My Own Glorious Retrospective (2013-2014)

Last week, a magazine published by the art school I attended arrived in the mail bearing news and highlights of various exhibitions including this upcoming BFA show:

“…[the artist] draws on the paradox of simultaneous hypervisibility and invisibility within critical race theory and her own lived experience as a “brown femme queer woman occupying the deviant body of the ‘other.'” Through a combination of video, photo, sculpture, and installation, she explores the construction of the other by responding to the imagery of a “standardized body” enforced by capital-driven industries.”

I’ve never been clever enough to write such incomprehensible intellectual descriptions of my own work and processes. And I’m not trying to bash my fellow artists here, it’s just… WHAT?  

Here’s another:

[the artists] collaborate to present Womb, a large-scale 3D animation with the sound developed to incite a dialogue about the connection between digital bodies and human emotion. Drawing from reality to fabricate an invented one, the content and installation of the animation emulates the interior of the human body while the sound element is modulated live based on the vibrations traveling through the physical gallery space. The exhibition creates a metaphysical loop that evokes the human desire to return to the womb.”

Do you have a desire to return to the womb?

Do I?
graph1graph2 I think it’s time I had a retrospective of my own. Since I don’t feel like waiting for the invitation from a major gallery or museum to arrive,* I think I’ll do it here, myself. And I think it will be much more efficient to plagiarize appropriate text from my art school magazine than to come up with my own pretentious third-person drivel descriptive prose. So, enjoy (and you’re welcome).
*never

Laura Bruzzese: My Art, My Womb: Art Returning to My Womb: The Retrospective (2013-2014)

Biodegradable Funerary Urns contend with themes of death. The works emphasize mortality, and the process of creation and display to honor departed loved ones and defy traditional commercial funerary practices that rely on the underpaid labor of brown people in other parts of the world to satisfy the traditional 400% industry mark-up.

Sustainable, affordable, non-toxic, and fair-trade, Biodegradable Funerary Urns allow families to explore nuances of death, celebration, and impermanence for several seconds before they (the urns) sink to the ocean floor and eventually disintegrate or are consumed by sea life, thereby expanding Biodegradable Funerary Urns into a collaboration with ourselves.

Lotus urn

Lotus Urn, recycled paper, 7″ x 13″, full-sized capacity

Dolphin (1)

Dolphin Urn, recycled paper, 7″ h x 13″ w, full-sized capacity

Sand Dollar

Sand Dollar Urn,  recycled paper, 7″h x 13″ w, full-sized capacity

Small Turtle Urn, recycled paper and plant-based adhesive, 8 oz capacity

Small Turtle Urn, recycled paper, 8 oz capacity

Large Turtle Urns, recycled paper, 12

Full-sized Turtle Urns, recycled paper, 12″ x 16″

Botanical Motif  Ceramics are inspired by garden life. “One time I took a Plant & Animal Illustration class at art school. It’s been pretty useful.” –Laura Bruzzese

drawling

b blossom mug pr

Blossom Mugs, 5″h

b bloss mug

Small Blossom Mug, 3.5″ h, 6 oz

b blossom cup detail

Poppy Tumblers, various sizes

Poppy Tumblers, 4″-7″h

b poppy detail

The Screaming Toad™ series investigates the complex layers of selfhood and phony trademark usage in the context of taxonomic background, breeding preference, and personal displacement. Simultaneously satirical and sincere, the works operate in paradox: both seductive and foreboding, they are embedded with the politics of hearing and being heard, loving and being loved — among ourselves, amphibians and unsuspecting neighbors.

toad detail

Toad Love™ cups, 2.5″ h

Toads Galore Cups, 3

Toads Galore Cups, 3″h

toad draw1

Pair of Toad Love Mugs

Spanish/French Toad Love™ Mugs, 4″h

Recent praise for Toad Love™ mugs: “My coffee will never be the same.”  –Bob

The critically-acclaimed Jumpy draws from reality to fabricate an invented one, creating a metaphysical loop that evokes the insatiable desire of gallus domesticus to eat grapes.

