Posts Tagged: art

That Time I Saw Miranda July

Last week, Miranda July visited Columbus. Honestly, I was surprised that she was in Ohio, but she was speaking at an art school so it sort of made sense. I was a little nervous because it was billed as an artist’s talk that had “interactive elements,” and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s audience participation. I’m old enough to admit that, right? Like, I’m in an audience because I want to sit back and enjoy myself, not because I want to be part of the show. But MJ sort of addressed my concerns in an interview with Columbus Alive, so I felt comfortable in assuming that this wasn’t going to be like Cats and she wasn’t going to crawl into the audience or anything.

My friends Carrie, Mindy and I showed up a little early, and the auditorium was already packed with art school kids. So much faded blue hair! So many pairs of unconventional tights! It was like a different world for me. No one was wearing business casual. I realized later that the girls and I spent our pre-show minutes talking about the most stereotypical adult things ever: home renovations, hosting holiday dinners, and weddings. I’m sure there were some 19 year olds making gagging motions behind us or something. I will never be hip.

Anyway, when MJ came out, after a crying 1.5 year old was escorted out of the auditorium (sidenote: Who brings a 1.5 year old to an artist’s talk? It’s cool that you want to expose your kid to culture or whatever, but 1.5 year olds are KNOWN for their disinterest in performance art and experimental videos), I was immediately entranced. Her work is so earnest and out there that it’s easy to forget how funny she is, but she very easily made the entire crowd laugh all the time. It’s so strange to me that she has a reputation for being “twee” (ugh, I’m sorry) or precious when, in my opinion, she’s anything but. She has an extremely strong presence on stage and everything she said felt extremely confident.

She showed some of her early short films and talked about the origins of her career. It was so interesting to hear about how her smaller works informed and transformed into her larger works. Short films and her real life became Me and You and Everyone We Know, and a play became The Future. One of the most fascinating things she showed us was the audition she made her moving guy do for what became Hamish Linklater’s role in The Future. Coming from some people, showing a random dude’s audition would’ve seemed mean or like she was poking fun at him (and, judging by the loud groans of the girl behind me, some people took it that way anyway). But I didn’t see it that way, and that’s what I love about her work so much. She’s not passing judgment on the people she shows us; she just presenting them. And you know what? People are weird. Like, 95% of the time people are really, really strange and funny and creepy, and she never shies away from that.

She read an excerpt from her not-yet-out novel, which I loved. It was extraordinarily sexually explicit and extraordinarily funny. And that’s another thing I love about her! Her writing is extremely sexual, but it’s never used for shock value. She’s so good at highlighting the most vulnerable, tender parts of people, and showcasing their weird or unusual fantasies is one of the ways she often does it. This is another reason why I think that anyone who’s actually watched her films or read her writing would never dismiss her as precious. Some people really do dislike her, and I think it all comes down to the lack of irony in her work. She’s always unflinchingly, uncomfortably direct about the pure needy emotions of her characters. There’s no escaping that earnestness when you experience her work. She doesn’t hide behind sarcasm.

Are you guys tired of hearing me go on and on about how much I love her? Well, I can’t help it. She’s a huge inspiration and influence for me (even though I don’t write at all like her). Unsurprisingly, there are lots of other people who love her just as much as I do, and many of them asked her weird, uncomfortable questions during the Q&A period.

Have you ever attended a Q&A that wasn’t incredibly awkward? I haven’t. Why are they so universally awful? Shouldn’t someone normal stumble onto an appropriate question once in awhile? It never seems to happen. Someone traded her a box of something for a high five, someone made her wear novelty glasses while she answered their question, someone told her about how they postponed a surgery so they could be there, someone told her that her work wasn’t “normal,” and someone informed her that people in the IMDB comments thought the characters in The Future were unlikable. Oh, you precious, marvelous question askers. Why are you so reliably strange?

MJ was great, and if you ever get the chance to see her (which you probably do reasonably often if you live in a larger city!) you should definitely go. She was funny and smart and even nice to the people who asked her rude questions. She’s a class act.

Creative Ladies: Summer Pierre

Summer Pierre author photo
I’ve been in awe of Summer Pierre’s work ever since I first laid eyes on her book The Artist in the Office. And when I picked up Great Gals and realized it was just as great, she became one of my favorite artists. Both books are encouraging and inspiring, and I return to them whenever I feel burnt out or in need of a creative pick me up. So I was THRILLED when Summer agreed to let me interview her! You can find Summer on her website and on Twitter. And, of course, be sure to buy her books!

What’s your main creative gig (this can be your day job, your freelance work, or both)? Describe what you do on a normal working day.

My two main gigs right now are freelance illustration & full-time mothering.

What are your creative, just-for-fun (not money or career advancement) hobbies?

Baking, cooking, vintage book browsing

What inspires you? Feel free to be as literal or as figurative as you want.

Right now what inspires me are life stories, comics, being with people I love, acting on ideas, and traveling alone.

In three words, describe your creative aesthetic/viewpoint.

Imperfect but True.

How would you describe your creative “process”? Does it involve a lot of staring into space, doodling, or candy eating?

