gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

People matching art

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A friend showed this to me recently and I am so fascinated by it. People matching artwork. I’m an art lover and I go to museums every chance I get, but I’ve never noticed visitors matching the art on the walls. I mean what are the chances? Some of these pairings are more spot on than others, but I’m so impressed by the photographer’s commitment and patience for such a project. Stefan Draschan is the photographer behind these spottings and he has other similar series on people touching artwork, people sleeping in museums, couples matching, etc. All are humorous, but I think the people matching artwork is just perfection. I can’t decide which pairing I like best, but the colors in this one are so striking. I was surprised to find out that Draschan only spends a couple hours in each museum where he captures these moments. But he does go frequently – every few days. He thinks there’s something subconscious that draws people to their matching works of art and that it’s not purely coincidental. We do seem to be attracted to things that mirror us in a way and that provide an opportunity for us to reflect on ourselves. I think a work of art can certainly be that looking glass. Draschan’s love for going to museums and observing people isn’t so much a love as it is necessary, “I really need art…It fills me”, a sentiment that I can certainly relate to.

 

 

Top 100 movies

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Since the Chicago International Film Festival is about to start in just a couple of weeks, I’ve been reading up on movies lately and I came across this list of top 100 movies (one of a gazillion top 100 movie lists). I always get overwhelmed by them and they make me feel like I have to drop everything and dedicate the next 500 hours of my life to watching the movies in order to feel complete. I’m happy to see some of my favorites on this list, like Melancholia, Frances Ha, Cold War, Before Midnight, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Tree of Life, and Inside Llewyn Davis. I”m also happy to see Call Me by Your Name, The Master, Carol, Shoplifters, Roma, Phantom Thread, and Beasts of the Southern Wild included. I’m surprised by a couple omissions though, like Blue Is The Warmest Color and Amelie, but maybe I’m just biased because they’re a couple of my personal favorites. I never quite know how these lists are ordered and how they choose which movie merits the top spot, but this one doesn’t seem to be arranged in any particular way. Thank god! I mean how could one ever decide on an order of best to worst…? Happy watching!

Colorado dreamin’

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Although I live in a big city now, I grew up in a small city and have always had an affinity for the outdoors, nature, and that country feeling. This is what drew me to live in a small town in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, and it’s something I long for now that I’m in the big city.

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I went to Colorado a few weeks ago for a bachelorette party and to visit a friend who moved there from Chicago a year ago. We went on a couple hikes at Garden of Gods in Colorado Springs and Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park. The magnitude of the Rocky Mountains is hard to grasp, and while beautiful and majestic, the rockiness and brown tone makes them feel a bit cold. They don’t, at least for me, elicit a warm welcoming feeling. They’re big and intimidating, and I tend to prefer a greener aesthetic. It makes me realize that what I like about the Berkshires is that because they are smaller they feel cozier, more approachable, and they envelope you with a kind of protective embrace. The distinct change of seasons in the northeast takes the hills on a journey from beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall, to green in the spring and summer, and snow-covered in the winter. But enough about the Berkshires…I don’t mean to take away from the Rocky Mountains, which are magnificent in their own right.

Garden of Gods was interesting because of the beautiful and bizarre rock formations that are a bright burnt orange/red color. It’s fascinating to think about how these rocks formed over time and what gave them the color they so gracefully wear. Prior to going to Colorado I didn’t know that it had some desert characteristics, and not having been to a desert before I was quite in awe of the colors.

Our hike was about five and a half miles long, and while not difficult, we were all feeling the altitude. Although relieved that we didn’t have to fight off any predators, I was a little bit disappointed that the only wildlife we saw included a lizard and a rabbit.

The hike at Rocky Mountain National Park felt much more intimate than the one at Garden of Gods because there were hardly any people on the trail that we chose, which was both peaceful and a bit scary because my mind wandered to the bears that might be lurking around and the fact that it would probably take a while for anyone to find us. Little did I know, the Rocky Mountains are only home to black bears, not brown bears, although there are mountain lions (which didn’t even cross my mind, thankfully!). This hike was only a couple miles long, and while I had adjusted to the altitude by this point, even though we were quite a bit higher than at Garden of the Gods (11,000 feet!), it was a bit more up and down and the trail was much more wooded and felt more secluded. The trail brought us to a beautiful and unexpected valley with a creek, offering the perfect spot for our picnic lunches. The only wildlife spotted on this hike was some kind of small beaver in the creek and it was cute! But I was constantly scared of seeing a bear! The drive to the trail was spectacular on a one way dirt road. We were committed and there was no going back.

