Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Art of Jen Corace

“growing into a respectable lady no. 14” by Jen Corace
© Jen Corace

Jen Corace’s work has an old world feel with a modern sensibility. Her figures are often children or child-like and there is an innocence about her work that I find compelling. But it is an innocence that in no way implies simplicity of concept or intent. Her work has a subtle underlying sharpness to it as well. And it manages all this while being quite beautiful. Visit her gallery and learn more about the artist at

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bette Davis

click here to visit

”When a man gives his opinion he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion she's a bitch.”

- Bette Davis

Bette Davis was a great actress and a force to be reckoned with. She was unapologetically independent and driven at a time when those qualities were considered even less socially acceptable in a woman than they are now. Her sharp, brilliant portrayals made even unsympathetic characters eminently watchable and compelling. She lit up the screen. I love her acerbic wit, and many more of her quotes can be viewed here at

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Into the Forest

And next on my list of excellent female-centric fiction is... Into the Forest, written by Jean Hegland. The novel is set in a near-future that seems all too possible. The story unfolds as, in little increments, our civilization begins to fall apart. The novel follows two teenage sisters as power companies cease to output electricity, gasoline runs out, and society breaks down. Set in the woods of Northern California, the fact that their family lives 30 miles from the nearest town is probably the only thing saving them from the worst of the chaos. The book is a story about coming of age, survival and sisterhood. More than that, it is a story about finding a new place in the world, developing a new relationship with the earth. I found it unnerving, beautifully written and genuinely compelling. Random House has a synopsis here. Jean Hegland’s website is but I will warn that her website’s synopsis of the book contains some spoilers.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Art of Audrey Kawasaki

© 2004 Audrey Kawasaki (detail from an oil painting on wood)

Audrey Kawasaki’s paintings are sensual, flawlessly executed and vaguely disturbing. Her paintings (often executed on wood and allowing the wood grain to show through) seem like haunted daydream visions, fly-on-the-wall views of intimate women or vintage portraits that have never seen the light of day. Kawasaki's paintings and illustrations are populated with truncated bodies, limbless beauties, sleepy eyes and open mouths. They are gorgeous, innovative, unique and impossible to look away from. View her gallery at She also has a blog here where you can see her most recent work and works in progress.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dolores Ibarruri

”It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”

- Dolores Ibarruri

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stepford Traditions Die Hard

I am putting together the annual for a garden club (I'm a designer by trade).

I feel suddenly transported back 50 years. The garden club is 90% female. At least half of the members have two addresses. Several have nicknames like "Mimi" or "Tippy" (a lot of them are traditional Southern nicknames which may be silly but I actually find adorable). A few of them even have a formal name for their home (the address is preceded by "Windy Grove" or "The Windsor" or some other odd name that sounds like a hotel). One thing, however, is almost universal. All the women are noted as their given name and then "Mrs. Rutherford Fancyname III". I can see who is and is not married, as each listing includes the name of the spouse further down in the personal information. Only one married woman in the entire booklet has chosen not to list herself as "Mrs. whomever".

It reminds me of that scene in "Something To Talk About" (You know - the Julia Roberts movie in which Dennis Quaid plays her no-good cheating husband whom she forgives and goes back to which always irritates the crap out of me?) where Juila's character is in a planning meeting for the women's club and they are discussing the annual cookbook. She suggests that they modernize the format by listing their own names intead of "Mrs. Husband's-Name-Here." There is much objection to this suggestion and then one woman sums up their perspective by asking, "How will anyone know WHO I AM?"

It's one thing to know there are women who think like that in this world IN THEORY. It is a completely different matter to type up the names of dozens of women - many of whom have sucessful careers, all of whom must have an identity beyond that of "wife" - who are willing to be known as "Jane Smith, Mrs. John Smith". Maybe some have only listed their name in that way because it is the format all the other women are using. That would be a little better... but not much.

