Monthly Archives: January 2009

More Sneak Peek Website Pages

Here are the other new page designs for my website. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Sneak Peek at My New Website

After various stops and starts, I’m super happy to report that Heather Rose is nearly done redesigning my website. The above is what she did with those Mexican wrestler postage stamps I picked up in San Miguel. This is the contact info page (double click on the image and it’ll enlarge). Each page of the site has a gorgeous Rothko-like collage of Mexican walls in the background and many of the pages are discreetly seeded with magic potions. This page has some “call clients” magic soap. Love, love, love it.

25 Random Things About Me

My buddy Susan Davis tagged me for this meme over on Facebook…and I do whatever she tells me, so:

Once you’ve been tagged (and please consider yourself tagged if you’re reading this), you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you (please feel free post your list in the comments section if you don’t blog yourself). At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged (if you want to). You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. Earl Gray tea and cilantro taste soapy to me.
2. My favorite song is “Please Mr. Postman.”
3. I didn’t rebel against my mother till my 30s. Fortunately for both of us, I’m over it now.
4. I have a lot of Jewish friends.
5. I have uncanny intuition.
6. I have profound respect and admiration for the person my 14 year-old-daughter is becoming.
7. I was not a dog person before Goose.
8. According to my husband, I don’t know how to properly make a bed.
9. I don’t like being around drunk people. Tipsy people are okay.
10. I’d be fine with canceling our cable TV package, but not DSL.
11. I love road trips and hotel toiletries.
12. I’m embarrassed that I’ve never been to Paris.
13. I’m tougher than I look.
14. I thrive on creative collaboration.
15. My favorite color is green.
16. My cooking is getting better.
17. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover Pilates.
18. I prefer to be blond.
19. I like handmade textures.
20. I wish I had nicer handwriting.
21. I’m a terrible speller.
22. I swear by Dr. Sarno’s The Mindbody Prescription.
23. I generally get what I want and when I don’t, it’s almost always for the best.
24. I have two, maybe three, dead brothers.
25. I’m an optimist.

Interview with Annie Brody

Rachael Ray visits Camp Unleashed in Becket, Massachusetts

Native New Yorker Annie Brody moved from the 22nd floor of a Manhattan apartment building to a cottage on a dirt road in northeast Columbia County, New York, six years ago, after she adopted her first dog. The relaxing effect that living in nature had on them both inspired her to create Camp Unleashed, a getaway for dogs to unwind and “unleash” their true canine spirits together with their human guardians.

The Berkshires are off-leash dog heaven. Goose and I hike most weekends, often with Annie and her dogs, Rocky and Mandy. It’s super fun.

Gina: Is that wonderful photo on your website you as a child? Where was the photo taken, how old were you, and is that a stuffed animal?

Annie: Yes, that’s me with the only dog I had has a child. I named him Asta after the dog in The Thin Man television show. I think I was about five. He wasn’t really a stuffed animal — he was a rigid dog mannequin from a shoe store. My dad was the controller for a small chain of shoe stores and he brought it home for me because he knew how much I wanted a dog of my own. I recently found this old photo of me and realized that I just had to include it on the camp website — I hadn’t realized that the dog in my camp logo was a wire haired terrier, just like my little Asta!

Gina: When you adopted your first dog, did you have any inkling then that dogs would become so central to your life?

Annie: For as long as I can remember, I always loved dogs but couldn’t have one because I lived in apartment rentals that didn’t allow them. I also liked big dogs and didn’t think it would be fair to have one if it didn’t have any place to run. But then the NYC Parks Dept. opened a dog run in the park in my neighborhood…and one afternoon, as I walked away from petting someone else’s golden retriever puppy, I realized that my mood had changed in just a few minutes from being kind of down and depressed to being elated and excited about life. And I knew at that moment that dogs had always had that effect on me and that I had always known that too, but had never taken action to actually bring a dog into my life.

Within two weeks I found myself at the NYC ASPCA where I found, much to my delight, a one-year-old scrawny looking Golden Retriever, who had recently been picked up from wandering in a parking lot in the Bronx, and he didn’t have any identification tags! I was scared to death because I didn’t really know anything about caring for a dog, but I just acted on impulse. I figured my life would have to change somewhat but I had NO idea that I would end up a) moving from the 22nd floor in Manhattan to a dirt road in Columbia County, NY and b) that I would end up wanting and creating a life of dogs 24/7.

Gina: I was nervous about off-leash hiking when Goose was a puppy, but of course he took right to it and now it’s the activity that makes both him and me happiest. It’s such a joyful experience to see him run and splash and scale boulders and romp with other dogs. Is it hard for the city dogs and their caretakers who experience off-leash freedom at camp to return to leashed life in the city?

Annie: Once people have the experience of seeing their dog free and independent at camp, yet connected to them, they just naturally want to create more opportunities like that. Although daily life in the city may require leashes, there are plenty of places to go for off leash hiking if one looks for them. My attitude is that dogs deserve vacations, too! And if you love your dog, it’s central to his/her well-being to be allowed to be a dog every now and then, run free with the pack, and not have to live by the human rules 24/7.

