Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Running out of Retro" article from Chicago Reader

an excerpt:

“No, I’m not a neo-60s hippie, I’m a neo-90s retro hippie,” which could be confusing and too much work. Or we could try to check our addiction to retro—but c’mon, that’s probably not going to happen.Our best option from here on out might be to embrace the ridiculously short turnover between run and rerun and let the snake finally start eating its own tail. If nothing ever goes away, nothing can really ever be recycled.

Miles Raymer's interesting article is about music, but I think that the same argument can also apply to design. It seems that the interior, graphic, and fashion design industry as a whole has not come up with any truly original concepts since the mid-1990's. Everything is a revival of some bygone era. My senior year of high school I was considered trendy. Did I buy all my clothes from the Delia's catalog or spring for designer gear from North Michigan Avenue? No. All I had to do was shop in the back of my mother's closet and wear things she had saved from the 1960's and 1970's.

So I do have an affinity for retro, which I am sure is also pretty obvious in my portfolio. But at the same time, I think it would be nice if it served as a counterpoint to the au courant designs of the moment. But nobody seems to know what that is anymore. Is there nothing new under the sun? Or has the whole notion of trendiness imploded? And can we even afford to follow the dictates of planned obsolescence anymore as our resources and landfill space dwindle? Perhaps the solution to all of this is green design. If everything is recycled, reused, and revived, then nothing is out of style and we will create an aesthetic that lives in the moment. And perhaps from that we will create the foundation for something that is truly original and relevant to our present time.

Running Out of Retro
Enjoy the 90s revival while you can—the space-time continuum is about to collapse.

learning to appreciate what I already have

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; but remember that what you now have was once among the things only hoped for.


While browsing etsy, eBay, and Flickr, it's easy to become envious of the things other people have collected, and easy to forget what nice things I already have.

my paintings with blue box house 5

Photographing my treasures helps me to treasure them more and look at them in an entirely new light. And sharing them with others has made me realize how blessed I am to have what I have.
bathroom wall 2