   

Dia de los Muertos works: “As we artists living [in] Nu[evo] Mexico like to [say], ‘Put a skull on [it] and it will sell… [H]ear[t]s too…'” –Laura [Bruzzese]

Lidded Tea Cup with Skulls, 7

Lidded Tea Cup with Skulls, 7″ h 3″ w.

Pair of Sugar Skull Cups with Creepy Detached Jaw, 3.5

Sugar Skull Cups, 3.5″ h

b skull mug

Muertos Mug, 4″h

Assorted Pendants and Refrigerator Magnets, 1

Assorted Pendants and Refrigerator Magnets, 1″-3″

Bruzzese has recently extended her masterful range of talents to collaborate with world-renowned wildlife photographer and one of her personal heroes, Nick Brandt.

©nick brandt, Ranger with tusks of killed elephant, amboseli, 2011

©nick brandt, Ranger with tusks of killed elephant, amboseli, 2011

Although Mr. Brandt has no idea Ms. Bruzzese exists, that might change when his Big Life Foundation receives the first of (hopefully) many donations from the sale of Elephant wares in her Etsy shop. These works espouse hyperbole, creating confusion around lines drawn between “us” and “them,” ignoring categorical limitations of cross-species empathy, innocence, and exploration of permanence: extinction vs. human greed vs. stupidity vs. inexpensive decals.

Set of Elephant Espresso Cups, 2

Set of 6 Elephant Espresso Cups, 2″ h, 4 oz

Pair of Elephant Mugs, 3.25

Elephant Mugs, 3.25″ h, 8 oz

In Buy My Kid’s Crap, Ms. Bruzzese expanded her internet-based multi-media work beyond Etsy into the wider and more depraved ebay auction audience, examining our relationship with the material world as both a container for, and disposable manifestation of, our childhoods. The ebay store was itself the artwork, including the carefully written item descriptions (more valuable than the objects for sale) as well as marketing materials. This graphic was printed on 6″ x 4″ gold leaf tickets and included with each sold auction item, forcing the recipients to contemplate the implications of “winning,” “admittance,” and the responsibilities of possession/consumerism, while simultaneously suggesting that Bruzzese is, perhaps, insane. winner1

Guest Lecture: Rufina

Seeking The Essence of Womb
Friday, March 12, 2014, 2pm
The Coop

Rufina is recognized as one of the major figures in the artist’s back yard. For more than two years she has been discerning boundaries between industrial sounds and wilderness sound environments, proposing a blind, profound, and transcendental listening freed from the imperatives of knowledge and open to sensory and spiritual expansion. She will present this lecture as performance, a series of movements informed by the unique perspective that only an eyeless, overweight chicken engaged in a largely sedentary life might render. Free and open to the public. rufina

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TBT Father’s Day Fashion Edition: 32 Ghastly Ads from the 70’s

I came across this collection on newslinq.com and thought it was hilarious and laughing on a Thursday is always a good thing. Most of the captions are theirs but I added a few of my own where I just couldn’t resist. Check out the very last ad — write your answers in the comments and maybe it will turn into a contest! With a prize!

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I’m afraid to ask why “horizontal opening” matters.

(more…)

Someone should profit from my daughter’s childhood, and it’s gonna be me

polly pocket1

Just a quickie today to let you know that I’ve decided to clean out my basement and profit from the spoils. Because there’s no better time than during the vacant days of the holiday season to take on a major project that involves lots of dirt and little tangible reward.

This odyssey began on Thanksgiving when I went down there, looked around, and decided I was turning into the hoarder I bought my house from.

DSCN5359

My basement was turning into her yard.

Unacceptable.

So, I spent the entire day in a dust mask sorting through hideous piles of junk, giving thanks that there was some valuable stuff mixed in: throw away, give away, ebay.  Yes! I have discovered ebay to be a wondrous vehicle of dispersal for Isabella’s most treasured childhood possessions, or at least those with some resale value.

