this is not a review: ‘leonard’s flat’, by steven mayoff

 

Leonard’s Flat , a slim, beautifully made volume of ekphrastic poetry, influenced by the art of the author’s uncle, Len Fligel, who Mayoff credits with being the long ago spark that ignited his own “creative ambitions as a writer”… is a tiny gem.

Ten paintings, nicely reproduced on thick, glossy pages, represent a slice of one family’s history but it could be any family. The subjects are simple and relatable:  bread on a supper table, chickens running in the yard, laundry, musicians, domestic scenes. Add to that Mayoff’s insights and recollections, the adult looking back at pieces of art he first saw when he and his mother lived with the uncle in his Glasgow home for a short time, the meaning of which art eluded him as a child yet never left some deeper place in his memory.

Because isn’t that how art works when it’s working at its best.

These ten poems feel like so much more than an homage… more like a testament to not only how we remember, but how we see, not only the past, but the present. Because art in any form is always about the present, no matter when it’s made, no matter when we find it.

“…Gathering round your
Glasgow table when
I was a boy offered

a haven for the stranger
I was to myself…

—From the poem, ‘Meal’

 

wordless wednesday: summer postcards

 

Greetings from the garden tour!

(aka outdoor galleries of love, green stuff incidental)

The woman whose backyard is a solid field of day lilies (hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them) and who at first I think must be slightly unhinged until she explains her joy at every day coming outside to see what new bloom among dozens and dozens of varieties has opened. She not only grows them but cross pollinates to create unique hybrids and borrows her kids’ backyards because there’s no room in hers anymore. She wins awards.
Hers husband is on the patio, watching the crowds, and as I leave I stop and say to him, Nice place but you ought to consider getting some day lilies…

The woman who turned a tiny shaded downtown lawn into a glen of cool sanctuary complete with three locally made wrought iron pyramid towers and places to sit and contemplate them.

The woman with a deck full of passion flower vine and other tropicals who doesn’t have a sun room in her house but simply asks the plants to do their best in various windows and they oblige her and are stunningly beautiful and vibrantly healthy. Singing to them doesn’t hurt she says when asked for tips.

The woman whose yard is full of crazy objects, tea cups hanging from branches, giant wooden playing cards nailed over three sides of fencing, mirrors, bird feeders, figurines, mobiles, sun catchers, flea market and thrift shop finds… too much!!  my brain screams as I wander in and consider wandering out again but just then the woman appears and we talk and her joy changes the scene from something I don’t understand… to one that brings utter contentment and peace as she explains the pleasure it gives her to see it all from her kitchen, or from her place on the couch. She would rather look out the window than watch TV on a rainy day, she says. She puts this stuff out each spring and puts it away again in giant bins each winter. It’s time consuming and possibly a form of madness she laughs, but I shake my head, say it feels more like her form of art. She nods. Then she takes me round to the front to show me a few things I might have missed on my way in.

 

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

closing time

 
It took the better part of two days to install.

Just over an hour to take down.

The weeks in between were a sheer loveliness of spending time with my own couches in a public space and meeting people and having conversations start out of the thin air of upholstery.

The woman who told me her grandparents were happy as clams all their livelong lives together and maybe not in small part because of the mickeys of hootch they kept down the sides of their respective armchairs.

Another who said her first couch was an old door on top of bricks (for legs) and a slab of foam with fabric wrapped around it and several pillows propped against the wall.

The couch someone had forgotten but suddenly remembered hauling from a curb in Whistler and how much they loved it for the year they lived there.

The people who left me postcards.

And the strangers who sat down and talked as though we were old pals.

The kid who told me that sleeping on a pullout feels like a vacation.

And the kids who came on the last day to play the lava game and the scavenger game and ran around looking for things in the photos… a fire hydrant, geese, a porch, leaves, a rock, curtains, stairs, a dog wearing sunglasses. I loved their names— Violet, Autumn, Pandora, Audrey, Lucas, Madeleine, Maxine, Susie… I’ve forgotten some, but not the boy with the glasses and the girl who was so painfully shy.

The friends who brought me greenteacoconutmilkmachalatte, and those who were there when wine was on offer. Friends who travelled a distance to see this show and those who couldn’t come but were there in spirit. (I felt that spirit!) To friends who gave up part of a Sunday afternoon to hear me talk about how underwear affected furniture design. And to friends I missed seeing… sorry I missed you! Thank you all for coming and making this experience exactly what I hoped it would be… a stirring of memory and invitation to story.

Above all, thanks to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and the amazing gift that is Gallery A, for allowing me and my orphaned furniture this time and space.

Putting rubbish to some good purpose is my whole thing, after all.

That, and writing mystery thrillers set in art galleries…

 
 

what’s in front of me

 

I’ve often noticed that we’re not able to look at what’s in front of us,
unless it’s inside a frame. Abbas Kiarostami

This is how it is with me lately. Everything is frames and frame sizes and pictures to fit frames and matting to fit frames (and did you know how varied matting can be, that it comes in suede or bamboo or the texture of a basketball if that’s your thing??) And it’s not all beige either, FYI.

At this moment I may well be the most knowledgeable person within a certain kilometre radius on the subject of thrift shop frames. Go ahead, ask me who has the best prices, the biggest stock, the easiest aisles through which to maneuver a cart clunky with the oversized, the gawdy and the gilted. Ask me about how it’s important to check the BACK of the frame not just the front. (Backs can be a bugger.)

