Saturday, May 10, 2014

Can't afford the rent

It started with sliding the key under the door...

No. It started with getting no sleep the night before...

Or maybe it started with my last night in NY?

Or the night before that....

but whenever it started, I hadn't slept a wink when I slipped the key under the door and realized I'd left my phone inside the apt. The apt was on the 37th floor looking south over the new Freedom Tower. A monstrosity close up...

...but from far away, at sunset, with the sun reflecting off the slanted glass—a sight to behold!

I was leaving on a 7 a.m. flight and had to make it to Penn Station and find my way onto the LIRR (not difficult)...

but here it was 4:30 and my phone was inside. Since I was a guest resident, would management open the door again?

They did for a fee of $15.

Unfortunately, I didn't have it because my ATM card had been canceled the night before due to a security breach.

Maybe it started there?

The night before I'd had dinner with my great pals Melissa and Louise, who knew each other from Reed College and were friends before I met either of them. Every April (or at least for the past few) we've gotten together, the three of us.

Dinner with pals

Earlier in the day, Melissa had asked for my assist on a little adventure putting up ELKPEN'S artwork--to be distributed around NY.

We were trying to figure out how to tie the red-tailed hawk on the other side of the fence at St. John the Divine, when a tall strapping young man by the name of Ian walked by and asked, "Need any help?" Sure did! We had tried climbing the fence, but got stuck half-way up like escaped convicts under the scrutiny of a search light. Ian was a godsend.

A godsend!
Sign reads: 
"The red-tailed hawk is one of the largest hawks 
and females are larger than males. 
Paris stay together for life.
Two are nesting near here."

The night before I'd had my own adventure putting up two rat wheatpastes down on the Bowery, with my son Mekko who served as my look out. It was deeply satisfying leaving something behind in the city, especially near where I used to hang out in the 80s, but now catering to a different crowd....meaning, the moneyed.

"I used to live here but I can't afford the rent."

 Wheatpasting on the Bowery

Still up the next day! (Spring and Bowery)

You see, things had just started going well after a bout of uncertainty, doubt and a strange fear that took hold on this visit. What had I hoped to accomplish here? Whatever it was, I hadn't done it.

But after I put up the wheatpastes, things started falling into place. The next day I felt surprisingly open to the great flow of humanity that is New York City. After breakfast at B & H in the east village, I walked to the Community Settlement House, the first Jewish social justice organizations on the lower east side. Inside I stopped to admire the painted panels on each side of the entrance, naive imagery of scenes of early life on the LES. As I stood there, the artist of the panels appeared and introduced himself. In his hand was the most beautiful plate I had ever seen—a work he'd just shown to his ceramics class of elderly Chinese from the neighborhood. What good fortune, I thought, meeting this man, talking about his art, seeing the work of his students. We talked like old friends. 

I walked away with the plate wrapped in my sweater.

"Golden Pheasant"
by Lee  Brozgol

After that openness and lightness, that spontaneity and beauty, after helping to put up ELKPEN and dine with my friends, it hit me, I was leaving the next day— which caused me to toss and turn and stare up at the ceiling all night. That's when it happened: Reality set in. I was going home—home home home— to my real life in L.A.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Hello Blog, it's been awhile. I was reminded of you this morning when I got an anonymous message sent to an old Rat's Nest post, from 2009. The post, RATZ, told of my love for my two pet rats, but also about the happiness I felt in writing the blog, you blog, and as I lay in bed I remembered that joyous feeling of having an outlet for my thoughts.

Fast forward. No blog writing but art making. Less writing and it's been missed. Where do my thoughts go now if I don't write them down? They basically fly out the window....unchecked.

For instance, this morning I was wondering, what's with the creative process that you can be so involved, so totally absorbed at the expense of everyone and everything else, ignoring your husband and your daughter— who is probably very happy to be ignored— but ignoring everything except what you're engaged in, in this case, painting. And then after all the hard work, all the sweat and self-doubts, after the damage has been wrought in the family, and the damage of creating something has been wrought, you return to your own sorry self and there's nothing there. What about that? Why is it always a letdown after a work is done? That empty feeling, that existential void? 

   Ukrainian artist Dase Roman Sherbakov

I'm not asking you, blog, to answer this question, I'm just happy you're still here so I can write this down. That already makes it a little clearer, already puts something in front of me to mull over.

It's a little unsettling to feel so empty now, with the painting hanging, and my studio cleaned and waiting for me again, and me up here, in the kitchen, writing, afraid of what's next. Afraid is not exactly the right word; stymied is more like it, paralyzed is even better, but as one knows, the process of going forward into the unknown is part of it. That part that makes the throat constrict, a hesitation in your step. Yet, in truth, nothing is holding you back. Of course, nothing but yourself. 

