Personal

looking (for now)

i cant explain why i’ve taken any of these

but

you’ll get it anyway

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Home away from Home

I came home from home. I’ll explain.

Traveling is different every time, even if it’s to the same place. I picked out my flight snacks at good ol’ Trader Joe’s: dried mangoes and trail mix. As I hurriedly jammed by snacks into my already bulky carry-on the morning of departure, I noticed an extra third plastic baggie full of Läckerli cookies. My dad must have noticed how much I liked them for dessert yesterday and packed them for me. Of course, once I got to snacking on the plane, the Läckerlis were the first to disappear.

Nine hours of flight from LAX to Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, an hour flight from Schiphol to the Geneva airport in Switzerland, an hour and a half train ride from Geneva to Fribourg, and finally a fifteen-minute drive to reach Marly. So yes, traveling to Marly is quite the time commitment, to say the least. But every minute of those tedious travels are validated the instant I embrace my grandparents.

mappy

Map of Switzerland’s major cities 

My eyes scan their figures, searching for their distinct features that have become so comforting to me.

If my grandma were a color, she would be dark red. My grandma wears her maroon dress. It is sleeveless and shoots straight down to below her knees. In the light, the dress reveals subtle glints of gold thread carefully arranged in sinuous line motifs. She has kind, searching eyes that squint when she smiles, and the apples of her cheeks flush red and plump up to match her pleasure. For as long as I can remember, my grandma has used hot rollers to style her hair. The curly dark auburn cloud crowns her head and crunches softly against your cheek when you hug her tightly. She sports tan sandals decorated with rhinestones, but not the kitchy kind of rhinestones. These ones are tasteful and look really good on her. As usual, her toes are painted a wine red, a symbol I have inexplicably come to attach to a symbol of femininity.

Encased in the red dress is a robust and energetic body, a quality given away only by the bare limbs that emerge from under the fabric. Her arms and legs are bronzed, spotted and scratched up. This is a body that, from a young age to now, has worked for hours under the sun tilling soil, lifting weights. My grandma’s hands can be just as robust with the hoe as they are delicate with the needle. Also from an early age she meticulously sewed, embroidered, and pinned. There are many golden bands of metal around her fingers, and precious stones are embedded in some of the rings. Silver and pearl earrings dangle from her earlobes. A delicate chain of gold runs down her neckline, featuring a light blue Australian stone that adorns clavicle. My grandma has few wrinkles, which is impressive given she just turned 84, but the wrinkles that do exist are pronounced and unapologetic. Yeah that’s right, I’m a wrinkle, what of it?! Besides, wrinkles are cool. They’re a sign of a life well lived, one lived with vigor and emotion.

If my grandpa were a color, he would be blue. My grandpa wears a muted blue, collared short-sleeve shirt. Lighter bands of blue shade run horizontally across the shirt. He pairs the shirt with a pair of dark blue work pants. Although not obvious at first glance, thin trails of sky blue vertical lines reveal the pants are actually pinstriped. [He folds his pants up neatly once by about two inches. Shirt tucked into pants as always, all held together by a braided brown belt. My favorite part of his classic fit is the navy socks enclosed in brunet leather huaraches sandals.

The fingers on his right hand are bandaged, evidence of his ceaseless activity in wood and metal work. His hair is streaked grey and white, the occasional tuft sticking straight outwards from the cranium. The cowlicks are extremely endearing. A clear plastic ear piece cradles his left ear. His smile is impossibly sincere. Just like my grandma’s, his wrinkles are defiant and demonstrate vitality rather than wilting flesh. He has a lighthearted bobbing gait, often accompanied by sweeping hand gestures when he talks. His trusty blue LA baseball cap accompanies all his excursions, an emblem of where his three American granddaughters reside.

My grandmother’s ringing singsong laugh. The way my grandfather tears up at both greetings and goodbyes. Some things never change.

It is these consistencies that allow me to unravel my packed clothes, exhale a deep sigh of relief, and roam Swiss towns as if they were truly my own. Rediscovering their idiosyncrasies instills in me a sense of inner peace. A home away from home, if you will.

