29 May 2009

Need Money to Buy Art- You can help

I've decided to start a foundation. It is called the Arty Feminist Needs Money to Buy Art Foundation. Yesterday during my whirlwind trip over to Edinburgh I was completely blown away by Francesca Woodman. The pictures in her monograph and on the internet just cannot do justice to them. I went to the Ingleby gallery which was showing 27 of her works selected by her estate to exhibit. The work selected represented her early period in Boulder Co (1972-75), her work at RISD (1975-77), Rome (1977-79) New York (1979 -80) and Mac Dowell Colony, Petersborough, New Hampshire (1980). I absolutely loved her self-deceit series in which Woodman photographing herself with a mirror in an old (abandoned?) building. The contrast between the smooth, shiny surface of the mirror and the gritty paint peeling concrete walls was beautiful. It probably didn't help that I had just finished Leo Bersani's Intimacies and was feeling pumped full of psychoanalysis. However I managed to make some notes based on the subject matter of the work rather than psychoanalysing it. The work was smaller than I imagined, with delicate details and haunting beauty. I left the show feeling that I had left a piece of myself behind. It did not help matters that the work was for sale. To own a Francesca Woodman... I can't even begin to describe what it would mean. I do not necessarily consider myself a 'collector' probably because I don't have money. But in the last two years I have managed to purchase a couple small works - an Alice Maher etching, a Renee Cox black and white photo. Last year my husband and I participated in the Spencer Tunick installation at the Dublin Docklands just because each participant receives a limited edition print. It is alway said you should buy what you love - and I love Woodman. In a moment of utter weakness I did call up my better half (wink wink)to see was there a way we could pool our collective 'resources'. I'm sure you can guess the answer. I also tried to convince my mother to front me the funds on the basis that it would form part of my 'inheritance'. Her answer, "No one has ever heard of this person." For now I will have to content myself with framing the small free postcard distributed from the gallery.

Aside from that longing in my heart that will never ever be filled by anything but a Francesca Woodman, my trip was very successful. I saw two very cool video works at the Collective Gallery by Jordan Baseman and Henna-Riikka Halonen. Both works centered around the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh that is closing for refurbishment. 

Then of course there was the Willie Doherty show at the Fruitmarket Gallery. A plane ticket well spent! Ghost Story (2007) and Buried (2009)  were staged in two soundproof rooms downstairs while Re-Run (2002) was upstairs in a large room. Also accompanying this exhibition were several cibachrome photographs and b/w photographs. The two newer videos were simply amazing. I found both to be thought provoking. I think I am still on art overload so I haven't much coherent to say about that at the present. 

I will leave you with this thought: maybe money can't buy happiness, but money can buy art and in my book art is happiness.

Contact me for donations (monetary or otherwise).

27 May 2009


I feel like things are finally starting to fall into place for me. On Tuesday I went to Northern Ireland to meet with a gallery. It was a very long day, leaving Dublin on the 9.30 train and returning home at 7. I was tired but I am pretty sure it was from all that thinking. Tomorrow is my fabulous day in Edinburgh. I am really looking forward to it, although I am not looking forward to leaving the house at 5 am and getting home at 11pm.  

In other news it looks like we have a potential molar on the horizon. While changing pepita I noticed a little white bit that seems to be just poking through the gums in the back. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this tooth arrives with little fanfare. 

Another pending arrival I am actually looking forward to is a visit from my younger sister. In 2007 she lived with us for the summer. Unfortunately it wasn't the summer of sisterly love. We realised that as much as we like each other and my clothes, sometimes sisters should NOT live together. She thought I was moody, I thought she was moody and some clothes were stolen in the process. We are also 8 years apart - so when I was rebelling against my parents she was 9. This 3 day visit will be welcome because I will know that I don't have to clean up after her for too long. I am very excited for her to see pepita, she has changed so much our last visit to San Francisco at Christmas.

24 May 2009

I blame the sun

Last night we drank these lusciously fabulous berry caipiroskas that I concocted with some delicious raspberry vodka we picked up in Poland. The occasion? Himself convinced me that we should have cocktails to make up for the fact that he didn't go into the Barge with the lads to watch the Leinster match. Funny though because he's not a rugby fan. Upon questioning his motives he said, "Baby, if Ireland were playing in the Tiddlywinks championship I would support them." How patriotic but I am almost certain he wouldn't feel that way about cricket. 