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the doll project

The Doll Project: Ana's Modeling Career. Skeletal Ana is finally thin enough to be a model.
Maybe I am a little biased, but I don't think it's fair to blame it all on Barbie. I feel ambivalent when I hear women blame their low self esteem and poor body image on growing up with Barbie dolls. Like so many other American women, I have struggled with my own self-perception when it comes to weight and body type, though I don't know if Barbie is entirely to blame. And then there is the fact that I am an avid doll collector. This further complicates my attitude towards fashion dolls. I enjoy collecting them and buying clothes for them, even as an adult.
From my doll collection: Arabian Nights Barbie
The negative messages girls receive these days come in a variety of guises and packages. But I chose dolls to illustrate these messages because they can not only depict them, but embody them. The idea for The Doll Project came to me while I was brainstorming ideas for Worth Waiting For. I imagined a skeletal doll standing on a scale with a speech balloon over her head with the caption "I just need to lose 5 more pounds." I would create professional looking packaging for the doll and label it "My First Diet." At first I thought of using a skeleton around 11.5" tall, which is the height of a Barbie doll. But as I considered the origins of eating disorders, I thought it would make more sense to portray a teenager, someone Skipper's age, perhaps. But with more and more girls doing things at younger ages these days, I thought that using a Stacie doll would be more appropriate.
Instead of a skull with hair on its head, which was the original plan before I was outbid on a Barbie sized wig on eBay, I decided that the doll needed a normal looking head. There were many to choose from. I chose Stacie because of the expression in her eyes. No one can paint expressive doll eyes quite as well as the people at Mattel. I guess that is the doll collector in me talking. If I hadn't gotten Stacie, I may have used Licca, a beautiful doll from Japan. But price was an issue. I just couldn't justify spending that kind of money on a doll to dismember. Being a collector who even as a child was careful with her dolls, I have a hard time even disassembling dolls to make this project! Fortunately the doll I chose was inexpensive. And that sweet expressive face makes Ana a sympathetic character, despite her skeletal body.
Ana reads a book about how to lose weight
That's another thing I want to avoid: ridicule. I do not wish to belittle my subject matter. I wanted to treat it seriously. I considered each detail very carefully, from the clothes to the accessories, to the hairstyle. But in the end, I wanted Ana to be an archetype of how girls used to be portrayed as dolls: pigtails and bangs, in a knee-length a-line dress with a cute pattern. Her blond hair and blue eyes fit the fashion doll tradition of the blond as main character with redheaded, brunette, and occasional "ethnic" friends. Sadly, this is a pattern most manufacturers continue to the present day, with a few slight modifications. But that could be the subject of a whole new doll project. And maybe I'll do something with that concept in a future project.
Anyway, back to Ana. I named her after Internet shorthand amongst eating disordered teens. They call anorexia Ana and bulimia Mia as if they are two classmates they know from school. The sad thing about Internet communities is that they allow like-minded people to congregate even when the thing that brings them together is their own self-hatred and self-destruction.
Mia purges after a secret binge
Next in the series was, of course, Mia. As I gathered the accessories for Mia, who represents, as her nickname suggests, bulimia, it occurred to me that no fashion dolls have any problems with food. Barbie's refrigerator contains a vast array of items from all parts of the food pyramid. She isn't afraid to be around it. Among her many professions (well, before she became a butterfly fairy princess mermaid) she has been a pastry chef and has even flipped tiny burgers at her own little 1:6 scale McDonald's. It appears that in her world there are no "bad" foods, and she does not diet. Nothing I know of (though I could be wrong) encourages that kind of play. So who are girls getting all this lipophobia from? Their mothers, of course. And big sisters. And the fashion magazines. And diet ads. Think about it. Next to some of our top runway models, Barbie looks overweight! The Top Model Barbies are more than likely curvier than the actual models they represent.
Mia binges on everything in the refrigerator
But in Mia's world, there are bad foods. And unlike Ana, she cannot be a "good little girl" and forbid herself from partaking of them. But she cannot gain weight either, so she purges. Ana and Mia are two sides of the same irrational extremes. They remind me of the kind of disordered logic exhibited on the covers of magazines targeted to middle-aged women: a big glossy photo of a decadent, elaborately decorated cake while the text superimposed above it heralds the discovery of a new way to lose weight. So for many, having the cake, eating it too, and still being able to wear a size 0 ultimately means forcing oneself to vomit the cake back up. How could there not be bulimic people in such a society? Extreme thinness in a land of plenty practically demands it.
Mia weighs herself
So that is the philosophy behind that portion of the doll project so far. Stay tuned for updates as I take pictures of other girls in the series.
Also, if anyone knows of any art shows that this work would be thematically appropriate for, please let me know.


Sometimes I wonder where I get all my crazy ideas from, but when I really start to think about it, I find they were inevitable all along. And so it is with Recessionism, a style of assemblage using shredded money. I first became aware of what goes on in the basement of the Federal Reserve Bank here in Chicago while on a field trip with INROADS, an internship preparation program I participated in while in high school. All the old checks and worn out dollars were shredded there. They even gave us bags of shredded money at the end of the tour. Shredded money. Could there be anything more paradoxical? Something so valuable rendered worthless by being grated down to confetti.

In my first painting class in graduate school, my professor suggested I purchase an old suitcase at a thrift store for a project I was working on. Later that semester, while watching American Gangster, a film with plenty of money-filled suitcases, an idea came to me: why not fill the old suitcase with shredded money? I went online and ordered two 5 pound bags of shredded money. Unfortunately, they did not arrive in time for me to complete the project. By the time I got them, I was painting again. And also by that time, I had decided that I wanted to use that suitcase for Worth Waiting For instead. So the money ended up on canvas and the rest is history.

I did not get into all that debt so I could call myself a decorator!

told you I know how to use CAD
Okay, I know I said in my previous post that I will try to keep my blog professional. And I really meant that. I do not want to render myself unemployable because of a skeleton-filled Internet closet. However, I also think that this could allow me the opportunity to explain myself, and to vent the professional frustration that has been seething within me for the past two years.

