vermont Studio Center

Night, Vermont Studio Center

Raising (My Opinion of) Arizona

You need a silly sun hat in Arizona
The first tweet I wrote when I landed in Phoenix said, “I hope I don’t get kicked out of Arizona for looking like an immigrant.” Arizona has drawn quite a lot of media scorn for the proposal, which was thankfully defeated, to stop and ID anyone who might look like they were an undocumented immigrant. While there’s a lot of conservative, reactionary politics going on in the United States, Arizona seems like the epicenter of some of the most virulently racist and reactionary policy proposals. Tucson even wants to succeed and form their own state to get away from some of the worst of these policies. However, there’s another side to Arizona. It’s a stark, beautiful, other worldly landscape. There’s a vibrant cultural scene and strong history and everyone I met (who granted were all involved in the arts) were friendly and welcoming and happy to show me another side of Arizona.
Saguaro IDespite being a short flight from Albuquerque, Phoenix felt very different. While Albuquerque quickly receded into the desert, Phoenix’s suburbs sprawled out along palm tree lined avenues. “Who do they think they are, L.A.?” I asked.  I wasn’t sure what I would find, but tucked into Phoenix’s sprawl is a vibrant, growing downtown arts scene. It is anchored by the Alwun House, a historic house that presents exhibits and performances of all kinds and takes an active role in the revitalization of the neighborhood. I tried out Carly’s Bistro, a fresh, local culinary establishment that’s open late serving good food and cocktails with a rock and roll feel. Try the whiskey sangria!

Whiskey Sangria

Whiskey sangria at Carly's Bistro

Across the river from Phoenix in Tempe is the gleaming Tempe Center for the Arts that presents performing and visual arts, as well as art education programs. During an opening for their exhibition Twenty Questions I even met the grand daughter of the man who founded Tempe – that just shows how new towns and cities in the west are compared to the east.

Geometric Patterns

Artwork in the Twenty Questions exhibition

I didn’t stay in Phoenix long, however, and after a fruitless morning of trying to buy sun hat (are these people in denial they live in the desert or what?) I headed down to the Saguaro National Forest and then to Tucson. I first stopped at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museumto look at living exhibits of native desert plants and animals. I loved the chance to see coyotes, javalinas (they look like wild boars) and a very sleepy brown bear up close, but if you are looking for desert walking I would skip the Desert Museum and go straight to the Saguaro National Forest.

Do not feed the coyotes

Sign at the Desert Museum

I got there in the afternoon and was happily surprised to find out the park was free thanks to National Parks Week. I talked with a Ranger who recommended a 3-mile hike to the top of a ridge and gave me this warning, “Since you are unfamiliar with the landscape I will warn you to be careful when you are walking down hill during sunset because you don’t want to step on a rattlesnake.” No thanks, I did not!
Sonoran Desert
New Saguaro GrowthI had never seen a Saguaro cactus up close before and I could not get enough of them! Their arms! Their spines! Like trees, but not at all! So stoic against the elements!
Cacti Flowers II
Self Portrait with SunhatAfter a few hours of wandering around among the Saguaros I drove into Tucson and checked into the Hotel Arizona. I had a corner room and could see the sunset over Grant’s Pass.
The sunset from my room at Hotel Arizona
However, it was Easter Sunday and I was worried, where would I find anything to eat that wasn’t a chain restaurant in downtown Tucson? I asked the teenage front desk clerk and he suggested The Grill, “It’s kind of a greasy spoon…” he explained. Sure, why not. I wandered towards where he suggested and found myself face to face with a classic, American diner. It was as if I had dreamed it. Punk rock, queer teen waiter, great menu, perfect vinyl covered booths, and a hamburger that tasted like it had been homemade, not pulled out of a freezer. Did I mention it was open 24 hours?
Perfect American diner in Tucson.I felt like I had been transported into an issue of Puberty Strike zine, published by Seth Bogartin the 1990’s and extoling the virtues and vices of teenage life in Tucson. The Grill felt surely like the place the coolest teens in town would hang out. But now that I’m an adult I needed a drink after all my wandering in the desert. “Do you have a bar?” I asked the waiter, a little desperate because I had seen the hotel bar close at 7:30. “We have a great bar next door, they open at eight.” Was I dreaming?

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon at the Red Room

After I finished the best hamburger I’ve eaten besides those that SMH makes me I wandered over to the bar. Now I was really dreaming. The Red Room, the bar attached to The Grill has a menu of carefully selected Belgian beers and American microbrews. As I sipped on a perfect blonde ale from Belgium I noticed cocktail making accouterments. “You make cocktails too?” I asked the bartender, “What are the drinks you like making lately?” Once I finished my beer I ordered one that he suggested, the Death in the Afternoon, a mixture of Absinthe, champagne, bitters and soda water, garnished with freshly picked Borage flowers. For $6! I laughed as I paid him, saying, “I live in New York and there this would cost $12!” “No,” he said, “I was just there, it was $14!”

