My cousin Jeanie recently posted about her trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Titled “Artsy-Fartsy” she described her puzzlement at abstract art.

We visited the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art last weekend, where there is a heavy dose of conceptual art on display. I share Jeanie’s puzzlement, but have concluded that I don’t need to feel intimidated into liking or understanding it. My interpretations of a piece are as valid as the artist’s intentions. In fact I find it liberating to not worry about what the artist was trying to do or say. If I can relate to it, that’s great; if I think it’s a childish piece of pretentious garbage, then that’s okay too. The same could go for films, music even—heaven forbid—blog posts.

As for art more tangible, I have some more drawings from the figure study group I occasionally attend with Lore. Today I picked up a piece of charcoal with the intention of drawing with it for the first time in almost twenty years.

Graphite drawing of a supine nude woman.
Drawing the blanket was even more challenging.
Graphite drawing of a reclining nude woman.
She really did have nice, broad shoulders, but I drew her head too small.
Charcoal drawing of a seated nude man.
My first attempt at a charcoal drawing in about twenty years.

Iowa City

A child's yellow chalk drawing on pavement depicts a shark eating a boat.
Shark eats boat
The weather is getting better and though it was a little cool and cloudy today, Lore and I took some photos for houses for her to draw. Yet the most memorable sight on our walk was a child’s chalk-on-pavement rendition of “Jaws”.

You can see that Iowa City has some nice houses. You can also see that as I get older I have more and more trouble keeping the camera level. Everything tilts a little to my right.

As always, if you want to help with the architectural description, please leave comments.

Figure study

And as if one trip out to the rural western half of Johnson County wasn’t enough yesterday, Lore and I went to draw in an art studio in Cosgrove last night.

I haven’t done anything like this since my first year of college. I could hear my art muscles creaking as I drew. Unhappy with my initial sketches using a 6B pencil, I found what can only be described as a graphite brick in Lore’s pencil bag. I discovered that I liked it because it forced me to not be so precise. Some of the results:

Drawing of a woman reclining in a chair.
Figure drawing #1
Drawing of a woman laying on her side.
Figure drawing #2
Drawing of a woman laying supine.
Figure drawing #3
Drawing of a seated woman.
Figure drawing #4

As you can see I can’t draw faces, hands, or other extremities yet. I also was having a very hard time with their relative positions (some of the horizontal and vertical strokes are where I drew an ersatz grid by dragging the graphite across the paper).

The model was pretty cool. She brought a suitcase of clothes (when she bothered wearing any) and a mattress that could be folded into different configurations.

Nebraska sand hills

It was hard to tear myself away from my family but I’m home again. I returned on State Highway 2 through the Nebraska Sand Hills. The Sand Hills are about as desolate and beautiful as any place I’ve seen in this country. It’s all rangeland and those tiny endangered Western Plains towns I’m always hearing about. The one or two hotels in the areas must depend on the railroad crews for business. I had a hard time finding a room, but there was almost no traffic on the highway.

On the way I stopped at Carhenge–Stonehenge made of old cars–north of Alliance, Nebraska. Carhenge bills itself as a “car sculpture reserve”. Alliance, which in turn calls itself an “oasis in the Sand Hills” was a good place to take a short break before heading across the hundreds of miles of depopulated grasslands.

Home from New York, back in Mississippi

Back to my quiet, dull life. It’s like I never left.

I spent Saturday afternoon at the MOMA. Man, I could live there. I mean, it has furniture and everything. I also broke out of my sudoku slump, solving a couple of puzzles with my improved system.