I used to have months and years to prepare, get in the mood, ponder and get the idea going. Now as a mom, I have very specific sets of time. When illustrating, I listen to a A LOT of podcasts. My absolute favorites are The Moth, the New Yorker fiction podcast and the Poetry Foundation podacasts. I find words occupy that busy part of my brain that makes me self conscious. I also drink coffee, and if something is not working, I leave it alone, take a break, stretch, drink water, and come back to it later. Coming back to something later is my new thing and I cannot believe how productive it is.

Summer's desk.

Summer’s desk.

What creative accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my books, but right now I am most proud of publishing 18 one page comic stories in various lit journals this year. It’s been a dream of mine to do it and I had a goal of 20 this year–and I am just two shy of that goal. Woot!

What’s a big creative challenge/failure/embarrassment you’ve learned from?

My book The Artist in the Office is going out of print. That book should not be going out of print. The subject is original and topical and the product is inviting and engaging, What the heck?? This has taught me that as a first time published author about 99% of my expectations were unrealistic. The number one expectation being that if you are a published author, you are golden and don’t have to keep hustling and working to be seen. I am honestly so grateful for this failure because it has woken me up. I know now that as a creator, my job is never to be passive. My job is to always pick my work first, so that others may follow–not the other way around.

Who’s your Creative Lady role model (this can be a person you know, a celebrity, a fictional character, etc.)?

Though I have only met her a couple of times (and she has no idea who I am) I consider the comic artist, writer, thinker Lynda Barry my chief mentor.

What time of day are you most creative? Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Morning morning morning

Being an awesome Creative Lady can be overwhelming. What do you do to relax?

Yoga Yoga Yoga

What books would you recommend to other Creative Ladies?

For life: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran & Bossypants by Tina Fey (laughter & feminism RULE!). For creativity: Just Kids by Patti Smith, anything by Maira Kalman, and How to be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith.

What advice would you give to other Creative Ladies who want to do what you do?

You know that it can be done, you just don’t know if it can be done BY YOU. You know how you find out? You just do it. Do it badly, do it afraid. Something will happen. Stop preparing, gathering information, and advice. Your path is yours–find out what’s on it. Also, floss.

What’s your Creative Lady motto?

Screw it!

Lady Inspiration: Annie Leibovitz

“When I say I want to photograph someone, what it really means is that I’d like to know them. Anyone I know I photograph.”-Annie Leibovitz

I’ve had some great experiences at the Wexner Center. There was the Andy Warhol exhibit I visited with my dad and brothers, which featured a film called Blow Job and, at one point, involved Chase standing in front of a screen printed painting of dollar bills and angrily saying, “Why is this art?” Then there was the time H. and I took Chase to see Bill Callahan, an artist I had no familiarity with, in a artsily-lit room that was definitely one of the weirdest concert venues I’ve ever been in (and I’ve seen a concert in a renovated strip club). In general, the Wexner hosts some of the coolest cultural events in Columbus, and I was especially stoked to see their current Annie Leibovitz exhibit.

The bulk of the exhibit is made up of the Master Set, 156 images chosen by Leibovitz herself that make up “definitive edition” of her work. These were mostly her celebrity photos, and also some pictures of her family. A lot of them were extremely recognizable, such as this John Lennon and Yoko Ono photo that I actually didn’t even know was by Annie Leibovitz!

Some of them were glitzy and glamorous, but in plenty of them the subject was just hanging out. And then there was this truly amazing, wacky photo of Whoopi Goldberg, which I’m in love with.

“A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.”-Annie Leibovitz

Those photos were great, but probably my favorite part of the exhibit was Pilgrimage project, which (according to the Wexner Center) is “a series of photographs of interiors, landscapes, and talismanic objects attached to historical figures—Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Georgia O’Keeffe, Annie Oakley, and Elvis Presley, among others.” What they fail to mention is that there were photos of LOUISA MAY ALCOTT’S HOUSE. And dolls. Even aside from Louisa May, this section of the exhibit was fantastic. I don’t know much about photography, or art at all, really. But I truly found these photographs inspiring, in the most basic sense of the word. I think it takes a lot to show a unique view of places a lot of people have seen, like Monticello, but that’s why Annie Leibovitz is probably the most famous living photographer in America. These photos made me realize there’s so, so much of this great big country that I haven’t seen.

If you’re near Columbus, I hope you can make it to the Wexner Center to check out this show. The Wex is the first place to exhibit the whole Master Set! It runs through December 30th, so you still have plenty of time. Important note: the first Sunday of the month is free. Also, if this entices you at all, at one point my boyfriend said the sentence, “I don’t know what to look at…this photo of R2-D2 or this photo of Scarlett Johannssen.” Something for everyone, you guys.

Image of Annie Leibovitz via Herron School of Art

My Dad

My dad is quite the artist. In the past, he’s made me a collage of pictures of Alex wearing an apron, a Pretty In Pink shirt, and now this:

This is truly some one-of-a-kind artwork. A regular Andy Warhol, that’s Papa W. Anyway, I love this picture so, so, so much and I’m going to display it prominently for as long as I live. Mostly I’m just glad Dad left my “beauty mark” intact. God forbid he photoshop that out.