Header image: Panoramic shot of old town Fribourg, Switzerland

Art Pilgrimage

Attention friends, family, and my millions of fans worldwide: I have officially embarked on an art pilgrimage. Three weeks, four destinations. It’s going to go like this: Switzerland, Venice, Paris, Amsterdam. The goal is to travel to beautiful cities, visit major museums, experience some groundbreaking artworks, and I don’t know, be wow-ed! Joining me on this journey is Danielle, my close friend from school who also studies art history. Together we will discuss and analyze the heck out of the pieces we encounter at the Venice Biennale, Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Musée du Quai Branly, Musée d’Orsay, and Van Gogh Museum, to name a few. But don’t be fooled! Just because these institutions are hot shots in the art world doesn’t mean we will shy away from voicing our approval or critiques alike. We have been trained for this all year, and now we are eager to put our art historical skills and knowledge to the test. Stay tuned for future posts about museum experiences and art historical discourse.

I’m Back Baby, I’m Back!

Two hundred and twenty-one episodes. Watching that entire show back-to-back took 4 complete days, 3 hours, and 30 minutes. And suddenly- poof! Gone.

No more staplers in Jell-O, cringe-worthy Christmas parties, endearing love affairs, tragically hilarious office meetings, beats, bears, or Battlestar Galactica.

Boy, Michael Scott sure kept it real.

ms

A few weeks ago I had to bid a painful farewell to the first TV show I ever loved and committed to watching in its entirety: The Office (U.S. version). Don’t get me wrong, Parks and Recreation is amazing and I enjoyed my healthy dose of Ron Swanson’s cynicism, but Leslie Knope bored me with her predictability. New Girl’s romantic suspense still was not enough to fuel me through a disorganized Season 3. I almost finished Portlandia, but it was not meant to be. Heck, I even tried to push through a few episodes of the U.K. version of The Office. In desperation, I watched 3 episodes of the series about Celia Cruz (Queen of Salsa) before I got tired to reading subtitles. Yes, yes. I know I’m picky. But what can I say? I am, after all, a young lady of high standards.

Pretty soon I got discouraged. I will never find another show with a perfect mélange of exchange between amusement, love interest, awkwardness and sentimentality among highly multidimensional characters. And I mean come on, who was going to top Creed?

Then it dawned on me. I ought to give Seinfeld a whirl!

seduction

This was the one. My college classmates kept referencing the show and my dad had been cracking signature dad-jokes from the series. Plus, I kept encountering a half-naked stubby bald man sprawled out on a couch looking rather smug. Danielle told me it was “the timeless art of seduction.” I nodded, but I didn’t get it until now.

I am definitively late on this trend, so I will spare you a lengthy summary of the show. Seinfeld is a 90s sitcom about comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his friends: George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer. Many like to say it is “a show about nothing,” but it is really more of a show about everything. The show features their complicated love lives, work place mishaps, and amusing adventures in New York.

f9b22cd0de2a8fbf5e85e5ce9521bdfaKramer, Jerry’s “hipster doofus” neighbor (and arguably friend), is my favorite character on the show. A few descriptors: lanky, clumsy, brutally honest, questionable fashion sense, lady killer, wild hair, spastic mannerisms, grandiose entrances. Somehow all of these assets meld together to lend him a certain charm- kavorka (Season 5, Episode 11). When the Seinfeld squad is altogether, it is usually Kramer who is at the core of a problematic scene.

“Park in the handicap space!” he said. “No one ever uses it!” he said (Season 4, Ep. 22).

Throughout the show, a cigar obsessed Kramer burns down George’s girlfriend’s cabin, vomits on multiple women, indirectly causes a murder, brings a Latvian Orthodox nun to the verge of conversion, and ruptures multiple of his friends’ relationships (not to mention that it some cases he proceeds to date their exes himself).

Elaine Benes is also a intricately constructed character. Whereas Kramer serves almost solely for comic relief, Elaine’s personality ranges from lighthearted to serious and intellectual. I was surprised to find such a meaningful female role in a show 8196a3e8a0c2e1589d5e25f685e22a68that aired over a decade ago. She can laugh at herself, make goofy faces and funny noises, knock over beverages, laugh uncontrollably, compete in “the contest” (Season 4, Episode 11), burst out in rage, chew with her mouth open, use vulgar language, reject creepy men, work a cool job, be financially independent.

In other words, she is a badass.

She is not restricted to behaving in the poised, graceful manner that is so often featured on television series even today. She is not somebody’s wife or sister. She is Elaine Benes and she will fight for her chocolate babka (Season 5, Episode 13)! Elaine’s character is refreshing and inspirational: I really look up to her. I have yet to find a female role in a television series that chalks up to hers.

By the way, I love Morty. I can’t explain why. I just love Morty.

