gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Virtual voyages

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One of the biggest disappointments for people amid this pandemic has been the cancelled travel plans and not knowing when we’ll able to plan a trip again in the future. I really enjoyed this article by Reif Larsen in the New York Times advocating for virtual travel since, well, it’s our only option right now. I especially liked his virtual voyage to Charleston, SC with his son because I went there last winter with my parents and we were enamored by its southern charm. His voyage was powered by Google Street View, which albeit is amazing that we’re able to see the world through the lens of Google, it doesn’t compare to being there and feeling the history and beauty around you. I admire Larsen’s creativity in recreating the trip as much as possible, complete with landing at the airport and getting a rental car to navigate through Charleston.

Larsen also identifies why we travel in the first place, which is not only to see places we want to explore, but also, or perhaps mainly, to chase that ever elusive feeling of getting away –

“This is why we travel: to force ourselves to take a breath, to bend space and time, even if just for a moment. We go there so we can come back and appreciate the here.”

The not being able to get away that we’re experiencing right now is wearing down on all of us. In an effort to find new ways to get away, maybe we consider how spending time at home, which we might not normally do, can be our new refuge. Instead of resenting our homes because we have no choice but to be there, let’s try to embrace them and treat them like the humble escapes they can be. I personally love my new lifestyle of spending more time at home and all of the warm cozy feelings that go along with being at home, including endorphin-producing bonding opportunities with pets (who seem to enjoy this newfound abundance of company and time together just as much, if not more, then we do).

A positive effect of the quarantine is a healthier and more sustainable environment, at least for now while many continue working from home and generally staying put more than usual. This certainly makes a good case for virtual voyages rather than contributing to pollution with air travel and car travel.

Larsen also points out that there are other ways to travel other than exploring physical places. Reading a piece of literature can take you on a voyage to a real or imagined place. Or create your own story about whatever kind of magical place your imagination allows. These seem to be lost arts, but worth revisiting in a time like this.

My Collection of Plants

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I remember feeling indifferent a few years ago when I noticed that some of my friends began collecting plants for their apartments and actually seemed to enjoy taking care of them. Like actually felt a sense of joy in the company of their new friends and prided themselves on their accomplishment as they watched them grow. Well, over the past year or so I’ve gotten a taste of the plant bug. These are just a few of my plants, as not all of them are photogenic. But we can work on that together. Not only do I find pleasure in taking care of my plants – watering them, deadheading them, repotting them when necessary, turning them to even out their sun exposure, etc. – looking at them and feeling them around me simply makes me happy. It must be that air purification getting to me.

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I’m very grateful that my cat (who I picked up off the street, not knowing anything about him) doesn’t bother my plants. He’s never tried to eat any of them, so I don’t have to worry about bringing a toxic plant into the apartment (hallelujah because so many beautiful plants are toxic to cats). Instead of being taunted by my plants, he enjoys sunbathing and napping in his favorite cat tree, complete with a view of much larger plants outside.

My sweet alley cat, Ollie

Waves

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I am by no means a film critic, so I’m not going to try to say anything groundbreaking about Waves. I can only talk about how it made me feel. I saw it at Facets Cinematheque in Chicago a few months ago, but it’s still sticking with me, as the powerful ones usually do. I first saw something about this movie last fall when it was part of the Chicago International Film Festival, but I wasn’t able to see it then. Man, was it worth the wait. From the start, with its enveloping soundtrack, it feels a bit like a music video – each vignette making up the whole in a moving, shocking, and intimate way.

While the plot begins by following a teenage boy and his high school experience in a somewhat typical coming-of-age type of way, you quickly realize that it’s a different type of story as you get to know him through his health struggles, the tense relationship with his parents, and the unraveling situation with his girlfriend. Not only does the plot take unexpected twists and turns, but the talent of the actors to convey their inner sensibilities is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time…not since Blue is the Warmest Color, which I first saw in 2013 when it came out. Waves perfectly encapsulates that devastating, raw, heartbreaking sense of loss that I so loved about Blue is the Warmest Color. I felt this heartbreak throughout the second half of the movie while sitting in that dark, fairly empty movie theater, sitting next to a good friend and fellow film lover, and I continued to feel a sense of sorrow afterward. It’s a profound movie about tragedy and loss and love. So many feels that embody the human condition.

