Art on the road

Crowd One - Dana Jeri MaierHere's a lesson learned this holiday season--tedious travel delays are quite handy for producing drawings in bulk. A cancelled flight to England, long lines, a bus ride, airport waiting lounges, more long lines all resulted in about fifty new coaster images. Clearly there’s a lot to be said for art that’s portable, especially when it comes to international travel. Once I arrived in England (I was having a British-style Christmas, which I’m happy to report, wound up being every bit as magical as it sounds) I didn’t have long uninterrupted blocks of time to work, though I managed to get a few drawings in of the Saint Paul’s Cathedral and crowds in pubs, and some castle-esque structures in Cambridge. Plus I got a chance to bop around some galleries in Mayfair, the highlight being Chris Beetles Art Crowd Two - Dana Jeri MaierCrowd Three - Dana Jeri Maierwhich specializes in illustration (including Arthur Rackham(!), and a whole room of Quentin Blake watercolors).  It was salon-style, four rooms and two floors, with books and loose artworks scattered around--messy, but in a charming way, and an excellent contrast to the sterile White Cube.

And now, it's DC and real life again, which means that art-making is no longer filling up dead time, but being done at the expense of other activities. No bad thing there, I guess.

Cities as siblings

Chris Roberts-Antieau New Orleans 6/4/10 12:17 AM

In my head, I've always personified major US cities as members of an unruly family. New York and LA are the two hot shot fraternal twins (Sweet Valley-esque, as it were--LA is so Jessica Wakefield to New York's Elizabeth, no?). DC is the Type A, industrious one, waking up early to hit the gym; Baltimore is its more artistically talented, but somewhat defensive and disorganized younger sibling, who bristles if you draw comparisons (maintaining that a quirky character is far more impressive than showing up to things on time). Chicago is the hilarious uncle who you always want to sit next to at family gatherings, though beware the nasty temper; Portland is the token hippy, no surprises there; Cleveland's the chain smoker who's been working on his novel for the last several years and is going to finish it eventually, once the kids find jobs and move out of the basement.

And then there's New Orleans, which I visited for the first time last week, the lazier, charming, somewhat alcoholic cousin; a lovable ne'er-do-well. But mostly there was a wonderful artistic casualness to the city that I found refreshing.  In a band? Just play on the side of the road and plop down a hat next to your CDs. Draw pictures? Put them in the back of your truck and hawk them on Frenchmen street. You don't need the organizational skills that are one of DC's key selling points--no Facebook groups or laborious grant applications, or public art committees--just throw your stuff out into the world, and see what sticks.

I used to like it here

From French lessons 11/19/09 4:12 AM

I wonder how ex-pats do it. Real ones, I mean, who can scurry off to glamorous foreign countries and spend days writing or creating art and reading good books. Do they actually exist? Do they all have trust funds? Or cushy jobs with the State department? Either way, the idea is intoxicating.

I've been thinking about this of course, because I just came back from France, where I went for a few weeks of language classes and travel. I stayed mostly in the south in Aix en Provence, and don't think I've seen too many places in my life that were more beautiful.

And just as I'd hoped, I learned a bit of French, got lost on many confusing rues, drew in cafes while sipping wee cups of coffee, saw magnificent ancient towns, and had thoughtful conversations over three hour dinners with the clever Anglophones I met in my class. In all, the perfect vacation. And now it's back to real life, with its morning jogs and long commutes, and all of the day to day annoyances that aren't nearly as much fun when they're experienced in your homeland, and not a foreign country.