Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Inspiration from the East

Today, I thought I might do what I said I would in my first entry, share what inspires me. As of late, I have become increasingly interested in Eastern cultures. It all began with a little girl who resembled the goddess Lakshmi.

For those of you who have not seen this phenomenon, a little girl was born in India with a striking resemblance to the Hindu goddess of luck and beauty, Lakshmi. Why a phenomenon, you ask? The Goddess Lakshmi is generally portrayed with eight limbs, four arms and four legs. The mother had prayed to that particular goddess on the day Lakshmi (the baby girl) was born and had seen a sign, so thought the resemblance no coincidence. People would travel to come see the young goddess, to offer gifts and lay hands on her.

**Photo from website www.dailymail.co.uk

For those of you who are skeptical, this is not just a doctored photo. I saw this story on a TV show, where she was picked up, held and put down, and shown from all angles. Of course, there was a medical explanation for the extra limbs. Lakshmi's identical sister had been joined to her at the pelvis in the womb. The condition would have been life-threatening later on, so the child underwent surgery and is believed to be doing well.

My interest was really sparked by this goddess with eight limbs. What imagination! I began recalling stories I had been told from India, and remembering the beautiful artwork that accompanies most of them. I thought this would be wonderful inspiration, so I bought a book on the culture, rented movies based in the area, and have been googling related topics ever since.

Everything that I have seen so far has been amazing. I'm positive that you've heard of The Namesake, and if you have not seen it I do recommend it. Another film that I stumbled across and cannot wait until it reaches me from Netflix is called Water. It's about an eight-year-old girl whose husband (arranged marriage) died, and she is forced to spend the rest of her days in a Hindu temple for widows. Quite negative, but when you go to research a culture, you are bound to find faults.

The imagery that I have has all shown incredible intricacy and beauty, and the patterns involved really add a great touch. I like looking at the patterns used in Henna designs, and anything spiritual will always give inspiration. One type of image that I discovered that I had not known before is called Rangoli. Rangoli is one of the most popular artforms in India, made of colored sand/rice powder and often found outside homes or religious places. It is sort of a blessing, and patterns are often passed down through families. This particular Rangoli design really stopped me. It is for a festival called Diwali, and is much more extravagant than the everyday Rangoli.

**Photo from buckofive Flickr photostream

Anyway, for those of you seeking new inspiration, I'm telling you, this is the answer. The color usage, patterns, and style of illustrations from India and other Eastern countries are sure to inspire you. Google Rangoli, Henna designs, and Hindu gods/goddesses, and just see where it takes you. Best of luck!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Lovin' The Walker

So I don't know how much I've told you about the arts here in the Twin Cities. For instance, did you know that famous sculpture of the big spoon and cherry is here? Yeah. I had forgotten, too. And the museum where it's located, the Walker Art Center, is pretty freaking amazing.

One of my favorite things about the Walker is that there is a huge outdoor sculpture garden (where the spoon is), which is always open, and always free. There are all kinds of sculptures there, abstract, surreal, realistic, and some that maybe don't really make sense. But that's art. One is really pretty amazing. It's an arrangement of bushes and mirrors that created a very weird effect to where you aren't quite sure where you actually are in the space. The one shown below drew me to it because of the amazing detail in the fabric and position of the jacket, and the interesting composition of the three pieces. There is also a lovely little garden. A perfect place for a nice little picnic, or just to take a walk and get inspired.

For more photographs of the Walker Sculpture Garden, visit my Flickr photostream.

Something that is really inspiring to me is what was shown in the latest exhibition at the Walker, Design for the Other 90%. It was an exhibition with projects showing what engineers/designers have been doing to help those in need. Every single piece cut back on energy, cost, or back-breaking effort on the part of the people using it. And a lot of them seem like such simple solutions that had just been overlooked.

For instance, one invention was this doughnut-shaped barrel that holds water. A worker can tie a rope through the hole in the container, and easily wheel it to the rest of the workers who need water. This is so much easier than alternative forms of transporting water, and so simple!

There were also a few brilliant housing solutions for those in need. One required no tools to assemble, and is made out of weather-resistant materials. It would be easy to ship, easy to assemble, and quite comfortable for a relatively small family. There was also some solar energy kitchen equipment. One of them was basically a huge satellite dish with mirrors all around, and a place for a pot to sit in the middle.

The invention that I was most touched by (shown above) was a straw-like thing that made it safe for people without clean water to sip on any surface water without contracting diseases. Sort of a pocket Brita filter, if you will. Something extremely necessary in some areas of the world.

It is so inspiring to see what is being done for the less fortunate, and it really makes you want to be a part of it all. If this exhibition comes to a museum near you, I highly recommend visiting it. Or you could always come visit and get the full effect of the Walker, the spoon, and the rest of the exhibitions here.

(P.S. To friends and family in H-town, my thoughts are with you this weekend. I hope you remain safe and unharmed by Mr. Ike.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008


So for those of you who didn't watch the news, the Republican National Convention was last week. And it was held (guess where) right down the street from me! Scary? Yes. Eventful? Mmmm yes and no.

So my first strategy was to hibernate. Who wants to get stuck in that kind of traffic? But when McCain nominated Palin as his VP, I realized I had to be a part of this. No matter who wins, this election is making history, and I would hate to tell my grandchildren that I was there, but hid in my apartment. It was also enticing to learn about the celebs in town - Susan Sarandon, Maggie Gyllenhal, Jon Stewart, and more! So I went outside.

To my disappointment, I ran into none of the above. If only I had better stalker skills! I did run into policemen, more policemen than I have seen in my entire life! There was one on every corner in downtown Saint Paul and Minneapolis, there was one waiting under every single bridge on 94 (and other roads, I'm sure), there were groups of them waiting in random areas, armed with bullet-proof suits and plastic handcuffs. I have never seen such anticipation in my life! And not once did I see any of them have a reason to be armed. It was kind of ridiculous.

I did see some interesting forms of protests - groups of bikers, concerts, signs. One blanket-sign in my neighborhood said, "More trees, less bush." And I saw one group of bikers who had paper-mached their bikes to be an elephant and a donkey, and on the elephant was written, "Forever in your debt." Probably the most extreme thing that I saw was a guy walking over the freeway dressed in a grim reaper costume, holding a black and white American flag. And there was a video outside of the Cathedral pointing out each Republican's flaws. People were rather creative!

Supposedly, close to 800* people were arrested this week. Some of them were even tear-gassed. I'm not sure there was always just cause. As I said before, there was a bit too much anticipation by the cops. For instance, I was walking in downtown Minneapolis on night, and ran into fleets of cops, cop cars and vans (and some News teams), waiting for a Rage Against the Machine concert to end. I waited there for 45 minutes while people streamed out, and I have to say I never saw a reason for the cops to be there (other than to direct traffic). In another instance, somebody had left a backpack on a bridge. They had barricaded the bridge with 40+ cops, and a few trucks and Hummers. People were standing all around the area, waiting for something to happen, but as in the earlier scenario, it was very anti-climactic.

(Only a small part of the pandemonium shown here. Imagine this times 5 on each side of the bridge. Quite an event.)

So my RNC experience probably isn't anything to write home about. Of course being here was pretty exciting, but I'm sure reading about it is a drag, as nothing ever did happen. The bars were all reserved for private parties, so it was hard to get in on most of the action. I did get interviewed by a German TV station! But besides all of the above, I saw what you all did on TV, and still haven't made my mind up about Palin. What do you guys think?

(P.S. Sorry for the lack of photos. I didn't exactly take my camera with me on my adventures. Smart, eh?)