Sunday, September 24, 2023

New art in town.

Well, not new new. But it has a new home. The Vladem Contemporary Art Museum  -- more precisely, the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary -- opened this weekend. The original facility is right off the historic plaza downtown, and while it often shows contemporary works, it turns out they have a lot more in storage that they haven't had room to put on display. So several years ago, the state agency that runs the museum bought an old warehouse in the Railyard and converted it to this new facility -- thereby annoying local folks who objected to the destruction of a mural that celebrated Santa Fe's multiple cultures. The mural has been recreated inside the museum, but some locals are still ticked that you have to go inside to see a scaled-down work of art that you used to be able to see from the street.

Anyway, I stopped by the members' preview open house on Friday.

The inaugural exhibition is called "Shadow and Light". I'm not a huge fan of contemporary art, and frankly some of the work I saw in the downstairs exhibit space was terrifying (take a look at these pants made of straight pins!). Although maybe I was just hungry. After a stop at the hors d'oeuvres tables, I found some stuff upstairs that I liked better.

This, for instance. It's called Cu:C and it's by Susan York. It was actually commissioned by the museum for this corner. It's made of two squares, one graphite and one copper, and the description on the wall encourages the viewer "to ponder whether they interrupt space or are integral to the building." 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
To be honest, it was fairly crowded in the gallery, and I kind of wondered whether I could fit inside the squares and take a break from the crowd. Probably would have gotten thrown out of the museum, though.

This one, by Emil Bisttram, is called The Archetype. Bisttram was a theosophist, according to the info on the wall next to this work. I loved the colors and the way the artist worked in the mystical symbols. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
My absolute favorite piece in the show, though, is this one, by Yuyoi Kusama. It's stainless steel and urethane and it's called, appropriately enough, Pumpkin
Lynne Cantwell 2023
The card on the wall says, "Kusama's polka dots, while playful and humorous, force viewers to negotiate between the real and the surreal as they experience the work." This is how contemporary art goes off the rails for me. It's a polka-dotted pumpkin, for crying out loud. Can't I just enjoy a bit of whimsy?

I mean, if reality is what you're after, the rooftop terrace offers a great view of downtown Santa Fe. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
The Vladem is in the Railyard, right next to the Rail Runner station (the commuter train that runs between Santa Fe and points slightly south of Albuquerque). If you're coming to Santa Fe anyway, or if you're a fan of contemporary art, it's worth checking out.


These moments of artistic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. (I mean, it's a pumpkin. Lighten up!)

Monday, September 18, 2023

"Pretend we're not home!"

tonodiaz | Deposit Photos
Oh hey, sorry, guys. I owed you a blog post last night, but I got to chatting with a friend on the phone and the evening got away from me.

One of the things we talked about is worthy of a blog post, though. (Which is good, because one reason I didn't rush off the phone last night was that I didn't have any ideas for a post.) We discovered that in both of our families of origin, it was not weird to show up unannounced on the doorstep of some relative or family friend. And they were always happy to see us. Always! They'd pull a coffee cake out of the freezer and make a pot of joe and make up the spare bed for you -- or if they didn't have a spare bed, they'd insist that you sleep in theirs.

Does anybody still do that? I mean, we visit friends and family, sure. But nowadays, we text or email first and make sure it's okay to come.

I know some of you younger folks are astonished. "So you'd just, like, show up? And they'd open the door and let you in? I know you didn't have email back in the Stone Age, but couldn't you at least call?"

Oh, you sweet summer child. Long distance was expensive. This Washington Post story from 2004 said that in 1920, it cost $250 in 2004 dollars to make a ten-minute call from New York to Los Angeles. By 1998, the cost for the same call had dropped to 50 cents. But the price didn't fall all at once -- it stayed up there for a long time. In cruising the web for some figures just now, I was reminded that there used to be tiers of long-distance prices -- daytime calls were the most expensive, evening rates were lower, and if you could stay up 'til the wee hours, nighttime rates were the least expensive. I absolutely remember waiting to make long-distance calls until after the rates went down at night. So no, you didn't just pick up the phone and call somebody. 

