Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Julia Child, the Spider's Web & WGBH


When stored, the stage set for Julia Child's television cooking show was about 3 feet wide.

It was 1970. I was 18. I was clueless.

My adviser at Friends World College had connected me with Paula Apsell. Paula had started a children's radio show, The Spider's Web at WGBH-FM in Boston. During the day she scheduled programming for WGBH TV and on the side, in the evening, she produced this wonderful radio show for children.

For 3 months in Boston, I was there when actors read "Wind in the Willows" and "Pippi Longstockings", word for word (well, more or less). I was there when the same pair of wonderful actor read, screwed up, cursed colorfully and loudly, and calmly continued the reading.

I was the one to edit out the non-child-friendly words and leave the words, words, words of great literature, read by great voices for the radio.

 During my tenure as the radio tape editor for the Spiders Web, there was a TV show being taped at WGBH-TV. It was called, Jean Shepard's America. I grew up listening to Jean Shepard's  musings and ramblings on WOR in NYC. His were a grown-up, city guys memories of childhood. He mixed the memories with Robert Service poems and ...oh yeah...this-is-what-I'm-thinking-about-now stuff. Pre-Prairie Home Companion with a beat - as in beatnik - sensibility.

...this reads a bit like a Jean Shepard radio show on WOR. There is the opening line, and then a diversion, followed by another diversion, and then a return to the opening sentence - more or less.

One day, there appeared towers of pizza boxes. In each box was a pizza. The next day there was something called, head cheese. More and more food was shuttled the the WGBH lunchroom. Jean Shepard talked about food in America and Julia Child's cook prepared the food he mentioned. Us lunch eaters were served an american feast.

Well, this was food that had been cooked and preened to look good on television. It was room temperature and a few hours old. However. Julia Child and her cooks had prepared it.

In those 3 months in Boston I learned how to edit radio tapes. Like so many actual skills, the cutting and splicing of actual audio tapes is an extinct skill. It was acool thing to do - listening to all of those words, cutting out the ummms and errrs and coughs and curses and keeping the real, solid, words together. the slicing and the taping.

Working on the Spider's Web under Paula Apsell's guidance gave me a sense of the right in words and radio drama. I have been able to carry that first lesson with me into everything I do. Into art, performance, theater, costume, mascots. 

Three months in Boston set my course.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Drawing Nudes - Getting lost in the line

I loved being an art student. I loved drawing nudes. I can get lost in the line

There was a drawing teacher at Maryland Institute, Raoul Middleman, who was a vociferous fan of the line - the emotionally revealing line - the line that told the story. I became a connoisseur of the great line.

In our figure drawing class, we drew plenty of nudes - beautiful men and glorious, rolls-of-fat, women. Working for that easy, confident, emotion laden line.
A Matisse nude

My husband likes to say, "I married the art student".

Us art students have seen lots of naked people. We're not looking at naked people to cure them of disease, we are looking at nudes with a pencil in hand. We take great joy - even glee - in the line. The nude is all of humankind in our great, rambunctious, imperfections.

I get a lot of, "You're so creative. Why I can't even draw a straight line".

I try not to roll my eyes. 

Artists are interested in the human line. The line that is squiggly and emotional. It may be an angry line. It may be a tender line. It may be a line so tenuous it can bring tears. It may be a line that fritters into the unknown universe of the paper.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's a Long Flight from Mexico City to Baltimore

Mexico City to Baltimore is a long flight.

Six months is a long time for an 18 year old. I was living in an apartment in Mexico City with 2 friends. I was studying at San Carlos - an art school in the heart of Mexico City. I was the only American there, and the only American red-headed hippie chick. I learned Spanish. I had a blast.

Mexican artists are different from American artists. All artist follow a calling to the creative life, a life of ideas and vision. Mexican artists articulate and accept that calling earlier. Of course they are surrounded by the great muralists, Diego Rivera and Siqueiros are everywhere - even in government buildings and in mosaics that cover the outside of building at the state run university. And of course there is Freida Kahlo who painted directly from her heart.

the Creation (1922), in the BolĂ­var Amphitheater at the University of Mexico
For 6 months I'd been hanging out with Latino politicos and intellectuals, American intellectuals and radicals and Mexican artists. It's a heady mix.

It was 1971 and everything was changing in the United States. There was war, there was a yearning for peace and we were learning about something called the Generation Gap...and, the birth control pill had just made its appearance.

Mexico in 1971 was also a place in turmoil, a place where the old ways were being tested, and sometimes with blood. It was also a place that a friend of mine described as "Enough for the most militant surrealist".

I was leaving Mexico to live with my Baltimore boyfriend and to go to art school in Baltimore.

I was looking forward to the reunion, of catching up, telling stories and rolling around a bit. There he was at the airport. The first thing he said was, "We have to talk."