New Art In The Kitchen

IMG_5440We’ve put two new pieces of art in our kitchen, and they are really brightening the room.

The piece above is some of Russell’s work.  Entitled Turtle, it’s a minimalist depiction of three young women looking at something.  We love the colors and the scene.  I think the piece shows Russell’s special talent for capturing the human form in everyday settings.

The piece below is called Portrait of Rico by one of Russell’s fellow Cranbrook MFA graduates, a gifted artist and nice guy named Billy Kang.  I saw it at the Cranbrook Open Studios event and bought it on the spot because the colors, and the placid expression on the subject’s face, just make me smile.

It’s serendipity that both pieces feature the same yellow hue, which we think looks terrific against the red brick walls of our kitchen.

IMG_5439

A Fond Farewell To A Good Dog

IMG_0909I’m saddened to report that we lost Penny today.  Her departure leaves a hole in the family and a gap at the top of the stairs where she liked to plop down and survey her domain.

Ultimately, a rapidly growing liver tumor got Penny, but she was a dog that always seemed bedeviled by physical problems.  She had arthritis in her legs, battled inflamed intestines, and was prone to ear infections.  We knew we had reached the point of no return when Penny’s primary raison d’etre — eating as much as possible as quickly as possible — stopped working for her.  At the end, she couldn’t keep food down at all, and when that happens to a Lab you know their time has come.

We got Penny when she was just a puppy.  Richard chose the name Penny because as a young dog Penny was copper-colored.  Her family nicknames were Pen Pal and Lug Nut.  She always had a quizzical expression on her face that made me chuckle, and she was a loving and affectionate creature.  For Penny, life was like The Simpsons song:  a stranger was just a friend Penny hadn’t met.  She never let her ailments get her down.

Penny was not an active dog; unlike our prior dog Dusty Penny didn’t like to run, or play fetch, or swim.  No, Penny’s interests lay more in just being a part of the family.  Next to eating, Penny liked nothing more than sitting on the couch to watch some TV and getting a hug from Kish now and then.  She followed Kish around the house like the children followed the Pied Piper and grew anxious if Kish was out of sight, even if only for a minute or two.  When Kish came back it was like Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one.

Penny was well-trained until her illness caused her training to fail her, and she was dutiful and faithful to the very end.  That makes her a good dog in my book, and we’ll miss her.

Urban Entrepreneurialism

IMG_5361The downfall, many problems, and staggering challenges of Detroit have been abundantly chronicled, here and elsewhere.  During our visits to Cranbrook, in the Motor City’s metropolitan area, Kish and I have been awed by the magnitude of Detroit’s predicament.  With entire neighborhoods falling apart, acres of rubble where once there were productive, tax-paying employers, and burned out and abandoned houses and derelict commercial buildings and former factories around every corner, where do you start?

It seems clear that local government can’t lead the recovery process.  The task is too overwhelming, and the city of Detroit simply doesn’t have the money or the manpower.  If there is going to be a renaissance of sorts, it will be led by by individuals who are willing to commit, invest their own money and sweat equity, and take the personal and financial risks that inevitably come with being the first in on the urban renewal effort.

IMG_5359Russell has decided to become part of this risk-taking process. He’s leased studio space in a gritty building in Highland Park, one of the Detroit neighborhoods that is struggling to recover.  His studio is in what was a manager’s office of a formerly abandoned industrial building that once was home to squatters.  The factory was purchased by a sculptor from New Zealand named Robert Onnes, who saw artistic opportunity in the building’s high ceilings, open spaces, and many windows.  Onnes will be using some of the vast interior space as his metal-working studio, and now Russell and some of his Cranbrook classmates are also part of the vanguard.

The building is very much a work in progress, with lots of work to be done in improved weatherproofing and power supply among many other issues, but a look at what it was when it was first acquired shows that it has made progress already.  When we moved some of Russell’s materials in to his space over the weekend, the owner was there supervising work on the building.  Russell and the other can-do artists no doubt will be supplying some elbow grease to improve their studio spaces, too.

It’s just one building in a vast and deeply troubled urban area — but perhaps it’s a start.

Happy Mothers’ Day

00019488Here’s to the Moms, past and present,

who wiped your bottom and wiped your nose,

who kissed the boo-boo and made it better,

who cooked your favorite meal on your birthday,

who had the best Halloween candy on the block,

who cried when you went off to college, and

whose special kind of love is always there.

Happy Mothers’ Day!

Changing Commencement

With yesterday’s Cranbrook Academy of Art ceremony under our belts, Kish and I have now endured more than a dozen commencement ceremonies for ourselves, the boys, and assorted family members.

IMG_20150509_063237We’ve clutched the colorful programs with the year prominently noted and the lists of graduates and degree recipients.  We’ve heard the strains of Pomp and Circumstance and student musical offerings.  We’ve nodded at the ponderous welcoming remarks of principals, deans, and dignitaries, watched countless honorary degrees be conferred, and seen thousands of students march by to receive their sheepskins.

And we’ve heard commencement addresses.  Boy, have we ever!  And with only two exceptions, they instantly were flushed down the memory hole, never to be recalled or considered again.  The two exceptions were Chip Reid’s funny and graceful address at Vassar a few years ago, and the other is another commencement address so shockingly bad — so lengthy and leaden in its delivery, so self-absorbed in its rambling year-by-year account of the speaker’s career, so oblivious to the rumblings of the benumbed and increasingly agitated audience, and so pointless and irrelevant to the lives of the graduates and everyone else — that it will forever be treasured, perversely, as a part of family lore.  That commencement address, at least, was unforgettable.

Yesterday, Richard posed a reasonable question:  why not change the hoary model that every rational person despises?  While a public awarding of degrees is an appropriate way of recognizing true achievement, why not ditch the banal speeches and cookie-cutter programming and jettison forever the dreaded “commencement address”?  Why not give the students a larger role and allow them to at least display the uniqueness of their class, or instead do everyone a favor and get right to the photo ops and degree handoffs?

Any change to the pompous ceremony would be welcome.  There has got to be a better way.