Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mormon artists confess: kids are harder than they look.

Today on The Almost-Dead Blog: really old news. (Nothing like stale material to liven things up.)

Over a year ago was the most recent triennial LDS International Art Competition Exhibition. I meant to blog about it then-ish. I didn't.

But now I am.

Fear not: I won't blog about the entire show, though it was for the most part very good. (The exhibitions get significantly better each time, i.e., fewer cheesy Norman Rockwell knockoffs and more quilts
depicting the Orion nebula. Yes, really. See the picture? It was so friggin' cool! Pioneer handicrafts shot warp-speed into the Twenty-Fourth-and-a-Half Century!)

The pieces related to parenthood in particular caught my attention, given how Mormon culture tends to paint children as pure delight and consequently paint parenthood as a sugar-cookie-baking joyride. Not that most LDS parents won't admit to you one-on-one that their experience deviates from this ideal most days, but in public church forums we like to be "uplifting" and focus on the sunny bits of family life with children, as we consider these families to be central to human social organization through eternity. So these public, Church-sanctioned displays of artistic honesty regarding life with little people were a bit startling, and very refreshing.

This is a piece by a Chinese Mormon sculptor. The tree is a representation of a family: the human figures' heads, hands, and feet have been removed -- the torsos and arms of the intertwined father and pregnant mother make up the trunk and two main branches of the tree and the headless bodies of dozens of children weigh heavily on them. There is a real feeling of joy to the piece -- the tree's twigs are the cheerful waving arms and legs of the children -- but you get a sense of the strength and endurance required of the parents to make that joy possible. (And the slightly creepy headless people give the piece an edgier feel than is normal for the LDS International Art Competitions.)

The caption on this piece explained that it was a
depiction of the artist's grandparents as carefree newlyweds. Their joy was later diminished when their first two children were born dead and then they had a severely disabled daughter who required constant care her entire life. The couple's earthly experience with parenthood was dimmed by the burden and sadness of this circumstance, but they looked forward to the resurrection, when their family would be together and physically whole.

The main figure here is a mother and the little people scrambling over her and chasing through her hair (with faces of monkeys, dogs, and other savage critters) are her children. She's a sort of longsuffering Mother Earth, unable to move much because they're twined around her legs. She seems happy that they're enjoying themselves, but a bit weary and frazzled nonetheless. This piece makes me kinda glad to be single, frankly.

This one was probably my favorite of the parenthood pieces. If you look closely, you can see that the mother is slowly unraveling her own pink sweater and knitting it onto her daughter. An honest and rather lovely depiction of the sacrifices of parenthood. Neither of them is smiling and they don't make eye contact -- but the gesture itself is the evidence of love. The mother is intensely focused on her task of giving up comfort for her child, who looks maybe a little cranky and impatient with the process. ("I don't want this lame homemade sweater! Take me to the mall!")

Hooray for good art. Two years to the next International Art Competition -- can't wait to see what they give us next......I hope someone crochets a giant 3-D supernova. And maybe I'll tat the head of Donny Osmond!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Eulogy for a loyal phone.

I think my trusty five-year-old phone is fading away.

It had to happen eventually, but it still makes me sad. For three years Verizon has been sending me slick "New Every Two" mailings that feature the flashy, feature-heavy phones I can get free or almost-free, but I've tossed them all.

For you see, gentle reader -- those supermodel phones are not my phone. My phone is special, and they don't make 'em like that anymore.

Can I tell you why I love my phone, as part of the grieving process? Yes? Thank you.

1. It is very small and very light (it fits discreetly in my bra when I'm out walking in a skirt that has no pockets).

2. It is sturdy and very tightly constructed (to resist bosom sweat when it's riding in my bra).

3. It has a flashlight feature that I use all the time (does YOUR phone have a flashlight feature? as in an actual lightbulb on the end of the phone? didn't think so!)

4. It holds a charge a very long time and recharges lightning fast.

5. It has exceptional reception and sound.

6. It has a way better speakerphone feature than any other cell phone I've seen. A couple years ago when a group of female relatives were gathered around my aunt's (much newer) phone to hear my cousin's exciting engagement news, we couldn't understand what she was saying. We resumed the call on my homely phone and heard every word crystal clear.

7. Its candybar style means that if you sit on it there is no hinge or sliding panel to break (I would've broken dozens of hinged phones by now).

8. It had exactly what I wanted (and those features were exeptionally well engineered) and because it didn't have a bunch of extra junk it was a reasonable price and so I didn't have to continually fear damaging or losing it.

9. I once stabbed it with a pitchfork (hard) and it kept on ticking.

10. I don't care that I can't add any ringtones.

11. I don't care that it has no picture capabilities.

12. I don't care that it has no camera.

13. I don't care that it can't access the internet.

14. I don't care that it can't do my taxes or direct me back to Kansas or tell me the name of that song, for it is a PHONE, and it does all phone-ish tasks beautifully.

Rest in peace, lil' phone. You have served me well.

(In lieu of flowers, please send chocolate.)