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.
–Winston Churchill

We make a life by what we give. Then repo and sell on ebay. Make life as profitable self-enriching as possible.
–Laura Bruzzese

What am I gonna do for others this holiday season? Yeah, right — what am I gonna do for ME. It’s the thought that counts? Forget it! I want my money back.

I don’t know what’s more fun, recouping a percentage of my birthday, Christmas, and yard sale presents to Isabella, or writing the descriptions (click to enlarge).

This could be yours, but hurry, the auction ends soon!

Who knows, when I run out of doll clothes and plastic toys, maybe I’ll move on to my own collection of useless objects — I still have half a basement to go and the holiday season has only just begun.

A Borrowed Thanksgiving Story, Part I

Recently, I read a story on Facebook that I loved so much I could hardly stand it.  I thought it was especially poignant this time of year, so I asked my friend if I could re-print her story here. Maybe you will love it, too. I’ll post it in three bite-sized morsels, nice and symmetrical during this season of our official, government-sanctioned day of Thanks.

Lili & Me

Lili and I were friends way back when, during the era of unfulfilled romantic pursuits and pronounced unpopularity that defined my early high school experience. I was shy, freaky-haired and in possession of few talents save for playing classical piano, a respectable ability that bore no social currency whatsoever.

Screen shot 2014-11-25 at 6.37.02 AM

Weird bangs and pony tails were a must during the time before modern hair products. So was dressing like a boy.

Lili, on the other hand, was confident, funny, smart, and theatrically gifted.

Lili2

That’s her in the front, relaxed and confident.

Perhaps it was the last of these attributes that initially drew me to Lili, as one of my latent adolescent dreams was to be a thespian, this dream having sprung from an earlier, more noble ambition to be a professional rodeo clown (reluctantly abandoned when we severed our rural roots and moved into town).

Acting would be no easy task for an awkward introvert like me, with no training except for a turn as a giant witch in a middle school play. And, okay, to be honest, even that consisted of me hiding under a 7-foot, black-robed puppet, cackling and speaking anonymously while the papier-mache head assumed all the risk of social rejection.

But back to Lili and the theater.

lili3

Almost looks like me if you squint. After a glass of wine.

Freshman year, I convinced Lili to audition with me for a local production of The Wizard of OZ. Forget the high school stage, I thought, one is never too young to strive for community theater gold!

Unfortunately, my blind quest for fame and applause left me sadly ignorant of a few of the more subtle aspects of professional acting. The audition process, for example.  What I failed to appreciate in advance, and came to understand only after our parents had dropped us off at the audition, was that if you are auditioning for a musical, you really should know at least one song and be able to sing it well. We did not.

But, what ho! I thought, here we are, young and inept, but driven… let’s improvise! A rose is a rose is a rose, I say, bring on the accompanist!

And with that, we auditioned in tandem, singing a perfectly horrible rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow choreographed with much waggling of eyebrows, shuffling of feet, and a great rippling of arms at key intervals. Guaranteed, it was the most cringe-worthy three minutes of the day for the various directors who sat before us, stifling laughter.

A small part of me died that day. The actress part. She resettled into the landscape of anonymity, the dark recesses of that witch puppet who should be blamed to this very day for anything cackling and snarky that comes out of my mouth. She is gone. But Lili, at least, made that otherwise humiliating audition experience fun. (Surprisingly, she has no memory of it at all.)

Straightening my hair and wearing designer shirts might generate distinction where the theater failed.

Maybe straightening my hair and wearing designer sweatshirts will generate distinction where the theater failed.

You know how some people leave their fingerprint on your life by saying or doing something relatively insignificant, but something that creates a shift — a moment so subtle that it would go unnoticed if not for the fact that you can still remember it 30 or 40 years later? Well, for me, above and beyond our Wizard of Oz debacleone of those moments belongs to Lili. It went something like this:  “Laura, you’re really funny. You shouldn’t let [best friend at the time] push you around.”

