While visiting a museum in Singapore I discovered the Life Stripe project which turns daily activities into a series of colorful stripes.
“A Life Stripe Work is a ‘pattern of life’ made by replacing one’s actions such as sleeping, dining, relaxing, and working with 21 colours selected based on research and recording them along a 24 hour axis,” say creators Hirokazu Kobayashi & Haruna Yamada.
I caught the Life Stripe exhibit at the Red Dot Design Museum.
The Life Stripe exhibit contains a large collection of Life Stripe Works. Each one has the person’s or animal’s background such as housewife, tree house creator, creative director, therapist, restaurant cashier, mom, web designer, graphic designer, IT manager, mayor, baseball player, baby, dog, and ice cream man. They also include the date of the activities along with the name, age, and sex of the individual.
The first one that caught my eye was one of a cat. Alternating stripes of sleep and hang out time.
Probably because I work a lot with dancers, the next one I noticed was a dancer’s stripe.
“Our pursuit of ‘proof of living’ was inspired by a friend’s withdrawal from society,” explain Kobayashi & Yamada. “We began with various careers, circumstances, genders, age as well as animals, and have collected about 150,000 days worth of records.”
I found this a very interesting way to see how we use our time. Perhaps I’ll create a few Life Stripes of my days and use them for a bit of self-reflection on how I prioritize the activities in my life.
If you would like to see what one of your days looks like, I created an interactive webpage below where you can make your own Life Stripe. After you create a Life Stripe, you can download an image of it. Hope you enjoy seeing what your day looks like.
While wandering through Jing’an Sculpture Park in Shanghai, I was drawn to the side of a building on the edge of the park. I’m always drawn to structures with curves and arcs and this one seemed especially unique.
But as I got closer to it, I could see that there was more to this curved wall as it extended down below ground level. The only way I was going to be able to see the whole thing was to get inside the building.
If the function of the form of this building was to draw me inside, it succeeded.
The building is the Shanghai Natural History Museum. It has living walls or green walls like many of the buildings I saw in Asia, but it was the arced wall that drew me inside. I’ve been to quite a few natural history museums and none have really held my interest so I didn’t hold much hope for this one.
I was blown away but what I discovered inside. Yes I connected with and was amazed by the architecture as I had hoped.
But it was the contemporary feeling of exhibits, their subjects matter, and how all the kids running around were engaging them that left a grin on my face.
Whether you attribute form follows function to architect Louis Sullivan or sculptor Horatio Greenough, the design of this museum pulled me in and got my imagination going.
Here is a small sample of the exhibits. These images do not do justice to the size, scope, and variety of the exhibits. They do represent a few things that caught my eye and made me reflect on what was being taught to the children. These children have a bright future ahead of them.
While wandered through Jing’an Sculpture Park in Shanghai many of the sculptures only revealed themselves after a bit of exploring. Better than finding something tucked away was that a few told completely different stories as my perspective changed during my hike.
My first encounter with Michael Moschen was a YouTube video of him performing “The Triangle”. The lighting caught my eye even before he began his performance. Then his interesting use of space and sound totally captivated me. I immediately connected with how he defined a space and then used his art to explore and further define what that space means. He integrates his entire body, movements and sound with the triangle.
He really articulates what he does in a TED Talk I discovered. He uses phrases like: “explore rhythm and space”, “how to join with the space”, “building towards complexity”, “creating space” and “exploring geometry and the rhythm of shape”. I think most artists can see some of what they do in these ideas.
We define spaces in many different ways. Dancers and musicians may use rhythms. Architects walls and ceilings. Painters color. Then within the spaces, we explore, join with it and build complexity.
Throughout his talk you discover that his inspirations come from some very different places. It is a good reminder how any of us can draw on inspiration from almost anything you encounter and experience.
Moschen talks about developing vocabularies or languages of moving objects. I heard almost this exact phrase from a tango dancer. She told me that she did not learn to dance the tango. Instead, she learned the vocabulary of the tango. Then she was able to express something through the dance. This metaphor resonates with me as I continue to learn many different languages. Those of light, water and most recently smoke. The better my vocabulary the more engaging my expressions.
Towards the end of his TED Talk, he has beautiful way of talking about his process. “What I love is that I never know what I’m working on, why I’m working on it. They are not ideas, they are instincts.” He later continues with, “…I like not to know for as long as possible. …because then it tells me the truth, instead of imposing the truth.” A thought I keep coming back to when I’m trying to force something that just isn’t working. Standing back a bit sometimes allows me see the truth.
Friday was a bitter sweet day for me. It began in the studio, the first day of a new project. I was creating images with three new artists for a project that has been 2 years in the making. Excited to share some of this new work I emailed a few photographs to one of my mentors, Ron Stark. That evening I received an email from Ron’s brother letting me know that Ron died of a stroke thirteen days earlier on July 13th.
I spent the Summer of 2011 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was there to run a popup gallery on the plaza. My goal was to sell some of my art and learn more about the art marketing world. I lived in a six unit apartment complex next to an arroyo about a mile from the plaza. Most days I would wake up and walk to the gallery. Some mornings as I was leaving I would see my neighbor sitting on his front porch smoking a cigarette. I rarely said more than hello or goodbye since I was hurrying to be immersed in art at the gallery.