Because this is what I do now, ever since I got the happy news that my photos of abandoned couches were accepted for exhibit at ‘Gallery A’ in The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

In this exciting new world of ‘preparing for a show’ I hunt for the tacky and eccentric. Really not so different really from my usual life…

I also clean and scrape glass (why do stores insist on putting price tags in all the wrong places?), pry off the buggery backs, measure, ponder which pic goes where and if any require basketball textured matting, and take regular coconut milk macha green tea latte breaks with my staff.

That last step is not insignificant.

The show opens next month.

(Shameless promotion, I know, but… imagine!)

wordless wednesday on international women’s day (spoiler alert: not wordless)

Teapot in excellent company…  sunshine, pickle green walls and art by the amazing Toni Hamel — only a sliver of a piece called Star Charting — hard to see its beauty because of sunshine, but the effect of it makes me ridiculously happy for all it represents today on a personal note…)

To beautiful friends, and the community of courageous, wonderful women everywhere…

And here’s a little gift from Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, an early women’s rights defender in England, who in 1854, published something she called the Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women. Because of her work, and the work of others with her, laws began to change as the Married Women’s Property Act was passed in 1866.
(In case the UK is still looking for new faces to put on their money.)

(excerpt from Women and The Law, 1854)

“A man and wife are one person in law; the wife loses all her rights as a single woman, and her existence is entirely absorbed in that of her husband. He is civilly responsible for her acts, she lives under his protection or cover, and her condition is called coverture.

“A woman’s body belongs to her husband; she is in his custody, and he can enforce his right by a write of habeas corpus.

“What was her personal property before marriage, such as money in hand, money at the bank, jewels, household goods, clothes, etc., becomes absolutely her husband’s, and he may assign or dispose of them at his pleasure whether he and his wife live together or not.

“Neither the Courts of Common law nor Equity have any direct power to oblige a man to support his wife…

“The legal custody of children belongs to the father. During the life-time of a sane father, the mother has no rights over her children, except a limited power over infants, and the father may take them from her and dispose of them as he thinks fit.

“A married woman cannot sue or be sued for contracts—nor can she enter into contracts except as the agent of her husband; that is to say, her word alone is not binding in law…

“A wife cannot bring actions unless the husband’s name is joined.

“A husband and wife cannot be found guilty of conspiracy, as that offence cannot be committed unless there are two persons.”

And this, from Sonja Boon, who reminds us that we’ve come a long way but still have much to do.

 

Happy International Women’s Day….

Other (not always) wordless friends:

Cheryl Andrews
Allison Howard
Barbara Lambert
Allyson Latta
Elizabeth Yeoman

 

 

 

how to write seasonally unaffected greeting cards

 
The key is to write more than your name.

dsc08085-copyIn other words, resist the urge to buy a seasonally affected message under which you leave your signature.

Write words. Thoughts even.

Write in ink. (or pencil or crayon or anything along those lines)

Sit down with your address book, by which I mean an actual book made of paper and cardboard that lives in a basket on your kitchen counter and which is dog-eared and generally beaten up.

Flip through its pages and see names of people you see and talk to all the time and some you haven’t spoken with all year.

dsc08080-copy dsc08078-copyThere may be a reason you haven’t talked all year, but not to worry… there’s something very possible  about keeping in touch via annual conversations in ink. And in many cases, preferable.

So open your battered address book and begin.

dsc08074-copy dsc08070-copy dsc08069-copyRemember the woman you haven’t seen since the 80’s that you used to work with and once took an auto body repair class together. You had a rusty Dodge Dart. She made amazing rice. You haven’t seen each other or heard each others voices in more than thirty years. You don’t even email. The only time you’re in touch is at this time of year. By card. You’re up to date on events, if not inner psyches. (Not necessary to be up to date on every psyche.)

And your godmother who you never call often enough and friends across the country, and those who live an hour away but you only meet once a year.

You will find a man who turns 99 this month and still has all his marbles, and a woman who is 83 and has the smile of a teenager.

And the address of an old friend no longer around. You keep her name in the book anyway and every year you think what you might have written to her.

dsc08065-copySend notes also to the names you see and talk to all the time because the things you say in handwriting are different than what you say in keyboard or words out loud.

dsc08058-copyYou can buy cards or make them. From photos. Or potato stencils.

(In the past you may have chosen to drink rum and eggnog as you wrote but have since discovered you’re lactose intolerant and the rum makes your handwriting illegible by the time you get to the L’s in your address book.)

Options: Light a fire. Get cosy. Make tea or open a bottle of wine (see above). If it snows so much the better.

dsc08075-copyEmbrace the remembering that goes with each name and notice the different things you write to each person, the reminder that each relationship is its own thing.

dsc08070-copy

See the exhibit of textile sculptures by Judith Scott (who is part magpie and part genius.)

Go with a friend.

(Stop here for lunch. Have the kale and quinoa salad. Say hey to Debbie.)

Pay a visit to the French store and say yes to that bottle of almond milk hand cream that will not stop flirting with you.

dsc08066-copy dsc08079-copy

Use pictures of the exhibit for this year’s cards. (If gallery approves said use.)

And even though you just saw the friend, send them a card too.

Especially them.