Gina: Please tell me about the dog music book and CD. When I first heard about it, frankly I thought: My dog is a dog. He does not need spa music. But after he got freaked out in the thunder storm the other night, I did wonder if the music might help. What is the science behind it?

Annie: Through A Dog’s Ear really works! The testimonials we get from people who were at their wits end before trying the music because their dogs’ suffered so much — particularly with thunder phobia, but really with any kind of noise phobia, are simply astounding! The music was psychoacoustically designed by composer/producer Joshua Leeds, author of The Power of Sound and clinically tested by veterinary neurologist Sue Wagner with 150 dogs in shelters, homes, and kennels. It’s all based on the science of biology and sound waves — there’s a lot about their research and how to use the music to help de-stress dogs with various problem behaviors, injuries, etc. on their website. It’s like aromatherapy, but this time the sense is through hearing — something dogs are finely attuned to!

Gina: How did Rachael Ray hear about Camp Unleashed?

Annie: Her producers were researching canine nutrition for a Rachael Ray special on pets and food for The Food Network and
they found two presentations we offer at Camp — one from a holistic vet about how to feed your dog a healthy diet of high quality nutrition and a workshop on “Preparing A Raw Diet for Your Dog at Home” by local food advocate Gianni Ortiz. I’m a big believer that a high quality diet is essential to a dog’s health, energy, and vitality and holistic health care is always a focus at at camp.

Gina: What’s up next for you?

Annie: In February Camp Unleashed is offering a Winter Wonderland Weekend which features cross country skiing and snowshoeing, a wine tasting and lodging at a quaint dog-friendly B&B in the Berkshires. Dogs, as well as humans apparently suffer from S.A.D. (seasonal affected disorder) and the best way to beat the cabin fever blues is to get out and enjoy the beautiful snow with them!

Photo by Trix Rosen

Obamicon Yourself

I’m posting altogether too many photos of myself lately, but I thought you, too, might wish to Obamicon your profile picture in honor of our new president’s upcoming inauguration. Click here for Paste Magazine’s nifty free application.

New Year, New Glasses

First things first: Here’s a photo of me in my new glasses. They were designed by Frenchman Cyril Dray of I See GB in Great Barrington and manufactured by Zip+Homme in Japan. I’ve been wearing them for a couple of weeks now and like them very much, even if they’re not magic like my much-lamented former green pair.

My family didn’t warm to them until we toured the Sol LeWitt wall drawing retrospective at MASS MoCA. We were taking in LeWitt’s middle period work, the drawings with the softer geometry and vibrant, not yet screaming color, and Annalena turned to me and said, “You know Mom, your glasses are starting to grow on me.” Dave looked around the gallery, “Yes, they make sense here.”

They seem to be preaching to the choir of good glasses lovers glasses rather than ones that promote world peace by uniting all of humanity with their mystical rightness. So be it. I’m grateful that I can see and that my little New England town is home to such an excellent eyewear shop.

I’m in professional limbo at the moment, having recently drafted a proposal for a new publishing project and waiting to hear what my agent thinks of it. I hate waiting, but love being at a beginning again.

I want to keep the sense of uncharted territory and freshness going with this blog as it enters year two. The more people read my blog (8859 visitors in ’08), the harder it becomes to stay loose with it, but that’s the key.

And since this is my blog where nobody’s the boss of me except me and, as many editors have noticed, I don’t care much about formal transitions…

Dave and I met on January 3, 1989 at New Langton Arts in San Francisco and moved in together three weeks later. I remember telling a friend at the time that our blazing romance was “not trivial.” Here we are 20 years down the road. It’s a miracle and a mystery.

My heart goes out to Ericka Lutz, whose marriage in many ways seems to have mirrored my own. Her husband, Bill Sonnenschein, died unexpectedly over the holidays and she wrote this incredible blog post about it. I don’t know how she found the strength and clarity to write it…except that I do…words are solace.

Leigh Hyams's New Book

I’m delighted to report that my mother’s book, How Painting Holds Me on the Earth: Writings from a Maverick Painter and Teacher is now available via amazon. It says temporarily out of stock, but I’m quite sure that when one orders the book, prints a copy right up on demand.

Here’s an excerpt:

by Leigh Hyams

Painter Philip Guston used to say “Frustration is one of the great things in art. Satisfaction is nothing.” That’s true, but not quite true, because satisfaction can be downright dangerous to a working artist. Glorious moments of ecstatic joy are permissible from time to time. Momentary relief comes in flashes of ‘knowing’ that this time your painting ‘works’—flashes that come with anxious pride and quiet joy but strands of doubt always linger under the surface. The pleasure seldom lasts overnight and by the next morning Dissatisfaction is operational again.

