Cabinet of Childhood Curiosity

I recently submitted a proposal and was accepted into a curated group exhibit for Women’s History Month at the Howland Cultural Center, here in Beacon, NY. The topic was enticing: Girlhood. Oh boy, was this ever custom-meant for me and my kind of personal art! One foot is always in my girlhood.

Girlhood overview

Looking back all these years, I assume that I asked questions from the time I learned to talk—what child is not curious? My nuclear family really was perfect, so I know when the answers stopped coming. My father simply disappeared from my life, in 1957, and my big question was Where’s Daddy? What I remember first was being in our linoleum-floored kitchen with my grandparents and asking Why is Mommy crying?  I have no memory of having his death (electrocution on the job as utility pole lineman) explained to me, or going to a funeral, or ever being comfortable asking questions or talking about any of it with my mother. Not until lately.

With the recent escalation of a nuclear pissing contest between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, I found myself having a bit of PTSD. Childhood fears are being resurrected from the Cold War. I grew up in the era of “Duck and Cover,” and here we are again. Of course, ducking and covering was a joke, but the threat itself was very real, and still is. The idea that we could simply hide under our desks to avoid the blast—who knew how ludicrous that was back then? Answer: A lot of people in high governmental positions. But that’s the propaganda pablum they fed us. And I was very frightened, especially when Nikita Krushchev thundered on our black-and-white television sets: WE WILL BURY YOU!

GH 2

Old electrical manuals and my civil defense booklets from the 1960s, a charm bracelet with the ten commandments, glitter, some toys, and my childhood art

Where did I find solace and a sense of safety? That is what makes up this installation. Sifting through a lifetime of personal archival material, as well as trinkets I’ve collected for my assemblage art (that connected me nostalgically to my childhood), I address my unanswered questions, my fears, and how I navigated my girlhood—steeped in family love, but also loss.

GH 3

More vestiges of growing up in the 1950s & 60s along with a very early book of poems

GH 4

Prayers weren’t working for me, so I switched to Mighty Mouse. “Here I come to save the day!” Gauges and gee-gaws. My childhood bank. A buddhist prayer flag with my questions.

At the center of the installation is my first assemblage art done in 1996. That was when I began to seriously address my past and how I became who I am today. No longer afraid to ask questions. Now I also write poetry to make peace with what I may never find out.

Insulating Materials

 

DEFENSIVE MEMORY

I ask now what you remember.

For me:

Air raid sirens pierce arithmetic lessons as we

practice for nuclear war.

My classmates and I scramble

under wooden desks:

girls’ plaid skirts tenting pale knees scabbed at recess and

even the boys are quiet.

Spitballs at a cease fire.

 

You say you don’t remember much.

A hint:

Did you ask me what I learned in school that day and did

I already know not to

disturb you with my fears?

I almost forgot:

Got a hundred per cent on a spelling test and

Mike Clark ate a red crayon.

And I can’t sleep at night.

 

Copyright Sharon Watts 2018

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Reclaiming My Studio (& Pappaw DeWalt’s Dirt)

Halo-lit by the setting sun, a hulking cumulus cloud looms in the sky like a bulbous atomizer for the Fishkill Creek. The funky summertime fragrance fills my nostrils as I soar down Tioronda Avenue on my bicycle. Along dormant railroad tracks, encroaching development in the form of luxury housing spreads over the abandoned industrial landscape like a modern pestilence. The lambs ear and sumac and occasional dumped sofa are standing their ground for now—and I am rooting for them. (Well, not the sofa.) A whip of wind and gnats and honeysuckle helps to create a miracle: my sixty-four-year-old body is still able to reclaim that giddy feeling of endless summer.

