Friday, August 7, 2020

Siege - Day 145

 Well, I finally had my little "my poor career!" meltdown.  

The combination of my last-this-year theater show getting officially canceled and me finally emptying my stage stuff out of my faithful car (affectionately thought of as the "Scenic Ride") so that I could trade it in... just felt sad.  

This clear beginning of a new era so clearly underlined the ending of an old era that I loved - me bombing around with my old car rattling-full of set dressing, woohoo! driving from one stage to another and another (often in the same hectic day!).

There will, I believe, I'm pretty sure, almoooost sure, be other shows to design for other stages... 

But things change.

And this is a New Era - marked by a brand new car.  A new car!  How exciting!  New cars are exciting!  New cars DO NOT smell sad.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Siege - Day 140

Just a quick note:

A FB friend posted an article about Black Civil War and Reconstruction era hero Robert Smalls.  Such courage!  Cleverness!  And - if you read far enough in the Wikipedia bio HERE  - also real kindness and forgiveness... as well as a steel spine.  Why isn't this man's story a best selling book and a blockbuster movie?  

Why isn't it required reading in U.S. history?  

I tell you, I become more and more disgusted by the lies and omissions in the Texas history books I once had in school.  Increasingly embarrassed at the gallons of moonlight-and-magnolia-swill that I swallowed without spitting.  And I was a pretty broad reader even then and, I believed, a skeptical reader too, so I did catch some lacks in that teaching... but not enough of them.  I find new insights daily it seems...  Betrayed by my schooling!

Ha!  Fool me once.

Two lessons for me from this: 1)  doubt what you do read/learn/hear, there may be a slant you don't immediately see, and 2) look very hard for the omissions... what aren't you hearing about?  In this age of disinformation and outright lies we all need to watch out.  (This is not, however an endorsement of silly conspiracy "research" involving dubious authorities and "alternative" facts.)

So, I'll be reading more about Mr. Smalls.

Next, complete non sequitur: 

Mark Bradford's painting/collages at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in an exhibition titled "Endpapers" :

Mark Bradford collage at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Mark Bradford collage at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Mark Bradford collage at Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Sadly, I did not note down the titles of his canvases. (But then again, I always think titles are a bit of a cheat anyway.)

I really liked the subtlety of his use of color and the subtle repetitions and variations of his building block rounded-edged rectangles (presumably the title's end paper... what is this exactly?  must research...).  I love the map-like quality - sometimes reminding me of the famous London Underground maps, sometimes more of USGS or nautical harbor maps.  

It's a different approach to collage and/or painting.  Some of the few abstract works that I think I could live with and never tire of.  Mark Bradford.  (Some more future research for me on that topic too.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Siege - Day 135

This past weekend we took an actual Field Trip!!!!

(So exciting.)

The art museums in Fort Worth have reopened and one of them, the Modern Art Museum had an exhibit I've wanted to see for decades (maybe 45 years?)... so we dared it.  

And it was fun!  Red Grooms's Ruckus Rodeo.  This photo gives you a good idea of the entire environment he creates - a Rodeo even more colorful and larger than life than the real thing.

Red Grooms's Ruckus Rodeo at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
 - photo by C. DeVries, free to use, public domain

Their other exhibit, "Mark Bradford: End Papers" was also interesting... completely different, being abstract painting/collages, but full of color too of a delicate, subtle, calibrated sort.  This is minimalism that has maximal impact and reward for close study.  And the two exhibits really did contrast each other in a nice way.  (I'll post a few images of Bradford's work next time.)

The museum itself felt comfortable and - in these Covid19 times - felt safe.  The Kimbell Museum next door was much more crowded, though just doable to me... but then its permanent collection gallery was free, compared to the pricey (and thus defacto more exclusive) Modern.  I'd visit both again.

At the Kimbell the curators were having a good time, pairing art works from different periods and places together - like this pairing of a Mayan sculpture with this Mondrian painting, both artists fascinated by mosaic like color / shape patterns.

Kimbell Art Museum permanent collection 
- photo by C. DeVries, free to public domain

So what else has been going on?

The heat of Texas summer has hit... stunning my tomatoes so that they feel too hot to even ripen.  Now that's hot.  I'll be experimenting with fried green tomatoes here shortly.  But I have just discovered a bonus avocado tree!  Well, a bonus tiny sapling where I idly planted the pit of a particularly tasty avocado.  Also the sprouty sweet potato I planted has grown into a pretty vine that shames the useless eggplant plants in the same pot.  Accidental gardening!

On the reading/watching front, I've been listening to more Masterclass gurus.  I kind of stalled out half way through Ron Howard's class on film directing (probably because I have no real ambition to direct a film), listened to a few classes on color by the expert interior designer (who reminds me very much of an interior designer I once worked with), and have started listening to my new poet fav, Billy Collins, class on poetry.  He's very good - slyly funny and very down to earth, plus a good poet.  I've been really enjoying this experience and heartily recommend it - but Take Your Time.  I find I can only absorb so much at a time.

One tidbit from the Poet Collins' talk: he describes the first few lines of a poem, which sets up its situation and eases the reader into it, as "dangling a bit of scenery in front of the reader."  As a set designer I like that!  (Honestly, in theaters with no grand drape to hide everything, a play's scenery does exactly what Mr. Collins requires from his first few lines of poetry: set the scene and ease the audience into the show.  Exactly that.)

Viewing?  After watching Hamilton, I've been "getting my money's worth" out of this one month Disney+ subscription, watching first The Mandelorean (very good and Baby Yoda!) and then rewatching The Black Panther.  The next couple days will be a Disneyfest!