But alas, all good things come to an end, and I have reached Season 6. It pains me to admit that this means I am closer to the end of the show than the beginning. Thus, I must begin to prepare for what I can delve into next. After some research I would like to try watching Curb your Enthusiasm, which shares a creator, Larry David, with Seinfeld.

I would love to hear what your favorite shows are, who your favorite characters on Seinfeld are, which is your favorite episode, any cool fun facts or recommendations! Please comment below!

Musical Awakening Reflection

I do not know how I wake up. I almost never do know. What is the precise noise, smell, temperature change that prods a body into consciousness? Something at 8:30 AM – a stray sliver of light from the blinds, a soft shuffle of feet, or the neighbors’ Russian talk show wafting through the walls- prodded my body into consciousness. Often times, I am conscious at 11AM, and by 1AM I have mustered up the willpower to bid farewell to my warm cocoon of an abode.

Pushing my back away from the mattress, I teetered on my twiggy arms: panic. What the hell am I going to do with myself today? Mechanically I walked to my desk, pulled out a square of yellow paper. I guess what the hell I was going to do was make an origami moth.

Moth completed, I fluttered to the mirror. I was pleasantly surprised. Feel good, look good. Right? Well apparently it doesn’t quite work the other way around- feel bad, look bad- because, I still looked good. 

Idleness is so tedious.  

Naturally, I feel the urge to turn to art for a sense of comfort, of guidance. Not visual art this time.
the-vaccMy newfound music craze sprouted from my binge watching “New Girl.” I reached the closing scene of an episode that features Jess and Nick driving away into the moonlight to the song  “I Always Knew” by the Vaccines.

That was all it took. Before I knew it, I listened to all of the Vaccines’s albums on the Spotify premium account that my best friend lets me mooch from him (thanks Jack). The Vaccines can help cure me (heh. Witty, I know). But in all seriousness, I have found my band. Or, I guess that it kind of found me.

Considering that I haven’t had a favorite band since the Jonas Brothers, this is a pretty thrilling discovery. Actively listening to music is just not something I normally did before. Sure I had a melange of songs, but they ranged from German rap to Italian opera. Obviously, there was no consistency or coherent music genre. Yeah, that did made it pretty awkward when someone tried to get the conversation going.

Them: So, what’s your favorite musician/band/song/genre?

Me: Shifts nervously on feet. Dramatically sucks in my breath, you know, like how people do when they are about to deliver bad news. Aha.. well, I don’t really listen to music.

Them: Sharp gasp. Wait, what?

Me: Heat crawls to ear tips. Yeah..uh haha.. I mean I just don’t actively listen to music but it’s not like I hate it or anything. I mean I still listen to what’s on the radio and stuff.

Them: Pulls a closeby friend into the conversation. Hey dude, get this. She said she doesn’t listen to music.

Dude: Makes large bug eyes and snickers. What? Are you serious!

the-vacc1In all honesty, I did not understand why music was central to a lot of my friends’ lives. “It speaks to me” pffft, stoner blabber. Headphones equated to antisocial. Hardcore fans were sort of weirdos. I used to scoff at my younger sister’s trash indie music because all the songs sound the same. Now, that isn’t outrageously untrue, but once I researched lyrics and did nothing but listen to the music- and I mean really do nothing, just sit and breathe and listen- it made sense. Listening to music from the same genre is a special experience. The songs tend to produce similar chords and vocals, which in turn elicit similar and nuanced emotions from within myself.

Discovering music is not only the external experience of finding combinations of notes, words, and instruments that appeal to your personal tastes, but, on a deeper level, a force that encourages introspection, curious questioning, and self discovery. Why do I like this sound? What makes me feel emotional about these words? How does this relate to my life, right now? 

As I continue to delve into this musical awakening and explore The Vaccines among similar artists, I’m comfortably settling into a consistent taste. Who in the heck would have guessed that my favorite genre is indie rock? Not me. And, more specifically, english indie rock.

Although I am in a deep honeymoon phase of marveling over the newfound genre, I appreciate other artists completely foreign to me.

coffee-and-ciggs

Coffee and Cigarettes (2013), a film by Jim Jarmusch, introduced me to Iggy. No, not Azalea. Composed of a series of short skits, the film features individuals sharing a moment, a conversation over, well, coffee and cigarettes! During one of these skits, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet up in a musty looking diner. Iggy Pop has most melancholy and sincere gaze I have ever witnessed, and his face is really comforting to me for a particular reason that I am unable to pinpoint. Awkward and uncomfortable, the exchange caused me second hand embarrassment just from watching the two men interact. But I loved it, in a way, the raw flow of events.

