Monday, February 9, 2015

Weekend Wanderings - Lectures in Brooklyn

It was a lovely weekend where I kept sleeping. Seriously - I slept for 13 hours on Friday night and 11 hours on Saturday night. Somehow, come Monday, I am still tired. And yes, I am going to the doctor for this. No worries, folks.

On Saturday, we went to two great talks: Africa's Out!: A discussion between Wangechi Mutu and Wanja Muguongo, at MoCADA and a discussion at the Brooklyn Museum between Kim Drew, Devin Kenny, and Sondra Perry about the ways in which black contemporary artists engage social media. And the rest of the weekend we did things like this:

Friday, February 6, 2015

{This Moment}

A Friday ritual inspired by Amanda Soule & many others.
Please feel free to share a link to your own moment in the comments.

Recap of this week on Not Intent On Arriving: 
  • I've finally finished my recaps of our New Year's trip to Georgia and South Carolina. Have a read here (and use the link at the bottom to move through the trip) if you'd like to hear about Charleston and Savannah! 
  • I also wrote about my first Super Bowl party, in Oxford, England of all places.
  • This week's Writer Wednesday is Kelley Aiken, a wonderful writer and artist. After over a year of interviews, she's actually the last person on my list. If you'd like to be interviewed, or know someone else would you be, let me know, because I'd love to keep this going!
Writing Elsewhere: 
  • I have the cover article of my hometown newspaper this week, writing about my ten-year high school reunion. I think it's only the second time I've had the cover story, so I'm pretty excited!
I hope you have a great weekend! It's supposed to be a cold one here in NY, so I'm planning on a lot of relaxation and maybe a museum or two.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Southern New Year - Atlanta, GA

Saturday, January 3, 2015
After a lovely morning sleeping late at the Ritz Carlton, we grabbed doughnuts at Sublime. And they were - perfectly delicious doughnuts!

After that, we headed to one last museum before the airport, the Carlos Museum. They had some incredible textiles and sculptures. And also this awesome mummy:

After that, we returned our rental car and headed to the airport. Overall, it was an incredible trip to an area we'd never been before. My only regret is that I think each of the places deserved a week on its own! I'd love to come back for a more leisurely trip one day soon.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Writer Wednesday - Kelley Aitken

Kelley Aitken is an incredible visual artist, writer, and teacher. When I met Alison Watt a few months ago and she mentioned Kelley, I knew she was someone I would want to feature here. Some people have the soul of an artist and a deep need to create, and Kelley is one of those people. Best of all, her most recent chapbook will be released from Field Notes on Saturday, so if you love this interview, you should definitely contact her to get a copy!

Who are you? I'm an artist, writer and teacher based in Toronto, Canada.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? I have a website but I am woefully behind in my plans to blog.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I started writing shortly after my father died, 28 years ago. I always say the death of the patriarch loosened my captured tongue. Up to that point I thought of myself as a visual artist although I'd always dabbled, written poems, bits and bites of stories.

Why do you write? Because, just as images sometimes appear in the brain pan: murky, mysterious, fleeting and beautiful, phrases will drift through my head. And then they need something to attach to, a longer narrative or line. One thing leads to another and another. That's the poetic response. I think it's also about that feeling, which many of us have, that we aren't being heard—or weren't being heard—and we have something to say, an angle of life or vision that we want to express. That's less about the ego than a way of honouring the world through an idiosyncratic vision. I think the expressive arts are the opposite of sublimation, it's about a process that externalizes the feeling, gets it in motion, puts it outside the body. I suppose that's the therapeutic response. The world of the imagination is, quite simply, a place I like to live a lot. And writing, like drawing, is a way of loving something, of paying attention, it gives me a way to understand or to mine a subject. Writing is my pick-axe and shovel.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? So many, many writers. I recently discovered the essays of Kathleen Jamie, the Scottish poet. Her voice is quirky, intelligent, curious. I loved looking at the world through her eyes.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Because of Sara Wheeler I wanted to go to Antarctica for a while. Because of Kathleen Jamie I wanted to go to any of those little isolated windswept islands she visited, really I just wanted to tag along with her or any of those writers whose writing is a free flight to another place. Good writing shrinks the world and expands us at the same time.

What is your favorite place on earth? Sorry, there's a bit competition for that slot. But there was a hill I used to sit on in the Los Chillos valley south of Quito, Ecuador. Below me was a skinny gorge. I've painted that scene a couple of times, and I go there in my mind a lot. What had formed the gorge was a mountain-fed river, deep and not very wide across; there were places you could just jump from one grassy ledge across to the other side. Anyway, the water in it, coming from the mountains surrounding us, was cold and fast. At another spot on the river someone had jammed a sisal frond into the side of the bank to divert a spring that fed into the river thus making an outdoor shower. It was right at head height, perfect for washing one's hair. On Saturdays, whole families would gather there and the women would beat their clothes on the rocks and the men would strip down to bathe. I had to be careful, when I was heading to my friend's place, not to cross at that place and interrupt naked people at their ablutions.

