So many names hanging in the dark…

This evening I read a post over at The Word Shark that reminded me of an amazing moment in my life.

Back in the early ’90s, the AIDS Quilt was touring the country, and it was scheduled to stop in Cleveland. I was going to graduate school in Kent, Ohio at the time. My friend Tony and I decided to drive up to Cleveland to see the quilt.

Tony and I in Ohio in the early '90s...

I got the day off from work. Can’t remember if I skipped class, but we had only this one day in our schedule to go see the quilt, and then the quilt would be moving on.

We got there–an indoor basketball stadium–and it was closed. We’d misread the tour schedule. The quilt was inside the building, but the building was locked.

Or almost locked. That is the brilliant thing about my friend Tony. He wasn’t in those days thwarted by locks and closed signs.

The employee entrance was not locked. We walked right in.

This was a stadium. A huge cavernous building. With just us. We made our way to the basketball court. I don’t know if you’ve been in one of these massive buildings, but the ceilings are impossibly high and the walls are so far away, especially if the only light you have are those tiny white light that edge the steps into the stands.

But the Quilt was there. Sections were hanging from some kind of rigging over head and other sections were carefully lined up on the floor. The silence was cathedral-like, and Tony and I–no romance between us–held hands.

Tears may have come to my eyes even if I’d had to see the Quilt with a crowd, but even now all these years later tears come remembering the moment.

At some point, Tony and I let go of each other and walked quietly around the many (too many) sections, until we were across the court from each other, each wiping our eyes, amazed at the beauty and sadness mixed so inexplicably.

Then we heard footsteps.

We froze. A man appeared above in the stands. An employee in a uniform. I couldn’t tell what kind.

He asked us what we were doing. Tony answered for us. Unlike other times he’s been caught where he isn’t supposed to be, he told the truth.

I worried my tissue between my fingers, wondering what it was like to be arrested.

The man stared down at us. He told us he wouldn’t bother us, but that the automatic locks were set. If we weren’t out in 30 minutes, we’d have to spend the night in the building.

He left us alone.

Tony and I met back up in the middle of the floor. We laughed and dried our tears in that half dark surrounded by those quilts.

I felt so lucky. Sad and lucky at the same time.

This Theme Won’t Save You

I could be wrong, of course, but a blog theme probably isn’t what will send a novel into the stratosphere of starlight and success.

But that said, I sure am wasting a lot of time on it.

Several wordpress themes have elements about them I like…and elements I don’t. I don’t have any coding skills so designing something on my own isn’t an option. And since my writing doesn’t bring home those big bucks, paying for a website isn’t an option either.

But I can’t find a theme I’m really happy with.

So. You and your blog? How/why did you choose the theme that you have? How much did it matter to you? What do you think is key when deciding?

The Latest Show

For a month my art is hanging at Genuine Joe’s Coffee House here in Austin. But for those of you who are far away, here is a slideshow that includes art in the show plus a lot of other pieces I have fond memories of.

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People first seeing my work often assume the text is taken from newspapers or random books. But I think it deepens (hope it deepens) one’s appreciation of the work to know that the words are my own, printed and cut from my own stories. I cut the pages, paste the cut pieces down, and draw the images around them. The smallest picture takes two hours–and that doesn’t even count the time spent writing the stories.

I work late at night while my family sleeps, though once in a while I can work on a Friday morning. There is never enough time to make all I want to make, but I do what I can…half-finished projects are piled at one end of my work table. I share my work space with the son, and so it is great that we sometimes sit together and draw, but it keeps my projects in check. There is only so much room.

Thank you for stopping by.

What I Hate Most about Art

bunny ornaments

Pricing. This Friday is time again to hang my art in public (public hanging!) and decide what numbers to put on those little tags.

Part of me wonders why art can’t just be free. Oh, that’s right. Artists like to eat and have heat in the winter.

Crazy but true.

So, yes, I know all the things to consider: cost of materials, amount of time, quality of piece, how much I want it to sell, what the market will tolerate…

I’ve read a lot about pricing, but that hasn’t made it any easier. Money is another word for psychological land mine.

Now, I’ve made a few handmade books. Most of them are small books–a short story or two inside. Only one is a hardcover.

My research on how to price handmade books has pulled up only blank books, like leather bound journals or small, pretty books that are works of art but contain no story.

Now, a hardcover book cost $30, right? Give or take.

But that’s a factory made book.

But charging for my time and materials…means a crazy high price.

So logically it seems foolish to make things I can’t sell.

But I don’t do it for money.

But I’ve got to cover my cost because I’m not a trust fund baby.

Besides, who even wants a handmade book in our ebook world?

Oh, well. It isn’t the end of the world if it doesn’t sell. That’s the nature of these things.

* * *

P.S. I’ve been working on my other blog–where I’m famous in a parallel universe. You can find out more here.

It’s Black and White.

my art with a bit of color

I asked the photographer to take black and white pictures of our wedding. I never seriously considered otherwise.

Maybe I love black and white photographs because my mother took such pictures.

a picture my mother took of me for a college photography class

Anyway, my mother-in-law was paying for the wedding though she said she liked black and white too.

On the day of the wedding, two photographers were there. “Why are there two?” I asked.

“One is here for color.”

Seems my mother-in-law paid for an extra photographer so she could have colored photographs. Well, she was paying for it and color is nice.

Color is beautiful. I like color. But my art is almost always black and white.

BLack and white is simple, and mistakes are easier to correct.

I’ve been told to add more color.

I don’t think life is black and white, my home is quite colorful, and my stories are filled with ambiguity (searching the gray not the black and white).

Do you think it says something about a personality? Certainly the art a person makes (the stories a person writes) says something about them. Doesn’t it?

Not sure I should hazard a guess what my work says about me.

(I’ve tried to film my work in progress…here.)

What are you kind of art are you drawn, and how important is color to you?

Not convinced.

I’ve wanted to make an animated film. I don’t have super-duper software or equipment, so my efforts are a bit low-rent. I’m using what comes with the mac and my cheap camera.

As an experiment I made a film of me making a picture. Nothing fancy–just a simple picture. After I finally got all the pictures dowmlaoded and edited, I realized I couldn’t simply add music. One–I don’t want to be sued, so I’d need permission and I’d have to pay something. Two–I don’t know how to edit music to fit a film. Sure, I can move a music file over into my iMovie, but how to get the rhythm to match the art?

A bit beyond me.

Then I thought I’d at least share my amateur efforts…well, facebook was being very difficult about it and wordpress wants me to upgrade to post video.

Anyway, have you ever worked with iMovie or animation before? Any suggestions?

And in the meantime, here is the link to video. It’s just a little something.

Thank you.

You could always hug your grammar book instead.

My spring term began this week, and students are still trying to sort out their schedules. Today a student came up to me and said, “I want to take your writing class, but I don’t feel like writing. What should I do?”

I especially hate it when a student I like asks a question like this.

Or like this,

“Are there tests in your grammar class? I don’t want to take any tests.”


Mind you, the student had this conversation with me while I was dealing with a copy machine that had jammed for the second time in less than five minutes while my grammar students were waiting for me.

The reply that went through my mind was something along the lines of, “There were going to be tests, but now since you said that we shall draw pictures of nouns and hug them.”

I didn’t say that.

What would you have said?