My short time in Colorado doing a couple hikes has definitely given me the hiking bug. It made me sad to think that I hardly did any hiking when I lived in the Berkshires, especially since there were various trails a 10-15 minute drive from my house; whereas the Rocky Mountain National Park was an hour and half drive from Denver. Until the Berkshires and I meet again… 🙂

Art and beauty in the making

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Once again, Hanya Yanagihara, editor in chief of The New York Times Style Magazine, has dazzled me with her intellect and prose.

As long as there are humans, there will be art – and nothing will ever stop us from trying to make our lives more beautiful. Beauty and artistic innovation may not be rights, like water or food or clean air or free will, but they are impulses, and our desire for them is an important part of what makes us human.

There is something about exercising one’s creative powers that feels enlightening, inspiring, fulfilling, etc. There is an excitement that surrounds creating a unique entity and putting it out there in the world for people to see, therefore sharing a part of us and knowing that others will it. I don’t know if every single person has a creative drive, and certainly some have a much stronger creative drive than others, but I’m sure it can be argued that anything someone does has some kind of power behind it; if not fueled by creativity then certainly fueled by a desire to achieve an ambition, act on an impulse, or create something.

Striving for beauty takes the desire to create something to another level because it’s not enough to simply create, but to create something beautiful becomes a task that taunts us and frustrates us. Despite this obstacle that we have to overcome, or perhaps because of it, we can’t help but feel propelled to continue striving for beauty. Beauty not only makes us happy in the present moment, but it is what pushes us forward and compels us to connect with others and the world around us.

The virtue of place

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Places can take over the destinies of people who live in them. If you learn to listen, they tell you what they need and how to do it.

Charlotte Horton

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This resonates with me as I think about my grandparents’ house in Massachusetts that I helped renovate when I lived there for a year (full disclosure – I did not do the work…we hired contractors). I was only there a short time, but it felt like home almost instantly. Of course, it was familiar to me since I had visited my grandparents every year growing up, but I didn’t always love it. I actually hated going there when I was younger because it was so isolated and my grandparents didn’t have a TV (I couldn’t understand how anyone could function without a TV!), and I felt like there was nothing to do there. I didn’t appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the surrounding Berkshires. My connection to the house and to the Berkshires weighs heavily on my mind, especially now, as I was just there for a visit and we are seriously considering selling the house. It’s hard to know how we’ll all feel when that day comes, but for me it will probably feel like giving away a part of me since I have such a love for it.

When I moved there the house was outdated for sure, so doing some renovations was a no-brainer. Some, in fact (like the primary bathroom), had to be done out of necessity because the floor boards were rotting and we felt as though the floor would fall from under us any day. So that was the first major project and it was a total gut. Next up was painting almost every room, which hadn’t been done in decades. In the dining it involved removing the dark brown grass wallpaper (which made the room feel so dark and small), and painting it white. We also replaced the linoleum tile floor with a pretty laminate wood floor. We then gutted the small powder bath. In the kitchen we put a new tile floor in, new granite countertops, a new tile backsplash, new stainless steel appliances, a new sink and faucet, and new hardware on the cabinets. The cabinets are not in perfect shape, but I actually love the stain on them, which goes perfectly with the mid-century modern style of the house. Two bedrooms in the walk-out basement got new laminate wood floors, and we put new berber-like carpet in the family room in the basement. On the exterior, a new roof was put on, and some landscaping was done, like taking out trees and bushes in the backyard to improve the view of the mountains.

