Land of Oz

autographed picture of Clarence Swenson
autographed picture of Clarence Swenson

Ozstravagaza returns to the village of Chittenango this weekend, June 5th-7th, 2015, with lots of special guests including Gregory Maguire, the author of Wicked and other books set in L. Frank Baum’s fictitious Oz.

Jerry Maren in the 2000 Ozstravaganza parade, Chittenango, NY
Jerry Maren in the 2000 Ozstravaganza parade, Chittenango, NY

For many years, I dressed as Dorothy and walked the parade with the 2nd graders from Lake Street Elementary school in Chittenango, New York.  I wore that costume throughout my thirties and wondered what I would have done as a 50-something had I not moved on to work at the middle school.  (A student suggested going as the witch, lol).

with Ruth Duccini and Karl Slover
with Ruth Duccini and Karl Slover

Our float was a collaboration between all 2nd grade teachers.  My colleague Sandy Kennedy (who retired) and I made art projects for students to carry in the parade, and music teacher Margaret Kelsey taught the students a song with a bit of choreography to clinch one of the many awards the Oz Foundation gave to parade entrants. This year is Lake Street’s last foray into Oz because the district is closing the school – restructuring the Bolivar Road elementary to accommodate students.  It’s really an end of an era because Mrs. Kelsey is retiring as well.  They plan to go out with a bang, so it will definitely be exciting to watch if not simultaneously bittersweet.

with Mr & Mrs Jerry Maren
with Mr & Mrs Jerry Maren

Although I have not participated in the parade in nine years, I am still a part of this wonderful community via my 8th graders , who created the illustrations for the coloring contest.  They will be honored at noon at the center stage on Sunday, June 7th.

with Mr & Mrs Clarence Swenson
with Mr & Mrs Clarence Swenson

The pictures accompanying this post are from 2000, specifically the night I kissed a munchkin on the lips.  He was Clarence Swenson (above) and it was the night of the munchkin dinner.  Clarence and his wife, Jerry Maren and his wife, Ruth Duccini, Karl Slover, and Margaret Pellegrini were all in attendance.  Sadly, many of them have passed away.

Margaret Pellegrini and her granddaughter
Margaret Pellegrini and her granddaughter

I was especially fond of Margaret, as she reminded me of my grandmother who, had she been in the right place at the right time, could have easily been swooped up into the Singer Midget troupe.  You see,  I come from a family of the short – my grandmother was only 4’4″ tall, two inches shorter than Margaret.

My grandmother with one of her award winning crochet bedspreads.
My grandmother with one of her award winning crochet bedspreads.
autographed picture of Margaret Pelligrini
autographed picture of Margaret Pelligrini

Margaret signed this 8″ x 10″ glossy that I keep in an over-sized Pottery Barn frame with a big mat border.  It says “to Karen the art teacher” and “Munchkin love”.  She would see me every year and say,  oh, you’re the art teacher!  I just loved her.

"to Karen the art teacher"
“to Karen the art teacher”

People come to Chittenango  from all over the world to attend this event.  It is the birthplace of the author of the Wizard of Oz books.  For more information, check out the Ozstravaganza website here –   http://www.oz-stravaganza.com/

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Art Games & WW2

ss projects ww2

There was an interdisciplinary program at our school last night.  It was a celebration of World War II, which included art and social studies projects, and musical performances – chorus, band and orchestra.  I also helped out in gym classes this week, teaching dance lessons – jitterbug, bunny hop and the hokey pokey – for the dance that anchored the evening’s festivities.

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We honored local veterans and welcomed a guest speaker who shared a first hand account of the holocaust.

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In preparation for this event, I created a sculpture lesson for my Studio in Art students.  I’ve been collecting old Barbie dolls for many years and finally figured out what to do with them.

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We made paratroopers!  The parachute shape was done in plaster of Paris built around  plastic bowl molds.  Students painted the interior with metallic paint and the exterior was done with patches of fabric glued with Mod Podge.  Students then had a buffet of materials with which to construct the humanoid – wooden blocks, cinnamon sticks, sponges… and the Barbie dolls, which had to be harvested for parts.

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Hot glue held them together and wires were used to attach the figure to the parachute.

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In addition, we did a watercolor unit, focusing on characteristics of the medium, as well as the principles and elements of art to create abstract expressionist paintings.  Students learned glazing, wet-in-wet, saving the white of the paper, and dry brush.

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Even though this lesson was meant to understand the emergence of the New York City art scene circa the 1940s and the role of abstract expressionism in art history, I shared my own watercolors with students and explained how I create happy emotion and energy via the use of rhythm, balance and emphasis with color.  It really helped them to dissect the work and understand how to both use the techniques and process the use of elements to create the principles.