I have been reacquainting myself with my art studio for the last week—a 1920s brick garage that was a large part of the reason I moved upstate from New York City nearly seventeen years ago. It’s been a constant battle with the carpenter ants who have had squatters’ rights since time began. A recent tar-and-patch on the roof’s perimeter has given me the (most likely false) hope that maybe this time I can get the upper hand.

squirrel & tar

So, I am back to assemblage art. I wanted to start small, both in scale and concept. While the setup was initially an homage to my paternal grandfather and the workshop he kept in his basement, this summer I am feeling the spirit of Pappaw DeWalt, my mother’s father. He had built a small, seasonal cabin (known as “the cottage” for some reason, but let’s not envision cobblestones and roses!) out of scavenged Stroehmann’s bread billboards. My dad and uncles would cart the building materials to the island in the Susquehanna from the tiny hamlet of Cly before my memories of summer even began. By the time I was nicknamed “Peapicker” by Pappaw, matching his motorboat, I was happily ensconced in that simple, idyllic setting.

Cottage - me on boat

It was less than a half-hour drive, and yet a world away from our suburban backyard and asphalt playgrounds (where we could easily crack our heads open with one faulty swing on the monkey bars). The cottage was at the very end of the island, which felt like the tip of my entire world, as I spread out on a doll blanket and memorized picture flash cards with all the butterflies and birds, or read the latest Nancy Drew. There was a small dock for the boat and jumping off into the chilly, murky river. Wooden steps led up to a screened-in porch where I loved to sleep on a metal cot, but the rustic interior I barely remember at all. Maybe an enamel-top table, an arm chair—but who wanted to be inside during summer?

 

Me at the cottage

*****

Nana & Pappaw picnicing.jpg

Pappaw and Nana DeWalt had traveled—camped!—across some of the United States, and he always brought back a souvenir for me. A fossil, some fool’s gold, and from one trip in 1957, samples of dirt. Sixty years later they are lined up in my studio, their masking tape labels still legible: Wyoming, Cedar Rapids Iowa, Hinkley [sic] Illinois, and “50 MI west of Omaha Lincoln NEB.” To christen the rebirth of my creative workspace, I decided to give them a little more of a presentation, using materials that evoked feelings of the cabin on the river, and of a time when feeling dirt underfoot and memorizing Latin names for butterflies was really all a girl needed to pass a long, summer’s day.

Dirt on shelves

3 removed and mounted, 4 to go

Samples in progress

experimenting with backgrounds to mount the dirt samples

Linoleum in driveway

a nice sheet of aging linoleum that evokes the cottage, warming up in the driveway

Linoleum on masonite

cut down to the size of pre-cut masonite (done years ago by Pappaw Watts . . .for what?)

Dirt__Lincoln Nebraska

One sample assemblage ready

Dirt__Wyoming__Mike

This one goes to Pappaw DeWalt’s great-grandson, Mike, and his wife Charlotte, who live in Wyoming. Passing the dirt!

An Icelandic Walkabout

sculpture

He said, “Girl, you’re a beauty like I’ve never witnessed
And I’ve seen the Northern Lights dance in the air
But I’ve felt the cold that can follow the first kiss
And there’s not enough heat in the fires burning there.”

—John Hiatt, Icy Blue Heart

The Land of Fire and Ice was one of those destinations that was never really on my radar. Not until Yoko Ono set up her Imagine Peace Tower. Not until Larry toured and touted its wonders. Not until I decided I must see the Aurora Borealis before I die. I tucked Iceland into that folder that was fading : “Adventuress (of sorts).”  Was I ever? Was I still?

I was given the chance to find out. A stopover from London (on a mission to distribute my friend’s ashes into the Thames). An affordable flight. Three nights at an airbnb lodging. My Flybus deposited me onto a terrain with volcanic peaks and street names jumbled up like a very bad Scrabble hand. In the fog, no less. I was in Reykjavik with no immediate plan except to explore. And to soak in the Blue Lagoon.

Kind of in chronological order—but because Iceland is randomly cute and majestic and only a View-Master could possibly do it justice—my photos:

street sign in Reykjavik

I’m walkin’ here! I am a street sign connoisseur. A little googly eye pasted on by a kindred  spirit.

fog & duck

A “pea souper” my first evening in Reykjavik. But actual nightfall was 11pm.

waterfall

I climbed up and back in the allotted 20 minutes before the bus would have left without me.

double rainbow

It was worth it.

tiny pants

Uh-oh. Black lava sand beach at Reynisfjara. (Actually, just folded paper that caught my eye.)

