Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My goals for 2009

I'm not a fan of New Year's Resolutions. In fact, I'm not especially fond of goal-setting, either. But 2009 is a big year for me, as it is the year I will (hopefully) graduate. Also, I will be turning 30 in 2009! So, here are my artistic goals for 2009:

1. Graduate with an M.A. in painting
2. Have a great graduate show and sell lots of paintings
3. Get my art and [interior] design business off the ground
4. Start my own website
5. Set up an Etsy store

That should keep me busy for the next 365 days.

What about you? What are your goals for 2009? If you have also listed your goals on your blog, feel free to link in your comment. Also, for those of you who have sold on Etsy, how do you like it? Any other recommendations?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 1984: the year I got the Barbie Townhouse. I'll always remember it as the Best Christmas Ever. And I hope Christmas 2008 will be the Best Christmas Ever for you. Merry Christmas!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

America for sale - cheap, 1989 [from the archives]

America for sale - cheap, a drawing by Tiffany Gholar, ink on paper, 1989

"America for sale - cheap" | 1989 | Ballpoint pen on paper

My first little piece of social commentary art. This is a sketchbook drawing I did when I was 10 years old. In case you can't read my wonderful handwriting, the helicopter pilot is saying, "Let's buy the Sears Tower" and the sign on the map of the US says "America for sale cheap."

I had overheard my parents discussing the sale of the Sears Tower. There was talk of a possible sale to foreign investors. Of course, now I realize I should have drawn the "for sale" sign on my home state of Illinois.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Thanks, Fuel My Blog!

Today Brooding Beauty is the featured blog of the day on Fuel My Blog! I'd like to take this time to welcome everyone who came to visit from Fuel My Blog and I hope you'll come again. As those of you who are also bloggers know, it is hard to figure out how to promote yourself online. The internet is crowded, the blogosphere is crowded, and it seems like there isn't much room left.

So I am glad to get whatever recognition that I can. Thanks again!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Silver Belles

A theme running through this account of silver is that it was never solely a rich man's pleasure. Silver has a universal appeal and a powerful hold on the imagination; for century after century it was the necessary luxury.
--Philippa Glanville, Silver : History & Design

Now that I no longer work in retail, this time of the year seems much less dreadful. No longer do I spend 8 to 10 hours a day with several versions of the same holiday songs being burned into my consciousness. Honestly, between working in retail and singing in the chorus in elementary school, I feel like I know every word of every Christmas song. Just for once, I wish that people would distinguish between songs that are about Christmas and those that are actually just about winter. "Sleigh Ride," "Baby it's Cold Outside," "Let it Snow," "Winter Wonderland," "Marshmallow World" and "Jingle Bells" are not about Christmas. They are about winter. We could keep playing them until February or mid-March if we really wanted to. But I sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who actually listens to the lyrics.

You could say that the color trend I'm writing about is also like these songs, not just for the holidays, but for the winter. Icy cold silver is very hot for this winter. I've seen it turn up in many unexpected places, even in a sofa from Chiasso. The imagemap below displays a sampling of some of the silver pieces that have caught my eye:


1. faceted metallic ottoman from Chiasso
2. Skyline sofa from Chiasso*
3. Silver Ocean Globe from Urban Outfitters
4. madison quilt + shams from West Elm
5. Starburst Wire Wall Mirror from
6. Argent Dining Chair from Eurway

Silver is the color of sleek, streamlined, futuristic things. It is cold, clean, sophisticated, and modern. Naturally anti-bacterial, it symbolizes purity. This particular property of silver was exaggerated in legends of it warding off evil, for example, the silver bullets that can mortally wound the undead. And so historically silver has been used in the rituals of many different cultures. Its traditional role as a "necessary luxury" has been revived this year. These pieces almost seem to say, "treat yourself to something new." And their metallic gleam emphasizes their newness.

However, one drawback of metallic fabric is that you really need to see it in person. Photographs of it can be very misleading. And there are few fabrics more hideous or ghastly to the touch than poorly designed metallics. So if you see some silver furniture online or in a retailer's catalog, perhaps you can take a break to "test drive" it while you're out doing your holiday shopping. You can put your feet up on a silver ottoman while visions of a winter wonderland dance in your head.

