Recently I learned about a fellow alumni of my college study abroad program (IHP), Janet Echelman. Echelmen makes phenomenal, jaw dropping works of public art. Through her art, she has collaborated with engineers and scientists to pioneer new materials that allow for a style of art that has never been seen before. Check out one of her recent pieces in Pheonix, Arizona:
This piece is made using gigantic poles and netting. The netting stretches 100 feet tall and the piece hovers 38 feet above the ground. It’s massive!! This idea of making art using netting is so original and innovative, it’s a total result of the power of imagination that often arises during times of chaos or uncertainty.
Echelmen was a painter in her earlier days as an artist. She spent time in India and was given some kind of grant to hold an art show, but her paints never arrived. Searching for a way to create art without her conventional tools, she noticed the fishermen winding their nets on the shore where she was staying. She was struck with the idea of making art from nets; thus was born an entirely new career that has placed her in the spotlight of an international public art movement!
As an artist, this is exactly the kind of story that inspires me. Echelmen adapted to her unexpected circumstances and opened herself to a new way of creating. I really admire this skill, and as evidenced by her work, this kind of adaptable attitude can often lead one to greater heights than ever expected! You can find a cool TED talk by her here.
In light of the death of Osama Bin Laden, I was reminded of another recent “bad guy” who the US also killed: Saddam Hussein. I was thinking about him because it was through the direct contact with his psychotic world of hatred and destruction that one woman was moved to rise up and take a stand for peace and justice. If you want to be inspired, you should read her book: Between Two Worlds. I think this book is especially poignant now because we know that even though we’ve caught another “bad guy,” we still have a long way to go as far as addressing root issues of injustice and oppression, particularly amongst women.
Zainab Salbi spent her entire childhood tied to one of the world’s most notorious despots: Saddam Hussein. Salbi’s father worked as Hussein’s pilot, and Salbi spent most of her youth in a home on Hussein’s compound. Between Two Worlds is Salbi’s account of growing up with her life in the hands of this charismatic sociopath. It is impossible to put this book down; it is truly a testament to the human soul’s ability to endure oppressive circumstances.
After leaving Iraq and coming to the US, Salbi found that all of her grief related to Hussein’s atrocities was being provoked by the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina. “Hundreds of thousands of Bosnian and Croatian civilians were being killed in a genocide that was practically being committed on television. Twenty thousand women had already been raped, what excuse did we have this time for lack of action?”
So she did act. With almost no material means and few connections, she and her new husband took the savings for their yet-to-be honeymoon and flew to Zagreb, Croatia. They began interviewing women survivors of rape camps and listening to their stories of tragedy and loss. Salbi had the idea for an organization where one woman at a time could sponsor a rape victim, send her money each month that would be used towards job training programs, and send her letters of support so she would know she wasn’t alone.
This idea has now grown into a major international organization, womenforwomen.org which helps women who are most in need in areas of war and conflict. Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah’s explained why an organization like Salbi’s is so important: “When you invest in women survivors of war, you spark a multiplier effect. Empowered women are crucial to reconstruction and lasting peace. They’re not asking for charity: they just need a chance to show what they can do.” Zainab Salbi took her emotional response to the horrors of war and transformed it into a life giving organization.
Hopefully society will continue to see and confront that the real “bad guys” we are up against, including the systematic oppression of women worldwide.
“As long as women are prevented from attaining their highest possibilities, so long will men be unable to achieve the greatness which might be theirs.”
“The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality between the sexes, is essential to human progress and the transformation of society.”
(quotes from the Baha’i Writings)
While unpacking after our move into our new house, I came across a bunch of unfinished paintings that I had started years ago. After my baby went to sleep the other night, I spent a few hours working on one of them– my first large format painting I have been able to work on in over a year and a half!!
I think I had originally been gearing this one towards some kind of kitschy rodeo theme, (there is a bucking bronco in the lower right corner) but I brought it all together with some of the elements that I love working with–decorative flowers and just generally bright colored shapes, patterns and lines.
Here it is in our beautiful new living room. I will post soon about the house we just moved into which my husband completely remodeled. The best part about this room (and all the rooms in the house) is the indirect lighting. The lights are hidden behind panels of wood that was salvaged from the old roof, cool huh!?:
By the way, those chairs are covered in some custom made slip covers using a freaking amazing fabric called Echino Damask. Check out this close up (in the black and white version, c0uldn’t find a good shot of the blue on line). At first you think it is just a standard damask print, but on closer inspection you can see it’s filled with animals and even skulls!
I recently created a NEW line of greeting cards that is available FOR SALE and if you haven’t seen it yet, you gotta check it out!
These are the OOGs, the ORIGINAL, original gangsters, here to tell you what’s up. Just because they are dancing around a maypole doesn’t mean they can’t get crunk! Some of those Victorian dudes have got game like you wouldn’t believe, plus they know how to spot a bangin’ bustle when they see one.
I love the idea of putting vintage ephemera in a modern context, and that was exactly the inspiration behind these cards. They are printed using the highest standard of green printing that I could find: 100% recycled paper (50% post consumer) using low VOC, vegetable based inks. Non-toxic inks and dry offset printing means no chemical waste was created in the printing of these cards! They are still extremely high quality with rich color and a beautiful gloss: proof that green technology can still meet high printing standards!
Nick and I went to Los Angeles for xmas (“Hell-A” as my sister refers to it). We stayed with my sister and her wonderful family, which now includes their new dog, Dita, also known as Princess PomPom Von Schtupenheimer Teacups Chi Chi Miller. When we took the baby on a morning walk, my sister requested that we bring the dog out with us so it could get some fresh air, and also urinate on every stationary object in sight.
As you can see from the pictures, the dog was wearing a little christmas dress, which turned out to be a massive challenge to Nick’s masculinity when he had to hold the dog while I ran into a store.
Aside from (reluctantly) spending time with our four legged friend, we had a festive holiday overall, full of hot pink christmas trees, magical santa pimp hats, and spilled popcorn.
I love to see how people work my art into their homes. Here is a recent pic from a really amazing Austin photographer, Heather Banks, who purchased some of my work. You can visit her website here! I am happy to see this piece has found a loving home.