With my pequeña pepita tucked snugly in bed it seemed like a great idea. I agreed to devise some form of drink. A while back cocktails used to be our "thing". I mean before we had a child and could afford the hangovers and alcohol. Once with a group of our friends we all took turns mixing our special blends. His included a Cadbury's cream egg and a whole lime. With peel. So you can imagine why it was left up to me. 

We went to bed at a relatively early hour considering the amount of vodka consumed with himself uttering the prophetic words, "Watch, she'll probably be up at six." I think you know where this is going.

I am blaming the sun and Ireland's coordinates on the globe. Seriously, this is like living in Alaska. Why does it have to get light at 5 in the morning?  Sunrise was 5.12 am this morning. And the summer solstice is a month away! Obviously the makeshift blackout curtains constructed from old beach towels are not properly doing their job. I lay in bed for about 15 minutes until her screams of come get me could not go unheeded. Then I spent another 30 minutes with her running around our room; climbing into our bed, repeatedly patting us on the heads, playing with our phones and shoving books to be read towards us. Finally I roused myself and brought her downstairs. I am now on my 4th  cup of coffee.

22 May 2009

A poetry book to cherish

I recently saw a review of Paula Meehan's Painting Rain on RTE's The View. Well I am a push over for good reviews but what really sold it was the clip of the author reading aloud. I decided there and then I HAD to own that book. I was going to buy it online but decided to have a look in town for it. Turns out it is more popular than anyone imagined. I trekked to 4 different bookstores in varying locations and it is sold out. This just makes me want it even more.  

20 May 2009

A Mother is Always Right?

Two weeks ago I got the great idea to dye my hair. I had spent the last two years (due to pregnancy and laziness) growing it out to my natural color. One night I was inspired to change something and that something was my hair. It turned out a little red but I thought nothing of it. At least not at first. But when talking to my mother on Skype she laid it on the line for me. I suppose the one person I can always trust to tell me the truth is my mother. In a panic I decided I needed to colour over it and fast. But the problem was the red I put in was, well, really red. It wasn't intended to be but apparently my hair was lighter than I thought. So I tried to dye it brown. That worked for about two days. The first picture is my most recent, a mix between the two colours. The middle was right after I dyed it brown and the last is my Ronald McDonald colour. You can tell I am not impressed. Note to self: do not dye hair again until you need to cover gray. Note to self #2: Listen to your mother, she has your best interests at heart. 

19 May 2009

Fun at the Playground

It is official, cupcake LOVES playgrounds. But not as much as Mommy. This weekend we went out to Newbridge Farm but as the weather looked threatening we decided to stick to the playground instead of paying in to see the animals. I had been told that this was a cool playground but it was better than cool. That is probably the highest honour I can bestow upon a playground. It had jungle gyms and swings appropriate for every age. There was a zip line swing which I really wanted to try but I couldn't kick the two eight year olds off it could I? Although I did mutter to myself as I passed, 'Your parents should teach you not to hog everything.' Seriously though, this playground is highly recommended for children and parents.

15 May 2009


Well it appears that Miss Fussy has decided to try some new (old) foods. On Sunday she devoured an egg although I didn't want to push my luck so I only put in the tiniest bit of chopped spinach. Monday and Tuesday saw her consume half a head of cauliflower served in a chicken broth (Nana's idea). Friday for lunch and dinner I made poached haddock with potatoes, zucchini and cheese. She was hesitant at first but then downed it at breakneck speed. I am hopeful that this adventurous streak will continue!

Now to fix another dining related problem. Cupcake feels compelled to throw utensils, plates, bowls and cups on the ground after she is finished with them. I suppose it is her way of signaling that she is finished. Some might say that it is considerate of her to give me a warning that unless removed from highchair in twenty seconds she will proceed with removing herself. Maybe she has been watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding on continuous loop, but in this house there is no plate breaking or shouts of 'Opa' allowed. I can just imagine 20 years from now her father and I will go to visit her in her first college apartment (that we are paying for). After a lovely meal of spaghetti bolognese and store bought garlic toasts she pulls the red and white checkered table cloth from under the plates and glasses. They land messily on the floor and then she vacuums them up. There Mom, just like you taught me. (Ok so sometimes I forget that my blog is NOT a confessional and I admit to some crazy things like yes I do occasionally vacuum crumbs from the counters and table). How do I stop this scenario from becoming a reality???? 

