Monday, July 30, 2007

RIP Grandma Norma

A little break from the arts to honor my dear, sweet Grandma, Norma Ploen, who died at the age of 90 early Saturday morning at her nursing home in Davenport, Iowa. I am happy for her that she passed on - it has been many, many years since she lived the kind of life she wanted to live, and I'm happy to know she's been set free to waltz to her heart's content. But it's still a sad occasion, and I wish I could be with my family in Iowa today.

The pics: This is Norma in 1932, when she was 16 years old, and below, Grandma with my mom in 2002, when we celebrated mom's 60th in Durant, Iowa, down the street from where mom grew up.

Since I grew up in Texas and she lived in Iowa, where she raised my mother and six uncles, I didn't get to spend near as much time with Grandma as I would have liked when I was growing up. But the couple of times each year I did see her were pure bliss - she was absolutely the epitome of sweetness, all love and patience, gentleness and humor. I last saw her almost a year ago, on her 90th birthday, and knew that was probably our final visit.

Here, in no particular order, are ten great memories I have of dear Grandma Norma:

10. She asked me last year if I had a boyfriend, and when I told her that I had a husband, she said "Well then you'd better not have a boyfriend!"

9. When she finally met my husband, she looked at him and, sounding like a 17-year-old, said "Ooh who's that handsome guy?"

8. When I was little she taught me to take care of my nails - I had the longest, prettiest, reddest fingernails in the fifth grade!

7. Endless games of pinochle at the kitchen table when I was a kid - how many people can get an eight-year-old totally sold on pinochle?

6. Spending time with her and Steve. One of grandma's six sons, Steve, tragically died when he was 17 in a car accident in, I think, 1968. A couple of years later, another local boy named Steve Muller was severely brain damaged in a car accident. Norma helped take care of him for the next 30 years in his home - Norma and Steve's mother Verna were absolute angels in my eyes, taking care of his every need. I loved watching Grandma make him laugh. She always said that taking care of Steve made her feel like she had a second chance and taking care of her lost son.

5. Walking to Tom Thumb with Grandma when I was maybe eight years old. Don't know why this left such an impression, I guess it just felt very adventurous, walking the couple of miles to the store with my Grandma.

4. I spent a couple of weeks with Grandma and Grandpa Hank in 1981. They still lived in the same huge, amazing cool old house where they raised 7 kids. My cousin Erin and I spent every second of the day exploring that house. I can still smell the musty attic, where we scavenged our parents' old toys.

3. Grandma convincing me, in that same summer of '81, to try fresh radishes from her garden, doused in salt. I liked it! She followed those with fresh, hot rice krispy squares. Bless her!

2. Riding from Iowa to Texas with Grandma, Grandpa and cousin Erin that summer - we drove Hank crazy giving the "honk your horn" sign to the passing truckers all the way down I-35. But Grandma thought it was pretty hilarious.

1. I have a vague memory of visiting the "Ewing Ranch" of "Dallas" fame with her when I was wee young. Do I actually remember her wearing a cowboy hat?

A bonus one...when I visited them in the summer of '94, just after I graduated college, a bumper crop of corn had just been harvested (this was Iowa, remember). By this time Grandma and Grandpa had sold that cool house and moved into a little condo, but she still made the same amazing meals out of that little kitchen, and we had the world's best corn at dinner every night. I can still hear her say "This is the best corn ever!" with such delight at each meal. That was the epitome of Norma - finding something to enjoy and celebrate in the smallest of things.

Click here if you want to read Grandma's bio - it's very brief, I guess her achievements (raising 7 amazing kids, bringing nothing but delight and happiness to everyone who knew her, being a GREAT bowler) were too far under the typical obit writer's radar. I love you Grandma!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My name is Cari and I'm a TS-aholic

I need help. Seriously. Somebody really needs to make a standing appointment with me on Tuesdays from 4 to 6pm far away from a computer, otherwise I'm going to drive Eric and myself into the poor house with Tiny Showcase acquisitions! I really just can't help myself. The work is so great, if I don't act quickly they'll sell out, it's only 20 bucks plus shipping, if I just click the button it's mine...drrooool drroool drrrooool...

So this is my latest addiction, I mean, acquisition: "Open Air," by Jennifer Davis. I knew from looking at her web site before the TS posting that I was in trouble - her work is right up my alley. Fun colors, unusual imagery, somehow mysterious and sweet all at once.

There is a component of altruism here. Part of the proceeds from this sale benefits Springboard for the Arts, a group I have never heard of before. Turns out it "helps meet the emergency needs of artists in need of immediate monies to cover an expense due to loss from fire, theft, health emergency, or other catastrophic, career-threatening event." This is so cool! If you're an artist you should totally check out this site, it offers a lot of great resources for you, including workshops and a "job book." See, sometimes addictions can pay off!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lisa Bufano on NPR

Have I ever mentioned that I love podcasts? It still blows my mind, that I can listen to all sorts of whatnot on my wee little iPod shuffle. One of my faves is NPR's "Story of the Day." Even though I listen to NPR all day long, I somehow miss stories, which brings us to one of their podcasts.

Back in March, NPR aired a story about Lisa Bufano, a 34-year-old performance artist based in Boston. I listened to the podcast of this story weeks ago, and it has really stuck with me. Lisa is a highly-regarded and award-winning performer a dancer, but what's so unusual, and stunning, is that she has no legs or fingers. They were amputated when she was 21, after a staph infection ravaged her body.

The story began with the innocuous sound of Lisa jogging, it just took a moment to explain that she had no legs and was jogging on super high-tech running prosthetics. As the story proceeded I was so moved by just the sound of her performances, trying to visualize them. So her web site is really a gem. Lisa herself offers several splendid podcasts on her site, just click here. You can view some of her amazing, dreamy performances, where she uses surreal stilts or, sometimes, just her own unusual body. They're kind of like watching a surreal show with life-size dolls. Bufano's achievements - without the use of these appendages that we take for granted - are extraordinary!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Jon Burgerman at Tiny Showcase

Summer is here, which means there is a whole mess of stuff to interfere with art perusing and purchasing - stuff like swimming pools, beaches, bike rides and margarita happy hours. Then there’s the duffy boating and family visiting and burger grilling and outdoor movie watching. Don’t even get me started on the new organic garden in which I’m partaking! Oh, and then there’s work, too.

Thank the art gods, then, for Tiny Showcase. As long as I can find myself at the ‘puter at 4:30pm on Tuesdays, TS brings art to me. Last week’s was another winner; “Waggledance”! This fantastically fun little work came at such a perfect time, embodying the kooky, chaotic fun that is summer. The madness behind the method is Jon Burgerman (don’t you know that name caused him all kinds of headaches as a kid, but now it’s SUCH a fantastic artist’s name? Although, he is European, so perhaps he was spared the playground taunts he would have found in, say, Topeka).

For you Tiny Showcase virgins, it’s one of the best concepts in the arts – the TS folks enlist artists to create an original 2D work, then they print a limited run, release it via their web site every Tuesday for a mere $20 to $25, then it sells out like hotcakes on a cold Scandinavian morning. This one sold out the run of 100 in about an hour. You must be quick around TS! Then the artist and the TS kids split the proceeds to split the revenue, plus they give $250 to a charity of the artist’s choice. This one benefits Greenpeace!

This was my third acquisition from TS. Click here to see purchase numero uno, by Federico Pazos, and here for dos, by Gregory Euclide.