*The Skyline sofa from might be discontinued, as I was unable to find it on their site. If you want it you should probably call to see if they still carry it. (The number is 1-877-CHIASSO )

Monday, December 8, 2008

20 One of A Kind artists

I went to the One of A Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart yesterday, which is my second-favorite art and craft show of the year. (As you may know, The Renegade Craft Fair is my favorite.) What I love about this show is the variety of artists that show their work there, and the high quality of their workmanship. I came home yesterday with a tote bag full of postcards and business cards from the artists I liked, and here are some pictures of their work with links to their sites:


Fabric works by Wycliffe (Linc) Bennett

Glass figures by Noga Silk Art Glass

Paintings by Bekah Ash, who also sells apparel with her designs on it

Portraits by Chantal Baros

Cross-cultural pop art by Xiumei Zhang

Fabric sculptures by Martha Napier

Textile art by Mimi Damrauer

Sharron Parker makes amazing art pieces from felt.

Exquisitely detailed miniature trees by Paul-Andre Leblanc


Hand-painted specialty boxes from Marilyn Grad, who also makes great wall art

Case Island Glass sells these beautiful plates, as well as beautiful bracelets (I bought one last year)

Great felt throw pillows from Jen Hopwood.

Though they're called, they also sell home decor items, like this


Silk wraps from Twist Wear

Incredible wool scarves from Marzena Gabrel Designs.

Recycled fabric flower pins by BaaBaaZuzu

Afterward, I had a chance to visit the Artist Project show, which was just below the One of A Kind Show on the 7th floor. It featured a nice assortment of up-and-coming artists. Here are a few who caught my eye:

Sara Ryan's scenes of pop art intrigue

Jason Brammer's intriguing steampunk style Time Machine installation

The fine art drawings of Kris Jones, who even has a book of his work for sale.

Josh Harker's Knots & Tangles Sculptures

Every time I go to The One of a Kind Show, I feel so inspired. And I hope that someday I will get a chance to participate as well. The show usually runs the first weekend of December, so save the date (and your money) for when it comes again next year!

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Friday, December 5, 2008

I'm on ArtSlant Chicago now

I just set up a profile on ArtSlant Chicago: It's supposed to be "A rich resource for the artist, the collector, the curator and the art lover."

We'll see.

I have signed up for so many free profile listings online that it's hard to keep track of them all!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

From the Archives: A Bitter Pill to Swallow illustrations, 1996-2000

I've saved the best for last in my November From the Archives series. These are illustrations for my novel A Bitter Pill to Swallow. It is the novel I worked on the longest. Almost as much time was spent on illustrating it as was spent revising it. In fact, I had so many illustrations that I had a hard time choosing which ones to post. It all began with this illustration of my main character, Janina, crying:

It was an enlarged version of a drawing I'd done while taking notes in class in 1996. (By now, you probably know I like to do that) It measures about 11"x14" and was drawn with pencil in a sketchbook. From there, I began a series of drawings of the characters. In this one, she and boyfriend Devante share their first kiss:

By now, as I describe over at my other blog, Tragedienne, working on my story had become an obsession. In an effort to make the illustrations look more "real," I decided to make dolls of the characters from polymer clay. Because I didn't have the skills or the right camera to photograph my dolls the way I wanted to, I turned to digital technology. I put them in my parents' flatbed scanner and taught myself how to use the Corel Photo-Paint software that came with it.

So. I experimented. And sometimes, experiments fail.

But I learned from my mistakes.

After taking a class in web design, I thought about creating a web site for my novel. I still have a few illustrations I designed for it:

A Bitter Pill to Swallow
is the story of two teenagers who meet under difficult circumstances.

After witnessing the drive-by shooting death of his friend Monica, 15 year old Devante develops post-traumatic stress disorder and attempts suicide.

His parents send him to a mental hospital that treats children and teenagers, where he meets 14 year old Janina, who has been there for four years. She has spent most of her life too preoccupied with drawing and living in her fantasy world to care about anything else, until she meets Devante.