After a few weeks things did not feel so hectic and I had couple casual conversations with my neighbor. Ron Stark was probably somewhere in his mid-sixties. Most days I encountered him sitting on his front porch having his morning coffee and cigarette. His grey hair was slightly disheveled and his eyes were maybe a little blood shot as he worked off his previous evening’s cocktails. On more than one occasion I had come home late at night and found Ron having a little drink on his porch. He told me he was something of an artist and when I told him that I worked in photography he said he had also done some photography, although now he mainly painted.
It is not surprising to run into an artist in Santa Fe. You can’t throw a rock without hitting 15 or 20. Of course many of these artists’ work rarely makes it much further than the refrigerator’s door.
One evening when I was returning home Ron asked if I would like to join him for drink on the porch. When I told him I didn’t have anything to offer up he said not to worry that he had some vodka, Smirnoff to be precise. Drinking his neat and mine with a cube or two it was only a few minutes before one of us told a joke. Only two or three times in my life have I met someone that inspired truly amazing joke swapping sprees. Ron was one of those people. One story lead to another. One punch line reminded us of another and one vodka lead to another. Laughing until my side was sore I eventually crawled home in the early morning hours with a blurry head.
After that first marathon joke telling session, my initial skepticism melted away and I decided to find out what kind of artist was living next door. Boy was I surprised with the breadth of his experiences. Ron was an accomplished photographer, painter and flamenco guitarist. He had known Ansel Adams and they had been in a group show together at he Smithsonian. His solo shows had been held in such notable places as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Phillips Collection, The Vienna Secession, The San Francisco Museum of Art and the Musee de la Photographie.
As the Summer wore on we got together for more joke trading sessions and had many engaging discussions about art. He gradually began to mentor me about this world. He told me about things to look out for when dealing with collectors and galleries. He saw layers in my imagery and helped reinforce my belief in what I was doing. We discussed the importance of creating enduring art.
Ron’s humor was never too far away. He told stories of meeting with collectors. Often when telling them the title of a painting he would add to the title ‘…with bunnies.’ Of course there were none but it would always force the viewer to look a little longer at the work just in case they might have missed the bunnies. This lead to one of our running jokes. Anytime either one of us gave some piece a title, we would always append it with ‘…sans bunnies.’
2011 was the Summer of a big forest fire near Los Alamos. That September, I drove into the forest near the Caldera and took photographs of the landscapes scorched by the fires. There were vast expanses of burned forests with rich shadows falling visibly between the barren trees. There were also the scorched trees contrasted with the fresh green growth. That night when I came home Ron was on his porch and he asked to see what I had been doing. After looking at a number of the images he asked me to email him a few. These photographs became the inspiration for his fire series of paintings.
Regrowth – Ron Stark
Ron painted during the day with his easel setup underneath the trumpet vines that covered his porch. In the evening when I returned from the gallery, he would show me how each painting was progressing. I was fortunate to able to see his visions slowly emerge on the canvas. A truly rare opportunity to witness the creative process. I was glad that I was able to give back just a little inspiration since he had opened my eyes to so much. This fire series would be the last series of paintings that Ron would complete.
The last time I saw Ron was the night before I left Santa Fe to return to Austin. We started with a full bottle of vodka on the porch which gave way to late night of joke telling. There never seemed to be a bottom to our well of humor and wit that we dipped into when we got together. The next morning before sunrise I somehow managed to get up and hit the road.
We kept in touch by email over the last two years. He kept sending me photographs of his latest paintings. I continued to seek his council about the art scene. He provided some valuable feedback while I was creating my book.
It is oddly reassuring getting to watch someone who is quite accomplished in your field endure the same struggles as you. He lived the things we talked about like having faith in yourself and trusting the process. Last March Ron wrote in an email to me, “My painting in progress is boring me and I need a new idea to work on like the fires. It will come in its time.”
Our last correspondences were in June. I had just interviewed an aerialist who had agreed to be part of my new project. I told him a flood of ideas were coming just knowing that I was going to be able to incorporate this new element. He told me it sounded exciting and was looking forward to seeing some images. He shared a few of his latest paintings and I told him I couldn’t wait to see them this Fall when I would return to Santa Fe for a visit.
Coming out of the post office today I was stopped on the sidewalk by a somewhat elderly man and his wife. They asked me to help them figure out how to use Austin’s new high-tech parking meters. I was in a hurry, running late to help a friend move a couch. I decided to take a few minutes and show him where to deposit his coins. I watched and coached as he we went through two handfuls of coins. Dropping in nickels, dimes and quarters one at a time into the machine. When he reached the maximum deposit I showed him the green button to press that printed the ticket. Then once he managed to get his car door unlocked I stuck the ticket to the inside of his windshield. They thanked me and said they were off to explore the capitol. I guess taking a little time to lend a hand to a stranger is the best way to show thanks to someone who took time for me.