That 2004 WaPo article is reminding me how much the communications landscape has changed over the past 20 years. Remember the "Baby Bells"? The regional phone companies were created in the wake of the breakup of AT&T (once known as Bell Telephone) in 1982. AT&T used to have a monopoly on telephone service across the United States. But in '82, the behemoth agreed to end a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department by spinning off its local phone service into seven regional companies. A few mergers later, there were just four: Verizon, SBC, BellSouth, and Qwest. Not only did they own local phone service, they started selling their customers long-distance package deals. And they also owned chunks of the spectrum for the nascent cellphone industry.

With every innovation, long distance got cheaper. Now, almost everybody has a cellphone -- and with so many cellphone packages offering unlimited minutes, we're to the point where the term "long distance" has pretty much lost all meaning. Talk is cheap; texting and data are where the money is!

Anyway, getting back to my original point: I think it's more than the communications revolution that stopped people from making spontaneous visits like the ones we remember. While phone calls (and texts and emails) are cheap today, gas is a lot more expensive. Plus people today are just busier. We are not home a lot: we go to the gym, take the kids to sports practices and games, go shopping, have spa days. A day with zero commitments is a rare thing, both for the folks with a yen to get in the car and go visiting and for the folks who may or may not be home when they get there. Who wants to spend a ton of money on gas, only to find out you made the trip for nothing?

And I haven't even mentioned the complications of "don't come in -- the house is a wreck" and "shit, I never wanted to see this person again -- pretend we're not home!"

Not to mention how COVID put the kibosh on everything for a few years, and we're all still recovering from that. 

So was it better in the old days, or is it better today? I'm not sure. What do you guys think?


These moments of bloggy reminiscing have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe! 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

When a book becomes the Foundation for a different story on screen.

ra2studio | Deposit Photos
Does this keep happening to you? Because it keeps happening to me: A book you read and loved gets made into either a movie or TV show; you wait with breathless anticipation for the premiere; and when it finally arrives, you realize as you watch that the story isn't quite the way you remember it.

Silo was kind of like that, although it stayed truer to the Wool series than many adaptations I've seen. It helped a lot that the author of the series, Hugh Howey, was heavily involved as an executive producer of the show.

Dark Winds is a lot like that, as I blogged about a while back. Anne Hillerman, daughter of Tony Hillerman, who started the Leaphorn and Chee mystery series, is an executive producer and has written several books of her own in the world her father invented. And yet I didn't recognize much about some of  the main characters except their names. Would the Joe Leaphorn created by Tony Hillerman have meted out justice on B.J. Vines the way Joe Leaphorn did in the final episode of this season? I tend to think not (in fact, he didn't).

And so it is with Foundation, the classic multivolume sci-fi saga written in the 1940s and '50s by Isaac Asimov. I read the series some 30 years after they were first published and have never re-read them. Still, I remembered enough about the books to think about watching the series on Apple TV+. When Silo's first season ended, the second season of Foundation was about to begin, and I had time to catch up on season one before the second season finished its release.

So there I was, watching the first season, and thinking to myself, "Who is Gaal Dornick?" and "Wasn't Salvor Hardin male?"

Yes, indeed, Salvor was male in the books. So was Gaal -- and he was not a major character, which is why I didn't remember him. Then you've got Demerzel, the right-hand robot to the Cleons on Trantor, who's female in the series but male in the books (he was a sort of alter ego of Daneel Olivaw, the character who tied Asimov's Robot series into the universe of Foundation). And speaking of the Cleons and their weird way of keeping the empire all in the family -- that wasn't in the books, either.

So what gives? Are these people just trying to confuse me?

Nah. They simply updated the series for today: changing some characters' genders, throwing in some special effects, and -- to my delight -- imbuing the characters with more emotion than they had in the books. I've been known to say that Asimov was a brilliant man, but he couldn't write dialogue to save his life. I think now the problem is that Asimov didn't give his characters much emotional depth; it wasn't that his dialogue was wooden, it was that his characters were.