What happens next has been the subject of numerous revisions. And I am still planning a few more. So far, I can tell you that things are not what they seem. Beneath the surface of this beautifully designed facility, which was intended to be "a place of healing, not of punishment," something sinister is afoot. And Janina and Devante must overcome their personal problems in order to solve it. I can also tell you that I even started a sequel, which is a little crazy considering the fact that I kept changing all the things the happened in its predecessor. It's called Psindrome. Here's the cover for it, designed in 1998:

And there's also a weird little clip for a trailer I'd planned to make for it, designed in Kai's Power Goo:

If you're interested in reading excerpts from my novel, I'm sorry to say that I have no excerpts online right now. But I have posted two prequel short stories on my other blog. The first is entitled "A Little Fall of Rain" and the next one is called "A Reason to Die."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Going Postal: new assemblage, "Priority Mail'

So many of the odds and ends I've been gathering for The Doll Project have come from eBay and Etsy. Many of them arrived via US Priority Mail. I saved the boxes to make this unpainted assemblage. "Priority Mail" is very dimensional. I love being able to make new pieces from the byproducts of other pieces. This way nothing is wasted.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Yasmin, Kennedy, and Lolita: How Bratz and My Scene inspired the next part of The Doll Project

I'll never forget the first time I saw Yasmin. With her caramel latte skin and full lips, she looked to me like she could be representative of a number of different ethnic backgrounds. She wore wide-legged pants, platform shoes and a kerchief on her head and looked like she came right out of a graffiti art mural, or an ad for JNCO's.

When I picked up the box and read about her friends, Sasha, Cloe, and Jade and their "passion for fashion," I knew Bratz would be the next line of dolls I would collect. There was something fresh, edgy, and current about them that Mattel's rival Generation Girl line just couldn't touch. This was in 2001.
Not to be outdone by this upstart toy company, Mattel introduced the My Scene girls. And I collected them, too.

Over the next few years, I saw the 10 inch fashionistas wearing clothes that were shorter and tighter every season. The makeup grew heavier. They wore black fishnets. They looked like they should be dancing on the set of somebody's music video.

And Mattel, not to be outdone by MGA, tarted up the My Scene girls as well, most egregiously with the Bling Bling line.

My new favorite series of dolls to collect jumped the shark. By the time the Bratz Babyz line was introduced, I thought the Bratz girls had all become teen moms. By this point, it wouldn't be hard to believe.

(Later, I realized they were supposed to be the Yasmin & co. as toddlers) By the time the My Scene Roller Girls line was introduced, they reminded me of Heather Graham's porn star character in Boogie Nights.

I began to find more and more of Mattel and MGA's offerings offensive. I felt even worse for the little girls the dolls were marketed to. What kind of message were they getting? Of course, we cannot deny the link between Barbie dolls and pinup girls; Barbie herself is based on the German Lilli doll, a novelty item never intended to be a plaything for children. But for the most part fashion doll companies have reserved Lilli's modern-day counterparts for collectors. Case in point, the Mattel Silkstone lingerie collector series.

But this distinction was never made for the Bratz and My Scene dolls. In a world that markets thongs to first-graders, should I have even been surprised? In a world where the lines are so blurred that British superstore Tesco placed stripper poles in the toy department because they thought they belonged there, (probably next to the newer Bratz and My Scene dolls), I suppose this sort of thing was inevitable.

Is this a case of life imitating art or art imitating life? Were the girls of My Scene and Bratz just following fashion, their rise to popularity unfortunately timed to coincide with the vogue for low-rise jeans, midriff-baring tops, casual outfits inspired by provocative lingerie, and a profusion of sequins and glitter?

Even if that were the excuse their manufacturers chose to use, there is still the matter of appropriateness. But people seem less and less aware of that these days. Look at this example from Simon Doonan's Eccentric Glamour book where he writes about an encounter with a group of inappropriately dressed aspiring models:

These gals do not understand that clothes have meaning.
They were told to "dress to express," and that is what they did, randomly and without any sense that they might have the option top express something other than slutty availability or a general commitment to the porn industry. I feel bad for them. They are ill equipped to survive in the big city because they simply do not understand the significance of any of their fashion choices. Unless I intervene, these gals are doomed to go through life dressed like a bunch of third rate hoochie dancers, all the while thinking that they look perfectly normal and respectable.
Maybe I can be the one to open their eyes. I decide to give it a shot...

