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CurateNYC is Awesome!

I went to the opening reception for CurateNYC at Elisa Contemporary Art gallery last evening and was absolutely blown away by some of the art.  One piece in particular, Unanswered Questions VII, by Donna Diamond, was so compelling yet mysterious that I absolutely had to talk with the artist.

From across the room, it looked like a black and white photograph, but of what you couldn’t tell.  As you got closer, you could see more and more detail, but still didn’t know of what.

So of course my first question was, how did you do it? Her first answer wasn’t especially helpful: “with a brush and ink, very slowly and carefully.”  But as we talked, artist to artist, it got a little clearer.  I don’t want to spoil the fun and give you the whole answer, but it has something to do with light bouncing off her studio table.  You really need to go to her website and see for yourself:  and go to portfolio/drawings.  If I knew how to do it, I’d pull the image into my blog.

Anyway, do check it out … you won’t be disappointed.

And if you’re in NYC, go to Elisa Contemporary Art, 5622 Mosholu Avenue, Riverdale, NY. The exhibit is there through Nov. 16, when it has its closing reception from 5-7pm. Call ahead to find out when they’re open: 212-729-4974. It’s worth the trip.

Recovery is faster using Apple products

It is now six days since we arrived back from our 17 day trip to China and things are pretty organized. We have gotten over our jet lag, unpacked, organized our papers and souvenirs from the trip, done the laundry and food shopping, and feel pretty good.

I’m headed to the dentist tomorrow to repair a chipped laminate on one of my front teeth (of course, it happened right at the beginning of the trip and I spent the rest of the trip trying to talk and smile without it showing).  In the meantime, my nickname is Fang. Steve is headed to the same dentist on Wednesday to put back a crown that fell off around the middle of the trip. Fortunately that was not so visible. Really fortunately, neither inhibited our ability to eat the delicious Chinese food on our trip.

But the biggest piece of wonderful news is that I can start painting tomorrow.  Every previous trip we’ve taken has included three weeks of recovery in the form of moving my photos from the camera memory cards to the computer, reviewing them, deleting some, printing a lot and placing the printed photos and my typed notes and assorted receipts, postcards, etc. into a trip binder. All very organized and helpful in showing friends where we were, answering my husband’s later questions and providing me with an easy way to review photos in preparation for a painting.

But there’s been a revolution since I began using Apple products.  It started when my son bequeathed me his old Mac desktop when he bought a new one about 5 years ago.  Then a year later, he gave me that “not quite so new” one when he moved to California.  Somewhere in there Steve and I both got iPhones and I realized how easy everything was syncing Apple products. The final pièce de résistance came when I bought an iPad.

I had already started using iPhoto on my Mac and loved how easy it was to crop, organize and label my photos. But this long-planned China trip was coming up and I was already dreading the 3-week post-trip organizing phase.  I’d seen a fellow traveler on our previous trip to Iceland organizing her photos on her iPad during a few of the longer bus rides and was determined to do the same in China.

There were a few glitches, but it worked pretty well.  I couldn’t post anything to my blog or to Facebook from within China (wasn’t sure why the Chinese government thought my blog would be sensitive, then realized all WordPress blogs were blocked), but I could — and did — organize all my photos into iPhoto Journals during the bus trips and flights around China. It took the help of one of my fellow travelers, John, who in a previous life had taught business people how to use Apple products, to figure out how to do it, but I was able to get the lion’s share of the post-trip organizing done during the actual trip itself. Halleluia!

China Spree, the trip organizer, kept us pretty busy during the trip itself (and I can’t paint on the bus or plane), so I only managed to do one quick sketch some time after our cruise on the Li River (an absolutely wonderful cruise with spectacular — paintable — scenery). I actually did two sketches, but the second one was gawd-awful, so I’m not showing to anyone.  Here’s the first one.



It is loosely based on the exposed limestone (karst) mountains we saw on our Li River cruise, the marble floor in one of our hotel bathrooms in China, and the calligraphy I admired throughout China, but especially in the Shanghai Museum.

