Happy birthday, JK Rowling and Harry Potter!

Illustration by Mary Grandpre
(Source)

Little known fact (to this blog, at least): I am a huge Harry Potter fan. Not super obsessed– not like this guy, anyway– but I have been reading the books for almost 13 years. I went to 3 midnight releases for the 5th, 6th and 7th books, midnight-premiered 4 of the 8 movies (and nearly won a wand at the midnight premiere of “Goblet of Fire” but ended up losing because I was the first of three people who didn’t know the incantation for the Tickling Charm [it’s “rictusempra”]), and I frequently listen to the audiobooks when I go to sleep. I also own The Psychology of Harry Potter and The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles (you know, so I can intellectually supplement my obsession). But I digress: for those of us super-fans out there, we know that Harry Potter would be 32 today and that JK Rowling is 47. Continue reading

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Essay review: No More Play by Rosalind Krauss

Any artist’s work can be seen from the vantage of either two, possibly conflicting, perspectives. One of these looks at the oeuvre from within the totality of the individual. The other regards it, far more impersonally, within a historical dimension, which is to say, comparatively, in relation to the work of others and the collective development of a given medium. Often these two perspectives overlap… In Giacometti’s case this is not so. (73)

Alberto Giacometti, “Invisible Object” (1934)
(Source)

“No More Play” is an essay in the anthology Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths by Rosalind Krauss. I read this particular essay for one of my major questions that deals with Andre Breton vs. Georges Bataille’s perspectives on Surrealism. In this essay, Krauss looks at the art of Alberto Giacometti, specifically in the years leading up to 1934 when he utilized primitivism in his work. She starts with an account (or rather several) about his sculpture “Invisible Object.” She first begins by recounting a rather orthodox-Surrealist story told by Andre Breton about Giacometti being drawn to a mask at a flea market that helped resolve the conflict he was having with the sculpture he was working on. The finding of this mask functioned as a dream, for the dream frees one from emotional scruples. However, in a 1951 catalog of a survey exhibition of Giacometti’s work, Michel Leiris wrote that the piece was sculpted after “‘a young girl with knees half-bent as though offering herself to the beholder'” (43). This reference to a real-world inspiration goes against Breton’s dream-world assumptions because it puts the object at a transparent level to the observable world, which also reflects the attitude of postwar Paris. Breton’s story is suspicious anyway because the piece alludes so clearly to a figure from the Solomon Islands, evidenced in its posture, jut of the head, and shape of breasts. Krauss uses this sculpture as a springboard to talk about the larger issues of the role of primitivism in Giacometti’s art up until 1934, which freed his work from the classical sculptural tradition and Cubism. This primitivism is in accordance with Georges Bataille’s dissident Surrealism, which was arguably transgressive.  Continue reading

Ravelymp… I mean, crocheting during the Olympics!

Crochet project #5: Baby girl’s flower hat

I would have loved to have gone to an Olympics crafting party last night, but working on my hat at home was very nice too. I know that I was thinking about starting the baby’s baseball hat the other day, but my antsy feeling to try a new kind of stitch overwhelmed me (not really, but you know). Here, I used a back post double crochet stitch, which creates a nice texture for the brim and will be flipped up. The Olympics Opening Ceremony is a great time to get some crafting work done, because a) it’s long, b) it’s entertaining television, and c) I can’t read and watch TV at the same time because TV is usually more stimulating.

I have to admit that when the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympics was just getting started, I was a little unimpressed. Granted, I may be biased because I don’t think that the opening for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be topped for a long, long time (and Danny Boyle himself said that he was glad that their opener was better because he knew he couldn’t top it, meaning he could do whatever he wanted). I get that it was meant to trace London’s history from egalitarian to industrial revolution to modern day, but the history geek in me was like, “Where are the medieval castles??” I also thought that the beginning part of the industrial revolution segment was a little, well, dumb, but once the drums came in, it got a lot more entertaining. The appearance of Voldemort and other villains was very cool (especially given that JK Rowling was one of the cast and I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd), and I did love the dancing in the “modern era” segments. There were a few parts that were a little odd, like the giant baby in the middle of the stadium, but overall, I ended up being impressed. So kudos, Danny Boyle, ya did good.