I am tempted to add "Mr. wife's-name-here" to the men's names.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


When I was a teenager, all my friends talked about poetry. We wrote copious amounts of poetry. We discussed poems in excruciating detail. We LOVED poetry.

We thought we were the first people EVER to write about the specific emotional crises we were addressing.

This led to my abandonment of poetry. Eventually I realized that any topic I tackled had been written about - gasp! - by SOMEONE ELSE. And even worse - it had been written about LONG before I wrote about it! Before I was even born. This information did not sit well with me. I wanted nothing to do with poetry - it had betrayed me.

In the intervening years, I have come to terms with that disheartening news. While I write poetry infrequently now (and don’t write nearly as well as I did when I was younger), I still enjoy the beautiful or striking arrangement of words. I like to revisit old favorites (e.e. cummings’ “she being Brand -new”, Alan Ginsberg’s “America”, Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus”...) and find their familiar rhythms reassuring.

...I just don’t talk about it. People look at you funny when you bring up poetry. They think you’re pretentious or just don’t know what to say about that unfamiliar territory. Last week poetry came up while talking to a relatively new but already close friend and we started to recite “she being Brand -new” simultaneously.

You know how people will breathlessly recite much loved song lyrics together; their voices gradually raise and unconciously speed up as they continue and become more and more thrilled at the mutual connection to that song? It was like that.

Those are shining moments.
The moments when you see you're not the only one.

"Secret Lives of Dresses" at A Dress A Day

The picture above is from A Dress A Day’s
“Secret Lives of Dresses #6” (and links to it)

Have you read The Secret Lives of Dresses? If you haven’t - you are missing out, my friend. Erin, of A Dress A Day, posts these missives written from the perspective of lovely vintage dresses. I find them brilliant and captivating and you really must read them.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Rita Mae Brown

click photo for link

”You are your work. Don't trade the stuff of your life, time, for nothing more than dollars. That's a rotten bargain.”

- Rita Mae Brown

Rita Mae Brown writes about bold women, people who buck convention and the richly eccentric characters of the Southern U.S. She may be better known for the Mrs. Murphy Mysteries that feature her cat, Sneaky Pie, as a “co-author” (they are entertaining.) and her first novel "Rubyfruit Jungle" which is considered a landmark work of lesbian fiction. I want to direct you to some of my personal favorites.

Southern Discomfort” is set in Montgomery, Alabama starting (I believe) in the 1920’s and is populated with a cast of unusual and tremendously vivid characters. The novel is authentically Southern and an excellent read. Any review you read will make it sound like a breezy romance, but it's really a portrait of a community and the scandals and changes that take place in it over the course of two decades.

I also love her books about Julia (Juts) and Louise (Wheezie) Hunsenmeir and Juts’ adopted daughter Nickel. “Six of One”, “Bingo” and “Loose Lips” are all set in the fictional town of Runneymede which is located smack-dab on the Mason-Dixon line. The sisters are competitive, full of life and absolutely hilarious. The books cover the sister’s later years (in which they refuse to slow down) as well as their youth, Nickel's present-day predicaments and delves into the family history. The stories are at least partially autobiographical (Nickel's is adoption is a great story and mirrors events in Ms. Brown's autobiograhy) ...and, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

Her official website is and an interview with the author on can be found here.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

When Pigs Fly

I love legumes. Beans of all sorts. It’s yet another thing to add to that list of things I hated as a child but really like now. Except refried beans. Refried beans always make me think of things being regurgitated. I have never been able to handle regurgitation. That’s what foiled my plan to become bulimic when I was 15. Couldn’t bring myself to do it, it grossed me out too much.

I know this observation has been made before, but I really find it funny (the dark, sick kind of funny) that eating disorders have been such a popular topic for after-school specials (Well, in MY day they were after-school specials. Now they make made-for-TV movies shown on Lifetime.) They just weren’t improving things much with their target audience. I would watch the story of woe and think, “Oh. If I eat one apple a day and keep myself moving by eating a little honey here and there - THEN I can be thin!” I considered these movies to be chock-full of great tips for losing weight - they covered things I would never have thought of on my own. They were very informative.