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My favorite thing about the artwork is that they are all so different. In my own work, I take pride in how my hand moves.  It is unique.  I can recognize my own brushstroke.  These paintings hold  the same sort of identity to the students, like you can identify your art in a police lineup – I mean if your art was a person accused of a crime.  I love that regardless of how silly the analogy.

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The resulting experience was pretty surreal, like a dream or a PG-13 movie.  A successful evening with all of the 8th grade teachers and the librarian, PTA and administrators playing a part.  We like to think of ourselves as the happiest middle school – on Earth or just New York State, I’m not sure.

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Just found out that Chittenango came in fourth on a list of New York State best towns in which to live, so there’s that.  It is a pretty great place!

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Bonus – I posted this picture of me on Instagram in my Trina Turk dress, and Trina Turk responded with a smiley face and a star emoticon!  Amazing!  So great.  Or as my colleague from work (who just took leave to have her baby) says – it’s a Yahtzee!

 

Art Tease

Bailey 44 top, INC pants, BCBG Generation sandals
Bailey 44 top, INC pants, BCBG Generation sandals

It got cold again in the ‘cuse this week after 85 degrees last week, so it was back to sweaters and long sleeves.  It also felt right to go neutral palette – black, white, cream, beige, and grey with some navy blue thrown in, which is pretty much my whole wardrobe (heavy on the black).

J Crew cardigan, Bailey 44 top, BCBG Max Azria leggings, BCBG Generation booties
J Crew cardigan, Bailey 44 top, BCBG Max Azria leggings, BCBG Generation booties
Bailey 44 top, BCBG Max Azria leggings, BCBG Generations booties
Bailey 44 top, BCBG Max Azria leggings, BCBG Generations booties

When I really like something I buy it in several colors.  I have the above Bailey 44 top in black and in red, and I have these BCBG Max Azria leggings in black with faux leather and in navy blue.

Lucky Brand jacket, Bailey 44 top, Banana Republic pants, BCBG Generation sandals
Lucky Brand jacket, Bailey 44 top, Banana Republic pants, BCBG Generation sandals

It’s already been a month since I got my smart phone, a month of different outfits and about a month of school left to go.

Black Brown 1826 cashmere sweater, BCBG Max Azria leggings, ine West booties
Black Brown 1826 cashmere sweater, BCBG Max Azria leggings, Nine West booties

Life seems really exciting.  I love that feeling I get when something is fun and the universe is filled with things to look forward to, as though it will fulfill its promises.  Not sure if that is bad for my art. Lots of artists seem to be brooders, creating work out of anger, misery or melancholy.  But I am all into happiness and joy.  I want people to feel good when they look at my work, as if they are in on a secret.  A secret language that enlightens, if that makes any sense.  I am thinking about painting on paper for the “futura” series. That feels right too.

BCBG Max Azria lace top with Victoria Secret camisole underneath, Calvin Klein jeans, Coach booties
BCBG Max Azria lace top with Victoria Secret camisole underneath, Calvin Klein jeans, Coach booties

I will have time to paint this summer, but before I do anything I want to work on the business of being an artist and that includes securing venues for exhibitions.  I have something in the works for July that I am VERY excited to share but I believe it will have to wait to be revealed, as it is some type of top secret thing-a-ma-gig.  Will let you know soon though.  I promise.

 

Dress Week

Trina Turk dress, BCBG Generation sadals
Trina Turk dress, BCBG Generation sadals

Okay- fashion blogging is so much fun.  It feels amazing to receive so many compliments.  I was really having a Kim Kardashian moment this week.  Call me Karen Kar-tash-ian!  So funny.

Berkley Cashmere cardigan, Babana Republic dress, BCBG Geeration sandals
Berkley Cashmere cardigan, Babana Republic dress, BCBG Geeration sandals
Banana Republic dress, BCBG Generation sandals
Banana Republic dress, BCBG Generation sandals

We had record breaking warm weather in Syracuse this week, which I doubt people who know us as the snowiest city in the state/maybe the country (won the trophy again this year) can believe.  But yes.  It got to 90 degrees on Friday and without air-conditioning in the school, it can be a little sticky.  So thank you, to Trina Turk, Banana Republic, and BCBG Max Azria for keeping me cool in their fabulous dresses.

Trina Turk dress, BCBG Generation sandals
Trina Turk dress, BCBG Generation sandals

Not sure what theme I’m planning for next week.  There are still a lot of clothes in my closet that have not seen the light of day in three weeks.  I usually wear things in a heavy rotation until I get bored with them but now I feel an obligation – a responsibility to my fashion followers to change it up.  Sounds like I’m taking this seriously, lol!

Trina Turk dress, Calvin Klein wedge sandals
Trina Turk dress, Calvin Klein wedge sandals
BCBG Max Azria dress, Guess sandals
BCBG Max Azria dress, Guess sandals

School Stuff

The annual school fair is a visual representation of what teachers teach.  Which means that art is the most necessary of all subjects.  Without it, it is really impossible to showcase to the community a school district’s activity.