Anyway, late to the party as always, I am just now learning that Asimov's literary estate was one hundred percent onboard with all these changes. (Asimov's daughter Robyn is an executive producer of the show.) Showrunner David S. Goyer says, "Robyn Asimov and the estate completely embraced it. They said that Asimov himself would have embraced that and they were absolutely comfortable with that."

That's all well and good. But what about the fans who loved the books and wanted to see a TV show about those stories? Goyer makes the excuse that Foundation was written during the Cold War, so things needed to be updated. Except that didn't seem to trouble Peter Jackson when he made the Lord of the Rings movies; those were written during World War Two and the postwar years, and yet Jackson didn't feel the need to take as many liberties with Tolkien's story as Goyer has with Asimov's.

Does it sound like I'm mad about the changes to Foundation? I'm not. I'm enjoying the show. I guess maybe I'm in the sweet spot -- a person who remembers enough about the books to be interested in the show, but who doesn't remember enough about the books to be angry or sad or disappointed about all the changes. To me, it's kind of like this show is "the further adventures of Hari Seldon" or something. (Hari, by the way, was not nearly as much of an egotistical jerk in the books. That's one change I am disappointed about.)

I'm kind of getting to that spot with Dark Winds, too. I'm starting to think of the TV show as a story about people with the same names as the characters in these books I've read. 

At least that attitude saves me from feeling the need to throw things at the TV.


These moments of adaptive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The art quilt headboard.


Lynne Cantwell 2023
I did promise you a post about the creation of my new headboard. (I didn't start weaving the ruana this week, but I did get this project done last weekend.)

This is not going to be a detailed how-to. For one thing, there were about a million steps, and if I went into detail about all of them, we'd be here all week. For another, while I have a fair amount of sewing experience under my belt, I am not an expert quilter. So what I'm going to do is outline the major steps. I will also tell you a few things I should have done instead of the boneheaded things I did.

For starters, let's talk about the backing board. The vast majority of the DIY headboards I've seen online start with some version of, "get a piece of plywood and a circular saw". I mean, if power tools are your jam and you have the space to set up sawhorses and stuff, go for it. But you don't need to. You can use foam insulation board instead. It's readily available at your local hardware store, and you can cut it with a kitchen knife.

This is the second headboard I've made. For the first one, which was a different shape, I cut up a sheet of 2" thick pink foam insulation and affixed a shorter piece atop a longer piece with bamboo skewers. Voila, an instantly recognizable Southwestern design, which I covered with fake suede upholstery fabric and stuck to the wall with heavy-duty velcro.

This time, because I was going for a sort of Art Deco vibe -- and because I couldn't find that pink insulation for some reason -- I went with 24"-by-24"-by-1"-thick project boards. They're about seven bucks apiece. I bought four, and a 1/8"-diameter dowel rod. I cut the dowel into 2" pieces, give or take, and stuck them into the edges of the foam board pieces, then cobbled the foam together into a 60" wide rectangle. (If your bed is bigger than full size, your dimensions will have to be bigger. Just keep in mind that if you do an actual semicircle, the height of your headboard will be half its width. In other words, the headboard for a king-size bed would be pretty tall.) 

This leads to my first boneheaded thing: When you make your cuts, make sure the cut edges of your foam pieces are flat. I scored my foam board with a utility knife, front and back, then snapped them apart -- which seemed like a brilliant idea until I tried to glue the uneven surfaces together. I ended up using duct tape to stabilize the joins.

Next, I got some string and a Sharpie, pinned the string to the middle of the long side of the foam board, tied the Sharpie 30" from the pin, and drew a semicircle on my board. I scored the line with a utility knife, and then, having learned my lesson, I used a kitchen knife to cut through the board. I did have the presence of mind to put a cutting mat under the board so that I didn't wreck my carpet. 