I have an “Iceland” painting  to finish, started before I left for China, but right now karst, calligraphy and the Dragon Spine Rice Terraces are calling me.


China is what we used to be

Well, I’m back from China and our trip was a major learning experience for me.  Given that my level of knowledge about China was limited to major articles in the NY Times, it’s not a surprise that China was not what I expected.  So in no particular order…

My major impression is of tremendous energy and a “can do” attitude that we seem to have lost here in the States.  There is construction everywhere.  Want to move from polluting (coal) energy to clean (hydroelectric…) energy? …Build a series of dams, flood many cities and move the 1.5 million  displaced people into new buildings in new cities above the new waterline.  And then create a tourist attraction out of it to generate revenue. No problem. It reminds me of how we used to be before Washington got hopelessly gridlocked.

China has a long and rich history, but it’s not resting on its laurels.  China is big, and growth is everywhere and dramatic. Shanghai’s population quadrupled in the 10 years after 1994 (it’s now over 23 million) and you can see the result in all the new, modern, exciting skyscrapers.

Pudong, Shanghai skyline seen from the Bund

Pudong, Shanghai skyline seen from the Bund

Guilin, a small city by Chinese standards, has a population of 5 million. With all those people, I expected China’s cities to feel crowded, but they didn’t. They have built the infrastructure to handle millions of people: subways, trains, buses, major 10-lane streets, large public squares.

China has a bustling and vibrant middle class and people generally seem to be happy.  We didn’t see any homeless people or beggars and their street vendors are assertive but not overly aggressive. Everyone is friendly.

While China does have a major air pollution problem, the cities and countryside are clean. No graffiti. No garbage. The air pollution is really bad, though.

The Chinese are not fat, but give them time.  There are KFC and pizza places even in small towns. Chinese food is really good. I like good Chinese restaurants in New York and the food in China didn’t taste all that different. I know they toned down the spices in  a few places.  I gained weight and loved every mouthful. But all the food has a lot of salt. Most of us on the trip had swollen ankles after about two days.

As a Westerner in China, you are a tourist attraction.  While we were taking pictures of them, they were taking pictures of us.  A young boy of about 10 came up to me in Xian, held up his camera and asked me something in Chinese. I assumed he wanted me to take his picture in front of the Great Goose Pagoda so I nodded yes.  He then positioned himself next to me, held his camera out in front of both of us and took our picture. And that wasn’t an isolated experience.  My husband was walking along in Chongqing when three girls said hello. He said Ni Haw back and before you knew it one was standing next to him while the other two (and I) took pictures.

Steve and new friend

Steve and new friend

The V for Victory sign is the Chinese equivalent of “Say Cheese” (apparently).

In the cities, many people speak English and the street signs, etc. are usually in Chinese and English. The English in some of the signs was interesting, to say the least: “Warm tip: Please take care of your belongings” (what would be a “cold tip”?); “The photography place of ‘If You Are The One 2′” (on The Great Wall); “Former Things Shop” (antiques? dead animals?); “Don’t Take Elevator When Fire Alarm”; “No Surmounting in Thunderstorm” (at the Three Gorges Dam viewing platform); and my personal favorite:

I couldn't have said it better...

I couldn’t have said it better…

No clue what it means. But before I could feel superior, I wondered how many of our signs are translated into Chinese, however well or poorly done.

For whatever reason Chinese people don’t stand on line.  The minute there is any hint the plane might be boarding (long before there is any announcement), everyone is crowding forward jostling for postion. You either push forward yourself, or get pushed out of the way.  They don’t even think of it as rude.  It’s just what you do. At the Hall of Prayers for Good Harvest in Beijing I was standing looking into the temple when this tiny, but forceful woman pushed in front of me.  I made an involuntary sound sort of like a squeak and she squeaked back. Damn, I squeaked back as a form of protest and she squeaked back again and then turned around and smiled at me! Had no inkling that I thought she was rude.

There’s probably more, but I’m running out of steam. Will try to get my first full night of sleep…