Caution - Groyne!

Fun with homophones!

Black sand beach

Reynisfjara shore, near the village of Vik. Near the groynes.

me & basalt

Basalt backdrop near the cave. A rare photo of me on this trip.

moss & basalt

Detail that does not do justice to this area.

glacier

A receding glacier. On the right are tiny specks—hikers who are coming off the glacier.

waterfall with people

Another waterfall, another rainbow. This one I went behind. Got wet. Worth it.

OK, after that 9-hour bus tour, my next day was spent roaming the city . . .

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Babalu wall

Prikid window

Their corrugated metal buildings are everywhere and in all colors.

Prikid sign

Oldest cafe in Reykjavik (!) Beats me by 2 years! Had a veggie burger and glass of wine for $30. Yup.

Hallgrimskirkja

Hallsgrimskirkja – visible from everywhere

Einar Jonsson Museum

the fabulous Einar Jonsson Museum

Reykjavik coffee litter

Reykjavik kitty

Getting homesick!

the force is with me

May the Reykjavik force be with you.

Oh, last but not least! Right before I boarded my plane.

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon. Want to do it every week.

all photos copyright Sharon Watts 2017

Activist, No Longer “Act(ing) As If”

pussy-hat-hair-ball

what I made for the Women’s March on NY

A roaring tsunami of peacefully protesting pink pussy-hatted women (and men! and kids!) washed over the planet last Saturday. I was one drop in that ocean, finally finding my voice after forty-five years of legal adulthood, where I was (mostly) not rocking the boat / being seen but not heard / being a “good girl” instead of a “nasty woman.” I now intend on being an active, not passive, voice in what is a truly terrifying time in our nation’s history.

Here is one tributary of that pink wave, the one I was a part of in the Women’s March On NY.

extralarge

march-8

I had already been commissioned in the past year to do some activist art for YogaCityNYC. The first was to address sexual harassment in the yoga world, a symbolic illustrative logo to accompany several articles and a community discussion.

yoga-abuse-final-revise-copy

Then came an illustration for a Vagina Scrum)

vagina-scrum-final-art-revise

and finally, now that the election is over (and the P****Grabber-In-Chief is still whining and tweeting and in denial about his 3 million + loss in the popular vote), this:

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Every week, YogaCityNYC will suggest ways to not go quietly into that abyss,

with “Do This Now!

I was going through some of my art from the early 1970s, tucked in my attic, and discovered a student book published by Parson’s School of Design right at the time I was graduating. Just a few months ago it seemed as quaint as my Beatle scrapbooks. How far we had come! Now, it is au courant, all over again. Take a look.

flag-2

nixxon

barbed-wire

one-small-step

legal-abortion

racism

flag-1

That’s nearly one half of a century. We had come so far. We can’t give up that ground.

copyright sharon watts

Parsons School of Design credits:

1/Angelo Foccacio, 2/Bruce Handler, 3/unknown student poster, 4/Tory Ettlinger, 5/Sheryl Saks, 6/Alan Wood, 7/Melissa Schreiber

Close Knit

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Great Aunt Lenore was one of those orbital family members I encountered a few times a year, and whose context in my early life was not entirely clear to me. I remember her mostly as a bosomy backdrop for costume jeweled brooches, with grey marcelled hair and a wall-eye that always looked away while she asked how did I like school. She was not a cheek-pincher. She was a spinster* who somehow knew that an ivory-colored vinyl manicure set was the perfect Christmas present to give to a nine-year-old girl.

We dispensed with the “great” and simply called her Aunt Lenore. She was Pappaw Watts’ older sister (by ten years), born in 1897. I came along in 1953, and as a child was a bit tentative around her. It might have been that eye which refused to look at me, or simply because her world was so different than mine. We didn’t visit her often, but the ebb tide of a memory— the occasional Christmas or Easter noonday dinner in her dimly lit Victorian dining room (my younger sister Dianne and I on best behavior)— sometimes laps at my feet.