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In a recent New York Times Style Magazine article, Charlotte Horton discusses her experience renovating a dilapidated castle in Tuscany built on Etruscan foundations. While my renovation of my grandparents’ was on a much smaller scale than Hoton’s castle renovation, especially because I made modern updates without really considering the period of the house and I didn’t have to worry about restoring anything within a historical context, I can certainly relate to her desire of going back to her family’s roots and setting up her own roots there. I felt like I set up roots in Massachusetts where my grandparents lived for several years, even though their true original roots were in Europe. For Horton it was more than just restoring the castle though. She wanted to have an impact, and still does, on ecology and food – on the way that people interact with and cultivate the land around them and think about where their food comes from. If people can make judgments about their food, she believes, they will be better equipped to make judgments about all sorts of things in life, which we are in dire need of these days.

Memory – past, present, and future

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Memory, in essence, is who we are. Memory shapes everything. Not only our understanding of ourselves, but our understanding of anything in the universe.

-David Gallo

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I sometimes worry that my memories influence my present, and therefore my future, too much because I am quite a sentimental and nostalgic person. But in fact, our memories make up who we are. Our memories are simply the collective of our life experiences, which we cannot escape. So there’s no need to worry that our memories weigh on us too heavily because they’re just what we live out daily currently, in our past, and in our future. Dwelling on memories and trying to relive them is another matter though, which we should probably be cautious of.

David Gallo at the University of Chicago is in charge of the Memory Research Laboratory and he conducts tDCS (transcranial direct current stimulation) sessions intended to elicit memories. This type of therapy is meant to steer our recollection of memories in a more accurate direction, as the way that we remember things is not always exact: “You remember selectively and you reconstruct. Sometimes your brain gets it right; sometimes your brain gets it wrong”, Gallo explained in a recent Chicago Mag article.

I was not surprised to learn that “Emotion has been shown to make any event more memorable”, which explains why trauma or grief or truly happy experiences have such a long-lasting effect on us. I think we can all relate to the burden of grief from our past and how it can affect us so deeply everyday as we attempt to walk the path of life. On the other hand, many of us are also blessed to have experiences that fill us with so much joy they bring us to tears. And periods of time that brought us so much happiness to look back on and hope to have again in the future; but even if we don’t experience that kind of happiness again, we are lucky to have had it once and perhaps that amount of happiness was enough to last a lifetime, or just what we are allowed in a lifetime.

I’m most interested in the way that our memory of the past can inform our present and  future, as this article brings to light:

Our recollective mind is traditionally thought of as a mechanism for one-way time travel, a tool for retrieving information from the past to help guide us in the present. Szpunar and his colleagues have helped make it clearer that we also reach back to our past in order to mentally jump forward, simulating events that haven’t yet happened in order to envision what may lie ahead.

Not only do our memories from the past make up who we are, we also need them to teach us how to move forward; from basic routine things we do everyday, to big picture life decisions that can lead us down one path or another. This weight that memory holds over our future can be daunting, but it’s also exciting because we can take our memories, good or bad, and use them to direct our future course like an informed autonomy over ourselves.

Museums of everyday life

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The Museum of Everyday Life in Glover, VT exhibits random objects that most would probably consider junk, especially in our disposable throw-away society. But I think the argument that these objects actually hold value and are worth keeping, maybe not in your own home, but somewhere for people to look at and remember, is worth considering. And that it was recently featured in the New York Times is certainly a testament to that. The museum, which is an unassuming barn, displays matches, which was the first exhibition, locks and keys, scissors, toothbrushes, etc. Some objects from special exhibitions then make it into the permanent collection. These objects may seem completely mundane, but they are important in their banality because they are things that we use everyday and are all around us. The museum is free and open to the public, although donations are always appreciated. It truly is a public space, as there is no one there attending to it and visitors can just come and go.

I lived in New England for one year and I absolutely loved it. Somehow a free little barn museum full of mundane, thrown-away objects is something I can totally picture in New England! 🙂

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It turns out this isn’t the only museum of everyday objects. They are around the world, including Hversdagssafn in Iceland. Their focus seems to be not only on mundane objects of everyday life, but also feelings, experiences, memories of everyday life, and “finding the poetry that comes forward when no one is looking.” As the women behind the museum, Björg and Vaida, put it:

Everyday life is a little bit like dark matter. It is what happens in between significant moments in life and holds everything together. It is meeting friends, having dinner, yelling at children, being yelled at, sulking, laughing and so on. And so on. It is walking from one place to the next. It is going to work. It is staying at home. It is worrying and washing dishes. It is both random and routine.