14 May 2009

Mismatching socks

I met my good friend Julie in my sophomore year of college. We moved in together as juniors and had a great laugh. The first place we lived together was this tiny tiny dorm room. Our families helped us cram our junk into that room. I was a bit apprehensive about living with her. Would she discover my not-so-secret signature messiness and be disgusted with me? Her mother, who I hadn't met until that day, pointed out a little space behind Julie's bed and indicated that Julie's dirty clothes would soon be residing there. I knew I had met my messy soul mate.

At one point when doing laundry together Julie theorised that mismatching socks were actually a good thing. Socks were meant to be in pairs, just not colour pairs. She thought that they would tumble around in the dryer and perhaps meet their cosmic match which meant a blue and a red could be paired off together. It seemed like the perfect justification for never wearing matching socks. I never did anyway but I embraced mismatching socks with a new found gusto.  

Truthfully I never thought more about it until recently. One of Nana's friends made a throw away comment about cupcake not wearing matching socks. It is nearly impossible to keep those little socks in order especially going into the laundry. Once they become separated it is inevitable that the pairs will be broken up. But something else about this bothered me. Had this woman never watched Punky Brewster? Surely mismatching socks must be some sign of creativity? Dark purple and light turquoise look so much cooler together! What kid wouldn't go nuts for choice? Why limit them? Uniformity is boring, I say let's embrace mismatching socks.

13 May 2009

The House

Last night I watched an autobiographical documentary The House (2008) by Tanya Doyle. It was a haunting look at the decision to sell the family home that consequently forces Doyle to confront the breakdown of her parents marriage and the death of her mother. Located in a housing estate in Clondalkin, the house provides a way for Doyle, her siblings and her father to deal with their unanswered questions and attempt to gain closure - whatever that really means. I was struck by how the recollections of the past reveal the deep seeded nature of familial gender roles. This was succinctly put by one of the sisters who says to Doyle you don't have parents, you have a da and a ma; your da is your da and your ma is your ma.  This documentary also brings up issues around the responsibility one feels for younger siblings, and this often drives one to step into certain roles (i.e. of lost mother). It is a poignant look at family and the past but without sweet sentimentality; it is honest, heartwrenching and raw.There is a review of the documentary in the online version of the Irish Times. It is definitely worth watching. 

I was compelled to recollect the sale of my grandparents house after they passed away. For me the house was a part of them, a part of us. It was built by my great-grandfather in the 1930s after the family moved out of the old Tenderloin in San Francisco. When my father was born, he and my grandparents in the little basement room which was later turned into Grandma's painting studio. When I arrived home for Grandpa's funeral I drove straight over to the house.  I remember walking into the house up the darkened back stairs. It was quiet and the stairs creaked beneath my feet. I expected to hear my grandmother call out to me. I walked through every room remembering what had taken place. I went into their bedroom and just looked at everything as if trying to memorise each last thing. How the sun filtered in past the venetian blinds. The meticulously folded corners of the chenille bedspreads. The organised old towels in the hall closet. Grandma's hand-sewn 50s house dresses hanging neatly pressed in the closet. The sound of nothing. That was what really got me, I was overwhelmed with the sound of nothing. When they finally sold the house my mother said the family that bought it had invited us to stop by to see the changes and they had extended the invitation to me when I was next home from Ireland. As we drove by a couple months later my mom mentioned it to me.  I decided not to see it, I knew in my heart I could never go in there again. That house was an extension of my memories and I had already said my goodbyes.

12 May 2009

Research: Willie Doherty and Francesca Woodman

I have just booked a quick one day jaunt over to Edinburgh to view an exhibition of Willie Doherty's latest work in the Fruitmarket Gallery. Willie Doherty is a well-known video artist from Northern Ireland who was twice nominated for the Turner Prize. On display will be his newest video works, Ghost Story (2007) and Buried (2009).

