Weekly Photography Challenge: Heritage

My Dad was an inveterate collector, obsessed with the rich heritage of Regency England’s gunmakers. He was famous amongst the arcane circle of gun collectors for his encyclopedic knowledge of the guns, their makers and their wealthy, titled owners. As a boy he loved pirate stories, and tales of derring-do, which morphed and grew as the years went by. He always excused his expensive habit as “investment”, which has proved true. Most have them have been sold now, which is rather sad, but inevitable.

I didn’t inherit Dad’s  passion for “Old Guns”, but I definitely have the collector gene, if there is one…None of my collections are going to realise much fiscal value in years to come, but that’s not the point. I like tracking down and looking at this stuff!

Some things I collect become parts of mixed media art – such as the wind-chime I made from a bit of  a broken coffee plunger and a lot of detritus. Then there’s vintage orange plastic (sometimes I buy green, too, but mainly orange), coloured glass (seen alongside a Russian samovar, which was Dad’s, not sure why he bought it!), vintage textiles, which I actually use, eventually, and a shelf of books about Kurt Cobain/Nirvana. Oh, and fake plastic (and ceramic) cacti, because…why not?

Vale

a-pencil-portraitHey Kurt,
today was your birthday.
You would have, should have, been 50 today. But you are forever 27, a magic age, neither boy nor man, suspended there forever.
No grey hairs or paunch for you: the girls will always think you’re cute – girls who weren’t born when you died declare their undying love for you. If only you could have known, would you have felt validated by that?
I kind of doubt it. I remember seeing a video of Courtney telling you she thought you were “really cute”, and the doubt in your face. You really believed you were ugly, didn’t you?
People believe strange things, like the conspiracy theorists who insist you were murdered. It might be comforting, I suppose, to think that a clever criminal did it, and not you, despite your reckless drug use and suicidal ideation that pointed to a deep and corrosive despair at your core.
Lets not dwell on the bitter end, not today. Let’s remember you as caring, generous and sweet, a bright and beautiful young man loved by your friends, and by the punk rock community that took you in and released you into the unsuspecting world, adored now by fans the whole world over; a world the breadth of which that boy from Aberdeen Wa could not imagine…
Peace Love Empathy
lets remember and cling to them.
The world needs them more now than ever.
Rest easy, sweet Kurt,
wherever you are.you-could-do-anything

Friday Poem:Spread My Wings

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It is 21 years this week since I sat down on an ugly-but-practical brown couch and watched a Rage TV special – Nirvana Unplugged in New York. I’d heard of the band, I knew how the singer died, and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I know it’s cheesy, but it’s also true – that record changed my life.

I wrote this poem during the following year, expressing frustration with the constraints of my ordinary life. Nirvana fans might notice the influence of “Sappy”, but there’s a dash of Hank Williams in there, too.

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This jar is far too small.
There is no room for my wings;
There is no room to fly;
I want to spread my wings.

I’m not a moonbeam in your jar;
I’m not a pretty toy;
I need to move, I need to breathe;
I want to spread my wings.

These air holes are too small.
You must not smother me;
I want to take the air,
I want to spread my wings.

Let me loose, what’s the use
Of keeping me in here.
I might not fly away,
But I want to spread my wingsa-collage-2

One of the things I did as I escaped from the jar of proper lady-like behaviour, was to stick anything that appealed to me on my wall. Nowadays, that’s an “Inspiration Board”, but twenty years ago, it was weirdly adolescent for a forty-year old woman with 5 kids…At some point, the collection came down, and was upcycled into a series of collages, of which this is one. There’s an apt quote on there-

“Our lives improve only when we take chances – and the first and most difficult risk we can take is to be honest with ourselves”

Walter Anderson.

I also got rid of the brown couch, and as much other ugly-but -practical-with-kids brownness out of my house, and started surrounding myself with things that I actually liked.

After ordering and waiting patiently for “Nirvana Unplugged in New York (on cassette), I expanded my music collection, my library and my stash of art supplies. I now have the Melvins “Gluey Porch Treatments”, and  I’m reading  Bessel Van der Kolk’s ” The Body keeps The Score”, about the ongoing effects of trauma. When Micheal Azzerad asked Kurt, “Is your’s a sad story?” , he hesitated, and said “…No…”, going on to say that the events of his childhood were commonplace, which, unfortunately, they are. But it is a sad story, they are all sad stories, which Dr Van Der Kolk and his colleagues are learning to address with proper treatment – too late for Kurt, but there’s hope for another generation to have more than numbness – they will be able to spread their wings.

Weekly Photography Challenge: Admiration

The photography challenge this week – admiration– I had to check the meaning of ,  before I could make any choices. I was thinking of admirable people who I have no chance of photographing, but checking the dictionary, I realised I didn’t need to produce a picture of Mohondas Gandhi – just lovely things I approve of. Oh, I’ve got photos of those…
verb
  1. regard with respect or warm approval.
    • look at (something impressive or attractive) with pleasure.
      So – here is a gallery of things I regarded with respect and warm approval – and photographed -when I was on The Trip of a Lifetime in Seattle in 2011. First – Seattle, of course, then a Stellar Jay, the pink’n’orange siding of the Experience Music Project building,

       a seahorse at the Aquarium, a famous musician (my watercolour painting, from a photo of a torn poster. I know!), a detail of glassware at the Museum of Glass in  Tacoma. Lastly, a person whom I admire – photographer Charles Peterson – who was working and just hanging out. I snapped him as he was sharing his camera with a little kid in their group. I thought that was an admirable thing to do with a proper camera ! july-aug 2011 085editsmall

      I’m not sure if admiration is the right word for my feeling whenever I glimpsed the ghostly presence of Mt Rainier. We just don’t have mountains like that in Australia.

