“A little help?” Seniors (and others) online

“A little help?” Seniors (and others) online

One of my great passions is demystifying tools that have the power to improve your life — and in this day and age, that means technology. Yes, I am a zealot for the Internet and a nerd when it comes to all things digital, but I only like this stuff because it works. Unlike many “digital natives,” though, I understand that using new tools doesn’t always “come naturally” — it’s not always steep, but there is always, always, always a learning curve. When I work with people who are new to any system, I have to be nerdy and effective — and warm and patient, too. My passion for working with older people learning to use new “tech” comes from a simple place: my grandmother was the most creative person I’ve ever met, and she kept learning all her life — what an inspiration. When she was 94 years old, one day she told me how frustrating the “new computers” were at one of her two volunteer jobs. “It’s this ‘mouse,’ ” she complained, mimicking for me how she thought it was supposed to work. “I just can’t figure it out.” The newfangled device was fixating — she couldn’t stop staring at the mouse. I had an “Aha!” moment. ” “Grandma! It’s like a sewing machine pedal. The mouse is like the pedal. The pedal is what keeps it going, but you don’t look at the pedal when you’re sewing, do you?” “Of course not!” My grandmother looked at me, outraged for a minute that I had forgotten the sewing lessons she gave me. “You have to keep your...
Kevin’s paint “flower”

Kevin’s paint “flower”

I hate to admit that it was a treat (after some time had gone by) to look over all the things in my late husband’s studio after he died. I discovered a variety of treasures… only a few of which were total surprises. Most were simply items that meant something different in his absence. There were objects that had worked hard, those that were used once in a while, and those who earned their keep as totems — all now idled. One of my favorite finds was this efflorescence of dried up paint, scraped from 30 years’ worth of palettes, bursting from an old jam jar with a faux-snooty French label. I call it his “flower.” In his time, the flower was just a tool in his studio, a structure based on tidying up (Kevin was very neat), and in fact, just a short step up from garbage. Now I see it as something truly unique, a keepsake, and a trace of his working method that is just so him. We’ve had some artist friends who’ve found creative uses for their old paint scraps (Clark V. Fox, one of Kevin’s oldest and closest friends, used to slice them thin and make brooches, I was told) but I’ve never seen anything like this. Kevin didn’t even produce that many paintings (works on paper were his specialty) — though I do recall him being somewhat proud of this lump of lumps in its ordinary grandeur, its order of chaos. The flower is his palette — I mean his color choices, obviously it’s his palette, literally as well — and changes endlessly...
Inventories for artists

Inventories for artists

The first task of an artist, is, of course, to create art. And each artwork you bring into the world carries a bunch of additional information with it: its measurements, how to care for it, how it should be installed, where it has been shown, the appropriate price, where it’s stored, and so on. How do you collect and store that information? How do you share it? For most artists, the ideal tool is an inventory. I specialize in creating inventories that work for artists, both as ongoing documentation of their careers, and as essential collections of data for others who wish to help manage that artwork. This includes those who might care for your work after you die, whether friends, family, loved ones, or hired professionals. Since 2006, I have been refining the inventory of my late husband’s 35-year career. I have created a system that answers the questions of tax attorneys, galleries, curators, appraisers, and the IRS. Because my system is so thorough, it will be useful for many years to scholars, journalists, family members, and anyone else who wishes to be part of the long afterlife of his life’s work. I have translated this product into templates that work with a popular Mac-based database system. (I also create or adapt solutions for Windows computers and tablets, and even have a non-computer solution for a few clients.) My system is easy to use (you can use only the parts you need — and continue to add to it for years) and intuitive, and it’s the most thorough of all the ones I’ve seen — including systems that...

What I love: Charles Simonds

Some of the most magical times in my childhood were provided by artists, and no artist had more captivating dominion over the streets of early-1970s NYC than Charles Simonds. From this video, you will hear that Simonds has his own idea that he was cultivating these properties and building his tiny houses for a population of “tiny people” who traveled around the city. His creations were meant to shelter these creatures, who were not so very different from us. His ethos, I believe, was to highlight the decrepit and encourage fallow land (like vacant lots, where he often put his buildings) to to be brought up to higher uses, like playgrounds or community gardens. For me, a child viewing the work, I didn’t care about his agenda; it was wonderful enough to have art that could open the eyes of us big people (and whew! Something that made me feel big!). My own personal belief? Aliens were living in those tiny buildings. (Some looked like Hopi structures, and is there any culture more alien than the Hopi?) In the video, Simonds’ narration states that the works are damaged not by natural elements, but by “greedy” people who want to take the works home with them (he’s also not happy about children playing with them. So I’m glad no one told me then!). I remember crying when my mother was firm: not even one single brick. I was an avid miniature-maker myself and wanted Simonds to be my mentor or brother, or to play by his side. I adored small, I made small: I dreamed often that I had a...
Holding on to “Stuff” (literally)

Holding on to “Stuff” (literally)

Book review: “Stuff: compulsive hoarding and the meaning of things,” by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee I borrowed a book about hoarding from the library but it was so wonderful, I didn’t want to return it. I thought my family were hoarders until I saw the show of the same name… my blood makes me a laughable amateur. I’m not comfortable with this part of my heritage and have been “working on it” for most of my adult life. (I love people more than things). At this point, I’m down to being a “recovering packrat” or perhaps even just a “stuff person.” And aren’t all artists a little abnormally woozy about things — fixated on “things,” able to find value (or potential activity) in nearly any object? In my case, I have too much stuff, but I’ve gotten rid of a remarkable amount. I like to think I have insight into my affections and only a few areas of weakness, outside of art. I comfort myself that I love to throw things out and I save pictures of, for example, the 18 boxes of books I sold cheap last year. I like to say I’m able to let things go. But don’t go near my collection of Victorian beads and lacework, the books I kept (including a complete run of Nest: A Magazine of Interiors), or the pile of items I’m saving to eBay. I still have a few dozen boxes of art supplies (which I somehow think “don’t count”). I like to think this all shows I’m pretty well suited to helping artists and other collectors appropriately value...