Meet Mr Fluff

MazMon chat de gardien est à côté de moi

He’s Mr Serious

He’s Mr Foodie

He’s Mr Big Daftie

He’s Mr Loyal

He’s our cat Maz

When cats leave us, we often say, never again. And as the BIG THREE went one by one, and the two that followed seemed to be blighted by bad karma; it was a few months before deciding life without a cat could be a little bit dull. So I went in search of another. And came home with a three year old male, huge and sturdy, very fluffy.

He liked it here, so he stayed. No more moving around from house to house. Very loveable.

And you learn things. Like, don’t leave the margarine tub or butter dish out. Put the cat biscuits on top of the kitchen cupboard where he can’t reach. When he walks over to the pouches, that’s what he wants. When he sits by his water bowl, he means fresh water please. And so on. He watches the telly, the mouse on the screen and listens to youtube bird songs.

I’m expecting telepathic communication soon.

Between Me and Art – Part 1

Image

I had begun to find another way to paint and draw around the age of nine at middle school. After the early years of being taught to knit, sew and weave by my mother, hand embroidery at primary school, so many jumbo colouring in books with wax crayons and endless packets of felt tipped pens, cheap water colour pots – a new era was upon me – proper art classes.

I loved the smells of the art and craft room. There was everything in there, absolutely everything.  I feared the space too. It filled me with this daunting feeling – what had we come to do in this magnificent workshop stinking of wet clay, swarfega, powders, wood and  pva glue.

The teacher was young. She had her work cut out with us lot. If you weren’t hard, you pretended to be – or practised the art of strange. I did the latter. I was eerily quiet, precocious was a favourite word for me and I knew how to throw really dirty looks and be pretty darned weird. But my art teacher seemed to like me. She encouraged me always in my work.

I enjoyed drawing, painting, pastels and blowing the fixing fluid on to the paper, occasionally inhaling. Glue – everyone loved the pva glue. We watered it down for papier mache bowels and masks and painted our hands with it so we could peel it off during the boring talking parts of art class.

Then it all got a little bit harder one year. We were marched over to the vices, given blocks of wood, told to carve something and to make a jack-in-the-box. I tightened up inside. I knew I couldn’t even bang a nail in to a plank of wood in our cellar workshop at home, this was going to be a term of living hell.

As we worked on the two projects, one alone and the jack-in-the-box as a pair, I fell further and further behind. The block of wood was to be an otter. Week on week I chiseled at it, gripped in a vice like the block of wood, except mine was one of terror. How the hell was this going to turn in to an otter.

We worked on the box and clown, which came together quite nicely. My partner made the box, and I the puppet, This was a safe artform for me – textiles. But the otter….going nowhere.

The term came to an end and the teacher asked us all to present our work as a class. She walked around the work stations, commenting, admiring, critting. I can’t remember her name, but I can recall her angry voice on that day. It stuck with me for a long time.

After inspecting all our work, I thought I had gotten off lightly. Why had she not asked me why my otter had not revealed itself. What came next crushed all my love of making art for the next three years. She stood in the middle of the room and had a right go at me in front of everyone. Her anger astonished me. She expressed her disappointment in my not finishing the task and at the same time pointed out all the ‘great pieces of art’ I had done over the months that she had put up around her room. I had talent, she said, I was good, she said. But this time, I was really lazy. She was shouting, really shouting.

And I turned inside from being scared and worried to thinking fuck you, fuck you to hell and back.

She asked me if I had anything to say.  I glowered at her, my face flushed. I could have cried, but I didn’t. I stood silently, absolutely refusing to speak. She backed off.

We remained unfriends for the rest of my time with her. I refused to speak to her. She never apologised.

Although I carried on with art at grammar school, I didn’t fall back in love with making til I was sixteen. Then, a new era began.

swarfega

Magdalena Carmen Frieda Kahlo y Calderón

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‘The great hider-away’

I have wanted to write a little bit about Frida for some time, why she and her art are important to me, and perhaps lots of people.

I think I can recall when I first saw Frida’s work and images of her, I was around thirteen years old.  There was something about her that felt very familiar – her dress style, her moustache, her braided hair and flowers.

I love that she embraced her culture through her sense of dressing, of looking. She carried it off, it was all hers.

She was Mexican, I could relate to this too. Colour, brass bands, violence, cuisine, religion blending pagan and christian, ritual – there were similarities. She straddled tradition and modernity blended with surrealism and dreams – something that I love  – the crossing over, merging, creating something frighteningly new out of an old world.

Frida also depicted her pain, her body in anguish, her torment through startling work which lingered in my mind  – those images we all know, can relate to perhaps when we are hurting. I admired her bravery and also understood her need for self-expression. What she did for herself, she did for many women.

fridaportrait

She is of course an icon now. I have Frida earrings, art books, postcards and would happily have more. I have seen a couple of her pieces live and would like to visit her Blue House one day.

She didn’t save the world, she was in love with a man who let her down,  and she followed around, but she’s still with us today and her presence and work is, I believe, of value to understanding our state of being – of living with pain but finding a way to thrive.

Artistic Legacy

Since her death, Kahlo’s fame as an artist has only grown. Her beloved Blue House was opened as a museum in 1958. The feminist movement of the 1970s led to renewed interest in her life and work, as Kahlo was viewed by many as an icon of female creativity. In 1983, Hayden Herrera’s book on the artist, A Biography of Frida Kahlo, also helped to stir up interest in this great artist. More recently, her life was the subject of a 2002 film entitled Frida, starring Salma Hayek as the artist and Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera. Directed by Julie Taymor, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards and won for Best Makeup and Original Score.

What is the value of the artist? We don’t always know at the point in time that they are creating, they are active. But we can feel their presence for decades, centuries after their death. There’s something about this that I like.

bluehouse

More here by Germaine Greer for the Tate:

http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/patron-saint-lipstick-and-lavender-feminism