Lynne Cantwell 2023
Now that the backing board was done, I moved on to the quilting. Quilting cottons are typically between 36" and 45" wide, so I knew I was going to have to piece something. I toyed with the idea of making a pie-slice-shaped pattern, but decided to go with simplicity instead: I took my 2-yard length of fabric, cut it into two 1-yard pieces, and stitched them together along one selvedge edge. Then I took my makeshift protractor and marked the fabric, adding several extra inches on all sides, so that I had enough to wrap it around the backing board (or so I thought). 
Lynne Cantwell 2023
The fabric, by the way, is a 100% cotton by Kaufman Fabrics. The design is based on the work of artist Gustave Klimt. The spirals are a shiny gold -- very Art Deco. There are several prints in this series; this one, with the shiny gold spirals, comes in several background colors. I picked the cream. I thought about using the gold, but decided that would be over the top. (As if this whole project wasn't over the top.)

My second boneheaded thing: I should have cut the backing board first, then used that as a template for cutting the fabric. Instead, I marked and cut them independently. A makeshift protractor is not at all exact, and I ended up cutting the fabric a titch too small for the backing board. Luckily I had enough fabric left over to cut strips for a facing -- if you've sewed a garment, you'll know what that means -- but using the backing board as the pattern would have eliminated that complication.

A quilt is basically three layers: the pretty top, the batting, and a (usually) plain layer on the bottom. I had envisioned just topstitching the quilt into pie-shaped wedges. But while I was at the fabric store looking for batting, I got inspired by another Kaufman Fabrics design in a shiny orange, along with some orange-gold topstitching thread, and decided to put a sunrise on my headboard. I cut a smaller, orange semicircle for the sun and some strips of orange fabric for the rays. The rays give the headboard that slices-of-pie appearance I was originally looking for.

Lynne Cantwell 2023
That ruler thing is amazing, by the way. I bought it years ago. It's called an O'Lipfa, and it basically acts like a T-square: You line up the edge of your cutting mat with the edge of your table, line up your fabric along a line of the cutting mat, put the lip of the ruler over the end of the cutting board, and your fabric strips come out even. It's a miracle, I tell you. If they don't make this brand anymore, I hope somebody is making something similar.

The next step was to position the sun and the rays on the shiny cream fabric and machine baste them down. My third boneheaded thing: I spent 12 bucks on a fabric marking pen with disappearing ink at the quilt store. It turned out to be useless -- it didn't show up on the right side of the fabric, and as my marks were all going to be on the back of the headboard anyway, I ended up using a regular fabric marker that I already had. The fourth boneheaded thing I did: I sewed down the raw edges of the sun and rays instead of turning the edges under and pressing them. I wasted time not only stitching the edges down, but pulling out those stitches before machine basting the pieces in place.

At last it was time to lay out the quilt! I was smart enough to use the backing board as a pattern for the batting, and this is the step when I found out that I was going to have to make the quilt top bigger. The white stuff showing around the edge of the quilt top is the properly-sized batting; I sewed the facings on after this.

Lynne Cantwell 2023
I also realized, when I took this photo, that I should have repositioned the rays on the left to be more of a mirror image to the ones on the right. That's when I decided it was an art quilt, heh. I also reasoned that it wouldn't matter that much in the end because the lowest rays would end up behind the bed pillows anyway (and I was right!).

Finally, I pinned everything together and sewed through all the layers with a zigzag stitch. I also zigzagged some rings into the sun and ran two rows of machine basting around the semicircular edge. And I poked a couple of holes in the backing board, ran some picture hanging wire through the holes, twisted the ends together in the back, and duct taped that sucker in place. 

Then I glued the quilt to the backing board, pulled up the machine basting to fit, wrapped the fabric around the back of the backing board, and glued all the edges down. If you ever need to glue fabric to foam, what you want to use is 3M Super 77 spray adhesive. You can find it at hardware stores and some craft stores; I bought it at an art supply store here in town. Adhesives like super glue will melt the foam board; this stuff doesn't. I was a little worried about using it because it's permanent, but it turns out you've got about 15 minutes before it goes from "sticky" to "stuck fast" -- in other words, you have time to reposition your work. The hardest part about this step was keeping Tigs off the porch while I sprayed the fabric so he didn't end up with glue in his fur.

Finally, I put a couple of picture hangers in the wall and hung my finished headboard. Total cost: $150, not counting that fabric marking pen.


Now to get busy on the ruana...


These moments of crafty blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!