I thought I would be well on my way to being able to call myself an interior designer by now. But unfortunately, I am being censored by the design cartel. First I have to work for 4 years under someone who is a licensed interior designer, then I have to take the NCIDQ exam. The problem is that no one will hire me because I do not have much experience, but I do not have much experience because no one will hire me. It is an utterly anguishing conundrum.
What they do not tell you in design school is that most of the jobs at the entry level are in retail. You will most likely find yourself selling furniture, finishes, or fixtures upon graduation. This is not so terrible if you are extroverted and perky, but retail never suited my more introverted personality. In fact, I went to design school to escape from retail.

I'd have much preferred to start off as a design librarian, but they said I was too inexperienced. I find that hard to believe. How difficult is it to keep a bunch of memo samples organized? Their refusal to hire me for that position is an insult to my intelligence, considering the fact that in addition to my design degree I also have a previous undergraduate degree, from University of Chicago, no less. I am not trying to sound arrogant by bringing that up, but you'd think that would at least be evidence of the fact that I have a brain in my head.

I had also considered becoming a CAD drafter, but all those interviews required taking a CAD test, and by that time, I was out of practice and slow. I took a refresher course in CAD last year and got up to speed again, but there were no interviews for those positions by that time.

I never meant to be a "job hopper." After quitting my retail job when I went back to design school, I searched diligently for work in the field. I eventually ended up being a fabric specialist at Expo Design Center. My plan had been to stay there and work my way up to a window treatment designer position. Although it was retail, I liked it. We were not expected to be high-pressure salespeople. We did not work on commission. We were not pitted against one another in relentless competition. And I was earning a decent hourly wage and had a schedule that was compatible with my class schedule. I should have known it was too good to last. In May of 2005, we received 60 days' notice that our store, like most of the Expo Design Centers in the country, would be closing.

Since then, I have yet to find anything quite as satisfying. In the interest of discretion, I will not disclose the names of my subsequent employers. But here are just a few of the circumstances I encountered post-Expo: exploitation, discrimination, and sexual harassment. I have too much self-respect to stay in abusive work situations, no matter how bad it may look on paper. I have had cruel and discouraging things said about my resume. I've been told it's unimpressive. A headhunter told me that nobody cares about my scholarships. I have been interviewed by people whose sole motivation seemed to have been to find a U of C graduate to insult face to face. 40+ job interviews later, I am not even working in the field of design.

I am engaged in a daily struggle to avoid becoming bitter about all this. One good thing that has come out of this situation is that it inspired me to go back to school yet again and follow my less "practical" dream of being a painter. By that point, what did I have to lose? Another good thing that has come out of this is that it's helped me to realize that I might be better off being my own boss. Even if I can't call myself an interior designer without arousing the wrath of the cartel.


Eye-opening and little-known facts about problems in the interior design field:

And a brutally honest cover letter that I would never actually send:

Just what the world needs... another blog!

I'd like to introduce myself. I am an artist, designer, and writer. In today's world of specialists, the Renaissance person doesn't get much respect, unfortunately. I'd like to think that it makes me more versatile. I plan to use this blog to share my artwork and interior design. So yes, this blog is a shameless marketing ploy. I can admit it. I hope that it will be interesting to read, and that you'll enjoy the artwork as well.

I'll try to keep it professional, as I've heard entirely too many horror stories about people not getting hired for the jobs they wanted because of what an employer's Google search revealed about them. But there may be an occasional rant from time to time. You know how temperamental we artists can be. ;)

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Design Statement

Bedroom, private residence

I do not have a favorite color. I love them all. I haven’t met a color that I wouldn’t use for something, even if only to relieve the eye. I also love working with patterns. I like the challenge of combining them. Someday I hope to design at least one bedroom or playroom for a child. Then I could unleash my most offbeat ideas, since most children love colors as much as I do.
I have been blessed with an eye for color, and a good memory for it, too. I can find matching items from different vendors, and even different eras if necessary. You can count on me to put together a very coordinated room on your behalf. One of the greatest thrills in design is the process. Researching all the new products and latest innovations is probably the thing I love almost as much as color.