(Note to blog: that last part is not part of the process unless one's process is to completely destroy everything that has come before, in order to move forward...but I'd like to think total annihilation does not an artist make.)

As far as making a painting, Pussy Riot was on my mind. This funky first sketch was done while Marla Frazee was lecturing, a teacher at Art Center, who had just said the best time to sketch is when you're not thinking about it. I thank her for that nifty trick.

What engaged me about Pussy Riot was seeing the documentary "Punk Prayer" and hearing the Church elders speak of Nadia as the devil, with her full lips and the way she looked at you with those eyes. Pussy Riot was doing "the devil's work," the Church elders believed. That these men who had once spewed their hatred towards Jews and anyone who wasn't a true believer, who had reduced women to sirens, devils and witches was infuriating.  Who were these religious men who talked so dangerously and commanded so much power? They were nothing but buffoons in big hats!

My grandfather was also on my mind. I thought about the story he told of his brother, who in order not to be inducted in the Russian army, shot himself in the foot. For Jews, the Russian army was a fate worse than death. My scholarly grandfather emigrated at the turn of the century, probably for this reason. My grandfather was a peddler when he first arrived, but I imagined him, in a sketch, in the old country, with a horse and cart. And as a homage to Chagall, I painted the horse blue, however, not flying.                         

Peddler (internet).

Top, photos of Great Grandparents and Grandparents. 
 Silkscreen (in peacock blue) of same.

Images started appearing. The naked woman on the chest of the Church Elder was from a page out of a Russian revolutionary art book that Molly brought over. The lecherous Cossack came from my imagination. The Russian clown below, reminded me of the Russian clowns who performed in an early Cirque du Soleil. The masks are ghostly pussy rioters.

Putin's head is smashed by Pussy Riot's foot, Stalin is next to the Tasmanian devil, with "the devil's work," written in Cyrillic script, and the reason for the collaged eyes of the main pussy riot character is because I spent 3 days trying to draw eyes and failed. Eyes are said to be the window to the soul, and trying to capture the soul of Pussy Riot, well, now, that's beyond my scope.

First try, wrong pose
right pose, wrong eyes

 I used one eye from Nadia and one from Masha


(a not quite finished version)

That's it. Thank you blog...and thank you readers.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Eastside Zine Market

Introducing Leo "Puppypants" Lopez, my tablemate at the Eastside Zine Market last Sunday, but honestly, I thought he went by the name of Mr. Panda.

Leo grew up on the other side of Soto Street in East LA, works as a librarian assistant in Berkeley, lives in Oakland, thinks about getting a MA, and writes and draws comics with other like minded ziners. When he heard there was going to be a zine market in East LA, he booked a flight. I was so lucky to get Leo as my tablemate for my first ever zine market. He taught me the ropes: how to walk them, how to jump over them, how to ignore them; he's done dozens of these before. You'll find him next at the LA Zine Fest in mid-Feb.

Here's a pretty famous ziner: Yumi Sakugawa, author of "I think I'm in Friend Love with You," and many wonderful meditation guides and comics for The Rumpus. (She was going to tell me her secret Compton connection for getting books printed for $1 each —unheard of— but we never talked again after initial introductions.) Her zines are sold at Skylight and on Amazon.

and here I am with my zines and half table display. (Note: tablecloth from South Africa in memory of Nelson Mandela.)


Although I sold only five books, I'm going to say that was OK, given the competition— a room full of talented cartoonist and ziners who are passionate about the form. The zine I sold the most was called "Lost Rat," about a rat who leaves her comfortable existence for the street. Here's some images:


Will I zine again? Not sure. It's fun to think about what works and doesn't work, and how to make a zine more cost effective; that takes time and patience, neither of which I have in spades. As Tom said in the build-up to this event, this wasn't about making money (boy, he can say that again!). Welcome to the zine world.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Playing with Puck

Last week at the library, I was glad to hear Maureen Moore, associate director of ALOUD, mention playful in a list of her boss's most beguiling attributes, because 1) it is such a rare trait to have in a boss, and 2) I have known her boss, Louise Steinman, mainly in that way for over three decades, and it would be such a pity if she couldn't carry that puckish prankster part of her to her job.

I was also happy that Jack Miles who interviewed Louise for ALOUD about her new book, himself took up the playful mantle—jumping out of his seat at one point to focus attention on the twinkle in the eyes of rescuers Janka and her 9-yr-old son, Marian, projected overhead. Imagining the thought process of mother and son in deciding whether to house a 17-yr-old Jewish boy, Miles turned to the audience, shrugged his shoulders and said: "Save a Jew? Why not!" It was a funny Woody Allen moment and a testament to the book that Miles could segue from seriousness to playfulness and not be considered a heretic, given the gravity of the subject.