Bicas Tools

Tools at Bicas

The next day I was treated to a walking tour of Tucson’s rail yards gallery and studio district. I really liked discovering art and radical community projects such as Bicas, a bike recycling and education center, and the Citizens Art collective. I also got to drop in on the intense universe of Mat Bevel, who makes immersive kinetic sculptures out of found objects. When all the sculptures were activated his studio and gallery space was cacophonous and transporting. We also dropped in on Santa Theresa Tile Works, who make gorgeous hand made ceramic tiles, and and Raices Taller, a nonprofit community gallery focused on the Latino/a community (but not only).

Bevel Kinetic Sculptures

Bevel Kinetic Institute

After all that inspiration I was also able to fit in a little bit of thrift store shopping at a richly endowed and modestly priced Goodwill. I don’t even both with the Goodwill stores in NYC, but I knew this one wouldn’t be so picked over. I scored two skirts, a pair of light wash Levi jean shorts that will either be my best fashion addition for the summer or a huge mistake, and a work-appropriate button shirt, all for $20! I also popped into Preen, a beautiful vintage shop that also sells records by local bands and some local fashions. I picked up a vintage Vera scarf that reminded me of a 60’s flight attendant uniform in a good way.

Tel*e*gram and reflection

You need a parasol to sheild you from Tucson's strong sun

Street Art Zebra, Tucson, AZ

Street art Zebra in Tucson's rail yards

Finally, to cool off from all the shopping I caught a drink at the lovingly restored Hotel Congress, where I could have stayed all afternoon if I didn’t have to work! Since Tucson was the last stop on my southwest tour I celebrated with a fancy dinner and cocktail at 47 Scott. My drink was infused with sage, which felt like a fitting tribute to the end of an inspiring journey through a (previously) unknown land.

Vagbond Cocktail, Salad

Vagabond cocktail and dinner, 47 Scott

There’s more Arizona on my Flickr stream.

Enchanted by the Land of Enchantment

Abiquiu Scenic IIIf I was disoriented in Colorado, then New Mexico felt like a whole other country. It actually was another country until it was ceded to the US in 1850, but beyond history, it struck me as being somewhere else entirely. With all the debates raging over who and who is not American and who should be here or not I think it’s important to remember that borders are politically imagined constructs that change over time. Spanish and Native American languages here are more “native” than English. Streets and towns are named in Spanish. Since getting off the plane in Albuquerque felt like stepping into a new dimension I felt comfortable with the state’s tagline as the “Land of Enchantment.”
Abiquiu Scenic VIIIFor three days I bounced between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. I stayed in Santa Fe at a lovely inn on the commercial strip of Cerillos road. While mostly I would hate the strip mall nature of the road (yes, there are tons of chain stores), I also grew to love it. It is the main artery towards town and where you’ll find anything you need at almost any hour of the day. I even bought some Essie nail polish in pastel shades late at night at the Walgreens.

Windblown in New Mexico

Windswept in New Mexico

IAIA

Institute of American Indian Arts

I also was delighted to get out of town a little and visit the Institute for American Indian Arts(or IAIA), which has a new campus and a great art school. It seems everything a college should be – community oriented, cultural respectful, forward looking, fun and in a beautiful location.

Ruth Claxton at SITE Santa Fe

Ruth Claxton's site-specific installation at SITE Santa Fe

I also visited SITE Santa Fe, which is a very exciting contemporary art center. While Santa Fe is known more for “traditional” arts and crafts (as well as tourist arts) there is a very vibrant contemporary art scene. Many prominent artists who defined experimental art in the 20th century live in Santa Fe and their influence shows. SITE is doing a lot to promote contemporary art in the Santa Fe community (and beyond) and while I was there had an excellent show of Amy Cutler’s work, as well as a room sized installation by Ruth Claxton that was fabricated, well, on site.

St. Francis Hotel Lobby

Southwestern religious art in the lobby of the St. Francis Hotel

Negroni by the Fire

Negroni by the fireside at the St. Francis Hotel

Santa Fe is also a great food town, which I wrote about on 2 cooks. I also was lucky enough to connect with an New York friend who was also in town and we got fancy cocktails at the Hotel St. Francis and not so fancy cocktails (but served with a straw, classy!) at The Matador, the most excellent (and perhaps only) punk rock dive bar in town. Awesome punk rock tunes were being spun. The bartender was friendly. Thank goodness we had a friend living in Santa Fe to show us it was there.

At the fountail

In the lobby of the St. Francis Hotel

My most enchanting New Mexico experience, however, came when I drove one hour north of Santa Fe. I drove towards Los Alamos before turning off to the small town of Abiquiu. This is where Georgia O’Keefe lived, but I was visiting the contemporary artist Sabra Moore, who has made her home on top of a mesa with her partner Roger. I drove over a cattle guard and along a twisting, steep, narrow dirt road, inching my rental car over washed out areas.

