Reflection

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Every day I walk by the Persian carpet store down the street from my apartment.  A few months ago, I caught the reflection of the buildings in the rug store window.  It looks almost as though the Mt. Vernon row houses are a design emerging from the pattern in the carpet.

Of course, as a textile enthusiast, I am always going to be attracted to to the designs and textures of carpets — and I particularly like this one.  I also love to the architecture of these old, nineteenth century Mt. Vernon row houses, with their brickwork and arcs and ornate entrances.

So I am drawn this layering of pattern and texture.  The resonance of organic and geometric shapes and warm color in both the cityscape and the Persian carpet, the way they interplay.

The image feels right just now: this resonance, this layering of place.  Back in the fall I mentioned that I received the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance’s Ruby Grant.  This winter I’ll use part of that grant to take a research trip for the last two stories in my collection.

That means that I’ll be away from my much-loved neighborhood for a little while, as I complete this book which spans from Baltimore to Japan to Hawaii to Seattle.  This story collection that layers refractions of place as its characters move across a shifting globe in the wake of war, and transport their complex webs of belonging.

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These photographs of Dulkarian’s Persian Rug Co. are part of an interest in Baltimore windows that seems to have taken hold this past year in my photography (see here).  In the coming weeks, I’ll write about my research travel, but I’ll also continue to post a series of these Baltimore windows.

In that way, I can layer place here in my studio space just as in my story collection.  I look forward to taking you all along on the journey!

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Zoe Leonard

Walking through the Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibit on ordinary objects last week, I paused in front of Zoe Leonard’s “Untitled,” a collection of fruit peels stitched back together.

I think I must have first seen Leonard’s piece back in 2006, and I remember being struck by it that first time I saw it.  The fruit peels, though sewn back together, haven’t been preserved, and so they are always changing and decomposing, even as we look.  There’s an immediacy in relating with this piece.  You’re always witnessing it as it exists in the moment, and in that moment only, so that engaging with this piece feels a bit like meditating.  There’s a way that time dilates to absorb its details.

On this most recent visit, I noticed how much Leonard’s work has changed since I first saw it.  I can see how it’s evolved, decomposed, color-shifted, re-textured.

It feels very moving to have a long-time relationship with a piece like this.

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Milk & Honey

I’ve been doing a lot of research for my book this week.  On Sunday afternoon, I decided to carry my research material across the neighborhood to Milk and Honey for some fresh air and a change of scenery.  I’ve been to this cafe a few times since I moved in last winter, but usually just as a brief stop on my way someplace else.  It was nice on Sunday to be in the open sunlight of those big windows with a wall of paintings and an expanding page of notes.

Last summer, on a stop in Milk and Honey, I took some pictures of their windows.  I love the industrial gold-dome lamps against the daylight, and the layering of cafe and church.

Patina

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Over the course of the past month, Fazlalizadeh’s mural has started to peel slightly, cracking along the lines of brick, the residual paint of earlier murals. Everyday, this piece morphs and shifts, reveals a little more about what works came before it, becomes a part of the trajectory of the neighborhood.

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There is something I love about the idea of these women — and this crucial message — becoming an integrated, organic part of place.

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Ceramics Sale

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This weekend I finally made it over to Baltimore Clayworks’ annual Seconds Sale in Mt. Washington.  Some of the pieces were nearly flawless, clearly overstocks and donations.  But even the obvious seconds — misshapen, with drips of glaze — had an appealingly hand-wrought quality.  They offered a glimpse into process, a touchpoint.  Given that I always want to touch the pieces at ceramic exhibits, at this sale, I touched nearly everything.  It felt nice to move through that airy space, letting the ceramics’ shapes fill my hands, feeling that variety of heft and texture.

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If you haven’t been before, mark your calendars for next summer.  A fundraiser for Clayworks, the sale includes seconds, overstock, and pieces donated by its students.  And it includes lots of them.  Even on Saturday evening, well into the weekend-long event, there were still tables and shelves packed with great pieces.  This sale thrives on its stylistic variety and its (very) low price points.

I wish I’d made it back Sunday night for the end-of-weekend box sale.  It would have been great to pick up a couple more pieces.

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Murals

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Jenny and James and I went for a walk in Station North this past weekend to see more of the murals.  I love this one.  The graphic lines of the woman’s age, the flat planes of sheets, drying.  The evocative slope of her eyes and the arc of her finger, vigilant.  Her wary surveillance of this neighborhood’s change.

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The building is covered in murals: on its walls and in its windows.  I find I like unbounded ones the best: these ones that seem to grow from the bricks and concrete of the buildings.  Unframed, with no painted backgrounds, they fill these city shapes and spaces, their negative space formed by the background of this neighborhood.

Here is another one unbound like this: the telephone wires and winnowy trees interrupted only by the architectural squares of our own real sky, the boy about to ride out from this wall on his outsized bicycle.  This moment is full of power: the boy’s size, the baroquian potential of his movement, his handlebars highlighted by the building’s silvered cement.

These pieces do not try to cover up their context; in their form and content they inhabit, insist, on place.

Window / Frame

On a walk with my friend John, we spotted this window in a Station North drycleaner.  I love that in this shot, the frames in the shop window play against the reflected windows in the buildings opposite, the sheet glass against the tactile brownstones, the 19th century arches against the spare wood frames.

Plus, I love that the site of this piece is in the window of the emerging arts district’s drycleaner.  Art is everywhere in this pocket of Baltimore.

If you look closely, you can see John and — if you look even a little more closely — me in this photo.  Which I think is kind of great.  Portrait of the artists, lingering in a Station North drycleaner.

I’ve noticed that there seems to be an interest in displaying frames in windows lately. We saw this frame display in a Mt. Vernon window the same day.

I like it: the concept suggests a playfulness about windowframes — and probes some larger questions about framing, the act of viewing, and art. There could be some good academic scholarship here. These pieces enact an age-old idea: Art as a window?