I found a cheap 28 euro return ticket that goes over at 7.30 and arrives back in Dublin at 22.30. While browsing the internet to see how else I would kill time I came across another exhibition that I really want to see. In fact I am restraining myself from jumping up and down and shouting. I really want to call someone to tell them but no one will really share my excitement. I am going to see an exhibition of work by... FRANCESCA WOODMAN. OH MY GOD OH MY GOD!!!! There, phew, got that out. 

Woodman is my secret passion. The only other artist I love more than Woodman is Frida Kahlo and I saw a major exhibition of her work in SFMoma last year. That was fabulous. But this is even more exciting because Woodman's work is rarely shown. Most of her work belongs to her estate which is managed by her family, and I don't know if this impacts on how often her work is shown but not much (if any?) of her work is in public collections and certainly not on permanent display. My absolute favourite work is The Kinds of Melon in Four Kinds of Light,  and when I get off my ass I am going to try to publish an essay I wrote on it in 2005. Her work is so amazing because it combines surrealist imagery with active female agency. I am certain that in some ways she must have been influenced by feminist theories of the gaze. I also see some connections with Ana Mendieta in the way she places the body in relation to the landscape (I am thinking Silueta Series). To date Mendieta is the only artist that has ever brought tears to my eyes, but this could change shortly. This is a major opportunity to view her work; I wish I was going for two days. How in the world will I take in all this art? Wait, I did visit 17 galleries in Chelsea, MoMA, and three sessions of the College Arts Association conference all in one day, so I should be able to handle this.

11 May 2009

Pasta with Chorizo and Mussels

Have I ever mentioned that I think chorizo is the best pork product in the world? Tonight I made a pasta with mussels and chorizo. I picked up a bag of mussels in Wright's of Howth (the best fish shop around in my opinion). Last night I made sea bass with grilled mediterranean vegetables with pumpkin seeds and feta. Tonight I decided I wanted to be a bit more adventurous as I do not usually buy (or even eat) mussels. I adapted Emeril's recipe to include the pasta. The result was absolutely delicious. For your viewing pleasure I present you with the following; feast your eyes on this:


Now it's time to relax, I'll be sitting on the couch watching people sift through my junk. Yes, tomorrow is the local junk collection. It only comes around once every three years and is very exciting indeed. The council collects FOR FREE certain types of junk (no chemicals, building materials, electronics, etc). But the best part is watching people take their after dinner strolls while eyeing up each other's junk. Seriously. The same three vans have been circling the neighborhood since I returned home at 5 o'clock this evening. Someone already took our computer table and dresser. Another guy collected some copper pipe. Now some old man is rubbing his hands together with glee while looking at our old dining room chairs. Hope he doesn't have a heart attack lifting them! I am almost tempted to walk around the block and see what I can find. But then I remember that we are getting rid of junk not collecting more right? 

10 May 2009

Sunny Sunday

Today was absolutely beautiful so we headed out around noon to Howth. There is a lovely farmer's market that is great for finding seasonal organic veg plus delicious fresh baked bread. After loading up on graffiti aubergines, zucchini, blueberries, cherries and strawberries we walked out along the pier eating shish kebabs made of grilled chorizo, halloumi and olives. YUM! Cupcake has the amazing ability to time her naps just as we are getting some where exciting (zoo, playground, pier with jumping seals). Or rather we just happen to time fun things when she is due for her nap! Totally powerless to resist the warm sunshine and the cool sea breeze we decided to have venison burgers to prolong our lazy time. Earlier we had agreed that we would clear out the garage for an upcoming junk collection. I will do everything and anything to avoid cleaning, so I was happy to spend more time out at the market. Then on the way home we picked up two beautiful rhubarb plants which have been planted next to my rosemary. It was a nice way to spend some family time this weekend. Too bad every day couldn't be like today!

07 May 2009



Cupcake is no longer a baby, even though I keep calling her that. She is a full blown toddler with likes (raisins, milk, birds, dogs, people on bicycles, tummy tickles) and dislikes (nose wiping, face washing, putting her hair out of her eyes in a ponytail, vegetables that mommy prepares). Today she was patiently waiting for me to take a shower and so thought to amuse herself by throwing the following in with me; books, toilet paper rolls, hairbands, basically anything she could get her grubby little hands on. How kind. 