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Tonight is the school fair and for the last nineteen years I have put up an exhibit then taken it down within seven hours.  I’m off to visit the displays before they are a memory and do the dismantling right now.

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This is the first time I have ever documented the event.  Thank you, smart phone.

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BB & Hold the Banana

Banana Republic cardigan, BCBG Max Azria top, INC pants, BCBG Generations booties
Banana Republic cardigan, BCBG Max Azria top, INC pants, BCBG Generations booties

This week I did a lot of black on the bottom (BB).  So far, I have not done a single repeat in clothing or shoes.  I like the idea of planning what I’m going to wear for people to see because it’s kind of a fun way to look forward to going to work, so thank you to all of the people who liked my Instagram #ootd (outfit of the day) posts.

BCBG Max Azria sweater, Trina Turk leather skirt, Etienne Aigner oots
BCBG Max Azria sweater, Trina Turk leather skirt, Etienne Aigner oots

I went to a funeral this week.  My great aunt died.  I know how some of you don’t like being morbid, but I can’t help trying to see a big picture to life when someone I cared about leaves us for good.  I know, and I don’t even think about dying at all.  I think more about all the living I need to do and the existential quest of what I am supposed to be accomplishing, as though I had a plan before I was born.  I am supposed to find something or someone in a search for happiness, as if I had a bet with someone up there in the ether that even within the parameters of the life I was given, I’ve been challenged to still find it.  Whatever that may be.

Banana Republic blouse, Champion tank underneath, Banana Republic pants, Coach booties
Banana Republic blouse, Champion tank underneath, Banana Republic pants, Coach booties

It reminds me of the famous Robert Rauschenberg story of the Erased DeKooning piece.  In the video made at the time of the 1997 Guggenheim retrospective, Rauschenberg talked about how he had been doing a series of white paintings and he had conceived the notion of erasing a work making it white again (the paper).  The idea of the process backwards, you see?  It is such a cerebral notion for a guy who spent a lifetime laughing.

He decided he wanted to erase someone else’s piece since erasing your own would have this feeling that you already knew how it was made, so it would be a lot easier to erase your own work.  You know how much pressure you had placed on the pencil and how much elbow grease it would require to get rid of those marks.  That makes sense, right?

So he went over to DeKooning’s, a formidable guy even sober.  He knocked – the artist didn’t answer at first and he thought, okay so the idea has now died.  I tried and knocked and …nothing.  Done and done.

erased dekooning

But DeKooning answered, let him in, closed the door behind him and stood in front of it so that Rauschenberg couldn’t escape after announcing his query – in the back of his mind he thought for sure that DeKooning would beat the crap out of him.

But instead, DeKooning said something like. “Okay, I understand what you’re asking.  I’m going to give you something hard to erase.” He handed Rauschenberg a drawing made with charcoal and paint and other materials, and Rauschenberg spent months trying to erase it.

Banana Republic blazer, Bailey 44 top, Banana Republic skirt, Nine West boots
Banana Republic blazer, Bailey 44 top, Banana Republic skirt, Nine West boots

It was a challenge, and that made the idea more fun.  And as much as non-artists scrunch up their noses and think that’s not art with an Emperor’s New Clothes mentality, you really have to admit that it took loads of time and a lot of work to erase that art.  So in essence, it was and is artwork.

Art history scholars tend to relay it as a message delineating the changing of the guard from Abstract Expressionism to the new Pop Art establishment, but Rauschenberg himself insisted that was not his intent.

Bailey 44 top, Banana Republic skirt, Nine West boots
Bailey 44 top, Banana Republic skirt, Nine West boots

No matter what we do, people will put their own spin on things.  Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are Instagramming like clockwork, and they take the good and take the bad along with it, the negative-nellies who voice their harassment of the selfie variety, and can be very harsh in doing so.

I won’t let that stop me from continuing my journey.  I am having fun with the fashion stuff, which was heavy on the Banana (Republic) this week.

In light of the death, my parents were talking about buying their plots this week.  Preparing for the inevitable in a way to reduce our stress when the time comes.  My great-grandfather bought one extra plot a long time ago and Mom and Dad were thinking of trading it in for their two – but that spot is like my perfect spot.  It is a short walk from my great aunt and uncle’s graves, overlooking  the Comstock Art facility, which is next to Manley Field House at Syracuse University.  I kind of want to keep it for myself.  It seemed familiar, like a part of the puzzle that made sense but didn’t….

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It really is surreal to think of ending up there.  Like, what?  That’s all this was?  Me, dead, with a view of my art school, along with a giant oak tree and a huge gravestone marked MILLER?  What is that supposed to mean?  I mean, I know.

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