News for February
Sick-day Reading, or Sifting Out the Pearls
Interview with Henning Ludvigsen
Sick-day Reading, or Sifting Out the PearlsWombat Droppings
by Ursula Vernon
I am sick as a dog today, and that means that most of my productive outlets are out of the question. Art-brain has taken the week off and left no forwarding address, and my printer has run out of magenta ink, meaning that I am pretty well dead in the water until the UPS truck chugs up the driveway, drops off my ink, and then does one of its twenty-five point turns that take out most of the shrubbery.
Theoretically I could go work on the edits for my latest book, but that sort of thing requires grim determination and a lot of coffee. So instead I curl up in bed with a couple of copies of Somerset Studio and start reading.
Somerset Studio is part of a vast empire of magazines catering to creative types -- mostly women, mostly involving cut paper, mixed media assemblage, altered art stuff. They also do a whole line involving sewing, but since I cannot sew, I haven't dug into those. There's at least one that's out-and-out studio-porn, where you can go look at artists who have better spaces with better lighting and better organization systems than yours. I have been known to do this. I have gazed at walls covered in metal shelving racks with lust in my heart. I'm not proud of this fact, but there you are.
They do a magazine called Art Journaling, which I am somewhat suspicious of for various reasons, but that's probably a post for another day. They also do a print magazine about blogging, which I find deeply weird, but hey, whatever works.
Occasionally I find techniques in these magazines that seem fascinating and worth trying, occasionally I trip over an artist whose work I later track down on the web and admire, frequently I sigh heavily or get an urge to pat somebody on the head and tell them that maybe accounting isn't such a bad career choice after all. (Yes, I am a bad and judgmental person. Also a snob. I have made peace with this.)
Most often I am struck by the sheer sameness of so much of it. All the same grim little girls from vintage photos with added butterfly wings, all the same babies with pasted-on crowns, all the same fonts spelling out "DREAM" or "IMAGINE" or "WISH" and frequent exhortations to "LET YOUR SOUL TAKE FLIGHT." If I had any friends who were into this sort of thing, we could make one helluva drinking game out of it -- take a shot whenever you are told to dream, wish, imagine, or fly, take a shot whenever someone has taken a vintage photo and added wings, party hats, crowns or wands. Take a shot if anybody mentions their heart, soul, or imagination. Slam the remainder of the drink whenever somebody cannibalizes that one Raphael painting of the two little angels.
It's probably as well we don't -- our livers would never survive the first issue.
You note, however, that despite my snarkiness, I'm still buying the magazine. Partly because of those occasional flashes of brilliance, certainly, but also partly because every now and then, I get a glimpse that the community is more self-aware than I give it credit for. There was a whole series of angry letters to the editor back and forth about the wings-and-hats thing, alternately begging the magazine to stop printing art that was nothing but wings slapped on vintage photos and begging the magazine to keep on printing them. There was quite a good article about the woman who stopped slapping "DREAM" on random photos and started working exclusively with shots of her own family to create something that was actually meaningful to her.
Stuff like this does occasionally give me hope for the altered art world. And if nothing else, it's a good read when you're laid out in bed and can't crawl into the studio to actually make the art yourself.
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