Behold the GIF

If a picture paints a thousand words, then what about two pictures?  Put them together to tell a story, make them move, and you’ve got yourself a GIF.  Cute, right?  Or maybe a little annoying?

Missing Tooth Gif

But is GIF a new art form?  Art is many things to many people and if you google the word art, you will probably find a definition to fit your personal bent.  I like this one:  “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.”  By this definition, ancient cave drawings, my own crude paintings, insta-gram photographs and GIFS qualify, as well as Picasso and Sherman.

But, if I think a piece is rude, crude or socially unattractive, I prefer the definition: “the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.”

Art, like beauty, is heavily influenced by one’s culture but ultimately belongs to the eye of the beholder.  I choose what appeals to me.  You choose what appeals to you.

I’ve seen these moving images before.  I just did not know the term GIFS, short for graphics interchange format. I find them amusing, obnoxious, flashy and funny but up until now, have never considered whether they are art.  I did find that creating a GIF involves challenge, choices, infinite possibility and a sense of accomplishment and pride at the final product.  Art or not, thanks to this week’s WordPress challenge, I have another tool for telling my story and am a few steps closer in narrowing the ever-increasing technological, generational gap.  After all, I don’t want that little girl with the missing teeth to say that her grandmother is still in the stone age.

(cartoon from article: “Oldest Confirmed Cave Art Is a Single Red Dot“)

 

A Fascinating Female Freakshow

The photography of Cindy Sherman communicates some of the deep, dark, conflicting and sometimes twisted messages imposed on and embraced by women. I recently viewed her work on exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and found myself emotionally contemplating my own struggle of becoming and maintaining personal authenticity.

Venturing out of my hotel room, alone, in an unfamiliar city, I phone mapped the directions for SFMOMA. I miraculously found it after walking a few miles and taking more than one mis-turn. After trying several doors, I read the sign above the ticket counter, closed on Wednesday. I decided to come back the next day when I saw that the featured artist was Cindy Sherman,

I remembered my son raving about Sherman’s images after his visit to MOMA, New York. I took a shot of the promotional banner and texted him my good news. He quickly phoned saying that he was anxious for me to “experience” the exhibit and suggested I spring for the headphones.

The following day, I re-traced my steps, arrived at 9:00, and found that the museum didn’t open until 11:00. I stayed close, ate, shopped, stalled and took my place in the front of the line way before 11 o’clock. Finally, the doors opened and I quickly purchased my ticket and my headphones. I bolted up the stairs to the rooms with the Sherman’s and fell down her rabbit hole into a strange world, vaguely familiar yet, creepy and odd. Huge portraits of women towered over me, hints of people I have known. Friends and acquaintances, family and strangers, movie-stars and models, dreams and nightmares.

There were women in designer clothes, looking haggard, bruised and unhappy. Social climbers with the signature accouterments, smiling weirdly. Aging women dressed in the clothes of their youth, sad yet endearing. And vibrant, freakish clowns. The powerful pull of exaggeration coupled with subtle hidden messages captivated me. An example is a portrait of a woman donning a rich green gown and revealing a leg decked out in support hose through the gown’s slit.

Sherman doesn’t back away from the grotesque as she mocks societal pressure and its inherent stereotypes while violently exposing our obsession with fashion, glamor, image, and youth. Ultra tight face-lifts, bulbous lips, and botched boob jobs still look ridiculous, clownish, and freakish, even in couture.

In her collection, all the women are the same woman; herself. The model is also the photographer, the make-up artist, fashion co-ordinator, set designer and overall creative genius. Each complete female composition seems to accentuate the endless, hopeless quest to be that perfect woman.

It is obvious even to the untrained eye that every minute detail has been carefully thought out and selected, allowing the observer to emotionally connect with the woman behind the portrait. Each untitled work speaks for itself and of itself, begging the caterpillar’s question, “Who are you?”

It surprised me to find myself strangely liberated after experiencing the Sherman exhibit. Though I have inadvertently fallen victim to the pressures and traps of what marketers, movie stars, icons and others consider beautiful, I have not come close to the hauntingly absurd women in Sherman’s photographs. Could this be her point or her warning?

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In response to the Daily Post Challenge for this week to try something different, I decided to spin my blogging wheels in a completely new direction. The beauty of blogging is self discovery and I am grateful for the opportunity to be an art critic for a day. The effort to describe my impressions of this powerful exhibit crystallized and captured the experience for me. This was an enlightening exercise.

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Notes from a NASCAR Newbie

Until this weekend, everything I knew about NASCAR came from my son’s miniature matchbox set, my grandson’s obsession with the movie CARS and Will Farrell’s portrayal of Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights.  NASCAR wasn’t exactly on my bucket list but I’m not one to pass on an invite from a good friend, especially when it involves a brand spanking new experience with box seats and parking pass included.

RV’s, trailers, cars and trucks lined the highway for several miles before we saw the Bristol Motor Speedway track rising from the clouds on the Tennessee mountain up ahead.  People of all ages were drinking and dining under make-shift canopies in front of tight little communities of tents.  Hard to tell how long they had been there or where the facilities were, easy to see they were having a grand time of it.

There were carnival type booths set up next to the many, many parking lots hosting TV screens and crews, contests, and handouts.  Hot-dogs, beer, Moon-shine cherries, ice cream, and automobile stuff, all for sale; scanners for rent.  What’s a scanner, you ask?  They are little hand-held devices with a video screen and head phones.  You can select drivers and listen to their crackling chatter and see their view from the driver’s seat during the race.

There were golf carts to transport those faint of foot up the mountain side to the track entrance.  Streams of colorful, cooler toting people with ticket adorned necks streamed through the entrance into the wild world of racing, wearing every get-up one can possibly think of (and then some),  wide-eyed and pumped up!

 

Bristol Motor Speedway’s enormous NASCAR production caught me completely off guard.  I tried to take in the grandeur of the pristine, flawless 18 wheelers, which house the race cars, the brilliant colors of said race cars and the logos of familiar products emblazoned on each car and crew member’s jumpsuit.

 

A blur of sparkle, shine and color mingled with voices lauding prayer, pledge and country music.  Children sang the star-spangled banner, fireworks exploded, Miss Zmax paraded, flags waved, drivers postured, planes flew over, a parachutist descended and the crowd reveled before we even got to the part, “Gentlemen, start your engines.”

Crashes, fires, tire changes and helmet throwing highlighted the 500 laps between start and finish.  The sound of engines and tires was loud.  I mean really, really loud, maybe the loudest sound I have ever heard.  We each picked three cars to follow, two of mine spun out of control and were unfit to continue.  All of my husbands placed in the top ten including the winner.

So you know now what I didn’t know then, and I’m just betting you’ll put NASCAR right on top of your list of must do’s.  You may just get a glimpse of the Ricky Bobby in all of us and why NASCAR is America’s number one spectator sport.

That’s some big truck, Harry

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