Fortunately, I never stuck to any of my “brilliant” new plans for Achieving A Skinny Body And Therefore Happiness for very long. I’d get too hungry and give up, deciding that there was obviously something wrong with me because all these other girls could do it and I couldn’t... Mind you, I had a friend who suffered permanent damage to her circulation as well as a great many other horrible side effects after overcoming her bulimia. Please understand - I DO know how serious these disorders are. I didn’t when I was 15. For whatever reason, the movies weren’t helping.

This all comes back to the legumes. I am eating a medley of veggies, garbanzo beans and kidney beans for lunch. Because I am on “The Diet” again. You know, the diet almost all women in the known (and probably unknown) universe are on intermittently throughout their lifetimes? Nevermind whether or not we "need" to lose weight. It's a proven natural law that 90% of all women harbor a strong belief in "the last ten pounds". Size is irrelevant in this matter. The good news is, almost fifteen years later, I have somehow had an absolute stroke of genius that PERHAPS it would make more sense to eat veggies, beans and fish instead of the plan I favored when I was 16. The "one Snickers bar a day" plan.

I never thought I would reach a point in life where I would pick beans over Snickers. Either I’m maturing or a pig’s due to swoop past my window any minute.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Slice of Life

According to the NCAG blog, this pretty yawning puff
is Alaska (a boy) belonging to their Canadian member Holly

I think it's wild that you can see so many different things and people in blogs. One that I keep going back to is the Northern California Angora Guild’s blog. Angora rabbits are enormous balls of fluff. Prizewinning purebred angora rabbits are oddly symetrical brushed out glorious little balls of fluff. They look like living cartoons. The blog has pictures (not only of angoras), discusses rabbit care (Apparently rabbits can be shipped anywhere. Bizarre.) and gives accounts of competitions. It’s fascinating to learn about other people's interests... but mostly I like the pictures of fluffy bunnies.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Maya Angelou

”A woman who is convinced that she deserves to accept only the best challenges herself to give the best. Then she is living phenomenally.”

- Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s official website is located at and some of her poetry can be found here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

In Which I am Apparently Dreadful and Offensive

I do not understand why some people shoot unpleasant looks about with wild abandon. I know that some people just DO this, but it really burns my butt.

Today a woman came into my place of employment, asked for one of my coworkers and gave me a VERY NASTY LOOK. A look that somewhere in between strong irritation and “What is this nasty thing I have stepped on?” It was bothersome. I do not know this woman. I have never done business with her. I do not have something dreadful stuck to my face (I checked). There is nothing remarkable or odd about my appearance that I am aware of. I am by no means horribly disfigured (I am told that I am attractive at least frequently enough that I cannot possibly look like Quasimodo and simply be unaware of it. And if I WAS disfigured then that would be no excuse for giving me nasty looks.). I am a little thinner than this woman, but not enough for her to direct random Angry Woman Vibes at me. The most unusual thing about my appearance is probably that I have red hair and if this causes an angry reaction in people, I was unaware of it. I am flummoxed.

Then my coworker comes out and the woman is pleasant to her. They conduct business, everything is fine. This does not help my irritation. Perhaps the woman’s husband left her for a redhead. Maybe she hates green (I am wearing green). I will never know. But I certainly didn’t do anything to her. So why make another person’s day a little less pleasant by being unpleasant to them? There's no excuse for that kind of behavior.

I’m so miffed now, I feel like giving OTHER people dirty looks to even things out a bit.

Maybe that’s what happened to her.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Betty Friedan

click on the image to view an interview with Betty Friedan

”Men weren't really the enemy - they were fellow victims suffering from an outmoded masculine mystique that made them feel unnecessarily inadequate when there were no bears to kill.”