It just amazes me what a little personality she has developed. She screams when she sees her father cycle up to the front window arriving home from work. She excitedly anticipates when he will throw her up in the air or spin her around. She has great curiosity about the plants and birds in the backyard but would happily sit on our wooden bench just swinging her legs. She could laugh, throw a nuclear tantrum and cry in the same breath. What a fascinating, totally unpredictable little creature; I really never know what she will do next.

p.s. doesn't she look like she is break dancing in the middle picture?

06 May 2009

My Day in Court or the Thrills of the Irish Legal System

Ha! That got your attention didn't it? Without revealing anything specific about an on-going case... I was hastily called this morning while minding my own business by a friend who is taking a case against a former employer. When I was told that I actually had to be there I was like where is there? There turned out to be the Four Courts. My American brain screamed "Wow! The Four Courts this is SO official!" I hopped off the bus and ran to the Four Courts (after being told I had to be there in ten minutes). After going through the metal detector I hustled myself off to meet my friend and his solicitor and barrister. Ok so I am not totally clear on the Irish legal system. I think I was way too enthusiastic about seeing the old fashioned starched collars and the wigs - OH MY GOD- the wigs, they were so horrible - tight, powdered curls that absolutely do not suit any man or woman but scream Magistrate! Unfortunately with the exception of dodgy people milling around in tracksuits (mine was at home thankfully) the day was quite boring. The case wasn't even heard in the end, it has been put off due to delays in the court. It was a lot of waiting, prepping, waiting, hushed conversation with bewigged barristers etc. Law and Order is so much more exciting.

05 May 2009

They want to send us back to the dark ages...

I am probably posting this to the blog a little late as this was announced last week but I have other things on my mind i.e. PhD, Baby, Cleaning, Sleeping. You may or may not have heard that Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern is proposing an amendment to the Defamation Bill. (See this Irish Times article) He wants to introduce legislation that would be punishable up to 100,000 euro for blasphemous libel. Seriously? Who is this NUTCASE? 

The amendment proposed reads:

“Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.”

But wait there is more...  

Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte is proposing an amendment to this section which would reduce the maximum fine to €1,000 and exclude from the definition of blasphemy any matter that had any literary, artistic, social or academic merit.

But certainly we must have other things to be worrying about in these troubling times? Like recession? swine flu? Cutting the child benefit? Surely the rights of the individual must be protected over the rights of a religion?  So who would define artistic merit? The government? What is next burning books? Rounding up people into detention camps? Who voted these crazy people into government? Come on Ireland you can't be this fucking conservative, get rid of these bozos.

Some interesting points made by readers in the Irish times here and by Fintan O'Toole here.

02 May 2009

Beauty pageants and fake bodies.

While drinking my saturday morning coffee and perusing the internet for my information to fuel my mild hysteria, I came across this article on the Huffington Post. It is titled, Miss California's Breast Implants Funded By Pageant: Confirmed and features an interview transcript between Early Show anchor Maria Rodriguez and co-director of the Miss California pageant Keith Lewis. Don't even get me started on why beauty pageants are so wrong but this interview takes it to a new low. Lewis admits that his organisation funded implants for Miss California so she would feel better about herself. At this point my coffee nearly came out my nose. Aren't there better things to be worrying about? Like what happens when there is a backlash against beautiful people and this woman can't get a job in the 'real world' because she doesn't have any practical 'life skills', all because she spent too much time smiling in the mirror at her vaseline covered teeth and not enough time worrying about education? Now you may think I am being unfair, perhaps beauty pageant participants do have brains... somewhere... Sure but if they really wanted to save the world, cure poverty and end world hunger wouldn't they be better off putting their brains to actual practical use and joining a think tank?

But let us consider for a moment what the greater cultural significance is here. Women are constantly bombarded with media images that supposedly 'accurately' represent women's bodies. They are on TV, in magazines, on the sides of buses; we are over-saturated with them. How will this impact my daughter as she grows up? How will she learn to differentiate between real and plastic and between brains and looks? And I mean aside from what her mother will be teaching her, I am just one woman here people! My mother taught me that bodies come in all shapes and sizes but that still didn't stop me from going through periods of hating my body. I mean seriously, we all need to sit down and re-read John Berger's Ways of Seeing (1971). He argues that through out art history women have been stylised for the pleasure of the male gaze and that a woman is taught to survey herself with that gaze. Nearly 40 years later and I have to say, I don't things have changed that much. Where are all the feminists when we need them?