Lili and I lost touch after she moved to another high school, but reconnected a few years ago on Facebook. I’ll end my introduction to Lili by thanking her for encouraging the funny, ugly-awkward me to come out from hiding in another girl’s shadow (or at least consider why I was there). A girl who was athletic, extroverted, and more popular than me, and under whose dominant personality I couldn’t have begun to discover my own voice or vision. Thanks, Lili.

We had curly hair in common. [photo courtesy Lili B]

We have curly hair in common. [photo courtesy Lili B]

[to be continued]

 

June — Aug In Pictures (random order)

June 7: Isabella discovers a French hair dryer. Hotel Nadaud, Paris.

June 3, Paris, France: Isabella discovers a hair dryer on a hose, Hotel Nadaud.

Full-grown Garcias take over entire back yard.

June – Aug: Garcia sisters stage a hostile takeover of my entire back yard.

July 21, Taos, NM: Disturbing merry-go-round horses constructed of wood and mops, Taos Fiesta.

 

Travel from Paris to small village near Swiss border to stay with old friends.

May 30: Travel from Paris to the small village of Bons-en-Chablais to stay with the most generous friends on the planet.

August 24: With little hope of regaining her back yard real estate, Velma takes to sitting in the onion/morning glory patch.

August 24: With little hope of reclaiming her lost territory, Velma sits alone in the onion patch.

Unpronounceable Medieval Village, France: Charlie's Angels was actually invented here.

June 1, medieval village of Yvoire, France: Charlie’s Angels was invented here.

August 27, Santa Fe, NM: Greener Grass, 20" h x 23" w, by Robert La Duke, my good friend & art school studio mate.

July 20, Santa Fe, NM: Greener Grass, 20″ h x 23″ w, by Robert La Duke, good friend & former studio-mate at art school. (Image courtesy Meyer Gallery East.)

lake dinner

June 1, Yvoire, France: Hotel Restaurant du Port, Lake Geneva.

Petite perch from lake, fried with lemon butter sauce, salad and pom frites.

Petite perch straight from lake, fried & served with lemon sauce, salad, pommes frites.

Garcia goes "broody," devoting herself exclusively to a growing mound of infertile eggs.

June 12-July 17: Garcia goes “broody,” devoting herself exclusively to a growing mound of infertile eggs.

June 27: Drop Isabella off at Boston University's Tanglewood Institute where she will spend the next six weeks. Without me. Lenox, MA.

June 27, Lenox, MA: Drop off Isabella at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute where she will spend the next six weeks. Without me.

 

June 2, Lake Annecy, France: The world's cleanest lake.

June 2, Lake Annecy, France: The world’s cleanest lake.

June 6, Chamoni, France: Cable car to Mont Blanc, 3482 m.

June 1, Chamonix, France: Cable car to peak, Mont Blanc (3842 m.).

My idea of hell.

My idea of hell, 2317 m.

July 27: Encounter the world's most hideous ass-faced spider, Santa Fe, NM.

July 20, Santa Fe, NM: Encounter the world’s most hideous ass-faced spider.

August 9: Insist that my parents stop to take a selfie on a precarious bridge over mosquito-infested stream during a "hike" (walk) through Audobon Wilderness Sanctuary, Pittsfield, MA.

August 9, Pittsfield, MA: “Hike” (walk) through Audubon Wilderness Sanctuary with my parents, insisting  we stop to take a selfie on a precarious bridge over mosquito-infested stream.

Rufina, beautiful Rufina.

June 15: Rufina, sweet Rufina.

I almost titled this "Head Shot." Not funny. Not really.

I almost titled this “Head Shot.” Not funny. Not really.

August 22, Santa Fe, NM: Don Pasquale, Santa Fe Opera

August 22, Tesuque, NM: Don Pasquale, Santa Fe Opera

Late Juneish: Micro toads appear in the yard. For the first time in 8 years. My neighbor  will think I did this on purpose.

Late Juneish: Micro toads appear in the yard. For the first time in 8 years. My neighbor will blame me for this.

June 7, Annecy, France.

June 2, Annecy, France.

