Archive for November, 2009

A flowering vine, & Ms Minnie Mouser

Monday, November 9th, 2009

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This photo, which is one of the ones I used on the latest blog intro page and promised to talk about, is of the flowering vine outside the front door in Key West, where I’ll be for ten days from the end of this week. The flowers look as ravishingly beautiful in real life as they do in this photo; their only fault is that they don’t have a scent: none at all. And somehow I can never feel complete respect or affection for a flower – however beautiful it may be – if it doesn’t also have scent. (Well, maybe I can – anemones are the exception, now I think of it. But the only one.)

I haven’t been in Key West for about a year and I’m looking forward to this visit. I hope to do some writing, and catch up with friends, and bike over to the beach path in the very early morning to walk into the rising run, and eat lots of fresh local fish. And high on the list of anticipated pleasures is seeing Ms Minnie Mouser, the cat I share with a friend and neighbour. Minnie is actually and totally Doreen’s cat these days, but both Doreen and Minnie are gracious enough to go along with my continuing part-ownership fantasy. So when I’m in town Minnie visits me regularly during the day, lies in the shade on our front porch, and asks me to supply breakfast and supper. But as soon as I leave town again she stops looking for me or for my food offerings, and reverts to her usual duties.

I should explain that her name – the Mouser part – is an honorary title rather than a descriptive one. There are no mice on the property as far as I know: I’ve certainly never seen any and I don’t believe Minnie’s ever caught one. There are certainly cockroaches (known locally as palmetto bugs, as if a cute tropical name makes them any less disgusting), plus the occasional scorpion and probably worse things, too – but not mice. So Minnie’s no mouser. Her duties, as she sees them, are to patrol the territory’s perimeter against intruders, and to meet-‘n’-greet guests in the property’s rental units, and she does both in a notable fashion.

I’ve never managed to take a good photo of Minnie but I’ll try again this visit. She’s worth it.

Judith Scott & the world of insider art

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

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I’ve been thinking about Judith Scott’s fibre art sculptures since I saw some in a new exhibition space that’s opened in London, called ‘The Museum of Everything’. (The Museum space is an intriguing mixture of large and small semi-derelict rooms hidden behind the Chalk Farm library. You have to hope that the Camden’s health and safety officers aren’t going to visit any time soon.)

The Museum shows the work of artists who live outside the conventions of modern society as well as outside the art business, and you might think that the idea of a gallery dedicated to ‘outsider art’ is ironic: this category is defined by its segregation from the mainstream art world. Its works were never intended for public display, and its practitioners haven’t often thought what they made to be art at all. But James Brett, whose invention the Museum is, says he wants “to assert the sheer beauty of the best outsider art, to reclaim it as a distinct aesthetic category – one in which you have a whole world being conjured up by the artist.”

I found that the exhibition had a curiously liberating effect on my own imagination, and the film about the work of key artists – and especially of Judith Scott – was enthralling. I feel deeply moved by the metaphors her fibre art suggests; the wrapping and weaving, the twisting and tying of fabric around objects: tying and untying a life story of confinement and freedom, of concealment and revelation. It’s made me think a lot about the things we try to mask or display about our lives, and the things we reveal by attempting that.

In Judith Scott’s work the things she wrapped are mysteriously transformed and yet still somehow visible (or able to be imagined) beneath the fabrics and fibres – just as our hidden selves are sometimes made visible by our very attempts to conceal them. The sculptures are beautiful and compelling, and her work has taken up a permanent place in my mind. And somehow, it makes me feel very happy.

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