The holiday ham would be festooned with Dole pineapple slices, tacked on by whole cloves, an exotic touch, and a far cry from our usual pit stop after church: the brand new McDonald’s off I-83. My shyness and disinterest in adult conversation pushed me into exploring the house’s dark shadows, punctuated by porcelain knickknacks and bright white spotlights of crocheted doilies draped on chair arms, a love seat’s back, or under an African violet.

Of all the objects I have traveled the decades with, one that somehow has never strayed is a patchwork Afghan throw that she knitted. It most likely was a wedding gift for my parents (my father was her nephew). I don’t know which is more incredible: that I still have it or that she made it at all. Aunt Lenore was legally blind.

Her niece, my Aunt Anna Mae, is the lone custodian of memories predating my birth for my father’s side of the family. Anna Mae was my father’s younger sister, up until he was electrocuted on the job and our world’s axis took a seismic shift. Natural questions that would have been asked became stillborn in the wake of our personal nuclear family incident. So I’m asking them now. I learned that Aunt Lenore’s blindness was caused the day she was born.

“They put the wrong drops in her eyes. I guess they put drops in babies’ eyes as soon as they are born. That is what I was always told. She could see to get around but was considered completely blind.”

She went to the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia to learn a trade, and came out a masseuse. Who were her clients? No one I knew while growing up would indulge in what is now standard luxury spa fare. But massage was likely the muscle relaxant most prescribed by doctors of the time. E.R. Squibb’s followers were still experimenting in pharmaceutical labs, test tubes clinking, while she worked out knots (and knocked out her knitting projects).

I wish I could talk to her right now, woman to woman, spanning the centuries over a cup of tea: one of us a relic of the Victorian age, and the other of the baby boom era. Both childless, we each mustered—maybe even mastered—a creative life within the triangle of fate, circumstance, and will. She never left her hometown. I fled to Manhattan. And with me, I took that Afghan quilt.

*This (derogatory) term reflects the time I am referring to.

all-in-the-family

Our family – 1956

great-aunt-lenore-dianne-1957

Dianne & Aunt Lenore – 1957

grandpa-smolizer__1960

1960 – Me,  Great-grandfather Smolizer (Mammaw Watts’ father) and Dianne . . . and Aunt Lenore’s throw. Quite a contrast to our brand new mid-century modern living room!

me-on-coffee-table__afghan-1961

Easter 1961 – maybe a visit to Aunt Lenore’s after church?

afghan__-avenue-a__1971

1971 – Aunt Lenore’s throw has cozied-up my first NYC apartment, just in time for visiting friends from high school

theda__afghan-1974

1974 – my first Hell’s Kitchen studio apartment, and a visiting kitty.

me-and-afghan-1975

1975 – my second Hell’s Kitchen apartment

me-roxy__afghan-1976

1976 – what self-respecting fashionista  didn’t have those Reminiscence coveralls? (And gel-sandals??) Roxy (and all my cats) can’t wait to get her hair all over that throw.

Me in leather__afghan 1979.jpg

1979 –  Aunt Lenore’s throw is a backdrop for entering the New Wave era. And a security blanket that connects me to where I come from.

The shoe box of ancient family photos has yielded this gem. I never knew who it was, until I recently scrutinized the back. In pencil, it faintly says “Lenore 1913.” She is sixteen, in a field, wearing glasses and feeling the tall grass and wildflowers that she can’t see. Weaving it into her expanding world.

aunt-lenore-1913-copy

copyright Sharon Watts 2016

“Are You a Tourist?”

I stopped in my tracks at her question. Me? Me, a tourist??

I had just asked permission to take a photo of a woman in a dress, after trailing her for several blocks. (Was it because I asked permission? Wouldn’t a real New Yorker just snap away?)

