“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...
My Proust Questionnaire

My Proust Questionnaire

I have always loved Proust Questionnaires — they are the perfect combination of personal and impersonal, profound and a bit superficial, and the language is so gentle. Reading them (there’s one each month in the back of Vanity Fair) feels like engaging in almost-respectable gossip. Filling one out is like eating an entire meal of delicious petits fours sitting at a café with someone you care deeply for. It’s smart fun. I’d love it it you would take several minutes of your quiet time and fill out my Proust Questionnaire. (It’s not a quickie). The questionnaire appears at this link and is also embedded below in this blog post. Please note, if you are an artist, I might like to publish your response! At the end of the form, you can sign or deny your consent for this. UPDATE: By popular demand, I have created short versions of my Proust Questionnaire — I’ve pulled out only the most vital from the original 43 questions. My Shorter Proust Questionnaire for artists (link) has just 23 questions. My Shorter Proust Questionnaire for general audiences (link) is 25 questions. I hope these new choices are equally fulfilling and provocative for...
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...

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...