Postcard from Colombia

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world. ”

— Gustave Flaubert

I am currently in Colombia with my family cramming as much in as we possibly can between Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena. Traveling tilts you off axis, which to my mind, is a very good thing. Our family becomes more intimate as we push into close quarters, and reliant on each other for company.

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The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Google bike 

Google bike 

My kids would be the first to tell you that I am so not on the cusp of the new, new thing, or the new thing. Or even just the thing. But after a recent trip to silicon valley and a tiny tour of google, I gained five minutes of hipness in their eyes.  

View from the vegetable garden

View from the vegetable garden

My husband is involved with Conservation International, and we got a glimpse of how google is partnering with conservation groups, and sharing their prodigious coding expertise and data collection, to monitor the health, or lack thereof, of our planet. The implications are encouraging -- we  can tackle problems in a more targeted fashion instead of being trapped by the feeling of helplessness and general handwringing. You can see in real time (almost) where fish are being harvested illegally, or where a forest is being pulled down, or where mountains are being blasted down to anthills. The "whos" of this process are a whole different matter. I love this kind of collaboration between the profit and nonprofit worlds, and it was a thrill to be in a universe that was so foreign, so innovative and playful. There were even topics to think about in the bathroom stalls -- all equipped with Toto toilets.  My stall door had a plastic pouch to showcase articles of interest. In mine was an article called “Code for the Commode” which I’m sure was very clever, but was incomprehensible to me

Google cardboard in action

Google cardboard in action

We returned with a more portable innovation -- google cardboard, and our kids have been jumping down the rabbit hole and exploring this extraordinary google tool. I put aside my trepidation about virtual reality and joined them. We looked at U2’s collaboration with musicians from around the world, and explored places of wonder. It really is visually sumptuous, though I had to take a break because it gave me serious vertigo because I was always whipping around in circles, trying to capture the three dimensional experience. 

Colliseum in Rome

Colliseum in Rome

Of course this device has already been featured everywhere from the NYT: to Wired back again, and is only a new, new thing to me. To get one here….

In this case, seeing really is believing.

One World is Enough

I don’t believe in influence. I think that in order to be an artist, you have to move. When you stop moving, then you’re no longer an artist. And if you move from somebody else’s position, you simply cannot know the next step. I think that everyone is on his own line...I do believe we unfold out of ourselves, and we do what we are born to do sooner or later, anyway. Agnes Martin

Pablo Picasso at Museum of Modern Art

Recently, I was in my old hometown of New York.  Between meetings, I tucked into the Museum of Modern Art to see the Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock shows. Both artists are supernovas of the art world, and were worth the crowds, the jostling and the occasional surly guard. Both offered fresh visual surprises and inspiration. Looking at great art, and seeing splendid public art all around the city, rejuvenates me and makes me reflect on my artistic ambitions. My career designs are simpler than they used to be. Time in the studio is my biggest goal, and I no longer worry about being sanctioned by the “art world," since the art world is buffeted by several baffling currents. Among the most baffling: the staggering amount of private money pouring into public institutions, while public monies are declining. For example, the MOMA is poised to raise one billion dollars -- the expectation is that 75% percent of this amount will come from its own Board of Trustees. Other currents include a fascination with posturing, a craving for outlandish flourish, and exclusivity, that leaves the rest of us off kilter and alienated. In some art world venues, it is intimidating to ask questions or talk about the art while looking at a piece. I was discussing a show with a friend at our local museum, and the gallery guide kept inserting himself into our conversation, without invitation. He wanted to make sure we stuck to a scripted interpretation, and kept assuring us that we were looking at real “sophistication.” We retreated to lunch for privacy.

Jackson Pollock at Museum of Modern Art

Although I am represented by two small galleries, I know that representation is fickle and may shift. Age and motherhood have liberated me from craving certain approbations, and I now use the platform of social media to launch my own narrative and explore the work of other artists. The artist Amanda Palmer  wrote: “The ideal sweet spot is the one in which the artist can freely share their talents and directly feel the reverberations of their artistic gifts to their community. In other words, it works best when everybody feels seen. As artists, and as humans: If your fear is scarcity, the solution isn’t necessarily abundance.” I couldn’t agree more, and there is great peace when you finally get to this conclusion.

Mark Hadjipateras Subway Tile Art