And last but not least. I absolutely adore the dying art of hand rendering. Sure, you can make shiny Pixar movie-like rooms using just a computer. But there is nothing like having a paintbrush in your hand and making a blank sheet of paper come to life.

I just want to design.
I just want to design. I am not interested in using design as a selling tool. I am not good at sales. Yes, I do have experience in it, but that doesn't mean I like it. I am not outgoing, extroverted, or a people person, and I am tired of pretending to be someone I'm not. Though I am not good at being glib, superficial, and perky, I am good at AutoCAD 2007, have a great eye for color and great hand rendering skills. I'm good at researching products, as well as writing. Yes, I am an introvert, but that means that am a good listener, work well independently, an focused, have a depth of knowledge about design, and I have integrity. I'm just not good at sales, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't make a good interior designer.

So if you are looking for a designer who is intelligent, responsible, willing to work hard, eager to learn, and has both an interior design degree from Harrington and a B.A. from the University of Chicago, please contact me. And if you'd like to see a sample of my work, click here.

My Artist Statement

I am a colorist at heart. Color is the most important element in my work. It is what I look for in all the artwork that I study and what I remember most. It is what inspires me. I believe in color. I believe in using it in its most saturated and unadulterated form. I could never choose a favorite because I love them all. After all, if the human eye really is capable of seeing 7 million different colors, how can I choose just one? Nothing gives me greater pleasure than the harmonious union of colors. In my work, I like to bring together as many as I can. Ever since I first began to paint, I have been entangled in a torrid love affair with garish colors.As an artist, I revel in the process of creation. I am enamored of my materials. I love brushes, paints, oil pastels, colored pencils, and charcoal. I love working with found objects: pieces of cardboard, bubble wrap, scraps and scrapings and chunks of dried-up leftover paint. I also love texture. Perhaps it’s because I once worked as a museum guard. I love tantalizing viewers with impasto surfaces that just beg to be explored with the fingertips, though, of course, that is largely forbidden in the glass case and velvet rope milieu of the art world.

raspberry divine 3

My sources of inspiration are diverse and eclectic: Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, Romare Bearden, Gustav Klimt, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Karim Rashid, Tricia Guild, traditional and contemporary art and textiles from Mexico, India, and Africa, the quirky plastic concoctions of assemblage artist Julie Wishmeyer, Mexican embroidery and tiles, the mirror-embellished cloth of the Rajastani and Gujarati regions of India, and beadwork from the Ndebele and the Masai people of Africa.

Throughout my life, I've had numerous interests in various disciplines of the arts. As an avid picture book reader, in kindergarten I was sure that I'd become an author/illustrator when I grew up. Later I found myself interested in cartooning, fashion design, photography, graphic design, digital art, and finally interior design. But there has always been a common thread binding my interests together, and that is my love of drawing. For me drawing is more than just an avocation. It's a compulsion. I absolutely have to draw. Despite their differences, all the fields that interest me are based upon the same basic principles, and often I find that mixed media work best allows me to express the universal principles of design.

Sunday, August 24, 2008



If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Because my process is so intuitive, I have no idea where my ideas even come from most of the time. I am usually guided by hunches. I have had experiences in which it seemed the paintings themselves actually told me how they wanted to be done. But I can't just tell people that and expect that to suffice. Writing about it helps me to cross over to a left-brained analytical perspective on it. So blogging about my art is practice for future critiques, gallery talks, and art shows.

I chose the title Brooding Beauty because of the many meanings of the word "brooding." Brooding is mulling things over in a melancholy way, and I am prone to do that. But brooding is also incubating and protecting. So my blog is going to be a place to mull things over--sometimes in a melancholy way, as I am wont to do--and it is also a place to incubate new ideas.

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