Anyway I was sitting on my hill one day, looking at the world and daydreaming and a young man came along one of the paths, heading for the river. He was below me and heading away. Beyond him were the sloped patchwork fields edged in sisal cactus and beyond those the toothy profile of Ruminahui, a dormant volcano. At dusk the flanks of the volcano would look pink in the setting sun. Anyway I'm getting ahead of myself. It was morning or early afternoon. There might have been some grazing sheep or cattle around just because there often were, maybe a pig tucked in under a hedge. It's usually the women and children that take the animals out to graze but on that particular day I didn't see any of the shepherdesses; it was just me on the hill and that young fellow winding his way down toward the river. He had his back to me. At the edge of the gorge he stopped and lifted his bamboo flute to his lips. And then he played.

Anything else you'd like us to know? I have a chapbook coming out this month in Toronto with a small press, Field Notes. It is an essay about a wonderful sculpture by Guiseppe Penone, "Cedro di Versailles," that was in residence for about four years at the Art Gallery of Ontario where I teach drawing.  It was on loan from a private collection. When the artwork was returned to its owners, I and a number of other gallery-goers felt bereft. The sculpture in its long Gehry-designed hallway was the setting for an exercise that I gave my students in the last hour of my positive/negative class. You draw the nothing—air, space—to suggest something: the form, the sculpture. As a work of art it was so simple and so brilliant—Penone had carved a window in the trunk to expose the inner core, the inner sapling, if you will—and the sculpture was about time, time on our little beleaguered planet, and natural time or forest time, the time it takes a venerable old tree to grow and the small but actually large gap between youth and old age, and how nature absorbs history.  The Cedro conveyed, at one and the same time, a sense of majesty and vulnerability.

Anyhoo my chapbook is being launched on February 7th in Toronto, should any of your readers be interested in reading it, they can contact me via my website.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A Southern New Year - Savannah, GA to Atlanta, GA

Friday, January 2, 2015
On Friday, woke up early to get in the last few things we wanted to see in Savannah. We were right at the front entrance of the Wormsloe Historic Site, staring down the longest row of oaks in the world. It was absolutely breathtaking. I wish I could take a photo that would do it justice.

We watched the historical video at the visitor center, and I was actually surprised by how much it told me about Savannah that I didn't know. Like, for instance, that it was founded as a utopian society and didn't allow rum or slavery on its first charter. It is also the first planned city in the US, which explains why it is so beautifully organized around the squares.

After the video, we ran into a "First Day Hike" that was just about to start. I'm so glad we made it because this is a place that really deserves a tour. Our guide was so knowledgeable, not just about the history of the site, but also about the wildlife and fauna nearby, and the history of Georgia overall. He really made the site come alive for us.

The site of the original house, which was made of tabby:

Because of the First Day Hike, the tour actually had an extended second part, and I really wish we could have gone, but alas, our timeline meant that we had to stop after the first part. We headed back into Savannah just as Wall's Barbecue was opening up. In the back of someone's house and off a dirt road in Savannah, this is supposed to be the best barbecue in the city, and it was delicious! Their pulled pork and sweet tea was the perfect break after a long morning of walking.

After lunch, we headed to SCAD Museum of Art to see The Divine Comedy:Heaven, Purgatory and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists. There were some incredible pieces by artists from across the continent, including some I'd never seen before:

And some familiar faces:

After spending a few hours perusing the gallery, we made our way back to Atlanta for one last night in Georgia. Thanks to a crazy deal on, we stayed at this lovely spot for a perfect last night:

Next Up: Our last day down south!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday in Oxford, 2007

I hope you all had a great Super Bowl Sunday yesterday! We watched the game at Danielle's house with a few friends and had a blast (and too many wings). It got me to thinking about the first Super Bowl party I'd ever been to, which is one I helped plan while I was studying abroad at Wadham College.

In perhaps the only even vaguely political act I've ever undertaken, I somehow got myself elected with my friend Becca as co-representative for the Sarah Lawrence Programme on the Wadham Student Union in 2006. The SU is a fantastic body that tackles important issues (like living wage for staff), funds clubs on campus, and also puts together parties for students. As SLP officer, one of the biggest parties I helped plan was our annual Super Bowl party. We bought pizzas and made our first (unsuccessful) attempt to purchase a keg in the UK. (We ended up with plenty of bottles and cans instead, including Budweiser, which in our attempt at patriotism, we realized is terrible and also ridiculously expensive there.) We invaded the JCR and figured out which channel was airing the game, which was on at around 10pm, I think. Eventually a very miniature game of American football broke out in one half of the room, too. I've never thought of it before, but I guess that party at Wadham was the beginning of a long tradition of me planning these types of social events; just last Thursday I helped plan an almost identical party for my office (which, you know, is also kind of based in Oxford).

It was a fun evening and one of my many, many wonderful memories from my year there, so I wanted to share some photos from the party here. I haven't been back since leaving in 2007, so I wonder if this room looks at all the same today, or if the SLP rep planned a Super Bowl party this year. If anyone from Wadham is reading, let me know if it's still a tradition!

Even at the Super Bowl, studying never really stops: