“Coffee Stains”, an artist’s statement

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My submission for this year’s Sketchbook Project with the Brooklyn Art Library: “Coffee Stains”.

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The following is my Artist’s Statement as written on the Sketchbook Project website:

My lifestyle causes me to move every few months.  Sometimes I’m returning somewhere familiar, sometimes I’m lucky enough to stay with friends and family, sometimes I go somewhere completely new.  Everywhere I go: I drink coffee.  When I chose the “Wanderer” theme I had the idea to chronicle my travels through drawings of cups of coffee in each location.  Then, I couldn’t find my sketchbook.

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On my travels went, though, and I found myself outside Portland, OR for two months, wherein I inadvertently found myself making what I called the “coffeehouse tour of Portland”.  I visited a different coffeehouse nearly every visit into the city, I sat there with my drink and wrote, or drew, and soaked in the culture of the coffeehouse.  At each establishment I took pictures and posted them to Facebook.

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I believe in “coffeehouse culture”, that it is good for a community.  It doesn’t have to be a coffeehouse, it could be a tea-house, or a bar, or a bookstore.  I believe every community ought to have a place where people can visit, and pass the time, preferably with caffeine.  The places I have enjoyed living the most have all had something like this.  In Cazenovia, NY it was a coffeeshop, in Canterbury, England it was a pub, in Andover, CT it was a Chinese restaurant, and in Wakefield, RI it is a bar.  In each of these places I would feel as comfortable reading a book as I would talking to a stranger.

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When I returned to New England and found my sketchbook, I was glad I took so many hipsterish pictures.  I was able to draw some of my favorite Portland coffeehouses.  The idea to actually use coffee to paint stemmed from meeting a man in Seattle who uses a coffee/bleach solution to make tee shirts, and a blog about a woman who uses coffee in lieu of watercolors.  Using actual coffee to paint drawings of coffee was too meta to pass up.  I also used tea and hot cocoa mix, don’t be alarmed if the book smells like chocolate.  

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So much of my life can be counted in cups of coffee, as can, I think, many other’s; it is so ubiquitous that we rarely think about the coffee itself, where it comes from, how it’s made, which method we prefer.  How a region feels about their coffee or tea and how they make it is an interesting reflection of both the culture and the individual.  Is it a quick Dunkins drive-thru, or are the beans ground with each cupful?  What time of day is it drunk?  Cream?  Sugar?  Black?

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I am fascinated by coffee.  I love learning about new ways to make it.  I love watching experts make coffee.  I love talking with a friend over a steaming cup.  I believe coffee, and tea, have the power to bring people together if we let it.  So if we ever meet, show me how you make yours and I’ll tell you how I make mine.  <3 <3 <3

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It has become increasingly important to me that my life has meaning.  A byproduct of getting older?  A byproduct of this past year?  I don’t know.  I don’t suppose it matters much.  But I want the things that I do to have meaning.  And I’d like to share that sense of meaning with other people.  Friends, family, a man, a community, something.  I don’t regret one single bit the lifestyle I’ve been living, but it’s not strictly what I want anymore.  That is a very strange feeling.

I’d like to belong somewhere.  I’d like to not only belong there all the time, but year-round.  I will always belong at NC, but I need something more stable in my life now that I didn’t need before.  I still want to travel, but I’d like a base of operations.  I want a community that is always in one place.  A place to call Home.

Oh, shit, we’re getting sentimental in our old age.

Boston, December 29, 2013, 11:55 pm

Pulling into South Station –

The platforms are empty of people,
only barren trains sleep beneath
lamps that look like paper lanterns
illuminating the concrete rows.
I imagine dozens of couples,
women in long gowns, men in tails,
dancing under the paper lanterns that
aren’t lanterns at all.

They secretly waltz where hundreds of
people trod earlier
thinking only of making it to their destinations,
getting window seats, losing luggage,
giving no thought to dance.

The couples glide majestically,
unconcerned they were not
considered by their predecessors.
They move in the silence:
Step, step, slide.
Step, step, slide.
No music is as lovely as that heard, collectively,
in their minds.
The only sound, a monkey
tapping time
against a piling,
echoes across the
empty space.

Text by me, Bex; photos taken from Daniel Lampariello at Boston to a T until I can go back and get my own photographs which will never be as pretty as his.

Travel

There are a few things that I truly love and one of them is traveling.  I love traveling.  I absolutely love it.  I love getting on trains and buses and airplanes and going somewhere, anywhere; it doesn’t much matter where I am going, I love going there.  The time I took a bus to Worcester (ok, that trip sort of sucked, however it was still) was as exciting as the time I took an airplane to London.  Traveling is such a bizarre and wonderful reminder of how diverse and interesting people are.

Sure, humans are assholes.  I just read an article about how humans’ production of chemical pesticides are leading to the decline of the honeybee which is leading to the decline of the pollination of certain (many) plants that humans and other animals eat on a regular basis (and make money by producing) — we’re masochistic twerps.  But we’re infinitely interesting.

I was sitting in Dewey Square in the heart of Boston’s Financial District, where a Farmer’s Market sets up on Thursdays.  There I saw a variety (not a wide variety, but still) of people.  There were people who, like me, were coming from or going to South Station and other destinations, there were young and old professionals, white collar and working class, babies with their moms and nannies, dogs and children, and, my personal favorites, dirty, pierced, dreadlocked hippie musicians (hot) just trying to get to New Hampshire playing for tips next to the hipster with the skinny tie hawking caffeine from his Coffee Trike (The Coffee Trike, that’s right, and I’m on my way to Portland – don’t get me wrong, it’s equally hot, for oddly not that different reasons).  People never cease to amaze me (and bore me, but that’s a different topic).  And that’s why I love places like city parks and train stations and airplanes: it’s a great way to watch people in a vacuum.  They can’t escape your observation, and, let’s be honest, your scrutiny.  And, as mysterious as people try to be, they are never more so themselves as when they are in transit.

This morning I took a commuter train into Boston full of professionals on their way to their places of business and a handful of other travelers with further destinations.  Next I am going to take a bus to the airport where nearly everyone is departing the city for places not here.  That will be interesting and exciting to see what people choose to do while they await their next destination.

(And I now sound like I’ve been watching a little too much “Dead Like Me” — except I get to go too.)

Topics I still need to hunker down and write about:

  • Traveling
  • New Years
  • Original Flag Porter
  • Temping
  • Corporate America
  • Third Parenting
  • Strip Shows
  • Downton Abbey
  • This Is 40

Travel.

Being brave can be a pretty tough thing to do.  I am often not brave.  I am often chicken-shit.  I often cut and run the other way.  I over-think things, freak myself out and run.

But being brave is also one of the most rewarding things a person can do.  I’ve learned over the years that my bravado facade of charging ahead really isn’t a bad way to go.  I’ve been some interesting places and met some interesting people that way.  Being not afraid to do something or go somewhere, while it can get me in trouble, it also pushes out the comfort zone and allows me to expand my horizons (and all that other junk).

I’m never sad that I’ve been brave.  In the end, it usually turns out to be the better choice.  Wearing pink nail polish, taking the bus to NYC, saying ‘let’s do this’ when I’m not sure I want to have all helped make me a stronger person.  It’s all working together to make me a more interesting person, a person with stories, a person of understanding, a person with something to write about.

I envy other cultures that value travel.  I’ve met so many interesting Australians and Swedish people (amongst others) while they were traveling.  They’ve been to so many places and seen so many things and have gained a very practical outlook on the world.  I envy them their bravery to just forge ahead and go new places with or without a travelling companion.  There’s no fear.  No worry.  Just a new place and a new interesting thing.  They are tenacious, and they are inspiring.

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Javalina!

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Javalina

That thing walked out of the wash and onto the pathway in front of me. I am so happy I noticed it before I got to it. My Arizona Expert Friend informed me that they’re not very nice and usually move in packs. I only saw the one. It slowly walked across the pathway and down through the tunnel under the road (I don’t know if that’s good luck or bad luck!). From what I can tell they’re like the beavers of the desert. Freakin’ weird peccary animal thing!

Single and Scared

When I was still dating the TMM I was pretty damn ok with the idea of finding a crappy job and shitty housing out in Western Mass where I assumed he would be spending his winter in order to keep going with this music thing he’s started.  But now that I’m single and I can go anywhere I want I am terrified to pursue anything.  I want to go far and wide, I want to take the fucking plunge and leave north eastern United States and go somewhere else, but I’m too chicken shit to do it.  When I had something to ground me, like a man, I was ok with the idea of going somewhere faraway and doing something so entirely outside my comfort zone, but now that I would have nothing to add some normalcy to the equation I’m petrified.

How do you do it, people who have?  How have you found yourselves on the other side of the country or the world?  What did you do?  How did you hack it?  I want to get out of here, I’d love to go to Australia or New Zealand or Japan or Korea or Spain or even back to England.  What did you do?  What do I need to do?