- Betty Friedan

The National Organization for Women, which Betty Friedan co-founded in 1966, has an article here posted on the day she died, February 4, 2006. Betty Friedan was a feminist icon. While she was considered to be abrasive and even extremist by many, she also clearly had a lasting impact on the women's movement and, therefore, on the lives of American women.

...and I really love that she identifies the problem with men being that they feel useless because they don't have to club anything. Gotta love that while she was so hard-core, and probably right, this is also funny as hell.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

What Playtex Has To Contribute to My Day

Playtex tampons have a new slogan. "So comfortable you can't even feel them." is now a registered trademark of Playtex Gentle Glide Tampons (ew. "Gentle Glide"). So in theory this is a good thing, right? No one wants to feel, as Eve Ensler put it in The Vagina Monologues, "a dry wad of f**king cotton" up inside them. I should be greatful to Playtex.

Unfortunately I'm a forgetful person. Forgetful women everywhere, beware. Twice now I have run in a hysterical frenzy to the ladies room at work, certain that I am at risk of The Unspeakable Embarassment all women fear, only to find - after a near coronary - that I am, in fact, already safe and sound and "protected" as Playtex calls it on the side of the bright pink box. So then I'm left hyperventilating and holding an unwrapped tampon in my hand.

If this keeps up, I could try to think of entertaining things to do with them at work (since I don't want to put unwrapped tampons back in my bag or pocket lest they get fuzz on them. ew.). Maybe I can hide one in someone's desk and see what they do. I wonder if that's considered harassment. Hmmm.

Anyway, women, you've been warned.

It's like Black Olives

I’ve always hated teal. When I was a kid, JCPenney had children's clothing lines consisting of tops and shorts and skirts in color sets. One of the sets was all in teal and maroon and cream. We didn’t have much money and my mother was trying to do a good thing by providing me with nice, new clothes. She bought me an entire set. It was a big purchase for her. For my entire fifth grade year I appeared EXCLUSIVELY in teal, maroon and cream. I tried covering the outfits with a jean jacket, but it was no use. I looked absurd and every kid at school knew it. It was mortifying.

So I HATED teal... with a fiery burning passion.

It’s funny how you can have an emotional response to color. I still find the combination of teal and maroon revolting. I think it looks horrible, childhood horror notwithstanding. But teal itself has suddenly started to grow on me. I have an obsession with beautiful ornate cookware and last year I bought an oval shaped dish with scalloped edges that was glazed in this beautiful color that was part sea-green and part teal. It looks like an underwater picture taken in some exotic blue-green lagoon. I was shocked that I could like something in that color at all. But it is absolutely beautiful and I had to have it. And that’s how it started.

Now I’m buying fabrics for sewing projects in rich teals and my favorite jewelry is this stone pendant in a dark teal/green color that I get more compliments on than almost anything else I own. I’m completely nuts about this color. It’s like black olives, which I hated as a child and get mad cravings for now (well, except that I didn't really have any childhood trauma involving olives - that would be wierd). It's strange how your tastes evolve as you age.

Of course, I still think boys are gross. Not everything changes.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Art of Stella Im Hultberg

Insomnia, 2006 ©stella im hultberg

Her sensual washed-out paintings full of pillow-lipped women make me think of rainy days and antique linens. Her website is, it includes a place to view her sketchbook page by page which is really great and the angular, sophisticated drawings have the same faces but a completely different feel. She has some of her work for sale on her other website, Really interesting, beautiful work .

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

”Life engenders life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.”

- Sarah Bernhardt

This weekend I completely rearranged a room (you try making a piano, a large sewing table and a bunny habitat work in one room!), finished a sewing project, baked and iced a chocolate layer cake, made an awful lot of pancakes and completed a freelance design project. That’s only half of what I intended to get done BUT it’s much more than I’ve accomplished in the past several weekends. It’s amazing how being productive can make you feel as if you’ve cleared the cobwebs from your brain.

I feel like I need a platform in my new sewing area to stand on so I can do the whole “King of the World” thing a la Dicaprio.