All of these little everyday things that we do mindlessly are actually what make up our lives and build our story day after day. So not only should everyday objects be appreciated, but also routine actions and activities because they are what make up our lives on a very primary level, and then comes everything else.

“Lived In”

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Architect duo (both personally and professionally) Zoe Chan Eayrs and Merlin Eayrs design homes from the inside out, literally and figuratively. They buy houses in the London area and live in them for a while as they design and renovate them, which means that they are authentically put together and decorated with pieces that are collected over time, rather than superficially staged with pieces for the sake of needing to find pieces to fill the space. Because they live in the houses while working on them, there is no client for whom they have to design for. They design for themselves, in a new way/style each time, therefore honing in on every detail over time. Although each project is unique, they do have a muted, subdued color palette that creates a sense of calm that’s like an ode to the present connected to an elusive past – a history embedded in it, yet created by the design in the present. The end result is a personal, unique labor of love that the client buys because he/she likes the house, not because the client hired them to design a house to his/her liking.

Their website features a portfolio of their work in both pictures and video form so that you get to experience the spaces and the details for yourself, and catch a glimpse of their creative output. You can also learn about their design process, the materials they used, where they found their inspiration for each project, obstacles they encountered along the way, etc. My favorite is The Herringbone House, which Zoe Chan Eayrs actually designed without Merlin Eayrs, as I’m partial to a lighter, airier feel. Although the New Cross Lofts, which they both designed, is a close second. So go take a tour!

Chicago’s residential architecture styles

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Chicago is the city of the three story walk-up apartment building. Or at least the Chicago I know. Sure, it is also home to the high-rise apartment building, but that is a world that I’m not quite accustomed to since, well, high-rises are generally at a different price point than walk-ups. The Chicago magazine recently did an article about the styles of residential architectural in Chicago by AJ LaTrace, illustrated by Phil Thomas of Cape Horn Illustration.

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I’m partial to bungalows, so I think that’s my favorite type of Chicago home. Apparently the bungalow is also symbolizes “a man with a more authentic connection to Chicago than the cosmopolitan High-Rise Man”. The article offers historical insights about each style, like the fact that there are about 80,000 bungalows in the city, the greystone is “Chicago’s response to the Brooklyn browstone”, worker’s cottages were quickly rebuilt after the great fire, and Mies van der Rohe’s influence on the modernist high-rise. And the illustrations are magnificent. If you like what you see, check out Phil Thomas’s website, where you can buy a print for yourself!

 

 

Vintage Chicago Apartment

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Looking for an apartment in Chicago is not easy. I looked for about a year before I found my current place in Andersonville. The city can be affordable if you have roommates, but by yourself, not so much. There are so many factors that go into finding the right place – cost is obviously a big one, neighborhood feel, commute to work, and simply a space that is somewhat updated and doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart (I’ve seen some bad ones…). Each neighborhood in Chicago feels so different from the next, so for me finding that right neighborhood feel was one of the most important factors. I’m not sure I’ve found it, but I do like the apartment itself a lot. It’s a one bedroom with a fireplace in the living room, separate dining room, and a dishwasher in the kitchen! What it doesn’t have – in-unit laundry (it’s int he basement which is creepy!), air conditioning, or an elevator (but I’m just on the second floor). It’s also not dog-friendly.

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It does have amazing windows with lots of light streaming in! Compared to my previous apartment, which was in the basement, this feels like heaven. My new cat loves running around and looking out the windows. It has radiators and heat is included, which is nice, and there is no pet fee, which is unusual for the city. So I got lucky there! The kitchen was renovated right before I moved in and it doesn’t have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances, but it’s still pretty nice. The bathroom was also updated and while small, it feels new and clean.

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I moved in December, hence my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree.The sofa is from Market Square, a second-hand store here in Chicago that sells gently-used high-quality designer furniture and decor. The coffee table is from West Elm. The pillows are also from West Elm.  And the art is by a local Chicago artist, Kate Bush. Love her work!