It’s really what keeps us going all our working lives, though. Each painting we make teaches us more about painting and more about what we DON’T know about painting. And this is lucky because facility for artists is a trap. Unless we take chances we die in art. Facility comes with the territory, whether we want it or not if we work hard enough and long enough, but it can get in the way of being truly creative.

Attitude is everything. We have to put away our half-baked ideas about what is acceptable, forget our previous experience or lack of it. Curiosity and fearlessness are the essential ingredients, plus a willingness to Do The Work—not just study it or talk about it. We must give ourselves permission to fly with paint, to work freely, openly, dangerously, to follow our hunches, act on irrational thoughts. And also to take time for quiet critical study of what we are doing. We become more adventurous and, at the same time, more discriminating, able to discern areas in our paintings that need clarification, color or shape changes in sections (usually background areas) where our attention wavered, where we were not wholly present.

Occasionally we paint beyond our understanding and work comes out of us that’s different from anything we’ve done before. It may or may not be opening a door to a new way of working, but we must not automatically ‘judge’ it with the same set of parameters we’ve been using until then. Note its strangeness, its unfamiliarity and see what’s there to learn from it. We have to trust the creative process, knowing that with each drawing or painting we make with our whole hearts, our understanding of the richness and profundity of visual language—non verbal language—will deepen.

Enrique Martinez Celaya says “The meaning of art is embodied in the way it is made. It must pass your test of authenticity, of being real. There must be nothing that looks false in a painting. The difference between a good painting and a bad painting is that level of conviction which a painter can bring to a canvas.” It’s easy to drip or scribble or get a painting of a watermelon to look like a watermelon, but it’s really hard to do it in a way that means anything.

It’s impossible, of course, to make a drawing or a painting without using visual language—space, color, line, texture and value—but it is the rightness of their relationships on the canvas that makes a work of art in any era, any style or media successful, that gives the images involved the strength to move us.

Many people, however, while studying a painting are only decoding the symbolism of the images, experiencing nostalgia, or personal memories and associations, unaware of the passion and complexity of the visual language which forms the painting. There are museum visitors who look for ten seconds at Rembrandt’s portrait of himself as an old man and think “That looks like my grandfather”, and then pass on to the next painting on the wall. They are telling themselves stories, experiencing memories, nostalgia, not experiencing art—non language reality.

If you genuinely, deeply look at a real flower the reality of it is a non-language reality. It is simply, uniquely what it is, and can’t be described in any language. When a botanist tells us the species it belongs to that’s not the flower, it’s only information.

The large flower images in my paintings are not flowers. They are paintings. They exist as works of art but they are also a vehicle that can point beyond art work. It’s true that some of the shapes can be named—that’s the stem, there’s the stamen—but if you are open and keep looking at the images themselves, words stop having any meaning.

A painting of worth is far more than a surface to be seen on a wall. (Think about that Rembrandt.) It deals with another kind of reality. The true experience of a painting can’t be represented. It’s not visible in the painting itself, yet it is there. It’s FELT. The experience itself exists somewhere in the space between the canvas and ourselves. It doesn’t take place on the canvas. It becomes visible only when we understand that it’s not there on the canvas. Once I saw a man staring at one of my paintings on a museum wall. He didn’t move when I came up to him but said, with his eyes still on the canvas, “Will that painting ever let me go?”

Artists make drawings and paintings and they make us. If we are working from a clean true need to paint, not trying to get rich and famous or get into the Museum of Modern Art, there’s a kind of focus in the process that forces us to be honest. Drawing, for instance can sear you, strip away everything that’s not essential to you. The process changes us, affects choices we make in the way we live our lives, makes us try to live with the same excitement, awareness and integrity our work demands.

But week after week, year after year, many of the images on canvas or paper which carried our passion, skill and sensitivity when we made them, eventually lose much of their personal significance for us. The power they held during the making has transferred itself into us, has become part of who we are as artists and human beings. But the power itself remains intact in the paintings, the good ones, and can enter and affect attentive viewers for centuries after they are made. Consider the frescoes at Pompei, the cave paintings at Lescaux, Mayan murals at Bonampak, canvasses by Agnes Martin, Anselm Keifer, Picasso—not to mention the Benin bronzes, the Elgin Marbles, Mancha Pichu, the Unicorn tapestries, and centuries of vital art-making from the entire continent of Africa.

The Celtic people in northern Scotland and Ireland believed, and probably still believe, that there is an exact moment each day when twilight ends and night begins whe
there is an opening between the worlds for a split second that one can slip through and enter the “other” world. Many artists search for a way to create this kind of opening in their work—an entrance that viewers can slip through into a non-verbal private internal experience, a jolt of awareness that wakes them up, takes them out of an everyday state of being, a reminder, perhaps, that right now they are actually breathing and alive and part of an immense mysterious universe.

It takes courage, fierce honesty and a little madness for artists to make paintings that are alive and meaningful irrespective of subject matter, style or media. And irrespective of the commercial art world—the lure of money and fame. A life in art is a journey not a destination, and painting, far from being a commodity, is a necessity of life.

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Copyright © Gina Hyams