Iggy Pop is captivating, so I explored his music which caused me initial disappointment. This voice lacks the soft and sympathetic tone from the movie. I searched through the Post Pop Depression album and nearly got depression myself (alright, not a very original play on words, I’ll admit). Ready to give up, I absent mindedly clicked on the last song left- “Chocolate Drops.” Eureka! Soft voice! The lyrics! It is perfect.

Thanks to Chocolate Drops, with revived energy I scrolled and clicked on the album Aps. Instantly I was hooked. Iggy Pop sings retakes of songs in French- La Vie en Rose, La Javanaise- with his endearingly unapologetic American accent.

It only felt it fair to give Tom Waits a chance, too, although he did not intrigue me as much. His distinctive raspy voice and daring themes failed to reach me. Only one tugged at my heart strings: “If I Have To Go.” Here, there is no raspy voice, no theatrics.

demarcoThen I rediscovered Mac Demarco. I mistook that gap toothed smile and head of scraggly golden locks as an indication of his music having abstract lyrics infused with many references that would fly over my head. But you can’t judge an album by its cover. He sings clearly, and enunciates his words, words that make sense- Let Her Go, Let My Baby Stay, No Other Heart, Without Me.

There are sprinkles of other small treasures I unearthed. “Toothpaste Kisses” by the Maccabees, “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala, “Lead Existence” by King Krule, “Warned You” by Good Morning, “A Lack of Understanding” by the Vaccines, “Parking Lots” by Plums, “Looking out for You” by Joy Again, “Processional” by Weedeaters, “Ivy” by Frank Ocean, “If You Wanna” by The Vaccines, “Hold Up” by Beyoncé.  

High top black converse paired with rolled up jeans and a leather jacket, I ride the bus feeling like a badass. King Krule’s “Baby Blue” crackles at my eardrums. I’ve really been missing out.

Infinity remains to learn about this music world. I want to behave like a sponge to soak it all in; but a productive sponge who labors at building up a steady knowledge of music. Like Spongebob-Squarepants-at-The-Krusty-Krab productive.

From discovering english indie rock to my desire of becoming Spongebob, it is obvious that listening to music is taking me on a journey that I am, for once, perfectly content with having zero control over.

Shower me with any recommendations that come to mind, I would be thrilled to give them a listen.   

Header image: Mac Demarco

Rothko Plot Twist

How could he just smear some blocks of color on a canvas and call it good? Who did this guy think he was? I was enraged when I first learned about Mark Rothko.

There I was, frowning at the little splotches of red and yellow paint in my textbook while the lecture droned on. The bell rang, I closed my textbook, and I didn’t think of Rothko again- until this week.

Rothko untitled-1968

Mark Rothko, Untitled (1968)

As I walked peacefully through the galleries of the MoMA in New York, I scanned the rooms – Kandinsky’s clean cuts of shapes, Klimt’s shimmering goddesses, Katz’s flat planes of pigment… and then a massive canvas of molten orange and yellow. A Rothko. This was different, I liked it. It looked nothing like the harsh blotches of color that I had seen in my textbook.

The tints faded into one another, they were soft, sensual. After timidly approaching the next painting, I saw that, under the layer of brown, a deep blue lay discreetly underneath and shone through. It was as radiant and luminescent as Klimt’s The Kiss.

The gallery security guard shifted nervously on his feet as I became enveloped in the painting, I hadn’t noticed I was so close to the work. Sorry, sir. Backing up, I plopped down on the bench and faced the massive, harmonious canvas.

Peace at last.

The feathery rectangles looked like soft pillows and blankets, I wanted to enter the painting and sink into a deep sleep. It was visual numbing for the mind, a buzzing sensation, a deep tissue massage to my brain. John Elderfield says, “As your eyes settle to it, things start to happen.”

Beginning to adjust, my eyes began to flick from one hue to the next, stimulating a mix of colors made entirely by my brain that was not physically on the canvas. For example, after I stared at the blue for a long time, I shifted to the yellow and saw a tint of green. It seemed almost as if I were creating my own painting, from this already existing painting! Whhhaaattt? “You are the companion to the picture,” says Elderfield. And I couldn’t agree more. Never before had I felt like such an active participant in the process of viewing a painting. I felt so special; it seemed that the colors were competing for my attention.