Louise's book, The Crooked Mirror: A Memoir of Polish-Jewish Reconciliation, is a revelatory read, seamlessly weaving a complicated history with the personal, and although not done in the name of play, certainly it was Louise's skills in the art of play that helped her through the ten years that it took to write the book.

As for knowing her mainly as a playful puckish prankster.... that might not be entirely true, but for the purposes of this post, I will say it is, and present to you, forthwith, some playful moments shared together over the years. 

Dog's Head Route, Portland, OR, 1980
(photo credit: Chris Rauschenberg) 

At the harmonium... 
(photo credit: Chris Rauschenberg) 

 In rehearsal...

Ojai, mid-80s
(Where are those dresses?)

 New York City subway, 2013

Playing around in Studio A (still!)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

After College

I was reminded what twenty-two felt like the other day when M came down the stairs sobbing. Suffice to say, everything's okay, but it reminded me of a time when I came home after college (I was 23) and all I did was cry. I cried when i got up in the morning and I cried when I went to bed. I didn’t have any friends I could talk to, and I couldn’t go to my parents. Parents? Who talked to their parents?

Finally my mother arrived at my bedroom door one morning and asked what the matter was, and was there anything she could do, and should she make an appointment with a doctor. I guess I'm reminded too of my mother, and what it must have felt like for her, hopeless, on the other side of the door. Since I couldn't talk to her about what was upsetting me, we settled on calling a therapist, a friend's recommendation. (The friend, Mr. Ehrlich, a German businessman, was later found murdered in his store, which, I'll note here, I had nothing to do with, despite his recommendation).

The next thing I knew I was driving down Newburg Road to Louisville's only mental hospital, appropriately named, Our Lady of Peace. The hospital was up a winding driveway, with grand gardens and slopping hills. 

A flickr pic of Our Lady of Peace Hospital,
Louisville, Kentucky

The doctor—let’s call him Dr. Frank Stein—was dressed neutrally in a gray suit. I wasn’t crying when I started, but I got worked up when I talked about leaving NYC and all that had happened there. By the time the 50 minutes were up, he had his assessment: electric shock treatment. He would notify my parents and set up an appointment. 

I didn’t cry then, but rather, I became hyper sensitive, noticing his glasses and how small the room. I got in my car, and for the first time since I had come home, I wasn't feeling numb anymore: I felt pissed. I thought, What did that doctor know about me anyway? I wasn’t crazy; I was just sad. I had left my boyfriend, and I was home with my parents, and I had no possible idea what I was going to do with my life. The future stood before me like the grim reaper; I couldn’t imagine how I would ever make it on my own. Ever grow up. Ever leave home, despite the fact I wanted it more than anything. But now I had something I could work with. 

When I got home, I told my mother that the doctor was full of shit and I wasn't going back there. I told her I was okay. I was going to be okay, and from that point on, I was. A few months later, I moved to Toronto (with my mother's blessings), where I began a long stretch of dancing/choreographing and teaching.

Our Lady of Peace is still up on the hill, welcoming the drug addicted, the crazies the motherless, the unfortunates of Louisville. Looking back, I'm thankful, at twenty-three, I wasn't one of them.

 Living in Toronto, mid-twenties
(I remember thinking this scarf would make me look artistic!)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Body of Work

When you apply for anything in the art world you have to submit a body of work. Since i haven't been in the art-making business long, my body of work—in any given subject/medium— is about a leg's worth, or arm, or maybe just a finger, not more than that. I don't have a body of work in the traditional sense, something that could perhaps say I'm pursuing a course, and I'm not sure if I'll ever have one. But I thought I'd put a few things that I've done lately out there, and once on the page, see if there's any connecting theme, anything resembling a body (or at least a torso) of work. I think not....but judge for yourself.

Face for sleeping giant at top of Mt. Washington

Caroline Mole Rat 
(naked, in sewer)

 Held Silverlake

 Lord Howe Island Stick Insect crawling up side of house

Wheatpasted Crow at pehrspace

 Oh, and I have to add this sunny photo 
of Maya with Craig and Gabe Matthews
(now there's some bodies of work!)


My adorable, licky rat Blu died last week. Tom and I were very sad; she was such a good rat. She kept us clean. Now, we both want another rat, but there's a mourning period. We'll just have to wait. Until then, in her honor, you'll see from this post on, a change in the Rat's Nest. I've gone for a simple blogger format. Good-bye dots. Good-bye Blu, you good rat you.

(Oct 2011-Oct 2013)