Desiree in her NYC dress

Desiree

It was a summer day in New York—the kind of day I can walk forever, popping into shade pools, sitting in a park watching kids play in the fountain, planning my next culinary treat (egg cream or Italian ice?) It wasn’t just the dress, it was her—walking down Houston Street, enjoying the day, just as I was. As if we were steeping in the city’s shimmering heat itself, with not a care about the ongoing incendiary news headlines. Immune, in our moments in the sun.

I’d just left the Bowery and was heading toward my old stomping grounds, circa 1972: the Lower East Side. It’s only been in the last year or so that I have reclaimed some of the street joy that I lost after 9/11. I am thrilled that it is still there, a reserve I am tapping into again.

I go on walkabouts to neighborhoods I remember from forty-five years ago, to see what, if anything, remains. Dismayed at razed blocks of tenements once propped up by sturdy mom and pop shops and bodegas, I now stand on a prominent corner almost anywhere and don’t know where I am without a struggle. There is no distinctive storefront, no defining character at all. Just four huge bank branches (and sometimes more) anchoring the intersection, along with chain mega-drugstores. A global corporate Mexican stand-off.

To me, these businesses have no right to be here taking up valuable real estate. Paying astronomical commercial rent fees, they are a blight—a direct sow from exponentially grown greed begun in a starter kit—all for $24 worth of wampum.

A lot of small businesses—especially those I remember from the 1950s thru 1980s—had the aura of commerce as being personal, accessible, and even creative. Over the decades, Chase, Citibank, Duane Reade and their ilk have spread as noxiously as crabgrass in July.

So, in answer to Desiree’s question. Yes. And no.

Here are some things that caught my eye recently, on the sidewalks of New York.

On the Bowery, wholesale restaurant supply stores are still tucked in-between facets of millennial glitz. A frustrated *creative*, maybe stuck in his family business, exercising a little black humor to save his sanity (and mine):

meatgrinder store veteran

slicer with dog head

dog in grinder

Barbie in slicer

Some vintage Bowery signage, taken with my 35 mm Olympus, sometime in the ’80s:

72 - Bowery sign

photos copyright Sharon Watts

Before SoHo Became SoHo-hum

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At about the same time that Rosanna Arquette’s character was “Desperately Seeking Susan,” deep in SoHo, I was in the same neighborhood desperately seeking a new frontier. It was the mid-1980s, and for nearly nine years I bore witness to the once desolate streets paving way to packs of traipsing tourists elbowing me off my own sidewalks. SoHo was no longer my backyard, but becoming a brand.

I moved to Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, a mostly West Indian neighborhood that had taken root during “white flight” in the 1960s. On the corner of Washington Avenue, my once grand prewar building loomed with others along the Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux-designed thoroughfare, in dogged determination. They were up against the invading crack epidemic and race tensions between Lubavitcher Hasidic Jews (who also had a stake in the area known as Crown Heights), and the struggling black community. The exhilaration of uncertainty laced with creative potential zapped me almost the way it had fifteen years previous, when I first moved from the suburbs of Pennsylvania to a down, but not quite out, New York City.

(Ford to City: Drop Dead!)

Across the street I faced the splendor of the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, behind me were doberman pinschers on brownstone rooftops patrolling the drug dens below. I was sandwiched in between, and continued working in my sprawling apartment on my commercial illustration, delivering it to Manhattan clients in person via the IRT.

While SoHo was busy morphing from an art mecca to a shopping mall, there were some genuinely exciting moments, as street art and graffiti blurred with fashion, fame, music, and action. Inevitably, innocence soured into irony that girded the cast iron district, and Art and Commerce clamped together, squeezing out anyone and anything that could no longer survive or no longer wanted to.

images

But before the tipping point, living in SoHo was fun and thrilling. I was creating fashion art churned up by street energy and the music on my MTV.

(Beep Beep!)

black T, white jacket

1980 – Steven Meisel’s adult class

Ilsa - fabric collage - 72

Early 1980s – mixed media (fabric, paper, pastel)

Angst - 72

1980 – Steven Meisel adult class

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Miami Vice/Bowie influence (mixed media). And who didn’t have Wayfarer Ray Bans?