I left the room feeling airy and weightless, a converted Rothko fan (I even caved for some Rothko greeting cards from the MoMA gift shop).

The days following my New York visit were riddled with stress and anxiety as I made my move away from home. What am I going to cook? A shoe?! Who knows. Every day is a surprise. Luckily, I had a trick to cope with my scattered thoughts. I close my eyes; I think about that Rothko. The colors hover in thin air, a few deep breaths, I open my eyes, and voila. I have pulled myself back down to earth.

PLOT TWIST.

rothko portraitAfter researching more about Rothko and his work, I have cycled back to where I started- dismayed. He did not at all intend for his paintings to be a source of comfort or familiarity. In fact, he even said that if viewers of his work were “doing it right,” they were supposed to cry. Frantically I scrolled to the next article hoping maybe this was just a false claim. Again, I was wrong. Rothko once said to a friend, “Often, towards nightfall, there’s a feeling in the air of mystery, threat, frustration- all of these at once. I would like my paintings to have the quality of such moments.”

No, no it can’t be!

Everything I thought that Rothko stood for in this paintings, shattered. Instantly I was flooded with self doubt. Did I look at the painting wrong? Is that even possible? Why was I incapable of feeling what he worked so hard to communicate? What did I miss? Where I had felt familiarity, he had meant mystery. Where I had felt comfort, he had meant threat. Where I had felt peace, he had meant frustration.

Red on Maroon 1959 by Mark Rothko 1903-1970

Rothko, Red on Maroon (1959)

I’m still struggling to grapple onto the new meaning of Rothko’s work. But, which is the real meaning- my personal opinion, or his intended message?

This brings me to my new philosophical question about art: Can the “meaning” of a work of art deviate from (or, in my case, be the total opposite of) the artist’s intent? I think yes. I feel that my emotional reactions to Rothko’s paintings are still valid.

Have you ever felt dismayed by an art piece? If so, which art piece? What did you discover about the piece or artist that contradicted your opinions? I am curious to hear about your thoughts in the comments.

Header Image: Mark Rothko, Untitled (1952)

What drew me to art

After some thought, I have determined that my scrawny, generic blog bio doesn’t quite paint my full portrait (see what I did there). Thus, as my first blog post I will be talking even more about myself. I know, I know, it’s very exciting so try to contain yourselves.

A quirky combination of Nicole and Fred’s DNA produced what you know today as, well, me. Being the middle child, I like to consider myself the cream between the Oreo cookie, a.k.a the best part. Wait, scratch that: the best part of any family is obviously the dogs -Cookie and Mushu.

Although born a “California girl,” I’ve been raised also a “Swiss miss.” Every summer, my family and I travel to Switzerland to see the rest of my family -aunts and uncles, grandparents, and close friends. Consequently I speak both English and French, and proudly embrace my dual nationality. My Swiss-ness has exposed me to an abundance of fondue, chocolate, mountains, and museums; my American-ness has introduced me to the dreaminess of burgers, Mexican food, beaches, and more museums. Never before have Hannah Montana’s noble words, “You get the besssst of both worlds” resonated so strongly with me.

35mm original

Cows in the Lowland, Emil Nolde (1909) LACMA Collection

This mix of atmospheres and cultures formed the foundation of my attraction towards art. My first art history course during junior year of high school built off of my initial interest, and transformed it into a full-blown, uncontrollable passion. I learned that more than just being capable of sharing cultures, art can also convey time periods, art movements, and even personal sentiments. Just like biology can range from ecosystem to organism to cell to atom, art, too, can become infinitely minimized or maximized.

Art-ception indeed!

Call me a nerd, but my heart flutters when I walk into the “Arts” section of the bookstore. It skips a beat when a museum announces a new exhibition. I become giddy when I listen to people argue over art and its meanings; I find it is one of the best ways to get to know someone. In other words, art has the power to speak and create conversation. Hence, my fashion-forward, avant-garde title ArtSpeak. What, me? Pompous? Never.

If you are also an art enthusiast, huzzah! I hope my future posts will interest you and that we can carry on insightful discussions.

If you are certain that art is not at all your cup of tea, give me a chance. Revisit my blog now and then. Maybe, just maybe, I can show you that art isn’t just your cup of tea, but a steamy cup of hot chocolate on a snowy Saturday morning.

P.S. We never get snow in California, I just made that up to sound cool

Header image: Vincent Van Gogh, Boats at Sea (1888)