July 26: The threat of Garcia killing herself (literally) trying to hatch infertile eggs necessitates the purchase of two new Garcias, snuck under the broody hen at night. Worked like a charm. Ridiculous creatures.

July 26: The looming threat that Garcia will actually die trying to hatch infertile eggs necessitates the acquisition of two new Garcias. Ridiculous creatures.

June 1, Bons-en-Chablais, France: You say Julie Andrews, I say Lyme's disease.

June 1, Bons-en-Chablais, France: You say Julie Andrews, I say Lyme’s disease.

Mid-July garden.

Mid-July garden.

 

July 30: New work, hand-painted cups with skull and original drawing decals; 4 oz-8 oz.

July 30: New work, hand-painted cups with skull and original drawing decals; 4 oz-8 oz.

August 7, Lenox, MA: Pick up Isabella from Tanglewood, discover she doesn't actually need me anymore.

August 9, Lenox, MA: Pick up Isabella from Tanglewood, come to the realization she doesn’t actually need me anymore.

August 24: Discover visitor in my studio, too late.

August 24: Visitor in my studio, discovered too late.

The Inadvertent Sausage Smuggler, or Declare Your Meat In Minnesota

Okay, so this travel series is almost done. I’ll finish with some gorgeous pictures from the French/Swiss Alps and Mont Blanc in the next few weeks.

But first, a rant. This one about the Customs racket in Minnesota.

So there we were, freshly off the plane, exhausted and hungry (Air France had “run out of vegetarian meals,” so we were surviving on those little butter patches and chocolate). I was feeling nauseous and high on jet fuel fumes and lack of food–truly like the voms were right around the corner. A travel wreckage. I didn’t even recognize our own suitcase until it had gone around the carrier like, 35 times. That was our first delay. Then, it was off to the Customs line.

I had filled out the declaration form on the plane claiming the tea and chocolate we’d bought, remembering at the last minute the half-eaten apple and bread still in my backpack. As we waited our turn, I watched as about 14 bags of dried things were removed from luggage belonging to a couple who appeared to be from India or Pakistan.  I could hear the head Customs agent — a sturdy, elfin man with a Fargo accent and a superior sense of himself — lecturing them, “Honesty is always the best policy…”

Glad it’s not me, I thought.

Our first bag went right through, but the second was pulled off the conveyor for what I thought was a routine inspection. Customs Nazi rooted through my underthings and toiletries, fishing around for what I assumed was the chocolate. But no.

I gasped in wide-eyed horror as he whipped out what you would’ve thought, judging from his triumphant “Wooooooeeeeey!”, was a live goat.

“Ah ha!” he exclaimed, hand raised high in the air, white-knuckled fingers curled around a bag of…

Sausages. Contraband. Undeclared meat.
sausage

What?! Holy crap, I’d totally forgotten about the local, organic, herbed and peppered, specialty hand-sausaged sausages I’d bought for my mom.  (I thought this would be a nice present since the last sausage she bought for herself in France was eaten by the dog before she got a single bite.)

Sausage. I had wrapped it in three plastic bags, stuck it in a zipper pocket so it wouldn’t touch the rest of our stuff (we’re vegetarian) and promptly erased it from my consciousness.

The most glamorous picture I could find of sausages and it still looks gross to me.

The most glamorous picture I could find and it still looks gross.

I did my best to explain the situation to Customs Nazi, starting with, “I might throw up on you, but….” and using every wild hand gesticulation I could to convey our tale of good-faith declaration, vegetarianism (“Then who’s the sausage for, huh???!!”), sleep deprivation, feeling like Air France was actually the Hunger Games, etc., etc.  No sympathy whatsoever.

Rather, after some shuffling back and forth to his computer, and a grand waggling of his eyebrows, Customs Nazi informed me that I would be receiving a penalty that day. Of 300 — THREE HUN-DRID — dollars!!! For failing to declare the contraband, which he victory-slammed into the trash with a leap and a fist-pump. (Strangely, there was no sound when it landed in the big metal can, leading me to believe there’s a chute that connects directly to the cafeteria, or a black market in the basement.)