Ms. Skein - 72

Ms. Skein ~ Promo for Wool Council (mixed media)

Cut paper

Cut Paper

Hello - cut paper

Cosmopolitan Magazine job – mixed media (Cello-tak & paper)

 

All street photography snatched from the internet.

All art Copyright Sharon Watts

More links to SoHo street art:

The SoHo Memory Project

Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

I AM THE BEST ARTIST

Carrie Donovan & The Gray Lady & Me

Me- NYT

In 1991, I was being photographed in front of The New York Times building on West 43rd Street, its globed lamps and distinctive typeface serving as focal points while prompts were called out by the photographer, George Lange. My large art portfolio was wedged under my arm, tight against my leather biker jacket-clad torso. With my Great Aunt Lenora’s crocheted scarf cocooning my neck and a tube skirt snug around my legs, I strode down the block like I owned it. Looking slightly up, my face was captured in a smile, crimped along the edges with a bit of self-consciousness.

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I was chosen by The New York Times fashion editor Carrie Donovan—a character right out of the Audrey Hepburn classic film Funny Face—for a Sunday Magazine feature story about Manhattanites deemed to have personal style. Carrie, in her ubiquitous black and leopard prints and super-sized accessories, saw me once a week in whatever ensemble I had thrown together that day; I was also the illustrator she had chosen for her By Design column that appeared Tuesdays in the newspaper’s Style section.

I would enter the mythic, monolithic building from the street and head over to a line-up of phones on a marble ledge, waiting to be called into their roles as liaisons with people higher up in this bastion of journalism. Dialing Carrie’s extension, I passed the receiver to a security guard, then got the nod to go through the turnstiles and over to the elevators. Once I landed on nine, I made my way through a moat of bullpen cubicles, then was given the signal and admittance to Carrie’s inner sanctum. Now I would experience the heady feeling of being the center of her universe for ten minutes, as I presented my art for her approval.

NYT__By Design__Trends

“This is divine!” she might warble.

Or “Hmmm, don’t you think it’s just a bit de trop?”

NYT__By Design__stretch fabric

Sometimes, if she was just finishing up the story, I had to do the job entirely on the spot. This last minute deadline would send me around the corner to the design department to borrow art supplies and a surface to work on, a pearl-encrusted fashion gun to my head.

My weekly gig was fun, sometimes stressful, but most of all, a fulfillment of destiny. I had promised myself when I was a teenager that I would one day be in The New York Times. I had meant my artwork, but here I was, like Marlo Thomas in That Girl, and Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in love with my job, my life, and most of all, my city.

I did this for nearly a decade, during which time Carrie eventually retired and passed the reins of By Design to Anne-Marie Schiro, and The Gray Lady went to color. I still was making my weekly rounds, in person.

That wasn’t Carrie’s final act, however. She went on to be a surprise hit in Old Navy TV ads.

On November 12, 2001, Carrie passed away. I hadn’t noticed, hadn’t realized, hadn’t wondered until much later. I was too caught up in post-9/11 and missed her obituary. When I found out, I was dismayed that this grande dame had quietly left the stage without my being able to say au revoir.

So I’ll say it now. It was a pleasure working with and for you, not a bit de trop, and always divine.

Hawaiian Punch

mangoes copy

Hawaii is the kind of place I can visit for two weeks and feel my paradise-absorption levels at full saturation. By the end, I can’t take any more of all that good stuff:  sunshine, pristine beaches, postcard sunsets, snorkeling over reefs teeming with jewel-toned fish in turquoise water warmer than the air. And did I mention the fruit? Mangoes, passion fruit, pomegranates, dragon fruit, apple bananas, pineapples, papayas…all just hanging off trees for the picking! Maui is fruit smoothie heaven. And that is where I was, the end of November, during the blizzard that had blitzed Buffalo. Winter had arrived in New York. And I was in a good place.

I was there to help my friend with some home decor projects, so it was a kind of workation. It also was a place where, I had asked her six months previous, I might have a little mini-nervous breakdown, should I need it. Just a little quiet corner.