"Don't you see, your clothing, what you choose to wear every day, it speaks volumes about you. It is a form of communication! You have to make sure that your clothing is in sync with who you are."

From the puzzled looks on the faces of these attention junkies, I realize that this is a notion that has never ever ever occurred to them before. They are marching through the world, shopping, shopping, shopping, impulsively wearing all kinds of freaky ensembles, and never once have they stopped to think that fashion might be playing such a powerful role in all of our lives.
I continue:
"What you wear says everything about who you are. Long before you open your mouth, people are drawing conclusions about you based on your appearance. If you dress like a stripper, Carrie, people will assume that you are a stripper, which is okay only if you are in fact a stripper."

Popular media has become so fraught with double-entendres, double standards, and mixed messages that it is becoming more and more difficult to determine what is age-appropriate. It has led the of sexualization of girls. The American Psychological Association (APA), in their report on this very subject, says that sexualization occurs when

  • a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics;

  • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy;

  • a person is sexually objectified—that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/or

  • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person.

Also, it is important to note that "all four conditions need not be present; any one is an indication of sexualization." And we must keep in mind that "when children are imbued with adult sexuality, it is often imposed upon them rather than chosen by them."

As for Bratz and My Scene dolls, the researchers say:

"Although these dolls may present no more sexualization of girls or women than is seen in MTV videos, it is worrisome when dolls designed specifically for 4- to 8-year-olds are associated with an objectified adult sexuality. The objectified sexuality presented by these dolls, as opposed to the healthy sexuality that develops as a normal part of adolescence, is limiting for adolescent girls, and even more so for the very young girls who represent the market for these dolls."

And this part really helped me to link both aspects of The Doll Project together:

"related research suggests that viewing material that is sexually objectifying can contribute to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem, depressive affect, and even physical health problems in high-school-aged girls and in young women."
In addition to these issues, the researchers also found that sexualization leads to self-objectification:

"Psychological researchers have identified self-objectification (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997; McKinley & Hyde, 1996) as a key process whereby girls learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires. In self-objectification, girls internalize an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at and evaluated for their appearance.Though portraying oneself solely as a sexual object to be looked at is sometimes viewed by girls and women as exercising control over their sexuality (e.g., at some social networking Web sites), presentation of the self in this way can be viewed as a form of

YouTube's motto is "broadcast yourself," and cameraphones and webcams make it possible for girls to quickly disseminate provocative self-portraits to an unseen global audience.

And there are plenty of recent stories of teen celebrities whose reputations have been scandalized because of cameraphone photos. Youthful indiscretions are now given a public audience. Producers of videos like the Girls Gone Wild series are profiting from them. And intentionally or unintentionally, toy companies like Mattel and MGA have helped to plant the seeds of self-objectification in the little girls who play with the dolls they made.

So I could think of no better model that My Scene's Kennedy for the "Broadcast Yourself" series. She has the distinctive Barbie face, with the unsettling addition of bedroom eyes, and cherry red slightly parted lips. Combined with her girlish ponytails, she channels a myriad of forbidden fantasies and desires. I decided to use a different doll's body, which I couse for its suggestive pose and sheer red nightie. Perched atop her head are red Lolita sunglasses. The only light in the room emanates from her computer screen. It illuminates her body.

She is using the built-in webcam on her little laptop to share images of herself with the world. She makes a digital slide show for her social networking pages using a song by The Pussycat Dolls. The lyrics of the song are about wanting fame and attention, and being called sexy by boys. She knows no better way to express herself that to take photos that expose her breasts. She is not thinking of the consequences of her actions, especially what kind of influence this could have on her little sister Ana.

Related Reading:

LITTLE GIRLS: Pink, Purple & Bling from The Revolution of Real Women Blog
Pushing Buttons from (cameraphone scandal story)
Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls (PDF)
Hot Tots, and Moms Hot to Trot by Judith Warner
Study: Girls would rather be sexy than smart
Too sexy too soon?
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