My weeping pleas for leniency were met with, “I can’t treat you differently than I did them [the Indian couple], just because you’re a US Citizen, now can I?”. Really? So, a few forgotten sausages in the bag of a tax-paying, law-abiding, sickly US citizen should receive the same penalty as suitcases full of lentils belonging to foreign nationals who were clearly lying on their form??

The guy informed me that I could either pay the $300 there and then, or appeal in Federal court, but that would cost at least $1,000. I stared at him blankly and started speaking my faux French, turning to lunacy as a last resort. He remained unsympathetic and asked if I needed medical assistance.

He asked again for the $300 and I said I had nothing but 20 Euros (true). When he asked for a credit card, I said it was over limit (lie). When he asked if there was someone I could call to “help me out”, I said no. So, he finally gave me a copy of my citation and a paper with the address to mail my $300 within 21 days — strange how this offer didn’t arrive until he’d tried to intimidate the money out of me in every other way.

“Soup-SON!” I grabbed the papers and off we ran to our flight home, where they were waiting for us.

I will use the next 21 days to find out how I might get the penalty waived, or at least reduced, on the grounds that while I am guilty of inadvertent sausage smuggling, 1) it was an honest mistake and 2) Customs Nazi was sneaky and obnoxious.

Opéra national de Paris & Montemarte

opera0

Here is the magnificent Opéra national de Paris (Palais Garnier), designed by Charles Garnier.  It was the setting for Phantom of the Opera, which has added significantly to its tourism value.

This box for the Phantom was added about five years ago because tourists kept asking where it was.

This box for the Phantom was added about five years ago because tourists kept asking where it was.

opera

opera1

We went on a paid tour (around 90 min.) and it was well worth it — for the history of the Opéra as well as Pairs. Here are a few interesting things:

  • It was built by Napoleon III after someone tried to assassinate him in front of the old, temporary opera house. He decided that the best way to avoid being killed on the way to the theater in the future was to build a brand new one, complete with his own private, more secure entrance.
  • The Opéra, with its resplendent glamor and opulence, was the place to see and be seen by the wealthy of Paris. When it opened 1874, there were more gaslights inside the Opera than in the whole city of Pairs.
  • Opera and ballet came to France via Italy (teatro and balletto), who stole the ideas from the Greek.
  • The French developed ballet as it’s known today, based on geometry: hands held in circles representing the continuity of life, feet positioned in triangles representing stability.
  • Italian teatro were stories from Greek mythology set to music. The Opéra is full of statues of Apollo with his lyre, and other gods and goddesses related to music.
  • Napoleon III never actually walked through his private entrance to see a performance because he died in England before it was finished.
In the entrance hall.

In the entrance hall.

Foyer

Foyer

Isabella practiced some of what she’d learned on the tour in front of the mirrors in the foyer.

ballet 1

ballet2

From the Opéra, it was on to Montemarte, the artsy district of Paris where the famous Impressionist painters and other artists hung out.

Edgar Degas apartment where that little unreadable square sign is.

Edgar Degas apartment (so says that little unreadable square sign).

We almost made it to the house where Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo for two years, but we got distracted by the cafe where Amélie was filmed (looks nothing like it did in the movie). We were hungry so we stopped there for a puff pastry with vegetables and an accidentally ordered (but delicious) salmon tartare.

Montemarte was a great place to wander, with lots of thrift stores and used clothing shops. We stopped at Lila Paris on rue des Martyrs, a shop of jewelry and hair accessories created exclusively by the owner, Lila.

lila1

lila2

Isabella’s one souvenir came from Lila, this beautiful headband.

headband

When I asked Lila how she has time to make everything, she said she simply doesn’t have a life — when her family gets together on weekends, she is working. After being so accustomed to shops full of Chinese imports in the US, it was great to pay an artist directly for her work.

lila

The next day we were off to Bons en Chablais, France (near the Swiss border) for some fun with old friends. See you there!