I wish I could do nothing but crochet for the next 2+ weeks and watch the Olympic games, but unfortunately it is almost August and I am feeling a little anxious about my current state in relation to comps. While I have my 5 major questions decided upon, I only have 2/3 minor questions solidified. I also need to start writing 3 page papers on each of my questions so that I’m not in full-on panic mode when school starts. Too bad I’m not inspired to do a read-athon or something– that would be awesome to do while having the Olympics on in the background (if I were capable of such a feat). Oh well. I’ll make do with crocheting a bit while watching the Olympics on occasion.

Book review: Irrational Modernism by Amelia Jones

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (Source)

My thoughts were powerless against unhappiness so huge. I couldn’t alter European history, or order the artillery to stop firing. I could stare at the War as I stared at the sultry sky, longing for life and freedom and vaguely altruistic about my fellow-victims. But a second-lieutenant could attempt nothing– except to satisfy his superior officers; and altogether, I concluded, Armageddon was too immense for my solitary understanding. (Siegfried Sassoon, 1930 [46])

First of all, let me say that I cannot even begin to describe how refreshing it was to read Amelia Jones after the structural mess that was Whitney Chadwick’s Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement. I have actually read a fair amount of Jones’ scholarship, as she was a visiting scholar at my school last semester, and I have concluded that there are four things that can always be counted upon in her work: a cohesive introduction with a thesis statement that is easily identifiable, a conclusion that wraps up everything with a nice little bow, a beautiful (albeit complicated) style of writing, and liberal usage of derogatory language.

Having met Dr. Jones in person, I can tell you that she reads like she sounds. She is brilliant, opinionated, and extraordinarily blunt (word to the wise: don’t try to talk to her about Harry Potter, because she’s one of the 1% of the population that thinks it’s a waste of verbage). During a lecture in which she presented a partial chapter from her new book, Seeing Differently: A History and Theory of Identification and the Visual Arts, she offended one of my professors so much with her repeated usage of the term “c*nt art” and a brief allusion to her own sex life that he opted out of dinner with her that night. I found this rather ironic, as he was teaching a class on Leo Steinberg, who was often just as blunt as Dr. Jones in his own writing (and in one of my papers in that class, I discussed how she reminded me of him). However, this particular professor loved her book Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York DadaContinue reading

Next idea for a crochet project

Spring Training Cap, by Linda Permann

Pattern from the March/April 2012 edition of Crochet Today (which I’ll either need to go find or make up on my own, because all they have online is the supply list and a basic picture of the pattern sized for a child).

My lovely coworker sent me a picture of this via Pinterest. Some of you probably know that I have been having trouble thinking of a good hat for a 6-12 month old baby boy. Where would an uninspired crocheter be without a fashionable friend with a Pinterest account?

I apologize to my crafty friends for my absence from posting about crocheting. I sadly have not been working on anything lately for a variety of reasons: my need to read more books for school, last week’s shooting in Aurora, and my birthday are the big ones. But I am hoping to start on this hat soon! If I want the main body of the hat to be made primarily out of my Grandma’s yarn, I may have to opt for off-white. The red that I have is the same gauge, and I don’t think there is enough pure white in her stash at that size even for a baby hat.

I have also made a test swatch of that pale pink yarn I posted about previously for a 6-12 month old baby girl hat (this is the yarn that will nicely complement my currently unused dianthus flower). I am going to try something new with this hat: I want to use back and front post stitches for the brim so that I have a nice textured fabric that I can flip up. Hopefully that experiment goes well (and thank god for Youtube!).