Abiquiu Scenic III

View down the arroyo in Abiquiu

Abiquiu Scenic VI

Abiquiu, New Mexico

After I arrived we walked through the arroyo near her adobe house and straw bale studio as the light turned from gold to red and the evening approached.  She told me about the history of town and she and Roger pointed out the ancient petroglyphs carved into the canyon walls.

Abiquiu Petroglyphs

Petroglyph on the arroyo wall in Abiquiu, New Mexico

Taking in the landscape as day faded into night, witnessing evidence of a civilization older than I can reliably imagine, and hearing about two artists’ lives, I thought about how this was a moment in my life that will never be replicated. Though I hope to, I may never return to this place, but, like most places that strike us, I will keep it with me. After a delicious dinner made out of local produce and inspired by local food traditions I stared up up at the stars, which at 7,000 feet and away from city lights, looked considerably closer than usual. I was filled with gratitude and allowed myself to let go of questions, doubts, and angst that had been nagging at me all week. I dared to let myself be filled with a deep sense of peace. Maybe there really is something about the “land of enchantment.”

Abiquiu Scenic XIII

Evening, Abiquiu, New Mexico

There’s even more New Mexico on my flickr stream.

In The Mile High City, Just Barely

Red Rocks Recreation Area

View of Pike's Peak outside of Manitou Springs

If you know me, or have been reading my blog for awhile, you know I have a complicated and somewhat fraught relationship to this country where I was born and live. I often am in the midst of plotting how I can leave and have at times created an identity, look and approach to life based on imagining I live in another country (most likely a francophone country in Western Europe). When my early morning flight touched down at the Denver International Airport the other week I had a hard time recognizing where I was. I’ve been to the West before (I have family in Wyoming and spent my childhood summers going out there to visit them), but it’s been awhile. As I sat on the shuttle to my rental car I looked slackjawed at the plains colliding with the rocky mountains. I felt like I’d been dropped into a very different place that was nowhere like where I’m from. So despite my skepticism about the United States I had to admit – this landscape was pretty majestic.

"Work It!"

In the Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs

The breathtaking sense of awe for the landscape I felt was only intensified when I drove to Colorado Springs that afternoon and took a walk through the Garden of the Gods, a formation of jutting red rocks just outside of town. They are so named because some early settlers from the East Coast thought that it would be a good place for a beer garden! I was also rudely reminded to heed the warnings that I had been issued as someone who lives at sea level – my energetic walk around the rocks caused a real bought of altitude sickness, a form of dizzy exhaustion that I do not want to feel again.

Tofu at Adam's Mountain Cafe

Tofu at Adam's Mountain Cafe, Manitou Springs

Black Cat Books Typewriter

The window at Back Cat Books, Manitou Springs

The next day I reminded myself to walk slowly while I visited the Business of Art Center and explored the small town of Manitou Springs, whose main street is lined with mineral water springs that you can drink from. I had lunch at Adam’s Mountain Cafe, which is located in an old spa building right along the creek that runs through town, and peered in the windows of the cute shops along the street. Manitou Springs is right at the base of Pike’s Peak and full of good places to eat and even an old school arcade right in the center of town.

Denver Union Station

Downtown Denver, Union Station

I only got to spend one very short evening in Denver, but it was lovely. First I visited the wonderful gallery, reading room, education center and artist residency at RedLine. I tried a local Colorado red wine and fried blue cheese balls (decadent!) at The Lobby, a homey bar and restaurant just down the street from RedLine. I finished my evening with a drink at the Cruise Room, a classy cocktail bar that looks like the inside of a cruise ship which reportedly opened the day after prohibition ended and is located at the very classic Oxford Hotel where I was staying. The hotel even gives you a fluffy bathrobe with your room! Colorado may not at all be like where I’m from, but I loved being there.

Sipping and reading in Denver style.

Sipping and reading at the Cruise Room

Want more Colorado? On my Flickr stream!

Join me for tea and feminist talk

There is a feminist tea party in my office!
The artists Caitlin Reuter and Suzanne Stroebe have taken over a portion of NYFA’s Brooklyn office/gallery in the most delightful way – they have installed what looks like a Victorian style parlor, complete with wallpaper, curtains and furniture, and invited the public in over the course of this week for tea, baked goods, and conversation on feminist topics as part of their “Feminist Tea Party” project series.

I’m thrilled that I get to join them as part of the project this Friday, April 15 at 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. to discuss the question of “Is there such a thing as feminist aesthetics?” I’m interested in discussing not just visual art, but music, performance,literature, film, you name it. Feminist artists have consistently challenged what is the nature of “art” and I wonder after all of these challenges is there still something as feminist aesthetics? Was there ever? Who cares? Come have tea and let’s chat!

I also have to say I love this project because it matches my (killerfemme) feminist aesthetics and you can bet I’ll be decked out in my 1950’s style best.

For more information, a schedule of the other talks, and information about the artists visit their blog!