It turns out that, happily, I didn’t. So what can I do? I asked. She handed me a paint brush and pointed at the louvre doors. In my life I had done this task twice before, decades apart, each time swearing never again. But this time was different. I was on the porch, overlooking her tropical garden, and her gardener kept bringing me fresh-picked apple bananas. New to me, these small cousins to the ubiquitous bunch of Chiquitas in my kitchen seemed to be infused with something “other”–mysteriously evasive yet citrus-y.  I became hooked. I had my iPad and Ella Fitzgerald wafted over the warm air. I could paint louvre doors forever.

apple bananas

My Arches watercolor block was in my carry-on luggage, and so, dammit, I was going to paint! (I have a history of good intentions but no action when I pack art supplies). I wasn’t all that ambitious to switch brushes, but I took a few moments to paint what was around. I didn’t do the dragon fruit justice–the skin is luminous, neon, even as it aged.

dragon fruit copy

While wandering around the Maui swap meet, I saw some familiar characters drawn on tiles and magnets. Sitting there with his wares was Kimble Mead, one of my favorite illustrators from the 1970s and 1980s, whose work adorned every magazine I read in New York City at that time. He had moved to Maui, ditching those icy sidewalks and portfolio-schlepping. Kimble’s style is just as delightful as it ever was–sunny, quirky, and easily adaptable to his new home. I snapped up a few.

Kimble

 

Kimball Meade art

I visited some galleries in Lahaina and saw a lot of tourist art, or “art.” Picasso rubbed shoulders with Anthony Hopkins, Miro with Tony Bennett, Rembrandt with Red Skelton. Gaudy souvenirs and impulse purchases for bottomless wallets. Once again I felt that I don’t really know who my market is, or if I even have one. Who wants to buy a watercolor of a couple of aging mangoes or apple bananas? Not in Lahaina, where you can buy a REAL Hannibal Lecter!

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I wandered the neighborhood my friend lived in, and noticed the mailboxes. That became a photography theme I’ll share in the next post.

mailbox 3

My friend requested a small mural in the corner of the guest room against a sea of faux painting. I braved Black Friday at the Queen K Shopping Center and ducked into a Ben Franklin arts’n’craft store to buy a set of acrylics. When I came out to the parking lot I discovered the car battery had died. Waiting for AAA was a very zen experience, the lesson of which got lost in one of the time zones I passed through. The new battery became my hostess gift.

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And just so you aren’t disappointed, here is a Hawaiian sunset. Sometimes it’s good to be a simple tourist.

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photos copyright Sharon Watts 2014 (except Anthony Hopkins art)

 

 

Candy Cane Memories

Bettcandycan

credit: Me and My Green Bin

Growing up in the early 1960s, and being a kind of girly-girl, I do remember I liked my food pink. And sugary. When standing in line with my mom at Acme Supermarket, the impulse buy of choice near the cash register was those awful (to me now) pink marshmallow cookies with white coconut sprinkles. This was before red dye #2 was banned.

vintage mom & me

My mother, Shirley, and me in her state-of-the-art kitchen, 1957.

But at Christmas time, we made cookies. Mom did like to bake, if not actually cook. (Hey, it was the Atomic Age, and she had better things to do, like paint!) One of my favorites from that era was candy cane cookies. We had to divide the dough, and color one half. Then keep it moist until we twisted the braids together and curved them into the cane hook. Some baking, and voila! This was a cookie that actually tasted as good as it looked, as opposed to sand tarts. For all the glitter and sprinkles I shook onto them, they were always a letdown to me after they came off the sheet.

I no longer bake anything remotely like the candy cane cookie, since I have gotten much healthier in my eating habits. But a recent call for baking memories from one of my favorite blogs, A Hundred Years Ago, got me thinking about these cookies, and I realize that they probably still influence me today, in my art, if not my baking.

Happy Holidays to all!

Let it Snow! -card

I want to credit a fellow blogger for her contribution to the candy cane cookie. I shared her photo of the original recipe. Read her post for more on this classic!