Picture me lounging in my screen-watching-seat, munching popcorn and waving down the Ruckus Rodeo beer vendor, "Hey! Over here!"

Red Grooms's Ruckuss Rodeo
- photo by C. DeVries for public domain

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Monday, July 20, 2020

Siege - Day 127

"This is a passion profession. I found it, I loved it and it is gone.”

This quote, from a Chicago Tribune article on the state of their theater HERE.  And Dallas - Fort Worth is in the much same case.  The arts in general and the performing arts in particular are staggering under this virus.

For folks not directly involved with the stage who may look at our art as a mere decoration to society, not as a serious endeavor or industry, it's both.  Not to bore you with numbers (see a UNT estimate HERE ) but the TLDR version is that DFW's "creative" industry means 205,000 jobs.  And all of them - ALL - are at risk right now, whether that's a stage manager's job, a scenic designer's, an architect's, or a ballerina's.  

So it's just so heartening to know that this White House administration is concerned about our loss of jobs.  And has a plan!  A plan recently revealed to the public - announced by Ivanka Trump herself - as their campaign to help, titled: 

Find Something New! 

Stunning isn't it?  

Who gets to tell Yo Yo Ma that, since he has nimble fingers from playing that cello, he'd be really great at data entry?  

Maybe it's the empathy that stuns me...

Vote for someone with a plan in November.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Siege - Day 115

A shout-out to the artists you discover as you research for your own design work!

Most recently I discovered the Gee's Bend quilt makers and their incredible abstract compositions.  Just wonderful unexpected colors and slightly "off" geometries that make them, I think, paragons of quilts... rivaling anything the abstract painters have done.  Inspiring.  I discovered them during research for my last show, Alabaster, set in rural Alabama - a show steeped in folk art of a different style, but the quilts inspired our scenic colors and attitude.

Learn more HERE at Gee's Bend Quiltmakers: Souls Grown Deep.

Gee's Bend quilt - fair use of this image, I think 

And my other oft repeated how-could-I-forget-this?! discovery of the poems of Billy Collins:

"...The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor..."

I found myself in the little hours, still reading in a cooled bath tub...  Wonderful stuff.

More HERE  at

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Siege- Day 114 - SOS for the Arts

I'm forwarding on a plea from one of the best theater lighting designers I know:


"Extend the COVID 19 Emergency $600 per week additional unemployment assistance until at least December 31, 2020, and longer if necessary.

Why is this important?

Over the span of fourteen weeks, more than 47.1 million Americans have filed unemployment claims across the country because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This amounts to nearly 14% of the US population who are now out of a job—and that's only those who have formally applied for benefits. The actual number of newly unemployed people is likely much larger and will continue to increase in coming months.
Many people who are laid off due to COVID19 won't find work for a very long time, maybe never because some jobs lost today won't be coming back. People will need time and resources to learn and develop a new skill. By ending the $600 per week additional unemployment assistance too soon, we will certainly be dooming people to tragic futures. This will have far reaching ramifications. We need to look out for each other during these unprecedented times. Please let's help each other save and serve those who are in most need."
You can find a petition HERE, but better still, call or write your US Representative and Senators.
Public domain image - by Moziru
The truth is, most theater and other entertainment jobs won't come back this year.  Or until there'a a vaccine and audiences are safe to sit next to each other again.  Hard-working entertainment people just can't work at their crafts until then.  They'll find what work they can of course, if they can...
(Me?  I'm kinda okay.  My husband will feed me - especially since I'm cooking!  But many of my friends in theater don't have that second non-arts family income to fall-back on.)

Monday, July 6, 2020

Siege - Day 113 4th of July Weekend

An interesting, quiet, introspective 4th of July.

I heard lots of (illegal) fireworks late at night, but didn't go out to see them.  We swam on Friday, but left the pool to neighbors and visiting grandkids after that... too crowded.  Took a drive to see an architectural project and a sample wall to check out the stone color, which was both work and a welcome out-of-the-house trip (charging the battery yea!)... but only when the job site and adjacent park were empty.  Drove past the good BBQ joint without stopping.

But we flew our flag, grilled hamburgers, ate apple pie, watched Hamilton, and checked in with family by phone vid.  So, all the traditional holiday family and country without the germy crowds.

Hamilton is fantastic!  I have to see this on stage when I can.  I do have the, sorry, THE book Hamilton: the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, which is a deep exploration of the creation of the show.  Best room where it happened story I can remember off-hand.  Also, it has all the lyrics!  Highly recommend it. 

Alexander Hamilton by John Trumbull - public domain

Other books I'm reading - or getting ready to read - include A Hedonist in the Cellar, by Jay McInerney, which is a very entertaining memoir/collection of essays about wine buying.  Also - this one needs gearing up for - the hugely important and influential architecture/urban planning book, A Pattern Language, by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein and others.  

This book is a bit of an Everest for me... I heard about A Pattern Language in college (lo! decades ago) but could never get hold of a copy.  I looked for it in bookstores for decades but either could not find it or could not afford it.  After the internet book finding revolution... I still could never afford the copies I found.  The copy I did recently buy was considerably cheaper than it's $65 jacket price or the $100+ it usually goes for.  This volume looks brand new, but I can't tell if it's a reprint or a miraculously perfect relic of 1977... nah, it has a scan code on the back of the slipcover so it's gotta be new.  Just under-priced for some reason. My good luck!

Finally!  I have a copy I can sit down and READ.  This book is small but dense with thin Bible-like pages and small, light type, and it weighs like a brick in my hand.  I understand its density of ideas equals its density of wood pulp and ink.  I'll let you know how it goes...