       

Friday Poem: I +II

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This week marked twenty two years since Kurt Cobain’s untimely death, an event that sent shock-waves around the world. I wrote this pair of poems months later, after my boring life had been “changed forever”, thanks to seeing Nirvana Unplugged on TV. These were the first in a flood of poems and art that came after…IMG_7956 (Large)

I

A soul hung out to dry
Hangs tattered in the wind:
A song grows ragged
As the voice wears thin:
These slender hands
Knew tenderness and sin:
No sunbeam shone:
There was no hope for him:
And all alone
He let the darkness in.

II

His life and soul
seem tangled into mine
He robs my sleep
He fills my head with songs
And he is dead.IMG_7962 (Large)

I don’t lie awake at night wondering why Kurt did it any more, but my life is so much richer for all the songs he (posthumously) led me to. Also, I don’t think I would have gone to Washington State on The Trip of a Lifetime, if it wasn’t for the Taking Punk To the Masses exhibition (featuring Nirvana) that was at Experience Music Project in Seattle – let alone to Aberdeen and the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah (and yes, they really are…).

The images are of an Imperial White butterfly, which I found dead and took home to photograph, a detail of a lamp-shade I made from wire and eucalypt-dyed silk tulle, and wax-coated photo of a pre-school Kurt Cobain, resting in a vintage cup amongst my jewelry.

Creativity: Playing with Paint(.NET)

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As you may know by now, I am celebrating turning (gasp) 60 by having a punk-themed party. I am also a Nirvana fan, and a feminist…I decided a detail of a collage would add something to the party decor, but the slightly blurry photo wasn’t all that exciting. So I decided to jazz it up a bit, using paint.NET.

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After fiddling with brightness, contrast and saturation, I played around with curves until I had a look I liked (making the discoloured old newspaper clippings pink and orange). But that still seemed a bit dull, and I felt the dark spaces needed…something.

posterized with text (Large)

Writing using the mouse is a challenge – so I did that. I was surprised how neatly I managed to write the name of my “event”. I filled some more empty space with my “peace love empathy” bleeding rainbow heart symbol, and wrote in the words. Filling in the colours of the rainbow took a lot of effort, and frequent use of “control Z” to fix mistakes…because the original background is unevenly coloured, it was not a simple matter of filling the space between the lines, and the lighter section (the newspaper clipping) read as the same as the heart outline – resulting in the whole thing being coloured in….several times before I gave up and left that corner “as is”. Finally, in case anyone missed it, I underlined the more pertinent parts of the quote about women. I made the collage from bits and pieces that had been stuck on a wall in my studio a long time ago – 18 or 19 years – so unfortunately I have no idea who it was that said/wrote either of the quotes.

Creativity: Upcycled T-shirt Cushions.

These are all old band t-shirts, but the idea can be used for any printed tee that is beyond wearing for whatever reason, but still loved. The three Nirvana ones I made years ago, but the others I was inspired to get made for comfy and appropriate party decor.IMG_7432 (Large)
I found the Twentieth Century Breakdown shirt in an op shop/thrift store, and teamed it with a flowery print in toning colours. I used iron-on interfacing on the back of the t-shirt panel to stabilise it. The stretchiness of the fabric isn’t really an asset for cushions, especially when using it alongside woven fabrics.IMG_7433 (Large)
Two more Greenday shirts belonged to my daughter. I asked her before I chopped them up. One was wide enough that I could simply cut  straight across the whole shirt, top and bottom, to leave a square with the print on it. Then I stitched a long, preloved zip into the top seam, sewed up the bottom, and that was it. A new cushion from an old t-shirt! One thing I found out the hard way – it’s a good plan to UNDO THE ZIP before completing the seams – much easier to turn your cover right side out if you do! From the other shirt, I cut a panel with the printed image and appliqued it onto a patched background. I used fusible web to hold the layers together, then top-stitched around the edges.
Also, unless you are making your own inserts, measure your fabric before you cut, and make your cover to fit standard inserts. ( 14″/35cm,  16″/40cm, 18″/45cm ).

I was given two round inserts, so I made two round cushion covers! The Vines shirt I found at the Salvos. It was in good condition, but I only used the front as the back was blank. Any spare sections of t-shirt have been cut into continuous strips of “yarn” and put aside for a later project. I’ve used the “Trouble” print on a chair and another cushion, so they all play well together without “matching”. The tiny P.J. Harvey shirt I’ve had for years after buying it at the Save The Children shop. I cut it into two discs, front and back, and cheated on the zip by sewing it onto the outside – a line of stitching either side of the zipper teeth – then slit the fabric behind the zip…It worked, but it’s probably not a good method if the zip is to be used often, as the raw edges would snare the teeth eventually, I think!