Book review: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement by Whitney Chadwick

Leonora Carrington, “The Juggler” (1954)
(Source)

I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse… I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist. (Leonora Carrington)

I have to admit, I was not nearly as impressed with this book as I thought I would be. My anticipation was framed by two factors: Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement was the first comprehensive look at the women artists associated with Surrealism (notice that I don’t say “Surrealist women artists,” as not all of the women in the book considered themselves Surrealists. Chadwick makes the distinction that these were women who were at one time affiliated with Surrealism in some capacity and had careers that were not reliant on Breton or Surrealism). Also, this book was one of the primary sources behind the In Wonderland exhibition and catalog, which is unsurprising considering that she was one of the curators/contributors to the catalog.

This book was written between 1980 and 1985. I found Chadwick’s writing to be informative, but poorly structured: I felt like I was following a mostly linear train of thought that she managed to break apart into six chapters, but there was little to no framing. Perhaps an introductory chapter that cohesively explains the book with nice summaries of each chapter is a relatively new requirement of scholarly work. And so are introductions and conclusions to each chapter, for that matter. What does this have to do with the actual content of the book? Not a damn thing, I just thought you all should know that the book was frustrating and that I am going to make sure my master’s thesis has a good abstract, introduction, conclusion, and that I properly frame my chapters.

Chadwick’s aim with her book is to make the women artists associated with Surrealism more accessible to study, and she claims to not want to isolate them as women artists, nor define them solely by their connection to the movement. It is debatable if she actually is successful in either of these aims, as her book ends up being somewhat essentialist and does not go too far outside of Surrealism to discuss the wider work of these artists. Chadwick prefaces her book with the confession that the histories of the women artists affiliated with “first generation” Surrealism were often difficult to distinguish because they were/are overshadowed by the histories of Surrealist men. These women more often than naught were remembered as muses to their male counterparts, but the fact that they continued in their own careers after the original group dissipated nullifies the idea that her role as muse outweighed her role as artist. Furthermore, the light that feminism shed on women artists particularly in the 1970’s and 80’s made it all the more important to address the women artists affiliated with Surrealism (even though Chadwick denies that this is a feminist retelling of the first generation of Surrealism). This book was the first time a woman attempted to address the “real” history of these women. This history is complicated, fragmented, often contradictory, and difficult to relay (which is definitely obvious in her piecemeal retelling of parts of different artist’s stories throughout the chapters).  Continue reading

Tragedy strikes Colorado again

Photo from Denver Comic Con

Just the other day, I posted about looking forward to the midnight premiere of the newest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises,” at a local theatre in Sheridan, which is near Denver. It was not only the midnight premiere, but a screening of the entire trilogy. I was in the theatre for nearly 9 hours, and when we got out, I noticed cops were everywhere in the parking lot, but I figured they were keeping an eye out for potential drunk drivers. When we got in the car, my boyfriend had a text message from his brother asking him to contact him immediately. We thought it might have been a nasty accident on the highway, since my boyfriend works as a medical courier and his brother works as a taxi dispatcher. When I saw that Google Maps were clear of traffic on my phone, I checked the news: there was a shooting in Aurora at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and at least 10 people were killed. I was numb– how could this happen? Who shoots up a movie theatre?

My boyfriend goes to film school in Aurora, and shortly after the initial shock of hearing about the shooting, we realized that we have friends who were probably at that theatre, since we all had been anticipating the release of the movie for god-knows-how-long. And sure enough, after checking Facebook and texting everyone we know in the area, we found that several had gone there in a group. They were in Theatre 8, right next door to the shooting, where some people were hit by stray bullets going through the wall. None of my friends were hurt, thank god, though I found out that two of them originally had tickets for Theatre 9 but had switched with someone so they could stay with their friends. The realization that we could have easily been there ourselves makes my stomach twist. And the news has only gotten worse since then: 12 people were killed and 58 were injured.

I had been planning on posting a review of the movie here on my blog, but in light of the recent tragic events, I am going to hold off for a while (plus, I doubt many people are going to want to go to the movies this weekend anyway. I know I have had my fill of theatres for a while and am never going to a midnight premiere again). Please send good thoughts/prayers/vibes in a Colorado-wardly direction, and tell everyone you care about that you love them.