Art Institute of Chicago Color Wheel

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The Art Institute of Chicago has a new search filter on their website. You can now search their collection by any color on a color wheel and it will bring up all of the artworks they have with that color in it. How cool is that?? It’s blowing my mind a bit and I can’t stop going around the color wheel… Well done, Art Institute! Click on Show Filters, Color, and viola. Give it a whirl 🙂

A marriage between art and design

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JennyMain

Chicago Gallery News 

There’s something about designer Jenny Brown’s story that resonates with me so much, as I also share a love for art history and design and have felt a bit torn between the two. I studied Art History in grad school and then did an internship at the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, which focused on planning their annual housewalk in Oak Park featuring ten or so houses and buildings designed or inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. I really enjoyed the internship, having the opportunity to go to Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio every day, and interact with people interested in the architecture. At the end of the internship I was a point where I could a make a decision to either keep pursuing a more full time, permanent position in the arts, or explore another longstanding interest of mine – interior design. Although I love art and spent my time in grad school wanting to work in the arts after grad school, I couldn’t shake the desire to pursue a more creative outlet, so I did an internship with an interior designer. Since then I’ve been working at a kitchen and bath showroom. Not having a degree in design, working in sales and helping people envision their kitchen or bathroom and guiding them through the selection process fulfills the creative pursuit I was yearning for.

Collecting things as I see them is also a practice I started when I was in high school. My mom and I discovered a fair trade store called Ten Thousand Villages when I was a teenager and I fell in love with all of the unique home decor pieces they have from all over the world. I also loved the fair trade approach and hearing the stories about the artisans who crafted the pieces. We went there what seemed like almost weekly and I started buying things for my future grown-up apartment. The things I bought ended up in boxes and trunks in our attic (many of which are still there because I’m still looking for places to put them). My parents have always liked going to antique shops, auctions, and estate sales, and while I hated them when I was younger because I thought they were SO boring, I began to appreciate them as I got older and now I actually think they’re fun! The idea of finding unique things, both old and new, became an exciting adventure and proved to be a relatively inexpensive way to add to my collection. While buying things as I see them and storing them until I need them might not seem very practical, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The thought of going to a furniture store or a Home Goods to get something generic when I need it just doesn’t appeal to my treasure-hunting, collector’s heart.

I admire how Jenny has drawn upon all of her life experiences, from working at an auction house, to an art gallery, and with a top Chicago interior designer to eventually give life to her own firm, Jenny Brown Designs. I was always frustrated both in college and post-college when I had to choose one thing to study or pursue as a career, but Jenny proves that you don’t have to choose just one. You can have multiple passions that overlap and converge into a multifaceted career. I look forward to forging a path that combines my love for art and interiors in a way where the two draw from one another and influence the other.

 

Hut philosophy

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Muji Hut, Japan 

As a Philosophy major in college and a lover of anything to do with one’s home/intimate space, I was intrigued by this article about a class at UChicago called A Curating Case-Study: The Hut taught by Dieter Roelstraete. In conjunction with an exhibition at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society last spring, Hutopia, both explored three philosophers and their construction of their huts, real and figurative. Wittgenstein and Heidegger had physical huts where they liked to retreat to think and write, but Adorno did not and instead a sculpture was made by artist Hamilton Finlay to represent his hut. 

The idea of using a place as inspiration, whether for creative or intellectual endeavors, is alive in anyone who cares about the physical space around them – their room, apartment, house, hut, cabin, etc. It doesn’t have to be a faraway remote place that you escape to, although perhaps part of the inspiration lies in the escaping; it is something you can construct wherever you are.

It’s exciting and freeing to think that we can make choices about our space that can affect not only how we feel, but also potentially our productivity. If you were to build yourself a hut, what would it look and feel like? Would the colors on the walls be light or dark? Or would you have patterned wallpaper? Would you want light streaming in through the windows or dark curtains blocking it out? Would you put art or other decorative pieces on the walls, or do blank walls allow you to stay more focused? How about adding some plants for visual interest and air purification, or a cozy rug to feel beneath your toes. Where will you place things like a sofa or chair or writing desk so that it has a good view of the room or out the window? What kind of lamps/lights will you choose and where will you put them to create an ambiance that feels perfectly cozy and balanced? In other words, how will you strive for the hygge that will allow your thoughts and feelings to do what they need to do?

When trying to picture my hut, I can think of a million countless possibilities. It’s hard to even attempt to define one vignette before thinking of another that feels just a little bit better. While this can be frustrating because it seems like nothing will ever be quite right, it’s also part of the beauty of creating our hut – that it can constantly evolve along with our desires.

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.