Friday, December 3, 2010

EL ANATSUI AND HIS LIQUOR BOTTLE BLANKETS

NIGERIAN ARTIST EL ANATSUI
Welp, I have cheered up, temporarily at least, from my pre-holiday doldrums.

First, my dear writer friend Julia had me over to her Bronson Canyon manse and fed me turkey soup with collards (delicious, simmered from the carcass), a caprese salad with mozzarella di bufala, and in a new green glazed oval dish called not a terrine, not a cocotte, but a baker (long conversation), a raspberry chômeur (I'd never heard of it either). We did a post-mortem of Thanksgiving, cackling heartily, and planned a trip this coming Saturday to that grande dame of L.A. literary venues Beyond Baroque to hear Julia's father, Morgan Gibson, also a writer, read  from his new collection Nonzen Poems. Thereby reminding me that friends really do support you, sustain you, encourage you, delight you, surprise you, shore you up, and save to kingdom come your dragging ass.

CHÔMEUR 
MORGAN GIBSON
EXCELLENT COVER, RIGHT?
Second, I bought some Christmas cards at the 99-cent Store because we're IN A DEPRESSION and instead of the fancier ones I usually put into the U.S. Mail this time of year am going to send out those .  


Third, I made my way over for about the tenth time to the UCLA School of Dentistry where, though the visit did not go well I remained unfazed, and while there wandered across campus--gorgeous sunny Southern California day--to the Fowler Museum of Cultural History. They have all kinds of great stuff but the one thing that really caught my eye was this giant wall hanging-type affair, all fluid and shimmery and the color of the inside of a sardine can or in this case, approximately a milllion sardine cans. When I got up close I started thinking: This looks familiar somehow...well it turns out the artist is Ghana-born El Anatsui, whose career has developed largely in Nigeria and who has made many such creations out of things like evaporated milk cans, cassava graters, ceramic plates, and snippets of copper wire. This particular work, however, entitled "Versatility," had been fashioned, in toto, from discarded aluminum caps, fabric (though I couldn't make out the fabric) and the metal neck rings from liquor bottles.


The thing was truly gorgeous, and thrillingly draped, and unusual, and cheery somehow. It's also BIG--you can see the human being below is dwarfed by it--and I couldn't help thinking that I myself would  love to have a giant bed, and a giant liquor bottle blanket to put over it, and with all the booze I drank in my day, I could have made a whole chestful of them except for the fact that I completely lack El Anatsui's stunning artistry.

VERSATILITY,
EL ANATSUI, 2006
My whining is over for now I hope, but I'm first compelled to say, I am not EVEN kidding, that my car broke down on the way back from the dentist. In holiday traffic on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. What with my incessant pilgrimaging, I am used to such mishaps and calmly called AAA, trying to remember that real "car trouble" is when a drunk driver plows into you and, say, kills your kid, and had the guy tow me to Jimmy's at Pacific Auto. Whatever. When and if the money runs out, I can always go around collecting cigarette butts,  pebbles, used syringes, and plastic bottles and make something beautiful out of them.

Here's a link to photos of more of El Anatsui's amazing work. A retrospective called "When I Last Wrote to You About Africa" recently opened at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and will be touring for three years. Let's hope it comes to somewhere near you, or me, or all of us...

5 comments:

  1. Amazing art!

    I am one of your newest fans and wanted to let you know. :-)

    Also, something to make a doldrum-ish person smile, check out Simcha's 7 Quick Takes: In Poor Taste. I know it made me smile. :-)

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  2. Hi there Julie D., oh lovely, I SO need a fan! Tell your friends! And Simcha, of whom I'd not heard, is very funny...I do say let's bring a little humor to the Catholic viewpoint/human condition...

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  3. Amen to that! I am all about humor. And I will be telling people soon. I'd posted so much today that I thought I'd let everyone wade through it ... but next week, oh yeah! :-)

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  4. thankee! let's keep that holiday cheer a-rolling...

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  5. Holiday cheer used to mean something else entirely!
    Maybe you should lease a car and this way if it breaksdown-they can given you another one? Until of course the other is fixed.
    I haven't driven in a long time(except myself and many other's crazy.)

    A Catholic viewpoint to the human condition.
    Hmmmm...well....let's see, if we are basically
    good and eat all our veggies we will probably
    wind up in heaven. I think Hell is living, mumbling, stumbling through a lot of thorny roads. Fa la la la la....tis the season....
    Jingle Bells, jingle bells...Hark the Herald
    Angels Sing...
    I have such a difficult time with the holidays
    and it only gets worse.

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